1 Chronicles 15 - 17
The Ark Brought to Jerusalem1 Chronicles 15:1 David built houses for himself in the city of David. And he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. 2 Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the LORD had chosen them to carry the ark of the LORD and to minister to him forever. 3 And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place, which he had prepared for it. 4 And David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites: 5 of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, with 120 of his brothers; 6 of the sons of Merari, Asaiah the chief, with 220 of his brothers; 7 of the sons of Gershom, Joel the chief, with 130 of his brothers; 8 of the sons of Elizaphan, Shemaiah the chief, with 200 of his brothers; 9 of the sons of Hebron, Eliel the chief, with 80 of his brothers; 10 of the sons of Uzziel, Amminadab the chief, with 112 of his brothers. 11 Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, 12 and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. 13 Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” 14 So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.
16 David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. 17 So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brothers Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari, their brothers, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their brothers of the second order, Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, and Mikneiah, and the gatekeepers Obed-edom and Jeiel. 19 The singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were to sound bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah, and Benaiah were to play harps according to Alamoth; 21 but Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, Jeiel, and Azaziah were to lead with lyres according to the Sheminith. 22 Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it. 23 Berechiah and Elkanah were to be gatekeepers for the ark. 24 Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, should blow the trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-edom and Jehiah were to be gatekeepers for the ark.
25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of thousands went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the house of Obed-edom with rejoicing. 26 And because God helped the Levites who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27 David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the music of the singers. And David wore a linen ephod. 28 So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.
29 And as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David dancing and celebrating, and she despised him in her heart.
1 Chronicles 16
The Ark Placed in a Tent1 Chronicles 16:1 And they brought in the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. 2 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD 3 and distributed to all Israel, both men and women, to each a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.
4 Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. 7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.
David’s Song of Thanks
8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
9 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
11 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
13 O offspring of Israel his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
14 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
17 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
18 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
as your portion for an inheritance.”
19 When you were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
20 wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
21 he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
22 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”
23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.
28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
30 tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
“Save us, O God of our salvation,
and gather and deliver us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!”
4. The Books of Chronicles (not later than about 330 B.C.) know the Psalter, and, as before seen, carry back psalmody and the musical arrangements of the sanctuary to the time of David. In 1 Chron. 16:7–36 is given a long Psalm as illustrative of the kind of praise offered at the bringing up of the ark to Zion. This piece is found on inspection to be composed of passages from Pss. 105, 96, and 106, and concludes with the doxology at the end of Ps 106. which marks the close of Book IV. of the Psalter. The inference is natural that the division into books was already made in the time of the Chronicler. The Problem of the Old Testament
Worship Before the Ark37 So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister regularly before the ark as each day required, 38 and also Obed-edom and his sixty-eight brothers, while Obed-edom, the son of Jeduthun, and Hosah were to be gatekeepers. 39 And he left Zadok the priest and his brothers the priests before the tabernacle of the LORD in the high place that was at Gibeon 40 to offer burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly morning and evening, to do all that is written in the Law of the LORD that he commanded Israel. 41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever. 42 Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were appointed to the gate.
43 Then all the people departed each to his house, and David went home to bless his household.
1 Chronicles 17
The LORD’s Covenant with David1 Chronicles 17:1 Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” 2 And Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”
3 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, 4 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in. 5 For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling. 6 In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ 7 Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel, 8 and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 9 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall waste them no more, as formerly, 10 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. 11 When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’ ” 15 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
David’s Prayer16 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 17 And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God. You have also spoken of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have shown me future generations, O LORD God! 18 And what more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant. 19 For your servant’s sake, O LORD, and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. 20 There is none like you, O LORD, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making for yourself a name for great and awesome things, in driving out nations before your people whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22 And you made your people Israel to be your people forever, and you, O LORD, became their God. 23 And now, O LORD, let the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house be established forever, and do as you have spoken, 24 and your name will be established and magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. 25 For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you. 26 And now, O LORD, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 27 Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you, for it is you, O LORD, who have blessed, and it is blessed forever.”
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Misreading the Bible because we are Western
By Scot McKnight 11/1/2012
I speak, of course, only of Westerners. Ah-ha moments in Bible reading come to all of us, and perhaps you can remember one and tells us about it, but I can remember a few: when I realized the Bible’s writers and characters were ancient Jews and not modern American (Baptists), that they spoke Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek and Latin, that contemporary Jewish texts shed light constantly all over the Bible, that Paul’s letters were written before the Gospels, that the Gospels grew over time, that Isaiah was not written by the same author all at once … and then there was the colossal realization that Western senses of self, freedom, and individualism just don’t compute with ancient Jewish, Greek or Roman perceptions. That our theological issues are not theirs. That those folks cared lots about purity — and purity doesn’t mean to us what it meant then. That capitalism was unknown to the Bible. That young adults didn’t fall in love, date, and then choose the one they wanted to marry. That marriage itself didn’t mean to them quite what it means to us. I could go on…
What many of us have come to realize is that we get in the way at times when we are reading the Bible. That we impose, many times unintentionally and unconsciously, our world on the Bible and need to work at hearing the Bible in terms of the ancient world.
What are your best lessons in Bible reading? What were some of your ah-ha moments? When did you realize the gulf or gap between our culture and the Bible’s culture? When did you learn, or how did you learn, the Bible was not American, or European, or Australian, or whatever your culture is?
So I’ve got a book recommendation for you by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien called Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible [if IVP can split infinitives I guess it doesn’t matter anymore?]. As I read through this book I kept asking myself if this was a 9-poster book or a one-poster and I’ve decided to keep it at one and hope you will consider purchasing it and using it in your own Bible reading.
Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of more than fifty books, is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. Dr. McKnight has given interviews on radios across the nation, has appeared on television, and is regularly speaks at local churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries in the USA and abroad. Dr. McKnight obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham (1986) and has been a professor for more than three decades.
Scot McKnight is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for New Testament Studies. He is the author of the award-winning The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, which won the Christianity Today book of the year for Christian Living. His books include Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, The Story of the Christ, Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus, A Community Called Atonement (Living Theology). He broadened his Jesus Creed project in writing a daily devotional: 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed. His studies in conversion were expanded with his newest book, Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy, a book he co-authored with his former student Hauna Ondrey. Other books are The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible and Fasting: The Ancient Practices, as well as A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God's Design for Life Together and Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.
McKnight wrote a commentary on James (The Letter of James (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)), a book on discipleship (One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow), and a Jesus Creed book for high school students (with Syler Thomas and Chris Folmsbee) called The Jesus Creed for Students: Loving God, Loving Others. His research on gospel was published in the Fall of 2011 in a book called The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Along with Joe Modica, McKnight co-edited Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies. Also he published an e-book affirming the importance of the doctrine of perseverance in a book called A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance. His most recent commentary is Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary). In the Fall of 2015 his book on heaven appeared: The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About Life to Come, and he has a book appearing in 2017 The Hum of Angels: Listening for the Messengers of God Around Us.
He co-wrote with his daughter a Jesus Creed book for children: Sharing God's Love: The Jesus Creed for Chldren.
McKnight’s current projects is a commentary on Colossians (Eerdmans) as well as a book on the Holy Spirit.
Other books include Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am?: An Investigation of the Accusations Against the Historical Jesus (The Library of New Testament Studies), Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory, Light Among the Gentiles: Jewish Missionary Activity in the Second Temple Period by Scot McKnight (1991-04-02), A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Studying the Historical Jesus), Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels, Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary) and Galatians (The NIV Application Commentary), Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels (Guides to New Testament Exegesis), and he is a co-editor with J.B. Green and I.H. Marshall of the award-winning Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series) as well as the co-editor, with J.D.G. Dunn, The Historical Jesus in Recent Research. He regularly contributes chapter length studies to dictionaries, encyclopedias, books and articles for magazines and online webzines. McKnight’s books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Portuguese.
Scot McKnight was also ordained by Bishop Todd Hunter to the Diaconate in Churches for the Sake of Others, a segment of Anglican Churches of North America. He and Kris are active in their church, Church of the Redeemer.
McKnight blogs at Jesus Creed.
Scot McKnight was elected into the Hall of Honor at Cornerstone University in honor of his basketball accomplishments during his college career. He and his wife, Kristen, live in Libertyville, Illinois. They enjoy traveling, long walks, gardening, and cooking. They have two adult children, Laura (married to Mark Barringer) and Lukas (married to Annika Nelson), and two grandchildren: Aksel and Finley.
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes
By Robert Letham 4/24/2013
Randolph Richards, dean of the School of Ministry and professor of biblical studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and his former student, Brandon O’Brien, editor at large for Leadership Journal and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, together address the problem of cultural self-awareness in readers of Scripture. This is a common problem in reading ancient texts or interpreting the work of others. Richards brings to the task years of experience as a missionary in Indonesia, where cultural norms and mores are often radically different than in the West. The main thesis of Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes is that those living in Western societies are frequently blind to the cultural nuances those living in other cultures take for granted. As a result, Westerners may often miss the point of a biblical passage, whether narrative or didactic. In its tone and contents Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible is addressed largely, though not necessarily exclusively, to a lay readership living in the United States. It’s intended to enable readers to understand themselves in their cultural differences as a prelude to approaching and reading the biblical text.
Richards and O’Brien identify nine areas where interpretive problems commonly arise. Some cultural differences are obvious, others lurk beneath the surface, while a third class is extremely difficult to detect and thus poses the greatest danger to the reader of Scripture. The point is that most of these differences go unsaid, being implicit rather than clearly expressed. The first group, explained in chapters one to three, consists of cultural mores, the copious scriptural references to race and ethnicity in Scripture—with the overtones and undertones conveyed to the original readers—and varying significance given to different literary genres. In the second group, Richards and O’Brien contrast the rampant individualism of American society with the corporate and collectivist cultures that prevail in the East. They devote a chapter to the honor-shame nature of the Oriental world in contrast to the dominance of individual conscience and guilt in the West (following Augustine). Indeed, there are radical differences between the two worlds. In the final section, attention turns to the prominence of rules in the West vis-à-vis relationships in the East, to the concepts of virtue and vice, and to a Western obsession with individual, personal relevance that assumes Scripture was written directly to and for me.
There is much in Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes that will be of value to its intended readership, and its main purpose is both necessary and laudable. If it succeeds in convincing persons that, in order to grasp what Scripture is saying to our generation, we must first uncover what it said to its original readers, then it will have achieved a great gain. Moreover, there are a number of insights that make a valuable contribution. The chapter on race and ethnicity is a case in point; the divisions in Corinth may have arisen, it is proposed, from these factors, with Alexandrian Jews looking to Apollos, Aramaic speakers lining up behind Cephas (note: not Peter!), and others being ethnic Corinthians. Richards and O’Brien’s treatment of individualism is also likely to be of value in a culture to which the corporate categories of both the Old and New Testaments are alien. Talk of sin and salvation as a matter of being in Adam or in Christ doesn’t drip readily off American preachers’ lips, nor does the household nature of covenantal administration fit the rugged individualism of the frontier.
At the same time, however, there are a number of significant weaknesses. I shall pinpoint four main areas.
Robert Letham is a lecturer in systematic and historical theology at Wales Evangelical School of Theology in Bridgend, Wales.
How Significant Books Become Good Friends
By Richard Foster 5/1/2017
Writing this article was spiritually dangerous for me, for underlying such a task was the subtle but persistent temptation to impress rather than to help. (And I am not at all sure I have successfully avoided that temptation.)
When, however, I realized the assignment was not actually to list “My Choice of Books” but to honestly record the books that have profoundly influenced my life, the temptation lost its power, for while I wish I could tell you how deeply influenced I was as a child by reading Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Shakespeare and Milton, such was not the case. So I will share simply something of the pilgrimage of my mind and soul.
Soon after my conversion as a teenager, I was particularly drawn to the Book of Romans, which I studied for two years. I read the rest of the Bible too, but always I came back to Romans. Why? I’m not sure except that a youth pastor encouraged me. It wasn’t stuffy and academic to me as it was to some—to the contrary, every verse seemed to throb with intensity and fire. It worked theology into me more profoundly than anything before or since.
As a college student I wanted to understand what a life of faith and prayer looked like in practice. Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret best represents those years of seeking. Taylor’s life and faith moved me profoundly. Shadow of the Almighty was another book that helped me immensely—I read it perhaps twelve times in those years, memorizing several passages. Biographies of Adoniram Judson, C. T. Studd, George Muller, William Carey, David Livingstone, Francis Asbury, and David Brainerd all helped to flesh out the meaning of faith.
About Richard Foster
Books by Richard Foster
Celebration of Discipline: The Path To Spiritual Growth
Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home
Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines
Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World
Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation
Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer
The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power
Prayers from the Heart
Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home
Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion (Renovare Resources)
Money, Sex and Power
How Do We Understand and Reach Generation Z?
By Sean McDowell 2/2/2017
For the past few months I have been reading every study I can find on Generation Z, (those born between 1995-2010). With the help of a graduate student who did some research for me, I found over 350 pages of research on Gen Z, which took me dozens of hours to carefully digest.
But then last week I came across Meet Generation Z, by James Emery White. Had I found this book earlier, it would have saved me a ton of time! It is an easy-to-read, documented, and insightful look at how to understand and reach the newest generation of students.
Here are three interesting cultural insights that White notes before delving into some specifics of Generation Z. They help provide some of the backdrop for understanding young people today:
- Theological controversies of the past included Christology, the Holy Spirit, revelation and more, but the big issue today is the doctrine of humanity (in light of human cloning, transsexualism, and stem cell research).
- The heart of secularism is functional atheism, which is not rejecting God, but simply ignoring Him.
- Of the 85 percent of American adults who were raised Christian, nearly a quarter no longer identify with Christianity.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Books By Sean McDowell
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 46God Is Our Fortress
46 To The Choirmaster. Of The Sons Of Korah. According To Alamoth. A Song.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Are All Sins Equal to God?
By Michael Patton 1/23/2017
During my ordination, one of the questions that I was asked by a seminary professor was “Are all sins equal in the sight of God?” I hesitated. Not because I did not have a strong opinion on this, but because I was not sure what the answer was that he was looking for. Are all sins equal in the sight of God? My ordination may have depended on the answer. A Practical Test A Biblical Test Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the LORD hates, Why Do Some Christians Believe that All Sins Are Equal The Absurdity of Such Thinking A Better Way to Put It About Michael Patton | Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar, president of Credo House Ministries, best latte maker at Credo House (when I am the only one working), author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children.
It is very common within popular evangelicalism to answer this question in the affirmative. This was one of the main assumptions in a book that I just recommended last week. Most find this theological concept very appealing and accept it, I am afraid to say, without doing much homework.
I think this tendency to assume that all sins are equal in the sight of God comes by means of three influences.
1) A reaction by Protestants against the Roman Catholic distinction between mortal sins (sins that kill justifying grace) and venial sin (sins of a lesser nature that do not kill justifying grace).
2) A tendency within our evangelistic church culture to express common ground with unbelievers—i.e., if all sins are equal in God’s sight, then your sin is not worse than any other. This way we are not coming across as judgmental or condescending.
3) Some biblical passages that have been interpreted in such a way (discussed below).
I don’t believe, however, that all sin is equal in God’s sight. I believe that telling people all sins are equal to God does serious damage to people’s understanding of the character of God and of the seriousness of sins. There are many reasons for this, but let me start with a reductio ad absurdum and them move to a biblical argument.
But nobody does this. We all see speeding down the road as water under the bridge of God. Apparently our conscience bears witness that it is not as bad as other things, even if we confess differently. Either that or the ability for our theology to actually affect the way we believe and think is non-functional in this situation.
1. Christ tells Pilate that the Jewish leaders have committed a worse sin than him, saying, “He who has handed me over to you has committed the greater sin” Jn. 19:11.
John 19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” ESV
2. Certain sins in the law are distinguished in a particular context as an abomination to God, implying that others are not as severe (e.g. Lev. 18:22; Deut. 7:25, Deut. 23:18, Isa. 41:24).
Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. ESV
Deuteronomy 7:25 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. ESV
Deuteronomy 23:18 You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God. ESV
Isaiah 41:24 Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you. ESV
3. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is set apart as a more severe sin than blasphemy of the Son (Matt. 12:31)
Matthew 12:31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. ESV
4. Proverbs 6:16-19 lists particular sins in such a way as to single them out because of their depraved nature, separating them from others.
seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers. ESV
Luke 12:47-48 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. ESV
6. Christ often evaluates the sin of the Pharisees as greater than the sins of others. You strain out a gnat while you swallow a camel (Matt. 23:24). If all sins are equal, Christ’s rebuke does not make any sense. (See also Lk. 20:46-47)
Matthew 23:24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! ESV
7. Similarly, Christ also talked about the “weightier things of the law” (Matt. 23:23). If all sins are equal, there is no law (or violation of that law) that is “weightier” than others. They are all the same weight.
Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others ESV
8. Unforgiveness is continually referred to as a particularly heinous sin (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:23-35).
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. ESV
Matthew 18:23-35 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ESV
Matthew 5:27-28 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ESV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery’” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:27-28 27).
Is there a difference in the eyes of God between thinking about adultery and actually doing it? Absolutely. If we say anything other than this, I believe we do damage to God’s character and encourage the act based upon its premonition. The point Christ makes in Matt. 5:28 is not that lust and the actual act are equal, but that they both violate the same commandment, even if the degrees of this violation differ. Thus, Christ was telling people – and particularly the religious establishment of the day that thought they were safe because they had fulfilled the letter of the law – that the law runs much deeper. The spirit of the law is what matters. Therefore, if you have ever lusted, you have broken the sixth commandment. If you have ever hated your brother, you have broken the fifth commandment (Matt. 5:22). But, again, the breaking of the principles of the commandment is the issue, not the degree to which it is broken.
Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ESV
Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ESV
This is the same argument that James makes in Jam. 2:10 when he says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” He is not equating all sin, but showing how any violation of the law, no matter how small, is still breaking the whole of the law because the law is connected to such a degree.
James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. ESV
1 Corinthians 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” ESV
I think that this way of thinking is not only wrong biblically, but it also has repercussions that lead to a distorted worldview and to discrediting the integrity of God and the Gospel of Christ.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ESV
I think this is a safe way to stay humble and accurately represent the biblical witness:
While not all people sin to the same degree, we all share in an equally depraved nature.
In other words, no one is less of a sinner because of an innate righteousness about which they can boast. All people have equal potential for depravity because we are all sons of Adam and share in the same depravity, even if we don’t, due to God’s grace, act out our sinfulness to the same degree.
If you disagree with this, just think — really think — about what you are saying about God. You are saying to an unbelieving world that your God is just as angry about the act of going 56 in a 55 as he is about the act of one who rapes and murders a six-year-old girl. Do you really want to go there? Do you really think this position is sufficiently supported to justify such a belief? Can you really defend it? If the Bible teaches it, fine. We go with the Bible and not with our emotions or palatability decoder. But I don’t believe that a viable case can be made for letting our theology argue for such a belief. I can’t think of many more things in Evangelical pop-theology that is more wrong, more damaging, or more misrepresentative of God’s character and the nature of sin.
I answered with the above answer during my ordination. I was relieved when I saw the approval of the ordination committee. They were all concerned that I might be one who, even with seminary training, retained this belief that most Evangelicals have. I have often wondered whether or not they would have passed me if I had answered according to today’s Evangelical folklore, saying that all sins are equal in the sight of God. I would hope not.
Others who say the same thing:
A Practical TestI often ask people who say that all sin is equal in the sight of God if they live according to their theology. Think about this. If all sin is really equal in the sight of God, and one really believes this, then God’s consternation and anger will be equal for whatever sin we commit. Equally important is the fact that our relational disposition before God should suffer equally from the conviction of the Holy Spirit for all sins. Most Christians understand what it means to have a conscience weighed down by unrepentant sin. But this weighing down normally only comes from those sins that we perceive to be more severe. If it is true, however, that all sin is equal in the sight of God and one actually lived according to that theology, then they should be just as troubled spiritually and just as repentant before God when they break the speed limit as when they commit adultery. After all, breaking the speed limit, even by 1 mph, is breaking the law and breaking the law is sin (Rom 13).
A Biblical TestNext (and more importantly) I think that it is biblical and necessary to say that some sins are more grievous in the sight of God than others. This also translates into the non-politically correct assumption that some people are sinners to a greater degree than others. Even though Protestants may not agree with the theology behind the Roman Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sins, there are many instances in the Scriptures where degrees of sin are distinguished.
Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the LORD hates,
Why Do Some Christians Believe that All Sins Are EqualSo where does this folk theology come from? Most people would refer to Christ’s comments in the Sermon on the Mount. Most particularly, reference is made to Matt. 5:27-28 as justification for this way of thinking.
The Absurdity of Such ThinkingThink about this (another reductio): if you believe that adultery and lust are equal in the sight of God, then here are the consequences: any man or woman can justify divorce based upon the fact that in Matt. 5:32 Christ condemns divorce except for marital infidelity. All they need to do is make the safe assumption that their spouse has lusted to some degree during their marriage. This will make their divorce justified and biblical. In the same way, if a man were to lust after a woman on the internet, he might as well commit the actual act since in God’s eyes he already has. Or (while I am on roll), if you have ever lusted after a girl, then you are under God’s mandate to marry her since in God’s eyes you are one with her (1 Cor. 6:16).
A Better Way to Put ItIt is true. All people are sinners (Rom. 3:23). All people are sinners from birth. But not all sin is equal.
About Michael Patton | Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar, president of Credo House Ministries, best latte maker at Credo House (when I am the only one working), author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children.
Did Jesus Get “This Generation” Wrong?
By Nate Sala 2/20/2017
“What answer would you guys give to those who question Matt 24:34 and say, ‘See? They’re dead, it’s not real!’ I know that even C.S. Lewis struggled with it and while I’ve been studying this, the best rebuttals I’ve seen would be ‘translation’ because some say ‘…this age’ or ‘…this people’. Or, to interpret it as Jesus speaking to ‘the last generation’ before his return. However, I think most skeptics would shrug off those explanations. I mean, I would if I were a skeptic. I’d be like, ‘Really? That’s all you got?’ So, I was curious, what do you guys think about Matt 24:34 and what’s the best way to defend it?” – Misty Callahan
Nate: Hi Misty! Thanks very much for the question and the opportunity to respond. The passage you’re referring to is in the Olivet Discourse where Jesus is talking about the signs of His coming and the end of the age. In v. 34 he concludes His prophetic descriptions with:
“TRULY I SAY TO YOU, THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY UNTIL ALL THESE THINGS TAKE PLACE.” \ So then the obvious question arises: Who is the generation? As you pointed out, C.S. Lewis struggled with this passage. As a matter of fact, he called it the most embarrassing verse in the Bible because, taken in a straightforward sense, it appears that Jesus is making a prophecy that is applicable only to the generation alive in His day. But the generation Jesus was speaking to is long dead now and He has not physically returned yet. So what’s the deal with that??
I’m not sure if C.S. Lewis was aware of this but there are different schools of thought when it comes to the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation. Laying all of them out would be a task in and of itself. I’m just going to give a brief explanation and sketch of how I understand Jesus in this passage. I take the preterist position that Jesus was speaking to His original hearers about the coming destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, the answer to the skeptic here is that there is no problem with an unfulfilled prophecy. It’s already been fulfilled.
English and Forensics Teacher. B.Sc., M.Ed. University of Nevada Las Vegas. Lives in Las Vegas with his wife, two sons, and dogs.
What Will You Do When the End Comes?
By John Piper 8/30/2016
“An appalling and horrible thing
“has happened in the land:
“the prophets prophesy falsely,
“and the priests rule at their direction;
“my people love to have it so,
“but what will you do when the end comes? (Jeremiah 5:30–31)
This is a plea that pastors, evangelists, teachers, parents, and friends warn those they love that, if they do not repent, they will be speechless, helpless, and hopeless when the end comes.
I say this as a Christian Hedonist — as one who believes, down to his toenails, that joyless compliance with God’s commands is useless in the last day — that without satisfaction in God himself, all repentance is vain.
For there is no such thing as repentance without satisfaction in God. This is the essence of sin — being more satisfied with anything above God (Romans 1:23). Joyless repentance is an oxymoron, because the sin we must repent from is finding little joy in God.
What was this “appalling and horrible thing” that Jeremiah said had happened in the land? “Prophets prophesy falsely.” Priests fall in line with the falsehood. And the people “love to have it so.” They love it — love it.
John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture.John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Come, Lord Jesus
By Matthew Westerholm 4/17/2016
“I recently compared two large selections of worship songs. The first was the most commonly sung congregational songs in the United States since the year 2000; the second was the most commonly published congregational songs from 1730–1850. Among many similarities, one difference was striking: Our churches no longer sing about Christ’s second coming as much as we used to.
Perhaps this makes some sense. Among other things, it can be embarrassing to Christians when people publically conjecture regarding the time of Christ’s return. Their speculation begins with certainty on a precise date, but ends with ridicule on the local news.
Jesus himself warned us against this type of conjecture (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). The apostle Paul warned that Christ’s return wasn’t a topic for speculation, but for preparation (Romans 13:11–12). But Paul also disapproved of a reactionary stance that minimized the believer’s longing for Christ’s second coming.
Encourage One Another | In his letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul instructs believers concerning the return of Christ, the resurrection of deceased believers, and the reunion of all believers with the King. He concludes, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Christians ought to encourage each other with words and songs about Christ’s return. One easy way to be encouraged by the reality of Christ’s return is found at the end of the Bible. It is a four-word prayer in Revelation 22:20 that ought to regularly be on the lips of every follower of Jesus — and a theme to restore to its rightful place in our corporate worship: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
The Closing Ceremonies and the End of History
By Ed Uszynski 2/22/2014
“The opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games have become events themselves, bookends to the highly anticipated competitions they bracket. Given the estimated billion people who watched both the Beijing and London opening ceremonies, the pre- and post- event spectacles arguably attract larger followings than the competitions themselves.
During these non-competitive portions of the games, we experience national pride in our “home team” combined with the collective joy that accompanies a veritable international carnival, along with the aura of seemingly indestructible confidence radiating from human bodies at their physical peak. As delivered through our televisions, everyone gathered in the stadium appears to be friends, and once again we’re reminded of the humanistic spirit behind the modern Olympics — the creation of the “why can’t we all just get along?” vibe that arrives the moment the first team enters the venue.
Is This the True Peace? | The five interlocking rings which brand each Olympic gathering contain symbolism toward this noble goal of world peace, “represent[ing] the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic games.” For athletes from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceana, the two-week window of competition attempts to temporarily transcend the social and political realities facing them at home, offering a “union” that illustrates the humanistic hope of a life lived in peace under the global sun.
Occasionally, however, even amid heavily armed security — its presence alone an ironic counter to the pretense of a manufactured global peace — social and political turmoil still force their way into the Olympic narrative. Recalling as examples the tragedies of the 1972 Israeli murders in Munich, the 1996 park bombing in Atlanta, and the mutual boycotting of the games by the United States and the USSR in 1980 and 1984, we are reminded that the message of peace created by sporting events and choreographed harmony is a constantly frustrated mirage, a hope that cannot be satisfied in this life.
The Day Is Coming | Nevertheless, the ceremonies offer a beautiful, yet distorted, shadow of another envisioned spectacle, where the nations gather together once again and the hope of peace is finally and fully realized. The writer of Revelation describes a reoccurring futuristic scene, saying,
Ed Uszynski Ed Uszynski (PhD in American Culture Studies) works with Athletes in Action, the sport ministry of Cru, and is an elder at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Xenia, Ohio. He and his wife, Amy, have four children. He works out his salvation as a long-suffering fan of Cleveland sports teams.
By Don Carson 5/6/2018
Another day thinking about rebellion — this time the rebellion displayed by the people at Kedesh Barnea, when they forfeited the opportunity to enter the Promised Land because of their sin (Num. 14).
(1) Just as in the previous chapter the ten spies who gave a negative report were responsible for discouraging the people, so the people are responsible to decide to whom they will give heed. They simply go with the majority. If they had adhered to the covenant to which they had pledged themselves, if they had remembered what God had already done for them, they would have sided with Caleb and Joshua. Those who side with the majority voice and not with the word of God are always wrong and are courting disaster.
(2) To doubt the covenantal faithfulness of God, not the least his ability and his will to save his own people and to do what he has said he will do, is to treat God with contempt (14:11, 23). Virtually all perpetual grumbling partakes of such contempt. This is a great evil.
(3) People often hide their own lack of faith, their blatant unbelief, by erecting a pious front. Here they express their concern that their wives and children will be taken as plunder (14:3). Instead of admitting they are scared to death and turning to God for help, implicitly they blame God for being less concerned for their wives and children than they are themselves.
(4) The punishment exacted therefore precisely suits the crime: that adult generation, with a couple of exceptions, dies out in the desert before their children (the very children about whom they profess such concern) inherit the land almost forty years later (14:20-35).
(5) There is a kind of repentance that grieves over past failures but is not resolved to submit to the word of God. The Israelites grieve — and decide to take over the Promised Land, even though God has now told them not to attempt it, since he will no longer be their bulwark and strength. Moses rightly sees that this is nothing other than further disobedience (14:41). Inevitably they are beaten up for their pains (14:44-45).
These five characteristics of this terrible rebellion are not unknown today: a popular adherence to majority religious opinion with very little concern to know and obey the word of God, an indifferent dismissal of God with contempt stemming from rank unbelief, pious excuses that mask fear and unbelief, temporal judgments that kill any possibility of courageous Christian work, and a faulty and superficial “repentance” that leaves a meeting determined to make things right, and yet is still unwilling to listen to the Word of God and obey him. God help us all.
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
By Gleason Archer Jr.
The name Ḥabaqquq is an unusual one of uncertain meaning; possibly it signified ardent embrace, from ḥabaq, “embrace” (Eiselen in ISBE). Some have suggested that it was the name of a garden plant which the Assyrians called ḫambaqūqu, but which cannot as yet be identified.
The theme of this prophecy concerns the problems of faith in the face of apparent difficulties hindering the fulfillment of God’s promises. These difficulties are grappled with and solved in the light of God’s continuing revelation, and the prophet closes in a psalm of joyous trust.
Outline of Habakkuk
I. Problems of faith, 1:1–2:20
A. How can a holy God permit unholiness to go unchecked? 1:1–12
1. Oppression unchecked in Judah, 1:2–5
2. The Chaldeans as God’s scourge, 1:6–12
B. How can God permit a wicked nation to triumph over His covenant people? 1:13–2:20
1. Ruthless cruelty and crass idolatry of the Chaldeans, 1:13–17
2. The believer to wait humbly, trustingly for God’s answer, 2:1–4
3. Judgment of God will smite the Chaldeans because of their five sins, 2:5–9
4. God’s continued sovereignty over His earth, 2:20
II. Doubts all settled: the prayer of faith and unshakable trust, 3:1–19
A. Prayer for revival, 3:1–2
B. Past judgments of the Lord a sure token for the future, 3:3–16
C. The believer’s joy in God alone, assured of vindication of God’s holiness, 3:17–19
Habakkuk: Authorship and Time of Composition
Habakkuk seems to have performed his ministry in the reign of Jehoiakim, since the Chaldeans are mentioned as already well known and of formidable reputation ( 1:6–10 ). This would best agree with a time subsequent to the fall of Nineveh in 612, and perhaps even after Nebuchadnezzar had achieved his triumph at the battle of Carchemish in 605. It is fair to conclude that the prediction of the Chaldean subjugation of Palestine was intended for fairly speedy fulfillment. (Whether it referred to Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion in 605 or the second invasion in 597, it is hard to say.) Habakkuk 1:2–4 points to an outbreak of rapacious exploitation of the poor on the part of the Judean nobility; this might imply a time after the death of Josiah (609). It is therefore reasonable to conclude that Habakkuk delivered his message somewhere around 608 or 607 B.C.
Some critics are disinclined to refer 1:2–4 to native Jewish oppressors, but prefer to identify them with the Egyptians (thus dating it at 608, during the brief ascendancy of Necho) or even with the Assyrians (which would make it prior to 612, or perhaps as early as the reign of Ashurbanipal, who died in 626). But there is no good evidence in the text of 1:2–4 that heathen invaders are referred to; the manipulation of the law courts to favor the wealthy points to a domestic evil between Jewish litigants ( 1:4 ).
Some critics feel that the material in chapters 1 and 2 has been rearranged by a later editor, even though a pre-exilic Habakkuk may have been the author of each portion. But liberal critics uniformly challenge his authorship of chapter 3 on the ground that it is a psalm rather than a prophetic utterance, and that it mentions musical terms in its first and last verses. On these grounds Pfeiffer dates this chapter in the fourth or third century B.C. But such an argument assumes the validity of the supposition that the musical terms in the Davidic Psalms are late, and that despite Amos 6:5 and similar references, King David had nothing to do with music or song, since he was a man of war. But for those who take seriously the biblical tradition that David was very much concerned with the writing and singing of psalms, such musical terms constitute no evidence of late authorship. Nor is there any compelling reason why a prophet would have been incapable of composing a psalm of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. Large portions of the prophetic writings are highly poetic in character, as the critics themselves are swift to point out.
Some scholars have made much of the fact that the Habakkuk Commentary from the First Qumran Cave omits the third chapter. Millar Burrows, however, remarks: “Its absence from the scroll is consistent with this theory, but does not prove it. It does not even prove that the third chapter was unknown to the Judean covenanters. Being a psalm, it does not lend itself to a prophetic pesher as readily as the earlier chapters. It is even possible that the Commentary was never finished. The Septuagint has all three chapters, but whether this particular part of the Septuagint is older than the Habakkuk Commentary is another question.” The Habakkuk pesher from Qumran Cave One does in fact include a sizable space for a column of text which was never written out.
Message of HabakkukThe rapacious Jewish nobles, allied with corrupt religious leaders, were shamelessly robbing and oppressing the common people in Judah. Therefore they were to be punished through the instrumentality of the Chaldeans. It is interesting to note that it was the upper classes that were first taken into captivity in the two preliminary deportations of 605 and 597. The majority of the lower classes was left in the land until the third deportation of 586.
But the prophet next sees that the conquering Chaldeans will themselves pose a serious problem to reconcile with the doctrine of the holiness of God, for they are a bloody and ruthless people who have no respect for the moral law. But instead of falling into an impatient cynicism, Habakkuk sets a salutary example of waiting upon the Lord for His answer ( 2:1 ). In time, the answer comes: the proud, self-confident sinner shall be condemned, his time is ripe, and only the faithful believer shall stand acquitted before God’s judgment. Only he will partake of eternal life, or even survive in this life in the onward progress of history ( 2:4 ). God has taken notice of the sins of the Chaldeans and will gloriously vindicate Himself in the end as He brings judgment upon them ( 2:13–14 ). With all these doubts settled, Habakkuk breaks forth into a psalm of holy rejoicing and harks back to the days of the Exodus, the Conquest, and the times of the judges, to recall past instances when God similarly vindicated His righteousness and demonstrated His sovereignty to the world.
In many ways the prophecy of Habakkuk is unique. It is especially noteworthy in the style of its approach. Instead of addressing the people directly as a spokesman of the Lord, Habakkuk imparted God’s message by telling them how it first came to him and answered the questions that were rising in his soul. With the possible exception of Daniel, no other biblical author employs this particular technique.
A Survey of Old Testament Introduction
The Continual Burnt Offering (Daniel 7:27)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Daniel 7:27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’ ESV
Twice in the book of Daniel God has given great prophetic outlines of the course of world empire, culminating in the setting aside of all earthly dominions and the setting up of the long-looked-for kingdom of God in this world. The kingdom of the Son of Man will be as the days of Heaven upon earth. This will be at the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ when He will descend from Heaven with all His saints to put down iniquity and establish righteousness throughout all the world. For this all creation sighs, and to this all instructed believers look forward. Then those who have suffered with Christ in the hour of His rejection shall reign with Him in the day of His glory.
Daniel 7:14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’
Daniel 7:22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.
Psalm 149:5 Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
9 to execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the LORD!
Isaiah 49:23 Kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the LORD;
those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”
24 Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
25 For thus says the LORD:
“Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
and I will save your children.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.
Then all flesh shall know
that I am the LORD your Savior,
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Isaiah 54:3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.
Isaiah 60:11 Your gates shall be open continually;
day and night they shall not be shut,
that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations,
with their kings led in procession.
12 For the nation and kingdom
that will not serve you shall perish;
those nations shall be utterly laid waste.
13 The glory of Lebanon shall come to you,
the cypress, the plane, and the pine,
to beautify the place of my sanctuary,
and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
14 The sons of those who afflicted you
shall come bending low to you,
and all who despised you
shall bow down at your feet;
they shall call you the City of the LORD,
the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
15 Whereas you have been forsaken and hated,
with no one passing through,
I will make you majestic forever,
a joy from age to age.
16 You shall suck the milk of nations;
you shall nurse at the breast of kings;
and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
Zephaniah 3:19 Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
20 At that time I will bring you in,
at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes,” says the LORD.
Zechariah 14:9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.
Revelation 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. ESV
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
--- Isaac Watts
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
12/1/2005 Awaiting His Return
There is a widespread fascination with the end of the world. Throughout history, we have witnessed the bold assertions of soothsayers, naysayers, and doomsdayers. Every day, self-proclaimed prophets of the end times make whimsical predictions about the future. Claiming to have biblical authority, they tout their cleverly devised schemes about the end of the world as we know it, and by reading between the lines of the Old Testament prophetical books, they carefully contort the words of sacred Scripture to fit their fictional fantasies about the second advent of Christ.
Christians throughout the world have become so enamored with some obscure aspect about the second advent of Christ that they construct their entire systems of doctrine upon what might happen — not upon what has happened. We are, indeed, called to live with eager expectation of the second advent of Christ, but we should only do so in light of the first advent of Christ. In remembrance of Christ’s first advent, it is not enough simply to wish Jesus a happy birthday. In fact, to do so borders on blasphemy. Instead, we are called to remember and to celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the eternal Logos.
At the first advent of Jesus Christ, the fullness of time had come and God sent forth His Son into this fallen world. As the prophets foretold, He was born of a virgin who was richly blessed of God. He was born under the law of God, not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. As was necessary to redeem those under the Law, He fulfilled the righteous demands of the Law and took upon Himself the sins of His people, His sheep for whom He laid down His life.
As His people, we confess that Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead. We believe He will return to this world not as a babe in a manger but as the King of all the earth, in power and glory to manifest His reign over the new heavens and the new earth.
We confess His return because of what He taught us at His first advent and on account of the hope that is within us. For this reason, during the wonderful Advent season that comes each year, we should eagerly await the second advent of Christ as we celebrate the first advent of Christ. Nevertheless, let us always be mindful that although Christmas day comes only once a year, we are called to remember and celebrate the eternal work of Christ — past, present, and future — each day of our lives coram Deo, before the face of God.
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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
In exchange for some brass buttons, and scarlet cloth worth about twenty-four dollars, Manhattan Island was purchased from the Manhattan Indian tribe on this day, May 6, 1626, by the Peter Minuit, governor of the New Netherlands province. Naming the Island New Amsterdam, it was later taken over by the British and renamed New York City. The original Charter of Freedoms for the colony stated: "The… colonists shall… in the speediest manner, endeavor to find out ways… whereby they may support a Minister and Schoolmaster, that thus the service of God and zeal for religion may not grow cool and be neglected."
Compilation by RickAdams7
Being free means
"being free for the other,"
because the other has bound me to him.
Only in relationship with the other am I free.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Creation and Fall Temptation: Two Biblical Studies
Man is unjust, but God is just;
--- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poems & Other Writings: (Library of America 118)
Oh! how many Christians look upon it as a burden and a tax, and a duty, and a difficulty to be often alone with God! That is the great hindrance to our Christian life everywhere. We need more quiet fellowship with God, and I tell you in the name of the heavenly Vine that you cannot be healthy branches, branches into which the heavenly sap can flow, unless you take plenty of time for communion with God. If you are not willing to sacrifice time to get alone with Him, and to give Him time every day to work in you, and to keep up the link of connection between you and Himself, He cannot give you that blessing of His unbroken fellowship. Jesus Christ asks you to live in close communion with Him. Let every heart say: "O, Christ, it is this I long for, it is this I choose." And He will gladly give it to you.
--- Andrew Murray
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
The Church is an organism that grows best in an alien society.
--- C. Stacey Woods
The Enduring Revolution
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Fifty-Seventh Chapter / A Man Should Not Be Too Downcast When He Falls Into Defects
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, patience and humility in adversity are more pleasing to Me than much consolation and devotion when things are going well.
Why are you saddened by some little thing said against you? Even if it had been more you ought not to have been affected. But now let it pass. It is not the first, nor is it anything new, and if you live long it will not be the last.
You are manly enough so long as you meet no opposition. You give good advice to others, and you know how to strengthen them with words, but when unexpected tribulation comes to your door, you fail both in counsel and in strength. Consider your great weakness, then, which you experience so often in small matters. Yet when these and like trials happen, they happen for your good.
Put it out of your heart as best you know how, and if it has touched you, still do not let it cast you down or confuse you for long. Bear it patiently at least, if you cannot bear it cheerfully. Even though you bear it unwillingly, and are indignant at it, restrain yourself and let no ill-ordered words pass your lips at which the weak might be scandalized. The storm that is now aroused will soon be quieted and your inward grief will be sweetened by returning grace. “I yet live,” says the Lord, “ready to help you and to console you more and more, if you trust in Me and call devoutly upon Me.”
Remain tranquil and prepare to bear still greater trials. All is not lost even though you be troubled oftener or tempted more grievously. You are a man, not God. You are flesh, not an angel. How can you possibly expect to remain always in the same state of virtue when the angels in heaven and the first man in paradise failed to do so? I am He Who rescues the afflicted and brings to My divinity those who know their own weakness.
Blessed be Your words, O Lord, sweeter to my mouth than honey and the honeycomb. What would I do in such great trials and anxieties, if You did not strengthen me with Your holy words? If I may but attain to the haven of salvation, what does it matter what or how much I suffer? Grant me a good end. Grant me a happy passage out of this world. Remember me, my God, and lead me by the right way into Your kingdom.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
What is it that keeps us from trusting Him perfectly?
Many a one says: "I believe what you say, but there is one difficulty. If my trust were perfect and always abiding, all would come right, for I know God will honor trust. But how am I to get that trust?"
My answer is: "By the death of self. The great hindrance to trust is self-effort. So long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and strength, you cannot fully trust God. But when God breaks you down, when everything begins to grow dim before your eyes, and you see that you understand nothing, then God is coming near, and if you will bow down in nothingness and wait upon God, He will become all."
As long as we are something, God cannot be all, and His omnipotence cannot do its full work. That is the beginning of faith--utter despair of self, a ceasing from man and everything on earth, and finding our hope in God alone.
Faith Is Rest
And then, next, we must understand that faith is rest.
In the beginning of the faith-life, faith is struggling; but as long as faith is struggling, faith has not attained its strength. But when faith in its struggling gets to the end of itself, and just throws itself upon God and rests on Him, then come joy and victory.
Perhaps I can make it plainer if I tell the story of how the Keswick Convention began. Canon Battersby was an evangelical clergyman of the Church of England for more than twenty years, a man of deep and tender godliness, but he had not the consciousness of rest and victory over sin, and often was deeply sad at the thought of stumbling and failure and sin. When he heard about the possibility of victory, he felt it was desirable, but it was as if he could not attain it. On one occasion, he heard an address on "Rest and Faith" from the story of the nobleman who came from Capernaum to Cana to ask Christ to heal his child. In the address it was shown that the nobleman believed that Christ could help him in a general way, but he came to Jesus a good deal by way of an experiment. He hoped Christ would help him, but he had not any assurance of that help. But what happened? When Christ said to him: "Go thy way, for thy child liveth," that man believed the word that Jesus spoke; he rested in that word. He had no proof that his child was well again, and he had to walk back seven hours' journey to Capernaum. He walked back, and on the way met his servant, and got the first news that the child was well, that at one o'clock on the afternoon of the previous day, at the very time that Jesus spoke to him, the fever left the child. That father rested upon the word of Jesus and His work, and he went down to Capernaum and found his child well; and he praised God, and became with his whole house a believer and disciple of Jesus.
Oh, friends, that is faith! When God comes to me with the promise of His keeping, and I have nothing on earth to trust in, I say to God:
"Thy word is enough; kept by the power of God." That is faith, that is rest.
When Canon Battersby heard that address, he went home that night, and in the darkness of the night found rest. He rested on the word of Jesus. And the next Morning, in the streets of Oxford, he said to a friend: "I have found it!" Then he went and told others, and asked that the Keswick Convention might be begun, and those at the convention with himself should testify simply what God had done.
It is a great thing when a man comes to rest on God's almighty power for every moment of his life, in prospect of temptations to temper and haste and anger and unlovingness and pride and sin. It is a great thing in prospect of these to enter into a covenant with the omnipotent Jehovah, not on account of anything that any man says, or of anything that my heart feels, but on the strength of the Word of God: "Kept by the power of God through faith."
Oh, let us say to God that we are going to test Him to the very uttermost. Let us say: We ask Thee for nothing more than Thou canst give, but we want nothing less. Let us say: My God, let my life be a proof of what the omnipotent God can do. Let these be the two dispositions of our souls every day--deep helplessness, and simple, childlike rest.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
13 The king should delight in righteous lips,
and he should love someone who speaks what is right.
14 The king’s anger is a herald of death,
and one who is wise will appease it.
15 When the king’s face brightens, it means life;
his favor is like the clouds that bring spring rain.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Liberty on the abyss of the Gospel
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. --- Gal. 5:1.
A spiritually minded man will never come to you with the demand—‘Believe this and that’; but with the demand that you square your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One Whom the Bible reveals (cf. John 5:39–40). We are called to present liberty of conscience, not liberty of view. If we are free with the liberty of Christ, others will be brought into that same liberty—the liberty of realizing the dominance of Jesus Christ.
Always keep your life measured by the standards of Jesus. Bow your neck to His yoke alone, and to no other yoke whatever; and be careful to see that you never bind a yoke on others that is not placed by Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us out of the way of thinking that unless everyone sees as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one liberty, the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.
Don’t get impatient, remember how God dealt with you—with patience and with gentleness; but never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples,’ not—make converts to your opinions.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And in the book I read:
God is love. But lifting
my head, I do not find it
so. Shall I return
to my book and between
print, wander an air
heavy with the scent
of this one word? Or not trust
language, only the blows that
life gives me, wearing them
like those red tokens with which
an agreement is sealed?
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Harry Truman had a famous sign on his desk in the White House Oval Office: "The Buck Stops Here." He was reminding himself, and those who worked for the people, that if something went wrong, they were responsible. There were to be no excuses, no looking for a scapegoat, no shifting of blame.
That willingness to shoulder responsibility is becoming rarer in our society. More and more, we see a trend emerging of people looking for an excuse for their misconduct. A most extreme example was the so-called "Twinkie Defense," where a man who murdered two San Francisco politicians blamed his actions on "junk food," which had caused him to lose control of himself. This approach of "I'm not to blame" is all around us. A drunk driver blames alcoholism for the death of the pedestrian he ran down. A pedophile blames his crimes on his father, who sexually abused him when he was a child. A mugger points a finger at poverty and the society that forced him into a life of crime. A gunman opens fire in a crowded train, and his lawyers explain that the rage came because their client was a victim of racism. A woman sustains serious burns when she spills coffee on herself in a restaurant and sues the fast-food chain, claiming that they made the drink too hot. A rapist blames the victim, saying she was "asking for it."
Imagine a defendant standing up in court and just pleading guilty. "Your honor, I did it. I know I was wrong. I did a terrible thing. I feel sick about what I've done, and about the suffering that I've caused. I'm here to admit my guilt, to take responsibility for my actions, and to say that I am deeply, deeply sorry. I'm ready to accept my punishment." How absurd such a statement sounds in our society. And how refreshing.
The Rabbis teach us that there is no agent for wrongdoing, that we should not look for someone else to blame: "You know right from wrong. You know that there are consequences to your actions. Take responsibility for what you do!" Three times a day in the Amidah, a traditional Jew "confesses" his or her sins: "Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed." These lines are punctuated by many people with two symbolic taps on the breast, over the heart. They are a daily reminder that we should not waste our time looking for excuses or other people to blame for what we ourselves have done. There is no agent for wrongdoing; we are responsible.
A person does not prepare a meal to ruin it.
Text / A certain man said, "[Let our daughter be married] to my relative," while she said, "To my relative." She pressured him until he agreed to her relative. When they were eating and drinking, his relative went to the roof and married her. Abaye said: "It is written: 'The remnant of Israel shall do no wrong and speak no falsehood'
[Zephaniah 3:13]." Rava said: "It is presumed that a person does not prepare a meal to ruin it." Where do they differ? They differ about a case where one did not prepare.
Context / The Jewish wedding of today is actually two ceremonies. In the days of the Talmud, these two ceremonies were separated by a period of time, often a year. In the first ceremony, Kiddushin or Erusin, often called "betrothal," the groom handed the bride an object of value (like a ring) and said to her, in the presence of two witnesses: "Behold, you are consecrated to me by this ring in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel." Two blessings were also recited over a cup of wine. The couple was then consecrated to each other, though cohabitation was not yet allowed. At a later date, the Nissuin or ḥuppah took place. At this time, seven blessings were recited over a cup of wine and the marriage was consummated. Probably in the twelfth century, the two ceremonies were joined together as one (as they are today) under the ḥuppah. The perilous conditions of medieval Jews is usually given as the cause for this change. In addition, it likely was difficult for the couple to have all the stringencies of marriage with none of the benefits. Thus, the difficulty of waiting a year was alleviated by bringing the two ceremonies together under the ḥuppah. The Jewish wedding festivities are traditionally a week-long celebration. Each day, the Shevah Berakhot, the Seven Blessings of the original ḥuppah, are repeated at a festive meal.
A father (the "certain man") and mother argue. Each says: "Let our daughter be married to my relative!" The father finally agrees to allow his daughter to be married to the wife's relative. The festive wedding banquet is prepared, but before the actual betrothal can take place (at the preliminary festivities), the father's relative grabs the bride-to-be, takes her up to the roof and marries her there. We can imagine how the mother would feel; how would the father, who had promised that his daughter could marry the mother's relative, react?
Abaye and Rava agree that the father would disapprove of what has happened, but their reason for the disapproval differs. Abaye, basing himself on a verse from the prophet Zephaniah ("The remnant of Israel shall do no wrong and speak no falsehood") assumes that the father was not lying when he made the promise to his wife. He had indeed agreed to have his daughter married to the mother's relative and is now upset at his own relative's actions. Rava also thinks that the father would be upset, but not because of Abaye's moral concerns. Rava takes a much more cold, practical approach: A person is not going to spend a large amount of money on a wedding banquet if he knows that the wedding would not take place as planned. It is because of this monetary consideration that Rava holds that we should believe the father when he claims that he had nothing to do with his relative's plan to marry the daughter and elope.
Is there any practical difference between the opinions of Abaye and Rava? ("Where do they differ?") Yes, but only in a situation where no wedding feast had been prepared. In such a case, according to Abaye, the father would still be upset, since "the remnant of Israel shall … speak no falsehood," i.e., Jews do not lie, and he had intended the daughter to marry her relative. Both the father and the mother would be upset, and even though his relative was deceptive, the mother has no complaint against the father. Rava, however, believes that the father's main concern was the money. Where no meal had been prepared and no money spent, the father would have no defense against his wife's suspicion of his complicity.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The power of the enemy was totally broken, and Gideon himself executed their leaders. Gideon dealt with jealousy and resentment in a wise and humble way (Judges 8:1–3). And, when Gideon was invited to establish a hereditary monarchy, he rejected the throne insisting that "the Lord will rule over you" (Judges 8:23).
But Gideon's successes did corrupt him, in two ways. First, he made a golden ephod. In Israel an ephod was a priestly garment associated with worship. This act of Gideon suggests that he took for himself a priestly role which was to be limited to the family of Aaron. And he left his ephod in Ophrah, not at the tabernacle where alone God was to be worshiped. We read that, "all Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it [the ephod] there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family."
Second, while Gideon refused the title of king, he seems to have viewed himself as such a ruler. How do we know? Gideon named one of his sons Abimelech. The name means abi [my father] melech [is king].
Tragically, Gideon's attitude seems to have been transmitted to Abimelech.
This young man killed all the other sons of Gideon, and set himself up for a time as king. He and his coconspirators did not survive long. But one wonders how much of his ambition reflects the hidden attitude of his father.
Yet during Gideon's lifetime his area of Israel did worship the Lord. And on Gideon's death the people turned again to worshiping the Baals.
Jephthah: Judges 10:6–12:7 / Jephthah illustrates the fact that being a social outcast need not indicate the absence of a true faith in God. And that a person with an unhappy childhood need not grow up to be unsuccessful.
Jephthah, born out of wedlock, was rejected and driven away by his brothers even though they apparently grew up together. How difficult this family climate must have been for young Jephthah.
Outcast, Jephthah developed into the leader of a small military community. Later when his homeland was threatened by the Ammonites, the elders invited Jephthah to return and be their commander. No one had protected his rights when he had been driven out by his family. But now, in danger, his people wanted to use his skills.
It may have been surprising, when the delegation arrived, to hear this outcast speaking so familiarly of the Lord (Judges 11:9), as though they were closely acquainted. Apparently Jephthah had not rejected the God of the people and family who had rejected him!
Jephthah's letter to the Ammonite king was based on sacred history. He was well acquainted with the history of his people as well as God.
Most attention is usually focused on the question of whether Jephthah, who vowed to sacrifice to the Lord "whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph" (Judges 11:31), actually did sacrifice the daughter who ran to meet him.
The answer is, no, he did not. How do we know he did not offer her as a human sacrifice? First, such sacrifice is forbidden in God's Law.
(Lev. 18:21; 20:2–5; Deut. 12:31; 18:10). Jephthah's letter to the Ammonites shows he was acquainted with sacred history, and would have known this basic worship principle. Second, no priest would have officiated at such a sacrifice, and Jephthah was not qualified by family line to serve as a priest. Third, there is an alternative established in Old Testament Law. A person or thing might be dedicated to the Lord for a lifetime of service (cf. Ex. 20:9; 1 Sam. 1:28; Luke 2:36–37). Fourth, the text indicates this in that the daughter asked for time to weep "because I will never marry" (Judges 11:37). She was not looking forward to death, but to a celibate life dedicated to serving the Lord.
For all these reasons, we can be confident that Jephthah did not kill his daughter or offer her as a burnt offering in thanksgiving for Israel's victory over the Ammonites.
Samson: Judges 13:1–16:31 / Samson, unlike Jephthah, began life with every advantage. His birth was announced by an angel, and he was given a godly upbringing by loving parents. In fact, from birth Samson was set apart to God. He was to live under the most special of all Old Testament vows, that of a Nazarite (Numbers 6).
Yet scanning the story of Samson reveals a tragic story. Though the Lord blessed young Samson (Judges 13:24), this youth with every spiritual advantage was a spiritual failure.
First, Samson was dominated by sensual desire. That passion led Samson to desire a Philistine woman as a wife, which was strictly forbidden by God's Law. In addition, that passion led him to liaisons with prostitutes, like the one with the woman Delilah who betrayed him for money.
Second, Samson was motivated by pride and the passion for revenge. He was more moved by anger at personal affronts to strike out at the Philistines than he was moved by the suffering of the people he was supposed to lead (Judges 14:19–20; 15:7–8; 16:28).
Third, Samson led Israel for 20 years "in the days of the Philistines" (Judges 15:20). Samson, unlike other judges who gave their generations rest from their enemies, never threw off the enemy yoke. During his rule the Philistines still dominated Israel.
The Teacher's Commentary
Judaism in the Land of Israel
One phenomenon related to and underscoring the centrality of the land of Israel, one that exercised a strong attraction for Jews everywhere, was the Temple in Jerusalem. Other Jewish temples existed—one at Elephantine in Egypt and later one in Leontopolis, also in Egypt—but the sanctuary in Jerusalem held a special place. Ezra 6:13–18 dates the completion and dedication of the Second Temple to the sixth year of King Darius (515 B.C.E.); that building complex (with repairs) apparently lasted until 20 B.C.E. when King Herod began completely rebuilding it on a grander scale. Herod’s temple was to be destroyed with the city of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
If the Second Temple followed the structural plan of Solomon’s temple (see 1 Kings 6:2–6), the building itself would have had three rooms—the nave or vestibule, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies—along with several altars. These would have been set within at least two large courts and would have been surrounded by other structures required for the personnel and materials of sacrificial worship and other sanctuary-related activities. The Herodian temple area (see Josephus, Ant. 15.391–420; Ag. Ap. 2.102–4) included four courts with ever greater degrees of holiness: one accessible to all, including non-Jews, one for all Jews including women, one for Jewish men, and one for priests only. At various places there were marble columns and porticoes with steps and walls between enclosures. Only the high priest, on the Day of Atonement, could enter the Holy of Holies, the innermost room of the Temple itself.
Because of the central place occupied by the Temple in Jerusalem, the priests who served there exercised important functions in society, and some of them became its leading officials. According to the scriptural genealogies and laws, all qualified males of the tribe of Levi were clergy, but only the members of this tribe stemming from Aaron’s line were priests (Num. 8:5–26; see also Exod. 28:1–3; 29:1–37). The Levites performed other duties at the sanctuary and served the priests, the sons of Aaron (Num. 18:1–7; 4:46–49). At the head of the body of priests stood the high priest, who, in the early centuries of the Second Temple period, came from the family of Joshua/Jeshua (the first high priest of the Second Temple) and held the post in hereditary succession (Neh. 12:10–11). The high priest seems at times to have exercised political power as well, serving as the chief national official in the absence of a governor. Those Hasmoneans who held the high-priestly office from 152 until the Roman conquest in 63 B.C.E. were not only heads of the cultic establishment but also chiefs of state and commanders of the army. During the years of Roman rule and before the defeat and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the high priests continued to be influential leaders in dealing both with Jewish and Roman officials.
There were too many priests to allow all of them to serve at the Temple complex at the same time. 1 Chronicles 24:7–18 contains a list dividing the priests into twenty-four groups, one of which served at the Temple for a week, after which it was replaced by the next group on the list (Josephus, Ant. 7.365–66; Ag. Ap. 2.108). In this system, therefore, most of these divisions of priests were on duty at the Temple for only two weeks each year (twenty-four groups each serving two weeks would fill forty-eight weeks so that four would have to serve a third week) and at the great festivals when more of them were needed because of the large numbers of people bringing offerings. The Levites may have been organized in a similar way; from among their ranks came the singers and gatekeepers at the Temple
(1 Chronicles 25–26; Ant. 7.367).
Worship at the Temple followed and built upon the prescriptions in the Mosaic Law. Animal and grain offerings with their libations were regularly made there. Each day, as the Law prescribed, there were two sacrifices of a lamb with accompanying grain and liquid offerings—the Morning and Evening sacrifices described in Exod. 29:38–42; Num. 28:3–8 (see 1 Chron. 16:40; 2 Chron. 8:11; 31:3). There were other mandated sacrifices for the Sabbaths, the first of each month, and for the festivals (Numbers 28–29), and passages such as Leviticus 1–7 describe the many kinds of sacrifice—their contents, who offers them, and the occasions for them. The priests were the ones who performed the procedures carried out at the altar
(Num. 18:1–7; 1 Chron. 6:49–53), and for their support priests received prescribed parts of offerings other than the whole burnt offering (e.g., Lev. 2:3, 10; 5:13; 6:16–18, 26, 29; 7:6–10, 14, 31–36; Num. 18:8–20) as well as other gifts.
The festivals constituted an important if less frequent part of worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Law of Moses commanded that an Israelite male was to present himself before the Lord three times each year: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Tabernacles (Exod. 23:14–17; 34:18–24; Deut. 16:1–17). It came to be understood that the Jerusalem Temple was the place where one appeared before YHWH; as a result, thousands of Jews would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate those holidays, whether from the land or the Diaspora. Deuteronomy also stipulated that Passover be held at the sanctuary; consequently, large crowds converged on Jerusalem on the prescribed date (1/14); they could remain there for the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which followed immediately (from 1/15 to 1/21). The Day of Atonement (7/10) involved elaborate rites at the Temple, including several trips in and out of the Holy of Holies by the high priest (Leviticus 16). During Hasmonean times another Temple-related festival—Hanukkah—was added to the list in the Hebrew Bible; it celebrated and remembered the reconsecration of the Temple in 164 B.C.E. after it had been defiled.
Worship at the Temple also involved music. There are references in the literature to the singing of the Levites, with the books of Chronicles being especially rich in passages relating to this levitical function. They present the Levites as singers at the time of David and his royal successors, but these books may reflect more of the situation in Second Temple times when they were compiled. In 1 Chron. 6:31–48 David appoints Levites to provide music at the house of the Lord; among them are Asaph and Kohath, whose names are found in the titles of some Psalms (sons of Korah: Psalms 42, 44–49, 84–85, 87–88; Asaph: Psalms 50, 73–83; in 1 Chron. 16:7–36 Asaph and his kin sing from Psalms 105, 95, and 106; see also 2 Chron. 29:25–30; 35:15). The king ordered the singers and instrumentalists to perform at the times of sacrifice, Sabbaths, and festivals
(1 Chron. 23:30–31). When Jews presented their Passover offerings, the Levites sang the Hallel Psalms
(Psalms 113–18; m. Pesaḥ. 5:7).
The large costs incurred in connection with the forms of worship at the Temple and the maintenance of the structures were met through different means. As noted, support for the priests, who had no land to supply them with their needs, came from the parts of sacrifices allotted to them by the Law, and they also received one of the tithes mentioned in the Scriptures. The Law provided that the Levites, who also lacked land, should receive tithes from the Israelites (cf. Deut. 14:28–29), and they in turn were to give a tithe from their tithe to the priests (Num. 18:21–32). Tobit 1:6–7 gives a summary of the firstfruits contributions and the clerically related payments as the protagonist describes his religious practice before he was exiled from his land: “I would hurry off to Jerusalem with the firstfruits of the crops and the firstlings of the flock, the tithes of the cattle, and the first shearings of the sheep. I would give these to the priests, the sons of Aaron, at the altar; likewise the tenth of the grain, wine, olive oil, pomegranates, figs, and the rest of the fruits to the sons of Levi who ministered at Jerusalem.”
In addition to these means of support for the clergy, the sources disclose other revenues. First, several foreign monarchs who ruled Judea made contributions to the Temple. This is attested for three Persian kings (Ezra 6:1–5 [Cyrus], 8–10 [Darius I]; 7:15–23 [Artaxerxes I]) and for the Seleucid rulers Antiochus III (Josephus, Ant. 12.138–44) and Seleucus IV (2 Macc. 3:2–3; cf. 1 Macc. 10:40). The passage from 2 Maccabees claims: “it came about that the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the finest presents, even to the extent that King Seleucus of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the service of the sacrifices.” Ezekiel had envisaged that the prince in Jerusalem would pay for the sacrifices on holidays and Sabbaths (45:17; see also 45:22–46:15), but in reality it was foreign rulers who did so. Second, the Jewish populace worldwide supported the Temple through a tax. Exodus 30:11–16 records an imposition of one-half shekel that each Israelite male twenty years of age and above was to pay as an atonement; YHWH ordered Moses: “You shall take the atonement money from the Israelites and shall designate it for the service of the tent of meeting” (30:16; 38:25–28, where it is apparently for construction of the tabernacle; see also 2 Chron. 24:4–14; Josephus, Ant. 3.194–96). Exodus attaches the payment to a census Moses was to take and does not say how often the Israelites were supposed to pay it. In the time of Nehemiah the people not only pledged to bring wood for the offerings at the Temple, the firsts of the crops and herds, and the tithes (10:34–39), but also obligated themselves to pay an annual tax of one-third of a shekel “for the service of the house of our God: for the rows of bread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed festivals, the sacred donations, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God” (Neh. 10:32–33). The reader does not learn why the amount of this levy differed from the one in Exodus 30, but later one finds references in the sources to an annual half-shekel payment
(see Matt. 17:24–27; m. Šeqal. 4:1–5)—one that Josephus mentions several times and indicates that it applied to Jews in the Diaspora as well as those in the land (Ag. Ap. 2.77; Ant. 16.163; 18.312–13 [Babylon]; see Philo, Spec. Leg. 1.76–78). After Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E., the Romans redirected the tax monies to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome (J.W. 7.218). It is interesting that a text from Qumran decrees that the tax be paid only once in a person’s lifetime (4Q159 1 ii 6–7)—perhaps a polemical view based on Exod. 30:11–16.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Is there any God besides me? --- Isaiah 44:8.
When we deny transcendence, we cease to have a God who is a person. Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) And the one thing that you blot out when you identify the Creator with his creatures is a God who will answer when his children speak. Sooner or later, all of us need the living God. In such hours, if we thought that there was no one on the throne who cared or knew, the burdens and the cares of life would grow insufferable, and we would be plunged into darkness.
But there cannot be a living God if God is only the Spirit of the universe. You can adore creation, but you cannot cry to it, “Father, I have sinned.” We do not want to find ourselves divine in the great moments when we are most ourselves. We want to find the living God above us, who is ready to hear us when we call.
Being what we are, God is truly nearest when he is seated on his throne in heaven. I am not always nearest those around me except in a shallow and physical sense. Those who are nearest may be a thousand miles off, if they are the ones who love and understand me. And so with God in the altitude of heaven—if he knows and cares and understands and pities, then he is far nearer to my heart than if he were by my side. If his presence is interfused with setting suns, you seem to bring him under my very gaze. But if that is all—if he is nowhere else—if you must search for him beyond the universe in vain, then the divine is brought within our hail only to be banished far away. It is not things that can enter through the portals of the heart. It is personality, love, power. It is the influence of a living spirit. And all these you inevitably forfeit when you believe only in God’s immanence; it robs the heart of the God for whom it craves, while it seems to bring him very near.
When you lose the personality of God, you lose the individuality of human beings. Faced by a sovereign and transcendent God, men and women were strengthened to do and to endure. When you lose that sense of the high God and merge him in the movement of his world you lose the presence that is so needed to draw us to our best. Slip the anchor of the living God, and you slip the anchor of accountability. And as that conception strengthens, the meaning of personality decays, and people forget much of their noblest heritage in Christ.
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Sacked Again May 6
In 1523 Giulio de’ Medici became Pope Clement VII. Martin Luther was causing problems at the time; but portents soon appeared of greater distresses to come. On April 8, 1527, as Clement blessed a crowd of 10,000, a fanatic in leather loincloth mounted a nearby statue, shouting, “Thou bastard of Sodom! For thy sins Rome shall be destroyed. Repent and turn thee!” Not quite a month later, on fog-shrouded May 6, 1527, a vast army of barbarians burst through Rome’s walls and poured into the city. They had been sent—but were no longer controlled—by Emperor Charles V. By the time the troops reached Rome, they were hungry, unpaid, shoeless, reduced to tatters, and rabid.
The defending Roman and Swiss guards were annihilated. The barbarians pillaged, plundered, and burned with abandon. They entered hospitals and orphanages, slaughtering the occupants. Women of every age were attacked; nuns were herded into bordellos; priests were molested. The banks and treasuries were looted, the rich flogged until they turned over their last coin. Fingernails were ripped out one by one. Children were flung from high windows. Tombs were plundered, churches stripped, libraries and archives burned. Priceless manuscripts became bedding for horses. Drunken soldiers strutted around in papal garments, parodying holy rites. Within a week, 2,000 bodies were floating in the Tiber and nearly 10,000 more awaited burial. Multitudes perished. Rats and dogs eviscerated the bloating, fetid corpses that piled up in the city.
Pope Clement had barely made it into the safety of the Castle of St. Angelo, and from its towers he helplessly watched the ravaging of his city. “Why did you take me from the womb?” he wailed. “Would that I had been consumed.”
As news spread over Europe, Protestants interpreted the sack of Rome as divine retribution, and even some Catholics agreed. “We who should have been the salt of the earth decayed until we were good for nothing,” wrote Cardinal Cajetan, Luther’s contestant at Augsburg. “Everyone is convinced that all this has happened as a judgment of God on the great tyranny and disorders of the papal court.”
My eyes are red from crying, my stomach is in knots, and I feel sick all over. My people are being wiped out, and children lie helpless in the streets of the city. Those who pass by shake their heads and sneer As they make fun and shout, “What a lovely city you were, the happiest on earth, but look at you now!”
--- Lamentations 2:11,15.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 6
“We dwell in him.”
1 John 4:13.
Do you want a house for your soul? Do you ask, “What is the purchase?” It is something less than proud human nature will like to give. It is without money and without price. Ah! you would like to pay a respectable rent! You would love to do something to win Christ? Then you cannot have the house, for it is “without price.” Will you take my Master’s house on a lease for all eternity, with nothing to pay for it, nothing but the ground-rent of loving and serving him for ever? Will you take Jesus and “dwell in him?” See, this house is furnished with all you want, it is filled with riches more than you will spend as long as you live. Here you can have intimate communion with Christ and feast on his love; here are tables well-stored with food for you to live on for ever; in it, when weary, you can find rest with Jesus; and from it you can look out and see heaven itself. Will you have the house? Ah! if you are houseless, you will say, “I should like to have the house; but may I have it?” Yes; there is the key—the key is, “Come to Jesus.” “But,” you say, “I am too shabby for such a house.” Never mind; there are garments inside. If you feel guilty and condemned, come; and though the house is too good for you, Christ will make you good enough for the house by-and-by. He will wash you and cleanse you, and you will yet be able to sing, “We dwell in him.” Believer: thrice happy art thou to have such a dwelling-place! Greatly privileged thou art, for thou hast a “strong habitation” in which thou art ever safe. And “dwelling in him,” thou hast not only a perfect and secure house, but an everlasting one. When this world shall have melted like a dream, our house shall live, and stand more imperishable than marble, more solid than granite, self-existent as God, for it is God himself—“We dwell in him.”
Evening - May 6
“All the days of my appointed time will I wait.”
A little stay on earth will make heaven more heavenly. Nothing makes rest so sweet as toil; nothing renders security so pleasant as exposure to alarms. The bitter quassia cups of earth will give a relish to the new wine which sparkles in the golden bowls of glory. Our battered armour and scarred countenances will render more illustrious our victory above, when we are welcomed to the seats of those who have overcome the world. We should not have full fellowship with Christ if we did not for awhile sojourn below, for he was baptized with a baptism of suffering among men, and we must be baptized with the same if we would share his kingdom. Fellowship with Christ is so honourable that the sorest sorrow is a light price by which to procure it. Another reason for our lingering here is for the good of others. We would not wish to enter heaven till our work is done, and it may be that we are yet ordained to minister light to souls benighted in the wilderness of sin. Our prolonged stay here is doubtless for God’s glory. A tried saint, like a well-cut diamond, glitters much in the King’s crown. Nothing reflects so much honour on a workman as a protracted and severe trial of his work, and its triumphant endurance of the ordeal without giving way in any part. We are God’s workmanship, in whom he will be glorified by our afflictions. It is for the honour of Jesus that we endure the trial of our faith with sacred joy. Let each man surrender his own longings to the glory of Jesus, and feel, “If my lying in the dust would elevate my Lord by so much as an inch, let me still lie among the pots of earth. If to live on earth for ever would make my Lord more glorious, it should be my heaven to be shut out of heaven.” Our time is fixed and settled by eternal decree. Let us not be anxious about it, but wait with patience till the gates of pearl shall open.
Morning and Evening
HOW GREAT THOU ART!
English Words by Stuart K. Hine, 1899–1989
Stuart K. Hine was born in 1899 in England. His parents were at that time worshipping with the Salvation Army, and dedicated him to God during a time when opposition was strong against those who proclaimed Christ.
After serving in the Armed Forces, Mr. Hine was called to the mission field. For many years he served in Poland and Czechoslovakia. It was during missionary work in these countries that Mr. Hine composed many of the songs for which he’s well-known today.
Stuart K. Hine died in 1989.
Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom. (Psalm 145:2, 3)
Today’s inspiring hymn of praise and adoration reminds us of God’s unlimited power and love in creation and redemption. Although written in the past century, the hymn has become familiar to congregations just since the close of World War II. It especially became an international favorite after the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team used it in their crusades during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
The original text was written by a Swedish pastor, Carl Boberg, in 1886. While visiting a beautiful country estate, Boberg was caught in a sudden thunderstorm. The awesome and violent lightning and thunder quickly ended, leaving clear brilliant sunshine and the calm, sweet singing of the birds in the trees. Falling on his knees in awe and adoration of Almighty God, the pastor wrote nine stanzas of praise. Swedish congregations began to sing his lines to one of their old folk tunes. The text was later translated into German and Russian and ultimately into English by the Reverend S. K. Hine and his wife, English missionaries to the people of the Ukraine. When war broke out in 1939, it was necessary for the Hines to return to Britain, where Mr. Hine added the fourth stanza to this hymn. These four stanzas by Stuart Hine have since ministered and inspired God’s people worldwide:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy pow’r thruout the universe displayed!
When thru the woods and forest glades I wander and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in—That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin!
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
Refrain: Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art!
For Today: Deuteronomy 3:24; Psalm 48:1; Isaiah 40:26, 28; Romans 1:20.
Take time to think once again about the unfathomable greatness of God and His wonderful redeeming love for each of us.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XVI. — NOR are you right in the use of this example; nor in condemning the discussion of this subject before the multitude, as useless — that God is in a beetle’s hole and even in a sink! For your thoughts concerning God are too human. I confess indeed, that there are certain fantastical preachers, who, not from any religion, or fear of God, but from a desire of vain-glory, or from a thirst after some novelty, or from impatience of silence, prate and trifle in the lightest manner. But such please neither God nor men, although they assert that God is in the Heaven of Heavens. But when there are grave and pious preachers, who teach in modest, pure, and sound words; they, without any danger, nay, unto much profit, speak on such a subject before the multitude.
Is it not the duty of us all to teach, that the Son of God was in the womb of the Virgin, and proceeded forth from her belly? And in what does the human belly differ from any other unclean place? Who, moreover, may not describe it in filthy and shameless terms? But such persons we justly condemn; because, there are numberless pure words, in which we speak of that necessary subject, even with decency and grace. The body also of Christ Himself was human, like ours. Than which body, what is more filthy? But shall we, therefore, not say what Paul saith, that God dwelt in it bodily? (Col. ii. 9.) What is more unclean than death? What more horrible than hell? Yet the prophet glorieth that God was with him in death, and left him not, in hell. (Ps. xvi. 10, Ps. cxxxix. 8.).
The pious mind, therefore, is not shocked at hearing that God was in death and in hell: each of which is more horrible, and more loathsome, than either a hole or a sink. Nay, since the Scripture testifies that God is every where, and fills all things, such a mind, not only says that He is in those places, but will, of necessity learn and know that He is there. Unless we are to suppose that if I should at any time be taken and cast into a prison or a sink, (which has happened to many saints,) I could not there call upon God, or believe that He was present with me, until I should come into some ornamented church. If you teach us that we are thus to trifle concerning God, and if you are thus offended at the places of His essential presence, by and by you will not even allow that He dwells with us in Heaven. Whereas, “the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain Him,” (1 Kings viii. 27.); or, they are not worthy. But, as I said before, you, according to your custom, thus maliciously point your sting at our cause, that you may disparage and render if hateful, because you find it stands against you insuperable, and invincible.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
7 Even Though I Walk Through the Valley . . .
From a shepherd’s point of view this statement marks the halfway stage in the psalm. It is as though up to this point the sheep has been boasting to its unfortunate neighbor across the fence about the excellent care it received from its owner on the “home” ranch throughout the winter and spring.
Now it turns to address the shepherd directly. The personal pronouns I and You enter the conversation. It becomes a most intimate discourse of deep affection.
This is natural and normal. The long treks into the high country with their summer range begin here. Left behind are the neglected sheep on the other side of the fence. Their owner knows nothing of the hill country — the mountain meadows to which these sheep will be led. Their summer will be spent in the close companionship and solitary care of the good shepherd.
Both in Palestine and on our western sheep ranches, this division of the year is common practice. Most of the efficient sheepmen endeavor to take their flocks onto distant ranges during summer.
This often entails long “drives.” The sheep move along slowly, feeding as they go, gradually working their way up the mountains behind the receding snow. By late summer they are well up on the remote alpine meadows above the timberline.
With the approach of autumn, early snow settles on the highest ridges, relentlessly forcing the flock to withdraw down to lower elevations.
Finally, toward the end of the year as fall passes, the sheep are driven home to the ranch headquarters where they will spend the winter. It is the segment of the yearly operations in the high country that is described in the last half of the poem.
During this time the flock is entirely alone with the shepherd. They are in intimate contact with him and under his most personal attention day and night. That is why these last verses are couched in such intimate first-person language. And it is well to remember that all of this is done against a dramatic background of wild mountains, rushing rivers, alpine meadows, and high rangelands.
David, the psalmist, of course knew this type of terrain firsthand. When Samuel was sent of God to anoint him king over Israel, he was not at home with his brothers on the “home” ranch. Instead he was high up on the hills tending his father’s flock. They had to send for him to come home. It is no wonder he could write so clearly and concisely of the relationship between a sheep and its owner.
He knew from firsthand experience about all the difficulties and dangers, as well as the delights, of the treks into high country. Again and again he had gone up into the summer range with his sheep. He knew this wild but wonderful country like the palm of his own strong hand. Never did he take his flock where he had not already been before. Always he had gone ahead to look over the country with care.
All the dangers of rampaging rivers in flood, avalanches, rock slides, poisonous plants, the ravages of predators that raid the flock, or the awesome storms of sleet and hail and snow were familiar to him. He had handled his sheep and managed them with care under all these adverse conditions. Nothing took him by surprise. He was fully prepared to safeguard his flock and tend them with skill under every circumstance.
All of this is brought out in the beautiful simplicity of the last verses. Here is a grandeur, a quietness, an assurance that sets the soul at rest. “I fear no evil, for you are with me” — with me in every situation, in every dark trial, in every dismal disappointment, in every distressing dilemma.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Q & A 1 with Mark Dever
Q & A 2 with Mark Dever
Q & A 1 with Ligon Duncan
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Failure 1 Chronicles 15
s2-177 | 8-20-2017