1 Chronicles 18 - 21
1 Chronicles 18
David Defeats His Enemies1 Chronicles 18:1 After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Gath and its villages out of the hand of the Philistines.
2 And he defeated Moab, and the Moabites became servants to David and brought tribute.
3 David also defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah-Hamath, as he went to set up his monument at the river Euphrates. 4 And David took from him 1,000 chariots, 7,000 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses, but left enough for 100 chariots. 5 And when the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down 22,000 men of the Syrians. 6 Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought tribute. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went. 7 And David took the shields of gold that were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 And from Tibhath and from Cun, cities of Hadadezer, David took a large amount of bronze. With it Solomon made the bronze sea and the pillars and the vessels of bronze.
9 When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the whole army of Hadadezer, king of Zobah, 10 he sent his son Hadoram to King David, to ask about his health and to bless him because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him; for Hadadezer had often been at war with Tou. And he sent all sorts of articles of gold, of silver, and of bronze. 11 These also King David dedicated to the LORD, together with the silver and gold that he had carried off from all the nations, from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, and Amalek.
12 And Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, killed 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 13 Then he put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.
David’s Administration14 So David reigned over all Israel, and he administered justice and equity to all his people. 15 And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 16 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests; and Shavsha was secretary; 17 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were the chief officials in the service of the king.
1 Chronicles 19
The Ammonites Disgrace David’s Men1 Chronicles 19:1 Now after this Nahash the king of the Ammonites died, and his son reigned in his place. 2 And David said, “I will deal kindly with Hanun the son of Nahash, for his father dealt kindly with me.” So David sent messengers to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came to the land of the Ammonites to Hanun to console him. 3 But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Have not his servants come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?” 4 So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved them and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away; 5 and they departed. When David was told concerning the men, he sent messengers to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”
6 When the Ammonites saw that they had become a stench to David, Hanun and the Ammonites sent 1,000 talents of silver to hire chariots and horsemen from Mesopotamia, from Aram-maacah, and from Zobah. 7 They hired 32,000 chariots and the king of Maacah with his army, who came and encamped before Medeba. And the Ammonites were mustered from their cities and came to battle. 8 When David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the army of the mighty men. 9 And the Ammonites came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the city, and the kings who had come were by themselves in the open country.
Ammonites and Syrians Defeated10 When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. 11 The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and they were arrayed against the Ammonites. 12 And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will help you. 13 Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” 14 So Joab and the people who were with him drew near before the Syrians for battle, and they fled before him. 15 And when the Ammonites saw that the Syrians fled, they likewise fled before Abishai, Joab’s brother, and entered the city. Then Joab came to Jerusalem.
16 But when the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they sent messengers and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the Euphrates, with Shophach the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head. 17 And when it was told to David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan and came to them and drew up his forces against them. And when David set the battle in array against the Syrians, they fought with him. 18 And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 7,000 chariots and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death also Shophach the commander of their army. 19 And when the servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with David and became subject to him. So the Syrians were not willing to save the Ammonites anymore.
1 Chronicles 20
The Capture of Rabbah1 Chronicles 20:1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army and ravaged the country of the Ammonites and came and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. And Joab struck down Rabbah and overthrew it. 2 And David took the crown of their king from his head. He found that it weighed a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone. And it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. 3 And he brought out the people who were in it and set them to labor with saws and iron picks and axes. And thus David did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.
Philistine Giants Killed4 And after this there arose war with the Philistines at Gezer. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants, and the Philistines were subdued. 5 And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 6 And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants. 7 And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, struck him down. 8 These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants. Between 1 Chronicles 20 and 1 Chronicles 21 there is a 20 year gap that contains the story of Bathsheba, Absalom etc. These are mentioned in 1 Samuel, but Samuel died. Rabbis say that David wrote 2 Samuel. He was very candid about his failures. Chronicles was written by post-exilic Ezra.
1 Chronicles 21
David’s Census Brings Pestilence1 Chronicles 21:1 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.” 3 But Joab said, “May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?” 4 But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem. 5 And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword. 6 But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab.
7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 9 And the LORD spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Choose what you will: 12 either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the LORD, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” 13 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
14 So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel, and 70,000 men of Israel fell. 15 And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O LORD my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.”
David Builds an Altar18 Now the angel of the LORD had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 So David went up at Gad’s word, which he had spoken in the name of the LORD. 20 Now Ornan was threshing wheat. He turned and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. 21 As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and paid homage to David with his face to the ground. 22 And David said to Ornan, “Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD — give it to me at its full price — that the plague may be averted from the people.” 23 Then Ornan said to David, “Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.” 24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” 25 So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site. 26 And David built there an altar to the LORD and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. 27 Then the LORD commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.
28 At that time, when David saw that the LORD had answered him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. 29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time in the high place at Gibeon, 30 but David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.
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What I'm Reading
Parents, Talk To Your Kids About Sex Before Schools Do
By Jessica Burke 5/5/2017
You may think you have time because your children haven’t asked about sex yet. But you're wrong. Your kids are asking questions—they're just not asking you.
A new bill backed by Planned Parenthood of New York would create a taskforce to study and consider improvements to sex education programs, according to a New York Times article this week. The article details how sex education is often pushed aside from children’s education in NYC public schools, despite a 2011 mandate to provide sex education for a semester in both middle and high school.
But there’s an argument to be made for less sex ed in schools. Because as the article explains, schools’ sex education isn’t just about the biology of sex:
Students at the Urban Assembly Institute get sex education every year, starting in the sixth grade with lessons on puberty and anatomy, as well as things like crushes and the emotional changes of adolescence, and continuing in later years with information on sexually transmitted infections and contraception. At all levels, the students learn about having healthy relationships, not just with romantic partners, but with parents and friends, and about different gender identities and sexual orientations. ‘L.G.B.T. identity is woven in and normalized throughout the entire school year,’ Ms. Zondon” [a sex educator in NYC] said.
Jessica Burke lives in North Carolina with her husband and their four children. A former public school teacher, Jessica has spent the last decade with a vocation of homemaker and classical home educator. The Burkes lived overseas for three years and have been to almost 20 countries together, surviving some adventures they will never speak of to the grandparents.
The Quiet Power of the Ordinary (Christian Men and Their Godly Moms)
By Tim Challies 5/6/2017
As we look to the history of the church to observe “Christian Men and Their Godly Moms,” we encounter a number of mothers who were remarkably accomplished. Some have forceful personalities, some are skilled theologians, some are worthy of full-length biographies in their own right. Yet many more are perfectly ordinary, serving their families in quiet obscurity, wondering if they are making any significant impact in the world.
In this entry in our series, we look to how God used an ordinary mother to raise a godly man who would accomplish extraordinary things. He would have a worldwide ministry that will soon be in the history books. She would only ever toil inconspicuously. Still, John Piper would say, “What I owe my mother for my soul and my love to Christ and my role as a husband and father and pastor is incalculable.”
An Ordinary Mom | John Piper was the second child and first son born to Bill and Ruth Piper. Ruth Eulalia Mohn was born on October 7, 1918, in Wyomissing Hills, Pennsylvania. By her young teens, she had already made a serious profession of faith and was actively pursuing God in personal and group Bible study. In high school, she met Bill Piper and the two quickly fell in love. William Solomon Hottel Piper had been born three months and a day after Ruth into a devout, working-class family in nearby Bethlehem. He made a legitimate profession of faith when he was just 6. Later, when he was 15, he experienced a profound spiritual stirring, which led him to preach the gospel for the first time. It was during this simple sermon, when ten people made commitments to Christ, that he first felt the thrill and joy of leading others to the way of eternal life. He determined he would give his life to evangelism.
After Bill and Ruth graduated together in 1936, they each went to college, Bill to John A. Davis Memorial Bible School to be trained as an evangelist and Ruth to Moody Bible Institute to study music education. They were married on May 26, 1938, and soon moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, where they both transferred to Bob Jones College. This school’s fundamentalism sat well with both Pipers, and they quickly developed a friendship with Bob Jones Sr. Bill graduated in 1942 and immediately began the full-time evangelistic work that would consume his life. He was also appointed a trustee of the college, a high honor for a recent graduate. Ruth remained in Cleveland and settled into homemaking, giving birth to their first child, Beverley, in 1943.
Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
It’s Not Too Late Hope for the Fight Against Porn
By David Mathis 5/6/2015
I could see the pain in his eyes. And fear. | His question was about his lack of assurance of salvation, and it was easy to tell this was not philosophical or merely theoretical. It was turmoil of soul over some besetting sin.
All it took was one clarifying question to uncover the source: guilt over his repeated return to Internet pornography. It was good he felt guilty, as I’d soon tell him. It was a sign of God’s grace.
By now, such a scenario was no surprise in college ministry. Here on a Christian campus, the pastoral issue that had come up more than any other was assurance of salvation. And after some initial bewilderment and a few extended conversations, the typical culprit soon became clear. Porn and masturbation.
Epidemic in This Generation | Assurance of salvation may be at an all-time low among Christians with the epidemic of porn use through ubiquitous Internet access. Sometimes it takes the form of existential angst and epistemological confusion, but often lack of assurance is the product of some deeply rooted sin. Could I really be saved if I keep returning to the same sin I have vowed so many times never to return to again?
We recently surveyed 8,000 Desiring God readers. Our study found that ongoing pornography use is not only dreadfully common, but increasingly higher among younger adults. More than 15% of Christian men over age sixty admitted to ongoing use. It was more than 20% for men in their fifties, 25% for men in their forties, and 30% for men in their thirties. But nearly 50% of self-professing Christian men, ages 18–29, acknowledged ongoing use of porn. (The survey found a similar trend among women, but in lesser proportions: 10% of females, ages 18–29; 5% in their thirties; increasingly less for forties, fifties, and sixty-plus.)
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College and Seminary. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
Pastors, The Bible Is The Best Thing You’ve Got Going
By Trevin Wax 5/3/2017
New research on Americans and Bible engagement has been released, and as usual, the statistics give reasons to be both alarmed and encouraged.
Let’s start with cause for alarm. The problem of biblical illiteracy isn’t going away anytime soon. More than half of Americans say they have read little or none of the Bible. Although more than 8 out of 10 own a Bible, more than a third say they never pick it up on their own.
What does this mean? Many Americans know next to nothing about the Bible. And, for those who do have rudimentary understanding of certain Bible stories and facts, it is likely they picked up their knowledge about the Bible from someone else, not from the scriptural text itself. If they know anything about the Bible’s moral precepts, it’s because of what they’ve learned from the culture, probably not in church.
Thankfully, the numbers improve among churchgoing Christians, particularly evangelicals. Among people who attend worship at least once a month, 39 percent say they read the Bible a little every day. One in five Americans say they’ve read the Bible at least once.
Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitteror receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.
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.
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
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
ESV Study Bible
Cut Off Your Hand, Tear Out Your Eye
By Ray Ortlund 5/6/2017
Hard words are not harmful words—when they come from Jesus. This is important to keep in mind when we read:
If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matt. 17:8–9)
Here, Jesus is calling us to personal holiness, however costly and painful, as His path for us “to enter life.”
The Lord is not telling us literally to maim ourselves. After all, the Apostle Paul condemned “asceticism and severity to the body” (Col. 2:23). But our Lord’s point is this: we must resolve that, whatever the personal cost, we will follow the upward call of God in Christ (Phil. 3:14). Yes, the Lord is working in us that which is pleasing in His sight (Heb. 13:21). We are trusting in His merit and power. But we are not passive in our sanctification. Our part is to oppose our sins with sharp discipline. And it isn’t optional. Our Lord is saying to us, “Whatever it takes, get free, follow Me, and enter life. The only alternative is hell.”
The gospel creates morally decisive people who hunger and thirst for righteousness—desires that God promises to satisfy (Matt. 5:6). “The grace of God … teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Titus 2:11–12, NIV). “Strive for … the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:4). “I discipline my body and keep it under control” (1 Cor. 9:27).
Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.
Books by Ray Ortlund
The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (9marks: Building Healthy Churches)
Proverbs: Wisdom That Works
Isaiah (Redesign): God Saves Sinners (Preaching the Word)
Supernatural Living for Natural People: The Life-giving message of Romans 8
God's Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
When God Comes to Church: A Biblical Model for Revival Today
A Passion for God: Prayers and Meditations on the Book of Romans
Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel
You Don’t Understand the Old Testament
By Timothy Fox 7/16/2015
Unbelievers rip its verses out of textual and historical context. Christians use expired laws as bludgeons and others’ promises as life-verses. Just admit it: You don’t understand the Old Testament.
And that’s okay. The OT writings are thousands of years old. They consist of various literary genres like history, poetry, and prophecy. And what about all of those weird laws? Why do Christians like to cite restrictions against homosexuality but ignore the ones against eating shellfish and wear polyester? (You’ve never heard that before, right?)
That is specifically what this article hopes to clear up: the OT rules. Maybe all of them are still kosher (see what I did there?). Maybe it’s all obsolete. Perhaps it’s somewhere in between. But then how do we know which rules are still valid and binding and which ones aren’t? Let’s get a quick primer on OT law (from now on referred to as the Law, with a capital L).
First, let me cut right to the chase: We are no longer bound to the Law. But that doesn’t mean it’s all useless. Read on and I’ll explain.
Click here to go to source
Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. He and his wife, Diane, have a two-year-old son and a baby girl on the way.
Fox loves to teach the basics, breaking down the big ideas for the average layperson. But he’s mainly here for comedic relief, to keep this place from getting boring and to make sure the other guys don’t take themselves too seriously. He also blogs at apologers.wordpress.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @TimothyDFox.
The Circle: Most conservative movie of 2017
By Steve Deace
Make no mistake: “The Circle” is not a great movie by any
However, it is a movie I would highly recommend that every American see. Although we’re not even halfway through 2017, it’s hard to believe Hollywood will release a more conservative movie this year.
I have not seen a contemporary film that does a better job of deconstructing the fake utopian schemes of progressivism. I only doubt whether that was the movie’s actual purpose … or the filmmakers couldn’t help but subconsciously go there, given the subject matter.
Just look at the movie’s main characters.
Steve Deace is broadcast nationally each weeknight on CRTV. He is the author of the book “A Nefarious Plot.”
By Don Carson 5/7/2018
Guilt. What a horrendous burden.
Sometimes people carry a tremendous weight of subjective guilt — i.e., of felt guilt — when they are not really guilty. Far worse is the situation where they carry a tremendous weight of objective guilt — i.e., they really are guilty of some odious sin in the eyes of the living God — and are so hardened that they do not know it.
The superscription of Psalm 51 discloses that as David writes he consciously carries both objective and subjective guilt. Objectively, he has committed adultery with Bathsheba and has arranged the murder of her husband Uriah; subjectively, Nathan’s parable (2 Sam. 12) has driven home to David’s conscience something of the proportion of his own sin, and he writes in shame.
(1) David confesses his sin and cries for mercy (51:1-2). There is no echo of the cries for vindication that mark some of the earlier psalms. When we are guilty, and know we are guilty, no other course is possible, and only this course is helpful.
(2) David frankly recognizes that his offense is primarily against God (51:4), not against Uriah, Bathsheba, the child that was conceived, or even the covenant people who bear some of the judgment. God sets the standards. When we break them, we are defying him. Further, David knows that he sits on the throne out of God’s sheer elective grace. To betray the covenant from a position of God-appointed trust is doubly appalling.
(3) David is honest enough to recognize that this sequence of sins, though particularly vile, does not stand alone. It is a display of what is in the heart, of the sin nature that we inherit from our parents. Nothing avails if we are not finally cleansed inwardly, if we are not granted a pure heart and a steadfast spirit (51:5-6. 10).
(4) For David this is not some merely cerebral or cool theological process. Objective guilt and subjective recognition of it so merge that David feels oppressed: his bones are crushed (51:8), he cannot escape the specter of his own sin (51:3), and the joy of his salvation has dissolved (51:12). The transparent honesty and passion of David’s prayer disclose that he seeks no blasé or formulaic cleansing.
(5) David recognizes the testimonial value of being forgiven, and uses it as an argument before God as to why he should be forgiven (51:12-15). Implicitly, of course, this is an appeal for God’s glory.
(6) Steeped as he is in the sacrificial system of the Mosaic covenant, David nevertheless adopts more fundamental priorities. The prescribed sacrifices mean nothing apart from the sacrifice of a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart (51:16-19).
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.
Jeremiah and Lamentations | Jeremiah
THE NAME JEREMIAH, Yirme-Yāhū, apparently means “Jehovah establishes” (Orelli in ISBE), if the verb rāmâ (“to throw”) is to be understood in the sense of laying a foundation.1 The theme of this prophet consists largely in a stern warning to Judah to turn from idolatry and sin to avoid the catastrophe of exile. Every class of Hebrew society was condemned as inexcusably guilty. As long as Judah refused to repent, the Babylonian Captivity was inevitable. The Hebrew nation should submit to the Chaldean yoke, rather than to rebel against it, since it was a just chastisement for their unfaithfulness to God’s covenant. Nevertheless, the day would come when Israel would be delivered by the Messiah, the righteous Branch; therefore true Israel should always trust in God alone, never in the arm of flesh.
Outline of Jeremiah
I. Prophecies under Josiah and Jehoiakim, 1:1–20:18
A. Prophet’s call and commission, 1:1–19
B. Sin and ingratitude of the nation, 2:1–3:5
C. Prediction concerning devastation from the north (the Chaldeans), 3:6–6:30
D. Threat of Babylonian exile, 7:1–10:25
E. Broken covenant and the sign of the girdle, 11:1–13:27
F. Drought; the sign of the unmarried prophet; the warning about the Sabbath, 14:1–17:27
G. Sign of the potter’s house, 18:1–20:18
II. Later prophecies under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, 21:1–39:18
A. Nebuchadnezzar, God’s instrument to punish Zedekiah and Jerusalem, 21:1–29:32
B. The future Messianic kingdom 30:1–33:26
(The doctrine of individualism, 31:1–40 )
C. Zedekiah’s sin and the loyalty of the Rechabites, 34:1–35:19
D. Jehoiakim’s opposition and his destruction of the prophetic scroll, 36:1–32
E. Jeremiah in jail during the siege, 37:1–39:18
III. Prophecies after the fall of Jerusalem, 40:1–45:5
A. Ministry among the remnant in Judah, 40:1–42:22
B. Ministry among the fugitives in Egypt, 43:1–44:30
C. Encouragement to Baruch, 45:1–5
IV. Prophecies against the heathen nations, 46:1–51:64
A. Egypt, 46:1–28
B. Philistia, 47:1–7
C. Moab, 48:1–47
D. Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Arabia, Elam, 49:1–39
E. Babylon, 50:1–51:64
V. Historical appendix, 52:1–34, (events of the fall and captivity of Judah)
Jeremiah: Biography of the Author
Jeremiah began his ministry at about twenty years of age in the thirteenth year of Josiah, that is, 626 B.C. For the greater part of his life he lived in his hometown of Anathoth (for he was of a priestly family) and appeared at Jerusalem at the annual feast days of the Jewish religious year. He seems to have been well off financially, since he was able to purchase the forfeited estate of a bankrupt kinsman without apparent difficulty. Under God-fearing Josiah, he remained unmolested by the government and enjoyed such cordial relations with that king that he composed an eloquent lamentation at the time of the king’s death at the battle of Megiddo. Yet, even among his fellow priests and relatives, Jeremiah had built up considerable ill will because of his forthright rebuke of their infidelity to the Covenant and his condemnation of their worldly practices.
After Josiah’s death, with the rise of the idolatrous faction and the pro-Egyptian party, a serious reaction resulted against Jeremiah and all he stood for. It was only through the interposition of a few God-fearing elders and princes that Jeremiah escaped arrest for his unpalatable arraignment of the nation in the “Temple Sermon” of chapters 7–10. From that time on he seems to have been forbidden to enter the temple precinct, for he had to send aloud his secretary Baruch as his spokesman whenever he had a message of God to proclaim before the people. He therefore dictated his prophecies to Baruch that they might be read aloud to the people of Jerusalem. But soon this copy was turned over to King Jehoiakim, who destroyed it in his fireplace, section by section, as it was read to him by his own secretary. Later, King Zedekiah, a successor of Jehoiakim, permitted the prophet to be incarcerated by the nationalistically minded nobles, who saw Jeremiah as a traitor because he had urged the nation to p 401 submit to Babylon. Nevertheless, Zedekiah was secretly fearful of God’s messenger because of the fulfillment of his past predictions relative to the Chaldean invasion of 598. He therefore had the prophet rescued from death when he was at the point of perishing in his brutal confinement and he kept him hidden from danger until the fall of Jerusalem.
Kings of Babylon/Chaldea
When the forces of Nebuchadnezzar finally stormed the city, it was only natural that Jeremiah was offered by the conquerors a place of honor and a pension in Babylon (since he had constantly urged the Jews to submit to Nebuchadnezzar as God’s instrument for chastening them). Yet Jeremiah chose to stay with the remnant of his own people in Palestine and minister to the bands of guerrillas or partisans who had remained behind after the great deportation to Babylonia. But after the treacherous murder of Gedaliah by the treacherous Ishmael he was abducted and carried off to Egypt by the fugitive remnant of the Jews, who preferred to take refuge in the land of the Nile rather than to remain in Palestine and face the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar. In Egypt, Jeremiah prophesied for several years longer, and it was probably there that he died. ( I often read and hear that Jeremiah died in Egypt, yet according to Jeremiah 45:5 God promised Baruch his life. Since these two were always together I wonder if Jeremiah really died in Egypt.
By nature, Jeremiah was gentle, tender, and sympathetic; yet he was charged by God to proclaim a stern message of irreversible gloom. Loving his people with a deep affection, he constantly found himself the object of hatred, reproached with charges of treason. Although he was sensitive to the extreme, he was forced to undergo a constant barrage of slander and persecution that would normally have crushed the most callous spirit. Introspective and retiring by nature, he was ever thrust into the limelight. Occasionally, he attempted to throw off his prophetic responsibility as a burden too heavy for him to bear, but again and again he returned to the call of duty, and by the power of the Lord stood indeed as a “tower of bronze” ( 1:18 ).
The Continual Burnt Offering (Daniel 10:12)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Daniel 10:12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. ESV
A great mystery is unfolded here in regard to prayer. Daniel had been praying “three full weeks” about a certain matter, and when finally the answer came, he was told that at the beginning of his supplication God had heard, but an angel from Heaven had been twenty-one days fighting his way through the evil hosts of Satan in order to reach him. The prince of the kingdom of Persia referred to in verse 13 was one of these wicked spirits evidently seeking to hinder God’s plan. This should throw light on many delayed answers. God has not been indifferent, but a conflict is going on in the heavenlies (Ephesians 6:12), because of which there seems to be delay, but God’s purpose is sure and His plan will be carried out.
Daniel 10:13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia,
Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ESV
Unanswered yet? — The prayer your lips have pleaded
In agony of soul these many years?
Doth faith begin to fail, is hope departing,
And think you all in vain those falling tears?
Say not the Father hath not heard your prayer,
You shall have your desire sometime, somewhere.
--- Ophelia G. Adams
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
7. But it daily happens that those who seemed to belong to Christ revolt from him and fall away: Nay, in the very passage where he declares that none of those whom the Father has given to him have perished, he excepts the son of perdition. This, indeed, is true; but
it is equally true that such persons never adhered to Christ with that heartfelt confidence by which I say that the certainty of our election
is established: "They went out from us," says John, "but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued
with us," (1 John 2:19). I deny not that they have signs of calling similar to those given to the elect; but I do not at all admit that
they have that sure confirmation of election which I desire believers to seek from the word of the gospel. Wherefore, let not examples of
this kind move us away from tranquil confidence in the promise of the Lord, when he declares that all by whom he is received in true faith
have been given him by the Father, and that none of them, while he is their Guardian and Shepherd, will perish (John 3:16; 6:39). Of Judas we
shall shortly speak (sec. 9). Paul does not dissuade Christians from security simply, but from careless, carnal security, which is
accompanied with pride, arrogance, and contempt of others, which extinguishes humility and reverence for God, and produces a
forgetfulness of grace received (Rom. 11:20). For he is addressing the Gentiles, and showing them that they ought not to exult proudly and
cruelly over the Jews, in consequence of whose rejection they had been substituted in their stead. He also enjoins fear, not a fear under
which they may waver in alarm, but a fear which, teaching us to receive the grace of God in humility, does not impair our confidence in it, as
has elsewhere been said. We may add, that he is not speaking to individuals, but to sects in general (see 1 Cor. 10:12). The Church
having been divided into two parties, and rivalship producing dissension, Paul reminds the Gentiles that their having been
substituted in the place of a peculiar and holy people was a reason for modesty and fear. For there were many vain-glorious persons among them,
whose empty boasting it was expedient to repress. But we have elsewhere seen, that our hope extends into the future, even beyond death, and
that nothing is more contrary to its nature than to be in doubt as to our future destiny.
8. The expression of our Savior, "Many are called, but few are chosen," (Mt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear--viz. that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness. Now, our Lord seeing that the gospel was published far and wide, was despised by multitudes, and justly valued by few, describes God under the character of a King, who, preparing a great feast, sends his servants all around to invite a great multitude, but can only obtain the presence of a very few, because almost all allege causes of excuse; at length, in consequence of their refusal, he is obliged to send his servants out into the highways to invite every one they meet. It is perfectly clear, that thus far the parable is to be understood of external calling. He afterwards adds, that God acts the part of a kind entertainer, who goes round his table and affably receives his guests; but still if he finds any one not adorned with the nuptial garment, he will by no means allow him to insult the festivity by his sordid dress. I admit that this branch of the parable is to be understood of those who, by a profession of faith, enter the Church, but are not at all invested with the sanctification of Christ. Such disgraces to his Church, such cankers God will not always tolerate, but will cast them forth as their turpitude deserves. Few, then, out of the great number of called are chosen; the calling, however, not being of that kind which enables believers to judge of their election. The former call is common to the wicked, the latter brings with it the spirit of regeneration, which is the earnest and seal of the future inheritance by which our hearts are sealed unto the day of the Lord (Eph. 1:13, 14). In one word, while hypocrites pretend to piety, just as if they were true worshipers of God, Christ declares that they will ultimately be ejected from the place which they improperly occupy, as it is said in the psalm, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart," (Psalm 15:1, 2). Again in another passage, "This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob," (Psalm 24:6). And thus the Spirit exhorts believers to patience, and not to murmur because Ishmaelites are mingled with them in the Church since the mask will at length be torn off, and they will be ejected with disgrace.
9. The same account is to be given of the passage lately quoted, in which Christ says, that none is lost but the son of perdition (John 17:12). The expression is not strictly proper; but it is by no means obscure: for Judas was not numbered among the sheep of Christ, because he was one truly, but because he held a place among them. Then, in another passage, where the Lord says, that he was elected with the apostles, reference is made only to the office, "Have I not chosen you twelve," says he, "and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70). That is, he had chosen him to the office of apostle. But when he speaks of election to salvation, he altogether excludes him from the number of the elect, "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen," (John 13:18). Should any one confound the term election in the two passages, he will miserably entangle himself; whereas if he distinguish between them, nothing can be plainer. Gregory, therefore, is most grievously and perniciously in error; when he says that we are conscious only of our calling, but are uncertain of our election; and hence he exhorts all to fear and trembling, giving this as the reason, that though we know what we are to-day, yet we know not what we are to be (Gregor. Hom. 38). But in that passage he clearly shows how he stumbled on that stone. By suspending election on the merit of works, he had too good a reason for dispiriting the minds of his readers, while, at the same time, as he did not lead them away from themselves to confidence in the divine goodness, he was unable to confirm them. Hence believers may in some measure perceive the truth of what we said at the outset--viz. predestination duly considered does not shake faith, but rather affords the best confirmation of it. I deny not, however, that the Spirit sometimes accommodates his language to our feeble capacity; as when he says, "They shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel," (Ezek. 13:9). As if God were beginning to write the names of those whom he counts among his people in the Book of Life; whereas we know, even on the testimony of Christ, that the names of the children of God were written in the Book of Life from the beginning (Luke 10:20). The words simply indicate the abandonment of those who seemed to have a chief place among the elect, as is said in the psalm, "Let them be blotted out of the Book of the Living, and not be written with the righteous," (Psalm 69:28).
10. For the elect are brought by calling into the fold of Christ, not from the very womb, nor all at the same time, but according as God sees it meet to dispense his grace. Before they are gathered to the supreme Shepherd they wander dispersed in a common desert, and in no respect differ from others, except that by the special mercy of God they are kept from rushing to final destruction. Therefore, if you look to themselves, you will see the offspring of Adam giving token of the common corruption of the mass. That they proceed not to extreme and desperate impiety is not owing to any innate goodness in them, but because the eye of God watches for their safety, and his hand is stretched over them. Those who dream of some seed of election implanted in their hearts from their birth, by the agency of which they are ever inclined to piety and the fear of God, are not supported by the authority of Scripture, but refuted by experience. They, indeed, produce a few examples to prove that the elect before they were enlightened were not aliens from religion; for instance, that Paul led an unblemished life during his Pharisaism, that Cornelius was accepted for his prayers and alms, and so forth (Phil. 3:5; Acts 10:2). The case of Paul we admit, but we hold that they are in error as to Cornelius; for it appears that he was already enlightened and regenerated, so that all which he wanted was a clear revelation of the Gospel. But what are they to extract from these few examples? Is it that all the elect were always endued with the spirit of piety? Just as well might any one, after pointing to the integrity of Aristides, Socrates, Xenocrates, Scipio, Curios, Camillus, and others (see Book 2, c. 4, sec. 4), infer that all who are left in the blindness of idolatry are studious of virtue and holiness. Nay, even Scripture is plainly opposed to them in more passages than one. The description which Paul gives of the state of the Ephesians before regeneration shows not one grain of this seed. His words are, "You has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others," (Eph. 2:1-3). And again, "At that time ye were without Christ," "having no hope, and without God in the world," (Eph. 2:12). Again, "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light," (Eph. 5:8). But perhaps they will insist that in this last passage reference is made to that ignorance of the true God, in which they deny not that the elect lived before they were called. Though this is grossly inconsistent with the Apostle's inference, that they were no longer to lie or steal (Eph. 4:28). What answer will they give to other passages; such as that in which, after declaring to the Corinthians that "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God," he immediately adds, "Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God"? (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Again he says to the Romans, "As ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" (Rom. 6:19-21).
11. Say, then, what seed of election germinated in those who, contaminated in various ways during their whole lives, indulged as with desperate wickedness in every kind of abomination? Had Paul meant to express this view, he ought to have shown how much they then owed to the kindness of God, by which they had been preserved from falling into such pollution. Thus, too, Peter ought to have exhorted his countrymen to gratitude for a perpetual seed of election. On the contrary, his admonition is, "The time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles," (1 Pet. 4:3). What if we come to examples? Was there any germ of righteousness in Rahab the harlot before she believed? (Josh. 2:4); in Manasseh when Jerusalem was dyed and almost deluged with the blood of the prophets? (2 Kings 23:16); in the thief who only with his last breath thought of repentance? (Luke 23:42). Have done, then, with those arguments which curious men of themselves rashly devise without any authority from Scripture. But let us hold fast what Scripture states--viz. that "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way," (Isa. 53:6); that is to perdition. In this gulf of perdition God leaves those whom he has determined one day to deliver until his own time arrive; he only preserves them from plunging into irremediable blasphemy.
12. As the Lord by the efficacy of his calling accomplishes towards his elect the salvation to which he had by his eternal counsel destined them, so he has judgments against the reprobate, by which he executes his counsel concerning them. Those, therefore, whom he has created for dishonor during life and destruction at death, that they may be vessels of wrath and examples of severity, in bringing to their doom, he at one time deprives of the means of hearing his word, at another by the preaching of it blinds and stupefies them the more. The examples of the former case are innumerable, but let us select one of the most remarkable of all. Before the advent of Christ, about four thousand years passed away, during which he hid the light of saving doctrine from all nations. If any one answer, that he did not put them in possession of the great blessing, because he judged them unworthy, then their posterity will be in no respect more worthy. Of this in addition to experience, Malachi is a sufficient witness; for while charging them with mixed unbelief and blasphemy, he yet declares that the Redeemer will come. Why then is he given to the latter rather than to the former? They will in vain torment themselves in seeking for a deeper cause than the secret and inscrutable counsel of God. And there is no occasion to fear lest some disciple of Porphyry with impunity arraign the justice of God, while we say nothing in its defense. For while we maintain that none perish without deserving it, and that it is owing to the free goodness of God that some are delivered, enough has been said for the display of his glory; there is not the least occasion for our caviling. The supreme Disposer then makes way for his own predestination, when depriving those whom he has reprobated of the communication of his light, he leaves them in blindness. Every day furnishes instances of the latter case, and many of them are set before us in Scripture. Among a hundred to whom the same discourse is delivered, twenty, perhaps, receive it with the prompt obedience of faith; the others set no value upon it, or deride, or spurn, or abominate it. If it is said that this diversity is owing to the malice and perversity of the latter, the answer is not satisfactory: for the same wickedness would possess the minds of the former, did not God in his goodness correct it. And hence we will always be entangled until we call in the aid of Paul's question, "Who maketh thee to differ?" (1 Cor. 4:7), intimating that some excel others, not by their own virtue, but by the mere favour of God.
13. Why, then, while bestowing grace on the one, does he pass by the other? In regard to the former, Luke gives the reason, Because they "were ordained to eternal life," (Acts 13:48). What, then, shall we think of the latter, but that they are vessels of wrath unto dishonor? Wherefore, let us not decline to say with Augustine, "God could change the will of the wicked into good, because he is omnipotent. Clearly he could. Why, then, does he not do it? Because he is unwilling. Why he is unwilling remains with himself," (August. de Genes. ad Lit. Lib. 2). We should not attempt to be wise above what is meet, and it is much better to take Augustine's explanation, than to quibble with Chrysostom, "that he draws him who is willing, and stretching forth his hand," (Chrysost. Hom. de Convers. Pauli), lest the difference should seem to lie in the judgment of God, and not in the mere will of man. So far is it, indeed, from being placed in the mere will of man, that we may add, that even the pious, and those who fear God, need this special inspiration of the Spirit. Lydia, a seller of purple, feared God, and yet it was necessary that her heart should be opened, that she might attend to the doctrine of Paul, and profit in it (Acts 16:14). This was not said of one woman only but to teach us that all progress in piety is the secret work of the Spirit. Nor can it be questioned, that God sends his word to many whose blindness he is pleased to aggravate. For why does he order so many messages to be taken to Pharaoh? Was it because he hoped that he might be softened by the repetition? Nay, before he began he both knew and had foretold the result: "The Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he will not let the people go," (Exod. 4:21). So when he raises up Ezekiel, he forewarns him, "I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me." "Be not afraid of their words." "Thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not," (Ezek. 2:3, 6; 12:2). Thus he foretells to Jeremiah that the effect of his doctrine would be, "to root out, and pull down, and to destroy," (Jer. 1:10). But the prophecy of Isaiah presses still more closely; for he is thus commissioned by the Lord, "Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed," (Isa. 6:9, 10). Here he directs his voice to them, but it is that they may turn a deafer ear; he kindles a light, but it is that they may become more blind; he produces a doctrine, but it is that they may be more stupid; he employs a remedy, but it is that they may not be cured. And John, referring to this prophecy, declares that the Jews could not believe the doctrine of Christ, because this curse from God lay upon them. It is also incontrovertible, that to those whom God is not pleased to illumine, he delivers his doctrine wrapt up in enigmas, so that they may not profit by it, but be given over to greater blindness. Hence our Savior declares that the parables in which he had spoken to the multitude he expounded to the Apostles only, "because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given," (Mt. 13:11). What, you will ask, does our Lord mean, by teaching those by whom he is careful not to be understood? Consider where the fault lies, and then cease to ask. How obscure soever the word may be, there is always sufficient light in it to convince the consciences of the ungodly.
14. It now remains to see why the Lord acts in the manner in which it is plain that he does. If the answer be given, that it is because men deserve this by their impiety, wickedness, and ingratitude, it is indeed well and truly said; but still, because it does not yet appear what the cause of the difference is, why some are turned to obedience, and others remain obdurate we must, in discussing it, pass to the passage from Moses, on which Paul has commented, namely, "Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth," (Rom. 9:17). The refusal of the reprobate to obey the word of God when manifested to them, will be properly ascribed to the malice and depravity of their hearts, provided it be at the same time added that they were adjudged to this depravity, because they were raised up by the just but inscrutable judgment of God, to show forth his glory by their condemnation. In like manner, when it is said of the sons of Eli, that they would not listen to salutary admonitions "because the Lord would slay them," (1 Sam. 2:25), it is not denied that their stubbornness was the result of their own iniquity; but it is at the same time stated why they were left to their stubbornness, when the Lord might have softened their hearts: namely, because his immutable decree had once for all doomed them to destruction. Hence the words of John, "Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him; that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled which he spake, Lord, who has believed our report?" (John 12:37, 38); for though he does not exculpate their perverseness, he is satisfied with the reason that the grace of God is insipid to men, until the Holy Spirit gives it its savor. And Christ, in quoting the prophecy of Isaiah, "They shall be all taught of God," (John 6:45), designs only to show that the Jews were reprobates and aliens from the Church, because they would not be taught: and gives no other reason than that the promise of God does not belong to them. Confirmatory of this are the words of Paul, "Christ crucified" was "unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God," (1 Cor. 1:23). For after mentioning the usual result wherever the gospel is preached, that it exasperates some, and is despised by others, he says, that it is precious to them only who are called. A little before he had given them the name of believers, but he was unwilling to refuse the proper rank to divine grace, which precedes faith; or rather, he added the second term by way of correction, that those who had embraced the gospel might ascribe the merit of their faith to the calling of God. Thus, also, he shortly after shows that they were elected by God. When the wicked hear these things, they complain that God abuses his inordinate power; to make cruel sport with the miseries of his creatures. But let us, who know that all men are liable on so many grounds to the judgment of God, that they cannot answer for one in a thousand of their transgressions (Job 9:3), confess that the reprobate suffer nothing which is not accordant with the most perfect justice. When unable clearly to ascertain the reason, let us not decline to be somewhat in ignorance in regard to the depths of the divine wisdom.
15. But since an objection is often founded on a few passages of Scripture, in which God seems to deny that the wicked perish through his ordination, except in so far as they spontaneously bring death upon themselves in opposition to his warning, let us briefly explain these passages, and demonstrate that they are not adverse to the above view. One of the passages adduced is, "have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways and live?" (Ezek. 18:23). If we are to extend this to the whole human race, why are not the very many whose minds might be more easily bent to obey urged to repentance, rather than those who by his invitations become daily more and more hardened? Our Lord declares that the preaching of the gospel and miracles would have produced more fruit among the people of Nineveh and Sodom than in Judea (Mt. 13:23). How comes it, then, that if God would have all to be saved he does not open a door of repentance for the wretched, who would more readily have received grace? Hence we may see that the passage is violently wrested, if the will of God, which the prophet mentions, is opposed to his eternal counsel, by which he separated the elect from the reprobate.  Now, if the genuine meaning of the prophet is inquired into, it will be found that he only means to give the hope of pardon to them who repent. The sum is, that God is undoubtedly ready to pardon whenever the sinner turns. Therefore, he does not will his death, in so far as he wills repentance. But experience shows that this will, for the repentance of those whom he invites to himself, is not such as to make him touch all their hearts. Still, it cannot be said that he acts deceitfully; for though the external word only renders, those who hear it, and do not obey it, inexcusable, it is still truly regarded as an evidence of the grace by which he reconciles men to himself. Let us therefore hold the doctrine of the prophet, that God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner; that the godly may feel confident that whenever they repent God is ready to pardon them; and that the wicked may feel that their guilt is doubled, when they respond not to the great mercy and condescension of God. The mercy of God, therefore will ever be ready to meet the penitent; but all the prophets, and apostles, and Ezekiel himself, clearly tell us who they are to whom repentance is given.
16. The second passage adduced is that in which Paul says that "God will have all men to be saved," (1 Tim. 2:4). Though the reason here differs from the former, they have somewhat in common. I answer, first, That the mode in which God thus wills is plain from the context; for Paul connects two things, a will to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. If by this they will have it to be fixed by the eternal counsel of God that they are to receive the doctrine of salvation, what is meant by Moses in these words, "What nation is there so great, who has God so nigh unto them?" (Deut. 4:7). How comes it that many nations are deprived of that light of the Gospel which others enjoy? How comes it that the pure knowledge of the doctrine of godliness has never reached some, and others have scarcely tasted some obscure rudiments of it? It will now be easy to extract the purport of Paul's statement. He had commanded Timothy that prayers should be regularly offered up in the church for kings and princes; but as it seemed somewhat absurd that prayer should be offered up for a class of men who were almost hopeless (all of them being not only aliens from the body of Christ, but doing their utmost to overthrow his kingdom), he adds, that it was acceptable to God, who will have all men to be saved. By this he assuredly means nothing more than that the way of salvation was not shut against any order of men; that, on the contrary, he had manifested his mercy in such a way, that he would have none debarred from it. Other passages do not declare what God has, in his secret judgment, determined with regard to all, but declare that pardon is prepared for all sinners who only turn to seek after it. For if they persist in urging the words, "God has concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all," (Rom. 11:32), I will, on the contrary, urge what is elsewhere written, "Our God is in the heavens: he has done whatsoever he has pleased," (Ps. 115:3). we must, therefore, expound the passage so as to reconcile it with another, I "will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy," (Exod. 33:19). He who selects those whom he is to visit in mercy does not impart it to all. But since it clearly appears that he is there speaking not of individuals, but of orders of men, let us have done with a longer discussion. At the same time, we ought to observe, that Paul does not assert what God does always, everywhere, and in all circumstances, but leaves it free to him to make kings and magistrates partakers of heavenly doctrine, though in their blindness they rage against it. A stronger objection seems to be founded on the passage in Peter; the Lord is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance," (2 Pet. 3:9). But the solution of the difficulty is to be found in the second branch of the sentence, for his will that they should come to repentance cannot be used in any other sense than that which is uniformly employed. Conversion is undoubtedly in the hand of God, whether he designs to convert all can be learned from himself, when he promises that he will give some a heart of flesh, and leave to others a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). It is true, that if he were not disposed to receive those who implore his mercy, it could not have been said, "Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts," (Zech. 1:3); but I hold that no man approaches God unless previously influenced from above. And if repentance were placed at the will of man, Paul would not say, "If God per adventure will give them repentance," (2 Tim. 2:25). Nay, did not God at the very time when he is verbally exhorting all to repentance, influence the elect by the secret movement of his Spirit, Jeremiah would not say, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented," (Jer. 31:18).
17. But if it is so (you will say), little faith can be put in the Gospel promises, which, in testifying concerning the will of God, declare that he wills what is contrary to his inviolable decree. Not at all; for however universal the promises of salvation may be, there is no discrepancy between them and the predestination of the reprobate, provided we attend to their effect. We know that the promises are effectual only when we receive them in faith, but, on the contrary, when faith is made void, the promise is of no effect. If this is the nature of the promises, let us now see whether there be any inconsistency between the two things--viz. that God, by an eternal decree, fixed the number of those whom he is pleased to embrace in love, and on whom he is pleased to display his wrath, and that he offers salvation indiscriminately to all. I hold that they are perfectly consistent, for all that is meant by the promise is, just that his mercy is offered to all who desire and implore it, and this none do, save those whom he has enlightened. Moreover, he enlightens those whom he has predestinated to salvation. Thus the truth of the promises remains firm and unshaken, so that it cannot be said there is any disagreement between the eternal election of God and the testimony of his grace which he offers to believers. But why does he mention all men? Namely that the consciences of the righteous may rest the more secure when they understand that there is no difference between sinners, provided they have faith, and that the ungodly may not be able to allege that they have not an asylum to which they may retake themselves from the bondage of sin, while they ungratefully reject the offer which is made to them. Therefore, since by the Gospel the mercy of God is offered to both, it is faith, in other words, the illumination of God, which distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked, the former feeling the efficacy of the Gospel, the latter obtaining no benefit from it. Illumination itself has eternal election for its rule.
Another passage quoted is the lamentation of our Savior, "O Jerusalem Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Mt. 23:37); but it gives them no support. I admit that here Christ speaks not only in the character of man, but upbraids them with having, in every age, rejected his grace. But this will of God, of which we speak, must be defined. For it is well known what exertions the Lord made to retain that people, and how perversely from the highest to the lowest they followed their own wayward desires, and refused to be gathered together. But it does not follow that by the wickedness of men the counsel of God was frustrated. They object that nothing is less accordant with the nature of God than that he should have a double will. This I concede, provided they are sound interpreters. But why do they not attend to the many passages in which God clothes himself with human affections, and descends beneath his proper majesty?  He says, "I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people," (Isa. 65:1), exerting himself early and late to bring them back. Were they to apply these qualities without regarding the figure, many unnecessary disputes would arise which are quashed by the simple solution, that what is human is here transferred to God. Indeed, the solution which we have given elsewhere (see Book 1, c. 18, sec. 3; and Book 3, c. 20, sec. 43) is amply sufficient--viz. that though to our apprehension the will of God is manifold, yet he does not in himself will opposites, but, according to his manifold wisdom (so Paul styles it, Eph. 3:10), transcends our senses, until such time as it shall be given us to know how he mysteriously wills what now seems to be adverse to his will.  They also amuse themselves with the cavil, that since God is the Father of all, it is unjust to discard any one before he has by his misconduct merited such a punishment. As if the kindness of God did not extend even to dogs and swine. But if we confine our view to the human race, let them tell why God selected one people for himself and became their father, and why, from that one people, he plucked only a small number as if they were the flower. But those who thus charge God are so blinded by their love of evil speaking, that they consider not that as God "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good," (Mt. 5:45), so the inheritance is treasured up for a few to whom it shall one day be said, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom," &c. (Mt. 25:34). They object, moreover, that God does not hate any of the things which he has made. This I concede, but it does not affect the doctrine which I maintain, that the reprobate are hateful to God, and that with perfect justice, since those destitute of his Spirit cannot produce any thing that does not deserve cursing. They add, that there is no distinction of Jew and Gentile, and that, therefore, the grace of God is held forth to all indiscriminately: true, provided they admit (as Paul declares) that God calls as well Jews as Gentiles, according to his good pleasure, without being astricted to any. This disposes of their gloss upon another passage, "God has concluded all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all," (Rom. 11:32); in other words, he wills that all who are saved should ascribe their salvation to his mercy, although the blessing of salvation is not common to all. Finally, after all that has been adduced on this side and on that, let it be our conclusion to feel overawed with Paul at the great depth, and if petulant tongues will still murmur, let us not be ashamed to join in his exclamation, "Nay, but, O man, who art thou that replies against God?" (Rom. 9:20). Truly does Augustine maintain that it is perverse to measure divine by the standard of human justice (De Prædest. et Gra. c. 2).
 Latin, "possililitatis profectus."--French, "l'avancement de possibilité."
 French, "Mas quelcun dira qu'il nous faut soucier de ce qui peut nous advenir: et quand nous pensons au temps futur que nostre imbecilité nous admoneste d'etre en solicitude;"--But some one will say, that we must feel anxious as to what may happen to us; and that when we think on the future, our weakness warns us to be solicitous.
 Bernard, in his Sermon on the Nativity, on 2 Cor. 1:3, quoting the two passages, Rom. 9:18, and Ezek. 18:32, admirably reconciles them.
 The French adds, "pour se conformer à notre rudesse;"--in accommodation to our weakness.
 100 D100 These two assertions--"to our apprehension the will of God is manifold," and "he mysteriously wills what now seems to be adverse to his will"--uncover a difficulty with which Calvin struggles: namely, the problem of whether God has a double will (or wills contrary things at the same time). Does God reveal one kind of will in the Gospel, while willing something else in His secret purpose? Do the Gospel promises, "in testifying concerning the will of God, declare that he wills what is contrary to his inviolable decree"? (first line, this section). Calvin, although insisting that there is no discrepancy, no inconsistency, between the predestination of the reprobate and the indiscriminate offer of the Gospel to all (and offering certain reasons for his conviction), nevertheless finds the ultimate solution to this problem in the incomprehensibility of God. God is so great, so far above us, and transcends our senses to such a degree, that we can never hope to comprehend His mystery or the depths of His infinite being. Yet he does not make the absolute distinction which some have made, between God as He is in Himself (about whom we can know nothing), and God as He appears to us (about whom we can know something), for he asserts "yet he [God] does not in himself will opposites." Thus Calvin does say something about God as He is in Himself (in fact, he asserts that God does not violate the law of contradiction!) However, he leaves the final resolution of this apparent discrepancy to the eschatological future, when perhaps the mystery involved in this doctrine will be made known to our understanding. For the present, he exhorts us to "feel overawed with Paul at the great depth" of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/1/2006 | Progress Redefined
The world measures success in terms of that which is tangible — by what is bigger, faster, and by what draws the most attention. For many people, success is defined solely by numbers and circumstantial outcomes. True success, however, cannot be measured merely by what is perceived by the eyes of men. We measure our success according to economic and sociological standards, which at times is certainly appropriate considering that we are to be good stewards of our time, talents, and finances; however, the problem lies in that we measure our Christian lives according to the same principles — evaluating our success in the Christian life based on what is bigger, faster, and, especially, on what draws the most attention. However, often what is considered “successful” by the world’s standards is entirely unsuccessful according to the standards of God. Though it could be said that the measure of a man in terms of his success is based upon the subjective standards of others, true success is measured objectively by God, whose standard is impartial and immutable.
According to the prophet Micah, God has provided us with His standard of success: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Simply stated, God is not first and foremost concerned with our success; rather, He is concerned with our faithfulness. Herein is the standard of the pilgrim’s progress: As pilgrims of God, we progress not in our successfulness but in our faithfulness to God. Our standard for faithfulness does not come from the world, it does not come from those around us, and it certainly does not come from within us.
Our standard is from God alone and is found in the cross of Christ alone, and it is upon the cross that Christ took the burden from our backs and set us free to live, move, and have our being in Him.
As we learn from Bunyan’s classic, our progress as Christians is not measured on the scale of man’s justice but on the scale of God’s grace. For His burden is easy and His yoke light, and to walk humbly before God is to be lifted up by God (James 4:10), to know weakness is to know the perfection of God’s strength (2 Cor. 12:9), to bear the cross is to wear the crown (Gal. 6:14), and to live for Christ coram Deo, before the face of God, is to die to ourselves (Mark 8:34).
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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
World War II ended in Europe on this day, May 7, 1945, when German emissaries entered a schoolhouse in Reims, France, where General Dwight Eisenhower had his headquarters, and signed an unconditional surrender. The War in Europe had lasted five and half years and cost tens of millions of lives. After the war Eisenhower was elected the 34th President by the largest number of votes in history. He stated: "Without God there could be no American form of government or… way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the… the most basic expression of Americanism."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
By night, an atheist half believes in God.
--- Edward Young, Night Thoughts
Experience has repeatedly confirmed
that well-known maxim of Bacon's that
"a little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism,
but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."
At the same time, when Bacon penned that sage epigram...
he forgot to add that the God
to whom depth in philosophy
brings back men's minds
is far from being the same
from whom a little philosophy
--- George Santayana
Be such a man, and live such a life,
that if every man were such as you,
and every life a life like yours,
this earth would be God's Paradise. --- Phillips Brooks Phillips Brooks Year Book: Selections from the Writings of the Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks ... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Fifty-Eighth Chapter / High Matters And The Hidden Judgments Of God Are Not To Be Scrutinized
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, beware of discussing high matters and God’s hidden judgments—why this person is so forsaken and why that one is favored with so great a grace, or why one man is so afflicted and another so highly exalted. Such things are beyond all human understanding and no reason or disputation can fathom the judgments of God.
When the enemy puts such suggestions in your mind, therefore, or when some curious persons raise questions about them, answer with the prophet: “Thou art just, O Lord, and righteous are Thy judgments”;40 and this: “The judgments of the Lord are true and wholly righteous.”41 My judgments are to be feared, not discussed, because they are incomprehensible to the understanding of men.
In like manner, do not inquire or dispute about the merits of the saints, as to which is more holy, or which shall be greater in the kingdom of heaven. Such things often breed strife and useless contentions. They nourish pride and vainglory, whence arise envy and quarrels, when one proudly tries to exalt one saint and the other another. A desire to know and pry into such matters brings forth no fruit. On the contrary, it displeases the saints, because I am the God, not of dissension, but of peace—of that peace which consists in true humility rather than in self-exaltation.
Some are drawn by the ardor of their love with greater affection to these saints or to those, but this affection is human and not divine. I am He who made all the saints. I gave them grace: I brought them to glory. I know the merits of each of them. I came before them in the blessings of My sweetness. I knew My beloved ones before the ages. I chose them out of the world—they did not choose Me. I called them by grace, I drew them on by mercy. I led them safely through various temptations. I poured into them glorious consolations. I gave them perseverance and I crowned their patience. I know the first and the last. I embrace them all with love inestimable. I am to be praised in all My saints. I am to be blessed above all things, and honored in each of those whom I have exalted and predestined so gloriously without any previous merits of their own.
He who despises one of the least of mine, therefore, does no honor to the greatest, for both the small and the great I made. And he who disparages one of the saints disparages Me also and all others in the kingdom of heaven. They are all one through the bond of charity. They have the same thought and the same will, and they mutually love one another; but, what is a much greater thing, they love Me more than themselves or their own merits. Rapt above themselves, and drawn beyond love of self, they are entirely absorbed in love of Me, in Whom they rest. There is nothing that can draw them away or depress them, for they who are filled with eternal truth burn with the fire of unquenchable love.
Therefore, let carnal and sensual men, who know only how to love their own selfish joys, forbear to dispute about the state of God’s saints. Such men take away and add according to their own inclinations and not as it pleases the Eternal Truth. In many this is sheer ignorance, especially in those who are but little enlightened and can rarely love anyone with a purely spiritual love. They are still strongly drawn by natural affection and human friendship to one person or another, and on their behavior in such things here below are based their imaginings of heavenly things. But there is an incomparable distance between the things which the imperfect imagine and those which enlightened men contemplate through revelation from above.
Be careful, then, My child, of treating matters beyond your knowledge out of curiosity. Let it rather be your business and aim to be found, even though the least, in the kingdom of God. For though one were to know who is more holy than another, or who is greater in the kingdom of heaven, of what value would this knowledge be to him unless out of it he should humble himself before Me and should rise up in greater praise of My name?
The man who thinks of the greatness of his own sins and the littleness of his virtues, and of the distance between himself and the perfection of the saints, acts much more acceptably to God than the one who argues about who is greater or who is less. It is better to invoke the saints with devout prayers and tears, and with a humble mind to beg their glorious aid, than to search with vain inquisitiveness into their secrets.
The saints are well and perfectly contented if men know how to content themselves and cease their useless discussions. They do not glory in their own merits, for they attribute no good to themselves but all to Me, because out of My infinite charity I gave all to them. They are filled with such love of God and with such overflowing joy, that no glory is wanting to them and they can lack no happiness. All the saints are so much higher in glory as they are more humble in themselves; nearer to Me, and more beloved by Me. Therefore, you find it written that they cast their crowns before God, and fell down upon their faces before the Lamb, and adored Him Who lives forever.
Many ask who is the greater in the kingdom of heaven when they do not know whether they themselves shall be worthy of being numbered among its least. It is a great thing to be even the least in heaven where all are great because all shall be called, and shall be, the children of God. The least shall be as a thousand, and the sinner of a hundred years shall die. For when the disciples asked who should be greater in the kingdom of heaven they heard this response: “Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3-4)
Woe to those, therefore, who disdain to humble themselves willingly with the little children, for the low gate of the heavenly kingdom will not permit them to enter. Woe also to the rich who have their consolations here, for when the poor enter into God’s kingdom, they will stand outside lamenting. Rejoice, you humble, and exult, you poor, for the kingdom of God is yours, if only you walk in the truth.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
Faith Needs Fellowship
That brings me to just one more thought in regard to faith—faith implies fellowship with God.
Many people want to take the Word and believe that, and they find they cannot believe it. Ah, no! You cannot separate God from His Word. No goodness or power can be received separate from God, and if you want to get into this life of godliness, you must take time for fellowship with God.
People sometimes tell me: "My life is one of such scurry and bustle that I have no time for fellowship with God." A dear missionary said to me: "People do not know how we missionaries are tempted. I get up at five o'clock in the Morning, and there are the natives waiting for their orders for work. Then I have to go to the school and spend hours there; and then there is other work, and sixteen hours rush along, and I hardly get time to be alone with God."
Ah! there is the lack. I pray you, remember two things. I have not told you to trust the omnipotence of God as a thing, and I have not told you to trust the Word of God as a written book, but I have told you to go to the God of omnipotence and the God of the Word. Deal with God as that nobleman dealt with the living Christ. Why was he able to believe the word that Christ spoke to him? Because in the very eyes and tones and voice of Jesus, the Son of God, he saw and heard something which made him feel that he could trust Him. And that is what Christ can do for you and me. Do not try to stir and arouse faith from within. How often I have tried to do that, and made a fool of myself! You cannot stir up faith from the depths of your heart. Leave your heart, and look into the face of Christ, and listen to what He tells you about how He will keep you. Look up into the face of your loving Father, and take time every day with Him, and begin a new life with the deep emptiness and poverty of a man who has got nothing, and who wants to get everything from Him--with the deep restfulness of a man who rests on the living God, the omnipotent Jehovah--and try God, and prove Him if He will not open the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing that there shall not be room to receive it.
I close by asking if you are willing to experience to the very full the heavenly keeping for the heavenly inheritance? Robert Murray M'Cheyne says, somewhere: "Oh, God, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be made." And if that prayer is in your heart, come now, and let us enter into a covenant with the everlasting and omnipotent Jehovah afresh, and in great helplessness, but in great restfulness place ourselves in His hands. And then as we enter into our covenant, let us have the one prayer--that we may believe fully that the everlasting God is going to be our Companion, holding our hand every moment of the day; our Keeper, watching over us without a moment's interval; our Father, delighting to reveal Himself in our souls always. He has the power to let the sunshine of His love be with us all the day. Do not be afraid because you have got your business that you cannot have God with you always. Learn the lesson that the natural sun shines upon you all the day, and you enjoy its light, and wherever you are you have got the sun; God takes care that it shines upon you. And God will take care that His own divine light shines upon you, and that you shall abide in that light, if you will only trust Him for it. Let us trust God to do that with a great and entire trust.
Here is the omnipotence of God, and here is faith reaching out to the measure of that omnipotence. Shall we not say: "All that that omnipotence can do, I am going to trust my God for"? Are not the two sides of this heavenly life wonderful? God's omnipotence covers me, and my will in its littleness rests in that omnipotence, and rejoices in it!
Moment by moment, I'm kept in His love;
Moment by moment, I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus, the glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, Oh, Lord, I am Thine!
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
16 How much better than gold it is to gain wisdom!
Yes, rather than money, choose to gain understanding.
17 Avoiding evil is the highway of the upright;
he who watches his step preserves his life.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Building for eternity
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? --- Luke 14:28.
Our Lord refers not to a cost we have to count, but to a cost which He has counted. The cost was those thirty years in Nazareth, those three years of popularity, scandal and hatred; the deep unfathomable agony in Gethsemane, and the onslaught at Calvary—the pivot upon which the whole of Time and Eternity turns. Jesus Christ has counted the cost. Men are not going to laugh at Him at last and say—“This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”
The conditions of discipleship laid down by Our Lord in vv. 26, 27 and 33 mean that the men and women He is going to use in His mighty building enterprises are those in whom He has done everything. “If any man come to Me, and hate not …, he cannot be My disciple.” Our Lord implies that the only men and women He will use in His building enterprises are those who love Him personally, passionately and devotedly beyond any of the closest ties on earth. The conditions are stern, but they are glorious.
All that we build is going to be inspected by God. Is God going to detect in His searching fire that we have built on the foundation of Jesus some enterprise of our own? These are days of tremendous enterprises, days when we are trying to work for God, and therein is the snare. Profoundly speaking, we can never work for God. Jesus takes us over for His enterprises, His building schemes entirely, and no soul has any right to claim where he shall be put.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
The Empty Church
They laid this stone trap
for him, enticing him with candles,
as though he would come like some huge moth
out of the darkness to beat there.
Ah, he had burned himself
before in the human flame
and escaped, leaving the reason
torn. He will not come any more
to our lure. Why, then, do I kneel still
striking my prayers on a stone
heart? Is it in hope one
of them will ignite yet and throw
on its illumined walls the shadow
of someone greater than I can understand?
Selected poems, 1946-1968
There is a stop sign at a busy intersection. Three cars stop. Are we correct in assuming that each driver has the same motivation? Hardly. The first driver stops because of the law: it says you're supposed to stop, and he respects rules. The second driver stops because she has previous moving violations and is afraid of permanently losing her license to operate a motor vehicle. The third driver stops because of memories of a cousin, injured by a careless driver who ran a red light. Each of these people stops at the corner, but their reasons for stopping are not at all the same.
The disagreement between Abaye and Rava goes to the very question of motivation. What causes people to act in the way that they do? Is it honesty and virtue, respect of laws and the affect that breaking them has on others around us? Or is it self-interest and ulterior motives like money?
In many cases, we are motivated by both views. Rava is correct to assume that we would not want to sacrifice money, waste time, lose a profit, or cause ourselves some other disadvantage. We would surely be angered if any of these happened to us.
The challenge for us is not to choose between the moral idealism of Abaye, where Jews "speak no falsehood," and the realism of Rava, where people are motivated by materialistic concerns, even when their closest family members are involved. In a world of tight money and limited resources of all kinds, most of us have a good portion of Rava in us. Our challenge is to incorporate a bit of Abaye's sanguine viewpoint into our lives.
Few of us are motivated only by principle. We, like the father, may have financial worries, social pressures, time constraints. We recognize that many of the motivations that Rava alludes to impel us. The message of the Gemara is not to choose one or the other. Rather, we need to recognize the selfish and self-centered reasons that we act and strive to incorporate the idealistic into our lives as well.
The reality is that we will act for Rava's reasons. We can also choose to act for Abaye's ethical goals.
Words that are in the heart are not words.
Text / There was a man who sold his possessions with the intention of going to the land of Israel, but at the time of the sale he said nothing [of this intention]. Rava said: "These were words that were in the heart, and words that are in the heart are not words." From where did Rava [learn this]? Shall we say from that which has been taught: "[If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall make his offering a male without blemish.] He shall bring it [to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, for acceptance in his behalf before the Lord]" [Leviticus 1:3]. This teaches that they [the court] can force him to bring it. Shall we say against his will? The text says "for acceptance in his behalf." How can this be? They force him until he says: "I want to." How can this be, since in his heart he did not want to? Thus, is it not because of what we have said: "Words that are in the heart are not words"?
Context / Rashi: And subsequently, he was prevented from going.
In a slightly different case (Kiddushin 50a), Rava ruled as follows: There was a man who sold his possessions with the intention of going to the land of Israel. He left, but was not able to settle there. Rava said: "Anyone who leaves goes with the intention of settling, and this man did not settle." [Rashi: And is therefore like one who could not leave; thus the sale is reversed.] There are those who say: "He left with the intention of going, and he did go [and therefore the sale is legally binding]."
The man who sold his land had in mind this condition: "The sale will be final only if I indeed go to Israel. If my plans fall through and I cannot go, then the sale will not be considered binding." Rava comes to teach that a mental stipulation has no legal force. The Talmud finds the basis for this principle in an interpretation of a verse in the first chapter of Leviticus. The apparently redundant use of the words yakrivenu/yakriv—"he shall make his offering/he shall bring it"—is interpreted as meaning that the court must pressure a man to bring a sacrifice that he had promised to offer. However, this would then conflict with the notion that sacrifices must be brought willingly. This is resolved by the principle that a court can pressure a man until he says "I am willing." Yet someone who is pressured outwardly to do something may still have an inner mental reservation. The Rabbis ruled: Inner mental reservations—words in the heart—are not considered of substance. Rava based his ruling on this earlier teaching.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
We can hardly imagine what Samson, with his great strength and godly heritage, might have been. If only he had lived out daily the formal commitment to God expressed in that Nazarite vow.
The last segment of Judges is not in chronological order. It, unlike the first, is a slice of life, summing up in two grim tales the personal impact on the men and women of this dark era of wandering from God.
Judges is divided into three distinct segments. The introduction (1:1–3:6) explains the causes for the centuries-long decline of the Hebrew people between about 1390 and 1050 B.C. The body of the book (Judges 3:7–16:31) tells stories of the judges whom God periodically sent to deliver His people from enemies and keep them faithful to Him. This final section might be titled portraits of decay (chaps. 17–21), or perhaps the way of death. As the stories here demonstrate, deserting God leads a people and individuals to a living death.
Levites. This tribe in Israel had been set aside for the service of God. One family of the tribe of Levi, that of Aaron, was to serve as Israel's priesthood. The other families were helpers, worship leaders, and teachers of God's Law. But only the descendants of Aaron could offer sacrifices to God, and then only at the central place of worship where the tabernacle stood.
In this section of Judges we discover that even those who were to lead Israel in obedience to the Law had deserted it, for we meet a Levite who served as a family priest, served an idol forbidden by the Law, and deserted his benefactor when offered a richer position.
Commentary / "It's all right for you, if that's what you like," Danny told me. He was lying on his back in a hospital bed, his face pinched, still white from loss of blood.
We'd been talking about my conversion, and how a relationship with Jesus made a difference in my life. The day before our conversation, Danny had tried to commit suicide.
He'd taken a deer rifle and fired at his heart—and missed. Instead, he blew a hole through his side, a sofa, and a roof. Now the influence of the 13 downers he'd swallowed just before his attempt had worn off. But not the pain.
We talked and shared—about his life and mine—for several hours. We talked freely about God's desire to bring him the peace and fulfillment that only Christ can provide. It was then that Danny, with honest approval, gave me his blessing. "It's all right for you, if that's what you like."
Subjectivism. / Danny expressed the conviction of many today. All is relative; reality is subjective. The person who likes a religious lifestyle enjoys something that has meaning, "for him." The person with a drug culture lifestyle, like Danny, should be appreciated too. Both ways of life—and the many others open in our culture today—are perfectly fine for the person who chooses them. One is not objectively "better" than another; to insist that it is would be to intrude on another's freedom of choice.
To an extent, some court decisions in the United States reflect just this line of thought. Recently state legislatures have been puzzling over the question of whether homosexuals ought to be able to "marry" one another. The gay liberation movement aggressively demands the right to be different—and to have their particular difference accepted as an alternative, equally valid, morality. Some church bodies have even ordained homosexuals as ministers.
In one Western state, the madam of a well-known house of prostitution ran for the legislature—and was almost elected! Students in a Midwest seminary went to the board, to demand the same housing privileges for male and female students who live together as for those who are married! The "discrimination" outraged the students' moral sensitivities; an outrage foreshadowed by a young woman who told me some five years earlier that "immorality" had to do with exploitation of the poor—not with one's way of expressing himself or herself sexually. She was a seminarian too.
Not long ago a U.S. Congressman confessed to being an alcoholic (a fact long known by Washington politicians and newsmen). But he confessed only after successfully completing his reelection campaign; a campaign during which he lied again and again about the problem he later confessed. But, of course, there is also the Congressman who was reelected after being censured for an affair with an underage congressional page!
Danny had responded to my sharing about Jesus with honest appreciation and even with approval. He thought it was great—for me. But he himself was untouched. In his world, distinctions between right and wrong, true and false, illusion and reality, had long been blurred. With the moorings slipped, with each person taking whatever way seems right to him or her, Danny could not see that my testimony had anything at all to do with him.
A Biblical Absolute / Against subjectivism and relativism, the Bible presents a bold absolute. It affirms that there are universal moral principles on which the behavior of individuals and societies must be based. If this moral base is abandoned, the individual or the society will be destroyed.
Scripture's unyielding absolute is rooted in the presupposition that ours is a moral universe. God, who shaped and planned it all, is a moral Being. Creation's design expresses His moral character. This is true especially of the nature of man, which the Bible insists bears the stamp of the Eternal: the "image" of God planted in us at Creation. As a train is designed to run on tracks, the human personality is designed to function healthily only when stabilized by a steadfast morality. Individuals and societies which jump their moral tracks become increasingly bogged down—and ultimately are unable to function.
It would be wrong to think that morality is a stabilizing factor only for the believer. Righteousness is something that "works" for the believer and unbeliever alike. The Book of Proverbs puts it this way: "Righteousness exalts a nation; but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). There are many such observations in Proverbs. "The unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity" (11:3). "The wicked shall fall by his own wickedness" (Proverbs 11:5, KJV). "The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right" (21:7). In a moral universe, there are certain fixed moral laws which when violated bring destruction as a natural consequence. History is full of illustrations of this fact.
It is not that God intervenes to punish. It is simply that, given the nature of our universe, the abandonment of righteousness inevitably leads to dissolution of the personality or the society.
This, of course, is part of the tragedy of Danny. He had chosen a way that seemed right to him. Even his suicide attempt couldn't convince him that his way leads to death. Danny denied the Bible's revelation of reality and treated God's way as only one of many alternative and equally acceptable ways. This too is the tragedy of society after society and culture after culture. When a people choose a way that seems right to them, but a way which ignores the divine revelation of righteousness, that society is moving toward its downfall.
The Bible is not just for believers. The Bible reveals a reality with which every man must live. He can choose to accept reality and live in harmony with it. Or he can choose to reject reality and experience its crushing weight. In either case, each demonstrates that God's Word is true. And each society will bear witness.
The men of Joshua's day demonstrated the faithfulness of God's promise; their obedience brought victory and rest. In the days of the Judges, men turned away from righteousness to choose their own way. The fate of these men and the society which they developed now bear witness to the fact that rejection of the divinely ordained lifestyle brings despair, dissolution, and defeat.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Hand Of God:
Finding His Care In All Circumstances
One problem with unjust suffering is the tremendous temptation it brings to throw in the towel, to quit trying to maintain one’s integrity and standards of righteousness.
We have noted this several times before, but Joseph is a classic example of someone who, humanly speaking, had every reason to say, “What’s the use of trying to be righteous?”
As he sat in that Egyptian dungeon, Joseph could have said, “That’s it. I might as well do what everyone else does. I don’t see where trying to obey God and maintain my integrity is working to my benefit. I thought I was mistreated before, but now I’m in prison because of a perverse woman. I don’t deserve this.”
We have no record that Joseph thought these things, but the temptation was certainly there because he was human. You may be tempted to reach the same conclusion. It does seem at times that the rascals who are cheating on their spouses and their taxes are having a great time, while the righteous often wind up in the pit for doing right.
For your encouragement I commend to you Psalm 73. See at end of this article The psalmist makes the same lament but his eyes are opened in a major way when he enters the house of God.
F. B. Meyer says, “Do right because it is right to do right. And when you determine to do right because it is right to do right, then when you’re misunderstood, ill-treated, when you’re the victim of unjust suffering, you won’t swerve, you won’t sit down, you won’t whine, and you won’t despair.”
That’s the wonderful thing about Joseph. How is it that he didn’t whine and despair when his life kept taking a wrong turn? Sure, he wanted to get out of prison. He asked for help in getting out, but he was not whining.
Why? Because he had determined to do the right thing no matter the cost and no matter where it took him.
Hebrews 12:3 is a great antidote for those who feel like quitting. After urging us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the writer says, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Having a hard time? Think of Jesus. Someone maligning you? Think of Jesus. Feeling like throwing in the towel, giving up, losing heart? Consider what Jesus endured. After all, “in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4) the way Jesus did. You haven’t died yet, the writer of Hebrews says. So don’t give up.
God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
73 A Psalm Of Asaph.
1 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16 But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
Alistair Begg Books | Go to Books Page
Judaism in the Land of Israel
Besides the daily and other sacrifices and ceremonies performed regularly at the Temple in Jerusalem, the cycle of festivals was centered there. As noted above, the Passover (1/14) and the three pilgrimage festivals took place at the sanctuary as the Mosaic Law directed. For the Passover, the representative of each household presented the paschal lamb at the Temple, where it was sacrificed. The Festival of Unleavened Bread, lasting from 1/15 to 1/21, coincided with the barley harvest; the Festival of Weeks, occurring at some unspecified point in the third month, marked the wheat harvest; and the Festival of Booths, celebrated on 7/15–21, came at the end of the entire harvest season. Each of the three pilgrimage holidays was also a firstfruits festival that required presentation of a part of the relevant crop at the sanctuary. The two additional firstfruits festivals mandated in the Temple Scroll (of wine and oil) would have taken place at the Temple, if they were ever implemented (11QTa 19:11–23:2). The Second Passover (2/14; for individuals who, for certain legitimate causes, were not able to celebrate the Passover in the first month [see Num. 9:16–14]) also was a Temple festival, while the ceremonies for the Day of Atonement (7/10) necessarily took place at the Temple (Leviticus 16). The book of Esther provides the dramatic story that gave rise to the holiday called Purim (lots), but there was no requirement that it be observed at the sanctuary. And Hanukkah, an eight-day festival commemorating and celebrating the rededication of the Temple in 164 B.C.E. (1 Macc. 4:36–59; 2 Macc. 10:1–8), was by definition associated with the Temple, but there was no requirement that one had to travel there to mark it properly.
Each of the festivals summarized in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28–29 required sacrifices at the Temple beyond the daily ones offered, and the firstfruits holidays, as noted, involved the appropriate offering from the harvest of that season. This entailed that the Temple became a very busy and crowded place on these occasions. As a result, the priests who happened to be on duty at the Temple at the time of a major festival were not able to handle the large increase in sacrifices and related activities; they were augmented by priests from the other rotations.
It is not possible to infer from the way in which the Pentateuch dates festivals the nature of the calendar by which they were calculated. In the priestly portions of the Torah, the months are designated with ordinal numbers and the days are, of course, numbered as well. But no text indicates whether a solar calendar, a lunar calendar, or a combination of the two was used as the system in Second Temple times for the very practical issue of determining when public festivals occurred. Exodus 12:1 identifies the month of the Passover as the first month of the year; hence, for dating festivals, a Spring inception of the year was assumed. Psalm 104:19 could be taken as an indication that lunar considerations were involved in dating festivals (as they were later): “You have made the moon to mark the seasons [or: the festivals]; the sun knows its time for setting.” But nothing specific should be inferred from the verse. Sirach 43:6–8, after a section extolling the wonders of the sun, has been adduced as evidence that by the early second century B.C.E. the moon determined festal dates. Note in particular 43:6–7: “It is the moon that marks the changing seasons, governing the times, their everlasting sign. From the moon comes the sign for festal days, a light that wanes when it completes its course.” One prominent trait of 1 Enoch 72–82, Jubilees, and the sectarian literature from Qumran is the prominence of a solar year lasting 364 days; the festival dates are determined according to it.
It is appropriate to append a short reference to synagogues to this survey of information about the Temple and worship in the land of Israel. It would seem that having only one temple could prove inconvenient for those who lived some distance from it, even though the area of Jewish settlement was not very large and a person was not often required to be at the Temple. Also, the traditional form of sacrificial worship at the Jerusalem Temple (the only place where it could be effected) may not have met all the religious needs of Jewish people. Whatever the reasons may have been, at some point or very gradually in the Second Temple period, synagogues, local places for worship and study, began to appear, perhaps at first in the Diaspora (there are third-century-B.C.E. references from Egypt), but also in the land of Israel (the earliest evidence is from the first century B.C.E.). The Gospel of Luke documents the presence of a synagogue at Nazareth and the importance of Scripture reading and exposition in the Sabbath service there (Luke 4:16–30; notice that 4:15 refers to synagogues in Galilee). Others are known from Herodium, Masada, and Gamla, and there are references to synagogues in Jerusalem (e.g., Acts 6:8–9). The synagogue was a place for communal activities (see the Theodotus Inscription) including reading, studying, and expositing the Scriptures and prayer. Synagogues appear not to have been seen as rivals in some sense to the Temple but rather as complements to it.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Is there any God besides me? --- Isaiah 44:8.
[The denial of transcendence] is certain to put our moral lives in jeopardy, for it destroys the distinction between good and evil. Wings of the Morning, The (The Morrison Classic Sermon Series) The moral power of the cross of Christ has not only made goodness very beautiful. It has also made sin more sinful. No one can ever be a Christian who treats sin lightly. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The meaning of that love will grow or lessen according to our measurement of sin. When people have most deeply felt the wonder of the love of God in Christ, they have felt at the same time the guilt of sin.
It is just that moral heritage that is likely to be lost in the teaching of today. It is a bad thing to vilify humanity; I believe it is even worse to deify it. If the life of God is the life of the human race and the activity of God is human activity, where is your standard to tell that this is right and to say with authority that that is wrong? There is no law, with its divine “Thou shalt not.” There is no atonement on the cross for guilt. There is no Spirit of a holy God to convince of sin. [An exclusive immanence] may be full of charm, but confusing good with evil saps the conscience.
The logical outcome is that might is right. A hero may be good, may be bad—the one essential is that a hero be strong. There is no room for the baffled and the fallen in a world whose god is only a stream of being that neither can pity nor can love.
Christ’s revelation of God was that of fatherhood, and as long as we are true to that, we have a living and true God who meets the need of human hearts. There is transcendence in the thought of fatherhood—the sweet and perfect sovereignty of love. Above his children, strong and just and merciful, a refuge from the storm, there stands the Father. And in fatherhood no less is immanence, for the father’s very life is in the child, and, in ways not less real because they are undefinable, father and child are one. All that is noblest in the thought of sovereignty, all that is fairest in the thought of immanence meets in that God whose name and nature have been revealed to us by and in the Lord. We beseech you, then, O God, show us your glory. Give us the spirit that cries, “Abba, Father.” Then earth and humanity will not be less because the life of the divine is more.
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
I Must Tell Jesus May 7
Many New Testament promises have corresponding verses in the Old Testament that reinforce their power. When Peter, for example, said, “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him” (1 Peter 5:7), he was but restating David’s words in Psalm 55:22: “Our LORD, we belong to you. We tell you what worries us, and you won’t let us fall.”
Elisha A. Hoffman loved those verses. He was born May 7, 1839 in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. His father was a minister, and Elisha followed Christ at a young age. He attended Philadelphia public schools, studied science, then pursued the classics at Union Seminary of the Evangelical Association. He worked for 11 years with the association’s publishing house in Cleveland, Ohio. Then, following the death of his young wife, he returned to Pennsylvania and devoted 33 years to pastoring Benton Harbor Presbyterian Church.
Hoffman’s pastime was writing hymns, many of which were inspired by pastoral incidents. One day, for example, while calling on the destitute of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, he met a woman whose depression seemed beyond cure. She opened her heart and poured on him her pent-up sorrows. Wringing her hands, she cried, “What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do?” Hoffman knew what she should do, for he had himself learned the deeper lessons of God’s comfort. He said to the woman, “You cannot do better than to take all your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus.”
Suddenly the lady’s face lighted up. “Yes!” she cried, “That’s it! I must tell Jesus.” Her words echoed in Hoffman’s ears, and he mulled them over as he returned home. He drew out his pen and started writing, I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! / I cannot bear my burdens alone; / I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! / Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.
Hoffman lived to be 90, telling Jesus his burdens and giving the church such hymns as What A Wonderful Savior, Down at the Cross, Are You Washed in the Blood?, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and a thousand more.
The Scriptures say, “God opposes proud people, but he helps everyone who is humble.” Be humble in the presence of God’s mighty power, and he will honor you when the time comes. God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him.
--- 1 Peter 5:5b-7.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 7
“Great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all.”
What a mass of hideous sickness must have thrust itself under the eye of Jesus! Yet we read not that he was disgusted, but patiently waited on every case. What a singular variety of evils must have met at his feet! What sickening ulcers and putrefying sores! Yet he was ready for every new shape of the monster evil, and was victor over it in every form. Let the arrow fly from what quarter it might, he quenched its fiery power. The heat of fever, or the cold of dropsy; the lethargy of palsy, or the rage of madness; the filth of leprosy, or the darkness of ophthalmia—all knew the power of his word, and fled at his command. In every corner of the field he was triumphant over evil, and received the homage of delivered captives. He came, he saw, he conquered everywhere. It is even so this Morning. Whatever my own case may be, the beloved Physician can heal me; and whatever may be the state of others whom I may remember at this moment in prayer, I may have hope in Jesus that he will be able to heal them of their sins. My child, my friend, my dearest one, I can have hope for each, for all, when I remember the healing power of my Lord; and on my own account, however severe my struggle with sins and infirmities, I may yet be of good cheer. He who on earth walked the hospitals, still dispenses his grace, and works wonders among the sons of men: let me go to him at once in right earnest.
Let me praise him, this Morning, as I remember how he wrought his spiritual cures, which bring him most renown. It was by taking upon himself our sicknesses. “By his stripes we are healed.” The Church on earth is full of souls healed by our beloved Physician; and the inhabitants of heaven itself confess that “He healed them all.” Come, then, my soul, publish abroad the virtue of his grace, and let it be “to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off.”
Evening - May 7
“Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”
Like many others, the impotent man had been waiting for a wonder to be wrought, and a sign to be given. Wearily did he watch the pool, but no angel came, or came not for him; yet, thinking it to be his only chance, he waited still, and knew not that there was One near him whose word could heal him in a moment. Many are in the same plight: they are waiting for some singular emotion, remarkable impression, or celestial vision; they wait in vain and watch for nought. Even supposing that, in a few cases, remarkable signs are seen, yet these are rare, and no man has a right to look for them in his own case; no man especially who feels his impotency to avail himself of the moving of the water even if it came. It is a very sad reflection that tens of thousands are now waiting in the use of means, and ordinances, and vows, and resolutions, and have so waited time out of mind, in vain, utterly in vain. Meanwhile these poor souls forget the present Saviour, who bids them look unto him and be saved. He could heal them at once, but they prefer to wait for an angel and a wonder. To trust him is the sure way to every blessing, and he is worthy of the most implicit confidence; but unbelief makes them prefer the cold porches of Bethesda to the warm bosom of his love. O that the Lord may turn his eye upon the multitudes who are in this case to-night; may he forgive the slights which they put upon his divine power, and call them by that sweet constraining voice, to rise from the bed of despair, and in the energy of faith take up their bed and walk. O Lord, hear our prayer for all such at this calm hour of sunset, and ere the day breaketh may they look and live.
Courteous reader, is there anything in this portion for you?
Morning and Evening
UNTO THE HILLS AROUND DO I LIFT UP
John D. S. Campbell, 1845–1914
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1, 2)
The more we pursue God’s majesty and greatness, the greater becomes our strength to live victoriously. Each day we need to take time to look away from ourselves and our petty complaints and focus our attention on our Creator God. Someone has observed that it is usually not so much the greatness of our troubles as the littleness of our spirit that makes us disgruntled complainers. A worthy starting point is to find inspiration from some part of God’s creation. For the psalmist, it was looking at the hills all around him, reminders of God’s power and authority. In another portion the psalmist reminds us that in time of need we should flee like a bird to our mountain and there find rest and security (Psalm 11:1). Yet the instruction is clear that though we receive inspiration from observing the majesty of creation, our real source of help must ultimately come from a personal relationship with God Himself, “the Lord, who heav’n and earth hath made.”
The author of this text, John Douglas S. Campbell, was a well-known English personality of his day. He was a member of Parliament and the Governor General of Canada. Campbell was also a noted writer and a devoted Christian. The hymn first appeared in 1877. These inspiring words can still be a source of much comfort for any believer today:
Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes; O whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise? From God, the Lord, doth come my certain aid, from God, the Lord, who heav’n and earth hath made.
He will not suffer that thy foot be moved: Safe shalt thou be. No careless slumber shall His eyelids close, who keepeth thee. Behold, our God, the Lord, He slumbereth ne’er, who keepeth Israel in His holy care.
Jehovah is Himself thy keeper true, thy changeless shade; Jehovah thy defense on thy right hand Himself hath made. And thee no sun by day shall ever smite; no moon shall harm thee in the silent night.
From ev’ry evil shall He keep thy soul, from ev’ry sin; Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, thy coming in. Above thee watching, He whom we adore shall keep thee henceforth, yea, forevermore.
For Today: Psalm 11; 24; 121; Isaiah 40:9, 26; 41:10.
Enjoy the majesty of some particular part of God’s creation—a mountain, sunrise, sunset. Breathe a prayer of gratitude to the One who has made this possible. Determine to rely on Him more fully throughout this day. Carry this musical truth with you ...
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XVII. — IN the example concerning confession and satisfaction, it is wonderful to observe with what dexterous prudence you proceed. Throughout the whole, according to your custom, you move along on the tiptoe of caution, lest you should seem, neither plainly to condemn my sentiments nor to oppose the tyranny of the Popes: a path which you found to be by no means safe. Therefore, throwing off, in this matter, both God and conscience, (for what are these things to Erasmus? What has he to do with them? What profit are they to him?) you rush upon the external bugbear, and attack the commonalty.
- ‘That they, from their depravity, abuse the preaching of a free confession and of satisfaction, to an occasion of the flesh. But, nevertheless, (you say) by the necessity of confessing, they are, in a measure, restrained.’ —
O memorable and excellent speech! Is this teaching theology? To bind souls by laws, and, (as Ezekiel saith, xiii. 18,) to hunt them to death, which are not bound by God! Why, by this speech you bring upon us the universal tyranny of the laws of the Popes, as useful and wholesome; because, that by them also the depravity of the commonalty is restrained.
But I will not inveigh against this place as it deserves. I will descant upon it thus briefly — A good theologian teaches, that the commonalty are to be restrained by the external power of the sword, where they do evil: as Paul teaches. (Rom. xiii. 1-4.) But their consciences are not to be fettered by false laws, that they might be tormented with sins where God wills there should be no sins at all. For consciences are bound by the law of God only. So that, that intermediate tyranny of Popes, which falsely terrifies and murders the souls within, and vainly wearies the bodies without is to be taken entirely out of the way. Because, although it binds to confession and other things, outwardly, yet the mind is not, by these things restrained, but exasperated the more into the hatred both of God and men. And in vain does it butcher the body by external things, making nothing but hypocrites. — So that tyrants, with laws of this kind, are nothing else but ravening wolves, robbers, and plunderers of souls. And yet you, an excellent counselor of souls, recommend these to us again: that is, you are an advocate for these most barbarous soul-murderers, who fill the world with hypocrites, and with such as blaspheme God and hate Him in their hearts, in order that they may restrain them a little from outward sin. As though there were no other way of restraining, which makes no hypocrites, and is wrought without any destroying of consciences.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
7 Even Though I Walk Through the Valley . . .
In the Christian life we often speak of wanting “to move onto higher ground with God.” How we long to live above the lowlands of life. We want to get beyond the common crowd, to enter a more intimate walk with God. We speak of mountaintop experiences and we envy those who have ascended the heights and entered into this more sublime sort of life.
Often we get an erroneous idea about how this takes place. It is as though we imagined we could be “air-lifted” onto higher ground. On the rough trail of the Christian life, this is not so. As with ordinary sheep management, so with God’s people: one only gains higher ground by climbing up through the valleys.
Every mountain has its valleys. Its sides are scarred by deep ravines and gulches and draws. And the best route to the top is always along these valleys.
Any sheepman familiar with the high country knows this. He leads his flock gently, but persistently, up the paths that wind through the dark valleys. It should be noticed that the verse states, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” It does not say I die there, or stop there — but rather, “I walk through.”
It is customary to use this verse as a consolation to those who are passing through the dark valley of death. But even here, for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door into a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ. Death is but the dark valley opening out into an eternity of delight with God. It is not something to fear, but an experience through which one passes on the path to a more perfect life.
The Good Shepherd knows this. It is one reason why He has told us, “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)—yes, even in the valley of death. What a comfort and what a cheer.
I was keenly aware of this consolation when my wife went to “higher ground.” For two years, we had walked through the dark valley of death, watching her beautiful body be destroyed by cancer. As death approached I sat by her bed, her hand in mine. Gently we “passed” through the valley of death. Both of us were quietly aware of Christ’s presence. There was no fear — just a going on to higher ground.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Jon Courson (2013)