1 Chronicles 22 - 24
David Prepares for Temple Building1 Chronicles 22:1 Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the LORD God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
2 David commanded to gather together the resident aliens who were in the land of Israel, and he set stonecutters to prepare dressed stones for building the house of God. 3 David also provided great quantities of iron for nails for the doors of the gates and for clamps, as well as bronze in quantities beyond weighing, 4 and cedar timbers without number, for the Sidonians and Tyrians brought great quantities of cedar to David. 5 For David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will therefore make preparation for it.” So David provided materials in great quantity before his death.
Solomon Charged to Build the Temple6 Then he called for Solomon his son and charged him to build a house for the LORD, the God of Israel. 7 David said to Solomon, “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the LORD my God. 8 But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. 9 Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’
11 “Now, my son, the LORD be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the LORD your God, as he has spoken concerning you. 12 Only, may the LORD grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the LORD your God. 13 Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the LORD commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed. 14 With great pains I have provided for the house of the LORD 100,000 talents of gold, a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weighing, for there is so much of it; timber and stone, too, I have provided. To these you must add. 15 You have an abundance of workmen: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of craftsmen without number, skilled in working 16 gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Arise and work! The LORD be with you!”
17 David also commanded all the leaders of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying, 18 “Is not the LORD your God with you? And has he not given you peace on every side? For he has delivered the inhabitants of the land into my hand, and the land is subdued before the LORD and his people. 19 Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God. Arise and build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the holy vessels of God may be brought into a house built for the name of the LORD.”
1 Chronicles 23
David Organizes the Levites1 Chronicles 23:1 When David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel.
2 David assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. 3 The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were numbered, and the total was 38,000 men. 4 “Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said, “shall have charge of the work in the house of the LORD, 6,000 shall be officers and judges, 5 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the LORD with the instruments that I have made for praise.” 6 And David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
7 The sons of Gershon were Ladan and Shimei. 8 The sons of Ladan: Jehiel the chief, and Zetham, and Joel, three. 9 The sons of Shimei: Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran, three. These were the heads of the fathers’ houses of Ladan. 10 And the sons of Shimei: Jahath, Zina, and Jeush and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. 11 Jahath was the chief, and Zizah the second; but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons, therefore they became counted as a single father’s house.
12 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four. 13 The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart to dedicate the most holy things, that he and his sons forever should make offerings before the LORD and minister to him and pronounce blessings in his name forever. 14 But the sons of Moses the man of God were named among the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer. 16 The sons of Gershom: Shebuel the chief. 17 The sons of Eliezer: Rehabiah the chief. Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very many. 18 The sons of Izhar: Shelomith the chief. 19 The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the chief, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth. 20 The sons of Uzziel: Micah the chief and Isshiah the second.
21 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli: Eleazar and Kish. 22 Eleazar died having no sons, but only daughters; their kinsmen, the sons of Kish, married them. 23 The sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder, and Jeremoth, three.
24 These were the sons of Levi by their fathers’ houses, the heads of fathers’ houses as they were listed according to the number of the names of the individuals from twenty years old and upward who were to do the work for the service of the house of the LORD. 25 For David said, “The LORD, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people, and he dwells in Jerusalem forever. 26 And so the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service.” 27 For by the last words of David the sons of Levi were numbered from twenty years old and upward. 28 For their duty was to assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the LORD, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God. 29 Their duty was also to assist with the showbread, the flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the baked offering, the offering mixed with oil, and all measures of quantity or size. 30 And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening, 31 and whenever burnt offerings were offered to the LORD on Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days, according to the number required of them, regularly before the LORD. 32 Thus they were to keep charge of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary, and to attend the sons of Aaron, their brothers, for the service of the house of the LORD.
1 Chronicles 24
David Organizes the Priests1 Chronicles 24:1 The divisions of the sons of Aaron were these. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 2 But Nadab and Abihu died before their father and had no children, so Eleazar and Ithamar became the priests. 3 With the help of Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, David organized them according to the appointed duties in their service. 4 Since more chief men were found among the sons of Eleazar than among the sons of Ithamar, they organized them under sixteen heads of fathers’ houses of the sons of Eleazar, and eight of the sons of Ithamar. 5 They divided them by lot, all alike, for there were sacred officers and officers of God among both the sons of Eleazar and the sons of Ithamar. 6 And the scribe Shemaiah, the son of Nethanel, a Levite, recorded them in the presence of the king and the princes and Zadok the priest and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the priests and of the Levites, one father’s house being chosen for Eleazar and one chosen for Ithamar.
7 The first lot fell to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, 8 the third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, 9 the fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin, 10 the seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, 11 the ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah, 12 the eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim, 13 the thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab, 14 the fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer, 15 the seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Happizzez, 16 the nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezkel, 17 the twenty-first to Jachin, the twenty-second to Gamul, 18 the twenty-third to Delaiah, the twenty-fourth to Maaziah. 19 These had as their appointed duty in their service to come into the house of the LORD according to the procedure established for them by Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.
20 And of the rest of the sons of Levi: of the sons of Amram, Shubael; of the sons of Shubael, Jehdeiah. 21 Of Rehabiah: of the sons of Rehabiah, Isshiah the chief. 22 Of the Izharites, Shelomoth; of the sons of Shelomoth, Jahath. 23 The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the chief, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, Jekameam the fourth. 24 The sons of Uzziel, Micah; of the sons of Micah, Shamir. 25 The brother of Micah, Isshiah; of the sons of Isshiah, Zechariah. 26 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Jaaziah: Beno. 27 The sons of Merari: of Jaaziah, Beno, Shoham, Zaccur, and Ibri. 28 Of Mahli: Eleazar, who had no sons. 29 Of Kish, the sons of Kish: Jerahmeel. 30 The sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth. These were the sons of the Levites according to their fathers’ houses. 31 These also, the head of each father’s house and his younger brother alike, cast lots, just as their brothers the sons of Aaron, in the presence of King David, Zadok, Ahimelech, and the heads of fathers’ houses of the priests and of the Levites.
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Building Up The Body
By Ken Jones 3/1/2007
Make no mistake about it, ours is a culture of specialization and niche marketing. From vegetarian or vegan restaurants to the most obscure hobby, entrepreneurs have found a way to tap into every conceivable niche market. And just as the church has borrowed other trends and techniques from the marketing world, niche marketing has been no exception. It should come as no surprise that para-church ministries and organizations have a target audience that they aim for, but we are seeing an increasing number of Christian churches that are shaping their ministries to reach a particular niche market. Sometimes this trend is the result of a subtle shift in the church’s ministry as they minister to a particular segment of the congregation. For instance, a church with a growing number of college age members may develop programs geared to meet the needs of that group. Concern for this group can evolve from a Sunday School class, to a small group fellowship, to a series of sermons tailored for that group, music that would appeal to that group, and on and on until the church has the character and reputation of being “a church for college students.” You can substitute “college student” with any other group or special interest such as family, young marrieds, business people, ad infinitum, but the end result is the same, a special interest-groups church, with a certain target audience.
But while some churches evolve to this point, others are planned and planted with the intention of catering to a specific group. Whether the specialty church is the result of efforts to meet the needs of a particular group within a given congregation, or of a church plant with a target audience in mind, the result is the same — an unnecessarily unbalanced and unhealthy church. This may appear to be an overstatement, but consider a family where one child is catered to and another is neglected. This is to the detriment of both. The one that is catered to develops unrealistic expectations and possibly a sense of entitlement. While the one that is neglected is made to feel inferior and at times even unloved, if not resentful of the favored child. But let’s consider a church scenario. A friend once told of an elderly widow who visited his church because her pastor was starting a prolonged series of sermons on sex. She understood the importance of addressing this subject from a biblical and pastoral perspective, but several weeks on the subject was more than she needed. Or, take a church that tailors its ministry to families with children, not only will such an emphasis not minister to those who are not married and have no children, but it could also prompt them to become discontent in their state. Contrary to what some may think or say (even many Christians), everyone that is single is not necessarily looking to be married. I have heard the complaints of unmarried Christians about the subtle pressures placed on them (sometimes in the context of singles ministries) to find a suitable mate, when finding a mate is the least of their concerns. In fact, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:8, 32–35 suggest that single Christians have fewer hindrances when it comes to serving the Lord. It is the responsibility of church leaders to provide an atmosphere that nurtures and edifies the whole covenant family.
Of course there is a place for special interest or small group ministries in the church. But I wonder if the contemporary church has made these secondary auxiliary ministries the driving force and defining character of the church. In other words, if a local church does not have a youth ministry, or a young adult fellowship, does this mean that church has nothing to offer youth and young adults? Have these special interest groups become the cornerstone of the church? On the contrary, the apostle Paul presents a different picture. In Ephesians 4:11–16 he says that Christ has given His church pastor-teachers to the whole body (family) for some very specific purposes:
First, they are for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. Edmund Clowney in his book, The Church (Contours of Christian Theology), says that the work of ministry consists in three things: serving God in worship, the world in missions and evangelism, and each other in nurture. Our gifts and participation in these things may differ, but our commitment to them should be equal.
Another purpose of the church in its ministry to the whole family is “building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:12–13). Knowledge of the person and work of Christ is important to the whole body.
Thirdly, it is the duty of the church to build up the family so they are not easily deceived “by every wind of doctrine.” In other words, the family of God must be instructed in what we believe and why.
A fourth purpose of the church to the whole family is the stressing of our organic unity. Paul says “the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (v. 16).
If these things are our primary focus, then each member of the family will be equipped to serve, they will recognize their individual value to the body and appreciate the value of their brothers and sisters, as we uphold our common faith, and glorify our heavenly Father.
Rev. Ken Jones is pastor of Glendale Missionary Baptist Church in Miami, Florida, and co-host of The White Horse Inn. He is also a contributor to Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church.
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/1/2007
Strange as it might seem, I was actually looking forward to seeing her, and wondering how she would react to seeing me. Two years ago my dear wife Denise was stricken with cancer. She received excellent treatment, and faced her challenge like a hero. It was my habit to accompany her to the chemotherapy room, where we met several young ladies that worked there. One seemed particularly compassionate, talkative, and fun. What will she think, I wondered, two years later, when Denise waltzes in here to accompany me for my chemotherapy treatments? Who would have thought a husband and wife, still comparatively young, would both fall victim to cancer within the space of two years?
The sweet nurse was surprised to see us, which didn’t surprise me. After we reintroduced ourselves she set about her work. She had some difficulty finding a vein with her I.V. needle, which didn’t surprise me either. After five or six jabs she succeeded. She then leaned close to me and whispered, “Do you ever get angry?” I smiled at her, knowing how frustrating and embarrassing it can be to try to get a needle in the right place. “Mercy no,” I told her, “I know you are doing your best. I’m sorry my veins are so lame.” She then explained that I had misunderstood her question. What she wondered was whether I ever got angry with God. “Why,” I asked her, “would I ever get angry with God?”
“Well,” she continued, “don’t you ever think that since you’re a pastor, since you’ve devoted your life to God, that He shouldn’t have allowed you to get cancer, let alone both you and Denise? Don’t you ever think that this is a pretty lousy way to repay you?” I gave thanks to God for the opportunity to help this sweet young woman. “I don’t get angry with God. He doesn’t owe me anything but His wrath. But that’s not why He gave me cancer. He gave it to me because He loves me, just like He gave it to Denise, because He loves her. This is neither punishment nor permission. This is a gift from Him.”
Paul tells us that it is right and appropriate, in times of hardship, that we should mourn. I didn’t tell the nurse that every day with cancer is like a day full of sunshine. (As I write this morning, it has been more than sixty hours since I’ve been able to eat anything.) Hardship, though it be for our good and His glory, is still hardship. And so we mourn. But, Paul tells us, we do not mourn like the world. They mourn without hope, while we mourn with hope.
There is an immediate and sound deduction we can reach here. Why would our mourning differ from the world around us? We know where we are going. We know what end is in store for us. Any sadness or hardship that we experience is, on any appropriate scale, brief and mild. Our suffering, after all, cannot be compared with the eternal weight of glory. The suffering of those outside the kingdom is but a prelude, a small taste of an eternity of agony. Our suffering, on the other hand, is but a speed bump on the way to Glory Road.
What we must not miss, however, is the reason for our different ends. Our grief is infused with hope not merely because we have a bright future. Instead our grief is infused with hope because of our past. We look forward, in the midst of our grief, in hope, because we look backward, in the midst of our grief, with joyful gratitude. My future is bright because the wrath that I am owed has already been spent. The difference is in the cross of Christ. Whatever sorrow God calls me to go through, He calls me to go through for the express purpose of remolding me into the image of His Son. Every cancerous cell growing in my body, every deadly chemical that the nurses pour into my body to fight the cancer, all of it exists to make me more like Jesus.
Stephen, we are told, while he was being martyred, saw heaven open up. He beheld the glory of Christ, as He stood, a witness for this witness. The joy was not merely that Stephen would be found innocent. The joy was not simply that Stephen would be with Jesus. The greatest joy was that Stephen knew that what he saw, that he would become. John, remembering that we ought not to mourn as those who are without hope, gives us this greatest hope, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). He knows the plans He has for us, plans to give us hope and a future, a future so grand that eye hath not seen or ear heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man.
May we be blessed with the courage to believe His promises, even in the midst of hardship. May the world witness us, the witnesses of Christ, as we attest to His goodness, through mourning with hope. May they behold His glory, as we move from mourning to dancing.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By Joel Beeke 4/1/2007
Every morning for several months, my wife and I walked past an injured Canada goose, whose feathers stuck out in several directions. For all those months, several geese dutifully stayed with the injured bird. Attitudes to Avoid Attitudes to Cultivate Putting Attitude into Action
Likewise, caring for the wounded is the church’s loving duty to her own. Paul teaches us that when one member of Christ’s body suffers, “all the members suffer” (1 Cor.12:26 KJV). Caring for the grieving promotes the unity of the body of Christ and fosters the communion of saints. Furthermore, grieving saints have a claim on our compassion for Christ’s sake (Matt. 25:40).
This is particularly true of pastors. We are called to be shepherd or pastor (Eph. 4:11), which means we are to “feed (literally, ‘be a shepherd to’) the church of God” (Acts 20:28 KJV). That involves avoiding certain attitudes and cultivating others, then putting those attitudes into action, remembering our great calling as Christ’s undershepherds.
I never forgot that lesson over the last eighteen years of ministry. Grieving, hurting people are what ministry is all about. We must not think of our churches and our parishioners in terms of numbers or cases; rather, we should think of our churches as hospitals where the wounded and grieving come to us, seeking our biblical guidance and loving care.
Second, don’t treat all sheep the same. As a good shepherd, remember that some sheep will need more attention than others. Third, don’t forsake shepherding for preaching. Don’t say, “I’m a preacher first and foremost, so I don’t need to spend much time with my flock.” Preaching and pastoring are two sides of the coin of ministry. Yes, it’s tough to do both well, but do them you must. God never promised you that the ministry would be easy.
Third, shepherd the grieving as you are shepherded by Christ. Be imitators of Christ for Christ’s sake (Eph. 5:1–2). If Christ purchased His flock with His own blood, should you not be willing to make some sacrifices to serve His hurting people?
Third, bathe your ministry in prayer. Pray earnestly for the grieving in their presence and in their absence. Pray for healing and for submission. Pray for divine intervention and for sanctification of the grief. Encourage the grieving to pray as well. Teach them that praying and ministering to others who grieve can help alleviate their own grief. Fourth, involve the flock. Alert your elders to such cases. Look for other members of the church that may be able to help.
Remember that the grieving and dying are facing many terrors, so offer comfort to the saved, and evangelize the unsaved. What joy we feel as pastors when we see the grieving saved and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ under our shepherding! (2 Peter 3:18).
You are an agent of the Spirit, who has called you to your work, enables and equips you for it, and works through you by His Word to comfort the grieving (1 Peter 1:12). Such an honor far outweighs all the challenges and trials of church work.
Attitudes to AvoidFirst, don’t regard grieving people as an interruption. I was in the ministry for more than ten years when I received what proved to be a life-changing call. I was working on the conclusion of my doctoral dissertation when the phone rang. I sighed as I answered: “Am I that much of an interruption?” asked the voice on the other end. “Interruption?” I asked meekly. “Yes, didn’t you hear yourself sigh?” Suddenly I realized that my dissertation, not the grieving caller, was the interruption. The grieving caller was my life’s work, my calling, my real ministry. My dissertation was the interruption of this real ministry.
Attitudes to CultivateFirst, love your grieving people. People are hurting. If we do not shepherd them in their sorrows, we are hirelings, not shepherds, and should repent of our indifference. Say with Richard Baxter, “I am contented to consume my body, to sacrifice to God’s service, and to spend all that I have, and to be spent myself, for the souls of men.” Second, develop a positive attitude toward pastoral ministry. As a pastor, you need to cultivate an attitude of willing servitude to pastoring the needy. Say with Thomas Scott, “Had I a thousand lives, I would willingly spend them in the pastoral ministry: and had I as many sons, I should gladly devote them to it.”
Putting Attitude into ActionFirst, give yourself to the grieving. Offer hurting people your full attention. Put everything else out of your mind when you are with them. Second, focus on the Word. Let Scripture be the center of your visit. Read a brief, fitting portion with emphasis and feeling. Point people to Christ. Never let a visit pass without leaving behind the savor of the world’s best and most able Physician.
Dr. Joel R. Beeke is president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is author of Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology.
Joel Beeke Books:
- 1 Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology
- 2 A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life
- 3 How God Sent a Dog to Save a Family (Building on the Rock)
- 4 Reformation Heroes
- 5 Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage
- 6 The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible - Hardcover
- 7 Getting Back in the Race: The Cure for Backsliding
- 8 Parenting by God's Promises
- 9 Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer
- 10 Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism
- 11 Living By God's Promises (Deepen Your Christian Life)
- 12 God's Alphabet for Life: Devotions for Young Children
- 13 Revelation (Lectio Continua Expository Commentary on the New Testament)
- 14 Fighting Satan: Knowing His Weaknesses, Strategies, and Defeat
- 15 Family Worship (Family Guidance)
- 16 How God Used A Thunderstorm and Other Devotional Stories (Building on the Rock)
- 17 Reformed Confessions Harmonized
- 18 Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation
- 19 Puritan Reformed Spirituality: A Practical Biblical Study from Reformed and Puritan Heritage
- 20 How God Used a Snowdrift (Building on the Rock)
- 21 How God Stopped The Pirates and Other Devotional Stories (Building on the Rock)
- 22 The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit
- 23 Portraits of Faith: What Five Biblical Characters Teach Us About Our Life with God
- 24 Puritan Evangelism
- 25 Developing a Healthy Prayer Life
- 26 Holiness
- 27 Striving Against Satan
- 28 How God Used a Drought and an Umbrella (Building on the Rock)
- 29 Encouragement for Today's Pastors: Help from the Puritans
- 30 God’s Alphabet for Life : Devotions for Young Children
- 31 What Is Resurrection? (Basics of the Faith)
- 32 Living Zealously (Deepen Your Christian Life Series)
- 43 Family Worship (Family Guidance Series)
- 34 Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children (Family Guidance)
- 35 Quest for Full Assurance: Legacy of Calvin & His Successors
- 36 Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible (Reformation Theology Series)
- 37 Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Way of Leading Sinners to Christ
- 38 Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children (Family Guidance Series)
- 39 The Family at Church: Listening to Sermons and Attending Prayer Meetings (Family Guidance)
- 40 Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption
- 41 A Faithful Church Member
- 42 Puritan Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (Guidance From Church History) by Joel R Beeke (1999-08-02)
- 43 Milk and Honey
- 44 Walking as He Walked
- 45 Developing Healthy Spiritual Growth: Knowledge, Practice and Experience
- 46 Forerunner of the Great Awakening: Sermons by Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691-1747) (Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America)
- 47 Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twenty-First Century
- 48 The Beauty and Glory of Christ
- 49 Feasting with Christ: Meditations on the Lord's Supper
- 50 The Epistles of John
- 51 Overcoming the World: Grace to Win the Daily Battle
- 52 How to Evaluate Sermons
- 53 Assurance of Faith (American University Studies)
- 54 Truth that frees: A workbook on Reformed doctrine for young adults
- 55 Jehovah Shepherding Sheep: Sermons on 23rd Psalm
- 56 Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer
A Tale of Two Funerals
By Gene Edward Veith 4/1/2007
A young man I knew died in a tragic traffic accident. His death was utterably sad. At his funeral, his friends were all wearing T-shirts adorned with his picture. At the front of the church were heaped up flowers, footballs, and stuffed animals. On top of his coffin was a picture from his senior prom.
The service began with a recording of his favorite song, a heavy metal power ballad. The preacher gave a eulogy, praising how the teenager was such a good friend, such a good person, recounting some of the funny things he used to say, telling about the dreams he had for his life. Everybody in the church was crying.
Then his best friend got up to say a few words. He was sobbing. He finally croaked out his good-bye, as the congregation joined his sobs. His girlfriend recited a poem she wrote about how much she loved him. Then, the boy’s grief-stricken father had to get up in front of everybody to talk about his son.
As if all of this emotion were not wrenching enough, the funeral director next played a video, showing highlights of the boy’s life — his baby pictures, playing with his friends, enjoying Christmas with his family, waving at the camera.
There was not a dry eye in the house. People said what a beautiful funeral it was.
Another funeral I attended was of another young person who died a tragic death, one that was even more senseless and horrible. She had been raped and murdered by a serial killer. (I was one of the elders on duty. My job was to keep the news media away from the family.)
At this funeral, the congregation sang old hymns. They were in a minor key, but the lyrics centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The grievers joined together in a responsive reading of the Word of God.
The pastor, garbed in black, read more texts from the Bible. Instead of a eulogy, the pastor recited the facts of the girl’s life, emphasizing her baptism, her catechesis, her confession of faith. He described how she joined the church, her confirmation, and her regular reception of the Lord’s Supper.
The pastor, preaching from the Bible, gave a sermon on our travails in this wicked world, on how the Son of God entered our sinful condition, how in His sacrifice and His promises, we have a sure and certain hope that this poor child has entered into everlasting joy. The justice of God will be manifest, and so will His mercy, and He will wipe away every tear.
We sang some more hymns. The mood was sad and somber, but the Word of God that permeated the whole service was like a lifeline. Or, rather, like a strong arm supporting us in our grief. Yes, we cried, but the funeral gave us strength.
Our culture does not know how to handle death. We insulate ourselves from it. The dying pass away out of sight.
We are terrified of death. And so we sentimentalize it.
The contemporary funeral deals with grief by indulging it, even feeding it. A successful funeral — with its heart-wrenching personal testimonials, its parade of mourners pouring out their anguish, the emotional manipulation of the congregation — works by creating an emotional catharsis. The upsurge of feeling can indeed feel cleansing. As at the ending of a tragedy, the emotions are purged. The bereaved feel drained. The aftermath, in Milton’s words, is “calm of mind, all passions spent.” The grievers really do feel better.
But how different is a traditional Christian funeral.
In a Christian service of the burial of the dead, the mourner’s grief is fully acknowledged and shared. But it is channeled into contemplation and prayer. The grievers are given not catharsis but consolation.
That consolation is not to be found in how good of a guy the dear departed was. Even Christian funerals sometimes miss this point.
My former pastor refused to deliver eulogies. It is not fitting, he would say, nor is it comforting, to dwell at a funeral on the dead person’s good works. When we die, we dare not stand before God claiming how good we are. So that must not be the emphasis at a funeral.
The dead person’s only hope is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the only hope of the grievers at the funeral, who, having been forced to confront the reality of death, tend to be uniquely receptive to spiritual truth.
My pastor would deflect attention from the person who died to the Person who died and rose again. He would preach Jesus — the cross, the atonement, the imputation of His righteousness, the resurrection — as the victor over death, hell, and the grave.
He would not preach this into a vacuum, but into the hearts of the grieving family and friends. He would connect Christ’s resurrection to the resurrection of their loved one and to theirs.
We did not leave this funeral drained, but comforted. He moved us from desolation to faith. We still hurt, but we were given hope, not in ourselves — at a funeral we experience as at no other time our frailty and helplessness — but in Someone stronger at a time when we need strength.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
A Grief Observed
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2007
What’s wrong with this picture? I’m speaking of my assignment for this month’s issue of Tabletalk. Over the years, my articles have been generally written out of a concern to communicate content of a biblical or theological nature that I approach from the perspective of a student. This time I’ve been given the sobering assignment of writing about a topic, not merely from a biblical or theological perspective, but from a personal, anecdotal perspective. The editors of Tabletalk have asked me to write about grief, reflecting on how I have experienced grief in my own life and then commenting on how to deal with grief biblically as Christians should.
Before I discuss personal grief, I want to comment on the nature of grief. When we speak of the reality of grief, we are talking about pain. The pain that we describe by the use of this word, however, is not the pain of a minor irritation. It is not the pain of a broken bone, a fractured leg, a pierced shoulder. It is a pain that penetrates the skin of a person and plunges to the deepest recesses of the person’s being. It is a pain that grips the soul with a vise-like pincer that brings with the pain an excruciating sense of mourning. We use the term grief to describe pain that assaults the deepest level of our being. We often use the metaphor of the broken heart, yet we know that hearts don’t break like a glass that falls on the floor or like bones that are shattered in an accident. The broken heart really describes a weeping soul, a soul that is cloaked in the darkest night.
When we speak of grief, we speak about an emotion of which the Scriptures are profoundly aware. We speak of an emotion that was most poignantly manifested in the life and the experience of our Lord Himself. Jesus was described as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. His acquaintanceship with grief was not merely a sympathetic or empathetic awareness of other people’s pain. Rather, His experience of grief was a pain that He felt within Himself. To be sure, His pain was the result of His perception, not of His own shortcomings, but of the great evils that plague this world. We think of Jesus coming to the holy city, the city that He visited as a boy, the city that incorporated all of the promises that God had made to His people Israel, the city that was Zion’s holy hill. He came to that city, the city of promise, at a time when its corruption had reached its highest point. The nadir of unbelief was encrusted around the city of Jerusalem. When Jesus observed this city, He cried out in a lament, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets…. How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” It’s the grief that Jesus experienced when He noticed those women weeping for Him as He was moved, pushed, and shoved towards the cross at Golgotha. He said to these bystanders, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). Our Lord’s grief was rooted and grounded in His compassion for a fallen world.
On the other hand, when we experience grief, our grief is usually wrapped up with some kind of personal loss. We remember C. S. Lewis’ profound insights to this human predicament in his book A Grief Observed.
In my own experience, when I think of grief, there are only a few personal recollections that force their way into my mind. The first and most painful was the grief associated with the death of my father when I was seventeen years old. This was the man who, humanly speaking, was the anchor of my soul, the rock of stability in our home and in my life. When he was reduced to frailty and became incapacitated by multiple strokes, and wasted away finally to death itself, I was driven to despair. The loss of this man, who was my greatest earthly hero, left a scar on my soul that remains even to this day. I also think personally of my sense of loss when my dear friend Jim Boice was taken home to glory in 2000. It was not simply the loss of a friend, but a loss of a comrade in an ongoing battle that left me with such sorrow. The pangs of that sorrow were multiplied by my sense of loss, not only to me, but to the church of our time. When this champion was removed from our midst, I wanted to cry with David, “O how the mighty have fallen.” I wanted to say, “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in Ashkelon.” Let no one take opportunity at the passing of this man to rejoice in any apparent defeat to the power of the cross.
Beyond those personal losses, the loss of friends, the loss of comrades, always bring to me a certain measure of grief. In my own heart, however, I know that nothing grieves me more than to see the Gospel compromised in the church. It’s not the wickedness of the pagan that breaks my heart. It’s the compromise of the Christian that grieves my soul. Finally, when I look at grief, as I experience it in my life and read of it in Scriptures, I know that with it always comes the clear and present danger of an emotion that can turn sour. Yet the emotion itself is perfectly legitimate. If we fail to deal with our grief, if our mourning goes beyond sorrow into bitterness, then we have allowed pain to abscess and become poison. We must examine the griefs we experience and take care that they never become the occasion for sin. They never did that to Jesus. We pray they won’t do it to us.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 47God Is Kings Over All The Earth
47 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.
1 Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2 For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
3 He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
4 He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
5 God has gone up with a shout,
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
By Don Carson 5/8/2018
Two more wretched episodes of rebellion now blemish the history of the Israelites in the wilderness (Num. 16).
The first is the plot engineered by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. They stir up trouble not among the riffraff, but among a sizable number of community leaders, about 250 of them. The heart of their criticism against Moses is twofold: (a) They think he has taken too much on himself. “The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them” (16:3). Moses has no right to set himself above “the LORD’s assembly” (16:3). (b) The track record of Moses’ ministry is so sullied by failure that he cannot be trusted. He brought them out of “a land flowing with milk and honey” (16:13), promising them much, but in reality leading them into the desert. So why on earth should he “lord it over” the people? (16:13)
Their reasoning would have a certain believability among those who focused on their hardships, who resented all authority, who had short memories of how they had been rescued from Egypt, who did not value all that God had carefully revealed, and who were swayed by the instant appeal of rhetoric but who did not value their own solemn covenantal vows. Their descendants are numerous today. In the name of the priesthood of all believers and of the truth that the whole Christian community is holy, other things that God has said about Christian leaders are rapidly skirted. Behind these pretensions of fairness lies, very often, naked lust for power, nurtured by resentments.
Of course, not every leader in the Christian church is to be treated with equal deference: some are self-promoted upstarts that the church is to get rid of (e.g., 2 Cor. 10-13). Nor are all who protest cursed with the judgment that fell on Korah and his friends: some, like Luther and Calvin, like Whitefield and Wesley, and like Paul and Amos before them, are genuine reformers. But in an anti-authoritarian age like ours, one should always check to see if the would-be reformers are shaped by passionate devotion to the words of God, or simply manipulate those words for their own selfish ends.
In the second rebellion, the “whole Israelite community” (16:41), fed by pathetic resentments, mutters against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of having killed the rebels the day before — as if they could have opened the ground to swallow them up. Thousands perish because the community as a whole still has not come to grips with God’s holiness, the exclusiveness of his claims, the inevitability of his wrath against rebels, his just refusal to be treated with contempt.
And why should our generation be spared?
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 History of the Text
There is good evidence to believe that even apart from the original edition of Jeremiah’s prophecy, which was destroyed by Jehoiakim, there was a later edition which preceded the final form of the text as we have it in the Masoretic tradition. At least this is a reasonable deduction to draw from the Greek LXX, since it appears to be about one-eighth shorter than the Hebrew text of the MT. It differs also in the arrangement of the chapters, for chapters 46–51 of the MT are placed after chapter 25 in the LXX, and they are arranged in a somewhat different sequence. Jeremiah 33:14–26 of the MT is altogether missing in the LXX. It would seem that this earlier edition was published in the prophet’s own lifetime and first disseminated in Egypt. Later, after Jeremiah’s death, it appears that his secretary, Baruch, made a more comprehensive collection of his master’s sermons and rearranged the material in more logical order. The MT undoubtedly preserves this posthumous edition of Baruch. In this connection, note that 36:32 indicates that a second preliminary edition was published in the reign of Jehoiakim, and it is therefore reasonable to assume that Jeremiah kept adding to these earlier sermons the messages the Lord gave him in the reign of Zedekiah and in the period subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem.
The following table is a correlation between the MT and the LXX in order to facilitate comparison:
Jeremiah: Integrity of the Text
Most rationalist critics deny certain portions of Jeremiah both to Jeremiah himself and to Baruch his secretary. Passages challenged include (1) 10:1–16, because it warns the Jews in exile against idolatry in terms reminiscent of Deutero- Isaiah; (2) 17:19–27, because of the emphasis upon strict Sabbath keeping, which is reminiscent of Ezekiel or the priestly code and therefore a little too late for Jeremiah; (3) chapters 30 and 31, because of the Messianic expectation which some critics feel was only characteristic of the post-exilic period and also because of the emphasis upon individual responsibility in the mood of Ezekiel 18 (the assumption being that this passage in Jeremiah must have been later than Ezekiel ); (4) chapter 51, because in verse 41 Babylon is spoken of by its Athbash equivalent, “Sheshakh,” and the Athbash is considered a late artificial device. (Athbash is so called because it is a code in which the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet indicates the first, the second to the last indicates the second letter; hence the B-b-l of Babel comes out as Sh-sh-k, or the code name Sheshach in KJV.)
But it should be noted that all these criteria for later dating depend for their validity upon unproved assumptions such as the post-exilic dating of document P of the Torah and of Isaiah II, and a supposedly late evolutionary hypothesis as to the development of the messianic hope. It is difficult of course, to justify any extensive chronological gap between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, since according to the biblical evidence the two prophets were contemporaneous in their ministries, at least during the latter part of Jeremiah’s career. There is a very close resemblance between Jer. 31:29–30 and Ezek. 18:2–3; yet it would appear that what Jeremiah says in passing is taken up by Ezekiel as a sort of text for an extended sermon.
Jeremiah: Miscellaneous Historical Matters
In regard to Jeremiah’s prediction in 29:10 concerning the seventy years’ captivity, there is some question as to how the seven decades are to be computed. The main deportation of the population of Judah did not take place until 586 B.C. In 539, Babylon fell to the Persian conquerors, and within a year or two the Jewish remnant who chose to return resettled in Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, possibly in 536. Yet only fifty years elapsed between 586 and 536, and so we must look for other termini. Since the first Palestinian invasion of Nebuchadnezzar took place in 605 B.C., and resulted in the deportation of a considerable number of hostages (including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), this date might serve as the terminus a quo; thus 536 would be approximately seventy years later. Another possibility is to begin the seventy years at the destruction of the Temple by General Nebuzaradan in 586 and prolong the captivity until the second temple had been completely rebuilt, which took place in 516. Of these two choices, the latter seems to be very definitely favored by Zech. 1:12: “Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Jehovah of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation, these threescore and ten years?” (ASV). Since this utterance must have been given in 519 B.C., we can only conclude that, from the standpoint of the angel at least, the seventy years were not yet up; and that the gracious promise in Jer. 29:10 was not to be fulfilled until the Temple itself was restored.
Until a few decades ago, considerable skepticism was voiced by many critics as to the fulfillment of the prediction made by Jeremiah 43:9–13 and 44:30 that northern Egypt would be devastated by an invasion of the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar (cf. also Ezek. 29:19–20, which contains a similar prediction). The pagan Greek historians make no mention of such an invasion, although there is a definite record to be found in Josephus’s Antiquities 10.9.5–7: “Johanan took those whom he had rescued and came to a certain place called Mandara. On the fifth year (582/81) after the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the twenty-third (582) of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he made an expedition against Coele-Syria; and when he had possessed himself of it, he made war against the Ammonites and Moabites; and when he had brought all those nations under subjection, he fell upon Egypt in order to overthrow it, and he slew the king that then reigned and set up another; and he took those Jews that were there captives, and led them away to Babylon; and such was the end of the nation of the Hebrews.”
Many authorities tended to discount this testimony of Josephus as merely manufactured in order to support the Hebrew Scriptures. But R. Campbell Thompson of Oxford remarks: “The small fragment of a Babylonian chronicle first published by Pinches shows that Nebuchadnezzar launched an expedition against Egypt in his thirty-seventh year, i.e., about 567 B.C.… the very distance to which he penetrated is a matter of dispute.… We might almost assume from the tradition that certain Babylonian settlers built a ‘Babylon’ in Egypt near the Pyramids, which appears to have existed as an important fort in the time of Augustus, that his army at all events left some mark there.” In ANET3 (p. 308) appears a translation of a fragmentary Babylonian text in the British Museum containing the following sentence: “In the thirty-seventh year (568/67), Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, marched against Mi-sir [Egypt] to deliver a battle.” Additional archaeological confirmation is found in an inscription on the statue of Nes-hor in the Louvre. Nes-hor was a governor of southern Egypt under Hophra (Uaḥ-ib-Ra, in Egyptian). In this biographical record he states that an army of Asiatics and northern peoples who had invaded Egypt attempted to advance up the Nile valley to Ethiopia, but this was fortunately averted by the favor of the gods.” In view of this evidence, therefore, it is hardly justifiable to deny any longer the historicity of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt, or to question that it was a very serious and devastating incursion.
At this point mention should be made of an important archaeological find unearthed at the site of the ancient city of Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) which brought to light a file of correspondence consisting of about twenty-one ostraca dating from the year 588 B.C. They practically all consist of letters or memoranda written by the captain of a military outpost named Hoshaiah to Ya’ush, the district commander of the Jewish forces stationed in Lachish during the third Chaldean invasion. In most of these letters Hoshaiah seems to be defending himself against slanders and misrepresentations concerning his own loyalty or efficiency. In these communications he refers to various people or incidents in such an elusive way that we cannot be sure of their full import. Some scholars have concluded, for example, that a certain prophet mentioned in these letters might either have been Jeremiah himself, or Urijah, who was extradited from Egypt after uttering an adverse prophecy against Jehoiakim (cf. Jer. 26:20–23 ). A further study of the evidence, however, has led most scholars to conclude that the prophet mentioned in these letters cannot reliably be identified upon the basis of the data at hand. The most significant light cast upon the period of Jeremiah by the Lachish correspondence is to be found in the linguistic field. The type of Hebrew employed in these ostraca bears a very marked similarity to that which appears in the writings of Jeremiah, and serves to confirm the genuineness of his prophecies as stemming from the beginning of the sixth century B.C.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Hosea 2:19)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Hosea 2:19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. ESV
Hosea is in some respects the tenderest of all the prophets, except perhaps Jeremiah, who was a man of very similar spirit. But the latter was unmarried, whereas Hosea had a very sad matrimonial experience, which was designed of God to set forth Israel’s relationship to Himself and their unfaithfulness to the covenant He had made with them. Hosea’s wife proved untrue to all her vows and became a poor characterless slave. Yet the prophet sought her out, redeemed her, and took her to himself in forgiving love, only to have his heart broken by her continued waywardness. It sets forth most graphically, not only Jehovah’s unchanging love for Israel, His earthly people, but pictures vividly His grace toward the individual soul. He is Redeemer, restorer, and unfailing friend, whose lovingkindness exceeds our worst offences and whose forgiveness is extended to every repentant sinner, no matter how dark and shameful the record may be.
Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
Isaiah 62:3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.
Jeremiah 3:14 Return, O faithless children,
declares the LORD;
for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.
15 “ ‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
John 3:29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
2 Corinthians 11:2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, ESV
Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so!
Oh, this full and perfect peace!
Oh, this transport all Divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His and He is mine.
--- W. Robinson
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
2/1/2006 | The Heart Restored
As we consider the history of God’s people in the Old Testament, we do not observe a people who served the Lord faithfully. The people of Israel did not demonstrate their love for God with all their hearts. Even some of the great heroes of Israel manifested the depths of depravity in their lives.
Nevertheless, it is through our careful study of Israel’s past that we find great comfort. With spiritually discerning minds, we have been given the ability to understand the way in which God’s redemption of His people has been displayed throughout history. As such, we possess insight into the unfolding drama of redemption, from the beginning of life itself to the very end when death itself is conquered.
It is for no small reason that God’s record of His people is replete with stories of failure and renewal. For it is in the history of redemption that the patient God of Israel restores His people time after time, demonstrating His enduring love and faithfulness. Despite their lawlessness and rebellion, the people of God in the Old Testament were repeatedly brought to repentance by the kindness of God and were always renewed in their sweet communion with Him. This common theme of restoration is perhaps best illustrated in the life of David who was the son of Jesse, the shepherd of Bethlehem, the defender of the kingdom of God, the king of Israel, the adulterer, the deceiver, and the murderer. In the biblical portrait of David, we observe a man whose heart was broken by his sin and healed by his Lord.
Upon the occasion of David’s anointing, we recall the words of God to Samuel concerning David’s older brother Eliab: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). The boldness and sheer magnificence of these words demand that we hearken to the words of Samuel when he proclaimed to Saul that “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart…to be prince over his people” (1 Sam. 13:14). David was a man after God’s own heart, not because the heart of David was pure. Rather, he was a man after God’s own heart precisely because he understood that his heart was not pure, and for that reason he hid the Word of God in his heart so that he might not sin against the Lord and so that he might love the Lord with all his heart, coram Deo.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
The 33rd U.S. President was born this day, May 8, 1884. He was captain of a field artillery battery in France during World War I, judge in Jackson County, Missouri; a U.S. Senator; and Vice-President under Franklin D. Roosevelt. As President, he ended World War II by dropping the atomic bomb. His name: Harry S. Truman, who stated: "The fundamental basis of this nation's laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings… of Isaiah and St. Paul. I don't think we emphasize that enough these days."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The likeness we bear to Jesus is more essential than our notions of him.
--- Lucretia Mott, 1793-1880
Lucretia Mott, Her Complete Speeches and Sermons (Studies in Women & Religion)
I do not want to foresee the future.
I am concerned with taking care of the present.
God has given me no control over the moment following.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas
In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas
He has brought himself to this state; he has exposed his heart as a common road to every evil influence of the world, till it has become hard as a pavement.
--- Richard Trench
Notes on the Parables of Our Lord (Classic Reprint)
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Fifty-Ninth Chapter / All Hope And Trust Are To Be Fixed In God Alone
WHAT, Lord, is the trust which I have in this life, or what is my greatest comfort among all the things that appear under heaven? Is it not You, O Lord, my God, Whose mercies are without number? Where have I ever fared well but for You? Or how could things go badly when You were present? I had rather be poor for Your sake than rich without You. I prefer rather to wander on the earth with You than to possess heaven without You. Where You are there is heaven, and where You are not are death and hell. You are my desire and therefore I must cry after You and sigh and pray. In none can I fully trust to help me in my necessities, but in You alone, my God. You are my hope. You are my confidence. You are my consoler, most faithful in every need.
All seek their own interests. You, however, place my salvation and my profit first, and turn all things to my good. Even though exposing me to various temptations and hardships, You Who are accustomed to prove Your loved ones in a thousand ways, order all this for my good. You ought not to be loved or praised less in this trial than if You had filled me with heavenly consolations.
In You, therefore, O Lord God, I place all my hope and my refuge. On You I cast all my troubles and anguish, because whatever I have outside of You I find to be weak and unstable. It will not serve me to have many friends, nor will powerful helpers be able to assist me, nor prudent advisers to give useful answers, nor the books of learned men to console, nor any precious substance to win my freedom, nor any place, secret and beautiful though it be, to shelter me, if You Yourself do not assist, comfort, console, instruct, and guard me. For all things which seem to be for our peace and happiness are nothing when You are absent, and truly confer no happiness.
You, indeed, are the fountain of all good, the height of life, the depth of all that can be spoken. To trust in You above all things is the strongest comfort of Your servants.
My God, the Father of mercies, to You I look, in You I trust. Bless and sanctify my soul with heavenly benediction, so that it may become Your holy dwelling and the seat of Your eternal glory. And in this temple of Your dignity let nothing be found that might offend Your majesty. In Your great goodness, and in the multitude of Your mercies, look upon me and listen to the prayer of Your poor servant exiled from You in the region of the shadow of death. Protect and preserve the soul of Your poor servant among the many dangers of this corruptible life, and direct him by Your accompanying grace, through the ways of peace, to the land of everlasting light.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
"YE ARE THE BRANCHES"
An Address to Christian Workers
Everything depends on our being right ourselves in Christ. If I want good apples, I must have a good apple tree; and if I care for the health of the apple tree, the apple tree will give me good apples. And it is just so with our Christian life and work. If our life with Christ be right, all will come right. There may be the need of instruction and suggestion and help and training in the different departments of the work; all that has value. But in the long run, the greatest essential is to have the full life in Christ--in other words, to have Christ in us, working through us. I know how much there often is to disturb us, or to cause anxious questionings; but the Master has such a blessing for every one of us, and such perfect peace and rest, and such joy and strength, if we can only come into, and be kept in, the right attitude toward Him.
I will take my text from the parable of the Vine and the Branches, in John 15:5: "I am the vine, ye are the branches." Especially these words: "Ye are the branches."
What a simple thing it is to be a branch, the branch of a tree, or the branch of a vine! The branch grows out of the vine, or out of the tree, and there it lives and grows, and in due time, bears fruit. It has no responsibility except just to receive from the root and stem sap and nourishment. And if we only by the Holy Spirit knew our relationship to Jesus Christ, our work would be changed into the brightest and most heavenly thing upon earth. Instead of there ever being soul-weariness or exhaustion, our work would be like a new experience, linking us to Jesus as nothing else can. For, alas! is it not often true that our work comes between us and Jesus? What folly! The very work that He has to do in me, and I for Him, I take up in such a way that it separates me from Christ. Many a laborer in the vineyard has complained that he has too much work, and not time for close communion with Jesus, and that his usual work weakens his inclination for prayer, and that his too much intercourse with men darkens the spiritual life. Sad thought, that the bearing of fruit should separate the branch from the vine! That must be because we have looked upon our work as something other than the branch bearing fruit. May God deliver us from every false thought about the Christian life.
Now, just a few thoughts about this blessed branch-life.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
18 Pride goes before destruction,
and arrogance before failure.
19 Better to be humble among the poor
than share the spoil with the proud.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The patience of faith
Because thou hast kept the word of My patience.
--- Rev. 3:10.
Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says—‘I cannot stand any more.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. For what have you need of patience just now? Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. “Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him.”
Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but robust vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. You cannot see Him just now, you cannot understand what He is doing, but you know Him. Shipwreck occurs where there is not that mental poise which comes from being established on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the heroic effort of your life, you fling yourself in reckless confidence on God.
God has ventured all in Jesus Christ to save us, now He wants us to venture our all in abandoned confidence in Him. There are spots where that faith has not worked in us as yet, places untouched by the life of God. There were none of those spots in Jesus Christ’s life, and there are to be none in ours. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee.” The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we take this view, life becomes one great romance, a glorious opportunity for seeing marvellous things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
It will not always be like this,
The air is windless, a few last
Leaves adding their decoration
To the trees' shoulders, braiding the cuffs
Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening
In the lawns' mirror. Having looked up
From the day's chores, pause a minute,
Let the mind take its photograph
Of the bright scene, something to wear
Against the heart in the long cold.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Bava Kamma 26a
A couple sits in a therapist's office; they are there for marriage counseling. The wife complains bitterly about her husband's lack of showing her affection. "I'm always telling him how much I love him. When we go out, I always reach for his hand, to hold it as we walk. At home, I'll come over and for no reason at all just give him a hug or a kiss on the top of his head. But I get nothing in return! The only time he'll tell me he loves me is when we're in bed, or maybe on my birthday, or before he goes on a trip. When we're out together, he won't hold my hand, or even let me put my arm around him. It's like I'm poison. Doesn't he know how that's bound to make me feel? I need more affection from him. I need him to let me know that he loves me. Sometimes lately, I begin to wonder if he even loves me at all any more."
The husband breaks in. "How can you say that? I show you all the time how I feel about you. Maybe not in words, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't there. No matter what I say, you are always in my thoughts." The therapist interjects, "What is on your mind? How do you feel about her? Do you love your wife?"
"Of course I do! How can she question that?" the husband answers.
"I question it because I just don't know. You don't tell me. Sometimes I need to hear you say it. In words!"
Rava uses the principle "Words that are in the heart are not words" in a legalistic sense, but it is clear that the principle has validity in other spheres as well. It teaches us the importance of communication, of letting people know what we are thinking and feeling. Some people believe: "It's the thought that counts." Rava does not. To him it is not enough to leave thoughts in our hearts or minds. They must be expressed, they must be shared with others. If they are not, if they are left unsaid, then often we are left to explain, too late, "But what I really meant was …" How sad.
REST STOP / From there they set out and encamped at the wadi Zared. (Numbers 21:12)
Words of Torah are compared to water, as it says: "Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water." [Isaiah 55:1] … Just as water is not to be found in a golden or silver vessel, but rather in the lowliest of vessels, so too Torah is not to be found except in one who makes himself like an earthen vessel. (Song of Songs Rabbah 1,3)
A rabbi fell asleep and dreamed that he had entered Paradise. There, to his surprise, he found the sages discussing a knotty problem in the Talmud.
"Is this the reward of Paradise?" cried the rabbi. "Why, they did the very same thing on earth!"
At this, he heard a voice chiding him, "You foolish man! You think the sages are in Paradise. It's just the opposite! Paradise is in the sages."
(Nathan Ausubel. A Treasury of Jewish Folklore . New York: Crown Publishers, 1960, p. 55)
Introduction to Seder Nezikin
The fourth Order of the Mishnah is Nezikin, or "Damages." There are ten tractates that discuss civil and criminal law cases. The first three tractates were originally one long section; they were broken up into more manageable size and given the names "First Gate," "Middle Gate," "End Gate" (in Aramaic Bava Kamma, Bava Metzia, and Bava Batra). Two tractates of this Order have no Gemara. One of them is Pirkei Avot, "the Chapters (or Ethics) of the Fathers," a book of ethical maxims that is among the most well known and popular sections of all rabbinic literature.
A man is always forewarned.
Text / Mishnah (2:6): A man is always forewarned, whether inadvertently or deliberately, whether awake or asleep. If he blinded the eye of another, or broke his utensils, he must pay full damages.
Context / When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox is not to be punished. If, however, that ox has been in the habit of goring, and its owner, though warned, has failed to guard it, and it kills a man or a woman — the ox shall be stoned and its owner, too, shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:28–9)
As has been previously noted, Jewish law has an extensive literature on damages, found in the section of Talmud called Nezikin, "Damages." The Midrash tells the story of how Masekhet Nezikin came to be divided: There was one student who was so overwhelmed by the prospect of having to study thirty chapters of Nezikin (for one tractate or subject was studied each year) that the tractate was divided into three, each containing ten chapters. The practical nature of Nezikin—injuries, damages, real estate, and inheritance—makes these three tractates popular among Talmud students and teachers.
The Mishnah, both here and in previous chapters, is defining categories of living things and objects as to their culpability in the case of damages. Some are "blameless" (in Hebrew, tam), that is, there are no damages assessed when they injure. Others are called "forewarned" (in Hebrew, muad). Caution must be taken and, where it was not, the responsible party can be assessed damages.
Thus, for example, if a person's ox gores another's animal, how much is the ox's owner responsible for those damages? It is well known that oxen gore, and the ox's owner must take necessary precautions to protect others from his animal's habits. If he does not, then he is liable for damages. As far as goring by an ox is concerned, the owner is "forewarned" (or, to be technical, the animal is in the category "forewarned").
Domesticated animals are different. If a cow bites, kicks, or pushes, the owner cannot be assessed damages. None of these is a normal habit or expected behavior of a cow. The owner can be expected to take precautions only against the animal's regular habits and common forms of damage. In such a case, the owner is not forewarned and is blameless, because it was unlikely that such damages would occur. The Mishnah does not expect the owner of the cow to go to extraordinary lengths to prevent every conceivable damage.
What about damages caused by people? The Mishnah text above from Bava Kamma tells us that, relating to damages, a person is always "forewarned." This means that, "whether inadvertently or deliberately, whether when he was awake or asleep," a person who caused harm to another would be required to pay damages. For example, while Reuven is sleeping, Shimon lies down next to him. In his sleep, Shimon pokes out Reuven's eye. Shimon is liable to Reuven damages for having caused harm, though inadvertently and while asleep, because "a man is always forewarned" concerning damages.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The middle chapters of the Book of Judges report external disasters that came on Israel. Physical enemies, outside peoples, were sent by God to judge His people and bring them to repentance. These judgments were "extraordinary." That is, they were not direct natural consequences of Israel's sin but divine interventions. It does not always follow, when you or I sin, or when a nation abandons righteousness, that outside forces will overpower us.
What does always follow is inner deterioration. There is a loss of direction. There is growing conflict. These last chapters of Judges are added to show us what happened within Israel as a result of abandoning God's ways. It is, in fact, the inner deterioration that is the surest evidence. Abandoning God's standards sears the conscience and confuses the ability of the individual to distinguish between good and evil. No wonder Proverbs puts it the way it does. "There is a way that seems right to a man" (Proverbs 14:12). But that "way" is one of illusion. Yet there is a hard reality; the end toward which man's "right way" leads is the reality of death!
Lost legacy (Judges 17–18). The first of three stories steps outside of the earlier chronological sequence and into the intimate context of an Israelite family. Using the cameo, or slice-of-life approach, the author now moves on to demonstrate the impact of Israel's national apostasy on the lifestyle of individuals.
The first few verses of chapter 17 are enough to jolt us. If we're familiar with the lifestyle God defines for His people in the Mosaic Law, we're hardly prepared for what we see in this typical Ephraimite family. Judges 17:2-3 introduces Micah, a man who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother and, moved by fear after overhearing his mother's curse on the thief, confessed. The curse was canceled by the mother's utterance of a blessing. Micah restored the silver, which was then dedicated to God to make idols for the household shrine!
Theft within the family? Superstition and fear? Worship of idols? Shrines in the house, and abandonment of the central sanctuary? Every one of these stands in stark contrast to the righteous way ordained by God for Israel. Every one of these is characteristic of the pagan culture Israel was to drive out and to supplant.
As we read on in the story, we see additional evidence that Israel had lost its moral bearings. Initial disobedience had led to an increasing loss of moral judgment. The ways of God were increasingly confused with and supplanted by the customs of the nearby pagans.
The story of Micah continues. Micah ordained one of his own sons to be a priest—again contrary to the Law. But when a wandering Levite (not one of Aaron's priestly line) passed by, Micah hired him to "be my father and priest" (Judges 17:10). Though Micah again violated instructions given in the Law, he was thrilled at the turn of events. "Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest" (Judges 17:13).
Some time later a group of Danites (1 of the 12 tribes) was exploring for more land to occupy. They recognized the young Levite, asked his blessing, and shortly afterward located a city in a hidden valley that was occupied by a colony of Sidonians (inhabitants of the pagan city of Sidon, near Tyre). Reporting on the successful reconnaissance, the Danites recommended the young Levite to their tribe. Some 600 men stopped by on the way to the Sidonian colony and offered the young Levite a "promotion." The Bible tells us that "the priest was glad" (Judges 18:20) at this invitation. He stole the idol and other objects in Micah's shrine, and gladly left his employer behind.
Micah pursued, complaining bitterly about the theft of his gods and his priest. The Danites threatened him; the betrayed man slunk sadly back home. As for the Danites, they went on to the colony town, Laish, killed all the Sidonians, and the Levite's descendants served as their priests, ministering at a worship center featuring Micah's idol!
This story is told without comment or evaluation. None is required. Over and over again the pattern of life described stands in stark contrast to the pattern prescribed in the divine revelation. Godly ways were a legacy Israel seemed to have lost.
Moral decay (Judges 19). The second story in this section of Judges does what no commentary could. We are shown vividly the moral and interpersonal implications of the loss of the divine legacy. In this story another Levite is featured.
We are told of the marriage of this other Levite to a secondary wife (a concubine), who angrily returned to her father's home after a spat. After four months, the Levite went to be reconciled to her — something welcomed by the father, as such a separation was both a reflection on his house and a threat to any bride price he may have received. After typical Eastern hospitality — a party of some five days — the Levite and his party left to return home.
As it was probably about three in the afternoon, they were unable to travel far. The Levite was unwilling to stop at Jebus (Jerusalem), for it was still occupied by pagans. Instead he went on to Gibeah, which was inhabited by Benjamites (1 of the 12 tribes).
But the man was offered no hospitality, except by a temporary resident from Ephraim. (This lack of hospitality violated basic Eastern custom.) That night the inhabitants of the city pounded on the door, announcing their intention to make the Levite a victim of homosexual assault! The Benjamites seemed on the verge of breaking in, so the Levite grabbed his concubine and thrust her outside to the men. The Scripture reports, "And they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door, and lay there until daylight" (Judges 16:25–26).
In the Morning when the Levite opened the door, he found the girl crumpled outside, her hands stretched out to grip the threshold — dead.
The ways that had seemed "right" to Israel led to the depths of depravity, to unbelievable moral decay, and to death. For far more than physical death is pictured in this dark incident.
* There is the death of love. The Old Testament Law taught a person to love God and to love others as himself. Here was a Levite, who represented instruction in God's Law — selfishly thrusting his concubine out to a group of depraved perverts. The capacity to care for others dies when one deserts God's ways.
* There is the death of identity. The Levite and the old man with whom he stayed both showed that they viewed women as something less than human. In the Creation, woman was taken from man's ribs as a vivid affirmation of her identity with man. Woman was created second, but is not secondary. She is of the same stuff as man; with man she bears the image of God and bears the privilege of dominion (Genesis 1–2).
With the loss of the divine viewpoint, which came with abandonment of Israel's legacy of Law, there came the loss of woman's identity. Distortion of the divine plan brought a measure of death to men and women alike, for in denying woman full humanity, man denies himself.
* There is a death of image. Man was made in the image of God, with a personality to reflect the personality of the Creator. Even today, men choose to seek their identity in a supposed descent from the beasts — and choose to be ruled by their passions. Thus, the psalmists compare such men to brutes. Jude too sees them doing "by instinct, like unreasoning animals" the very things which destroy them (Jude 10). The depravity exhibited by the Benjamites clearly shows the degradation which comes when men lose sight of their divine image and deny their origins in Him.
The story of Micah and the Danites sets the stage for this tale of the Levite and his concubine. When men lose righteousness' way, depravity follows as night follows the waning of the day.
Conflict within (Judges 20–21). These two chapters continue the story of the Levite and his concubine. Taking the body home, the Levite cut it into pieces and sent the pieces throughout Israel. Shocked, the people gathered to hear the Levite's report (which carefully avoided mentioning his own cowardly part). Shocked as much by the way in which the Levite had dramatized the event as by the act, the tribes angrily agreed to punish Gibeah.
When the men of Benjamin would not surrender their relatives in Gibeah, a civil war resulted. Many thousands were killed, and the tribe of Benjamin was all but wiped out.
How different from the incident reported in Joshua 22, where all Israel was ready to war to keep some from beginning to sin! Here no discipline had been exercised to restrain sin from developing (the Law commands homosexuals be put to death). The war came when part of Israel proved unwilling to surrender murderers to justice.
Morality is never just an individual or personal thing. The strands which hold society together, which provide security for its members, are rooted in morality. When righteousness is abandoned and ways that "seem right" to men are allowed to substitute for the divine standards, the society itself has begun to rush down the road toward its own death.
On the Rock
Scripture does not argue or explain the universal truths which are God's firm expression of reality. Rather, the Bible tends to affirm — and to demonstrate. God's Word is true, not only because God is a trustworthy Person and it is He who has spoken, but also because the word which God speaks is in complete harmony with reality. That human experience conforms to the principles expressed in Scripture does not "prove" the Bible, but rather human experience serves to demonstrate Scripture's reliability and its relevance.
This is the function of this section of Judges as well, and the function of many Old Testament stories. They demonstrate and illustrate the reliability of the affirmations of God's Word. Through Moses and through Joshua, God had told Israel plainly that commitment to Him and to His ways would bring them blessing. "Righteousness exalts a nation" was true then, and it is true now.
But the same Word of God through Moses and Joshua had warned that disobedience carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. The time of the Judges graphically demonstrates this truth. The process of deterioration may take a longer or shorter time. The bitter and deadly fruit may require several generations to mature. But the Word of God is reliable. The death it foretells will come. Unshakable, and unbreakable, the Word expresses the realities by which human beings must live, whether they choose to live for God or not!
The Teacher's Commentary
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
The name Benjamin means "son of my right hand." This itself points to Benjamin's role in biblical narrative: he is a favored son of Jacob, the latest to be born to a prolific patriarch, born of the favored wife Rachel (who died in Benjamin's childbirth).
In the Joseph narratives, Benjamin becomes a substitute when Joseph, Jacob's very favorite son, is sold into slavery and presumed to be dead. Jacob says that Benjamin's death will bring down his gray hair to Sheol, exactly as he had said of Joseph (Gen 42:38). Benjamin goes to Egypt by caravan as had Joseph (Gen 43:15); he receives the same favored treatment as Joseph (Gen 43:34); and eventually the attitude of the brothers toward Joseph is revealed in their attitude toward Benjamin. Appropriately to this substitute role, Benjamin is entirely passive, never speaking a word.
As the last to be born, Benjamin also represents the completion of the family of Israel in Genesis. Yet no sooner is he born and the family completed than the family starts to break apart with the death of his mother (Gen 35:16–20), followed by further family disruptions culminating in the sale of Joseph. But here as well, Benjamin represents the reconciliation of the complete family by his role in reuniting Joseph and his brothers.
In Judges the role of the tribe of Benjamin is reversed from the passive and positive role of the individual in Genesis. Now active, this "son of the right hand"
(Gen 35:18) has become an aggressive left-handed warrior. No longer a stand-in for Joseph, Benjamin now stands in contrast to Judah. The first judge, Othniel, is from the tribe of Judah (Judg 3:9–10). But the second, the left-handed and deceptive Ehud, for whom there is no mention of the Spirit, is from Benjamin (Judg 3:12–30). Later the hospitality of the Judahite father of the Levite's concubine contrasts with the lack of hospitality shown in Gibeah of the region of Benjamin (Judg 19:4–9, 15–21). The subsequent rape of the concubine marks that Benjaminite city as another Sodom (Judg 19:22–24), while the cutting of her body into twelve pieces to summon the tribes to avenge this atrocity is itself a grotesque and ambiguous act (Judg 19:29). On the surface the nation is being called together; in deep structure it is being cut apart. The contrast is further apparent when Benjamin sides with Gibeah, while Judah leads the assault against the town (Judg 20:12–13, 18). When Gibeah is finally taken by ambush, the reader is reminded of the use of the same deception in the original conquest of that territory, so that Benjamin symbolizes a reversal in the direction of the nation (Judg 20:29–47, cf Josh 8:4–25). By the end of Judges the brother who once was the reconciliation of his family has become the beginning of its dissolution.
In Samuel the choice of Saul of Gibeah as the first king is an ominous sign. An initial emphasis on the "least of the tribes" theme suggests connections with the positive "younger brother" theme in Genesis (1 Sam 9:21). But when Saul cuts a yoke of oxen into pieces to summon the nation to war (1 Sam 11:7), the reader knows that he is not the favored brother of Genesis, but the divisive and warlike Benjamin of Judges. Benjamin continues to represent divisive forces in the nation, especially in persons such as Sheba and Shemei (2 Sam 16:5–7; 20:1). Yet the ambiguity of Benjamin is aptly portrayed in the fact that David, while hiding from Saul at Ziklag, was joined by six hundred Benjaminites who, interestingly, could sling a stone with either their right hand or their left (1 Chron 12:1–2). It may be this legacy of zeal that Paul proudly claims when he reminds the Philippians that he is "of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews" (Phil 3:5).
During the divided monarchy Benjamin was often reckoned with Judah (e.g, 1 Kings 12:21). But Benjamin, now a divided tribe and the very ground on which Judah and Israel fought (1 Kings 15:16–22), was flanked on its southern border (its right hand) by Jerusalem (which originally belonged to Benjamin, cf Judg 1:21) with its temple of Yahweh, and on its northern border (its left hand) by Bethel (which also originally belonged to Benjamin, cf Josh 18:22) with its sanctuary for one of the golden calves. Is the tribe right-handed or left-handed? In either case, this youngest brother again reveals the heart of the rest of the brothers, and it is now a divided heart, in accordance with the seemingly contradictory blessings of Jacob and Moses (Gen 49:27; Deut 32:12).
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Judaism in the Land of Israel
The Temple was a dominant institution in the Judaism as practiced in the land, and later in the period synagogues served key functions, but there were other institutions that played central roles in society. Some information has survived regarding the political organization of the Jewish people in their land. A fundamental fact of life throughout the centuries of early Judaism was that Judah/Judea was under foreign control (Persia, the Hellenistic kingdoms of the Ptolemies and Seleucids, Rome), with the exception of a few decades when the Hasmoneans controlled the state and were somewhat independent of the Seleucid administration.
There was a governor in Jerusalem at a number of times, although the evidence is insufficient to show that there was always an office of this sort. Sheshbazzar (Ezra 5:14) and Zerubbabel (Hag. 1:1), perhaps both descendants of David, are called governors in the late sixth century, and
Nehemiah, who refers to his predecessors in the office (Neh. 5:15), served in the same capacity in the second half of the fifth century. An official named Bagohi/Bagoas/Bigvai was the governor at the end of the century according to one of the Elephantine papyri (TAD [Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt] A4.7 = CAP [Cowley, ed., Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century] 30), and a certain Hezekiah is called governor on some coins from the end of the Persian and perhaps the beginning of the Hellenistic periods. After this, there is a lengthy gap in attestations of a governor, and it may be that the high priest became the chief of state. This appears to be the case in the Tobiad Romance and also in Jerusalem as pictured at the beginning of the historical account in 2 Maccabees (3:1–4:6). In all of the narratives in 1–2 Maccabees, there is no mention of a governor other than a member of the Hasmonean family (the governor Philip in 1 Macc. 5:22 is a foreigner imposed from without for a short time).
When the Hasmoneans became high priests (starting in 152 B.C.E.), they also served as political leaders and army commanders. Beginning either in the short reign of Aristobulus I (104–103 B.C.E.) or in that of Alexander Jannaeus (103–76), these rulers called themselves kings. They retained that office (with one queen, Salome Alexandra) until the Roman conquest of the area in 63 B.C.E. Yet, even after this date a high priest such as Hyrcanus II enjoyed very high positions in society and is still called king a few times, and Antigonus briefly claimed the royal office (40–37 B.C.E.). Josephus indicates that in the first century the aristocratically constituted state of the Jews was led by the high priests (Ant. 20.251), although this was done under Roman supervision.
Herod’s appointment as king by the Roman senate profoundly changed the political landscape. From the time of his reign (37–4 B.C.E.) until the destruction of Jerusalem (and beyond), he and his descendants were dominant rulers among the Jews in the land. Herod held the office of king, as did two of his sons (Antipas [4 B.C.E.–39 C.E.] and Philip [4 B.C.E.–33/34 C.E.]) in parts of their father’s realm, while Archelaus (4 B.C.E.–6 C.E.), who inherited the rule of Judea, served as ethnarch until he was deposed for his incompetent and violent rule. In Judea the Romans then assumed more direct control by appointing prefects (from 6 to 41), among whom the best known is Pontius Pilate (26–36/37). King Agrippa I briefly reunited the kingdom of his grandfather Herod the Great (between 37 and 44) before dying at a young age. Following his death in 44 C.E., the Romans again assumed closer control by appointing procurators, an arrangement that lasted until the end of the revolt. During this latter period, Agrippa’s son Agrippa II came to have a significant influence in Jewish political and religious affairs.
A second institution that seems to have occupied an important place in Jewish society was the council of elders (gērousia in Greek) or Sanhedrin, if, as seems likely, the two terms refer to the same type of body. There are references in Ezra to “the elders” as an influential group, but whether they constituted a ruling body is not said
(Ezra 5:5, 9; 6:7, 14; in these passages they are involved in rebuilding the Temple and negotiations about it). Apart from the book of Judith (e.g., 4:8), which has a weak claim to historicity, the earliest mention of a council of elders is in Josephus’ citation of the letter issued by Antiochus III (223–187 B.C.E.) regarding the Jewish people: he says they with their senate (gērousia) greeted him when he visited the city (Ant. 12.138); later the king mentions the Jewish form of government and lists the senate among the groups exempt from three taxes (12.142). In 2 Macc. 4:4 the senate is the body that sends representatives to King Antiochus IV to press a case against the actions of the high priest Menelaus (vv. 43–50). In subsequent times the term continues to be used in official letters in which the leaders of the Jews are listed (e.g., 2 Macc. 1:10) or addressed (2 Macc. 11:27; 1 Macc. 12:6; 13:36 [where they are called “the elders”; see also 11:23; 12:35]; 14:20, 28 [in the section regarding the decree honoring Simon]). Josephus reports that Gabinius, a Roman official, set up five sanhedrins in Jewish territory in the 50s B.C.E. (Ant. 14.91), but not long afterward the historian relates the story of young Herod’s trial before the Sanhedrin (14.165–79). From this episode the judicial nature of the group’s work is clear, although it was definitely intimidated by the military power of Herod. The Sanhedrin as a judicial body is also evidenced in the trial of Jesus (Mark 14:53–65, where the members are identified as the high priest, the chief priests, elders, and scribes; Matt. 26:59–68; Luke 22:66–71) and that of his brother James (Ant. 20.199–203). The book of Acts, among several references to the council, includes Paul’s appearance before it; there the members are the high priest along with representatives of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (22:30–23:12). Rabbinic sources know of a Sanhedrin that was a gathering of scholars who, among other activities, discussed matters of religious law. How that picture relates to the earlier references in Josephus and other Greek sources is not entirely clear.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
--- 1 Corinthians 9:24.
These words were taken from a runner running for a wager, a very apt picture to set before the eyes of the saints of the Lord. ( The World's Great Sermons (Volume 2, Hooker to South) ) That is, do not only run, but be sure you win as well as run.
Beware of bypaths. Mind the path before you, turn neither to the right nor to the left. Even though the kingdom of heaven is the biggest city, yet usually those bypaths are most beaten; most travelers go those ways. Yet, it is in this case as it was with the harlot of Jericho; she had one scarlet thread tied in her window by which her house was known; so it is here. The scarlet streams of Christ’s blood run throughout the way to the kingdom of heaven, but have a care you do not beguile yourself with a fancy. So that you may not be mistaken, consider, though it seem ever so pleasant, if you do not find that in the very middle of the road there is written with the heart-blood of Christ that he came into the world to save sinners and that we are justified though we are ungodly, shun that way. How easy a matter it is for the Devil to be too cunning for poor souls by calling his bypaths the way to the kingdom. How speedily, greedily, and by heaps do poor simple souls throw away themselves on it, especially if it is daubed over with a few external acts of morality. But it is because people do not know painted bypaths from the plain way to the kingdom of heaven. They have not yet learned the true Christ and what his righteousness is, neither have they a sense of their own insufficiency but are bold, proud, presumptuous, self-conceited.
Take heed that you do not have an ear open to everyone that calls after you as you are in your journey. People who run, if any call after them saying, “Do not go too fast and you will have my company with you,” if they run for some great matter, they say, “I can’t delay for you, I am running for a wager. If I win I am made, if I lose I am undone, therefore do not hinder me.” Thus are those wise who run for corruptible things, and thus should you do, and you have more cause to do so than they, for they run for things that do not last, but you for an incorruptible glory. You will have enough that call after you—the Devil, sin, this world, worthless company, pleasures, profits, esteem in human society, ease, pomp, pride—crying “Do not leave me behind.”
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Fighting Fundamentalist May 8
When theological liberalism invaded America in the early 1900s, an army of fundamentalists rose to defend the faith. Many were wise soldiers of the cross, but some were … well, overzealous.
J. Frank Norris grew up in a dilapidated shack in Texas. His father, an alcoholic sharecropper, beat him. He was converted as a teen, his mother telling him he was “someone of great worth who would be a leader of men.” Entering Baylor University, he dismayed classmates by predicting he would one day “preach in the greatest pulpit in the world.”
He was contentious. One day prankish students released a howling dog during chapel, and President O. H. Cooper, losing his temper, hurled the animal from the third-floor window. Norris notified the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and led a student protest, resulting in Cooper’s resignation.
Following graduation, Norris pastored Fort Worth’s First Baptist Church, soon making it the largest Protestant church in America. In 1935 he accepted Temple Baptist Church in Detroit and pastored both churches simultaneously, shuttling 1,200 miles between them for the rest of his life. He became one of America’s best-known preachers, his voice flooding airwaves, his articles filling publications. He was everywhere.
And he was contentious everywhere. Once from his pulpit he censured Fort Worth’s Catholic mayor. The following Saturday while Norris was preparing his sermon, a friend of the mayor called on him. Soon four shots rang out and the visitor fell dead. Norris was released on bond that afternoon. He immediately revised his sermon, and the next day all Fort Worth came to hear him preach from
Romans 8:1—If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won’t be punished. His trial preoccupied the nation, the jury finally declaring he had shot in self-defense.
Norris continued his combative ministry, winning souls, defending orthodoxy, fighting vice, attracting and repelling listeners. On May 8, 1947, editor Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Constitution wrote, “The Rev. J. Frank Norris and others like him, is one good, sound reason why there are 50,000,000 Americans who do not belong to any church at all.”
Norris died of heart failure shortly afterward, and only heaven knows whether he did more harm or good.
I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ. --- Galatians 1:10.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 8
“He that was healed wist not who it was.”
Years are short to the happy and healthy; but thirty-eight years of disease must have dragged a very weary length along the life of the poor impotent man. When Jesus, therefore, healed him by a word, while he lay at the pool of Bethesda, he was delightfully sensible of a change. Even so the sinner who has for weeks and months been paralysed with despair, and has wearily sighed for salvation, is very conscious of the change when the Lord Jesus speaks the word of power, and gives joy and peace in believing. The evil removed is too great to be removed without our discerning it; the life imparted is too remarkable to be possessed and remain inoperative; and the change wrought is too marvellous not to be perceived. Yet the poor man was ignorant of the author of his cure; he knew not the sacredness of his person, the offices which he sustained, or the errand which brought him among men. Much ignorance of Jesus may remain in hearts which yet feel the power of his blood. We must not hastily condemn men for lack of knowledge; but where we can see the faith which saves the soul, we must believe that salvation has been bestowed. The Holy Spirit makes men penitents long before he makes them divines; and he who believes what he knows, shall soon know more clearly what he believes. Ignorance is, however, an evil; for this poor man was much tantalized by the Pharisees, and was quite unable to cope with them. It is good to be able to answer gainsayers; but we cannot do so if we know not the Lord Jesus clearly and with understanding. The cure of his ignorance, however, soon followed the cure of his infirmity, for he was visited by the Lord in the temple; and after that gracious manifestation, he was found testifying that “it was Jesus who had made him whole.” Lord, if thou hast saved me, show me thyself, that I may declare thee to the sons of men.
Evening - May 8
“Acquaint now thyself with him.”
If we would rightly “acquaint ourselves with God, and be at peace,” we must know him as he has revealed himself, not only in the unity of his essence and subsistence, but also in the plurality of his persons. God said, “Let us make man in our own image”—let not man be content until he knows something of the “us” from whom his being was derived. Endeavour to know the Father; bury your head in his bosom in deep repentance, and confess that you are not worthy to be called his son; receive the kiss of his love; let the ring which is the token of his eternal faithfulness be on your finger; sit at his table and let your heart make merry in his grace. Then press forward and seek to know much of the Son of God who is the brightness of his Father’s glory, and yet in unspeakable condescension of grace became man for our sakes; know him in the singular complexity of his nature: eternal God, and yet suffering, finite man; follow him as he walks the waters with the tread of deity, and as he sits upon the well in the weariness of humanity. Be not satisfied unless you know much of Jesus Christ as your Friend, your Brother, your Husband, your all. Forget not the Holy Spirit; endeavour to obtain a clear view of his nature and character, his attributes, and his works. Behold that Spirit of the Lord, who first of all moved upon chaos, and brought forth order; who now visits the chaos of your soul, and creates the order of holiness.
Behold him as the Lord and giver of spiritual life, the Illuminator, the Instructor, the Comforter, and the Sanctifier. Behold him as, like holy unction, he descends upon the head of Jesus, and then afterwards rests upon you who are as the skirts of his garments. Such an intelligent, scriptural, and experimental belief in the Trinity in Unity is yours if you truly know God; and such knowledge brings peace indeed.
Morning and Evening
HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW
Civilla D. Martin, 1869–1948
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father in heaven. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than sparrows. (Matthew 10:29–31)
Mrs. Civilla Martin, author of this Gospel hymn text, tells of a visit in 1904 to a bedridden Christian friend. Mrs. Martin asked the woman if she ever got discouraged because of her physical condition. Her friend responded quickly: “Mrs. Martin, how can I be discouraged when my heavenly Father watches over each little sparrow and I know He loves and cares for me.” Within just a few minutes Mrs. Martin completed the writing of her new text, which has since been a source of much encouragement to many of God’s people.
It is interesting that our Lord chose the most common of all birds, sparrows of little value, to teach a profound truth: In God’s eyes, no one is insignificant! He is vitally concerned with even the details of our lives. Notice also that the Bible uses another bird to teach this inspiring truth: “Those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles …” (Isaiah 40:31). With an awareness of God’s concern for our lives and the promise of His enabling power to live victoriously, why should we be afraid?
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17, 18)
Why should I feel discouraged,
why should the shadows come,
why should my heart be lonely
and long for Heav’n and home,
when Jesus is my portion?
My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me.
“Let not your heart be troubled,”
His tender word I hear,
and resting on His goodness,
I lose my doubts and fears;
tho’ by the path He leadeth
but one step I may see:
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know we watches me.
Whenever I am tempted,
whenever clouds arise,
when songs give place to sighing,
when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him;
from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me.
Refrain: I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
for His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me.
For Today: Psalm 40:17; Matthew 6:28; Luke 12:6, 7, 22–31; James 1:1–11.
Rest and rejoice in the assurance of God’s love. Seek to bring a word of cheerful encouragement to some sick or invalid individual. Remind him or her of God’s concern and the truth of this song.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XVIII. — HERE you produce similitudes (in which you aim at appearing to abound, and to use very appropriately); that is, — ‘that there are diseases, which may be borne with less evil than they can be cured: as the leprosy, &c.’ You add, moreover, the example of Paul, who makes a distinction between those things that are lawful, and those that are not expedient. “It is lawful (you say) to speak the truth; but, before every one, at all times, and in every way, it is not expedient.” —
How copious an orator! And yet you understand nothing of what you are saying. In a word, you treat this discussion, as though it were some matter between you and me only, about the recovering of some money that was at stake, or some other trivial thing, the loss of which, as being of much less consideration than the general peace of the community, ought not so to concern any one, but that he may yield, act and suffer upon the occasion, in any way that may prevent the necessity of the whole world being thrown into a tumult. Wherein, you plainly evince, that this peace and tranquillity of the flesh, are, with you, a matter of far greater consideration than faith, than conscience, than salvation, than the Word of God, than the glory of Christ, than God Himself! Wherefore, let me tell you this; and I entreat you to let it sink deep into your mind — I am, in this discussion, seeking an object solemn and essential; nay, such, and so great, that it ought to be maintained and defended through death itself; and that, although the whole world should not only be thrown into tumult and set in arms thereby, but even if it should be hurled into chaos and reduced to nothing. — If you cannot receive this, or if you are not affected by it, do you mind your own business, and allow us to receive it and to be affected by it, to whom it is given of God.
For, by the grace of God, I am not so great a fool or madman, as to have desired to sustain and defend this cause so long, with so much fortitude and so much firmness, (which you call obstinacy) in the face of so many dangers of my life, so much hatred, so many traps laid for me; in a word, in the face of the fury of men and devils — I have not done this for money, for that I neither have nor desire; nor for vain-glory, for that, if I wished, I could not obtain in a world so enraged against me, nor for the life for my body, for that cannot be made sure of for an hour. — Do you think, then, that you only have a heart that is moved by these tumults? Yet, I am not made of stone, nor was I born from the Marpesian rocks. But since it cannot be otherwise, I choose rather to be battered in temporal tumult, happy in the grace of God, for God’s word’s sake, which is to be maintained with a mind incorrupt and invincible, than to be ground to powder in eternal tumult, under the wrath of God and torments intolerable! May Christ grant, what I desire and hope, that your heart may not be such — but certainly your words imply, that, with Epicurus, you consider the Word of God and a future life, to be mere fables. For, in your instructions, you would have us, for the sake of the Popes, the heads, and the peace of the community, to put off, upon an occasion, and depart from the all-certain word of God: whereas, if we put off that, we put off God, faith, salvation and all Christianity together. How far different from this is the instruction of Christ: that, we should rather despise the whole world!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
7 Even Though I Walk Through the Valley . . .
For those of us who remain on earth, there is still a life to live here and now.
There are still valleys to walk through during our remaining days. These need not be “dead-end” streets. The disappointments, the frustrations, the discouragements, the dilemmas, the dark, difficult days, though they be shadowed valleys, need not be disasters. They can be the road to higher ground in our walk with God.
After all, when we pause to think about it a moment, we must realize that even our modern mountain highways follow the valleys to reach the summit of the passes they traverse. Similarly the ways of God lead upward through the valleys of our lives.
Again and again I remind myself, “O God, this seems terribly tough, but I know for a fact that in the end it will prove to be the easiest and gentlest way to get me onto higher ground.” Then when I thank him for the difficult things, the dark days, I discover that He is there with me in my distress. At that point my panic, my fear, my misgivings give way to calm and quiet confidence in His care. Somehow, in a serene, quiet way, I am assured all will turn out for my best because He is with me in the valley and things are under His control.
To come to this conviction in the Christian life is to have entered into an attitude of quiet acceptance of every adversity. It is to have moved onto higher ground with God. Knowing Him in this new and intimate manner makes life much more bearable than before.
There is a second reason why sheep are taken to the mountaintops by way of the valleys. Not only is this the way of the gentlest grades, but also it is the well-watered route. Here one finds refreshing water all along the way. There are rivers, streams, springs, and quiet pools in the deep defiles.
During the summer months long drives can be hot and tiresome. The flocks experience intense thirst. How glad they are for the frequent watering places along the valley route where they can be refreshed.
I recall one year when an enormous flock of more than ten thousand sheep was being taken through our country en route to their summer range. The owners came asking permission to water their sheep at the river that flowed by our ranch. Their thirsty flocks literally ran to the water’s edge to quench their burning thirst under the blazing summer sun. Only in our valley was there water for their parched flesh. How glad we were to share the water with them.
As Christians we will sooner or later discover that it is in the valleys of our lives that we find refreshment from God Himself. It is not until we have walked with Him through some very deep troubles that we discover He can lead us to find our refreshment in Him right there in the midst of our difficulty. We are thrilled beyond words when there comes restoration to our souls and spirits from His own gracious Spirit.
During my wife’s illness and after her death, I could not get over the strength, solace, and serene outlook imparted to me virtually hour after hour by the presence of God’s gracious Spirit Himself.
It was as if I was being repeatedly refreshed and restored despite the most desperate circumstances all around me. Unless one has actually gone through such an experience, it may seem difficult to believe. In fact, there are those who claim they could not face such a situation. But for the man or woman who walks with God through these valleys, such real and actual refreshment is available.
The corollary to this is that only those who have been through such dark valleys can console, comfort, or encourage others in similar situations. Often we pray or sing the hymn requesting God to make us an inspiration to someone else. We want, instinctively, to be a channel of blessing to other lives. The simple fact is that just as water can only flow in a ditch or channel or valley, so in the Christian’s career the life of God can only flow in blessing through the valleys that have been carved and cut into our own lives by excruciating experiences.
For example, the one best able to comfort another in bereavement is the person who himself has lost a loved one. The one who can best minister to a broken heart is one who has known a broken heart.
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