Daniel 4 - 6
Nebuchadnezzar Praises GodDaniel 4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
3 How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
Daniel Interprets the Second Dream19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! 20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.
Nebuchadnezzar Restored34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
The Handwriting on the WallDaniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.
10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”
Daniel Interprets the Handwriting13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.
24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
Daniel and the Lions’ DenDaniel 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,
for he is the living God,
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
What I'm Reading
One Family Under God
By Tom Ascol 3/01/2013
He was asking a question that I had heard multiple times during my years as a pastor: “Do you have children’s church?” This time, instead of giving an extensive explanation for our practice of not segregating our church worship gatherings by ages, I decided to give a brief and accurate yet intentionally provocative answer. Here’s how it went:
“Yes, we do. Every Sunday.”
“Great. Can you describe how it is structured?”
“Sure. We have singing, prayer, Scripture reading, giving, and teaching. We also observe the Lord’s Supper monthly, and periodically we observe baptism.”
“That sounds interesting. Are adults allowed to attend?”
“Absolutely! In fact, we encourage adults to attend these worship services with their children.”
My conscience wouldn’t let me leave this young father with a false impression, so I went on to explain that while we do have worship for children, we do not have a separate worship service exclusively for them. Rather, our worship, like our church, is designed for all ages.
Granted, a church that is committed to ministering to people of all ages faces a daunting challenge. In our day of specialization, it is much easier to “target” ministry to those who share a stage of life than to minister to people whose ages are spread over several decades.
Perhaps that is why some have actually tried to structure churches to do just that, resulting in youth churches, student churches, and senior-citizen churches. What is even more common is the intentional balkanization of churches into self-contained, age-segregated ministries that at best coexist within a local congregation. In this model of ministry, it is possible that the only place where grandparents, parents, and children see each other at church gatherings is in the parking lot.
The Bible recognizes that believers occupy a wide range of life stages and that there are particular needs worth emphasizing for particular age groups. We should note the ways the Bible specifically instructs these groups. Adults, both married (Eph. 5:22–33; 1 Peter 3:1–7) and single (1 Cor. 7:25–38; 1 Tim. 5:3-8), youth and young adults (Eccl. 12:1; 2 Tim. 2:22), and children (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20) are addressed with respect to their ages.
A church that is given to an expositional ministry cannot ignore these and other age-sensitive passages in Scripture. The real challenge arises at the point of application. How can a church effectively minister to the needs of all its members who span a wide range of ages?
While I would never pretend that there is only one set way — or even one best way — to answer that question, there are certain biblical principles that must be observed as a church considers how to structure its energies for ministering to all ages.
First, as already stated, the fact that the Bible recognizes and addresses believers at different stages of life should be considered as a church plans its ministries. Everything from sermon application to service opportunities should reflect this awareness. As a pastor, I know it is easy to inadvertently build my sermon applications around my own life circumstances. If the apostles occasionally gave instruction to specific age groups in the churches they served, so should I.
Second, a church must guard against establishing specific age-sensitive ministries that unintentionally undermine the church as a family. Where ministry becomes so targeted that the children never worship, pray, serve, or study with the youth, who never do these things with the adults, who in turn never do them with the children, whatever good may be accomplished comes at the expense of undermining the very nature of the church itself. The consequences are spiritually devastating because opportunities to defer to the preferences of others and sacrifice for their wellbeing are avoided while a consumer mentality is promoted.
Finally, a church that ministers effectively to all age groups will keep the gospel alone as the foundation for church life and unity. Believers of all ages must be taught that our union with Christ, regardless of age, is what makes us one body. A ten-year-old Christian has more in common with an eighty-year-old Christian than with ten-year-old unbelievers. Where this is recognized and celebrated, real gospel-centered community thrives.
In the final analysis, our basic human need as sinners trumps all other needs that are unique to age and stage of life. That means that the gospel is more important than any targeted ministry. It also means that, though we should work hard to communicate the gospel in understandable, age-appropriate ways, there is only one message that people of every age need. Above all, a church must master and faithfully steward this message: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
The church that has this as its foundation and overarching theme will demonstrate that it is one body with “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:5–6).
Tom Ascol Books:
- 1 Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry
- 2 Truth and Grace Memory Book: Book 3
- 3 From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention: What Hath Geneva to Do with Nashville
- 4 Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches
- 5 Founders Journal, Issue 19/20, Winter/Spring 1995: Southern Baptists at the Crossroad, Special SBC Sesquicentennial Issue, 1845-1995
- 6 Ministry By His Grace and for His Glory
- 7 THE FOUNDERS JOURNAL Committed to Historic Southern Baptist Principles (Issue 51-Winter 2003)
Praying for Politicians
By David Robertson 3/01/2013
Having been a minister for twenty-six years and an editor of a church magazine for some of that time, I can safely say that there is no subject more likely to get you into controversy than the troubled relationship of the gospel to politics, unless you dare to touch the modern-day idol of people’s children. So when I was asked to write this column, my heart sank; I knew the heresy antennas of many would already be raised. To make matters worse, I write this just after the re-election of President Obama, a result that caused many of my American friends to despair, although many of them did not see the alternative as being much better. But rather than despair, perhaps we should follow the Bible’s pattern for the church’s involvement in politics.
The church must be involved, but not in the way we so often have been. When the church seeks political power, the church inevitably ends up being corrupted. This applies to any organization and any individual. What you seek is who you are. IMHO Creating or supporting particular political parties, policies, or philosophies is not the way of Christ. For the church to be identified with one political party is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
Does that mean we are doomed to be pious pietists, huddling in our small groups as the world rots, just waiting for the Lord to return? God forbid. The Bible gives us very clear instructions on how we are to participate in the political process — instructions that, if we followed them today, would make an enormous difference to the politics and government of our countries. These instructions are found in 1 Timothy 2:1–4: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (NIV).
I can hear the protests already: “That’s it? Pray? I thought you were against pietism. Is that what you call practical?” Yes, it is. Praying for our leaders is the most practical thing we can ever do. It is realistic, revolutionary, and leads to great results.
First, prayer is realistic because it recognizes our own weakness and causes us to humbly bow before God, conscious that we do not have the power to accomplish anything. With all our money, strategies, techniques, and human wisdom, there really is nothing we can do that will control or change the course of history. True prayer recognizes the sovereignty and agency of God. Prayer stops us relying on ourselves and thus stops the frustrations and panic when we and our political philosophies and strategies fail. It is important at this stage to note that prayer is not to be used as a political tool, as though by holding prayer meetings we are courting or forcing God’s vote. Prayer is not protest. It is petition, which realizes that even the hearts of President Obama or Prime Minister David Cameron are not out of God’s control. Proverbs 21:1 says: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. He directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (NLT).
Second, prayer changes the dynamics of politics by enabling the revolution of love and changing the political atmosphere. John Chrysostom, in his homily on this passage, declares, “First hatred towards those who are without is done away; for no-one can feel hatred towards those for whom he prays; and they again are made better by the prayers that are offered for them, and by losing their ferocious disposition towards us.” One of the most disturbing things in American politics recently has been the level of vitriol and hatred that has come from all quarters, sadly even from many in the church. ... and this is March 2013! It is not helpful to demonize those who disagree with us politically. It is surely the duty of every church in the United States (and many outwith) to pray for President Obama — and let me dare to suggest that it not be a “Smite the Amalekites” style of prayer. People may not like his politics, his view of the Christian faith, or his personality, but none of that excuses us from praying for him and for all our leaders, of whatever political hue. You will note that Paul does not distinguish between just and unjust rulers. To publically pray positively for our leaders, whether liberal or Mormon, is not an optional extra — it is a command from the Lord.
Third, we see the results. We want to be able to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness — even under non-Christian leaders. This in turn results in the advancement of the good news and the knowledge of the truth. I know it is fashionable among Christians who live in comfortable circumstances to lament the lack of persecution and to equate persecution with growth, but here Paul equates gospel growth with peace. We should pray for this. As gospel growth continues in a peaceful and stable community, Christ the Mediator is exalted and lifted up as the testimony given in its proper time.
Let us involve ourselves politically in our churches by praying for our political leaders and crying out to the Lord to grant His blessing and peace upon them as His servants and on us as His people.
David Robertson Books:
His Heart Trusts in Her
By Steven Lawson 3/01/2013
Few influences affect a man’s heart for God more than his wife, for better or for worse. She will either encourage his spiritual devotion to the Lord or she will hinder it. She will either enlarge his passion for God or she will pour cold water on it. What kind of wife encourages her husband’s spiritual growth? Proverbs 31:10–31 provides a profile of the wife who is worthy of her husband’s trust. Such a wife is the embodiment of true wisdom from God, causing the husband to confide in her with complete trust.
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” (v. 10). Such a good wife is hard to find. The word excellent (hayil) can mean “strength, capability, valor, or dignity.” This woman exemplifies each of these qualities, having great competence, noble character, and a strong commitment to God and her family. Only the Lord can provide such an excellent woman: “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Prov. 19:14). “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). This virtuous woman is a priceless gift from God.
Is it any wonder that “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (v. 11)? The husband has faith in her because “she does him good and not harm all the days of her life” (v. 12). She brings her many strengths into their marriage, each one uniquely suited to complement his weaknesses. Her gifts immediately become his gains, and she provides much that causes him to trust her?
First, this extraordinary wife tirelessly serves him. Not sitting by idly, she actively “seeks wool and flax,” then extends a “willing hand” (v. 13) to spin thread and make material. She is “like a merchant ship” (v. 14), launching out to find the best fabric, at the best price, in order to make the best clothes. This selfless wife “rises while it is yet night” (v. 15) to prepare food for her family. An excellent manager, she oversees “her maidens” as they serve alongside her in the household.
Second, this enterprising woman exercises sound judgment in her many dealings. She shrewdly “considers a field,” then buys it. There, she plants a “vineyard” (v. 16). By her “strong” (v. 17) resolve, she earns disposable income for her family. These business dealings are “profitable” (v. 18), providing additional resources to share with others. She labors well into the “night” with her “distaff” and “spindle” (v. 19) to make garments for her family.
Third, this diligent woman gives generously to “the poor” and “the needy” (v. 20). As “the snow” approaches, she also gives to her family. She has planned ahead, making “scarlet” garments (v. 21) for her household. She spares no effort or cost in providing the best she can. After providing for others, this industrious wife makes “bed coverings” and clothes “for herself” with “fine linen and purple” (v. 22). Her ability to give expensive garments is clear evidence of God’s favor upon her labors.
Fourth, her many virtues enhance her husband’s position in “the gates” (v. 23), where city leaders meet. With keen savvy, this excellent wife “makes,” “sells,” and “delivers” (v. 24) her goods. Despite being very competent, she does not compete with her husband’s leadership, but undergirds it by her humble submission—and everyone knows it.
Fifth, this treasured wife looks to the future with inner “strength” and “dignity” (v. 25). Though she anticipates many challenges, she nevertheless “laughs” (v. 25) with positive confidence in the Lord’s providential care. She is expectant that heaven’s supply will meet her family’s every need. As people seek her counsel, she speaks words of “wisdom” and “kindness” (v. 26) to them. Though busy outside the home, she does not neglect “her household” (v. 27).
Sixth, she is such a fine mother that as her children observe her excellence, they “call her blessed” (v. 28). Her husband sees her character traits in parenting and “praises her.” He boasts that among women, “[she] surpass[es] them all” (v. 29). In his eyes, there are none who can legitimately claim to be her equal. Amen!
Seventh, this woman’s true greatness is her spiritual devotion. She “fears the Lord” (v. 30). “Charm” and “beauty” alone are “deceitful” and “vain.” Lily always says that beauty is as beauty does. Her real attraction to him is her reverence for God. Even the city leaders “praise her” in the “gates” (v. 31), recognizing the integrity of her life. Her husband prizes her fidelity and industry. He is the most blessed of men.
Is it any wonder that her husband trusts her? The reality of God in her life makes her worthy of his full confidence. By every estimate, she is “the crown of her husband” (12:4). Only God can provide such an excellent helpmate.
Has the Lord given you such an excellent wife? Do you see how she is specifically suited for you? Do you recognize how she has increased your effectiveness for the Lord? Then give thanks to God for such a woman in whom your heart trusts.
Steven Lawson | Go to Books Page
Jesus Christ, Anointed One
By R.C. Sproul 3/01/2013
Throughout the New Testament, we encounter many titles for Jesus of Nazareth—“Son of God,” “Son of Man,” “Lord,” and others. However, the title that is given to Jesus most often in the New Testament is one that is familiar to us, but one that we do not understand well. It is the title “Christ.”
Why do I say that we do not understand this title well? I say it because “Christ” is used so often in conjunction with “Jesus” that we tend to think of it as His last name. However, “Christ” is not a secondary name for Jesus; He would have been known as “Jesus Bar-Joseph,” meaning “Jesus, son of Joseph.” Rather, “Christ” is Jesus’ supreme title. But what does it mean?
The meaning of Christ is drawn from the Old Testament. God promised the ancient Israelites that a Messiah would come to deliver them from sin. The idea of the Messiah is carried over into the New Testament with the title Christ. The Greek word Christos, from which we get the English word Christ, is the translation of the Hebrew term Mashiach, which is the source for the English word Messiah. Mashiach, in turn, is related to the Hebrew verb masach, which means “to anoint.” Therefore, when the New Testament speaks of Jesus Christ, it is saying “Jesus the Messiah,” which literally means, “Jesus the Anointed One.”
In Old Testament times, people were subject to anointing when they were called to the offices of prophet, priest, and king. For example, when Saul became the first king of Israel, Samuel the prophet anointed his head with oil in a ceremonial fashion (1 Sam. 10:1). This religious rite was performed to show that the king of Israel was chosen and endowed by God for the kingship. Likewise, the priests (Ex. 28:41) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16) were anointed at God’s command. In a sense, anyone in the Old Testament who was set apart and consecrated for a servant task was a messiah, for he was one who received an anointing.
But the people of Israel looked forward to that promised individual who was to be not merely a messiah but the Messiah, the One who would be supremely set apart and consecrated by God to be their Prophet, Priest, and King. So, at the time Jesus was born, there was a strong sense of anticipation among the Jews, who had been waiting for their Messiah for centuries.
Amazingly, when Jesus began His public ministry, few recognized Him for who He was, despite overwhelming evidence that He possessed an anointing from God that far surpassed that which had rested on any other man. We know that there was great confusion about Him even after He had been ministering for some time. At one point, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13b). He was taking the pulse of His culture, getting feedback regarding the rumors about Himself. In response to Jesus’ question, the disciples ticked off various views that were being put forward: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (v. 14). Jesus was being identified with all kinds of people, but none of these speculations was correct.
Then Jesus asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (v. 15b). Peter answered with what is known as the great confession, a statement of his belief as to the identity of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (v. 16). With these words, Peter declared that Jesus was the Christos, the Mashiach, the Anointed One.
Then Jesus said an interesting thing. He told Peter that he was blessed to have this understanding of Jesus’ identity. Why did He say this? Jesus explained: “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (v. 17). Peter had received a divine insight that Jesus was the Messiah; it was not something that he had discerned by his own ability. Again, this amazes me because one would think that nearly everyone who encountered Jesus would have recognized Him immediately as the Messiah. After all, there is no shortage of information in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah — where He would be born, how He would behave, and what power He would manifest — and everyone could see what Jesus had done — raising people from the dead, healing all sorts of maladies, and teaching with great authority. But, of course, they did not. Jesus’ anointing was not immediately apparent.
Many people today have positive things to say about Jesus as a model of virtue, a great teacher, and so on, but they stop short of saying He is Messiah. This is the great divide between Christians and unbelievers. Only one who has been born again can confess that Jesus is the Christ. Can you?
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
The Coming of the Kingdom part 26
By Dr. Andrew Woods 01/05/2015
We began scrutinizing a series of texts from the earthly ministry of Christ that "kingdom now" theologians routinely employ in order to argue that the kingdom is a present reality in order to show that none of these passages, when rightly understood, teach a present, spiritual form of the kingdom. We will now turn our attention to the typical texts from the Book of Acts employed by "kingdom now" theologians.
Jesus Currently Reigning On David's Throne?
Perhaps the primary reason advanced by kingdom now theologians in their attempt to equate God's present work in the church with the present, spiritual manifestation of the Messianic kingdom is that following His Ascension Christ supposedly took His seat on David's Throne in heaven. From this regal position He now orchestrates the spiritual Messianic kingdom through the church. However, it is far better to reject the notion that the Davidic Kingdom is present in any sense today and instead to maintain that the Davidic Kingdom will not be inaugurated until the millennial age. At least six reasons exist in support of this conclusion.
First, the Old Testament consistently depicts the Davidic Throne in terrestrial rather than celestial terms. In other words, the Old Testament routinely portrays the concept of the Davidic Throne as something that takes place in time and space upon the earth rather than something that transpires in heaven.  For example, when God first announced the Davidic reign that was to eclipse Saul's reign, God purposed "to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to establish the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba" ( 2 Sam. 3:10 ). After David succeeded Saul as king, he ruled upon a terrestrial throne. First Kings 2:11 says, "And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years he reigned in Hebron, and thirty-three years he reigned in Jerusalem." David's successor Solomon also reigned from a terrestrial Davidic Throne. First Kings 2:12 says, "And Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established." The terrestrial character of the Davidic Throne is also evident in the Book of Jeremiah where the prophet speaks of the kings of his day as those "...that sit for David on his throne..." ( Jer. 13:13 ). In addition, Jeremiah told King Zedekiah that he "...sits on David's throne..." ( Jer. 22:2 ). Jeremiah also predicted that future "...kings will enter the gates of this house, sitting in David's place on his throne..." ( Jer. 22:4 ).
Moreover, the Old Testament predicts that the Messiah will reign on a literal, earthly, physical Davidic throne in the city of Jerusalem ( 2 Sam. 7:12-16 ). Thus, the common Jewish understanding of the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant involved a literal, earthly throne ( Matt. 19:28; 20:20-21; Luke 22:28-30 ). The messianic expectation was for Christ to rule upon an earthly throne. Of the linkage between the Messiah and the Throne of David in Luke 1:32-33, McClain observes, "The 'throne of David' here is not God's throne in heaven, nor is the 'house of Jacob' a reference to the Christian church. As Godet rightly observed: 'These expressions in the mouth of the angel keep their natural and literal sense. It is, indeed, the theocratic royalty and the Israelitish people, neither more nor less, that are in question here; Mary could have understood these expressions in no other way.'" 
Second, because of this consistent scriptural portrayal of the Davidic Throne in terrestrial rather than celestial terms, to argue that the Davidic Throne is now manifesting itself in this age from heaven is to place under unnatural duress the notions of progress of revelation and literal or normal, grammatical, historical hermeneutics. Progressive revelation is the idea that, although latter Scripture can clarify, explain, or specify what earlier Scripture has said, latter Scripture can never change the original promise. Theologian Robert Lightner explains why an understanding of a celestial Davidic Throne as is prominently taught in kingdom now theology cannot be harmonized with the concept of progressive revelation. He notes: "So, they have not only changed the people to include the Church, but they have also changed the place where the covenant is to be fulfilled. Now it's not only on earth, but it's also in heaven... The people have changed and the place has changed."  Lightner's comments succinctly summarize why the celestial interpretation of the Davidic Throne cannot be properly categorized as progressive revelation. Abrupt changes in the place and people do not constitute further clarifications of an original promise but rather significant and abrupt alterations of it.
To Lightner's enumeration of changes of place and people brought about by the celestial, Davidic interpretation, we might also add a change of Israel's spiritual condition. The New Testament teaches that Christ will be seated upon His Davidic Throne only after Israel's repentance. This becomes clear in Matthew 23–25. In Matthew 23:37-39, Christ expresses His desire to gather (episynago) His chosen people but clarifies that such a gathering will only transpire subsequent to Israel's acknowledgement of Him as their Messiah ( Matt. 23:39 ). Such an acknowledgment of Christ's rightful place over the nation will take place during the Tribulation Period ( Zech. 12:10 ) thus allowing the regathering (episynago) of the nation to transpire at the end of this period as depicted in the Olivet Discourse ( Matt. 24:31 ). Only after this regathering does Matthew then portray the inauguration of Christ's reign on David's throne ( Matt 25:31 ). Thus, Matthew's chronology mandates a conversion of national Israel as a condition to Christ reigning on David's Throne. Because of Israel's current state of unbelief ( Rom. 10:21; 11:25 ), a current Davidic reign of Christ violates this chronology. In sum, one can hardly classify the present, celestial interpretation of the Davidic Throne as mere progressive revelation because such an interpretation not only entails a change of place and people but also a change in the spiritual condition of Israel necessary for the promise to occur.
Historic Premillennialist George Ladd believes that Jesus is currently reigning on David's Throne in heaven. However, note how his theology must abruptly change and alter what the Old Testament reveals concerning the earthly Davidic throne. Ladd argues:
...the new redemptive events in the course of Heilsgeschichte have compelled Peter to reinterpret the Old Testament. Because of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Peter transfers the messianic Davidic throne from Jerusalem to God's right hand in heaven. Jesus has now been enthroned as the Davidic Messiah on the throne of David, and is awaiting the final consummation of his messianic reign... This involves a rather radical reinterpretation of Old Testament prophecies, but no more so than the entire reinterpretation of God's redemptive plan by the early church. In fact, it is an essential part of this reinterpretation demanded by the events of redemptive history... Jesus is enthroned as the Messiah... He must reign until all his enemies are made a stool for his feet. 
In other words, in order to sustain his theology, Ladd must allow the New Testament, or specifically Peter's sermon in Acts 2, to "reinterpret the Old Testament" which "transfers the messianic Davidic throne from Jerusalem to God's right hand in heaven." Notice how Ladd concedes that "This involves a rather radical reinterpretation of Old Testament prophecies." By no stretch of the imagination can such a hermeneutical approach involving so radical a change in the original promise be properly classified as progress of revelation.
Not only does the present, celestial interpretation of the Davidic Throne strain the notion of progressive revelation, but it also places under duress the notion of literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutics. Amillennialist George Murray observes:
The Davidic Covenant, of which much has been said, was to the effect that his seed would sit upon his throne and had its natural fulfillment in the reign of King Solomon. Its eternal aspects include the Lord Jesus Christ of the seed of David; and in the book of Acts, Peter insists that Christ's resurrection and Ascension fulfilled God's promise to David that his seed would sit upon his throne ( Acts 2:30 ). Why insist, then, on a literal fulfillment of a promise which the Scriptures certify to have had a spiritual fulfillment? 
The response of J. Dwight Pentecost to this Amillennial interpretation of the Davidic Covenant demonstrates how far Amillennialism (kingdom now theology) has strayed from literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutics. According to Pentecost:
The amillennialist is bound to argue for a conditional covenant and a spiritualized fulfillment, so that the throne on which Christ is now seated at the right hand of the father becomes the "throne" of the covenant, the household of faith becomes the "house" of the covenant, and the church becomes the "kingdom" of the covenant... This makes the church the "seed" and the "kingdom" promised in the covenant. The kingdom becomes heavenly, not earthly... Only by extensive allegorization can such a view be held. 
This much is certain. Arguing that Jesus' present position at the Father's right hand represents the Davidic Covenant's fulfillment of any kind is to depart from normal definitions of progress of revelation and consistent, literal or normal, grammatical, historical hermeneutics. Chafer summarizes:
Similarly, the earthly kingdom that according to the Scriptures had its origin in the covenant made to David, which is mundane and literal in its original form and equally as mundane and literal in uncounted references to it in all subsequent Scriptures which trace it on to its consummation, is by theological legerdemain metamorphosed into a spiritual monstrosity in which an absent King seated on His Father's throne in heaven is accepted in lieu of the theocratic monarch of David's line seated on David's throne in Jerusalem. Continue Reading (Part 27 on Sept 17 web page)
ENDNOTES Mal Couch, "Progressive Dispensationalism: Is Christ Now on the Throne of David? (Part I)," Conservative Theological Journal 2, (March 1998): 35-3
 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God
 Robert Lightner, "Progressive Dispensationalism," Conservative Theological Journal 4, no. 11 (March 2000): 53-54.
 George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament
 George Murray, Millennial Studies...A Search for Truth
 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology
 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Chafer Systematic Theology (8 volume set)
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Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.
Dr. Andrew Woods Ministry Page, YouTube Channel, and Church.
Blood in the Streets
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/01/2013
How prone we are to miss the drama. The tyranny of the urgent, the plainness of our patterns, and our propensity to look inward rather than outward all push us to regard our callings, our surroundings, and our souls as rather dull affairs. We read of the great upheavals of history, then find ourselves scraping the burnt remains of casseroles off dishes. We watch Hollywood make believe about terrifying invaders from outer space, then go home to balance our checkbooks. We, according to Jesus, construct foolish drama by worrying about what we will eat or what we will wear while missing the battle of eternity that is going on right before our eyes.
When Jesus calls us to cease worrying about those things the heathen worry about, He isn’t inviting us to heave a sigh of relief and flop down on our hammock with a glass of lemonade. No, we put down our petty concerns that we might take up the one vital concern, the kingdom of God.
Our Lord reigns. His kingdom knows no bounds, for all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. But there remains in His realm rebellion. There is work to do. In this country, we have once again denied the humanity of an entire class of people — the unborn. In so doing, we have shown forth our inhumanity. What may be worse is that this great evil demonstrates our lack of humanity. How twisted, how distorted, is a state that God ordained to punish evildoers, but that instead uses the sword God gave it to guard the grisly practitioners of this crime? How twisted, how distorted, are men who were made to protect and defend women and children, but who now drag their girlfriends, wives, or daughters to killing centers? How twisted, how distorted, are women who were made to nurture their babies, but who now hire assassins to kill them?
This, beloved, is the battle. Here is the drama. Souls of men and women are being twisted and slowly dragged into the very pit of hell. Babies are being burned alive, on purpose. And we, even though we have been made alive, even though we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, worry more about stock markets and football teams.
Right now, in our own neighborhoods, people’s lives are at stake. Every one of our neighbors, young or old, male or female, believer or not, will die. And when they die, they will become fully, finally, and forever one thing or another.
C.S. Lewis, in his classic work The Weight of Glory, reminds us what is at stake. He reminds us what is wood, hay, and stubble, and which jewels will shine evermore. In turn, he helps us see what this means for our todays — that forever counts right now.
It is a serious thing … to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no “ordinary” people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
We don’t seek the kingdom merely when we read our Bibles or sing our hymns. We seek the kingdom when we love our wives and cherish our children. We seek it when we weep and mourn for the murder of our neighbors, and when we weep and mourn for our neighbors’ murderers. We seek the kingdom when we call on men to be men and women to be women. We seek the kingdom when we welcome the least of these into our lives, into our homes, and into our families.
The righteousness we seek for our justification is ours by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness — the sole ground of our right standing before God. Yet righteousness is also becoming ours in our experience through sanctification. We in Christ, despite all for which we have to repent, are being made into everlasting splendors. Despite all for which we must repent, despite all over which we mourn, despite all the horror of what we as a nation have become, we rejoice to know that we are citizens of another kingdom. We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation. We once were not a people, but now we are the people of God. We are those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. May we then keep our conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against us as evildoers, they may see our good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By John Walvoord (1990)
Prophecy In The Book Of Acts | History Of The Early Church
As indicated by the title of the book, the Acts of the Apostles is largely a report on the activities of the early church from the time of Pentecost to Paul’s ministry in Rome. If Paul endured two Roman imprisonments, the book of Acts carries us through the two years that Paul ministered in Rome in his first imprisonment.
Because the nature of the book deals with history rather than prophecy, there are relatively few prophecies included in the book of Acts. Those that are included are essential to the historical narrative.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
Acts 1:1–8. In many respects, the book of Acts, also written by Luke, is a continuation of Luke’s gospel. In His postresurrection ministry, Jesus instructed the disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (vv. 4–5 ). The record of the fulfillment of this prophecy is given in Acts 2.
While Jesus was still with them, the disciples asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” ( 1:6 ). It is most illuminating that at this point, after three and a half years of listening to Christ teach and going through the experiences of His death, resurrection, and postresurrection ministry, the disciples were still not clear concerning the kingdom promises of the Old Testament. Jesus answered their question: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (v. 7 ). If they were incorrect in their expectation of literal fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of a kingdom on earth, this would have been a proper time to correct the disciples. The answer that Jesus gave, that it was not for them to know the time or the date — that is, the general time or the particular time — indicated the event was still ahead, but God had not seen fit to reveal to them how these prophecies were to be fulfilled.
From the perspective of over two thousand years, it is obvious that God is fulfilling in this present age His purpose, unannounced in the Old Testament, of calling out a people from both Jews and Gentiles to form the church of Christ. It is also abundantly clear that the church does not fulfill the promises of the kingdom on earth as given to the people of Israel. As the book of Acts progresses, the disciples gradually realized that God was carrying out this program for Jew and Gentile first, and after this period, which is really a time of Gentile blessing, that He would resume His plan and purpose to fulfill the kingdom promise to Israel in connection with the second coming of Christ.
More important than the time of the kingdom, which God had not seen fit to reveal, Jesus revealed to them the coming of the Holy Spirit, which would be the main factor in the present dispensation. He told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v. 8 ). In subsequent events in the book of Acts, including Acts 2, the literal fulfillment of the promise was illustrated. All the Gospels agree that it was a duty of those left behind at the ascension to evangelize the world ( Matt. 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–18; Luke 24:47–48; John 20:21–22 ).
Jesus’ Ascension and Promise of Return
Acts 1:9–11. No sooner had He answered their question than He was literally taken up from before their eyes and rose bodily from earth to the heavens. A cloud enveloped Him and hid Him from their sight. Scripture records, “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (vv. 10–11 ). The departure of Jesus was bodily, visible, gradual, and accompanied by a cloud. These same factors enter into His second coming as portrayed in other Scriptures, including Revelation 19:11–18. Following these introductory prophecies in the book of Acts, only occasional prophecies are mentioned in the course of the book.
Peter’s Pronouncement on the Occasion of Healing the Crippled Man in the Temple
Acts 3:11–26. As the people looked expectantly on Peter and John because of the healing of the crippled man, Peter delivered his sermonette, pointing out the background of Jesus and His being crucified (vv. 13–15 ). Peter announced that this crippled man had been healed by faith in Jesus (v. 16 ). Peter further informed them that though they acted in ignorance, what they did fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament indicating Christ would suffer (vv. 17–18 ).
On the basis of this, Peter exhorted them, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.’ Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways” (vv. 19–26 ). Peter gave the certain prediction that Jesus is now in heaven and that the time of restoration promised Israel through the holy prophecies is still in the future, pending His return.
The Prediction of the Severe Famine
Acts 11:27–30. In connection with Peter’s indication of his ministry to the Gentiles in Acts 11 and the justification of his going to Cornelius with the gospel, some prophets coming from Jerusalem to Antioch prophesied that there would be a famine throughout the Roman world (vv. 27–28 ). In response to this, the disciples took an offering and sent it to Judea, carried by Barnabas and Saul (vv. 29–30 ).
Paul’s Sermon on Mars’ Hill
Acts 17:22–34. Paul, attempting to reach the hostile crowd in Corinth, preached his sermon, teaching that Jesus was indeed appointed the judge of all the earth. In connection with this, Paul declared, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (vv. 30–31 ). Then, as now, the unbelieving world was not prepared to accept the concept of future judgment.
Paul’s Final Message to the Church at Ephesus
Acts 20:18–31. Paul delivered his final message to the Ephesian church to the leaders of the church at Ephesus who came to meet him at Miletus. He told them he was going to Jerusalem and that he had been warned prophetically that he would face hardship in prison (v. 23 ). Paul also announced, “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God” (vv. 25–27 ).
Paul also exhorted them to “keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (vv. 28–31 ). Scripture does not record the details of this disruption of the Ephesian church, but it seems to have gone on for several generations after Paul in spite of the problems he prophesied.
Prophecy of Paul Going to Rome
Acts 23:11. In connection with Paul’s being arrested and defending himself before the Sanhedrin, the meeting ended in turmoil when Paul stated that he was being persecuted because of his hope in the resurrection ( Acts 23:6–10 ). The result was that the commander had to rescue Paul from the teachers of the law.
Acts records that “on the following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome’” (v. 11 ). This was subsequently fulfilled in the book of Acts.
Safety from the Storm
Acts 27:21–25. In connection with Paul’s sailing to Rome, the ships ran into a storm, and for many days they were in danger of shipwreck. At this time of trouble, Paul had a special revelation given to him. Acts records, “After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me’” (v. 21–25 ). As Acts records, the ship ran aground on the Isle of Malta, and all the people on board were safe. “In this way everyone reached land in safety” (v. 44 ). This prophecy of Paul was further reinforced in verse 34 when Paul told them they would survive and encouraged them to eat (vv. 33–36 ).
Though the book of Acts is not primarily a prophetic book, it gives us historical background within which to set the tremendous revelations contained in the epistles and later books of the New Testament.
When God is Not Enough
By Scotty Smith 4/01/2013
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine).
“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus” (Blaise Pascal, Pensées (Dover Thrift Editions)).
Certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces… . Therefore speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.’” (Ezek. 14:1–5)
The new hearts we have in Christ are yet-to-be-perfected hearts, and when God is functionally “not enough,” our anxieties and fears take over; then we go on the hunt for designer gods and pseudosaviors. What does this look like?
At the beginning of Ezekiel 14, we get to eavesdrop on a fascinating conversation that took place between the prophet and God. Here’s the back story: Instead of showing and telling God’s story of redemption to the nations, Israel had progressively been drawn into the worship of the gods of the surrounding nations.
Israel’s drift into idolatry didn’t happen because the people became bored with the liturgy of their temple, enamored with the music of the worship bands in pagan temples, or impressed with the oratory of the new Canaanite prophet who had just moved into the neighborhood. No one in Israel went looking for a new worship service, but for new gods to service them. The center of their worship shifted from God to themselves. They began to worship worship more than they worshiped God—that is, their relationship with God became utilitarian rather than doxological.
When the glory of the one true living God is no longer our principal passion in life, worship becomes a pragmatic vehicle for fulfilling two basic quests in life: provision and protection. Instead of living for God’s glory and looking to Him to meet our needs, we exist for our glory and look for gods who will meet our demands.
How does God respond? Three phrases jump out at me in this pivotal passage—each of which highlights just how tenaciously God loves us in Christ and how relentlessly He pursues our hearts’ affection.
God’s Lament: “These men have set up idols in their hearts.”
We are quite capable of setting up physical idols anywhere. But whether it’s a golden calf in the courtyard or a new car in the driveway, the main real estate of idolatry is the heart. The works of our hands and the words from our mouths are simply the overflow of what’s gong on in the sanctuaries of our hearts. God’s cry, and command, to us is always, “My son, give me your heart” (Prov. 23:26). He will have our hearts, because God alone deserves our hearts.
God’s Promise: “I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry.”
Though His patience is limitless, God’s love for His people moves Him to act powerfully and, if need be, painfully. How does God answer us in keeping with our idolatry? God allows us to taste the often destructive consequences of trusting idols. Only when our idols fail us will we begin to understand the futility and insanity of idolatry (Isa. 44). Idolatry carries a blinding and binding power. Only a power as great as the grace of God can possibly cut through the delusions and destroy the entrapments of idolatry.
God’s Hope: “I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.”
As I have been led, and at times dragged, into the process of gospel transformation, few words of hope have meant more to me than these. Why does God make life painful for us at times? Why does God often write stories we would never pen; observe a time line we would never choose; and answer our prayers in ways that feel like He is rejecting us? He gives us His answer: “I will do this to recapture the hearts of My people, who have all deserted Me for their idols.” No one loves us like God does in Jesus — even if it takes a Babylonian captivity to convince us.
God’s jealousy for our love is the greatest compliment He could ever pay us, but it’s also the costliest gift He could ever give us. It was costly to God because it required the life and death of His Son; it is costly to us because it means God’s love will never let us go. That can get very disruptive and messy. Sometimes we proclaim, “Nothing will ever separate me from the love of God,” not fully realizing everything implied. The God of love will not tolerate our love of idols. Hallelujah, and brace yourself.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 103Bless the LORD, O My Soul
103 Of David.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
The Sons of God
By R.C. Sproul 4/01/2013
In the twentieth century, the German biblical scholar Rudolf Bultmann gave a massive critique of the Scriptures, arguing that the Bible is filled with mythological references that must be removed if it is to have any significant application to our day. Bultmann’s major concern was with the New Testament narratives, particularly those that included records of miracles, which he deemed impossible. Other scholars, however, have claimed that there are mythological elements in the Old Testament as well. Exhibit A for this argument is usually a narrative that some believe parallels the ancient Greek and Roman myths about gods and goddesses occasionally mating with human beings.
In Genesis 6, we read this account: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… . The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown” (vv. 1–4).
This narrative is basically a preface to the account of the flood God sent to eradicate all people from the earth, except for the family of Noah. Of course, the flood narrative itself is often regarded as mythological, but this preparatory section, where we read of the intermarriage of “the sons of God” and “the daughters of man,” is seen as blatant myth.
The assumption in this interpretation of Genesis 6 is that “the sons of God” refers to angelic beings. Why do some biblical interpreters make this assumption? The simple answer is that the Scriptures sometimes refer to angels as sons of God, and it is assumed that the reference in Genesis 6 means the same. This is certainly a possible inference that could be drawn, but is it a necessary inference? I would answer no; I do not believe this text necessarily teaches the idea of sexual relations between angels and human beings.
To understand this difficult passage, we have to look at the broader application of the phrase “sons of God.” Pre-eminently, it is used for Jesus Himself; He is the Son of God. As noted, it is sometimes used to refer to angels (Job 1:6; 21:1; Ps. 29:1). Also, it is sometimes used to speak of followers of Christ (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26). So, the concept of divine sonship in the Scriptures is not always linked to a biological or ontological relationship (relationship of being). Rather, it is chiefly used to set forth a relationship of obedience. This means Genesis 6 could simply be speaking about the intermarriage of those who manifested a pattern of obedience to God in their lives and those who were pagans in their orientation. In other words, this text likely describes marriages between believers and unbelievers.
The immediate context of Genesis 6 supports this conclusion. Following the narrative of the fall in Genesis 3, the Bible traces the lines of two families, the descendents of Cain and of Seth. Cain’s line is recounted in Genesis 4, and this line displays proliferating wickedness, capped by Lamech, who was the first polygamist (v. 19) and who rejoiced in murderous, vengeful use of the sword (vv. 23–24). By contrast, the line of Seth, which is traced in Genesis 5, displays righteousness. This line includes Enoch, who “walked with God, and … was not, for God took him” (v. 24). In the line of Seth was born Noah, who was “a righteous man, blameless in his generation” (6:9). Thus, we see two lines, one obeying God and the other willfully disobeying Him.
Therefore, many Hebrew scholars believe that Genesis 6 is describing not the intermarriage of angels and human women but the intermarriage of the descendents of Cain and Seth. The two lines, one godly and one wicked, come together, and suddenly everyone is caught up in the pursuit of evil, such that “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (v. 5). We do not need to surmise an invasion of the earth by angels in order to make sense of this chapter.
Resolving the interpretive difficulties of Genesis 6 reminds us to be very careful about drawing inferences from Scripture that are not necessarily warranted. The descriptive terms “sons of God” and “daughters of man” do not give us license to make the assumption of interaction between heavenly beings and earthly beings. We have to be very careful when we look at a difficult text like this to see how the language is used in the broader context of Scripture. It is a very important principle that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture.
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
The Gates of Hell
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/01/2013
As a Presbyterian, I’m not terribly comfortable with the language of spiritual warfare. I’m not given to subtle premonitions, nor do I have an internal “powers and principalities” alert system. But I’m also not spiritually blind. So, despite my austerity and native skepticism, there was no denying what I was feeling as I stood on the sidewalk outside one of Orlando’s abortion mills. Though the sun was shining, it was a dark place. Though the weather was balmy, there was a definite chill. It wasn’t ordinary humidity that slowed my steps, but an invisible, gloomy cloud that carried the acrid odor of blood. Were I a less uptight man, I might have seen demons dancing on the roof. I had come to the gates of hell.
Jesus, we all remember, made an astonishing promise to His disciples. After Peter boldly affirmed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus replied, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). I did not come to the gates of hell merely to experience their horror. I did not come merely to make some sort of political statement. I did not come merely to support the pro-life movement. I came to see the power of the gospel at work.
There on the sidewalk, I got on my knees and prayed. I repented first. I confessed my selfishness, the callousness of my heart. I confessed that whole hours, indeed whole days, go by when I do not even think of the suffering of His littlest image-bearers. I repented for my country. I confessed that we corporately stand before Him more guilty than even Nazi Germany. The numbers killed in the American holocaust, fifty million and counting, ( This is April 2013, and today. ) dwarf the numbers killed in the German Holocaust. And we, all of us, know it is going on. Forty years later, and it is business as usual.
Finally, I repented for the church. We who have been rescued from the darkness, we who were dead but have been made alive, we who carry within us the Holy Spirit of God, are so often numb, indifferent, distant, and uncaring.
We might vote for the less pro-abortion candidate every four years. We might collect diapers or dollars for our local crisis pregnancy centers. These, of course, are good things. But they are not all that the true religion of Scripture requires of us in regards to legalized abortion on demand in the United States and throughout the world.
James tells us that true religion consists in visiting the widow and the orphan in their trouble, and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. We can’t even do the last, as statistics suggest that one in every six, or more than 200,000 of the mothers who commit the dark art of in-utero infanticide every year, are professing evangelical Christians, members in good standing at our churches. More evangelicals today will visit abortion mills as clients than as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
Is there ever a more vulnerable widow than the woman whose husband/ father/ boyfriend fails to protect her, but instead brings her to the gates of hell? Is there ever a more vulnerable orphan than a baby whose mother and father are alive and well, but seeking to commit murder? In short, your local abortion mill is not only among the most potent manifestations of the gates of hell in the world today, but it is also the very locus of where we can, and must, practice true religion. It is exactly where the church must be, if it would be the church.
I don’t go, however, only to repent. I visit our local abortion mills because I rejoice and delight to see the power of the gospel at work in those places.
If we want to see the Holy Spirit move in power, we have to go to the front lines. Where we are safe, the power is muted. Where the stakes are highest, that’s where He moves. No one is closer to understanding her own depravity than a mom about to murder her own baby. I go to watch the demons move from dancing to mourning, because the Word has come with power. I go to see moms move from weeping in their guilt to weeping in their forgiveness. I go to see babies move from flailing for their lives to jumping for joy.
But there is still more. I go to have my own heart melted. I go so that I will come home a little less stuffy, a little less crusty, a little less safe. I come home changed.
The church needs a broken heart, a contrite spirit. That is why the church needs to be at every mill, every day, repenting and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
That is why you need to go. You don’t need a program; you already have one — “Go into all the world.” You don’t need a leader; you already have one — Jesus the Christ. You don’t need a calling; you already have one — take up your cross and follow Him. You don’t need a message; you already have one — “Repent and believe.”
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Continual Burnt Offering (Romans 7:18)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
September 16Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. ESV
Every one of us is by nature worse than anything he has ever done. The natural heart is a den of every kind of evil (Matthew 15:19). The flesh is incorrigibly corrupt and can never be improved (Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 8:7). It is all-important that this be recognized and judged in the presence of God. When thus dealt with, we cease to look for good in ourselves, and realize that it is from the new heart (Ezekiel 36:26; Matthew 12:35), given in regeneration, that all good must come. Then we shall find that, as we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Our boast will then be only in the Lord (Psalm 34:2), for we shall realize that all is grace (Ephesians 2:8) from first to last.
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
Galatians 5:19–21 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Matthew 12:35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.
Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Psalm 34:2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Less, less of self each day,
And more, my God of Thee;
Oh, keep me in Thy way
However rough it be.
Less of the flesh each day.
Less of the world and sin;
More of Thy love, I pray,
More of Thyself within.
Riper and riper now,
Each hour let me become;
Less fond of things below,
More fit for such a home.
More moulded to Thy will,
Lord, let Thy servant be;
Higher and higher still,
Nearer and nearer Thee.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Become A Good Thinker
(Sept 16) Bob Gass
(Pr 23:7) 7 for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. ESV
With practice, you can become a good thinker. Observe two things: 1) Good thinkers have foresight. ‘The plans of the diligent lead to profit’ (Proverbs 21:5 NIV 2011 Edition). The word diligent means ‘to work, study, and plan’. You don’t stumble into success and figure it out afterwards. Whether you’re in business or ministry, your level of success will increase dramatically if you place a high value on good thinking. Novelist Victor Hugo wrote, ‘A small man is made up of small thoughts.’ People who don’t practise good thinking usually find themselves at the mercy of circumstances - or other people’s thoughts. Unable to solve problems, they find themselves facing the same obstacles over and over. And because they don’t think ahead they’re habitually in reaction mode. An old German proverb says, ‘Better an empty purse than an empty head.’ Good thinkers overcome difficulties, including lack of resources, that often leave poor thinkers at the mercy of good thinkers. In As a Man Thinketh, James Allen says, ‘All that a man achieves or fails to achieve, is a direct result of his thoughts.’ Do you believe that? If you do, you’ll place a high value on good thinking and make it a priority in your life. 2) Good thinkers look for the best, not the worst. They live by this scriptural principle: ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things’ (Philippians 4:8 NIV 2011 Edition).
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
September 16, 1620, using the Gregorian Calendar, one hundred and two Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower. The two-month journey was beset with storms. At one point the beam under the main mast cracked, being propped back in place using the screw of a printer’s press. One youth was rescued after being swept overboard by a freezing wave. A boy died, and a mother gave birth. Intending to land in Virginia, they were blown off-course. In that first bitter winter half died. Governor Bradford wrote: “Last and not least, they cherished a[n]… inward zeal… for the… advance of the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us,
and one should not even attempt to do so.
One must simply hold out and endure it.
At first that sounds very hard,
but at the same time it is also a great comfort.
For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled
one remains connected to the other person through it.
It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness.
God in no way fills it
but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve --
even in pain --
the authentic relationship.
the more beautiful and full the remembrances,
the more difficult the separation.
But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy.
One bears what was lovely in the past
not as a thorn
but as a precious gift deep within,
a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Spiritual [trans]formation is the continuing response (our responsibility to respond) to the reality of God’s grace shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith for the sake of the world.
--- Jeffrey Greenman, May 2006
The most important task of teaching is to teach what it means to know.
--- Simone Veil (The last night of her life)
You never know what depths of sin and wickedness of hell are in your nature till you turn and start to walk the path that leads to God and Christ, the path that is paved with righteousness and truth, but bordered with grinning fiends and smiling serpents who stretch out hands to help the traitor in your soul,
--- I. M. Haldeman
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. So upon the exhortations of Mucianus, and the other commanders, that he would accept of the empire, and upon that of the rest of the army, who cried out that they were willing to be led against all his opposers, he was in the first place intent upon gaining the dominion over Alexandria, as knowing that Egypt was of the greatest consequence, in order to obtain the entire government, because of its supplying of corn [to Rome]; which corn, if he could be master of, he hoped to dethrone Vitellius, supposing he should aim to keep the empire by force [for he would not be able to support himself, if the multitude at Rome should once be in want of food]; and because he was desirous to join the two legions that were at Alexandria to the other legions that were with him. He also considered with himself, that he should then have that country for a defense to himself against the uncertainty of fortune; for Egypt 23is hard to be entered by land, and hath no good havens by sea. It hath on the west the dry deserts of Libya; and on the south Siene, that divides it from Ethiopia, as well as the cataracts of the Nile, that cannot be sailed over; and on the east the Red Sea extended as far as Coptus; and it is fortified on the north by the land that reaches to Syria, together with that called the Egyptian Sea, having no havens in it for ships. And thus is Egypt walled about on every side. Its length between Pelusium and Siene is two thousand furlongs, and the passage by sea from Plinthine to Pelusium is three thousand six hundred furlongs. Its river Nile is navigable as far as the city called Elephantine, the forenamed cataracts hindering ships from going any farther, The haven also of Alexandria is not entered by the mariners without difficulty, even in times of peace; for the passage inward is narrow, and full of rocks that lie under the water, which oblige the mariners to turn from a straight direction: its left side is blocked up by works made by men's hands on both sides; on its right side lies the island called Pharus, which is situated just before the entrance, and supports a very great tower, that affords the sight of a fire to such as sail within three hundred furlongs of it, that ships may cast anchor a great way off in the night time, by reason of the difficulty of sailing nearer. About this island are built very great piers, the handiwork of men, against which, when the sea dashes itself, and its waves are broken against those boundaries, the navigation becomes very troublesome, and the entrance through so narrow a passage is rendered dangerous; yet is the haven itself, when you are got into it, a very safe one, and of thirty furlongs in largeness; into which is brought what the country wants in order to its happiness, as also what abundance the country affords more than it wants itself is hence distributed into all the habitable earth.
6. Justly, therefore, did Vespasian desire to obtain that government, in order to corroborate his attempts upon the whole empire; so he immediately sent to Tiberius Alexander, who was then governor of Egypt and of Alexandria, and informed him what the army had put upon him, and how he, being forced to accept of the burden of the government, was desirous to have him for his confederate and supporter. Now as soon as ever Alexander had read this letter, he readily obliged the legions and the multitude to take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian, both which willingly complied with him, as already acquainted with the courage of the man, from that his conduct in their neighborhood. Accordingly Vespasian, looking upon himself as already intrusted with the government, got all things ready for his journey [to Rome]. Now fame carried this news abroad more suddenly than one could have thought, that he was emperor over the east, upon which every city kept festivals, and celebrated sacrifices and oblations for such good news; the legions also that were in Mysia and Pannonia, who had been in commotion a little before, on account of this insolent attempt of Vitellius, were very glad to take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian, upon his coming to the empire. Vespasian then removed from Cesarea to Berytus, where many embassages came to him from Syria, and many from other provinces, bringing with them from every city crowns, and the congratulations of the people. Mucianus came also, who was the president of the province, and told him with what alacrity the people [received the news of his advancement], and how the people of every city had taken the oath of fidelity to him.
7. So Vespasian's good fortune succeeded to his wishes every where, and the public affairs were, for the greatest part, already in his hands; upon which he considered that he had not arrived at the government without Divine Providence, but that a righteous kind of fate had brought the empire under his power; for as he called to mind the other signals, which had been a great many every where, that foretold he should obtain the government, so did he remember what Josephus had said to him when he ventured to foretell his coming to the empire while Nero was alive; so he was much concerned that this man was still in bonds with him. He then called for Mucianus, together with his other commanders and friends, and, in the first place, he informed them what a valiant man Josephus had been, and what great hardships he had made him undergo in the siege of Jotapata. After that he related those predictions of his 24 which he had then suspected as fictions, suggested out of the fear he was in, but which had by time been demonstrated to be Divine. "It is a shameful thing [said he] that this man, who hath foretold my coming to the empire beforehand, and been the minister of a Divine message to me, should still be retained in the condition of a captive or prisoner." So he called for Josephus, and commanded that he should be set at liberty; whereupon the commanders promised themselves glorious things, froth this requital Vespasian made to a stranger. Titus was then present with his father, and said, "O father, it is but just that the scandal [of a prisoner] should be taken off Josephus, together with his iron chain. For if we do not barely loose his bonds, but cut them to pieces, he will be like a man that had never been bound at all." For that is the usual method as to such as have been bound without a cause. This advice was agreed to by Vespasian also; so there came a man in, and cut the chain to pieces; while Josephus received this testimony of his integrity for a reward, and was moreover esteemed a person of credit as to futurities also.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
and the vineyard of the man lacking sense.
31 There it was, overgrown with thistles;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 I looked, and I thought about it;
I saw, and I learned this lesson:
33 “I’ll just lie here a bit, rest a little longer,
just fold my hands for a little more sleep”—
34 and poverty comes marching in on you,
scarcity hits you like an invading soldier.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
--- Isaiah 11:1.
Jesse’s roots, composted with carcasses
Of dove and lamb,
parchments of ox and goat,
Centuries of dried up prayers and bloody
Sacrifice, now bear me Gospel fruit.
David’s branch, fed on kosher soil,
Blossoms a messianic flower, and then
Ripens into a kingdom crop, conserving
The fragrance and warmth of spring
for winter use.
Holy Spirit, shake our family tree;
Release your ripened fruit
to our outstretched arms.
I’d like to see my children sink their teeth
Into promised land pomegranates
And Canaan grapes, bushel gifts of God,
While I skip a grace rope to a Christ tune.
The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light:
Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
--- Isaiah 9:2.
and oilless lamps abandoned
By foolish virgins too much in a hurry to wait
And tend the light are clues
to the failed watch,
The missed arrival,
the midnight might-have-been.
Wick and beeswax make a guttering protest,
Fragile, defiant flame against demonic
Terrors that gust, invisible and nameless,
Out of galactic ungodded emptiness.
Then deep in the blackness
fires nursed by wise
Believers surprise with shining
all groping derelicts
Bruised and stumbling in a world benighted.
The sudden blazing backlights
each head with a nimbus.
Shafts of storm-filtered sun
search and destroy
The Stygian desolation:
I see. I see.
The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The divine region of religion
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret. -- Matthew 6:6.
The main idea in the region of religion is—Your eyes upon God, not on men. Do not have as your motive the desire to be known as a praying man. Get an inner chamber in which to pray where no one knows you are praying, shut the door and talk to God in secret. Have no other motive than to know your Father in heaven. It is impossible to conduct your life as a disciple without definite times of secret prayer:
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions.…” (Matthew 6:7). God is never impressed by our earnestness. He does not hear us because we are in earnest, but only on the ground of Redemption. Prayer is not simply getting things from God, that is an initial form of prayer; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God. If the Son of God is formed in us by regeneration, He will press forward in front of our common sense and change our attitude to the things about which we pray.
“Everyone that asketh receiveth.” We pray pious blether, our will is not in it, and then we say God does not answer; we never asked for anything. “Ye shall ask what ye will,” said Jesus. Asking means our will is in it. Whenever Jesus talked about prayer, He put it with the grand simplicity of a child; we bring in our critical temper and say—‘Yes, but …’ Jesus said—“Ask.” But remember that we have to ask of God things that are in keeping with the God Whom Jesus Christ revealed.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
It was the time of the election
The ravens loitered above the hill
In slow circles; they had all air
To themselves. No eyes were lifted
From the streets, no ears heard
Them exulting, recalling their long
History, presidents of the battles
Of flesh, the sly connoisseurs
Of carrion; desultory flags
Of darkness, saddening the sky
At Catraeth and further back,
When two, who should have been friends,
Contended in the innocent light
For the woman in her downpour of hair.
Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.
BIBLE TEXT / Numbers 31:1–6 / The Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your kin.”
Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Let men be picked out from among you for a campaign, and let them fall upon Midian to wreak the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. You shall dispatch on the campaign a thousand from every one of the tribes of Israel.”
So a thousand from each tribe were furnished from the divisions of Israel, twelve thousand picked for the campaign. Moses dispatched them on the campaign, a thousand from each tribe, with Phinehas son of Eleazar serving as a priest on the campaign.…
MIDRASH TEXT / Numbers Rabbah 22, 4 / Moses dispatched them. The Holy One, praised is He, said to Moses, Avenge—you, personally, yet he sends others! However, since he grew up in the land of Midian, he said, “It is not right that I do harm to someone who did good for me.” The proverb says, “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.”
But there are those who say that this is not the same Midian that Moses grew up in, for the Midian is near Moab, and is desolate until today.
Why did he send Phinehas? He [Moses] said, “He who began the mitzvah is the one who finishes it. He [Phinehas] is the one who turned back His wrath and killed the Midianite woman; he should finish his mitzvah.”
The Holy One, praised is He, said to Moses, “Avenge.…” The Hebrew word for “avenge” that God uses in the command to Moses is in the masculine singular, נְקֹם/nekom. The Rabbis assume therefore that God is speaking specifically to Moses and ordering him, and him alone, to conduct the campaign against the Midianites: You, personally. Had God wanted the entire Israelite nation to go to war against the enemy, the plural form of the verb would have been used, נִקְמוּ/nikmu.
But Moses is unable—or unwilling—to do this task of vengeance by himself. “It is not right that I do harm to someone who did good for me.” As a young man, Moses had killed an Egyptian taskmaster and had been forced to flee from Egypt. He took refuge in the land of Midian and married the daughter of a Midianite priest. The Rabbis imagined Moses being very uncomfortable about destroying the very people who had helped him so many years before. “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.” How appropriate that the proverb speaks about a cistern, or well, from which one drank. It was at such a spot in the wilderness that Moses first encountered his wife-to-be, the Midianite shepherd girl Zipporah.
There is, however, a dissenting opinion that questions whether the Midianites that Moses married into (Exodus 2) are the very same Midianites upon whom he is commanded to take vengeance (Numbers 31). But there are those who say that this is not the same Midian that Moses grew up in. The “first Midian,” where Moses took refuge, was not very far from Egypt. The “latter Midian,” cited in Numbers 31, is near Moab, east of the Sinai peninsula, close to the Arabian desert (in what today would be Saudi Arabia or Jordan). Contemporary historians see the Midianites as a group of seminomadic traders who traveled and camped throughout the Sinai peninsula and the Arabian desert.
We are left with the question of how a people so friendly to Moses early in his life could be so cruel to the Israelites later on. We need only remember that when the Midianites first encountered Moses, he was one man, alone. The later stories have him leading many thousands of Israelites through Midianite territory. And, of course, there were probably several tribes of Midianites, clans that were not in contact with one another.
What had the Midianites done to Israel that required such a harsh response—“Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites”? They had conspired with the Moabites to destroy the Israelites, first by engaging Balaam to curse them (Numbers 22:24), and later by trying to seduce them into the worship of their god, Baal-peor (Numbers 25). Why did he send Phinehas? Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, was the first to strike back at the Midianite threat by killing an Israelite man and a Midianite woman who were consorting in the presence of the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 25:6–8). It was for this reason, the Rabbis surmised, that Phinehas is singled out by name, as he led the final campaign of vengeance against the Midianites: “He who began the mitzvah is the one who finishes it.”
Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
--- Matthew 14:29–30.
The first thought to force itself on me is that it was Peter’s temperament that put him in this danger. (George H. Morrison, “Beginning to Sink,” in Wind on the Heath (original title: The Afterglow of God, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1994), 40–45.) He began to sink not because he was wicked—he began to sink because he was Simon Peter. The other disciples were all safe and sound. It never occurred to them to leave the vessel. They were men of wisdom and common sense and knew the difference between land and water. But Peter was reckless, headstrong, and impetuous, acting on the impulse of the moment. Peter followed the dictate of his heart and never waited for his laggard reason. In a sense, that was the glory of his character. It made him do what no one else would do. It gave him the charm of daring and enthusiasm that always fascinates.
But those very qualities, which in the hand of Christ were to go to the upbuilding of the church, sometimes brought him to the verge of ruin. It was only Peter who would begin to walk, and it was only Peter who would begin to sink. He was led into peril on these stormy waters because of what was self-forgetful in him. And it may be you have not sunk yet, but are beginning to sink because you have a temperament like that. Our perils do not always reach us through our worst. Our perils sometimes reach us through our best, through what is charming in us and delightful and self-forgetful and enthusiastic. And so, like Peter, we begin to do what the cold and calculating would never do, and then, like Peter, we begin to sink. That is why we all need to be saved not only from sin but from ourselves. That is why God, in his holy love, to save us gave us not a message but a Man. For our brightest social qualities may wreck us. A touch of genius may be our ruin. For all that is implied in that word temperament, we need the keeping of the Lord Jesus Christ.
--- George H. Morrison
Friends of Israel September 16
The reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a crowning achievement for the Zionist movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among the Zionists were many Christians, especially in Great Britain, who believed the restoration of the Jews to Palestine was part of God’s plan for the final chapters of history. Even before the end of the 1600s, at least 12 publications appeared in England advocating the return of the Jews to Palestine. Many British Christians viewed this as a mandate of biblical prophecy and linked it with the return of Christ. On September 16, 1840 Scottish minister Robert Murray McCheyne wrote to his friend in Belfast, George Shaw:
You cannot tell how much real joy your letter gave me when you tell of the dear brethren who meet with you on Monday Mornings, to read and pray concerning Israel. I feel deeply persuaded from prophecy, that it will always be difficult to stir up and maintain a warm and holy interest in outcast Israel. The lovers and pleaders of Zion’s cause will be always few. Do you not think this is hinted at in
Jeremiah 30:13: “There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up” (KJV)? And is not this one of the very reasons why God will take up their cause.
It is sweet encouragement to learn, that though the friends of Zion will probably be few, yet there always will be some who will keep watch over the dust of Jerusalem, and plead the cause of Israel with God and with man. See
Isaiah 62:6b,7: “Ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (KJV). Oh, my dear brethren, into whose hearts I trust God is pouring a scriptural love for Israel, what an honor is it for us, worms of the dust, to be made watchmen by God over the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and to be made the Lord’s remembrancers, to call His own promises to His mind, that He would fulfill them, and make Jerusalem a blessing to the whole world!
Jerusalem, on your walls I have stationed guards,
Whose duty it is to speak out day and night,
They must remind the LORD and not let him rest
Till he makes Jerusalem strong
And famous everywhere.
--- Isaiah 62:6,7.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 16
"Partakers of the divine nature." --- 2 Peter 1:4.
To be a partaker of the divine nature is not, of course, to become God. That cannot be. The essence of Deity is not to be participated in by the creature. Between the creature and the Creator there must ever be a gulf fixed in respect of essence; but as the first man Adam was made in the image of God, so we, by the renewal of the Holy Spirit, are in a yet diviner sense made in the image of the Most High, and are partakers of the divine nature. We are, by grace, made like God. “God is love”; we become love—“He that loveth is born of God.” God is truth; we become true, and we love that which is true: God is good, and he makes us good by his grace, so that we become the pure in heart who shall see God. Moreover, we become partakers of the divine nature in even a higher sense than this—in fact, in as lofty a sense as can be conceived, short of our being absolutely divine. Do we not become members of the body of the divine person of Christ? Yes, the same blood which flows in the head flows in the hand: and the same life which quickens Christ quickens his people, for “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Nay, as if this were not enough, we are married unto Christ. He hath betrothed us unto himself in righteousness and in faithfulness, and he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Oh! marvellous mystery! we look into it, but who shall understand it? One with Jesus—so one with him that the branch is not more one with the vine than we are a part of the Lord, our Saviour, and our Redeemer! While we rejoice in this, let us remember that those who are made partakers of the divine nature will manifest their high and holy relationship in their intercourse with others, and make it evident by their daily walk and conversation that they have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. O for more divine holiness of life!
Evening - September 16
“Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?” --- Job 7:12.
This was a strange question for Job to ask of the Lord. He felt himself to be too insignificant to be so strictly watched and chastened, and he hoped that he was not so unruly as to need to be so restrained. The enquiry was natural from one surrounded with such insupportable miseries, but after all, it is capable of a very humbling answer. It is true man is not the sea, but he is even more troublesome and unruly. The sea obediently respects its boundary, and though it be but a belt of sand, it does not overleap the limit. Mighty as it is, it hears the divine hitherto, and when most raging with tempest it respects the word; but self-willed man defies heaven and oppresses earth, neither is there any end to this rebellious rage. The sea, obedient to the moon, ebbs and flows with ceaseless regularity, and thus renders an active as well as a passive obedience; but man, restless beyond his sphere, sleeps within the lines of duty, indolent where he should be active. He will neither come nor go at the divine command, but sullenly prefers to do what he should not, and to leave undone that which is required of him. Every drop in the ocean, every beaded bubble, and every yeasty foam-flake, every shell and pebble, feel the power of law, and yield or move at once. O that our nature were but one thousandth part as much conformed to the will of God! We call the sea fickle and false, but how constant it is! Since our fathers’ days, and the old time before them, the sea is where it was, beating on the same cliffs to the same tune; we know where to find it, it forsakes not its bed, and changes not in its ceaseless boom; but where is man-vain, fickle man? Can the wise man guess by what folly he will next be seduced from his obedience? We need more watching than the billowy sea, and are far more rebellious. Lord, rule us for thine own glory. Amen.
HIS MATCHLESS WORTH
Samuel Medley, 1738–1799
Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. (Psalm 73:25)
The distinctiveness of the Christian faith is that it focuses all of its teachings and emphasis on a single person, Jesus Christ—the God-man. All that we really know about our heavenly Father is learned from this One who lived among us for 33 years.
Some people speak eloquently about the Fatherhood of God yet seldom extol the virtues of Christ. But without a biblical knowledge of Christ and a personal relationship with Him, our understanding of God the Father would be incomplete. The Scriptures teach that Christ was the visible representation of the invisible Godhead (John 4:9).
Samuel Medley served in the British Royal Navy until he was wounded in battle at the age of 21. While recuperating from his injury, he was converted to Christ as he was reading a sermon by Isaac Watts. Soon Medley felt the call of God to the ministry and pastored several Baptist churches, including one in Liverpool, where he was especially successful, particularly in work with young sailors.
This hymn text first appeared in Medley’s hymnal of 1789. It was originally titled “Praise of Jesus,” and it presents a rich picture of our Lord. It extols His matchless worth, unfathomable to the human mind; His redemptive work; His characters and many forms of love; His righteousness; and the fact that He will one day receive us to an eternal heavenly home.
O could I speak the matchless worth, O could I sound the glories forth which in my Savior shine, I’d soar and touch the heav’nly strings, and vie with Gabriel while he sings in notes almost divine, in notes almost divine.
I’d sing the precious blood He spilt, my ransom from the dreadful guilt of sin and wrath divine! I’d sing His glorious righteousness, in which all perfect heav’nly dress my soul shall ever shine, my soul shall ever shine.
I’d sing the characters He bears, and all the forms of love He wears, exalted on His throne: In loftiest songs of sweetest praise, I would to everlasting days make all His glories known, make all His glories known.
Well, the delightful day will come when my dear Lord will bring me home and I shall see His face; then with my Savior, Brother, Friend, a blest eternity I’ll spend, triumphant in His grace, triumphant in His grace.
For Today: Psalm 73:21–28; Matthew 14:33; 27:54; 28:18; Philippians 2:9–11
Spend a few moments delighting yourself in Christ alone. Then sing as you go ---
DISCOURSE V - ON THE ETERNITY OF GOD
Use 3. For exhortation. 1. To something which concerns us in ourselves; 2. To something which concerns us with respect to God.
1. To something which concerns us in ourselves.
(1.) Let us be deeply affected with our sins long since committed. Though they are past with us, they are, in regard of God’s eternity, present with him; there is no succession in eternity, as there is in time. All things are before God at once; our sins are before him, as if committed this moment, though committed long ago. As he is what he is in regard of duration, so he knows what he knows in regard of knowledge.
As he is not more than he was, nor shall not be any more than he is, so he always knew what he knows, and shall not cease to know what he now knows. As himself, so his knowledge, is one indivisible point of eternity. He knows nothing but what he did know from eternity; he shall know no more for the future than he now knows. Our sins being present with him in his eternity, should be present with us in our regard of remembrance of them, and sorrow for them.
What though many years are lapsed, much time run out, and our iniquities almost blotted out of our memory; yet since a thousand years are, in God’s sight, and in regard of his eternity, but as a day — “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday, when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4) — they are before him. For suppose a man were as old as the world, above five thousand six hundred years; the sins committed five thousand years ago, are, according to that rule, but as if they were committed five days ago; so that sixty-two years are but as an hour and a half; and the sins committed forty years since as if they were committed but this present hour. But if we will go further, and consider them but as a watch of the night, about three hours (for the night, consisting of twelve hours, was divided into set watches), then a thousand years are but as three hours in the sight of God; and then sins committed sixty years ago are but as if they were committed within this five minutes. Let none of us set light by the iniquities committed many years ago, and imagine that length of time can wipe out their guilt. No: let us consider them in relation to God’s eternity, and excite an inward remorse, as if they had been but the birth of this moment.
(2.) Let the consideration of God’s eternity abate our pride. This is the design of the verses following the text: the eternity of God being so sufficient to make us understand our own nothingness, which ought to be one great end of man, especially as fallen. The eternity of God should make us as much disesteem ourselves, as the excellency of God made Job abhor himself (Job 42:5, 6. His excellency should humble us under a sense of our vanity, and his eternity under a sense of the shortness of our duration. If man compares himself with other creatures, he may be too sensible of his greatness; but if he compares himself with God, he cannot but be sensible of his baseness.
1st. In regard of our impotence to comprehend this eternity of God. How little do we know, how little can we know, of God’s eternity! We cannot fully conceive it, much less express it; we have but a brutish understanding in all those things, as Agur said of himself (Prov. 3:7). What is infinite and eternal, cannot be comprehended by finite and temporary creatures; if it could, it would not be infinite and eternal; for to know a thing, is to know the extent and cause of it. It is repugnant to eternity to be known, because it hath no limits, no causes; the most soaring understanding cannot have a proportionable understanding of it. What disproportion is there between a drop of water and the sea in their greatness and motion; yet by a drop we may arrive to a knowledge of the nature of the sea, which is a mass of drops joined together; but the longest duration of times cannot make us know what eternity is, because there is no proportion between time and eternity. The years of God are as numberless as his thoughts (Psalm 40:5), and our minds as far from reckoning the one as the other. If our understandings are too gross to comprehend the majesty of his infinite works, they are much more too sort to comprehend the infiniteness of his eternity.
2d. In regard of the vast disproportion of our duration to this duration of God.
[1.] We have more of nothing than being. We were nothing from an unbegun eternity, and we might have been nothing to an endless eternity, had not God called us into being; and if he please we may be nothing by as short an annihilating word, as we were something by a creating word. As it is the prerogative of God to be, “I am that I am;” so it is the property of a creature to be, “I am not what I am;” I am not by myself what I am, but by the indulgence of another. I was nothing formerly; I may be nothing again, unless he that is “I Am” make me to subsist what I now am. Nothing is as much the title of the creature as being is the title of God. Nothing is so holy as God, because nothing hath being as God: “There is none holy as the Lord, for there is none besides thee” (1 Sam. 2:2). Man’s life is an image, a dream, which are next to nothing; and if compared with God, worse than nothing; a nullity as well as a vanity, because “with God only is the fountain of life” (Psalm 36:9). The creature is but a drop of life from him, dependent on him: a drop of water is a nothing if compared with the vast conflux of waters and numberless drops in the ocean. How unworthy is it for dust and ashes, kneaded together in time, to strut against the Father of eternity! Much more unworthy for that which is nothing, worse than nothing, to quarrel with that which is only being, and equal himself with Him that inhabits eternity.
[2.] What being we have had a beginning. After an unaccountable eternity was run out, in the very dregs of time, a few years ago we were created, and made of the basest and vilest dross of the world, the slime and dust of the earth; made of that wherewith birds build their nests; made of that which creeping things make their habitation, and beasts trample upon. How monstrous is pride in such a creature, to aspire, as if he were the Father of eternity, and as eternal as God, and so his own eternity!
[3.] What being we have is but of a short duration in regard of our life in this world. Our life is in a constant change and flux; we remain not the same an entire day; youth quickly succeeds childhood, and age as speedily treads upon the heels of youth; there is a continual defluxion of minutes, as there is of sands in a glass. He is as a watch wound up at the beginning of his life, and from that time is running down, till he comes to the bottom; some part of our lives is cut off every day, every minute. Life is but a moment: what is past cannot be recalled, what is future cannot be ensured. If we enjoy this moment, we have lost that which is past, and shall presently lose this by the next that is to come. The short duration of men is set out in Scripture by such creatures as soon disappear: a worm (Job 25:6), that can scarce outlive a winter; grass, that withers by the summer sun. Life is a “flower,” soon withering (Job 14:2); a “vapor,” soon vanishing (James 4:14); a “smoke,” soon disappearing (Psalm 102:3). The strongest man is but compacted dust; the fabric must moulder; the highest mountain falls and comes to naught.
Time gives place to eternity; we live now, and die tomorrow. Not a man since the world began ever lived a day in God’s sight; for no man ever lived a thousand years. The longest day of any man’s life never amounted to twenty-four hours in the account of divine eternity: a life of so many hundred years, with the addition “he died,” makes up the greatest part of the history of the patriarchs (Gen. 5.); and since the life of man hath been curtailed, if any be in the world eighty years, he scarce properly lives sixty of them, since the fourth part of time is at least consumed in sleep. A greater difference there is between the duration of God and that of a creature, than between the life of one for a minute, and the life of one that should live as many years as the whole globe of heaven and earth, if changed into papers, could contain figures. And this life, though but of a short duration according to the period God hath determined, is easily cut off; the treasure of life is deposited in a brittle vessel. A small stone hitting against Nebuchadnezzar’s statue will tumble it down into a poor and nasty grave; a grape-stone, the bone of a fish, a small fly in the throat, a moist damp, are enough to destroy an earthly eternity, and reduce it to nothing. What a nothing, then, is our shortness, if compared with God’s eternity; our frailty, with God’s duration! How humble, then, should perishing creatures be before an eternal God, with whom “our days are as a hand’s breadth, and our age as nothing!” (Psalm 39:5.) The angels, that have been of as long a duration as heaven and earth, tremble before him; the heavens melt at his presence; and shall we, that are but of yesterday, approach a divine eternity with unhumbled souls, and offer the calves of our lips with the pride of devils, and stand upon our terms with him, without falling upon our faces, with a sense that we are but dust and ashes, and creatures of time? How easy is it to reason out man’s humility! but how hard is it to reason man into it!
(3.) Let the consideration of God’s eternity take off our love and confidence from the world, and the things thereof. The eternity of God reproaches a pursuit of the world, as preferring a momentary pleasure before an everlasting God; as though a temporal world could be a better supply than a God whose years never fail. Alas! what is this earth men are so greedy of, and will get, though by blood and sweat? What is this whole earth, if we had the entire possession of it, if compared with the vast heavens, the seat of angels and blessed spirits? It is but as an atom to the greatest mountain, or as a drop of dew to the immense ocean. How foolish is it to prefer a drop before the sea, or an atom before the world! The earth is but a point to the sun; the sun with its whole orb, but a little part of the heavens if compared with the whole fabric. If a man had the possession of all those, there could be no comparison between those that have had a beginning, and shall have an end, and God who is without either of them. Y et how many are there that make nothing of the divine eternity, and imagine an eternity of nothing!
[1.] The world hath been but of a short standing. It is not yet six thousand years since the foundations of it were laid, and therefore it cannot have a boundless excellency, as that God, who hath been from everlasting, Both possess. If Adam had lived to this day, and been as absolute lord of his posterity, as he was of the other creatures, had it been a competent object to take up his heart? had he not been a madman, to have preferred this little created pleasure before an everlasting uncreated God? a thing that had a dependent beginning, before that which had an independent eternity?
[2.] The beauties of the world are transitory and perishing. The whole world is nothing else but a fluid thing; the fashion of it is a pageantry, “passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31): though the glories of it might be conceived greater than they are, yet they are not consistent, but transient; there cannot be an entire enjoyment of them, because they grow up and expire every moment, and slip away between our fingers while we are using them. Have we not heard of God’s dispersing the greatest empires like “chaff before a whirlwind,” or as “smoke out of a chimney” (Hos. 13:3), which, though it appears as a compacted cloud, as if it would choke the sun, is quickly scattered into several parts of the air, and becomes invisible?
Nettles have often been heirs to stately palaces, as God threatens Israel (Hos. 9:6). We cannot promise ourselves over night anything the next day. A kingdom with the glory of a throne may be cut off in a morning (Hos. 10:15). The new wine may be taken from the mouth when the vintage is ripe; the devouring locust may snatch away both the hopes of that and the harvest (Joel 1:15); they are, therefore, things which are not, and nothing cannot be a fit object for confidence or affection; “Wilt thou set thy eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves whigs” (Prov. 23:5). They are not properly beings, because they are not stable, but flitting. They are not, because they may not be the next moment to us what they are this: they are but cisterns, not springs, and broken cisterns, not sound and stable; no solidity in their substance, nor stability in their duration. What a foolish thing is it then, to prefer a transient felicity, a mere nullity, before an eternal God! What a senseless thing would it be in a man to prefer the map of a kingdom, which the band of a child can tear in pieces, before the kingdom shadowed by it! How much more inexcusable is it to value things, that are so far from being eternal, that they are not so much as dusky resemblances of an eternity. Were the things of the world more glorious than they are, yet they are but as a counterfeit sun in a cloud, which comes short of the true sun in the heavens, both in glory and duration; and to esteem them before God, is inconceivably baser, than if a man should value a party-colored bubble in the air, before a durable rock of diamonds. The comforts of this world are as candles, that will end in a snuff; whereas the felicity that flows from an eternal God, is like the sun, that shines more and more to a perfect day.
[3.] They cannot therefore be fit for a soul, which was made to have an interest in God’s eternity. The soul being of a perpetual nature, was made for the fruition of an eternal good; without such a good it can never be perfect. Perfection, that noble thing, riseth not from anything in this world, nor is a title due to a soul while in this world; it is then they are said to be made perfect, when they arrive at that entire conjunction with the eternal God in another life (Heb. 7:23). The soul cannot be ennobled by an acquaintance with these things, or established by a dependence on them; they cannot confer what a rational nature should desire, or supply it with what it wants. The soul hath a resemblance to God in a post-eternity; why should it be drawn aside by the blandishments of earthly things, to neglect its true establishment, and lackey after the body, which is but the shadow of the soul, and was made to follow it and serve it? But while it busieth itself altogether in the concerns of a perishing body, and seeks satisfaction in things that glide away, it becomes rather a body than soul, descends below its nature, reproacheth that God who hath imprinted upon it an image of his own eternity, and loseth the comfort of the everlastingness of its Creator. How shall the whole world, if our lives were as durable as that, be a happy eternity to us, who have souls that shall survive all the delights of it, which must fry in those flames that shall fire the whole frame of nature at the general conflagration of the world? (2 Pet. 3:10.)
[4.] Therefore let us provide for a happy interest in the eternity of God. Man is made for an eternal state. The soul hath such a perfection in its nature, that it is fit for eternity, and cannot display all its operations but in eternity. To an eternity it must go, and live as long as God himself lives. Things of a short duration are not proportioned to a soul made for an eternal continuance; to see that it be a comfortable eternity, is worth all our care. Man is a forecasting creature, and considers not only the present, but the future too, in his provisions for his family; and shall he disgrace his nature in casting off all consideration of a future eternity? Get possession, therefore, of the eternal God. “A portion in this life” is the lot of those who shall be forever miserable (Psalm 17:14). But God, “an everlasting portion,” is the lot of them that are designed for happiness. “God is my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). “Time is short.” (1 Cor. 7:29) The whole time for which God designed this building of the world, is of a little compass; it is a stage erected for rational creatures to act their parts upon for a few thousand years; the greatest part of which time is run out; and then shall time, like a rivulet, fall into the sea of eternity, from whence it sprung. As time is but a slip of eternity, so it will end in eternity; our advantages consist in the present instant; what is past never promised a return, and cannot be fetched back by all our vows. What is future, we cannot promise ourselves to enjoy; we may be snatched away before it comes. Every minute that passeth, speaks the fewer remaining, till the time of death; and as we are every hour further from our beginning, we are nearer our end. The child born this day grows up, to grow nothing at last. In all ages there is “but a step between us and death,” as David said of himself (1 Sam. 20:3). The little time that remains for the devil till the day of judgment, envenoms his wrath; he rageth, because “his time is short” (Rev. 12:12). The little time that remains between this moment and our death, should quicken our diligence to inherit the endless and unchangeable eternity of God.
[5.] Often meditate on the eternity of God. The holiness, power, and eternity of God, are the fundamental articles of all religion, upon which the whole body of it leans; his holiness for conformity to him, his power and eternity for the support of faith and hope. The strong and incessant cries of the four Casts, representing that christian church, are “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). Though his power is intimated, yet the chiefest are his holiness, three times expressed; and his eternity which is repeated, “who lives forever and ever” (ver. 9). This ought to be the constant practice in the church of the Gentiles, which this book chiefly respects; the meditation of his converting grace manifested to Paul, ravished the apostle’s heart; but not without the triumphant consideration of his immortality and eternity, which are the principal parts of the doxology: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal., invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:15, 17). It could be no great transport to the spirit, to consider him glorious without considering him immortal. The unconfinedness of his perfections in regard of time, presents the soul with matter of the greatest complacency. The happiness of our souls depends upon his other attributes, but the perpetuity of it upon his eternity. Is it a comfort to view his immense wisdom; his overflowing goodness; his tender mercy; his unerring truth? What comfort were there in any of those, if it were a wisdom that could be baffled; a goodness that could be damped; a mercy that can expire; and a truth that can perish with the subject of it? Without eternity, what were all his other perfections, but as glorious, yet withering flowers; a great, but a decaying beauty? By a frequent meditation of God’s eternity, we should become more sensible of our own vanity and the world’s triflingness; how nothing should ourselves; how nothing would all other things appear in our eyes! how coldly should we desire them! how feebly should we place any trust in them! Should we not think ourselves worthy of contempt to dote upon a perishing glory, to expect support from an arm of flesh, when there is an eternal beauty. to ravish us, an eternal arm to protect us? Asaph, when he considered God “a portion forever,” thought nothing of the glories of the earth, or the beauties of the created heavens, worth his appetite or complacency, but “God” (Psalm 73:25, 26). Besides, an elevated frame of heart at the consideration of God’s eternity, would batter down the strongholds and engines of any temptation: a slight temptation will not know where to find and catch hold of a soul high and hid in a meditation of it; and if it doth, there will not be wanting from hence preservatives to resist and conquer it. What transitory pleasures will not the thoughts of God’s eternity stifle? When this work busieth a soul, it is too great to suffer it to descend, to listen to a sleeveless errand from hell or the world. The wanton allurements of the flesh will be put off with indignation. The proffers of the world will be ridiculous when they are cast into the balance with the eternity of God, which sticking in our thoughts, we shall not be so easy a prey for the fowler’s gin. Let us, therefore, often meditate upon this, but not in a bare speculation, without engaging our affections, and making every notion of the divine eternity end in a suitable impression upon our hearts. This would be much like the disciples gazing upon the heavens at the ascension of their Master, while they forgot the practice of his orders (Acts 1:11). We may else find something of the nature of God, and lose ourselves, not only in eternity, but to eternity.
2. And hence the second part of the exhortation is, to something which concerns us with a respect to God.
(1.) If God be eternal, how worthy is he of our choicest affections, and strongest desires of communion with him! Is not everything to be valued according to the greatness of its being! How, then, should we love him, who is not only lovely in his nature, but eternally lovely; having from everlasting all those perfections centered in himself, which appear in time! If everything be lovely, by how much more it partakes of the nature of God, who is the chief good; how much more infinitely lovely is God, who is superior to all other goods, and eternally so! Not a God of a few minutes, months, years, or millions of years; not of the dregs of time or the top of time, but of eternity; above time, inconceivably immense beyond time. The loving him infinitely, perpetually, is an act of homage due to him for his eternal excellency; we may give him the one, since our souls are immortal, though we cannot the other, because they are finite. Since he incloseth in himself all the excellencies of heaven and earth forever, he should have an affection, not only of time in this world, but of eternity in future; and if we did not owe him a love for what we are by him, we owe him a love for what he is in himself; and more for what he is, than for what he is to us. He is more worthy of our affections because he is the eternal God, than because he is our Creator; because he is more excellent in his nature, than in his transient actions; the beams of his goodness to us, are to direct our thoughts and affections to him; but his own eternal excellency ought to be the ground and foundation of our affections to him. And truly, since nothing but God is eternal, nothing but God is worth the loving; and we do but a just right to our love, to pitch it upon that which can always possess us and be possessed by us; upon an object that cannot deceive our affection, and put it out of countenance by a dissolution. And if our happiness consists in being like to God, we should imitate him in loving him as he loves himself, and as long as he loves himself; God cannot do more to himself than love himself; he can make no addition to his essence, nor diminution from it. What should we do less to an eternal Being, than to bestow affections upon him, like his own to himself; since we can find nothing so durable as himself, for which we should love it?
(2.) He only is worthy of our best service. The Ancient of Days is to be serve before all that are younger than himself; our best obedience is due to him as a God of unconfined excellency; everything that is excellent deserves a veneration suitable to its excellency. As God is infinite, he hath right to a boundless service; as he is eternal, he hath right to a perpetual service: as service is a debt of justice upon the account of the excellency of his nature, so a perpetual service is as much a debt of justice upon the account of his eternity. If God be infinite and eternal, he merits an honor and comportment from his creatures, suited to the unlimited perfection of his nature, and the duration of his being. How worthy is the Psalmist’s resolution! “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have any being” (Psalm 104:33). It is the use he makes of the endless duration of the glory of God; and will extend to all other service as well as praise. To serve other things, or to serve ourselves, is too vast a service upon that which is nothing. In devoting ourselves to God, we serve him that is, that was, so as that he never began; is to come, so as that he never shall end; by whom all things are what they are; who hath both eternal knowledge to remember our service, and eternal goodness to reward it.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Sect. CLXI – AGAIN, the Baptist saith, “A man can receive nothing, except it were given him from above.” (John iii. 27).
Let not the Diatribe here produce its forces, where it enumerates all those things which we have from heaven. We are now disputing, not about nature, but about grace: we are inquiring, not what we are upon earth, but what we are in heaven before God. We know that man was constituted lord over those things which are beneath himself; over which, he has a right and a Free-will, that those things might do, and obey as he wills and thinks. But we are now inquiring whether he has a “Free-will” over God, that He should do and obey in those things which man wills: or rather, whether God has not a Free-will over man, that he should will and do what God wills, and should be able to do nothing but what He wills and does. The Baptist here says, that he “can receive nothing, except it be given him from above.” — Wherefore, “Free-will” must be a nothing at all!
Again, “He that is of the earth, is earthly and speaketh of the earth, He that cometh from heaven is above all.” (John iii. 31).
Here again, he makes all those earthly, who are not of Christ, and says that they savour and speak of earthly things only, nor does he leave any medium characters. But surely, “Free-will” is not “He that cometh from heaven.” Wherefore it must of necessity, be “he that is of the earth,” and that speaks of the earth and savours of the earth. But if there were any power in man, which at any time, in any place, or by any work, did not savour of the earth, the Baptist ought to have excepted this person, and not to have said in a general way concerning all those who are out of Christ, that they are of the earth, and speak of the earth.
So also afterwards, Christ saith, “Ye are of the world, I am not of the world. Ye are from beneath, I am from above.” (John viii. 23).
And yet, those to whom He spoke had “Free-will,” that is, reason and will; but still He says, that they are “of the world.” But what news would He have told, if He had merely said, that they were of the world, as to their ‘grosser affections?’ Did not the whole world know this before? Moreover, what need was there for His saying that men were of the world, as to that part in which they are brutal? For according to that, beasts are also of the world.
Sect. CLXII. — AND now what do those words of Christ, where He saith, “No one can come unto Me except My Father which hath sent Me draw him,” (John vi. 44), leave to “Free-will?” For He says it is necessary, that every one should hear and learn of the Father Himself, and that all must be “taught of God.” Here, indeed, He not only declares that the works and devoted efforts of “Free-will” are of no avail, but that even the word of the Gospel itself, (of which He is here speaking,) is heard in vain, unless the Father Himself speak within, and teach and draw. “No one can,” “No one can (saith He) come:” by which, that power, whereby man can endeavour something towards Christ, that is, towards those things which pertain unto salvation, is declared to be a nothing at all.
Nor does that at all profit “Free-will,” which the Diatribe brings forward out of Augustine, by way of casting a slur upon this all-clear and all-powerful Scripture — ‘that God draws us, in the same way as we draw a sheep, by holding out to it a green bough.’ By this similitude he would prove, that there is in us a power to follow the drawing of God. But this similitude avails nothing in the present passage. For God holds out, not one of His good things only, but many, nay, even His Son, Christ Himself; and yet no man follows Him, unless the Father hold Him forth otherwise within, and draw otherwise! — Nay, the whole world follows the Son whom He holds forth!
But this similitude harmonizes sweetly with the experience of the godly, who are now made sheep, and know God their Shepherd. These, living in, and being moved by, the Spirit, follow wherever God wills, and whatever He holds out to them. But the ungodly man comes not unto Him, even when he hears the word, unless the Father draw and teach within: which He does by shedding abroad His Spirit. And where that is done, there is a different kind of drawing from that which is without: there, Christ is held forth in the illumination of the Spirit, whereby the man is drawn unto Christ with the sweetest of all drawing: under which, he is passive while God speaks, teaches, and draws, rather than seeks or runs of himself.
Sect. CLXIII. — I WILL produce yet one more passage from John, where, he saith, “The Spirit shall reprove the world of sin, because they believe not in me.” (John xvi. 9).
You here see, that it is sin, not to believe in Christ: And this sin is seated, not in the skin, nor in the hairs of the head, but in the very reason and will. Moreover, as Christ makes the whole world guilty from this sin, and as it is known by experience that the world is ignorant of this sin, as much so as it is ignorant of Christ, seeing that, it must be revealed by the reproof of the Spirit; it is manifest, that “Free-will,” together with its will and reason, is accounted a captive of this sin, and condemned before God. Wherefore, as long as it is ignorant of Christ and believes not in Him, it can will or attempt nothing good, but necessarily serves that sin of which it is ignorant.
In a word: Since the Scripture declares Christ everywhere by positive assertion and by antithesis, (as I said before), in order that, it might subject every thing that is without the Spirit of Christ, to Satan, to ungodliness, to error, to darkness, to sin, to death, and to the wrath of God, all the testimonies concerning Christ must make directly against “Free-will;” and they are innumerable, nay, the whole of the Scripture. If therefore our subject of discussion is to be decided by the judgment of the Scripture, the victory, in every respect, is mine; for there is not one jot or tittle of the Scripture remaining, which does not condemn the doctrine of “Free-will” altogether!
But if the great theologians and defenders of “Free-will” know not, or pretend not to know, that the Scripture every where declares Christ by positive assertion and by antithesis, yet all Christians know it, and in common confess it. They know, I say, that there are two kingdoms in the world mutually militating against each other. — That Satan reigns in the one, who, on that account is by Christ called “the prince of this world,” (John xii. 31), and by Paul “the God of this world;” (2 Cor. iv. 4), who, according to the testimony of the same Paul, holds all captive according to his will, who are not rescued from him by the Spirit of Christ: nor does he suffer any to be rescued by any other power but that of the Spirit of God: as Christ testifies in the parable of “the strong man armed” keeping his palace in peace. — In the other kingdom Christ reigns: which kingdom, continually resists and wars against that of Satan: into which we are translated, not by any power of our own, but by the grace of God, whereby we are delivered from this present evil world, and are snatched from the power of darkness. The knowledge and confession of these two kingdoms, which thus ever mutually war against each other with so much power and force, would alone be sufficient to confute the doctrine of “Free-will:” seeing that, we are compelled to serve in the kingdom of Satan, until we be liberated by a Divine Power. All this, I say, is known in common among Christians, and fully confessed in their proverbs, by their prayers, by their pursuits, and by their whole lives.
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Brett Meador | Athey Creek