Ezekiel 13 - 15
False Prophets CondemnedEzekiel 13:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ 3 Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! 4 Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. 5 You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the LORD. 6 They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. 7 Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the LORD,’ although I have not spoken?”
8 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord GOD. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. 10 Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, 11 say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. 12 And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ 13 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. 14 And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD. 15 Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, 16 the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord GOD.
17 “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own hearts. Prophesy against them 18 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? 19 You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies.
20 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against your magic bands with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds. 21 Your veils also I will tear off and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as prey, and you shall know that I am the LORD. 22 Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, 23 therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the LORD.”
Idolatrous Elders CondemnedEzekiel 14:1 Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the LORD came to me: 3 “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? 4 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, 5 that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.
6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. 7 For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the LORD will answer him myself. 8 And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the LORD. 9 And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. 10 And they shall bear their punishment — the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike — 11 that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord GOD.”
Jerusalem Will Not Be Spared12 And the word of the LORD came to me: 13 “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, 14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.
15 “If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it be made desolate, so that no one may pass through because of the beasts, 16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate.
17 “Or if I bring a sword upon that land and say, Let a sword pass through the land, and I cut off from it man and beast, 18 though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered.
19 “Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast, 20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.
21 “For thus says the Lord GOD: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! 22 But behold, some survivors will be left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out; behold, when they come out to you, and you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, for all that I have brought upon it. 23 They will console you, when you see their ways and their deeds, and you shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, declares the Lord GOD.”
Jerusalem, a Useless VineEzekiel 15:1 And the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest? 3 Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it? 4 Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? 5 Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything! 6 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 7 And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them. 8 And I will make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly, declares the Lord GOD.”
What I'm Reading
There’s a Difference Between Evidence and Proof
By J. Warner Wallace 8/30/2017
Several years ago I presented a talk at the Apologetics Canada Conference in which I examined the reaction Bart Ehrman had related to the textual variants he found in the Biblical text. As he pursued his education over the years and poured over the manuscripts of the Bible, he evaluated the evidence and eventually decided that Christianity was false. Ehrman is clearly a very smart man, raised in the Church and well educated:
Bart Ehrman | Studied at Moody Bible Institute, Graduated from Wheaton College, Received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, Former President of Southeast Region of the Society of Biblical Literature
After reviewing Ehrman’s academic credentials, one can’t help but think he might be right about his conclusions related to the evidence. How can someone this well-trained be mistaken? Part of the explanation, it seems to me, is found in the difference between evidence and proof. I never tell people I can prove the reliability of the New Testament; instead, I tell them I am happy to share the evidence that convinced me of the Bible’s reliability. While evidence is a matter of objective truth, proof is in the mind of the evaluator, and many of us resist the truth in spite of the evidence. I did this for many years.
I understand now that before I can ever convince someone with evidence, God will have to do the work of regenerating the heart of my listener. It’s not up to me; God’s calling can only be done by God Himself. And that’s the difference between evidence and proof. We can offer evidence all day long: facts about eyewitness testimony, archeological verification and scientific harmony, but none of this will serve as proof unless God first changes a heart.
Evidence | The facts we offer to support our claims of truth
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Bruce Manning Metzger
By Michael W. Holmes
Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, the internationally renowned textual critic, bible scholar, and biblical translator, New Testament professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, and past President of the SBL (1971), died on February 13, 2007 at his home in Princeton at the age of 93.
Born on February 9, 1914 in Middletown, Pennsylvania, Metzger attended Lebanon Valley College (AB, 1935), where he first studied Greek and textual criticism, and Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.B., 1938, Th.M., 1939), where his teachers included Henry. S. Gehman, W. A. Armstrong, Otto Piper, and Emil Brunner, prior to doctoral studies in classics and patristics at Princeton University (MA, 1940, Ph.D., 1942). He was ordained in 1939 by the Presbytery of New Brunswick (now PC[USA]).
During a forty-six year career at Princeton Theological Seminary (1938-1984), which was capped by his appointment as George L. Collard Professor of New Testament Language and Literature (1964-1984; Emeritus, 1984-), Metzger taught more students than anyone else in the seminary's history (among them were David Noel Freedman, to mention one of the very first, and Bart Ehrman and myself, to mention two of the last). Metzger was also a visiting scholar or fellow at nine institutions (including Wolfson College, Oxford, Clare College, Cambridge, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton), presented academic lectures at more than one hundred institutions on six continents, and delivered more than 2500 sermons or studies in churches belonging to a wide variety of denominations.
Internationally recognized as a leading NT textual critic, Metzger was arguably the greatest textual specialist and biblical translator America has produced. Among his many publications, pride of place belongs to his trilogy on the text, versions, and canon of the NT. Most widely influential is his handbook on The Text of the New Testament (1964; translations include German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, and Russian; 3d, enl. ed. 1992; 4th ed. with Bart Ehrman, 2005), from which multiple generations of textual critics learned their craft. It presented (in a genuinely balanced and pedagogically useful form) the essentials of what would later be termed "reasoned eclecticism," the dominant approach in the discipline today (his influence with regard to methodology was extended even more widely by A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament). Without rival in the field, and an outstanding example of Metzger's wide-ranging and encyclopedic knowledge, is his Early Versions of the New Testament (1977), which surveys not only the expected major versions, but also many minor ones (e.g., Thracian and Sogdian). The Canon of the New Testament (1987) combines careful and erudite attention to historical matters with a concern for theological questions and implications — another typically Metzgerian characteristic.
Metzger's recognition as a leading NT textual critic is due also to his influential role as a member of the editorial committee responsible initially for The Greek New Testament and later for the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, and also his involvement in, and leadership of, the International Greek New Testament Project (1948-1984).
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 96Worship in the Splendor of Holiness
7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!
10 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Reformed Theologians Using Pagan Sources
By Mark Jones
For Reformed Catholics, appreciation extends well beyond our Reformed heritage. It has to. For our appreciation of the Christian tradition to cease to move beyond our Reformed borders is in fact to cease to be Reformed. 1 But just how far can appreciation extend? Even to pagan sources? Yes, indeed.
After Calvin, in the time of Protestant Scholasticism, all sorts of mistakes were made, according to the older scholarship. One such mistake was the rampant Aristotelianism that shackled the purer theology of Calvin and many of his contemporaries. This argument can only be made when one chooses to actually disregard what the primary sources say and also the fact that Aristotelian–like terms were used in the same way by Calvin and his “heirs.”
The Reformation and Post–Reformation scholastic method was not indebted to any one thinker. To be sure, Aristotle (384–322 BCE) was helpful in relation to terms, distinctions, and logic. But the scholastic method was a great deal more than simply learning how to distinguish. Where Aristotle’s terms or distinctions could be used to explicate truth, both the Reformers and their successors made use of Aristotle. In 1554 Girolamo Zanchi lectured on Aristotle’s Physica. He published an edition of the Greek text with an introduction. 2 His own writings evince the type of help Aristotelian categories could offer for explicating the truth. 3 Aristotle has, perhaps more than any other pagan philosopher, impacted the Christian church in significant ways.
Even before the Reformers, the medieval scholastics held to a fourfold schema of causality that is quite obviously Aristotelian. These are:
Rev. Dr. Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden Universiteit) has been the Minister at Faith Vancouver Church (PCA) since 2007. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He lectures at various seminaries around the world and is currently writing a book titled, "God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God" (Crossway, 2017) and "Faith, Hope, and Love" (Crossway, 2017).
Books by Mark Jones:
A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life
Antinomianism: Reformed Theology's Unwelcome Guest?
God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God
Faith. Hope. Love.: The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace
A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin (Profiles in Reformed Spirituality)
A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ: An Introduction to Christology by Mark Jones (20-May-2012) Paperback
Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-century British Puritanism
The Ashgate Research Companion to John Owen's Theology (Ashgate Research Companions)
Why Heaven Kissed Earth: The Christology of the Puritan Reformed Orthodox Theologian, Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) (Reformed Historical Theology)
God Gave Away the First Bride
By John Piper 8/3/2017
Marriage is God’s doing because he personally took the dignity of being the first father to give away the bride. Genesis 2:22: “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man, he made into a woman, and brought her to the man.” He didn’t hide her and say, “find her.” He took her, perhaps in his arm — I don’t know how God did this, he’s God — and he brought her to the man.
He had fathered her in the most profound sense. He had fathered this woman. Now his daughter is being given to a man, and he gives her. He doesn’t just leave her out there for something to happen. The majesty and beauty of marriage shines off of God, assuming the dignity himself of presenting his daughter that he specially made for this man to her himself.
Marriage is God’s doing, not only because God created them with this design and God brought her to him, but God spoke the design of marriage into existence. The emphasis is falling here now on God speaking the design of marriage more fully than just his action reveals. Genesis 2:24: “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Who’s talking in verse 24? The writer of Genesis is talking in verse 24. Who’s that? Jesus believes it was Moses. I have three texts written down here. What does Jesus believe about Moses writing of Scripture? Jesus believes that when Moses wrote Scripture, God spoke. Now, let me show you that so that I can go back to my point, that verse 24 is the voice of God designing marriage.
Matthew 19:4-5 goes like this: “Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read that he, God, who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, “Therefore, man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
Benjamin Franklin’s American Religion: A Conversation with Historian Thomas Kidd
By Albert Mohler 7/3/2017
MOHLER: Now I want to ask you the easiest question in order to get to some things I want to really ask you and press you about, but why in the world should anyone in the year 2017 care at all what Benjamin Franklin thought about in terms of religion or held as religious beliefs?
KIDD: Well for one thing, the question of whether America was founded as a Christian nation, our religious origins or secular origins, is one of the most hotly debated historical questions in America and American politics today. So any time we can take on the question of one of the major founders’ faith, I think it has immediate political-cultural resonance. I think that Franklin in particular presents a fascinating conundrum, because he on one hand is outspoken about his skepticism. I mean, he says in the autobiography that he’s a deist, so I mean we can take him at his word that he’s some sort of deist. But then as you go through the body of his writings, his letters, and publications, the Bible and religious concepts, theological concepts, is omnipresent in his work. And so whereas today we tend to want to say, you know, it’s either an evangelical founding where all the founding fathers are traditional believers, or it’s an entirely secular founding in which they’re all skeptical deists and almost atheists. Franklin is a perfect example of why that dichotomy is a false one.
MOHLER: Yes, and always has been, and you know, the other thing I think, Americans often think about when someone is raised like Benjamin Franklin, is they think the Revolution and they think of history from the Revolution forward. I think one of the most interesting aspects of Benjamin Franklin is that he was a world famous man, certainly in the English speaking world, long before the Revolution was conceived, more or less, even before such thoughts seem to have emerged into public life. This was a very famous man, and in that sense an exemplar in many ways of the Enlightenment. So talk about that a bit.
KIDD: That’s right. He is the oldest among the major revolutionaries, quite a bit older than some of the others like Madison and so forth. And he lives an enormously long life. He lives into his 80s when in the 19th century, that’s just very unusual to live that long for anyone. And so he sees a lot of changes. I mean, he grows up in a traditional Puritan family in Boston and then sees the growing diversity and public role of skepticism about traditional faith emerge. And then on a parallel track, he sees the enormous upswell of the Great Awakening in the late 1730s and 1740s and the coming of George Whitefield and the writings of Jonathan Edwards, and he’s able to observe and participate in all those trends. Now the question of the Enlightenment is just a hugely fraught topic of debate among historians about Was there an Enlightenment? What was the Enlightenment? Did Christians participate in the Enlightenment? And so forth. But I think that at least we can say that the public role of skepticism about traditional faith was more pronounced by, say, 1800 than it was in 1700, and there’s a trend towards more naturalistic understandings of various phenomenon whether, you know, a comet appears in the sky and do you intuitively say, “Well, this is a sign from God,” or “This is a meteorological phenomenon, an astronomical phenomenon.” What is your gut reaction towards those kinds of events? And Franklin is undoubtedly leading the charge in many ways towards a more naturalistic view of the world in which we inhabit. And yet Franklin almost reflexively is speaking about all these political and scientific developments that he participates in, in biblical, biblicist sorts of ways. And so it’s striking that it’s Franklin and Jefferson and Adams who are originally proposing that the National Seal of the United States be a scene from Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea. I mean, you know, we ended up with a much more, you know, not Christian kind of National Seal with e pluribus unum, but that just comes reflexively to these men of the Enlightenment because they grow up in such a deeply biblicist world and Franklin, I think, probably the most of all among the founders, does. He grow up in that deeply biblicist world of the Puritans.
KIDD: Yes, that’s right. And and I think, you know, the story of him being asked after the Constitutional Convention, what kind of government have you created? and he says, “A republic, if you can keep it.” And if that story’s true, and it sounds like something Franklin would have said, I think part of what he has in mind there is that a republic must be sustained by morality and virtue. And this is, I mean, this is just widely assumed among of the founders that if you’re going to have a republic, that you have to have a virtuous people to sustain it or else the republic will degenerate and collapse. And so even the most skeptical among the founders—Jefferson probably is the most skeptical and strident, especially late in his life, anti-christian views and so forth; but he still says that Jesus’s moral teachings are the most sublime that the world has ever seen. And Franklin certainly shares that opinion. So I mean Franklin is over time more and more convinced, I think especially during the American Revolution, he’s so angry at the British. I mean he goes from being fairly moderate about whether America should declare independence to during the course of the Revolution he becomes just very angry at the way that the King of England is prosecuting the war and so forth and he says that for these reasons, there has to be justice, ultimately, if not in this life then in a future judgment. And so Franklin says at the end of his life very clearly that among the doctrines that he does believe in is a future judgment by God for the works that we’ve done in this life, for good or ill. And so I mean far from being this idea of an uninvolved God, God is really—and you’re right, not necessarily in a meticulous or recognizable way by providence—but that everything is going to be resolved by God in favor of divine justice.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
By John Walvoord
Jesus’ Prediction of the Building of His Church and the Giving of the Keys of the Kingdom to the Disciples
Matthew 16:17–19. In His first prediction concerning the future church, Jesus declared that it would be built upon Peter in the sense that he would belong to the first generation of Christians. ( May I suggest built upon the confession of Peter, not the man, not the flesh. ) Furthermore, He would give to Peter and the other disciples the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which is the message of the gospel that through Christ they can enter the kingdom of heaven (vv. 18–19 ).
Jesus’ Warning against the Danger of Being Ashamed of Him
Matthew 16:24–27; Mark 8:34–38; Luke 9:23–27. Jesus pointed out that following Christ involves taking up the will of God as a cross and following Him ( Matt. 16:24 ). He promised to reward everyone according to his commitment to Jesus Christ (v. 27 ). The same truth is embodied in Luke’s statement ( Luke 9:23–27 ). Jesus further declared that some who are standing before Him would not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God ( Luke 9:27 ). This must have been fulfilled by the transfiguration that immediately followed, when the disciples saw in prophetic vision the future glory of Christ and the coming of His kingdom.
Promise to Answer Prayer
Matthew 18:19–20. If two agree on earth concerning a prayer request, their prayer will be answered. This was especially true for the twelve disciples.
Warning against Mistreating a Brother
Matthew 18:15–18, 21–35. Jesus used an illustration of a servant who had been forgiven by his master but, nevertheless, inflicted punishment on one that owed him. Jesus warned, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35; cf. Luke 17:3–4 ).
Jesus’ Denunciation of Those Who Reject the Seventy-Two Disciples
Luke 10:1–24. In connection with the seventy-two who were sent out to every town and place, Christ predicted that some would receive them and some would not, but that those who did not receive them would find the final judgment more bearable for Sodom than for them (cf. Matt. 11:20–24 ). The same was true where Christ performed miracles (vv. 13–14 ).
Persistent Prayer Urged
Luke 11:1–13; cf. Matt. 6:9–15. In response to the disciples’ request, Jesus gave them what is known as the Lord’s Prayer ( Luke 11:2–4 ). Actually, it was the disciples’ prayer, not the Lord’s prayer. Jesus used the illustration of their need for bread. When a friend drops in and the host goes to his neighbor to ask for bread, the neighbor will get up and give it to the host. And so Jesus urged them, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (vv. 9–10 ). He also assured them that what they would receive would be a good gift (vv. 11–13 ).
Warning against Hypocrisy and Unbelief
Luke 12:1–12; cf. Matthew 16:6–12; Mark 8:14–21. The disciples were warned to be on their guard against the yeast and leaven of the Pharisees ( Luke 12:1 ), which is hypocrisy. Though hypocrisy can be concealed for a time, Jesus declared, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (vv. 2–3 ). The hypocrisy of all unbelievers will be discerned, and they will be judged at their final judgment.
Jesus declared that His followers have more value to God than sparrows and that the very hairs on their head are numbered (vv. 4–7 ). Jesus further declared that if they disown Him before men, they will be disowned before the angels of God (v. 9 ). He promised them also that when they are tried before the rulers of the synagogue, God would give them words to say (vv. 11–12 ).
Warning against Materialism
Luke 12:13–40. Jesus declared that they should “watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (v. 15 ). He used an illustration of a man who tears down his barn to build bigger ones (vv. 16–21 ) only to die unexpectedly. Jesus declared, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (vv. 22–24 ). He promised that those who seek the kingdom of God first will have treasure in heaven (vv. 31–33 ).
Warning against Superficial Faith and His Lament over Jerusalem in Its Unbelief
Luke 13:22–32. Jesus warned them that it was necessary to have real faith as only a few people will be saved. It will not be enough to say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets” (v. 26 ). Such people will see the saved — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the prophets — going into the kingdom, but they themselves will be shut out (vv. 28–29 ).
Warning of Judgment of Jerusalem
Luke 13:33–35. At the close of this section Jesus lamented, however, over Jerusalem and its unbelief and rejection of the prophets: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (vv. 34–35; cf. Matt. 23:37–39 ).
Warning against Rejecting the Invitation to the Lord’s Banquet
Luke 14:1–24. Jesus recited how important it is to be invited to the banquet of God. He gave the illustration of preparing a banquet and inviting many guests who did not come. Each made one excuse after another (vv. 16–20 ). Upon hearing of their rejection , the master urged his servant to bring in the poor, crippled, blind, and lame (v. 21 ). He ended the discussion by saying, “I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (v. 24 ).
The Rewards of His Disciples
Mark 10:28–31; Luke 18:28–30. In regard to the disciples’ question as to what they will receive in eternity, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth ... no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” ( Mark 10:29–31 ). In making these promises, Jesus was asserting that not only are there some rewards that are present for a believer and follower of Christ, but other rewards will also be given abundantly in heaven.
The Reward of Faithful Service
Luke 19:11–27. In the parable of the nobleman who gave three servants ten minas each to care for the workmen while he was gone, the two servants who were faithful and increased the lord’s money by hard service were rewarded, but the one who hid his lord’s money, perhaps thinking that his lord would not come back, was judged, and the money taken from him and given to the one who had earned ten more minas. Jesus, in connection with this, stated, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away” (v. 26 ). What the successful servant had was faith that his lord would come back and that he would reward faithful and obedient service. What was true of these servants is true of all who follow Jesus.
The Coming of the Kingdom part 12
By Dr. Andrew Woods 01/25/2013
Because today's evangelical world believes that the church is experiencing the Messianic kingdom, we began a study chronicling what the Bible teaches about the kingdom. This earthly kingdom is anticipated in the office of Theocratic Administrator that was lost in Eden, in the biblical covenants, in the predictions of the Old Testament prophets, and in the earthly theocracy governing Israel from the time of Moses to Zedekiah. This theocratic arrangement terminated with the initiation of the "Times of the Gentiles" when the nation had no king reigning on David's Throne as Judah was trampled by various Gentile powers. Against that backdrop entered Jesus Christ, the rightful Heir to David's Throne. Had first-century Israel enthroned Christ, the earthly kingdom would have become a reality. Despite this unprecedented opportunity, Israel rejected the kingdom offer ( Matt. 12 ) leading to the kingdom's postponement.
Due to this postponement, Christ explained the spiritual conditions that would prevail during the kingdom's absence. This interim program includes His revelation of the kingdom mysteries ( Matt. 13 ) and the church ( Matt. 16:18 ). This interim program was explained in detail in prior installments. The important point to grasp is that neither the kingdom mysteries nor the church represent the fulfillment of God's Old Testament kingdom promises. Rather, they epitomize fresh works of God independent of the Old Testament kingdom expectation. Thus, the kingdom will remain in a state of abeyance as long as God's present work in the world continues through His interim program.
Re-Offer Of The Kingdom To Future Israel
However, one day the church's mission on the earth will be completed ( Rom. 11:25b ) resulting in the church's removal through the rapture. Then God, who is not forgetful of His prior unconditional covenants with Israel ( Exod. 2:24; Ezek. 36:22 ), will re-extend the offer of the kingdom to national Israel in the midst of the coming Great Tribulation. As noted in prior installments, when the Abrahamic Covenant is considered alongside of the Mosaic Covenant, Israel's covenantal structure can best be understood as an unconditional covenant with a conditional blessing. Once the nation fulfills the condition of enthroning Christ, she will then become the possessor or enjoyer of what she unconditionally owns. This coming time of unparalleled distress is the means by which God's covenanted nation will become not just the owner but also the possessor of the covenanted blessings. Just as God today oftentimes brings people to Himself through tribulation, God will use the events of the coming Great Tribulation period to make Israel aware of her need for her Messiah (Yeshuah or Jesus). During this time, He will draw Israel to Himself. Thus, Jeremiah 30:7 predicts, "'Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob's distress, But he will be saved from it."
The Antichrist will desecrate the Jewish temple midway through the future Tribulation period ( Dan. 9:27; Rev. 13:15 ). In so doing, he will replicate a well-remembered historical event indelibly etched on the minds of the Jews, when Antiochus Epiphanies did virtually the same thing in the days of the Maccabees during the intertestamental era ( Dan. 11:31 ). Once history repeats itself in this manner, the Jews, who had been trusting the Antichrist as their Messiah up to this point in time, will come to their spiritual senses and recognize that it is not the Antichrist who is their long-awaited Messiah but rather it is Jesus Christ who came into the world some two thousand years ago. It will take a betrayal of this magnitude to bring the nation to saving faith in Christ.
Once Israel trusts in Christ as her Messiah, she will have fulfilled the long unfulfilled condition found in the Mosaic Covenant. Once this condition is satisfied, that future generation of Jews will then enter into the unconditional covenantal promises thus ushering in the earthly kingdom not only for Israel but the whole world. This covenantal structure shows why Christ conditioned His Second Advent upon Israel properly responding to Him as her Messiah. Christ explained this condition to the Jewish people in Matthew 23:37-39. He said,
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"
In other words, first-century Israel's failure to fulfill this condition resulted in the kingdom not being established as well as the imposition of covenantal discipline in A.D. 70 ( Deut. 28:49-50 ). Conversely, future Israel's fulfillment of the condition will be evidenced by the nation's citation of the phrase "BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!" This phrase comes from Psalm 118:26, which is a Messianic Psalm ( Matt. 21:9 ). Once this condition is met, Christ will return to rescue Israel and establish His kingdom through her ( Matt. 24:30-31; 25:31 ).
Therefore, the fact that the Davidic Covenant is not being fulfilled in the present day in no wise negates its future fulfillment. When the disciples inquired as to when the kingdom would be restored to Israel, Christ never challenged the idea of an eventual fulfillment. Rather, He simply challenged the disciples' presupposition of its immediate fulfillment ( Acts 1:6-7 ). In the future Tribulation period, the offer of the kingdom will once again be extended to Israel ( Matt. 24:14 ). Unlike at the First Advent ( Matt. 23:37-38 ), this time the offer will be accepted leading to Christ's return ( Matt. 24:30-31 ) and subsequent earthly kingdom ( Matt. 25:34; Rev. 20:1-10 ).
The Transfer Of Earthly Authority
Thus, one of the dominant themes of the Book of Revelation is how this world is transferred from the grasp of Satan to the earthly Messianic kingdom predicted in the pages of the Old Testament. In other words, Revelation explains how the world will eventually transition from the rule that Satan has had on the world ever since the Fall in Eden ( Luke 4:5-8; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19 ) to the future time in history when God and His people "will reign upon the earth" ( Rev. 5:10b ).
Revelation 11:15 captures this theme when it says, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever."
The mechanism for this transition of authority is the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation, which represents the title deed of the earth.  As each of the seals is broken, another divine judgment comes upon the world thereby progressively loosening the grip that Satan has had on the planet ever since the Fall of Man. This reality explains why so many of Revelation's judgments bear a striking resemblance to the ten plagues of the Exodus. For example, the sores of the sixth plague ( Exod. 9:8-12 ) resemble the first bowl judgment ( Rev. 16:1-2 ). The rivers to blood of the first plague ( Exod. 7:19-21 ) resemble the third bowl judgment ( Rev. 16:4-7 ). The darkness of the ninth plague ( Exod. 10:21-23 ) resembles the fifth bowl judgment ( Rev. 16:10-11 ). The hail of the seventh plague ( Exod. 9:22-26 ) resembles the seventh bowl judgment ( Rev. 16:17-21 ).
What is the point of these similarities? God took His people out of four hundred years of Egyptian bondage ( Gen. 15:13 ) in the Exodus. In Revelation, God will perform the ultimate Exodus by taking the entire world out of the Satanic bondage it has been under since the Fall. Each Exodus plague progressively weakened Pharaoh's resolve to hold Israel in captivity. Pharaoh's will was ultimately broken through the death of his first born as expressed in the tenth plague. In the same way, each divine judgment in Revelation will progressively weaken Satan's grip on the planet until finally the entire world will be transferred into the glorious Messianic Kingdom. The death of God the Father's "first born" son laid the groundwork for Satan's ultimate defeat ( Rev. 5:9 ). Satan's sentence will finally be imposed as the scroll is progressively opened by God the Son.
Given the significance that the scroll of Revelation 5 plays in releasing the world from Satanic bondage, it is easy to see why John weeps when he first learns that none is worthy to open the scroll ( Rev. 5:2-4 ). John weeps because he sees the world continuing indefinitely under Satanic bondage. Yet, the apostle John stops weeping ( Rev. 5:5 ) when he learns that Christ is worthy to open the scroll because of His role in redemption ( Rev. 5:9 ) and creation ( Rev. 4:11 ). John stops weeping because the scroll can now be opened and thus the liberation of planet earth from Satan's ruthless rule can now begin.
Satan certainly does not want this transfer of authority to take place. He has enjoyed ruling the world for all of these centuries since Eden. He knows that once the kingdom comes he will be bound ( Rev. 20:1-3 ) and eventually thrown into the lake of fire at the conclusion of the thousand years of Christ's earthly rule ( Rev. 20:10 ). Thus, he has always worked in history to prevent the establishment of this coming Messianic kingdom ( Rev. 12:9-10 ). Just as he sought to prevent Christ's First Advent ( Rev. 12:1-5; Ps. 2:9 ), he will again try to prevent the coming kingdom by eradicating all the Jews ( Rev. 12:1; Gen. 37:9-10 ) during the Tribulation period ( Rev. 12:5-17 ). The logic of this preemptive attack is that if there are no Jews left to accept the re-offer of the kingdom and call Christ back to the earth ( Matt. 23:37-39), then the kingdom will never come thereby allowing Satan to continue indefinitely as the world's unchallenged ruler. Yet, just as God worked to prevent Satan from thwarting the birth of Christ ( Rev. 12:4-5 ), He will work once again in the future Tribulation period to protect Israel from Satanically inspired annihilation ( Rev. 12:6, 13-16; Zech. 13:8-9 ). God will do this so that He can ultimately fulfill Israel's unconditional covenants thereby resulting in the manifestation of the earthly Messianic kingdom.
ENDNOTES Renald Showers, Maranatha -- Our Lord, Come!: A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church (Bellmawr: FOI, 1995), 88.
Dr. Andrew Woods Books
Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.
Dr. Andrew Woods Ministry Page, YouTube Channel, and Church.
People Want a Story
By Timothy W. Massaro 7/10/2016
Why do people like movies, shows, and a good story? There is always some blockbuster to see in the theaters. We all binge-watch a whole season on Netflix or Amazon Prime—myself included! The desire for a story in which we can lose ourselves is insatiable. Besides losing a night’s sleep to a season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, is this desire for stories such a bad thing? Well, yes and no.
The love of stories is merely human. We enjoy a good story because we inherently see meaning and value through the lens of stories. Yet, all stories are not created equal. Some stories empower the oppressors and continue the lies that harm others. Other stories are freeing and liberating, but untrue. Very rarely do we find a story that is true and good. When we do stumble upon such a story in the news or on Netflix, we often find it unbelievable. Yet, it is such a story that we all long for. We long for justice and mercy. We long for the true fairy-tale ending of “happy ever after.”
Many people are beginning to recognize that programs and to-do lists are not enough in life. We all long for meaning and purpose to guide our callings and jobs. We want vocations that have meaning, that change lives, and that serve some higher purpose.
People are often going through life just waiting to be told a different story. The question is: where do we go for such a story? If all stories are not equally good, true, or beautiful, what is our standard? Where do we look?
Thankfully, God has not left us alone but has given us his Word and Spirit to guide us into the truth. We exist in the place where God’s story enmeshes our own, bursts from the pages of Scripture, and enfolds us into it. It is when we hear God’s unfolding story of grace that we are actually renewed. This true story is more dramatic than we could have imagined and yet more merciful and gracious than we could hope. This story of grace is not something that anyone could have made up, nor is it something that can be created on Wall Street or in the White House. It is truer than what we see on the news or read in our Buzzfeed.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Acts 10:38)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
September 2Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. ESV
The miracles wrought by our Lord differ greatly from the wonders generally ascribed to the founders and holy men of the great pagan religious systems. He never performed a sign simply to astonish credulous people, or to thwart the will of His enemies. Behind all the works of power was human need and His own gracious compassion for suffering and troubled humanity. The cursing of the fig tree is the only seeming exception that proves the rule. It was an acted parable designed to illustrate Israel’s sad condition and her deep need. Jesus never stooped to anything approaching trickery or magic. He did not desire to be known as a wonder worker. He “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil,” and in this way manifesting His Messianic mission. It had been predicted of old that in His days the dumb would sing, the blind see, the lame leap as an hart, and the poor be satisfied with bread (Isaiah 35:5-6; Psalm 132:15).
Isaiah 35:5–6 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
Psalm 132:15 I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread. ESV
At even, ere the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord, around Thee lay;
Oh, in what divers pains they met!
Oh, with what joy they went away!
Once more ‘tis even-tide, and we,
Oppressed with various ills draw near:
What if Thy form we cannot see?
We know and feel that Thou art here.
O Saviour Christ, our woes dispel:
For some are sick, and some are sad,
And some have never loved Thee well,
And some have lost the love they had.
Thy touch has still its ancient power,
No word from Thee can fruitless fall;
Hear in this solemn evening hour,
And in Thy mercy heal us all.
--- Henry Twells
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
The torpedo-bomber he flew was hit by anti-aircraft fire while making a run over Bonin Island, 600 miles south of Japan. He headed out to sea and ejected from his burning plane this day, September 2, 1944, and was rescued by a submarine. Receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross, he graduated from Yale, became successful in the Texas oil industry and entered politics, eventually becoming America’s 41st President. His name: George Bush, who began his Inaugural Address: “My first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things.
The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential.
But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depths of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge.
To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
There are two great days in a person's life --
the day we are born
and the day we discover why.
--- William Barclay
Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life
The mark of the godly man is he likes to change. The mark of the godly man is he says, ‘Lord, show me where I should change, and I’ll do it. Show me where I should obey, even where it’s hard, and I’ll do it.
--- Timothy Keller
Thanks to Meir Yona
11. By these motives Ananus encouraged the multitude to go against the zealots, although he knew how difficult it would be to disperse them, because of their multitude, and their youth, and the courage of their souls; but chiefly because of their consciousness of what they had done, since they would not yield, as not so much as hoping for pardon at the last for those their enormities. However, Ananus resolved to undergo whatever sufferings might come upon him, rather than overlook things, now they were in such great confusion. So the multitude cried out to him, to lead them on against those whom he had described in his exhortation to them, and every one of them was most readily disposed to run any hazard whatsoever on that account.
12. Now while Ananus was choosing out his men, and putting those that were proper for his purpose in array for fighting, the zealots got information of his undertaking, [for there were some who went to them, and told them all that the people were doing,] and were irritated at it, and leaping out of the temple in crowds, and by parties, spared none whom they met with. Upon this Ananus got the populace together on the sudden, who were more numerous indeed than the zealots, but inferior to them in arms, because they had not been regularly put into array for fighting; but the alacrity that every body showed supplied all their defects on both sides, the citizens taking up so great a passion as was stronger than arms, and deriving a degree of courage from the temple more forcible than any multitude whatsoever; and indeed these citizens thought it was not possible for them to dwell in the city, unless they could cut off the robbers that were in it. The zealots also thought that unless they prevailed, there would be no punishment so bad but it would be inflicted on them. So their conflicts were conducted by their passions; and at the first they only cast stones at each other in the city, and before the temple, and threw their javelins at a distance; but when either of them were too hard for the other, they made use of their swords; and great slaughter was made on both sides, and a great number were wounded. As for the dead bodies of the people, their relations carried them out to their own houses; but when any of the zealots were wounded, he went up into the temple, and defiled that sacred floor with his blood, insomuch that one may say it was their blood alone that polluted our sanctuary. Now in these conflicts the robbers always sallied out of the temple, and were too hard for their enemies; but the populace grew very angry, and became more and more numerous, and reproached those that gave back, and those behind would not afford room to those that were going off, but forced them on again, till at length they made their whole body to turn against their adversaries, and the robbers could no longer oppose them, but were forced gradually to retire into the temple; when Ananus and his party fell into it at the same time together with them. 7 This horribly affrighted the robbers, because it deprived them of the first court; so they fled into the inner court immediately, and shut the gates. Now Ananus did not think fit to make any attack against the holy gates, although the other threw their stones and darts at them from above. He also deemed it unlawful to introduce the multitude into that court before they were purified; he therefore chose out of them all by lot six thousand armed men, and placed them as guards in the cloisters; so there was a succession of such guards one after another, and every one was forced to attend in his course; although many of the chief of the city were dismissed by those that then took on them the government, upon their hiring some of the poorer sort, and sending them to keep the guard in their stead.
13. Now it was John who, as we told you, ran away from Gischala, and was the occasion of all these being destroyed. He was a man of great craft, and bore about him in his soul a strong passion after tyranny, and at a distance was the adviser in these actions; and indeed at this time he pretended to be of the people's opinion, and went all about with Ananus when he consulted the great men every day, and in the night time also when he went round the watch; but he divulged their secrets to the zealots, and every thing that the people deliberated about was by his means known to their enemies, even before it had been well agreed upon by themselves. And by way of contrivance how he might not be brought into suspicion, he cultivated the greatest friendship possible with Ananus, and with the chief of the people; yet did this overdoing of his turn against him, for he flattered them so extravagantly, that he was but the more suspected; and his constant attendance every where, even when he was not invited to be present, made him strongly suspected of betraying their secrets to the enemy; for they plainly perceived that they understood all the resolutions taken against them at their consultations. Nor was there any one whom they had so much reason to suspect of that discovery as this John; yet was it not easy to get quit of him, so potent was he grown by his wicked practices. He was also supported by many of those eminent men, who were to be consulted upon all considerable affairs; it was therefore thought reasonable to oblige him to give them assurance of his good-will upon oath; accordingly John took such an oath readily, that he would be on the people's side, and would not betray any of their counsels or practices to their enemies, and would assist them in overthrowing those that attacked them, and that both by his hand and his advice. So Ananus and his party believed his oath, and did now receive him to their consultations without further suspicion; nay, so far did they believe him, that they sent him as their ambassador into the temple to the zealots, with proposals of accommodation; for they were very desirous to avoid the pollution of the temple as much as they possibly could, and that no one of their nation should be slain therein.
14. But now this John, as if his oath had been made to the zealots, and for confirmation of his good-will to them, and not against them, went into the temple, and stood in the midst of them, and spake as follows: That he had run many hazards on their accounts, and in order to let them know of every thing that was secretly contrived against them by Ananus and his party; but that both he and they should be cast into the most imminent danger, unless some providential assistance were afforded them; for that Ananus made no longer delay, but had prevailed with the people to send ambassadors to Vespasian, to invite him to come presently and take the city; and that he had appointed a fast for the next day against them, that they might obtain admission into the temple on a religious account, or gain it by force, and fight with them there; that he did not see how long they could either endure a siege, or how they could fight against so many enemies. He added further, that it was by the providence of God he was himself sent as an ambassador to them for an accommodation; for that Artanus did therefore offer them such proposals, that he might come upon them when they were unarmed; that they ought to choose one of these two methods, either to intercede with those that guarded them, to save their lives, or to provide some foreign assistance for themselves; that if they fostered themselves with the hopes of pardon, in case they were subdued, they had forgotten what desperate things they had done, or could suppose, that as soon as the actors repented, those that had suffered by them must be presently reconciled to them; while those that have done injuries, though they pretend to repent of them, are frequently hated by the others for that sort of repentance; and that the sufferers, when they get the power into their hands, are usually still more severe upon the actors; that the friends and kindred of those that had been destroyed would always be laying plots against them; and that a large body of people were very angry on account of their gross breaches of their laws, and [illegal] judicatures, insomuch that although some part might commiserate them, those would be quite overborne by the majority.
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
by understanding it is made secure,
4 and by knowledge its rooms are filled
with all kinds of costly and pleasant possessions.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The sacrament of sacrifice
He that believeth in Me, … out of him shall flow.…
--- John 7:38
Jesus did not say—‘he that believeth in Me shall realize the blessing of the fullness of God,’ but—‘he that believeth in Me, out of him shall escape everything he receives.’ Our Lord’s teaching is always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a man; His purpose is to make a man exactly like Himself, and the characteristic of the Son of God is self-expenditure. If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that counts. It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us. Spiritually, we cannot measure our life by success, but only by what God pours through us, and we cannot measure that at all.
When Mary of Bethany broke the box of precious ointment and poured it on Jesus’ head, it was an act for which no one else saw any occasion; the disciples said it was a waste. But Jesus commended Mary for her extravagant act of devotion, and said that wherever His Gospel was preached “this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Our Lord is carried beyond Himself with joy when He sees any of us doing what Mary did, not being set on this or that economy, but being abandoned to Him. God spilt the life of His Son that the world might be saved; are we prepared to spill out our lives for Him?
“He that believeth in Me out of him shall flow rivers of living water,” that is, hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. It is time now to break the life, to cease craving for satisfaction, and to spill the thing out. Our Lord is asking who of us will do it for Him?
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Letter (Poetry for Supper)
And to be able to put at the end
Of the letter Athens, Florence--
That the spirit recalls
from earlier journeys
Through the dark wood,
seeking the path
To the bright mansions;
cities and towns
Where the soul
added depth to its stature.
And not to worry about the date,
The words being timeless, concerned with truth,
Beauty, love, misery even,
Which has its seasons
in the long growth
From seed to flesh, flesh to spirit.
And laying aside the pen, dipped
Not in tears' volatile liquid
But in black ink of the heart's well,
To read again
what the hand has written
To the many voices' quiet dictation.
by Scott McKnight
The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
Let's look at some examples -- some of them quite messy -- and we will learn about the unstated principle of discernment at work in the church.
Let me make five quick observations to get in our minds what we mean by discernment in divorce and remarriage. First, Jesus was against divorce, as is clear from Mark 10:11-12: "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."
Second, on another occasion Jesus "discerned" there is, in fact, an exception -- sexual immorality. Look at Matthew 5:32: "But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to become an adulterous, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery" (emphasis added). Now we've got clarity: divorce is wrong except in the case of sexual immorality.
Third, the apostle Paul encountered a new situation in which he had to discern how the teachings of Jesus could be lived out when a non-Christian spouse deserted a Christian Spouse. Was divorce also permissible for this situation? In I Corinthians 7, Paul discerned it was permissible. Paul knew precisely what he was doing -- adding to what Jesus had taught. In 7:12 he says: "To the rest I say this (1, not the Lord)." What did he discern? "But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace" (7:15).
True to Jesus, Paul is not looking for exceptions. He prefers that husband and wife stay together because the Christian might "save" the partner (7:16). But, if the nonbeliever deserts, Paul discerns divorce is permissible, and he does so because we are called "to live in peace; which probably means Paul wants the Christians not to be disruptive in society.
Now the fourth point: churches are called to enact similar discernments today, and long, hard, prayerful sessions have been directed at discerning whether abuse and desertion and immaturities are permissible grounds for divorce even among Christians. This is the messy part. No one says it is easy, but we have the following confidences: the guidance of the Spirit is promised us as we pray, as we study Scripture, and as we join in the conversation with church tradition. It would be much easier for God to have given us rules and regulations for everything. But God, in his wisdom, has chosen not to do that. Discernment is an element of what it means to walk by faith.
Fifth, I believe our discernments should never become rules or laws. The moment we turn our discernments into rules or the moment we elevate them to the level of official positions, they are headed in the direction of fossilization, inflexibility, and the near impossibility of rethinking, renewing, and reforming. We'll soon have a Lucca wall around our Bible. Instead, we need to render discernments with all the wisdom we can muster and let them remain as discernments and judgments.
In our discussion of examples below we will find some patterns at work in our discernment, but these are not rules we apply; rather, they are discernments. I am nervous about anyone who thinks we can find a mechanism that will guide our path. Instead, we need attentiveness to the Spirit as we read the Bible together and to the guiding of the Spirit.
I accept the reality that churches already disagree over discernments. I also accept the reality that the process will be difficult. And I accept the reality that even within a church where a sensitive process of discernment has been followed, there will be folks who disagree. That's the way it is, and it is also the way the church has always read the Bible. Longing for a day of certainty in this life may propel us into deeper discussions and the search for greater unity, but certainty and unanimity in discernment are not the world in which we live.
What the New Testament trajectory teaches us about divorce and remarriage is the need to remain firmly committed to marriage while permitting divorce in cases where the marital covenant has been destroyed. The pattern is to discern the underlying reason for the fractured relationship and then to judge if that reason is acceptable.
Richard S. Adams
1 Corinthians 9:1–2 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. ESV
This is such an interesting statement. Seal is such an important concept in Scripture. My hope and my confidence, for instance, is that God has sealed me not only with, but in the Holy Spirit, according to the words of Jesus. Note the relationship part, you in me as I am in the Father. Books have been written not only on the idea of validity and genuineness, but also the idea of relationship and intimacy. Now apply it to Paul and his audience and remember that we are part of that audience.
This is powerful with powerful implications. I do not believe it is about keeping a list of do’s and don’ts because that means we are in control. As I keep saying, when all is said and done our choice is to react or respond to who and what we experience. We do not control the experiences we encounter except as a result of previous choices. There are some who say we don’t even have that, we are only biological and our choices have no eternal accountability. I don’t believe that, but can we at least agree that the choices our ancestors made affected future generations, just as our decisions will impact those who follow us; family, friends and strangers?
God knows those who choose God despite their poor choices in relationships, career, life. God also knows those who do mighty works in God’s name, wear a pious countenance, keep the rules and damn those who don’t. Often these people have no relationship with God at all. David screwed up over and over, but the man loved God. He was in relationship.
I am not promoting license, but relationship. It is not an either or choice. If we are in relationship our inner compass is set for God and as someone wrote, we lean into God, despite our mistakes. I believe God will bring us home; broken, burned, wounded and scarred if we make poor choices, but home none the less.
I love the metaphor Randy Stevens explained to Lily and I one night in our home in Wennatchee, WA. He said we are tossed about in a storm at sea, but through the dark clouds we see a light. We are drawn to the light through the deep waves. It is our only hope. As we near land there are rocks, disaster all about us, but the light, the harbor light, the lighthouse guides us safely through every danger. As long as we keep our eyes on that light God will bring us home.
If our eyes and hearts remain fixed on the Lord, God will wean us off those things that hurt us and hurt others. In as much as our understanding is opened to what Paul is saying and we respond, take heart and believe these words of Paul.
Rick Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters Degree in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary, now Portland Seminary. On staff at George Fox 1/2009 to 7/2018.
Richard S. Adams
Why do so many young people seem to get this? Why have so many of us older folks lost our idealism, passion, perspective, and vision? Those of us who have failed to hold mercy and justice in tension; who have failed to stay in the middle of the path, who have wandered where we don't belong, carry the baggage, the wounds, the scars of our foolishness, arrogance and carelessness.
Have you seen the commercial where the lady speaks through a hole in her throat and says, “This is because I smoked?” We may be forgiven, but the consequences of our actions will find us all. Why make it worse by throwing a rock at someone else.
Before we look at the life style, tattoos, piercings of another we need to stop and look back at the path we’ve taken. Note the potholes we failed to avoid, the words we wished we’d never said, and the people we have hurt. Surely we have done enough.
Love covers a multitude of sins and we have much that needs to be covered. Maybe we should see others as the people God wants them to be, instead of the people we think they are. Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” I need to remember that. God has given me and you a mandate, but God did NOT give me a measuring stick, a plumb line, a law book to judge others. Did God give these to you?
Rick Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters Degree in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction from George Fox Evangelical Seminary, now Portland Seminary. On staff at George Fox 1/2009 to 7/2018.
A person lights one candle from another: The candle is lit while the other is not diminished.
BIBLE TEXT / Numbers 7:42–43 / On the sixth day, it was the chieftain of the Gadites, Eliasaph son of Deuel. His offering: one silver bowl weighing 130 shekels and one silver basin of 70 shekels by the sanctuary weight, both filled with choice flour with oil mixed in, for a meal offering.…
MIDRASH TEXT / Numbers Rabbah 13, 20 / One silver basin. This is Moses who was thrown into the Nile. Another interpretation: He was thrown out of Egypt, as it says, “Moses fled …” [Exodus 2:15].
70 shekels by the sanctuary weight. These are the seventy elders, all of whom Moses counted as prophets from what the Holy One, praised is He, said to him, “Then you shall go with the elders of Israel to the king …” [Exodus 3:18]. And it similarly says, “Gather for Me seventy of Israel’s elders …” [Numbers 11:16].
Both filled with choice flour with oil mixed in for a meal offering. He and they were all filled with the holy spirit, and they were filled with the holy spirit from Moses, and Moses was not diminished at all. A person lights one candle from another: The candle is lit while the other is not diminished. A person who smells an etrog benefits and the etrog is not diminished at all.
CONTEXT / The biblical text from Numbers 7 describes the dedication of the mishkan, the portable sanctuary also called the Tabernacle, which the Israelites carried with them during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. On each day for twelve days, a chieftain of one of the twelve tribes brought gifts as part of the dedication ceremony. The chieftain from the tribe of Gad was Eliasaph son of Deuel. On the sixth day of the twelve-day dedication ceremony, his gift—like that of the other chieftains—was a silver bowl weighing 130 shekels (probably used for dry ingredients, such as flour) and one silver basin weighing 70 shekels (for holding liquid libations and blood). The Hebrew idiom that is translated as “by the sanctuary weight” literally means “by the holy shekel.” The shekel is a weight, and the “holy weight” would be the weight that was used for holy purposes in the Tabernacle. In modern Israel, a shekel is a coin. The word shekel comes from the Hebrew root ש־ק־ל/sh-k-l, meaning “to weigh.”
This is Moses who was thrown into the Nile. Another interpretation: He was thrown out of Egypt.… What does one silver basin offered as a gift by the chieftain of the Gadites have to do with Moses being thrown into the Nile or banished from Egypt? This Midrash finds a connection between two similar Hebrew words: מִזְרָק/mizrak, “basin,” and זָרַק/zarak, “to throw.” (The word מִזְרָק/mizrak, “basin,” comes from the Hebrew root “to throw”; potters speak of “throwing” a clay vessel on the potter’s wheel.)
Moses was thus presented with a gift that was reminiscent of his having been thrown into the Nile when he was an infant, since Pharaoh had ordered the death of every male Israelite baby. According to another interpretation, the basin was a reminder of when he was thrown out of Egypt. When Moses saved the life of an Israelite and killed the Egyptian taskmaster, Pharaoh sought to kill Moses, who fled, or was thrown out of, Egypt (Exodus 2:15).
On a deeper level, the Rabbis seem to be providing an answer to the unasked question: What is the point of all the details that are mentioned in a particular ritual? In performing a religious act, can’t we just do as our hearts tell us? Why all the concern about the specific kind of material and the exact weight and measure of an offering?
The answer of the Rabbis here seems to be: There is great significance in the details. They are each an allegorical reminder of some event in our history:
• Silver (כֶּסֶף/kesef) connects us to the longing (כִּסּוּפִין/kisufin) of Moses’ parents for each other during the oppression.
• 130 shekels is an allusion to the number of years from the descent to Egypt by the Israelites until the birth of Moses, according to one reckoning.
• One אַחַת/aḥat (silver basin) is a word-play reminder of Miriam, the אַחוֹת/aḥot (sister) who saved Moses.
• 70 is not just the weight of the basin, but also a hint of the 70 elders whom Moses was told by God to appoint over the Israelites (Numbers 11).
Rituals are seen not simply as obligations we have to God, with a plethora of meaningless or arbitrary requirements. Rather, they are a means by which we focus on our history; rituals are a reminder of who we are as a people and where we have been. By paying careful attention to the details, we not only connect to God; we reconnect to our people and to our past.
He and they were all filled with the holy spirit.… In Chapter 11 of the Book of Numbers, we read once again of the complaints of the Israelites concerning their conditions in the wilderness—this time over the manna. Moses cannot control his anger and tells God: “I cannot carry all this people by myself, for it is too much for me”
(Numbers 11:14). God responds by telling Moses to gather seventy elders from among the people: “… I will draw upon the spirit that is on you and put it upon them; they shall share the burden of the people with you, and you shall not bear it alone” (Numbers 11:17).
The unarticulated question that the Rabbis are responding to is this: Did Moses lose any of his power, or any of his godly spirit, when God invested the seventy elders with that same spirit? The answer is a resounding “No!” But how did the Rabbis know this? From two sources. First, the literary one. The words both filled in the Torah text clearly refer to the bowl and the basin that the chieftain of the Gadites brought as a gift. But to the Rabbis, the words have a secondary meaning: Both Moses and the seventy elders were filled with the spirit of God. Moses lost nothing in sharing that spirit with the elders.
A person lights one candle from another.… A person who smells an etrog [citron] benefits and the etrog is not diminished at all. The second proof comes from everyday experience: a candle that lights another retains its flame; an etrog gives off fragrance yet still maintains its pleasing smell.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. --- Psalm 119:18.
In all the great experiences of the soul, none is greater than genuine conversion, and it recreates the faculty of wonder.(The Afterglow Of God:
Sunday Evenings In A Glasgow Pulpit (1912) )That is how the rod of God is sometimes sweet and blessed as the dew. It touches the dusty lanes of life, and they sparkle as on a Morning in the May time. The world is never more beautiful or fresh, nor life more wonderful, nor loved ones dearer than after a season when the sky was darkened and we thought that everything was over.
The Gospel, steadily and surely, has deepened the sense of wonder in humankind.
Our Christian faith has added to the mystery of everything. There is not a common word that we can use—sin, life, death, love, or duty—but has become a thousand times more awful since Jesus moved across the fields of Galilee. For the pagan, life was a brief journey; for the Christian, it is the prelude to eternity. For the pagan, death was a forgetting; for the Christian, it is heaven or it is hell. For the old pagan, sin was folly; for the Christian, sin is an infinitely guilty thing in the eyes of a holy God. It is a religion of joy and peace and power. And yet at the heart of a peace too deep for words is a mystery that humankind can never fathom. In the presence of a mystery like that, one can only wonder. We must cease speaking, we must bow. We must say to our hearts, Keep silence before God. And that is what the faith of Christ has done and is doing. It has recreated wonder by the mystery that it has found in common words like sin and life and death and love and duty.
Our Christian faith has shown us love at the heart of everything. And wherever love is, whether in heaven or earth, wonder is never far away. That little child asleep in its mother’s arms is an ordinary little mortal. But to its mother, it is a wonderful child because she loves it so. And so with Christ—once we have learned to love him and to experience his love to us, there falls a newness of wonder on everything. I know that God is power—but he may be power and still leave me cold. I know that God is justice—and yet infinite justice can never win my heart. God is love, the world is made in love, and every touch of his hand on me is love—and immediately I cry in adoration, “He will be called Wonderful!”
--- George H. Morrison
Find a Verse and Put Your Name in It
Educating missionary children is exciting and exacting. On one hand, few people are more fortunate than missionary kids. They grow up as internationals with the world their home. They roam across Europe or explore Africa as easily as other children go around the block. On the other hand, many missions settings do not offer adequate schooling or needed interaction with other youth.
Ruth Bell Graham vividly remembers September 2, 1933. She was 13. Her father, a missionary surgeon in China, and her mother were sending her to boarding school in what is now Pyongyang, North Korea. For Ruth it was a brutal parting, and she earnestly prayed she would die before Morning. But dawn came, her prayers unanswered, she gripped her bags and trudged toward the riverfront. She was leaving all that was loved and familiar: her parents, her Chinese friends, the missionaries, her home, her memories. The Nagasaki Maru carried her down the Whangpoo River into the Yangtze River and on to the East China Sea.
A week later waves of homesickness pounded her like a churning surf. Ruth kept busy by day, but Evenings were harder, and she would bury her head in her pillow and cry herself to sleep, night after night, week after week. She fell ill, and in the infirmary she read through the Psalms, finding comfort in Psalm 27:10—Even if my father and mother should desert me, you will take care of me.
Still, the hurt and fear and doubt persisted. Finally, she went to her sister Rosa, also enrolled in Pyongyang. “I don’t know what to tell you to do,” Rosa replied matter-of-factly, “unless you take some verse and put your own name in it. See if that helps.” Ruth picked up her Bible and turned to a favorite chapter,Isaiah 53, and put her name in it: “He was wounded and crushed because of Ruth’s sins; by taking Ruth’s punishment, he made Ruth completely well.”
Her heart leaped, and the healing began.
Has anyone believed us or seen the mighty power
Of the LORD in action?
Like a young plant or a root that sprouts in dry ground,
The servant grew up obeying the Lord.
By taking our punishment, he made us completely well.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 2
“But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.” --- Mark 1:30.
Very interesting is this little peep into the house of the Apostolic Fisherman. We see at once that household joys and cares are no hindrance to the full exercise of ministry, nay, that since they furnish an opportunity for personally witnessing the Lord’s gracious work upon one’s own flesh and blood, they may even instruct the teacher better than any other earthly discipline. Papists and other sectaries may decry marriage, but true Christianity and household life agree well together. Peter’s house was probably a poor fisherman’s hut, but the Lord of Glory entered it, lodged in it, and wrought a miracle in it. Should our little book be read this Morning in some very humble cottage, let this fact encourage the inmates to seek the company of King Jesus. God is oftener in little huts than in rich palaces. Jesus is looking round your room now, and is waiting to be gracious to you. Into Simon’s house sickness had entered, fever in a deadly form had prostrated his mother-in-law, and as soon as Jesus came they told him of the sad affliction, and he hastened to the patient’s bed. Have you any sickness in the house this Morning? You will find Jesus by far the best physician, go to him at once and tell him all about the matter. Immediately lay the case before him. It concerns one of his people, and therefore will not be trivial to him. Observe, that at once the Saviour restored the sick woman; none can heal as he does. We may not make sure that the Lord will at once remove all disease from those we love, but we may know that believing prayer for the sick is far more likely to be followed by restoration than anything else in the world; and where this avails not, we must meekly bow to his will by whom life and death are determined. The tender heart of Jesus waits to hear our griefs, let us pour them into his patient ear.
Evening - September 2
“Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”
--- John 4:48.
A craving after marvels was a symptom of the sickly state of men’s minds in our Lord’s day; they refused solid nourishment, and pined after mere wonder. The Gospel which they so greatly needed they would not have; the miracles which Jesus did not always choose to give they eagerly demanded. Many nowadays must see signs and wonders, or they will not believe. Some have said in their heart, “I must feel deep horror of soul, or I never will believe in Jesus.” But what if you never should feel it, as probably you never may? Will you go to hell out of spite against God, because he will not treat you like another? One has said to himself, “If I had a dream, or if I could feel a sudden shock of I know not what, then I would believe.” Thus you undeserving mortals dream that my Lord is to be dictated to by you! You are beggars at his gate, asking for mercy, and you must needs draw up rules and regulations as to how he shall give that mercy.
Think you that he will submit to this? My Master is of a generous spirit, but he has a right royal heart, he spurns all dictation, and maintains his sovereignty of action. Why, dear reader, if such be your case, do you crave for signs and wonders? Is not the Gospel its own sign and wonder? Is not this a miracle of miracles, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish”? Surely that precious word, “Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely” and that solemn promise, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out,” are better than signs and wonders! A truthful Saviour ought to be believed. He is truth itself. Why will you ask proof of the veracity of One who cannot lie? The devils themselves declared him to be the Son of God; will you mistrust him?
I LOVE THY KINGDOM, LORD!
Timothy Dwight, 1752–1817
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24, 25)
God honored the tears, prayers, and work of the distinguished president of Yale University, Timothy Dwight, to bring to that campus in 1795 a startling spiritual revival. It soon spread to other nearby universities as well. Prior to his administration, most of the students at Yale and other eastern schools had been infected with the “free thought” of Thomas Paine, Rousseau, and the French Revolution.
Timothy Dwight, grandson of the brilliant and powerful American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, was an unusually successful and distinguished person in many areas. A graduate of Yale University at 17, he was a chaplain in the American Revolution, a Congregational minister, a prosperous farmer, a member of the Connecticut state legislature, a faculty member at Yale and eventually president of the university. Timothy Dwight also wrote a number of scholarly books, authored thirty-three hymn texts, and revised the hymnbook used by New England Congregational and Presbyterian churches for 30 years.
In Dwight’s text, the term kingdom suggests three different levels of Christ’s church:
• The Church Personal— “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
• The Church Local— individual congregations (Matthew 11:28, 29)
• The Church Universal— believers of every age, race and culture (Revelation 7:9)
The kingdom of God is a living body, not merely an organization. Its purpose is to extend Christ’s influence, build up the members of His body, and glorify His name. The promise of Christ is that nothing, not even the gates of hell, will ever triumph over His Church (Matthew 16:18).
I love Thy kingdom, Lord! The house of Thine abode—The Church our blest Redeemer saved with His own precious blood.
I love Thy Church, O God! Her walls before Thee stand, dear as the apple of Thine eye and graven on Thy hand.
Beyond my highest joy I prize her heav’nly ways—Her sweet communion, solemn vows, her hymns of love and praise.
Sure as Thy truth shall last, to Zion shall be giv’n the brightest glories earth can yield, and brighter bliss of heav’n.
For Today: Matthew 16:15–18; Ephesians 2:19, 21, 22; 5:23–27
Ask yourself if you are as joyful and enthusiastic about Christ’s kingdom and its mission on earth as you should be. Allow this hymn to renew your vision ---
DISCOURSE IV - ON SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
Prop. III. Spiritual worship therefore was always required by God, and always offered to him by one or other. Man had a perpetual obligation upon him to such a worship from the nature of God; and what is founded upon the nature of God is invariable. This and that particular mode of worship may wax old as a garment, and as a vesture may be folded up and changed, as the expression is of the heavens; but God endures forever; his spirituality fails not, therefore a worship of him in spirit must run through all ways and rites of worship. God must cease to be Spirit, before any service but that which is spiritual can be accepted by him. The light of nature is the light of God; the light of nature being unchangeable, what was dictated by that, was alway, and will alway be, required by God. The worship of God being perpetually due from the creature, the worshipping him as God is as perpetually his right. Though the outward expressions of his honor were different, one way in Paradise (for a worship was then due, since a solemn time for that worship was appointed), another under the law, another under the gospel; the angels also worship God in heaven, and fall down before his throne; yet, though they differ in rites, they agree in this necessary ingredient, all rites, though of a different shape, must be offered to him, not as carcasses, but animated with the affections of the soul. Abel’s sacrifice had not been so excellent in God’s esteem, without those gracious habits and affections working in his soul. Faith works by love; his heart was on fire as well as his sacrifice. Cain rested upon his present; perhaps thought he had obliged God; he depended upon the outward ceremony, but sought not for the inward purity: it was an offering brought to the Lord; he had the right object, but not the right manner (Gen. 4:7.): “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” And in the command afterwards to Abraham, “Walk before me, and be thou perfect,” was the direction in all our religious acts and walkings with God. A sincere act of the mind and will, looking above and beyond all symbols, extending the soul to a pitch far above the body, and seeing the day of Christ through the veil of the ceremonies, was required by God: and though Moses, by God’s order, had instituted a multitude of carnal ordinances, sacrifices, washings, oblations of sensible things, and recommended to the people the diligent observation of those statutes, by the allurements of promises and denouncing of threatenings; as if there were nothing else to be regarded, and the true workings of grace were to be buried under a heap of ceremonies; yet sometimes he doth point them to the inward worship, and, by the command of God, requires of them the “circumcision of the heart” (Deut. 10:16), the turning to God with “all their heart and all their soul” (Deut.30:10): whereby they might recollect, that it was the engagement of the heart and the worship of the Spirit that was most agreeable to God; and that he took not any pleasure in their observance of ceremonies, without true piety within, and the true purity of their thoughts.
Prop. IV. It is, therefore, as much every man’s duty to worship God in spirit, as it is their duty to worship him. Worship is so due to him as God, as that he that denies it disowns his deity; and spiritual worship is so due, that he that waives it denies his spirituality. It is a debt of justice we owe to God, to worship him; and it is as much a debt of justice to worship him according to his nature. Worship is nothing else but a rendering to God the honor that is due to him; and, therefore, the right posture of our spirits in it is as much, or more, due, than the material worship in the modes of his own prescribing: that is, grounded both upon his nature and upon his command; this only upon his command, that is perpetually due; whereas, the channel wherein outward worship runs may be dried up, and the river diverted another way; such a worship wherein the mind thinks of God, feels a sense of God, has a spirit consecrated to God, the heart glow in with affections to God; it is else a mocking God with a feather. A rational nature must worship God with that wherein the glory of God doth most sparkle in him. God is most visible in the frame of the soul, it is there his image glitters; he hath given us a jewel as well as a case, and the jewel as well as the case we must return to him; the spirit is God’s gift, and must “return to him;” it must return to him in every service morally, as well as it must return to him at last physically. It is not fit we should serve our Maker only with that which is the brute in us, and withhold from him that which doth constitute us reasonable creatures; we must give him our bodies, but a “living sacrifice.” If the spirit be absent from God when the body is before him, we present a dead sacrifice; it is morally dead in the duty, though it be naturally alive in the posture and action. It is not an indifferent thing whether we shall worship God or no; nor is it an indifferent thing whether we shall worship him with our spirits or no; as the excellency of man’s knowledge consists in knowing things as they are in truth, so the excellency of the will in willing things as they are in goodness. As it is the excellency of man, to know God as God; so it is no less his excellency, as well as his duty to honor God as God. As the obligation we have to the power of God for our being, binds us to a worship of him; so the obligation we have to his bounty for fashioning us according to his own image, binds us to an exercise of that part wherein his image doth consist. God hath “made all things for himself” (Prov. 16:4), that is, for the evidence of his own goodness and wisdom; we are therefore to render him a glory according to the excellency of his nature, discovered in the frame of our own. It is as much our sin not to glorify God as God, as not to attempt the glorifying of him at all; it is our sin not to worship God as God, as well as to omit the testifying any respect at all to him. As the Divine nature is the object of worship, so the Divine perfections are to be honored in worship; we do not honor God if we honor him not as he is; we honor him not as a Spirit, if we think him not worthy of the ardors and ravishing admirations of our spirits. If we think the devotions of the body are sufficient for him, we contract him into the condition of our own being; and not only deny him to be a spiritual nature, but dash out all those perfections which he could not be possessed of were he not a Spirit.
Prop. V. The ceremonial law was abolished to promote the spirituality of divine worship. That service was gross, carnal, calculated for an infant and sensitive church. It consisted is rudiments, the circumcision of the flesh, the blood and smoke of sacrifices, the steams of incense, observation of days, distinction of meats, corporal purifications; every leaf of the law is clogged with some rite to be particularly observed by them. The spirituality of worship lay veiled under a thick cloud, that the people could not behold the glory of the gospel, which lay covered under those shadows (2 Cor. 3:13): “They could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:” They understood not the glory and spiritual intent of the law, and therefore came short of that spiritual frame in the worship of God, which was their duty. And therefore in opposition to this administration, the worship of God under the gospel is called by our Saviour in the text, a worship in spirit; more spiritual for the matter, more spiritual for the motives, and more spiritual for the manner and frames of worship.
1. This legal service is called flesh in Scripture, in opposition to the gospel, which is called spirit. The ordinances of the law, though of divine institution, are dignified by the apostle with no better a title than carnal ordinances, and a carnal command: but the gospel is called the ministration of the Spirit, as being attended with a special and spiritual efficacy on the minds of men. And when the generate Galatians, after having tasted of the pure streams of the gospel, turned about to drink of the thicker streams of the law, the apostle tells them, that they begun in the spirit and would now be made perfect in the flesh; they would leave the righteousness of faith for a justification by works. The moral law, which is in its own nature spiritual, in regard of the abuse of it, in expectation of justification by the outward works of it, is called flesh: much more may the ceremonial administration, which was never intended to run parallel with the moral, nor had any foundation in nature as the other had. That whole economy consisted in sensible and material things, which only touched the flesh: it is called the letter and the oldness of the letter; as letters, which are but empty sounds of themselves, but put together and formed into words, signify something to the mind of the hearer or reader: an old letter, a thing of no efficacy upon the spirit, but as a law written upon paper. The gospel hath an efficacious spirit attending it, strongly working upon the mind and will, and moulding the soul into a spiritual frame for God, according to the doctrine of the gospel; the one is old and decays, the other is new and increaseth daily. And as the law itself is called flesh, so the observers of it and resters in it are called Israel after the flesh; and the evangelical worshipper is called a Jew after the spirit (Rom. 2:29). They were Israel after the flesh as born of Jacob; not Israel after the spirit as born of God; and therefore the apostle calls them Israel and not Israel; Israel after a carnal birth, not Israel after a spiritual; Israel in the circumcision of the flesh, not Israel by a regeneration of the heart.
2. The legal ceremonies were not a fit means to bring the heart into a spiritual frame. They had a spiritual intent; the rock and manna prefigured the salvation and spiritual nourishment by the Redeemer. The sacrifices were to point them to the justice of God in the punishment of sin, and the mercy of God in substituting them in their steads, as types of the Redeemer and the ransom by his blood. The circumcision of the flesh was to instruct them in the circumcision of the heart: they were flesh in regard of their matter, weakness and cloudiness, spiritual in regard of their intent and signification; they did instruct, but not afficaciously work strong spiritual affections in the soul of the worshipper. They were weak and beggarly elements; had neither wealth to enrich nor strength to nourish the soul: they could not perfect the comers to them, or put them into a frame agreeable to the nature of God, nor purge the conscience from those dead and dull dispositions which were by nature in them: being carnal they could not have an efficacy to purify the conscience of the offerer and work spiritual effects: had they continued without the exhibition of Christ, they could never have wrought any change in us or purchased any favor for us. At the best they were but shadows, and came inexpressibly short of the efficacy of that person and state whose shadows they were. The shadow of a man is too weak to perform what the man himself can do, because it wants the life, spirit, and activity of the substance: the whole pomp and scene was suited more to the sensitive than the intellectual nature; and, like pictures, pleased the fancy of children rather than improved their reason. The Jewish state was a state of childhood, and that administration a pedagogy. The law was a schoolmaster fitted for their weak and childish capacity, and could no more spiritualize the heart, than the teachings in a primer-school can enable the mind, and make it fit for affairs of state; and because they could not better the spirit, they were instituted only for a time, as elements delivered to an infant age, which naturally lives a life of sense rather than a life of reason. It was also a servile state, which doth rather debase than elevate the mind; rather carnalize than spiritualize the heart: besides, it is a sense of mercy that both melts and elevates the heart into a spiritual frame: “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared;” and they had, in that state, but some glimmerings of mercy in the daily bloody intimations of justice. There was no sacrifice for some sins, but a cutting off without the least hints of pardon; and in the yearly remembrance of sin there was as much to shiver them with fear, as to possess them with hopes; and such a state which always held them under the conscience of sin, could not produce a free spirit, which was necessary for a worship of God according to his nature.
3. In their use they rather hindered than furthered a spiritual worship. In their own nature they did not tend to the obstructing a spiritual worship, for then they had been contrary to the nature of religion, and the end of God who appointed them; nor did God cover the evangelical doctrine under the clouds of the legal administration, to hinder the people of Israel from perceiving it, but because they were not yet capable to bear the splendor of it, had it been clearly set before them. The shining of the face of Moses was too dazzling for their weak eyes, and therefore there was a necessity of a veil, not for the things themselves, but the “weakness of their eyes.” The carnal affections of that people sunk down into the things themselves; stuck in the outward pomp, and pierced not through the veil to the spiritual intent of them; and by the use of them without rational conceptions, they besotted their minds and became senseless of those spiritual motions required of them. Hence came all their expectations of a carnal Messiah; the veil of ceremonies was so thick, and the film upon their eyes so condensed, that they could not look through the veil to the Spirit of Christ; they beheld not the heavenly Canaan for the beauty of the earthly; nor minded the regeneration of the spirit, while they rested upon the purifications of the flesh; the prevalency of sense and sensitive affections diverted their minds from inquiring into the intent of them. Sense and matter are often clogs to the mind, and sensible objects are the same often to spiritual motions. Our souls are never more raised than when they are abstracted from the entanglements of them. A pompous worship, made up of many sensible objects, weakens the spirituality of religion. Those that are most zealous for outward, are usually most cold and indifferent in inward observances; and those that overdo in carnal modes, usually underdo in spiritual affections. This was the Jewish state. The nature of the ceremonies being pompous and earthly by their show and beauty, meeting with their weakness and childish affections, filled their eyes with an outward lustre, allured their minds and detained them from seeking things higher and more spiritual; the kernel of those rights lay concealed in a thick shell; the spiritual glory was little seen, and the spiritual sweetness little tasted. Unless the Scripture be diligently searched, it seems to transfer the worship of God from the true faith and the spiritual motions of the heart, and stake it down to outward observances, and the opus operatum. Besides, the voice of the law did only declare sacrifices, and invited the worshippers to them with a promise of the atonement of sin, turning away the wrath of God. It never plainly acquainted them that those things were types and shadows of something future; that they were only outward purifications of the flesh; it never plainly told them, at the time of appointing them, that those sacrifices could not abolish sin, and reconcile them to God. Indeed, we see more of them since their death and dissection, in that one Epistle to the Hebrews, than can be discerned in the five books of Moses. Besides, man naturally affects a carnal life, and therefore affects a carnal worship; he designs the gratifying his sense, and would have a religion of the same nature. Most men have no mind to busy their reasons about the things of sense, and are naturally unwilling to raise them up to those things which are allied to the spiritual nature of God; and therefore the more spiritual any ordinance is, the more averse is the heart of man to it. There is a simplicity of the gospel from which our minds are easily corrupted by things that pleasure the sense, as Eve was by the curiosity of her ayes, and the liquorishness of her palate. From this principle hath sprung all the idolatry in the world. The Jews knew they had a God who had delivered them, but they would have a sensible God to go before them; and the papacy at this day is a witness of the truth of this natural corruption.
4. Upon these accounts, therefore, God never testified himself well pleased with that kind of worship. He was not displeased with them, as they were his own institution, and ordained for the representing (though in an obscure manner) the glorious things of the gospel; nor was he offended with those people’s observance of them; for, since he had commanded them, it was their duty to perform them, and their sin to neglect them; but he was displeased with them as they were practiced by them, with souls as morally carnal in the practices, as the ceremonies were materially carnal in their substance. It was not their disobedience to observe them; but it was a disobedience, and a contempt of the end of the institution to rest apon them; to be warm in them, and cold in morals; they fed upon the bone and neglected the marrow; pleased themselves with the shell, and sought not for the kernel; they joined not with them the internal worship of God; fear of him, with faith in the promised Seed, which lay veiled under those coverings (Hos. 6:6); “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt- offerings;” and therefore he seems sometimes weary of his own institutions, and calls them not his own, but their sacrifices, their feasts (Isa. 1:11, 14): they were his by appointment, theirs by abuse; the institution was from his goodness and condescension, therefore his; the corruption of them was from the vice of their nature, therefore theirs. He often blamed them for their carnality in them; showed his dislike of placing all their religion in them; gives the sacrificers, on that account, no better a title than that of the princes of Sodom and Gomorrah; and compares the sacrifices themselves to the “cutting off a dog’s neck,” “swine’s blood,” and “the murder of a man.” And indeed God never valued them, or expressed any delight in them; he despised the feasts of the wicked (Amos 5:21); and had no esteem for the material offerings of the godly (Psalm 50:13): “Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” which he speaks to his saints and people, before he comes to reprove the wicked; which he begins (ver. 16), “But to the wicked, God said,” &c. So slightly he esteems them, that he seems to disown them to be any part of his command, when he brought his people out of the land of Egypt (Jer. 7:21): “I spake not to your fathers, nor commanded them concerning burnt-offerings and sacrifices.” He did not value and regard them, in comparison with that inward frame which he had required by the moral law; that being given before the law of ceremonies, obliged them, in the first place, to an observance of those precepts. They seemed to be below the nature of God, and could not of themselves please him. None could in reason persuade themselves that the death of a beast was a proportionable offering for the sin of a man, or ever was intended for the expiation of transgression. In the same rank are all our bodily services under the gospel; a loud voice without spirit, bended bulrushes without inward affections, are no more delightful to God, than the sacrifices of animals; it is but a change of one brute for another of a higher species; a mere brute for that part of man which hath an agreement with brutes; such a service is a mere animal service, and not spiritual.
5. And therefore God never intended that sort of worship to be durable, and had often mentioned the change of it for one more spiritual. It was not good or evil in itself; whatsoever goodness it had was solely derived to it by institution, and therefore it was mutable. It had no conformity with the spiritual nature of God who was to be worshipped, nor with the rational nature of man who was to worship; and therefore he often speaks of taking away the new moons, and feasts, and sacrifices, and all the ceremonial worship, as things he took no pleasure in, to have a worship more suited to his excellent nature; but he never speaks of removing the gospel administration, and the worship prescribed there, as being more agreeable to the nature and perfections of God, and displaying them more illustriously to the world. The apostle tells us, it was to be “disannulled because of its weakness;” a determinate time was fixed for its duration, till the accomplishment of the truth figured under that pedagogy. Some of the modes of that worship being only typical, must naturally expire and be insignificant in their use, upon the finishing of that by the Redeemer, which they did prefigure: and other parts of it, though God suffered them so long, because of the weakness of the worshipper, yet because it became not God to be always worshipped in that manner, he would reject them, and introduce another more spiritual and elevated. “Incense and a pure offering” should be offered everywhere unto his name. He often told them he would make a “new covenant by the Messiah,” and the old should be rejected; that the “former things should not be remembered, and the things of old no more considered,” when he should do “a new thing in the earth.” Even the ark of the covenant, the symbol of his presence, and the glory of the Lord in that nation, should not any more be remembered and visited; that the temple and sacrifices should be rejected, and others established; that. the order of the Aaronical priesthood should be abolished, and that of Melchizedek set up in the stead of it, in the person of the Messiah, to endure forever ; that Jerusalem should be changed; a new heaven and earth created; a worship more conformable to heaven, more advantageous to earth. God had proceeded in the removal of some parts of it, before the time of taking down the whole furniture of this house; the pot of manna was lost; Urim and Thummim ceased; the glory of the temple was diminished; and the ignorant people wept at the sight of the one, without raising their faith and hope in the consideration of the other, which was promised to be filled with a spiritual glory. And as soon as ever the gospel was spread in the world, God thundered out his judgments upon that place in which he had fixed all those legal observances; so that the Jews, in the letter and flesh, could never practise the main part of their worship, since they were expelled from that place where it was only to be celebrated. It is one thousand six hundred years over 2,000 now since they have been deprived of their altar, which was the foundation of all the Levitical worship, and have wandered in the world without a sacrifice, a prince, or priest, an ephod or teraphim. And God fully put an end to it in the command he gave to the apostles, and in them to us, in the presence of Moses and Elias, to hear his Son only (Matt. 17:5): “Behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” And at the death of our Saviour, testified it to that whole nation and the world, by the rending in twain the veil of the temple. The whole frame of that service, which was carnal, and, by reason of the corruption of man, weakened, is nulled; and a spiritual worship is made known to the world, that we might now serve God in a more spiritual manner, and with more spiritual frames.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXXVI. — THIS passage of Paul, therefore, stands firmly and forcibly urging — that “Freewill,” even in its most exalted state, in the most exalted men, who were endowed with the law, righteousness, wisdom, and all the virtues, was ungodly and unrighteous, and merited the wrath of God; or the argument of Paul amounts to nothing. And if it stand good, his division leaves no medium: for he makes those who believe the Gospel to be under the salvation, and all the rest to be under the wrath of God: he makes the believing to be righteous, and the unbelieving to be ungodly, unrighteous, and under wrath. For the whole that he means to say is this: — The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel, that it might be by faith. But God would be wanting in wisdom, if He should reveal righteousness unto men, when they either knew it already or had ‘some seeds’ of it themselves. Since, however, He is not wanting in wisdom, and yet reveals unto men the righteousness of salvation, it is manifest, that “Free-will” even in the most exalted of men, not only has wrought, and can work no righteousness, but does not even know what is righteous before God. — Unless you mean to say, that the righteousness of God is not revealed unto these most exalted of men, but to the most vile! — But the boasting of Paul is quite the contrary — that he is a debtor, both to the Jews and to the Greeks, to the wise and to the unwise, to the Greeks and to the barbarians.
Wherefore Paul, comprehending, in this passage, all men together in one mass, concludes that they are all ungodly, unrighteous, and ignorant of the righteousness of faith: so far is it from possibility, that they can will or do any thing good. And this conclusion is moreover confirmed from this: — that God reveals the righteousness of faith to them, as being ignorant and sitting in darkness: therefore, of themselves, they know it not. And if they be ignorant of the righteousness of salvation, they are certainly under wrath and damnation: nor can they extricate themselves therefrom, nor endeavour to extricate themselves: for how can you endeavour, if you know neither what you are to endeavour after, nor in what way, nor to what extent, you are to endeavour?
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