9/29/2022 Yesterday Tomorrow
Zechariah 1 - 7
A Call to Return to the LORDZechariah 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 2 “The LORD was very angry with your fathers. 3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. 4 Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. 5 Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, ‘As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’ ”
A Vision of a Horseman7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 8 “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. 9 Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ 10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.’ 11 And they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’ 12 Then the angel of the LORD said, ‘O LORD of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’ 13 And the LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. 14 So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. 15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. 16 Therefore, thus says the LORD, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the LORD of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. 17 Cry out again, Thus says the LORD of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’ ”
A Vision of Horns and Craftsmen18 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns! 19 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he said to me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” 20 Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen. 21 And I said, “What are these coming to do?” He said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.”
A Vision of a Man with a Measuring LineZechariah 2:1 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.” 3 And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him 4 and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. 5 And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ”
6 Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the LORD. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the LORD. 7 Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon. 8 For thus said the LORD of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye: 9 “Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me. 10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the LORD. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 12 And the LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”
13 Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.
A Vision of Joshua the High PriestZechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.
6 And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, 7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. 8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. 9 For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. 10 In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”
A Vision of a Golden LampstandZechariah 4:1 And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ”
8 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
“These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.” 11 Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” 12 And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?” 13 He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 14 Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
A Vision of a Flying ScrollZechariah 5:1 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits.” 3 Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side. 4 I will send it out, declares the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones.”
A Vision of a Woman in a Basket5 Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, “Lift your eyes and see what this is that is going out.” 6 And I said, “What is it?” He said, “This is the basket that is going out.” And he said, “This is their iniquity in all the land.” 7 And behold, the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the basket! 8 And he said, “This is Wickedness.” And he thrust her back into the basket, and thrust down the leaden weight on its opening.
9 Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. 10 Then I said to the angel who talked with me, “Where are they taking the basket?” 11 He said to me, “To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it. And when this is prepared, they will set the basket down there on its base.”
A Vision of Four ChariotsZechariah 6:1 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze. 2 The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, 3 the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong. 4 Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 And the angel answered and said to me, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country, the white ones go after them, and the dappled ones go toward the south country.” 7 When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth. 8 Then he cried to me, “Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country.”
The Crown and the Temple9 And the word of the LORD came to me: 10 “Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. 11 Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. 12 And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. 13 It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” ’ 14 And the crown shall be in the temple of the LORD as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.
15 “And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the LORD. And you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.”
A Call for Justice and MercyZechariah 7:1 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. 2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the LORD, 3 saying to the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”
4 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me: 5 “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? 7 Were not these the words that the LORD proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’ ”
8 And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. 13 “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, 14 “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”
What I'm Reading
Are There “Limits” to God’s Power?
By J. Warner Wallace 9/27/2017
Christians claim God is “all-powerful”. Does this mean He can accomplish anything? Skeptics often test this notion by offering the following challenge: “Can the all-powerful Christian God create a stone so heavy he cannot lift it?” The question highlights an apparent dilemma: If God cannot create such a stone (or cannot lift what He has created), He is not all-powerful. Does this apparent paradox prove an all-powerful Being cannot exist in the first place?
It’s true the Bible describes God as an all-powerful Being and often uses language that suggests that “nothing” is impossible for Him (as in Luke 1:37). At the same time, there are many places in Scripture where certain behaviors or conditions are described as “impossible” for God to accomplish. This apparent contradiction is inexplicable until we examine the nature of the activities (or behaviors) described as “impossible” for God:
The Bible also clearly indicates that there are a number of things that God cannot accomplish based on logical necessity. For example, it is impossible for God to change (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) or to deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). According to the Bible, God always acts and behaves with certain logical considerations in mind and it is impossible for Him to do otherwise. The laws of logic are, once again, a reflection of God’s unchanging nature.
These “Divine Impossibilities” provide us with insight into God’s character and power. Objective moral truths and transcendent laws of logic are simply a reflection of God’s eternal being. They are not rules or laws God has created (and could therefore alter recklessly), but are instead immutable, dependable qualities of his nature reflected in our universe. They exist because God exists (not because God created them). In addition, the Bible describes God as omnipotent and capable of doing anything he sets out to do. God’s choices, however, are always consistent with His moral and logical nature; He never sets out to do something contrary to who He is as God.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Gathering Storm: Religious Liberty in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution
By Albert Mohler 3/21/2017
These are days that will require courage, conviction, and clarity of vision. We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image.
In the first volume of his history of World War II, Winston Churchill looked back at the storm clouds that gathered in the 1930s portending war and the loss of human freedom. Churchill wisely and presciently warned Britain of the tragedy that would ensue if Hitler were not stopped. His actions were courageous and the world was shaped by his convictional leadership. We are not facing the same gathering storm, but we are now facing a battle that will determine the destiny of priceless freedoms and the very foundation of human rights and human dignity.
Speaking thirty years ago, Attorney General Meese warned that “there are ideas which have gained influence in some parts of our society, particularly in some important and sophisticated areas that are opposed to religious freedom and freedom in general. In some areas there are some people that have espoused a hostility to religion that must be recognized for what it is, and expressly countered.”
Those were prophetic words, prescient in their clarity and foresight. The ideas of which Mr. Meese warned have only gained ground in the last thirty years, and now with astounding velocity. A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom.
Religious liberty is under direct threat. During oral arguments in the Obergefell case, the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.
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
Nabeel Qureshi's Wife Reflects on God's Faithfulness Amid Pain: 'He Will Use This Death to a More Glorious End'
By Leah Marieann Klett 9/27/2017
Michelle Qureshi, the wife of late apologist Nabeel Qureshi, has opened up about God's faithfulness in the days following her husband's death and expressed confidence that He will "use this death to a more glorious end than we would have seen if Nabeel were still alive."
In a video update titled "A More Glorious End," Michelle, who shares a daughter, Ayah, with her late husband, said that while she didn't anticipate making a video, she felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to share what He has been teaching her over the past week.
As reported, Nabeel, a Muslim convert to Christianity who previously served with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, passed away last week at 34 after a year-long battle with stomach cancer.
Michelle first thanked everyone who has prayed for her family: "I am seeing through your generosity and faithfulness just pieces of the generosity and faithfulness of our God," she said.
She said she's chosen not to place upon herself the burdens associated with the terms "widow" and "single mom," instead identifying herself as a "Child of the Most High King."
A Trilogy of Theology
By Charles C. Ryrie
“They are intended to provide for the lay person, student, teacher and minister a clear statement of three contemporary theological viewpoints by convinced adherents to these positions.” Such is the stated purpose of a set of three books recently published by Westminster Press. The case for orthodox theology is written by a professor and the former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Edward John Carnell. The Case for a The Case for a New Reformation Theology is authored by William Hordern of Garrett Biblical Institute, and The case for theology in liberal perspective is written by L. Harold De Wolf of Boston University. Thus orthodoxy, neo-orthodoxy, and neoliberalism are championed in this series by acknowledged representatives of each viewpoint.
One of the primary objects of any review is to judge how ably a book accomplishes the task it is supposed to do. In this instance that job has been clearly stated by the publisher. These books are supposed to present a clear statement of their respective viewpoints; that is, they are to be positive rather than negative (although it is recognized that any affirmative approach will include some defense). Comparing the three works on this basis, one feels that the case for neo-orthodoxy is the best presented and the case for neoliberalism runs second, chiefly because of its frequent use of argumentum ad hominem. It is not easy for a single author to state the viewpoint of a movement, but these two men have done their job well.
The tenets of neo-orthodoxy are well presented in Hordern’s volume. His discussion is able and his presentation clear. Central is the theme of God’s revelation in the Word, Christ. He asserts that the Bible is an imperfect instrument pointing to the Word. Other typical ideas in neo-orthodoxy are included in the discussion. Paradox, so necessary to the system, is defended as entirely rational (p. 33). Tension, sin as self-centeredness, parable (in Genesis 3 ), and other familiar words in the Barthian vocabulary are used freely. Theological debate among fundamentalists is deplored (p. 57) but among Barthians is justified (p. 160). The good points in the idea of vicarious atonement should be maintained, according to the author, along with those in the ransom and moral influence theories, but such good points do not include expiation by blood. The author declares that this idea “comes more obviously from the Roman mystery cult of Mithra than from Christ” (p. 146). Atonement, yes; blood, no. Revelation in the Word, yes; in the Bible, no. Although the author claims that neo-orthodoxy is the true reformation theology, he clearly recognizes that it is not the same as orthodoxy. Would to God that all orthodox people would see as clearly.
Neo-liberalism, a surging movement in this country, is also ably presented. The presentation is not always clear, nor can it be when one attempts to fill theological terms with unbiblical meanings. For instance, to the question, “What is authority?” comes the confusing answer “The authority of the word of God resides precisely in those teachings through which God speaks now to the living faith of the reader” (p. 56). More precisely this means that authority is what I want to be authoritative to me. This is not far from the subjectivism of neo-orthodoxy, and that is not surprising since both systems believe in a fallible Bible. The title Son of God means “perfect man in perfect Sonship to God” (p. 62). The author’s doctrine of the Trinity is modalistic (p. 108), and substitutionary atonement through the blood of Christ is flatly rejected (p. 77).
Neo-liberalism is little more than an attempt to give the old liberalism some respectability in light of today’s theological atmosphere. Though there are basic differences between neo-liberalism and the neo-orthodoxy, one is struck with certain similarities when reading the two books together.
Neo-liberalism will likely be the issue around which battle lines will be drawn in the coming generation in America. It is rapidly gaining ground abroad, and if history repeats itself, America will shortly follow.
Running a poor third is The Case for Orthodox Theology. It fails in the purpose of the project of providing a clear statement of its position. It fails in what is not said in the book, and it fails in certain unorthodox statements which are made.
The book is supposed to give a clear statement of orthodoxy. One would expect it then to deal principally with the main stream of reformation theology. Instead the book very quickly degenerates into diatribes against the doctrines and practices of certain orthodox groups, particularly the one which the author is pleased to dub fundamentalism. Too, some of the traditionally held tenets of the main stream of orthodoxy are either sharply criticized or substantially weakened by implications which are suggested and questions which are raised but not answered. The book might be better entitled The Critique of Orthodoxy. (Indeed, Hordern has presented a fairer treatment of orthodoxy in his book, A Layman's Guide to Protestant Theology.) In view of the publisher’s request, the author should be speaking primarily for the multitudes of the orthodox people of the world and only secondarily of any divergent views which he might personally hold. If the divergencies were too great, as sometimes they appear to be, then perhaps the assignment should have been declined. The book is a clear criticism but not a clear statement.
The work is woefully lacking in what is not said. If you as a reader of this review sat down to make a list of things which you would include in a statement of the orthodox case, what doctrines would you consider as basic to orthodoxy? Undoubtedly you would have on your list the doctrines pertaining to the Bible, to Christ’s person, to Christ’s work as minimally essential. You would, therefore, expect to find in this book solid treatments of inspiration, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement and resurrection.
While the author rightly defines orthodoxy as that branch of Christendom which limits the ground of religious authority to the Bible, his treatment of inspiration of the Bible is not always solid. Too many questions are left unanswered. While one would not imply that the author’s Christology is unorthodox, yet the little attention that is paid to the virgin birth and the deity of Christ is evident by the fact that there is no listing for either in the index. Further, if one looks up the two references to atonement he will find one under a bibliographical section and the other under a criticism of dispensationalism. Perhaps this is not a fair way to judge a book, but when one finds in the index that there are separate listings for “cultic,” “cultic conduct,” “cultic mentality,” “cultic mind,” and “cultic thinking” (all referring to orthodox groups) one cannot help but feel that the author has been sidetracked from his main job. Even the resurrection of Christ receives scant attention. Except for incidental references, the discussion of this foundational truth is limited to two short paragraphs totaling less than half a page (p. 90). The book fails in what it does not say.
Furthermore, the book includes what the reviewer considers dangerously unorthodox statements. Concerning the question of the number of authors of Isaiah we are told that “a measure of Christian charity is needed at this point …” (p. 98). Passages which cannot be harmonized with the theology of Romans and Galatians fall “under the concept of progressive revelation” (p. 99). While the idea of progressive revelation is perfectly valid, early revelation must never be confused with “rude” revelation (as it is on p. 52) or used as implying misinformation and consequently error.
The evolution of man is apparently espoused by the author and considered orthodox. He states: “When orthodoxy takes inventory of its knowledge, it admits that it does not know how God formed man from the dust of the ground. The Genesis account implies an act of immediate creation, but the same account also implies that God made the world in six literal days; and since orthodoxy has given up the literal-day theory out of respect for geology, it would certainly forfeit no principle if it gave up the immediate - creation theory out of respect for paleontology. The two seem to be quite parallel … Scripture only requires us to say that the physical antecedent of man was not denoted man until God performed the miraculous act of divine inbreathing” (p. 95). In other words, he holds that the error of the evolutionists is that they have misnamed the antecedents of man because they chose to call them certain types of men.
Fundamentalism comes in for a very severe beating in this book. Whatever one may deplore in slanted doctrines and practices of some fundamentalists, it must be admitted that fundamentalists are orthodox. Dispensationalism is particularly abused, but again, it should be recognized that of all fundamentalists, dispensationalists are uniformly orthodox. Therefore, it is difficult to see what place such harsh criticism has in a book that purports to defend orthodoxy but which in reality turns right around and slaps in the face one of the largest groups of orthodox people. That has all the earmarks of biting the hand that feeds it. Even J. Gresham Machen comes in for three pages of criticism of his actions in relation to the Presbyterian church. Baptists, perfectionists, and others are also maltreated until one wonders what orthodox people are left. The author’s favorite word to describe anyone who disagrees with his own brand of so-called orthodoxy is “cultic.” That is, any group that does not meet his qualifications has gone cultic. So predominate is this approach that one wonders if it is not the author who is cultic.
The reviewer was greatly disturbed too by the spirit of the book. One readily admits that there are inconsistent practices in fundamentalism, but this is no reason for washing dirty linen in public, particularly when it is the linen of brethren and the washing is done in a context that is supposed to defend the doctrine of those brethren. Further, this is done by using the most bitter kind of sarcasm. Smoking and movies, for instance, receive more attention than the virgin birth and the kind of attention which labels even the person who in all good conscience avoids these things a hypocrite, coward, legalist, and cultist. After a particularly abusive harangue against such people the author says: “Paul says we are to ‘avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men’ ( Titus 3:3 )” (p. 121). In the process of making these attacks the clear impression is left (certainly in the discussion of dancing, p. 124) that believers ought to indulge in all these things in order to cultivate their spiritual lives since avoidance is ruining them. To turn the author’s own terminology on himself, one has the feeling that he upholds evolutionary science and approves dancing in order not to lose his status in his own cult.
Although there are good sections in the book (the treatment of Romans for the most part, and the hermeneutical discussion) the work has to be judged as a whole in respect to the total impression it leaves as to the validity of the case for orthodoxy. And judging it on this basis it leaves much to be desired. One fears that harm has been done to our cause and a rare opportunity to reach people by-passed by personal animadversions.
Charles C. Ryrie Books
Living in the Story
By Dan Cruver 6/01/2014
Telling a great story with your life is not easy. It’s often exhausting, terribly so — and yet a growing number of evangelical writers passionately encourage us to “tell a great story with your life” or “stop trying to increase your influence and start living a great story!”
Don’t get me wrong, I love great stories, and I’m all for living within one. But Scripture never commands us, “Tell a great story with your life.” It never exhorts us, “Start living a great story!” Rather, Scripture tells us we are already living within the epic Story, and we play no small role within it.
In Matthew 5:14-15, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (emphasis mine). Jesus does not tell us that in order to fulfill our role within the epic story of redemption, we need to become the light of the world. No, Jesus tells us that we actually are the light of the world. By doing so, Jesus makes sure we know that we already are major characters in a great story, an epic story.
I can almost hear someone offer this corrective: “Yes, but just make sure you point out that Jesus is the only one who ever said, ‘I am the light of the world.’” And to that corrective I would offer a hearty, “Yes, you’re absolutely right. Jesus is the only one who ever said that about Himself in Scripture.”
But here is the tricky part. We don’t find Jesus saying those words in Matthew’s gospel. They are actually recorded for us only in the gospel of John (John 8:12; 9:5). So, for whatever reason, Matthew’s emphasis in his gospel is not that Jesus is the light of the world (although He most certainly is) but that we are. Matthew insists that we see ourselves as the light of the world.
Keep in mind that Matthew is not giving each of us as individuals permission to say, “I am the light of the world.” But Matthew is calling us as the people of God to recognize that “we (collectively) are indeed the light of the world.” And it’s not something to which we are to aspire. Being the light of the world is what we are. God the Father has brought us into the kingdom of His Son to shine as a light here and now.
“But how,” you ask, “do we shine as a light in the world?”
As you know, the One who tells us that we (collectively) are the light of the world is the One who (individually) is the light of the world, Jesus. The Son of God is individually what we are collectively as He shines through us.
Did you also notice in Matthew 5:14-15 that the Son of God tells us to let our “light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (emphasis mine)? The Son who is in Himself the light of the world refers to His Father as our Father too. If we are to understand what it means for us to shine as a light, I’m convinced that the words “your Father” hold the key.
Take a moment to recall with me what the Father declared when Jesus was baptized, recorded for us just two chapters earlier in Matthew’s gospel:
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him...and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16-17)
What we must not miss here is that when Jesus was launching into His public ministry, of all the words His Father could have spoken over Him, He chose these. The gospel writers want us to know that the Father’s Son went forward with the mission of His Father in the strength and knowledge of His Father’s delight.
So what does this have to do with us, those who are the light of the world?
Dr. C.F.W. Walther, a pastor who lived in the 1800s, wrote, “Every Christian may apply to himself the declaration of God: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!’” Don’t miss what Walther just said. The only thing I would change to what he wrote is swap out the word may with the word must. Because of who Jesus is for us and who we are in Him, the words that His Father declared over Him that day He also declares over us — the children of the kingdom — today and every day hereafter.
To shine as a light in this world is to live each day in the conscious knowledge that the Father delights in His people, that His smile rests upon us. And the power of God’s delight in us produces good works out of the knowledge that the Father loves us as He loves His eternal Son (John 17:23), and good works grown by that love give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:15). Now that is a great role to play in this epic Story.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 106Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good
32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33 for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.
34 They did not destroy the peoples,
as the LORD commanded them,
35 but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.
When God Goes Missing
By John Sartelle 6/01/2014
Why do you go to church? When I ask that question of Christians who attend churches where they are members, I am usually surprised and dismayed by the answers I hear. “I really like our minister. His messages are powerful.” “I think it is important for my family to be in church.” “The church we attend rescued our son from drugs.” “Our church has a strong youth program. In fact, that is why we started attending this specific church.” “The music program attracts people from all over the city. That is why we ended up there.” “The messages and the whole service are so uplifting.” “I go and usually take one of my friends because it is fun and entertaining.” “I want to be involved in ministries to less fortunate and hurting people. Our church is known all through the city for such outreach.”
These answers made the list because I have heard each one multiple times. Most of these answers are related in some way to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but they miss the one true reason that God calls us to His house: to meet with Him. I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard in the last forty years, “Why do I go to church? I go to meet with God.”
As our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, God calls us to meet with Him. He had Moses build the tabernacle for this purpose. He said to Moses and Israel in Exodus 29:4, “There I will meet you and speak to you.” He used similar words with Solomon and Israel when the temple was built. The people were going to God’s house to meet with Him.
In the New Testament, Jesus set about designing and building a new temple where He would meet with His people. He told His disciples that He would be present and meet with them wherever they gathered: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20).
Those same disciples understood what Jesus meant as they saw His church being erected by the Holy Spirit:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)
God lives in the midst of the gathering of His people. This is the temple that Jesus is building.
In the Old and New Testaments, worship was what happened when God met with His people. Therefore, everything we do in worship is in response to His presence with His people. Before we meet with Him, there is thought and prayer anticipating His presence. The call to worship and hymn of adoration are our initial responses to His presence. No part of our worship can be validly separated from His presence.
I have gone to some length to define our primary purpose for gathering with God’s people because the evangelical church has a proclivity to be casual in its activities in God’s sanctuary. If our main purpose in attending church is to meet with God Himself, then we dare not approach the Almighty with a carelessness that we do not see from even the angels. Some justify a relaxed attitude by saying, “We are striving to be authentic as we meet.” Others have pointed out that many churches are meeting in buildings that were once stores, shops, schools, garages, and so on. The building where our church currently meets was a new car showroom in what was once an automobile dealership. Those mundane surroundings do not lend themselves to what we consider to be “church ceremony.”
However, such excuses do not change the primary biblical purpose of attending church. Whether I am going to a cathedral or a car showroom to gather with God’s people, I am still meeting with the transcendent, triune Creator and Redeemer, who is majestic in His glory, holy in all His ways, and before whom the great seraphim cover their faces. He is most certainly gracious in His immanence. But the mercy and grace of Calvary didn’t eradicate His transcendence.
When I discover that my approach to God in the assembling of His people is “casual,” I cannot blame it on an effort to be authentic or on my informal surroundings. If I am honest with myself, I must confess that I have forgotten the primary purpose of my attendance. I have forgotten His presence and His true identity. Sometimes, the blindness and deafness that once kept me from seeing and hearing Him partially returns and prevents me from perceiving His nearness and His character.
The immanence of the transcendent God speaks to our preparation for, participation in, and parting from worship. When I am late coming to meet with Him, I must ask myself why I took great pains that week to be early to my doctor’s appointment or to the meeting with my banker. When I leave immediately after the message, I must ask myself why I refrained from singing the hymn of response — refusing to reply to God Himself who just spoke to me. Why am I already out the door when God is giving me His benediction? This rightfully upsets Pastor Brett also. As His child, why am I refusing to be blessed by my Father?
Has God’s presence gone missing from our assemblies? Biblical theology tells me He must be present. Thus, nonchalance is a perilous trifling with the Holy.
The Coming of the Kingdom part 39
By Dr. Andrew Woods 11/30/2015
In this series, the biblical teaching on the kingdom of God has been surveyed from Genesis to Revelation in order to demonstrate that the whole counsel of God's Word conveys the idea that the kingdom is a yet future reality. In addition, this series has examined the isolated New Testament texts and miscellaneous arguments that "kingdom now" theologians typically rely upon and it has demonstrated how each is insufficient to convey "kingdom now" theology. As we move on to the final leg in our journey, we began noting why this trend of equating God's present work in the church with the Messianic kingdom is a matter believers should be concerned about, since this theology not only radically alters God's design for the church but is also the seedbed of many major false doctrines that have sadly entered Christ's church.
Changing The Church's Purpose
Why does it matter whether Christ's present work through the church is equated with Christ's Messianic kingdom? The answer to this question lies in the fact that "kingdom now" theology alters the divine design for the church. Earlier in this series, we noted that the church, which began in Acts 2, exists for three specific, divinely - ordained reasons: to glorify God ( Eph. 3:21 ), to edify the saints ( Eph. 4:11-16 ), and to fulfill the Great Commission ( Matt. 28:18-20 ). However, based upon a lengthy block quote given in the last installment, McClain explains how these basic and divinely - given ecclesiastical purposes rapidly become confused the moment that the church begins to view itself as the kingdom.  When the church sees itself as the kingdom it typically seeks to grasp the reins of political power and rule by the sword. This philosophy represents a far cry from God's design for the church, which is to evangelize and disciple, or reach and teach, in fulfillment of the Great Commission ( Matt. 28:18-20 ). While it remains appropriate for the church to positively influence fallen culture in some sense ( Matt. 5:13-16 ), she is not called to rule and reign in the present age with kingdom authority. Instead, the church is to await the future, earthly, Messianic Kingdom when Christ will rule and reign with a rod of iron ( Ps. 2:9; Rev. 12:5 ). Until that glorious future day arrives, the world will remain under Satan's influence ( 2 Cor. 4:4 ), and consequently the church will be living as a pilgrim in enemy territory.
McClain's preceding quote notes at least three problems that emerge when the church sees itself as the kingdom and seeks to reign with kingdom authority in the present. First, the church ceases to see itself as a pilgrim in the world but rather sees herself at home in the world. A pilgrim is one who is simply passing through a temporary realm toward a final destination. In the same way, this world is not the church's home but rather is a temporary sphere that the church is passing through on her way to eternal glory.
Chafer notes, "So the church was fully warned from the beginning about the nature of this age, and taught concerning her pilgrim character while here and her holy calling and separateness from the 'evil age.'"  This theological reality explains why the New Testament often uses pilgrimage imagery to depict the church in the world ( Jas. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11; Heb. 11:13 ).
Second, if the church pursues worldly power, she becomes distracted from her divine mission to fulfill the Great Commission ( Matt. 28:18-20 ). God only promises to bless and empower the church when she remains within His intended design. Once the church becomes something that God never called her to be, she is emptied of this divine power. If Satan can convince the church to become involved in projects that she was never given the power to fulfill, he will have effectively neutralized the church. Bestselling author Hal Lindsey warned what could happen to the church in the last days if she began to see herself as the establisher of God's kingdom on the earth: "The last days of the church on the earth may be largely wasted seeking to accomplish a task that only the LORD Himself can and will do directly." 
Third, seeing the church as the kingdom causes the church to substitute social causes in lieu of preaching the true gospel. The Great Commission is subtly transformed from evangelism and discipleship to altering societal structures. In other words, rather than fulfilling the Great Commission, the church perceives its central purpose as fixing societal ills such as curing cancer, ending world poverty and hunger, and establishing social justice. The collective salvation of nations or communities replaces the individual salvation of souls. This philosophy and misguided emphasis is known as the "Social Gospel." Note this emphasis in the writings of progressive dispensationalist and "kingdom now" theologian Craig Blaising, who laments, "Unfortunately, present-day dispensationalists have written very little in proposing a theology of social ministry."  He continues, "...if we as a community of Christ worked on creating our community as a model of social justice and peace, then we really would have some suggestions to make for social reform in our cities and nations." 
It is interesting to note Social Gospel language in the writings of the "kingdom now" Emergent Church leaders.  For example, Brian McLaren is clearly a kingdom now advocate. He argues, "If Revelation were a blueprint of the distant future, it would have been unintelligible to its original readers...In light of this, Revelation becomes a powerful book about the kingdom of God here and now, available to all". Consequently, Brian McLaren laments, "The church has been preoccupied with the question, 'What happens to your soul after you die?' As if the reason for Jesus coming can be summed up in, 'Jesus is trying to get more souls into heaven as opposed to hell, after they die.' I just think a fair reading of the Gospels blows that out of the water."  In other words, because the church sees itself as the kingdom, it would not consider the salvation of souls its top priority. Rather, it should instead also pursue a "holistic gospel" focused upon altering societal structures.
Of course, this mindset does not represent the mission that God gave to the church. It only serves to distract her from her divine priorities and calling. Ryrie explains how such priorities can easily get out of order: “Holistic redemption can easily lead to placing unbalanced, if not wrong, priorities on political action, social agendas, and improving the structures of society.”  While ecclesiastical humanitarian effort is not wrong in and of itself, such efforts should always be used as a platform to proclaim the Gospel or practically demonstrate Christ-like love so as to gain a hearing to share the Gospel. If the Gospel becomes eclipsed by humanitarian concerns, then our priorities are grossly out of order. After all, what good does it really do in the eternal scheme of things to feed someone's stomach with a meal that only has a lasting impact of 24 hours, if he is never given the Gospel and consequently his soul goes into an eternal hell?
Like McLaren, Rick Warren also embraces "kingdom now" theology:
I stand before you confidently right now and say to you that God is going to use you to change the world...I'm looking at a stadium full of people right now who are telling God they will do whatever it takes to establish God's Kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven." What will happen if the followers of Jesus say to Him, "We are yours?" What kind of spiritual awakening will occur? 
Consequently, Social Gospel is also apparent in the work of "kingdom now" advocate Rick Warren. He calls his global mission strategy the "PEACE" plan.
P.E.A.C.E. is an acronym for Promote reconciliation; Equip servant leaders; Assist the poor; Care for the sick; and Educate the next generation. Coalition members see these actions as Jesus' antidote to five "global giants," — problems that affect billions of people worldwide: spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, poverty, pandemic disease, and illiteracy. 
What did you not clearly hear about in this description of Warren's peace plan? There's absolutely nothing here about preaching the gospel. What an astounding omission this is, especially considering that the gospel is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" ( Rom. 1:16 ). There is also absolutely nothing here about fulfilling the Great Commission to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" ( Matt. 28:19 ). There's nothing here either about Christ's final words to the church as recorded in Mark 16:15, where Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." Furthermore, there is no hint in any other Great Commission passage ( John 20:21; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8 ) to go and slay the five "global giants." Rather, the entire emphasis of these Great Commission texts is upon evangelism and discipleship. The Great Commission has largely become the "great omission" through the influence of Rick Warren and others. Kingdom building, societal transformation, and Social Gospel have largely replaced the church's central calling to evangelize and disciple. Thus, kingdom now theology should be avoided not only because it is not scripturally supported, but also because it alters the divine purpose for the church, thereby robbing her of divine power and blessing.Continue Reading (Part 40 on Sept 30 web page)
ENDNOTES Alva J. McClain, By Alva J. McClain - The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God, 438-39.
 L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology (4 Volume Set). 5:273-79.
 Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust, 269.
 Craig Blaising, "Dispensationalism: The Search for Definition," in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church
 Craig Blaising, "Theological and Ministerial Issues in Progressive Dispensationalism
 For kingdom now quotes of Brian McLaren and other Emergent Church leaders, see part 1 of this series.
 Cited in Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails, 2007), 203.
 Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism
 Cited in Oakland, 153.
 "Rick Warren and 1,700 Leaders Launch the Peace Coalition at Purpose Driven Summit," online: http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/249586720.html. Accessed 15 November 2014.
Dr. Andrew Woods Books
Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.
Dr. Andrew Woods Ministry Page, YouTube Channel, and Church.
By John Walvoord (1990)
General Introduction To Prophecy In The Book Of Revelation
The book of Revelation, coming as a climax to preceding books of Scripture, brings to a conclusion the main themes of prophecy from both the Old and New Testaments. Because of their tremendous scope and detailed revelation, these prophecies will be considered under three divisions: (1) Prophecy in Revelation Concerning the Church ( 1–3 ); (2) John’s Vision of Heaven and the End Time ( 4–18 ); and (3) Prophecy Concerning the Second Coming, the Millennium, and Eternal State ( 19–22 ).
The book of Revelation is unique as the only New Testament book that is apocalyptic and similar in style to Old Testament books such as Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, and Zechariah. The word apocalyptic is a transliteration of the Greek word apokalypsis, meaning “to uncover or disclose.” The apocalyptic books in the Old Testament, as well as the book of Revelation in the New Testament, differ widely, however, from apocalyptic writings that are outside the Bible, which usually do not have a specific author and often are fanciful and impossible to organize theologically. An apocalyptic book is one that claims to be a divine revelation, usually revealing the future and presenting revelation in nonliteral terms that require interpretation.
Biblical books that are truly apocalyptic, however, not only contain this element but also plain prophecy in ordinary words, frequently explaining the vision or a symbol after the revelation is given symbolically. For this reason, the interpretation of biblical books that are apocalyptic is not necessarily uncertain. An apocalyptic book requires interpretation based on the revelation given in the passage itself as well as in other books of prophetic character in Scripture.
Though some symbolic references in apocalyptic books are not certain of interpretation, most of them yield a literal meaning describing a future event or situation. Accordingly, in apocalyptic biblical books, the main thought is one of revelation, whether given symbolically or in ordinary terms.
Because the book of Revelation presents a specific eschatological future, including the concept of a literal extended period of terrible trouble, a literal second coming of Christ, a thousand-year kingdom following the second coming, and a new heaven and new earth as the ultimate residence of the saints, those who differ with these theological concepts tend to offer some form of interpretation of the book of Revelation that will not lead to these theological conclusions. At least four divergent methods of interpretation have been employed.
1. Allegorical interpretation is an attempt to interpret the book of Revelation in a nonliteral sense, in which the interpreter finds some meaning other than the plain meaning of the term itself. Often this is claimed to be a spiritual interpretation as opposed to literalism, but this is a false antithesis. A literal interpretation may be the spiritual interpretation.
Though the book of Revelation was regarded in the second century as genuine revelation, because of the rise of a school of theology in Alexandria, Egypt, in the third century that attempted to make all the Bible one grand allegory, this same interpretation was applied to the book of Revelation. This was acceptable to them because it would not confront them with theological points of view concerning the future that were unacceptable to them. Contemporary theologians, regardless of their theological point of view, recognized that the allegorical interpretation of the Bible as a whole is not justified and regarded the school of Alexandria as basically heretical.
Saint Augustine of Hippo in the fourth and fifth centuries attempted to limit the viewpoint of allegory to eschatology instead of the entire Scripture, and this viewpoint was followed by many. The next result of the allegorical interpretation, however, is to deny that the book of Revelation has anything specific to say about future events.
2. The preterist’s approach to the book of Revelation is similar to the allegorical method but is more limited in its application of nonliteral interpretation. Under this approach, the book of Revelation is regarded as a symbolic presentation of the conflicts of the early church, making it a symbolic history of the early church rather than a prophetic revelation of the future. This point of view claims that there are two basic approaches to the book of Revelation, namely, the predictive or the descriptive, and they choose a descriptive view that eliminates the prophetic element. The scholars who oppose literal interpretation of the book of Revelation tend to combine the preterist’s view with some form of allegorical or nonliteral interpretation that will allow them to explain their point of view without contradiction of the book of Revelation.
3. The historical approach to the book of Revelation is one of the most popular, which has been followed through the centuries of the Christian church.
Adopting a somewhat symbolic interpretation of the book of Revelation similar to the preterist approach, interpreters claim that the book of Revelation is a symbolic history of the church, which, in general, traces its struggles that issue in the ultimate triumph for the church. It, accordingly, has some predictive character. This is popular among the post-millenarians, whether conservative or liberal, and was held by theologians who were considered orthodox in other areas of theology.
One of the main problems of the historical view, however, is that each interpreter attempted to have the book climax with his generation, which led to a great variety of interpretations. Accordingly, it is impossible to find any two historical interpreters who provide the same interpretation of the book of Revelation, and it leaves no pattern of significant truth with any consensus in support of it. Views that tend to avoid the theological climax of the book of Revelation as a series of literal events tend to combine in one way or another a nonliteral approach that leaves interpretation in a state of confusion.
4. Because none of the preceding approaches has achieved any recognized consensus, many conservative scholars have turned to the futuristic approach, viewing the book as prophecy of the future, especially beginning in Revelation 4. Under this interpretation, Revelation 4–18 deals with events that are yet future; Revelation 19 deals with a literal second coming; Revelation 20 deals with a future thousand-year reign of Christ on earth; and Revelation 21–22 is considered a description of the eternal state.
Following this interpretation, however, would require interpreters to be pre-millennial, holding the view that Christ will come back in His second coming first and that the thousand-year reign of Christ follows, in contrast to the post-millennial view, which puts Christ’s second coming at the end of the millennial reign. Countless variations, of course, occur in various interpretations of the book, but generally speaking, the only view that provides any consensus is that of the futuristic view.
Under the futuristic view, due recognition is given to the symbolic and the need for interpreting the symbols. Often this is done, however, in the very context of the revelation, or can be determined by reference to other prophetic books in the Bible. Though some symbolic revelations are still not completely understood, a surprising number of passages yield to a factual conclusion regarding future events. Objections to the futuristic view usually are theological in nature, as some resist the theological position taken by pre-millenarians. Often the accusation is made that the book would not bring sufficient comfort to those who read it throughout the history of the church if it was entirely futuristic. However, this point of view overlooks the fact that all prophecy to some extent is futuristic and constitutes a revelation of that which faith embraces.
Inasmuch as the futuristic view offers the only solid basis for a consistent and verifiable form of interpretation, this is the point of view adopted in this work.
Some of the symbols in the book of Revelation are in widespread use of numbers, which, while taken literally, also may have a symbolic meaning. These numbers include 3; 31/2; 4; 5; 6; 7; 10; 12; 24; 42; 666; 1,000; 1,250; 12,000; 144,000; 100 million; and 200 million. One of the most common numbers mentioned is the number 7, which has in it the concept of completion. The book of Revelation includes 7 churches, 7 lampstands, 7 stars, 7 spirits of God, 7 seals on the scroll, 7 angels with 7 trumpets, 7 bowls containing the 7 last plagues, 7 thunders, 7,000 killed in the earthquake ( Rev. 12 ), the dragon with 7 heads ( 13:1 ), 7 hills ( Rev. 17 ), and 7 kings. Many of the other numbers are frequently used throughout the book of Revelation. Evidence points to the fact that these numbers are always used in a literal sense, even though they may also have a symbolic sense; that is, if it declares that there are 7 stars, there are 7 stars, not 6 or 8, and so with other uses of the numbers.
One of the most significant references is to the 42 months, or 1,260 days, which is the duration of the great tribulation ( 13:5 ). This refers to the last half of the seven-year period predicted in Daniel 9:27. Many interpreters find the entire 7 years of verse 27 as the main subject of Revelation 6 through 18. The emphasis, however, seems to be on the last 3 and a 1/2 years, which is the predicted time of unprecedented trouble of which Christ Himself spoke ( Matt. 24:21–22 ). Interpretation of the numbers will be given further attention as they appear in the book of Revelation.
Symbols abound in the book of Revelation. The following list of symbols published in the author’s book Revelation (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries)) will serve to demonstrate the symbolic character of many of the passages dealing with the future in the book of Revelation.
• The seven stars ( 1:16 ) represent seven angels ( 1:20 ).
• The seven lampstands ( 1:13 ) represent seven churches ( 1:20 ).
• The hidden manna ( 2:17 ) speaks of Christ in glory (cf. Exodus 16:33-34; Heb. 9:4 ).
• The morning star ( 2:28 ) refers to Christ returning before the dawn, suggesting the rapture of the church before the establishment of the Kingdom (cf. Rev. 22:16; 2 Peter 1:19 ).
• The key of David ( 3:7 ) represents the power to open and close doors ( Isa. 22:22 ).
• The seven lamps of fire represent the sevenfold Spirit of God ( 4:5 ).
• The living creatures ( 4:7 ) portray the attributes of God.
• The seven eyes represent the sevenfold Spirit of God ( 5:6 ).
• The odors of the golden vials symbolize the prayers of the saints ( 5:8 ).
• The four horses and their riders ( 6:1 ff.) represent successive events in the developing tribulation.
• The fallen star ( 9:1 ) is the angel of the abyss, probably Satan ( 9:11 ).
• Many references are made to Jerusalem: the great city ( 11:8 ), Sodom and Egypt ( 11:8 ), which stand in contrast to the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city.
• The stars of heaven ( 12:4 ) refer to fallen angels ( 12:9 ).
• The woman and the child ( 12:1-2 ) seem to represent Israel and Christ ( 12:5-6 ).
• Satan is variously described as the great dragon, the old serpent, and the devil ( 12:9; 20:2 ).
• The time, times, and half a time ( 12:14 ) are the same as 1,260 days ( 12:6 ).
• The beast out of the sea ( 13:1-10 ) is the future world ruler and his empire.
• The beast out of the earth ( 13:11-17 ) is the false prophet ( 19:20 ).
• The harlot ( 17:1 ) variously described as the great city ( 17:18 ), as Babylon the great ( 17:5 ), as the one who sits on seven hills ( 17:9 ), is usually interpreted as apostate Christendom.
• The waters ( 17:1 ) on which the woman sits represent the peoples of the world ( 17:15 ).
• The ten horns ( 17:12 ) are ten kings associated with the beast ( 13:1; 17:3, 7, 8, 11-13, 1 & -17 ).
• The Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings ( 17:14 ).
• Fine linen is symbolic of the righteous deeds of the saints ( 19:8 ).
• The rider of the white horse ( 19:11-16, 19 ) is clearly identified as Christ, the King of kings.
• The lake of fire is described as the second death ( 20:14 ).
• Jesus Christ is the Root and Offspring of David ( 22:16 ).
Though the book of Revelation is often viewed as hopelessly contradictory and devoid of any factual information, with modern interpreters lacking the key to understanding its writing, if the book is taken as having real meaning, surprisingly, a number of the symbolic passages yield specific prophecy of events in the future. This will be demonstrated in the interpretation of the book itself.
Few books of the Bible will do more to clarify the theology and thinking of a student of Scripture than a proper understanding of the book of Revelation. It is unfortunate that even scholars have tended to make it a book that is impossible to understand by our present generation. For a commentary on the book of Revelation, see the author’s book Revelation (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries).
Prophecy of the Dramatic Revelation of Jesus Christ at His Second Coming
Revelation 1:7–8. The reader is challenged, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen” (v. 7 ). Because this final book of the New Testament has as its central theme the revelation of Jesus Christ, that is, what the world will behold at the time of the second coming, this verse is especially significant, and accordingly, the reader is urged to behold it.
When Christ was received by a cloud at the time of His ascension ( Acts 1:9 ), and as three of the Gospels mention His coming in clouds ( Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27 ), so here Christ is coming with clouds, which will reflect His glory. Unlike the occasion of His ascension, however, the clouds will not hinder people seeing Him, and it declares that “every eye will see him” ( Rev. 1:7 ).
The question is raised how, in a global situation with the world’s population all over the globe, at any one moment, every eye will be able to see Christ’s coming to earth. The answer seems to be found in 19:11–16. The coming of Christ, unlike the rapture, will not be an instantaneous event but will be a gigantic procession of holy angels and saints from heaven to earth. There is no reason why this should not take twenty-four hours with its termination on the Mount of Olives. In that period the earth will revolve, and regardless of what direction Christ comes from, people will be able to see His coming from their position on the earth.
The appearance of Christ at the second coming is contrasted to the rapture of the church, when nothing is said about the world seeing Him, and it is possible that the world will see nothing at the time of the rapture. Only Christians will see His glory at the rapture ( Titus 2:13 ).
The fact that even those who pierced Him in His crucifixion will see Him at His second coming introduces a problem inasmuch as they were unsaved and at that time will be in hell and will not be in a position to see this event. This problem is solved, however, by the prediction in Zechariah 12:10, stating, “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” Those living at the time of the second coming in Israel will therefore be representatives of those in the first century who participated in the death of Christ. Though Gentiles performed the act of crucifixion, it was demanded by Jews who, according to Scripture, “pierced” Christ. Jews living at the time of the second coming will accept responsibility.
The grief of Israel, however, will be shared by other peoples of the world because the death of Christ was required by the sins of the world. As the prediction states, “All the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him” ( Rev. 1:7 ). This is confirmed by Matthew 24:30, which states, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” The mourning of Israel will, no doubt, be caused by their identity with the people of Israel in the first century, but the mourning of all peoples of the earth will probably be because they are not saved and not ready for the coming of the Lord. The unbelief of the world and their rejection of Christ is referred to frequently in the book of Revelation ( 6:15–17; 9:20–21; 16:9–11, 21 ). The verse closes with “Amen,” meaning “so be it.”
In concluding the salutation, John quotes Christ, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’” ( 1:8 ). In using the term “Alpha and Omega,” He is using the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, in keeping with the idea of Christ being from eternity past to eternity future. The expression “who is, and who was, and who is to come” is the same expression as the statement made of the Father in verse 4 and is climaxed by the term “the Almighty,” an expression that is used nine times in the book of Revelation. Because the last book of the Bible is primarily concerned with the revelation of Jesus Christ and His glory at the time of the second coming, it is fitting that these eight verses of introduction should introduce Christ as the eternal glorious God. The contrast, of course, is to His first coming when He was a babe in Bethlehem, and His presence was revealed only to a few. In many respects the book of Revelation is in contrast to the four Gospels, which describe Christ in His first coming.
The Patmos Vision
Revelation 1:9–20. In the first chapter of the book of Revelation, John, on the Isle of Patmos where he was in exile, had a tremendous revelation of Jesus in His glory. Christ is described as “the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!” (vv. 17–18 ). This was an experience for John that was now past, and though the first chapter of Revelation introduces the future coming of Christ, in general, the first chapter deals with things that were.
Beginning with the message of Ephesus and the other six churches, the narrative goes on to things that are, that is, that are present in the church age. Accordingly, though there is prophecy, it has to do with the present rather than the future (vv. 9–20 ).
Beginning in chapter 4, however, the entire narrative deals with events that are yet future, and only the interpretation that considers them as future can give any serious interpretation to the details of the prophecy that is recorded.
The Continual Burnt Offering (1 Corinthians 10:13)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
September 291 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ESV
Temptation is used here in the sense of trial. Christians are exposed to the same trying circumstances that men of the world have to face. But they do not have to meet them alone. The Lord whom they serve is guarding His own and will never permit the furnace to be overheated, nor allow His people to face conditions which will not work out for blessing if gone through in fellowship with Himself. To know that “God is faithful” is as an anchor to the soul no matter how the storms may rage and the tempests blow. He will not forsake those who put their trust in Him. He will either deliver from the trial or give grace to bear it.
I would not ask Thee why
My path should be
Through strange and stony ways—
Thou leadest me!
I would not ask Thee how
Loss worketh gain,
Knowing that some day soon—
All shall be plain.
My heart would never doubt
Thy love and care,
However heavy seems
The cross I bear.
Nor would I, Father, ask
My lot to choose,
Lest seeking selfish ease
Thy best I lose.
--- Grace E. Troy
- Ron Pierce
- Albert Mohler, Jr.
- Albert Mohler, Jr.
Male and Female in Creation & Fall | Biola University
The Bible Is God's Word | Albert Mohler, Jr.
There Is A God | Albert Mohler, Jr.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
You can change
(Sept 29) Bob Gass
‘We are the clay, and you are the potter.’
(Is 64:8) 8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. ESV
Ever watch a lump of clay being transformed into something beautiful? The clay can’t change itself; the power to do that lies in the hands of the potter. Isaiah says, ‘We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all formed by your hand.’ That means you don’t have to live the rest of your life with your phobias and hang-ups; God can change you. Even if you’ve been a worrier all your life, you don’t have to worry for the rest of your life. So, what if you were born in poverty or prejudice? You don’t have to die that way. Where did you get the idea that you can’t change? What’s the source of comments such as ‘It’s just my nature to worry,’ or ‘I’ll always be pessimistic; I’m just that way,’ or ‘I come from a family of alcoholics and addicts so I’ll never be free’? Would you make the same statement about your physical body? ‘It’s just my nature to have a broken leg. I can’t do anything about it.’ Of course not. If your body malfunctions, you seek help. Shouldn’t you do the same with your sinful appetites, sour attitudes, and selfish tirades? What the world sees as rubbish, God sees as treasure. And like the potter, He can take you, mould you, and make you into a vessel of honour (see 2 Timothy 2:21). All you have to do is place your life in His hands. We sing, ‘Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay.’ When you stop trying to change yourself and surrender to God, true and lasting change takes place.
UCB The Word For Today
by Bill Federer
Late September, in the year 1622, Squanto died. He had helped the Pilgrims’ survive in the new world, as “A special instrument sent of God.” Governor Bradford wrote: “The winds drove [their boat] in; Captain Standish fell ill with fever… they could not get round the shoals of Cape Cod, for flats and breakers… so they put into Manamoick Bay… Here Squanto fell ill of Indian fever, bleeding much at the nose, - which the Indians take for a symptom of death… He begged the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in Heaven, and bequeathed several of his things to… his English friends… His death was a great loss.”American Minute
by P.T. Forsyth, (1848-1921)
--- Forsyth, P. T. (1848-1921).
After adoration, therefore, prayer is thanksgiving and petition. When we thank God our experience “arrives”. It finds what it came for. It fulfills the greatest end of experience. It comes to its true self, comes to its own, and has its perfect work. It breathes large, long, and free, sublimi anbelitu. The soul runs its true normal course back to God its Creator, who has stamped the destiny of this return upon it, and leaves it no peace till it finds its goal in Him. The gift we thank for becomes sacramental because it conveys chiefly the Giver, and is lost in Him and in His praise. It is He that chiefly comes in His saints and His boons. In real revelation we rise for above a mere interpretation of life, a mere explanation of events; we touch their Doer, the Life indeed, and we can dispense with interpretations, having Him. An occurrence thus becomes a revelation. It gives us God, in a sacrament. And where there is real revelation there is thanksgiving, there is eucharist; for God Himself is in the gift, and strikes His own music from the soul. If we think most of the gift, prayer may subtly increase our egoism. We praise for a gift to us. We are tempted to treat God as an asset, and to exploit him. But true prayer, thinking most of the Giver, quells the egoism and dissolves it in praise. What we received came for another end than just to gratify us. It came to carry God to us, and to lift us to Him and to the consent of His glory. The blessing in it transcends the enjoyment of it, and the Spirit of the outgoing God returns to Him not void, but bringing our souls as sheaves with Him.
So also with the petition in our prayer. It also is purified by adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. We know better what to pray for as we ought. We do not only bring to God desires that rise apart from Him, and that we present by an act of our own; but our desires, our will, as they are inspired are also formed in God’s presence, as requests. They get shape. In thanks we spread out before Him and offer Him our past and present, but in petition it is our future.
But has petition a true place in the highest and purest prayer? Is it not lost in adoration and gratitude? Does adoration move as inevitably to petition as petition rises to adoration? In reply we might ask whether the best gratitude and purest thanks are not for answered petitions. Is there not this double movement in all spiritual action which centres in the Incarnation, where man ascends as God comes down? Does not man enlarge in God as God particularizes upon men? But, putting that aside, is the subsidence of petition not due to a wrong idea of God; as if our only relation were dependence, as if, therefore, will-lessness before Him were the devout ideal—as if we but acknowledge Him and could not act on Him? Ritschl, for example, following Schleiermacher, says, “Love to God has no sphere of action outside love to our brother.” If that were so, there would be no room for petition, but only for worship of God and service of man without intercession. The position is not unconnected with Ritschl’s neglect of the Spirit and His intercession, or with his aversion to the Catholic type of piety. If suffering were the only occasion and promptuary of prayer, then resignation, and not petition, might be the true spirit of prayer. But our desires and wills do not rise out of our suffering only, nor out of our passivity and dependence, but also out of our duty and our place in life; and therefore our petition is as due to God and as proper as our life’s calling. If we may not will nor love, no doubt petition, especially for others, is a mistake. Of course, also, our egoism, engrossed with our happiness influences our prayer too often and too much. But we can never overcome our self-will by will-lessness, nor our greed of happiness by apathy. Petitions that are less than pure can only be purified by petition. Prayer is the salvation of prayer. We pray for better prayer. We can rise above our egoism only as we have real dealing with the will of God in petitionary prayer which does change His detailed intentions toward us though not His great will of grace and Salvation.
The element of adoration has been missed from worship by many observers of our public prayer. And the defect goes with the individualism of the age just past. Adoration is a power the egoist and individualist loses. He loses also the power both of thanksgiving and of petition, and sinks, through silence before God, to His neglect. For our blessings are not egoistically meant, nor do they remain blessings if so taken. They contemplate more than ourselves, as indeed does our whole place and work in the gift of life. We must learn to thank God not only for the blessings of others, but for the power to convey to others gifts which make them happier than they make us—as the gifts of genius so often do. One Church should praise Him for the prosperity of other Churches, for that is to the good of the Gospel. And, as for petition, how can a man or a Church pray for their own needs to the omission of others? God’s fundamental relation to us is one that embraces and blesses all. We are saved in a common salvation. The atmosphere of prayer is communion. Common prayer is the inevitable fruit of a Gospel like Christ’s.
Public prayer, therefore, should be in the main liturgical, with room for free prayer. The more it really is common prayer, and the more our relation with men extend and deepen (as prayer with and for men does extend them), the more we need forms which proceed from the common and corporate conscience of the Church. Even Christ did. As He rose to the height of His great world-work on the cross His prayer fell back on the liturgy of His people—on the Psalms. It is very hard for the ordinary minister to come home to the spiritual variety of a large congregation without those great forms which arose out of the deep soul of the Church before it spread into sectional boughs or individual twigs.
The Soul of Prayer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
... from here, there and everywhere
Suppose our failures occur,
not in spite of what we are doing,
but precisely because of it.
--- Dallas Willard
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.
--- John Flavel
Find your purpose and fling your life out into it; and the loftier your purpose is, the more sure you will be to make the world richer with every enrichment of yourself!
--- Phillips Brooks
Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and say “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not”.
--- Martin Luther
Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel
Thanks to Meir Yona
3. However, John staid behind, out of his fear of Simon, even while his own men were earnest in making a sally upon their enemies without. Yet did not Simon lie still, for he lay near the place of the siege; he brought his engines of war, and disposed of them at due distances upon the wall, both those which they took from Cestius formerly, and those which they got when they seized the garrison that lay in the tower Antonia. But though they had these engines in their possession, they had so little skill in using them, that they were in great measure useless to them; but a few there were who had been taught by deserters how to use them, which they did use, though after an awkward manner. So they cast stones and arrows at those that were making the banks; they also ran out upon them by companies, and fought with them. Now those that were at work covered themselves with hurdles spread over their banks, and their engines were opposed to them when they made their excursions. The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also. Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, The Stone Cometh 15 so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm. But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow. Yet did not the Jews, under all this distress, permit the Romans to raise their banks in quiet; but they shrewdly and boldly exerted themselves, and repelled them both by night and by day.
4. And now, upon the finishing the Roman works, the workmen measured the distance there was from the wall, and this by lead and a line, which they threw to it from their banks; for they could not measure it any otherwise, because the Jews would shoot at them, if they came to measure it themselves; and when they found that the engines could reach the wall, they brought them thither. Then did Titus set his engines at proper distances, so much nearer to the wall, that the Jews might not be able to repel them, and gave orders they should go to work; and when thereupon a prodigious noise echoed round about from three places, and that on the sudden there was a great noise made by the citizens that were within the city, and no less a terror fell upon the seditious themselves; whereupon both sorts, seeing the common danger they were in, contrived to make a like defense. So those of different factions cried out one to another, that they acted entirely as in concert with their enemies; whereas they ought however, notwithstanding God did not grant them a lasting concord, in their present circumstances, to lay aside their enmities one against another, and to unite together against the Romans. Accordingly, Simon gave those that came from the temple leave, by proclamation, to go upon the wall; John also himself, though he could not believe Simon was in earnest, gave them the same leave. So on both sides they laid aside their hatred and their peculiar quarrels, and formed themselves into one body; they then ran round the walls, and having a vast number of torches with them, they threw them at the machines, and shot darts perpetually upon those that impelled those engines which battered the wall; nay, the bolder sort leaped out by troops upon the hurdles that covered the machines, and pulled them to pieces, and fell upon those that belonged to them, and beat them, not so much by any skill they had, as principally by the boldness of their attacks. However, Titus himself still sent assistance to those that were the hardest set, and placed both horsemen and archers on the several sides of the engines, and thereby beat off those that brought the fire to them; he also thereby repelled those that shot stones or darts from the towers, and then set the engines to work in good earnest; yet did not the wall yield to these blows, excepting where the battering ram of the fifteenth legion moved the corner of a tower, while the wall itself continued unhurt; for the wall was not presently in the same danger with the tower, which was extant far above it; nor could the fall of that part of the tower easily break down any part of the wall itself together with it.
5. And now the Jews intermitted their sallies for a while; but when they observed the Romans dispersed all abroad at their works, and in their several camps, [for they thought the Jews had retired out of weariness and fear,] they all at once made a sally at the tower Hippicus, through an obscure gate, and at the same time brought fire to burn the works, and went boldly up to the Romans, and to their very fortifications themselves, where, at the cry they made, those that were near them came presently to their assistance, and those farther off came running after them; and here the boldness of the Jews was too hard for the good order of the Romans; and as they beat those whom they first fell upon, so they pressed upon those that were now gotten together. So this fight about the machines was very hot, while the one side tried hard to set them on fire, and the other side to prevent it; on both sides there was a confused cry made, and many of those in the forefront of the battle were slain. However, the Jews were now too hard for the Romans, by the furious assaults they made like madmen; and the fire caught hold of the works, and both all those works, and the engines themselves, had been in danger of being burnt, had not many of these select soldiers that came from Alexandria opposed themselves to prevent it, and had they not behaved themselves with greater courage than they themselves supposed they could have done; for they outdid those in this fight that had greater reputation than themselves before. This was the state of things till Caesar took the stoutest of his horsemen, and attacked the enemy, while he himself slew twelve of those that were in the forefront of the Jews; which death of these men, when the rest of the multitude saw, they gave way, and he pursued them, and drove them all into the city, and saved the works from the fire. Now it happened at this fight that a certain Jew was taken alive, who, by Titus's order, was crucified before the wall, to see whether the rest of them would be affrighted, and abate of their obstinacy. But after the Jews were retired, John, who was commander of the Idumeans, and was talking to a certain soldier of his acquaintance before the wall, was wounded by a dart shot at him by an Arabian, and died immediately, leaving the greatest lamentation to the Jews, and sorrow to the seditious. For he was a man of great eminence, both for his actions and his conduct also.
by D.H. Stern
or to seek honor after honor.
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 consciousness of the call
For necessity is laid upon me: yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel! --- 1 Cor. 9:16.
We are apt to forget the mystical, supernatural touch of God. If you can tell where you got the call of God and all about it, I question whether you have ever had a call. The call of God does not come like that, it is much more supernatural. The realization of it in a man’s life may come with a sudden thunder-clap or with a gradual dawning, but in whatever way it comes, it comes with the undercurrent of the supernatural, something that cannot be put into words, it is always accompanied with a glow. At any moment there may break the sudden consciousness of this incalculable, supernatural, surprising call that has taken hold of your life—“I have chosen you.” The call of God has nothing to do with salvation and sanctification. It is not because you are sanctified that you are therefore called to preach the Gospel; the call to preach the Gospel is infinitely different. Paul describes it as a necessity laid upon him.
If you have been obliterating the great supernatural call of God in your life, take a review of your circumstances and see where God has not been first, but your ideas of service, or your temperamental abilities. Paul said—“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!” He had realized the call of God, and there was no competitor for his strength.
If a man or woman is called of God, it does not matter how untoward circumstances are, every force that has been at work will tell for God’s purpose in the end. If you agree with God’s purpose He will bring not only your conscious life, but all the deeper regions of your life which you cannot get at, into harmony.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
This is pain's landscape.
A savage agriculture is practiced
Here; every farm has its
Grandfather or grandmother, gnarled hands
On the cheque-book, a long, slow
Pull on the placenta about the neck.
Old lips monopolise the talk
When a friend calls. The children listen
From the kitchen; the children march
With angry patience against the dawn.
They are waiting for someone to die
Whose name is as bitter as the soil
They handle. In clear pools
In the furrows they watch themselves grow old
To the terrible accompaniment of the song
Of the blackbird, that promises them love.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Teacher's Commentary
* Woe to those who rely on Egypt (Isa. 31).
When people have turned from God, in what will they trust? The people of Isaiah’s day trusted the military might of their ally, Egypt, and fastened on emptiness.
The Egyptians are men and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out His hand, he who helps will stumble, he who is helped will fall; both will perish together.
When we lose sight of God, our perception of reality gets distorted. The fact is that the unseen things are far more real than the seen. The material things on which we fix our hope when we wander from God are bound to disappoint—and to bring woe.
Salvation’s certainty (Isa. 32–35). Isaiah affirmed that God is Salvation:
Isaiah told the fruit God’s righteousness will produce and reviewed the work of the destroyer. He described the judgments that would finally overthrow the oppressor nations. Then Isaiah pictured the joy of the whole world breaking into bloom, warmed by the glory and splendor of our God. And the fruit will be righteousness.
In the early chapters of his book Isaiah focused on the corruption and unrighteousness that marked the people’s lifestyle. Now he portrayed the righteousness that will mark the lifestyle of the redeemed. When the Spirit of God is poured out on humankind:
Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
Those who draw on God’s rich store of salvation can live in the presence of the consuming fire. Who can reside with the Holy One?
He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil—this is the man who will dwell on the heights.
“Happy is one who dies this kind of death!” How can death be happy?
There are two ways. First, death can be a “friend” that releases a person from suffering. As Tennyson put it, “Sweet is death who puts an end to pain.” Sweet is a death that releases a loved one from torturous suffering, that allows us to remember the strong, active person rather than the tormented skeleton that illness has created.
Death can also be happy because it forces us to face life. Our mortality prevents us from putting off things that have to be done. We must accomplish what we envision in life now because life does not last forever. Death happily pushes us to do what we would otherwise delay, and perhaps avoid altogether.
Thus, death is not necessarily something to be feared. It is not the enemy. We, like Moses, can see death as a friend. Rather than thinking “If only I could live forever …,” we should say, “I’m happy to live this kind of life, and I’d be happy then to die that kind of death!”
The Yiddish proverb states that “even in dying, you need mazel (luck).”
One man dies at the ripe old age of ninety-one; a teenager is killed in a car crash at seventeen.
A woman lies down in bed at night and peacefully passes away in her sleep; another woman suffers for years through cancer, heart disease, and kidney failure before finally succumbing in agony.
One man’s funeral takes place during a ferocious blizzard, and no one but a few immediate family members attend the service; a woman’s funeral is held on a glorious Sunday in the fall and hundreds pack the chapel.
A saintly nun in India who has tended to the poor passes away five days after the sudden death of a glamorous British princess, and a lifetime of good work is almost forgotten in the media frenzy.
Even in dying, you need mazel.
As Moses approaches the end of his life, he thinks back on his brother Aaron and remarks, “Happy is one who dies that kind of death. How lucky he was: his family by his side, his people there to show their love, and the final moment coming painlessly, with a kiss from God. I wish I had the mazel of such a death.”
The irony is that throughout their lives, it was probably Aaron who was envious of Moses. “I wish I had the mazel of his life,” Aaron may have said to himself on a hundred occasions. Aaron was the older brother, yet Moses became the more famous of the two, the one whose name would go down in history: Moses the Liberator, Moses the Law-Giver. People would even question Aaron’s supporting role: “The only reason that he became Kohen Gadol, High Priest, is nepotism! He got the job because of who his brother was!” Aaron was brought up in slavery; Moses was raised as the son of privilege in the house of Pharaoh’s daughter. Aaron was supposed to be the religious authority, yet God chose to speak only to Moses. Moses abandoned the people for forty days, leaving Aaron to deal with the panic and a riot, and then when he returned, Moses blamed Aaron for allowing the construction of the Golden Calf. Moses got to see the Promised Land; Aaron did not. Moses’ children outlived him; Aaron had to bury two of his children, who died tragically.
An individual has very little control over death. It is not in our hands how we die, or when. As the Yiddish proverb reminds us, dying is a matter of luck—or perhaps, more correctly, a matter for God. What we do have some control over is how we live. Moses should have learned a lesson from his older brother. Instead of envying Aaron for his death, Moses should have realized, at the end of his life, how fortunate, how lucky, how blessed he had been. The proverb that he should have spoken, that all of us need to keep on our lips, is “Happy is the one who lived this kind of life!”
So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide.
--- Genesis 22:14.
Note what we are to do with the provision when we get it. (Expositions of Holy Scripture Volume 1)
Abraham christened the anonymous mountaintop, not by a name that reminded him or others of his trial, but by a name that proclaimed God’s deliverance. He did not say anything about his agony or about his obedience. God spoke about that, not Abraham. Abraham did not want these to be remembered, but what he desired to hand on to later generations was what God had done for him. Oh, dear friends, is that the way in which we look back on life? Many a bare, bald mountaintop in your career and mine we have names for. Are they names that commemorate our sufferings—or God’s blessings? When we look back on the past, what do we see? Times of trial or times of deliverance?
This name enshrines the duty of commemoration—yes! and the duty of expectation. “The Lord Will Provide.” How do you know that, Abraham? And his answer is, “Because the Lord did provide.” That is a shaky argument if we use it about one another. Our resources may give out, our patience may weary. If we go to a storehouse, all the corn in it will be eaten up some day, but if we go to some boundless plain that grows it, we can be sure that there will be a harvest next year as there has been a harvest last.
So think of God not as a storehouse but as the soil from which there comes forth, year by year and generation after generation, the same crop of rich blessings for the needs and the hungers of every soul.
“You have been with me in six troubles, and in seven you will not forsake me,” is a bad conclusion to draw about one another, but it is the right conclusion to draw about God.
And so, as we look back on our past lives and see many a peak gleaming in the magic light of memory, let us name them all by names that will throw a radiance of hope on the unknown and unclimbed difficulties before us and say, as the patriarch did when he went down from the mount of his trial and deliverance, “The Lord Will Provide.”
--- Alexander Maclaren
The Candle Burns Out
Evangelist George Whitefield longed to die preaching, and he almost did. In 1770, on a final tour through the American colonies, he ignored the pleas of doctors and friends to rest. When too tired to preach, he lifted his voice all the more. When asthmatic colds caused breathing crimps, he ignored them. He claimed that a good “pulpit sweat” was beneficial. But the vomiting, diarrhea, and shivering increased as autumn arrived.
On Saturday, September 29, 1770, Whitefield rode to Exeter, New Hampshire, where someone, seeing his appearance, told him he was more fit to go to bed than to preach. “It’s true,” Whitefield replied, then he burst into prayer: “Lord, I am weary in thy work, but not of it. If I have not yet finished my course, let me speak for Thee once more and come home and die.”
A crowd assembled and Whitefield stood precariously atop a barrel. He quoted 2 Corinthians 13:5—Test yourselves and find out if you really are true to your faith—then began to preach. “He rose up sluggishly and wearily,” reported an eyewitness, “as if exhausted by his labors. His face seemed bloated, his voice hoarse, his enunciation heavy. But then his mind kindled, and his lionlike voice roared to the extremities of his audience.” He told the crowd he would rather climb to the moon by a rope of sand than try to achieve heaven by works. Whitefield kept his audience spellbound for two hours. Then he suddenly cried, “I go! I have outlived many on earth but they cannot outlive me in heaven. My body fails, my spirit expands.”
Finishing his sermon, he was helped from the barrel to his horse and he continued to Newburyport. That Evening a group of friends gathered and asked Whitefield to speak to them. He begged off, citing asthma. But then he rose and took a lighted candle, starting up the steps. Turning, he delivered a brief but moving message. When the candle died out, he continued up the stairs and went on to his bed where he died during the night.
Test yourselves and find out if you really are true to your faith. If you pass the test, you will discover that Christ is living in you. But if Christ isn’t living in you, you have failed. I hope you will discover that we have not failed.
2 Corinthians 13:5,6.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 29
“Behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague.” --- Leviticus 13:13.
Strange enough this regulation appears, yet there was wisdom in it, for the throwing out of the disease proved that the constitution was sound. This Morning it may be well for us to see the typical teaching of so singular a rule. We, too, are lepers, and may read the law of the leper as applicable to ourselves. When a man sees himself to be altogether lost and ruined, covered all over with the defilement of sin, and no part free from pollution; when he disclaims all righteousness of his own, and pleads guilty before the Lord, then is he clean through the blood of Jesus, and the grace of God. Hidden, unfelt, unconfessed iniquity is the true leprosy, but when sin is seen and felt it has received its death blow, and the Lord looks with eyes of mercy upon the soul afflicted with it. Nothing is more deadly than self-righteousness, or more hopeful than contrition. We must confess that we are “nothing else but sin,” for no confession short of this will be the whole truth, and if the Holy Spirit be at work with us, convincing us of sin, there will be no difficulty about making such an acknowledgment—it will spring spontaneously from our lips. What comfort does the text afford to those under a deep sense of sin! Sin mourned and confessed, however black and foul, shall never shut a man out from the Lord Jesus. Whosoever cometh unto him, he will in no wise cast out. Though dishonest as the thief, though unchaste as the woman who was a sinner, though fierce as Saul of Tarsus, though cruel as Manasseh, though rebellious as the prodigal, the great heart of love will look upon the man who feels himself to have no soundness in him, and will pronounce him clean, when he trusts in Jesus crucified. Come to him, then, poor heavy-laden sinner,
Come needy, come guilty, come loathsome and bare;
You can’t come too filthy—come just as you are.
Evening - September 29
“I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go.” --- Song of Solomon 3:4.
Does Christ receive us when we come to him, notwithstanding all our past sinfulness? Does he never chide us for having tried all other refuges first? And is there none on earth like him? Is he the best of all the good, the fairest of all the fair? Oh, then let us praise him! Daughters of Jerusalem, extol him with timbrel and harp! Down with your idols, up with the Lord Jesus. Now let the standards of pomp and pride be trampled under foot, but let the cross of Jesus, which the world frowns and scoffs at, be lifted on high. O for a throne of ivory for our King Solomon! Let him be set on high for ever, and let my soul sit at his footstool, and kiss his feet, and wash them with my tears. Oh, how precious is Christ! How can it be that I have thought so little of him? How is it I can go abroad for joy or comfort when he is so full, so rich, so satisfying. Fellow believer, make a covenant with thine heart that thou wilt never depart from him, and ask thy Lord to ratify it. Bid him set thee as a signet upon his finger, and as a bracelet upon his arm. Ask him to bind thee about him, as the bride decketh herself with ornaments, and as the bridegroom putteth on his jewels. I would live in Christ’s heart; in the clefts of that rock my soul would eternally abide. The sparrow hath made a house, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God; and so too would I make my nest, my home, in thee, and never from thee may the soul of thy turtle dove go forth again, but may I nestle close to thee, O Jesus, my true and only rest.
“When my precious Lord I find,
All my ardent passions glow;
Him with cords of love I bind,
Hold and will not let him go.”
HOLY BIBLE, BOOK DIVINE
John Burton, Sr., 1773–1822
Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long. (Psalm 119:97)
Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years. —Charles H. Spurgeon
The Bible is truly an amazing book. It has rightfully been called “The Book of Books.” The first book ever printed was the Bible—the German Gütenberg Bible between the years 1450–1455. Today, it is printed in more than 600 languages, and portions of it are printed in more than 1,000 tongues and dialects. It has long been the world’s best seller.
In addition to being God’s love letter and self-disclosure of Himself, the Bible clearly spells out His plan for our redemption and restored fellowship. It is also our final authority for all matters of faith, morals, and practice. Through the inspired Word, God the Holy Spirit illuminates and guides believers in their Christian walk and also prepares them for their future heavenly destination.
Our finite minds will never be able to comprehend all of the teaching of Scripture, but the essential truths related to our redemption and Christ-like living cannot be misunderstood. It was Abraham Lincoln who once observed: “Read the Bible for whatever reason you can accept and take the rest on faith, and you will live and die a better man.”
John Burton, author of “Holy Bible, Book Divine,” was an English Sunday school teacher with a concern for teaching spiritual truths to children. This text appeared in 1806 in Burton’s Sunday school hymnal, which was titled Incentives for Early Piety. These words have since been spiritually profitable for both young and old:
Holy Bible, Book divine, precious treasure, thou art mine; mine to tell me whence I came, mine to teach me what I am;
Mine to chide me when I rove, mine to show a Savior’s love; mine thou art to guide and guard, mine to punish or reward;
Mine to comfort in distress—Suff’ring in this wilderness; mine to show, by living faith, man can triumph over death;
Mine to tell of joys to come and the rebel sinner’s doom: O thou holy Book divine, precious treasure, thou art mine.
For Today: Matthew 24:35; John 15:7; 2 Timothy 3:15–17; Hebrews 4:12
It was George Mueller who said: “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Word in our life and thoughts.” Determine to give the Bible a greater place in your life. Sing this child-like hymn as you go ---
DISCOURSE VII - ON GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE
Prop. II. There is an influential omnipresence of God.
1. Universal with all creatures. He is present with all things by his authority, because all things are subject to him by his power, because all things are sustained by him: by his knowledge, because all things are naked before him. He is present in the world, as a king is in all parts of his kingdom regally present: providentially present with all, since his care extends to the meanest of his creatures. His power reacheth all, and his knowledge pierceth all. As everything in the world was created by God, so everything in the word is preserved by God; and since preservation is not wholly distinct from creation, it is necessary God should be present with everything while he preserves it, as well as present with it when he created it. “Thou preservest man and beast” (Psalm 36:6). “He upholds all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). There is a virtue sustaining every creature, that it may not fall back into that nothing from whence it was elevated by the power of God. All those natural virtues we call the principles of operation, are fountains springing from his goodness and power; all things are acted and managed by him, as well as preserved by him; and in this sense God is present with all creatures; for whatsoever acts another, is present with that which it acts, by sending forth some virtue and influence whereby it acts: if free agents do not only live, but move in him and by him (Acts 17:28), much more are the motions of other natural agents by a virtue communicated to them, and upheld in them in the time of their acting.
This virtual presence of God is evident to our sense, a presence we feel; his essential presence is evident in our reason. This influential presence may be compared to that of the sun, which though at so great a distance from the earth, is present in the air and earth by its light, and within the earth by its influence in concocting those metals which are in the bowels of it, without being substantially either of them. God is thus so intimate with every creature, that there is not the least particle of any creature, but the marks of his power and goodness are seen in it, and his goodness doth attend them, and is more swift in its effluxes than the breakings out of light from the sun, which yet are more swift than can be declared; but to say he is in the world only by his virtue, is to acknowledge only the effects of his power and wisdom in the world, that his eye sees all, his arm supports all, his goodness nourisheth all, but himself and his essence at a distance from them; and so the soul of man according to its measure would have in some kind a more excellent manner of presence in the body, than God according to the infiniteness of his Being with his creatures; for that doth not only communicate life to the body, but is actually present with it, and spreads its whole essence through the body and every member of it. All grant, that God is efficaciously in every creek of the world; but some say he is only substantially in heaven.
2. Limited to such subjects that are capacitated for this or that kind of presence. Yet it is an omnipresence, because it is a presence in all the subjects capacitated for it; thus there is a special providential presence of God with some in assisting them when he sets them on work as his instruments for some special service in the world. As with Cyrus (Isa. 45:2), “I will go before thee;” and with Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander, whom he protected and directed to execute his counsels in the world; such a presence Judas and others that shall not enjoy his glorious presence, had in the working of miracles in the world. Besides, as there is an effective presence of God with all creatures, because he produced them and preserves them, so there is an objective presence of God with rational creatures, because he offers himself to them to be known and loved by them. He is near to wicked men in the offers of his grace, “Call ye upon him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6); besides, there is a gracious presence of God with his people in whom he dwells and makes his abode, as in a temple consecrated to him by the graces of the Spirit. “We will come” (John 14:23), i. e. the Father and the Son, and make our abode with him. He is present with all by the presence of his Divinity, but only in his saints by a presence of a gracious efficacy; he walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks, and hath dignified the congregation of his people with the title of Jehovah Shammah, “the Lord is there” (Ezek.48:35): “in Salem is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Sion” (Psalm 76:2).
As be filled the tabernacle, so he doth the church with the signs of his presence; this is not the presence wherewith he fills heaven and earth. His Spirit is not bestowed upon all to reside in their hearts, enlighten their minds, and bedew them with refreshing comforts. When the Apostle speaks of God being “above all and through all” (Eph. 4:6), above all in his majesty, through all in his providence; he doth not appropriate that as he doth what follows, “and in you all;” in you all by a special grace; as God was specially present with Christ by the grace of union, so he is specially present with his people by the grace of regeneration. So there are several manifestations of his presence; he hath a presence of glory in heaven, whereby he comforts the saints; a presence of wrath in hell, whereby he torments the damned; in heaven he is a God spreading his beams of light; in hell, a God distributing his strokes of justice; by the one he fills heaven; by the other he fills hell; by his providence and essence he fills both heaven and earth.
Prop. III. There is an essential presence of God in the world. He is not only everywhere by his power upholding the creatures, by his wisdom understanding them, but by his essence containing them. That anything is essentially present anywhere, it hath from God; God is therefore much more present everywhere, for he cannot give that which he hath not.
1. He is essentially present in all places. It is as reasonable to think the essence of God to be everywhere as to be always. Immensity is as rational as eternity. That indivisible essence which reaches through all times may as well reach through all places. It is more excellent to be always than to be everywhere; for to be always in duration is intrinsical; to be everywhere is intrinsic. If the greater belongs to God, why not the less? As all times are a moment to his eternity, so all places are as a point to his essence. As he is larger than all time, so he is vaster than all place. The nations of the world are to hire “as the dust of the balance” or “drop of a bucket” (Isa. 40:15.). “The nations are accounted as the small dust.” The essence of God may well be thought to be present everywhere with that which is no more than a grain of dust to him, and in all those isles, which, if put together, “are a very little thing” in his hand. Therefore, saith a learned Jew, if a man were set in the highest heavens he would not be nearer to the essence of God than if he were in the centre of the earth. Why may not the presence of God in the world be as noble as that of the soul in the body, which is generally granted to be essentially in every part of the body of man, which is but a little world, and animates every member by its actual presence, though it exerts not the same operation in every part?
The world is less to the Creator than the body to the soul, and needs more the presence of God than the body needs the presence of the soul. That glorious body of the sun visits every part of the habitable earth in twenty-four hours by its beams, which reaches the troughs of the lowest valleys as well as the pinnacles of the highest mountains; must we not acknowledge in the Creator of this sun an infinite greater proportion of presence? Is it not as easy, with the essence of God, to overspread the whole body of heaven and earth as it is for the sun to pierce and diffuse itself through the whole air, between it and the earth, and send up its light also as far to the regions above? Do we not see something like it in sounds and voices? Is not the same sound of a trumpet, or any other musical instrument, at the first breaking out of a blast, in several places within such a compass at the same time? Doth not every ear that hears it receive alike the whole sound of it? And fragrant odors, scented in several places at the same time, in the same manner; and the organ proper for smelling takes in the same in every person within the compass of it. How far is the noise of thunder heard alike to every ear in places something distant from one another! And do we daily find such a manner of presence in those things of so low a concern, and not imagine a kind of presence of God greater than all those?
Is the sound of thunder, the voice of God as it is called, everywhere in such a compass? and shall not the essence of an infinite God be much more everywhere? Those that would confine the essence of God only to heaven, and exclude it from the earth, run into great inconveniences. It may be demanded whether he be in one part of the heavens or in the whole vast body of them. If in one part of them, his essence is bounded; if he moves from that part he is mutable, for he changes a place wherein he was, for another wherein he was not. If he be always fixed in one part of the heavens, such a notion would render him little better than a living statue. If he be in the whole heaven, why cannot his essence possess a greater space than the whole heavens, which are so vast? How comes he to be confined within the compass of that, since the whole heaven comppasseth the earth? If he be in the whole heaven he is in places farther distant one from another than any part of the earth can be from the heavens; since the earth is like a centre in the midst of a circle, it must be nearer to every part of the circle than some parts of the circle can be to one another. If, therefore, his essence possesses the whole heavens, no reason can be rendered why he doth not also possess the earth, since also the earth is but a little point in comparison of the vastness of the heavens: if, therefore, he be in every part of the heavens, why not in every part of the earth? The Scripture is plain (Psalm 139:7–9), “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I fly from thy presence? If I ascend up to heaven, thou art there; if make my bed in hell, behold thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall uphold me.” If he be in heaven, earth, hell, sea, he fills all places with his presence. His presence is here asserted in places the most distant from one another. All the places then between heaven and earth are possessed by his presence.
It is not meant of his knowledge, for that the Psalmist had spoken of before (ver. 2, 3), “Thou understandest my thoughts afar off; thou art acquainted with all my ways:” besides, “thou art there;” not thy wisdom or knowledge, but thou, thy essence, not only thy virtue. For, having before spoken of his omniscience, he proves that such knowledge could not be in God, unless he were present in his essence in all places, so as to be excluded from none. He fills the depths of hell, the extension of the earth, and the heights of the heavens. When the Scripture mentions the power of God only, it expresseth it by hand or arm; but when it mentions the Spirit of God, and doth not intend the Third Person in the Trinity, it signifies the nature and essence of God. And so here, when he saith, “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?” he adds, exegetically, “Whither shall I fly from thy presence?” or (Heb.) “face:” and the face of God in Scripture signifies the essence of God (Exod. 33:20, 23); “Thou canst not see my face,” and “My face shall not be seen.” The effects of his power, wisdom, and providence are seen, which are his back parts, but not his face. The effects of his power and wisdom are seen in the world, but his essence is invisible; and this the Psalmist elegantly expresseth, Had I wings endued with as much quickness as the first dawnings of the morning light, or the first darts of any sunbeam that spreads itself through the hemisphere, and passeth many miles in as short a space as I can think a thought, I should find thy presence in all places before me, and could not fly out of the infinite compass of thy essence.
2. “He is essentially present with all creatures.” If he be in all places, it follows that he is with all creatures in those places; as he is in heaven, so he is with all angels; as he is in hell, so he is with all devils: as he is in the earth and sea, he is with all creatures inhabiting those elements; as his essential presence was the ground of the first being of things by creation, so it is the ground of the continued being of things by conservation; as his essential presence was the original, so it is the support of the existence of all the creatures.
What are all those magnificent expressions of his creative virtue, but testimonies of his essential presence at the laying the foundation of the world (Isa. 40:12), “when he measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” He sets forth the power and majesty of God in the creation and preservation of things, and every expression testifies his presence with them. The waters that were upon the face of the earth at first were no more than a drop in the palm of a man’s hand, which in every part is touched by his hand; and thus he is equally present with the blackest devils, as well as the brightest angels; with the lowest dust, as well as with the most sparkling sun. He is equally present with the damned and the blessed, as he is an infinite Being, but not in regard of his goodness and grace. He is equally present with the good and the bad, with the scoffing Athenians, as well as the believing apostles, in regard of his essence, but not in regard of the breathing of his divine virtues upon them to make them like himself (Acts 17:27). “He is not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being.”
The apostle includes all; he tells them they should seek the Lord; the Lord that they were to seek, is God essentially considered. We are, indeed, to seek the perfections of God, that glitter in his works, but to the end that they should direct us to the seeking of God himself in his own nature and essence; and, therefore, what follows, “In him we live,” is to be understood, not of his power and goodness, perfections of his nature, distinguished according to our manner of conception from his essence, but of the essential presence of God with his creatures. If he had meant it of his efficacy in preserving us, it had not been any proof of his nearness to us. Who would go about to prove the body or substance of the sun to be near us because it doth warm and enlighten us, when our sense evidenceth the distance of it? We live in the beams of the sun, but we cannot be said to live in the sun, which is so far distant from us. The expression seems to be more emphatical than to intend any less than his essential presence; but we live in him not only as the efficient cause of our life, but as the foundation sustaining our lives and motions, as if he were like air, diffused round about us; and we move in him, as Austin saith, as a sponge in the sea, not containing him, but being contained by him. He compasseth all, is encompassed by none; he fills all, is comprehended by none. The Creator contains the world, the world contains not the Creator; as the hollow of the hand contains the water, the water in the hollow of the hand contains not the hand; and therefore some have chose to say, rather, that the world is in God, it lives and moves in him, than that God is in the world. If all things thus live and move in him, then he is present with everything that hath life and motion; and as long as the devils and damned have life, and motion, and being, so long is he with them; for whatsoever lives and moves, lives and moves in him. This essential presence is,
(1) Without any mixture. I fill heaven and earth; not, I am mixed with heaven and earth: his essence is not mixed with the creatures; it remains entire in itself. The sponge retains the nature of a sponge, though encompassed by the sea, and moving in it; and the sea still retains its own nature. God is most simple; his essence therefore is not mixed with anything. The light of the sun is present with the air, but not mixed with it; it remains light, and the air remains air; the light of the sun is diffused through all the hemisphere, it pierceth all transparent bodies, it seems to mix itself with all things, yet remains unmixed and undivided; the light remains light, and the air remains air; the air is not light, though it be enlightened. Or, take this similitude: When many candles are lighted up in a room, the light is all together, yet not mixed with one another; every candle hath a particular light belonging to it, which may be separated in a moment, by removing one candle from another; but if they were mixed, they could not be separated, at least so easily. God is not formally one with the world, or with any creature in the world by his presence in it; nor can any creature in the world, no, not the soul of man, or an angel, come to be essentially one with God, though God be essentially present with it.
(2.) The essential presence is without any division of himself. “I fill heaven and earth,” not part in heaven, and part in earth; I fill one as well as the other: one part of his essence is not in one place, and another part of his essence in another place, he would then be changeable; for that part of his essence which were now in this place, he might alter it to another, and place that part of his essence which were in another place to this; but he is undivided everywhere. As his eternity is one indivisible point, though in our conception w e divide it into past, present, and to come, so the whole world is as a point to him, in regard of place, as before was said; it is as a small dust, and grain of dust: it is impossible that one part of his essence can be separated from another, for he is not a body, to have one part separable from another. The light of the sun cannot be cut into parts, it cannot be shut into any place and kept there, it is entire in every place. Shall not God, who gives the light that power, be much more present himself? Whatsoever hath parts is finite, but God is infinite, therefore hath no parts of his essence. Besides, if there were such a division of his being, be would not be the most simple and uncompounded being, but would be made up of various parts; he would not be a Spirit, for parts are evidences of composition; and it could not be said that God is here or there, but only, a part of God here, and a part of God there. But he fills heaven and earth; he is as much a God in the earth beneath as in heaven above (Deut. 4:39); entirely in all places, not by scraps and fragments of his essence.
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