2 Chronicles 21
Jehoram Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 21 1 Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Jehoram his son reigned in his place. 2 He had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariah, Michael, and Shephatiah; all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. 3 Their father gave them great gifts of silver, gold, and valuable possessions, together with fortified cities in Judah, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram, because he was the firstborn. 4 When Jehoram had ascended the throne of his father and was established, he killed all his brothers with the sword, and also some of the princes of Israel. 5 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 6 And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. 7 Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.
8 In his days Edom revolted from the rule of Judah and set up a king of their own. 9 Then Jehoram passed over with his commanders and all his chariots, and he rose by night and struck the Edomites who had surrounded him and his chariot commanders. 10 So Edom revolted from the rule of Judah to this day. At that time Libnah also revolted from his rule, because he had forsaken the LORD, the God of his fathers.
11 Moreover, he made high places in the hill country of Judah and led the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom and made Judah go astray. 12 And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13 but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel and have enticed Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom, as the house of Ahab led Israel into whoredom, and also you have killed your brothers, of your father’s house, who were better than you, 14 behold, the LORD will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions, 15 and you yourself will have a severe sickness with a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the disease, day by day.’ ”
16 And the LORD stirred up against Jehoram the anger of the Philistines and of the Arabians who are near the Ethiopians. 17 And they came up against Judah and invaded it and carried away all the possessions they found that belonged to the king’s house, and also his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him except Jehoahaz, his youngest son. 18 And after all this the LORD struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease. 19 In the course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony. His people made no fire in his honor, like the fires made for his fathers. 20 He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.
2 Chronicles 22
Ahaziah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 22 1 And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, his youngest son, king in his place, for the band of men that came with the Arabians to the camp had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah reigned. 2 Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah, the granddaughter of Omri. 3 He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly. 4 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done. For after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his undoing. 5 He even followed their counsel and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to make war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth-gilead. And the Syrians wounded Joram, 6 and he returned to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds that he had received at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to see Joram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was wounded.
7 But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram. For when he came there, he went out with Jehoram to meet Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab. 8 And when Jehu was executing judgment on the house of Ahab, he met the princes of Judah and the sons of Ahaziah’s brothers, who attended Ahaziah, and he killed them. 9 He searched for Ahaziah, and he was captured while hiding in Samaria, and he was brought to Jehu and put to death. They buried him, for they said, “He is the grandson of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart.” And the house of Ahaziah had no one able to rule the kingdom.
Athaliah Reigns in Judah10 Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah. 11 But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were about to be put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of Jehoiada the priest, because she was a sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah, so that she did not put him to death. 12 And he remained with them six years, hidden in the house of God, while Athaliah reigned over the land.
2 Chronicles 23
Joash Made King2 Chronicles 23 1 But in the seventh year Jehoiada took courage and entered into a covenant with the commanders of hundreds, Azariah the son of Jeroham, Ishmael the son of Jehohanan, Azariah the son of Obed, Maaseiah the son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat the son of Zichri. 2 And they went about through Judah and gathered the Levites from all the cities of Judah, and the heads of fathers’ houses of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. 3 And all the assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And Jehoiada said to them, “Behold, the king’s son! Let him reign, as the LORD spoke concerning the sons of David. 4 This is the thing that you shall do: of you priests and Levites who come off duty on the Sabbath, one third shall be gatekeepers, 5 and one third shall be at the king’s house and one third at the Gate of the Foundation. And all the people shall be in the courts of the house of the LORD. 6 Let no one enter the house of the LORD except the priests and ministering Levites. They may enter, for they are holy, but all the people shall keep the charge of the LORD. 7 The Levites shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever enters the house shall be put to death. Be with the king when he comes in and when he goes out.”
8 The Levites and all Judah did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men, who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, for Jehoiada the priest did not dismiss the divisions. 9 And Jehoiada the priest gave to the captains the spears and the large and small shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of God. 10 And he set all the people as a guard for the king, every man with his weapon in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house. 11 Then they brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king, and Jehoiada and his sons anointed him, and they said, “Long live the king.”
Athaliah Executed12 When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she went into the house of the LORD to the people. 13 And when she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, and the singers with their musical instruments leading in the celebration. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!” 14 Then Jehoiada the priest brought out the captains who were set over the army, saying to them, “Bring her out between the ranks, and anyone who follows her is to be put to death with the sword.” For the priest said, “Do not put her to death in the house of the LORD.” 15 So they laid hands on her, and she went into the entrance of the horse gate of the king’s house, and they put her to death there.
Jehoiada’s Reforms16 And Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the LORD’s people. 17 Then all the people went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. 18 And Jehoiada posted watchmen for the house of the LORD under the direction of the Levitical priests and the Levites whom David had organized to be in charge of the house of the LORD, to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, as it is written in the Law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, according to the order of David. 19 He stationed the gatekeepers at the gates of the house of the LORD so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean. 20 And he took the captains, the nobles, the governors of the people, and all the people of the land, and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, marching through the upper gate to the king’s house. And they set the king on the royal throne. 21 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword.
2 Chronicles 24
Joash Repairs the Temple2 Chronicles 24 1 Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. 2 And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. 3 Jehoiada got for him two wives, and he had sons and daughters.
4 After this Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD. 5 And he gathered the priests and the Levites and said to them, “Go out to the cities of Judah and gather from all Israel money to repair the house of your God from year to year, and see that you act quickly.” But the Levites did not act quickly. 6 So the king summoned Jehoiada the chief and said to him, “Why have you not required the Levites to bring in from Judah and Jerusalem the tax levied by Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the congregation of Israel for the tent of testimony?” 7 For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God, and had also used all the dedicated things of the house of the LORD for the Baals.
8 So the king commanded, and they made a chest and set it outside the gate of the house of the LORD. 9 And proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring in for the LORD the tax that Moses the servant of God laid on Israel in the wilderness. 10 And all the princes and all the people rejoiced and brought their tax and dropped it into the chest until they had finished. 11 And whenever the chest was brought to the king’s officers by the Levites, when they saw that there was much money in it, the king’s secretary and the officer of the chief priest would come and empty the chest and take it and return it to its place. Thus they did day after day, and collected money in abundance. 12 And the king and Jehoiada gave it to those who had charge of the work of the house of the LORD, and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the LORD, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the LORD. 13 So those who were engaged in the work labored, and the repairing went forward in their hands, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it. 14 And when they had finished, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada, and with it were made utensils for the house of the LORD, both for the service and for the burnt offerings, and dishes for incense and vessels of gold and silver. And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD regularly all the days of Jehoiada.
15 But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died. He was 130 years old at his death. 16 And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, and toward God and his house.
17 Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. 18 And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. 19 Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.
Joash’s Treachery20 Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’ ” 21 But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD. 22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!”
Joash Assassinated23 At the end of the year the army of the Syrians came up against Joash. They came to Judah and Jerusalem and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. 24 Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the LORD delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Joash.
25 When they had departed from him, leaving him severely wounded, his servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest, and killed him on his bed. So he died, and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings. 26 Those who conspired against him were Zabad the son of Shimeath the Ammonite, and Jehozabad the son of Shimrith the Moabite. 27 Accounts of his sons and of the many oracles against him and of the rebuilding of the house of God are written in the Story of the Book of the Kings. And Amaziah his son reigned in his place.
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."
Too Little Knowledge or Infinite Potential for Discovery?
By Dr. Anjeanette "AJ" Roberts
How much does any one of us know?
Even the brightest, like a Hawking, an Einstein, or a Ross only knows a fraction of what can be known. Do we corporately even possess knowledge of 0.01% of what can be known of reality?
When it comes to knowledge, and our ongoing acquisition of it, defeasible reasoning is the play of the day. Defeasible reasoning is basically belief revision—necessitated because we know so very little about what can be known of the reality that surrounds us—a reality through which we navigate life despite our pervasive ignorance.
This concept and the following series of questions go much deeper than the apologetic tactic of trying to get an atheist to transition to an agnostic by asking him how much he thinks he knows of reality and what there is to know. Or by asking him how much the most intelligent person he is aware of might know about reality. One percent? One tenth of a percent? Even less? Then following up with the concept, that if there is 99% or 99.9% or greater percent unknown, isn’t it at least reasonable to consider that God may exist as part of that unknown reality?
There Is So Much More to Know! | In conjunction with considering our pervasive ignorance and the need for defeasible reasoning, I have been contemplating the ever-increasing, often surprising, and unimagined complexity of the human genome, its controlling epigenetic molecules and signals, the diversity and complexity of protein modifications (e.g., post-translational modifications, including information-bearing glycosylations), and the striking complexity of cellular systems, pathways, networks, and signaling mechanisms (biochemical, electrochemical, mechanotransduction, etc.). We collectively know quite a bit about many intricacies of well-studied genomes, signaling and regulatory molecules, protein modifications, cellular systems, and organismic development, but the extent of what we don’t yet know is so unimaginably more in regard to these things. I am overwhelmed at the complexity of these systems and wonder how long it will take us to unpack them.
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.
May You Live in Interesting Times
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 7/01/2014
There is a sort of application of the Observer Effect that applies to the news of the day. Sometimes confused with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which argues that at the subatomic level we can discern either the velocity of a particle or its location, but not both, the Observer Effect argues that observing scientific phenomena can affect what we are observing. It’s almost as if the electrons know we’re looking at them, and adjust their dance. With respect to the news of the day, we often hear this kind of argument: “Social ill x is no greater today than it was twenty years ago. It’s just reported more.” Or, “The recent slew of crime 'y' is expected to create copycat crimes.” It’s like the news knows we are watching. Sometimes, the news is how we respond to the news.
In our day, however, the news is not just the news. The news is business. We are far less likely than our fathers were to tune in to respected journalists who at least sought to keep up an illusion of objectivity. We are far more likely to get our news exclusively from sources clearly identified with this political party or that political party, or worse still, exclusively from talk radio or even comedy television. When news becomes commentary and commentary becomes business, the greatest good is getting you to tune in. Why don't people get that? We, particularly those Christians who identify as political conservatives, forget that the goal of talk radio isn’t to inform us. We are not consumers of that product that is conservative commentary. We are instead the product being consumed by advertisers. The goal of the host is ultimately to get us to tune in and then to sell our ears to Madison Avenue. As such, no matter who is in office, no matter what is happening, the news is always the same: “The sky is falling.” Calamity is the order of the day, not because we are in a peculiarly calamitous age, but because calamity sells.
There are, of course, plenty of things wrong with the world. We have corruption in high places. We live in an overleveraged, bubble-bursting, upside-down economic house of cards. Government is growing more intrusive, more bloated, more destructive with each passing election cycle. Our inner cities are cesspools of crime, drugs, promiscuity, and the death that comes with all of the above. All of these things, of course, we have a duty as believers to address. We have the solution to all of these ills, and we are called to preach that solution, to disciple the nations. What we should not do, however, is panic. We shouldn’t even be surprised.
Consider the fourteenth century. Dangerous, attractive heresies were finding a foothold in the church. Like today. Faithful men of God were abused, harassed, even killed for their fidelity by men who believed themselves to be doing the work of God. Like today. Church leaders were publicly squabbling, exposing their own hunger for power and prestige, exposing our shame to the watching world. Like today. One-third of the population went to an early grave through the scourge of the Black Plague. Like today, when one-third of all babies, at least in these United States, are cut down by the blackest of scourges, abortion. The world's worst villains are nothing compared to America where we murder millions of babies. Knowing that to be true makes me an extreme right winger? Really?? I never thought of myself as extreme anything.
There is nothing new under the sun. Our hardships and the wickedness from which they flow are not new things, not things unique to our age. They are the fruit of our fallen humanity. This, this is what comes of sin. How then should we now live?
Like Jesus did — by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Like Jesus does — bringing all things under subjection (1 Cor. 15:27). Like Jesus will do, handing it all back to the Father (v. 24). We must, in short, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we forget about the wickedness all around us. Even less does it mean that we forget about the wickedness inside all of us. It does mean that we do not worry as the Gentiles do. We seek the kingdom precisely because we have the King, and He shall reign forever and ever.
This same Jesus reigned in the fourteenth century. He will still reign in the twenty-fourth century. His reign does not — for now — mean that there will not be death, corruption, heresies, and murders. Neither, however, is His reign — for now — a mere hope that one day He will overcome. Rather, it is under His kingship that His kingship goes forth to war. Things are not now as they should be. But things not being as they should be is precisely as He would have things — for now.
Our calling as we fight faithfully beside our King against the world, our flesh, and the devil is to fight as those who are at peace. We fight with fervor, fidelity, and faith because we are of good cheer, knowing that He has already overcome the world. We live in interesting times indeed — because they are His times. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Pop Atheism and the Power of the Gospel
By Dan DeWitt 7/01/2014
“Meanwhile, I am left with the Atheist on my hands,” Dorothy Sayers once penned to C.S. Lewis in a letter in which she sought some practical advice from the popular Oxford apologist. She went on to write, “I do not want him. I have no use for him. I have no missionary zeal at all.”
While many Christians likely attempt to project a little more enthusiasm for evangelism, I’m not sure they do not, deep down, resonate with Sayers’ sentiment.
With the relentless barrage of new atheist bravado over the last decade, believers are liable to grow weary in well-doing. Much of the contemporary anti-God campaign now serves as a mirror image of religious fundamentalism, with iconic leaders such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris standing guard as dogmatic defenders of a secular orthodoxy. Many students have imbibed their sacrilegious sound bites, adopting a brand of pop atheism that makes rational discussion seem virtually impossible.
But, as one theologian recently quipped, “It’s easy to hate atheists until you find one to love.” And we can be certain that in an increasingly secular society, they will be much easier to find. Our real challenge will be to find pathways into charitable conversations.
As conservative Christian convictions continue to be marginalized, I fear the evangelical response might be something other than courageous love. We could be tempted to shrink back in fear if we aren’t properly propelled by the power of the gospel. Like Sayers, we may wish they all would just leave us alone.
This is a good reminder that apologetics is simple and uncomplicated until you actually try it. It’s much easier to caricature skeptics and write them off as unreachable than it is to nurture a mutually respectful dialogue. We can find more intellectual affirmation if we hunker down in our Christian echo chambers and delight ourselves in hypothetical conversations that always end in conversions.
But if we want to be faithful to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, we will be motivated by love to step across the threshold of our security and enter into a meaningful relationship with someone who might think our deeply held beliefs are delusional. Love for God and neighbor compels us to sit down with those who are far from grace. I think Jesus did something very similar. And He bids us to do the same.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus to befriend sinners and skeptics will require the utmost trust in the gospel, understanding that it is neither overshadowed nor intimidated by rival truth claims. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation — of this we need not be ashamed (Rom. 1:16). But we do need to be prepared to offer careful and winsome answers for the questions we will face (1 Peter 3:15).
The starting point for cultivating an effective witness is to become better students of the very Bibles we dust off every Sunday morning as we head out the door for corporate worship.
If this sounds counterintuitive to the American church, somewhere along the way we have bought into a defective view of apologetics. As Francis Schaeffer once said,
God’s Word has many times been allowed to be bent, to conform to the surrounding, passing, changing culture of that moment rather than to stand as the inerrant Word of God judging the form of the world spirit and the surrounding culture of that moment.
Some well-intentioned Christian leaders are quick to jettison biblical inerrancy in order to placate the objections of skeptics. This is a tactical error. It reminds me of the person who decided to move out of state after learning that most automobile accidents happen within thirty miles of home.
In the same way, some apologists think it is possible to avoid conflict by acquiescing to naturalistic critiques of Scripture. In reality, they are only setting themselves up for failure. We are to build our witness on the unassailable substratum of Scripture. The erosive act of relegating God’s Word will not be satisfied with the small plot of biblical ground that is surrendered to navigate the debate of the day. More will be demanded tomorrow.
That’s why we must remember that our arguments are at their very best only temporary; only the Word of the Lord will endure forever.
The best terrain for evangelism with skeptics is found in the overlap of revelation, reason, and rhetoric. When our witness is motivated by love, our arguments rooted in Scripture, and our words seasoned with salt, we will have discovered optimal ground for sharing the gospel with the college student in the coffee shop who is sipping a latte while reading the latest anti-God best seller.
When Dorothy Sayers joked with C.S. Lewis that she didn’t possess any missionary zeal for her atheist correspondent, Lewis responded by confirming that the letters would inevitably continue. He spoke from experience. And as a former atheist himself, Lewis could relate. He modeled a sincere love for skeptics coupled with an unshakable trust in the power of the gospel. May the same be true for you and me.
Who knows? Maybe that atheist kid in the cafe will be the next great apologist for Christianity for a generation bombarded by doubt.
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.