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Ezekiel 28 - 30

Ezekiel 28

Prophecy Against the Prince of Tyre

Ezekiel 28:1     The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD:

“Because your heart is proud,
and you have said, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of the gods,
in the heart of the seas,’
yet you are but a man, and no god,
though you make your heart like the heart of a god—
3  you are indeed wiser than Daniel;
no secret is hidden from you;
4  by your wisdom and your understanding
you have made wealth for yourself,
and have gathered gold and silver
into your treasuries;
5  by your great wisdom in your trade
you have increased your wealth,
and your heart has become proud in your wealth—
6  therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
Because you make your heart
like the heart of a god,
7  therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you,
the most ruthless of the nations;
and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom
and defile your splendor.
8  They shall thrust you down into the pit,
and you shall die the death of the slain
in the heart of the seas.
9  Will you still say, ‘I am a god,’
in the presence of those who kill you,
though you are but a man, and no god,
in the hands of those who slay you?
10  You shall die the death of the uncircumcised
by the hand of foreigners;
for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD.”

A Lament over the King of Tyre

11 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: 12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD:

“You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13  You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
14  You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
15  You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you.
16  In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
from the midst of the stones of fire.
17  Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I exposed you before kings,
to feast their eyes on you.
18  By the multitude of your iniquities,
in the unrighteousness of your trade
you profaned your sanctuaries;
so I brought fire out from your midst;
it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
in the sight of all who saw you.
19  All who know you among the peoples
are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
and shall be no more forever.”

Prophecy Against Sidon

20 The word of the LORD came to me: 21 “Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her 22 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD:

“Behold, I am against you, O Sidon,
and I will manifest my glory in your midst.
And they shall know that I am the LORD
when I execute judgments in her
and manifest my holiness in her;
23  for I will send pestilence into her,
and blood into her streets;
and the slain shall fall in her midst,
by the sword that is against her on every side.
Then they will know that I am the LORD.

24 “And for the house of Israel there shall be no more a brier to prick or a thorn to hurt them among all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord GOD.

Israel Gathered in Security

25 “Thus says the Lord GOD: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob. 26 And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.”

Ezekiel 29

Prophecy Against Egypt

Ezekiel 29:1     In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt; 3 speak, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD:

“Behold, I am against you,
Pharaoh king of Egypt,
the great dragon that lies
in the midst of his streams,
that says, ‘My Nile is my own;
I made it for myself.’
4  I will put hooks in your jaws,
and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales;
and I will draw you up out of the midst of your streams,
with all the fish of your streams
that stick to your scales.
5  And I will cast you out into the wilderness,
you and all the fish of your streams;
you shall fall on the open field,
and not be brought together or gathered.
To the beasts of the earth and to the birds of the heavens
I give you as food.

6 Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD.

“Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel, 7 when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake. 8 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring a sword upon you, and will cut off from you man and beast, 9 and the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

“Because you said, ‘The Nile is mine, and I made it,’ 10 therefore, behold, I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt an utter waste and desolation, from Migdol to Syene, as far as the border of Cush. 11 No foot of man shall pass through it, and no foot of beast shall pass through it; it shall be uninhabited forty years. 12 And I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of desolated countries, and her cities shall be a desolation forty years among cities that are laid waste. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them through the countries.

13 “For thus says the Lord GOD: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples among whom they were scattered, 14 and I will restore the fortunes of Egypt and bring them back to the land of Pathros, the land of their origin, and there they shall be a lowly kingdom. 15 It shall be the most lowly of the kingdoms, and never again exalt itself above the nations. And I will make them so small that they will never again rule over the nations. 16 And it shall never again be the reliance of the house of Israel, recalling their iniquity, when they turn to them for aid. Then they will know that I am the Lord GOD.”

17 In the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: 18 “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre. Every head was made bald, and every shoulder was rubbed bare, yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had performed against her. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry off its wealth and despoil it and plunder it; and it shall be the wages for his army. 20 I have given him the land of Egypt as his payment for which he labored, because they worked for me, declares the Lord GOD.

21 “On that day I will cause a horn to spring up for the house of Israel, and I will open your lips among them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

Ezekiel 30

A Lament for Egypt

Ezekiel 30:1     The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD:

“Wail, ‘Alas for the day!’
3  For the day is near,
the day of the LORD is near;
it will be a day of clouds,
a time of doom for the nations.
4  A sword shall come upon Egypt,
and anguish shall be in Cush,
when the slain fall in Egypt,
and her wealth is carried away,
and her foundations are torn down.

5 Cush, and Put, and Lud, and all Arabia, and Libya, and the people of the land that is in league, shall fall with them by the sword.

6  “Thus says the LORD:
Those who support Egypt shall fall,
and her proud might shall come down;
from Migdol to Syene
they shall fall within her by the sword,
declares the Lord GOD.
7  And they shall be desolated in the midst of desolated countries,
and their cities shall be in the midst of cities that are laid waste.
8  Then they will know that I am the LORD,
when I have set fire to Egypt,
and all her helpers are broken.

9 “On that day messengers shall go out from me in ships to terrify the unsuspecting people of Cush, and anguish shall come upon them on the day of Egypt’s doom; for, behold, it comes!

10 “Thus says the Lord GOD:

“I will put an end to the wealth of Egypt,
by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.
11  He and his people with him, the most ruthless of nations,
shall be brought in to destroy the land,
and they shall draw their swords against Egypt
and fill the land with the slain.
12  And I will dry up the Nile
and will sell the land into the hand of evildoers;
I will bring desolation upon the land and everything in it,
by the hand of foreigners;
I am the LORD; I have spoken.

13 “Thus says the Lord GOD:

“I will destroy the idols
and put an end to the images in Memphis;
there shall no longer be a prince from the land of Egypt;
so I will put fear in the land of Egypt.
14  I will make Pathros a desolation
and will set fire to Zoan
and will execute judgments on Thebes.
15  And I will pour out my wrath on Pelusium,
the stronghold of Egypt,
and cut off the multitude of Thebes.
16  And I will set fire to Egypt;
Pelusium shall be in great agony;
Thebes shall be breached,
and Memphis shall face enemies by day.
17  The young men of On and of Pi-beseth shall fall by the sword,
and the women shall go into captivity.
18  At Tehaphnehes the day shall be dark,
when I break there the yoke bars of Egypt,
and her proud might shall come to an end in her;
she shall be covered by a cloud,
and her daughters shall go into captivity.
19  Thus I will execute judgments on Egypt.
Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

Egypt Shall Fall to Babylon

20 In the eleventh year, in the first month, on the seventh day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: 21 “Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and behold, it has not been bound up, to heal it by binding it with a bandage, so that it may become strong to wield the sword. 22 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt and will break his arms, both the strong arm and the one that was broken, and I will make the sword fall from his hand. 23 I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them through the countries. 24 And I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh, and he will groan before him like a man mortally wounded. 25 I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, but the arms of Pharaoh shall fall. Then they shall know that I am the LORD, when I put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon and he stretches it out against the land of Egypt. 26 And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Late-2nd-century Canons

By Britannica

     By the end of the 2nd century, Irenaeus used the four canonical Gospels, 13 letters of Paul, I Peter, I and II John, Revelation, Shepherd of Hermas (a work later excluded from the canon), and Acts. Justin Martyr (died c. 165), a Christian apologist, wrote of the reading of the Gospels, “the memoirs of the Apostles,” in the services, in which they were the basis for sermons. In his writings he quoted freely from the Gospels, Hebrews, the Pauline Letters, I Peter, and Acts. Justin’s Syrian pupil, Tatian (c. 160), although he quotes from John separately, is best known for his Diatessaron (literally, “through four” [gospels], but also a musicological term meaning “choral” “harmony”), which was a life of Christ compiled from all four Gospels but based on the outline and structure of John. This indicates both that Tatian was aware of four gospel traditions and that their canonicity was not fixed in final form at his time in Syria. Although Tatian was later declared a heretic, the Diatessaron was used until the 5th century and influenced the Western Church even after four separated gospels were established.

     The first clear witness to a catalog of authoritative New Testament writings is found in the so-called Muratorian Canon, a crude and uncultured Latin 8th-century manuscript translated from a Greek list written in Rome c. 170–180, named for its modern discoverer and publisher Lodovica Antonio Muratori (1672–1750). Though the first lines are lost, Luke is referred to as “the third book of the Gospel,” and the canon thus contains [Matthew, Mark] Luke, John, Acts, 13 Pauline letters, Jude, two letters of John, and Revelation. Concerning the Apocalypse of Peter, it notes that it may be read, although some persons object; it rejects the Shepherd of Hermas as having been written only recently in Rome and lacking connection with the apostolic age. The Wisdom of Solomon (a Jewish intertestamental writing), is included in the accepted works as written in Solomon’s honour.

     Some principles for determining the criteria of canonicity begin to be apparent: apostolicity, true doctrine (regula fidei), and widespread geographical usage. Such principles are indicated by Muratori’s argument that the Pauline Letters are canonical and universal — the Word of God for the whole church — although they are addressed to specific churches, on the analogy of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation; in a prophetic statement to the whole church, seven specific churches are addressed, then the specific letters of Paul can be read for all. Thus, the catholic  ( Not the Catholic Church as we now know it, but rather catholic in the sense of universal, good for all ) status of the Pauline letters to seven churches is vindicated on the basis of the revelation of Jesus Christ to John, the seer and writer of Revelation. Wide usage in the church is indicated in calling Acts the Acts of all the Apostles and in the intention of the “general address”—e.g., “To those who are called,” in Jude — of the Catholic (or general) Letters—i.e., I and II Peter, I, II, and III John, James, and Jude. The criterion of accordance with received teaching is plain in the rejection of heretical writings. The Muratorian Canon itself may have been, in part, a response to Marcion’s heretical and reductive canon.

     The criteria of true doctrine, usage, and apostolicity all taken together must be satisfied, then, in order that a book be judged canonical. Thus, even though the Shepherd of Hermas, the First Letter of Clement, and the Didachē may have been widely used and contain true doctrines, they were not canonical because they were not apostolic nor connected to the apostolic age, or they were local writings without support in many areas.     This applies to many of the books that those who don't read the Bible insist should be a part of our Canon, Book of Jasher, Gospel of Thomas etc. Just because a book is mentioned in Scripture does not mean it should be included in our Bible.

     During the time of the definitive formation of the canon in the 2nd century, apparent differences existed in the Western churches (centred in or in close contact with Rome) and those of the East (as in Alexandria and Asia Minor).  ( I think it is important to remember that Christians were first called Christians in Antioch and that Gnosticism was birthed in Alexandria, Egypt. ) It is not surprising that the Roman Muratorian Canon omitted Hebrews and accepted and held Revelation in high esteem, for Hebrews allows for no repentance for the baptized Christian who commits apostasy (rejection of faith), a problem in the Western Church when it was subjected to persecution. In the East, on the other hand, there was a dogmatic resistance to the teaching of a 1,000 - year reign of the Messiah before the end time — i.e., chiliasm, or millenarianism — in Revelation. There was also a difference in the acceptance of Acts and the Catholic Letters. With the continued expansion of the church, particularly in the 2nd century, consolidation was necessary.

Canonical standards of the 3rd and 4th centuries
     Clement of Alexandria,  ( Egypt, a type of the world) a theologian who flourished in the late 2nd century, seemed to be practically  unconcerned about canonicity.  To him, inspiration is what mattered, and he made use of the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Letter of Barnabas, the Didachē, and other extracanonical works. Origen (died c. 254), Clement’s pupil and one of the greatest thinkers of the early church, distinguished at least three classes of writings, basing his judgment on majority usage in places that he had visited: (1) homologoumena or anantirrhēta, “undisputed in the churches of God throughout the whole world” (the four Gospels, 13 Pauline Letters, I Peter, I John, Acts, and Revelation); (2) amphiballomena, “disputed” (II Peter, II and III John, Hebrews, James, and Jude); and (3) notha, “spurious” (Gospel of the Egyptians, Thomas, and others). He used the term “scripture” (graphē) for the Didachē, the Letter of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas, but did not consider them canonical. Eusebius shows the situation in the early 4th century. Universally accepted are: the four Gospels, Acts, 14 Pauline Letters (including Hebrews), I John, and I Peter. The disputed writings are of two kinds: (1) those known and accepted by many (James, Jude, II Peter, II and III John, and (2) those called “spurious” but not “foul and impious” (Acts of Paul, Shepherd of Hermas, Apocalypse of Peter, Letter of Barnabas, Didachē and possibly the Gospel of the Hebrews); finally there are the heretically spurious (e.g., Gospel of Peter, Acts of John). Revelation is listed both as fully accepted (“if permissible”) and as spurious but not impious. It is important that Eusebius feels free to make authoritative use of the disputed writings. Thus canon and authoritative revelation are not yet the same thing.

Determination of the canon in the 4th century
     Athanasius, a 4th-century bishop of Alexandria  ( Egypt ) and a significant theologian, delimited the canon and settled the strife between East and West. On a principle of inclusiveness, both Revelation and Hebrews (as part of the Pauline corpus) were accepted. The 27 books of the New Testament — and they only — were declared canonical. In the Greek churches there was still controversy about Revelation, but in the Latin Church, under the influence of Jerome, Athanasius’ decision was accepted. It is notable, however, that, in a mid - 4th-century manuscript called Codex Sinaiticus, the Letter of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas are included at the end but with no indication of secondary status, and that, in the 5th-century Codex Alexandrinus, there is no demarcation between Revelation and I and II Clement.

     In the Syriac Church,  (Antioch ) Tatian’s Diatessaron was used until the 5th century, and in the 3rd century the 14 Pauline Letters were added. Because Tatian had been declared a heretic, there was a clear episcopal order to have the four separated Gospels when, according to tradition, Rabbula, bishop of Edessa, introduced the Syriac version known as the Peshitta—also adding Acts, James, I Peter, and I John—making a 22-book canon. Only much later, perhaps in the 7th century, did the Syriac canon come into agreement with the Greek 27 books.

Developments in the 16th century

     With the advent of printing and differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants, the canon and its relationship to tradition finally became fixed. During the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent (1545–63), the canon of the entire Bible was set in 1546 as the Vulgate, based on Jerome’s Latin version. For Luther, the criterion of what was canonical was both apostolicity, or what is of an apostolic nature, and “was Christum treibet”—what drives toward, or leads to, Christ. This latter criterion he did not find in, for example, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation; even so, he bowed to tradition, and placed these books last in the New Testament.

Britannica Source

Diatessaron - Harmony Of The Gospels

By New World Encyclopedia

     The Diatessaron (c 150 - 160 C.E.) (meaning "Harmony of Four") is an early Christian text written by the apologist and ascetic Tatian, who combined the four canonical gospels into a single harmonious narrative. Tatian attempted to resolve some of the contradictions found in the mainstream gospels by integrating them into one story and removing any duplicate information. For example, he omitted the conflicting genealogies of  Matthew and  Luke thereby creating a streamlined narrative sequence, which, however, was different from both the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of  John. Tation's harmony also does not include Jesus' encounter with the adulteress ( John 7:53 - 8:11 ).

     Only fifty-six verses in the canonical Gospels do not have a counterpart in the Diatessaron, mostly the genealogies and the pericope adulterae. The final work is about 72 percent the length of the four gospels put together. He followed the gospels closely in terms of wording but put the verses in a new, different sequence.

     In the early church, the gospels at first circulated independently, with  Matthew being the most popular. The Diatesseron is notable evidence for the authority already enjoyed by the four gospels by the mid-second century. Twenty years after Tatian's harmony, Irenaeus expressly proclaimed the authoritative character of the four gospels. The Diatesseron became the standard text of the gospels in the Syriac - speaking churches down to the fifth century, when it gave way to the four separate Gospels, in the Peshitta version.

Tatian's Harmonizing of the Gospels
     Tatian was an Assyrian pupil of Justin Martyr in Rome. When Justin quoted the Gospels, he tended to do so in a harmonized form, and it is generally concluded that he must have possessed a Greek harmony text; but it is unclear how much Tatian may have borrowed from this previous author in determining his own narrative sequence of Gospel elements. It is equally unclear whether Tatian took the Syriac Gospel texts composited into his Diatessaron from a previous translation, or whether the translation was his own. Where the Diatessaron records Gospel quotations from the Jewish Scriptures, the text appears to agree with that found in the Syriac Peshitta Old Testament rather than that found in the Greek Septuagint — as used by the original Gospel authors. The majority consensus is that the Peshitta Old Testament preceded the Diatessaron, and represents an independent translation from the Hebrew Bible. Resolution of these scholarly questions remain very difficult so long as no complete version of the Diatessaron in Syriac or Greek has been recovered; while the medieval translations that have survived — in Arabic and Latin — both relied on texts that had been heavily corrected to conform better with later canonic versions of the separate Gospel texts.

     There has even been disagreement about what language Tatian used for its original composition, whether Syriac or Greek. Modern scholarship tends to favour a Syriac origin; but even so, the exercise must have been repeated in Greek very shortly afterwards — probably by Tatian himself.

Diatessaron in Syriac Christianity
     The Diatessaron was used as the standard Gospel text in the liturgy of the Syrian Church for two centuries and was quoted or alluded to by Syrian writers. Ephrem the Syrian wrote a commentary on it, the Syriac original of which was rediscovered only in 1957, when a manuscript acquired by Sir Chester Beatty from the Coptic monastery of Deir es-Suriani in Wadi Natrun, Egypt (now Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709, Dublin) turned out to contain the text of Ephrem's commentary. The incomplete manuscript has been supplemented by stray folios that have appeared on the European market, so that now approximately eighty per cent of the Syriac original is available (McCarthy 1994); for those phrases that Ephrem quotes (which is not the entire text), it provides for the first time, a dependable witness to Tatian's original; and also confirms their content and sequence.

     How the Gospel text that was the standard in Syriac Christianity for two centuries should have utterly disappeared requires explaining. Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus on the Euphrates in upper Syria in 423, suspecting Tatian having been a heretic, sought out and found more than two hundred copies of the Diatessaron, which he collected and put away, and introduced instead of them the Gospels of the four evangelists. Thus the harmonization was replaced in the fifth century by the canonical four gospels in the Peshitta version, whose Syriac text nevertheless contains many Diatessaronic readings. Gradually, without extant copies to which to refer, the Diatessaron developed a reputation for having been heretical.

Vernacular harmonies derived from the Diatessaron
     No Christian tradition, other than the Syriac, has ever adopted a harmonized Gospel text for use in its liturgy. However, in many traditions (given the inherent tendency of Christian liturgical texts to ossification), it was not unusual for subsequent Christian generations to seek to provide paraphrased Gospel versions in language closer to the vernacular of their own day. Frequently such versions have been constructed as Gospel harmonies, sometimes taking the Tatian's Diatessaron as an exemplar; other times proceeding independently. Hence from the Syriac Diatessaron text was derived an eleventh century Arabic harmony (the source for the published versions of the Diatessaron in English); and a thirteenth Century Persian harmony. The Arabic harmony preserves Tatian's sequence exactly, but uses a source text corrected in most places to that of the standard Syriac Peshitta Gospels; the Persian harmony differs greatly in sequence, but translates a Syriac text that is rather closer to that in Ephrem's commentary. The Diatessaron is thought to have been available to Muhammad, and may have led to the assumption in the Quran that the Christian Gospel is one text.

     An Old Latin version of Tatian's Syriac text appears to have circulated in the West from the late second century; with a sequence adjusted to conform more closely to that of the canonical Gospel of Luke, and also including additional material (such as the pericope of the adulteress), possibly from the Gospel of the Hebrews. With the gradual adoption of the Vulgate as the liturgical Gospel text of the Latin Church, the Latin Diatessaron was increasingly modified to conform to Vulgate readings. In 546, Victor of Capua discovered such a mixed manuscript; and, further corrected by Victor so as to provide a very pure Vulgate text within a modified Diatessaron sequence, this harmony, the Codex Fuldensis, survives in the monastic library at Fulda, where it served as the source text for vernacular harmonies in Old High German, Eastern Frankish and Old Saxon (the alliterative poem 'Heliand'). The older mixed Vulgate/Diatessaron text type also appears to have continued as a distinct tradition, as such texts appear to underly surviving thirteenth-fourteenth century Gospel harmonies in Middle Dutch, Middle High German, Middle French, Middle English, Tuscan and Venetian; although no example of this hypothetical Latin sub-text has ever been identified. This Latin Diatessaron textual tradition has also been suggested as underlying the enigmatic sixteenth century pro-Muslim Gospel of Barnabas.

Tradition of Gospel harmonies
     The name 'Diatessaron' is Greek for 'through four'; the Syriac name for this gospel harmony is 'Ewangeliyôn Damhalltê' ('Gospel of the Mixed'). Indeed, the Syrian Church also rejected John's Book of  Revelation and the Pastoral Epistles. They were included again only in the middle of the sixth century.

     In the tradition of Gospel harmonies, there is another Diatessaron, reportedly written by one Ammonius the Alexandrian, to correct perceived deficencies in Tatian's. (Note that this Ammonius may or may not be the Ammonius Saccas who taught Origen and Plotinus). None of this revised Diatessaron survives, except as it may have influenced the medieval Arabic and Latin texts that were formerly the only existing reflections of Tatian's work.

     Gospel harmonies are valuable in studies of biblical texts, since they frequently offer glimpses of earlier versions of texts. In particular, due to their not having been copied as frequently as biblical texts, more of the earlier versions survive (as newer copies did not exist to replace them). As such, the extant texts contain within them portions of earlier versions of the gospels than the earliest separate gospels known.

     In addition, because the Old Testament quotations in the Diatessaron are separately translated from the Hebrew — and hence independent of the Septuagint — these quotations form an important early witness to the vocalization of the Hebrew Bible.

     The Qur'an, in referring to Christians and Christian scripture, only makes reference to one gospel. From this it has been inferred that the Arabian Christians of the seventh century were habitually using a harmonization such as the Diatessaron as their principal scripture.

     New World Encyclopedia

The Religious Affections

By Owen Strachan 8/01/2012

     Many years ago, in a wild and woolly period known as the First Great Awakening, colonial pastor Jonathan Edwards took on the tricky task of sorting out what place the “religious affections,” as he called them, have in the Christian life. Here’s what he said as a foundational tenet:

     There are false affections, and there are true. A man’s having much affection, don’t prove that he has any true religion: but if he has no affection, it proves that he has no true religion. (Works of Jonathan Edwards 2:121)

     Edwards wrote these words to help people process the revivals of the 1730s–40s, a series of spiritual awakenings when many people claimed their hearts had been profoundly stirred by God. Edwards’ beloved wife, Sarah, had herself fallen into a sort of rapture, feeling herself remarkably close to the Lord. Some “Old Lights” cried down these emotive expressions of faith, charging that they were nothing more than attention-seeking excesses. True spirituality was not expressive and swept up but modest and buttoned-down. This discussion on “spiritual ecstasies” became a referendum on the revival itself.

     In The Religious Affections, Edwards lists twelve negative, or inconclusive, signs of conversion — including strong emotions, bodily reactions, and an outbreak of religious conversation — and twelve positive signs that show the Spirit has truly regenerated the heart unto faith in Christ. In his fourth positive sign, Edwards zeroes in on the way that affections “arise from the mind’s being enlightened, rightly and spiritually to understand or apprehend divine things” (2:266). In other words, thinking about salvation and the God who commissioned and initiated it fans the spiritual fire inside us to a flame. A grand vision of God, Edwards intimates, leads to a grand way of living:

     He that truly sees the divine, transcendent, supreme glory of those things which are divine, does as it were know their divinity intuitively; he not only argues that they are divine, but he sees that they are divine; he sees that in them wherein divinity chiefly consists; for in this glory … does mainly consist the true notion of divinity: God is God, and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above ‘em, chiefly by his divine beauty, which is infinitely diverse from all other beauty. They therefore that see the stamp of this glory in divine things, they see divinity in them, they see God in them, and so see ‘em to be divine. (2:298)

     When you seek to understand the character and glory of God revealed in the Bible, you realize, as Edwards noted, that you are not merely encountering interesting religious ideas or dramatic stories, but “things which are divine.” You are looking into the mind and will of God Himself. You are seeing His “divine beauty,” beauty that captures you, enraptures you, and transforms you to become beautiful yourself.

     Such a vision of a majestic, saving God results in the final sign: “Christian practice or a holy life.” For the pastor-theologian, this is “the chief of all the signs of grace, both as an evidence of the sincerity of professors unto others, and also to their own consciences” (2:406). Three outcomes mark a person as holy. First, “Tis necessary that men should be universally obedient.” Second, they pursue service to God: “Christians in their effectual calling, are not called to idleness, but to labor in God’s vineyard, and spend their day in doing a great and laborious service.” Third, they persevere “in obedience, which is chiefly insisted on in the Scripture, as a special note of the truth of grace” (2:384-89). Here, then, is an elegant summary of what Christian spirituality really is: obedience, constant service, and perseverance in the faith.

     The progression sketched in this little piece on a monumental spiritual work is important. When we encounter a great and holy God in all His beauty, we are stirred to live holy lives. So many of us want to live vibrantly before God, to experience the “fullness of joy” spoken of in Psalm 16:11. So, we make some resolutions, grit our teeth, and resolve to pray more and sin less.

     What we might miss, however, is the vital connection between a grand vision of God and a holy way of life. If our hearts would be aflame for God, there must be more than leaves and twigs to heat them. We need a majestic picture of the Lord from texts like Job 38–41; Isaiah 45–46; and Ezekiel 1. When we see God in all His majesty and glory, we find the material we need to sustain holy living.

     I say “sustain” because we live in a fallen world and, though redeemed, we ourselves are sinful (Rom. 3:10–18). The heart sold out to God will experience many things—passionate closeness with God, terrible disappointments, days marked by a feeling of spiritual neutrality. Through it all is our call to persevere, as the “hall of faith” of Hebrews 11 indicates.

     That, it would seem from Scripture and Edwards, one of our most trusted theologians, is the ultimate display of God-given religious affection: to journey on to heaven with a great God looming before us, the storms of sin and darkness howling around us, and never stop.

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Owen Strachan is the author of Awakening the Evangelical Mind and The Pastor as Public Theologian (with Kevin Vanhoozer). A systematic theology professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he is the director of the Center for Public Theology and hosts the City of God podcast. He is writing a Jonathan Edwards devotional (Tyndale House) and a theological anthropology (B&H Academic). You can follow him on Twitter.

The Coming of the Kingdom part 18

By Dr. Andrew Woods 08/16/2013

Evangelical Confusion

Because today's church largely believes in the kingdom's presence, we began a study chronicling what the Bible teaches about the kingdom. The biblical teaching on the kingdom has been surveyed from  Genesis to  Revelation. This earthly kingdom is anticipated in the office of Theocratic Administrator that was lost in Eden, in the biblical covenants, in the predictions of the Old Testament prophets, and in the earthly theocracy governing Israel from the time of Moses to Zedekiah. This theocratic arrangement terminated with the "Times of the Gentiles" when the nation had no king reigning on David’s Throne as Judah was trampled by various Gentile powers. Against that backdrop entered Jesus Christ, the rightful Heir to David's Throne. Had first-century Israel enthroned Christ, the earthly kingdom would have manifested. Despite this unprecedented opportunity, Israel rejected the kingdom offer leading to its postponement.

Consequently, Christ explained the spiritual conditions that would prevail during the kingdom's absence. This interim program includes His revelation of the kingdom mysteries and the church ( Matt. 13; 16:18 ). Because neither the kingdom mysteries nor the church represent the fulfillment of God's Old Testament kingdom promises, the kingdom will remain in a state of abeyance as long as God's present work in the world continues through His interim program. However, one day the church's mission on the earth will be completed resulting in the church's removal from the earth through the rapture. Then God, who is not forgetful of His prior unconditional covenants with Israel, will re-extend the offer of the kingdom to national Israel in the midst of the coming Great Tribulation. Unlike at the First Advent, this time the offer will be accepted leading to Christ's return and subsequent earthly kingdom.  Revelation therefore explains how the world will eventually transition from the rule that Satan has had over the world ever since the Fall in Eden ( Luke 4:5-8 ) to the future time in history when God and His people "will reign upon the earth" ( Rev. 5:10b; 11:15b ).

In addition, we explained that the expression "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" merely communicates that the Old Testament expectation of an earthly kingdom had drawn near in the person of Christ. Had the nation enthroned Christ ( Deut. 17:15 ), what the Old Testament predicted concerning an earthly kingdom would have become a reality not only for Israel but also for the entire world. As long as Christ was present amongst first-century Israel offering them the kingdom, it was in an imminent state of nearness. This reality is an entirely different matter from saying that the kingdom was present or had arrived.

The "Lord's Prayer" And The Kingdom

Some believe Christ inaugurated the kingdom in spiritual form during His First Advent. [1] One way of showing the implausibility of such a proposition is by exploring the true meaning of the so-called "Lord's Prayer" found in  Matthew 6:9-13. These verses say:

Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (NASB).

In actuality, this prayer is all about the kingdom. [2] Toussaint explains,

"The sample prayer, it can be concluded, is given in the context of the coming kingdom. The first three requests are petitions for the coming of the kingdom. The last three are for the needs of the disciples in the interim preceding the establishment of the kingdom." [3]

If  Matthew 6:9-13 is in actuality a model prayer for the disciples consisting of three requests for the kingdom to come and three additional requests for their temporal needs to be met prior to the kingdom's establishment, then it becomes obvious that the Lord did not establish the kingdom at His First Advent. Otherwise, the "Disciples' Prayer" becomes nonsensical. After all, why pray for the coming of the kingdom and make additional requests until its establishment if the kingdom were already a present reality?

Three Requests Related To Temporal Needs

Previously, we observed that the first three clauses ( Matt. 6:9-10 ) found in the "Disciples Prayer" (the requests for God's name to be revered, the kingdom to come, and the sovereign will of God to be done on the earth) are in reality requests for the yet future kingdom. Similarly,  Matthew 6:11-13 can best be understood as three requests that petition the Father to meet the temporal needs of Christ's disciples in the era leading up to the kingdom's establishment while the kingdom remains in a state of postponement. Walvoord notes, "In verse  11, the petitions are changed to the first person relating to human need."  [4]

First,  Matthew 6:11 says,  "Give us this day our daily bread." Here, "bread" is most likely used as a figure of speech known as a synecdoche (where a part is used to represent the whole) to represent general nourishment. According to Glasscock, "'Bread' was most likely used figuratively for food in general ( Gen. 3:19 )." [5]

The kingdom will be a time of great agricultural prosperity resulting in no more starvation or food shortage.  Amos 9:13 says,

"'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine...'"

Isaiah 65:21-22a similarly notes,

"They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat."

Zechariah 8:12 similarly predicts,

"For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things."

Until this time of agricultural prosperity in the kingdom age comes, food shortages will continue to be a reality for humanity. Thus, it is appropriate for Christ to instruct His disciples to pray for their daily provision until this specific request becomes unnecessary after the kingdom comes. During the wilderness wanderings, God miraculously and physically provided for the nation of Israel through the daily provision of manna. This provision continued until the nation entered Canaan —the land "flowing with milk and honey" ( Exod. 16:14-36; Josh. 5:11-12 ). At that point, daily provision of manna was no longer required since the prosperity of the land economically sustained the nation. Similarly, God must supply the daily needs of His disciples until every physical need is abundantly met once the agricultural prosperity of the kingdom age becomes an earthly reality. Hence, Christ instructs His disciples to pray for their daily sustenance during the kingdom's absence.

Second,  Matthew 6:12 says,  "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Here, Christ instructs His disciples to seek spiritual provision when they sin and fall out of fellowship with the Father. Toussaint explains, "Judicial forgiveness is not in view ( Acts 10:43 ) but fellowship ( 1 John 1:5-9 ). It is impossible for one to be in fellowship with God as long as he harbors ill will in his heart." [6] Walvoord also explains, "The Christian already forgiven judicially should not expect restoration in the family unless he, himself, is forgiving." [7] Glasscock similarly notes:

It is not likely here that the issue of forgiveness is referring to initial redemptive forgiveness (for salvation) but the forgiveness for offense against the Father in the perpetual daily life situation (for fellowship). There is no salvific passage that requires the one being saved to perform any act, such as forgiving others, in order to gain forgiveness. The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that salvation from eternal torment is a free gift not granted on the basis of any act ( Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Rom. 4:5; etc.). [8]

When Christ comes to establish His kingdom, His disciples will be resurrected and thus in bodies with no capacity for sin ( Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:4-5 ). However, in the meantime, while still in mortal bodies, followers of Christ still retain a propensity for sin and thus can still fall out of fellowship with the Father. Consequently, they need spiritual provision to maintain or to restore fellowship with God. Therefore, Christ explains this interim spiritual provision in  Matthew 6:12.

Third,  Matthew 6:13 says,  "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Glasscock notes,

"...and the object from which we are to seek deliverance is evil. More literally it should be understood as 'the Evil One.'...The petition of the model prayer, then, is for God to allow us to undergo the testing but to be rescued from the snare of the Evil One, the Devil." [9]

The kingdom represents a time in history when Satan will be incarcerated ( Rev. 20:2-3 ). With the kingdom absent in the present age, Satan remains the "god of this world" ( 2 Cor. 4:4 ) and "...prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" ( 1 Pet. 5:8 ). Thus, in the present age, with the kingdom and Satan's incarceration not a present reality, the believer is in need of protection from the Adversary ( John 17:15 ). Such protection is what the believer must pray for during this interim age, before the kingdom comes. In sum, in  Matthew 6:9-11, Christ teaches His followers to ask the Father to meet their temporal needs (physical provision, spiritual restoration, and divine protection from Satan) during the kingdom's absence. Once the kingdom comes, such requests will no longer be necessary. In conclusion, when rightly understood, the "Disciples' Prayer" consists of three requests for the kingdom to come and three additional requests for provisions that are needed while the kingdom remains in abeyance. Thus, the whole notion that Christ already established the kingdom in spiritual form at His First Advent becomes unlikely, if not impossible.

Continue Reading (Part 19 on Sept 9 web page)

[1] Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology
[2] Stanley Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew
[3] Ibid., 112.
[4] John Walvoord, Matthew (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries)
[5] Ed Glasscock, Matthew- Moody Gospel Commentary
[6] Toussaint, 111.
[7] Walvoord, 53.
[8] Glasscock, 148-49.
[9] Ibid., 150.

     Dr. Andrew Woods Books

Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.

Dr. Andrew Woods Ministry Page, YouTube Channel, and Church.

Every Conflict Is a Test

By Alexander Strauch 8/01/2012

     The New Testament does not hide the fact that nearly every church in the Apostolic age experienced conflict. As the New Testament writers addressed these matters, they provided invaluable instruction on how believers are to think, act, and treat one another when conflict arises. By studying the churches in the New Testament and the instructions given to them regarding conflict, we can learn biblical principles for handling conflict in a constructive, Christ-honoring way.

A Key Principle to Remember

     One of the most important principles I have discovered to guide me when engaged in conflict of any kind is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It is this: when conflict arises, our attitudes and behaviors should reflect our new life in Christ given by the Holy Spirit who lives within us. We are to display the fruit of the Spirit and not the works of the flesh. We are to be Spirit-controlled and not flesh-controlled or out of control. Serious discord threatened the life and unity of the newly planted churches of Galatia. So Paul warned the new believers: “If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:1).

     If these new Christian believers did not stop fighting, no one would survive the carnage. After Paul warns of the potential for mutual destruction within the believing community, he charges his readers to “walk by the Spirit” and not to gratify “the desires of the flesh” or display “the works of the flesh.”

Do Not Display the Works of the Flesh

     Much of the contentious infighting that plagues many churches today results from believers acting according to the flesh and not the Spirit. In Galatians, Paul focuses on eight social sins of the flesh that ruin relationships and divide churches: “Now the works of the flesh are evident … enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy” (5:19–21; see 2 Cor. 12:20 for a similar list).

     As you consider these eight “works of the flesh,” know this: the Holy Spirit is absolutely opposed to each of them. Galatians 5:17 states, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.” Paul’s catalog of social vices stands as an objective check to our behavior. So the next time you are involved in conflict, stop and think. You know you are yielding to “the desires of the flesh” if any of the above sinful vices are displayed in your behavior or attitude.      The one thing Christian believers are not to do when engaged in conflict is to revert back to our old, pre-conversion, flesh-driven ways of behavior.

Display the Fruit of the Spirit

     When facing conflict, instead of biting and devouring one another and displaying the destructive social sins of the flesh, we are to “walk by the Spirit,” be “led by the Spirit,” “live by the Spirit,” “sow to the Spirit” (5:16, 18, 25; 6:8). Nothing but the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is sufficient to enable believers to resist the desires of the flesh and to live Christlike lives.

     The Spirit seeks to form Christlike character qualities in the life of every individual Christian and every local church body. These qualities promote right attitudes, godly conduct, and healthy relationships — the very qualities the strife-torn congregations in Galatia desperately needed. Paul’s nine descriptions of “the fruit of the Spirit” form a composite picture of Christlike character and conduct: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22–23). We know that we are walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit when we see “the fruit of the Spirit” displayed in our daily conduct and inner attitudes.

     “The fruit of the Spirit,” then, provides an objective guide to our attitudes and behavior when dealing with conflict. So we should always ask ourselves: “Am I displaying a Christlike character and the life of the Spirit when I deal with disagreement or someone who opposes me?” Hopefully, we all can answer, “Yes.”

     When caught in a storm of conflict, one fruit of the Spirit that is especially needed to navigate safely through the storm is “self-control” (5:23). Lack of self-control is a major problem during conflict, but the Holy Spirit provides power over the fleshly excesses generated by sinful passions of anger, jealousy, hatred, and the spirit of revenge.

     Christian believers who control their emotions and thinking by the power of the Spirit are best able to handle conflict constructively and bring about a just resolution. They are Christians who don’t bite and devour their brothers and sisters in Christ.

     In contrast, when people act according to the flesh, they are out of control emotionally. They do not display the fruit of the Spirit and have the potential to do terrible damage to other people and to the name of Christ.

     Conflict presents one of the toughest challenges to walking by the Spirit. If only we would recognize that every conflict is a test as to whether or not we will display Christlike character and the reality of the gospel in our lives. Will we as Christians display the beautiful fruit of the Holy Spirit or the ugliness of the flesh?

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     Alexander Strauch (Per Amazon) was raised in New Jersey and converted to Christ at a Bible camp in New York State. He received his undergraduate degree from Colorado Christian University. He went on to earn his Master's of Divinity degree from Denver Seminary. For the past thirty years, he has served faithfully at Littleton Bible Chapel. Additionally, he has taught philosophy and New Testament literature at Colorado Christian University. A gifted Bible teacher and popular speaker, Mr. Strauch has helped thousands of churches worldwide through his expository writing ministry. He is the author of the now-classic works Biblical Eldership and The New Testament Deacon. Mr. Strauch resides with his wife, Marilyn, and two daughters in Littleton, Colorado, and also has two married daughters in the area.

Pilgrims in a Post-Christian Culture

By Voddie Baucham 8/01/2012

     In John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim's Progress, the Wicket Gate is a symbol for entrance into the Christian life. There, the main character, Christian, encounters the gatekeeper, Good-Will. Their encounter, like the rest of the book, is filled with layers of meaning to which modern pilgrims would do well to pay attention:

     So when the pilgrim was fully inside, Good Will asked him, “Who directed you to come this way?”

     CHRISTIAN: Evangelist exhorted me to come this way and knock at the Gate, just as I did. He further told me that you, sir, would tell me what I must do next.

     GOOD-WILL: An open door is set before you, and no man can shut it.

     CHRISTIAN: Now I begin to reap the benefits of my hazards.

     GOOD-WILL: But how is it that you have come alone?

     CHRISTIAN: Because none of my neighbors saw their danger as I saw mine.

The Battle Has Just Begun

     As pilgrims on this journey to the Celestial City, we must recognize the fact that coming to faith in Christ is the end of our enmity with God, but it is in nowise an end of warfare. Obstinate, Pliable, the Slough of Despond, and Mr. Worldly Wiseman had all been obstacles on Christian’s journey to the Wicket Gate. However, in many ways, the worst still lay ahead. Similarly, our battle with the world, the flesh, and the Devil only intensifies once we have crossed from death to life.

     Old patterns of thinking, cultural trends, and the constant bombardment of images and ideas can obscure the path to the Celestial City. Entering the Wicket Gate is not the end of the matter. The world may no longer be our “home,” but it is still where we live. And as pilgrims, we must recognize our need to renew our minds constantly (Rom. 12:2), crucify the flesh (Gal 5:24), and resist the Devil (James 4:7).

     Like Christian, we must war with Apollion and fight to stay on the “straight and narrow path.” Then, of course, there is the temptation of Vanity Fair. And the worst thing that can happen there is not to forfeit one’s life, but to lose one’s witness. The greatest danger to the pilgrim is growing to love something, anything, more than one loves the Celestial City. Therefore, the ordinary means of grace become more important as time goes by. The preaching of the Word, the feast and fellowship of the Lord’s Table: these are the priceless jewels that remind us of the fading glory of the things we know, and cause us to echo the Apostle’s cry: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

There Are Others in Need of That Which You Have Found

     It is impossible for a pilgrim to stand before the Wicket Gate without thinking about his friends, neighbors, and family members who have not made it. This is what Paul experienced in Romans 10:1 when he wrote, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Every man, woman, and child on his or her way to the Celestial City has felt this same yearning. Yet we must journey on.

     For Christian, there is the constant tension between the call of the Celestial City and his love for friends and family who have not “seen their danger as he saw his.” And he, like all pilgrims, must recognize that leaving the path is not only unthinkable from the standpoint of his calling, but also catastrophic for those whom he desperately yearns to join him. The only way to commend the path to others is to stay on it.

     This post-Christian culture would have us believe that the only way to bear witness to Christ effectively is to “contextualize” in a way that essentially leaves the path. We must walk like, talk like, dress like, live like, and love like the world in order to win the world. However, the opposite is actually true. It is, in fact, the straight and narrow path to the Celestial City that conforms us to the image of Christ. The path is where we learn the very truth to which we bear witness. And our desire is to have others join us on the path, not distract us from it.

     As Christian pilgrims, we must realize that the journey we are on is long and fraught with difficulty. The gatekeeper did not come to bring peace but a sword (Matt. 10:34). Moreover, He promises that we will be hated by the world (John 15:18; 17:14). Nevertheless, we are no better than the world that hates us. The only difference is the grace we have received. As such, we have no room to boast (Rom. 3:27), but we have much more cause to rejoice and a message to share with a world full of neighbors who simply have yet to see their danger as we saw ours.

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     Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr. is the incoming dean of the seminary at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia. He previously served as pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Tex.

Voddie Baucham Jr.Books

By John Walvoord (1990)

Order Of Events Of Bible Prophecy

     According to  Daniel’s prophecies, the times of the Gentiles will not end until the end of the great tribulation, which is yet to come. The section of prophecy in  Luke 21:20–24 is distinguished from the other prophecies dealing with signs of the end because  Luke 21:24 has already been literally fulfilled while the other aspects of its signs, as in  Matthew 24 and  Mark 13, have yet to see complete fulfillment. Only the book of  Luke gives the specific answer to signs of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Luke 21:20–24 (ESV)
20  “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22  for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23  Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24  They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Specific Signs of the End and of the Coming of Christ

     Matthew 24:15–26; Mark 13:14–25; Luke 21:25–28. Jesus, having described the signs relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, which some of them would live to see, and the general signs of the progress of the present age, then revealed in detail the specific signs which would be unmistakable evidence that the second coming of Christ and the end of the age was near. It is important to note that the specific signs are entirely different from the signs for the destruction of Jerusalem, though there are some similarities. In both, Israel will be in time of trouble and tribulation. In both periods those in Judea are urged to flee to the mountains. In both cases Gentile power, at least at first, will be triumphant. But the specific signs of the end of the age and the coming of Christ do not occur in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem but await the future period leading up to the second coming of Christ, which will be the specific sign of the end.

     One of the sources of confusion among interpreters of the Olivet Discourse is their attempt to find complete fulfillment of the entire Olivet Discourse in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. This is sometimes related to the attempt to avoid specific prophecy and the tendency to avoid details in prophecy as being accurate. Actually, Christ was painting a detailed and accurate picture of the great tribulation and its effect on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. As previously pointed out,  Matthew’s predictions do not relate to the church age as such, the rapture of the church, or related events. Here,  Matthew’s gospel, reporting the prophecies of Christ, focuses on the last three and a half years leading up to the second coming. In that time there will be specific signs that will unmistakably identify the period as the time of the great tribulation.

     Jesus first of all called attention to the specific sign of the appearance of “‘the abomination that causes desolation’ spoken of through the prophet  Daniel” Matt. 24:15 ). According to  Daniel 9:26–27, the future world ruler, who will be in power in that period of three and a half years, will desecrate the temple and cause the sacrifices to cease. This is called “an abomination that causes desolation” because it destroys the sacred character of the sacrificial altar and the temple that will be in existence at the time. A similar event occurred in the second century BC when Antiochus Epiphanes stopped the sacrifices and desecrated the temple. This event fulfilled  Daniel’s prophecy, recorded in  Daniel 11:31.

Matthew 24:15 (ESV) 15  “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),

Daniel 9:26–27 (ESV) 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

     Matthew’s account describes this event, which is yet to come, as a time when the temple will be desecrated in a similar way: “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days” ( Dan. 12:11 ). This period of approximately three and a half years will be the period of the great tribulation and will climax in the second coming of Christ. Accordingly, when the temple is desecrated by the future world ruler, it will be a specific sign of the imminent coming of Christ (cf.  2 Thess. 2:3–4; Rev. 13:11–15 ).

     Just as the surrounding of Jerusalem by the Roman armies was a sign for them to flee to the mountains in Judea in AD 70, so when this temple is desecrated in the future, it will be a sign for Jews in Jerusalem to flee. It will be a very specific sign that will come on a certain day at a certain time. Jesus urged them to flee immediately when they learn of it, not even bothering to go back to the house or to stop to get their cloak ( Matt. 24:16–18 ). As it was in the case when Jerusalem was destroyed, so it will be difficult for pregnant women and nursing mothers to leave home and endure the hardships of escaping Jerusalem.

     Jesus also said they should pray that they will not have to leave on the Sabbath because travel on the Sabbath day would be an obvious sign that they were fleeing, as normally they did not journey on the Sabbath (v.  20 ).

     The initial sign of the desecration of their temple will be followed by the fearful fulfillment and the time of great trouble anticipated in the Old Testament ( Jer. 30:4–7; Dan. 9:25–26 ). Jesus declared that  “there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now — and never to be equaled again”Matt. 24:21 ). This time of trouble will be so great that the period, if not limited to the three and a half years duration as described in Scriptures, will destroy the human race. Jesus stated,  “No one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” Matt. 24:22 ).

     The gospel of  Mark states essentially the same truths as that of  Matthew 24 Mark 13:14–17 ).  Luke recorded Christ as saying,  “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken”Luke 21:25–26 ).

     All these events will be warnings that Christ is coming at the end of this period. Though people will not know the day nor the hour, they will be able to comprehend the approximate time because the length of the total period is forty-two months ( Rev. 13:5 ). Taking all of the Scripture into consideration, and especially the graphic picture of the great tribulation provided in the book of  Revelation, it seems that the population of the world will be decimated and only a fraction of those that enter the period will survive to the end. Jesus said, in fact, that if He did not stop the period by His second coming, there would be no human beings left on earth ( Matt. 24:22 ). The idea of posttribulationists that survival through this time is a blessed hope is not tenable.

     There will also be deceitful signs and reports that Christ has already appeared: “At that time if anyone says to you,  ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or,  ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible” (vv.  Matthew 24:23–24; cf.  Mark 13:21–23 ). According to  Matthew 24:26, there will be reports that Jesus has appeared in the desert or has been revealed in the inner room, but believers are urged not to believe this.

Matthew 24:23–24 (ESV) 23  Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Mark 13:21–23 (ESV) 21  And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22  For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23  But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Matthew 24:26 (ESV) 26  So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.

     The point is that the second coming of Christ will be a very visible event. Jesus described it in  Matthew:  “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (v.  27 ). The second coming will be preceded by many supernatural events in the skies that are described in the book of  Revelation. Jesus, according to  Matthew’s gospel, said,  “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’”Matt. 24:29; cf.  Mark 13:24–25; Luke 21: 25–26 ).

     The final sign will be the appearance of Christ Himself in the sky in His return from heaven to the earth. Jesus said,  “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory”Matt. 24:30; cf.  Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27 ).

     Revelation 19:11–16 describes the scene in greater detail.

     It should be noted that  Matthew was not talking about the rapture of the church, which is described in totally different language (cf.  1 Thess. 4:16 ). The final sign is the glory of Christ Himself in the skies in return to the earth. The nations will grieve because it is the time of judgment for rejection of Jesus as Savior and Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 (ESV) 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

     When Christ comes to earth He will send out His angels to assemble the elect: “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” ( Matt. 24:31 ). Mark described the same event as the assembling of the elect both from earth and heaven ( Mark 13:27 ).

     Some have taken the “elect” here to refer specifically to the elect living on earth, but it is more probable that this event will include all the elect, or the saved, including Old Testament saints, saved Israel, the church, and the saints of the tribulation period leading up to the second coming. Some will need to be resurrected from the dead, such as the martyrs ( Rev. 20:4–6 ) and the Old Testament saints ( Dan. 12:2 ). The church was resurrected, or translated, earlier, at the time of the rapture. At the second coming of Christ no child of God will be left unresurrected or unrestored, but all will share in the millennial kingdom.

     Taken as a whole, the revelation of  Mathew 24:4–31, with parallel passages in  Mark and  Luke, answers the questions that the disciples had raised: the first concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in AD 70, and the second and third questions dealing with the end of the age and the coming of Christ. The event itself is preceded by the signs that Jesus described and that climax in the second coming of Christ at the beginning of His kingdom on earth.

     Having answered their questions, Jesus next turned to illustrations and applications of the truths of these prophecies.

The Parable of the Fig Tree

1.     Matthew 24:32–35; Mark 13:28–31; Luke 21:29–33. Jesus first used the fig tree as an illustration of the signs of the Lord’s coming. Jesus declared,  “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door” Matt. 24:32–33; cf.  Mark 13:28–29; Luke 21:29–31 ). A common interpretation has been to interpret the fig tree as a type of Israel and the revival of Israel as the budding of the fig tree. The fig tree could very well be a type of Israel, but it does not seem to be so used in Scripture. Good and bad figs are mentioned in  Jeremiah 24:1–8; the good figs are those carried off in captivity, and the bad figs are those who remain in the land of Israel.  Jeremiah 29:17 also mentioned figs. In  Judges 9:1–11 fig trees are mentioned but not in relation to Israel. They are mentioned by Christ in  Matthew 21:19–20 and  Mark 11:12–14. There is no indication in the interpretation of  Matthew 21:18–22 and  Mark 11:12–14, 20–26 that relates the fig tree to Israel. Accordingly, though many have followed this interpretation, there is no scriptural basis.

     A better alternative is the simple explanation that the fig tree is used as a natural illustration. Because the fig tree by its nature brings forth leaves late in spring, seeing leaves on a fig tree is evidence that summer is very near. This illustration is carried over to the second coming of Christ. When the events described in the preceding verses occur, it will be a clear indication of the second coming of Christ being near. The sign in the passage is not the revival of Israel, which is not the subject of  Matthew 24, but rather the details of the great tribulation, which occurs in the three and a half years preceding the second coming. Accordingly,  “all these things” (v.  Mat 24:33 ) refers not to the revival of Israel but to the events of the great tribulation. It is true, however, that Israel will have a measure of revival preceding the second coming of Christ, but this is based on other scriptural revelation rather than on the revelation presented here.

The Generation to See the Fulfillment

     Jesus made a further comment on the situation in saying,  “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”Matt. 24:34–35 ). The normal use of the word generation is in reference to the time span between one’s birth and the time when one becomes a parent. Obviously, the generation that lived in Christ’s day did not see all the things described in the preceding context. Some have inferred from this that the term generation is a reference to Israel and have asserted that Israel will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled. However, Israel will never pass away. Still other scholars take generation as an indefinite period of time.

     The most natural meaning, however, is to take it as normally used as a reference to a period of twenty-five to forty years. But instead of referring this to the time in which Christ lived, it refers back to the preceding period that is described as the great tribulation. As the great tribulation is only three and a half years long, obviously, those who see the great tribulation will also see the coming of the Lord. Regardless of how it is interpreted, Christ affirmed, in support of the fulfillment of the prophecy, that His words will never pass away even though our present earth and heaven will ultimately be destroyed.

The Time Preceding the Second Coming Compared to the Days of Noah before the Flood

     Matthew 24:36–42. Though the time of the coming of the Lord may be recognized as about to happen, details are not given in such clarity that one can determine the day or the hour. Needless speculation concerning the time of the coming of the Lord could be avoided if this verse were taken literally. Jesus said,  “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (v.  Matthew 24:36 ).

     Jesus, of course, was referring here to His human intelligence, which was limited, not to His divine omniscience. The time leading up to the second coming was compared to the days leading up to the flood. In the case of the flood, there were numerous signs of the approaching end, and the same will be true of the second coming. It should be noted that the signs are in relation to the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation, not to the rapture of the church, which has no signs and is always imminent until it occurs. Noah took more than a hundred years to build the ark. In this time people carried on their normal activities, as Jesus mentioned (vv.  37–38 ). When the ark was finally finished, however, the situation suddenly changed. Now it was possible for the flood to come.

     As Noah’s neighbors observed, they saw a very strange sight — the animals marching into the ark in pairs, in almost military precision ( Gen. 7:2–3 ). God also announced to Noah, “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made” (v.  4 ).

Genesis 7:2–4 (ESV) 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

     After the animals had come safely into the ark, Moses recorded that Noah and his family, consisting of his wife and three sons and their wives, also entered the ark. Now the situation was entirely changed. Everything that preceded the flood was now fulfilled. The door to the ark was shut, and then it began to rain. In a similar way, many prophecies have to be fulfilled leading up to the second coming. As the period of the great tribulation progresses, and those who understand the prophecies of the end time realize that approximately three and a half years have passed, they will undoubtedly know and expect Christ to come even though the prophecies are not specifically detailed to allow them to know the day or the hour. Such people will know the year.

     Jesus then compared the situation of the flood of Noah to the time of the second coming. He stated,  “That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come”Matt. 24:39–42 ).

     Because this event is somewhat similar to the rapture in that some are taken and some are left, posttribulationists almost universally cite this verse as proof that the rapture will occur as a part of the second coming of Christ after the tribulation. However, a careful reading of the passage yields exactly the opposite result. At the rapture of the church, those taken are those who are saved, and those who are left are left to go through the awful period, including the great tribulation. Here the situation is just in reverse. Those who are taken are taken in judgment, and those who are left are left to enter the millennial kingdom.

     Despite the obvious fact that the illustration has to be reversed in order to make an application to the rapture, posttribulationists sometimes point out that the Greek word airo, used to express “took them all away” (v.  39 ), is a different word than used in verse  40 and in verse  41 (Gr., paralambano : “will be taken”). Though admitting that in verse  39 at the time of the flood those taken were taken in judgment, posttribulationists claim the change in wording justifies reading the rapture into verses  40–42. However, this conclusion is not only contrary to the text of  Matthew 24 but also does not take into consideration  Luke 17 in its description of the second coming where Jesus said,  “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left” (vv.  34–35 ). In  Luke, however, the question is asked by the disciples, “Where, Lord?” (v.  37 ). In reply, Jesus said,  “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather” (v.  37 ). In other words, the ones taken are obviously put to death in judgment, in contrast to what will happen at the rapture when the ones taken are brought to heaven. There is no scriptural basis for reading the rapture into  Matthew 24. The occasion is entirely different. At the rapture, the church, composed of those who are saved, is taken to heaven. At the second coming of Christ, the saved remain on earth, and the unsaved are taken away in judgment at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. The very word used to describe those taken away in  Matthew 24:40–41 is used of Christ being taken away to the cross, obviously being taken in judgment as used here (cf.  John 19:16: “So the soldiers took charge of Jesus”).

     The conclusion for those living at the time of the second coming is similar to that of the time of Noah:  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come”Matt. 24:42 ). Though the passage is talking about the second coming of Christ and not the period preceding the rapture, if those living in the period before the second coming — who are able to see signs of the second coming indicating its approach — should be watching, how much more should those waiting for the rapture, which has no signs, live in constant expectation of the imminent return of Jesus for His church.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

Bless the Lord, O my Soul! (Prayer)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     LORD, we are longing to draw near ; may Thy Spirit draw us near. We come by the way of Christ our Mediator. We could not approach Thee, O our God, if it were not for Him, but in Him we come boldly to the throne of heavenly grace. Nor can we come without thanksgiving — thanksgiving from the heart, such as the tongue can never express. Thou hast chosen us from before the foundation of the world, and this well-head of mercy sends forth streams of lovingkindness never ceasing. Because we were chosen we have been redeemed with precious blood. Bless the Lord ! And we have been called by the Holy Spirit out of the world, and we have been led to obey that wondrous call which hath quickened us and renewed us, and made us the people of God, given us adoption into the Divine Family. Bless the Lord!

     Our hearts would pause as we remember the greatness of each one of Thy favours, and we would say, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name." When we consider our utter unworthiness before conversion, and our great faultiness since, we can but admire the riches of abounding grace which God has manifested to us unworthy ones. Bless the Lord ! And when we think of all that Thou hast promised to give, which our faith embraces as being really ours, since the covenant makes it sure, we know not how abundantly enough to utter the memory of Thy great goodness. We would make our praises equal to our expectations, and our expectations equaJ to Thy promises. We can never rise so high. We give to Thee, however, the praise of our entire being ; unto Jehovah, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the Creator of the world, the redeemed of men, unto Jehovah be glory for ever and ever, and let all His people praise Him. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy.

     O Lord, Thy works praise Thee, but Thy saints bless Thee ; and this shall be our heaven ; yea, our heaven of heavens eternally, to praise and magnify the great and ever blessed God. May many a maiden this day, may many a man break forth and say, with the virgin of old, "My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour." May there be going up this day sweet incense of praise laid by holy hands, privately upon the altar of God. May the place be filled with the smoke thereof, not perhaps to the consciousness of every one, but to the acceptance of God who shall smell a sweet savour of rest in Christ, and then in the praises of His people in Him.

     But, Lord, when we have praised Thee we have to fold the wing ; yea, we have to cover the face and cover the feet and stand before Thee to worship in another fashion, ( Isaiah 6 ) for we confess that we are evil, evil in our original, and though renewed by sovereign grace Thy people cannot speak of being clean, rid of sin. There is sin which dwelleth in us which is our daily plague. O God, we humble ourselves before Thee. We ask that our faith may clearly perceive the blood of the atonement and the covering of the perfect righteousness of Christ ; and may we come afresh, depending alone on Jesus. "I, the chief of sinners am, but Jesus died for me." May this be our one hope, that Jesus died and rose again, and that for His sake we are accepted in the Beloved.

     May every child of Thine have his conscience purged from dead works to serve the true and living God May there be no cloud between us and our Heavenly Father ; nay, not even a mist, not even the morning mist that soon is gone. May we walk in the light as God is in the light. May our fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, be unquestionable ; may it be fuel ; may it fill us with joy ; may it be a most real fact this day ; may we enjoy it to the full, knowing whom we have believed, knowing who is our Father, knowing who it is that dwells in us, even the Holy Spirit.

     Take away from us every thing which now might hinder our delighting ourselves in God. May we come to God this day with a supreme joy ; may we speak of Him as "God my exceeding joy; yea, mine own God is He." O God give us a sense of property in Thyself. May we come near to Thee, having no doubt and nothing whatsoever that shall spoil the beautiful simplicity of a childlike faith which looks up into the great face of God and saith, "Our Father, which art in heaven."

     There are those who never repented of sin and never believed in Christ, and consequently the wrath of God abideth on them. They are living without God, they are living in darkness. O God in Thy great mercy look upon them. They do not look at Thee, but do Thou look at them. May the sinner see his sin and mourn it ; see His Saviour and accept Him ; see himself saved, and go on his way rejoicing. Father, do grant us this.

     Once more we pray Thee bless Thy Church. Lord quicken the spiritual life of believers. Thou hast given to Thy Church great activity, for which we thank Thee. May that activity be supported by a corresponding inner life. Let us not get to be busy here and there with Martha, and forget to sit at Thy feet with Mary. Lord, restore to Thy Church the love of strong doctrine. May Thy truth yet prevail. Purge out from among Thy Church these who would lead others away from the truth as it is in Jesus, and give back the old power and something more. Give us Pentecost ; yea, many Pentecosts in one, and may we live to see Thy Church shine forth clear as the sun and fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners.

     God grant that we may live to see better days. But if perilous times should come in these last days make us faithful. Raise up in England, raise up in Scotland, men that shall hold the truth firmly as their fathers did. Raise up in every country where there has been a faithful church men that will not let the vessel drift upon the rocks. O God of the Judges, Thou who didst raise up first one and then another when the people went astray from God ; raise up for us still (our Joshuas are dead) our Deborahs, our Baraks, our Gideons and Jephthahs, and Samuels, that shall maintain for God His truth, and worst the enemies of Israel. Lord look upon Thy Church in these days. Lord revive us. Lord restore us. Lord give power to Thy Word again that Thy name may be glorified.

     Remember the Church of God in this land in all its various phases and portions, and pour out Thy Spirit upon it. Remember the multitude of Thy people across the sea in America, prosper them, bless them with the increase of God. And wherever Thou hast a people may Jesus dwell with them and reveal Himself to His own, for Christ's sake, to whom be glory with the Father and with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 100

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
100 A Psalm for Giving Thanks

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

ESV Study Bible

The Continual Burnt Offering (Acts 17:30)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

September 8
Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”    ESV

     To all men comes the command to repent and believe the gospel. Repentance is a change of mind, a complete turning right-about-face, an entirely changed attitude toward God, sin, and self. It is the soul coming to the bar of judgment now that his case may all be settled before the appointed day when the man who hung on the cross will sit on the throne. God has raised Him from the dead to give repentance and remission of sins to all who yield to His Spirit’s entreaty as set forth in the proclamation of the gospel. Those who thus turn to Him now in this day of grace need have no fear of judgment in that last great assize. They stand forever cleared of every charge.

Jesus, the Lord, our righteousness!
Our beauty Thou, our glorious dress!
Before the throne, in this arrayed,
With joy shall we lift up the head.
Bold shall we stand in that great day,
For who aught to our charge shall lay,
While by Thy blood absolved we are
From sin and guilt, from shame and fear?
Till we behold Thee on Thy throne
In Thee we boast, in Thee alone,
Our beauty this, our glorious dress,
Jesus, the Lord, our righteousness.
--- Zinzendorf

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

  • Reinhold Niebuhr
  • Real Word
  • The Promise of The Image

#1 Andrew Bacevich  
Gordon College


#2 John Behr   
Gordon College


#3 Matthew Schmalz   
Gordon College


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Near this day, September 8, 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem fell. Historian Josephus recorded that Roman General Titus finally smashed through the defenses of Jerusalem, destroying the city and the Temple. Over a million perished in the siege. Through the centuries, people of faith have desired to pilgrimage there, including Abraham Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln recalled his last words as they sat in Ford’s Theater: “He said he wanted to visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footprints of the Saviour. He was saying there was no city he so much desired to see as Jerusalem.”

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Every one, though born of God in an instant,
yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees.
--- from a letter in the Works of John Wesley

As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their "right" place.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen

Look at Jesus Christ. Every time he was in trouble he used the Word of God. When he was tempted he used the Word. When he was suffering on the cross he used the Word.
--- Timothy Keller

From this greatness and immensity of God also your soul must reverently stay all its busy, bold inquiries, and know that God is to us, and to every creature, incomprehensible. If you could fathom or measure him, and know his greatness by a comprehensive knowledge, he were not God. A creature can comprehend nothing but a creature. You may know God, but not comprehend him; as your foot treads on the earth, but does not cover all the earth. The sea is not the sea, if you can hold it in a spoon.
--- Richard Baxter
Adapted from Richard Baxter and William Orme, The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter: Volume XIII (London: James Duncan. 1830), 29.

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 6.

     How The Zealots When They Were Freed From The Idumeans, Slew A Great Many More Of The Citizens; And How Vespasian Dissuaded The Romans When They Were Very Earnest To March Against The Jews From Proceeding In The War At That Time.

     1. The Idumeans complied with these persuasions; and, in the first place, they set those that were in the prisons at liberty, being about two thousand of the populace, who thereupon fled away immediately to Simon, one whom we shall speak of presently. After which these Idumeans retired from Jerusalem, and went home; which departure of theirs was a great surprise to both parties; for the people, not knowing of their repentance, pulled up their courage for a while, as eased of so many of their enemies, while the zealots grew more insolent not as deserted by their confederates, but as freed from such men as might hinder their designs, and plot some stop to their wickedness. Accordingly, they made no longer any delay, nor took any deliberation in their enormous practices, but made use of the shortest methods for all their executions and what they had once resolved upon, they put in practice sooner than any one could imagine. But their thirst was chiefly after the blood of valiant men, and men of good families; the one sort of which they destroyed out of envy, the other out of fear; for they thought their whole security lay in leaving no potent men alive; on which account they slew Gorion, a person eminent in dignity, and on account of his family also; he was also for democracy, and of as great boldness and freedom of spirit as were any of the Jews whosoever; the principal thing that ruined him, added to his other advantages, was his free speaking. Nor did Niger of Peres escape their hands; he had been a man of great valor in their war with the Romans, but was now drawn through the middle of the city, and, as he went, he frequently cried out, and showed the scars of his wounds; and when he was drawn out of the gates, and despaired of his preservation, he besought them to grant him a burial; but as they had threatened him beforehand not to grant him any spot of earth for a grave, which he chiefly desired of them, so did they slay him [without permitting him to be buried]. Now when they were slaying him, he made this imprecation upon them, that they might undergo both famine and pestilence in this war, and besides all that, they might come to the mutual slaughter of one another; all which imprecations God confirmed against these impious men, and was what came most justly upon them, when not long afterward they tasted of their own madness in their mutual seditions one against another. So when this Niger was killed, their fears of being overturned were diminished; and indeed there was no part of the people but they found out some pretense to destroy them; for some were therefore slain, because they had had differences with some of them; and as to those that had not opposed them in times of peace, they watched seasonable opportunities to gain some accusation against them; and if any one did not come near them at all, he was under their suspicion as a proud man; if any one came with boldness, he was esteemed a contemner of them; and if any one came as aiming to oblige them, he was supposed to have some treacherous plot against them; while the only punishment of crimes, whether they were of the greatest or smallest sort, was death. Nor could any one escape, unless he were very inconsiderable, either on account of the meanness of his birth, or on account of his fortune.

     2. And now all the rest of the commanders of the Romans deemed this sedition among their enemies to be of great advantage to them, and were very earnest to march to the city, and they urged Vespasian, as their lord and general in all cases, to make haste, and said to him, that "the providence of God is on our side, by setting our enemies at variance against one another; that still the change in such cases may be sudden, and the Jews may quickly be at one again, either because they may be tired out with their civil miseries, or repent them of such doings." But Vespasian replied, that they were greatly mistaken in what they thought fit to be done, as those that, upon the theater, love to make a show of their hands, and of their weapons, but do it at their own hazard, without considering, what was for their advantage, and for their security; for that if they now go and attack the city immediately, "they shall but occasion their enemies to unite together, and shall convert their force, now it is in its height, against themselves. But if they stay a while, they shall have fewer enemies, because they will be consumed in this sedition: that God acts as a general of the Romans better than he can do, and is giving the Jews up to them without any pains of their own, and granting their army a victory without any danger; that therefore it is their best way, while their enemies are destroying each other with their own hands, and falling into the greatest of misfortunes, which is that of sedition, to sit still as spectators of the dangers they run into, rather than to fight hand to hand with men that love murdering, and are mad one against another. But if any one imagines that the glory of victory, when it is gotten without fighting, will be more insipid, let him know this much, that a glorious success, quietly obtained, is more profitable than the dangers of a battle; for we ought to esteem these that do what is agreeable to temperance and prudence no less glorious than those that have gained great reputation by their actions in war: that he shall lead on his army with greater force when their enemies are diminished, and his own army refreshed after the continual labors they had undergone. However, that this is not a proper time to propose to ourselves the glory of victory; for that the Jews are not now employed in making of armor or building of walls, nor indeed in getting together auxiliaries, while the advantage will be on their side who give them such opportunity of delay; but that the Jews are vexed to pieces every day by their civil wars and dissensions, and are under greater miseries than, if they were once taken, could be inflicted on them by us. Whether therefore any one hath regard to what is for our safety, he ought to suffer these Jews to destroy one another; or whether he hath regard to the greater glory of the action, we ought by no means to meddle with those men, now they are afflicted with a distemper at home; for should we now conquer them, it would be said the conquest was not owing to our bravery, but to their sedition."

     3. And now the commanders joined in their approbation of what Vespasian had said, and it was soon discovered how wise an opinion he had given. And indeed many there were of the Jews that deserted every day, and fled away from the zealots, although their flight was very difficult, since they had guarded every passage out of the city, and slew every one that was caught at them, as taking it for granted they were going over to the Romans; yet did he who gave them money get clear off, while he only that gave them none was voted a traitor. So the upshot was this, that the rich purchased their flight by money, while none but the poor were slain. Along all the roads also vast numbers of dead bodies lay in heaps, and even many of those that were so zealous in deserting at length chose rather to perish within the city; for the hopes of burial made death in their own city appear of the two less terrible to them. But these zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity, as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city, or on those that lay along the roads; but as if they had made an agreement to cancel both the laws of their country and the laws of nature, and, at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked actions, they would pollute the Divinity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun; and the same punishment was allotted to such as buried any as to those that deserted, which was no other than death; while he that granted the favor of a grave to another would presently stand in need of a grave himself. To say all in a word, no other gentle passion was so entirely lost among them as mercy; for what were the greatest objects of pity did most of all irritate these wretches, and they transferred their rage from the living to those that had been slain, and from the dead to the living. Nay, the terror was so very great, that he who survived called them that were first dead happy, as being at rest already; as did those that were under torture in the prisons, declare, that, upon this comparison, those that lay unburied were the happiest. These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of men, and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers; yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning [the rewards of] virtue, and [punishments of] vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country; for there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the temple of God. Now while these zealots did not [quite] disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 24:13-14
     by D.H. Stern

13     My son, eat honey, for it is good;
     honeycomb drippings are sweet to your taste.
14     Know that wisdom is similar[ly sweet] to your soul;
     if you find it, then you will have a future,
     what you hope for will not be cut off.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Do it yourself

     Determinedly Demolish some Things.

     Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. ---
2 Cor. 10:5.

     Deliverance from sin is not deliverance from human nature. There are things in human nature, such as prejudices, which the saint has to destroy by neglect; and other things which have to be destroyed by violence, i.e., by the Divine strength imparted by God’s Spirit. There are some things over which we are not to fight, but to stand still in and see the salvation of God; but every theory or conception which erects itself as a rampart against the knowledge of God is to be determinedly demolished by drawing on God’s power, not by fleshly endeavour or compromise (v. 4).

      It is only when God has altered our disposition and we have entered into the experience of sanctification that the fight begins. The warfare is not against sin; we can never fight against sin: Jesus Christ deals with sin in Redemption. The conflict is along the line of turning our natural life into a spiritual life, and this is never done easily, nor does God intend it to be done easily. It is done only by a series of moral choices. God does not make us holy in the sense of character; He makes us holy in the sense of innocence, and we have to turn that innocence into holy character by a series of moral choices. These choices are continually in antagonism to the entrenchments of our natural life, the things which erect themselves as ramparts against the knowledge of God. We can either go back and make ourselves of no account in the Kingdom of God, or we can determinedly demolish these things and let Jesus bring another son to glory.

My Utmost for His Highest
Judgment Day (Tares)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                Judgment Day (Tares)

Yes, that's how I was,
  I know that face,
  That bony figure
  Without grace
  Of flesh or limb;
  In health happy,
  Careless of the claim
  Of the world's sick
  Or the world's poor;
  In pain craven--
  Lord, breathe once more
  On that sad mirror,
  Let me be lost
  In mist for ever
  Rather than own
  Such bleak reflections.
  Let me go back
  On my two knees
  Slowly to undo
  The knot of life
  That was tied there.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Numbers 19:2, 3, 5, 6, 9

     Let his mother come and wipe up the filth.

     BIBLE TEXT / Numbers 19:2, 3, 5, 6, 9 / This is the ritual law that the Lord has commanded: Instruct the Israelite people to bring you a red cow without blemish.… It shall be taken outside the camp and slaughtered.… The cow shall be burned … and the priest shall take cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson stuff, and throw them into the fire consuming the cow.… A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the cow and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place, to be kept for water of lustration for the Israelite community. It is for cleansing.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Numbers Rabbah 19, 8 / An idol worshiper asked Rabban Yoḥanan hen Zakkai, This ritual that you are performing seems like witchcraft. You bring a cow, burn it, pound it [to ashes], and take the ashes; and you sprinkle upon one who has become impure by contact with the dead two or three drops and say to him, ‘You are purified!’ ”

     He [Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai] said to him, “Has the spirit of madness ever entered you?” He [the idol worshiper] said to him, “No.” “Have you ever seen a person into whom the spirit of madness has entered?” He [the idol worshiper] said to him, “Yes.” He [Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai] said to him, “And what do you do for him?” He [the idol worshiper] said to him, “We bring roots and burn them to smoke under him, and we sprinkle water on it and the spirit flees.” He [Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai] said to him, “Let your ears hear what comes out of your mouth! This spirit is the spirit of impurity, as it is written, ‘And I will also make the “prophets” and the unclean spirit vanish from the land’ (Zechariah 13:2). Water of purification is sprinkled upon him and it flees.”

     After he [the idol worshiper] had left, his students said to him [Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai], “Our master: You put him off with a reed, but what would you say to us?” He said to them, “I swear—the dead do not make one impure, and the water does not purify. Rather, the Holy One, praised is He, said, ‘It is a ritual law that I have enacted; it is a decree that I have decreed. You may not transgress My decrees, as it is written, “This is the ritual law.” ’ ”

     And why are all the sacrifices males but this one is a female [cow]? Rabbi Aivu said, “A parable: The son of a handmaiden ‘dirtied’ the king’s palace. The king said, ‘Let his mother come and wipe up the ‘filth.’ ” So too, the Holy One, praised is He, said, ‘Let the cow come and atone for the incident of the calf.’ ”


     An idol worshiper asked Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai. In the Midrash and Talmud we find many discussions between the Rabbis and the non-Jews with whom they came in contact on the subjects of religion and philosophy. It may be that one people was simply curious about the other’s rituals, and what we have here is a record of a friendly interchange of neighbors. But it may also be true that these discussions were not always so friendly. The Rabbis were often put into the situation of defending Judaism from the attacks of those who tried to ridicule the Torah and win over the Jews to another set of beliefs. This was especially true during the time of Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, in first-century Israel. Sometimes, on the other hand, the Rabbis put their own doubts and critical questions into the mouths of others, like this “idol worshiper.”

     The question being debated concerns the פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה/parah adumah, the purification ritual involving the “Red Heifer”: You bring a cow, burn it, pound it [to ashes], and take the ashes; and you sprinkle upon one who has become impure by contact with the dead two or three drops and say to him, “You are purified!” The idol worshiper attacks this ritual as nonsense. Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai responds by saying it is not so different from the exorcism rites in which the idol worshiper himself believes. The Rabbi’s choice of a prooftext is very interesting. The context of the thirteenth chapter in the book of Zechariah deals with a purification ritual, perhaps the same one that the Torah portion (Numbers 19) is discussing. In what was possibly a rebuff to this idolater, Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai quotes only the second half of the verse, the part dealing with unclean spirits. The first half of the verse—known to the Rabbi and his students, but surely unknown to the idol worshiper—reads as follows: “In that day, too—declares the Lord of Hosts—I will erase the very names of the idols from the land; they shall not be uttered any more.” From this “silent curse,” we get a sense of the bitter rivalry that existed between Jews and non-Jews in Rabbinic times.

     When the idol worshiper leaves, the students say to their teacher, “Our master, You put him off with a reed, but what would you say to us?” The reed is soft and flimsy, without real substance. And they can’t believe that he believes in the flimsy explanation he gave the idol worshiper. What is the real meaning of this strange ritual? The answer given, It is a ritual law, is that the Red Heifer falls into the category of laws known as חֻקִּים/ḥukim, rituals that have no clear logical basis (at least so far as mere mortals can perceive). It is a command of God; while we can’t explain or understand it, we are obligated to obey it.

     The final question of our Midrash is And why are all the sacrifices males but this one is a female [cow]? In other cases, the animal brought for a sacrifice must be male. Rabbi Aivu sees a connection to the incident of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32), the idol built and worshiped by the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai in the absence of Moses. Since the sin of the people, there, in Exodus 32, involved a female calf, the purification ritual for the people, here, in Numbers 19, also involved an adult female cow.

     That fact became the basis for the parable about the handmaiden’s son who dirtied the king’s palace. To Rabbi Aivu, the son symbolizes the people Israel, which “dirtied” itself through the sin of the Golden Calf. This act of idolatry is represented as dirtying the king’s palace; in Rabbinic parables, the king is God. The mother, symbolized by the Red Heifer, was brought in to wipe up the filth. Let the cow come and atone for the incident of the calf.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 8

     My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. --- John 5:17.

     It is characteristic of the Christian Gospel that its Savior should be a worker. (
George H. Morrison, “Some Features of Christ’s Working,” source document downloaded from Web site of Tom Garner, www.txdirect.net/~tgarner/ghmor2.htm, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) In the old world, work was a thing for slaves and serfs, not for freeborn people. Thus work and greatness rarely went together, and nothing was more alien to paganism than a toiling God. Jesus has changed all that. It was a revolution when Jesus taught “God loves.” But it was hardly less revolutionary when he taught “God works.”

     And he not only taught it, he lived it too. People saw in Christ a life of endless toil. Jesus stooped to the very humblest tasks, and he has left us an example, that we should follow in his steps.

     What is striking about the work of Jesus is the magnitude of his aim compared with the ordinariness of his methods.

     It is a great thing to command an army or to be a minister of state guiding a people toward their national destiny. But the aims of general or of diplomat seem almost insignificant when compared with the purposes of Jesus. He claims a universal sovereignty and runs it out to every sphere. He is to be the test in moral questions. He is to shape our law and mold our literature. He is the conqueror of death. The purposes of Jesus [are] far more stupendous than humanity had ever dreamed of.

     And it is the apparent ordinariness of his methods that strikes us. Had he a pen of fire? He never wrote a line, except in the sand. Was unlimited wealth at his command? “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). Were his first followers people of influence? Simon and Andrew were fishers. Or would he use the sword like Mohammed? “Put your sword back in its place,… for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (26:52). It seems impossible that in such ways Christ would achieve his purpose.

     It is a simple lesson for every man and woman who seeks to serve in the true Christian spirit. Surrounded by the ordinary, we should be facing heavenward. Poorly equipped in all things else, we should be mightily equipped in noble hope. If I am Christ’s, I cannot measure possibilities by methods. If I am Christ’s, I cherish the loftiest hope, and I am content to work for it in lowliest ways.
--- George H. Morrison

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Terrible Day At Anagni  September 8

     Proverbs 16:18—Too much pride will destroy you—finds a perfect illustration in Benedetto Gaetani. Gaetani, a clergyman, carried himself with aplomb, serving the Vatican well in various capacities across Europe. When he became Pope Boniface VIII in 1294, he determined to raise the papacy to its highest point. His crown contained 48 rubies, 72 sapphires, 45 emeralds, and 66 large pearls. The Roman pontiff, he said, “is most high over princes, and monarchs receive their light from him as the moon receives its light from the sun.” He sometimes appeared before pilgrims crying, “I am Caesar. I am emperor.”

     France’s young King Philip IV would have none of it, and he continually outmaneuvered Boniface in diplomatic skirmishes. Things came to a head when Philip arrested the pope’s legate. Boniface roared back with a document known as Ausculta fili—Give ear, my son—charging Philip with arrogance toward the clergy and with plundering church property. Philip assembled the French Parliament and asserted independence from the church.

     The pope then issued another edict, the most extreme assertion of papal power in church history, called Unam sanctam. The pope is the vicar of Christ, it said, and every human must obey him. The pope further announced that on September 8, 1303, he would appear at the church of Anagni, Italy, near his summer residence, and with great solemnity pronounce a ban on Philip.

     September 8th never came. On September 7 Philip’s commandos attacked the papal residence and burst in on the 86-year-old pope. He was roughly treated. His palace was looted and the cathedral was burned, its relics destroyed. Its most priceless possession, a vase reportedly containing milk from Mary’s breasts, was shattered.

     Boniface remained prisoner for three days till forces loyal to him retook the palace. But the old man never recovered. He lost his mind and began beating his head against the wall. He refused to eat. A month later he died. The event is known to history as the “Terrible Day at Anagni,” and it marked the beginning of the decline of the papacy in medieval Europe.

     Too much pride will destroy you.
     You are better off to be humble and poor
     Than to get rich from what you take by force.
     Proverbs 16:18,19.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 8

     "From me is thy fruit found." --- Hosea 14:8.

     Our fruit is found from our God as to union. The fruit of the branch is directly traceable to the root. Sever the connection, the branch dies, and no fruit is produced. By virtue of our union with Christ we bring forth fruit. Every bunch of grapes have been first in the root, it has passed through the stem, and flowed through the sap vessels, and fashioned itself externally into fruit, but it was first in the stem; so also every good work was first in Christ, and then is brought forth in us. O Christian, prize this precious union to Christ; for it must be the source of all the fruitfulness which thou canst hope to know. If thou wert not joined to Jesus Christ, thou wouldst be a barren bough indeed.

     Our fruit comes from God as to spiritual providence. When the dew-drops fall from heaven, when the cloud looks down from on high, and is about to distil its liquid treasure, when the bright sun swells the berries of the cluster, each heavenly boon may whisper to the tree and say, “From me is thy fruit found.” The fruit owes much to the root—that is essential to fruitfulness—but it owes very much also to external influences. How much we owe to God’s grace-providence! in which he provides us constantly with quickening, teaching, consolation, strength, or whatever else we want. To this we owe our all of usefulness or virtue.

     Our fruit comes from God as to wise husbandry. The gardener’s sharp-edged knife promotes the fruitfulness of the tree, by thinning the clusters, and by cutting off superfluous shoots. So is it, Christian, with that pruning which the Lord gives to thee. “My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Since our God is the author of our spiritual graces, let us give to him all the glory of our salvation.

          Evening - September 8

     “The exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.”
--- Ephesians 1:19, 20.

     In the resurrection of Christ, as in our salvation, there was put forth nothing short of a divine power. What shall we say of those who think that conversion is wrought by the free will of man, and is due to his own betterness of disposition? When we shall see the dead rise from the grave by their own power, then may we expect to see ungodly sinners of their own free will turning to Christ. It is not the word preached, nor the word read in itself; all quickening power proceeds from the Holy Ghost. This power was irresistible. All the soldiers and the high priests could not keep the body of Christ in the tomb; Death himself could not hold Jesus in his bonds: even thus irresistible is the power put forth in the believer when he is raised to newness of life. No sin, no corruption, no devils in hell nor sinners upon earth, can stay the hand of God’s grace when it intends to convert a man. If God omnipotently says, “Thou shalt,” man shall not say, “I will not.” Observe that the power which raised Christ from the dead was glorious. It reflected honour upon God and wrought dismay in the hosts of evil. So there is great glory to God in the conversion of every sinner. It was everlasting power. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” So we, being raised from the dead, go not back to our dead works nor to our old corruptions, but we live unto God. “Because he lives we live also.” “For we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God.” “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Lastly, in the text mark the union of the new life to Jesus. The same power which raised the Head works life in the members. What a blessing to be quickened together with Christ!

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 8

          HOLY, HOLY, HOLY

     Reginald Heber, 1783–1826

     Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care. Psalm 95:6, 7

     “O Lord, grant that I may desire Thee, and desiring Thee, seek Thee, and seeking Thee, find Thee, and finding Thee, be satisfied with Thee forever.”
--- Augustine

     “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). These are the words of worship that believers will proclaim in heaven one day. This majestic text based on these words was written approximately 150 years ago by an Anglican minister, Reginald Heber, and it is still one of the hymns most frequently used in our corporate worship.

     Worship is the cornerstone of a believer’s spiritual life. The bedrock of the local church is its worship service, and all aspects of the church’s ministry are founded here. It is only as a Christian truly worships that he begins to grow spiritually. Learning to worship and praise God, then, should be a believer’s lifetime pursuit. Our worship reflects the depth of our relationship with God. We must learn to worship God not only for what He is doing in our personal lives, but above all for who He is—His being, character, and deeds.

     Reginald Heber was a highly respected minister, writer, and church leader, serving for a time as the Bishop of Calcutta. His early death at the age of 43 was widely mourned throughout the Christian world. One year after his death, a collection of 57 of his hymns was published by his widow and many friends as a tribute to his memory and faithful ministry. It is from this collection of 1827 that these words were taken:

     Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! Early in the Morning our song shall rise to Thee; Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty! God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
     Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore Thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea; cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee, which wert and art and evermore shalt be.
     Holy, Holy, Holy! Tho the darkness hide Thee, tho the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see. Only Thou art holy—there is none beside Thee perfect in pow’r, in love and purity.
     Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! All Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea; Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty! God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!

     For Today: Psalm 145:8–21; Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:5–11; 5:13

     What does the term worship mean to you? How could your life of worship be improved? Use this hymn to help ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     Reason V.  To have a spiritual worship is God’s end in the restoration of the creature, both in redemption by his Son and sanctification by his spirit.  A fitness for spiritual offerings was the end of the “coming of Christ” (Mal. 3:3); he should purge them as gold and silver by fire, a spirit burning up their dross, melting them into a holy compliance with and submission to God. To what purpose? That they may offer to the lord an offering in righteousness; a pure offering from a purified spirit; he came to “bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18) in such a garb, as that we might be fit to converse with him. Can we be thus, without a fixedness of our spirits on him? The offering of spiritual sacrifices is the end of making any a “spiritual habitation” and a “holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5). We can no more be worshippers of God without a worshipper’s nature, than a man can be a man without human nature. As man was at first created for the honor and worship of God, so the design of restoring that image which was defaced by sin tends to the same end. We are not brought to God by Christ, nor are our services presented to hire, if they be without our spirits; would any man that undertakes to bring another to a prince, introduce him in a slovenly and sordid habit, such a garb that he knows hateful to him? or bring the clothes or skin of a man stuffed with straw, instead of the person? to come with our skins before God, without our spirits, is contrary to the design of God in redemption and regeneration. If a carnal worship would have pleased God, a carnal heart would have served his turn, without the expense of his Spirit in sanctification. He bestows upon man a spiritual nature, that he may return to him a spiritual service; he enlightens the understanding, that he may have a rational service; and new moulds the will, that he may have a voluntary service. As it is the milk of the word wherewith he feeds us, so it is the service of the word wherewith we must glorify him. So much as there is of confusedness in our understanding, so much of starting and levity in our wills, so much of slipperiness and skipping in our affections; so much is abated of the due qualities of the worship of God, and so much we fall short of the end of redemption and sanctification.

     Reason VI. A spiritual worship is to be offered to God, because no worship but that can be acceptable. We can never be secured of acceptance without it; he being a Spirit, nothing but the worship in apirit can be suitable to him: what is unsuitable, cannot be acceptable; there must be something in us, to make our services capable of being presented by Christ for an actual acceptation. No service is “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,” but as it is a spiritual sacrifice, and offered by a spiritual heart (1 Pet. 2:5). The sacrifice is first spiritual, before it be acceptable to God by Christ; when it is “an offering in righteousness,” it is then, and only then, pleasant to the Lord (Mal. 3:3, 4). No prince would accept a gift that is unsuitable to his majesty, and below the condition of the person that presents it. Would he be pleased with a bottle of water for drink, from one that hath his cellar full of wine? How unacceptable must that be that is unsuitable to the Divine Majesty! And what can be more unsuitable than a withdrawing the operations of our souls from him, in the oblation of our bodies? We as little glorify God as God, when we give him only a corporeal worship, as the heathen did, when they represented him in a corporeal shape (Rom. 1:21); one as well as the other denies his spiritual nature: this is worse, for had it been lawful to represent God to the eye, it could not have been done but by a bodily figure suited to the sense; but since it is necessary to worship him, it cannot be by a corporeal attendance, without the operation of the Spirit. A spiritual frame is more pleasing to God than the highest exterior adornments, than the greatest gifts, and the highest prophetic illuminations. “The glory of the second temple” exceeded the glory of the first (Hag. 2:8, 9). As God accounts the spiritual glory of ordinances most beneficial for us, so our spiritual attendance upon ordinances is most pleasing to him; he that offers the greatest services without it, offers but flesh (Hos. 8:13): “They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of my offerings, but the Lord accepts them not.” Spiritual frames are the soul of religious services; all other carriages without them are contemptible to this spirit: we can never lay claim to that promise of God, none shall “seek my face in vain.” We affect a vain seeking of him, when we want a due temper of spirit for him; and  vain spirits shall have vain returns:  it is more contrary to the nature of God’s holiness to have communion with such, than it is contrary to the nature of light to have communion with darkness. To make use of this:

     Use 1. First it serves for information.

     1. If spiritual worship be required by God, how sad is it for them that they are so far from giving God a spiritual worship, that they render him no worship at all! I speak not of the neglect of public, but of private; when men present not a devotion to God from one year’s end to the other. The speech of our Saviour, that we must worship God in spirit and truth, implies that a worship is due to him from every one; that is the common impression upon the consciences of all men in the world, if they have not by some constant course in gross sins, hardened their souls, and stifled those natural sentiments. There was never a nation in the world without some kind of religion; and no religion was ever without some modes to testify a devotion; the heathens had their sacrifices and purifications; and the Jews, by God’s order, had their rites, whereby they were to express their allegiance to God. Consider,

     (1.) Worship is a duty incumbent upon all men. It is a homage mankind owes to God, under the relation wherein he stands obliged to him; it is a prime and immutable justice to own our allegiance to him; it is as unchangeable a truth that God is to be worshipped, as that God is; he is to be worshipped as God, as creator, and therefore by all, since he is the Creator of all, the Lord of all, and all are his creatures, and all are his subjects. Worship is founded upon creation (Psalm 100:2, 3): it is due to God for himself and his own essential excellency, and therefore due from all; it is due upon the account of man’s nature; the human rational nature is the same in all. Whatsoever is due to God upon the account of man’s nature, and the natural obligations he hath laid upon man, is due from all men; because they all enjoy the benefits which are proper to their nature. Man in no state was exempted, nor can be exempted from it; in Paradise he had his Sabhath and sacraments; man therefore dissolves the obligation of a reasonable nature, by neglecting the worship of God. Religion is in the first place to be minded. As soon as Noah came out of the ark, he contrived not a habitation for himself, but an altar for the Lord, to acknowledge him the author of his preservation from the deluge (Gen. 8:20): and wheresoever Abraham came, his first business was to erect an altar, and pay his arrears of gratitude to God, before he ran upon the score for new mercies (Gen. 12:7; 13:4, 18): he left a testimony of worship wherever he came.

     (2.) Wholly therefore to neglect it, is a high degree of atheism. He that calls not upon God, “saith in his heart, There is no God;” and seems to have the sentiments of natural conscience, as to God, stifled in him (Psalm 14:1, 4): it must arise from a conceit that there is no God, or that we are equal to him, adoration not being due from persons of an equal state; or that God is unable, or unwilling to take notice of the adoring acts of his creatures: what is any of these but an undeifying the supreme Majesty? When we lay aside all thoughts of paying any homage to him, we are in a fair way opinionatively to deny him, as much as we practically disown him. Where there is no knowledge of God, that is, no “acknowledgment of God,” a gap is opened to all licentiousness (Hos. 4:1, 2); and that by degrees brawns the conscience, and razeth out the sense of God. Those forsake God that “forget his holy mountain” (Isa. 65:11); they do not practically own him as the Creator of their souls or bodies. It is the sin of Cain, who turning his back upon worship, is said to “go out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:16).  Not to worship him with our spirits, is against his law of creation: not to worship him at all, is against his act of creation; not to worship him in truth, is hypocrisy; not to worship him at all, is atheism; whereby we render ourselves worse than the worms in the earth, or a toad in a ditch.

     (3.) To perform a worship to a false God, or to the true God in a false manner, seems to be less a sin than to live in perpetual neglect of it. Though it be directed to a false object instead of God, yet it is under the notion of a God, and so is an acknowledgment of such a Being as God in the world; whereas the total neglect of any worship, is a practical denying of the existence of any supreme Majesty. Whosoever constantly omits a public and private worship, transgresses against an universally received dictate; for all nations have agreed in the common notion of worshipping God, though they have disagreed in the several modes and rites whereby they would testify that adoration. By a worship of God, though superstitious, a veneration and reverence of such a being is maintained in the world; whereas by a total neglect of worship, he is virtually disowned and discarded, if not from his existence, yet from his providence and government of the world; all the mercies we breathe in are denied to flow from him. A foolish worship owns religion, though it bespatters it; as if a stranger coming into a country mistakes the subject for the prince, and pays that reverence to the subject which is due to the prince; though he mistakes the object, yet he owns an authority; or if he pays any respect to the true prince of that country after the mode of his own, though appearing ridiculous in the place where he is, he owns the authority of the prince; whereas the omission of all respect would be a contempt of majesty: and, therefore, the judgments of God have been more signal upon the sacrilegious contemners of worship among the heathens, than upon those that were diligent and devout in their false worship; and they generally owned the blessings received to the preservation of a sense and worship of a Deity among them. Though such a worship be not acceptable to God, and every man is bound to offer to God a devotion agreeable to his own mind; yet it is commendable, not as worship, but as it speaks an acknowledgment of such a being as God, in his power and creation, and his beneficence in his trovidence. Well, then, omissions of worship are to be avoided. Let no man execute that upon himself which God will pronounce at last as the greatest misery, and bid God depart from him, who will at last be loth to hear God bid him depart from him. Though man hath natural sentiments that God is to be worshipped, yet having an hostility in his nature, he is apt to neglect, or give it him in a slight manner; he therefore sets a particular mark and notice of attention upon the fourth command, “Remember thou keep holy the Sabhath day.” Corrupt nature is apt to neglect the worship of God, and flag in it. This command, therefore, which concerns his worship, he fortifies with several reasons. Nor let any neglect worship, because they cannot find their hearts spiritual in it.  The further we are from God, the more carnal shall we be.  aka 2018  No man can expect heat by a distance from the sunbeams, or other means of warmth. Though God commanded a circumcised heart in the Jewish services, yet he did not warrant a neglect of the outward testimonies of reigion he had then appointed. He expected, according to his command, that they should offer the sacrifices, and practice the legal purification he had commanded; he would have them diligently observed, though he had declared that he imposed them only for a time; and our Saviour ordered the practice of those positive rites as long as the law remained unrepealed, as in the case of the leper (Mark 14:4). It is an injustice to refuse the offering ourselves to God according to the manner he hath in his wisdom prescribed and required. If spiritual worship be required by God, then,

     2. It informs us, that diligence in outward worship is not to be rested in. Men may attend all their days on worship, with a juiceless heart and unquickened frame, and think to compensate the neglect of the manner with abundance of the matter of service. Outward expressions are but the badges and liveries of service, not the service itself. As the strength of sin lies in the inward frame of the heart, so the strength of worship in the inward complexion and temper of the soul.  What do a thousand services avail, without cutting the throat of our carnal affections?  What are loud prayers, but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, without divine charity? A pharisaical diligence in outward forms, without inward spirit, had no better a title vouchsafed by our Saviour than that of hypocritical.

     God desires not sacrifices, nor delights in burnt-offerings: shadows are not to be offered instead of substance. God required the heart of man for itself, but commanded outward ceremonies as subservient to inward worship, and goads and spurs unto it. They were never appointed as the substance of religion, but auxiliaries to it. What value had the offering of the human nature of Christ been of, if he had not had a divine nature to qualify him to be the Priest? and what is the oblation of our bodies, without a priestly act of the spirit in the presentation of it? Could the Israelites have called themselves worshippers of God according to his order, if they had brought a thousand lambs that had died in a ditch, or been killed at home? They were to be brought living to the altar; the blood shed at the foot of it. A thousand sacrifices killed without had not been so valuable as one brought alive to the place of offering: one sound sacrifice is better than a thousand rotten ones. As God took no pleasure in the blood of beasts without its relation to the Antitype; so he takes no pleasure in the outward rites of worship, without faith in the Redeemer. To offer a body with a sapless spirit, is a sacrilege of the same nature with that of the Israelites when they offered dead beasts. A man without spiritual worship is dead while he worships, though by his diligence in the externals of it, he may, like the angel of the church of Sardis, “have a name to live” (Rev. 3:1). What security can we expect from a multitude of dead services? What weak shields are they against the holy eye and revenging wrath of God! What man, but one out of his wits, would solicit a dead man to be his advocate or champion? Diligence in outward worship is not to be rested in.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. CXLIII. — BUT many elude and evade Paul, by saying, that he here calls the ceremonial works, works of the law; which works, after the death of Christ, were dead.

     I answer: This is that notable error and ignorance of Jerome which, although Augustine strenuously resisted it, yet, by the withdrawing of God and the prevailing of Satan, has found its way throughout the world, and has continued down to this day. By means of which, it has come to pass, that it has been impossible to understand Paul, and the knowledge of Christ has, consequently, been obscured. Therefore, if there had been no other error in the church, this one might have been sufficiently pestilent and powerful to destroy the Gospel: for which, Jerome, if peculiar grace did not interpose, has deserved hell rather than heaven: so far am I from daring to canonize him, or call him a saint! But however, it is not truth that Paul is here speaking of the ceremonial works only: for if that be the case, how will his argument stand good, whereby he concludes, that all are unrighteous and need grace? But perhaps you will say — Be it so, that we are not justified by the ceremonial works, yet one might be justified by the moral works of the decalogue. By this syllogism of yours then, you have proved, that to such, grace is not necessary. If this be the case, how very useful must that grace be, which delivers us from the ceremonial works only, the easiest of all works, which may be extorted from us through mere fear or self-love!

     And this, moreover, is erroneous — that ceremonial works are dead and unlawful, since the death of Christ. Paul never said any such thing. He says, that they do not justify, and that they profit the man nothing in the sight of God, so as to make him free from unrighteousness. Holding this truth, any one may do them, and yet do nothing that is unlawful. Thus, to eat and to drink are works, which do not justify or recommend us to God; and yet, he who eats and drinks does not, therefore, do that which is unlawful.

     These men err also in this. — The ceremonial works, were as much commanded and exacted in the old law, and in the decalogue, as the moral works: and therefore, the latter had neither more nor less force than the former. For Paul is here speaking, principally, to the Jews, as he saith, Rom. i.: wherefore, let no one doubt, that by the works of the law here, all the works of the whole law are to be understood. For if the law be abrogated and dead, they cannot be called the works of the law; for an abrogated or dead law, is no longer a law; and that Paul knew full well. Therefore, he does not speak of the law abrogated, when he speaks of the works of the law, but of the law in force and authority: otherwise, how easy would it have been for him to say, The law is now abrogated? And then, he would have spoken openly and clearly.

     But let us bring forward Paul himself, who is the best interpreter of himself. He saith, Gal. iii. 10, “As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” You see that Paul here, where he is urging the same point as he is in his epistle to the Romans, and in the same words, speaks, wherever he makes mention of the works of the law, of all the laws that are written in the Book of the Law.

     And what is still more worthy of remark, Paul himself cites Moses, who curses those that continue not in the law; whereas, he himself curses those who are of the works of the law; thus adducing a testimony of a different scope from that of his own sentiment; the former being in the negative, the latter in the affirmative. But this he does, because the real state of the case is such in the sight of God, that those who are the most devoted to the works of the law, are the farthest from fulfilling the law, as being without the Spirit, who only is the fulfiller of the law, which such may attempt to fulfil by their own powers, but they will effect nothing after all. Wherefore, both declarations are truth — that of Moses, that they are accursed who continue not in the works of the law; and that of Paul, that they are accursed who are of the works of the law. For both characters of persons require the Spirit, without which, the works of the law, how many and excellent soever they may be, justify not, as Paul saith; wherefore neither character of persons continue in all things that are written, as Moses saith.

     Sect. CXLIV. — IN a word: Paul by this division of his, fully confirms that which I maintain. For he divides law-working men into two classes, those who work after the spirit, and those who work after the flesh, leaving no medium whatever. He speaks thus: “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Rom. iii. 20). What is this but saying, that those whose works, profit them not, work the works of the law without the Spirit, as being themselves flesh; that is, unrighteous and ignorant of God. So, Gal. iii. 2, making the same division, he saith, “received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Again Rom. iii. 21, “but now, the righteousness of God is manifest without the law.” And again Rom. iii. 28, “We conclude, therefore, that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law.”

     From all which it is manifest and clear, that in Paul, the Spirit is set in opposition to the works of the law, as well as to all other things which are not spiritual, including all the powers of, and every thing pertaining to the flesh. So that, the meaning of Paul, is evidently the same as that of Christ, John iii. 6, that every thing which is not of the Spirit is flesh, be it never so specious, holy and great, nay, be they works of the divine law the most excellent, and wrought by all the powers imaginable; for the Spirit of Christ is wanting; without which, all things are nothing short of being damnable.

     Let it then be a settled point, that Paul, by the works of the law, means not the ceremonial works, but the works of the whole law; then, this will be a settled point also, that in the works of the law, every thing is condemned that is without the Spirit. And without the Spirit, is that power of “Free-will,” (for that is the point in dispute), — that most exalted faculty in man! For, to be “of the works of the law,” is the most exalted state in which man can be. The apostle, therefore, does not say, who are of sins, and of ungodliness against the law, but who are “of the works of the law;” that is, who are the best of men, and the most devoted to the law: and who are, in addition to the power of “Free-will,” even assisted, that is, instructed and roused into action, by the law itself.

     If therefore “Free-will” assisted by the law and exercising all its powers in the law, profit nothing and justify not, but be left in sin and in the flesh, what must we suppose it able to do, when left to itself without the law!

     “By the law (saith Paul) is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. iii. 20). Here he shews how much, and how far the law profits: — that “Free-will” is of itself so blind, that it does not even know what is sin, but has need of the law for its teacher. And what can that man do towards taking away sin, who does not even know what is sin? All that he can do, is, to mistake that which is sin for that which is no sin, and that which is no sin for that which is sin. And this, experience sufficiently proves. How does the world, by the medium of those whom it accounts the most excellent and the most devoted to righteousness and piety, hate and persecute the righteousness of God preached in the Gospel, and brand it with the name of heresy, error, and every opprobrious appellation, while it boasts of and sets forth its own works and devices, which are really sin and error, as righteousness and wisdom? By this Scripture, therefore, Paul stops the mouth of “Free-will” where he teaches, that by the law its sin is discovered unto it, of which sin it was before ignorant; so far is he from conceding to it any power whatever to attempt that which is good.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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