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7/4/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Psalm 106 - 107

Psalm 106

Give Thanks to the LORD, for He Is Good

Psalm 106:1     Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2  Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
3  Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!

4  Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
5  that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.

6  Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
7  Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
8  Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
9  He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10  So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11  And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12  Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.

13  But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14  But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15  he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

16  When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the LORD,
17  the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18  Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.

19  They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20  They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21  They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22  wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23  Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24  Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25  They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the LORD.
26  Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27  and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.

28  Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29  they provoked the LORD to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30  Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31  And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.

32  They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33  for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.

34  They did not destroy the peoples,
as the LORD commanded them,
35  but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36  They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37  They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38  they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39  Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

40  Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41  he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42  Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43  Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.

44  Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45  For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46  He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.

47  Save us, O LORD our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48  Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the LORD!

Psalm 107

Let the Redeemed of the LORD Say So

Psalm 107:1     Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
3  and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

4  Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5  hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7  He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
8  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9  For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

10  Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11  for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12  So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14  He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16  For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17  Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18  they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20  He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22  And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23  Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24  they saw the deeds of the LORD,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25  For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26  They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27  they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
28  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29  He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30  Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31  Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32  Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33  He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34  a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35  He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36  And there he lets the hungry dwell,
and they establish a city to live in;
37  they sow fields and plant vineyards
and get a fruitful yield.
38  By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39  When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40  he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41  but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
42  The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43  Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Why Theology Matters - Robert Jeffress

By Robert Jeffress 2023

     Theology isn’t what you’d call an attention-grabbing word. If you’re like most people, you probably don’t lean in when you hear somebody mention it in conversation. And if you do respond to the word theology, you might do so in one of several ways.

     Perhaps, like a lot of Christians, you respond with indifference. You treat theology the way you treat legal advice, plumbing issues, and auto repair: as something best left to professionals. If an emergency arises and you need a quick answer to a question about premillennialism, you figure you can talk to your pastor.

     Maybe you react with annoyance. Theology seems like a needless complication of what should be a simple faith.

     Perhaps you react with zealous intensity. You treat each tenet of Christian theology as a purity test, a way of determining who’s with you and who’s against you.

     Or maybe you react with a sense of embarrassment. You avoid talking about theology because you’re afraid your faith will be exposed as shallow.

     All of these, and more, are understandable and relatable reactions to the subject of theology.

     You’ll learn ten core beliefs of Christianity. We can think of these ten principles as pillars, the support structures on which our faith is built. But these are no ordinary pillars. They stand strong and immovable, even when the ground under us starts to give way.

The House of Christianity

     Let me illustrate what I mean by the pillars of Christianity. Imagine for a moment that Christianity is a massive house with many rooms and architectural features. Now picture in your mind’s eye that this house, like the Lincoln Memorial and other famous structures, is surrounded by magnificent, stately columns—or pillars.

     In our imaginary house of Christianity, these ten pillars represent the core tenets of Christian theology. Together, they form the supports on which the entire house rests. Without these pillars, the house would collapse.

     Within the boundaries of this house, God provides everything we need for spiritual nourishment and growth. We can find the fruit of the Spirit and a deeper understanding of God’s Word there.

     Within the boundaries of this house, God offers shelter and protection. When difficulties arise, tragedy strikes, or doubts occur, we can take refuge and find comfort, healing, and reassurance.

     Within the boundaries of this house, God surrounds us with allies. These people worship with us, affirm us, and challenge us. They provide for us and look to us to provide for them.

     In this house, there are countless ways to enjoy life with God and others. But if we venture beyond the structure supported by the ten pillars, we are no longer in the house. That’s why it’s essential to recognize them.

     The borders of Christian theology aren’t intended to restrict us or keep others out. They’re meant to outline the area in which we can thrive in our understanding of God’s Word, grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and fulfill the purposes for which we were created.

Practically Speaking

     Why does theology matter? And what real difference does it make in our lives today?

     We have to correct the mistaken idea that theology is helpful only in doctoral dissertations or debates in seminary coffee shops. The core beliefs of Christianity affect every part of our lives. These foundational principles have practical applications in our families, our friendships, our careers, our priorities, and our self-images. They shape the way we understand and interact with the world around us.

Robert Jeffress, What Every Christian Should Know: 10 Core Beliefs for Standing Strong in a Shifting World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2023)

What About the Crusades?

By J. Steve Lee 6/29/2017

My previous post about the Updated CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students included my article on the problem of evil. The article was published in the study bible which comes out July 1. Today’s post includes my article about the Crusades.  One of my most visited posts on this blog is “What About the Crusades? Myths and Facts” which includes a nice infographic, video, quotes from experts, and resources for further study about the Crusades.

     Presidents to pundits have referenced the crusades as comparable to radical Islamic terrorism, that the crusades were unprovoked Christian attacks on Islamic territories for land and loot.  This is an extreme oversimplification at best and at worst gross negligence of the facts.  The Apologetics Study Bible for Students provides an answer to this perplexing question about the Crusades and the truth of Christianity along with many other resources and features helpful for any student or adult.

     “In a speech at Georgetown University, former president Bill Clinton claimed that the current increase of Islamic terrorist activity, such as 9/11, is a consequence of the Christian Crusades which occurred almost a thousand years ago. Ask about the Crusades and you will probably be told something like, ‘They were wars of unprovoked aggression by Christian nations against a peaceful Muslim world. The Christians were interested in gaining riches and land.’ In worst-case scenarios, people reject Christianity because they’ve been told that Christian Crusaders murdered Muslims for profit and gain. They conclude that Christianity is a violent religion.

     First, and foremost, it must be remembered that Christianity did not originate in the Crusades; it began on the cross of Jesus Christ. Even if the Crusaders performed horrific acts of violence and murder, these acts do not undercut the truth of Christianity nor change its essence. At most the Crusades illustrate that sinful and fallen people are capable of wrongfully using the name of Christ for personal gain.

     But the Crusades were not just about gaining wealth and land. One must consider the historical context to more fully understanding the motivations of the Crusaders. The Crusades were not acts of unprovoked aggression by Christians against the Islamic world, but were a delayed response to centuries of Muslim aggression. From the very beginning of the Islamic religion Muslims sought to conquer the Christian world. In fact, the first three hundred years of Islam can be described as a period of military conquest. Muslim armies conquered all of North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and most of Spain. Christian Europe had to defend itself or else be overcome by Islamic invasion. As Muslim forces pressed into Europe, Pope Urban II in AD 1095 called for the First Crusade in response to pleas of help from the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople (now called Istanbul).

     In other words, the Crusades were a defensive war, not an aggressive grab for land and loot. In fact, crusading was an expensive and costly endeavor. After the success of the First Crusade nearly all the Crusaders went home. Virtually none of them recovered the cost of crusading. If one wanted to get rich, crusading was definitely not the best route to make it happen.

     Many atrocities occurred in the Crusades. Understandably, war can bring out the worst in people. Even during World War II some American soldiers committed atrocities, but this does not mean the war was conducted so soldiers could commit crimes. As for the Crusades, Christians have rightly condemned the wrongs that many of the Crusaders committed.

     In summary, the Crusades were not about wars of unprovoked Christian aggression against a peaceful Muslim world, neither were they motivated by a quest for riches and land. The Crusades were defensive wars that aimed to stop Muslim military advancement. The West today enjoys religious freedom and democracy because the Christian nations prevailed.

     God wants his people to care about justice. As the Prophet Micah reminds us, “Man- kind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God”
(Mc 6:8).”

Click here to go to source

     J. Steve Lee has taught Apologetics for over a decade at Prestonwood Christian Academy.  He also has taught World Religions and Philosophy at Mountain View College in Dallas.  With a degree in history and education from the University of North Texas, Steve continued his formal studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a M.A. in philosophy of religion and has pursued doctoral studies at the University of Texas at Dallas and is finishing his dissertation at South African Theological Seminary.  He has published several articles for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students as well as articles and book reviews in various periodicals including Philosophia Christi, Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics, and the Areopagus Journal.  Having an abiding love for fantasy fiction, Steve has contributed chapters to two books of literary criticism of Harry Potter: Harry Potter for Nerds and Teaching with Harry Potter.  He even appeared as a guest on the podcast MuggleNet Academia (Lesson 23: There and Back Again-Chiasmus, Alchemy, and Ring Composition in Harry Potter).  He is married to his lovely wife, Angela, and has two teenage boys, Ethan and Josh.

What God Has Joined Together, Let Not Man Separate I

By John Piper 6/24/2007

     And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

     As we come to the end of our series on marriage — this week and next week — it is fitting that we think together about the implications of the meaning of marriage for divorce and remarriage. For many of you who have walked through a divorce and are now single or remarried, or whose parents were divorced, or some other loved one, the mere mention of the word carries a huge weight of sorrow and loss and tragedy and disappointment and anger and regret and guilt. Few things are more painful than divorce. It cuts to the depths of personhood unlike any other relational gash. It is emotionally more heart-wrenching than the death of a spouse. Death is usually clean pain. Divorce is usually dirty pain. In other words, the enormous loss of a spouse in death is compounded in divorce by the ugliness of sin and moral outrage at being so wronged.

     The Devastation of Divorce | It is often long years in coming, and long years in the settlement and in the adjustment. The upheaval of life is immeasurable. The sense of failure and guilt and fear can torture the soul. Like the psalmist, night after night a spouse falls asleep with tears (Psalm 6:6). Work performance is hindered. People don’t know how to relate to you anymore and friends start to withdraw. You can feel like you wear a big scarlet D on your chest. The loneliness is not like the loneliness of being a widow or a widower or person who has never been married. It is in class by itself. (Which is one reason why so many divorced people find each other.) A sense of devastated future can be all consuming. Courtroom controversy compounds the personal misery. And then there is often the agonizing place of children. Parents hope against hope that the scars will not cripple the children or ruin their marriages some day. Tensions over custody and financial support deepen the wounds. And then the awkward and artificial visitation rights can lengthen the tragedy over decades. And add to all of this that it happens in America to over four out of every ten married couples.

     Responding to Divorce | There are two ways to respond lovingly and caringly to this situation. One is to come alongside divorced persons and stand by them as they grieve and repent of any sinful part of their own. And then to stay by them through the transitions and help them find a way to enjoy the forgiveness and the strength for new obedience that Christ obtained when he died and rose again.

     The other way to respond lovingly and caringly is to articulate a hatred of divorce, and why it is against the will of God, and do all we can biblically to keep it from happening. Compromises on the sacredness and life-long permanence of marriage — positions that weaken the solidity of the covenant-union — may feel loving in the short run, but wreak havoc over the decades. Preserving the solid framework of the marriage covenant with high standards may feel tough in the short run, but produces ten thousand blessings for future generations. I hope that both of these ways of loving and caring will flourish at Bethlehem.

Click here to go to source

      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     John Piper Books |  Go to Books Page

Ramming the Ten Commandments: A Prophetic Picture of America

By Michael Brown 6/29/2017

     It was the act of only one man who drove his vehicle into a Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas, but it reflected the sentiments of a growing number of Americans: “We do not want the Ten Commandments in our midst, nor do we want the God of the Ten Commandments in our midst.” In that sense, the destructive act of this individual reflected the attitude of tens of millions of Americans. This is not simply a decreased interest in the Bible and the God of the Bible. This is outright rebellion. It sounds like this:

     Enough with God’s laws and standards. Enough with His moral principles. Enough with His prohibitions of idolatry and adultery and murder.

     We will do what we want to do, when we want to do it, and no law — or God — will tell us otherwise.

     The America we want must have no connection to its Judeo-Christian roots. No connection to the moral values of many of its Founders. No connection to the Scriptures which so influenced their thinking.

     We will worship created things more than the Creator. We will be full of covetousness and greed. We want our idolatry.

Click here to go to source

     Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is a Senior Contributor to The Stream, and the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Breaking the Stronghold of Food. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

     He became a believer in Jesus 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, Denver Theological Seminary, the King’s Seminary, and Regent University School of Divinity, and he has contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications, including the Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion and the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.

     Dr. Brown is a national and international speaker on themes of spiritual renewal and cultural reformation, and he has debated Jewish rabbis, agnostic professors, and gay activists on radio, TV, and college campuses. He is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist. He and his wife Nancy, who is also a Jewish believer in Jesus, have been married since 1976. They have two daughters and four grandchildren.

     Dr. Michael Brown Books:

Psalms 106-107

By Charles Dyer 2001


A. Prelude (106:1–5)
B. Redemption of the Lord (106:6–12)
C. Rejection of the Lord (106:13–23)
D. Rebellion against the Lord (106:24–33)
E. Retribution by the Lord (106:34–43)
F. Restoration through the Lord (106:44–46)
G. Postlude (106:47–48)

     Book IV ends with a communal lament just as it had begun in Psalm 90. This psalm is also the first in a series of “Hallel” (or Hallelujah) psalms, because they begin with this Hebrew word (as do Pss. 111–113, 117, 135, 146–150). The setting of this psalm seems to be the Babylonian exile (106:47). The combination of praise (“hallel”) and lament is not unusual or paradoxical because psalms of this type always see a ray of hope in the Lord in the darkest of circumstances.

     This is precisely the note on which the psalm begins (106:1, 5). It then proceeds to recount God’s deliverance of His people in the Exodus even though they were undeserving (106:8). True to form, however, as soon as the crisis was over, they forgot the Lord, once again jeopardizing their standing as the elect nation (106:21, 23). Only Moses’ intercession prevented the Lord from writing them off, but even this reprieve was only temporary. Again Israel commenced a pattern of rebellion and unbelief, a spirit that once more brought them to the brink of disaster (106:29). This time Phinehas and the Levites stood between Israel and the Lord and averted the judgment that should have fallen (106:30).

     Things were no better in the eight hundred years of Israel’s history in the Promised Land. The Israelites joined their Canaanite neighbors in idolatry (106:37–38), and as soon as the Lord punished and then rescued them they would take up these wicked practices again (106:43). Only the Lord’s covenant commitment to them kept them from being eradicated (106:45). Now, in the most serious crisis yet — exile far from their homeland — the psalmist spoke on behalf of the community, imploring the Lord to end the captivity and allow them to return to their homes (106:47). His confidence that this will happen is reflected in the concluding doxology (106:48).


A. Introduction (107:1–3)
B. Satisfaction in the Lord (107:4–9)
C. Salvation through the Lord (107:10–16)
D. Sacrifices to the Lord (107:17–22)
E. Sovereignty of the Lord (107:23–32)
F. Sustenance by the Lord (107:33–38)
G. Support through the Lord (107:39–43)

     This is a thanksgiving psalm (see also Ps. 105) by an individual who also was apparently writing in the exilic or postexilic period (107:3, 35). Speaking as a redeemed one (107:2), he rehearsed the wonderful preservation of post - Exodus Israel as analogous to his own experience (107:4, 8). He and his contemporaries had sinned and suffered the consequences (107:11–12), but God had now saved them, releasing them from Babylonian prison, as it were (107:16; see also Isa. 45:1–2). Such redemptive grace is more than adequate cause for praise (Ps. 107:21).

     Beyond the immediate circumstance stands the Lord’s sovereign majesty. In fact, it is precisely because He is the God of creation and nature that He is able to restore His chosen people (107:31). He manages the environment in which humans live and prosper (107:33–35), and thus He can meet the needs of each one. Those in most need of help — individuals who, like himself, are in the throes of affliction — find in such a great God all they need and can ever want (107:41).

Charles Dyer et al., Nelson’s Old Testament Survey: Discover the Background, Theology and Meaning of Every Book in the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: Word, 2001)

Psalms 106-107

By J. A. Motyer 1994

Psalm 106. ‘A song that is music to thee’

     In the main Psalm 106 reviews Israel’s history from the Exodus (6–12, Ex. 14) into the wilderness (13–18, Nu. 11:4–34; 16), to Sinai (19–23, Ex. 32:1–6, 9–14), on to the borders of Canaan (24–27, Nu. 14), the episodes of Baal-Peor and Meribah (28–33, Nu. 25:1–15; 20:2–13) and the eventual entry into the Promised Land (34–38, Jdg. 1:21, 27–36; 3:3, 5; etc.).

     It is a sad story of sin (6), heedlessness and forgetfulness (7, 21), short-lived response (12–13), self-indulgence (14), dissatisfaction with God’s provisions (16), idolatry (19), disobedience (24–25), failure to inherit (26), disloyalty (28), provocation (32), compromise (34–35) and religious corruption (37–39). But (with a greater emphasis) it is a story of divine salvation in power (8–11), readiness to be persuaded to mercy (23, 30), repeated countering of just judgment with unmerited mercies (40–43), compassionate listening to cries for help (44), and fidelity to covenant and love (45). This is the lesson of our history: our faithlessness, his faithfulness.

     1–5 Praise and prayer. The psalm opens on the note of praise and prayer and closes on the notes of prayer (47) and praise (48). For history tells of a love that never fails (1) and of a God who is changelessly the same (48), exciting the praise of his people — even though they know that no mortal tongue can fully rise to the occasion. It assures us that prayer is worthwhile, for the individual is not forgotten in the Lord’s purposes for his people, and the people are not forgotten even though spread throughout the world. Interestingly the beginning and ending of the psalm also strike the note of blessedness (3, 48 lit. ‘Blessed be the Lord’), though using different Hebrew words. The way of obedience is the way of blessing (3), but if that were the whole story where would we stand with our record of ceaseless declension? There is, however, a God worthy to be blessed: the ever-faithful, compassionate, loving, forgiving, prayer - hearing, delivering, saving God. To this all the people — we who have had our catalogue of failure read out to us in vs 6–39 — delightedly say Amen! Praise the LORD (48).

     6–12 Man’s forgetfulness. God’s salvation. ‘We have sinned along with our fathers’ (6). It is not just that we are like them in sin (as NIV) but one with them in a continuum of sin-fulness. They and we together have ‘pervertedly done wrong’ — a fault in our natures (perversion) and in our lives (wrong-doing): blind to the marvels the Lord does, forgetful of his kindnesses (7, lit. ‘the abundance of his acts of changeless love’) and full of faithless rebellion (Ex. 14:10–12) — unperceptive in mind, short in memory, transient in faith. But the Lord goes on (8–11) acting for his name’s sake, i.e. because it is his nature to do so, dealing with our circumstantial and human adversaries, working a full salvation (Ex. 14:13–14, 30–31) and prompting a sadly short-lived response of praise (cf. 13).

     13–18 Self-indulgent, self-seeking discontent. They neither remembered the God of the past nor consulted the God of the future (13) and consequently they fell prey to their own unsanctified emotions: first by tiring of God’s provision for their sustenance (14, Nu. 11:4–6 cf. Jn. 6:35ff.); secondly, by resenting the authority he had set over the community (16, Nu. 16:3). In each case God’s favour was forfeited and judgment followed. There comes a point where prayer can become stubborn insistence on our own way and, as an act of just judgment God gives us what we insisted we must have (15). Likewise there comes a point where he insists that, contrary to what we might think, we must have what he wants. Moses and Aaron were his best will for his people and on this point he was immovable (16). 13 is the correct way to live with God in the light of his saving acts (cf. 8–12) and to face the future in the light of his word of counsel.

     19–23 False religion: Moses as mediator. 19–20 (Rom. 1:21–25). All man-made religion involves thinking in terms of earthly models, trusting a do-it-yourself salvation, replacing the eternal God with what needs support to keep it going, and when we turn aside the basic cause is always forgetfulness of the saving power of the one true God. But even in such circumstances, the Lord accepts the interceding office of a mediator (Heb. 7:25).

     24–27 The word and the voice. This is the pivot of the psalm.

 A1 (vs 1–5) Praise and prayer
  B1 (vs 6–12) Man’s forgetfulness: God’s salvation
   C1 (vs 13–18) Discontent with God’s provisions
    D1 (vs 19–23) False religion: Moses
     E (vs 24–27) The word and the voice
    D2 (vs 28–33) False religion: Phinehas
   C2 (vs 34–38) Discontent with the Lord
  B2 (vs 39–46) Man’s rebellion: God’s rememberance
 A2 (vs 47–48) Prayer and praise

     The brevity of the central section makes it all the more dramatic, a truth that needs no elaboration: the central sin of the people of God is to refuse his word. 24 (lit.) ‘they did not believe his word’; 25 (lit.) ‘they did not listen to the voice of the Lord’.  This is the privilege of possessing the word of God and the reason why it is our cardinal sin to ignore it : the word of God is the living voice of God.

     28–33 False religion: Phinehas as mediator. Like Moses in v 23, Phinehas interposed and wrath was turned away. Moses, with his self-sacrificing prayer (Ex. 32:31–32) came nearest to the perfect Mediator they were unconsciously foreshadowing. Grace allowed him to turn wrath aside but he did so by becoming a curse on our behalf (Gal. 3:13), becoming sin in our place (2 Cor. 5:21). But if Moses foreshadowed the Lord Jesus by his prayer, Phinehas did so in the divine status of righteousness accorded to him as mediator, anticipating the One whom Isaiah calls ‘that righteous One, my Servant’ (53:11; Heb. 7:26).

     The second incident (32–33) included in this stanza completes the first: they yoked themselves to … Baal … they angered the Lord. Not-withstanding that they had been in this very situation before (Ex. 17), lack of water (Nu. 20:3ff) provoked an outburst against Moses, a bitter regret at having left Egyptian slavery, a wish for death rather than the life God ordained for them. No wonder it was too much for Moses! The old Moses of Exodus 2:11–12 was still lurking within the man renowned for meekness (Nu. 12:3)! Moses paid dearly for his hotheaded disobedience (Nu. 20:12).   Disobedience to the word of the Lord is the cardinal sin  (see 24–27). 27 (Cf. Lv. 26:33; Dt. 28:64).

     34–38 Discontent with the Lord. Once again, every evil thing stemmed from the basic sin of disobedience (34). Regarding the command to destroy, first (as Gn. 15:16 shows), the commanded destruction was a just judgment of God following four hundred years of probation. It was neither arbitrary nor hasty but a solemn judicial decision of the holy God. Secondly, at that stage of the history of God’s people, it was the only way to secure a proper separation from the world. Refusing to become a separate people, they became a compromised people (35–39) — it is always so. 35 (Jdg. 3:5, 6). 36 (Jdg. 2:12ff). 37 (2 Ki. 16:3). 38 Since creation is itself a holy thing, it can be desecrated — indeed it is a moral force operating against defilers (Gn. 3:18; Lv. 18:25).

Genesis 3:18 (NASB95) “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
Leviticus 18:25 (NASB95) ‘For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.

     39–46 Human rebellion, God’s remembrance. These verses reflect the tension within the nature of God which the book of Judges records at length. In righteous anger, he reacts to his people’s defection by causing their enemies to dominate them. Yet it is not their return to righteousness that moves him but simply their misery and his own faithfulness to his pledged word.

     47–48 Prayer and praise. Gather us from the nations may indicate that this psalm was written during the Babylonian captivity but the inclusion of these verses in the celebrations when David brought the Ark to Jerusalem (1 Ch. 15, 16) speaks against this. In the psalm the nations are a place of scattering, a snare and a dominating force. There was no time, from the first entry into Canaan, when this was not the case to a greater or less degree. The psalm is best simply heard as the song of the church in the world, ????? song of the church?? subject to its enticements, overcome by its powers, losing its identity by compromise, but longing and praying for a better day and praising the God who, amid the fluctuations of his people, is the same from everlasting to everlasting.

Psalm 107. Everybody Can Pray

     One of the enduring delights of this psalm is repetition — repeated descriptions of threatening situations (4–5, 10, 17–18, 23–26), repeated recourse to prayer (6, 13, 19, 28), repeated divine response (6–7, 13–14, 19–20, 28–29), repeated calls to thankfulness (8, 15, 21, 31). Who are these people? It is quite common to link the psalm with the return from exile in Babylon but this does not accord with the worldwide view the psalm takes of the gathered people (3). Others find a wider review of Israel’s history: from the wilderness to Canaan (4–9), from Egypt and Babylon into the promised land (10–16), from the ‘death’ (17–22) and ‘storm’ (23–32) of the exile into life and peace. But, again, the stance of the psalm is deliberately worldwide and we may allowably ask what about a gathering from the west? Indeed, the Hebrew of v 3 actually says (not and south but) ‘and from the sea’ (presumably meaning ‘and from overseas’).

     Another point of translation is also important: some … some … some … others (4, 10, 17, 23) is interpretative, assuming that four different groups are intended. The Hebrew rather suggests that the same people are being described from four different angles — the typical hazards out of which divine redemption (2) and love (1, 8, 15, 21, 31, 43) have brought us, the Lord’s people. This is how the psalm should be understood. The psalmist is meditating upon one of the great ‘pilgrim’ feasts of the pre-exilic church (Ex. 23:14–19). He sees people come together from scattered locations and remembers that the promises to Abraham (Gn. 12:1–3; 18:18; 22:18; 28:14; Ps. 47:9), now focused in the house of David (Ps. 72:8–11), pledged a gathering from the whole world. Though for him — as for us (Rev. 7:9–17) — the realization is still future, yet every individual and every generation of the people of God can enjoy the reality of belonging to the gathered people, adoring the love which redeemed (1–2) and rescues (8, 15, 21, 31) and must ever be the focus of our thoughts (43).

     1–3 Redeeming love. Throughout the psalm the love referred to is the committed, un-changing, loving determination of the Lord who will never give up those whom he has chosen for himself. This love expressed itself in redemption (2) — the work of the ‘next-of-kin’ who took as his own all the needs of his threatened kinsfolk, himself bearing their burdens and rescuing them from their dangers.

     4–32 The four pictures. The first picture of deliverance from danger by land (4–9) is balanced by the fourth, danger at sea (23–32). The contrast indicates deliverance in and from every problem in earthly life. The second (10–16) and third (17–22) pictures focus on spiritual problems — rebels against God (11, 17) bringing upon themselves bondage (10) and self-destruction (17), i.e. the fact that sin makes us enemies of God, deprives us of the liberty it promises and corrupts our natures. The four pictures taken together offer an assurance that redeeming, unchanging love can deal with every circumstance and every condition and that it is in answer to prayer that the loving Lord does so (6, 13, 19, 28). The Lord’s earthly people are ever under redemptive care, ever buffeted by circumstances, outside and within, and constantly need the resource of prayer.

     4–9 Lost in a wide world: the love that brings us home. The redeemed often do not ‘know which way to turn’ (4) and long for the settled security of a true city. Like Abraham, experiencing the insecurity of tent-life, longing for ‘the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God’ (Heb. 11:9–10). We also often come to the point where ‘we can’t take any more’ (5). But we can pray (6). Often on earth we find, in retrospect, that what we thought was a winding pathway became the straight road of divine direction (7) and certainly it will be so if, in heaven, we are allowed hind-sight. What seemed, as we lived through it, to be a veritable corkscrew - road or a maze will then be seen in truth as a direct, undeviating path from conversion to glory. This is the ‘super-natural’ (wonderful, 8) work of God who (even now — how much more then, Rev. 7:16–17) satisfies.

     10–16 Hemmed in a narrow world: the love that makes us free. In the garden (Gn 3) it was the purpose of the serpent to make the word of God seem unnaturally restrictive, an unwarranted denial of human liberty. Too late the man and his wife discovered that it was only by binding themselves to obey God’s word that they enjoyed liberty (cf. Ps. 119:45). Rebelling against the word brought bondage. This explains our condition (10–11). With v 12, cf. Gn. 3:16–19. How often divine mercy protects us from the results of our own false choices we shall never know, but sometimes, with equal love, the barrier is allowed to fall and we experience the bitter bondage we have brought on ourselves. But even then we can pray (13) and find that — in measure now but in full reality then (Phil. 3:20–21) — grace responds to prayer in deliverance (14–16).

     17–22 Damaged in a sinful world: the love that makes us whole. Within our own natures, sin is our all-time ‘own goal’, (lit.) bringing us low (17) and ‘right up to the gates of death’ (18) — the double disaster of self-destruction now and eternal loss ahead. In v 11, rebelled reflects the stubbornness of the rebel; in v 17, wilfulness. But even so we can pray (19). Through prayer comes the great antidote to sin’s poison, the healing word (20). Just as the source of our spiritual plight is rejection of the word (11), so the return to spiritual wholeness (20) is through the return of the word into our lives.

     23–32 Beaten in a hostile world: the love that brings us peace. Seafaring is a perfect picture of our experience in this life: getting on with our lawful business (23) when, ‘out of a clear blue sky’, comes the storm that upsets all our calculations, destroys our cherished comforts, leaves us helpless in the grip of totally overmastering forces (25–27). Every storm is a summons to trust, for it is not a chance happening or a satanic ploy: it is his storm (25) and in due course the same hand that roused the storm will still it (29). Every storm is a call to prayer (28a) which will avail even against the mightiest opposing forces. The door of prayer will prove to be the entrance to peace (29–30). In vs 21–22 the response of thankfulness was Godward, in the offering of a sacrifice that both expresses our gratitude and reaffirms our dedication. In vs 31–32, thankfulness leads into participating membership of the worshipping community.

     33–43 Providential, caring love. In these verses two contrasting pictures (33–34 and 35–36) are interpreted in reverse order as two contrasting experiences of life (37–38, 39–40). The psalm ends by noting that here is a truth that the upright see (42) and a thought on which the wise concentrate (43). The pictures are respectively of the fertile becoming infertile (33–34) and the infertile changed to support life and afford security (35–36). This is so often true: there is covetable prosperity when everything succeeds (37–38), but also times of recession when calamity follows trouble (39) and leaders can offer no solution (40); but then again, prosperity is recovered and the needy given security (41). What is it in all this that the upright (those who are right with God and committed to rightness of life) see? First, that every circumstance is directed by the Lord who is not a watcher from the sidelines but an executive director. It is he who works transformations in both directions. The most practical course in life is to be right with the One who directs all. Secondly, his providences are moral. If fruitful land becomes a waste, it is a judgment on sin (34); therefore the upright should determine on holiness. Thirdly, when prosperity comes it is not a reward for good behaviour but a sheer act of divine concern for the needy (41). For this reason, true wisdom (43) will always fill its gaze with the great love, (lit.) ‘the loves’ of the Lord — that changeless, ‘ever-unfailing’ love which is so many - faceted that within it (in answer to prayer) there lies the solution to every need.

J. A. Motyer, “The Psalms,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994)

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 71

Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent
71 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;

7 I have been as a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10 For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
11 and say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him.”

12 O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13 May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
14 But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

ESV Study Bible

The 2nd Amendment - The Right To Bare Arms

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The United States Constitution

     For over 200 years, despite extensive debate and much legislative action with respect to regulation of the purchase, possession, and transportation of firearms, as well as proposals to substantially curtail ownership of firearms, there was no definitive resolution by the courts of just what right the Second Amendment protects. The Second Amendment is naturally divided into two parts: its prefatory clause (A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State) and its operative clause (the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed). To perhaps oversimplify the opposing arguments, the states’ rights thesis emphasized the importance of the prefatory clause, arguing that the purpose of the clause was to protect the states in their authority to maintain formal, organized militia units. The individual rights thesis emphasized the operative clause, so that individuals would be protected in the ownership, possession, and transportation of firearms. Whatever the Amendment meant, it was seen as a bar only to federal action, not state or private restraints.

     One of the Second Amendment cases that the Court has heard, and until recently the only case challenging a congressional enactment, seemed to affirm individual protection but only in the context of the maintenance of a militia or other such public force. In United States v. Miller, the Court sustained a statute requiring registration under the National Firearms Act of sawed-off shotguns. After reciting the original provisions of the Constitution dealing with the militia, the Court observed that [w]ith obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted with that end in view. The significance of the militia, the Court continued, was that it was composed of civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion. It was upon this force that the states could rely for defense and securing of the laws, on a force that comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense, who, when called for service . . . were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time. Therefore, in the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than 18 inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.

     After that decision, Congress placed greater limitations on the receipt, possession, and transportation of firearms, and proposals for national registration or prohibition of firearms altogether have been made. Miller, however, shed little light on the validity of such proposals. Pointing out that interest in the character of the Second Amendment right has recently burgeoned, Justice Thomas, concurring in the Court’s invalidation (on other grounds) of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, questioned whether the Second Amendment bars federal regulation of gun sales, and suggested that the Court might determine at some future date . . . whether Justice Story was correct . . . that the right to bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic.’

     It was not until 2008 that the Supreme Court definitively came down on the side of an individual rights theory. Relying on new scholarship regarding the origins of the Amendment, the Court in District of Columbia v. Heller confirmed what had been a growing consensus of legal scholars — that the rights of the Second Amendment adhered to individuals. The Court reached this conclusion after a textual analysis of the Amendment, an examination of the historical use of prefatory phrases in statutes, and a detailed exploration of the 18th century meaning of phrases found in the Amendment. Although accepting that the historical and contemporaneous use of the phrase keep and bear Arms often arose in connection with military activities, the Court noted that its use was not limited to those contexts. Further, the Court found that the phrase well regulated Militia referred not to formally organized state or federal militias, but to the pool of able-bodied men who were available for conscription. Finally, the Court reviewed contemporaneous state constitutions, post-enactment commentary, and subsequent case law to conclude that the purpose of the right to keep and bear arms extended beyond the context of militia service to include self-defense.

     Using this individual rights theory, the Court struck down a District of Columbia law that banned virtually all handguns, and required that any other type of firearm in a home be dissembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times. The Court rejected the argument that handguns could be banned as long as other guns (such as long-guns) were available, noting that, for a variety of reasons, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home. Similarly, the requirement that all firearms be rendered inoperable at all times was found to limit the core lawful purpose of self-defense. However, the Court specifically stated (albeit in dicta) that the Second Amendment did not limit prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, penalties for carrying firearms in schools and government buildings, or laws regulating the sales of guns. The Court also noted that there was a historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons that would not be affected by its decision. The Court, however, declined to establish the standard by which future gun regulations would be evaluated. And, more importantly, because the District of Columbia is a federal enclave, the Court did not have occasion to address whether it would reconsider its prior decisions that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states.

     The latter issue was addressed in McDonald v. Chicago, where a plurality of the Court, overturning prior precedent, found that the Second Amendment is incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment and is thus enforceable against the states. Relevant to this question, the Court examined whether the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty or deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition. The Court, relying on historical analysis set forth previously in Heller, noted the English common law roots of the right to keep arms for self-defense and the importance of the right to the American colonies, the drafters of the Constitution, and the states as a bulwark against over-reaching federal authority. Noting that by the 1850s the perceived threat that the National Government would disarm the citizens had largely faded, the Court suggested that the right to keep and bear arms became valued principally for purposes of self-defense, so that the passage of Fourteenth Amendment, in part, was intended to protect the right of ex-slaves to keep and bear arms. While it was argued by the dissent that this protection would most logically be provided by the Equal Protection Clause, not by the Due Process Clause, the plurality also found enough evidence of then - existent concerns regarding the treatment of black citizens by the state militia to conclude that the right to bear arms was also intended to protect against generally - applicable state regulation.

     On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, a case challenging the constitutionality under the Second Amendment of a portion of New York’s firearms licensing scheme that restricts the carrying of certain licensed firearms outside the home. In a 6-3 decision, the Court struck down New York’s requirement that an applicant for an unrestricted license to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense must establish proper cause, ruling that the requirement is at odds with the Second Amendment (as made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment). In doing so, the Court recognized that the Second Amendment protects a right that extends beyond the home and also clarified the proper test for evaluating Second Amendment challenges to firearms laws, rejecting a so-called two-step methodology employed by many of the lower courts in favor of an approach rooted in text and the historical tradition of firearms regulation.

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He Who Has Ears…

By Scott Anderson 4/1/2010

     Everyone loves a story. Whether young or old, we all enjoy hearing, reading, or seeing a good story unfold.

     Stories are remarkably powerful things. They stir-up our imaginations and excite our affections. They instruct us and inspire us. They intoxicate and influence us. They linger with us, often becoming more precious and poignant and powerful over time.

     In seminary, every pastor-in-training learns about the mysterious homiletical power of story and illustrations. How many times has a church congregation snapped back to attention during a sermon because the preacher began recounting a story or explaining his point with a descriptive, sensory-filled illustration? And why do good preachers do this? Because the human heart is spring-loaded to respond to stories and illustrations. Many times, long after the spoken words are forgotten, we can still call to remembrance the main point of a sermon because of the wise and effective employment of a good story.

     During His earthly teaching ministry, the Lord Jesus, who was the master teacher and preacher, often used stories and illustrations as He instructed the crowds of people who flocked to hear Him. Most scholars refer to these types of stories as “parables.” There are about fifty different parables of Christ recorded in the Gospels. In fact, about one-third of all of Jesus’ recorded sayings are parables. This would seem to imply something very interesting: telling stories was one of Jesus’ favorite methods for “proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1) and speaking forth “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

     The word parable communicates the idea of placing one thing by the side of another, and from this meaning you can easily figure out how they work: simple terms are used to convey a profound truth. In the ministry of Christ, parables are simple stories taken from the familiar world in which Jesus lived, and they are told to relate an unfamiliar spiritual truth. The common, mundane, and everyday are used to elucidate the uncommon, profound, and otherworldly. One person has said that a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly message.” And while the parables of Christ are not strict allegories (in which every minor detail is symbolic of something else), they are brief, simple illustrations that usually address one problem or question with which our Lord was dealing. In other words, parables usually drive home one main truth.

     But you might be wondering, why parables? Well, you would not be the only one to have asked that question. After hearing Jesus tell the parable of the soils, “the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’” (Matt. 13:10). The reply of our Lord is very interesting:

     “And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

     ‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear’” (vv. 11–13, 16).

     You see, Christ was speaking to a mixed-multitude. There were those who received His teaching with open hearts, and those who spurned His truth and persisted in unbelief. Rather than try to weed-out the believers in order to instruct only them, Christ set His teaching before the crowds in the form of parables. Those who had hearts to believe would embrace the teaching and seek to understand further, and those who rejected it, even though they had heard, would not understand at all. In this way, parables withdraw the light from the rebellious at heart who hate the truth, and give light to those who believe and love the truth.

     The implication of this is profound: more than a mere homiletical device or a powerful didactic tool, the parables of Jesus are actually designed to help us see whether illuminating grace is on the move in our lives. (Whether we fully understand every nuance of a given parable is not the main concern — even the disciples had to have some interpreted for them.) Parables function as little tests of faith, beckoning us to see and believe and obey the truth of the Storyteller.

     So as we seek to be the church in this world, let us eagerly read the parables of Jesus — and all of God’s Word — with a humble dependence on the gracious, illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask these kinds of questions: Am I embracing Christ as the ultimate good of the gospel today? Am I open to His teaching? Am I joyfully abiding in His instruction? Am I really interested in His truth? Do I have eyes that want to see and ears that want to hear the words of life?

     In reading this way, we will become joy-filled partakers of the great story to which the gospel has so graciously called us, and the Word of God will become a deep well of life-giving truth that provides rich, spiritual satisfaction for our souls.

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     Scott Anderson is president and CEO of Desiring God Ministries in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

By John Walvoord

Isaac and Jacob

     Genesis 21:1–21. The rule that prophecy is normally interpreted literally is illustrated once again in the birth of Isaac. Impossible as it seemed, Abraham and Sarah were the parents of Isaac. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away with Abraham’s blessing, but without the promises which Isaac would inherit (vv.  9–20 ). The promises to Ishmael were also fulfilled ( 1 Chron. 1:28–29 ).

     Genesis 22:15–18. Because Abraham had obeyed God, he was promised again innumerable blessings, victory over enemies, and that all nations would be blessed because of him. This is fulfilled in history and prophecy.

     Genesis 24:1–26:6. Isaac was promised that the blessing on Abraham would pass to him, and he would fulfill in part the promise of a great nation and blessing on the whole world. The place of blessing was in the land that God had promised to Abraham. In that land, God provided a bride for Isaac ( 24:1–66 ). Isaac and Rebekah were childless for nineteen years, and it seemed that Isaac would have the same problem that Abraham had of not having a suitable heir. Twenty years after marriage, when Isaac was sixty years old, Jacob and Esau were born ( 25:20, 26 ).

     The promise of the land was also repeated in  Genesis 26. Isaac, like his father, sought to go to Egypt because of the famine in the land. In confirmation of earlier prophecies, verses  2–6 repeat the promise of the land: “The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants will I give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.’ So Isaac stayed in Gerar.”

     Genesis 27:1–40. Though Jacob was not the firstborn, he connived with his mother Rebekah to deceive Isaac, who now was old and blind, into bestowing the blessing that normally would go to the firstborn. The Scriptures record that Isaac blessed Jacob with a prophetic benediction: “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed. May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness — an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed” (vv.  27–29 ). When Esau came in later, Isaac also blessed him and prophesied his future (vv.  39–40 ). It was the will of God, however, that Jacob and not Esau should be the one who inherited the Abrahamic promises. These promises were fulfilled in history and prophecy.

     Genesis 27:41–28:22. The promise of the land, however, continued to be the magnet around which the history of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would unfold. Because of Esau’s hatred of Jacob, his mother Rebekah arranged to send him back to her people. On the way, the Lord reiterated the promise of the land: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” ( 28:13–15 ).

     This prophecy is of utmost importance because it makes clear that the promise of the land, as well as other promises specifically given to the promised seed of Abraham, were given to Isaac, not Ishmael, and to Jacob, not Esau. While some of the promises of blessing extended to all of Abraham’s descendants, the promise of the land was limited to Jacob and his heirs.

     Genesis 36:1–37:36; 39:1–48:22. The latter chapters of  Genesis describe the history of Jacob.  Genesis 37:1 summarizes: “Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.” As the story of Jacob and his children unfolded, Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt (vv.  1–36 ) and in the end rescued his people and brought them down to Egypt to escape the famine ( 41:1–43; 45:9–46:7 ). In Joseph’s prophetic dream ( 37:5–7 ) it was predicted that his brethren would bow down to him (vv.  8–11 ). This was later fulfilled in Egypt ( 42:6 ). A number of prophetic utterances were recorded in the closing chapters of  Genesis. These prophecies included the prediction that Pharaoh’s cupbearer would be restored ( 40:12–13, 21 ), and his baker would be hanged (vv.  18–19, 22 ). Both prophecies were fulfilled (vv.  21–22 ). Later this paved the way to interpret Pharaoh’s dream ( 41:1–42 ), which predicted seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine (vv.  25–36 ). This was later fulfilled (vv.  47–57 ). Joseph was elevated to a position next to Pharaoh and put in charge of grain storage (vv.  37–42 ). This made it possible for Jacob to see Joseph again, the prophecy predicted ( 46:4 ) and fulfilled (v.  29 ). Toward the close of his life, Jacob pronounced his blessing on Joseph and his sons ( 48:15–20 ).

     Genesis 49:1–28. Jacob had gathered his sons about his bed to give them his final prophetic blessing.

     Reuben, the firstborn, was commended with the description, “My might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power” (v.  3 ). Further praise of Reuben, however, was cut short by the fact that he had defiled his father’s bed. As Jacob expressed it, “Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it” (v.  4 ). The reference here is to Reuben’s adultery with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah ( 35:22 ). Though Reuben as firstborn would normally receive the double inheritance and be given the place of leadership ( 1 Chron. 5:1–2 ), there is no evidence that he received his inheritance, and he did not provide leadership for Israel (cf.  Judg. 5:15–16 ).

     Simeon and Levi are grouped in Jacob’s prophecy ( Gen. 49:5–7 ). They were characterized as being violent with the sword and having “killed men in their anger” (v.  6 ). They were both guilty of anger, ferocity, and cruelty, and Jacob predicted that they would be scattered in the land (v.  7 ).

     Judah is a subject of major recognition prophetically (vv.  8–12 ). Jacob predicted that Judah would triumph over his enemies and be strong like a lion (vv.  8–9 ). The most significant prophecy given was that the scepter, referring to the future Messiah, would come from the tribe of Judah. Jacob predicted, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (v.  10 ). This was fulfilled in Christ ( Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15 ). This clearly refers to Christ coming from the family of David, which is a part of the tribe of Judah. He is described poetically, “He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk” ( Gen. 49:11–12 ). The poetic language indicates the abundance that will characterize the millennial kingdom, when there will be an abundance of vines so that they can tether a donkey to them. Wine will be so plentiful that it can be regarded as wash water. The whiteness of the teeth would come from drinking milk. This is a poetic description of the abundance of the millennial kingdom.

     In connection with Zebulun, Jacob predicted, “Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon” (v.  13 ). Though Zebulun would not actually be bordered on the sea, it would be near enough so that they would benefit by seaborne trade.

     Concerning Issachar, Jacob predicted, “Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down between two saddlebags” (v.  14 ). He is pictured, however, as submitting to forced labor (v.  15 ).

     Concerning Dan, Jacob predicted, “Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backwards” (vv.  16–17 ). The name “Dan” means “a judge,” implying fair and equal justice. Instead of that, Dan is described as a snake that bites at the horse’s heels, resulting in the rider tumbling off his horse. Implied in this prediction is that Dan does not live up to the expectation of his name. Some believe the fact that idolatry appeared first among the sons of Jacob in the tribe of Dan ( Judg. 18:30 ) is a reason for this. The tribe of Dan is also omitted in the description of the one hundred forty-four thousand of Israel ( Rev. 7:4–8 ), implying that it was not an outstanding tribe.

     Jacob inserted a plea for God’s deliverance before continuing his prophecy, saying, “I look for your deliverance, O LORD” ( Gen. 49:18 ). As Jacob contemplated the difficulties that the tribes of Israel would encounter, he recognized that only God could deliver.

     In connection with Gad, Jacob predicted, “Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders, but he will attack them at their heels” (v.  19 ). The name “Gad” means “attack,” and there is a play on words in this prediction where Gad, the attacker, is attacked, but the prophecy indicates that Gad will counterattack. The surprise attacks from enemies were common, and the prophecy may refer to this (cf.  1 Chron. 5:18–19 ).

     Concerning Asher, Jacob predicted, “Asher’s food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king” ( Gen. 49:20 ). The tribe of Asher was located in an area of Canaan with rich soil, able to provide much food, and possibly the prediction relates to this.

     Concerning Naphtali, Jacob predicted, “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns” (v.  21 ). The tribe of Naphtali settled northwest of the Sea of Galilee in a mountainous area and is pictured here like a deer that is free. Deborah, in her song, pictured both the people of Zebulun and Naphtali as risking their lives “on the heights of the field” ( Judg. 5:18 ).

     Jacob gave a long prediction concerning Joseph: “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall” ( Gen. 49:22 ). Joseph is pictured as a fruitful vine in keeping with the meaning of his son Ephraim’s name, which means “fruitful.” Jacob predicted that Joseph would be attacked: “With bitterness archers attacked him, they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arm stayed limber, because the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings from the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb” (vv.  23–25 ). Joseph is pictured as strong and able to defend himself against all attacks because he is under the blessings of God.

     Jacob went on, “Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among his brothers” (v.  26 ). The extensive prophecies concerning Joseph indicate Jacob’s particular interest and concern for him, and Jacob predicted great blessings on Joseph in the midst of his brethren.

     Jacob concluded with a prophecy concerning Benjamin: “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder” (v.  27 ). Benjamites were great warriors and are here described as being powerful like a wolf.

     In general, the prophecies that Jacob bestowed on his children were fulfilled in their subsequent history. In his prophecies Jacob was realistic, picturing the bad as well as the good, and estimating effectively and accurately the character of his sons. As the Scriptures indicate, each was given “the blessing appropriate to him” (v.  28 ). Following his prophecy, Jacob breathed his last.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

The Continual Burnt Offering (Mark 9:29)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

July 4
Mark 9:29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”   ESV

     Behind all effective service there must always be a life of prayer. It is only as we ourselves are in touch with God that we can be channels through which divine power and blessing will flow forth to others.   I once heard Bob Gass say that he wanted to be an extension cord. He said extension cords have no power of themselves. They must be plugged into the source. He said that songs are not written about extension cords. They are put under, behind a chair or under a rug. He said people can trip over extension cords, but extensions cords are often necessary to get power from the source to where (who) it needs to be delivered. Extension cords remind me of prayer. Bob Gass went to be with the Lord in June of 2019.

     No amount of activity, nor of sincere desire to help, can make up for lack of communion with God. Of old the Levites, who represented ministry, waited on the priesthood, which speaks of worship (Numbers 3:9-10). “This kind does not go out except by prayer” (Matthew 17:21). Prayer is the recognition of our own helplessness and our appropriation of divine energy, which works in and through the self-judged, obedient believer, to the glory and praise of God. This too is true fasting—the denial of self and ceasing from all fleshly confidence.

Numbers 3:9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. 10 And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.”  ESV

Matthew 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.  KJV

When you pray at morn or sundown,
By yourself or with your own;
When you pray at rush of noontide,
Just make sure you touch the Throne.

When you pray in hours of leisure,
Praying long and all alone;
Pour not out mere words as water,
But make sure you touch the Throne.

When you pray in busy moments,
Oft to restless hurry prone;
Brevity will matter little,
If you really touch the Throne.

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

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     8. Every one must now see that pædobaptism, which receives such strong support from Scripture, is by no means of human invention. Nor is there anything plausible in the objection, that we nowhere read of even one infant having been baptised by the hands of the apostles. For although this is not expressly narrated by the Evangelists, yet as they are not expressly excluded when mention is made of any baptised family (Acts 16:15, 32), what man of sense will argue from this that they were not baptised? If such kinds of argument were good, it would be necessary, in like manner, to interdict women from the Lord's Supper, since we do not read that they were ever admitted to it in the days of the apostles. But here we are contented with the rule of faith. For when we reflect on the nature of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, we easily judge who the persons are to whom the use of it is to be communicated. The same we observe in the case of baptism. For, attending to the end for which it was instituted, we clearly perceive that it is not less applicable to children than to those of more advanced years, and that, therefore, they cannot be deprived of it without manifest fraud to the will of its divine Author. The assertion which they disseminate among the common people, that a long series of years elapsed after the resurrection of Christ, during which pædobaptism was unknown, is a shameful falsehood, since there is no writer, however ancient, who does not trace its origin to the days of the apostles.

9. It remains briefly to indicate what benefit redounds from the observance, both to believers who bring their children to the church to be baptised, and to the infants themselves, to whom the sacred water is applied, that no one may despise the ordinance as useless or superfluous: though any one who would think of ridiculing baptism under this pretence, would also ridicule the divine ordinance of circumcision: for what can they adduce to impugn the one, that may not be retorted against the other? Thus the Lord punishes the arrogance of those who forthwith condemn whatever their carnal sense cannot comprehend. But God furnishes us with other weapons to repress their stupidity. His holy institution, from which we feel that our faith derives admirable consolation, deserves not to be called superfluous. For the divine symbol communicated to the child, as with the impress of a seal, confirms the promise given to the godly parent, and declares that the Lord will be a God not to him only, but to his seed; not merely visiting him with his grace and goodness, but his posterity also to the thousandth generation. When the infinite goodness of God is thus displayed, it, in the first place, furnishes most ample materials for proclaiming his glory, and fills pious breasts with no ordinary joy, urging them more strongly to love their affectionate Parent, when they see that, on their account, he extends his care to their posterity. I am not moved by the objection, that the promise ought to be sufficient to confirm the salvation of our children. It has seemed otherwise to God, who, seeing our weakness, has herein been pleased to condescend to it. Let those, then, who embrace the promise of mercy to their children, consider it as their duty to offer them to the Church, to be sealed with the symbol of mercy, and animate themselves to surer confidence, on seeing with the bodily eye the covenant of the Lord engraven on the bodies of their children. On the other hand, children derive some benefit from their baptism, when, being ingrafted into the body of the Church, they are made an object of greater interest to the other members. Then when they have grown up, they are thereby strongly urged to an earnest desire of serving God, who has received them as sons by the formal symbol of adoption, before, from nonage, they were able to recognise him as their Father. In fine, we ought to stand greatly in awe of the denunciation, that God will take vengeance on every one who despises to impress the symbol of the covenant on his child (Gen. 17:15), such contempt being a rejection, and, as it were, abjuration of the offered grace.

10. Let us now discuss the arguments by which some furious madmen cease not to assail this holy ordinance of God. And, first, feeling themselves pressed beyond measure by the resemblance between baptism and circumcision, they contend that there is a wide difference between the two signs, that the one has nothing in common with the other. They maintain that the things meant are different, that the covenant is altogether different, and that the persons included under the name of children are different. When they first proceed to the proof, they pretend that circumcision was a figure of mortification, not of baptism. This we willingly concede to them, for it admirably supports our view, in support of which the only proof we use is, that baptism and circumcision are signs of mortification. Hence we conclude that the one was substituted for the other, baptism representing to us the very thing which circumcision signified to the Jews. In asserting a difference of covenant, with what barbarian audacity do they corrupt and destroy Scripture? and that not in one passage only, but so as not to leave any passage safe and entire. The Jews they depict as so carnal as to resemble brutes more than men, representing the covenant which was made with them as reaching no farther than a temporary life, and the promises which were given to them as dwindling down into present and corporeal blessings. If this dogma is received, what remains but that the Jewish nation was overloaded for a time with divine kindness (just as swine are gorged in their sty), that they might at last perish eternally? Whenever we quote circumcision and the promises annexed to it, they answer, that circumcision was a literal sign, and that its promises were carnal.

11. Certainly, if circumcision was a literal sign, the same view must be taken of baptism, since, in the second chapter to the Colossians, the apostle makes the one to be not a whit more spiritual than the other. For he says that in Christ we "are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ." In explanation of his sentiment he immediately adds, that we are "buried with him in baptism." What do these words mean, but just that the truth and completion of baptism is the truth and completion of circumcision, since they represent one thing? For his object is to show that baptism is the same thing to Christians that circumcision formerly was to the Jews. Now, since we have already clearly shown that the promises of both signs, and the mysteries which are represented by them, agree, we shall not dwell on the point longer at present. I would only remind believers to reflect, without anything being said by me, whether that is to be regarded as an earthly and literal sign, which has nothing heavenly or spiritual under it. But lest they should blind the simple with their smoke, we shall, in passing, dispose of one objection by which they cloak this most impudent falsehood. It is absolutely certain that the original promises comprehending the covenant which God made with the Israelites under the old dispensation were spiritual, and had reference to eternal life, and were, of course, in like manner spiritually received by the fathers, that they might thence entertain a sure hope of immortality, and aspire to it with their whole soul. Meanwhile, we are far from denying that he testified his kindness to them by carnal and earthly blessings; though we hold that by these the hope of spiritual promises was confirmed. In this manner, when he promised eternal blessedness to his servant Abraham, he, in order to place a manifest indication of favour before his eye, added the promise of possession of the land of Canaan. In the same way we should understand all the terrestrial promises which were given to the Jewish nation, the spiritual promise, as the head to which the others bore reference, always holding the first place. Having handled this subject fully when treating of the difference between the old and the new dispensations, I now only glance at it.

12. Under the appellation of children the difference they observe is this, that the children of Abraham, under the old dispensation, were those who derived their origin from his seed, but that the appellation is now given to those who imitate his faith, and therefore that carnal infancy, which was ingrafted into the fellowship of the covenant by circumcision, typified the spiritual children of the new covenant, who are regenerated by the word of God to immortal life. In these words we indeed discover a small spark of truth, but these giddy spirits err grievously in this, that laying hold of whatever comes first to their hand, when they ought to proceed farther, and compare many things together, they obstinately fasten upon one single word. Hence it cannot but happen that they are every now and then deluded, because they do not exert themselves to obtain a full knowledge of any subject. We certainly admit that the carnal seed of Abraham for a time held the place of the spiritual seed, which is ingrafted into him by faith (Gal. 4:28; Rom. 4:12). For we are called his sons, though we have no natural relationship with him. But if they mean, as they not obscurely show, that the spiritual promise was never made to the carnal seed of Abraham, they are greatly mistaken. We must, therefore, take a better aim, one to which we are directed by the infallible guidance of Scripture. The Lord therefore promises to Abraham that he shall have a seed in whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, and at the same time assures him that he will be a God both to him and his seed. All who in faith receive Christ as the author of the blessing are the heirs of this promise, and accordingly are called the children of Abraham.

13. Although, after the resurrection of Christ, the boundaries of the kingdom began to be extended far and wide into all nations indiscriminately, so that, according to the declaration of Christ, believers were collected from all quarters to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 8:11), still, for many ages before, the Jews had enjoyed this great mercy. And as he had selected them (while passing by all other nations) to be for a time the depositaries of his favour, he designated them as his peculiar purchased people (Exod. 19:5). In attestation of this kindness, he appointed circumcision, by which symbol the Jews were taught that God watched over their safety, and they were thereby raised to the hope of eternal life. For what can ever be wanting to him whom God has once taken under his protection? Wherefore the apostle, to prove that the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, were the children of Abraham, speaks in this way: "Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised: that righteousness might be imputed to them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had yet being uncircumcised" (Rom. 4:9-12). Do we not see that both are made equal in dignity? For, to the time appointed by the divine decree, he was the father of circumcision. But when, as the apostle elsewhere writes (Eph. 2:14), the wall of partition which separated the Gentiles from the Jews was broken down, to them, also, access was given to the kingdom of God, and he became their father, and that without the sign of circumcision, its place being supplied by baptism. In saying expressly that Abraham was not the father of those who were of the circumcision only, his object was to repress the superciliousness of some who, laying aside all regard to godliness, plumed themselves on mere ceremonies. In like manner, we may, in the present day, refute the vanity of those who, in baptism, seek nothing but water.

14. But in opposition to this is produced a passage from the Epistle to the Romans, in which the apostle says, that those who are of the flesh are not the children of Abraham, but that those only who are the children of promise are considered as the seed (Rom. 9:7). For he seems to insinuate, that carnal relationship to Abraham, which we think of some consequence, is nothing. But we must attend carefully to the subject which the apostle is there treating. His object being to show to the Jews that the goodness of God was not restricted to the seed of Abraham, nay, that of itself it contributes nothing, produces, in proof of the fact, the cases of Ishmael and Esau. These being rejected, just as if they had been strangers, although, according to the flesh, they were the genuine offspring of Abraham, the blessing resides in Isaac and Jacob. This proves what he afterwards affirms--viz. that salvation depends on the mercy which God bestows on whomsoever he pleases, but that the Jews have no ground to glory or plume themselves on the name of the covenant, unless they keep the law of the covenant, that is, obey the word. On the other hand, after casting down their vain confidence in their origin, because he was aware that the covenant which had been made with the posterity of Abraham could not properly prove fruitless, he declares, that due honour should still be paid to carnal relationship to Abraham, in consequence of which, the Jews were the primary and native heirs of the gospel, unless in so far as they were, for their ingratitude, rejected as unworthy, and yet rejected so as not to leave their nation utterly destitute of the heavenly blessing. For this reason, though they were contumacious breakers of the covenant, he styles them holy (such respect does he pay to the holy generation which God had honoured with his sacred covenant), while we, in comparison of them, are termed posthumous, or abortive children of Abraham, and that not by nature, but by adoption, just as if a twig were broken from its own tree, and ingrafted on another stock. Therefore, that they might not be defrauded of their privilege, it was necessary that the gospel should first be preached to them. For they are, as it were, the first-born in the family of God. The honour due, on this account, must therefore be paid them, until they have rejected the offer, and, by their ingratitude, caused it to be transferred to the Gentiles. Nor, however great the contumacy with which they persist in warring against the gospel, are we therefore to despise them. We must consider, that in respect of the promise, the blessing of God still resides among them; and, as the apostle testifies, will never entirely depart from them, seeing that "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29).

15. Such is the value of the promise given to the posterity of Abraham,--such the balance in which it is to be weighed. Hence, though we have no doubt that in distinguishing the children of God from bastards and foreigners, that the election of God reigns freely, we, at the same time, perceive that he was pleased specially to embrace the seed of Abraham with his mercy, and, for the better attestation of it, to seal it by circumcision. The case of the Christian Church is entirely of the same description; for as Paul there declares that the Jews are sanctified by their parents, so he elsewhere says that the children of Christians derive sanctification from their parents. Hence it is inferred, that those who are chargeable with impurity are justly separated from others. Now, who can have any doubt as to the falsehood of their subsequent averment--viz. that the infants who were formerly circumcised only typified the spiritual infancy which is produced by the regeneration of the word of God? When the apostle says, that "Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Rom. 15:8), he does not philosophise subtilely, as if he had said, Since the covenant made with Abraham has respect unto his seed, Christ, in order to perform and discharge the promise made by the Father, came for the salvation of the Jewish nation. Do you see how he considers that, after the resurrection of Christ, the promise is to be fulfilled to the seed of Abraham, not allegorically, but literally, as the words express? To the same effect is the declaration of Peter to the Jews: "The promise is unto you and to your children" (Acts 2:39); and in the next chapter, he calls them the children of the covenant, that is, heirs. Not widely different from this is the other passage of the apostle, above quoted, in which he regards and describes circumcision performed on infants as an attestation to the communion which they have with Christ. And, indeed, if we listen to the absurdities of those men, what will become of the promise by which the Lord, in the second commandment of his law, engages to be gracious to the seed of his servants for a thousand generations? Shall we here have recourse to allegory? This were the merest quibble. Shall we say that it has been abrogated? In this way, we should do away with the law which Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil, inasmuch as it turns to our everlasting good. Therefore, let it be without controversy, that God is so good and liberal to his people, that he is pleased, as a mark of his favour, to extend their privileges to the children born to them.

16. The distinctions which these men attempt to draw between baptism and circumcision are not only ridiculous, and void of all semblance of reason, but at variance with each other. For, when they affirm that baptism refers to the first day of spiritual contest, and circumcision to the eighth day, mortification being already accomplished, they immediately forget the distinction, and change their song, representing circumcision as typifying the mortification of the flesh, and baptism as a burial, which is given to none but those who are already dead. What are these giddy contradictions but frenzied dreams? According to the former view, baptism ought to precede circumcision; according to the latter, it should come after it. It is not the first time we have seen the minds of men wander to and fro when they substitute their dreams for the infallible word of God. We hold, therefore, that their former distinction is a mere imagination. Were we disposed to make an allegory of the eighth day, theirs would not be the proper mode of it. It were much better with the early Christians to refer the number eight to the resurrection, which took place on the eighth day, and on which we know that newness of life depends, or to the whole course of the present life, during which, mortification ought to be in progress, only terminating when life itself terminates; although it would seem that God intended to provide for the tenderness of infancy by deferring circumcision to the eighth day, as the wound would have been more dangerous if inflicted immediately after birth. How much more rational is the declaration of Scripture, that we, when already dead, are buried by baptism (Rom. 6:4); since it distinctly states, that we are buried into death that we may thoroughly die, and thenceforth aim at that mortification? Equally ingenious is their cavil, that women should not be baptised if baptism is to be made conformable to circumcision. For if it is most certain that the sanctification of the seed of Israel was attested by the sign of circumcision, it cannot be doubted that it was appointed alike for the sanctification of males and females. But though the right could only be performed on males, yet the females were, through them, partners and associates in circumcision. Wherefore, disregarding all such quibbling distinctions, let us fix on the very complete resemblance between baptism and circumcision, as seen in the internal office, the promise, the use, and the effect.

17. They seem to think they produce their strongest reason for denying baptism to children, when they allege, that they are as yet unfit, from nonage, to understand the mystery which is there sealed--viz. spiritual regeneration, which is not applicable to earliest infancy. Hence they infer, that children are only to be regarded as sons of Adam until they have attained an age fit for the reception of the second birth. But all this is directly opposed to the truth of God. For if they are to be accounted sons of Adam, they are left in death, since, in Adam, we can do nothing but die. On the contrary, Christ bids them be brought to him. Why so? Because he is life. Therefore, that he may quicken them, he makes them partners with himself; whereas these men would drive them away from Christ, and adjudge them to death. For if they pretend that infants do not perish when they are accounted the sons of Adam, the error is more than sufficiently confuted by the testimony of Scripture (1 Cor. 15:22). For seeing it declares that in Adam all die, it follows, that no hope of life remains unless in Christ. Therefore, that we may become heirs of life, we must communicate with him. Again, seeing it is elsewhere written that we are all by nature the children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5), of which condemnation is the inseparable attendant, we must part with our own nature before we have any access to the kingdom of God. And what can be clearer than the expression, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God"? (1 Cor. 15:50.) Therefore, let everything that is our own be abolished (this cannot be without regeneration), and then we shall perceive this possession of the kingdom. In fine, if Christ speaks truly when he declares that he is life, we must necessarily be ingrafted into him by whom we are delivered from the bondage of death. But how, they ask, are infants regenerated, when not possessing a knowledge of either good or evil? We answer, that the work of God, though beyond the reach of our capacity, is not therefore null. Moreover, infants who are to be saved (and that some are saved at this age is certain) must, without question, be previously regenerated by the Lord. For if they bring innate corruption with them from their mother's womb, they must be purified before they can be admitted into the kingdom of God, into which shall not enter anything that defileth (Rev. 21:27). If they are born sinners, as David and Paul affirm, they must either remain unaccepted and hated by God, or be justified. And why do we ask more, when the Judge himself publicly declares, that "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"? (John 3:3.) But to silence this class of objectors, God gave, in the case of John the Baptist, whom he sanctified from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15), a proof of what he might do in others. They gain nothing by the quibble to which they here resort--viz. that this was only once done, and therefore it does not forthwith follow that the Lord always acts thus with infants. That is not the mode in which we reason. Our only object is to show, that they unjustly and malignantly confine the power of God within limits, within which it cannot be confined. As little weight is due to another subterfuge. They allege that, by the usual phraseology of Scripture, "from the womb," has the same meaning as "from childhood." But it is easy to see that the angel had a different meaning when he announced to Zacharias that the child not yet born would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Instead of attempting to give a law to God, let us hold that he sanctifies whom he pleases, in the way in which he sanctified John, seeing that his power is not impaired.

18. And, indeed, Christ was sanctified from earliest infancy, that he might sanctify his elect in himself at any age, without distinction. For as he, in order to wipe away the guilt of disobedience which had been committed in our flesh, assumed that very flesh, that in it he might, on our account, and in our stead, perform a perfect obedience, so he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that, completely pervaded with his holiness in the flesh which he had assumed, he might transfuse it into us. If in Christ we have a perfect pattern of all the graces which God bestows on all his children, in this instance we have a proof that the age of infancy is not incapable of receiving sanctification. This, at least, we set down as incontrovertible, that none of the elect is called away from the present life without being previously sanctified and regenerated by the Spirit of God. [630] As to their objection that, in Scripture, the Spirit acknowledges no sanctification save that from incorruptible seed, that is, the word of God, they erroneously interpret Peter's words, in which he comprehends only believers who had been taught by the preaching of the gospel (1 Pet. 1:23). We confess, indeed, that the word of the Lord is the only seed of spiritual regeneration; but we deny the inference that, therefore, the power of God cannot regenerate infants. This is as possible and easy for him, as it is wondrous and incomprehensible to us. It were dangerous to deny that the Lord is able to furnish them with the knowledge of himself in any way he pleases.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • Psalm 106 The
    LORD’s Mercy
  • Psalm 107 Learning
    God’s Deliverance
  • Psalm 116:10-19 I Will
    Praise The Lord

#1     Psalm 106 | David Guzik


#2     Psalm 107 | David Guzik


#3     Dr. Dennis Rokser | Duluth Bible


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/1/2013    Delighting in Our Duty

     When we think of the law of God, the first thing that should come to mind is love—God’s love for us as fallen sinners, directing us to love Him, enjoy Him, and glorify Him. God’s law is a gracious gift to us, and it has three primary uses. First, the law functions as a teacher by showing us God’s perfect righteousness and our unrighteousness and sin, and it shows our danger of God’s judgment, leading us, by God’s grace, in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ who fulfilled all the righteous demands of God’s law (Rom. 3:20; 4:15; Gal. 3:19–24). Second, the law functions to restrain evil in all realms of society, preserving humanity and, thus, serving God’s overall plan of redemption for His covenant people (Deut. 19:16–21; 1 Tim. 1:8–11). Third, the law functions as a guide to righteous living for all men, and it directs us as God’s beloved children by teaching us what pleases our heavenly Father and fulfills the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; 1 Thess. 4:1–8).

     In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, and in fulfilling it, He set us free to love the law, to delight in keeping the law, and to repent for our lawbreaking as we live by faith in Christ for the Glory of God in all that we do (Rom. 3:31; Titus 2:11–14; 1 John 2:3–4). Even in the Great Commission, Christ commanded that we make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe (“to keep” or “to obey”) all that He commanded. And to His disciples Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), promising to send the Holy Spirit to indwell us, help us, comfort us, and sustain us.

     Moreover, when a scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28–31). In giving the first great commandment, Jesus was quoting the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4–5, which is the preeminent Old Testament monotheistic self-proclamation of the God of Israel and the confession of all who are united by faith alone to the true Israel of God, Jesus Christ the righteous. The Shema is God’s call to “hear, O Israel,” and in hearing God, loving God, and obeying God, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith, trusting Him and following Him every hour of every day in all that we do with our whole being—all the while, teaching and showing our covenant children what it means to live each day coram Deo, before God’s face, as we strive to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The Declaration of Independence was approved this day, July 4, 1776. John Hancock, the first to sign, said: “the price on my head has just doubled.” Benjamin Franklin signed saying “We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.” Of the fifty-six signers: 17 lost their fortunes, 12 had their homes destroyed, 9 fought and died, 5 were arrested as traitors, and 2 lost sons in the War. As Samuel Adams signed, he said: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

A real Christian is a person
who can give his pet parrot
to the town gossip.
--- Billy Graham
The Westminster Collection of Christian Quotations

If we had lived in the second millennium BC, the millennium of Abraham, and could have canvassed all the nations of the earth, what would they have said of Abraham’s journey? In most of Africa and Europe, they would have laughed at Abraham’s madness and pointed to the heavens, where the life of earth had been plotted from all eternity ... a man cannot escape his fate. The Egyptians would have shaken their heads in disbelief. The early Greeks might have told Abraham the story of Prometheus ... Do not overreach, they would advise; come to resignation. In India, he would be told that time is black, irrational and merciless. Do not set yourself the task of accomplishing something in time, which is only the dominion of suffering. On every continent, in every society, Abraham would have been given the same advice that wise men as diverse as Heraclitus, Lao-Tsu and Siddhartha would one day give their followers: do not journey but sit; compose yourself by the river of life, meditate on its ceaseless and meaningless flow.

“The Jews started it all—and by ‘it’ I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and aethiest, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings ... we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.
--- Thomas Cahill
The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History)
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
--- C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     PART III / Verses 3–6
     CHAPTER 16 / “With All Your Heart
     and All Your Soul and All Your Might”

     The Jerusalem Talmud, however, in stressing R. Akiva’s simultaneous performance of the two separate mitzvot, implies that the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem is achieved only at the moment one actually dies for God’s sake. Although psychologically surrendering one’s life when reading the Shema prepares one for martyrdom, the full performance of the mitzvah takes place only when the martyr actually suffers death. In R. Akiva’s case, he was able to perform the two mitzvot simultaneously—reading the Shema and suffering martyrdom—but the two are not integrally related.

     Later sources express support for both these views. Thus, the Zohar writes:

     Whoever intends with these words [i.e., “you shall love … with all your soul”] to surrender his life for the sanctification of the divine Name, Scripture considers it as if he was martyred every day [that he recited these words with this kavvanah]. (Zohar III, 195b)

     This passage reinforces the view that we have attributed to the Babylonian Talmud. Other sources espouse this point of view as well. But some sources take the opposite view, siding with the perspective implied in the version of the Jerusalem Talmud.

     Whether or not the intention to undergo martyrdom adequately fulfills the mitzvah formally, it is clear that such an intention is an integral part of the Reading of the Shema. We then are faced with an interesting question: to what extent must we pursue this mitzvah? Should we seek out opportunities to tempt fate and expose ourselves to danger in order to demonstrate our love of God? Not all authorities agree on the answer to this question.

     R. Isaiah Horowitz (end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century), in his Shenei Luḥot ha-Berit, (11) one of the most significant works in all of Jewish literature, expresses strong opinions on the matter:

(11)     Shaar ha-Otiot, end of letter alef.

     One should not think that because martyrdom is a great mitzvah, therefore I will pursue it diligently, in the same way that one must diligently pursue every (other) mitzvah, and I will try to create a situation [that will result in my martyrdom], such as: when he sees a pagan he will spit at him, or visit other such indignities upon him, so that they will seize him and burn him at the stake.…

     One who acts in this manner is guilty [of forfeiting] his life. The mitzvah [of martyrdom] applies only to a case where [the violation of one of the three commandments requiring martyrdom] was forced upon him by others; only then shall he sanctify the Name and prefer to be killed rather than violate [one of these commandments].

     That is, we must not seek out opportunities to die a martyr’s death. Such active solicitation of martyrdom is a disguised form of suicide and must be discouraged. We can only conjecture about the historical circumstances that may have inspired this vigorous condemnation of pro-active martyrdom.

     The Netziv (R. Naftali Zevi Yehuda Berlin) concurs: “Heaven forbid that R. Akiva hoped for such a terrible death.” (12) The Netziv’s nephew, R. Baruch Epstein, apparently unaware of his uncle’s comment, takes the opposite view. Citing an incident recorded about R. Akiva in the Talmud, (13) he contends that R. Akiva did indeed anticipate and hope for a martyr’s death. (14) The plain sense of the passage in both Talmuds seems to support the view of R. Epstein.

(12)     Harḥev Davar to Deut. 6:5, no. 2.
(13)     Eruvin 21b.
(14)     R. Baruch Epstein, Torah Temimah to Deut. 6:5,
          no. 22.

  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     BOOK II.

     Containing The Interval Of Sixty-Nine Years. From The Death Of Herod Till Vespasian Was Sent To Subdue The Jews By Nero.

     CHAPTER 1.

     Archelaus Makes A Funeral Feast For The People, On The Account Of Herod. After Which A Great Tumult Is Raised By The Multitude And He Sends The Soldiers Out Upon Them, Who Destroy About Three Thousand Of Them.

     1. Now the necessity which Archelaus was under of taking a journey to Rome was the occasion of new disturbances; for when he had mourned for his father seven days,1 and had given a very expensive funeral feast to the multitude, [which custom is the occasion of poverty to many of the Jews, because they are forced to feast the multitude; for if any one omits it, he is not esteemed a holy person,] he put on a white garment, and went up to the temple, where the people accosted him with various acclamations. He also spake kindly to the multitude from an elevated seat and a throne of gold, and returned them thanks for the zeal they had shown about his father's funeral, and the submission they had made to him, as if he were already settled in the kingdom; but he told them withal, that he would not at present take upon him either the authority of a king, or the names thereto belonging, until Caesar, who is made lord of this whole affair by the testament, confirm the succession; for that when the soldiers would have set the diadem on his head at Jericho, he would not accept of it; but that he would make abundant requitals, not to the soldiers only, but to the people, for their alacrity and good-will to him, when the superior lords [the Romans] should have given him a complete title to the kingdom; for that it should be his study to appear in all things better than his father.

     2. Upon this the multitude were pleased, and presently made a trial of what he intended, by asking great things of him; for some made a clamor that he would ease them in their taxes; others, that he would take off the duties upon commodities; and some, that he would loose those that were in prison; in all which cases he answered readily to their satisfaction, in order to get the good-will of the multitude; after which he offered [the proper] sacrifices, and feasted with his friends. And here it was that a great many of those that desired innovations came in crowds towards the Evening, and began then to mourn on their own account, when the public mourning for the king was over. These lamented those that were put to death by Herod, because they had cut down the golden eagle that had been over the gate of the temple. Nor was this mourning of a private nature, but the lamentations were very great, the mourning solemn, and the weeping such as was loudly heard all over the city, as being for those men who had perished for the laws of their country, and for the temple. They cried out that a punishment ought to be inflicted for these men upon those that were honored by Herod; and that, in the first place, the man whom he had made high priest should be deprived; and that it was fit to choose a person of greater piety and purity than he was.

     3. At these clamors Archelaus was provoked, but restrained himself from taking vengeance on the authors, on account of the haste he was in of going to Rome, as fearing lest, upon his making war on the multitude, such an action might detain him at home. Accordingly, he made trial to quiet the innovators by persuasion, rather than by force, and sent his general in a private way to them, and by him exhorted them to be quiet. But the seditious threw stones at him, and drove him away, as he came into the temple, and before he could say any thing to them. The like treatment they showed to others, who came to them after him, many of which were sent by Archelaus, in order to reduce them to sobriety, and these answered still on all occasions after a passionate manner; and it openly appeared that they would not be quiet, if their numbers were but considerable. And indeed, at the feast of unleavened bread, which was now at hand, and is by the Jews called the Passover, and used to be celebrated with a great number of sacrifices, an innumerable multitude of the people came out of the country to worship; some of these stood in the temple bewailing the Rabbins [that had been put to death], and procured their sustenance by begging, in order to support their sedition. At this Archelaus was affrighted, and privately sent a tribune, with his cohort of soldiers, upon them, before the disease should spread over the whole multitude, and gave orders that they should constrain those that began the tumult, by force, to be quiet. At these the whole multitude were irritated, and threw stones at many of the soldiers, and killed them; but the tribune fled away wounded, and had much ado to escape so. After which they betook themselves to their sacrifices, as if they had done no mischief; nor did it appear to Archelaus that the multitude could be restrained without bloodshed; so he sent his whole army upon them, the footmen in great multitudes, by the way of the city, and the horsemen by the way of the plain, who, falling upon them on the sudden, as they were offering their sacrifices, destroyed about three thousand of them; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed upon the adjoining mountains: these were followed by Archelaus's heralds, who commanded every one to retire to their own homes, whither they all went, and left the festival.

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 20:19-20
     by D.H. Stern

19     A gossip goes around revealing secrets,
so don’t get involved with a talkative person.

20     Whoever curses his father or mother—
his lamp will go out in total darkness.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Living By The Spirit
     Acts 2 - N.T. Wright

     Once we glimpse this vision of the Holy Spirit coming to live within human beings, making them Temples of the living God—which ought to make us shiver in our shoes—we are able to grasp the point of the Spirit’s work in several other ways as well.

     To begin with, building on the startling call to holiness we just noticed, we see right across the early Christian writings the notion that those who follow Jesus are called to fulfill the Law—that is, the Torah, the Jewish Law. Paul says it; James says it; Jesus himself says it. Now there are all kinds of senses in which Christians do not, and are not meant to, perform the Jewish Law. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews insists that with the death of Jesus the sacrificial system came to an end, and with it the whole point of the Temple. Paul insists that when pagan men and boys believe the gospel of Jesus and get baptized, they do not have to get circumcised. Jesus himself hinted strongly that the food laws which had marked out the Jews from their pagan neighbors were to be set aside in favor of a different kind of marking out, a different kind of holiness. The early Christians, following Jesus himself, were quite clear that keeping the Jewish Sabbath was no longer mandatory, even though doing so was one of the Ten Commandments.

     Nevertheless, the early Christians continued to speak, not least in the passages where they talked of the Spirit, of the obligation to fulfill the Law. If you are guided and energized by the Spirit, declares Paul, you will no longer do those things which the Law forbids—murder, adultery, and the rest. “The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God’s Law,” he writes in the Letter to the Romans. “Such a mindset does not submit to God’s Law, indeed it can’t; and those of that sort cannot please God.” But, as he goes on at once, “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if God’s Spirit does indeed dwell in you” (note the Temple language again). The Spirit will give life—resurrection life—to all those in whom the Spirit dwells; and this is to be anticipated (future-in-the-present language again) in holiness of life here and now (Romans 8:7–17). Later in the same letter, he explains further: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law” (13:10).

     The point, once again, is not that the Law is a convenient moral guide, ancient and venerable. It is that the Torah, like the Temple, is one of the places where heaven and earth meet, so that, as some Jewish teachers had suggested, those who study and keep the Torah are like those who worship in the Temple. And the early Christians are encouraging one another to live as points of intersection, points of overlap, between heaven and earth. Again, this sounds fearsomely difficult, not to say downright impossible. But there is no getting around it. Fortunately, as we shall see, what ought to be normal Christianity is actually all about finding out how to sustain this kind of life and even grow in it.

     I immediately think of our being called to be ambassadors, lights in the darkness, image bearers.

     The fulfillment of the Torah by the Spirit is one of the main themes underlying the spectacular description, in Acts 2, of the day of Pentecost itself. To this day, Pentecost is observed in Judaism as the feast of the giving of the Law. First comes Passover, the day when the Israelites leave their Egyptian slavery behind for good. Off they go through the desert, and fifty days later they reach Mount Sinai. Moses goes up the mountain and comes down with the Law, the tablets of the covenant, God’s gift to his people of the way of life by which they will be able to demonstrate that they really are his people.

     This is the picture we ought to have in mind as we read Acts 2. The previous Passover, Jesus had died and been raised, opening the way out of slavery, the way to forgiveness and a new start for the whole world—especially for all those who follow him. Now, fifty days later, Jesus has been taken into “heaven,” into God’s dimension of reality; but, like Moses, he comes down again, to ratify the renewed covenant and to provide the way of life, written not on stone but in human hearts, by which Jesus’s followers may gratefully demonstrate that they really are his people. That is the underlying theology by which the remarkable phenomenon of Pentecost as Luke tells it—the wind, the fire, the tongues, and the sudden, powerful proclamation of Jesus to the astonished crowds—is given its deepest meaning. Those in whom the Spirit comes to dwell are to be people who live at the intersection between heaven and earth.

     Nor is it only Temple and Torah that are fulfilled by the Spirit. Remember the two additional ways in which, in the language of ancient Judaism, God was at work within the world: God’s word and God’s wisdom.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                One of God’s great don’ts

     Fret not thyself, it tendeth only to evil doing.
--- Psalm 37:8 (R.V.).

     Fretting means getting out at elbows mentally or spiritually. It is one thing to say ‘Fret not,’ but a very different thing to have such a disposition that you find yourself able not to fret. It sounds so easy to talk about “resting in the Lord” and “waiting patiently for Him” until the nest is upset—until we live, as so many are doing, in tumult and anguish, is it possible then to rest in the Lord? If this ‘don’t’ does not work there, it will work nowhere. This ‘don’t’ must work in days of perplexity as well as in days of peace, or it never will work. And if it will not work in your particular case, it will not work in anyone else’s case. Resting in the Lord does not depend on external circumstances at all, but on your relationship to God Himself.

     Fussing always ends in sin. We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are an indication of how really wise we are; it is much more an indication of how really wicked we are. Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. Our Lord never worried and He was never anxious, because He was not ‘out’ to realize His own ideas; He was ‘out’ to realize God’s ideas. Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God.

     Have you been bolstering up that stupid soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God? Put all ‘supposing’ on one side and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


I lean over the fire; a smell
  as of frost comes, sparks embroidering
  the soot. It is a tapestry
  of the past. How many men
  have leaned, spat, dreamed
  by a fire, remembering love,
  youth, victory, happier
  times, and the uselessness of remembering?
  There is a flower of bright flame
  asleep in a log, one, many
  of them. It is a garden
  to sit by, for thought to wander
  in seeking for the lost innocence
  at the centre, where the tree
  was planted for the naked
  conscience to conceal itself under
  from the voice calling.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Genesis 19:1–5

     One angel doesn’t do two missions.

     BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 19:1–5 / The two angels arrived in Sodom in the Evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to greet them and, bowing low with his face to the ground, he said, “Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house to spend the night, and bathe your feet; then you may be on your way early.” But they said, “No, we will spend the night in the square.” But he urged them strongly, so they turned his way and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. They had not yet lain down, when the townspeople, the men of Sodom, young and old—all the people to the last man—gathered about the house. And they shouted to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may be intimate with them.”

     MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 50, 2 / The two angels arrived.… “He is one; who can dissuade Him? Whatever He desires, He does” (Job 23:13). It was taught: One angel doesn’t do two missions, and two angels don’t do one mission. But you say “two”! Michael told the news and left, Gabriel was sent to overthrow Sodom, and Raphael to rescue Lot. The two angels arrived in Sodom.… Here it says “angels,” and there [Genesis 18:2] it calls them “men”! There the Shekhinah was above them and they are called “men”; when the Shekhinah left them, they took the form of angels.

     CONTEXT / The Rabbis were puzzled as they read the biblical story of Abraham, Lot, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. When the men (who we know are messengers from God, or angels) appear to Abraham, there are three of them:

     The Lord appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. (Genesis 18:1–2)

     At Abraham’s invitation, these three messengers enter his tent and eat a meal with him. Soon, they announce that Sarah will give birth to a child—this is Isaac—and that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed. Later in the story, when the messengers (now called “angels”) appear to Lot, there are only two of them: “The two angels arrived in Sodom in the Evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” This discrepancy led the Rabbis to ask: What happened to the third man/angel?

     We should note that in the Hebrew, the word מַלְאָךְ/malakh means both “angel” and “messenger,” because the Bible understood an angel as a messenger from God. It is not clear whether we should translate the word מַלְאָךְ/malakh as “angel” or “messenger,” because it is not clear in what form they appeared to Lot. The text doesn’t tell us what Lot thought when he urged them to spend the night at his house. However, the evil residents of Sodom clearly saw these envoys as humans, for they desired the men for sexual relations.

     From a close reading of the biblical text—the fact that three men come to Abraham, but only two to Lot—the Rabbis concluded that God sent a separate messenger or angel for each task. Michael told the news that Sarah would give birth to Isaac and Michael left, Gabriel was sent to overthrow Sodom, and Raphael was sent to rescue Lot from Sodom. We would likely say that it’s less work and expense to send one messenger on several errands, and this is why the Midrash begins by quoting the verse from Job: “He, God, is one, unique; who can dissuade Him? Whatever He desires, He does,” and God is not under human constraints. God, having unlimited resources, can choose to send a separate angel on each mission.

     Each of these messengers has a theophoric name, a name with a form of God, El, in it. Each name symbolizes the angel’s mission.

     מִיכָאֵל, Mikha-El, “who is like El/God,” announced Sarah’s impending pregnancy and the birth of Isaac: “Then one said, ‘I will return to you next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son!’ … And Sarah laughed to herself …” (
Genesis 18:10, 12). The name מִיכָאֵל, Mikha-El, “who is like El/God,” symbolizes God’s ability to do anything: “Is anything too wondrous for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)

     גַּבְרִיאֵל, Gavri-El, meaning “God is my strength,” foretells of the overthrow of the evil city of Sodom. The name symbolizes God’s ability to act in powerful ways.

     רְפָאֵל, Refa-El, “God heals,” becomes the agent of rescue for Abraham’s nephew, Lot. God heals the misfortune of Lot, who resides in this evil city.

     The Rabbis also note that here (
Genesis 19:1) it says “angels,” and there (Genesis 18:2) it calls them “men”! In other words, our question about who these messengers were is also theirs. They, too, question the language of the Bible—why it refers to them as “men” when Abraham greets them, but as angels when they visit Lot. The Rabbis answer that there (in the Abraham story) the Shekhinah (God’s divine presence) was above them and they are called “men.” That is, God’s physical manifestation appeared to Abraham. Thus, with Abraham seeing a divine image, the Shekhinah, the messengers appeared as mere humans, men. However, as the text tells us, “the men went on from there to Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord” (Genesis 18:22). The Rabbis see this as proof that the Shekhinah, God’s presence, remained with Abraham. The messengers left for Sodom where—no longer in the presence of God—they appeared not as humans but as angels.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
A Sabbath journey
     Stanley M. Horton, Th.D.

     "For the Sabbath to be a day of rest, the Israelites were to plan their work so they could put it aside by sundown on the sixth day.

     The Greek sabbatou hodos (Acts 1:12) designates the distance from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. In New Testament times, Jewish rabbis used this term as the limit in distance a Jew could go from his or her home on the Sabbath. The rabbis set this distance by their tradition as 2,000 cubits or about 1,000 yards (a cubit was slightly less than 18 inches).

     First, the rabbis based their tradition on the last part of Exodus 16:29,30, which forbade the Israelites to go out on the Sabbath to gather manna. "Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out. So the people rested on the seventh day." (NIV) Then, since the distance separating the people from the ark as they marched across the Jordan was 1,000 yards (Joshua 3:4), the rabbis believed this was the distance between the peoples’ tents and the tabernacle during their wilderness journeys. They concluded it was reasonable for the people to travel that far to approach the tabernacle and worship. Rabbis supported this contention further by the fact 1,000 yards around the towns were given to the Levites (Numbers 35:5).

     What was the purpose of this limit of a Sabbath day’s journey? Leviticus 23:3 identifies the Sabbath as a day of "rest, a day of sacred assembly…a Sabbath to the Lord." The word rest (Hebrew, menuchah) has the basic meaning of "ceasing." God ceased from His work of creating on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2,3). For the Sabbath to be a day of rest, the Israelites were to plan their work so they could put it aside by sundown on the sixth day. This would enable them to come together on the seventh day for a sacred assembly of worship and teaching. The Sabbath was to be a day devoted to the Lord. By putting a travel limit of 1,000 yards on the people, the rabbis made sure everyone would be present for this sacred assembly every Sabbath.

     Some later rabbis invented a tradition that enabled them to get around this limitation. For example, since they were allowed to go 1,000 yards from their home, they defined their home as anywhere their personal possessions were. They would take a bag of worthless possessions, go 1,000 yards, put down a personal possession, and say, "This is my Sabbath home; I can go another 1,000 yards." By this means, they could go anywhere they wanted. No wonder Jesus said, "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men" (Mark 7:8).

     Since the walled cities were rather small, ranging from 6 to about 23 acres (Jerusalem being larger from Solomon’s time on) and the many unwalled villages were even smaller, each city would form a small congregation. Everyone would know each other and would unite in worship and in presenting their needs to the Lord. These small groups were important.

     The Law, however, did not limit the Israelites to this weekly sacred assembly. According to Exodus 23:14–17, it called for three pilgrimage feasts: Unleavened Bread (included with Passover in March–April), Harvest (Pentecost in May, which continued as a family feast with the father as the priest for the family), Ingathering (Tabernacles in September–October). This was specifically commanded for the men; however, it was customary for men to bring their families. Thus, the sense of the unity of God’s people was experienced as the crowds gathered in the temple courts.

     After Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and took most of the Jews into Babylonian exile, the Jews realized that their sins and unbelief had brought God’s judgment, and they turned to the Lord. Again, the importance of the sacred assembly and the togetherness of a small group was recognized, and people gathered around those who could teach them God’s Word and lead them in worship. From these meetings, synagogues were established.

     The Greek sunagoge ("gathering place") was first of all a place for teaching the Law. Philo, a first-century B.C. to first-century A.D. philosopher, called synagogues "houses of instruction, where the philosophy of the fathers and all manner of virtues were taught." In addition to the Law, selections from the Psalms and Prophets were read. Prayers and preaching were included in the service. The ruler of the synagogue (Hebrew, ro’sh hakkeneseth, "head of the assembly") directed the services and decided who would read from the Law and the Prophets and preach. He would encourage discussion afterward and was responsible in keeping order. Some suppose women were seated in a special gallery, but there is no evidence for this in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the oldest Jewish writings. During the week, the synagogue buildings were used as community centers and schools for the boys.

     Early Christian writings used the word synagogue or its Palestinian Aramaic equivalent, kenishta, for Christian churches. From the New Testament, from other early Christian writings, and from archaeology, it is evident that the early Christian assemblies, their services, and their government followed the example of the synagogues.

     The Greek word translated "church" (ekklesia, "assembly of citizens") always applies to people in the New Testament. Archaeologists have found church buildings in Asia Minor dating from the middle of the second century (including baptistries for baptism by immersion). But in the first century there were no church buildings; the people met in homes. Since most of the people lived in one-room homes, wealthier converts would offer theirs, as in the case of John Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12) and Lydia, the wealthy dealer in purple cloth (Acts 16:15). As the Gospel spread and more people were being saved, the house churches multiplied, each with its own elder (Greek, presbuteros, also called episkopos, "overseer," a term, which through the Latin eventually developed into the term bishop).

     In his last journey to Jerusalem, the apostle Paul stopped at Miletus and sent for the elders of the city of Ephesus (Acts 20:17). He also referred to them as overseers and shepherds of "the assembly of God [literal translation] which he bought with his own blood" (verse 28). Note that the singular is used for "assembly," although each elder was the overseer of an individual house church. All the Blood-bought believers were part of the one universal assembly of God.

     Since the Christian believers were not under law, there is no evidence that they had any concern about the limitations of a Sabbath Day’s journey. At first, as seen in the Book of Acts, believers gathered "in one accord" (one of Luke’s favorite expressions). However, by the time of what must have been largely second-generation Christians, some must have needed the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." The "Day" refers to the coming Day of the Lord, a day we are fast approaching. Believers today need the same exhortation. They need to be encouraged to be faithful to their local churches.

Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal

     The Prophet Worrying

     "One of the modern “Christian myths” that ought to be silenced says that when you trust Jesus Christ, you get rid of all your problems. You don’t.

     It’s true that your basic spiritual problem—your relationship with God—has been solved, but with that solution comes a whole new set of problems that you didn’t face when you were an unbeliever, like: “Why do good people suffer and evil people prosper?” or “Why isn’t God answering my prayer?” or “When I’m doing my best for the Lord, why do I experience the worst from others?”

     Christians who claim to be without problems are either not telling the truth or not growing and experiencing real life. Perhaps they’re just not thinking at all. They’re living in a religious dream world that has blocked out reality and stifled honest feelings. Like Job’s uncomfortable comforters, they mistake shallow optimism for the peace of God and “the good life” for the blessing of God. You never hear them ask what David and Jesus asked, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46).

     Habakkuk wasn’t that kind of a believer. As he surveyed the land of Judah, and then watched the international scene, he found himself struggling with some serious problems. But he did the right thing: he took his problems to the Lord.

     1. “Why Is God So Indifferent?” (Hab. 1:2–11)

     Being a perceptive man, Habakkuk knew the kingdom of Judah was rapidly deteriorating. Ever since the death of King Josiah in 609 B.C., his religious reforms had been forgotten and his son and successor Jehoiakim had been leading the nation closer to disaster. (If you want to know what God thought about Jehoiakim, read Jer. 22:13–19.)

     The prophet’s concern (Hab. 1:2–3). Habakkuk’s vocabulary in this chapter indicates that times were difficult and dangerous, for he uses words like violence, iniquity, grievance (misery), spoiling (destruction), strife, contention (disputes), and injustice. Habakkuk prayed that God would do something about the violence, strife, and injustice in the land, but God didn’t seem to hear. In verse 2, the first word translated “cry” simply means “to call for help,” but the second word means “to scream, to cry with a loud voice, to cry with a disturbed heart.” As he prayed about the wickedness in the land, Habakkuk became more and more burdened and wondered why God seemed so indifferent.

     The basic cause (Hab. 1:4). The nation’s problems were caused by leaders who wouldn’t obey the law. “Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (v. 4, NIV). The rich exploited the poor and escaped punishment by bribing the officials. The law was either ignored or twisted, and nobody seemed to care. The courts were crooked, officials were interested only in money, and the admonition in Exodus 23:6–8 was completely unheeded.

     The Lord’s counsel (Hab. 1:5–11). God answered His servant and assured him that He was at work among the nations even though Habakkuk couldn’t see it. (Paul quoted this verse at the close of his message in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:41; and see also Isa. 29:14). It was a warning to the people not to treat the Gospel lightly and thereby reject it. The original statement to Habakkuk referred to the coming of the Babylonians, but Paul applied it to the saving work of Jesus Christ and the offer of the Gospel. Both were incredible works of God.) God gave Habakkuk a revelation, not an explanation, for what we always need in times of doubt is a new view of God. The Lord doesn’t owe us any explanations, but He does graciously reveal Himself and His work to those who seek Him. (What Habakkuk suffered in a small way, Job suffered in a great way, and God’s answer to Job’s many questions was simply to reveal Himself to Job. We don’t live on explanations, we live on promises, and the promises of God are based on the character of God. The turning point in Job’s experience came when he put his hand on his mouth, stopped arguing with the Lord, and began to worship the Lord (Job 40:1–5; 42:1–6). Habakkuk had a similar experience. There’s nothing like a fresh view of the glory of God to give you strength for the journey!)

     What God was doing was so amazing, incredible, and unheard of, that even His prophet would be shocked: God was planning to punish the Jews by using the godless Babylonians! They were a “ruthless and impetuous people” (v. 6, NIV), “a feared and dreaded people” who were a law unto themselves and afraid of nobody (v. 7, NIV). Their only purpose was to promote themselves and conquer and enslave other peoples.

     The Lord then used a number of pictures from nature to describe the Babylonians and how they treated people. Their horses had the speed of leopards and the ferocity of wolves, and their troops swooped down on their prey like vultures. Their army swept across the desert like the wind and gathered and deported prisoners the way a man digs sand and ships it to a foreign land.

     Could anything stop them? Certainly God could stop them, but He was the one who was enlisting their aid! Nothing human could hinder their progress. The Babylonians had no respect for authority, whether kings or generals. (One of their practices was to put captured kings in cages and exhibit them, like animals.) They laughed at gates and walls as they built their siege ramps and captured fortified cities. They worshiped the god of power and depended wholly on their own strength.

     Habakkuk learned that God was not indifferent to the sins of the people of Judah. The Lord was planning to chasten Judah by allowing the Babylonians to invade the land and take them into exile. (Jeremiah would fill in the details and explain that the people would be in exile for seventy years. After that, a remnant would return to Judah, rebuild the temple, and establish the nation. See Jeremiah 25 and 29.) This wasn’t the answer Habakkuk was expecting. He was hoping God would send a revival to His people (see 3:2), judge the evil leaders, and establish righteousness in the land. Then the nation would escape punishment and the people and cities would be spared.

     However, God had warned His people time and time again, but they wouldn’t listen. Prophet after prophet had declared the Word (2 Chron. 36:14–21), only to be rejected, and He had sent natural calamities like droughts and plagues, and various military defeats, but the people wouldn’t listen. Instead of repenting, the people hardened their hearts even more and turned for help to the gods of the nations around them. They had tried God’s long-suffering long enough and it was time for God to act.

Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)

Take Heart
     July 4

   Then sing ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
   And let the young Lambs bound
   As to the tabor’s sound!
   We in thought will join your throng.
    --- William Wordsworth in “Intimations of Immortality”

   I have ventured… this many summers in a sea of glory.
   --- William Shakespeare

     You will have a covenant with the stones of the field.
Job 5:23.

     In these long June days when the world is so fresh and green, our thoughts turn instinctively to the ministry of nature. (The unlighted lustre: Addresses from a Glasgow pulpit ) June is so fresh, so sweet, so full of light, so throbbing and thrilling with love and hope and joy that the dullest and most world-weary heart beats a little faster at the touch of its mystic fingers. There is always an element of surprise in June. It is always a new thing, fresh and unexpected. We have it annually since our childhood, yet when it comes again it is as a stranger from the glory. That is one mark of the genius of God—his gifts come so regularly, yet they never weary. They reach us a thousand times, but the thousand and first time they are still wonderful, surprising, touched with dew.

     What does it mean, “You will have a covenant with the stones of the field”? Eliphaz is talking—not of everybody—he is talking of the person who trusts in God. He is describing the one who is at peace with God and who has entered into a covenant with the Almighty. And what he says is, “Are you in league with heaven? Then with the very stones you will be in league. Are you at peace with God in your own heart? Then you are on new terms with every bird and beast and flower.” That is to say that people’s attitude toward nature and all the meaning that nature may convey to them depends on their spiritual and moral state. It is not so much by the eye as by the heart that the book of this summer world must be interpreted. Let people live basely and in defiance of God, let them mock at these moral laws that are our safeguard, then somehow there will be no runes on any rock for them; they will be out of harmony with tree and flower and summer. But let people be reverent and lowly and pure in heart and tender, let them be at peace with that Jehovah who delights in love—then in the covenant of comradeship June will unfold her secrets to them, and they will read RS Thomas in the stones of the field. It is not the artistic nature, it is the moral nature that holds the key to the ministry of summer. To be out of touch with God and God’s ideal is to be out of touch with everything, but to be spiritually in league with God is to be in league with the stones of the field.
--- George H. Morrison

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     The Investment  July 4

     Martha Scarborough celebrated Independence Day, July 4, 1870, by giving birth to a son, Lee. When the boy was eight, Martha and her husband George, a part-time Baptist preacher, moved to Texas to raise cattle and share Christ. A dugout shelter first served as home, then a log cabin near Clear Fork Creek. George and Martha dreamed of a beautiful house atop a nearby hill. They saved frugally, but times were lean, and years passed before they accumulated enough to proceed with the long-discussed house. Lee, meanwhile, grew into a brawny 16-year-old cowboy.

     One day, their work behind them, George said to Martha, “Let’s go up the hill and select a suitable place for the home. We have saved money for that purpose, so we had as well begin plans to build.” Arm in arm, the couple strolled to the grassy crest of the hill behind their cabin. This was a moment long anticipated. At the top of the hill, he said, “Here is the place. This is the most suitable location we can find.” But Martha turned toward him, her eyes filling with tears. “My dear,” she said, “I do appreciate your desire to build me a new, comfortable home on this place of beauty, but there is another call for our money which is far greater. Let’s live on in the old house and put this money in the head and heart of our boy. I fear that if we use this money to build a home we shall never be able to send Lee to college. I would rather a thousand times that we should never build this house if we can invest the money in our boy.”

     George was disappointed, and he said little for several days. Finally one Evening past midnight he yielded. The house was never built, but Lee Scarborough left home on January 8, 1888, for Baylor College in Waco, Texas. He eventually became a powerhouse for Christ, a Southern Baptist leader, a writer, a seminary president, a pastor, an evangelist, and a business leader who built colleges, seminaries, churches, hospitals, and mission stations around the world.

     Invest in truth and wisdom, discipline and good sense, And don’t part with them. Make your father truly happy by living right And showing sound judgment. Make your parents proud, especially your mother.
--- Proverbs 23:23-25.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 4

     “Sanctify them through thy truth.” --- John 17:17.

     Sanctification begins in regeneration. The Spirit of God infuses into man that new living principle by which he becomes “a new creature” in Christ Jesus. This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways—mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under; and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life. This is carried on every day in what is called “perseverance,” by which the Christian is preserved and continued in a gracious state, and is made to abound in good works unto the praise and glory of God; and it culminates or comes to perfection, in “glory,” when the soul, being thoroughly purged, is caught up to dwell with holy beings at the right hand of the Majesty on high. But while the Spirit of God is thus the author of sanctification, yet there is a visible agency employed which must not be forgotten. “Sanctify them,” said Jesus, “through thy truth: thy word is truth.” The passages of Scripture which prove that the instrument of our sanctification is the Word of God are very many. The Spirit of God brings to our minds the precepts and doctrines of truth, and applies them with power. These are heard in the ear, and being received in the heart, they work in us to will and to do of God’s good pleasure. The truth is the sanctifier, and if we do not hear or read the truth, we shall not grow in sanctification. We only progress in sound living as we progress in sound understanding. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Do not say of any error, “It is a mere matter of opinion.” No man indulges an error of judgment, without sooner or later tolerating an error in practice. Hold fast the truth, for by so holding the truth shall you be sanctified by the Spirit of God.

          Evening - July 4

     "He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully." --- Psalm 24:4.

     Outward practical holiness is a very precious mark of grace. It is to be feared that many professors have perverted the doctrine of justification by faith in such a way as to treat good works with contempt; if so, they will receive everlasting contempt at the last great day. If our hands are not clean, let us wash them in Jesus’ precious blood, and so let us lift up pure hands unto God. But “clean hands” will not suffice, unless they are connected with “a pure heart.” True religion is heart-work. We may wash the outside of the cup and the platter as long as we please, but if the inward parts be filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God, for our hearts are more truly ourselves than our hands are; the very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within. The pure in heart shall see God, all others are but blind bats.

     The man who is born for heaven “hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity.” All men have their joys, by which their souls are lifted up; the worldling lifts up his soul in carnal delights, which are mere empty vanities; but the saint loves more substantial things; like Jehoshaphat, he is lifted up in the ways of the Lord. He who is content with husks, will be reckoned with the swine. Does the world satisfy thee? Then thou hast thy reward and portion in this life; make much of it, for thou shalt know no other joy.

     “Nor sworn deceitfully.” The saints are men of honour still. The Christian man’s word is his only oath; but that is as good as twenty oaths of other men. False speaking will shut any man out of heaven, for a liar shall not enter into God’s house, whatever may be his professions or doings. Reader, does the text before us condemn thee, or dost thou hope to ascend into the hill of the Lord?

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 4


     Francis Scott Key, 1779–1843

     Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: Whether it be to the king, as supreme, or to governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (1 Peter 2:13, 14 KJV)

     During the War of 1812, while on the deck of a truce ship, Francis Key paced nervously as a fierce battle raged nearby during the British attack on the harbor of Baltimore. As District Attorney of Georgetown and a spiritual lay leader of his church, Key had been sent by President James Madison to negotiate with the British for a physician who had been taken prisoner. All night Key and his party were detained as the heavy bombardment continued. When the firing suddenly stopped just before Morning, Key was fearful of the outcome; but as he looked hesitantly across the water, he saw the American flag still triumphantly flying with the assurance of our nation’s freedom!

     With joyful relief, Key wrote his poem hastily on the back of an envelope and put finishing touches on it after being released later that Evening. One month later the song was published, accompanied by an old hunting tune, “Anacron in Heaven,” attributed to John Stafford Smith of England. Although enthusiastically received by the people, the song was not officially adopted by Congress as our national anthem until March 3, 1931.

     O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there. O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

     O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war’s desolation! Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just; and this be our motto: “In God is our trust!” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

     For Today: Proverbs 14:34; Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1–7; 1 Timothy 2:1, 2; 1 Peter 2:13–21.

     Write a letter of commendation to a public official for some worthy contribution he has made to the moral and spiritual betterment of our country. May this musical question from our national anthem be a continuing challenge and concern.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. LXXV. — AFTER this, it comes to Paul also, the most determined enemy to “Free-will,” and even he is dragged in to confirm “Free-will;” “Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance?” — (Rom. ii. 4.) — “How (says the Diatribe) can the despising of the commandment be imputed where there is not a Free-will? How can God invite to repentance, who is the author of impenitence? How can the damnation be just, where the judge compels unto evil doing?” —

     I answer: Let the Diatribe see to these questions itself. What are they unto us! The Diatribe said according to that ‘probable opinion.’ ‘that “Free-will” cannot will good, and is of necessity compelled to serve sin.’ How, therefore, can the despising of the commandment be charged on the will, if it cannot will good, and has no liberty, but is necessarily compelled to the service of sin? How can God invite to repentance who is the author of the reason why it cannot repent, while it leaves, or does not give grace to, that, which cannot of itself will good? How can the damnation be just, where the judge, by taking away his aid, compels the wicked man to be left in his wickedness who cannot of his own power do otherwise?

     All these conclusions therefore recoil back upon the head of the Diatribe. Or, if they prove any thing, as I said, they prove that “Free-will” can do all things: which, however, is denied by the Diatribe and by all. Thus these conclusions of reason torment the Diatribe, throughout all the passages of Scripture: seeing that, it must appear ridiculous and coldly useless, to enforce and exact with so much vehemence, when there is no one to be found who can perform: for the apostle’s intent is, by means of these threats, to bring the impious and proud to a knowledge of themselves and of their impotency, that he might prepare them for grace when humbled by the knowledge of sin.

     And what need is there to speak of, singly, all those parts which are brought forward out of Paul, seeing that, they are only a collection of imperative or conditional passages, or of those by which Paul exhorts Christians to the fruits of faith? Whereas the Diatribe, by its appended conclusions, forms to itself a power of “Free-will,” such and so great, which can, without grace, do all things which Paul in his exhortations prescribes. Christians, however, are not led by “Free-will,” but by the Spirit of God (Rom. viii. 14): and to be led, is not to lead, but to be impelled, as a saw or an axe is impelled by a carpenter.

     And that no one might doubt whether or not Luther asserted things so absurd, the Diatribe recites his own words; which, indeed, I acknowledge. For I confess that that article of Wycliffe, ‘all things take place from necessity, that is, from the immutable will of God, and our will is not compelled indeed, but it cannot of itself do good,’ was falsely condemned by the Council of Constance, or that conspiracy or cabal rather. Nay the Diatribe itself defends the same together with me, while it asserts, ‘that Free-will cannot by its own power will any thing good,’ and that, it of necessity serves sin: although in furnishing this defence, it all the while designs the direct contrary.

     Suffice it to have spoken thus in reply to the FIRST PART of the Diatribe, in which it has endeavoured to establish “Free-will.” Let us now consider the latter part in which our arguments are refuted, that is, those by which “Free-will” is utterly overthrown. — Here you will see, what the smoke of man can do, against the thunder and lightning of God!

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

New Testament Theology
     Ten Lectures



Creation/Land/Recreation in OT 3

Creation/Land/Recreation in NT 4

Creation/Land/Recreation 5

Temple (OT) 6

Temple (NT) 7

Temple (Rev 21-22) 8

Covenant (OT and NT) 9

Covenant (OT and NT) 10

David Mathewson

Hermeneutics Theological Approaches to Interpretation
     Lecture 24-30

OT in NT 24

OT in NT 25

Theological Approaches
to Interpretation 26

Application in the
Interpretative Process 27

Summary and
Synthesis 28

Intrepretve Process 29
Romans 6

Rev. 12-13 30
Interpretive Process

David Mathewson

Biblical Counseling
     Paul Henebury

What is Biblical Counseling?
Paul Henebury

What is Biblical ... 2
Paul Henebury

What is Biblical ... 3
Paul Henebury

Paul Henebury

Psalms 106-107
     Gary Hamrick

Psalm 106
God's Faithfulness, Our Forgetfulness
Gary Hamrick

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June 11, 2017

Psalm 107
The Goodness and Love Of God
Gary Hamrick

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June 18, 2017

Gary Hamrick

Psalm 106-107
     JD Farag

Psalms 105-106
J.D. Farag


Psalm 107-109
J.D. Farag

J.D. Farag

Psalm 106-107
     Jon Courson

Psalms 103:1-105:23
Jon Courson

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Psalms 105-106
Jon Courson

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Psalms 107-109
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson | Jon Courson

Psalm 106-107
     Paul LeBoutillier

Psalm 106
Recounting the Failings of Israel
Paul LeBoutillier

Psalm 107
God to the Rescue!
Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

Psalm 106-107
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Psalm 106:7-15
Drop The Scissors


Psalm 106-107


Brett Meador

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7 Principles That Made
America Great 1
Andy Woods


7 Principles ...
Andy Woods


When In The Course
Of Human Events
Jack Hibbs


Independence Day Weekend
Brett Meador


Message For Every Christian
Andy Woods

July 5, 2020

Christian Persecution in a
Post-Christian America
Andy Woods

July 6, 2014

Psalm 116
I Love You Lord Because
Dennis Rokser

Psalm 1
Are You A Happy Saint
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Dennis Rokser

Word Meaning 22
David Mathewson

Literary Approaches 23
David Mathewson

Psalm 86
The Way To An Undivided Heart
Todd Pickett

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Christ In Prophecy

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Revelation 22
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Christ In Prophecy