Daily Devotional – Preserved From Evil

7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Psalm 121:7-8

Psalm 121:7-8 (KJV and RVR 1960) 


CONTEXT:

This is another of those verses often taken greatly out of context. As I have an EARLY morning appointment, I will offer a few trusted commentaries today instead of my normal exposition. 

Suffice it to say that on the surface the phase above, taken on it own, seems to imply any true believer will be exempt from all evil befalling them. NOTHING could be further from the truth.


COMMENTARY: 

John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

Thee Lord shall preserve them from all evil,…. The Word of the Lord, as the Targum. Not from the evil of affliction, though from that as a penal evil; or as a real one, it being made to work for good: but from the evil of sin; not from the being or commission of it; but from its dominion and damning power, or from a final and total falling away by it: and from the evil of the world; not from tribulation in it, nor from the reproach or persecution of it; but from the wickedness and lusts that are in it, and from the wicked men of it, their power, rage, and fury: and from the evil one, Satan; not from his temptations, but from sinking under them, and perishing by them; see John 17:12;

he shall preserve thy soul: he preserves the bodies of his people, oftentimes from diseases and disasters, and from death, till the appointed time comes; and then he preserves their dust in the grave, and raises it up at the last day; but more especially their souls, the redemption and salvation of which he undertook, and has effected; and which are preserved by him safe to his coming, kingdom, and glory.

JOHN CALVIN

It is of importance to mark the reason why the prophet repeats so often what he had so briefly and in one word expressed with sufficient plainness. Such repetition seems at first sight superfluous; but when we consider how difficult it is to correct our distrust, it will be easily perceived that he does not improperly dwell upon the commendation of the divine providence. How few are to be found who yield to God the honour of being a “keeper,” in order to their being thence assured of their safety, and led to call upon him in the midst of their perils! On the contrary, even when we seem to have largely experienced what this protection of God implies, we yet instantly tremble at the noise of a leaf falling from a tree, as if God had quite forgotten us. Being then entangled in so many unholy misgivings, and so much inclined to distrust, we are taught from the passage that if a sentence couched in a few words does not suffice us, we should gather together whatever may be found throughout the whole Scriptures concerning the providence of God, until this doctrine – “That God always keeps watch for us” – is deeply rooted In our hearts; so that, depending upon his guardianship alone, we may bid adieu to all the vain confidences of the world. 

TREASURY OF DAVID 

Verse 7. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil, or keep thee from all evil. It is a great pity that our admirable translation did not keep to the word keep all through the psalm, for all along it is one. God not only keeps his own in all evil times but from all evil influences and operations, yea, from evils themselves. This is a far reaching word of covering: it includes everything and excludes nothing: the wings of Jehovah amply guard Iris own from evils great and small, temporary and eternal. There is a most delightful double personality in tiffs verse: Jehovah keeps the believer, not by agents, but by himself; and the person protected is definitely pointed out by the word thee, — it is not our estate or name which is shielded, but the proper personal man. To make this even more intensely real and personal another sentence is added, “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:” he shall preserve thy soul, — or Jehovah will keep thy soul. Soul keeping is the soul of keeping. If the soul be kept all is kept. The preservation of the greater includes that of the less so far as it is essential to the main design: the kernel shall be preserved, and in order thereto the shell shall be preserved also. God is the sole keeper of the soul. Our soul is kept from the dominion of sin, the infection of error, the crush of despondency, the puffing up of pride; kept from the world, the flesh, and the devil; kept for holier and greater things; kept in the love of God; kept unto the eternal kingdom and glory. What can harm a soul that is kept of the Lord?

Verse 8. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. When we go out in the morning to labour, and come home at eventide to rest, Jehovah shall keep us. When we go out in youth to begin life, and come in at the end to die, we shall experience the same keeping. Our exits and our entrances are under one protection. Three times have we the phrase, “Jehovah shall keep”, as if the sacred Trinity thus sealed the word to make it sure: ought not all our fears to be slain by such a threefold flight of arrows? What anxiety can survive this triple promise? This keeping is eternal; continuing from this time forth, even for evermore. The whole church is thus assured of everlasting security: the final perseverance of the saints is thus ensured, and the glorious immortality of believers is guaranteed. Under the aegis of such a promise we may go on pilgrimage without trembling, and venture into battle without dread. None are so safe as those whom God keeps; none so much in danger as the self secure. To goings out and comings in belong peculiar dangers since every change of position turns a fresh quarter to the foe, and it is for these weak points that an especial security is provided: Jehovah will keep the door when it opens and closes, and this he will perseveringly continue to do so long as there is left a single man that trusteth in him, as long as a danger survives, and, in fact, as long as time endures. Glory be unto the Keeper of Israel, who is endeared to us under that title, since our growing sense of weakness makes us feel more deeply than ever our need of being kept. Over the reader we would breathe a benediction, couched in the verse of Keble.

“God keep thee safe from harm and sin,
Thy Spirit keep; the Lord watch o’er
Thy going out, thy coming in,
From this time, evermore.”

A Man on Mission

A Man on Mission

John Calvin’s gaze was Godward. He was a pious man, driven by God’s majesty and a love for Scripture. His holy pursuit, as we shall see, was to live according to Isaiah’s timeless wisdom, “… But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2b). But aspiring to live according to Isaiah 66 and actually carrying it out are two different things. Like you and I, Calvin was a fallen man, a sinner. He battled sin and stared temptation in the face. He went into the “boxing ring” of life each day and fought the world, the flesh, and the devil.

by  
Continued at Source: A Man on Mission

God’s Sovereignty and Man

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Sovereign Grace and Man’s Responsibility

August 1, 1858 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

“But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, all day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”—Romans 10:20-21.

Doubtless these words primarily refer to the casting away of the Jews, and to the choosing of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were a people who sought not after God, but lived in idolatry; nevertheless, Jehovah was pleased in these latter times to send the gospel of his grace to them: while the Jews who had long enjoyed the privileges of the Word of God, on account of their disobedience and rebellion were cast away. I believe, however, that while this is the primary object of the words of our text, yet, as Calvin says, the truth taught in the text is a type of a universal fact. As God did choose the people who knew him not, so hath he chosen, in the abundance of his grace, to manifest his salvation to men who are out of the way; while, on the other hand, the men who are lost, after having heard the Word, are lost because of their wilful sin; for God doth all the day long “stretch forth his hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”

The system of truth is not one straight line, but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. I am taught in one book to believe that what I sow I shall reap: I am taught in another place, that “it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no precedence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism. or fatalism. That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.

Now, this morning I am about to consider the two doctrines. In the 20th verse, we have taught us the doctrines of sovereign grace—”But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.” In the next verse, we have the doctrine of man’s guilt in rejecting God. “To Israel he saith, all day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”

CONTINUED AT SOURCE

How can God be sovereign and man still be free?

by John Hendryx

Responsibility and voluntary choice are not the same thing as free will. We affirm that man is indeed responsible for the choices he makes, yet we deny that the Bible teaches that man has a free will since it is no where taught in the pages of Scripture. The Bible teaches, rather, that God ordains all things that come to pass (Eph 1:11) and it also teaches that man is culpable for his choices (Ezek 18:20, Matt 12:37, John 9:41). Since the Scripture is our ultimate authority and highest presuppsosition, the multitude of clear scriptural declarations on this matter outweigh all unaided human logic. We find that almost always the objections to God’s meticulous providence over all things are moral and philosophical rather than exegetical. This means we must strive to consciously affirm what the Scripture declares over all our finite understanding and sinful inner drive for independence.

In order to understand this better theologians have come up with the term “compatibilism” to describe the concurrence of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Compatibilism is a form of determinism and it should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism. It simply means that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is “compatible” with voluntary choice. Our choices are not coerced …i.e. we do not choose against what we want or desire, yet we never make choices contrary to God’s sovereign decree. What God determines will always come to pass (Eph 1:11).

In light of Scripture, (according to compatibilism), human choices are exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism. For example, God is said to specifically ordain the crucifixion of His Son, and yet evil men willfully and voluntarily crucify Him (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). This act of evil is not free from God’s decree, but it is voluntary, and these men are thus responsible for the act, according to these Texts. Or when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, Joseph later recounted that what his brothers intended for evil, God intended for good (Gen 50:20). God determines and ordains that these events will take place (that Joseph will be sold into slavery), yet the brothers voluntarily make the evil choice that beings it to pass, which means the sin is imputed to Joseph’s brothers for the wicked act, and God remains blameless. In both of these cases, it could be said that God ordains sin, sinlessly. Nothing occurs apart from His sovereign good pleasure.

We should be clear that NEITHER compatibilism nor hard determinism affirms that any man has a free will. Those who believe man has a free will are not compatibilists, but should, rather, be called “inconsistent”. Our choices are our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures, nor seperately from God’s meticulous providence. Furthermore, compatibilism is directly contrary to libertarian free will. Therefore voluntary choice is not the freedom to choose otherwise, that is, a choice without any influence, prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Voluntary does mean, however, the ability to choose what we want or desire most according to our disposition and inclinations. The former view (libertarianism) is known as contrary choice, the latter free agency. (the fallen will is never free from the bondage of our corrupt nature, and and not free, in any sense, from God’s eternal decree.) The reason I emphasize this is that compatibilists are often misrepresented by hard determinists at this point. They are somehow confused with inconsistent Calvinists. When compatibilists use such phrases as “compatibilistic freedom”, they are, more often than not, using it to mean ‘voluntary’ choice, but are not referring to freedom FROM God’s decree or absolute sovereignty (an impossible supposition).

In biblical terminology, fallen man is in bondage to a corruption of nature and that is why the biblical writers considered him not free (see Rom 6). Jesus Himself affirms that the one who sins is a “slave to sin” and only the Son can set him free. Note that even Jesus speaks of a kind of freedom here. He is not speaking of freedom from God but freedom from the bondage of sin, which is the kind of freedom those have who are in Christ. In this sense God is the most free Person since He is holy, set apart from sin… yet He cannot make choices contrary to His essence, i.e. He cannot be unholy. So, we must conclude, according to Jesus in John 8:31-36, that the natural man does not have a free will. The will is in bondage to sin. Any consistent theologian who uses the term “freedom” usually is referring to that fact that while God sovereignly ordains all that comes to pass, yet man’s “free choice” (voluntary) is compatible with God’s sovereign decree. In other words the will is free from external coercion but not free from necessity. In my reckoning, there is no biblical warrant to use the phrase “free will”, since the Bible never affirms or uses this term or concept. So when some theologians use the word “free” they may be misusing or importing philosophical language from outside the Bible, but I think anyone who is consistent with the Text means “voluntary” when they say “free”, but NEVER affirm they are free from God in any sense. For to affirm that God sovereignly brings our choices to pass and then also say man is free FROM GOD, is self-contradictory. So I repeat, many of those whom I read seem equate the word freedom with the meaning “voluntary”. If any mean “free from God” they are confused. I heard R.C. Sproul say there are “no maverick molecules”. Nothing happens by chance, but all falls within God’s meticulous providence, no exceptions.

One of the best statements on compatibilism is one I found from John Calvin:

“…we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.
– John Calvin from Bondage and Liberation of the Will, pg. 69-70

Prior to the fall, Adam’s will was not in bondage to sin, thus it was free from sin’s bondage and corruption but it was not free from God’s decree. His choice to rebel was completely voluntary even though God has ordained with certainty that it would come to pass. He was not yet sealed in righteousness even though his inclination was toward the good. Through Satans devices, that he overcame his own good inclination and chose evil makes original sin all the more heinous.

We highly recommend this very helpful video recently delivered by John MacArthur on the issue of sovereignty and responsibility.

Daily Devotional – Bless the Lord

It is easy to thank God for the big things in life. Here David reminds us that we should have a start everyday attitude of praise for the one who has redeemed our souls. – Mike 

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:1-2

Bendice, alma mía, a Jehová, Y bendiga todo mi ser su santo nombre. Bendice, alma mía, a Jehová, Y no olvides ninguno de sus beneficios. (RVR 1960) 

Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible

Verse 1

1.Bless Jehovah, O my soul! The prophet, by stirring up himself to gratitude, gives by his own example a lesson to every man of the duty incumbent upon him. And doubtless our slothfulness in this matter has need of continual incitement. If even the prophet, who was inflamed with a more intense and fervent zeal than other men, was not free from this malady, of which his earnestness in stimulating himself is a plain confession, how much more necessary is it for us, who have abundant experience of our own torpor, to apply the same means for our quickening? The Holy Spirit, by his mouth, indirectly upbraids us on account of our not being more diligent in praising God, and at the same time points out the remedy, that every man may descend into himself and correct his own sluggishness. Not content with calling upon his soul (by which he unquestionably means the seat of the understanding and affections) to bless God, the prophet expressly adds his inward parts, addressing as it were his own mind and heart, and all the faculties of both. When he thus speaks to himself, it is as if, removed from the presence of men, he examined himself before God. The repetition renders his language still more emphatic, as if he thereby intended to reprove his own slothfulness.

Verse 2

2.And forget not any of his benefits Here, he instructs us that God is not deficient on his part in furnishing us with abundant matter for praising him. It is our own ingratitude which hinders us from engaging in this exercise. In the first place, he teaches us that the reason why God deals with such liberality towards us is, that we may be led to celebrate his praise; but at the same time he condemns our inconstancy, which hurries us away to any other object rather than to God. How is it that we are so listless and drowsy in the performance of this the chief exercise of true religion, if it is not because our shameful and wicked forgetfulness buries in our hearts the innumerable benefits of God, which are openly manifest to heaven and earth? Did we only retain the remembrance of them, the prophet assures us that we would be sufficiently inclined to perform our duty, since the sole prohibition which he lays upon us is, not to forget them.

Daily Devotional – Lead Me O Lord

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Psalm 5:8

 Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face. (KJV)

 Guíame, Jehová, en tu justicia, a causa de mis enemigos; Endereza delante de mí tu camino.  (RVR 1960)

Context: This is a Psalm or prayer v.1 Give ear to my words, O Lord, v.2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry given in a time of great need not a normal daily conversational prayer with God. v.3-6 the Psalmist tells how he will honor God and reminds God how much He hates unrighteousness. 

So let us break it down: 

v.7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple. After declaring God’s hate for those who refuse to obey and worship Him, the Psalmist declares he will do just that, come and worship in the holy temple (tabernacle). He will worship in thy fear or in complete reverence to God’s mercy, grace and righteousness. 

v.8 Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face. Again the Psalmist is crying out to God; Lead me, O Lordnot in my own ways (for we all know how corrupt and wrong those are) but in thy righteousness, God’s ways because His are always proper and right. Note the circumstances, because of mine enemies; you have heard me say this many times, if you are a true born again believer and do not have enemies (those living in the world ready, willing and able to attack you) you are not (with few exceptions) living for God. Lastly the Psalmist asks God for a simple straight path one he can follow in the midst of the battle with his enemies. 

v.9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue. How bad are the enemies we face? There is no righteousness in their mouth; their heart is the personification of wickedness; and their mouths are as an open sepulchre; or grave spewing forth nothing but dead things. 

Conclusion: We need god to lead us every day. It is the fool hardy “Christian” that thinks they can go up against the enemy alone. Our daily prayer (not just in times of trouble) needs to be Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies!


Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible

8.O Jehovah, lead me forth, etcSome explain these words thus: Show me what is right, and make me wholly devoted to the practice of that righteousness which adorns thy character; and do this because of my adversaries; for the saints, impelled by the wicked practice and deceitful arts of the ungodly, are in danger of turning aside from the right way. This meaning is unquestionably a pious and a useful one. But the other interpretation is more suitable, which views the words as a prayer that God would lead his servant in safety through the midst of the snares of his enemies, and open up to him a way of escape, even when, to all appearance, he was caught and surrounded on every side. The righteousness of Godtherefore, in this passage, as in many others, is to be understood of his faithfulness and mercy which he shows in defending and preserving his people. Consequently, in thy righteousness means the same thing as for or according to thy righteousnessDavid, desiring to have God as the guide of his path, encourages himself in the hope of obtaining his request, because God is righteous; as if he had said, Lord, as thou art righteous, defend me with thine aid, that I may escape from the wicked plots of my enemies. Of the same import is the last clause of the verse, where he prays that the way of God may be made straight before his facein other words, that he might be delivered by the power of God from the distresses with which he was so completely surrounded, that, according to the judgment of the flesh, he never expected to find a way of escape. And thus he acknowledges how impossible it was for him to avoid being entangled in the snares of his enemies, (75) unless God both gave him wisdom, and opened up for him a way where no way is. It becomes us, after his example, to do the same thing; so that distrusting ourselves when counsel fails us, and the malice and wickedness of our enemies prevail, we may betake ourselves speedily to God, in whose hands are the issues of death, as we shall see afterwards, (Psalms 69:1.)


 

Daily Devotion – Known, Set Apart and Appointed

 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you [and approved of you as My chosen instrument], And before you were born I consecrated you [to Myself as My own]; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (AMP)

Antes que te formase en el vientre te conocí, y antes que nacieses te santifiqué, te di por profeta a las naciones. (RVR 1960)

 

This is another of those bible verses that many “Christians” seem to be able to rattle off in some form or another. I often wonder how many have actually taken the time to contemplate and meditate on the deep and glorious meaning of it? So let us break it down:

Context: This is the beginning of the Book of Jeremiah whose ministry began in 626 b.c. and ended sometime after 586. Its purpose was to warn of the destruction that they, Israel, were about to face and to urge Judah to return and submit to God. In this first part of Chapter 1 v.1-3 we get a explanation of who Jeremiah is and in v.4 we find God’s call Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, and now our main text:

Before I formed you in the womb: Note the implication here, it is God who is in charge of all creation. He forms babies in there mothers wombs. Men and Women may have sexual relations but it is God alone who forms children in the womb

I knew you: Not only does God form us He knows us. In once sense this should provide great comfort on the other great fear. By that I mean if God knows us that intimately (in the womb as we are forming) we can count on Him to know our needs, on the other hand; He knows us day to day and all our little secrets? 

before you were born: Have you ever heard someone try and explain that God was not in control and didn’t have a plan? This verse refutes that. Before we were born (in this case Jeremiah but applicable to all) God has a plan for our lives. 

I consecrated you: God “Consecrated” or “Set Apart” Jeremiah for a mission to serve the Kingdom of God. The same is true for believers today Gad consecrates or Sets them Apart from the affairs of the world in order to serve Him in the world. 

I appointed you: Being Set Apart is one thing; one must then be Appointed to the task at hand. Appointed means that we have been authorized to carry out a specific task. Jeremiah was appointed by God to be a Prophet. Today many are self appointed false prophets, teachers and preachers and all must beware.  

a prophet to the nations: In the case of Jeremiah it was for the mission of prophet to the nations. God chose him specifically for that task, He has also set apart each of His chosen people for a specific task today. What that is only you and God may know with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit and your local Pastor. 

In conclusion, this verse should be when used in the proper context a shining promise of God’s love and care for His people. It is also a reminder that we have a duty to fulfill the Great Commission but that duty must be dome by those Set Apart and Appointed by God. As Calvin said:  I pass by here what might be more largely said on what is necessary in one’s call, so that he may be attended to by God’s people; for no one, by his own and private right, can claim this privilege of speaking, as I have already said, inasmuch as this is what belongs to God alone.

 

God’s Love

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If I had to pick a parallel New Testament verse that helps (me) get the message of Isaiah 59:1-2 it has to be Romans 8:38-39. I know some of you are scratching your heads thinking what is he thinking but hear me out. Like most folks I read Romans and am greatly reassured. Nothing on this earth can separate me from the Love of God. That is a pretty powerful stuff. 

Of course I have never been one to leave things alone, so I digging a little deeper I loo at these verses and confirm that no “outside’ force is “able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But what about something on the inside? Shift gears with me and taking in the whole counsel of God let’s look at the nation of Israel and Isaiah 59:1-2 in some context. Starting back in chapter 57 Isaiah has been exhorting those in Judah to repent. In chapter 58 he calls out their hypocrisy and in here in the first verses of 59 we see this conclusion of sorts:

  1. You think God does not hear you
  2. You think its because He is not capable enough
  3. You think He has forsaken you
  4. You believe He is not capable of rescuing you from you woes
  5. You are sorely wrong
  6. It is your Sin that separates you from God 

Number 6 is like a dagger to the heart, I mean there is no mistaking the message here. God is great more than capable of all things, it is Israel (read us) who is screwed up. Of course God provided Israel a way out (and us too) Christ and 1 John 1:9. I think John Calvin’s Commentary is an excellent resource on this subject:

v1. Behold, the hand of Jehovah is not shortened. This discourse closely resembles the preceding one; for, after having torn off the mask from hypocrites, who vainly boasted of themselves, and after having shown that the punishment inflicted on them was just, he now replies to other objections. Hypocrites are wont to accuse God either of weakness or of excessive severity. He shows, therefore, that he does not want either power or will to save his people, but that he is prevented by their wickedness from exercising his kindness towards them; and therefore that they do wrong in blaming God, and in uttering those slanders against him, when they ought, on the contrary, to accuse themselves.

The word hn (hen) “behold,” is emphatic, as if the Prophet spoke of something actually present, and pointed it out with the finger, for the sake of expressing certainty, in order to cut off a handle from hypocrites, that they might no longer practice evasion. We must also supply the contrasts to the words “shortened” and “benumbed;” as if he had said, that formerly there were abundant resources in the hand of God to render assistance to his people, and that he always was ready to be reconciled and lent a willing car to prayers, and that now he is not unlike himself, [129] as if either his hand were broken or his ears grown dull, so that he did not hear distinctly.

v2. But your iniquities have made a separation. The amount of what is said is, that they cannot say that God has changed, as if he had swerved from his natural disposition, but that the whole blame lies with themselves; because by their own sins they, in some measure, prevent his kindness, and refuse to receive his assistance. Hence we infer that our sins alone deprive us of the grace of God, and cause separation between us and him; for what the Prophet testifies as to the men of his time is applicable to all ages; since he pleads the cause of God, against the slanders of wicked men. Thus God is always like himself, and is not wearied in doing good; and his power is not diminished, but we hinder the entrance of his grace.

It will be objected, that men cannot anticipate God by deserving well of him, and that consequently he must do good to those who are unworthy. I reply, this is undoubtedly true; but sometimes the frowardness of men grows to such an extent as to shut the door against God’s benefits, as if they purposely intended to drive him far away from them. And although he listens to no man without pardoning him, as we always bring before him supplication for the removal of guilt, yet he does not listen to the prayers of the wicked. We need not wonder, therefore, if the Prophet accuse the people of rejecting God’s benefits by their iniquities, and rendering him irreconcilable by their obstinacy, and, in a word, of making a divorce, which drives away or turns aside the ordinary course of grace.

[129] “Il n’a point change de nature.” “He has not changed his nature.”

 

 

Weightier Matters of the Law

Matthew 23:23–24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees…you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (v. 23).

The Social Gospel movement, which arose in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries under the inspiration of theological liberalism, downplayed sin and reduced Christianity to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and other acts of social justice. There was a justifiable backlash against this movement in the churches and an exodus of people who affirmed the essential truths of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, some theological conservatives were so afraid of falling prey to the Social Gospel that works of charity ranked at the bottom of their priority list, if they were done at all.

Those who neglected acts of social welfare for fear of looking like liberals were guilty of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Though the parallels between this historical example and today’s passage are inexact, Matthew 23:23–24 warns us that it is possible to become focused on one set of God’s demands at the expense of another. The scribes and Pharisees tried to obey God’s law scrupulously; they tithed their herbs even though the Torah did not specifically require the giving of such (Deut. 14:22–23). However, their obedience did not include the weightier, and more difficult, matters of the Law. It is easy to count out a tenth of one’s cumin seeds, but it is much harder to help needy people in a substantial way. Sacrifice of time and leisure might be required to show mercy to the one who is downtrodden. Faithfulness may mean the loss of one’s job or reputation as the result of bearing witness to Christ.

The scribes and Pharisees were not wrong to tithe their smallest things; in fact, they rightly gave God a portion of all they had (Matt. 23:23–24). They erred in following the Law superficially, concerned with its letter, not its spirit, and mistakenly focused on minutiae at the expense of the duties to which tithing, and every other commandment, pointed: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, a fourth-century defender of Trinitarian orthodoxy, warns us: “God laughs at the superficial diligence of those who measure cucumbers” (On Matthew 24.7).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

John Calvin writes, “The Law is kept only when men are just, and kind, and true, towards each other; for thus they testify that they love and fear God, and give proper and sufficient evidence of sincere piety.” Commitment to justice, mercy, and faithfulness demonstrates commitment to Christ (James 2:14–26). Thus, our care for the poor and oppressed must be as evident as our concern for doctrine. What sacrifices are you making to help the poor and marginalized?

For further study: Zechariah 7:8–14

For the weekend: Isaiah 31–34

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

The Greatest Commandments

Matthew 22:34–40 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. … You shall love your neighbor as yourself” – (vv. 37–39)

 …The commandment to love is an order to do something; thus, we are to love others, serving them even if we do not feel like it. Furthermore, if love for God and neighbor are the commandments upon which the Law and Prophets hang, we cannot somehow separate love from these stipulations and define love in a way that ignores God’s law. Any act the Bible forbids is not love; rather, the Law shows us how to express true love. Paul can say, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10) and also expect Christians to live out the basic ethical code of the Old Testament (v. 9). Above all, John Calvin comments, Jesus says that “love is the first and great thing that God demands from us, and therefore the first and great thing that we should devote to him.”

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

“We learn from this, that God does not rest satisfied with the outward appearance of works, but chiefly demands the inward feelings, that from a good root good fruits may grow” (John Calvin). Love is not primarily a feeling, but Jesus certainly wants feeling and action to agree. We must act in a loving way even if the feeling is not present, but to feel love while acting is even better. Pray that your actions would always be a result of the love you possess.

For further study: Deut. 5:6–721

EXTRACT FROM: INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

PURITAN QUOTE(S) FOR TODAY – 16 & 17 July

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

God himself hath said, I will never, never forsake you – Hebrews 13:5 (Weymouth)

Whatever God can do, he unquestionably will do, if he has promised it. – John Calvin

Two negatives make an affirmative in grammar, but ten thousand will not make one in divinity. – Thomas Goodwin

THOUGHTS

The thoughts of thy heart – Daniel – 2:30

The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man – Psalm 94:11

Thy thoughts are vocal to God. – John Flavel

Thought are the spies and messengers of the soul. – Thomas Manton

Taken from: The Puritans Day by Day © The Banner of Truth Trust 2016

Check out our Faithful Steward Ministry Facebook page and Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones excellent, “Walking with God”, daily devotional. The topics are
“FACING DEATH” and “A WOULD-BE FOLLOWER”