ON MY FIRST SON

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By Ben Jonson
Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;

My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy.

Seven years tho’ wert lent to me, and I thee pay,

Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.

O, could I lose all father now! For why

Will man lament the state he should envy?

To have so soon ‘scap’d world’s and flesh’s rage,

And if no other misery, yet age?

Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say, “Here doth lie

Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.”

For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such,

As what he loves may never like too much.

Self-attestation is not fallaciously circular

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In terms of justification, the Bible is self-attesting because God is self-attesting, being ultimate and self-contained. Philosophically such self-attestation is not fallaciously circular, for all ultimate commitments (Enlightenment rationalism included) must be self-attesting if they are not to be self-referentially incoherent. Biblical authority and sola Scriptura mean that there is no brute factuality: all facts, including all extra-biblical facts, are interpreted in the light of God’s light in Scripture.

Daniel Strange. Their Rock Is Not Like Our Rock: A Theology of Religions (pp. 50-51). Zondervan.

Sermon Outline: Isaiah 15-16

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(Picture, “War & Poverty” by Kelly Short — I am using this picture because it provokes one to sympathy by seeing the horror of war — is one of the primary effects of Isaiah 15-16)

In reading Isaiah 15-16, I thought (1) How would I preach this passage? And (2) What is important in the manner of its composition: It is poetry, with a great deal of emphatic compression, repetition and imagery. Why is written like this and not as a narrative or as a didactic declaration?

I.  The Horror of Judgment

The overall tone is one of pathos. The repetition insists upon the horror and sorrow:

Ar of Moab is laid waste in a night

Kir of Moab is laid waste in a night

And so on. Every detail of the devastation is repeated and amplified. It is like a series of snapshots of broken walls, bodies and wailing. The destruction is absolute and goes down even to the earth. 16:8-10

There are refugees fleeing in all directions and the terror and sorrow spread in all directions like blood from the corpses:

Isaiah 15:8–9 (ESV)

          For a cry has gone

around the land of Moab;

her wailing reaches to Eglaim;

her wailing reaches to Beer-elim.

          For the waters of Dibon are full of blood;

for I will bring upon Dibon even more,

a lion for those of Moab who escape,

for the remnant of the land.

I can help thinking of all the millions pouring out of the Middle East who suffer loss and death and sorrow even as they flee. Any sermon must effectuate the sorrow and horror of the judgment or the sermon will have failed in its purpose.

II.  The Cause of Judgment

Second there is the cause of this devastation:

Isaiah 16:6–7 (ESV)

          We have heard of the pride of Moab—

how proud he is!—

of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence;

in his idle boasting he is not right.

          Therefore let Moab wail for Moab,

let everyone wail.

Mourn, utterly stricken,

for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.

This reminds me of Obadiah 3 (which is interesting when you compare this to Amos 1:11-12 & 2:1-3).  So this horror has come about because of pride.

III.  The Escape from Judgment

Third, this is the real bite in the passage. God has destroyed Moab with a horror beyond belief.  But God mourns the destruction:

Isaiah 15:5 (ESV)

          My heart cries out for Moab;

her fugitives flee to Zoar,

to Eglath-shelishiyah.

For at the ascent of Luhith

they go up weeping;

on the road to Horonaim

they raise a cry of destruction;

 

Isaiah 16:9 (ESV)

          Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer

for the vine of Sibmah;

I drench you with my tears,

O Heshbon and Elealeh;

for over your summer fruit and your harvest

the shout has ceased.

God loves his enemies: God judges, and yet there is compassion for the necessity of the judgment:

Luke 19:41–44

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

There is a command to shelter the refugees:

Isaiah 16:3–5 (ESV)

          “Give counsel;

grant justice;

make your shade like night

at the height of noon;

shelter the outcasts;

do not reveal the fugitive;

          let the outcasts of Moab

sojourn among you;

be a shelter to them

from the destroyer.

When the oppressor is no more,

and destruction has ceased,

and he who tramples underfoot has vanished from the land,

          then a throne will be established in steadfast love,

and on it will sit in faithfulness

in the tent of David

one who judges and seeks justice

and is swift to do righteousness.”

Notice this command ends with the protection in the tent of David. This phrase “tent of David” matches (in the LXX) the language of Acts 15:16:

The citation from Amos 9:12 follows the LXX fairly closely, though this version differs from the Massoretic (Hebrew) text in significant ways.49 ‘Precisely the divergence of the LXX from the Hebrew enables the text to be used midrashically.’50 The purpose of this restoration of the Davidic rule is not simply to bless Israel but also ‘ “that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things” ’. James adds words possibly taken from Isaiah 45:21 ‘ “(things known from long ago” ’) as a gloss on the concluding words from Amos 9:12 (‘ “these things” ’).51 This addition strengthens the claim that God’s plan to save Gentiles along with Jews is no novelty, since it was part of his eternal purpose (cf. Rom. 15:8–12).

David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 432.

The language of the throne coupled to the tent of David strengthens the tie to Jesus (and all of the cross-references to Jesus based upon this language).

The reason why the sorrow and terror are seen throughout the poem is that God intends to provoke the same sorrow and terror in the hearer. Moab is guilty. The judgment is justice, but it is sad, frightening event. God is calling upon his people to rescue the judged people of Moab.

It is interesting that it is not certain what attack is being foretold:

The first part of the prophecy, 15:1–9, tells of the devastating effect of the disaster which was to befall Moab. As noted above, the actual nature of the attack cannot be determined from the general account here. The major emphasis is upon the effect, which will be that the Moabites will be so demoralized that their only response will be weeping and flight.

John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 336–337.

But by analogy, the lesser judgment all foretell the greater judgment to come. This would lend itself, by such analogy to a very evangelistic plea. The tie to seeking protection in the tent of David would strengthen the argument.

God foretells this judgment, primarily to the people of God, to provoke them with both the horror of the judgment and the sorrow of the victims (who deserve the judgment) so that they will reach out and rescue these people by bringing them into the tent of David.

The Lie

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Sir Walter Raleigh (1552(?)–1618)

 

GO, Soul, the body’s guest, 

  Upon a thankless arrant: 

Fear not to touch the best; 

  The truth shall be thy warrant: 

Go, since I needs must die, 5

And give the world the lie. 

 

Say to the court, it glows 

  And shines like rotten wood; 

Say to the church, it shows 

  What’s good, and doth no good: 10

If church and court reply, 

Then give them both the lie. 

 

Tell potentates, they live 

  Acting by others’ action; 

Not loved unless they give, 15

  Not strong, but by a faction: 

If potentates reply, 

Give potentates the lie. 

 

Tell men of high condition, 

  That manage the estate, 20

Their purpose is ambition, 

  Their practice only hate: 

And if they once reply, 

Then give them all the lie. 

 

Tell them that brave it most, 25

  They beg for more by spending, 

Who, in their greatest cost, 

  Seek nothing but commending: 

And if they make reply, 

Then give them all the lie. 30

 

Tell zeal it wants devotion; 

  Tell love it is but lust; 

Tell time it is but motion; 

  Tell flesh it is but dust: 

And wish them not reply, 35

For thou must give the lie. 

 

Tell age it daily wasteth; 

  Tell honour how it alters; 

Tell beauty how she blasteth; 

  Tell favour how it falters: 40

And as they shall reply, 

Give every one the lie. 

 

Tell wit how much it wrangles 

  In tickle points of niceness; 

Tell wisdom she entangles 45

  Herself in over-wiseness: 

And when they do reply, 

Straight give them both the lie. 

 

Tell physic of her boldness; 

  Tell skill it is pretension; 50

Tell charity of coldness; 

  Tell law it is contention: 

And as they do reply, 

So give them still the lie. 

 

Tell fortune of her blindness; 55

  Tell nature of decay; 

Tell friendship of unkindness; 

  Tell justice of delay; 

And if they will reply, 

Then give them all the lie. 60

 

Tell arts they have no soundness, 

  But vary by esteeming; 

Tell schools they want profoundness, 

  And stand too much on seeming: 

If arts and schools reply, 65

Give arts and schools the lie. 

 

Tell faith it’s fled the city; 

  Tell how the country erreth; 

Tell, manhood shakes off pity; 

  Tell, virtue least preferreth: 70

And if they do reply, 

Spare not to give the lie. 

 

So when thou hast, as I 

  Commanded thee, done blabbing,— 

Although to give the lie 75

  Deserves no less than stabbing,— 

Stab at thee he that will, 

No stab the soul can kill. 

 

Orthodox Paradoxes, Miscellaneous Part 5

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More from Ralph Venning’s Orthodox Paradoxes (1650):

He is careful in nothing, yet none so careful as he.
He believes that though he lie in the grave a thousand years, yet he shall be with God as soon as he dies.
He esteems his name a precious ointment, yet cares not who reviles him.
He importunate to prevail with God, yet he think not to prevail for his importunity.
he believes that none know the heart of God, and yet he meets with many saints who can tell him his heart.
He believes ’tis life eternal to know God, and yet he accounts it his happiness to be known of God.
He finds that grace never waxes old, though it be ever growing; but that elder ’tis, the new ’tis.
He believes that a man converted is the same man that he was before; and yet he believes that he is more man and more than man.
He does not know his own wants, and yet he makes them known to God.
He is no prophet and yet his prayers are prophecies.
He is afraid to think of God, least he wrong him; and yet he believes that he should wrong God should not think of him.
He knows that idiots are not fit for counsellors, and yet one of them God takes his sages.
he finds that love of God has height and depth without ends, length without points, breadth, yet no lines, that it is circular (emblem of eternity) and yet fills every angle.
He would be anything rather than nothing, yet he would be nothing if that would exalt his God.
He believes that man’s will does freely turn to God, and yet that man has not freewill to turn to God.
He gives no price for grace, and yet he values it above all price.
He loves the consolations of God; but the God of consolation is his love.
He fears God, and yet is not afraid of God.
He knows that similitude has some loveliness in it; yet he does account hypocrisy the more odious because of its similitude to Religion.
He believes that some have grace who cannot define it; and that some can define it who have it not.
He is always in pilgrimage, and yet he is never from home.
He believes that God tempts no man; and yet believes that God tempted Abraham.
He is very jealous lest God should leave him, and yet he believes God will never do it.
he believes that having made a promise, he ought to be as good as his word, and yet he thinks he may go from his word to go to truth.
He believes that a saint has a vocation on earth, but that earth is his advocation.
God has commanded him to love his neighbor, and yet God requires all his heart for himself.
He seems much folly in the world and much confusion, and yet he sees wisdom and order therein.

Orthodox Paradoxes, Miscellaneous Part 4

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You can find the previous section from Ralph Venning’s Orthodox Paradoxes (1650) here:

He believes that God saves men freely, and yet be believes that Christ bought salvation for them.
He believe that God will reward him for all he does for good; and yet whatsoever he does for God, God does it in him.
He believes that God is always giving out himself to the being of creates and faith of saints, and yet remains as full as he ever was.
There is nothing so clear to him as godliness, and yet there is nothing more mysterious.
There is no man denies himself but he, and yet there is no man who seeks himself so much as he.
He sometimes misses what he would have, and yet he think not his will to be therein crossed.
He knows he does not live by bread, and yet he eats to maintain his life.
He believes that his prayers do purchase nothing; and yet he could not expect to enjoy what he does if he did not pray.
He is by the Spirit led into duties, and led out of them by the same Spirit.
He cannot demonstrate what he knows in believing, and yet his knowledge by faith is as clear as any demonstration.
He believes that his qualification do not cause God’s love; and yet he might question whether God loved him if he were not qualified.
He prises righteousness at a high rate, and yet he counts his righteousness no better than dung.
He knows that he can never attain to the perfection of God; and yet he labors to be perfect as God is perfect.
He is all men most humble, yet none has a heart so lifted up as he.
He drinks gall and wormwood, yet accounts it sweeter than honey or the honey-comb.
There is no so vile among men as he; there is none among men so honorable.
He thinks highly of himself, though the world despise him; and yet despises himself though God should think highly of him
He is the meekest man upon all the earth, yet none so angry as he.
He would willing be the best of saints, yet is willing that everyone be better than himself.
He believes that God does always hear his prayers, and yet he often goes without that he prays for.
There are none so much in love peace as he, yet none maintain such a constant warfare.
He believes that he shall never be infinite; and yet he believes that he shall be filled with an infinite God.

Growing Peace in a Garden

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(Monet, Garden Gate, 1881)

Beginning this week, I have been tasked with teaching a series to help create a peacemaking culture in the local congregation. We hope that this will be something which may be of use to others in the future. Anyway, here is the series introduction:

The Goal of this Series

I have a garden. But nothing will grow there, if I do not plant and water; care for the soil, drive off pests, prune, support. Nothing I do makes the seed grow; but if I do not work, nothing will grow.

My garden takes constant care. If I fail to water, the plants will die. If I do not tend the soil, the plants will be weak. If I do not drive off insects and vermin, I will lose all my work. My garden may never be perfect; but if I do my work, my garden will be fruitful.

A congregation of God’s people, gathered for worship is a garden, a vineyard. God calls his people his vineyard from whom God expects fruit. And one of sweetest fruits, one with a beautiful color and a ravishing scent is the fruit of peace.

Paul begins each of his letter with a prayer for peace: “and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Peter prays, “peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2). If we must pray for it, then it is something given to us. And if it something which the apostles constantly pray that God will bestow, then peace must be very precious.

Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ….” (Gal. 5:22). Jesus says that he is the one who gives peace, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27).  Paul says that God is the “God of peace” (Rom. 15:33).

Jesus is “our peace” (Eph. 2:14). And so we have “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1), and there is also peace among men. (Eph. 2:14-15). Indeed, when the Son came into the world, the angels sang of the peace brought into creation:

Glory to God in the highest

And on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased.

Luke 2:14. This peace of God, this peace which passes all understanding, is the divine gift of the sovereign God. Just as the gardener cannot make the seed grow, so the Christian cannot force the gift of peace.

Although we know that peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can so desire the good of peace and unity that we can try and force a peace. There can be a peace of silence and acquiescence, in which we are peaceful because we simply don’t care. There is a political peace, where we are peace in our actions but not in our hearts. It is a lack of fighting, and yet without any divine love. We can have a manipulative peace, or a fearful peace. We can have a peace which is based upon all of us getting along – but it is a peace which does not require Christ.

These false varieties of peace are like weeds growing bright green in the garden – they may even be strong and healthy, but there is no fruit. Or perhaps we could think of them like plastic grapes and silk flowers which look real from a distance.

And so we cannot obtain peace directly anymore than we can make the seed grow. Rather, to obtain peace we must learn to tend the garden of the church in such a way that peace naturally grows from the soil. We will have a great deal of work; we will need to water, and prune and support and drive off squirrels. But, we know from the promise of God and the constant demonstration of his work in the church, that peace – not perfect, due to our ongoing sin – will blossom and come to fruition.

In this series, our goal is to learn and live that sort of life which most naturally flowers into peace.  To do that, we will work through the Sermon on the Mount.

As obvious as it may be to jump ahead to love one’s enemies, or turn the other check, we are going to start at the beginning. We will trust there is wisdom in the Scripture to teach us in the right order, to uncover our weakness and correct those thing which are twisted in just the right order.

 

 

The Master of Misrule in the World

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PRIDE is the greatest master of misrule in the world; it is the great incendiary in the soul of man, in families, in towns, in cities, in all societies, in church and state: this wind causeth tempests to arise. Prov. 13:10: “Only by pride cometh contention.” The Holy Ghost singles out PRIDE, as the only cause of all contentions, because it is the chief; though there be many in a riot, the whole is usually laid upon the ringleaders. Pride is the ringleader to all riots, divisions, disturbances among us. Prov. 21:24: “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.” Pride may be well indicated for the great common barrator, or wrangler, in all our towns and cities; it makes woful troubles wherever it comes.

Jeremiah Burroughs, Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions (New York: Carlton & Phillips, 1855), 7–8.

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