Dickens in America


And so begins the Douglas Muzzio’s essay on Dicken’s trip to America. And yet, since he brings up Dicken’s correct insistence on the protection of copyright (Dickens lost a fortune to pirates of his works), I will quote no more than the first paragraph in the sole hope that you will read the rest:

On February 12, 1842, after a triumphal three-week stay in Boston and gala receptions and dinners in Worcester, Springfield, and Hartford, Charles Dickens—universally known by his pseudonym, “Boz”—landed at South Street in lower Manhattan on the packet New York from New Haven. When he stepped off the boat with his wife, Catherine (Kate), Dickens was greeted by a throng of cheering admirers, whom the New York Herald described as “perfectly whirlwindish . . . a promiscuous assemblage of bipeds that covered the dock as barnacles a ship’s bottom.” The paper crowed: “At last Boz breathes the balmy atmosphere of the Queen City of the Empire State.”

John Ruskin on Pride, with a note on persuasion.


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(Again, I am working on an extended piece concerning persuasion. Here, again, are some very rough notes that will be worked in).

Here is an extended quotation from John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lillies, “Of King’s Treasuries. In this section he discuss the motivation of pride, to be over others as a driving force:

4. I am not about to attack or defend this impulse. I want you only to feel how it lies at the root of effort; especially of all modern effort. It is the gratification of vanity which is, with us, the stimulus of toil, and balm of repose; so closely does it touch the very springs of life that the wounding of our vanity is always spoken of (and truly) as in its measure mortal; we call it “mortification,” using the same expression whichwe should apply to a gangrenous and incurable bodily hurt. And although few of us may be physicians enough to recognize the various effect of this passion upon health and energy, I believe most honest men know, and would at once acknowledge, its leading power with them as a motive.

He then gives three examples of men who seek advancement for the status it brings; not because they believe themselves more capable:

The seaman does not commonly desire to be made captain only because he knows he can manage the ship better than any other sailor on board. He wants to be made captain that he may be called captain. The clergyman does not usually want to be made a bishop only because he believes no other hand can, as firmly as his, direct the diocese through its difficulties. He wants to be made bishop primarily that he may be called “My Lord.” And a prince does not usually desire to enlarge, or a subject to gain, a kingdom, because he believes that no one else can as well serve the State, upon its throne; but, briefly, because he wishes to be addressed as “Your Majesty,” by as many lips as may be brought to such utterance.


He then takes issue further than career: it is the impulse to be liked by the “best people” — it is the mechanism of social media in our time. The desire to be looked at by those whose attention we desire:

5. This, then, being the main idea of “advancement in life,” the force of it applies, forall of us, according to our station, particularly to that secondary result of such advancement which we call “getting into good society.” We want to get into good society,  not that we may have it, but that we may be seen in it; and our notion of its goodness depends primarily on its conspicuousness.

The original of this piece was as a speech, and so at this point Ruskin asks a question. He begins by stating the background: is the only motivation for human behavior acquisition and jealous — at least as for business:

Will you pardon me if I pause for a moment to put what I fear you may think an im- pertinent question? I never can go on with an address unless I feel, or know, that my audience are either with me or against me: I do not much care which, in beginning; but I must know where they are; and I would fain find out, at this instant, whether you think I am putting the motives of popular action too low. I am resolved, tonight, to state them low enough to be admitted as probable; for whenever, in my writings on Political Economy, I assume that a little honesty, or generosity — or what used to be called “virtue” — may be calculated upon as a human motive of action, people always answer me, saying, “You must not calculate on that: that is not in human nature: you must not assume anything to be common to men but acquisitiveness and jealousy; no other feeling ever has influence on them, except accidentally, and in matters out of the way of business.”

He posits a different motivation: love of praise:

I begin, accordingly, tonight low in the scale of motives; but I must know if you think me right in doing so. Therefore, let me ask those who admit the love of praise to be usually the strongest motive in men’s minds in seeking advancement, and the honest desire of doing any kind of duty to be an entirely secondary one, to hold up their hands. (About a dozen hands held up — the audience,partly not being sure the lecturer is serious, and, partly, shy of expressing opinion.) I am quite serious — I really do want to know what you think; however, I can judge by putting the reverse question.

He then puts this into context with duty:

Will those who think that duty is generally the first, and love of praise the second, motive, hold up their hands? (One hand reported to have been held up, behind the lecturer.) Very good; I see you are with me, and that you think I have not begun too near the ground. Now, without teasing you by putting farther question, I venture to assume that you will admit duty as at least a secondary or tertiary motive. You think that the desire of doing something useful, or obtaining some real good, is indeed an existent collateral idea, though a secondary one, inmost men’s desire of advancement. You will grant that moderately honest men desire place and office, at least in some measure, for the sake of beneficent power; and would wish to associate rather with sensible and well-informed persons than with fools and ignorant persons, whether they are seen in the company of the sensible ones or not.

While perhaps not every person finds praise a motivation; or perhaps not every person is affected by the same degree; here is a lever which moves many (if not all) men and women. People will do a great deal simply to be honored, respected, adored.

From this we can deduce that human beings are susceptible to be dragged about their love of praise (and its converse, the desire to not be mocked, attacked, excluded). We must realize two things: First, that we are susceptible ourselves. To think otherwise is to praise ourselves as somehow above other human beings. Second, we should become aware of how this love of praise is used as a weapon to persuade and motivate others.

As for the first: in the words of AA you will have to do your own “searching and fearless moral inventory” (I had to look it up to get the quote straight) on how praise affects you. It is a funny thing about praise — we want it dearly and yet will deny it when asked. It is a bashful desire.

But as for the second, think of how say advertisements work. While not the entire mechanism, there is always the implicit praise for the one who made the right choice. You don’t want to the shunned one who took the wrong vacation, wears the wrong clothes, et cetera. You want to be the person whom everyone praises as being the best: the most in style.

We find great value in praising the best team, the best movie, liking the best song — because then some of the aura of that well-praised person becomes ours by reflection. For example, a book is advertised as being a best-seller, the movie has a record breaking weekend, the song presented some fancy metal “record” award. We want to be part of that — we will buy so that we can partake in the adulation at a distance.

And here is what is funny: we think ourselves better for doing what “everyone” else is doing. Thus, we have a pride of superiority in being part of the crowd (and since when did the crowd know best?).

This persuasive ploy need not be extended or obvious. In fact, if it is too apparent, it will easily be off-putting. But, we smell out our own advancement so easily that we can find the least hint of praise hidden in the middle of a pitch. It is catnip.

Merely consider the advertisements and the pitches of politicians (politicians are the most wonderful of all salesmen, because they most often sell nothing at all; they waive promises, which cost them nothing to manufacture — yet they can sold at great cost).


Bruce Baugus: The Disease of Ambition



I suspect we do a poor job distinguishing between the two types of ambition or recognizing the perversity of eritheia. Selfish ambition, at least to a certain degree, is not only an acceptable sin in our culture but a seemingly necessary one to succeed in the world. It may also be incentivized in a church culture caving into the temptation to elevate the public image of success above qualities like quiet and steady faithfulness in relative obscurity, a work-ethic rooted in giving and helping rather than getting and keeping, and a willingness to go without and sacrifice for the good of others.

We cannot esteem worldly success without neglecting godliness and overlooking spiritual maturity. Worldly success is not a bad thing, but it is not to be confused with being above reproach or enjoying a good reputation and it may indicate little more than selfish ambition–the disease of greatness. In ministers and congregations it may even dress itself in claims of kingdom growth, public witness, administrative acumen, evangelistic fruitfulness, entrepreneurial spirit, and so on. These are all highly desirable objects, but sin can twist each one into a pious-sounding cover for eritheia.

I suspect this is the primary root of most church conflict: There is selfish ambition which dresses itself up as something good and spiritual. Read the whole thing

Soren Kierkegaard, Christ is the Way, Part One


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The Ascension, John Singleton Copley, 1775

Christ is the Way is a Sermon Three Discourses published 1851. The translation is by Walter Lowrie (Princeton University Press 1941)

Christ is the Way Part One

Acts 1:1-12, Ascension Day

The prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst behold Thy fate in advance and yet didst not draw back; This who didst suffer Thyself to be born int poverty and lowliness, and thereafter in poverty and lowliness didst bear the sin of the world, being ever a sufferer until, hated, forsaken, mocked, and spat upon, in the end deserted even by God, Thou didst bow Thy head in death of shame — oh, but Thou didst yet life it up again, Thou eternal victor, Thou who wast not, it is true, victorious over Thine enemies in this life, but in death wast victorious even over death; Thou didst lift up Thy head, for ever victorious, Thou who are ascended into heave! Would that we might follow Thee!

The sermon:

Christ is the way. This is His own work, so surely it must be true.

And this way is narrow.


He then makes the observations that the narrow way is set out in Christ’s own life: “thou hast only to look at him, and at once thou dost see that the way is narrow.” Yes, Christ said this – but Christ also lived this life: “this is much more solid and much more forcible proclamation that the way is narrow … than if his life had not expressed it.”

The life of Christ was a constant comment and illustration – a proof that the way is narrow.

SK then compares the life of Christ and his preaching – being one and the same – with the life and preaching of many who came later, “a man whose life …. expresses the exact opposite, then preaches Christianity for half an hour. Such preaching transforms Christianity into its exact opposite.”

How then was Christ’s life narrow:

It was narrow in his “poverty and wretchedness” of his birth young life. It was present in his life being assaulted with temptation.

It was narrow in that he had to work to avoid being king – when so many men (“the universal human trait to aspire to be regarded as something great”) – aspire to be king.

And think of his love:

Now he performs again a work of love towards this people (and His whole life was nothing else but this), but He knew at the same instant what it means, that also this work of love contributes to bring Him to the cross

His life only proceeds into narrower straits. One could live with something difficult knowing that things will improve: but to know that they will only become more difficult, more trying is a narrow way.  He could have defended himself. He could have ended his difficulty – and so it was narrow to know his difficulty, how it would end; to know that he could also end the suffering, and then to proceed.

Yes there is an ascension – but the Ascension does not come without death. There is a way to the Ascension but it is a narrow way that leads through death.

Philippians Resolutions: Philippians 1:15

Think on This

Some, indeed, preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. –Philippians 1:15

Resolution: Resolved to guard my heart against envy of another servant of Christ by being consciously thankful to God for their ministry, their gifts to the Body, and how God chooses to use them.

In the end, there are two types of preachers. There are those who preach and teach with “good will”, seeking to make Christ known, and there are those who do so for any other reason. Paul mentions the two here, and while the second group is easier to understand, the first group concerns my resolution, rebuking my heart when I feel envy and rivalry, and correcting it back on to the right path. It is interesting that both groups do, outwardly, what Jesus would call us to do, they preach the gospel, maybe even with the same fervor and passion as…

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David Lynch on video and memory


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Lynch also expressed disappointment with sharing videos on such platforms as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. The director banned festival-goers from using their phones during his hour-long discussion on May 20, with everyone in the audience forced to put their mobile devices in locked cases that could only be unlocked once they’d left the venue.

Lynch argued that not only do video phones make people more occupied with capturing an experience than actually experiencing one, they also can’t provide people with the benefits of memory. The director said that camera phones “don’t shoot your interior,” so you’re better off reliving an event by relying on your memories of the emotional experience than by watching recorded video footage of whatever it is you’ve seen


How should one translate Ecclesiates 2:24a?


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(This is a question I am posting over at the Facebook Group, Nerdy Language Majors — if you’re a language geek, it is a great place to discuss Greek, Latin, Hebrew and other far more exotic ancient languages)

A translation history question: How did the Hebrew text end up as the standard English translation? This was a question I had with a friend the other evening. We may have missed something quite obvious. Moreover, it is quite possible that one of the members of this group was actually involved in the English language translation decisions. Here is the text and the history of translation from Greek to English:

Ecclesiastes 2:24 (BHS/WHM 4.2)

24   אֵֽין־ט֤וֹב בָּאָדָם֙ שֶׁיֹּאכַ֣ל

Which as Young’s Literal Translation reads:


Ecclesiastes 2:24 (YLT)

24There is nothing good in a man who eateth,


The Septuagint reads

Ecclesiastes 2:24 (LXX)

24 Οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ,

(Not there is good in (a) man/human being).


The change seems to come in the Vulage:

 24 Nonne melius est comedere

The word good (tob, agathos) is here “melius” the comparative form of “good”; hence, “better”. As is seen in the English translation of the Vulgate:

Ecclesiastes 2:24 (D-R)

24 Is it not better to eat

The German has

Kohelet 2,24(LUT1912)

  1. Ist’s nun nicht besser dem Menschen,

The AV

Ecclesiastes 2:24 (AV)

24 There isnothing better for a man,thanthat he should eat

And this patter is seen in all the major modern English translations, such as

Ecclesiastes 2:24 (ESV)

24 There is nothing better for a person than that ….

How is this explained?  The Hebrew pattern is not the standard comparative structure. In fact, we could not come up with a similar Hebrew pattern which was translated as a comparative. We surmised that Vulgate provided a gloss which was then followed by Luther & the AV. The combined weight of the Vulgate, Luther and the AV exerted sufficient gravity to draw along the following English translations. Is our theory correct? Did we miss something painfully obvious in the Hebrew?

Edward Feser: Materialism Subverts Itself

So, if we start with the modern materialist’s conception of matter and start to unpack it, materialism ends up being transformed into one or another of the various views that one would have thought to be at odds with materialism – dualism, panpsychism, Platonism, idealism, or pantheism.

You’ll have to read it yourself You really should be reading him if you are at all interested in philosophy

James Denney: Walking in the Light


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“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”—1 JOHN 1:7.

THIS is one of the passages in Scripture in which the language is so spiritual, and so remote from that which we use in daily life, that it is apt to leave no impression on our minds. We have no inclination to dispute it, but it does not arrest us.

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 216.

Denney goes onto note elements of this passage: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light” and “We have fellowship with one another”. These two elements combine for our sanctification:

This text brings before us two of the great experiences and privileges of Christians, and the condition on which they depend. These experiences are, first, mutual fellowship, and second, continuous sanctification.

What of this sanctification:

The mutual fellowship of Christians is a fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, and there is no justification known to Scripture which does not sanctify, nor any sanctification which does not rest on a fundamental annulling of the responsibility for sin.

And now to the first element: to walk in the light as he is in the light.

Denney observes that this language of light and darkness is never unpacked and explained by John, because, “Partly they do not need explanation and partly they do not admit of it.”

What then is to walk in the light?

To walk in the light means to live a life in which there is nothing hidden, nothing in which we are insincere with ourselves, nothing in which we seek to impose upon others. We may have, and no doubt we will have, both sin and the sense of sin upon us—“if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”—but we may walk in the light nevertheless, if we deal truly with our sin, and it is only as we do so that we enjoy Christian fellowship and are cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

Here, walking in the light we both enjoy true Christian fellowship and also have our sins cleansed. What then is involved in walking in the light?

It requires in the first place prompt confession of sin. The sin that lies upon the conscience unconfessed darkens the whole moral being. But to confess is not the first impulse when we have sinned. Pride, fear, shame, and other powerful feelings keep us back.

This confession is not bare just words:

Further, to walk in the light means that we confess our sins without reserve. Sometimes we do not really confess when we think we are doing so: we rather admit our sins than confess them, and we seek in all possible ways to explain, to extenuate and to excuse them. We may confess them in words, but in the secret of our hearts we do not take blame; we do not admit full responsibility for them.

Confession is to place the blame upon ourselves, period. There must be no lessening of the guilt – indeed there is no need for such, because Christ’s death was sufficient for all sin.

Moreover, confession means to not mere admit but also renounce:

Finally, to walk in the light means that when we confess our sins to God we do not keep a secret hold of them in our hearts. Many a man confesses the sin he has done, and knows that he is going to do it again. It is not only in his nature to do it; it is in his inmost desire. He has been found out, exposed, humiliated, punished; yet he is saying to himself, “When shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.” It need not be said that there is no hope here: this is the man who is shut up at last in the iron cage of despair.

This mention of a man in an iron cage comes from Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian has come to the Interpreter’s House

So he took him by the hand again, and led him into a very dark room, where there sat a man in an iron cage.
Now the man, to look on, seemed very sad; he sat with his eyes looking down to the ground, his hands folded together, and he sighed as if he would break his heart. Then said Christian, What means this? At which the Interpreter bid him talk with the man.
Then said Christian to the man, What art thou? The man answered, I am what I was not once.
CHR. What wast thou once?
MAN. The man said, I was once a fair and flourishing professor, Luke 8:13, both in mine own eyes, and also in the eyes of others: I once was, as I thought, fair for the celestial city, and had then even joy at the thoughts that I should get thither.
CHR. Well, but what art thou now?
MAN. I am now a man of despair, and am shut up in it, as in this iron cage. I cannot get out; Oh now I cannot!
CHR. But how camest thou into this condition?
MAN. I left off to watch and be sober: I laid the reins upon the neck of my lusts; I sinned against the light of the word, and the goodness of God; I have grieved the Spirit, and he is gone; I tempted the devil, and he is come to me; I have provoked God to anger, and he has left me: I have so hardened my heart, that I cannot repent.
Then said Christian to the Interpreter, But is there no hope for such a man as this? Ask him, said the Interpreter.
CHR. Then said Christian, Is there no hope, but you must be kept in the iron cage of despair?
MAN. No, none at all.
CHR. Why, the Son of the Blessed is very pitiful.
MAN. I have crucified him to myself afresh, Heb. 6:6; I have despised his person, Luke 19:14; I have despised his righteousness; I have counted his blood an unholy thing; I have done despite to the spirit of grace, Heb. 10:29: therefore I have shut myself out of all the promises and there now remains to me nothing but threatenings, dreadful threatenings, faithful threatenings of certain judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour me as an adversary.
CHR. For what did you bring yourself into this condition?
MAN. For the lusts, pleasures, and profits of this world; in the enjoyment of which I did then promise myself much delight: but now every one of those things also bite me, and gnaw me like a burning worm.
CHR. But canst thou not now repent and turn?
MAN. God hath denied me repentance. His word gives me no encouragement to believe; yea, himself hath shut me up in this iron cage: nor can all the men in the world let me out. Oh eternity! eternity! how shall I grapple with the misery that I must meet with in eternity?
INTER. Then said the Interpreter to Christian, Let this man’s misery be remembered by thee, and be an everlasting caution to thee.

To confess, but not confess because we cling onto a sin is to not confess at all but rather to set ourselves up in an iron cage.

And now to the second point of the sermon:

2. (a) We have fellowship one with another.—The fellowship of Christians with each other has its basis in their common fellowship with the Father and the Son, but it is a separate and priceless good. The joy of the Christian religion is largely bound up with it, and without joy there can be little effectiveness, because little attraction or charm.

Denney then speaks of the poverty of Christian fellowship as follows:

It can hardly be doubted that the want of fellowship, in this primary Christian sense, is at this moment one of the greatest wants in the Church’s life—the one which is most to be deplored, which more almost than any other makes the Church helpless and exposes it to contempt. Is it not pitiable to see the substitutes that are found for it, and the importance which is assigned to them, only because the real thing is not there? We speak of having “a social meeting” of the Church, as if a meeting could not be social unless its Christian character were disguised or put into the background.

And this brings us to a question:

Why is it that the powerful and fundamental fellowship constituted simply by membership in the Church has fallen into the background?

Why is that so, because we have not met the first element of the passage:

According to the Apostle, it is because we do not walk in the light as God is in the light. We sit here side by side, but how far are we really present to each other? How many of us are there who have things to hide? How many who have done what no one knows, and what they have not told unreservedly even to God?

But this fact of true fellowship is not the only element of such walking in the light:

The restoration of Christian fellowship is not the only blessing which comes with walking in the light: there is also continuous and progressive sanctification. The blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from all sin. This is not spoken of simply as God’s will, as that which He intends shall take place; it is spoken of as actually going on.

Indeed, “it is the will of God to cleanse us altogether from [sin] and He has the provided a power which is able to do so.”

This is all premised upon Christ’s atonement. It is atonement which both cleanses us from sin and which brings about fellowship – indeed it is the atonement which makes it possible to walk in the light.

Denney ends with the observation that this fellowship, cleansing and walking in the light are all of a piece:

There is power in the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all sin, and there is no power to cleanse us anywhere else, but it needs the condition of openness and sincerity. We cannot be cleansed from the sin we do not confess. We cannot be cleansed from the sin we excuse. We cannot be cleansed from the sin to which we are secretly resolved to cling. And if not from these, then not from any. The Gospel is simple and whole; there is no such thing as negotiation, transaction, or compromise possible in the relations of God and man. Everything is absolute. We may take the Gospel or leave it, but we cannot bargain about it. We may be cleansed from all sin, or from none, but not from some on condition of retaining others. Walk in the light, and all this will be self-evident. Renounce with all your heart everything secret and insincere. Let there be nothing hidden in your life, no unavowed ends, no prevarications, no reserves. Simple truth is the one element in which we can be united to each other, and in which the redeeming love of God can work for our sanctification. Insincerity, the dark atmosphere in which so many souls live, is in its turn one of the forms of sin from which the blood of Christ cleanses; and as we confess it, and disown it, and bring it to the cleansing blood, it also loses its power. We can learn even to be sincere under the power of the death of Jesus—to hide nothing from God, to practise no delusions on ourselves, to refrain from imposing on others. This is the way in which all the wealth of the Gospel becomes ours; when we walk in it we realize that the Apostles wrote for us, and that the greatest and most wonderful things they say of Christ and His blood are the simple truth.

Some Further Notes on Hosea 2:14-15


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Hosea 2:14–15(ESV)

The Lord’s Mercy on Israel

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her,

and bring her into the wilderness,

and speak tenderly to her.

15  And there I will give her her vineyards

and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,

as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

This comes to the next question: How does God speak?

This question actually breaks into two question: First, how does God in the sense of mode: What manner of speaking does God use? Does God speak from mountain? Does God send a prophet? Does God send an angel?  The second question concerns justice: How does God overcome the injustice of Israel? How can God do this thing and redeem this bride?

 How Does God Overcome Justice?

To take the last question first, we need to consider the problem. God is our judge and the offended party. Justice must be done by both and for both.

If I am slighted by you, I can certainly overlook the wrong. We all do this every day; someone is brusque: someone bumps you carelessly, someone cuts you off on the freeway, someone answers discourteously. There are a thousand minor insults we all suffer and all overlook.

Now let us consider more serious wrongs: some does you a serious wrong: someone steals from you, causes you physical injury; someone slanders you and ruins your reputation, runs off your friends and takes your job. When someone causes a substantial injury, a substantial reconciliation must take place. A simple, “Sorry!” won’t restore what has been lost.

But let us consider something even more substantial. You have suffered a true and terrible criminal wrong. Someone has murdered or raped. The culprit has been apprehended. Trial has been conducted, and the culprit has confessed. The wrong is real, the wrongdoer has been caught, and the judge is called to execute the sentence.

Think of the evil which would result if the judge simply ignored the fault. It would be morally wrong, it would be truly evil if the judge refused to bring justice to bear.

We all rightly know the outrage we feel when we see a true monster go free. Justice demands justice. It is not mere emotion: it is an objective need that justice right what is wrong. If the judge refuses to do justice, the judge himself has become unjust. A judge who lets a murderer go free, is a judge who taken part in the murder; the judge has joined himself to the murderer.

Israel’s wrongs were astounding: the wrongs went back centuries. The Israelites had become no better than the Canaanites whom the Lord had driven from the land. They were as depraved, vicious, perverse as those whom God removed. God could not be God, God could not be just, could not uphold his own word if God were to simply ignore Israel’s evil.

And this is perhaps the element which is hardest for us to understand – and yet it is the element which displays the greatest evil – Israel rejected the worship of the true God. Israel knowingly and purposefully refused to believe, trust, thank the one who had created and sustained them, the one who fed and protected them.  As Paul says in Romans 1

Romans 1:21 (ESV)

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

They were not thankful.

What is God to do? This is not a mere matter of God overlooking their wrong: they have obliterated their duties, their affection, their relationship with God. They have trampled upon the Law and ignored justice. God would himself be unjust God to simply forgo justice in the name of mercy. That would be no mercy, but would rather be another round of injustice.

How is God to settle the score of Israel’s injustice and so speak tenderly to her?

How Does God in Fact Speak?

God does in fact speak from a mountain (but not a flaming mountain). God does send angels. God does send prophets. God does speak tenderly. God does speak to Israel in the wilderness. God does speak.

But where and how?

First, God speaks:

John 1:1–14 (ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.


God did send angels:

Luke 2:8–21 (ESV)

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14         “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.


God spoke from a mountain:

Matthew 5:1–2 (ESV)

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:


But not a flaming mountain:

Hebrews 12:18–24 (ESV)

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.


God did send prophets:

Matthew 11:8–10 (ESV)

What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,

who will prepare your way before you.’


Matthew 21:11 (ESV)


11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”


God did speak to Israel in the wilderness:

Mark 1:1–4 (ESV)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,

who will prepare your way,

          the voice of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight,’ ”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.


God did speak tenderly:

Matthew 23:37–39 (ESV)

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”


And he is speaking now:

Hebrews 12:25 (ESV)

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.