Saturday, December 10, 2005

18th Century Theology with Thomas Boston 7

—•— Ordinances—•—

II. I come now to that question,

“What is required in the second commandment? The second commandment requireth the receiving observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.”

In handling this point, I shall show,

I. What is that religious worship, and those ordinances, which God hath appointed in his word.

II. What is our duty with reference to those ordinances.

I. I shall show what is that religious worship, and those ordinances which God hath appointed in his word.
That God has appointed that religious worship, and those ordinances, whereby we are outwardly to glorify him, is evident from this, that God will be so honoured by us, yet has forbidden us to make any thing that way; consequently, they are made by himself in his word.

These ordinances appointed in the word are,

1. Prayer, whereby we tender to him the homage due from a creature to his Creator, acknowledging our dependence on him as the Author of all good. The parts of it are petition, confession, and thanksgiving. And that public in the assemblies, Acts 2:42; private in lesser societies, particularly in families, Jer. 10, ult; and secret, every one by himself, Mat. 6:6; none of them to justle out another. In these we are tied to no form.

2. Praises in singing psalms, whereby we give him the praise due to him. And this is appointed, both publicly, Ps. 149:1, and privately, Jam. 5:13. This is to be done in all simplicity becoming the gospel, singing them with grace in the heart, Col. 3:16; not playing them on musical instruments, of which there is not one word in the New Testament.

3. Reading God's word, and hearing it read, both publicly, Acts 15:21, and privately, John 5:39; whereby we honour God, consulting his oracles.

4. The preaching of the word, and hearing it preached, 2 Tim. 4:2; 2 Kings 4:23. And consequently, the ministry is an ordinance of God, Rom. 10:15; Eph. 4:11, 12, and the maintenance thereof, 1 Cor. 9:14, by an ordinance of God, though there should be no ordinance of the state for it.

5. Administration and receiving of the sacraments, to wit, baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Matt. 28:19, and the Lord's supper, 1 Cor. 11:23, &c.; both which are left us in much gospel-simplicity. By these we solemnly avouch ourselves to be the Lord's and receive the seals of the covenant, getting our faith of covenant-blessings confirmed.

6. Fasting, or extraordinary prayer with fasting, when the Lord by his providence calls for it, as when tokens of his anger do in a special manner appear. And this is public, in the congregation, Joel 2:12, 13, and private too, as in families, 1 Cor. 12:5, and secret, Matt. 6:17, 18. See Zech. 12:12, 13, 14. The same is to be said of extraordinary prayer, with thanksgiving.

7. Church government and discipline. Christ has appointed a government in his church, and has not left it to men to dispose of it, Heb. 3:5, 6; 1 Cor. 12:28. He has appointed his officers, which are pastors and doctors, Eph. 4:11, ruling elders and deacons, 1 Cor. 12:28. And besides these the scripture knows no ordinary church-officers. The three first are, by his appointment, church-rulers. They have the power of discipline, Matt. 18:17, 18, to rebuke scandalous offenders publicly, 1 Tim. 6:20, to excommunicate the contumacious, 1 Cor. 5:4, 5. And amongst these officers of the same kind, there is a parity by divine appointment, excluding both Pope and Prelate, Matt. 20:26. There is also a subordination of judicatories, Acts 15, which is the government we call Presbyterial.

8. Instructing and teaching in the ways of the Lord, not only by ministers, but by masters of families, who are to teach their families, Gen. 18:19; Deut. 6:6, 7.

9. … Spiritual conference, Mal. 3:16; Deut. 6:7, …

[10. Lastly,] and swearing, [Particularly it is a sin against [the third commandment], to refuse an oath touching what is good and just, when duty called thereunto. For in [this case] there is a neglect of the duty of glorifying God's name enjoined in this command. (Works II. 165).]

II. I shall show what is our duty with reference to these ordinances. It is fourfold.

1. We must receive them in our principles and profession. We must carry them as the badge of our subjection to our God, Micah 4:5.

2. We must observe them in our practice, Matt. 18:20. For what end do we receive these ordinances, if we make no conscience of the practice of them? We will be, in that case, as the servant that knew his master's will, but did it not. So here, there is a number of duties laid on us by this command. It requires us also to pray: ministers to pray publicly and the people to join; masters of families to pray in their families, and the family to join with them; and each of us to pray in secret. It requires all of us to sing the Lord's praises, privately and publicly. It requires church-officers to exercise church discipline, and offenders to submit thereunto, &c., &c.

3. We must do our duty to keep them pure, that nothing of men's inventions be added to them, and that whatever others mix with them, we adhere to the purity of ordinances, 1 Cor. 11:2.

4. We must do our duty to keep them entire, that nothing be taken from them, Deut. 12, ult.; for both adding and paring in these matters are abominable to the Lord.

Finally, It requires us, in consequence of this, to disapprove, detest, and oppose, according to our several places and stations, all worship that is not appointed of God, whether superstitious or idolatrous, and, according to our several places and stations, to endeavour the removal of the same, Acts 17:16, 17; Deut. 7:5. (Works II 141-143)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Psalm 126

The Lord turned around the
captivity of Zion.
We found ourselves like
those who awake still dreaming;
our mouths filled with laughter,
shouting rejoicing,
nations report the news:
‘The Lord who does great things
has done so for them!’
We gladly say, ‘Amen.’

Turn round now our capture
like rivers return to deserts.
Precious seed's sown therefore
soon we shall reap with shouting.
He who goes out weeping,
doubtless, returning,
will come again with joy —
The Lord who does great things
has done so for us —
with sheaves at harvest home.

The tune that this is written to fit is from Brahms Symphony No. 1 In C minor; the first principal theme from the fourth movement, marked 'Allegro non troppo, ma con brio' and ranging from bars 61-76 (with the last two notes back to the tonic chord and not as Brahms wrote it replacing bar 77.) I would transpose the tune to G.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Psalm 76

People who live in Jerusalem know their God,
in Israel’s land his great name is renowned,
his house is built and he lives in Jerusalem,
on Zion’s mountain height his home is found.

Just there and then he broke arrows within their flight
destroying all of the weapons of war.
Glorious majesty, outshining wild hills,
sends empty-handed wild men home once more.

Lethargy letting go what they had seized before,
soldiering skills taken out of their hands,
cavalry stunned by a word of rebuke from you.
Who, God of Jacob, before you can stand?

As in the past you for ever are reverenced,
now, when your anger is roused for the fight
out of the heavens you utter your ordinance,
shaken, the earth fears your voice and is quiet.

Rising, establishing those you ordained to save;
all humble people who on earth have dwelt;
even humanity’s anger gives praise to you;
remnants of wrath you’ll put on like a belt.

Make to the LORD your God vows and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts for his birth;
see how he severs the spirit of dominance;
kings’ reverence give to the King of the earth!

This paraphrase of Psalm 76 has an interpolation in the 2nd line of the last verse that is hardly in the original. I couldn’t resist it but anyone who believes that Psalm versions should be devoid of interpretation should change that line of mine, if, that is they are interested in using it at all. The only tune I know that will fit these words is Sanctissimus by W H Cooke 1820-1912.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Selah 7

Psalm 9:15f.
The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid their own foot has been caught.
(16) The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah.

Looking back from the cave’s mouth
he can remember (his) Lot’s wife looking back
and him not looking back at her while
escaping for his life, then, even unto Zoar —

And now, he can’t remember how he came
to have two incestuously begotten sons
or why, after he skirted round the tar pits, he didn’t just go back
to live in his Uncle Abram’s tents once more.

Looking forward even from the grave’s mouth
he can scarcely remember Potiphar’s wife
and him not looking back at her while
escaping for his life, to the prison, to the throne —

And now he brings to remembrance
his two significantly born-in-Egypt sons
and why it was written even as he passed Shechem to go to Dothan
that one day all his bones would there return.

Looking out from the cliff-edge of Mount Nebo
he can remember Zipporah circumcising Gershom
as though he’d been there, as though they’d all been there
escaping with their lives, without a hoof left there —

And now he maps his remembrance out
of two significantly not-born-in-Egypt sons
and why his firstborn’s circumcision links back to a body in the sand
and on to that mountain over there — just there!

When Perfection Comes

1 Corinthians 13[11-(13)]-14[04]
11 When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I gave up childish ways.
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face.

Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully,
even as I have been fully known.
13 So now
and love abide,
these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
14:1 Pursue love,
and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts,

especially that you may prophesy..
2 For one who speaks in a tongue
speaks not to men but to God;
for no one understands him,
but he utters mysteries in the Spirit..
3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people
for their upbuilding
and encouragement
and consolation.
4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself,
but the one who prophesies builds up the church.

The surprising choice of text denotes nothing sinister. It’s the right length for an expository preaching unit and it extends right over the problematic junction between the two chapters. The structural outline is quite straightforward in spite of this bridging of two chapters because the first and the third paragraphs both deal with the spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues. In the middle paragraph, the saving graces of faith, hope and love are brought together with the three states of knowing in part, knowing fully and having been fully known.

It’s this middle section that I want to talk about first. There is a correspondence between the three states of knowing and the three saving graces. We can begin to see that as we bring back to remembrance that 1 Corinthians 13 is all about love and v. 13 caps what has been said about love in the rest of the chapter. So, why is the greatest of these love? It has been said that it is so because faith and hope will come to an end and love will ‘abide alone’ but I don’t know that that’s it. In fact, I think it denigrates faith to say that it will ‘give way to sight’ and I don’t see any reason why realized hope ceases to be hope. Love is the greatest of these for a number of reasons, two of which are that love is a summation of all the graces and that God is Love!

We find a third reason close by in the structuring of knowledge where we see that love is the greatest because it is by God’s love that we ‘have been fully known.’ Well it is! Faith isn’t complete and utter ignorance but it is knowing ‘in part’ and hope is not placed in the now but in the then of ‘then I shall know fully.’ Love isn’t the greatest because faith and hope are going to cease but because love is the grace that is fully engaged with us right now: we ‘know in part’ but we ‘have been fully known ’, we ‘shall know fully’ but we ‘have been fully known.’ These verses about spiritual gifts have been intruded into 1 Corinthians 13 in order to support the argument that love is the greatest of graces and thus to continue the chapter’s theme that love is superlative.

Well, that’s partly why the gifts are there. We need to not only put verses into context in their chapters but chapters into context in their books and the context of chapters 12 to 14 is ‘concerning spiritual gifts’ so the whole statement about love is actually about the ‘still more excellent way’ in which the gifts should be viewed. We could even consider, though this is quite radical, that the verse about love being the greatest of the graces is there to instruct us about the gifts, particularly about knowledge.

Let’s run with what this juxtaposition does tell us about knowledge, though, because having a mature understanding about knowledge or having clarity of vision about where it fits into the spiritual gifts and into these verses could be very important for solving a fundamental problem in charismatic versus cessationist debate.
• If one of the graces can be described as ‘the greatest of these’ can one of these states of knowledge be also described as the greatest?
• Can that same comparison be extended to judge which of the spiritual gifts should be considered the greatest?
• How does this measuring of ‘greatness’ tie in, if it does tie in, with the timing of the ‘when the perfect comes’ of v.10?
• What sort of knowledge can this gift of knowledge be of which it can be said both that ‘it will pass away’ and that ‘then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known’?

It is a thing, is it not, to think that our full knowledge that we shall enter into is not the greatest knowledge that there is? It’s not that the partial knowledge that we now have is better than the full knowledge that we shall have — of course not, that gets it backwards for, just as hope realized will be better than faith exercised, so we are expected to be glad to exchange the partial for the fulness. Assurance of hope is better than assurance of faith, didn’t you know that? To be with Christ is far better. To travel hopefully is not better than to arrive when the ‘hope’ is put back into ‘hopefully.’ If we were to compare two of the graces we would have to say that ‘So now faith and hope abide, these two; but the greater of these is hope.’ — But hope isn’t the greatest of the graces, for love is and, just as putting this comparison next to an unpacking of the states of knowledge helps us to see a way in which love is the greatest, so, working the analogy the other way, love being the greatest indicates how it is that the greatest knowledge is that knowledge that God now has of us.

We know that that knowledge is extensive so that even the hairs on our heads are numbered and, open theists being wrong, we know that God has perfect foresight so that we can also say that the days of the hairs of our heads are numbered. Never mind, the whole creation groans at that one, waiting for the revelation of the sons of God but it’s neither the extent of God’s knowledge nor the perfection of his foreknowledge that’s in view here. The greatest knowledge is the knowledge that God has of us now in his lavishing of his love on us. He loved us while we were yet sinners and he loves us while we are as yet merely sinners saved by grace. We love him because he first loved us and [Rom 5:8] ‘but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ This rather insists that we bring into our discussion of the gifts, the no-small matter of the disposition of the giver towards us, does it not?

Nevertheless, we can press on and ask if it is legitimate to put these spiritual gifts into order of greatness on the basis of what the text says about the graces. Indeed, the text seems to encourage this and plows ahead to make a definite preferment of prophecy over tongues in chapter 14. This preference for prophecy is simply explained in terms of usefulness in the church: ‘The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.’ So if I may extract a comparison again and remind us that we are looking at this from Paul’s perspective in the time he was writing (i.e. before the cessation!) we could picture Paul saying, ‘So now tongues and prophecy abide, these two; but the greater of these is prophecy.’

Prophecy has a threefold purpose in the church and guess what, these three purposes relate to the three graces enough for us to postulate that ‘the greatest of these purposes is consolation.’ I’m sure that we’ve already made the connections so we only mention them to reinforce them. We need to be built up in our faith. We need to be encouraged in our hope. We need to be consoled in the love of Christ.

About tongues, we have now come, all unexpectedly, to our first place of convergence between cessationists and Reformed charismatics. In normal circumstances there will be nothing important lost and something gained if the gift of tongues is not practiced in our assemblies. Now, for the moment, both sides need to recognise that the other will hold some things in reserve about this statement since every part of it can be, and, let’s face it, will be interpreted differently. That said, it’s a start and if I’m reading the descriptions correctly, the encouragement being given in Reformed charismatic churches is that more use should be made of tongues but also that that use, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14, should be in private.

Reverting back to looking at knowledge, we come to the question about perfection: How does this measuring of ‘greatness’ tie in, if it does tie in, with the timing of the ‘when the perfect comes’ of v.10? As we have noted, it is quite normal for us to think that love is greater than faith because one day faith will ‘give way to sight’ and love will ‘abide alone’ and looking back to v 10 might reinforce that explanation: when else will faith give place to sight than at the second coming and what else can ‘the perfect’ be than the second coming? Traditionally, the riposte from cessationists would be that ‘the perfect’ must be the completion of the canon of the New Testament but looking once again at knowledge will show us that, at least for whatever is meant by knowledge here, neither answer will do. Knowledge per se did not cease with the completion of Scripture but the lives of those who know are not all going to last until the second coming either. That which is perfect for the one who knows in part is to know fully even as he is fully known and that takes place when the one who knows in part dies.

Immediately, we have to note that that explanation for ‘what is perfect’ doesn’t hold for prophecy or for tongues. The death of prophets neither puts an end to prophecy — certainly not if Elijah’s mantle and a double-portion of his spirit should fall upon Elisha — nor does it bring the prophet into a perfection of prophetic utterance. Here’s where the old cessationist standby of the completion of the canon comes back into its own. It cannot be denied that the possession of a complete Bible must have made a difference in the churches and we do not see repeated in later church history the sort of conference of prophets that we get throughout Acts. Silencing the Bible in the church would make for a much greater difference than that that’s alleged to exist between cessationist and charismatic churches.

Since Reformed charismatics are not looking, as far as I know, to restore cadres of prophets to the churches who should ‘… all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged,’ [1 Corinthians 14:31], we should probably post another cessationist / Reformed charismatic converging point: In normal circumstances we should expect God to give ‘prophetic’ utterance to his church through his Word and through the preaching of the Word. Note immediately that it is the cessationist who is being enticed furthest out of his comfort zone by this convergence. No Reformed charismatic is made uncomfortable by assertions that the Scriptures are perfect but it is certainly uncomfortable for the cessationist to move to admitting that ‘prophecy’ in 1 Corinthians 13:8 might very well be a technical term designating the acting together of those prophets who acted together for the guidance of churches in the absence of a complete canon of Scripture because it means that God still speaks prophetically today as well as that prophecy has passed away. Looking in a mirror is a metaphor for looking at Scripture used at least from the writing of James’s epistle [James 1:23-25] and 1 Corinthians 14:20-22 links tongues with the sort of childish things that are put away at maturity. I’m not saying that tongues are childish, just that 13:11 is about tongues and somehow illustrates them ceasing.

At this point cessationists who can’t accept that God is free to give someone an impression to do something, say something or pray specifically in a particular way, today, should perhaps consider that they are maybe not so much cessationists as anti-charismatics. Likewise, charismatics who don’t want to recognise a primacy of the Word and of preaching might do well to consider that they are not Reformed. I for one feel much more in tune with Reformed charismatics than I could be with so-called hard-line cessationists who deny any possibility that God might act in an extraordinary way today.

There remains one more question about knowledge: What sort of knowledge can this gift of knowledge be of which it can be said both that ‘it will pass away’ and that ‘then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known’? It could be said that the Corinthians had a difficulty with the practice of prophecy and of tongues but Chapter 14, which deals with the resolution of these difficulties doesn’t deal with knowledge so is there any evidence that there was a problem in Corinth over knowledge that could help us to specify what kind of knowledge we have in 13:8?

It seems to me that there was a knowledge problem in Corinth similar to or even contiguous with the prophecy / tongues problem. This was the conflict that set ‘the utterance of knowledge’ up against ‘the utterance of wisdom’ and had some of the Corinthians saying ‘I follow Paul’, others, ‘I follow Apollos’, others, ‘I follow Cephas (i.e. the Apostle Peter)’ and still others ‘I follow Christ.’ The problem with those who said ‘I follow Christ’ seems to have been their unspoken implication, ‘and you’re not’ but the other choices indicate preferences for differing rallying themes. Some were for Paul simply because he was Paul, the founder of the church but those who were for Apollos seem to have gravitated towards him because of the organization of his thinking and the rhetorical wisdom he used in his preaching. That leaves Cephas, who was once noticed to be ‘uneducated and common,’ to stand for ‘knowledge’ in the thinking of the Corinthians but the aha! moment comes for us when we finish the analysis of those who thought Peter and John to be ‘uneducated and common,’ that ‘they recognized that they had been with Jesus.’ [Act 4:13] Aha! indeed! that’s the sort of knowledge that Peter had and that’s the sort of knowledge that passed away when Peter was carried where he didn’t want to go to thereafter know fully, even as he had been known.

Paul uses eyewitness knowledge, wisdom and his own prophetic authority to answer some questions that were sent to him by the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 7. The content might seem hard enough to deal with without Paul’s structuring but we should not think that what we have is 1st, 2nd and 3rd class Scripture. 1Corinthians 7:10 ‘To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband’ is something that comes from the teaching of Jesus and was passed on by those who heard him. 1Corinthians 7:12 ‘To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.’ means, not that this is of lesser authority but that it is a word of prophecy rather than a word of knowledge. 1Corinthians 7:25 ‘Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.’ not only shows that what he had said in v. 12 was authoritative but that he too could speak with spiritual authority and wisdom: 1Corinthians 7:40b ‘… And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.’ Quite!

Time for one more ‘convergence’: The witness of the 12 apostles (and of Paul) was unique but we have not lost the faith, hope and love to which they bore witness. We know that they have just gone on before us. And, affirming this, we are built up in our faith, encouraged in our hope and consoled by the love of God.


Thanks for noticing Rob and Phil, I’m very sorry for getting you mixed up with a nondescript town in Scotland and my only excuse is that I’m named after another Scottish town (and a range of quite nice hills) myself.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Three times he left the sleeping three,
three times he stumbled to the ground,
three times he prayed for respite
but none found.

Three trials were made upon his life,
three judges sat upon his case,
three verdicts; justice vanquished
without trace.

Three hours of darkness lay upon the earth,
three hours he hung and suffered on that tree,
three hours Godhead self-estrangement knew
for me.

This song was printed in Symphony 1992 vol. 1. under the title ‘Symmetry’ and without the ‘but’ in the fourth line. I have a tune in my head to fit the words but I’ve never quite managed to garner the score-writing skills to get it down on paper. Any tune has to cope with the extra beats in the last verse.
I do know that the crucifixion took longer than three hours but the hours of darkness were specifically three hours and I believe that to be significant both for the nature of Christ’s suffering at that time and the work of the reconciliation.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

How should a Cessationist deal with ‘Reformed Charismatic’ phenomena?

Phil Johnstone has picked up a gauntlet rather inadvertently dropt by Adrian Warnock so while the tribulator finishes off dealing with the so-called ‘rubber prophecies’ and the North London Reformed Charismatic searches for a colaborator and tries to sideline David Wayne by making him referee (!), I thought that I’d get my retaliation in first and prepare the ground for the cessationist exegesis by asking:
How should a Cessationist deal with ‘Reformed Charismatic’ phenomena?

And answering:
1 By not placing the limitation at God’s door.

a) God can do anything he chooses to do.

b) God does permit unresolved conflicts to arise within the body of Christ and he permits them for our good.

c) When we draw lines to map out exact limits for ourselves, God delights to give us cases to deal with that don’t fit our guidelines.

2 By not conceding that those spiritual things that should properly be considered to continue are the property of the charismatic side of our coming together.

a) We should not rename ‘miracles’ as ‘extraordinary providences’ and, truly, seeing ordinary providences as being miracles has generally more to do with personal dispositional outlook than with any particular view on the continuation of gifts.

b) Healing ought to be expected just as much by the Reformed cessationist as by the Reformed charismatic. Two corollaries of this are that healings should not be dismissed as spurious just because they take place in an emotional atmosphere and that holding that the proper place for healings is in private at a visitation by the elders is not a cessationism issue.

c) Vision, especially as part of conversion experience (and in that case, even more especially with conversions from Islam) and especially when death is near, is to be embraced by the cessationist no less than by the charismatic.

3 By accommodating as much of the charismatic interpretation of the triple cessation of word gifts as can be achieved.

a) With prophecy in a context where prophecy along the lines of the Grudem definition is expected, cessationists should be no more sceptical about the truth of what is said than the charismatics are. However, just because we cessationists believe that prophecy per se has ceased doesn’t mean that we cannot insist that the New Testament record of the operation of prophets shows great stress being placed on there always being more than one of them there while they prophesied.

b) About tongues it has to be admitted that the cessationist is not going to accept that the glossolalia indulged in today is a spiritual gift (sorry, charismatics.) However, it ought to be admitted that its practice in private does seem to have the general effect of refreshing the mind. Seeing glossolalia as a mind game, no more spiritual than chess, sudoku or the cryptic crossword might seem insultingly condescending but it isn’t meant to be. There are cessationists who practice it and they needn’t be ashamed of doing so.

c) When it comes to knowledge, cessationists need to get back to recognising that someone saying, ‘The Lord told me that …’ is, historically speaking, just a manner of speaking that some people have, and that there need be no more claim of special spiritual insight by the charismatic who uses it than by a cessationist. On the other hand, cessationists should feel as free as a charismatic to respond to the supercilious, ‘The Lord told me to tell you that …’ with something like, ‘That’s funny, because he hasn’t told me the same thing.’ (For both cessationist and charismatic we need to be sure that God hasn’t already convicted us about such-and-such before giving the snappy answer.)

Altogether, it would be easier if the Reformed charismatic were to be converted to the cessationist exegesis and it would be easier if there weren’t cessationists who think that they have ‘good and necessary’ cause to extend cessation to healing, vision and miracles as well. (I knew someone once who thought that he must get married on the grounds that the gift of celibacy has ceased! No!) It seems to me that a willingness of cessationists to trust their charismatic brethren far enough to accommodate them to the extent marked out above should go a long way towards prompting charismatics to look again to their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

18th Century Theology with Thomas Boston 6

—•— Imputation of Righteousness —•—
(From ‘Whether or not the sins of believers while unrepented of, make them liable to eternal punishment?’)

Argument 5.
• Believers, even in their worst case, have a perfect righteousness, and so are perfectly righteous: therefore, they can never be liable to eternal wrath.
• The reason is, because to be perfectly righteous, is to be conformed to the law; but to be perfectly conformed to the law, and yet to be liable to the condemnation of the law, is a flat contradiction.
• It is true, that the righteousness is not originally and inherently theirs; but it is derivatively theirs, and imputed to them; which, with respect to Adam’s sin, was sufficient to make us actually liable to eternal flames: and why shall not the imputed righteousness of Christ be sufficient to make us free from that actual liableness to the revenging wrath of God?
• Are they not perfectly righteous; hath the law any more to require of them than what it has got?
• There were but two things it could demand, according to the strictest tenor of the first covenant: to do and to suffer perfectly; and they have, in Christ their head, both done and suffered accordingly, Rom. 8:3, 4, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” &c.; Rom. 6:10, 11; Gal. 4:4, 5.
• “We learn, (says Beza: [Confess. point 4. art. 23.]) to pay by him, who hath set himself debtor and payer for us, who hath put himself in our place, and hath paid our debt, as the principal debtor, even unto the uttermost penny, in such wise, that the rigour of the law, which did before fear us, now comforteth us in Jesus Christ; forasmuch as life eternal is due to those who have fully obeyed the law, and Jesus Christ hath fulfilled the same for us.”
• Now, surely, what Christ hath done for us, is as good as if we had done it ourselves; yea, for the honour of the law, it is a thousand times better, because of the incomparable dignity of the person.
• What, then, should make them liable at any time to eternal wrath, being at all times clothed with this perfect righteousness?
• It cannot be, that falling asleep, and faith not being in exercise, they let the grips of it go, and therefore they are thus made obnoxious to divine vengeance.
• But surely it is not so easily made ineffectual.
•If inherent grace remain so securely under the grievous backslidings of the regenerate, that they cannot become children of the devil; much more doth the imputed righteousness remain, so that they cannot become children of wrath, that is, actually liable thereto, Eph. 2:2.
• If they cannot keep the covenant, the covenant will keep them.
• If any shall say, that God will not impute it to us for the covering of that particular sin or sins we lie under for the time, till we do anew receive it by faith for that end; it is false: for if a perfect righteousness be at all imputed, it covereth all sins.
• The ground of this opinion seems to be a mistake anent the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, as if the imputation of it were a making of it ours, and that this imputation were carried on by repeated acts, so as it is still made anew as the soul stands in need of it, falling into new sins.
• That the first of these is a mistake, appears from this, that Christ’s righteousness is ours before it be imputed, I mean not in order of time, but in order of nature.
• It is not ours, because it is imputed; but is imputed, because it is ours.
• It is evident, that it is used in this matter forensically, and is a judicial word and act; and is nothing else but a legal accounting of a thing to be ours.
• Now we know, “that the judgment of God is according to truth;” and therefore he cannot account that to be ours which really is not so. [Leigh’s Crit. Sac.]
• And the word itself will import no other: for whether you understand the primary signification of it to be the casting up of an account, and finding the total sum, as Arithmeticians do; or the concluding of a thing by reason and argument, as in Logic; it still imports the being of the thing so, before it be imputed; as two tens are twenty, before the Arithmetician cast up the number, and the Logician finds the conclusion in the premises, before he gather it out of them.
• So, in this metaphorical sense, we are sinners in Adam, before Adam’s sin be imputed to us, or we be reckoned guilty of his sin; and also righteous in Christ, before his righteousness be imputed to us.
• Hence I cannot but judge, that the Westminster Assembly, in their definition of justification, [Shorter Cat.] are much more accurate than several learned foreign divines, who make our justification formally consist in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness: for indeed, as they accurately give it, it is presupposed to our justification, as the ground thereof.
• Now, the way how Christ’s righteousness becomes ours, is by faith (as the aforesaid Assembly teacheth), and that as it doth make up an union betwixt Christ and the elect person; which I conceive to be the primary and immediate effect of faith.
• Hence issues a communion betwixt Christ and the believer; so that as all his sins, wants, &c., become Christ’s; the righteousness, obedience, and death of Christ become theirs: which so being, God accounts it, and judicially owns and acknowledgeth it to be theirs, as indeed it is; and therefore justifies them; that is, pardons their sins, and accepts them as righteous upon the account of the righteousness they appear before him clothed with. So Witsius teacheth. [Oec. foed. Dei. alicubi.]
• Now, what is it to be righteous, but to be conformed to the law?
• And seeing no righteousness can be sustained at the tribunal of God but that which is perfect, it remains that believers, at their first believing, are reputed perfectly conformed to the law of God; that is, to have perfectly obeyed and suffered; and this in regard of their union with Christ: and therefore, unless this his state be changed, which can never be till the union be dissolved, which the scripture holds forth as constant and perpetual, he can never be liable to eternal wrath.
• Hence it follows, that the opinion of a repeated imputation is also a mistake: for the imputation can no more be anew made, than the soul can be anew united to Christ Jesus.
• And, as Durham saith, [On Rev. iii. p. 158.] “Imputation being a judicial word and act, it supposeth an instant sentencing of such a righteousness to belong to such a person, as it were, and to be accepted for him: for if he hath not perfect right, there is no legal imputation (to say so); but if it be perfect, then it is an instantaneous act.”
• I add, and if instantaneous, then it is not repeated; nor is it a continued act, formally considered, though virtually it be; that is, the virtue of the imputation once made in the court of heaven never ceaseth, but remains still in force for all time to come. (Works VI 24-26)


Thomas Boston was a Scottish preacher of genius. His writings are more readily available than ever before, in book form (including the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man ), increasingly on the web (including bits of the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man), on unsearchable CD rom and 0n searchable CD rom.

Selah 6

Psalm 7:5
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah.

Must Shimei then have lost his mind
to ambush David as he trod
his ruin’s road to Mahanaim?
No Abigail to plead for him
but David, reaping what he’d sowed,
forbad to pay him back in kind.

His accusation in the wind
of cuckoldry and regicide;
suppression of Saul’s family’s claim.
Discount for now his family name,
was Nathan’s charge unjustified
and just as if I’d never sinned?

A fusillade of sticks and stones —
His supplication could have had
judgment delivered from the throne
but now dethroned he stands alone
to leave alone a man gone mad —
The rattling of his cupboard’s bones.


And all the bones are shuddered out of joint;
no judgment falls on those who mocking wait;
though patently he has done nothing wrong
(his accusation puts him on the throne!)
Magdaline need not fret for God of late
his risen, conquering, glorious Son anoints.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Meanwhile, this Sunday Night in North Finchley … 4 Part 1

Sermon preparation for the record and for the day ahead:

—•— Sonship as a Matter of Life and Death —•—
Part 1

Eighty years after Jochebed his mother entrusted him to the waters of the Nile in his tarred basket of bulrushes, Moses returned to Egypt with a message for Pharaoh and some miracles to back it up. We are always liable to be diverted away from messages by miracles but in this case the message is embedded in the meaning of the miracles. Moreover the meaning of the miracles is reflected in the contextual details of the departure of Moses from Midian as well.

Exodus 04[18-23]

18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him,
“Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt
to see whether they are still alive.”
And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.”
19 And the LORD said to Moses in Midian,
“Go back to Egypt,
for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.”

20 So Moses took his wife and his sons
and had them ride on a donkey,
and went back to the land of Egypt.
And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.
21 And the LORD said to Moses,
“When you go back to Egypt,
see that you do before Pharaoh
all the miracles that I have put in your power.
But I will harden his heart,
so that he will not let the people go.

22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh,
‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son,
23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”
If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

If we take time to outline vv. 18-23 we will see that we have three contrasting pairs, In 18f. we have a matter of life and death: Moses asks to go see: ‘whether my brothers in Egypt are still alive .’ and God tells him: ‘all the men who were seeking your life are dead.’ In 20f. we have a contrast of tenderness and hardening: Moses has ‘his wife and his sons ride on a donkey,’ but Pharaoh’s soon-to-be proverbial hardening is revealed before the journey even starts. Vv. 23f. is a tale of two firstborn sons to be announced in the face of Pharaoh’s hardness: ‘Israel is my firstborn son, let him go that he may serve me.’ opposed to ‘If you refuse I will kill your firstborn son.

This is Moses’s second attempt to check on his people but, whereas the first attempt ended in disaster, this one will succeed. In his first attempt, Moses tried to ‘help’ his beleaguered fellow Israelites while still operating from the palace and his interfering left a dead Egyptian buried in the sand, which manslaughter having been discovered, Moses had had to flee for refuge. It is fairly certain that ‘the son of Pharaoh’s daughter’ did not ask for permission to go and visit his relatives but the husband of Jethro’s daughter does ask permission and it is granted when Jethro graciously and peaceably dismisses him.

It might seem strange to us that Moses doesn’t just tell Jethro that God has told him that his relatives in Egypt are still alive and that he has a mission to accomplish. By putting the matter to Jethro in the way that he does Moses is neither being deceitful nor indicating any doubt about what God has told him concerning the Israelites. By putting his request in terms of the Israelites still being alive, Moses is indicating to Jethro that this is a matter both of blood and of honour.

Apparently it is after Moses has spoken to Jethro that God gives Moses the welcome news that there is nothing now to fear from the body-in-the-sand incident of forty years ago. We know from Exodus 2:15 that ‘When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses,’ so there must have been a change of Pharaoh but surely, if the former Pharaoh was to be properly honored, even in death, Moses should now be the enemy of the son as he was of the father? Apparently not, the father Pharaoh being dead, Moses is no longer persona non grata in the Egypt of his son.

Of Moses’s two sons we read in Exodus 18:3-4 that ‘ … The name of the one was Gershom (for [Moses] said, "I have been a sojourner in a foreign land"), (4) and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, "The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh").’ In Exodus 18 they are being brought back to the camp of Israel by their Grandfather because Moses had send them home at some stage but in Exodus 4 they are on their way to Egypt with Zipporah their mother. In Exodus 4 the details are so sparse that we couldn’t know from there even that there were two of them and we are left to deduce that they were quite small from the fact that they share a donkey with their mother. Moses’s tenderness in providing the donkey contrasts quite shockingly with the disposition of God as they continue towards Egypt:

Exodus 04[24-31]

24 At a lodging place on the way
the LORD met him and sought to put him to death.
25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin
and touched Moses’ feet with it
and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”
26 So he let him alone.
It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,”
because of the circumcision.

27 The LORD said to Aaron,
“Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.”
So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him.
28 And Moses told Aaron
all the words of the LORD
with which he had sent him to speak,
and all the signs that he had commanded him to do.

29 Then Moses and Aaron went
and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel.
30 Aaron spoke all the words
that the LORD had spoken to Moses
and did the signs in the sight of the people.
31 And the people believed;
and when they heard
that the LORD had visited the people of Israel
and that he had seen their affliction,
they bowed their heads and worshiped.

These eight verses have the records of three significant meetings and all three are about representation. It is hard enough to understand vv. 24-26 without removing them out of their context so let’s just outline the three meetings in order to get as much help as possible with vv 24-26. Vv. 24-26 tells us of a ‘meeting’ between the wife of Moses and God over the life of one of Moses’s sons, presumably Gershom, the firstborn. Vv. 27f. tell of a meeting between Moses and Aaron at the ‘mountain of God.’ Vv. 29-31 tell of the meeting with ‘all the elders of the people of Israel’ at which ‘the people believed.’

As representatives the elders believe and worship on behalf of the entire nation and, because of Moses’s weakness, Aaron will speak for Moses at least at the beginning of his ministry. Aaron is introduced to the miracles that have been given for performance as signs but at the same time Zipporah is learning about the significance of circumcision in a most traumatic way!

Just as we need to see this incident in the context of representation, we also need to bring to it the things that have been done and said beforehand. Was Moses visiting his kinsmen a matter of life and death? So is this a matter of life and death! Will Pharaoh’s attitude be one of hardness of heart? What does that say about God’s disposition towards Gershom here? Why, since Moses sent two sons off to Egypt with their mother, is only one son involved in this incident if not because there is a direct link between the threat to Pharaoh’s firstborn in v. 23 and the threat to Moses’s firstborn in v. 24?

Because the threat is to Moses’s son rather than to Moses. It doesn’t help that all the English versions seem to want to ‘help’ us by importing Moses into v. 25 where, in Hebrew, the feet don’t have to be his and he doesn't have to there. Moreover, and just to seal this, the ‘bridegroom of blood,’ that Zipporah declares, is better read as ‘kinsman’ than as ‘bridegroom.’ We wouldn’t hold Moses to having claimed more actual brothers than Aaron because of his request of Jethro to ‘let me go back to my brothers in Egypt,’ so we shouldn’t insist that Moses must be there because Zipporah talks about ‘a kinsman of blood.

We could describe God’s disposition towards Gershom as that of the angel of death seeing no sign why he should ‘pass over’ the little encampment there and allow Moses’s heir join in the Exodus experience. Just as with the real Passover, the sign is the shedding of blood and the seal of circumcision is enacted at the very start of the Exodus just as it brings the Exodus to an end at Gilgal [Joshua 5:1-7]. After Gershom’s circumcision we can’t think that what God says about Israel being his firstborn son is only a manner of speaking.

We shouldn’t lose sight of Zipporah in this and her declaration here is fit to be put beside Rahab’s declaring for the God of Israel to the two spies (again at the end of the Exodus) and with Ruth’s resolution in Ruth 1:16-17 ‘But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (17) Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

And having come this far and added Zipporah to the ranks of ‘Mothers in Israel,’ we should take a break by pointing to yet another mother ‘pierced’ by the stern disposition of God against her son:

Luke 02[33-38]

33 And his father and his mother
marveled at what was said about him.
34 And Simeon blessed them
and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is appointed
for the fall and rising of many in Israel,

and for a sign that is opposed
35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess,
Anna, the daughter of Phanuel,
of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived with her husband seven years
from when she was a virgin,
37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She did not depart from the temple,
worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
38 And coming up at that very hour
she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him
to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Don’t let Anna’s representation of all the other mothers in Israel distract you. Nor should you get in a turmoil about Joseph being called ‘his father,’ because ‘Pepe’ (if you’ve got the Latin) is taking a representative role in this passage as well. The sword piercing through Mary’s own soul is foreshadowed by Zipporah’s experience with her firstborn and the blood of Gershom’s circumcision, which points to the slaying of the lamb and the Passover, also points inexorably and wonderfully to the death on the cross of ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Monday, October 31, 2005


The Freedom-giver’s story
turned the world upside down
for it changed the lives of people
as it spread from town to town.
And, shinning through the darkness,
see the message plain today
written large so he that runs may read
that ‘Jesus is the Way.’

He said:
‘I am the Way, I am the Truth, I am the Life,
no one comes to the Father but by me.
The Spirit will lead you into all truth,
you shall know the truth,
and the Truth shall set you free.’

The freedom that he gave up
was the freedom that he gave.
See those nail-pierced hands of Jesus
still stretched out with power to save.
And the life he gave a ransom
is the life he gives to men.
See him, through the clouds, ascending:
‘This same Jesus will come again.’

The darkness that he passed through
brought our souls into his light,
by submission and subjection,
Jesus won the freedom-fight,
as the fruit of his rejection,
to our God we’re reconciled,
in the silence of the victim,
hear the cry of a new-born child!

‘And if the Son shall free you, you shall be free indeed.’

Saturday, October 29, 2005

From the Cliff-edge of Mt. Nebo 4

From where Moses stood:On the edge of the promised land, Moses stood here and saw far more than physical geography. He saw a political map of the twelve tribes and a redemptive history stretching away to the coming of the Messiah.

—•— What is an Evangelist? —•—
Mark Heath has posted a helpful summary of officers in New Frontiers Churches in his ‘wordandspirit’ journal. I find the distancing of apostles in the New Frontiers movement from the apostleship of the twelve apostles helpful and look forward to the day when they are able to say ‘different from the twelve and from Paul.’ In the meantime I feel provoked to re-examine what I, as a ‘Word and Spirit’ cessationist, ought to think about evangelists.

To fast forward through all the background for church offices we should make the following points with no explanations or deviations. There are two and two only groups of officers in the churches, denominated respectively as ‘overseers’ (bishops) and ‘servants’ (deacons). The overseers are distinguished primarily by their ability to teach but not all of them specialize in doing so, so there is one office but distinctions between officers. Similarly with deacons there are degrees of attainment and experience brings change and responsibility. Some terms, elder, pastor and teacher, are shown to be synonymous with overseer so it is not a great leap to see the link between the ‘… great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus’ [1 Timothy 3:13] that deacons gain and the term ‘evangelist’.

Ephesians 4[07-14]

7 But to each one of us grace was given
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this, “He ascended”;
what does it mean
but that He also first descended
into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He who descended is also the One who ascended
far above all the heavens,
that He might fill all things.)

11 And He Himself gave
some to be apostles,
some prophets,
some evangelists,
and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,
for the edifying of the body of Christ,

13 till we all come
to the unity of the faith
and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to a perfect man,
to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
14 that we should no longer be children,
tossed to and fro
and carried about with every wind of doctrine,
by the trickery of men,
in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

Let’s skip over why so many past theologians have thought that evangelists disappeared along with apostles and prophets and take it for granted that this is something that continues with us. To put it in the terms we were using earlier, there are still deacons who serve well and gain great confidence in the faith and we need to fit them into Ephesians 4. Forgive me also for jumping over any discussion about why apostles and prophets should be considered to continue or to have ceased because such discussions are not key to the functioning of evangelists. We’re done with fast forwarding now; it’s time to play at normal speed.

Three functional pairings out of five ‘giftings’: The first pairing is that of apostles and prophets because we could helpfully translate Ephesians 4:11a-c as ‘And He Himself gave on the one hand the apostles, on the other hand, the prophets.’ A different kind of grammatical construction makes the third pair a different kind of pairing so that ‘pastors and teachers’ are lumped together as one part of the second pairing: evangelists and pastors-and-teachers. It is not out of order to make the equation that evangelists are to apostles what pastors / teachers are to prophets. Draw a diagram to see how that maps onto the text. I’d do it for you but I’m somewhat technologically challenged as you can see from the lack of permalinks around this post. (My apologies if I’ve learned how to do them by the time you read this.)

The one-handing of evangelists and the other-handing of pastors / teachers fits in very well with the separation of ministries into overseer and servant. We could ask why Paul doesn’t just talk about bishops and deacons but his purpose here isn’t to establish once again that there are two offices in the church, moreover, the one-is-to-the-other diagram doesn’t work with deacons and overseers per se; deacons need to have gained great confidence in the faith before we can expect any semblance of an apostolic function to be seen in them.

Differentiation and development: Because of the grammar used we are able to look at the pastor / teacher pairing as a differentiation within the office of overseer. Because of the word used we are able to see degrees of development in the office of deacon. We always have been capable of underestimating the value of deacons because we tend to define the limitations of the work that deacons should be doing in terms of work that apostles ought not to be doing. It is therefore the more frustrating that we are so capable of limiting the work of an evangelist to a limit that does not embrace the apostolic functions apparently entailed to the place of the evangelist in Ephesians 4.

Not in Word only: This tendency is not helped by focussing on the vocal nature of these ministries because it is all too easy to see that they have the common characteristic of being publicly vocal and miss that speaking is the means to ends rather than ends themselves. The ends of these ministries are listed as ‘for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.’ And let’s not get distracted for the minute about whether the work of the ministry is what the saints are to be equipped for or what the ministries are themselves for or both. However these are split up, they are all directed towards the church. This goes with the territory for pastors and teachers but against the grain a little for evangelists. We are inclined to consider that the gifts of pastors and teachers are inwardly directed and that would accord easily with these purposes but we are equally predisposed to see the giftings of an evangelist to be outwardly directed and that is not reflected in these purposes.

Except that the work of the evangelist is to these purposes and outwardly directed when the function of the evangelist is seen to involve planting new churches and serving reconciliation between churches without being the sort of super-elders that diocesan bishops both aspire to and fail to be because diocesan bishops are also a misinterpretation of what an officer is for. I suggest that exploring the role of an evangelist as we find it delimited in Ephesians 4 should go some distance towards fulfilling the purposes of equipping the saints and edifying the church.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Selah 5

Psalm 4:4
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah.

A city in the valley, lit and warm and barred
to me because of principle. And Esau with two wives
belonging to these people! My heart, cold
as this stone, clutches emptiness to hold.

Me in this place, within constraint, between two lives
and if and when? … and then you’ll be my God.

The woman of my longing — morning dawns to dread!
No Rachel here. A cousin, yes! But facing me this ‘Leah.’
A custom of these people! Exile hope; lies; toiled-
for, lack-love marriage; grasped-at vision; spoiled.

Me for a servant’s bonds and bound for all to see
the ladder’s in the round and round and round I tread.

This valley of decision, cleared of mine, until
there’s only me to fret about, an exile coming home,
the father of these people. Come the day
here comes the other man, some ghost to lay.

Me down to sleep at last. When sinew shrunk on bone
reminds me to remember, I’ll remember and be still.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

18th Century Theology with Thomas Boston 5

Thomas Boston was a Scottish preacher of genius. His writings are more readily available than ever before, in book form (including the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man ), increasingly on the web (including bits of the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man), on unsearchable CD rom and 0n searchable CD rom.

—•—The Spirit of Bondage—•—
Unbelievers are actuated by a spirit of bondage, suitable to their state of bondage under the covenant of works, Gal. 4:24, 25. A slavish fear and a servile hope are the weights hung upon them by that covenant, causing them to go: sin is avoided, duty performed, not out of love to God and holiness, but out of love to themselves. (Works VIII 572) A law-work cannot miss to be straitening to a sinner. Conviction of sin, of heart, lip, life, and nature, cannot but press sore; the spirit of bondage, girding the soul with the cords of death, and the curse of the broken law, makes a strait entry, Rom. 8:15. (Works X 318)

This fear of God is to be found in the unconverted; they have the spirit of bondage again to fear, (Works IX 77) Satan and our corrupt hearts are ready to drive forward this fear of God’s wrath to exceed all bounds: and no wonder, for when it has got over the boundaries, it makes fearful havoc in the soul’s case, like a consuming fire, deadening all good motions towards God, and quickening evil ones, to the dishonour of God, and one’s own torment; and no case out of hell is liker hell than this, both in respect of sin and misery. But when the Spirit of God has a saving work in view, he can easily make the spirit of bondage subservient to the spirit of adoption. (Works IX 80) The service he performed for you was hard service; the yoke he puts upon you is easy, and the burden light, Matt. 11:30. He served as a bond-servant for you; he requires you to serve him as a son serveth his father, Mal. 3:17. If his people make their own service harder, they owe it not to his Spirit, but to their own spirit, or a worse, Rom. 8:15, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” (Works VII 540 cf. Works VII 333 n. l )

Question… But can saints have no such slavish fear of God? Answer: As all the graces of the Spirit are imperfect and mixed in the saints, so is their fear of God not without a mixture of that slavishness. Hence saith Jesus unto his disciples, Matt. 8:26, “Why are ye so fearful, O ye of little faith?” It is the same word as 2 Tim. 1:7. It is true, God never again gives them the spirit of bondage; but they may, through unbelief, take up a spirit of bondage again. But seeing they can never again lose the Spirit of adoption, neither can they lose that grace of filial reverential fear altogether: so that there is still as much difference betwixt them and hypocrites, as betwixt the malefactor fearing the judge, and a son’s fearing his father; who appears enraged against him, and about to put him out of his house; which yet will not kill natural affection. (Works IV 484f.)

Now, there is a twofold word to be believed by all those who would enter into the covenant of grace in a saving manner, namely, the word of the law, and the word of the gospel. The believing of the former is a faith of the law; and of the latter, a faith of the gospel. The faith of the law is the work of the Spirit of God, as well as the saving faith of the gospel, though wrought by him in a very different manner. The former he works by the law, as a Spirit of conviction and bondage, convincing of sin and misery, Rom. 8:15, with John 16:8. The latter he works by the gospel, as a quickening Spirit, a Spirit of saving illumination and adoption. (Works I 359f.)

Let those, who, by the power of the spirit of bondage, have had the law opened before them in its spirituality, for their conviction, speak and tell, if they found themselves able to incline their hearts toward it, in that case; nay, whether the more that light shone into their souls, they did not find their hearts more and more unable to comply with it. (Works VIII 57f.) They are of a slavish spirit who are under [the covenant of works]; whereas the saints are acted by a son-like spirit. For, says the apostle, Rom. 8:15, “ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” As the slave is moved with fear, not with love; so is it with them. (Works XI 273) Look at those whose soul exercises have issued in putting their case in the hands of a Physician of no value. There are many who, being awakened by a spirit of conviction, and are really exercised about their souls’ condition, put their case to Christ for healing. But not being able or willing to wait his time, till the wound be sufficiently searched, but being for peace at any rate, they are offended in him, and so put themselves in the hand of the law that wounded them. Thus they make themselves whole, not by the believing application of the blood of Christ, but by their prayers, tears, and external reformation. And so they settle down upon their lees, farther from Christ than ever. (Works III 72)

Consider the entertainment which [Christ] meets with when he comes to teach souls inwardly by his Spirit. Men do what they can to stop their ears, like the deaf adder, that they may not hear his voice. They “always resist the Holy Ghost:” “They desire not the knowledge of his ways;” and therefore bid him “depart from them.” The old calumny is often raised upon him on that occasion, John 10:20, “He is mad, why hear ye him?” Soul-exercise, raised by the spirit of bondage, is accounted, by many, nothing else but distraction, and melancholy fits; men thus blaspheming the Lord’s work, because they themselves are beside themselves, and cannot judge of those matters. (Works VIII 67) The spirit of bondage witnesseth the truth [that there is a sentence passed in the court of heaven, and standing, against ungodly men, evil-workers], convincing the sinner that he is a dead man, Rom. 7:9, and that he stands in need of a remission, chap. 3:19. This testimony is true; for it is the testimony of the Spirit of God, whereby he brings sinners to see their need of Christ. (Works VI 483)

The Spirit of the Lord speaks to the soul as it were out of the midst of the fire; but there is blackness, darkness, and tempest, mixed with this light. And here consider the [twofold] matter … of this conviction, … (1.) Sin, John 16:8, “He will reprove the world of sin.” The Spirit of the Lord convinces the man that he is a sinner, and sets his particular sins in order before him, Ps. 50:21. Then sins that are out of mind, as dead and buried, have a fearful resurrection, Rom. 7:9. The spirit of bondage leads his prisoner in chains, through the several parts and steps of this life, to his very birth; and shows him convincingly his sins in them: lets him see such ill in sin as he never saw before, how heinously God takes it, and that with the several aggravations thereof. (2.) Misery, John 16:8. The Spirit of the Lord convinces him, that he is lost and undone, Luke 15:17. Being convicted and found guilty, sentence passes on him within his own breast, whereby he sees himself doomed to eternal death. He is convinced, as if an angel from heaven should tell him, that he is under God’s wrath and curse, and that therefore, if he die in that case, he will perish for ever. He sees God to be his enemy; his word to speak no good of him, and all God’s creatures his enemies in some sort ready armed against him. (Works I 564f.)

The Lord, the Judge, sends out other messengers, and they apprehend the sinner, lay hands on him to carry him, whether he will or not, before the judgment-seat, and oblige him to abide his trial. And these are two: the Spirit of bondage, and an awakened conscience, John 16:8, 9; Prov. 20:27. These will catch the man, and hunt him till they find him out, when they have got their order, Jer. 2:27. They apprehended Paul when going to Damascus, and left him not till he appeared, and submitted himself. But it is not always so. Some that are apprehended get out of the messenger’s hands, and make their escape unhappily. When they are caught, they are unruly prisoners: they struggle and wrestle, and strive against the Spirit, and their own consciences, Acts 7:51; they go no farther with them than they are dragged. They get the mastery at length over their conscience, break its bonds, and stifle its convictions, and so grieve and quench the Spirit, that they get away to their own ruin; like Cain, Saul, Felix, &c. But none of God’s elect ever get away altogether. (Works I 583f.) Then the elect soul is infallibly sisted at length before the judgment-seat. The Spirit of bondage and the awakened conscience apprehend him afresh, and bring their prisoner in chains of guilt unto the bar trembling, and he can escape the trial no longer, before a holy God, Acts 16:29, 30. Then what fear, sorrow and anxiety, seize the prisoner’s soul, while he sees a just Judge on the throne, a strict and severe law laid before him, and he has a guilty conscience within! And he must undergo a trial for his life; not the life of the body only, but of soul and body for evermore. These things may seem idle tales to some; but if ye have not experienced the reality of them, ye shall do it, or dreadful shall the judgment after death be to you. (Works I 584 )

How hopeless is the case of many that have never yet been awakened by the Spirit of conviction! The forerunners of the effectual call are not yet come unto you. (Works I 566) Let us take a view of those who are lying dead upon their murdered convictions. Our Lord has taken some persons in hand to cure them, and by the Spirit of conviction, he has begun to let blood of the heart vein of their beloved lusts. But the pain of this operation hath made them disagree with the Physician, start up and break the lancet, and stifle their convictions. And now their wound is whole, their convictions are gone, and their conscience, which was so uneasy before, is now as dead as stone. Go where they please, they are not troubled. Darts are as stubble. (Works III 71) When the natural conscience is awakened by the Spirit of conviction, it will indeed rage and roar, and put the whole man in a dreadful consternation; awfully summon all the powers of the soul to help in a strait; make the stiff heart to tremble, and the knees to bow; set the eyes weeping, the tongue confessing; and oblige the man to cast out the goods into the sea, which he apprehends are likely to sink the ship of the soul, though the heart still goes after them. Yet it is an evil conscience which naturally leads to despair, and will do it effectually, as in Judas’ case; unless either lusts prevail over it, to lull it asleep, as in the case of Felix, Acts 24:25, or the blood of Christ prevail over it, sprinkling and purging it from dead works, as in the case of all true converts, Heb. 9:14, and 10:22. (Works VIII 81f.)

[B]y the Spirit of the Lord, acting as a spirit of bondage, there is a criminal court erected in the man’s breast; where he is arraigned, accused, and condemned for breaking the law of God, (Works VIII 190) [A] man believes … [t]hat he is a sinner, a breaker of the law’s commands, liable to divine vengeance. The law pronounces him a guilty man, and he believes the report of the law concerning himself in particular; and so, by this faith, his heavy and sorrowful heart echoes back to the voice of the law, guilty, guilty! Rom. 3:19. This faith is a divine faith, founded upon the testimony of God in his holy law; and rests not in the testimony of men, whether spoken or written. The Spirit of God as a Spirit of bondage, brings home the law to the man’s conscience, and persuades him, that that law is the voice of the eternal God, and the voice of that God to him in particular; and so convinces him of sin upon God’s own testimony. (Works I 360)

The means the Spirit makes use of is the word; hence we read of preaching repentance. And (1.) The law serves to break the hard heart, Jer. 23:29, “Is not my word like a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” It is like the Baptist preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming. Hence it is called, “The Spirit of bondage,” Rom. 8:15. (2.) The gospel serves to melt the hard heart, like a fire, Jer. 23:29, forecited; and so bow and bend it from sin unto God. The soul is driven by the law, but drawn by the gospel. The Lord comes in the still small voice. (Works II 413) Time was when [the convicted sinner] could not think of parting from among [the world’s society]; but could get no rest among them; seeing every moment the city of destruction ready to be overthrown, and himself to be swallowed up in the ruins. This is a new sight that one gets, not by the sight of the eyes, but from the word, by the Spirit acting as a Spirit of bondage on the soul and conscience; awakening, convincing, and persuading into a firm belief of the report of the law, with application to one’s own particular case. (Works V 354)

[T]he Spirit of the Lord makes use of both parts of the word. … The law, to break the hard heart. Jer. 23:29, “Is not my word – like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? saith the Lord.” It goes before like John Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord into the heart. And the Spirit of the Lord making use of it in a soul, is called “the Spirit of bondage,” Rom. 8:15. And here each part of the law has its proper use. (Works VI 386)

The work of the Spirit for persuading and enabling us to embrace Christ, is threefold: namely, conviction, saving illumination, and the renewing of the will. But conviction is not a work of the Spirit, of the same kind with the other two. Conviction is a work of the Spirit, acting as “a spirit of bondage” upon us, Rom. 8:15. The Spirit, acting as a Spirit of bondage, convinceth us of our sin and misery; John 16:8, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Acts 2:37, “Now, when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Works VII 85)

[A man’s belief that he is a sinner] rests not on the testimony of man, whether spoken or written; but is a divine faith, founded upon the testimony of God, in his holy law, demonstrated by the Spirit of bondage, to be the voice of the eternal God, and the voice of that God to him in particular. (Works VIII 582f.) He can no more look upon the curse as some strange thing, belonging only to some monsters of wickedness, and not to him: for the Spirit of the Lord, as a Spirit of bondage, applies it closely to him; as if he said, thou art the man. (Works VIII 583)

Our Lord breaks his people’s hearts by his Spirit, and yet by the same Spirit binds them up again. In the first work he is the Spirit of bondage; and some may be long under his hand this way. Hence we read of some “who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” Heb. 2:15. (Works IX 560) [B]y his Spirit acting upon them, as a Spirit of bondage, he sets home on their consciences, the holy law in the commands and curse thereof, as of divine authority, and binding on them in particular. Hereby they are convinced of their sin and misery, seeing their sin as heinous in the sight of God, and his wrath due to them for their sin: they are filled with remorse, terror, and anxiety; are made to pant for relief, feel an absolute need of Christ and his righteousness, and despair of relief by any other way, Acts 2:37, and 16:29, 30. (Works VIII 551)

[T]he faith of the law is the work of the Spirit of God, as well as the saving faith of the gospel; though wrought in a different manner. The former he works as a Spirit of bondage, convincing of sin and misery, by the law, Rom. 8:15, with John 16:8. The latter he works as a quickening Spirit, enlightening the soul in the knowledge of Christ, by the gospel, 2 Cor. 3:17, 18. (Works VIII 582) The bonds laid on [the] consciences [of the person united to Christ] by the Spirit of God, acting as the Spirit of bondage, are taken off, never more to be laid on, Rom. 8:15, “For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear.” (Works VIII 206f.)

Monday, October 24, 2005


Shadrach, Meshach, Abed Nego were stoked into the fire,
the old king took a look in just to watch the flames climb higher.
Those three wise men in the fire stood
accompanied by the Son of God;
the fire couldn't touch them for the Lord was on their side.

He was the:
fourth man in the fiery furnace,
third man going to Emmaus,
second man to represent us,
God's only Son.

Cleopas and a friend of his were walking home by night,
a stranger came and talked with them and showed them what was right.
How their hearts did burn within
as he showed how the Scriptures spoke of him,
their fears and doubts were banished as the Lord walked by their side.

Adam was the founder of the dying human race,
condemned to crucify until the Saviour took his place.
Adam's sin meant the fall of man,
salvation was God's rescue plan,
the love of Jesus bought it for the Lord is on our side.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Meanwhile, this Sunday Night in North Finchley … 3

Sermon preparation for the record and for the day ahead:

—•—What did the first nine plagues ever do for us?—•—

Preparing to come out of bondage and into an inheritance is no easy step. We should not underestimate the effect of the first nine plagues in preparing the way for the exodus. It is quite obvious that those plagues had the beneficial effect, as far as the Israelites were concerned of softening up the Egyptians. Yes, Pharaoh’s heart was still hard but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptian people were as resolute or as strong after nine plagues as they were at the beginning of them. The picture the Bible gives us is of a nation ruined by what the plagues had wrought on them.

We don’t need to look any further than the complete and utter freedom that the Israelites enjoyed to keep the first Passover to see how much had changed during the course of the nine plagues. How, during the bricks-without-straw era, would the Israelites have been able to stage such an act? The Egyptians would have been down on them like the oppressor nation that they were but not any more.

Psalm 76:5 ‘The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep;
all the men of war were unable to use their hands.’

Egypt still had the power to keep the Israelites there and the power to destroy but the power to enforce labour from them had been destroyed and it had been destroyed by the first nine plagues. However, only looking at one side of this equation will miss a very important lesson. The first nine plagues had an effect on the Israelites as well.

Just consider what the Israelites were like before the nine plagues, during the time of bricks-without-straw. A more pathetic people can hardly be imagined than those in Exodus 6:9 who ‘…did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery’ who complained that Moses and Aaron were the cause of their troubles. On the eve of the nine plagues there was not a sign that these slaves were about to be transformed into a martial nation. It isn’t that the people who left Egypt after the tenth plague were a fully-formed army but nonetheless, contrast those who ate the Passover with their belts fastened ready for action with their former selves when crushed under the weight of bondage and you get a glimpse of what the nine plagues did for Israel.

It is important to know that the Israelites did not start the period of bondage as unwilling to be led, unable to imagine things getting better and thoroughly demoralized. In fact when we consider the generation before Moses’s generation we find a very different picture is presented to us by the resistance that the Israelite women showed to Pharaoh. First of all we have the story of the Hebrew midwives and that contains the essence of the story of the other Israelite women within it.

Exodus 01[15-22]

15 • Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives,
one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,
16 • “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women
and see them on the birthstool,
if it is a son, you shall kill him,
but if it is a daughter, she shall live.”
17 • But the midwives feared God
and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them,
but let the male children live.

18 • So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them,
“Why have you done this, and let the male children live?”
19 • The midwives said to Pharaoh,
“Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,
for they are vigorous
and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”
20 • So God dealt well with the midwives.
• And the people multiplied and grew very strong.

21 • And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
22 • Then Pharaoh commanded all his people,
“Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile,
but you shall let every daughter live.”

We generally concentrate on what the Hebrew midwives do in this story and the summary of our thinking is pretty much that God rewarded the midwives for disobeying Pharaoh and in spite of them deceiving Pharaoh. Now, since the disobedience and the deception are pretty much of a muchness, we are probably giving too much weight to our nice little equation that a lie is a lie is a lie and it is tempting just to defend the midwives as doing the best they were able in impossible circumstances — breaking the commandment, of course, but doing so legitimately because they were doing so not to lie for lying’s sake but to save lives. Put it this way, Pharaoh was a mortal enemy in the full meaning of the word ‘mortal’. His desire was to have rid of the Hebrew identity by eliminating all the male children at birth and it is perfectly righteous to deceive a mortal enemy.

Pharaoh was incredibly arrogant in his mortal oppression of the Hebrews. For a start he did not seem to see that he was attacking the whole reason for existence for the midwives but more than that, he doesn’t seem to get it that in attempting to kill the Hebrew sons he was attacking Hebrew motherhood. His total disregard for women was at the root of the downfall of his dynasty because he did not take notice of a very fundamental linkage — that it would be, to put it in archetypal terms, the seed of the woman who would bruise the serpent’s head.

The midwives seem to have deduced, quite correctly, that the disdain that Pharaoh had towards their womanhood was derived from a disdain that he had for women in general so that, when they said, ‘the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women.’ he was set up to believe them. It was entirely in character for Pharaoh to extend his genocidal plan to make it an obligation for all his people to drown the Hebrew boys. As soon as he did this, of course, it made his entire people the mortal enemies of the Hebrews and legitimately liable to deception.

However, no matter how great the temptation to use the Hebrew midwives as an example of the righteousness of deceiving a mortal enemy, there remains the difficulty that the vigour of the Hebrew women was an actual reality. If Pharaoh had checked he would have no doubt discovered that many of the Hebrew women were being delivered without the midwife being in attendance. The decadence of Egyptian womanhood was evident away back in the days when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph whereas these Hebrew women, including the midwives, looked back to Sarah who gave birth to the patriarch Isaac when she was in her nineties.

Now, it is a still a temptation to dwell now on the truthfulness of what the midwives said to Pharaoh, and draw out the lesson that when we are deceiving a mortal enemy, it is generally a good rule to be as truthful as possible in what we say to deceive. It isn’t that the midwives never assisted at the birth of a baby boy but when they gave a reason for their general inability to comply with Pharaoh’s demand they were demonstrating why there were many little Hebrew boys out there. With regard to the fact that they had, out of reverence for God, never killed a baby boy was a truth with which they were economical. In their reply to Pharaoh they used as much of the truth as they could in order to deceive him utterly.

No, the lesson we take from the incident of the Hebrew midwives is that that generation of women could be favorably contrasted not only with their Egyptian contemporaries but also with their own sons on the eve of the plagues. Shiphrah and Puah were representatives of a galaxy of strong mothers-in-Israel in a day when they were called upon to be the first line of resistance to an attack on the very existence of Israel’s children.

One more name from that generation needs to be singled out. She was the daughter of one of the twelve sons of Jacob but born when he was old. Here is her generation as we find it recorded in Exodus 06[14-20]

14 • These are the heads of their fathers’ houses:
the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel:
Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi;
these are the clans of Reuben.
15 • The sons of Simeon:
Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar,
• and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman;
these are the clans of Simeon.

16 • These are the names of the sons of Levi
according to their generations:
Gershon, Kohath, and Merari,
the years of the life of Levi being 137 years.
17 The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, by their clans.
18 • The sons of Kohath:
Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel,
the years of the life of Kohath being 133 years.
19 • The sons of Merari:
Mahli and Mushi.
These are the clans of the Levites according to their generations.

20 • Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister,
• and she bore him Aaron and Moses,
• the years of the life of Amram being 137 years.

Note how the families of tribes of Reuben and Simeon are passed over quickly save that it is mentioned that Shaul was son of Simeon and ‘of a Canaanite woman.’ The families of the tribe of Levi are drawn out for one more generation to establish the families and, to give a rough chronology, three ages at death are given. The captivity in Egypt was long but the startling evidence of this text is that Jochebed the mother of Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt, was the granddaughter of Jacob. It is difficult to make the figures add up precisely since we do not have ages of fathers at the birth of their sons to put beside their ages at death but however we stack the figures up it seems necessary for us to recognise that Jochebed was older than normal childbearing age when her children were born.

However it was that she got to take a place among the lively Hebrew women of Shiphrah’s and Puah’s generation, Jochebed was called on to give birth to her youngest child during the time when Pharaoh had given up on the midwives being able to dispatch the Hebrew boys and was calling on the Egyptians to do it. Let’s look at the strength of her resolve when her son was born:

Exodus 02[01-08]

1 • Now a man from the house of Levi went
and took as his wife a Levite woman.
2 The woman conceived and bore a son,
and when she saw that he was a fine child,
she hid him three months.
3 • When she could hide him no longer,
she took for him a basket made of bulrushes
and daubed it with bitumen and pitch.
• She put the child in it
and placed it among the reeds by the river bank.
4 And his sister stood at a distance
to know what would be done to him.

5 • Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river,
while her young women walked beside the river.
• She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman,
and she took it.
6 • When she opened it,
she saw the child,
and behold, the baby was crying.
She took pity on him and said,
“This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

7 • Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,
“Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women
to nurse the child for you?”
8 • And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.”
• So the girl went and called the child’s mother.

Pharaoh’s disdain for women rises up to bite him once more in this story. We are presented with the story of three women here and we know the names of two of them from later on in the account. Jochebed and Miriam her daughter were beneath Pharaoh’s attention as Hebrew women, although it is possible that they were notable simply because of seniority in a major family. On the other hand, although Pharaoh’s daughter would have been known to him, we never know her name although she is responsible for naming Moses and for taking him into Pharaoh’s household. It is inconceivable that a son of Pharaoh’s would have been able to do this but an insignificant daughter was allowed to bring the one who would become the nemesis of the entire dynasty into the palace and sponsor his growing up there. What did it matter to Pharaoh if the Hebrew girls were allowed to live and what did it matter to him that his daughter wanted to amuse herself in this way?

If Pharaoh was aware that Moses was a Hebrew, it is fairly certain that he never entertained the thought that anyone would choose to align himself with a group of slaves when he had a place in the palace. Jochebed knew better and her choice of method to save the boy’s life shows that her trust was placed entirely in the God of history. Pharaoh wouldn’t even acknowledge the recent history of the salvation of his nation at the hand of the Hebrew slave, Joseph, but Jochebed’s preparation of the bulrush basket covered in tar shows a knowledge of the way that God preserved the human family, eight strong in the Ark, through the flood. The means that would have been used to destroy Moses was thus transformed into the means of his survival and the crying that would have given him away during the first three months of his existence now stirred up maternal instincts in Pharaoh’s daughter.

Moses might have been called ‘the son of Pharaoh’s daughter’ but Jochebed knew — by the recognition that first saw that ‘he was a fine child’, by his preservation in the basket and by the answer to her prayers that he was returned to her to nurse — Jochebed knew that God had a purpose for Moses. How great her vision was we do not know but her struggle to preserve her son’s life is representative of the struggles of a whole generation. Their vigour, fear of God and resistance to the mortal enemy of their people would have had poor reward if the preserved generation had continued to be the beaten and ground-down bunch of slaves that wouldn’t listen to Moses eighty years later. But just as God provided the idea of the basket to Jochebed and the opportunity for Miriam to suggest to Pharaoh’s daughter that she fetch ‘a nurse from the Hebrew women,’ he also sent the nine plagues to strengthen Israel in the measure that they weakened Egypt.

Moses himself honored his mother with another mention of her name:

Numbers 26[52-59]

52 • The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
53 • “Among these the land shall be divided for inheritance
according to the number of names.
54 • To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance,
and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance;
every tribe shall be given its inheritance in proportion to its list.

55 • But the land shall be divided by lot.
• According to the names of the tribes of their fathers
they shall inherit.
56 • Their inheritance shall be divided
according to lot between the larger and the smaller.”

57 • This was the list of the Levites according to their clans:
of Gershon, the clan of the Gershonites;
of Kohath, the clan of the Kohathites;
of Merari, the clan of the Merarites.
58 • These are the clans of Levi:
the clan of the Libnites,
the clan of the Hebronites,
the clan of the Mahlites,
the clan of the Mushites,
the clan of the Korahites.
• And Kohath was the father of Amram.
59 The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi,
who was born to Levi in Egypt.
And she bore to Amram Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister.

It tells us three things about Jochebed, that she was the daughter of Levi, that she was born in Egypt and that she bore her husband, Amram, three children. The first two facts make explicit what is implied elsewhere but note that the context here is all about inheritance. Inheritance is about patrimony and size, but we see here that it isn’t only about patrimony and size. Two things are very relevant. 1) God would control the lot that would select which tribe and family would inherit where and 2) mothers are important in sonship as well as fathers.

God gave the mothers in their tenacity the means to preserve their sons and he gave the nine plagues to turn these sons back into the sort of men that their mothers had wanted them to be. He uses means to guard his inheritance and to bring us into ours. These mothers-in-Israel were stirred up to do whatever it took to preserve life and bring their sons to the inheritance in the land that they, true daughters of Abraham, were looking for. We should not be surprised that God chose a mother, Mary, to bring a special child into the world and fight for his preservation, and that that son then did what it took to claim the inheritance on our behalf and bring many sons to glory.