Of all the apocryphal books, the one best known to modern times is probably that of Judith. The heroine has ever been a favorite figure with story-teller and poet, with painter and especially with sculptor. She has become the typical figure of the Hebrew race. In historical accuracy the book is wholly lacking. It is a romance, or rather a national epic celebrating some great Jewish triumph which, if not purely imaginary, has been exaggerated and confused beyond all recognition.
The book tells how “Nabuchodonossor king of the Assyrians” conquered all other kings, and sent his chief general Holofernes with a mighty army to march through every land and lay it waste, and compel its people to worship Nabuchodonossor as god. All the peoples submitted in terror, except the Jews. These “newly returned from the captivity”, had too deep a sense of God’s greatness to do worship to a mere man. Therefore they fortified themselves among their hills and prayed. One of Holofernes’ own counsellors warned him of the power of the Hebrew God and urged him not to attack them; but Holofernes and all his army scoffed at this timorous advice. They would destroy all the Jews forever.
All things, as John tells us, were now accomplished; the Scriptures of old, the prophecies concerning Messiah, were all fulfilled. Only the consummation of the Great Sacrifice, the actual human death of the divine Son, remained to be completed. For more than three hours Jesus had hung upon His cross, from before noon till mid-afternoon; but the last of those hours was not such as the first. Gradually, imperceptibly perhaps, a darkness had closed round the earth. Was not the “light of the world” fading from it? Men who had mocked Him in the sunshine grew silent as this funereal blackness blotted out the day.
Every gasp of the sufferer must have been audible now in that strange hush. The tragedy was being mercifully hurried to an end. Some victims lived upon the cross for days; Jesus was dying in three hours. One awful cry of anguish was wrung from Him, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” A cry of human heartbreak; for was it not of heartbreak rather than of physical suffering that Jesus died? Of grief for that world of men whom He had so loved, so tended, and who had so basely deserted Him? Of what divine struggle that single outcry was the ending we can not know; perchance only in that last moment were the doors of mercy closed, and the Father finally refused the prayer of Jesus that all men might be saved.
Jewish Marriage Customs
1. HIS ORIGIN (1:18–23)
1:18–23. The fact that Jesus was born “of Mary” only, as indicated in the genealogical record (v. 16), demanded V 2, p 20 further explanation. Matthew’s explanation can best be understood in the light of Hebrew marriage customs. Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead, the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his for one year. The waiting period was to demonstrate the faithfulness of the pledge of purity given concerning the bride. If she was found to be with child in this period, she obviously was not pure, but had been involved in an unfaithful sexual relationship. Therefore the marriage could be annulled. If, however, the one-year waiting period demonstrated the purity of the bride, the husband would then go to the house of the bride’s parents and in a grand processional march lead his bride back to his home. There they would begin to live together as husband and wife and consummate their marriage physically. Matthew’s story should be read with this background in mind.
Barbieri, Louis A., Jr. “Matthew.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 18–20. Print.
We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them
No man is born into the world whose work is not born with him. There is always work, and tools to work withal, for those who will.
J. R. Lowell
Hardman, Samuel G., and Dwight Lyman Moody. Thoughts for the Quiet Hour. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1997. Print.
August 21: Transitions
Isaiah 42:10–43:28; Luke 16:1–17:10; Job 9:25–35
Life is marked by seasons—times of great difficulty and times of great joy. Usually we focus on making the transition from pain to relief as quickly as possible, but in the process, we may forget the significance of the transition itself. A transition is an opportunity to contemplate: Who is acting to move us from one season of our lives to the next? Why does winter give way to spring?
“Sing a new song to Yahweh; praise him from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea and that which fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy; let them shout loudly from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to Yahweh and declare his praise in the coastlands” (Isa 42:10–12).
This song of praise moves from the “end of the earth” inward, from region to region, until the whole world is involved. Yahweh is renewing everything. The world is moving from a despairing place to a place of order, which is great news. But the great news is not only the joy of renewal—it’s also the way that it all comes about.
Yahweh brings war to create order (Isa 42:13). He leads the blind (Isa 42:16). He turns darkness into light (Isa 42:16). We often want healing and joy to descend on us suddenly, like a flash of lightning. But for joy to grow in our lives and in our world, great evils must first be stamped out. Like the gradual return of plants and sunlight in the spring, joy comes during and through Yahweh’s patient work. We must embrace the nature of His work, and the difficulty of it, as much as we embrace the results.
What transitions are you in? How can you depend on Yahweh in the midst of them? What are you learning about Him in the process?
JOHN D. BARRY
Barry, John D., and Rebecca Kruyswijk. Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012. Print.
The ministry of the unnoticed
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Matthew 5:3.
The New Testament notices things which from our standards do not seem to count. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” literally—Blessed are the paupers—an exceedingly commonplace thing! The preaching of to-day is apt to emphasize strength of will, beauty of character—the things that are easily noticed. The phrase we hear so often, ‘Decide for Christ,’ is an emphasis on something Our Lord never trusted. He never asks us to decide for Him, but to yield to Him, a very different thing. At the basis of Jesus Christ’s Kingdom is the unaffected loveliness of the commonplace. The thing I am blessed in is my poverty. If I know I have no strength of will, no nobility of disposition, then Jesus says—Blessed are you, because it is through this poverty that I enter His Kingdom. I cannot enter His Kingdom as a good man or woman, I can only enter it as a complete pauper.
The true character of the loveliness that tells for God is always unconscious. Conscious influence is priggish and un-Christian. If I say, ‘I wonder if I am of any use,’ I instantly lose the bloom of the touch of the Lord. “He that believeth in Me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water.” If I examine the outflow, I lose the touch of the Lord.
Which are the people who have influenced us most? Not the ones who thought they did, but those who had not the remotest notion that they were influencing us. In the Christian life the implicit is never conscious; if it is conscious, it ceases to have this unaffected loveliness which is the characteristic of the touch of Jesus. We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.
Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986. Print.
Morning, August 21 Go To Evening Reading
“He that watereth shall be watered also himself.”
— Proverbs 11:25
We are here taught the great lesson, that to get, we must give; that to accumulate, we must scatter; that to make ourselves happy, we must make others happy; and that in order to become spiritually vigorous, we must seek the spiritual good of others. In watering others, we are ourselves watered. How? Our efforts to be useful, bring out our powers for usefulness. We have latent talents and dormant faculties, which are brought to light by exercise. Our strength for labour is hidden even from ourselves, until we venture forth to fight the Lord’s battles, or to climb the mountains of difficulty. We do not know what tender sympathies we possess until we try to dry the widow’s tears, and soothe the orphan’s grief. We often find in attempting to teach others, that we gain instruction for ourselves. Oh, what gracious lessons some of us have learned at sick beds! We went to teach the Scriptures, we came away blushing that we knew so little of them. In our converse with poor saints, we are taught the way of God more perfectly for ourselves and get a deeper insight into divine truth. So that watering others makes us humble. We discover how much grace there is where we had not looked for it; and how much the poor saint may outstrip us in knowledge. Our own comfort is also increased by our working for others. We endeavour to cheer them, and the consolation gladdens our own heart. Like the two men in the snow; one chafed the other’s limbs to keep him from dying, and in so doing kept his own blood in circulation, and saved his own life. The poor widow of Sarepta gave from her scanty store a supply for the prophet’s wants, and from that day she never again knew what want was. Give then, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and running over.
Go To Morning Reading Evening, August 21
“I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.”
— Isaiah 45:19
We may gain much solace by considering what God has not said. What he has said is inexpressibly full of comfort and delight; what he has not said is scarcely less rich in consolation. It was one of these “said nots” which preserved the kingdom of Israel in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, for “the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven.” 2 Kings 14:27. In our text we have an assurance that God will answer prayer, because he hath “not said unto the seed of Israel, Seek ye me in vain.” You who write bitter things against yourselves should remember that, let your doubts and fears say what they will, if God has not cut you off from mercy, there is no room for despair: even the voice of conscience is of little weight if it be not seconded by the voice of God. What God has said, tremble at! But suffer not your vain imaginings to overwhelm you with despondency and sinful despair. Many timid persons have been vexed by the suspicion that there may be something in God’s decree which shuts them out from hope, but here is a complete refutation to that troublesome fear, for no true seeker can be decreed to wrath. “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I have not said,” even in the secret of my unsearchable decree, “Seek ye me in vain.” God has clearly revealed that he will hear the prayer of those who call upon him, and that declaration cannot be contravened. He has so firmly, so truthfully, so righteously spoken, that there can be no room for doubt. He does not reveal his mind in unintelligible words, but he speaks plainly and positively, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” Believe, O trembler, this sure truth—that prayer must and shall be heard, and that never, even in the secrets of eternity, has the Lord said unto any living soul, “Seek ye me in vain.”
Spurgeon, Charles H. Morning and Evening: Daily Readings. Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006. Print.