Chrysostom’s Invincibility Before the Byzantine Empress

There is a famous story about John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople facing persecution at the hands of Eudoxia and the Emperor Arcadius in the Byzantine Empire in the fifth century. First, Eudoxia threatens Chrysostom with banishment, to which he replies:

“You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father’s house,” said John.
“But I will kill you,” the empress said.
“No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God.”
“I will take away your treasures,” said Eudoxia.
“No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there.”
“But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left,” Eudoxia responded.
“No, you cannot,” said John, “for I have a Friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me. I defy you. For there is nothing you can do to harm me.”

Is the Story True?

This is a fantastic sermon illustration on persecution. I found it in F. W. Boreham‘s book Mountains in the Mist, where Chrysostom is never mentioned. It has been quoted on The Gospel Coalition, John MacArthur’s commentary, and many other sources.

The earliest source I have found for this quote is from 1874 (1). It is given in a Scottish commentary on Daniel. It gives a summary of something Chrysostom preached more than once, but it doesn’t appear that he said these words in dialogue with any of his persecutors.

Chrysostom was in fact banished under the emperor Arcadius and his wife Eudoxia. He faced threats of violence more than once in his lifetime. In 1840, Henry Milman’s famous church history quotes Chrysostom as saying (2):

What can I fear? Death? “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Exile? “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” Confiscation? We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out of it. I fear not death. I desire to live only for your profit. . . .

Milman says this homily is uncertain. As will be shown, it seems that Chrysostom in fact said this, but not at the end of his life, but much earlier.

What Did Chrysostom Say While Facing Banishment?

What Chrysostom did say when facing banishment is very similar to this quote, but much longer. Phillip Schaff, in his biography of Chrysostom, gives the following from a letter from Chrysostom to Bishop Cyriacus (3):

When driven from the city, I cared nothing for it. But I said to myself, if the empress wishes to banish me, let her banish me—”the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” If she would saw me in sunder, let her saw me in sunder—I have Isaiah for a pattern. If she would plunge me in the sea—I remember Jonah. If she would thrust me into the fiery furnace—I see the three children enduring that. If she would cast me to wild beasts—I call to mind Daniel in the den of lions. If she would stone me, let her stone me—I have before me, Stephen the protomartyr. If she would take my head from me, let her take it—I have John the Baptist. If she would deprive me of my worldly goods, let her do it—naked came I from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. . . .

It appears that, because he here quotes Psalm 24 and Job 1, to the same effect, the two quotations have been conflated. Below, you will find the original sermon (or homily) in which Chrysostom did in fact say something very similar to the quote that is passed around today. If anything, his original words state his invicibility more strongly, and more scripturally.

Chrysostom Protects Eutropius

The rabbit hole keeps going. Mosheim’s church history (4) appears to be the first to point out the significant quotation as an example of eloquence. He recommends Montfaucon’s 13-volume edition of Chrysostom’s works (5). Thanks to Google, Internet Archive, and my Latin teacher, I found there the two homilies on Eutropius, which are the original source of the famous anecdote (6). The second homily (7) contains the following words:

For what is terrible? Death? Nay, this is not terrible: for we speedily reach the unruffled haven. Or spoliation of goods? “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I depart” (Job 1:21); or exile? “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (Ps. 24:1); or false accusation? “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for great is your reward in Heaven” (Mt. 5:12). (8)

This also has been included in Phillip Schaff’s Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 9, which is widely available. It seems a volume set like this is so large, we hardly know what is there.

So here’s what we know about the story: It is a homily—not a dialogue—that Chrysostom wrote about Eutropius, who had found sanctuary in his church from Aelia Eudoxia, the wife of the Byzantine Emperor, Arcadius. Eutropius was a consul who had fallen out of favor with Byzantine royalty, and it seems he had great trust in John Chrysostom, whom he had previously nominated for Archbishop of Constantinople. When Eutropius fled to the church, armed soldiers entered, demanding that Chrysostom release him. Chrysostom told them to leave, and appealed to the emperor, claiming that he would not give up his church’s right to be a place of sanctuary. After he left the church, Eutropius was eventually apprehended, sentenced, and beheaded.

Within a few days after Eutropius fled the church, Chrysostom gave two homilies related to the events, which you can read in English with an introduction here. It seems that the story was variously paraphrased in the mid-19th century, and while the speaker is correctly given as Chrysostom, it was not his heroic reply to an emperor or empress; it was his exhortation to believers while he was still in a place of great influence as Archbishop of Constantinople. Now that you know the context, here is a fuller quotation. (8)

“I Saw the Swords and I Meditated on Heaven”

Walls are shattered by barbarians, but over the Church even demons do not prevail. And that my words are no mere vaunt there is the evidence of facts. How many have assailed the Church, and yet the assailants have perished while the Church herself has soared beyond the sky? Such might hath the Church: when she is assailed she conquers: when snares are laid for her she prevails: when she is insulted her prosperity increases: she is wounded yet sinks not under her wounds; tossed by waves yet not submerged; vexed by storms yet suffers no shipwreck; she wrestles and is not worsted, fights but is not vanquished. Wherefore then did she suffer this war to be? That she might make more manifest the splendour of her triumph. Ye were present on that day, and ye saw what weapons were set in motion against her, and how the rage of the soldiers burned more fiercely than fire, and I was hurried away to the imperial palace. But what of that? By the grace of God none of those things dismayed me.

Now I say these things in order that ye too may follow my example. But wherefore was I not dismayed? Because I do not fear any present terrors. For what is terrible? Death? Nay, this is not terrible: for we speedily reach the unruffled haven. Or spoliation of goods? “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I depart” (Job 1:21); or exile? “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (Ps. 24:1); or false accusation? “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for great is your reward in Heaven” (Mt. 5:12).

I saw the swords and I meditated on Heaven; I expected death, and I bethought me of the resurrection; I beheld the sufferings of this lower world, and I took account of the heavenly prizes; I observed the devices of the enemy, and I meditated on the heavenly crown: for the occasion of the contest was sufficient for encouragement and consolation. True! I was being forcibly dragged away, but I suffered no insult from the act; for there is only one real insult, namely sin: and should the whole world insult thee, yet if thou dost not insult thyself thou art not insulted. The only real betrayal is the betrayal of the conscience: betray not thy own conscience, and no one can betray thee.

(1) November 1874 issue of The Original Secession Magazine of the Church of Scotland, on page 839.
(2) Henry Milman. History of Christianity, vol. 3, p. 229.
(3) Phillip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 9, p. 14.
(4) The original title of this book was Institvtiones Historiae Ecclesiasticae Novi Testamenti, published in 1727 in Frankfurt.
(5) Mosheim points this out in footnote 17 on page 241-242 of the English edition.
(6) Montfaucon. Opera Omnia Quae Exstant, etc. volume 3, page 454. (This PDF file is over 1,000 pages.)
(7) The translation of these homilies is by W. R. W. Stephens. You can read them here in the original Greek.
(8) Phillip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 9, p. 14.

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Author Guide: Samuel Zwemer

This is a bibliography of works by Samuel Zwemer, adapted from Apostle to Islam by J. Christy Wilson, Sr.

Zwemer may have been the most famous missions mobilizer of the 20th century. He pioneered in Bahrain, Iraq, and Egypt, in addition to missions tours and conferences virtually everywhere that Islam is found. He preached in English, Arabic, and Dutch. His sermons and books called the Church to acknowledge the challenge of Islam head-on.

While some of his works are left for specialists in religion, many of his devotional works are just as compelling today.

***Asterisks mark those that are highly recommended.

 

Works by Samuel Zwemer

  1. Arabia: The Cradle of Islam. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1900. 434 pages.
  2. Raymond Lull: First Missionary to the Muslims. Funk and Wagnalls, New York. 1902. 172 pages. (Spanish edition.)
  3. The Muslim Doctrine of God. American Tract Society, New York. 1905. 120 pages.
  4. Islam, A Challenge to Faith. Student Volunteer Movement, New York. 1907. 295 pages.
  5. The Muslim World. Young People’s Missionary Movement of the United States and Canada. Eaton, New York, 1908. 239 pages. (Revised edition of Islam, A Challenge to Faith.)
  6. The Unoccupied Mission Fields of Africa and Asia. Student Volunteer Movement, New York. 1911. 260 pages.
  7. The Muslim Christ. Oliphant, Anderson and Ferrier, London. 1912. 198 pages. American Tract Society, New York.
  8. Mohammed or Christ. Seeley Service and Company, London. 1915. 292 pages.
  9. Childhood in the Muslim World. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1915. 274 pages.
  10. The Disintegration of Islam. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1916. 227 pages.
  11. The Influence of Animism on Islam. Macmillan, New York. 1920. 246 pages.
  12. Christianity the Final Religion. Eerdmans Sevensma Co., The Pilgrim Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1920. 108 pages.
  13. A Muslim Seeker After God: Life of Al-Ghazali. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1921. 302 pages.
  14. The Law of Apostasy in Islam. Marshall Brothers, London. 1923. 164 pages.
  15. The Call to Prayer. Marshall Brothers, London. 1923. 79 pages.
  16. The Glory of the Cross. Marshall Brothers, London. 1928. 128 pages. (Arabic edition.)***
  17. Across the World of Islam. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1929. 382 pages.
  18. Thinking Missions with Christ. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1934.
  19. The Origin of Religion. Cokesbury Press, Nashville, Tenn. 1935.
  20. Taking Hold of God. Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London 1936. 188 pages.
  21. It is Hard to be a Christian. Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, 1937. 159 pages.
  22. The Solitary Throne. Pickering and Inglis, London. 1937. 112 pages.***
  23. Studies in Popular Islam. Macmillan, New York. 1939. 148 pages.
  24. Dynamic Christianity and the World Today. Intervarsity Fellowship, London. 1939. 173 pages.
  25. The Glory of the Manger. American Tract Society, New York. 1940. 232 pages.
  26. The Art of Listening to God. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1940. 217 pages.
  27. The Cross Above the Crescent. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1941. 292 pages.
  28. Into All the World. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1943. 222 pages.
  29. Evangelism Today. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1944. 125 pages.
  30. Heirs of the Prophets. Moody Press, Chicago. 1946. 137 pages.
  31. The Glory of the Empty Tomb. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1947. 170 pages.
  32. How Rich the Harvest: Studies in Bible Themes and Missions. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1948. 120 pages.
  33. Sons of Adam. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1951. 164 pages.

 

Works of Joint Authorship

  1. Topsy Turvy Land, with Amy E. Zwemer. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1902. 124 pages.
  2. Methods of Mission Work among Muslims, with E. M. Wherry. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1906. 232 pages.
  3. The Mohammedan World of Today, with E. M. Wherry. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1906. 302 pages.
  4. Our Muslim Sisters, with Annie Van Sommer. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1907. 299 pages.
  5. The Nearer and Farther East, with Arthur J. Brown. Macmillan, New York. 1908. 325 pages.
  6. Lucknow, 1911, with E. M. Wherry. Madras, 1912. 298 pages.
  7. Zig-Zag Journeys in the Camel Country, with Amy E. Zwemer. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1911.
  8. Daylight in the Harem: A New Era for Muslim Women, with Annie Van Sommer. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1912. 224 pages.
  9. Islam and Missions, report of the Lucknow conference with E. M. Wherry. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1912. 300 pages.
  10. Christian Literature in Muslim Lands, with a committee. Doran, New York. 1923.
  11. Muslim Women, with Amy E. Zwemer. United Study Committee, New York. 1926. 306 pages.The Golden Milestone: Reminiscences of Pioneer Days Fifty Years Ago in Arabia, with James Cantine. Fleming H. Revell, New York. 1939. 157 pages.

 

Short Works and Contributions

“Report of a Mission Tour Down the Euphrates from Hillah to Busrah.” The Christian Intelligencer, Jan. 4 & 11, 1893.

“Report of a Journey into Yemen and Work among the Jews for the Mildmay Mission.” The Christian Intelligencer. c. 1894.

“Mohammedan World of Today.” 1898.

“Epilogue: A Sketch of the Arabian Mission.” Kamil Abdulmasih. [Formerly Kamil Abdul Messiah.] 1898.

“Advice to Volunteers.” Advice for Student Volunteers. [Formerly The Call, Qualifications and Preparation of Candidates for Foreign Missionary Service Ed. Robert Speer. 1901.

“Thinking Gray in Missions.” n.d.

“The Impending Struggle in Western Asia.” An address delivered January 2, 1910.

“Islam, the War, and Missions.” c. 1914.

“Introduction.” The Vital Forces of Christianity and Islam, with W. H. T. Gairdner, et al. Oxford, London. 1915.

“A Primer on Islam.” Continuation Committee, Shanghai. 1919. 24 pages.

“Report of a Visit to Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf and India.” Summer of 1924.  American Christian Literature Society for Muslims, New York. 1924. 31 pages.

“Report of a Visit to India and Ceylon.” September 23, 1927, to February 28, 1928. A.C.L.S.M., New York. 1928. 33 pages.

“A Factual Survey of the Muslim World.” Fleming H. Revell, New York, 1946. 34 pages.

“The Glory of the Impossible.” 1950.

Review: Phantastes (No Spoilers)

Rating: ★★★

Who: George MacDonald, 19th-century Scottish preacher, poet, and novelist. He had a profound influence on C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and many others.

Overview: This book is a mixed genre foray into fantasy, written very early in MacDonald’s career. The story is framed as an episodic journey, but it incorporates many sideplots and poems, so that many chapters are only loosely strung to the narrative. This relatively difficult book has some dark themes and is written primarily for an adult audience.

The plots and subplots deal with themes of imagination, bondage and freedom, love and infatuation. Anodos falls in love with a statue, but cannot free her from her pedestal; Anodos is warned about the Ash Tree, which is precisely who he finds himself encountering; and so on.

Meat: This book had great appeal for C. S. Lewis—before his conversion—and wrote in Surprised By Joy that it “baptized [his] imagination.” For my own part, I can say that some of the images and metaphors were profound; others, rather protracted. This is definitely one of MacDonald’s most ambitious works of fiction, and may appeal to more ambitious readers.

Bones: When C. S. Lewis recommends a novel, one expects to see sweeping themes like those of the Space trilogy, or elegant metaphors like those of Narnia; I didn’t find either to be in large number here. The fantasy is more of art for art’s sake, or language for language’s sake; it was costly reading with no payoff.

I am a great fan of George MacDonald, but not a fan of his darker work. (I should add, Lewis has pointed me to other fantasy works that I found disappointing, like those of Charles Williams.)

Quotes: “We receive but what we give.” (loc. 854)

“The waters lay so close to me, they seemed to enter and revive my heart. I rose to the surface, shook the water from my hair, and swam as in a rainbow, amid the coruscations of the gems below seen through the agitation caused by my motion. Then, with open eyes, I dived, and swam beneath the surface. And here was a new wonder. For the basin, thus beheld, appeared to extend on all sides like a sea, with here and there groups as of ocean rocks, hollowed by ceaseless billows into wondrous caves and grotesque pinnacles. Around the caves grew sea-weeds of all hues, and the corals glowed between; while far off, I saw the glimmer of what seemed to be creatures of human form at home in the waters. I thought I had been enchanted; and that when I rose to the surface, I should find myself miles from land, swimming alone upon a heaving sea; but when my eyes emerged from the waters, I saw above me the blue spangled vault, and the red pillars around. I dived again, and found myself once more in the heart of a great sea.” (loc. 1089)

“Hardly knowing what I did, I opened the door. Why had I not done so before? I do not know.” (loc. 2448)

This book is free on Kindle, Project Gutenberg, and on LibriVox.

Chrysostom and the Goal of Missions

In early modern missions, Carey and many of his contemporaries seemed to think that they were ushering in the Millennial kingdom in some sense. It’s interested that their optimism may have been partially misfounded, or misdirected; we are not commanded to Christianize all nations, but simply to preach, as the following from Chrysostom shows:

For the signs too are now complete, which announce that day. For “this Gospel of the Kingdoms,” saith He, “shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Attend with care to what is said. He said not, “when it hath been believed by all men,” but “when it hath been preached to all.” For this cause he also said, “for a witness to the nations,” to show, that He doth not wait for all men to believe, and then for Him to come. Since the phrase, “for a witness,” hath this meaning, “for accusation,” “for reproof,” “for condemnation of them that have not believed.”

So the goal of missions is not a Millennial kingdom; the goal of missions is that all may hear. May the offer of Christ’s grace go forth.

(Source: John Chrysostom, Homily X on Matthew. Phillip Schaff’s Nicene and Post Nicene Church Fathers.)

Texts That Made History

The Texts That Made History series is a series of biographical sermons by F. W. Boreham. Each sermon deals with the impact of a single Scripture text in the life of a famous person. We are not surprised to see the impact of the Bible in the lives of reformers, preachers, and pioneer missionaries. However, Boreham broadens his vision to take on explorers, authors, statesmen, and even a few fictional characters.

In the introduction to the fifth volume, the author explains that several years ago he was musing on what to announce for his next teaching series. He had been studying the impact of a single Scripture on the life of Martin Luther—guiding towards the Protestant Reformation—and wondered if he should teach on the Bible’s impact in biographies. Then Boreham tells us he “astonished himself” by announcing that he was commencing a series entitled The Texts That Made History:

At the close of the service, one of my most trusted officers came to me in great delight. ‘That’s a noble idea,’ he explained enthusiastically; ‘it will be the best series that you ever preached!’

It has certainly been the longest, and the most evangelistic, and the most effective. And it has been the series in which I myself have found the most delight.

Boreham wrote over 1500 biographical articles over the course of his life, making him for many decades the most prolific author in Australian history. He read one book every week over the course of most of his long life. It is no wonder, then, that he is well qualified to handle his theme.

Four out of the five books in this series are already available as ebooks, and we hope to put all four of them back into print in the coming months.

Texts That Made History

  1. A Bunch of Everlastings
  2. A Handful of Stars
  3. A Casket of Cameos
  4. A Faggot of Torches (unavailable)
  5. A Temple of Topaz

Leviticus: Be Holy For God Is Holy

LEVITICUS
is a book about
HOLINESS
in which God provides
ATONEMENT.

The Book of Leviticus: God’s Holiness

Leviticus is named for its relation to the Levites, and most of its commands pertain to the priesthood, especially commands about atonement for sin, which is the subject of about half the book.
In Exodus, one of the most important phrases in the Old Testament is introduced: “I am the Lord.” In Leviticus, God says his nature is essentially holy (20:7-8, 21:8, etc.). In the ESV, the word “holy” is used 91 times in Book of Leviticus.
He is also the Lord who sanctifies or makes us holy (20:8; 21:8, 23; 22:9, 16; see also Ex. 31:13; Ezek. 20:12, 37:28, etc.). This is a key concept in Leviticus, repeated five times: “Be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45, etc.). God’s holiness informs us about what it means for us to be holy, and God’s holiness is the reason that he provides atonement for us. This is the attribute of God most clearly on display in Leviticus, and nearly every passage in Leviticus can be seen through this lens.

Plain Teaching on Sin (ch. 1-7)

These commandments about sacrifice are filled with specific truth about sin and guilt. There is no need to seek any allegorical meaning in them, when they teach plain truths about sin and sacrifice:
1) We learn the difference between sins and trespasses (Ps. 19:12-13). There are sins that are obvious to us, but there are also sins that we commit unknowingly (4:2). 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our (known) sin, he will cleanse us from all unrighteousness (which would include unknown sin).
2) We learn the difference between personal sin, public sin, and priestly sin (4:13, 22, 27). If I cheat my neighbor, that is my own sin. But Nehemiah acknowledged, for example, that the people had sinned corporately, and corporate repentance was required.
The sin of priests and leaders is also treated differently. Ministers and teachers of the Gospel carry more responsibility because of their consecration, and this even affects the way their families are treated.
3) We learn from Aaron’s four sons that there are sins of commission and omission. Just as Nadab and Abihu sinned by offering fire “which the Lord had not commanded” (10:1), Eleazar and Ithamar sinned by neglecting to eat the sacrifice as commanded priesthood(10:18).

Plain Teaching on Priesthood and Sacrifice (ch. 8-10, ch. 21-22)

The tabernacle is established in the Book of the Exodus, and the  is established in this book. In Leviticus, we have plain teaching about the meaning of sacrifice—not only that God requires our best, or that he requires blood, but beyond that, we learn:
1) Sacrifice required confession (4:15, 5:5, 16:21). The purpose of placing hands on the animal was to confess guilt in its presence. Likewise, the sacrifice of Christ has no effect if we do not admit our guiltiness.
2) Sacrifice required consecration (ch. 8-10). Not everyone can make a sacrifice, but only a priest can make atonement under the Old Covenant (4:35, 5:16, etc.). But now the Lord requires consecration from all his children, and we are all priests in the new order (Heb. 7:11, 1 Pet. 2:5).
3) Sacrifice required cleanness. It is not undertaken flippantly (10:1), or in any place, or at any time (16:2). But under the New Covenant we learn that God seeks those who worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). It is not just clean hands but “a pure heart” that the Lord desires (Ps. 24:4).

Holiness and Cleanliness (ch. 11-15)

All the rituals involving food, skin diseases, etc. may be seen as involving cleanliness, and may or may not involve the guilt of sin. The commandments about food (ch. 11) are practical and interesting. (Winkie Pratney says, if you break these commands, you won’t necessarily go to Hell, but you will feel like Hell.)
Before the New Covenant was established, the Lord frequently required healed lepers to abide by Leviticus 14 in presenting themselves to the priests.
Leviticus 13 and 14 are dedicated to the separation of those with contagious skin disorders from the crowd of the camp.
The idea that these diseases were transferred through physical contact, and not by some other mystical means, has suffered a lack of acceptance, even recently, even in the educated West. At the height of his career, Joseph Lister was criticized and laughed at in his early career for his ideas about cleanliness and antiseptics in hospitals; in his old age, Queen Victoria made him a baron and a royal counselor; now, he is known as the “Father of Modern Surgery.”

Day of Atonement (ch. 16)

The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is at the center of the Book of Leviticus, and it is central to the whole practice of making atonement. This is neither the same as the daily sacrifices, nor is it “business as usual.” We see this in 1) the rarity of the occasion, which was annual (v. 2, 29); 2) the entry of the Holy of Holies, which was not allowed at other times (v. 2); 3) the special release of the scapegoat, which is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible.
The meaning of the scapegoat is up for debate, but the custom is clear enough: In addition to the commands laid out in this passage—namely, confession over this goat—the high priest tied a scarlet thread to the goat, representing guilt, before sending him away. In later years, rather than merely releasing it, the man charged with the duty would push the goat off of a precipice, and wave a signal to people stationed nearby that the atonement ritual was complete. Regardless, it represents a distancing from sin (Ps. 103:12), God not counting our sins against us (Ps. 32:1-2, Rom. 4:7-8).

General Commands (ch. 17-20)

It is no coincidence that sex is mentioned so prominently (ch. 18) in a book about holiness and atonement; sexual immorality is the quickest path to deceive yourself and destroy your family, and must be taken seriously (Heb 13:4).
This section contains what Jesus called the second most important commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18). Thomas Fuller, a Puritan author, had a fascinating insight on this verse in connection with the Sermon on the Mount: “Many things pass to be in Scripture, when no such matter is to be found therein. ‘Ye have heard it said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.”’ (Mt. 5:43) But where is it said, ‘Thou shalt hate thine enemy’? Surely nowhere in God’s Word.”[1]

Feasts, Sabbaths and the Year of Jubilee (ch. 23-25, 27)

Note especially how the Feasts of Passover and Booths have been fulfilled in Christ’s death, and Pentecost, respectively (Mt. 26:2, 1 Cor. 5:7, etc.). (It’s important to know that Pentecost is simply the Greek name for the Feast of Booths.)
The Year of Jubilee (ch. 25) ensures justice and provide balances to the economic system; most interestingly, debt is freely forgiven, while in our modern system it simply accumulates unchecked.

Covenant and Consequences (ch. 26)

In Leviticus 26, God outlines consequences if Israel should fail to keep her side of the Covenant. This chapter shows that for believers, God will progressively try any means to get their attention, so that they will return to him (v. 3, 14, 18, 21, 23, 27; see also Deut. 28). But God promises in spite of this that he will bless and help them “if they confess their iniquity” (v. 40), and he could never forget or break his end of the covenant (v. 43-44).
This important section of the Pentateuch is what is referenced by Jeremiah and Daniel when they say that the punishments of the covenant have fallen on Israel (Dan. 9:10-14, Lam. 2:17). The complaints of other prophets of the exile period also prove that this Scripture was being fulfilled in their day (Hag. 2:16-17).

Study Recommendations

Written in Blood by Robert E. Coleman is a readable, well-studied devotional on the meaning of Jesus’ blood.
Andrew Murray published two books of sermons on Jesus’ blood: The Power of the Blood of Jesus and The Blood of the Cross.


[1] Concerning Christ’s Temptations.

proving the unseen

Review: Proving the Unseen

Rating: ★★★★

Who: George MacDonald, 19th-century Scottish preacher, poet, and novelist. He had a profound influence on C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and many others.

Overview: This book is a rare glimpse into the spoken sermons of George MacDonald. Proving the Unseen was arranged and edited by William J. Petersen from sermons published in Christian World Pulpit in MacDonald’s lifetime. The sermons are reasonably short and have the same subject matter found in most of MacDonald’s books: The Fatherhood of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and the obedience of faith.

Meat: This book’s strength is that it is significantly easier to read than Unspoken Sermons, which many—unlike me—find too abstract. MacDonald’s spoken ministry as found here is surprisingly straightforward, and yet, the material has the same depth and spiritual sharpness. I especially enjoyed the titular sermon, “Faith, the Proof of the Unseen,” and “Alone with God.”

Bones: The sermons here are pretty short, so you may get the sense that MacDonald could say a lot more on each topic.

Quotes: “Often the very things that lift us up nearer to God are viewed by us as misfortunes. ‘How sad,’ we say, and console one another on the means that the Father of our spirits is using to cleanse our souls and to make us the very children of his heart.” (p. 61)