Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon
"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost."
Rich were the blessings of this day if all of us were filled with the Holy Ghost. The consequences of this sacred filling of the soul it would be impossible to overestimate. Life, comfort, light, purity, power, peace; and many other precious blessings are inseparable from the Spirit's benign presence. As sacred oil, he anoints the head of the believer, sets him apart to the priesthood of saints, and gives him grace to execute his office aright. As the only truly purifying water he cleanses us from the power of sin and sanctifies us unto holiness, working in us to will and to do of the Lord's good pleasure. As the light, he manifested to us at first our lost estate, and now he reveals the Lord Jesus to us and in us, and guides us in the way of righteousness. Enlightened by his pure celestial ray, we are no more darkness but light in the Lord. As fire, he both purges us from dross, and sets our consecrated nature on a blaze. He is the sacrificial flame by which we are enabled to offer our whole souls as a living sacrifice unto God. As heavenly dew, he removes our barrenness and fertilizes our lives. O that he would drop from above upon us at this early hour! Such morning dew would be a sweet commencement for the day. As the dove, with wings of peaceful love he broods over his Church and over the souls of believers, and as a Comforter he dispels the cares and doubts which mar the peace of his beloved. He descends upon the chosen as upon the Lord in Jordan, and bears witness to their sonship by working in them a filial spirit by which they cry Abba, Father. As the wind, he brings the breath of life to men; blowing where he listeth he performs the quickening operations by which the spiritual creation is animated and sustained. Would to God, that we might feel his presence this day and every day.
"My Beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether."
Song of Solomon 2:16-17
Song of Solomon 2:16-17
Surely if there be a happy verse in the Bible it is this--"My Beloved is mine, and I am his." So peaceful, so full of assurance, so overrunning with happiness and contentment is it, that it might well have been written by the same hand which penned the twenty-third Psalm. Yet though the prospect is exceeding fair and lovely--earth cannot show its superior--it is not entirely a sunlit landscape. There is a cloud in the sky which casts a shadow over the scene. Listen, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away."
There is a word, too, about the "mountains of Bether," or, "the mountains of division," and to our love, anything like division is bitterness. Beloved, this may be your present state of mind; you do not doubt your salvation; you know that Christ is yours, but you are not feasting with him. You understand your vital interest in him, so that you have no shadow of a doubt of your being his, and of his being yours, but still his left hand is not under your head, nor doth his right hand embrace you. A shade of sadness is cast over your heart, perhaps by affliction, certainly by the temporary absence of your Lord, so even while exclaiming, "I am his," you are forced to take to your knees, and to pray, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved."
"Where is he?" asks the soul. And the answer comes, "He feedeth among the lilies." If we would find Christ, we must get into communion with his people, we must come to the ordinances with his saints. Oh, for an evening glimpse of him! Oh, to sup with him tonight!
Today's reading: Nehemiah 10-11, Acts 4:1-22 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
1 Those who sealed it were:
Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hakaliah.
Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,
3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah,
4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluk,
5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,
6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,
7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,
8 Maaziah, Bilgai and Shemaiah.
These were the priests.
9 The Levites:
Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel,
10 and their associates: Shebaniah,
Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,
11 Mika, Rehob, Hashabiah,
12 Zakkur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,
13 Hodiah, Bani and Beninu.
14 The leaders of the people:
Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,
15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,
16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,
17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,
18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,
19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,
20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,
21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,
22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,
23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,
24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,
25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,
26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,
27 Malluk, Harim and Baanah.
28 “The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— 29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD our Lord.
30 “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.
31 “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.
32 “We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.
34 “We—the priests, the Levites and the people—have cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the Law.
35 “We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the LORD each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.
36 “As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there.
37 “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. 38 A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39 The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and olive oil to the storerooms, where the articles for the sanctuary and for the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the musicians are also kept.
“We will not neglect the house of our God.”
The New Residents of Jerusalem
1 Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. 2 The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.
3 These are the provincial leaders who settled in Jerusalem (now some Israelites, priests, Levites, temple servants and descendants of Solomon’s servants lived in the towns of Judah, each on their own property in the various towns, 4 while other people from both Judah and Benjamin lived in Jerusalem):
From the descendants of Judah:
Athaiah son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, a descendant of Perez; 5 and Maaseiah son of Baruch, the son of Kol-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, a descendant of Shelah. 6 The descendants of Perez who lived in Jerusalem totaled 468 men of standing.
7 From the descendants of Benjamin:
Sallu son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah, 8 and his followers, Gabbai and Sallai—928 men. 9 Joel son of Zikri was their chief officer, and Judah son of Hassenuah was over the New Quarter of the city.
10 From the priests:
Jedaiah; the son of Joiarib; Jakin; 11 Seraiah son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the official in charge of the house of God, 12and their associates, who carried on work for the temple—822 men; Adaiah son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malkijah, 13 and his associates, who were heads of families—242 men; Amashsai son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14 and his associates, who were men of standing—128. Their chief officer was Zabdiel son of Haggedolim.
15 From the Levites:
Shemaiah son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16 Shabbethai and Jozabad, two of the heads of the Levites, who had charge of the outside work of the house of God; 17 Mattaniah son of Mika, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, the director who led in thanksgiving and prayer; Bakbukiah, second among his associates; and Abda son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun.18 The Levites in the holy city totaled 284.
19 The gatekeepers:
Akkub, Talmon and their associates, who kept watch at the gates—172 men.
20 The rest of the Israelites, with the priests and Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, each on their ancestral property.
21 The temple servants lived on the hill of Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of them.
22 The chief officer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mika. Uzzi was one of Asaph’s descendants, who were the musicians responsible for the service of the house of God. 23The musicians were under the king’s orders, which regulated their daily activity.
24 Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, one of the descendants of Zerah son of Judah, was the king’s agent in all affairs relating to the people.
25 As for the villages with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath Arba and its surrounding settlements, in Dibon and its settlements, in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 in Jeshua, in Moladah, in Beth Pelet, 27 in Hazar Shual, in Beersheba and its settlements, 28 in Ziklag, in Mekonah and its settlements, 29 in En Rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam and their villages, in Lachish and its fields, and in Azekah and its settlements. So they were living all the way from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom.
31 The descendants of the Benjamites from Geba lived in Mikmash, Aija, Bethel and its settlements, 32 in Anathoth, Nob and Ananiah, 33 in Hazor, Ramah and Gittaim, 34 in Hadid, Zeboim and Neballat, 35 in Lod and Ono, and in Ge Harashim.
36 Some of the divisions of the Levites of Judah settled in Benjamin.
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
The Woman Lacking Loveliness Was Yet Loyal
Scripture References—Genesis 29;30; 49:31; Ruth 4:11
Name Meaning—Leah as a name has been explained in many ways. “Wearied” or “Faint from Sickness” with a possible reference to her precarious condition at the time of birth, is Wilkinson’s suggestion. Others say the name means “married” or “mistress.” The narrative tells us that she was “tender eyed” (Genesis 29:17 ), which can mean that her sight was weak or that her eyes lacked that luster reckoned a conspicuous part of female beauty which Rachel her sister “beautiful and well-favoured” evidently had.
Family Connections—Because Jacob was Rebekah’s son he was related to Leah by marriage. Leah was the elder daughter of Laban who, by deception, married her to Jacob, to whom she bore six sons and a daughter. By her maid, Zilpah, Leah added two more sons to her family.
The romantic story of Jacob and his two wives never loses its appeal. After fleeing from and meeting God at Bethel, Jacob reached Haran and at Laban’s well he met his cousin Rachel drawing water for the sheep. It was love at first sight for Jacob, and his love remained firm until Rachel’s death in giving birth to her second child. Going to work for his Uncle Laban, Jacob was offered wages in return for service rendered, but he agreed to serve Laban for seven years on the condition that at the end of the period Rachel should be his wife. Because of his love for Rachel those years seemed but a few days.
At the end of the specified period however, Jacob was cruelly deceived by his uncle. As it was a custom of the time to conduct the bride to the bedchamber of her husband in silence and darkness, it was only with the morning light that Jacob discovered that he had been deceived by Laban as he saw Leah and not Rachel at his side. Laban condoned his unrighteous act by saying that the younger girl could not be given in marriage before the first-born, and Jacob covenanted to serve another seven years for Rachel, his true love inspiring him to be patient and persevering. Perhaps Jacob treated the deception as a retributive providence, for he had previously deceived his blind and dying father.
Whether Leah participated in the deceit to win Jacob from her more beautiful sister we do not know. The moral tone of the home was low, and Leah may have been a child of environment. This much is evident, that although she knew that the love of her husband’s heart was not for her but for Rachel, Leah genuinely loved Jacob and was true to him until he buried her in the cave of Machpelah. While Jacob was infatuated with Rachel’s beauty, and loved her, there is no indication that she loved him in the same way. “Rachel remains one of those women with nothing to recommend her but beauty,” says H. V. Morton. “She is bitter, envious, quarrelsome and petulant. The full force of her hatred is directed against her sister, Leah.”
The names Leah gave her children testified to the miraculous faith God had planted in her heart. Somewhat despised by Jacob, she was yet remembered by the Lord. In spite of the polygamous marriage, she became the mother of six sons who were to become the representatives of six of the twelve tribes of Israel. The names Leah chose revealed her piety and sense of obligation to the Lord.
Reuben, her first-born, means “Behold a son,” and Leah praised God for looking favorably upon her. Thus, divine compassion was carefully treasured in such a name which also the holder tarnished.
Simeon, the second son, means “Hearing,” so given by Leah since God had heard her cry because of Rachel’s hatred. Such a name as Simeon is a lasting monument of answered prayer.
Levi, the next to be born implies, “Joined” and Leah rejoices feeling that her husband would now love her, and that through Levi’s birth she would be more closely united to her husband.
Judah was the fourth son to be born to Leah, and she gave him a name meaning “Praise.” Perhaps by now Jacob had become a little more affectionate. Certainly the Lord had been good to both Leah and Jacob, and with the selfishness in her heart defeated, Leah utters a sincere Soli Deo Gloria —“I will praise the Lord.” Leah had two other sons named Issachar and Zebulun, and a daughter, Dinah. Leah was uncomely when compared to her lovely sister, but what she lacked in beauty she made up for in loyalty to Jacob as a wife, and as a good mother to his children. “It seems that homely Leah was a person of deep-rooted piety and therefore better suited to become instrumental in carrying out the plans of Jehovah than her handsome, but worldly-minded, sister, Rachel.”
One evident lesson we can learn from the triangle of love in that ancient Israelite home is that solemn choices should not be based upon mere external appearances. Rachel was beautiful, and as soon as Jacob saw her he fell for her. But it was Leah, not Rachel, who bore Judah through whose line the Saviour came. The unattractive Leah might have repelled others, but God was attracted toward her because of an inner beauty which the lovely Rachel lacked. “There are two kinds of beauty,” Kuyper reminds us. “There is a beauty which God gives at birth, and which withers as a flower. And there is a beauty which God grants when by His grace men are born again. That kind of beauty never vanishes but blooms eternally.” Behind many a plain or ugly face there is a most lovely disposition. Also God does not look upon the outward appearance, but upon the heart.
John [Jŏhn]—jehovah hath been gracious.
- A kinsman of Annas the High Priest (Acts 4:6).
- A son of Mary, sister of Barnabas, and surnamed Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13;15:37). See MARK.
- The son of Zacharias and Elisabeth , who appeared as the forerunner of Christ, and who was beheaded by Herod (Matt. 3:1, 4, 13).
The Man Who Was Plain But Powerful
With the appearance of John the Baptist we have the burial of the Old Dispensation and the emergence of the New. We seem to see his rugged figure standing with arms outstretched, as with one hand he takes the Old Testament, and with the other holds the New, and who, through his ministry, makes the transition from Law to Grace. He was the foreclosure of the old and the forerunner of the new. Perhaps we can helpfully gather the witness of John around these salient features:
I. His parentage. John came as the child of promise and was born in a city of Judah when his parents were old, and his mother long past conception ( Luke 1:7, 13, 39). His parents were of priestly descent, his mother being a kinswoman of Mary the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:36 ).
II. His ascetic affinities. John, as a man of the desert, knew what it was to practice self-denial (Matt. 3:4). A Nazarite from his birth, he developed self-reliance and spiritual strength as he communed with God in the desert solitudes he loved (Luke 1:15). He was a plain man in every way, akin to Elijah whom many took him for.
He was plain of dress . He dressed simply, his raiment consisting of camel’s hair, that is, either a robe of camel’s skin or cloth woven from camel’s hair. What a humble habit compared with the luxurious robes of soft wool worn by the fashionable and great of his time!
He was plain of food. No sumptuous dishes for this Elijah-like prophet. It was on rough food he thrived. Vegetable honey exuding from fig-trees and palms, and edible locusts, classed among the flying, creeping things the Israelites were allowed to eat (Lev. 11:22), formed his diet ( Matt. 3:4). John the Baptist could subscribe to the words of a devout Englishman of a past century:
I shall be spare of sleep, sparer of diet, and sparest of time that, when the days for eating, drinking, clothing, and sleeping shall be no more, I may eat of my Saviour’s hidden manna, drink of the new wine in my Father’s kingdom, and inherit that rest which remaineth for the people of my God for ever and ever.
He was plain of speech . Living near to nature, he heard God’s voice in solitude as well as in Scripture. Familiar with the Old Testament, he made frequent use of its picturesque language (Luke 3:17; Isa. 66:24; with Amos 9:6 ). After his sojourn in the desert, brooding over the need and peril of his time, he came forth to speak of barren trees fit only for burning—vipers fleeing before the flaming scrub. John saw in his desert surroundings much that symbolized his nation’s calamity and which lent color to his solemn warnings of impending doom.
There is a great deal we would like to say about this man sent from God who had the privilege of acting as the forerunner and then as the baptizer of Jesus, who said of him that he was greater than a prophet. Space, however, forbids a full exposition of this mighty character in the Bible’s portrait gallery. The preacher might be able to expand the following features: his self-denial (Matt. 3:4); courage ( Matt. 3:7; 14:4); powerful preaching (Mark 1:5); humility (Mark 1:7); holiness (Mark 6:20); burning zeal ( John 5:35); honor (Matt. 11:11); ministry of witness (John 10:41); preparatory work (Matt. 11:10); testimony (John 1:29-36); results ( Matt. 9:14); death (Matt. 14:10), of which Spurgeon said, “John was the first Baptist Minister to lose his head through dancing.”
4. John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, the fisherman who became the beloved disciple, The Apostle of Love.
The Man Whom Jesus Loved
This younger brother of James has the rare distinction of being known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The original of his name means, “whom Jehovah loves” and John’s experience corresponded to his name. From the many references to this honored disciple we can gather these facts:
He was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee.
His godly parents were probably cousins of Christ, and John was their youngest son.
His mother followed Christ, ministered unto Him, was at the Cross and among those who went to anoint the body of Christ with sweet spices.
His father was a fisherman owning his own vessel and prosperous enough to hire servants.
John himself was also a successful fisherman.
He was called to discipleship while plying his nets.
He was the youngest of the disciples, the Benjamin among the Twelve.
He was one of the select triumvirate, Christ’s inner cabinet of three, Peter and James being the other two.
He was surnamed by Christ as a son of “Boanerges” because of his prophetic zeal and resolution to witness for Christ.
He was treated by Christ with greater familiarity than the others enjoyed.
He sat next to Christ at the Last Supper.
He was intrusted with the care of the mother of Jesus.
He died when he was almost one hundred years of age.
He wrote the gospel and three epistles bearing his name, and also the Book of Revelation. How true are Wesley’s words of John the Beloved:
A Caesar’s title less my envy moves
Than to be styled the man whom Jesus loves;
What charms, what beauties in his face did shine
Reflected ever from the face divine.
From manifold references in the four gospels, the Acts and Revelation, the preacher can develop these traits in John’s character: his natural energy (Mark 3:17 ); his intolerance (Mark 9:38); his vindictiveness (Luke 9:54); his ambition (Mark 10:35-37); his eagerness to learn (John 13:23; I John 2:9 ); his sympathy ( John 19:26); his love (1 John 4:7-21).