Every Christian Sabbath, don’t miss it. Admire, adore, and appreciate one another and our eternal union in Christ. And then sing Psalm 122 while you to come to church glad to worship God together united in Christ and unified with the mind of Christ, praying for the peace, happiness, and prosperity of Jerusalem.
Psalm 133:1 extols, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It teaches us to appreciate how God’s good blessings are especially experienced in the worshipful union and communion of His saints.
This pleasantness is something Christians enjoy in local congregations as well as in the broader fellowship of Presbytery, General Assembly, or Synod gatherings.
See that God bestows His blessings on and through His Church united in worship.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes how the Church is Christ’s body united together, and how it is as one that the members survive and thrive. They walk with God there.
Psalm 133 is labeled in its title as a song of ascents, part of a themed “mini-series” within Psalms 120-134 believed to be sung by Israelites as they ascended the road to Jerusalem where the Temple was to unite in offering sacrifices and worship. Verse 1 teaches that such is a great blessing, and verse 3 notes that God commands his blessing there forever. As well, verse 2 recognizes it “ran down” from God, or in verse 3, it “descended.”
Blessings flow down from God and gather where He determines. Thus, assembling together for Christian worship each Lord’s Day and at His table is special fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:16). And God provides two illustrations of this blessed encounter as His gathered, communing people.
First, see that God sends blessings within His Church through Christ’s priestly propitiation.
Oil brings vigor and vitality back to our skin, with a shine and glow. It was used to anoint kings, prophets, and priests from and for the Church.
In verse 2, the oil dripping down Aaron’s beard represents his anointing as high priest ministering in the Tabernacle (and Temple), where God brought atonement of sins, forgiveness, restoration of fellowship with God, and union with His saints.
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By apokekrummenain — 8 months ago
Many of those who express concern for the current condition of our society, as well as the trajectory it is on, tend to pour a lot of their energy into examining political ideology, political parties, the role that social and economic class play, but do not often look into the interconnected web of culture defining myths and how these play out in “the current situation.” One of the values of a thinker like Jacques Ellul is that he makes the connection between the administrative state and the fundamental myths of our culture. It is one thing to rail against the administrative state, against big government; it is another to peer into the problem and understand that the administrative state is a cultural necessity in the west. It is encouraging to see people reading Ellul, Burnham, Francis and others on this subject. The more the better. It is important that we explore all the connections between enlightenment liberalism, personal autonomy, the idea of human rights, the idea of human progress, scientific thinking, technology, and the administrative state.
The administrative state is not something that is ruining a good thing, that is, a free society. Rather, the administrative state is its logical conclusion, at least when liberty is conceived of in enlightenment terms. It is imperative we see that managerialism is the logical expression of western rationalism. To talk of wielding power to control and direct the bureaucracy for the aims of the right or for conservatism is to misunderstand the fundamental nature of the administrative state. Left wing politics is the natural expression of enlightenment liberalism. And the administrative state is the instantiation of both. Although people will try, there really can be no “right wing managerialism.” To proffer “solutions” which will be enacted and realized through policy or management is essentially to embrace the rules of the game as set up by our liberal culture following the enlightenment. The core myths of our society are essentially liberal. The implication of this is that any attempt to fix the problems generated by the managerial state using the managerial state can never arrest the trajectory of our society. They are built into managerialism itself.
As I will soon be discussing in an upcoming piece on Ellul’s “The Political Illusion,” we do not really have a choice at this point but to harness the power of the technical approach to societal management. It is of a piece with mechanized forms of production and manufacturing. As a nation we are no longer free to reject technology in spite of its ills, because that would make us vulnerable to our neighbors. Thus we must be rolling tanks off our assembly lines because other countries have assembly lines producing tanks. We must be a technical society because all other sufficiently powerful states are also technical societies. This means that technical management will be with us for some time yet, likely until some form of global collapse renders it dead. At that point, real political choice will return. Until then, we must learn to deal with a system that is designed to realize liberal ideology. We on the right, when we deal with the administrative state, must understand that we are playing inside someone else’s game where all the rules are designed to produce outcomes in line with liberal ideology. If you try to instantiate conservative ideas by means of the administrative state, they will end up becoming liberalized in their realization. Knowing this, though, it is imperative we understand as fully and deeply as possible what managerialism is, how it works, what are its strengths and, most importantly, its flaws. In aid of this goal, we turn today to a portion of Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue.”
Why the Manager?
MacIntyre wrote his book to help us understand the devastating effect that enlightenment rationalism and liberalism has had upon our moral thinking, and then how that change in thinking also had a ruinous impact upon the moral practices of western society. He also offered a proposal for a way forward, that is, the recovery of virtue. The quick version of his argument is that enlightenment thinkers wanted to found morality on reason alone. They did not want to base it upon superstition, that is, on the Christian-Aristotelian understanding that morality is based on a metaphysical order directed towards realizing in our actions our purpose, our telos, as human beings. Enlightenment thinkers thought they could find a way to ground morality and ethics in reason alone. This, MacIntyre shows in exhaustive detail, has been a miserable failure. This was one of the main goals of the enlightenment. The failure of this project effectively renders the enlightenment experiment a failure, with devastating consequences for our society.
He argues that what has emerged to replace the old teleological system of ethics is “emotivism.” Basically, I do whatever feels right to me. What happens when my feelings conflict with your feelings? They can only be resolved through the will to power. I have the power to impose my feelings upon you. This is why the hysterical protestor is such a feature of our society. They are logical expression of enlightenment liberal morality.
MacIntyre argues that we as human beings tend to be drawn to archetypes and he identifies three main mythical figures that guide our expression of personal moral autonomy. On the personal level we elevate the “Rich Aesthete” who lives for their own enjoyment, tasting all the pleasures of life. Their work, their play, all of that they do are done for their own personal advancement and fulfillment. This is the person who is projected to us through our televisions and social media. The second figure is that of the “Therapist” who is there to help us become “adjusted” to this modern life using scientific methods. They are not there to judge us or to speak truths we do not want to hear; rather, their purpose is to transform people who are maladjusted and unhappy into happy, well-adjusted persons suited to live in the modern world.
In the public realm, since the enlightenment has banished moral and religious questions from the public sphere, we are expected to deal only in questions of “effectiveness.” The archetype of this effective person is “The Manager.” The manager is the hero of the era of reason, science and technology. He is the one who turns raw materials into finished products, unskilled labor into a effective work force, and turns investments into profits. The expert manager is an aspirational figure, someone to be looked up to and admired. The manager is there to run society quietly and efficiently. Effectiveness is its own end, its own purpose, its own reason.
But managers, argues MacIntyre, do have the control they think they do. Managerial effectiveness is a fiction, he argues. The idea of “managerial effectiveness” functions much in the same way that “God” used to operate within society prior to the enlightenment. The pronouncements of expert managers are to be received with a kind of awe. They will effectively direct our lives in complete neutrality, basing their decisions on nothing more than “facts” and “science.” They are not clouded by moral prejudice. The expert manager rejects all teleological conceptions, that our life has a metaphysical purpose and that we live best when we pursue that purpose. No, his authority rests purely on his “effectiveness” and his reliance on “facts.”
This conception of the expert manager is built on the enlightenment idea that truth is “self-evident.” The “facts” will speak for themselves. All you have to do is simply collect them as they present themselves and their meaning will be obvious without any necessity for interpretation or an interpreter interposing himself between us and the pure necessity dictated to us by the facts themselves. The problem with this idea, argues MacIntyre, is that a “fact” so conceived requires a world without any prior theories or knowledge. Neither can you form any theories from these “facts.” Otherwise the pure “fact” would be tainted with my prejudices. The world in which “facts” exist is a world that can only exist if there is no interpretation of the world. The world would be uninterpretable. It is a world without theory and from which theories cannot be drawn.
By Barry Waugh — 4 months ago
It is remarkable to observe God’s redemptive purpose displayed in 1 Samuel 13:19-22. Yet the passage also exemplifies a general principle that all people would do well to acknowledge: It is perilous for a nation to depend on the materials and goods of another that is (or could soon be) their enemy. Granted, it is not always clear which nations could be aggressive, and in some cases, nations have little or no choice about doing business with potential aggressors. The ancient Israelites, after all, had their material disadvantage imposed upon them by the Philistines. Nevertheless, Christians in every nation should pray that their national leaders note and apply this principle, so that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim 2:2).
Israel was envious. The nations around them had flesh-and-blood kings, while their ruler was only the eternal spirit-without-a-body Creator of the universe, Yahweh. The people obstinately demanded that God give them a king like all the other nations—and God, in a display of His immense patience, condescended to hear them. But He also warned them that their king would be intolerable and oppressive, waging war and levying heavy taxes on the people. And to all this the people simply said again, “We want a king.”
The man who would be king was Saul, the son of Kish the Benjaminite. As he went to the prophet Samuel to find his father’s lost donkeys, little did Saul know that he would be anointed king. Samuel was instructed by the Lord regarding who Saul was and what must be done when he arrived. After Samuel stretched his arms to pour the oil on Saul, who stood head and shoulders above other men, he said, “the Lord anointed you to be prince over his people Israel” (10:1). Things began well for Saul because after the glorious defeat of the Ammonites at Jabesh-Gilead, the people accepted him as king and presented peace offerings before the Lord at Gilgal. It was a good time because “Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly” (11:15).
When the Lord told Samuel to anoint Saul, he also mentioned the new king would deliver Israel from its enemies. One adversary specifically mentioned were the Philistines (9:17), who had been in the region since the era of the Patriarchs and were reoccurring opponents of Israel. Yigael Yadin’s The Art of Warfare said of the Philistine military that “Their force was based on the chariot…and on the infantry, who were equipped with weapons of a very high standard” (265). The men of Israel were not so advanced with their weaponry but were able to defeat them over the years. A vivid account of one defeat is recounted in Judges as blind Samson pulled down the temple of Dagon crushing the Philistines (16:23-31). But then at the time of Saul, the Philistines recently humiliated Israel at Aphek and captured the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord sent seven months of plagues upon the Philistines until the Ark was returned to Israel at Kiriath-Jearim.
Saul’s success with the Ammonites would not be repeated in his battlefield encounter with the Philistines. The Philistines gathered a massive force of chariots along with both mounted and infantry soldiers that numbered “like the sand on the seashore in multitude” (13:5). Saul took command while in Gilgal, nevertheless he and the people were intimidated by such a mighty and technologically advanced army. Before engaging the enemy, it was necessary for the army of Israel to make a sacrifice, so, as he had been instructed by Samuel, Saul waited seven days for the prophet to come and lead worship as the sacrifice was made by the priest. Samuel did not make it on time, so Saul took it upon himself to fill Samuel’s role. When Samuel arrived, he rebuked Saul telling him the kingdom would be taken from him for his grave disobedience and given to “a man after His own heart” (13:14). Why was Saul’s action sufficient to bring such a severe judgment from God? The seven days of waiting had been a test of Saul’s willingness to obey the Lord. The battle was in fact the Lord’s and without consecration of the army for battle, it became merely Saul’s war. The Israelites had wanted a king just like all the other nations and Saul acted like any other king as he took the sons of Israel to war for himself. Saul’s good times were coming to an end, and the victory against the Ammonites was obscured by his disobedience concerning war with Philistia.
Regardless of Saul’s failure, the army of Israel was still to engage the Philistines. Saul, his son Jonathan, and about six hundred men were camped in Gibeah of Benjamin, while the Philistines were camped in Michmash. As the days passed the Philistines sent raiding parties to Ophrah, Shual, Beth-Horon, and the Valley of Zeboim, possibly to draw some Israeli troops from Gibeah to weaken the defenses for conquest and occupation (13:15-18).
A Curious Passage
Given that Israel was ready for battle even though Saul had sinned grievously, it might be expected that the next verses would relate Saul’s engagement with the Philistines or vice versa, but instead verses 19-22 appear to be a parenthetical comment, or out of place.
By Tim Challies — 8 months ago
These two words are key: discipline and instruction. Between them they offer words of training and correction, words of admonition and rebuke, words that express both the positive and the negative sides of leadership. You need to correct your children, sometimes with a look, sometimes with a word, sometimes with a timeout, and sometimes with a spank. That is the negative side of parenting. But positively, you also need to teach them, explaining to them what is right, demonstrating how they are to live.
It’s a word, it’s an idea, that I have wanted to explore for some time. Within the New Testament there are two clear instructions to parents and this word features prominently in both of them. It is the word provoke. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” while Colossians 3:21 echoes “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Risking the wrath of expositors everywhere, I created a mash-up of the two that reads like this: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger lest they become discouraged, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I’d like to suggest a number of ways that we, as parents, may sinfully, unjustly provoke our children. But before we do that, let’s walk through these two passages together.
Fathers. The first word in both passages is Fathers. While it is fathers who are addressed here, most commentators acknowledge that it is fair to see these instructions as being written to both parents. Greek society was patriarchal so Paul addressed the mothers through the fathers. We are on good ground allowing the verse to speak equally to both parents.
Do not provoke … to anger. Both passages contain the same exhortation: Do not provoke, though Ephesians adds to anger. Provoke is the kind of word you might use when you kindle a fire into flame—you begin with something small and provoke it into a roaring fire. Or from another angle, it is the kind of word you might use when you are getting your children all excited, chasing them around and tickling them until you provoke them to being all wound up. Here, of course, Paul is using it in a negative sense of stirring, exasperating, or irritating them toward anger or bitterness. Parents must not provoke their children to anger.
I want to make an important application: Parents can cause their children to become angry and bitter.