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It happened, but it happened two years too late.

A third Telegraph journalist has come out against Joe Biden.

Earlier this month, Tim Stanley declared that Trump made the right assessment about Russia.

This week, Nile Gardiner asked whether Europe has finally awakened to the truth about Joe Biden.

Two days later, on March 30, 2022, Allister Heath wrote ‘Joe Biden is president in name only but the US establishment refuses to admit it’.

Heath details the chaos of the White House at home and abroad. Emphases mine below.

First, there were his pronouncements about Putin and Russia from last month to the present:

His embarrassingly downgraded role became obvious last week when he suddenly veered off-script during his keynote address in Poland, ad-libbing of Vladimir Putin that “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”. It was a dramatic escalation, a clear and simple message that no reasonable person could possibly misinterpret, and yet the White House appeared not even to ask him for permission before “clarifying” his statement. Biden’s people – who are supposed to work for him, rather than the other way around – immediately denied that he was calling for regime change. They claimed, within seconds of his speech, that the words he uttered didn’t actually mean what he obviously intended them to signify.

They were undoubtedly seeking to protect Biden from himself, and to look after US interests, by cancelling an intervention that could have provoked a furious Russian reaction. But it was an astonishing moment none the less, demonstrating that Biden’s role is now largely ceremonial: this is a collegiate administration, with an all-powerful Democratic Cabinet and federal bureaucracy. What Biden says should not be taken too seriously. He is not the fount of power, and has a habit of blurting out what colleagues might have been discussing in private.

Time and again in recent days, the President’s pronouncements have been “walked back” by those really in charge. Most notably, he wrongly told members of the 82nd Airborne Division that they would be “going to” Ukraine soon; he said America would respond “in kind” were the Russians to use chemical weapons.

His worst blunder came when he claimed prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that “it’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do”. He was then asked whether he was “effectively giving Putin permission to make a small incursion into the country”. Biden’s answer sent an even more catastrophic message to the Russians: “Good question. That’s how it did sound like, didn’t it?”

Heath notes that the American media are, unsurprisingly, giving Biden a pass:

the president isn’t really presiding andAmerica’s constitution is once again in deep crisis. It is a scandal.

Mainstream commentators were grumpy at the White House denials, but refused to ask the obvious questions about the president’s series of gaffes or to demand an investigation into why this may be happening. Had this been Trump, there would have been calls for the Cabinet to at least consider invoking the 25th amendment to the US constitution relating to whether a president could be considered unfit to remain in office

There is no excuse for failing to scrutinise and hold to account any president, regardless of party.

Then there are Biden’s Afghanistan disaster as well as his intent to turn back the clock with Iran:

On foreign policy, he is seeking to turn the clock back to the time when he was vice president. Biden is proposing a disastrous surrender to Iran on the nuclear issue, and even to remove the Revolutionary Guards’ terrorist designation. His withdrawal from Afghanistan was right in theory but catastrophically executed, and helped signal to rogue regimes that the US had gone soft.

Biden has done no better domestically. He began rolling back Trump’s successes as soon as he was sworn in.

Now he is considering a radically left tax plan for Americans — taxing unrealised capital gains. Scary. This would affect many middle class taxpayers:

Biden’s shocking weakness also helps to explain the disastrous drift of US policy in all other respects. He was supposedly elected as a reasonable centrist, a liberal rather than a woke activist, a traditional Democrat rather than a neo-socialist.

Yet on economics, his latest tax proposal is far worse than anything Jeremy Corbyn dreamt up. Biden wants to tax unrealised capital gains, something that has never been attempted before in this way. He wants to tax wealthy Americans – in reality, not just billionaires but many other entrepreneurs and investors without whose contributions the US economy would collapseon the basis of the paper increase in their fortunes. This would be a recipe for economic meltdown, a brain drain, capital flight and a massive recession.

Heath concludes that radical advisers behind the scenes are running the show:

The fact that Biden is in office, but not in power, has given his party’s hardliners free rein to wreak havoc. His presidency is turning out to be a catastrophe for America, and a calamity for the rest of the world. For how much longer will we have to put up with this travesty?

There’s no way back for the time being.

It is hard to imagine that voters preferred Joe Biden to Trump and his ‘mean tweets’ in 2020, but there we are.

Mid-term elections cannot come soon enough. All being well, Republican control will pave the way for further victory in 2024.

Over the past month, Neil Oliver has had some exceptionally good Saturday night programmes on GB News.

While his shows are a must in my household, for those who haven’t been tuning in, his shows over the past month have contained even more insight than usual.

This video is from February 26, 2022, the week when Russia invaded Ukraine:

Oliver’s editorial begins at the 5:00 point. He rightly wonders what the invasion is really about. He says that he cannot rely on mainstream media to tell the truth.

However, he also discusses the situation in the West and says that we do not realise how exceptional our era of individual liberty and freedom over the past few decades has been.

He points out that we are taking it for granted.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has seen Western governments become authoritarian. He points to Justin Trudeau, who condemns Putin when he himself has had the bank accounts of protesting truckers frozen because they protested against mandatory vaccinations. Oliver says that the sheer hypocrisy of it all is stunning.

He also lambastes the leaders in New Zealand and Australia for authoritarian measures during the pandemic, making the point that, given mankind’s natural inclination towards dictatorial policies, Western leaders are happily following along. Therefore, we need to keep an eye on what they are doing and call them out accordingly.

He says that we need to get serious: stop worrying about identity politics and pronouns. Instead, we have our freedoms to defend.

At the 21:00 point, he interviews a journalist to discuss what is really happening in Ukraine. The journalist said that China is also a player in this situation. Although it looks to most people as if Russia and China are enemies, they have a common goal: to bring down the West.

At the 23:00 mark, welcomes Sebastian Gorka to give his views.

Gorka says that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine would not have happened had Joe Biden not pulled out of Afghanistan last year. He says that President Trump would have managed Afghanistan much differently and that, consequently, the Ukraine invasion would not have happened.

Gorka also brings up energy independence, which Trump initiated in the United States and warned Europe about in 2017. (Everyone laughed. They’re not laughing now.) Gorka said that it was ‘moronic’ for Biden to reverse Trump’s energy policy in the US.

On Biden, I was heartened to see another article in The Telegraph which has been critical of him.

On March 28, the paper’s Nile Gardiner asked, ‘Will Europe finally wake up to the truth about Joe Biden now?’

He writes (emphases mine):

It is amateur hour on the world stage from the Biden Presidency. His visit last week to Europe was a train wreck, from his bizarre press conference in Brussels to the ad-libbed final words of his speech in Warsaw. 

At times Mr. Biden looked dazed and confused, struggling to command his sentences, and drifting into incoherence. The messaging was muddled, forcing even the president’s top officials to disown their own leader’s comments.

In 20 years in Washington, I have not seen a White House more disorganised, incompetent or mismanaged, in both the president’s and vice president’s office. It has a distinctly Monty Python-esque feel to it. Having visited the Trump White House on multiple occasions, and met with the former president several times, I can attest it was a model of efficiency compared to what we’re seeing now.

On no fewer than three separate occasions, Biden’s own staff had to clarify or even refute the words of their commander in chief. Biden officials had to explain to the world’s media that he was not calling for US troops to go into Ukraine, that the United States would not respond to Russia with chemical weapons if Moscow used them, and that the Biden administration was not seeking regime change in Moscow. These are big misstatements, not minor gaffes, with major global ramifications, and a direct impact on the war in Ukraine

There is a major lack of discipline in messaging from the Biden administration, and clearly deep-seated divisions as well among policy staff. Biden himself has been stung by the charge from political opponents that he has been weak over Ukraine, as well as by sinking poll numbers, and is trying to overcompensate with tough rhetoric on Putin. His own aides are trying to rein him in. As a result, confusion reigns

By contrast:

Donald Trump used to come under heavy fire from the French, Germans and European elites at Nato summits, and his message was not always popular. But he was far more effective than Joe Biden at getting results, increasing defence spending, and shaking up the complacent status quo in Europe

True!

As Neil Oliver says, our leaders are not up to scratch.

Furthermore, we, the general public, must also stop being complacent about civil liberties and our Western freedoms. As we saw in the pandemic, our leaders can take them away instantly, without any qualms. Restoring them will take much longer.

Being a fan of the keto — low carb, high fat — diet, I was interested to read what an endocrinologist at Imperial College London’s Weight Centre discovered about weight loss and maintenance over the past six years, particularly during lockdown.

On March 28, 2022, The Telegraph featured Dr Saira Hameed’s findings: ‘How to lose weight — according to science’.

She developed the Imperial Satiety Protocol, the I-SatPro, six years ago. Her new book, The Full Diet, describes the protocol in detail. It involves more than food, delving into gut bacteria, sleep and exercise, too (emphases mine):

… she set up the I-SatPro (Imperial Satiety Protocol) six years ago, a fortnightly programme at her clinic, convinced that “if you share the science,” being able to “understand how your body works” could lead to lasting physical change. That programme is recreated in her new book, The Full Diet, which she believes can match the 14 per cent weight loss rate at her in-patient clinic.

The programme’s approach is both full and full-on: from food to movement, sleep, gut bacteria and exercise, all bases are covered. Like everything else in the world, I-SatPro went virtual when Covid hit – which was something of a blessing, Dr Hameed says, because the 14 fortnightly sessions, previously restricted to whatever room wasn’t booked up at Imperial, had their reach expanded significantly. There is no typical patient in each 15-strong cohort, though three-quarters are women (reflective of referrals generally for weight loss): their ages run from late teens to those in their 80s, from all walks of life, with a BMI upwards of 35. Dr Hameed says she stopped reading fiction two decades ago, when she became a doctor, because “my patients’ stories are more interesting”. 

It turns out that Dr Hameed’s findings on food are remarkably similar to the keto diet:

One of the reasons we have got fat, she thinks, is by cutting out fat (which is “delicious. Wouldn’t you rather eat the crispy skin as well as the roast chicken or sauté your vegetables in butter rather than eating them with a low-fat dressing?”), and “satisfying”. Eating creamy Greek yogurt, full of natural fats, both can’t be overdone and feels substantial; fullness being a key trait for stopping overeating.

Awareness of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, demonstrates the importance of the relationship between gut and brain – one modern ultra-processed foods are designed to derail even more. High sugar, high salt products with unrecognisable ingredient lists are the go-to for emotionally-driven eating – which Dr Hameed describes as “one of the biggest burdens” to all weight-loss treatments – and the fact it now makes up more than 50 per cent of our diets is a major cause for concern. Stick with one-ingredient foods, such as eggs, fish and nuts, and that issue goes away.

That said, she advocates eating only when hungry, because consuming anything too often — including protein — will lead to high insulin levels that convert fuel into fat storage:

Dr Hameed was on the Covid frontline until the summer of 2020 when she became pregnant with her fourth child: she believes most people “want to do the right thing” when it comes to protecting their health – particularly since the pandemic – but are often battling a tide of misinformation. One of the most common is around breakfast – which her patients routinely tell her they “know” is the most important meal of the day, and thus eat in spite of not being hungry. She tells them instead to wait until biology causes their hunger hormone to kick in, and to see each day’s food intake through the lens of an “eating window”.

Consuming anything – even the approved foods listed in the book – means sugar ending up in the blood, upping insulin levels that will convert fuel into fat storage; if we get up at 7am and are in bed by 11pm, that could mean 16 hours of food going in. Those following the programme can choose what their window looks like; either it opens or closes at a certain hour of the day, or lasts for a defined period of time. Not only does this keep insulin levels low – breaking down fat and assisting weight loss, as well as reducing the risk of insulin-driven diseases (such as type 2 diabetes)but it will “give your body the time to carry out essential repairs and resets”

That is so true. Being retired, I eat only once a day, in the evening. I have a normal one-course meal and rarely have dessert.

Hameed has a list of approved and forbidden foodstuffs. That said, there is enough variety for those following the protocol, preventing boredom:

the book’s “Choose Not to Eat List” includes offenders such as bananas, mangoes and grapes, “bread of any kind”, couscous and porridge. But Dr Hameed sees the book as a science-driven sum of parts; at the end of each chapter, like I-SatPro, “you get given a series of choices” which enable readers to decide what to do for themselves. “That element of choice is so, so, so important,” Dr Hameed, 43, says. People need “agency and ownership” over their health – and a plethora of rules “is probably counterproductiveif you give people information about anything, they should be free, then, to make choices about how they implement that in their everyday life. I think that’s the only way it can work, long-term.”

I agree.

However, I do disagree with the prohibition of ‘bread of any kind’. I am a keen bread baker and maintain my own sourdough mix. As long as the bread is fermented — allowed to rise once on the countertop, knocked back, then given time to rise again in the fridge (3°C) for one or two days — it will be fine. The result is a French-style, aerated artisan loaf, which is quite filling, given the holes. Weekend nights are sandwich nights in my house. I haven’t had any problem with weight control with fermented bread.

I do think that commercial bakery bread is a problem, though. That I would avoid.

So, the best bet is to learn how to bake bread at home. It’s cheaper and more satisfying.

But I digress.

Dr Hameed’s book includes simple exercise tips and her patients’ stories, which make it more interesting than a standard diet book:

She prescribes Neat or non-exercise activity thermogenesis; essentially, adding bits of movement to otherwise sedentary tasks. That can be standing on the train (even if there’s a seat); walking around when on a phone call, or offering to fetch something left elsewhere in the house. These are the kinds of small additions on which you can “build until it becomes just a natural part of how you’re living”.

Dr Hameed believes that where The Full Diet has the edge is that it features her patients’ stories. “These are real people with jobs, families, commitments, or with busy, busy lives, who have made it work. And I think that should really encourage the readers that if other real-life people can do it, then I can too”.

I would also recommend drinking three to four glasses of water a day to flush out the system. Incredibly, it will help with weight loss and maintenance.

Dr Hameed’s book goes on sale on March 31. I hope it is a great success.

Bible oldThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Galatians 4:8-11

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

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Last week’s post discussed what Paul called enslavement to ‘the elementary principles of the world’, meaning law for the Jews and idolatry for the Gentiles.

The New Covenant, which Christ introduced, does away with the law and brings in redemption, to which believers are heirs. God’s plan was to bring the Jewish church to maturity by abolishing Mosaic law and bringing His Chosen to a belief in Christ, the Messiah.

These verses are in the Lectionary, but they will help bridge the gap between last week’s reading and today’s (emphases mine):

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

However, Judaisers had come from Jerusalem to persuade the Galatians, most of whom were Gentiles, that they could be proper Christians only if they obeyed Mosaic law. That is another gospel, and plainly incorrect.

Paul tells the Galatians that, before they knew God, they were enslaved to idols (verse 8).

Matthew Henry elaborates on this enslavement:

He reminds them of their past state and behaviour, and what they were before the gospel was preached to them. Then they knew not God; they were grossly ignorant of the true God, and the way wherein he is to be worshipped: and at that time they were under the worst of slaveries, for they did service to those which by nature were no gods, they were employed in a great number of superstitious and idolatrous services to those who, though they were accounted gods, were yet really no gods, but mere creatures, and perhaps of their own making, and therefore were utterly unable to hear and help them. Note, 1. Those who are ignorant of the true God cannot but be inclined to false gods. Those who forsook the God who made the world, rather than be without gods, worshipped such as they themselves made. 2. Religious worship is due to none but to him who is by nature God; for, when the apostle blames the doing service to such as by nature were no gods, he plainly shows that he only who is by nature God is the proper object of our religious worship.

Paul asks them how, now that they know God and He knows them, they can revert to the ‘weak and worthless elementary principles of the world’ (verse 9).

Paul is at a loss to understand. Most of them are Gentiles, so they would not have known Jewish law, therefore, why embrace it? Mosaic law was only a forerunner of the Messiah. It was never intended to be in place permanently. Christ’s payment for our sins, however, will last forever.

He chides them further by telling them they are celebrating festivals under Mosaic law, observing days and months, seasons and years (verse 10).

Henry explains:

they had never been under the law of Moses, as the Jews had been; and therefore on this account they were more inexcusable than the Jews themselves, who might be supposed to have some fondness for that which had been of such long standing among them. Besides, what they suffered themselves to be brought into bondage to were but weak and beggarly elements, such things as had no power in them to cleanse the soul, nor to afford any solid satisfaction to the mind, and which were only designed for that state of pupillage under which the church had been, but which had now come to a period; and therefore their weakness and folly were the more aggravated, in submitting to them, and in symbolizing with the Jews in observing their various festivals, here signified by days, and months, and times, and years.

Paul laments that the time, prayers and effort he spent on them were in vain (verse 11).

Henry discusses Paul’s despondency. Unfortunately, this is a sad part of ministry. Ultimately, the person who turns away from faith in Christ will have to account for it:

Hereupon he expresses his fears concerning them, lest he had bestowed on them labour in vain. He had been at a great deal of pains about them, in preaching the gospel to them, and endeavouring to confirm them in the faith and liberty of it; but now they were giving up these, and thereby rendering his labour among them fruitless and ineffectual, and with the thoughts of this he could not but be deeply affected. Note, 1. A great deal of the labour of faithful ministers is labour in vain; and, when it is so, it cannot but be a great grief to those who desire the salvation of souls. Note, 2. The labour of ministers is in vain upon those who begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh, who, though they seem to set out well, yet afterwards turn aside from the way of the gospel. Note, 3. Those will have a great deal to answer for upon whom the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ bestow labour in vain.

Paul is despondent because the Galatians are adopted sons of God, heirs to His everlasting kingdom, but they want to embrace legalism.

John MacArthur explains how believers are God’s heirs and why it is such a privilege:

The law couldn’t save. The law couldn’t bring forgiveness. The law couldn’t remove the sentence of death and hell.

What the law couldn’t do, weak as it was to the flesh – it wasn’t the law’s fault, it’s holy, just and good; but the flesh is weak – God did, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. And as an offering for sin He condemned sin in the flesh so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. He not only became accursed for us, but He fulfilled in His death; but in His life He fulfilled the law for us. So our sins are imputed to Him in His death, and His perfect life is imputed to us by faith.

He sent His Son. Why? Verse 5, “so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” He wanted to redeem us, buy us back from our bondage, pay the price.

The word “under” appears a lot here. Have you noticed that? “Under law,” once in chapter 3, once in chapter 4. “Under a curse,” chapter 3. “Under sin,” chapter 3. “Under elemental things,” chapter 4. Even, “Under a tutor.” This describes the life of someone before Christ, under the law, under sin, under elemental things of basic religion, under a curse. All of this reflects our bondage.

Our Lord, it says, was born under the law, but He kept it perfectly. That’s His active righteousness, His active obedience. And then He died in our place, and that’s His passive righteous obedience. “And He did it to redeem us,” – buy us from the bondage of sin – “that we might” – here it comes at the end of verse 5 – “that we might receive the adoption as sons.” This is such an honorable privilege.

MacArthur tells us why Paul uses the notion of adoption. We had another family before God adopted us, thanks to His Son’s perfect and sufficient sacrifice:

… let’s talk about adoption. What’s our former family? “You’re of your father the devil,” John 8. Sons of disobedience, sons of wrath. Our home is the world system. We’re in bondage to sin and death and hell. Our father is the devil; that’s our family. This is the universal human condition. But God displayed His glory through love and grace toward us. And chapter 3, verse 26 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

And then as we read in verse 5, He came to redeem us, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” We were regenerated, given life, we were declared righteous; and now God says, “I am moving you from the family of Satan into My own family, and I’m placing you in My family, and so intrinsically into My family that I am placing you in union with My Son, in union with My Son.”

John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become the children of God.” We have authority as the children of God.

I’m always drawn to 1 John chapter 3. Listen to verse 1: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God. How great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we will be called children of God.” Yes, we were actually born anew so that we are new creations with new life. But we were also doubly put into God’s family by then being chosen and adopted and taken out of the kingdom of darkness.

In order to appreciate the notion of adoption, it is important to keep in mind that, in Roman times, it was very different to today’s practice.

Today, people adopt babies and young children from charities. It is seen as a charitable act.

It was quite the opposite in the Roman empire. Adoption in that era was a sign of social status and was for adult men only, not women or children.

MacArthur explains the whys and wherefores of Roman adoption:

In the ancient Roman world they did not adopt children. They adopted adults, and they adopted male adults. Very rarely was a female adopted. That is why when Paul talks about adoption he talks about sons, because adoption was done with male, adult young men. Rarely does anyone in our society adopt an adult. There wouldn’t be any compelling reason to do that basically in our society.

But let me tell you a little bit about Roman adoption – almost always an adult male twenty years of age and up, even into the thirties. They were adopted into wealthy families, families of status, families with an estate, families of prominence, and virtually all those kinds of families did adoptions. Even if they had children, even if they had sons, they would adopt. If they had no sons, obviously they would adopt in order to have an heir. But if they had sons that they didn’t think were suited for the future of the family, they would adopt another son.

And by the way, there was a power in ancient Rome called patria potestas, which essentially says “the father’s power.” And a father could disown a born child. More frequently than not, it would be a girl. But the father could also disown a son. He could also sell a son for adoption. He could also kill a son for whatever reason he wanted.

So the father had absolute power over his children. And if he had no sons or if he had sons that he didn’t want to become the heirs of his estate, he would adopt. They were chosen, not as babies, because many babies didn’t survive childhood. You wouldn’t go through all the adoption to have a baby that would die. And furthermore, you didn’t know what kind of a young man this baby would become.

So they waited until they were in their twenties or thirties and they could see their leadership potential, their mental skills, their physical strength, their wisdom. They were looking for someone who would be the next patria familias, “father of the family.” The father wanted someone to take over the estate. The purpose was really singular: to bring an heir into the family who was worthy of this estate and could guarantee the future of that estate going forward.

And this would happen either because they had no son, or they had no son they felt was qualified. And there were families who had more sons than they needed. They would have sons to carry on their line, and they would be happy to have one of their sons adopted by one of these patrician families – very often adopted out of the plebeian, the common families.

In Roman times, the head of the family was both a manager of the family’s estate – a bookkeeper and a financial caretaker for the family’s fortune, and a priest, who basically ran the family religion – whatever gods they worshiped, whatever household gods, whatever forms of worship were part of that heritage were his responsibility. He was patria familias, “the family father.” And so when they adopted young men they were looking for an heir who could step into that role – very, very important: be the keeper of the family’s fortune and the keeper of the family’s reputation in the future. Poor, again, less noble parents who had such desirable sons would gladly make those sons available to a noble family for a price, for a price. And the price could be very high. It was an honor, by the way, not a dishonor. It was an honorable act to give your son to one of the patrician families, one of the families of the senators, the people who were elite.

Keep this in mind. Somebody might say, “Well, wait a minute. If you’ve got a really bright, sharp young son, maybe he could take the family he’s in and elevate that family and move that family up the social ladder to make them one of the elite families.” Couldn’t happen; didn’t happen. There was an elite class of patricians in the Roman world that was essentially unapproachable and unavailable to the rest of the plebeian society. So if you wanted to advance your capable son, this would be a great way to do that, and maybe the only way to elevate him.

It wasn’t secret. It was very public. It was very official. In fact, it was so official that at a high level it required senate confirmation, senate confirmation. A lot was involved. You’re talking about wealthy families with estates and reputations. Many of them senators. Many of them, by the way, emperors in Rome.

So this had senate involvement. It was a long drawn out, very official, very formal ceremony, like a wedding. It was that public. It was that kind of celebration. And like a wedding when the bride gives herself to the husband, she doesn’t intend to never speak to her family again. She doesn’t intend to forget her family, even though they cleave together and create a union all their own; they continue to be connected to the family that was their birth family. They create a new family, but they have a connection to the family of the past in some way.

That was true in adoption. It was not a complete forsaking of your family, so that the family in the future would in some ways be able to enjoy something of the success of the adopted son as they stayed connected in some way with him. However, he would take the father’s name, the new father’s name, and he would bear that name for the rest of his life. He would get all of the rights and privileges of that family. In fact, he would be the heir of everything that family possessed, and he would bear the name of his new father.

Adoption – here’s a definition: “The condition of a son, chosen and given to a father and family to which he doesn’t naturally belong, to formally and legally declare a son who is not a son by birth, but a son by choice, granting him complete rights and inheritance.” That’s Roman adoption.

There were four results of this adoption. Number one: You had a new father. You had a new father. Number two: You were heir to his estate. And that’s the primary reason for this adoption. And if you were adopted to become the primary heir, and the couple had more sons, those sons could never supplant the adopted son who was declared the heir. They could share in the inheritance like co-heirs, but that adopted son would be the ultimate heir.

Third thing: all the adopted son’s previous debts and responsibility were wiped out. If he owed anything to anyone anywhere, that was all gone. They erased his past life, except the connection with his family. It was as if he had never lived before. Everything was set aside; everything was erased. He is now legally and absolutely the son and heir of his new father, and there is no past life to take into account.

The fourth element is: he would have to be purchased with a high price, which is one of the reasons that poor families would make this overture of a son that was desired by a wealthy family. So the results were significant.

One other thing to say – according to the Roman-Syrian law book, I found an interesting quote there on this subject. It says, and I quote, “A man cannot disown an adopted son,” end quote. So once you were adopted, it was permanent.

Does this make our adoption as sons of God more meaningful?

MacArthur continues:

So much care was taken about who was adopted. The adopted son – listen – then is more secure in his inheritance than a born son. The adopted son is more secure in his inheritance than a born son. A born son could be disowned, sold, adopted out, or even killed, as I said earlier.

This is such a noble event that nine of the Caesars were adopted. Julius Caesar had no children, so he adopted Augustus. Augustus had no sons, so he adopted Tiberius. Nine Caesars, nine emperors were adopted from other families into the royal line. So this is a very richly textured picture of what Christian believers experience in being adopted into God’s family.

And if you look at it in the breadth of that, you begin to see what the Galatians would have understood, and what Paul intended them to understand, that what happens when God adopts us into His family is, first of all, we are in another family. We are comparatively in an impoverished family. We are in a family with no future, no hope of ever achieving what that new family possesses. We are chosen; we are chosen. We are then purchased. We are then given the name of the new family. We then become heirs of everything that that father possesses; and that can never change. That’s adoption. And we say, “Abba! Father!”

We have a new Father, and we’re so intimately connected to Him that we say, “Papa. Daddy.” It’s that intense a relationship. And we have all the rights and privileges, so that Jesus says in John 1:12, to those who believed in Him, He gave “the authority to be called sons of God.” It is a position of authority In heaven we will sit with Him on His throne. We will be, as we have read in Romans 8, “heirs and joint heirs with Christ” of all that God possesses.

The adoption ceremony in the Roman empire also had to have witnesses. We believers also have a witness, the Holy Spirit:

By the way, in the adoption ceremony, according to one source, there were seven witnesses, seven witnesses. Why would you have witnesses of the adoption? To establish the legality of it and testimony to it, in case in the future other children of that wealthy family would contest to that adoption and say, “Wait a minute.” When the estate starts getting passed out and they are overlooked, there could well be conflict in the family.

And so one source says there were seven witnesses required, which fascinates me, because we have in our text, if you’ll look down at verse 6, “Because,” verse 5, “we have received the adoption as sons,” verse 6, “because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.” And what is the Spirit sent into our hearts to do? Romans 8 says, “To witness that we are the sons of God.”

The Holy Spirit is the witness that we are the sons of God. And according to Isaiah 11:2, the Holy Spirit is the sevenfold spirit. In Isaiah 11:2 there are seven features of the Holy Spirit. They are demonstrated in the menorah with its seven flames. The fullness of the Spirit is a sevenfold fullness. And so the fullness of the sevenfold Spirit is God’s witness to the legality of our adoption that can never be contested, because of the witness of the Holy Spirit.

We have seen the preparation for our sonship in the early verses: the realization of our sonship, verses 4 and 5, when we become adopted as sons; the confirmation of our sonship, verse 6, receiving the Spirit in our hearts who witnesses with our spirit that we are the sons of God. All of this is built on this incredibly rich picture of Roman adoption.

Now we come to the consummation of sonship in verse 7, the consummation of sonship. “Therefore you are no longer a slave.” And by the way, slaves could be adopted; both slaves and free men could be adopted. Slaves, by the way, were not all the kind of slaves you might think. Many of them were highly educated; many of them were professionally skilled people. That was just their social status.

“You are no longer a slave, but a son;” – and here it comes – “if a son, if a son, then an heir through God.” The point of adoption was to give the estate to that adopted son. It was that he would be the heir through God, dia, by the immediate agency of God. God is choosing an heir.

Think of your salvation that way. He chose you before the foundation of the world to be an heir of everything that He possesses. This is the magnanimous nature of the grace and love of God. This is astonishing, astonishing.

That is what our adoption by God means. It is an immense privilege, more than we can possibly appreciate or understand.

I hope that this gives us renewed appreciation of our spiritual state as believers in Christ Jesus and of our inheritance to come in eternity.

Next time — Galatians 4:12-16

The Fourth Sunday in Lent is March 27, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent is also known as Laetare Sunday and, in the United Kingdom, it is also Mothering Sunday, which was originally a feast to celebrate the Church as well as motherhood.

Laetare Sunday was the day that Britons worshipped at their ‘mother’ church. Afterwards, the congregation gathered round the church and held hands to ‘clip’ it, showing their love for and solidarity with it.

Servants were given time to make a Simnel cake ahead of time to give to their mothers that day. Nowadays, Simnel cake is more often served at Easter. Its 12 marzipan balls symbolise Christ and his faithful 11 Apostles.

Celebrants in the Catholic and Anglican traditions often wore a pink vestment on Laetare Sunday, as it is the one joyful day of worship during Lent.

It is so called for the ancient Introit, which includes these words:

“Laetare Jerusalem” (“O be joyful, Jerusalem”)

Catholics have a longstanding tradition dating back to the Middle Ages of the Golden Rose, which the Pope can award at his discretion to worthy dignitaries for an exemplary life. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana awards its Laetare Medal on this day to a deserving recipient. The Golden Rose symbolises our Lord who sprang from the root of Jesse’s tree like a flower (Isaiah 11:1).

Laetare Sunday was known as ‘the Sunday of the Five Loaves’, as the Feeding of the Five Thousand was the original Gospel reading, prior to the incursion of the Lectionary.

You can read more about Laetare Sunday in the posts below:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.

15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

15:3 So he told them this parable:

15:11b “There was a man who had two sons.

15:12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them.

15:13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

15:14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

15:15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.

15:16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

15:17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!

15:18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;

15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘

15:20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

15:21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

15:22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

15:23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;

15:24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

15:25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

15:26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.

15:27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’

15:28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

15:29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.

15:30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

15:31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

15:32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry.

I am using only Matthew Henry’s commentary this week because it is a work of theological genius. I have excerpted it below, so be sure to read it in its entirety.

For most of my life, I struggled mightily with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I empathised with the dutiful son and believed he had been wronged. I never heard a sermon about it that I agreed with. In fact, the sermons troubled me more deeply than the parable itself.

Had I read Henry’s exposition of it when I was growing up, I would have understood it immediately.

It really is all about sin, brokenness, repentance and forgiveness. Furthermore, the dutiful son is self-righteous when perhaps he shouldn’t be.

Jesus had told two parables before this which were also about the happiness of finding things that one had lost: the lost coin and the lost sheep.

Henry introduces this parable as follows:

We have here the parable of the prodigal son, the scope of which is the same with those before, to show how pleasing to God the conversion of sinners is, of great sinners, and how ready he is to receive and entertain such, upon their repentance; but the circumstances of the parable do much more largely and fully set forth the riches of gospel grace than those did, and it has been, and will be while the world stands, of unspeakable use to poor sinners, both to direct and to encourage them in repenting and returning to God.

The first three verses are important in understanding the parable.

The tax collectors and sinners drew near to hear Jesus teach (verse 1).

As students of the New Testament know, the Jews loathed tax collectors — publicans, in that era — because they worked for the Romans. Henry says that the ‘sinners’ might have been Gentiles. The Jews loathed them, too:

Here multitudes of publicans and sinners drew near to him, with a humble modest fear of being rejected by him, and to them he found it requisite to give encouragement, especially because there were some haughty supercilious people that frowned upon them. The publicans, who collected the tribute paid to the Romans, were perhaps some of them bad men, but they were all industriously put into an ill name, because of the prejudices of the Jewish nation against their office. They are sometimes ranked with harlots (Matthew 21:32); here and elsewhere with sinners, such as were openly vicious, that traded with harlots, known rakes. Some think that the sinners here meant were heathen, and that Christ was now on the other side Jordan, or in Galilee of the Gentiles. These drew near, when perhaps the multitude of the Jews that had followed him had (upon his discourse in the close of the foregoing chapter) dropped off; thus afterwards the Gentiles took their turn in hearing the apostles, when the Jews had rejected them. They drew near to him, being afraid of drawing nearer than just to come within hearing. They drew near to him, not, as some did, to solicit for cures, but to hear his excellent doctrine. Note, in all our approaches to Christ we must have this in our eye, to hear him; to hear the instructions he gives us, and his answers to our prayers.

The Pharisees and the scribes objected, grumbling that Jesus welcomed sinners and broke bread with them (verse 2).

Henry explains their anger and includes a practical application of acceptance for us:

1. They were angry that publicans and heathens had the means of grace allowed them, were called to repent, and encouraged to hope for pardon upon repentance; for they looked upon their case as desperate, and thought that none but Jews had the privilege of repenting and being pardoned, though the prophets preached repentance to the nations, and Daniel particularly to Nebuchadnezzar. 2. They thought it a disparagement to Christ, and inconsistent with the dignity of his character, to make himself familiar with such sort of people, to admit them into his company and to eat with them. They could not, for shame, condemn him for preaching to them, though that was the thing they were most enraged at; and therefore they reproached him for eating with them, which was more expressly contrary to the tradition of the elders. Censure will fall, not only upon the most innocent and the most excellent persons, but upon the most innocent and most excellent actions, and we must not think it strange.

Henry tells us why Jesus preached at length to these notionally lost people:

Christ’s justifying himself in it, by showing that the worse these people were, to whom he preached, the more glory would redound to God, and the more joy there would be in heaven, if by his preaching they were brought to repentance. It would be a more pleasing sight in heaven to see Gentiles brought to the worship of the true God than to see Jews go on in it, and to see publicans and sinners live an orderly sort of life than to see scribes and Pharisees go on in living such a life.

Jesus told them a third parable (verse 3), this time about a man with two sons (verse 11b).

Henry explains the analogy of the sons’ identities in the parable:

It represents the children of men as of different characters, though all related to God as their common Father. He had two sons, one of them a solid grave youth, reserved and austere, sober himself, but not at all good-humoured to those about him; such a one would adhere to his education, and not be easily drawn from it; but the other volatile and mercurial, and impatient of restraint, roving, and willing to try his fortune, and, if he fall into ill hands, likely to be a rake, notwithstanding his virtuous education. Now this latter represents the publicans and sinners, whom Christ is endeavouring to bring to repentance, and the Gentiles, to whom the apostles were to be sent forth to preach repentance. The former represents the Jews in general, and particularly the Pharisees, whom he was endeavouring to reconcile to that grace of God which was offered to, and bestowed upon, sinners.

The younger son is the prodigal, whose character and case are here designed to represent that of a sinner, that of every one of us in our natural state, but especially of some.

The younger son asked prematurely for his share of his father’s property, and the father duly divided his goods between his sons (verse 12).

A sinner will ask God for something in the wrong way or for more than he should, just as this younger son did:

He said to his father, proudly and pertly enough, “Father, give me“–he might have put a little more in his mouth, and have said, Pray give me, or, Sir, if you please, give me, but he makes an imperious demand–“give me the portion of goods that falleth to me; not so much as you think fit to allot to me, but that which falls to me as my due.” Note, It is bad, and the beginning of worse, when men look upon God’s gifts as debts. Give me the portion, all my child’s part, that falls to me;” not, “Try me with a little, and see how I can manage that, and accordingly trust me with more;” but, “Give it me all at present in possession, and I will never expect any thing in reversion, any thing hereafter.” Note, The great folly of sinners, and that which ruins them, is being content to have their portion in hand, now in this lifetime to receive their good things. They look only at the things that are seen, that are temporal, and covet only a present gratification, but have no care for a future felicity, when that is spent and gone. And why did he desire to have his portion in his own hands? Was it that he might apply himself to business, and trade with it, and so make it more? No, he had no thought of that.

The sinner, just as the younger son, tires of his Father’s governance and no longer wishes to obey Him but desires a notional independence:

[1.] He was weary of his father’s government, of the good order and discipline of his father’s family, and was fond of liberty falsely so called, but indeed the greatest slavery, for such a liberty to sin is. See the folly of many young men, who are religiously educated, but are impatient of the confinement of their education, and never think themselves their own masters, their own men, till they have broken all God’s bands in sunder, and cast away his cords from them, and, instead of them, bound themselves with the cords of their own lust. Here is the original of the apostasy of sinners from God; they will not be tied up to the rules of God’s government; they will themselves be as gods, knowing no other good and evil than what themselves please. [2.] He was willing to get from under his father’s eye, for that was always a check upon him, and often gave a check to him. A shyness of God, and a willingness to disbelieve his omniscience, are at the bottom of the wickedness of the wicked. [3.] He was distrustful of his father’s management. He would have his portion of goods himself, for he thought that his father would be laying up for hereafter for him, and, in order to that, would limit him in his present expenses, and that he did not like. [4.] He was proud of himself, and had a great conceit of his own sufficiency. He thought that if he had but his portion in his own hands he could manage it better than his father did, and make a better figure with it. There are more young people ruined by pride than by any one lust whatsoever. Our first parents ruined themselves and all theirs by a foolish ambition to be independent, and not to be beholden even to God himself; and this is at the bottom of sinners’ persisting in their sin–they will be for themselves.

The father held the elder son’s inheritance in reserve, as we see in verse 31. It is rather extraordinary that the father so easily acquiested to his younger son’s request, however, God is equally generous to sinners in His mercy:

How kind his father was to him: He divided unto them his living. He computed what he had to dispose of between his sons, and gave the younger son his share, and offered the elder his, which ought to be a double portion; but, it should seem, he desired his father to keep it in his own hands still, and we may see what he got by it (Luke 15:31; Luke 15:31): All that I have is thine. He got all by staying for something in reserve. He gave the younger son what he asked, and the son had no reason to complain that he did him any wrong in the dividend; he had as much as he expected, and perhaps more. [1.] Thus he might now see his father’s kindness, how willing he was to please him and make him easy, and that he was not such an unkind father as he was willing to represent him when he wanted an excuse to be gone. [2.] Thus he would in a little time be made to see his own folly, and that he was not such a wise manager for himself as he would be thought to be. Note, God is a kind Father to all his children, and gives to them all life, and breath, and all things, even to the evil and unthankful, dieilen autois ton bionHe divided to them life. God’s giving us life is putting us in a capacity to serve and glorify him.

A few days later, the younger son left with everything he had and travelled to a distant country where he squandered all he had on dissolute living (verse 13).

Henry looks at the sinner’s departure from God and the danger of leaving divine grace behind:

When the bridle of restraining grace is taken off we are soon gone. That which the younger son determined was to be gone presently, and, in order to that, he gathered all together. Sinners, that go astray from God, venture their all.

Now the condition of the prodigal in this ramble of his represents to us a sinful state, that miserable state into which man is fallen.

[1.] A sinful state is a state of departure and distance from God. First, It is the sinfulness of sin that it is an apostasy from God. He took his journey from his father’s house. Sinners are fled from God; they go a whoring from him; they revolt from their allegiance to him, as a servant that runs from his service, or a wife that treacherously departs from her husband, and they say unto God, Depart. They get as far off him as they can. The world is the far country in which they take up their residence, and are as at home; and in the service and enjoyment of it they spend their all. Secondly. It is the misery of sinners that they are afar off from God, from him who is the Fountain of all good, and are going further and further from him. What is hell itself, but being afar off from God?

We squander our God-given gifts when we depart from Him. We enter into serious sin then hit rock bottom as the prodigal discovered when a famine hit the land where he lived and he was soon in need (verse 14):

[2.] A sinful state is a spending state: There he wasted his substance with riotous living (Luke 15:13; Luke 15:13), devoured it with harlots (Luke 15:30; Luke 15:30), and in a little time he had spent all,Luke 15:14; Luke 15:14. He bought fine clothes, spent a great deal in meat and drink, treated high, associated with those that helped him to make an end of what he had in a little time. As to this world, they that live riotously waste what they have, and will have a great deal to answer for, that they spend that upon their lusts which should be for the necessary substance of themselves and their families. But this is to be applied spiritually. Wilful sinners waste their patrimony; for they misemploy their thoughts and all the powers of their souls, misspend their time and all their opportunities, do not only bury, but embezzle, the talents they are entrusted to trade with for their Master’s honour; and the gifts of Providence, which were intended to enable them to serve God and to do good with, are made the food and fuel of their lusts. The soul that is made a drudge, either to the world or to the flesh, wastes its substance, and lives riotously. One sinner destroys much good, Ecclesiastes 9:18. The good he destroys is valuable, and it is none of his own; they are his Lord’s goods that he wastes, which must be accounted for.

Sin never brings lasting pleasure. In fact, it brings need to the point of brokenness, as the prodigal discovered:

[3.] A sinful state is a wanting state: When he had spent all upon his harlots, they left him, to seek such another prey; and there arose a mighty famine in that land, every thing was scarce and dear, and he began to be in want, Luke 15:14; Luke 15:14. Note, Wilful waste brings woeful want. Riotous living in time, perhaps in a little time, brings men to a morsel of bread, especially when bad times hasten on the consequences of bad husbandry, which good husbandry would have provided for. This represents the misery of sinners, who have thrown away their own mercies, the favour of God, their interest in Christ, the strivings of the Spirit, and admonitions of conscience; these they gave away for the pleasure of sense, and the wealth of the world, and then are ready to perish for want of them. Sinners want necessaries for their souls; they have neither food nor raiment for them, nor any provision for hereafter. A sinful state is like a land where famine reigns, a mighty famine; for the heaven is as brass (the dews of God’s favour and blessing are withheld, and we must needs want good things if God deny them to us), and the earth is as iron (the sinner’s heart, that should bring forth good things, is dry and barren, and has no good in it). Sinners are wretchedly and miserably poor, and, what aggravates it, they brought themselves into that condition, and keep themselves in it by refusing the supplies offered.

He was forced to work for someone who lived in that country and was reduced to feeding pigs (verse 15), which the Jews would have found horrifying.

Henry says that the prodigal’s master is akin to Satan:

The same wicked life that before was represented by riotous living is here represented by servile living; for sinners are perfect slaves. The devil is the citizen of that country; for he is both in city and country. Sinners join themselves to him, hire themselves into his service, to do his work, to be at his beck, and to depend upon him for maintenance and a portion. They that commit sin are the servants of sin, John 8:34. How did this young gentleman debase and disparage himself, when he hired himself into such a service and under such a master as this! He sent him into the fields, not to feed sheep (there had been some credit in that employment; Jacob, and Moses, and David, kept sheep), but to feed swine. The business of the devil’s servants is to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, and that is no better than feeding greedy, dirty, noisy swine; and how can rational immortal souls more disgrace themselves?

The prodigal would gladly have eaten what he was feeding the pigs, but no one gave him anything (verse 16).

Henry says that shows the sinner is eventually brought to his lowest state, being no better than a pig:

A fine pass my young master had brought himself to, to be fellow-commoner with the swine! Note, That which sinners, when they depart from God, promise themselves satisfaction in, will certainly disappoint them; they are labouring for that which satisfieth not, Isaiah 55:2. That which is the stumbling-block of their iniquity will never satisfy their souls, nor fill their bowels, Ezekiel 7:19. Husks are food for swine, but not for men. The wealth of the world and the entertainments of sense will serve for bodies; but what are these to precious souls? They neither suit their nature, nor satisfy their desires, nor supply their needs. He that takes up with them feeds on wind (Hosea 12:1), feeds on ashes, Isaiah 44:20.

Then the prodigal came to his senses and thought of his father’s servants who were well fed while he was not only hungry but dying of hunger (verse 17), much like the sinner whose sin has broken him while he yearned for the nourishment of divine grace:

The prodigal in the far country was dead to his father and his family, cut off from them, as a member from the body or a branch from the tree, and therefore dead, and it is his own doing.

[8.] A sinful state is a lost state: This my son was lost–lost to every thing that was good–lost to all virtue and honour–lost to his father’s house; they had no joy of him. Souls that are separated from God are lost souls; lost as a traveller that is out of his way, and, if infinite mercy prevent not, will soon be lost as a ship that is sunk at sea, lost irrecoverably.

[9.] A sinful state is a state of madness and frenzy. This is intimated in that expression (Luke 15:17; Luke 15:17), when he came to himself, which intimates that he had been beside himself. Surely he was so when he left his father’s house, and much more so when he joined himself to the citizen of that country. Madness is said to be in the heart of sinners, Ecclesiastes 9:3. Satan has got possession of the soul; and how raging mad was he that was possessed by Legion! Sinners, like those that are mad, destroy themselves with foolish lusts, and yet at the same time deceive themselves with foolish hopes; and they are, of all diseased persons, most enemies to their own cure.

He decided to return to his father and confess that he had sinned before him and Heaven — God (verse 18).

It is in our broken state that God reaches out to us to help us realise how spiritually infirm we are without Him:

Note, Afflictions, when they are sanctified by divine grace, prove happy means of turning sinners from the error of their ways. By them the ear is opened to discipline and the heart disposed to receive instructions; and they are sensible proofs both of the vanity of the world and of the mischievousness of sin. Apply it spiritually. When we find the insufficiency of creatures to make us happy, and have tried all other ways of relief for our poor souls in vain, then it is time to think of returning to God. When we see what miserable comforters, what physicians of no value, all but Christ are, for a soul that groans under the guilt and power of sin, and no man gives unto us what we need, then surely we shall apply ourselves to Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, the prodigal wanted to tell his father that he was no longer worthy of being his son; he wanted to be treated as one of his father’s hired hands (verse 19).

He does not deny the relation (for that was all he had to trust to), but he owns that his father might justly deny the relation, and shut his doors against him. He had, at his own demand, the portion of goods that belonged to him, and had reason to expect no more. Note, It becomes sinners to acknowledge themselves unworthy to receive any favour from God, and to humble and abase themselves before him.

Note, True penitents have a high value for God’s house, and the privileges of it, and will be glad of any place, so they may but be in it, though it be but as door-keepers, Psalms 84:10. If it be imposed on him as a mortification to sit with the servants, he will not only submit to it, but count it a preferment, in comparison with his present state. Those that return to God, from whom they have revolted, cannot but be desirous some way or other to be employed for him, and put into a capacity of serving and honouring him: Make me as a hired servant, that I may show I love my father’s house as much as ever I slighted it.”

The prodigal made the long journey back to his father’s house; when he arrived, even though he was still at a distance, his father saw him and ran to him, embracing him with a kiss (verse 20).

We can read this literally, with regard to a parent’s forgiveness of an errant child, and we should go further in seeing it as a happy reunion with God after we have sinned:

We have here his reception and entertainment with his father: He came to his father; but was he welcome? Yes, heartily welcome. And, by the way, it is an example to parents whose children have been foolish and disobedient, if they repent, and submit themselves, not to be harsh and severe with them, but to be governed in such a case by the wisdom that is from above, which is gentle and easy to be entreated; herein let them be followers of God, and merciful, as he is. But it is chiefly designed to set forth the grace and mercy of God to poor sinners that repent and return to him, and his readiness to forgive them.

Like the father towards his son, God sees the sorrowful sinner from a distance and embraces him:

He expressed his kindness before the son expressed his repentance; for God prevents us with the blessings of his goodness. Even before we call he answers; for he knows what is in our hearts. I said, I will confess, and thou forgavest. How lively are the images presented here! [1.] Here were eyes of mercy, and those eyes quick-sighted: When he was yet a great way off his father saw him, before any other of the family were aware of him, as if from the top of some high tower he had been looking that way which his son was gone, with such a thought as this, “O that I could see yonder wretched son of mine coming home!” This intimates God’s desire of the conversion of sinners, and his readiness to meet them that are coming towards him. He looketh on men, when they are gone astray from him, to see whether they will return to him, and he is aware of the first inclination towards him. [2.] Here were bowels of mercy, and those bowels turning within him, and yearning at the sight of his son: He had compassion. Misery is the object of pity, even the misery of a sinner; though he has brought it upon himself, yet God compassionates. His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel, Hosea 11:8; Judges 10:16. [3.] Here were feet of mercy, and those feet quick-paced: He ran. This denotes how swift God is to show mercy. The prodigal son came slowly, under a burden of shame and fear; but the tender father ran to meet him with his encouragements. [4.] Here were arms of mercy, and those arms stretched out to embrace him: He fell on his neck. Though guilty and deserving to be beaten, though dirty and newly come from feeding swine, so that any one who had not the strongest and tenderest compassions of a father would have loathed to touch him, yet he thus takes him in his arms, and lays him in his bosom. Thus dear are true penitents to God, thus welcome to the Lord Jesus. [5.] Here were lips of mercy, and those lips dropping as a honey-comb: He kissed him. This kiss not only assured him of his welcome, but sealed his pardon; his former follies shall be all forgiven, and not mentioned against him, nor is one word said by way of upbraiding. This was like David’s kissing Absalom, 2 Samuel 14:33. And this intimates how ready, and free, and forward the Lord Jesus is to receive and entertain poor returning repenting sinners, according to his Father’s will.

The son confessed to his father as he had contemplated before returning home (verse 21).

Henry notes one omission in the son’s confession:

He was going on in his submission, but one word we find in his purpose to say (Luke 15:19; Luke 15:19) which we do not find that he did say (Luke 15:21; Luke 15:21), and that was, Make me as one of thy hired servants. We cannot think that he forgot it, much less that he changed his mind, and was now either less desirous to be in the family or less willing to be a hired servant there than when he made that purpose; but his father interrupted him, prevented his saying it: “Hold, son, talk no more of thy unworthiness, thou art heartily welcome, and, though not worthy to be called a son, shalt be treated as a dear son, as a pleasant child.” He who is thus entertained at first needs not ask to be made as a hired servant. Thus when Ephraim bemoaned himself God comforted him, Jeremiah 31:18-20. It is strange that here is not one word of rebuke: “Why did you not stay with your harlots and your swine? You could never find the way home till beaten hither with your own rod.” No, here is nothing like this; which intimates that, when God forgives the sins of true penitents, he forgets them, he remembers them no more, they shall not be mentioned against them, Ezekiel 18:22.

The father instructed his slaves to bring the best robe and put it on his son, along with a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet (verse 22).

Henry offers this analysis:

[1.] He came home in rags, and his father not only clothed him, but adorned him. He said to the servants, who all attended their master, upon notice that his son was come, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him. The worst old clothes in the house might have served, and these had been good enough for him; but the father calls not for a coat, but for a robe, the garment of princes and great men, the best robeten stolen ten proten. There is a double emphasis: “that robe, that principal robe, you know which I mean;” the first robe (so it may be read); the robe he wore before he ran his ramble. When backsliders repent and do their first works, they shall be received and dressed in their first robes. “Bring hither that robe, and put it on him; he will be ashamed to wear it, and think that it ill becomes him who comes home in such a dirty pickle, but put it on him, and do not merely offer it to him: and put a ring on his hand, a signet-ring, with the arms of the family, in token of his being owned as a branch of the family.” Rich people wore rings, and his father hereby signified that though he had spent one portion, yet, upon his repentance, he intended him another. He came home barefoot, his feet perhaps sore with travel, and therefore, “Put shoes on his feet, to make him easy.” Thus does the grace of God provide for true penitents. First, The righteousness of Christ is the robe, that principal robe, with which they are clothed; they put on the Lord Jesus Christ, are clothed with that Sun. The robe of righteousness is the garment of salvation, Isaiah 61:10. A new nature is this best robe; true penitents are clothed with this, being sanctified throughout. Secondly, The earnest of the Spirit, by whom we are sealed to the day of redemption, is the ring on the hand. After you believed you were sealed. They that are sanctified are adorned and dignified, are put in power, as Joseph was by Pharaoh’s giving him a ring: “Put a ring on his hand, to be before him a constant memorial of his father’s kindness, that he may never forget it.” Thirdly, The preparation of the gospel of peace is as shoes for our feet (Ephesians 6:15), so that, compared with this here, signifies (saith Grotius) that God, when he receives true penitents into his favour, makes use of them for the convincing and converting of others by their instructions, at least by their examples. David, when pardoned, will teach transgressors God’s ways, and Peter, when converted, will strengthen his brethren. Or it intimates that they shall go on cheerfully, and with resolution, in the way of religion, as a man does when he has shoes on his feet, above what he does when he is barefoot.

The father instructed his slaves to kill the fatted calf in order that everyone could eat and celebrate (verse 23).

Similarly, the repentant sinner will feast on spiritual food that is our blessed Lord:

Note, There is excellent food provided by our heavenly Father for all those that arise and come to him. Christ himself is the Bread of Life; his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed; in him there is a feast for souls, a feast for fat things. It was a great change with the prodigal, who just before would fain have filled his belly with husks. How sweet will the supplies of the new covenant be, and the relishes of its comforts, to those who have been labouring in vain for satisfaction in the creature! Now he found his own words made good, In my father’s house there is bread enough and to spare.

The father rejoiced, saying that his son had been dead but is now alive again; he was lost and now is found, therefore, those present began to celebrate (verse 24).

This is how God considers repentant sinners, who should be a cause for celebration to us as well:

The bringing of the fatted calf was designed to be not only a feast for him, but a festival for the family: “Let us all eat, and be merry, for it is a good day; for this my son was dead, when he was in his ramble, but his return is as life from the dead, he is alive again; we thought that he was dead, having heard nothing from him of a long time, but behold he lives; he was lost, we gave him up for lost, we despaired of hearing of him, but he is found. Note, [1.] The conversion of a soul from sin to God is the raising of that soul from death to life, and the finding of that which seemed to be lost: it is a great, and wonderful, and happy change. What was in itself dead is made alive, what was lost to God and his church is found, and what was unprofitable becomes profitable, Philemon 1:11. It is such a change as that upon the face of the earth when the spring returns. [2.] The conversion of sinners is greatly pleasing to the God of heaven, and all that belong to his family ought to rejoice in it; those in heaven do, and those on earth should. Observe, It was the father that began the joy, and set all the rest on rejoicing. Therefore we should be glad of the repentance of sinners, because it accomplishes God’s design; it is the bringing of those to Christ whom the Father had given him, and in whom he will be for ever glorified. We joy for your sakes before our God, with an eye to him (1 Thessalonians 3:9), and ye are our rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Master of the family, 1 Thessalonians 2:19. The family complied with the master: They began to be merry. Note, God’s children and servants ought to be affected with things as he is.

The elder son was in the field at the time; as he neared the house he heard music and dancing (verse 25).

He asked one of the slaves what was happening (verse 26).

The slave replied that his brother had returned home and that his father had brought out the fatted calf because the prodigal was safe and sound (verse 27).

The elder brother became angry and refused to enter the house, which caused his father to come out and plead with him to join in the celebration (verse 28).

The elder brother was like the Jewish hierarchy who disapproved of our Lord’s preaching to the publicans and the sinners. However, we may also view the elder brother as an analogy for those who have resisted temptation yet are upset about the rejoicing over sinners who have repented:

We have here the repining and envying of the elder brother, which is described by way of reproof to the scribes and Pharisees, to show them the folly and wickedness of their discontent at the repentance and conversion of the publicans and sinners, and the favour Christ showed them; and he represents it so as not to aggravate the matter, but as allowing them still the privileges of elder brethren: the Jews had those privileges (though the Gentiles were favoured), for the preaching of the gospel must begin at Jerusalem. Christ, when he reproved them for their faults, yet accosted them mildly, to smooth them into a good temper towards the poor publicans. But by the elder brother here we may understand those who are really good, and have been so from their youth up, and never went astray into any vicious course of living, who comparatively need no repentance; and to such these words in the close, Son, thou art ever with me, are applicable without any difficulty, but not to the scribes and Pharisees.

Then the dutiful son went on a rant about his own obedience which was never rewarded, even with a feast with friends over a kid (verse 29) and his disgust in celebrating over ‘this son’ who had spent all that he had on prostitutes (verse 30).

Henry says that the dutiful son was guilty of self-aggrandisement, something that happens all too often:

[1.] In men’s families. Those who have always been a comfort to their parents think they should have the monopoly of their parents’ favours, and are apt to be too sharp upon those who have transgressed, and to grudge their parents’ kindness to them.

[2.] In God’s family. Those who are comparatively innocents seldom know how to be compassionate towards those who are manifestly penitents. The language of such we have here, in what the elder brother said (Luke 15:29; Luke 15:30), and it is written for warning to those who by the grace of God are kept from scandalous sin, and kept in the way of virtue and sobriety, that they sin not after the similitude of this transgression. Let us observe the particulars of it. First, He boasted of himself and his own virtue and obedience. He had not only not run from his father’s house, as his brother did, but had made himself as a servant in it, and had long done so: Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment. Note, It is too common for those that are better than their neighbours to boast of it, yea, and to make their boast of it before God himself, as if he were indebted to them for it. I am apt to think that this elder brother said more than was true, when he gloried that he had never transgressed his father’s commands, for them I believe he would not have been so obstinate as now he was to his father’s entreaties. However, we will admit it comparatively; he had not been so disobedient as his brother had been. O what need have good men to take heed of pride, a corruption that arises out of the ashes of other corruptions! Those that have long served God, and been kept from gross sins, have a great deal to be humbly thankful for, but nothing proudly to boast of. Secondly, He complained of his father, as if he had not been so kind as he ought to have been to him, who had been so dutiful: Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. He was out of humour now, else he would not have made this complaint; for, no questions, if he had asked such a thing at any time, he might have had it at the first word; and we have reason to think that he did not desire it, but the killing of the fatted calf put him upon making this peevish reflection. When men are in a passion they are apt to reflect in a way they would not if they were in their right mind. He had been fed at his father’s table, and had many a time been merry with him and the family; but his father had never given him so much as a kid, which was but a small token of love compared with the fatted calf. Note, Those that think highly of themselves and their services are apt to think hardly of their master and meanly of his favours. We ought to own ourselves utterly unworthy of those mercies which God has thought fit to give us, much more of those that he has not thought fit to give us, and therefore we must not complain. He would have had a kid, to make merry with his friends abroad, whereas the fatted calf he grudged so much was given to his brother, not to make merry with his friends abroad, but with the family at home: the mirth of God’s children should be with their father and his family, in communion with God and his saints, and not with any other friends. Thirdly, He was very ill-humoured towards his younger brother, and harsh in what he thought and said concerning him. Some good people are apt to be overtaken in this fault, nay, and to indulge themselves too much in it, to look with disdain upon those who have not preserved their reputation so clean as they have done, and to be sour and morose towards them, yea, though they have given very good evidence of their repentance and reformation. This is not the Spirit of Christ, but of the Pharisees. Let us observe the instances of it. 1. He would not go in, except his brother were turned out; one house shall not hold him and his own brother, no, not his father’s house. The language of this was that of the Pharisee (Isaiah 65:5): Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou; and (Luke 18:11; Luke 18:11) I am not as other men are, nor even as this publican

He aggravated his brother’s faults, and made the worst of them, endeavouring to incense his father against him: He is thy son, who hath devoured thy living with harlots. It is true, he had spent his own portion foolishly enough (whether upon harlots or no we are not told before, perhaps that was only the language of the elder brother’s jealousy and ill will), but that he had devoured all his father’s living was false; the father had still a good estate. Now this shows how apt we are, in censuring our brethren, to make the worst of every thing, and to set it out in the blackest colours, which is not doing as we would be done by, nor as our heavenly Father does by us, who is not extreme to mark iniquities

Note, It is a wrong thing to envy penitents the grace of God, and to have our eye evil because he is good. As we must not envy those that are the worst of sinners the gifts of common providence (Let not thine heart envy sinners), so we must not envy those that have been the worst of sinners the gifts of covenant love upon their repentance; we must not envy them their pardon, and peace, and comfort, no, nor any extraordinary gift which God bestows upon them, which makes them eminently acceptable or useful.

The father attempted to comfort his son by saying that all that he had was his (verse 31). That is analogous to the righteous person’s heavenly inheritance.

The father went on to say that, as the prodigal son had returned, it was time to celebrate and rejoice; he who had been thought dead was, in fact, alive and he who had been lost had been found (verse 32):

Note, First, It is the unspeakable happiness of all the children of God, who keep close to their Father’s house, that they are, and shall be, ever with him. They are so in this world by faith; they shall be so in the other world by fruition; and all that he has is theirs; for, if children, then heirs, Romans 8:17. Secondly, Therefore we ought not to envy others God’s grace to them because we shall have never the less for their sharing in it. If we be true believers, all that God is, all that he has, is ours; and, if others come to be true believers, all that he is, and all that he has, is theirs too, and yet we have not the less, as they that walk in the light and warmth of the sun have all the benefit they can have by it, and yet not the less for others having as much; for Christ in his church is like what is said of the soul in the body: it is tota in totothe whole in the whole, and yet tota in qualibet partethe whole in each part.

Henry says that God honoured Paul more so than the other Apostles because he, with the help of divine grace, made a full transformation of his life:

Paul, before his conversion, had been a prodigal, had devoured his heavenly Father’s living by the havoc he made of the church; yet when after his conversion he had greater measures of grace given him, and more honour put upon him, than the other apostles, they who were the elder brethren, who had been serving Christ when he was persecuting him, and had not transgressed at any time his commandment, did not envy him his visions and revelations, nor his more extensive usefulness, but glorified God in him, which ought to be an example to us, as the reverse of this elder brother.

I hope that this clarifies the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

May all mothers in the UK enjoy a blessed and happy day on Sunday.

It is always good to know of broadcasters who balance their programming with another point of view.

In the UK, that broadcaster is GB News.

On Wednesday, March 23, 2022 — the second anniversary of the UK’s lockdown — Mark Steyn interviewed Dr Guy Hatchard, who talked about the new studies emerging from Poland and Germany about the adverse effects of the vaccines:

Dr Hatchard, a physician from New Zealand, lamented that governments and the media were ignoring these studies.

Younger and middle aged people have been dying in larger numbers after taking the vaccines.

In New Zealand, he said that younger men are experiencing cardiac problems after getting the vaccine. However, media reports are minimising the gravity of the phenomenon, dubbing it the ‘Warne effect’ after the 52-year-old legendary cricketer Shane Warne, an Australian who died a few weeks ago from a sudden cardiac event. The media say that the vaccine is not a problem, rather, men of a similar age are suffering from anxiety about having heart problems. That, in my view, is preposterous — and dangerous.

Hatchard says the vaccines do not actually work, but, of course, governments cannot admit that. Furthermore, they have also swept adverse reactions and resulting deaths under the carpet.

Hatchard says that each vaccine dose weakens our natural immune systems. However, he says that pharmaceutical companies are ‘plumbed into’ governments and regulatory agencies as well as media, so we are not getting the full picture.

He says that biotechnology is seen as the future for the economy, therefore, no one in a position of influence will oppose it, beginning with these vaccines. That means, none of the rest of us can even talk about adverse effects or scrutinise them. Hatchard said that he tried to raise his vaccine doubts with the government but they ended their conversation with him.

Hatchard says that 99% of our state of health depends on what we eat and how we live our lives. In other words, vaccines cannot help that. Nor can biotechnology.

He also said that politicians and other elites are ‘playing God’ with the vaccines. They see it, he said, as a reality television show.

On Monday, March 21, Sir Christopher Chope MP (Conservative) appeared on Dan Wootton’s show to talk about the UK’s Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979:

Wootton asked him to confirm that the BBC, Sky News or ITV have not invited him on to discuss adverse effects from vaccines. Chope shook his head.

Chope had been granted an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday, March 2, on vaccine damage payments. Someone put a copy of it on YouTube, but YouTube took it down.

He said that the UK Government have not presented vaccines correctly. He says they should have urged people to get vaccinated because, for most people, they are safe. The Government should have also said that, in case of side effects, citizens would be reimbursed for their illness ‘because they did the right thing’ by being vaccinated. He said those messages are the crux of the 1979 vaccine payments legislation.

The Act is in force today, but no payouts have been issued to those who have fallen ill from the coronavirus vaccines. In fact, the Government has only started processing the 1,000 claims they have received thus far. He noted the Government’s ‘tremendous resistance’ in this matter.

The amount anyone could receive would be around £120,000, which Chope rightly pointed out should be increased to £155,000, as the original sum was last reviewed in 2015. He added that if this involved any other circumstance of injury or death, the payout would have been not only swift but also in the millions of pounds.

He says that this is a big issue for the Government, which chose to indemnify the vaccine manufacturers from the start. The vaccine manufacturers did not want to risk being sued because:

the vaccines hadn’t been tested to the extent that most vaccines are.

But now, it has to face up to the consequences and recognise that there are people, a significant minority of people, who have suffered as a result …

More recently, the message has changed: the vaccines are safe for the majority.

My question is: what about those who are not in the majority? What is being done to help them?

Wootton said that transparency is needed, because Health Secretary Sajid Javid has been talking about a second booster — a fourth shot — being needed sometime later this year. Wootton, who has had coronavirus twice as well as his three shots, said he is unhappy about having a fourth, especially as he is still a young man.

Sir Christopher said he could appreciate people of his own age being given another booster, but not for those who are younger, e.g. Wootton’s age, and certainly not children.

Wootton said that people his age and younger, including children, experience most of the harmful side effects.

Following his adjournment debate (well worth reading), Sir Christopher said that he and another MP went to meet with the Secretary of State (Sajid Javid):

and, frankly, it was a big disappointment.

We had ten minutes and he said that he would look into this issue, that he would ensure that the questions I asked him would receive answers. I should have had those answers already, but I haven’t. 

He was full of platitudes, frankly, about how most people had benefited. That’s not in dispute. But, actually, what we need to do is ensure that people who haven’t benefited from the vaccine are looked after by the State because they did the right thing by the State and, now, the State needs to reciprocate. 

Chope said that at least 2,000 Britons have died following the vaccine and that 500,000 yellow cards have been raised. He has received communications from several people who have had adverse reactions, some of which he discussed in his adjournment debate.

He wants to know why, if coroners have listed the cause of death as the coronavirus vaccine, the Government is hesitating in compensating their families:

What else needs to be proven? …

There have been a whole series of these cases. In a lot of them, they have been in the prime of their life, married with children, breadwinners, with all the consequences which flow from that.

I am glad that Sir Christopher Chope is on the case, so to speak. He’s an old-school Englishman who dots every i and crosses every t in making his principled points.

I wish him every success in his campaign for compensation. This is one case where we can use the word ‘justice’ in a traditional way: compensation where it is due.

That is the least these individuals who acted in good faith deserve.

Mothering Sunday is March 27, 2022, which is also Laetare Sunday, the joyful day in Lent:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

Some churches in the UK will be departing from the usual Lectionary lesson and read the latter part of 1 Samuel 1 instead.

Here is the whole chapter, the highly moving story of Hannah and her long-awaited son, Samuel (emphases mine below):

The Birth of Samuel

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a] from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

Hannah Dedicates Samuel

21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”[c]

23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his[d] word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Hannah vowed that Samuel would take a life-long Nazirite vow (verse 11):

… no razor will ever be used on his head …

The only other men in the Bible to do so were Samson and John the Baptist. Most Nazirite vows were short-term in nature.

John MacArthur explains the vow:

That last little part was a Nazarite vow, described in Numbers 6:3 to 6.  If a Jew wanted to take a vow of total consecration to God, he would not cut his hair, no concern for physical appearance, not drink the wine and the strong drink, abstaining from the banquetings and the celebrations and all of that, living an austere, consecrated, God-centered life. 

Commentary on Hannah’s story comes from John MacArthur’s 1987 sermon, ‘Hannah: A Godly Mother’.

Hannah truly had faith. Even though she was sterile, she believed the Lord would reverse her condition, which He did.

The name Hannah means ‘grace’. It befits this woman:

We meet her in 1 Samuel 1.  Hannah, her name speaks of her beauty; it means grace, and indeed she is the emblem of the grace of womanhood She became a mother by faith She first appears, as 1 Samuel opens, as a childless woman.  Then she becomes a mother, the mother of one of the greatest men who ever walked the earth, Samuel.  And as you see the account of the birth of Samuel, you note the profile of a godly mother.

Incidentally, the name Anna is a form of Hannah.

This was not a propitious era for Israel, which was experiencing a time of turmoil:

As the book opens, it is the period of the Judges There is no king in Israel as yet It is a time of turmoil; it is a time of confusion It is a time when Israel is vulnerable to the Philistines It is a time when they are debauched morally It is a time when their religion has grown cold And it is a time for a great man to rise and take the leadership of the nation, a period of religious degeneracy, of political distress.  With the death of Samson the country was divided and leaderless The Philistines were hanging on the edge.  The priesthood was corrupt Moral scandals were rampant among the family of the priests The nation was weak.  The nation was impotent.  And the worst of all, chapter 3, verse 1 says, “word from the Lord was rare in those days, and visions were infrequent.”  God even had nothing to say.  The nation needed a great leader, a great man, and God needed a great woman to shape that great man.  And Samuel, one of the greatest men who ever walked the earth, was not only the product of the work of God, but the product of a godly mother And she gave to her nation and the world the greatest legacy a woman can ever give, a godly child.

MacArthur gives us his perspective on what denotes a godly mother:

As we are introduced to this story, I want us to note three things that profile a godly mother She had a right husband relationship, she had a right heavenly relationship, and she had a right home relationship Those three things stand out and profile her for us.

First of all, let’s consider her right husband relationship And may I say that this is, at the very outset, essential for you to understand.  The most important relationship in a family in raising godly children is not the relationship between the parents and the children, it’s the relationship between the mother and the father What you communicate to your children by your relationship dominates their thinking They are learning about human relationships from the two of you They are learning about virtue, they are learning about sin.  They are learning about love.  They are learning about forgiveness.  They’re learning about sympathy.  They’re learning about understanding.  They’re learning about compassion.  They’re learning about virtue.  They’re learning about honesty and integrity.  They’re watching, and far more important than your relationship to your child in the long run is the relationship you have to your spouse, that’s projected to your child.  And so at the very outset, the Word of God is clear to tell us the relationship between Hannah and Elkanah.

Now, first of all, let me say that it wasn’t a perfect relationship; so ladies, you want to start out by realizing you’re not married to a perfect man.  That’s a given.  I want you to understand what the Scripture says.  Hannah was married to a polygamist Now, I don’t know how that would sit with you as a woman, but I can guess.  And I can also tell you that it didn’t sit any better with Hannah than it does with you, to have a rival in the house, to have another wife in the house And worst of all, she is producing boys and girls and Hannah has none, and so she is the unfruitful, unproductive wife who cannot give to her husband that which her heart most longs to give.

He wasn’t a perfect man.  The very fact that he was a polygamist indicates his imperfection.  But understand this, this is a primitive time, and polygamy was a part of human culture; never God’s design, never.  God always designed one man, one woman, leaving their parents, joining together for life, and becoming one flesh, from Genesis on.  But human society was rife with polygamy, and when the truth of God came into human society, it was so pervasive, polygamy, that it took time to root it out

And so Elkanah created for Hannah a very difficult situation.  We don’t know the details, but it may well have been that he went on to marry Peninnah because of Hannah’s barrenness, and in order to produce a generation who could then possess his inheritance.  And so that would even make the pain deeper, because Peninnah came to do in that union what Hannah could not do.  Not a perfect relationship, but nonetheless a good one, a right one.  Let me show you why.

First of all, they shared worship Now, “this man,” Elkanah, verse 3 says, “would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.”  It doesn’t mean he went once a year, it meant that every year he went.  In Deuteronomy, chapter 16, verse 16, it explains the prescription; three times a year – yes, it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths The man had to go to the place of worship.  In this particular time, in 1 Samuel, the place of worship was at Shiloh, because that’s where the Ark of the Covenant was located before it was transferred to Jerusalem

Starting out, then, they had a shared worship; so vital.  How you worship communicates volumes of information to your children Are you faithful?  Are you faithful to come and meet with God’s redeemed people, week in and week out?  Are you faithful to make the Word of God the priority in your life?  Are you faithful that prayer should have a high place in your experience spiritually?  Are you faithful to live what you affirm that you believe?  In other words, the attitude of your spiritual devotion is communicating a Christianity to your children that they will have a hard time overcoming, if it in fact is less than it ought to be.

Secondly, they not only had a right relationship in their marriage because of worshiping together, but secondly, they shared love Notice verse 4, “And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed” – one of those times when he took the trip to Shiloh – “he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and all her sons and her daughters, but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah.”  Stop at that point.  He didn’t love Peninnah That’s the implication.  Peninnah was there to produce the children that Hannah couldn’t have Peninnah was there to create a future for his family, his inheritance.  But Hannah was the one he loved, and he made no attempt to hide that And when they went to offer their sacrifices, I don’t know if you know how that worked, but they would go to offer peace offerings, and they would offer the offering on the altar there.  The priest would take a small part, then most of it would come back to the family, and they’d have a feast And when passing out the feast, he would give a double portion to Hannah, because she was the one he loved.  This was a gesture in the East to an honored guest She was the one who had his heart.  And it was not just the love of emotion, it was the love of kindness, and the love of thoughtfulness, and the love of sacrifice, the love of honor.  He loved herAnd this love was her security

Men, if you don’t know it yet, you ought to know it; a woman’s security is in your love for her, not in your bank account, not in a fancy house, not in new furniture, not in a retirement plan.  A woman finds her security in your love, and it needs to be demonstrated so frequently that there’s never a question about it People wonder often why women tend to be suspicious of their husbands, and wondering if they might have some other attraction or be fooling around with some other person, and the reason is because it’s so deeply rooted in a woman that her security is in the love of her man.  And that’s the way it was with Elkanah and Hannah And she was secure in his love, because he took the time to demonstrate his love to her in very public ways, such as he had done at this feast in front of everyoneThey shared love, and thus she was secure in that love; and she needed that, believe me, when he had another wife …

They shared love … There is the absence of anxiety and frustration, so that the woman can give herself to the children, and not always feel that she’s got to be a beauty queen to win the affection of her husband.  Once the husband with his love wraps that woman up and secures her, then she can give herself away to her children, and not have to feel that she must always fight the uphill battle to attract her husband.

Thirdly, they shared another thing.  They shared feelings Shared worship, their relationship to God was a common one.  They shared love, and they shared feelings.  Look at verse 6.  “Her rival, however,” – that’s Peninnah – “would provoke her bitterly to irritate her because the Lord had closed her womb.”  It said that also at the end of verse 5, twice it says the Lord had closed her womb What it’s trying to say is this isn’t Hannah’s problem; the Lord did this The Lord closed her womb.  And this Peninnah would harass her, you know, that kind of thing, “Too bad you can’t have any children, Hannah,” just sticking the knife in And it happened year after year; “as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her so she wept and wouldn’t eat.” 

Here she goes to the big feast Elkanah is sympathetically, lovingly giving her a double portion She won’t eat anything, ’cause on the other side of the table, Peninnah’s really rubbing it in that she has no children The response – I would not want to be in Elkanah’s position, trying to pull these two women together.  But Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not better to you than ten sons?”  They shared feelings.  Boy, he read her feelings and he didn’t pontificate, he asked a question.  Why are you doing this, Hannah?  Haven’t I been better than ten sons to you?He knew the conflict, and he knew the conflict was intensified from Peninnah’s side, and he knew that it was deep and painful and it was a hard, hard place for her to be And so he was tender, and sympathetic, and thoughtful, and he felt her feelings in his own heart.

She has a right husband relationshipThey share worship, the deepest dimension of human life They share love, maybe the next deepest dimension of human life.  They share feelings, maybe the next deepest dimension of human life.  They have a deep relationship.  They move together in the presence of God, with one another, and over the issues of life that involve other people.

As devestated as she was about her sterility — which God had given her — she believed that He could reverse her condition. She never lost her faith. Not only did she pray and pray for a child, she also made a vow to the Lord. Many women would have been bitter and turned away from God, but not Hannah:

The high priest is in the temple.  She goes there.  She came into the temple greatly distressed.  Her soul was bitter, it literally says And she prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly She is just crushed – crushed.  And she made a promise, a vow.  “O Lord,” and she goes on to make her vow.  But notice this about this godly woman: she was a woman of prayer.  It’s a beautiful characteristic.  She understood that God was the source of children.  She understood that God alone could alter her sterility.  Her distinctive virtue was her faith, constant faith.  Verse 12, “It came about as she continued praying before the Lord” – constant.  She remained there.  She stayed there.  Her heart was broken She was pouring out her prayersThis is the spirit of true prayer

So she promised God, “I’ll give You this child, I just want to be fulfilled as a mother, I just want to raise a godly son to give back to Your glory.  And if You give him to me I’ll give him back.”  This is her promise, to present her child to God.  That’s the essence of a godly mother.  While praying for a child, she prays for that child not for a wrong reason but a right reason, to turn that child back to God, from where the child came.  That’s the essence of a godly mother – to give the child to God, to give the child to God.  My mother only had one son, and I am that son Before I was born she dedicated me to the Lord from birth, and told my father that she wanted a son who would preach the gospel That’s a wonderful legacy And that may not be what every son is to do, it is not what every son is to do, but every godly mother will give that child to the Lord for whatever he has; the same with a daughterSo Hannah made her promise.

We also find out more about Eli and his sons. Wasn’t it awful for Eli to accuse Hannah in her brokenness of being drunk?

The next thing we see about Hannah was her purity.  Eli was the high priest, but I’ve got to tell you, he was really a lousy high priest And nothing could be said about his discernment, either.  “It came about when she was praying continually before the Lord, Eli was watching her mouth.”  Sitting off on a – he was a big, fat manIn fact, when his sons died, he was so shook he fell over, and landed on his neck and broke it and killed himself So Eli was sitting there watching her, and she was in there pouring out her heart and weeping and crying.  And she was speaking in her heart.  She wasn’t speaking out loud, it says in verse 13, only her lips were moving.  Have you ever had that experience where you’re really talking in your heart but your lips are moving, though not a sound was heard?  So Eli thought she was drunk Isn’t he discerning?  Now, I don’t know anything about my discernment as relative to other people, or to Eli’s, but I’ll tell you, I think I know the difference between a drunk and a woman broken in prayer

So Eli decided to play the spiritual role “How long will you make yourself drunk?  Put away your wine from you,” he says to her.  And Hannah is so gracious, and answered and said, “No, my lord, I’m a woman oppressed in spirit I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.  You misjudge me.  Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman.”  That tells us a little bit about drinking wine or strong drink and its relationship to worthlessness regarding women.  That’s an Old Testament attitude.  “Don’t consider me like that.  I have spoken until now out of my great concern and my provocation.”  Then Eli, hearing such a lucid answer, answered and said, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you’ve asked of Him.”  It’s sort of a mild apology But he mistook her for being drunk.  “Don’t think your maidservant a worthless woman” – literally, a son of Belial, profitless.  A common term, by the way, in the Old Testament, associated with idolatry, Deuteronomy 13; rebellion, 1 Samuel 2; lewd, sensuous acts in Judges 19 and 20; a term used to speak of arrogance and stupidity in 1 Samuel 25, and even murder in 1 Kings 21 “Don’t think that I’m in that group.  I’m not that kind of person.”  She was a virtuous woman, like the woman of Proverbs 12:4 and 31:10, she was a woman of virtue.  She was a godly woman, she was a pure woman …

… the rest of chapter 2 into chapter 3 into chapter 4 is the sad, pathetic tragedy of the family of Eli His sons were fornicators They died, and he himself fell over, as I said, and died.  It was a tragic, ugly scene.  And the commentary of Scripture on Eli was that he could not restrain his sons from doing evil; and his wife is never mentioned I don’t know what part, if any, she had, but she was a long way from what Hannah was in producing godly Samuel

MacArthur explains why Hannah was able to enjoy eating after she was so upset in prayer:

I’ll tell you why: because she had patient faith.  She had patient faith She gave it to God, what else could she do?  She wasn’t about to remain frustrated.  This is true faith True faith doesn’t pray, “O God, here’s my problem, here’s my problem,” walk away in utter frustration.  That’s really doubt.  Faith says, “Here it is, God,” and walks away, and is no longer sad.  That’s trust.  “I trust You.”  Very much the mark of a godly mother, one who totally trusts God – she casts her burden on God, and that’s the end of it.  She walks away.  She eats.  She is no longer sad.

Samuel was a little boy — older than a toddler — when Hannah dedicated him to the Lord:

“For she said to her husband, ‘I will not go up until the child is weaned.’”  Now wait a minute.  That’s a couple of years, Hannah.  Three years?  I don’t know exactly how long Hannah nursed little Samuel, but several years surely “I won’t go.”  It was only about a two or three week trip, at the longest, to go up there and be there for a week, traveling there, traveling back.  It’s less than 200 miles from one end of Palestine to the other.  She wouldn’t go, she wouldn’t go at all.  Why?  She was dedicated to the child.  When God gave the child, she was dedicated to the child

Samuel means heard by God And boy, once that child came, Hannah said, “This is the child of my passion, this is the child of my vow; I will not forsake my time with this child I won’t leave this child for several weeks.  I won’t take this little child along and make it uncomfortable,” because they would necessarily walk The child needs sleep, and the child needs the gentleness of home, the quietness of a nursing environment … 

And she dedicates the weaned child to God So verse 24, “When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year- old bull, and one ephah of flour, and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, although the child was young.  They slaughtered the bull and brought the boy to Eli, and she said, ‘O my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.’  And he worshiped the Lord there.”

Samuel’s story begins in 1 Samuel 2:

Look at chapter 2, verse 18:  “Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.”  In other words, he was girded like a priest would be, dressed as a little boy His whole life was ministering before the Lord.  “And his mother would make him a little robe,” verse 19, “and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, ‘May the Lord give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the Lord.’  And they went to their own home.  The Lord visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters And the boy Samuel grew before the Lord.”

She never really let go of her responsibility; every time she came, she came with a new little robe for her growing Samuel That’s the result of godly mothering And that’s the insight that you never stop being Mother, no matter how old they become God blessed her. To be a godly mother involves a right husband relationship, a right heavenly relationship, and a right home relationship Hannah had all of that.  God honored it, and she gives us a model to follow.

In closing, may I wish all mothers celebrating in a few days’ time a happy — and blessed — Mothering Sunday.

Twitter users have posted fantastic videos about the situation in Ukraine, a selection of which follows.

On Tuesday, March 15, 2022, Oleksiy Goncharenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament posted a short, upbeat video showing a nearly full house. Parliament was very much in session:

It is sad to see history repeat itself. Here are two photos of the opera house in Odessa. The one on the left was taken during the Nazi occupation. They put up the fortifications:

The Scottish Conservatives welcomed a Ukrainian student to their Spring conference in Aberdeen at the end of last week. Her speech (split between the two tweets below) is really inspiring. She certainly loves the United Kingdom:

She also had the opportunity of meeting Boris Johnson and meet with him privately. Well done, Boris:

Speaking of the UK, hats off to a group of London black taxi drivers who took supplies to Warsaw to help the refugee effort. All being well, they will bring back refugees to Britain:

Here they are in Warsaw:

In Slovakia, border guards took time out to play with child refugees:

Back in Ukraine, there has been time for entertainment, whether it’s comedy in Sumy or music in Lviv:

As for Putin, no one wants to shake his hand. This is a short, must-see video:

Prayers continue for Ukraine. Their upbeat attitude is unparalleled in modern times and is truly exemplary.

Margaret Thatcher is growing on me.

I must have been too young at the time to appreciate her.

Here is a genius quote of hers about matters of concern to us today:

https://image.vuukle.com/71283898-5747-4196-bef2-20ded1203630-271e3d42-b409-42c5-ada6-c0bc8b146a58

A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master, they are the essence of a free economy, and on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.

On Wednesday, March 22, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be delivering a Spring Statement in the House of Commons.

One dreads to think what he will say. Our taxes are going up, up, up.

He has imposed the most tax increases since Labour’s Gordon Brown, who was Chancellor for ten years (1997-2007). Rishi’s only been in for two!

As Guido Fawkes points out, Thatcher’s Nigel Lawson was the last Chancellor to cut taxes. He was in office between 1983 and 1989.

No one under the age of 40 will have experienced a cut to the overall tax burden:

Two readers of Guido’s post put a mock letter to taxpayers together:

Dear common people, you must understand that our policy of massive QE to deflate your earnings and savings whilst massively enriching the globalist banks and corporations, the mass uncontrolled relentless 3rd world immigration (not forgetting the VIP illegals), the massive state support of anti-democratic and anti-conservative quangos and NGOs to champion progressive socialism, the destruction of energy security and the lunacy of net zero, the massive tax hikes with nothing in return but more state control, the Covid lockdowns built on deliberately manipulated bad data – they are all necessary if we and the rest of Westminster and Whitehall are to meet our WEF Great Reset targets. Thanks.

P.S.: I’m a multi millionaire and I can still claim my expenses including my energy bills, TV licence and everything else that I buy, so I don’t really care.

That doesn’t half cut to the bone.

Rishi told Sophie Ridge from Sky News that the other Chancellors did not have pandemics with which to deal. He thought that the chart should have gone back to the Second World War for a truer picture of borrowing and high taxes:

He assured her that taxes will be going down.

This was the front page of the Mail on Sunday from March 20:

Better than slashing fuel duty would be to cut the green levy, which is even greater.

Look at the third column, though (emphases mine):

… the Chancellor has asked Treasury officials to establish a new cost-of-living unit which would scrutinise all new policies for their impact on household finances. He will also chair a new Cabinet committee on financial waste which will aim to prune nearly £6billion from public spending.

I must be naïve. I was always under the impression that the Treasury’s civil servants looked at (‘scrutinise’ is too strong a word) the impact of their policies on household finances. The same goes for financial waste.

Why do we need more civil servants doing nothing?

They cannot even be bothered to go into the office. They’ve been working from home since the first coronavirus lockdown, the second anniversary of which is Wednesday, March 23 — the same day as Rishi’s Spring Statement.

The tax situation never gets better, does it?

As I continue to read through Jay Rayner‘s cookbook reviews from 2021, I ran across a comment from one of his readers concerning the sacramental nature of food:

Eating is a form of sacrament (word by which longstanding concepts of sacrifice, religion and shedding of blood are tied etymologically) because it is the point where a life is sacrificed and consumed for another life to be sustained. That is part of the reason for saying grace at meal times. For this reason, if you don’t connect food to ethics you’re not really doing food or ethics properly in my view. You have reduced food to another form of soulless consumerism rather than a sacrament.

That is the first time I’ve ever read such an explanation from an English speaker.

Plenty of French people consider a group lunch or dinner to be sacramental. In an episode of one of his television shows, the renowned chef Raymond Blanc actually said that dining together was a form of ‘Holy Communion’ (his words). He lifted up a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread to emphasise the point.

This concept elevates a lunch or dinner to an extraordinary experience, one to be respected as well as relished.

The concept is food for life rather than food as fuel.

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