Category Archives: John Calvin

19 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Assurance of his Protection

The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Psalm 110:2

suggested further reading: Psalm 2

It is astonishing that though the whole world has united to oppose Christ’s kingdom, the church has continued to spread and prosper. David here encourages the godly not to be dispirited by the foolhardy attempts of those who presume to introduce discord and disorder into the kingdom of Christ, for God will use his invincible power to maintain the glory of his sacred throne.

When our minds are agitated by various commotions, let us confidently rest, knowing that no matter how much the world rages against Christ, they will never be able to hurl him from the right hand of the Father. Moreover, because he does not reign on his own account but for our salvation, we may rest assured that we will be protected and preserved from all ills under the guardianship of this invincible King.

Doubtless our condition in this world will include many hardships, but God’s will is that Christ’s kingdom should be encompassed with many enemies, his design being to keep us in a state of constant warfare. Therefore it becomes us to exercise patience and meekness, and, assured of God’s aid, boldly to consider the rage of the whole world as nothing.

This passage also tells us about the calling of the Gentiles. If God had not told us about the extension of Christ’s kingdom to the Gentiles, we could not today be regarded as his people. But since the wall is broken between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14), and the gospel promulgated, we too have been gathered into the body of the church, and know that Christ puts forth his power to uphold and defend us.

for meditation: Although believers are troubled by worldly enemies or by internal discord and disorder, we can be assured that the church of Christ will be restored to peace. We can look to heaven, confident that God will not allow evil to triumph but will uphold and defend his bride. How does this comfort us here and now?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 97). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

18 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Waiting for God

Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the Lord, and of them that speak evil against my soul. Psalm 109:20

suggested further reading: Isaiah 30:18–26

David did not rashly or unadvisedly utter curses against his enemies but strictly adhered to what the Spirit dictated. I acknowledge that many people pretend to have similar confidence and hope, but who nevertheless recklessly rush beyond the bounds of temperance and moderation. But what David beheld by the unclouded eye of faith, he also uttered with the zeal of a sound mind; for, having devoted himself to the cultivation of piety under the protection of God’s hand, he was aware that the day was approaching when his enemies would experience the punishment they had earned.

We learn that David’s trust was placed in God alone. He did not look to people to direct his course according to whether the world smiled or frowned upon him. We can be sure that whoever places his dependence on people will find that the most trifling incident will annoy him.

Therefore, even if the whole world abandons us, we, like this holy man, should lift up our heads to heaven and look there for our defender and deliverer. If God intends to use human instruments for our deliverance, he will soon raise up people to accomplish that purpose. But if he chooses to try our faith by depriving us of all earthly assistance, we should not regard that as any negative reflection upon the glory of his name. Rather, we should wait until the proper time when God fully makes known his decision in which we can calmly acquiesce.

for meditation: Patience in waiting for an answer to prayer, especially a prayer for deliverance, must be consciously cultivated if we are to avoid losing confidence in God and his ways. But while waiting is a challenge, the Spirit often uses it to teach us to look to heaven, not people, for deliverance. What lessons have you learned about the Lord or about yourself while waiting on him in prayer?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 96). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

17 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Grateful in Danger

Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron. Psalm 107:10

suggested further reading: Matthew 14:22–33

The Spirit of God mentions many dangers in which God shows his power and grace in protecting and delivering people. The world calls these vicissitudes the sport of fortune; hardly one in a hundred people ascribe them to the superintending providence of God.

But God expects a very different kind of practical wisdom from us, namely, that we should meditate on his judgments in a time of adversity and on his goodness in delivering us from danger. For surely it is not by mere chance that a person falls into the hands of enemies or robbers; neither is it by chance that a person is rescued from them. But what we must constantly keep in mind is that all afflictions are God’s rod, and therefore there is no remedy for them other than God’s grace.

If a person falls into the hands of robbers or thieves and is not instantly murdered, but, giving up all hope of life, expects death at any moment, surely his deliverance is striking proof of the grace of God. This grace is even more illustrious considering the few who escape from such danger. Such circumstances, then, ought not to diminish our praises of God.

The prophet charges people with ingratitude who, after they have been wonderfully saved, very soon lose sight of the deliverance granted to them. To strengthen the charge, he brings forward their sighs and cries as a testimony against them. For when they are in dangerous straits, they confess in good earnest that God is their deliverer. Why then do these confessions disappear when they enjoy peace and quietness?

for meditation: Cries to God for deliverance come so easily and so naturally to our lips when we are unable to help ourselves. Why then does praise feel so difficult when things are going well? Are we so foolish to think that we can take care of ourselves in the good times, as if we are any less dependent on God?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 95). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

16 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Triumphing in Praise

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise. Psalm 106:47

suggested further reading: Acts 2:40–47

This psalm was composed during the sad and calamitous dispersion of the people of Israel. It was necessary for the people to be completely humbled to prevent them from further murmuring against God’s dispensations. Seeing that God had extended pardon to their fathers, who were undeserving of it, he aimed to inspire their children with the hope of forgiveness, provided they carefully and cordially sought to be reconciled to him. This was especially the case because of God solemnly remembering his covenant with them. Through faith they might draw near to God, even though his anger had not yet turned away.

Moreover, God had chosen them to be his peculiar people, so they could call upon him to collect into one body their dissevered and bleeding members. For, according to the prediction of Moses, “If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee” (Deut. 30:4). This prediction eventually came true when the widely separated multitude was gathered together and grew in the unity of the faith. For though the people of Israel never regained their earthly kingdom and polity, yet they were grafted with the Gentiles into the body of Christ, which was a more preferable gathering.

Wherever they were, the children of God were united with each other and to the Gentile converts by the holy and spiritual bond of faith. Together they constituted one church that extended over the whole earth. They came together to fulfill the purpose of their redemption from captivity, namely, that they might celebrate the name of God and employ themselves continually in praising him.

for meditation: The psalmist asks for deliverance for the people of Israel so that they might give thanks and triumph in praising God. This is a great lesson for us to remember when we ask the Lord for blessings: our ultimate motive should be his glory, not simply our comfort. What means can we use to learn this transforming lesson more profoundly and consistently?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 94). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

15 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Provoking God

Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity. Psalm 106:43

suggested further reading: Numbers 14

The wickedness and perversity of people becomes more evident when even God’s severe chastisements fail to produce reformation. The prophet deduces that the detestable hardness of people’s hearts continues. They are not bent to obedience despite all the benefits they have received from God. Indeed, in the time of their afflictions, they groan under the burden of those afflictions, but when God mitigates their punishment and grants them wonderful deliverance, how can their subsequent backsliding then be excused?

Bear in mind that we have a picture here as in a mirror of the nature of all mankind. If God uses the same means that he used for the Israelites to reclaim the majority of the sons of men, how is it that comparatively few do not continue in the very same state as they were? He may humble us with the severity of his rod or melt us with his kindness, but the effect is only temporary, because, though he visits us with correction upon correction or heaps kindness upon kindness upon us, we very soon relapse into our wonted vicious practices.

The Jews did not cease from backsliding, but, as the psalmist says, provoked him with their counsel. They then received a just recompense of reward in being oppressed by their iniquity. Moreover, though these backsliders deserved their afflictions, yet God still heard their groanings. In his unwearied kindness, God did not cease to strive with them even in their perverseness of spirit.

for meditation: This passage is a clear demonstration of our need for the miracle of regeneration. Unless a person is changed from the inside out, all the chastisements or all the blessings in the world will not turn him to God. What impact do God’s chastisements have on you?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 93). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

14 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Remembered with Favor

Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation. Psalm 106:4

suggested further reading: Psalm 30

The prophet here declares his chief desire is that God would extend to him the love that he bears toward the church. He might thus participate in all the blessings which, from the very first, God bestowed upon his chosen and which he day by day continues to bestow on them. The prophet desires this not only for himself but also, in the name of the universal church, offers up a prayer for all, that by his example he might stimulate the faithful to present similar petitions.

Remember me, says he, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people; that is to say, grant to me the same unmerited kindness that thou art pleased to confer upon thy people, so that I may never be cut off from thy church but will always be included among the number of thy children. The phrase favour toward thy people refers passively to the love that God graciously bears to his elect. The prophet uses it to indicate the marks of God’s love. From this gracious source flows the proof that God actually and experimentally gives grace to his people.

The prophet considers being numbered among the people of God as the summit of true happiness because by this means he feels that God is reconciled to him. Nothing is more desirable than this. Also, he experiences that God is bountiful. The term remember refers to the circumstance of time. As we shall see toward the end of the psalm, it was written when the people were in such a sad and calamitous state that the faithful might have entertained some secret apprehension that God had forgotten them.

for meditation: Are you, by grace, one of God’s chosen people? If you are numbered among the elect, you will never be forgotten but will be remembered with favor. That should comfort you in the darkest hours.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 92). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

13 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Conquered by Frogs

He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings. Psalm 105:29–30

suggested further reading: Exodus 8:1–15

The plague of water being turned into blood was especially grievous to the Egyptians because water was one of the two great means of supporting life. The power of God shone forth brighter considering that the land of Egypt was well irrigated, yet the Egyptians were parched with drought. It is said that their land brought forth frogs and entered even the chambers of their kings. God thus manifestly showed that he was the author of the miracle, for though all Egypt swarmed with frogs, the courts of the kings should have been exempt from this nuisance. The term kings denotes either the nobles of the realm or the king’s sons, who were brought up in expectation of royal power, for at that time, as is well known, only one king reigned over all Egypt.

From this we learn how, by a kind of mockery, God easily humbles those who pride themselves in the flesh. He did not gather an army to fight against the Egyptians, nor did he forthwith arm his angels or thunder out of heaven. But God brought forth frogs in Egypt, which contemptuously trampled upon the pride of that haughty nation and held in contempt the whole world besides. It would have been no disgrace for Egypt to have been conquered by powerful enemies, but consider how dishonorable it was to be vanquished by frogs!

By this God showed that he has no need of powerful hosts to destroy the wicked, for he can do this, even seemingly in sport, whenever he pleases.

for meditation: Calvin provides us with a unique reminder of how deluded we are when we think we are in control. Whether by great natural disasters or by an army of frogs, God will remind us that he is the one in control. How does the Holy Spirit teach us experientially to relinquish control of our lives to God?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 91). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

12 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Qualified for Service

He sent Moses his servant; and Aaron whom he had chosen. Psalm 105:26

suggested further reading: Psalm 77:11–20

Here the prophet briefly refers to the deliverance of God’s people. If the Egyptians of their own accord had allowed the people of Israel to leave Egypt, neither the service of Moses nor miracles of God would have been required.

But God determined that his people should be delivered in such a way that denial of its author would be impossible. Moses is called his servant to teach us that he was not self-appointed to his office and that he attempted nothing by his own authority. Rather, as the minister of God, Moses executed the office with which he was entrusted. The same is true of Aaron, who is said to have been chosen. What is attributed in particular to each of these eminent men applies equally to both. Therefore Psalm 105:26 is basically saying: God sent Moses and Aaron, his servants, not because of their intrinsic fitness or because they spontaneously offered their service to God, but because God chose them.

This passage teaches us that those who are engaged in active and useful service for the church are not exclusively qualified for it by their own exertions or by their own talents, but are stirred by God to serve. Moses was a man of heroic virtue, but in himself, he was nothing. Accordingly, the psalmist would say all that is accounted worthy of remembering in Moses as well as Aaron is to be ascribed to God alone. Whatever men do for the welfare of the church, they owe the power of doing so to God, who, of his free goodness, has been pleased thus to honor them.

for meditation: This teaching goes against every natural inclination of our hearts. How easily we take pride in ourselves when God blesses our work, as if we were somehow ultimately responsible! The honor, Calvin says, belongs to God alone. How does this both humble us and fill us with gratitude?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 90). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

11 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Strengthening Covenant Promises

He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Psalm 105:8

suggested further reading: Genesis 15

God made a covenant with Abraham and by solemn oath also promised to be the God of Abraham’s seed. To give greater assurance of the truth of his promise, God graciously renewed his covenant with Isaac and Jacob. The effect of extending the vow to posterity is that God’s faithfulness might take deeper hold of the hearts of his people. Also, when God’s grace is renewed on recurring occasions, it becomes better known and more illustrious among men. Accordingly, this covenant is proved more steadfast and immovable, for what is affirmed concerning each of the patriarchs belongs equally to them all.

It is said that God “swore to Isaac.” Had God not before sworn that to Abraham? Undoubtedly he had. It is also said that it was established to Jacob for a law, and for an everlasting covenant. Does this mean the covenant was previously only temporal and transitory and that it then changed its nature? Such an idea is altogether at variance with the meaning of the sacred writer. By these different forms of expression the psalmist asserts that the covenant was fully and perfectly confirmed, so that, if the calling was perhaps obscure for one man, it might become more evident by God’s transmitting it to posterity. By this means the truth of the covenant was better manifested.

Here we are once more reminded that God with great kindness considers our weakness when, both by his oath and by frequently repeating his word, he ratifies what he formerly promised to us. Our ingratitude then appears fouler in disbelieving him when he not only speaks but also swears.

for meditation: The promises that God makes to his people also extend to their posterity, which includes sinners like us. How does each manifestation of God’s covenant promises help strengthen believers’ responses to their covenant commitments?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 89). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

10 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Curbing Rebellion against God’s Deep Ways

O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. Psalm 92:5

suggested further reading: Romans 11:33–36

God governs the world in a manner that we are often unable to comprehend. Were things under our own management, we would invert the order that God observes. Since that is not the case, we may perversely argue with God for not hastening sooner to help the righteous and to punish the wicked.

It strikes us in the highest degree inconsistent with the perfections of God that he should bear with the wicked when they rage against him, when they rush without restraint into the most daring acts of iniquity, and when they persecute at will the good and the innocent. It seems intolerable to us that God should subject his own people to the injustice and violence of the wicked while failing to check abounding falsehood, deceit, plunder, bloodshed, and every species of enormity. Why does he suffer his truth to be obscured and his holy name to be trampled under foot? Such is the greatness of the divine operation and the depth of divine counsel that cause the psalmist to break forth in admiration.

It is no doubt true that God has displayed incomprehensible depth of power and wisdom in the fabric of the universe; but what the psalmist especially has in view here is to check our tendency to murmur against God when he does not pursue our plan in his providential management. When his ways do not agree with the general ideas of men, we ought to contemplate them with reverence, remembering that God, to better try our obedience, has lifted his deep and mysterious judgments far above our conceptions.

for meditation: How easily our hearts rise up in rebellion and unbelief when God does not act as we think he should! This psalm is a wonderful corrective to that spirit. What steps can we take to remind ourselves who is Creator and who is creature when we contemplate God’s ways in the world?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 88). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

9 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

When his Ways are Incomprehensible

O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. Psalm 92:5

suggested further reading: Psalm 139

Having spoken in general of the works of God, the psalmist proceeds to speak more particularly of God’s justice in governing the world. Though God may postpone the punishment of the wicked, in due time he shows that he does not overlook or fail to perceive their sins. Furthermore, though God exercises his own children with the cross, he proves in the end that he is not indifferent to their welfare.

The Psalmist makes this particular point because much darkness is thrown upon the scheme of divine providence because of the inequality and disorder that prevail in human affairs. We see the wicked triumphing and applauding their own good fortune, as if there were no judge above. They also take advantage of divine forbearance for additional excesses because they are under the impression that they have escaped God’s hand. The temptation is aggravated by the stupidity and blindness of heart that lead them to imagine that God exerts no control over the world and sits idle in heaven.

We know how quickly we can sink under the troubles of the flesh. The psalmist, therefore, intentionally selects this occasion to show the watchful care exerted by God over the human family. He begins by using the language of exclamation, for such is the dreadful distemper and disorder by which our understandings are confounded that we cannot comprehend the method of God’s works, even when it is most apparent. We are to notice that the inspired writer is not speaking here of the work of God in the creation of the heavens and earth, nor of his providential government of the world in general, but only of the judgments that he executes amongst men.

for meditation: At times, life seems cruel and unfair. We see wickedness and injustice flourish all around us while goodness and justice suffer. We can only maintain a proper perspective by trusting that God is in control, says the psalmist. When has such trust been rewarded in your own life?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 87). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

8 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

The Purpose of the Sabbath

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High. Psalm 92:1

suggested further reading: Isaiah 1:12–18

As the psalm’s inscription says, the Jews were in the habit of singing Psalm 92 on the Sabbath day. It is apparent in other passages that other psalms were also applied to this use. As the words may be literally read in the Hebrew, it is good for giving thanks unto the Lord. The psalmist says it is good to have a certain day set apart for singing the praises of God; it is a useful arrangement that one day is chosen on which the Lord’s people can celebrate God’s works.

The reason the psalmist dedicates this psalm to the Sabbath is obvious. The day is not to be holy in the sense of our being devoted to idleness, as if idleness could be acceptable worship to God, but in the sense of separating ourselves from all other occupations so that we can meditate upon divine works. Because our minds are inconstant, we are apt to wander from God when exposed to various distractions. We need to be disentangled from all cares if we would seriously apply ourselves to the praises of God.

The psalmist teaches us that rightly observing the Sabbath does not consist of idleness, as some absurdly imagine, but in the celebration of the divine name. The argument that he makes is drawn from the profitableness of service, for nothing is more encouraging than to know that our labor is not in vain and that what we engage in meets with divine approbation.

for meditation: The Lord did not give us the Sabbath so that we might fritter it away doing nothing profitable. It is given so that we might focus on him and on his Word, and keeping it is a matter of the heart. Take a moment to re-examine how you spend your Sabbaths. Is there room for improvement?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 86). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

7 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Directing the Work of our Hands

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. Psalm 90:17

suggested further reading: Nehemiah 6:10–19

God has promised that the church will be perpetuated to the end of the world. In a special manner that should lead us to pray for the welfare of the church as well as for our posterity, who are yet unborn. We should also note the word beauty, for in it we learn that the love that God bears toward us is unparalleled. In enriching us with his gifts, God gains nothing for himself, yet he would have the splendor and beauty of his character manifested in bountifully dealing with us, as if his beauty would be obscured when he ceases to do us good.

In the clause establish thou the work of our hands upon us, Moses intimates that we cannot undertake or attempt anything with the prospect of success unless God becomes our guide and counselor and governs us by his Spirit. It then follows that the reason why the enterprises and efforts of worldly men have a disastrous end is that, in not following God, they pervert order and throw everything into confusion.

Though God converts to good in the end whatever Satan and the reprobate plot and practice against him or his people, yet the church, which God rules with undisturbed sway, has in this respect a special privilege. By his providence, which is incomprehensible to us, he directs his work with the reprobate externally but governs his believing people internally by his Holy Spirit. Therefore we can properly say that he orders or directs the work of their hands.

for meditation: How often haven’t we found that, despite our native abilities and best efforts, we are unable to make progress in some task? At other times, with the Lord’s blessing, we can accomplish things far beyond our normal abilities. It is humbling and also refreshing to recognize that we are so dependent on the Lord’s blessing. In what areas in your life has this recently been manifested?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 85). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

6 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Keeping an Eternal Perspective

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Psalm 90:4

suggested further reading: Luke 12:16–21

We know that people who have completed the circle of life are forthwith taken out of the world, yet the knowledge of this frailty fails to make a deep impression on our hearts because we do not lift our eyes above the world. Moses awakens us by showing us the eternal perspective of God, without which we do not perceive how speedily our life vanishes away.

The imagination that we shall have a long life is like a profound sleep in which we are all benumbed. Only meditating upon the heavenly life can swallow up this foolish fancy respecting the length of our continuance upon earth. To those who are blind to eternity, Moses presents the view of God as Judge. “O Lord!” he seems to say, “If men would only reflect upon that eternity from which Thou beholdest the inconstant circling of the world, they would not make so great an account of the present life.”

The reason that unbelievers indulge in pleasures is that they have their hearts too much set upon the world and do not taste the pleasures of a celestial eternity.

Hence we learn the application of this teaching. Why do we have such great anxiety about our life that nothing satisfies us? Do we continually molest ourselves because we foolishly imagine that we shall nestle in this world forever?

Moses does not only contrast a thousand years with one day; he also contrasts them with yesterday, which is already gone. For whatever is still before our eyes captivates our minds. But we are less affected with the recollection of what is past. So, let us elevate our minds by faith to God’s heavenly throne, from which he declares that this earthly life is nothing compared with what is yet to come.

for meditation: Maintaining an eternal perspective is difficult. But isn’t our failure to do so the reason why we find ourselves falling into worldliness so often? Yesterday is past. We must keep the next thousand years in perspective.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 84). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

5 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Lovingkindness in Punishment

Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. Psalm 89:32–33

suggested further reading: Hebrews 12:3–13

God does not adopt us as his children to encourage us to commit sin with greater boldness. We read here of the chastisement that God uses to show us that he hates sin. In this, he warns us of what we deserve when we offend him. He also invites and exhorts us to repent of our sins. His fatherly chastisement then, which operates as medicine, holds the line between undue indulgence, which encourages sin, and extreme severity, which pushes people to destruction.

Whenever God punishes the sins of true believers, he does so with wholesome moderation. It is therefore our duty to take the punishment that he inflicts upon us as medicine for us. For God has nothing else in view than to correct the vices of his children so that, having thoroughly purged them of sin, he may restore them anew to his favor and friendship. According to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:32, the faithful “are chastened of the Lord, that [they] should not be condemned with the world.” Lest they be overwhelmed with the weight of chastisement, God restrains his hand and makes considerate allowance for their infirmity.

Thus God’s promise is fulfilled, that my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from [them], even when he is angry with his children. For while God is correcting them for their profit and salvation, he does not cease to love them.

for meditation: Believers will never experience the wrath of God that they deserve. Though they do feel his discipline, such discipline is the act of a loving Father, not an angry Judge. The rod and stripes may be terribly painful, but they are used with love. God’s lovingkindness is not taken away from those who believe. How does this comfort you?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 83). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

4 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Deep Forgiveness

If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments … Psalm 89:30–31

suggested further reading: 2 Samuel 12:1–14

The psalmist does not speak of total apostasy here, implying the total absence of godliness in people who forsake God’s law and do not walk in his judgments. But sometimes the faithful cast off the yoke of God and break forth into sin in such a way that the fear of God seems to be extinguished in them. Therefore it is necessary for God to promise the pardon even of heinous sins, so that those who commit them are not overwhelmed with despair.

David, who seems by outward appearances to be wholly deprived of the Spirit of God, thus prays to be restored to him. God provides hope of pardon even for those who commit detestable and deadly transgressions so that the enormity of their sins may not keep them back or hinder them from seeking reconciliation with him.

From this we may condemn the undue severity of the fathers whose scruples did not allow them to receive those who repented from falling for the second or third time. Due care must be taken lest by too great a forbearance we give loose reins to people to commit iniquity. But there is no less danger in exercising an extreme degree of rigor. We should note that when God declares that he will show himself merciful toward sinners who have violated his law and broken his commandments, he purposely employs those odious terms to excite our hatred and detestation of sin, not to entice us to commit it.

Although the faithful may not always act in a manner worthy of the grace of God and may therefore deserve to be rejected by him, yet he will be merciful to them because the remission of sins is an essential article promised in God’s covenant with us.

for meditation: What a comfort it is to know that God’s forgiveness is deep enough to cover all sin and terrible times of backsliding! Praise God for this forgiveness and for its purpose: to make sin more repulsive and Christ more attractive. How does its depth motivate us toward holiness rather than sinfulness?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 82). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

3 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

A Doorkeeper in God’s House

For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. Psalm 84:10

suggested further reading: 3 John

Unlike many people who want to live without knowing why, wishing simply that their life may be prolonged, David says that his purpose for living is to serve God. He sets a higher value on one day that is spent in God’s service than a long time that is spent among worldly people from whom true religion is banished. Because it is lawful for only priests to enter into the innermost courts of the temple, David declares that, if he were simply permitted to have a place at the porch, he would be content with the humble station of acting as a doorkeeper.

The value that David sets upon being in the sanctuary of God is striking in his comparison that he would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. David would rather be cast into a common and unhonored place, providing that is among the people of God, than to be exalted to the highest rank of honor among unbelievers. That is a rare example of godliness indeed! Many people want to occupy a place in the church, but ambition has such sway over their minds that few are content to be numbered among the common and undistinguished class.

Almost all of us are carried away with the frantic desire of rising to distinction and cannot think of being at ease until we have attained some state of eminence.

for meditation: When personal ambition takes over in our lives, we often succeed in turning the house of God into a “tent of wickedness.” If it is better for us to dwell in God’s house, even as a nobody, than to achieve recognition among the ungodly of this world, how then should we live? What changes should we make in our lives?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 81). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

2 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

Guarding against Hypocrisy

Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. Psalm 78:36

suggested further reading: Matthew 15:1–20

We are not to suppose that the psalmist is saying these people made no acknowledgment of God, but he does intimate that, because the confession of their mouth did not proceed from the heart, it was therefore constrained and not voluntary. This is well worthy of notice, for from it we learn that we are constrained by duty to guard against the gross hypocrisy of uttering with the tongue before others one thing, while thinking something different in our hearts.

We also learn that we should beware of the hidden hypocrisy of the sinner, who, being constrained by fear, flatters God in a slavish manner, while yet, if he could, shunning the judgment of God. Most people are mortally smitten with this disease, for though divine majesty elicits some kind of awe from them, yet they would be grateful if the light of divine truth would be completely extinguished. It is not enough to yield assent to the divine word unless that is accompanied with true and pure affection, so that our hearts are not double or divided.

The psalmist points out in the next verse the cause and source of dissimulation is that such people are not steadfast and faithful (Ps. 78:37). By this he intimates that whatever does not proceed from unfeigned purity of heart is considered lying and deceit in the sight of God. Since uprightness is everywhere required in the law, the psalmist accuses hypocrites with covenant-breaking because they have not kept the covenant of God with the fidelity that is required. As I have observed elsewhere, we can presuppose a mutual relation and correspondence between the covenant of God and our faith, in order that the unfeigned consent of the latter may attest to the faithfulness of the former.

for meditation: Whether or not we are guilty of hypocrisy can be a daunting question. Do we love God, and are we thankful for him and his will? Or do we serve him because we fear him, all the while wishing that he would cease to exist? Let us pray much for living, vital reality in our Christianity.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 80). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

1 MARCH 365 Days with Calvin

The Erosion of Trust

Therefore the Lord heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel; because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation. Psalm 78:21–22

suggested further reading: John 3:14–21

To remove all thought that divine wrath was unduly severe, the enormity of the guilt of the Israelites is described by the psalmist: They believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation. Indisputably, promises were made to the Israelites which they should have assented to. However, extreme infatuation which carried them away from God prevented them from yielding to those promises.

Trusting in the salvation of God means leaning upon his fatherly providence and regarding him as sufficient to supply all our needs. From this we learn how hateful unbelief is in the sight of God. We learn what the true nature of faith is and what its fruits are. True faith is when men quietly submit themselves to God, being persuaded that their salvation is singularly precious in his sight. It is being fully assured that God will give them whatever they need. We are led to surrender ourselves to him to be governed according to his good pleasure.

Faith is the root of true piety. It teaches us to hope for and to desire every blessing from God. It also persuades us to be obedient to him, even while those who distrust him are murmuring and rebelling against him.

Furthermore, the prophet teaches that pretences to faith, which are made by those who do not hope for salvation from God, rest upon false grounds. When we believe in God, the hope of salvation is speedily produced in our minds. This hope renders to him the praise of every blessing.

for meditation: Trusting God’s salvation is the essence of spiritual life. Unbelief is pledging allegiance to Satan. How can we learn to exercise faith more consistently and to hate unbelief more profoundly?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 79). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

28 FEBRUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Held by my Right Hand

Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast held me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23

suggested further reading: 2 Timothy 1:6–12; 4:17–18

When the psalmist speaks of God “holding him by the right hand,” he means that he was, by the wonderful power of God, drawn back from the deep gulf into which the reprobate cast themselves. He ascribes wholly to the grace of God that he was restrained from breaking into open blesphemies and from hardening himself in error. That he was brought to condemn himself of foolishness, he also ascribes wholly to the grace of God, who stretched out his hand to hold up the psalmist and prevented him from a fall that would have destroyed him.

From this we see how precious our salvation is in the sight of God, for when we wander far from him, he continues to look upon us with a watchful eye and to stretch forth his hand to bring us to himself. We must beware of perverting this doctrine by making it a pretext for slothfulness. Yet experience teaches us that when we are sunk in drowsiness and insensibility, God exercises care for us. Even when we are fugitives and wanderers from him, he is still near us.

There is no temptation, be it ever so slight, that would not easily overwhelm us if we were not upheld and sustained by the power of God. The reason why we do not succumb, even in the severest conflicts, is because we receive the help of the Holy Spirit. He does not always put power in us in an evident and striking manner (for he often perfects it in our weakness), but it is enough that he succors us. Though we may be ignorant and unconscious of it, he upholds us when we stumble and lifts us up when we have fallen.

for meditation: God’s faithfulness becomes so clear when we wander from him and he does not fail to hold us by our hand. Beginning with your childhood, meditate on God’s faithfulness toward you throughout your entire life.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 77). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.