Category Archives: John Calvin

25 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

What the Lord Requires

Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:6–8

suggested further reading: 1 Samuel 15:13–35

When men litigate one with another, there is no cause so good but what an opposing party can undo. But, as the prophet suggests here, men lose all their efforts at evasions when God summons them to trial. The prophet also shows what deep roots hypocrisy has in the hearts of all people, for they will forever deceive themselves and try to deceive God.

Why do people who are proved guilty fail to immediately and in the right way come to God in repentance, but instead seek elaborate, winding excuses? It is not because they have any doubt about what is right, unless they willfully deceive themselves, but because they willfully seek the subterfuges of error. It hence appears that men perversely go astray whenever they fail to repent as they ought and fail to bring to God true integrity of heart.

It is also true that the whole world, which continues in its superstitions, is without excuse. For if we scrutinize the intentions of men, we eventually understand that people carefully and anxiously seek various superstitions because they are unwilling to come before God and to devote themselves to him without deceit and hypocrisy. Since it is so, all who desire to pacify God with their own ceremonies and other trifles cannot by any pretext escape judgment.

God has clearly and distinctly prescribed what he requires of us, but the ungodly wish to be ignorant of this. Hence their error is at all times willful. We ought to note this in the words of the prophet.

for meditation: It is much easier to render to God anything other than a broken heart and an upright life. Sacrifices are easily obtained, but they can serve as no substitute for what the Lord really requires of us. Are we striving, by grace, to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 164). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

24 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Christ as our Peace

And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. Micah 5:5

suggested further reading: Isaiah 9:1–7

How can we venture to believe the promise that in times of trouble, eventually all will be quiet and secure? Micah assures us, “this man” shall be our peace. We should thus be satisfied with the protection of the king whom God the Father gives us. Let the shadow of that king suffice us, for we shall be safe enough from all trouble.

We now see in what sense the prophet calls Christ the peace of his people, or of his church. God calls Christ his peace because he will drive far away all hurtful things. He will be armed with strength and invincible power to check all the ungodly, that they may not make war on the children of God or prevent them in their course, if they would cause any disturbances.

Christ is our peace in another way; for he reconciles us to the Father. What would it serve us to be safe from earthly annoyances if we were not certain of being reconciled with God? Unless our minds are sure of the paternal benevolence of God, we must necessarily tremble at all times, even if no one causes us any trouble. Even if all men were our friends and applauded us, our condition would still be miserable. We would surely struggle with restlessness unless our consciences were pacified with the sure confidence that God is our Father.

Christ can be our peace in no other way than by reconciling God to us. At the same time, the prophet promises that we shall lie safely under the shadow of Christ, so that we fear no evil. For though Satan furiously assails us, and the whole world becomes angry with us, we shall fear nothing if Christ keeps and protects us under his wings.

for meditation: The only real hope for peace in our world is for men and women to find peace with God. If the human race were to turn to Christ, we would soon find our world full of peace. Let us pray, then, for the Prince of Peace to reign in our world.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 163). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

23 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Understanding the Counsel of God

But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. Micah 4:12

suggested further reading: Isaiah 46:9–13

The prophet now speaks of the failure to understand the design and thoughts of God. If only that is brought before us, we will have little solid comfort and have nothing of much force or power.

But there is another principle that should be understood here: the thoughts of God are known to us who are taught in his school. The counsel of God is not hidden from us, for it is revealed to us in his Word. Our consolation, therefore, depends on a higher and more profound doctrine, which is that the faithful in their miseries ought to contemplate the counsel of God as in a mirror.

What does this mean? When God afflicts the godly, he holds a remedy in his hand; and when he throws the godly into the grave, he can restore them to life and safety. We therefore can understand the design of God to chasten his church with temporal evils. If we know this, there is no reason why the slanders of the ungodly should deject our minds. When the ungodly vomit forth all their reproaches, we ought to more firmly adhere to the counsel of God.

The pride of the ungodly should not surprise us, for if they raise their horns against God, why should they also not despise us, who are so few in number and of hardly any influence, at least compared to what they possess? The church is indeed contemptible in the eyes of the world. It is no wonder, then, if our enemies deride us and load us with ridicule and contempt when they dare to act so forwardly toward God.

It is enough for us to know that they do not understand the counsel of God.

for meditation: When we who are believers think we cannot understand God and his ways, particularly in times of evil and even death, we can take comfort in reading his Word. It tells us what is true and what is not. It assures us that God loves us, even when evil people ridicule us for our faith.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 162). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

22 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Seeking Peace with Others

And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Micah 4:3

suggested further reading: Isaiah 52

Micah now more fully explains how the gospel of Christ will be to the nations a standard of peace, like a banner that is raised up when soldiers engage in battle.

We learn that the real fruit of the gospel will not grow in us unless we exercise love and benevolence among one another and exert ourselves in doing good. The gospel may be purely preached among us at the present time, but when we consider how little progress we have made in brotherly love, we ought to be ashamed of our indolence. God daily proclaims that Christ is our peace with God. He graciously makes Christ propitious to us so that we may live in harmony with others. We indeed wish to be regarded as children of God and to enjoy the reconciliation obtained for us by the blood of Christ. But in the meantime, we tear one another apart and sharpen our teeth against each other. Our dispositions are cruel.

If we truly desire to be disciples of Christ, we must pay attention to the divine truth that each of us must strive to do good to his neighbor. This cannot be done without opposing our flesh, for we have a strong inclination to love self and to seek our own advantage. We must therefore put off these inordinate and sinful affections so that brotherly kindness may succeed in their place.

for meditation: The gospel brings peace and reconciliation. When these things are absent, we can be sure the gospel is absent, no matter how much religion is present. Are we agents of peace, or do we cause strife and division wherever we go?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 161). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

21 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Offering Hope in the Midst of Fear

But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. Micah 4:1

suggested further reading: Psalm 46

Though the prophet publicly proclaims a promise of hope, he undoubtedly offers it only to the children of God, for others are not capable of receiving this consolation. We see the same thing in the writings of other prophets whose practice is to add consolations to threats, not for the sake of all people, but to sustain hope in the faithful, who might have despaired had not a helping hand been stretched forth to them.

We know the faithful tremble when God manifests any token of wrath, for the more one is touched with the fear of God, the more one dreads God’s judgment and fears his threats. We thus see how necessary it is for prophets and teachers to moderate threats and terrors against the children of God, for they have enough fears without heaping more on them.

Formerly Micah spoke to the wicked who despised God while putting on the cloak of religion. But now the prophet turns to address the true and pious worshipers of God. In addressing the faithful of his age, his doctrine especially belongs to us now, for otherwise how could the kingdom of God have been propagated through all parts of the earth? How could the truth of the gospel have come to us and we be made partakers with the ancient people of the same adoption, unless this prophecy was fulfilled?

So the calling of the Gentiles, and consequently our salvation, is included in this prophecy of Micah.

for meditation: The thought of God’s disfavor was very distressing to godly people in Micah’s day. Is it to you? They needed no more than a hint of judgment to upset them. How loud must God thunder before you listen?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 160). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

20 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Distinguishing the Truth

Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. Micah 3:9

suggested further reading: John 16:12–16

God’s servants ought to courageously break through those obstacles that Satan uses either to delay or to force them backward. In addition, the godly ought to wisely distinguish between the faithful servants of God and impostors who falsely pretend his name. Then no one who wants truly and from the heart to obey God will be deceived, for the Lord will give him the spirit of judgment and discrimination.

The reason why many miserable souls today are led to endless ruin is because they either shut their eyes or willfully involve themselves in such subterfuges as the following: “I cannot form any judgment, for I see on both sides learned and celebrated men, who are in some repute and esteemed. Some call me to the right hand and others to the left. So where am I to go? I therefore prefer to close my mouth and my ears.” Seeking a cloak for their sloth, many thus manifest their ignorance, for we see that the eyes of the godly will be opened when the Lord exercises and tries their faith.

God allows discords and contentions to arise in the church so that some may choose one way and others another way. Though God relaxes the reins of Satan so that contests and turmoil of all kinds may arise in the church, it is no excuse for us not to follow what the Lord prescribes, for God will always guide us by his Spirit, provided we do not foster our own sloth.

for meditation: In our day, indecision has become endemic. What is more, we have developed philosophies to justify our indecision. If some think one way and others another, we justify taking no position by saying the truth is too hard to discern. But God has not left us to stumble around in such uncertainty; he has given us his sure Word and his Holy Spirit. We can know the truth, and we must daily strive to find it.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 159). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

19 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Strengthened by the Spirit

But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. Micah 3:8

suggested further reading: Zechariah 4

Micah with incredible courage stands alone against the false teachers of his time. This confidence is something all God’s servants should possess so they might not succumb to the empty and vain boastings of those who subvert the order of the church.

At times, God permits his pure truth to be corrupted by false teachers, who become popular among those high in honor as well as the multitude. Let us then remember the striking example of Micah lest we be discouraged and lest the firmness and invincible power of the Holy Spirit be weakened in our hearts. We may then proceed in the course of our calling to defend the name of God against all the deceptions of men, if indeed we are convinced that our service is approved by God.

Micah shows here that he was not supplied with ordinary or usual power. As God employs the labors of his servants, so he is present with them and furnishes them with suitable protection. When someone does not encounter great difficulties in discharging the office of teaching, only a common measure of the Spirit is necessary for the performance of his duties. But when someone is drawn into arduous and difficult struggles in serving the Lord, he is especially strengthened by the Lord.

We see daily examples of this, for many simple men who have never been trained up in learning have been so endued by the celestial Spirit that when they experienced great trials, they closed the mouths of great doctors who seemed to understand all oracles. By such evidences God proves that he is the same today as when he formerly endowed his servant Micah with a power that was so rare and so extraordinary.

for meditation: The Lord grants sufficient grace to his children. We should not fear those dreaded possibilities that loom in front of us. If, like Micah, we face extraordinary trials and duties, we will be granted an extraordinary measure of the Spirit’s power. The Lord will always give his children what they need to do his will.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 158). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

18 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Restraining Anger

And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Jonah 4:9

suggested further reading: Proverbs 16:27–33

God did not merely reprove his servant Jonah because he did not patiently bear the withering of the gourd but because he became angry, and his anger was excessive. Jonah was grieved beyond measure and without restraint, so his anger was justly condemned by God as a fault.

The answer of Jonah confirms this, for we see how obstinately the holy prophet repels the admonition of God by which he should have been restored to a right mind. Jonah was not ignorant of God’s words. Why, then, was he not smitten with shame? Why was he not moved by the authority of the speaker to immediately repress the fierceness of his mind?

It often happens that, once the minds of men are blinded by a wrong feeling, they will not listen to God, even if he thunders and explodes from heaven. Since we find such an example of perverseness in this holy man, Jonah, how much more should not every one of us fear? Let us learn to repress our feelings of anger and to bridle them at the beginning, lest they burst forth to such a greater extent that we eventually become altogether obstinate.

Who would know that the holy prophet could have been brought to such obstinacy? Let us be reminded by this remarkable example how furious and unreasonable are the passions of our flesh. Therefore we ought to restrain these passions before they gather more strength than they ought.

for meditation: Do you ever let passions rise to the level where you are totally incapable of accepting and digesting rebuke, even if it comes from God? Jonah’s shocking impudence demonstrates that he had this problem. Remember his account when you next feel your passions rise, and heed its warning.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 157). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

17 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Discouraged by Satan’s Intrigues

Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land. Amos 7:10–11

suggested further reading: Luke 7:31–35

We must be watchful, not only against the open violence and cruelty of enemies, but also against their intrigues, for as Satan is a murderer, and has been so from the beginning, so he is also the father of lies. Whosoever then strenuously and constantly wishes to work for the church and for God must prepare for a contest with evil. He must resist all fears and all intrigues.

I have not said without reason that God’s servants ought to be prepared against the fear of death. They must remain intrepid, though they die, and lay down their necks, if need be, while performing their office, to seal their doctrine with their own blood. On the other hand, they should be prudent, for the enemies of the truth will often assail them by flatteries. Our experiences today sufficiently prove this.

More danger, I know, has risen when enemies attempt to terrify us by such objections as: “What is your purpose for doing this? The whole world must necessarily at length be consumed by calamities. Why do you seek that religion should flourish everywhere, sound learning should be valued, and peace should prevail? The fiercest war is at hand. Once it arises, all places will be full of calamities. Savage barbarity and cruelty will follow, and religion will perish. You will cause all of this by your persistence.”

These things have often been said to us. When we read this passage, we ought to notice the methods by which Satan tries to undermine the efforts of the godly and the constancy of God’s servants.

for meditation: Amos’s example teaches us that we should not be surprised when we are misrepresented. With the mass media surrounding us, the possibility of intrigue and calamity is greater today than ever before. Satan easily can, and does, use these means to cast continual doubt upon the gospel and those who profess it.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 156). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

16 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

When Despair Leads us to God

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. Joel 2:32

suggested further reading: Matthew 11:25–30

God wants us to call on him, not only in prosperity but also in an extreme state of despair. It is as if God calls the dead to himself, declaring that he has the power to restore life to them and bring them out of the grave.

Since God invites the lost and the dead to come to him, there is no reason why even the heaviest distresses should prevent access to him for us or for our prayers, for by faith we ought to break through all these obstacles. The more grievous our troubles, the more confidence we ought to have, for God offers grace not only to the miserable but also to those in utter despair. The prophet did not threaten general evil to the Jews but declared that, before the coming of Christ, all things would be full of horror (verse 31). After this denunciation the prophet adds: Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.

Paul cites Joel’s prophecy in Romans 10 and extends it to the Gentiles, so let us examine how he interprets the testimony of Joel. Paul uses these words of the prophet to prove that, since adoption is extended to the Gentiles, it is lawful for them to flee to God and to familiarly invoke him as Father. He hence proves that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, since invocation arises from faith; for unless God shines on us by his Word, we cannot come to him. Faith, then, is always the mother of prayer.

for meditation: There is no situation so grave, no sin so black, that negates our invitation to repent and call on the name of the Lord and be saved. God delights in saving those who cannot save themselves. Do not doubt his power and willingness to save you when you find yourself condemning the horrendousness of your sin. Take it to him and humbly ask for his forgiveness.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 155). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

15 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Walking in the Lord’s Ways

Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein. Hosea 14:9

suggested further reading: Numbers 13:25–33

The just find a plain and even way in the Word of the Lord; nothing stands in their path to obstruct their course. By daily advances they attain that to which the Lords calls them, even their celestial inheritance.

The just walk in the Lord’s ways because the Lord leads them by his hand. Faith will be a hundred eyes and wings to them. Hope will sustain them, for they are armed with promises and encouragements. They have stimulants whenever the Lord earnestly exhorts them, and they have his warnings that are so terrible that they keep them awake. The faithful find the best ways in the Word of the Lord, and they follow them.

By contrast, the ungodly imagine all doubts, even the least, to be mountains. When they encounter anything intricate or obscure, they are confounded and say, “I would gladly seek to know the Holy Scripture, but I meet with so many difficulties.” Hence, they regard a doubt as a mountain; nay, they purposely pretend doubts so they may have some excuse when they wish to evade the truth and turn aside from following the Lord.

The ungodly stumble in the ways of Jehovah. So we might read Hosea 14:9 in terms of the ungodly as: “Though the ungodly stumble, yet the just shall always walk in those ways of the Lord,” meaning there is no reason why the ungodly should hold us back by their continual stumbling and by exclaiming that the Word of God is full of offense, for we shall find in it an even way. Let us then ascribe glory to God that he is just and that his ways are right.

for meditation: The Word of God, which clearly lays out the ways of God, has a remarkable power to divide and distinguish men from one another. One finds grace in its pages and loves to follow the Lord’s paths. Another, reading the same pages, finds nothing but stumbling blocks and difficulties. Let us pray that God blesses us with his Spirit so that we find wonderful paths rather than stumbling blocks.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 154). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

14 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Listening to the Warning

And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel, in the valley of Jezreel. Hosea 1:5

suggested further reading: Psalm 44

The Israelites are so inflated with their present good fortune that they laugh at predictions of the judgment to come. They know that they are well furnished with arms and men and money, so think they are in every way unassailable. The prophet now warns them, declaring that all their preparations cannot prevent God from punishing them.

We see the prophet’s intention here is to break down the false confidence of the people; for the Israelites believe they will not be exposed to the destruction that Hosea has predicted. They are dazzled with their own power and think themselves beyond the reach of any danger while they are well fortified on every side. But the prophet says all their fortresses will be nothing against God; for at that day, when the ripe time for vengeance shall come, the Lord will break all their bows, tear in pieces all their arms, and reduce their power to nothing.

We are here warned to take heed, lest anything should lead us to be deaf to God’s threats. Though we have strength, though fortune smiles on us, though the whole world seemingly combines to secure our safety, yet there is no reason why we should feel safe when God declares himself opposed to and angry with us.

He can punish us whenever he pleases, depriving us of all our arms and reducing our power to nothing. Let this verse come to mind whenever God terrifies us with his warnings, for he can take away all the defenses in which we vainly trust.

for meditation: There is no defense sufficient to resist the onslaught of God’s anger. We must be sure that we enjoy his favor; nothing and no one can save us once he has decreed our destruction. Search your heart today. If you are one of his, rejoice in his wonderful grace shown to you.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 153). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

13 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Ministering as Stars

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:3

suggested further reading: Revelation 1:9–20

Our justification is ascribed to faith because our faith directs us to Christ in whom is the complete perfection of justification. Thus our justification may be ascribed equally to the faith taught and the doctrine which teaches it.

Those who bring us this teaching are the ministers of our justification. So the assertion of the angel in this verse is that the sons of God, who are devoted entirely to God and ruled by the spirit of prudence, point out the way of life to others. In this they not only will be saved themselves, but they shall possess a glory that surpasses anything that exists in this world.

Hence, we gather that it is prudent to submit ourselves to God to be teachable as well as to carefully promote the salvation of other people. The effect of this labor will be to increase our courage and alacrity. For how great is the honor conferred upon us by our heavenly Father in willing us to be ministers of his righteousness?

As James 5:19 says, we preserve those about to perish if we bring them back into the right way. James calls us preservers, just as the angel calls us justifiers. In this neither the angel nor the apostle wish to detract from the glory of God, but by these forms of speech the Spirit represents us as ministers of justification and salvation when we unite with those who have need of our assistance and exertions.

for meditation: The hope of reward and greater glory should spur us on to seek the salvation of those around us, regardless of the pain, suffering, and rejection that may come. What are those trials compared with the glory of the stars?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 152). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

12 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Living with Unanswered Prayer

At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Daniel 9:23

suggested further reading: Matthew 6:5–15

Our vows and prayers cannot possibly gain us favor with God unless we are already embraced by him; for in no other way do we find God’s favor unless we first flee by faith to his loving kindness. Then, in reliance upon Christ as our Mediator and Advocate, we may dare to approach him as a child to a parent. For these reasons our prayers are of no avail before God unless they are in some degree founded in faith, which alone reconciles us to God. We cannot be pleasing to him without the pardon and remission of sins.

We observe also how the saints pleased God by enduring the failure to obtain their requests. Daniel endured trials for many years and was afflicted by much grief, yet he did not consider himself worthy of receiving anything by that labor. He might have concluded that all his work was in vain, for he prayed often and perseveringly without effect. But the angel now meets Daniel and frankly testifies that Daniel has found acceptance with God. He is to understand that he has not suffered any repulse, even though he has failed to obtain the object of his earnest desires.

Likewise, we may become anxious in our thoughts and inclined to despair when there appears to be no profit or fruit of our prayers, and we receive no open and immediate answer. We must then consider this instruction from the angel that even Daniel, who was most acceptable to God, was heard at length, even though he was not permitted to see with his eyes the object of his wishes. Daniel died in exile and did not see the fulfillment of the prophet’s prophecies concerning the happy state of the church.

for meditation: “Unanswered prayer” can be a tremendous burden. But it is not an indication that we are not accepted by God. Rather, we should persevere in prayer, knowing that if we are accepted with God, our prayers are heard even though we have not seen an answer yet.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 151). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

11 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Bowing under God’s Persevering Rod

Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation. Daniel 4:1–3

suggested further reading: Luke 15:3–7

Nebuchadnezzar here predicts the magnificence and might of his own monarchy, sending his announcement to all peoples and nations and languages that dwell on the earth. No doubt the king believes he has sufficiently paid the penalty of his former ingratitude and now ascribes glory to the one true God. Yet we also know how often he relapsed into his own superstitions and never really said farewell to them. We also see how often King Nebuchadnezzar had to be chastised before he profited by the rod of the Almighty.

Likewise, we need not be surprised if God often strikes us with his hand, since experience usually proves us to be dull, and even utterly slothful. When God, therefore, wishes to lead us to repentance, he may be compelled to continually repeat his blows, either because we are not moved when he chastises us with his hand, or we seem roused for a time, then return again to our former dullness. He is therefore compelled to redouble his blows.

We see ourselves in this story of Nebuchadnezzar as in a mirror. But the singular benefit is that, after God repeatedly chastised the king, he finally yielded. We do not know whether this confession proceeded from true and genuine repentance. I must leave that undecided. Yet without the slightest doubt, Daniel cited this edict of the king to show that the king was eventually so subdued that he confessed the God of Israel as the only God and bore witness to this among all people under his rule.

for meditation: We are slow learners and should not be angry with God when he perseveres in chastening us to repentance. If he were not so patient and insistent, we all would have wandered far from him long ago. Is he chastising you today? What lesson can you learn from it?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 150). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

10 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Sabbath Blessing

And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God. Ezekiel 20:20

suggested further reading: Isaiah 58

God established the Sabbath, the day of rest, not simply to exact from people what is due to him. Nor did he establish it merely that people might rest. Therefore the prophet Ezekiel explains how God’s Sabbaths should be sanctified or kept holy.

God is not satisfied by the people’s merely resting from their weekly labors; rather, inward sanctification is the primary purpose of the Sabbath. In this passage God says that, if the Jews rightly observe the Sabbath, they will feel the effects of God’s favor represented in the Sabbath. We have said that the Sabbath is a sacrament of regeneration; now God promises the efficacy of his Spirit if his people do not shut the door to that Spirit by their own impiety and contempt of the Sabbath. Hence we see that sacraments will not lose the blessing of the Spirit unless people render themselves unworthy of the grace offered to them in observing the sacraments.

We maintain, therefore, that there is a direct relationship between faith and the sacraments; the sacraments become effective through faith. Man’s unworthiness does not detract anything from the sacraments, however, for they always retain their nature. Baptism is the laver of regeneration, even if the whole world doubts it (Titus 3:5); the Supper of Christ represents his body and blood (1 Cor. 10:16), even if there is not a spark of faith left in the world.

But we do not fully perceive the grace that is offered to us, for though spiritual things always remain the same, yet we do not experience their effect or perceive their value unless we are careful that our lack of faith does not profane what God has consecrated to our salvation.

for meditation: How are we hallowing God’s Sabbath today? Merely taking time off from work and going to church perfunctorily may be missing the most crucial benefit of all: the blessing of the Spirit in our inward sanctification. By faith we must observe the wondrous grace of the sacraments, including this sacrament of regeneration. Are there changes you need to make to your Sabbath observance?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 149). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

9 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Not Willing the Death of Sinners

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? Ezekiel 18:23

suggested further reading: Joshua 24:19–27

How does God wish all men to be saved? He does this today by the Spirit’s convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment by the gospel, just as he did this in days past through the law and the prophets (John 16:8). God makes clear to people their great misery so that they may come to him. He wounds that he may cure, and slays that he may give life.

We maintain that God does not will the death of sinners, since he equally calls all people to repentance and promises he is prepared to receive them if they only seriously repent. Some may object, saying that this would deny God’s election, for he has predestinated a fixed number to salvation. The prophet does not speak here of God’s secret counsel, but only of God calling those in misery from despair that they may apprehend the hope of pardon, and repent and embrace the offer of salvation.

If anyone again objects, saying this proves that God acts with duplicity, the answer is ready: God always wishes the same thing, though by different ways, and in a manner we cannot understand. Although God’s will is simple, yet it involves great variety, as far as our senses are concerned. It is not surprising that our eyes should be so blinded by intense light that we cannot judge with certainty how God wishes all to be saved and yet has devoted the reprobate to eternal destruction and wishes them to perish. While we now look through a glass darkly, we should be content with the measure of our own intelligence (1 Cor. 13:12). When we one day are like God and see him face to face, then what is now obscure to us will become plain.

for meditation: In dealing with texts like these, we should not try to exalt our reason over God’s revelation, depriving the text of its power. Rather, we should glory in the great and free salvation offered to all who hear the gospel. This is the good news we must bring to everyone around us: God is willing to save sinners who turn to him.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 148). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

8 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Rescuing the Perishing

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? Ezekiel 18:23

suggested further reading: Revelation 22:16–21

God earnestly desires that those who are perishing and rushing to destruction should return to the way of safety. For this reason the gospel is spread abroad in the world. In this, God bears witness through all the ages how inclined he is to pity the lost.

The heathen may be destitute of the law and the prophets, yet they are always endued with some taste of this doctrine. True, they are suffocated by many errors, but they are also induced by a secret impulse to seek pardon from God. Also, the sense in some way is born in all people that God will be appeased by all who seek him. God bears witness to this clearly in the law and the prophets.

In the gospel, we hear how familiarly God addresses us when he promises us pardon (Luke 1:78). We can know salvation by embracing the mercy that he offers us in Christ.

It follows, then, that what the prophet now says is true, that God does not will the death of a sinner. God meets the sinner of his own accord. He is not only prepared to receive all who fly to his pity, but also calls them toward him with a loud voice when he sees how they are alienated from all hope of safety. Note also the manner in which God wishes all to be saved, namely, that they turn away from their wicked ways. God does not wish all men to be saved to renounce the difference between good and evil. Rather, he stresses that repentance, or turning aside from wicked ways, must precede pardon.

for meditation: God cannot compromise his just character for men and women to be saved. He desires their salvation, but he still demands satisfaction for their sins. They must repent and trust in Jesus Christ and the salvation provided through him. Have you truly repented, or are you simply banking on God’s loving character? His love will not compromise his justice. We must flee to Christ in true repentance.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 147). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

7 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

The Beginning of Conversion

But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Ezekiel 18:21–22

suggested further reading: Ephesians 2

If this humane invitation of God does not stir us, we have no excuse. For he bears witness that he is gracious to us when we heartily desire to be reconciled to him. Still, he requires serious repentance.

A kind of half-conversion can be discerned in many who think they are safe before God if they can only bring forward something worthy of praise. But that is like a servant offering his master muddy wine, which is mixed not only with dregs but also with filth. So are the works of those who do not put away all depraved desires and strive to free themselves from corruptions of the flesh.

Note what is taught here, that the beginning of conversion is to renounce oneself and one’s lusts. To that must be added another part of duty, for when anyone bids farewell to his vices, he must also devote himself in obedience to God. The prophet here joins the two together, since one cannot be separated from the other. Hence the Spirit here shortly defines what true and legitimate conversion is. He says that when someone is converted, his life is prepared for God, since God will forget all his sins. This confirms the doctrine, for God cannot be entreated as long as he imputes our sins to us. Hence, we may deem him gracious to us, for he promises that as soon as we truly repent, all our sins will be buried and no longer remembered.

The incomparable goodness of God is that he deigns to forget all our sins as soon as he sees us earnestly desirous of returning to him.

for meditation: This text is excellent material for self-examination. If true conversion involves fleeing from our evil desires and corruptions and devoting ourselves obediently to God, it should be our regular practice to examine ourselves to make sure that, by God’s grace, we have indeed done these very things. Have you?[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 146). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

6 MAY 365 Days with Calvin

Inciting God’s Wrath

Therefore thus saith the Lord God; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Ezekiel 15:6

suggested further reading: Matthew 3:7–12

As often as we are favored with God’s gifts, by which we approach him and overcome the world, we ought also to remember what we were before God took us up. Acknowledging our original condition will erode all arrogance and prevent us from being ungrateful to God.

But that is not sufficient; we must also recognize that not only has God’s free grace raised us to such a height, but it also sustains us. Thus our continued state of grace is not because of our efforts but depends only on his will. Remembering our origin ought to humble us but also impress on us the sense of our infirmity. From this we learn that we cannot persevere unless God daily, yes, even momentarily, strengthens us and follows us with his favor.

Finally, if God afflicts or chastises us with his rod, we should know that he chooses this means to beat out of us the foolish confidence by which we deceive ourselves. We thus ought to diligently weigh the meaning of the phrase “the wood of the vine is useless when it is torn up,” especially when dry. For although profane nations perish, yet it is not surprising that God’s judgments will be even more severe toward the reprobate who are members of the church and have been enriched with spiritual gifts, yet who persist in unbelief.

The punishment of such ingratitude will make us an example to others, so that the whole world may be astonished at such dreadful signs of God’s anger. The Jews will become such objects of God’s wrath that they will cause hissing and abhorrence in the nations around them. They will be an astonishment and curse to the profane nations.

for meditation: The judgments that God will exact on those who belong to his church but are not true members are a terrifying prospect! The discipline that he uses to humble our pride is to be welcomed. It may be painful, but it reminds us that we owe everything to God’s grace.[1]

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 145). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.