Category Archives: John Calvin

22 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Rebellious Clay

So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded. Joshua 10:40

suggested further reading: Job 40:1–14

Divine authority is again interposed in the text to acquit Joshua of any charge of cruelty. Since God had destined the swords of his people for the slaughter of the Amorites, Joshua could do nothing but obey his command. By such a decree all mouths are stopped and all minds restrained from passing censure.

When reading that Joshua slew all who came his way, even though they threw down their arms and begged for mercy, we may be disturbed, but when we read further that God had commanded Joshua to do so, we have no ground for pronouncing sentence on Joshua anymore than we do against those who pronounce sentence on criminals.

We might also think the children and the women that Joshua slew were without blame. If so, let us remember that the judgment seat of heaven is not subject to our laws. Rather, when we see how green plants are burned in the judgment, let us who are dry wood fear a heavier judgment for ourselves. Certainly, any person who thoroughly examines himself will find that he deserves a hundred deaths. Why then should not the Lord find grounds for the death of an infant that has only passed from its mother’s womb? In vain should we murmur or complain that God has doomed all the offspring of an accursed race to the same destruction, for the potter has absolute power over his own vessels and over his own clay.

for meditation: Passages like this selection from Joshua often incite rebellion in our hearts. Like Job, we must learn to put our hands over our mouths and humble ourselves before Almighty God, knowing that he who created all creatures also will determine, sovereignly and justly, what is right for them.[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 40). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

21 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

When the Sun Stood Still

Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. Joshua 10:12

suggested further reading: Genesis 1

Christ inspires such faith in believers (Matt. 16:20; Luke 17:6) that mountains and seas are removed at their command. Faith borrows the confidence of command from the word on which it is founded.

Caution must be used here, however, lest anyone presume to give forth rash commands in his own strength. Joshua did not attempt to check the course of the sun before God instructed him about the purpose for doing so. He is said to have spoken with God, but those words do not sufficiently express the modesty and submission that become a servant of God uttering such a prayer. Let it suffice to say that Joshua asked God to grant what he desired, and on obtaining his request, became the free and magnanimous herald of an incredible miracle. Joshua would never have ventured in the presence of all the people to so confidently command the sun if he had not been thoroughly conscious of his vocation. Without it, he might have exposed himself to a base and shameful affront. With it, he opens his mouth without hesitation and tells the sun and the moon to deviate from the perpetual law of nature, adjuring them by the boundless power of God with which he was invested.

In kindness to the human race, God divides the day from the night in the daily course of the sun, and constantly whirls the immense orb with indefatigable swiftness. The Lord displayed his singular favour toward his church in the day of Joshua, when he was pleased to halt the sun for a short time till the enemies of Israel were destroyed.

for meditation: As the disciples, who cried out, “Who can this be?” when Jesus calmed the storm, so we should cry out, “Who can compare to our great God?” when we see his mighty hand in creation. What mighty acts have we seen him perform in response to our cries for deliverance?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 39). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

20 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

A Land of Pure Delight

And the Lord spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people. Deuteronomy 32:48–50

suggested further reading: Philippians 1:20–24

We naturally fly from death; no one hastens toward it of his own accord. Thus Moses would never have voluntarily entered the tomb unless he could hope for a better life to come.

Wherefore, though our carnal sense may be averse to death, let our faith prevail to overcome all its terrors, for, as Paul teaches, God’s children, who desire not to “be unclothed,” still long to be “clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:4). Even so, Moses’ obedience was remarkable; he prepared himself no less willingly for death than as if he had been invited to some joyful banquet. He and other holy men had so consecrated themselves to God that they were ready to live or to die according to God’s pleasure.

Note the consolation that is referred to here; the pain of Moses’ death was alleviated by the permission he received from God to behold the land of Canaan. For this reason Moses was commanded to go to the top of the mountain. Though Moses would have been satisfied with the mere promise of God and even the deprivation of this blessing, he may not have been made more cheerful at the thought of leaving his people on the threshold of their inheritance. Faith does not altogether deprive God’s children of human feelings, but our heavenly Father in his indulgence has compassion on their infirmity. Thus, though Moses was sorry to be withheld from entering the Promised Land, he was supported by a seasonable remedy, that he might not be hindered in his course by this impediment.

for meditation: Isaac Watts writes, “Could we but climb where Moses stood / And view the landscape o’er / Not Jordan’s stream nor death’s cold flood / Should fright us from the shore.” How do we view death? Does a glimpse of the Promised Land ease our fears as we approach our end?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 38). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

19 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

What God Requires

And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul. Deuteronomy 10:12

suggested further reading: Micah 6:1–9

We would now consider what is the sum of the contents of the law, as well as the aim and object of its instructions. Paul elicits the true goal of the law when he declares that its end is “charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1 Tim. 1:5). Even in Paul’s day, the law had false interpreters, who, Paul says, “turned aside unto vain jangling,” when they swerved from its true objective.

Now, as the law is contained in two tables, so also Moses reduces it to two objectives: that we should love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. Though he does not unite the two objectives in one passage, yet Christ, by whose Spirit Paul spoke, explains that to us in Matthew 22:37. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment of the law, he replied that it was the first: that God should be loved. The second greatest commandment was to love our neighbor. So, the perfection of righteousness, which is set before us in the law, consists of two parts: that we should serve God with true piety, and that we should conduct ourselves toward others according to the rule of charity. That is also what Paul says, for faith, which he calls the source of charity, includes the love of God.

The declaration of Christ stands sure, that the law requires nothing of us but that we should love God and our neighbor. From that we understand that what is required of us to live a good life is piety and justice.

for meditation: Piety and justice are such simple concepts and yet so difficult to put into practice. The way of the law is clear: looking to Jesus as fulfiller of the law, let us pray for the grace needed to follow it.[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 37). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

18 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Seeing God’s Hand

And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not … then beware lest thou forget the Lord. Deuteronomy 6:10, 12

suggested further reading: Psalm 78:52–64

Wealth and prosperity may blind men’s minds so that they do not sufficiently attend to modesty and moderation but rather grow wanton in their lusts and intoxicate themselves with pleasures. So God prescribes against this error. Moses admonishes us to beware lest we forget God when we have been liberally and luxuriously treated by him because he knows that it is common for abundance to lead to arrogance.

Moses does this, first, by showing how base and unworthy our ingratitude would be if God loaded us with many excellent benefits and we then cast away the recollection of him. His goodness was inestimable in giving people cities built by the hands of others and in transferring to them whatever others had prepared by their great labor and industry. So their impiety was even more detestable in neglecting him when he daily set himself before them in this abundant store of blessing.

Let us learn from this passage that we are invited by God’s liberality to honor him, and that whenever he deals kindly with us, he places his glory before our eyes. On the other hand, we should remember that what ought to be seen as vehicles to lift up our minds on high are, by our own fault, converted into obstacles, and that therefore we ought to be more on guard against them.

for meditation: It is logical that great blessings from God’s hand would motivate us to praise him all the more. Sadly, however, we often take these blessings for granted and no longer recognize our dependence on him for everything. What blessings do you often take for granted?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 36). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

17 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

The Source of All Gifts

See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. Exodus 31:2

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 12

The call of Bezaleel was special because God entrusted to him an unusual and by no means ordinary work, yet we know that no one excels even in the most despised and humble handicraft unless God’s Spirit works in him. For, although “there are diversities of gifts,” it is still the same Spirit from whom these gifts flow (1 Cor. 12:4). God has seen fit to distribute and measure these gifts out to every person. This is not only so with the spiritual gifts that follow regeneration but also in all the branches of knowledge that come into use in common life.

It is, therefore, wrong to ascribe the means of our support partly to nature and God’s blessing, and partly to the industry of man, since man’s industry itself is a blessing from God. The poets are more correct who acknowledge that everything in nature, including the arts, comes from God, and that therefore everything ought to be accounted as divine inventions.

Understanding this doctrine is useful, first, because all things that refer to the support and defense of life should excite our gratitude, and whatever seems to be derived from man’s ingenuity should be regarded as proofs of God’s paternal solicitude for us. Second, we should honor God as the author of so many good things, since he sanctifies them for our use. Moses applies many epithets to the Spirit, because he is speaking of a remarkable work. Yet we must conclude that whatever ability is possessed by anyone emanates from one only source, God. The one difference is Bezaleel, who was endued with consummate excellence, while God makes distribution to others according to his pleasure.

for meditation: We seldom recognize the gifts God has given us for what they really are: gifts! Let us make the gifts we have received reasons for greater praise to God instead of greater reliance on ourselves. Do you feel responsible to use your gifts diligently for God’s glory?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 35). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

16 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Wanting More

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. Exodus 20:17

suggested further reading: Romans 7:7–25

Though it was God’s design to arouse men to sincerely obey the entire law, yet their hypocrisy and indifference were so great that it was necessary to stimulate them more sharply and to press them more closely, lest they seek subterfuge under pretence of the obscurity of the doctrine. For if men had only heard, “Thou shalt not kill, nor commit adultery, nor steal,” they might have supposed their duty was fully performed by mere outward observance of the law. It was necessary, then, that God should give a separate admonition to men so that they not only abstained from evil-doing but also obeyed what was previously commanded with the sincere affection of the heart.

Paul gathers from this commandment that the whole law is spiritual (Rom. 7:4, 14). He explains that God, by his condemnation of lust, sufficiently showed that he not only imposed obedience on our hands and feet but also put restraint upon our minds, lest they desire to do what is unlawful.

Paul also confesses that once he slept in easy self-deceit but then was awakened by this single word of the law; for when he was considered blameless in the eyes of men, he was persuaded that he was righteous before God. He was once puffed up with confidence in his righteousness and expected salvation by his works, but, when he perceived the true meaning of the commandment Thou shalt not covet, he realized that the law was raised as it were to life, and Paul himself died because he was convinced he was a transgressor and saw the sure curse hanging above him.

for meditation: God demands conformity to his law in both our external actions and our internal thoughts. Many of us are careful to maintain an outwardly upright life, but are we just as diligent to cultivate holiness in our thoughts? Since we are unable to do that on our own, are we not in desperate need of a Savior?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 34). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

15 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Vultures under Cover

Thou shalt not steal. Exodus 20:15

suggested further reading: Nehemiah 5

Charity is the goal of the law. The rule of charity is that every one’s rights should be safely preserved and that no one should do to another what he would not do to himself. In defiance of the law are thieves who secretly steal the property of others, seek to gain from the loss of others, accumulate wealth by unlawful practices, and are more devoted to their private advantage than to equity. Rape or plundering is theft, since there is no difference between robbing one’s neighbor by fraud or by force.

So that God might warn his people against all fraudulent injustice, he uses the word steal in Exodus 20:15, which is something we naturally abhor as disgraceful. Still, we know that men bury their misdeeds under many coverings and that they convert those deeds into praise by false pretexts. By craft and low cunning their deeds appear as prudence, and those who cleverly overreach others, take in the simple, and insidiously oppress the poor are spoken of as provident and circumspect. The world boasts of vices as if they were virtues and freely excuses those in sin. But God wipes away this gloss when he pronounces all unjust means of gain to be theft.

An affirmative precept is connected with the prohibition Thou shalt not steal, for those who do not steal must also inculcate liberality and kindness and the other duties whereby human society is maintained. So that we may not be condemned as thieves by God, we must endeavor, as far as possible, to ensure that others should safely keep what they possess and that we promote our neighbor’s advantage no less than our own.

for meditation: Think about your first reactions when you hear of another person’s misfortune, particularly someone who has harmed or hurt you. Are you most concerned with their profit or with yours? How can the prohibition on stealing apply to you?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 33). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

14 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Mental Murder

Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13

suggested further reading: Genesis 4:3–10

This commandment has two parts: first, that we should not vex, or oppress, or be at enmity with others; and, second, that we should live at peace with others without exciting quarrels. We should aid, as much as possible, those who are unjustly oppressed. And we should strive to resist the wicked lest they injure others. Christ, in teaching the true sense of the law, speaks against those transgressors who have committed murder, saying they are in danger of the judgment. So is anyone who is angry with his brother without a cause. He adds, “Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22). Contrary to what some have supposed, Jesus does not offer a new law here, as if to cast blame upon his Father. But he shows the folly and perversity of those interpreters of the law who only insist on the external appearance and husk of things, since the doctrine of God must rather be estimated from a due consideration of his nature.

If a man carries a weapon for the purpose of killing a man, earthly judges will find him guilty of violence. God, who is a spiritual lawgiver, goes even further. With him, anger is counted as murder; yea, inasmuch as God pierces to the most secret feelings, he holds even concealed hatred to be murder. John writes, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15); i.e., hatred conceived in the heart is sufficient for his condemnation, although it may not openly appear.

for meditation: How can we feel morally superior to murderers? Are not we ourselves often murderers in our thoughts and words?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 32). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

13 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Mercy to a Thousand Generations

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4–6

suggested further reading: Micah 7:14–20

God is characterized here as a husband who will tolerate no rival. He will assert his rights as a husband, since his rivalry is nothing more than retaining what is his own. He will exclude all rivals of his honor. Considering God’s sacred covenant with the Jews, Moses seems to be alluding here to the violation of this spiritual marriage. But though he begins with a threat, God, who far prefers mercy to severity, gently allures his own to himself rather than compels them to allegiance. He declares that he will be merciful to a thousand generations, as the original Hebrew says in verse 6, while he only denounces punishment on the third and fourth generations.

To encourage worshipers to earnest piety, God declares that he will be kind not only to them but to their posterity, even for a thousand generations. This is proof of his inestimable kindness, even indulgence, for he deigns to bind himself to his servants, to whom he owes nothing, and to acknowledge his favor toward them and their seed.

It is wrong to infer merit from the promised reward, however, because God does not say that he will be faithful or just toward the keepers of his law. Rather, he only promises to be merciful. Let the most perfect then come forward, for they can require nothing better of God than his favor to them on the grounds of his gratuitous liberality.

for meditation: The implications and consequences of our present actions extend to the next generation and beyond. Seeing that our conduct has such consequences, should we not flee from sin and seek to be more like Christ? Are there specific ways to do this today?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 31). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

12 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Testing God

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Exodus 17:1

suggested further reading: Psalm 78:12–22

A double accusation is brought against the children of Israel; first, for insulting God by quarreling and chiding with him, and second, for tempting him. Both arose from unbelief caused by ingratitude. It was vile of God’s people to so soon forget what he had so graciously given them. He had brought them supplies when they were suffering from hunger, so why did they not fly to him when they were oppressed by thirst? It is plain that God’s former favor was ill-bestowed upon these people since it so directly vanished in their ingratitude.

Their unbelief is also apparent because they neither expected nor asked anything of God. Pride is also apparent in their daring to chide him. Indeed, what almost always happens is that we who do not depend on God’s providence nor rest on his promises provoke him to contend with us. We rush impetuously against him. The brutal violence of passion hurries us to madness, unless we are persuaded that God will in due time be our helper, and we are submissive to his will.

In the beginning of the chapter, Moses indicates that the Israelites journeyed according to the commandment, or, as the Hebrew expresses it, “the mouth” of God, as if he would praise their obedience. From that we understand that when they first left Egypt, the children of Israel were sufficiently disposed to their duty. Then a temptation occurred that interrupted them from proceeding in the right way. That example warns us that when we undertake anything at God’s bidding, we should beware that nothing should hinder our perseverance. None are fitted to act rightly but those who are well prepared to endure the assaults of temptation.

for meditation: How many undeserved blessings have we disregarded when we have forgotten God’s gracious provisions and made ungrateful demands of him! How can you be more submissive to his will today?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 30). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

11 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Humility

And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers. Genesis 47:3

suggested further reading: Matthew 23

This passage teaches us how much better it is to possess a remote corner in the courts of the Lord than to dwell in the midst of ungodly palaces. The design of God was to keep the sons of Jacob in a degraded position until he would restore them to the land of Canaan. His purpose was to preserve them in unity till the promised deliverance should take place; therefore, they did not conceal the fact that they were shepherds.

We must beware lest the desire of empty honor should elate us when the Lord reveals no other way of salvation than of bringing us under discipline. Let us willingly be without honor for a time so that hereafter angels may receive us to participate in their eternal glory. By this example of Jacob’s sons, those who are asked to do humble work are taught that they have no need to be ashamed of their lot. It ought to be enough, and more than enough, for them that the mode of living that they pursue is lawful and acceptable to God.

The remaining confession of the brethren that they were shepherds (verse 4) was not unattended with a sense of shame; they said they had come to sojourn in Egypt because of hunger. The advantage that arose because of their circumstances was not to be despised. For they came to Egypt few in number and perishing with hunger and were so branded with infamy that scarcely anyone would deign to speak with them. The glory of God that afterward shone upon them was ever so much more illustrious when, in the third century from that time, God wonderfully led them forth out of Egypt as a mighty nation.

for meditation: It is a constant temptation to present ourselves as more important than we really are. This reveals both pride on our part and dissatisfaction with the lot God has chosen for us. We would do well to speak the truth as Joseph’s brothers did.[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 29). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

10 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Committing our Way to God

And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock. Genesis 31:4

suggested further reading: Psalm 37:1–7

Jacob sends for his wives so he can explain his intention to leave their father. He also wishes to persuade them to accompany him in his flight. It is his duty as a good husband to take them away with him; therefore, it is necessary to inform them about his plan.

Jacob is not blind to the many dangers of the journey. It will be difficult to take women who have never left their father’s house on a long journey to a remote region. Moreover, there is reason to fear that they, in seeking protection for themselves, might betray their husband to his enemies.

Jacob acts with great care in choosing to expose himself to danger rather than to fail in his duty as a good husband and master of his family. If his wives refuse to accompany him, the call of God will compel Jacob to leave on his own. But God grants what is far more desirable; the entire family agrees to come with him. In addition, his wives, who have often torn the house apart with fighting, now freely consent to go with Jacob into exile. So the Lord also allows us to succeed, when we in good faith discharge our duty and shun nothing that he commands.

In seeing how Jacob calls his wives to him into the field, we infer what an anxious life he led. Certainly it would be more convenient for him to stay home with his wives. He is already advanced in age and worn down with many toils, so he has great need of their service. Yet he is satisfied with a cottage in which he might watch over his flock and lives apart from them.

If there is a particle of equity in Laban and his sons, they will find no cause for envying Jacob in this situation.

for meditation: How many times have we abandoned our duties because we thought that success could only come through disobedience? Perhaps you have been asked to leave comfortable circumstances to follow God’s leading. How does God care for us when we follow him?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 28). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

9 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Jacob Have I Loved

And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. Genesis 25:23

suggested further reading: Romans 9:1–29

There is conflict between the children in Rebekah’s womb because God chooses to divide the seed of Isaac (of which the condition appears to be one and the same), adopting one part and rejecting the other. One part obtains the name and privilege of the church, while the rest are reckoned strangers. One part receives the blessing of which the other is deprived. We know that because later the descendents of Esau were cut off from the body of the church, while the covenant of grace was deposited in the family of Jacob.

If we seek the cause of this choice of God, it is not found in nature, for the origin of both nations was the same. It is not found in merit, either, because the heads of both nations were enclosed in their mother’s womb when the contention began. To humble the pride of the flesh, God determined to take away from men any reason for confidence or boasting. He might have brought forth Jacob first from the womb, but he made the other the first-born, who, at length, was to become the inferior brother.

Why does God by design invert the order that he himself appointed? It is to teach us that, without regard to dignity, Jacob was to be the heir of the promised benediction. He was gratuitously elected. God gave preference to Jacob over his brother Esau by making him the father of the church. Jacob was not granted this as a reward for his merits, nor did he obtain this by his own efforts. Rather, he was elected purely by the grace of God. But when an entire people are the subject of discourse, reference is made not to secret election, which is confirmed to a few, but to common adoption, which spreads as widely as the external preaching of the Word.

for meditation: The election of the deceitful Jacob is one of the clearest demonstrations of sovereign grace. It should be no less clear to us in the example of every man, woman, and child who comes to faith in Christ. Are you a debtor to sovereign grace?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 27). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

8 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

The Covenant Divide

And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. Genesis 25:23

suggested further reading: Deuteronomy 2:1–8

God says that the contention between the twin brothers in Rebekah’s womb implies something far greater than itself; it means that there will be discord between the brothers and their posterity. The expression, two nations are in thy womb, is emphatic. Since Jacob and Esau were twins, and therefore of one blood, their mother did not suppose that they would become so separated that they would become heads of two, distinct nations. Yet God declares that dissension will take place between these brothers who were by nature joined together.

Second, he describes what will happen to their progeny. One nation will have victory over the other because they cannot be equal. The cause of the contest between them is because one is chosen by God and the other rejected. The reprobate gives way reluctantly to the godly, so it necessarily follows that the children of God must undergo many troubles and contests because of their adoption.

Third, the Lord affirms that the order of nature will be inverted. The younger son will be victor over the elder. This victory does not simply refer to earthly riches and wealth. Rather, this oracle teaches Isaac and Rebekah that the covenant of salvation will not be made with both brothers and their people but will be reserved only for the posterity of Jacob. In the beginning, the covenant promise is general and refers to all the seed of Abraham. Now it is restricted to one part of that seed.

for meditation: The gospel of Jesus Christ still divides brothers. Sadly, this division often perpetuates itself through the generations, creating separate nations—some of which support Christianity while others are hostile to it. What a responsibility this gives us to present the gospel to succeeding generations of both nations! How can we fulfill this responsibility more?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 26). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

7 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Righteous Noah

And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Genesis 7:1

suggested further reading: Romans 3:21–26

Our duty is to hear God speaking to us. We are not through depraved fastidiousness to reject those exercises by which he cherishes or excites or confirms our faith, even though our faith is tender, or languishing, or weak. Nor must we reject those exercises as superfluous. For thee have I seen righteous, God says.

When the Lord says he preserves Noah because he is a righteous man, he seems to attribute salvation to the merit of works. For if Noah is saved because he is righteous, it follows that we should also deserve life because of good works. But here we must cautiously weigh the design of God, which is to save one man, in contrast with the whole world, so that he might condemn the unrighteousness of all men. The punishment that God is about to inflict on the world is just, seeing that one man is left in whom righteousness is cultivated, and for his sake God was propitious to his entire family.

Should anyone object that this passage proves that God respects works in saving men, the response is that this is not repugnant to gratuitous acceptance, since God accepts those gifts which he himself has conferred upon his servants. We must observe, in the first place, that God loves men freely. He finds nothing in them but what is worthy of hatred, since all men are born as children of wrath and are heirs of eternal malediction. But God adopts them to himself in Christ and justifies them by his mere mercy. After he has reconciled them unto himself, he regenerates them by his Spirit to new life and righteousness. Out of this flow good works, which of necessity are pleasing to God himself.

for meditation: Even the most holy saints have only a shred of the obedience required of them by God. No matter how long we have been growing in the Lord, we must stand under the blood of Jesus Christ the righteous and nowhere else. How can we remember this truth more often and more gratefully?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 25). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

6 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Running from Sin

If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. Genesis 4:7

suggested further reading: Ecclesiastes 8:1–14

God will pronounce a dreadful sentence against Cain if the man hardens his mind in wickedness and indulges himself in his crime. The warning is emphatic; God not only repels Cain’s unjust complaint but shows that Cain could have no greater adversary than the sin that he inwardly cherishes.

God so binds the impious man in these concise words that he can find no refuge. It is as if he says, “Your obstinacy will not profit you, for, though you would have nothing to do with me, your sin will give you no rest but will sharply drive you on, pursue you, urge you, and never allow you to escape.” Cain rages in vain but to no profit. He is guilty by his own inward conviction even though no one accuses him. The expression “sin lieth at the door” refers to the interior judgment of the conscience that convinces man of his sin and besieges him on every side.

The impious may imagine that God slumbers in heaven. They may strive to repel fear of his judgment. But sin will perpetually draw these reluctant fugitives back to the tribunal from which they flee.

The expression of Moses has peculiar energy. Sin lieth at the door, meaning the sinner is not immediately tormented with the fear of judgment. Rather, gathering around him whatever delights he can to deceive himself, he appears to walk in free space and to revel in pleasant meadows. However, when he comes to the door, he meets sin, which keeps constant guard. Then conscience, which before was at liberty, is arrested, and he receives double punishment for the delay.

for meditation: When we sin and God convicts us of that sin, we run from judgment in many different ways. But why is it impossible to escape the effects of sin? What kind of punishment can we expect when we finally stop running?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 24). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

5 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Finding Peace in Suffering

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:19

suggested further reading: Philippians 3

Those who meekly submit to their sufferings present acceptable obedience to God if this cross-bearing along with increased knowledge of sin teaches them to be humble.

Truly it is by faith alone that one can offer such a sacrifice to God. But the faithful also labor in procuring a livelihood with the advantage of being stimulated to repentance and customizing themselves to the mortification of the flesh. God often remits a portion of this curse to his own children lest they sink beneath the burden. Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”

As those things which have been polluted in Adam are repaired by the grace of Christ, the pious feel more deeply that God is good and enjoy the sweetness of his paternal indulgence. But because even at best the flesh is to be subdued, it not infrequently happens that the pious are worn down with hard labor and with hunger. So it is best that when we are admonished of the miseries of the present life, we should weep over our sins and seek relief from the grace of Christ, which not only can assuage the bitterness of grief but mingle sweetness with it.

for meditation: When we feel overwhelmed with work, illness, or other difficulties, it helps us to bring those matters to God in prayer. Why is this so? How does Christ our Savior graciously teach us to be humble as well as to enjoy the sweetness of his presence?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 23). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

4 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Creation Groaning

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Genesis 3:17

suggested further reading: Romans 8:18–25

In response to Adam’s sin, God announces that the earth will be cursed. Since Scripture tells us the blessing of the earth refers to the fertility which God infuses into the earth by his secret power, so the curse is the opposite privation, in which God withdraws his favor from the earth. Thus the condition of the world varies with respect to men, according to whether God is angry with them or shows them his favor. We may add that punishment is exacted, not from the earth itself, but from man alone. For the earth does not bear fruit for itself but to supply food to us. The Lord, however, determined that his anger should, like a deluge, overflow all parts of the earth, so that wherever man might look, the atrocity of his sin should meet his eyes.

Before the fall, the world was a fair and delightful mirror of God’s favor and paternal indulgence toward man. Now, all the elements show us that we are cursed. And although (as David says) the earth is still full of the mercy of God (Ps. 33:5), yet we now see signs of his dreadful alienation from us. If we are unmoved by those signs, we betray our blindness and insensibility. Lest sadness and horror should overwhelm us, though, the Lord also sprinkles everywhere the tokens of his goodness. Moreover, though the blessing of God is never seen as pure and transparent as it first appeared to man in his innocence, yet, if what remains behind be considered in itself, David truly and properly exclaims, “The earth is full of the mercy of God.”

for meditation: The disturbing savagery of the natural world around us is the result of our sin. The suffering and pain in animals is the consequence of our transgression. Should that not move us to mourn our sin and its consequences for all of creation?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 22). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

3 JANUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Holy Work

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. Genesis 2:15

suggested further reading: Matthew 25:14–30

Moses now says that the earth was given to man with the condition that he cultivate it. It follows, then, that man was created to employ himself in work and not to lie down in idleness. Labor, truly, was created pleasant and full of delight, entirely exempt from all trouble and weariness. Since God ordained that man should cultivate the ground, he also condemned all indolent repose. Nothing is more contrary to the order of nature than to spend life eating, drinking, and sleeping while having no work to do. Moses says Adam was given the custody of the garden. That shows us that we possess the things that God has given to us on the condition that we be content with a frugal and moderate use of them and that we also take care of what remains.

Let him who possesses a field so partake of its yearly fruits that he does not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence. Let him labor to hand it down to posterity, either as he received it or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits that he neither dissipates it by luxury nor permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, so that economy and diligence with those good things which God has given us to enjoy may flourish among us, let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things that he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.

for meditation: Hard work is a gift from God, not a curse of sin; therefore, let us joy in work well done. Diligent and conscientious work brings glory to our Creator as we fulfill an important aspect of his will for humanity. Do you work “as unto God” or “as unto men”?[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 21). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.