Daily Archives: March 25, 2017

March 25, 2017: Verse of the day

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7:14 a sign. Since Ahaz refused to choose a sign (vv. 11, 12), the Lord chose His own sign, whose implementation would occur far beyond Ahaz’s lifetime. a virgin. This prophecy reached forward to the virgin birth of the Messiah, as the NT notes (Mt 1:23). The Heb. word refers to an unmarried woman and means “virgin” (Ge 24:43; Prov 30:19; SS 1:3; 6:8), so the birth of Isaiah’s own son (8:3) could not have fully satisified the prophecy. Cf. Ge 3:15. Immanuel. The title, applied to Jesus in Mt 1:23, means “God with us.”

MacArthur Study Bible

7:14 the Lord himself. Failure of the human king to respond to the invitation (v. 12) results in the divine King again taking the initiative (cf. v. 17). Similarly, two such signs would be offered to Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son and successor (see 37:30; 38:7).

Although some claim that the word translated virgin (Hb. ‘almah) refers generally to a “young woman,” it actually refers specifically to a “maiden”—that is, to a young woman who is unmarried and sexually chaste, and thus has virginity as one of her characteristics (see Gen. 24:16, 43; Ex. 2:8, “girl”). Thus when the Septuagint translators, 200 years before the birth of Christ, rendered ‘almah here with Greek parthenos (a specific term for “virgin”) they rightly perceived the meaning of the Hebrew term; and when Matthew applied this prophecy to the virgin birth of Christ (see Matt. 1:23), it was in accord with this well-established understanding of parthenos (“virgin”) as used in the Septuagint and in other Greek writers.

Isaiah prophesies further that it is “the virgin” who shall call his name Immanuel. Bestowing a child’s name often falls to the mother in the OT (e.g., the naming of the patriarchs in Gen. 29:31–30:24; but cf. 35:18; also Judg. 13:24; 1 Sam. 1:20), although other women (cf. Ruth 4:17) or even the father (Gen. 16:15; Judg. 8:31) could be involved in the naming. The name itself, Immanuel, “God is with us,” is the message of the sign. Such is its importance that Matthew translates it for his readers (Matt. 1:23). Immanuel is used as a form of address in Isa. 8:8 (“your land, O Immanuel”), and as a sentence in 8:10 (“for God is with us”). To say that God is “with” someone or a people means that God is guiding and helping them to fulfill their calling (Gen. 21:22; Ex. 3:12; Deut. 2:7; Josh. 1:5; Ps. 46:7, 11; Isa. 41:10). As such, it would provide a pointed message either to the fearful Ahaz or to the failing royal house.

Christian interpretation follows Matthew in applying this verse to the birth of Jesus. However, some aspects of Isaiah’s prophecy also relate to the significance of the sign for Isaiah’s own day. This being the case, a number of questions are raised: To whose family does the virgin belong, and how should her marital status be understood? What is the precise significance of the child’s name? Is it a personal name, or should it be understood as a title? Most importantly, does the fulfillment of this sign belong to Isaiah’s own day, or does it rather point (even in his day) to a much more distant and complete fulfillment? Christians have typically answered these questions in one of two ways.

Some hold that the sign has a single fulfillment—that is, the sign points originally and solely to the birth of Jesus as the “ultimate” Messiah. Those who hold this view emphasize the understanding of ‘almah only as “virgin,” thus precluding any “near term” fulfillment before the birth of Jesus; this view understands “Immanuel” as a title (as in 8:8) rather than a personal name. It is also noted that the variation in reference to a “son” (Hb. ben) in 7:14, as compared to a “boy” (Hb. na‘ar) in v. 16, further distinguishes between the child of miraculous birth and a more generic reference to a male child unrelated to the divine promise. This has the effect of separating the reference to Isaiah’s day (vv. 16–17) from the fulfillment of the announced miraculous son to be born at a future time (v. 14). According to this interpretation, then, the prediction of the virgin birth in v. 14 is a straightforward prediction of an event cast well into the future, and Matthew’s application of this prophecy to Jesus (Matt. 1:20–23) provides the divinely inspired testimony to there being a single fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. By this interpretation, the sign is directed to the “house of David,” to affirm God’s intention of preserving David’s dynasty (in keeping with the promises of 2 Sam. 7:12–16), in order to bring Israel’s mission to its glorious fulfillment (Isa. 9:6–7; 11:1–10). God will use any means to do this, even miraculous ones: this is a rebuke to the faithless and secular outlook of Ahaz.

Those who see in this sign a more immediate application to Ahaz and his times usually argue that the prophecy has a double fulfillment—that is, both an immediate fulfillment in Isaiah’s day and a long-term fulfillment in the birth of the Messiah. Those who hold this view argue that it is natural for the name “Immanuel” to be understood in terms of double fulfillment, since two other “sons” perform similar symbolic roles in the context (cf. 7:3; 8:3–4). They argue further that the prophet’s own interpretation of the sign in 7:16–17 applies it directly to Ahaz’s own day. It should be observed that this understanding of the text in no way diminishes Matthew’s affirmation of the supernatural conception and virgin birth of Jesus (cf. also Luke 1:34–35). Even if the prophecy does include an immediate application to the time of Ahaz, however, the prophecy cannot have been fulfilled completely by the birth of someone like Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isa. 8:1, 3) or by Hezekiah, as some have suggested, since 9:6 prophesies the birth of a son whose name will be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”—a statement that could apply only to the Davidic Messiah. On this understanding, then, the prophecy of 7:14 foretells the birth of Immanuel, which was fulfilled partially in Isaiah’s time but fully and finally in the person of Jesus Christ.

Faithful interpreters can be found on either side of this debate. One should not, therefore, lose sight of those truths on which all agree: the prophet speaks authoritatively for God; Ahaz and his house stand under judgment; the prophetic sign directly meets the failures of Ahaz’s day; fulfillment of the prophecy comes about through direct divine intervention in human history; and the sign finds its final fulfillment in the virgin birth of Jesus the Messiah, who is literally “God with us.”
7:14 The prophecy concerning Immanuel (see also Gen. 3:15) is fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:20–23). It is related to the larger OT theme in which God brings new life and offspring to barren women (see note on Gen. 18:10).

ESV Study Bible

7:14 the virgin The Hebrew term here, almah, indicates a young woman of marriageable age. In the ancient world, a young unmarried woman who had reached puberty could reasonably be assumed to be a virgin because of the close social and familial restrictions on her activities.

There is ongoing debate about whether almah technically denotes a virgin, since the Hebrew term bethulah is the more precise word for “virgin.” If almah does not denote virginity, the implication would be that the nt interpretation of the virgin birth is mistaken (see note on Matt 1:23). However, Hebrew and Greek use a variety of terms to refer to young unmarried women or girls, indicating that physical virginity was the cultural norm and did not need to be explicitly expressed.

The overlapping use of almah and bethulah in Gen 24 to refer to the unmarried Rebekah demonstrates that these terms were considered to be interchangeable (see Gen 24:16, 43). The Septuagint uses the Greek term parthenos to translate almah in Isa 7:14 and Gen 24:43. Drawing on the Septuagint, the nt interpretation is based on the Greek word parthenos, also a more precise word for “virgin.” The nt describes the fulfillment of Isa 7:14 with the birth of Jesus in Matt 1:18–23. Matthew focuses on the miraculous nature of Jesus’ birth and the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy prior to the consummation of her marriage to Joseph. While Isaiah focuses on the child and the symbolic nature of his name, Matthew emphasizes the remarkable nature of the birth.

God with us Means “God with us.” The three symbolic names of these children point to the three phases of God’s future work: imminent judgment, coming restoration, and future redemption (compare Isa 7:3; 8:1).

The concept that God is present among His people is prominent in the ot. The symbolic name Immanuel can be understood as an affirmation of trust in Yahweh, as it is in 8:10. Such affirmations of trust are common in divine promises and prayerful statements of faith (e.g., Psa 46:7). God’s presence among His people was an important theological symbol for Israel (the presence of Yahweh enters the temple in 1 Kgs 8:10–11). The people’s sinfulness puts that privilege in jeopardy. The sign of Immanuel should remind Ahaz that—at least for now—God’s presence remains with Israel.

The name Immanuel symbolizes the full restoration of Yahweh’s broken relationship with His people. While the immediate context of the sign itself points to a short-term fulfillment (see note on Isa 7:10–25), the larger context of Isaiah heavily stresses the future time of redemption and reconciliation between Yahweh and Israel. The coming salvation is depicted in the royal role of the Messiah in 9:2–8 that weaves divine titles into the description of the ideal righteous ruler—the Davidic messiah. The close relationship between messianic and divine roles and titles supports the understanding of Immanuel as a messianic figure. In 11:1–10, the Messiah is given the divine right to judge the nations; His reign inaugurates an era of worldwide peace. The suffering, death, and destruction that entered the world through sin will be replaced with peace, justice, and righteousness as predator and prey live together in harmony (11:6). The time of Immanuel will reflect the perfection of creation as originally formed in the garden of Eden.

Faithlife Study Bible

7:14 virgin. The Hebrew word occurs seven times in the Old Testament. It means a young woman of marriageable age, normally a virgin (Gen. 24:43). The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament made about 150 b.c.) translated with a word more specifically meaning “virgin.” The New Testament understands Isaiah to be designating the Virgin Mary (Matt. 1:23). See “The Virgin Birth of Jesus” at Luke 1:27.

Immanuel. “God with us.” The name conveys God’s promise to save, bless, and protect His children. The identity of the virgin and the child has been the subject of considerable discussion. Three major views have been proposed. First, some, especially Jews of the second century a.d., understood the prophecy to mean Ahaz’s wife and her child, Hezekiah (2 Kin. 18:2). But as Jerome (c. 400 a.d.) pointed out, Hezekiah was already born. Second, others identify the woman as Isaiah’s wife or a woman betrothed to him (8:3). The child is then Isaiah’s son, Maher-shalal-hashbaz. This interpretation is questionable. The Hebrew term translated “virgin” would not normally be used for a woman who was already a mother (of Shear-jashub, 7:3). If someone engaged to the prophet is meant, it becomes necessary to assume that his first wife had died. Also, the interpretation requires that the child have contradictory names: “God Is With Us” (Immanuel) and “The Spoil Speeds, the Prey Hastens” (Maher-shalal-hash-baz). Though not impossible, it seems unlikely. Finally, the child’s diet of “curds and honey” suggests that He would grow up after Judah’s destruction (v. 15 note). Tradition suggests a third interpretation, identifying the child as the Messiah, a divine personage whose birth is above nature. It equates the Child named “Immanuel” with the Child possessing God’s titles in 9:6, and with the “Branch” of ch. 11. According to Matthew, the virgin is Mary and the Child is Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:22, 23). In v. 16, the birth seems nevertheless to be imminent. Perhaps the prophecy has a partial fulfillment in the birth of Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:1–3), while the definitive fulfillment waits for the birth of Jesus Christ, who secures God’s throne forever.

Reformation Study Bible

March 25, 2017: Daily Devotional Guide Collection

March 25

Catch the Tide

Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest.

John 4:35

 

All believers are responsible to have a passion for the lost. John Harper had such a passion. He was a newly called pastor to the great Moody Memorial Church in Chicago in the early 1900s, but in 1912 He was a passenger on the ill–fated voyage of the Titanic.

Four years later, a young Scotsman rose up in a meeting and said he was a survivor of the Titanic. As he drifted in the water on a piece of wood, he encountered a man who was afloat on a piece of wreckage. The man pleaded for the Scotsman to receive Christ. The young Scotsman refused. The tide brought the man around again, and he asked if the Scotsman was saved yet. Shortly after, the man disappeared into the water, and the Scotsman decided to trust Christ as Savior. At the meeting he identified the man as John Harper—the young Scotsman was John Harper’s last convert.

Can you be one of the John Harpers of this generation?[1]


March 25 Practical Humility

“Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.”

Philippians 4:5

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Real humility will have a forbearance that is gracious toward others and content with its own circumstances.

Some Greek words have various meanings that are hard to translate into just one English word. This is true of “forbearing” in today’s verse. It can refer to contentment, gentleness, generosity, or goodwill toward others. Some commentators say it means having leniency toward the faults and failures of others. Other scholars say it denotes someone who is patient and submissive toward injustice and mistreatment—one who doesn’t lash back in angry bitterness. It reminds us very much of what we have been considering for the past week—humility.

The humble believer trusts God and does not hold a grudge even though others have unfairly treated him, harmed him, or ruined his reputation. Such a person does not demand his rights. Instead, he will pattern his behavior after his Lord Jesus, who in supreme humility manifested God’s grace to us (Rom. 5:10).

If you are conscientiously following Christ, your behavior will go against the existentialism of modern society. Existentialism claims the right to do or say anything that makes one feel good. Today’s existentialist unbeliever has a twisted logic that says, “If something makes you feel good but hurts me, you can’t do it. But if something makes me feel good but hurts you, I can do it.”

Unhappily, many believers have been caught up in that kind of thinking. They don’t call it existentialism—self–esteem or positive thinking are the preferred terms—but the results are much the same. Such Christians do what satisfies their desires, often at the expense of other people. At its core, this kind of attitude is simply sinful self–love.

In contrast to such self–love, Philippians 4:5 exhorts us to exhibit humble forbearance and graciousness to others. Other Scriptures command us to love our enemies and show mercy to those who sin (Matt. 5:44; 1 Peter 4:8). Such qualities allowed the apostle Paul to say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). God wants us to be just as humble and content with our circumstances.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord to help you remain content in the midst of all that happens to you today.

For Further Study: Read Jesus’ parable about mercy and compassion in Matthew 18:21–35. What parallels do you find between the parable and our study of forbearance? ✧ What kind of priority does Jesus give these issues?[2]


MARCH 25

OH GOD, THOU ART

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

—Exodus 3:14

We must remember that the “attributes” of God are not component parts of the blessed Godhead nor elements out of which He is composed. A god who could be composed would not be God at all but the work of something or someone greater than he, great enough to compose him. We would then have a synthetic god made out of the pieces we call attributes, and the true God would be another being altogether, One indeed who is above all thought and all conceiving.

The Bible and Christian theology teach that God is an indivisible unity… from whom nothing can be taken and to whom nothing can be added. Mercy, for instance, immutability, eternity— these are but names which we have given to something which God has declared to be true of Himself. All the “of God” expressions in the Bible must be understood to mean not what God has but what God is in His undivided and indivisible unity. Even the word “nature” when applied to God should be understood as an accommodation to our human way of looking at things and not as an accurate description of anything true of the mysterious Godhead. God has said, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14), and we can only repeat in reverence, “O God, Thou art.” POM086-087

Lord, it is because You are beyond all conceiving that I worship You in wonder and bow before You today. Amen. [3]


March 25

The Function of Salt

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.—Matt. 5:13

Salt has always been valuable in human society, often much more so than it is today. But the particular characteristics of salt that Jesus was referring to in this passage have resulted in various suggestions.

Some interpreters point out that salt is white and therefore represents purity. As the “pure in heart” (v. 8), Jesus’ disciples are to be pure before the world and are to be God’s means of helping purify the rest of the world.

Others emphasize the characteristic of flavor. Just as many foods are tasteless without salt, the world is drab and tasteless without the presence of Christians.

Because salt stings when placed on a wound, some interpreters believe Jesus meant to illustrate that Christians are to sting the world, prick its conscience, and thus make it uncomfortable in the presence of God’s gospel.

Salt also creates thirst. So others believe God intends for His people to live before the world in such a way that others will be made aware of their spiritual dehydration.

While all of these interpretations are reasonable, it’s likely Jesus was primarily referring to salt as a preservative. Christians are a preserving influence in the world; they retard moral and spiritual spoilage. As God’s children and as temples of His Holy Spirit, we represent God’s presence in the earth. We are the salt that prevents the entire earth from degenerating even faster than it already is.

ASK YOURSELF
In what ways are you and your church personifying the various properties of salt, whether by words, actions, or outreaches? Think very specifically. Which of these examples are proving to be the most effective at this, and why?[4]

MARCH 25

CONVICTION AND PAIN

Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

John 3:9

 

I consider it a good sign that some people are still asking questions like these in our churches: “What should happen in a genuine conversion to Christ?” and “What should a man or woman feel in the transaction of the new birth?”

If I am asked, my answer is this: “There ought to be a real and genuine cry of pain!”

That is why I am not impressed with the kind of evangelism that tries to invite people into the fellowship of God by signing a card. There should be a birth within, a birth from above. There should be the terror of seeing ourselves in violent contrast to the holy, holy God!

Unless we come into this place of conviction and pain concerning our sin, I am not sure how deep and real our repentance will ever be.

The man whom God will use must be undone, humble and pliable. He must be, like the astonished Isaiah, a man who has seen the King in His beauty!

 

Lord, I pray that many unbelieving people in hard-to-reach nations will realize their need for a Savior and will call upon Your holy name for their salvation.[5]


March 25 Appreciating God’s Gifts

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).

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God is the source of every good gift.

God has given us everything good to enjoy, including rain to make things grow, minerals to make the soil fertile, animals for food and clothing, and energy for industry and transportation. Everything we have is from Him, and we are to be thankful for it all.

Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt. 7:11). James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” Paul added, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude: for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4–5).

Sadly, unbelievers don’t acknowledge God’s goodness, though they benefit from it every day. They attribute His providential care to luck or fate and His gracious provisions to nature or false gods. They do not honor Him as God or give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21).

The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson wrote: “If all be a gift, see the odious ingratitude of men who sin against their giver! God feeds them, and they fight against him; he gives them bread, and they give him affronts. How unworthy is this! Should we not cry shame of him who had a friend always feeding him with money, and yet he should betray and injure him? Thus ungratefully do sinners deal with God; they not only forget his mercies, but abuse them. ‘When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery [Jer. 5:7].’ Oh, how horrid is it to sin against a bountiful God!—to strike the hands that relieve us!” (The Lord’s Prayer [London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972], p. 197).

How sad to see such ingratitude, and yet how thrilling to know that the infinite God cares for us and supplies our every need. Don’t ever take His provisions for granted! Look to Him daily, and receive His gifts with a thankful heart.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Be generous with your praise for God’s abundant blessings.

For Further Study: Read Genesis 1:29–31, noting the variety of foods God created for your enjoyment.[6]


MARCH 25

CONCEPT OF THE TRINITY: INFINITE LOVE POURED OUT

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ….

1 PETER 1:2

We are surely aware that as human beings we can never know all of the Godhead. If we were capable of knowing all of the Godhead perfectly, we would be equal to the Godhead.

The early fathers in the church, in illustrating the trinity, pointed out that God the eternal Father is an infinite God, and that He is love. The very nature of love is to give itself but the Father could not give His love fully to anyone not fully equal to Himself. Thus we have the revelation of the Son Who is equal to the Father and of the eternal Father pouring out His love into the Son, Who could contain it, because the Son is equal with the Father!

Further, those ancient wise men reasoned, if the Father were to pour out His love on the Son, a medium of communication equal both to the Father and to the Son would be required, and this was the Holy Ghost! So we have their concept of the Trinity—the ancient Father in the fullness of His love pouring Himself through the Holy Ghost, Who is in being equal to Him, into the Son Who is in being equal to the Spirit and to the Father!

Thus, all that man can know of God and His love in this life is revealed in Jesus Christ.[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 97). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[4] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 93). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[5] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 97). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[7] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Three: Saturday)

Saturday

Confession: Psalm 143:7–11

Quickly answer me, O Yahweh;

my spirit fails.

Do not hide your face from me,

or I will become

like those descending to the pit.

Cause me to hear your loyal love in the morning,

for I trust you.

Cause me to know the way that I should go,

for I lift up my soul to you.

Deliver me from my enemies, O Yahweh.

I take refuge in you.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;

your Spirit is good.

Lead me onto level ground.

For your name’s sake, O Yahweh, preserve my life;

in your righteousness bring me out of trouble.

Reading: Mark 13:1–8

And as he was going out of the temple courts, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What great stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another stone that will not be thrown down!”

And as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” So Jesus began to say to them, “Watch out that no one deceives you! Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many. And when you hear about wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places. There will be famines. These things are the beginning of birth pains.”

Reflection

The great charge against Jesus—which His accusers brought forward—was that He said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days” (Matt 26:61 nrsv). But in so saying, He spoke of the temple of His body. They thought, not being able to understand the meaning of the speaker, that His reference was to the temple of stone. This temple was treated by the Jews with greater respect than He was who ought to have been honored as the true temple of God—the Word, the sisdom, and the truth.

And who can say that “Jesus attempted to make His escape by disgracefully concealing Himself”? Let any one point to an act deserving to be called disgraceful. And when he adds, “He was taken prisoner,” I would say that—if to be taken prisoner implies an act done against one’s will—then Jesus was not taken prisoner. For at the fitting time, He did not prevent Himself falling into the hands of men as the Lamb of God—that He might take away the sin of the world.

—Origen

Origen Against Celsus

Response

Reflect on the sins in your life and how Christ’s willing payment of your debts frees you to serve God with thankfulness. What is your response to His sacrifice? How does the hope of His resurrection transform your life right now?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.