Daily Archives: April 1, 2017

April 1, 2017: Verse of the day


1 The phrase “blessed is” (ʾašrê) begins (see 1:1) and closes the first book of Psalms. It forms a magnificent envelopic structure enclosing forty-one psalms, representative of the literary variety of the psalms: lament, prayer, praise, confidence, wisdom, Zion song, and affirmation of Yahweh’s kingship.

How blessed are the children of God, as they receive grace upon grace! But God’s blessings are not automatically bestowed on his people. The Father in heaven looks for those who wisely conform to his heavenly kingdom on earth as it comes to expression in righteousness, holiness, love, and justice. He cares for the oppressed and delights to see his children’s concern with the things that are important to him—concern for those in need (cf. 35:13–14; 112:9; Mt 5:7; Jas 1:27). The need may take many forms—“times of trouble,” “his foes,” or a “sickbed” (vv. 1–3).

Expositor’s Bible Commentary

41:1–3 The Lord Sustains Those Who Are Kind to the Poor. The opening section expresses true covenantal faith: the person who considers the poor is kind to them because they are fellow members of God’s own people (usually “the poor” in the OT refers specifically to the poor in Israel); presumably his kindness includes both financial help and energetic protection of them from exploitation. These “poor” are “weak” (ESV footnote) in influence, and therefore this person’s kindness is also generous, extended in the knowledge that they cannot pay it back. God honors the person who shows such kindness in true covenant faith; he delivers him, protects him, and more specifically, sustains him on his sickbed.

ESV Study Bible

considers the poor. Understands or empathizes with those who are helpless and unable to take care of themselves. The psalmist is in this condition due to his debilitating sickness. Accordingly, the first three verses here may have been spoken to him by another person, perhaps a priest.

the Lord delivers him. Those strong in self-confidence do not turn to the Lord, because they think they have no need for Him. Those not so deluded, realizing their weakness, have nowhere else to turn.

Reformation Study Bible

April 1 – Anticipating Jesus’ Death

“After two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion.”

Matthew 26:2


Jesus adhered perfectly to God’s timetable for His death, which was part of the Father’s larger plan of redemption.

The history of redemption most definitely centers on the cross of Jesus Christ. Hymn writer John Bowring expressed this fact well:

In the cross of Christ I glory,

Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time.

All the light of sacred story

Gathers round its head sublime.

The apostle Paul was so convinced of the central importance of Christ’s death on the cross that he told the Corinthians, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul knew that without the cross of Christ there is no salvation and no true Christianity.

Jesus Himself knew the length of His earthly life was determined by God’s sovereign timetable and that the time of His death could not be altered or thwarted. Concerning control over His life, He declared, “I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). As the Son of God, Jesus was able to look forward to His death and even predict that it would be in Jerusalem and that He would rise on the third day (Matt. 16:21).

During Jesus’ ministry, people such as the Jewish leaders unknowingly threatened God’s timetable when they sought to kill Him. But all premature attempts to murder Christ failed because they did not fit into God’s sovereign plan for how, when, and why Jesus should die on the cross (John 1:29; Acts 2:23–24).

But Jesus’ reference to the Passover in Matthew 26:2 did fit into God’s plan; our Lord’s suffering and death was perfectly timed to coincide with that celebration. Passover was known by the Jews as the festival in which sacrificial lambs were slain, but now the death of the Lamb of God would forever replace Passover’s importance. We can take great comfort in all this, knowing “Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7) and that Jesus the Lamb was “foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of [us]” (1 Peter 1:19–20).


Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord that His sovereign plan for Christ’s sacrificial death could not be changed by man’s will.

For Further Study: Read John 10:1–18, and select several verses for meditation and memorization. What does the passage say about the nature of salvation?[1]

The Preparation of Sovereign Grace

You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion. (26:2)

In His incarnation, Jesus voluntarily limited the use of His omniscience, His glory, and certain other attributes of His deity (cf. Phil. 2:7–8). In His humility and self-imposed limitations as a man, Jesus taught only the divine truth that His heavenly Father revealed to Him. “The Father Himself who sent Me,” Jesus said, “has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak” (John 12:49; cf. Matt. 24:36).

Now Jesus knew it was the Father’s time for Him to die, and He not only declared again that He must suffer and be crucified but specified that His death was only two days away, at the beginning of the Passover. At that divinely appointed time the Son of Man would be delivered up for crucifixion.

Unbelieving skeptics have long tried to explain Jesus’ death as a quirk of fate, the unintended termination of a well-meaning revolution that was discovered and crushed or the sad end to the delusions of a madman. Others picture Jesus as a visionary whose dreams were ahead of the age in which He lived, or as a prophet who overstated His claims and thereby roused the ire of the religious establishment. But such assertions do not square with the gospel accounts and are blasphemous.

As already noted, Jesus had predicted at least three times previously that He would suffer to the death but would rise again. He had even indicated that His death would be in Jerusalem and that He would rise on the third day He was on a divine timetable, and no human plans or power could cause that timetable to vary in a single detail. “No one has taken [My life] away from Me,” He declared, “but I lay it down on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). When Pilate said to Jesus, “ ‘Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above’ ” (John 19:10–11).

There were many times when people sought to kill Jesus but were unable to do so. The Jewish religious leaders began plotting His death soon after He began His public ministry (John 5:18), but they were not able to fulfill that intention until it fit into God’s timetable.

The first attempt on Jesus’ life was made shortly after He was born, when Herod massacred all the male infants in the vicinity of Bethlehem. God sent an angel to warn Joseph to take Jesus and His mother to Egypt until the danger was over. On one occasion when He was ministering in a synagogue in His home town of Nazareth, the people became incensed by His claim to be fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy and by His reminding them of several instances when God chose to bless certain Gentiles rather than Jews. They succeeded in leading Him to the edge of a high cliff on the outskirts of the city, but before they could throw Him to His death, He miraculously passed through their midst and went His way (Luke 4:16–30).

After Jesus healed the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda, the Jewish leaders began “seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). To some people Jesus became known as “the man whom they are seeking to kill” (John 7:25). But when the Temple police were sent to arrest Him for healing a man on the Sabbath, they returned empty-handed. When the chief priests and Pharisees asked the officers why they did not bring Jesus back with them, they replied, “Never did a man speak the way this man speaks” (John 7:44–46).

All of those attempts to kill Jesus, and perhaps others that are not recorded, failed because it was not God’s time or God’s way for the Son to die. Only the sovereign grace of God could have brought Jesus to the cross. No human power could have accomplished it apart from God’s will, and no human power could now prevent it, because it was now God’s plan. As Jesus declared at the Last Supper, “the Son of Man is going as it has been determined” (Luke 22:22). And as Peter declared at Pentecost, Jesus was “delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).

The appropriate time for Jesus to die was at Passover, when the sacrificial lambs were slain, because that celebration pointed to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The sacrifices of all the other lambs were but faint symbols of what the true Lamb was soon to accomplish in reality.

As Philip explained to the Ethiopian, Jesus was the Lamb predicted by Isaiah, led to slaughter but not opening His mouth (Acts 8:32–34). As Paul declared to the Corinthian believers, Jesus was “Christ our Passover [who] also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). As Peter proclaimed to the scattered and persecuted saints of the first-century church, Jesus was the unblemished Lamb “foreknown before the foundation of the world, but [who] has appeared in these last times for the sake of you” (1 Pet. 1:19–20). As John saw on Patmos, Jesus was “the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).[2]

1–2 For the other major passion predictions, see comments at 16:21; 17:22–23; 20:18–19. One last time, Matthew uses the formula by which he brings all his discourses to a close (v. 1; see comments at 7:28–29). In the narrative line of Matthew, this pericope is a masterpiece of irony. The judge of the universe, King Messiah, the glorious Son of Man, is about to be judged. After Jesus’ warnings against hypocrisy (23:12–31) and his demand for righteousness that involves the whole person (25:31–46), the plot moves on by stealth and by a morally bankrupt expediency (26:4–5). The passion begins.

The Passover began Thursday afternoon with the slaughter of the lamb. “Two days” (v. 2) must be somewhat under forty-eight hours, or the “two days” would be “three days” (see comments at 12:40). According to the tentative chronology (see comments at 21:23–22:46; 23:1–36; 24:13), Jesus speaks these words on the Mount of Olives late Tuesday evening, which, by Jewish reckoning, would be the beginning of Wednesday.

The “Son of Man” (see comments at 8:20) is here both glorious and suffering; as often, the themes merge. The Passover is two days away, and it is during that festival, Jesus now reveals for the first time, that the Son of Man will be handed over (for reasons to take the Greek present as a future, see Moule, Idiom Book, 7) to be crucified. Thus Jesus provides a framework for his disciples to interpret his death correctly after it happens—a framework alluded to a little more clearly in the institution of the Lord’s Supper (vv. 17–29).[3]

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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 26:1–2). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 587). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.

—Psalm 147:5

If there were a point where God stopped, then God wouldn’t be perfect. For instance, if God knew almost everything, but not quite everything, then God wouldn’t be perfect in knowledge. His understanding wouldn’t be infinite, as it says in Psalm 147:5.

Let us take all that can be known—past, present and future, spiritual, psychic and physical—everywhere throughout the universe. And let us say God knows all of it except one percent—He knows ninety-nine percent of all that can be known. I’d be embarrassed to go to heaven and look into the face of a God that didn’t know everything. He has to know it all or I can’t worship Him. I can’t worship that which is not perfect.

What about power? If God had all the power there is except a little bit, and if somebody else had a little bit of power hoarded that God couldn’t get to, then we couldn’t worship God. We couldn’t say that this God is of infinite power because He wouldn’t be of infinite power; He’d just be close to it. While He would be more powerful than any other being and perhaps even more powerful than all the beings in the universe lumped together, He still would have a defect, and therefore He couldn’t be God. Our God is perfect—perfect in knowledge and power. AOG006

Lord, how wonderful it is to know that I can worship a God who is perfect. I praise You for Your infinite understanding and power. Amen. [1]

147:5 his understanding is beyond measure. God is above and beyond human intelligence. There is no scale that can measure infinity.[2]

147:4, 5 God’s knowledge of the stars suggests that He is more than equal to the problems of humankind. His power and understanding far surpass any other resource from which we may draw.[3]

The two motifs of restoration and creation are sufficient to bring God’s people to worship. The psalmist exclaims how “great” (gādôl; cf. 48:1; 96:4; 145:3) is God’s royal sovereignty (“our Lord,” ʾadônênû) in “power” and wisdom (“understanding,” v. 5; see 136:5)! This conclusion relates primarily to his creative and sustaining powers over the universe (cf. Isa 40:26–28). By inference, God’s royal power and greatness extended to the world of creation are small in comparison to the depth of God’s love for his people (cf. Isa 40:26 with Isa 40:27–31). This brings the psalmist to a renewed consideration of God’s care for his own (v. 6).[4]

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

[2] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 866). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[3] The Open Bible: New King James Version. (1998). (electronic ed., Ps 147:4–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 998). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

April 1 – Jesus and the Permanence of Scripture

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.—Matt. 5:18

Jesus’ teachings are not only unqualifiedly authoritative (“truly I say to you”), they are permanent. He implicitly equated His words of instruction with God’s eternal Word: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). As such, Jesus’ words are on a par with the Old Testament and are timeless.

In view of that reality, how foolish of us ever to wonder about the relevancy of God’s Word for us. The Bible is God’s eternal Word, and even though completed nearly two millennia ago, it has much to say to us today. Scripture is and always has been “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Jesus reveals that the permanence of God’s Word extends to the smallest letters and the smallest parts of printed letters—neither will be erased or modified.

No other statement by the Lord more clearly states His absolute confidence in the enduring nature and inerrant quality of the Bible. It is God’s own Spirit-inspired Word, down to every single word, letter, and part of letter.


Not necessarily by time percentages, to what extent does the Word factor into your usual day? When and why do you turn to its wisdom and instruction? What have you found to be the best ways to keep the Scriptures alive and active within you?[1]

Christ and the Law—Part 2: The Permanence of Scripture

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. (5:18)

The honest Jew of Jesus’ day knew he could not fulfill all the requirements of the Mosaic law, and that he could not even keep all the traditions developed over the years by the rabbis and scribes. Many hoped the Messiah would bring God’s standards down to a level they could manage.

But as indicated in previous chapters,Jesus made it clear in His first major sermon that God’s true standard was even higher than the traditions, and that, as the Messiah, He had not come to diminish the law in the least bit, but to uphold and fulfill it in every detail.

By introducing His statement with truly I say to you, Jesus confirmed the special importance of what He was about to say. Amēn (truly) was a term of strong, intense affirmation. Jesus was saying, “I say this to you absolutely, without qualification and with the fullest authority.”

His teaching not only was absolute but was permanent. Until heaven and earth pass away represents the end of time as we know it, the end of earthly history. As God’s Word, the law would outlast the universe, which someday will cease to exist. “The present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7; cf. v. 10). Even the psalmist knew that “Of old Thou didst found the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Ps. 102:25–26). Isaiah said, “Lift up your eyes to the sky, then look to the earth beneath; for the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die in like manner, but My righteousness shall not wane” (Isa. 51:6; cf. 34:4; Rev. 6:13–14).

Jesus equated His own words with the Word of God: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). What was true of the law, in its fullest meaning as the Old Testament, was also true of Jesus’ teaching. It is timeless.

It is incredibly foolish to ask, “What does the Bible, a two-thousand-year-old book, have to say to us today?” The Bible is the eternal Word of the eternal God. It “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It has long preceded and will long outlast every person who questions its validity and relevancy.

Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, Jesus continued. The smallest letter translates the word iōta, the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet. To Jesus’ Jewish hearers it would have represented the yodh, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which looks something like an apostrophe. A stroke (keraia) literally means “little horn” and refers to the small marks that help distinguish one Hebrew letter from another. It was a small extension of a letter similar to a serif in modern typefaces.

In other words, not only will the smallest letter not be erased, but even the smallest part of a letter will not be erased from the Law. Not even the tiniest, seemingly most insignificant, part of God’s Word will be removed or modified until all is accomplished.

As discussed in the last chapter, Jesus brought to completion all the judicial and ceremonial law and certain parts of the moral law, such as Sabbath observance. But God’s basic moral law, centered in the Ten Commandments, is still every bit as valid today as when God gave it to Moses at Sinai. During His earthly ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Others, such as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, would be fulfilled in later New Testament times. Still other prophecies, both of the Old and New Testaments, are yet to be fulfilled. But without the smallest exception, every commandment, every prophecy, every figure and symbol and type would be accomplished.

No other statement made by our Lord more clearly states His absolute contention that Scripture is verbally inerrant, totally without error in the original form in which God gave it. That is, Scripture is God’s own Word not only down to every single written word, but down to every letter and the smallest part of every letter.

“Fulfill” in verse 17 has the idea of completion, of filling up. Accomplished (from ginomai) has the similar meaning of becoming or taking place. Arthur Pink comments, “Everything in the Law must be fulfilled [or accomplished]: not only its prefigurations and prophecies, but its precepts and penalty: fulfilled, first, personally and vicariously, by and upon the Surety; fulfilled, second and evangelically, in and by His people; and fulfilled, third, in the doom of the wicked, who shall experience its awful curse forever and ever. Instead of Christ’s being opposed to the law of God, He came here to magnify it and render it honourable. … And rather than His teachings being subversive thereof, they confirmed and enforced it” (An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950], p. 57).

Jesus referred to the Old Testament at least sixty-four times, and always as authoritative truth. In the course of defending His messiahship and divinity before the unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Temple, He said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

When the Sadducees tried to trip Him up by asking which of seven successive husbands would be a woman’s husband in the resurrection, that is in heaven, He replied, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). The question itself was foolish, He said, because its very premise was wrong, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (v. 30). He then went on to correct the Sadducees’ view of resurrection, in which they did not believe. “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (vv. 31–32).

In that confrontation with the Sadducees, Jesus’ whole argument is based on a single verb tense. In the book of Exodus, which He was here quoting, God told Moses that He is, not was, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6). Hundreds of years after those patriarchs had died, the Lord was still their God. Obviously those men were still alive. God’s Word is therefore authoritative not only down to the smallest part of every letter, but also to the grammatical forms of every word. Because Scripture itself is without error, when it is believed and obeyed it will save us from error.

Over and over again, Jesus confirmed the accuracy and the authenticity of the Old Testament. He confirmed the standard of marriage that God established in the Garden of Eden (Matt. 19:4), the murder of Abel (Luke 11:51), Noah and the flood (Matt. 24:38–39), Abraham and his faith (John 8:56), Sodom, Lot, and Lot’s wife (Luke 17:29), the call of Moses (Mark 12:26), the manna from heaven (John 6:31, 58), and the bronze serpent (John 3:14).

Jesus also made clear that Scripture was given to lead men to salvation. In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham told the rich man that if his brothers, whom he hoped to save from hell, “do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). In other words, they had God’s Word, which was sufficient to bring them to God and to salvation-if they would believe it.

Jesus also used Scripture in His own defense. When He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness at the outset of His ministry, Jesus countered each temptation with quotations from Deuteronomy (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; cf. Deut. 8:3; 6:16, 13). He could have challenged the devil in the power and authority of new words spoken simply for that occasion. But in quoting the Scriptures, He testified to their divine origin and authority.

I heard a preacher once say, “The one thing I’ve learned is that when you get into the pulpit you’ve got to somehow communicate without using the Bible, because the Bible turns people off. I’ve spent a long time developing the ability to communicate to people without ever using the Bible. I started out in my ministry saying this verse says this and this verse says that, and I finally realized that wouldn’t get me anywhere. Now I say it in my own way and people will accept it.”

What that preacher said is true. Many people today are very much turned off by the Bible. But men’s being turned off by God’s Word is hardly a new phenomenon. It has been turning off unbelievers for thousands of years. Many people today, just as in Jesus’ day-and in the days of Moses and of the prophets-would much rather hear the opinions of men than the Word of God. But those opinions cannot lead them to the truth or to salvation. Opinions that do not square with Scripture will often leave men superficially contented and satisfied, but they will also leave them in darkness and sin.

Shortly after His temptation, Jesus went into the synagogue at Nazareth “on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:16–21; cf. Isa. 61:1).

The Lord used Scripture’s authority to establish His own. When John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else? … Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:3–5). In that reply Jesus again referred to the same passage from Isaiah which predicted the Messiah and His work.

When He cleansed the Temple on returning to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus defended His action on the basis of Scripture. “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den” (Mark 11:17).

It is impossible to accept Christ’s authority without accepting Scripture’s authority, and vice versa. They stand together. To accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to accept what He taught about Scripture as binding. To be a kingdom citizen is to accept what the King says about God’s Word. To have a kingdom character and a kingdom testimony is to obey the King’s manifesto, the Scriptures. Scripture’s authority is Christ’s authority, and to obey the Lord is to obey His Word. “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (John 8:47). To trust in Christ is to say of Him as Peter did, “You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

If the Old Testament contains any errors we must conclude one of two things about Jesus Christ. One possibility is that He was ignorant of those errors, in which case He was not omniscient and was therefore not God. The other possibility is that He knew of the errors but denied them, in which case He would have been a liar and a hypocrite, and therefore not holy God.

If not a single letter or stroke or tense of God’s Word is going to pass away, we first should receive it for what it is, “the word implanted, which is able to save [our] souls” (James 1:21). We should receive it because of the infinite majesty of the Author and His authoritative statements about it. We should receive it because of the price that God paid to get it to us, and because it is the standard of truth, joy, blessing, and salvation. And we should receive it because not to receive it brings judgment.

Second, we are called to honor God’s Word. “How sweet are Thy words to my taste!” said the psalmist, “Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103). Charles Spurgeon said, “They called George Fox a Quaker. Why? Because when he spoke he would quake exceedingly through the force of the truth he so thoroughly apprehended.” He went on to say, “It were better to break stones on a road than to be a preacher, unless God had given the Holy Spirit to sustain him. The heart and soul of a man who speaks for God will know no ease, for he hears in his ears that warning admonition, ‘If the watchman warned them not, they perished, but their blood will I require at the watchman’s hands.’ Is the infallible revelation of the infallible Jehovah to be moderated, to be shaped, to be toned down to the fancies and fashions of the hour? God forbid us if we ever alter His Word.”

Martin Luther never feared men, but when he stood up to preach he often felt his knees knock together under a sense of great responsibility to be true to the Word of God.

Third, we should obey God’s Word. We should be diligent to present ourselves approved to God as workmen who do “not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Like Jeremiah, we should find God’s words and eat them (Jer. 15:16), and “let the word of Christ richly dwell within” us (Col. 3:16).

Fourth, we must defend God’s Word. We are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Like Jude, we should fight for the integrity, purity, and authority of Scripture. Spurgeon said, “The everlasting gospel is worth preaching even if one stood on a burning fagot and addressed the crowds from a pulpit of flames. The truths revealed in Scripture are worth living for and they are worth dying for. I count myself thrice happy, to bear reproach for the sake of the faith. It is an honor of which I feel myself to be unworthy, and yet most truly I can say the words of our hymn, ‘Shall I to soothe the unholy throng, soften Thy truths and smooth my tongue to gain earth’s gilded toys, or flee the cross endured my God by Thee?’ ”

Finally, we live to proclaim God’s Word. Says Spurgeon again, “I cannot speak out my whole heart on this theme which is so dear to me, but I would stir you all up to be instant in season and out of season in telling out the gospel message, especially to repeat such a word as this: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.’ Whisper it in the ear of the sick, shout it in the corner of the streets, write it on your tablet, send it forth from the press, but everywhere let this be your great motive and warrant. You preach the gospel because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”[2]

18 “I tell you the truth” signals that the statement to follow is of the utmost importance (see Notes). In Greek it is connected to the preceding verse by an explanatory “for” (gar): v. 18 further explains and confirms the truth of v. 17. The “jot” (KJV) has become “the smallest letter” (NIV). This is almost certainly correct, for it refers to the letter י (yôd), the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The “tittle” (NIV, “least stroke of a pen,” keraia, GK 3037) has been variously interpreted: it is the Hebrew letter ו (wāw) (so G. Schwarz, “ἱῶτα ἕν ἣ μία κεραία [Matthäus 5:18],” ZNW 66 [1975]: 268–69) or the small stroke that distinguishes several pairs of Hebrew letters (e.g., כ/ב; ר/ד; ך/ד) (so Filson, Lenski, Allen) or a purely ornamental stroke, a “crown” (Tasker, Schniewind, Schweizer; but cf. NIDNTT, 3:182); or it forms a hendiadys with “jot,” referring to the smallest part of the smallest letter (Lachs, “Textual Observations,” 106–8). In any event, Jesus here upholds the authority of the OT Scriptures right down to the “least stroke of a pen.” His is the highest possible view of the OT.

Verses 17–18 do not wrestle abstractly with OT authority but with the nature, extent, and duration of its validity and continuity. The nature of these has been set forth in v. 17. The reference to “jot and tittle” establishes its extent. It will not do to reduce the reference to moral law, or to the law as a whole but not necessarily its parts, or to God’s will in some general sense. “Law” almost certainly refers to the entire OT Scriptures, not just the Pentateuch or moral law (note the parallel in v. 17).

That leaves the duration of the OT’s authority. The two “until” clauses answer this. The first—“until heaven and earth disappear”—simply means “until the end of the age”: i.e., not quite “never” (contra Meier, Law and History, 61), but “never, as long as the present world order persists.” The second—“until everything is accomplished”—is more difficult. Some take it to be equivalent to the first (cf. Sand, Gesetz und die Propheten, 36–39). But it is more subtle than that. The word panta (“all things” or “everything”) has no antecedent. Contrary to Sand (p. 38), Hill, Bultmann (History of the Synoptic Tradition, 138, 405), and Grundmann, the word cannot very easily refer to all the demands of the Law that must be “accomplished,” because (1) “Law” almost certainly refers here to all Scripture and not just its commands—but even if that were not so, v. 17 has shown that even imperatival law is prophetic; (2) the word genētai (“is accomplished,” GK 1181) must here be rendered “happens,” “comes to pass” (i.e., “is accomplished” in that sense, not in the sense of obeying a law; cf. Meier, Law and History, 53–54; Banks, Jesus and the Law, 215ff.).

Hence panta (“everything”) is best understood to refer to everything in the Law considered under the Law’s prophetic function—namely, until all these things have taken place as prophesied. This is not simply pointing to the cross (Davies, Christian Origins, 60ff.), nor simply to the end of the age (Schniewind). The parallel with 24:34–35 is not that close, since in the latter case, the events are specified. Verse 18d simply means the entire divine purpose prophesied in Scripture must take place; not one jot or tittle will fail of its fulfillment. A similar point is made in 11:13. Thus the first “until” clause focuses strictly on the duration of OT authority, but the second returns to considering its nature. It reveals God’s redemptive purposes and points to their fulfillment, their “accomplishment,” in Jesus and the eschatological kingdom he is now introducing and will one day consummate (cf. Gibbs).

Meier (Law and History) ably establishes the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the pivotal event in Matthew’s presentation of salvation history. Before it Jesus’ disciples are restricted to Israel (10:5–6); after it they are to go everywhere. Similarly, the precise form of the Mosaic law may change with the crucial redemptive events to which it points. For that which prophesies is in some sense taken up in and transcended by the fulfillment of the prophecy. Meier has grasped and explained this redemptive-historical structure better than most commentators. He may, however, have gone too far in interpreting v. 18 d too narrowly as a reference to the cross and the resurrection.[3]

He clearly insisted that not one jot or one tittle would pass from the law until it was completely fulfilled. The jot, or yod, is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet; the tittle is a small mark or projection that serves to distinguish one letter from another, much as the bottom stroke of a capital E distinguishes it from a capital F. Jesus believed in the literal inspiration of the Bible, even in what might seem small unimportant details. Nothing in Scripture, even the smallest stroke, is without significance.

It is important to notice that Jesus did not say that the law would never pass away. He said it would not pass away till all was fulfilled. This distinction has ramifications for the believer today, and since the believer’s relation to the law is rather complicated, we are going to take time to summarize the Bible’s teaching on this subject.[4]

5:18 until heaven and earth pass away … until all is accomplished. Here Christ was affirming the utter inerrancy and absolute authority of the OT as the Word of God—down to the smallest stroke or letter. Again (see note on v. 17), this suggests that the NT should not be seen as supplanting and abrogating the OT, but as fulfilling and explicating it. For example, all the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic law were fulfilled in Christ and are no longer to be observed by Christians (Col 2:16, 17). Yet not the smallest letter or stroke is thereby erased; the underlying truths of those Scriptures remain—and in fact the mysteries behind them are now revealed in the brighter light of the gospel. smallest letter or stroke. The phrase “smallest letter” refers to the smallest Heb. letter, the yohd, which is a meager stroke of the pen, like an accent mark or an apostrophe. The “stroke” is a tiny extension on a Heb. letter, like the serif in modern typefaces.[5]

5:18 until heaven and earth pass away. Jesus confirms the full authority of the OT as Scripture for all time (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15–16), even down to the smallest components of the written text: the iota is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet (or the yod of the Hb. alphabet) and the dot likely refers to a tiny stroke or a part of a letter used to differentiate between Hebrew letters. pass from the Law. The OT remains an authoritative compendium of divine testimony and teaching, within which some elements (such as sacrifices and other ceremonial laws) predicted or foreshadowed events that would be accomplished in Jesus’ ministry (see notes on Gal. 4:10; 5:1) and so are not now models for Christian behavior. Until all is accomplished points to Jesus’ fulfillment of specific OT hopes, partly through his earthly life, death, and resurrection, and then more fully after his second coming.[6]

5:18 will pass away All of the law was important to Jesus (compare v. 17).

Following the destruction of the temple in ad 70, many parts of the law—such as the sacrifices—were no longer able to be fulfilled. Faithful Jews expressed their fidelity to the law by upholding the spirit of its teachings, which is summed up toward the end of Jesus’ sermon (see 7:12 and note). Gentiles, or non-Jews, who came to compose the majority of the Church, were excluded from keeping the law based on the decision of Acts 15:1–21.[7]

5:18 dot. A tiny extension on certain letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

until all is accomplished. The full manifestation of God’s kingdom (chs. 24; 25) for which believers are to pray (6:10).[8]

5:17, 18 This refers to the entire O.T. revelation and the righteousness required by it. It introduces Jesus’ uncompromising acceptance of the authority of the O.T. as God’s Word (vv. 17–19). Verse 18 reflects the extent of inspiration of the Torah or Law, here a reference to the O.T. Jesus argues that not a “jot” or “tittle” shall pass from the Law. “Jot” is a reference to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the yodh (“$H1”). “Tittle” refers to a small extension on a Hebrew letter which differentiates it from another letter. For example, the Hebrew beth (“$H2”) differs from the Hebrew kaph (“$H3”) only by a small extension of the beth at the lower right-hand extremity of the letter. This minuteness of detail makes clear Jesus’ view of the thoroughness of inspiration. He rejects the righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes, which is reflected in their interpretations of the Law (vv. 17–48) as well as in their actual practice of righteousness (6:1–18). The righteousness demanded by the kingdom of God is a righteousness of the heart, which was envisioned by the Law and the Prophets (vv. 17–48). The practice of it is related to others (6:1–4), to God (6:5–15), and to oneself (6:16–18). Jesus’ insistence upon the authority of His own teaching as equally binding (v. 20) means that He speaks with the authority of God just as did the O.T. prophets. Jesus’ interpretation of the Law is antithetical to that of the Pharisees, who charged Jesus with destroying the Law, a charge answered in vv. 17–20. He also warned Antinomians, those who construe liberty as license, that freedom from legalism does not mean freedom from the law (vv. 18–20). The word for “law” is the Greek nomos, which is analogous to the Hebrew word torah, translated “law,” and meaning “teaching” or “direction.” Torah referred to the oral law, later codified in the Mishnah (c. a.d. 200), or to the gemara (Heb., “completion”), the interpretations of the Mishnah by the rabbis from a.d. 200–500 (cf. 15:2). It could also designate the Pentateuch, the whole O.T., the Ten Commandments, or simply instruction, teaching, or divine revelation. The law became so exalted by the rabbis in Judaism that it became the explanation and justification of Israel’s existence. However, at the heart of O.T. religion was the covenant and not the law, which was only a standard of obedience necessary for the preservation of the covenant relationship. In postexilic Israel, obedience to the law is the necessary condition to become a member of God’s people; hence it becomes more central than covenant in the religion of Judaism. Verses 21–48 illustrate what Jesus meant by fulfilling the Law, and they demonstrate the difference between the righteousness demanded of citizens of God’s kingdom (v. 48) and the righteousness of the scribes. Jesus appears to set His teachings in opposition to the law in these verses. Regarding anger (vv. 21–26), lust (vv. 27–30), divorce (vv. 31, 32), oaths (vv. 33–37), personal revenge (vv. 38–42), and love for enemies (vv. 43–48), however, Jesus, as the ultimate interpreter, brings out the real intent of the Mosaic Law as opposed to the legalistic interpretations and false inferences of the scribes (cf. 7:29; 23:28). What Jesus meant by “fulfill” (v. 17) may be deduced from these verses in conjunction with His total message and life. He fulfilled the Law by (1) full obedience to it; (2) submitting to the condemnation brought by the Law against transgressors, whose place He took (20:28); (3) stressing His messianic authority as equal to it; (4) proving erroneous the false inferences made from it by the scribes; (5) living up to the standard of righteousness demanded by the Law; (6) fulfilling predictions regarding the Messiah; (7) stressing the ethical and moral rather than the ritual demands of the Law; and (8) viewing His messianic mission as the means whereby the righteousness of the kingdom might be fulfilled and thus mediated through His own Person and mission.[9]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 100). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 260–266). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 177–178). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1218). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 5:18). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1828–1829). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Mt 5:18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[8] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1368). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[9] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 5:17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


The righteous shall give thanks…the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

Psalm 140:13


The spiritual giants of old were those who at some time became acutely conscious of the presence of God. They maintained that consciousness for the rest of their lives.

How otherwise can the saints and prophets be explained? How otherwise can we account for the amazing power for good they have exercised over countless generations?

Is it not that indeed they had become friends of God? Is it not that they walked in conscious communion with the real Presence and addressed their prayers to God with the artless conviction that they were truly addressing Someone actually there?

Let me say it again, for certainly it is no secret: We do God more honor in believing what He has said about Himself and coming boldly to His throne of grace than by hiding in a self-conscious humility!

Those unlikely men chosen by our Lord as His closest disciples might well have hesitated to claim friendship with Christ. But Jesus said to them, “You are my friends!”


Lord, my prayer this morning is that I will become “acutely conscious of the presence of God.”[1]

13 At the time of the intervention and vindication, “the righteous” (plural of ṣaddîq; see 1:6) will change their prayers for deliverance (cf. vv. 1, 4) to songs of triumph. The “upright” (yāšār) in heart (see 32:11) will enjoy the presence of the Lord (cf. 23:6; 27:4). How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord![2]

140:12, 13 The Psalm closes with quiet confidence in the righteous Lord. Whatever happens, David knows that right will prevail—that the Lord is on the side of the afflicted and the poor. And the righteous shall always have reason to thank the Lord for His help. The upright shall dwell in His presence forever, and that makes all the sufferings of this life seem like pin-pricks.[3]

140:12, 13 David expresses unshakeable confidence in the character of God and the outcome for the righteous (cf. Pss 10:17, 18; 74:21; 82:3, 4).[4]

140:12–13 I Am Confident that the Lord Will Protect Me. The psalm closes, as many laments do, by expressing confidence in the Lord (he will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice; cf. note on vv. 9–11) and by guiding the faithful in what they can expect (give thanks to your name and dwell in your presence).[5]

140:12–13 The psalmist casts his confidence in terms of Yahweh’s general help for the afflicted, who praise Yahweh when He aids them. While the psalmist certainly presents himself as afflicted in Psa 140, his portrayal of a wider view of Yahweh’s justice is more than humble self-effacement. The closing statement (v. 13) portrays the just society that the psalmist desires for all Israel in contrast to the evil system that would result if the wicked gained power (see vv. 8, 11).[6]

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

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 969). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 773). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 140:12). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1118). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 140:12–13). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.