Daily Archives: June 11, 2017

June 11, 2017: Verse of the day


13 The “two evils” (so, correctly, the NASB; see comment on 1:14) go hand in hand, since whenever there is a turning away from (in this case, the Lord), there is also a turning toward (here, idols), as noted by Feinberg, 391: “Judah’s sin was compounded by rejection of truth and reception of error.” Or, as put quaintly by Matthew Henry, “Cleaving to sin is leaving God.” Once again, with prophetic penetration, the people’s utter folly is graphically exposed. This also underlies Jeremiah’s message of repentance (see comment on 3:6–7 with reference to the root šwb, GK 8740); God’s people must turn away from their idols to turn back to him. As obvious, however, as this polemic against idolatry is to most Western readers, the great majority of whom are life-long monotheists, the subtle lure and overt power of idolatry was such that these charges from the lips of Jeremiah would have been greeted by scorn and disdain, hence the constant use of analogy and metaphor to drive home the point.

The Lord was Israel’s “spring of living water” (again in 17:13), meaning their natural source of freely flowing, fresh (= nonstagnant) water, in contrast to water kept in jars or wells (cf. Ge 26:19; Lev 14:5–6, 50–52; 15:13; Nu 19:17). Here, however, there is a first step in the transition to the wholly spiritual meaning put on the words by Jesus in the NT (see John 4:10–11, where, of course, the ambiguity in meaning opened up the conversation between the Lord and the Samaritan woman; 7:38; cf. also Rev 7:17). In place of this Source of life, God’s people have hewed out for themselves useless replacements. (The NASB is to be preferred here, recognizing the emphasis on their own effort; see 1:16, containing the stereotypical indictment that idolatry is worshiping the work of one’s own hands.)

The repetition of “cisterns” in the Hebrew (bōʾrôt bōʾrōt) conveys shock: They have hewn out for themselves cisterns—cisterns broken!—which cannot hold any water. What they previously had, supplied by the Lord himself, was perfectly good; they abandoned it for a defective human replacement. Such is the self-destructive nature of Israel’s idolatry! (For archaeological background on cisterns, cf. King, 154–57.)[1]

2:13 two evils. First, Israel had abandoned the Lord, the source of spiritual salvation and sustenance (cf. 17:8; Ps 36:9; Jn 4:14). Second, Israel turned to idolatrous objects of trust; Jeremiah compared these with underground water storage devices for rainwater, which were broken and let water seep out, thus proving useless.[2]

2:13 Living water is found in Christ (John 4:10–14).[3]

2:13 the source of living water In Deuteronomy 32:40, Yahweh describes Himself as the eternally living God, contrasted against lifeless idols (compare Jer 17:7–8, 17:13; Psa 1:3).

for themselves A metaphor for a people no longer reliant on the living God. See Jer 2:27–28.

that can hold no water Foreign gods are broken containers; they cannot produce water, and they cannot hold the water poured into them.[4]

2:13 two evils. Jeremiah stresses the seriousness of Judah’s sin.

waters. God alone provides life-giving water (Is. 55:1; John 4:10, 7:37–39).

broken cisterns. The gods they took for themselves were useless, empty.[5]

2:13 Ancient landowners would dig cisterns to collect the rainwater. To insure that the cistern would hold water, the landowner plastered it inside with lime. Often cracks would develop and the water would leak out. In like manner Israel had abandoned Yahweh, the “fountain of life” or “fountain of living waters” (cf. Ps. 36:9; Prov. 13:14; 16:22; Is. 55:1; John 4:10–14; 7:37–39) for man-made powerless gods. They had committed two “evils”: they had forsaken Yahweh, and they had tried to improve upon Him.[6]

[1] Brown, M. L. (2010). Jeremiah. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah–Ezekiel (Revised Edition) (Vol. 7, p. 90). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Je 2:13). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1372). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Je 2:13). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1052). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[6] 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., Je 2:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

June 11 – Gazing into the Perfect Law

“One who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).


God blesses you when you obey His Word.

James 1:21–24 contrasts hearers of the Word and doers of the Word. Hearers don’t respond to Scripture or benefit from its truths, though they may study it in depth. Doers receive it in humility and obey its commands. James 1:25 adds that they are “blessed” in what they do. That means there is blessing in the very act of obedience.

James here calls Scripture “the perfect law, the law of liberty.” It is “law” because it’s God’s obligatory behavioral code. Grace doesn’t eliminate God’s moral law; but it gives us the spiritual resources to obey it, and forgiveness when we fail. That’s how Jesus fulfills the law in us (cf. Matt. 5:17).

Scripture is “the perfect law” because it is complete, sufficient, comprehensive, and without error. Through it God meets every need and fulfills every desire of the human heart. In addition, it is “the law of liberty.” That may sound paradoxical, because we tend to think of law and freedom as opposites. But as you look intently into the Word, the Holy Spirit enables you to apply its principles to your life, thereby freeing you from the guilt and bondage of sin and enabling you to live to God’s glory. That’s true freedom!

“Looks intently” translates a Greek word that pictures bending down to examine something with care and precision. This implies humility and a desire to see clearly what Scripture reveals about your own spiritual condition. It’s an attitude as well as an action.

As you study Scripture, let this be your underlying attitude: “Lord, as I gaze intently into Your Word, reveal the things in my life that need to be changed. Then grant me the grace to make those changes, so I can live more fully to Your glory.”


Suggestions for Prayer:  Memorize Psalm 139:23–24, and make it your sincere prayer.

For Further Study: Read Hebrews 4:12–13. ✧ To what is God’s Word compared? ✧ What effect does the Word have on those who are exposed to it?[1]

1:25 In contrast is the man who looks into the word of God and who habitually reduces it to practice. His contemplative, meditative gazing has practical results in his life. To him the Bible is the perfect law of liberty. Its precepts are not burdensome. They tell him to do exactly what his new nature loves to do. As he obeys, he finds true freedom from human traditions and carnal reasonings. The truth makes him free. This is the man who benefits from the Bible. He does not forget what he has read. Rather he seeks to live it out in daily practice. His simple childlike obedience brings incalculable blessing to his soul. This one will be blessed in what he does.[2]

25. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

  • A ready response

Look at the contrast. The person whose ears and heart are open to what God has to say literally bends over to look into the law of God, much the same as he does when he looks into the mirror that is placed horizontally on a table. However, the difference is that while he studies the perfect law of God he does not walk away from it, as does the person who casts a fleeting glance into a mirror. He continues to look intently into the Word. He meditates on it and obediently puts it into practice.

James resorts to using a synonym for the Word of God. He calls it the “perfect law” and causes the reader to recollect the content of Psalm 19. There David sings,

The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,

making wise the simple.…

By them is your servant warned;

in keeping them there is great reward. [vv. 7, 11]

The descriptive adjective perfect has an absolute, not a relative meaning. For instance, when Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), he uses the adjective first in a relative sense (for man) and then in an absolute sense (for our heavenly Father).

Laws made and enacted by man are temporary and conditioned by culture, language, and location. By contrast, God’s law is permanent and unchangeable. It applies to everyone at any time and in any situation. It is perfect.

Why is the law perfect? Because God’s perfect law gives freedom and it alone sets man really free. That is, the law of God through Jesus Christ sets man free from the bondage of sin and selfishness. Says Jesus, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36; also consult Rom. 8:2, 15; Gal. 5:13). Within the boundaries of the law of God man is free, for there he lives in the environment God designated for him. When he crosses the boundary, he becomes a slave to sin. As long as he keeps the law, he is free.

And last, the man who continues to look into the perfect law and keeps it will be blessed. Why is that man happy? He knows that “the precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart” and “the commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Ps. 19:8; compare Ps. 119:1–3). He finds joy in his work, joy in his family, and joy in his Lord. He knows that God is blessing him in all that he does (John 13:17).[3]

25 Now the contrast. The “doer” “looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this.” In contrast with the man who looks in a mirror briefly and then walks away, the person who is actively engaged in applying the word to life stays focused on the perfect law. The term translated “looks intently” can be rendered “look into,” or “bend down to look,” and has the figurative meaning of investigation. Thus it is more than a mere glance, and both the NASB and NIV capture the note of effort by adding the word “intently.” The “perfect law of liberty” is a key concept for the book, governing the structure of the body with reference to it at 2:8 as “the royal law” and at 2:12–13 and 4:11–12. This law of liberty is the OT Scriptures epitomized in Leviticus 19:18, “love your neighbor as yourself” (2:8), which was emphasized to James through the teaching of Jesus (Moo, 94; Davids, 99–100). It is a law of liberty because it brings freedom to the one who lives by it.

The “doer” not only has this practice of investigating God’s law but stays with it. In other words, the law becomes a frame of reference for living. With the law ever before the eyes of the heart, this person lives out the law instead of forgetting it. This is the path of blessing. One thinks of passages such as Psalm 1:1–3: The person is blessed whose delight in the Lord’s law is manifested by a constant meditation on it. Such a person is like a tree planted by streams of water.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 175). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2224). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 61–62). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 227). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


…He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

1 JOHN 5:10

True faith must always rest upon what God is, so it is of utmost importance that, to the limit of our comprehension, we know what He is.

The psalmist said: “They that know thy name will put their trust in Thee,” the name of God being the verbal expression of His character, and confidence always rises or falls with known character.

What the psalmist said was simply that they who know God to be the kind of God He is will put their confidence in Him! This is not a special virtue, but the normal direction any mind takes when confronted with the fact. We are so made that we trust good character and distrust its opposite, and that is why unbelief is so intensely wicked!

The character of God, then, is the Christian’s final ground of assurance and the solution of many, if not most, of his practical religious problems.

Though God dwells in the center of eternal mystery, there need be no uncertainty about how He will act in any situation covered by His promises. These promises are infallible predictions. God will always do what He has promised to do when His conditions are met. And His warnings are no less predictive: “The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Ps. 1:5).

We cultivate our knowledge of God and at the same time cultivate our faith. Yet while so doing we look not at our faith but at Christ, its author and finisher![1]

5:10 When a man does accept His testimony concerning His Son, God seals the truth by giving the man the witness of the Spirit in himself. On the other hand, if a man disbelieves God, he makes Him a liar; because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. People think they can accept or reject God’s testimony concerning Christ, but John would have them know that to reject it is to accuse God of dishonesty.[2]

10. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.

Throughout the epistle John uses contrast and this text is no exception. First he states the positive and then the negative.

  • Positive

In verse 10, belief in the Son of God is central; it is part of the message John teaches in verses 1–12, namely, faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Believing, says John, is a continuous act. That is, faith is a lasting and active power that resides in the heart of the believer. Faith is the constant bond between the Son of God and the believer.

Note that John states specifically that faith is believing in the Son of God. The preposition in means that the believer puts full trust and confidence in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The believer has accepted the testimony (see John 3:33; Rom. 8:16) which God, through the Spirit, has given about his Son. And this testimony which comes to him through external witnesses is now lodged in his heart and has become an integral part of his spiritual life.

  • Negative

The second part of verse 10 is not a parallel of the first part. Instead of writing, “Anyone who does not believe in the Son of God,” John says, “Anyone who does not believe God.” He places the emphasis on God, who has given man testimony about his Son. Man, however, cannot accept this testimony merely for information. He does not have the freedom to take or leave it without obligation, for God gives him this testimony with royal authority. When man rejects God’s testimony, he has made and continues to make God a liar (compare 1:10). And this is a serious offense, because rejection of God’s Word constitutes deliberate unbelief.

John addressed the false teachers of his day, who said that they believed in God but rejected the birth and the death of his Son. John, however, addresses his word to anyone who rejects God’s testimony. That is, the unbeliever takes full responsibility for his choice. “Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored.” The unbeliever’s sin lies first in his intentional refusal to believe God’s testimony about his Son and second, in his arrogant denial that the Father and the Son are one. Man cannot say that he has faith in God and at the same time reject God’s testimony about Jesus Christ.[3]

Divine and Human Testimony (vv. 9–10)

John has outlined the nature of the testimony of God the Father to Jesus and is about to go on to summarize that testimony in order to provide a proper ending to the letter. But before he goes on, he pauses to show why the divine testimony should be believed. There are two reasons: First, it is greater than human testimony, which all people accept, at least at times; and second, willful unbelief is sin.

Verse 8 has introduced one important legal maxim into John’s argument: the principle that a point of fact is to be established by the agreeing testimony of two or three witnesses. Here he introduces another: the principle of character in a witness. This is obviously an important principle in any system of law, but it was particularly important in Judaism where it took the form of a listing of those who were by reason of their professions or questionable actions unqualified to bear testimony. In this list are found thieves, shepherds (because they seem to have let their sheep graze on other people’s land), violent persons, and everyone suspected of financial dishonesty including tax collectors and customs officials. The talmudic tractate Pesachim 49b contains a passage indicating that the people of the land, the ʿam hāʾāreṣ or common folk, were also excluded.

This principle is illustrated in John 8:14, in which Jesus says, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going.” Earlier, on the basis of the principle requiring two or three witnesses, Jesus had said that if he should bear witness to himself, his witness would not be acceptable (John 5:31). But here in John 8 he argues on the basis of the principle of character to say that if the witness of mere men is accepted, if corroborated by others, why should not his testimony be accepted for itself alone in that he is much more than a man? The rabbis rejected the testimony of unreliable men. They accepted the testimony of an upright man when substantiated by that of other upright men. Clearly they should accept the testimony of Jesus, who knows both his origins and his destiny, judges according to the truth and not after the flesh, as his opponents do, and works in perfect unity with God the Father.

This same approach is applied in 1 John 5, as John argues from our willingness to accept human testimony (which we all know is fallible) to our obligation to accept the testimony of God. Men and women accept the witness of other human beings every day of their lives. Otherwise they would not be able to sign a contract, write a check, pay a bill, buy a ticket, ride a bus, or do any of the other thousands of things that constitute daily living. Well, then, says John, why should they not believe God, whose word alone is absolutely trustworthy?

If a person does believe God, he has an internal assurance that what he has believed is trustworthy. This is the work of God’s Spirit, the testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti, as the Reformers termed it. It is in addition to the assurance provided on other grounds. On the other hand, if a person does not believe God, he makes him out to be a liar; for in this way he eloquently testifies to his belief that God cannot be trusted. Here the heinous nature of unbelief is evident, for, as Stott writes, “Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored. Its sinfulness lies in the fact that it contradicts the word of the one true God and thus attributes falsehood to him.”[4]

10 This verse summarizes John’s remarks on water and blood in a test that demonstrates whether one has the true witness that proceeds from God. If anyone believes in the Son of God, then that person “has the witness within herself” (NIV, “has this testimony in his heart”). Negatively, one may also conclude that if someone does not believe God (i.e., does not accept God’s witness about the Son), then that person “has made [God] out to be a liar.” The similarity of the latter conclusion to 2:4 suggests that those who do not accept the Spirit’s witness about Jesus show that they are members of the world, just like those who deny that they have sinned. Since the Spirit, water, and blood represent a unified testimony, God’s testimony about Jesus is not distinct from John’s testimony, especially since the Spirit is the source of John’s testimony (4:6). To “believe in the Son of God,” then, means to accept John’s word that the human Jesus was God incarnate.

What does it mean for the believer to “have this testimony in his heart”? Many commentators conclude that John is speaking of an inner experience that comes from the Spirit. Those who take this position understand the “testimony” to be “an inward work of the Spirit in the believer which confirms outward kinds of experience. If a person believes in the Son of God, he experiences or develops an inner conviction that what he believes is verified in practice” (Grayston, 140). Barker, 352, believes that the “testimony” is “faith itself” and a subsequent “forgiveness of sins and inward establishment of the love of God,” both of which are gifts given by the Spirit in the move from “believing” to “receiving” (cf. Stott, 82). While this view is reasonable, it seems to suggest that John’s witness about Jesus requires a special work of God to become credible—the very point John has attempted to refute in vv. 7–9 by stressing the harmony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Other commentators have sought to explain v. 10 in more natural terms. Marshall, 241, argues that this verse simply indicates that “to believe in the Son of God is to accept and keep God’s testimony,” while rejecting the Son means rejecting God as a liar. “It is inconsistent to profess belief in God, as John’s opponents did, and yet to disbelieve what God has said.” This reading limits God’s “testimony” to the inspired, prophetic preaching of the church, which preserved and propagated the true witness about Jesus.

As a third possibility, v. 10 may have both the natural and supernatural dimensions of faith in mind. Perhaps John does not distinguish these aspects of faith to the degree that they are distinguished in modern Christian theology. The most immediate parallel to the thought of v. 10 appears in 2:20–21, 27. The “testimony of God” here seems equivalent to the “anointing” mentioned in that passage, and both terms probably refer primarily to the orthodox belief in Jesus’ literal, sacrificial death (see comment at 2:20–21). At the same time, John’s dualism complicates the process by which this testimony may be accepted. Dodd, 131–33, points out that 1 John 5:6–12 closely parallels John 5:19–47, both in its language and in its appeal to the same dualistic framework. In John 5 Jesus discusses the value of different types of “testimony” about himself, including John the Baptist’s witness, the Scriptures, and the power God has given him to do signs. The Jews cannot accept this overwhelming evidence, however, because God’s word does not “dwell in you” (5:38). It would therefore be against their nature to believe in Jesus, no matter how strong the testimony. Similarly, although John’s Christology is supported both by God’s actions in the life of Jesus and by the Spirit’s continuing testimony in the church’s prophecy, the Antichrists cannot believe because God’s word is not in them. They therefore must belong to the same category as the Jews and the world. Those who do accept John’s witness, on the other hand, automatically demonstrate that they have God’s testimony in themselves, i.e., that they are in the same category as God (see Jn 6:44; 10:3–4). This would suggest that the initial act of faith, crossing over from the sphere of darkness to the sphere of light, is based on obvious public facts but also has a supernatural dimension. Unfortunately, John does not describe the mechanisms of this transformation as carefully as modern theologians might wish.[5]

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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2324). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 356–357). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Boice, J. M. (2004). The Epistles of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 134–135). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 495–496). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


I pray…that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

John 17:15

Christianity today is so entangled with this present world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern.

Compromise is everywhere—but actually no real union between the world and the Church is possible. When the Church joins up with the world, it is the true Church no longer but only a pitiful hybrid thing, an object of smiling contempt to the world, and an abomination to the Lord!

Nothing could be clearer than the pronouncements of the Scriptures on the Christian’s relation to the world. The confusion which gathers around this matter results from the unwillingness of professing Christians to take the Word of the Lord seriously.

This whole thing is spiritual in its essence. A Christian is what he is not by ecclesiastical manipulation but by the new birth. He is a Christian because of a Spirit which dwells in him. Only that which is born by the Spirit is spirit, no matter how many church dignitaries work on it!

Lord, I pray that the leaders in my church will stand firmly on biblical principles when faced with social and political issues of moral importance.[1]

17:15 The Lord did not pray that the Father should take believers home to heaven immediately. They must be left here to grow in grace and to witness for Christ. But Christ’s prayer was that they might be kept from the evil one. Not escape, but preservation.[2]

15. I do not make request that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one.

For the verb to make request see on 11:22. On the surface, one might have expected that the mention of the intense hatred which the disciples would have to endure from the side of the world would have been followed by a request that the Father remove them from the world. Yet, Jesus refuses to make this request. The reason is that the disciples have a task to perform. The nature of that task is not clearly indicated here, not even in verse 18, unless we take that passage in connection with all that precedes it. It was, however, clearly indicated in 15:27: “And you must also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (see on that verse). Naturally, therefore, Jesus cannot now pray that the witnesses be removed!

What he does request is this, that the Father keep the disciples from the evil one, or from evil. Both translations are possible. We prefer the former, for the following reasons:

(1) Again and again, during this night, Jesus has spoken about Satan, the prince of this world (12:31; 13:27; 14:30; 16:11): that he would be cast out; that he had entered into Judas; that he was on his way; and that he had been judged. Judas had fallen a prey to the evil one. Why, then, is it unreasonable to suppose that Jesus would pray that the others might be protected against the wiles of Satan?

(2) 1 John 5:18 is, to a certain extent, a parallel passage. Here the keeping has as its result, that the evil one does not touch the man who is born of God.

(3) It is almost impossible to suppose that Jesus, in speaking of keeping his (and the Father’s) own, was not thinking of the allegory of the shepherd watching over and guarding his sheep. Hence, 10:29 (“and no one is able to snatch it out of the hand of the Father”) occurs to the mind immediately. Now the enemy referred to in 10:29 is definitely personal; it is not just evil in general, but Satan, the false prophet, the persecutor, etc. Hence, also here in 17:15 we think of the evil one, Satan.

(4) The fact that back of all sinister influences stands Satan himself, so that it is especially against him that the believer needs protection is the prevailing New Testament view (both in the teaching of Jesus and in that of the apostles); see in addition to the passages listed under (1) and (2) above, also: Matt. 4:1; 13:19, 38, 39; John 8:44; 13:2; Acts 5:3; 2 Cor. 12:7; Eph. 2:2; 4:27; 6:11, 12; 1 Thess. 2:18; Jas. 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; Rev. 12:3; 20:2.[3]

15 In the OT we find that Moses, Elijah, and Jonah all prayed that they might die (Nu 11:15; 1 Ki 19:4; Jnh 4:3, 8)—better to be taken “out of the world,” so they thought, than to suffer any longer for what appears to be a lost cause. But God does not remove his servants from the world; it is the specific arena of their ministry. The message of redemption serves no purpose apart from those who need to hear it. It is less important that we “hear the old, old story” yet again than it is that we share it with those who have never heard. While a hostile world may not be the most receptive audience, they are the ones who need to hear the message.

Jesus prays that his disciples be protected “from the evil one.” Tou ponērou (GK 4505) could be taken as neuter and translated “evil” (so KJV), but it is better to take it as masculine and translate “the evil one” (cf. 1 Jn 2:13; 3:12; 5:18). To be protected ek (“out of”) the evil one assumes that believers are in danger of falling into the grasp of Satan. One of contemporary Christianity’s most serious failings is that it seems to proceed oblivious to Satan’s opposition to God’s work in the world. While believers regularly recite the Lord’s Prayer with its petition to “deliver us from the evil one” (Mt 6:13), life seems to go on as though all such phrases are just nostalgic reminders of an earlier period in which people believed in demonic beings.[4]

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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1557). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, p. 360). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 604). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

June 11 – Example of the Flowers

And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!—Matt. 6:28–30

Many of the people Jesus spoke to likely had little clothing to their name. So He pointed again to their surroundings, this time to flowers, to assure them of God’s concern and provision.

“The lilies of the field” may have been a general term used for the beautiful wild-flowers that graced the fields and hillsides of Galilee. Such decorations of nature make no effort to grow and have no part in designing or coloring themselves. The naked eye can see much of the amazing detail, shading, and coloring of a flower, yet under a microscope it shows itself to be even more marvelous and intricate than people in Jesus’ day could ever have imagined.

The simple point is that not even Solomon, one of most resplendent kings the world has ever known, could clothe himself like one of those little flowers growing abundantly on the hillside.

If Jesus told those who had but one simple garment not to worry about their clothing, what would He say to us? If God bothers to array the grass of the field with beautiful but short-lived flowers, how much more is He concerned to clothe and care for His very own children?

Nature is indeed a constant reminder not only of the wonder and splendor of God, but also of His daily provision. Perhaps the radical policies of today’s green generation—a fervor that borders on and often becomes an idolatrous worship of the earth—can make us wary of learning from the world around us. But creation is a gift of God to us, designed to help us look to Him as our source.[1]

6:28–30 Next the Lord deals with the unreasonableness of worrying that we will not have enough clothing in the future. The lilies of the field (probably wild anemones) neither toil nor spin, yet their beauty surpasses that of Solomon’s royal garments. If God can provide such elegant apparel for wildflowers, which have a brief existence and are then used as fuel in the baking oven, He will certainly care for His people who worship and serve Him.[2]

28, 29. Moreover, why be anxious about clothes? Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his splendor was not attired like one of these.

“Consider”—that is, notice carefully, study closely—“the field-lilies,” says Jesus, as he asks his audience, “Why be anxious about clothes?”. Exactly what kind of flower the Lord had in mind when he said “field-lilies” cannot be determined. Some guesses are: irises, narcissi, Turk’s cap lilies, and gladioli. Goodspeed translates “wild flowers” (“See how the wild flowers grow”). In the light of the context (note “the grass of the field.…”) it is very well possible that Jesus, instead of referring to any particular kind of flower, was thinking of all the beautiful flowers that were adding their splendor to the landscape at this time of the year.

“How they grow” must mean, as the context indicates: without any toil whatever on their part, nor any care being bestowed on them by any human individual, “how easily and freely, and yet how gorgeously.” Though the “lilies” do not spin a single thread, yet even Solomon in all his splendor—to which extensive reference has already been made; see p. 118 and p. 173—was not arrayed like one of these. Is not this true in at least this respect, namely, that Solomon’s finest apparel was at best but a mimicry and derivative of that which in nature comes fresh from the hand of God? Pristine beauty cannot be matched!

Yet the simultaneous outburst of flowers in the spring of the year just as suddenly vanishes: today these flowers are fully alive and adorn the fields; tomorrow this “grass of the field,” that is, this sum-total of uncultivated (in contrast with cultivated) plants, serves as fuel for the domestic oven, in a land where fuel was not plentiful.

The lesson is as follows: 30. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not much more surely clothe you, O men of little faith? There is a double argument here, as follows:

  1. from the less to the greater: If God provides for the short-lived grass, he will surely provide for his children, destined for eternal glory.
  2. from the greater to the less: If God decks the wild flowers with such very beautiful garments, then he will certainly clothe his children with the ordinary garments which they need.

Jesus calls his worrying followers “men of little faith.” The various passages in which he makes use of this description, in their context, are as follows:

Matt. 6:30 and its parallel Luke 12:28 (worry about clothes)

Matt. 8:26 (the disciples’ fear of drowning during a storm at sea)

Matt. 14:31 (Peter’s similar fear)

Matt. 16:8 (the disciples’ failure to remember the lesson they had received in connection with Christ’s miracle-working power).

Based upon these passages, it would seem that the description refers to the fact that those so characterized were not sufficiently taking to heart the comfort they should have derived from the presence, promises, power, and love of Christ.[3]

Worry About Clothing

And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? (6:28–30)

The third illustration has to do with clothing, using flowers as a model. Some of the people to whom Jesus spoke perhaps had little clothing, no more than one set of coverings for their bodies. He pointed again to their surroundings, this time to the flowers, to assure them of God’s concern and provision.

The lilies of the field may have been a general term used of the wild flowers that in great variety and beauty grace the fields and hillsides of Galilee.

Those beautiful decorations of nature make no effort to grow and had no part in designing or coloring themselves. They do not toil nor do they spin, Jesus said, stating the obvious; yet I say to you even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.

Even the naked eye can see much of the amazing detail, shading, and coloring of a flower. Under a microscope it shows itself to be even more marvelous and intricate than ancients could ever have imagined. Yet even Solomon, one of the most resplendent kings the world has ever known, in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these little flowers which anyone there that day could have picked by the dozen.

It is an indictment of our day that we spend so much time, money, and effort to dress ourselves. Lusting after costly, stylish clothes is sinful, because its only purpose is to feed pride. The number of clothing stores we have today, and the vast amounts of clothes we find in them, is staggering. Many people have made a god out of fashion, and shamelessly waste money on expensive clothes they will wear but a few times.

Our worries today are seldom for necessary clothing. If Jesus told those who had but one simple garment not to worry about their clothing, what would He say to us?

Despite their beauty, however, flowers do not last long. Along with the grass of the field, they are alive today and tomorrow [are] thrown into the furnace.

Klibanos (furnace) is better translated “oven.” Such ovens were made of hardened clay and were used primarily for baking bread. When a woman wanted to hurry the baking process, she would build a fire inside the oven as well as under it. Fuel for the inside heating was usually composed of dried grass and flowers gathered from nearby fields. Once the fiower’s beauty was gone it had little use except to be burned up as fuel for baking. Then it was gone.

But if God bothers to array the grass of the field with beautiful but short-lived flowers, how much more is He concerned to clothe and care for His very own children who are destined for eternal life?

To be anxious even about things which we need to survive, Jesus says, is sinful and shows little faith. A person who worries about those things may have saving faith, but he does not have faith that relies on God to finish what He has begun. It is significant that each of the four other times Jesus used the phrase “O men [or “you”] of little faith,” it was also in relation to worry about food, clothing, or life span (see Matt. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 12:28). “You believe that God can redeem you, save you from sin, break the shackles of Satan, take you to heaven where He has prepared a place for you, and keep you for all eternity,” Jesus is saying; “and yet you do not trust Him to supply your daily needs?” We freely put our eternal destiny in His hands, but at times refuse to believe He will provide what we need to eat, drink, and wear.

Worry is not a trivial sin, because it strikes a blow both at God’s love and at God’s integrity. Worry declares our heavenly Father to be untrustworthy in His Word and His promises. To avow belief in the inerrancy of Scripture and in the next moment to express worry is to speak out of both sides of our mouths. Worry shows that we are mastered by our circumstances and by our own finite perspectives and understanding rather than by God’s Word. Worry is therefore not only debilitating and destructive but maligns and impugns God.

When a believer is not fresh in the Word every day, so that God is in His mind and heart, then Satan moves into the vacuum and plants worry. Worry then pushes the Lord even further from our minds.

Paul counsels us as he did the Ephesians: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Eph. 1:18–19).[4]

28–30 “Lilies of the field” may be any of the wild flowers so abundant in Galilee, and these “flowers of the field” correspond to “birds of the air.” The point is a little different from the first illustration, where birds work but do not worry. The flowers neither toil nor spin (see Notes). The point is not that Jesus’ disciples may opt for laziness but that God’s providence and care are so rich that he clothes the grass with wild flowers that are neither productive nor enduring (v. 30). Even Solomon, the richest and most extravagant of Israel’s monarchs, “in all his splendor” (v. 29) was not arrayed like one of these fields. Small wonder that Jesus gently chastises his disciples as oligopistoi (“people of little faith,” GK 3899; cf. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; and the abstract noun at 17:20). The root of anxiety is unbelief.[5]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 171). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1227). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 352–353). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 423–425). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] 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. 215–216). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.