Category Archives: Daily Devotional Guide

October 20 Demolishing Spiritual Strongholds

scripture reading: Exodus 14
key verse: Exodus 14:14

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.

We have to admit that we cannot be successful in eliminating an area of habitual sin, even with strong wills, discipline, and perseverance (John 15:5). That puzzles us because we think we usually can arrive at a successful conclusion. We think, Why should this problem of lust or jealousy or greed be any different?

The first step toward progress is a recognition that the battle is spiritual, not rational or behavioral (Eph. 6:13–20). You have allowed the power of sin to establish a spiritual stronghold, a fortified position in your inner person. You cannot conquer this stronghold by futile, ordinary means (2 Cor. 10:3–4).

You can be free by relying on these spiritual weapons—the living Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s power. Since the battle is mainly in your mind, reading God’s Word attacks the stronghold by infusing His truth, which will always prevail (1 Cor. 10:13; Eph. 4:12).

The Spirit of God, who brought you from death to life, also can demolish spiritual strongholds. His power is available as you depend upon His supernatural resources (Ex. 14:14; Rom. 15:13).

Identify your spiritual stronghold. Recognize that you are in a spiritual battle, and use the spiritual weapons the Lord gives you. They work!

Heavenly Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit and on the basis of Your Word, I claim victory over every spiritual stronghold in my life—and I thank You for the supernatural resources You have provided for me to fight my battles.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

20 october (preached 23 january 1859) 365 Days with Spurgeon

Christ’s estimate of his people

“How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.” Solomon’s Song 4:10, 11

suggested further reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12

When he comes and begins to praise you, and tells you, “That your lips drop as the honeycomb, that all your actions smell of myrrh, and that your love is better than wine, and that the thoughts under your tongue are better to him than wine and milk,” what will you say? “Oh, Lord, I cannot say thou art mistaken, for thou art infallible; but if I dared so think thou art mistaken, I should say, “Thou art mistaken in me;” but Lord I cannot think thou art mistaken, it must be true. Still, Lord, I do not deserve it; I am conscious I do not and I never can deserve it; still if thou wilt help me, I will strive to be worthy of thy praise in some feeble measure. I will seek to live up to those high praises which thou hast passed upon me. If thou sayest, “My love is better than wine;” Lord, I will seek to love thee better, that the wine may be richer and stronger. If thou sayest, “My graces are like the smell of ointment,” Lord, I will try to increase them, so as to have many great pots filled with them; and if my words drop as the honeycomb, Lord, there shall be more of them, and I will try to make them better, so that thou mayest think more of such honey; and if thou declarest that the thoughts under my tongue are to thee like honey and milk, then, Lord, I will seek to have more of those divine thoughts; and if my daily actions are to thee as the smell of Lebanon, Lord, I will seek to be more holy, to live nearer to thee; I will ask for grace, that my actions may be really what thou sayest they are.”

for meditation: Do you serve God because you feel you ought to, out of a sense of duty? Or because you want to, out of a sense of his love and acceptance of you in Christ? God’s grace should motivate us to obey him even more than God’s law does (Romans 6:15).

sermon no. 282[1]

 

[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 300). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

20 OCTOBER 365 Days with Calvin

Putting on the New Man

And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:24

suggested further reading: John 3:1–16

Let us be fully resolved and persuaded that God will receive nothing from our hands but that which he knows to be his own. Without him, there is nothing but evil. His image was defaced in us by Adam’s sin; therefore, we must be newly created in Jesus Christ.

Paul now shows us how that is done in righteousness and true holiness. By the word righteousness, he means soundness and uprightness. So we must live with our neighbors without deceit, without malice, and without mischief, giving to every person what is due to him. When such soundness reigns in us, we will show by our deeds that we are fashioned again in righteousness after God’s image.

It is not enough for people to have what is due them, unless God also has his. For of what purpose is it for us not to steal from others while committing sacrilege against God? Or to abstain from taking our neighbor’s goods, while robbing God of his honor? Righteousness must be linked with holiness, for the two tables of the law are inseparable. In the word holiness, Paul includes everything that belongs to the service of God.

A new life, therefore, is walking in purity before God, eschewing all corruption and uncleanness, and separating ourselves from all the defilements of the world so that we may offer ourselves in sacrifice to God. At the same time, we must walk in integrity and uprightness with our neighbors. Performing these two things is what is required for perfection in the Christian life.

for meditation: Adam was created in righteousness and holiness, but his fall marred all his descendants. In Christ, we can be recreated into new men, made again in righteousness and holiness. This is an amazing truth! Many long to return to Eden, but they fail to realize that the crowning creation of Eden—righteous man—is being re-created all around them as God takes sinners and makes them new.[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 312). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

78:4. “We will not hide them from their children.” Our negligent silence shall not deprive our own and our father’s offspring of the precious truth of God, it would be shameful indeed if we did so. “Shewing of the generation to come the praises of the Lord.” We will look forward to future generations, and endeavour to provide for their godly education. It is the duty of the church of God to maintain, in fullest vigour, every agency intended for the religious education of the young; to them we must look for the church of the future, and as we sow towards them so shall we reap. Children are to be taught to magnify the Lord; they ought to be well informed as to his wonderful doings in ages past, and should be made to know “his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.” The best education is education in the best things. The first lesson for a child should be concerning his mother’s God. Teach him what you will, if he learn not the fear of the Lord, he will perish for lack of knowledge. Grammar is poor food for the soul if it be not flavoured with grace. Every satchel should have a Bible in it. The world may teach secular knowledge alone, ’tis all she has a heart to know, but the church must not deal so with her offspring; she should look well to every Timothy, and see to it that from a child he knows the Holy Scriptures. Around the fire-side fathers should repeat not only the Bible records, but the deeds of the martyrs and reformers, and moreover the dealings of the Lord with themselves both in providence and grace. We dare not follow the vain and vicious traditions of the apostate church of Rome, neither would we compare the fallible record of the best human memories with the infallible written word, yet would we fain see oral tradition practised by every Christian in his family, and children taught cheerfully by word of mouth by their own mothers and fathers, as well as by the printed pages of what they too often regard as dull, dry task books. What happy hours and pleasant evenings have children had at their parents’ knees as they have listened to some “sweet story of old.” Reader, if you have children, mind you do not fail in this duty.[1]


78:4 — We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.

It is our job to tell our children not only the great things God did in Bible times, but also the wonderful works He has performed in our own lives. They need to see God at work in us.[2]


78:4 We will not hide them from their children Israel failed to follow God throughout its history. The psalmist seems to be saying that he will not hide the past from God’s people but instead use it for teaching.

the praises of Yahweh The focus of Israel’s faith is not their goodness, but God’s help to them over the course of their history.

wonders The Hebrew word used here, niphla’oth, is usually associated with the events of the exodus from Egypt (see Exod 7:3).[3]


4. We will not conceal them from their children in the generation to come. Some take the verb נכחד, nechached, in the nephil conjugation, and translate it, they are not concealed or hidden. But it ought, according to the rules of grammar, to be resolved thus:—We will not conceal them from our posterity, implying, that what we have been taught by our ancestors we should endeavour to transmit to their children. By this means, all pretence of ignorance is removed; for it was the will of God that these things should be published from age to age without interruption; so that being transmitted from father to child in each family, they might reach even the last family of man. The end for which this was to be done is shown—that they might celebrate the praises of Jehovah in the wonderful works which he hath done.[4]


Ver. 4.—We will not hide them from their children. They shall still be handed down in the same way. We of this generation will still continue the practice of handing down, by word of mouth, to the next generation, how God has dealt with Israel. Asaph’s psalms were written, it must be remembered, to be recited in the services of the sanctuary (comp. 2 Chron. 29:30). Showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord; i.e. the actions for which he deserves praise. And his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done (comp. vers. 12–16, and vers. 23–55).[5]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 56-87 (Vol. 3, p. 331). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[2] Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ps 78:4). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 78:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 3, p. 230). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[5] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 2, p. 124). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

October 20 For the love of God (Vol. 2)

2 Kings 1; 2 Thessalonians 1; Daniel 5; Psalms 110–111

 

after nebuchadnezzar died, the Babylonian Empire rapidly declined. In violent coups, several members of the dynasty succeeded each other. Nabonidus eventually imposed some stability, though various vassal states broke away. Nabonidus himself became a religious dilettante. He abandoned the worship of Marduk (chief god in the Babylonian pantheon) and ended up, apparently, excavating buried shrines, restoring ancient religious rituals, and fostering the worship of the moon god Sin. Probably he was on one of these strange religious quests at the time of Daniel 5. As a result he had left the care of Babylon itself in the hands of Belshazzar his son. (The NIV footnote, 5:2, 11, 13, 18, rightly observes that Nebuchadnezzar was Belshazzar’s “father” only in the sense that he was his “ancestor” or possibly “predecessor”—a common use of the Semitic word, not unlike the usage in 2 Kings 2:12.)

The account makes it clear that the Persian army was outside the walls of the city, but Belshazzar obviously felt that the city was impervious to assault. The bacchanalia he ordered up was worse than an orgy of self-indulgence. Bringing out the golden goblets that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem was more than a whim. In the sequence of the two chapters, Daniel 4 and 5, it is hard not to see that this was a repudiation of what Belshazzar’s “father” Nebuchadnezzar had learned about the living God. Perhaps Belshazzar thought that Babylon’s fortunes had declined because of the relative neglect of the pagan deities. Nebuchadnezzar had learned to revere the God of Israel; Belshazzar was happy to spit in his eye. So they drank from the goblets and “praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (5:4). Daniel sees the connection between the two emperors, and this forms part of his stinging rebuke: Belshazzar knew what “the Most High God” had done to Nebuchadnezzar, and how Nebuchadnezzar had come to his senses and acknowledged “that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes”—and yet he set himself up “against the Lord of heaven” and refused to “honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways” (5:18–24). Somehow Belshazzar thought he could ignore or defy the God who had humbled the far greater Nebuchadnezzar.

So what have we learned? Have we absorbed the lessons of history—that God will not, finally, be mocked or defied? That we are utterly dependent creatures, and if we fail to acknowledge this simple truth our sins are compounded? That God can humble and convert the most unlikely, like Nebuchadnezzar, and destroy those who defy him, like Belshazzar?[1]

 

[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 2, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

October 20 For the love of God (Vol. 1)

2 Kings 1; 2 Thessalonians 1; Daniel 5; Psalms 110–111

 

i once heard a pastor preach through 2 Thessalonians 1 under the following outline:

  1. A good church going through a rough time (1:3–4)
  2. A good God waiting for the right time (1:5–10)
  3. A good man praying in the meantime (1:11–12)

Today I wish to reflect a little on the second point.

(1) Paul can speak of the Thessalonians being “worthy” of the kingdom of God that will come in consummated power when Jesus returns (1:5, 11). The context shows that Paul is not supposing that somehow they become worthy enough to be accepted by God in the first place. The idea, rather, is that, having become Christians, they are manifesting Christian faith and love (1:3–4), and are persevering in the Christian way despite suffering and trials (1:4–5). This continued display of grace under fire, this perseverance, is evidence of what is going on in their lives, and “as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom.” In other words, genuine Christians, by God’s grace, persevere in the Gospel, and this marks out their fitness for the consummation. In this sense they prove “worthy.”

(2) “God is just” (1:6). Therefore there will be payback time for those who have cruelly opposed his people (1:7) and ignored his Word (1:8). When Christ returns he “will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (1:8). What is presupposed is that the perfections of God’s justice are not manifest until Jesus returns. Some outworking of his justice is displayed in this broken world, but let’s face it: in this world, many evil people seem to get away with a lot, and many people of extraordinary goodness suffer a lot. Wise parents often tell their children, “Life isn’t fair. Don’t expect it to be.” Yet at the same time, God is “fair”; he is perfectly just. But do not expect his justice to be manifested in instantaneous rewards and retribution. His time scale is not ours. Life isn’t fair on our time scale. When Jesus returns, however, not only will justice be done, it will be seen to be done.

(3) At that time, Christ himself, and not any of us individuals, is the center of everything. Because of Christ’s centrality, punishment is almost defined in terms of being “shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power,” thereby being “punished with everlasting destruction” (1:9). Conversely, among his saints, his “holy people,” that same Lord Jesus will be “glorified” and “marveled at among all those who have believed” (1:10). If Christ were not there, heaven would be hell.[1]

 

[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 1, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

October 19 Praying for the Lost

Scripture reading: Acts 24:10–27

Key verse: Acts 24:25

Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.”

In Acts 24, Paul stood before Felix with a clear conscience. He had professed the gospel message without violating the moral and judicial laws of his day. Yet he was arrested and accused of stirring up dissension and being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (v. 5). Knowing Paul’s citizenship rights, the governor had little recourse except to be lenient in his judgment of the apostle.

God is creative in His approach to mankind’s need for salvation. Paul did not compromise his convictions; he preached the gospel of Christ openly in the temple and later under house arrest to the guards who were chained to his side. Sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit achieves far more in the area of witnessing than we ever could accomplish in our own strength.

As a result of Paul’s obedience to Christ and then to the authorities over him, Felix began visiting Paul and inquiring about the Way (terminology used by early Christians to describe their life in Christ). Although it appears that Felix never accepted Jesus as his Savior, he was given a divine opportunity to do so through the testimony of the apostle Paul. What a privilege it is to witness to and pray for our government officials. Even though they have tremendous authority, they are not above God in their decisions; they need your prayers.

Father, I thank You for the opportunity to witness to and pray for government officials.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2002). Seeking His face (p. 306). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

October 19, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

13 Confidence in the Lord’s ability to discern and perceive the nature and needs of his people comes from a belief in God’s purpose. He is the Creator, and his creative concerns include individuals.

In a sense this section continues the emphasis on divine involvement by an emphatic use of “you” (ʾattâ, vv. 2, 13: “you know … you created”) and by the use of the pronominal prefixes and suffixes to the verbs and nouns in Hebrew (translated by “you” and “your”). The Lord has formed the individual as a spiritual (“you created [qānâ, GK 7865; Ge 14:22; Pr 8:22] my inmost being [‘kidneys’],” v. 13) and a physical being (“you knit me together”; cf. Job 8–11; Jer 1:5). All beings owe their existence to the Creator-God. How much more the individual who walks with God, who knows that the Lord has formed him or her for a purpose.

14 Creation is existential! The intensely personal language to which the psalmist returns (“I” and “my”) complements that of the second section. God is concerned with the individuals he has formed for his purpose. Therefore praise is the proper response to God’s grace of discernment, perception, and purpose. The child of God sees God’s presence everywhere (vv. 7–12) and experiences the joy of God’s watchful eye over him. All God’s “works” are “wonderful,” but the believer, more than any other part of God’s creation, senses that he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Though God’s grace toward him is like “knowledge … too wonderful for” him to comprehend (v. 6), he lives with a personal awareness of God’s gracious purpose (“I know that full well”). The psalmist reveals a unique awareness of God’s grace toward him and responds with a hymn of thanksgiving (“I praise you”).[1]


For his omnipotence (vv. 13–14)

God’s power is evidenced by his creation of each individual. God created our ‘reins’ (our innermost being, that is, those things that control us—minds, hearts, wills). He ‘covered’ us while we were in the womb. The word ‘covered’ may also be translated ‘knit’ or ‘wove’. By using this term the psalmist pictures himself as a fine piece of art and God as a skilled craftsman.

The psalmist’s conclusion is that he is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. Henry writes: ‘… we may justly be astonished at the admirable contrivance of these living temples, the composition of every part, and the harmony of all together.’

Some of the newer translations render this phrase as a description of God—‘You are fearfully wonderful’, that is, a God who is so marvellous and wonderful that the only thing one can do is stand in awe of him.

It isn’t all that important which of the two translations we follow. A fearfully wonderful God can only do fearfully wonderful works.

David would have us know he is not just getting carried away with his own writing. He is not indulging in poetic licence. He says it is the deep conviction of his soul that all God’s works are marvellous (v. 14).[2]


13. “For thou hast possessed my reins.” Thou art the owner of my inmost parts and passions: not the indweller and observer only, but the acknowledged lord and possessor of my most secret self. The word “reins” signifies the kidneys, which by the Hebrews were supposed to be the seal of the desires and longings; but perhaps it indicates here the most hidden and vital portion of the man; this God doth not only inspect, and visit, but it is his own; he is as much at home there as a landlord on his own estate, or a proprietor in his own house. “Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” There I lay hidden—covered by thee. Before I could know thee, or aught else, thou hadst a care for me, and didst hide me away as a treasure till thou shouldst see fit to bring me to the light. Thus the Psalmist describes the intimacy which God had with him. In his most secret part—his reins, and in his most secret condition—yet unborn, he was under the control and guardianship of God.

14. “I will praise thee:” a good resolve, and one which he was even now carrying out. Those who are praising God are the very men who will praise him. Those who wish to praise have subjects for adoration ready to hand. We too seldom remember our creation, and all the skill and kindness bestowed upon our frame: but the sweet singer of Israel was better instructed, and therefore he prepares for the chief musician a song concerning our nativity and all the fashioning which precedes it. We cannot begin too soon to bless our Maker, who began so soon to bless us: even in the act of creation he created reasons for our praising his name. “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Who can gaze even upon a model of our anatomy without wonder and awe? Who could dissect a portion of the human frame without marvelling at its delicacy, and trembling at its frailty? The Psalmist had scarcely peered within the veil which hides the nerves, sinews, and blood-vessels from common inspection; the science of anatomy was quite unknown to him; and yet he had seen enough to arouse his admiration of the work and his reverence for the Worker. “Marvellous are thy works.” These parts of my frame are all thy works; and though they be home works, close under my own eye, yet are they wonderful to the last degree. They are works within my own self, yet are they beyond my understanding, and appear to me as so many miracles of skill and power. We need not go to the ends of the earth for marvels, nor even across our own threshold; they abound in our own bodies.

And that my soul knoweth right well.” He was no agnostic—he knew; he was no doubter—his soul knew; he was no dupe—his soul knew right well. Those know indeed and of a truth who first know the Lord, and then know all things in him. He was made to know the marvellous nature of God’s work with assurance and accuracy, for he had found by experience that the Lord is a master-worker, performing inimitable wonders when accomplishing his kind designs. If we are marvellously wrought upon even before we are born, what shall we say of the Lord’s dealings with us after we quit his secret workshop, and he directs our pathway through the pilgrimage of life? What shall we not say of that new birth which is even more mysterious than the first, and exhibits even more the love and wisdom of the Lord.[3]


139:13–14. The theme of verses 13–18 is announced here: the Lord (You is emphatic in Heb.; cf. v. 2) created him in his mother’s womb. The language is figurative in that creating and knitting describe God’s sovereign superintendence over the natural process of reproduction (on knitting; cf. Job 10:11).

This fact prompted the psalmist to break forth in praise over the thought of how marvelously he had been made. Even David’s rudimentary knowledge of the marvels of the human body led him to be in awe and wonder. The words wonderfully and wonderful are mindful of God’s marvelous knowledge (Ps. 139:6).[4]


139:13, 14 So much then for the omnipresence of God. David now turns to consider His power and skill. And the particular phase of divine omnipotence he chooses is the marvelous development of a baby in his mother’s womb. In a speck of watery material smaller than the dot over this i, all the future characteristics of the child are programmed—the color of his skin, eyes and hair, the shape of his facial features, the natural abilities he will have. All that the child will be physically and mentally is contained in germ form in that fertilized egg. From it will develop:

… 60 trillion cells, 100 thousand miles of nerve fiber, 60 thousand miles of vessels carrying blood around the body, 250 bones, to say nothing of joints, ligaments and muscles.

David describes the formation of the fetus with exquisite delicacy and beauty. “You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” Yes, God formed our inward parts; each one a marvel of divine engineering. Think of the brain, for instance, with its capacity for recording facts, sounds, odors, sights, touch, pain; with its ability to recall; with its power to make computations; with its seemingly endless flair for making decisions and solving problems.

And God knit us together in our mother’s womb. This aptly describes the marvelous weaving of the muscles, sinews, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels and bones of the human frame.

David bursts forth in praise to the Lord. As he thinks of man, the crown of God’s creation, he can only confess that he is fearfully and wonderfully made. The more we think of the marvels of the human body, its orderliness, its complexity, its beauty, its instincts and inherited factors—the more we wonder how anyone trained in natural science can fail to be a believer in an infinite Creator.[5]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 962). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Ellsworth, R. (2006). Opening up Psalms (pp. 126–127). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[3] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 120-150 (Vol. 6, pp. 262–263). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[4] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 892). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 770). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

October 19 Finding Favor with God

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 3:1–4

Key Verse: Proverbs 3:3

Let not mercy and truth forsake you;

Bind them around your neck,

Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Whenever we find favor with someone, we feel their support. In everything we do, we are encouraged. It’s not that we feel we can do no wrong, but we feel that we will always do right. Verses pepper the Bible with ways we can find favor with God. The most basic of ways begins with opening God’s Word and instilling it into our hearts and minds.

Solomon wrote, “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3). God’s truth is written on our hearts when we begin a daily diet of reading His Word, taking time to understand the principles and concepts that make up His kingdom. In the Bible, we find the sustenance for life, the strength to persevere, the hope to conquer our fears.

Every lesson taught in the Bible is a direct reflection of the nature and character of God, pointing us toward the manner by which He desires for us to live. Through reading God’s Word, we begin to understand more about Him and more about the nature of Jesus Christ. As we put these principles to practice in our lives, we find that the favorable hand of the Lord is surrounding us.

Lord, as I search Your Word, take Your truths and carve them into my heart so that they may come to me quickly when I need them.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 306). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

October 19 A Temple for His Presence

Scripture Reading: 2 Chronicles 7:12–18

Key Verse: 2 Chronicles 7:15

My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.

Solomon had just completed the construction of the temple. Sacrifices were made to God along with a commitment to follow the Lord all the days of his life. God was pleased, and in 2 Chronicles, He acknowledged Solomon’s devotion: “My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place” (2 Chron. 7:15 nasb).

In her book Adventures in Prayer, Catherine Marshall declared,

God insists that we pray, not because He needs to know our situation, but because we need the spiritual discipline of asking. Similarly, making our requests specific forces us to take a step forward in faith.

The reason many of us retreat into vague generalities when we pray is not because we think too highly of God, but because we think too little. If we pray for something definite and our request is not granted, we fear to lose the little faith we had. So we fall back on the safe route of highly “spiritual” prayers—the kind that Jesus brushed aside as not true prayer at all, just self-deceptive “talking to ourselves.”

As Solomon stepped back and viewed the glory of the temple of God, he was struck with the awesome reality of God’s presence all about him. The shekinah glory of God literally filled the place.

When you pray, allow God to expose the true devotion of your heart. Ask Him to cleanse you and make you a temple fit for His presence.

Master, expose the true devotion of my heart. Cleanse me and make me a temple fit for Your presence.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 306). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

October 19 Moving Forward in Faith

Scripture reading: 2 Chronicles 17:3–5

Key verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:24

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

Jehoshaphat had admonished Israel to return to the Lord, reminding a rebellious nation of the God who had freed it from bondage in Egypt and sustained it through much adversity. Then came the report that three tribes were mounting an attack on Israel.

Jehoshaphat’s response was a godly example not only for Israel but also for us today. The king’s first act was to immediately seek the Lord. By doing so, Jehoshaphat inherently demonstrated the knowledge that God is interested in all of man’s problems and that nothing is bigger than God.

Becoming a Christian does not give you a free ride from the problems of life. When you encounter trouble, your first response always should be to seek the Lord. God will give you a solution to the problem in His timing. You may have to wait for His answer, and the wait may be long. He often uses such times to mold your character and to teach you principles He knows you lack. Sometimes, you may not be ready for His perfect answer, so He has to prepare you.

Finally, God’s answer to your Christ-centered (not problem-centered) prayers usually requires an act of faith on your part. Sometimes—as with having a choir lead an army into battle—His plans won’t immediately make sense. But they are perfect. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).

I choose Your way, Lord—even when it doesn’t make sense in the natural. Give me the strength to move forward in faith.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 306). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

October 19, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

sinners repent verse

The Lost Coin

Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!” In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (15:8–10)

Like the first story, this one also takes place in a village setting. As does the previous parable, this one presents a poor person of low social standing facing a major crisis—a woman who lost a coin of great value.

If the scribes and Pharisees were insulted that Jesus asked them to think like a shepherd, calling on them to imagine themselves in the place of a woman was an even greater insult. Shepherds were considered unclean, and in that male-dominated culture women were deemed insignificant and not worthy of respect. It should be noted that while the scribes and Pharisees resented being compared to a shepherd and a woman, God Himself did not. In Psalm 23 He not only pictured Himself as a shepherd (v. 1), but also as a woman (v. 5; preparing a table was women’s work), while in His lament over Jerusalem, Jesus pictured Himself as a mother hen (Luke 13:34). It was mercy that prompted Jesus to assault their foolish pride, since only the humble can be saved (Matt. 5:5; James 4:6, 10).

The parable describes a woman who had lost one of her ten silver coins. The coin was a drachma (a Roman denarius), which represented a day’s wage for a common laborer. While that may not seem like a large sum, in a bartering society, where money was not used as frequently as in most modern societies, it was a significant loss. The money may have been an emergency fund, to be used when needed to make critical purchases. A more likely possibility is that the coins represented the woman’s dowry, given to her as a wedding gift by her father and providing security for the future.

How she lost it is not relevant to the story. It may be that she had strung the coins together and worn them around her neck and the cord broke, or she may have bound them up together in a rag as a sort of purse and the knot came undone. To carry out her desperate search, it was necessary for her to light a lamp even in the daytime, since houses usually had either no windows, or at best very small ones. When a quick look around failed to reveal the coin, she proceeded to sweep the dusty, hard-packed dirt floor of the house and search carefully and intensely for it.

At last, to her great joy, she found the missing coin. To celebrate, she called together her female friends and neighbors (both nouns are feminine) saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!” People in a small, tight-knit village would share each other’s sufferings and joys, so a party celebrating the woman’s joy at recovering what she had lost would have been appropriate. Are eternal souls worth less?

In terms of ethics, the Pharisees would once again have agreed that she had done what was necessary under the circumstances. All would agree that having lost a significant sum of money, there was nothing else for her to do but diligently search for it until she found it. This parable too was aimed squarely at them, as Christ’s emphatic statement I tell you indicates. Yet they again failed to make the connection between their contemptuous disdain for lost souls and God’s passionate concern for them. They failed to share in the joy that exists in the presence of the angels of God, who have a keen interest in the redemption that produces God’s joy (cf. Matt. 18:10; 25:31; Luke 2:10–14; 1 Peter 1:12; Rev. 3:5), over one sinner who repents. The joy here is God’s joy, the joy that fills heaven, and in which the angels and the redeemed share (cf. Rev. 4:8–11; 5:8–14).

The Lord’s indictment of the scribes and Pharisees was clear and inescapable. How could they affirm the ethical responsibility of a shepherd to search for a lost sheep and a woman to search for a lost coin, while condemning Him for seeking to recover lost souls? How could they understand the joys of the humble men and women in a village over temporal recovery, and utterly fail to comprehend the joy of God in heaven over eternal salvation?

The theological and Christological elements of this brief parable are clear. The woman represents God in Christ seeking lost sinners in the cracks, dust, and debris of a dirty world of sin. He initiated the search for those sinners who belong to Him through His sovereign choice of them, since like the lifeless, inanimate coin, they can do nothing on their own (Eph. 2:1–3). Jesus came all the way from heaven to earth to search for His lost ones, pursuing sinners into every dark corner, and then shining the light of the glorious gospel (2 Cor. 4:5–6; 1 Tim. 1:11) on them. Having found the lost sinner, God in Christ restores him or her to His heavenly treasury, and then expresses joy in which the holy inhabitants of heaven share.

Recovering the lost requires costly grace. The sinless Son of God became a man, lived with sinners, bore God’s wrath for sin on the cross, and rose in triumph from the grave. None of the false gods of the world’s religions are like the true and living God, who seeks and saves unworthy sinners because He values them as His own; who makes His enemies His friends for the sheer joy that He receives in saving them.

Yet God’s seeking and saving lost sinners does not happen apart from their repentance. That reality is not part of the sheep and coin stories, since they are not persons. It is, however, a theme of the last and longest of the three parables in this chapter, the tale of two sons and a loving father (vv. 11–32), which is the subject of the next chapter of this volume.[1]


The Lost Coin

Luke 15:8–10

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?” (Luke 15:8)

The Pharisees we meet in the Gospels were wrong about many things, including God’s requirements for salvation and their own righteousness, and wrong about the true identity of Jesus Christ. But at least they were right about this: Jesus was a man who welcomed sinners. We know this because they said, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

This is one of the best summaries of Jesus’ ministry anywhere in the Gospels. How ironic that it comes from the scribes and the Pharisees, who were speaking more truly than they even knew! To “receive” people in the biblical sense of the word (Gk. prosdechomai) was to welcome them into fellowship, to accept them and associate with them. In that culture, one of the most tangible ways to establish this kind of friendship was to share a meal. “To invite a man to a meal,” writes one scholar, “was an offer of peace, trust, brotherhood, and forgiveness; in short, sharing a table meant sharing life.”

This is the very essence of salvation: God the Son sharing his life with us. Remarkably, he shares his life with sinners. Some Bible translations put the word “sinners” in quotes, as if to indicate that somehow this was the wrong word for the Pharisees to use. But these people were sinners; this was just the word for them. They were reprobates. They were liars and cheats, lechers and lawbreakers, swindlers and thieves. In the words of John Chrysostom, “The tax-gatherer is the personification of licensed violence, of legal sin, of specious greed.” Yet Jesus welcomed these people into his fellowship. He even ate with them—not as a duty of philanthropy, but because he had mercy on people who were lost in their sins.

At the Table with Jesus

Jesus Christ is the friend of sinners. If you know that you are a sinner, then this is the best of all possible news, because it means that there is still hope. Despite the fact that we have fallen into sin—doing things we should never do, as well as not doing things that we really should do, and therefore deserving the wrath and curse of God—Jesus is ready to receive us. He wants to welcome us. If we come to him—even after everything we have done wrong—he will take us to himself. This ought to make what the Pharisees said one of the most joyful statements in Scripture: “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). Praise God!

The Pharisees did not say this with joyful praise, however. This is one of those times when you have to know how somebody said something to know what they really meant. Here Luke uses the little word “grumbled” to indicate what tone of voice the Pharisees used. The Greek version of the Old Testament used the same word to describe the way the children of Israel grumbled in the wilderness (e.g., Ex. 15:24). It expresses a strong undercurrent of discontent. When the Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners, they complained about it bitterly. Rather than making their remark with admiration, they made it with condemnation.

Jesus hardly could have done anything to give these men greater offense than to eat with sinners. A man is known by the company he keeps, and thus the Pharisees were shocked to see that Jesus preferred “the society of notorious sinners to their own irreproachable manners and decorous conversation.… They could not understand why a teacher of holy life, instead of frowning upon the notoriously profligate, should show a preference for their society.” As far as they were concerned, this could only mean that Jesus was guilty of moral laxity. He was not taking sin seriously enough, but going soft on depravity. The Pharisees believed that to eat with people who were known for loose living was to condone their immoral behavior. “Let not a man associate with the wicked,” the rabbis said, “not even to bring him to the law.”4 Jesus broke this tradition every time he sat down to eat dinner with sinners (which he did, of course, any time he ate with anyone at all, including the Pharisees!). To associate with people of low moral character was to give them public recognition. Thus the Pharisees accused Jesus of sharing in unrighteousness.

What the Pharisees saw as a problem was actually the solution! The very thing they criticized was the very thing Jesus had come to do. He had come to make sinners holy for God, and sharing table fellowship was part of his plan. It is only in being received by Jesus that anyone can ever be saved. How can Jesus help us unless he has a relationship with us? In that culture—and perhaps in any culture—having a relationship meant sharing a meal. So Jesus ate with sinners.

Rather than getting grumpy about this, the Pharisees should have been rejoicing. If they had, then the rest of what Jesus said in this chapter would not even be necessary. Replace the word “grumbled” with “rejoiced” in verse 2 and you get rid of everything that follows. But the Pharisees were grumbling, and therefore Jesus taught them a three-part parable about sharing God’s joy in finding what is lost.

What Woman …?

In the first part of this triple parable, a shepherd finds a lost sheep and brings it back home, rejoicing. In the third part of the parable, a father runs to embrace his long-lost son. In between those two famous parables Jesus told a story about a housewife who found her missing money: “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8–10).

The first lesson this story teaches is that Jesus cares as much about women as he cares about men. Although at first this may seem like an insignificant detail, Jesus begins by talking about a woman. He could just as well have told this story about a man, of course. In fact, one of the old Jewish rabbis told a somewhat similar story about a man who lost a little coin and then looked for it until he found it. The rabbi then compared the man’s careful search process to the way faithful Jews should look for hidden treasure in the Torah.

Jesus could have told his story about a man, too, but instead he chose to tell it about a woman. He did this despite the fact that he was speaking most directly to a group of men—the scribes and the Pharisees. There must have been women in the audience too, as there almost always were. In chapter 8 Luke told us that as Jesus went from place to place a large group of women went with him (Luke 8:1–3). These women were devoted to Jesus’ teaching. They wanted to hear everything he said, and on this occasion he told a story that touched the world of their experience—the story of a poor woman at home who lost one of her only coins.

As far as we know, this is something the rabbis never did: set the story of a woman side by side with the story of a man. First Jesus told a story about a man who went out into the wilderness to look for his sheep; then he told a story about a woman who swept her floor to look for her coin. By putting the story of a woman next to the story of a man, Jesus was reaching his whole audience.

This may still seem insignificant, but consider how many times something like this happens in the Gospel of Luke. Two miracles are performed, two stories are told, or two examples are given, and one of them relates specifically to women. First Jesus healed a centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1–10); then he raised a widow’s son (Luke 7:11–17). Jesus told two parables about how God answers prayer: one is the friend at midnight—a story about the man of the house (Luke 11:5–13), but the other is the story of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1–8). In teaching about the sign of Jonah, Jesus used two examples from the Old Testament: the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South (Luke 11:29–32). Jesus performed two miracles on the Sabbath: one was the woman with the disabling spirit (Luke 13:10–17), while the other was the man with dropsy (Luke 14:1–6). In describing the people that he saved, Jesus called one of them “a daughter of Abraham” (Luke 13:16) and the other “a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). Jesus told two parables about the kingdom of God. The first story was about a man working in his garden to sow a mustard seed (Luke 13:18–19); the second was about a woman working in the kitchen to mix leaven in with her dough (Luke 13:20–21). Similarly, in his teaching about the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus used examples of men working in the fields and women grinding out their grain (Luke 17:34–36).

Can you see what Jesus was doing? In contrast to the other preachers of his day, he wanted to teach women as much as men. To do that effectively, he made a point of using examples that related to their life experience. According to Luke, Jesus Christ is not a male chauvinist: his ministry, his gospel, his teaching, and his theology are explicitly for women.

There is more, because the woman in this parable represents the character of God himself. As she looks for her lost coin, and as she rejoices in finding it, she shows us the joy that God has in finding lost sinners. This is a connection people sometimes miss. It is easy to see that the shepherd who finds his lost sheep must be God the Son, who said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:14). It is also easy to see that the father who finds his lost son must be God the Father. But if these three stories are parallel, then in some way the woman who finds her lost coin must also represent God.

Going back to the early church fathers, many Christians have thought that this woman represents the Holy Spirit—an interpretation that seems to fit with the other stories in the parable. If the first story is about Jesus the Good Shepherd and the third story is about God the loving Father, then it would make good sense for the middle story to show us the Holy Spirit. There may even be a specific point of connection in the story, because in order to find her coin, the woman had to light her lamp. Perhaps this refers to the work of the Spirit in lighting our way to God.

Admittedly, this interpretation seems somewhat speculative. But whether the woman in the parable stands for the Spirit or not, she certainly shows us something about God. This is not to say that God is a woman. (He is not a man, either; God does not have a gender, although most commonly he uses masculine terms to reveal himself to us as the Father and the Son.) But from time to time—on rare occasions—God compares his attitudes and actions to the love of a woman. For example, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Isa. 66:13). To help us understand the comfort of his compassion, God says that his love is like a mother’s affection for her only son. Here in Luke, Jesus tells us that the love of God pursues us the way a poor woman pursues a lost coin.

God is not embarrassed to make this kind of comparison. The women he made in his image are able to reflect his grace, as Jesus showed throughout his earthly ministry. Jesus cared for the women in his life in a way that elevated their sense of dignity. Therefore anyone who treats women with disrespect, or fails to prize their gifts, or dismisses their capacity to learn sound theology, or puts them down in any way does not have the love of Christ, who cares about women as much as he cares about men.

As Precious as Silver

The story of the lost coin also teaches how precious we are to God. Notice that there is a progression in the larger parable. The lost sheep was only one out of a hundred. The lost coin is one of out ten. The lost son will be one out of two (although really both sons were lost, as we shall see). Needless to say, a coin cannot possibly compare with the precious life of a son, but since it is one out of ten, it would seem to be more precious than the sheep—at least as far as the ratio is concerned.

The coin was certainly precious to the woman, who we may infer was very poor. The coin she lost was a drachma, which in those days was roughly equivalent to a full day’s wage for a common laborer. It is hard to work out an exact equivalent, and it depends on what kind of work a person does, of course, but it would amount to perhaps a hundred dollars in today’s economy.

Needless to say, anyone who dropped a hundred dollar bill would take the trouble to look for it, especially someone living below the poverty line. Although the parable does not give us any other details about the woman’s financial situation, ten coins may well have represented her life savings, and therefore she would have guarded them with her life. According to custom, in those days a housewife would have kept her money in a chain around her neck, or else tied them up in a little rag. When she discovered that one of her coins was missing, she would have done anything to get it back. Her coin was too precious to lose; it had to be found.

The value this woman placed on her lost coin shows the great love that God has for lost sinners. We are as precious to him as silver—an analogy that works at several levels. To begin with, the relationship between the woman and her coin was that of ownership. Even when it was lost, the coin still belonged to her. In the same way, each of us belongs to God. Even if we have fallen away, and even if we never acknowledge him, we still belong to him by virtue of the fact that he made us. So when we finally come to God in repentance, through faith in Jesus Christ, God is getting back his own.

Another point of comparison—not mentioned explicitly in the parable, but illustrated by its central image—is that like the coin, we bear a royal likeness. At the time of Christ, coins generally bore the imprint of the Caesar in Rome. Since we are made in the image of our King, we too have been stamped with his likeness. Furthermore, silver is a metal that remains precious even after it tarnishes. Unless it is kept polished, silver will darken with time; nevertheless, it retains its value. This is our situation exactly. We were made precious when God fashioned us in his own image, giving us a dignity that surpasses all the other creatures. Sadly, our race has fallen into sin and is now darkened by all the sins of our depravity. Nevertheless, we are still valuable to God. Even in our lost and fallen condition, he considers us his prized possession.

Know for sure that we are precious to God. Now that Jesus has paid the price for our redemption by bleeding and dying for our sins on the cross, we are more precious to God than ever. Do not wonder whether or not your life is even worth living. Do not feel forgotten. Do not doubt that God loves you. The story of the lost coin shows that God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. Even when we are lost, we are still precious to God and will be useful to him when he finds us.

Lost!

This story also teaches that until God does find us, we are helplessly lost. A lost coin is certain to stay lost until it is found. We are in the same situation spiritually, for we cannot find ourselves. Once we are lost, we will stay lost until we are found by God.

Each of the stories in this triple parable has to do with something that is lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son. But notice that each of these things gets lost in a different way, so that together these stories give us a full picture of what it means to be lost. The sheep simply wandered away from its shepherd. Heedless of danger, it followed its own instincts and appetites. The same thing happens to us when we go off and pursue our own pleasures: we end up far away from God, and whether we realize it or not, our souls are in mortal danger. As we shall see, the son got lost by his own deliberate will. He chose to walk down the path of rebellion, and when he discovered that he was lost, he knew that he had no one to blame but himself. Yet the coin was lost through no apparent fault of its own. It slipped between the woman’s fingers, or fell out of her purse, or got knocked off the table, and then it was truly lost.

When we use this parable as an illustration of our own spiritual experience, we have to admit that what happened to the coin is never the whole story for us. We can never say that we got lost through no fault of our own. We are like the sheep that wandered away, or like the son who turned his back on his father and went to live in a far country. Yet, we may well be able to say that what happened to the coin is part of our story. The hard circumstances of our lives conspired to keep us away from God. Maybe no one took us to church when we were children, or taught us what the Bible says about salvation. Or maybe people sinned against us, and this only drove us further into sin. But however it happened, the reality is that we are as helplessly lost as a silver coin that has fallen from a woman’s purse and rolled into a forgotten corner of her home.

Now, despite our intrinsic value, we are useless to God. We do not have a faith relationship with Jesus Christ, and therefore we do not praise him, have not loved him, and will not serve him. This is what it means to be lost. “Like a coin that is lost,” writes Richard Phillips, “sinners lie unused and unseen, no longer contributing the value for which they were fashioned, while God’s image with which they were stamped is increasingly tarnished and covered with the dust of sinful living.”

Are you able to identify with that coin? Do you know what it means to be lost spiritually? What makes the situation so completely helpless is that coins cannot find themselves. A lost coin is hardly able to leap off the floor, land on the table, and roll back into its owner’s money bag! This is why the woman made such a diligent search: a coin will stay lost until it is found.

This illustrates our own spiritual situation until we are found by Christ: we will stay helplessly lost until Jesus comes to find us. Michael Wilcock describes this part of the parable as a story about “the finding of that which cannot help itself.” He explains:

The coin is lifeless, it cannot move, it can certainly not find its own way back like the son, it cannot even bleat for help like the sheep. Of course in some senses lost mankind is not, like the silver coin, inanimate. But spiritually—from the point of view of the Spirit—it is lifeless; and the coin is an apt symbol of those who see the requirements of God and know themselves incapable of rising to them. Only the all-powerful Spirit can rescue men who in that sense are lost.

A Thorough Search

We may be helplessly lost, but we are not hopelessly lost, because Jesus is able to come and save us. This is a fourth lesson from the story of the lost coin. Jesus does not simply leave us in our lost condition, but is looking to find us.

When the woman in the parable discovered that one of her precious coins was missing, she started to search for it. Although her coin was lost, it was not forgotten, and she was determined to get it back. In those days most homes were only about the size of a one-car garage, but they were very dark, with only a few small slits to let in the light. Typically floors were made of dirt, sometimes covered with straw. In Galilee, where Jesus came from, they were usually made of flagstones. How easy it was, therefore, for the woman’s coin to get covered with straw, or to be concealed by the dust, or to fall into a crack between two stones. In order to find it, she would have to light a lamp, get out her broom, and make a clean sweep.

In the first part of this parable, Jesus emphasized the persistence of the good shepherd, who looked for his lost sheep until he found it. The woman who lost her coin was equally persistent. She knew that the missing money had to be in her house somewhere, and she would not stop looking until she found it. But what Jesus especially emphasized was the meticulous thoroughness of her search. With extreme care the woman lit her lamp, swept her house, and searched diligently to find her lost coin. We can imagine her getting down on her hands and knees to examine every square inch of her home. Subjecting her floor to the most careful scrutiny, she looked in such a way as to find. This is the way people look for anything they really want to find. First they look in the most obvious places, but if the missing item is still nowhere to be found, they go back and conduct a more thorough investigation.

This is also the way that Jesus looks for lost sinners: in such a way as to find. The reason Jesus came to earth in the first place was to seek and to save what was lost. This is why he became a man, why he performed miracles, why he preached the kingdom of God, and why he died and rose again. Jesus was looking to find.

Even now he is still conducting his search, looking in every corner of the world for the sinners he died to save. Jesus has sent his gospel out into the world—the gospel that says everyone who trusts in his cross and believes in his empty tomb will be saved. He has sent his Spirit out into the world—the Spirit who convinces people they are lost in sin and invites them to come to Christ. He has sent his church out into the world—the church that proclaims the gospel, by the power of the Spirit, to all the unreached peoples on all the lost continents of the globe. Jesus is looking to find and seeking to save. With painstaking thoroughness, he will keep searching and searching until he finds every last one of the precious coins that belongs in his pocket.

If you are lost and waiting to be found, Jesus is looking to find you. He is searching and seeking to save you. Here is how Anne Lamott described her experience of being lost and getting found:

[Jesus] was relentless. I didn’t experience Him so much as the hound of heaven, as the old description has it, as the alley cat of heaven, who seemed to believe that if it just keeps showing up, mewling outside your door, you’d eventually open up and give him a bowl of milk.… I resisted as long as I could, like Sam-I-Am in Green Eggs and Ham.… He wore me out. He won. I was tired and vulnerable and He won.… Then, when I was dozing, tiny kitten that I was, He picked me up like a mother cat, by the scruff of my neck, and deposited me in a little church.… That’s where I was when I came to. And then I came to believe.

The Joy of Being Found

Every lost sinner has a different story to tell, because we all get found in different ways. But whenever and wherever and however Jesus finds us, we all share the same joy. This is the fifth and final lesson from the story of the lost coin: it is a joy to be found by Jesus Christ—a joy that lasts forever.

When the woman found her lost coin, she gathered her girlfriends to celebrate (the Greek words that Luke uses for “friends and neighbors” are feminine). Because her search was so rewarding, it led to great rejoicing, which is really the main point of this story. Thus Jesus ended this part of his parable by saying: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

This statement is virtually repeated from verse 7, where Jesus said there is “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Here in verse 10 he makes no comparison, but when he mentions “the angels of God,” once again he is pulling back the curtain so that we can see what joy there is in heaven whenever Jesus finds a lost sinner. Jesus ought to know, because he has been there!

It is always a joy to find something that is missing, as we know from everyday experience. Even if what we find is only something small, we invariably tell someone else about it. “Hey! Look what I found!” we say. “You’ll never guess what I just discovered!” Yet the simple joy of finding something lost cannot compare with the surpassing joy of being found by Jesus Christ. What a joy it is when Jesus finds you in your lost and helpless situation, when you respond by repenting of your sins and receiving the free gift of eternal life. What a joy it is to see someone else come to Christ. What a joy it is to the angels, who love to celebrate the grace of God for the poor lost sinners of our fallen race. What a joy it also is to God himself. When Jesus spoke about “joy before the angels,” he was not referring only or even primarily to the joy that the angels have, but also to the joy which they witness every time a sinner gets saved. The angels see the joy of God.

If you want to bring joy to the heart of God—and to your own heart—then turn away from your sin and trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation. If you are not yet a believer, the angels are waiting to celebrate. What joy there will be in heaven when you finally come to Christ! Then, once you have come to Christ, do everything you can to welcome other people with the love of God, just as Jesus welcomed the tax collectors and the sinners. Jesus is looking to receive sinners, and he is calling you to be part of the search party.

A beautiful example of the way Jesus looks for lost sinners—and of the joy he brings when they are found—comes from the Bayview Glen Church in Toronto, Ontario, where Pastor Sam Nasser was preaching in Persian to an Iranian congregation during the summer of 2004. Pastor Nasser was troubled by the fact that one of the women in the church was talking on her cell phone during the worship service. At first he thought it must be some kind of emergency, but when it happened again the following week he was even more disturbed.

Nasser invited the woman to his office to confront her about this ongoing distraction. “Pastor,” she said, “I already told you! My husband in Iran is very interested in how I became a Christian because of listening to you.” This still did not explain the cell phone, but when the pastor asked for a further explanation, the woman said,

I bought a calling card, and I call my husband in Tehran so he can hear you preaching. He puts the call on the speakerphone so my mother and sister can hear too. They have been inviting other friends and family over, and for the past three months, they have been listening to you preach. More people come every week. I am not talking on the phone. I’m just holding it up so they can hear your message about Jesus!

Needless to say, Pastor Nasser invited the woman to sit right at the front of the church. The following week he preached on the love of Jesus for his precious children. At the end of the service he asked if anyone wanted to pray to receive Christ. Suddenly the woman with the cell phone started to shout: “My husband! My husband! My husband got saved! My mother and sister want to come to the Lord too!”

Even if he does it over the cell phone halfway around the world, Jesus is looking for lost sinners. He is looking for them every time somebody preaches the gospel. He is looking for them right now. I pray that he will find you, because I know that when he does, you will rejoice. So will the hosts of heaven. And so will Jesus.[2]


The Coin A Woman Lost And Found

Luke 15:8–10

‘Or, what woman who has ten silver pieces, if she loses one piece, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me because I have found the silver piece which I lost.” Even so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

The coin in question in this parable was a silver drachma. It would not be difficult to lose a coin in a Palestinian peasant’s house and it might take a long search to find it. The houses were very dark, for they were lit by one little circular window not much more than about eighteen inches across. The floor was beaten earth covered with dried reeds and rushes; and to look for a coin on a floor like that was very much like looking for a needle in a haystack. The woman swept the floor in the hope that she might see the coin glint or hear it tinkle as it moved.

There are two reasons why the woman may have been so eager to find the coin.

(1) It may have been a matter of sheer necessity. It was only one coin but it would have been worth more than a whole day’s wage for a working man in Palestine. These people lived always on the edge of things and very little stood between them and real hunger. The woman may well have searched with intensity because if she did not find the coin, the family would not eat.

(2) There may have been a much more romantic reason. The mark of a married woman was a head-dress made of ten silver coins linked together by a silver chain. For years maybe a girl would scrape and save to amass her ten coins, for the head-dress was almost the equivalent of her wedding ring. When she had it, it was so inalienably hers that it could not even be taken from her for debt. It may well be that it was one of these coins that the woman had lost, and so she searched for it as any woman would search if she lost her marriage ring.

In either case it is easy to think of the joy of the woman when at last she saw the glint of the elusive coin and when she held it in her hand again. God, said Jesus, is like that. The joy of God, and of all the angels, when one sinner comes home, is like the joy of a home when a coin which has stood between them and starvation has been lost and is found; it is like the joy of a woman who loses her most precious possession, with a value far beyond money, and then finds it again.

No Pharisee had ever dreamed of a God like that. A great Jewish scholar has admitted that this is the one absolutely new thing which Jesus taught about God—that he actually searched for us. A Jew might have agreed that those who came crawling home to God in self-abasement and prayed for pity might find it; but he would never have conceived of a God who went out to search for sinners. We believe in the seeking love of God, because we see that love incarnate in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to seek and to save that which was lost.[3]


10. Similarly, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who is converted.

Does this passage mean that the angels rejoice when a sinner is converted? There can be no question about the fact that God’s holy angels take a deep interest in our salvation. See Matt. 18:10; 25:31; Luke 2:10–14; 1 Cor. 13:1; 1 Peter 1:12; Rev. 3:5; 5:11; 14:10. They may know more about it than we imagine, for they dwell in God’s immediate presence. Hence, their rejoicing over a sinner’s conversion must not be ruled out.

But that is not exactly the teaching of our passage; at least, that is not its main point. That main point is this: God, who has his dwelling in the presence of the angels, seeks sinners, and rejoices over even one of them who repents or is converted. So, should not you, Pharisees and scribes, be concerned about those people you now despise? Should you not do all in your power to help them?

On the subject of God’s deep interest in sinners and his joy in their conversion and salvation see also the following beautiful passages: Isa. 62:5; Jer. 7:13 (and its many parallels in that book); 32:41; Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Hos. 11:8; Zeph. 3:17; John 3:16; Rom. 5:6–11; 8:32; 2 Peter 3:9.[4]


Luke 15:10. There will be joy in the presence of the angels. If angels mutually rejoice with each other in heaven, when they see that what had wandered is restored to the fold, we too, who have the same cause in common with them, ought to be partakers of the same joy. But how does he say that the repentance of one ungodly man yields greater joy than the perseverance of many righteous men to angels, whose highest delight is in a continued and uninterrupted course of righteousness? I reply, though it would be more agreeable to the wishes of angels (as it is also more desirable) that men should always remain in perfect integrity, yet as in the deliverance of a sinner, who had been already devoted to destruction, and had been cut off as a rotten member from the body, the mercy of God shines more brightly, he attributes to angels, after the manner of men, a greater joy arising out of an unexpected good.

Over one repenting sinner. The word repentance is specially limited to the conversion of those who, having altogether turned aside from God, rise as it were from death to life; for otherwise the exercise of repentance ought to be uninterrupted throughout our whole life, and no man is exempted from this necessity, since every one is reminded by his imperfections that he ought to aim at daily progress. But it is one thing, when a man, who has already entered upon the right course, though he stumble, or fall, or even go astray, endeavours to reach the goal; and another thing, when a man leaves a road which was entirely wrong, or only starts in the right course. Those who have already begun to regulate their life by the standard of the divine law, do not need that kind of repentance which consists in beginning to lead a holy and pious life, though they must groan under the infirmities of the flesh, and labour to correct them.[5]


Vers. 9, 10.—And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. Again, as in the parable of the lost sheep, we find this longing for sympathy; again the finding of this sympathy in heavenly places, among heavenly beings, is especially recorded. There is a slight difference in the language of rejoicing here. In the first parable it was, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost;” here, “… for I have found the piece which I had lost.” In the first it was the anguish of the sheep which was the central point of the story; in the second it was the distress of the woman who had lost something; hence this difference in the wording. “What grandeur belongs to the picture of this humble rejoicing which this poor woman celebrates with her neighbours, when it becomes the transparency through which we get a glimpse of God himself, rejoicing with his elect and his angels over the salvation of a single sinner!” (Godet).[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2013). Luke 11–17 (pp. 299–301). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Ryken, P. G. (2009). Luke. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (Vol. 2, pp. 113–125). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Luke (pp. 239–241). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, p. 749). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 341–342). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, p. 41). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

October 19 Order

scripture reading: Nehemiah 1
key verse: Matthew 14:23

When He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.

Sociological studies show that despite increased leisure time, Americans feel more pressured than ever. With increased freedoms and opportunities come more choices; with more choices, more decisions are required.

The key to living an orderly life in the midst of such frenzy is an established prayer life in which you can present your needs and agenda to the all–wise God. Nehemiah understood this foundational principle.

When he heard the news of Jerusalem’s plight, he did not immediately organize a rescue squad or launch a new organization. Nehemiah’s response was to pray: “I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4 nasb).

For four long months, Nehemiah interceded on Jerusalem’s behalf, asking God for direction and wisdom. Then when the time came to petition King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah’s request was granted miraculously (Neh. 2:1–6).

Order in your life begins with the rule of the Holy Spirit and the outworking of God’s plan. The discernment to implement His plan comes as you spend time in fervent prayer, seeking His mind and purposes.

Dear heavenly Father, I realize that order in my life begins with the rule of Your Holy Spirit—so please, come and rule and reign in my life. Implement Your plan and purposes. Bring order out of chaos.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

19 october (preached 18 march 1860) 365 Days with Spurgeon

Memento mori

“Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.” Deuteronomy 32:29

suggested further reading: Ecclesiastes 12:1–7

I know not when, nor where, nor how I shall breathe out my life. Into that sacred ark I cannot look—that ark of the secrets of God. I cannot pry between the folded leaves of that book which is chained to the throne of God, wherein is written the whole history of man. When I walk by the way I may fall dead in the streets; an apoplexy may usher me into the presence of my Judge. Riding along the road, I may be carried as swiftly to my tomb. While I am thinking of the multitudes of miles over which the fiery wheels are running, I may be in a minute, without a moment’s warning, sent down to the shades of death. In my own house I am not safe. There are a thousand gates to death, and the roads from earth to Hades are innumerable. From this spot in which I stand there is a straight path to the grave; and where you sit there is an entrance into eternity. Oh, let us consider then, how uncertain life is. Talk we of a hair; it is something massive when compared with the thread of life. Speak we of a spider’s web; it is ponderous compared with the web of life. We are but as a bubble; nay, less substantial. As a moment’s foam upon the breaker, such are we. As an instant spray—nay, the drops of spray are enduring as the orbs of heaven compared with the moments of our life. Oh, let us, then, prepare to meet our God, because when and how we shall appear before him is quite unknown to us. We may never go out of this hall alive. Some of us may be carried hence on young men’s shoulders, as Ananias and Sapphira of old. We may not live to see our homes again.

for meditation: The New Park Street Pulpit contains no sermons from October 1856. On the 19th a congregation of some 7,000 assembled for the first time at the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall. As Spurgeon prayed some troublemakers cried out “Fire” and in the ensuing panic seven people were trampled to death. Spurgeon never forgot it. “Memento mori”—“Remember you must die.”

sermon no. 304[1]

 

[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 299). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

19 OCTOBER 365 Days with Calvin

Growing in Goodness

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. Ephesians 4:17–18

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 6

Let us learn to walk in the fear of God, noting what Paul sets down here about the consummation of all evil. He says this to show us the wages God will pay to all who do not yield to him in due time and place.

Let us quake at such threats, fearing that God will execute them upon us when we cannot bear to be rebuked for our vices. Let us urge ourselves forward and afflict ourselves for our vices. When we entertain vices, let us become so inwardly ashamed that we abase and condemn ourselves until God has relieved us of them in his mercy.

We must put this teaching of Paul’s into practice so that once God has joined us to him through our Lord Jesus Christ and given us life, we may take heed that this new life is not obscured and quenched in us through our own malice and ingratitude.

In continuing this teaching, let us learn first of all to humble ourselves, for it is certain that humility will cause us to come to God. Second, let humility be joined with carefulness so that we are not so indifferent as to flatter ourselves. For through the same carefulness we must strive to the utmost to fight against our vices and lusts, waiting upon our Lord until he rids us completely of them.

In the meantime, let us always be gaining some victory, be it very little indeed, so that it may continually appear that our Lord Jesus Christ is working in us and making his grace prevail by causing us always to progress in goodness. May we be so much in love with goodness that we grow more and more in it until God takes us out of this world.

for meditation: How important it is for believers to “walk the talk” of being a vital Christian. Many talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, forgetting that, as has been said, our walk talks more than our talk talks. Are you prayerfully striving every day to be salt in the earth and light on the hill by having your talk and your walk be consistent in glorifying God?[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 311). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

October 19, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

The Test of Wisdom

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. (3:13)

Some interpreters believe the phrase who among you refers only to the teachers, or would-be teachers, addressed in verse 1. But it seems more probable that, like the intervening section on the tongue (vv. 2–12), this section on wisdom (vv. 13–18) applies to everyone in the churches to whom James was writing, true believers and mere professed believers. James is seeking to identify who is truly skilled in the art of righteous living. “In what way are you wise?” he is saying, in effect, “and in what way are you understanding? The answer will reveal not only your inner character but the spiritual condition of your soul.”

It is hard to find a self-professed fool. Most people have an elevated and unrealistically high opinion of their wisdom, although they might not say so. They believe they are just as “savvy” as the next person and that their opinion is usually better than anyone else’s. In this day of relativism, such perception is virtually universal.

Although the two terms seem to be used synonymously here, wise and understanding carry a shade of difference in meaning. Sophos (wise) is a general word, often used by the Greeks to designate speculative knowledge, theory, or philosophy. For the Jews, as noted earlier, it carried the deeper meaning of careful application of knowledge to personal living. Epistēmōn (understanding) appears only here in the New Testament and carries the idea of specialized knowledge, such as that of a highly skilled tradesman or professional.

Let him show translates an aorist imperative, making the verb a command. “If you claim wisdom and understanding,” he is saying, “show it first by your good behavior, your exemplary lifestyle.” As with faith (2:17), wisdom and understanding that are not demonstrated in righteous, godly living are devoid of spiritual value.

Second, and somewhat more specifically, James admonishes readers to show their wisdom and understanding by their good (implied) deeds, by all the particular activities and endeavors they are involved in.

Third, believers are to demonstrate wisdom and understanding by an attitude of gentleness. People who are wise in their own eyes are generally arrogant about it, which would be expected, because an elevated self-view is based on pride. As made clear in the following verse, selfish ambition is a common companion of arrogance.

Prautēs (gentleness) and its related adjective praus (gentle) carry the idea of tenderness and graciousness, and can be accurately translated “meekness” and “meek,” respectively. But unlike those English words, the Greek terms do not connote weakness but rather power under control. The adjective was often used of a wild horse that was broken and made useful to its owner. For believers, gentleness is to be willingly under the sovereign control of God. Numbers 12:3 (kjv) describes Moses as “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Yet that same Moses could act decisively, and flared up in anger when provoked.

Gentleness is a God-honored character trait, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is never bitter, malicious, self-seeking, self-promoting, arrogant, or vengeful. James has earlier admonished believers, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility (prautēs) receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (1:21). Gentleness or meekness is to characterize everyone in the kingdom of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Our Lord used it of Himself, saying, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29; cf. 21:5).

In his excellent nineteenth-century commentary on James, Robert Johnstone wrote:

I do not know that at any point the opposition between the spirit of the world and the Spirit of Christ is more marked, more obviously diametrical, than with regard to this feature of character. That “the meek” should “inherit the earth”—they who bear wrongs, and exemplify that love which “seeketh not her own,”—to a world which believes in high-handedness and self-assertion, and pushing the weakest to the wall, a statement like this of the Lord from heaven cannot but appear an utter paradox. The man of the world desires to be counted anything but “meek” or “poor in spirit,” and would deem such a description of him equivalent to a charge of unmanliness. Ah, brethren, this is because we have taken in Satan’s conception of manliness instead of God’s. One Man has been shown us by God, in whom His ideal of man was embodied; and He, “when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously”; He for those who nailed Him to the tree prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” The world’s spirit of wrath, then, must be folly; whilst than a spirit of meekness like His, in the midst of controversy, oppositions, trials of whatever kind, there can be no surer evidence that “Jesus is made of God to His people wisdom.” …

We have here again what may be described as the central thought of this epistle, that where religion [the gospel] has real saving hold of a mind and heart, it cannot from its nature but powerfully influence the outward life; and that the more a Christian has of true wisdom and spiritual knowledge, the more manifestly will his life at all points be governed by his religion [faith]. Talk of orthodoxy and Christian experience, however fluent and animated and clever, does not of itself prove wisdom; the really wise man will “show his work.” (A Commentary on James [reprint; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977], 261–62; 259)[1]


The Way of Wisdom (3:13)

James says that anyone who is wise and understanding shows it by his good life, by deeds that reflect wisdom. The way of wisdom is the way of humility. True wisdom is gentle, meek, humble. If we walk in the path of wisdom, we know that our wisdom is “from above”—a gift of God (James 3:17 esv). Humble faith, a faith that comes from heaven, is the source of the wise life.

Earlier James said we are saved, reborn, by the implanted word (1:18, 21). Now he returns to the gift of God. The gifts of God are humility, wisdom, and self-control. These gifts allow us to resist evil within ourselves and in the world. Our progress is partial, yet by God’s grace, progress is possible. Progress is James’s goal as he writes this section.

If we are wise, we show it by our good life over a span of years. Individual good deeds matter, but just now James has in mind our customs, our way of life, our lifestyle. He asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” If someone claims to be, James says it should show in two ways: by a beautiful lifestyle and by deeds done in the gentleness of wisdom. Both points deserve comment.

On a Beautiful Lifestyle (3:13)

The New Testament commands believers roughly thirty times to imitate someone or something. About half of those command us to imitate a Christian leader, such as Paul or an elder (e.g., 1 Cor. 4:16; Heb. 6:12; 13:7). The rest direct us to imitate Jesus or the Father (e.g., Matt. 10:24–25; 20:25–28; Eph. 4:32; 5:1; Phil. 2:1).

When Scripture bids us to imitate someone, it leads us to an exemplary life, not a law. It bids us look to a model of excellence, a hero. It is not so much a command as an invitation to a beautiful or excellent life. Consciously or not, people are constantly looking for models. Parents of newborn babies watch and seek counsel from parents of sweet toddlers. Parents of twelveyear-olds observe wise parents of teenagers. Sixty-year-olds look to friends who have retired well. We rightly look for lives that stir admiration, and we think, “I want to be like that.”

A Christian is obligated to keep God’s law, but Christian living is more than law-keeping. It is especially deleterious to narrow the grandeur of the law to a set of rules. Many Christians think this way: “As a Christian I do certain things that pagans do not. I read the Bible, pray, worship, and witness to Christ. I also avoid certain things that pagans do. I don’t get drunk, curse, smoke, take drugs, or watch certain movies.”

Some Christians think, “If I do the things in group A and shun the things in group B, God will be pleased. I simply need to know the rules and follow them.” God is pleased when we obey his law, but if a disciple thinks of nothing but law, he can descend into a kind of legalism.

The Christian life includes “good deeds” and obedience to the law. But it is more. We also bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). We are “transformed by the renewal of the mind” (Rom. 12:2). We have a “spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The images of fruit and wells of water teach that the Christian life involves more than rule-keeping. There is a certain spontaneity to it. When we live by the quiet work of the Spirit, the beautiful lifestyle becomes commonplace, almost invisible to us, as automatic as the turns we make as we drive to work daily.

This leads to the happy announcement King Jesus makes on judgment day. He will bless his people, saying, “Come … take your inheritance.… For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.…” The righteous will ask “When?” because they will not remember it (Matt. 25:34–39).

We do not remember, do not notice what has become routine kindness. As the Lord changes the heart, our virtues and good deeds become habits that are invisible to us. When loving-kindness flows from a renewed heart, not from conscious efforts to keep regulations, it creates the beautiful lifestyle James has in mind (3:13).

What James calls “the wisdom that comes from heaven” drives the excellent life. The wise demonstrate God’s wisdom daily. They inspire others by giving them a living model of righteousness that incarnates the will of God. Their lives become models of righteousness. They become our heroes in the faith as they reflect the character of Christ.

A man whom we may call John does this for many who know him. As an immature Christian working for a diplomatic mission in South America, he met and married a bright, attractive local woman. She went to church and read the Bible, but never made a clear profession of faith in Christ. John knew he should marry a fellow believer, but he convinced himself that she would come to faith soon after they married.

She did not. Over the years, he became serious about his faith. He became a bulwark of his church, a man of prayer and a teacher. But the more he grew, the more she turned against the faith. She eventually became a committed atheist who hated the church and Christian ideas. She despised her husband’s faith, and it sometimes seemed that she despised him. But how he loved her, and still does! Patient and tender, he endures her scorn and models faithfulness to all who know him. If any man is impatient with his wife’s petty flaws, John’s very life corrects him. John is a hero; he has a beautiful life.

This capacity to love someone who despises much that we hold dear is wisdom from above. It inspires us to seek that wisdom for ourselves. It grants us a vision of godliness and an aspiration for it.[2]


13 In the ancient world, to be “wise” (sophos, GK 5055) could refer to being skilled or experienced (e.g., 1 Co 3:10); but most often in biblical literature, the word communicates an understanding that results in right attitudes and right living, for God himself is wise (Ro 16:27; 1 Co 1:25) and therefore is the source of divine wisdom. James wants his audience to consider such godly wisdom, for he asks rhetorically, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” The term translated “understanding” (epistēmōn, GK 2184) has to do with being knowledgeable or expert in some area of life. It may be that there were strong personalities in the churches James addresses—people who boasted of their great learning and “wisdom,” insisting that their perspectives on certain matters be given the highest consideration. Yet James issues a reminder that true wisdom “speaks” loudest in one primary way: a life lived well and with an attitude of humility. Thus one must “show,” or demonstrate (deiknymi, GK 1259), “deeds” (ta erga, GK 2240) associated with a righteous pattern of life. This “good life” (tēs kalēs ana-strophēs, GK 2819, 419) constitutes high moral quality and excellence of conduct (Gal 1:13; Eph 4:22; Heb 13:7; 1 Pe 3:2). Further, true wisdom is the source of humility, so the “showing” of good deeds, which really stems from divine wisdom, will manifest itself in a humbleness of spirit rather than stimulating a boastful attitude. The word rendered “humility” (prautēs, GK 4559) by the NIV and “gentleness” by the NASB can also carry the meaning “courtesy” or “considerateness,” and, given the relational conflicts addressed in the passage, these nuances may be in line with James’s intention.[3]


13 Having given sincere teachers a warning to beware of the ever present dangers of the tongue, dangers notably great in their work, James now tries to awaken insincere teachers to a proper sense of their vocation.

Of teaching the Jewish ideal was high, as is shown in the Jewish use of the term “wise” for the teacher: it signifies “in Jewish usage one who has a knowledge of practical moral wisdom, resting on a knowledge of God” (Ropes, p. 244). Since the Fall no man, except Jesus as man, of any time, past or present, can be absolutely innocent of sin, in his nature and behavior: it is the effort that distinguishes between those who seek and those who do not seek righteousness, i.e., between those on the one hand who genuinely believe that there is such a thing as right distinct from wrong, and believe that God exists, and those on the other hand who do not make the effort to serve him.

We must therefore realize the difference between worldly and genuine wisdom, between self-seeking and genuine prophets (see Matt. 7:16–20). Worldliness is the negation of true wisdom (“from above”), and James uses the strongest possible language in condemning it (3:15). Here, as constantly in his Epistle (e.g., 2:1–9), he is condemning not just a possible but an actual and present evil. Sincerity is a sine qua non: worldly self-seekers cannot receive true wisdom (2 Tim. 3:7). That is the doctrine that sounds in James’s terms, already mentioned, “wavering,” “double-minded,” “undivided,” “anarchic,” which last recalls “traitors”46 in 2 Tim. 3:4.

The first step in genuine wisdom is to know God: he that would come to God must believe that he exists, and that his reward, not the world’s, is the reward we must seek. Upon this knowledge and conviction follows the task of applying his principles and rules to our life: that is the Jewish religious ideal of practical moral wisdom (1:12ff.; 3:15ff.). W. D. Ross wrote:

Practical wisdom cannot exist independently of virtue. The power to attain one’s end, be it good or bad, is not practical wisdom but cleverness.… Let the wrong end be aimed at, and it becomes mere clever roguery. And just as practical wisdom implies moral virtue, moral virtue in the proper sense implies practical wisdom.

Now, if all true wisdom is the servant or ally of our aim to live according to God’s will, it is self-evident that the attributes and qualities of true wisdom will be the same as those of the godly life. It is therefore not surprising but inevitable that James’s panegyric of true wisdom should largely be word for word identical with the vocabulary of the several NT descriptions of the Christian life. Of a host of passages we mention only Gal. 5:22f.; Eph. 4:2; Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:13f.; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:25; Tit. 3:2. “Undivided in mind” is James’s characteristic way of reprobating the man “of divided mind” and insisting on the well-known prime essential of Christianity, faith: his other adjectives seem to raise no question at all.

“Wise man” is used of the genuine teacher (see headnote, pp. 138f.). False pretenders abounded then as always. “Who is …?” is used as a vivid alternative for: “If there is a.…” The test is sound: in meekness of wisdom is a Hebrew idiom for “in wise meakness” or “in meek wisdom,” but here the Hebrew is preferable even in English. This is not “a paradox” (Hort) but almost a genuine Christian truism.

The doctrine here is: “If anyone of you is, or claims to be, a man of wisdom and knowledge, let him see that he makes his virtuous life show the peaceable temper of wisdom.” This is the only train of thought that can logically lead to James’s verses 16, 17, and 18. We must not be misled by Ropes here, “prove not his wisdom but his meekness.” There is no question of his “pointing to his good works,” but of his behavior, by its quality pointing to his wisdom. Works will be done in the spirit of meekness, and this—not arrogance or argument—is the mark of true wisdom. R. Eleazar ben Azarya asked: “He whose wisdom is greater than his works, to what is he compared? To a tree the branches of which are many, but its roots are few.” We must not think the evidence is more important than what it proves: my arrogance would be a danger (at least principally) to my own soul; my false doctrine, heresy, and schism are a menace not only to me but in fact principally to the whole Christian religion. Moreover, true wisdom always produces wisdom in its possessor, but meekness often goes with hypocrisy: “by their fruits you shall know them” (Matt. 7:20).[4]


6.2.1. Question (3:13a)

The question “Who is wise and understanding among you?” is more than a quest for information. James’s rhetorical intent is not so much to identify who are such persons as to describe such persons, as both the answer in 3:13b and the expositions in 3:14–18 will reveal. James’s description will not permit the teacher to think his or her mastery of theology or exegesis is sufficient to pass muster. What passes muster for James is behavior shaped by humble wisdom.

The combination of “wise and understanding” is found often enough in the Hebrew Bible that we can take it as shorthand for “teaching” in 3:1. Thus, Deuteronomy 1:13, 15:

Choose for each of your tribes individuals who are wise, discerning, and reputable to be your leaders.… So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and reputable individuals, and installed them as leaders over you (see also 4:6; Job 28:28).

The wording is Solomonic:

God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore (1 Kgs 4:29).

And Danielic:

There is a man in your kingdom who is endowed with a spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father he was found to have enlightenment, understanding, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners, because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation (Dan 5:11–12).

And common in the Dead Sea Scrolls:

Upon earth their operations are these: one enlightens a man’s mind, making straight before him the paths of true righteousness and causing his heart to fear the laws of God. This spirit engenders humility, patience, abundant compassion, perpetual goodness, insight, understanding, and powerful wisdom resonating to each of God’s deeds, sustained by His constant faithfulness. It engenders a spirit knowledgeable in every plan of action, zealous for the laws of righteousness, holy in its thoughts and steadfast in purpose. This spirit encourages plenteous compassion upon all who hold fast to truth, and glorious purity combined with visceral hatred of impurity in its every guise. It results in humble deportment allied with a general discernment, concealing the truth, that is, the mysteries of knowledge. To these ends is the earthly counsel of the spirit to those whose nature yearns for truth (1QS 4:2–6; also 11:6; 1QS20 19:25).

Once again, we need to turn to the audience of these verses. James’s concern is with leaders in the messianic community, and they were identified as teachers in 3:1. Moo contends the terms in 3:13a are not regular titles for teachers, but I have to wonder if we have enough evidence of “titles” and whether this sort of observation is not imposing a modern way of referring to functions/gifts on the ancient world. Moo admits that in the Old Testament these expressions refer in all but one instance to leaders, and that concession is not without significance for understanding James 3:13. Furthermore, what needs to be observed is that the wisdom tradition, from Proverbs to Sirach, was shaped for sages. It might be wiser to say that teaching is a characteristic behavior of the sage than to say that sagacity is a characteristic of teachers. It would also be wise to observe that “sage” is a charisma more than it is a title or an office.149

6.2.2. Answer (3:13b)

James’s answer is “Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” This sentence sounds as if James is once again appealing to the significance of works for genuine believers (1:22–27; 2:14–26). But what he says here is different. It is not so much that a person’s faith must reveal works, but more that a genuinely wise teacher’s works are done in ways that manifest meekness and wisdom. Thus, the order is not quite the same as we find in Jesus: “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (Matt 11:19).

The wise teacher, or sage, will “show” “works” in his or her “good life.” The word “show” evokes the sense of manifest and exhibit.151 By “works” James no doubt has in mind good human behavior, but one cannot fail to observe that it involves compassion for the poor (1:9–11, 26–27; 2:2–4; 5:1–6) and loving speech patterns (1:19–21; 3:1–12; 4:1–12). “Works” flow from “the good life,” the pattern of one’s life, a term (anastrophē) common in Paul’s letters (Gal 1:13; Eph 4:22; 1 Tim 4:12) and 1 Peter (1:15; 2:12; 3:1–2, 16; also 2 Pet 2:7; 3:11) but not found elsewhere in James. James’s concern here is a pattern of life that routinely and habitually manifests good works.

James now brings up the word “wisdom,” the central concern of the paragraph (and some say the entire letter). To remind ourselves of a point made above, he does not tell the good teacher to be wise, but to manifest good works in wisdom. A grammatical question arises here: Does “with gentleness born of wisdom” modify the verb “show,” thus creating two prepositional modifiers of the verb? That is, “Show works, first, on the basis of a good life and, second, in the meekness of wisdom.” Or does it modify the “works,” thus connecting works to wisdom more tightly? That is, “Show works born of a gentle wisdom.” Grammatically, the second option has in its favor the proximity of the prepositional phrase (en praütēti sophias, “in meekness of wisdom”), while the former view has in its favor a grammatical balancing of the verb by two prepositional phrases. However, this may be too fine analysis for James. By the time one gets to “in the meekness of wisdom,” one has already heard “works.” Thus, if one proposes a second modifier of the verb (first option) one has to admit that the second prepositional phrase, because it comes after “works,” already includes the notion of works. Thus, the rhetoric is more consecutive and cumulative (second option) than the syntax is technically analytical. James builds from “show” to “on the basis of the good life” to “works” and then, after this, to “in the meekness of wisdom.”

James, in solid Jewish tradition, informs the teachers that they are to show their good works “with gentleness born of wisdom.”154 As in 1:21, where the messianic community was urged to receive the word with vulnerable receptivity, so here: the teacher is to do good works with a vulnerability, a non-aggressiveness, a non-boastful approach to life. The oddity of humility as a virtue among early Christians in the context of the Roman world, especially emphatic in Paul’s letters, has been observed by many. But, ʿanavâ, the Hebrew term for this moral virtue, was also important to the rabbis. It goes back to the classic line about Moses, who, when being criticized—and nothing could be more appropriate to the teachers in James’s audience—was described in these words: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3). And Jesus, too, was humble (Matt 11:29; 21:5; 2 Cor 10:1). The implication of this evidence is that humility or gentleness is non-retaliation in the face of criticism. Wise teachers are non-retaliatory, and teachers know full well the temptation to respond with harshness. Wisdom, then, for James has to do with both a grasp of God’s will and a life that conforms to that will, and that life will not be noted by the things we are about to find in 3:14–18. And it is there that we will be able to find a full understanding of what James means by “wisdom.” But for now we need to observe that wisdom, as can be seen in Proverbs 1:1–7, produces in sages and leaders the following attributes: receptivity toward instruction, the moral virtues of righteousness, justice, and equity, cognitive prudence and instruction, and what can best be translated as “skill” (tahbulot, Prov 1:5; see also 9:7–12).

The question James asks in 3:13a is intended to open up the opportunity for him to clarify how the teachers of the messianic community are to behave. We are left with the suggestion that that wisdom and understanding are for James not simply cognitive mastery but behavioral. The climactic behavior James has in mind, as 3:18 will make abundantly clear, is a community marked by peaceableness. A simple summary of what James teaches in 3:13–18 to teachers is: a wise teacher is the one who creates godly, loving peace in the community.[5]


3:13 / James has already argued for simple, sincere speech; now he makes an appeal. Who is wise and understanding among you? At one level this is a question that simply asks if someone fits the description, but at a deeper level one remembers that 1 Corinthians 1–3 describes a church in which rival teachers claimed superior wisdom, and perhaps that was happening in James’ community as well. At the least, he knows that the teachers of 3:1 were claiming to be understanding, for how else could they teach? It is such persons, as well as those who aspire to understanding, whom James addresses.

How are such persons to show their wisdom? By clever refutation of those who disagree with their position? By no means; rather, show it by [their] good life. Jesus had taught that one would know true teachers from false ones by how they lived (Matt. 7:15–23). James is applying his master’s teaching. Lifestyle was absolutely critical for the early church. Elders were primarily examples (1 Pet. 5:3; 1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:10–11), secondarily teachers: Their qualifications stress their exemplary lives and only mention their teaching ability as one item among many (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). Lifestyle was an important witness as well (1 Pet. 2:12; 3:2, 16), for if it did not succeed in converting, it at least removed the excuses from the mouths of unbelievers at the final judgment. James states that not one’s orthodoxy (right preaching) but one’s orthopraxis (right living) is the mark of true wisdom. One must reject the teacher who does not live like Jesus; one discounts the profession that does not lead to holiness.

James stresses two marks of this lifestyle. The first is good deeds. Actions do speak louder than words (Matt. 5:16). The works one does show where the heart is really invested (e.g., Matt. 6:19–21, 24). James commends such practices as charity and caring for widows as marks of wisdom.

The second mark is performing these deeds in the humility that comes from wisdom. Unlike the hypocrites of Matthew 6:1–5, the truly wise know how to act out of humility: They are not building their own reputations. Like Moses (Num. 12:3) and Jesus (Matt. 11:29; 21:5; 2 Cor. 10:1), they are not interested in defending themselves. They avoid conflict and especially avoid advertising themselves. Humility is the mark of the truly wise.[6]


3:13 Who is wise and understanding …? “Wisdom” and “understanding” are virtually synonymous here. Both refer to the ability to live life well—in other words, being mature. “Wisdom” is knowledge put into practice, and “understanding” refers to “being knowledgeable in a way that makes one effectual in the exercise of such knowledge.” James is demonstrating what wisdom looks like as he takes knowledge in 3:13–18 and correctly applies it to his readers’ situation in 4:1–10.

by deeds done in the humility. “Deeds” is the same word used twelve times in 2:14–26. James is still concerned about good works, but now he is emphasizing that these good works are done in a spirit of “humility.” It is not enough to do good things; they must be done in the right spirit. First Corinthians 13:1–4 says the same thing.

In this context two different words are translated with the word “humility/humble”: praytēs in 3:13 and tapeinos/tapeinoō in 4:6, 10. These are related words, and when they appear together in the New Testament, the NIV translates praytēs as “gentleness” and tapeinos/tapeinoō as “humility” (Matt. 11:29; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12). That is the idea here. James is concerned with gentleness in dealing with others, as seen in 3:17–18 when he focuses on “peace” and the relational aspects of wisdom from above. This gentleness comes from humility, as 4:6–10 will make clear.

comes from wisdom. The fact that true wisdom manifests itself in identifiable actions is perhaps based on Jesus’s proverbial affirmation in Matthew 11:19 that “wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”[7]


13. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

James addresses the members of the church. He assumes that they pray to God for wisdom, that they possess this virtue, and that the world looks to them for leadership. Knowing, however, that these things are not always true of Christians, James wants his readers to examine themselves.

  • Examination

“Who is wise and understanding among you?” A wise and understanding person demonstrates in what he says and by what he does that he possesses wisdom. Whether James wants to designate the teachers of his day wise men is not quite clear. If this is the case, we see a direct connection between the beginning of this chapter (“Not many of you should presume to be teachers,” v. 1) and the rhetorical question here (v. 13).

James qualifies the term wise with the word understanding. This means that a wise person also has experience, knowledge, and ability. Wisdom consists of having insight and expertise to draw conclusions that are correct. An old proverb sums this up: “Foresight is better than hindsight, but insight is best.”

Countless instances prove that knowledgeable people are not necessarily wise. But when a knowledgeable person has insight, he indeed is wise. If there is a wise and understanding person among you, says James, let him demonstrate this in his life.

  • Demonstration

James encourages the wise man to show by his conduct that he has received the gift of wisdom. “Let him show it by his good life.” James seems to indicate that among Christians wise and understanding men are in the minority, for not everyone who belongs to the Christian community acquires wisdom. But those who have it are exhorted to demonstrate by word and deed that they indeed are wise. James uses the verb to show in the sense of “to prove.” Let a man provide actual proof that he possesses wisdom and understanding. Let him confirm this by means of his daily conduct.

What does James mean by the expression good life? He refers to noble, praiseworthy behavior. True, James stresses “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” But a wise man affirms his noble conduct in words and deeds.

  • Affirmation

“Actions speak louder than words.” This proverbial truth underscores the necessity of looking at a person’s deeds to see whether his actions match his words. What are these deeds? They are performed in a humble, gentle spirit that is controlled by a spirit of heavenly wisdom.

The emphasis in this verse falls on that characteristic of wisdom described as humility. This quality can also be described as meekness or gentleness. Gentleness comes to expression in the person who is endowed with wisdom and who affirms this in all his deeds.

In Ecclesiasticus, also known as the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, the writer lists a few precepts on humility and says, “My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts” (Sir. 3:17, RSV).[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 168–170). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Doriani, D. M. (2007). James. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 119–121). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] 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. 249). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] Adamson, J. B. (1976). The Epistle of James (pp. 149–151). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[5] McKnight, S. (2011). The Letter of James (pp. 299–303). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[6] Davids, P. H. (2011). James (pp. 87–88). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Samra, J. (2016). James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 45). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books: A Division of Baker Publishing Group.

[8] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 117–118). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

October 19 For the love of God (Vol. 2)

1 Kings 22; 1 Thessalonians 5; Daniel 4; Psalms 108–109

 

one of the reasons why the narratives of Daniel 4 and Daniel 5 are put side by side, even though they clearly come from two quite different periods of Daniel’s life, is that each serves as the foil of the other. Both are accounts of rich, powerful, arrogant men. The first, mercifully, is humbled and therefore spared and transformed; the second is simply destroyed.

Many critics doubt that the account of Daniel 4 is anything more than pious fiction to encourage the Jews. They note that there is no record of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity in the surviving Babylonian records, and they doubt that the empire could have held together had the emperor himself gone mad for a period of time. Neither argument is weighty. Official records would not have talked much of Nebuchadnezzar’s period of insanity, and in any case records from the latter part of his life have not so far come to light. Moreover, we do not know exactly how long Nebuchadnezzar was insane: it is uncertain what “seven times” (4:16) means. Certainly the Roman Empire survived under Caligula, whose insanity no one doubts.

In our short space, we may reflect on the following:

(1) Nebuchadnezzar’s dream reflects his megalomania. He has a narcissistic personality: he is corroded by his own greatness yet is so insecure that his grandiose fantasies must be nurtured by incessant self-admiration. Unlike the egotist, who is so supremely self-confident that he does not care a rip what anyone thinks of him or her, the narcissist is often hypersensitive and emotionally fragile. Regardless of all psychological speculations, the man’s arrogance before God is unrestrained (despite the experience of chaps. 2 and 3), and God resolves to humble him.

(2) Daniel’s approach to Nebuchadnezzar, once he has heard the dream, should be studied by every Christian preacher and counselor. On the one hand, he is deeply distressed to grasp what Nebuchadnezzar is going through, or going to go through (4:19). On the other hand, once he is prevailed upon to give the interpretation of the dream, he does so with admirable clarity and forthright truthfulness. He neither maintains professional detachment nor resorts to mealy-mouthed indirection.

(3) The psychotic breakdown is probably a form of lycanthropy (which today is subdued by antipsychotic drugs). But once his sanity is restored (4:36), Nebuchadnezzar articulates the lesson he has learned: God is sovereign, he raises and abases whom he wills, none can withstand him, and every virtue or strength we possess we derive from him. To think otherwise is to invite rebuke, for “those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (4:37).[1]

 

[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 2, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

October 19 For the love of God (Vol. 1)

1 Kings 22; 1 Thessalonians 5; Daniel 4; Psalms 108–109

 

the last chapter of 1 kings, 1 Kings 22, many believers find troubling. For here God himself is presented as sending out “a lying spirit” (22:22) who will deceive King Ahab and lead him to his destruction. Does God approve of liars?

The setting is instructive. For once, the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel are pulling together against the king of Aram, instead of tearing at each other’s throats. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, comes across as a good man who is largely desirous of adhering to the covenant and being loyal to God, yet is a bit of a wimp. He treats the prospective military expedition as if it were an adventure, but he does want Ahab, king of Israel, to “seek the counsel of the Lord” (22:5). After the false prophets have finished, Jehoshaphat has sufficient smarts to ask if there is some other prophet of the Lord, and Micaiah surfaces. Yet despite Micaiah’s warnings, he goes off with Ahab, and even agrees to retain his royal robes while Ahab’s identity is masked.

But the heart of the issue turns on Micaiah. Observe:

(1) Implicitly, Ahab has surrounded himself with religious yes-men who will tell him what he wants to hear. The reason he hates Micaiah is because what Micaiah says about him is bad. Like all leaders who surround themselves with yes-men, Ahab sets himself up to be deceived.

(2) When Micaiah begins with a sarcastic positive prognostication (22:15), Ahab instantly recognizes that Micaiah is not telling the truth (22:16). This hints at a conscience more than a little troubled. After all, God had previously told Ahab that because of his guilt in the matter of Naboth, dogs would one day lick up his blood (21:19). He thus expected bad news someday, and at a deep level of his being could not really trust the happy forecasts of his domesticated “prophets.”

(3) When Micaiah tells him of impending disaster, he also provides a dramatic reason for the coherence and unanimity of the false prophets: God himself had sanctioned a deceitful spirit. Ahab’s time has come: he will be destroyed. God’s sovereignty extends even over the means to send Ahab’s tame prophets a “strong delusion” (compare 2 Thess. 2:11–12). Yet the fact that Ahab is told all this demonstrates that God is still graciously providing him with access to the truth. But Ahab is so far gone that he cannot stomach the truth. In a ridiculous response, he believes enough of the truth to hide his own identity in the hordes of common soldiers, but not enough to stay away from Ramoth Gilead. So he dies: God’s sovereign judgment is enacted, not least because Ahab, hearing both the truth and the lie, preferred the lie.[1]

 

[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 1, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

October 18 Sharing God’s Love

Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 2

Key verse: 2 Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Never choose to be a worker for God,” advises Oswald Chambers, “but when once God has put His call on you, woe be to you if you turn to the right hand or to the left. We are not here to work for God because we have chosen to do so, but because God has apprehended us.”

What has God apprehended you to do? Perhaps you are a schoolteacher, a construction worker, a builder, or a professional working in a city with a large corporation. No one else can do what He has given you to do.

His call to you is the same call He gave the early church: Share the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world. This is the truth you received, and it is the same truth that countless individuals are longing to hear.

Ask Him to make you sensitive to the needs of others. Many times, people do not know how to share the hurts hidden deep within their hearts. Only God’s love can draw these hurts to the surface where healing can take place.

Jesus met people at the point of their greatest need, and He wants you to do the same. Be willing to go to those who are friendless, lonely, hurting, and in need of compassion and a listening heart. This is His call to each of us: “Share My love, My forgiveness, and My grace so that others will know the love of My Father.”

Father, help me to share Your love, Your forgiveness, and Your grace so that others will come to know Your love.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2002). Seeking His face (p. 305). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

October 18, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

The Premise

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (11:13)

This premise, expressed in the form of a comparison, is the foundation upon which the whole discussion rests. Christ’s opening words, If you then, being evil, express the biblical doctrine of total or radical depravity. Even His true followers, those who had embraced Him as Lord, Savior, and Messiah, were still evil (ponēros; “bad,” “wicked,” “worthless”; also used as a title for Satan [Matt. 13:19, 38; John 17:15; Eph. 6:16; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18, 19]). Significantly, the Lord did not say that they do evil, but rather that they are evil. Though they are redeemed and forgiven, sin remains a powerful operative principle in believers (Rom. 7:14–25). Yet despite being evil, human fathers still know how to give good gifts to their children. It is natural for even unbelievers to love their children, be kind to them, and provide for their needs. The image of God in that sense in people, though warped and scarred by the fall, is nonetheless still present.

The contrasting phrase how much more is the key to the Lord’s point. Reasoning from the lesser to the greater, if human fathers who are sinners, who love imperfectly, and often lack the wisdom to know what is best for their children lovingly provide for them, how much more will God, who is absolutely holy, loves perfectly (cf. John 13:1), and has infinite wisdom give what is best to His children. As the psalmist wrote, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11; cf. 34:9–10; Matt. 6:33; Phil. 4:19).

Then Jesus concluded His point by promising that believers’ heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. This is an intriguing statement, which differs from the Lord’s teaching of this same truth on a different occasion, as recorded in Matthew 7:11. There He spoke of the Father giving what is good; here He expanded that and spoke of God’s giving the Spirit, who is the source of all goodness and blessing, to live within every believer.

To those who ask for a gift, He gives the giver; to those who ask for an effect, He gives the cause; to those who ask for a product He gives the source; to those seeking comfort He gives the comforter (Acts 9:31); to those seeking power He gives the source of power (Acts 1:8); to those seeking help He gives the helper (John 14:26); to those seeking truth He gives the Spirit of truth (John 16:13); to those seeking “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23) He gives the producer of all those things. The indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:14) is the source of every good thing in the Christian’s life (Eph. 3:20).

Though the New Testament would bring more complete revelation concerning the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Jews of Jesus’ day were familiar with the Old Testament revelation concerning Him. They understood that He was involved in the creation (Gen. 1:2; cf. Job 33:4). Further, they knew that the Holy Spirit was associated with the coming of the Messiah (Isa. 61:1–3; cf. Joel 2:28–29, which was partially fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:16–21]). They also understood that Messiah would send the Spirit to regenerate (Titus 3:5) and indwell those who put their faith in Him (Ezek. 36:25–27; cf. John 7:38–39; 14:16–17, 25–26; Titus 3:5).

The Holy Spirit is the cause of every truly good thing in the life of a Christian. He convicts unbelieving sinners, enabling them to be aware of and repent of their sin (John 16:8). They enter God’s kingdom of salvation by being born of the Spirit (John 3:5–8) in regeneration (Titus 3:5) and confessing Jesus as Lord through the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). It is through the Holy Spirit that they receive the knowledge of God (1 Cor. 2:11–12)—knowledge not understood by the unregenerate (v. 14). The Spirit frees believers from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:17) and seals them for eternal life (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). They are baptized with the Spirit, placing them in the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), indwelt by the Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:14), and filled (controlled, empowered by) with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). The Holy Spirit empowers believers for evangelism (Acts 1:8), intercedes for them (Rom. 8:26), sanctifies them (1 Cor. 6:11), makes them progressively more like Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), pours out God’s love into their hearts (Rom. 5:5), and gives them hope (Rom. 15:13).

Bold, confident prayer results in communion with God and all the rich blessings of His goodness as believers experience the reality that He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).[1]


13 Luke specifically mentions the Holy Spirit, who was promised (Ac 2:33; cf. Lk 24:49; Ac 1:4). The giving of the Spirit in response to prayer can already be found in 3:21–22 where the descent of the Spirit takes place when Jesus was praying. This promise also anticipates Acts, where one witnesses the dramatic descent of the Spirit on the believing community (cf. Shepherd, 137–40).[2]


11:13 / though you are evil: Lachs (p. 142) suspects that underlying “evil” is the Hebrew word biša, which originally was intended only as an abbreviation for bāśār vādām (“flesh and blood”). He notes that to describe one as “flesh and blood” is to call someone mortal, and he cites a rabbinic tradition that parallels the logic of Jesus’ saying very closely: “If this man, who is flesh and blood, cruel and not responsible for her [his divorced wife’s] maintenance, was filled with compassion for her and gave her [aid], how much more should You be filled with compassion for us who are the children of Your children Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and are dependent on You for our maintenance” (Leviticus Rabbah 34.14).

Holy Spirit: Gundry (pp. 124–25) suspects that Luke’s “Holy Spirit” may be original, while Matthew’s (literally) “good things” (7:11) is a Matthean modification. I do not agree. Given Luke’s pronounced interest in the Holy Spirit (recall 1:35, 41, 67; 2:25; 3:16, 22; 4:1, 14, 18) it is much more probable that it was Luke who changed the original “good things” (as is read in Matthew) to “Holy Spirit” (so Schweizer, p. 192).[3]


11:13 A human father would not give bad gifts; even though he has a sinful nature, he knows how to give good gifts to his children. How much more is our heavenly Father willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. J. G. Bellet says, “It is significant that the gift He selects as the one we most need, and the one He most desires to give, is the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus spoke these words, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given (John 7:39). We should not pray today for the Holy Spirit to be given to us as an indwelling Person, because He comes to indwell us at the time of our conversion (Rom. 8:9b; Eph. 1:13, 14).

But it is certainly proper and necessary for us to pray for the Holy Spirit in other ways. We should pray that we will be teachable by the Holy Spirit, that we will be guided by the Spirit, and that His power will be poured out on us in all our service for Christ.

It is quite possible that when Jesus taught the disciples to ask for the Holy Spirit, He was referring to the power of the Spirit enabling them to live the other-worldly type of discipleship which He had been teaching in the preceding chapters. By this time, they were probably feeling how utterly impossible it was for them to meet the tests of discipleship in their own strength. This is, of course, true. The Holy Spirit is the power that enables one to live the Christian life. So Jesus pictured God as anxious to give this power to those who ask.

In the original Greek, verse 13 does not say that God will give the Holy Spirit, but rather He will “give Holy Spirit” (without the article). Professor H. B. Swete pointed out that when the article is present, it refers to the Person Himself, but when the article is absent, it refers to His gifts or operations on our behalf. So in this passage, it is not so much a prayer for the Person of the Holy Spirit, but rather for His ministries in our lives. This is further borne out by the parallel passage in Matthew 7:11 which reads, “… how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”[4]


11:13. The Lord closes the motivational illustration with an argument from the lesser to the greater. If fallen human fathers intuitively give their children “good gifts,” God the Father will surely provide “the Holy Spirit” to those who petition Him. Belief in Jesus as Savior constitutes the only condition for receiving the Spirit in the present church age as shown at the home of Cornelius (cf. Acts 10; Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 12:12–13). The reference here however probably pertains to Israel on a national scale—they would ask the Father for the Holy Spirit by their belief in Messiah and repentance (cf. Acts 2:38–39, 40–41). The following context shows why Israel did not experience this blessing on a national scale in the first century.[5]


Ver. 13.—How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? In St. Matthew we find the last portion of this teaching related as having taken place at a much earlier period of the Lord’s ministry. It is more than probable that much of Jesus Christ’s general instruction was repeated on more than one occasion. There is an important difference between the words reported by the two evangelists. St. Matthew, instead of the “Holy Spirit,” has the more general expression, “good things.” In both accounts, however, is the Master’s assurance that prayer, if persisted in, would ever be heard and granted, and there is the all-important limitation that the thing prayed for must be something “good” in the eyes of the heavenly Father. How many requests are made by us, poor, short-sighted, often selfish men, which, if granted, would be harmful rather than a blessing to the asker! Here the Lord, the Reader of hearts, having taken notice of some of the deep earnest longings, perhaps scarcely crystallized into prayer, of his own disciples, of a John or a James, pictures the case of one who deserves a special deepening of the spiritual life, and prays some prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Such a prayer, says Christ, must be granted.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2013). Luke 11–17 (pp. 56–58). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 207). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (p. 183). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1412–1413). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Valdés, A. S. (2010). The Gospel according to Luke. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 283). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.

[6] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). St. Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 301–302). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.