Category Archives: Believer’s Bible Commentary

October 20, 2017: Verse of the day

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The Restoration of Israel

    Thus says the Lord:

“In a time of favor I have answered you;

in a day of salvation I have helped you;

I will keep you and give you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages,

    saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’

to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’

They shall feed along the ways;

on all bare heights shall be their pasture;

10    they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.

11    And I will make all my mountains a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.

12    Behold, these shall come from afar,

and behold, these from the north and from the west,

and these from the land of Syene.”

13    Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the Lord has comforted his people

and will have compassion on his afflicted. [1]


8–12 Although the opening words of v. 8 certainly appear to mark a new beginning, almost a fresh oracle, they present a contrast with v. 7. So often in the NT, especially in Acts, it is said that the Christ, rejected and crucified by men, was raised and thus vindicated by God (e.g., Ac 2:23–24). The favor of God to the unique Servant is, of course, merited, but the quotation of v. 8 in 2 Corinthians 6:2 shows that in Christ we share not only his service (see comment on v. 6) but also his acceptance (cf. Eph 1:6, KJV).

The background to the expression “the time of my favor” (v. 8) is probably the day of Jubilee in Leviticus 25:8–55 (cf. 61:1–2 and comments; for the covenantal reference, see comment on 42:6). The context here suggests that part of the Servant’s work is to establish the aspects of the Abrahamic and possibly the Mosaic covenants that related to the land of Canaan. Children and a land were major blessings of the covenant with Abraham (Ge 12:2–3); the first is mentioned in Isaiah 48:19 and the second here. The Servant will be a kind of second Joshua (the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek “Jesus”). The land will be repeopled by freed captives (v. 9a).

The new conditions of the people are beautifully described in vv. 9b–12. They are first pictured like sheep finding abundant pasture in a formerly barren land (the “desolate inheritances” of v. 8). In this land they will find food, water, and shelter (v. 10). They will be guided by a compassionate shepherd (cf. Ps 23). These verses are echoed and applied to Christ in Revelation 7:16–17. The pastoral imagery is then replaced by assurances of suitable road conditions (v. 11) and of a return from every quarter (v. 12), already familiar to us from 35:8; 40:3–4; 42:16; 43:5–7. [2]


A time for favor (49:8–13)

The Lord will hear the Servant’s prayers, help him, keep him and give him as a covenant (49:8). How do you give somebody as a covenant? A covenant is basically a solemn agreement involving promises and conditions, so if you can find one person who will fulfil all the conditions and deliver all the promises, you have found a covenant personified. We are told about some of the promises that the Servant will deliver: freedom in place of imprisonment; light in place of darkness; food for the hungry; water for the thirsty; protection; guidance; and a way home for exiles. He is a bringer of comfort and a shower of compassion.[3]


49:7–13 / Verses 7–13 continue the theme of servanthood, rejection, vindication, and the faithfulness of God, but take it in a new/old direction. Talk of transferring the vocation of servant from people to prophet could be dangerous. It could suggest megalomania on the part of prophet (I once heard the principal of a Jewish seminary say that he was inclined to call in the psychoanalyst when a student talked of feeling called by God to be a rabbi). More importantly, it could suggest that Yahweh has forgotten the undertaking to persist with Jacob-Israel as servant notwithstanding its unreliability. Verses 7–13 begin with the recollection that Yahweh is still Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, an important reminder for God, prophet, and people. These verses address one despised and abhorred, the servant of rulers. This is presumably the Judean community itself. For while we have had no indication that the prophet was treated thus, this description does correspond to the community’s self-perception (see, e.g., 41:8–20). It may well indicate the way it described itself when it prayed (so Westermann, Isaiah 40–66, p. 214). The last phrase is the most painful. Far from functioning as servant of Yahweh, the community is merely servant of heathen overlords. The initial promise of restoration here, then, corresponds to the promise to the community in 45:14–17.

Yahweh goes on to promise that the servant of rulers will become a covenant for the people (v. 8). The phrase recurs from 42:6, where it described the role of Yahweh’s servant and accompanied the phrase “a light for the Gentiles.” That last phrase has just reappeared in 49:6. In other words, we again find the double description of the servant from 42:6 here—divided between verses 6 and 8. The total effect is to reaffirm that Yahweh is indeed still committed to the community’s fulfilling the servant role, through the prophet’s ministry. It is destined not to be the servant of rulers forever, but to be the servant of Yahweh.

It is by restoring the land and freeing the captives that Yahweh will make the community a covenant for the people and a light for the nations (vv. 8b–9a). The logic is parallel to that in verses 5–6, though the content of the promise is also significantly different. There Yahweh will make the prophet a light for the nations by restoring Jacob-Israel to God. Here Yahweh will make the community a covenant for the people by restoring Jacob-Israel’s land and restoring the people itself to its freedom. All these tasks will play a part in the fulfillment of Yahweh’s purpose. Not surprisingly, all correspond to God’s promise to Abraham, which involved land, people, relationship, and being a blessing. And Yahweh promises that the released people will be well-provisioned on their journey back for the reallocation of their inheritance (vv. 9b–11).

We have presupposed throughout the study of chapters 40–49 that the prophet’s special focus is the Babylonian community, but periodically we are reminded not to make this too exclusive a focus. The prophet has a worldwide perspective and from time to time reaffirms that. Judeans had been transported to or had taken refuge in other parts of the world that surrounded their own land, especially Egypt, and the return of Judeans from Babylon is but one aspect of Yahweh’s restoring the community as a whole to their homeland (vv. 12–13)—in order to restore the land (v. 8), whether or not they felt homesick.[4]


49:8–13 God answered Christ’s prayer by raising Him from the dead, then assigning Him to bring Israel back to the land. The Servant of Jehovah will summon the people to return to the land, and provide ideal travel conditions along the way. They will come from all over the world, from as far away as Sinim (possibly China). It will be a glad day for the world when Israel experiences His comfort and compassion in this way.[5]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 49:8–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 778–779). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Thomson, A. (2012). Opening Up Isaiah (p. 128). Leominster: Day One.

[4] Goldingay, J. (2012). Isaiah. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 283–285). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 975–976). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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October 19, 2017: Verse of the day

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Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth!

    I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old,

    things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers have told us.

    We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,

and the wonders that he has done. [1]


Call to Wisdom (78:1–4)

Commentary

1–4 The purpose of the introduction is to arouse attention in the manner used by the sages and prophets of Israel. The importance of the “teaching” (tôrâ, GK 9368, i.e., “instruction,” v. 1) lies in the insights gleaned from Israel’s history. Hence the first word of the psalmist in the MT is “hear” (lit., “give ear”; cf. 49:1; Pr 7:24; Isa 28:23, synonymous with “listen,” lit., “stretch your ear”). “The words of my mouth” (cf. 19:14; 54:2; Dt 32:1) are words of wisdom expressed in “parables” (māšāl, GK 5442, “proverbial form of teaching,” v. 2; cf. Pr 1:6; “proverbs” in NIV) and in “riddles” (NIV, “hidden things”; cf. Pr 1:6, “riddles of the wise”; 49:4). The “riddles” were not “hidden things” in any esoteric form of teaching, for the psalmist claims, “We have heard and known” the parables and riddles (v. 3); rather, the wisdom communicated from the fathers to each new generation pertains to the “praiseworthy deeds” and the demonstration of “his power, and the wonders” (v. 4; see Reflections, p. 603, The Mighty Acts of Yahweh).

The history of redemption is revelatory. The Lord’s mighty acts reveal his love, mercy, and patience with his people. They also conceal, as humans cannot comprehend that God continues to be merciful and patient toward a “rebellious people” (cf. v. 8). In this sense we understand that Jesus’ use of parables was a form of “hiding” the revelation of God from all who were hardened in their hearts (cf. Mt 13:35). But the revelation of God stirs the true believers, as Calvin, 3:228, wrote: “If in this psalm there shines forth such a majesty as may justly stir up and inflame the readers with a desire to learn, we gather from it with what earnest attention it becomes us to receive the gospel, in which Christ opens and displays to us the treasures of his celestial wisdom.”

The goal of the teacher of wisdom is to open Israel’s history from God’s perspective. The act of “telling [mesapperîm, plural participle] the next generation” (v. 4) is a continuation of the tradition “heard and known” from the fathers (v. 3; cf. 44:1). The contents of the tradition of redemptive history are transmitted without further explication, so that each generation may draw lessons from the “parables” and “riddles” of God’s interaction with the previous generations. The acts of God draw attention to God’s deeds and not primarily to human beings’ rebellious spirit. They reveal his “power” (ʿezûz, i.e., strength in battle; cf. 145:6; Isa 42:25, “anger”), his “glorious” acts worthy of the praise of Israel (NIV, “praiseworthy deeds”; cf. 65:1), and the “wonders” (cf. 105:5; see Reflections, p. 84, The Ways of Wisdom and Folly).[2]


The Psalmist’s Invitation to Learn from History (78:1–4)

The psalmist calls for the attention of his people (and of all of us) because he is going to speak in a parable, that is, there is going to be a deeper meaning beneath the surface of what he recounts. As he rehearses various chapters from the history of his nation, there will be hidden lessons which he calls “dark sayings of old.” Just as our parents passed down to us a record of the past, so we are obligated to pass on to the next generation an account of the Lord’s dealings with His people in grace and government.[3]


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).[4]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 78:1–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 591–592). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 666). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] 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.

October 16, 2017: Verse of the day

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O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

    You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

    You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

    Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

    You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it. [1]


139:5 “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). And because His knowledge of us is so inconceivably absolute, He can guard us behind and before. Ever and always His hand is laid protectingly upon us.[2]


139:5 enclosed me. God used circumstances to limit David’s actions.[3]


139:5 lay your hand upon me. A gentle gesture (cf. Gen. 48:14, 17), giving reassurance.[4]


139:5 You barricade me It is unclear what connotation the psalmist intends when using the Hebrew word tsur here; it can mean “to bind,” “encircle,” or “lay siege to.” In Ps 139:6, the psalmist indicates that he accepts close scrutiny from God, but that he does not understand it.[5]


139:5 You hem me in. The Lord sets His limits around the psalmist’s actions.[6]


The Lord’s Discernment of Individuals (139:1–6)

Commentary

1–6 The Lord “knows” his own. The knowledge of God is relational. He knows his own (see 1:6), as he discerns the righteous from the wicked (cf. vv. 19–20). The root ydʿ (“know”) occurs throughout this section: “you know me … you know when … you know it completely … such knowledge.” It signifies here divine discernment. The Lord discerns the actions of his own (v. 1), whether they sit or stand (v. 2; see 1:6). This discernment belongs uniquely to God, who alone is the Judge of all flesh. Hence the psalmist exclaims that this divine prerogative is beyond him: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (v. 6).

In his prayer (vv. 23–24), which gives expression to his recommitment, the psalmist prayed for the Lord’s justification of his acts against those who maligned him. He prayed for the Lord to examine him as in a judicial case and to declare him innocent of the charges (vv. 23–24; see comments there). Now that the ordeal is over and he has been justified by the Lord, the psalmist testifies that the Lord is a righteous judge. He has come to a new level of relationship with the Lord, who knows him through and through: “you have searched me” (v. 1; cf. 7:9; 17:3; 26:2; Jer 17:10), “you know” (vv. 1–2, 4; see above), “you perceive” (bîn, v. 2; or “you have an understanding of”), “you discern” (v. 3, or “you have winnowed me”), and “you are familiar with.” The Lord knows his every move (“when I sit and when I rise,” v. 2).

But the accused is not afraid of his judge. The divine Judge is more than an arbiter, because he is also the one in whom the psalmist has found protection. He hedges in his own for the purpose of protection (“behind and before,” v. 5). This thought receives further amplification in v. 5b: “you have laid your hand upon me.” The placement of the divine hand signifies protection and blessing (cf. Ge 48:14, 17; Ex 33:22).

This knowledge of God is nothing less than a knowledge that discerns and discriminates in favor of those who are loyal to the Lord. The discerning and favorable acts of God are gracious. It is grace that justifies, and it is by grace that humans are blessed. Though the psalmist has taken seriously his responsibilities in all of his ways (his sitting, rising, going out, lying down, and speaking; cf. vv. 2–4), still he exclaims that God’s favorable acts toward him are “too wonderful” and “too lofty” to apprehend (v. 6; cf. Ro 11:33; see Reflections, p. 603, The Mighty Acts of Yahweh).[7]


139:1–6 / Verses 1–12 hymn the comprehensive nature of God’s knowledge and presence: from sitting to rising (v. 2), from activity (going out) to inactivity (lying down, v. 3), from the heavens to the depths (i.e., vertical space, v. 8), from the east (“the wings of the dawn”) to the west (“the far side of the sea,” i.e., horizontal space, v. 9), and from darkness and night to light and day (vv. 11–12).

The opening section of the psalm begins with a general confession that you know me. But even this general statement about divine omniscience does not indicate an automatic comprehension: you have searched me. The Hebrew verb behind you discern (Hb. zrh) my going out and my lying down is normally used for “winnowing” or “sifting” wheat. God himself participates in the process of becoming acquainted with us. His knowledge is not static; it too goes through a dynamic process. Examples of what God knows then follow. The various postures one takes during the day point to the various activities one may engage in. God’s knowledge goes beyond mere activity to my thoughts and my ways. One’s speech is also singled out as an area of divine interest. God’s comprehension is comprehensive, both around and over us (v. 5). And so our ability to comprehend is limited, such knowledge is beyond us (v. 6). It is difficult to know whether God’s actions in verse 5 are comforting or oppressive (e.g., Hb. ṣwr, hem … in, is often used in the ot for “besieging,” and God’s hand upon a person can denote affliction, cf. 38:2). The verse may be intentionally ambiguous, though we should note from the next section that the speaker’s immediate response is one of flight.[8]


Exposure to God’s scrutiny (139:1b–6). The speaker of the psalm has come to the sanctuary to present his prayer, hoping for a divine oracle to vindicate him. He protests his innocence of certain charges evidently brought against him, before Yahweh who has insight into the whole of his life. Every detail of his daily routine, every unspoken thought, is known to God, who knows him inside and out, as the alternating parallelism of vv 2a and 3 and vv 2b and 4 conveys. In the OT such terms as “know” (ידע), “examine” (חקר), “see” (ראה) in vv 16, 24, and “probe” (בחן) in v 23 are used with God as subject to refer to a providential role as judge—not necessarily in a formal sense but by way of metaphor—punishing the guilty and acquitting the innocent. These associations of the terms used in the psalm indicate that the psalmist is in some situation of attack. The psalm is comparable with Jeremiah’s appeal for vindication: “You know me, Yahweh; you see me and probe my attitude toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter” (Jer 12:3 [author’s translation]; cf. Jer 15:15). The psalmist is not engaged in quiet reverie on a divine attribute but pleading for justice to be done. A polemical element is implicit from the outset.

Yahweh is “far away” (מרחוק) as the transcendent God who observes all from heaven (cf. Ps 11:4–5; Jer 23:23). He is also close by, surrounding the psalmist and controlling his movements. The psalmist reacts to God’s omniscience with wonder: it is beyond his ken and too sublime to comprehend. In the area of knowledge a gulf lies between Yahweh and himself. He is driven to avow his own sense of limitation and inadequacy (cf. Job 42:2, 3b). Kras̆ovec (BZ 18 [1974] 232–33) studied the polar expressions used in the psalm to express totality: in vv 2a, 3a, 5a they are used within single cola, while in vv 8, 9, 11 they extend to whole lines. In this connection Holman (VT 21 [1971] 301) noted the contrast between the human and divine representations in vv 1–12. On the one hand there is the multiplicity of the psalmist’s activities and the agitation of various human possibilities; on the other is the majestic superiority of God’s knowledge, expressed in sober, calm tones, comprehending everything by the mere fact of presence.

The force of the expressions in v 5 is ambiguous. The verb צור used in v 5a is often used in a hostile sense “besiege,” but it can be employed of enclosing for safekeeping. Similarly Yahweh’s כף, “palm,” or hand, can refer to loving care or to punishment. Probably the verse is to be pressed to neither extreme but is simply a neutral statement of God’s absolute control of the psalmist’s movements (Dahood, 288).[9]


1–6 God the all-knowing: from inner thoughts to outer ways. These verses are full of verbs of ‘knowing’. The general statement of v 1 is applied to life’s outward activities and inner thoughts (2), everyday acts and lifestyle (3, ways), and unexpressed thoughts (4). Personal life falls wholly within divine limits, behind, before and over, (5, ‘You cup your hand over me’—a picture which reveals that it is all for my protection and comfort Jn. 10:27–30).[10]


139:1–5 You have searched me: God is active to search and test His servants. He knows our motives, desires, and words before they are expressed. In short, He knows His servants completely. But as v. 5 makes clear, the purpose of His intimate knowledge of His servants is protective and helpful, not judgmental and condemning.

139:6 such knowledge: Here the poet gasps aloud at the wonder of the intimate relationship He has with God, and God with him. It is simply too much to comprehend; the human mind with all its ability is no match for the mind of God![11]


139:5–6. David’s initial response to this staggering knowledge was that he was troubled. Like many who respond to the fact of God’s omniscience, he thought it was confining, that God had besieged him and cupped His hand over him.

Moreover, this kind of knowledge was out of David’s control—it was too wonderful for him. The word “wonderful” is in the emphatic position, at the beginning of the sentence. On the meaning of “wonderful” as “extraordinary or surpassing,” see comments on 9:1. In other words divine omniscience is too high for humans to comprehend (also cf. comments on 139:14).[12]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:1–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 769). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 139:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1116). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 139:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 860). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[7] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 959–960). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[8] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (pp. 484–485). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[9] Allen, L. C. (2002). Psalms 101–150 (Revised) (Vol. 21, pp. 327–328). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[10] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 578). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[11] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 738). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[12] 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. 891). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

October 15, 2017: Verse of the day

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Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,

and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.

    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;

reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

    Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;

teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. [1]


9:7–9 Wise people receive reproof and rebuke with appreciation; fools do not.[2]


9:7–9 These verses present three statements about what happens if one corrects a scoffer or the wicked (vv. 7a, 7b, 8a) plus three contrasting statements about reproving a wise man (vv. 8b, 9a, 9b). The point is twofold: if a person desires to be wise, he must examine how his heart responds to wise reproof or correction (see v. 12); and in order to be wise with others, he must have the prudence to observe other people’s actions. It is clear that the “wise” or “righteous” person does not rest content with his attainment, nor is he presented as morally “perfect.” He becomes still wiser, and will increase in learning, through correction.[3]


9:8 rebuke the wise In contrast to the scoffer, the wise person accepts rebuke. Throughout Proverbs, the wise person exhibits wisdom by humbly looking to increase in wisdom (12:15; 21:11).[4]


7 As already indicated, there is an abrupt transition here to standard wisdom instruction. The meaning of the verse seems to be that it is more than futile to issue a correction to certain people, such as the arrogant (or scoffer, Hebrew ל֬, parallel to “wicked” here and also in Ps 1). Well-meant advice meets with not just rejection but contumely. As a matter of fact, the sages generally seem to regard fools/wicked as (relatively) incorrigible. Hence there is the frequent injunction to avoid their company. This meaning is also supported by v 8a. The meaning of v 7b is obscure because of the ambiguity of the final phrase “his blemish” (translated above as “shame”). Some understand it as referring back to the one who reproves. This is unlikely since it is not conceivable that he should be stained by the wicked. The blemish must be that of the wicked, meaning something like harm or “insult” in v 7a, with which it is parallel.

8–9 What was enunciated as a saying in the previous verse is now set forth as a prohibition in v 8a. There is a close parallel in the Instruction of Ankhsheshonq: “Do not instruct a fool, lest he hate you. Do not instruct him who will not listen to you” (7, 4–5; Lichtheim, AEL, 3:165). The advice given in v 8b is at the heart of the wisdom enterprise: the wise almost by definition are docile; they listen, and they are open to reproof; see the Explanation below. 9 This verse supports the claim of v 8, and significantly equates the wise and the just, or wisdom and justice. This teaching is familiar, and could indicate that the speaker is the parent/teacher. But what was the intention of the editor in positioning verses such as these between the two invitations? Perhaps the answer lies in the central importance of v 10, without which the wisdom enterprise is in vain.[5]


9:7–9 The continuity here seems to be broken, but perhaps these verses explain either why the invitation is not sent to scorners, or why Wisdom’s guests must forsake them.

If you correct a scoffer, you get only abuse for it. If you rebuke a wicked man, he will turn on you and assault you.

The way in which a man receives rebuke is an index of his character. A scoffer hates you, whereas a wise man will thank you. How do you react when parent, teacher, employer, or friend corrects you?

Instead of resenting criticism, a wise man takes it to heart and thus becomes still wiser. A just man benefits by increasing his store of useful learning.[6]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 9:7–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 9:7–9). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1150). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 9:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Murphy, R. E. (1998). Proverbs (Vol. 22, pp. 59–60). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 813). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

October 14, 2017: Verse of the day

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In the obedient and loving church that God has planned for His children, if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Only that sort of mutual love and concern can prevent or heal division and preserve unity. The one who is hurt is consoled and the one who is blessed is rejoiced with. There is no disdain for one another, no rivalry or competition, no envy or malice, no inferiority or superiority, but only love—love that is patient, kind, and not jealous, boastful, or arrogant; love that does not act unbecomingly or seek its own and is not easily provoked; love that never rejoices in unrighteousness but always rejoices in the truth (1 Cor. 13:4–6).[1]


26 Paul goes on to express the emotional unity that should be present in the church. If one member of the church experiences an honor of any sort, this is not the time for others to get jealous and attempt to steal the spotlight or downgrade that individual. Rather, we should all rejoice with that person. By the same token, if one member experiences pain of any sort—physical, emotional, relational, economic, etc.—then all the other members of the body should be there for that individual and rally around him or her. What is natural in the human body (i.e., a malfunction in any single part of the body can lead to the entire person’s feeling sick and out of commission) should also be apparent in the body of Christ.[2]


26. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

This is one of the most beautiful texts in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians. It describes the effect genuine care can have on the members in the Christian church. When love prevails, we see the church as a live physical body. A stubbed toe impairs one’s ability to walk and thus affects the entire body. Filling one’s stomach with delicious food satisfies all the parts of the body, but the pain of a stomach ulcer has an opposite effect. Similarly, when a member in the congregation mourns the death of a loved one, the entire congregation grieves with the mourner. When one member receives recognition for either an accomplishment or an anniversary, the rest of the members surround the recipient with joyful adulation. The Christian community mourns with those who hurt and rejoices with those who celebrate.[3]


12:26 What affects one member affects all. This is a well-known fact in the human body. Fever, for instance, is not confined to one part of the body, but affects the whole system. So it is with other types of sickness and pain. An eye doctor often can detect brain tumor, kidney disease, or liver infection by looking into the eye. The reason is that, although all these members are distinct and separate, yet they all form part of the one body, and they are so vitally linked together that what affects one member affects all. Therefore, instead of being discontent with our lot, or, on the other hand, instead of feeling a sense of independence from others, we should have a real sense of solidarity in the Body of Christ. Anything that hurts another Christian should cause us the keenest sorrow. Likewise, if we see another Christian honored, we should not feel jealous, but we should rejoice with him.[4]


12:26 all the members suffer together Implies that the individual members of the church are interdependent, rather than self-sufficient. Paul expresses that when the community of believers functions properly, it shares pain and joy, as a person would in his or her own body (1 Cor 12:12).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 321–322). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 368–369). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, p. 438). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1793–1794). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Co 12:26). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

October 12, 2017: Verse of the day

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1 Having been moved by “a noble theme” (lit., “a good word”), the sacred composer adds his own word of tribute to the king. It may be that he received a word from the Lord and wrote or recited the psalm to bless the royal couple. Gifted with a “golden tongue,” he was well prepared. Like the scribe Ezra (Ezr 7:6), he excelled in oral composition, interpretation, and communication. As an artist in his own right, he spoke the words of a “skillful writer.”[1]


45:1 It was easy for the psalmist to write this Psalm. In fact, his heart was bursting to put in writing the poem he had composed concerning the King. The words flowed freely from his pen; he felt himself being literally borne along. His tongue was like the pen of a ready scribe, and we are not stretching matters if we identify the ready scribe as the Holy Spirit Himself.[2]


45:1 My heart overflows … My tongue. The psalmist is overwhelmed with emotion upon the occasion of the king’s marriage; consequently, he puts his stirred-up mind and feelings into words. In v. 2ff. his tongue is the brush that he uses to paint vivid word pictures.[3]


45:1 A Song for a King. Whether these words are to be sung by the congregation or by a choir, they are addressed to the king. As a psalm, used in Jerusalem, this would refer to a king in David’s line. A ready scribe was probably one who wrote quickly and neatly.[4]


[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. 397). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 618). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 45:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 993). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

October 9, 2017: Verse of the day

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16    He sent from on high, he took me;

he drew me out of many waters.

17    He rescued me from my strong enemy

and from those who hated me,

for they were too mighty for me.

18    They confronted me in the day of my calamity,

but the Lord was my support.

19    He brought me out into a broad place;

he rescued me, because he delighted in me. [1]


16–19 The portrayal of God’s indignation and readiness to vindicate gives comfort to the psalmist. He does not fear God’s coming in anger, because his Father comes to his rescue. Though the enemy forces are strong (vv. 4–5), the Lord prevails over their great strength (v. 17). He delivers the psalmist from the adversity and provides a new dimension of life. Instead of “disaster,” the psalmist experiences the Lord to be his “support” (v. 18). Instead of “distress” (v. 6), the Lord gives him “a spacious place” (v. 19; cf. 4:1; 31:8). Instead of the enmity of his foes, the psalmist experienced the redemption of the God who delights in him (cf. 22:8; 41:1). This God is faithful! God’s love for his servant is beautifully expressed by a series of verbs: “He reached down … and took hold of me; he drew me out of the deep waters. He rescued me.… He brought me out …; he rescued me.” The language is reminiscent of God’s great act of deliverance of Israel from Egypt, as they were brought out of Egypt, passed through the Red Sea, and came to the land of Canaan. God’s mighty acts of deliverance are always evidence of his tender love (cf. Ex 19:4).[2]


18:16–19 / The thanksgiving now continues, picking up where verse 6 left off. Having heard the cry for help (v. 6), Yahweh now comes with saving action. So in contrast to the “narrow place” of my “distress” (the basic meaning of ṣar is “narrow[ness],” which comes to mean “distress”), he brought me out into a spacious place. Had verses 7–15 never appeared in the psalm, they would not have been missed. The reason for their insertion probably lies in the linking images of Yahweh’s reaching down from on high and the threat of deep waters (also “the torrents” of v. 4). The mysterious “them” of verse 14 is thus explained by “my enemies” and my foes of verses 3 and 17. The effect of this insertion is to add drama to the thanksgiving. The God of the heavens can expose “the valleys of the sea” (v. 15), that is, the underworld (vv. 4–5). We have here not just another deliverance from death but a cosmic one. It will become plain once we get to verse 29 that the scene is one of a monumental battle.[3]


18:16–19 In striking symbolism God smashes, bruises, crushes, wounds and maims the foe until he retreats in utter defeat. Then He reaches down and takes Christ from the still-sealed tomb. Hallelujah! Christ is risen! Not only does God raise Him from the dead but He gives Him a triumphant ascension through the enemy’s realm and glorifies Him at His own right hand. Thus, as Paul says, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15).[4]


18:16–19 His sheer power, exhibited so dramatically in vv. 7–15, is now amazingly attested as coming to rescue the psalmist personally.[5]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 18:16–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 206). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (p. 105). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 570). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 18:16–19). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

October 1, 2017: Verse of the day

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1 God (Elohim) is portrayed here as ready to judge. He “presides” (niṣṣāb; cf. Isa 3:13; Am 7:7; 9:1) as the Great Judge. God assembles the “gods” together for judgment in “the assembly of El” (MT; NIV, “the great assembly”). The assembly of El is a borrowed phrase from Canaanite mythology, according to which El, the chief of the pantheon, assembled the gods in a divine council (see Dahood, 2:269).

For Israel there is no other God than Yahweh. He embodies within himself all the epithets and powers attributed to pagan deities. The God of Israel holds a mock trial so as to impress his people that he alone is God. Zimmerli, 155, has expressed the superiority of Israel’s God well in these words: “Whenever a hymn speaks of those other divine powers, whose existence is by no means denied on theoretical grounds, it can only be with reference to the One who will call their actions to judgment (Ps. 82), or in the spirit of superiority that mocks their impotence (Pss. 115:4–8; 135:15–18).”[1]


82:1 / In the opening verse a liturgist or prophetic voice provides the congregation with the psalm’s visionary setting in God’s heavenly royal council chambers. Here, we enter a world very foreign to us.[2]

82:1 The court is called to order. The Judge has taken His place at the bench. It is God Himself. He has called a special session of the divine council in order to reprove the rulers and judges of the earth. They are called gods because they are representatives of God, ordained by Him as His servants in order to maintain an ordered society. Actually, of course, they are only men like ourselves. But because of their position, they are the anointed of the Lord. Even if they do not know God personally, yet they are God’s agents officially and therefore dignified here with the name of gods. The basic meaning of the name is mighty ones.[3]

82:1 His own congregation. The scene opens with God having called the world leaders together. midst of the rulers. The best interpretation is that these are human leaders, such as judges, kings, legislators, and presidents (cf. Ex 22:8, 9, 28; Jdg 5:8, 9). God the Great Judge, presides over these lesser judges.[4]


82:1 in the divine council; in the midst of the gods. Many would take these terms in vv. 1 and 6 as describing the assembly of angelic beings who surround God’s throne as a divine court (cf. 1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:6; 2:1). This finds support in the way that the title “sons of the Most High” matches the label “sons of God” in Job; cf. also the “heavenly beings” (or “gods”) in Ps. 8:5 (see note there). On the other hand, these “gods” are said to “judge” among men (82:2–4) and to die like men (v. 7); God is to judge the earth and to inherit the nations (where mankind lives, v. 8). This makes it better to see these as human rulers, who hold their authority as representatives of the true God (and therefore deserve respect; cf. 58:1; Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17). Of course this does not require ultimate loyalty that overrides faithfulness to God, or that silences testimony about God’s justice, as this very psalm makes clear. Jesus seems to have read the psalm in this way, since in John 10:34–35 he cites Ps. 82:6, describing the “gods” as those to whom the word of God came, which means they were human. See also note on v. 6.[5]


82:1 stands The Hebrew word used here, nitsav, is a singular verbal form, which means that its subject, which is elohim in Hebrew—and could be translated as “God” or “gods”—should be translated in the singular as “God.” The imagery that extends from this verb is one of presiding, since the setting is a formal council meeting.

the divine assembly A descriptive phrase used of the heavenly host. Like other ancient Near Eastern cultures, the psalmist conceived of God as directing the affairs of the unseen world through an administration of divine beings. The members of the heavenly host are often referred to as a “council” or “assembly” (see 1 Kgs 22:19–23).

in the midst of the gods The Hebrew preposition used here, qerev, requires the Hebrew word elohim to be translated as a plural here—as “gods.” The gods in the verse are the council members, the heavenly host (see Psa 82:6). A council of divine beings is also mentioned in 89:5–7, where they are depicted as in heaven or the skies.[6]


82:1 the divine council. The exact scope of this congregation is unclear. It may be the heavenly assembly (including only spiritual powers), or it may include earthly kings.[7]


[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. 623). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (p. 336). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 674). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 82:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1041–1042). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 82:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 810). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

September 26, 2017: Verse of the day

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20    My son, keep your father’s commandment,

and forsake not your mother’s teaching.

21    Bind them on your heart always;

tie them around your neck. [1]


20–21 The youth is exhorted to cling fast to the teachings of his parents (see P. W. Skehan, Studies in Israelite Poetry and Wisdom: Proverbs 5:15–19 and 6:20–24 [Washington: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1971], 1–8). Implicit in these verses is the basic understanding that a good home life (i.e., father and mother sharing the rearing of the children together) will go a long way to prevent youth from falling into immorality. But the teachings must become a permanent part of the youth’s thinking; they must be memorized and practiced.[2]


20–21 The address to “my son” is an introduction to the final section of the chapter that deals with adultery. These opening verses (vv 20–21) are similar to Prov 3:1–3 and also to 7:1–3. Here, too, the youth’s attention is called to the instruction and command of the teacher; they are to be “bound” on the heart, “tied” on the neck, and also “written on the tablet of the heart” (3:3; 7:3). Such recommendations seem to be a deliberate recall of Deut 6:6–9 (the “Shema”) and Deut 11:18–21, as pointed out by C. Maier, ‘fremde Frau,’ 153–58. The agreement among these three introductions is significant. One may even draw the conclusion that sapiential and “Yahwistic” teaching do not differ, one from another. The teaching of the parents are on a level with, or better, analogous to the commands of Moses. It would not be surprising to find these prescriptions concretized in amulets and other objects. Their apotropaic character (warding off evil) is also to be presumed; cf. P. Miller, JNES 29 (1970) 129–30.[3]


6:20 The subject of adultery or unfaithfulness is taken up again here. The frequency with which it recurs is not accidental. The words of verse 20 are a sort of formula used to introduce important instruction.

6:21 Some extreme literalists in Jesus’ day thought they obeyed this verse by wearing phylacteries, that is, small leather boxes containing Scripture portions. During prayer, these Jews wore one on the left arm (near the heart) and one on the head (near the neck). Some Jews still use them today.

But what this verse really means is that we should make the Word of God so much a part of our lives that it will accompany and direct us wherever we go. It is not just a question of honoring the Scriptures outwardly but of obeying them from the heart.[4]


6:20 your mother’s teaching. In the appeals of chs. 1–9, usually only the father is mentioned. The mother as teacher appears here and in 1:8 (see note on 1:8). The young man’s mother represents respect for the institutions of family and marriage.[5]


6:20 My child, keep the commandment of your father See 1:8; note on 1:8–9:18.

6:21 Bind them on your heart The son is charged to keep his parents’ commandments close and ensure they will not be forgotten. Compare Exod 13:9.[6]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 6:20–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Murphy, R. E. (1998). Proverbs (Vol. 22, pp. 38–39). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 806–807). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1145). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 6:20–21). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

September 25, 2017: Verse of the day

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1 The psalmist pronounces a blessing on those who “live together in unity.” During the pilgrimages, the Israelites enjoyed an ecumenical experience on their way toward and in Jerusalem. The pilgrims came from many different walks of life, regions, and tribes as they gathered for one purpose: the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem. Their unity was in conformity with the regulations for the three annual feasts (Ex 23:14–17; Lev 23:4–22, 33–43; Nu 28:16–31; 29:12–39; Dt 16:1–17). During the feasts the Israelites celebrated their common heritage—redemption from Egypt and their encampment around the tabernacle in the wilderness (cf. Nu 2).[1]

133:1 Unity among brethren is a sight to behold. However, unity does not require that they see eye to eye on everything. On matters of fundamental importance they agree. On subordinate matters there is liberty for differing viewpoints. In all things there should be a spirit of love. There can be unity without uniformity; we are all different but that does not prevent our working together. All the members of the human body are different, but as they function in obedience to the head, there is a glorious unity. There can be unity without unanimity; God never intended that everyone should agree on matters of minor importance. It is enough to agree on the basics. On everything else we may disagree as long as we can do it without being disagreeable. The real enemies of unity are jealousy, gossip, backbiting, censoriousness and lovelessness.[2]

133:1 brothers. Those whose lineage can be traced to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. unity. While national unity might be on the surface, the foundation must always be spiritual unity. This would be the emphasis here, since these songs were sung by Jewish pilgrims traveling to the 3 great feasts.[3]

133:1 brothers dwell in unity. The expression appears in Gen. 13:6; 36:7, where a particular region could not support “brothers” (relatives) and their families dwelling close together. If this is the background for the psalm, then Ps. 133:1 describes a situation in which the land is fruitful enough for brothers to live nearby (perhaps a family inheritance, cf. Deut. 25:5). Since this is a Song of Ascents, the “brothers dwelling in unity” would be the fellow Israelite pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem, abiding in peace with one another. The ideal Israel is a community of true brotherhood, where the members practice mutual concern for one another; if this were achieved, it would indeed be good and pleasant. This should be the goal of church life (John 17:20–23).

133:1 Unity among God’s people is produced in Christ and in his Spirit (Eph. 4:1–6).[4]


133:1 dwell together in unity This expression probably reflects statements like those in Gen 13:6 or Gen 36:7, where extended families are described as being unable to dwell peaceably together because the land could not support them.[5]


133:1 brothers. This term could refer to family members, but here probably refers to tribal and national comrades as they unite in worship.[6]


133:1 “Brethren” denotes the members of the larger family of Israel. National unity is likened to: (1) the precious and sacred anointing oil used in the consecration of the high priest (cf. Ex. 29:7; Lev. 8:12); and (2) the refreshing and life-giving dew, known for its abundance on the slopes of Mt. Hermon (cf. 89:12, note). This exhortation to unity would, of course, be applicable to believers today (cf. Eph. 4:3). Cf. also 120:title, note.[7]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 935–936). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 762). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 133:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1110). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 133:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 856). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[7] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Ps 133:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

September 24, 2017: Verse of the day

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“O Lord, make me know my end

and what is the measure of my days;

let me know how fleeting I am!

    Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,

and my lifetime is as nothing before you.

Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

        Surely a man goes about as a shadow!

Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;

man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! [1]


4 Unable to resolve his problem, the psalmist turns to the Lord for instruction. The purpose of knowing life’s end is not that he may plan for every day of his life. He does not ask to know all that will happen but only what is the purpose of life. In the greater awareness of the brevity of life, he hopes that the Lord will guide him in an understanding and acceptance of this brevity. Notice the threefold mention of the brevity of life: “my life’s end,” “the number of my days,” and “how fleeting is my life” (cf. Ps 90; Job 11:7–9; Ecc 2:3).

Prayer is God’s means of instruction. In the quietness of prayer, the psalmist returns to the revealed insights pertaining to his life and to life in general. Because the question was personal, his first insight is personal. But the sage in him is not content until he has generalized it to be applicable to humankind.[2]


39:4–6 / The resulting prayer is not what we expect. It is initially a prayer about knowledge or insight (Hb. ydʿ is used twice, rendered in the niv by show me and let me know), not about a moral dilemma, but about how fleeting is my life. This is thus a prayer for perspective. The realization that he asks God to impress upon him (introduced in v. 5 with Hb. hinnê and emphasized in v. 6 with Hb. ʾak) is the span of my years is as nothing before you, and in fact, each man’s life is but a breath. Verse 6 shows the relevance of this prayer for the speaker’s moral dilemma: Man … bustles about, but only in vain (Hb. hebel, “as a breath”); he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. One’s life is too short of time and of guarantees to busy oneself with piling up things.[3]


39:4–6Lord, how long is this nightmare going to last? Tell me how much time I have left, and when it is going to run out. At best the span of my life is only about the width of my palm; compared to Your eternity, my lifetime isn’t worth mentioning. All of us humans are as unsubstantial as a vapor. We go through life like phantoms. We rush around in frenzied activity—but what does it all amount to after all? We spend our lives scrimping and saving, and leave it all behind to be enjoyed by ingrates or fools or strangers![4]


4–6 The burning question. Poetically v 4 asks ‘Am I going to die?’ This was the question he felt he should suppress before those who did not share his faith, for, with a heavenly prospect (49:15; 73:24) ahead why should he fear or resent dying? But the question will out and David faces the acknowledged brevity, insubstantiality and uncertain point of earthly life (5–6).[5]


39:4 For similar prayers about the brevity and burdens of life, cf. Job 6:11; 7:7; 14:13; 16:21, 22; Ps 90:12; Ecc 2:3.[6]


39:4 The threat of death hangs over all human existence and finds relief ultimately only through the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:12–26, 35–58).[7]


39:4 Let me know, O Yahweh, my end The psalmist asks for perspective and awareness regarding the brevity of human life.[8]


39:4 measure of my days. Their own short, hard lives tempted the faithful as they compared them to the prosperity of the wicked and questioned God’s wisdom and justice. See note Ps. 88:5.[9]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 39:4–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 360). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (p. 188). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 609). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 511). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 39:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 986). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 39:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[9] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 770). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

September 23, 2017: Verse of the day

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Divine Preservation in God’s Kingdom

Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven. (10:20)

Satan may, if God permits, bring trials into our lives as he did to Job (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–7), Peter (Luke 22:31), and Paul (2 Cor. 12:7). But he can never take away our salvation or separate us from God’s love (John 10:27–29; Rom. 8:28–39; Jude 24–25). The cause for that confidence lies in the final reason for the seventy’s rejoicing.

Although they rejoiced in the power over and protection from Satan’s kingdom of darkness the Lord had granted them, there was a far more significant reason for the seventy to rejoice. Jesus exhorted them not to rejoice merely because the spirits were subject to them, but rather that their names are recorded in heaven. They would not only experience God’s power and protection in this life, but also His blessing forever.

The wondrous reality that the seventy were genuine disciples was the supreme cause of their joy. Success in evangelism and power over Satan’s kingdom are for this life only. Believers’ knowledge that their names are recorded in heaven, never to be blotted out (cf. Dan. 12:1; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27), far surpasses all earthly joys.[1]


20 This verse, with its call to rejoicing in the supreme blessing of assurance of heaven, is one of Jesus’ great sayings. “Do not rejoice” does not exclude the disciples’ taking joy in spiritual victories but rather introduces a strong and typically Semitic comparison. The idea of the names of God’s faithful people as being written down in heaven is common in biblical and extrabiblical Jewish writings. In those days it was natural to refer to this through the metaphor of a book or scroll (e.g., Ex 32:32–33; Ps 69:28; Da 12:1; Mal 3:16; Rev 20:12–15).[2]


20. Nevertheless, it is not this in which you should rejoice, that the spirits submit to you, but this, that your names are recorded in heaven.

Jesus does not mean that these men erred in rejoicing over their God-given power over demons. Did not their ability to cast them out redound to God’s glory? Did it not also result in delivering the enslaved from the powers of darkness? What the Master must have meant was that authority over demons was, after all, insignificant in comparison with having one’s name recorded in heaven’s book of life. Cf. Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Rev. 3:5; 20:12, 15.

Casting out demons ceases when life here on earth ends. But right standing with God, resulting in everlasting salvation to his glory, never ends. Besides, authority over demons does not guarantee salvation. It is entirely possible that even upon Judas had been bestowed the ability to cast out demons. See Luke 9:1. But that did not make him a saved man!

For Practical Lessons and Greek Words, etc., see pp. 585–590.

10:21–24 The Rejoicing of Jesus

Cf. Matt. 11:25–27; 13:16, 17

21 At that time Jesus rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise thee Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and learned (people) and didst reveal them to babes; yes Father, for such was thy good pleasure. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 And turning to his disciples he said privately, “Blessed (are) the eyes that see what you are seeing! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you are seeing, but did not see it, and to hear what you are hearing, but did not hear it.”

The beginning of this paragraph so closely resembles what is found in Matthew’s Gospel that the opinion of many, namely, that the same event is being described in Matt. 11:25 ff. as here in Luke 10:21 ff., may well be correct. That event was the return of the “seventy,” or perhaps better, as has been indicated, the “seventy-two.”

Verses 1–24 of Luke’s tenth chapter are clearly a unit: the charge to the seventy-two (verses 1–12), the serious consequences of rejecting their (hence their Savior’s) message (verses 13–16), their return and exuberant report (verses 17–20), and Jesus’ own rejoicing coupled with the benediction he pronounced on the seventy-two (verses 21–24) belong together.[3]


20 Though sometimes identified as Lukan composition (e.g., Fitzmyer, 859 “v 20 may also be of Lukan composition”), only the πλήν (a strong form of “but”) with which the verse begins lies under suspicion of being Lukan (see the discussion in Miyoshi, Anfang, 107–9). There is, however, a difficulty about the form in which such a saying could have been transmitted. Different scholars have identified as the original unit vv 17, 20; vv 18, 20; and vv 19, 20. The best of these suggestions is the first (cf. Grelot, RSR 69 [1981] 88–89; rejoicing, the submission of the demons, and the role of the name link vv 17 and 20). This suggests that we should choose (from the options canvassed at v 17 above) in favor of heavy Lukan over-writing rather than Lukan composition. Could the original unit here have run something like, “They returned saying, ‘Even the spirits are subject to us [in your name].’ He said, ‘Do not rejoice in this; rejoice, rather, that your names have been recorded in heaven’ ”? (For a negative version of this sentiment, cf. Matt 7:22–23.) Luke (or his source) will have developed the parallelism between the two parts through the insertion of vv 18, 19.

Heavenly books of life are known from ancient Sumerian and Akkadian times (see Paul, JANESCU 5 [1973] 345–53). In the OT see Exod 32:32–33; Pss 69:28; 87:6; Isa 4:3; and esp. Dan 12:1; and cf. Mal 3:16–17. In the NT cf. Phil 4:3; Heb 12:23; Rev 3:5; 13:8. See also 1 Enoch 47:3; 108:3, 7; 1QM 12:2. The image is that of a register of citizens and is to be distinguished from the equally widespread image of God’s record book of the deeds of the people upon earth (the images are at times merged). An assured place in the kingdom of God is the supreme benefit that emerges through the experience of God’s grace in the ministry of Jesus. Note the contrast between Satan fallen from heaven and the names of the disciples now recorded in heaven.

Explanation

The Seventy(-two) have been involved in a mighty work and are excited by what they have experienced as they have in their mission explored the reality of the authority entrusted to them by Jesus. Jesus acknowledges and interprets this experience but bids them focus rather on the place secured for them in God’s future for his People.

We are to glean the success of the mission from the announcement of the returning messengers. We have no broader report, but at least they have had a heady experience of the reality of supernatural and spiritual power. As they have used his name, Jesus has been demonstrably Lord over the demons.

Jesus responds by reporting to them his own vision of Satan’s fall. This can be understood as simply a metaphorical description of the significance of what has been occurring in the disciples’ mission, but is probably better taken as referring to an actual visionary experience, like those of some of the OT prophets (Amos 8:1–2; Jer 1:13–19; etc.). In vision the prophets saw what God intended and found their own role in relation to it. Jesus saw that God intended the downfall of Satan and that it was his task to achieve this in God’s name.

In various circles of Jewish thought there was an expectation that the coming of the end-time would involve a final conflict between God and Satan, which would result in Satan’s decisive defeat. Jesus shared this view and allowed it to define his own role. But not only does this define his own role; it also defines the role of the disciples who are called to share in and extend Jesus’ own ministry. Through exorcism, healing, and proclaiming of the kingdom of God, Jesus’ vision becomes tangible reality upon the earth.

v 19 uses the imagery of trampling down one’s foes to develop the thought further. Jesus has imparted to his disciples the authority to move with impunity against all the forces of evil. In this verse there are probably allusions to Deut 8:15 and Ps 91:13. The former draws a connection between these present promises and God’s protection of the Israelites in the dangers of the Exodus wanderings. The latter provides a link to the protection promised by God to the one who makes God his shelter. Similarities with Rev 9:3–4 increase our confidence that the text here is using imagery of the end-time conflict between good and evil. The reality of this divine empowering and protection is pictured in Acts (e.g., 28:3–5), but the coming fate of Jesus in Jerusalem, which is so stressed in this journey section of the Gospel and also in other elements of the Acts portrayal, should warn us against taking this language in a way that is too triumphalist and that leaves no place for the Christian call to suffering (compare the paradoxical juxtaposition in Luke 21:16–17 and v 18).

One can easily be carried away by the experience of power. In v 20 Jesus expresses to the disciples just this concern. The prime goal of his ministry has been to restore people to God—to provide for them a secure place in the kingdom of God. To put it in terms that look ahead in the Gospel, the goal of Jesus’ ministry has been to see prodigals restored to their Father. The disciples are to rejoice that they have been recorded in heaven, for life in the kingdom of God (compare Dan 12:2).[4]


10:20 Yet they were not to rejoice in their power over spirits, but rather in their own salvation. This is the only recorded instance when the Lord told His disciples not to rejoice. There are subtle dangers connected with success in Christian service, whereas the fact that our names are written in heaven reminds us of our infinite debt to God and His Son. It is safe to rejoice in salvation by grace.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2011). Luke 6–10 (p. 342). 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. 194). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, pp. 582–583). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Nolland, J. (1998). Luke 9:21–18:34 (Vol. 35B, pp. 565–567). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1409). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.