Category Archives: Believer’s Study Bible

June 11, 2017: Verse of the day

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Je 2:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

MAY 31 – GOD ALREADY KNOWS!

O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me…. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

—Psalm 139:1, 3

In the same way, God, in one effortless act, knows instantly (not a little at a time, but instantly and perfectly) all things that can be known. That’s why I say that God cannot learn. As I said before, if we realized that God couldn’t learn, we could shorten our prayers quite a bit and step up their power. There is no reason to tell God things that He knew before you were born!

God knows the end from the beginning and He knew it long before it happened. Long before your parents met, God knew what you would be doing at this very moment. Before your grandparents met, before England was a nation, or the Roman Empire dissolved, or the Roman Empire was formed, God knew all about us. He knew everything about us—every hair on our head, our weight, our name, our past. And He knew it before we were born.

He knew it before Adam was. And when Adam walked in the garden with God, God knew all about Adam, all about Eve, all about their sons, all about the human race. God never gets astonished, astounded or surprised, because He already knows. You can walk down the street, turn the corner and get the surprise of your life. But God never turned the corner and got surprised, for the simple reason that God was already around that corner before He turned it. God already knew before He found out! God knows all things. AOGII113-114

Lord, I’m thankful that with You there are no surprises, nothing You don’t know ahead of time. Thank You. Amen. [1]


139:1, 2 First, he begins with the omniscience of God. God knows everything.

There is nothing He does not know.

Though limitless the universe and gloriously grand,

He knows the eternal story of every grain of sand.

But here it is His knowledge of the individual life that is particularly in view. In 1988 it was estimated that there were 5,000,000,000 people in the world. Yet God is intimately acquainted with each one. He knows all about every one of us.

He has searched us and known us! Words and deeds, thoughts and motives, He knows us inside out. He knows when we sit down to relax and when we rise up to engage in the varied activities of life. He can tell what we are thinking, and even anticipates our thoughts.

139:3 He sees us when we walk and when we lie down; in other words, He keeps a constant watch on us. None of our ways is hidden from Him.[2]


139:1 searched me and known me. Cf. the appeal in vv. 23, 24. He is the all-knowing God who has an intimate understanding of the psalmist, as of all His creation.

139:2 you discern my thoughts. God is omniscient. Thoughts may be the most private areas of life, but they cannot be hidden from the Lord (1 Chr. 28:9; Jer. 17:10; John 2:25).

139:3 You search out my path … lying down. Lit. “You have measured my traveling and my stretching out [to rest].” This is a merism for the thoroughness of God’s knowledge. See note on 49:2.[3]


139:1 This psalm contains the clearest expression of the attributes and character of God to be found in the Psalter. One could hardly describe the omniscience and omnipresence of God more effectively. As David meditated upon God’s omniscience, which includes actions (vv. 2, 3), words (v. 4), and thoughts (v. 2), it was apparently more than he could comprehend (cf.Rom. 11:33).[4]


The omniscience of the Lord (139:1–6)

139:1. The theme of verses 1–6 is announced in the opening verse: the Lord knew David penetratingly. David said God’s knowledge came as if He had scoured every detail of David’s life and thus knew him intimately.

139:2–4. Samples of how well God knew David are stated here. The Lord (You is emphatic in Heb.; cf. v. 13) knew every move he made; the two opposites of sitting and rising represent all his actions (this is a figure of speech known as a merism; cf. vv. 3, 8). God knew not only David’s actions; He also knew his motivations (thoughts; cf. v. 17). Afar evidently refers not to space but to time.

The daily activities of the psalmist were also thoroughly familiar to the Lord. The opposites of going out in the morning and lying down at night represent the whole day’s activities (another merism; cf. vv. 2, 8).

But the one sample that epitomizes God’s omniscience is in verse 4. Before the psalmist could frame a word on his tongue, the Lord was thoroughly familiar with what he was about to say. (The Heb. for “word” is millâh and the similar-sounding word for completely is kūllāḥ)

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).[5]


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

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

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 994). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[4] 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 139:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] 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.

May 30, 2017: Verse of the day

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31:34 No more shall every man teach: No longer would intermediaries like priests or prophets be needed to show the people how to know the Lord. From youngest to oldest, from peasant farmer to kings and princes, all would know God. Knowledge of God is a major theme of Jeremiah (2:8; 4:22; 5:4; 8:7) as well as of other prophets (Hos. 5:4). This knowledge is an intimate relationship with God evidenced by faith, obedience, and devotion. God will forgive and will purposefully not remember the sin and iniquity of His people who come to Him in repentance and faith. Jesus the Messiah fulfilled this promised New Covenant through His work on the Cross (Matt. 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; 1 Cor. 11:25).

31:35 sun … moon … stars: God, the Creator of all things, entered into covenant with His people. sea … waves: The Hebrew people learned from their Canaanite neighbors to fear the sea (Ps. 93). But God is Master of the sea, as He is Master of all things (Is. 51:15).[1]


31:34 The word translated “forgive” (salah, Heb.) can mean “send away” or “let go,” and is one of several O.T. words for forgiveness (v. 34; 36:3; cf. Is. 55:7, note). Another term is kaphar (Heb.), basically meaning “to cover” (Prov. 17:9; Is. 1:18) and most often associated with the various aspects of the atonement, which is impossible without God’s forgiveness. A third word is nasa˒ (Heb.), meaning “lift up or away” (Gen. 50:17; Ex. 10:17). In the N.T. there are four Greek words rendered “forgive”: (1) aphiēgmi, meaning “send away” or “let off” (Mark 3:29; Acts 5:31; 13:38; 26:18; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14) and also rendered “liberty” (Luke 4:18) or “remission,” which indicates a permanent removal of deserved punishment and condemnation (Matt. 26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77; 3:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 10:43; Heb. 9:22; 10:18); (2) paresis, meaning “remission” (Rom. 3:25); (3) apoluōg, literally “to loose away from” or “away from destruction” (Luke 6:37); and (4) charizomai, meaning literally “be gracious to” (Luke 7:43; 2 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). The latter word is enhanced by its relation to the noun charis, meaning “grace.” Forgiveness is the demonstration of God’s mercy and grace (Ps. 86:5; 103:10, 11), the sovereign act of God which reflects His very nature. Sin breaks the fellowship between God and man just as it breaks the harmony among men. Fellowship is restored only through forgiveness. If God is willing to forgive man, how much more should man forgive man (cf. Matt. 6:12). Those who have been forgiven should then become the forgiving (Luke 7:40–47; 17:3, 4). Divine forgiveness is marked by its unlimited scope (cf. Ps. 78:38; Luke 17:3, 4), its absolute erasure of sins (cf. Ps. 103:12; Mic. 7:19; Heb. 10:17), its abundant and gracious pardon (cf. Is. 55:7), and its automatic forgetting simultaneous with forgiveness (cf. Is. 43:25; 44:22). Though human forgiveness is inferior to divine forgiveness, the pattern is available and worthy of imitation (Eph. 5:1). The fruits of forgiveness include (1) peace (Gal. 5:22), (2) healing (2 Chr. 30:18–20), (3) restoration (2 Cor. 2:7–10), and (4) cleansing (James 5:15, 16). The forgiveness of their sin will assure a personal relationship with Yahweh. Likewise the law will not be relegated to written material only, but also will be known by the indwelling of the living Word in individual believers. In the new covenant it is God Himself that initiates and executes His blessings toward Israel. The people of God have hope in: (1) a coming day of restoration (v. 31); (2) personal fellowship with the living God (vv. 32, 33); and (3) the forgiveness of their sins (v. 34).[2]


31:34 There will be no need for a faithful remnant within the covenant people to teach the unfaithful majority to know God, for all covenant partners will know him. This covenant will include only those who know him, and he will remember their sin no more.[3]


31:31–34 a new covenant. In contrast to the Mosaic Covenant under which Israel failed, God promised a New Covenant with a spiritual, divine dynamic by which those who know Him would participate in the blessings of salvation. The fulfillment was to individuals, yet also to Israel as a nation (v. 36; Ro 11:16–27). It is set 1) in the framework of a reestablishment in their land (e.g., chaps. 30–33 and in vv. 38–40) and 2) in the time after the ultimate difficulty (30:7). In principle, this covenant, also announced by Jesus Christ (Lk 22:20), begins to be exercised with spiritual aspects realized for Jewish and Gentile believers in the church era (1Co 11:25; Heb 8:7–13; 9:15; 10:14–17; 12:24; 13:20). It has already begun to take effect with “a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Ro 11:5). It will be also realized by the people of Israel in the last days, including the regathering to their ancient land, Palestine (chaps. 30–33). The streams of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants find their confluence in the millennial kingdom ruled over by the Messiah.[4]

A new covenant (31:31–34)

Commentary

31–32 It is only fitting that the weeping prophet from Anathoth, who spoke of death and destruction for more than forty years, would be the one entrusted with the glorious new covenant oracle—an oracle whose words were surely in Yeshua’s mind at the Last Supper (cf. Lk 22:20), an oracle repeated in Hebrews 8:8–13; 9:15–22; 10:16–17, and an oracle whose theme ultimately became the primary name given to the Greek Scriptures as a whole. (Though Lundbom, 2:474, claims that “it comes as somewhat of a surprise … to find so little said in the NT about a new covenant,” it cannot be denied that the entire NT is permeated with the understanding of the new realities of the new covenant God has made with his people.) The significance of these verses cannot be overstated. (According to Carson, “Matthew,” EBC, 8:538, “It appears, then, that Jesus understands the covenant he is introducing to be the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies and the antitype of the Sinai covenant,” with earlier reference to Ex 24:8. As to the word “new” in this context in some NT manuscripts, cf. Luke 22:20.)

As in v. 27, both the houses of Israel and Judah are addressed in v. 31, and the divine announcement to them is momentous: Yahweh will make a new covenant with his people! It was Jeremiah who witnessed the valiant efforts of Josiah to renew the Sinaitic covenant—efforts that ultimately failed and the last such efforts of a Judean king—and it was Jeremiah whose calling as a prophet received undeniable confirmation by the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah (cf., similarly, Eze 33:21–33). It will receive even more confirmation with the return of the exiles after seventy years.

This man had the credibility to deliver such an oracle and declare (v. 31): This covenant will not be like the covenant made at Sinai! The new exodus—also combining a demonstration of the Lord’s power and his tender care—will have a new covenant (compare the description of the first exodus here, “when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,” with descriptions of the second exodus [31:7–9]), since God’s people broke the Sinaitic covenant (prr, “break, annul,” occurring with berît, “covenant,” as early as Ge 17:14; see also Lev 26:15, 44; Dt 31:16, 20; Isa 24:5; Eze 16:59; 17:16, 18; 44:7; in Jeremiah, see esp. 11:10, “Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers”). They did this despite the fact that Yahweh had been a husband to them (bāʿaltî bām; cf. 3:14; for other renderings, see Notes).

On his end, Yahweh did everything he could; yet the people violated the covenant to the point of making it null and void (cf. Clemens; Brueggemann states, “The old covenant from Sinai was resisted until it was broken and abrogated”). Without a new covenant the same pattern of disobedience, judgment, and transitory repentance followed again by disobedience and judgment would be endlessly repeated. God’s only redemptive recourse, then, was to change the nature of the covenant and thereby change the nature of his people.

33 The character of this new covenant is described as one that will be made “after those days” (NASB), referring back to v. 31a and possibly back to v. 27 or even earlier and apparently meaning after they have been planted again in the land (cf. Metsudat David, “after they return from exile”). Interestingly, reference is made here only to the house of Israel, but this must certainly be understood inclusively as referring to both Israel and Judah (mentioned in vv. 29, 31); it may also reflect the fact that the Sinaitic covenant was made with one people, Israel, before there was such a thing as the northern and southern kingdoms. In the same way this new covenant will be made with one people, Israel (cf. esp. 1 Ki 18:31; see also Holladay with reference to Eze 39:15–17).

In this new covenant God’s tôrâ (“teaching, law”) will be put within his people (beqirbām, lit., “in their midst/interior”; the NIV’s “in their minds” is too interpretive) and will be written on their hearts, in obvious contradistinction to the Sinaitic covenant, which was written on tablets of stone (Ex 24:12; 34:1, 4, 28; Dt 4:13; 5:22; 9:9–11; 10:1, 3; see Eze 36:26–27; 2 Co 3:3; cf. further Pss 40:8[9]; 51:6, 10; note Dt 10:16; Jer 4:3–4). Thus it will become Israel’s very nature to keep the commandments of the Lord as their automatic, natural response; this is expressed more fully in the (clearly parallel) new heart passage in Ezekiel 36:26–27, as well as in Jeremiah 32:37–42 (see discussion there; cf. also Eze 11:17–20).

On a practical level, this means that what the psalmist experienced on a temporary and individual level in Psalm 40—delighting in God’s will and having the Torah in his heart before being overwhelmed by the consciousness of his still-present sins—will become Israel’s experience on a corporate and permanent level. Because there will be harmony between Yahweh and his people, the covenantal promise expressed first in Jeremiah in 7:23 and repeated again in 11:1–4 will finally become the reality. As Keil notes, “the essential element of the new covenant, ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people,’ was set forth as the object of the old; cf. Lev 26:12 with Ex 29:45,” but it is only through the new covenant that it will be realized. As Heschel, 1:128–29, observes, “Prophecy is not God’s only instrument. What prophecy fails to bring about, the new covenant will accomplish: the complete transformation of every individual.” For a thorough interpretive study, see Fẹmi Adeyẹmi, The New Covenant Torah in Jeremiah and the Law of Christ in Paul (Studies in Biblical Literature 94; New York: Peter Lang, 2008).

34 The impact of all of this will be so great that the knowledge of God will become completely pervasive (cf. esp. Isa 11:9), eliminating the need for ongoing instruction and exhortation to know Yahweh—the foundation for obedience, worship, and blessing (cf., e.g., 9:24; contrast 2:8; 4:22)—since everyone will know him (according to Metsudat David with reference to 22:16b, to know the Lord means “to fear him and to walk in his ways”). In contrast with Judah’s preexilic state, as expressed in 6:13; 8:10 (“from the least of them to the greatest all are greedy for gain”), in the new state of things “they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.”

This will come about because Yahweh will utterly and completely forgive and forget his people’s sins and wickedness—an unprecedented gesture on his part toward his chronically disobedient people (cf. 33:8; 50:20, for a reiteration of this; contrast 5:1, 7). This, of course, does not mean that he will forgive them so that they can continue to sin; rather, it speaks of: (1) a cleaning of the slate and a complete removal of the guilt of the past; and (2) the internalized nature of the new covenant, in which Israel will no longer seek to disobey—the byproduct of being forgiven (cf. Lk 7:47). As Brueggemann notes, “All the newness is possible because Yahweh has forgiven.” Compare also Radak, who explains that God will forgive them for the sins “they committed while still in exile,” adding, “and I will give them a new heart so that they will know me.”

While these verses do not state categorically that God’s people will never sin again (though Malbim says the possibility of sinning will not even exist), they do strongly imply that they will no longer be characterized by disobedience and wickedness but rather by obedience and righteousness. For further discussion of what is “new” in the new covenant, compare Bertrand Pinçon, Du nouveau dans l’ancien: Essai sur la notion d’alliance nouvelle dans le livre Jérémie et dans quelques relectures au cours d’exil (Lyons: Profac, 2000; conveniently summarized in OTA 23 [2000]: 2084). For the usage of tôrâ in this passage, compare Untermann, 98–102, who renders tôrâ as “divine legal instruction.” Huey lists Isaiah 41:18–20; 42:6–13; 43:18–21, 25; 44:3–5, 21–23; 45:14–17; 49:8–13; 51:3–8; 54:9–10; 55:3; 60:15–22; 61:1–9; 65:17–25; Jeremiah 50:4–5; Ezekiel 16:60–63; 34:11–31; 36:8–15, 22–38; 37:11–14, 21–28; Joel 2:18–32 as containing new covenant ideas, with reference to Walter C. Kaiser, “The Old Promise and the New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31–34,” JETS 15 (1972): 11–23. For additional references, see http://www.askdrbrown.org/bibliography/jeremiah.[5]


[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 923–924). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[2] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Je 31:34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1431). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Je 31:31–34). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Brown, M. L. (2010). Jeremiah. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah–Ezekiel (Revised Edition) (Vol. 7, pp. 395–398). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 24, 2017: Verse of the day

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55:10, 11 God’s word is just as irresistible and effective as the rain and snow. All the armies in the world cannot stop them, and they accomplish their intended purpose. God’s Word never fails to achieve its aims:

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.[1]


55:10, 11 rain … snow … My word. Moisture from heaven invariably accomplishes its intended purpose in helping meet human physical needs. The Word of God will likewise produce its intended results in fulfilling God’s spiritual purposes, especially the establishment of the Davidic kingdom on earth (vv. 1–5).[2]


55:10–11 As the rain and the snow cannot fail to nourish the earth, so God’s word of promise cannot fail to bring his people into the richness and fullness of eternal life. Human good intentions fail, but God’s promises succeed (cf. 40:6–8). The word of God not only describes a glorious future, it is God’s appointed means to create that future (cf. Ezek. 37:1–14).[3]


55:11 It shall not return to me without success Yahweh’s word cannot fail to bring about the desired results (compare 40:8). The word of God contains very real power to accomplish His will. Creation happened through divine speech in Gen 1 (compare Psa 33:6, 9), and Yahweh brought life back into lifeless bones through the prophetic words of Ezekiel (Ezek 37:1–14).[4]


55:10, 11 rain. The rain falls abundantly and of its own accord, and in a familiar but mysterious way produces plants and useful crops, evidently for the purpose of supplying people’s needs. The divine purpose in this is applied figuratively to the word of God in order to distinguish it from fallible human thoughts and plans. It also speaks of the Lord’s word as His decree by which He governs history. It never returns without accomplishing God’s sovereign purposes. Cf. 40:8.[5]

55:11 It is the divine origin (or character) of God’s word, and not some magical power, which causes it to accomplish the purpose for which it is sent (cf. Heb. 4:12).[6]

10–11 The declaration of vs 8–9 not only looks back to v 7 but on to vs 10–13, to shame us out of our small expectations. God’s thoughts are more far-reaching and more fertile, as well as higher, than ours. The comparison of his word with rain andsnow suggests a slow and silent work, transforming the face of the earth in due time. The reference is to his decree (cf. e.g. 44:26; 45:23) rather than his invitation or instruction, which can be refused (48:18–19; cf. the similar imagery to that of v 10 in Heb. 6:4–8).[7]

55:10, 11 bring forth: For a similar reference, see 2 Cor. 9:10. God’s word is similar to rainfall; it produces fruit (Ps. 147:15–20). Just as water enlivens and strengthens a withering rose, God’s word produces life in the hearts of sinners.[8]

55:10–11. Having spoken of the future time of blessing (the Millennium) and the salvation which leads to it, the Lord then assured believers that His Word … will accomplish what He says it will. His word is like rain and snow that water the earth and help give it abundant vegetation. In the Near East dry hard ground can seemingly overnight sprout with vegetation after the first rains of the rainy season. Similarly when God speaks His Word, it brings forth spiritual life, thus accomplishing His purpose.[9]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 55:10). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1342). 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 (Is 55:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1228). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Is 55:11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Kidner, F. D. (1994). Isaiah. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 664). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 865). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[9] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1111). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

May 20, 2017: Verse of the day

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16–17 Judah’s pattern of disobedience is rehearsed again. Because the people have lost their bearings and forgotten their way, the Lord exhorts them to return to the foundations, to the ancient paths, to the sure foundations of their ancestors. (Compare the description of false deities in Dt 13:6; 28:64 as gods which “neither you nor your fathers have known,” and note the call in Pr 22:28 not to “move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.”) This is where they will find respite and rest for their souls (language apparently borrowed in Mt 11:28–30), but in keeping with their history they said, “We won’t go that way!” (Compare the response to Isaiah’s invitation in Isa 30:15: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”)

So the Lord reached out to them once more (v. 17), warning them through watchmen (= prophets; cf. Eze 3:17–21; 33:1–9), who urged them to listen to the sound of the alarm, but they said, “We won’t listen!” (e.g., 18:12; note the call to the people to turn back and do right, followed by their negative response; on this, cf. already 2:25; note also God’s heart on all of this in 7:13b and par.).[1]


6:16 Here is the image of travelers who are lost, stopping to inquire about the right way they once knew before they wandered so far off it.[2]


6:16 the ancient paths. The way of faithfulness revealed to Moses and the earlier prophets. the good way. The proper life of faith-driven obedience. walk. A metaphor for patterned living (cf. Ps. 1:1). We will not walk describes strong rebellion against revealed truth.[3]


6:16 the ancient paths A metaphor for the proper way to worship Yahweh according to the laws of the Pentateuch. Compare Jer 18:15.

We will not walk The people’s refusal is direct and explicit; it is open rebellion against following Yahweh.[4]


6:16 ancient paths. This phrase describes the traditional religious life of the Israelites from the time of Moses; it is the task of priests and prophets to direct the people.[5]


6:16 Jeremiah admonishes the people to remember the old traditions of faith and obedience. By returning to those ancient paths and walking in them they could find rest. They defiantly refuse![6]


6:16, 17 Old paths probably refers to the Sinai covenant and the Book of Deuteronomy, as Jeremiah called the people back to former days of steadfast devotion. The people obstinately refused to walk rightly and find rest. They also refused to listen to the alarming sound of the trumpet, denying that any danger existed.[7]


[1] Brown, M. L. (2010). Jeremiah. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah–Ezekiel (Revised Edition) (Vol. 7, p. 153). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Je 6:16). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1385). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Je 6:16). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1270). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Je 6:16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 889). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

May 13 – Being Zealous for the Lord (James, son of Zebedee)

The twelve apostles included “James the son of Zebedee” (Matt. 10:2).

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God can use overzealous and ambitious people for His glory.

Like Peter and Andrew, James and John were fishermen. One day as Jesus walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee, He saw them in a boat with their father Zebedee and some hired servants. When Jesus called them to follow Him, they immediately left the boat and went with Him (Mark 1:19–20).

James and John were zealous and ambitious men—so much so that Jesus nicknamed them “Boanerges,” which means, “Sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). At times their great zeal got the better of them. In Luke 9:54, for example, after a Samaritan village had rejected some of the disciples, James and John asked Jesus for permission to call down fire from Heaven to incinerate the whole village! On another occasion they sent their mother to ask Jesus to give them the most prominent places in His Kingdom (Matt. 20:20–28). They wanted power, prestige, and honor, but Jesus promised them suffering and, in James’s case, a martyr’s grave.

James was probably the eldest of the two brothers. His name is listed first whenever their names appear together in Scripture. Perhaps he was also the most zealous and passionate of the two, since he was the first apostle to be martyred. When King Herod decided to persecute the early church, he had James put to death with a sword (Acts 12:2). When he saw how much that pleased the Jewish people, he had Peter arrested but didn’t kill him. Apparently James was a bigger threat than Peter. That tells us something about the powerful ministry he must have had.

Like James and John, some Christians have a zeal that prompts them to run ahead of the Holy Spirit. If that’s true of you, be thankful for your zeal, but also be careful to allow the Spirit to govern what you do and say. However, if you’ve slipped into spiritual complacency and your life isn’t much of a threat to Satan’s kingdom, you need to repent and become more zealous for the Lord!

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to give you a holy zeal that’s motivated by love and governed by His Spirit.

For Further Study: Read John 2:12–22. ✧ How did Jesus demonstrate His zeal for God’s house? ✧ Why were His actions necessary?[1]


10:2 the names of the twelve apostles. The 12 are always listed in a similar order (cf. Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:13–16; Ac 1:13). Peter is always named first. The list contains 3 groups of 4. The 3 subgroups are always listed in the same order, and the first name in each subgroup is always the same, though there is some variation in the order within the subgroups—but Judas Iscariot is always named last. Peter … Andrew … James … John. The first subgroup of 4 are the most familiar to us. These two sets of brothers, all fishermen, represent an inner circle of disciples often seen closest to Jesus (see note on 17:1).[2]


10:2 Apostles (plural of Gk. apostolos; used only here in Matthew; see note on Rom. 1:1) describes those commissioned to be Jesus’ special representatives, while “disciples” (Matt. 10:1) was also used more broadly to refer to anyone who believed in Jesus. Peter heads all the lists of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16; Acts 1:13) and serves as their spokesman. Peter, along with James and John, made up Jesus’ inner circle.[3]


10:2 apostles. The Gk. word apostolos designates an authorized representative or emissary whose word has the authority of the sender (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23, where it is translated “messengers,” and 2 Cor. 1:1 note). Here the Twelve receive authority to do exactly what Jesus has been doing (vv. 7, 8).[4]


10:2 In the early church an “apostle” (apostolos, Gk.) is a representative of the authority of the risen Lord. The term describes the function of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16; John 1:40–49) who are sent out by Jesus. The Twelve made up the body of authoritative leaders in the church. James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19), Silvanus (1 Thess. 1:1), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:4, 14), and others are designated “apostles,” though not in the same technical sense that the Twelve are. Peter specifies that an apostle must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and activity from the time of His baptism to the resurrection/ascension (Acts 1:22).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 146). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 10:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1839). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1687). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 10:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 11 – Trials’ Lessons: Increased Wisdom

“But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living.”

Job 28:12–13

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God’s wisdom is our source for understanding life and all its trials.

The supernatural wisdom believers need in order to understand their trials is simply not available from our society. During Job’s ordeal he soon learned the utter inadequacy both of his reason and his friends’ misguided advice. That led him to the profound conclusion that the Lord’s wisdom is the only source for comprehending life and all its difficulties.

Wisdom in general has always been among the highest, most respected virtues believers can have. The Lord was greatly pleased when Solomon asked for wisdom rather than riches or power (1 Kings 3:5–13), and Solomon later set forth the basic importance of God’s wisdom: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6).

God’s wisdom puts things in the right perspective during trials and helps us endure them. But as we have already noted, it is not something we will have automatically. The apostle James, in the context of a passage about trials, says we must ask for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

In keeping with our series on trials’ lessons, it’s crucial that as we experience difficult tests, we ask God for wisdom to persevere according to His Word. Without a practical understanding of how to live according to His will and Word, we will not see His sovereign hand of providence at work in our trials. And we will miss one of God’s most important purposes in bringing sufferings and trials to us—that we would become more dependent on Him.

Once we have the Lord’s wisdom and realize that we have become more and more dependent on Him, we’ll be like Job, who received this answer to his earlier questions: “ ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding’ ” (28:28).

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Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that you would be more diligent in gleaning wisdom from your study of Scripture.

For Further Study: Read 1 Kings 3:5–13. What does Solomon’s request reveal about his character? ✧ What rewards and closing promise did God give to him as a result?[1]


12–14 The refrain states the theme and is followed by a response. (It is also possible that the refrain in v. 12 concludes the section and vv. 13–14 begin the next stanza, which concludes with a repeat of the refrain in v. 20.) Compare the refrain followed by response in Psalm 107:8 and 9; 15 and 16; 21 and 22; 31 and 32.

In v. 13 the response is clearer when the Hebrew translated “comprehend its worth” is rendered “know its abode” (see Notes). It is important to observe how as a refrain vv. 12–14 are parallel in form and meaning with vv. 20–22. In v. 14 “the deep” and “the sea” give the same negative response as do “Destruction” and “Death” in v. 22. The thrust is that even if one were able to probe these inaccessible places, wisdom cannot be found.[2]


28:12 Job cannot fathom God’s ways, but wisdom is found ultimately in Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:3).[3]


28:12 But from where will wisdom be found While people go to great lengths to find precious metals or stones, they do not know where to find wisdom. It is not found on earth (v. 13), under the earth, or in the sea (v. 14).[4]


28:12 This transitional verse emphasizes that technological know-how is incapable of providing spiritual insight.[5]


28:12 As a part of Job’s continuing effort to gain enough wisdom to understand the mystery of suffering, he reviews man’s exhaustive efforts to gain material treasures (vv. 1–11). However, physical effort and searching does not produce the greatest treasure. God’s wisdom cannot be bought (vv. 12–19).[6]


28:12 The word wisdom (v. 20) may emphasize the true wisdom that only the Lord knows (vv. 23–27) and that people may learn in relationship with Him (v. 28).[7]


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

[2] Smick, E. B. (2010). Job. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Chronicles–Job (Revised Edition) (Vol. 4, p. 827). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 910). 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 (Job 28:12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 799). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Job 28:12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 633). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

May 10 – Building a Leader: The Right Results (Peter)

The twelve apostles included “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2).

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God knows how to get results.

God makes leaders by taking people with the right raw material, putting them through the right experiences, and teaching them the right lessons. That’s how He trained Peter, and the results were astonishing. In the first twelve chapters of Acts we see Peter initiating the move to replace Judas with Matthias, preaching powerfully on the Day of Pentecost, healing a lame man, standing up to the Jewish authorities, confronting Ananias and Sapphira, dealing with Simon the magician, healing Aeneas, raising Dorcas from the dead, and taking the gospel to the Gentiles. In addition, he wrote two epistles that pass on to us all the lessons he learned from Jesus. What a leader!

Peter was as much a model of spiritual leadership in death as he was in life. Jesus told him he would be crucified for God’s glory, and early church tradition tells us that Peter was in fact crucified. But before putting him to death, his executioners forced him to watch the crucifixion of his wife. As he stood at the foot of her cross, he encouraging her by saying over and over, “Remember the Lord, remember the Lord.” When it was time for his own crucifixion, he requested that he be crucified upside-down because he felt unworthy to die as his Lord had died. His request was granted.

Just as God transformed Peter from a brash and impulsive fisherman into a powerful instrument for His glory, so He can transform everyone who is yielded to Him.

You will never be an apostle, but you can have the same depth of character and can know the same joy of serving Christ that Peter knew. There’s no higher calling in the world than to be an instrument of God’s grace. Peter was faithful to that calling. May you be faithful too!

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Praise God for the assurance that He will perfect the work He has begun in you (Phil. 1:6). ✧ Ask Him to use the experiences you have today as instruments that shape you more into the image of Christ.

For Further Study: Read John 21:18–23. ✧ How did Jesus describe Peter’s death? ✧ What was Peter’s reaction to Christ’s announcement? ✧ What misunderstanding was generated by their conversation?[1]


10:2 the names of the twelve apostles. The 12 are always listed in a similar order (cf. Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:13–16; Ac 1:13). Peter is always named first. The list contains 3 groups of 4. The 3 subgroups are always listed in the same order, and the first name in each subgroup is always the same, though there is some variation in the order within the subgroups—but Judas Iscariot is always named last. Peter … Andrew … James … John. The first subgroup of 4 are the most familiar to us. These two sets of brothers, all fishermen, represent an inner circle of disciples often seen closest to Jesus (see note on 17:1).[2]


10:2 Apostles (plural of Gk. apostolos; used only here in Matthew; see note on Rom. 1:1) describes those commissioned to be Jesus’ special representatives, while “disciples” (Matt. 10:1) was also used more broadly to refer to anyone who believed in Jesus. Peter heads all the lists of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16; Acts 1:13) and serves as their spokesman. Peter, along with James and John, made up Jesus’ inner circle.[3]


10:2 apostles. The Gk. word apostolos designates an authorized representative or emissary whose word has the authority of the sender (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23, where it is translated “messengers,” and 2 Cor. 1:1 note). Here the Twelve receive authority to do exactly what Jesus has been doing (vv. 7, 8).[4]


10:2 In the early church an “apostle” (apostolos, Gk.) is a representative of the authority of the risen Lord. The term describes the function of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16; John 1:40–49) who are sent out by Jesus. The Twelve made up the body of authoritative leaders in the church. James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19), Silvanus (1 Thess. 1:1), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:4, 14), and others are designated “apostles,” though not in the same technical sense that the Twelve are. Peter specifies that an apostle must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and activity from the time of His baptism to the resurrection/ascension (Acts 1:22).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 143). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 10:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1839). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1687). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 10:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 9 – Building a Leader: The Right Lessons (Peter)

The twelve apostles included “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2).

✧✧✧

Peter learned five lessons that every believer must also learn.

We have seen that God uses our experiences to mold us into more effective Christians and leaders. Using Peter as our example, let’s briefly look at five lessons we can learn from our experiences—submission, restraint, humility, sacrifice, and love.

Leaders tend to be confident and aggressive, so they must learn to submit to authority. Jesus illustrated that by telling Peter to go fishing and to look for a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught (Matt. 17:24–27). He was to use that coin to pay their taxes. Peter was a citizen of God’s Kingdom, but he needed an object lesson in submitting to governmental authorities.

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter grabbed a sword and would have fought the entire group if Jesus hadn’t restrained him. Peter needed to learn to entrust His life to the Father, just as Christ was doing.

Peter bragged that he would never leave or forsake Christ—but he did. Perhaps humility was the most painful lesson he had to learn.

Jesus told Peter that he would die as a martyr (John 21:18–19). From that day forward Peter knew his life was on the line, and yet he was willing to make the necessary sacrifice and minister anyway.

Leaders tend to be task-oriented and often are insensitive to people. Peter was that way, so Jesus demonstrated love by washing his feet and by instructing him to do loving deeds for others (John 13:6–9, 34).

Submission, restraint, humility, sacrifice, and love should be characteristic of every believer—no matter what role he or she has within the Body of Christ. I pray they are characteristic of your life, and that you will constantly seek to grow in those graces as God continues His work in you.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Spiritual lessons are sometimes painful to learn, but God is patient and gracious. Thank Him for His patience, and thank Him also for Christ, who is the perfect example of what we should be.

For Further Study: Peter learned his lessons well. Read 1 Peter 2:13–18, 21–23; 4:8, 16; and 5:5. What can you learn from Peter’s instructions on submission, restraint, love, sacrifice, and humility?[1]


10:2 the names of the twelve apostles. The 12 are always listed in a similar order (cf. Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:13–16; Ac 1:13). Peter is always named first. The list contains 3 groups of 4. The 3 subgroups are always listed in the same order, and the first name in each subgroup is always the same, though there is some variation in the order within the subgroups—but Judas Iscariot is always named last. Peter … Andrew … James … John. The first subgroup of 4 are the most familiar to us. These two sets of brothers, all fishermen, represent an inner circle of disciples often seen closest to Jesus (see note on 17:1).[2]


10:2 Apostles (plural of Gk. apostolos; used only here in Matthew; see note on Rom. 1:1) describes those commissioned to be Jesus’ special representatives, while “disciples” (Matt. 10:1) was also used more broadly to refer to anyone who believed in Jesus. Peter heads all the lists of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16; Acts 1:13) and serves as their spokesman. Peter, along with James and John, made up Jesus’ inner circle.[3]


10:2 the twelve apostles Matthew initially refers to this group as disciples. Here, he calls them “apostles”—those who are sent out with the authority of the sender (Jesus).

No explicit reason is given here for the choice of 12 disciples, but it may have been in part to reflect the fact that there were twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew later presents the 12 disciples as Israel’s new leaders (19:28).[4]


10:2 apostles. The Gk. word apostolos designates an authorized representative or emissary whose word has the authority of the sender (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23, where it is translated “messengers,” and 2 Cor. 1:1 note). Here the Twelve receive authority to do exactly what Jesus has been doing (vv. 7, 8).[5]


10:2 In the early church an “apostle” (apostolos, Gk.) is a representative of the authority of the risen Lord. The term describes the function of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16; John 1:40–49) who are sent out by Jesus. The Twelve made up the body of authoritative leaders in the church. James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19), Silvanus (1 Thess. 1:1), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:4, 14), and others are designated “apostles,” though not in the same technical sense that the Twelve are. Peter specifies that an apostle must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and activity from the time of His baptism to the resurrection/ascension (Acts 1:22).[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 142). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 10:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1839). 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 (Mt 10:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1687). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 10:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 8 – Building a Leader: The Right Experiences (Peter)

The twelve apostles included “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2).

✧✧✧

Your present experiences contribute to your future leadership ability.

Stan Carder is a dear brother in Christ and one of the pastors on our church staff. Before coming to Grace Church he pastored a church in Montana. While there, he was riding one night in a truck that was involved in a very serious accident. Stan suffered a broken neck and other major injuries. As a result he underwent months of arduous and painful therapy.

That was one of the most difficult periods in Stan’s life, and yet God used it for a specific purpose. Today, as pastor of our special-ministries department, Stan ministers to more than five hundred physically and mentally handicapped people. God needed a man with unique qualifications to show love to a group of very special people. He chose Stan and allowed him the necessary experiences to fit him for the task.

God doesn’t always permit such serious situations, but He does lead each of us into life-changing experiences that heighten our effectiveness in ministry.

Peter had many such experiences. In Matthew 16:15–16, for example, God gave him special revelation about the deity of Christ. In Acts 10 God sent him to preach the gospel to Gentiles—something unheard of at the time because Jewish people resisted any interaction with Gentiles. Perhaps the most tragic experience of Peter’s life was his denial of Christ. But even that only increased his love for Christ and his appreciation of God’s grace. After His resurrection, Christ forgave him and restored him to ministry (John 21:15–19).

Peter’s many experiences helped prepare him for the key role he was to play in the early church. Similarly, your experiences help prepare you for future ministry. So seek to discern God’s hand in your circumstances, and rejoice at the prospect of becoming a more effective Christian.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for both the good and bad experiences you have, knowing that each of them is important to your spiritual growth (cf. James 1:2–4).

For Further Study: Read Acts 10, noting what Peter learned from his experience. ✧ What vision did Peter have? ✧ What was the point of the vision?[1]


10:2 the names of the twelve apostles. The 12 are always listed in a similar order (cf. Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:13–16; Ac 1:13). Peter is always named first. The list contains 3 groups of 4. The 3 subgroups are always listed in the same order, and the first name in each subgroup is always the same, though there is some variation in the order within the subgroups—but Judas Iscariot is always named last. Peter … Andrew … James … John. The first subgroup of 4 are the most familiar to us. These two sets of brothers, all fishermen, represent an inner circle of disciples often seen closest to Jesus (see note on 17:1).[2]


10:2 Apostles (plural of Gk. apostolos; used only here in Matthew; see note on Rom. 1:1) describes those commissioned to be Jesus’ special representatives, while “disciples” (Matt. 10:1) was also used more broadly to refer to anyone who believed in Jesus. Peter heads all the lists of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16; Acts 1:13) and serves as their spokesman. Peter, along with James and John, made up Jesus’ inner circle.[3]


10:2 apostles. The Gk. word apostolos designates an authorized representative or emissary whose word has the authority of the sender (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23, where it is translated “messengers,” and 2 Cor. 1:1 note). Here the Twelve receive authority to do exactly what Jesus has been doing (vv. 7, 8).[4]


10:2 In the early church an “apostle” (apostolos, Gk.) is a representative of the authority of the risen Lord. The term describes the function of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16; John 1:40–49) who are sent out by Jesus. The Twelve made up the body of authoritative leaders in the church. James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19), Silvanus (1 Thess. 1:1), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:4, 14), and others are designated “apostles,” though not in the same technical sense that the Twelve are. Peter specifies that an apostle must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and activity from the time of His baptism to the resurrection/ascension (Acts 1:22).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 141). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 10:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1839). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1687). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 10:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

May 5 – What’s Wrong with False Giving?

When you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.—Matt. 6:2

Giving to the poor literally means any act of mercy, but it came to mean more specifically the giving of money or goods to the needy. Jesus did not say “if” but “when” concerning our giving—in other words, He expects us to do so. But just as sympathy for the needy does not help them unless something is actually done toward their need, so giving money provides us no spiritual blessing unless done from the heart.

Those who, like the Pharisees, give to impress others with their piety and generosity will receive no further reward. When we give with this false motive, we receive back only what people can give; we thereby forfeit God’s blessings.

Many times, of course, the pretense people use to draw attention to or make an impression with their giving is not so obvious. They know, especially if they profess to follow Christ, that other Christians will resent ostentatiousness. So they seek to make their giving “accidentally” noticed. But any strategy designed to draw attention is still a basic form of trumpet-blowing hypocrisy, which can appear in various forms. Whenever we make a point of doing our giving publicly to be noticed, rather than doing it privately simply for God’s reward, we behave more like the hypocrites of Jesus’ day, not like His children.

ASK YOURSELF

 

What are some of the ways that giving can be done for personal recognition, even within the decorum of outward humility? How does one guard against this need for acknowledgment? What are we forgetting when we’re tempted to crave the credit for every dollar we share with others?[1]

 

The Practice and Reward of False Giving

When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (6:2)

A hupokritēs (hypocrite) originally was a Greek actor who wore a mask that portrayed in an exaggerated way the role that was being dramatized. For obvious reasons the term came to be used of anyone who pretended to be what he was not.

John Calvin believed that in all virtues the entrance of [hypocrisy] was to be avoided, there being no work so praiseworthy as not to be in many instances corrupted and polluted by it (A Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], pp. 308–9).

One of Satan’s most common and effective ways of undermining the power of the church is through hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, therefore, is a great peril to the church, and it comes in two forms. The first is that of nonbelievers masquerading as Christians. The second is that of true believers who are sinful but pretend to be spiritual. The warning Jesus gives here applies to both groups.

Augustine said, “The love of honor is the deadly bane of true piety. Other vices bring forth evil works but this brings forth good works in an evil way.” Hypocrisy is so dangerous because it is so deceptive. It uses things that are basically good for purposes that are basically evil. “Hypocrisy,” he goes on to say, “is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”

Eleēnosunē (alms) literally refers to any act of mercy or pity, but came to be used primarily of giving money, food, or clothing to the poor. It is the term from which we get the English eleemosynary, a synonym for charitable.

Jesus does not introduce this teaching with if but when, indicating it is something He expects us to do. To give alms refers to actual giving, not good intentions or warm feelings of pity that never find practical expression. When done in the right spirit it not only is permissible but obligatory for believers.

God has always delighted in acts of mercy and generosity. “Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you” (Lev. 25:35). When Israelites freed a slave they were told, “You shall not send him away empty-handed. You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you” (Deut. 15:13–14). God’s people were continually reminded in the Psalms, Proverbs, and prophetic writings to be considerate of and generous to the poor, whether fellow Israelites or Gentile strangers.

Jesus and the disciples had their own money bag from which they gave offerings to the poor (John 13:29). It is obvious, therefore, that it is only giving alms in the wrong spirit that is evil. The scribes and Pharisees gave them primarily to bring honor to themselves, not to serve others or to honor God.

The giving of alms had been carried to absurd extremes by rabbinic tradition. In the Jewish apocryphal books we read such things as, “It is better to give to charity than to lay up gold. For charity will save a man from death; it will expiate any sin” (Tobit 12:8) and, “As water will quench a flaming fire, so charity will atone for sin” (The Wisdom of Sirach 3:30). Consequently, many Jews believed that salvation was much easier for the rich, because they could buy their way into heaven by giving to the poor. The same mechanistic and unbiblical principle is seen in traditional Roman Catholic dogma. Pope Leo the Great declared, “By prayer we seek to appease God, by fasting we extinguish the lust of the flesh, and by alms we redeem our sins.”

But just as a sympathetic feeling for someone in need does not help them unless something is given to meet their need, giving them money provides no spiritual benefit or blessing unless it is given from the heart. In any case, no act of charity or any other good work can atone for sin.

There seems to be no evidence from history or archaeology that a literal trumpet or other instrument was used by Jews to announce their giving. The figure was used by Jesus to describe the attention in the synagogues and in the streets that many wealthy hypocrites, not just scribes and Pharisees, purposely attracted to themselves when they presented their gifts.

The reward they wanted was recognition and praise, to be honored by men, and that became their reward in full. They have their reward was a form of a technical expression used at the completion of a commercial transaction, and carried the idea of something being paid for in full and receipted. Nothing more was owed or would be paid. Those who give for the purpose of impressing others with their generosity and spirituality will receive no other reward, especially from God. The Lord owes them nothing. When we give to please men, our only reward will be that which men can give. Seeking men’s blessings forfeits God’s.

There are many more subtle trumpets people can use to call attention to their good works. When they make a point of doing publicly what they could easily do privately, they behave like the hypocrites, not like God’s children.

A man came into my office one Sunday and told me it was his first time to worship with us and that he intended to make our church his church home. He then handed me a generous check, with the promise that I would receive one just like it every week. I told him I did not want to receive his checks personally and suggested that he should give anonymously as the rest of the church family did. If he had continued to give a large amount every Sunday, there was no good reason for him to have announced his generosity to me or to anyone else. How much better for him simply to have put the check in the offering during a service.

Sometimes, of course, the pretense does not show. Knowing that it is wrong to give ostentatiously and that fellow Christians are likely to resent it, we sometimes try to make our good works “accidentally” noticed. But even if we only want people to notice, and do nothing to attract their attention, our heart motive is to be honored by men. The real trumpet blowing, the basic hypocrisy, is always on the inside, and that is where God judges. Hypocritical righteousness, just as true righteousness, begins in the heart.

Unfortunately, many Christian organizations use un-Christian methods to motivate support of their ministries. When flamed certificates, published names of generous supporters, and other such recognitions are offered to stimulate giving, hypocrisy is promoted in the name of Christ. It is just as wrong to appeal to wrong motives as to have wrong motives. “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come,” Jesus said; “but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (Matt. 18:7).[2]

6:2 It seems incredible that hypocrites would noisily attract attention to themselves as they gave offerings in the synagogues or handouts to beggars in the streets. The Lord dismissed their conduct with the terse comment: “They have their reward” (i.e., their only reward is the reputation they gain while on earth).[3] 2 The “you” is singular (see comments at 5:28). While some in Jesus’ day believed almsgiving earned merit (e.g., Tob 12:8–9; Sir 3:30; 29:11–12), ostentation, not merit theology, is the point here. Jesus assumes his disciples will give alms: “When you give to the needy,” he says, not “If you give to the needy” (cf. 10:42; 25:35–45; 2 Co 9:6–7; Php 4:18–19; 1 Ti 6:18–19; Jas 1:27). Rabbinic writers also warn against ostentation in almsgiving (cf. Str-B, 1:391ff.). The frequency of the warnings attests the commonness of the practice.

The reference to trumpet announcements is difficult. Many commentators say this refers to “the practice of blowing trumpets at the time of collecting alms in the Temple for the relief of some signal need” (Hill, following Bonnard), but no Jewish sources confirm this, and the idea seems to stem only from early Christian expositors who assumed its correctness. Likewise there is no evidence (contra Calvin) that the almsgivers themselves really blew trumpets on their way to the temple. Alfred Edersheim (The Temple: Its Ministry and services [London: Religious Tract Society, n.d.], 26), followed by Jeremias (Jerusalem, 170 n. 73), suggests this is a reference to horn-shaped collection boxes used at the temple to discourage pilfering. Lachs (“Textual Observations,” 103–5), without mentioning Edersheim, has followed up on that idea by postulating a mistranslation from an underlying Semitic source. But unless the trumpet is a metaphorical caricature (like “tooting your own horn”)—a poorly attested suggestion—the solution of A. Buchler (“St. Matthew 6:1–6 and Other Allied Passages,” JTS 10 [1909]: 266–70) still seems best: public fasts were proclaimed by the sounding of trumpets. At such times, prayers for rain were recited in the streets (cf. v. 5), and it was widely thought that almsgiving ensured the efficacy of the fasts and prayers (e.g., b. Sanh. 35a; m. Taʿan 2:6; Lev. Rab. 34:14). But these occasions afforded golden opportunities for ostentation.

Lachs objects that this interpretation makes the givers pompous but not hypocrites. In older Greek a hypokritēs (“hypocrite,” GK 5695) was an actor, but by the first century the term came to be used for those who play roles and see the world as their stage. What Lachs overlooks is that there are different kinds of hypocrisy. In one the hypocrite feigns goodness but is actually evil and knows he is being deceptive (e.g., 22:15–18). In another the hypocrite is carried away by his own acting and deceives himself. Such pious hypocrites (as in 7:1–5), though unaware of their own deceit, do not fool most onlookers, and this may be the meaning here. A third kind of hypocrite deceives himself into thinking he is acting for the best interests of God and man and also deceives onlookers. The needy are unlikely to complain when they receive large gifts, and their gratitude may flatter and thus bolster the giver’s self-delusion (cf. D. A. Spieler, “Hypocrisy: An Exploration of a Third Type,” AUSS 13 [1975]: 273–79). Perhaps it is best to identify the hypocrisy in v. 2 with this third type.

The Pharisees’ great weakness was that they loved human praise more than God’s praise (cf. Jn 5:44; 12:43). Those who give out of this attitude receive their reward in full (such is the force of apechousin [GK 600]; cf. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, 110–11). They win human plaudits, and that is all they get (cf. Ps 17:14).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 134). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 354–356). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1223). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 197–198). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 4 – Trials’ Lessons: Faith

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son.”

Hebrews 11:17

✧✧✧

The main reason God allows trials in the lives of Christians is to test the strength of their faith.

The memorable example in Genesis 22 of Abraham’s testing is perhaps the severest trial any human being has ever faced. When God told Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of Moriah (Gen. 22:1–2), Abraham no doubt was stunned. In terms of God’s nature, His plan of redemption, His promise to Abraham, and His love for Isaac, the entire concept was utterly inconceivable and unprecedented.

But in the face of all that, Abraham showed remarkable faith in dealing with this trial (Gen. 22:3–8). He did not second–guess God, as many of us would, but rather obeyed immediately (v. 3) and displayed the confidence that he and Isaac would return (v. 5) and that God would supply a lamb for the offering (v. 8). Then Abraham showed he was ready to obey completely. Genesis 22 tells us he “bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” (vv. 9–10). What unbelievable faith, and what a dramatic moment when God spared Abraham from the full cost of obedience (vv. 11–12)! The story clearly shows us the nature of true faith (Gen. 15:6) and why Abraham was later called the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:11–12; Gal. 3:6–7).

As heirs to Abraham and his extraordinary trust in God, we can also endure the most difficult trials and pass tests of faith that seem unimaginably severe at the time. God might want us to offer our own loved ones to Him and let them go His way rather than tightly holding on to them for our own purposes. However, if we look to God as Abraham did (Heb. 11:17–19), we can be confident in any trial and know with certainty that our faith has passed the test.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that God would strengthen your faith even in the smallest of daily trials.

For Further Study: Read 2 Kings 20:1–11 and 2 Chronicles 32:24–31. What was at the heart of Hezekiah’s difficulties (2 Chron. 32:25)? ✧ Why did God test him (v. 31)?[1]


The Proof of Faith

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type. (11:17–19)

The proof of Abraham’s faith was his willingness to give back to God everything he had, including the son of promise, whom he had miraculously received because of his faith. After all the waiting and wondering, the son had been given by God. Then, before the son was grown, God asked for him back, and Abraham obeyed. Abraham knew that the covenant, which could only be fulfilled through Isaac, was unconditional. He knew, therefore, that God would do whatever was necessary, including raising Isaac from the dead, to keep His covenant. He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead. The thought of sacrificing Isaac must have grieved Abraham terribly, but he knew that he would have his son back. He knew that God would not, in fact could not, take his son away permanently, or else He would have to go back on His own word, which is impossible.

If Noah illustrates the duration of faith, Abraham shows the depth of faith. In tremendous, monumental faith Abraham brought Isaac to the top of Mt. Moriah and prepared to offer him to God. He believed in resurrection from the dead even before God revealed the doctrine. He had to believe in resurrection, because, if God allowed him to carry out the command to sacrifice Isaac, resurrection was the only way God could keep His promise.

As it turned out, because he did not actually die, Isaac became only a type of the resurrection. He was offered but he was not slain. God provided a substitute. It was the fact that Abraham offered up Isaac that proved his faith. The final standard of faith, its real proof, is willingness to sacrifice. “If anyone wishes to come after Me,” Jesus commands, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1).

When John Bunyan was in jail for preaching the gospel, he was deeply concerned about his family. He was particularly grieved about his little blind daughter, for whom he had a special love. He wrote, “I saw in this condition I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children. Yet, thought I, I must do it; I must do it. The dearest idol I have known, what err that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne and worship only Thee.”

The patriarchs, therefore, held to the five great standards of faith: its pilgrimage, in separation from the world; its patience, in waiting for God to work; its power, in doing the impossible; its positiveness, in focusing on God’s eternal promise; and its proof, in obedient sacrifice.[2]


11:17 We now come to the greatest test of Abraham’s faith. God told him to offer up his only son, Isaac, upon the altar. With unhesitating obedience, Abraham set forth to offer to God the dearest treasure of his heart. Was he oblivious of the tremendous dilemma? God had promised him numberless progeny. Isaac was his only begotten son. Abraham was now 117 and Sarah was 108![3]


17 The NIV’s “was about to sacrifice” represents the Greek imperfect tense “was sacrificing,” which can have the sense of setting out to do what was not in fact completed. The tenses carefully reflect the OT story in which Abraham “offered” his son (perfect tense of the same verb) but was not allowed to go through with the sacrifice.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 335–336). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2197). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 161). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.