Category Archives: Bible Knowledge Commentary

JUNE 8 – ANYTHING HE WILLS TO DO

Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.

—Deuteronomy 4:39

To say that God is sovereign is to say that He is supreme over all things, that there is no one above Him, that He is absolute Lord over creation. It is to say that His Lordship over creation means that there is nothing out of His control, nothing that God hasn’t foreseen and planned….

God’s sovereignty logically implies His absolute freedom to do all that He wills to do. God’s sovereignty does not mean that He can do anything, but it means He can do anything that He wills to do. The sovereignty of God and the will of God are bound up together. The sovereignty of God does not mean that God can lie, for God does not will to lie. God is truth and therefore God cannot lie, for He wills not to lie. God cannot break a promise, because to break a promise would be to violate His nature, and God does not will to violate His nature.

Therefore it is silly to say that God can do anything. But it is scriptural to say that God can do anything He wills to do. God is absolutely free—no one can compel Him, no one can hinder Him, no one can stop Him. God has freedom to do as He pleases—always, everywhere and forever. AOGII144-145

God in heaven above and on the earth beneath, I willingly give You my life; take it and sovereignly do whatever You will to do with it. Amen [1]


39–40 Based on all the marvelous things the Lord has done for them already, God’s children are exhorted to acknowledge his utter uniqueness and obey his commands with the result that this generation and all future generations will experience God’s abundant blessings. Moses challenges his fellow Israelites to “take to heart” or internalize the fact that Yahweh is the universal sovereign (“in heaven above and on the earth below”) and the only sovereign (“there is no other”). In the light of that theological reality, they should gladly obey his commands. Moses affirms that Israel’s genuine obedience to God’s commands will occasion long tenure in the land (and continued enjoyment of covenantal blessings).

As seen in 4:1 (see comments there), Moses is not simply holding before Israel the hope of long tenure in the Promised Land as a bribe or incentive. Granted, Israel’s obedience or disobedience to God’s covenantal expectations did affect whether they would remain in the Land of Promise. Nevertheless, Yahweh intended that Canaan would serve as a platform for his people to demonstrate his greatness to the surrounding world. God offered them the opportunity to live lives that exalt his greatness before the world around them for the undetermined future.[2]


4:37–39 Juxtaposed with God’s universal sovereignty is his love of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see notes on 1:8; 4:31). loved. A key, and unique, theme of Deuteronomy is the love of God for the patriarchs (here and 10:15), or for his people in general (5:10; 7:9, 12–13; 23:5), and Israel’s reciprocal love for God (6:5; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6, 16, 20). as it is this day. See note on 2:30. know … and lay it to your heart. Deuteronomy is constantly concerned with the state of Israel’s heart (see 6:4–5; 7:17; 8:2, 17; 9:4; 10:16).[3]


4:39–40. In light of such electing grace and such unique revelation the Israelites were to acknowledge that the Lord is God alone (cf. v. 35) and to keep His decrees and commands. Only in doing these two things would the Israelites find prosperity and long life in the land (cf. 5:33; 6:2). The words so that it may go well with you occur eight times in this book, undoubtedly to emphasize this motive for obedience (4:40; 5:16; 6:3, 18; 12:25, 28; 19:13; 22:7). The idea that righteousness lengthens life and sin shortens it is common in the Old Testament (Prov. 3:1–2, 16; 10:27).[4]


4:39 God in heaven … there is no other: Since no other God was Creator, Lord of history, Teacher, and the Lover of His people, Israel had to respond to God alone. This is a major theme of Deuteronomy and of the prophets. The incomparability of Yahweh is also the heart of the basic creed of Israel, the “Shema” (6:4).[5]


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

[2] Grisanti, M. A. (2012). Deuteronomy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, p. 529). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 339). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Deere, J. S. (1985). Deuteronomy. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 271). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 240). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

June 4 – Integrity Triumphs over Personal Loss

“Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed–nego.”

Daniel 1:6–7

✧✧✧

You can’t always prevent personal loss, but you can respond to it in ways that glorify God.

It was a quiet January morning in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California until suddenly and without warning the earth shook with such a violent force that many department stores, apartment houses, homes, and freeway overpasses crumbled under the strain. Within minutes the 1994 Northridge earthquake left scars upon lives and land that in some cases may never heal. Such catastrophic events remind us of just how difficult dealing with personal loss can be.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah understood personal loss. Perhaps in our day only those who have suffered as prisoners of war or as refugees from war’s ravages can fully appreciate the deep sense of loss those men must have felt after being cut off from family, friends, and homeland.

Their loss included even their own names. When taken captive, each of them had a Hebrew name that reflected his godly upbringing. But in an apparent effort to remove that influence and to exalt the pagan deities of Bel (or Baal) and Aku, Nebuchadnezzar’s commander changed their names from Daniel (which means “God is judge”) to Belteshazzar (“Bel provides” or “Bel’s prince”), from Hananiah (“the Lord is gracious”) to Shadrach (“under the command ofAku”), from Mishael (“Who is what the Lord is?”) to Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”), and from Azariah (“the Lord is my helper”) to Abed–nego (“the servant of Nebo [the son of Baal]”).

Daniel and his friends couldn’t prevent their losses, but they could trust God and refuse to let those losses lead to despair or compromise. That’s an example you can follow when you face loss.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord for the wisdom to see your losses through His loving eyes, and for the grace to respond appropriately. ✧ Pray for those whom you know who have suffered loss recently.

For Further Study: Read Job 1:13–22. How did Job respond to his losses? ✧ What can you learn from his example?[1]


1:5–7 Nebuchadnezzar sought to assimilate the exiles into Babylonian culture by obliterating their religious and cultural identity and creating dependence upon the royal court. For this reason, the exiles were given names linked with Babylonian deities in place of Israelite names linked with their God. Daniel (“God is my Judge”), Hananiah (“Yahweh is gracious”), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”), and Azariah (“Yahweh is a helper”) became names that invoked the help of the Babylonian gods Marduk, Bel, and Nebo: Belteshazzar (“O Lady [wife of the god Bel], protect the king!”), Shadrach (“I am very fearful [of God]” or “command of Aku [the moon god]”), Meshach (“I am of little account” or “Who is like Aku?”), and Abednego (“servant of the shining one [Nebo]”). They were schooled in the language and mythological literature of the Babylonians, and their food was assigned from the king’s table, reminding them constantly of the source of their daily bread.[2]


1:6 Daniel Means “God is my judge.”

 Daniel (prophet)

Little is known of Daniel outside of the biblical book bearing his name. At some point in Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Palestine, Daniel was taken captive to Babylon and served in the king’s court. He is renowned for his wisdom and ability to interpret dreams and omens. Portrayed as the quintessential Jewish sage, he serves as a model of covenant fidelity and righteousness (see Dan 2:14 and note).

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah These Hebrew names identify the three young men with the God of Israel: Hananiah (“Yahweh has acted graciously”); Mishael (may mean “Who is what God is”); and Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”). The changing of their names in v. 7 places them firmly in the Babylonian courts.

the Judeans The royal tribe (see Gen 49:9 and note; Rev 5:5 and note).

When Jacob blesses his sons in Gen 49, he tells Judah that the scepter and ruler’s staff shall not depart from him, which developed the belief that the Messiah would be a Judahite. During the period of Israel’s monarchy, this concept was applied to the kings. As Israel’s kings failed to realize the ideal rulership desired by God, exile ensued and the messianic interpretation resurfaced. It became prominent during the Second Temple period.

1:7 gave them names A common custom in this time period was that a king would rename foreigners who were brought to the king’s court as captives. For Daniel and Azariah, the Hebrew references to God in their names (-el for God or -iah for Yahweh) are replaced with references to Babylonian deities like Nabu or Marduk (also called Bel). Their new names symbolized serving Babylon.

Daniel’s new name, Belteshazzar, probably means “Bel protect the prince” (see Dan 4:8). Azariah’s new name, Abednego, is probably a misspelling of Abed-Nabu, meaning “servant of Nabu.” The meanings of Shadrach and Meshach are uncertain, and the deity references may be missing from their names. The purpose of renaming was to completely disassociate captives from their former way of life. Since the Jews were known for their steadfast devotion to the faith of their ancestors, a complete reidentification was required for the palace master to successfully assimilate them into the Babylonian culture. However, these four Hebrew youths never abandon their faith, despite their name changes. Rather than reflect the nature and ideals of the gods of their new names, their actions display the character of the God of their Hebrew names.[3]


1:6 Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These Hebrew names contain the word “God” (el) or a shortened form of God’s covenant name, “Yahweh” (Ps. 50:1 note). Daniel means “my judge is God”; Hananiah, “Yahweh is gracious”; Mishael, “Who is what God is?”; and Azariah, “Yahweh has helped.”

1:7 Belteshazzar … Shadrach … Meshach … Abednego. Suggestions for the meanings of these names include: Belteshazzar, “May Bel protect his life” (Bel is another name for Marduk, the chief Babylonian god; cf. 4:8); Shadrach, “the command of Aku,” (the Sumerian moon god); Meshach, “Who is what Aku is?”; and Abednego, “servant of Nebo” (a Babylonian god). These name changes are a further step in Babylon’s attempt to reshape their religious and cultural identity.[4]


1:6 According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, all four of these young men were members of Zedekiah’s royal family.

1:7 The name Daniel means “God Is My Judge.” Daniel’s Babylonian name Belteshazzar means “Lady Protect the King,” referring to the goddess Sarpanitu, wife of Marduk. The name Hananiah means “The Lord Is Gracious.” Hananiah’s Babylonian name Shadrach means “I Am Fearful of the God.” The name Mishael means “Who Is What God Is?” Mishael’s Babylonian name Meshach means “I Am of Little Account.” The name Azariah means “The Lord Has Helped Me.” Azariah’s Babylonian name Abed-Nego means “Servant of (the god) Nebo.”[5]


1:6–7. No mention was made of how many captives were taken but four are mentioned here by name because of their later significant role in Babylon. Because all four bore names that honored Yahweh, the God of Israel, their names were changed. El means God and -iah (or -yah) is an abbreviation for Yahweh, thus suggesting that the young men’s parents were God-fearing people who gave them names that included references to God. Daniel, whose name means “God has judged” (or “God is my Judge”), was given the name Belteshazzar (Bēlet-šar-uṣur in Akk.), which means “Lady, protect the king.” Eight of the 10 times “Belteshazzar” occurs in the Old Testament are in the Aramaic section of the Book of Daniel (2:26; 4:8–9, 18–19 [3 times]; 5:12). The other 2 occurrences are in 1:7 and 10:1.

Hananiah (“Yahweh has been gracious”) became Shadrach probably from the Akkadian verb form šādurāku, meaning “I am fearful (of a god).”

Mishael (“Who is what God is?”) was given the name Meshach, which possibly was from the Akkadian verb mēšāku, meaning “I am despised, contemptible, humbled (before my god).”

Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”) was named Abednego, “Servant of Nebo” (Nego being a Heb. variation of the Babylonian name of the god Nebo). Nebo (cf. Isa. 46:1), son of Bel, was the Babylonian god of writing and vegetation. He was also known as Nabu (cf. comments on Dan. 1:1 on Nebuchadnezzar’s name).

Thus the chief court official (Ashpenaz, v. 3) seemed determined to obliterate any testimony to the God of Israel from the Babylonian court. The names he gave the four men signified that they were to be subject to Babylon’s gods.[6]


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

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1586). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 1:6–7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1464). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1008). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1330). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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 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 18 – GOD DOES NOT HAVE POWER: GOD IS POWER

God hath spoken once: twice have I heard this: that power belongeth unto God.

PSALM 62:11

It is hard for us sons of the machine age to remember that there is no power apart from God! Whether physical, intellectual, moral or spiritual, power is contained in God, flows out from Him and returns to Him again. The power that works throughout His creation remains in Him even while it operates in an atom or a galaxy!

The notion that power is something God separates from Himself and tosses out to work apart from Him is erroneous. The power of nature is the Presence of God in the universe. This idea is woven into the book of Job, the Psalms and the Prophets.

The writings of John and Paul in the New Testament harmonize with this Old Testament doctrine, and in the book of Hebrews it is said that Christ upholds all things by the word of His power.

We must not think of the power of God as wild, irrational energy coursing haphazardly through the world like a lightning strike or a tornado. This is the impression sometimes created by Bible teachers who keep reminding us that dunamis, the Greek word for power, is the root from which comes our word “dynamite.” Little wonder that sensitive Christians shrink from contact with such a destructive and unpredictable force.

The power of God is not something God has: it is something God is! Power is something that is true of God as wisdom and love are true of Him. It is, if we might so state it, a fact of His being, one with and indivisible from everything else that He is. The power of God is one with God’s will and works only as He wills that it should. It is His holy Being in action![1]


62:11 Once God has spoken The psalmist uses a numerical saying—a literary device common in Wisdom Literature—as he looks to God’s promises (see Prov 30:18 and note).[2]


62:11 once, Twice: It is a convention of wisdom literature to use a number and then raise it by one (Prov. 30:11–33). The point here is that David has heard the message with certainty.[3]


62:11, 12 once, Twice: The ascending number emphasizes the truth of the following statement. To God belong power and mercy; He gives to each one as we deserve (see 1 Cor. 3:8).[4]


62:11–12. The psalmist contrasted this with the fact that God has declared that the power is His. David heard God say two things: that He is strong and loving. So justice will be meted out to everybody. How much better then to find rest in the powerful God than in human devices.[5]


11, 12 God has power (unlike man in his insubstantiality, 9) and unchanging love (unlike man’s deceitfulness, 9). Not only so, but his loving power is an active force of moral providence (12) whereby he ‘fully requites’ (reward). Therefore we can trust him for our welfare and against the works of our enemies.[6]


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

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 62:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 689). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[4] The Open Bible: New King James Version. (1998). (electronic ed., Ps 62:11–12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[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. 839). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] 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. 524). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

MAY 16 – GOD IS FAR ABOVE

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

—Isaiah 55:8-9

I want to make it very clear that when I say “far above,” I do not mean geographically or astronomically removed. It’s an analogy. Because we are human beings and live in this world, we learn to speak by analogy….

So when we say that God is far above, we’re using an analogy. We’re thinking about a star that’s way above, way out yonder in space—but that isn’t what we really mean when we think about the transcendent God.

If you miss this point, you might as well stop reading, because this is critical to understanding what follows. When we say that God’s transcendence is “farness above,” we are not thinking about astronomical distances or physical magnitude. God never thinks about the size of anything, because God contains everything. He never thinks about distance, because God is everywhere; He doesn’t have to go from one place to another, so distance doesn’t mean anything to Him. We humans use these expressions to help us to think—they’re analogies and illustrations. AOGII034-035

Lord, even our human expressions of Your greatness amaze me. How much more wonderful must You be in all Your infinite glory! Amen. [1]


55:8, 9 Men shouldn’t judge Jehovah by their own thoughts and ways. He thinks and acts in ways that transcend anything man could ever imagine. This is never more true than in the gospel plan of salvation, which is all of God’s grace and allows no glory in self-effort. William Cowper expressed it with his usual elegant English in his poem “Truth”:

O how unlike the complex works of man,

Heav’n’s easy, artless, unencumber’d plan!

No meretricious graces to beguile,

No clustering ornaments to clog the pile;

From ostentation, as from weakness, free,

It stands like the cerulian arch we see,

Majestic in its own simplicity.

Inscribed above the portal, from afar

Conspicuous as the brightness of a star,

Legible only by the light they give,

Stand the soul-quickening words—

believe, and live.[2]


55:8, 9 My thoughts … My ways. Some may doubt such willingness as is described in v. 7, but God’s grace is far beyond human comprehension, especially as manifested toward Israel.[3]


55:7–9 let the wicked forsake his way … let him return. Thorough repentance is required, for God’s thoughts are not your thoughts—that is, they are as high above man’s thoughts as the heavens are above the earth and vastly superior to the expectations of human intuitions (cf. Ps. 145:3; 1 Cor. 2:9). neither are your ways my ways. In the immediate context, this is an appeal to people to exchange their sinful “thoughts” and “ways” (Isa. 55:7) for God’s, which are higher (nobler and more magnificent). More broadly, theologians have recognized that God, the incomparable Creator, is far above his finite creatures and beyond their ability to describe him or comprehend him fully; though they may know him truly, such knowledge is always partial and imperfect. But because God is perfectly wise in all his thoughts and ways, his people can take great comfort amid hardship and when inevitably they are unable to understand the mysteries and tragedies of life.[4]


55:8 my thoughts are not your thoughts Invites trust in Yahweh’s ability to accomplish everything He has promised for His people if they repent. While people may fail in their plans or promises, God can be trusted to keep His word.

This passage in Isa 55:8–9 is often taken as a direct statement about God’s transcendence: His nature and plan are infinitely beyond human understanding. God is infinitely different from us in His thoughts and ways. The biblical portrait of God develops both transcendent and immanent aspects of His nature. The transcendent aspect is not like people and infinitely above people. The immanent aspect is intimately present with people and among people. God’s transcendence places Him beyond the limits of time and space. His nature as uncreated and separate from His creation is a fundamental concept distinguishing a biblical understanding of God from other philosophical or religious theories, such as pantheism or monism.[5]


55:8 my thoughts are not your thoughts. Specifically, God’s thoughts concerning grace exceed human imagination (64:4; 1 Cor. 2:9; Eph. 3:20; Rom. 11:33). Yet this is also true of His providence, which often leads down unexpected pathways. It is to be expected that the sheep will not always understand their Shepherd’s leading.[6]


55:8, 9 God’s gracious thoughts exceed all human imagination (64:4; Rom. 11:33; 1 Cor. 2:9; Eph. 3:20). No one can fathom the depths of His wisdom.[7]


55:8–9. God’s compassion on those who turn to Him (vv. 6–7) comes because His thoughts and ways are far superior to human thoughts and ways, which in fact are evil (cf. v. 7). God’s plan is something people would have never dreamed of.[8]


[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. 982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 55:8). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1342). 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 (Is 55:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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

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

[8] 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 8 – MOST IMPORTANT: YOUR NAMES WRITTEN IN HEAVEN

…Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the LORD, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the LORD.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:58

Those who are active in Christian service must beware of two opposite pitfalls: the elation that comes with success on the one hand, or the discouragement that comes with failure, on the other.

These may be considered by some as trivial, but the history of the Christian ministry will not support this conclusion. They are critically dangerous and should be guarded against with great care.

The disciples returned to Christ with brimming enthusiasm, saying, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name,” and He quickly reminded them of another being who had allowed success to go to his head.

“I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” He said. “In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”

The second of these twin dangers need not be labored. Every minister of the gospel knows how hard it is to stay spiritual when his work appears to be fruitless. Yet he is required to rejoice in God as certainly when he is having a bad year as when he is seeing great success, and to lean heavily upon Paul’s assurance that “your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”[1]


The Great Exhortation

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (15:58)

If we really believe and if we are truly thankful that our resurrection is sure, that we will be transformed from the perishable, dishonorable, weak, natural, mortal, and earthy to the imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual, immortal, and heavenly—we should therefore prove our assurance and our thankfulness by being steadfast, immovable [negative] and always abounding [positive] in the work of the Lord.

Hedraios (steadfast) literally refers to being seated, and therefore to being settled and firmly situated. Ametakinētos (immovable) carries the same basic idea but with more intensity. It denotes being totally immobile and motionless. Obviously Paul is talking about our being moved away from God’s will, not to our being moved within it. Within His will we are to be always abounding in the work of the Lord. But we should not move a hairbreadth away from His will, continually being careful not to be “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).

Gordon Clark gives a helpful paraphrase of this verse: “Therefore we should mortify emotion, be steadfast, unchangeable, not erratic and scatterbrained, easily discouraged, and should multiply our good works in the knowledge that the Lord will make them profitable.”

If our confident hope in the resurrection wavers, we are sure to abandon ourselves to the ways and standards of the world. If there are no eternal ramifications or consequences of what we do in this life, the motivation for self-less service and holy living is gone.

On the other hand, when our hope in the resurrection is clear and certain we will have great motivation to be abounding in the work of the Lord. Perisseuō (abounding) carries the idea of exceeding the requirements, of overflowing or overdoing. In Ephesians 1:7–8 the word is used of God’s lavishing on us “the riches of His grace.” Because God has so abundantly overdone Himself for us who deserve nothing from Him, we should determine to overdo ourselves (if that were possible) in service to Him, to whom we owe everything.

What a word Paul gives to the countless Christians who work and pray and give and suffer as little as they can! How can we be satisfied with the trivial, insignificant, short–lived things of the world? How can we “take it easy” when so many around us are dead spiritually and so many fellow believers are in need of edification, encouragement, and help of every sort? When can a Christian say, “I’ve served my time, I’ve done my part; let others do the work now”?

Reasonable rest is important and necessary. But if we err, Paul is saying, it should be on the side of doing more work for the Lord, not less. Leisure and relaxation are two great modern idols, to which many Christians seem quite willing to bow down. In proper proportion recreation and diversions can help restore our energy and increase our effectiveness. But they also can easily become ends in themselves, demanding more and more of our attention, concern, time, and energy. More than one believer has relaxed and hobbled himself completely out of the work of the Lord.

Some of God’s most faithful and fruitful saints have lived to old age and been active and productive in His service to the end. Many others, however, have seen their lives shortened for the very reason that they were abounding, overflowing and untiring, in service to Christ. Henry Martyn, the British missionary to India and Persia, determined “to burn out for God,” which he did before he was thirty–five. David Brainerd, one of the earliest missionaries to American Indians, died before he was thirty. We know very little of Epaphroditus, except that he was a “brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier” of Paul’s who “came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life” (Phil. 2:25, 30). He became so lost in godly service that he literally became sick unto death because of it.

Until the Lord returns there are souls to reach and ministries of every sort to be accomplished. Every Christian should work uncompromisingly as the Lord has gifted and leads. Our money, time, energy, talents, gifts, bodies, minds, and spirits should be invested in nothing that does not in some way contribute to the work of the Lord. Our praise and thanksgiving must be given hands and feet. James tells us, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

Our work for the Lord, if it is truly for Him and done in His power, cannot fail to accomplish what He wants accomplished. Every good work believers do in this life has eternal benefits that the Lord Himself guarantees. “Behold, I am coming quickly,” Jesus says, “and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12). We have God’s own promise that our toil [labor to the point of exhaustion] is not in vain in the Lord.[2]


Concluding Appeal in Light of the Resurrection (15:58)

In view, then, of the certainty of the resurrection and the fact that faith in Christ is not in vain, the Apostle Paul exhorts his beloved brethren to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labor is not in vain in the Lord. The truth of resurrection changes everything. It provides hope and steadfastness, and enables us to go on in the face of overwhelming and difficult circumstances.[3]


58 Paul concludes this triumphant chapter with a moral message—one that all of us ought to apply to our lives daily. Earlier he had shown how lack of belief in the doctrine of the resurrection led to the Epicurean lifestyle of finding pleasure in eating and drinking and in immoral behavior (see comments at vv. 33–34). The converse is that belief in the resurrection leads to a “purpose-driven life” of service for the Lord. We know that our service for him will not be in vain because we are on the winning side in the battle of life. Though we all struggle at times, the battle against sin and Satan is worthwhile because in the end, they will be defeated.

Paul’s use of “in vain” (kenos, GK 3031) picks up his use of that adjective in v. 14, where he indicated that if Christ has not been raised, then Paul’s preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain. But because of the resurrection of Christ and the assurance of our future final victory over death, life even with all its difficulties is never in vain.

It is no wonder, then, that Paul encourages believers to “stand firm” and “let nothing move [them].” He began this section on the resurrection by reminding the Corinthians that they had stood firm in the apostolic doctrine preached to them about the death and resurrection of Christ; now he closes with an exhortation to remain firm in that knowledge and to let it shape their everyday lives. May it do so for us as well![4]


An Exhortation

15:58

  1. So then, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

The exhortation has little to do with the immediately preceding verses on the victory the believers share with Jesus Christ. It is an entreaty that arises from the entire chapter if not the whole epistle. The last instructions and final greetings aside, Paul has come to the end of his epistle and now admonishes his readers to do the work of the Lord.

  1. “So then, my dear brothers.” The first two words introduce a concluding statement. Paul frequently uses this expression in his epistles. For the last time in this letter he addresses the recipients in a personal manner by calling them “dear brothers [and sisters].” At two other places, Paul addresses the readers as “my dear children” (4:14) and “my dear friends” (10:14). Each time he speaks to the Corinthians as a father to his children. He remains the spiritual father of the Corinthians, who through the preaching of the gospel are his offspring (4:15). Paul is their pastor who loves them despite the numerous difficulties in the church.
  2. “Be steadfast, immovable.” Paul commends the believers for their steadfastness and exhorts them to continue their dedication to the Lord (compare Col. 1:23). Amid the onslaught of diverse teaching in a pagan culture, he urges them to remain firm in the Lord and not to waver. Paul tells the Corinthians to be immovable. This last word is a compound that signifies an inability to move from their spiritual moorings. Paul is not talking about retaining the status quo in the church. He wants the people to grow in their love for the Lord and to communicate this in their deeds.
  3. “Always abounding in the work of the Lord.” After telling his readers not to be moved in any way, Paul encourages them to excel in the Lord’s work. To express constancy and emphasis he adds the word always which, in the original, he places last in the clause for emphasis. What is the work of the Lord? The work entails preaching and teaching Christ’s gospel, applying the contents of Scripture to our lives, edifying one another, and loving our neighbor as ourselves (compare 16:10). It consists of an earnest desire to keep God’s commandments and to do so out of gratitude for our salvation provided through his Son. As his love extends to us without measure, so our selfless deeds are done for him without measure.
  4. “Knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” The faithful Corinthians have a sure knowledge that the deeds done out of love and thankfulness to God will not be forgotten (see Heb. 6:10). The word labor is often used by Paul in a missionary setting and means working with his own hands for his own support (4:12) “and for activity in the Christian community as a whole.” Such labor given freely in service to the Lord is never in vain because the Lord himself blesses his servants (Matt. 19:29).[5]

15:58 Concluding instructions

The consequence of all this discussion is the command to stand firm and not to move away from the rock of the bodily resurrection of God’s people. What they must not do now in that body, which is to be resurrected, is to be led away into sin (33–34a). Rather, they are always to be given fully to the work of the Lord, which in part means helping those who are ignorant of God (34b). This is the lifetime call to the ordinary Christian. That work will not be worthless and will mean that they will receive the Lord’s reward for the good done in the body at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Those who die in the Lord are pronounced blessed indeed, for they cease from their work in the Lord and their good works follow on behind them (Rev. 14:13). In contemporary Christianity there is a danger of investing the term ‘eternal life’ with the Greek pagan notion of the immortality of the soul, and of regarding the present moments of the Christian life as providing opportunities for personal advancement and aggrandizement.[6]


15:58 The Corinthians were to continue steadfast in the work of Christ, specifically because of the Resurrection. your labor is not in vain: All the work that we do for Christ will be rewarded (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12).[7]


15:58. Paul’s doctrinal declarations led to practical directives and this chapter’s conclusion was no exception. The Corinthians were urged to stand firm in the apostles’ teaching (v. 2), unmoved by the denials of false teachers (cf. Eph. 4:14). This certainty, especially concerning the Resurrection, provided an impetus to faithful service (cf. 1 Cor. 3:8; Gal. 6:9) since labor in the resurrected Lord is not futile (kenos, “empty”; cf. 1 Cor. 15:10, 14, 17, 30–32).[8]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 446–448). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1811). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] 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, p. 405). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 587–588). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] Winter, B. (1994). 1 Corinthians. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1185). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1488). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 546). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.