Category Archives: ESV Study Bible

April 30, 2017: Verse of the day

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4 The communal confession arouses another invocation to give thanks to the Lord. The worshiping community entered the temple courts (cf. 96:8) through the gates. The verb “enter” (bōʾû), identical to the verb in v. 2 translated “come,” resumes the invocation to praise. In fact, when vv. 1, 2, and 4 are read as a unit, the imperatival parallelism is clearer:

  1. 1–2: “Shout for joy … Worship … come”
  2. 4: “Enter [‘come’ in v. 2] … give thanks … praise”

Verses 1–2 bring out the joyful acclamation of God’s kingship, whereas v. 4 stresses the communal act of worship. They come “with thanksgiving” and “with praise.” These are the appropriate sacrifices of “thanks” to his name for all the benefits. Thanksgiving and praise go together, because the Lord reveals himself both in his perfections and acts (cf. 139:1; cf. Jer 33:11).[1]


100:4 Entering the presence of God has been made possible through Christ who opened the way (John 14:6; Heb. 10:19–22).[2]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 743). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1064). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

APRIL 30 – HEED THE CALL OF GOD

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Isaiah 6:8

If Abraham had ever grumbled to the Lord about leaving the beggarly idols of Ur, God would have let him go back. We are free to do the will of God, but God never makes us His unwilling prisoners. God called Abraham out, God gave him the Promised Land and God said, “Abraham, from among your posterity will come the Messiah in the fullness of time!”

This is the gracious reason why we should tell people everywhere to hear and heed the call of God—so He can lead them into everything that is good and blessed and worthwhile.

God wants to call us out into a more abundant and fruitful Christian life than we have ever known!

Lord, who am I to argue with You or to call into question Your sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Yours. So be it, Lord; Your will, not mine be done.[1]


8 As we have already noted at v. 3, biblical teaching presents beautiful balance. This is true in relation to a multitude of themes, and another example occurs here. The message of God to Isaiah in vv. 9–10 is strongly predestinarian. How appropriate, therefore, that the verse preceding them should place such emphasis on the prophet’s responsibility! He is not coerced into service; rather, his will makes its ready response as a grateful reaction to God’s forgiving grace. No doubt Isaiah’s readiness was itself the product of divine grace, but this is not where the stress falls here. Instead, we see him faced with the challenge to personal commitment.

The plural “us” is often linked theologically with v. 3 (see comment) and interpreted in terms of the Trinity. It is an unusual phenomenon, found elsewhere in the OT only in Genesis (Ge 1:26; 11:7; cf. also Isa 41:21–23). Many modern scholars, taking it to be a plural of consultation, see it both here and in Genesis as implying a council of heavenly beings. There are, of course, many biblical passages that picture God as surrounded by the heavenly hosts. In a context that speaks both of waters and mountains (and so of nature) and of nations (and so, by implication, also of history), however, the Lord refutes the notion that he consulted others in his work of creation (40:13–14). If Isaiah 6 and 40 have the same author (see Introduction, pp. 438–48), it seems most unlikely that consultation with a heavenly council is in view here. Moreover in Daniel, what a pagan king may have attributed to “the decree of the watchers” (Da 4:17, KJV) Daniel called “the decree of the Most High” (Da 4:24).

It is true that 1 Kings 22:19–23 pictures God as consulting with heavenly beings, but it is doubtful whether we should interpret literally a highly dramatic vision with details probably chosen to give vividness to a solemn message. GKC (par. 124g, n.2) takes “us” as a plural of self-deliberation. Motyer (1993, in loc.) points out that “the New Testament relates these verses to both the Lord Jesus (Jn. 12:24) and the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25), thus finding here what will yet accommodate the full revelation of the Holy Trinity.”[2]


6:8 Us. This plural pronoun does not prove the doctrine of the Trinity, but does strongly imply it (see Ge 1:26). Here am I. Send me! This response evidenced the humble readiness of complete trust. Though profoundly aware of his sin, he was available.[3]


6:8 Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? See 1 Kings 22:19–20; Jer. 23:18, 22. Here am I! Send me. Isaiah’s experience of grace has dealt with his problem, confessed in Isa. 6:5. “Us” is like “us” in Gen. 1:26 (“let us make man”): God could be addressing himself (in a way compatible with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity), or he could be addressing his heavenly court (less likely, since only God is doing the sending here). See notes on Gen. 1:26; 1:27.[4]


6:8 who will go for us? The biblical descriptions of God’s heavenly deliberations often include a plural address. The plural can be understood most simply as God addressing the divine beings present in His throne room, and asking them a rhetorical question—knowing Isaiah will respond. A mark of a true prophet was that he had stood in the divine council and received his mission directly from God. See Gen 1:26 and note; Jer 23:18; 1 Kgs 22:19–23.[5]


6:8 who will go for us. The Lord permits Isaiah to listen in on the sessions of the royal, heavenly court (“us”). From this moment on, Isaiah is a servant of God’s court and proclaims God’s message to kings and people alike (cf. 1 Kin. 22:19, 20; Jer. 23:18, 22). Having been freely forgiven, Isaiah volunteers without waiting to hear the nature of his commission.[6]


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

[2] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 508–509). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 6:8). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1251). 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 6:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1132). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

April 28, 2017: Verse of the day

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11:1 Isaiah 11 is one of the greatest passages on the Millennium in either the OT or the NT. In one of the quick transitions, so frequent in the prophets, we are now carried forward to the Second Coming of Christ.

First we see the lineage of the Son of David, a Rod from the stem of Jesse, who was David’s father (1 Sam. 17:12).

Believer’s Bible Commentary

11:1 stem … roots. With the Babylonian captivity of 586 b.c., the Davidic dynasty appeared as decimated as the Assyrian army. A major difference between the two was the life remaining in the stump and roots of the Davidic line. That life was to manifest itself in new growth in the form of the Rod and Branch. Jesse. Jesse was David’s father through whose line the messianic king was to come (Ru 4:22; 1Sa 16:1, 12, 13). branch. This is a title for the Messiah (see 4:2).

MacArthur Study Bible

11:1 a shoot from the stump. After portraying the destruction of arrogant human evil as the felling of a vast forest (10:33–34), Isaiah presents the Messiah as a shoot or twig growing from a stump remaining after God’s judgment (cf. 4:2; 6:13; 53:2). Jesse. The father of David (cf. 1 Sam. 16:1–13; 2 Sam. 20:1). A greater David is prophesied (cf. Ezek. 34:23–24; Hos. 3:5). bear fruit. Unlike the human failure before him, especially King Ahaz, this son of Jesse bears the fruit of a new world.

11:1 The Messiah is from the line of Jesse, the father of David (1 Sam. 16:1). He is filled with the Spirit (Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:18), with wisdom (Col. 2:3), and with justice (Rev. 19:11).

ESV Study Bible

APRIL 28 – NEAR TO EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

—1 Kings 8:27

I want to explain briefly what omnipresence is and then show what it means in human experience. That God is omnipresent is of course believed by all churches who believe in the Bible. I am not introducing anything new. Omnipresence means that God is all-present. God is close to (for that is what the word means—“close to, near to, here”) everywhere. He is near to everything and everyone. He is here; He is next to you wherever you may be. And if you send up the furious question, “Oh God, where art Thou?” the answer comes back, “I am where you are; I am here; I am next to you; I am close to everywhere.” That’s what the Bible says….

We talk about God being close to us or about the problem of God being far away. We don’t think right because we think geographically or astronomically; we think in light-years or meters or inches or miles or leagues. We’re thinking of Him as dwelling in space, which He does not. Rather He contains space so that space is in God. There is never any problem about God being anywhere, for the fact is, as the texts say, God is everywhere. AOG118, 120

Lord, help me to take this truth out of the realm of theological concept and to realize the practical implication, today, of Your being right here with me. Amen. [1]


8:27 heaven … cannot contain You. Solomon confessed that even though the Lord had chosen to dwell among His people in the cloud at the temple, He far transcended containment by anything in all creation.[2]


8:27–30 will God indeed dwell on the earth? Though God will dwell in the temple (vv. 10, 13; cf. note on 1 Sam. 4:3–4), it is not to be thought of as the only place where God is, but as a special place where his name is, a place toward which his eyes are open (1 Kings 8:29; cf. Isa. 66:1–3). The hearing of prayer is done in heaven (1 Kings 8:30), which is (if anywhere is) the dwelling place of God. Even then, however, God cannot be limited to any one place; he cannot, strictly speaking, dwell in even the highest heaven (v. 27). He cannot be confined by space.[3]


8:27–30 Although Solomon realized that no temple on earth was adequate to contain the great God, yet he asked that the Lord might recognize this temple and that when he or any of the people of Israel addressed God there, He might hear and forgive.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ki 8:27). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 611). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 364). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 27, 2017: Verse of the day

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3:13, 14 Moses anticipated questions from the children of Israel when he returned to them as the Lord’s spokesman, and he wanted to be able to tell them who sent him. It was at this point that God first revealed Himself as Jehovah, the great I AM. Jehovah (more precisely Yahweh) comes from the Hebrew verb “to be,” hāyāh. This sacred name is known as the tetragrammaton (“four letters”). English Jehovah comes from the Hebrew YHWH, with vowel markings supplied from Elohim and Adonai, other names of God. No one knows for sure the true pronunciation of YHWH because the ancient Hebrew spelling used no actual vowels in its alphabet. However, the pronunciation “Yahweh” is probably correct. The Jews consider YHWH too sacred to utter. The name proclaims God as self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, and sovereign. The fuller name I AM WHO I AM may mean I AM BECAUSE I AM or I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE.[1]


3:14 I Am WHO I AM. This name for God points to His self-existence and eternality; it denotes “I am the One who is/will be,” which is decidedly the best and most contextually suitable option from a number of theories about its meaning and etymological source. The significance in relation to “God of your fathers” is immediately discernible: He’s the same God throughout the ages! The consonants from the Heb. word Yhwh, combined with the vowels from the divine name Adonai (Master or Lord), gave rise to the name “Jehovah” in English. Since the name Yahweh was considered so sacred that it should not be pronounced, the Massoretes inserted the vowels from Adonai to remind themselves to pronounce it when reading instead of saying Yahweh. Technically, this combination of consonants is known as the “tetragrammaton.”[2]


3:14 I am who I am. In response to Moses’ question (“What is [your] name?” v. 13), God reveals his name to be “Yahweh” (corresponding to the four Hebrew consonants YHWH). The three occurrences of “I am” in v. 14 all represent forms of the Hebrew verb that means “to be” (Hb. hayah), and in each case are related to the divine name Yahweh (i.e., “the Lord”; see note on v. 15). The divine name Yahweh has suggested to scholars a range of likely nuances of meaning: (1) that God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for his own existence; (2) that God is the creator and sustainer of all that exists; (3) that God is immutable in his being and character and thus is not in the process of becoming something different from what he is (e.g., “the same yesterday and today and forever,” Heb. 13:8); and (4) that God is eternal in his existence. While each of these points is true of God, the main focus in this passage is on the Lord’s promise to be with Moses and his people. The word translated “I am” (Hb. ’ehyeh) can also be understood and translated as “I will be” (cf. ESV footnote). Given the context of Ex. 3:12 (“I will be with you”), the name of Yahweh (“the Lord”) is also a clear reminder of God’s promises to his people and of his help for them to fulfill their calling. In each of these cases, the personal name of God as revealed to Moses expresses something essential about the attributes and character of God.

3:14 The name “I am” anticipates the “I am” sayings of Jesus (see John 8:58), which show his deity.[3]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 91–92). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ex 3:14). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 149). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

APRIL 26 – THE WALK OF FAITH

Enoch walked with God…for God took him.

Genesis 5:24

There are spiritual lessons for every Christian believer in the life of godly Enoch, seventh generation from Adam through Adam’s third son, Seth.

We are impressed that he could resist the devil and find fellowship with his Creator God, for he lived in a worldly society headed for destruction.

Enoch’s daily walk was a walk of faith, a walk of fellowship with God. The Scriptures are trying to assure us that if Enoch could live and walk with God by faith in the midst of his sinful generation, we likewise should be able to follow his example because the human race is the same and God is the same!

Beyond that, Enoch reminds us that the quality and boldness of our faith will be the measure of our preparation for the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. We walk by faith as Enoch did, and although it is now twenty centuries after Christ’s sojourn on earth, we hold firmly to the New Testament promise that our risen Lord will return to earth again!

Lord, the example of Your servant Enoch is a reminder to me that it is possible to be godly in the midst of a perverse generation. Help me to remain faithful to You and Your ways, O Lord.[1]


5:24 walked with God … was not, for God took him. Enoch is the only break in the chapter from the incessant comment, “and he died.” Cf. 4:17, 18; 1Ch 1:3; Lk 3:37; Heb 11:5; Jude 14. Only one other man is said to have enjoyed this intimacy of relationship in walking with God, Noah (6:9). Enoch experienced being taken to heaven alive by God, as did Elijah later (2Ki 2:1–12).[2]


5:24 Enoch’s walk with God makes him an early example of faith (Heb. 11:5–6), and his being taken by God without dying anticipates the eternal resurrection life that Christ gives (Rom. 8:11).[3]


5:24 he was no more The writer omits the typical formulaic ending referring to the death of the individual (see note on Gen 5:3–31), suggesting that Enoch did not experience a normal death. The nt also asserts that Enoch did not die (Heb 11:5).

took him Similar language appears in the description of Elijah’s departure from earth in God’s fiery chariot (2 Kgs 2:1, 5, 9–11).[4]


5:24 was not, for God took him. Of all the saints recorded in the OT, only Enoch and Elijah did not experience physical death (2 Kin. 2:1–12; Heb. 11:5).[5]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ge 5:24). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 60). 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 (Ge 5:24). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 22). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

APRIL 26 – TODAY, ASK GOD TO REMOVE EVERY FALSE TRUST

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

JEREMIAH 17:9

Many of us have become extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications.

We arrange things so that we can get on well enough without divine aid, while at the same time ostensibly seeking it!

We boast in the Lord but watch carefully that we never get caught depending on Him!

To many, Christ is little more than an idea, or at best an ideal: He is not a fact! They talk as if He were real and act as if He were not.

We can prove our faith by our committal to it—and in no other way!

Any belief that does not command the one who holds it is not a real belief: it is a pseudo belief only. And it might shock some of us profoundly if we were brought suddenly face-to-face with our beliefs and forced to test them in the fires of practical living!

What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is surely coming when we shall have nothing but God!

Today is the best time to invite God to remove every false trust, to disengage our hearts from all secret hiding places, and to bring us out into the open where we can discover for ourselves whether we actually trust Him. This is a harsh cure, but it is a sure one![1]


17:9 heart. A metaphor for the human will and emotions (cf. vv. 5–7). deceitful. Tortuous, uneven, and crooked like a bad road. desperately sick. Medically incurable (15:18; 30:12, 15; Job 34:6; Isa. 17:11; Mic. 1:9). who can understand it? A rhetorical question expecting a negative answer. However, this strongly negative assessment of the human heart is not intended as a description of the heart of a believer under the new covenant, where God promises to write his law on people’s hearts (Jer. 31:33; 32:40; cf. Ezek. 36:26; Rom. 5:5; 6:17; Heb. 10:22; 1 John 3:21).[2]


17:9 The heart is deceitful more than anything else Refers to human thoughts and feelings. The Hebrew term for the heart metaphorically refers to a person’s inner life—the will, thoughts, motivations, and emotions. This is a different understanding than “heart” in modern Western thinking, which primarily indicates the seat of emotions.

Who can understand it? Only Yahweh understands the thoughts and motivations of His creation (Jer 17:10).[3]


17:9 The heart. In the OT, the “heart” is more than the seat of emotion. It represents the basis of character, including the mind and the will (4:19; Prov. 4:23; 16:23). See theological note “Free Will.”

free will

Every choice that we make in life we make for some reason. Our decisions are based upon what seems good for us at the moment, all things considered. We do some things out of intense desire. We do other things with no awareness of desire at all. Yet the desire is there or we wouldn’t choose to do them. This is the very essence of free will—to choose according to our desires.

Jonathan Edwards, in his work The Freedom of the Will, defines the will as “that by which the mind chooses.” There can be no doubt that human beings do indeed make choices. I am choosing to write; you are choosing to read. I will to write, and writing is set in motion. When the idea of freedom is added, however, the issue becomes terribly complicated. We have to ask, freedom to do what? Even the most ardent Calvinist would not deny that the will is free to choose whatever it desires. Even the most ardent Arminian would agree that the will is not free to choose what it does not desire.

With regard to salvation, the question then becomes, what do human beings desire? The Arminian believes that some desire to repent and be saved. Others desire to flee from God and thus reap eternal damnation. Why different people have different desires is never made clear by the Arminian. The Calvinist holds that all human beings desire to flee from God unless and until the Holy Spirit performs a work of regeneration. That regeneration changes our desires so that we will freely repent and be saved.

It is important to note that even the unregenerate are never forced against their will. Their wills are changed without their permission, but they are always free to choose as they will. Thus we are indeed free to do as we will. We are not free, however, to choose or select our nature. One cannot simply declare, “Henceforth I will desire only the good” anymore than Christ could have declared, “Henceforth I will desire only evil.” This is where our freedom stops.

The Fall left the human will intact insofar as we still have the faculty of choosing. Our minds have been darkened by sin and our desires bound by wicked impulses. But we can still think, choose, and act. Yet something terrible has happened to us. We have lost all desire for God. The thoughts and desires of our heart are only evil continuously. The freedom of our will is a curse. Because we can still choose according to our desires, we choose to sin and thus we become accountable to the judgment of God.

Augustine said that we still have free will, but we have lost our liberty. The royal liberty of which the Bible speaks is the freedom or power to choose Christ as our own. But until our heart is changed by the Holy Spirit, we have no desire for Christ. Without that desire we never will choose Him. God must awaken our soul and give us a desire for Christ before we will ever be inclined to choose Him.

Edwards said that as fallen human beings we retain our natural freedom (the power to act according to our desires) but lose moral freedom. Moral freedom includes the disposition, inclination, and desire of the soul toward righteousness. It is this inclination that was lost in the Fall.

Every choice I make is determined by something. There is a reason for it, a desire behind it. This sounds like determinism. By no means! Determinism teaches that our actions are completely controlled by something external to us, making us do what we don’t want to do. That is coercion and is opposed to freedom.

How can our choices be determined but not coerced? Because they are determined by something within—by what we are and by what we desire. They are determined by ourselves. This is self-determination, which is the very essence of freedom.

To be sure, for us to choose Christ, God must change our heart. That is precisely what He does. He changes our heart for us. He gives us a desire for Himself that we otherwise would not have. Then we choose Him out of the desire that is within us. We freely choose Him because we want to choose Him. That is the wonder of His grace.[4]

 


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

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1405–1406). 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 (Je 17:9). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (pp. 1292–1293). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

April 26 – Proclaiming Victory

He went and preached to the spirits in prison.

1 Peter 3:19

 

Christ went to preach a triumphant sermon before His resurrection Sunday morning. The term for “preached” in today’s verse refers to making a proclamation or announcing a triumph. In ancient times, a herald would precede generals and kings in the celebration of military victories, announcing to all the victories that were won in battle.

That’s what Jesus went to do—not to preach the gospel but to announce His triumph over sin, death, hell, demons, and Satan. He didn’t go to win souls but to proclaim victory over the enemy. In spite of the unjust suffering they subjected Him to, He could declare ultimate victory over sin and death for you and me.[1]


In which also refers to what occurred with His living spirit while His dead physical body lay in the tomb (concerning His burial, see Matt. 27:57–60; John 19:38–42). He went (poreuomai) denotes going from one place to another (see also v. 22, where the word is used concerning the ascension). When the text says Christ made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, it is indicating that He purposefully went to an actual place to make a triumphant announcement to captive beings before He arose on the third day.[2]


3:19 Verses 19, 20 constitute one of the most puzzling and intriguing texts in the NT. It has been made the pretext for such unbiblical doctrines as purgatory on the one hand and universal salvation on the other. However, among evangelical Christians, there are two commonly accepted interpretations.

According to the first, Christ went to Hades in spirit between His death and resurrection, and proclaimed the triumph of His mighty work on the cross. There is disagreement among proponents of this view as to whether the spirits in prison were believers, unbelievers, or both. But there is fairly general agreement that the Lord Jesus did not preach the gospel to them. That would involve the doctrine of a second chance which is nowhere taught in the Bible. Those who hold this view often link this passage with Ephesians 4:9 where the Lord is described as descending “into the lower parts of the earth.” They cite this as added proof that He went to Hades in the disembodied state and heralded His victory at Calvary. They also cite the words of the Apostles’ Creed—“descended into hell.”

The second interpretation is that Peter is describing what happened in the days of Noah. It was the spirit of Christ who preached through Noah to the unbelieving generation before the flood. They were not disembodied spirits at that time, but living men and women who rejected the warnings of Noah and were destroyed by the flood. So now they are spirits in the prison of Hades.

This second view best fits the context and has the least difficulties connected with it. Let us examine the passage phrase by phrase.

By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison. The relative pronoun whom obviously refers back to Spirit at the end of verse 18. We understand this to mean the Holy Spirit. In 1:11 of this Letter the “Spirit of Christ,” that is, the Holy Spirit, is described as speaking through the prophets of the OT. And in Genesis 6:3, God speaks of His Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, as nearing the limit of endurance with the antediluvians.

He went and preached. As already mentioned, it was Christ who preached, but he preached through Noah. In 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is described as a “preacher of righteousness.” It is the same root word used here of Christ’s preaching.

To the spirits now in prison. These were the people to whom Noah preached—living men and women who heard the warning of an impending flood and the promise of salvation in the ark. They rejected the message and were drowned in the deluge. They are now disembodied spirits in prison, awaiting the final judgment.

So the verse may be amplified as follows: “by whom (the Holy Spirit) He (Christ) went and preached (through Noah) to the spirits now in prison (Hades).”

But what right do we have to assume that the spirits in prison were the living men in Noah’s day? The answer is found in the following verse.[3]


3:19 made proclamation. Between Christ’s death and resurrection, His living spirit went to the demon spirits bound in the abyss and proclaimed that, in spite of His death, He had triumphed over them (see notes on Col 2:14, 15). spirits now in prison. This refers to fallen angels (demons), who were permanently bound because of heinous wickedness. The demons who are not so bound resist such a sentence (cf. Lk 8:31). In the end, they will all be sent to the eternal lake of fire (Mt 25:41; Rev 20:10).[4]


3:19 spirits in prison. There is much debate about the identity of these spirits. The Greek term pneuma (“spirit”), in either singular or plural, can mean either human spirits or angels, depending on the context (cf. Num. 16:22; 27:16; Acts 7:59; Heb. 12:23; etc.). Among the three most common interpretations, the first two fit best with the rest of Scripture and with historic orthodox Christian doctrine. These are:

(1) The first interpretation understands “spirits” (Gk. pneumasin, plural) as referring to the unsaved (human spirits) of Noah’s day. Christ, “in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18), proclaimed the gospel “in the days of Noah” (v. 20) through Noah. The unbelievers who heard Christ’s preaching “did not obey … in the days of Noah” (v. 20) and are now suffering judgment (they are “spirits in prison,” v. 19). Several reasons support this view: (a) Peter calls Noah a “herald of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5), where “herald” represents Greek kēryx, “preacher,” which corresponds to the noun kēryssō, “proclaim,” in 1 Pet. 3:19. (b) Peter says the “Spirit of Christ” was speaking through the OT prophets (1:11); thus Christ could have been speaking through Noah as an OT prophet. (c) The context indicates that Christ was preaching through Noah, who was in a persecuted minority, and God saved Noah, which is similar to the situation in Peter’s time: Christ is now preaching the gospel through Peter and his readers (v. 15) to a persecuted minority, and God will save them.

(2) In the second interpretation, the spirits are the fallen angels who were cast into hell to await the final judgment. Reasons supporting this view include: (a) Some interpreters say that the “sons of God” in Gen. 6:2–4 are angels (see note on Gen. 6:1–2) who sinned by cohabiting with human women “when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Pet. 3:20). (b) Almost without exception in the NT, “spirits” (plural) refers to supernatural beings rather than people (e.g., Matt. 8:16; 10:1; Mark 1:27; 5:13; 6:7; Luke 4:36; 6:18; 7:21; 8:2; 10:20; 11:26; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 19:12, 13; 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1; Rev. 16:13–14; cf. Heb. 1:7). (c) The word “prison” is not used elsewhere in Scripture as a place of punishment after death for human beings, while it is used for Satan (Rev. 20:7) and other fallen angels (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). In this case the message that Christ proclaimed is almost certainly one of triumph, after having been “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).

(3) In a third view, some have advocated the idea that Christ offered a second chance of salvation to those in hell. This interpretation, however, is in direct contradiction with other Scripture (cf. Luke 16:26; Heb. 9:27) and with the rest of 1 Peter and therefore must be rejected on biblical and theological grounds, leaving either of the first two views as the most likely interpretation.[5]


3:19 proclaimed to the spirits in prison. Five main interpretations of vv. 19, 20 may be mentioned: (1) The “spirits in prison” are the people to whom Christ preached during His earthly ministry, for His work involved proclaiming liberty to the captives (Luke 4:16–21). (2) Christ by the Holy Spirit preached through Noah (2 Pet. 2:5) to the people before the flood (Gen. 6–8). Noah called them to repentance, but they disobeyed and are now imprisoned. The point of Peter’s argument would then be that as God vindicated Noah then by sending the judgment Noah proclaimed, He will vindicate Christians when He judges the world according to the Christian proclamation. (3) Christ preached in the short interval between His death and resurrection during a “descent into hell.” It is said that Christ announced His victory to the spirits of Noah’s wicked contemporaries confined in the realm of the dead. (4) A similar idea is that during the same interval Christ proclaimed His victory to fallen angels, often identified with the “sons of God” of Gen. 6:2, 4 (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1), in their place of confinement. (5) Christ proclaimed His victory to fallen angels after the resurrection, at the time of His ascension into heaven. The point of the last three interpretations is that just as Jesus was vindicated, so will Christians be vindicated. See Introduction: History of Interpretation.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 131). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (p. 209). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2272). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Pe 3:19). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 2410–2411). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2247). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

APRIL 24 – CONFESSING OUR LOVE

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

Song of Solomon 2:4

Consider with me the appealing Old Testament story of the beautiful young woman in the Song of Solomon. Deeply in love with the young shepherd, she is also actively sought out by the king, who demands her favor. She remains loyal to the simple shepherd, who gathers lilies and comes to seek her and calls to her through the lattice.

In many ways, this is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus, of His love and care for His Bride, the Church. In the scriptural account, she does turn her loved one away with simple excuses. But condemned in heart, she rises to go out and search for him. As she seeks, she is asked: “What is he above others that you should seek him?” (see 5:9).

“Oh, he is altogether lovely,” she replies. “He came and called for me, and I had not the heart to go!” (see 5:16).

But at last she is able to confess, “I have found him whom my soul loveth!” (3:4).

He had been grieved but He was not far away. So it is with our Beloved—He is very near to us and He awaits our seeking!

Lord, You are “altogether lovely.” Thank You for pursuing the human race even in our state of unloveliness.[1]


4 The movement towards consummation intensifies. He has brought her to the “house of wine,” another identification of love with alcohol (and the vineyard of the previous vignette). The “banner” is a military standard that signals the identity of an encampment. Pope, 2, glosses, “His intent toward me Love.” The unmistakable design of the boy when he brought her to the house of wine, she says, was concupiscence. A literal banquet hall is as unnecessary to postulate as the houses of 1:16–17; perhaps the “wine-house” is part of the fantasy.[2]


2:4 banquet hall. The scene continues in the outdoors. This “house of wine” symbolizes the vineyard, just as the beams and rafters of 1:17 refer to the forest. his banner. As a military flag indicates location or possession, so Solomon’s love flew over his beloved one (cf. Nu 1:52; Ps 20:5).[3]


2:4 banqueting house (ESV footnote, “house of wine”). This is the only occurrence of this phrase in the OT (although there are similar expressions in Est. 7:8; Eccles. 7:2; Jer. 16:8). The exact location of this house is not critical. Rather, it is a place where wine is drunk and thus a place of love (see note on Song 1:2). This Hebrew term for banner is used elsewhere in the OT only in Numbers (Num. 2:2), where it is a standard flown at camps and carried into battle. Its use here would thus seem to indicate a public display of the lovers’ identity, namely, that they belong to and are committed to each other.[4]


2:4 the house of the wine The Hebrew phrase used here, beth hayyayin (meaning “the house of wine”), may describe a vineyard where grapes for wine are grown, or a banquet room in a palace (Esth 7:8).

his intention Banners were used for military purposes. Each unit would gather under their banner (Song 6:4; Num 1:52), which represented the army and often included the name or image of a deity (Exod 17:15). Here, the man’s banner represents a declaration of his love.[5]


2:4 banqueting house. Lit. “house of wine” (text note). The setting is outdoors (1:12 note). The lover’s “house” to this point has been the forest (1:16, 17). Now they move to a different “house,” namely, the young man’s vineyard, his “house” of wine. The expression continues the royal imagery from 1:4, 12 (the shepherd is a king) and the comparison of love and wine from 1:2.

his banner. An emblem typically used to mark out one tribe from another (Num. 2:3, 10, 18, 25). Banners were also used to muster troops for battle. It has been suggested that the word is used here for something like a sign for an inn. The young man is unabashedly advertising his love for the young woman.[6]


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

[2] Schwab, G. M. (2008). Song of Songs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 385–386). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (So 2:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1218). 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 (So 2:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1099). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

April 23, 2017: Verse of the day

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96:11–13 All creation is invited to join in the festal joy as the Lord (Jehovah, or Yahweh) arrives to rule the world. The heavens will be happy. The earth will be glad. “The sea and all within it will thunder praise” (Gelineau). No field will be silent, and “no tree in the forest but will rejoice to greet its Lord’s coming” (Knox). For He is coming to rule over the world. He will rule in perfect righteousness and in absolute honesty.

“Now therefore, why do you say nothing about bringing back the king?” (2 Sam. 19:10).[1]


96:11, 12 This is what even inanimate creation awaits (cf. Ro 8:19–22).[2]


96:10–13 Let All Nations Know that the Lord Will Judge in Righteousness. The Gentiles addressed throughout this psalm (cf. vv. 1, 7) are to spread the news among all their fellow Gentiles (among the nations, v. 10; cf. v. 3), namely, that the Lord reigns! The universal rule of the one true God (who is above all other gods, who are worthless anyway, vv. 4–5) is good news to those who will acknowledge his kingship. These verses describe a time when God will judge (i.e., rule justly; see note on Psalm 96) the peoples with equity (v. 10; cf. v. 13). When all kinds of people gladly receive God’s rule, worshiping him according to his gracious character, the rest of the creation (the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the field with all their inhabitants, and the trees of the forest) will all celebrate (be glad, rejoice, roar, exult, and sing for joy). The creation suffers from the curse upon mankind, and from God’s discipline of wayward human beings, and from the evil that people do; but when they genuinely come under the rule of the true God, the blessings will spread throughout the world. Cf. note on Rom. 8:20–21.[3]


96:11–13 The psalmist describes personified creation as looking forward to Yahweh’s judgment, which will be right and fair. As Yahweh’s reign is fully established over everything in the way that it should be—with justice and equality (righteousness)—everything on heaven and earth that knows Yahweh will rejoice.[4]


96:11–13 These verses call us to sing to the Lord as the judge of the earth.

96:11 heavens be glad … earth rejoice. This verse and the one that follows personify the whole creation.

96:13 comes to judge. The sense is that He comes to put everything back into proper order, which is why the creation is rejoicing in vv. 11, 12.[5]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 696). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 96:11). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1060). 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 (Ps 96:11–13). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 944). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

APRIL 22 – A BLESSING: THE UNCHANGING FAITHFULNESS OF GOD

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.

HEBREWS 13:8

It is a gracious thing in our relationship with the heavenly Father to find that He loves us for ourselves and values our love more than galaxies of new created worlds.

The added blessing is to discover His faithfulness for what He is today we shall find Him tomorrow, the next day and the next year!

Actually, the fellowship of God with His redeemed family is beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul.

He is not sensitive nor selfish nor temperamental. He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy. He expects of us only what He has Himself first supplied.

He is quick to mark every simple effort to please Him, and just as quick to overlook imperfections when He knows we meant to do His will. Surely He loves us for ourselves!

Unfortunately, many Christians cannot get free from their perverted notions of God, and these notions poison their hearts and destroy their inward freedom. These friends serve God grimly, as the elder brother did, doing what is right without enthusiasm and without joy, and seem altogether unable to understand the buoyant, spirited celebration when the prodigal comes home. Their idea of God rules out the possibility of His being happy in His people!

How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with, the sum of all patience, the essence of kindly goodwill![1]


13:8 The connection of this verse with the preceding one is not clear. Perhaps the simplest way to understand it is as a summary of the teaching, the goal, and the faith of these leaders. The gist of their teaching was this: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The goal of their lives was Jesus Christ—the same yesterday, today, and forever. The foundation of their faith was that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the same yesterday, today, and forever.[2]


8 This famous verse has neither verb nor immediate link with what precedes and follows to clarify what is its intention in context. Probably it is to be understood as summing up the faith of the church’s founders (its epigrammatic form suggests a well-memorized creedal “motto”), which the readers are now called to imitate. Following the mention of the “outcome” of these earlier leaders’ lives, it serves to reassure the readers that, whereas their founding fathers may have died, Jesus remains and always will remain a secure foundation for their faith. The unexpected word order that separates the first two time references from the last—“Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same, and forever”—is perhaps intended to emphasize that the fact that he has proved unchanged so far (“yesterday and today”) assures us he will remain the same for the future. Following the assurance of vv. 5–6, this verse thus locates the reliability of our unfailing God more specifically in the unchangeability of Jesus—and thus, as so often in this letter, places Jesus alongside God without distinction. (Cf. 1:12, where our author has quoted the description of God’s unchangeability in Ps 102:27 [using the same phrase “the same”] as though speaking of the Son; for the threefold division of time, cf. the doxologies of Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8.)[3]


13:8 Jesus the Messiah (Christ) is eternally trustworthy in his position as high priest and as Son of God—yesterday active in creation (e.g., 1:2–4), today offering salvation (e.g., 4:7–10), and forever reigning in heaven (e.g., 10:12). This verse may be a transition from 13:7 (their leaders trusted in this Christ, and Jesus remains trustworthy) to v. 9 (strange teachings are departures from the Jesus who is always the same).[4]


13:8 Though human leaders pass from the scene, Jesus Christ is “the same” (1:12) “yesterday” (in which God spoke through prophets, 1:1), “today” (as God summons us to enter His rest through faith; 3:7, 13; 4:7), and “forever” (1:8; 7:17, 21, 24, 28). He is the strong anchor amid sufferings and uncertainties (6:19).[5]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2209). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2385). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2221). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

APRIL 22 – ALL ARE RECIPIENTS

It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

—Lamentations 3:22

All men are recipients of God’s mercy. Don’t think for a minute that when you repented and came back from the swine pen to the Father’s house that mercy then began to operate. No, mercy had been operating all the time…. So, remember that if you hadn’t had the mercy of God all the time, stooping in pity, withholding judgment, you’d have perished long ago. The cruel dictator is a recipient of the mercy of God. The wicked murderer is a recipient of the mercy of God. And the blackest heart that lies in the lowest wallow in the country is a recipient of the mercy of God….

All men are recipients of the mercy of God, but God has postponed the execution, that is all. When the justice of God confronts human guilt then there is a sentence of death, but the mercy of God—because that also is an attribute of God, not contradicting the other but working with it—postpones the execution.

Mercy cannot cancel judgment apart from atonement. When justice sees iniquity, there must be judgment. But mercy brought Christ to the cross. I don’t claim to understand that. I’m so happy about the things I do know and so delightedly happy about things I don’t know. AOG085-087

Lord, when I realize how much we deserve Your judgment, I am once again in awe of Your great mercy. Thank You for the message of the cross. Amen. [1]


3:22 lovingkindnesses. This Heb. word, used about 250 times in the OT, refers to God’s gracious love. It is a comprehensive term that encompasses love, grace, mercy, goodness, forgiveness, truth, compassion, and faithfulness.

3:22–24 His compassions never fail. As bleak as the situation of judgment had become, God’s covenant lovingkindness was always present (cf. vv. 31, 32), and His incredible faithfulness always endured so that Judah would not be destroyed forever (cf. Mal 3:6).[2]


3:22 God’s steadfast love (his “covenant mercy” or beneficial action on his people’s behalf) never ceases, even in the face of Judah’s unfaithfulness and the resulting “day of the Lord” (cf. Joel 2:1–2; Amos 5:18; Zeph. 1:14–16). mercies. Or “compassion.” This type of mercy goes the second mile, replacing judgment with restoration. never come to an end. God is willing to begin anew with those who repent.[3]


3:22 The loyal love of Yahweh does not cease The speaker appeals to Yahweh’s covenant love to justify his hope.

The Hebrew term used here for Yahweh’s covenant love is chesed. This phrase could be referring to the eternal nature of Yahweh’s chesed or to chesed as the essential quality of Yahweh’s nature that allows Him to restrain His wrath and justice from bringing a total end. Some English translations follow the ancient Aramaic versions here, which read “The kindnesses of Yahweh never cease”; others follow the traditional Hebrew text, which says “Because of Yahweh’s mercies [or great love], we are not consumed.” Deciding which reading to follow is part of the task of a field of study known as textual criticism. The difference between what the Hebrew reads and what the Aramaic translators may have read is only one letter. The poetic parallelism with the rest of the line (which reads literally, “His mercies never come to an end”) supports following the Aramaic reading.[4]


3:22 steadfast love. On the Hb. word (hesed), see note on Ps. 36:5. The plural form, used here, recalls many acts or perhaps the riches of divine love. Cf. Is. 55:3.

mercies. God’s covenant devotion is always joined with His compassion. Though the Lord may withhold mercy temporarily (see 2:2), that is not the end of the story. His people are not finally consumed because God’s compassion is not consumed. God’s wrath toward His people must come to an end because His compassion cannot end (4:22; Hos. 11:8).[5]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (La 3:22–24). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1487). 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 (La 3:22). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1372). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.