Category Archives: Expositor’s Bible Commentary

October 20, 2017: Verse of the day


The Restoration of Israel

    Thus says the Lord:

“In a time of favor I have answered you;

in a day of salvation I have helped you;

I will keep you and give you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages,

    saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’

to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’

They shall feed along the ways;

on all bare heights shall be their pasture;

10    they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.

11    And I will make all my mountains a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.

12    Behold, these shall come from afar,

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

and these from the land of Syene.”

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

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the Lord has comforted his people

and will have compassion on his afflicted. [1]

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

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

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

A time for favor (49:8–13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


October 19, 2017: Verse of the day


Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth!

    I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old,

    things that we have heard and known,

that our fathers have told us.

    We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,

and the wonders that he has done. [1]

Call to Wisdom (78:1–4)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wonders The Hebrew word used here, niphla’oth, is usually associated with the events of the exodus from Egypt (see Exod 7:3).[4]

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

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

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

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

October 18, 2017: Verse of the day


The Test of Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Challenge to Demonstrate Wisdom in Behavior (v. 13)

3:13. James 3:2–12 presents shortcomings of the tongue to which teachers and all individuals are vulnerable. 3:13–18 reminds us of our need to demonstrate genuine wisdom. The words particularly apply to aspiring teachers, but they have relevance to all believers.

The opening rhetorical question asks how we can show that we have wisdom. Wise refers to someone with moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct. Understanding pictures someone with the knowledge of an expert. We are to show the presence of wisdom by good deeds practiced with humility. Only obedient deeds, not mere talk, prove the presence of wisdom.

Humility refers to a submissive spirit opposed to arrogance and self-seeking. The person with humility is not a doormat for the desires of others, but controls and overpowers the natural human tendency to be arrogant and self-assertive. Non-Christian Greeks felt that this type of humility was a vice. Christianity made meekness into a virtue. “Meek” in Matthew 5:5 is the adjectival form of the noun translated here as humility. Jesus promised the “meek” they would inherit the earth. Jesus meant a believer who relates to God with dependence and contentment will reap God’s abundant blessings.

Even when you are involved in a disagreement, you must demonstrate a gentleness and kindness of attitude. You must banish all contentiousness and mutual accusation. The Bible calls on all Christians to show the presence of spiritual wisdom in their lives by deeds of humility and goodness.[4]

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

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

  • Examination

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

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

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

  • Demonstration

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

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

  • Affirmation

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

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

In Ecclesiasticus, also known as the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, the writer lists a few precepts on humility and says, “My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts” (Sir. 3:17, RSV).[5]

13 Τίς σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιοτήυων ἐν ὑμῖν, “who among you is the wise and understanding person?” The opening τίς (“who”: see BDF §298.4, and for the Semitic usage of מִי, , as interrogative, see Beyer, Semitische Syntax, 167) does not suggest that what follows is merely an abstract warning (Davids, 150); or that this interrogative (see 5:13, 14) necessarily introduces a new section (Dibelius, 208–9), as though 3:13–18 were no more than a parenthetical thought (see Form/Structure/Setting). The τίς may point specifically to the teachers (Adamson, 151), though the church members at large are not totally out of the picture. The problem seems to be that some self-styled chief people, thinking they were endowed with superior wisdom and understanding, had divided the church because of their teaching, which betrayed a misuse of the tongue. Such a scenario was not uncommon in the early church (Rom 16:17–18; 2 Cor 2:17; Gal 1:7–9; Eph 4:14; and the reference to ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν in 1 Tim 1:3–7). The term “wise” (σοφός) may relate directly to the teacher (the “wise teacher” is rabbinic: E. Lohse, TDNT 6:962–63 for תַלְמִיד־חָכָם, talmîd-ḥākām) but the term for understanding (ἐπιστήμων; a hapax legomenon in the NT) could also refer to anyone who claimed to have expert knowledge and esoteric understanding. The combination of the two terms in 3:13 reflects the influence of the LXX. These terms are close to being synonyms in Deuteronomy (1:13, 15; 4:6; cf. Dan 5:12). In the first two verses cited in Deuteronomy, the combination refers to leaders; the last Deuteronomic reference is to the people at large. Thus, the description of “wise and understanding” is not exclusively applicable to teachers, but may include all in the community. But it should be kept in mind that those who taught were prone to fall victim to the misuse of the tongue and were obliged to demonstrate their faithfulness to their calling. The opening words are thus a challenge to those whose business was with words spoken and intended to be received as authoritative. What James has in mind here is a wisdom that results not so much in what one thinks or says as in what one does (“practical wisdom”: see Ropes, 244). James will shortly contrast two types of wisdom, namely the worldly and that which comes from God. But before doing that he will recall an earlier theme—faith without works is dead (2:14–26)—by recasting this thought in terms of wisdom and the good works that confirm it.

δειξάτω ἐκ τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ ἐν πραΰτητι σοφίας, “Let him demonstrate by fine conduct his deeds [done] in the humility that stems from wisdom.” V 13 is a challenge to James’ readers similar to 2:18 (δεῖξόν μοι, “show me”), where the interlocutor calls on James to demonstrate a faith without works. The verb at the beginning of the sentence (here and in 2:18) is emphatic, and the aorist imperative (δειξάτω), suggesting a once-for-all action, may be employed here to indicate that a sudden change of “manner of living” (Lebenswandel is Mussner’s expression, 170) is necessary. The urgency of this needed turnaround is seen because the tone of this letter implies that “actual and present evils” (Adamson, 149) prevail in the congregation to which James writes.

Two concepts relating to wisdom—namely, that wisdom produces works and that wisdom is characterized by meekness—appear to be awkwardly combined (Davids, 150; Moo, 132). The first thought is not completely out of place in the sense that James has already expatiated upon the need to back up a word-of-mouth confession by good works. Earlier James expected (and demanded) that a genuine faith should issue in good works (2:14–26; i.e., in deeds of charity). Now, true wisdom (wisdom from above, 3:17) should likewise be demonstrated by “fine conduct” (καλὴ ἀναστροφή; for the terminology see Gal 1:13; 1 Pet 1:15; 2:12; 3:2, 16; Heb 13:7: Bertram, TDNT 7:715–17). The idea that a person will exhibit good conduct if led by wisdom-Torah is quite consistent with OT teaching (Moo, 132), and is common in Jewishrabbinic parenesis (˒Abot 3:9b, 17b; 4:5a) and in later Christian literature (1 Clem 38.2: see Explanation).

Where v 13b becomes a little awkward is in the expression “his deeds [done] in humility.” The genitive construction here may be the result of Semitic influence (Hort, 80; Dibelius, 36–37). Yet this does not really obscure the meaning of the words. The Christian is to pattern his or her life after Jesus, who was meek (Matt 11:29) and who urged his followers to adopt this attitude (Matt 5:5). Meekness (πραΰτης) was considered a vice by some noncanonical writers of James’ time (see Laws, 160–61), and even today meekness is often looked upon as a sign of weakness, but in the NT this disposition is seen as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). The Christian is exhorted to be gentle or humble particularly in situations that have potential for conflict. This advice is especially urgent when it pertains to a church setting that is fraught with danger arising from members’ pride and dissension. The life that can be described as both wise and meek is one that is under the control of God, as the Qumran community acknowledged (1QS 4.22, 5.25, 11.1, cited in Mussner, 170, who also refers to Appian, Civil War 3.79 [§ 323], for terms that would translate as σοφία and πραΰτης = in mansuetudine et prudentia). Such control results in an attitude that surrenders selfish rights and disallows “pride” that destroys good relations with others.[6]

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

[2] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 249). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

[4] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 306–307). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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

[6] Martin, R. P. (1998). James (Vol. 48, pp. 128–130). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

October 14, 2017: Verse of the day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2017: Verse of the day


25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,

enduring forever;

his kingdom shall never be destroyed,

and his dominion shall be to the end.

27    He delivers and rescues;

he works signs and wonders

in heaven and on earth,

he who has saved Daniel

from the power of the lions.”

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. [1]

25–27 Like his predecessor King Nebuchadnezzar (see comments on 4:1–3), King Darius writes a royal letter (v. 25a), or “epistle,” since publication is intended for a “universal audience” (i.e., the peoples of his vast realm; cf. Collins, Daniel: with an Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, 61, 72). The letter is Darius’s personal confession of his own experience with Daniel’s God, Darius having witnessed Daniel’s miraculous deliverance from the lions’ pit. According to Goldingay, 129, whether or not King Darius “converted” to the Hebrew religion is not the point; rather, it is his confession acknowledging the living, eternal, saving, and active power of Daniel’s God—an affirmation desperately needed by the Hebrews enduring the dark days of Babylonian exile (cf. Porteous, 92).

Both royal epistles offer the same greeting or salutation, “may you prosper greatly” (v. 25b; see comments on 4:1–3). The formal proclamation of Darius here (vv. 26–27) contains the additional literary forms of decree, commanding the subjects of his kingdom to respect the God of Daniel (v. 26a). Both “encyclicals” (as Seow, 95, labels them) conclude with a doxology in praise of the God of the Hebrews (vv. 26b–27). The hymnic language of the doxology justifies the poetic format of the king’s decree in the more recent English translations.

The decree of Darius that his subjects must hold “the God of Daniel” in awe is stated more positively than the decree of Nebuchadnezzar that threatened dismemberment to anyone who defamed “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” (3:29). To “fear” (lit., “tremble,” Aram. zûaʿ) and “reverence” (lit., “fear,” Aram. deḥal) God mean to both “respect Him and recognize that they could be hurt by Him, Darius thus admitting that this God’s power extended far beyond the boundaries of Judah” (Wood, 175). The decree of Darius serves two purposes: first, it gives official sanction to the God of the Hebrews as a legitimate and even superior deity to the gods of the Babylonian pantheon; and second, it rescinds the “irrevocable” edict that Darius had earlier published forbidding petition to anyone but the king (cf. Redditt, 112). How ironic, as Seow, 95, observes, that “now the king himself publicizes to the world the reversal of his supposedly unchangeable edict, for God has brought about the change.”

The doxology of Darius repeats the epithet “the living God” (v. 26b; cf. v. 20), whereas Nebuchadnezzar makes reference to the Most High God (4:2). The reference to God as “the living God” not only contrasts Yahweh with the lifeless gods of the nations (e.g., Jer 16:18; Hab 2:19) but also calls attention to his capacity to preserve life as a God who saves and rescues his followers (v. 27a). The doxology of Darius extols the eternality of God and the indestructibility of his kingdom, echoing the affirmation of Nebuchadnezzar (4:3). Like Nebuchadnezzar, Darius also testifies to God’s ability to perform “signs and wonders” (v. 27a; see comments on 4:1–3). Lastly, God’s power to perform signs and wonders is applied specifically to his rescue of Daniel “from the power of the lions” (v. 27b).

Both royal epistles make the same claim—God alone is sovereign, and “he does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth” (4:35; cf. Seow, 95). Perhaps for the Hebrews in Babylonian captivity the testimony by a pagan king to God’s power to perform signs and wonders and deliver his people stirred thoughts of the “signs and wonders” associated with the exodus from Egypt and the possibility of a “second exodus” (cf. Lucas, 153).

28 Baldwin, 132, observes that the chapter ends with “an enigmatic note connecting the reign of Darius with that of Cyrus,” understanding that the conjunction “and” (NIV, NASB) actually conveys the explicative force of “namely” or “that is” (i.e., “during the reign of Darius, namely, Cyrus the Persian”). Thus the writer explains to the reader that the two names, “Darius” and “Cyrus,” belong to the same person. Given the current state of scholarship on the book of Daniel, this solution is as plausible as any of the attempts to identify the “King Darius” mentioned in ch. 6. The approach has merit in that it unifies the court-stories section of the book by forming an envelope construction with the reference to Cyrus in 1:21 (cf. Lucas, 153).[2]

6:25–28 / Reminiscent of earlier chapters (2:46–47; 3:29; 4:34–37), the king extols the God of the Jews. Here he does this by writing to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land (6:25). He addresses them with a customary greeting: May you prosper greatly! (6:25). Then he issues a decree that all his subjects must fear and reverence the God of Daniel (6:26). This is an advance over the decree in chapter 3, which is intended merely to prevent a behavior; people are forbidden from saying “anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” (3:29). Here, the decree promotes an activity, commanding the people to respect this God; they are to tremble in awe before him. The former proscribes verbal attacks on God; the latter prescribes everyone to honor him. During the exile God had called his people to be witnesses to the nations (Isa. 42:6; 43:12; 49:6), promising that one day kings and foreign peoples would acknowledge that the Jews worshiped the one, true God (Isa. 45:14–15; 49:7, 22–23; 56:6–7; Zech. 2:11; 8:20–23; 14:16–19). Here a king fulfills that prophecy.

Unlike idols, Daniel’s God is living (6:26). As already noted, this confession of faith fits better here than previously (see the commentary on 6:20). The Jewish God also endures forever (6:26). Unlike human regimes, his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end (6:26). This statement is also reminiscent of earlier parts of the book, such as Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in chapter 2 (2:44) and his affirmations about the eternality of God’s kingdom in chapter 4 (4:3, 34). It also anticipates the vision of the next chapter (Dan. 7), which records the arrival of God’s everlasting reign. We are reminded that the book of Daniel is apocalyptic. Even though chapters 7–12 deal more with the end of time, the theme is not absent from the first half of the book. Finally, Daniel’s God is a God of salvation: He rescues and he saves.… He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions (6:27). This truth was intended to feed the hope of God’s beleaguered people being devoured by the Seleucid “lions,” that God may intervene in history to deliver them. Secondarily, it becomes a timeless message for every age.

The chapter concludes with a brief chronological note, locating Daniel’s prospering in the interval of time from the reign of Darius to that of Cyrus the Persian (6:28). This calls to mind Daniel 1:21, which says that “Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.” These two similar statements frame chapters 2 through 6, setting off this block from the preceding introductory chapter (ch. 1) and from the following, more apocalyptic chapters (chs. 7–12). Nevertheless, we must not forget that chapter 2 is also linked to chapter 7 by the theme of the four kingdoms and that chapters 2 through 7 form a chiastic structure, making them a unit. As further confirmation of their unity, it also bears mentioning that they are written in Aramaic. There is a further chronological reference to Cyrus in Daniel 10:1.

The book’s author uses repetition for theological effect. Four times he uses the Aramaic word meaning “law” or “religion,” but only once does it refer to God’s “law” (v. 5); every other time it refers to the “law” of the Medes and Persians (vv. 8, 12, 15). In this way, he creates a tension between divine and human requirements, so that as the story plays out, Daniel remains faithful to Jewish law, or religion, by praying, even though he risks his life to do so.

Seven times we find words from the root meaning “to seek,” “to ask,” or “to pray.” The conspirators “tried” or “sought” (v. 4) to find a way to trap Daniel. The edict was that no one should “ask” “a request” (v. 7; the two words from the root are rendered by the one word, “prays,” in the niv) from anyone except the king. Yet, Daniel continued “praying” (v. 11) to God. The evil administrators reminded the king of his decree against anyone who “prays” (v. 12) to a god and indicted Daniel because he “asks” “his request” (v. 13; niv “prays”) three times daily. This highlights the importance of praying to God rather than seeking after other gods or humans.

There are five occurrences of the verb meaning “to rescue.” The king attempts “to rescue” (v. 14) Daniel, but fails. After casting Daniel into the pit of lions, Darius then expresses his hope that God will “rescue” (v. 16) Daniel. In the morning, he inquires whether God was able “to rescue” (v. 20) his servant. At the end, the king proclaims that God “rescues,” because he “rescued” Daniel from the lions (v. 27). The purpose here is that readers may infer something about the nature of God from the story: God rescued Daniel from the wild animals because that is his nature—he is a God who rescues and saves. This is further intended to engender hope for those who, like Daniel, are persecuted for their faith; God is able to deliver them.

Finally, there is the root meaning “to harm,” “to hurt,” or “to destroy.” The lions could not “hurt” Daniel, because he was blameless and had not done any “harm” (niv “wrong”) to the king (v. 22). After Daniel exits the pit, no “hurt” or “wound” (v. 23) is found on him. The closing edict affirms that God’s kingdom will never be “destroyed” (v. 26). The theological intention is clear: just as ravenous beasts could not harm Daniel, so nothing can harm or destroy heaven’s dominion. Daniel’s experience is symbolic and prophetic.

There are parallels in Daniel 6 to the life of Jesus. Daniel’s fellow administrators conspire against Daniel to ensnare him. Just so, the religious leaders conspired against Jesus (Matt. 26:3–5), and Judas betrayed him (Matt. 26:14–16). Daniel is arrested because he prays, contrary to the edict; Jesus was arrested after prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane because he defied religious authorities (Matt. 26:36–55). Darius struggles to save Daniel but is bound by law and pressured by his administrators, so he carries out the sentence (Dan. 6:14–15); Pilate was sympathetic to Jesus and washed his hands of the affair, but he felt pressure from the religious leaders, from the crowds, and from Rome (to keep the peace), so he allowed Jesus to be crucified (Matt. 27:18–24). The opening to the lions’ pit is covered with a stone and sealed (Dan. 6:17); Jesus’s tomb was treated similarly (Matt. 27:60, 66). Both come forth from their enclosures alive, although Jesus died, whereas Daniel did not. These parallel motifs to Daniel in Jesus’s life do not “predict” events which Jesus later “fulfills.” On the one hand, the parallels are close enough to say that maybe the Gospel writers thought of Daniel as a type of Christ. On the other hand, since they do not declare this unequivocally, perhaps the most we can say is that the parallels are remarkable but possibly coincidental.[3]

6:25–27 Darius the king wrote. Impacted by Daniel and by the Lord, he expressed himself as if he had come to a point of personal trust in God for his salvation such as Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 4:1–3, 34–37). Daniel illustrated the evangelistic potency of a godly, uncompromising life. Cf. Mt 5:48.[4]

6:25–27 Darius Acknowledges the Power of Daniel’s God. Darius, like Nebuchadnezzar, confesses the awesome power and protection of Daniel’s God: he is the living God … his kingdom shall never be destroyed (v. 26).[5]

6:26 a decree. Compare 2:47; 3:28, 29; 4:2, 3, 34–37; 5:18–29. As in the previous narratives, God displays His sovereign control of nature and history, kingdoms and kings. The decree is an eloquent testimony to “the living God” and His indestructible kingdom. It is an official acknowledgment of Daniel’s God, although it does not necessarily reflect personal faith on the part of Darius.[6]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Da 6:25–28). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 126–127). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Nelson, W. B. (2013). Daniel. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 172–175). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Da 6:25–27). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1598–1599). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1224). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

October 12, 2017: Verse of the day


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

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

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

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

[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 397). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

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

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

October 11, 2017: Verse of the day


His inexhaustibility

And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (8:45–48)

There is an inexhaustible thoroughness in what Jesus did. Not content with restoring the woman physically, the Lord restored her socially by making her healing known publically. He also restored her spiritually to God.

After the woman grasped the tassel of His robe Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” Obviously, the omniscient Lord was not asking for information. He knew who had touched Him, and was calling for her to reveal herself. And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” Following Peter’s lead the rest of the disciples asked incredulously, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” (Mark 5:31). The Lord’s reply is one of the most profound things He ever said: “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” The power of God is not an impersonal force flowing from Him to people. He was fully aware of its action. No one ever receives the power of God into his or her life without acute awareness on His part.

Realizing that she could not hide, when the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling in reverential fear and fell down before Him in homage and worship. She then declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. Not content merely to restore her physically and socially, Jesus said to her, “Daughter (the only time in the Gospels that Jesus used that word to address a woman) your faith has made you well; go in peace.” The phrase made you well translates a form of the verb sōzō, which is the common New Testament word for salvation. This same phrase in the Greek text appears in Luke 7:50, where it clearly refers to salvation from sin. It is also used in Luke 17:19 to describe one of the ten lepers who returned to worship Jesus. While all ten were healed, he alone was saved. Further, the Lord’s calling her daughter indicates that He received her as a child of His kingdom (John 1:12). She was restored, physically, socially, and spiritually through the grace and personal power of the Lord Jesus Christ.[1]

48 To address an older person as “daughter” reflects the practice of Jewish teachers, but it may also function to highlight the authority of Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Bovon, 1:339). In light of the discussion of Jesus’ true family in 8:19–21, this address may also point to the creation of the new family based on a person’s response of faith. The one who is not allowed to worship in the temple because of her physical “impurity” can now worship and praise the Son of God. As in 7:50, the concluding benediction points beyond physical healing when both “faith” and “peace” describe the experience of one who is now transformed by grace.[2]

8:48 / Daughter: “An affectionate term is used to reassure her that she is now to be recognized as part of Israel” (Fitzmyer, p. 747; Tiede, p. 176). Her “uncleanness” has been removed; she is no longer an outcast. See also Jesus’ statement to Zacchaeus in 19:9.

your faith has healed you: Lit. “Your faith has saved you.” For Luke faith is the basis and requirement for forgiveness of sins (see 5:20) and salvation (physical or otherwise, see 7:50; 17:19; 18:42).

Go in peace: An ot expression of farewell (from Hebrew šālôm); see 1 Sam. 1:17; cf. Luke 2:29. In the present context, in which a person has just been healed, it is particularly appropriate, for the šālôm also connotes the sense of wholeness. See note on 10:5 below.[3]

48. He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.

Lovingly Jesus calls her “Daughter,” even though she may not have been any younger than he was. But he speaks as a father to his child. Moreover, he praises her for her faith, even though that faith, as has been indicated, was by no means perfect; and even though, as Mark 5:27 (“after hearing about Jesus”) indicates, it was he himself who, through his earlier marvelous words and deeds, had brought about that faith. Her faith, though not the basic cause of her cure, had been the channel through which the cure had been accomplished. It had been the instrument used by Christ’s power and love to effect her recovery. Cf. Eph. 2:8. Is it not marvelous that Jesus, in speaking to this woman, says nothing about his own power and love, the root cause of her present state of well-being, but makes special mention of that which apart from him she would neither have possessed nor have been able to exercise? Moreover, by saying, “Your faith has made you well” (cf. 7:50), was he not also stressing the fact that it was his personal response to her personal faith in him that cured her, thereby removing from her mind any remnant, however small, of superstition, as if his clothes had contributed in any way to the cure?

As has already been indicated, by means of these cheering words Jesus also opened the way for the woman’s complete reinstatement in the social and religious life and fellowship of her people. Now she can go and continue to travel the rest of her life “in peace,” that is, with the smile of God upon her and the joyful inner knowledge of this smile. Cf. Isa. 26:3; 43:1, 2; Rom. 5:1.

Probably even more is included in this encouraging command, “Go in peace.” In view of the fact that in all probability Jesus spoke these words in the then current language of the Jews (Aramaic), have we not a right to conclude that nothing less than the full measure of the Hebrew Shalom, well-being for both soul and body, is here implied?[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2011). Luke 6–10 (pp. 233–234). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 167). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (p. 138). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, pp. 459–460). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

October 10, 2017: Verse of the day


13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.[1]

13–16 God’s response to Solomon’s prayer in many ways mirrors the phraseology and content of Solomon’s supplications, including the emphasis on hearing prayer and covenantal consequences, including drought, locusts, and plague (see comments on 6:12–42, esp. vv. 22–39).

What is perhaps one of the most well-known verses of Chronicles and the OT as a whole (v. 14, “If my people, who are called by my Name …”) is also simultaneously one of the more misappropriated verses in the Bible. In short, this verse is not a promissory statement being made to the United States or any country apart from the ancient covenant community of Israel. This statement is situated within covenantal particulars related to the Deuteronomic covenant (cf. v. 13), matters of temple theology (and the interwoven Israelite sacrificial system; cf. vv. 15–16), and the Davidic covenant (cf. vv. 17–22). Note that all these features are directly applicable to the nation of Israel located within the specific geographical area of the Promised Land featuring a functioning temple in the city of Jerusalem and having a Davidic king on the throne. Moreover, the Chronicler is retelling something that had been told to Solomon about four centuries prior to the time of writing.

Given that the Chronicler is writing to those in Jerusalem with a functioning temple (the Second Temple, completed during the time of Zerubbabel, Haggai, and Zechariah, ca. 515 BC) and some degree (or hope) of Davidic leadership, there is certainly a secondary line of significance and application to the postexilic Judeans living in Israel. Beyond this expanded sense for Israel, this promise cannot be connected with any sense of direct divine promise that God will “heal” the United States or any other nation, although the notion of corporate (or national) humility and Godwardness is a wonderful image that God might sovereignly choose to bless. Notable examples of leaders described as humbling themselves or leading a time of national repentance include Rehoboam (12:6), Hezekiah (32:26), and especially the dramatic example of Manasseh (33:12). Such instances of repentance and humbling frequently accompany times of prayer and an earnest seeking of God.

God’s name (v. 16) designates the presence of God and incorporates aspects of God’s character, such as his covenantal love, with Israel and his grace toward all humankind (cf. Dt 12:5).[2]

7:13–16 This section is almost all unique to 2 Chronicles (cf. 1Ki 9:3), and features the conditions for national forgiveness of Israel’s sins: 1) humility; 2) prayer; 3) longing for God; and 4) repentance.[3]

7:14 if my people. God’s purpose above all is to forgive his penitent people and heal their land. The specific vocabulary of this verse (humble themselves, pray, seek, turn) describes different aspects of heartfelt repentance and will recur throughout chs. 10–36. “Heal their land” includes deliverance from drought and pestilence as well as the return of exiles to their rightful home (6:38). For the Chronicler, this includes the restoration of the people to their right relationship with God. Cf. Jer. 25:5; 26:3.[4]

7:14 if my people. God promised that the nation would receive relief from the hardships caused by their sin if the people would turn to Him in humility and prayer. This promise was especially relevant to the restored community following the Babylonian exile. A number of events in the divided and reunited kingdoms illustrate the principles of this passage (12:6; 13:14; 14:8–15; 18:31; 20:5–19; 32:20; 33:12, 13 and notes). Many times in Chronicles the concepts in this passage appear as the decisive factor for divine blessing and curses.

humble. An attitude of contrition and dependence on God (12:6, 7, 12; 30:11; 33:12, 19, 23; 34:27).[5]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ch 7:13–16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Mabie, F. J. (2010). 1 and 2 Chronicles. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Chronicles–Job (Revised Edition) (Vol. 4, p. 192). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Ch 7:13–16). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 752). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 606). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

October 9, 2017: Verse of the day


16    He sent from on high, he took me;

he drew me out of many waters.

17    He rescued me from my strong enemy

and from those who hated me,

for they were too mighty for me.

18    They confronted me in the day of my calamity,

but the Lord was my support.

19    He brought me out into a broad place;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 7, 2017: Verse of the day


16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.[1]

Jesus Christ in Relation to the Universe

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (1:16–17)

Paul gives three reasons for Jesus’ primacy over creation. First, He is the Creator. The false teachers at Colossae viewed Jesus as the first and most important of the emanations from God, but they were convinced it had to be a lesser being much further down the chain who eventually created the material universe. But Paul rejects that blasphemy, insisting that by Him all things were created. That truth is affirmed by the apostle John (John 1:3) and the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 1:2). Because the Colossian errorists viewed matter as evil, they argued that neither the good God nor a good emanation could have created it. But Paul maintains that Jesus made all things, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible. He refutes the false philosophic dualism of the Colossian heresy. Jesus is God, and He created the material universe.

By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (one hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions, or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. That is roughly the number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches.

The universe also bears witness to the tremendous wisdom and knowledge of its Creator. Scientists now speak of the Anthropic Principle, “which states that the universe appears to be carefully designed for the well-being of mankind” (Donald B. DeYoung, “Design in Nature: The Anthropic Principle,” Impact, no. 149 [November 1985]: p. ii). A change in the rate of Earth’s rotation around the sun or on its axis would be catastrophic. The Earth would become either too hot or too cold to support life. If the moon were much nearer to the Earth, huge tides would inundate the continents. A change in the composition of the gases that make up our atmosphere would also be fatal to life. A slight change in the mass of the proton would result in the dissolution of hydrogen atoms. That would result in the destruction of the universe, because hydrogen is its dominant element.

The creation gives mute testimony to the intelligence of its Creator. Max Planck, winner of the Nobel Prize and one of the founders of modern physics, wrote, “According to everything taught by the exact sciences about the immense realm of nature, a certain order prevails—one independent of the human mind … this order can be formulated in terms of purposeful activity. There is evidence of an intelligent order of the universe to which both man and nature are subservient” (cited in DeYoung, “Design in Nature,” p. iii). It is no wonder that the psalmist wrote, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world” (Ps. 19:1–4).

The testimony of nature to its Creator is so clear that it is only through willful unbelief that men can reject it. Paul writes in Romans 1:20, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Like those who deny Christ’s deity, those who reject Him as Creator give evidence of a mind darkened by sin and blinded by Satan.

Jesus also has primacy over the creation because He is before all things. When the universe began, He already existed (John 1:1–2; 1 John 1:1). He told the Jews in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (not “I was”). He is saying that He is Yahweh, the eternally existing God. The prophet Micah said of Him, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2). Revelation 22:13 describes Him as “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” As was previously mentioned, anyone existing before time began at the creation is eternal. And only God is eternal.

A third reason for Jesus’ primacy over creation is that in Him all things hold together. Not only did Jesus create the universe, He also sustains it. He maintains the delicate balance necessary to life’s existence. He quite literally holds all things together. He is the power behind every consistency in the universe. He is gravity and centrifugal and centripetal force. He is the One who keeps all the entities in space in their motion. He is the energy of the universe. In his book The Atom Speaks, D. Lee Chesnut describes the puzzle of why the nucleus of the atom holds together:

Consider the dilemma of the nuclear physicist when he finally looks in utter amazement at the pattern he had now drawn of the oxygen nucleus.… For here are eight positively charged protons closely associated together within the confines of this tiny nucleus. With them are eight neutrons—a total of sixteen particles—eight positively charged, eight with no charge.

Earlier physicists had discovered that like charges of electricity and like magnetic poles repel each other, and unlike charges or magnetic poles attract each other. And the entire history of electrical phenomena and electrical equipment had been built up on these principles known as Coulomb’s law of electrostatic force and the law of magnetism. What was wrong? What holds the nucleus together? Why doesn’t it fly apart? And therefore, why do not all atoms fly apart? ([San Diego: Creation-Science Research Center, 1973], pp. 31–33)

Chesnut goes on to describe the experiments performed in the 1920s and 1930s that proved Coulomb’s law applied to atomic nuclei. Powerful “atom smashers” were used to fire protons into the nuclei of atoms. Those experiments also gave scientists an understanding of the incredibly powerful force that held protons together within the nucleus. Scientists have dubbed that force the “strong nuclear force,” but have no explanation for why it exists. The physicist George Gamow, one of the founders of the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, wrote,

The fact that we live in a world in which practically every object is a potential nuclear explosive, without being blown to bits, is due to the extreme difficulties that attend the starting of a nuclear reaction. (cited in Chesnut, The Atom Speaks, p. 38)

Karl K. Darrow, a physicist at the Bell (AT & T) Laboratories, agrees:

You grasp what this implies. It implies that all the massive nuclei have no right to be alive at all. Indeed, they should never have been created, and, if created, they should have blown up instantly. Yet here they all are.… Some inflexible inhibition is holding them relentlessly together. The nature of the inhibition is also a secret … one thus far reserved by Nature for herself. (cited in Chesnut, The Atom Speaks, p.38)

One day in the future God will dissolve the strong nuclear force. Peter describes that day as the one when “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). With the strong nuclear force no longer operative, Coulomb’s law will take effect, and the nuclei of atoms will fly apart. The universe will literally explode. Until that time, we can be thankful that Christ “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus Christ must be God. He made the universe, existed outside and before it, and preserves it.

Jesus Christ in Relation to the Unseen World

whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities (1:16b)

Thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities refer to the various ranks of angels. Far from being an angel, as the Colossian errorists taught, Christ created the angels. The writer of Hebrews also makes a clear distinction between Christ and the angels: “Of the angels He says, ‘Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom’ ” (Heb. 1:7–8). Jesus has been exalted “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come” (Eph. 1:21). As a result, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10). With that truth the apostle Peter agrees: “[Christ] is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22).

Scripture is clear that Jesus is not an angel, but the Creator of the angels. He is above the angels, who in fact worship Him and are under His authority. Jesus’ relation to the unseen world, like His relation to the visible universe, proves He is God.[2]

16 This verse commences by claiming that all things were created en autō (lit. “in him [Christ]”; I take the preposition en, “in,” as a locative [or dative of sphere] as opposed to an instrumental [or dative of agency]; so NRSV and the majority of commentators [cf. Fowl, 109]; cf. otherwise NIV and NASB). As with redemption (v. 14), God’s creative activity occurred in conjunction with and connection to Christ. Indeed, as the end of v. 16 asserts, literally, “all things were created through him and [un]to [or for] him.” This verse maintains that Christ is not only the location of creation but also its agency and aim (cf. 1 Co 8:6). What is said of Christ here in reference to creation is similar to what one reads in John 1:3: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (cf. Heb 2:10). Once again, what many of Paul’s (Hellenistic) Jewish contemporaries might have attributed to Wisdom, Paul connected to Christ.

The scope of God’s creative work in, through, and to Christ is limitless. All things in all places owe their existence to him (cf. Chysostom, Hom. Col 3). It matters not what or where they are; all powers—even invisible thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities—are subservient to and impotent before Christ (cf. 2:10; see also Ro 8:38–39). (Scholars dispute whether earthly and heavenly powers or merely the latter are in view here; cf. Dunn, 93; Lincoln, 598.) In this outpouring of praise, Paul is both cryptic and proleptic. Later in the letter, one learns that some of these created principalities and powers prove to be malevolent forces that must be disarmed and defeated on the cross (2:15). Moreover, Paul’s confidence that the dominion of darkness has already been overcome by Christ’s bloody cross enables him to speak of Christ’s ultimate rule and reign as all but a fait accompli (1:13, 20; 2:14; cf. Ro 16:20; 1 Co 15:57).

17 The assertion that Christ is the “firstborn over all creation” (1:15b) is reinforced in the statement “he is before all things.” Once again, while temporal overtones may well be intended here, as in 1:15b, the claim that Christ is before all things serves to emphasize Christ’s supremacy and not solely or even primarily his temporal priority (so Caird, 179). That being said, even though 1:17a affirms and underscores the present lordship of Christ (note the present tense verb estin, “is”), it does not deny and could well imply that the One who is before all things was (and forevermore will be) before all things. In fact, Lightfoot, 155, has suggested that the “he is” here corresponds precisely to the “I am” of John 8:58.

This “hymn” not only celebrates Christ as the agent of and Lord over creation; it also proclaims his guardianship over all things. Bruce, 65, notes, “What has been brought into being through him is maintained in being by him.” Paul does not portray Christ as a distant deity away on an extended holiday; rather, he presents and praises an ever-present Power who has held and continues to hold the created order together. (Note the perfect tense of the verb synistēmi, “hold together,” GK 5319.) The cosmos (and all who inhabit it) owes its existence, coherence, and continuance to Christ (cf. Ac 17:28; Ro 11:36). Additionally, as the second strophe of this “poem” will pronounce, the One who holds all things together is the very One who placed all things together through his reconciling work on the cross (v. 20).[3]

The glory of Christ’s power (v. 16)

christ is the agent in creation. ‘For by him all things were created.’ This shows that all things owe their origin to Jesus Christ. He is the divine agent in Creation and made all that we see and all that we do not see. He created matter and spirit. This is a restatement of his deity and a declaration of his glorious power. The Trinity was active in the work of Creation (Gen. 1:1) and the words ‘by him’ show that God the Father works by the Son. Everything came into being out of nothing by his power (Heb. 11:3; John 1:3). ‘All things … created that are in heaven and … earth’ includes the whole of the spiritual creation, angels and archangels; and the whole of physical creation, visible and invisible. Here are some of the things we don’t see: ‘thrones or dominions or principalities or powers’. These words describe the world of angels both holy and evil (Col. 2:10, 15; Eph. 1:21, 3:10; 6:12; 1 Cor. 15:24).

christ is the purpose of creation. ‘All things were created through him and for him’. Creation exists for the Son of God. In Romans 8, we are given a description of things which in the future will reveal Christ’s glory to all fallen creation at his Second Coming (Rom. 8:19–23). At the end of time every knee will bow to him as Lord (Phil. 2:10) and there will be a wedding feast when Jesus will possess all things (Rev. 19:1–16).

The glory of Christ’s pre-existence (v. 17)

This verse speaks of Jesus Christ’s dignity: ‘He is before all things and in him all things consist’. Jesus was not part of Creation but he was before it. The Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) says ‘there never was a time when he was not’. The doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ from eternity is taught in several places (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; 2 Cor. 8:9). He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Rev. 22:13). He did not pre-exist in human form but became man at the Incarnation (Phil. 2:6–8). Everything is held together and sustained by him (Heb. 1:1–3). Through him the cosmos is prevented from falling into chaos and the principle of coherence (unity) is found in him.[4]

1:16 / After establishing Christ’s superiority in the created order, Paul moves on to the invisible world of heavenly and earthly beings. The “all creation” (1:15) is expanded by the phrase that by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. The Greek uses two prepositions that aid in the understanding of the action intended: God created the whole universe by (dia) and for (eis) him. In other words, Christ is both the agent and the goal of creation. He must not be relegated to the same inferior position as other spiritual powers. All of creation finds its goal in Christ alone. The use of the perfect tense of “created” (ektisthē) shows that what has taken place in God’s creative activity continues to be effective into the present.

One gets the impression that Paul is taking great pains to avoid any misunderstanding on this matter. He already has emphasized that all things (used twice in this verse) were created by Christ. Now he amplifies this by the terms heaven and earth and visible and invisible. This includes all spiritual forces, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities.

These terms represent a view and classification of spiritual powers that were current in the first century. People believed that the world was inhabited by all sorts of alien powers that were a threat to human beings (Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; 6:12; 1 Pet. 3:22). The fact that the reference to these powers is a probable interpolation by Paul into the hymn suggests that these powers were given undue prominence by the false teachers. Paul’s point is that these powers are subject to Christ’s superiority since they were created by and for him. He is Lord over all these powers (2:10, 15).

1:17 / The phrase he is before all things reaffirms some of the things that Paul has already said about Christ. But the new thought is that, in him all things hold together. The Greek word synestēken here connotes preservation or coherence. Thus the Lord who creates the universe also sustains it.[5]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 1:16–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 47–50). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 290–291). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] McNaughton, I. S. (2006). Opening up Colossians and Philemon (pp. 28–29). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[5] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 30–31). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

October 4, 2017: Verse of the day


And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. (14:2–3)

Standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, the 144,000 will join in the heavenly song of redemption. With all the devastation they have seen, with all the trouble they have faced, with all the rejection, hostility, hatred, and persecution they have endured, one might expect them to be too sorrowful to sing (cf. Ps. 137:1–4). But instead they will joyously praise the Lord for their protection and triumph.

This is not the first time John heard a voice from heaven (cf. 4:1; 10:4, 8; 11:12; 12:10), nor will it be the last (cf. v. 13; 18:4; 19:1). The voice he heard was very loud and continuous, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. Ezekiel 43:2 likens the voice of God to the sound of many waters, while Revelation 1:15 describes the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ in the same way. But since Revelation 19:6 uses both of those phrases to describe the voice of a heavenly multitude, it is best to understand them in that sense here.

The song began in 5:9–10, when the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders “sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’ ” The next to join in were myriads of angels, who began “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing’ ” (5:12). Finally, “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them [began] saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever’ ” (5:13). In 7:9–10, the Tribulation martyrs joined in the escalating chorus of praise: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ ”

The mighty voice was not mere noise; it had a musical quality, like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. The reference to harpists and harps suggests that the voice expressed not thunderous judgment but joy. Harps are frequently associated in the Old Testament with joyous praise (cf. 2 Sam. 6:5; 1 Chron. 13:8; 15:16, 28; 2 Chron. 5:12–13; Neh. 12:27; Pss. 33:2; 71:22; 144:9; 150:3). Heaven will resound with loud praise when the Lord Jesus Christ returns in triumph to establish His earthly kingdom.

The new song sung in heaven before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders is the song of redemption (cf. Pss. 33:1–3; 40:3; 96:1–2; 98:1–2; 144:9–10; 149:1; Isa. 42:10). The angels will join the Old Testament saints, the raptured church, and the redeemed Tribulation martyrs in praising God for salvation. While angels do not experience redemption, they do rejoice because of it (Luke 15:10). All heaven will overflow with praise because God’s redemptive work culminating in the return of Christ is accomplished.

Heaven’s praise overflows to earth, where the new song is taken up. John notes that no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. The unregenerate cannot, of course, sing the song of redemption; it is only for the redeemed, those purchased by Christ’s blood. Why the song is restricted to the one hundred and forty-four thousand is not stated, but Henry Morris has offered a possible explanation:

Although the words of the song of the 144,000 are not recorded, it surely dwells in part at least on the great truth that they had been “redeemed from the earth.” Although in one sense all saved people have been redeemed from the earth, these could know the meaning of such a theme in a more profound way than others. They had been saved after the rapture, at that time in history when man’s greatest persecutions and God’s greatest judgments were on the earth. It was at such a time that they, like Noah (Genesis 6:8), had “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and had been separated from “all that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 13:8). Not only had they been redeemed spiritually but, precursively as it were, they had been redeemed from the very curse on the earth (Genesis 3:17), being protected from pain and death by the guarding seal. (The Revelation Record [Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 1983], 260)

The 144,000 will join with the heavenly chorus in praising God for His marvelous work of redemption. Some of the lyrics of their song may be found in 15:3–4:

And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and marvelous are Your works,

O Lord God, the Almighty;

Righteous and true are Your ways,

King of the nations!

Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?

For You alone are holy;

For all the nations will come and worship before You,

For Your righteous acts have been revealed.”

A mark of triumphant Christian living in any era is constant praise to God. The 144,000 no doubt praised God throughout their time of trial and persecution. Because their ordeal is over and they are victorious, they will burst forth in praise to God for their deliverance. Joy is the proper outflow of a heart that trusts in God’s sovereign power (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16; James 1:2; 1 Pet. 4:13).[1]

2 The “sound” John hears is probably a “voice” (phōnē, GK 5889), as in 1:15. It is important to recognize that this voice is not that of the redeemed; it is a loud angelic chorus (cf. 5:11), sounding like “the roar of rushing waters,” like “a loud peal of thunder,” and like “harpists playing their harps” (1:15; 5:8; 6:1; 19:1, 6; see comments at 5:8; Notes, 5:9–10). Charles indicates that grammatically the sentence is Hebraistic. Again the scene is liturgical, emphasizing the connection between the earthly victory and the heavenly throne.[2]

2. And I heard a sound out of heaven like a sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the sound that I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.

John first saw the Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion, and then he heard a sound coming to him out of heaven. His eye is fixed on a representative place on earth, while his ear is attuned to a sound in heaven. He fails to identify the speaker, which is common in the Apocalypse (see v. 13; 10:4, 8; 18:4). He describes the characteristics of the sound by giving comparisons taken from nature. He compares the sound with that of many waters, which is similar to the voice of Jesus addressing John on the island of Patmos: “his voice was like the sound of many waters” (1:15; 19:6; Ezek. 43:2). It is also like the sound of loud thunder, which indicates that the speaker calls everyone to pay attention (see 6:1).

In addition to the thundering loud noises heard in nature, the sound is like soft music coming from celestial harpists playing their harps (5:8; and see 15:2). John hears heavenly music entering his ears, first thunderous then soft and pleasing. It is comparable to an orchestra and choir that increase or decrease their volume at the command of the director. The sound is grand and gentle, lofty and lovely. John is privileged to hear this celestial music while he is on earth.[3]

2a καὶ ἤκουσα φωνὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς φωνὴν ὑδάτων πολλῶν καὶ ὡς φωνὴν βροντῆς μεγάλης, “I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of the sea and like the sound of loud thunder.” Here the seer hears the tremendously loud sound of heavenly singing but does not see the celestial throne room from which the singing emanates. For the motif of the unidentified voice in Revelation, see Comment on 10:4. The voice is not that of the 144,000 but rather the sound of the heavenly assembly (Swete, 177). The perspective of the seer is on the earth, and the setting of v 1 is, therefore, also on the earth. While the use of thunder as a metaphor for an extremely loud voice occurs elsewhere in Revelation only in 6:1 and 19:6, the phraseology in 14:2 and 19:6a is particularly similar, and in both passages there are three similes introduced with ὡς, “as, like,” which the author uses to characterize the magnificent sound he hears.

Rev 14:2


Rev 19:6a


καὶ ἤκουσα

Then I heard


καὶ ἤκουσα

Then I heard



a sound


ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ

from heaven


ὡς φωνὴν

like the sound


ὄχλου πολλοῦ

of a large multitude


ὡς φωνὴν

like the sound


καὶ ὡς φωνὴν

and like the sound


ὑδάτων πολλῶν

of the roaring sea


ὑδάτων πολλῶν

of the roaring sea


καὶ ὡς φωνὴν

like the sound


καὶ ὡς φωνὴν

and like the sound


βροντῆς μεγάλης

of loud thunder


βροντῶν ἰσχυρῶν

of loud thunder


καὶ ἡ φωνὴ ἣν ἤκουσα

and the sound which I heard


ὡς φωνὴν κιθαρῳδῶν

like that of kitharists





ἐν ταῖς κιθάραις αὐτῶν

on their kitharas


The major difference between these two passages is that the two similes drawn from nature are placed first in 14:2 but last in 19:6. Correspondingly, the similes drawn from human life, a large crowd of people in 19:6 and a group of kithara players in 14:2, are both somewhat awkward since in both instances the groups named are not just similes but the groups who sing. Rev 14:2 is presented as an audition, and it is as if the author only gradually becomes aware of the sound he hears, for he first compares it to loud sounds found in nature, roaring water and loud thunder. In v 2b, on the other hand, his impression of the sound becomes much more specific.

2b καὶ ἡ φωνὴ ἣν ἤκουσα ὡς κιθαρῳδῶν κιθαριζόντων ἐν ταῖς κιθάραις αὐτῶν, “The sound which I heard was like that of kitharists playing their kitharas.” The syntax of this verse is awkward since ἡ φωνή, “the sound,” is a nominative that has no syntactical relationship to the rest of the sentence and must therefore be regarded as a nominative absolute or pendent nominative (the same construction occurs in 10:8; on the pendent nominative in Revelation, see 2:26; 3:12, 21). φωνή here has an anaphoric definite article referring to the previous anarthrous use of φωνή in v 2a, indicating that the metaphor of kitharists playing on their instruments refers to the same sound referred to in v 2a. Kraft, who is virtually alone in preferring the variant reading of the second φωνή as anarthrous (see Note 14:2.e-e.), thinks that two groups are referred to, one in heaven and the 144,000 on the earth, who he thinks should be identified with the kitharists (187–88).

This is the third of three similes that the author uses to describe the sound he hears (see Comment on v 2a), and the repetitive introductory phrase, “the sound which I heard” (v 2a), emphasizes that the author has a clearer impression of the sound he hears and uses a simile drawn from human life, namely, the sound of a group of kithara players, to characterize the sound. The phrase κιθαρῳδῶν κιθαριζόντων ἐν ταῖς κιθάραις αὐτῶν, literally “harpers harping on their harps,” is as redundant and alliterative in Greek as it is in English.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 74–76). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 720). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, p. 402). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Aune, D. E. (1998). Revelation 6–16 (Vol. 52B, pp. 806–808). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

October 1, 2017: Verse of the day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 623). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

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

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

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

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

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