Category Archives: Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary

APRIL 25 – “AS I WAS, SO I WILL BE”

As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.

Joshua 1:5

For all things, God is the great Antecedent!

Because He is, we are and everything else is.

We cannot think rightly of God until we begin to think of Him as always being there—and being there first!

Joshua had this to learn. He had been so long the servant of God’s servant Moses, and had with such assurance received God’s word at his mouth, that Moses and the God of Moses had become blended in his thinking, so blended that he could hardly separate the two thoughts. By association they always appeared together in his mind.

Now Moses is dead and lest the young Joshua be struck down with despair, God spoke to assure him: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee!”

Moses was dead, but the God of Moses still lived! Nothing had changed and nothing had been lost, for nothing of God dies when a man of God dies.

“As I was—so I will be.” Only the Eternal God could say this!

 

Almighty God, I pray today for Christian leaders and pastors in foreign lands who need to be reminded that You are the Eternal God who faithfully stands with them in all their challenges.[1]


1:5 The promise of divine power for Joshua’s task.[2]


1:5 will I be with you; I will not fail See Josh 1:17; compare Exod 3:12.[3]


1:5 God’s great promise to Moses I will be with you (Ex. 3:12) is now given to Joshua (1:9; 3:7). Of special comfort to Joshua would have been the fact that God would be with him in the same way He had been with Moses. Joshua had been present during the many demonstrations of God’s presence in Moses’ life and would have known how significant this promise was.[4]


1:5. As Joshua faced the tremendous task of conquering Canaan, he needed a fresh word of encouragement. From personal observation Joshua knew that the Canaanites and others were vigorous people who lived in strongly fortified cities (cf. Num. 13:28–29). Frequent battles kept their warriors in trim fighting condition. And for the most part the land was mountainous, a fact that would make war maneuvers most difficult. But when God gives a command He often accompanies it with a promise, so He assured Joshua a lifetime of continuous victory over his enemies, based on His unfailing presence and help. The words I will never leave you (cf. Josh. 1:9) may be rendered, “I will not drop or abandon you.” God never walks out on His promises.[5]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Jos 1:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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

[4] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 274). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[5] Campbell, D. K. (1985). Joshua. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 328). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

April 14 – Devotion to Christ

Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.

1 Peter 3:15

 

Regardless of the opposition a believer may face in this world, he is always to affirm in his heart that Christ is Lord. He is to accept and acknowledge the Lord’s sovereignty and majesty, fearing only Him.

The believer who sanctifies Christ exalts Him as the object of his love and loyalty. He recognizes His perfection, magnifies His glory, and extols His greatness. He submits himself to God’s will, realizing that His will sometimes involves suffering. To live that way is to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10).

As a Christian, you need to be committed to honoring Christ as Lord—even in the midst of suffering. Submission to Him will yield courage, boldness, and fortitude in the midst of hostility.[1]


A Devotion to Christ

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, (3:15a)

Here the apostle again alludes to Isaiah 8:13, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts” (kjv). When believers sanctify Christ as Lord in their hearts, they affirm their submission to His control, instruction, and guidance. In so doing they also declare and submit to God’s sovereign majesty (cf. Deut. 4:35; 32:4; 1 Kings 8:27; Pss. 90:2; 92:15; 99:9; 145:3, 5; Isa. 43:10; Rom. 8:28; 11:33) and demonstrate that they fear only Him (Josh. 24:22–24; Pss. 22:23; 27:1; 34:9; 111:10; 119:46, 63; Prov. 14:26; Matt. 4:10).

Sanctify (hagiasate) means “to set apart,” or “consecrate.” But in this context it also connotes giving the primary place of adoration, exaltation, and worship to Christ. Believers who sanctify Christ set Him apart from all others as the sole object of their love, reverence, loyalty, and obedience (cf. Rom. 13:14; Phil. 2:5–11; 3:14; Col. 3:4; 2 Peter 1:10–11). They recognize His perfection (Heb. 7:26–28), magnify His glory (Acts 7:55–56; cf. Rev. 1:12–18), extol His pre-eminence (Col. 1:18), and submit themselves to His will (Mark 3:35; Rom. 12:2; Eph. 6:6; Heb. 10:36; 1 John 2:17), with the understanding that sometimes that submission includes suffering.

This honoring of Christ as Lord is not external, but in the hearts of true worshipers—even when they must face unjust suffering. That submission to and trust in the perfect purposes of the sovereign Lord yields courage, boldness, and fortitude to triumph through the most adverse situations.

A Readiness to Defend the Faith

always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (3:15b)

It is not just endurance through the blessing of suffering that believers are to submit to; there is also the opportunity to defend the truth when they are being persecuted. Christians must be ready to make a defense of the faith. The Greek term for defense (apologia) is the word from which the English terms apology and apologetics derive. It often means a formal defense in a judicial courtroom (cf. Acts 25:16; 2 Tim. 4:16), but Paul also used the word informally to denote his ability to answer those who questioned him (Phil. 1:16). Always indicates believers’ need for constant preparedness and readiness to respond, whether in a formal courtroom or informally, to everyone who asks them to give an account for why they live and believe the way they do. Account is simply logos, “word,” or “message,” and it calls saints to be able at the time someone asks (present tense) to give the right words in response to questions about the gospel.

The gospel is identified as the hope that is in believers. Hope is synonymous with the Christian faith because the motive for believers’ embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is their anticipation of escaping hell and entering eternal glory (cf. Acts 26:6; Eph. 1:18; 4:4; Col. 1:23; Heb. 10:23). Thus hope becomes the focal point of any rational explanation believers should be able to provide regarding their salvation. (For further insights into the meaning of hope, see the discussion of 1:3 in chapter 2 of this volume.)

The believer’s defense of this hope before the unbeliever who asks must be firm and uncompromising, but at the same time conveyed with gentleness and reverence. Gentleness refers to meekness or humility, not in the sense of weakness but in the sense of not being dominant or overbearing (cf. Eph. 4:15, “speaking the truth in love”). The Lord Himself was characterized by this virtue, as was Paul: “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1a).

Reverence expresses devotion to God, a deep regard for His truth, and even respect for the person listening (Col. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:24–26).

Christians who cannot present a biblically clear explanation of their faith (cf. 1 Thess. 5:19–22; 1 John 2:14) will be insecure when strongly challenged by unbelievers (cf. Eph. 4:14–15). In some cases that insecurity can undermine their assurance of salvation. The world’s attacks can overwhelm those who have not “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8; cf. Eph. 6:10–17).[2]


3:15 In the last part of verse 14 and in this verse, Peter quotes from Isaiah 8:12b, 13, which says: “Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” Someone has said, “We fear God so little because we fear man so much.”

The Isaiah passage speaks of The Lord of hosts as the One to be reverenced. Quoting it, Peter by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says, sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.

To reverence the Lord means to make Him the Sovereign of our lives. All we do and say should be in His will, for His pleasure, and for His glory. The lordship of Christ should dominate every area of our lives—our possessions, our occupation, our library, our marriage, our spare time—nothing can be excluded.

Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. This applies primarily to times when Christians are being persecuted because of their faith. The consciousness of the presence of the Lord Christ should impart a holy boldness and inspire the believer to witness a good confession.

The verse is also applicable to everyday life. People often ask us questions which quite naturally open the door to speak to them about the Lord. We should be ready to tell them what great things the Lord has done for us. This witnessing should be done in either case with gentleness and reverence. There should be no trace of harshness, bitterness or flippancy when we speak of our Savior and Lord.[3]


3:15 sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. The meaning is “set apart in your hearts Christ as Lord.” The heart is the sanctuary in which He prefers to be worshiped. Live in submissive communion with the Lord Jesus, loving and obeying Him—and you have nothing to fear. always being ready to make a defense. The Eng. word “apologetics” comes from the Gr. word here translated “defense.” Peter is using the word in an informal sense (cf. Php 1:16, 17) and is insisting that the believer must understand what he believes and why one is a Christian, and then be able to articulate one’s beliefs humbly, thoughtfully, reasonably, and biblically. the hope that is in you. Salvation with its anticipation of eternal glory.[4]


3:15 “Sanctify” means “set apart.” Having established a special dwelling for God in the heart, the Christian ought to be ready always to give an answer to those who seek a reason for his hope. The word “defense” is apologia (Gk.), from which the English word “apology” is derived. However, closer to the intent of Greek thought is the idea of Christian “apologetics,” an organized, thoughtful defense of the faith. The believer’s task is to know well the truths of the faith and to prepare to present them in a persuasive fashion.[5]


3:15 sanctify the Lord God: Believers should acknowledge the eternal holiness of Christ by revering Him as the Lord of the universe who is in control of all things. to give a defense: Peter assumes that the Christian faith will be falsely accused. He therefore encourages Christians to have rational answers to respond to those false accusations. Meekness is the same term translated gentle in v. 4. Meekness is not weakness. Scripture indicates that both Moses and Christ were meek men; however, they were certainly not weak men. Fear implies a high degree of reverence or respect.[6]


3:15. In their hearts Christians are to set apart Christ as Lord. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “Only he who can say, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life’ can go on to say, ‘Of whom shall I be afraid?’ ” (Expositions of Holy Scriptures, 16:42) Christians should overcome fear by sanctifying (hagiasate, “make separate from others”) Christ as their Lord (kyrion). As a result Christians should always be prepared (hetoimoi, “ready”; cf. 1:5) to give … the reason (apologian, the “defense” which a defendant makes before a judge; cf. Acts 22:1; 25:16) for their hope in Christ. Such an oral defense should be consistent with one’s “set-apart” conduct.[7]


3:15 sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: Be sure you are filled with His Spirit and have no attitude contrary to love. We should give our testimony with meekness (humility) toward others and with fear (reverence) toward God for what He has done. See article “Noah’s Ark.”[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 119). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 200–202). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2271). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Pe 3:15). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., 1 Pe 3:15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1685). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] Raymer, R. M. (1985). 1 Peter. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 850). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] The Open Bible: New King James Version. (1998). (electronic ed., 1 Pe 3:15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

April 14 – Forgiving Others

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34

✧✧✧

As Jesus forgave others (including us), we should extend forgiveness to those who wrong us.

Jesus had a forgiving heart right up to the end, even after He had experienced a lifetime of mankind’s worst treatment. He came down to a world He had created, but that world rebuffed Him. Its inhabitants’ eyes were blinded by sin, and they could not see any beauty in Jesus. Almost immediately after His humble birth in a stable, King Herod sought to have Him killed (Matt. 2:13, 16–18). And the Jewish leaders on various occasions contested Christ’s teachings and looked for opportunities to seize Him and kill Him. The cross was just the culmination of a lifetime of persecution against Jesus.

Jesus’ death by crucifixion was one of the most humiliating, painful forms of execution the world has ever known. From a human perspective, we would have expected Him to plead with God the Father for mercy or to be enraged at God and denounce Him for allowing Him to be crucified. If we had written the original script for Jesus’ crucifixion scene, we probably would have had Him screaming threats of retaliation at His killers. But our Savior did none of those things. Instead, He asked His Father to forgive His enemies.

The Lord Jesus prayed for the most important need His executioners would ever have. They would never be able to enter the presence of a holy God if their sins were not forgiven. Christ was concerned that His opponents, who were ignorantly putting Him to death, have an opportunity to be forgiven rather than endure God’s vengeance.

Such an attitude of love and mercy should also be ours. We, unlike Jesus, are sinners ourselves who need constant forgiveness. Therefore, when we are wronged, our primary concern ought to be that God would forgive the one who has sinned against us. An excellent model of this attitude is Stephen, who prayed as he was being stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). He followed Christ’s own example of love and forgiveness, and so should we.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that you may have a more consistently forgiving attitude toward others who wrong or offend you.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 18:21–35. What is implied in Jesus’ figurative expression “seventy times seven” (v. 22) regarding forgiving others? ✧ Ultimately, how much does it matter that we maintain a forgiving attitude (vv. 32–35)?[1]


the merciful intercession of christ

But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (23:34a)

This is the first of the Lord’s seven sayings from the cross. One might expect that He would have pronounced judgment on those mocking Him, who were committing the ultimate act of blasphemy. Instead, in an act of mercy, He asked the Father to forgive those most wretched of sinners for their ignorant blasphemy, because, He said, “they do not know what they are doing”; that is, they were not aware of the full scope of their wickedness. “If they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8).

Instead of seeking vengeance on His enemies, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Justice would eventually be served; judgment would fall on the rejecting, unbelieving nation. But in God’s grace and mercy, it would be delayed for forty years. Christ’s intercession on behalf of His tormenters is yet another fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Isa. 53:12).

Christ’s petition was in one sense a general prayer, revealing that there is no sin against the Son of God so severe that it cannot be forgiven those who repent (cf. Matt. 12:31–32). If forgiveness is available for those who crucified Him, it is available for anyone. But it is also a specific prayer that God would forgive those among the crowd whom He had chosen for salvation before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand Jews in Jerusalem were converted to Christ and baptized and the church was born. Within a few weeks, another five thousand or more people in Jerusalem embraced the faith of Jesus Christ. Surely many of those who came to Christ in those weeks after the resurrection were there in the crowd that day at Calvary. The church was in large measure born out of those who stood there and mocked the Son of God in answer to this prayer. The centurion and the soldiers under his command also came to faith in Christ (Matt. 27:54), as did many of the priests (Acts 6:7), possibly even some of the rulers. Even one of the hardened criminals crucified alongside Jesus was saved, and it is to the story of that conversion that Luke now turns.[2]


23:34 With infinite love and mercy, Jesus cried from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Who knows what a Niagara of divine wrath was averted by this prayer! Morgan comments on the Savior’s love:

In the soul of Jesus there was no resentment; no anger, no lurking desire for punishment upon the men who were maltreating Him. Men have spoken in admiration of the mailed fist. When I hear Jesus thus pray, I know that the only place for the mailed fist is in hell.

Then followed the dividing of His garments among the soldiers, and the casting of lots for His seamless robe.[3]


23:34 forgive them. I.e., His tormentors, both Jews and Romans (cf. Ac 7:60). Some of the fruit of this prayer can be in the salvation of thousands of people in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Ac 2:41). they do not know what they are doing. I.e., they were not aware of the full scope of their wickedness. They did not recognize Him as the true Messiah (Ac 13:27, 28). They were blind to the light of divine truth, “for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”(1Co 2:8). Still, their ignorance certainly did not mean that they deserved forgiveness; rather, their spiritual blindness itself was a manifestation of their guilt (Jn 3:19). But Christ’s prayer while they were in the very act of mocking Him is an expression of the boundless compassion of divine grace. cast lots. See notes on Mt 27:35; Mk 15:24.[4]


23:34 They cast lots to divide his garments is a clear reference to Ps. 22:18. Casting lots was sometimes used in the OT to discover God’s will, but here it is a form of gambling by the Roman guards. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Jesus fulfills his own teaching about loving one’s enemies (see Luke 6:35) and highlights the fact that his death was providing the very basis upon which those who crucified him could be forgiven (see Isa. 53:12). Jesus thus provides an example for all believers who would follow him (see Acts 7:60; 1 Pet. 2:21–24). “They know not what they do” does not absolve either the Jews or the Romans of their responsibility in Jesus’ death, but it shows that they did not fully understand the horrible evil that they were doing in crucifying the “Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14) who was both the true Messiah and the Son of God.[5]


23:34 Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing Several ancient manuscripts of Luke do not include this quote from Jesus, suggesting that it may have been added later based on early church oral tradition.

they cast lots to divide his clothes A reference to Psa 22:18. Psalm 22 is a lament psalm closely associated with the suffering and death of Jesus (see note on Psa 22:title–31).[6]


23:34 forgive them. Both Jews and Romans. The mercy expressed in Jesus’ request to His Father will reappear in the dying prayer of Stephen, the first recorded martyr after Pentecost (Acts 7:60).

they know not what they do. The ignorance of the Jewish and Gentile conspirators against the Lord and His Messiah (Acts 4:25–28) does not excuse them, but it leaves the door to repentance open (1 Tim. 1:13–15; cf. 1 Cor. 2:8). This verse is absent in many early manuscripts (text note). See note on 22:43, 44.

his garments. The clothing of a crucified person was normally given to those who carried out the execution. In this way, Ps. 22:18 (cited in John 19:24) is fulfilled.[7]


23:34 forgive them: Those who put Jesus to death acted in ignorance, not really understanding who it was they were killing. Jesus’ example of interceding for His executioners was followed by Stephen in Acts 7:60. divided His garments and cast lots: The language here alludes to the suffering Righteous One of Ps. 22:18.[8]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. (2014). Luke 18–24 (pp. 384–385). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1455). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Lk 23:34). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2010). 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 (Lk 23:34). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1838). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1302). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

April 13 – A Helpful Fear

You are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.

Isaiah 8:12–13, nasb

 

In the days of the prophet Isaiah, Ahaz king of Judah faced a crisis in the impending invasion of the Assyrian army. When Ahaz refused an alliance with the kings of Israel and Syria against Assyria, they also threatened to invade Judah. Behind the scenes Ahaz had allied with Assyria. Isaiah warned Ahaz against that ungodly alliance, but told him not to fear. The king was only to fear the Lord and not be troubled.

In the same sense, a Christian is not to be shaken by whatever hostilities threaten him. Fearing the Lord will help him face opposition with courage and see suffering as an opportunity for spiritual blessings, not as an opportunity to compromise his faith before the believing world.

To be dedicated to the Lord in the face of persecution demands that your mind and affections be set on heavenly values, not earthly ones. If you’re preoccupied with possessions, pleasures, and popularity, you’ll fear the enemy’s assaults. But if you’re heavenly minded, you’ll rejoice when you encounter various trials.[1]


12–15 A number of conjectural emendations have been suggested to aid our understanding of this passage, but none has commanded general scholarly approval. The text makes excellent sense as it stands and should be approached in its integrity. The NIV margin takes qešer in v. 12 in the more formal sense of a treaty, while the text understands it in its more usual sense of a conspiracy. But if God is speaking here of a conspiracy, who is under criticism? The commentators are divided, some taking the verse to refer to the political situation in which Ahaz is involved through the threat of the two northern kings, others thinking that it is Isaiah and his disciples (v. 16; the verbs in v. 12 are plural) who are under criticism from the people. If v. 12b balances v. 12a, the former interpretation is the more likely.

Isaiah and those who welcome his message (“you” in v. 13a is plural; cf. v. 18) are to epitomize the response all the people should have made to his message (cf. 7:2), for a deep reverence for God (cf. 29:23) banishes the fear of humankind. Miqdāš (“sanctuary”; v. 14) comes from the same root as taqdîšû (“you are to regard as holy”; v. 13). God will himself be a holy place in the midst of his people (cf. Ex 40:34–38; Jn 1:14; Rev 21:3).

The prophet has already shown in his language that he regards the division of the kingdom as a tragedy of divine judgment (7:17). Both houses will face further judgment from God because of their attitude in the present crisis, though the mention of Jerusalem suggests he has Judah chiefly in mind. Perhaps he takes the judgment of apostate Israel for granted.

Isaiah uses two analogies to picture this judgment. God is often described in the OT as a “rock” (e.g., Dt 32:4, 15, 18; Pss 18:2; 71:3), normally with implications of shelter and refuge. Here the prophet turns this familiar figure against the people. God the Rock is for his people who trust him, but he is against those who refuse to believe. To them God will be either a boulder over which a person falls in the darkness or a loose rock at the edge of a ravine. Isaiah has already pictured people under the divine hand of judgment having to become hunters again (7:24); now he speaks of God as the divine Hunter, who uses bird snares and spring traps as foils for his victims.

The NT writers saw the ultimate, divinely-given object of faith to be Christ. Human beings reveal their attitude toward God by their faith in Christ or by their rejection of him, so the NT writers applied this prophecy to him (Mt 21:44; Lk 2:34; Ro 9:33; 1 Pe 2:8). The importance of this passage for the NT is shown by the fact that so many different NT writers quote or allude to it (see also the comments at Isa 28:16).

It is impossible in English to convey the terrifying force of the seven Hebrew words that constitute v. 15. All five of the verbs end with the same long vowel, and four of these open with the same letter and follow one another in unbroken sequence. We may attempt something like the following: “They will stumble, many of them, they will fall, be smashed, snared, seized.” This conveys a little of the sentence’s form but does scant justice to its extreme terseness or to its auditory power.[2]


8:11–15 God deeply impressed upon Isaiah a surprising message. The holy God, who is the sanctuary for frightened human beings, is also the snare for those who do not fear him. Judah and Jerusalem wring their hands over surface-level crises (7:2, 6, 16), with little awareness of the grandeur of God. By disregarding God, they find him to be an obstacle they cannot evade. First Peter 3:15 uses language from Isa. 8:13 to identify Isaiah’s the Lord of hosts (v. 13) with Jesus Christ.[3]


8:12 conspiracy. The people considered Isaiah a traitor because he said that Ahaz and his administration were wrong to rely on Assyria.

8:13 fear … dread. It is not people (v. 12), but the Lord who is the object of fear. The kings of Syria and Israel seem dangerous to Judah but the Lord can bring their threat to nothing. Even Assyria can do nothing without the Lord’s permission. He is the ultimate authority to whom all must submit, in whom all must trust, and to whom everyone must render an account (12:2; 33:6; 50:10; 59:19; Pss. 25:12–15; 34:11–14).[4]


8:12 Do not say: The commands in vv. 12, 13, 15, 19 are in the plural. Perhaps Isaiah’s adversaries were labeling his rejection of an alliance with Assyria a conspiracy.

8:13 Hallow means to treat as holy. Your fear indicates a sense of reverence, awe, and wonder. Your dread indicates fright and terror. If the people want to be frightened, they should be frightened of God. If they want to respond to God correctly, they should treat His name with awe and fear Him (Ex. 20:20).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 118). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[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. 523–524). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1256). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1135). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 817). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

April 12 – Leaving No Cause

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.

1 Peter 3:15

 

It’s not likely, but according to the apostle Peter, there is a remote possibility that you may suffer for being righteous. Indeed, many Christians suffered for their obedience to Christ in the early church, but others suffered for their disobedience. When a Christian disobeys God’s Word, the world senses a greater justification and freedom for hostility. Even godly Christians should not be surprised or afraid when the world treats them with hostility.

A passion for goodness is no guarantee against persecution. Doing good only reduces the likelihood of it. No one did more good than Jesus, yet a hostile world eventually killed Him. Nevertheless, your life should be above reproach so critics will have no justification for any accusations against you.[1]


A Devotion to Christ

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, (3:15a)

Here the apostle again alludes to Isaiah 8:13, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts” (kjv). When believers sanctify Christ as Lord in their hearts, they affirm their submission to His control, instruction, and guidance. In so doing they also declare and submit to God’s sovereign majesty (cf. Deut. 4:35; 32:4; 1 Kings 8:27; Pss. 90:2; 92:15; 99:9; 145:3, 5; Isa. 43:10; Rom. 8:28; 11:33) and demonstrate that they fear only Him (Josh. 24:22–24; Pss. 22:23; 27:1; 34:9; 111:10; 119:46, 63; Prov. 14:26; Matt. 4:10).

Sanctify (hagiasate) means “to set apart,” or “consecrate.” But in this context it also connotes giving the primary place of adoration, exaltation, and worship to Christ. Believers who sanctify Christ set Him apart from all others as the sole object of their love, reverence, loyalty, and obedience (cf. Rom. 13:14; Phil. 2:5–11; 3:14; Col. 3:4; 2 Peter 1:10–11). They recognize His perfection (Heb. 7:26–28), magnify His glory (Acts 7:55–56; cf. Rev. 1:12–18), extol His pre-eminence (Col. 1:18), and submit themselves to His will (Mark 3:35; Rom. 12:2; Eph. 6:6; Heb. 10:36; 1 John 2:17), with the understanding that sometimes that submission includes suffering.

This honoring of Christ as Lord is not external, but in the hearts of true worshipers—even when they must face unjust suffering. That submission to and trust in the perfect purposes of the sovereign Lord yields courage, boldness, and fortitude to triumph through the most adverse situations.

A Readiness to Defend the Faith

always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (3:15b)

It is not just endurance through the blessing of suffering that believers are to submit to; there is also the opportunity to defend the truth when they are being persecuted. Christians must be ready to make a defense of the faith. The Greek term for defense (apologia) is the word from which the English terms apology and apologetics derive. It often means a formal defense in a judicial courtroom (cf. Acts 25:16; 2 Tim. 4:16), but Paul also used the word informally to denote his ability to answer those who questioned him (Phil. 1:16). Always indicates believers’ need for constant preparedness and readiness to respond, whether in a formal courtroom or informally, to everyone who asks them to give an account for why they live and believe the way they do. Account is simply logos, “word,” or “message,” and it calls saints to be able at the time someone asks (present tense) to give the right words in response to questions about the gospel.

The gospel is identified as the hope that is in believers. Hope is synonymous with the Christian faith because the motive for believers’ embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is their anticipation of escaping hell and entering eternal glory (cf. Acts 26:6; Eph. 1:18; 4:4; Col. 1:23; Heb. 10:23). Thus hope becomes the focal point of any rational explanation believers should be able to provide regarding their salvation. (For further insights into the meaning of hope, see the discussion of 1:3 in chapter 2 of this volume.)

The believer’s defense of this hope before the unbeliever who asks must be firm and uncompromising, but at the same time conveyed with gentleness and reverence. Gentleness refers to meekness or humility, not in the sense of weakness but in the sense of not being dominant or overbearing (cf. Eph. 4:15, “speaking the truth in love”). The Lord Himself was characterized by this virtue, as was Paul: “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1a).

Reverence expresses devotion to God, a deep regard for His truth, and even respect for the person listening (Col. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:24–26).

Christians who cannot present a biblically clear explanation of their faith (cf. 1 Thess. 5:19–22; 1 John 2:14) will be insecure when strongly challenged by unbelievers (cf. Eph. 4:14–15). In some cases that insecurity can undermine their assurance of salvation. The world’s attacks can overwhelm those who have not “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8; cf. Eph. 6:10–17).[2]


3:15 In the last part of verse 14 and in this verse, Peter quotes from Isaiah 8:12b, 13, which says: “Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” Someone has said, “We fear God so little because we fear man so much.”

The Isaiah passage speaks of The Lord of hosts as the One to be reverenced. Quoting it, Peter by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says, sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.

To reverence the Lord means to make Him the Sovereign of our lives. All we do and say should be in His will, for His pleasure, and for His glory. The lordship of Christ should dominate every area of our lives—our possessions, our occupation, our library, our marriage, our spare time—nothing can be excluded.

Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. This applies primarily to times when Christians are being persecuted because of their faith. The consciousness of the presence of the Lord Christ should impart a holy boldness and inspire the believer to witness a good confession.

The verse is also applicable to everyday life. People often ask us questions which quite naturally open the door to speak to them about the Lord. We should be ready to tell them what great things the Lord has done for us. This witnessing should be done in either case with gentleness and reverence. There should be no trace of harshness, bitterness or flippancy when we speak of our Savior and Lord.[3]


3:15 sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. The meaning is “set apart in your hearts Christ as Lord.” The heart is the sanctuary in which He prefers to be worshiped. Live in submissive communion with the Lord Jesus, loving and obeying Him—and you have nothing to fear. always being ready to make a defense. The Eng. word “apologetics” comes from the Gr. word here translated “defense.” Peter is using the word in an informal sense (cf. Php 1:16, 17) and is insisting that the believer must understand what he believes and why one is a Christian, and then be able to articulate one’s beliefs humbly, thoughtfully, reasonably, and biblically. the hope that is in you. Salvation with its anticipation of eternal glory.[4]


3:15 “Sanctify” means “set apart.” Having established a special dwelling for God in the heart, the Christian ought to be ready always to give an answer to those who seek a reason for his hope. The word “defense” is apologia (Gk.), from which the English word “apology” is derived. However, closer to the intent of Greek thought is the idea of Christian “apologetics,” an organized, thoughtful defense of the faith. The believer’s task is to know well the truths of the faith and to prepare to present them in a persuasive fashion.[5]


3:15 sanctify the Lord God: Believers should acknowledge the eternal holiness of Christ by revering Him as the Lord of the universe who is in control of all things. to give a defense: Peter assumes that the Christian faith will be falsely accused. He therefore encourages Christians to have rational answers to respond to those false accusations. Meekness is the same term translated gentle in v. 4. Meekness is not weakness. Scripture indicates that both Moses and Christ were meek men; however, they were certainly not weak men. Fear implies a high degree of reverence or respect.[6]


3:15. In their hearts Christians are to set apart Christ as Lord. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “Only he who can say, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life’ can go on to say, ‘Of whom shall I be afraid?’ ” (Expositions of Holy Scriptures, 16:42) Christians should overcome fear by sanctifying (hagiasate, “make separate from others”) Christ as their Lord (kyrion). As a result Christians should always be prepared (hetoimoi, “ready”; cf. 1:5) to give … the reason (apologian, the “defense” which a defendant makes before a judge; cf. Acts 22:1; 25:16) for their hope in Christ. Such an oral defense should be consistent with one’s “set-apart” conduct.[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 117). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 200–202). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2271). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Pe 3:15). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., 1 Pe 3:15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1685). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] Raymer, R. M. (1985). 1 Peter. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 850). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

April 9 – Inheriting the Earth

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

✧✧✧

Someday God will reverse the curse and return the earth to His people.

God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). But their sin cost them their sovereignty and brought a curse upon the earth (Gen. 3:17–18).

The Apostle Paul said, “The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God … in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption” (Rom. 8:19–21). Someday that curse will be reversed, and God’s people will once again inherit the earth.

The Greek word translated “inherit” (Matt. 5:5) means “to receive an allotted portion.” The earth is the allotted portion of believers, who will reign with the Lord when He comes in His Kingdom (Rev. 20:6). That’s an emphatic promise in Matthew 5:5, which literally reads, “Blessed are the gentle, for only they shall inherit the earth.”

Many Jewish people of Christ’s day thought the Kingdom belonged to the strong, proud, and defiant. But Jesus said the earth will belong to the gentle, meek, and humble. Proud, self-righteous people don’t qualify (cf. Luke 1:46–55). Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become [humble and submissive] like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

As a recipient of God’s promises, you should be thrilled knowing that you will inherit the earth and reign with Christ in His earthly Kingdom. Be encouraged to know that even when evil people and godless nations seem to prosper, God is in complete control and will someday establish His righteous Kingdom on earth.

Rejoice in that assurance, and seek to be all He wants you to be until that great day.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God that all of creation will someday be freed from sin’s corrupting influences. ✧ Praise Him for His mighty power, which will bring it all to pass.

For Further Study: Read 1 Corinthians 6:1–8. ✧ What issue did Paul address? ✧ How does the future reign of Christians apply to that issue?[1]


Happy Are the Meek

(5:5)

15

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. (5:5)

Like the first two beatitudes, this one must have been shocking and perplexing to Jesus’ hearers. He taught principles that were totally foreign to their thinking.

Jesus’ audience knew how to act spiritually proud and spiritually self-sufficient. They were proficient in erecting a pious facade. They actually believed that the Messiah was coming soon and would commend them for their goodness. He would, at last, give the Jewish people their rightful place in the world-position above all other people, because they were the chosen of God.

They eagerly anticipated that the Messiah would deal gently with them and harshly with their oppressors, who for nearly a hundred years had been the Romans. After the Maccabean revolution that freed them from Greece, the Jews had a brief time of independence. But Rome’s rule, though not as cruel and destructive, was much more powerful than that of Greece. Since 63 b.c., when Pompey annexed Palestine to Rome, the region had been ruled primarily by puppet kings of the Herodian family and by Roman governors, or procurators, the best known of which to us was Pilate.

The Jews so despised Roman oppression that sometimes they even refused to admit it existed. One day as He taught on the Mount of Olives,Jesus had one of His strongest exchanges with the Pharisees. When He said “to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,’ ” the Pharisees’ response was strange. “We are Abraham’s offspring,” they said, “and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You shall become free?’ ” (John 8:31–33). The fact was, of course, that Israel’s history was one of repeated conquest and oppression-by Egypt, Assyria, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and, at that very time, Rome. Apparently pride would not allow those Pharisees to acknowledge one of the most obvious facts of their nation’s history and of their present situation.

All Jews hoped for deliverance of some sort, by some means. Many were expecting deliverance to come through the Messiah. God had directly promised the godly Simeon “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,” that is, the Messiah (Luke 2:26). Simeon’s expectation was fulfilled when he was given the privilege of seeing the true Messiah as an infant. Others, however, such as the Pharisees, expected the Messiah to come with great fanfare and a mighty show of supernatural power. They assumed He would miraculously throw off the yoke of Rome and establish a Jewish state, a revived theocracy and holy commonwealth that would rule the world. Others, such as the materialistic Sadducees, hoped for change through political compromise, for which they were despised by many fellow Jews. The monastic Essenes, isolated both physically and philosophically from the rest of Judaism, lived largely as if Rome and the rest of the world did not exist.

The Zealots, as their name implies, were the most vocal and active proponents of deliverance. Many of them expected the Messiah to come as a powerful, irresistible military leader who would conquer Rome in the same way that Rome had conquered them. They were not, however, waiting passively for their Deliverer, but were determined that, whenever and however He might come, they would do their part to make His job easier. Their numbers, influence, and power continued to grow until Rome brutally attempted to crush Jewish resistance. In a.d. 70 Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and massacred over a million Jews. Three years later Flavius Silva finally succeeded in his long siege against the stronghold at Masada. When Jewish rebelliousness continued to frustrate Rome, Hadrian swept through Palestine during the years 132–35 and systematically destroyed most of the cities and slaughtered the Jews living there.

In Jesus’ day the aggressive, rebellious Zealots were not many in number, but they had the sympathy and moral support of many of the people, who wanted Rome to be overthrown, however it was done.

Consequently, in whatever way various groups of people expected the Messiah to come, they did not anticipate His coming humbly and meekly. Yet those were the very attitudes that Jesus, the one whom John the Baptist had announced as the Messiah, was both teaching and practicing. The idea of a meek Messiah leading meek people was far from any of their concepts of the messianic kingdom. The Jews understood military power and miracle power. They even understood the power of compromise, unpopular as it was. But they did not understand the power of meekness.

The people as a whole eventually rejected Jesus because He did not fulfill their messianic expectations. He even preached against the means in which they had put their hope. They first rejected, then hated, and finally killed Him because, instead of approving their religion He condemned it, and instead of leading them to independence from Rome He disdained revolutionary acts and offered a way of even greater subservience.

In their minds Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah, and the final evidence was His crucifixion. The Old Testament taught that anyone hanged on a tree was “accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23), yet that is exactly where Jesus’ life ended-ignominiously on a cross, and a Roman cross at that. As He hung dying, some of the Jewish leaders could not resist a last taunt against His claim to be Savior and Messiah: “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him. He trusts in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He takes pleasure in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’ ” (Matt. 27:42–43).

In the early days of apostolic preaching, the death and resurrection of Christ were the greatest hindrances to belief in the gospel. The ideas were foolishness to Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). The gospel was foolishness to those Gentiles who considered the body to be inherently evil and thought it absurd that the Savior of the world not only would allow Himself to be killed but would come back from the dead in bodily form. To the Jews the gospel was a stumbling block because the idea of the Messiah dying at all, much less on a cross, was unthinkable. How could a Messiah who taught for a few years, accomplished absolutely nothing as far as anyone could see, and then was rejected by the religious teachers and put to death be worth believing in? (cf. Acts 3:17–18).

But rejection of Jesus started long before His crucifixion. When He began the Sermon on the Mount by teaching humility, mourning, and meekness, the people sensed something was wrong. This strange preacher could hardly be the deliverer they were looking for. Great causes are fought by the proud, not the humble. You cannot win victories while mourning, and you certainly could never conquer Rome with meekness. In spite of all the miracles of His ministry, the people never really believed in Him as the Messiah, because He failed to act in military or miracle power against Rome.

The Jews were not looking for the Messiah that God had told them was coming. They disregarded such parts of His Word as Isaiah 40–60, which so clearly and vividly portrays the Messiah as the Suffering Servant as well as the conquering Lord. They could not accept the idea that such descriptions as, “He has no stately form or majesty … He was despised and forsaken of men … He was oppressed and He was afflicted…like a lamb that is led to slaughter … that He was cut off out of the land of the living,” and “His grave was assigned with wicked men” (Isa. 53:2–3, 7–9) could apply to the Messiah, to the coming great deliverer of the Jews.

Jesus’ teaching seemed new and unacceptable to most of His hearers simply because the Old Testament was so greatly neglected and misinterpreted. They did not recognize the humble and self-denying Jesus as the Messiah because they did not recognize God’s predicted Suffering Servant as the Messiah. That was not the kind of Messiah they wanted.

The Meaning of Meekness

Gentle is from praos, which basically means mild or soft. The term sometimes was used to describe a soothing medicine or a soft breeze. It was used of colts and other animals whose naturally wild spirits were broken by a trainer so that they could do useful work. As a human attitude it meant being gentle of spirit, meek, submissive, quiet, tenderhearted. During His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was hailed as the coming King, though He was “gentle, and mounted on a donkey” (Matt. 21:5). Paul lovingly referred to the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1) as the pattern for his own attitude.

The essential difference between being poor in spirit and being meek, or gentle, may be that poverty in spirit focuses on our sinfulness, whereas meekness focuses on God’s holiness. The basic attitude of humility underlies both virtues. When we look honestly at ourselves, we are made humble by seeing how sinful and unworthy we are; when we look at God, we are made humble by seeing how righteous and worthy He is.

We again can see logical sequence and progression in the Beatitudes. Poverty of spirit (the first) is negative, and results in mourning (the second). Meekness (the third) is positive, and results in seeking righteousness (the fourth). Being poor in spirit causes us to turn away from ourselves in mourning, and meekness causes us to turn toward God in seeking His righteousness.

The blessings of the Beatitudes are for those who are realistic about their sinfulness, who are repentant of their sins, and who are responsive to God in His righteousness. Those who are unblessed, unhappy, and shut out of the kingdom are the proud, the arrogant, the unrepentant-the self-sufficient and self-righteous who see in themselves no unworthiness and feel no need for God’s help and God’s righteousness.

Most of Jesus’ hearers, like fallen men throughout history, were concerned about justifying their own ways, defending their own rights, and serving their own ends. The way of meekness was not their way, and therefore the true kingdom was not their kingdom. The proud Pharisees wanted a miraculous kingdom, the proud Sadducees wanted a materialistic kingdom, the proud Essenes wanted a monastic kingdom, and the proud Zealots wanted a military kingdom. The humble Jesus offered a meek kingdom.

Meekness has always been God’s way for man. It is the way of the Old Testament. In the book of Job we are told that God “sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety” (5:11). Moses, the Jews’ great deliverer and law-giver, “was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). The Jews’ great King David, their supreme military hero, wrote, “He [the Lord] leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way” (Ps. 25:9).

Meekness is the way of the New Testament. It is taught by Jesus in the Beatitudes as well as elsewhere and is continued to be taught by the apostles. Paul entreated the Ephesians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love” (Eph. 4:1–2). He told the Colossians to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12). He told Titus to remind those under his leadership “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1–2).

Meekness does not connote weakness. The word was used in much extrabiblical literature to refer to the breaking of an animal. Meekness means power put under control. A person without meekness is “like a city that is broken into and without walls” (Prov. 25:28). “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32). An unbroken colt is useless; medicine that is too strong will harm rather than cure; a wind out of control destroys. Emotion out of control also destroys, and has no place in God’s kingdom. Meekness uses its resources appropriately.

Meekness is the opposite of violence and vengeance. The meek person, for example, accepts joyfully the seizing of his property, knowing that he has infinitely better and more permanent possessions awaiting him in heaven (Heb. 10:34). The meek person has died to self, and he therefore does not worry about injury to himself, or about loss, insult, or abuse. The meek person does not defend himself, first of all because that is His Lord’s command and example, and second because he knows that he does not deserve defending. Being poor in spirit and having mourned over his great sinfulness, the gentle person stands humbly before God, knowing he has nothing to commend himself.

Meekness is not cowardice or emotional flabbiness. It is not lack of conviction nor mere human niceness. But its courage, its strength, its conviction, and its pleasantness come from God, not from self. The spirit of meekness is the spirit of Christ, who defended the glory of His Father, but gave Himself in sacrifice for others. Leaving an example for us to follow, He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:21–23).

Though He was sinless, and therefore never deserved criticism or abuse, Jesus did not resist slander or repay injustice or threaten His tormentors. The only human being who did no wrong, the One who always had a perfect defense, never defended Himself.

When His Father’s house was profaned by moneychangers and sacrifice sellers, “He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables” (John 2:14–15). Jesus scathingly and repeatedly denounced the hypocritical and wicked religious leaders; He twice cleansed the Temple by force; and He fearlessly uttered divine judgment on those who forsook and corrupted God’s Word.

But Jesus did not once raise a finger or give a single retort in His own defense. Though at any time He could have called legions of angels to His side (Matt. 26:53), He refused to use either natural or supernatural power for His own welfare. Meekness is not weakness, but meekness does not use its power for its own defense or selfish purposes. Meekness is power completely surrendered to God’s control.

The Manifestation of Meekness

The best way to describe meekness is to illustrate it, to see it in action. Scripture abounds with instructive accounts of meekness.

After God had called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land and had made the marvelous unconditional covenant with him, a dispute about grazing lands arose between the servants of Abraham and those of his nephew Lot. All the land of Canaan had been promised to Abraham. He was God’s chosen man and the Father of God’s chosen people. Lot, on the other hand, was essentially a hanger-on, an in-law who was largely dependent on Abraham for his welfare and safety. Besides that, Abraham was Lot’s uncle and his elder. Yet Abraham willingly let Lot take whatever land he wanted, thus giving up his rights and prerogatives for the sake of his nephew, for the sake of harmony between their households, and for the sake of their testimony before “the Canaanite and the Perizzite [who] were dwelling then in the land” (Gen. 13:5–9). Those things were much more important to Abraham than standing up for his own rights. He had both the right and the power to do as he pleased in the matter, but in meekness he gladly waived his rights and laid aside his power.

Joseph was abused by his jealous brothers and eventually sold into slavery. When, by God’s gracious plan, he came to be second only to Pharaoh in Egypt, he was in a position to take severe vengeance on his brothers. When they came to Egypt asking for grain for their starving families, Joseph could easily have refused and, in fact, could have put his brothers into more severe slavery than that into which they had sold him. Yet he had only forgiveness and love for them. When he finally revealed to them who he was, “he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it” (Gen. 45:2). Then he said to them, “Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life … Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (vv. 5, 8). Later he told them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” ( 50:19–20). In meekness Joseph understood that it was God’s place to judge and his to forgive and help.

Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating some Hebrew slaves; faced up to Pharaoh to demand the release of his people; and was so angry at the orgy that Aaron and the people were having around the golden calf that he smashed the first set of tablets of the Ten Commandments. Yet he was called “very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Moses vented his anger against those who harmed and enslaved his people and who rebelled against God, but he did not vent his anger against those who abused him or demand personal rights and privileges.

When God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt, Moses felt completely inadequate, and pleaded, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11). After God explained His plan for Moses to confront Pharaoh, Moses again pleaded, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (4:10). Moses would defend God before anyone, but he did not defend himself before God.

David was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as Israel’s king. But when, in the cave of Engedi, he had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, as Saul often had tried to take his, David refused to do so. He had such great respect for the king’s office, despite that particular king’s wickedness and abuse of him, that “David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. So he said to his men, ‘Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed’ ” (1 Sam. 24:5–6).

Many years later, after David’s rebellious son Absalom had routed his father from Jerusalem, a member of Saul’s family named Shimei cursed David and threw stones at him. When one of David’s soldiers wanted to cut off Shimei’s head, David prevented him, saying, “Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day” (2 Sam. 16:5–12).

By contrast, King Uzziah, who began to reign at the age of sixteen and who “did right in the sight of the Lord,” and “continued to seek God” (2 Chron. 26:4–5), became self-confident after the Lord gave him great victories over the Philistines, Ammonites, and other enemies. “When he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (v. 16). Uzziah thought he could do no wrong, and arrogantly performed a rite that he knew was restricted to the priests. He was so concerned with exalting himself and glorying in his greatness, that he disobeyed the God who had made him great and even profaned His Temple. As a consequence “King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord” (v. 21).

Of the many examples of meekness in the New Testament, the greatest other than Jesus Himself was Paul. He was by far the most educated of the apostles and the one, as far as we can tell, that God used most widely and effectively. Yet he refused to put any confidence in himself, “in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). He knew that he could do all things, but only “through Him who strengthens me” (4:13).

The Result of Meekness

As with the other beatitudes, the general result of meekness is being blessed, being made divinely happy. God gives the meek His own joy and gladness.

More specifically, however, the gentle … shall inherit the earth. After creating man in His own image, God gave man dominion over the whole earth (Gen. 1:28). The subjects of His kingdom are going to come someday into that promised inheritance, largely lost and perverted after the Fall. Theirs will be paradise regained.

One day God will completely reclaim His earthly domain, and those who have become His children through faith in His Son will rule that domain with Him. And the only ones who become His children and the subjects of His divine kingdom are those who are gentle, those who are meek, because they understand their unworthiness and sinfulness and cast themselves on the mercy of God. The emphatic pronoun autos (they) is again used (see vv. 3, 4), indicating that only those who are meek shall inherit the earth.

Most Jews thought that the coming great kingdom of the Messiah would belong to the strong, of whom the Jews would be the strongest. But the Messiah Himself said that it would belong to the meek, and to Jew and Gentile alike.

Klēronomeō (to inherit) refers to the receiving of one’s allotted portion, one’s rightful inheritance. This beatitude is almost a direct quotation of Psalm 37:11-“But the humble will inherit the land.” For many generations faithful Jews had wondered, as God’s people today sometimes wonder, why the wicked and godless seem to prosper and the righteous and godly seem to suffer. Through David, God assured His people, “Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place, and he will not be there” (v. 10). The wicked person’s time of judgment was coming, as was the righteous person’s time of blessing.

Our responsibility is to trust the Lord and obey His will. The settling of accounts, whether in judgment or blessing, is in His hands and will be accomplished exactly in the right time and in the right way. In the meanwhile, God’s children live in faith and hope based on the certain promise, the divine pronouncement, that they shall inherit the earth.

Paul both warns and assures the Corinthians, saying, “So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor. 3:21–23). Because we belong to Christ, our place in the kingdom is as secure as His.

It is also certain “that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). One day the Lord will take the earth from the hands of the wicked and give it to His righteous people, whom He will use “to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishment on the peoples; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the judgment written” (Ps. 149:7–9).

Our inheritance of the earth is not entirely future, however. The promise of the future inheritance itself gives us hope and happiness now. And we are able to appreciate many things, even earthly things, in ways that only those who know and love the Creator can experience.

In the beautiful words of Wade Robinson,

Heav’n above is softer blue,

Earth around is sweeter green;

Something lives in ev’ry hue

Christless eyes have never seen!

Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,

Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,

Since I know, as now I know,

I am His and He is mine.

Nearly a century ago George MacDonald wrote, “We cannot see the world as God means it in the future, save as our souls are characterized by meekness. In meekness we are its only inheritors. Meekness alone makes the spiritual retina pure to receive God’s things as they are, mingling with them neither imperfection nor impurity.”

The Necessity for Meekness

Meekness is necessary first of all because it is required for salvation. Only the meek will inherit the earth, because only the meek belong to the King who will rule the future kingdom of the earth. “For the Lord takes delight in His people,” says the psalmist; “he crowns the humble with salvation” (Ps. 149:4, niv ). When the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the kingdom, “He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ ” (Matt. 18:2–4).

Meekness is also necessary because it is commanded. “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility” (Zeph. 2:3). James commands believers, “Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Those who do not have a humble spirit are not able even to listen rightly to God’s Word, much less understand and receive it.

Meekness is necessary because we cannot witness effectively without it. Peter says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15). Pride will always stand between our testimony and those to whom we testify. They will see us instead of the Lord, no matter how orthodox our theology or how refined our technique.

Meekness is necessary because only meekness gives glory to God. Pride seeks its own glory, but meekness seeks God’s. Meekness is reflected in our attitude toward other children of God. Humility in relation to fellow Christians gives God glory. “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:5–7).[2]


5 This beatitude and those in vv. 7–10 have no parallel in Luke. It would be wrong to suppose that Matthew’s beatitudes are for different groups of people or that we have the right to half the blessings if we determine to pursue four out of the eight. They are a unity and describe the norm for Messiah’s people.

The word “meek” (praus, GK 4558) is hard to define. It can signify absence of pretension (1 Pe 3:4, 14–15) but generally suggests gentleness (cf. 11:29; Jas 3:13) and the self-control it entails. The attempt to understand a “meek” person to be nonviolent and law-observant (Michel Talbot, Heureux les doux, car ils hériteront la terre: (Mt 5:4 [5]) [Paris: Gabalda, 2002]) is unconvincing in its methods and doctrinaire in its conclusions. The Greeks extolled humility in wise men and rulers, but such humility smacked of condescension. In general, the Greeks considered meekness a vice because they failed to distinguish it from servility. To be meek toward others implies freedom from malice and a vengeful spirit. Jesus best exemplifies it (11:29; 21:5). Lloyd-Jones (Sermon on the Mount,1:65–69) rightly applies meekness to our attitudes toward others. We may acknowledge our own bankruptcy (v. 3) and mourn (v. 4). But to respond with meekness when others tell us of our bankruptcy is far harder (cf. Stott, Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 43–44). Meekness, therefore, requires such a true view about ourselves as will express itself even in our attitude toward others.

And the meek—not the strong, aggressive, harsh, tyrannical—will inherit the earth. The verb “inherit” often relates to entrance into the promised land (e.g., Dt 4:1; 16:20; cf. Isa 57:13; 60:21). But the specific OT allusion here is Psalm 37:9, 11, 29, a psalm recognized as messianic in Jesus’ day (4QpPs 37). There is no need to interpret the land metaphorically, as having no reference to geography or space; nor is there need to restrict the meaning to “land of Israel” (see Notes). Entrance into the promised land ultimately became a pointer toward entrance into the new heaven and the new earth (“earth” is the same word as “land”; cf. Isa 66:22; Rev 21:1), the consummation of the messianic kingdom. While in Pauline terms, believers may now possess all things in principle (1 Co 3:21–23; 2 Co 6:10) since they belong to Christ, Matthew directs our attention yet further to the “renewal of all things” (19:28).[3]


5:5 A third blessing is pronounced on the meek: they shall inherit the earth. By nature these people might be volatile, temperamental, and gruff. But by purposefully taking Christ’s spirit on them, they become meek or gentle (compare Matthew 11:29). Meekness implies acceptance of one’s lowly position. The meek person is gentle and mild in his own cause, though he may be a lion in God’s cause or in defending others.

The meek do not now inherit the earth; rather they inherit abuse and dispossession. But they will literally inherit the earth when Christ, the King, reigns for a thousand years in peace and prosperity.[4]


5:5 The meek … shall inherit the earth refers again to those who have been humbled before God and will inherit, not only the blessedness of heaven, but shall ultimately share in the kingdom of God upon the earth. Earth can also be translated “land” (Ps. 37:3, 9, 11, 29; Prov. 2:21). Here, in the opening statements of the Sermon on the Mount, is the balance between the physical and spiritual promise of the kingdom. The kingdom of which Jesus preached is both “in you” and is yet “to come.” The Christian is the spiritual citizen of the kingdom of heaven now.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 112). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 166–176). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 163–164). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1216). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1146). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

APRIL 9 – THE CHRISTIAN: CITIZEN OF HEAVEN LIVING ON EARTH

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

DANIEL 12:3

Let a man become enamored of Eternal Wisdom and set his heart to win her and he takes on himself a full-time, all-engaging pursuit! Thereafter his whole life will be filled with seekings and findings, self-repudiations, tough disciplines and daily dyings as he is being crucified unto the world and the world unto him.

The regenerated man has been inwardly separated from society as Israel was separated from Egypt at the crossing of the Red Sea. The Christian is a man of heaven temporarily living on earth. Though in spirit divided from the race of fallen men he must yet in the flesh live among them. In many things he is like them but in others he differs so radically from them that they cannot but see and resent it.

From the days of Cain and Abel the man of earth has punished the man of heaven for being different. The long history of persecution and martyrdom confirms this.

But, we must not get the impression that the Christian life is one of continuous conflict, one unbroken irritating struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.

A thousand times no!

The heart that learns to die with Christ soon knows the blessed experience of rising with Him, and all the world’s persecutions cannot still the high note of holy joy that springs up in the soul that has become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit![1]


3 The righteous are described as “wise” (Heb. maśkilîm; v. 3a). The parallel expression, “those who lead many to righteousness” (v. 3b), further describes “those who are wise” (cf. Baldwin, 205). The “wise” were introduced previously as those who “will instruct many” (11:33). These wise or righteous Jews are similar to the “righteous servant” of Isaiah who will “justify many” by his knowledge (Isa 53:11). Collins (Daniel, 393) outlines the two different views on how the “wise” make “many” righteous: either by their propitiatory death as martyrs (cf. Lacocque, 230) or by their teaching, meaning “instruction rather than martyrdom is the means of justification.” Clearly the latter understanding is more likely given the context of chs. 10–12, but more important is Baldwin’s observation, 205, that “there is only one source of righteousness—God himself” (cf. Da 9:7, 14). No doubt Daniel and those belonging to his group (or the teachers among them) are included among “those who are wise” (cf. Longman, 284).

As in the case with “the wise” (v. 3a) and “those who lead many to righteousness” (v. 3b), the phrases “like the brightness of the heavens” (v. 3a) and “like the stars” (v. 3b) should be understood as parallel synonymous expressions (cf. Miller, 319). Collins (Daniel, 393) connects the exaltation of the wise with the exaltation of the servant who acts wisely; “he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted” (Isa 52:13). Lucas, 295, finds an allusion to the motif of the wise shining like celestial bodies in “dew of light” mentioned in connection with those who will rise from the dead in Isaiah’s “little apocalypse” (Isa 26:19).

Both Lacocque, 244–45, and Collins (Daniel, 393–94) take the promise to mean that the wise will become angels in the next life, based on the influence of Hellenistic beliefs and later intertestamental apocalyptic literature (e.g., 1 En 104:2–6). Goldingay, 308, and Longman, 284, however, caution against pressing the language of an obvious metaphor too literally. Seow, 188–89, aptly calls attention to the reversal of destiny between the humiliation of those who attempt to ascend to the stars (cf. 8:10; 11:36–37) and the vindication of those who act wisely (v. 3).[2]


12:3 have insight. Those having true knowledge, by faith in God’s Word, not only leaders (as 11:33), but others (11:35; 12:10). To “shine” in glory is a privilege of all the saved (cf. the principle in 1Th 2:12; 1Pe 5:10). Any who influence others for righteousness shine like stars in varying capacities of light as their reward (as in 1Co 3:8). The faithfulness of the believer’s witness will determine one’s eternal capacity to reflect God’s glory.[3]


12:3 The brightness looks forward to the brightness in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22–27; 22:5).[4]


12:3 Amid the dark, agonizing days of tribulation predicted in Daniel, here is a promise of refreshing relief. Out of that great period of depression and in every period of history, those possessing the wisdom of God shine as the brightness of the firmament, especially those whose lives are given to the task of turning men to righteousness. These will glow like the stars for eternity.[5]


12:3 the ones having insight See Dan 11:33 and note. The Hebrew phrase referring to wise men”) sounds similar to the language in Isa 52:13. This makes the connection between the resurrected servant here and the resurrected Servant in Isa 53:10 more explicit.

the ones providing justice for the many In Dan 11:33, wise men are said to give understanding. Here, they turn many to righteousness. The two concepts are related and demonstrate how indispensable these teachers were—particularly in times of crisis. In addition to instructing, they modeled peace and hope for deliverance (see 11:33–35). The description of those who lead people to righteousness in this verse echoes language about the righteous servant from Isa 53:11—solidifying the relationship between these passages[6]


12:3 The wise not only understand salvation themselves (2 Tim. 3:15), they also turn many others to the way of righteousness.[7]


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

[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. 206–207). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Da 12:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1617). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Da 12:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 12:3). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1023). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

April 1 – No Striking Back

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

Isaiah 53:7

 

Jesus reflects a humble attitude before His tormentors: “When He was reviled, did not revile in return” (1 Pet. 2:23). Though under sustained provocation, Jesus spoke no evil because there was no sin in His heart.

However, under similar provocation, our reaction would be more like that of the apostle Paul’s. When he was on trial before the Sanhedrin, the high priest Ananias ordered him to be struck on the mouth. His immediate response to Ananias was, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” (Acts 23:3). Paul immediately had to apologize—such an exclamation against a high priest was against the law (vv. 4–5; cf. Ex. 22:28).

Paul wasn’t perfect. He is not our standard of righteousness. Only Christ is a perfect standard of how to handle the reviling of one’s enemies.

Like our Master, we are never to abuse those who abuse us.[1]


53:7 like a lamb. I.e., innocent, submissive, not complaining (cf. John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32–33; 1 Pet. 2:22–23).[2]


53:7 slaughter Possibly alludes to sacrifice since sheep were important sacrificial animals. Lambs were used in the offering made on the Day of Atonement (Num 29:8). Lambs were also sacrificed on Passover (Exod 12:3–6).

Jesus unjustly dies on Passover, while hardly speaking a word (e.g., Matt 27:12–14; John 19:9). John’s description of Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) is likely intended to evoke this ot passage. John’s Gospel emphasizes the connections between Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice and the symbolism of the Passover (see John 1:29 and note).

is silent Unlike Jeremiah, who also speaks about being like a lamb led to the slaughter (Jer 11:19), the Servant does not plead or complain. He is not requesting redemption from his situation, and he is certainly not asking for God to act (compare Jer 11:20).[3]


53:7, 8 This is the portion of Scripture read by the Ethiopian eunuch and subsequently explained to him by Philip as referring to Jesus (Ac 8:32, 33).

53:7 did not open His mouth. The Servant will utter no protest and will be utterly submissive to those who oppress Him. Jesus fulfilled this (Mt 26:63; 27:12–14; Mk 14:61; 15:5; Lk 23:9; Jn 19:9; 1Pe 2:23). lamb … led to slaughter. The Servant was to assume the role of a sacrificial lamb (Ex 12:3, 6). Jesus fulfilled this figurative role literally (Jn 1:29; 1Pe 1:18, 19; Rev 5:6).[4]


53:7 lamb … sheep. Christ is the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:6) in obedience and submission to God (cf. Matt. 26:63; 27:12, 14; 1 Pet. 2:23). We went astray like sheep and He paid the penalty.[5]


53:7, 8 Like a sheep, that is, silent and uncomplaining before its shearers, He endured the cross. He was hurried away from prison and a fair trial (or “by oppression and judgment He was taken away”). It seemed impossible that He would have any posterity since He was cut off in His prime, slain for the sins of the people.[6]


53:7 Opened not His mouth speaks of the Servant’s willingness to die for sinners; it also marks His dignity and authority (Matt. 26:67, 68; 27:12–14; 1 Pet. 2:23). as a lamb to the slaughter: For similar imagery, see John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 5:6, 12; 13:8.[7]


53:7 The Lamb of God—The imagery of Jesus as a lamb invokes the rich significance of the OT sacrificial system. Jesus suffered and died to fulfill the spiritual significance God had built into those sacrifices when He instituted the Levitical rituals.

  1. The Passover lamb. Jesus died as an unblemished lamb in the place of those who by faith apply His blood to the doorposts of their hearts. The death angel has no claim on them (1 Cor. 5:7; see Ex. 12).
  2. The Day of Atonement. The NT looks at Jesus fulfilling the Day of Atonement imagery primarily through His activity as High Priest (Heb. 9:11, 12) because the offerings that day were of a bull and two goats. However, it was His own blood that Jesus offered to God as High Priest (v. 14).

Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) because He died in the place of sinful humans. His death was a substitutionary sacrifice (Mark 10:45; John 10:11; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).

Now go to—Eph. 4:3: The Person of the Holy Spirit.[8]


53:7 like a lamb. I.e., innocent, submissive, not complaining (cf. John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32–33; 1 Pet. 2:22–23).[9]


7–9 Thexton (in loc.) has given an admirable précis of these verses: “Meekly and without protest the Servant accepts the sentence to death and suffers execution. Although innocent, he is given a felon’s grave.” Motyer’s comments (1993, 1999, in loc.), in which he sets these verses in their wider theological context, are well worth reading. The term “oppressed” (v. 7) is appropriate in relation to the trials and death of Jesus; for all those who tried him—Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas—had a measure of human authority and misused it when they condemned him or, washing their hands of him, allowed others to take him to the place of death. In it all, he had a quiet and uncomplaining bearing (cf. esp. 1 Pe 2:23), which suggests not only comparison but also contrast with Jeremiah (cf. Jer 11:18–20; 12:1–3). Writing on v. 7b, Simon (in loc.) says:

This new David (cf. Eze 34:23) gives his life for the sheep who, strangely, are his murderers. He combines both the initiative and the submissiveness of the priest-shepherd and the victim-sheep. Thus he transmutes what might have been merely the murder of a good person into a holy and abiding Messianic sacrifice.

The phrase “by oppression and judgment” (v. 8) is, formally, somewhat like the earlier expression “iniquity and the solemn assembly” (1:13, NASB; NIV, “evil assemblies”) in that the two nouns present concomitant aspects of the same fact. The judgment is in fact employed as an instrument of oppression. It seemed as though he must die without issue, which was regarded as a great misfortune or worse in that society.

The phrase “cut off” strongly suggests not only a violent, premature death but also the just judgment of God (cf., e.g., Ge 9:11; Ex 12:15), not simply the oppressive judgment of human beings. Motyer (1993, in loc.), referring to Whybray’s theory that this chapter does not require the actual death of the Servant, points out that “from the land of the living” is unequivocal in the OT as meaning death (Pss 27:13; 116:9; 142:5–6; Isa 38:11; Jer 11:19). The Isaiah 38:11 reference is important for two reasons: the entire context refers to death not only unambiguously but emphatically, and, if the book is conceived as a unity, the reference is part of the wider context of Isaiah 53 (see the discussion in Oswalt, in loc.). H. R. Minn (The Servant Songs [Christchurch, N.Z.: Presbyterian Bookroom, 1966], 23) points out that the versions support the MT in reading “my people”; he goes on to say, “If this is allowed to stand—and why should it not?—there is a distinction between the people and the Servant. They are not identical” (see Introduction, pp. 453–62).

Verse 9 presents an enigma, a striking prediction fulfilled in due time, and a transition to the final stanza, which describes the Servant’s vindication. The enigma consists in the apparent juxtaposition of “the wicked” and “the rich,” the former more appropriate to his rejection and the latter to his ultimate vindication. We are forced to conclude that the parallelism is not synonymous but antithetical, the first line indicating the human intention and the second the divinely ordained intervention and transference. This in fact is strikingly fulfilled in the burial of Jesus (Mt 27:57–60). Simon (in loc.) writes:

By a very simple manipulation of the text we may read a less dramatic account according to which he was thrown into a common grave with the wicked and evil-doers. But though this emendation may claim to restore an obvious Hebrew parallelism the simplification seems altogether regrettable here. The ancient commentators wisely retained the word “rich,” which has become troublesome only to modern minds.… By retaining the unconventional “rich” and rejecting the easier “evil-doers” we follow a sound principle. “Rich” must have been there from the start; it may have become “evil-doers” whereas the reverse is impossible. The paradox should be taken quite seriously.

Motyer (1999), noting that “wicked” is plural while “rich” is singular, makes an important point: “If Isaiah had merely intended the contrast between a shameful and a sumptuous burial he would have used two singulars. The use of a plural and a singular suggests that he is talking not about categories but about actual individuals. He offers no explanation nor is there one until the fulfillment.”

The Servant’s gentle ingenuousness is asserted at the close of the stanza.[10]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 106). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1338). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 53:7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 53:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1225). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 980). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Is 53:7). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[8] The Open Bible: New King James Version. (1998). (electronic ed., Is 53:7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[9] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1338). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] 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. 801–802). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.