Category Archives: Verse of the day

October 20, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0457

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.

Advertisements

October 19, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0456

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)

Commentary

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

img_0455

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 17, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0454

Jesus Heals an Official’s Son

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. [1]


The Second Miracle

John 4:46–54

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”

Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

It does not matter who you may be, sooner or later you are going to experience great sorrows or even tragedies in your life. You may be rich or poor, a man or a woman, black or white. Tragedy inevitably will become a part of your personal experience and there will be nothing you can do to avoid it.

That is not merely my own opinion, of course. It is a truth that has been recognized by many throughout history. One of the oldest pieces of literature in any language contains an expression of this that has become somewhat proverbial. It is from the Book of Job: “For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:6–7). The Hebrew of this saying is beautiful; for the two Hebrew words translated by our one word “sparks” are literally “the sons of flame,” and the thought is that men are born to endure the fires of this life and eventually perish in the burning.

We know it is true. Psychologists tell us that life begins with pain, as the child, who for the first nine months of its life has rested warmly and comfortably within the uterus of its mother, is suddenly pushed and pulled into a hostile environment in which his first independent act is to cry. The experience is one akin to strangulation as the baby gasps for its life. For a time after birth the mother cares for the baby’s needs. Yet, as the child grows up, the years progressively knock away the props of life and the child is forced increasingly to depend on his own resources. He must learn to eat and clothe himself. Eventually he must go to school, then earn a living. In time there will be the failure of his plans and the dissolution of cherished relationships. There will be pain and sickness. Death will inevitably come to friends and family, and at last the person himself will face his own death and that which lies beyond.

I am not pointing this out to spread gloom. There is enough sorrow in this world without emphasizing it. Rather, I am writing in this way to start us thinking about how you and I will react to such events when they come to us. What will we do? Will we be beaten down by them? Or will we triumph over them in complete victory? The verses we end with show how we can have such victory and how the same solutions can enrich our lives even in the far more abundant times of joy and great happiness.

In Joy and Sorrow

The basis for arriving at such solutions comes from a story in the life of Jesus Christ. It is the story of a rich nobleman whose son was dying and who, out of his desperation, came to Jesus about it. By the end of the story we find that not only had the son been cured but in a far more wonderful way the rich man and his entire family had found a genuine faith in Christ.

The story begins by telling us that “once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine” (John 4:46). It ends with the remark: “This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee” (v. 54). Why do we have this emphasis upon the place where Jesus performed the miracle? Why is this called the second miracle, when obviously many other miraculous things had been done by Jesus previously (cf. John 2:23; 4:45)? Why, in fact, is the former miracle of changing water into wine at Cana mentioned? Quite clearly, this is John’s way of telling us that we are to put the two miracles—that of changing water into wine and that of healing the nobleman’s son—side by side. In other words, we are to see them in relationship to each other and compare them.

What does the comparison show? In the first place it shows a number of similarities. Both were “third-day” miracles. Thus, the miracle at the wedding occurred three days after Jesus had left the area of the lower Jordan River to return to Galilee (2:1), while this miracle similarly occurred three days after Jesus had determined to leave Judea to return to Cana through Samaria (4:43). Both miracles contain an initial rebuke to the one who requested it. In the first case it was to Mary, Jesus’ mother (2:4). In the second it was to the nobleman (4:48). Third, in each case Jesus performs the miracle at a distance, doing nothing but speaking a word (2:7, 8; 4:50). Fourth, the servants possess unique knowledge of what happened (2:9; 4:51). Finally, each account concludes with a statement that certain persons who knew of the miracle believed. Thus, in the earlier story we are told that “his disciples put their faith in him” (2:11), while in the second narrative we are told that the father “and all his household believed” (4:53).

These points reinforce the need of comparing the two stories. Yet the significant point of the comparison is not in the similarities but in their one great difference. What is the difference? Certainly that in the first the scene is one of joy, festivity, and happiness. The stage is a wedding. In the second the scene is fraught with sickness, desperation, anxiety, and the dreadful shadow of death. One is a picture of joy, the other of sorrow. In comparing the two we are clearly to see that life is as filled with the one as the other and that Jesus, the One who is the answer to all human need, is needed in both circumstances.

One writer has noted: “Jesus is more than equal to either occasion. He has a place in all circumstances. If we invite him to our times of innocent happiness, he will increase our joy. If we call on him in our times of sorrow, anxiety, or bereavement, he can bring consolation, comfort, and a joy that is not of this world.”

In pointing to this truth John is further documenting his claim that Jesus is indeed “the Savior of the world”; for Jesus is the Savior of all men, at all times, and in all circumstances.

Growth of Faith

The next fact we are told is that the man who came to Jesus at Cana was a nobleman. This is not the same word that is used in chapter 3 where Nicodemus is described as being a Pharisee, “a ruler of the Jews.” The word that is used of Nicodemus is one that denotes preeminence of authority, however derived. In this case, the word is basilikos, which is related to the word for king and therefore denotes royalty. The word could even mean that the man was a petty king, but in this context it probably means that he was one of the royal officials at the court of Herod.

Moreover, the man had some means, for he had servants. Here was a nobleman, rich, no doubt with great influence. Yet neither his rank nor riches were able to exempt him from the common sorrows of mankind. Remember, as you think about those in positions of importance or power, that there is just as much sickness among them. And there is just as much of a need for Jesus Christ.

The wonderful thing, of course, is that this man sensed his need and its solution. When Jesus had performed his first miracle by changing water into wine, the miracle was at first known only to the disciples and to the servants who bore the wine to the master of ceremonies. Still, people being what they are, the news must have spread and have created a stir in Galilee. In time, some of the Galileans got to Jerusalem and learned of miracles that Jesus had been doing there. They told about these when they returned. It is part of the same picture that news of what Jesus was doing must have reached even Herod’s court, for the nobleman had heard of Jesus and immediately remembered what he had heard when faced with the fact of his son’s illness.

News came to the nobleman that Jesus was back in Galilee at Cana where the first miracle had been performed. Leaving home he made the four-hour trip (about twenty-five miles) from Capernaum, where he lived, to Cana. There he begged Jesus to accompany him back to Capernaum and heal his son.

There are two ways of looking at the man’s faith at this point. The first way is to be surprised that he was exercising faith at all. Here was a man who was high in the court, where he doubtless exercised great authority, traveling twenty-five miles to request a miracle from a carpenter. It is true that desperation has driven many men and women to unusual actions, and that therefore we must not find this overly significant. Nevertheless, the man’s faith is surprising. That is one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at the man’s faith, however, is to look at it in the way in which Jesus looked at it and to realize that although it was real faith it was nevertheless quite weak. The man apparently believed that Jesus was able to heal his son. But he limited Jesus to the place—he thought it was necessary that Jesus should come down to Capernaum—and to a mode of operation. Presumably the nobleman thought that Jesus would have to touch his son to heal him, just as Jairus thought that Jesus would have to touch his daughter to heal her (Mark 5:23) and the woman with an issue of blood thought it would be necessary for her to touch the hem of Christ’s garment (Mark 5:28). It therefore became Jesus’ purpose to teach the nobleman and to help his faith to grow.

At first Jesus delivered a rebuke. He said, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe” (John 4:48). That was the equivalent of calling him a curiosity seeker and was perhaps directed as much toward the crowd that had gathered as to the nobleman. It was a test of the man’s faith or sincerity. How did he react? Fortunately, the nobleman proved himself to be truly noble, for he was not offended, nor did he seek to justify himself either before Jesus or the others. He simply stood his ground, reiterating his need and humbling himself to receive his answer in whatever way Jesus chose to give it to him.

Here then is the first answer to the way in which we can find triumph or victory in sorrow. It is to trust Jesus enough to allow him to operate in whatever way he chooses.

Believing is Seeing

But there is also a second lesson to be learned, and it was this lesson that Jesus next began to teach him. Jesus taught that one must believe first, then he will see the results. Jesus had said, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” This statement was a true description of the thinking of vast numbers of men and women. The world even has it in a proverb, which says, “Seeing is believing.” The teaching of Jesus was that in spiritual things the order is reversed and that believing is seeing, for it is only as one believes in Jesus that he sees spiritual things happening. Therefore, Jesus told the boy’s father, “You may go. Your son will live” (v. 50). The nobleman was called upon to believe without sight. It was hard, but that is precisely what he did. The story goes on to say, “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”

Needless to say, if it had been a mere man speaking, the belief of the nobleman would have been absurd. No one believes without sight. Yet in spiritual matters it is entirely logical to do so—because we are dealing not with a man but with God. Jesus is God. Hence, to believe him is the most logical thing in the universe.

Moreover, to believe in Jesus is also the most effective way to set one’s mind at rest, even when faced with sorrow. For we are told that having believed Jesus the nobleman simply continued on his way. The word used, plus the tense employed (imperfect), suggests that the nobleman believed Jesus so implicitly that he simply picked up his work where he had left it and went on about his business. At any rate, it is obvious that he did not rush home; for although the conversation took place about one o’clock in the afternoon and the journey was only four hours, the nobleman did not get back until the next day. When he did return it was to learn that his son had been healed instantly the day before at the very hour in which Jesus had spoken to him.

What a splendid story this is! And it is all the more splendid in that the man came to such strong faith from such a weak beginning. It is hard to read this story without thinking of that other similar story of the centurion who came to Christ requesting him to heal his sick servant. There are some noted similarities, so much so that some scholars have imagined these to be two versions of the same incident. Yet they are not the same, and the greatest of all differences is to be found in the attitudes of the two men involved. The centurion had the greatest faith. He said to Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:8). Jesus praised his faith, saying, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (v. 10). Still the centurion had this faith from the beginning, while the nobleman who sought out Jesus in Cana came to the same level of faith in a very short time through Jesus’ teaching.

Truths for Everyone

The applications of this story to our own experiences are obvious. I am sure that you have already seen some of them. First, if Jesus acted as he did with this man and if his actions actually had the effect on him that the Bible tells us they did, then surely Jesus is the answer to our own anxieties also. The man came, talked to Jesus, and then went on his way without any tangible evidence that his request had been granted. Why? Because in meeting Jesus and in talking with him, his anxiety evaporated. It can be the same for you. You may be weighed down under great burdens. You may be crying inside. Just come to Jesus. Tell him about it. He will be delighted to ease your burdens and to take the weight of them all upon himself.

The second application is that the experience I have described may be true even though our actually seeing the results is postponed. They may even be postponed until after this life. We witness the death of a parent, friend, or child. We experience sorrow or sickness ourselves. We come to Jesus and find him saying, “I know what I am doing. I am working it all out.” The Bible says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). There will always be circumstances in which we will not see that this is true. Nevertheless, we are to go on about our business. We may have to pass through the night into the bright day of the next world before we see how our prayers are answered. Still we are to believe and know that Jesus has heard and that he has answered.

Finally, there is fact that these truths are for everyone. That is the burden of this first great section of John’s Gospel. What has John done? He has shown Jesus at work in the three major sections of his world—Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. He has shown him with the rich and the poor, with the educated and the uneducated, with Jews and Samaritans, with religious leaders and those who show no religious orientation at all. He has shown him as the “light of the world,” “the lamb that takes away the sin of the world,” “the Savior of the world.” In other words, he has shown us that the gospel is for everyone. Thus, the gospel is for you also, whoever you may be.

Jesus is speaking to you when he says, “Come now, let us reason together … though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isa. 1:18). He speaks to you when he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).[2]


Unbelief Conquered

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. (4:50–54)

Instead of agreeing to go back to Capernaum with him as the official had begged Him to do, Jesus merely said to him, “Go; your son lives.” At that very instant (vv. 52–53), the boy was healed. Even though he had no confirmation of it, the man nevertheless believed the word that Jesus spoke to him. The Lord’s words to him had moved him from the third level of unbelief (which needs miracles) to the second (which believes Christ’s word). Without any tangible proof that his son was healed, he took Jesus at His word and started off for home.

Leaving Cana in the Galilean hill country, the official went down toward Capernaum, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee (about seven hundred feet below sea level). On the way, his slaves met him, already having left the town to find him and tell him the good news that his son was living (i.e., that he had recovered, not merely that he had not yet died). Overjoyed, the man inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. The servants replied, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The seventh hour would have been early afternoon, sometime between 1 and 3 p.m. in the broadest reckoning. By the time he left Cana and arrived in the vicinity of Capernaum, it was after midnight (yesterday). It is possible that Jesus’ word to him relieved his anxiety about his son, allowing him to remain in Cana, perhaps to hear and see more from the Lord and understand His message. That would have been critical, because it led him to fully believe in Jesus when his servants reported the complete healing of his son, confirming the Lord’s claims (v. 53).

It was the time of his son’s recovery that verified to the father that a miracle had taken place, because he knew that his son’s healing had happened at that very hour in which Jesus had said to him, “Your son lives.” When he heard the news, the royal official himself believed, along with each member of his whole household (cf. Acts 11:14; 16:15, 31–34; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15).

John concluded this account with the footnote, This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. This act of healing was the second of the eight major signs that John records as proof that Jesus was the Messiah. It was also the second sign (the first having taken place at the wedding at Cana [2:1–11]) He had performed in Galilee. That it was not Jesus’ second miracle overall is made clear from 2:23. In this instance, the stunning verification of Jesus’ power lifted the royal official all the way from sign-seeking unbelief to genuine saving faith.[3]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 4:46–54). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 341–346). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 167–168). Chicago: Moody Press.

October 16, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0453

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

    You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

    You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

    Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

    You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it. [1]


139:5 “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). And because His knowledge of us is so inconceivably absolute, He can guard us behind and before. Ever and always His hand is laid protectingly upon us.[2]


139:5 enclosed me. God used circumstances to limit David’s actions.[3]


139:5 lay your hand upon me. A gentle gesture (cf. Gen. 48:14, 17), giving reassurance.[4]


139:5 You barricade me It is unclear what connotation the psalmist intends when using the Hebrew word tsur here; it can mean “to bind,” “encircle,” or “lay siege to.” In Ps 139:6, the psalmist indicates that he accepts close scrutiny from God, but that he does not understand it.[5]


139:5 You hem me in. The Lord sets His limits around the psalmist’s actions.[6]


The Lord’s Discernment of Individuals (139:1–6)

Commentary

1–6 The Lord “knows” his own. The knowledge of God is relational. He knows his own (see 1:6), as he discerns the righteous from the wicked (cf. vv. 19–20). The root ydʿ (“know”) occurs throughout this section: “you know me … you know when … you know it completely … such knowledge.” It signifies here divine discernment. The Lord discerns the actions of his own (v. 1), whether they sit or stand (v. 2; see 1:6). This discernment belongs uniquely to God, who alone is the Judge of all flesh. Hence the psalmist exclaims that this divine prerogative is beyond him: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (v. 6).

In his prayer (vv. 23–24), which gives expression to his recommitment, the psalmist prayed for the Lord’s justification of his acts against those who maligned him. He prayed for the Lord to examine him as in a judicial case and to declare him innocent of the charges (vv. 23–24; see comments there). Now that the ordeal is over and he has been justified by the Lord, the psalmist testifies that the Lord is a righteous judge. He has come to a new level of relationship with the Lord, who knows him through and through: “you have searched me” (v. 1; cf. 7:9; 17:3; 26:2; Jer 17:10), “you know” (vv. 1–2, 4; see above), “you perceive” (bîn, v. 2; or “you have an understanding of”), “you discern” (v. 3, or “you have winnowed me”), and “you are familiar with.” The Lord knows his every move (“when I sit and when I rise,” v. 2).

But the accused is not afraid of his judge. The divine Judge is more than an arbiter, because he is also the one in whom the psalmist has found protection. He hedges in his own for the purpose of protection (“behind and before,” v. 5). This thought receives further amplification in v. 5b: “you have laid your hand upon me.” The placement of the divine hand signifies protection and blessing (cf. Ge 48:14, 17; Ex 33:22).

This knowledge of God is nothing less than a knowledge that discerns and discriminates in favor of those who are loyal to the Lord. The discerning and favorable acts of God are gracious. It is grace that justifies, and it is by grace that humans are blessed. Though the psalmist has taken seriously his responsibilities in all of his ways (his sitting, rising, going out, lying down, and speaking; cf. vv. 2–4), still he exclaims that God’s favorable acts toward him are “too wonderful” and “too lofty” to apprehend (v. 6; cf. Ro 11:33; see Reflections, p. 603, The Mighty Acts of Yahweh).[7]


139:1–6 / Verses 1–12 hymn the comprehensive nature of God’s knowledge and presence: from sitting to rising (v. 2), from activity (going out) to inactivity (lying down, v. 3), from the heavens to the depths (i.e., vertical space, v. 8), from the east (“the wings of the dawn”) to the west (“the far side of the sea,” i.e., horizontal space, v. 9), and from darkness and night to light and day (vv. 11–12).

The opening section of the psalm begins with a general confession that you know me. But even this general statement about divine omniscience does not indicate an automatic comprehension: you have searched me. The Hebrew verb behind you discern (Hb. zrh) my going out and my lying down is normally used for “winnowing” or “sifting” wheat. God himself participates in the process of becoming acquainted with us. His knowledge is not static; it too goes through a dynamic process. Examples of what God knows then follow. The various postures one takes during the day point to the various activities one may engage in. God’s knowledge goes beyond mere activity to my thoughts and my ways. One’s speech is also singled out as an area of divine interest. God’s comprehension is comprehensive, both around and over us (v. 5). And so our ability to comprehend is limited, such knowledge is beyond us (v. 6). It is difficult to know whether God’s actions in verse 5 are comforting or oppressive (e.g., Hb. ṣwr, hem … in, is often used in the ot for “besieging,” and God’s hand upon a person can denote affliction, cf. 38:2). The verse may be intentionally ambiguous, though we should note from the next section that the speaker’s immediate response is one of flight.[8]


Exposure to God’s scrutiny (139:1b–6). The speaker of the psalm has come to the sanctuary to present his prayer, hoping for a divine oracle to vindicate him. He protests his innocence of certain charges evidently brought against him, before Yahweh who has insight into the whole of his life. Every detail of his daily routine, every unspoken thought, is known to God, who knows him inside and out, as the alternating parallelism of vv 2a and 3 and vv 2b and 4 conveys. In the OT such terms as “know” (ידע), “examine” (חקר), “see” (ראה) in vv 16, 24, and “probe” (בחן) in v 23 are used with God as subject to refer to a providential role as judge—not necessarily in a formal sense but by way of metaphor—punishing the guilty and acquitting the innocent. These associations of the terms used in the psalm indicate that the psalmist is in some situation of attack. The psalm is comparable with Jeremiah’s appeal for vindication: “You know me, Yahweh; you see me and probe my attitude toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter” (Jer 12:3 [author’s translation]; cf. Jer 15:15). The psalmist is not engaged in quiet reverie on a divine attribute but pleading for justice to be done. A polemical element is implicit from the outset.

Yahweh is “far away” (מרחוק) as the transcendent God who observes all from heaven (cf. Ps 11:4–5; Jer 23:23). He is also close by, surrounding the psalmist and controlling his movements. The psalmist reacts to God’s omniscience with wonder: it is beyond his ken and too sublime to comprehend. In the area of knowledge a gulf lies between Yahweh and himself. He is driven to avow his own sense of limitation and inadequacy (cf. Job 42:2, 3b). Kras̆ovec (BZ 18 [1974] 232–33) studied the polar expressions used in the psalm to express totality: in vv 2a, 3a, 5a they are used within single cola, while in vv 8, 9, 11 they extend to whole lines. In this connection Holman (VT 21 [1971] 301) noted the contrast between the human and divine representations in vv 1–12. On the one hand there is the multiplicity of the psalmist’s activities and the agitation of various human possibilities; on the other is the majestic superiority of God’s knowledge, expressed in sober, calm tones, comprehending everything by the mere fact of presence.

The force of the expressions in v 5 is ambiguous. The verb צור used in v 5a is often used in a hostile sense “besiege,” but it can be employed of enclosing for safekeeping. Similarly Yahweh’s כף, “palm,” or hand, can refer to loving care or to punishment. Probably the verse is to be pressed to neither extreme but is simply a neutral statement of God’s absolute control of the psalmist’s movements (Dahood, 288).[9]


1–6 God the all-knowing: from inner thoughts to outer ways. These verses are full of verbs of ‘knowing’. The general statement of v 1 is applied to life’s outward activities and inner thoughts (2), everyday acts and lifestyle (3, ways), and unexpressed thoughts (4). Personal life falls wholly within divine limits, behind, before and over, (5, ‘You cup your hand over me’—a picture which reveals that it is all for my protection and comfort Jn. 10:27–30).[10]


139:1–5 You have searched me: God is active to search and test His servants. He knows our motives, desires, and words before they are expressed. In short, He knows His servants completely. But as v. 5 makes clear, the purpose of His intimate knowledge of His servants is protective and helpful, not judgmental and condemning.

139:6 such knowledge: Here the poet gasps aloud at the wonder of the intimate relationship He has with God, and God with him. It is simply too much to comprehend; the human mind with all its ability is no match for the mind of God![11]


139:5–6. David’s initial response to this staggering knowledge was that he was troubled. Like many who respond to the fact of God’s omniscience, he thought it was confining, that God had besieged him and cupped His hand over him.

Moreover, this kind of knowledge was out of David’s control—it was too wonderful for him. The word “wonderful” is in the emphatic position, at the beginning of the sentence. On the meaning of “wonderful” as “extraordinary or surpassing,” see comments on 9:1. In other words divine omniscience is too high for humans to comprehend (also cf. comments on 139:14).[12]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:1–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 139:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1116). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 139:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 860). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[7] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 959–960). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[8] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (pp. 484–485). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[9] Allen, L. C. (2002). Psalms 101–150 (Revised) (Vol. 21, pp. 327–328). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[10] Motyer, J. A. (1994). The Psalms. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 578). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[11] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 738). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[12] Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 891). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

October 15, 2017: Verse of the day

img_0452

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,

and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.

    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;

reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

    Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;

teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. [1]


9:7–9 Wise people receive reproof and rebuke with appreciation; fools do not.[2]


9:7–9 These verses present three statements about what happens if one corrects a scoffer or the wicked (vv. 7a, 7b, 8a) plus three contrasting statements about reproving a wise man (vv. 8b, 9a, 9b). The point is twofold: if a person desires to be wise, he must examine how his heart responds to wise reproof or correction (see v. 12); and in order to be wise with others, he must have the prudence to observe other people’s actions. It is clear that the “wise” or “righteous” person does not rest content with his attainment, nor is he presented as morally “perfect.” He becomes still wiser, and will increase in learning, through correction.[3]


9:8 rebuke the wise In contrast to the scoffer, the wise person accepts rebuke. Throughout Proverbs, the wise person exhibits wisdom by humbly looking to increase in wisdom (12:15; 21:11).[4]


7 As already indicated, there is an abrupt transition here to standard wisdom instruction. The meaning of the verse seems to be that it is more than futile to issue a correction to certain people, such as the arrogant (or scoffer, Hebrew ל֬, parallel to “wicked” here and also in Ps 1). Well-meant advice meets with not just rejection but contumely. As a matter of fact, the sages generally seem to regard fools/wicked as (relatively) incorrigible. Hence there is the frequent injunction to avoid their company. This meaning is also supported by v 8a. The meaning of v 7b is obscure because of the ambiguity of the final phrase “his blemish” (translated above as “shame”). Some understand it as referring back to the one who reproves. This is unlikely since it is not conceivable that he should be stained by the wicked. The blemish must be that of the wicked, meaning something like harm or “insult” in v 7a, with which it is parallel.

8–9 What was enunciated as a saying in the previous verse is now set forth as a prohibition in v 8a. There is a close parallel in the Instruction of Ankhsheshonq: “Do not instruct a fool, lest he hate you. Do not instruct him who will not listen to you” (7, 4–5; Lichtheim, AEL, 3:165). The advice given in v 8b is at the heart of the wisdom enterprise: the wise almost by definition are docile; they listen, and they are open to reproof; see the Explanation below. 9 This verse supports the claim of v 8, and significantly equates the wise and the just, or wisdom and justice. This teaching is familiar, and could indicate that the speaker is the parent/teacher. But what was the intention of the editor in positioning verses such as these between the two invitations? Perhaps the answer lies in the central importance of v 10, without which the wisdom enterprise is in vain.[5]


9:7–9 The continuity here seems to be broken, but perhaps these verses explain either why the invitation is not sent to scorners, or why Wisdom’s guests must forsake them.

If you correct a scoffer, you get only abuse for it. If you rebuke a wicked man, he will turn on you and assault you.

The way in which a man receives rebuke is an index of his character. A scoffer hates you, whereas a wise man will thank you. How do you react when parent, teacher, employer, or friend corrects you?

Instead of resenting criticism, a wise man takes it to heart and thus becomes still wiser. A just man benefits by increasing his store of useful learning.[6]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 9:7–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 9:7–9). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1150). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Pr 9:8). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Murphy, R. E. (1998). Proverbs (Vol. 22, pp. 59–60). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 813). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

October 14, 2017: Verse of the day

img_1698

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

img_1697

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

img_1696

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

img_1695

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

img_1694

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

img_0450

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.