The notion of a court of Heaven is a major Biblical theme. The visions of 1 Kings 22:19-23, Isaiah 6 and Rev. 4 show God seated on a throne with Angels before Him, bringing information and requests to Him and departing with commands to obey; the idea of a council in Heaven is clearly hinted at in Job 1; Gen. 1:26; Ps. 89:7. The Angels are allowed some degree of freedom of initiative in their plans and service of God- and this is a window into how we will eternally be in the Kingdom (Lk. 20:35,36).
What happened in Eden was that the garden was planted, Adam was placed in it, and commanded not to eat of the tree of knowledge. The animals are then brought before him for naming; then he is put into a deep sleep, and Eve is created. Then the very first command Adam and Eve jointly received was to have children, and go out into the whole earth (i.e. out of the garden of Eden) and subdue it to themselves (Gen. 1:28). The implication is that this command was given as soon as Eve was created. There he was, lying down, with his wife beside him, " a help meet" ; literally, 'an opposite one'. And they were commanded to produce seed, and then go out of the garden and subdue the earth. It would have been obvious to him from his observation of the animals that his wife was physiologically and emotionally designed for him to produce seed by. She was designed to be his 'opposite one', and there she was, lying next to him. Gen. 2:24 implies that he should have cleaved to her and become one flesh by reason of the very way in which she was created out of him. And yet he evidently did not have intercourse with her, seeing that they failed to produce children until after the fall. If he had consummated his marriage with her, presumably she would have produced children (this deals a death blow to the fantasies of Adam and Eve having an idyllic sexual relationship in Eden before the fall). Paul saw Eve at the time of her temptation as a virgin (2 Cor. 11:2,3). Instead, Adam put off obedience to the command to multiply. There seems an allusion to this in 1 Cor. 7:5, where Paul says that married couples should come together in intercourse " lest Satan (cp. the serpent) tempt you for your incontinency" . Depending how closely one reads Scripture, there may be here the suggestion that Paul saw Adam's mistake in Eden as not 'coming together' with his wife. The lesson is that sins of ommission are so easy to commit- perhaps the first sin was one of omission rather than commission?
2:2 In Gen. 2:2 when Elohim rested on the seventh day, the implication is that they were tired- language impossible to apply to God Himself. The Hebrew for "rested" does not only mean that He ceased, but that He ceased for a reason. Ex. 31:17 is even clearer- " In six days the LORD made Heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed"- the word used to describe refreshment after physical exhaustion, e. g. regarding David and his men at Bahurim when fleeing from Jerusalem (2 Sam. 16:14). Notice in passing that the Angels who gave the Law of Moses are often mentioned specifically as instituting the sabbath (e. g. Ex. 31:3; Ez. 20:12,13,16,20)- because it is "the sabbath (the rest) of the Lord" (Lev. 23:3)- i. e. of the Angels who rested on that day back in Genesis. The fact man was to physically rest on the sabbath as a replica of how the Angels "rested" on that day implies that they too physically rested. This is a window into how we will be in the Kingdom, when we will be like the Angels (Lk. 20:35,36).
On one hand, God can know the future. But it seems to me that so often, He chooses not to, and like us, faces futures which are in some sense unknown. Perhaps this explains God's apparent experimentation to find Adam a "helpmeet" in Gen. 2. This imparts an element of excitement into our relationship with God.
The righteous man is like " a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth (in this work of preaching?) shall prosper" (Ps. 1:3). These words are quoted in Rev. 22:2 concerning our holding out of life to the mortal population at the Lord's return. The conclusion? If we witness now we are living the Kingdom life now, and therefore we will be perpetuated in that time. The fact we teach others to do righteousness will therefore be a factor in our acceptance (Mt. 5:19); although not the only one.
In Ps. 1:1-3, David makes several allusions to Joshua. He speaks of how the man who meditates in God’s word day and night will prosper in his ways; and he uses the very same Hebrew words as found in Josh. 1:8 in recounting God’s charge to Joshua. But David’s point is that the man who does these things will not “walk in the counsel of the ungodly”- he won't give in to peer pressure. The fact that Joshua was wrongly influenced by his peers in later life would indicate that he didn’t keep the charge given to him.
The books of the Bible are the work of God through His spirit, rather than the literature of men. This is demonstrated by considering how the New Testament refers to the Old Testament writings.
* Matthew 2:5 (R.V. mg.) speaks of how it was " written through the prophets"
* Matthew 2:15 quotes from Micah, but says: " [that] which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet…" . Hebrews 2:6: " one [actually David] in a certain place testified…" . . There are other examples where the name of the prophet is omitted to show it is not so relevant (Mt. 1:22; 2:23; 21:4).
The human writers of the Bible were therefore relatively unimportant to the early Christians; it was more important that their words were inspired by the spirit of God. God seeks to use us too- but we are but channels through whom He works, like John the Baptist saying [in response to being asked who he was]: "I am a voice...".
Intense, urgent presentation of the ultimate issues of life and death, acceptance and rejection, brings forth a massive response. John was hardly polite. He called his baptismal candidates a “generation of vipers”, alluding obviously to the seed of the serpent in Gen. 3:15. Yet his tough line with them, his convicting them of sin, led them to ask what precisely they must do, in order to be baptized. They didn’t turn away in offence. They somehow sensed he was for real, and the message he preached couldn’t be ignored or shrugged off as the ravings of a fanatic. Time and again we see the same- the very height of the demand of Christ of itself convicts men and women of Him. For we were also the seed of the serpent- but we changed over to be in the seed of the woman.
The visions of the cherubim and living creatures all seem to have Angelic associations, many of which are detailed elsewhere. One of the clearest is that the cherubim were to keep "the way" to the tree of life (Gen. 3:24), whereas the keeping of the way is later said to be in the control of Angels- e. g. in Gen. 18:19 the Angels decide Abraham will keep "the way of the Lord", implying they were the ones guarding it; and in Ex. 32:8 the Angel talking with Moses on Sinai comments "They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them" (see too Dt. 9:10,12). The Angels each day and night are crowding around us as it were, willing to keep us in the way to the Kingdom. Let's not be like Balaam!
Cain was questioned by God, answered back, and then changed his tune and begged for mercy (Gen. 4:9). Adam likewise began by answering back, blaming the woman and the fact God gave her to him (Gen. 3:12). These incidents were types of the rejection of the unfaithful at the last judgment. They will go through three mood swings: 'Lord, Lord', assuring Him they have never omitted to serve Him (Mt. 25:44), then a more bitter feeling that He is unreasonable (Mt. 25:25), and now a desperate begging for mercy. In the parables of judgment, the Lord asks a series of questions, to which there is no answer. Just as God asked Cain, rhetorically, "Where is your brother?", "What hast thou done?" (Gen. 4:9,10) in order to elicit from him the required self-knowledge. And Adam too: 'Where are you...?' (3:9) was surely rhetorical. The real possibility of rejection is something which should make us take spiritual life seriously.
"Went out" is the language of Judas going out (Jn. 13:30), Cain '"went out" (Gen. 4:16), as did Zedekiah in the judgment of Jerusalem (Jer. 39:4; 52:7). Esau went out from the land of Canaan into Edom, slinking away from the face of his brother Jacob, sensing his righteousness and his own carnality (Gen. 36:2-8). Even in this life, those who leave the ecclesia 'go out' after the pattern of Judas, condemning themselves in advance of the judgment by their attitude to the ecclesia (1 Jn. 2:19 cp. Acts 15:24). The unrighteous flee from God now, as they will then (Hos. 7:13). The ungrateful servant "went out" and condemned his brother- thus condemning himself (Mt. 18:28). Yet Peter in this life "went out" from the Lord (Mk. 14:68) and then some minutes later further "went out and wept bitterly" (Lk. 22:62), living out the very figure of rejection at the judgment- and yet was able to repent and come back. In this life we can be judged, condemned, weep...but still repent of it and thereby change our eternal destiny. But at the final judgment: it will be just too late. That 'judgment' will be a detailed statement of the outcome of the ongoing investigative judgment which is going on right now.
The experience of answered prayer is therefore part of the upward spiral of confidence and spirituality experienced by the believer. "What things soever ye desire, believe that ye [did] receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mk. 11:24 Gk.) can be read as meaning that we should remember how we received things in the past, and therefore we should have faith that the things we now desire really will be likewise granted. It is for this reason that the prayers recorded in the Psalms constantly look back to previous experiences of answered prayer as a motivation for faith and Hope: Ps. 3:4,5; 44:1-4; 61:5; 63:7; 66:18-20; 77:4-16; 86:13; 94:5,7-19; 116:1; 120:1,2; 126:1,4; 140:6,7. Jeremiah likewise (Lam. 3:55,56). And even the fact other believers had received answers to prayer inspired David's faith in prayer (Ps. 74:11-15; 106).
Reading through the book of Psalms in one or two sittings reveals another characteristic of David: frequent and intense self-examination, especially while on the run from Saul (Ps. 4:4; 7:3; 17:3; 18:20-24; 19:12; 26:1; 39:1; 59:3; 66:18; 77:6; 86:2; 101:2; 109:3; 139:23,24). How much time are we spending in self-examination? And how piercing is it?
" Fruits meet for repentance" (Mt. 3:8)
" Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" must be connected
with our Lord's description of the Gentile believers as " a nation bringing
forth the (vineyard) fruits" of the Kingdom (Mt. 21:43). These are defined
in Rom. 14:17: " The Kingdom of God is...righteousness, and peace, and
joy" . Christ's parable of the vine in Jn. 15 explains that it is the word
abiding in us which brings forth fruit. Bringing forth fruit is therefore a
way of life (cp. Rom. 6:21,22). In each aspect in which we 'bear fruit', we
have in a sense 'repented'. Our repentance and fruit-bearing is not something
which we can set time limits on within this life. Christ would have been satisfied
if Israel had borne at least some immature fruit (Lk. 13:7). Only when there
is no fruit at all, in any aspect of spiritual life, will Christ reject us.
Some will bear more fruit than others- some sixty, some an hundredfold. Mt.
3:8 connects repentance with fruit bearing. This shows that God may recognize
degrees of repentance and response to His word, as He recognizes degrees of
fruit bearing. It is far too simplistic for us to label some of our brethren
as having repented and others as being totally unrepentant. In any case, the
fruits of repentance are brought forth unto God, not necessarily to fellow believers
(Rom. 7:4). There is a marked dearth of evidence to show that a believer must
prove his repentance in outward terms before his brethren can accept him.
" Works meet for repentance"
Men " should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:18-20). As with Mt. 21:28-31, this refers primarily to baptism. " Repent and turn to God" surely matches " Repent and be baptized" in Acts 2:38. Turning to God is associated with baptism in Acts 9:35; 11:21; 15:19; 1 Thess. 1:9.
Following conversion, our works should match the profession of faith we have made. But there is no proof here for the equation 'Forgiveness = repentance + forsaking'. The " works" seem to refer to positive achievement rather than undoing the results of past failures. Works meet for repentance are fruits of repentance (Mt. 3:8 cp. Lk. 3:8). We have shown that there are different degrees of fruit/ repentance which God accepts, and that this fruit is brought forth to God, and that its development takes time. We cannot therefore disfellowship a believer for not bringing forth fruit in one aspect of his life. At least we should be able to tolerate ecclesias who are willing to tolerate slow development of fruit in some of their members.
The conditions prior to the flood are a type of our last days (Mt. 24:37). The earth being filled with violence (Gen. 6:11) needs little comment. Note how this verse is quoted in Ez. 8:17 about the land (same word as " earth" ) of Israel being filled with violence. Similarly Gen. 6:13 is alluded to in Ez. 7:2,3,6. The " giants" of Gen.6:4 comes from a Hebrew root meaning 'hackers or assailants'- implying arrogant gangs strutting round assailing people at will. Job. 22:15-17 R.V. gives the same impression. Compare this with the gang warfare and intimidation of the Americas and many countries.
The rainbow is to remind men of the essential salvation and patience of God. And yet He describes it as reminding Him of His promise of salvation (Gen. 6:9)- as if He might forget. Yet this figure surely indicates the humility of God- actually the rainbow is for our benefit not His, yet He puts it this way. If God is in a way humble- how much more should we be.
The experience of answered prayer is a strong confirmation that we are on the right track to the Kingdom. Prayer is spoken of as entering before the judgment throne of God, as if the prayer is a symbol of the one offering it, and is judged by God enthroned in glory, and then a sentence / judgment is passed by God which the Angels operationalize (Ps. 7:6; 17:2; 35:23; 54:1,2; 109:7; 143:1,2).
The Lord shall judge the people...God judgeth (present tense) the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day...he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows" (Ps. 7:8,11-13). God is now judging men, and preparing their final reward. For the wicked, the arrow is prepared in the bow, the sword is sharpened- all waiting for the final day in which the present judgments will be executed. Again, note how that the last day is not for gathering information, but for giving the result of present behaviour. The judgment process is ongoing, in that God right now (even while we sleep) is trying and judging our ways and motives (Job 7:18; Ps. 11:4; 17:3; 26:2; 139:23). He now weighs up the path / overall direction of our lives and will later openly show His judgments (Is. 26:7-9).
If we examine / judge / condemn ourselves now in our self-examination, God will not have to do this to us at the day of judgment. If we cast away our own bodies now, the Lord will not need to cast us away in rejection (Mt. 5:30).
It can be that we accept God's existence without really believing that He is, therefore, all powerful, and that all His attributes which the Bible reveals are actually functional and real for us today. The unfaithful captain of 2 Kings 7:2 mocked Elisha: " If the Lord should make windows in heaven, might this thing be?" . He forgot that there are windows in Heaven (Gen. 7:11; Mal. 3:10) through which blessing can be given. He believed in God's existence. But he didn't think this God could do much, and he doubted whether He would ever practically intervene in human affairs. We must be aware of this same tendency.
The Hebrew word translated " grieved" also occurs, about Noah, in Gen. 8:10: " And he stayed [s.w. to be grieved, hurt] yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark" . This word is found translated in other places like this: " Be in anguish" (Dt. 2:25); " wounded" (1 Sam. 31:3); " exceedingly grieved" (Es. 4:4); " travaileth" (Job 15:20); " wounded" (1 Chron. 10:3); " sore pained within me" (Ps. 55:4); " I am pained at my heart" (Jer. 4:19); it is several times used of a woman " in pain" , " travailing" in expectancy of the birth (Is. 26:17,18; 54:1; 66:7; Mic. 4:10). Why was Noah grieved and distressed, as he waited seven days before sending the dove out again? Surely for the plight of his world. He was hoping the dove would return with some sign of civilization, some hint of human survival. His grief was for the corpses floating, for the animals lost…for the world that once was. He had preached to them for 120 years, and they hadn’t listened. Yet he didn’t think Well that’s their problem, they didn’t want to hear when they could, it serves them right. And neither does it seem he was looking out of the ark window thinking My, I’m sure glad we were obedient.
As the rain came down, it seems to me that the practical reality of the tragedy would have dawned upon Noah; as the waters rose, he would have pictured the folk he knew running to ever higher hills he would have seen the faces of local children, maybe those of the guys he bought wood from, faces of the women his wife had bartered with, memories of his own brothers and sisters, perhaps his other children. It seems to me that he spent all that time in the ark grieving, grieving, grieving for the tragedy of it all. He surely wasn’t smugly thinking Ha, serves them right, and praise God, I’m saved, and there’s a great future Kingdom for me in store!. I also muse- and no more than this- that perhaps he went on a bender on coming out of the ark because he just couldn’t handle the tragedy of it all. Walking around an empty earth knowing he was saved and the others hadn’t made it…
And this all has vital, biting relevance to us. For Peter takes Noah in the
ark as a symbol of us all in Christ. Yes, he was there thanking God for His
gracious salvation, looking forward to the new world to come, but distraught
at the tragedy of those masses who hadn’t responded, and who had died the slow,
desperate, struggling death of drowning. He sent out the dove to see if the
waters were " abated" - but the Hebrew word is usually translated
" curse" ; he wanted to know if the curse was still evident; if the
waters were cursed in the presence of the ground / earth. The same word is found
in Gen. 8:21 " I will not again curse the ground" (3). If our concern
for this world is genuine, if our preaching is not just seeking to gain members,
or prove ourselves right and others wrong, then we will grieve for this world;
even though the exclusion of some from Gods salvation is in some way their fault.
Those who reject our message we will grieve and bleed for; not just shrug our
shoulders over. Lack of response should concern us, worry us, drive us to think
of how we could be the more persuasive of men.
The fire of the final judgment will reveal the dross of our lives to us and in this sense purge us of those sins. Without the judgment, we would drift into the Kingdom with no real appreciation of our own sinfulness or the height of God's grace. The judgment will declare God's glory, His triumph over every secret sin of His people. The heathen will be judged "that the nations may know themselves to be but men" (Ps. 9:20)- self knowledge is the aim, not extraction of information so that God can make a decision.
For the righteous, our acceptability before God now is related to our acceptability with him at judgment day. Our good works are manifest before we reach the judgment, which will manifest them again (1 Tim. 5:25). Thus David reflected on the experiences of his life: "Thou hast made my judgment; thou satest in the throne judging right...and he shall judge the world (at the second coming, through Christ, Acts 17:11) in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness" (Ps. 9:4,8 A.V.mg.). This shows the continuity between God's attitude to him in his mortal life, and God's attitude at the coming judgment. If Christ is glorified by us now, we will glorify Him in that day (2 Thess. 1:10,12).
There's an allusion to Mt. 6 in James 2:2: "Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten". Note the present tenses: "are corrupted...are moth eaten". The unlikelihood that they walked around in literally moth eaten clothes or that their gold was literally corrupted indicates that James meant that they were like this in the sight of God. This provides an interesting key to Mt.6:19-21, to which there is a clear allusion: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt..but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven...for their will your heart be also". Thus James read the moth and rust corrupting as being in God's sight- if a man's heart is set on earthly things, God looks ahead to the distant day when those possessions have decayed, perhaps after the person's death, and as they are then, so God considers them to be in this present life. The emphasis in Mt.6 is on where the heart is- which precisely agrees with the context of James. Our mind is able to see our material possessions in a similar light to how God does.
God set the rainbow in the sky so that whenever He looks upon it, He will remember His covenant with man (Gen. 9:16). The pronouns seem wrong; we would expect to read that the rainbow is so that whenever we look upon it, we remember... but no. God condescends to man to such an extent that He invites us to understand that whenever we remember the covenant with Him, He does likewise. This experience of an acceptive mutuality between God and man is surely at the very core of our spirituality; it should be part of an inner spiritual shell that nothing, nothing can shake: aggression from our brethren, disillusion with other Christians, persecution from the world, painful personal relationships.
By reason of the image they bear, we are to act to all men as we would to God Himself; we are not to treat some men as we would animals, who are not in the image of God. Because we are made in God's image, we should therefore not kill other humans (Gen. 9:6). James says the same, in essence, in teaching that because we are in God's image, we shouldn't curse others. To curse a man is to kill him. That's the point of James' allusion to Genesis and to God as creator. Quite simply, respect for the person of others is inculcated by sustained reflection on the way that they too are created in God's image.
God's face looks at the righteous if He accepts them (Ps. 11:7; 13:1)- and God turning His face toward men is a very common idiom for Him answering prayer (e.g. 1 Sam. 1:11). Thus acceptability with God and Him answering our prayers are related.
In many verses in the Psalms, David expresses his understanding that God's temple is in Heaven (e.g. Ps. 11:4); both David and Solomon recognized that God cannot be confined to a physical house, seeing that even the heavens cannot contain Him (2 Chron.6:18). The fact David became obsessed with building a physical house for God perhaps indicates that his better spiritual judgment was later clouded by human obsession- as can happen to us in so many ways.
The Lord's teaching about judging does not in fact say that the act of condemning our brother is in itself a sin- it's simply that we must cast out the beam from our own eye first, and then we can judge our brother by pointing out to him the splinter in his eye. But the Lord tells us not to judge because He foresaw that we would never completely throw out the beam from our own eye. His command not to judge / condemn at all was therefore in this sense a concession to our inevitable weakness (Mt. 7:1-5).
Three times in this record (Gen. 11:3,4 and 7) we read the phrase, " Go to" in the contexts of the men 'going to' in the building, and of God 'going to' in His dramatic intervention. It cannot be coincidence that this rare idiom occurs twice close together in James 4:13; 5:1. The context there is of warning believers not to build their own 'Babels' of wealth and monuments to human achievement, seeing that they would be suddenly destroyed by the Lord's coming. This in itself points to a latter-day application of this Genesis record - indicating that weak believers will get caught up in the latter day Nimrod's unity movement, and will benefit from it materially?
Heb. 11:8 (Gk.) implies that as soon as God called Abram, he got up and left Ur. But a closer examination of the record indicates that this wasn't absolutely the case. It is stressed that both Abram and Sarai left Ur because " Terah took Abram his son...and Sarai his daughter in law" (Gen. 11:31). Abram had been called to leave Ur and go into Canaan. But instead he followed his father to Haran, and lived there (for some years, it seems) until his father died, and then he responded to his earlier call to journey towards Canaan. The Genesis record certainly reads as if Abram was dominated by his father and family, and this militated against an immediate response to the call he received to leave Ur and journey to Canaan. At best his father's decision enabled him to obey the command to leave Ur without having to break with his family. And yet, according to Heb. 11:8, Abram immediately responded, as an act of faith. Surely this is an example of righteousness being imputed to Abraham, as it is to us- and to our weak brethren.
Both David and Jesus had a real sense of direction, they could see that their mental, emotional and physical sufferings were leading them towards an altogether higher relationship with the Father. They took those sufferings as an almost welcome push towards the Father. They had a sure sense of spiritual direction in all their afflictions; this accounts for the human loneliness which they both felt. David felt that no one else understood (Ps. 14:2, a wilderness psalm) or was really seeking towards God as he was doing (Ps. 27:4,8). The Hebrew for " understand" here is that translated " wise" concerning David in 1 Sam. 18.
True understanding is a seeking for God, a doing good; hence those who sin have no true knowledge as they ought to have, whatever their theoretical understanding (Ps. 14:2-4). But we can nominally believe the Gospel, 'understand' it in an intellectual sense, and bring forth no fruit to perfection (Mt. 13:15 cp. 23)- not perceiving the power of the Gospel.
Either we will mourn now in repentance (Lk. 6:25; the Greek for " mourn" is often in a repentance context), or we will mourn at the judgment (Mt. 8:12 etc.). With this logic- let us repent in this life rather than when it's too late.
Because the promises were to be made to Abram and not Lot, this separation was indeed necessary (although nothing should be inferred from this regarding Lot's spirituality or standing with God). It is stressed in the record that " Lot went with him" out of Haran (Gen.12:4), and that in Abram's subsequent passing through the land of Canaan, " Lot...went with Abram" (Gen.13:5; 13:1). Having been through so much together (they were together in the Egypt crisis, Gen.13:1), it is unlikely that they would suffer from a personality clash. Yet the great wealth of them both resulted in " strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle, and the herdmen of Lot's cattle" (Gen.13:7). Abram reasoned that it would be a shame to let this incident between their employees drive a wedge between them personally; " for we be brethren" (note Abram's intense awareness that they were of the same household), and close spiritual friends too, it may be inferred (Gen.19:8). Abram's subsequent concern for Lot indicates that they did not fall out personally over the problem- an example to us, when external pressures threaten to break us apart from our brethren.
Abraham wavered at times. The reference to Abram pitching his tent between Bethel [‘the house of God’] and Hai [‘the house of ruin’] could imply that he was caught between the two- his faith was not firmly decided (Gen. 13:3). Yet he was counted righteous.
Coming before the throne of God in prayer (Heb. 9:24; Ps. 17:1,2) is the language of the judgment seat. If we become before His throne and are accepted, it follows that this is a foretaste of the outcome of the judgment for us, were we to be judged at that time. The Kingdom prophecy that " Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear" (Is. 65:24) is applied to us now (Mt. 6:8)- as if answered prayer is a foretaste of the Kingdom life. In the grace of Christ, we can have a certain " boldness" in prayer (Heb. 4:16); but we will have " boldness in the day of judgment" (1 Jn. 4:17) in the sense that the attitude we have in prayer now and the experience of the Lord we know now will be that we have in the day of judgment. If He is no more than a black box in our brain we call 'God' or 'Jesus', if for all our Christianity we haven't known Him, so it will be then as we face Him.
We should come to sense a mutuality in prayer between us and the Father. God is attentive to our words in prayer (Ps. 17:1; Neh. 1:6) as we attend to His words (Prov. 4:1,20 s.w.).
Mt. 9Christ's preachers were like harvesters working in the very last hour to bring in the harvest- in fact, the harvest was spoiling because it’s not being fully gathered. The fault for that lies with the weak efforts of the preacher-workers (Mt. 9:37). This shows how God lets Himself be limited by our preaching.
Abraham’s appreciation of the promises relating to the Christ-seed also grew over time. When the promise was first given, he seems to have assumed it referred to his adopted son, Lot. Thus Abraham offered Lot the land which had been promised to Abraham’s seed (Gen. 12:7 cp. chapter 13). But after Lot returned to Sodom, Abraham looked to his servant Eliezer as his heir / seed (Gen. 15:2,3). Thus God corrected him, in pointing out that the seed would be from Abraham’s own body (15:4). And so Abraham thought of Ishmael, who was a son from his own body (although Yahweh didn’t specify who the mother would be). When Abraham’s body became dead, i.e. impotent, he must have surely concluded that Ishmael was the son promised. But again, Abraham was told that no, Ishmael was not to be the seed; and finally God told Abraham that Sarah would have a child. Their faith was encouraged by the incidents in Egypt which occurred straight after this, whereby Abraham prayed for Abimelech’s wives and slaves so that they might have children- and he was heard. Finally, Isaac was born. It was clear that this was to be the seed. But that wasn’t all. Abraham in his final and finest spiritual maturity came to the understanding that the seed was ultimately the Lord Jesus Christ. He died in wondrous appreciation of the Saviour seed and the way of forgiveness enabled through Him. If Abraham's faith and understanding grew throughout his life- what about ours?
Faith is perfected / matured by the process of works (James 2:22,23). The works, the upward spiral of a life lived on the basis of faith, develop the initial belief in practice. Thus Abraham believed God in Gen. 15, but the works of Gen. 22 [offering Isaac] made that faith “perfect”.
The ecclesias, groups of believers, are lampstands (Rev. 2:5 cp. Ps. 18:28). We must give forth the light, not keep it under a bucket, letting laziness (under a bed) or worldly care (a bushel) distract us; because "there is nothing hid which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad" (Mk. 4:21,22). In other words, the very reason why God has hidden the things of His word from the world and some aspects of them from our brethren, is so that we can reveal them to them.
Pride is somehow ingrained in the very fibres of our nature. And yet even human observation has concluded that the sign of true greatness is in humility. The greatest exhortation to humility is surely in reflection on the humility of God, His humbling of Himself from His physical and moral heights in order to reach out into our tiny lives, and bring us eventually to the heights of His nature. David recognized this when he spoke of God's salvation: " with thy meekness thou hast multiplied me" (Ps. 18:35 AV mg.); and elsewhere he realizes that the majestic highness of Yahweh is because He humbles Himself to behold the things in Heaven (the Angelic system) and on the earth (Ps. 113:4-6). Our efforts to upbuild each other, our outreach into the world, should all be reflecting this same humble devotion.
A careful reading of Mt. 10:16-39 reveals many links with the Olivet prophecies concerning the latter day persecution of the saints; verses 17-21 are effectively quoted in Lk. 21:12-18. However, Mt. 10:16 prefaces all this by saying that these tribulations will attend those who go out preaching the Gospel in that latter day period. At this time, when many " shall be offended" (spiritually stumble) and " the love of many shall wax cold" for the truth (Mt. 24:10,11), the " Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Mt. 24:14)- i.e. the full establishment of the Kingdom. At that time, " What ye hear in the ear (in quiet halls at the moment), that preach ye (then) upon the housetops" (Mt. 10:27). This seems to be giving special encouragement to persevere in preaching during the last days. There is a connection here with Mt. 24:17, which advises those upon the housetops to go with Christ at the time of his coming. This implies that at the moment of Christ's coming there will be zealous " upon the housetops" preaching by the faithful. And when the number of the elect is made up, then the Lord comes. The Lord is to remain at the Father’s right hand until all His enemies are placed under His feet- and those enemies are those who are the unconverted (Mt. 22:44; Eph. 2:12,16,17; 4:18; Col. 1:21).
" The uncircumcised...that soul shall be cut off from his people" (Gen. 17:14). We either " cut off" the flesh, or God will cut us off. He who would not accept Jesus as Messiah in Messiah were to be “destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:25), using a very similar phrase to the LXX of Gen. 17:14, where the uncircumcised man was to be “cut off from his people”. That's the logic of cutting off the flesh now- for it will be done in the condemnation of the final judgment for those who don't do it now.
The everlasting, Abrahamic covenant extended to all generations of Abraham's seed (Gen. 17:7-9). The fact Israel were forbidden to marry Gentiles was not only a type of how the new Israel should not marry unbelievers; we are in essence in their position. We are the Israel of God, not just their antitype. We too have been chosen, we too share the same fathers, and the covenant made to them.
David went so far down the road of self-examination that the sin with Bathsheba made him realize that it was probably associated with many others which he did not even realize: " Who can understand his own errors? cleanse (s.w. Ps. 51:1,2 re. the Bathsheba affair) thou me from secret faults" (Ps. 19:12). If our own self-examination and repentance is after the pattern of David's, we will appreciate how that each of our sins is associated with so many others.
Having spoken of the vital need for preachers, Paul quotes Old Testament prophecies concerning the preaching of the Gospel: " Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18). Paul is doubtless alluding to the great commission here. But he says that it is fulfilled by the preachers spoken of in Ps. 19:1-4, which he quotes. This speaks of the " heavens" declaring God's gospel world-wide. In the same way as the sun 'goes forth' all over the world, so will the " heavens" go forth to declare the Gospel. The 'heavens' do not just refer to the twelve in the first century; the New Testament says that all in Christ are the " heavenlies" ; we are all part of the " sun of righteousness" . The arising of Christ as the sun at His second coming (Mal. 4:2) will be heralded by the church witnessing the Gospel of His coming beforehand. The enthusiast will note a number of other preaching allusions in Ps. 19: " The firmament sheweth his handiwork" (v.1) uses a word (in the Septuagint) which occurs in Lk. 9:60 concerning the publishing of the Gospel. " Their line is gone out through all the earth" (v.4) is picked up by Paul in describing his preaching (2 Cor. 10:13-16 AVmg.). The idea of 'going out' throughout the earth was clearly at the root of Christ's great commission (Mk. 16:15). Yet, as we have said, the " heavens" to which this refers in Ps. 19 are interpreted by the New Testament as referring to all believers in Christ.
If Israel would receive it, John the Baptist was the Elijah prophet. The course of fulfilment of prophecy was conditional upon whether John succeeded in turning the hearts of Israel back to the fathers or not; on preparing them for the great and terrible day of the Lord. Brethren as varied as John Knowles and Harry Whittaker have all recognized in their expositions that the Kingdom could have come in the 1st century had Israel received John as Elijah. But they would not. And so another Elijah prophet is to come in the last days and prepare Israel for her Messiah. “If ye are willing to receive him, this is Elijah which is to come” (Mt. 11:14 RVmg.) says it all. The Elijah prophet who was to herald the Messianic Kingdom could have been John the baptist- if Israel had received him. But they didn’t, and so the prophecy went down another avenue of fulfilment. This shows how God's purpose is so open-ended, depending upon our response.
Gen. 19:14 RVmg. brings out the likely immediate background to her decision. Lot’s sons in law “were to marry” his daughters. The Lord too perceived that they were marrying and giving in marriage the very day the flood came, and He pointed out the similarities with the Sodom situation (Lk. 17:27-29). Could it not be that the very day of the double wedding, they had to leave? With all the build up to the wedding, Lot and his wife would so wanted to have stayed just another day to see the wedding of their two daughters. It is to the girls credit that they both left. But Lot’s wife had invested so much in it emotionally that she just had to look back. And we are to remember her by way of warning.
braham prayed for the city of Sodom to be saved for the sake of ten righteous who might be there (Gen. 19:24). He didn't specifically mention what was his heart's desire- that Lot be saved. But God discerned the spirit of his prayer, and saved Lot, even though Abraham 'knew not what to pray for' and asked for the 'wrong' thing in order to obtain what he really wanted, i.e. the salvation of Lot. So even when we know not how to pray, we worry we can't frame the words right, we can be assured that God hears the essence of what we desire.
A study of Psalm 22 indicates deeper reasons why Christ felt forsaken. He had been crying out loud for deliverance, presumably for some time, according to Ps. 22:1-6, both during and before the unnatural three hour darkness. He felt that His desire for deliverance was not being heard, although the prayers of others had been heard in the past when they cried with a like intensity. The Lord Jesus was well aware of the connection between God's refusal to answer prayer and His recognition of sin in the person praying (2 Sam. 22:42 = Ps. 2:2-5). It is emphasized time and again that God will not forsake those who love Him (e.g. Dt. 4:31; 31:6; 1 Sam. 12:22; 1 Kings 6:13; Ps. 94:14; Is. 41:17; 42:16). Every one of these passages must have been well known to our Lord, the word made flesh. He knew that God forsaking Israel was a punishment for their sin (Jud. 6:13; 2 Kings 21:14; Is. 2:6; Jer. 23:33). God would forsake Israel only if they forsook Him (Dt. 31:16,17; 2 Chron. 15:2). So it seems that Jesus felt like a sinner, He paniced that He had sinned- but of course He had not. Thus He knows how we feel as sinners, although in reality He never sinned.
The passion of the Lord's intercessions on the cross is matchless. He roared to God in His prayer, regardless of whether there was light or darkness (Ps. 22:1,2). He reflected there that His prayer was offered to God " in an acceptable time" (Ps. 69:13). And yet this very passage is taken up in 2 Cor. 6:2 concerning the necessary vigour of our crying to God for salvation. That the intensity of the Lord's prayerfulness and seeking of God on the cross should be held up as our pattern: the very height of the ideal is wondrous.
If we do not discern the body at the breaking of bread, if we wilfully exclude certain members of the body, then we eat and drink condemnation to ourselves. This is how serious division is. The devil’s house is divided (Mt. 12:25,26); Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13 s.w.).
here was a definite trait of energy and industrious activity amongst the Abraham family, indicated by the record of Rebekah running to respond to the call of Eleazer to marry Isaac (Gen.24:18,20,28,58). Laban too was spritely (Gen.24:29). And Abraham as an old boy ran to meet the Angels, he hastened into the tent, and personally ran unto the herd rather than wave his wand at the servants (or the wife) to do it (Gen.18:2,6,7). The way in which it is stressed that he got up early in the morning gives the same impression (19:27; 20:8; 21:14; 22:3; the same is said of Jacob, 28:18 and Laban, 31:55).
It must be significant that Abraham told Eliezer to take Isaac a wife from " my country...my kindred...thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell" (Gen.24:3,4). It follows that there were none of Abraham's country or kindred, which he had been commanded to leave, living anywhere near him. He had truly and fully obeyed the command to separate from them! As with many youngsters living in isolation in the mission fields, the avoidance of marrying those in the surrounding world just seemed too much to ask. But Abraham knew that a way would be made: " The Lord God of Heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred...he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son" (Gen.24:7). As God had taken Abram from Ur and Haran and Lot, so God would take a woman from there, suitable for Isaac.
God’s word or thinking is God: “the word was God”. Because of this, there is a very close association between God and His word: parallelisms like Ps. 29:8 are common: “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness” (cf. Ps. 56:4; 130:5). Statements like “You have not hearkened unto Me, saith the Lord” (Jer. 25:7) are common in the prophets. Our attitude to God's word is out attitude to God.
David's spiritual self-confidence changed radically after his Bathsheba experience. He could look back and reflect how “As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved” (Ps. 30:6), perhaps looking back to Ps. 26:10, where he had felt confident his foot had never been moved. And he speaks of how he only stands strong because of God’s gracious favour (Ps. 30:7). God works through sin and failure- to bring us to know His grace. We follow the same learning curve as David, if we are truly God’s man or woman.
The disciples were ordinary Jews who weren’t such righteous men; they didn’t wash before a meal, and the Pharisees criticized them. The Lord explained why this wasn’t so important; but the disciples still didn’t understand. And yet He justifies them to the Pharisees as if they did understand, and as if their non-observance of ritual washing was because of their great spiritual perception (Mt. 15:2,15,16). Surely the Lord imputed a righteousness to them which was not their own. Jesus had asked the disciples to be obedient to every jot and tittle of the teaching of the Scribes, because they “sit in Moses’ seat”. And yet when they are criticized for not doing what He’d asked them to do, for not washing hands before a meal, the Lord Jesus vigorously defends them by criticizing their critics as hypocrites (Mk. 7:2-8). Indeed, the Lord’s passion and anger with the critics comes out very clearly in the subsequent record of the incident; and it is the essence of that passion which He has for us in mediating for us.
" Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob" (Gen. 25:28). The AVmg. seems to bring out Isaac's superficiality: " Isaac loved Esau, because venison was in his mouth" . This seems to connect with the way Esau threw away his birthright for the sake of food in his mouth. Esau was evidently of the flesh, whilst Jacob had at least some potential spirituality. Yet Isaac preferred Esau. He chose to live in Gerar (Gen. 26:6), right on the border of Egypt- as close as he could get to the world, without crossing the line. And he thought nothing of denying his marriage to Rebekah, just to save his own skin (Gen. 26:7). So it seems Isaac had some marriage problems; the record speaks of " Esau his son" and " Jacob (Rebekah's) son" (Gen. 27:5,6). The way Jacob gave Isaac wine " and he drank" just before giving the blessings is another hint at some unspirituality (Gen. 27:25). Isaac seems not to have accepted the Divine prophecy concerning his sons: " the elder shall serve the younger" (Gen. 25:23), seeing that it was his intention to give Esau the blessings of the firstborn, and thinking that he was speaking to Esau, he gave him the blessing of his younger brothers (i.e. Jacob) serving him (Gen. 27:29 cp. 15). And yet, and this is my point, Isaac's blessing of the two boys is described as an act of faith; even though it was only one of his passing moments of faith and was done with an element of disbelief in God's word of prophecy concerning the elder serving the younger, and perhaps under the influence of alcohol. Yet according to Heb. 11:20, this blessing was done with faith; at that very point in time, Isaac had faith. So God's piercing eye saw through the haze of alcohol, through Isaac's liking for the good life, through Isaac's unspiritual liking for Esau, through his marriage problem, through his lack of faith that the elder must serve the younger, and discerned that there was some faith in that man Isaac; and then holds this up as a stimulant for our faith, centuries later! Not only should we be exhorted to see the good side in our present brethren; but we can take comfort that this God is our God.
The younger son in the parable was more than rude in demanding his actual share of the inheritance immediately. He was effectively wishing that his father was dead. He had the neck to treat his lovely father as if he were already dead. There arose in Europe after the second world war the ‘Death of God’ philosophy and theology. We may distance ourselves from it in disgust, finding even the words grating and inappropriate, but let’s remember that the younger son ends up the son who is found in the end abiding in the Father’s house and joyful fellowship. This is how we have treated our wonderful Father. We know from the examples of Abraham (Gen. 25:5-8) and Jacob (Gen. 48-49) that the actual division of the inheritance was made by the father as his death approached. For the son to take the initiative was disgusting. Although the sons could have some legal right to what their father gave them before his death, they were strictly denied the right of actually having it in possession [i.e. the right of disposition]. This awful son was therefore each of us. And the father responds with an unreal grace. He agrees. He did what he surely knew was not really for the spiritual good of the son.
David's family appear to have later disowned him during Saul’s persecution (Ps. 31:11), fleeing from him, as the Lord’s friends also did (Ps. 31:11 = Mt. 26:56).
It has been commented that the Lord's last words are prophesied in the Psalms: " Into thy hands I commit my spirit" , and that the Psalm goes on to say: " Thou hast redeemed me, Lord God of truth" (Ps. 31:5), suggesting that these were the very first thoughts of the Lord on resurrection. If this is so, then there was a strong awareness in Him that Yahweh was the " God of truth" . This is a title associated with the promises; in which case, His first awareness on resurrection would have been that the Father had faithfully fulfilled His promises to Abraham and David in raising Him. Such was the place which the promises had in the Lord's awareness.
The idea of the essence of judgment going on now is brought out by a sensitive comparison of the Gospel records. Mt. 16:26 records the Lord as teaching: “What will it profit a man [i.e. at the future judgment], if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?”. Mk. 8:36 has: “What does it [right now] profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”. Could it be that the Lord said both these things at the same time- to make His point, that the essence of judgment day is being decided right now by our decisions today? And the Lord’s next words make the same point: “What shall [at judgment day] a man give in return for his life?” (Mt. 16:26) is matched by Mk. 8:37: “What can [right now] a man give in return for his life?”. The question we will face at judgment day, the obvious issue between winning for a moment and losing eternally, or losing now and winning eternally… this is being worked out right now. The choice is ours, hour by hour, decision by decision.
The record stresses how righteousness was imputed to Jacob. Esau before Isaac, pleading with him to change his irrevocable rejection, is picked up in Heb. 12:14-16 as a type of the rejected at the day of judgment. The implication is that Jacob at this time symbolized the saints; yet he was no saint at that time. The way he is described at the time as " smooth" (27:11), without a covering of hair, may be a hint that he needed a covering of atonement. He didn't even accept Yahweh as his God; and anyone who would justify lying to his father as Jacob then did has rejected the whole concept of living by any kind of principles. Yet Jacob at this time is set up as a saint. At this time, the record of Isaac's blessing of Jacob (27:29) is framed to portray Jacob as a type of Christ: " Let people serve thee" = Zech. 8:23; Is. 60:12 " nations bow down to thee" = Ps. 72:11; " Be Lord over thy brethren" = Phil. 2:11; " Let they mother's sons bow down to thee" = 1 Cor. 15:7. The fact Esau mocked Jacob as he skulked off to Padan Aram is picked up in Obadiah 12 as a ground for Esau's condemnation; and yet, humanly, Jacob was at that time by far the bigger and more responsible sinner. A bit of mocking from Esau was, from a human standpoint, a mild response.
Admittedly the idea of anger flaring up in God’s face and then Him ‘turning’ from that wrath is some sort of anthropomorphism. The very same words are used about Esau’s wrath ‘turning away’, i.e. being pacified, as are used about the pacification of God’s wrath (Gen. 27:45). But all the same, this language must be telling us something. Sin is serious. God knows anger. We can provoke Him.
The nervous effects on David may well have continued throughout the rest of his life. Despite exalting in the fact that he has now confessed his sin and been forgiven, David uttered Ps. 32:4: " Day and night thy hand was heavy upon me (in the days before repentance): my moisture is (present tense) turned into the drought of summer. Selah" . Is this not an eloquent picture of the David who was once so sure of himself, full of vitality, now shrivelled up, at least emotionally? " Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about" (Ps.32:10) may also give insight here. It does not say 'Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but the repentant will have joy'. Instead, the contrast is made between sorrow and experiencing God's mercy; as if to imply 'The sorrows brought about by sin will go on and on in this life, but knowing you are surrounded by God's mercy more than compensates'. It takes little imagination to realize how that after his sin, David must have become a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, tortured with deep and manic depressions. David's repentance comes as a relief to the reader.
Morally disgraced in the eyes of all Israel and even the surrounding nations, not to mention his own family, David didn't have a leg to stand on when it came to telling other people how to live their lives. A lesser man than David would have resigned all connection with any kind of preaching. But throughout the Bathsheba psalms there is constant reference to David's desire to go and share the grace of God which he had experienced with others (Ps. 32 title; 51:13). He titles them ‘maschil’- for instruction / teaching. “Have mercy upon me, O Lord...that I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates” (Ps. 9:13,14). If we have known forgiveness, then this will be the motivation for our preaching; and our witness will have a compelling humility about it.
Acting as Jesus would act is really the whole key to not giving offence / causing others to stumble. He above all valued the human person to an extent no other human being has ever reached. When asked to pay the temple tax, which apparently few people paid in Galilee at that time, the Lord did so “lest we should offend them”- even though, as He explained to Peter, He was exempted from it, as the Son in His Father’s house (Mt. 17:27). He could have appealed to higher principle. But the Lord was worried that somehow He might make these apparently mercenary, conscience-less legalists to stumble in their potential faith. We would likely have given up with them as not worth it. But the Lord saw the potential for faith within them. And only a few verses later we are reading Him warning that those who offend the little ones who believe in Him will be hurled to destruction (Mt. 18:6). Could it not be that the Lord saw in those hard hearted, hateful legalists in the ecclesia of His day…little ones who potentially would believe in Him? And His positive, hopeful view of them paid off. For a year or so later those types were being baptized, along with a great company of priests. People change. Remember this, and given that fact, try to hope for the best, as your Lord does with you. People can change, and they do change, even those whom at present you just can’t abide in the brotherhood.
To encourage Jacob that God would bring him back to Canaan and preserve him in his life as a fugitive, he was given a vision of Angelic protection (Gen. 28:12,13) showing Angels ascending and descending from him to Heaven and back, thus showing that the Angels looking after him would move physically to and fro between him and the throne of God, receiving directions and power to implement them in his life. God manifested through Jacob's specific guardian Angel then goes on to say, v. 15, "I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken of unto thee". At the end of his life, Jacob mentions the presence of the Angel which he had sensed all through his life. But that one Angel controlled the multitude of Angels which he saw that night in vision ministering to him. Our guardian Angel this very day is co-ordinating perhaps hundreds of other mighty Angels- for our sakes.
The covenant God made with Abraham was similar in style to covenants made between men at that time; and yet there was a glaring difference. Abraham was not required to do anything or take upon himself any obligations. Circumcision [cp. baptism] was to remember that this covenant of grace had been made. It isn’t part of the covenant [thus we are under this same new, Abrahamic covenant, but don’t require circumcision]. Perhaps this was why Yahweh but not Abraham passed between the pieces, whereas usually both parties would do so. The promises to Abraham are pure, pure grace. Sadly Jacob didn’t perceive the wonder of this kind of covenant- his own covenant with God was typical of a human covenant, when he says that if God will give him some benefits, then he will give God some (Gen. 28:20). Although he knew the covenant with Abraham, the one way, gracious nature of it still wasn’t perceived by him.
The way David praises God so ecstatically for immutable things and principles (e.g. His character) is a great example (e.g. Ps. 33:3-5); our tendency is to only seriously praise God when He resolves the unexpected crises of life.
Because of the work of God as creator and the power of the Word that formed it all, we should stand in awe of Him and recognize the power of His word to us in Scripture, realizing the huge power of transformation which there is in it (Ps. 33:6-9).
The Lord was so positive about His disciples, just as He is about us. A nice picture of the Lord's perception of the disciples is found in the way He said that the little boy who came to Him, responding to His call (Mt. 18:2) represented the " little ones" who believed in Him (Mt. 18:6). 'Little ones' is a title of the disciples in Zech. 13:7; Mt. 18:3; Jn. 21:5; and it is disciples not literal children who have Angels in Heaven (Mt. 18:10). The context in Mt. 18:11,12 speaks of the spiritually weak, implying the 'little ones' were spiritually little as well. Christ's talking to them while he knew they were asleep in Gethsemane and the gentle " sleep on now" , spoken to them whilst they were asleep (Mk. 14:41,42), sounds as if He was consciously treating them as children- especially fitting, given their spiritually low state then.
The flocks conceiving in front of the rods / poles (Gen. 30:39) surely has reference to the concept of the pagan asherah poles, before which worshippers had sex. Jacob was clearly influenced by this wrong idea- and yet God patiently worked with him through it. We need to show a like patience with our weak brethren.
Because God responds to our spirit, our overall situation, sometimes He does things which seem to be an answer of prayers which were not properly believed in by the person who prayed. Examples include: Gen. 30:16,17; Ex. 14:10,11 cp. Neh. 9:9; Ps. 31:22; Lk. 1:13. Belief and unbelief can quite comfortably co-exist in a man (Mk. 9:24; Jn. 12:39-43). These prayers were answered because God saw the overall situation, He read the spirit of those who prayed and responded appropriately, even if their faith in their specific, vocalized prayers was weak.
In several of his Psalms, David shows an awareness that he represents all God’s people, that David was our example. “The righteous cried, and the Lord heard”, he could write, with easy reference to his crying to God when with Abimelech [see Psalm title]; but he goes straight on to say that God delivers all the righteous out of all their troubles (Ps. 34:4,6,17 RV). David isn't mere history- he's our living example and pattern.
Ps. 34:3 promises that the Angel of the Lord will encamp /Mahanaim around all His servants, just as the Angel did at Mahanaim for Jacob. Jacob’s struggle at [or with] Penuel strikes a chord with each of us. Frank Lake has pointed out that each person struggles to find peace in their relationships with others and also with their God- whether or not they are conscious of those struggles. Jacob’s experience is clearly set up as representative of our own.
In the beauty and depth of His simplicity, the Lord comprehended all this in some of the most powerful sentences of all time: It is very hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. He must shed his riches, like the camel had to unload to pass through the needle gate (Mt. 19:24). This is such a powerful lesson. And it's so simple. It doesn't need any great expositional gymnastics to understand it. Like me, you can probably remember a few things very vividly from your very early childhood. I remember my dear dad showing me this as a very young child, with a toy camel and a gate drawn on a piece of paper. And I saw the point, at four, five, maybe six. It is so clear. But what of our bank balances now, now we're old and brave? It's easier for a camel, the Lord said. Why? Surely because someone else unloads the camel, he (or she) has no say in it. But in the story, surely we must be the camel who unloads himself, who shakes it all off his humps, as an act of the will. And as we've seen, the spirit of all this applies to every one of us, including those without bank accounts.
Many times the idea of God "seeing" is found in Angelic contexts- e. g. Gen. 31:42 "the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac (i. e. the Angel whom Jacob perceived as his God-Gen. 48:15,16). . . hath seen mine affliction. . . and rebuked thee (Laban) yesternight" (in a vision- probably controlled by an Angel). In the same way God through the Angel in the burning bush could stress "I have surely seen the affliction of My people" (the Angel's charges, Ex. 3:7). Our guardian Angel sees our griefs and feels for us in them.
The parable of the two sons is based around the Jacob-Esau-Laban story. It demonstrates that both the sons despised their father and their inheritance in the same way. They both wish him dead, treat him as if he isn't their father, abuse his gracious love, shame him to the world. Both finally come to their father from working in the fields. Jacob, the younger son, told Laban that "All these years I have served you... and you have not treated me justly" (Gen. 31:36-42). But these are exactly the words of the older son in the parable! The confusion is surely to demonstrate that both younger and elder son essentially held the same wrong attitudes. And the Father, clearly representing God, and God as He was manifested in Christ, sought so earnestly to reconcile both the younger and elder sons. The Lord Jesus so wished the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees to fellowship with the repenting sinners that He wept over Jerusalem; He didn't shrug them off as self-righteous bigots, as we tend to do with such people. He wept for them, as the Father so passionately pours out His love to them. And perhaps on another level we see in all this the desperate desire of the Father and Son for Jewish-Arab unity in Christ. For the promises to Ishmael show that although Messiah's line was to come through Isaac, God still has an especial interest in and love for all the children of Abraham- and that includes the Arabs. Only a joint recognition of the Father's grace will bring about Jewish-Arab unity. But in the end, it will happen- for there will be a highway from Assyria to Judah to Egypt in the Millennium. The anger of the elder brother was because the younger son had been reconciled to the Father without compensating for what he had done wrong. It's the same anger at God's grace which is shown by the workers who objected to those who had worked less receiving the same pay. And it's the same anger which is shown every time a believer storms out of an ecclesia because some sinner has been accepted back...
David's lament over Saul was taught to the children of Judah (2 Sam. 1:18); and the chapters of 2 Samuel are full of examples of David's expression of love for Saul in every way he knew how. But it was not only at Saul's death that David had these feelings; after all, it's a lot easier to love someone when they're dead. Psalm 35 is David's commentary on his feelings for Saul: "They laid to my charge things that I knew not. They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul (spiritually). But as for me, when they (Saul and his family, in the context) were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into my bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother (i.e. Jonathan, 2 Sam. 1:26): I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother" (Ps. 35:11-15). Bowing down heavily as a man weeps at his mother's graveside is a powerful image. A man's grief for his mother must surely be the finest picture David could have chosen. That sense of infinite regret that he didn't appreciate her more. "As one that mourneth for his mother". But David goes on: "But in mine adversity, they rejoiced...". It's as if David realized that he had reached the point where he knew that he really did truly love his enemies. He wept for Saul as a man weeps at his dear dear mother's graveside. And he did this for a man who was utterly worthless. And this is a poor, poor shadow of the Lord's peerless love for Israel. And how much more does He love us, who at least try to make up for Israel's cruel indifference?
The idea that whoever truly loves the Lord's coming will therefore be accepted by Him can easily be abused by those who reason that anyone who has the emotion of love towards Christ will be rewarded by him. We know that true love involves both having and keeping his commands. But for those of us in Christ, these verses are still a major challenge. If we truly " look for" Christ's second coming, if we " love his appearing" , this will lead us to acceptance with him. So the point is surely clinched: our attitude towards the second coming is an indicator of whether we will be saved. Time and again in the Psalms, David expresses his good conscience in terms of asking God to come and judge him (e.g. Ps. 35:24). Was this not some reference to the future theophany which David knew some day would come?
We are " meet" to be partakers of the inheritance, we walk worthy of the Lord Jesus unto all pleasing of him (Col. 1:10-12), the labourers receive the penny of salvation, that which is their right (Mt. 20:14). We are either seen as absolutely perfect, or totally wicked, due to God's imputation of righteousness or evil to us (Ps. 37:37). There is no third way.
It is difficult to look at the allegorical meaning of Gen.32 without noticing how the incidents look forward to the final day of Jacob's trouble at the hand of the Arabs (cp. Esau). Jacob's reliance on his own strength and subsequent semi-faith in God's word of promise typifies the Jews of today; his time of trouble truly humbled him, and his wrestling in prayer brought out the great faith which he was potentially capable of, as the final holocaust will do for the Jews. So many types of the last days emphasize the place of fervent prayer in the repentance of natural and spiritual Israel.
Strong defines 'Israel' as meaning 'he who will rule as God'. This would therefore be the basis of Rev. 3:21, which promises that he who overcomes (also translated " prevail" ) will be a ruler with God, on His throne. It seems that the Lord has his mind back in Gen. 32, and he saw all who would attain His Kingdom as going through that same process of prevailing with God, overcoming, and being made rulers with Him. In the record of Jacob's wrestling with God, there God speaks to us (Hos. 12).
To omit to hate evil is the same as to commit it (Ps. 36:4). To omit to hate evil is the same as to commit it (Ps. 36:4).
Ps. 36:8 says that God will "make us" partake of the blessings of the Kingdom of God. It reminds us of how the Lord Jesus said that in his Kingdom, he will "make us" sit down at a table, and he will come and serve us (Lk. 12:37), knowing full well that he who sits at meat is greater than he who serves (Lk. 22:27). It isn't so difficult to imagine this scene: the Lord of glory wanting us to sit down to a meal, and then He comes and serves us. He will have to "make us" sit down and let ourselves be served. Perhaps "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom" (Mt. 25:34) likewise suggests a hesitancy of the faithful to enter the Kingdom. And perhaps the way the Lord had to 'make' the healed blind man look up and use his new sight was some kind of foretaste of this.
Through Christ's sin- bearing and sin-feeling, He enabled God Himself to know something of it too, as a Father learns and feels through a son. Thus God is likened to a man who goes away into a far country (Mt. 21:33)- the very words used by the Lord to describe how the sinner goes into a far country in his departure from the Father (Lk. 15:13). “My servant" was both Israel and the Lord Jesus; He was their representative in His sufferings.
Many of the problems we face, not least marriage out of the Faith, are associated with a chronic lack of appreciation of covenant relationship. If Dinah had married Hamor, this would have been a covenant relationship which would have resulted in the people of God and the surrounding world becoming “one people” (Gen. 34:16,22). We can’t very well marry out of the Faith and claim we are still God’s people, separated from the world. Through baptism, we are the seed of Abraham, we are the people of God, we have been selected to undergo a few years preparation now, so that when the Lord comes we may enter His Kingdom. We are not here, therefore, to get the maximum happiness and self-realization we can, living as if this life is the end.
The Genesis record frames the seed of Abraham as acting far worse than the surrounding world. Nothing's changed- the people of this world are often nicer people than we who are in God's family. Dinah goes downtown to have a fling. She ends up sleeping with the prince of Shechem. As a result of this, her brothers trick the men of Shechem into being circumcised and them come and murder the lot of them. Humanly, the sons of Jacob, unrepentant as they were (34:31), should have taken the consequence of their evil at the hand of the vengeful surrounding tribes. But God, in His grace, preserves them by a miracle (35:5). By contrast, the Prince of Shechem didn't rape her, and he didn't just discard her. He could easily have just taken her as his wife with no more discussion with her family. He did the honourable thing in that he honestly wanted to marry her, and would do absolutely anything to enable this (Gen. 34).
A day of answerability is surely coming. God “delights in every detail of their lives” (Ps. 37:23); and the more we perceive that interest, the more we will live the purpose driven life. Yet the tendency is to just assume these gifts from God as what we have almost by right, and that He is willing for us to live the life He has given us without deeply analyzing our choices and decisions; that our talents are things we can use as we wish because they are what life dished up to us. But they have been granted by an eager Father, anxiously watching how we will use them in His service, not our own. Life is a test, a trust, rather than a few decades pursuing our own happiness. We have been made unique, with unique thumbprints, eyes, voices, and each heart beats to a different pattern. And of course all this is reflected in our unique emotional makeups. All these things are given us to fulfill our unique role in the body of Christ- a part only we can play. We have a huge personal responsibility to use our lives for the God who gave them to us. What is made in His image- i.e. our bodies- must be given back to Him.
At judgment God "shall bring forth thy righteousness (good deeds) as the light, and thy judgment as the noon day" (Ps. 37:6). The sins of the rejected and the good deeds of the righteous will be publicly declared at the judgment, even if they are concealed from men in this life (1 Tim. 5:24,25). This is how men will receive "praise of God" (1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:7; Rom. 2:29). The wicked will see the generous deeds of the righteous rehearsed before them; and will gnash their teeth and melt away into condemnation (Ps. 112:9,10).
Good and bad guests come together to the wedding (Mt. 22:10), there are wise and foolish virgins, good and bad fish slopping around all over each other, wheat and tares growing together...this is a real emphasis. An appreciation of this will end the image that if someone's a Christian they must be spiritually OK, that we're all loving aunties and uncles, that somehow Christian = safe. I know this isn't what we want to hear the Lord saying. But whatever else are we supposed to take all this emphasis to mean? The rejected in Mt. 22:12 are described as " friend" , the same term the Lord used about Judas (Mt. 26:50). The suggestion is that there are Judases amongst us, although we can't identify them (and shouldn't try), just as the disciples couldn't. The evil servant who (in Christ's eyes) beat his brethren was a hypocrite, he didn't appear to men to be like that (Mt. 24:48-51); he was only cut asunder, revealed for who he was, at the judgment.
Time and again in the record of Esau it is emphasized that he married Gentiles. The record mentions this fact no fewer than nine times in Gen. 36 alone! Why such emphasis? Surely to demonstrate how through the millennia of human history, God has remembered Esau's behaviour and held it against him, recording it for our learning.
God’s apostate people act or are recorded as acting in terms of their Arab cousins. The description of Israel as Aholibah in Ezekiel 23: 4 recalls Esau’s wife Aholibamah (Gen. 36: 2), again associating them with the rejected Arab peoples. There is a connection between Israel’s renegade king Saul and the Horite Zibeon, who should have been ‘cast out’ of the land too (cp. Gen. 36: 24 and 1 Sam. 9: 3). This is why the rejected amongst the new Israel will be condemned with the world, sent back into the world to share its judgment. We either separate from the spirit of this world now; or we will be sent back into it in the last day. We must come out of Babylon, or share her judgment.
Christ's lovers, friends and kinsmen stood far off from Him at His death (Ps. 38:11), perhaps in a literal sense, perhaps far away from understanding Him. It seems that initially, Mary didn't stand by the cross; He looked for comforters and found none (Ps. 69:20- or does this imply that the oft mentioned spiritual difference between the Lord and His mother meant that He didn't find comfort in her? Or she only came to the cross later?). If indeed Mary and the few with her came from standing far off to stand by the cross, they were sharing the spirit of Joseph and Nicodemus: 'In the light of the cross, nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing really matters now. The shame, embarrassment nothing. We will stand for Him and His cause, come what may'. I can only ponder the use of the imperfect in Jn. 19:25: 'There were standing' may imply that Mary and the women came and went; sometimes they were there by the cross, sometimes afar off. Did they retreat from grief, or from a sense of their inadequacy, or from being driven off by the hostile crowd or soldiers, only to make their way stubbornly back? Tacitus records that no spectators of a crucifixion were allowed to show any sign of grief; this was taken as a sign of compliance with the sin of the victim. He records how some were even crucified for showing grief at a crucifixion. This was especially so in the context of leaders of revolutionary movements, which was the reason why Jesus was crucified. This would explain why the women stood afar off, and sometimes in moments of self-control came closer. Thus the Lord looked for comforters and found none, according to the spirit of prophecy in the Psalms. And yet His mother was also at the foot of the cross sometimes. For her to be there, so close to Him as she undoubtedly wished to be, and yet not to show emotion, appearing to the world to be another indifferent spectator; the torture of mind must be meditated upon. Any of these scenarios provides a link with the experience of all who would walk out against the wind of this world, and identify ourselves with the apparently hopeless cause of the crucified Christ. The RV of Jn. 19:25 brings out the tension between the soldiers standing there, and the fact that: “But there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother…". The “but…" signals, perhaps, the tension of the situation- for it was illegal to stand in sympathy by the cross of the victim. And there the soldiers were, specially in place to stop it happening, standing nearby…
David learnt the secret of seeing the positive in our weak brethren, and he didn’t let all that was wrong with Saul interfere with this. He describes himself as responding to criticism like this: “I as a deaf man, heard not” (Ps. 38:13). Yet he was alluding to how Saul, when likewise criticized by “sons of belial”, “was as though he had been deaf” to their words (1 Sam. 10:27 RVmg.). He saw the good in Saul, he remembered that one good example he showed- and it empowered him to follow it.
Mt. 23:11 speaks of he that is [now] the greatest amongst us will be the servant now; but elsewhere the Lord’s idea is that he who will be the greatest must be servant now. But effectively, by taking the lowest position now, we are being given the highest place. When the disciples were concerned about who would be the greatest in the future, the Lord replied by speaking of who amongst them is the greatest- by doing acts of humble service (Lk. 22:24,26).
When Zedekiah called Jeremiah out of the prison house to meet him and show him the word of God, he ought to have perceived that he was going through the very experience of Pharaoh with Joseph (Jer. 37:17,20). Jeremiah’s desperate plea not to be sent back to prison to die there surely echoes that of Joseph to his brethren; for Jeremiah was let down like Joseph had been into a pit with no water in, so reminiscent of Joseph (Gen. 37:24). But Zedekiah didn’t want to see all this; he should’ve listened to Jeremiah, as Pharaoh had listened to Joseph and saved himself. It was all potentially set up for him; but he refused to take note. God sets up potential situations in our lives, every day- but we often fail to take use of them.
There seems to have been something unusual about the Lord’s outer garment. The same Greek word chiton used in Jn. 19:23,24 is that used in the LXX of Gen. 37:3 to describe Joseph’s coat of many pieces. Josephus (Antiquities 3.7.4,161) uses the word for the tunic of the High Priest, which was likewise not to be rent (Lev. 21:10). The Lord in His time of dying is thus set up as High Priest, gaining forgiveness for His people, to ‘come out’ of the grave as on the day of Atonement, pronouncing the forgiveness gained, and bidding His people spread that good news world-wide.
Ps. 39:4-6 has the same theme: because of the mortality of man, there is utterly no point in being " disquieted in vain" on account of amassing wealth.
Ps. 39:1-6 makes a connection between appreciating our mortality, and controlling our words in the presence of those who provoke us. David calmed himself down when “my heart was hot within me” by asking God to remind him of “my end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Ps. 39:4). Again, a very basic Bible principle resulted in something poignantly practical. In the very moment of hot blood, under provocation, David silently asked to appreciate personally the mortality of man; so that he wouldn’t respond with hard words, and would ‘keep his mouth with a bridle’.
The evil servant will be " cut asunder" (Mt. 24:51), i.e. his hypocrisy will be openly revealed for the first time (remember, he was an ecclesial elder in mortal life, according to the parable). What we have spoken in the Lord's ear will be revealed by Him openly (" from the housetops" ) at the judgment (Lk. 12:3). We therefore should live transparent lives now, seeing they will ultimately be transparent in the last day.
Time and again Biblical history demonstrates that sins of silence and omission are just as fatal as sins of public, physical commission. Sarah omitted to say that Abraham was her husband; and was reproved (Gen. 20:16). Onan omitted to raise up seed to his brother, and was slain (Gen. 38:10). What are we omitting to do this day...?
Judah also did wrong in Timnath (Jud. 14:1) with a woman, and was deceived and shamed by her (Jud. 15:1 = Gen. 38:17). Earlier Scripture, which it seems Samson well knew and appreciated, was crying out to Samson to take heed. But he was blind to the real import of it all. And are we likewise?
The Lord's relationship with Judas is one of the clearest indications of his humanity, as well as his method of reasoning from the Scriptures and his limited knowledge. There is evidence to indicate that Judas was one of the most spiritual of the disciples, and as such among those closest to Jesus. He was " Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted" (Ps. 41:9); and the Hebrew for " trusted" means 'a place of going for refuge', as if he sought Judas' company in times of pressure. Of few men would Jesus say " A man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance" (Ps. 55:13). " Acquaintance" implies a close friend through sharing of knowledge, showing their relationship was based around spiritual things. The LXX renders " guide" as " a man of my own mind" , and seeing Christ's mind was like God's (Phil. 2:5-7) this was quite a statement. The Hebrew for " guide" means a leader (Prov. 2:17; 16:28; Jer. 3:4; 61 times out of 70 it implies a superior), indicating that our Lord was influenced by men and was prepared to listen and learn from them (1). Here we see His humanity and yet also His need for strengthening. " We took sweet counsel together" (Ps. 55:14) implies an assembly or sitting down on conference (the same word is in Prov. 15:22; Ps. 83:3: Jer. 15:17 with this usage), suggesting that our Lord sat down in discussion with Judas, as David used to with Ahithophel. They " walked unto the house of God in company" (Ps. 55:14), giving the picture of the two of them slightly apart from the twelve as they journeyed to keep the feasts, deep in stimulating spiritual conversation. Judas, the one who rose the highest, had the furthest to fall.
There is much guidance in the Psalms about unanswered prayer. In the midst of complaining to God about the pain of unanswered prayer, the Psalmist in the very same breath is still praising Him and believing Him. “God whom I praise, break your silence” (Ps. 109:1); “I say to God my rock, Why have you forgotten me?” (Ps. 42:9). Yet all this said, the agony of unanswered prayer remains to some extent one of the mysteries of spiritual life. From our human point of view, the agony remains. We can seek to understand God's point of view on it, but for us, unhealed bodies and broken lives remain, for all the faith and seeking to discern God's will in the world.
The chapter division between Matthew 24 and 25 is unfortunate. The description of the rejected at the judgment given in Mt. 24:51 is followed straight on by Matthew 25:1: "Then shall the kingdom of heaven (i.e. entry into it) be likened unto ten virgins...". This may suggest that the rejected will have time for reflection - then they will see the 'likeness' between their position and the parable of the virgins. This parable follows that of the negligent steward who will be rejected at the judgment (Matt. 24:45), implying that a lack of proper spiritual care by the elders of the latter-day ecclesias results in the lack of oil in the lamps of the rejected.
There can be little doubt that the parable is intended to have a specific latter-day application. The virgins "took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom" (Mt. 25:1), but settled down to slumber due to his unexpected delay. Then "at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him" (Matt. 25:6). Obviously there is a general application of the parable to all believers who at the time of their baptism have oil in their lamps - which needs continual topping up by our freewill effort. The whole of the believer's probation should therefore be in the spirit of a journey to the judgment / wedding, believing that Christ is at the door. The 'arising' of the virgins in Matt. 25:7 would then refer to the resurrection.
There is an undoubted link between sexuality and spirituality (witness the typical meaning of the Song of Solomon). The Hebrew text of Gen. 39:6,7 suggests that it was Joseph's spiritually attractive personality that mesmerized Potiphar's wife; and what good living, socially aloof Christian office worker has not experienced the attention this attracts from colleagues of the opposite sex?
It is possible that the thief on the cross had a really deep Bible knowledge. “Remember me when thou comest in thy Kingdom" is almost certainly reference to Gen. 40:14, where Joseph desperately and pathetically asks: “But think on me when it shall be well with thee...". Joseph went on to say “...here also have I done nothing that they should out me into the dungeon" (Gen. 40:15). This is very much the spirit of “This man hath done nothing amiss...". In the carrying of our crosses with Christ, are our thoughts likewise in the word?
Ps. 44:20,21 state that to remember the Name of God takes place in the secret places of the heart. To remember the Name doesn't mean to remember that oh yes, His Name is 'Yahweh'. We remember the Name in the secret heart- it's such a personal thing. God will search the secret heart to see if we have forgotten the Name or whether those principles still affect our walk. For the things of the Name affect our lives and thinking to the very core. The Lord Jesus fed off the majesty of the Name of Yahweh (Mic. 5:4)- this was how inspirational He found the things of the Name. To fear the Name of Yahweh was to “observe to do all the words of this law” (Dt. 28:58). Meditation and sustained reflection upon the characteristics of God as epitomized and memorialized in His Name will of itself lead to a conformation of personality to that same Name. If we declare that Name to others, they too have the chance to be transformed by it- thus Moses comments: “Because I will publish the name of the Lord, ascribe ye greatness unto our God” (Dt. 32:3).
The more closely we analyze the Bible heroes, the more apparent it is that they were shot through with weakness; and some of those weaknesses it seems they unsuccessfully battled with until the day of their death. I think of Jacob, always trusting in his own strength, being progressively taught to trust in Yahweh's strength. And yet right at the very end of his life, he lets slip a comment which would seem more appropriate to his earlier life: " Shechem...which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow" (Gen. 48:22). The wrongness of this attitude seems to be alluded to in Josh. 24:12, which says that God drove out the Amorites " but not with thy sword, neither with thy bow" . And Ps. 44:3,6 also: " They got not the land in possession by their own sword...I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me" . So Jacob, right at the end of his life, still hadn't completely overcome that besetting weakness of self-reliance. This is, of course, a dangerous road to go down. In no way can we be complacent about our urgent need for spiritual growth. But on the other hand, we will never reach the stature of Christ without righteousness being imputed to us. In this sense, true Christian believers aren't good people.
The Lord gently sought to get Peter to see that really and truly, he was called to a life of cross carrying. Mt. 26:36 has the Lord saying to the disciples: “Sit in this place [kathisate autou] until going away, I pray there”, and then He takes along with him [paralambanein] Peter. These are the very words used in the Gen. 22 LXX account of Abraham taking Isaac to ‘the cross’. Jesus is seeking to encourage Peter to see himself as Isaac, being taken to share in the cross. Now whether Peter discerned this or not, we don’t know. But the Lord gave him the potential possibility to be inspired like this. And He does the same to us in our daily hearing of His word. The question is, whether we will perceive it.
To be sensitive to the poor, to understand them, to have a heart that bleeds for them- this is what God seeks in us. The chief butler felt that he had committed a very serious sin in allowing the busyness of daily life and his demanding job to make him simply forget Joseph’s need and tragedy. The word in Gen. 41:9 for “faults” is really “sins”. Perhaps an intensive plural is being used here- as if to mean ‘my very great sin’. To forget others’ need due to the busyness of our lives is a great sin.
The record of the prodigal's treatment at the homecoming suggests that we are to see in this the sharing of Christ's personal reward with repentant sinners. Removing his rags and clothing him with the best robe recalls Zech.3:4, concerning the very same thing happening to Christ at his glorification. Being given a robe, ring and shoes takes us back to Joseph/Jesus being similarly arrayed in the day of his glory (Gen.41:42). This parable is rich in reference to the Joseph story, with Joseph's brothers typifying Israel and all sinners. But now there is a powerful twist in the imagery. The sinners (cp. the brothers) now share the reward of the saint (cp. Joseph). This is the very basis of the Gospel of justification in Christ, through having his righteousness imputed to us, so that we can share in his rewards. This will fully be realized at the marriage supper of the lamb, although it also occurs in a sense each time we repent, and live out the parable of the prodigal's repentance again.
Because of the gracious words and manner of speaking of Jesus, therefore God so highly exalted Him (Ps. 45:2). The Father was so impressed with the words of His Son. Lk. 4:22 records how people were amazed at the gracious words He spoke; there was something very unusual in His manner of speaking. Evidently there must have been something totally outstanding about His use of language. God highly exalted Him because He so loved righteousness and hated wickedness (Ps. 45:7), and yet also because of His manner of speaking (Ps. 45:2); so this love of righteousness and hatred of evil was what made His words so special. The Lord's choice of language was therefore radically different. And so should ours be.
In many discussions with trinitarians, I came to observe how very often, a verse I would quote supporting the humanity of Jesus would be found very near passages which speak of His Divine side. For example, most 'proof texts' for both the 'Jesus=God' position and the 'Jesus was human' position- are all from the same Gospel of John. So many 'debates' about the nature of Jesus miss this point; the sheer wonder of this man, this more than man, was that He was so genuinely human, and yet perfectly manifested God. This was and is the compelling wonder of this Man. These two aspects of the Lord, the exaltation and the humanity, are spoken of together in the Old Testament too. A classic example would be Ps. 45:6,7: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever [this is quoted in the New Testament about Jesus]…God, thy God, hath anointed thee [made you Christ]”.The juxtaposition of the Lord’s humanity and His exaltation is what is so unique about Him. And it’s what is so hard for people to accept, because it demands so much faith in a man, that He could be really so God-like.
One of the themes of the crucifixion records is that the same abuse and suffering was repeated to the Lord. Hence the frequent usage of the continuous tense. During the trial by Pilate, the Lord underwent mock worship and spitting (Jn. 19:3). Then later it was mock worship, spitting, hitting on the head (Mt. 27:29,30). And then hitting on the head, spitting, mock worship (Mk. 15:19,20). It seems they alternated brusing / spitting on Christ with bruising / kneeling before Him in mock homage. The reed was used as a mock diadem, although instead of touching His shoulder with it they hit Him on the head with it. They put it in His hand as a sceptre and then snatched it back to hit Him on the head with it. Wave after wave of the same treatment. Notice how many times the word “again" features in the Greek text (palin). This is the essence of our temptations. And it was a big theme in the Lord's final human experience. Likewise a comparison of the records shows that " Come down..." was clearly said more than once, the continuous tenses notwithstanding (Mt. 27:40 cp. Mk. 15:30). However, it is worth cataloguing the use of continuous tenses in this part of the record: The crowd kept on crying out (as demons did), " Crucify him" (Mt. 27:23); the soldiers kept on clothing Him (Mt. 27:28), kept on coming to Him and kept on saying... (Jn. 19:3 Gk.), Pilate kept on seeking (imperfect) to deliver the Lord (Jn. 19:12), thereby agitating the tension in the Lord's mind. They kept on kneeling (27:29), kept on spitting (v.30), kept on passing in front of Him on the cross and kept on shaking their heads (v. 39), kept on saying " ...save thyself" , kept on mocking and asking Him to come down from the cross (vv. 40,41), the soldiers kept on coming to Him and offering Him their vinegar in mock homage (Lk. 23:36), they kept on offering Him the pain killer. They kept on and on and on. This is an undoubted theme.
It is significant that many of the men who typified Jesus are also frequently called “the man”, as if to point back to Adam, another type of Jesus, and forward to “the man Christ Jesus”. For example, Moses is called “the man” at least 5 times: Ex.11:3; 32:1,23; Num.12:3; Josh,14:6; and we know he was a type of Jesus (Dt.18:18). Likewise Joseph is called “the man” at least 10 times (Gen.42:30,33; 43:3,5,6,7,11,13,14,17). The humanity of Jesus is thus stressed- He really was like us and knows our feelings of this day, yesterday, and all our yesterdays.
Exactly because God is God and not man, He will not punish His people according to what He had said He would do. His “repentings were kindled together” (Hos. 11:8), alluding through the same Hebrew words to how Joseph’s innermost being “did yearn upon his brother” (Gen. 43:30), in prophecy of how God would accept Israel in the last days. God has passionate feelings for us, right now.
In Rev. 8:8 we have an Angel casting a mountain into the sea. This must surely connect with the Lord's encouragement that we can cast mountains into the sea by our faith (Mk. 11:23). Therefore... it surely follows that our prayers have a direct effect upon the Angels. They throw mountains around because of our faithful prayer... Inevitably we see a connection with Ps. 46:2, which comforts us not to fear when mountains are cast into sea. Surely the point is that we shouldn’t be scared when we perceive the awesomeness of the power of prayer and its influence upon Angels. It’s all too easy to ask for things without perceiving how it would really be if that prayer were answered. We need to have specific and focused faith in what we ask for, realizing that legions of Angels are potentially able to operationalize what we ask for.
God loved Jacob, and worked with him so patiently, to build the house of Israel His people. There’s comfort enough for every man and woman, reading this record. The way Jacob is simply described as the one whom God loved in Ps. 47:4 is majestic in its brevity. God loved Jacob. He really did. Simple as that. When Jacob is the one presented as having struggled with God more than any other.
Put together the following passages:
- The disciples’ return to Galilee after the resurrection was a result of their lack of faith (Jn. 16:31,32)
- But the Lord went before them, as a shepherd goes before His sheep, into Galilee (Mt. 28:7). Even in their weakness of faith, He was still their shepherd, they were still His sheep, and He led them even then.
- The Lord told them to go to Galilee (Mt. 28:10). He accepted their lower level of faith. And He worked through that and led them through it.
The return to Galilee is seen in an even worse light once we reflect on the circumstances surrounding the first calling of the disciples, nearly four years earlier. John’s Gospel implies that they were called at Bethany; whereas the other Gospels say they were called whilst fishing at the sea of Galilee. This is usually, and correctly, harmonized by concluding that they were called as John says in Bethany, but they then returned to their fishing in Galilee, and the Lord went there to call them again. So returning to their fishing in Galilee had already been shown to them as being a running away from the call of their Lord. And yet still they did it. And yet John’s inspired record is so positive; he speaks as if the disciples were called at Bethany and unwaveringly responded immediately. The point that they actually lost their intensity and returned home is gently omitted from specific mention. Do we have this gentleness in dealing with the weakness of others?
The whole story of Joseph is one of the clearest types of Jesus in the Old Testament. The way His brethren come before His throne and are graciously accepted is one of the most gripping foretastes we have of the final judgment. The rather strange way Joseph behaves towards them was surely to elicit within them a true repentance. He sought to bring them to self-knowledge through His cup. Joseph stresses to the brethren that it is through his cup that he “divines" to find out their sin. He also emphasizes that by stealing the cup they had “done evil" (Gen. 44:4,5). And yet they didn’t actually steal the cup. The “evil" which they had done was to sell him into Egypt (Gen. 50:20). They had “stolen" him (Gen. 40:15) in the same way they had “stolen" the cup. This is why he says that “ye" (you plural, not singular, as it would have been if he was referring merely to Benjamin’s supposed theft) had stolen it (Gen. 44:15). And the brethren in their consciences understood what Joseph was getting at- for instead of insisting that they hadn’t stolen the cup, they admit: “What shall we say unto my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants" (Gen. 44:16). Clearly their minds were on their treatment of Joseph, the sin which they had thought would not be found out. And this was why they were all willing to bear the punishment of becoming bondmen, rather than reasoning that since Benjamin had apparently committed the crime, well he alone must be punished. The cup was “found" and they realized that God had “found out" their joint iniquity (Gen. 44:10,12,16). The cup was perceived by them as their “iniquity" with Joseph. They had used the very same Hebrew words years before, in telling Jacob of Joseph’s garment: “This have we found…" (Gen. 37:32).
The cup made them realize their guilt and made them acceptive of the judgment they deserved. And it made them quit their attempts at parading their own righteousness, no matter how valid it was in the immediate context (Gen. 44:8). The cup made them realize their real status, and not just use empty words. Behold the contradiction in Gen. 44:9: “With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my Lord’s bondmen / servants". The Hebrew words translated “servants" and “bondmen" are the same. Their mere formal recognition that they were Joseph’s servants was to be translated into reality. Thus they say that Joseph had “found out the iniquity of thy servants; behold, we are my Lord’s servants". Describing themselves as His servants had been a mere formalism; now they wanted it in a meaningful reality. And the Lord’s cup can do the same to us. The way they were “searched" (Gen. 44:12) from the oldest to the youngest was surely the background for how the guilty men pined away in guilt from the Lord, from the eldest to the youngest. The whole experience would have elicited self-knowledge within them. The same word is found in Zech. 1:12, describing how God Himself would search out the sin of Jerusalem.
Joseph was trying to tell them: ‘What you did to the cup, you did to me. That cup is a symbol of me’. And inevitably the mind flies to how the Lord solemnly took the cup and said that this was Him. Our attitude to those emblems is our attitude to Him. We have perhaps over-reacted against the Roman Catholic view that the wine turns into the very blood of Jesus. It doesn’t, of course, but all the same the Lord did say that the wine is His blood, the bread is His body. Those emblems are effectively Him to us. They are symbols, but not mere symbols. If we take them with indifference, with minds focused on externalities, then this is our essential attitude to Him personally. This is why the memorial meeting ought to have an appropriate intensity about it- for it is a personal meeting with Jesus. “Here O my Lord, I see thee face to face". If it is indeed this, then the cup will be the means of eliciting within us our own realization of sin and subsequently, of our salvation in Jesus.
Ps. 49:16-20, in its context, warns against striving for material things and not envying the rich, because death for them is an eternal unconsciousness. And more positively, because there can be no activity, mentally or physically, in the grave...therefore now is the time to live a life active to the absolute maximum possibility in the Lord's service (Ecc. 9:10-12).
No man can redeem his brother (Ps. 49:7), or bear the iniquity of another (Ez. 18:20). But Christ, as a man, acceptably bore our iniquity. Adam was to die in the day he ate the fruit. But he didn't. These are redemption's finest mysteries. No theory of atonement can ever explain the paradox of redemption.
There is a mutuality between God and His children in prayer. We ‘make mention’ of things to God (Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 1:2; Philemon 4). The Greek word used has the idea of bringing to mind, or remembering things to God. And He in response ‘remembers’ prayer when He answers it (Lk. 1:54,72; Acts 10:31 s.w.). What we bring to our mind in prayer, we bring to His mind.
" The sons of Simeon were Nemuel and Jamin...and Shaul" (1 Chron. 4:24); but Gen. 46:10 shows that Shaul was Simeon's son by a wrong, casual relationship. Yet this is not recorded in Chronicles, even though so many other weaknesses are. Surely this is to demonstrate how if God imputes righteousness for a repented of sin, there really is no record of this kept by Him.
Truth is not merely a set of doctrines; it refers to an obedient life. The LXX uses the phrase 'to do truth', which John uses, in passages like 2 Chron. 31:20 (about Hezekiah's obedience to commandments), or in Gen. 47:29; Is. 26:10 to describe simply doing and living what is right. The fact truth must be done indicates it is not merely correct academic interpretation of doctrine.
Psalm 50 is really a commentary upon the implications of covenant relationship. Those who have ”made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50:3) are not to respond to this merely by a thoughtless offering of sacrifices; but rather, if they “take my covenant in thy mouth” they are to declare God’s statutes and love instruction (Ps. 50:16,17). They are to live a life of praise that is based around a Godly lifestyle (Ps. 50:23). Thus if we are in covenant relationship, we will declare that to the world; and it will elicit a committed lifestyle from us. Being in covenant with God led David to “be instructed”; and he implies that those who truly know the covenant will “declare” it in witness to others (Ps. 50:16,17).
Psalm 50 is an Old Testament prophecy of the judgment seat of Christ: "Our God shall come (in Christ)...He shall call to the heavens...that he may judge his people (cp. the call to judgment). Gather my saints together unto me (cp. Mt. 25:30-32)...for God is judge himself" describes how the specific words and actions of God's people will then be considered- and that includes the words we speak and the things we do today: "When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him (actions)...thou gavest thy mouth to evil (words)...these things hast thou done, and I kept silence (in this life)...but I will (now) reprove thee (at judgment day), and set them in order before thine eyes".
Throughout Romans, the point is made that the Lord counts as righteous those that believe; righteousness is imputed to us the unrighteous (Rom. 2:26; 4:3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,22,23,24; 8:36; 9:8). But the very same Greek word is used of our self-perception. We must count / impute ourselves as righteous men and women, and count each other as righteous on the basis of recognising each others’ faith rather than works: “Therefore we conclude [we count / impute / consider] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law... Likewise reckon [impute] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Rom. 3:28; 6:11). We should feel clean and righteous, and act accordingly, both in our own behaviour and in our feelings towards each other. Border-line language and expressions, clothing with worldly slogans, watching violence and pornography...these are not things which will be done by someone who feels and perceives him/herself to be clean and righteous, “in Christ”.
Jacob's attaining a true humility, his making Yahweh his very own God, his realization of the personal relevance of the promises of the Gospel, resulted in a wonderful opening up of Jacob at the end. Throughout his life, he comes over as a man of few words. It made an interesting exercise to copy out all the words Jacob is recorded as saying. Until Gen. 48 and 49, we are left with the a kind of staccato effect; he speaks with jerks and jolts, often with an underlying bitterness and deep suspicion; and there are some profound silences recorded, where he simply doesn't respond, but bottles everything up inside him (28:5; 35:9-13, 19, 29). There is no record of any weeping after the death of his dear Rachel, or leaving his beloved mum, or at the death of his father who had such a huge spiritual influence on him; and there were precious few words from him when he learnt of the supposed death of Joseph (37:35). But now at the end, there is a tremendous openness, words flow from him; he knows whom he has believed, and can speak confidently to his family about Him, from his own experience. One senses a great sense of positiveness about him. At age 130, he mumbled to Pharaoh: " Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been" , as if every day had dragged (47:9). But at the very end, 17 years later, he more positively speaks of the Angel that had redeemed him from all evil (48:15).
The sense of mutuality between God and Jacob was associated with Jacob's achievement of a true humility. The way he blessed his sons in Gen. 49 indicates this; note how he saw Isaachar's greatness in the fact he was a humble servant (49:14). He learnt the lesson of that night of wrestling; his natural strength was not to be gloried in, neither was this to be his true greatness. The way he rebukes and effectively rejects Reuben, Simeon and Levi, the sons who had flaunted their natural strength and prowess, reflects the perspectives which Jacob attained at the end. " Reuben...my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power...thou shalt not excel" (49:3,4) sounds as if Jacob associated his natural strength with Reuben, and yet now he rejected it. Doubtless these men gathered round their father expecting to hear some sweet fatherly blessing mixed with a few gentle reproofs for past behaviour. The whole process of Israel's sons being " gathered" to him and receiving their blessing and judgment is typical of the final judgment, showing how Jacob was a type of Christ at this time. The surprise of the sons we are left to imagine, but it would point forward quite accurately to the surprise which will be a feature of the rejected (Mt. 25:44).
There is a connection with Romans in Ps. 51:4, where David recognizes " Against thee...have I sinned...that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest" . He recognized that God works through our sinfulness- he is effectively saying 'I sinned so that You might be justified...'. These words are quoted in Rom. 3:4,5 in the context of Paul's exultation that " our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God" - in just the same way as David's did! Because God displays His righteousness every time He justifies a repentant sinner, He is in a sense making Himself yet more righteous. We must see things from God's perspective, from the standpoint of giving glory to God's righteous attributes. If we do this, then we can see through the ugliness of sin, and come to terms with our transgressions the more effectively. And Paul quotes David's sin with Bathsheba as our supreme example in this. We along with all the righteous ought to “shout for joy” that David really was forgiven (Ps. 32:11)- for there is such hope for us now. David is our example. And yet the intensity of David’s repentance must be ours. He hung his head as one in whose mouth there were no more arguments, hoping only in the Lord’s grace (Ps. 38:14 RVmg.). Notice too how Ps. 51:1 “Have mercy on me, O God…” is quoted by the publican in Lk. 18:13. He felt that David’s prayer and situation was to be his. And he is held up as the example for each of us.
Through his experience, David came to know what he calls 'truth in the inward parts' (Ps. 51:6): that he " was shapen in iniquity" , and the required sacrifice was a desperately broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17). According to Paul's use of the Bathsheba incident, David's learning curve must be ours. There are other links which show that David's sin, desperation and restoration are typical of the experience of all God's true people (e.g. Ps. 51:7 = Is. 1:18).
The fact that God looks at us so positively, as if we are actually Christ, in that we are " in Him" , means that in this sense we cannot sin (1 Jn. 2:1), in that Christ cannot now sin. Our spiritual man is now " saved" in prospect. The devil is now dead in Christ, and sin is likewise dead in us too, insofar as we are " in Christ" (Heb. 2:14; Rom. 8:3). " The old man" of sin has been destroyed in our association with the death of Christ, so that " the body of sin" might be destroyed at the judgment seat (Rom. 6:6). Sin is dead without law (Rom. 7:8), and yet sin is described, in the same context, as being dead in us (Rom. 6:11; 8:3); this is because we are not under any legal code. Salvation is by grace, through our faith that God really is giving it to us. And if we truly have faith, then we will show that faith in a life of conformity to the spirit of Christ. We are " free from sin" (Rom. 6:22), in the sense that we are not now under any legal code which could impute sin to us (Rom. 5:13). The spiritual man is born of God, and therefore " cannot commit sin" (1 Jn. 3:9). God " will not" (in the present and in the future, the Greek implies) impute sin to those in Christ (Rom. 4:8). As it is impossible for God to see men as righteous outside of Christ, so He finds it impossible to see them as sinners when they are truly counted as in Christ (Rom. 6:20 cp. 22). " Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (Jn. 8:34), but those in Christ are counted as not being the servants of sin, but of Christ (Rom. 6:17). The connection with Jn. 8:34 makes this tantamount to saying that they are reckoned as not committing sin.
The Passover, as the prototype breaking of bread, featured bitter herbs to remind Israel of their bitter experience in Egypt (Ex. 1:14). The breaking of bread should likewise focus our attention on the fact that return to the world is a return to bondage and bitterness, not freedom.
Moses fled from Egypt, not fearing the wrath of Pharaoh; he went in faith (Heb. 11:27). But the Exodus record explains that actually he couldn't keep this level of faith, and fled in fear (Ex. 2:14,15). God knows that we have this terrible capacity to lose spiritual intensity. His most faithful servants have been afflicted with this problem.
Praise is a sacrifice (Ps. 54:6; 69:30; Jonah 2:9; Heb. 13:15), something requiring forethought and careful mixture of the correct ingredients to be acceptable. In the light of all this it is absolutely impossible for uncontrolled emotion to be part of true praise. Israel were called out of Egypt in order to declare among the surrounding nations the character and greatness of Israel's God. In this calling to be a missionary nation they failed miserably (what similarities with the new Israel?). The very reason why we are a " chosen generation, a royal priesthood (is) that we should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness (cp. Egypt)" (1 Pet. 2:9). Our separation from this world is therefore related to our praise of God.
Don't pray out of anxiety alone, but as part of a way of life. Daniel (Dan. 6:10) and David (Ps. 55:17; 119:164) prayed regularly; the incense (cp. prayer) was offered regularly. Daniel was even willing to forfeit his life for the sake of showing openly his devotion to this practice. 5 minutes in the morning and at lunch time and 20 minutes at night ought to be a minimum (plus before meals and the daily readings). Speaking of his regular morning prayers, David wrote: " In the morning will I order my prayer unto thee" (Ps. 5:3 RV). Again there is the suggestion that he planned out ('ordered') his words before saying them. Even Jesus seems to have prepared His words before praying them. Consider Jn. 12:27 RVmg: " What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?" . But it appears He decided against praying that.
The context of Romans 8 teaches that there is in fact just one Spirit; the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of God, and is " the Spirit" in the believer (Rom. 8:9-11). There is " one Spirit" (Eph. 4:4). If the will of God is in us, if His will is embedded in our conscience, we will ask what we will, what our spirit desires, and it will be granted. This is because if our Spirit is attune with the Spirit of God and of Christ, our desires, our wish, is transferred automatically to Him. Whatever we ask being in the name of Christ, being in His character and the essence of His spirit, will therefore be done (Jn. 15:16). It doesn't mean that saying the words " I ask in the name of Christ" gives our request some kind of magical power with God. It must surely mean that if we are in Him, if His words abide in us, then we will surely be heard, for our will is His will. We are guaranteed answers if we ask in His name, if we ask what we will, if the word dwells in us, if we ask according to God's will... all these are essentially the same thing. If we are truly in Him, if the word really dwells in us, if our will has become merged with God's will, then we will only request things which are in accordance with His will, and therefore we will receive them. Thus the experience of answered prayer will become part of the atmosphere of spiritual life for the successful believer. The Lord knew that the Father heard Him always (Jn. 11:42). It is for this reason that the prayers of faithful men rarely make explicit requests; their prayers are an expression of the spirit of their lives and their relationship with God, not a list of requests. It explains why God sees our needs, He sees our situations, as if these are requests for help, and acts accordingly. The request doesn't have to be baldly stated; God sees and knows and responds.
" When Moses was grown, he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens...when he was full forty years old it came into his heart to visit his brethren...by faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter" (Ex. 2:11; Acts 7:23; Heb. 11:24). The implication seems to be that Moses reached a certain point of maturity, of readiness, and then he went to his brethren. God looked on the sorrows of His people through the sensitivity of Moses, He saw and knew their struggles, their sense of being trapped, their desire to revive spiritually but their being tied down by the painful business of life and living; and He sent Moses to deliver them from this. But these very words are quoted about our deliverance through the 'coming down' of the Lord Jesus (Ex. 3:7; 4:31 = Lk. 1:68).
Note that the promise of Moses that God would not fail nor forsake Joshua, but would be with him (Dt. 31:8) was similar to the very promise given to Moses which he had earlier doubted (Ex. 3:12; 4:12,15). Such exhortation is so much the stronger from someone who has themselves doubted and then come to believe. We are to share God's encouragement to us with others.
David really felt he had already received that which he prayed for. He shows this again by the way in which he uses tense moods perhaps purposefully ambiguously in Ps. 56:13. The AV has: “Wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling…?”, whereas the RV renders it: “Hast thou not delivered my feet from falling?”. Another example is in Ps. 18:44,47: “The strangers shall submit themselves…God [right now, by faith in prayer] subdueth the peoples”. David perhaps perceived that the requests of prayer must also be some sort of statement that the prayer was answered already.
Not believing in God and not believing in His word of the Gospel are paralleled in 1 Jn. 5:10. God is His word. The word “is” God in that God is so identified with His word. David parallels trusting in God and trusting in His word (Ps. 56:3,4). By our words we personally will be condemned or justified- because we too ‘are’ our words.
Paul had the spirit of Moses when he could say that he could wish himself accursed from Christ for the sake of his Jewish kinsmen. He was willing in theory to give up his salvation for them, even though he knew that in actual fact this is not the basis on which God works. He emphasizes that he is not using mere words: " I say the truth in Christ, I lie not [note the double emphasis], my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 9:1-3). The Holy Spirit confirmed that what he felt in his conscience for them was in fact valid; this really was the level of devotion Paul reached for a nation who systematically worked for his extermination, and even more painfully, for the infiltration and destruction of his lifetime's work.