Psalm 23:1 – Jehovah Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23:1 - Jehovah is my shepherd(1) It is safe to say that no other collection of poems has accomplished as much good as the Book of Psalms. Its sentiments seem to touch the soul at every turn — in joy, in sorrow. Referring to the Twenty-third Psalm, Beecher wrote, “It is the nightingale among the Psalms. It is small, of a homely feather, singing shyly out of obscurity; but it has filled the air of the whole world with melodious joy”; and Spurgeon said, “This is the Pearl of Psalms, whose soft and pure radiance delights every eye.”

(2) “Jehovah is my shepherd.” (Psalm 23:1) Only the people of God, in covenant relationship with Him, can properly appreciate this Psalm and apply its gracious sentiments to themselves. The Psalmist David could do this, because he belonged to the favored nation which God had taken into covenant relationship with Himself at Mount Sinai; additionally he had shown in faith in the promises of the coming Messiah. The Israelites had covenanted to walk in Jehovah’s way and to obey His statutes; and God in turn had covenanted with them that He would, in proportion as they would do this, bestow His blessing upon their every interest. (Exodus 19:5) And perfect obedience to that Covenant and its Law would have been rewarded with everlasting life. (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5) We see, as the Apostle explains, that such a complete obedience was impossible. “By the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” — Romans 3:20.

(3) Comparatively few of the Jews even did their best to live up to the requirements of the Law; but the Prophet David evidently was one of these, however far short he came of perfection; for Jehovah declared him “a man after His own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Kings 15:3,5; Acts 13:22) If he made failures, he confessed them, repented, received his punishment, and rejoiced in restoration to Jehovah’s favor, striving the more in the future to maintain his fellowship with God. It is interesting for us to note the kind of man with whom Jehovah is well pleased — the kind of sheep in which the Great Shepherd is interested. And of this same class, of course, were others — the Prophets and lesser personages — all who endeavored to live godly.

THE GREAT SHEPHERD AND HIS FLOCK

(4) In an important sense this Psalm is applicable to our Lord Jesus and His Church. All the features of the Psalm are applicable to our Redeemer Himself as well as to His followers, whom He styles the sheep of His flock. To His Church He is the Representative of the Father, so fully, so completely, that He could say truthfully, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) No human being could, with their physical eyes, see the Heavenly Father and live, as the Scriptures declare (Exodus 33:20); and those who saw and understood Jesus to be the Son of God, could “see” the God and Father of Jesus in Jesus (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3), because Jesus spoke the words of, and did the works of, his God and Father. (John 1:18; 6:46; 8:38; 14:6-11) And so we all see Jesus as the Representative of and mediator with the Father (Malachi 3:1; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6), the Son of the great King, the Son of the great Shepherd, Yahweh.

(5) Jesus and His Church are more particularly the sheep of Yahweh’s flock than were the Israelites of the Jewish Age (1 Peter 5:2); for the relationship of the Jews was through Moses, while the relationship of the Church is through Christ and the superior Covenant which centers in Him. (Hebrews 3:2-6) It is well that we see this clearly; else how could we know whether or not we might apply the gracious sentiments of this Psalm to ourselves? It would not be right for a worldly, unjustified person to apply this Psalm to himself. (John 9:31) He would be deceiving himself; for he is not one of Jehovah’s sheep through Jesus Christ. (John 10:26,27) Nothing is more clear than this. Jesus declared that there is only one way of entering the sheepfold; namely, through the door — and He declared Himself to be the Door. — John 10:1-14

HOW TO BECOME A TRUE SHEEP

(6) By nature we are sinners under Jehovah’s sentence of death, and not His sheep, having been made so through the disobedience of Adam. (Romans 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:3) Our Heavenly Father has purposed a great Plan for the world in general, which will begin to operate as soon as Messiah’s Kingdom is fully established. However, in the interim He is receiving special sheep — during this Gospel Age; and Jesus tells how, saying, “If any man desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [Greek stauros, stake], and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Self-denial is the first step — self-renunciation, the submitting of our own will to the will to God. All who would be Jehovah’s sheep must take this step of self-denial; it is the condition under which they may be accepted. This is the only proper course for God’s creatures (Matthew 22:37); these are those who count the knowledge and blessings of a kingdom inheritance as a treasure greater than all joys and riches of this world. (Matthew 13:44-46; Proverbs 2:2-9) However, for those who do take this step now means to love God more than own families and friends in this world, and their own self, thus they are told to count the cost. — Luke 14:25-33.

(7) Moreover, as the Jews could come only through their appointed mediator, Moses, so we can come into this higher sheepfold only under the antitypical, greater Moses, Christ. (Galatians 3:19; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 3:3) There is none other name given. (Acts 4:12) Once having taken this step, once having come into the sheepfold by the Door — in the approved manner — we have the Message of God, saying, “For all things are yours. . . . All are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” What this means is described in this Psalm. — 1 Corinthians 3:22,23.

ALL NEEDS ABUNDANTLY SUPPLIED

(8) “I shall lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1b) Jehovah’s sheep, abiding in perfection of relationship with Him, will lack nothing. Their every need will be supplied. This may not mean greater earthly wealth or name or fame or luxury. Jehovah’s sheep are new creatures, having received the spirit of the next age, who are temporarily dwelling in the flesh like other people, but who really are waiting for their change, to be completed by a share in the First Resurrection. Jehovah’s blessings to Natural Israel were earthly blessings, supplying their every earthly need; but His blessings to Spiritual Israel are spiritual favors. “No good thing will He withhold” from these — yes, even chastisements and sorrowful experiences that may be necessary for their spiritual development.

(9) “He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” (Psalm 23:2) The Psalm assures us that, as Jehovah’s sheep, we shall be provided with green pastures and the cool, refreshing waters of Truth. Moreover, while thus being spiritually fed and refreshed, we shall have the peace of God, as is implied in the suggestion that the sheep will lie down in the green pastures. But alas! Not all of the sheep have full confidence in the Shepherd and are fully resigned to fully have their will in submission to him. Some are continually getting into difficulty, because they neglect the green pastures and cool, refreshing waters of Truth found in the Word of God — because, goat-like, they sometimes wander off into the desert, straying far from the Shepherd and attempting to feed themselves on the indigestible things of the present life, on which no spiritual nature can thrive.

(10) “He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3a) Yet even such straying sheep the Shepherd will not leave, if they have become truly His. He goes after them, as the Psalm represents. His rod and His staff are their comfort. With the rod he beats off their enemies, the wolves that would injure; and with the crook of His staff He wisely and carefully assists the entangled sheep out of its difficulties — out from amongst the cares of this life, the entanglements and deceitfulness of riches, and the besetments of sin and of Satan. Many of the sheep of Yahweh’s flock thus can sing, “He restores my soul” — He brings me back to Himself; He makes me again to know, to appreciate, to enjoy His provision for me and to see how much better it is than anything I could have provided for myself.

(11) “He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3) A further experience is next brought to our view — the Shepherd’s leading. “He guides me in the paths of righteousness.” He causes me, even by my own stumblings and difficulties, to learn to appreciate the desirableness of His ways and the undesirableness of every other way. All His ways are perfect, are righteous. He leads us not contrary to our wills, but in harmony therewith, to prove what is the good, next the acceptable, and finally the perfect will of God. — Romans 12:2.

THE VALLEY OF DEATH’S SHADOW

(12) “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) All of our lives we have been in the shadow of this great Valley of Death. Only father Adam was ever on the mountain-tops of life. He lost his footing there, and descended gradually down the slopes into this Valley of the Shadow of Death. We, his children, were all born here. We are dying daily; we are surrounded by dying conditions. We have merely the hope that Jehovah will lead His sheep back to the heights of life. Jehovah, through Jesus, is now leading His sheep of this Gospel Age — the Church, the Body of Christ. By and by He will lead the world, during our Lord’s Millennial Kingdom; as He declared, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd.” — John 10:16.

“Oh, sometimes the shadows are deep,
And rough seems the path to the goal!”

(13) The end of this Valley of Shadow is near, not merely in the sense that we shall soon reach the end of life’s journey, but especially in the sense that the New Day is about to dawn, of which Jehovah, our Supreme Shepherd, declared the result: “He will destroy in this mountain the surface of the covering that covers all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” (Isaiah 25:7) The final result will be that there shall be no more sighing, no more crying, no more dying (Isaiah 25:8: Revelation 21:1-5); but the whole world will begin to emerge from the Valley of the Shadow of Death. For a thousand years, while the deceiver of this world is bound, they will be rising again to the glorious heights of human perfection from which Adam fell, and the right to return to which is secured for all by the death of Jesus, “the just for the unjust.” — Revelation 12:9; 20:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Peter 3:18

THE CHURCH’S BETTER TABLE

(14) “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5a) But this precious Psalm seems especially to apply to the Church, as we have said. Thus we appropriately read that Jehovah’s people of the present time have an especially prepared table, where they may partake even in the presence of their enemies. That will not be true in the future; for no enemies nor anything to hurt or injure shall then be permitted. (Isaiah 11:9) But how true it is that Jehovah’s consecrated people, even when misunderstood, misrepresented, defamed and opposed, are still privileged to feast at Jehovah’s Table! The table represents God’s provision for their needs — the promises of God, the assurances of His favor, etc.

(15) “You have anointed my head with oil.” (Psalm 23:5b) Another evidence that the Psalm belongs especially to the Church of this Age is the statement. Jehovah, our Supreme Shepherd, has given the sheep to His Son, Jesus, setting Jesus as the “one shepherd” of Jehovah’s sheep, both the sheep of this age, and the sheep of the age to come. (Exodus 34:23,24; John 10:11-16,29; 17:2,6,9) Jesus, the Head of the Church, was anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows. (Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9) That holy anointing oil used on the priests and kings of Israel typified the Holy Spirit, which came upon the Church representatively in Jesus. (Matthew 3:16) And this same anointing oil has come down over all the members of the Church, which is the Body of Christ, as we read in Psalm 133:2.

THE CUP BOTH SWEET AND BITTER

(16) “My cup runs over.” (Psalm 23:5c) The word cup is used in the Scriptures to represent a draft, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, sometimes both. The intimation is that the Master’s cup signifies bitter experiences and trials in the present time; as Jesus said, “The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11) And this was the cup — His cup — which He offered to His disciples and which we, in becoming His disciples, propose to share with Him, and which is symbolically represented in the Communion Cup. — 1 Corinthians 10:15-17.

(17) It is sweet and precious, in many senses of the word to be privileged to participate in the sufferings of Christ, in any sacrifices or services for Jehovah and His Cause through His Son Jesus. The sweet mingles freely with the bitter. But our Lord promises that in the future the Cup of new wine in the Kingdom shall more than compensate for any bitterness of the present time. (Matthew 26:29; Romans 8:18) Our Cup is full, but we would not wish it one drop less.

(18) “Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6a) How precious the thought — God’s goodness, God’s mercy, with all those who are truly His in Christ — following us day by day, moment by moment, and according to the Scriptures making all things work together for our good! (Romans 8:28)

(19) “I shall dwell in Jehovah’s house forever” (Psalm 23:6b) — in the Royal Home, of which the Redeemer said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions [residences]; . . . I am going to prepare a place for you.;” and “I will come again and receive you to myself.” (John 14:2,3) There are many positions of service in this Royal House. (Psalm 45) Out of this house all people of the earth will learn of the ways of Jehovah. (Isaiah 2:2-4) All in this House of Glory will praise Jehovah forever. — Psalm 135:1-3; Ezekiel 43:5; Haggai 2:9

(19) This shall be the everlasting portion of God’s elect — the Church. The great blessings subsequently to come to the world will in no sense interfere with, but enhance, the glory of the Church; for she will be engaged with her Lord in dispensing blessings to the other sheep. — Galatians 3:29.
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Paragraphs are numbered for reference and use in group and individual study.

Earlier publication August, 2012; Updated and republished November 2014.

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Joshua 3:1-13 – Joshua Leads Israel

Text: Joshua 3:7 – Yahweh said to Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.

ISRAEL spent thirty days in mourning for their great leader, Moses, yet with one accord accepted Joshua as their new leader by Divine appointment through Moses. Like other Bible heroes, Joshua was renowned for his faith and his loyalty to God. At the time of taking Moses’ place he was in his eighty-third year, yet full of vigor, and evidently the best qualified man for the position. He and Caleb only had been of mature years when the Israelites left Egypt. They only had been witnesses of God’s marvelous dealings with His people. They two had been the spies who brought an encouraging report of Canaan, which the people refused and on account of which refusal the adults died during the succeeding forty years of wilderness journeying.

(2) The fact that Moses was vigorous at one hundred and twenty, and Joshua at eighty-three, speaks loudly to us in confirmation of the Bible’s teaching that Adam was created perfect, and that the entire race has since been fallen in sin and death — sharing Adam’s penalty, “dying you shall die.” (Genesis 2:17 – Green’s Literal Translation) The intelligence of these men, as well as their vigor, quite contradict the evolution theory; for this same Joshua had been one of the slaves in Egypt.

ISRAEL’S REAL LEADER–YAHWEH

(3) Not for a moment are we to lose sight of the fact that God had adopted the nation of Israel and entered into a special covenant with them; and that, therefore, He was their real Captain and Leader — Moses, Joshua and others being merely His representatives and mouthpieces.

THE NEW LEADER’S NAME

(4) The name, Joshua, is a variant of the same name that we know as “Jesus.” These are not actually two different “names”, but are linguistical variations of the same name. From the Hebrew, the name has been transliterated as “Yahowshuwa'”, and sometimes is transliterated as “Yehoshua” or “Yahoshua”. The name means more than just “Savior”, as some have often given for the meaning of the name. It means “Jehovah (Yahweh) is salvation” or “Jehovah (Yahweh) is savior.” Nor does the name mean, as many would have it, “the Lord saves”, nor does it mean, as some would have it, “God saves.” The name includes the holy name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:15), and not just a title, such as “Lord” or “God”. Indeed, the name — Joshua, Jesus — does not have any form of the Hebrew words for Lord (baal, adon) nor any form of the Hebrews words for God (El).
Focus on the Holy Name

(5) Originally, Joshua’s name was “Hoshea” (also rendered as Hosea), which means simply, “salvation” or “savior”. From Numbers 13:16, we read that Moses changed the son of Nun’s name from Hoshea to Joshua. While Hoshea simply means “savior”, we can see the importance of including the holy name so that one can recognize that Yahweh is the One behind the deliverer, and that is part of what our text focuses on. Joshua did not deliver Israel into the promised land of his own power and strength, but we read that Yahweh was with Joshua, reminding us of the name of the greater Deliverer, Jesus of Nazareth, who also bore the titular name “Immanuel”, that is “God is with us”.

(6) For twenty-seven years Joshua was the leader of Israel, faithful to God and to the people. He not only led them through Jordan and directed in the conquering of city after city, but he divided the land amongst the tribes and governed the people with great acceptance, dying at the age of one hundred and ten.

(7) It would not do for us to contrast Joshua with Moses as a leader; for they were men of totally different types. Indeed, most leaders spoken of in the Bible, when contrasted with Moses, would be disadvantaged, so high did that great statesman tower above the average of humanity then or since. But while Joshua could not be Moses, the leader, commander, law-giver, he was faithful in the sense of following the example of Moses, as one who served the Divine Law, and whose faith and influence with the people were helpful to them. He was just what God wished him to be, and whoever is worthy of such a testimony is truly great.

(8) Yahweh’s command to Joshua was, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you, and all this people, to the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.” (Joshua 1:2) “There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you, nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) “Be strong and of good courage; don’t be afraid, neither be dismayed: for Yahweh your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) And finally, our text relates that Yahweh promised Joshua that He would be with him.

THE LAND OF PROMISE

(9) That Joshua and Israel in conquering Canaan should forcible take possession of it is called into question by some. They ask, ‘By what right might one branch of the human family destroy another and seize their land? Where is the justice of such a course, not to mention the absence of love? How could the Golden Rule be applied to such a course — do unto others as you would be done by?’

(10) There is but one answer to this query; and, rightfully seen, it is a satisfactory answer. Yahweh declares that the earth is His, that He gave it to the children of men, as represented by Father Adam. (Psalm 115:16.) But the gift was conditioned upon obedience and loyalty — disobedience, disloyalty, being punishable by death. Adam incurred this penalty; and his children, under the laws of heredity, shared it with him, because brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin. (Job 14:4; 15:14; Psalm 51:5; Ecclesiastes 1:13-15; 7:13; Romans 5:19) Thus all human right in the earth was abrogated by the death sentence upon the sinner. (Romans 3:23) Thus, Yahweh has the right to inflict, or have others inflict, that penalty of death upon any whom he wishes and by any means that he wishes. The problem, however, is that most do not understand why Yahweh is permitting death and suffering upon the groaning creation.
See:
http://binfo.rlbible.com/?page_id=515

(11) God purposed in Himself the recovery of Adam and his family from the curse of death — through Messiah — through His death and by the power of His Messianic Kingdom, soon to rule the earth. In preparation for these blessings to come, God laid hold upon the nation of Israel and blessed them by making a Covenant with them. Although they could not fulfill the terms of the Covenant (Romans 3:20; 8:3; Galatians 2:16; 3:10,11,21) and thus could not obtain the choicest blessing of God through obedience to that Covenant; nevertheless, the Israelites were greatly blessed by their Law Covenant, and many of them were fitted and prepared by it for cooperation with Messiah in His Kingdom in due time. Meantime, the experiences of Israel were overruled by the Almighty, to make of them types and symbols illustrative of the Divine Plan as it will be finally outworked on a higher plane. — 1 Corinthians 10:11.
See:
Focus on the Atonement

(12) In carrying out this arrangement with Israel, God promised them and gave them land called Canaan. He explained to them, nevertheless, that this gift was not because of their worthiness, but because of His favor toward them in pursuit of His own great plans previously outlined to Abraham. He further explained that the people of Canaan were not making progress, and that their further continuance would be neither for their good nor for Yahweh’s glory — as with the Sodomites, whom God took away as He saw good. — Ezekiel 16:49,50.

TO SHEOL, NOT TO TORMENT

(13) It is well that we should remember that the Bible hell, to which the Canaanites went when they were slaughtered, is not the hell of torment pictured to us in the traditional teaching of men. Their destruction by the Israelites sent them to sheol, to hades, to the tomb, where “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) There they sleep with their forefathers — just as we read of all the good as well as of all the evil ones of that time. Abraham slept with his fathers, who were heathen men. — Genesis 15:15; 47:30; Deuteronomy 31:16; Psalm 13:3.

(14) Several times in the Bible we read that both good and bad, dying, were gathered to their fathers — slept with their fathers. (Deuteronomy 31:16; Judges 2:10; 2 Kings 22:20; 2 Chronicles 34:28; Psalm 13:3) There they are still waiting for the glorious resurrection morning, when Messiah’s Kingdom, having inaugurated a reign of righteousness, will bring the earth to its Edenic condition and bring back eventually every man in his own order — all that sleep in Hades, in Sheol, in the tomb. — 1 Corinthians 15:21-29; Revelation 20:6,13.
See:
Life Now and Hereafter

(15) Death with humanity would have been eternal had it not been for the ransom sacrifice of Jesus. Because of his sacrifice, we have the divine promise that there will be a resurrection of the human dead, the just and the unjust (John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15) in the “last day” (John 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24: 12:47,48), and to guarantee the fulfillment of that promise God has already sent His Son, who is the antitype of Joshua of Nun. The Son of God bore the same name as the son of Nun, only we know that name as “Jesus”. Jesus’ name, being actually the same as that of Joshua, also reflects the Holy Name of the One who sent Jesus, that is, Yahweh (Jehovah). (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Isaiah 61:1; John 3:16,17; 17:3) In other words, in the same manner that Yahweh is the Savior who sent Joshua as the savior, deliverer, of Israel from the wilderness into the promised land, so Jesus was sent by Yahweh, the ultimate Savior, not to deliver Israel into the land of Canaan, but to deliver all mankind from the condemnation of death, the death in Adam, into a new life. (1 Corinthians 15:21,22; Romans 5:12) To do this, he died for human sin (Matthew 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45; John 1:29,36; 6:51; Romans 3:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7; 5:2; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Timothy 2:5,6; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 1:5; 5:6), thus opening up the way for the resurrection — that Yahweh might be just and yet be the justifier of those accepting Jesus. — Deuteronomy 32:4; Zephaniah 3:5; Romans 3:26.

(16) True, few have accepted Him as yet, because most are still blinded to a knowledge of the truth. The great masses of the world are still blind and deaf, and do not understand. (Isaiah 60:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9) The glorious promise is that in that coming day not only will all be awakened from the tomb, but the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh (Jehovah) will fill the whole earth (Isaiah 6:3; 11:9; 40:5; Habakkuk 2:14; Revelation 21:1-5), and no more deceptions will be allowed during that judgment day. (Revelation 20:3) Then all the blind eyes will be opened and all the deaf ears will be unstopped. (Isaiah 35:5) All will have the opportunity of returning to Divine favor under Messiah’s Kingdom. (Isaiah 2:2-4) Those refusing to come into harmony will be classed as willful rebels, and will die the Second Death. — Revelation 20:11-15; 21:7,8.

(17) Those of the nation of Canaan, like all other nations, will have a share in that glorious time when Jesus, the Light of the world, will enlighten every man, that they might see the glory of Yahweh. — John 1:9.

(18) From this viewpoint, the taking of Palestine from the people who were using it to no profit themselves, and the giving of it to Israel for the enactment of types of good things to come, was not injustice, but wisdom. And taking away by the sword the people already condemned to death was just as proper as if they had been taken away by famine and pestilence. In any event, the Divine provision for them, all through Christ, is a blessing which will reach them in Messiah’s Day, when the earth shall be free from the curse. (Revelation 22:3) Then the curse will be rolled away and the blessing of Yahweh shall be rolled upon them (Genesis 22:18; 26:4; Psalm 72:11; 86:9; Isaiah 2:2; 25:6-8; Galatians 3:8), when the enlightened will learn to love righteousness and hate iniquity. To all such there will be no more sighing, no more dying, no more crying. (Revelation 21:1-3) Willful evil-doers will be destroyed (Psalm 37:9,10); and all the earth having been brought to perfection (Isaiah 60:13; 66:1; Ezekiel 36:35), God’s will shall be done on earth as perfectly as it is done in Heaven. — Matthew 6:10.
See the study on “Mankind’s Course to the Day of Judgment

(19) In the context our text, we find that the people of Israel were all ready to enter the land of promise in hope of which they had left Egypt forty years before. The time selected for the entrance was the tenth day of the first month, Nisan (April), originally Abib. It was on this date the Israelites under Moses set out from Egypt for Palestine forty years before.

(20) Viewed from the human standpoint it was a most unfavorable time of the year, because, although it was the harvest time and favorable as respecting the crop of the land into which they were entering, nevertheless it was flood time in the Jordan, when the melting of the snows in the Lebanon mountains caused the river Jordan, ordinarily about one hundred feet wide at this place, to overflow its banks for sometimes several hundred feet. And of course its current was swift and dangerous. However, the Israelites had evidently learned something in the forty years of God’s dealings with them, and they were therefore prepared for Joshua’s announcement that a great miracle was to be wrought, which would demonstrate to them that God was with them and would drive away all fear from their hearts and impress the fear of them upon their enemies.

JOSHUA SAID, SANCTIFY YOURSELVES

(21) We are reminded of a similar instruction given to the Israelites when they approached Mount Sinai at the time of the giving of the Law Covenant. The word “sanctify” is well known to mean “set apart,” and the specific directions given at Mount Sinai show that this meant that they should purify themselves from sin, and especially from the idolatrous ways and sinful practices of the heathen around them, with a view to being in the heart condition which would enable them to best appreciate their dealings with Yahweh and his personal interest in them. Thus, they were prepared to realize that the mercies and favors coming to them were not of accident but of divine providence, and to be strengthened in heart and in faith accordingly.

(22) Profitable lessons may be drawn by followers of Jesus from this narrative. For instance, we might think of the entrance into Canaan under the leadership of Joshua as corresponding to the entrance of all who love Yahweh into the blessings and privileges of the Millennial Age. In this illustration we might think of Joshua as representing the Lord Jesus, the priests bearing the Ark as representing the little flock, and the passing over of the Israelites as representing the passing of mankind into the new dispensation, where indeed there will be enemies still to be conquered, weaknesses of the flesh still to be overcome, and full possession is to be granted only at the close of the Millennial Kingdom. In this view the Jordan might represent Adamic death, and its being dried up picture the cessation of Adamic death to all those desiring to be Yahweh’s people and to enter into his favor, while the return of the waters of the Jordan behind the Israelites, shutting them within the land of promise, might represent the second Death, which would be the portion of any who would renounce the goodly heritage which Yahweh will provide through the antitypical Joshua for the redeemed world.

(23) Additionally, as Israel in passing through the Jordan had nothing to fear because the ark of Yahweh, the symbol of the divine presence stood in the midst of the threatening danger, so the Christian has nothing to fear so long as he realizes the divine presence and approval. Through rivers and seas of trouble he may wade, and through fiery furnaces of affliction he may pass, but none of these things can harm him while Yahweh is with him.

(24) Yahweh’s presence and love realized under such circumstances as they cannot be under ordinary conditions give such strength to faith and hope and love as could not otherwise be gained. And thus all things are made to work together for good to them that love God, to the called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28.

Titus 1:15,16; Proverbs 4:23 – Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

“Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unfaithful is nothing pure; but both their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to have known God, but by their works they renounce Him, being abominable and disobedient, and to every good work worthless.” “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” — Titus 1:15,16; Proverbs 4:23.

OUR first text is an extremely severe arraignment. The context seems to imply that the Apostle Paul was addressing some who were identified in a sense with the Cause of God, but whose doctrines and manner of life were in conflict with the Message of the Gospel. Whether he referred to unbelieving Jews or to those who had at least outwardly become followers of Christ we may not be sure. He was referring, at any rate, to those who professed to have known God, whether they knew Him through the Law or through the Gospel. The language seems to imply that these were fault-finders. They could find fault with everything — nobody could do anything just right, no doctrines were right. We have all met people of this character — people who see nothing pure, nothing good, anywhere, and who are denouncing others all the time.

The Apostle’s statement is very strong, very forceful — “Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unfaithful is nothing pure.” We understand him to mean by these words, not literally that the pure could find nothing that is impure, nor that the impure could find nothing pure, but that this is true in a broad, general way. Those who are themselves pure can see righteousness in the Divine Law and in the Divine arrangement. They can see the true, pure hearts of God’s sincere “little ones,” in spite of the weaknesses of their fallen flesh. But the unfaithful become defiled, their consciences become perverted, so that they are unable to see anything or anybody in a proper light. They have permitted ill-natured thoughts to enter the mind and lodge there — suspicions, evil surmisings, such as, “Every man has his price. Every man can be bought. There is not one that is honest”; and all that sort of thing. They have been more or less judging others by themselves.

Not only the minds of such become corrupted, seeing nothing pure, nothing good, nothing right, in others; but their consciences become defiled. At first the conscience of such would to some extent reprove them. But gradually, if they yield to this wrong heart attitude, their consciences become corrupt and hardened, so that they do not realize that they are prevaricating, misjudging, do not see how unjust, impure and blind they have become. “They profess to have known God,” says the Apostle — knowing something in an intellectual way about His Plan and Word — “but by their works they deny Him.” Their works are contrary to God’s Word, which instructs that all should seek to do all the good they can, to see all the good they can, and to give generous judgment to others.

FAULT-FINDERS, ACCUSERS OF THE BRETHREN

These defiled ones deny God, renounce Him in their works — as St. Paul declares, they are “abominable, and disobedient” to God, walking contrary to His instructions. This is surely an abominable thing to do — after knowing the Lord to go in an opposite direction, and set His counsel at naught. Such are “to every good work worthless.” They do not accomplish anything good, but the very opposite; yet they find fault with everybody else.

The Apostle is not saying here that such have necessarily become immoral and vile in that they have become delvers into all kinds of sin and vice. We are not to read into his words anything that is not there. But he does say that so far as any good work is concerned they will defile it, injure it. Better would it be that they keep away from the Lord’s work entirely. They have allowed the bitter spirit to work in them until everything takes on the color of their own minds. They do not recognize to what an extent they are unjust, unrighteous, in their thoughts, their words, their conduct. They are injurious to every good work.

There are lessons of warning here for all of us, lest we should be led astray by the spirit of the Wicked One and become mere fault-finders, accusers of the brethren — not giving our time, our hands, our feet, our tongues, to doing good, to blessing and upbuilding the brethren, but rather to tearing down. In proportion as any one does this, he is worthless, yea, worse than worthless, to the Lord and to His Cause.

NECESSITY FOR GUARDING THE HEART

“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life,” exhorts the Wise Man. The thought embodied in this exhortation is of the utmost importance. Truly these are words of wisdom! As the heart is perhaps the most important organ of the human body, so the word “heart” is here used in a figurative way to represent the center of the affections of the human mind. The implication is that the heart needs keeping. There are many things to distract, to draw away, to lead astray. Not only the burden of business, but also the trend of the world in general and of our fallen flesh, tend to lead the heart away from righteousness, from the service of God, from purity, love and kindliness toward others.

The great Adversary also gives his assistance in attempts to thus mislead. The heart — the will, the affections — of every human being should be loyal to God and to righteousness. It was made so originally. As the magnetic needle turns to the pole, so the human heart should turn to the Lord. Anything to the contrary represents a sinful, distorted, perverted condition. But as a matter of fact, sin has become firmly implanted in the fallen human nature. During these long centuries of sin many people have striven to keep their hearts right with God. But after getting right, the majority fail to abide in that condition, to keep their heart in God’s love, to keep it from going into wrong avenues, from getting into the wrong condition.

We often have difficulty in managing our bodies. There are appetites of the flesh that need constant watching. The tongue needs continual guarding. While we are to watch all these things carefully, yet the most important thing to watch is the heart; for all our evil tendencies have their mainspring there. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth evil things.” We should be ever alert to see that our heart is kept pure, true. If we find impurities there, they should be prayerfully fought against and made right. We should keep our minds filled with that which is pure, worthy, Godlike.

As children of God we have learned that the only way to have our hearts right with our Father is through the Lord Jesus Christ. We have come to God through Christ and thus become His sons, receiving His Holy Spirit. Then we have a new influence, a new fountain, opened in the heart, which changes its current, which sweetens its outflow. Thenceforth we love righteousness and hate iniquity. If there is any variation from this at any time, we should see that we are promptly brought back into alignment with the Spirit of the Lord. We need to keep our heart continually under inspection, so that we may abide in close fellowship with the Father and with our Lord Jesus.

“For out of it [the heart] are the issues of life,” declared Solomon. From this organ — the heart — the blood is pumped out to all parts of the body. The body is thus dependent upon the heart for its strength, its vitality, its very life. The body would be dead if the heart did not continually propel the blood through the system. So the issues of our bodily life are going forth from the heart every day, yea, every moment. It is either issuing little life or much life each day. So it is with the seat of our affections — so it is with our will. All who come in contact with us day by day are influenced for good or for evil by the spirit we manifest. It is highly important that all our conduct in life should be under the proper direction of a pure heart — one that is carefully watched and kept under inspection, so that today as we go forth, a good issue shall flow out from our heart to others. Thus the Lord will be pleased with us, and will count us “dear children.” Thus shall our minds and consciences be kept undefiled.

THE FINAL ISSUE — LIFE OR DEATH

But there is a further sense, a vital sense, in which the issues of life are from the heart. God has informed us that though He sentenced our race to death, He has made provision for a future and an eternal life for all. And the conditions on which any may have this eternal life are set forth in the Scriptures. They tell us of certain things that must be done. To us who are called and accepted now it is important that we do all we are able to do, because by nature we have sin entrenched in our flesh. Like all of Adam’s race, we are imperfect by nature through his fall; but the Lord informs us that if we become His children He will judge us by the heart — by our will, our intention, our desire, our efforts. Therefore when we are thinking of the glorious prize, we are to remember that the ultimate issue of this matter, the final decision, will depend altogether upon how we have fulfilled the conditions. It is as in a court, where a jury is sworn in to decide what the verdict shall be — whether in favor of one party or the other party. There will be an issue in our case, a decision, from which there will be no appeal.

The world will be on trial in the next Age, but the Church of Christ is on trial now — from the time they are begotten of the Holy Spirit. The new life is on trial. Our new heart is before the bar of Divine judgment. That new heart, then, needs keeping very carefully, since connected with it are the issues of eternal life or eternal death. Our hopes are not dependent on a perfect body; some may have a sick body, some may have a naturally amiable disposition, and others not. But our old bodies are reckoned dead from the moment we become New Creatures, and the New Creature is responsible for the control of the body to the best of its ability. These new hearts are to be kept loyal to God, to the principles of righteousness, truth, equity — loyal to our Covenant. If we fail properly to cultivate Christlike character, if we fail to keep in attunement with the Lord, then we shall never develop as New Creatures in Christ. And when the decisive testings come, we shall be found wanting.

The Lord has promised to give the blessing of glory, honor, immortality, joint-heirship with Jesus, to those who during the Gospel Age attain His character-likeness. And that character-likeness to God will demonstrate our loyalty to the principles of righteousness and to the Divine will. In the case of our Lord Jesus, He was willing, glad, to sacrifice everything to do the Father’s will. So must it be with all who would be counted in with Christ. The issues, the results, of our life are here. God says to us, as followers of Christ, as His professed disciples, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose life that ye may live.” Life is the blessing; death is the curse. All through the Bible this thought is maintained — that the gift of God is His blessing of eternal life, and that “the wages of sin” is the curse of death — not torment.

So to the Christian the issue of our life here on earth is life eternal, if we are faithful. Failing to gain the life eternal, we shall go into death — the Second Death; for if we are disloyal to the principles of righteousness and to the opportunities granted us in this trial for everlasting life that has come to us in the Gospel Age, there remains no future opportunity for us. These words apply to those who have really become children of God, who have tasted of the “heavenly gift.” How important, then, to keep our hearts true, loyal, undefiled!

FINAL ISSUE OF LIFE DIFFERING IN DEGREE

Amongst those in whose cases the issue will be everlasting life, there will be different ranks, as regards the degree of honor and blessing. As the Apostle pictures it, “For star differeth from star in glory; so also is the resurrection of the dead” — so it will be with those who have a part in the First Resurrection. Some will have a brighter glory in the Kingdom than others. We might say that there will be various issues — greater honor and less honor. As elsewhere shown in the Scriptures, there are two classes who will gain everlasting life on the spiritual plane of being. Many will be of the Great Company; some will be of the Little Flock, the Bride of Christ. Some will attain the highest plane, immortality; but more will get life similar to that of the angels, on a lower spirit plane.

So we see the wisdom of the Scriptural exhortation that the heart needs constant attention, because there are such important, vital issues in respect to it. And we see the wisdom in warning of the danger of permitting the mind and the conscience to become defiled and impure. Some might say, “I will be very careful about every word I speak.” Very well so far. But to keep the tongue would not alone be sufficient to give eternal life; for the heart might be quite different from the tongue in some cases. One might be able to speak very smoothly, yet have a deceitful, impure heart. Again, one might say, “I will watch my body, and not sin with it.” But that would not be enough. We must get down to the source. The Lord is looking at the desires, the intentions of the heart, in His people. This needs special watching, because the heart is the battle-ground, so great are the issues from it — life or death. If life, then we desire that we may have the highest place that God is willing to grant us. And it is ours by meeting the conditions.

The above was written by Charles Taze Russell; it appears in The Watch Tower, August 15, 1915, beginning on page 245 (Reprint page 5746). We do not necessarily agree with all conclusions given. Regarding our understanding of the “great multitude”, see our studies:

Jacob’s Prevailing Prayer

“I won’t let you go, unless you bless me.”
Genesis 32:26, World English Version.

(1) FLEEING from his father’s home, Jacob traveled a distance of nearly five hundred miles to Chaldea, the original home of his grandfather Abraham, where his uncle Laban still lived. His esteem for the promise of God had made him a pilgrim and a stranger, a wanderer from home, just as Abraham’s faithfulness to the call had taken him from home in the opposite direction. In the promise Yahweh makes to Jacob, he reiterates the promise as give to Abraham, that by his seed all families of the earth will be blessed. (Genesis 28:14) As we learn in the NT, the seed of promise consists of Jesus and the spirit-begotten sons of God. (Galatians 3:16,25,29) In order to prove Jacob’s worthiness of the blessings — in order to test his faith in God’s promises, he was permitted to pass through various trying experiences and disappointments. One of these was a love affair with Rachel, his cousin, for whom he served his uncle in all fourteen years, seven before he got her as a wife, and seven years afterward; his uncle taking a dishonest advantage of him in the arrangement. (Genesis 29:10-28) Nevertheless, we see Jacob’s patience and persistency, and note with pleasure that he never for a moment seems to have doubted the promises of God that he should be blessed as the inheritor of the Abrahamic promise.

(2) “Not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving” Yahweh; (Romans 12:11) would seem to apply well to Jacob’s career. So energetic was he in Laban’s service, so successful in all that he undertook, so persevering, that his uncle soon considered his service indispensable, and was glad to make favorable terms with him to have him remain and take chief charge of his property. Shrewdly Jacob bargained for an interest in the increase of the flocks and herds, etc., as his salary, and practically became a partner. There was nothing dishonest in his making a bargain with Laban that all the brown sheep and streaked and speckled goats should be his; nor was there anything wrong in his scientifically increasing the proportionate numbers of these colored and speckled animals. (Genesis 30:26-43) Laban became aware, before long, that he had a very capable and shrewd son-in-law, and, moreover, that Yahweh’s blessing was with him. (Genesis 24:50; 30:27) Laban heard the words of his sons, and became displeased with Jacob. Through a message from angel, Jacob was told to return to the land of his birth. (Genesis 31) He surmised, however, not without good cause, that his uncle would use force to restrain him from leaving, or to take from him some of the cattle, etc., which were properly his under the contract, and hence he chose an opportunity for leaving when Laban was absent.

(3) Laban was evidently a powerful sheik, having many servants, and indeed Jacob had become so by this time, as the narrative shows that he was able, shortly after, to give away as a present to his brother Esau, 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 50 head of cattle and 20 donkeys. (Genesis 32:13-15) But when Laban pursued, with the full intention of bringing back Jacob, his family and servants and flocks and herds, God interfered, warning Laban in a dream, saying, “Take heed to thyself from speaking with Jacob from good unto evil.” (Genesis 31:29, Young’s Literal Translation, see also KJV margin). In consequence of this dream, and Jacob’s subsequent fair statement of his side of the case, showing clearly that he had not wronged Laban, but that Laban had repeatedly dealt badly with him, he was let go on his way in peace.

(4) The scriptures reveal the peaceable disposition of Abraham, and also of Isaac, and now we note that Jacob not only left home and abandoned his share in the father’s house, and family property belonging to the birthright he had purchased, rather than quarrel with his brother, but that similarly in dealing with his uncle he refused to quarrel; he submitted himself; he trusted Yahweh to bring out the results rather than to his own strength for a conflict, either mental or physical. Yahweh apparently would have the spiritual Israelites learn this lesson: “Seek peace and pursue it;” (Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11) “Wait for Yahweh, and he will save you.” (Proverbs 20:22) It is not of God’s arrangement that the spiritual Israelites should contend with weapons of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:4); but rather that they should submit themselves to the powers that be (Romans 13:1), learning the lessons which accompany such submission (Romans 5:3); and have developed in them the faith, the trust, the hope in God, necessary to a maintenance of their relationship to him, and growth in his grace. — 1 Peter 3:18.

(5) The journey of Jacob back to the land of his nativity and to the presence of a presumably hostile brother, now wealthy and powerful, and from whose face he had fled for his life some forty years previous (Genesis 27:41-28:5), was another evidence of his faith in God and of his respect for, and valuation of, the promises of God, whose fulfilment could be expected only in a far distant future. Like Abraham, he looked for a city whose builder and maker is God — the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God on earth. He knew that Abraham had died in faith not having realized the promises, and he was willing to likewise patiently wait. — Hebrews 11:10.

Genesis 32:1,2: Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When he saw them, Jacob said, “This is God’s host.” He called the name of that place Mahanaim”

(6) Jacob refers to the angels (messengers) who met him as “God’s host,” or, host of ELOHIM. How the angels met Jacob and appeared to him is not stated in the scriptures. Regardless, the point is that their appearance did give Jacob encouragement in his journey back to Canaan, and Jacob acknowledges these angels as the host of God.

(7) The word Mahanaim means “two camps”, or “double camp”. It is possible that by using this term Jacob referred to two camps: one visible, that is, Jacob and his hosts, and another invisible, that is, God’s angels who were being made visible to Jacob in some manner. Regardless, the thought appears to be that Jacob recognized that the mighty host of angels were with him, which gave him courage.

(8) Genesis 32:3,4: Jacob sent messengers in front of him to Esau, his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. He commanded them, saying, “This is what you shall tell my lord, Esau: ‘This is what your servant, Jacob, says. I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now.'”

(9) By this statement, Jacob shows that this return from Padan-aram to the land of Canaan, the land of promise, can by no means be considered the fulfilment of the promise of possession of the land, the whole land of Canaan, for himself and his posterity for an everlasting possession, as some teach. To such a claim the Apostle Paul gives most emphatic denial, and shows that this promise never was fulfilled to them; nor has it even yet been fulfilled to their posterity, though it most assuredly will be, both to them, and to their posterity, at the time appointed. Paul says “By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he went. By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents [temporary, movable dwellings], with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for the city [an established kingdom] which has the foundations [permanence], whose builder and maker is God… These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and embraced them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth [upon the land (Greek, Ge, Strong’s #1093) they were dwelling in]. — Hebrews 11:9,10,13; see also Genesis 23:4; 47:9; Psalm 119:19.

(10) After forty years’ absence from home, Jacob was ready at Yahweh’s command (Genesis 28:15,20,21; 32:9) to return. Experience had taught him confidence in God and lack of confidence in his uncle Laban. Jacob was now ninety-seven years old, and rich in flocks and herds; and with his wives and twelve sons he started on the then long journey of four hundred and fifty miles, humanly fearful of the consequences, yet, notwithstanding his fears, boldly walking out on the promises of God.

(11) Genesis 32:9-11: Jacob said, “God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, Yahweh, who said to me, ‘Return to your country, and to your relatives, and I will do you good.’ I am not worthy of the least of all the lovingkindnesses, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant; for with just my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he come and strike me, and the mothers with the children.

(12) This is acclaimed as the first recorded prayer in the Bible (at least, it is the first recorded as what we might refer to as a “formal” prayer), and it is beautifully humble, simple and trustful, and was acceptable to God. Verse 9 is a reverent and trustful address to Yahweh, the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac, recalling the divine command and promise of protection. (Genesis 31:3,11-13) Verse 10 disclaims any personal worthiness of this divine favor, not only of present protection and care, but also of “the truth,” the precious promises granted unto him. Then he thankfully acknowledges the blessings already received. While with his staff only he had passed over the Jordan, now he had become two bands. This much is fulfilment of the promise of a numerous posterity — ” as the sand which is on the seashore.” — Genesis 22:17.

(13) In verses 11,12 Jacob tells Yahweh of his fears of his brother, and asks for the promised protection. Thus with childlike simplicity he comes to God as to a loving father.

(14) Genesis 32:24-28: Jacob was left alone, and wrestled with a “man” there until the breaking of the day. When he saw that he didn’t prevail against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh, and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained, as he wrestled. The man said, “Let me go, for the day breaks.” Jacob said, “I won’t let you go, unless you bless me.” He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name will no longer be called ‘Jacob,’ but, ‘Israel,’ for you have fought with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

(15) In answer to Jacob’s fervent, trustful prayer God sent an angel, evidently to comfort and direct him. [The angel is referred to as a “man”, not because he was actually a man, but because he made his appearance as such. We know that this “man” was actually angel because of what we read in Hosea 12:4.] But Jacob was anxious for more than comfort and direction in mere temporal things, and all night therefore he pleaded with the angel for some special evidence of divine favor beyond temporal things. The angel, too, had a blessing in store for him, but delayed its bestowal until the break of day, that Jacob might have a chance of proving the strength of his desire and appreciation of the divine favor. Thus God would have all his children “strive to enter in” to the blessings promised, and to “fight the good fight of faith,” and so lay hold on eternal life. (Luke 13:24; 1 Timothy 6:12) We may not listlessly drift into the divine favor. We must greatly appreciate and earnestly seek for it. (Proverbs 8:17; Luke 15:8; Hebrews 11:6) As another test of Jacob’s faith and earnestness, instead of the desired blessing came a severe affliction — probably what is now known as sciatica, a very painful affliction of the sciatic nerve. But even this affliction did not in the least dissuade Jacob from his desire and determination to have, if possible, some special evidence of divine favor. Still he plead with the angel of Yahweh.

(16) The man said, “Let me go, for the day breaks.” Jacob said, “I won’t let you go, unless you bless me.” Then came the blessing, a blessing worthy of the night’s striving, and one which doubtless made his affliction seem comparatively light. (Genesis 32:26) Like Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7), the affliction became but a reminder of the promise and favor of God, and served doubtless to keep him from being unduly elated.

He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name will no longer be called ‘Jacob,’ but, ‘Israel,’ for you have fought with God and with men, and have prevailed.” — Genesis 32:27,28.

(17) The angel tells Jacob that his name is being changed to Israel, which means “a prince with God”. In these words was couched the future glory and exaltation of Jacob as a prince in the earthly, visible phase of the Kingdom of God. “You [will] see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:28; Matthew 8:11. See also Psalm 45:16) Jacob then asks for the name of this angel of Yahweh, that he might hold him in lasting and grateful remembrance.

(18) Some trinitarians point to verse 27 and say that Jacob actually fought with God Almighty who supposedly was the second person of the trinity (Jesus) who appeared to Jacob here. It is then assumed that Jacob actually wrestled here with God Almighty, since the trinity holds that Jesus is God Almighty. Young’s Literal Translation of Genesis 22:28 reads: “And he saith, `Thy name is no more called Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast been a prince with God and with men, and dost prevail.'” We are not to think that Jacob had power of himself to prevail against God Almighty, as it might seem from some translations. The proper thought is that Jacob obtained power from God to prevail against the angel. While Matthew Henry seems to think that Jacob actually wrestled with God Almighty, he does state: “It was not in his own strength that he wrestled, nor by his own strength that he prevailed, but in and by strength derived from Heaven. That of Job illustrates this (Job 23:6), Will he plead against me with his great power? No (had the angel done so, Jacob had been crushed), but he will put strength in me; and by that strength Jacob had power over the angel, Hosea 12:4.”*
==========
*Henry, Matthew. “Commentary on Genesis 32”. “Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible”.
http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries/MatthewHenryComplete/mhc-com.cgi?book=ge&chapter=032.
1706.

(19) “Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ He said, ‘Why is it that you ask what my name is?’ He blessed him there.” (Genesis 32:29) The angel of Yahweh wished Jacob to understand that the blessing was from Yahweh God, whose messenger he was, and therefore he did not tell his name. The case is parallel to that of Manoah and the angel that visited him: “And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass I may do thee honor? And the angel of [Yahweh] said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” (Judges 13:17,18, King James Version) Thus the true messengers of God always seek to give the highest honor to God, and decline it for themselves. — See Revelation 19:10; John 14:28; Acts 3:12.

Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for, he said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” – Genesis 32:30.

(20) How did Jacob “see” God face to face? We are not think that Yahweh actually has a face as a man, and Jacob literally looked upon the face of God Almighty, for Yahweh says: “Man may not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) “No one [amongst mankind] has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) Therefore we reason that Jacob did not actually see the form of God face to face. What he did see was God as represented in the angel of God. “And Jacob said unto Joseph, God almighty appeared unto me at Luz.” (Genesis 48:3, KJV) Hosea 12:4 tells the means by which he “appeared”: “He [Jacob] had power over the angel, and prevailed; He wept, and made supplication to him.” Thus the one with whom Jacob actually dealt with was an angel of Yahweh, not Yahweh himself.

(21) The word translated God in verse 30 is the Hebrew “elohim”, which has as a basic meaning, “power, strength, might”, and used here it would mean a superior might, power. This word is applied to angels in Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7. Thus it is also possble that by using the word “elohim”, Jacob was referring to the angel, one of superior might, whom he thought surely had more power than him, thus we wonders that he is still alive. And as we have pointed out, Hosea 12:4 agrees that it was angel.

(22) Many of our trinitarian neighbors like to “see” in this verse trinity, claiming that the “angel of Yahweh” is actually Yahweh, that is, Jesus, whom they suppose is actually Yahweh himself. Actually, anything about a trinity has to be read into the verse, for there is certainly nothing there about three persons in one God.
See our study: “The Angel of Yahweh“.

(23) Thus Jacob was blessed again as at Bethel. The darkest seasons of his life were the special occasions for the manifestation of divine favor. And so the children of God ever find it when in their fears and perplexities they come to God for rest and consolation.

“E’en sorrow, touched by heaven, grows bright
With more than rapture’s ray,
As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day.”

Luke 1:41,42 – Elizabeth’s Devotion

Text: Luke 1:41,42: It happened, when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She called out with a loud voice, and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

The scripture says (Luke 1:6) that Elizabeth and Zechariah were both “righteous”, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of Yahweh. We are not to think that they were justified, made righteous, by keeping the Law, for as Paul stated, “by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in [Yahweh’s] sight” (Romans 3:20), and “a man is not justified by the works of the law”. (Galatians 2:16) Thus, like Abraham, their being “righteous” would have to be by faith (Romans 4:1-14), faith in Yahweh and the promises of God, of which the Law is a shadow. (Colossians 2:16,17; Hebrews 8:4,5; 10:1,4,10) By means of their faith, as well as by a demonstration of that faith by their works, they were walking “blamelessly” in those commandments.

The couple were childless, and were evidently beyond the age of having children. (Luke 1:7) Zechariah was a priest of the the division of Abijah. Elizabeth was a daughter of the tribe of Aaron. As Zechariah went about his priestly duties, an angel of Yahweh appeared to him who told him that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were to have a son, whose name was to be “John”. (Luke 1:11-13) The name “John” (A common Anglization of the Hebrew form is “Yochanan”) means “Yah[weh] is gracious”. This name is in harmony with the message that John was to proclaim, as we will see later.

No doubt, the message to Zechariah from the angel Gabriel was meant to be a reward for the past faithfulness of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and this news was to meant bring joy to Zechariah and Elizabeth. (Luke 1:14) Nevertheless, Zechariah evidently forgot the power of Yahweh, as had been demonstrated in the scriptures (Genesis 18:9-14; 1 Samuel 1:5-27; 2 Kings 4:14-17), and thus expressed doubt concerning what the angel Gabriel had said to him. (Luke 1:18) Because of his disbelief, Gabriel said he would not be able to speak until the time when John was born, fulfilling the words that Gabriel had given to Zechariah. — Luke 1:19,20.

Elizabeth is described in the Bible as a relative of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus. (Luke 1:36) Although we are not told in the Greek manuscripts exactly what this relationship was, the King James Version renders the word for “relative” (Strong’s #4773) as “cousin”.

Elizabeth, when she had conceived, immediately demonstrated her faith in Yahweh and devotion to Yahweh by saying: ‘Yahweh has done to me in the days in which he looked at me, to take away my reproach among men.’ This was certainly a demonstration of humility. Rather than saying, “How righteous I am that God would give me a son”, she spoke of the reproach that had come upon her through her husband’s disbelief.

Gabriel said concerning Elizabeth’s son: “He will be great in the sight of Yahweh, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink.” (Luke 1:15) This does not say that he would “great” in the eyes of men, but rather that he would be great in the sight of Yahweh. Except for his disciples, and those who became disciples of Jesus, during John obtained no great standing before men. Indeed, he was treated as criminal by Herod. Jesus, however, stated that there was no greater prophet than John the Baptist. — Matthew 11:11.

When Mary visited Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s faith and devotion was again shown in her attitude toward Mary. When she heard the greeting of Mary, we are told that her unborn child leaped in her womb, and Mary was filled with the holy spirit, the spirit of devotion, dedication. Again, she did not express any attitude of religious superiority, but said to Mary: “”Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42,43) By her words, we know that there was some knowledge spread concerning the birth of the promised one, the one whom David referred to as “my lord.” (Psalm 110:1) Likewise, Elizabeth felt favored to have the mother of the one she called “my lord” to visit her. Rather than extolling herself, Elizabeth had the proper spirit within her, and spoke well of the blessing that Mary had, and at the same time showed her devotion to Yahweh and the one promised by Yahweh, saying: “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of the things which have been spoken to her from Yahweh!” (Luke 1:45) It has been suggested that Elizabeth was comparing Mary’ belief with Zechariah’s unbelief in this statement.

Gabriel, in his proclamation to Zechariah, made some reference to several prophecies, as well as a type, in the Old Testament that was to be be fulfilled in Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s promised son. Gabriel stated concerning John: “He will turn many of the children of Israel to Yahweh, their God.” (Luke 1:16) Gabriel here refers to the prophecy of Malachi 4:5,6. In saying that John would go before the “face” of Yahweh in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), Gabriel is saying that Elijah in some way serves as a type of the work that John did, in “spirit and power”. The work concerning the “face” of Yahweh is recorded in Malachi 3:1. Although most translations fail to use the word “face” in Malachi, the Hebrew word for “face”, often transliterated as “Paniym”, is in the Hebrew text. The prophecy in Malachi foretells that John the Baptist “would prepare the way before my face”, that is, before the face of Yahweh, and thus Gabriel speaks of John as going before, in the presence of, the “face” of Yahweh. The “face” of Yahweh represents the favor, the kindness, of Yahweh, which when his face is turned favorable, averts his wrath. (Numbers 6:25; 1 Kings 13:6; 2 Kings 13:4; 1 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 33:12; Psalm 4:6; 13:1; 30:7; 80:19; 105:4; Isaiah 8:17; 54:8) This favor, grace, of Yahweh is represented in the name John, which means “Yah[weh] is gracious.” John prepared the way before Yahweh’s face, that is, he softened Yahweh’s face toward the people. This he did by proclaiming to the people a message of repentance toward Yahweh. To the extent that his message was received by those who had a heart of repentance, John the Baptist did make ready a people prepared, made ready, for Yahweh. (Luke 1:17) A people made ready before the face of Yahweh was needed as a people ready to receive the other “messenger” that Yahweh was sending, that is, our Lord Jesus, who was also foretold to as the “messenger of the covenant” in Malachi 3:1.

Background scripture from the World English Bible translation, with the Holy Name supplied.

Luke 1:5-24,39-45

Quote
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the priestly division of Abijah. He had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of [Yahweh]. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years. 8 Now it happened, while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to enter into the temple of [Yahweh] and burn incense. 10 The whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 An angel of [Yahweh] appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell on him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zacharias, because your request has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 You will have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of [Yahweh], and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the children of Israel to [Yahweh], their God. 17 He will go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for [Yahweh].” 18 Zacharias said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” 19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20 Behold, you will be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things will happen, because you didn’t believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” 21 The people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marveled while he delayed in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple. He continued making signs to them, and remained mute. 23 It happened, when the days of his service were fulfilled, he departed to his house. 24 After these days Elizabeth, his wife, conceived, and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus has [Yahweh] done to me in the days in which he looked at me, to take away my reproach among men.” …

39 Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah, 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 It happened, when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She called out with a loud voice, and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came into my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy! 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of the things which have been spoken to her from [Yahweh]!”

Related studies by others (I do not necessarily agree with all conclusions presented by others):

The Dawn’s study on this can be found at:
http://dawnbible.com/2008/0812ib14.htm

Some related studies:

Preparing for a Kingdom

The Forerunner of Christ

Elias Shall First Come

Baptism of Jesus and Announcement of His Work

Luke 1:26-36,46-55 – Mary’s Commitment

Mary said, “My soul magnifies [Yahweh]. My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” — Luke 1:46,47.

How wonderfully happy Mary must have been to know that she had been chosen by the Most High of the universe to give birth to one who had so long promised! It was imperative that this promised one be born into this world, but not “of this world”, as is the case with the rest of mankind (John 8:23), if the promised one could be savior sent by Yahweh. None of Adam’s progeny could redeem himself or his brother from the crooked condition that God placed mankind under due to Adam’s sin. (Psalm 49:7; Ecclesiastes 1:15; 7:13; Romans 1:24,26; 3:9; 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22) There is no new creation (Ecclesiastes 1:9) that comes from the present source of Adam’s offspring, since all of Adam’s offspring, as such, cannot be made straight.  (Ecclesiastes 1:15) It is only by being reckonedly transferred from the offspring of Adam to being the offspring of God that those who were once offspring of Adam, who were once sons of disobedience and wrath, become “not of this world”, but “sons of God,” as was Adam before Adam sinned. — Ephesians 2:2,3; Luke 3:18; John 1:12; 17:14,16.

Mary correctly attributed salvation to Yahweh, her God. This is true because Yahweh is the author, the source, of the salvation that is provided by means of Jesus. Yahweh is the provider of salvation, since it was Yahweh who prepared the sinless body of Jesus. (Hebrews 10:5) Likewise, the very name of Jesus (Joshua, meaning “Yah is savior”) attributes salvation to Yahweh.

Jesus’ birth is emphasized as not being of the source of this world in the words of Luke 1:32: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.” He was the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15), the seed of the promise made to Abraham by faith, and, by Jesus’ unswerving faithfulness to Yahweh (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 3:2; 5:8,9; 13:8: Revelation 1:5), Jesus became that seed of Abraham, having the offsetting price necessary to redeem mankind (1 Timothy 2:5,6), and thus fulfill the promise that through the seed of Abraham all the nations would be blessed.– Genesis 28:14.

Mary proclaims the holiness of Yahweh’s name. (Luke 1:49) This is probably in reference to Psalm 111:9: “He has sent redemption to his people. He has ordained his covenant forever. His name is holy and awesome!” The covenant referred to is the Law Covenant through Moses. That covenant is forever. Nevertheless, that ordained covenant resulted not in redemption, but in a further condemnation of the people of Israel. Jesus, rather than setting aside that covenant, came for fulfill, establish, that covenant in accordance with holiness of the name of Yahweh. By his obedience, he not only established the justness of God’s law covenant, but also had the means by which he could offer a sacrifice to release those under the Law and its condemnation.

The Dawn’s treatment of this lesson:

http://dawnbible.com/2008/0812ib07.htm

A brief comment regarding Jesus as the “seed of the woman”:  We do not conclude that Jesus’ being the “seed of woman” is meant to say that Jesus was the actually the offspring of a woman as opposed to being the offspring of a man, at least not in the sense that Jesus had received the genes of a woman but not man, but rather it signifies that he was to become the offspring of the promise of God, especially as given through the covenant with Abraham, which covenant is symbolized by a woman. (Galatians 4:24,25) He was, however, the offspring of a woman in the sense that he came forth from the womb of Mary (Galatians 4:4), and thus was counted in the lineage of David.

See our study on the Seed of David

Scriptures from the World English with the holy name supplied:

Luke 1:26
Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
Luke 1:27
to a virgin pledged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
Luke 1:28
Having come in to her, the angel said, “Rejoice, you highly favored one! [Yahweh] is with you. Blessed are you among women!”
Luke 1:29
But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what kind of salutation this might be.
Luke 1:30
The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Luke 1:31
Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name ‘Jesus.’
Luke 1:32
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. [Yahweh] God will give to him the throne of his father, David,
Luke 1:33
and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end of his kingdom.”
Luke 1:34
Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, seeing I am a virgin?”
Luke 1:35
The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one which is born from you will be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:36
Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
Luke 1:37
For no word from God will be void of power.”
Luke 1:38
Mary said, “Behold, the handmaid of [Yahweh]; be it to me according to your word.” The angel departed from her.

Luke 1:46
Mary said, “My soul magnifies [Yahweh].
Luke 1:47
My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,
Luke 1:48
For he has looked at the humble state of his handmaid. For behold, from now on, all generations will call me blessed.
Luke 1:49
For he who is mighty has done to me great things. Holy is his name.
Luke 1:50
His mercy is for generations of generations on those who fear him.
Luke 1:51
He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.
Luke 1:52
He has put down princes from their thrones. And has exalted the lowly.
Luke 1:53
He has filled the hungry with good things. He has sent the rich away empty.
Luke 1:54
He has given help to Israel, his servant, that he might remember mercy
Luke 1:55
(As he spoke to our fathers) Toward Abraham and his seed forever.”

1 Corinthians 1:20-31 – Boast in Yahweh

{Jeremiah 9:23, RLIV} Thus says Jehovah, “Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, don’t let the rich man glory in his riches;

{Jeremiah 9:24, RLIV} but let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am Jehovah who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight,” says Jehovah.

{1 Corinthians 1:20, RLIV} Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the lawyer of this world? Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of this world?<

{1 Corinthians 1:31, RLIV} that, according as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.”

THINGS highly esteemed among men are wisdom, power and riches. But it is not the wisdom that comes down from above, nor the power of godliness, nor the true heavenly riches that moth cannot destroy nor rust corrupt that is sought after by the world. (Luke 12:33) Men of the world have not learned the value of these, and therefore they ‘spend their strength for vanity’ (Isaiah 49:4), and they “labor for that which does not satisfy.” (Isaiah 55:2) “The reverence of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, Rotherham); the faith that lays hold upon the might of Jehovah is the beginning of power (Psalm 68:35; Ephesians 6:10); and the poverty that freely surrenders all things to the will and service of God is the beginning of true riches. (Proverbs 10:22; 13:7; 22:4; Ephesians 1:7,8,18; 2:7) Worldly wisdom, which does not have its foundation in the reverence of Jehovah, tends to self-exaltation and pride (Ecclesiastes 8:1; Isaiah 47:10; Mark 7:20-23; 1 John 2:16; 1 Corinthians 3:19; 8:1,2; James 3:14,15): power in the hands of the ungodly tends to haughtiness and overbearing selfishness (Proverbs 30:12-14; Ecclesiastes 4:1-4; 5:8) and riches, among those who have not learned from God the responsibilities of stewardship, tend only to dwarf the soul, rendering it impervious to the noble sentiments of love and brotherly kindness. — Proverbs 28:20,22; Ecclesiastes 5:10-12; 1 Timothy 6:9,10.

(2) The man who, by dint of labor and strife, succeeds in a measure in gaining one or all of these earthly prizes generally considers himself a wise man; for he does not realize how transient are the treasures, how unsatisfactory they will prove in the end, what snares are in them, nor how great is the value of the heavenly treasure which he has missed while grasping after fleeting earthly things. — Matthew 13:22.

(3) To the worldly who have never known the treasures of divine grace these earthly things are of paramount importance; but to the child of God, if possessed, the things of this world only increase the responsibilities of his stewardship, for they are not his, but Jehovah’s, all being included in his consecration. (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27; 1 Timothy 6:17-19) Whatever, therefore, a Christian has of human learning — education — must be held in subservience to the wisdom of God. No human theories or philosophies that conflict with the Word of God may be entertained. The Word of Jehovah must be the end of all controversy when human reasonings come in conflict with divine wisdom, for the wisdom of this world that arrays itself in opposition to the heavenly wisdom is “foolishness with God,” and will by and by be brought to most ignominious humiliation. (1 Corinthians 1:19; 3:19; Isaiah 29:14) So also the human might that lifts its puny arm in defiance of Jehovah’s power shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy, and the hoarded riches will offer no reward in the day of wrath. — Proverbs 6:15; 11:4; 29:1.

(4) What folly is it then — especially for any one who has been enlightened by the truth, and made a child and heir of God — to forget the importance and value of the unseen heavenly treasure and turn to minding earthly things. For any to glory in such a course is to glory in their shame and folly. But let it not be so with the one who loves God: “He who glories, let him glory in Jehovah.” (1 Corinthians 1:31, New King James Version) “Let him who glories glory in this,” says Jehovah, “that he has understanding, and knows me.” (Jeremiah 9:24) “And this is life eternal,” said Jesus, “that they should know you you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” — John 17:3.

(5) This is the knowledge that does not puff up (1 Corinthians 8:1), the wisdom that comes down from above. (James 3:17) The beginning of this wisdom is indeed the reverence of Jehovah. Nor can we grow in this wisdom except by continued growth in the reverence of Jehovah. If to any degree we cease to reverence supremely Jehovah’s words, or if we cease to cultivate his acquaintance through our privilege of communion and fellowship with him in prayer, in the study of his Word, meditation upon his glorious character and teachings, and in obedience to his will, to the extent of our neglect we fail to realize the blessings of that wisdom that comes down from above.

(6) But if, in the use of these privileges, we open our hearts to receive all that divine grace has in store for us, then, indeed, we may glory in Jehovah. Let such a one “glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me.” To thus know Jehovah is not merely to know of him, to know something of his works and ways, but it is to know him by that intimate fellowship and communion which, by a living faith, seals the testimonies of his Word upon our hearts and makes us to realize that they are ours personally, that Jehovah himself is our personal friend and helper and counselor and guide. We thus become acquainted with his spirit, his principles and methods of action, — we understand him, — we know how to interpret his providences, to mark his leadings, to observe his attitude toward us and thus daily to walk with him. Thus also we are led to a fuller appreciation of Jehovah’s righteousness and of his loving kindness, which will in due time through his Son, Jesus, establish justice in all the earth. (Psalm 33:5; Isaiah 42:4) Well, indeed, may we glory in Jehovah and in the fact of his great condescension to us personally, when thus we come to understand and know him.

(7) In this blessed sense of the divine love and care, we may say in the words of the Psalmist, “My soul shall boast in Jehovah. The humble shall hear of it, and be glad. Oh magnify Jehovah with me. Let us exalt his name together. I sought Jehovah, and he answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to him, and were radiant. Their faces shall never be covered with shame. This poor man cried, and Jehovah heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of Jehovah encamps round about those who fear him, And delivers them. Oh taste and see that Jehovah is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Oh fear [reverence] Jehovah, you his saints, For there is no lack with those who fear [reverence] him.” — Psalm 34:1-9.

(8) How precious is this experience of the child of God! but it can never be the experience of a proud heart; “for God resists the proud, and gives grace [his favor] to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5,6.) It is hard for those who are rich in the wisdom or power or wealth of this world to do this. (Matthew 19:24-26.) It was hard for the scribes and Pharisees who were rich in titles and honors and praise of men (Matthew 6:5; 23:6; 12:38; Mark 12:38,39; Luke 11:43); it was hard for the whole Jewish nation who were proud of being the seed of Abraham to whom pertained the promises of God (John 8:33); it was hard for the Greeks who were proud of their worldly wisdom and intellectual attainments (1 Corinthians 1:22,23); it was hard for the Romans who were proud of their power and prestige among the nations. And it is hard today for all those who have pride in any thing. (Psalm 10:3,4) It is hard for all religionists whose pride in the sectarian religious systems of Christendom blinds their eyes to so much that is in the Bible; it is hard also for those who boast in human philosophies and science, falsely so called (Colossians 2:18; 1 Timothy 6:20); who are proud of being inventors of something new and strange, and who desire to be thought great and to lead men after them; it is hard for all those who reverence the opinions of men more than the words of Jehovah. All those who either are rich or desire to be rich in the things of this present life, and specially those who are “rich” in a good opinion of themselves, or in self will, find it hard to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. Indeed, the apostle intimates that the greatest battle of each one coming to a knowledge of the truth is along this line; for it is after pointing to the severe humiliation of our Lord Jesus that he says, “So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation [in like manner] with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you [by this severe discipline, this humbling process] both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” — Philippians 2:12,13.

(9) Those who have endeavored in all sincerity to do so have always found the grace of God sufficient for them; but very few are ever disposed to make the attempt. To all the worldly-wise the preaching of Christ’s death and its purpose is foolishness, and they have no disposition to take up their stakes daily and follow Christ.

(10) It is for this reason that “not many are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, and not many noble,” are called to share with the Lord in the glory of his Kingdom. They are generally so engrossed with the things of the present life –its pursuits, its cares, its pleasures, etc. — that they have no ear for the Lord’s call. They are not humble enough even to hear the call; much less are they humble enough to obey it and to walk the narrow way of self-sacrifice in which the Lord Jesus leads.

(11) “But God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame those who are wise. God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; 28 and God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) How truly the wise are being confounded today by the power of the truth in the hands of the humblest of God’s consecrated children! Systems of error which are the growth of centuries are put to confusion and are tottering before it, and the sages of all the sects are troubled by it; for it is becoming more and more apparent to all men that “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” — Isaiah 29:14.

(12) Why has God chosen these weak, inferior instruments for his great work? why does he not employ the eloquent tongues, the pens of ready writers, and the prestige of great names? Paul tells us why. It is in order “no flesh should boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:29) The great work of vanquishing sin and establishing righteousness in the earth is the work of Jehovah being accomplished through Jesus: no human power is adequate to the emergencies of the case. Yet God is pleased to allow his power to operate through any human instrument that is meet for his use — that is, that can be used without injury to itself. If God were to work his wonders through those whose hearts are inclined to pride, that pride would grow, and would arrogate to self the glory that belongs to God, instead of appreciating the honor of being a servant of God, an instrument in his mighty hand — “for the Master’s use made meet.” — Hymns of Dawn 229

(13) God’s use of even the weakest instruments, of those having even a very small measure of talent for his service, sometimes proves an exaltation too great, and that which was a blessing becomes a curse through pride and vain-glory. Such is the perversity of human nature, and such the subtlety of the Adversary in gaining the advantage, that the very texts above cited sometimes become a stumbling-block to many who are not only poor financially, but who are deficient in intellect and education, and who even lack instruction in the divine Word. They forget that the Lord said, “Blessed are you poor”, that is, those who were poor (or became so) as his disciples. (Luke 6:20); or, as Matthew 5:3 records it, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” And they forget that the ignorant as well as the learned, the poor as well as the rich, can become “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” (Colossians 2:18) It is sad to see “a man [who] thinks himself to be something when he is nothing” (Galatians 6:3), thus deceiving himself, — but specially so, when even the rudiments of education and Christlikeness are lacking. (Hebrews 5:12) We believe that modesty and simplicity are traits to be cultivated by rich and poor alike, who are blessed with a knowledge of the truth, and that any ‘confounding of the mighty’ (1 Corinthians 1:27) should be done kindly and in meekness (Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:25), and not in a combative spirit or with a show of gratification over their defeat.

(14) In relation to our topic, above almost every thing else, therefore, beloved, let us guard well our humility. It is only when we are little in our own eyes that God can use us with safety to ourselves. And yet he does not shield us from every test of fidelity. If therefore Jehovah gives you a little exaltation today, a little encouragement of success in his service, receive it humbly, meekly remembering your own unworthiness and insufficiency except as God is pleased to work through you; and be just as ready to receive the humiliations of tomorrow as necessary for your discipline and the proper balancing of your character. If the success of yesterday makes you fret under the humiliation of today, then beware: you are not as roundly developed spiritually as you should be. Whatever may be the triumphs of the truth through us, let us always remember that we are among “the things that are not.” (1 Corinthians 1:28) Let us endeavor therefore to make the Apostle Paul’s experience our own, who said, — “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. I can do all [these] things through Christ, who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:11-13.

(15) In God’s dealings with his people at all times we can see his care in guarding them against pride and self-sufficiency. If he would choose Israel to be his peculiar people, he permits them first to be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years (Acts 7:6), and then with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm he gathers them to the promised land, but even then, not before allowing them to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses, too, the chosen deliverer, was of humble birth. He was slow of speech, and needed Aaron to supplement this weakness. And Paul had his “thorn in the flesh,” from which Jehovah was not pleased to deliver him, though three times he asked Jehovah to remove it; and Jehovah said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (Holman Christian Standard Bible translation), that is, the power of God in Christ, operating through this imperfect earthen vessel, will be more manifest to men than if the vessel itself were a perfect and polished one. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) In that case men might ascribe the greatness of the work to the talent of Paul, and by and by conclude that since Paul is only a man it is only presumption for him to assume to teach other men, etc. But if the power is seen to be of God, and merely working through Paul as a ready instrument — meek, willing and energetic — then the testimony of the grace of God will be weighty with them: and so it was].

(16) To this explanation and assurance from God Paul meekly replied, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.” — 2 Corinthians 12:8,9.

(17) Jehovah with unerring wisdom has always chosen the meek for every great work. Moses was the meekest man in all the earth. (Numbers 12:3) Meekness was a marked characteristic of all the prophets and ancient worthies. The Lord Jesus was meek and lowly of heart (Matthew 11:29), who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor. (2 Corinthians 8:9) He was of humble birth, born in a manger and reared in the despised town of Nazareth, that he might be called a Nazarene. The twelve apostles were mostly plain men, most of them were fishermen; and so also the whole Gospel Church — not the church nominal, but the true ones written in heaven — have generally been the poor of this world, who were willing to be humbled yet more and more, that the power of Christ might be manifested through them.

(18) Let every one therefore humble himself under the mighty hand of God. This is not the time for exaltation, but for humiliation and trial. The exaltation will come in due time to the faithful. Let our present glory be in that we understand and know the Lord, and in that he condescends to make use of these poor earthen vessels in his service, that it may be manifest to all men that the excellency of the power is of God, and not of men. — 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Paragraphs are numbered to aid group study, as well as for reference purposes. This lesson may be freely reproduced for non-profit purposes.

Luke 7:18-28 – The Disappointed Prophet’s Wise Course

LUKE 7:18-28
(World English used throughout, unless otherwise stated.)

“He has done all things well.” — Mark 7:37.

WHILE Jesus was performing many miracles, making numerous disciples, and meeting with comparatively little opposition, things were going very differently with his cousin, John the Baptizer. Yet this was only in accordance with what John himself had prophesied, saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) John was in prison, about 120 miles from where Jesus was laboring so successfully. (Matthew 14:7) To be shut up in a dark dungeon of the kind usual at that time, and to have our Lord proceeding with his work, and raising no voice of protest on his behalf, and exercising none of his mighty power for his deliverance, probably seemed very strange to John — especially in view of his expectations respecting the work of the Messiah — that he would be a great earthly general and king, in harmony with the general Jewish expectations.

Luke 7:19 John, calling to himself two of his disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are you he who comes, or should we look for another?”
Luke 7:20 When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptizer has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you he who comes, or should we look for another?'”

We see how readily John might have permitted doubts and fears to enter his mind. He evidently had become doubtful of God’s providential dealings in the past and felt disappointed in heart and hope for the present and for the future; but notwithstanding the great disappointment he felt, his faith continued its firm hold upon Yahweh. This is indicated in his sending of his disciples to Jesus, to make inquiry, and also in the character of the inquiry. He does not say, Is this whole matter a farce, and are we deluded? On the contrary, his question was a sound one, and expressed the conviction that thus far Yahweh had been leading, and yet, due to his circumstance, he may have had some doubts concerning himself as a prophet, and that his cousin was actually the promised Messiah. (Luke 7:19) There is no evidence that John the Baptizer understood that Jesus’ coming at that time was not to restore the kingdom to Israel, but rather to offer himself in sacrifice for the world of mankind.* Much concerning the kingdom was not revealed until after Jesus died, and the holy spirit was sent to the disciples as the spirit of truth. (John 7:39; 16:13) The spirit of truth led the apostles into all the truths concerning Christ and what he said, and thereby the faith was delivered to the saints. (John 14:26; 16:4-13; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Timothy 2:2; Jude 1:3) John would therefore not have understood that the restoration of all things would be some time in the future. (Acts 3:21-23) Thus, John’s expectations were probably similar those disciples as recorded in Acts 1:6. Seeing himself in prison, and not seeing Jesus restoring the kingdom as expected, John would surely be puzzled concerning this, and would begin to wonder if perhaps something was not wrong, and thus he would have felt the need of reassurance from Jesus.
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*See our study:
The Restoration of All Things

Luke 7:21 In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits; and to many who were blind he gave sight.
Luke 7:22 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John the things which you have seen and heard: that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
Luke 7:23 Blessed is he who is not offended by me.”
Luke 7:24 When John’s messengers had departed, he began to tell the multitudes about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
Luke 7:25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are gorgeously dressed, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.

Our Lord, it will be noticed, did not answer John’s question directly, but he did give John to understand distinctly that the work he was then doing was the very work which had been foretold in the prophets, and the proper thing to be done at that time. While John’s messengers were with Jesus a number of miracles were performed in their sight, and Jesus sent them back to John with instructions that they bear witness to him of the work of Yahweh progressing in his hands, and to say to John that while the opportunities to stumble at Jesus, his work and his words, were many, and while many would stumble at these, as the prophet had declared (Isaiah 8:14), yet a special blessing would rest upon all who would not stumble, but whose faith in the Messiah would continue, despite various disappointments of expectation respecting his work and their fulfillments — through misapprehension of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the divine plan, which, as the heavens are higher than the earth, were higher than human conception could have foreseen. For instance, what Jew could have thought for a moment of the still higher than Jewish expectations of the Kingdom — of the spiritual Kingdom-class to be selected first before the establishment of the earthly kingdom, and to be sharers with Messiah in his glory, honor and immortality?

All of Yahweh’s faithful servants need to remember the same lessons which were thus forcefully impressed upon John: they need to remember that when sometimes matters turn out very differently with themselves than what they had expected, when they receive injuries, reproaches and oppression, as the rewards of faithfulness to duty and to truth, it does not mean that God has forgotten them, nor that they were misled in their previous service to Yahweh; nor does it mean that Yahweh has changed his plan; nor that he is careless or indifferent respecting their condition. True, their first thought should be whether or not present unfavorable conditions are in the nature of chastisements or the results of any misdoings on their part, or failures to serve Yahweh in his own way, but if they find their course to be harmonious with the divine will and Word they should at once rest their faith upon Yahweh, and conclude that God knows better than they how to manage his own work. Then while thankful to be used in that work for a time they should nevertheless be pleased, if it were Yahweh’s will, to be set aside for a time — perhaps for the good of others, or perhaps for their own training in the school of experience, and in the learning of lessons of patience and of faith.

But such a resting in Yahweh, such a centering of life in him, can be enjoyed only by those who have made considerable progress, who have run a considerable distance in the way of Yahweh, and who have already been exercised under Yahweh’s providences, and have learned many lessons in his school. This, however, is the condition which all of the Messiah’s true followers are to strive to attain, as the only one thoroughly pleasing to Yahweh. The proper course of all God’s servants when perplexed is the one followed by John, namely, to go to Yahweh through Jesus with the perplexity — not doubtingly, but inquiringly — and be set at rest by his Word. We may not be able to hear Yahweh’s words with our own ears, but we can receive it second hand as did John, — through the testimonies of the apostles and prophets, by whose writings God has provided in advance replies to all proper queries.

The question arises, was John imprisoned on account of officiousness — on account of trying to mind Herod’s business? Or was he imprisoned because of his faithfulness in the discharge of that duty? Was it right or was it wrong for him to reprove the king, and to say to him that it was not lawful for him to take as his wife his brother Philip’s wife? There is no question that Herod was in the wrong, and that John’s expression on the subject was a correct one, and that Herod was living in adultery, but the question is, Was this any of John’s business? Did he need to meddle with the king’s affairs, and thus get himself into trouble? And if it was John’s duty to reprove Herod on this subject, was it not the duty of our Lord Jesus to have done the same, and in addition to have uttered a protest against the imprisonment of John, and in general to have raised a great hubbub over the injustice being done by the wicked ruler? And if John was right in this matter was our Lord Jesus wrong in not following the same course? Or if Jesus was right in not following John’s course in reproving Herod, does it prove that John erred in giving the reproof?

We answer that our Lord’s conduct is certainly to be considered as above reproach, since in him was no sin (1 John 3:5), neither was lying deceit found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:22); but this does not prove sin on John’s part in following a different course. We are to remember that in many respects John and his ministry differed widely from our Lord and his ministry. For instance, the uncouth skin-girdle which John wore was very different from the seamless robe which the Lord wore; and the Scriptures call attention to the fact that John lived a very abstemious life, “neither eating nor drinking” (Luke 7:33) ordinary food, but practicing a continual fasting or self-denial as respects these comforts, while our Lord Jesus came “both eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34), and he attended wedding feasts, and banquets made in his honor. (Luke 5:29; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1; John 2:1,2) The lesson is that these grand characters each fulfilled his own mission, according to the divine arrangement, but that they had different missions. John’s mission was toward preaching repentance toward Yahweh respecting the Law Covenant given by Moses, for we read that the Law and the Prophets were until John the Baptizer. (Luke 16:16) Thus, he was pre-eminently that of a reprover and reformer, and we are to understand that as a prophet he was supernaturally guided in respect to the various features of the course which he took. Our Lord’s mission, on the contrary, was a different one; he was gathering to himself those whom John’s ministry served to arouse to righteousness and to zeal to know and do Yahweh’s will regarding the grace to be given through Jesus’ sacrifice. — John 1:17.

At the same, we should not overlook the preaching of repentance toward Yahweh (Acts 20:21; Hebrews 6:1), but not based on the Law as John preached, but on grace. This is another subject in itself, and we will leave this for another time.

JOHN MORE THAN A PROPHET

Luke 7:26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet.
Luke 7:27 This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, Who will prepare your way before you.’
Luke 7:28 “For I tell you, among those who are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptizer, yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

The multitude who stood about must have heard the message which John’s disciples brought to Jesus, and no doubt queried within themselves, if not audibly, Is John losing faith in Jesus as the Messiah? If John is a prophet himself, should he not be informed by God on this subject, without sending to inquire of Jesus? Does not this, in connection with the fact that John did no miracles, prove that John was not a prophet, but merely some sort of a reformer, possibly self-appointed? Our Lord seems to have detected such a questioning, and hence, after John’s disciples were gone, so that his words could not be construed as a sop of flattery to hold John’s confidence, he delivered quite a eulogy upon his faithful forerunner. What were they expect in John — a weak, pliable character, easily swayed by every wind of doctrine and fancy, as a reed is easily swayed by the wind? Those who get such an impression respecting his character are deceiving themselves. On the contrary, Jesus declared that he was a prophet, yes, and more than a prophet — he was a special ambassador and messenger of God at that present time, to do an introductory work related to the Kingdom which Jesus was then preaching. John the Baptizer is referred to by Malachi the prophet (Malach 3:1). Indeed, Jesus declared that there has never arisen a greater prophet than John, and yet Jesus said to his audience that the least one in the Kingdom-class is greater than he; since John the Baptist, belonging to the Law and Prophets, did not belong to the Kingdom-class that was being preached. “The law and the prophets were until John” (and thus John was the last of the prophets under the Law Covenant), and since then the Kingdom of heaven is preached, that now whosoever will of this divinely favored nation may press his way and gain an entrance into it, so as to become not only a son of God, but also with the prospect of being a joint-heir with Christ in the Kingdom. (Romans 8:17) Such a prospect was never offered to John the Baptizer, nor to any of the prophets or faithul ones of old. — Matthew 11:13; Luke 16:16; Romans 8:17.

Note in the text the clearness of our Lord’s words respecting the distinction between the new institution which he was founding and the old institution founded by Moses, and which was then coming to an end, giving place to the new. The apostle shows that the call of was extended to the Gentiles during this Gospel age to the prospect of becoming a joint heirship in the Kingdom as members of the Kingdom-class is because those of the Jews ready to receive the Kingdom favor upon Yahweh’s terms were fewer than the pre-determined number. The extension of this call to the Gentiles is to fill the places of those “natural branches” of the Abrahamic stock, by being grafted into and made partakers of the original root of divine favor — the Abrahamic promise — to be members of the seed of Abraham, by means of which all the families of earth shall be blessed with certain favors of knowledge and opportunity. Having this call in this age affords those of this class the opportunity to go one step further to become “joint-heirs” with Christ, and thus becoming not just servants/sons and princes in the Kingdom, but “kings”, and this is evidently what Jesus meant when said the least in the kingdom (those who rule as joint-heirs – kings) would be greater than John the Baptizer, since John was never offered that joint-heirship. — Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28; compare Romans 11:1-33; Galatians 3:16,29; Revelation 7:1-8.

See our studies:
With What Body Will We Be Raised?
The Manner of the Resurrection

How highly we who belong to the new dispensation should value its privileges and opportunities, and seek to “be more diligent to make [our] calling and election sure.” (2 Peter 1:4-11) Our calling as sons of God does not guarantee one will actually attain a place in the Kingdom-class of joint-heirs, but as Paul stated concerning himself, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) This goal he speaks of in connection with a certain perfection, a perfection that he did not at that time consider himself to have obtained, and thus he, at that time, felt he was still short of the goal of his high calling. (Philippians 3:12) Moses was was spoken of as faithful to God in all his house (Hebrews 3:5); Moses certainly rendered but a reasonable service when he engaged in Yahweh’s work zealously, as did John the Baptist, and both were found faithful; how much more zeal and energy ought we to put forth who have been favored so much more highly! “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy living and godliness!” (2 Peter 3:11) Let us remember that our calling to sonship in this age is for the purpose of attaining joint-heirship with our Lord in the Kingdom, is a very special and a very limited call, that it will soon end, and that so far as the divine revelation shows, it will never be repeated. In view of these things let us lay aside every weight, and run with patience the race set before us in the gospel, looking to Jesus, our pioneer in faith (he was the first human to put on incorruption, having proven himself incorruptible, thereby bringing life and incorruption to light — 1 Corinthians 15:54; 2 Timothy 1:10), until he shall have become the perfector, of our faith. — 2 Corinthians 13:9,11; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; Hebrews 6:1; 12:1.

Adapted from R2620

Acts 8:26-40; 18:28 – Phillip and the Eunuch

For he powerfully refuted the Jews, publicly showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ — Acts 18:28

The Story from Acts 8:26-40, World English Version, Divine Name Supplied.

BUT an angel of Yahweh spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a desert.”

Phillip Teaching the Ethiopian Eunuch

He arose and went. Behold, there was a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, “Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.” Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand you what you are reading?” He said, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” He begged Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this,

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.
As a lamb before his shearer is silent,
So he doesn’t open his mouth.

In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away.
Who will declare His generations?
For his life is taken from the earth.”
Isaiah 53:6-8

The eunuch answered Philip, “Please tell who the prophet is talking about: about himself, or about some other?” Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached to him Jesus. As they went on the way, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Behold, here is water. What is keeping me from being baptized?”

He commanded the chariot to stand still, and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of Yahweh caught Philip away, and the eunuch didn’t see him any more, for he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. Passing through, he preached the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.

THE PITH of this lesson is the Divine supervision of the Gospel work and use of consecrated talents in the unfolding of the Divine Purposes. Philip, whose ministries of the Truth were so abundantly blessed by Yahweh in Samaria, evidently continued humble, so that Yahweh could use him further as his agent and mouthpiece. The message of the Gospel was to be sent into Africa. An Ethiopian eunuch in high station under Candace, the Ethiopian Queen, was a suitable person to bear the message. (Acts 8:26-28) For a considerable time he had knowledge of the religion of the Jews. Because a eunuch he could not become a Jew (Deuteronomy 23:1), except as “a proselyte of the gate” – one who adopted the Jewish worship. He had come to Jerusalem to worship on one of the holy festivals. Under Yahweh’s providence, the hope of Israel, Messiah, was prominent before his mind. He was returning to his home in Ethiopia and, after the custom of the time, was reading aloud from a scroll. It was Isaiah’s prophecy, which he had probably purchased at Jerusalem at considerable cost. (Acts 8:28) He was puzzled by what he read, which seemed to relate to Messiah. Some statements implied his great glory, honor, dignity, power, while others seemed to mention him as despised and rejected of men — led as a lamb to the slaughter. Many other men had read the same passages for centuries with similar perplexity. Why? Because the right time had not come for them to be understood and God had not sent servants or messengers to interpret them. — Matthew 13:17; Ephesians 3:5; 1 Peter 1:12; 1 John 1:3.

“THE SPIRIT SAID TO PHILIP, GO!”

(2) Meantime Yahweh, able and willing to make “all things work together for good,” (Romans 8:28) directed Philip on a journey which, at the right time, brought him in contact with the eunuch’s company, for it is entirely probable that so notable a man would travel with considerable escort besides the driver of his chariot. (Acts 8:28-29) Philip did not expostulate with the messenger sending him. He did not urge that he had business matters which required his attention, for it was his first business to seek and serve the wisdom and interests of the Kingdom. (Proverbs 2:1-6; Matthew 6:33; 8:7) If Yahweh ever sends us on a mission and makes it possible for us to fulfill it, that should be considered the chief business of life for the time, and everything else secondary, inferior.

(3) Arriving at the appointed place, Philip was on the lookout for service. How we wish that all of Yahweh’s people might more and more attain to this attitude of heart and mind — a readiness, waiting, looking, to note the Divine providences in their affairs and to use them wisely, as did Philip! — Ephesians 5:15-17.

(4) Evidently the chariot had passed Philip and he had heard the reading. He knew that this meant that the eunuch was a man interested in the Word of God and that his mind was centered upon it. He may even have surmised that Yahweh had directed the eunuch’s attention to this very part of the Scripture at this very moment, so as to make Philip’s mission opportune. The Spirit of Yahweh told Philip to run after the chariot and get into communication with the reader. In what way Yahweh’s Spirit thus prompted him we are not informed. We may consider, however, that the holy Spirit dwelt richly in Philip, quickened his perceptive powers to a realization of the opportunities of the moment and suggested to him that this was a way in which his knowledge of Yahweh and his consecrated powers might be used in proclaiming the good tidings. So each of us should be so full of zeal for the message, so full of the desire to assist others into the grace of God, that the Spirit of Yahweh in us would prompt us to speak a word in season. — Proverbs 15:23; 2 Timothy 4:2

(5) Paraphrasing the account we may suppose that Philip, running near to the reader in the chariot, called out, “Friend, do you understand that which you are reading?” So much depends upon a word in season, and the right word! Not only our words, but our tone of voice should be considered, when we attempt to represent the great King as his ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Kindness and brotherly love should be indicated in our faces and by our words, and made a part of the message we deliver.

(6) The honesty of the eunuch, his readiness for the Truth, his humility of mind, are all indicated by his reply, “How can I understand, except some one should guide me?” (Acts 8:31) The arrogance which would have given Philip a haughty stare would have meant a heart unready for the Gospel — unworthy of it. The pride which would have said, “I suppose that I understand it as well as you do, sir,” would have indicated a heart not meek enough for the Truth, and to be its servant in Africa. A superstitious reverence which would have said, “None but the Doctors of the Law are supposed to understand these writings,” would have meant a bounden condition of heart, unready for the message. The eunuch’s answer was the proper one for a heart in the right condition towards God and the Truth. (Luke 8:15) It admitted his ignorance of the Prophet’s meaning, and it admitted the Divine power which would explain the seeming contradiction in due time, and it admitted that Yahweh would probably in his own time and way send the interpretation through human instrumentality. His invitation to Philip to ride with him in his chariot was a further indication of his meekness and that he realized that in Philip he had found one who, like himself, was deeply interested in the Word of Yahweh and his promises to Israel. He would give Philip a lift on his journey and would, doubtless, the while enjoy fellowship with him in holy things.

(7) Many in our day are hindered from receiving a proper knowledge of the Divine Word and Plan through a lack of meekness, humbleness of mind, teachableness. Some of these have concluded that because the Scriptures declare “They shall all be taught by Yahweh,” (John 6:45; Isaiah 54:13) therefore they should expect angels or angel voices to guide them individually in the understanding of the Scriptures. Under this error many have been led to seek messages from the evil spirits into various fanaticisms. (Isaiah 8:19,20) Rather we should give heed to Yahweh’s Word on this subject, and not how all of his true people will be taught by him. The Apostle explains how, saying, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians. 4:11,12, New American Standard Version) He who rejects Yahweh’s way evidences the fact that he is not in the right condition of heart and hence is not taught of God.

“HE DOESN’T OPEN HIS MOUTH”

(8) The portion of the prophecy which the eunuch was reading referred to Messiah as meekly enduring the opposition of sinners against himself, saying all manner of evil against him possible, and declaring that in this respect he was like a lamb dumb before his shearers. And what was true of the Master should be increasingly true of all those who are seeking to walk in his steps, in proportion as they make progress in the good way and become copies of God’s dear Son. — John 15:20

(9) The eunuch further manifested his humility of mind by asking Philip’s interpretation of this prophecy. Did it relate to Isaiah himself or to some one else? We read that this opened Philip’s mouth to preach to him Jesus as the antitypical Lamb of God (John 1:29,36; Revelation 5:6), as the one who suffered severe humiliations, even unto death, even the death of impalement. (Philippians 2:8) We can imagine his explanation of the prophecy, “Who will declare His generations? For his life is taken from the earth” Philip doubtless explained that although our Lord had ceased to be of the earth, earthly, and had been resurrected to the spirit plane of being, nevertheless he would have a generation, or a posterity. His posterity, his children, will be on the earthly plane and will be Adam’s children, whom he has adopted as his own. In due time, under the Millennial Kingdom, he will become their Life-Giver or Father, their Regenerator or Deliverer, freeing them from the power of the tomb and then restoring to full human perfection as his children all who will receive and profit by the blessed knowledge and opportunities of that time. (John 5:28,29, ASV; Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; Romans 5:17-19; Revelation 20:11-13; Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:6-9) Thus he will become in due time the regenerator of the redeemed and restored race of Adam. (Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 15:45) We can imagine that Phillip’s preaching of Jesus went still further than this and showed the eunuch that before that glorious day of the world’s regeneration another feature of the Divine Program will be called out, namely, the selection of a Church to sons of God as part of the seed of Abraham.(Galatians 3:16,26,29; Acts 3:25,26 ). He doubtless explained to the eunuch that this is the message of the present time, the message or invitation to become heirs of God, and members of the great antitypical Messiah, the antitypical Prophet, Priest, King and Judge of the world. (Romans 8:16,17; 2 Corinthians 6:2,3; Revelation 1:6; Isaiah 32:1) He doubtless explained the  general requirements necessary as an entrance into this grace, this privilege, namely, the abandonment of sin and the acceptance of Jesus as Redeemer (Acts 20:21; 13:39: 17:30; 26:20; Romans 1:16; 3:24,25; 5:1),  a full of Jesus as our Lord and consecration of all in the service of Yahweh and of the brothers of Christ and in obedience to his Truth. — Proverbs 23:26; Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:26,27; John 15:8-10; 2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 John 1:7-10; 1 Peter 1:14,15; Romans 12:1.

(10) The eunuch’s meek, teachable, honest attitude made it easy for him to receive this glorious message in its simplicity and beauty. He was already a believer, to the extent that he knew. He was already justified by his faith in the Redeemer promised. Now that justification became actually his, as his mind and heart grasped the thought that the One impaled was the Son of God who bought us with his own precious blood. (Romans 5:29; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:2,19) He was already devoted to Yahweh, so far as he knew his will. So now, with clear knowledge directly sent to him through Philip, his consecration was revived, renewed, enlarged, practically applied. Evidently Philip explained to him the New Baptism, not only in the sense in which we are baptized into Christ’s death, but also the appropriateness of symbolizing this by water immersion. Note the promptness of the eunuch to confess his full submission to Yahweh and to symbolize this in water immersion. Had he not been in ready condition of heart, this, too, would have been put off with some excuse. How evident that God had chosen in him a suitable vessel to bear his message to the Ethiopians — to be a foreign missionary!

(11) Ancient manuscripts omit verse 37 as it appears in the King James Version. It evidently was added later as a marginal note, as an answer to the question of`verse 36. Quite probably such words, or many more, were used by Philip. Regarding this Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s Commentary states: “Acts 8:37 is wanting in the principal manuscripts and most venerable versions of the New Testament. It seems to have been added from the formularies for baptism which came into current use.” Evidently the account does not pretend to be a report of all that was said, but merely of the leading features of the conversation. The eunuch commanded the driver of his chariot to stop. Philip and he alighted and he was baptized — immersed. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of Yahweh caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more. But the latter went on his way rejoicing in the glorious message he had received, which “satisfied his longings as nothing else could do.” Doubtless he talked with his charioteer or others of his company and ran by-times of his homeward journey. Tradition has it that amongst his converts in Ethiopia was a Queen herself.

(12) As to how the spirit caught Philip away we may not know for sure. But that was the day of miracles and doubtless his miraculous transportation would not only serve as an encouragement to himself and assurance that his service was under Yahweh’s supervision, but his vanishing would give the eunuch additional faith in what he had taught him, for it would testify that God was with him, and that he was being used as the angels had been used previously.

(13) The general lesson to us is, (1) readiness, alertness, to serve Yahweh in season and out of season, when convenient to ourselves, and when not convenient ( 2 Timothy 4:2) — glad of any opportunity and at any cost to be the ambassadors of the King (2 Corinthians 5:20); (2) the necessity for humility and promptness of obedience, if we would make progress, and either maintain, or attain to usefulness in Yahweh’s service. — Matthew 28:4; 23:12; James 4:6,10; 1 Peter 5:5,6.

THE LESSON TEXT

(14) As our lesson text points out, Jesus is revealed in the holy Scriptures (John 5:39; Acts 18:28; 1 Corinthians 15:3,4), and those who would know him should seek their information from that quarter. (John 17:3; 2 Timothy 3:15) Under Divine providence, apostles, prophets and teachers are necessary, indispensable. (Ephesians 4:11,12; Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:4) But no words of man are to be taken as instead of the Word of God. (Galatians 1:8; 2 Peter 2:1; Titus 1:11) On the contrary, their presentations are to find acceptance only in proportion as they are found to be in harmony with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11; Isaiah 8:20; Romans 15:4), and to discern this harmony, the holy Spirit is necessary. (1 Corinthians 2:10) The Scriptures must be searched, but only by coming into a condition of heart harmony and teachableness, and then by a full consecration receiving the holy Spirit, can we hope to understand the Divine message and to obtain therewith the eternal life which it promises to those guided and taught by Yahweh. — Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 2:14.

Mark 2:1-11 – Your Sins Are Forgiven

A Study of Mark 2:1-11
Parallel Accounts: Matthew 9:1-13; Luke 5:17-26

The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.
Mark 2:10

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations from the Holy Bible are from the World English bible translation.

Mark 2:1 – When he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was heard that he was in the house.

(1) AFTER the busy experiences of the Sabbath day, the Lord Jesus withdrew from Capernaum to a desert place for private communion with his God and Father. Later his four disciples joined him, as also others, who urged his return to Capernaum, but instead he went for a time to other cities and villages of Galilee. Our lesson marks his return to Capernaum, where the people soon learned of his presence and gathered in large numbers to see and hear him.

(2) The houses of the middle classes of that time are understood to have been usually of one room only, in size about 20 x 40 feet, with a flat roof formed by heavy timbers about two feet apart, on which were placed slabs of either wood or stone, the whole being covered with earth or sod closely rolled. The roof was usually accessible by an outside stairway and was often used as a summer sleeping place.

Mark 2:2 – Immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even around the door; and he spoke the word to them.
Mark 2:3 – Four people came, carrying a paralytic to him.

(3)  To the crowd of his fellow-citizens — who had but recently awakened to the fact that Jesus was a great prophet, endued with miraculous powers — the Lord was discoursing, possibly respecting the Kingdom of God long promised, and which he proclaimed to be nigh, even at the door, if the people were willing to receive the message and its blessing. At this juncture four men, bearing on a litter a young man paralyzed and utterly helpless, approached the house with a view to having the sick one healed. His helpless condition probably hindered the ailing one from applying to Jesus on the day when so many of the sick at Capernaum were cured. Now he had found friends and helpers and had come within sound of the Master’s voice, yet was unable to gain access to his presence because of the crowd who were unwilling to make way for him.

Mark 2:4 – When they could not come near to him for the crowd, they removed the roof where he was. When they had broken it up, they let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on.

(4) The faith on this man which had brought him thus far insisted that some way of presenting his case before Jesus would be found. Finally he was carried to the roof of the house the earthy covering was dug away from a portion, the slab lifted, and by improvised ropes he was let down into the very presence of Jesus. He must have had a strong faith not only in the Lord’s power to heal but also in his gentleness and goodness, that so far from resenting the rude intrusion he would have patience and realize his deep necessity.

Mark 2:5 – Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

(5) We should take note of how important faith is in the Lord’s estimation — the record does not mention that he saw their works, but he saw their faith, which, of course, was demonstrated by their efforts to get this man to him. As the scriptures show, if true faith is exercised corresponding works would naturally and unavoidably follow.

(6) And so it was: instead of finding fault, threatening them with arrest, accusing them of rudeness, etc., our Lord was so pleased with the faith manifested that he overlooked the intrusion entirely and greeted his uninvited guest most graciously, saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Perhaps the young man was thinking less of his sins and their forgiveness than of his hope for recovery, but in any event our Lord put the most important thing foremost. He was primarily the sin-bearer and teacher, his work of healing being a secondary one at the time, a mere exercise, so as to emphasize the lessons given.

WISE AND UNWISE ALERTNESS

Mark 2:6 – But there were some of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
Mark 2:7 – “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

(7) The people present were alert to notice everything what Jesus did and said, and amongst them were some of the learned, the Scribes, who were well informed respecting the Law and looked up to as authorities by the masses. These with the others had been attracted by the wonderful miracles and teachings of Jesus and they were watching his words and deeds. Here they thought they had found a flaw — that Jesus was arrogating to himself a power and authority which could belong to God alone. Indeed we may suppose that it was partly to start this very line of reasoning that our Lord expressed himself as he did. Of course, as we will see, Jesus did have authority from his God to forgive sins.

Mark 2:8 – Immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts?
Mark 2:9 – Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?’”

(8) Then, reading their evil thoughts (Matthew 9:4), he answered their queries, he, in effect, said: “Which is the easier for you to believe, that I am able to forgive sins or that I could heal this man of the result of his sins? But to prove I have authority from my God to forgive the sin I will perform the cure, and its performance will testify that I have not blasphemed; that I have not arrogated to myself authority which has not properly been given to me; that I am not misrepresenting the Father when I declare that I am his special agent and representative.”

Mark 2:10 – “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic —
Mark 2:11 – “I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house.”
Mark 2:12 – He arose, and immediately took up the mat, and went out in front of them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

(9) When the man did arise and carried forth his stretcher on which he had lain the people were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything of the like before.” Luke adds that they said, “We have seen strange things today.” They had heard the Messiah explain about his Kingdom and declare his power to forgive sins and demonstrate that power by a miracle. How could they help but wish that the Kingdom of Yahweh might immediately be established, that divine favor might reach the whole world and increase in restitution blessings until there should be no more sickness, no more pain, no more dying, no more crying, no more sin, no more death. However, a particular work must be accomplished before the Kingdom could be set up and begin its restitution work: first the the seed of Abraham, who are participate with Jesus in bringing the blessings to the heathen, must be selected. Palestine and the favored nation did not supply a sufficient number to fulfil the divine arrangement, and therefore the favor of God turned to the Gentiles, to gather out of them those of an honest and good heart, who, having heard the word, hold it tightly, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15) These of faith, the scriptures say, receive the right to become sons of God. (John 1:12) Such are gathered for the purpose of being the seed of Abraham that is to bless all the families of the earth. (Galatians 3:26-29) Our hope, our confidence is that this gathering work is very nearly accomplished; that soon the second coming of Christ will bring forth the revealing of the sons of God and the blessings so long promised. — Genesis 22:17; 28:17; Isaiah 2:2-4; Romans 8:19-22.

(10) Sin and its forgiveness may be considered the essence of this lesson: to this subject, therefore, we turn our attention.

(11) Not only is sin generally common to the world of mankind, as the Scriptures abundantly declare and explain, but a consciousness of sin is general. The world in general recognizes what the Bible emphasizes, namely, that all unrighteousness is sin, all imperfection is sin, or at least a falling short of the perfection desired, whether they express it as “sin” or otherwise. (Romans 1-3) The Jews under the Law, realizing their inability to keep its requirements, would be bound to admit, if they were honest, that they were sinners, transgressors of its requirements. (Romans 3:20; 7:7,8; 8:3) Christians, recognizing God’s law on a still higher plane, should realize still more fully their own blemishes and shortcomings of the perfect law which says, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”, and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:28-31) But those who have not the Jewish Law nor the Christian law and instruction have nevertheless a sufficiency of conscience, a sufficiency of the original law written in man’s constitution, though largely obliterated through the six thousand years of the fall: by this they realize that they have shortcomings, and, as the Apostle points out, they confess that they are sinners against their ideals of righteousness in that they sometimes attempt to excuse their conduct while at other times they clearly and plainly acknowledge wrong-doing. Thus all are convicted as sinners. — Romans 3:9,10

(12) The remarkable thing is that our consciousness of sin increases with our education in the school of Christ — increases in proportion as we cease to do evil and learn to do well. Accordingly, the most advanced saint has a clearer discernment of and a greater repugnance for sin than has the most degraded sinner. Thus it is, too, with God, who hates sin and cannot look upon it with acceptance. (Deuteronomy 25:16; Psalm 5:4-6; 11:5; Proverbs 6:16-19) He has placed his ban, his sentence, his edict against it, and declares that it shall be utterly rooted out, and that all intelligently and willfully in sympathy with it must be considered as part of it and be destroyed with it. — Psalm 37:9-11; Revelation 20:7,8.

(13) The more we see of sin, the more we realize its contaminating character and destructive tendencies, the more we appreciate the divine justice which on account of sin condemns sin in humanity. (Romans 8:3) The more advanced our conceptions of righteousness, truth, holiness, purity, the more we are enabled to appreciate the divine view of sin and to say of Yahweh and his sentence against sin and sinners, “True and righteous are your judgments.” — Revelation 16:7.

THE OPERATION OF DIVINE MERCY

(14) But the more we come to appreciate divine justice and the righteousness of the sentence of death against our race, the more also we come to appreciate the love and mercy of God toward us, and to rejoice that he was not willing that any should perish, and hence made provision wide enough, high enough, deep enough, that all might turn unto him and live — have everlasting life. This provision of mercy cannot ignore the sin nor can it permit the sinner to ignore it. It is necessary that the redeemed should know, should appreciate, their fallen condition, the justice of their sentence of death, and that their recovery is wholly a matter of divine mercy. Unless they learn this lesson they could never appreciate the divine arrangements and the only terms upon which God could grant them everlasting life — terms of acceptance of God’s grace and forgiveness and their obedience to him and his principles of righteousness.

NO OTHER NAME GIVEN
Acts 4:12

(15) It is to this end that the heavenly Father arranged his plan for the recovery of our race as he reveals it in his Word — a plan by which he extends mercy to all, yet requires all to accept that mercy through Jesus, “through faith in his blood,” producing fruitage in God’s will (Matthew 3:8; 7:17,18,21; 12:50; John 14:15,21; 15:20), or not at all. (Romans 3:25) This insures that every one coming to the Father must admit that he is a sinner, must admit that he cannot clear himself of the penalty of his own sin and live, must admit that his salvation is purely of divine mercy through Christ; and it insures that the terms and conditions which Jesus the Redeemer will establish as the Mediator between God and sinners must be thoroughly understood and accepted and complied with. He proposes to help back to perfection and to full fellowship with the Father all who sincerely repent of sin and will use their best endeavors under his guidance, instruction and assistance to return to God. To such and to such alone will perfection be granted. Such alone will attain permanently the everlasting life through the assistance as well as through the redemption of him who bought us with his precious blood.

SINS BLOTTED OUT

(16) It is well that we mark a wide distinction between the blotting out of sin, which the Scriptures assure us will be accomplished at the second coming of Christ (Acts 3:19), and the forgiveness of sins which may be enjoyed now by all who will exercise the necessary faith and obedience. The blotting out of sins at the second advent of Christ will be applied first of all to the church: not a trace of sin in any sense or degree will remain upon these from the time that they share in the glorious blessings of the first resurrection. In the present time they are actually imperfect, blemished, marked and marred by sin, and continually need the covering of the robe of Christ’s righteousness so freely granted to them; but with the resurrection change all the blemishes of sin will be gone. As described by the Apostle, that which was sown in weakness will be raised in power, that sown in dishonor will be raised in glory, that, for those who become joint-heirs with Christ, that which was sown in a natural body will be raised a spiritual body (yet in the resurrection, there is not just the spiritual body, but also a physical body). (1 Corinthians 15:40-44) No longer will they need imputed righteousness, but each will individually be absolutely perfect, absolutely righteous.

(17) The blotting out of the world’s sins will not be thus instantaneous, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, but will progress throughout the Millennial age gradually. As each individual recognizes sin and falls in line with the rules of the Kingdom he will find himself growing stronger in the ways of righteousness, as he progresses up the highway of holiness. (Isaiah 35:8) Day by day, year by year, he will increase in mental, moral and physical development, or failing so to do will, after the abundant opportunities of that time, be cut off in the Second Death as unworthy of any further opportunities for gaining life eternal through the Redeemer’s Kingdom. Those who will may avail themselves of the privileges of that time and have their sins entirely blotted out — reach absolute perfection of mind and body by the close of the Millennial age, and then be tested as to their heart loyalty to the principles of righteousness as shown in Revelation 20:10. That final test will be general to the human family: it will correspond to the trial given to Adam in Eden, except that these will have had experience with sin and the fall, and with the recovery and with the reign of righteousness. They will, therefore, all be in a proper attitude to enable them to pass the examination satisfactorily, and any failure so to do will demonstrate that the heart had not come, under all the favorable conditions (Isaiah 26:9,10), into that harmony with God which would be indispensable to eternal life. Such the Scriptures show us will be destroyed with Satan as those who have some elements at least of his disposition.

FORGIVENESS OF SINS

(18) In our lesson the Scribes are represented as reasoning that the only one who could forgive a sin is the one against whom the transgression is committed. If A commit a transgression against B it is not in the power of C to forgive it. B alone has the right to feel offended and he alone can forgive. The Scribes were reasoning along correct lines: while we do as individuals transgress the rights and liberties of each other at times and thus sin against one another and need to have one another’s forgiveness, yet all sin is primarily against God, whose law of righteousness is infringed. All unrighteousness is sin — against God, against his laws. He alone sets the standard of right and wrong by which his creatures are to be measured or judged and he is the Judge. The question is asked; How, then,

COULD JESUS FORGIVE SINS?

(19) We answer that our Creator had so fixed the matter of sin and its penalty that Jesus was the only one who could forgive sins — or, more specifically, the heavenly Father through him. (Romans 5:1,9-11; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 15:57; 2 Corinthians 3:4,5; 5:18; Galatians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 John 4:9) The divine arrangement was so fixed that the God and Father had even put in Jesus’ own hands the power to forgive sins (Isaiah 61:1-3; John 5:19,27,30; 10:18,36-38; Acts 2:22; 10:38), because he had fixed a positive, absolute, unchangeable penalty against sin in the case of Adam and his posterity. (Genesis 2:17) He could have done differently: he could have dealt with mankind as he dealt with the angels that fell, and merely put them under some kind of restraints without imposing directly the death sentence. (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:60) But once the death penalty had been imposed, nothing could alter or annul it.

(20) But that unchangeable sentence against mankind was made by the Creator with full knowledge of how he could, and in due time, would negate or nullify the sentence, not by withdrawing it but by meeting its requirements through a Redeemer. God himself could not pay this price to himself, so as release mankind from death. It was one of God’s creatures — a man — that sinned, and brought sin upon man, and thus it would have to be one of God’s creatures that would pay the price for all mankind. Only in this way could God remain just, and justify the sinner. Thus it was that in the divine plan our Lord Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. In other words God had in mind the plan of redemption before he imposed the death sentence which made necessary that redemption. — Acts 15:18; Romans 3:25,26; 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 2 Timothy 2:5,6; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2; 4:10.

DIVINE FAVOR EARLY MANIFESTED

(21) It may be urged that God manifested his favor to Abraham and others before our Lord Jesus came into the world and presented man’s ransom price. We reply that this is so, that divine favor was manifested, but that its manifestation was based upon the divine intention that in due time the ransom for sinners would be paid. God called things that are not as though they were. (Romans 4:17) Thus in God’s sight the faithful of old were counted as “alive”, for the God and Father of Jesus is the God of the living, not of the dead. (Matthew 22:31-33) Thus, in view of the coming ransom sacrifice of Jesus, God did impute righteousness to Abraham. (Romans 4:17-22) But even then the favor granted was not actual the blotting out of sins, for they still had their sinful flesh to contend with. No! that could not have been done prior to the ransom, and is to be done by God through the Redeemer glorified in the resurrection day. All the ancient worthies could possibly have was such measure of divine favor as their faith in God would justify, and the only favors which God could grant to them would be such as his intentions through the Redeemer would make reasonable.

SIN UNDER MOSES’ LAW

(22) Under the Law Covenant, God arranged with the nation of Israel a certain kind and degree of forgiveness and reconciliation through Moses, the mediator of that Covenant. Under these arrangements the sin offerings year by year made a picture, a type, an illustration of the coming blessings under the New Covenant and its Mediator, the Christ. Israel as a nation enjoyed God’s favor — his grace — to a limited extent through faith, as did the patriarchs, but neither did they have a blotting out of sins. On the contrary, the Apostle points out that it is evident that Israel’s sacrifices and sin offerings never really took away sin, but were merely typical of better sacrifices through which sin will actually be cancelled and ultimately blotted out.—Hebrews 10:1-4; Acts 3:19.

THE MEASURE OF JESUS’ FORGIVENESS

(23) If the heavenly Father were bound by his own law and could not blot out sins without the payment of the ransom price, could our Lord Jesus do so? Had he greater power in this respect than the Father? We answer, No! His words to the paralyzed man in this lesson did not refer to a blotting out of man’s sins, but merely to such a forgiveness of sins as the Father had already extended to Abraham and others in the past. When the Lord had uttered the words, “Your sins be forgiven you,” the man still lay helpless, his sins not blotted out though forgiven; he was still a picture, an illustration of the terrible effects of sin. And our Lord’s later words, “Arise, take up your mat, and go to your house,” although in an illustration, or a type, of the coming restoration blessing, were not a blotting out of the man’s sins. To have blotted out his sins completely would have meant the lifting of him completely out of all the imperfections of the fall up to the full perfection of a perfect man mentally, morally and physically. Jesus did not do this for him; he merely healed him of a measure of his special difficulty.

(24) But more importantly, all the works that Jesus did were actually the works of his God and Father which were done in, by means of, him. (John 5:36; 9:3,4; 10:25,32,37,38; Acts 2:22) In all the works that Jesus performed, he performed under the authority given to him by his God. Thus when the multitudes saw the paralyzed man healed, “they marveled and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:8) Yes, Jesus was given this authority! Thus Jesus says: “For neither does the Father judge any man, but he has given all judgment [authority to judge] to the Son.” (John 5:22) And, “and [the God and Father of Jesus] has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man [the Messiah, the anointed son of David].” (John 5:27, New King James Version) Jesus also states: “I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous; because I don’t seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me.” (John 5:30) Thus, while God has given all this authority to Jesus, it still can be said that God “has appointed a day in which he [God] will judge the world in righteousness by [through, by means of] the man [person] whom he has ordained. — Acts 17:31.

(25) We might note that included in this man [person], Christ Jesus, is the entire body of Christ. (Romans 8:1; 12:18; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12) All of these members of the body of Christ to some extent offer up sacrifices pleasing to God through Jesus (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 9:23; 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5), and thus in addition to Jesus, the judgment [the authority to judge] will be given to the faithful saints. (Daniel 7:22; 1 Corinthians 6:2,3; Revelation 20:4) Nevertheless, in the name of, or by the authority of Jesus (who has been given this authority by his God), even today saints can offer forgiveness of sins to those who put faith in the blood of Jesus. (Acts 2:38) Still, however, we should note Jesus sent forth his disciples to forgive of sins by his authority, which he said was given to him by his God and Father (John 20:21-23; Acts 2:38; 13:38,39), and that we should preach repentance toward Yahweh God, the God of Israel, the God of Jesus, and faith in the name of Jesus for forgiveness and remission of sins. — Acts 10:43; 20:21; 26:20; 1 Corinthians 6:11.

(26) Nevertheless, forgiveness extended to us now on account of faith is of the nature of a covering or hiding of our sins, a reckoning or imputation of justification. As the prophet expresses the matter, “Blessed is he whose disobedience is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh doesn’t impute iniquity.” (Psalm 32:1,2) Our sins are not imputed so long as we would renounce them and seek Yahweh through Jesus in faith and in sincerity. The time for the blotting out of sins, their complete eradication, is future, as the Apostle Peter declared. Our sins will be blotted out when we receive our resurrection bodies, in which there will remain no trace of the weaknesses, imperfections and maladies that came upon us because of original and subsequent sin. — Acts 3:19-21.

(27) We should note, however, in Jesus’ words of Mark 2:5 our Lord did not refer to original sin and its death penalty. He was speaking of sins in the plural, the man’s own sins additional to his share in father Adam’s sin and father Adam’s penalty. The man was a Jew, under the Mosaic Covenant. His share in original sin, in common with that of all Jews, was atoned for every year, and on the basis of this atonement he as a Jew had a standing with Yahweh, and Yahweh’s engagement with that people was that under their Covenant they should be free from sickness, etc., so long as they were obedient to Yahweh. To every Jew, therefore, sickness meant, implied, personal guilt, personal transgression, because Yahweh had so covenanted with them, as he had not done with other peoples and nations. It was declared that “whoever does these things will live.” If they could have kept that law, by reason of their obedience they could live and never die. — Amos 3:2; Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12; Hebrews 10:1-3.

OUR LORD ALREADY SACRIFICED

(28) But even as respects Adamic sin and its penalty our Lord would have had the right to have spoken peace and forgiveness and to have given an assurance of an ultimate blotting out of sins, because although he had not yet finished the work which he came to do, although he had not yet finished the ransom sacrifice, he had begun it. (Indeed, it was begun in the promise of God from the very beginning.— Genesis 3:15) At his baptism he had consecrated his life, had laid down his life, presented it to the Father in sacrifice, and the Father had in a measure accepted it and had signified his acceptance of the contract by giving to our Lord the holy Spirit, the first-fruits of the glorious blessing which he received at his resurrection.

(29) It was by virtue of his already having made this sacrifice, which he fully intended to carry out to the very end, and which God had already counted as having taken place (Acts 23:15), that our Lord was authorized in saying to his believers, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who disobeys the Son won’t see life.” “He who eats [by putting faith in] my [sacrificed] flesh [his righteous, sinless body] and drinks [by putting faith in] my blood [reprsenting Jesus’ sinless human soul, offered to God] has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 3:36; 6:54; Romans 3:5; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14; 10:10,20) In effect, Jesus is saying he who believes in me and becomes my true, faithful follower may reckon that he has already begotten in him the new life [or he has been reckoned as “born again”, as many wish to speak of this] (Romans 6:11), and that I will assist him and carry him through, so that in the very dawning of the Millennial morning he may have a share in the first resurrection and thus obtain the eternal life under its perfect conditions. — Revelation 20:6.

(30) The entire operation of this Gospel age so far as the Church is concerned is one of faith — “We walk by faith not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) By faith we realize our sins forgiven, by faith we look into the future and believe that in the first resurrection we shall share our Master’s glory, honor and immortality. And by faith we are satisfied and rest in hope — yes, actually, we shall be satisfied when we awake in his likeness.— Psalm 17:15.

(31) Some place scriptures such as Psalm 103:2,3 together with Luke 5:20, evidently in an endeavor to prove that since Jesus forgives sins, then Jesus must be Yahweh. Mark 2:7 shows that the Jewish leaders wanted to use Jesus’ statement to claim that he committed blasphemy, stating: “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” However, what did Jesus say? Did he say, “Don’t you know that I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thus I can forgive sins?” Did Jesus claim to be Jehovah (Yahweh)? Here is what the scriptures say: Mark 2:8 Immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts? Mark 2:99 Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?’ Mark 2:10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic — Jesus claimed “authority” on earth to forgive sins. He did not claim that he was his God, Jehovah, who sent him. The only place where there is even a hint that of an expression in the Bible that only God can forgive sins are the instances in Mark 2:7 and Luke 5:21, where the offspring of vipers, lying, deceived and deceiving, hypocrites, (Matthew 3:7; 6:2-8,16-18; 12:31; 15:1-9; 16:1-12; 21:33-46; 23:2-33; Luke 11:14-54; 12:1; 15:1-19; John 8:38,41,44), the Jewish religious leaders state: “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7) “Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” (Luke 5:21) Not a very good authority to base this idea on. But Matthew records: Matthew 9:3 Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man blasphemes.” Matthew 9:4 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? Matthew 9:5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk?’ Matthew 9:6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” (then he said to the paralytic), “Get up, and take up your mat, and go up to your house.” Matthew 9:7 He arose and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. — italics added for emphasis. Matthew tells us plainly that it is God who had given such authority to men. Nothing in any of this suggests that Jesus was/is his God, Jehovah (Yahweh), who sent him. “Praise Yahweh! Give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good, For his lovingkindness endures forever.” (Psalm 107:15, World English Bible translation) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, World English Bible translation)


Much of the above has been adapted from Reprints 3728, Last update: October 14, 2009