Monday, December 30, 2019




But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

I read an article this week about a married couple trying to buy a home, but were unable to buy the one they first wanted. The writer said “the universe had other plans”. So, all of those rocks and fireballs and black holes in space have a mind, and a unified mind, and decided a couple on earth could not buy a house? 

The Bible shows us, instead, that God, the creator of the universe, intentionally intervenes in human life for our good. Our passage today begins with “when the fullness of time had come”. When the time came that God had chosen he sent his Son. 

And God sent his Son with a purpose: to redeem men and women from slavery to the law. To “redeem” is to pay the price to obtain freedom. God sent Jesus to pay the price to redeem us from slavery to the law, to sin, to the principles of the world some people follow, like those who believe the planets control their destiny. 

God’s redemption had an additional purpose. He redeemed us so that we might receive adoption as sons. You cannot be a slave and a son at the same time, so God redeemed us from slavery and adopted us as sons. 

Our adoption by God was intentional and was always his plan even before he created the universe. 

Ephesians 1:4-6 says “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Before the world began, the Father decreed that those who receive Jesus as savior will be adopted into God’s family as sons. 

So, adoption is an act of God’s love and his grace. When Jesus saves us, the Father adopts us into his family. We become sons.

Why does Paul say we are adopted as sons rather than sons and daughters? Is he excluding women from adoption? No, he is using as the basis of this discussion the system of adoption in the Roman Empire. In Rome, a man could name any male relative as his adoptive son. The one who was adopted would get the estates and titles of the father. 

A famous example of this is Julius Caesar. His will provided that his great nephew was his adopted son. So, when he was assassinated, his will was read and Augustus became his adopted son. He received not only Caesar’s estates, but his political standing. This ultimately allowed him to become the first emperor of the empire. 

So, when Paul says believers become sons by adoption, he means each believer gets a special set of privileges no one else gets, like an adopted son would get in Rome. 

And this applies to believing men and believing women alike. Paul, and actually the Lord, elevates the status of women. In Rome, a woman could not inherit an estate or a title. But, in Christ there is no male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) Men and women both receive all of the benefits of redemption and adoption.  

What are the privileges we receive as sons of God adopted into his family?

 There are two mentioned in this passage. Let’s take the last one first. 

Because we are sons, we are also heirs. We have an inheritance. Our inheritance is eternal life. 1 Peter 1:3-4 tells us our eternal life is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for us. An earthly inheritance may vanish. For example, you may have seen an RV with a sticker on it that says “spending my kid’s inheritance”. 

But the heavenly inheritance is protected by God and does not diminish or go away. It is God’s promise that it will be there when we get there to claim it. You do not lose your salvation because you do not keep it, the Father keeps it for us. 

The second privilege we have as sons is a special connection to the Father though the Holy Spirit. Verse 6 says “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!””

While the rest of this text is written originally in Greek, the word “Abba” is Aramaic. That was the language commonly spoken in Israel during that time. It was the language Jesus used. In fact, Jesus used this very word. When he prayed in agony, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) 

The word “Abba” reflected the intimate relationship between God the Father and God the Son. 

The Holy Spirit, which Paul calls the Spirit of his Son, lives in each and every believer. He gives us this special connection to God as a child to his or her father. As Jesus did, we can cry out to him, expecting him to listen, to care, and to help. 

When my adopted grandson needs something, or is upset about something, he goes to my son-in-law, and says “daddy”, the English word that conveys this special relationship.

A word of caution is needed here. Although I am using earthly examples to help explain this relationship, it is important that you do not transfer the traits of your earthly father to your Heavenly Father if they are not scriptural. 

It is a natural thing to do, but you should not do it. For example, if your father was remote and detached, do not export that to your image of your Heavenly Father. He is always there, he never sleeps, he never stops caring, he is never powerless.

As we head into the end of this year, I know that many of you are limping to the finish line, not sprinting. This is one reason I chose to speak of adoption. You are emotionally spent. You are physically injured or sick. You do not have enough money. You have been abandoned by friends or family.

Your Heavenly Father knows all that you suffer and all that you need. He cares. 1 Peter  5:7 tells us to cast our anxieties on him for he cares for us.

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to let our requests be made known to God. Then, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.  

I do not know what the new year holds for any of us. If this year was a bad one for you, I pray you will have a better one next year. Most of all, I pray that you will go to the Father with every care and concern, every hurt, every need, and to thank him for every blessing.

If you have not received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I pray you will do that today, repenting of your sin and placing your trust in him. Then you too will become an adopted son of God and enjoy all of the benefits he gives. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019



This psalm celebrates God’s power and his protection of Jerusalem. It was probably written after some military victory, when enemies attacked Jerusalem and were defeated through the actions of the Lord.

God’s Presence in the City

The first sentence contains two great truths: (1) the Lord is great and (2) he is to be praised greatly.

The word “great” is overused and undervalued in our culture. It means something that is much more than normal or average. God is much more than any other being. We should not think of him as less than he is.

He has blessed us by allowing us to have a relationship with him, to talk to him, and to be loved by him. But that does not lessen who he is. It is a great condescension on his part to allow you to relate to him. But, if you lessen who God is, in your thinking, you will be less inclined to praise him and to be grateful for your relationship with him.

The Bible tells us many of the attributes of God that are praiseworthy: he is all powerful, he is knows all things, he is just, he is merciful, he is loving, and much more. As you read your Bible, you can highlight the attributes of God that are mentioned or revealed. Or you can write them down to help you praise God.

We praise him for his attributes, for who he is.

The Bible also tells us of great things he has done. He created all things, he destroyed the world by flood, he delivered Israel from Egypt, he protected Israel from strong nations, he destroyed Israel when it became apostate, he brought them back from exile and re-established the nation, he provided a way of salvation, and much more.

We praise God for his mighty works.

Since God is great, he deserves great praise. Our praise should be much more than our normal praise of normal things. It should not be lukewarm or a matter of heartless ritual, but heartfelt, intense, undistracted praise.

After making this statement, the psalmist rejoiced in God’s presence in the city of Jerusalem, through his presence in the temple. To him, the whole city is beautiful because God’s presence is in it. And it was secure because God protected it.

He remembered God’s protection. God “has made himself known as a fortress”. (3)

We do see here, though, an eschatological reference, a looking to the end times. The psalmist sees the mountain on which the temple was placed as the “joy of all the earth”. (2) We do not have any Old Testament reference to that happening.

The Psalmist also refers to the temple mount, Mount Zion, as being in the “far north”. Geographically, that was not the case. Jerusalem was not in the northern part of Israel, much less in the northern parts of the world.This seems to be a semitic way of referring to God’s throne in heaven. Some pagan religions used this saying as well.

It appears, then, that the psalmist not only saw the Jerusalem of his time as grand, but looked to the heavenly Jerusalem where God rules and where believers of all nations will come and find joy.

God’s Protection of the City

In these verses, the psalmist recounts an attack on Jerusalem by several kings who came together to create a strong force. This may have a real event as the basis, such as Assyria’s attack on Jerusalem. In the alternative, we might see it as a metaphor for the great struggle between the Lord’s people and the world as expressed in Psalm 2:1-6.

He writes in hyperbole, saying the very sight of Jerusalem terrified the enemy and made it run away. He gives credit to God for destroying (shattered) the ships of Tarshish with the wind.

This reminds us of the final battle in the book of Revelation. John saw the armies of the beast and the kings of the earth gathered to make war against Jesus and the host of angels. And Jesus slew them by his word. He captured the beast and false prophet and threw them in the lake of fire. (Revelation 19) After the judgment, the new Jerusalem appeared and would last forever under the rule and reign of the Lord. (Revelation 20-21)

God’s Praise

The psalmist said the people had thought about God’s steadfast love symbolized by his presence in the temple. God had shown his love for Israel by making a covenant with them and dwelling among them. The psalmist realized that god had done many great things for Jerusalem and Israel over the centuries.

This thinking about God led the psalmist to praise, saying:
God’s praise filled the earth;
God is righteous;
His judgments were cause for rejoicing.

Enjoying God’s Presence

Here the psalmist encourages the people to fully enjoy the evidences of God’s presence. The psalmist see Jerusalem as magnificent and wants the people to take note of her towers and strongholds so that they can tell the next generation.

But the greatness of the city is attributed to God. He has made it great because he is great. He is eternal and he will guide and protect his people forever.

Like these Old Testament saints, we can praise God for his greatness. We can rejoice that he is in our midst. He dwells with us individually and as a church. And we can see God as our fortress, as he protects us from the evil one and many other dangers.

Praise God this week for his great attributes and deeds. And rest in his protection as your fortress.  

Sunday, December 15, 2019



This is a psalm of praise to God for his reign over the world, his sovereignty. It seems to be written on the occasion of a military victory for Israel, giving credit to God, not the military, for the victory. There is also an eschatological dimension, a desire to see the full establishment of God’s rule on earth. Liturgical churches often read this psalm on Ascension Day.

The Call To Praise The King

The Psalmist calls upon the people to praise God extravagantly. He tells them to clap their hands and shout to God with loud songs.

There is a picture of this in 2 Kings 11. During a very turbulent time in Israel, when most of the royal family had been killed, the daughter of King Joram hid young his young son Joash from the queen until he could be made king. He was then brought before the people, crowned, and anointed as king. The people clapped their hands and shouted “long live the king”.

This call is issued to all peoples, not just to the Israelites. (1) The Psalmist was declaring the Lord’s sovereignty over all people and nations. This is the eschatalogical dimension. We know that, while all of those in heaven sing praises to God and recognize him as King, the kingdom of God will not be fully established until those on earth join them. And that will only happen at the end of this age.

Malachi 1:11 records God saying “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.”

The call to praise is based on the fact that God is to be feared as the great king over the earth. He rules over all and should be feared over all.

At first glance, it may seem contradictory to call for exuberant and joyful praise in one breath, and fear of the Lord in the next. But, they are not contradictory for the believer.

That is because the believer has proper perspective. Perspective is point of view. Fear of the Lord is recognizing God and ourselves in proper prospective. He is holy and he is sovereign, and we recognize not only the fact of it, but the blessing of it. We have deep reverence to him because he is holy and total submission to him because he is sovereign. And, we praise him for these traits and rejoice because they benefit us.

God’s sovereignty calls for us to submit to him, but also promises us that he is in control and will work all things out as he has said and to his glory. The Psalmist understood that. He credited God for subduing Israel’s enemies and protecting their heritage as his people. (3)

Believers belong to God. We are his children, his family. (John 1:12) Because of that, we rejoice in his triumphs. First, we rejoice because we are happy to see him glorified. Second, we rejoice because, as his family, we benefit from his victories. Romans 8:28 tells us “…for those who love God all things work together for good”.

Our fear of God is not that he will destroy us, although we realize his power to destroy. Our fear of God is a deep reverence for who he is, a reverence that gives us peace and joy.

The King Ascends The Throne

These verses picture God as the warrior who has won a great victory and now ascends to the throne with great fanfare. The Psalmist calls the people to recognize him with songs of praise. He is king of all the earth.

The Reign of the King

These verses picture God seated on and reigning from his throne. The people of all the earth gather before him in submission and worship. He is exalted over all earthly rulers.

This is not always apparent to us. But the view of the Bible writers is always that of God directing the affairs of men. In his mercy, he often lets men and women descend into sin as they rebel against his sovereignty, but he always exerts his power and authority when he wishes.

One is example is the Flood in Genesis. God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth. (Genesis 6:5) He let that go on for a while, then destroyed the earth with a flood. A few generations later, men built a tower in an attempt to reach the heavens and make a name for themselves, and God destroyed it and confused their languages. (Genesis 11)

Today, we certainly see ungodliness run wild in our world. Things we would not have thought of doing even a few decades ago are sources of merriment and rejoicing and even justification for oppressing those who do not agree with it.

None of this takes God by surprise and none of it is beyond his control. Romans 1 addresses the ungodliness of mankind and how God has given people up to their dishonorable passions to become objects of his wrath.

The Book of Revelation shows this world and its degradation to us in vivid images. It was written to show us that, while God lets Satan have his way to an extent and for a time, he will end it all at the time of his choosing and destroy all of his, and our, enemies. He will sit in judgment of mankind from his great, white, throne. (Revelation 20:11)

All people will acknowledge the king, willingly or unwillingly. Philippians 2: 10 tells us that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

He will then make all things new. And in that new creation, he will sit on his throne, in the midst of all of those who fear him, and reign over them with great and eternal blessing to them.

 We will sing about that tonight in Handel’s Messiah:

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!:|
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever.

Saturday, December 14, 2019


Matthew 1:18-25

When you look at a manger scene, the focus is rightly on the baby Jesus. He may be in the manger or in the arms of his mother, Mary, who gets a lot of attention at Christmas also.

But, often, my eyes slide over to Joseph, wondering what he was thinking. It had been a tough year for him. His fiancé turned up pregnant. He was going to be a good guy and break the engagement quietly. But an angel appeared to him and told him the Baby was from the Holy Spirit. Try explaining that one to your mother!

To further complicate matters, he had a dream and an angel told him the following:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

The baby would be named Immanuel. This was not the name he would be known by, which was Jesus, but a name designed to tell us what he was and who he was.

Matthew, empowered by the Holy Spirit, looked back at the word of the Lord spoken to King Ahaz (about 7 centuries before!) and said the birth of Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah: "they shall call his name Immanuel". (Isaiah 7:14)

To help those who do not read Hebrew, Matthew interpreted it for us: it means “God with us”.

Matthew saw this as a momentous occasion, God fulfilling words he spoke 7 centuries before in the birth a baby. And the occasion is the birth of “God with us”. And it was told to Joseph first.

Why is that important?

It is important because God has always, and will always, want to dwell with his people. He showed this in the beginning, creating a perfect place for men and women to live and to abide with him. He walked in the Garden with them.

Genesis 3, of course, shows us that the man and woman rejected God and he cast them from his presence in the garden. But, he did not give up on the concept of dwelling with them.

Just a couple of examples of that are the Tabernacle, the pop up church of the day, that the Israelites carried with them and placed in the middle of the camp when they stopped. Another is the Temple, especially the first one, where God’s presence dwelt in the midst of the capital city of Jerusalem.
But even the Tabernacle and the Temple were remote to the individual. Only the priests could enter it, and only the High Priest could enter the room where God’s presence actually dwelt. That remoteness was a product of God’s holiness. He cannot tolerate sin in his presence.

That problem would be fixed by the baby named “God with us”, as he removed the sins of those who believed in him and lived so that his righteousness could be imputed to us.

And, he dwelt with his people. The apostle John picked up on this and wrote “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. (John 1:14) Jesus dwelt with his followers for the years of his ministry. He was with the Twelve every day and night during that time.

But, what about when he died? Well, the resurrected Christ told his disciples that he would be with them until the end of the age. In other words, he would never leave them, he would dwell with his followers through the Holy Spirit all through their lifetimes until they were either reunited with him at death or when he returns at the end of the age. He said this in John 14:1-3 and 14:19-20.

Like the infomercials say: but wait there’s more!

When this age does end, where will God be? He will be fully and finally dwelling with his people. He shows us this in Revelation 21:3. God’s dwelling place is with mankind.
So, Joseph looked at that baby and thought, this is the God-Man, the savior, sent to restore Eden and dwell with mankind again. And he is my responsibility. That would be weighty, wouldn’t it?
But, I hope there was some joy there for Joseph as well, that maybe he understood just a little of what was happening, that God had finally taken this huge step that would result in restored fellowship with his people, those who believe in Jesus.

Joseph believed and did what the Lord told him to do. He eventually died, and, I believe, Jesus fulfilled his promise to come for him and take him to be with himself, now the glorified king in heaven. And Joseph is walking around heaven telling the story with a big smile on his face, looking over at that throne and thinking “I knew you as the little baby in the manger”.

And I hope you, when you look at the manger scenes this year, will experience the awe of the momentous occasion that it represents and remember that God said he would dwell with you forever.

Monday, December 02, 2019

A Mighty Fortress

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow'r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow'rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.

Martin Luther’s reflection on Psalm 46 

Sunday, December 01, 2019


Advent, which marks the start of the new liturgical year, always begins on Advent Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The term Advent is taken from the Latin word adventus, which means “arrival” or “coming,” and was from the translation of the Greek Parousia—a word used for both the coming of Christ in human flesh and his Second Coming. The season of Advent is a time when Christians reflect on the comings of Christ to Earth. The first two weeks of the season focus on the future return of Christ at the Second Coming, while the last two weeks focus on the coming celebration of Christmas. As Ryan Reeves notes, the first written evidence of Advent is found in modern Spain and Europe, and the earliest official mention of Advent practices comes as the Council of Sargossa (AD 380). Since the date of Christmas has been set on December 25, the first day of Advent changes slightly from year to year.

The Gospel Coalition 



This psalm is a song declaring God’s presence with and protection of Israel, his people, in times of upheaval.

God Is Our Refuge & Strength

The psalmist declared that God is the strength and refuge of his people.

Israel knew that it was a small country compared to many others. It could not, therefore, muster the military strength of greater and larger nations.

Even when Israel was not directly at war with one of these powers, it was vulnerable because of its location. Sometimes it got caught in the crossfire as Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria and others fought each other for dominance. Because of this, Israel needed to rely on the strength of the Lord.

The psalmist declared that God was their refuge. A refuge is a safe place. For example, God set aside six cities in Israel as cities of refuge to which a person who killed someone unintentionally could flee and be protected from the revenge of the deceased’s family. (Joshua 20)

In this psalm, God is the safe place to which the Israelites could flee in times of international trouble or disaster. He is always with his people and they always need him, but they experience his presence in a special way during times of distress. He is closest to them then.

Lastly, God was “a very present help in trouble”. He is available; he can be found. And he is ready to help his people.

He is not the god of Deism, the idea that God created the universe but does not intervene in its affairs. Julie Gold wrote a song that has this same deistic idea. It is called “From A Distance”. She writes: “God is watching us, from a distance.” It goes on to talk about what man does while God is watching.

The psalmist, however, saw God as involved in the affairs of his people, giving protection and providing strength in all circumstances. The circumstances the psalmist mentions seem to  be natural disasters: the earth giving way, the mountains moved into the sea, the sea roaring and foaming, causing the mountains to tremble. (2-3) These could remind us of the natural events around us that scare us, such as fires, earthquakes, floods, and volcanoes. These things scare us, especially when the media try to make it sound like the end of the world. But the psalmist said “we will not fear” because of the Lord.

It could be that these events are metaphors for upheavals among nations. Nations constantly war against each other, threaten each other, and compete economically with each other. It can cause a lot of stress if you think about it. But, trusting in God, we need not fear. For God can make them fall by speaking his word of judgment upon them.

God With us

In contrast to the raging seas, God provides a river that makes his people glad. He chose Jerusalem as the place of his presence. It was the City of God. (4) This makes us think of the Garden of Eden with its river of four branches where God’s people dwelt in the presence of God. It also makes us think of the New Jerusalem of Revelation 22, where the river of the water of life flows from the phone of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the city.

God’s presence dwelt in the midst of that city. (5) This is a reference to the temple. God cannot be moved. The mountains can be moved, but not God. Because God dwelt in the city, it could not be moved. The city had God’s help. This was always true while Israel feared God and keep the covenant.

It did not matter if the nations raged and fought, God was in control of their destinies. He could destroy them with his voice. (6)

This stanza ends with a restatement of the truth of the psalm: God is with us; he is our fortress. (7)

Look What He Has Done

One way the believer encourages him or herself is to remember the mighty things God has done, the works of God. The psalmist invited God’s people to enjoy God’s acts of deliverance. He delivered his people from Egypt and from the invasions of surrounding countries. He is the one who will ultimately destroy all of his enemies and make permanent peace.

God brought desolation upon Sodom and Gomorrah. They have never been rebuilt. He gave Israel victory over many enemies. They defeated Jericho without throwing a spear. The Assyrians were defeated, turning on themselves.

In verse 10, God speaks directly, telling his people to be still, to know he is God and will be exalted in the earth. This reflects the speech Moses gave to the Israelites when they were trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptians. He said “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for your, and your have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14) In other words, be still and know that I am God.

The Lord then told Moses “I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 14:17-18) In other words, I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.

The conclusion is the restated refrain: God (the Lord of hosts) is with us. He is our fortress.

A German pastor wrote a song to this effect. He called it: "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God") as a paraphrase of this psalm. His name was Martin Luther.

So, how does this Psalm apply to the New Testament Believer, the Christian? First, God dwells with us through Christ. Jesus said “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”  (John 14:20” The Holy Spirit dwells in every believer.  Jesus said “…if I go, I will send him (the Holy Spirit) to you. (John 16:7) Paul wrote: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)

God is still our strength, so we need not fear. Paul wrote “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self control”. (2 Timothy 1:7)

God is still our refuge. He is the only safe place. Trust him and lean on him always, and especially in times of distress. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019


This Psalm is meant to be a song. It is directed to the choirmaster and written to a specific tune. It is a wedding song, dealing with a beloved king and his bride, a glorious foreign princess.


The songwriter was thrilled to write this song to the king. We do not know which king the song was initially written about, but one of the kings in the line of David. The psalmist loves the king and writes about him in glowing terms. It is an idealistic description, portraying the king as one blessed by the Lord because of the promise of the Lord to David to keep his heirs on the throne of Israel forever.

Praise of the King

In this section, the psalmist praises the excellent qualities of the king. First he praises his appearance, calling him the most handsome of men. (2) The NIV says “excellent” instead of “handsome”. The idea is royal perfection.

He is also gracious in speech because God has given him grace and blessed him forever.  God has poured grace on him, or anointed him with grace. We saw this in Solomon, who spoke wisdom. People of all the nations came to hear his wisdom. (1 Kings 4:34) His wisdom and wealth took the queen of Sheba’s breath away. (1 Kings 9:5)

God has blessed the king forever. (2) God promised David a descendant on the throne forever. (2 Samuel 7) This king inherited that blessing, both in becoming king and passing the kingdom to his son. Maybe this verse inspired Paul to write “…and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever”. (Romans 9:5) Jesus Christ is a descendant of David in the flesh.

He is a mighty warrior and can ride out to battle expecting victory. (3) People will fall to his arrows. (5) He has splendor and majesty because of his past victories. (3) He establishes peace and prosperity for Israel and order to the world.

The king does not go to battle just to add territory to his kingdom. He goes in the cause of truth and righteousness (4), standing for God and his law. Yet, though he has majesty and splendor, he goes in meekness. He is a glorious king, yet obeys the Lord and humbly fulfills his duty for Him.

This passage inspired an old hymn. It is entitled “Ride On! Ride on in Majesty! written by Henry H. Milman in 1827.

Verse 6 makes a puzzling switch, addressing God, saying his throne is forever, his scepter is the scepter of uprightness, and he has loved righteousness and hated wickedness. What throne is the psalmist referring to?

He refers first to the Davidic throne, established by God when he anointed David as king and continued with the covenant he made with David to have a descendant, or son, on the throne forever. The successive kings would enjoy the favor of God and rule as God’s representative as long as they were faithful to God’s covenant with Israel.

This throne is to be established and maintained in righteousness. The kings are to oppose all wickedness. They are to establish God’s kingdom on earth. When they do these things, they secure God’s blessing on themselves and on the nation. As we read through the books of Kings and Chronicles, we see these blessings poured out on the kings who acted righteously, obeyed God’s law, and did not worship idols. Those who were wicked suffered the disfavor of God, which led to the suffering of the people.

Because God has established this throne, the king is anointed above all others with the oil of gladness and his robes scented with pleasant smelling herbs. This is a picture of the king on his wedding day, dressed in scented robes, his hair groomed with oil, ready to be presented with his bride.

Beautiful music is played for the wedding, royal princesses are attendants, and his queen is ornamented with the finest gold. (9) Only the very best and most pleasant is used for the wedding of the king.

Instruction to the Bride, the Queen

The psalmist then gave instructions to the bride, as we see him telling her to incline her ear or listen to him. (10)

She must be a royal princess from another country, because he tells her to forget her people and her father’s house. (10) Although she is royal in her country, it is her greater honor to wed the Davidic king. So, she should not dwell on her past glory, but come to the king and bow to him as her lord. Submission to the king implied submission to God, since the king was God’s representative.

The Bride will be rewarded for her submission to the king. The king will appreciate her beauty.  She will be honored among the nations, demonstrated by the rich people of Tyre coming and giving her gifts. (11) Tyre was a wealthy trading nation in what is now Lebanon.

The bride will come to the king in her own glory, wearing gold robes befitting a royal person, which are intricately woven of many colors.  (13) Not only will she arrive in beauty, both in face and in clothing, she will have attendants who are virgins that attend her in joy and gladness as they come to the palace and present their lady to the king.

The picture here is shifted from the throne room, where she was presented to the king, to the chamber where she prepared for the wedding, and then her entrance into the palace.

God’s Continuing Promise

The Psalmist closes with a reminder of the Davidic covenant. God will bring the king sons to continue the line of his fathers. He will make the king’s name known and praised forever.

When we read the Old Testament, we first consider what the writer meant for the first readers, the original audience. We have done that here. Second, we may consider what the scripture means for us today in the context of Christ and the church.

Though this exaltation applies first to the king at the time the psalm is written, we see in the words a greater king. The writer of Hebrews, under the influence of the Holy Spirit did also. He directly applied these verses to Jesus in Hebrews 1:8-9, saying the Father said this about the Son.

Jesus is indeed on the throne, at the right hand of the Father. He is the descendant of David, the bright and morning star. (Revelation 22:16) His scepter is one of righteousness, for he lived on earth in total righteousness. His righteousness is imputed to us when we commit ourselves to him in faith.

In the new creation, all things will be put in order and Christ will rule them as David ruled the nations around Israel. Revelation 21:26 says they will bring into the new Jerusalem the glory and the honor of the nations.

The bride of king Jesus is the church. As he sanctified, then glorified those who believe in him, the bride is presented to him at his second coming as beautiful and flawless. Revelation shows it to us in poetic terms:

For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his Bride has made
herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Revelation 19:6-8)

When the Davidic kings served the Lord, the nation was glad. It prospered and blessed the Lord. In eternity, the eternal king, Jesus, will give all his people gladness and joy forever.

That is why the Spirit and the Bride say “come”. (Revelation 22:17) And that is why we, with John, say “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Psalm 44 is attributed to the “sons of Korah”. Korah was famous for leading an insurrection against Moses. God caused the earth to open and swallow the rebels, killing them. (Numbers 16) But the sons of Korah were spared. Maybe they did not take part in the rebellion.

Seven generations later, the prophet Samuel was born into the family as a descendant of Korah. The Korahites began to participate in the care of the tabernacle again. Under King David, they began to lead in worship. One man, Heman, became famous as a singer. (1 Chronicles 6:33)

Psalms 42 and 43 were personal laments. Psalm 44 is a national lament. It was written in a time of defeat in battle. It is a cry by the psalmist for the rescue of the whole nation.

We do not know an exact date for the writing of the Psalm or the circumstances to which it refers, but it deals with a time when Israel is oppressed by enemies. One possibility is the attack of the Moabites and Ammonites during the reign of Jehoshaphat, recorded in 2 Chronicles 20. Jeshoshaphat called the nation of Judah together to fast and seek help from the Lord.

Recalling the Past

The psalmist started by recalling the stories told by his ancestors of the great deeds of the Lord. (1) He focused on God’s driving the Canaanites and others out of the land of Canaan to give it to Israel. He acknowledged that the Israelites did not win the land in their own strength. Rather, the Lord did it. (3)

The psalmist, as with all of the Old Testament writers, related the history of Israel in terms of the sovereignty of God. “Sovereignty” means the authority and power to rule without interference from anyone.

John Piper wrote: “There are no limits to God’s rule. This is part of what it means to be God. He is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss.”

The psalmist wrote “you afflicted the peoples”. (2) He was referring to the Israelites becoming slaves in Egypt. He laid the power to do this and the responsibility for it in God’s hands. God also took them into and through the wilderness, where they had to learn to trust him for survival.

Then, he wrote “but them you set free”. God delivered them from Egypt and from the wilderness and delivered them to Canaan.

God delivered Israel because he delighted in them. (3) They were his chosen people. He set his love and favor on them.

It is this way for us today as the church. (Ephesians 1:4)

Declaration of Faith

The psalmist declared that God was his king. He acknowledged God’s sovereignty and rule over Israel and over himself. And, based on that, he asked God to ordain salvation for Jacob. In effect, he was saying, since you rule over us and love us, save us. This indicates the time of writing this psalm was a time when Israel was defeated or oppressed by another nation.

Victory would be one “through you (God)”. The psalmist did not at all lean on the military strength of Israel. And, likely, that strength had failed and allowed another king and country to oppress them.

Again, the psalmist looked to the past, saying “you have saved us from our foes” and “put to shame those who hate us”. (7) Because of this, the nation had continually boasted in God and given thanks to him. (8) This might be an overstatement by the psalmist. Israel has certainly faltered in its obedience to God many times in its history. But, possibly, within the experience of the psalmist, that had not been the case.

God Had Afflicted Them

The Psalmist wrote that God, as the sovereign, was responsible for Israel’s troubles. All of their confidence in God was shattered by the present reality of defeat.
God had rejected and disgraced them by not giving victory to the army. He said God had not gone out with the armies. (9)

These military defeats are attributed to God by the psalmist. He said it in several different ways:
He made them turn back, or retreat, from the enemy (10);
The enemy had taken spoils from the army;
God made them like defenseless sheep to be slaughtered (11);
He scattered them among the nations;
He gave Israel up and got no value for it (“for a trifle”)(12);
He made them the subject of taunts, derision and scorn (13);
they were laughed at (14).

The psalmist is still acknowledging God’s sovereignty, but in a negative way. He blames God for the military defeats. And he is correct: God is sovereign and can give victory or defeat as it pleases him.

The psalmist personally felt the shame and disgrace of these defeats. Here he considered Israel as God’s favorite, yet they were defeated. His question is “how can the God of our fathers abandon the children”?

Like many who suffer, the psalmist is asking “don’t you care”?

A Claim of Innocence

In this section, the psalmist declares the innocence of Israel. In other words, he is saying “you are doing this to us and it is unfair because we have done nothing wrong”. If they had broken covenant with God, they would rightly be subject to the curses of the covenant set out in Leviticus 26.

But the psalmist stated that Israel had not been unfaithful and had not broken the covenant. (17) They had obeyed the law, and not departed from God’s way. (18)

Despite their faithfulness, God had broken them. (19) He brought death upon them. A “place of jackals” would be an abandoned, desolate place.

The psalmist then went back to the theme of unfairness. He said if they had been unfaithful, or turned to idolatry, God would know it. (20-21) The implication is that God knew they, as a nation, had been faithful to him.

Paul quoted verse 22 in Romans 8:36, to support his argument that nothing separates us from God, including tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. Unlike the Psalmist, Paul expected suffering and knew God continued to be with us in it, with Jesus interceding for us.

The Call For Help

The Psalmist called for God to wake up and come to their aid. He questioned why God forgot them and their suffering. They are so low they are on the ground in the dust. (25) He asked for God to come and help and redeem them from their oppression, and to do this for the sake of his steadfast love.

This psalm certainly shows that we can pour out our pain and suffering to God. It borders on disrespect for God, which I do not endorse, but it shows us that God is willing to hear us even when our feelings are raw. We do not have to “sugar coat” our feelings or to act like we are not in pain. God made us, including our feelings, and knows we suffer at times. Jesus took on human flesh and felt all of the emotions, sufferings, and pains that we do, and he intercedes for us.

The Takeaways

1. The psalmist did a good theological thing when he acknowledged God’s sovereignty even over bad things. What he did not do is submit himself to God’s will in suffering. He considered it as unfair. It is difficult to suffer, but especially difficult to suffer without cause.

Compare the psalmist to Job.The Book of Job also is an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty. Satan is only allowed to attack Job when God lets him. Job, in contrast to the Psalmist, did not consider it unfair, even though he was a righteous man.

Job submitted himself to God. When his wife urged him to curse God, he said “shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) Later, he said “though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15)

The Bible tells us that we may, and probably will, suffer. And we should accept it. This is another place the prosperity gospel errs. Righteous men and women suffered for the sake of the gospel in the New Testament, as recorded in the book of Acts. Stephen was killed. James was killed.

Paul suffered physical ailments. Peter and John were jailed. Peter was ultimately martyred, though this is not recorded in the New Testament, and John was exiled. Many others were imprisoned and had their property confiscated.

The promise of the gospel is not an immunity from suffering. Calvin said “In order, therefore, that weariness, or dread of the cross, may not root up from our herts true godliness, let us continually reflect upon this, that it behooves us to drink the cup which God puts into our hands, and that no one can be a Christian who does not dedicate himself to God.”

Additionally, the fact is, God does not always tell or show us why we suffer. He does not owe us an answer, because he is God and can do what pleases him and what he finds necessary. If you do not believe this, read the last few chapters of Job. In chapter 31, Job justified himself, telling all that he has done that is good and demanded that God to tell him why his suffering happened. He said “Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me! Oh that I had an indictment written by my  adversary! (Job 31:34)

In answer, his young friend Elihu blasted him for justifying himself and not God, then blasting Job’s friends for not speaking up. This goes on for six chapters! Then God spoke directly to Job of his sovereignty for five chapters. That is a thorough rebuke, 11 chapters worth!

Job got the message and said he repented in dust and ashes. (Job 42:6)

2. The psalmist did another good thing he continued to call on God for redemption and to believe God had the power to deliver Israel.   Though he was in despair over Israel’s defeat, he did not quit believing in God’s power to deliver them.

Suffering is very difficult, no matter the cause or the type. We are not promised there will be no suffering. In fact, Jesus told his disciples to expect it.

Faith is honed in suffering. The one who suffers and endures in the faith will find his faith strengthened and his relationship to Christ deepened.

Prepare your heart for suffering. Jesus told his disciples they would suffer so they would be prepared. Peter was not prepared when confronted on the night of Jesus’ arrest and trial, and he denied Christ. Later he was prepared and confessed Christ in the face of death. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Psalm 42 and 43
Why Are you Cast Down, O My Soul?

The second book of Psalms begins with Psalm 42 and runs through Psalm 72. There are five books of Psalms.

Psalms 42 and 43 should be one poem, or Psalm.  We will treat them as such for this study. They are a lament of one who is away from Jerusalem and the Temple and longing to return. He might be in exile in a foreign land. While away, the writer is surrounded by enemies. Yet, the writer continues to hope in God.

Since Jerusalem was where God chose to place his temple, and the temple was where the presence of God dwelt, to be away from Jerusalem was to be away from God in the mind of the writer, and he longed to return.

There are 3 divisions or stanzas to this psalm, all expressing the writer’s longing for God, but in different ways.. Verses 1-5 describe this longing in terms of thirst. Verses 6-11 express longing in terms of discouragement. And 43:1-5 expresses longing in prayer.

Thirsting For God

The writer compares himself with a thirsty deer. This is a “simile” in poetic terms. The deer pants for a flowing stream to quench its thirst. In a hot, dry land such as Israel, the deer would desperately desire a drink of clear and clean water from a flowing stream. The psalmist longs for the presence of God in the same way. (2) He is thirsty for God. You may have experienced this. You may have felt spiritually dry, desiring the close and intense relationship of being close to God.

The psalmist also cries continuously as he enemies taunt him by saying “where is your God”. Have you ever been in a place where you were suffering and hanging on, and someone taunted you by asking why God did not help you? This is the situation of this psalmist.

Yet, he remembers going with the crowds to the Temple. He must have been a worship leader of some sort, for he led them. They shouted and sang. He was at one of the Old Testament festivals. There were three of them, when all of Israel was to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem at the temple: Passover, First fruits, and Tabernacles.

There would be offerings, sacrifices, feasts, worship and rejoicing.

In times of spiritual distress, or in times of trial, we can look back to times of joy in the Lord, or the Lord’s deliverance from trouble, and have hope and faith in him.

In verse 5, the psalmist chides himself for being cast down and in turmoil. Sometimes you have to talk to yourself when you are down. You exercise faith over doubt and despair. The psalmist reminded himself to hope in God, knowing he will again praise God who is his salvation.

Part of hope is waiting on God to act, knowing that he will. When times are hard, we will find ourselves discouraged. Even Jesus experienced this. When he went to Gethsemane on the night of his arrest, he was sorrowful and troubled. (Matthew 26:37) He told his disciples his should was very sorrowful, even to death. (Matthew 26:38) But he submitted himself to the Father’s will in faith and in hope.


But the fact remained that his soul was “cast down. He was depressed and in turmoil. He remembered the land, with the river Jordan which begins in the north of Israel near Mount Herman. (We do not know where Mizer is.)

The psalmist is back to the image of water, but this time it is more in a sense of despair than relief. He sees noisy waterfalls, turbulent water flowing over him. He may sees this as judgment, because they are God’s waterfalls, breakers and waves. He has no control over his circumstances and is overwhelmed with problems.

You may not be sent into exile, but you may find yourself in situations where you have no control. One day you are well, the next you are diagnosed with a serious disease. One day you are working faithfully at your job, the next you have been fired and do not know what you will do next. One day you you are married and, the next day, your spouse leaves you. Circumstances will seem overwhelming and you may question why God does not act to restore you. Your soul will be “cast down”.

In verse 8, the writer again talks to himself. He remembers the steadfast love of God. This love is God’s love toward those in covenant with him. In fact, he referred to God here by his covenant name, Yahweh, represented in the English text by “LORD”.

He has made promises, a covenant, with those who are faithful to him. Israel was in covenant with God, expressed in the law and the promises set forth in Exodus and Leviticus.

The psalmist acknowledged God’s love and his promise keeping. He sang. He prayed. He had fellowship with God continually in the past.

But his reflection on this past communion with God causes him emotional turmoil in the present. He questioned God, asking if he has forgotten him, asking why he must be said because his enemies oppress him. (9) It is so bad, he feels he has a deadly would in his bones, as if he had been stabbed all the way into the bone.

You can see the writer’s conflict here. He remembers a past of joy. He acknowledges God as his rock, the one who can give him refuge. Yet, he keeps feeling that God has abandoned him because he continues to suffer separation from is homeland and the temple.

In verse 11, the psalmist returned to questioning his should and speaking to himself to hope in God, knowing he will again praise him who is his salvation.

Longing in Prayer

The psalmist now turns to prayer for help. He asked God for vindication and defense against the ungodly who persecute him. Vindication and defense are two words for the same thing the writer is asking: for God to act to save him from his enemies to show his faith in God was not in vain.

He is now in even more turmoil of spirit. He moves from asking why God has forgotten him, to why has God rejected him? He not only feels that God has been slow to come to his rescue, but that he may not come at all because he has rejected the psalmist from the covenant relationship. (2) His is in mourning over this as his enemies oppress him.

In the midst of this spiritual darkness, the writer asks God to keep his promises and bring him back to the temple. (3) The holy hill is Mount Zion on which the temple sits. His (God’s) dwelling is the temple.  He asked for God’s light and his truth to lead him.

God’s light and his truth are personifications of his covenant faithfulness. If God will show him the way back and lead him back, he will again experience the presence of God in the temple. He will go to the altar and make a sacrifice to God in exceeding joy. He will praise him with a lyre, a musical instrument.

The psalmist seeks to worship God that is personal to him, with whom he has a relationship. He calls him God, my God.

These thoughts, and this prayer, restore hope and joy to the Psalmist. Again he talks to himself, asking why his should is depressed and anxious. He tells himself to hope in God, trusting that he will again praise him who saved him and is his God, his Lord

Those who are in Christ, have the Lord with them always. There is no exile for us. Jesus brought us out of the separation from God into fellowship with him. Ephesians 2:13 says: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

When we feel separated from him, it is usually from sin and neglect. Unconfessed sin makes us reluctant to come to God. His holiness illuminates our sin in the most uncomfortable way. If this is your situation today, do not wait another minute to confess your sin and receive restoration into full fellowship with the Lord.

Sometimes our sin is simply neglect. We have become consumed and diverted by the world and lost our focus on God. We quit praying. We quit reading the Bible. We do not worship with our fellow believers. Then we reach a point of spiritual dryness. Again, if this is you, confess and get back on track and you will again feel the joy of his presence.

At other times, though, we go through difficult trials. And sometimes they seem so overwhelming. They are painful and they go on so long we begin to despair as this psalmist did. Here is where our faith is put to the biggest test. Here is where we place all of our hope in God to sustain us and deliver us.

Do not be afraid to cry out to God at these times, even as this Psalmist did, expressing his feeling that God was not coming to his rescue. God can take it. And by crying out to him, you will also receive assurance that he hears your cry, feels your pain, and is there to help you.

We do not always know why God lets us suffer or go through trials, but he tells us in his word that he is there with us at all times to strengthen us, and we can trust his word because he is the promise keeping God.

Sunday, November 03, 2019



Paul wrote Colossians to combat a heresy attacking the church. The book does not spell out the details of the heresy, but it seemed to involve the idea that Christ was not God and that he was not enough for salvation, and something else should be added. Christ, to the false teachers, was not sufficient. Dr. Curtis Vaughan said it cast a cloud over the glory of Christ.

Paul wrote to give the Colossians an adequate view, a correct view, of Jesus, showing them he is all we need for salvation and worship. He proclaimed the absolute and unqualified supremacy of Christ. He is preeminent in creation and in salvation.

And I want you to today to see the same thing. Jesus Christ is above all things, capable of saving you, and worthy of your worship. So, let’s look at who Christ is: in relation to God the Father, in relation to creation, and in relation to redemption.

Paul makes several statements about Christ in this passage, each starting with the words “he is”. He described Christ in relation to God the Father, to creation, and to the church.

First, in relation to God the Father, Christ is the image of the invisible God. In the New Testament generally, and in this passage specifically, the word “God” refers to the Father. Jesus, the Son, is the image of the Father, who is the invisible God.

The Bible tells us that God is invisible to our sight. God himself reminded the Israelites that they did not see any form when he spoke to them on the mountain to give them the covenant law. (Deuteronomy 4:15) He told them they could not make an image of him or of anything to worship as God. (Exodus 20:4)

Jesus told us that God is spirit (John 4:24). John told us that no one has ever seen God. (John 1:18) Paul told us God dwells in unapproachable light. (1 Timothy 6:16)

All of this being true, we see that we cannot know God by sight. So, how do we know him? We know him by knowing Jesus, who revealed him to us. As the image of God the Father, Jesus perfectly reveals the nature and being of God. He said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the exact representation of the Father.

Jesus has always been, is, and always will be the image of God. Therefore, we do not seek to know God in any way other than through Jesus, his actions and his words. John 1:18 says “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”.

In relation to creation, Christ Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation”. “Firstborn” does not mean he was the first creation. Some have cited this verse to mean that. Rather it means he is before all creation in time and in his rank or position over it.

Verse 16 makes it clear: all things were created by him. He made them, he rules them, and they owe their existence to him. They were also created for him, to serve him, willingly or unwillingly, and to bring him glory.

This includes everything you can see and everything you cannot see. (16) It includes angels, even the evil ones we call demons. Paul named 4 classes of them: thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities. Jesus created them and he rules them as a firstborn son of a king rules the kingdom. He will dispose of them eventually according to his will at the final judgment. We need not fear them, for Jesus rules them.

Not only did Jesus create all things, he holds all things together. (17)  He will hold creation together until the time comes for the heavens and earth to be made new. Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power. What holds the Sun at exactly the right distance to warm the earth but not burn it up? Jesus does. What keeps the universe in order? Jesus does.

In relation to the church, the new creation, Jesus is the head of the body. (18) Your head, containing your brain, rules your body. It tells your heart to pump blood through your body. It tells your feet to move one at a time when you need to walk somewhere. It even works while you sleep, directing the functions of your body.

Similarly, Christ is the ruler and director of the church. He leads and directs. He is the only head of the church.

The use of the metaphor of the body for the church implies that the church is an organism and that the members, the redeemed, are parts of the body working together in unity of purpose to obey the commands of its head, Jesus Christ. Christ works out his purpose and will through the church. Christ and the church are in union with each other, just as the human head and body are.

Why is Jesus the head of the church? Because he is the beginning of it. he is the firstborn of the dead. (18) That is, he is the first who died and was resurrected, beginning the church. He is the source of the church’s life.

Because he is the first to be resurrected, he will have preeminence in everything. (18) God has declared him to be first above all things by having all his fullness to dwell in Jesus. All that God the Father is and has he has conferred on his Son. In Colossians 2:9, Paul further wrote: “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”  He is sufficient to redeem you, because God caused all of his redemptive power to dwell in Christ.

In fact, God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself through Jesus. (20) At the end of this age, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:10) All intelligent beings, on earth and in heaven, will acknowledge the sovereignty of God, willingly or unwillingly.

If you are a believer, I hope you will see and rejoice in the Preeminent Christ, who rules over all things, including death and the grave. You need nothing else for salvation and spiritual life but Him.

If you have not committed your life to Christ, I pray that you will come to him today. He who is before all things, created all things, and rules all things died on the cross to reconcile you to the Father.

Your sins have separated you from God. You were bound for Hell. But, by placing your faith in Jesus, you will be declared blameless and at peace with God, bound for heaven.

Sunday, October 27, 2019



This is a new section and, except for a short doxology, the last section. The body of the letter began with the word “beloved” and this closing section does also. The exhortation has a triad. First, Jude reminded his readers of the predictions of the apostles regarding false teachers. Second, Believers should remain in the love of God. Third, Jude teaches his readers how to treat those who have been influenced by the false teachers.

Jude wanted his readers to remember that God was not caught by surprise when false teachers arose. He called them “scoffers”, those who scoff at the truth of God’s word. And, they follow their own ungodly passions. Since they want to follow their sinful passions, they scoff at those portions of scripture that condemn their actions.

But, God does not update his word or his standards to fit the mood of the times.
The Lord is righteous. (Psalm 11:7) He is the standard of what is right. He always acts in accordance with what is right. He does not change. (Malachi 3:6 - For I the LORD do not change.)

God knew false teachers and scoffers would come and he revealed that fact to the apostles so they could warn the church. (17) We are God’s “beloved”, those whom he loves. He does not leave his loved ones in ignorance. Rather, he prepared them, and us, with warnings. When we are worried about things going on in our time, we look to the predictions of the apostles and remember that the Lord knew this would happen and warned us through the apostles. It does not make us happy about what is going on, but it makes us secure in God’s knowledge and sovereignty.

These warnings could certainly have been oral warnings that were passed down. But at least some were also written down. Matthew recorded Jesus’ warning of false prophets. (Matthew 7:15-20) He said they were ravenous wolves who dressed in sheep’s clothing. In other words, they worked to look like believing teachers, but they were out for their own gain. He instructed us that we could know them by their fruits.

For example, Rick Warren, the California pastor, gives 90 percent of his income to the church. It would be hard to claim he is in ministry to make money for himself. The IRS once challenged his tax exemption for the house he lived in because the exemption exceeded the value of his house. The exemption was for $80,000. In contrast, you get research on the Internet and find the homes of television evangelists worth millions and who have net worths of many millions. You can know them by their fruits.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders of savage wolves that would attack the flock, distorting the truth in order to draw away disciples from the truth. (Acts 20:29-30)

Paul also gave warnings to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Since Jude was the brother of James, he likely heard the apostles speak and teach.

They caused divisions, as in the church at Corinth. They do not have the Spirit, so they act like lost, worldly, people. We expect sinners to sin. But when those who claim to be believers act like those who do not believe, we need to be careful around them.

The “but you” at the beginning of verse 20 is an emphatic contrast. In contrast to the false teachers, the “beloved” are to keep themselves in the love of God. There are three things listed there to do, but the only imperative (essential instruction) word is “keep”. The others are participles: building, praying, and waiting. (20) The participles tell us how to accomplish the imperative. We accomplish the instruction to keep ourselves in the love of God by building ourselves up in our faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and waiting for the return of Christ. (21)

Notice that it is another Triad. Notice also a reference to the Trinity. We keep ourselves in the love of God the Father. We wait for the return of the Son. We pray in the Spirit.

You cannot continue strongly in the faith just by contending against false teachers. You will burn out. You must keep yourself in the love of God.

You build yourself up in the faith by continuing to grow in understanding of God’s word through study and being taught. You also grow by worshipping, participating in the Lord’s Supper, and gathering together with other believers.

You also keep yourself in the love of God by praying in the Holy Spirit. Paul similarly told us to pray in the Spirit on all occasions. (Ephesians 6:18) We pray for God’s will to be done as Jesus did in the Lord’s Prayer. We pray for God’s protection and strength to resist the attacks of the devil.

You also keep yourself in the love of God by waiting for the return of Jesus, delivering eternal life to us in his mercy. “Waiting” here has an eschatological sense. It means we live expectantly and longing for his return. As Peter showed us, living in light of the return of Jesus motivates us to stay in fellowship with him, kept in his love. In motivates us to resist the temptation to conform to the world.

Although we resist the false teachers, we show mercy to their victims, those who doubt because of what they have heard. (22) it is easy get frustrated with those who doubt, or even to be harsh with them, or to cast them aside. But Jude said we are to show them mercy, dealing with them gently to restore them to confidence in their faith.

Those who do not have mature knowledge of the Word can be led astray or pushed into doubt by those with good arguing skills. Those who are experiencing difficulties may doubt because of their suffering. These we console, nurture, and instruct in mercy.

Others are in greater danger, so much so that they need to be snatched from the fire. (23) They are in danger of judgment because they are walking away from the faith and renouncing Christ. There may be another reference here to Zechariah 3, where the high priest, Joshua, is called a burning stick snatched from the fire. (Zechariah 3:2) His sin was leading him to judgment, but the Lord removed his sin, symbolized by his dirty clothes, and forgave him, shown by giving him clean clothes. God, in his mercy, snatched Joshua from the fire of judgment by cleansing him of his sin. We, in mercy, may snatch some from the fire by showing them their error and its consequences so that they will not continue to fall under the influence of false teachers.

In showing mercy and trying to rescue those who are falling into error, we must be careful to avoid falling into their sin. Jude said we hate even the garment stained by the flesh. This again reflects Joshua and his stained robes.

We must hate sin and resist it even when dealing in mercy with those in its snare. We must remember that we are human and not impervious to temptation. We call sin “sin” and do not dilute it even while trying to rescue the sinner. And we must remain strong enough to avoid joining them in their sin and their doubt.


Jude closed his letter with praise to God, a praise to God, praising him for his glory, majesty, dominion, and authority for all eternity. He was praising God by recognizing that all glory, majesty, and power belong to God. He had glory, power and majesty before the ages of creation even began, and will have them forevermore. We will praise him forever, now on earth and later in heaven and in the new earth.

God, whom we praise, is able to keep us from falling from the faith because of false teaching. “Stumbling” here does not mean to sin, but to fall irrevocably from the faith. He keeps our salvation for us so that we may stand before him without fault, which has been borne by Jesus, and with joy rather than fear. (25) We will be blameless. There is nothing left to blame us for.

The word translated here as “present” literally means “make you stand”. We will stand before God, secure in the faith, vindicated rather than judged, because he has kept our salvation secure.

It would be a good praise for you to add to your prayers.

And, this concludes our study of Jude!

Sunday, October 20, 2019


Enoch’s Prophecy

In this section, Jude returns to his early theme of judgment on false teachers being prescribed by God long ago. In verse 4, he wrote that they were “designated for this condemnation”. Returning to that theme, he writes here that the prophesy of Enoch said the Lord would come with ten thousand of his holy ones to executed judgment on all the ungodly for their deeds of ungodliness and the things they have said against the Lord.

Jude was referring to a passage in 1 Enoch, which was attributed to Enoch, the seventh from Adam, who did not die but was taken into heaven because he walked with God. (Genesis 5:21-24)  He is the seventh from Adam in the list of  Adam’s descendants in Genesis 5, but some people do not believe the list is comprehensive. Instead they believe there were more men in the line, but only the well known ones were listed.

As a reminder, 1 Enoch is in the Apocrypha and is not part of the canon of scripture for the Jews and most Protestants. It was, however, a popular book in the early church.

This prophecy says the Lord comes with 10,000 of his holy ones to execute judgment on the ungodly for their actions and words.

There are also Old Testament prophecies to this effect. For example, Daniel 7:9-10 shows us God on his throne in judgment surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand angels. Zechariah 14:5 says “then the lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”

Jesus, in Matthew 25:31, similarly said “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” He was speaking of his return and the final judgment.

So, the point is that these false teachers will be judged and condemned at the final judgment. The implication is that, since they will be condemned by Jesus, the church should see them for what they are and resist their teaching as evil. And, we can be comforted while they persist in false teaching and immoral lifestyles that they will be held accountable on the last day. Jude tells us this with emphasis on the word “ungodly”: God will convict all the ungodly of all the deeds of ungodliness committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have spoken against God. (15)

Note that no unbelieving person escapes judgment. Jude says all the ungodly will be convicted by God. All of those who have spoke horrible and harsh things against the Lord will be convicted.

Jude finished his description of the false teachers with another triad: they were grumblers, malcontents, and loud-mouthed boasters. (16) “Grumblers” reminds us of those Israelites who complained about God in the wilderness. They complained about food from heaven and about water. They even said they wanted to return to Egypt where they were slaves! Ultimately, the refused to go into the promised land and were condemned by God to die in the wilderness.

Since the false teachers were self centered, not Christ centered or church centered, they sought to fulfill their sinful desires rather than serve others and they showed favoritism to those who would help them get what they wanted. That is why they deserved judgment.

The same type of people exist in the church today, so this word from Jude is instructive for us. There are many false teachers and their platforms today are greater than those in Jude’s time. Social media has made it possible for anyone to spread a false gospel. There are also many who manipulate and maneuver to get what they want. All of these should be resisted and rebuked, so that the body remains devoted to Jesus and his teachings.


This is a new section and, except for a short doxology, the last section. The body of the letter began with the word “beloved” and this closing section does also. The exhortation has a triad. First, Jude reminded his readers of the predictions of the apostles regarding false teachers. Second, Believers should remain in the love of God. Third, Jude teaches his readers how to treat those who have been influenced by the false teachers.

Jude wanted his readers to remember that God was not caught by surprise when false teachers arose. He knew it would happen and he revealed that fact to the apostles so they could warn the church. We are God’s “beloved”, those whom he loves. He does not leave his loved ones in ignorance. Rather, he prepared them, and us, with warnings.

These warnings could certainly have been oral warnings that were passed down. But at least some were also written down. Matthew recorded Jesus warning of false prophets. (Matthew 7:15-20) Paul warned of savage wolves that would attack the flock, distorting the truth in order to draw away disciples from the truth. (Acts 20:29-30)

Paul also gave warnings to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Since Jude was the brother of James, he likely heard the apostles speak and teach.

They caused divisions, as in the church at Corinth. They do not have the Spirit, so they act like lost, worldly, people. We expect sinners to sin. But when those who claim to be believers act like those who do not believe, we need to be careful around them.

In contrast, the “beloved” are to do three things: (1) build themselves up in their most holy faith; (2) praying in the Holy Spirit, keep themselves in the love of God; and (3) wait for the return of our Lord, who will bestow the final mercy of eternal life upon us. (21)

Although we resist the false teachers, we show mercy to their victims, those who doubt. (21) it is easy get frustrated with those who doubt, or even to be harsh with them. But we are to show them mercy, dealing with them gently to restore them to confidence in their faith. We also instruct them so that we are, in effect, snatching them out of the fire that is reserved for the unbelieving.

While doing these acts of mercy, we avoid falling into their sin or even condoning their sin.


Jude closed his letter with praise to God, praising him for his glory, majesty, dominion, and authority for all eternity. It would be a good praise for you to add to your prayers. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019


What the False Teachers Were Like

Similar to these Old Testament people and angels, the false teachers in Jude’s time did many things that were wrong. They relied on their dreams instead of God’s word. (8) We have these claims today that people hear God tell them something that is contrary to his Word (or they just make it up).

Relying on their dreams, the false teachers commit three sins:
(1) they defiled the flesh (sexual sin);
(2) they reject authority; and
(3) they blaspheme the glorious ones. (8)

So, first, the false teachers were immoral: they defiled the the flesh, or polluted their bodies. This refers to sexual immorality. We see that in many pseudo-Christian cults today. The leaders believe they are entitled to commit sexually immoral acts with their followers. Also, some teachers teach that sexuality that is outside that permitted in God’s word is acceptable. God will hold them accountable for leading people astray.

The false teachers rejected authority. This refers to the Lord’s authority even though that is not clear in the English translation. But the Greek word used here, kyriotes, never refers to human authority. This interpretation fits in with verse 4, which says some deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

There is a reason that Jesus is called Lord. He is our master and we do what he says. It is especially grievous for one to call oneself a minister, priest, or preacher of God’s word, yet defy him by teaching other than his word says. Jesus said we are truly his disciples if we abide in his word, not if we make up our own stuff. (John 8:32)

Lastly, the false teachers blaspheme the glorious ones. To blaspheme is to insult or show contempt for deity or sacred things. In this case, the false teachers insulted or showed contempt for angels, the glorious ones. In this case, it seems to mean the fallen angels. Jude does not say why the false teachers want to insult these angels.

So, you might think that, since they are fallen, why is it bad to insult them? I think it is because they are greater than humans, at least for the time being. They are a superior level of creation than mankind. 2 Peter 2:10 also condemned those who blaspheme the glorious ones. Peter pointed out that angels who did not fall do not pronounce blasphemous judgment on the failed angels, and they are of greater might and power than humans. Peter went on to say the false teachers blaspheme about matters of which they are ignorant. So, the angels are higher beings than us and we do not know all that is involved in all of this.

As an example, Jude mentions a story about the archangel Michael dealing with the devil. It happened when Moses died. We know from Deuteronomy 34 that Moses, not being allowed to go into the promised land, died in the country of Moab and was buried there, but that no one knows where for sure.

However, the story Jude tells about Michael disputing with the devil over the body of Moses, does not appear in the Old Testament and we do not know where Jude got it. Some think it comes from a writing called the Assumption of Moses which has been lost to us.

Jude’s point, though, is that even this archangel did not show contempt to the devil, but simply said “the Lord rebuke you”, invoking the power of the Lord over Satan. That statement does have a place in Scriptures.

In Zechariah 3:1, Zechariah saw Joshua the high priest standing before the “angel of the Lord”.
stood at the angel’s right hand and accused Joshua the high priest. Joshua was guilty: his filthy garments represented his sin.

But, God forgave Joshua, as seen by his giving Joshua clean vestments and taking away his iniquity. (5) The LORD said:  “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan!”. This was a vindication of Joshua and a declared defeat of Satan.

So it appears that Satan wanted the body of Moses to prevent his proper burial, accusing him of sin. He did sin by not honoring the Lord before Israel, by striking the rock. That is why the Lord did not allow him into the promised land.

Michael, though, knew Moses was forgiven by God and, therefore, asked God to rebuke Satan and vindicate Moses. But he did not blaspheme or insult Satan.

Michael is a powerful and honored angel. He is “archangel” - one of authority and prominence.
He is one of the “chief princes”. (Daniel 10:13) He is the “great prince”. (Daniel 12:1) Yet, this great and powerful angel did not blaspheme Satan.

If he did not, we human beings certainly should not.

So Jude pronounces a judgment very similar to that in 2 Peter, saying the false teachers blasphemed what they did not understand and are destroyed.

It is important for us to observe the limits of God’s revelation to us. The Bible is sufficient- it tells us all God wants us to know & all we need to know to live the Christian life.  It is not for us to speculate or expand this revelation based on our desires, dreams or speculations. To do so risks serious error and heresy, leading to judgment.

Following this up, Jude kind of goes into a rant, comparing the false teachers first to bad characters of the Old Testament, then to unproductive things in nature. It is a blistering condemnation.

First, Just said they were like Cain, whom God rejected because he did not bring the correct offering to the Lord as Abel did. (Genesis 4) Can chose wickedness over goodness. The false teachers did the same.

They were also like Balaam, who gave himself to error for the sake of gain, meaning monetary gain. (Numbers 21 et seq)  Balaam accepted money from a foreign king to curse the Israelites. He led the Israelites into sexual sin. He was finally killed in battle, fighting the Israelites. He suffered judgment in this way, as will the false teachers who taught for financial gain.

They would have perished in Korah’s rebellion. Korah, a Levite, led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The Lord caused the earth to open and swallow them, then closed over them, in front of the whole assembly of Israel. (Numbers 16) Likewise, the false teachers would suffer terrible judgment for their actions.

Next, Jude give a long list of things to describe the false teachers; they are all dangerous or unproductive things.

They are hidden reefs (ESV & NASB) at the love feast. A hidden reef would be a danger to a ship trying to get into port & could tear the ship apart if it was grounded on the reef. It is an unseen danger. The “love feast” (including the Lord’s Supper) was a symbol of the love believers had for each other and for God. The warning is that the false teachers did not really love the believers or God and thus were a danger to the fellowship. These teachers felt no fear at eating the supper deceptively - they had no fear of the Lord.

They were shepherds feeding themselves. This is a reference to Ezekiel 34:2 - “Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?”
God promised judgment for these shepherds, leaders of Israel, that would be accountable to him. These false teachers in Jude’s time did not care about the flock; they just took care of themelves.

They were waterless clouds. (12) In a desert, a cloud with no rain is a big disappointment.
They promise much, but deliver nothing.  “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give”. (Proverbs 25:14)

They were fruitless trees. They produced no fruit as a Christian or a teacher, no good works
They were completely dead spiritually (twice dead). (12)
They were wild waves foaming their own shame. (13) While the previous example was of no works, this is an example of evil works, like a wave that washes up muck and weeds upon the shore.  “The wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.” (Isaiah 57:20)

The false teachers were like wandering stars. They did not follow the order of things prescribed by the Lord and so could not be counted on to give aid in finding your way.

The false teachers would be judged by the Lord and punished in eternity, placed in the gloom of utter darkness forever. (13) This mirrors verse 6, where rebellious angels are said to be kept in gloomy darkness until the final judgment. They will not experience the light of the glory of God.