Sunday, November 29, 2020




The First Disciples

This passage shows us the beginning of the transition from the ministry of John the Baptist to the ministry of Jesus. It begins the day after John pointed out Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. Jesus again came to the place where John was. John again pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God. 

Two disciples were with John. One was Andrew and the other is not named. When John pointed out Jesus, these two disciples left John the Baptist and began to follow Jesus. 

Notice that John does not protest. That is because this is exactly what should happen. John prepared his disciples to receive Jesus. Then, when he pointed out Jesus to them, they left to follow Jesus, as they should. 

By asking Jesus where he was staying, these disciples indicated their desire to follow him. Because disciples at that time stayed with their teacher full time. They slept where he slept and went where he went. 

In addition to following, Andrew took on the ministry of evangelism. He went to his brother Simon and told him he had found the Messiah. He brought Simon to Jesus.

When Simon came to Jesus, Jesus gave him a new name: “Cephas”. (42) In Aramaic, this word appears to mean “rock”. John translates that for the Greek readers as “Peter”. 

Subsequent events show us that Peter was not a rock in the sense of being resolute in his faith. But, Jesus intended to make Peter into a rock. That process would turn out to involve some painful moments. 

People today often say “Jesus loves you just the way you are”. And that is true as far as it goes. But it is not true when the implication is that you do not need to change. Jesus loves you and saves you as you are. 

But, Jesus changes you when you believe. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Then, Jesus through the Holy Spirit begins the process of sanctification, the process of making you less like you are and more like he is. That is what he did with Peter as well.

So, who was the second disciple? Who was the one who was not named, but was with Andrew and who followed Jesus. The writer does not tell us, but traditionally it has been thought that disciple was John himself, the writer of this gospel account. That would fit with John’s claim to be an eyewitness to the things he wrote about.


Philip and Nathanael

The next day, Jesus went to Galilee. Galilee, at that time,  was the northern part of Israel. Somewhere in Galilee he found Philip, maybe at or near his home town of Bethsaida, which was on the north end of the Sea of Galilee. John tells us that Bethsaida was also the home of Andrew and Peter. 

Jesus found Philip and simply told Philip to follow him. (43) Philip did, and like Andrew, went to find another. Philip found Nathanael and told him he had found the Messiah, calling him the one whom Moses and the prophets wrote about. That tells us that Philip and Nathanael knew their Scripture well. Philip also named Jesus as Jesus of Nazareth. The town of Nazareth was also in Galilee, south and west of Bethsaida. 

Nathanael famously responded “can anything good come out of Nazareth”. Evidently, Nazareth did not have a very good reputation. It may have been because there was a Roman garrison there and many of the townspeople did business with the Romans. Nathanael was from Cana, according to John 21:2. Cana is a little north of Nazareth, so Nathanael would have been acquainted with the reputation of the place.

Philip was undeterred by Nathanael’s  comment and invited Nathanael to come and see for himself.  So, Nathanael did.

When Nathanael got to Jesus, the two had an interesting exchange which led Nathanael to confess his belief in Jesus. Jesus greeted Nathanael as an Israelite who had no guile or deceit. (47) This is a compliment, but it also indicates Jesus knew Nathanael. That confused Nathanael, because Jesus had never met him. So, Nathanael asked Jesus how he knew him. 

Jesus, replied that he saw Nathanael even before Philip found him. He saw him sitting under a fig tree. (48) This is a display of Jesus’ supernatural knowledge. We do not know when or where Nathanael was under the fig tree, or what he was doing there. It could be that Nathanael was sitting in the shade of the tree praying or meditating on the coming of the Messiah. But, whatever it was, it was significant to Nathanael, and Jesus’ knowledge of it told Nathanael that Jesus was the promised Messiah. 

Nathanael then addressed Jesus as “Rabbi”, which would be a respectful greeting, compared to his complete lack of a greeting at the beginning of the conversation. He also confessed Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel. (49) 

As an aside to the story, but significant to how John structures his gospel, is that there are seven who bear witness to Jesus's deity, calling him the Son of God: 

  1. John the Baptist ( John 1:34); 
  2. Nathanael ( John 1:49); 
  3. Peter ( John 6:69); 
  4. Jesus himself ( John 10:36); 
  5. Martha ( John 11:27); 
  6. Thomas ( John 20:28); 
  7. John, the writer of this Gospel ( John 20:31).

Back to the story, Jesus then made a promise to Nathanael. He said “you” would see greater things than Jesus displaying his supernatural knowledge about Nathanael and the fig tree. (50) The “you” in this verse is plural, so it likely refers to all of the disciples, not just Nathanael. The would see the greater things of Jesus’ perfect life, his authoritative teaching, his miracles or signs, his death, resurrection and exaltation.

In fact, they would see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. (51) What did Jesus mean by this? 

First, we see his reference to Genesis 28:12-22. In that passage, Jacob was fleeing Canaan and going to live with his relative, Laban. He had a dream in which he saw a ladder set up on earth that reached to heaven. Angels were going up and down the ladder. God stood at the top and spoke to Jacob, making a covenant with him. He promised to be with Jacob and to continue with Jacob the covenant he made with Abraham.

Nathanael, and likely all these first disciples, were well versed in the Old Testament and would know the passage Jesus alluded to. Jacob would have seen the vision as a representation of God being with him and taking care of him, as angels took his prayers up to God and God sent angels down to take care of Jacob. 

So, Jesus was saying, as with Jacob, you will see that God the Father is with Jesus and Jesus has continual access to the Father. You will see that Jesus is the Messiah, as Nathanael confessed, the one appointed and anointed by God.

While the allusion to the ladder catches our attention, there is another thing here we should notice. Jesus, for the first time, refers to himself as the “Son of Man”. Although Nathanael confessed Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man. 

“Son of Man” is the title Jesus most frequently used for himself. The meaning of the title has an Old Testament context. The context is a vision given to Daniel as described in Daniel 7:9-14. Daniel described the person he saw in his vision this way:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man… . And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (vv. 13–14a).

This Jesus, whom these disciples would follow, is the one whom the Father has given dominion, or power, over all the kingdoms and peoples of earth, glory as one who is God, and a kingdom that will last forever. Paul would later write this same truth in Philippians 2:9:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

All followers of Jesus, including us, see these things. They saw them in person. We see them in the Word. And we know that Jesus is Savior and Lord. And we belong to his kingdom and look forward to the day that it will be fully and finally revealed. 

Jesus himself alluded to the Daniel passage specifically, applying the it to himself, in Mark 13:24-27, which says:

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

And we say “amen, come Lord Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man”. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Word

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130). 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). 

The Bible is a lamp that gives light (Ps. 119:105), 

bread that gives life (Matt. 4:4), 

fire that refines (Jer. 23:29), 

a sword that divides (Heb. 4:12), 

a hammer that breaks (Jer. 23:29), 

a seed that implants and bears fruit (James 1:21, 1 Pet. 1:23), 

milk that nourishes (1 Pet. 2:2), 

and solid meat that strengthens (Heb. 5:12)

Sunday, November 22, 2020




Who Are You?

This is the first time John uses the term “the Jews”. Although John uses the term in different ways in this gospel, it most commonly means Jewish leaders who did not understand Jesus and were opposed to him. This appears to be the case here, as they came from the Jews of Jerusalem.(19) They may have been sent by the Sanhedrin to figure out who John was and what he was doing.

John the Baptist stirred up a lot of interest among the Jews. There had not been a prophet in Israel for 500 years. The last prophets were Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, all of whom prophesied during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. 

Suddenly, then, John burst on the scene looking, acting, and speaking like a prophet. He lived in the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey. He dressed in a garment of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He preached repentance to prepare Israel to receive the Messiah (the Christ) and he baptized those who repented. Lots of people from Jerusalem and Judea were coming out to see and hear him. They confessed their sins and were baptized. (Matthew 3:1-6)

This caused the Pharisees to send some priests and Levites from Jerusalem to find out who John was. The Jews were also looking and waiting for Messiah\Christ to come and they wondered if this unusual preacher could be him. They asked John if he was the Christ. That question is not stated here, but John’s answer is. He answered the question two ways for emphasis. He confessed, and did not deny, that he was not the Christ. (20) 

The word “Christ” is a transliteration of the Greek word Christos. Christos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Maschiach, which means anointed one. Maschiach is transliterated in English to “Messiah”.  John’s use of Christos probably means he expected most of his audience to be Greek speakers, either Gentiles or Greek speaking Jews. 

After John denied being the Christ, the Jews kept asking John to identify himself. They want to know who he is and what authority he has to baptize. Their exchange with John is rooted in the Old Testament. 

They asked John if was Elijah. They asked this because Malachi, the last prophet, stated that God said “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:5) 

The Old Testament prophets were God’s prosecutors. They were sent to condemn Israel when the nation strayed from God into sin. There were Jews, however, that believed that Elijah would literally come in person because he did not die. He was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot. (2 Kings 2) 

So, John denied that we was Elijah. He was, however, sent in the spirit and power of Elijah, according to the angel’s word to Zechariah, John’s father. (Luke 1)

The next question was “are you the prophet”. There the Jews were referring to the words of Moses, who said “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you…it is to him you shall listen”. (Deuteronomy 18:15) Some Jews believed that the Prophet was an end times figure, maybe even the Messiah. 

John denied that he was the Prophet Moses spoke about. He would certainly do that if some people thought the prophet was the Messiah. 

The Jews had to have been frustrated that John had not identified himself and they did not want to return to their superiors and say they had not found out who this preacher was and by whose authority he baptized. (22) So, they asked him again, saying “what do you say about yourself”. 

So, John identified himself by referring to another Old Testament passage He said he was the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’”. John was referring to Isaiah 40:3. 

As a side note, by quoting this passage, John speaks of the deity of Christ. Isaiah referred to Yahweh, as you can see from the capitalization of the word “LORD”. John applied that passage to Jesus. 

The final question was “why are you baptizing”. (24) In other words, if you are not one of these end times figures, what authority do you have to baptize? 

John’s baptizing was certainly an anomaly for the Jews. Some of the Pharisees may even have considered it heresy, for only Gentiles converting to Judaism were baptized. So, John’s baptism implied that Jews could also be unclean and, therefore, unfit to be part  of God’s people unless they were cleansed. The Jewish leaders would instead believe that anyone born a Jew was part of Israel and the kingdom of God.

And, of course, this was John’s exact point. They needed to repent, and demonstrate their repentance via baptism, to be prepared to receive Jesus and enter into his kingdom.

In this passage, John does not directly answer the question as to why he baptized; he simply pointed to Jesus. (26) Pointing to Jesus was the second part of his role. He was to prepare the way for and point to Jesus as the Messiah and savior. This was told to John’s father by an angel before his mother was even pregnant. (Luke 1) 

John said one was among them who came after John, in terms of ministry, but was so much greater than John that John was not worthy to untie his sandal straps.

Untying sandal straps, removing sandals from the feet, and washing feet were jobs given only to lowly servants. Students or disciples of great teachers were also expected to perform these tasks.

John was saying that Jesus was so much greater than him, he was not worthy of being Jesus’ lowly servant or disciple. This is a reminder to us. Jesus is God and we are not. He saved us by his grace. None of us was so good that Jesus saved us because we deserved it. 


The Lamb of God

The very next day, John saw Jesus in person. He immediately jumped into his role as the herald of Christ, saying “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (20) 

What a moment that was, as John was the first person to identify Jesus as savior. As a lamb might be sacrificed for its owner’s sin, Jesus would be sacrificed to take away, or atone for, sins. And it would not be just for believing Jews, but believers from all nations and races, the “world”. Yet, it is likely that few in the crowd understood what was happening.  

John himself knew Jesus as the Messiah, because he saw the Holy Spirit descend from heaven like a dove and remain on Jesus. (32) The Lord had told John that the person on whom the Spirit descended would be the Messiah. It also fulfilled Isaiah 61:1, which says “the Spirt of the Lord God is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” 

And John said the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit. (33) This is a statement that foretells Jesus sending the Spirit to indwell all believers. 

John did finally reveal under whose authority he baptized. He said “he who sent me to baptize with water said to me”. (33) God sent John to proclaim the coming of Jesus and to prepare the way by calling for repentance symbolized by baptism. 

Lastly, John said he bore witness to what he saw and that Jesus is the Son of God. (41-ESV) There is an interesting fact regarding the translation of the Greek as “the Son of God”. If you have the newest version of the New International Version, it says “Chosen One of God”. There is one Greek manuscript that uses these words, and a somewhat recently discovered papyrus. If this is the correct translation, it would be written to point to Jesus’ fulfillment of Isais 42:1, referring to God’s chosen servant in whom he delights. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

It is the marvel of marvels that the King of kings, whose glory is exalted above the heavens, should lift a finger to rescue even one of such vile traitors as the sons of Adam. Then to learn that this infinitely worthy King has purposed to redeem not one but countless multitudes at the cost of the life of his own dear Son bows the sinner’s heart in humble wonder.”

John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, Biblical Doctrine.

Monday, November 16, 2020

 We may not know; we cannot tell

What pains he had to bear;

But we believe it was for us

He hung and suffered there.

    Ceil Frances Alexander

Sunday, November 15, 2020




The Witness of John

These verses seem to be a parenthesis, inserted to talk about John the Baptist in the midst of a prologue about Jesus. It shows us, though, that John and his witness were very important. The first thing we see is that John was sent by God. This puts him on the same footing as the Old Testament prophets.

Moses was sent by God to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:10) Isaiah was sent by God to speak to Israel of coming judgment. (Isaiah 6:8-9) Jeremiah was also sent by God to speak his word to Israel. (Jeremiah 1:7)

As God appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was born, he also appointed John before his birth to go before the Lord and prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. An angel appeared to John’s father, Zechariah, and told him this. (Luke 1:13-17) The angel used the words of Malachi 4:6 in telling Zechariah the role of his future son. John’s coming was prophesied by Malachi. 

John was prophesied, he was appointed before his birth, and he was sent. He was indeed most significant to redemptive history.

John’s purpose was to be a witness to Jesus, who is referred to as the light. (7) John was to bear witness so that all might believe in Jesus. We will see him do that in later verses. 


Christ Rejected

Jesus, the true light, was coming into the world he created, but the world did not know him. The creation did not know the creator. Romans 1 explains this to us in detail. The creation testifies to the creator’s eternal power and divine nature. (Romans 1:20) But mankind did not honor God and became futile in its thinking as their minds became darkened. John used the word “world” here to mean sinful humanity.

In contrast to the world, John mentions the Jews, Jesus’ own people. (11) As opposed to the world, or the nations, the Jews were supposed to know God and be ready to receive the Messiah. Yet, John tells us that Jesus’ own people did not receive him.

Although there were some Jews who received Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, most did not and the religious leadership did not. This was despite the witness of John the Baptist.


Children of God

Although many rejected Jesus, some received him. What does it mean to receive Jesus. It means you believe he is who he says he is (“who believed in his name) and you act accordingly. John has given us a great description of who Jesus is, the eternal, creating, second person of the Godhead, the Son of God. 

If you believe this, you see Jesus as the Lord entitled to worship, obedience, and trust. That is why Paul, in Romans 10:9-10 says we must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe God raised him from the dead in order to be saved. “Confess” means to agree or acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. 

For example, suppose you are the leader of your country. A person comes to you and presents himself to you as the ambassador of another country. But you say, I will receive you as a guest, but not as an ambassador. I do not agree you are an ambassador. You have not received that person, because you have not acknowledged his title and his role. 

Similarly, you cannot say you have received Jesus if you deny he is the divine Son of God and Savior who died for sins and was raised from the dead. If you claim to have received Jesus in any other way, you have not received him as who he is and have not received from him what he has to give.

What does Jesus have to give to those who receive him? He gives the right to become children of God, born of God. You must be born of God to become a child of God. It is not the same as physician birth, which is brought about by the will of the flesh. Physical birth does not accomplish salvation or membership in God’s family.

This was a difficult concept for the Jews, many of whom believed they were in God’s family because they were descended from Abraham. But Jesus will later in this book reject that notion, as does Paul in Galatians, and explain that it is those who receive him, who believe in his name, that gain entrance into God’s family.



Jesus, the Word, became flesh. This is the doctrine of incarnation. Jesus took on human flesh. Matthew and Luke describe Jesus’ birth. Paul tells us that Jesus was born in the likeness of men and was found in human form. (Philippians 2:7-8)

In real human flesh, Jesus dwelt among his disciples. The Greek word translated “dwelt” literally means “pitched his tent” among them. Greek speaking Jews, or Gentiles well versed in the Old Testament, would see this as a reference to God’s presence dwelling in the Tabernacle, in the middle of the tribes of Israel as they traversed the desert. Now, God chooses to live among his people in a more personal way. 

He ate with them, walked with them, slept with them, and did every thing they, as men, did, except sin. He was fully man.

But Jesus did not give up his divinity. He was fully God. And because he was God, he had glory. John said “we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father”, full of grace and truth.” “Glory” is a visible manifestation of God where he reveals something about himself. 

For example, when the Israelites were to leave Sinai and begin their journey through the wilderness, Moses asked God to show his glory to Moses. The Lord passed before Moses and spoke of his mercy and grace, his stead fast love and faithfulness. (Exodus 33-34) John may be referring to this when he says the Son’s glory if full of grace and truth.

Jesus demonstrated this through the “signs”, what we call miracles, that showed his divinity and his glory, particularly to his disciples. John specifically notes this in the story of the wedding at Cana, when Jesus changed water into wine. John said that Jesus “manifested his glory” and the disciples believed in him. (2:11)

Some believe there is a reference here to Jesus’ transfiguration. He also showed his glory to three disciples. However, John did not record the event as the Synoptic Gospels did, so it seems unlikely he would refer to that event. 

Jesus’s glory was that of the only Son from the Father. (14) He was not a son in the sense of physical birth from someone, but in the sense of being being the only one who is exactly like the Father in his attributes. 

John’s gospel establishes the uniqueness and exclusiveness of Jesus as Savior, Son, and Revealer of the Father. If you want to know the Father, you must know the Son. 

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Who Is Jesus? John 1:1-5



John was very clear on the reason for writing this book. It is found in 20:30-31:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.                                                             


Who Jesus Is

The first 18 verses of the first chapter of John is often called “the Prologue”. A prologue comes at the beginning of a literary work and sets the stage by giving us background information that is important to the story.

For example, William Shakespeare wrote a play entitled “Romeo and Juliet”. He wrote a prologue, in the form of a sonnet, which explained that two families had an ancient grudge against each other and that two lovers would come together from those families and it would end in tragedy.

Similarly, John will tell us of many things Jesus did and said. But, before he does, he wants to tell us the background. He did not start at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, or of his family tree, as the other gospels did. John started at the very beginning to tell us who Jesus is.

So, John starts his gospel with the words “in the beginning was the Word”. John intended for his readers to recognize those words. He directed us to Genesis 1:1, which says “In the beginning, God…”. Those words told us that, before the universe existed, God existed. He is eternal, he has no beginning. 

John, then, is telling us that Jesus existed before the beginning of the universe. He is eternal. He has no beginning.

John then says Jesus, the Word, was with God. In the New Testament, the word “God” refers to the Father, the first person of the Trinity. An example is John 3:16, which says For God (the Father) so loved the world, he gave his only Son…”. 

In eternity, Jesus was with the Father. 

By saying Jesus was with God, the Father, he says Jesus is distinguishable from the Father. They are not the same person. This is the first part of the doctrine of the Trinity, which says there are three persons in the Godhead: Father, Son, and Spirit. This is the orthodox belief about God. The hymn “Holy Holy Holy” states it well: “God in three persons, blessed Trinity”. 

In contract to the orthodox view of the Trinity is the modalist view. The modalist view says God is one person who reveals himself in three different modes, or forms of activity, at different times. This is the view of the “Oneness” denominations. It is difficult to sustain when we see Jesus pray to the Father or say he was sent by the Father.

In addition to being distinct from the Father, the Greek word for “with” also implies an intimate relationship. Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Father. This relationship is often portrayed to us in the gospels as father and son.

John then tells us the Word was God. Jesus is deity. He is God. He is the second person of the Trinity. He is distinct from the Father but is God. This is important for the rest of this book, which will show us the actions of Jesus which show he is God and the words of Jesus that teach this truth. It is the lens through which we should read the rest of the book. D. A. Carson said “the deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of God.”

In these verses, John referred to Jesus as the “Word”. There is much speculation as to why he did this. In the Old Testament, God’s word is connected to his power to create. Genesis 1 repeatedly states that God “said” and something was created. 

God’s word also refers to his revelation of himself to his people. The Old Testament often says the word of the Lord came to one of the prophets. 

Jesus embodies both of these definitions. He is the agent of creation, as shown here in John. He is also the ultimate revelation of God, as verse 18 tells us. So, it is appropriate that John calls him  the Word to convey these truths.

Verse 3 recapitulates Jesus’ role in creation. John states it positively and negatively for emphasis. All things were crated through him and without him nothing was created. Paul wrote something similar, saying all things were created by him and for him and he holds all things together. (Colossians 1:16-17)  

In fact, the Bible speaks of God creating the world repeatedly. Exodus 20:11 says “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth…”. Psalm 33:6 says “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made…”.

Hebrews 11:3 says “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that were visible”. In other words, God created the universe from nothing. Theologians like to use the Latin “ex nihilo”. And he created by his word. He created the universe though the Lord Jesus.

Next, John says in Jesus was life. (4) This again references the deity of Jesus, because it is God who is the source of life. The creation account in Genesis shows God creating plant life and animal life. But more importantly, he gave life to mankind. Genesis 2:7 says “then the Lord formed man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” 

Jesus also had the power to give life. He said “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself”. (John 5:26) Jesus demonstrated his power to give life when he raised Lazarus from the dead. And he will demonstrate his power to give eternal life at the resurrection, when he will call to those who are dead and they will live forever with him.

This life is the light of men and women. John will use the contrast of  light and dark several times in his gospel. Here light means the knowledge of God and his standards of holiness. Jesus came to a world that was dark. Verse 5 says “the light shines in the darkness”.

Again, there is an allusion to the creation story. When God created the heavens and the earth, “darkness was over the face of the deep”. (Genesis 1:2) But, when God said “let there be light”, there was light. (Genesis 1:3). And the darkness did not overcome the light.

The same is true with the spiritual aspect to this.  

The Jews, who should have been light bearers, had lost their way. Some had adopted the ways of the Greeks and Romans. Some got lost in the making and keeping of hundreds of rules. 

The pagan world was lost in spiritual darkness, worshipping idols and becoming bound to superstition. Romans 1 describes the terrible condition of those who live in darkness.  

But there was always a remnant that had the light. And now Jesus has come to bring the light of knowledge of God and eternal life and he will not be overcome. 

John portrayed that same truth to us in the book of Revelation. At the end, Jesus defeats all of his enemies. From then on, all believers live in his light and there is no darkness. There is no more night. In fact, the Lord will be the light of the new creation. 

Sunday, November 01, 2020



Ezra 10


A Crowd Joins Ezra

In chapter 9, we saw Ezra learned that many men, including their leaders, had married foreign, pagan, women in contradiction of God’s command not to do so. Ezra dramatically grieved this sin, tearing his clothes and sitting in silent mourning. He prayed, acknowledging to God the sin and ingratitude of Israel. 

All day long, Ezra laid on the ground in front of the Temple, weeping and confessing the sin of Israel. Again, note that Ezra had not sinned. But, he grieved over the sins of others, especially in light of God’s goodness to them in allowing them to return to Israel from Persia.

As Ezra grieved, people began to come to him and join him. They wept bitterly. Soon it was a “very great assembly” of men, women, and children. As they saw their leader mourn over sin in the congregation, they too became convicted of sin and join his mourning and grieving.


One Sees Hope

As the people grieved, one man stood up and urged Ezra to action. His name was Shecaniah. His grandfather, Elam, was one of the original exiles to return to Israel. (2:7) He acknowledged the sin of Israel in intermarriage. But, he also believed there was hope for Israel. Ezra, on the other hand, seemed to believe all might be lost, that they were likely to suffer severe judgment from God. 

Maybe Shecaniah remembered the words God spoke to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Shecaniah also proposed a solution. The people should make a covenant with God to put away the foreign wives in accordance with the law and under the counsel of Ezra. In other words, now that we have confessed, let us move forward in obedience. That is repentance, turning from sin to God.

Shecaniah also encouraged Ezra. He told him to get up because this was his task to do. Ezra was a priest and the spiritual leader of Israel at this point. But he was not alone, the very great assembly of people were with him, so he should be strong and get it done. 

This was good counsel on the part of Shecaniah. The people had to do more than feel sorry for the nation’s sin. The sin had to be removed. Repentance means turning away from sin and to God.


Ezra Steps Up

Ezra food Shecaniah’s advice. He got up from his grieving and gathered the leading priests and levites and other Jews and had them take an oath to rid Israel of the foreign wives.

Ezra then went back to mourning. He spent the night with a friend, but fasted. However, the priests and levites continued the work, keeping their oath They issued a proclamation throughout Judea that all of the returned exiles must assemble in Jerusalem in three days. If they did not, they would have their property confiscated and be banned from the congregation. In effect, they would be excommunicated. 

This may seem heavy handed in today’s culture. But it actually fits the requirements of the covenant well. God had told Israel that turning away from the covenant, disobeying God’s law, would ultimately lead to God thrusting the Jews out of the land, just as he thrust Adam and Eve from the Garden. Therefore, those who refused to come into obedience in this matter would be thrust from the land to protect the holiness of the nation and its land. It was similar to the requirement during the Exodus to take any unclean thing or person outside the camp. 


The Great Assembly

All of the men did assemble in front of the Temple within three days.  The trembled because of their recognition of the seriousness of the national sin. 

They also trembled because the stood out in the rain and cold. This is one of the verses that make me love the truthfulness of the Bible. The writer could have said only that they trembled because of their conviction of sin. But, instead, he was honest to say the trembling was increased by the physician discomfort. 

Ezra stood before the people to speak. He accused them of breaking faith with God in marrying foreign women, causing guilt to come upon the nation.  He called them to confession to God of their sin. And, finally, he called them to repentance by submitting to God’s will and separating themselves from the people of the land by removing their foreign wives. 

The men of the assembly agreed with Ezra. But they pointed out that they could not stand there in the rain for as long as this would take. So, they suggested that their officials take charge and have all of the men in their cities who had foreign wives to appear and take care of this until God’s wrath be turned away from them (14)

Again the Bible is honest. The writer stated that a few men opposed this. (15) Some were not willing to repent and obey God.

And so this was done. It took three months to get to all of the men who had married foreign women. 


Naming Names

There is no cover up here, or even glossing over the issue. The writer named the men who had sinned in this matter, including the priests and levites.

In verses 18-22, the writer names the priests who married foreign women, starting with the family of the high priest. In verses 23-24, the sinning Levites are named. The rest of the list are laymen who sinned. 

This is a sort of revival. It involved turning away from sin to obedience to God’s law. It meant obedience to the covenant. They hoped that their repentance would mean God would continue his covenantal relationship with them, blessing them and protecting them.

Take Aways

A Godly man, especially a leader, who recognizes sin, grieves, confesses, and repents on behalf of the congregation can lead the congregation to repentance and revival.

The process of repentance is recognition of sin, grief over the sin as an affront to God, confession of sin, and repentance, or turning away from sin. 

Confession and repentance are necessary for conversion, but also for living the Christian life in sanctification. (1 John 1:8-9) Martin Luther said in his first thesis, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”


Even a leader sometimes needs encouragement and advice. Sometimes the burden is heavy.