Men’s Bible Study Teaching on Psalm 35 and 36

Psalm 35

This Psalm records a cry of distress – the petition of a man falsely accused.

The psalm naturally divides itself into three parts, each ending with a note of hope (outline from MacArthur Study Bible):

  1. First Cycle: Petition for deliverance from the Attacks He Was Experiencing (35:1-10)
  2. Second Cycle: Expression of lament for the Perjury He Was Experiencing (35:11-18)
    1. He Prays that God Would Examine the Evidence (35:11-16)
    2. He Prays that God Would Act without Delay (35:17)
    3. He Pledges Praise (35:18)
  3. Third Cycle: Renewed petition for Judgment and Justice (35:19-28)
    1. He Prays for Judgment concerning Them (35:19-21)
    2. He Prays for Justice concerning Himself (35:22-26)
    3. He Pledges Praise (35:27-28)

Prayer for Rescue from Enemies – A Psalm of David

1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me. 2 Take hold of buckler and shield and rise up for my help. 3 Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” 4 Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life; Let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me. 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them on. 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.

7 For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my soul. 8 Let destruction come upon him unawares, and let the net which he hid catch himself; into that very destruction let him fall. 9 And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; it shall exult in His salvation. 10 All my bones will say, “LORD, who is like You, Who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, and the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?”

11 Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me of things that I do not know. 12 They repay me evil for good, to the bereavement of my soul. 13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer kept returning to my bosom. 14 I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother. 15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered themselves together; the smiters whom I did not know gathered together against me, they slandered me without ceasing.

16 Like godless jesters at a feast, they gnashed at me with their teeth. 17 Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue my soul from their ravages, my only life from the lions. 18 I will give You thanks in the great congregation; I will praise You among a mighty throng. 19 Do not let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me; Nor let those who hate me without cause wink maliciously. 20 For they do not speak peace, but they devise deceitful words against those who are quiet in the land. 21 They opened their mouth wide against me; they said, “Aha, aha, our eyes have seen it!” 22 You have seen it, O LORD, do not keep silent; O Lord, do not be far from me.

23 Stir up Yourself, and awake to my right And to my cause, my God and my Lord. 24 Judge me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness, and do not let them rejoice over me. 25 Do not let them say in their heart, “Aha, our desire!” Do not let them say, “We have swallowed him up!” 26 Let those be ashamed and humiliated altogether who rejoice at my distress; Let those be clothed with shame and dishonor who magnify themselves over me. 27 Let them shout for joy and rejoice, who favor my vindication; and let them say continually, “The LORD be magnified, Who delights in the prosperity of His servant.” 28 And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness and Your praise all day long. (NASB)

This Psalm may well date from the time when David was being pursued by Saul. It is an Imprecatory Psalm. David’s motives are not for revenge; he had opportunities to kill Saul but did not. Rather, it is a plea for God’s righteous judgment. The motive is that David might once again thank God freely (verses 18, 28).  Jesus quotes part of this Psalm (v. 19b) in John 15:25:

25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’

Q: In what way are Imprecatory Psalms relevant for the Christian today?  Should we be praying Imprecatory prayers against our enemies?

Here are 2 articles to look at regarding imprecatory Psalms:

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-imprecatory-psalms.html

https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2019/03/can-pray-imprecatory-prayers/

This Psalm played a providential role in strengthening the founding fathers of America at a critical time in the struggle against Great Britain.  It was the First Continental Congress that met at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia during September of 1774:

The members of the First Congress had assembled to discuss what to do about the latest injustices of the British government, which had closed the port of Boston with warships on June 1, 1774 (the Boston Port Act) in punishment for the Boston Tea Party.

Boston citizens had thrown 42 tons of tea into the harbor in December of the previous year, as an act of protest against unjust taxation. The colonists had no representatives in Parliament and they believed it was unlawful to be taxed by a body in which they had no representation. The Boston Tea Party was the culmination of many years of protests and strife regarding taxation and representation. Parliament was outraged at this act of defiance and set about bringing the rebellious Massachusetts back to order. A series of acts, known as the “Coercive Acts” in Britain, were passed in 1774, which shut down all self-government in Massachusetts, limited town meetings and moved the trials of government officials out of the colony.  Armed conflict seemed inevitable. Those were desperate times.

Among the 56 delegates in attendance at the Continental Congress were two future Presidents: George Washington and John Adams, John’s cousin and patriot leader, Samuel Adams, John Jay, the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice and a fiery 38-year-old lawyer from Virginia named Patrick Henry. A day into the meeting came the call to have a chaplain pray over their deliberations. So John Adams recommended the Rev. Dr. Jacob Duché, an Anglican minister of Christ Church, located just two blocks away. It was agreed, and John Adams records what happened the next morning in a letter to his wife Abigail dated September 16, 1774:

Accordingly, next morning [the minister] appeared … and … read the … thirty‑fifth Psalm. You must remember, this was the next morning after we heard the horrible rumor of the cannonade of Boston.

The Pastor began reading the entire text of Psalm 35, which was the Anglican Church’s assigned Scripture reading for that day.

1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me. 2 Take hold of buckler and shield and rise up for my help. 3 Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” 4 Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life; Let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me. 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them on. 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them. (NASB)

This Psalm spoke directly to their desperate situation because only one day before they received the rumor, though unfounded, of the British bombardment of Boston. John Adam’s believed it was “Providential.” Pastor Duché followed this psalm with prayer asking God to support the American cause:

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.

The Scripture reading and prayer moved the whole assembly. John Adams reflects on the scene in his letter to his wife Abigail:

I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning. After this, Mr. Duché, unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present. I must confess, I never heard a better prayer, or one so well pronounced … for America, for the Congress, for the province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially the town of Boston. It had an excellent effect upon everybody here… I must beg you to read that Psalm… It will amuse your Friends to read this Letter and the 35th Psalm to them. Read it to your Father… I long to see my dear Family. God bless, preserve and prosper it.

The Library of Congress printed on a historical placard of this event in Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia:

Washington was kneeling there with Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay, and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence the Puritan Patriots of New England. … ‘It was enough’ says Mr. Adams, ‘to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, Pacific Quakers of Philadelphia.’

Psalm 36

For the choir director.  A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD

1 An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. 2 For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. 3 The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. 4 Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong. 5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. 7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. 10 Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. 11 May the foot of the proud not come against me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. 12 See how the evildoers lie fallen– thrown down, not able to rise! (NIV)

The theme of this psalm is certainly the loving-kindness of God (verses 5, 7, 10). David first describes the rebellious sinner (verses 1-4), then the blessedness of the righteous man (verses 5-9), and concludes with a prayer that the righteous man may be protected from the wicked (verses 10-12).

1 An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. 2 For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.

One thing we need to remember here is that we, as believers are referred to as wicked, evil and ungodly in our natural state.

Q: In what way do people’s words or behavior show that “there is no fear of God” before their eyes?

Here are a few examples.  First, here is Jesus speaking to his disciples and calling them evil (in a “matter of fact” kind of way):

Luke 11:13 – If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Romans 4:5 – However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Romans 5:6 – You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

So, the wicked referred to in verse 1 includes us, the believers who are saved by grace through faith.

3 The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. 4 Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.

John MacArthur, in a sermon on Romans 7:14-25, talks about 3 ways we can sin in our minds:

  1. Sins of remembering – One way your mind sins is by reaching back, cherishing the memory of sins past, bringing back lurid memories of a bygone transgression. Someone who is truly repentant about a sin in the past can still harvest pleasure from that sin once repented of.
  2. Sin in the present. Looking on a woman with lust (adultery) or hate of someone (murder)
  3. Sins of scheming about the future. Scripture is full of condemnation of those who plan to sin.

Verse 4 specifically speaks about this sin of planning evil in the future.  In that sermon referred to, MacArthur talks about how we are to battle those sins of the mind:

“Sin is so pervasive, subtle that we must be … suspicious of our own spirituality.  We must let it be revealed and suspect the worst.  We must humble ourselves in the face of what we think might be our most righteous act, knowing it is not free from sin.  … the only way to deal with sin is to deal with it strongly, to resist and oppose the first risings of temptation.  It has to be dealt with in the heart on the inside.  It has to be fought at the point of its incubation…, or it will overpower us, … the work of sanctification is a work that God does in which the believer cooperates in his mind.  Sanctification is a work in your thought life.”

Now David switches to describing the loving kindness, righteousness and faithfulness of the LORD.

5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. 7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

God’s omnipotence would be a terror if He was not also loving, kind and faithful to those who love Him.  God will judge the world and that is a fearful thing, but He will judge it in righteousness:

Hebrews 10:31 – It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Acts 17:30-31 – 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.

There will absolutely not be anyone who will be judged “unfairly”.  All those not clothed in the righteousness of Christ will receive the just penalty for the sins committed in the body.  But the children of God are adopted into His family and they don’t need to be afraid of Christ as their Judge, but rather to revere Him as their Savior, because He has paid the penalty for their sins (Romans 8):

14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. 10 Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart.

The abundance of the house of God is the tree of life which bears twelve fruit. This river also, that we are to drink from, is the river that flows from the throne of God:

Revelation 2:7 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

Revelation 22:1-2 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Revelation 22:14 – Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.

Q: Final questions or comments?

Sources:

  1. MacArthur Study Bible comments
  2. Article by Tony Perkins President of Family Research Council (http://lostepisodes.us/john-adams-first-continental-congress/)
  3. This day in history June 1, 1774 (http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/boston-port-act-takes-effect.html)
  4. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams (https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-01-02-0101)
  5. First Prayer of the Continental Congress: https://chaplain.house.gov/archive/continental.html
  6. American Minute with Bill Federer – First Prayer in Congress “It was enough” says Mr. Adams, “to melt a heart of stone.”: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/First-Prayer-in-Congress–It-was-enough–says-Mr–Adams–to-melt-a-heart-of-stone–.html?soid=1108762609255&aid=fqzfemft9wk
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Teaching on John 10 – The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

This was teaching I developed over the past month and finally delivered yesterday during lunchtime at Mimi’s Cafe to a group of about 15 men.  We’ve been going through the book of John and it was my turn to teach on John 10.

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. 7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

11 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

19 A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?” 22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.

24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” 39 Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp. 40 And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there. 41 Many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” 42 Many believed in Him there. (NASB)

Disclaimer (before we get started) – This study group is “multi/non-denominational”. We are all brothers in Christ–we believe in one Lord and one Bible. However, we may have different views on various matters of doctrine and theology.  John 10 is one of those passages the “Reformed Calvinist View” relies on as a proof text.  I am not a Calvinist (for biblical reasons), nor am I Pelagian or Semipelagian, though I do consider myself to be Reformed, holding to the 5 “solas” of the reformation.  I don’t plan to go into detail about my views because we won’t have time for that, yet I want to let you know up front that it is possible you will disagree with parts of this teaching (esp. on John 10:3&26 – I will devote significant attention to 26 – 1½ pages).  That’s ok with me and I hope its ok with you.  In preparation for this, let us receive wisdom from God’s Word:

Proverbs 18:17 – The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.

The point is, maybe you haven’t spent a lot of time considering alternative points of view such things as unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace – on soteriology (or maybe you have…) I ask that you receive this teaching in the spirit in which I hope to deliver it – with humility, gentleness and respect.

Chapter 10 is chock full of great stuff!  Look at all the teaching & doctrine that flows from this chapter:

  1. 2 “I AM” statements by Jesus (v.7,9), (v.11,14), statements of His deity.
  2. Jesus is the only way of salvation for mankind – “I am the door” (v.9)
  3. False teachers/leaders — we must watch out for them (v.1,5,8,10,12-13)
  4. Jesus came to give us abundant life (v.10)
  5. The voluntary atonement of Christ for sins (v.11,15,18)
  6. Prediction of the Gentiles joining Jewish believers in one body, the church (v.16)
  7. Sheep / Shepherd metaphor permeates the chapter, reinforcing His deity (v.1-30)
  8. Jesus attended the “Feast of Dedication” a.k.a. Hanukkah (v.22)
  9. Unconditional election, irresistible grace and limited atonement (v.3,26-27,29)
  10. Jesus’ works are more than enough to prove that He is the Messiah (v.25,37-38)
  11. Eternal security of believers guaranteed by Jesus and the Father (v.28-29)
  12. The Jews attempt for the 3rd time in Gospel of John to stone Jesus (v.31-33)
  13. Jesus claims directly to be God (v.30-33)
  14. The inerrancy / accuracy of Scripture (v.35)
  15. John the Baptist was a true prophet and evangelist of Jesus (v.40-42)

We can’t cover each verse here today–MacArthur took 5 sermons (>=45 minutes each) to give an overview!

According to John MacArthur, this chapter records the final public declaration by the Lord Jesus of His Deity and the end of His public ministry. After this chapter, He goes away for 3 months of isolation across the Jordan with His disciples and others who believed in Him there.  After that He heads toward Jerusalem, after raising Lazarus in Bethany and then comes His passion week (during the Passover feast).  In fact in the next chapter, it explicitly states that His public ministry to the Jews was finished:

John 11:54 – Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples.

Chapter 10 starts with Jesus’ discourse on Himself as the “good shepherd”. It flows directly from chap. 9, as Jesus continues to talk to the very same people on the very same day. The problem of chap. 9 was that Israel was led by false (blind) shepherds who drew them astray from the true knowledge and kingdom of Messiah (9:39-41). In chap. 10, Jesus declares Himself to be the “good shepherd” who was appointed by His Father as Savior and King, in contrast to the false shepherds of Israel who were self-appointed, self-righteous & blind.

John 10:1 – Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.

Sheep were kept in a pen which had a door for entry and exit. Those who wanted to steal or harm the sheep would attempt entrance by another way.  The true shepherd enters at the door, being identified by the doorkeeper.  Ezekiel 34 most likely forms the background to Jesus’ teaching:

Ezekiel 34:1-21 Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?”

Ezekiel 34:23-24a – Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them.

Literally, the whole chapter deals with sheep/shepherd metaphor. v.23-24 speaks of David in future tense, but he lived long before this.  So, apparently He’s talking about the Son of David (Messiah) who will gather His people, from Israel and from the nations, and lead them into the glory of the final kingdom.  Ezekiel 34 is a prophecy fulfilled by Jesus.  The Gospels themselves contain extensive sheep/shepherd imagery. For example:

Matthew 18:11-13 – [For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.] What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.

John 10:3 – To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

The doorkeeper is John the Baptist who prepared Jesus’ way and identified Him as the Messiah:

John 1:29-34 – The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

The old covenant Jewish believers accepted John the Baptist’s testimony of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and these are the specific sheep in verse 3 that “hear His voice”.  There will be a longer discussion on v.26…

John 10:7-10 – 7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Here He is the door. The shepherd led the sheep out of the sheep pen, here He is the entrance to the pen leading to proper pasture. Near Eastern shepherds slept in the gateway to guard the sheep, Jesus here pictures Himself as the door. He serves as the sole means to approach the Father and partake of God’s salvation–Jesus’ explicitly states that He is the only way many times in the Gospel of John, for example:

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Only belief in the risen Christ, who paid for your sins, can save you from the just penalty for your sins and from being cast into hell. Only trust in Him as Savior and Lord can reconcile you to God. Jesus is the source for the knowledge of God and the one basis for spiritual security:

Heb. 7:25 – Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Q: When Jesus said He came to give us abundant life (v.10), why doesn’t this refer to health and wealth?

In John 10:11-18, Jesus is the “good shepherd” (4th of 7 “I am” statements of Jesus). Good (kalos) means beautiful, magnificent, winsome, attractive, lovely and excellent on all levels, vs. other word for good (agathos), which means moral goodness (pleasant, agreeable, upright and honorable).

 Q: Who are some well-known shepherds in the OT?  Is Jesus claiming Deity by this description?  Why?

John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

“lays down His life” refers to Jesus’ substitutionary death for sinners on the cross:

1 Peter 2:24 – He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit

Romans 5:8-9 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

John 10:16 – I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.

Refers to Gentiles who will respond to His voice & become a part of the church. Jesus’ death was not only for Jews, but also for non-Jews. He will make both into one new body, the church.

John 10:17-18 – For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.

Jesus’ death was not the end. His resurrection was a demonstration of His Messiahship & Deity:

Romans 1:4 – who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 10:22-23 – At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.

The “Feast of the Dedication” (Hanukkah) celebrates the Jewish victory over Antiochus Epiphanes, who conquered Jerusalem & desecrated the temple. The Jews fought the Maccabean Revolt (166-142 B.C.), liberated the temple, and rededicated it. This celebration is also known as the “Festival of Lights” on account of the lamps and candles lit to commemorate the event in Jewish homes.

Q: Is Jesus celebrating Hanukkah here?  How does it compare with Jesus’ celebration of Passover?

John 10:24-25 – The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly. “Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.”

Jesus didn’t expect people to have blind faith – to believe without reason.  We also see this elsewhere in John:

John 10:37-38 – If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.

John 5:36 – But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish – the very works that I do -testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

John 14:11 – Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.

Jesus even stayed with His disciples following His resurrection to give them evidence:

Acts 1:3 – After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Jesus had already demonstrated His Deity by His many miracles and rising from the grave. But He stayed for more than a month longer to give His disciples many convincing proofs.”

Q: Why didn’t the risen Jesus appear to the Pharisees to prove that they were wrong about Him?

John 10:26-27 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

The Reformed Calvinist interpretation of this passage is that God has chosen a fixed number of individuals (His sheep) before the foundation of the world. It is only they who will hear His voice, believe and follow, after they have been made alive (or quickened) by His Spirit (effectual calling).  The rest, who are not His elect, He “passes over”.  Thus, Christ died only for His particular sheep – not the whole world.  His atonement for sins is said to be “limited atonement”.

Although this doctrine seems to be supported by many Scriptures (Eph. 1:3-8,11, 2:1-9; Rom. 8:7,9:10-24, John 6:37-40,44,65, 8:47, 10:26; Acts 2:39,13:47-48,16:14; 2 Th. 2:13-14; Col. 2:13; 1 Cor. 2:14, etc.), we must also remember that the same Bible tells us the following facts:

  1. God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
  2. He desires all people to repent (2 Peter 3:9)
  3. He’s pleased when the wicked turn from their ways and live (Ezekiel 18:23)
  4. Not all repent/turn from their ways (Jn. 3:19-20; Mt. 7:13-14, 13:18-23; Rom. 1:18-25)

So, if this doctrine of particular individual election be true, then God elects only some to be saved and to repent even though, according to Calvinism, He has elected whoever He wants.

Note: I’m not saying this is unfair (Rom 9:14-21), nor that we can come to Christ without the Father and Holy Spirit drawing (6:44) or enabling (6:65) us.  Rather, it seems contradictory and not supported by “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).   We know that not all people repent and are saved.  Therefore, since God wants all saved and not all are, there seems to be some element of human choice that God has given us in salvation – this drawing of the lost to God appears to be “resistible”, not “irresistible”.

Salvation is pictured as a gift in the Bible:

Rom. 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A gift must be received – what good is a Christmas present if it is left under the tree?

John 1:12 – But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God

We receive the gift of salvation by faith, and Paul makes it very clear that faith is not a work:

Romans 4:2-5 – 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness

v.5 of this passage clearly says the one who exercises faith in God is not performing a work.  Is the believer just smarter than others because he “figured it out”? No, not any more than a recipient of a gift is smarter or more worthy because he “figured out” that he must open the gift to benefit from what’s inside.

Additionally, John teaches us that Jesus died for the sins, not only of His sheep, but of everyone:

1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense –Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

The doctrines of unconditional election and limited atonement have significant practical implications for how we approach lost people in evangelism.  We are communicating the idea that God has genuine love for those whom He has chosen not to save, and that He sincerely offers them salvation. This presents one of the greatest dilemmas for the Calvinist view.  However, God’s love for sinners and His desire for the salvation of all people is communicated by Jesus in one of the most famous verses in Scripture:

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life

God’s love for sinners motivated Him to send His Son. Whoever believes in Him will be saved.  He offers salvation to all—acceptance or rejection of that offer resides with each individual.

So, if “My sheepdoes not refer to a predetermined set of elect persons, then what does Jesus mean by it? One possible meaning is that “My sheep” refers primarily to the faithful sons of Abraham under the old covenant as it was revealed in OT, who were already prepared by their faith and repentance to embrace the promised Messiah at the time of His appearance. These included those under the ministry of John the Baptist, who was appointed to “prepare the way for the Lord”. In a secondary sense, it includes God-fearing Gentiles (e.g., Cornelius, Acts 10) who were led by God’s grace to repentance and whom He drew to faith in His Son.

Q: Dare I ask for any comments here 🙂 ?  Please tell me where I’m wrong…

John 10:28-29 – and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Jesus’ sheep are secure because He is the Good Shepherd–He has them safe. Neither thieves nor robbers (v. 1, 8) nor the wolf (v. 12) can harm them.  No stronger passage in the OT or NT exists for the absolute, eternal security of every true Christian. Verse 29 makes clear that the Father ultimately stands behind the sheep’s security, for no one is able to steal them from God:

Rom. 8:38–39 – For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Q: What about people who walk away from the faith?  Do you know anyone who’s walked away?

John 10:30-33 – “I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

The Jews are trying to stone Jesus, because His claim He was One with the Father affirmed His claim to deity and caused the Jews to seek His execution. There was no doubt in the minds of those Jews that Jesus was claiming to be God.

The Mosaic Law did permit stoning for blasphemy:

Leviticus 24:16 – Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

However, in 1st century Palestine, the Romans reserved for themselves the right of capital punishment:

John 18:31 – So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death”

Nonetheless, out-of-control Jews at other times engaged in mob actions in lieu of legal proceedings:

Acts 7:57–60 – But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

John 10:34-36 – Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

Jesus quotes from Ps 82:6 where God calls some unjust judges “gods” and pronounces calamity against them. Jesus’ argument is an argument “from the lesser to the greater”. If mere men could, in some sense, be referred to as “gods,” why would anyone object to the Son of God Himself being called by that title?  Then He adds this parenthetical statement: “Scripture cannot be broken”.  This is Jesus Christ the Lord Himself affirming the accuracy & authority of the OT.

If you found yourself disagreeing with some parts of this teaching today, I would encourage you to read the excellent book “Deconstructing Calvinism” (currently $3.99 Kindle, $18.99 paperback).

You may also want to read 2 articles to get a balanced view on the topic of God’s desire that all be saved:

Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved (John Piper):

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/are-there-two-wills-in-god

Are There Two Wills in God? A Response to John Piper:

http://evangelicalarminians.org/john-piper-are-there-two-wills-in-god-a-response/

Robert Hamilton, “The Order of Faith and Election in John’s Gospel: You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not My Sheep”:

http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Hamilton.%20The%20Order%20of%20Faith%20and%20Election%20in%20John’s%20Gospel..pdf

I also made significant use of the MacArthur Study Bible comments and his 5 sermons on John 10:

  1. I Am the Door (John 10:1–10)
  2. I Am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11–21)
  3. I and the Father Are One, Part 1 (John 10:22–24)
  4. I and the Father Are One, Part 2 (John 10:25–42)
  5. I and the Father Are One, Part 3 (John 10:22–42)

I also listened to Dr. R.C. Sproul’s series on Reformed Theology.

I also read Hermeneutics of 2 Peter 3:9—”Us all” or “you all”? http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?p=12652

Teaching for Men’s Bible Study – Nehemiah 4:15-23

Nehemiah 4:15-23

Given March 6th 2018

The Work Resumes

15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah.

17 Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. 18 As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. 19 I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another. 20 “At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

21 So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day.” 23 So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water. (NASB)

In this part of Nehemiah chapter 4, we see the method that Nehemiah uses to motivate the battling and at the same time to maintain the building.  It was vital that the walls be built up.  The temple was in jeopardy and the people were in jeopardy.  The enemy could come in at will.  Roving bandits could move into the city, even without a great deal of armaments, and take what they wanted.

By way of application, this is a picture of what the defeated Christian is like. The Enemy comes in and runs rampant through his life, doing what he pleases.  Satan is out to defeat the Christian in every circumstance. He loves it when there are no defenses that are built up.  The book of Nehemiah talks about physical fortifications, but in the same way, a mature Christian must have “spiritual fortifications” built up.  These spiritual fortifications in the life of a believer represent maturity.  We need to be spiritually self-sustaining and able then to nourish others and to build them up.  This is particularly important with us men as spiritual leaders in our families.  We need to be mature, not spiritual babies.  The writer of Hebrews addresses this:

Hebrews 5:11-1411 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Verse 12 is saying that, considering how long you’ve been a Christian, it is a necessity that you ought to be a teacher.  V. 13-14 says you ought to be on Porterhouse and instead you’re on Pablum.

In the book of Nehemiah, the MacArthur Study Bible lists 7 attempts to stop Nehemiah’s work:

  1. 2:19 – Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem mocked Nehemiah
  2. 4:1-3 – Sanballat and Tobiah mocked Nehemiah
  3. 4:7-23 – the enemy threatened a military attack
  4. 6:1-4 – Sanballat and Geshem attempted to lure Nehemiah outside Jerusalem to Ono
  5. 6:5-9 – Sanballat threatened Nehemiah with false charges
  6. 6:10-14 – Shemaiah, Noadiah and others were paid to prophesy falsely and discredit Nehemiah
  7. 6:17-19 – Tobiah had spies in Jerusalem and wrote Nehemiah letters in order to frighten him

Up to this point in the book, the Jewish people had been experiencing 4 things:

  1. Daunting and intimidation (4:1-3)

    1 Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews. 2 He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?” 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, “Even what they are building – if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!”

  2. Discouragement (4:4a,5b)

    Hear, O our God, how we are despised … for they have demoralized the builders.

  3. Defiance, threats of open attacks (4:7-8)

    7 Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. 8 All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it.

  4. Doubts (4:10)

    Thus in Judah it was said, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish ; And we ourselves are unable To rebuild the wall.”

 

The enemy was using all of these tactics to attempt to prevent them from “building the wall”, but Nehemiah had answers for all of this, because he was in touch with God.

In the beginning of our passage for today, we see that Nehemiah’s guards, and the overall show of force, had the effect of not just defending the Jewish people, but also intimidating the enemy.  When the enemy learned that Jerusalem was armed and ready, they backed off. God had frustrated their plot.

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:10–11 NKJV)

As they were getting back to work, Nehemiah knew that he couldn’t interrupt the work every time he heard a new rumor, so he set up a defense plan that solved the problem: Half of the men worked on the wall while the other half stood guard. He saw to it that the people carrying materials also carried weapons and that the workers on the walls carried swords. In this way, the work would not be interrupted, and the workers would be ready in case of an alarm. The man with the trumpet stayed close to Nehemiah so the alarm could be given immediately if trouble came and they were attacked.

So, in the same way, we as Christians must build and we must battle.  We cannot stop battling to build and we cannot stop building to battle.  We must do both simultaneously.  We see this principle in James:

James 4:7-8a 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

When Charles Spurgeon started his church magazine in 1865, he borrowed the title from Nehemiah and called the publication The Sword and Trowel (note – trowel is a small handheld tool with a flat, pointed blade, used to apply and spread mortar or plaster):

He said it was “a record of combat with sin and labor for the Lord.” It is not enough to build the wall; we must also be on guard lest the Enemy take it from us.

Building and battling are both a normal part of the Christian life if we are faithful disciples (Luke 14:28–33).

28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

** Question: What are some areas (in our personal lives, in the church and in the culture at large) that we as Christians need to be battling against?

** Question: What are some areas (in our personal lives, in the church and in the culture at large) that we as Christians need to be involved in building up?

There are 3 prominent things in this passage of Scripture – the plan, the promise and the perseverance:

The Plan

  1. Why do we need a plan? Vengeance of the enemy, vitalness of the work and vastness of the wall
    1. The vengeance of the enemy demands that there be a plan that we might have victory. We saw this in v.7-8 of this chapter:

      Nehemiah 4:7-87 Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. 8 All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it.

    2. The vitalness of the work. In the book of Nehemiah up until this point, the emphasis has been how important this matter of building the wall is to the people of Israel:

      Nehemiah 1:3-43 They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” 4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

    3. Because of the vastness of the wall:

      Nehemiah 4:19 – I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another.”

      They weren’t all together in one place when working on the wall, but they were individuals, working on individual parts of the wall – they were separated by great distances. In the same way, we as Christians are not always together all the time (maybe once or twice a week).  But, during the times when we’re not together, we may be living or working in close contact with unbelievers. We not called to just stay inside the “Christian bubble”, but we are to go out and penetrate our society and infect them with the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20):

      18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

      God doesn’t want us to sit around as a bunch of Christians and hold hands all the time.  When we come together, it strengthens us.  But we’re not just one big happy family living together all the time (for example, like the Amish or Mennonites).  That’s going to happen in heaven.  Rather, we are soldiers of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4):

      3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.

      And ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20):

      Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

      We have been sent out on a mission – and the mission is the lost world (Acts 13:47):

      “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'”

  2. Who’s involved in the plan? Everyone:

    Nehemiah 4:16 – From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah.

    The load bearers and the builders were both working and were holding their weapons.  The rulers were in a supporting role.  They were feeding the people and were encouraging them.

    Nehemiah 4:17-1817 Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. 18 As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me.

    Those who built on the wall were the laborers – they had one hand doing their work and one hand holding their weapon.  It also speaks about those who carried burdens.  The trumpeters stood by Nehemiah.

    This is a beautiful Old Testament illustration of a New Testament concept – “Spiritual Gifts”.  So everybody was doing his job – everybody was involved.  1 Corinthians 12 talks about the importance of these Spiritual Gifts.  God gives every single believer in Jesus Christ a spiritual gift.  We’re all to be involved and using these gifts for “the common good” – it’s not just the pastor, it’s not just the elders, Nehemiah put everyone to work (1 Corinthians 12:4-7):

    4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

  3. What is the plan? The plan consisted of 3 elements – they were to be armed, active and alert:
    1. They are to be armed – prepared for battle. They were carrying their weapons while working.  We as believers need to be armed and the Word of God is our weapon (Hebrews 4:12):

      For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    2. They were to be active (v.15b-18):

      15b all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. 17 Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. 18 As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me.

    3. They were to be alert (v. 20) for the sound of the trumpet:

      Nehemiah 4:20a – “At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.”

      No matter what the workers were doing, or where they labored on the wall, they all kept an ear open for the sound of the trumpet. What an example for us to follow as we await the return of the Lord!

      “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thess. 4:16)

The Promise (v.20):

Nehemiah 4:20b – “Our God will fight for us.”

This concept is communicated a multitude of different times in Scripture.  This is God’s promise repeated so often to the nation of Israel.  The “Plan” involves something you can do.  The “Promise” involves something you receive as a result of God’s marvelous grace.    For example:

Ex. 14:14 – The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Deut. 20:4 – For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.

Joshua 10:24-2524 When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks. 25 Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.”

Ps. 60:11-1211 Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. 12 With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

2 Chronicles 32:7-87 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.

Isaiah 54:17 – “no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from Me,” declares the LORD

The Perseverance

Nehemiah 4:21 – So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared.

They didn’t let anything stop the building.  They “carried on” the work.  That involved hard work and long hours (from the rising of the morning until the stars appeared – that was probably a 15 hour day!)  That’s a long day, but that was required, because it was a large task.  Jesus says:

John 9:4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

They were so dedicated to this purpose that they were always clothed and always armed.  It would’ve been uncomfortable, but they were always ready.  Even in the matter of sleeping, they were always on alert.  Nehemiah had instituted a “second shift” and required the workers from the other towns to stay in Jerusalem at night and help guard the city:

Nehemiah 4:22-2322 At that time I also said to the people, “Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day.” 23 So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water.

It is often while we sleep that the Enemy does his most insidious work and so we must be on guard:

Matthew 13:25 – But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.

Nehemiah not only organized the workers and guards and encouraged them to trust the Lord, but he, as a good leader, also set the right kind of example for them (Nehemiah 4:23):

So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water.

The “Perseverance” then, is a great picture of what the Christian life really is all about.  It’s a battle from the start to the finish.  But it’s also a building process from the start to the finish.

The late Dr. Alan Redpath explained why the Jews succeeded in getting their work done and keeping the enemy at bay. The people had:

  1. A mind to work (4:6):Nehemiah 4:6 – So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
  2. A heart to pray (4:9a) and an eye to watch (4:9b):Nehemiah 4:9 – But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.
  3. An ear to hear (4:20):Nehemiah 4:20 – At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.

And this gave them the victory.

They also had a godly leader with the faith to stand. Nehemiah was a leader who served and a servant who led. He stayed on the job and was alert at all times. He inspected the city’s defenses every night and made sure that the guards were on duty.

“Therefore … be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58 NKJV)

My sources in preparing this talk:

  1. BE Determined: Standing Firm in the Face of Opposition (Old Testament Commentary on Nehemiah by Warren W. Wiersbe)
  2. Faith Life Study Bible Commentary (included with Logos Bible Software)
  3. The MacArthur Study Bible
  4. The “Bible Nuggets” app I wrote for Android (used the “topics” feature)
  5. Sermon on Nehemiah 4:15-23 by Paul E. Steele senior pastor of the ‘Valley Church’ Cupertino, CA from Sermon Audio (https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=816081429374):

Teaching on Deuteronomy 25

It was my turn to teach yesterday in my weekly Tuesday lunchtime Bible study at Mimi’s Cafe.  We are going through Deuteronomy and my chapter was 25.  This content is based on a Bible study I heard on the sermon audio web site:

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=23132132519

The Bible study was led by Jim Butler of Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack, British Columbia.  I also received input from this sermon:

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=2131413375

I started off my teaching with this quote from “A Popular Survey of the Old Testament” by Dr. Norman L. Geisler:

What is significant about these teachings of Christ concerning the Old Testament is that they force us to choose between Christ and the critics of the Bible. Virtually everything major critics deny about the Old Testament, Jesus affirmed to be true. The dilemma is to either accept the authenticity and authority of the Old Testament or to impugn the Integrity of Christ. In plain language, either the Old Testament is the word of God or Christ is not Son of God.

In this section of the book (pg. 13) he was talking about how Christ authenticated many accounts from the Old Testament:

  1. That Adam and Eve were created by God (Matt 19:4)
  2. That Abel was killed by Cain (Matt. 23:35)
  3. That a flood destroyed the world in Noah’s time (Luke 17:27)
  4. That God spoke to Moses through a burning bush (Luke 20:37)
  5. That Elijah performed miracles (Luke 4:25)
  6. That Jonah was in the great fish 3 days (Matt. 12:40)
  7. That Daniel made true predictions (Matt. 24:15)

Here is the outline of the chapter:

  1. Laws on corporal punishment (v1-3)
  2. Provision for workers (v4)
  3. Levirate Marriage (v5-6)
    1. Procedure for the unwilling brother-in-law (v7-10)
  4. Threat to progeny (v11-12)
  5. Prohibition against unjust weights and measures (v13-16)
  6. Remember what Amalek did (v17-19)

V1-3 Laws on Corporal punishment

If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.

Five things we learn from verses 1-3

  1. There must be a trial (v1). Judicial procedure is big in the law of God – as can be seen in Deuteronomy 17, 19, 22.  There is due process, you listen, you hear witnesses, you give evidence, you give testimony – judges weigh the case, then they give a verdict or a ruling.
  2. Supervision over the beating (v2a). If the man is found guilty, and the decision is made to him (most likely with a rod rather than a whip Exodus 21:20), there must be supervision.  This may seem harsh, but we need to appreciate all the safeguards that were put in place to prevent an abuse of power.  The judge is presiding over the beating.  It is a legal proceeding – it is not “barbarism”.  In this way, the judge was able to see that the sentence was properly executed and that the offender was not treated too leniently.  That’s as bad a problem as too harshly.
  3. There must be proportion (v2b). Notice that the judge will have the offender beaten in proportion to his offense, with a certain number of stripes.  The punishment must fit the crime.
  4. There must be a limit (v3a). You cannot exceed 40 stripes.  This led to the Rabbinic custom of 39 lashes, referred to by Paul in the New Testament:

    2 Corinthians 11:24 – Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.

    The Hittites had something called the “Code of Hammurabi”.  This was a Babylonian law code of ancient Mesopotamia dating back to about 1750 BC.  The code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments.  Their code prescribed a max of 60 stripes (law 202).  The Assyrians permitted between 40 and 50 stripes.

  5. There must be concern for dignity (v3b). Notice the phrase “lest… your brother be degraded in your sight”.  Notice that he’s still called a brother – he’s still in the covenant community – he’s not been ostracized.  This is remedial – he’s going to get his beating, then he’s going to enter back into society, having learned his valuable lesson and having paid the debt to the person he offended against.  So, even in the process of punishment, God is concerned that His image bearers – even the criminals – maintain their dignity.  This wasn’t a spectacle done for sport, rather the punishment that was fit for the crime.

What form of punishment seems to be missing in the Pentateuch? (answer: incarceration)

V4: Provision for workers

“You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.”

It seems a bit out of place here to deal with animals, so we might see it as a general principal, dealing with the just recompense of those who engage in labor.  If the oxen is treading out the grain, let him eat.  Don’t muzzle him – let him enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.  Certainly if that applies to oxen, it applies to men as well.  In the preceding section (v1-3) we saw that dignity was to be preserved in the beating of a criminal for his evil works.  Certainly for a man involved in “good work” (treading out the grain – or engaged in a lawful days employ), do not muzzle him – let him eat while he is engaged in that particular task.  We know that the Apostle Paul uses it in the context of paying men who preach the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:9-14 – For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.


1 Timothy 5:17-18 – The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.

Paul here appeals to the Scripture, both the Old and the New Testament. They’re both consistent in terms of this provision for those who engage in lawful employment – in this context specifically, men who preach the Gospel.

Levirate Marriage (v5-6)

If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.

Levirate comes from the Latin word “Levir”, which means brother-in-law.  The rule regards a man who dies.  It is the duty of his brother to take his widow as his wife.  In the verse, it says “if brothers dwell together”.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that they share the same house, but probably that they share the same property.  Then “one of them dies and has no son” – we can probably understand this to mean “childless”, because if this situation occurs and there are daughters, the daughters are rightful heirs to inheritance:

Numbers 27:8 – And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, “If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.”

The primary focus in the Levirate Marriage law is not on the widow’s well-being, though that’s certainly in there.  Rather, the primary focus is more covenantal in nature.  Remember when God made the covenant with Abraham.  Two vital elements of that covenant were “seed” and “land” and it seems that’s what’s being protected here.  If a man dies, then he is not shunned from his rightful inheritance in terms of seed and land.  He ought to have posterity (definition from Merriam-Webster: “1. the offspring of one progenitor to the furthest generation, 2. All future generations”).  The idea of seed and land were not confined to Israel and certainly pre-dated the legislation here.  See Genesis 38, which deals with a man named Onan:

Genesis 38:4,7-10 Then she conceived again and bore a son and named him Onan… But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.

Sometimes people understand this passage to forbid certain types of sexual misconduct (i.e. masturbation).  However, it is better to understand it as this idea of the Levirate Law, that it is the responsibility of the surviving brother to take the widow unto himself so that his dead brother may have heir, seed – one who is the rightfully entitled to the inheritance that is promised.

This Levirate marriage arrangement is certainly what was involved in the question posed by the Sadducees to our Lord Jesus:

Matthew 22:23-33 – …the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”  Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

The Sadducees denied the supernatural and life beyond the grave. They are trying to put together an absurd scenario regarding the idea of the Levirate marriage.  They think the scenario they’ve posed to Jesus had really “got him cornered”.  But, it’s interesting that all the times that people try to “corner Jesus” he just sends them packing…  He is wisdom personified (see Colossians 2:2-3).

This whole idea of the Levirate marriage is for the specific purpose of granting “name” to this dead man, and that’s specified there in v6: “that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.” So, we see it’s a sign of affection, comradery, respect and inheritance for that dead brother. Marriage in those days was not always based on romantic interests, but economic and covenantal interests.  Some of these laws just seem so bizarre to the 21st century mindset.  The only way we’d ever think of getting married is for romantic reasons.  However, most of the time, up until the last couple hundred years people married more for specific reasons than romantic ones.  We ought not to balk at such things.  We ought to realize that God has His purposes.  Christopher Wright says the Levirate marriage institution does 3 things:

  1. Provides for the security of the widow in her bereavement and offered the hope of removing the stigma of not having borne a son.
  2. It prevented any loss of property and land to the wider family, which would happen if she married outside the family
  3. It ensured that the dead man’s name would be carried forward for posterity in his family.

Procedure for the unwilling brother-in-law (v7-10)

And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’

This Levirate Marriage isn’t a “mandatory law” – this brother can refuse.  If he’s willing to have his sandal removed and have his face spit upon, and be termed “the house of him who had his sandal removed”, he’s not going to be corporally punished and he’s certainly not going to be capitally punished for refusing to marry his dead brother’s wife.  He’s going to look like a jerk-one who had no affection for his brother or for his dead brother’s wife.

Notice in v8 – it says “Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him”.  We need to learn from this – albeit an indirect application – to be very careful, cautious and hesitant before we pronounce guilt on a person before we’ve heard both sides. We need to make sure we understand these principles in Proverbs 18:

Proverbs 18:13,17 – He who answers before listening– that is his folly and his shame… The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.

When defending ourselves, we don’t always give both sides.  We tend to portray ourselves in the best possible light.  We often don’t share something that looks bad on us, but we promote everything that looks bad in the other person.  Let us learn something here.  She makes the allegation –then v8 says “Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him”.  Notice that they don’t have “paid employee” that removes sandals and spits in faces.  This text provides that victims be a part of the punitive situation.  That helps victims when they see what’s actually being done. Notice that v10 says that his name shall be known in Israel as the house of him who had his sandal pulled off.  It’s not just him, but it’s his entire family that fall under this stigma, so that when his family is seen in the market or around town, people know that they live in “the house of him who had his sandal pulled off”.

The taking off of the shoe (sandal) was an ancient custom in Israel in cases of redemption and exchange, for the purpose of confirming commercial transactions.  The usage arose from the fact that when anyone took possession of land and property, he did so by treading upon the soil and asserting his right of possession by standing upon it in his shoes.  In this way, the taking off of the shoe and handing it to another became a symbol of the renunciation of a man’s position and property.  When we hear about ancient ceremonies like this, it seems really bizarre to us.  But we have ceremonies too.  If someone’s going to “consecrate a ship”, they break a bottle of champagne on it.  If we read about that in 500 or 1,000 years, we’d probably be kind of puzzled about it.  Or, there’s a new building and it’s being dedicated and there’s a ribbon cutting ceremony where they get big scissors and they cut this ribbon.  So, there’s ceremonies that indicate or evidence something very significant.  Ruth 4 alludes to this practice of taking off the sandal:

Ruth 4:7 Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.

This is similar, but not parallel, because in that particular instance, Boaz is not the brother-in-law. The removing of the sandal ceremony (in the case of the unwilling brother) indicated that this man was not entitled to exercise privilege anymore-he had renounced it.  One commentator Allan Harman says that the removal of the sandal indicated that the man was forfeiting any right to his brother’s property, while spitting in the face was an act of contempt.  We don’t need to exegete that – spitting in the face meant then what it means today J

By these regulations (of Levirate marriage), the brother-in-law’s marriage was no doubt recognized as a “duty of affection” towards his deceased brother, but it was not made a command, the neglect of which would involve guilt and punishment.

V11-12: Threat to progeny

When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.

Progeny simply means children (offspring).  Notice in v11 “When men fight with one another”.  It’s not suggesting that in Israel, everyone was fighting on the street.  Just to read v11-12 seems a little shocking – she squeezes his genitals, you cut off her hand, you don’t show any pity.  How often did this actually happen – that 2 men would fight in the city street and one of the men’s wives would grab the other man by the private parts in order to try and stop the fight?  It probably didn’t happen a whole lot…  So, when you hear people say, “The Bible talks about cutting off hands of poor innocent ladies!”, wait a minute, there’s a particular context, a particular situation, a specific incident that we need to understand covenantally – Seed, Inheritance, Land – all these things are crucial!  The punishment in view is not for a “modesty issue” necessarily, rather the fact that she is hurting and possibly destroying this man’s chance for progeny (for having children).  In the context of this passage, coming off the heels of the Levirate marriage regulations, seeing how important seed is, that’s probably what’s in view.  If she squeezes and does damage to this man’s genitals, then he could indeed be sterile.

“Lex Talionis” (Law of retaliation) calls for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exod. 21:23-24).  She does not possess that genitalia, so what is commensurate is that she should lose her hand.  It’s hard to imagine that what you had within the covenant community was people brawling on every street corner with wives standing there, getting involved and trying to stop it.  So, it was probably very, very minimal to begin with, if ever.  In this respect, Old Testament law is in marked contrast to other ancient near eastern law, especially Assyrian law, where all kinds of very nasty physical mutilations were prescribed for many offenses.  In Biblical law this is the only instance.  This is punitive amputation of an offending individual.  Notice, it’s not a property crime (she didn’t steal), it’s a “life crime”.  It has to do with propagation and destruction of potential life.

V13-16: Prohibition against unjust weights and measures

You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.

A heavy weight would profit in buying.  A lighter weight would profit in selling.  At the heart of this is honesty, justice, equity and fair trade.  You don’t have differing weights and measures so that you can rip off a covenant community member.  Rather, you have just weights and just measures, because it’s wrong and it’s a violation of God’s law to steal from people:

Exodus 20:15 You shall not steal.

It’s interesting, when we drop down in this passage, to v16, “all who do such things…are an abomination to the LORD your God”.  Obviously, we would call abortion, sexual perversion, idolatry and other such violations of God’s law an abomination.  God calls an unjust weights and measures an abomination.  Fiscal policy, financial matters, economy, money, fair trade and just weights & measures really are ethical issues.  The same God who says “You shall not murder”, “You shall not commit adultery” is the same God who says, “You shall not steal”.

What’s the implication of verse 15?  Conduct yourself equitably and honestly, in a manner of fair trade in the land the Lord your God is giving you and it will go well with you.  In other words, when you obey the law of God and do what the Lord commands, the Lord attaches that blessing to obedience in the land.  Certainly, we see that the Israelites didn’t always do this.  Unjust weights and measures were being practiced in Amos’s day:

Amos 8:4-6 Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

They were exploiting the poor and engaging in wickedness and lawlessness. And proverbs says:

Proverbs 11:1 Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight. (NKJV)

Proverbs 16:11 Honest weights and scales are the Lord’s; All the weights in the bag are His work. (NKJV)

Proverbs 20:10,23 Diverse weights and diverse measures, They are both alike, an abomination to the Lord … Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord, And dishonest scales are not good.

God hates theft and despises when men engage in deceit.  Men, if you say you are selling a product, then make sure it bears that particular value.  Don’t cheat people or rip them off.  Do not think that having unjust weights and measures will make you prosperous.  It may prosper you in the short term, but God, the Lord will most certainly bring judgement to bear upon you.  We need to deal ethically, uprightly, honestly and justly in all of our financial dealings and doings – in our commerce – in our buying and in our selling.

Leviticus 19:35-36 You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

This is the same ethic we find in the New Testament.  You have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – now live like that!  Live in a manner that is consistent with the Gospel:

Ephesians 4:28 – Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

So, the Gospel ethic isn’t just “stop stealing”, but “stop stealing, work and work hard, so that you can make enough to give to someone who has need.”  That is conduct worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Question: In what ways do we have unjust weights and measures today?

V17-19 Remember what Amalek did

Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.

We learn 2 things about the Amalekites here:

  1. Their wicked conduct – Not only did they attack Israel, but they specifically attacked the stragglers at the rear. Those at the rear were probably the elderly, the very young, the sick, and the pregnant.  The strong warriors are probably upfront.  So, Lex Talionis applies on a national level as well.  It’s interesting here that God’s law pertains not only to covenant Israel, but also to the Amalekites as well.  It is fundamental and universal, by virtue of the fact that man bears the image of God, that we don’t prey upon weak people.  That’s something that the Amalekites should’ve known and that every human being has written in their hearts (Rom 2:14-15).
  2. Their religious motive – Amalek does not fear God, so, he certainly doesn’t care about God’s people. The fact that he destroys these weak Israelites is an indicator of his despising and his hatred of the God of Israel. And so God then says “Remember them”.

Do the Israelites actually obey God?  No.  Saul spared Agag and the Amalekites:

1 Samuel 15:3,7-9 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’… And Saul attacked the Amalekites… But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them…

We still see the Amalekites during the reign of David.  Ultimately, its 1 Chronicles 4 that indicates the end of the Amalekites, probably under Hezekiah’s reign.

1 Chronicles 4:41,43 – … in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah… they defeated the remnant of the Amalekites who had escaped…

Notice these are God’s enemies, He wants Israel to wipe them out.  God has the prerogative, the right and the absolute sovereignty to make this declaration.  We do not. When the psalmist says “Do I not hate those who hate You O Lord?” (Ps. 139:21), he’s not crying out against his enemies, he’s crying out against God’s enemies.  When the Psalmist asks the Lord to smash the teeth of his enemies (Ps. 58:6), they are the enemies of the Lord, not someone at church who forgot to say hi to you on Sunday. Don’t go home and pray imprecatory Psalms over your wife because she burned dinner.  It is righteous for us to use the imprecatory Psalms.  We see them quoted in the New Testament often, but we need to understand the responsible use of them.  It is God’s enemies that we are to despise, not our enemies, not the guy who cut us off on the freeway.

Question: Where do we see “the Gospel” in Deuteronomy 25?