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Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as cited below).

Romans 13:1-7

Submission to the Authorities

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

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Last week’s post largely concluded Romans 11, in which Paul wrote that God will one day lift his judgement against Israel for unbelief in His Son and bring His people into the Church in great numbers. As such, Gentiles are not to become boastful about their position in the Church. Nor are they to hate the Jews, God’s rightful heirs of His covenants, Old and New.

That is a hard truth for some to accept. However, it is what Paul tells us will happen.

In the first half of Romans 13, Paul tells us what our relationship as Christians is to society at large.

These are among the most important verses in the New Testament, but, for whatever reason, the Lectionary compilers omitted them from readings used in public worship.

These days, one must offer an apology for a long post. My advice here is to grab a cuppa and a snack.

John MacArthur explains why Paul moved from the spiritual to the temporal (emphases mine):

If all Paul wanted to focus on was the matter of justification, he could have ended the epistle in chapter 11, but he doesn’t. He goes on to deal with the implications of the doctrines, which have been laid down in the first 11 chapters, which implications we are now looking at. And so it is essential that a Christian understand that his relationship to authority, his relationship to government, and those who are over him is dramatically impacted by his salvation. We are called to live as model citizens, that we may reach the world around us with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ

In other words, how you behave under the authorities in your country, your nation, your city, whatever it is, will demonstrate your faith, the legitimacy of your faith, to that society. And so we are to submit then to the king, to the governor, to anyone who is over us in authority.

We’ve had more than two months of ‘protests’ and, dare one say it, outright insurrection in Seattle and Portland.

Some might empathise with the destruction of public property and general anarchy.

However, Christians are not called on to participate in or to support lawlessness that results in chaos, loss of life and destruction of property, including businesses.

We know that insurrections have taken place throughout history. The United States was created on the back of insurrection. MacArthur thinks that was unbiblical; elsewhere, he said that some of his ancestors were Canadian. Through that filter, one can see his point. He says:

The truth of the matter is, and you need to think about this – the truth of the matter is that our own nation was borne out of a violation of this biblical text. Now that may throw you for a loss, but that’s the fact. Our nation was borne out of a violation of this text, in the name of Christian freedom.

That does not mean that God doesn’t overrule such violations and bring about good, which He did in this case, but that doesn’t justify the means.

Yet, for just over 200 years, America was the beacon of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For millions of people around the world, it still is.

For that reason, one can say, rightly, that the Revolutionary War gave birth to the Great Republic.

The French also had a revolution, within two decades of America’s. The principal French players in this and a few American Founding Fathers travelled back and forth to exchange ideas. General Lafayette helped America’s Revolutionary troops greatly.

The difference between America’s and France’s respective revolutions lies in the content of their constitutions, which largely say the same thing with a few exceptions. The French constitution separates church and state. America’s guarantees freedom of worship. The American Declaration of Independence clearly states that powers to the citizen come from ‘Nature’s God’, ‘their Creator’. America had deist leaders. For the most part, France had atheists at the top at that time.

But I digress.

Some of the Western world has been riven by urban uprisings this year, 2020, protesting against the brutal death of a man who had a police record and, for one conviction, served five years in prison.

The colour of this man’s skin has revived the awareness of blots on Western history: slavery, colonialism and police brutality.

MacArthur wrote the sermons I’m citing here in 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president.

Yet, much of what he says still holds true today.

This is what he says about injustice and what should be the Christian response, according to Paul’s words:

We are to be – and listen carefully, this is an important thought – we are to be the conscience of the nation by godly living and faithful preaching. We confront the nation, not through political pressure, but through the word of God. That’s how we confront the nation. We preach against sin. We preach against the evils of our time. But it is preaching and godly living that is our calling.

For some, that will be insufficient.

MacArthur goes on to define the society in which Jesus and St Paul lived:

Look at Christ for just a moment as we build a foundation for this passage. Look at Christ. He came into a very interesting world. He came into a Roman Empire where slavery flourished. Slavery. You understand that. Slavery. There were three slaves – approximately three slaves — to every free man. He also came into a world that was dominated by absolutism in terms of rulership. Men were absolutely monarchs, absolute rulers. After the end of the Roman republic, when the Caesars came in and took power, they ruled with absolute authority. And although Julius Caesar was murdered in the Roman Senate in 44 BC, this only accelerated the centralization of power. The Roman Senate declared Augustus proconsul and tribune of Rome for life, and he had absolute and total power. He was commander-in-chief of all soldiers, he stood above the senate, and he controlled all civil affairs.

So Jesus came into a world dominated by slavery and by one man rule, the absolute antithesis of democracy, which we believe to be so dear. All the power of the state was in one man’s hands.

You had the same thing in Palestine, where the ruler of Palestine, who was placed there as sort of a puppet king under Rome was a man by the name of Herod. Herod was an Edomite. Herod was not a Jew. That Edomite ruler of Palestine, the king with great power, had the single authority to demand that every single baby in a certain region be massacred, and nobody could stay his hand. He had absolute authority over life and death. He murdered his whole family, his mother, his wife, his sons, and no one held him accountable.

In the time that Jesus came into the world taxes were exorbitant, and those who worked in the taxing process who sold themselves to Rome for money, exacted exorbitant taxes out of the people, overcharged them. In fact, you remember don’t you, that Zacchaeus when he was converted, immediately said I’ll do what? I’ll pay back everything I’ve extorted how many times? Fourfold. Which was rather typical of the kind of thing that went on, tax collectors were extortioners. So there were unjust taxes. There was unjust rule that heard nothing from the people. In fact, Caesar August[us] decreed that all the world should be taxed, and tried to collect … from everyone.

Furthermore, Jesus came to His people, the Jews, in a very unique situation for them. They were chattel for the Romans. They were an underprivileged and oppressed minority. They had no voice in Roman government, they had to pay heavy taxes to their Roman taskmasters. Now that’s the world Jesus came into. They didn’t even know anything about democracy, about voting, about certain quote-unquote “freedoms” that we enjoy.

And what did Jesus say? He said this. “Render to Caesar” what? “The things that are Caesar’s.” You give the government its due. And to God, what? The things that are God’s.

He did not come with power and force to overthrow the Roman tyranny. He did not seek social change. He did not attempt to eliminate slavery. He did not come with political or economic issues at stake. They were not the concern of his life and ministry. He did not come to bring new government, to bring democracy, to wave the flag of Judaism, even. His appeal was ever and always to the hearts of individual men and women, not their political freedoms, not their rights under government.

He did not participate in civil rights. He did not crusade to abolish injustice. He preached a saving gospel, so that once a man’s soul or a woman’s soul is right with God, it matters very little what the externals are. He was not interested in a new social order, but in a new spiritual order, the church. And he mandated the church to carry on the same kind of ministry.

And listen, their problems in those days were far more severe than ours, far more severe. Even people living on relief today have cars, TVs and modern conveniences.

Uprisings were not allowed in that era. The Romans relied strongly on maintaining order. Any Roman governor who allowed uprisings was called back to Rome from his post. He might have gone on trial. He risked imprisonment. In some cases, he could be put to death. In any event, he spent the rest of his days as a social and political outcast.

Moving on to today’s passage, Paul makes it clear that we must be subject to our governing authorities, because God has given them to us to maintain order (verse 1).

Naturally, the first question most of us have upon reading that is about totalitarian dictatorships. MacArthur has an answer:

You say, “What about the cruel governments? How can you say that about communist governments? How can you say that about Adolf Hitler? How can you say that about abusive kinds of government? How can you say that those are ordained of God?” Well let me answer it by saying this. I didn’t say it. I just read it. The Bible said it. So I’m off the hook, folks. This is not my problem. There is no power but of God.

And then the other side of it is, the power that is, is ordained by God. “You mean in our nation that’s what it says?” If it is a power, it’s ordained by God. Well you say, “What about the cruel abuses?” Listen, the cruel abuses and the injustices and the wrongs of governments are no reflection of God’s holy nature, and no reflection of God’s holy will, any more than divorce in a marriage is a reflection of God’s holy will. But marriage is no less an institution of God. And though there is apostasy in the church, the church is still an institution ordained of God. But the apostasy is no reflection of the nature of God.

No, abuses do not deny the sacredness nor the divine trust and authority in any of God’s institutions, be it the home, the church, or the government. Frankly, men abuse all God’s gifts, don’t they? And wicked rulers are part of God’s plan to punish wicked nations, and to allow evil to run its course toward destruction. If the truth were known, and perhaps someday in heaven, God has designed by His sovereign purpose and will a reason for every government that exists on the face of the earth. Some are for the benefit of those who have done well. Some are for the punishment of those peoples who have done evil. We cannot second-guess why God institutes a certain kind of government in a certain place.

God has ordained government to protect and preserve men, to protect their life and their property. To do that, there must be the role of government to repress evil, to repress crime, and to hold up and honor those who are virtuous and good. So Paul says, “The powers that be are ordained by God.” The powers that be are not — I hope you know this — the will of the majority. The majority only reflects the sovereign purpose of God. The powers that be are God’s design. And that means any governmental power in any form.

So here, beloved, is reason number one why we submit to the government, because the government is in place by the decree of God. It is the time for God to do in a nation what He chooses to do. It is expressive of the divine will. Sometimes He wants to punish a nation. Sometimes He wants to prosper a nation. Sometimes He wants to bless a people. Sometimes He chooses to judge a people. But government in all its form is by divine decree.

Therefore, those who resist authority — be it good or bad — are going against God’s will. As such, those people will fall under His judgement (verse 2).

MacArthur referred to a Russian emigré, Georgy Vinz, who had spoken at his church. This was the faithful Christian response during the repressive days of the former Soviet Union:

Way back in 1839, Robert Haldane, writing in his wonderful commentary on Romans wrote, “The people of God, then, ought to consider resistance to the government under which they live as a very awful crime, even as resistance to God, Himself,” end quote. It’s quite a remarkable statement, and one which I mentioned to you last week, is whole-heartedly ascribed to by Georgy Vinz and those who have come out of Russia to tell us that the dear Christian brothers and sisters in Russia will make no resistance against their government. And if they are imprisoned, it will be simply and only because of their love and proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wow. That is quite something.

MacArthur had this to say on judgement in verse 2:

So government is divinely decreed, and to resist it is to resist God. Now I want to take you to a third thought as we wrap up. Those who resist will be punished. Look at verse 2, again. “They that resist shall receive to themselves judgment.” If you resist the government, you’re going to be punished. That’s the way it is. The word is krima. It’s a word that means judgment.

It’s used in 1 Corinthians 11:29, of the judgment of God. But here it’s used, I think, primarily in reference to the punishment that comes from God through civil authorities, through civil authorities. God has ordained government to punish evildoers. And if you resist the government, you’re going to get punished. Now, if like Daniel, you have to because you have a higher command, then you accept the punishment. But if it’s not in that situation, if it’s just a choice you make to resist, of course, you’re going to receive the punishment. Now that was true in the Old Testament economy.

There is a fine line here between obeying and disobeying those in authority.

MacArthur spoke of Daniel. This is what happened when Daniel disobeyed the king’s orders to eat the finest food and enjoy the finest wine:

Look for a moment in your Bible to Daniel’s prophe[c]y. And here you have a very clear, precise illustration of a man who refused to do what the king said, because it would be in violation of what God had said. And you remember in Daniel chapter 1 that Daniel was taken into Babylon captive with other of the young princes of Israel, and several of them are named in verse 7. Their real Hebrew names are in verse 6, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. And it says in verse 8 that Daniel purposed in his heart he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s food, nor the wine which he drank. Now here you have the occasion where Daniel is instructed by the Babylonian monarch to take the food of Babylon and eat it. To do that would have been to violate that which he knew to be laws revealed by God, for the Jews had very circumspect dietary laws, and he would not defile himself with food that was not prescribed by God. And yet, in all of Daniel’s attitude there’s a spirit of submission.

“He requested,” verse 8 says, “of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” He asks permission. He goes to the one who is over him, under the king, and over him, and he seeks permission. And he gets into a little dialogue. He says, “Let’s try a test. I’ll commit myself to eating what I would prefer to eat, and after a period of certain days, you come back. We’ll look at everybody, those who’ve eaten the king’s meat, and myself having eaten just these vegetables. Ten days will go by and we’ll see who looks the best.”

And this was a wonderful and conciliating way for Daniel to seek to obey God without becoming abusive of this man who was carrying out orders from his king. And so in verse 14, the man consented and ten days passed. And, of course, you know the story. When the ten days were ended and the man came into to check everybody out, Daniel and his friends far and away surpassed all the others and rose to place of prominence.

Now Daniel could have protested. He could have revolted. He could have been disrespectful to the one over him. He could have badmouthed the king. He could have done all kinds of things. But he sought a conciliating means to obey God in the midst of a difficult situation. But he would not compromise. Later on, as you follow through for a moment in the book of Daniel, you’ll remember that three of his friends, of course, in chapter 3, refused to bow down to the idol image. And as a result of that, they had disobeyed the king. They were told to bow down. They would not, because they couldn’t bow down to the king when God had told them to bow only to Him. And so they were caught in the same crux of the same dilemma. And they were true to God and they said, “If you want to throw us in the fire, throw us in the fire. If God wants to deliver us, He’ll deliver us. And if He doesn’t want to deliver us, we still won’t bow down.”

And so there was a no-compromise attitude. But there was a sense of respect in what they said in verse 17. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace. And He will deliver us out of thine hand, oh king. But if not, be it known unto thee, oh king, that we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” They did not speak any evil words against him. They were not disrespectful. They called him by his proper title. And they simply said, “We will not do this. But we are more than happy to suffer whatever consequences you feel are just for our seeming [m]isbehavior.” And, again, their attitude is remarkably conciliating and gracious in the light of what they might have said. As a result of it, chapter 3, verse 30 says, “The king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.” They got a promotion because the king surely appreciated men with great conviction. He also wouldn’t mind having people on his team who could walk through fiery furnaces.

And then in chapter 6, we find, of course, that very familiar account of Daniel in the lion’s den. And now it’s moved out of the Babylonian setting, and we’re in the Medeo-Persian kingdom. And by the way, I want to say as a footnote here, there is absolutely nothing wrong for anyone serving in a government position. There’s nothing wrong with serving in a civil government role or a state government, or any other kind of leadership. That is an honored position. And Daniel is the single best example of that in the Scripture. And every time he was uncompromising, he got a greater reputation.

And because of his uncompromising spirit, he was constantly promoted till he finally became the prime minister of the whole nation, the whole kingdom. It is an honorable thing to serve in government. It is not a dishonorable thing. Daniel is an illustration of that. But it was Daniel’s wonderfully conciliating, and yet non-compromising attitude that caused him to prosper. You remember that Daniel prayed. And so those princes that wanted to get rid of Daniel got the king to sign an edict that no one was to pray to anybody, no one was to give obeisance to any other god.

And, of course, Daniel went on with his prayers. He went on with doing what he knew was right before God. And so he was thrown into the den of lions. But he was not at all disrespectful, as you know. And God…verse 21, rather, just before God protected him, “Then said Daniel to the king,” verse 21, “‘Oh, king,'” what? “‘Live forever.’” Long live the king. This seems a strange thing for a man about to be thrown in a den of … lions by this king. But he understands that the powers that be are ordained of God. And he is submissive in a unique sense, and very trustful that no matter what that king does to him, he’s in the hands of God.

God delivered him. At the end of chapter 6, verse 28 says, “So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” Daniel’s no-compromise approach, along with his friends, meant disobeying the government. But his attitude is a model for all those who come to that…that crossroads of having to face the reality that you can’t do what the government says, or you can’t not do what they say to stop doing. He never wavered from honoring the king, and neither did his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were never disrespectful.

In fact, just let me give you a little bit of a pattern that I see flowing out of the experience of Daniel. First of all, normally we obey, respect, and do everything in response to and to please those in authority. We are to be model citizens, obedient not only outwardly, but obedient in spirit. Secondly, we resist and disobey only when we are commanded to do something the Word of God forbids, or are forbidden to do something the Word of God commands. And those two things are illustrated in Daniel’s prophecy. He would not do what the Word of God forbid, that is, eat a certain [type] of food. And he would not stop doing what God commanded him to do, and that was pray.

The third princip[le] that flows out of it: Even when government and the Word of God conflict, we should not disobey overtly until we have done all we can to try to resolve the conflict peacefully. Did you get that? To try to resolve the conflict peacefully.

Returning to Paul, he writes to the Romans that rulers are not a threat to good judgement but to bad (verse 3). Do what is good and you will meet well with God’s earthly authority, because He will act only against the wrongdoer through earthly authority (verse 4).

These days, in 2020, it seems local authorities can not even accomplish a prosecution of the wrongdoer, whether in Seattle, Portland or London.

Yet, according to Scripture and to history — excepting some of our most recent events — judges, among them magistrates, are tasked with upholding the law. Admittedly, magistrates by name are much more a feature in English law than elsewhere. However, they are in place in other nations, e.g. those such as Judge Judy who hear cases or night court judges. That is not to demean the magistrates’ significance at all. Those are the lawgivers you fear the most — much more so than a high court or superior court judge.

Matthew Henry explains:

Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil, &c. Magistracy was designed to be,

[1.] A terror to evil works and evil workers. They bear the sword; not only the sword of war, but the sword of justice. They are heirs of restraint, to put offenders to shame; Laish wanted such, Judges 18:7. Such is the power of sin and corruption that many will not be restrained from the greatest enormities, and such as are most pernicious to human society, by any regard to the law of God and nature or the wrath to come; but only by the fear of temporal punishments, which the wilfulness and perverseness of degenerate mankind have made necessary. Hence it appears that laws with penalties for the lawless and disobedient (1 Timothy 1:9) must be constituted in Christian nations, and are agreeable with, and not contradictory to, the gospel. When men are become such beasts, such ravenous beasts, one to another, they must be dealt with accordingly, taken and destroyed in terrorem–to deter others. The horse and the mule must thus be held in with bit and bridle. In this work the magistrate is the minister of God, Romans 13:4. He acts as God’s agent, to whom vengeance belongs; and therefore must take heed of infusing into his judgments any private personal resentments of his own.–To execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. In this the judicial processes of the most vigilant faithful magistrates, though some faint resemblance and prelude of the judgments of the great day, yet come far short of the judgment of God: they reach only to the evil act, can execute wrath only on him that doeth evil: but God’s judgment extends to the evil thought, and is a discerner of the intents of the heart.–He beareth not the sword in vain. It is not for nothing that God hath put such a power into the magistrate’s hand; but it is intended for the restraining and suppressing of disorders. And therefore, “If thou do that which is evil, which falls under the cognizance and censure of the civil magistrate, be afraid; for civil powers have quick eyes and long arms.” It is a good thing when the punishment of malefactors is managed as an ordinance of God, instituted and appointed by him. First, As a holy God, that hates sin, against which, as it appears and puts up its head, a public testimony is thus borne. Secondly, As King of nations, and the God of peace and order, which are hereby preserved. Thirdly, As the protector of the good, whose persons, families, estates, and names, are by this means hedged about. Fourthly, As one that desires not the eternal ruin of sinners, but by the punishment of some would terrify others, and so prevent the like wickedness, that others may hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously. Nay, it is intended for a kindness to those that are punished, that by the destruction of the flesh the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

[2.] A praise to those that do well. Those that keep in the way of their duty shall have the commendation and protection of the civil powers, to their credit and comfort. “Do that which is good (Romans 13:3), and thou needest not be afraid of the power, which, though terrible, reaches none but those that by their own sin make themselves obnoxious to it; the fire burns only that which is combustible: nay, thou shalt have praise of it.” This is the intention of magistracy, and therefore we must, for conscience’ sake, be subject to it, as a constitution designed for the public good, to which all private interests must give way.

That explanation ties in well with Paul’s next verse about avoiding God’s wrath for the sake of conscience (verse 5).

Then we enter into Paul’s dictum on taxes, none of which we like and all of which keep increasing year after year. Paul says we must continue paying them, because the authorities in charge are ordained by God (verse 6).

These are hard verses to swallow, especially the one on taxes, particularly these days when it seems we are paying for everyone but ourselves. Aargh!

Henry’s explanation appears quaint today, even if there was no welfare/dole in his time:

He does not say, “You give it as an alms,” but, “You pay it as a just debt, or lend it to be repaid in all the blessings and advantages of public government, of which you reap the benefit.” This is the lesson the apostle teaches, and it becomes all Christians to learn and practise it, that the godly in the land may be found (whatever others are) the quiet and the peaceable in the land.

I suppose we reap it universally in the UK in some way, but, from what many of us can see tangibly, we do not do so broadly these days.

I would elaborate, but will refrain from doing so under our extraordinary circumstances in 2020.

Paul continues about taxes and other payments due (verse 7), however, we see in our time that little has changed — and not for the better, in terms of tax.

Tax aside, Paul sends an important message: pay as you owe without undue delay, showing honour and respect to those with whom you have dealt in business.

Paul was not the only one in the New Testament besides Jesus to advocate obeying the law. James and Peter also did the same in their letters to their converts.

Peaceful assembly can take place, but violence and destruction are unbiblical. Paying taxes is essential as is giving our neighbour and our businessmen their due.

Do unto others as you would be done by is the rule.

Next time — Romans 14:13-19

Below are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, August 9, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

In this season of Trinity, this choice of first readings has focused on Abraham and his descendants. Today’s passage is the story of Joseph’s abduction. He was one of Jacob’s — Israel’s — sons, who were fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob loved him the most. This angered Jacob’s elder sons who expected preferential treatment because, by right, they were his first heirs. Joseph, who wore the many-coloured coat, was born much later. Therefore, his older brothers conspired to get rid of him. Note the use of the word Ishmaelites in verses 25, 27 and 28. Those were the descendants of Abraham’s illegitimate son by Hagar: Ishmael.

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

37:1 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan.

37:2 This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.

37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.

37:4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

37:12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem.

37:13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.”

37:14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.”So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem,

37:15 and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?”

37:16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.”

37:17 The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan.

37:18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him.

37:19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.

37:20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”

37:21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.”

37:22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” –that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.

37:23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore;

37:24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

37:25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.

37:26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?

37:27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed.

37:28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105, in part, tells the story of Joseph, who, being Pharaoh’s right hand man in charge of the grain stores, ended up saving his once-hateful — now grateful — brothers and their families from famine. Jacob/Israel was not wrong in preferring Joseph to his other sons. More importantly, our loving Lord keeps His covenants.

Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b

105:1 O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.

105:2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.

105:3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

105:4 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.

105:5 Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,

105:6 O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

105:16 When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,

105:17 he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

105:18 His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;

105:19 until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD kept testing him.

105:20 The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.

105:21 He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,

105:22 to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.

105:45b Praise the LORD!

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Elijah felt he had to self-exile because of rulers Ahab and Jezebel as well as the Baal-worshipping Israelites. It is a shame that this reading did not include verses 19-21, which show that Elijah felt strengthened by Elisha’s joining him for their return. Why ever not? Elisha is integral to the events that followed.

1 Kings 19:9-18

19:9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

19:10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

19:11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;

19:12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

19:13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

19:14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

19:15 Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.

19:16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.

19:17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.

19:18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Here are the next three verses:

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

Bible scholars have disagreed about when this Psalm was written. In any event, it is to be sung when God’s faithful are in trouble as a collective group.

Psalm 85:8-13

85:8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

85:9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

85:10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

85:11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.

85:12 The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.

85:13 Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

Epistle

Paul discusses the importance of heartfelt belief in and open confession of Christ as Lord. Verse 12 is pertinent in our troubled times this year, 2020.

Romans 10:5-15

10:5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.”

10:6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down)

10:7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

10:9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

10:11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.

10:13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?

10:15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Gospel

Last week, we read Matthew’s account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. That night, Peter briefly walked on water during a terrifying storm on the Sea of Galilee.

Matthew 14:22-33

14:22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

14:23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,

14:24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.

14:25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.

14:26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.

14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

14:28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

14:29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.

14:30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

14:32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

What an excellent set of readings this week. They tell us of God’s faithfulness, His blessings towards us and the importance of belief in Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

May all of us enjoy a blessed Sunday.

While all was quiet in our streets during lockdown, many changes have no doubt been taking place in relative silence.

One of them was Sheffield Cathedral’s decision to disband their choir. The recently hired choirmaster felt he should resign. The choirmaster was not involved in the clergy’s discussions.

It is unclear what exactly infected the minds of the Church of England clergy during lockdown, but some of the ensuing results, such as this, are questionable.

On Thursday, July 23, 2020, The Guardian reported:

In a break with centuries of tradition, Sheffield cathedral is to stand down its choir in order to make a “completely fresh start” with a new team of choristers that reflects and engages with an increasingly diverse city.

A statement published on the cathedral’s website on Wednesday said “significant change” was needed. The cathedral’s governing body, the Chapter, had decided on “a new model for Anglican choral life here, with a renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion”, it added.

Although the cathedral’s music department had been the subject of a review, the closure of the choir was unexpected and is likely to infuriate traditionalists in the Church of England and classical music circles.

Apart from a handful of adult singers, the current choir is drawn largely from schools in the Sheffield area (including private schools) and mainly performs music from the Anglican choral tradition.

Clicking on the link for the Cathedral’s statement produces a pop-up window stating (emphases in the original):

Sheffield Cathedral is your Cathedral

Your Cathedral has seen many adversities throughout history to present time. Now we are faced with overcoming the challenges of COVID-19. 

Sheffield Cathedral is a beacon of hope for the whole community. People have been gathering on this site for nearly 1,000 years. With your support now, people will be able to gather here for many more years to come.

Please help your Cathedral to continue to be ‘A Place for All People’. Thank you.

The Very Reverend Peter Bradley, DL
The Dean of Sheffield

Well, that no longer holds true for the choir or the choir director, it would seem.

The Cathedral’s statement of July 22 reads, in part (emphases mine):

For some years the Dean and Chapter have been looking carefully at the music offer of Sheffield Cathedral. They have come to the conclusion that there needs to be significant change. This is in order to create a Music Department and Choir ready for the exciting future of the mixed urban community in which we live and work.

With the Diocesan Bishop, Chapter are appointing a new Canon Precentor in August, responsible for Cathedral worship and music. They hope this will bring increased creativity and stability.

Following a review of the Music Department in 2019, Sheffield Cathedral Chapter has decided that a completely fresh start is needed. As a result, Chapter concluded this is the right time to close the current Cathedral Choir.

This decision has not been easy because it will directly impact several colleagues and indirectly impact us all in our close-knit community. However, we believe this is in the best interests of the long-term mission of the Cathedral

For some time, Chapter has been considering a new model for Anglican choral life here, with a renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion. They recognise that this will require flexibility, imagination and experiment …

They look forward to working with our partners throughout our City and Diocese to make this renewed vision a reality under God.

Dean Bradley told The Guardian:

“We need to be engaging with people who are part of this changing city. We believe strongly in equality and giving as many children as possible the opportunity to sing at the highest level.”

The appeal of church music was wide but sometimes “presented in a way that can be seen as elitist”, he said.

Bradley acknowledged the decision to close the current choir would “cause genuine grief”. He hoped that some of the existing choristers would become members of a new choir, which will be formed after the appointment of a new canon precentor this summer.

The new choir will continue to perform music from the Anglican choral tradition but will broaden its repertoire, he said.

“This sort of change in our sort of institution can be immensely painful, but that’s not a reason not to move forward. My view is that many cathedrals will be making similar changes over the next few years.

“It’s going to be a bit torrid for us, but we’re not going to sit in a bunker.”

You can see photos and biographies of the men who made the decision here. Perhaps they should consider making a ‘new model’ — borrowing their words — for cathedral leadership themselves. Given their own logic, they could resign.

But I digress.

Back to The Guardian, which says that one professional vocalist who had sung at Sheffield Cathedral was deeply disappointed by the decision:

James Bingham, a former member of the Sheffield cathedral choir who now works for the Irish National Opera, said he was appalled by the cathedral’s statement, tweeting: “It implies that the Anglican church’s rich choral tradition is to blame for its declining influence.”

“Choral music is one of the great cultural legacies of the Church of England,” he told the Guardian.

The idea that classical music was elitist was misguided, Bingham said. “At Sheffield [cathedral], they’re making amazing music on a daily basis in the city centre that is free to everyone.”

As a student at Sheffield university, Bingham had sung as a choral scholar five times a week for three years. Choirs were strong communities bound together by frequent performance and rehearsal, he said.

“The cathedral choir still holds a big place in my heart. If this had happened while I was still there, I would be heartbroken.”

I agree. I sang in my church’s choir as a teenager, and it was a very close-knit group of people, young and old, male and female.

This was the Cathedral’s tweet on Saturday, July 25:

Good.

You can read more disappointed reactions here.

Another tweet, by way of reply, posted a link to the petition ‘Save Sheffield Cathedral Choir’. When I wrote this post at the end of July, the count of signatories went up and up as I was reading the petition.

The petition explains that the choir is already quite diverse:

In recent years, Sheffield Cathedral Choir has made great advances in encouraging the role of women and non-binary members among the lay clerks and choral scholars of the choir. It also supported a girls’ choir and a Schola Cantorum, serving university student communities. Cathedral musicians, past and present, led the Cathedral’s outreach work which took music across the city. Notably, this included the Sheffield Cathedral Sing! Project, which worked with 2,000 children from 30 primary schools each year, including children of mixed heritage, disabilities, and of socio-economic disadvantage. Through this work, cathedral musicians connected meaningfully with schools from some of Sheffield’s most disadvantaged areas.

The petition also takes exception to the accusation about privately-educated choristers:

Regrettably, the Dean and Chapter’s statement also advances a misleading argument regarding the proportion of choristers at Sheffield Cathedral that were privately educated. Over the last 20 years, privately educated children have typically constituted a minority of the choristers at Sheffield Cathedral. In fact, we are aware that the Dean and Chapter were seeking to establish a formal partnership with Birkdale School, a private school in the city this year. These actions seem to be at odds with the Dean and Chapter’s statements.

The mother of one of the choristers wrote a lengthy explanation of the background to the choir situation on Facebook. That post is a copy of a letter she sent to the Church Times. The Master of Music — choirmaster — who has since resigned was a recent hire. Excerpts follow.

See what changes lockdown can produce:

This is my understanding of what has happened, from my vantage point as a choir parent since 2011:

There was a very short review (perhaps two days?) last summer, but changes were made and the choir went from strength to strength from September 2019 to March 2020, evidenced in Chapter’s unanimous decision to appoint Joshua Stephens as Master of Music, taking up his post on 8th March to everyone’s great delight. However, with the onset of coronavirus, Mr Stephens was furloughed and the cathedral failed to communicate this to any of the choir. Mr Stephens allegedly experienced harassment from the cathedral management and silence from the clergy while furloughed. This was not unusual behaviour for the cathedral as others have experienced the same in the past, but lockdown sharpened the focus and made it more evident. I made a formal complaint but little action was taken, and Mr Stephens resigned at the end of June stating that he was not compatible with the prevailing culture in the cathedral. Chapter accepted his resignation without talking to him to understand his motives. Lay-clerks, parents, and choristers were distraught and begged Chapter to initiate mediation. But instead they decided to close down the choir and start afresh, with no encouragement to ex-choir members to be part of the new vision.

The lady posting on Facebook said that the choir had been considering a tour in Berlin, a wider recruitment programme and a means of providing continuity for boys whose voices were changing.

The clergy apparently did not care too much about the choir during lockdown, although the choristers’ parents did their best to maintain morale:

The choir was energised and optimistic, but during all the pressures of lockdown as well as the fire at the Cathedral Archer Project, the clergy admitted that the music department had “slipped through the net”. Nevertheless choir parents and layclerks kept up morale amongst the choristers with zoom parties on the theme of different composers each week, but there was no communication at all from the cathedral to the choir from the last choir rehearsal before lockdown until 24th June when the Dean talked about bringing Mr Stephens back off furlough and preparing to start up again.

BUT:

Mr Stephens was not copied into that email and he resigned the following day.

HMM:

The fourth Director of Music to leave Sheffield cathedral in five years.

His departure precipitated other resignations:

The cathedral’s Head Steward has also since resigned in protest, as did the leaders of the 100-strong Toddler group last year, and as has one of the choir chaperones, stating that she feels unsafe and unsupported.

Wow.

The first the choristers and their parents found out about the disbanding of the choir was through the media:

Indeed the press heard about it before even the choristers did!

Something is very wrong with the Church of England. They have used coronavirus to make rather unwelcome changes. Our churches are now becoming increasingly politicised.

Instead of offering succour to those who had a hard time getting through lockdown and the loss or illness of loved ones, they have turned their attention to the prevailing cultural movements of the day, rather than to our loving Saviour and merciful God our Father.

How un-Christian. How unbiblical.

I hope to post an update when I find out more news.

Bible GenevaThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 11:25-28

The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:[a] a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

————————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s warning to the Gentiles not to be proud about having been grafted on to the branches of the Church, which he described as an olive tree. The Church — the cultivated olive tree, onto which the Gentiles, the wild olive branch, are grafted — is still intended to be for the Jewish people.

Paul tells the Gentiles not to feel superior over the Jews because the day will come when God will lift His judgement on Israel (verse 25). That will happen once the Gospel has reached all the Gentiles.

Paul calls this a ‘mystery’.

John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

In other words, God is not finished with that people. It’s only until a certain event takes place. And we are not to be ignorant of that. It’s an essential purpose in the mind of God

And so, Paul with great joy has now arrived at the moment where he will present the single, most hopeful truth that he carried in his heart. It has been a mystery. Notice it in verse 25, he calls it that. “I don’t want you to be ignorant of this mystery.” That is to say it has been hidden in the past. It has been hidden. We know that’s what a mystery is, something hidden in the past and now revealed. Don’t be ignorant of it. Certainly don’t be foolishly wise in your own conceit. In other words, thinking too highly of yourselves, making an undue estimate of your knowledge and importance, not based on fact but based on your own self-conceit, based on being a quote/unquote “know-it-all.” This mystery God will reveal; don’t be a fool and be ignorant of it …

A mystery is something that’s been hidden in the past and is now revealed in the Scripture. And what was hidden in the past was that Israel would be set aside, cut off from blessing, Gentiles grafted in, ultimately Gentiles cut off, and Israel grafted back in to the place of blessing. That mystery we are not to be ignorant of. That mystery has now been revealed through the apostle Paul. And what is the mystery specifically? It’s given right in the verse, the two-part mystery, that blindness in part is happened to Israel. The mystery is that the Jews would not believe. And the word “blindness,” by the way, is really the word “hardened.” It’s the word hardened, resistant. Blindness in part; notice he puts that “in part” in there? Why? Because their blindness was what? Partial. We’ve been saying it all along. That doesn’t mean that the individuals were partly blind; it’s not talking about the degree of blindness. What it means is that the nation was partly blind, that is, there were some who were not blind. There was always a what? A believing remnant, a believing remnant.

So, he says blindness in part is happened to Israel. And that was the point of the first ten verses of chapter 11, to show that their blindness was only partial and God had a remnant. Secondly, it was not only partial it was what? Passing. And that’s how the second feature is given, only until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. “Until” indicates time. “Fullness” indicates number of completion. And so, only until a certain time and a certain completion; therefore it’s only temporary. So the mystery was that Israel was set aside partially and temporarily. The Jew in the Old Testament never saw that. He saw the nation Israel going along as the blessed people of God and someday the Messiah would come and establish His kingdom. He didn’t see their total rejection and their being cut off the place of blessing and a new country or a new nation or a new people, a new ethnos being grafted in, the church, and then becoming the source of witness in the world. And then they being cut off by apostasy and the Jew being grafted back in when the fullness of the Gentiles had come in. And that’s the mystery that Paul is unfolding.

Ultimately:

It is a warning against Gentile pride and anti-Semitism.

Paul states that all of Israel will be saved (verse 26). He paraphrases Isaiah 59:20-21

20 “And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
    to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.

21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

… and Psalm 14:7 (verse 27) …

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

… as well as Psalm 53:6 (verse 27):

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When God restores the fortunes of his people,
    let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Matthew Henry elaborates on Paul’s choice of those verses:

… we may observe, [1.] The coming of Christ promised: There shall come out of Zion the deliverer. Jesus Christ is the great deliverer, which supposes mankind in a state of misery and danger. In Isaiah it is, the Redeemer shall come to Zion. There he is called the Redeemer; here the deliverer; he delivers in a way of redemption, by a price. There he is said to come to Zion, because when the prophet prophesied he was yet to come into the world, and Zion was his first head-quarters. Thither he came, there he took up his residence: but, when the apostle wrote this, he had come, he had been in Zion; and he is speaking of the fruits of his appearing, which shall come out of Zion; thence, as from the spring, issued forth those streams of living water which in the everlasting gospel watered the nations. Out of Zion went forth the law, Isaiah 2:3. Compare Luke 24:47. [2.] The end and purpose of this coming: He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Christ’s errand into the world was to turn away ungodliness, to turn away the guilt by the purchase of pardoning mercy, and to turn away the power by the pouring out of renewing grace, to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), to separate between us and our sins, that iniquity might not be our ruin, and that it might not be our ruler. Especially to turn it away from Jacob, which is that for the sake of which he quotes the text, as a proof of the great kindness God intended for the seed of Jacob. What greater kindness could he do them than to turn away ungodliness from them, to take away that which comes between them and all happiness, take away sin, and then make way for all good? This is the blessing that Christ was sent to bestow upon the world, and to tender it to the Jews in the first place (Acts 3:26), to turn people from their iniquities. In Isaiah it is, The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto those that turn from transgression in Jacob, which shown who in Zion were to have a share in and to reap benefit by the deliverance promised, those and those only that leave their sins and turn to God; to them Christ comes as a Redeemer, but as an avenger to those that persist in impenitence. See Deuteronomy 30:2,3. Those that turn from sin will be owned as the true citizens of Zion (Ephesians 2:19), the right Jacob, Psalms 24:4,6. Putting both these readings together, we learn that none have an interest in Christ but those that turn from their sins, nor can any turn from their sins but by the strength of the grace of Christ.–For this is my covenant with them–this, that the deliverer shall come to them–this, that my Spirit shall not depart from them, as it follows, Isaiah 59:21. God’s gracious intentions concerning Israel were made the matter of a covenant, which the God that cannot lie could not but be true and faithful to. They were the children of the covenant, Acts 3:25. The apostle adds, When I shall take away their sins, which some think refers to Isaiah 27:9, or only to the foregoing words, to turn away ungodliness. Pardon of sin is laid as the foundation of all the blessings of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:12): For I will be merciful. Now from all this he infers that certainly God had great mercy in store for that people, something answerable to the extent of these rich promises: and he proves his inference (Romans 11:29) by this truth: For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. Repentance is sometimes taken for a change of mind, and so God never repents, for he is in one mind and who can turn him? Sometimes for a change of way, and that is here understood, intimating the constancy and unchangeableness of that love of God which is founded in election. Those gifts and callings are immutable; whom he so loves, he loves to the end. We find God repenting that he had given man a being (Genesis 6:6, It repented the Lord that he had made man), and repenting that he had given a man honour and power (1 Samuel 15:11, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king); but we never find God repenting that he had given a man grace, or effectually called him; those gifts and callings are without repentance.

Paul tells the Gentiles that while the unbelieving Jews are their spiritual ‘enemies’, the Jews as a whole are still the elect, because of the covenant that God made with their forefathers (verse 28).

MacArthur explains:

In other words, when He elected the people Israel and gave promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He bound Himself to keep that promise. Elect is simply to choose. He chose them, made the promise to their fathers and now will fulfill that. So in terms of election they are still His beloved, even though at the present they are enemies. Israel is in a very peculiar position. And don’t you sense in your heart the same feeling? I don’t know how you are but when I look at Israel, when I look at the Jewish people, I have that same sense of dichotomy, that they are the beloved enemy of God. Enemies concerning the gospel but beloved concerning the election of God, promised to the fathers to be fulfilled in the future. And so while for the moment there is a hopelessness as we see their enemy profile dominating, we look to the future when their beloved profile will totally dominate in the moment and time of their salvation.

MacArthur surmises that not every Jew will believe when the time comes, but more will believe than not:

Now may I hasten, having said that, to say this, that when we say “all” we mean the nation Israel, but that does not mean every single individual Jew alive at that time will be saved. There will be some rejecters. But the great mass of them will believe and the small group will be those who refuse to believe. And we know that because of the twentieth chapter of the prophecy of Ezekiel. And in verse 33 of that twentieth chapter, “As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with fury poured out will I rule over you, I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries in which you are scattered with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with fury poured out. I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples and there will I enter into judgment with you face to face; as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness in the land of Egypt, so will I enter into judgment with you, says the Lord God. I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.” He’ll examine every individual, bring them into the covenant. “And I will purge out from among you the rebels and them that transgress against Me.”

So, in that day when God reaches out to redeem His re-gathered people, everyone will pass under the rod and the vast majority will believe and embrace the Messiah and be saved, but the rebels there will be and they will be purged out. So it is a thrilling thing to realize that the time of the salvation of the nation Israel in general is indeed coming to pass. It has to be so. It has to be so.

Paul concludes by saying that God will lift His judgement on the Jews, redeeming them, because He has mercy:

29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now[e] receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

God keeps His promises.

Next time — Romans 13:1-7

Below are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity: August 2, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings continue about the life of Jacob, one of Abraham’s two grandsons and the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is the dramatic story of Jacob wrestling with an angel, who appears to him as a man. Matthew Henry has an excellent commentary on this long struggle, which he deems every bit as spiritual as it was physical. Even though Jacob won, he humbly asked for a blessing. He received not only that but also a new name: Israel.

Genesis 32:22-31

32:22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

32:25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.

32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

32:27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

32:28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

32:29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.

32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”

32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

The Psalm is about David’s seeking solace in the Lord against his enemies.

Psalm 17:1-7, 15

17:1 Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.

17:2 From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right.

17:3 If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress.

17:4 As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.

17:5 My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.

17:6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.

17:7 Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.

17:15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Isaiah prophesies the offer of free grace through Christ in the New Covenant to come and the invitation to the Gentiles to be part of it.

Isaiah 55:1-5

55:1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

55:2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

55:3 Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

55:4 See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.

55:5 See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

Psalm 145 is the first Psalm of praise, a theme that dominates the last six Psalms.

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

145:9 The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

145:14 The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.

145:15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.

145:16 You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.

145:17 The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.

145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

145:19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.

145:20 The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

145:21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.

Epistle

Paul, a former Pharisee, describes his deep sorrow at the Jews’ rejection of Christ, the Messiah.

Romans 9:1-5

9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit–

9:2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.

9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;

9:5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Gospel

This reading is Matthew’s account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, which was many times more when accounting for women and children (verse 21). This happened after Jesus received news of John the Baptist’s beheading and word of what Herod had said about Him. Herod surmised that Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected. That is why He left Herod’s jurisdiction to continue His ministry. His hour had not yet come.

Matthew 14:13-21

14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

14:14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

14:15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

14:16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

14:17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”

14:18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”

14:19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

14:20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.

14:21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

What an amazing miracle that was. I never tire of reading about it.

I hope that all my readers have a blessed Sunday.

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 11:16-24

16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root[a] of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s explanation of why the Gentiles were brought into the Church and his delight in ministering to them.

Now Paul tackles a very important topic: our attitude towards the Church and other people, especially the Jewish community and those with no faith.

Paul begins by speaking of the ancient offering of the firstfruits, referencing Numbers 15. John MacArthur explains this ceremonial part of Mosaic law (emphases mine):

Follow verse 16 to begin with, and Paul’s logic here is unarguable. “For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy and if the root be holy, so are the branches.” Now let’s just take the first little analogy he gives. If the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy. Now this comes from Numbers chapter 15, back in the Pentateuch, verses 17 to 21. And I’ll just read you a portion of that. “Of the first fruits of your dough.” D-o-u-g-h, referring to that which they would use to make bread. “Of the first fruits of your dough you shall give to the Lord an heave offering in your generation.” In other words, the objective was that each time dough was prepared for baking bread among the Jewish people, a little piece of that dough was pulled off the larger portion and that little piece of dough was to be given to the Lord, which is to say it was taken to the temple or it was given to the priest. And it became sustenance for the priest. But it was an offering given to the Lord. It was a first fruits. You pulled off a little and you gave it to the Lord. God was always teaching them how that everything really belonged to Him. Everything really was consecrated to Him. Everything was set apart to Him. And when they took off a little piece of that larger lump and gave it to the priest, it was a symbolic way of saying, “Yes, I offer all of this to the Lord. I want this all to be set apart unto Him. I want it all to be consecrated to Him and this symbolizes that desire.” All the dough then was dedicated in the act of giving a small portion. It was a way of saying, “Thank You, I realize this is Your provision, all of it. I offer it back to You in the sense that as it nourishes my body, I offer myself to You. I want it to nourish me to do Your will and Your purpose and the things that would honor Your holy name.” And each little piece was a symbol of the dedication of the whole. And that’s what he’s saying. If the first fruit is set apart, and “holy” here means set apart, consecrated, devoted to God, separated, if you will, the idea of consecrated from profane use to the use of God, he says if the first fruits is set apart then the whole lump is consecrated. See that? If the first fruits is set apart, it is saying, the whole lump is consecrated. That is the sense.

Now the second analogy in verse 16 is this. If the root is set apart, so are what? The branches. It’s the same idea. If one part of a thing is consecrated to the Lord, so are the branches. If you go out in your field and you say, “I’m planting this tree and I’m putting this little seedling in, as its roots go down I dedicate it to the Lord,” then all that comes out of that is going to be dedicated to Him as well. “I put it there for Your glory, for Your honor, I want everything that comes from it to nourish me that I may serve You more fully.” And so in the dedication of the root, there is the implication that the branches belong to God as well. So when any small part is devoted to the Lord, it is emblematic that the whole is devoted to the Lord. That’s essentially a principle that was very much a part of Jewish thinking.

For example, when they came and gave the first fruits of their grain to the Lord, they were saying, in effect, “This is but a representative token of the fact that I dedicate all my grain to You.” When they gave the Lord the first fruits, as it were, of their week and they came in on the Sabbath day and they say, “We want to give our…this day to You, we want to acknowledge that time belongs to You and worship belongs to You,” it was like consecrating all of their time. When they gave an offering of money to the Lord it was like saying, “This is but emblematic that all of that which I possess would be for Your glory,” see. And I trust that you think that way when you give as well.

That idea also appears when some Christians bring food to be blessed by a priest on Holy Saturday for their dinner on Easter Sunday. In the Polish culture, it is a long-standing, traditional practice.

Paul goes on to say that, when some of the branches of an olive tree — his analogy for the Church, the community of all believers — go bad, they are replaced with grafted on branches which are healthy (verse 17). Paul is referring to the Gentiles as being the grafted-on branches.

Matthew Henry explains the profundity of that verse:

Those that are grafted into the good olive-tree partake of the root and fatness of the olive. It is applicable to a saving union with Christ; all that are by a lively faith grafted into Christ partake of him as the branches of the root–receive from his fulness. But it is here spoken of a visible church-membership, from which the Jews were as branches broken off; and so the Gentiles were grafted in, autois–among those that continued, or in the room of those that were broken off. The Gentiles, being grafted into the church, partake of the same privileges that the Jews did, the root and fatness. The olive-tree is the visible church (called so Jeremiah 11:16); the root of this tree was Abraham, not the root of communication, so Christ only is the root, but the root of administration, he being the first with whom the covenant was so solemnly made. Now the believing Gentiles partake of this root: he also is a son of Abraham (Luke 19:9), the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14), the same fatness of the olive-tree, the same for substance, special protection, lively oracles, means of salvation, a standing ministry, instituted ordinances; and, among the rest, the visible church-membership of their infant seed, which was part of the fatness of the olive-tree that the Jews had, and cannot be imagined to be denied to the Gentiles.

Paul then counsels the Gentiles to avoid pride in being grafted in (verse 18). Instead, they should be thankful for the immense privilege they have received in becoming members of the Church. That holds true today. He says that, as members of the Church, we do not support the root; rather, the root supports us!

Therefore, we should realise that faithless branches were removed so that we could be grafted on (verse 19).

Henry extends this all the way back to Abraham, who along with his descendants, incidentally, features largely in the readings from Genesis in the season after Pentecost this year (2020, Year A). He is our father in faith. Henry says:

Abraham, the root of the Jewish church, is not beholden to thee; but thou art greatly obliged to him, as the trustee of the covenant and the father of many nations. Therefore, if thou boast, know (this word must be supplied to clear the sense) thou bearest not the root but the root thee.”

MacArthur agrees with that and has more on Abraham and his descendants:

who were the first fruits? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, the fathers, the patriarchs. And I believe he has, of course, here mainly in mind Abraham. And if God set apart the first fruits, then He was setting apart the whole lump. And if God set apart the root, who was Abraham, then He’s setting apart the branches. In other words, this is Paul’s way of saying, “You Jews know very well that a part of a thing consecrated intends to say that the whole is consecrated. And if God sets apart the root and God sets apart the first fruit in the case of Abraham and the fathers, it is to say that He has consecrated to Himself the whole.” It’s a beautiful thought.

This is why Israel will come to be grafted into the Church, which Paul explains later in Romans 11. Jews have been coming to Christ throughout history, of course, but, as I wrote last week, mentioning MacArthur’s citation of Revelation 7, the day will come when 144,000 of them, drawn from all twelve tribes of Israel, will believe in Christ then evangelise en masse throughout the world.

Paul goes on to say that, although faithless branches were removed so Gentiles could be grafted on, the Gentiles should consider this in fear — awe (verse 20). We should never take our standing in the Church for granted.

If we become faithless, God can cut us off, too (verse 21).

Henry sounds this warning, which seems apposite, considering the state of today’s churches which worship political movements instead of the Lord:

The patent which churches have of their privileges is not for a certain term, nor entailed upon them and their heirs; but it runs as long as they carry themselves well, and no longer. Consider, (1.) “How they were broken off. It was not undeservedly, by an act of absolute sovereignty and prerogative, but because of unbelief.” It seems, then, it is possible for churches that have long stood by faith to fall into such a state of infidelity as may be their ruin. Their unbelief did not only provoke God to cut them off, but they did by this cut themselves off; it was not only the meritorious, but the formal cause of their separation.

Paul counsels us to remember God’s kindness in grafting us onto the Church. His kindness extends to us as long as we are faithful (verse 22).

If we lose our faith, Paul says, God can remove us from the Church and graft on those who were previously mired in unbelief but who later came to believe (verse 23).

Matthew Henry offers this summary:

The sum of our duty, the condition of our happiness, is to keep ourselves in the love of God. Fear the Lord and his goodness. Hosea 3:5.

Paul says that Israel will be grafted on to the Church. They are the natural branches of the tree God created for Himself, whereas Gentiles are wild branches (verse 24).

MacArthur says:

The final restoration then, listen, of Israel is guaranteed by the consecrating love of God for Abraham. It is implied in God’s love of Abraham and His setting Abraham apart as a covenant progenitor …

And if there’s to be no future for the nation Israel, then what Paul is saying here is just not true. But it is true and there is a place for Israel.

MacArthur concludes his sermon by putting the emphasis on faith:

What is the issue here? The issue is one simple thing. Faith, isn’t it? Jew or Gentile, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re grafted into the place of blessing, where the life of God flows through and produces fruit. … Those Jew and Gentile, along with all the others of all the ages who have come to faith in God, who have embraced the Savior, are grafted in, be they natural branches or unnatural, they’re in the place of blessing. The issue for you is faith. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? … I hope you do. Let’s bow in prayer.

Father, we… We even said more than we intended tonight but oh how wonderful it is. Your Word, we love it, thank You for it. Thank You for the great confidence in our hearts that faith is the issue. O we know You’re a sovereign God and we know that You make choices out of that sovereignty, but, Lord, You repeat so often that faith is the issue and “Him that comes unto Me,” said Jesus, “I will in no wise cast out.” And so anyone coming with faith to embrace Christ will be received. We thank You for that. We pray there might be hearts even now opened in faith to Christ. Now, Father, do send us from this place with happy hearts, fulfilled because we have been participants of the kingdom, we have been branches of blessing, to bear much fruit for the glory of the Father. May we be all that You want us to be. Fill our hearts with love for You and for those that need to know You, and we’ll thank You for what You’ll do in each life, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

I haven’t read this passage from Romans privately for a long time. Henry’s and MacArthur’s exegeses have helped me to realise how profound Paul’s words truly are.

Let us pray for those who have not yet converted that they may see the Light that is Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns forever.

Next time — Romans 11:25-28

Below are the readings for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, July 26, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings about the life of Jacob, one of Abraham’s grandsons, continue. Jacob continued on from Bethel (last week’s reading) to the home of Laban, his uncle (his mother Rebekah’s brother). This is the story of how Jacob came to be married to Leah and, seven years later, to Rachel, his first love. From the two women, eight out of the Twelve Tribes came into being. The other four sons of Jacob were born of Zilpah and Bilhah, two sons apiece. It is a complicated family tree. Rachel gave birth to Joseph, which caused problems when Jacob considered Joseph to be his heir. Jacob had one daughter, Dinah.

Genesis 29:15-28

29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”

29:16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

29:17 Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful.

29:18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”

29:19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.”

29:20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

29:21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.”

29:22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast.

29:23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.

29:24 (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.)

29:25 When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”

29:26 Laban said, “This is not done in our country–giving the younger before the firstborn.

29:27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.”

29:28 Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

There are two choices of Psalm.

David wrote Psalm 105 for Asaph to use in the daily service of the sanctuary, which pertained to the Ark of the Covenant.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b

105:1 O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.

105:2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.

105:3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

105:4 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.

105:5 Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,

105:6 O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

105:7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

105:8 He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,

105:9 the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,

105:10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant,

105:11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.”

105:45b Praise the LORD!

The second choice of Psalm is one for families to pray together in obedience to God. These verses are but an excerpt of a long Psalm.

Psalm 128

128:1 Happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways.

128:2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

128:3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

128:4 Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.

128:5 The LORD bless you from Zion. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

128:6 May you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Solomon, David’s son, asks the Lord for wisdom.

1 Kings 3:5-12

3:5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”

3:6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today.

3:7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.

3:8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.

3:9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

3:10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.

3:11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,

3:12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

We have another excerpt from the excellent Psalm 119, read or sung in parts throughout the Lectionary year.

Psalm 119:129-136

119:129 Your decrees are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

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

119:131 With open mouth I pant, because I long for your commandments.

119:132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your custom toward those who love your name.

119:133 Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let iniquity have dominion over me.

119:134 Redeem me from human oppression, that I may keep your precepts.

119:135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.

119:136 My eyes shed streams of tears because your law is not kept.

Epistle

Readings from Romans 8 conclude. Some of these verses will be familiar, even to novices of the Bible.

Romans 8:26-39

8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

8:27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.

8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

8:31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

8:32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?

8:33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

8:34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gospel

Matthew 13 contains eight parables. We heard the Parable of the Sower two weeks ago and, last week, the Parable of the Tares. Today’s brief parables conclude the chapter.

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

13:31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;

13:32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

13:33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;

13:46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

13:47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;

13:48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.

13:49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous

13:50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

13:51 “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.”

13:52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Verse 50 contains the second mention of the ‘furnace of fire’, which Jesus also mentions at the end of the Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:42).

Be in no doubt: the day of judgement will come for everyone.

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 11:11-15

Gentiles Grafted In

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion[a] mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s citations of Isaiah 29:10 and Psalm 69:22-23 to illustrate the spiritual blindness of many of the Jews from the time of the Old Covenant.

Paul says that, while the Jews stumbled, they did not fall; through their sin of refusing to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God opened the Church to Gentiles with the objective of making the Jewish people spiritually jealous, wanting them to imitate the Gentiles in belief (verse 11).

John MacArthur compares the Jews’ rejection of Jesus to the guests originally invited to the wedding feast of which Jesus spoke in Matthew’s Gospel. Those who were invited all said they had other things to do that day; some even set their servants upon the host’s servants. The host then instructed his servants to invite anyone they saw in passing to come to his feast. This parable is an excellent analogy for the growth of the Church (emphases mine below):

in Matthew 21:43 Jesus says this, “Therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it.” Or literally, to a people, many nations, bringing forth the fruits of it. Because you refuse it, it will open up to the Gentiles. Chapter 22 gives us another parable. You’ll remember there’s a king who made a feast for his son; it is God calling people to His Son’s celebration. He calls them to the fact that Messiah has come; it’s a feast in honor of Messiah. He sends out His servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding, verse 3, that’s Jews, who were already the called ones to come and greet the Son, the Savior, the Messiah and enter the kingdom. But they would not come. He sent forth other servants to tell them everything is ready, come. They made light of it. They went their ways, one to his farm and another to his business. Some of them just mocked and laughed. Some of them just were indifferent, I’ve got to take care of my farm, I’ve got to take care of my business. And verse 6, “Others literally killed the servants.” Some were extremely hostile when the gospel came and when the Messiah offered Himself to Israel.

And then there’s a judgment given. And then it says in verse 8, “The wedding is ready. The ones who were already bidden (that is Israel), weren’t worthy, so go into the highways and as many as you find, bid those to the marriage. So they went into the highways and gathered together all as many as they found, good and bad, and the wedding was furnished with guests.” The salvation of Gentiles came about on a wide scale because of the fall of Israel and the reaching out of the gospel to the Gentiles. Now it wasn’t that saving Gentiles was an afterthought. God desired to reach them through Israel, but when Israel rejected that calling, God moved right out to reach the Gentiles.

Therefore, if the Jews’ sin of unbelief meant that the Good News could be preached unto Gentiles, Paul says, how much greater would the glory of the Church be if Jews also came to believe (verse 12). Putting that into the context of the wedding feast, and the host would have been even happier if his original guests had come to share in that happy occasion.

Matthew Henry says that the Church has room for everyone:

the church has room enough, and the new covenant grace and comfort enough, for us all. The blessings are not lessened by the multitudes of the sharers.

Paul’s mindset was the same as that of the host of the wedding feast. He wanted everyone to come to faith in Christ Jesus: Jew and Gentile alike, for we are all one in Him. Note today’s Epistle, taken from Romans 8: we are sons and daughters of God, heirs along with Christ of His everlasting Kingdom.

Think of that in the context of the wedding feast. What a promise, what a joyous eternity we have ahead of us!

Paul then turns his attention to the Gentiles, a large proportion of the Christians in Rome, as MacArthur tells us:

Predominantly the Roman church was Gentile, of course, so he particularly addresses them. They make up the majority of the congregation.

Paul says that his ministry is ‘magnified’ by including the Gentiles (verse 13). MacArthur explains that Paul is saying:

I honor my office, I esteem my office. It is a high, holy, glorious privilege to bring the gospel to the Gentiles …

That is because Paul hoped to encourage Jewish conversion through a spiritual jealousy — a positive force, in this case — and save Jewish souls, too (verse 14):

I love this, verse 14, “If by any means I may provoke to jealousy them who are my flesh and might save some of them.” That’s a tremendous insight. He says, “You know why I’m happy to be the apostle to the Gentiles? Because as long as I’m the Apostle to the Gentiles, I might be able to provoke some Jews to getting saved.”

You see, that’s the bottom line with him. That’s the bottom line with him. He has a heart for his people. Can you blame him? They’re his flesh. And he says, “I really want to save some of them. I don’t mind you getting saved in the process, but I really would like to save some of them.” I understand that. He says, “I’m following the plan of God. I magnify my office. But, oh, oh, my desire is that I should see some Gentiles come to the Savior, that in them coming to the Savior they might provoke some Jews to jealousy.” That’s his personal commitment.

Paul knew he could not save every Jew he encountered or addressed, but he hoped to save ‘some of them’. He worked earnestly and tirelessly to that end through his missionary travels and through his many Epistles.

Paul yearned for a complete Church, uniting both Jew and Gentile (verse 15). Again, think of the wedding feast and how much more complete it would have been had the original guests turned up along with those from the highways and byways who attended.

MacArthur explains, including the aforementioned Romans 8:

again it’s that “much more” kind of argument, isn’t it? If the casting away of them, that’s the negative, can have such great results, what will the reception of them, that’s the positive, be? And then he tells you what it will be. Life from the dead. And he’s not talking about personal resurrection. He’s not talking about the resurrection from the dead which would be the Pauline term. Life from the dead refers to the rebirth, if you will, of the nation and the rebirth of the world in the glory of the kingdom. I think that’s the proper way to interpret it. When Israel is received, he’s not speaking about individual resurrection from the dead, but life from the dead, a unique phrase used here, which I believe refers to national resurrection of the nation Israel to the place of blessing and world resurrection, as it were, in the recreated new heaven and earth of the millennial kingdom, right? That’s the life from the dead. The nation and the world, when the kingdom comes, will be delivered from its spiritually dead state and there will be new life. It is not, as I said, the phrase, “resurrection from the dead,” which is Paul’s concept that he refers to when he refers to individual resurrection, but the resurrection of the nation into kingdom glory. It’s that which Romans 8 describes as the glorious liberation of the children of God, the manifestation of the sons of God, when we enter into the glorious kingdom and are made manifest to the world as the true children of the living God.

According to Revelation, this will happen through the 144,000 Jews selected from all the tribes of Israel:

And all of that, by the way, begins in Revelation 7. The first thing that begins to happen is the Lord sets apart 144 thousand Jews, twelve thousand out of each tribe, and that happens during the tribulation. And they go out to evangelize the world.

What a happy event that will be.

Yet, Jews have come to Christ throughout history. MacArthur says in his sermon that a number of them attend his church.

MacArthur gave his sermon in 1984, at a time when American televangelists began to appear on Christian cable channels en masse. Some were good, but others were over the top both in their services and in their private lives. MacArthur shared a conversation he had with a Jew in Israel:

you go over to the nation Israel and you take a tour or a trip and everybody who gets on the bus every day, you have a Jewish guide, and you have Jewish people all around you all the time, these Israeli people, marvelous people, gracious people, lovely people, bright and just very capable people, we just enjoyed them thoroughly. But the thing that’s in the back of your mind is, you’re so anxious to win them to Christ and the ones who are the guides and who get all the Christian groups, they’ve heard it over and over and over and over. They can sing all the songs. In fact they lead you in all the songs that we sing about Christ. I mean, they’ll start singing it on the bus and everybody sings with them. They know all the doctrine, all the theology, the whole thing. But as one of them, when I spoke with him one evening, said to me, “Look, I know what all of you believe. What I can’t handle is the way most of you live.” And he went on to tell me horror stories about the so-called Christian leaders who come up there and don’t sleep with their own wife, you understand? Or come over there and want under the table favors, or want free jewelry, or want this or want that or want the other thing and are nothing more than charlatans. And, you see, they file this because these people call themselves Christians, too, whether they are or not. And it is that tremendous disparity between the true and the false that confuses them as to the validity of Christianity. As one of them said to me, “I came in this…” we were having a marvelous Sunday morning meeting in the upper room and we were singing songs and speaking out of the Word of God and the presence of the Spirit was there in great power and we just were overwhelmed, and some people were just teary- eyed. There we were in the city of Jerusalem, it was marvelous, and we went out of there so refreshed in our spirit. And one of the guides took me aside and he says, “You know, I was in that room with a certain so-called American healer and people were smashing over and smacking their heads on the concrete floor and going into all kinds of hysteria.” And he said, “Are you like that? Is that what your group does?” And I said, “That’s not what you saw.” He said, “Well, I didn’t know whether you do that somewhere else.” I said, “No, we don’t knock people down and crack their heads on the concrete, we’re not in to that kind of theology.”

And then he went on to describe… It sort of opened the flood gate and to tell me about some of the experiences he’s had with quote/unquote Christian leaders. The impact of undermining all that we believe in the hearts of Jewish people is they cancel it out, see. And we have been redeemed with a great burden on our backs and that is to give clear-cut testimony to Israel that they may be provoked to jealousy. Well in many cases, that’s the last thing they’re provoked to since they wouldn’t want what they see some Christians have. But we should so live to be attractive.

Too right!

There is a lot of kooky ‘Christian’ stuff, for lack of a better word, out there: magazines, comic books, television programmes that are so erroneous in what they present that they turn people away from the Good News. Those things do not present the Gospel story or the Christian life. They present carnal satisfaction in sensationalism and/or bitterness.

Therefore, let us be circumspect in our reading and viewing matter as well as our religious practice.

That is the way we win souls — Jewish or not — to Christ.

Next time — Romans 11:16-24

Below are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity: July 19, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

There are two options for the First Reading and Psalm.

Emphases below are mine.

First Reading and Psalm — Option One

Readings about Abraham’s family continue. Today’s is the story of Jacob’s Ladder. Jacob was one of Abraham’s grandsons, Esau being the other.

Genesis 28:10-19a

28:10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.

28:11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.

28:12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

28:13 And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring;

28:14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.

28:15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

28:16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place–and I did not know it!”

28:17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

28:18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.

28:19a He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Some Bible scholars consider this Psalm to be David’s finest. It is about God’s powerful and everlasting omniscience.

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24

139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.

139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

139:3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.

139:5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

139:7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

139:8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

139:9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

139:10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

139:11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”

139:12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.

139:24 See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

First Reading and Psalm — Option Two

Clergy can choose between the Wisdom of Solomon (Roman Catholic) or Isaiah.

Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19

12:13 For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people,

12:16 For your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.

12:17 For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power, and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.

12:18 Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you govern us; for you have power to act whenever you choose.

12:19 Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous must be kind, and you have filled your children with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.

God spoke through Isaiah telling His people that He is Lord above all: the Alpha and the Omega (the first and the last).

Isaiah 44:6-8

44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

44:7 Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be.

44:8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.

David used this Psalm in general prayer and supplication. ‘Handmaid’ would be a better translation of ‘serving girl’, a reference to his godly mother who served the Lord in holiness.

Psalm 86:11-17

86:11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

86:12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

86:13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

86:14 O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.

86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

86:16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl.

86:17 Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Epistle

Readings continue from Romans 8. Paul tells his audience of Jewish converts that they are heirs of God, sharing sonship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit enables us to be good heirs so that we may live with Him forever. This is a most uplifting passage, especially important when we are in times of trouble or tribulation.

Romans 8:12-25

8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —

8:13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”

8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

8:18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;

8:20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope

8:21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;

8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?

8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Gospel

Jesus, having given the Parable of the Sower, read last week, gives a complementary one, the Parable of the Tares. I preferred when verse 42 had ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’; that’s what I remember from my childhood.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

13:24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;

13:25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.

13:26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.

13:27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’

13:28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’

13:29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.

13:30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

13:36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”

13:37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man;

13:38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one,

13:39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.

13:40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.

13:41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers,

13:42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

But there is no Hell, right? I don’t understand how No-Hell people can miss the many warnings that Christ Himself gave about everlasting ‘fire’ that awaits evildoers.

‘Let anyone with ears listen!’

Bible ourhomewithgodcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 11:7-10

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”

And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and bend their backs forever.”

———————————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s reminder to his Jewish converts that their forefathers had disobeyed God from the time of Moses, yet He always keeps the remnant of His faithful — His elect — from generation to generation.

Matthew Henry tells us (emphases mine below):

This is called a remnant according to the election of grace; they are such as were chosen from eternity in the counsels of divine love to be vessels of grace and glory.

Paul reminded his audience that the people of Israel, with hardened hearts, did not find what they were looking for, although the elect did (verse 7).

Having a hardened heart can be spiritually perilous, as Henry explains:

Some are chosen and called, and the call is made effectual. But others are left to perish in their unbelief; nay, they are made worse by that which should have made them better. The gospel, which to those that believed was the savour of life unto life, to the unbelieving was the savour of death unto death. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. Good old Simeon foresaw that the child Jesus was set for the fall, as well as for the rising again, of many in Israel, Luke 2:34.– Were blinded; eporothesan–they were hardened; so some. They were seared, and made brawny and insensible. They could neither see the light, nor feel the touch, of gospel grace. Blindness and hardness are expressive of the same senselessness and stupidity of spirit. They shut their eyes, and would not see; this was their sin: and then God, in a way of righteous judgment, blinded their eyes, that they could not see; this was their punishment.

To reinforce the reminder, Paul cites Isaiah 29:10

For the Lord has poured out upon you
    a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes (the prophets),
    and covered your heads (the seers).

… and Isaiah 6:9 (verse 8):

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing,[a] but do not understand;
keep on seeing,[b] but do not perceive.’

That is the worst place to be in this life, the worst judgement from God.

Henry tells us this was true in Isaiah’s time, in Christ’s time and extends to the present day:

this hardening work has been in the doing; some among them have been blind and senseless. Or, rather, ever since the first preaching of the gospel: though they have had the most convincing evidences that could be of the truth of it, the most powerful preaching, the fairest offers, the clearest calls from Christ himself, and from his apostles, yet to this day they are blinded. It is still true concerning multitudes of them, even to this day in which we live; they are hardened and blinded, the obstinacy and unbelief go by succession from generation to generation, according to their own fearful imprecation, which entailed the curse: His blood be upon us and upon our children.

Paul concludes his message to the Jewish converts by paraphrasing Psalm 69:22-23 (verses 9, 10):

22 Let their own table before them become a snare;
    and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.[a]
23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see,
    and make their loins tremble continually.

Henry says that, in those verses, David foretold the suffering of Christ from His own people:

David (Romans 11:9,10), quoted from Psalms 69:22,23, where David having in the Spirit foretold the sufferings of Christ from his own people the Jews, particularly that of their giving him vinegar to drink (Romans 11:21, which was literally fulfilled, Matthew 27:48), an expression of the greatest contempt and malice that could be, in the next words, under the form of an imprecation, he foretels the dreadful judgments of God upon them for it: Let their table become a snare, which the apostle here applies to the present blindness of the Jews, and the offence they took at the gospel, which increased their hardness. This teaches us how to understand other prayers of David against his enemies; they are to be looked upon as prophetic of the judgments of God upon the public and obstinate enemies of Christ and his kingdom. His prayer that it might be so was a prophecy that it should be so, and not the private expression of his own angry resentments. It was likewise intended to justify God, and to clear his righteousness in such judgments.

Those who continue to reject God cause God to impose this judgement, as John MacArthur explains:

they were hardened by some outside power, some outside force. And that force is none other than God Himself. They were hardened by God. You say, “Does God harden people?” Well do you remember chapter 9 verse 18, “Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy and whom He will, He hardens.” And who was his illustration in chapter 9? Who is the illustration of God hardening? Who was it? Pharaoh, God hardened Pharaoh …

When God hardens it is a result of a process of willful rejection of true righteousness, a process of hardening, hardening, hardening, hardening … When God moves in with judicial, final, judgmental, condemning, hardening of the heart, it is as a result and response to a continual process of willful rejection. It is a judicial thing that comes to those who continue to reject, who continue to reject, who continue to reject.

However, God always has His remnant of believers.

Later in the chapter, we will see that Paul says this rejection of much of Israel is only temporary, until the Gentiles are fully in God’s fold.

Paul addresses the Gentiles in the next part of Romans 11.

Next time — Romans 11:11-15

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