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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 Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Pray for Us

Finally, brothers,[a] pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured,[b] as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.[c] And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

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Last week’s post explored Paul’s discussion of the Antichrist, ‘the lawless one’, who will come one day, controlled by Satan. When Jesus returns, He will kill the Antichrist with ‘the breath of His mouth’, but not before unbelievers — the damned — are in thrall of what he does. This, Paul says, is because God has condemned them for refusing ‘to love the truth and so be saved’. Therefore, God punishes them with ‘a strong delusion’ so that they can do nothing but ‘believe what is false’.

Today’s verses are in the final chapter of 2 Thessalonians.

As he did from all of his churches, Paul sought the prayers of the Thessalonians for his continuing ministry.

John MacArthur describes this message from Paul to his friends in Thessalonica:

It’s very tender. It’s very personal. It is Paul saying this is what I expect from you, this is what I cherish in terms of your Christian conduct.

He asks them to pray for him and his associates Timothy and Silvanus (Silas) that the Word of the Lord — the Gospel message — may speed ahead and be honoured, as was the case with in Thessalonica (verse 1).

Matthew Henry points out the importance of prayer, especially for our absent friends, including the clergy (emphases mine):

I. The apostle desires the prayers of his friends: Finally, brethren, pray for us, v. 1. He always remembered them in his prayers, and would not have them forget him and his fellow-labourers, but bear them on their hearts at the throne of grace. Note, 1. This is one way by which the communion of saints is kept us, not only by their praying together, or with one another, but by their praying for one another when they are absent one from another. And thus those who are at great distance may meet together at the throne of grace; and thus those who are not capable of doing or receiving any other kindness may yet this way do and receive real and very great kindness. 2. It is the duty of people to pray for their ministers; and not only for their own pastors, but also for all good and faithful ministers. And, 3. Ministers need, and therefore should desire, the prayers of their people. How remarkable is the humility, and how engaging the example, of this great apostle, who was so mighty in prayer himself, and yet despised not the prayers of the meanest Christian, but desired an interest in them.

MacArthur says:

He desires that they be prayerful. “Finally, brethren,” verse 1, “pray for us.” The shepherd wants the prayers of his people. Now think about it for a moment. Paul was without equal as a gifted, powerful, competent, effective minister. He had immense natural abilities, brilliant, logical, persuasive, erudite, educated, trained, religious, spiritually minded, perceptive, experienced. He had it all. But all that natural ability and all that education and all that religious training and all that experience and all of that skill, highly developed through the years, was not the source of his great power and it was not the source of his usefulness. It was the power of God at work in him that transcended his natural giftedness; that made him the man that he was for divine purposes. He himself confessed in Colossians 1 verse 29, “I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” He had no confidence in his flesh. And he knew that whatever success he had was not related to his natural giftedness or any of those things which had occurred in his life on the human level, but to the very power of God surging through him. He was dependent on the Lord entirely for every aspect of his ministry. He even said, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.” He knew where his power source was.

And consequently there are frequent pleas for his people to pray for him. And those pleas underline and underscore how strongly he leaned on divine power. I sometimes think that those in ministry who are least naturally gifted … get the most prayer because people assume that naturally gifted people don’t need any. Nothing could be further from the truth. There may be greater temptation for those more gifted to trust in their own giftedness. There may be greater possibility for human ingenuity to take over for the power of God in the unusually gifted than in those who are more humbly gifted. Thus those with the greater gifts may be those with the greatest need for prayer.

Some translations use ‘glorified’ instead of ‘honoured’ in that verse.

Henry explains the prayer petition that Paul requests and applies it to us today:

Observe, further, what they are desired and directed to pray for; namely, (1.) For the success of the gospel ministry: That the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, v. 1. This was the great thing that Paul was most solicitous about. He was more solicitous that God’s name might be sanctified, his kingdom advanced, and his will done, than he was about his own daily bread. He desired that the word of the Lord might run (so it is in the original), that it might get ground, that the interest of religion in the world might go forward and not backward, and not only go forward, but go apace. All the forces of hell were then, and still are, more or less, raised and mustered to oppose the word of the Lord, to hinder its publication and success. We should pray, therefore, that oppositions may be removed, that so the gospel, may have free course to the ears, the hearts, and the consciences of men, that it may be glorified in the conviction and conversion of sinners, the confutation, of gainsayers, and the holy conversation of the saints. God, who magnified the law, and made it honourable, will glorify the gospel, and make that honourable, and so will glorify his own name; and good ministers and good Christians may very well be contented to be little, to be any thing, to be nothing, if Christ be magnified and his gospel be glorified … Note, If ministers have been successful in one place, they should desire to be successful in every place where they may preach the gospel.

MacArthur says that Paul has borrowed from Psalm 147:

Pray that God’s Word, he says, may spread rapidly.  The Greek verb trechō means literally “to run.”  Pray that the Word may run.  He’s borrowing this concept, shows his knowledge of the Old Testament, from Psalm 147:15 where it says, “God’s Word runs very swiftly.”  So he says pray that the Word will run like a powerful runner, like a strong runner moving unobstructed and unhindered, making rapid progress

Pray that the Word will go rapidly.  Pray that when I’m given opportunity I’ll open my mouth.  Pray that when I’m ready to open my mouth God will open a door so I can speak, and then when I get the opportunity, pray that I’ll say what needs to be said; always asking the church to pray for the success and the spread of the message.

In 2 Timothy 2:9 he reminded young Timothy the Word of God is not bound.  I might be; it isn’t.  Pray that it will move powerfully through the land.

And then he adds this, “And be glorified,” and be glorified.  What does that mean?  It simply means appreciated, honored, respected, extolled, admired.  He’s simply saying that it will be received with a proper response, that people will hear the gospel and they will affirm it to be the gospel, the saving truth.  He’s talking about acceptance.

Paul also wanted the Thessalonians to pray that he and his associates be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not all men have (the gift of) faith (verse 2).

MacArthur reminds us of the danger Paul constantly faced:

He also knew the meaning of persecution. He faced difficulty. He faced a solitary life. He faced danger constantly. He usually was self-supporting, usually had to preach to people who didn’t want to hear what he said in places where he never was invited to start with. Life for him was one unending challenge and the threat of death was imminent. He bore in his body the marks of Jesus Christ. He faced death on a daily basis. And he knew he couldn’t succeed in his own human flesh and he was dependent upon the power of the Lord and he knew that power was released through the prayers of his people.

He was experiencing trouble in Corinth, where he was writing this letter:

… as he writes this he’s in the city of Corinth. Things haven’t gone well. The 18th chapter of Acts records what was going on in the city of Corinth and as I said, it wasn’t good. There was a hostile reaction to the gospel. Chapter 18, verse 6 tells us the Jews resisted and blasphemed and he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads, I’m clean. From now on I go to the Gentiles.” He hit a stone wall there, not like Thessalonica, not like Galatia. And so he is in…in the context of that resistance as he writes. I believe that he wrote this letter some time after that initial resistance and he wants the gospel to break through, to really break through, and so he says, “Will you please pray that it will spread rapidly and be accepted?”

There’s a second thing he asks in verse 2.  “And that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men for not all have faith.” What is this?

First he asks for the success of the message.  Secondly: The safety of the messengers.  “That we may be delivered,” rhuomai, rescued, saved.  “Not for self-preservation alone, not for personal comfort or safety alone, but because if we’re not protected then the message won’t be heard.  Pray that the message will go forth successfully and the messengers will be unhindered.  Paul was always facing hostility.  We’ve already read about it in the book of Acts.  I can remind you at the end of Romans 15, he says, “Pray for me that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient,” disobedient to God. Pray for me that I’ll be able to carry on my ministry.

In Corinth, as I said, there was tremendous resistance. And perhaps after he wrote this letter it really blew sky-high because in Acts 18 verse 12 it says, “Gallio was proconsul of Achaia. The Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat.” The whole Jewish population were united in hostility against the gospel and they made an issue out of it. They even took, in verse 17, Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, began beating him in front of the judgment seat. A riot really ensued. Paul is in the context of this resistance and he’s pleading with them to pray for the success of the message and the safety of the messenger.

Now would you note also that he identifies who is dangerous: Perverse and evil men. “Perverse” literally is the word “out of place.” This is the only time in the New Testament it’s used of a person. It’s always used of some object that got lost, something that’s out of its proper place, something improper. Here it means some person who is out of his proper place, who is perverse, unrighteous; one writer says “morally insane.” And then he adds evil, malignant aggressive wickedness. Pray for us that we will be rescued from the threats and the power of morally insane, perverse, aggressively wicked people who want to shut our mouths so the message can’t be preached. Pray for us.

I would echo that. Pray for the success of the message as I preach and pray for safety and security for the messenger. Maybe the persecution isn’t the same today as it was then, but it’s still out there.

And then he adds a note of explanation, “For not all have faith.” The Thessalonians probably assumed that because they responded in such a wonderful way, because the Jews and the Gentiles together responded to the gospel, that this might be the norm. Now remember, Paul had just been with them a matter of really just a few months, weeks. And they probably thought their response would kind of be the pattern and he says to them, “Pray regarding this hostility because not all have faith.” It is possible to interpret that two ways. Some might say, “Not all have the faith,” the definite article being there, talking about the content of Christian faith. But I would take it that what he’s saying here is not all believe. Either way, it comes out the same. Not all are Christians and unbelievers are the ones who are hostile. No, everyone isn’t going to respond the way you did, so the beloved apostle calls for the intercession of the church so that the Word may move rapidly and triumphantly and the messengers will not be hindered by hostile unbelievers. That’s his prayer.

Henry has a practical application of the verse for us:

(2.) For the safety of gospel ministers. He asks their prayers, nor for preferment, but for preservation: That we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, v. 2. Note, Those who are enemies to the preaching of the gospel, and persecutors of the faithful preachers of it, are unreasonable and wicked men. They act against all the rules and laws of reason and religion, and are guilty of the greatest absurdity and impiety. Not only in the principles of atheism and infidelity, but also in the practice of the vice and immorality, and especially in persecution, there is the greatest absurdity in the world, as well as impiety. There is need of the spiritual protection, as well as the assistance, of godly and faithful ministers, for these are as the standard-bearers, who are most struck at; and therefore all who wish well to the interest of Christ in the world should pray for them. For all men have not faith; that is, many do not believe the gospel; they will not embrace it themselves, and no wonder if such are restless and malicious in their endeavours to oppose the gospel, decry the ministry, and disgrace the ministers of the word; and too many have not common faith or honesty; there is no confidence that we can safely put in them, and we should pray to be delivered from those who have no conscience nor honour, who never regard what they say or do. We may sometimes be in as much or more danger from false and pretended friends as from open and avowed enemies.

Then Paul segues to the Thessalonians by saying, ‘But the Lord is faithful’, meaning to him and to them; the Lord will establish them (keep them steady) and guard them against the evil one, Satan (verse 3).

Henry explains:

1. What the good is which we may expect from the grace of God-establishment, and preservation from evil; and the best Christians stand in need of these benefits. (1.) That God would establish them. This the apostle had prayed for on their behalf ( ch. 2:17), and now he encourages them to expect this favour. We stand no longer than God holds us up; unless he hold up our goings in his paths, our feet will slide, and we shall fall. (2.) That God will keep them from evil. We have as much need of the grace of God for our perseverance to the end as for the beginning of the good work. The evil of sin is the greatest evil, but there are other evils which God will also preserve his saints from—the evil that is in the world, yea, from all evil, to his heavenly kingdom.

2. What encouragement we have to depend upon the grace of God: The Lord is faithful. He is faithful to his promises, and is the Lord who cannot lie, who will not alter the thing that has gone out of his mouth. When once the promise therefore is made, performance is sure and certain. He is faithful to his relation, a faithful God and a faithful friend; we may depend upon his filling up all the relations he stands in to his people. Let it be our care to be true and faithful in our promises, and to the relations we stand in to this faithful God.

MacArthur sees the verse as Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians to keep trusting God, regardless of what happens, e.g. persecution:

… he says, “This is what I want to happen in your life.” There’s a certain sense in which he feels at arm’s length, “and I can’t be there to insure it, but this is my desire for you.”  Verse 3: “But the Lord is faithful and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

What he’s saying to them is, look, no matter what happens, no matter how hostile they are, no matter how severe the persecution and trials and trouble, no matter what might happen, you know this, your Lord is faithful. Keep trusting.

Any pastor who is away from his people would want from the depths of heart that his people remain faithful to the God who is faithful to them.  In contrast to faithless men in verse 2 is a faithful Lord in verse 3.  And no matter what may come in trials and no matter what may come in persecutions, the Lord’s plan for you will come to pass, He is faithful.  Why Paul sure gave testimony to that at the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:16, “At my first defense no one supported me, all deserted me but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.”  Everybody else was gone, but He was there, He’s faithful.  I wish we had time to go through the Old Testament and the New to see how many times the Bible tells us the Lord is faithful. The Lord is faithful …

He will strengthen you, he says, he will strengthen you, stērizō. There’s that word from which we get steroids, make you strong, make you firm, establish youThat’s talking about the inside, strengthening your inner man, giving you an inner security.  He’ll build you up on the inside and protect you from the evil one on the outside.  He will fill you with internal strength and He will shield you from the evil one, most likely a reference to Satan.  It could be translated, “From the evil,” but it is better to see it as “The evil one, Satan.”

In the inside He’ll strengthen you.  On the outside He’ll shield you so that you’re never hit with satanic arrows that are going to destroy you and you have the internal strength to maintain your faith.  There is your great security, beloved.  No matter what comes or goes, a faithful Lord will strengthen you on the inside and guard you from attacks by the enemy on the outside.

I suppose Jude had it all when he said this, “He is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy.”  He will strengthen you so you don’t fall.  He will protect you so Satan cannot destroy you.

Paul says that he has confidence in the Lord about the Thessalonians, that they are doing well and will do what he commands (verse 4), i.e. obey the Gospel message.

MacArthur reminds us that the Gospel is a command to obey God through obedience to Jesus Christ:

The pastor has spent his time teaching the Word of God, in a sense, commanding. Remember Paul said to Timothy, “Command and teach.” Teaching has the note of authority because we give you the Word of God. And Paul has the desire for his people that they maintain a pattern of obedience. Verse 4, “We have confidence,” and it’s a very positive approach to this exhortation, “we have confidence in the Lord,” not in your flesh, “but in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command”

Were these personal commands by Paul? No, he was simply passing them on. They came from God. He’s essentially saying to them what he noted about them back in chapter 4 of his first letter. He said, “You ought to walk and please God just as you actually do walk, that you may excel still more.” You’re already doing it. I want you to do it more. I want you to do it better. Here he says it again. You’re already doing it. I want you to continue to do it in the future.

Do what? Obey my commands. Scripture is command. Did you know that? It is command. Scripture in Psalm 19 is called, “the commandments of the Lord.” Jesus said in the Great Commission, “Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Do you know that even the gospel is a command to repent and believe? All injunctions are commands. And so he says I want to see your continued, sustained, ongoing obedience and I’m confident in the Lord that you will continue by His strength to obey as you have been obeying.

Paul concludes this section of his letter by praying that the Lord direct their hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ (verse 5).

Certainly, the Thessalonians were already experiencing that, but Paul wanted it to be enduring and ever-expanding.

Henry explains the beauty of the verse, which is one of blessing:

It is a prayer for spiritual blessings. Two things of the greatest importance the apostle prays for:—1. That their hearts may be brought into the love of God, to be in love with God as the most excellent and amiable Being, the best of all beings; and this is not only most reasonable and necessary in order to our happiness, but is our happiness itself; it is a great part of the happiness of heaven itself, where this love shall be made perfect. We can never attain to this unless God by his grace direct our hearts aright, for our love is apt to go astray after other things. Note, We sustain a great deal of damage by misplacing our affections; it is our sin and our misery that we place our affections upon wrong objects. If God directs our love aright upon himself, the rest of the affections will thereby be rectified. 2. That a patient waiting for Christ may be joined with this love of God. There is no true love of God without faith in Jesus Christ. We must wait for Christ, which supposes our faith in him, that we believe he came once in flesh and will come again in glory: and we must expect this second coming of Christ, and be careful to get ready for it; there must be a patient waiting, enduring with courage and constancy all that we may meet with in the mean time: and we have need of patience, and need of divine grace to exercise Christian patience, the patience of Christ (as some read the word), patience for Christ’s sake and after Christ’s example.

MacArthur says:

Paul’s expectation, because of the Lord’s faithfulness to His people, because they had an obedient inner man delighting in God’s command, was that they were going to be all right.  But he wanted them to continue spiritual growth.  And in a sense, that’s really what he’s saying in this verse.  “May the Lord direct your hearts.”  The word “direct” here means to make straight, “heart,” your inner person.

The word “direct” is used in 1 Thessalonians 3:11 of removing all the obstacles and hindrances out of the way and opening up a path.  May the Lord open up a path for you so that your inner man can move down that path.  He doesn’t want any static here, nothing stationary.  You aren’t there yet.  I want the Lord to open the path to clear the trail and to move your inner man down that path. To what?  Into the love of God.

Is that objective or subjective?  Are we talking about into God’s love for you, or your love for God?  And the answer is probably both.  I love that ambiguity in the epistles.  The Greek language provided the original writers a certain ambiguity that resulted in the fullness of the truth.  Down the path into God’s love for you and your love for Him … For you technicians that’s the objective and subjective genitive. And when you look at it, you can’t tell the difference in the original language and we feel that that’s because they’re both there. 

Go down the path deeper and deeper into God’s love for you which is going to cause you to love Him more and more. And secondly, he says, I want the Lord to lay out the path and push your inner being down the path into, notice it, the steadfastness or the patience of Christ. That can be either one; his patience with us or our patience in His strength through endurance. I want you to go down the path learning more and more how patient, how enduring Christ is over your sins and your problems and your struggles and even how greater you can understand His own endurance in His own struggles, and then consequently have a greater endurance of your own.

I want you to know more about God’s love so you can love Him more. I want you to know more about Christ’s endurance so you can endure more. I want you to grow spiritually in your love and in your endurance. That’s his point. You’re not there. I want you to advance in love and advance in patience under persecution as Christ did.

In other words, Paul wants them to pursue the lifelong process of sanctification, which they had already begun. He wants them to continue on that Christian journey, which should never be static.

MacArthur summarises the duty of congregations to their clergy:

What is the duty then of the people to the pastor? The sheep to their shepherd? To be prayerful on his behalf, that his message may succeed and that he may be safe in the proclamation of it. Their duty to him is to continue in their faithful trust in a faithful Lord who will never allow them to be weak on the inside and who will never allow them to be assaulted beyond what they are capable on the outside but will always be there to strengthen and protect them; and the duty to be obedient, to continue in the presence or absence of the shepherd to follow obediently the commands which he gave them from God …

So, with a growing love and a growing endurance of the difficulties of life, the pastor wants his congregation to obey, trusting in the faithfulness of the Lord and praying always for the shepherd. No pastor could ask more than that from his people, that they be prayerful, trusting, obedient and spiritually growing. That’s my desire for you, that God may be glorified in His church.

Next week’s verses conclude 2 Thessalonians.

Next time — 2 Thessalonians 3:13-18

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Yesterday’s post covered the early years of Benedict XVI’s papacy, from 2005 to the beginning of 2010.

Today’s post will cover a few more news items from 2009 before moving on to the remainder of this good man’s time in the Vatican.

He certainly had his cross to bear between 2005 and 2013. For whatever reason, the world’s media were dead set against him from the beginning. Many bishops and priests opposed his liberation, for lack of a better word, of the Tridentine — Latin — Mass so that it could be more widely celebrated. Pope Francis shut that down, but it is still possible to attend a Latin Mass in some churches, e.g. Cannes and Nice.

Furthermore, some Catholic traditionalists did not consider Benedict to be traditional enough. To an extent, I agree. Then again, it would have been impossible for him to do away with the Novus Ordo, what my mother and I called Modern Mass, and the other ill-judged reforms of Vatican II. For those reasons, I became a Protestant in the 1980s.

I read some years ago that, near the end of his papacy, Benedict was unable to go into parts of the Vatican without feeling as if he were under spiritual attack, not because he was a bad servant of God but because he was a good one and that Satan wanted his soul. Some months after I read that article, Benedict resigned. If what I read was true, who can blame him? He deserved temporal and spiritual peace. Now he rests with the Lord for eternity.

2009 Easter address

On April 12, 2009, Pope Benedict gave his Easter message, that year’s Urbi Et Orbi. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,

From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter.  To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1).  With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.). 

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death?  To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end.  This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and  buried, is risen with his glorified body.  Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message.  As Saint Paul vigorously declares:  “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”  He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19).  Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.

The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover”, his “passage”, that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20).  It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb.  In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty.  Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus.  On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread.  The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee. 

The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live.  I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life.  It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevailIf we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes:  “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10).  We answer, yes:  on Easter morning, everything was renewed.  “Mors et vita, duello conflixere mirando:  dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus – Death and life have come face to face in a tremendous duel:  the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives triumphant.”  This is what is new!  A newness that changes the lives of those who accept it, as in the case of the saints.  This, for example, is what happened to Saint Paul …

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra!  The resurrection of Christ is our hope!  This the Church proclaims today with joy.  She announces the hope that is now firm and invincible because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  She communicates the hope that she carries in her heart and wishes to share with all people in every place, especially where Christians suffer persecution because of their faith and their commitment to justice and peace.  She invokes the hope that can call forth the courage to do good, even when it costs, especially when it costs Today the Church sings “the day that the Lord has made”, and she summons people to joy …  To him, our victorious King, to him who is crucified and risen, we sing out with joy our Alleluia!

Five new saints

On Sunday, April 26, 2009, Benedict canonised five new saints.

The Telegraph reported:

Speaking in a packed St Peter’s Square, the Pope praised each of the five as a model for the faithful, saying their lives and works were as relevant today as when they were alive.

The Pontiff singled out the Rev Arcangelo Tadini, who lived at the turn of the last century and founded an order of nuns to tend to factory workers – something of a scandal at the time, since factories were considered immoral and dangerous places. Tadini also created an association to provide emergency loans to workers experiencing financial difficulties.

“How prophetic was Don Tadini’s charismatic intuition, and how current his example is today, in this time of grave economic crisis!” Benedict marvelled in his homily.

The only non-Italian canonised Sunday was Nuno Alvares Pereira, who helped secure Portugal’s independence from the Spanish kingdom of Castile, leading Portuguese forces in the critical Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.

After leaving the military, he entered religious life as a Carmelite and changed his name to Nuno de Santa Maria. He dedicated himself to the poor, never taking the privileges that would have been afforded to him as a former commander.

He is remembered as a national hero today in Portugal, with street signs named after him in many towns, but also as a humble man of great spirituality

Also canonised on Sunday was Bernardo Tolomei, a nearly blind monk who founded the Benedictine Congregation of Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto in the 1340s. He died in 1348 along with 82 of his monks after leaving the safety of his monastery to tend to plague victims in Siena.

The Pope praised his dedication, saying he died “as an authentic martyr of charity.”

The others canonised were Gertrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli, 19th century Italian nuns who founded religious orders.

He has presided over a handful of canonisation ceremonies in his four-year pontificate, and has left it to other Vatican officials to officiate at beatification ceremonies …

Beatification is the first step to possible sainthood. The Vatican must certify one miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession for beatification, and a second miracle that occurred after beatification for the candidate to be declared a saint.

Address to the academic community in Prague

On September 27, 2009, Benedict addressed the academic community in Prague, reminding everyone of the true purpose of education — truth and reason:

Mr President,

Distinguished Rectors and Professors,

Dear Students and Friends,

The great changes which swept Czech society twenty years ago were precipitated not least by movements of reform which originated in university and student circles. That quest for freedom has continued to guide the work of scholars whose diakonia of truth is indispensable to any nation’s well-being.

I address you as one who has been a professor, solicitous of the right to academic freedom and the responsibility for the authentic use of reason, and is now the Pope who, in his role as Shepherd, is recognized as a voice for the ethical reasoning of humanity. While some argue that the questions raised by religion, faith and ethics have no place within the purview of collective reason, that view is by no means axiomatic. The freedom that underlies the exercise of reason – be it in a university or in the Church – has a purpose: it is directed to the pursuit of truth, and as such gives expression to a tenet of Christianity which in fact gave rise to the university. Indeed, man’s thirst for knowledge prompts every generation to broaden the concept of reason and to drink at the wellsprings of faith. It was precisely the rich heritage of classical wisdom, assimilated and placed at the service of the Gospel, which the first Christian missionaries brought to these lands and established as the basis of a spiritual and cultural unity which endures to this day. The same spirit led my predecessor Pope Clement VI to establish the famed Charles University in 1347, which continues to make an important contribution to wider European academic, religious and cultural circles.

The proper autonomy of a university, or indeed any educational institution, finds meaning in its accountability to the authority of truth. Nevertheless, that autonomy can be thwarted in a variety of ways. The great formative tradition, open to the transcendent, which stands at the base of universities across Europe, was in this land, and others, systematically subverted by the reductive ideology of materialism, the repression of religion and the suppression of the human spirit. In 1989, however, the world witnessed in dramatic ways the overthrow of a failed totalitarian ideology and the triumph of the human spirit. The yearning for freedom and truth is inalienably part of our common humanity. It can never be eliminated; and, as history has shown, it is denied at humanity’s own peril. It is to this yearning that religious faith, the various arts, philosophy, theology and other scientific disciplines, each with its own method, seek to respond, both on the level of disciplined reflection and on the level of a sound praxis.

From the time of Plato, education has been not merely the accumulation of knowledge or skills, but paideia, human formation in the treasures of an intellectual tradition directed to a virtuous life. While the great universities springing up throughout Europe during the middle ages aimed with confidence at the ideal of a synthesis of all knowledge, it was always in the service of an authentic humanitas, the perfection of the individual within the unity of a well-ordered society. And likewise today: once young people’s understanding of the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, they relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of how they ought to be and what they ought to do.

The idea of an integrated education, based on the unity of knowledge grounded in truth, must be regained. It serves to counteract the tendency, so evident in contemporary society, towards a fragmentation of knowledge. With the massive growth in information and technology there comes the temptation to detach reason from the pursuit of truth. Sundered from the fundamental human orientation towards truth, however, reason begins to lose direction: it withers, either under the guise of modesty, resting content with the merely partial or provisional, or under the guise of certainty, insisting on capitulation to the demands of those who indiscriminately give equal value to practically everything. The relativism that ensues provides a dense camouflage behind which new threats to the autonomy of academic institutions can lurk. While the period of interference from political totalitarianism has passed, is it not the case that frequently, across the globe, the exercise of reason and academic research are – subtly and not so subtly – constrained to bow to the pressures of ideological interest groups and the lure of short-term utilitarian or pragmatic goals? What will happen if our culture builds itself only on fashionable arguments, with little reference to a genuine historical intellectual tradition, or on the viewpoints that are most vociferously promoted and most heavily funded? What will happen if in its anxiety to preserve a radical secularism, it detaches itself from its life-giving roots? Our societies will not become more reasonable or tolerant or adaptable but rather more brittle and less inclusive, and they will increasingly struggle to recognize what is true, noble and good

An understanding of reason that is deaf to the divine and which relegates religions into the realm of subcultures, is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures that our world so urgently needs. In the end, “fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom” (Caritas in Veritate, 9). This confidence in the human ability to seek truth, to find truth and to live by the truth led to the foundation of the great European universities. Surely we must reaffirm this today in order to bring courage to the intellectual forces necessary for the development of a future of authentic human flourishing, a future truly worthy of man …

Benedict extends welcome to disaffected Anglicans

On October 21, 2009, without notifying the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Benedict extended a sincere welcome to disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church, even granting them permission to use Anglican liturgies.

The Daily Mail reported:

The Pope paved the way for tens of thousands of disaffected Anglican worshippers to join the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining parts of their Protestant heritage. 

Those who convert could even be able to keep traditions including the Church of England’s historic prayer book – a major concession …

But the Vatican offer, which would allow conservative Anglicans who do not accept women bishops or gay rights to cross to Rome under the leadership of their own bishops, deepened divisions within the Church of England last night.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said it showed that relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics were closer than ever.

However, evangelical traditionalists accused him of a lack of leadership.

The offer of an ‘Apostolic Constitution’ applies to all 70million Anglicans across the globe.

Anglican bishops would be called ‘ordinaries’ in the Roman Catholic Church. Anglican priests can already be accepted as Roman Catholic priests, even if married, but no married Anglican is allowed to become a Catholic bishop.

In a letter to Church of England bishops and primates of the Anglican Communion, Dr Williams said he was ‘sorry’ there had been no opportunity to alert them earlier to Rome’s announcement.

Church of England authorities appear to have learned about the offer just before they offered their own concession to Anglo-Catholics earlier this month over plans for future women bishops …

The Pope’s offer follows secret talks last year with the two Church of England ‘flying bishops’ – whose job is to minister to Anglo-Catholics who do not recognise women priests. Yesterday they admitted the meeting for the first time.

Bishop of Ebbsfleet Andrew Burnham and Bishop of Richborough Keith Newton said in a statement: ‘We were becoming increasingly concerned that the various agendas of the Anglican Communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart. It was our task, we thought, to take the opportunity of quietly discussing these matters in Rome.’

Visit to the UK

Benedict visited the UK in 2010.

On March 17, the Mail posted his itinerary:

The Pontiff will use his visit to ‘give guidance on the great moral issues of the day’ and his itinerary includes a speech on civil society in Westminster Hall that is certain to reflect on controversies over religious freedom, different attitudes to homosexuality, and abortion …

The cost of the Pope’s travels and organising his events will be £15million, which will be shared between the Government and the Church. The taxpayer will have to pick up the cost of policing including protecting the Pontiff from hostile demonstrators. This cost is not yet known.

Benedict’s itinerary will include visiting the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, conducting the beatification service for 19th century theologian Cardinal Newman in Coventry and praying with other church leaders at Westminster Abbey.

On April 26, the Mail reported that a young civil servant sent an offensive email about the Pope’s upcoming visit stating, among other things, that he should open an abortion clinic. As this was a state visit, it nearly caused a diplomatic incident:

An Oxford graduate who sent a ‘seriously offensive’ email suggesting the Pope should open an abortion clinic ahead of the pontiff’s visit to Britain will keep his job in the civil service, it emerged today.

Steven Mulvain, 23, who once listed ‘drinking a lot’ as a hobby, emailed the document, which also included the suggestion of launching a range of ‘Benedict’ condoms, to Downing Street and three Whitehall departments.

It is believed that Mr Mulvain … escaped punishment because he was given authorisation to send the memo by a more senior civil servant, who has since been ‘transferred to other duties’.

However, the shock e-mail threatened to plunge the Pope’s state visit into jeopardy with ‘dark forces’ within the Foreign Office casting a shadow over the trip, Vatican officials declared yesterday.

A well-placed aide in the Vatican said: ‘This could have very severe repercussions and is embarrassing for the British Government – one has to question whether the action taken is enough. It is disgusting.’

However, when the Pope arrived in September, all went well. Even the media covered his visit in a respectful way. The Queen acknowledged the Holy See’s help in resolving the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

In my post, I wrote:

The Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday morning (September 18) was beautiful and dignified, with the Eucharistic Prayer and a few of the other prayers said or sung in Latin (1968 Novus Ordo), but the real highlight was when the Pope walked out of the cathedral to hundreds (probably thousands) of youngsters from every diocese in England. Wow — you would have thought they were glimpsing a rock star — screams of delight which brought real smiles to BXVI’s face. His talk to them was the most spontaneous that I have heard him give on this trip. Although he had his speech typed up, he looked up from it most of the time, making eye contact with them. The kids were so energised, and I think that he was, too. He told them how important prayer was and to discern Christ’s direction in their lives and careers. He told them how important it was to make time for daily prayer and — silence. So important.

Blessing the 2012 Olympics

On July 12, 2012, Benedict blessed the Olympic Games:

Let us pray that, according to God’s will, the London Games are a true experience of fraternity among the people of the Earth.

I send greetings to the organizers, athletes and spectators alike, and I pray that, in the spirit of the Olympic Truce, the good will generated by this international sporting event may bear fruit, promoting peace and reconciliation throughout the world. Upon all those attending the London Olympic Games, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Benedict’s resignation

On February 11, 2013, Benedict XVI announced his resignation, something a Pontiff had not done for 600 years, since Celestine V.

That evening, lightning hit the dome of St Peter’s Basilica.

On February 12, USA Today reported:

An apparent photo of a lightning bolt striking St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican Monday night (left) — the same day that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, stunning the world — has gone viral.

Filippo Monteforte, a photographer with Agence France Press, told England’s Daily Mirror that “I took the picture from St. Peter’s Square while sheltered by the columns. It was icy cold and raining sheets. When the storm started, I thought that lightning might strike the rod, so I decided it was worth seeing whether – if it DID strike – I could get the shot at exactly the right moment.”

Monteforte waited for more than two hours and was rewarded for his patience with not one but two bolts, the Mirror reported.

But could it be fake? One expert, AccuWeather meteorologist and lightning photographer Jesse Ferrell, thinks it’s real. In addition to the account from Monteforte — a trusted and well-known photographer — Ferrell sees telltale signs of a genuine lightning strike.

“I believe the photo is plausible, and since it was taken by a professional, with potential video to back it up, I’d say that the photo is legitimate,” Ferrell writes on his blog.

Also, he notes that thunderstorms were present in Rome Monday afternoon, according to several Facebook users.

The article closes with a video of the dramatic lightning strike, something to behold. With the second bolt, it looked as if the dome was going to explode.

Benedict’s last official act was to address the College of Cardinals in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on February 28, 2013. That was the first day of his retirement. He became Pope Emeritus.

Traditionalists were appalled at the resignation and wondered what it meant for future Popes. Could they be pushed out of the way by senior clergy or by laypeople? In any event, Benedict seemed to have no regrets, and Francis clearly became flavour of the month to most people, including those in the media.

90th birthday

The Pope Emeritus celebrated his 90th birthday in Rome with fellow Bavarians.

April 16, 2017 also happened to be Easter Sunday.

Breitbart has an article and photos from the day, which shows him enjoying a stein of beer. His guests are dressed in traditional Bavarian clothing.

Benedict gave a rare speech inside the Vatican. He said:

My heart is filled with gratitude for the 90 years that the good God has given me.

There have also been trials and difficult times, but through it all He has always led me and pulled me through, so that I could continue on my path.

The article continued:

Surrounded by friends and well-wishers from his native Bavaria on his birthday, Benedict said he was full of thanks in a special way for his “beautiful homeland,” adorned with “church towers, houses with balconies filled with flowers, and good people.”

Bavaria is beautiful, Benedict reminisced, “because God is known there and people know that He has created the world and that we do well to build it up together with Him.”

“I am glad that we were able to gather together under the beautiful blue Roman sky,” he continued, “which with its white clouds also reminds us of the white and blue flag of Bavaria—it is always the same sky.”

“I wish you all God’s blessings,” he said. “Carry my greetings home, as well as my gratitude to you. How I enjoy to continue living and walking about amidst our landscapes in my heart.”

Church ‘on the verge of collapsing’

Two months after his 90th birthday, on July 16, 2017, Benedict prepared a written message to be delivered by his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, in Cologne Cathedral at the funeral Mass of his close friend, Cardinal Joachim Meisner.

Breitbart reported:

In the text, Benedict said that Cardinal Meisner “found it difficult to leave his post, especially at a time in which the Church stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the faith with determination.”

What moved me all the more, Benedict said, was that, “in this last period of his life, he learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”

This appears to have been in response to Pope Francis lack of response to Cardinal Meisner’s question, a dubio:

Notably, Cardinal Meisner was one of the four cardinals who presented a series of questions, or “dubia,” to Pope Francis last September, asking him to clarify five serious doctrinal doubts proceeding from his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) concerning Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, the indissolubility of marriage, and the proper role of conscience.

The other three prelates who submitted the questions to the Pope were Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; Carlo Caffarra, archbishop emeritus of Bologna; and Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.

When Pope Francis failed to respond to the dubia, the four cardinals published their questions publicly last November.

“The Holy Father has decided not to respond,” they wrote. “We have interpreted his sovereign decision as an invitation to continue the reflection and the discussion, calmly and with respect.”

Final visit to brother, also a priest

On August 3, 2020, Sky News reported that Benedict had travelled to Germany to see his brother, the Revd Georg Ratzinger, for the final time.

Afterwards, he had a bout of shingles, although, fortunately, they were on his face rather than around his waistline:

Sky News reported on the visit between the two priestly brothers:

The 93-year-old retired pontiff has become very frail and his voice is barely audible, author Peter Seewald told German daily Passauer Neue Presse.

However, German-born Benedict met with Mr Seewald on Saturday and appeared optimistic, adding that he might pick up writing again if he regains his strength, according to the paper.

Benedict visited his native Bavaria in June to pay his ailing brother Reverend Georg Ratzinger a final visit.

Mr Ratzinger, aged 96, died shortly afterwards.

It was Benedict’s first trip outside Italy since 2013, the year he resigned the papacy.

The retired pope has lived in a monastery in Vatican City since shortly after his retirement.

Spiritual testament

On August 29, 2006, Benedict XVI finalised his spiritual testament, which the Holy See released upon his death on December 31, 2022:

When, at this late hour of my life, I look back on the decades I have wandered through, I see first of all how much reason I have to give thanks. Above all, I thank God Himself, the giver of all good gifts, who has given me life and guided me through all kinds of confusion; who has always picked me up when I began to slip, who has always given me anew the light of his countenance. In retrospect, I see and understand that even the dark and arduous stretches of this path were for my salvation and that He guided me well in those very stretches.

I thank my parents, who gave me life in difficult times and prepared a wonderful home for me with their love, which shines through all my days as a bright light until today. My father’s clear-sighted faith taught us brothers and sisters to believe and stood firm as a guide in the midst of all my scientific knowledge; my mother’s heartfelt piety and great kindness remain a legacy for which I cannot thank her enough. My sister has served me selflessly and full of kind concern for decades; my brother has always paved the way for me with the clear-sightedness of his judgements, with his powerful determination, and with the cheerfulness of his heart; without this ever-new going ahead and going along, I would not have been able to find the right path.

I thank God from the bottom of my heart for the many friends, men and women, whom He has always placed at my side; for the co-workers at all stages of my path; for the teachers and students He has given me. I gratefully entrust them all to His goodness. And I would like to thank the Lord for my beautiful home in the Bavarian foothills of the Alps, in which I was able to see the splendour of the Creator Himself shining through time and again. I thank the people of my homeland for allowing me to experience the beauty of faith time and again. I pray that our country will remain a country of faith and I ask you, dear compatriots, not to let your faith be distracted. Finally, I thank God for all the beauty I was able to experience during the various stages of my journey, but especially in Rome and in Italy, which has become my second home.

I ask for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart from all those whom I have wronged in some way.

What I said earlier of my compatriots, I now say to all who were entrusted to my service in the Church: Stand firm in the faith! Do not be confused! Often it seems as if science – on the one hand, the natural sciences; on the other, historical research (especially the exegesis of the Holy Scriptures) – has irrefutable insights to offer that are contrary to the Catholic faith. I have witnessed from times long past the changes in natural science and have seen how apparent certainties against the faith vanished, proving themselves not to be science but philosophical interpretations only apparently belonging to science – just as, moreover, it is in dialogue with the natural sciences that faith has learned to understand the limits of the scope of its affirmations and thus its own specificity. For 60 years now, I have accompanied the path of theology, especially biblical studies, and have seen seemingly unshakeable theses collapse with the changing generations, which turned out to be mere hypotheses: the liberal generation (Harnack, Jülicher, etc.), the existentialist generation (Bultmann, etc.), the Marxist generation. I have seen, and see, how, out of the tangle of hypotheses, the reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging anew. Jesus Christ is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and the Church, in all her shortcomings, is truly His Body.

Finally, I humbly ask: pray for me, so that the Lord may admit me to the eternal dwellings, despite all my sins and shortcomings. For all those entrusted to me, my heartfelt prayer goes out day after day.

Tomorrow’s post will conclude with lesser-known facts about and insights into Benedict XVI.

Eternal rest grant unto your servant, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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 Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-8

Timothy’s Encouraging Report

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers,[a] in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.

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

Last week’s post looked at Paul’s explanation as to why he sent back Timothy to Thessalonica; the Apostle was deeply concerned about the congregation’s spiritual health.

In his sermon on those verses, John MacArthur showed us four aspects of ministry on display: affection, unselfishness, compassion, protectiveness.

In today’s verses, we see the fifth: delight in the people.

Paul writes that Timothy has just come back with ‘good news’ of the Thessalonians’ faith and love, reporting that they long to see Paul just as much as he longs to see them; Paul is heartened that they have good memories of his brief time there (verse 6).

MacArthur tells us (emphases mine):

The true pastor finds his delight in his people.  This is another feature of the shepherd’s heart Get the picture.  Verse 6 marks Timothy’s return.  By now Paul is no longer in Athens, he’s gone on to Corinth.  Silas comes back from Macedonia where he’s been visiting Philippi and Timothy comes back from Thessalonica.  And, boy, is Paul thrilled for Timothy to come back.  And verse 6 says, “But just now,” Greek word arti means “just now that Timothy has come to us from you.  So what we can conclude is that this letter was written immediately upon Timothy’s arrival When Paul sent Timothy he didn’t know the condition.  But now that he writes this letter back, he has just gotten the word.  Timothy came back and now we get an up-to-the-minute response.  Look at verse 6, “But now that Timothy has come to us from you,” and what did he say?  “And has brought us good news.”  Stop right there.

MacArthur says that the use of the Greek for ‘good news’ here is the same word for ‘gospel’, therefore, Paul is truly delighted:

… the news from Timothy was, I love this, “Good news.”  Rather than using a simple word, he doesn’t just say, “And Timothy gave a good report,” or “Timothy came back and told us so-and-so.”  He said, “Timothy brought good news.”  You know what word he uses?  The word “gospel,” euaggeliz, it’s only used in the New Testament everywhere else to refer to the gospel.  He brought us such good news I have to use a word that is usually referring to the news of salvation to even express how good it is.  He takes the term reserved usually for the message of salvation by grace through faith, and says it was that kind of good news, thrilling news.  And it really is amazing.  He had such a heart for those people that he gets this report from Timothy and he calls it “gospel,” good news, the best news.

This is more proof that being a true Christian revolves around faith and love:

… it was sort of a four-point report.  Point one, your faith, good news about your faith.  Your faith was real.  You were good ground, weren’t rocky soil, weren’t weedy ground, didn’t get choked out, didn’t get burned off, you were good ground, good news about your faith, you’re real.  And he says, second point, good news about your love You love God, you love Christ, you love each other, you love the lost.

Could I say this to you?  And I believe it’s so very true.  Those two things — faith and love — say it all.  John Calvin said, “Those two words are the sum of godliness.”  It’s the sum of godliness.  If I have faith in God and love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and my neighbor as myself, I’ve fulfilled what? The whole law; it’s the sum of godliness.  To believe, to love says it all.  So Paul says, “I got the word, your faith is real, your love is real.  That’s the sum of the believer’s duty to God and man and it was the simplest way to say the Thessalonians were real Christians …

There’s a third part of the report.  Point three of Timothy’s little report.  Good news about your faith, good news about your love, and good news that you always think kindly of us Good news about your loyalty, your personal love for me.  What a delight.  He was thrilled that they cherished happy memories of him.  He had been in Athens and in Corinth and probably saying to himself, “Well, they’re going to hate me because those detractors and those people who think they have to vilify me, those people who oppose me, they’re going to tell them all kind of lies about me and they’re going to spread all kinds of rumors about me and they’re going to look back and they’re going to think, ‘Well, yeah, maybe he was like that,’ and they’re going to resent me and hate me and that means I’m not going to have a ministry to them anymore.  And then they would reject what I taught them.

He was worried, fearing that the tempter would have tempted them in that way and it was good news, it was gospel. It was the best news that they “always think kindly of us.’ 

By contrast, remember Paul’s disappointment with the Corinthians and with the churches in Asia Minor:

The Corinthian church had turned on them when he wrote 2 Corinthians.  Chapter 12 verses 19 to 21 he says, “I don’t even want to come to you because I know when I come to you you’re not going to be what I want and I’m not going to be what you want and we’re going to have conflict.”  On one occasion he said, “All in Asia have turned away from me.”  He had all kinds of people on his case. 

However, the Thessalonians were not swayed, and they longed to see him:

… what a delight was Timothy’s message.  No, Paul, they always, always think kindly of you.

And he had a fourth point in “little good news” outline; point number four, longing to see us just as we long to see you Good news about their faith, good news about their love, good news about their loyalty, good news about their longing to see Paul.  What a vindication.  After all, he said, “I nursed you like a nursing mother,” chapter 2 verse 8, “I encouraged and exhorted you like a father.  You are my joy, you are my glory, you are my crown of exaltation.  You’re the most precious thing in my world. Therefore you can cause me the greatest pain or bring me the greatest delight.”  And oh what good news!  Your faith is intact, your love is intact, your loyalty is intact and you long for fellowship with me.

For this reason, Paul says, in all his distress and affliction, he has been comforted about them through their faith (verse 7).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

The apostle thought this good news of them was sufficient to balance all the troubles he met with. It was easy to him to bear affliction, or persecution, or fightings from without, when he found the good success of his ministry and the constancy of the converts he had made to Christianity; and his distress of mind on account of his fears within, lest he had laboured in vain, was now in a good measure over, when he understood their faith and the perseverance of it.

MacArthur’s analysis agrees with Henry’s:

Look at verse 7.  “For this reason, brethren, for this reason, this good news, brethren, in all our distress and affliction, we were comforted about you through your faith.”  Because of the report of Timothy, for that very reason, in all our choking pressure, all the crushing trouble that had come on him read the eighteenth chapter of Acts and find out about it, bad news from Galatia, having to care for all the churches, having to do the work of making tents to support his living — in all the troubles and trials and pains of his heart, it all of a sudden disappeared and we were comforted about you when we heard about the reality of your faith.  We were strengthened for the work. The genuineness of their faith, the fact that he had received evidence that it was real saving faith was the most basic cause of his delight.  And then he delighted in their love and their loyalty and their longing to be with him.

These are the relevant passages from Acts 18:

Acts 18:5-11: Paul, Corinth, Silas, Timothy, election, predestination

Acts 18:12-17 – St Paul, Corinth, Gallio, Sosthenes, tribunal

Paul says that he feels alive once more if the Thessalonians are standing fast, or standing firm, in the Lord (verse 8).

Henry explains:

This put new life and spirit into the apostle and made him vigorous and active in the work of the Lord. Thus he was not only comforted, but greatly rejoiced also: Now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord, v. 8. It would have been a killing thing to the apostles if the professors of religion had been unsteady, or proved apostates; whereas nothing was more encouraging than their constancy.

MacArthur has more:

The pastor’s delight is not the size of the building, the looks of the facility, his reputation, his success, his degrees, the level of the fame of his congregation, the salary he gets, his prestige in the community.  That’s not the delight of a true pastor.  The pastor’s delight is found in his people.  They can break his heart and they can make his heart rejoice.

And look how he sums it up in verse 8.  “This is the pastor’s heart, for now we really live if you stand firm in the Lord.”  That’s it.  Where is your delight?  We really live, he says.  You know what?  It’s as if he says we live once more here, because he had been experiencing the death of lonely ignorance.  He was in a dead time not knowing. There was a deadness, there was a pall of death over him and when the news came and it was all good, he says, “Now we really live if you stand firm in the Lord.”  That’s our delight.  That’s our joy.  That stimulates me to new ministry just to know that.  That is the pastor’s heart.  That is his joy if his heart is right, to know that his people believe and stand fast in the Lord.

Students of Paul’s letters identify the words ‘stand firm’ or ‘stand fast’ with him:

If you have a strong faith, if you have a strong commitment… That word “stand fast” is a military term, stk.  It refers to a refusal to retreat against an attack.  Stand your ground under attack.  When I see you stand your ground under attack, I really live, I really live.  I know you’ve got your armor on, you’re holding up the shield of faith.  I really live.  To the Corinthians he wrote, chapter 16 verse 13, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”  To the Galatians he wrote, chapter 5, verse 1, “Keep standing firm.”  To the Philippians he wrote, chapter 1 verse 27, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ that I may hear of you that you are standing firm.”  Chapter 4 verse 1, the Philippians again, he said, “Therefore my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”  And in that second letter to the Thessalonians chapter 2, verse 15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”  Always wanted them to stand firm, stand firm.  And always the idea was standing against an attack and showing your faith is real, your commitment is strong.  That’s the delight of the pastor’s heart.

The rest of the chapter is in the Lectionary, however, I will just point out two more of MacArthur’s characteristics of ministry in verses 9 and 10:

Number six, just briefly, gratitude for his people

The last is in verse 10 … intercession for his people … prayer for his people.

In summary, we have affection, selflessness, compassion, protectiveness, delight, gratitude and prayer. Those are the hallmarks of the ministry of a true shepherd of his flock.

Here is the rest of the chapter:

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul elaborates on the conduct of a true Christian. What he says will be familiar, however, as he wrote similarly in all his letters, the verses are worth heeding, regardless of what today’s experts and celebrities say. No doubt, it was the same in Paul’s era!

Next time — 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity is on October 16, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 18:1-8

18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.

18:2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.

18:3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’

18:4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,

18:5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”

18:6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.

18:7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

18:8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We are nearing the end of our Lord’s lessons to His disciples and to the Jewish hierarchy, which began in Luke 9 and conclude in Luke 19.

The context for today’s reading is set in light of our Lord’s discourse in Luke 17 about His Second Coming.

This parable illustrates the need for perseverance and patience in God’s justice delivered through His Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus told a parable to His disciples about the importance of praying always and not losing heart (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

When we are praying for strength against our spiritual enemies, our lusts and corruptions, which are our worst enemies, we must continue instant in prayer, must pray and not faint, for we shall not seek God’s face in vain. So we must likewise in our prayers for the deliverance of the people of God out of the hands of their persecutors and oppressors.

Jesus said that in a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected the people (verse 2).

That means he was self-centred and corrupt.

John MacArthur says that this scenario would have been familiar to the disciples. The judge was a civil judge and not a religious one:

This is simply a city that Jesus fabricates in the story. But we can assume that since He’s talking to people in the land of Israel, it would be typical of a city in Israel. And what follows would be all too familiar to the people of Israel, for Israel, frankly, had much experience with widows and much experience with unjust judges. And here we meet such a judge, a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.

And while that seems a rather simple characterization, it is a very well chosen characterization because you find such references to people in literature from ancient times outside the Bible and this kind of description is used to describe the most wicked person, someone who has absolutely no reverence for God and no interest in people, no concerns regarding the law of God, the will of God and completely indifferent to the needs of people and their just causes.  This man is ultimately and finally wicked.  There is no way to penetrate this man’s wickedness either from the viewpoint of the law of God or from the viewpoint of the need of man.  He is not moved by reverence or worship and he is not moved by compassion or sympathy.  He has no interest in the first commandment, loving God; no interest in the second commandment, loving his neighbor.  He is the most wicked man …

Now the kind of court that a judge like this would be a part of would be a civil court.   In towns and villages, or in large cities, these civil courts were in a lot of locations.  Every little town had to have one and a place like Jerusalem would have many of these civil courts.  This is not a position of national responsibility in a religious court where they were interpreting the religious things, or the traditions, or the law of the Old Testament. This is a civil court, but nonetheless the judge would have a very serious responsibility before God to uphold the law of God and to uphold sympathy and compassion toward people.  Any judge in Israel would be very familiar with Old Testament instruction regarding being a judge.  Second Chronicles chapter 19, Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah.  It says in verse 4, “Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers.  And he appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city.  And he said to the judges, ‘Consider what you are doing for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment.’  “Now then,” verse 7, 2 Chronicles 19:7, “let the fear of the Lord be upon you.  Be very careful what you do for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or injustice, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe.”

Everyone who was ever appointed to any judicial responsibility in Israel would know that passage very, very well.  But even in the Old Testament, in spite of the clear instruction of God, judges were corrupt.  Amos the prophet, chapter 5 verse 10, “They hate him who reproves him in the gate.  They abhor him who speaks with integrity.  Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, you will not live in them.  You have planted pleasant vineyards; you will not drink their wine, for I know your transgressions are many, your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate.”  The gate is normally where the civil law was adjudicated.  These judges that Amos mentions are corrupt and will know the judgment of God.

But this kind of judicial corruption was not limited just to the Old Testament. It was also true in the time of our Lord Jesus.  Alfred Edersheim, who has written the classic Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, the great history of that period of time, describes the judges in Jerusalem as being so corrupt that the people changed their title.  They were known as dayyaney gezeroth. That was the term used to describe a judge and his responsibility to deal with the prohibitions of the law.  The people called them dayyaney gezeloth. They changed one letter in the Hebrew which turned the expression “a judge dealing with the law” to “a judge who is a robber.” “Robber judges” became their title because they were so corrupt.  They did just exactly what the Bible said not to do, what God said not to do.  They showed partiality.  They were unjust and they took bribes.  The Talmud said they were so perverted in some occasions that they would actually pervert justice for one meal, for one meal.  And so, when our Lord says this is an unrighteous judge, adikia, meaning no sense of justice, dishonest and corrupt. He is defining what everybody would know by the description in verse 2, that he didn’t fear God and he didn’t respect man.

Let me look at that word “respect” for just a moment in verse 2, Entrepōmi, interesting verb, it means to be put to shame, to be put to shame.  In other words, this man had no shame.  Now remember the Middle Eastern culture then and even now is a shame-honor culture.  You do what brings you honor at all cost, you avoid all things that produce shame, you avoid shame like the plague.  That was typically the way life was lived.  And so the way to understand that expression “did not respect man” would be to understand it this way: He is not ashamed before people, he has no shame. He cannot be put to shame.  In fact, if you were to study Middle Eastern translations of this verse in Middle Eastern language, New Testament Syriac and Arabic, they never translate it any other way over the centuries than “he was not ashamed before people.”  He had no shame. He could not be shamed no matter what he did.  Good social behavior in those cultures basically was encouraged by an appeal to shame. 

In that city, a widow repeatedly approached him appealing for justice against the person who wronged her (verse 3).

Widows, then and now, were — and are — often in a precarious position if they have no male to help them fight their cause.

Henry says:

Note, Poor widows have often many adversaries, who barbarously take advantage of their weak and helpless state to invade their rights, and defraud them of what little they have; and magistrates are particularly charged, not only not to do violence to the widow (Jer 21 3), but to judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow (Isa 1 17), to be their patrons and protectors; then they are as gods, for God is so, Ps 68 5.

MacArthur tells us that a court of law was a man’s domain and that women were largely ignored. The Old Testament states that God’s people were to protect widows:

“There was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’”  Someone has defrauded her.  In fact, someone has so seriously defrauded her that she is destitute.  Not only is she destitute by virtue of the fact that she keeps coming and keeps coming and keeps coming, which is our Lord’s way of pointing out that she really was in a situation where she had to have what was rightfully hers, but we know that her destitution goes beyond the financial, she apparently has no man in her life, no man in her family, not a brother, not a brother-in-law, not a father, not a son, not a cousin, not a nephew, not any man who could come to plead her case, because courts belonged to men. They did not belong to women, they belonged exclusively to men.  Men came to court. Women did not come to court.  The courts belonged to the men.  The only time a woman would come to court was when there was no man to plead her case.  This woman is alone. She represents the destitute, the powerless, the helpless, the deprived, the lowly, the unknown, the unloved, the uncared for, the desperate.  And it’s wonderful to use the illustration of a widow because her case is clear-cut, as far as the Old Testament goes, if not on a legal basis, purely on the basis of mercy that he should have done something to care for her.   Exodus 22 verses 22 to 24 talks about the responsibility to show mercy to a widow.  Deuteronomy 24 verses 17 and 18, Isaiah 1:16 and 17, and many other places, widows were to be cared for. Their needs were to be met.  This judge is utterly indifferent to her on a sympathetic side, on the side of compassion, but apparently she had the law on her side as well because she is asking for legal protection.  She has been defrauded.  Property, money which was life to her has been taken from her.

By the way, as a footnote, there are a number of interesting widows that Luke focuses on both in his gospel and in the book of Acts as well.  They were an important part of the ancient world.  Corrupt judges, there were plenty of them; and there were even more needy widows.

The judge refused to entertain her plea for justice but later said to himself that, though he did not fear God or respect man (verse 4), he would grant her justice so that she would not wear him out by continually bothering him (verse 5).

Henry says:

bad as he was, would not suffer him to send her to prison for an affront upon the court.

MacArthur gives us this analysis:

His wickedness is obviously toxic, it is compounded because he is in the role of a judge and he renders his judgments in regard both to the law of God and the needs of people and since he is not moved by either, he is, as Jesus characterizes him, an unrighteous judge.  The word “unrighteous” would mean dishonest, corrupt, unjust.  Not only is he this evil but he knows it and he’s comfortable with it.  In verse 4 he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect men.” This is not simply a definition of the man that has been placed upon him by those that know him, he agrees with it in full.  Here is the worst possible human being in a very, very important position of responsibility whose disregard for God and man has massive implications in regard to all the people who come into his court

Well consistent with his utter disdain for the commandments of God and any sense of justice and his utter disinterest in showing compassion to anyone, even a lowly widow, verse 4 says, “And for a while he was unwilling.”  He was just outright indifferent.  He is the worst kind of human being who is then the worst judge imaginable.  Just as the prodigal son was the worst possible profligate sinner and the older brother was the worst possible hypocrite.  Jesus is into painting these extreme pictures in his stories with just a minimum of language.  But if you can fill in the gaps, the people would understand that.  But it says in verse 4, “Though he for a while was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself…” Now we get a soliloquy like the soliloquy of the prodigal son who came to his senses and talked to himself. So this man speaks to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man.” He’s a self-confessed wretch, he holds nothing back.  He has no noble motive.  He is first to admit he has no noble motive whatsoever. 

The woman’s appeals would have been loud, characteristic of a Middle Eastern culture of powerless women:

But he says, in spite of that, verse 5, “Yet because this woman bothers me.” In the Greek, “She causes me trouble, she is irritating me.”  Every day she’s there.  Every day she’s pleading her case.  It’s becoming very troublesome.  I will give her legal protection “lest by continually coming…” “Continually” is eis telos, sometimes translated in the Bible “forever.”  She will come forever if I don’t get rid of her and “she will wear me out.”

He has no regard for God.  He has no regard for man.  But he has regard for himself.  He cares not for what pleases God.  He cares not for what pleases men.  But he cares a lot for what pleases him and this does not please him.  This is an irritating, troubling harangue that he hears out of this widow every single day that is intrusive and interruptive.  And by the way, I like that little phrase, “She will wear me out.”  But it’s a little more benign than the Greek.  The Greek is a verb hupopiazo, which means it’s a boxing term and it means to strike someone with a full blow in the eye She is punching me silly day after day after day. She is beating me up.  Some translations would be, “to blacken the face,” to indicate the severity and the strength of the blows.  She’s giving me a black eye, she’s beating me.  It’s used in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says, “I buffet my body, I punch my body with a fierce blow to beat it into submission.”  This woman is not just troublesome, this woman is painful.  This is more than I can stand and she’s going to do it eis telos, forever, if I don’t get rid of her.  So the powerful and impervious judge is defeated by the weak widow through her persistence.

Now you need to know something else, a little bit more about the Middle Eastern culture.  Women were really powerless.  I guess that’s a good way to say it.  They were powerless in the male-dominated culture; still largely true in Middle Eastern culture today.  But they were respected and they were honored.  And while they had no power, they did have honor and they could get away with things that men couldn’t get away with.  I was reading one Middle Eastern scholar who said, “A woman could scream and complain at the top of her voice relentlessly and get away with it because women are to be honored and respected.  And if a man did the same thing, he would lose his life.”  And so, even today sometimes you see pictures in the Arabic world of women who are pleading their case by screaming and yelling and this would be the crying day and night kind of relentless approach of this woman that is characterized hereThe crying day and night comes in the explanation in verse 7 So she’s driving this man to destruction in his own mind.  He’s got to get rid of her.  And so he rules in her favor.  Go back to verse 5, “I will give her legal protection.” That simply means I will vindicate her.  I will vindicate her.  It’s got the word dikēo in it, from which we get the word dikaiōs, righteousness, justice.  I will execute justice, righteousness on her behalf.  I will vindicate her.  I will avenge her.  I will do justice to her because I cannot tolerate her…her harangue any longer.  So that’s the story. That’s the illustration.

Jesus called on the disciples to take heed of what the unjust judge said (verse 6).

It is interesting that both commentators use the same expression about this parable.

Henry says:

This parable has its key hanging at the door; the drift and design of it are prefixed. Christ spoke it with this intent, to teach us that men ought always to pray and not to faint, v. 1.

MacArthur says:

What’s the intention of this story? Go back to verse 1. Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. So here we find that the key to the parable is hanging on the door. Before you even get inside to the parable, the key is out there. This is a parable designed by our Lord to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.

Then Jesus implied that if the corrupt judge showed justice — left unsaid — how much more will the righteous, all-merciful God grant justice to those who cry out to Him day and night, asking if He will delay helping them (verse 7).

MacArthur explains:

This is a “much more than” kind of comparison, this is a “lesser and greater” kind of comparison.  This is extreme.  You have the most wicked, impervious, impenetrable, indifferent human being doing what is right for someone about whom he has no feeling or interest.  And if a judge who is like that will do what is right for someone for whom he has no affection, do you think God will not do what is right for those who are His eternal elect, who are loved by Him before the foundation of the world?  And who cry out to Him day and night pleading for His glory to come and for them to be glorified with Him?

The elect are represented by the widow.  We are, in a sense, helpless.  We are, in a sense, at the mercy of our judge.  But this judge is not like God.  This judge is the opposite of God.  He is as unlike God as you can get.  God always does what is right by His own law.  God is always compassionate, merciful, gracious, tender-hearted, and kind.  And God will do what He says He will do to bring about the glorious manifestation of His own children who are loved by Him from before the foundation of the world.  The wicked, unjust, unloving judge will do what is right. What will a righteous, loving, holy God do?

The answer: verse 7, “Now shall not God bring about justice for His elect?”  Literally, “Make the vindication,” make the vindication.  Again “the vindication” comes from that same verb, dikēo, which is related to the word group “justify.”  Will He not justify?  Will He not vindicate His elect, those whom He has chosen for salvation?  First Peter 2:23 says, “God is the one who judges righteously.”  Romans 12:19 says that, “God has said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’”  Revelation 19:2, “True and righteous are His judgments.”  He will do what He has promised for His elect because His Word is at stake and He’s faithful to His Word, He’s faithful to His law, because He’s merciful, because He’s compassionate, and because He loves those whom He has eternally chosen.

Henry refers to earnest prayer as wrestling with God, which is what Jacob did and was blessed afterwards with the name Israel. That passage from Genesis 32 is one of today’s First Readings:

And herein we must be very urgent; we must cry with earnestness: we must cry day and night, as those that believe prayer will be heard at last; we must wrestle with God, as those that know how to value the blessing, and will have no nay. God’s praying people are told to give him no rest, Isa 62 6, 7.

Jesus concluded by saying that, contrary to the corrupt judge, God will quickly grant justice to the faithful, however, on that day of the Second Coming, will the Son of Man — Jesus — find faith on Earth when He returns (verse 8)?

MacArthur says:

He closes with a question, verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  What does that mean?  Jesus is just pensively asking the question that when He does come, given that it’s going to be a long time, will there be anybody left persistent like this widow?  When He does come, and He will, will He find people praying for His return?  I kind of think that if He were to come now He would find a whole lot of people who call themselves Christians with very little interest in that.  Genuine Christianity never loses its grip on God, never loses its trust in Christ, never loses its hope.  But we get easily distracted, don’t we?  And the Lord is trying to nail this down in a practical way.  When He comes, will He find His people still crying day and night eagerly waiting for His return?  Will we love His appearing?  Will we be crying out “Maranatha”? First Corinthians 16:22, even come, Lord, come, Lord.  Or will it be like in Noah’s day with just a few, or Lot today with just a few?

We live in hope, beloved, we live in hope.  We…We are true Christians and we have been given a tremendous promise.  This is how it’s all going to end.  In the meantime we suffer and we’re rejected and persecuted and alienated and the gospel is resisted and Christ is dishonored and sometimes maybe we think it’s going on too long and too long.  We continue to pray and plead for the glory of Christ, the honor of Christ.  And when you live that way and pray that way and plead that way, it changes everything about your life.  How you view every part of your life.  Yes it’s been 2,000 [years]. But our hope burns shining bright, and our love for Christ is still true and pure and our confidence that He keeps His Word is fast and firm.  And so we pray persistently calling on Him to come, to glorify Himself, to vindicate Himself, to punish sinners, dethrone Satan, establish a righteous kingdom and peace on the earth, reign as King of kings and Lord of lords and create the eternal new heaven and the new earth. We say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and it ought to be on our lips day after day after day, says our Lord.  Live in that kind of anticipation until He comes.  And watch how it changes your life.

Henry mentioned Jacob’s earnest faith and the blessing he received.

I wrote more about the background of Genesis 32 a few years ago in ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son and brothers in Genesis’.

After he sold his birthright to Jacob for a mass of pottage, Esau wanted to kill him.

In Genesis 32, Jacob prayed fervently in this appeal to God:

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

Today’s alternate First Reading tells us of Jacob’s wrestling with God and obtaining an enduring blessing for prevailing — overcoming:

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.

My follow-up post discussed God’s blessing to Jacob in his 12 sons, ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son relates to the lost tribes of Israel‘.

One day, Jesus will be seen by God’s people as the Messiah.

For now, we can meditate on the faith and perseverance that Jacob showed.

May all reading this enjoy a blessed Sunday.

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity is on October 2, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 17:5-10

17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

17:6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

17:7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’?

17:8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’?

17:9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?

17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Regular readers of this series will know that between Luke 9 and Luke 19, the Gospel writer gives us our Lord’s teaching to His disciples as well as to His critics, the Pharisees and scribes. Year C readings have explored many of these lessons during the season of Trinity.

Jesus condemned pride, especially spiritual pride.

John MacArthur tells us:

Our Lord then sets His teaching in this text against the negative example of the ever-present Pharisees and scribes who were in most of the crowds to whom He spoke. And on occasion He speaks directly to them as well as directly to the disciples, as well as generally to the massive crowd. It seems as though every large crowd could be broken down to at least these two groups: there were those who were following Him and there were the ever-present Pharisees and scribes who were trying to hold onto their power and influence over the people and find a way to get rid of Jesus. They were deadly. Heresy and hypocrisy is a damning combination.

If there was one attribute that generally characterized them, and for that matter all false religious leaders, and for that matter all sinners, it is the characteristic of pride. Pride is that dominant sin, that motivational sin behind all kinds of sins. It is that sin that God hates most. It appears in the Old Testament at the top of God’s hate list …

Well, the Pharisees and the scribes had developed pride into an art form. And so, in the last months of our Lord’s life as He trains true spiritual leaders in Israel, apostles and disciples, it is critical that they understand that what He is asking for is in exact opposition to what they’re used to. The flesh by its nature, the fallen unredeemed flesh is proud and it will turn pride into a virtue, as you well know from the culture in which you live. That’s bad enough, but when you compound it with religious pride, spiritual pride which takes it to a higher level of virtue and you sell that as if that’s legitimate religion, it is a difficult disconnect to remove people from those things which are both instinctive to their fallenness and cultivated in them from their youth as virtuous. And so Jesus spends a lot of time teaching His disciples about humility, while at the same time they’re having discussions about which of them will be the greatest in the kingdom. And even so audacious, a couple of them to send their mother to ask Jesus if they can please be on His right hand and left hand, and when that was unfolded, the rest of the disciples were angry not because they were more humble but because the two of them got there first. They were struggling deeply with these issues of humility, it just wasn’t part of their nature and nor was it part of their religious culture

MacArthur takes us through the lessons of the first four verses of Luke 17 as well as those of the previous chapters:

Suffice it to say that there are four elements of humility that appear in this text, four of them.  Now we know that the Lord has said to them already, Luke 14:11, that God will humble the proud and exalt the humble.  And this will be repeated again in the 18 chapter and the 14th verse as well.  And so God has defined very simply that you better humble yourself if you want God to exalt youThey understand that.  That’s the big principle.

But what does that look like?  What does it mean to be humble?  How do humble people act?  There aren’t any models for this that are manifest, or not many.  So Jesus gives us some hallmarks of humility.  The first one is restraint from offense, restraint from offense.  Verses 1 and 2, “He said to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come.'” The Pharisees were very adept at putting stumbling blocks, scandalous stumbling blocks in front of people to hinder them on their spiritual journey.  That’s why they were producing sons of hell.  They did it by their heresy and their hypocrisy.  But the humble don’t do that.  The humble don’t flaunt their freedoms and liberties.  The humble don’t say this is what we teach and no matter what effect it has we’re going to be faithful to it.  The humble don’t live hypocritical lives that set bad examples.  He is calling for the kind of life that leaves no offense, that causes no entrapment; that seduces no one into error or into evil.  In fact, in verse 2 comes the warning, “You would be better off to die a horrible death, having a millstone tied around your neck and to be dropped in the middle of the sea than to cause one of these little ones” not children, not infants, not toddlers, but believers, these little ones “who believe in Me, it says in Matthew in the passage that is very similar to this, the 18th chapter.  It’s a very dangerous thing to cause the people of God to fall into heresy and into iniquity.  Humble people don’t do that.  Humble people understand they have a responsibility to the truth for the sake of others.  They have a responsibility to spiritual integrity for the sake of others, to teach what is true, as we have seen, and to live what is right.

The second thing, and we’ve already discussed it, is the humble are not only marked by restraint from offense but readiness to forgive, readiness to forgive.  Another aspect of their true holiness is if a brother sins, they rebuke him, if he repents, they forgive him, if he sins against you seven times a day and returns to you seven times saying I repent, forgive him.  They are known by their eagerness to forgive.  They are magnanimous, they are merciful. They are gracious.  They are forgiving even offenses against them seven times a day, which is simply a way of saying endlessly, without limit.  This is totally contrary to how the Pharisees conducted themselves.  They had nothing but disdain for sinners.  They wouldn’t so much as go near the riff-raff that accumulated around Jesus.  The rabbis even said, “Even so much as to teach them the law,” they kept their distance, to carry on the masquerade of their holiness.  They had no interest in them.  They had nothing but contempt for them.  They associated them with Satan.  They were not interested in their repentance.  They were not interested in offering them grace or mercy.  Contrary to this, Jesus says, “Those who are humble are eager to forgive, even those who repeatedly again and again and again and again and again sin against them.  That’s what humble people do.  That’s what lowly people do.  They are magnanimously merciful, gracious and forgiving.  And in the first place, while they will not purposely lead someone into sin, they are eager to lead someone out of sin.

Now that brings us to the final two; that brief review.  The third characteristic is so important.  Humble people not only are marked by restraint from offense and readiness to forgive, but, thirdly, recognition of weakness, recognition of weakness …

A final point, humble disciples are marked by restraint from offense, readiness to forgive, recognition of weaknesses, and finally, rejection of honor, rejection of honor.

In response to the first four verses, the Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith (verse 5).

It is a correct request although it seems oddly placed here.

Matthew Henry’s commentary offers possible reasons why the Twelve would have asked Jesus for more faith and adds practical applications for us today:

we have all need to get our faith strengthened, because, as that grace grows, all other graces grow. The more firmly we believe the doctrine of Christ, and the more confidently we rely upon the grace of Christ, the better it will be with us every way. Now observe here, 1. The address which the disciples made to Christ, for the strengthening of their faith, v. 5. The apostles themselves, so they are here called, though they were prime ministers of state in Christ’s kingdom, yet acknowledged the weakness and deficiency of their faith, and saw their need of Christ’s grace for the improvement of it; they said unto the Lord, “Increase our faith, and perfect what is lacking in it.” Let the discoveries of faith be more clear, the desires of faith more strong, the dependences of faith more firm and fixed, the dedications of faith more entire and resolute, and the delights of faith more pleasing. Note, the increase of our faith is what we should earnestly desire, and we should offer up that desire to God in prayer. Some think that they put up this prayer to Christ upon occasion of his pressing upon them the duty of forgiving injuries:Lord, increase our faith, or we shall never be able to practise such a difficult duty as this.” Faith in God’s pardoning mercy will enable us to get over the greatest difficulties that lie in the way of our forgiving our brother. Others think that it was upon some other occasion, when the apostles were run aground in working some miracle, and were reproved by Christ for the weakness of their faith, as Matt 17 16, etc. To him that blamed them they must apply themselves for grace to mend them; to him they cry, Lord, increase our faith.

MacArthur acknowledges the confusion among Bible scholars through the centuries and says:

Some commentators have said this has got to come from a different time and a different place and a different discussion because it doesn’t make any sense. Oh I think it makes perfect sense and I’ll show you why …

They were basically from Galilee, which was no significant place at all and they sustained their homes in Galilee through the ministry that the Lord gave them. They were just nobodies; no rabbis, no Pharisees, no scribes, no Sadducees, no synagogue leaders, they were just twelve ordinary men. But they became extraordinarily privileged. They become the foundation of the church … They had already begun to preach. They had already begun to see the power unleashed through their lives. But as privileged as they were, they were equally human, very, very human. In fact, five times Jesus said this to them, “Oh you of little faith.” You … wonder, how could someone who has had that experience walking and being with Jesus, seeing massive display of miracles, even performing some, hearing Him preach, being taught by Him, nurtured by Him, discipled by Him day in and day out, preaching yourself, seeing the impact, negative and positive, how could one continue to have little faith? But they did. And here we are in the last few months before the cross and their response to what Jesus just says is, “Lord, increase our faith.” They’re saying, “This is a huge leap, this is completely contrary to what we’ve always been taught. This is completely contrary to natural impulses.”

Living with this kind of care, never to teach anything that is in error, but always to rightly represent the truth so no one is harmed or hindered in their spiritual progress because they’ve been taught something that isn’t right, to live your life in such a godly fashion that you never cause another person to see anything in your life that leads them down a path of disobedience, sets a bad example. Who can live like that? That is such a demanding standard. And then, to be so merciful and so gracious along with being so committed to holiness that you confront sinners and no matter what they might have done to you repeatedly, you just continually to try to restore and restore and restore and restore and you’re just magnanimously forgiving them all the time. This is contrary to the normal and this is contrary to the religious patterns that we’ve been taught. They’re just essentially saying, “I don’t think we’re up to this. Lord, You’re going to have give us more than we’ve got to live like that.”

And this, I tell you, folks, is where the humble live. The humble live with a sense of their own inadequacy. This marks true saints

They’re feeling the weight of this kind of spiritual responsibility and they’re honest about their weakness.  And so they say, “increase,” imperative aorist from prostithēmi, meaning add to, supplement, develop, grow.  They’re not denying that they have faith, they just don’t know if they’re ever going to be adequate for this

Jesus replied with a favourite analogy of His, the mustard seed, the tiniest in Israel out of which huge bushes grew. He said that, with faith the size of a mustard seed, they could tell the mulberry tree in front of them to uproot itself and plant itself in the sea and the tree would do it (verse 6).

Mulberry trees were exceedingly old, as MacArthur explains, by way of the mustard bush:

A couple of times He said this, only there was a mountain nearby so He used the mountain as an illustration. Here He’s standing by a mulberry tree so He uses it. “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” You’re right. You do need a stronger faith. He affirms it. It’s a good question, it’s the right question, and it’s absolutely true. If you just had a small amount of faith, you would have enough faith to have a powerful life.

Now let’s talk a little agronomy for a minute here, agriculture. Look at the mustard seed. Mustard has been around a long time … It’s an herb and it’s been used in the ancient Middle East for centuries, millennia.  There were a number of seeds that were used sort of semi-domestically that grew plants for food that the families ate.  And of those seeds, the smallest one, not the smallest seed in the world, but the smallest of those common seeds in the land of Israel used for food was the mustard seed.  And so in Matthew 13:31 Jesus refers to it as the smallest, smaller than any other of the seeds that were used in the gardens of the people of Israel.  And the thing that made it so interesting was as small as it was, as tiny as it was, it grew disproportionately.

And a typical mustard bush or tree could be twelve to fifteen feet in height and in width as well. And that’s a lot coming from a tiny, tiny little seed. And so Jesus is simply saying this: If you just had mustard-seed kind of faith… What does that mean? Growing faith. If you just had the kind of faith that grows and expands and develops, you could … do amazing things. And He’s still talking in a sort of agricultural fashion, so He says, “You could…you could say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea.” The rabbis…some of the rabbis used to say that the mulberry tree had roots that would survive for 600 years. And so to uproot a mulberry tree would be a significant thing to do. And then to have it move across the sky and plant itself in the middle of the sea would be even more significant. That would be absolutely supernatural

He’s talking in analogies.  They all understood that.  They knew He wasn’t talking about moving trees around.  The point of our Lord’s lesson is simply this: You have, if you will trust Me and trust My strength, the power to do what is supernatural what you cannot do humanly.  That’s what He’s saying.  By the way, the mulberry tree is probably…It’s in the Greek it’s sukaminos, some call it a sycamine tree just transliterating that.  It’s not a sycamore tree, that’s a different kind of tree.  This tree occurs also in 2 Samuel 5 and 1 Chronicles 14. It’s a part of the willow tree family, or a cottonwood tree.  You know what that is?  A kind of tree that grows in a semi-arid area.  And they used to say silkworms lived in these kinds of trees.  They grew all over the place in the Jordan Valley. So they knew about these trees and they knew the character of them. That one happened to be sitting right there so Jesus says, “If you had enough faith you could move this mulberry tree to the middle of the ocean.”  He’s saying in a manner of speaking a small growing faith, a small expanding faith can do unimaginable things.  Why?  Because as you entrust yourself to the power of God, He does His work through you.  The Lord is not saying do pointless things. He’s not saying do crowd-pleasing tricks.  He is saying you don’t think you can live a godly life, you don’t think you can always speak the truth correctly.  You don’t think you can set a pure example so no one stumbles.  You’re not sure you can live such a magnanimous, generous, merciful, forgiving life.  You’re not sure you can do that and I’m telling you, if you will continue to trust Me, My power through you will accomplish all of that.  That’s what He’s saying.

This increase in faith comes through the Holy Spirit, which is why Jesus sent the third Person of the Trinity to His disciples at the first Pentecost. The Spirit enables God’s work to be done on earth:

when Jesus went to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit, the Day of Pentecost, the explosion began and we have not done greater works, you couldn’t do greater works than the greatest work Jesus does and the greatest work Jesus does is raise the spiritually dead, right? The greatest work is the work of regeneration, the work of salvation, the work of conversion, transformation, the new birth that’s discussed in John 3. That’s the great work of Jesus, that’s what He came to do, to seek and to save that which was lost, to bring salvation. That work is the greatest work that He did. We can’t do a greater work but we are used by God to do it at a greater extent. The limits are off and we have been used along with all the generations prior to this generation to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and to go to those places and to teach the truth and to live the truth and to live a gracious and forgiving life, to do all the things that seem impossible. We do them because when Jesus went back to heaven, it says if you follow the text, “I will ask the Father, He’ll give you another helper that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth.” Jesus goes back, He sends the Spirit, the Spirit comes and we are now empowered as we entrust our lives to the power of God and the indwelling Spirit. We can do everything that He asks. And that’s what it says in John 14, “Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” “In My name” means consistent with who I am, consistent with My will.

Then Jesus began a lesson on humility by discussing the duties of doulos, or bondservants.

None of the Apostles had bondservants, or slaves, but they understood their role in a master’s household.

Jesus asked the Twelve who among them would request that a bondservant, after finishing his morning and early afternoon duties of plowing the field or tending sheep, take his place at the table (verse 7).

He went on to say that the usual reflex would be to expect the servant, or slave, to prepare and serve his master’s meal before taking his own repast (verse 8).

Some today will find this offensive, but MacArthur explains that a bondservant had more privileges and personal security than a day labourer:

… doulos, a bond slave, which meant he was basically attached to the owner, lived in his house, was cared for, provided for, not a bad thing. It was a wonderful thing when it was handled well, it was a good thing.  It’s a perfect illustration of the relationship between a believer and God, between a believer and Christ and therefore in itself is a pure and wonderful kind of relationship on a spiritual level, and it can be good on a human level as well.  This was just the way that employment was handled. And it was better than being a day laborer because a day laborer had to hope somebody would show up and hire him every day and go back to the marketplace standing there hoping that that would happen.  But a doulos was bound to a master and cared for, kept in the home like a family member and did his work there

Now this is the picture of a small farm, probably a one-servant household, could be more but perhaps.  This is a guy who sort of does everything.  He has to take care of the sheep.  He has to take care of the field and then his job is also to prepare a meal.  Now which of you are going to say to him when he comes in from the field, ‘Wow, you’ve done so well, sit down and take a load off your feet and let me serve you?’ You’re not going to do that anymore than your boss is going to come to you after you’ve worked for five hours and say, “You know, you’ve done so well in five hours, take a break for three hours.  Go home.”  Wait a minute, don’t I have no more value than that?  I’m…I’m supposed to do what I’m supposed to do because you’re paying me for an eight-hour day, right?

Well, this is the way this whole system worked then as well.  He had a job.  He understood exactly what that job required.  And he understood that it was not asking more of him than was expected for him to do what was required by the job.  And what was required by the job was you work a long day and you take care of the field and you take care of the sheep and you come in and you give what… This particular meal is about three o’clock in the afternoon, it’s not the eight o’clock meal, it’s not the last meal of the day, it’s the mid-afternoon meal and the work is not done until that meal is given to the master.  So everybody knows the answer.  Which of you is going to say to him, come immediately and sit down to eat?  Nobody… Nobody, because a servant needs to do his duty.

So … verse 8 He says, “Will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat?’” That’s part of your responsibility. And properly clothe yourself and serve me.  Don’t come in here with…smelling like sheep and dirt.  “Go clean up and get me something to eat,” while the master’s caring for whatever he’s caring for.  “And I’ll eat and drink and then your day is over and afterward, you eat and you drink.” 

Henry says that Jesus is telling us to serve God first by serving Christ, then attend to our own needs:

1. We are all God’s servants (his apostles and ministers are in a special manner so), and, as servants, are bound to do all we can for his honour. Our whole strength and our whole time are to be employed for him; for we are not our own, nor at our own disposal, but at our Master’s. 2. As God’s servants, it becomes us to fill up our time with duty, and we have a variety of work appointed us to do; we ought to make the end of one service the beginning of another. The servant that has been ploughing, or feeding cattle, in the field, when he comes home at night has work to do still; he must wait at table, v. 7, 8. When we have been employed in the duties of a religious conversation, that will not excuse us from the exercises of devotion; when we have been working for God, still we must be waiting on God, waiting on him continually. 3. Our principal care here must be to do the duty of our relation, and leave it to our Master to give us the comfort of it, when and how he thinks fit. No servant expects that his master should say to him, Go and sit down to meat; it is time enough to do that when we have done our day’s work. Let us be in care to finish our work, and to do that well, and then the reward will come in due time. 4. It is fit that Christ should be served before us: Make ready wherewith I may sup, and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink. Doubting Christians say that they cannot give to Christ the glory of his love as they should, because they have not yet obtained the comfort of it; but this is wrong. First let Christ have the glory of it, let us attend him with our praises, and then we shall eat and drink in the comfort of that love, and in this there is a feast. 5. Christ’s servants, when they are to wait upon him, must gird themselves, must free themselves from every thing that is entangling and encumbering, and fit themselves with a close application of mind to go on, and go through, with their work; they must gird up the loins of their mind. When we have prepared for Christ’s entertainment, have made ready wherewith he may sup, we must then gird ourselves, to attend him.

Christ followed this example Himself in perfect obedience to His Father, unto death on the Cross then the Resurrection. He did not shirk his duty. Nor should we shirk out duty to God as His servants:

This is expected from servants, and Christ might require it from us, but he does not insist upon it. He was among his disciples as one that served, and came not, as other masters, to take state, and to be ministered unto, but to minister; witness his washing his disciples’ feet.

Jesus asked if the master would thank the slave for doing what was commanded of him (verse 9).

MacArthur says that everyone knew the answer to that question:

Verse 9, “He doesn’t thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?”  That’s just an interesting thing, isn’t it?  They’re all rhetorical questions that don’t need an answer because everybody knows the answer.  Nobody is going to tell the guy that he doesn’t have to finish the day’s work.  They all understand that he is going to say, “Feed me and then come and eat.”  They all understand that he’s not going to thank … That’s the word charon, charis, “grace.”  He’s not going to favor this guy especially because he hasn’t done anything special.  He’s not a volunteer, he’s an employee and he’s done what he’s paid to do.

This is difficult to understand in the 21st century, in an era when we all seek validation just for breathing. Fortunately, MacArthur cites an expert on Middle Eastern life who puts it all into perspective for us:

Kenneth Bailey who has done so much great work in studying the life in the villages of the ancient Middle East and even modern Middle East, writes this, “In a technological age with a 40-hour week, powerful labor unions and time and a half for overtime, the world of this parable seems not only distant but unfair. After a long, hard day in the field such a servant surely has earned the right to a little appreciation, some comforts and a few rewards. But Jesus is building on a well-known and widely accepted pattern of behavior in the Middle East. The master-servant relationship and its ancient and modern expression implies acceptance of authority and obedience to that authority and it’s a matter of honor. Yet the outsider needs to be sensitive to the security that this classical relationship provides for the servant and the sense of worth and meaning that is deeply felt on the part of a servant who serves a great man. These qualities of meaning, worth, security and relationship are often tragically missing from the life of the modern industrial worker with his 40-hour week. The servant offers loyalty, obedience, a great deal of hard work, but with an authentic Middle Eastern nobleman, the benefits mentioned above are enormous.” And as I said, this is the mid-afternoon lunch and so the work day is not really over.

Bailey goes on, “Certainly no one in any Middle Eastern audience could imagine any servant expecting special honor after fulfilling his duty. The master is not indebted to him for having plowed the field or guarded the sheep. We’re not even dealing with harsh hours imposed by an unfeeling master, but rather the normal expectation of a relatively short day’s chores.”

Jesus pressed home the idea of humility by telling the Twelve that they should say after a day of serving God that they are but worthless slaves doing only what they should have done (verse 10).

We need to remember that we can do nothing better than God can Himself. We are fallen men and women.

MacArthur interprets verse 10 as follows, pointing out that our reward for faithful service comes in the next life, not in this one:

Don’t pat yourself on the back and think that God’s really impressed and that He owes you some special favor. You’ll get your reward in heaven. We’re not talking about doing something to please men here. We’re talking about assuming that somehow God is in your debt. You don’t thank the servant for doing what he’s supposed to do. And when you and I have done everything we’re supposed to do, we’re not worthy of some special merit, as if God is now indebted to us. This is all about grace. And the fact of the matter is, no matter what we’ve done, no matter how well we’ve done it, we have never been able to do what God is worthy of. So we are unworthy servants, right?

This is all about humility. Humble people reject honor. They know they’re not in God’s debt. They know they’re still living under grace. You are justified by grace, you’re being sanctified by grace, you’ll be glorified by grace and you’ll be rewarded in heaven forever by grace. Never do we merit anything God gives us. And the flip on this is in the…as we noted earlier in the gospel of Luke…you remember when Jesus brings us into His banquet and our labors are done, He sits us down and He serves us. That’s totally against the grain of their expectation. But that’s going to happen in heaven. That’s in our heavenly reward. As long as we’re here in this life, we can never do what God deserves. And it is a wonder of wonders, as Paul says again in 1 Timothy 1, that God has chosen to use me who am the chief of sinners. The humble never forget that reality.

This brings us back to the proud Pharisees:

And so, Jesus is calling for a kind of life that is just so far away from the Pharisaic example. And we are called to this life today. Humble, so as to always submit to Scripture in doctrine and practice, never then to lead anyone into error or sin. Humble so as to always forgive those who sin against us no matter how many times. Humble so as to be aware always of our own weakness and have a growing dependency on the power of God. Humble so as always to recognize that even our best service falls far short and we are unworthy servants who have only done what we have ought to have done and hardly even that, ascribing all God’s gifts then to grace.

Humble yourself like this and you will manifestly demonstrate that you are a true child of God and one day God will exalt you and the Lord will seat you at His table and serve you.

This is a tough lesson for many of us. We enjoy the accolades of fellow men and women. We like to think that God is inordinately pleased with our efforts.

However, we are His servants, and we are imperfect. We can never match His holiness, His mercy, His love or merit His grace based on our own innate fallen nature.

Henry closes with this:

God cannot be a gainer by our services, and therefore cannot be made a debtor by them. He has no need of us, nor can our services make any addition to his perfections. It becomes us therefore to call ourselves unprofitable servants, but to call his service a profitable service, for God is happy without us, but we are undone without him.

Therefore, let us give thanks for His grace, mercy and forgiveness.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity is on September 25, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 16:19-31

16:19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

16:20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,

16:21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.

16:22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

16:23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.

16:24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’

16:25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.

16:26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

16:27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house–

16:28 for I have five brothers–that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’

16:29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

16:30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

16:31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 9 through Luke 19 is all about our Lord’s teachings in the final six months of His ministry.

We are in the latter part of those lessons.

Today’s post is another long one. It explores why people go to hell and the nature of hell.

Before exploring this parable in detail, please note that this Sunday’s readings, perhaps apart from the one from Jeremiah, all tie together in denouncing the love of riches and luxury.

Today’s parable was our Lord’s warning to the Pharisees about self-righteousness and the need for repentance.

John MacArthur says:

Hell is full of surprised people.  That’s really what this story is about — a man who was shocked to find himself in hell Equally shocking to those who listen to the story was the idea that the other man was in heaven.  This was contrary to all of their expectations.

MacArthur explains about the ancient Jewish tradition of believing in a type of prosperity religion. The Pharisees also subscribed to it. In short, the faithful were blessed with wealth while the poor and infirm were cursed:

This story is about a rich man.  He’s the main character.  He’s a religious man.  He would be understood in the context of this story, as Jesus is telling it, to be a man who had been blessed by God.  They had their own sort of prosperity religion in those days, and…and they saw the poor people as cursed and the rich people as blessed.  That’s the view of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Israel.  So this is a man who has been singularly blessed by God.  He is a man who lives life to the max, who enjoys the best that life can bring limitlessly, who surely expects to go to heaven but ends up in hell.  And then there is that other man, that despicable, poor man, who, by very evidence of his life is being cursed by God, who ends up when he dies in heaven.  That’s why you could call this story “The Great Reversal.”

And just exactly to whom is this story directed?  Well, it is directed, first of all, at the moment, at the time to the Pharisees again, verse 14“The Pharisees who were lovers of money were listening to all these things, and He said to them.”  This section is a section of Jesus speaking to the Pharisees; 17:1, he turns to speak to His disciples.  So for the moment, this story is directed at the Pharisees, as have been a number of our Lord’s stories, including the amazing three stories He told in the 15th chapter about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the tale of two sons In fact, the Pharisees are the ones who have declared their loyalty to the law and the prophets, referred to in verse 16.  They had declared their adherence to and obedience to Moses and the prophets.  They were the religious leaders of Israel.  They were the ones who considered themselves blessed and, according to verse 14, they were lovers of money.  They had a convenient theology that accommodated their wealth prosperity view.  The more money you had, the more you were blessed by God.  Loving money, pursuing money, is like loving God and pursuing blessing.  That was their view.  The truth is, verse 15, “They were detestable in the sight of God,” because they did, in fact, love money and did not, in fact, obey Moses and the prophets.

So the story is directed at the Pharisees.  Their hero in the story is the rich man. He’s the symbol of a God-blessed life in Israel.  On the other hand, they would treat the poor man the same way the rich man did, for they were famous for disdaining outcasts And, by the way, the Pharisees also believed in life after death.  The Pharisees believed in judgment, and the Pharisees believed in heaven, and the Pharisees believed in hell.  And none of them expected that they would end up in hell

And so Jesus is really giving them another jolt.  He’s giving another shock to them in this story.  It is directed at those people who are false religionists.  But you have to understand that this kind of jolt and this kind of shock to their system and the system of anybody who comfortably thinks he or she is going to heaven because they are religious, when, in fact, they’re going to hell, is not an outrageous act.  It is, on the other hand, a very compassionate and a very merciful act.  Warning people of reality is the…the most compassionate, loving, gracious, kind thing that you can do.  Warning self-righteous, religious people that they’re going to end up unintentionally in hell is the most important thing we can do. And that’s exactly what Jesus did.  Hell is full of people who went there unintentionally, from their perspective.  The rich man no more expected to find himself in eternal torment than the Pharisees did when they arrived there.  They were among those who gained the world and lost their soul.

MacArthur discusses how Jesus constructed this story:

You have a poor man and a rich man.  The poor man then becomes rich; and the rich man becomes poor; and the poor man becomes richer than the rich man ever was; and the rich man becomes poorer than the poor man ever was.  You have a poor man on the outside of the house, and you have a rich man on the inside.  Then comes death, and you have a poor man on the inside and a rich man on the outside.  You have a poor man with no food, and a rich man with all the food he can possibly need; and then you have a poor man at the great heavenly banquet, and a rich man with absolutely nothing.  You have a poor man with needs and a rich man with no needs; and then you have a poor man with no needs, and a rich man with needs.  You have a poor man who desires everything.  You have a rich man who desires nothing. And then you have a rich man who will never have his desires fulfilled, and a poor man who has all his desires fulfilled.

You have a poor man who suffers and a rich man who is satisfied; and then you have a rich man who suffers, and a poor man who’s satisfied.  You have a poor man who’s tormented, and a rich man who’s happy; and then you have a poor man who’s happy, and a rich man who’s tormented.  You have a poor man who is humiliated, a rich man who’s honored.  Then you have a rich man who is humiliated, and a poor man who is honored.  You have a poor man who wants a crumb, a rich man who feasts; and then you have a poor man who’s at a feast, and a rich man who wants a drop of water.  You have a poor man who seeks help, a rich man who gives none.  Then you have a rich man who seeks help, and a poor man who gives none.  Then you have a poor man who is a nobody, a rich man who is well-known; and then you have a poor man who has a name, and a rich man who has none.  You have a poor man who has no dignity in death, not even a burial.  You have a rich man who has dignity in death.  Then you have a poor man who has dignity after death, and a rich man who has no dignity after death, not even a name.  You have a poor man with no hope, and a rich man with all hope.  Then you have a rich man with no hope, and a poor man who has hope realized.

Jesus began His parable by introducing the rich man as being someone who dressed in purple and fine linen and who dined sumptuously every day (verse 19).

Before I go further, this story is often referred to as ‘Dives and Lazarus’. ‘Dives’ is Latin for ‘rich’. It is not a name, only an adjective.

Matthew Henry points out that it is not a sin to have riches, but it is when those riches consume one’s life:

It is no sin to be rich, no sin to wear purple and fine linen, nor to keep a plentiful table, if a man’s estate will afford it. Not are we told that he got his estate by fraud, oppression, or extortion, no, nor that he was drunk, or made others drunk; but, [1.] Christ would hereby show that a man may have a great deal of the wealth, and pomp, and pleasure of this world, and yet lie and perish for ever under God’s wrath and curse. We cannot infer from men’s living great either that God loves them in giving them so much, or that they love God for giving them so much; happiness consists not in these things. [2.] That plenty and pleasure are a very dangerous and to many a fatal temptation to luxury, and sensuality, and forgetfulness of God and another world. This man might have been happy if he had not had great possessions and enjoyments. [3.] That the indulgence of the body, and the ease and pleasure of that, are the ruin of many a soul, and the interests of it. It is true, eating good meat and wearing good clothes are lawful; but it is true that they often become the food and fuel of pride and luxury, and so turn into sin to us. [4.] That feasting ourselves and our friends, and, at the same time, forgetting the distresses of the poor and afflicted, are very provoking to God and damning to the soul. The sin of this rich man was not so much his dress or his diet, but his providing only for himself.

MacArthur describes the man further:

“There was a rich man.”  How rich?  Extravagantly rich.  Luxuriously rich.  And by the way, again, I remind, he would be respected immediately He would be envied immediately, honored.  He would be viewed as blessed by God.  That’s why he was so rich.  In Israel, his business had been touched by God; and he would be a hero to the money-loving Pharisees.  So he would also be a man who would assume, and everybody would assume, that God had blessed his life; and…and that’s why he was as wealthy as he was.  So it wouldn’t be just the religious leaders who would think that.  Anybody would think that, even in general, even today, would look at him.  He’s a religious man.  He’s in Israel.  He’s a part of the society.  Look what God has done to bless his life.

How rich was he?  Well, “He habitually dressed in purple and fine linen.”  Imperfect tense, “habitually,” it means exactly that.  It is an imperfect verb that means this was his regular way of dressing.  He didn’t have a casual day, apparently. He just put it all on every day. And what did he wear?  It might not sound like a lot to us, but he dressed in purple and fine linen.  Now, let me tell you a little bit about this…this purple, first of all.  The outer garment that the people wore in those days if they were wealthy enough was made out of wool; and wool was, for the elite, fulled.  You’ve heard of fulled, F U L L E D, woolIt was placed into a basin, and then it was mingled with clay, and the process, a very time consuming, laborious, hands-on, manual labor to full that wool in clay, produced a kind of white that was almost blazing, brilliant, shining white.  Very expensive process done for the elite.  They had whiter clothes than everybody else, and it wasn’t because of their detergent.  It was because of this process the wool was put through.

And then if you wanted to really make it luxurious, you had it dyed with a Tyrian purple dye.  That’s from Tyre, which is on the north coast of Israel; and this dye came from a shellfish called a murex Obviously, you had to go get the shellfish, and then extract the dye, and it was the most expensive dye.  You remember Lydia in the book of Acts was a seller of this purple dye; and this dye was used to dye the robe purple, which was considered the highest degree of opulence This is the robe of royalty, the purple robe.

Underneath this robe was fine linen.  The normal tunic would be made of fine linen.  Probably a reference to the finest linen of the day, which is probably still the finest cotton in the day, and that’s Egyptian cotton Linen here referring to something made out of cotton.  Egyptian cotton was the most expensive and the best and the highest thread count, and you ladies know all about that So it signified…It signified that this is the finest clothing that somebody could wear, and he wore it every day.  He came out in splendor every day.

Not only was he dressed that way, but he was euphrain He was joyously living It means to be glad to enjoy oneself.  It is the verb used in Luke 12.  I think it’s verse 19, where it says, the…the man who built the bigger barn said, “Let’s eat, drink, and be merry.”  So he lived a merry life He lived a joyous life.  He lived to the max.  He was the party guy, and it was a very luxurious, opulent kind of party.  It is described as splendor.  Actually an adverb; he lived splendidly; and, again, all the language is over the top here; and he lived like that every day.  I mean, for him, every day would be like the feast that the father in Luke 15 gave to the prodigal who came back Every day would be a killing of a fatted calf kind of event.

Extreme riches, extreme self-indulgence, lavish lifestyle, ostentatious display; he’s got it all.  He is the definition of what it means to be filthy rich, which is a term devised by poor people.

At the rich man’s gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, who was covered with sores (verse 20).

Henry and MacArthur both say that, in Hebrew, Lazarus is Eleazar, which means, as Henry says:

the help of God, which they must fly to that are destitute of other helps. This poor man was reduced to the last extremity, as miserable, as to outward things, as you can lightly suppose a man to be in this world.

MacArthur says:

Lazarus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Elazar, or Eliazar.  It means “whom the Lord saved, whom the Lord helped.”  Very common name, by the way, in Israel, and a wonderful name for this man; because it tells us how he ended up in heaven.

Anyone familiar with Ohio might remember the Lazarus department stores, which eventually merged with Macy’s. As a child, I had trouble reconciling department stores with the men named Lazarus in the New Testament. It was only later that I found out Lazarus was the family name of the brothers who founded the department store chain.

This brings me to another point. Both men named Lazarus in the New Testament are canonised saints. This Lazarus is unique to Luke’s Gospel. The Lazarus here is not Mary and Martha’s brother from Bethany. The feast day of this Lazarus is June 21 and that of Lazarus of Bethany is December 17.

Henry describes Lazarus further:

(1.) His body was full of sores, like Job. To be sick and weak in body is a great affliction; but sores are more painful to the patient, and more loathsome to those about him.

(2.) He was forced to beg his bread, and to take up with such scraps as he could get at rich people’s doors. He was so sore and lame that he could not go himself, but was carried by some compassionate hand or other, and laid at the rich man’s gate. Note, Those that are not able to help the poor with their purses should help them with their pains; those that cannot lend them a penny should lend them a hand; those that have not themselves wherewithal to give to them should either bring them, or go for them, to those that have. Lazarus, in his distress, had nothing of his own to subsist on, no relation to go to, nor did the parish take care of him. It is an instance of the degeneracy of the Jewish church at this time that such a godly man as Lazarus was should be suffered to perish for want of necessary food.

MacArthur takes a less charitable view than Henry and says that Lazarus was practically tossed at the rich man’s gate:

… verse 20, “A certain poor man,” ptchos in the Greek, meaning extreme poverty Galatians 4:9, “beggarly, worthless,” could be translated pitiful Could be translated inferior.  It’s not just he had a little.  He had nothing.  Destitution.  This the absolute 180 extreme.  The man has nothing, and it says, he’s also laid his gate, the gate of the rich man, covered with sores, covered with sores.  This is to have ulcers, oozing, open lesions. This same word is used in the book of Revelation to describe the horrible judgment of God when the angel pours out the first bowl of wrath in the final judgment.  It becomes a loathsome and malignant sore, Revelation 16:2, on the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his image.  Verse 11: “They blaspheme the God of Heaven because of their pain and their sores.”  It is an ugly kind of sore.  Where did the sores come from?  We don’t really have a diagnosis of that, but I can give you a pretty good guess; because, if you go back to the verse, it says, “The poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate.”  That’s not a good translation.  That sounds like come…somebody came and just kind of delicately laid him down.  That is not a delicate word.  That’s the word ball.  It means to throw, throw or throw down.

What happens here is you’ve got a man who is thrown down at the gate to the rich man’s house, which indicates that he probably was paralyzed, couldn’t move.  The sores may well have come from the inability of the man to move, as people who can’t move in a bed or can’t move in a wheelchair develop sores at all points of pressure.

Jesus said that Lazarus wanted only what fell from the rich man’s table — crumbs — yet only the dogs came to lick his sores (verse 21).

Henry points out how patient Lazarus was and how cold-hearted well-fed people are towards hunger:

He desired to be fed with the crumbs, v. 21. He did not look for a mess from off his table, though he ought to have had one, one of the best; but would be thankful for the crumbs from under the table, the broken meat which was the rich man’s leavings; nay, the leavings of his dogs. The poor use entreaties, and must be content with such as they can get. Now this is taken notice of to show, First, What was the distress, and what the disposition, of the poor man. He was poor, but he was poor in spirit, contentedly poor. He did not lie at the rich man’s gate complaining, and bawling, and making a noise, but silently and modestly desiring to be fed with the crumbs. This miserable man was a good man, and in favour with God. Note, It is often the lot of some of the dearest of God’s saints and servants to be greatly afflicted in this world, while wicked people prosper, and have abundance; see Ps 73 7, 10, 14. Here is a child of wrath and an heir of hell sitting in the house, faring sumptuously; and a child of love and an heir of heaven lying at the gate, perishing for hunger. And is men’s spiritual state to be judged of then by their outward condition? Secondly, What was the temper of the rich man towards him. We are not told that he abused him, or forbade him his gate, or did him any harm, but it is intimated that he slighted him; he had no concern for him, took no care about him. Here was a real object of charity, and a very moving one, which spoke for itself; it was presented to him at his own gate. The poor man had a good character and good conduct, and every thing that could recommend him. A little thing would be a great kindness to him, and yet he took no cognizance of his case, did not order him to be taken in and lodged in the barn, or some of the out-buildings, but let him lie there. Note, It is not enough not to oppress and trample upon the poor; we shall be found unfaithful stewards of our Lord’s goods, in the great day, if we do not succour and relieve them. The reason given for the most fearful doom is, I was hungry, and you gave me no meat. I wonder how those rich people who have read the gospel of Christ, and way that they believe it, can be so unconcerned as they often are in the necessities and miseries of the poor and afflicted.

MacArthur explains how a goodly portion of bread ended up on the floor after a meal in that era:

Jaconias Jeremias writes…and he tells us about this. . .a very gifted historian, done a lot of great work around that time of the year…he says…that time of human history: “Guests at a meal used pieces of bread to clean their hands.”  Now, let me tell you what the…how the picture works.  In those days, you might have a little fruit and a little vegetable or whatever, but they ate with their hands.  There weren’t any knives and forks and all that.  So you basically ate with your hands as…as most of the world has done for most of its history; and, typically, you took bread — bread being a staple — and you dipped it in some kind of stew or thick soup or whatever; and you ate that way.  You ate the bread, like at the Last Supper, dipped in a sop, remember?

OK?  So that’s what you did.  Well, I mean it’s a little messy; and they didn’t have paper napkins; and I guess they could’ve used cloth if they had to; but they had a really good method for cleaning up the mess on their hands.  They used the bread that was a little more stale.  Now, there would be some bread on the table that was to be dipped.  Then there would be other bread that was to then be used to mop up your…your hands.  Now, the bread had the capability of absorbing the sop, and you ate it that way; and it also the capability of absorbing what was dripping all over your hands; and so they would use the bread to clean their hands and then throw it under the table.

The dogs who licked the poor man’s sores were not pets of the rich man. They were the scavengers — wild dogs — that roamed the streets then.

MacArthur says:

These dogs are always presented in the Bible as scavengers, mongrels, sort of semi-wild, not domesticated, ugly.  Was just the way it was in the world at that time.  They roamed the cities.  They roamed the periphery of the cities eating the garbage, and they came in, and in these open courtyards where meals would be held, they would clean up the bread that had been thrown there. And so the rich man has this big feast.  The people are eating, taking the bread they needed to, cleaning, throwing it under there.  The dogs were coming and eating it; and the poor man would’ve given anything if he could have moved himself under the table with the dogs, to get some of that dirty bread.  That’s how desperate this man was.

Dogs are always pictured as dirty.  Second Peter 2:22 says, “The dogs lick up their own vomit.” He wanted to get down there with the dogs and eat the dirty bread.  It reminds me of another man in the 15th chapter, the prodigal who wound up eating with what?  Pigs.  Such a humiliated situation.  So destitute.  He’s road kill, really.  He’s being treated as if he’s dead by the rich man. That’s how the Pharisees would treat him, too.

Then, one day, the poor man died and angels carried him off to rest with Abraham; the rich man also died and was buried (verse 22).

Note how Jesus framed that sentence. The poor man was lifted up to glory with Abraham, by angels, no less. The rich man ended up in the ground.

MacArthur says the Pharisees would have found that shocking:

The poor man died; and, immediately, he’s carried away by angels. That’s stunning. That is shocking. That is unthinkable; and then he is taken by the angels to the side of Abraham. The angels take his body from the licking mongrels and they take him and place him beside Abraham. First of all, the fact that angels are doing this is a jolt to the Pharisees who are hearing the story, because they view this man as cursed by God

So the shock is this man is in heaven. The next shock is he’s not just in heaven, he’s taken by the angels to heaven. The next shock is he’s not just taken by the angels to heaven, but he’s not on the periphery. He’s not at the back of the room or the back of the crowd looking over everybody’s head and between their heads to see who’s sitting up at the main table. He’s sitting next to Abraham. Wow. This is just way out there. A…a broadside on their theological assumptions.

Henry reminds us that death comes for the rich and the poor alike. Some rich people believe they are invincible.

This is why our late Queen nurtured her personal faith so carefully and why she took the time to evangelise in her Christmas messages — and, most importantly, in her two televised funeral services, seen by four million people around the globe just this past Monday, September 19, 2022:

Death is the common lot of rich and poor, godly and ungodly; there they meet together. One dieth in his full strength, and another in the bitterness of his soul; but they shall lie down alike in the dust, Job 21 26. Death favours not either the rich man for his riches or the poor man for his poverty. Saints die, that they may bring their sorrows to an end, and may enter upon their joys. Sinners die, that they may go to give up their account. It concerns both rich and poor to prepare for death, for it waits for them both. Mors sceptra ligonibus æquat—Death blends the sceptre with the spade.

———æquo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas, Regumque turres. With equal pace, impartial fate Knocks at the palace, as the cottage gate.

Jesus purposely took some liberties with this parable as He said that, while being tormented, the rich man saw Abraham from a distance with Lazarus by his side (verse 23). That would not happen in reality.

MacArthur tells us:

Nobody in hell could see into heaven, because nobody in hell would ever know the heavenly experience. Nobody in hell is omniscient, so they wouldn’t be able to see in heaven, look around till they found Abraham. They wouldn’t know who Abraham was. Nobody in hell can have a conversation with somebody in heaven; but for the sake of the story, to make a point, because it does reveal the essence of the suffering in hell

MacArthur says we can be sure the man is in hell, as his translation uses the term Hades:

in the New Testament, Hades clearly refers to hell, with only one exception, and that is Acts chapter 2 verses 27 and 31, which is a quote from Psalm 16; and there it has a vague meaning of just the grave; but that’s because it’s quoting an Old Testament passage. Every other usage of the word Hades in the New Testament refers to the abode of the damned. It is never, in the New Testament, the abode of the redeemed, of believers. And so it is synonymous then with hell.

Some might ask about Gehenna.

MacArthur says:

Gehenna is a word referring to the Valley of Hinnom, the city dump that was burning all the time.  It became a metaphor for hell — the never, ever extinguished fire.  The fiery hell of Matthew 5:22 that Jesus spoke about.  The hell of Matthew 5:29 and Matthew 5:30, and there are many other references to it. 

The rich man called out, ‘Father Abraham’, a reference that would not have been lost on the Pharisees, and he asked him to send Lazarus with a fingertip of water to cool his tongue, for he was in agony in the flames (verse 24).

MacArthur tells us something vital about hell:

One thing about hell, you get a fully active conscience. I’m not going to develop all that. You get a fully active conscience, so that the true wretchedness of who you are is completely dominant in your thinking. All that illusion about how good you are, all those illusions about your self-worth and…and your basic, innate goodness gone. There is a full realization of the sinner’s wretchedness in hell. A fully informed, acutely aware and sensitive conscience becomes the tormenter. He doesn’t say, “How did I end up here?” That question’s never asked in hell. He doesn’t say, “Did I really deserve this?” He doesn’t say, “Don’t you think this is a little extreme?” He doesn’t say any of that.

Note that the man still thought so little of Lazarus, as if he were the lowliest servant:

he looks in his own mind at the person he would consider to be the most wretched person who ever got into heaven, and he picks him, and it’s Lazarus. That’ll tell you that hell didn’t remediate him. He viewed Lazarus exactly the way he always did; and he also thought somebody that lowly ought to serve him. He never got heaven’s assessment of Lazarus, because people in hell don’t have heaven’s assessment of anything

He’s tortured.  The metaphor is thirst and water, but the point is relief.  He wouldn’t give Lazarus a crumb, but he wants Lazarus to give him a drip.  “Dip your finger in water, drip it on my tongue.”  Minimal.  Any tiny, small bit of relief dripping off the end of Lazarus’ finger.  He’s not asking for a barrel, not asking for a bucket.  He’s not asking for the heavenly pipeline to be extended to hell, so there’s a constant flow.  The souls of the damned know they’re doomed to suffer.  They know they are suffering justly.  All they ask for in the lips of this man are small moments of relief in this eternal, unending horror.  “I am in agony,” odunaō, to be in great pain.  “I am in great pain.”  Real water’s not going to sooth the eternally tortured soul.  That’s not the point.  The message is the desperation for just the smallest moment of relief.  This is consistent with the image of hell.

You read the New Testament, you read even the Old Testament, Isaiah 66:24 talks about the fires of hell.  You go through the New Testament … The gospels and the writers of the New Testament describe hell as a fiery place, and its fire is the fire of torture and tormentIt’s also described as darkness, outer darkness, like being lost in the most infinite corner of space under horrible torture and pain, a place of weeping, wailing, teeth-grinding agony.

… A fire that burns forever, but never purifies. A fire that burns forever in an everlasting darkness that only punishes.

Abraham replied, addressing him as ‘Child’ — some translations say ‘Son’ — and not in a good way. This is the way a parent addresses a poorly behaved child or a law enforcement officer addresses a criminal.

Abraham reminded the rich man that he received his reward with good things on earth, whereas Lazarus received evil things. In the afterlife, Lazarus was in comfort and the rich man in agony (verse 25).

Henry says that Abraham represents Christ in this parable:

Abraham in this description represents Christ, for to him all judgment is committed, and it is his mind that Abraham here speaks. Those that now slight Christ will shortly make their court to him, Lord, Lord …

He puts him in mind of what had been both his own condition and the condition of Lazarus, in their life-time: Son, remember; this is a cutting word. The memories of damned souls will be their tormentors, and conscience will then be awakened and stirred up to do its office, which here they would not suffer it to do. Nothing will bring more oil to the flames of hell than Son, remember.

Abraham went on to say that a great chasm has been fixed between heaven and hell and that no one in one place can reach the other (verse 26).

Still considering Lazarus to be the lowest of the low, the rich man asked Abraham to send him to his father’s house (verse 27), to his five brothers to warn them so that they do not end up in the same place of torment (verse 28).

Abraham denied that request, too, telling him that his brothers have Moses and the prophets: ‘they should listen to them’ (verse 29).

MacArthur gives us a brief set of Old Testament verses to illustrate that point:

Psalm 3:8, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”  Isaiah 43:3, “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  God says, “I am your Savior.  I am your only Savior.”  “Truly,” says Isaiah 45:15, “Truly Thou art a God who hides Himself.  Oh God of Israel, Savior.  Israel has been saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation.”  God is the Savior.  “Turn to Me.  Turn to Me,” verse 22, “all ends of the earth and be saved.  I am God, and there is no other.  There is no other God besides Me, a righteous God, and a Savior.”  There’s none except Me.  This is total abandonment to God who alone is the Savior; no one else, and you give up everything.

Listen to Isaiah 55:6“Seek the Lord while He may be found.  Call upon Him while He’s near.  Let the wicked forsake His way, the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” It’s about forsaking everything and embracing the God who is the Savior.

Now, in conclusion, does that sound any different than the New Testament?  It’s not one bit different.  All those components are components of New Testament salvation.  The only difference is we’ve seen the reality of the coming King and Sacrifice. If they believed Moses and the prophets, that would’ve been enough.

The rich man went on with a third request, asking for a sign sent to his brothers — someone from the dead — who will cause them to repent (verse 30).

That request is very much in line with those from the Pharisees. They saw miracles but wanted to kill Jesus. They wanted Him to perform a sign just for them. Our Lord did not grant it.

Abraham replied to the request in the negative, saying that if the five brothers do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced if someone rises from the dead (verse 31).

The man ended up in hell because he did not repent (verse 30).

MacArthur tells us how that man and his brothers could have found the way to repentance:

You must recognize your sinfulness, and the Old Testament commands that you repent. That is, you turn from your sin and turn toward God, realizing that God is gracious and offers grace to those who repent, that God is willing to forgive sin. He is a God of forgiveness by nature, who has no pleasure in the damnation of the wicked; and how do you appropriate that gift? Not by works, not by religious ceremony, but by faith. Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness; and that God will justify you. That is, He will declare you righteous, not because you are righteous; but He will credit His righteousness to you, the great doctrine of justification. Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. It was his faith, even though he was unrighteous, that God accepted; and then gave Abraham, credited to his account, God’s own righteousness.

In closing, MacArthur discusses the differing notions of hell between our society and in the Bible:

it is critical for us to understand the literal reality of hell, and to accept the warning of Scripture. Hell has really disappeared from the vocabulary of many preachers.  Hell is denied by many in favor of universal salvation or everlasting nonexistence called soul sleep where people die and just go out of existence forever.  That’s a popular view among those who call themselves Christians.  Hell is denied by many.  It is preached by few, because it makes people uncomfortable.  That is true.  Hell has been reduced to a swear word, used by unbelievers not believers.  It has been reduced to a trivial verbal epithet that we sling around when wanting to express our anger.  Unbelievers flippantly and frequently tell people to go to hell. And while unbelievers don’t seem to have any hesitation to talk about hell and to verbally threaten people with it, at the same time the church is reluctant to warn people not to go to hell, supposedly out of love and compassion and concern and a desire to be acceptable.

So while unbelievers have the word “hell” on their lips frequently, believers have it on theirs rarely; and that is certainly what Satan would want.  Trivialize and make nothing but an epithet out of hell, words that you sling around that have no meaning, and silence the church about the truth of it. But it is the fearfulness of hell; it is the horror of hell that is exactly the point of its revelation.  The purpose of telling us about hell and describing it with such detail and so repeatedly in the Scripture is to produce in sinners fear, terror, and panicThat’s what it’s for.  It’s to contribute to the way in which they anticipate their eternity.  It is to frighten them, to horrify them so as to produce a terror of spending forever there that drives them in the direction of repentance and faith in the gospel.

Now, the leading preacher of hell of all people, the leading preacher of hell ever is the Savior of sinners, the Lord Jesus ChristThe most references to hell are in the four gospels and they come out of His mouth.  It is Jesus who teaches us about hell.  Clearly, the epistles are the…the ground in which we will find the clearest foundation for our understanding of hell.  Not just there.  The writer of Hebrews refers to it.  The apostle Peter refers to it.  The apostle John refers to it.  The apostle Paul refers to it.  Even Jude refers to it.  All the writers of the New Testament pick up on the issue of hell.

This punishment is defined by the word aiōnios, which is the word eternal or everlasting; and there are people who would like to redefine that word aiōnios and say, “Well, it doesn’t really mean forever.”  But if you do that with hell, you’ve just done it with heaven, because the same word is used to describe that.  If there is not an everlasting hell, then there is not an everlasting heaven; and I’ll go one beyond that.  The same word is used to describe God. And so, if there is not an everlasting hell, then there is not an everlasting heaven, nor is there an everlasting God.

It is clear that God is eternal; and, therefore, that heaven is eternal, and so is hell.  This is what is on the heart of the Lord Jesus when He talks to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Israel, and tells them the story in Luke 16:19 to 31.  He makes it up as He did His parables.  He invents the story.  The only difference between this and any other parable is He has a name for one of the characters; and there’s a reason for that; but the story really has one purpose.  It is to warn of hell. It’s a story about a man who was surprised to end up in hell.

If you know someone who needs a discussion about hell, do not wait. It is essential in order for them to be saved. Teach them what Jesus says about hell. My prayers go with you in that effort.

Today’s post was supposed to be a comprehensive retrospective of what people around the world experienced this week in seeing Queen Elizabeth II being laid to rest.

However, I have information and reflections for more than one post.

Today’s will look at the religious aspects and history of Westminster and some Royal funeral traditions.

Westminster’s religious history

One thing I learned is that the area that is called Westminster, which we connect with the Abbey and the Palace (where the Houses of Parliament meet) was originally a monastery with a church on the site.

‘West’ refers to the location being to the west of where most people were settled long before the Norman Conquest in 1066.

The word ‘minster’ is the Anglicised version of the Latin ‘monasterii’, ‘monasterium’ and ‘monasteriensis’, dating back to 669.

My curiosity was piqued when I read the inscription of the four tall candlesticks immediately flanking the Queen’s catafalque. Unfortunately, I do not have the full wording, but ‘Westmonasterii’ and ‘Petri’ are on them, gold lettering on a red border, just underneath where the large, thick beeswax candles sit.

Then came the story of how the monastery became linked to St Peter, the fisherman who became a bold Apostle preaching Christ after the first Pentecost.

In 2017, Cambridge University Press published a paper by Bernhard W Scholz, Sulcard of Westminster: Prologus de construccione Westmonasterii.

An extract reads, in part (emphases mine):

Sulcard, a monk of Westminster in the eleventh century, is the author of the first history of his monastery, the unprinted Prologus de construccione Westmonasterii. In this brief tract he describes the foundation of Westminster in the days, as he claims, of King Æthelberht of Kent, and the patronage and endowment extended by various benefactors, notably Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury and King Edward the Confessor. Sulcard also records the marvellous dedication of Westminster by St. Peter, patron of the church, and two other miracles worked in Westminster by the prince of the apostles.

Of the original church, replaced by the structure we know today, the Wikipedia entry for Westminster Abbey states:

According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the seventh century at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present church began in 1245 on the orders of King Henry III.[5]

Here is where St Peter comes in. A tradition dedicated to him continues today:

A late tradition claims that Aldrich, a young fisherman on the River Thames, had a vision of Saint Peter near the site. This seems to have been quoted as the origin of the salmon that Thames fishermen offered to the abbey in later years, a custom still observed annually by the Fishmongers’ Company

Sulcard‘s entry reads:

The sole work which Sulcard is known to have produced is the so-called Prologus de Construccione Westmonasterii (“Prologue concerning the Building of Westminster”), dedicated to Abbot Vitalis of Bernay (c. 1076—?1085) and hence datable to about 1080.[2] It relates the history of the abbey, beginning in the time of Mellitus, bishop of London (604—17), with the foundation of its first church on what was then Thorney Island by a wealthy Londoner and his wife. It concludes with the dedication of a new church erected by King Edward the Confessor (r. 1042–1066) for the monastery. In the dedication to Vitalis, Sulcard writes that he intended his work to serve as a ‘commemorative book’ (codex memorialis) for his house. He was primarily interested in promoting the cult of St. Peter, the abbey’s patron saint, who is said to have miraculously appeared in the early 7th century to dedicate the church in person. Two copies of the history are extant, the earliest being a chartulary from Winchester (c. 1300), BL, Cotton MS Faustina A.iii, fols. 11r—16v. The other copy is in BL, Cotton MS Titus A.viii, fols. 2r–5v. The title is not contemporary, but derives from the heading in the former chartulary, to which it serves as a prologue.[3]

Apart from relating local traditions about St. Peter’s miraculous involvement, the narrative of Sulcard’s prologus is relatively free of embellishments.[1]

It does not appear that the monks had an easy time of it on Thorney Island:

Thorney Island was the eyot (or small island) on the Thames, upstream of medieval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (commonly known today as the Houses of Parliament) were built. It was formed by rivulets of the River Tyburn, which entered the Thames nearby. In Roman times, and presumably before, Thorney Island may have been part of a natural ford where Watling Street crossed the Thames,[1] of particular importance before the construction of London Bridge.

The name may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon Þorn-īeg, meaning “Thorn Island”. [2]

Thorney is described in a purported 8th century charter of King Offa of Mercia, which is kept in the Abbey muniments, as a “terrible place”. In the Spring of 893, Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, forced invading Vikings to take refuge on Thorney Island.[3] Despite hardships and more Viking raids over the following centuries, the monks tamed the island until by the time of Edward the Confessor it was “A delightful place, surrounded by fertile land and green fields”. The abbey’s College Garden survives, a thousand years later, and may be the oldest garden in England.[4]

Since the Middle Ages, the level of the land has risen, the rivulets have been built over, and the Thames has been embanked, so that there is now no visible Thorney Island. The name is kept only by Thorney Street, at the back of the MI5 Security Service building; but a local heritage organisation established by June Stubbs in 1976 took the name The Thorney Island Society.

In 1831 the boundaries of the former island were described as the Chelsea Waterworks, the Grosvenor Canal, and the ornamental water in St James’s Park.[5]

Thorney Island is one of the places reputed to be the site of King Canute’s demonstration that he could not command the tides, because he built a palace at Westminster.

In 2000, the politician John Roper was created a Life peer and revived the name of Thorney in Parliament by taking the title Baron Roper of Thorney Island in the City of Westminster.[6]

Royal traditions at Westminster Hall

The Daily Mail has an excellent article on Westminster Hall’s history from 1087 to the present, beginning with William the Conqueror’s son, William II, or William Rufus.

The Queen’s lying in rest was another historic milestone. By September 15, just four days before her funeral, someone described it as a:

piece of history that will never be repeated.

Before the public viewing started, Westminster Abbey’s clergy and the Archbishop of Canterbury conducted a 20-minute service, accompanied by the Abbey choir.

Although the Hall is unconsecrated ground, it nonetheless felt as if it were a church.

The hundreds of thousands of people who filed past over four days, until 6:30 a.m. on the morning of Monday, September 19, 2022, also respected it as such. The continuing silence was overwhelming in its beauty.

Although there are traditions relating to monarchs long ago, the Westminster Hall visitation is a relatively new one, as The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley tells us:

The modern lying-in-state was invented in 1910, for the funeral of Edward VII. No tickets were issued; rich and poor queued in torrential rain. As the doors opened at Westminster Hall, a work girl was heard to cry, “They’re givin’ ’im back to us!”

When the ceremony was repeated for George V in 1936, cynics sneered at its elitist “pomp”. The writer G K Chesterton advised them to open a history book. In aiming to modernise royalty by bringing George’s body closer to the people, he said, the court turned the clock back to the Middle Ages, to when kingship was more personal and tangible. The coffin of a medieval sovereign was generally topped with a waxwork effigy, so that even the lowliest subject could see what he looked like.

The body of a monarch was, in a sense, sacred, transformed by coronation into an instrument of God. But, like Doubting Thomas, we need to see to believe. Hence even as monarchy became more absolutist over time, better convinced of its divine rights, the principal actors still felt the need to put on a show.

France’s monarchy was even more open than ours. The public could watch Louis XIV and his family at Versailles:

Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, rose every morning, washed, shaved and dressed in front of an audience of around 100 people. Anyone could come to see him at Versailles; all you needed to get in w[ere] a hat and a sword, and the concierge did a nice sideline in selling both. Tourists could watch the royal family going to chapel, eating, even playing cards – you could say Versailles was the Center Parcs of its day, though reviews were scathing about the pickpocketing and the smell. The palace did not benefit from modern plumbing. People relieved themselves in the corridors. There’s a story that Marie Antoinette once stepped out for a walk and a woman in the window above emptied a chamberpot over her head.

Returning to Westminster Hall last week, Stanley says:

Let’s call it what it is: a pilgrimage. The body has been returned to the people; the people have come to see it, drawn by belief, by spectacle or raw instinct. When I entered Westminster Hall, I saw at once that it was a shrine, marked by candles and shrouded in silence. Phones were banned.

Alone at the coffin, some bowed, some curtsied, some crossed themselves. These ritual gestures, observed Chesterton back in 1936, are “not only more serious but more spontaneous” than the “ghastly mummery of saying a few words” … The poverty of the 21st-century imagination betrays the dead and the living. Tradition honours with awe, and it provides those left behind with the language and actions to articulate the inexpressible.

The person who willingly submits to the ritual of the lying-in-state, argued Chesterton, “may not be an exceptional person but at least he understands what is meant by an exceptional occasion.” By contrast, the bright spark who stands above it all forfeits the wisdom of the crowd, and by rejecting history, discards a part of themselves, too – so that they are ignorant even of their own identity. Worse, they are without hope. If you believe, as we are encouraged to believe today, that death is it, the funeral is a “goodbye” that can’t even be heard by the deceased. But if you believe, as the late Queen did, that there is a life after this one, then the rite is a demonstration of faith that things will continue.

To inhabit a tradition means not only to participate in it but to pass it on. Its survival is a tribute to the perseverance of life itself. We will be told that all we’ve seen is old hat; we’ll be told that even if it was grand, Queen Elizabeth was its last shout. Well, they’ve said that a million times before, and yet here we are lining the streets, or crowding around the television, bearing witness to an ancient institution that has the audacity to claim its origin from King Solomon.

Bemusement? It renders clarity. Despair? It offers hope.

I will return to faith in a moment.

Also writing for The Telegraph, Christopher Howse described the ‘sacred mysteries’ surrounding royal ceremonies:

The lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth, her coffin covered by the royal standard upon which rested the Imperial State Crown, made an argument hard to reduce to words. It argued for a constitutional monarchy and the ancient conventions surrounding it. Millions of people this week have quietly taken part in recognising that reality.

In religion, an old saw says: lex orandi lex credendi – the law of prayer is the law of belief. In other words, prayers and liturgy express implicit meanings behind them. Perform the rites and you learn what you believe.

Something similar operates in state ceremonial. I know that traditions are reinvented, and that the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall is little over a century old. But it incorporates remarkably old elements. In the Imperial State Crown, for example, is the sapphire of St Edward, said to have been part of the coronation ring of King Edward the Confessor, who came to the throne in 1042.

It is not too soon now … to consider the coronation of King Charles. There is antiquity here too, the inheritance of which should not be thrown away. The motet Zadok the Priest, for example, has been sung at every coronation since 973, for King Edgar. The words are based on the First Book of Kings (1:38): “Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king. And all the people rejoiced and said: God save the King! Long live the King! God save the King!”

… Some of my fears have been assuaged by the words of King Charles. He had once spoken of being the defender of faiths, rather than the faith of the Church of England implied by the abbreviations found on our coinage: FID DEF – fidei defensor. In his first address on coming to the throne, King Charles called the Church of England “the church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted”.

The Coronation takes place within the service of Holy Communion (even if films from 1953 omit images of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh receiving the Sacrament, as they did).

And, no matter what, we are better off with an established church in England than without one, precisely for these reasons:

Sometimes I find the Church of England annoying. Who doesn’t? But I’d rather have it as the Established Church than not … as the godly anointing of the head of state and supreme governor of the Church of England, the Coronation must retain the Christian elements that define it.

The only noise we heard was during the changing of the guard, which took place every 20 minutes. Unless one does it as a job, i.e. in front of one of the palaces, it is difficult to stand completely still in one place for much longer.

Lucy Denyer wrote an article for The Telegraph describing what an honour it was for her to see her husband as part of that guard:

My husband is – imperceptibly, infinitesimally – swaying. Backwards and forwards he goes, gently, so, so gently. Blink and you’d miss it; to all intents and purposes he is standing stock still, eyes front, unsmiling, upright. You’d only catch the tiny movement if you were looking very intently.

The rocking – forwards and backwards from the heel to the ball of the foot – keeps the blood flowing; stops him passing out. Watch really carefully and they’re all at it. 

The Queen herself also did that when standing for long periods of time. It does work.

She, too, commented on the silence:

Inside, under the bright lights hanging from the mediaeval beams, it is silent, bar the tapping of feet, the discreet click of an official photographer’s lens and once, the wail of a baby.

Suddenly comes the bang of sword on stone, the signal for the guard to change. It is precisely 12:20am and the four on the corners swing their swords in a graceful arc in perfect time, before making their careful way down the steps of the dais on which the late Queen’s catafalque stands …

My husband tells me afterwards that all he could think of, at this point, was not to trip, fall – and become a global meme.

She discussed the power of ritual and solemnity of a vigil:

A vigil can at once be grand or simple, awe-inspiring or strangely intimate – or all of those things – and Queen Elizabeth II’s is no exception. Ignore the velvet ropes and the electric lights – and the anoraks, trainers and clutched plastic bags – and this could be a moment from another time; it is timeless.

Soothing, too; the endless river of people filing by the coffin. Most slow, some bow, others curtsey, some blow kisses. Many linger after they have passed by, reluctant to leave this sanctuary that it has taken them so long to reach. Exhaustion is etched on faces; there is the odd dazed-looking child stumbling along between its parents.

Among this stream of awkward humanity, the officers on guard stand in marked contrast – statues, doing their duty. They have been practicing all week: their entrances and exits, their synchronised sword drills run through at home in spare half hours with umbrellas. Standing orders have been dusted off, breastplates refitted, helmets adjusted, boots polished. I have seen the pomp and ceremony hundreds of times, yet never carried out so silently; there is no shouting of orders in here.

The sword bangs once more; it is time to leave. On top of the coffin, the Black Prince’s Ruby suddenly flashes red. I pause, bow my head, say a prayer of thanks – for Her Majesty’s life, but also, in her death, to have been able to see this, to watch my husband carry out this enormous honour.

Returning to Windsor — and to God

After the Queen’s committal at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Tim Stanley wrote a moving tribute for The Telegraph:

The Committal was a homecoming. To Windsor and to God.

This is one of England’s holiest spots, burial site of kings, church of the Order of the Garter, it once hosted a splinter of Christ’s cross. Its slender pillars are like the trunks of ash trees. 

Beneath its canopy of silver lattice, the coffin was borne to the quire and rested at the catafalque, to a setting of Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills.”

Then the choir sang the Russian contakion of the departed, also performed at the Duke’s funeral, a nod to the family’s Orthodox heritage. Absent a eulogy, it was the music that expressed Her Majesty’s character and convictions, including a motet arranged by Sir William Henry Harris who, it is believed, taught the young Princess Elizabeth how to play the piano. As a child, she could often be found in the organ loft listening to him play for the services down below, especially at Christmas.

The words by John Donne crystallised the message of the readings: “Bring us, O Lord God… into the house and gate of Heaven”, where there shall be no darkness “but one equal light”, no noise “but one equal music” and one “equal eternity”.

Put another way, Elizabeth II lived as a queen but, in death, she is a soul equal to any other, returned to God. In an age of atheism, when Christians are persecuted across the world, it’s remarkable that perhaps history’s largest ever TV audience was given over to a statement of unafraid Christian belief – and over the course of the Committal, one cleric after another expressed the vision of their church with utter clarity.

There is the reality of mortality, as described by the Dean of Windsor in Psalm 103: “The days of man are but grass… As soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.”

There is the certainty of life after death, as stated in the prayers: “We rejoice at thy gracious promise to all thy servants, living and departed, that we shall rise again at the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” And there is the vision of triumph at the end of times, as the Dean quoted from Revelation: “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying.”

This passage was read at the funerals of the Queen’s grandparents and father, casting us back over an unbroken line of succession.

There was no qualification in any of these words, no Thought for the Day “some might say, others will feel differently”, but instead pure hope rooted in unshakable faith. The Queen has died, but her story does not end. That’s true for the monarchy, as well

Finally, the coffin lowered into the ground as the Dean continued: “Go forth upon thy journey from this world, O Christian soul.” The Garter King of Arms proclaimed the late Queen’s titles; a bagpiper played a lament from the North Quire Aisle, slowly walking into the distance, till the figure and his tune became a ghost in the ash forest. You might say that physically we were in England, but spiritually we were in Balmoral.

And the congregation awoke from its reverie into a new era …

Later, of course, the family would say a very private farewell to Queen Elizabeth, and she would be laid next to her beloved husband – concluding a set of rites that, like Russian dolls, grew smaller and more precious in form

For the public, the emotional journey to this moment was intense. Over 10 days, the lying in state allowed us to participate in the Queen’s farewell and, let’s be honest, make it a little bit about us. How British were the queues, we said, how democratic the whole thing.

But at the Abbey and the Chapel, we saw what this was really all about: namely the late Queen, her precious traditions and the principles they exist to pass on. Ultimately, the Committal articulated love – for country, for family, for horses and dogs, all the things that make a life worth living.

The Church of England is preoccupied by church growth programmes.

They do not need that at all.

What they need is a continuous replay of the Queen’s four days in Westminster Hall, her funeral at Westminster Abbey and her committal service at St George’s Chapel.

My message to Anglican clerics is: build it and they will come.

————————————————-

It is not too late to send the Royal Family a message of condolence:

My better half and I were in London yesterday. Friends told us that floral tributes were still being laid in the relevant parks and at Windsor Castle.

It is good to see that mourners are still remembering our late monarch, especially as the Royal Family now have a chance to grieve in private for the next few days.

May God bless them on that difficult journey.

Long live the King.

Reflections on the Queen continue next week.

On Monday, September 19, 2022, the United Kingdom held its first state funeral since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.

The public viewing of the Queen’s casket at Westminster Hall ended at 6:30 a.m.:

I am certain that more than 250,000 people filed past in four days in London, because in 2002, 200,000 filed past her mother’s coffin in three days. I was one of them. It was an unforgettable experience.

The Sky News article had more numbers before the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey began:

The Mayor of London’s office said an estimated 80,000 people were in Hyde Park, 75,000 in ceremonial viewing areas and 60,000 on South Carriage Drive.

Overall numbers will be much higher as crowds formed on virtually the entire route to Windsor, where Thames Valley Police said 100,000 people had turned out.

The Telegraph reported much higher numbers for Westminster Hall. These seem more realistic to me:

The four-day lying-in-state ceremony has seen more than a million mourners packing the banks of the Thames, waiting in a queue which, at its peak, took 24 hours and stretched 10 miles, beyond London Bridge to Southwark Park.

On the final day, Westminster Hall was attended by dozens of foreign leaders and royals who have arrived in London ahead of the state funeral, which starts at 11am.

They included Joe Biden, the US President, Emmanuel Macron, the French leader, Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and his wife Michelle, King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain, and King Phillipe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

On Sunday morning, the Government warned people not to travel to the queue “to avoid disappointment”.

Another Telegraph article had more statistics about the Elizabeth Line (emphases mine):

At an average queueing time of 12 hours – perhaps even more – they had clocked up a total of 4.8 million hours between them as they shuffled forward, uncomplainingly, in the sunshine, and in the cold, and in the dark. It means that since the late Queen’s lying in state began last Wednesday, her people had spent a cumulative 550 years saying their final thank you.

And if each of them entered the winding, folding queue at its end in Southwark Park, they would have walked 4 million miles between them, the equivalent of 153,846 marathons.

The fact that all of them knew how arduous the wait would be, having been given ample warning, is an even more reliable measure of how much Queen Elizabeth meant to them.

From children in push-chairs to pensioners and even global celebrities, they patiently waited their turn to spend only a few minutes in the presence of the late Queen’s coffin, almost all of them pausing to bow or curtsy, many of them turning away in tears.

As one of my readers, dearieme, pointed out, this shows the trust our Queen had in her subjects and foreign visitors:

How often in the history of civilisations would governments, here or elsewhere, have allowed – even encouraged – huge mobs of the public to congregate, and trust largely to their natural instincts to keep themselves in order?

I think the answer might be “rarely”.

Douglas Murray pondered all of the above in his Telegraph article: ‘Our late Queen’s final act was to bring her nation and the world deeply together’.

Excerpts follow:

The passing of Elizabeth II is remarkable for many reasons. But just one of them is the way in which the Queen’s final act seems to have been to bring her nation deeply together.

There is the literal way in which that has happened, with the mini-nationalists across Britain ceasing – for a moment at least – their relentless task of trying to tear our country apart. The Scottish nationalists observed the death of our monarch without a series of “buts”. Even Sinn Fein paid tribute and passed condolences to the Queen’s son and heir – an act that would have been unthinkable beforehand.

People have rightly remarked on the way in which hundreds of thousands of people have queued to pay their own personal respects to the late Queen. But almost as remarkable is the way in which other nations around the world, as well as their media, have mourned her death

The Queen leaves behind a Commonwealth that has been united in mourning – hardly the expected reaction if she had been the cruel tyrant of the New York Times’s imagination

What is more, although the dissenters have received an extraordinary amount of attention, more extraordinary by far is how united the world’s response has been.

France, for instance, is not a country known for its love of monarchy. But on the death of Queen Elizabeth the French political and media class were united in paying tribute to her. She was honoured on the cover of almost every French magazine and periodical, as she was across the European and world media.

This reaction is largely a tribute to a reign of unparalleled length and dignity, a life given to the service of the country and the deepening of alliances with our friends and allies. But it also serves as a reminder of the way in which Britain is regarded around the world. With the exception of a few raucously noisy malcontents, we find that most people do not regard Britain as some terrible tyrannical power, either now or in history. Most see us, rightly, as having been among the fairer, certainly more benign, world powers

This is the Britain that is still influential both in its impact abroad and also in the lives of its citizens. I doubt that there has been a figure in history whose death has led to such a voluntary outburst of feeling. There may have been despots whose death had to be mourned by their citizens and subjects, but there can have been few, if any, who have ever produced such willing devotion.

And there is a lesson in this for our institutions, and for institutions and nations around the world: people are loyal to institutions that are loyal to them. Break any part of that pact and you break the whole; sustain it and you sustain the whole.

Queen Elizabeth II swore an oath to this country as a young woman, and it was an oath she kept until her dying day. That loyalty is what is being honoured and mirrored today: the respect of people around the world for a life of service and duty. Something to remember, certainly. But something to emulate and live up to as well.

On the subject of tributes from abroad, a Belgian created this inspired photo montage of the Queen:

The next two short videos are well worth watching. The first is about Elizabeth II’s ‘Queenhood’, probably written by the poet laureate with footage from her coronation. The second is a film montage of her entire life from beginning to end:

Operation London Bridge — the Queen’s funeral plan — was now in its final phase in the capital and at Windsor Castle.

A military procession arrived at Westminster Hall to take the Queen for her final time to Westminster Abbey.

A new bouquet of pink and purple flowers with foliage and herbs — rosemary for remembrance and myrtle from the plant which supplied the sprigs for her wedding — replaced the white wreath for her lying in state:

Eight pallbearers from the military carefully placed her coffin onto a gun carriage. Naval ratings holding onto ropes in front and in back guided the gun carriage on its way.

This tradition began with Queen Victoria’s funeral, which took place in January 1901. Horses were supposed to transport the gun carriage, but part of it snapped off in the cold, thereby making it impossible. Prince Louis Battenberg, who was Prince Philip’s grandfather, came up with the solution, which, he said, had operated satisfactorily during the Boer War:

If it is impossible to mend the traces you can always get the naval guard of honour to drag the gun carriage.

The tradition continued throughout the 20th century:

The gun carriage is part of the materiel of the King’s Troop, commanded for the first time by a woman, Captain Amy Hooper. She told The Telegraph that she was in Canada when the Queen’s death was announced:

“BRIDGE, BRIDGE, BRIDGE,” the text stated. “Operation LONDON BRIDGE has been activated. Initiate telephone cascade. All personnel are to return to camp”

She was in Calgary when the news broke, along with soldiers exercising alongside Canadian mounted units. The British party was flying back to the UK within five hours

Soldiers as far away as Turkey and America had to cancel their family holidays and return to the UK

On Monday, she will be leading the gun team in Hyde Park for the Queen’s funeral.

King’s Troop, a unit of about 160 soldiers with an equal split of men and women, has one of the most important ceremonial roles in the British armed forces.

Their six 13-pounder quick-fire guns, built between 1913 and 1918, all of which have seen active service in the First and Second World Wars, are used regularly for royal salutes in Hyde Park, Green Park or Windsor Great Park for State Occasions and to mark royal anniversaries and royal birthdays …

The gun carriage is known as the George Gun Carriage, and carried King George VI’s coffin from Sandringham Church to Wolferton Station in February 1952. It was also used in the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002.

Queen Elizabeth’s funeral had more troops and regiments than had ever been gathered at one time.

These included troops from around the Commonwealth, particularly Canada and Australia:

The soldiers walked at a 75 beat per minute pace, which is slow and difficult to sustain.

The Times reported on the use of a metronome, mimicked on the day by drum beats to ensure proper timing:

Military chiefs have been told to “up their game” for the Queen’s funeral today and listen to a metronome at 75 beats per minute to ensure the right pace during the procession.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the defence staff, admitted to nerves but said an enormous amount of planning for the event had gone on for “a very long time”. He said more than 10,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women would perform their “last duty” to the Queen during the day’s events.

Queen Elizabeth wished to have her funeral at Westminster Abbey because she had been married and crowned there.

The last monarch to have a funeral at the Abbey was George II on November 13, 1760. The other monarchs had theirs at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Queen’s children along with Princes William and Harry walked in the procession to the Abbey.

Meanwhile, heads of state and dignitaries took their places inside. Charity workers also were seated.

The Queen Consort and the Princess of Wales arrived with Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7:

The procession arrived at the Abbey and the pallbearers carefully carried the Queen’s coffin inside:

You can find the Order of Service here:

The Times has an excellent article on the service.

You can see the procession from Westminster Hall and the full funeral service. As with the other Royal Family YouTube links I have posted, if you get a message saying it cannot be viewed, click on  ‘Watch on YouTube’ or this tweet:

The Queen chose the music, which held particular significance to her and to the Abbey:

Pardon the irreverence, but this is an aerial view of the seating plan in the transept. Look how far back Joe Biden was. Apparently, his Beasts and motorcade got caught up in traffic, although he arrived before the service began. By contrast, the dignitaries who took the white coaches in the ‘podding’ system got there on time. Even if he hadn’t been late, he would still have been seated in the same place.

The altar is to the left and, out of shot, to the right are more seats for guests:

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Likely sitting out of shot was, ironically, The Guardian‘s editor, Kath Viner:

Guido Fawkes has a quote from one of her recent editorials. I cannot bear to cite it in full, so here are the first and last sentences:

Royal rituals are contrived affairs meant to generate popular attachment to a privileged institution and to serve as reminders of a glorious past … How much Britain will be changed once this moment floats past the country is as yet unknown.

Guido commented (emphasis his):

Of course that didn’t stop the Guardian’s editor Kath Viner accepting a ticket to the funeral from the “privileged institution” herself. Maybe she’s sentimental…

Another hypocrite turned up, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, she of the second independence referendum.

The Times has a photo of her and her husband, Peter Murrell, along with a few quotes:

Nicola Sturgeon has said it was an “honour to represent Scotland” as leaders from across the world joined the royal family and other mourners at the state funeral.

The first minister was among some 2,000 mourners at Westminster Abbey along with leaders of the other main Scottish political parties. She spoke of a “final and poignant goodbye to a deeply respected and much-loved monarch”.

As I listened to the liturgy, I could not help but think that this is the last time we will hear language from the King James Version of the Bible and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer at a service for the Royals. How I will miss it. I hope I am wrong.

There was one prayer from an even earlier version of the Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Cranmer’s, from 1549. This was put to music. The choir did it full justice:

THOU knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears unto our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee. Amen.

This was the Bidding Prayer:

O MERCIFUL God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who hast taught us, by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our sister doth; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which thy wellbeloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our mediator and redeemer. Amen.

The entire liturgy was a lesson about faith and salvation. Even an unbeliver could not miss it.

I pray that it works on the hearts and minds of those in attendance who are indifferent.

The Queen always liked Psalm 42 for its reference to the hart, which reminded her of Scotland:

LIKE as the hart desireth the waterbrooks : so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God : when shall I come to
appear before the presence of God?

My tears have been my meat day and night : while they daily say unto me, Where is
now thy God?

Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself : for I went with the
multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;

In the voice of praise and thanksgiving : among such as keep holyday.

Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul : and why art thou so disquieted within
me?

Put thy trust in God : for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his countenance.

Prime Minister Liz Truss read the second Lesson, John 14:1-9a:

LET not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.

After Psalm 23 was sung, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon followed:

Near the end, clergy from the main Christian denominations recited their own prayers in thanksgiving for the Queen’s long reign of service.

The Abbey’s Precentor then recited a prayer from John Donne (1573-1631):

BRING us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.

After the blessing, the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry sounded The Last Post:

The congregation sang two verses of the National Anthem.

The funeral service closed with a poignant military lament, Sleep, dearie, sleep, performed by the Queen’s Piper, Warrant Officer Class 1 (Pipe Major) Paul Burns. He stood on a balcony overlooking the congregation. Words cannot describe it.

This video has brief highlights from the funeral:

After the funeral ended, the Queen’s coffin resumed its place on the gun carriage for a procession past Whitehall, down The Mall, then past Buckingham Palace, finishing at Wellington Arch on Constitution Hill.

A gun salute also took place:

The Royals walked with the military, as before. This was a long walk.

Every person in this procession has seen active military service. I put that in bold, because some living overseas think that these are ‘toy soldiers’, as it were. They are anything but.

Here they are in front of Buckingham Palace. Note that the Queen’s household are standing in front of the gates in their normal working clothes to pay their respects:

The horses leading the procession were gifts to the Queen from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), or the Mounties. The Queen was their honorary commissioner.

The Times reported:

George, Elizabeth, Darby and Sir John are the latest in a long line of horses given by Canada to the Queen and ridden by senior royals, including King Charles and the Princess Royal, during the annual ceremony of Trooping the Colour …

In 1969, the RCMP presented her with Burmese, a seven-year-old black mare who went on to become the Queen’s favourite horse.

She rode her at Trooping the Colour for 18 years, including in 1981 when Marcus Sarjeant, then 17, shot six blank rounds at the Queen as she was travelling down The Mall to the parade that marks her official birthday.

Although Burmese was briefly startled, the horse won praise for remaining calm due to her RCMP training, in which she had been exposed to gunfire.

Burmese, who died in 1990, was the first of eight horses given to the Queen by the Mounties. George was given to her in 2009. Now 22, he has been ridden each year at Trooping the Colour by Charles.

Elizabeth, now 17, named in honour of the Queen Mother, was a gift to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 …

Sir John, 14, was a 90th birthday present for the Queen and is ridden at Trooping the Colour by Princess Anne, a former Olympic equestrian.

Darby, a 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding, was one of two horses received by the late monarch in 2019.

[Sergeant Major Scott] Williamson is one of four RCMP officers who will ride at the front of tomorrow’s funeral procession after the Westminster Abbey service.

It will travel up Whitehall and along The Mall, passing Buckingham Palace before ending at Wellington Arch. Here, the Queen’s coffin will be transferred from the state gun carriage to a hearse for her final journey to Windsor.

I will cover the committal service at Windsor in tomorrow’s post.

The UK experienced a busy and historic weekend as Operations London Bridge and Unicorn became reality after the Queen’s death on Thursday, September 8, 2022.

The nation is now in a 10-day period of mourning, which continues through Monday, September 19, the day of the Queen’s funeral in Westminster Abbey. King Charles III has declared the day to be a bank holiday. The Royals, including their staff, will mourn for an additional week.

Before going into the weekend’s events, I have a few items to add from the end of last week.

Wednesday and Thursday, September 7 and 8

Last Wednesday, possibly having been busy preparing for her parliamentary statement on the energy crisis on Thursday, Liz Truss’s office cancelled the weekly update on Operation London Bridge, the funeral plans for Queen Elizabeth II. However, Simon Case, the civil servant who is Cabinet Secretary, informed the Prime Minister of the Queen’s decline early on Thursday morning.

Former Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu told GB News that Operation London Bridge was originally planned in the 1960s and has been regularly reviewed since.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s — Prince Philip’s — plans were Operation Forth Bridge, so named for the magnificent bridge that links the Scottish capital to Fife.

Operation Unicorn involves funeral plans for Scotland in the event the Queen died there.

As my post on Friday explained, the Prime Minister found out about the Queen’s death during the energy debate in the Commons.

On Friday, September 9, Conservative MP Michael Fabricant told GB News that the note she received at lunchtime might well have said:

London Bridge is down.

At that point, the Queen was receiving medical attention and her closest family members were on their way to Balmoral.

The Times reported how Thursday afternoon’s events unfolded (emphases mine):

The six hours that followed brought together a fractured royal family and seemed to unite a nation in apprehension. At 12.32pm, moments after the first signs in the Commons, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision.”

It was immediately clear the news was more significant than previous announcements about the Queen’s health. Newspaper websites swiftly reported the announcement …

… At 12.45pm the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall announced that they were travelling to Balmoral. They were already in Scotland after hosting a dinner at Dumfries House in Ayrshire the previous evening. A minute later the Duke of Cambridge, 40, announced that he would be travelling from London. It was now clear that the situation was grave.

The Duchess of Cambridge, 40, remained at their Windsor home and drove to collect Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis following their first full day at their new school to tell them of the news. At 1.30pm the Duke of York, 62, who was stripped of his royal duties after the scandal surrounding Jeffrey Epstein, said that he would also be flying to Scotland. Six minutes later the Earl and Countess of Wessex confirmed that they would also be travelling to Balmoral.

The Princess Royal, 72, had been on the Isle of Raasay on Wednesday and stayed at Balmoral overnight. The Duke of Sussex, despite his long- running troubles with the monarchy, announced at 1.52pm that he was also travelling to Scotland, separately from other senior royals but “in co-ordination with other family members’ plans”. He arrived at Balmoral almost two hours after the announcement of his grandmother’s death. He had flown into Aberdeen airport alone, and his wife remained in Windsor.

Prince Harry, 37, happened to be in the UK anyway, and had been due to attend a charity event in London last night.

The first signs of serious concerns about the Queen’s health had emerged at 6pm on Wednesday, when it was announced that she had “accepted doctors’ advice to rest” rather than attend a virtual meeting of the privy council that evening.

That would have been only an hour after I’d heard a long pealing of bells from Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, which I mentioned in my post on Friday.

More of the timeline continues, including the hour when the Queen’s death was announced:

Soon after the announcement of concerns of the Queen’s doctor, Charles, 73, was seen clutching a large briefcase as he boarded the royal helicopter from Dumfries House with Camilla, 75, for the journey to Balmoral.

The flight carrying William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Sophie took off from RAF Northolt in northwest London at 2.39pm. Royal Air Force flight KRF23R landed at Aberdeen airport at 3.50pm. A short while later, at 4.30pm, the prime minister was informed of the Queen’s death by Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, according to her official spokesman.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge was driving his two uncles the 40 miles from Aberdeen airport to Balmoral, arriving just after 5pm. William was behind the wheel of the Range Rover, with Andrew in the passenger seat and Edward, 58, and Sophie, 57, in the back

The Palace said in a statement: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

Charles had acceded to the throne immediately.

The flags in Downing Street were lowered to half mast at 6.36pm. BBC One played the national anthem following the announcement of the monarch’s death, showing a photograph of the Queen, followed by a royal crest on a black background and the words Queen Elizabeth II …

The double rainbow, which I also referenced on Friday, appeared as soon as the flags were lowered to half mast, not only in London but also in Windsor.

On Friday afternoon, The Telegraph reported that only Princess Anne and Prince Charles made it to Balmoral in time to see the Queen before she died:

The King and the Princess Royal were the only two senior members of the Royal family who made it to Balmoral before Queen Elizabeth II’s death, it is understood

As for Prince William and his uncles and aunt:

Royal Air Force flight KRF23R took off shortly after 2.30pm, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24.com, landing in Aberdeen at 3.50pm.

Prince William drove the quartet from the airport to Balmoral and they were pictured sweeping into the gates of the castle shortly after 5pm.

It is possible they had known they would not make it, perhaps even before their plane took off.

In the event, by the time they arrived, it was too late.

Prince Harry’s flight was delayed and he did not arrive until 8 p.m.:

he is believed to have been mid-air when Buckingham Palace announced at 6.30pm that the Queen had died, arriving at Balmoral an hour and a half later.

The Duke’s Cessna had been due to land at 6.29pm, a minute before the historic statement. But it was 20 minutes late taking off at Luton Airport, meaning he did not land in Aberdeen until 6.46pm.

The grief-stricken Duke was photographed as he was driven into Balmoral Castle just before 8pm to join other members of his family.

That evening, France paid the Queen tribute by turning off the lights on the Eiffel Tower at midnight and on Friday, at 10 p.m.:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-2ce0bcad-ca7c-47b3-bd29-f5e95920369e

Friday, September 9

On Friday morning, the Telegraph article said that Prince Harry left Balmoral early:

Prince Harry was the first to leave Balmoral on Friday morning, driven out of the gates at 8.20am.

He had to take a commercial flight back to Windsor:

He later boarded a British Airways flight from Aberdeen to Heathrow and is thought to have returned to Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, where the Duchess of Sussex was waiting for him.

Later that morning, the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) head, Mick Lynch, announced that the rail strikes planned for September 15 and 17 were cancelled.

Guido Fawkes said that a postal strike was also cancelled (emphases his):

The Communication Workers Union has also called off a planned Royal Mail strike, with General Secretary Dave Ward saying “Following the very sad news of the passing of the Queen, and out of respect for her service to the country and her family, the union has decided to call off tomorrow’s planned strike action.”

Fair play to both Lynch and Ward, whether they’re genuinely in mourning or its cynical comms, they made the right call…

England’s three main political parties suspended campaigning during the mourning period. This is fine, except that Parliament is adjourned until after the Queen’s funeral, at which point it will continue to be adjourned for three weeks’ worth of annual political party conferences.

If Liz is smart, she will find a way to get the Commons, at least, to reconvene during conference season. There is no justification, especially this year, for every MP to attend these rather superfluous events. Furthermore, the evening events are also times of revelry, which seems inappropriate at this time.

Guido‘s Friday post says:

With King Charles instituting 17 days of mourning, the death of Queen Elizabeth will certainly cast shadows over all three of the major parties’ conferences. Guido understands the Tories are having conversations about how to proceed with their Birmingham gathering in light of the news. With politics grinding to a halt, it’s going to be difficult for PM Truss to enjoy the full political dividend from yesterday’s energy policy announcement…

Parliament is not due to reconvene until October 17. October is the month when the new energy ‘price cap’ — i.e. a dramatic increase — comes into effect. This will affect everyone and a policy really needs to be finalised before then. Conservative MP John Redwood tweeted:

As I write on Monday afternoon, GB News’s Tom Harwood says that a ‘fiscal event’ — an energy policy announcement — could be made on one of the four consecutive days after mourning and before conference recess. He says that his sources tell him that separate legislation would not be required. Let’s hope he is right.

Friday is not normally a day when either House of Parliament meets. However, both MPs and the Lords met to pay tribute to the Queen. The sessions, which also included taking the Oath of Loyalty to King Charles — optional, as the Oath includes successors — continued into Saturday. Every MP and Lord who wanted to speak was able to do so.

The Commons session on Friday afternoon began with a minute’s silence:

Afterwards, the Prime Minister began the tributes:

Guido has the video and pulled out the key quote from her address:

The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her, the Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her.

Hansard has the full transcript of Friday’s and Saturday’s tributes from MPs. I commend them to everyone, because many MPs mentioned that the Queen visited their respective constituencies more than once during her reign. Only a handful had never had met her. The contributions reflected a monarch with not only dignity but also good humour. Everyone who met her said that she knew how to put them at ease.

Truss pointed out other historical highlights in her address:

In the hours since last night’s shocking news, we have witnessed the most heartfelt outpouring of grief at the loss of Her late Majesty the Queen. Crowds have gathered. Flags have been lowered to half-mast. Tributes have been sent from every continent around the world. On the death of her father, King George VI, Winston Churchill said the news had,

“stilled the clatter and traffic of twentieth-century life in many lands”.

Now, 70 years later, in the tumult of the 21st century, life has paused again.

Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. She was the rock on which modern Britain was built. She came to the throne aged just 25, in a country that was emerging from the shadow of war; she bequeaths a modern, dynamic nation that has grown and flourished under her reign. The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her. The Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her. She was devoted to the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. She served 15 countries as Head of State, and she loved them all

Her devotion to duty remains an example to us all. She carried out thousands of engagements, she took a red box every day, she gave her assent to countless pieces of legislation and she was at the heart of our national life for seven decades. As the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she drew on her deep faith. She was the nation’s greatest diplomat. Her visits to post-apartheid South Africa and to the Republic of Ireland showed a unique ability to transcend difference and heal division. In total, she visited well over 100 countries. She met more people than any other monarch in our history.

She gave counsel to Prime Ministers and Ministers across Government. I have personally greatly valued her wise advice. Only last October, I witnessed first hand how she charmed the world’s leading investors at Windsor Castle. She was always so proud of Britain, and always embodied the spirit of our great country. She remained determined to carry out her duties even at the age of 96. It was just three days ago, at Balmoral, that she invited me to form a Government and become her 15th Prime Minister. Again, she generously shared with me her deep experience of government, even in those last days.

Everyone who met her will remember the moment. They will speak of it for the rest of their lives. Even for those who never met her, Her late Majesty’s image is an icon for what Britain stands for as a nation, on our coins, on our stamps, and in portraits around the world. Her legacy will endure through the countless people she met, the global history she witnessed, and the lives that she touched. She was loved and admired by people across the United Kingdom and across the world.

One of the reasons for that affection was her sheer humanity. She reinvited monarchy for the modern age. She was a champion of freedom and democracy around the world. She was dignified but not distant. She was willing to have fun, whether on a mission with 007, or having tea with Paddington Bear. She brought the monarchy into people’s lives and into people’s homes.

During her first televised Christmas message in 1957, she said:

“Today we need a special kind of courage…so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future.”

We need that courage now. In an instant yesterday, our lives changed forever. Today, we show the world that we do not fear what lies ahead. We send our deepest sympathy to all members of the royal family. We pay tribute to our late Queen, and we offer loyal service to our new King.

His Majesty King Charles III bears an awesome responsibility that he now carries for all of us. I was grateful to speak to His Majesty last night and offer my condolences. Even as he mourns, his sense of duty and service is clear. He has already made a profound contribution through his work on conservation and education, and his tireless diplomacy. We owe him our loyalty and devotion.

The British people, the Commonwealth and all of us in this House will support him as he takes our country forward to a new era of hope and progress: our new Carolean age. The Crown endures, our nation endures, and in that spirit, I say God save the King. [Hon. Members: “God save the King.”]

Labour’s Keir Starmer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition, spoke next. Guido has the video:

The highlight of his speech was this:

She did not simply reign over us, she lived alongside us. She shared in our hopes and our fears, our joy and our pain, our good times, and our bad.

Interestingly, when they were younger, both Starmer and Truss wanted to abolish the monarchy.

Boris Johnson spoke a short time later, declaring the Queen:

Elizabeth the Great.

Historian David Starkey would disagree and did so on GB News on Sunday, September 11. He said that ‘the Great’ has applied exclusively to monarchs who waged war, e.g. Peter the Great.

Guido has the video. Boris began by saying that the BBC contacted him recently to speak about the Queen in past tense:

I hope the House will not mind if I begin with a personal confession. A few months ago, the BBC came to see me to talk about Her Majesty the Queen. We sat down and the cameras started rolling, and they requested that I should talk about her in the past tense. I am afraid that I simply choked up and could not go on. I am really not easily moved to tears, but I was so overcome with sadness that I had to ask them to go away.

I know that, today, there are countless people in this country and around the world who have experienced the same sudden access of unexpected emotion, and I think millions of us are trying to understand why we are feeling this deep, personal and almost familial sense of loss. Perhaps it is partly that she has always been there:

a changeless human reference point in British life; the person who—all the surveys say—appears most often in our dreams; so unvarying in her pole-star radiance that we have perhaps been lulled into thinking that she might be in some way eternal.

But I think our shock is keener today because we are coming to understand, in her death, the full magnitude of what she did for us all. Think what we asked of that 25-year-old woman all those years ago: to be the person so globally trusted that her image should be on every unit of our currency, every postage stamp; the person in whose name all justice is dispensed in this country, every law passed, to whom every Minister of the Crown swears allegiance; and for whom every member of our armed services is pledged, if necessary, to lay down their lives.

Think what we asked of her in that moment: not just to be the living embodiment, in her DNA, of the history, continuity and unity of this country, but to be the figurehead of our entire system—the keystone in the vast arch of the British state, a role that only she could fulfil because, in the brilliant and durable bargain of the constitutional monarchy, only she could be trusted to be above any party political or commercial interest and to incarnate, impartially, the very concept and essence of the nation.

Think what we asked of her, and think what she gave. She showed the world not just how to reign over a people; she showed the world how to give, how to love and how to serve. As we look back at that vast arc of service, its sheer duration is almost impossible to take in. She was the last living person in British public life to have served in uniform in the Second World War. She was the first female member of the royal family in a thousand years to serve full time in the armed forces.

That impulse to do her duty carried her right through into her 10th decade to the very moment in Balmoral—as my right hon. Friend said—only three days ago, when she saw off her 14th Prime Minister and welcomed her 15th. I can tell you, in that audience she was as radiant and as knowledgeable and as fascinated by politics as ever I can remember, and as wise in her advice as anyone I know, if not wiser. Over that extraordinary span of public service, with her naturally retentive and inquiring mind, I think—and doubtless many of the 15 would agree—that she became the greatest statesman and diplomat of all.

She knew instinctively how to cheer up the nation, how to lead a celebration. I remember her innocent joy more than 10 years ago, after the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, when I told her that the leader of a friendly middle eastern country seemed actually to believe that she had jumped out of a helicopter in a pink dress and parachuted into the stadium. [Laughter.] I remember her equal pleasure on being told, just a few weeks ago, that she had been a smash hit in her performance with Paddington Bear.

Perhaps more importantly, she knew how to keep us going when times were toughest. In 1940, when this country and this democracy faced the real possibility of extinction, she gave a broadcast, aged only 14, that was intended to reassure the children of Britain. She said then:

“We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well”.

She was right

It was that indomitability, that humour, that work ethic and that sense of history that, together, made her Elizabeth the Great.

When I call her that, I should add one final quality, of course: her humility—her single-bar-electric-fire, Tupperware-using refusal to be grand. I can tell the House, as a direct eyewitness, that unlike us politicians, with our outriders and our armour-plated convoys, she drove herself in her own car, with no detectives and no bodyguard, bouncing at alarming speed over the Scottish landscape, to the total amazement of the ramblers and tourists we encountered.

It is that indomitable spirit with which she created the modern constitutional monarchy—an institution so strong, so happy and so well understood, not just in this country but in the Commonwealth and around the world, that the succession has already seamlessly taken place. I believe she would regard it as her own highest achievement that her son, Charles III, will clearly and amply follow her own extraordinary standards of duty and service. The fact that today we can say with such confidence, “God save the King” is a tribute to him but, above all, to Elizabeth the Great, who worked so hard for the good of her country not just now but for generations to come. That is why we mourn her so deeply, and it is in the depths of our grief that we understand why we loved her so much.

Theresa May’s speech was the funniest. I do wish she had shown this side of herself as Prime Minister. Her comic timing was impeccable:

Guido has a video of most of her address:

Arguably one of May’s most poignant speeches. Some needed light relief for the day...

Here’s the best part:

This excerpt follows:

Of course, for those of us who had the honour to serve as one of her Prime Ministers, those meetings were more frequent, with the weekly audiences. These were not meetings with a high and mighty monarch, but a conversation with a woman of experience, knowledge and immense wisdom. They were also the one meeting I went to that I knew would not be briefed out to the media. [Laughter.] What made those audiences so special was the understanding the Queen had of issues, which came from the work she put into her red boxes, combined with her years of experience. She knew many of the world leaders—in some cases, she had known their fathers—and she was a wise and adroit judge of people.

The conversations at the audiences were special, but so were weekends at Balmoral, where the Queen wanted all her guests to enjoy themselves. She was a thoughtful hostess. She would take an interest in which books were put in your room and she did not always expect to be the centre of attention; she was quite happy sometimes to sit, playing her form of patience, while others were mingling around her, chatting to each other. My husband tells of the time he had a dream: he dreamt that he was sitting in the back of a Range Rover, being driven around the Balmoral estate; and the driver was Her Majesty the Queen and the passenger seat was occupied by his wife, the Prime Minister. And then he woke up and realised it was reality!

Her Majesty loved the countryside. She was down to earth and a woman of common sense. I remember one picnic at Balmoral that was taking place in one of the bothies on the estate. The hampers came from the castle, and we all mucked in to put the food and drink out on the table. I picked up some cheese, put it on a plate and was transferring it to the table. The cheese fell on the floor. I had a split-second decision to make: I picked up the cheese, put it on a plate and put the plate on the table. I turned round to see that my every move had been watched very carefully by Her Majesty the Queen. I looked at her, she looked at me and she just smiled. And the cheese remained on the table. [Laughter.]

This is indeed a sad day, but it is also a day of celebration for a life well spent in the service of others. There have been many words of tribute and superlatives used to describe Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but these are not hype; they are entirely justified. She was our longest-serving monarch. She was respected around the world. She united our nation in times of trouble. She joined in our celebrations with joy and a mischievous smile. She gave an example to us all of faith, of service, of duty, of dignity and of decency. She was remarkable, and I doubt we will ever see her like again. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Saturday’s session in the Commons was another marathon.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle opened it with this:

I now invite the House to resume its tributes to Her late Majesty. I expect to conclude tributes at 10 o’clock, when I shall invite Ministers to move the motion for a Humble Address to His Majesty. A hundred and eighty-two Members contributed yesterday, and many want to contribute today. I hope Members will therefore keep to the informal time limit of three minutes.

An excerpt from John Redwood’s speech follows.

On Friday, he pointed out how historically significant three of our Queens were in British history and for women:

On Saturday, he said:

What always came across to all of us was just how much she respected every person and every institution that she visited. She showed that respect by impeccable manners and great courtesy—always on time, always properly briefed, always appropriately dressed for the occasion.

But, as so many have said from their personal experiences, there was something so much more than that. She was not just the consummate professional at those public events: there was the warm spirit, the personality, and above all the understanding that everyone else at that event was terrified that something was going to go wrong, that they had not understood the protocol, or that there was some magic way of doing it—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) was explaining—that they had to get right. At those public events, the Queen always relaxed people and showed them that there was no right way, because she was there for the people; she was there for the institution; she was there for the event. That is what we can learn from.

Of course, she was also Our Majesty. She was the embodiment of the sovereignty of people and Parliament; she represented us so well abroad and represented us at home, knowing that as a constitutional monarch, she represented us when we were united. She spoke for those times when we were gloriously happy and celebrating, or she spoke for those times when there was misery and gloom and she had to deal with our grief and point to the better tomorrow. That was why she held that sovereignty so well and for so long—a constitutional monarch who did not exercise the power, but captured the public mood; who managed to deal with fractious and difficult Parliaments and different political leaders, but who was above the politics, which meant that our constitution was safe in her hands. I wish her son, the new King, every success in following that great lead as he has told us he will do, and I can, with others, say today—“God save the King.”

Redwood later tweeted that he had omitted an important part of his speech:

Indeed.

The Queen attended only two of her former Prime Ministers’ funerals, those of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

These are links to Friday’s (continued here) and Saturday’s (continued here) tributes from the Lords, both Spiritual and Temporal.

On Sunday, our vicar said that the Church of England lost her greatest evangelist, the Queen.

I cannot disagree with that.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke earlier on Friday afternoon, excerpted below.

He recalled her deep faith, something I wish more CofE clergy had:

… What has been said already today has been extraordinarily eloquent. I do not intend to repeat it but to say something about the Queen’s links to faith and to the Church of England. First is her assurance, her confidence, in the God who called her. At her coronation, so long ago, conducted by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher—the first of seven Archbishops of Canterbury who had the privilege of serving her—the service began with her walking by herself past the Throne, where she would very shortly be seated, and kneeling by the high altar of Westminster Abbey. The order of service said, “She will kneel in private prayer”—and so she did, for some time. The next thing to happen was that homage was paid to her, starting with the Duke of Edinburgh. What that said about her understanding of her role was that she pledged her allegiance to God before others pledged their allegiance to her. She had this profound sense of who she was and by whom she was called.

Then there was her profound, deep and extraordinary theological vision. Many years ago now—seven or eight years ago—I was travelling abroad, and someone who had no knowledge of these things said, “Well, of course, she’s not really got that much intellect, has she? I mean, private tutors and all this—what can she know?” Well, what ignorance. In 2012, she spoke at Lambeth Palace on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, and the speech she made there is one we return to very frequently, because she set out a vision for what an established Church should be. It was not a vision of comfort and privilege; it was to say, put very politely, “You are here as an umbrella for the whole people of this land”. The subtext was, “If you are not that, you are nothing”. That is a deep vision of what it is to be the Church—of what it is to be not an established Church but a Christian Church. That came from her deep understanding of faith. Every five years, at the inauguration of the Church of England’s General Synod, she came with messages of encouragement and assurance of her prayers. In 2021, her message was,

“my hope is that you will be strengthened with the certainty of the love of God, as you work together and draw on the Church’s tradition of unity in fellowship for the tasks ahead.”

Publicly, Her late Majesty worshipped regularly and spoke of her faith in God, particularly in her Christmas broadcasts, with quiet, gentle confidence. Privately, she was an inspiring and helpful guide and questioner to me and to my predecessors. She had a dry sense of humour, as we have heard already, and the ability to spot the absurd—the Church of England was very capable of giving her material—but she never exercised that at the expense of others. When I last saw her in June, her memory was as sharp as it could ever have been. She remembered meetings from 40 or 50 years ago and drew on the lessons from those times to speak of today and what we needed to learn: assurance of the love of God in her call, and then humility. It would be easy as a monarch to be proud, but she was everything but that. It was her faith that gave her strength. She knew that, but she knew also her call to be a servant, the one whom she served, and the nation she served, the Commonwealth and the world. Over the last 24 hours, I have had so many messages from archbishops, bishops and other people around the world, within the Commonwealth and way beyond it—from China, Latin America and many other places—in a deep sense of loss.

It has been the privilege of those on these Benches to be intimately involved with momentous occasions so often throughout Her late Majesty’s life. As has been said, she has been a presence for as long as we can remember. Jesus says in the Gospel of St Matthew:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

May God comfort all those who grieve Her late Majesty’s loss, and may God sustain His Majesty King Charles III in the enormous weight and challenges that he takes on immediately, at the same as he bears the burden of grief, and those around him in his family. May God hold Her late Majesty in His presence, firmly secured in the peace that passes far beyond our understanding.

The Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke in the first of Saturday’s sessions in the Lords. He added some light relief:

My Lords, like most Bishops from these Benches, I have stories to tell; stories of doing jigsaws in Sandringham on Sunday evenings and of barbeques in the woods at Sandringham in the middle of January—I even have a slightly scurrilous story about healing the Queen’s car. Perhaps I will tell it.

I had preached in Sandringham parish church. We were standing outside and the Bentley was there to get the Queen. It did not start. It made that throaty noise cars make in the middle of winter when they will not start, and everybody stood there doing nothing. I was expecting a policeman to intervene, but nothing happened. Enjoying the theatre of the moment, I stepped forward and made a large sign of the cross over the Queen’s car, to the enjoyment of the crowd—there were hundreds of people there, as it was the Queen. I saw the Queen out of the corner of my eye looking rather stony-faced, and thought I had perhaps overstepped the mark. The driver tried the car again and, praise the Lord, it started. The Queen got in and went back to Sandringham, and I followed in another car. When I arrived, as I came into lunch, the Queen said with a beaming smile, “It’s the Bishop—he healed my car”. Two years later, when I greeted her at the west front of Chelmsford Cathedral, just as a very grand service was about to start and we were all dressed up to the nines, she took me to one side and said, “Bishop, nice to see you again; I think the car’s all right today, but if I have any problems I’ll know where to come.”

When I became the 98th Archbishop of York, during Covid, I paid homage to the Queen by Zoom conference. I was in the Cabinet Office; everyone had forgotten to bring a Bible, including me, but there was one there—which is kind of reassuring. Just as the ceremony was about to begin, the fire alarm went off.

The Queen was at Windsor Castle, but we all trooped out of the Cabinet Office, on to the road, and were out there for about 20 minutes until they could check that it was a false alarm and we could go back in. When I went back into the room, there was the screen, with Her late Majesty waiting for things to begin again. I do not know why I find myself returning to that image of her, faithful watching and waiting through those very difficult times. That was a very small part of a life of astonishing service.

The other thing I have noticed in the last couple of days is that we are all telling our stories. Yesterday, I found myself sharing stories with somebody in the street. I at least had had the honour of meeting Her late Majesty; this person had never met her, but we were sharing stories. I said, “Isn’t it strange how we need to tell our stories? It’s not as if she was a member of our family.” Except she was. That is the point. She served the household of a nation. For her, it was not a rule but an act of service, to this people and to all of us.

I remind us, again and again, that that came from somewhere: it came from her profound faith in the one who said,

“I am among you as one who serves.”

The hallmark of leadership is service, watchfulness and waiting. It was her lived-in faith in Jesus Christ, day in and day out, which sustained, motivated and equipped her for that lifetime of service. How inspiring it was last night and this morning to see the baton pass to our new King, King Charles, in the same spirit of godly service to the people of a nation.

I had not thought of this, but the Archbishop of York pointed out the important feast day that coincided with the Queen’s death, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Her Majesty the Queen died on 8 September, the day on which the blessed Virgin Mary is remembered across the world and the Church. Another Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, said of her when she knew she would be the mother of the Lord:

“Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her would be fulfilled”.

Shot through all our tributes in this House and another place, and across our nation, is that which we have seen, especially as it was only on Tuesday—I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, for reminding us—that the Queen received a new Prime Minister. Can it really be possible? She served to the end—a life fulfilled.

I will finish with a handful of her words. This is what the Queen wrote in a book to mark her 90th birthday, reflecting on her faith in Jesus Christ in her life:

“I have indeed seen His faithfulness.”

I am not supposed to call noble Lords “brothers and sisters”, but dear friends, we have seen her faithfulness too, and we see it now in our new King. May Her late Majesty the Queen rest in peace and rise in glory. God save the King.

Friday, September 9

At 6 p.m. on Friday, two significant events occurred.

The first was an hour-long service of prayer and reflection held at St Paul’s Cathedral:

This service was for people who work in the City of London along with a limited number of members of the public who could apply for wristbands — tickets — to attend. St Paul’s posted a page on how to obtain a wristband and how to queue on Friday afternoon for admittance.

Cabinet members attended and sat in the choir stalls. Prime Minister Truss and her Cabinet Secretary Simon Case sat in the front row. On the opposite side were Labour’s Keir Starmer and other Opposition MPs.

This was an excellent service. The Cathedral helpfully posted the Order of Service, which can be downloaded from the aforementioned webpage.

Truss read Romans 14:7-12:

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live
to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

This prayer in memory of the Queen is beautiful:

Eternal Lord God,
you hold all souls in life;
send forth, we pray, upon your servant, Elizabeth,
and upon your whole Church in earth and heaven
the brightness of your light and peace;
and grant that we,
following the good example of those
who have faithfully served you here and are now at rest,
may at the last enter with them
into the fullness of eternal joy
in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen.

Meanwhile, King Charles III addressed the nation for the first time as monarch:

He spoke for ten minutes, first discussing his late mother then pledging his service to the people of the United Kingdom.

He ended his address by saying that Prince William would become the new Prince of Wales and that he had much love for Prince Harry as he and Meghan continue building their life together overseas.

The Telegraph included the following blurb. The last line comes from Shakespeare:

The broadcast was recorded in the Blue Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace, after the King and Queen greeted crowds of mourners outside the gates.

In a final message to his mother, the King said: “To my darling Mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late Papa, I want simply to say this: thank you.

“Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years.

“May ‘flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest’.”

The walkabout the paper refers to involved much emotion from members of the public, especially women. One lady kissed him on the cheek and another shook his hand. Historically, one does not touch the monarch. That also applied to the Queen, even if a few people did touch her.

Another similar walkabout by the new King and Queen Consort occurred on Saturday afternoon outside the Palace.

The Accession Ceremony took place on Saturday morning. More about that tomorrow.

Bible oldThe 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.

Philippians 2:14-18

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

—————————————————————————————

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s very real hope that, with the Philippians’ prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus (the Holy Spirit), his imprisonment would work out for his deliverance and honour Christ.

As I go through Paul’s letters to the various congregations, I still do not understand how he could have so much hope and joy with so much suffering.

Today’s post helps me — and I hope others — understand how he was able to rejoice in truly hard times.

Of course, faith is the key, but how exactly did he maintain it?

This post’s quotes from John MacArthur’s sermons are hard-hitting and will take some time to consider. This will not be easy.

Before beginning, here is the first part of Philippians 2 (emphases mine):

Christ’s Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lights in the World

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Paul tells the Philippians to do ‘all things’ without ‘grumbling or disputing’ (verse 14).

Whenever I used to ask my late grandmother-in-law, a widow who began life as a Primitive Methodist before becoming a Baptist, how she was, she always replied cheerfully:

Mustn’t grumble.

When I met her she was becoming arthritic. She used to journey by bus into Central London to buy her groceries at Marks & Spencer in Oxford Street. As the years passed, she was unable to continue those bus rides that gave her so much pleasure. She was also a regular churchgoer, again travelling by bus into the heart of the capital. By the end of her life, she had to enter a care home and had to give up those two pleasures.

I had not realised until today how many scriptural references there are to grumbling and how much God hates it. God actually killed many Israelites on several occasions for complaining.

The Bible uses the word ‘grumble’ but ‘murmur’ or ‘mumble’ means the same thing.

Reformed Wiki lists 25 verses against grumbling and complaining.

Bible Reasons has 19 of those verses along with Jude’s warning about murmuring:

Jude 1:16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.

Matthew Henry’s commentary gives us the Greek origins of ‘murmuring’:

The children of God should differ from the sons of men. Without rebukeamometa. Momus was a carping deity among the Greeks, mentioned by Hesiod and Lucian, who did nothing himself, and found fault with every body and every thing. From him all carpers at other men, and rigid censurers of their works, were called Momi. The sense of the expression is, “Walk so circumspectly that Momus himself may have no occasion to cavil at you, that the severest censurer may find no fault with you.”

John MacArthur explains the Greek origins of ‘grumbling’ and ‘disputing’:

Now, those two words are very basic.  Grumblings is an onomatopoetic word; that is, it sounds like what it means.  The word is goggusmos Goggusmos, ruh-ruh-ruh.  It’s a grouchy, grumbly, onomatopoetic word.  It means a murmuring, an expression of discontent, an expression of dissatisfaction, grumbling, actually muttering in a low voice Ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh, you know.  It’s, by the way, the very word used in the Greek Septuagint translation of Exodus and Numbers where we read about the grumblings of Israel It is complaint expressed in a negative attitude It is an emotional rejection of God’s will It is an emotional rejection of God’s providence It is an emotional rejection of your circumstances that comes through in mumbling, grumbling, griping, verbiage.  It is an emotional rejection of the circumstances God has chosen for your life and the requirements He has for your conduct.

And then, there’s a second word, disputingsDialogismos, dialogue we get from it.  It means questionings, criticism.  It is now an intellectual debate with God.  The first one is an emotional belly-aching The second is an intellectual debate with God You want to argue with God about why things are the way they are Or you want to argue with God about why you have to do what you have to do Or you want to argue with God about why you’re in the circumstance you’re in, the marriage, the job, the singleness, the residence, whatever it is.  Or even the church, for that matter.  Arguing with God out of discontent, debating with God because you’ve got a better idea While the first word means to just grumble, gripe, complain, murmur, almost an emotional guttural kind of thing.

MacArthur says that verse 14 refers to verses 12 and 13:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

MacArthur explains:

So, Paul is saying, look, in working out your salvation the basic attitude is an attitude that does not complain Why?  You’re living in a very fallen world You’re living in the fallen flesh.  It isn’t always going to be the way you like it, the people around you aren’t always going to be the way you’d like them.  The circumstances aren’t always going to be euphoric and perfect.  It’s not going to be an idealistic world.  You work out your salvation and in all the things that you do, and in all the circumstances you find yourself, don’t ever complain because God hates that, and He has judged it severely as an example to you of how He feels about it.

MacArthur derives that from 1 Corinthians 10. God killed some moaners with fatal snakebites and also by the angel of death. He killed many more Israelites through other means, but, here, Paul mentions two:

Warnings From Israel’s History

10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”[a] We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ,[b] as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

MacArthur also cites Lamentations 3:39:

Why should the living complain
    when punished for their sins?

He says:

Listen now, would you do this?  Try your best to make it through today without complaining about something Would you do that?  And just make a note every time you complain, and you will find that for many of you it is a way of life And it is frankly so utterly habitual that you probably don’t even realize what a dominant characteristic it is And then, remember Lamentations, would you please?  Just remember Lamentations 3 and 39 and memorize it: why should any living mortal or any man offer complaint in view of his sins?  What do you think you deserve?  Work on it today, will you?

In other words, we are all sinners who deserve God’s eternal wrath. Fortunately, we have a Saviour in Jesus Christ. Let us be thankful for His ultimate sacrifice which reconciled us to God.

Furthermore, let us be grateful for our many blessings, all of which come from God.

MacArthur has more on this:

… we throw tantrums because we got seated at a poorly located table in a fancy restaurant.  Or we’re frustrated because we can’t lose ten pounds.  Or we gripe about our monthly debts.  You’ve got problems relative to what?  But you see, it’s the mood of the mob to complain.  And then, the idealistic fantasy oriented consumptive culture feeds the sin of discontent How can we be discontent?  Remember Lamentations 3:39, “Why should any mortal being or anyone offer complaint in view of his sins?”  What do we have to complain about?  So, Paul gives us a general principle in verse 14 And it really speaks to us at a time when we live in a culture of complaint “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”  What do the “all things” refer to?  The living out of your inward salvation, the working out of your salvation.  Here is the pervasive attitude for the Christians’ experience.  As we work out our salvation, as we live our godly life, we are to do it without ever complaining about the circumstances which God has put around us We are to live a life without complaint.  We are to rejoice always, to use Paul’s later terminology, and again I say rejoice We are to be content whether we are based or whether we abound, whether we have much or whether we have little, whether we like the circumstances or don’t like them.  There is no place for complaining. 

And I only submit to you that it’s much more difficult it seems in this culture than in some because we are breeding a culture of complainers, absolute culture of complainers.  And Paul then gives us a general principle that does speak to us very directly.

Now, note as I pointed out last time, that this matter of doing all things without grumbling or disputing has reference to God.  Not so much grumbling disputing among others, that too is a sin, but the idea here is to accept that providential plan which God has ordained for your life, live out your salvation without any complaints directed at Him A joyful heart, a thankful heart, no emotional grumbling, that’s the grumbling word, and no intellectual disputing or arguing with God.  But rather, without complaint, gratefully we live out our salvation That is what he calls for Christians to maintain in terms of an attitude that pervades all their living.

Paul goes on to give other reasons why we should not grumble or dispute: we should be blameless and innocent children of God, shining our light in the midst of a dark, fallen world (verse 15).

That means we really have to let our faith shine at its best. This, for me, is very difficult to do on a consistent basis.

MacArthur elaborates:

Now, he gives us three reasons why Okay?  And I’ll just lay these before you.  They’re not new, they’re just a brief review, a summary, and I know you will be familiar with them.  But nonetheless, they are the word of the Spirit of God for us today.  Reason number one, in verse 15, “That you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach.”  Let’s say, first of all, then we are to stop complaining for our own sake, for our own sake, that we might be the kind of children that God has saved us to be.  It starts with us.  And this is, by the way, clearly a purpose result clause, a little particle hina with a subjunctive always indicates purpose result And so, it could be translated “in order that,” or “with the result that,” or “given the purpose that.”  In other words, this is the very reason why you are to do this, so that you will be a blameless, harmless, above-reproach child of God You are called to be all that a child of God should be.  In Ephesians 5:1 that very, very important injunction of Paul where he says, Be imitators of God as beloved children, be imitators of God as beloved children.”  If God is your Father, then imitate God, then pattern your life after Him If you are a child of God then live the way a child of God should live, manifesting the character of God As it says in Titus 2, adorning the doctrine of God in the manner in which you live.

So, note again then, we’ll look at the verse specifically, you are to stop complaining, doing all things without grumbling or disputing, in order that you may prove yourselves to be.  Now the Greek literally says, in order that you may become, in order that you may become And I believe here is a process, you are to be in the process of becoming a blameless innocent above-reproach child of God So, you are not to complain in order that process may work, that you may be in the process at the end of which you become a harmless, blameless, above-reproach child of God.

Now, those two words, blameless and harmless, or some of your translations will say blameless and innocent, really are not a great deal apart in terms of meaning.  They both speak of moral purity Blameless simply means a life that can’t be criticized, a life that can’t be criticized.  There’s nothing for which you can be held responsible by way of sin, evil, wickedness.  It’s a life without blame, it’s a life that has no blemish, no blot on it, no sinful stain which people can discern and see.

And then, the word “innocent” could be translated “harmless.”  It is so translated in Matthew 10:16 where Jesus says, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  It is also translated “simple” in Romans 16:19, I think it is, Paul says that we are to be simple concerning evil It has to do with being pure It has to do with being unmixed, unadulterated, undefiled; it is used, for example, to refer to unmixed wine and unalloyed metal So, he’s simply using two somewhat basic terms, saying that your life is to be a life which cannot be criticized for sin, and which is pure and undefiled and unadulterated and unmixed with evil.  So, really two ways to say, essentially, a pure life, a life without fault and a life without flaw That’s God’s desire for His people, that their character and their conduct should be so pure that they cannot justly be accused, that they are above criticism that is legitimate, there is no foreign element which contaminates their life.  We are to be, in the terms of 2 Corinthians 11, a chaste virgin, a pure virgin, in terms of Ephesians 5, the church is to be a blameless without spot, without blemish bride.  Same concept.

Then, you’ll note also in verse 15 he uses the term “above reproach.”  That too is one word in the Greek, you have amemptos, akeraios, and then you have ammos, all of them have an alpha-privative which means they’re negative terms, and this means above reproach: faultless, flawless, spotless, blemishless.  This word, by the way, is used in the Greek Old Testament in Numbers, I think it’s several times, Numbers 6:14, Numbers 19:2, I found in both places, and it’s there referring to a sacrifice, without blemish, without spot, the kind of sacrifice to be brought to the Lord.  So, really three ways he’s saying the same thing: harmless, blameless, flawless, faultless, sinless, pure.  That’s what he wants.  Why?  And the key is this, children of God.  You are to be becoming the proper kind of child of God.  In other words, the kind that would rightly represent God, that would be believable if you said I belong to God, He’s my Father, I’m His son, I’m His child.  We are to be truly God’s children not only by divine decree, but by testimony as well.  In Romans 12 we are to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.  So, we are like a sacrifice, to be without spot, without blemish, without stain, undefiled, pure.  We’re children of God.

We have to get in touch with that Who do you belong to?  Whose are you?  Who owns you?  Whose name do you bear?  Whose identity do you share?  Whose life do you share?  The very life of God.  And so, every believer needs to live in consistency with who He is.

MacArthur discusses ‘a crooked and twisted generation’:

Second point, when we talk about the reason for obedience, not only for our own sake but for the sake of the unsaved Here’s a very basic principle here, for the sake of the unsaved.  He says in verse 15, “You are to become blameless and innocent children of God, above reproach, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you appear as lights in the world holding forth the word of life.”  Now, here he is saying this matter of how you live has a dramatic impact not only on whether or not you’re consistent as a child of God, but how you affect the world in which you appear as lights.  Now, we’re talking about the unsaved, now we’re talking about our witnessing, now we’re talking about our evangelistic mandate And this is the heart of the appeal, by the way.  The first part just led into this; the last part just leads out of it.  This is the main issue Evangelism is primarily a matter of God’s children shining as lights in a dark world But doing that effectively comes down to two things: character and content, character and content, or personality and proclamation.  It’s not just what you say; it’s also what you are.  And we know that.  This is good reminder.

Now, would you notice verse 15, just to get you in touch with the specifics, he says, “In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” and he there borrows a phrase from the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 and verse 5 There, Moses was speaking to apostate Israel and saying you are no more the children of God for you are a crooked and perverse nation So, he borrows that same phrase, only this time he’s not defining an apostate Israel; the writer of Scripture is now defining the society of the world in which the church exists.  In Deuteronomy 32, Moses characterized apostate Israel as a crooked and perverse nation, and here Paul borrows that phrase to characterize the whole world in which the church exists.  And we are living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation And that is something we need to be very careful to understand. 

Please note: we are in the midst of it.  Jesus said in John 17 when He prayed to the Father, I’m not going to ask you take them out of the world, I’m going to ask You to keep them in the world.  There we are as lights in the world.  It is a world of God-rejecters It is a world of Christ-haters It is a tragic world, morally warped, spiritually perverted It rejects God’s message as Israel of old did.  Would you notice those two words, “crooked and perverse?”  The word generation is genea, could translate nation as well But the words “crooked and perverse” are interestingCrooked is a Greek word, skolios.  Have you ever heard of an illness called scoliosis of the spine It’s a curvature of the spine It comes from this word because the word means curved, bent out of shape It describes something that is out of proper alignment, that is off and deviated from the standard.  Proverbs 2:15 describes the society of this world in these terms.  It says, “Their paths are crooked, and they are devious in their ways.”  Isaiah 53 puts it this way in verse 6, “All we like sheep have gone,” what?  “Astray.”  And so, man has a spiritual disease, scoliosis of the heart, in which he is deviated from God, in which he has left the standard, moved away from the straight plumb line of righteousness

And then, an even stronger word is the word perverse This word means to be severely twisted or severely distorted So, man has deviated from the path, and in the deviation become severely twisted and severely distorted It is an abnormal condition By the way, our Lord also used this basic same expression in Luke 9 Jesus said, “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you?”  So, this is a good characterization, one used in the Old Testament, one used in the gospels, one used by the writer of the epistle to describe someone who has deviated from the path of righteousness, deviated from the plan of God, become twisted, perverted.

Now, you’ll notice here that it says “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation,” and then it says, “Among whom you appear as lights in the world.”  So, in a sense, generation and world go together Generation speaks basically of the popul[ace]; world speaks of the moral, ethical, sinful system in which they think and by which they operate their lives and conduct their behavior.  So, we face a twisted distorted world.  This is continuously brought home to me.  It’s a twisted perverted world.  Fornication is right, adultery is right, homosexuality is right, lying is right, cheating is right, and all the rest of it.  Not the Word of God.  So, the whole culture has deviated from the standard of righteousness, and in the deviation become distorted and twisted, and their thinking is so convoluted that we would never expect the natural man to understand the things of God They are to him what?  Foolishness.

Now, that leaves us then with two very important things.  We are to reach this perverse world, we are to reach this crooked world and there are two ways: one, what we are; two, what we say.  Let’s look, first of all, at what we are.  Verse 15, “You are children of God, above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”  Now, this is what we are.  This is what we are.  Among whom you appear, phainomai, probably could be translated “you are shining,” could be, “you must shine.”  But he is saying you have to shine, and this is talking about now what we say but what we are, what we are.  You shine, and here’s his analogy, as lights, phstr, that word in a metaphorical sense can refer to a lot of different lights But whenever it’s used in a specific non-metaphorical sense it always refers to the sun, moon, or stars.  And I take it here that that is probably what Paul is saying. 

We find, for example, such a use of this term in the Septuagint in Genesis 1:14 and Genesis 1:16, we find some non-biblical sources where this word is used to refer to the sun, moon and the stars.  And what he is simply saying is you live in a dark universe, and you are the stars and the sun and the moon; you’re the only light the world has As the sun and the moon and the stars shine in the heavens, and as they illuminate an otherwise dark sky, so you shine in the world, illuminating an otherwise totally dark society.  We shine.

Now, what do you mean by shine?  We demonstrate the light of God What is that?  It’s the life of God I’m not going to go into a whole study, but light and life are one Life, the life of God in us emphasizes the character of that life.  The life of God in us as light emphasizes the impact of that life.  And you find John jumping back and forth to those concepts, light and life, as well as Paul on some occasions Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world.”  You are a vessel in whom the light of God has been poured with the life of God and now you have life as to its quality and light as to its impact.  It is a shining life.  It is a living light.  And so, we are called to be what Israel failed to be You remember in Romans 2:19, Paul says, “You’re confident that you’re a guide to the blind and a light to those who are in darkness, but you’re not.”  Israel, the Jew as the Jewish leaders of Paul’s time thought they were the lights but they weren’t, and thus they are called the blind leading the blind, and both will fall in the ditch.  But we are the light of the world.  Why?  Because the light of life shines in us and the light of His life in us shines from us.  We are vessels.

In 2 Corinthians 4:6, Paul says God who first ordered the light to shine in the darkness has flooded our hearts with His light.  We can now enlighten men by giving them the knowledge of God’s glory that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ We are lights.  We are children of light.  In Ephesians 5:8, there’s a good reminder of that and you know it very well.  “You were formerly darkness now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light.”  Then, he even talks about the fruit of light and what is it?  The fruit of light is goodness, and righteousness, and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord and not participating in the unfruitful deeds of darkness Our light shines in our deeds: goodness, righteousness, truth, what we are, that’s how the light shines.

You actually light people one way or another You send out an impulsive light, you as a child of God.  You cannot come in contact with other people in this crooked and perverse generation without impacting them in some way And if you are a godly, holy, obedient Christian, you will have an almost startling impact on most people.  And they will feel the light and they may even shy away from the light because it is so obvious that you possess something they don’t possess They may feel the vibrations, to put it in another analogy, of your own holiness; they may feel a yearning to be something better than they are They may even sense the appetite, the hunger, the thirst for the unseen and the eternal which they know they don’t have.  It’s also true that if you’re a bad person, you’ll bring dark vibrations, and your life will touch someone else and it will put out a corresponding current that you’ve induced So, you affect people for good or for bad, everybody does.

MacArthur then quotes F B Meyer (1847-1929), a Baptist pastor and evangelist from London who also worked in the United States:

In a sense it’s a terrible thing to think about.  FB Meyer wrote, “These thoughts press on one’s heart that one can never speak a word, never transact a piece of business that one’s face is never seen lighted up with the radiance of God or clouded and despondent without it being made harder or easier for other men to live a good life.  Every one of us every day resembles Jeroboam the son of Nebat who made other men sin, or we are lifting other men into the light and the peace and the joy of God No man liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself, but the life of everyone is telling upon an increasing number of mankind what a solemn responsibility it is to live.”  And we have that responsibility.  You are light.  You have been called to light the dark world.  And the quality of your life is the platform of your personal testimony.  You have to understand that.  By the kind of life you live, you build a platform on which what you say is made believable.  If you have no platform because of your life, your message isn’t believable And a murmuring discontent, grumbling, griping, complaining Christian is never going to have a positive influence on others You can’t be talking about the gospel, forgiveness, joy, peace, gladness, comfort, and be moaning and grumbling and complaining all the time.  People are not going to believe the gospel will do what you’re trying to say it will do That’s why the philosopher Heine in Germany said, “Show me your redeemed lives and I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer.”

How true.

Returning to our text, Paul tells the Philippians to hold fast to the word of life, so that when he is finally with Christ he can be proud that he did not run (a spiritual marathon) in vain or labour in vain (verse 16).

The word of life is the Gospel.

MacArthur explains:

in addition to our character is our content, it’s what we say Look at verse 16.  Also he adds, in the process of shining as lights in the world you are “holding forth the word of life.”  Now, some would translate it “holding fast.”  Now, my own feeling is that if Paul wanted to say “holding fast” he probably would have used katech, instead he uses epech, holding forth or holding out That same verb used here is used in Homer’s “Odyssey” to refer to holding out a gift of wine for someone to take and drink, so it’s kind of an offer It can mean holding firmly, holding tightly, but the context here is one of shining in a dark world.  It’s one of sending light into a dark world.  So, both the word, its uses, its comparison to other terms and its context seems to me to favor holding forth, holding out.  We are shining as stars in terms of character.  We are holding out the Word of life.  What is that?  The Word that gives life.  What Word gives life?  The gospel, the gospel, the message which gives life, the gospel of salvation that gives life, the life of God to the soul, the soul of manMen are dead in trespasses and sin, Ephesians 2:1 says, they need lifeWe hold out that life We hold forth that life That’s proclamation.  So, on the one hand it’s personality; on the other, it’s proclamation, it’s character, and it’s content.  It’s what we are, it’s what we say.

MacArthur tells us what Paul meant by his own evangelistic efforts on the Philippians’ behalf:

Look at verse 16, “So that in the day of Christ I may have cause to rejoice because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.”  He says, “Look, if you’ll obey this command, I’ll be happy in the day of Christ, and I’ll look back on my life and I’ll say it wasn’t in vain, it wasn’t in vain.”  So, he says, do it for my sake.  And his pastoral heart is showing here.  He says, “Be pure, be godly, without complaint, for the sake of the one who has given his life in service to you, for the sake of the one who has been called by God, for the sake of the one who has been commissioned by God, for the sake of the one who has extended himself that he might minister to you.  Please do this for my sake, and not for my temporal sake but for my eternal sake,” he says.  Not to make me like my ministry better.  No, but to give me a greater joy in eternity.  Why?  I believe it’s very simple.  This isn’t proud, this isn’t self-serving.  Paul’s saying this, look, “I love God.  I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  I live in this life to serve God.  And I look forward to heaven for one great reason: I want to glorify God.  And the more effective my service has been in this world, the greater my capacity to glorify Him will be in the world to come So, don’t limit my capacity to glorify Him in the world to come by rendering my labors here in vain because you have not followed through.”

And so, here’s his third and compelling motivation: do it for your sake that you might be a proper child of God.  Do it for the lost’s sake that you might shine as a light in the world holding forth the Word of life.  And do it for my sake that out of love for me and esteem for me and desire to see me fully able to glorify God in eternity, do it.  Marvelous point, isn’t it?  He had given his life for them.  He was the human instrument of their salvation.  It’s recorded in Acts 16 how the Philippian church was born.  Now, he’s in prison.  He doesn’t know how long he has.  For all he knows at this point he may lose his life It turned out he didn’t lose it until later in a second imprisonment But at the time he faced that prospect He looks forward to meeting the Lord and he says, “When I meet the Lord,” verse 16, “in the day of Christ,” and that, by the way, is different than the day of the Lord It’s a different emphasis.  Day of the Lord emphasizes judgment; day of Christ emphasizes rewards Day of the Lord focuses on the unbeliever; day of Christ focuses on the believer So, he says, “As I look forward to the day when I see Christ and I receive my reward,” he says, I will have cause to glory,” or better, “cause to rejoice, cause to rejoice.”  And why will I rejoice?  “Because I will know that I didn’t run in vain,” and that’s a word that’s used to speak of runners in a stadium, making a maximum effort to win a great event, “and I didn’t toil in vain,” that’s kopia, work to the point of sweat and exhaustion In other words, I want to get to the end, I want to see Christ and know that none of the tremendous effort that I made was for nothing …

It’s not egotistical It’s that you so cherish the responsibility of ministry that you want God to know you have rendered the very best effort possible Paul, if he’s going to boast, Romans 15 says, in Christ Jesus, I have found reason for boasting, but I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.  He knows.  Whatever we rejoice in Christ has done, whatever good happens in your life Christ has done But be faithful for the sake of those who have poured their life into you.  Be faithful for the sake of those who planted the seed and those who watered the seed

Paul, considering his ongoing imprisonment, says that even if he becomes a drink offering on the sacrificial offering of the Philippians’ faith, he is happy and rejoices with all of them (verse 17).

MacArthur explains what a drink offering was in the ancient world when an animal sacrifice was made:

Paul is talking about an altar and he’s talking about an animal and he’s talking about blood and he’s talking about suffering and he’s talking about pouring out a libation, or otherwise called a drink offering. That’s the imagery that’s in his mind. And as he looks at his life and realizes that he is to humbly and without complaint work out his salvation, he recognizes that in doing that he will have to offer himself as a sacrifice which he gladly does. And he says this is what you are, of course, to follow, this is the pattern …

Well, in the ancient world of sacrifice…by the way, both the Jewish and the pagan world had these kinds of drink offerings…this is what typically would happen. After the animal on the altar had been killed and was being burned up, there was a final sort of capper, a final topping off of that sacrifice where the offerer came and took wine, sometimes they used water, occasionally we even have illustration of them using honey, but predominantly wine, and pouring wine either on the ground in front of the altar or on top of the burning sacrifice in which case it would vaporize immediately into steam and go into the air, symbolizing the rising of that sacrifice into the nostrils of the deity for whom it was being offered.

So Paul says I am now offering my life as this final topping off libation or drink offering upon another sacrifice. This is the completion of this full sacrifice. By the way, if you want some Scriptures to look up on that, 2 Kings 16:13 describes the Jewish drink offering. Jeremiah 7:18 talks about the pagan drink offerings. And Hosea 9:4 notes that the drink offering was wine. And those are just selected out of a number of Scriptures.

The process went like this. The offerer came and before the altar the animal was killed, put on the altar, burned. At some point during the burning the drink offering was poured out as the final sacrificial act. And that is exactly what Paul has in mind. He sees this whole sacrificial scene…now note this…but what he sees his sacrifice as is the drink offering, the final touch to another sacrifice.

MacArthur says Paul was speaking of his circumstances at the time he wrote to the Philippians, not the prospect of death:

“Even if” is a first-class conditional in the Greek which means that it indicates something that is so. So it should be translated “since.” But since I am being poured out. “I am being poured out” is in the present tense, so whatever it is he’s referring to it is going on right now. Some people have tried to make this verse refer to his martyrdom, to his future death in the event that he would be executed while imprisoned here, or whenever his martyrdom came that he had that in mind. No, this is not a future, this is a present tense. There is no reason to push this into a future interpretation, he is talking about something that is going on right now. So he is saying even if, and it is the case, I am presently being poured out as a drink offering. Note this, he saw then not his death as a sacrifice, but his life as a sacrifice in which his death was only the culmination. His whole life was a drink offering. His whole life had been poured out. It is happening right now. I am being spendomi, I am being poured out presently. It cannot mean his death, it can end with his death but he is talking about his sacrificial life. Here he is because of the cause of Christ a prisoner, chained to a Roman soldier twenty-four hours a day, he is bound, he cannot carry on his ministry the way he had been free to carry it on prior to this time. And in the difficulty of being chained to a Roman soldier, no privacy and under whatever kind of abuse that might have involved, he sees himself as pouring out his life as an offering to be pleasing to God.

Now note this. This kind of sacrifice is a willing one and Paul was making it with a willing heart. By the way, those who think that Paul’s referring to his death are assuming that he was anticipating that he might die. But I don’t sense that he really felt he was going to die, it was a remote possibility.

MacArthur explains ‘the sacrificial offering’ of the Philippians faith. In short, they were suffering persecution:

Now did you notice there is a greater sacrifice than the drink offering? The drink offering is Paul’s sacrifice, the greater sacrifice he indicates is that of the Philippian church. Did you see that? This is a very powerful point. I’m poured out as a drink offering on top of or upon the real sacrifice which is your sacrifice. You are making the great sacrifice, I am just the topping off of it

Well, in the first place, we know that the Philippians were suffering greatly for their faith. Go back to chapter 1 verse … 28, he says, “I don’t want you to be in any way alarmed by your opponents.” Don’t be alarmed by your opponents. Then go down into verse 29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake.” So they have opponents, they are suffering for the sake of Christ. Then verse 30 says, “You’re even experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me and now here to be in me.” You’re going through what I’m going through. They were in a hostile environment. They were in an ungodly environment. They were in a pagan culture. And it was bringing on them that persecution which is indicated there in those verses. So Paul says yours is the great sacrifice. You are the one suffering as you proclaim Christ in Philippi. Mine is just the pouring out a libation on top of your great sacrifice

Some translations add ‘service’ so that the verse reads ‘the sacrifice and service of your faith’:

Now notice that phrase “upon the sacrifice and service of your faith.” The sacrifice they were making was really the giving of their lives the cause of Christ…preaching, teaching, proclaiming, living for Christ. And he calls it “the service of your faith…the service of your faith.” The word “service” is leitourgia from which we get liturgy. Why? Because it means sacred service, religious service, priestly service.

Paul tells the Philippians to be glad in the midst of their suffering and to rejoice, just as he is rejoicing (verse 18):

So Paul looks at them and he sees them as priests. Just like Peter says, holy priests, royal priests, 1 Peter 2. And he sees the Philippians as priests who are offering up their lives as a sacrifice, and his by comparison is just a little topping off compared to theirs. They were a faithful people. They were a sacrificial people. He rejoiced over them. He just rejoiced over them because of their faithfulness to the Lord

Well, you’re going through suffering and you’re going through persecution and you’re going through opposition, you rejoice too and I’ll rejoice and we’ll rejoice together that you have put your lives on the altar, that I have poured my life on the altar that it is all well pleasing to God and in that is our great joy.

MacArthur poses difficult questions for us in the context of these verses:

You look at trials and difficulties, hard places, physical discomfort, pain and even death as dark and forbidding. But when you get to the point where you totally abandon yourself to the will of God to be pleasing in His sight, nothing is dark, nothing is forbidding, light is shed on everything and ultimate sacrifice leads to ultimate joy. And the reason we know so little about that kind of joy is because we know so little about that kind of sacrifice.

For us, you see, the only thing that brings joy is what we do for ourselves, and once in a while the joy of seeing something done for someone else. But I wonder how many Christians really aren’t consumed with the joy that is theirs because of the total sacrifice they have made for Christ. We get joy out of what we do for ourselves, we get some joy out of what we do for others as a satisfaction in feeding the hungry, helping the poor, whatever it might be, helping little children, sick people. But how many of us are exhilarated with joy in the sacrifices we make for the cause of Christ? Let me ask the question, what are you sacrificing in service to Christ? What amount of treasure, what amount of time, what are you sacrificing for the cause of Christ? I’ll put it another way. What have you said no to in order to say yes to God’s will? What have you said no to in order to say yes to God’s Kingdom? What have you said no to in order to say yes to God’s church? That’s the question. Paul lived a life of sacrificial joy. And I’m telling you, and I’ll say it probably till I die some day, the reason we have such a discontent, unhappy society is because, and even among Christians, they are trying to find joy in possessions rather than in sacrifice where ultimate joy lies. And so they are chasing an illusion.

You say, “Well I don’t mind my life, it’s not that bad.” Well that may be true, God is gracious and you may have a modicum of happiness. But you will never know true joy, surpassing joy, sacrificial joy, the joy that allows a man being burned at the stake to sing with expressions of joy in his lips, the hymns of his great God and Savior, you may never know that exhilarating joy, the joy that comes out of sacrificial giving, sacrificial effort, the greatest joy.

… Jesus is the perfect illustration of ultimate sacrifice and ultimate joy. Jesus in giving His life, enduring the cross, did so for the ultimate joy of offering to God the ultimate sacrifice that was well-pleasing to Him. Paul learned it from Jesus. And he longed…he longed to learn Christ in his own life.

MacArthur contrasts our spiritual condition today with that of St Paul:

Let me make the point that needs to be made. The reason that we are reluctant to set ourselves up as the spiritual model is because we know so much about ourselves as to know the model is not what it ought to be. But listen carefully. When a person is truly spiritual and truly godly and truly deep and truly walks in intimacy with God, there is the utter lack of self-consciousness that is present in the hypocrite. And so Paul can rather readily, in fact almost easily use himself as an illustration because it is the reflection of the purest intent and the purest motive, and so it is done with no self-consciousness. It is the expression of a genuinely humble man, of a genuinely spiritual man, of a genuinely godly man and thus it is not a problem for him, as he said in 1 Corinthians, to literally say to us, “Be ye followers of me as I am of Christ.” If you find it difficult for you to say that about yourself, and to establish yourself as the standard for others to follow, it is because there is a self-consciousness there about that. That self-consciousness is born out of a sense of inadequacy because you are not before God what you ought to be. Paul, on the other hand, knows none of that self-consciousness and freely does he express the fact that he is the standard and the model and freely does the Spirit of God encourage him to do that knowing full well what is in his heart. So this is not a wrong thing to do, it is a right thing to do. It is just that there are very few who can be self-conscious and humble and so deeply godly that they can do it as Paul does it so easily. So he is the first illustration, rightly so, and it is godly for him to say so because it is the truest reflection of his pure heart.

In closing, here is another F B Meyer quote, which really brings home the sacrificial spiritual passion we see in Scripture:

It is certain that before any service that we do for God or man is likely to be of lasting or permanent benefit, it must be saturated with our heart’s blood. That which costs us nothing will not benefit others. If there is no expenditure of tears and prayer, if that love of which the Apostle speaks in another place which costs is lacking, we may speak with the tongues of men and of angels, may know all mysteries and all knowledge, may bestow all our goods to feed the poor but it will profit nothing. Let us rather seek to be poured forth as an offering, then to do much without feeling the least travail of soul. As the fertility of Egypt in any year is in direct proportion to the height that the waters of the Nile measure, so the amount of our real fruitfulness in the world is gauged by the expenditure of our spiritual force. It was because Moses was prepared to be blotted from the book of God for his people that he carried them for forty years through the desert and deposited them on the very borders of the promised land. It was because Jesus wept over Jerusalem that He was able to send a Pentecost on that guilty city. It was because Paul was prepared to be accursed for his brethren according to the flesh that he was able to turn so many from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto GodNo heart pangs, no spiritual seed.

Never mind the length of this post, the question is whether the content is difficult to comprehend and digest. I will be considering it for some time to come.

Next week, the tone changes as Paul discusses Timothy’s faithful ministry.

Next time — Philippians 2:19-24

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