Monday, April 25, 2016

Are You A Child Of God?

12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
1 Samuel 2:12 (KJV)

The Old Testament book of First Samuel discusses Eli, a priest of Israel, and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were also priests (1 Samuel 1:3). Eli was a descendant of Ithamar, the fourth son of Aaron, and Eli was the high priest in Shiloh at the beginning of First Samuel.[1] During this time in Israel, Eli functioned as both high priest and judge, judging Israel for 40 years (1 Samuel 4:18). Eli faithfully served God; however, he was a lax father who did not manage his two sons, Phinehas and Hophni. Although Hophni and Phinehas were priests, the Holy Scriptures call these two sons of Eli “sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12, KJV). “Sons of Belial” is a Hebrew term that described worthless people who openly practiced lawlessness, evil, and wickedness (see Deuteronomy 13:13; Judges 19:22; 1 Samuel 25:17, 25; Proverbs 6:12-14; Proverbs 16:27). The same Hebrew is also used in such passages as 1 Samuel 10:27 for “troublemakers”; 1 Kings 21:10, 13 for “scoundrels”; and Job 34:18 for “worthlessness”.[2] In 2 Corinthians 6:15, the Apostle Paul uses Belial as a synonym for Satan.[3] Even though Hophni and Phinehas were outwardly acting as servants of God, they did not in reality know and serve Him (1 Samuel 2:12; see also Matthew 7:15-23).

Hophni and Phinehas were worthless priests and evil men who did not honor, respect, and obey the LORD God (1 Samuel 2:12). These two brothers abused their position, and they were greedy, arrogant, and selfish (1 Samuel 2:13-17, 22, 29). Hophni and Phinehas often took meat for themselves first from sacrificial animals brought by worshippers before they were properly dedicated to God (1 Samuel 2:14-16). Instead of taking the allotted priestly pieces after the prescribed offering to God had been made, Hophni and Phinehas selected the best cuts first (1 Samuel 2:29; see also Leviticus 3:3–5; Leviticus 7:22–36; Leviticus 10:14–15; Deuteronomy 18:1-5).[4] These two brothers treated “the LORD’s offering with contempt” and “trampled on” (scorned or disrespected) the LORD’s sacrifices and offering (1 Samuel 2:29).[5] Hophni and Phinehas not only showed disrespect for God’s sacrifices, but they also had no regard for the women who served at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22). Instead of encouraging the women in their spiritual walk, these two brothers would seduce and lay with the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle (see 1 Samuel 2:22). The sins of Hophni and Phinehas were great in God’s eyes for they continually treated God and God’s people with disrespect and contempt (1 Samuel 2:17). These two brothers committed evil deeds at God’s Tabernacle and invited God's judgment. Even more, Hophni and Phinehas had no respect for God or their office as priest, so that all God could do was judge them and Eli’s family.[6]

Eli was now very old and a godly man with poor eyesight (see 1 Samuel 3:12; 1 Samuel 4:15). As high priest, Eli was aware of Hophni and Phinehas’s sins and wickedness towards God and among the people (1 Samuel 2:22). Eli confronted his sons and said, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning” (1 Samuel 2:23, NLT). Furthermore, Eli told his sons, “It is an awful thing to make the Lord’s people sin. Ordinary sin receives heavy punishment, but how much more this sin of yours that has been committed against the LORD!” (1 Samuel 2:24-25, TLB). However, Hophni and Phinehas ignored their wise father’s instruction (1 Samuel 2:25).

For their disobedience and wickedness, the LORD God was planning to bring His righteous judgment against Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:25; see also 1 Samuel 4:11). God sent an unnamed prophet to pronounce judgment on Eli and his family (1 Samuel 2:27–36). As a result of Eli’s apathy and Hophni and Phinehas’ heinous wickedness, God chooses to remove Eli’s sons and their descendants from the priesthood. Eli and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas, fell under the wounding judgment of God (see 1 Samuel 2:27–36). Even worse, Hophni and Phinehas’s sinful leadership brought defeat and judgment on God’s people (see 1 Samuel 3:1; 1 Samuel 4:1-11). God’s final judgment against Eli and his descendants occurred when Solomon removed Eli’s descendant Abiathar as high priest and replaced him with Zadok (1 King 2:35).[7]

God is holy, and He knows all our ways (1 Samuel 2:2-3; see also Exodus 15:11; Leviticus 11:44). As a loving God, He will properly judge all our actions (1 Samuel 2:3). All the earth belongs to the LORD God, and the LORD judges throughout the earth (1 Samuel 2:8, 10; see also Psalm 96:10, 13). The true and living God protects those who are faithful to Him, but He brings destructions to the wicked (1 Samuel 2:9; see also 2 Samuel 2:26-27; Psalm 18:25; Proverbs 2:8). 

Yet one bright spot of hope emerged from Eli’s faithful ministry—Samuel. In contrast to Hophni and Phinehas’s wickedness, Samuel faithfully followed the LORD God and grew up to be one of Israel’s greatest judges and prophets (see 1 Samuel 2:17–18; 1 Samuel 3:19–20).[8]

5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with Moses, and the LORD called out His Name: the LORD (Yahweh, Jehovah). 6 The LORD passed in front of Moses and said, “I am the LORD. The LORD is a God who shows mercy, who is kind, who does not become angry quickly, who has great love and faithfulness 7 and is kind to thousands of people. The LORD forgives people for evil, for sin, and for turning against Him, but He does not forget to punish guilty people. He will punish not only the guilty people, but also their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren, and their great-great-grandchildren. Exodus 34:5-7 (NCV)

Faithlife Study Bible ((Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
King James Version Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988).
KJV Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994).
Word In Life Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

[1] King James Version study Bible
[2] Zondervan
[3] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament
[4] KJV Bible Commentary
[5] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament
[6] Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament
[7] Faithlife Study Bible
[8] Word In Life Study Bible

Monday, April 18, 2016

LORD of Heaven’s Armies

1 There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph in the hill country of Ephraim. . .  3 Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle.
1 Samuel 1:1, 3 (NLT)

Some of the marvelous titles of the true and living God used throughout the Holy Scriptures are “Lord of Hosts,” “LORD of Heaven’s Armies,” “LORD All-Powerful,” “LORD Almighty,” “Lord of the heavens,” “GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies,” “Jehovah (Lord) of Hosts (Sabaoth),” and “Lord of the armies.” These royal titles for God reveal God’s character as a strong military figure who rules the angelic armies of heaven and the armies of Israel as Israel’s ultimate Leader (e.g. see Deuteronomy 33:2; Joshua 5:13–15; 1 Samuel 17:45; Matthew 26:53; Revelation 19:14). Moreover, these titles for God emphasize God’s universal sovereignty and omnipotence as the Ruler of the stars (e.g., see Psalm 89:11; Isaiah 40:26), the angelic host (e.g., see 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 103:20-21; Luke 2:13-15), and over all creation (e.g., see Isaiah 42:5; Amos 4:13). Finally, these titles express God’s unlimited resources and power He uses to help His people (e.g., see Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 46:7, 11; Haggai 2:4). Thus, these titles for God embraces God’s universal rule over all forces whether in heaven or on earth, and anticipates His eventual defeat of all those who oppose Him (see Isaiah 24:21–23; Isaiah 34:1–10). The Holy Scriptures record a living demonstration of God’s power to help His people in any situation.

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him. . . .  7 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle. 9 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 10 Who is the King of glory? The LORD of Heaven’s Armies— He is the King of glory. Psalm 24:1, 7-10 (NLT)

The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sins of the King

But the LORD was displeased with what David had done. 2 Samuel 11:27 (NLT)

The Old Testament books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles record many sins and failures on the part of God’s leaders, including Eli, Samuel, Saul and David and the painful consequence of their sins and disobedience towards God (e.g. see 1 Samuel 15:22-23). Eli and Samuel’s sins involved their failures to properly manage their household (e.g., see 1 Samuel 2:12-36; 1 Samuel 8:1-3). Saul failures included continual rebellion and disobedience towards God’s instructions (e.g., see 1 Samuel 13:13-14; 1 Samuel 15:10-11, 17-19, 23). As king of Israel, Saul became prideful and impatient towards God. Eventually, God replaced Saul with David and made David king, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22, NLT; see also 1 Samuel 13:14). David’s heart was fully devoted to the Lord God (e.g., see 1 Kings 9:4; 1 Kings 11:4, 6) and he never worshiped any other gods except the true and living God of heaven and earth (see Exodus 20:3-7; Exodus 34:14).

However, even David sinned against God. David’s most famous sins were his adultery and lusts of Bathsheba and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12). While Israelites’ fighting men went off to war (1 Samuel 11:1), David stay home and had a secret adulterous relationship with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11:2-4; 2 Samuel 12:12; see also Exodus 20:14, 17; Deuteronomy 5:18, 21; Matthew 5:27-28). Bathsheba eventually conceived a child from the relationship (2 Samuel 11:5) and David tried to hide his adulterous relationship by calling Bathsheba’s husband Uriah back home from war (2 Samuel 11:6-8). However, Uriah refused to engage in sexual relations with his wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:9-13) and David eventually ordered that Uriah be killed (2 Samuel 11:14-17; see also Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; Matthew 5:21-22). After Uriah’s death, David stole Uriah’s wife and married Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:26-27; see also Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19; Matthew 19:18-19). Bathsheba gave birth to a son from the relationship (2 Samuel 11:27). David’s sinful acts of adultery, theft, covetousness, and murder displeased God (2 Samuel 11:27; 2 Samuel 11:9).

Prophet Nathan to David:  9 “Why, then, have you despised the word (commandment) of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. 10 From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised Me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. 11 This is what the LORD says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. 12 You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.” 2 Samuel 12:9-12 (NLT)

David’s sins against Bathsheba and Uriah displeased God (see 2 Samul 11:27; 2 Samuel 12:9), and he paid the consequences of his sins against God’s commandment (2 Samuel 12:9-11). God through the Prophet Nathan confronted David’s secret sins toward Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 12:1; see also Psalm 51). The all-knowing and all-seeing God saw David’s supposedly secret sins of adultery, theft, covetousness, and murder displeased God (Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:13). When confronted with his sins by the Prophet Nathan, David immediately confessed his sins against God (2 Samuel 12:13; see also 1 John 1:9). The Prophet Nathan told David that God had taken away his sin, and God graciously forgave David’s sins (2 Samuel 12:13, 24-25; see also Psalm 32:5; Psalm 51:2; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). However, David had to face the consequences of his many sins (2 Samuel 12:14; see also Hebrews 12:4-11) and the remainder of Second Samuel reveals David’s consequences of his sins and disobedience towards God and His commandments (see 2 Samuel chapters 13 – 20). The consequences of David’s sins not only affect himself but also his family.

David’s moral failures with Bathsheba and Uriah resulted in devastating consequences within his family. First, the son born to David and Bathsheba died (2 Samuel 12:14-15, 18). Next, David’s son Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar, who was a virgin (2 Samuel 13:1-14, 18) and his half-brother Absalom avenged Tamar’s rape by killing his half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:23-33). Then, David’s son Absalom conspired and stole his father kingdom (2 Samuel 15), and eventually David’s soldiers killed Absalom in battle rebellion (2 Samuel 18:9-15). David’s son and successor Solomon matched some of David’s sinful practices by marrying many wives and these many wives lead Solomon away from wholeheartedly serving and loving God (1 Kings 11:1-6). After Solomon’s death, Solomon’s sons continued to disobey God and caused the nation of Israel to split into two kingdoms – northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah) (1 Kings 11:31-40).

One lesson is obvious as one reads First and Second Samuel: obedience to God brings blessings while disobedience brings God’s judgment. God is gracious, kind, and merciful but God is also holy and just (e.g., see Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18-23; Psalm 86:15; Nahum 1:3). God will not tolerate sin and wickedness, even from His servant David, a man after God’s own heart (e.g., see Hebrews 10:26-27). The life of David demonstrated the sobering truth that God judges sin and disobedience (see also Romans 7:12; Hebrews 12:10-17). Our sins grieve our gracious God. While God is patient and merciful and answers the prayers of His people, He is also holy and just and will not tolerate continual sin and disobedience (Leviticus 11:44; Habakkuk 1:13; Hebrews 12:1-2, 14; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 John 1:5-7). God’s faithfulness and unselfish love should inspire us all to dedicate our whole hearts and lives in faithful obedience to God (e.g., see 1 Samuel 15:22; Micah 6:6-8; Mark 12:33; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11, 22).

Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
J.I. Packer. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

David . . . A Man After God’s Own Heart

20 “After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22 But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after My own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’ 23 And it is One of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel!” Acts 13:20-23 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul in the first century reminded the early church why King David was so significant to Israel and the world. The true and living God of heaven and earth (Acts 17:24) chose and honored Israel by graciously redeeming Israel from Egyptian bondage (Acts 13:17; see also Exodus 6:1, 6-7; Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Deuteronomy 10:14-15). Then, God cared for Israel through forty years of wandering around in the wilderness (Acts 13:18; see also Deuteronomy 1:31). Next, God destroyed seven nations in the Promised Land of Canaan and gave Israel their land as an inheritance (Acts 13:19; see also Deuteronomy 7:1; Joshua 14-19). All this took about 450 years (Acts 13:20). Israel was in Egyptian slavery for 400 years, and then Israel experienced 40 years of wandering in the wilderness desert. After 40 years, Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land and distributed the Promised Land to God’s people, Israel.

After Israel had settled in the Promised Land, God gave Israel judges to rule them until the time of the Prophet Samuel (Acts 13:20; see also Judge 1:21; 1 Samuel 3:19-20). Then, the people begged Samuel for a king (1 Samuel 8:19), even though the Lord God was Israel’s true King (1 Samuel 12:12). God appointed Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 9:1-2; 1 Samuel 10:1). Saul reigned in Israel for forty years (Acts 13:21). Saul was tall and good-looking; he was an impressive-looking man (1 Samuel 9:2). God filled Saul with His Spirit to lead His people, Israel and God was with Saul (1 Samuel 10:5-7; 1 Samuel 11:6). However, Saul continually rebelled and disobeyed God (e.g., see 1 Samuel 13:13; 1 Samuel 15:23-26). Saul became prideful, impatient, and disobedient to God. Then, God filled Saul with an evil tormenting and injurious spirit (1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Samuel 18:10). Eventually, God replaced Saul with David and made David king (Acts 13:22). God filled David with His Spirit (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 23:2) and said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22, NLT; see also 1 Samuel 13:14).

Many different leaders fill the Old Testament books of First and Second Samuel, including Samuel, Eli, Saul, Jonathan, and David. Among all the godly people mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, no one who stands out more than David does. Born halfway between Abraham and Jesus, David became God's leader for all of the Israelites and the ancestor of Jesus the Messiah. David faithfully obeyed God (Acts 13:22), and he did what was just and right for all his people (e.g. see 2 Samuel 8:15; 1 Kings 11:34-38; 1 Kings 14:8). Moreover, David became the standard God used to judge all the kings of Israel and Judah.

What were the noble qualities that David possessed that pleased God? David possessed the Godlike characteristics of love, joy, loyalty, mercy, kindness, patience, courage, generosity, fairness, honesty, and non-retaliation -- as well as other God-honoring characteristics such as humility and repentance (see Exodus 34:6-7; Galatians 5:22-23). David showed justice, mercy, and fairness to his enemies, allies, and close friends alike. Even more, David remained loyal to Saul and his family despite Saul’s hatred toward David. David’s heart was sensitive to God’s leading, and he regularly sought God for guidance and strength in military and government decisions (e.g., see 1 Samuel 23:2, 4; 1 Samuel 30:8; 2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel 5:19, 23). Under David's leadership, Israel's kingdom grew and prospered.

Although David was the most righteous of all Israel's kings, he was still imperfect. David was human, and the books of Samuel do not hide David’s sins and failings. Mainly, Second Samuel records David’s sin and the temptation of lust, adultery, and murder with Bathsheba and Uriah (see 2 Samuel 11), and David’s sinful pride in taking a census to glory in the strength of his nation (see 2 Samuel 24). Despite David’s failings, he always repented to God when confronted with the truth (e.g., see 2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Samuel 24; Psalm 51). Throughout his life, David accepted God’s divine correction and chose to remain faithful and repented before a merciful God rather than to abandon God and try to survive on his own.

Despite David’s flaws and imperfection, First and Second Samuel reveal David’s genuine devotion and faithfulness toward God. David’s actions showed his true love and trust in God with all his heart, as the law in Deuteronomy 6:4-6 demanded. From King David came Jesus, the hope of Israel (Acts 13:23; see also 2 Samuel 7:11-16). Jesus is God’s Promised Savior of Israel and the world (Acts 13:23; see also Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:10-11; Acts 4:12).

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008). 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

First and Second Samuel

“Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:5 (NLT)

The Old Testament books of First and Second Samuel tell about the beginning of the monarchy (kingship) in Israel. The authors of First and Second Samuel are unknown. However, 1 Samuel 10:25 reveals the prophet Samuel wrote portions of First Samuel and 1 Chronicles 29:29 indicates that the prophets Nathan and Gad also wrote about the events recorded in First and Second Samuel. First and Second Samuel are named after the prophet Samuel. In the Hebrew Bible, First Samuel and Second Samuel form a single book.

First and Second Samuel describe events of about 115 years and play a pivotal role in the Holy Bible for both historical and theological reasons. Historically, First and Second Samuel document the transition as the ancient Israelites moved from being a collection of 12 tribes with no national government to being a unified nation with a centralized government under the control of a king. First Samuel focuses on three main characters: Samuel, Saul, and David and Second Samuel centers exclusively on King David. Samuel was the last of the judges (1 Samuel 7:15-17; Acts 13:20) and the first of a new line of prophets after Moses (1 Samuel 3:19-20). Saul was Israel’s first king and God filled Saul with His Spirit (1 Samuel 9:15-17; 1 Samuel 10:1, 9-11), but Saul was later rejected by God due his disobedience and sins before God (e.g. see 1 Samuel 15:10, 22-23; 1 Samuel 16:1). Saul’s successor was David, God’s choice for king (1 Samuel 16:12-14; see also Acts 13:21-22). After Saul’s rebellion and disobedience, God’s Spirit transferred from Saul to David (1 Samuel 16:14). Moreover, these two Old Testament books record the moral failure of the priesthood under Eli (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25).

Leading up to the time of First and Second Samuel, God ruled His people through judges. Ideally, these judges spoke messages given to them by God, thereby making Israel a theocracy – ruled by God. However, most of the judges failed faithfully to speak and obey God’s Word. Eventually, Israel asked for a king, in part because the pagan nations around them all had kings and they wanted to be just like those nations (1 Samuel 8:4-5). Samuel, who served faithfully as a judge, felt rejected by the people, but God explained that Israel did not reject his leadership. Rather, the ancient Israelites rejected God as the true King (1 Samuel 8:7-9). Despite Israel’s rejection, God continued to work in His peoples’ lives. God is always in control!

Several Old Testament books predicted the rise of a kingship in Israel (e.g., see Genesis 17:16; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 36:31; Numbers 24:7, 17; Deuteronomy 17:14-20), particularly from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). First and Second Samuel lay the foundation for Jesus the Messiah, the ultimate descendant of David and everlasting King (Matthew 2:2). God promised David that He would establish the Kingdom of one of David's descendants (2 Samuel 7:12-13). The New Testament identified Jesus as the Son of God (2 Samuel 7:14; Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:35) and the promised descendant of David (see Matthew 1:20; Matthew 21:9) who brought the Kingdom of God to humanity (Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20; Hebrews 1:8).

Further, First and Second Samuel provide examples that obedience to God brings blessings, while disobedience brings divine judgment. Sadly, divine disaster came to Eli and Saul because of their sins, but blessings came to Samuel and David as they faithfully followed God. Even more, the life of David further demonstrates the sobering truth that God judges sin and disobedience. David committed the acts of murder and adultery with Uriah and Bathsheba that lead to great consequences. While God is patient and merciful and answers the prayers of His people, He is also holy and just and punishes sin.

Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Friday, March 25, 2016

Jesus the Messiah, Son of God, and King of the Jews

60 Then the high priest stood up before the others (Jewish scribes, religious elders, Sadducees, and Pharisees) and asked Jesus, “Well, are You not going to answer these charges? What do You have to say for Yourself?” 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63 Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? 64 You have all heard His blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!” 65 Then some of them began to spit at Him, and they blindfolded Him and beat Him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped Him as they took Him away. . . . 1 Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law—the entire high council—met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led Him away, and took Him to Pilate, the Roman governor. 2 Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.” 3 Then the leading priests kept accusing Him of many crimes, 4 and Pilate asked Him, “Are You not going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” 5 But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise. Mark 14:60-65, Mark 15:1-5 (NLT)

After Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot came to the Garden with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus, and Judas identified Jesus with a kiss (Mark 14:42-43; see also Matthew 26:47-49; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:2-3). Jesus’ arrest occurred Thursday night. After His arrest, Jesus went through two trials – Jewish trial and Roman trial. Jesus’ Jewish trial occurred before the Sanhedrin and then Jesus’ Roman trial occurred before Pontius Pilate. During His trials, the Jewish and Roman authorities asked Jesus two important questions: “Are You the Messiah (Christ), Son of God?” and “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus affirmatively answered “Yes” and openly declared His divine identity as the Messiah (Christ), Son of the living God, and King of the Jews (Mark 14:61-62; Mark 15:2; see also Matthew 2:2; Matthew 26:63-64; Matthew 27:11; Mark 15: 12, 39; Luke 22:67-70; Luke 23:2-3; John 4:25-26; John 18:33-39).

In the Jewish trial, Jesus was first taken before the Jewish high council – the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin consisted of Jewish scribes, religious elders, Sadducees, and Pharisees. Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin was a mockery and dishonest. The testimony of the witnesses against Jesus was unreliable. In order to convict Jesus, the Jewish establishment tried to get Jesus to convict Himself by openly declaring that He was the Christ (Messiah). Jesus affirmed to the Sanhedrin that He was indeed the Messiah and the Son of God (Mark 14:61-62). The Sanhedrin considered Jesus’ self-declaration as the Messiah and the Son of God blasphemy under Jewish law, and He was condemned to death (Mark 14:64). However, the Sanhedrin had limited power from the Roman government. Thus to condemn Jesus to death, the Sanhedrin had to take Jesus before the Roman authorities to carry out the death sentence. Even more, the Jewish religious establishment was afraid of the people because Jesus was very popular amongst the common people (e.g. see Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 14:1; Mark 3:7-8; Luke 4:14; Luke 6:17-19). Thus, the Jewish religious establishment needed to blame Jesus’ death on the Rome.

At Mark 15, the Jewish religious establishment took Jesus before Pontus Pilate of Roman and requested Jesus’ death sentence. However, Pontus Pilate knew Jesus had done nothing, and His execution was unjust, not guilty, and no harm to Rome. However, the Sanhedrin threatened to expose Pontus Pilate to Caesar. In the end, Pontus Pilate yielded to the Sanhedrin’s request and sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion (Mark 15:12-15; see also Matthew 27:19-25; Luke 23:4, 13-25; John 18:38; John 19:4-16).

33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” 35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought He was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to Him on a reed stick so He could drink. “Wait!” He said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take Him down!” 37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed His last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 When the Roman officer who stood facing Him saw how He had died, He exclaimed, “This Man truly was the Son of God!” Mark 15:33-39 (NLT)

Following Jesus’ death and the events surrounding His death, a Roman officer recognized Jesus’ divine nature at the foot of Calvary’s Cross and said, “This Man truly was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39; see also Mark 1:1, Mark 11; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Mark 9:7; Mark 14:61-62; Matthew 16:16; Matthew 17:5; Matthew 27:54; Luke 23:47). This Roman officer had witnessed many crucifixions, and he knew Jesus’ death was different from the others. First, there was an earthquake (Matthew 27:51, 54). Then at noon on Friday, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock (Mark 15:33; see also Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44). Finally, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38; see also Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45). The veil had separated humanity from the living God, but now, through Jesus’ death, Jesus opened for the whole world a “new and living way” to God (Hebrews 10:12-22; also see John 14:6).

The religious establishment may have congratulated themselves on killing Jesus – except for what happened on Easter Sunday – THE RESURRECTION! Jesus’ death and resurrection affirmed that He was indeed the Messiah and the Son of the living God (Romans 1:4; see also Acts 14-40; Acts 4:33).

The New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015).

Monday, March 21, 2016

Jesus’ Final Days

22 As they (Jesus and His disciples) were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then He broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is My body.” 23 And He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them (His disciples), and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood, which confirms the (new) covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” 26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:22-26 (NLT)

The Last Supper occurred on the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Thursday of Passion Week) when the Passover lamb was sacrificed (Mark 14:12; see also Matthew 26:17; Luke 22:7). For the Jews, the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread celebrated their exodus and redemption from Egyptian slavery by God’s mighty hand (see Exodus 12). During the celebration, the Jewish people sacrificed an unblemished and spotless young lamb (see Exodus 12:3-6, 21; Deuteronomy 16:1-4). Unbeknownst to the people, Jesus was the final Passover Lamb sent by God to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 36; see also John 3:16-17; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 2:2). God would sacrifice His Son Jesus on Calvary’s Cross and make Jesus the perfect, unblemished, and spotless Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7).Through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death, God brings a greater “exodus” by purchasing our redemption from sin and evil (see Luke 9:31; Romans 3:25).

On the first day of the festival, Jesus’ disciples asked Him where He wanted to go to eat the traditional Passover supper (Mark 14:12; see also Matthew 26:17). However, Jesus had already planned an upper room for Him and His disciples to celebrate the Passover supper (Mark 14:13-16; see also Matthew 26:18-19; Luke 22:10-13). Jesus sent two of His disciples into Jerusalem to prepare the Passover supper (Mark 14:16). Luke’s Gospel names these two disciples as Peter and John (Luke 22:8).

In the evening, Jesus arrived with the other disciples into the upper room (Mark 14:17). Jesus and His Twelve disciples sat (or reclined) around the table eating (Mark 14:18; see also Matthew 26:20; Luke 22:14). Luke’s Gospel adds that Jesus said during the supper, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16, NIV; see also Revelation 19:9).

During the supper, Jesus said, “I solemnly declare that one of you will betray Me, one of you who is here eating with Me” (Mark 14:18, TLB; see also Psalm 41:9; Matthew 26:21; Luke 22:21; John 13:18, 21). A great sadness swept over Jesus’ disciples and one-by-one each disciple asked Jesus, “Am I the one?” (Mark 14:19, TLB; see also Matthew 26:22; Luke 22:23; John 13:22). Then, Jesus replied, “It is one of you Twelve eating with Me now” and acknowledged Judas as His killer (Mark 14:20; see also Matthew 26:23, 25; John 13:26-30). Then, Jesus said, “I must die, as the prophets declared long ago; but, oh, the misery ahead for the man by whom I am betrayed. Oh, that he had never been born!” (Mark 14:21, TLB; see also Matthew 26:24; Luke 22:22). John’s Gospel tells us that Judas Iscariot left the room after Jesus identified Him as the betrayer (John 13:26-30).

As Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover supper, Jesus took the bread and asked God’s blessings over the bread (Mark 14:22; see also Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:19). Then, Jesus broke the bread into pieces and gave the bread to His disciples and said, “Eat it — this is My body” (Mark 14:22; see also Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:19). Luke’s Gospel adds that Jesus said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this to remember Me” (Luke 22:19, NLT). Then, Jesus took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for the wine and gave the wine to His disciples; and the disciples drank from the wine (Mark 14:23; see also Matthew 26:27; Luke 22:17). Then, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My blood, poured out for many, sealing the new agreement (covenant) between God and man” (Mark 14:24, TLB). Matthew’s Gospel adds that the wine became Jesus’ blood “poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many” (Matthew 26:28, NLT). Next, Jesus said, “I solemnly declare that I shall never again taste wine until the day I drink a different kind in the Kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25, TLB; see also Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:18). Luke’s Gospel adds that after supper, Jesus took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant (agreement) between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you” (Luke 22:20, NLT). The New Testament, or new covenant, is God's new arrangement with humanity based on the death of Jesus.

Then, Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives into a garden called Gethsemane (Mark 14:26; see also Matthew 26:30; Luke 22:39). The hymn song would have been a portion of Psalms 115-118, traditionally sung during the Passover supper.

Biblical scholars call Jesus’ last supper with His disciples the Last Supper, Lord's Supper, Communion, or Eucharist (thanksgiving). Many believers of Jesus continue to celebrate Jesus’ last supper with His disciples as Jesus instructed just before His sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross (Luke 22:19; see also 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). During His last supper, Jesus took two traditional parts of the Passover meal, the passing of bread and the drinking of wine, and gave them new meaning as representations of His body and blood (see also 1 Corinthians 10:16-17). The supper became to symbolize a new covenant that God made with His people (Mark 14:24; see also Luke 22:20). This new covenant comes out of the old covenant celebrated by Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness (see Exodus 24). Jesus’ sacrificial death brings redemption and salvation to all people who believe and accept (Romans 3:25-26). Jesus’ sacrificial blood confirmed the new covenant between God and His people and His blood was poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many (Matthew 26:28; see also Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:22; Revelation 1:5).

Luke’s Gospel adds that after the supper, Jesus’ disciples began to argue among themselves about who was the greatest among them (Luke 22:24). Jesus told His disciples, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant” (Luke 22:25-26, NLT). Then, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as One who serves” (Luke 22:27, NLT; see also Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 13:13-16; Philippians 2:7). Jesus goes on to say to His disciples, “And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the Twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30, NLT).

As Jesus and His disciples were heading to the Mount of Olives, Jesus said to His disciples, “All of you will desert Me” (Mark 14:27, TLB; see also Matthew 26:31). Then, Jesus quoted from Zechariah 13:7 and said “for God has declared through the prophets, ‘I will kill the Shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.’ But after I am raised to life again, I will go to Galilee and meet you there” (Mark 14:27-28, TLB; see also Matthew 26:31-32; Mark 16:7). Then Peter vigorously said to Jesus, “I will never desert You no matter what the others do!” (Mark 14:29, TLB; see also Matthew 26:33). However, Jesus already knew that Peter and the others would desert and deny Him. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to Me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32, NLT). Then, Jesus said, “Peter, before the cock crows a second time tomorrow morning you will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:30, TLB; see also Matthew 26:34; Luke 22:34; John 13:38). However, Peter exploded and declared to Jesus, “No!” and declared, “Not even if I have to die with You! I will never deny You!” (Mark 14:31; see also Matthew 26:35; Luke 22:33; John 13:37). Along with Peter, all the other disciples declared their allegiance to Jesus (Mark 14:31; see also Matthew 26:35).  

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus asked His disciples, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or extra clothing, did you need anything?” and the disciples all replied, “No” (Luke 22:34-35, NLT). Luke’s Gospel records Jesus reversing His earlier advice regarding how to travel (Luke 9:3; Luke 10:4). Now, Jesus instructed His disciples to now take your money, a traveler’s bag, and a sword on their journeys to preach the Good News (Luke 22:36-38). After Jesus returned to glory, Jesus predicted His disciples would face hatred and persecution and they needed to be prepared (Luke 22:35-38).

John’s Gospel adds that during the Passover supper, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, including Judas Iscariot’s feet, and provided a lesson on humility (see John 13:1-20). Moreover, John’s Gospel provided additional teaching, often called the “Upper Room Discourse” (see John chapters 13 through 16) and the Jesus’ prayer for His disciples (John 17). John 17 provides Jesus’ longest recorded prayer. Later that evening, Jesus’s disciples would argue over which of them was the greatest, so His lesson on humility and service towards others did not penetrate their hearts (see Luke 22:24-27).

35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting Him might pass Him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” He cried out, “everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.” Mark 14:35-36 (NLT)

After the Passover supper and disciples’ declaration, Jesus and His disciples came to an olive grove called the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32; see also Matthew 26:36; Luke 22:39; John 18:1). Gethsemane was a garden on the slope of the Mount of Olives. Then, Jesus instructed His disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray” (Mark 14:32, NLT; see also Matthew 26:36). Luke’s Gospel states that Jesus told all His disciples, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation” (Luke 22:40, NLT). In Mark and Matthew’s Gospels, Jesus took Peter, James, and John alone with Him to pray (Mark 14:33; see also Matthew 26:37). This was the third time Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John with Him. Peter, James, and John were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1) and in the home of Jairus where He raised Jairus' daughter from the dead (see Luke 8:49). Now, Peter, James, and John went with Jesus to watch and pray while in the Garden.

While praying, Jesus became deeply troubled and distressed (Mark 14:33; see also Matthew 26:37). Jesus said to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is crushed by sorrow to the point of death; stay here and watch with Me” (Mark 14:34, TLB; see also Matthew 26:38). Then, Jesus went on a little further, fell to the ground, and prayed to God the Father that if it were possible the awful hour awaiting Him might never come (Mark 14:35). Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father . . . everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36, NIV; see also Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42). Jesus knew what lay ahead of Him, and He struggled with His coming death (Hebrews 5:7-9). However, Jesus willingly submitted Himself to God’s will to bring salvation to all people (Luke 2:10-11).

Then, Jesus returned to Peter, James, and John and found them asleep (Mark 14:37; see also Matthew 26:40). Jesus specifically called out to Simon Peter and said, “Asleep? Could you not you watch with Me even one hour?” (Mark 14:37, TLB; see also Matthew 26:40). Jesus said to Peter, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38, NIV; see also Matthew 26:41). “Watch and pray” is a warning that is often repeated in the Holy Scriptures because evil temptations prowl to devour you (e.g., see Nehemiah 4:9; Mark 13:33; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Peter 5:8). The way to overcome evil temptation is to keep watch and pray! Continual prayer is essential because God’s strength can shore up our spiritual defenses and defeat evil attacks and temptation (see Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Next, Jesus went away again and prayed for a second time, repeating His pleadings to God the Father (Mark 14:39; see also Matthew 26:42). Once again Jesus returned to Peter, James, and John and found them sleeping, for they were very tired and they did not know what to say to Jesus (Mark 14:40). Then the third time when Jesus returned to Peter, James, and John, Jesus said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes My betrayer!” (Mark 14:41-42, NIV). At that point, Judas Iscariot, along with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs, came and arrested Jesus (Mark 14:42-43; see also Matthew 26:47-49; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:2).

Only Luke’s Gospel tells us that an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Jesus while He prayed in the Garden (Luke 22:43). Moreover, Luke’s Gospel indicated that as Jesus prayed more passionately, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Finally, Luke’s Gospel states that after praying and just before His arrest Jesus returned to all the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief (Luke 22:45). Jesus instructed His disciples, “Get up and pray, so that you will not give into temptation” (Luke 22:46, NLT).

7 While Jesus was here on earth, He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the One who could rescue Him from death. And God heard His prayers because of His deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered. 9 In this way, God qualified Him as a perfect High Priest, and He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him. Hebrews 5:7-9 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).