Joshua 2:1-11 (A Harlot Named Rahab)

Artwork by Doug Kallerson.

Joshua 2:1-11
A Harlot Named Rahab

Many years ago, I ran the wastewater plant that treated the water for all of the Gulf Gate area. The company provided all the water and wastewater services, including the big blue water tower just behind us, but I preferred the wastewater side of the job.

Running a plant is a lot like running your own body, just with a lot more volume. Stuff comes in, it has to be processed, and stuff goes out in a completely different condition. It is pretty much an all-natural process with the addition of several non-toxic chemicals.

When we eat, the minerals and vitamins contained in food are used by our bodies to make them work well. The treatment plants need iron and other things to be added in so that the “big stomach” doesn’t get upset. The plant needs air pumped through it to keep the microscopic bugs alive. The plant converts things from one form to another. It’s so much like how we function.

That includes when things get into the system that shouldn’t be in there as well. Things can upset our stomachs or even poison them. Well, this is true with the “big stomach” at the plant. One Saturday morning, I got a call from one of the operators, Jason, a really great guy.

He said, “Charlie, the plant is dead. We did 0.0% nitrification.” A dead plant is a bad thing for many reasons, but mostly because the untreated water still has to leave the plant. Those tanks have a very short time before they are full and flow downhill to where they finally rush out to Sarasota Bay. We had hours, at best, to fix things.

Text Verse: “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31

I got to the plant in a matter of minutes. We immediately turned one tank into a holding tank and started pumping every single drop of the “dead bug” out of the plant and into that holding tank. We then took a giant reserve of “live bug” from what is known as a digestor and pumped that back into the plant.

Within probably one to two hours, the plant was running as if it had never had a problem. This not only saved Sarasota Bay from becoming polluted with an unknown but highly toxic chemical (saving all the fish and other aquatic life out there), but it saved the company hundreds of thousands, or more, in fines.

The “dead bug” that we pumped to the temporary storage tank had to be loaded onto trucks and hauled to a special treatment center out of state. It was an immensely expensive process, but it had to be done. After analysis of the contents, it was determined that someone had poured highly toxic chemicals used in photography into the sewer system. Out of sight, out of mind, or so they thought.

If it wasn’t for the quick thinking of Jason who was working all alone on Saturday morning, Sarasota Bay would have received much of that toxicity, along with hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater.

Today, we will meet a similarly quick-thinking lady. Life and death are on the line for her, and she knows it. But she wasn’t a top executive of a major company somewhere. She was just a prostitute. Who would think that someone like that would end up in the genealogy of the Savior of the world!

Great, great things such as this are to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today, and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Did Not Know (Liar, Liar, etc.) (verses 1-7)

Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men

As noted in the previous sermon, the words of verse 1:11 most likely follow chronologically after the account which is now given. There it said –

“Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’” Joshua 1:11

As such, what is now to be detailed is an event that precedes the preparation of the people to enter Canaan, and the words “had sent,” instead of “sent” should be used. These two are sent out…

1 (con’t) from Acacia Grove to spy secretly,

min ha’shittim shnayim anashim merag’lim kheresh – “From the Acacia Groves two men reconnoiterers secretly.” The location is “the Shittim,” or translated, “the Acacia Groves.” Also, saying, “to spy secretly” is a redundancy.

The word is ragal, coming from regel, or foot. It is one who walks about, but it is to be taken in a specific way. In this case, it is to reconnoiter. But that is then defined with a new word to Scripture, kheresh, “secretly.” It is in this capacity that Joshua is…

1 (con’t) saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”

The word “especially” is not in the text, even if it is implied. It reads, “Go, see the land – and Jericho.” They were to do a general reconnoiter of the land, but also to ensure that they focused on Jericho. With that stated, it next says…

1 (con’t) So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.

The Hebrew is more expressive: v’yeleku v’yavou beit ishah zonah rakhav, v’yishkevu shamah – “and they went, and they came to house woman – harlot – and named Rahab, and they lie down there.”

Here, the text identifies Rahab as a harlot, a word used consistently to speak of a whore or a prostitute. It is often used in Scripture to describe Israel in their whoring after false gods. However, the root of zonah, znh, is the same root used for a female who gives food and provisions; an innkeeper.

For this reason, rabbinic texts explain that this is what is being referred to. Even Josephus said that she kept an inn. And, thus, liberal teachers are quick to grab onto this and to identify her as having a noble background.

Unfortunately, if they would simply read the New Testament, they would not make such a blundering error. Our text verse today was from Hebrews 11:31. Both there and in James 2:25, she is identified as a harlot (a prostitute) using the Greek word porné. I assure you that porné does not mean an innkeeper. The same word is used to describe her as such in the Greek translation of the Old Testament as well.

Though the spelling of her name in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew is different than that of Hebrews and James, it is certain that this is the same woman so clearly referenced in Joshua. It is the entire point of including her in the narrative and then in the genealogy.

This is a problem with consulting rabbinic literature. The rabbis didn’t like that a prostitute was in the genealogy of David, and thus in that of the coming Messiah, so they attempted to sugarcoat the obvious. This is not uncommon in their writings.

The apostles saw no such difficulty and understood that the very same fallen women, such as Rahab and Bathsheba, could be used as key participants in the unfolding narrative of redemption that would lead us to God’s Christ.

It should be noted that even reputable scholars, with all fudginess possible, attempt to repair her reputation. Adam Clarke went down innumerable avenues to patch-up Rahab’s image. In the end, he sums up his thoughts as to why he needed to do so –

“To all this may be added, that as our blessed Lord came through the line of this woman, it cannot be a matter of little consequence to know what moral character she sustained; as an inn-keeper she might be respectable, if not honorable; as a public prostitute she could be neither; and it is not very likely that the providence of God would have suffered a person of such a notoriously bad character to enter into the sacred line of his genealogy.”

Rather, it is expressly because she was a prostitute that the story is so glorious. A key point of this, at least from a moral perspective, is that God has accepted you. You may have been a prostitute, had an abortion, divorced your wife, secretly killed someone, been an alcoholic, or whatever. And yet, the beauty and even glory of God in Christ says, “Come. My grace is sufficient.”

Whatever your past was, in Christ, your future will never be the same. Come to Christ. This is the lesson of Rahab, and so far, we have only been introduced to her with a short description, “a woman – a prostitute.”

Her name, Rakhav, comes from the verb rakhav meaning to be or to grow wide or large. It is used in the Old Testament to indicate enlargement of an area, such as in a border, baldness on the head, the size of Sheol, and so on. It is also used to refer to enlarging the heart, opening the mouth, etc.

Thus, her name means Spacious or Enlarged. One must wonder what would prompt a name like this. As she is a prostitute, and as it appears her family was fully aware of this – as will be seen in the narrative – it may be that this was her lot all along, something not uncommon in many cultures.

As such, and solely as speculation by me, her name may have been given to her to reflect the work she would do, such as Isaiah prophesied concerning Israel when using this same root verb –

“Also behind the doors and their posts
You have set up your remembrance;
For you have uncovered yourself to those other than Me,
And have gone up to them;
You have enlarged [rakhav] your bed
And made a covenant with them;
You have loved their bed,
Where you saw their nudity.” Isaiah 57:8

Whatever the intent behind the name, and regardless of her profession, she will be a key figure in the history of Israel leading to the Messiah. For now…

And it was told the king of Jericho, saying,

As Jericho is a walled city, it had a ruling elder, here called a king because of the authority that he would have had over the populace. It was probably sentinels that guarded the gates who told the king.

People would be free to come in and go out of such a city, but it would be negligent to not tell the leader of any unusual foreigners that came around. The spies would only be two strangers coming in, probably unarmed. This would not be a reason to keep them out, but being Hebrews, it would at least be worthy of raising the matter to the king…

2 (con’t) “Behold, men have come here tonight

This would explain how they wound up meeting Rahab. As a prostitute, she would be hanging around the gates of the city in the evening to entice any travelers to spend the night at her place. It fits naturally into the narrative. As for the men, they were…

2 (con’t) from the children of Israel

One can only surmise that the two men told them this. Their accents would be unusual, but so would the accents of other people from all over the area. Having never heard anyone from Israel before, it would be unlikely they could be identified as such unless they were simply told it was so. This probably goes for the next words…

2 (con’t) to search out the country.”

lakhpor eth ha’erets – “to search out the land.” One can imagine it, “Hey guys, where are you coming from?” “We’re Israelis just checking things out. We’ve never been here before.” “OK! Good to have you, c’mon in.” It would be a common and innocuous greeting between them, but still one worth reporting…

So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying,

He has already been identified as the king of Jericho. As such, it is implicit stress on the fact by saying, “the king of Jericho” rather than just “the king.” As such, the words are made more poignant, and thus the actions of Rahab, to whom the king’s words were directed, are brought forth as well. His words are…

3 (con’t) “Bring out the men who have come to you,

A verb is used in place of a noun: khotsii ha’anashim ha’baim elayik – “bring out the men, the comers unto you.” The king was apprised of the situation, he knew exactly who had come and who they had gone into. It is these two Israelis…

3 (con’t) who have entered your house,

asher bau l’betekh – “who have entered to your house.” Regardless of her type of business, to entertain a stranger meant the right to proper treatment and protection for those in the house.

Unless a refusal was made by Rahab, they would be bound by the honor found in Middle Eastern culture to ask her to deliver them rather than having the guards forcing themselves into her home. This is what provides her with the opportunity to take the action of hiding the Hebrew spies. In the meantime, those sent to her continue with…

3 (con’t) for they have come to search out all the country.”

The words expand upon the corresponding clause of verse 2 by adding in the word “all” to what is now said: ki lakhpor et kal ha’arets bau – “for to search out all the land they have come.”

As John Lange correctly states, “Notice the full circumstantiality of the king’s command.” The king has deduced that they are not merely tourists looking for a fun time, but they are men on a mission to determine the state of things for an invasion. One can see that even as they are speaking at the door, she is pointing out where the men can go and how to hide…

Then the woman took the two men and hid them.

The words curiously go from the plural to the singular: va’tiqah ha’ishah eth shene ha’anashim va’titspeno – “And took the woman two the men and hid him.” The Greek translation reads “them,” and without the later addition of the vowel points by the Masoretes, this could be read as them, but for some reason, the Masoretes carefully recorded it as “him.”

John Gill notes the Jew’s ridiculous take on this, saying, “hence the Jews, who take these two spies to be Caleb and Phinehas, say, that only Caleb was hid, and Phinehas, though he was before them, was not seen, being an angel.”

Ewald sees this as “the free discourse in which one passes from the plural to the singular.” The Pulpit Commentary explains this as each man being hidden in a separate place. But these notions hardly explain this. It is as if one of them is being singled out.

Despite that, one can see her pointing to the two and saying in a hush, “Go up on the roof. I’ll get rid of them.” They would have no choice but to trust her because the king’s men were standing there. It would make no sense for her to try to hide them, just to say to the king’s men, “They are on the roof.” Simply opening the door would have had exactly the same effect.

In reading the account, it makes one (meaning me) wonder if one of these two men didn’t become her future husband. It is wholly speculation, but they are identified in verse 6:23 as “young men.”

They are old enough to be sent out on a mission, but probably unmarried and are most likely in their mid to late teens. This completely dispels the Jewish idea that these are Caleb and Phinehas, one of whom is almost eighty at this point.

Rahab’s attitude and actions towards them, along with the curious change from plural to singular, reveal a quickly developed affinity that raises this idea in my mind.

4 (con’t) So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from.

This is her first lie. It is already known where they are from as will be seen in verse 9. Having arrived at the point where a lie has been introduced, it must be noted that the comments by scholars on this go on and on.

They bring in the nature of God and of the terrible thing she has done by lying, carefully noting that a lie is always a sin. From there, they then go into the notion of forgiveness and mercy because of her faith, and so on.

It is true that lying is sin, but what is it that brings this about? The law. She is not under law. But she has a conscience. And so, either her conscience is seared, and she is corrupt, or she has weighed the matter out and she is working under a law of faith. Charles Ellicott wisely evaluates the matter –

“The Divine standard of sin and holiness never varies; but the standard of man’s conscience, even when faith is a dominant principle in the character, may vary to a very considerable degree. In Jesus Christ ‘all that believe are justified from all things;’ but ‘by the deeds of the law no one.’ Here, as elsewhere, the application of the law only brings the discovery of sin.”

Rather than focusing on something contrary to the Divine standard, the narrative focuses on exaltation of it through her words and actions that are grounded in faith. This is not unlike those who hid Jews during WWII. Even though the Bible says we are to be subject to the governing authority, there is often a time that such obedience must be disobeyed for a higher purpose. With that understood, Rahab continues…

And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out.

The next lie. However, it is more than a simple lie, but also a fabrication. She is making stuff up on the fly to construct a convincing argument in order to hide the truth.

It is after dark, the gates are shut as the sun goes down, and they are only opened when those coming to it in either direction can be individually identified and authorized for passing through it. Thus, her words form a persuasive argument that is credible and would put her in jeopardy if it were not so. Hence, they have no reason to not believe it.

5 (con’t) Where the men went I do not know;

The third lie. She is fully aware of where they are, and the Bible doesn’t hide either the fact that she does know or that she lied. It simply conveys the details of the story, allowing us to come to our own conclusions about the matter.

While at the same time that her words are contrary to the Divine nature, the reason behind them and the actions which are joined to them are not.

Since this account was compiled, the same value judgments have been made continuously throughout human history. The number of people who took exactly the same path as Rahab during the holocaust alone is large. And those who did what they did are cited as heroes by people who would stand over Rahab and accuse her for being a little liar.

We live in a fallen world and there are times when judgments must be made that stand outside of the propriety of law. And yet, they will inevitably be the right choices when the larger situation is taken into consideration and when the person’s faith is properly directed. The evaluation of Rahab in Hebrews 11 and James 2 bears this out.

5 (con’t) pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.”

The words are well thought out. She has already convincingly stated that they are not with her, having no discernible reason to lie and every reason to tell the truth. Adding these words intensifies the urgency to get about finding the miscreants. Some may call her conniving, but others would see her as quick thinking and resourceful.

(But she had brought them up to the roof

v’hi heelatam ha’gagah – “And she had caused them to ascend to the roof.” The meaning is that she told them to go up to the roof, and they went up. As noted earlier, this was probably as the king’s messengers came to the door. At that time, she pointed for them to go up, and so they went up.

The roofs of such houses were flat and were easily accessible because many things were done on top of them, from dinners and small parties, to accomplishing various types of work, and even for bathing or sleeping. It is probably after the messengers left that the next words came about…

6 (con’t) and hidden them with the stalks of flax,

The verb is imperfect: va’titmenem b’pishte ha’ets – “and hides them in flax, the wood.” These are stalks of flax that are said to grow to about three or more feet in length. After cutting, they would be set out in an array to dry, as seen in the next clause. This would be where the men could be easily hidden…

6 (con’t) which she had laid in order on the roof.)

ha’arukoth lah al ha’gag – “the arrayed to her upon the roof.” In other words, they had been laid out in an array upon the roof for drying. In this manner, they could get sun from all around and uniformly dry as they stood in these particular arrangements.

The roof would be the area where that was done. Eventually, the stalks would be worked and made into linen. She would have hidden them in these arrayed stalks until it was certain that nobody would be coming back to inspect the place, and until they could make their escape.

Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan,

v’ha’anashim rad’phu akharehem derek ha’yarden – “And the men pursued after them way the Jordan.” This would be the logical route to take. It would have been known that Israel was on the other side of the Jordan, and so to get to the Jordan as quickly as possible would be the most obvious thing to do. As it says…

7 (con’t) to the fords.

al ha’mab’roth – “upon the fords.” The word ma’avar signifies a passing through. It can be fords of a river or the passages through a mountain. As this is plural, it probably means that a group of soldiers went out and one or two of them stood upon each of the fords within reasonable distance of Jericho.

7 (con’t) And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.

Because of the way the words are laid out, a direct translation is difficult: “And the gate they shut after as which had gone out the pursuers after them.” It means just as the English translation says. Once those pursuing the men went out, the gates were shut.

Being nighttime, they were taking no chances of a sudden rush by the enemy, or anyone getting in or out that should not do so. Other than face masks and vaccines, the city had gone into lockdown

*Who are you and where are you from?
And why is your accent so odd?
Come inside and explain to me some
What is your people, and who is your God?

**We are Israel and just checking things out
You know, seeing what is up in this place
We’re searching the land to see what it’s all about
And it’s so nice to see your smiling face

*We have heard of you. Your life is in danger in this place
But I can hide you if anyone comes around
I want you to remember my face
I hope for mercy from you if it can be found

I will join with your people, please remember my face
After I have gotten you safely out of this place

II. For We Have Heard (verses 8-11)

Now before they lay down,

 

There is a stress in the words: v’hemah terem yishkavun – “and they before they (certainly) lay down.” It shows the imperative nature of what will come next.

With the messengers gone and the soldiers sent out of the city, things would have calmed down enough for the two men to lie down and sleep. But before they could do this, she ascended to the roof to converse with them…

8 (con’t) she came up to them on the roof,

v’hi aletah alehem al ha’gag – “and she ascended upon them, upon the roof.” Her words to come are filled with careful attention concerning the state of those in Canaan, the knowledge of the Lord and His care for Israel, and of her faith in the Lord’s capabilities.

and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land,

Rahab explicitly speaks out the name Yehovah: yadati ki nathan Yehovah lakem eth ha’arets – “I know for has given Yehovah to you the land.” She is both aware of this name and she understands His purposes for Israel. Her faith in the capability of the Lord is demonstrated in the words, “has given Yehovah to you the land.”

It is a done deal even though the actions that will cause it to come about have not yet even begun. She knows this. And more, all of the people know it as well…

9 (con’t) that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.

Here she uses the word mug, or melt – “and that have melted all dwelling the land from your presence.” This was the purpose of the Lord’s dealings with Pharaoh. Going through the plagues gradually was intended to slowly harden Pharaoh’s heart.

If He had gone in and done something beyond their imagination right at the beginning, Pharaoh may have just said, “Let them go!” But that is not what happened. The Lord started with simple plagues that were reproducible by Pharaoh’s own magicians.

He then brought more plagues that one might think would logically follow one after another. If you turn water into blood, you will bring out frogs. If the frogs all die, the bugs that the frogs eat will increase exponentially, from there, pestilence on the livestock will result. And so forth.

The Lord followed a set path to slowly harden the heart of Pharaoh. He would have been well educated and attributed these things to what he could naturally observe. By the time the greater plagues came, he would be hardened to the point where more hardening would be the inevitable result.

And this is exactly what the Lord intended. By multiplying His judgment, He would magnify His name. And in doing that, the nations would then hear and fear –

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” Exodus 7:3-5

The Egyptians would know all that happened, and the word from them as they traded with the nations would naturally carry right back to the homes of those who traded. By the time the greatest plague hit, the death of the firstborn of Egypt, Pharoah would want them gone and even drive them out.

But because of the hardness of his heart, he would relent and attempt to retrieve them. In that, the great and miraculous event that would finally destroy Pharaoh’s power would come…

10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt,

The story of the Red Sea crossing was forty years earlier, but it was well known and remembered by all who heard it. And the credit is given to Yehovah, and it is given on behalf of the people of Israel. The narrative was clearly and precisely remembered.

This was exactly the purpose of the Lord having multiplied His judgments upon Pharaoh. A swift, sudden, and decisive early judgment would have not led to the knowledge of the Lord by Rahab and all of the others throughout Canaan. But more, she says…

10 (con’t) and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.

This was very recent history, and it would have resounded with the people, calling to mind the tales of the past and both reaffirming them and adding to the terror of the present. And, again, this is exactly what Moses said would occur, beginning with Sihon –

“Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.” Deuteronomy 2:24, 25

The conquest of Sihon was immediately followed up with the conquest upon Og. As such…

11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted;

The words “as soon as” are not in the Hebrew. It is short and specific: “And we hear and melted our hearts.” The tales of the Red Sea would have been known but not considered for many years, but with the sudden coming of Israel upon the land east of the Jordan, and of the victories over the great inhabitants there, there would be utter panic at what lay ahead. As such…

11 (con’t) neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you,

v’lo qamah od ruakh b’ish mip’nekem – “And no stood again spirit in man from before you.” The idea is that every man became completely dispirited and he could not get himself to regain his courage again. They simply remained terrified. Hence, we saw the reaction of the king of Jericho. Rahab next makes a sure statement of faith in what she now perfectly knows…

11 (con’t) for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

Rahab’s words are emphatic: ki Yehovah elohekem hu Elohim ba’sh’mayim mi maal v’al ha’aretz mi’takhat – “For Yehovah your God HE God in the heavens from above and upon the land from beneath.” They are practically the words of Moses, but most especially in these words from Deuteronomy 4:39 –

“Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.”

Verses 9-11 can be summed up in the words of the Song of Moses from Exodus 15 –

“Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed;
The mighty men of Moab,
Trembling will take hold of them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away.
16 Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.” Exodus 15:15, 16

This is a logical point to end the words for today. Rahab has demonstrated faith in the capabilities of the Lord, even to the point that what she does aligns with what she believes. This brings in the obvious difficulty that is evidenced between the writings of Paul and those of James, something that we will look at in a moment…

With what will you come before the Lord?
What will you present for the sin of your soul?
What will bring you the great reward?
On what thing will you, your sins roll?

Shall you accomplish a great and noble deed?
Claiming it is worthy of His praise?
Shall giving up a wicked life or one of greed
Bring you honor, blessing, and eternal days?

Rather, come to your God in faith because of His grace
Come to Him with hands empty of any pride
By grace through faith alone will you see His smiling face
And through that alone will you in heaven reside

III. A Lesson in Faith

Paul says in Romans 3, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). He then goes on to say –

“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” Romans 4:1, 2

A few verses later, he says, “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5).

Paul says this elsewhere as well, both directly and indirectly. And yet, James says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).

This is a problem, because preachers, teachers, and scholars then come up with impossible-to-reconcile solutions, such as, “Good works stem naturally from saving faith.” That is nonsense, and it is not ever taught in Scripture.

First, tell that to the guy on the cross next to Jesus. Secondly, the obvious question is, “What works?” Who decides what is sufficient work to say, “Yes, he is saved, and he is not.”? And thirdly, isn’t lying evidence of not doing what is right?

So, if a person does some good things and some things that aren’t good, like Rahab, then who decides that her works are acceptable for saving or not? It completely misses the intent of what Paul is saying, and it dismisses what James is saying.

In James 2, he gives only two examples of what works justify a person. The first was, astonishingly, that of Abraham, the exact same person that Paul says was justified by faith alone –

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” James 2:21, 22

His second example is, equally incredibly, Rahab –

“Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” James 2:25

Is James saying that these two people were not justified by faith? If so, then he didn’t read the epistle to Hebrews. Because both of them are used as examples there for being people of faith. And more, both of them have exactly the same “works” cited as “works of faith” –

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Hebrews 11:17-19

By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31 (our text verse)

So how can it be that works justified them? If their faith was behind the works, then it was faith that justified them. Their works were simply works of faith. It is true that their works were products of the faith, but that is not what justified them, their faith did.

So, the question remains, “What works?” What is it that will save the human and bring him before God justified and acceptable to Him? Jesus gave us the answer –

“Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’
29 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’” John 6:28, 29

The “works” which justify are the works of Jesus Christ. Faith in Him may or may not lead to our own works, but it is He who did the works. It is He who fulfilled the law. It is He who died in fulfillment of the law, and it is He who rose again. And it is we – here it is, here are our works – who are to believe in Him.

It is entirely false that “good works stem naturally from saving faith,” because no “good works” are defined for us to do except for those things that are found for us to do that are recorded in Scripture. But if a person hears the gospel, accepts it, and is saved, unless he has the Bible – something almost unheard of in much of history and still for many of the people of the world – they cannot “do” what is expected of them from the word.

In the end, everything comes back to one thought for our justification: faith. And it is faith plus nothing. If you want to be pleasing to God, have faith. If you want to add to that, learn His word and apply its precepts to your life. And when you do good things, if they are done because of your faith in Christ, you will receive your reward. Have faith in that.

Closing Verse: “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’” Galatians 3:11

Next Week: Joshua 2:12-24 To the spies, Rahab these words does submit… (According to Your Words, So Be It) (4th Joshua Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It is He who has defeated the enemy and who now offers His people rest. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

A Harlot Named Rahab

Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove
To spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho
So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab
And lodged there, thinking no one would know

And it was told the king of Jericho, saying
“Behold, men have come here tonight
From the children of Israel to search out the country
For sure, this just ain’t right

So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying
“Bring out the men who have come to you
Who have entered your house
For they have come to search out all the country
———-such they came to do

Then the woman took the two men and hid them
So she said, “Yes, the men came to me
But I did not know where they were from
So I tell you plainly

“And it happened as the gate was being shut
When it was dark, that the men went out; their escape
———-they did make
Where the men went, I do not know
Pursue them quickly, for them you may overtake”

(But she had brought them up to the roof
And hidden them with the stalks of flax
Which she had laid in order on the roof
She carefully covered their tracks

Then the men pursued them by the road
To the Jordan, to the fords heading straight
And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out
They shut the gate

Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof
And said to the men: “I know that the LORD has
———-given you the land. Yes, I know it’s true
That the terror of you has fallen on us
And that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted
———-because of you

For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water
Of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, such
———-great wonders He has employed
And what you did to the two kings of the Amorites
Who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og
———-whom you utterly destroyed

And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted
Neither did there remain any more courage in anyone
Because of you, for the LORD your God
He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath
———-He is the only One!

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”

So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.”

So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.”

Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.

Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 33:23-29 (Moses Blesses Israel, Part IV)

Deuteronomy 33:23-29
Moses Blesses Israel, Part IV

For many years of my life, I would go to Massachusetts during the summer for a vacation with the family. I haven’t been in several years because there just isn’t time for me to tend to the church and take the time off that I used to take.

In fact, I’m in what I would call a “comfortable rut.” Every Monday is pretty much exactly like every other Monday. The same is true with Tuesday and so on. The less change I have, the happier I am. And the more I am doing things for the church, the more content I am.

But I remember one year while in Massachusetts, I was reading and found a newspaper commentary from the 1800s. In it, there was a survey of all of the favorite verses from the Bible as submitted to the paper by vote that year.

I was curious which verse it would be… John 3:16? Something from the psalms? Philippians 4:5-7? John 16:33? Romans 8:28. I could have sat there and thought up 100 verses that might have been the favorite verse to get people through their day and ground them in their spiritual lives. My first 100 guesses would have been wrong. So would my next hundred guesses.

Text Verse: “The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

Well, there you go. The most cherished verse from the Bible in the mid-1800s. Who would have thought? It is not a verse that I have ever heard on any list of favorite verses at any time. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone quote it, ever, until Berk did in a Bible study a week ago.

But after that day in Massachusetts, I have always cherished it as a favorite. It is a wonderful set of words in the English, which more or less paraphrase the Hebrew. In fact, I put the verse on one of my favorite sunrise photos and have it hanging in the back kitchen.

It is a verse I have patiently waited to include in a sermon for over ten years now. It carries the weight in my mind of knowing it has impacted so many lives in our history. That means a lot to me.

The Bible is simply filled with beauty and with verses that cause us to dig deeply to mine out precious treasure. What a treasure we have been given in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Blessing to Naphtali and Asher (verses 23-25)

23 And of Naphtali he said:

u-l’naphtali amar – “And to Naphtali he said.” Naphtali is the second son born to Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah and sixth son born to Jacob. His older brother born to Bilhah, Dan, has already received his blessing, and his land is at the headwaters of the Jordan River, just north of Naphtali.

The record of Naphtali’s birth is found in Genesis 30 –

“And Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.” Genesis 30:7, 8

Naphtali means “My Wrestling.” Naphtali’s inheritance is located on the west side of the Jordan including all of the Sea of Galilee. It extends all the way to the northern border of Canaan, and it is to the east of the inheritance of Asher the final son to be named in these blessings. He is bordered on the south by Issachar and Zebulun.

As such, the continued pattern from the east to the west and from the south to the north of Jerusalem continues in the blessing upon Naphtali.

It cannot be that this pattern was known to Moses at the time because the division of the land will not be completed until Joshua 19, and so either these blessings were written long after it is claimed they were, by someone other than Moses, or they are divinely inspired by God and through Moses to reflect this carefully revealed order. To Naphtali, Moses next says…

23 (con’t) “O Naphtali, satisfied with favor,

Naphtali seva ratson – “Naphtali sated favor.” It is as if he sits down to an enormous meal of God’s favor and becomes plump, filled with the goodness bestowed upon him. The hand of the Lord will bless the land, even to overflowing, with goodness. Of this land, and before Israel had resettled it, Robinson said that it is “an undulating tableland arable and everywhere tilled, with swelling hills … covered with shrubs and trees.”

The words of Moses continue with a parallel thought to increase the wonder of what he will receive…

23 (con’t) And full of the blessing of the Lord,

u-male birkat Yehovah– “And full blessing Yehovah.” The words turn the previous clause into a superlative. Not only is Naphtali to be sated with favor, but that sating will be because of the blessing of the Lord.

One could not imagine a more pleasant and jam-packed description of the abundance of goodness that will come upon him. And more, he shall…

23 (con’t) Possess the west and the south.”

yam v’darom yerasha – “West and south he shall inherit.” The word yam has two specific meanings. First, it means “sea,” as in the Sea of Galilee or the Mediterranean Sea. Secondly, it means “west” because the west of Canaan is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea.

The layout of the land itself provides the secondary meanings of the directions of the compass. And this is because of the layout of the temple which is from east to west. As the Most Holy Place is to the west, it is the direction of the sea in relation to Canaan.

And so, the translation of yam as either “sea” or “west” must be determined based on the designation of the inheritance. As noted, the eastern border of Naphtali rests upon the west bank of the Jordan River, including the entire western bank of the Sea of Galilee.

Thus, this could be speaking of the “west” in reference to the sea itself. Or it could be speaking of the “sea” because the word yam, or sea is used elsewhere to describe the Sea of Galilee, and they shall possess the western side of it. As such, it is hard to tell which meaning is being referred to.

The next word, darom, or south, is now introduced into Scripture. It is seen four times in poetic verses and then 13 times in Ezekiel, especially in relation to the future temple he envisions. It is from the same root as deror, which signifies release or liberty. The root means “to move rapidly.”

I don’t want to press the meaning too much, but it could be that this then refers to the north end of the inheritance which is the south end of Dan’s which was the previous blessing given by Moses. That is where the Jordan River issues forth from.

And more, it could mean the south end of Naphtali’s inheritance that borders the Jordan, which is where the river continues to move south, as the waters release from the Sea of Galilee. As such, inheriting the “south” would speak of both – the south of Dan and the south of the Sea of Galilee.

As the Jordan is the border of Canaan proper, it appears that the word yam may be a pun to convey both “sea” and “west,” meaning the “west” bank of the Sea of Galilee and the west bank of the Jordan River. Hence, it is not speaking of the western border of Naphtali, but the eastern border of it, which is the western bank of the sea and river.

The reason for all the detail is because it is in this area that Jesus accomplished a large part of His ministry. It would then explain the ultimate meaning for the words “sated” and “full.” It may have been true that the land provided many material blessings which filled the tribe, but ultimately, the inheritance of this tribe received the greatest of all blessings when Christ came and ministered in this region –

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

15 ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.’” Matthew 4:12-16

As it is assumed that many of the apostles found their home in Naphtali, possessing the west and the south takes on an entirely different connotation. They went throughout the land of Israel, generally to the west and the south sharing the gospel and bringing those who heeded to be a part of the possession of the Lord.

And to Naphtali he said:
(a) Naphtali *sated favor
(a) And *full blessing Yehovah
(b) West and south he shall inherit

With this blessing complete, we come to the final blessing of Moses upon the tribes of Israel, that of Asher…

24 And of Asher he said:

u-l’asher amar – “And to Asher he said.” Asher is the second son born to Leah’s handmaid Zilpah and the eighth son born to Jacob. His older brother born to Bilhah, Gad, has already received his blessing, and his land is east of the Jordan River.

The record of Asher’s birth is found in Genesis 30 –

“And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.” So she called his name Asher.” Genesis 30:12, 13

Asher means Happy (Blessed). Asher’s inheritance is located to the very northeast border of the land of Canaan. His eastern border is along the side of Naphtali and extends down to the border of Zebulun. His southern border merges with Zebulun and the western tribe of Manasseh. His northern border is the northern border of Canaan. His western border is the Mediterranean Sea. To Asher, Moses next says…

24 (con’t) “Asher is most blessed of sons;

barukh mibanim Asher – “Blessed from sons Asher.” The meaning is either “Asher is blessed with children,” “Asher is blessed by the sons (of Israel),” or “Asher is blessed above the sons (of Israel).” The only other time that the term mibanim, or “from sons,” is seen in Scripture in Isaiah –

“Even to them I will give in My house
And within My walls a place and a name
Better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
That shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 56:5

That is a comparative statement, and so, I would conclude that Moses is saying he will be blessed above the other sons of Israel. Next…

24 (con’t) Let him be favored by his brothers,

Apart from the words to Reuben, the only jussive in the entire chapter is seen in these words: yehi retsui ekhav – “May he be accepted his brothers.” Being a jussive, it is an indirect command – “MAY he be…”

It is hard to imagine why he would say this as a type of command unless it is because Asher’s allotment will be so far north and west from where the temple will ultimately be located that he could otherwise be ignored by the other tribes. For this, or some other reason, Moses directs the other sons in showing favor to him.

24 (con’t) And let him dip his foot in oil.

v’tovel ba’shemen raglo – “And let him dip in the oil his foot.” The oil being referred to is that of the olive. The area where Asher settled would have a remarkable abundance of olives.

When olive oil is abundant, it would be used to anoint oneself, especially upon the head. But Moses calls for such a blessing upon Asher that he would have enough oil to even anoint his foot. It is a way of saying, “Let him be blessed with such abundance, even from head to toe.”

Having said this, it is because of this verse that Zion Oil and Gas is not only drilling elsewhere in Israel, but also in the area of Asher. The owner believes that this could be a prophetic picture of immense reserves of oil under the foot of Asher’s land.

25 Your sandals shall be iron and bronze;

There are two vying translations of these words: barzel u-nekhoshet minalekha – “Iron and bronze your sandals,” or “Iron and bronze your bars.” The word minal is found only here in Scripture. It comes from naal, to bar, bolt, or lock.

However, it is not that simple because the word is also translated as “shoe” (implying a sandal). That is found, for example, in 2 Chronicles 28 –

“Then the men who were designated by name rose up and took the captives, and from the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them, dressed them and gave them sandals, gave them food and drink, and anointed them; and they let all the feeble ones ride on donkeys. So they brought them to their brethren at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria.” 2 Chronicles 28:15

One might originally think that “bars” would make more sense. It would imply security to have bars of iron and bronze. However, the verse is probably parallel to the previous clause. He set his foot in oil and he has sandals of iron and bronze.

Of these metals, iron represents strength, be it in binding together, in government, in hard service, or in bondage. Bronze represents judgment. Thus, this is a way of saying that he will walk with strength and in a circumspect manner.

25 (con’t) As your days, so shall your strength be.

This is one tough set of words: u-keyamekha dabeekha – “And according to your days, your saunter.” Here is a word found only once in the Bible, dove. It is from an unused root, but it is akin davav, to glide or to move gently. From that word comes the word dov, or bear, because when he walks, he glides easily over the terrain.

Because of the difficulty of the word, almost all translations go with the Greek translation and say “strength.” My guess is the Greek translators had no idea what to say and just said strength. The NASB departed from strength and said, “your leisurely walk.” That is probably closer to the intent, but it is somewhat of a paraphrase. To match the thought, but also the simplicity of the Hebrew, I say “saunter.”

In other words, the entire verse is one united thought –

Iron and bronze your sandals.
And according to your days, your saunter.

Asher will saunter through life (his days) with strength and in a circumspect manner. I am convinced enough of this to tell you that you can pen it into the margin of your Bible with a note that this is probably the true intent of Moses’ words.

And to Asher he said:
(a) Blessed from sons Asher.
(a) May he be accepted his brothers.
(b) And let him dip in the oil +his foot.

(a) Iron and bronze +your sandals.
(b) And according to your days, your saunter.

With that now complete, so are the blessings upon the tribes. From there Moses will next complete his words to Israel. The next four verses are the last words recorded from him…

There is none like the God, our God
He rides upon the heavens to help us
He protects us in every place that we trod
He is our Lord, the Christ, Jesus

Who is like Him with the everlasting arms?
And who causes us to in safety dwell?
He keeps us from troubles, and He saves us from harms
He has rescued us from the pit of eternal hell

There is none like the God, our God
A place of trust and hope He is for us
To His excellent majesty we shout and applaud
He is our Lord, our Savior, our Joy – He is Jesus!


II. Underneath Are the Everlasting Arms (verses 26-29)

26 There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,

This is not simply a statement of fact about the Lord, but a statement about “the God” which is directed to Israel: aiyn ka’el Yeshurun – “None according to the God, O Yeshurun.” Moses is telling Israel that Yehovah is THE GOD and that there is none like (according to) Him.

His nature and His being are completely unique. Moses is appealing for them to hear this, to grasp it, and to accept it for their own gaining of understanding and wisdom. It is He alone…

26 (con’t) Who rides the heavens to help you,

rokev shamayim b’ezrekha – “Rides heavens in your help.” It is an expression that has been seen, such as in the pillar of cloud and fire, and it is an expression that will continue to be seen, such as in the chariots of the Lord that are mentioned repeatedly in various ways and contexts in the Old Testament.

It is also an expression of the comings and goings of the Lord as He ascends and descends in both testaments of Scripture, culminating in the greatest expression of this on Israel’s behalf –

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” Revelation 19:11-14

26 (con’t) And in His excellency on the clouds.

u-b’gaavato sekhaqim – “And in His exaltation clouds.” Here are two new words. The first is gaavah. It is from gaah, to rise up. Hence, it speaks of His state of majesty or grandeur.

The next word is shakhaq, meaning dust or cloud. It comes from a verb of the same spelling which means to pulverize. As such, it is more than just the skies, but billowing of particles in them, as clouds. Probably the best mental image of these words now would be John’s words which describe the coming of Christ –

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7

In His riding through the heavens, it is as if clouds billow around His splendor and majesty. What Moses has done with the speaking of this verse is to unite it with the opening words of the chapter –

(v5) And He was in Jeshurun King.
In gathering leaders people together.
Tribes Israel.

(v26) None according to the God, O Yeshurun.
Rides heavens in your help.
And in His exaltation clouds.

The blessing upon the individual tribes has to be considered in relation to what leads into them and what follows them. Without the Lord, there would be no blessing. But because He is the Lord, and because Israel is His people, He will never utterly forsake them. Rather…

27 The eternal God is your refuge,

meonah elohe qedem – “Dwelling God ancient.” It is a phrase filled with mental images. There is another new word, meonah – it is the feminine form of maon, or “habitation,” and it carries the same meaning. A habitation is a place of dwelling, rest, refuge, and so on.

Along with that, Moses describes the Lord with the word qedem. It means “east,” and it signifies aforetime because the sun rises in the east, coming from seemingly nowhere. Hence, it refers to that which is out of sight and unknowable – eternity past.

It is similar to the term Daniel uses when he calls Him the Ancient of Days. What Moses is saying is that the Lord, the God of Old, is a habitation. He has always been there, and He is a place of safety, security, and rest. To complement that, he next says…

27 (con’t) And underneath are the everlasting arms;

u-mi’takhat zeroth olam – “And from under arms everlasting.” To our minds, the Lord is seen to have come from seemingly nowhere. He has always been there, even to the most ancient time, and in this indescribable existence, there is support with arms that continue on until a point that cannot be mentally grasped.

The word olam does not necessarily mean everlasting, but to a point which is concealed and unknowable. In the case of God, it thus must mean “everlasting.” There is no beginning to the support and there is no end to it. The arms are there, never failing to provide security to His people. And with those arms…

27 (con’t) He will thrust out the enemy from before you,

v’garesh mi’panekha oyev – “And He casts out from your face enemy.” The arm symbolizes power and exertion, but also reach. The Lord has the power to support His people, but He also extends that power to remove the enemies of His people, casting those enemies out of their presence.

Everything about what is said anticipates total assurance for His people, Israel. He will protect them, but against His enemies, there will be no hope…

27 (con’t) And will say, ‘Destroy!’

vayomer hashmed – “And says, ‘Destroy!’” Both the word of the previous clause, “enemy,” and the verb here are singular. It may be that this is referring to any enemy at any time. But it could be what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians.

I would think that this must ultimately be referring to death, the enemy that has been here since the beginning, and who will continue until the time of the end. He is the final enemy to be destroyed –

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:22-26

28 Then Israel shall dwell in safety,

vayishkon Yisrael betakh – “And shall dwell Israel security.” The conjunction is “and” not “then.” There is no reason to assume that what is said here is a consequence of the previous verse, although that would certainly be the case.

Rather, Moses is stating what will be for the tribes of Israel. They will dwell in safety. But it can only be referring to when they are right with Him. There is a state of confidence and safety that will exist because of their relationship with Him. It is an ideal set forth.

It is a goal that was attained at the time of Solomon, and it is one that will be realized in the millennium. When they are in a right standing with the Lord, this is the anticipated result. They will be in the land in safety…

28 (con’t) The fountain of Jacob alone,

badad en yaaqov – “Alone fountain Jacob.” The word badad, or “alone,” is placed by some with the preceding clause and by some with this one –

And Israel shall dwell in security alone
The fountain of Jacob / In a land of…

And Israel shall dwell in security
Alone the fountain of Jacob / In a land of…

I would think the latter is correct. Thus, the two clauses would be in parallel –

(a) And *Israel shall dwell ^in security
(a) ^Alone *the fountain of Jacob / In a land of…

Either way, the thought is that of Jacob not being pestered by those who would do him harm. The term, “the fountain of Jacob,” is a reference to those who issue from him.

As such, it is saying that he will be as a spring that goes forth, unmixed with, and without the taint of, other people groups. Israel the people is the fountain of Jacob. They will live alone…

28 (con’t) In a land of grain and new wine;

el erets dagan v’tirosh – “Unto land grain and new wine.” The words speak of both abundance and consistency. There must be rain for these things to come, and so there is consistency of rain. But new wine speaks to that which is constant as well.

If it is a land being described as one of new wine, then there must always be wine that is new. Hence, there is a continuous stream of it coming forth. It would then be considered a place of constant blessing.

28 (con’t) His heavens shall also drop dew.

aph shama yaarphu tal – “Yea, his heavens shall drop dew.” The word “heavens” is third person masculine singular – “his heavens.” But who is this referring to? The entire verse has been about Israel. As such, it is speaking of Israel, not the Lord.

The meaning is that the heavens above his land are his heavens. The heavens above Israel are destined to drop dew upon him, even if the heavens elsewhere do not drop dew upon those inhabitants. That is actually anticipated in the book of Zechariah when referring to the millennial reign of Christ –

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. 18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” Zechariah 14:16-19

Israel’s heavens will never fail to provide that which brings abundance and constant newness to the land, meaning the drop of the dew. Moses introduced the word araph, or drop, in verse 32:2. He now retires the word as well, this being the second and last time it is found in the Bible.

With the many promised blessings noted upon both the individual tribes and the nation as a whole, Moses now begins the last verse containing his words in Scripture…

29 Happy are you, O Israel!

ashrekha Yisrael – “Happy you, Israel.” It is a new word in Scripture, esher. It is from the same root as the name Asher. It signifies both “happy,” and “blessed.”

If it were in another form, I would say that “blessed” would convey the idea better. However, Moses is using it as an interjection.

As such, it is as if he is speaking in elation rather than merely as a statement of fact. You can almost see the joy exuding from him as he raises his hands and says, “HAPPY you, Israel!” With that exclamation, he then asks a question that begs a negative response…

29 (con’t) Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord,

mi kamokha am novosha b’Yehovah – “Who like you, people saved in Yehovah?” Moses calls forth the words and was probably hoping to hear every voice around him say, “NOBODY!”

There is none like the God of Israel, and because Israel is His people, there is also none like him. With that understood, Moses notes that he is a people saved not merely by the Lord, but in Him. This signifies a salvation that is both intimate and eternal.

It is the term Paul uses again and again to describe the position of those “in Christ.” They are saved by Him so that they are saved in Him. Christ did the work, bringing us into Himself. It is both an intimate and an eternal salvation.

29 (con’t) The shield of your help

magen ezrekha – “Shield your help.” The shield is a defensive weapon. The meaning, then, is that the Lord is there to defend Israel.

As all of the words are in the second person, this does not mean that the Lord is a shield to everyone of Israel, but He is a shield for Israel. The people, as a collective, will never be overrun and destroyed because the Lord is there to defend them. Also…

29 (con’t) And the sword of your majesty!

v’asher kherev gaavatekha – “And who sword your exultation.” It is the same word introduced in verse 26. There it spoke of the exaltation of the Lord. Now the same word refers to the Lord as the sword of Israel’s exultation. He is to be Israel’s place of boasting, his Source of pride, and his place of highest rejoicing because the Lord is the sword of Israel’s exultation.

Because of this shield and sword…

29 (con’t) Your enemies shall submit to you,

v’yikahashu oyevekha lak – “And shall yield your enemies to you.” Whether through death or subservience, the enemies of Israel will be unable to stand against him because the Lord is with him. There will be a complete yielding of themselves before the rushing onslaught. Moses says that it shall be so, and then he utters his final words of the Torah…

*29 (fin) And you shall tread down their high places.”

v’atah al bamotemo tidrok – “And you upon their high places shall tread.” The high places speak of the commanding positions, the strongholds, and the temples. It signifies the complete ruin of the enemy, including their high places of idolatry and false worship.

Ultimately, this then speaks not only of Israel who will occupy Canaan, but of the true Israel, Jesus. What they will failingly do in Canaan is what Christ will do entirely. He will bring to an end all authority, all power, and all dissent against God, even to the master of all those things, Satan. As Paul says in Romans, “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20).

These words complete all spoken utterances from Moses. Chapter 34 will detail his end, but there will be no words from him. His first words came in Exodus 2 when he was forty years old. After another forty years, he was called by the Lord to lead Israel out of bondage and into the land of promise.

However, that will not come to pass. Instead, his successor, Joshua, will be the one to bring them in. There is a lesson in that for Israel, and there is a lesson in that for us as well. The law, pictured by Moses, cannot enter the inheritance, nor can it lead anyone into it.

It was given as a stepping-stone to Israel and as a lesson for us. What we need is something greater than the law can give to fallen, fallible man. We need the perfection of God. The law cannot provide that. It can only show us that we do not possess it, nor can we attain it through our own effort.

But the perfection of the law can be bestowed upon us if we accept what the giving of the law was intended for us to learn. Moses will be taken to the top of a mountain, and he will see the land of promise before him, but he will not go in.

We have a choice: will we follow in the example of Moses, trust in our own efforts, and die outside of the promise, or will we trust in God who alone can bring us in? He sent Jesus from Himself. Christ came, He lived under the law, He fulfilled the law, and He entered into His glory.

And He offers us Himself so that we can also enter into His glory. Moses accomplished his duties, and he will receive his reward, but as a typological representation of the law, he provides us with the warning – “Don’t trust in me. Trust in the Lord! He can bring you in, and He will bring you in, if you just have faith.” The words of Moses are ended. The word of the Lord and the Word of God are eternal.

Closing Verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:1-5

The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. Let us be sure to get our theological boxes straight. It’s important.

Next Week: Deuteronomy 34:1-12 Moses will die in Moab and be buried without any fanfare. As for Canaan, Moses… (You Shall Not Cross Over There) (104th and final Deuteronomy sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Moses Blesses Israel, Part IV

And of Naphtali he said:
“O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, delights in your mouth
And full of the blessing of the Lord
Possess the west and the south

And of Asher he said:
Asher is most blessed of sons
Happy is he with his spoil
Let him be favored by his brothers
And let him dip his foot in oil

Your sandals shall be iron and bronze, strong and mighty
As your days, so shall your strength be

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun
Who rides the heavens to help you
And in His excellency on the clouds
He is faithful and He is true

The eternal God is your refuge
And underneath are the everlasting arms
He will thrust out the enemy from before you
And will say, ‘Destroy! To them shall come many harms

Then Israel shall dwell in safety
The fountain of Jacob alone, it is true
In a land of grain and new wine
His heavens shall also drop dew

Happy are you, O Israel!
Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?
The shield of your help
And of your majesty the sword!

Your enemies shall submit to you, when they see your faces
And you shall tread down their high places

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 And of Naphtali he said:

“O Naphtali, satisfied with favor,
And full of the blessing of the Lord,
Possess the west and the south.”

24 And of Asher he said:

“Asher is most blessed of sons;
Let him be favored by his brothers,
And let him dip his foot in oil.
25 Your sandals shall be iron and bronze;
As your days, so shall your strength be.

26 There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to help you,
And in His excellency on the clouds.
27 The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
He will thrust out the enemy from before you,
And will say, ‘Destroy!’
28 Then Israel shall dwell in safety,
The fountain of Jacob alone,
In a land of grain and new wine;
His heavens shall also drop dew.
29 Happy are you, O Israel!
Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord,
The shield of your help
And the sword of your majesty!
Your enemies shall submit to you,
And you shall tread down their high places.”

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:15-22 (The Song of Moses, Part III)

Deuteronomy 32:15-22
The Song of Moses, Part III

My dad mentioned to me many years ago that when typing a book, the less references there are to a specific period, the more likely the book will be relevant at any time. If one refers to Ronald Reagan in the book, the material becomes dated. As such, it will only be relevant to those who are looking into that specific era or topic.

I’ve tried to remember that lesson and have attempted to make things I write more useful to any generation. However, there is also the truth that when writing things, there is often more of an appeal to the audience if a lesson from “right now” is included.

It is hard to get away from “right now,” because it is our reference point to gauge the past and compare it to our own circumstances. This can be especially relevant in a sermon where people need to wake up to what is happening around them.

It may be helpful to make a comparison of Israel as Moses describes him in today’s passage to some other point in time, like ancient Rome that also grew fat and complacent, but if that is all that is stated, it ignores the obvious connection to us today.

This sermon will refer to our circumstances in the US as we become the latest example in the history of the world to follow the same pattern since creation. Society is formed, society develops until man increases and has ease, man forsakes God and grows in wickedness, and man is judged, reaping what he has sown.

Text Verse: “Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant,
And Israel whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you:
‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant;
And you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. Isaiah 44:1, 2

The Lord formed Jacob His servant, and He chose Jeshurun, meaning Israel. As such, there should have been a resulting appreciation for what the Lord had done, a clinging to Him, and an ever-increasing bond between them.

But that is not human nature. Instead, people, communities, nations, and indeed the entire world tend to move away from God as they prosper and develop. The more prosperous the city, the more liberal and wicked the people become.

This is why a nation, such as the United States, may have massive areas of conservative voters that are spread out across the nation, but the cities and populated states quickly turn left and take on a distasteful shade of blue. There is a joining together of those who are prosperous, and the result is discussions about new, inventive, and exciting ways of doing evil.

With the global prosperity that has arisen in the past century, the entire world is heading down the same path as the pre-flood world. Only when real calamity arises will people turn back to the Lord. Unfortunately, when real calamity arises, it is often too late.

When a nuke detonates over Rome, for example, there won’t be much time to think on how to get right with God. Only those on the outskirts of the blast zone will have time to maybe humble themselves and reach out to Him before the radiation consumes what is left of them too. And those further away may, if they are wise, see and turn.

But it all started with a life of ease. When things are going well, we forget our God and find other things to chase after. Let us be wise and pay heed to Him now, before things devolve, not after.

Such lessons as this are to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Rock of His Salvation (verses 15-18)

We have been following the progression of the Song of Moses as it develops. There has been an introductory call. Moses then proclaimed the perfections of Yehovah. He then provided a contrast by noting the imperfections of Israel. Next, he spoke of the calling, establishment, and exalting of the nation. Verses 15-18 will tell of Israel’s abandonment of Yehovah because of prosperity and ease, leading to apostasy from Him and to false gods…

15 “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;

As was the case previously, the verbs are imperfect, giving the sense of the events happening right before our eyes: va’yishman Yeshurun va’yivat – “And he grows fat, Yeshurun, and he kicks.” Jeshurun is a proper noun and is a play upon the name “Israel.” One can see the similarity when written in Hebrew:

Yisrael:  יִשְׂרָאֵל
Yeshurun: יְשֻׁרוּן

It will be seen only four times – here, in 33:5 & 33:26, and in Isaiah 44:4. It is derived from the word yashar, which means straight, level, or upright. Some see it as a diminutive and thus a term of endearment, which is then something like “Child of the Upright,” or “Blameless Little People.”

Others say it is a descriptor: “Upright One.” But if you look at the other times it is used, it is given synonymously for the name Jacob. As such, it is a proper noun: “Upright” –

“Moses commanded a law for us,
A heritage of the congregation of Jacob.
And He was King in Jeshurun,
When the leaders of the people were gathered,
All the tribes of Israel together.” Deuteronomy 33:4, 5

Of this name for Israel, Moses describes his state as “he grows fat.” It is a new verb, shamen, meaning to grow fat. It is always used in conjunction with Israel. The idea is that of having plenty and thus being at ease.

In such a state, there is a resulting lack of reliance on the Lord. In essence, “All is good and I have no needs. I can do as I want without a care.” The other three uses of the word show the process by which Israel departed from the Lord. The first to note is found in Isaiah, prior to any thought of exile –

“And He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull, [lit: make fat]
And their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.’” Isaiah 6:9, 10

From there, Moses’ words are fulfilled in the people as described by Jeremiah –

“‘They have grown fat, they are sleek;
Yes, they surpass the deeds of the wicked;
They do not plead the cause,
The cause of the fatherless;
Yet they prosper,
And the right of the needy they do not defend.
29 Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord.
‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’” Jeremiah 5:28

And then, after the exile, Nehemiah recalls the state of the people –

“And they took strong cities and a rich land,
And possessed houses full of all goods,
Cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves,
And fruit trees in abundance.
So they ate and were filled and grew fat,
And delighted themselves in Your great goodness.” Nehemiah 9:25

One can see how ease (growing fat) leads to a growing fat of the heart, meaning the understanding, and that then leads to a rejection of the Lord and a need for His corrective measures. If one can’t see that in our nation today, he is not looking very hard.

Moses says that in this state of growing fat, “and he kicks.” It is another new and rare verb, baat. It will only be seen one more time and the sense of the meaning is understood from it –

“Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?” 1 Samuel 2:29

The idea is “to despise.” In Jeshurun’s growing fat, their attitude towards the Lord and His goodness towards them is to despise Him. As before, it is exactly what is seen in our nation today. Next, Moses again uses the word signifying to grow fat along with another new word…

15 (con’t) You grew fat, you grew thick,

It is correct: shamanta avita – “You grew fat! You grew thick!” The aspect of the verbs is now in the perfect. Note the change –

“And he grows fat, Yeshurun, and he kicks.”
“You grew fat! You grew thick!”

From the action of growing fat, the result is realized. Along with that, a new word, avah, or “to be thick,” is seen. One can see Upright, no longer upright. He is a blob that has grown out instead of up. So much so that…

15 (con’t) You are obese!

kasita – “You are bulging!” The verb kasah is found only here. It comes from the cognate noun kasah, meaning to cover. A literal translation would be, “You are covered.” But the unstated meaning is being covered with fat. Yeshurun has gorged himself so much and so often that he is nothing but a roly-poly blob. As such…

15 (con’t) Then he forsook God who made him,

va’yitosh eloha asahu – “And he deserts God who made him.” Explaining the verb natash will clarify the action. It comes from a root meaning to pound. As such, when something is pounded, it spreads out and the edges move farther and farther away.

What is evident is that as Israel grows, there is a resulting movement away from God. It just happens. It is the inevitable result of prosperity. The same has been the case in the US. We have grown fat, really fat.

We have “kicked” in our obesity, and the disdain we have shown for God has only grown as the prosperity has increased. This is so much the case that to even speak of Him in public is considered objectionable by the left. They literally hate Him and want Him erased from every public meeting place.

Israel was there before we were, but many of Israel are still here. The halls of our government are inclusive of Jews who literally hate the thought of God, but they are only a part of the left’s machine of this hatred. They are just more practiced at it after all of this time…

15 (con’t) And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.

vay’navel tsur yeshuato – “And he humiliates Rock his salvation.” The verb navel speaks of being foolish or stupid. As this is used causatively, the action is toward the Lord, and it is hard to come up with a suitable word to convey the intent, but I would liken what they do to how Christ was treated on the cross. He was mocked and humiliated. In this, the sense seems to come through appropriately. Verse 15 has a particular parallel structure to it –

(a) And he grows fat, Yeshurun, (b) and he kicks.
– (a) You grew fat! You grew thick!
– (a) You are bulging!
– (b) And he deserts God who made him.
– (b) And he humiliates Rock his salvation.

Israel looked around and saw that life was good. There is no need for anything and no care for life with the Lord, and so they looked down on Him instead of looking up to Him. Yeshurun humiliates the Rock of His salvation. On to the next verse…

16 They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;

yaqniuhu b’zarim– “They move Him to jealousy in strangers.” Notice how the words have gone to the plural. Israel forsook the Lord, and all of the people go astray in their own unique way. One after this, and one after that.

The words themselves are reminiscent of the man in Numbers 5 who is jealous of his wife who has strayed. There it says, “if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, who has defiled herself” (Numbers 5:14).

The people go after strangers, meaning gods other than the Lord. In this, they move Him to jealousy. It is the US today, ten thousand false gods – wood, stone, digital, sexual, powerful influence, financial, religious… it goes on and on. There is time for anything and everything except for the Lord. As such, it is…

16 (con’t) With abominations they provoked Him to anger.

b’toevot yakisuhu – “In abominations they are provoking Him to indignation.” The jealousy leads to the anger. Their false attitude towards Him is the grounds for His anger. This is perfectly seen in the record of Jeroboam, where the same verb is used –

“because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he had sinned and by which he had made Israel sin, because of his provocation with which he had provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger.” 1 Kings 15:30

Jeroboam had set up the golden calves in Bethel and in Dan for the people to worship, but even more offensively, he ascribed to them the people’s deliverance from Egypt –

“It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 1 Kings 12:28

But this is what the people had already done, even from the very moments after they had accepted the terms of the covenant –

“And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.
Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” Exodus 32:2-4

But Aaron went further by then stating that what they had just made was, in fact, the Lord, saying, “A feast to Yehovah, tomorrow!” (CG). In these things, the people not only prostituted themselves to others, but they did so while claiming that what they were worshipping – something which is a part of what He created – is actually the self-existent Creator, Yehovah.

It is like watching the pope kiss the feet of a plastic model of baby Jesus or a wooden image of Jesus hanging on a cross and calling it a good thing, as if that is somehow connected to the Lord who actually came and walked among us and who was then crucified for our sins. There is no reasoning as to the true nature of their actions before the Lord. In this verse, we see reverse parallelism –

(a) They move Him to jealousy (b) in strangers
(b) In abominations (a) they are provoking Him to indignation

It is future, but it is assured. The charges against them are laid out, in advance. But more indictment against Israel is ahead…

17 They sacrificed to demons, not to God,

yizbekhu la’shedim lo eloha – “They are sacrificing to the demons, not God.” It is a rare and difficult word, shed, found only here and in Psalm 106:37. Some say it is of foreign origin, like the Arabic word for Satan. As such, and being plural, it would be “to the Satans,” and thus demons.

It may also come from the Hebrew shud, signifying waste. This would still refer to demons, as something malignant. Moses was aware of them, in advance, and the Psalm bears out that Israel did exactly this, even with their own children –

“They even sacrificed their sons
And their daughters to demons,
38 And shed innocent blood,
The blood of their sons and daughters,
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
And the land was polluted with blood.” Psalm 106:37, 38

The horror of their actions cries out from the pages of their own Scriptures, testifying against them both in advance and after the fact. This is what Paul later warned the church of –

“Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” 1 Corinthians 10:20-22

This is a practice often seen in Roman Catholicism where the false gods of the nations are actually incorporated into the church through what is known as syncretism – the merging of different religious expressions.

Just two years ago, a statue of Pachamama (Mother Earth) of Amazonian worship was incorporated into a Vatican display during prayer services. As praise and prayers are considered sacrifices to God, this is perfectly akin to what Israel was charged for. Their allegiances were directed…

17 (con’t) To gods they did not know,

elohim lo yedaum – “‘Gods no they knew.” The Lord was God to them. He had removed them from a land of gods to be their only God, but they didn’t just go back to the old gods of Egypt. They actively went seeking after new gods to serve…

17 (con’t) To new gods, new arrivals

It is a plural adjective: khadashim miqarov bau – “Newbies, from near they came.” The word qarov, or near, can mean in time or in vicinity. Due to the structure of the verse, it is probably referring to time. They are newbies…

17 (con’t) That your fathers did not fear.

lo searum avotekem – “No have they dreaded, your fathers.” One gets the sense of appeasement with these words. The word sa’ar doesn’t mean to just fear, but to be terrified of. It comes from a root signifying “to storm.”

Thus, it speaks of being terribly afraid. We can imagine the false gods conjure up by people when telling stories. Eventually, like in a Hollywood movie, the people become terrified of them. In order to pacify them, sacrifices are made to them.

This is unlike their fathers who were close to the Lord. Their relationship was not of terror, but of awe that indicated a right fear of Him. Instead of trusting in and fearing the Lord (we’ll say, “Take a chance on Me!”), they feared the demons and sacrificed to them (to the Lord they said “So long!”). Hence the abba structure –

(a) They are sacrificing to the demons, not God.
(b) ‘Gods’ no they knew. (previously unknown)
(b) Newbies, from near they came. (previously unknown)
(a) No have they dreaded, your fathers.

Enough pop music for now! Of the false gods, they were mindful, but of the Lord from whom they issued, however…

18 Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful,

The second verb is a jussive: tsur yeladekha teshi – “Rock brought forth you; may you forget!” It is also a word unique in Scripture, shayah. It comes from a root signifying to keep in memory; be unmindful. Being a jussive, however, it is as a command to forget.

Also, the words are all in the singular: You, Israel. Therefore, it is a play on words. There is the Rock, stable and unchanging, who brought Israel forth, and then there is Israel being practically commanded by Moses to forget Him because of their actions toward Him…

18 (con’t) And have forgotten the God who fathered you.

va’tishkakh el mekholelekha – “And you have forgotten God in travail with you.” The idea conveyed is the process the Lord went through in order to establish Israel. It is as if He brought them forth as a woman in labor. All of His efforts were expended to do so, and yet Israel has forgotten Him. Moses uses the same term to describe the formation of the world itself –

“Before the mountains were brought forth,
while Thou wast yet in travail with earth and world,
and from eternity unto eternity Thou art God!” Psalm 90:2 (Ellicott)

Again, we see here reverse parallelism –

(a) Rock brought forth you; (b) may you forget!
(b) And you have forgotten (a) God in travail with you.

The Rock of our salvation is not like any other God
He is steadfast and mighty to save
To Him alone do the redeemed shout and applaud
A marvelous thing He did when His Son He gave

Let us refrain from provoking Him
By following after that which is less than bubbles
That will set us on a path, dark and grim
And set our feet on a way filled with troubles

In Him alone, let us find our rest
And to Him alone, let us direct all of our praise
He is worthy of it all, even our very best
And He is worthy of it all, even to eternal days

II. I Will Provoke Them to Jealousy (Verses 19-22)

With Israel’s abandonment of the Lord noted by Moses, he will now bring out Yehovah’s rejection of them, His turning from them, and His judgment upon them. However, in verse 21 it will allude to His plan to lure Israel back to Himself through His active turning to another group of people.

19 “And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them,

va’yar Yehovah va’yinats – “And saw, Yehovah, and spurned.” The words are of Moses beholding the results of Israel’s actions. They are direct, comprehensive, and unambiguous. Israel’s doings are completely open and exposed before the Lord. In seeing what they have done in spurning Him, He in turn snubs them. We cannot help but see the ultimate spurning of Him in the Person of Jesus.

It’s not that they just rejected Him and nailed Him to the tree, but they continued to do so, even after the innumerable evidences that He had resurrected and that in His name healing came to the people through miracles being performed. And so, He spurned them…

19 (con’t) Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters.

mi’kaas banav u-benotav – “From provocation His sons and His daughters.” Here, the idea of the previous verse continues. The Lord brought them forth and He was in travail with them.

Taken with the previous verse, one can see an additional parallelism where the forgetting of the people leads to the spurning of them by the Lord and how the forgetting of their Father is equated to provocation of the children. It is an a/b/a/b pattern –

  1. a) Rock brought forth you; may you forget!
  2. b) And you have forgotten God in travail with you.
  3. a) And saw, Yehovah, and spurned.
  4. b) From provocation His sons and His daughters.

They are His sons and His daughters, but they are disobedient and unfaithful to their Father…

20 And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them,

va’yomer astirah panay me’hem – “And He said, I will hide My face from them.” This is the result of His spurning them. Moses speaks on behalf of the Lord: “I will hide my face from them.” This thought was first expressed in the previous chapter –

“And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, “Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” 18 And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.’” Deuteronomy 31:16-18

When the expression “I will hide my face from them” is used, one can get the sense of the Father not allowing his disobedient children to come into His presence. Cambridge stupidly says the words “And He said” are a gloss that overloads the rhythm. A gloss is added only to highlight the rhythm, not overload it.

The words are perfectly placed to draw out the thought of the Lord for us to consider. The people are cast off and left to their own devices as a form of discipline against them. The Lord is curious how they will fare…

20 (con’t) I will see what their end will be,

ereh mah akharitam – “I will see what their end.” For sure, the Lord knows their end. It is an ironic way of saying it, just as a parent would say when a child threatens to run away – “Go ahead and go then! We’ll see how far you get.” The Lord knows that without Him, their end won’t be a happy one…

20 (con’t) For they are a perverse generation,

ki dor tahpukoth – “For generation contrariness.” It is a new noun to Scripture, tahpukah, coming from haphak, meaning to turn or overturn. Hence, it refers to them as those who are contrary, always turning things around. This word will be seen nine more times, all in the Proverbs. A good example of it is –

“A violent man entices his neighbor,
And leads him in a way that is not good.
30 He winks his eye to devise perverse things;
He purses his lips and brings about evil.” Proverbs 16:29, 30

Like the violent man whose facial expressions give away the things of his heart, so is Israel as they devise things that are perverse and mull over doing evil. They are…

20 (con’t) Children in whom is no faith.

hemah banim lo emun bam – “They children no trustworthiness in them.” It is a new noun, not an adjective, emun. It is derived from aman, to confirm or support. Thus, it speaks of the state of being established or trustworthy. Israel is being equated to children that are asked to do the chores while dad is away, and when he comes home, he finds that nothing was done.

Instead, the house is sloppier than before, the animals all ran away because the gate was left open, and the day’s vegetables have bugs in them because they weren’t taken inside and washed. And instead of memorizing their daily Bible passage, they have torn out the pages and made paper airplanes.

One can see the a/a/b/b structure of the verse when it is set forth as a whole –

And said,

  1. a) I will hide My face from them.
  2. a) I will see what their end.
  3. b) For generation contrariness.
  4. b) They children no trustworthiness in them.

In their untrustworthiness, He says…

21 They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God;

hem qinuni b’lo el – “They provoked me jealous in ‘no-god.’” Israel worshipped anything and everything that they could set before them. Not one of the things they set before them was God. The singular is used to describe all of the various things as one. Cumulatively, they are all a “no-god.” The Lord contrasts Himself to them, giving the reason for His jealousy. But there is more…

21 (con’t) They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols.

kiasuni b’havlehem – “They have moved Me to indignation in their bubbles.” The word hevel signifies vapor or breath. To give the sense of something that can be seen but has no substance, I said bubbles. They look like something, but they are nothing – like your breath that you see on a cold morning, and then it is gone.

Because of worshipping something so ridiculously stupid, they have moved the Lord to a state of vexation. As this is so, a plan has been devised to bring them back to their senses…

21 (con’t) But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation;

There is an emphasis in the words: va’ani aqniem b’lo am – “And I, I will provoke them to jealousy in no-people.” One can almost hear the Lord call out as He contrasts what He will do to what they have done. “They have done this, and I, I will do that.” He then contrasts their “no-god” to His “no-people.”

It is the call of the Gentiles. Israel’s gods were many and thus they are no-god. The Gentiles are many peoples and thus they are “no-people.” The contrasting thought continues with…

21 (con’t) I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.

It is a brilliant statement forming a play on words between two clauses and an alliteration between two different clauses. The words go naval, or nation foolish, are set against havlehem, or bubbles, forming a play on words. The words naval and hevel are spelled with only one letter difference in the Hebrew.

The alliteration is seen in the words aqniem  (provoke to jealousy) and akisem (move them to anger). Moses is speaking for the Lord in a unique and remarkable way. Great structure can be seen in the verse –

(a) They provoked me jealous (b) in ‘no-god.’
(a) They have moved Me to indignation (b) in their bubbles [הבל].

(a) And I, I will provoke them to jealousy [אַקְנִיאֵ֣ם] (b) in no-people.
(b) In nation foolish [נבל] (a) I will move them to indignation [אַכְעִיסֵֽם].

This verse is carefully used by Paul as he makes his case for the gospel of justification by faith alone through the calling of the Gentiles in Romans 10 –

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth,
And their words to the ends of the world.”
19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says:
“I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation,
I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”
20 But Isaiah is very bold and says:
“I was found by those who did not seek Me;
I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
21 But to Israel he says:
“All day long I have stretched out My hands
To a disobedient and contrary people.” Romans 10:14-21

Israel failed to find Christ and the Lord turned to the Gentiles to provoke them. But His anger was also to be brought to bear against them…

22 For a fire is kindled in My anger,

ki esh qadekhah b’api – “For fire kindled in My nostril.” Here is a new word qadakh. It signifies to kindle. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah of this using the same word –

“And you, even yourself,
Shall let go of your heritage which I gave you;
And I will cause you to serve your enemies
In the land which you do not know;
For you have kindled a fire in My anger which shall burn forever.” Jeremiah 17:4

The idea of the burning nostril is that of fire shooting forth from it. His anger and hot displeasure burn forth as such…

22 (con’t) And shall burn to the lowest hell;

va’tiqad ad sheol takhtith – “And shall burn even to Sheol lowest.” The word sheol can signify various things: the pit, the underworld, the grave, and so on.

The word “hell” is an archaic word used to refer to Hades, the underworld. Today, hell takes on the thought of the place of eternal damnation. This is not the intent. The fire will burn to the lowest places, even the realm of the dead. One can think of Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and the rich man.  Nowhere will be safe from the burning anger of the Lord. As such…

22 (con’t) It shall consume the earth with her increase,

va’tokal erets vibulah – “And consume land and her increase.” This is specifically referring to the land of Israel at this time. The judgment being referred to is solely upon Israel. As far as the connection to the corresponding clause, it says in Genesis 3:19 –

“In the sweat of your face [literally: nostril] you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19

Man tends to the ground as the sweat rolls down his nostril to bring forth the increase of the earth. The fire of the Lord’s nostril shoots down upon the earth and consumes all that Israel has worked for. Nothing will be left; everything in the land will be devoured…

*22 (fin) And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

va’telahet mosde harim – “And enflame foundations mountains.” Moses uses another new word, lahet. It is derived from a root meaning to lick. Thus, by implication, it means to enflame as tongues of flames lick up everything.

This is a poetic way of speaking of the strongest fortifications, even those set directly into the base of mountains, being utterly consumed by the fire the Lord kindles. There would be flames and burning until nothing was left.

(a) For fire kindled in My nostril.
(b) And shall burn even to Sheol lowest.
(a) And consume land and her increase.
(b) And enflame foundations mountains.

The marvelously structured and worded verses are given to excite the imagination and provide an anchor for remembering the content. But the contents are based on an actual meaning. They were given by Moses as a warning of what lay ahead for Israel.

Unfortunately, they failed to pay heed, and the terrors that were prophesied came to pass. Their failure continues to this day, and greater terrors lie ahead in the contents of the poem. But more, what lies ahead also includes the world at large.

Thus, the poem, along with the rest of Scripture, is given as a testament and a warning to the world. But the big question is, “Does anyone think the world will pay heed when even the church doesn’t?”

The large majority of the church is asleep at the wheel. Entire denominations are being led astray by truly wicked people. The holiness and sanctity of the word is disregarded. It is relegated to a bunch of myths outside of a few verses that somehow demonstrate that all will be well, and that God accepts what we do, no matter how depraved and vile it is.

This is not the case. Israel failed to pay heed, and even after the millennia of judgments upon them, they still have their heads buried deeply in the sand. The church has – for all intents and purposes – followed suit. And thus, the world has no reason to assume that the contents of Scripture hold any merit at all.

In this state, things will not – indeed they cannot – go well. But you, fellow Christian, I would ask you to take stock of what you have heard, apply it to your life, and not be led astray by those who say, “All is well; the Lord does not see or care.”

They are deluded, and in this, the wrath of God shall come upon the entire world. This is the warning of Scripture, but it is preceded with a mark of grace. God was willing to spend His wrath towards us in His own beloved Son.

The pains and wrath that Christ faced were sufficient to stay the wrath of God that we deserve, because the righteousness He bears is sufficient to remove from us the sin we bear. In Him, and in Him alone, the exchange can be made.

Israel has yet to figure this out, but the people of God – those who understand the significance of the cross – have seen and understood. If you are like disobedient Israel, today is the day for you to wake up from your slumber and reach out to the God who loves you enough to do what He did… just for you. Don’t waste a moment but call out to Him for life and length of days, even to eternity in His presence.

Closing Verse: “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.’” Romans 11:25-27

Next Week: Deuteronomy 32:23-34 The majesty of the words will go on some more… (The Song of Moses, Part IV) (96th Deuteronomy Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Song of Moses, Part III

“But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked
You grew fat, you grew thick. You are obese!
———-you disobedient nation
Then he forsook God who made him
And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation

With foreign gods they provoked Him to jealousy
With abominations they provoked Him to anger exceedingly

They sacrificed to demons, not to God
To gods they did not know, they drew them near
To new gods, new arrivals
That your fathers did not fear

Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, sad but true
And have forgotten the God who fathered you

“And when the LORD saw it, He spurned them
———-this disobedient nation
Because of His sons’ and His daughters’ provocation

And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them
I will see what their end will be
For they are a perverse generation
Children in whom is no faith towards Me

They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God
They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols
———-that cannot soothe
But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation
By a foolish nation, I will them to anger move

For a fire is kindled in My anger
And shall burn to the lowest hell, below the deepest fountains
It shall consume the earth with her increase
And set on fire the foundations of the mountains

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
You grew fat, you grew thick,
You are obese!
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
16 They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
17 They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
To gods they did not know,
To new gods, new arrivals
That your fathers did not fear.
18 Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful,
And have forgotten the God who fathered you.

19 “And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them,
Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters.
20 And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end will be,
For they are a perverse generation,
Children in whom is no faith.
21 They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God;
They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols.
But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation;
I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.
22 For a fire is kindled in My anger,
And shall burn to the lowest hell;
It shall consume the earth with her increase,
And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

Deuteronomy 28:45-51 (The Blessings and the Curses, Part V)

Deuteronomy 28:45-51
(The Blessings and the Curses, Part V)

The word shamad, translated as “destroy,” will be used three times in today’s verses. In total, it is used seven times in this chapter. Every time it is used, it is in relation to Israel. But in the very last verse of the chapter, it says that Israel will be offered for sale to their enemies.

One cannot be sold off if he has been totally destroyed, and so the word “destroy” cannot mean utter destruction of the people. We’ll see that more fully expressed during the sermon when a promise from the Lord concerning Israel from Leviticus 26 is cited. That is the comparable “blessings and curses” passage to Chapter 28 of Deuteronomy.

We have to remember that if Israel was destroyed as a people, then God’s promises to the people would be of no value at all. What would be the point of going through all of redemptive history just to destroy the people that got the world through redemptive history until the time when the Redeemer would come?

Where is the glory for God in that? And more, where does the remnant that Paul refers to in Romans 9 (citing Isaiah) and Romans 11 then come from? If the church is now Israel, does that mean that only a remnant of the church is saved? That is a logical contradiction. Being a true member of Christ’s church means that one is saved.

So, Paul cannot be referring to the church, except as that remnant is a part of it. And if the remnant is from Israel, which is exactly what Paul says in Romans 11, then that means that Israel – the nation – still exists.  You can’t have a remnant without a whole to have a remnant from!

Text Verse: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people;
For He will avenge the blood of His servants,
And render vengeance to His adversaries;
He will provide atonement for His land and His people.” Deuteronomy 32:43

The words of the text verse tell the Gentiles to rejoice with His people. The implication is that the Gentiles are additional to “His people.” Paul cites that in the New Testament, in Romans 15, clearly indicating that the Jews (he refers them as “the circumcision”) are His people and that we, the Gentiles, are now a part of what He is doing.

So, we have a remnant from a whole, the remnant is not “from” the church, and that Gentiles are a part of what God is doing. It is rather clear that there has been, and there still is, a role for Israel the people today. As such, it means that Israel the people, who are in the land of Israel today, have a part in that role. It cannot be otherwise.

Their disobedience to the Lord’s word doesn’t negate God’s faithfulness to it. Rather, it highlights the magnificence of God’s faithfulness, despite man’s unfaithfulness. Remember that when someone tells you that you can lose your salvation.

Transgression, violations of the law, faithlessness, and so on, will all be dealt with by God, but He will uphold His word to His people through every single one of our failings. Trust in that and be reassured that if you are in Christ, you are in the sweet spot – for all eternity.

Great things, such as the eternal and infinite grace of God towards His people are to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. A Sign and a Wonder (verses 45 & 46)

A distinct section of Deuteronomy 28 is seen with the coming of verse 45. As such, some scholars take these sections and divide them into epochs of Israel’s history. For example, Joseph Benson says –

“Here some critics have made a division of these prophecies and have interpreted the preceding part as relating to the former captivity of the Jews, and the calamities which they suffered under the Chaldeans; and the remaining part as referring to their latter captivity, and the calamities which they suffered under the Romans. But “there is no need,” says Bishop Newton, “of any such distinction; there is no reason to think any such was intended by the author; several prophecies of the one part, as well as of the other, have been fulfilled at both periods; but they have all been more amply fulfilling during the latter period; and there cannot be a more lively picture than they exhibit of the state of the Jews at present.”

I agree. It is an oversimplification of what has occurred in Israel’s history to say that verses 15-44 belong to one epoch of time and the next section (45-68) to another.

Further, this would dismiss the obvious division of the people between the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah and what occurred to each. Moses repeats and builds upon his previous words, but not necessarily to prophetically refer to separate epochs of time. Rather, it is to show that the Lord’s judgment will lessen or increase according to Israel’s return to Him, or departure from Him.

The second exile occurred after their rejection of Jesus. As such, the punishments would be great, lengthy, and almost ubiquitous among the people. But the judgments ultimately come from rejecting the Lord, Yehovah, regardless as to whether it is prior to His incarnation or not. Moses is continuing the same main thought now, even if this new section is clearly defined from the last.

45 “Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you,

The thought has been expressed twice already in this Chapter –

Vs. 2 “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you.”
Vs. 15 “that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”

The words are the same as verse 15, except Moses adds in the word “pursue.” In this, he adds to the intensity of the thought. It is as if the curses are alive, like wild dogs, chasing their prey. No matter how fast Israel runs from them, they will catch up, and in their catching up, they will overwhelm like a flood.

In this state of being so overwhelmed, Moses next says…

45 (con’t) until you are destroyed,

This is the third of seven times that Moses uses the word shamad, or “destroy” in this chapter. It means just that, to destroy, bring to naught, perish, and so on. However, it does not have to be taken in its absolute sense, nor should it be here. The Lord has already said as much in Leviticus 26, using another word, kalah, which signifies to bring to an end –

“Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them;
for I am the Lord their God.” Leviticus 26:44

As such, the word “destroyed” here simply means the destruction of the people without the annihilation of the nation. And there is a reason for this. Moses tells us in the Song of Moses –

“I would have said, ‘I will dash them in pieces,
I will make the memory of them to cease from among men,’
27 Had I not feared the wrath of the enemy,
Lest their adversaries should misunderstand,
Lest they should say, ‘Our hand is high;
And it is not the Lord who has done all this.’” Deuteronomy 32:26, 27

The Lord’s name is at stake in the preservation of Israel. He has given His word. To fail to keep it would demonstrate that He was incompetent and not worth following. If He failed, none of His other covenant promises could be considered sure.

It is a note of absolute security for the believer. The preservation of Israel confirms the doctrine of eternal salvation. When the Lord speaks forth His guarantee, it is an eternal decree. This is exactly why the Song of Moses ends with a note concerning the Gentiles, as we saw in our text verse.

The Bible early on teaches us core doctrines concerning faith, hope, security, and so on, if we will simply pay heed to the template set before us. The template is disobedient Israel. How the Lord has faithfully treated them should give each of us a great deal of assurance when we also fail to measure up.

However, we are still in the curses section of Deuteronomy 28, and so we must continue with evaluating the bad news as well. It will come upon Israel…

45 (con’t) because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God,

ki lo shamata b’qol Yehovah elohekha – “for no you did hear in voice Yehovah your God.” To “hear” means to obey. This is what it all comes down to. The voice of the Lord speaks forth His words, and it is His words that His people are to obey.

On the day I typed this sermon, someone emailed concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage. “We aren’t under law, and so how can it hurt for a person to do this.” The answer is, “Because the Lord has spoken.” In Christ, we are not imputed sin, but we will still be judged for our actions concerning rewards and loss.

Eternal salvation does not mean “no consequences.” Some will come in this life. One divorce often leads to another, finances are ruined, children are destroyed in heart and in proper direction, people get shot over jealousy, and so on.

And some consequences follow later. Standing before the Lord hearing, “Yes, you willingly disobeyed me in this, and because of it you will not receive a full reward,” will be a point of true sadness.

What could have been, never will be. When we fail to hear the voice of the Lord our God – be it Israel under the Mosaic Covenant, or us now under the New Covenant, we will suffer consequences for our failure…

45 (con’t) to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.

The voice of the Lord is that which utters forth what He wills. When God said, “Let there be light,” the light came forth. But light is not an entity with free will. It simply obeys the command.

When the Lord says, “A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:10, 11), it is as a decree – “This is how it is to be.”

As surely as the light shines out of the darkness at the word of the Lord, so should we hold to our marriage because the voice of the Lord has so spoken. And this is true with each command set forth in the context of the covenant in which it is spoken.

For Israel, statutes and judgments were set forth by the Lord and they were to be heeded accordingly. Failure to hearken meant the promised curses would follow after, overtake, and consume.

However, there is the ongoing truth that though Israel was deserving of the curses, Christ took them upon Himself in their stead. Jesus, in His humanity, was destroyed. He obeyed the commandments and the statutes set forth, and yet all of the curses clearly came upon Him as well. In this, Moses says…

46 And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder,

The words more literally say, “And they shall be in you to sign and to wonder.” The word “they” is speaking of the curses. What happens to Israel (in you) in fulfillment of the word, and as is displayed in the curses upon them, are what will be a sign and a wonder.

The oth, or sign, is something that points to something else. As such, the curses will be a sign of the surety of the word of the Lord. In seeing what happens to Israel, it confirms that the Lord has spoken and performed. Hence, the nations are as much without excuse in rejecting the Lord as is Israel. Both are guilty of failing to heed the sign of the curses.

The mopheth, or wonder, is the thing itself. It is the event that occurs. Together, they are a sign and a wonder. As such, those who are wise will see and understand –

“Because My people have forgotten Me,
They have burned incense to worthless idols.
And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways,
From the ancient paths,
To walk in pathways and not on a highway,
16 To make their land desolate and a perpetual hissing;
Everyone who passes by it will be astonished
And shake his head.” Jeremiah 18:15, 16

Those who pass by will see the wonder that has been brought upon Israel. The wise among them will then understand the sign. The wonder is given and the sign – the surety of the word – is confirmed.

46 (con’t) and on your descendants forever.

u-b’zarakha ad olam – “and in your seed until forever.” The words here are taken by scholars, in one degree or another, as referring to the effects upon Israel. In other words, Cambridge says –

Forever. This, though it may imply the final and utter rejection of Israel as a nation, does not preclude the hope of restoration of a part of Israel as individuals, or as a remnant remaining in or returning to faith and obedience (cf. Isaiah 10:22; Isaiah 6:13; Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5).” Cambridge

Likewise, Lange argues about the scope of the effect upon Israel in contrast to what Keil had said –

“The term forever cannot, with KEIL, be limited “to the generation smitten with the curse.” It is rather to be limited by thy seed in distinction from the holy seed. Thy seed, seed of evil doers, involving themselves in iniquities of their fathers—upon such the curse rests forever. There is a remnant here also according to the election of grace.—A. G.” John Lange Commentary

These analyses ignore the obvious subject of the verse – “And they [the curses] shall be upon you.” Israel is the object. As such, it is not referring at all to the people, but the curses. They are the sign and the wonder.

All Israel has to do, forever, is to look at their history, and what has occurred to them, and they can forever know that their own disobedience brought the calamities upon them. This exact thought is expressed by Daniel –

“Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.” Daniel 9:11, 12

Despite the curses being for a sign and a wonder on Israel, even forever, Christ was willing to intervene and become His own sign and wonder to the people. Isaiah refers to this, using the same words –

“Bind up the testimony,
Seal the law among my disciples.
17 And I will wait on the Lord,
Who hides His face from the house of Jacob;
And I will hope in Him.
18 Here am I and the children whom the Lord has given me!
We are for signs and wonders in Israel
From the Lord of hosts,
Who dwells in Mount Zion.” Isaiah 8:16-18

Christ took the curses of the law upon Himself on behalf of His people, those who believe. They received what He had done to join to Him in this state. The curse of the law is lifted from them, and they have become signs and wonders in Israel.

The author of Hebrews cites Isaiah, demonstrating that this is exactly what is being referred to –

“And again:
‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.’
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:13-15

As far as the curses upon Israel being a sign to them, Moses will continue to explain this in the verses ahead.

The Lord has given His command, and it is what you are to do
It is that which you cannot see heaven without
He has spoken the word which is faithful and true
In doing that thing, He is pleased – have no doubt 

Jesus spoke the word and it is exactly what He meant
When He said, “This is the work of God”
It is “that you believe in Him whom He sent”
With this gospel of peace, be sure that you are shod

Believe in Christ Jesus, that He died for your sins
Believe that He was buried after that
Believe that He rose the third day – Yes, over death Jesus wins!
In your belief, it is as an eternal feather in your hat

The law couldn’t save anyone, this much is true
But in Christ’s fulfillment of it, there is granted life anew

II. Until You Are Destroyed (verses 47-51)

47 “Because you did not serve the Lord your God

takhat asher lo avadta eth Yehovah elohekha – “Under which no you did serve Yehovah your God.” The word takhat, or under” signifies “in place of.” One can think of something coming up, like a son replacing his father.

Thus, the words here are not based on what was said, but what will be said in the next verse. In essence, the thought is, “Instead of this…” The word “serve” can also mean “worship.” The two thoughts are so closely connected that either is used at times.

The idea is that the people fail to express themselves positively toward the Lord. As such, Moses continues this thought saying…

47 (con’t) with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything,

b’simkhah u-b’tuv l’vav me’rov kol – “in joyfulness and in gladness to heart from abundance all.” The preposition is b’, meaning “in,” and it should be translated as such. It is the same preposition rightly translated repeatedly in the next verse.

The Lord is showing a contrast in the two states. The Lord promised the blessings. In receiving them and being grateful for them, and in serving the Lord in joy, in gladness, and the like, Israel would prosper.

If one looks at the record of Christ, He did exactly what was expected of Israel here. He served the Lord with joy and gladness of heart for all of the Lord’s blessings. The record of Israel, however, shows that they were not found serving in this way. As such…

48 therefore you shall serve your enemies,

Instead of serving (worshipping) the Lord in joy and gladness, Moses says Israel would serve (it is the same word) his enemies. It is one or the other, and the choice was solely up to the people, but the response would be at the hand of the Lord. As Moses says…

48 (con’t) whom the Lord will send against you,

This can come about in various ways. In times of prosperity, the people would be well fed and well defended. In such a state, because of the Lord’s blessing, the enemy couldn’t prevail. The blessing would result in further blessing.

However, in a state of prosperity mixed with overindulgence and neglect towards the Lord, the people would be unprepared. Thus, the blessing would result in receiving the curses and the enemy could prevail.

Or, in a state of lack because of no rains, high heat, or other adverse weather conditions, the people would lack food, wealth, the capability to defend themselves, and so on. Thus, the curse would lead to further curses and the enemy prevailing.

However, such a state of lack could result in the people turning back to the Lord. As such, the curse could lead to renewed blessing. The assumption of this verse, though, is that the Lord is not served, and the people have not turned to Him. In this, He has withheld the blessing. Therefore, Israel will serve his enemies…

48 (con’t) in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything;

As seen in the examples just noted, the hunger, thirst, nakedness and need could come directly from the Lord prior to the coming of the enemy, or it could come as a result of the enemy coming against them. It doesn’t matter which way it comes, in failing to serve the Lord, the result is lack, want, and need of everything.

In such a state, and with the enemy over the people, they will serve man rather than the Lord whom they failed to serve. In this state…

48 (con’t) and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.

The question here is, “Who the subject of the action?” The NKJV capitalized “He,” indicating they feel it is the Lord. Other translations recognize it as the enemy –

“They’ll set a yoke of iron upon your neck until they have exterminated you.” (ISV)

The ISV is clearly wrong as the Hebrew is in the singular, “he,” but their intent is to indicate that it is the enemy and to not confuse the translation by simply saying “he.” Other versions, like the ESV, don’t capitalize the pronoun, even when speaking of the Lord, and so one has no idea which they think is meant.

In the Hebrew, the Lord is the nearest antecedent. That makes it probable it is the Lord. But, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, we can confirm that it is most surely the Lord being referred to –

“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. I have given him the beasts of the field also.’” Jeremiah 28:14

What is seen in this verse is the continued contrast of Israel to the Lord. He faithfully served the Lord, and yet, He received the deprivation Israel deserved and the weight of the unyielding yoke of the enemy upon Himself, meaning the law.

This doesn’t mean that the law is from the enemy. Rather, it is from God. But the enemy uses the law against the people because of their inability to perform it. This is exactingly referred to by Peter in Acts 15 –

“Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Acts 15:10, 11

In exchange for His work, including bearing the impossible burden of the law upon the people, Jesus offered them a happier state –

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

But for disobedient Israel while under the law and under its curse…

49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar,

The words of this verse are closely followed in Jeremiah 5 –

“‘Behold, I will bring a nation against you from afar,
O house of Israel,’ says the Lord.
“It is a mighty nation,
It is an ancient nation,
A nation whose language you do not know,
Nor can you understand what they say.” Jeremiah 5:15

At that time, Jeremiah was referring to the Chaldeans of Babylon. The point is that Israel wouldn’t just be targeted by her neighbors, but from any country the Lord determined would be the rod of His anger and vengeance. As such, distance was of little matter, even…

49 (con’t) from the end of the earth,

miqtseh ha’arets – “from extremity the earth.” The word erets, or “earth” can speak of the land of Israel, or it can extend to mean the earth itself. In this case, it is referring to the furthest parts of the earth. Despite the distance, they will come…

49 (con’t) as swift as the eagle flies,

ka’asher yideh ha’nesher – “according to which darts the eagle.” It is a new word, daah, meaning to fly swiftly, or to dart through the air. It will be seen just four times, in Psalm 18:10 and in Jeremiah 48:40 and 49:22. The point of these words is that the nation will be unaffected by the distance, obstacles, or difficulty of the journey.

They will dart on the land as easily as an eagle does in the sky. As such, they would retain their strength, order, and discipline when they arrived at the borders of Israel. The prophets use such terminology when referring to Babylon, such as –

“Our pursuers were swifter
Than the eagles of the heavens.
They pursued us on the mountains
And lay in wait for us in the wilderness.” Lamentations 4:19

Despite this theme being repeated concerning Babylon, it is certainly not limited to them. Rather, the eagle was the symbol found on all Roman standards as well.

Thus, the symbolic nature of the eagle representing Babylon becomes a literal symbol of Rome, even if the symbolism continues in regard to the Roman armies. That continues to be true for both nations in the next words…

49 (con’t) a nation whose language you will not understand,

go asher lo tishma leshono – “Nation which no shall hear tongue.” Again, this is in accord with what Jeremiah 5:15 said a moment ago, “A nation whose language you do not know.” Though Aramaic and Hebrew are cognate languages, the variations in them made it beyond the ability of the nation, meaning Israel as whole, to understand.

This is seen, for example, in 2 Kings 18. Though this is referring to the Assyrians and not the Babylonians, it is the same Chaldee (Aramaic) spoken by both –

“Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, Shebna, and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, ‘Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.’” 2 Kings 18:26

Here, it does not say “Hebrew.” Rather, it says Yehudith, meaning “the language of Judah.” At no time does the Old Testament use the term “Hebrew” when referring to the language of Israel.

Despite that, those trained in diplomacy would have learned the language of Assyria, but the common people would not have understood it. Hence, these men petitioned for the Rabshakeh to speak to them in Aramaic.

However, his response, though crude, showed that he wanted all of the people to be warned, hoping they would rebel and surrender without a fight. And so, he continued in Yehudith –

But the Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, who will eat and drink their own waste with you?” 2 Kings 18:27

From there, the Rabshakeh continued warning the people and promising them peace if they would come out and surrender. As this was the case with a cognate language, how much more is it the case with the Roman language, Latin. The structure and idiomatic expressions would have been completely foreign to Israel.

And further, both the Babylonians and the Romans can easily be associated with the next words…

50 a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young.

The description is well reflected in that of the Chaldeans of Babylon as seen in 2 Chronicles –

“Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand.” 2 Chronicles 36:17

Jeremiah, in the Lamentations, speaks in similar words –

“Our skin is hot as an oven,
Because of the fever of famine.
11 They ravished the women in Zion,
The maidens in the cities of Judah.
12 Princes were hung up by their hands,
And elders were not respected.
13 Young men ground at the millstones;
Boys staggered under loads of wood.
14 The elders have ceased gathering at the gate,
And the young men from their music.” Lamentations 5:10-14

It is evident based on the words of Jesus in Luke 21 that the Romans would be equally hard on the people, something confirmed by later secular historians –

“For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations.” Luke 21:22-24

It is not hard to see the comparison to Christ in this. Israel is the disobedient, and Israel deserved the curse. And yet, Christ – who perfectly submitted to His Father’s will, and who served Him with joy and gladness – had the terror of the Roman nation brought against Him. The penalties of the curse came upon Him in place of the people.

The nation of fierce countenance that did not respect the elderly, nor show favor to the young, treated the One more innocent than any other with the cruelest of tortures. As for disobedient Israel, Moses continues telling them what they deserve because of their failure to serve the Lord…

51 And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land,

This is still speaking of the nation of fierce countenance. As such, and despite most translations repeatedly saying “they” in this verse, the Hebrew is in the singular. “He [or it] shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land.”

Concerning these things, verse 4 and verse 18 made a contrast between them –

“Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.” Deuteronomy 28:4

“Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.” Deuteronomy 28:18

Now, it states that whether blessed in increase or not, whatever they have – be it much or little – will simply be taken from them and consumed. The one with much will see much taken from him. The one with little will see what little he has taken from him. All of the efforts of the land will be taken away by the invading forces…

51 (con’t) until you are destroyed;

It is the third time in our few verses today where the word shamad, or destroyed, is used. Israel’s efforts will be brought to nothing, and in turn, Israel will be brought to nothing. The words speak of futility of effort leading to futility of life.

This futility will include all of the things that are accounted as necessary for a normal life. In other words, the next two clauses are set in parallel to the first clause. The “produce of your land” is explained by the words…

51 (con’t) they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil,

The grain, new wine, and oil are the commodities of the soil. They are used for consumption, storing up, and for selling. But none of this will come to pass for disobedient Israel. Instead, all of the efforts of their labors will be taken from them by the nation of fierce countenance, leaving them nothing except empty hands and empty stomachs.

Next, Moses explains the meaning of the words, “the increase [fruit] of your livestock,” saying…

51 (con’t) or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks,

Two words here are seen for the last time in Scripture, sheger, or increase, and ashtaroth, or offspring. Both words were used in the same four verses in Deuteronomy and are now retired from Scripture together. What issued from the cattle and from the flock together make up the fruit of the livestock.

Again, like the previous clause, that which Israel worked for will be taken from them and consumed, leaving nothing left for them to eat. It elicits the thought of complete futility and a state of absolute destitution. This will be wrought upon them by this nation…

*51 (fin) until they have destroyed you.

It is a poor translation. Three times in our verses, the word shamad has been used. Now, it uses the word abad. It signifies to “perish.” Thus, the words should say, “until he (it is singular) has caused you to perish.”

The idea is that Israel will be destroyed until they are caused to perish. Everything will be against them, every burden will be upon them, and everything will be taken from them until they simply wither away from the strain of it all.

One can see the contrast between Israel and Christ in this. Both suffered under the law. One for its own sins. Everything was taken from them, and they were destroyed until they perished. Those that remained were exiled from their home.

Only because of the Lord’s faithfulness to them because of the covenant were they not utterly destroyed. Their time of exile is over, even if their time of destruction is not. Their future is set only because the Lord has preserved them to bring them into the New Covenant.

Christ also suffered under the law, but it was for the sins of His people. Everything was taken from Him, and He was destroyed until He perished. He was exiled from the land of the living. But He was restored because of His faithfulness to the covenant.

Because of Him, Israel’s future is set. It is His faithfulness under the Old Covenant that will, in fact, bring them into the New Covenant. With each step of both the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy, the work of Christ is highlighted.

He is the basis of any true blessing, and He is the bearer of and remover of the curses. We can see that where they failed, He was able to pick up and continue forward. It is the lesson of the law. What man is incapable of doing, Christ was willing to do in our place. In Him is the victory, and in Him is restoration and renewal for the human soul.

For any who will come to Him now, simply trusting by faith that He is capable of saving us from our sins, such will be saved. And for Israel as a nation, they too will someday be saved and they will receive the wonderful covenant promises made to them under the Old Covenant, but which speak of their favor under the New Covenant.

Jesus Christ is the hope set forth for mankind, and He is the covenant-keeping Lord who will fulfill every promise He has made. Nothing will fail because He is our God who cannot fail. Thank God for Jesus Christ.

Closing Verse: “The Lord has sworn by His right hand
And by the arm of His strength:
‘Surely I will no longer give your grain
As food for your enemies;
And the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine,
For which you have labored.
But those who have gathered it shall eat it,
And praise the Lord;
Those who have brought it together shall drink it in My holy courts.’” Isaiah 62:8, 9

Next Week: Deuteronomy 28:52-61 Another dose, as if vaccines from nurses, in order to help you get your Deuteronomy 28 fix… (The Blessings and the Curses, Part VI) (82nd Deuteronomy Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. But He also has expectations of you as He prepares you for entrance into His Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Blessings and the Curses, Part V

“Moreover all these curses shall come upon you
and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed
———-this fate to you will be handed
Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God
To keep His commandments and His statutes which He
———-to you commanded

And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder too
And on your descendants forever, such He shall do to you

“Because you did not serve
The LORD your God, and praises you did not sing
With joy and gladness of heart
For the abundance of everything

Therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD
———-will send against you
In hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything
And He will put a yoke of iron on your neck
Until He has destroyed you, such catastrophe He will bring

The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar
From the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies
———-yes, He will have brung
A nation whose language you will not understand
A nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly
———-nor show favor to the young

And they shall eat the increase of your livestock
And the produce of your land, until you are destroyed
———-so He will do
They shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil
Or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks
———-until they have destroyed you

Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

45 “Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. 46 And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and on your descendants forever.

47 “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. 49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. 51 And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you.

 

Revelation 22:21

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. Revelation 22:21

As a note, various manuscripts say –

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

These are just a few of the variations. Also, the word “Amen” is not included in all manuscripts. With that noted, the Bible ends with these words. Jesus has spoken, and John completes the chapter, book, and canon of Scripture with the words, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace is unmerited favor. Grace cannot be earned. Grace is a gift.

Each of these explains God’s giving of Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. We were set on a path to destruction with no hope of changing that, but God sent Jesus. We could never work our way out of this dilemma, but God sent Jesus. We could never pay our way out of the mess we are in, but God sent Jesus. Our situation was futile, but in the giving of Christ, the grace of God has changed all of that.

And this gift is universally offered. Regardless of the translation (as noted in the differences above), the offering of Jesus Christ is extended to all. The NKJV says, “be with you all.” Others say, “be with all.” Still others, “with all the saints.” The fact is that a saint is simply someone who was once “not” a saint. He heard the gospel, accepted its premise, called out for God’s saving provision, and was saved.

But the grace then extends beyond the salvation. There is the continued grace of God which is the assurance of that salvation. There is the instruction of God found in His word which guides us for sanctification.

There is the hope of glory, there is the fellowship of the saints, there is the joy of release from our debts, and so on. All of this is tied up in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. All of it exists because of what He has done, and none of it would exist without Him. The fulness of the grace of God is found in the giving of Christ to reconcile us to Himself. With that in mind, John completes Scripture with the word “Amen.” So be it. Yes, and may it be so.

Life application: With tears of joy and the eager expectation of the fulfillment of every promise God has spoken to His people, we have arrived at the last verse of His word. At this time, let us return to the first verse of the Bible, the last verse of the Old Testament, and the first verse of the New Testament. By doing so, let each of us call to remembrance in our own minds everything we can which has been given between these verses –

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

“And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:6

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:” Matthew 1:1

The Bible begins under the assumption that God exists, that He is the Creator, and that the heavens and the earth are a part of what He has created and therefore they are both good and have an eternal purpose within His mind.

The Old Testament ends with the promise of a curse unless the people take to heart the warnings and admonitions given to them. A curse is obviously contrary to the original intent of the creation and therefore the warning is given – there is both a hope and the possibility of avoiding the curse.

The New Testament immediately enters into the subject of the Person of Jesus Christ. From then on, He takes center stage. The anticipation of Messiah, through the direction of Yehovah (the Lord) of the Old Testament, culminates in the unveiled and glorious Lord Jesus of the New.

There is no point that He isn’t the center and focus of what is being conveyed because “it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19, 20).

The resounding and continuously noted concept of the grace of God is found throughout the pages of the Bible. From the covering of Adam and Eve after the fall, to Abraham’s declaration of righteousness for taking God at His word, to the choosing of a ruddy young shepherd boy from the hills of Bethlehem to lead the people of Israel – and in countless other stories of normal people who are given what they don’t deserve, simply because of the goodness of God. It is grace that draws these people near to Him.

This concept of God’s grace is then personalized in the New Testament. Jesus is the heart of what God is trying to tell us. If we will only listen. Nothing could be clearer, and yet it is completely missed by far too many. For every person who stands up and tells of God’s grace, there are a dozen behind him telling us that this grace only goes so far and that we need to step in and do something more to earn what is freely offered. How can we escape this trap?

First, we must understand what grace is. It is the unmerited divine assistance given to us for our redemption, justification, sanctification, and eventual glorification. It is a virtue coming from God, externally and without our assistance. It cannot be earned because it is unmerited. This is the heart of the gospel message. What we couldn’t do for ourselves, God did for us through the giving of His Son. To attempt to earn God’s grace through works then is an affront to God because it says to Him that what He has done is insufficient.

Second, once we know what grace is, we simply have to accept it; reach out, grab it, and then not waffle in our belief that what we have received will lead us throughout our lives and even through all eternity.

This is what John conveys one last time as he closes out the book of Revelation and the Bible – “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” In an amazing display of the very concept of grace, we see it in these words. Jesus, our Creator, left it to a man, His beloved apostle, to finalize His word to us.

Imagine the honor bestowed upon John to personally close out the Word of God. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God has allowed him, a mere man, this eternal treasure. And for each of us who comes to know Jesus, we have a similar precious honor – that of telling others of the glorious Lord who came to walk among us, die on a cross for us, and then to resurrect to eternal life that we may, by grace through faith, be called children of God. Thank God for His provision. Thank God for JESUS!

Thank You, Heavenly Father, for the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.