Date:         Tue, 24 Jan 1995 20:54:53 +0100
Sender:       Christian explanation of the Scriptures to Israel
From:         Teus Benschop 
Subject:      The Scriptures opened, 15
     1.    Weekly reading, Exodus 23:2
     2.    Psalm 40:1,2
     3.    New Testament, John 3:1-21, part 1
     4.    Books
  1. Weekly reading, Exodus 23:2
  Exodus 23:2
  Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in
  a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment.
  This  verse deals  with  the judges.  They  have  to speak  right in  the
  lawsuits. This verse  can also be applied to  us. Also we may  not follow
  the multitude  to do evil. When  everybody, or nearly  everybody has some
  habit, even when it is against God's law, it is often not considered as a
  transgression. Everybody follows  the multitude to do  evil. And when you
  say:  "This  is against  God's  law", then  the answer  is  often: "What?
  Everybody does it.  Why is this  not allowed?"  But God warns  us not  to
  follow the multitude to do evil. Let the Law be our norm, not the people.
  The Bible is full  of examples of this verse;  both of the same  warnings
  and of transgressions of it. Here follow some examples.
     Solomon warns us not to follow the multitude to do evil, when he says:
  "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not." (Prov.1:10)
     Aaron followed the people to commit  idolatry, when he made the golden
  calf  at Sinai. "And when the people saw  that Moses delayed to come down
  out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and
  said unto him,  Up, make us gods,  which shall go  before us; for  as for
  this Moses, the man that brought us up  out of the land of Egypt, we  wot
  not what is become of him."  (Exod.32:1) "And when Aaron saw it, he built
  an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a
  feast to the LORD." (Exod.32:5)
     In the beginning  of the world, everybody had corrupted his way on the
  earth. The one  saw it of the other, and all sinned. "And God looked upon
  the earth, and, behold,  it was corrupt; for all flesh  had corrupted his
  way upon  the earth."  (Gen.6:12) Noah  however, that holy  and righteous
  man, was righteous  in the midst of  a corrupt generation. "And  the LORD
  said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I
  seen righteous before me in this generation." (Gen.7:1)
     While the children of Israel  travelled through the desert, they often
  murmured  together. When  one  begun,  the rest  followed.  "And all  the
  children  of Israel  murmured against  Moses and  against Aaron:  and the
  whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land
  of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!" (Num.14:2)
     Elijah, that holy  and righteous prophet, was one of the few among the
  disobedient  Israel, who still served God.  "And he (Elijah) said, I have
  been very  jealous for the LORD God of hosts:  for the children of Israel
  have  forsaken thy  covenant, thrown  down  thine altars,  and  slain thy
  prophets with the sword;  and I, even I  only, am left; and  they seek my
  life, to take it away." (1 Kin.19:10)
     Also in the  New Testament, you see the same. For example, Joseph, one
  of the  college of counsellors, was good and  just, and followed them not
  to do evil. "And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and
  he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel
  and deed of them;)" (Luk.23:50-52)
     Felix perverted  the justice to show  the Jews a  pleasure. "But after
  two years  Porcius Festus came  into Felix' room:  and Felix, willing  to
  shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound." (Acts 24:27)
     The wicked, while  they know God's  laws, nevertheless transgress  it,
  and also love it when the others do the same evil. "Knowing  the judgment
  of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death,  not only
  do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." (Rom.1:32)
     In present  times, the  people follow  each another  like a  sheep the
  flock. When,  for example, the  fathers forsake the  Sabbath, their wives
  and children will follow them to do this evil.
  The  Messiah however, it  totally else. He  is righteous, yea,  He is The
  Righteous. He will not judge according to  the desires of the people, but
  He will judge  rightly. "And shall make him of quick understanding in the
  fear  of the LORD: and  he shall not judge  after the sight  of his eyes,
  neither reprove  after the  hearing of  his ears: But  with righteousness
  shall he judge  the poor,  and reprove with  equity for the  meek of  the
  earth: and he shall smite  the earth with the rod of  his mouth, and with
  the breath of his lips shall he  slay the wicked." (Isa.11:3,4) The LORD,
  our God,  is righteous. When  you transgress, keep  this in mind.  At the
  other hand, when the people deal wickedly with you, you may know that God
  is righteous, and will surely help you. When you  cry at all unto Him, He
  will surely hear your cry.
  2. Psalm 40:1,2
  To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
  I waited patiently for  the LORD; and he  inclined unto me, and  heard my
  In this Psalm, David thanks the LORD for the deliverance. He was not only
  in common danger, but he had approached the death. This is clear from the
  next verse,  where he says:  God "brought me  up also out  of an horrible
  pit, out of the miry clay." (Ps.40:3) We know of David's life that he has
  endured many great dangers. In his young years, he  was always persecuted
  by Saul. Later, while he was king, the enemies always attacked  him, yea,
  even his own  son. But in this enduring dangers and  attacks, he kept the
  belief. He not  only says that he  "waited" for the LORD,  but he doubles
  the word:  "I waited waiting for the LORD".  This indicates the long time
  of waiting while he was in distress. His belief made him believe that God
  surely would come.  It might seem that it would take a  long time, but he
  believed that  once God  would come and  deliver him.  This shows  us the
  truth of his belief. A belief is  tried in this way, namely by testing it
  during a long time.
  While David  was in dangers, and patiently waited  for the LORD, he cried
  to Him. He asked in his prayer for deliverance, and cried to his God. And
  what happened after a long time? The LORD "inclined unto me, and heard my
  cry". At the  end, God freed  him. The belief  of David had  not been  in
  vain. The proof  was ready, and the  belief showed itself to  be enduring
  and true. God heard his  cry and brought David up also  out of a horrible
  pit, out of the miry clay.
  What can  we learn of  this? Many.  First, we learn  that when we  are in
  dangers, that it can take a  long time before God  helps us. But let  not
  our faith cease.  When God delays long, He does so to  proof the faith of
  His  children. For, when we  always get that what  we want, and also very
  soon,  we never can show whether  we have belief. For,  when there are no
  problems, everybody can say  that he has belief. But the  real faith will
  be tested by  God to show its  truth. The unbelief, when  tried, says: "I
  have already so long  asked God, but He does not  hear me". "God does not
  exist", says the unbelief, "because He does not help me". The real belief
  however, like David's  was, will say: "I wait patiently for the LORD, and
  He will surely incline  His ear to me, and He will  hear my cry. Though I
  am in distress now, and  it seems that God not hears,  I know and believe
  that he will come to my deliverance".
     We  can also be  helped when we look  at David. The  end of this verse
  shows that God  came. When we  also are in  his situation, surrounded  by
  impossibilities, we may draw hope from it. David's end was good, and also
  our  end will  be good, when  we only  not lose our  belief. When  we are
  delivered from  our problems,  let we  then  do the  same as  David  did,
  saying: "I waited  patiently for the LORD;  and he inclined unto  me, and
  heard my cry."
  3. New Testament, John 3:1-21, part 1
  This  time, we start  the explanation  of John 3,  verse 1  to 21.  It is
  recommended that you read it through  in its totality. You will then  see
  that the  short contents are  as follows. Christ  teaches Nicodemus about
  the necessity and the  way of the rebirth, and punishes  his ignorance in
  this subject. He uses the example of the serpent of metal to show that He
  had to be lifted up to save  all people who believe in Him. But those who
  not believe in Him will be damned.
  Let us now begin the explanation.
     1 There was a  man of the Pharisees,  named Nicodemus, a ruler of  the
     2 The same came to Jesus  by night, and said unto him, Rabbi,  we know
     that  thou art  a teacher  come  from God:  for  no man  can do  these
     miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
  Nicodemus came  to Jesus by  night. Why did he  not come on the  day? The
  reason will be that he feared to be thrown out of the synagogue, "for the
  Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he  was Christ,
  he should be  put out of the  synagogue." (John 9:22) Therefore,  to save
  himself from that danger, he came at night in order that nobody would see
  it. The question might  arise if Jesus not had to  sleep at night, and if
  Nicodemus had to awaken Him. The answer could be that Jesus  often prayed
  at night, like  the Gospels tell us.  Another answer could be  that Jesus
  knew  that Nicodemus would come, and that  He therefore waited, for there
  is written that Jesus knew  what was in the man: He  "needed not that any
  should  testify  of  man: for  he  knew  what was  in  man."  (John 2:25)
  Nicodemus, at the other hand, must  have had a great desire to speak with
  Jesus. When he not had this desire, he would have stayed in his own house
  at night. However it be, Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, and they had a
     Nicodemus  started the  talk by  confessing his  belief, no,  even his
  knowledge that Jesus  was a teacher  come from God.  He said: "Rabbi,  we
  know that thou  art a teacher come  from God". He says  not only that  he
  himself believed it,  but he says: "we"  believe it. With "we",  he means
  the  other  Pharisees. Nicodemus,  being  one  of  them,  says that  they
  believed  that Jesus was  a teacher from  God. When  we than read  in the
  Gospels  that they tried  to kill Jesus,  and laid snares  before him, we
  will be not a  little amazed. On the  one hand they believed that He  was
  come from God, and on the other  hand they tried to kill Him! This people
  must  have  acted  against  their  consciences,  what  is  a  sign of  an
  extraordinary great hardening of their hearts.
     How did they  know that Jesus  was a  rabbi, come from  God? From  the
  signs which He did.  Nicodemus says that He  comes from God, "for  no man
  can do these miracles  that thou doest, except God  be with him." Let  we
  now go to the  Pharisees, and listen to them: "Therefore said some of the
  Pharisees,  This man is  not of God,  because he keepeth  not the sabbath
  day. Others  said, How can a man that  is a sinner do  such miracles? And
  there was a division among them." (John 9:16) Jesus made Himself known as
  come from God by the signs and wonders which He did.
  But let we now go back to the conversation of Nicodemus and Jesus.
     3 Jesus  answered and said unto him, Verily,  verily, I say unto thee,
     Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
  To see the kingdom of God, the rebirth is indispensable. "Except a man be
  born again, he cannot see  the kingdom of God". What is that, to  be born
  again? It is to  be saved from the inborn destruction  by the Holy Ghost,
  and  renewed to a  new spiritual life. The  rebirth is also  called to be
  born  of God.  "Which were born,  not of  blood, nor of  the will  of the
  flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13) It is also called
  a renewing of the mind: "be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."
  (Rom.12:2) Being born again is a spiritual event, but it will not be hid.
  Like a natural birth becomes public, also the  spiritual rebirth. After a
  natural birth,  the life becomes visible, the babe  cries, it wants food.
  Also the spiritual birth: the life becomes visible, he cries for  God, he
  wants  the  spiritual  food  of  God's  Word.  But  though  I  make  this
  comparison,  it  is  a  spiritual  event.  Nicodemus   however,  did  not
  understand  it. He took  it literally  and naturally. He  could not think
     4 Nicodemus  saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can
     he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
  Nicodemus'  minds cleaved  so much  to the  outward  things, that  he was
  unable to think about a spiritual rebirth.
     5  Jesus answered, Verily,  verily, I say  unto thee, Except  a man be
     born of water and of  the Spirit, he cannot enter into the  kingdom of
  Because  Nicodemus thought  too  naturally, Jesus  made the  rebirth more
  clear. The rebirth has nothing to  do with a natural mother, but one  has
  to be born of water and of the Spirit. "Except a man be born of water and
  of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". What is that, to
  be born of  water and the Spirit?  That is to be  cleaned of sins through
  the power of the Holy Ghost, like the external spots are washed away with
  water. It is  the same as whereof  the prophet speaks. God will  wash the
  people with water:  "Then will I  sprinkle clean water  upon you, and  ye
  shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I
  cleanse you."  (Ezek.36:25) Also, God will give His  Spirit to the people
  in order that they will  obey Him. "And I will put my spirit  within you,
  and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and
  do them." (Ezek.36:27)
     6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that  which is born of
     the Spirit is spirit.
  What is born of the flesh is flesh. In other words, what is born from the
  natural father  and natural  mother is  flesh, that  is, it  is sin.  The
  natural man is  always sinning. To be  flesh means to be  inclined to sin
  and other desires of  the flesh. But that which is  born of the Spirit is
  spirit. In  other words, what is born of God is spiritual and is inclined
  to the true service of God.
  When Nicodemus heard  this explanation, he marvelled.  He never had heard
  such  things. We will be  amazed at this,  that he never  had heard about
  those things.  The more is this amazing while  Nicodemus was a scholar in
  the Torah. Had he  not read in the Tanach that  God must renew the hearts
  (Ezek.36:26)? That God can give a heart to serve Him (Deut.29:4)? Because
  Nicodemus wondered at these things, Jesus said to him:
     7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
     8  The  wind bloweth  where  it listeth,  and thou  hearest  the sound
     thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so
     is every one that is born of the Spirit.
  Jesus explains the rebirth, the birth of the Spirit. He takes the example
  of the wind. You hear it, but you cannot see it, nor do you know where it
  originates. You can feel the wind blowing, but we know not where it goes.
  The same is  it with everybody  who is born  of the Spirit. You  hear the
  Spirit in His  works, but  you cannot  see Him.  We do not  know when  He
  begins; we only  see when He is  working. The result of  the work of  the
  Spirit is a new person, born again.
     9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
  Nicodemus still  did not understand  this, like  in verse four.  "How can
  these things be"? He means, how can these things be, which You said about
  rebirth and spiritual workings?
     10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master  of Israel, and
     knowest not these things?
  Jesus  gave Nicodemus  a reprimand:  "Art thou  a master  of  Israel, and
  knowest not these things?" Nicodemus had to teach the people in the Godly
  doctrine, but  he even did not know these main  points. How could he then
  teach the people?  Because Nicodemus did  not know these main  things, he
  necessarily taught the  people the less important  things, like washings,
  external rites, how far  you may travel on the Sabbath, what  you can eat
  and what not,  etc. Though some of  these things had their  function, and
  others  were invented by  the fathers, Nicodemus  did not  teach the main
  point: reconciliation  with God  through rebirth  and belief. So,  he got
  stuck in the little  things, and was  unaware of the  true way to  please
  God. Poor people who had  such an ignorant leader. However, Nicodemus was
  not unwilling to learn; he did  his best. Therefore he came to Jesus, the
  highest Teacher and Prophet come from God.
     Also today, Judaism does not believe in the rebirth, in the renewal of
  the heart. And that  in spite of the fact that  the Old Testament teaches
  these things clear enough. I will now quote some texts, which speak about
  the renewal of the heart, about spiritual workings, about the metaphor of
  the circumcision of the heart.
  - Circumcision of the heart. "And the  LORD thy God will circumcise thine
  heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine
  heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." (Deut.30:6)
  - God gives  one a perfect heart to keep His commandments. "And give unto
  Solomon  my  son   a  perfect  heart,  to   keep  thy  commandments,  thy
  testimonies,  and  thy  statutes,  and   to  do  all  these  things."  (1
  Chron.29:19) These words are taken from David's prayer.
  - God creates a clean heart and  a renewed spirit. "Create in me  a clean
  heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." (Ps.51:10)
  - God gives a heart to fear Him. "And I will give them one heart, and one
  way, that they may  fear me forever, for  the good of them,  and of their
  children after them" (Jer.32:39)
  - God gives His fear in the hearts, and makes an everlasting covenant, in
  order that  the  people walk  in  His holy  ways.  "And I  will  make  an
  everlasting covenant  with them, that I will not  turn away from them, to
  do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not
  depart from me." (Jer.32:40)
  - God transforms one's  heart from a  stony heart to  a willing heart  of
  flesh. This metaphor shows that God makes the people willing. "And I will
  give them one heart, and  I will put a new spirit within you;  and I will
  take the stony  heart out of their  flesh, and will give  them a heart of
  flesh:" (Ezek.11:19)
  - God will wash the people from  their filthiness and idols. "Then will I
  sprinkle clean  water upon  you, and  ye shall  be clean:  from all  your
  filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." (Ezek.36:25)
  - God gives His  Spirit in order that they do His Law. "And I will put my
  spirit within you,  and cause you  to walk in my  statutes, and ye  shall
  keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezek.36:27)
     And  in this  way,  I could  continue,  but this  is  enough. The  Old
  Testament abundantly testifies  that it is  God's work to let  the people
  walk in His ways and do His Law. The more will we marvel that this is not
  taught in Judaism.  After we have read this, we will understand why Jesus
  wondered about the ignorance of  Nicodemus, and the unwillingness of many
  people  to believe  what  He said.  This wondering  is  expressed in  the
  following verse.
     11 Verily, verily,  I say  unto thee, We  speak that we  do know,  and
     testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
  Jesus speaks out  his amazement that they  not believe the eye-  and ear-
  witnesses. He says: We speak what we  know and what we have seen, but you
  do  not believe our witness. It is a bad  practice to deny the witness of
  the people who  have seen it, and  to believe yourself, who  not has seen
  it. The  Pharisees did so. This a very  unreasonable deed, not to believe
  the witnesses.
     With "we" are meant Jesus and John the Baptist, for they have seen the
  spiritual things,  and have also spoken about the  baptism with water and
  Spirit. With "we" is also meant Jesus  and all the prophets, because they
  all spoke about the renewal of the heart, as is just proved.
        (will be continued D.V. the next time)
  4. Books
  Thomas Goodwin, The object and acts of justifying faith
  This book  deals with  the excellence of  faith. Beginning  with the  Old
  Testament, Goodwin shows that faith  is supported by "two grand pillars",
  God's promise of Christ and God's precious nature. He shows what God does
  for "humbled  and broken  hearts". It is  Christ rather than  faith which
  becomes the theme.
  ISBN 0 85151 447 2
  608 pp. Cloth-bound.
  Price around $19.00
  Ordering:  ask  your  local   bookstore  or  reply  this  description  to  - Your  order  will  be  forwarded  to  a
  bookshop. When ordering  by reply, include your  full name, address, ZIP-
  code and state and/or country.
     Chr-Exp, a Christian explanation of the Tanach and the New Testament
              Editor: Teus Benschop  -
                      No copyrights on this publication
            Institution Practical Bible-education, the Netherlands

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/so: s-open-015.txt