Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 20:54:53 +0100 Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Sender: Christian explanation of the Scriptures to Israel
From: Teus Benschop Subject: The Scriptures opened, 15 Contents ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 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 ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ps.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 cry. 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 Jews: 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 conversation. 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 spiritually. 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 God. 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 email@example.com - 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 - firstname.lastname@example.org No copyrights on this publication Institution Practical Bible-education, the Netherlands -------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/so: s-open-015.txt .