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Sender: Christian explanation of the Scriptures to Israel From: Teus Benschop Subject: The Scriptures opened, 32 To: Multiple recipients of list CHR-EXP Contents ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Leviticus 26:3,4 Obedience and reward 2. Isaiah 40, part 1, Comfort ye, comfort ye My people 3. Romans 4:2,3 Abraham's faith 1. Leviticus 26:3,4 Obedience and reward ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Weekly reading: Lev.26:3-27:34 If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. God promises, when ye walk in His statutes, then He will give you the fruit of the field. "If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them". God's statutes and commandments have to be kept by you. Human statutes may be necessary to maintain society, but God's commandments are more, much more important. When there arises a conflict between those two sorts, then you have to obey God's. When yo u keep My commandments, says God, "then I will give you rain in due season." We see that rain and dry season, growth and infertility, heath and coldne ss, these all come from God. He gives it according to His will. When you walk in God's commandments, then He will give you the fruit of the field. Therefore, when the field gives crop failure, you ought earnestly to seek the cause of it. When you have done that, you will find that you have been disobedient to God. For, He promised that He would give a good yield in the case of obedience, so when there is a bad harves t, there must be disobedience. Some say, that the cause of a bad crop i s too little rain, and not their disobedience. But the answer is easy, for God said that He would "give you rain in due season", in the case o f obedience. So, when the rain is withdrawn, there is cause enough. The story may be well known of the man, who served God. He had glasshouses. It began hailing seriously. When the shower was over, they looked to the damage of the glass. This man, who served God, had no damage, but the glasshouses of his neighbours, on both sides, were all damaged. This it, what is meant in our text. When you obey God's voice, your field (or glasshouses) will yield their fruit. The text says, that in the case of obedience, you will prosper. Man y draw a wrong conclusion of this. They turn the cause and the result, and say: So, when I prosper, that means that I am obedient. Of course, thi s is a wrong conclusion. The text does not say this. There are many wicked, who prosper in this life, for no other end than to aggravate their punishment. God makes His sun shining on both good and wicked, because He is good. He sometimes gives the goods of the earth to the reprobate, to see if they will acknowledge Him, the Giver. When they d o not so, they abuse the goods, which were given to them with no other purpose then to serve God with them. Let us keep in mind, that God gives us the crop, the fruit of the field. Therefore, to throw away food is the same as if you throw away God's blessing. When you throw away His blessing, it is as if you say: "I don't n eed His gifts, therefore I throw them away". Then God will answer: "Because you abuse My gifts, I will no longer give them to you". Hunger and death will be the result, as we see in many places of the world. Of course, when God gives us the fruit of the field, He does so in order that we may acknowledge Him as the Giver, as is already said. Therefore, we see that, while earthly goods are given, yet, we must climb higher with our thoughts. Under the picture of earthly goods, God's grace is offered us. We have to keep this in our minds, when we read in the Scriptures about such earthly prosperity. He does not give us His gifts, in order that we may enjoy them, and no more. The beasts do so; they eat and lay down. People however, do not so. When they eat, they ought to thank God. The beast-like people, to call them so, eat, do not thank God, fatten themselves up, and throw the remainder away. But the pious use their food, in order that they are the better capable of serving God, and to do their other duties. They use the food as a means, but the world makes the final goal of their meals. Moses has written this promise here, and in other places, he says the same. See an example: "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe [and] to do all his co mmandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God." (Deuteronomy 28:1,2) 2. Isaiah 40, part 1, Comfort ye, comfort ye My people ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. By comparison with the previous chapters of Isaiah, we see an enormous difference. There, he spoke about coming punishments, about the coming exile to B abylon. These judgements are now accepted by some, as a well- deserved punishment for their sins. This can be seen, in particular, in the previous chapter, the last verses. There, the prophet spoke about the coming judgements: "And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuch s in the palace of the king of Babylon." (Isaiah 39:7) The next verse, w e see that Hezekiah, the king, accepted his due reward: "Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken." (Isaiah 39:8) He said: "The Word of the LORD (namely concerning future exile) is good". The judgement-preaching of Isaiah has achieved its goal. That goal is that they would be humbled by the coming distresses. More preaching of coming punishments is not necessary. Therefore, it is now the time to comfort the people. "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people". To comfort is in its original meaning, in the Hebrew, a word which means to sigh deeply. From the deeply sighing comes forth the meaning of comforting. The LORD sighs deeply, for now, finally, they have accepted His judgements. He also sighs deeply as an expression of His compassion for the people, because of their coming distress in those judgements. He deeply sighs, and will now comfor t them. In spite of the future miseries, there will yet be perspective. It is true that many will go into exile, yet, there is still future for many. An extra comfort is it, that God calls them "My people". Though they will go into exile, and though they will be, because of that exile, no longer God's people, as it may seem; yet, God calls them: My people. Prophecies always have, besides the first and direct application, and besides the first fulfilment, also other applications and fulfilments. For example, then God says, "Comfort My people", this can be applied t o all centuries, and all times. Also when He says: "You are My people", we know that, also in present times, He says this to His elect. Therefore , we may say that this prophecy of Isaiah has more then one fulfilment. He speaks in the future tense. The original text has: Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, *will* your God say. It is clear that he speaks about the future. This verse may, therefore be explained of all instances, when God comforted His people. The chief instance was, when Jesus Christ came in the flesh, on the earth. His coming was a very great comfort for all God's people. He was God, and spoke many words of comfort. Rightly is it therefore said: Comfort ye My people, will your *God* (namely Christ) say. Also after that time, when the messengers of good tiding went through the world, preaching the Kingdom of God, they comforted the people. They do so until the present day. Therefore, when there are some of us in need, misery or mourning about their sins, let them listen to the prophet. He spoke about future comfort. Let them, then, put their trust in God. The prophet has spoken, in the previous chapters, about the coming punishments, because of their sins. Also in present times, the true prophets do so. Therefore, it may be that there are some, who are afraid, seeing that their due reward, eternal destruction, comes nigh. Israel of old saw a dark future, namely exile and banishment because of their sins. Maybe, there are also among us, who see such a dark future. The sword of Damocles hangs above their heads. Every hour, they expect God coming as the Judge. Let those people listen to the prophet, who is comforting you. He, of course, is not comforting the sinners, but "My people", that is, the prophet consoles God's people. How important is it for us, then, to belong to that people. Through the belief and repentance, you belong to that happy people, and you surely will be comforted. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. The comfort is spoken to Jerusalem in two ways. First is said "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem", what is in the original: "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem". Like two beloved speak heart to heart, so also Jerusalem is comforted by the messengers of good tiding. Secondly, Jerusalem is comforted by the public proclamation: "Cry unto her". The tiding of the comfort is made known in two ways, namely in the heart of the people, and in the public. This is important to notice. When we hear the message of forgiveness for sins being proclaimed through God's messengers, that cannot comfort us. For, who assures us that this message is also for us? Therefore, we need that it is said also to our heart. When we are assured in our heart of the remission of our sins, we are comforted. These people are known, who during years heard the message of forgiveness, but never were comforted. Until God spoke it to their own heart. When they heard that voice, in their heart, they became exceedingly glad. They were glad, because they now knew, that God's message of comfort was directed to them, personally. "Cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished". This warfare can be understood as several difficulties, which have happened to Jerusalem . When the time of comfort is there, these distresses will end; "her iniquity is pardoned". When their iniquity is pardoned, the punishments will also end. The prophet, speaking about the future, means that when the return from their exile, it is because their iniquity is pardoned. Jerusalem will then have received of the LORD's hand double for all he r sins. This means, the punishment is now enough, God is satisfied with it. When you a re walking with the burden of your transgressions on your neck, you will look forward to the time that your iniquity will be pardoned. It will happen, when you have received double of the LORD's hand for your manifold sins, as the prophet says. When God pardons before you feel the trouble thereof, surely you will sin again, hoping that God again will forgive. But this is not the way. In order that you may be k ept from future sinning, God makes the sin heavy for you. When it is enough, when you have learned enough about your wicked nature, and your inability to save yourself, then he will forgive the iniquities. Then you will be comforted in your heart and in the public. 3. Romans 4:2,3 Abraham's faith ------------------------------------------------------------------------- If Abraham were justified by works, he hath [whereof] to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. If Abraham were justified by works, he could glory in himself. He coul d say: "I am so righteous, that I have deserved God's favour. God must b e happy with such a good servant as I am". If Abraham were justified by his own works, he could say such things. "I belong to the few righteous", he could then say. He could then glory in himself, like th e present Jews do. But the more one glories in himself, the more he withdraws that glory from God. Compare these two sayings. The first is: "I am righteous, and I serve God". The second is: "I am a sinner, yet God is favourable towards me". The first saying is glorying in oneself, the s econd saying is glorying in God. If Abraham were justified by works, he has something to glory, but not before God. The more we glory in our own deeds, the less honour God receives. While the Scripture everywhere gives the most honour to God, we must follow that, and also give the m ost honour to Him. Therefore, away with that boasting in own power. Let the ungodly boast therein, and dishonour God, but let we do it better. Let all glory be taken away from the flesh, and let all honour be given to God! On the dunghill with that human pride, which everywhere prevails. Let we subject ourselves, and our inborn pride to God. May H e speedily come, and subject all the wicked, who withdraw the glory from Him. If Abraham were justified by works, he could glory in himself. But what says the Scripture? Abraham was not justified by works, but he believed in God, and that belief was his righteousness. Listen to the Scripture: "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." (Genesis 15:6) Of course, Abraham was very righteous. I think, no I'm sure, that he was much more righteous than any of us. Yet, this righteous was not his righteous before God, but his belief was counted to him for righteousness. If Abrahams righteous works were not counted before God as any merit, how much less those of us! Let then all glory be given to God, by a righteous life, and by belief in Him. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Chr-Exp, a Christian explanation of the Bible to Israel Editor: Teus Benschop - firstname.lastname@example.org Institution Practical Bible-education, the Netherlands ------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ibp-e/so: s-open-032.txt .