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Date:         Tue, 11 Jul 1995 10:47:44 +0200
Reply-To: Christian explanation of the Scriptures to Israel 
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From: Teus Benschop 
Subject:      The Scriptures opened, 39
To: Multiple recipients of list CHR-EXP 

1. Numbers 23:21  The LORD's favour towards Jacob
2. Psalm 35,      Prayer for God's help, part 2
3. John 1:36,     Jesus, the Lamb of God

1.   Numbers 23:21 - The LORD's favour towards Jacob

Weekly reading: Numbers 22:2 - 25:9

He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob,
neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel:
the LORD his God is with him,
and the shout of a king is among them.
                                Numbers 23:21

Though the above text is uttered by Balaam, yet, it is God's Word, for
God  gave  this word in Balaam's mouth. We see that the  almighty  God
can,  when  He  wills, make use of a heathen sorcerer. That  does,  of
course, not imply that we may do so, for God was clear enough, when He
forbade that. "There shall not be found among you [any one] that (...)
useth  divination, [or] an observer of times, or an  enchanter,  or  a
witch,"  (Deuteronomy 18:10) Having said this in advance, let  us  now
look to the text itself.
     "He  hath  not  beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither  hath  he  seen
perverseness in Israel:" These two sentences say the same, namely that
God forgives all iniquity and perverseness that was in Israel. And  we
know,  there was very much iniquity among them. Read but the  accounts
of  their  journey through the desert, or any other sacred history  of
them.  Always  and always, the prophets had to warn, lest  the  people
departed  from the true worship of the LORD. But look now to our  God.
He  forgives their sins. Were they full of iniquity? He has not beheld
that.  Were  they perfectly in perverseness? He has not seen  it.  Not
that  our  God  cannot  see it, but when is  said  "He  has  not  seen
iniquity",  that means that He has forgiven it. Our LORD  is  full  of
grace.  Mercy  and truth is with Him. Happy are those, who  belong  to
Him,  who  are accepted by Him as His people. Also David teaches  that
they  are  blessed, whose sins are forgiven: "Blessed  [is  he  whose]
transgression is forgiven, [whose] sin is covered. Blessed is the  man
unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is
no  guile."  (Psalms 32:1,2) Yes, our LORD is full of  mercy,  and  He
forgives the sins of His beloved people.
     That  is  it, what Balaam has told us. Unfortunately  enough,  he
himself  was a stranger of that forgiveness. He was full of  iniquity,
as  appeared  afterwards, but his sins were not forgiven.  He  was  an
instrument in the hand of the LORD to bless the people, but he himself
was cursed by his own sins. We see, then, that it can be, that someone
serves  God,  to do something for Him, and yet is a stranger  of  Him.
Balaam  executed God's command to bless, but he was a sinner, and  was
condemned  thereby. Also in our times, there are many like  him.  They
preach  the  Word,  but  they  don't know the  Lord.  Let,  therefore,
everybody  examine himself, whether he possesses true  grace  or  not.
These  things are also taught by our Lord Christ Jesus. When  speaking
about the day of judgement, he said that many would come for Him,  and
say that they had done much for Him. "Many will say to me in that day,
Lord,  Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name  have
cast  out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matthew
7:22)  But  it  matters  not if you have done thousands  of  wonderful
works,  for  also Balaam did so. What will Jesus say  to  those  false
believers?  "And  then will I profess unto them,  I  never  knew  you:
depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:23)
     The  Word continues, saying: "The LORD his God is with  him,  and
the shout of a king is among them." When it is said, that the shout of
a king is among them, what is meant thereby? We know, that at the time
Balaam  uttered  these  words, there was not  an  earthly  king  among
Israel.  Saul  was the first king, but he lived many centuries  later.
Who  is  then that king, whom Balaam means here? The answer is not  so
difficult.  It is the LORD, Who was their King. So, then we understand
it  thus:  "The  LORD his God is with Him, and God's  shout  is  among
them.". God's shout is among them, but what does that mean? Was  God's
voice  always  audible  among  them?  Yes,  when  God  gave  the   Ten
Commandments from mount Sinai, they heard God's voice. But  later  on,
they  only heard Moses speaking. What is then meant with "God's  shout
is  among  them". It means that God's Word was among them.  Moses  had
given them the Torah, what was the Word of God. The preaching of  that
Word,  the  explanation thereof, that was the shout of the LORD.  Also
Isaiah is comparing the preaching of the prophets with a shout, namely
with  a  trumpet:  "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up  thy  voice  like  a
trumpet,  and  shew my people their transgression, and  the  house  of
Jacob their sins." (Isaiah 58:1)
     Who knows that the LORD is with him, hasn't to fear. "In God have
I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." (Psalms
56:11)  Those, then, who fear a coming evil, let them know that  they,
at  that moment, not trust in the LORD. For, when they trusted, why do
they fear? Let everybody then check his (supposed) faith, namely, when
it  is tried in distress. When you see the danger coming, unavoidable,
and  you  fear, where is then your faith? But when you  trust  in  the
LORD,  even amidst the most terrible dangers, and there is a continual
rest in your soul, then your faith is true.
     The  LORD  forgives  the iniquity of Jacob, and  he  pardons  the
perverseness  in  Israel. The LORD their God is  with  them,  and  the
preaching of the Gospel is among them.

2.   Psalm 35, Prayer for God's help, part 2

(continuing last week's issue)

    11 False witnesses did rise up;
    they laid to my charge [things] that I knew not.
    12 They rewarded me evil for good
    [to] the spoiling of my soul.

These  false  witnesses, who rise up against David, are, according  to
the  Hebrew word, violent, unrighteous and cruel accusers. They charge
David  with things which he hasn't done. So they have also  done  with
Jesus.  When  He stood before the court, they accused  Him  of  things
which He had not done. But in the case of Jesus, God governed it thus,
that  Jesus might bear the sins of His people. His people had  sinned,
but  Jesus  carried  their  sins away, in order  that  they  might  be
     David  continues, and says: "They rewarded me evil for good".  He
did  well,  but they thanked him by doing evil. Yes, even worse,  they
rewarded  his  good deeds with the spoiling of his soul.  That  means,
they tried to kill him. That is the world's habit, to reward evil  for
good.  No,  moreover, that is our habit, when we reward God  with  our
daily  sins. God gives us all good: food, clothing, health,  and  what
not. And what is our thank? We reward Him evil for His good.

    13 But as for me,
    when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth:
    I humbled my soul with fasting;
    and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
    14 I behaved myself as though [he was] my friend [or] brother:
    I bowed down heavily,
    as one that mourneth [for his] mother.

After  having  said  that  they rewarded  him  evil  for  good,  David
continues.  He did not so towards them. For, when they were  sick,  he
mourned, wearing sackcloth. "I humbled my soul with fasting", he said.
When  someone  earnestly prayed to God for something, he also  fasted.
David, praying for the health of his enemies, did so in fasting.  When
we live our daily life, we often forget God. But when fasting, we give
less  attention to the temporal things, in order to free ourselves  to
give  more attention to the heavenly things. Fasting, in short,  is  a
good means to stir up ourselves to pay more attention to the spiritual
things.  This  means has always been used. Both in  the  Old  and  New
Testament, we often hear about fasting. Also in the old church, it was
a common habit. But in the present times, fasting is forgotten, to our
great disadvantage. But, to return to David, he humbled his soul  with
fasting. This is an example for us to imitate.
     "My prayer returned into mine own bosom". What does this mean? It
can  mean, that David, after having prayed to God for the recovery  of
his  enemies, experienced God's favour in his inner parts.  God  shone
somewhat  into  David's heart, to let him know  that  his  prayer  was
accepted.  We know, that God's people experience when their prayer  is
heard  by God. But "my prayer returned into mine own bosom", can  also
mean  something else. It can mean, "my prayer kept returning  to  me".
What  means, David felt himself pressed to pray, and after he had done
so,  he  again felt himself pressed, and so on. That is, he could  not
refrain  from  praying. Through the influence  of  God's  Spirit,  the
Author  of  all  true  prayers, he could  not  refrain  from  praying.
Concerning  this,  Paul said that we are unable to pray  rightly,  but
that the Spirit does so for us. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth  our
infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought:  but
the  Spirit  itself  maketh intercession for us with  groanings  which
cannot  be uttered." (Romans 8:26) So, that can be meant by "My prayer
returned into mine own bosom".
     When  David says that he behaved himself as though his enemy  was
his friend or brother, he again shows that he sought the best for him.
But  they rewarded him evil for good. See then the difference  between
David en the enemy. David did only good, and he did only evil.

    15 But in mine adversity they rejoiced,
    and gathered themselves together:
    [yea], the abjects gathered themselves together against me,
    and I knew [it] not;
    they did tear [me], and ceased not:
    16 With hypocritical mockers in feasts,
    they gnashed upon me with their teeth.

When  they  were in adversity, David mourned. But when  David  was  in
adversity,  in his turn, they rejoiced. Their heart was  full  of  joy
when  they saw David in distress. "Yea, we have him. He is come to  an
end",  they  said.  That  are  the wicked.  They  rejoice  in  other's
adversity.  The  joy of the world, that is a vain joy. The  worldlings
are so wicked, that they turn all upside down. Commonly, when one sees
his neighbour in prosperity, he will be glad with him. But the wicked,
when  they  see another in prosperity, they envy him, and mourn.  When
then  comes  the time, that they see him in adversity,  they  rejoice.
When  we then once come in David's circumstances, let we pay attention
to  Paul's  words. "Bless them which persecute you: bless,  and  curse
not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."
(Romans  12:14,15)  So, bless them which gnash  upon  you  with  their
teeth; bless, and curse not.

    17 Lord, how long wilt thou look on?
    rescue my soul from their destructions,
    my darling from the lions.
    18 I will give thee thanks in the great congregation:
    I will praise thee among much people.

"Lord,  how  long wilt thou look on", and let them continue  in  their
unjust  behaviour? "Rescue my soul from their destructions", for  they
try to kill me, when they have the opportunity. It is God, Who can and
will  rescue  souls from destructions. Many times, He has saved  David
from  his  enemies. He also saved his soul from destruction,  that  is
from hell. "Rescue my darling from the lions", for those wicked are no
less  than  lions.  Like a lion tears and devours his  prey,  so  they
sought to tear me, and to devour me.
     David  continues  with  "I will give Thee  thanks  in  the  great
congregation,  I  will  praise Thee among much  people".  When  he  is
rescued  from  the  destruction, he then will  thank  God.  He  thanks
because  of his deliverance. When we look through this Psalm,  we  see
David  in the midst of the dangers, then he asks for deliverance,  and
then he will praise the LORD. These three things are important to keep
in mind. First, David was in distress. Secondly, he will be delivered.
Thirdly,  he  will  thank God therefore. These  three  things  have  a
natural  order. When one is in the midst of dangers, he will  pray  to
God for help. God will then come, and rescue him. As a result thereof,
one's  heart  is so filled with joy, that he thanks God in  the  great
congregation. That is also the way, wherein one is delivered from  his
sins. The burden of sins becomes unbearable to him, and therefore,  he
starts praying to God for deliverance. God, then, coming, rescues  him
from  a  sure  destruction. The heart of the sinner will  then  be  so
filled with gladness, that he will thank the LORD among much people.

(to be continued)

3.   John 1:36, Jesus, the Lamb of God

And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith,
Behold the Lamb of God!
                            John 1:36

John the Baptist was preaching at Jordan. He said: "Repent ye, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand". When his hearers tried to repent,  they
experienced that they could repent somewhat, but not enough. All  what
they  tried,  and with all what they did, they succeeded not.  "Repent
ye",  said  John. They tried, but the experienced that sin  every  day
came  back.  "Repent ye", said John. And they thought  by  themselves:
"Yes,  we  try,  but  succeed not". "Repent ye, for  the  law  demands
obedience!" "Yes, but we cannot!", they said. "Repent ye", said  John,
"for  the  kingdom of heaven is at hand". The kingdom  of  heaven  was
near,  so  when they did not repent, or when they succeeded not,  they
would  be  shut out in the outer darkness. But the law is unrelenting.
"Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh".
     In this way, John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming  of
Christ.  He, of course, also preached forgiveness, but yet,  his  main
task  was  preparing  the  way for Christ's coming.  How  is  the  way
prepared for Him? By letting men know, that the law demands obedience,
and  that they are unable to give that. Then it is the time to  preach
Christ,  namely  when  they are convinced of His necessity.  When  you
always  hear  "repent ye", and you daily experience that  you  cannot,
wouldn't you be glad when you hear about forgiveness in Jesus  Christ?
Of course, you would.
     Having  prepared the way, and seeing Jesus coming, John  says  in
our  text: "Behold the Lamb of God!" Jesus is the Passover-lamb.  That
lamb was slaughtered then, and behind its blood at the door-posts, the
people were safe. Jesus is the Passover-lamb. Yes, moreover, He is the
Lamb  of  God. God gave His Son to pay for the sins of the  believers.
Jesus is the Lamb of God, who came down from heaven, and took upon Him
the  human  flesh.  When  He died at the cross,  he  accomplished  His
atoning  work. "Behold the Lamb of God", who died for our  sins.  That
was  it,  what John did. He pointed out Jesus, the Lamb  of  God,  the
Reconciler for his hearers.
     Look  to  the  Lamb  of  God, about Whom  Isaiah  said:  "He  was
oppressed,  and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth:  he  is
brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers
is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)
     "Behold", reader, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin  of
the  world". (John 1:29) He takes away the sins of the world.  Not  of
the whole world, but only of those who believe in Him. Who not believe
with the mouth only, for that is but appearance. He takes away the sin
of  those,  who  believe in Him with a true faith; a  faith  which  is
visible in the good works which follow after.
     "Behold, the Lamb of God", said John. Another John, who wrote the
book  Revelations,  also saw the Lamb of God. He saw  a  throne,  four
beasts, elders, and in the midst the Lamb of God. "And I beheld,  and,
lo,  in  the  midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and  in  the
midst  of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having  seven
horns  and  seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent  forth
into  all the earth". (Revelation 5:6) He saw the Lamb as it had  been
slain, namely to merit redemption of the transgressions.
     Look  then, reader, when the burden of sins become too heavy,  to
the  Lamb  of  God, Who was slain for all those, who believe  in  Him.
Listen then to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who says: "Come unto me,
all  [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you  rest".
(Matthew 11:28)

Teus Benschop  |  t.benschop@pobox.ruu.nl  |  editor of the list Chr-Exp

           "A Christian explanation of the Scriptures to Israel"

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