Monday, October 31, 2016


The Literary Lamp-October 2016
Reflections on the Old Testament: Ecclesiastes 

In Ecclesiastes chapter two, and, indeed, all throughout this book, the Preacher is searching for happiness and the meaning of life. His conclusion, that “all is vanity,” seems morbid, and has, unfortunately, repelled many Christian from a proper study of Ecclesiastes.

As it turns out, a proper study of Ecclesiastes reveals the Preacher’s ultimate conclusion, which is considerably brighter. Observe some key phrases in Eccl. 2, as the Preacher “tests his heart with pleasure” and seeks to “gratify his flesh”—one predominant phrase is “I made myself…” and various forms thereof. The result of these “tests” is summarized in verses 10-11:

“Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.” (NKJV.)

We can infer, from these verses, that his heart was temporarily satisfied, but a deeper contemplation revealed the vanity of it all. He continues with many morbid musings over wisdom and folly, the meaning of life, etc.—continually making reference to the “labor of his heart,” when, rather abruptly, in verse 24, he says this:

“Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” (See also Eccl. 6:3, 7.)
I am inclined to believe that the sudden reference to the soul rather than the heart is of great importance in this context. In short, the Preacher spends a tremendous amount of time and energy testing his heart and flesh with every form of pleasure imaginable, and acquires a vast assortment of material possessions, and, for a moment, his heart rejoices, but then it succumbs to despair once more as he contemplates the futility of it all—that he must die, as all others, and leave his wealth to another, and his wisdom will be forgotten. Therefore, what profit has he? What advantage, when his life is over? But in verse 24, he contemplates that which is from the hand of God: the enjoyment of the soul, and the wisdom, knowledge, and joy which He gives to those who are good in His sight. And who is good in His sight? Only those who have delivered their souls to Him to be washed in the blood of the Lamb! And these do not seek the gratification of their heart and flesh, which is futile, but the gratification of their spirit, which is sanctified by and joined to God. They live, now, not for self, but for God, who is eternal. In this there is profit and purpose! In this there is joy! Cast aside the pleasures and temptations of the flesh, which are temporary and lead only to destruction, and pursue the joy of serving the Lord, who has secured your soul for an eternity with Him!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


The Literary Lamp-September 2016
Reflections on the Old Testament: Psalms and Proverbs

“To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, for His mercy endures forever; and brought out Israel from among them, for His mercy endures forever; with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who divided the Red Sea in two, for His mercy endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for His mercy endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who led His people through the wilderness, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who struck down great kings, for His mercy endures forever; and slew famous kings, for His mercy endures forever—Sihon king of the Amorites, for His mercy endures forever; and Og king of Bashan, for His mercy endures forever—and gave their land as a heritage, for His mercy endures forever; a heritage to Israel His servant, for His mercy endures forever. Who remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever; and rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy endures forever; who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever,”—Psalm 136:10-26, NKJV.

Observe the multiple verses in Psalm 36 which praise God for His “mercy” as He destroys Israel’s enemies: “To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn…overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea…struck down great kings; and slew famous kings…for His mercy endures forever.” (Ps. 36:10, 15, 17-20.)

This is a perfect example of how the definitions of mercy, love, and the like, rely quite heavily on one’s perspective; God’s chastisement to one may be His mercy toward another. It is extremely important for us to view a matter from all sides before pronouncing a judgement. In many instances, it may seem that God is unreasonably afflicting us when His actions are actually sparing us from some more severe trial. Do not be too quick to pronounce God cruel or capricious, or even to search for some wrong for which He may be punishing you or a loved one—we do not see the greater picture. Know that God does, and be comforted by His everlasting mercy and omniscience.

 

The book of Proverbs is full of intricate allegories, perhaps the most recurrent being those of wisdom and “the adulteress.”

Wisdom is repeatedly depicted as a woman (see Prov. 1:20, 4:13, 7:4, 8:1, and (9:1), although in Proverbs 8:30, she refers to herself as “a master craftsman,” (emphasis added). In short, Solomon, presents numerous perspective on wisdom, but combines them all in the depiction of a woman—specifically a woman who directly opposes the other woman, i.e. the adulteress. Perhaps the most enlightening passage concerning wisdom is found in Proverbs chapter eight, especially verses 22:31, where wisdom reveals, essentially, her oneness with God (see verses 22-23). In this, we are not surprised, since wisdom is, in fact, an attribute of God; but in verses 30-31, it becomes a little deeper:

“Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in His inhabited world, and my delight was with the sons of men.”

Who fits this description? Who was “with God” at the beginning? Hint: compare to John 1:1-3. The wisdom spoken of in Proverbs represents the Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—which, of course, are all one. Moreover, we, Christ’s servants saved by grace, are His temple, His church, and His bride—we are joined with Him. Thus wisdom is personified as a woman.

The adulteress (aka, the forbidden woman, the seductress, etc.) represents wickedness, or the world—the opponent of the church. She is the exact opposite of wisdom and life, but she tempts us with her “enticing speech” and great beauty. Beware of the deceptive flamboyant and glamor of sin—“Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death,” Prov. 7:27, NKJV. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,” Prov. 7:25. We are the bride of Christ—beware, lest we become unfaithful to Him.

Understanding these allegories (you may even call them “the Parables of the Old Testament”), and others like them, bring a deeper and more applicable meaning to many Old Testament passages—the book of Proverbs is only a portion.

 

“The house of the wicked will be overthrown, but the tent of the upright will flourish,” Proverbs 14:11, NKJV. (See also Prov. 15:6.)

Note the contrast between house and tent. The basic message of this verse is that although the wicked may prosper for a time, living luxuriously and being praised by the world, they will be overthrown in the end; if not in this life, certainly in the next. On the other hand, the righteous, who fix their eyes upon eternity and do not cling to temporal things, may lead a humble life, but in the end, their tent will flourish, while the house of the wicked will fall.

With this knowledge, as Christians, we ought to praise God greatly for the righteousness with which He has clothed us, and rejoice in the fact that, though our present state may be humble, our eternity will be glorious. But beware! There are Christians who sadly misconstrue this knowledge. They gaze with jealousy upon the earthly success of wicked people, and then comfort themselves with phrases like: “Ha! They’ll get what’s coming to them.” Each one of us knows that we have had similar thoughts deep down inside at one time or another. Fickle humans that we are, we take a great deal of pride in the righteousness that God has given us, and actually believe that we somehow earned it by our own holiness. Abominable thought! It is by God’s unfathomable grace that we are saved, wretched worms that we are! Our wickedness is washed away by the blood of Christ alone. After this, we are commissioned to admonish those in the world who have not been saved—not to gloat upon their wickedness, or envy their earthly opulence, and then sit idly by, as Jonah, to await their impending destruction!
In summary, knowing our final destination, we ought not to complain if we lead a humble life; and, knowing also the final destination of the unsaved, we ought to “speak the truth in love,” reminding the wicked that this world is passing away, and that, unless their house is founded upon the Rock, they will fall.

The Literary Lamp-September 2016
Reflections on the Old Testament: Psalms and Proverbs

“To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, for His mercy endures forever; and brought out Israel from among them, for His mercy endures forever; with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who divided the Red Sea in two, for His mercy endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for His mercy endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who led His people through the wilderness, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who struck down great kings, for His mercy endures forever; and slew famous kings, for His mercy endures forever—Sihon king of the Amorites, for His mercy endures forever; and Og king of Bashan, for His mercy endures forever—and gave their land as a heritage, for His mercy endures forever; a heritage to Israel His servant, for His mercy endures forever. Who remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever; and rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy endures forever; who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever,”—Psalm 136:10-26, NKJV.

Observe the multiple verses in Psalm 36 which praise God for His “mercy” as He destroys Israel’s enemies: “To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn…overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea…struck down great kings; and slew famous kings…for His mercy endures forever.” (Ps. 36:10, 15, 17-20.)

This is a perfect example of how the definitions of mercy, love, and the like, rely quite heavily on one’s perspective; God’s chastisement to one may be His mercy toward another. It is extremely important for us to view a matter from all sides before pronouncing a judgement. In many instances, it may seem that God is unreasonably afflicting us when His actions are actually sparing us from some more severe trial. Do not be too quick to pronounce God cruel or capricious, or even to search for some wrong for which He may be punishing you or a loved one—we do not see the greater picture. Know that God does, and be comforted by His everlasting mercy and omniscience.

 

The book of Proverbs is full of intricate allegories, perhaps the most recurrent being those of wisdom and “the adulteress.”

Wisdom is repeatedly depicted as a woman (see Prov. 1:20, 4:13, 7:4, 8:1, and (9:1), although in Proverbs 8:30, she refers to herself as “a master craftsman,” (emphasis added). In short, Solomon, presents numerous perspective on wisdom, but combines them all in the depiction of a woman—specifically a woman who directly opposes the other woman, i.e. the adulteress. Perhaps the most enlightening passage concerning wisdom is found in Proverbs chapter eight, especially verses 22:31, where wisdom reveals, essentially, her oneness with God (see verses 22-23). In this, we are not surprised, since wisdom is, in fact, an attribute of God; but in verses 30-31, it becomes a little deeper:

“Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in His inhabited world, and my delight was with the sons of men.”

Who fits this description? Who was “with God” at the beginning? Hint: compare to John 1:1-3. The wisdom spoken of in Proverbs represents the Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—which, of course, are all one. Moreover, we, Christ’s servants saved by grace, are His temple, His church, and His bride—we are joined with Him. Thus wisdom is personified as a woman.

The adulteress (aka, the forbidden woman, the seductress, etc.) represents wickedness, or the world—the opponent of the church. She is the exact opposite of wisdom and life, but she tempts us with her “enticing speech” and great beauty. Beware of the deceptive flamboyant and glamor of sin—“Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death,” Prov. 7:27, NKJV. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,” Prov. 7:25. We are the bride of Christ—beware, lest we become unfaithful to Him.

Understanding these allegories (you may even call them “the Parables of the Old Testament”), and others like them, bring a deeper and more applicable meaning to many Old Testament passages—the book of Proverbs is only a portion.

 

“The house of the wicked will be overthrown, but the tent of the upright will flourish,” Proverbs 14:11, NKJV. (See also Prov. 15:6.)

Note the contrast between house and tent. The basic message of this verse is that although the wicked may prosper for a time, living luxuriously and being praised by the world, they will be overthrown in the end; if not in this life, certainly in the next. On the other hand, the righteous, who fix their eyes upon eternity and do not cling to temporal things, may lead a humble life, but in the end, their tent will flourish, while the house of the wicked will fall.

With this knowledge, as Christians, we ought to praise God greatly for the righteousness with which He has clothed us, and rejoice in the fact that, though our present state may be humble, our eternity will be glorious. But beware! There are Christians who sadly misconstrue this knowledge. They gaze with jealousy upon the earthly success of wicked people, and then comfort themselves with phrases like: “Ha! They’ll get what’s coming to them.” Each one of us knows that we have had similar thoughts deep down inside at one time or another. Fickle humans that we are, we take a great deal of pride in the righteousness that God has given us, and actually believe that we somehow earned it by our own holiness. Abominable thought! It is by God’s unfathomable grace that we are saved, wretched worms that we are! Our wickedness is washed away by the blood of Christ alone. After this, we are commissioned to admonish those in the world who have not been saved—not to gloat upon their wickedness, or envy their earthly opulence, and then sit idly by, as Jonah, to await their impending destruction!
In summary, knowing our final destination, we ought not to complain if we lead a humble life; and, knowing also the final destination of the unsaved, we ought to “speak the truth in love,” reminding the wicked that this world is passing away, and that, unless their house is founded upon the Rock, they will fall.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


-The Literary Lamp-AUGUST 2016
FALL AND WINTER ARE RAPIDLY rushing toward us, as August draws to a close and many of us return to school. I believe I speak for the majority of my readers when I say that the turning of the season will not be unwelcome. For my part, I have never relished the summer heat and am always glad to see it replaced by milder temperatures. Moreover, the changes in schedule and habits which take place around this time of year are not altogether unpleasant, as we humans, so quickly bored with regularity, must always have something “new” and “different.” God caters to this folly of ours by giving us the four seasons and, indeed, each distinct season of our lives, but on one point He commands complete solidity: our walk with Him. The only change which should take place in this area is maturity—and that in His own time and way.

Reflections on the Old Testament: Psalms

Psalm 101, “a psalm of David,” appears to be David’s vow to judge and guide Israel as king: but, upon closer examination, it is not difficult to see the relevance it bears upon the modern-day Christian. “I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart,” Ps. 101:2 (NKJV). In this verse, and indeed all throughout Psalm 101, David displays a great deal of confidence in his own moral perfection—but how can this be? David, of all people, knew that no human being is perfect, that we are all riddled with flaws and sins; therefore, what business has he to speak of moral perfection?

To answer this question, we must go back over Psalm 101 and highlight a few key phrases. For example, observe in verse two what appears to be something of a non sequitur: “Oh, when will You come to me?” the psalmist cries out amid his moral resolutions. But that phrase directly provides the answer to our puzzlement. David recognizes, as every Christian must, that true righteousness and perfection are impossible without the presence of the Almighty, i.e., the ultimate source of goodness. Moreover, in verses two, six, seven, and eight, do not the words “land,” “house,” and “city” typify our own body, which becomes the temple of God when once His Spirit enters it? In verse two, the psalmist pleads for the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. Once granted, the “house” receives a thorough remodeling—i.e., the eradication of indwelling evil (see verses 3-8). This process is then summarized in verse eight: “Early I will destroy all the wicked of the land, that I may cut off all the evildoers from the city of the LORD.”

 

“He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants,” Ps. 105:25, NKJV.

Our first inclination, upon reading this verse, is, naturally, to question God’s motive for deliberately causing someone to hate His people and “deal craftily” with them. There is no denying that this is, in fact, what Ps. 105:25 is saying. And, indeed, a great many other passages relate similar instances—in which God actually planted a seed of hatred or malice, or, at any rate, blinded reason, in order to achieve His goal. And what is His goal? To create enemies for His chosen ones? Often, a closer look at the context of a verse will reveal its meaning and depth. So it is in this case. Observe Ps. 105:24. “He increased His people greatly, and made them stronger than their enemies.” And how strategically placed is this verse—occurring directly before it says: “He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants”! Yes, God made enemies for His people—but for a very good reason. God placed obstacles before His people that were hateful, crafty, and, yes, strong—but He made His people stronger. This is God’s way of showing us that He is greater than any obstacle: if the defeated is weak, how can the victor be called strong? If there is no darkness, how can the light shine? God makes the strong, that we may be stronger; the crafty, that we may be wiser; the wicked, that we may be righteous; the hate, that we may love; the dark, that we may shine. “God has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of judgement.” Is it true, then, that God created sin? Certainly not! Adam and Eve brought sin into this world when they disobeyed God, and now it is a force that must be dealt with. God deals with it by turning it against itself. While it bruised His heel, He has crushed its head. When God hardens hearts and blinds reason, all He is really doing is removing His Holy Spirit from those who don’t deserve it. None of us, as fallen beings, deserve God’s Spirit—but He bestows upon whom He will. “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion,” (Ex. 33:19, NKJV). Let us be a little humbler, then, since, were it not for God’s grace, we would be the enemy. And for the same reason, let us love our enemies, knowing that God’s grace can save them, too.

 

“LORD, remember David and all his afflictions; how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob: ‘Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’ Behold we heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of the woods. Let us go into His tabernacle; let us worship at His footstool. Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your saints shout for joy. For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed. The LORD has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body. If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I shall teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.’ For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: ‘This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon Himself His crown shall flourish,’”—Ps. 132, NKJV.

Although the psalmist is speaking of  God’s plan for His temple in Israel, Psalm 132 may also be interpreted as a strong symbol of His plan for His temple in us, through the bestowal of His Holy Spirit. Observe the frequent allusions to Christ. In verse 6: “Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah…” be reminded of the role of Bethlehem Ephrathah; in verse 10, “For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed”; verse 11, “The LORD has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body’”—be reminded of the Messiah’s lineage. And finally, the allusions culminate in verses 17-18: “There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon Himself His crown shall flourish.’”

If we are the temple of God, does the lamp of Christ not burn in us? By placing His Holy Spirit in us, God prepared a lamp for His Anointed, that His enemies might be clothed with shame, but His own crown flourish. And note that this is not by any act of our own, but by His sovereign grace alone. Should we, then, reject this role? Should we allow God’s temple to fall into disrepair and disuse? Certainly not! Let our attitude be that of David’s, in verses 3-5: “’Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’”
Are you spiritually inactive? Reclining upon a bed of ease and self-indulgence, while the house of the LORD remains neglected? We are Christ’s lamp, His dwelling place—but are we earnestly maintaining His temple or has it fallen to the wayside? David speaks of “finding a place for the LORD”—we, as Christians, are that place. As you read the innumerable passages in the Old Testament concerning the temple, consider the temple of Christ in you—what state is it in? Is the lamp of the Anointed being fed and kept ever burning? For shame if we, who have done nothing to merit God’s grace, neglect the simple tasks which He requires of us! His yoke is easy and His burden is light—and what blessings He has for those who keep His commandments!

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Reflection on the Old Testament: Psalms

 

“For the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever—that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit,”—Ps. 49:8-9, NKJV

“A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish,”—Ps. 49:20, NKJV

In Psalm 49, the psalmist reminds man of their mortality and the fact that, though they may amass great wealth and become prosperous on earth, they will eventually die and their prosperity will be left to others. The psalmist encourages us to consider our eternity and to remember that, though we may live our lives in honor and prosperity, neither our morality nor our wealth will save us from “the Pit.” “For the redemption of their souls is costly”—too costly for us to purchase. “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me,”—Ps. 49:15. Only God is able to redeem our souls, through Christ crucified. Men may attempt to redeem their own souls, through their own morality or by other ungodly means, or they may immerse themselves entirely in the pleasures of the physical realm and ignore the spiritual realm altogether, but they cannot avoid death—and what a wretched eternity awaits those who have no spiritual foundation! “Though while he lives he blesses himself (for men will praise you if you do well for yourself), he shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light,”—Ps. 49:18-19. The only path to eternal life, the only means of spiritual redemption, is Christ and Him crucified. Those who do not understand or accept this have no hope for their eternity, but will surely perish, cut off from all that is pure and good. “A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish,”—Ps. 49:20. Deliver your soul to the only One who can truly save—let Jesus Christ secure it, for He has paid the price.

It is strange that Psalm 58, which is, essentially, a prayer for the destruction of the wicked, is “set to ‘Do Not Destroy’” (see Ps. 58:title). But why does David desire the wicked to be destroyed? Perhaps because he desires destruction to cease.

Wickedness invariably produces strife, chaos, and, yes, destruction. Most, if not all, of the time, to end destruction, the root of the destruction must be destroyed. To bring about peace, when humans are involved, there must first be war. On the other hand, what is true destruction? Is it not generally defined as a laying waste of something complete or good? Yes, in this context, as in many others, the destruction spoken of is the result of wickedness—wickedness which must be judged.

With this outlook, David’s psalm being set to “Do Not Destroy” is completely appropriate. He is pleading for wickedness to be eradicated—for strife to cease, and peace to ensue.

“Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; with the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself,”—Ps. 76:10, NKJV.

In and of itself, this verse is rather difficult to understand. How can “the wrath of man” praise God, or be a garment of glory for Him? The cross-reference in my NKJV Bible indicated Rom. 9:17, in which Paul quotes Ex. 9:16, “For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’” This cross-reference puzzled me at first, but then it struck me (I will leave to the interpretive reader to decide what “it” was): the pervading theme of God’s dealings with Egypt, and specifically the Pharaoh, was to “show His power” through signs and wonders, exhibited only as a result of Pharaoh’s wrath and hardness of heart. God’s tendency to reap good from evil, to thwart the enemy by backfiring his own works against him, permeates all of Scripture, and, indeed, our daily life. But although God is capable of turning evil purpose into good outcomes, He still judges sin and prepares severe consequences for sinners. As I said before, the reaping of good from evil, the use of men’s wrath to praise God, is an offensive blow toward Satan, dealt upon him time and time again, and, indeed, once and for all on Calvary. We, as Christians, should certainly never challenge God to use our sin for good—abominable thought! God never “uses” sin, but thwarts it, and through its defeat, He is praised. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; with the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself,” Ps. 76:10.

Reflections on the Old Testament: Job and Psalms

 

“The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me, and I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.”—Psalm 18:20-24, NKJV

In the above verses, the psalmist seems to be boasting of his own righteousness, and “the cleanness of his hands,” saying, essentially, that God delivered him because of his purity.

But before we denounce this as pride, let’s take a look at Psalm 16:2, where David says: “O my soul, you have said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.’” This verse provides an extremely direct answer to the puzzlement over Ps. 18:20-24. If we combine all these verses, we are able to see the whole truth:

David recognizes God as his Lord, and the source of all goodness. As a man who follows God, he recognizes that his own goodness is entirely dependent upon God. Therefore, when he “boasts” of his righteousness, he is, in truth, praising God for the goodness He has placed in him, which has saved him from destruction.

 

“But now He has worn me out; You have made desolate all my company. You have shriveled me up, and it is a witness against me; my leanness rises up against me and bears witness to my face. He tears me in His wrath, and hates me; He gnashes at me with His teeth; my adversary sharpens His gaze upon me. They gape at me with their mouth, they strike me reproachfully on the cheek, they gather together against me. God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over to the hands of the wicked.”—Job 16:7-11, NKJV

“Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”—Psalm 22:12-18, NKJV

Being alienated from God by sin is the plight of man without Christ. Christ cut Himself off from God when He became sin for us on the cross. The Messiah’s outcry, therefore, in Psalm 22:12-18 matches that of Job in Job 16:7-11. In this respect many other verses in the book of Job can also be correlated to Christ’s suffering, if we but look for them. The climactic point of such a comparison is that Christ’s suffering ends in victory over mankind’s doom, i.e., since Christ already suffered spiritual death, and overcame it, our own spiritual death, which would otherwise be unavoidable, is now nullified through our belief in Christ.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Reflections on the Old Testament: Job and Psalms

 

“Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book! Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.”—Job 31:35-37, NKJV

Again, Job illustrates the importance of Christ and the gospel in our lives, as he yearns for an intermediary between him and God. Prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God appeared to man in a harsher light. Rigorous laws were written, severe judgement was erected, and in general there was a sense of fear associated with God.

This may seem strange to us, who are used to viewing God as our Heavenly Father and Jesus, His Son, as a gentle Friend. But before Christ came and gave us the gospel, God was more or less a mystery. The pervading theme of Job seems to be the frustration and misery of feeling cut off from God: time and time again, Job yearns to speak with God, to demand a trial before being condemned. The truth is that mankind was condemned the very instant Adam ate the forbidden fruit. God examined us and found us guilty, and the adversary points out our flaws to Him day after day after day.

Sinners fear God because He is sinless; He is the Almighty, the Most High, the LORD of lords, but because of our sin we can have no communion with Him and we can utter not a word in our defense. Indeed, wretched and filthy as we are, our case seems entirely a hopeless one, but in Job 31:35, Job inadvertently hits upon hope.

“Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book!”

Job’s tone is one of idle wishful-thinking, but modern Christians should instantly recognize the implication of his words. Who is the “Prosecutor” in this verse? It seems strange, but it is God. Our sin condemns us in the sight of the Most High. So what is the significance of “our Prosecutor” writing a book? Perhaps Job’s statement was not as inadvertent as I supposed. It can mean nothing less than the Bible itself, the inspired Word of God. Furthermore, from the first section of the Book of John, we know that the Word of God and Christ are One.

Our Prosecutor has written a book, and this Word, which “became flesh and dwelt among us,” is our Defender, our Savior, and our Mediator. Through Him we speak to God, and He answers us. He is no longer our Prosecutor, but our Father. The veil is torn from the Most Holy Place, and “like a prince [we may] approach Him.” No longer as the Accused do we appear before Him, but as His children. This is the significance of the Word. “Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown.”

 

Observe that, in Job 42:3, Job quotes God’s words, “Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?” in reference to his own discourse, not that of Elihu (which God seemed to disregard altogether).

And yet, it seems strange that the entire book of Job should be dedicated to the erroneous ramblings of sinful men—which brings me to another question: why does God first call Job a “righteous and blameless man” and then reprimand him for pride and error?

If Job had lived some thousand years later, it would all make sense: through Christ, we are made righteous and blameless in spirit, although in our flesh we still fall and must be corrected by God. But Job was living before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

We can assume, based on the fact that the sins of Job’s friends were atoned for by sacrificial offerings prescribed by God, that righteousness of spirit in God’s sight, before the time of Christ, was attained through the proper execution of the established sacrifices and regulations. This fits into the New Testament teaching, that Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice for our sin, paying the price once and for all, and thus making salvation available to all mankind, not just the Jews.

 

“Put them in fear, O LORD, that the nations may know themselves to be but men.”—Psalm 9:20, NKJV

Things like fear, pain, and sadness are direct results of the Fall—they go hand in hand with the knowledge of good and evil. As unpleasant as it is, we must accept the harsh realities of our world and adapt ourselves to them, knowing full well that they are the result of our own sin. Similarly, God also “adapted,” in a sense, to the unhappy circumstances into which Adam and Eve led us, in that, rather than simply destroying Satan immediately and “putting everything back together,” which He most certainly could have done, He sent His Son to die on the cross in order to purge us of our sin. By bearing our sin, Jesus Christ took upon Himself the wretched and intensely acute fear, pain, and sorrow of being entirely cut off from God. Why God chose this painful path is a discussion for another time. The point I would now like to emphasize is that those three experiences—fear, pain, and sorrow, and specifically, in this discussion, fear—are vital to our existence as fallen beings. Although these may simply seem like troublesome obstacles which we must overcome, it is evident that God uses them time and time again in order to work His will. For example, let’s look again at Ps. 9:20. “Put them in fear, O LORD, that the nations may know themselves to be but men.”

“Fear” is a complex and multi-faceted word. Although its more generic definition is simply “terror,” it, more accurately denotes the feeling of helplessness and insufficiency in the face of a force more powerful than yourself, concerning which you have little or no knowledge.

This definition might, at a glance, seem far-fetched, but I can guarantee that the most terrible human fears always spring from a feeling of insufficiency or helplessness. For example, death is the most common, and the most terrible, fear among unbelievers, because it is utterly unknown and mysterious to them, and because they can do nothing to prevent it. They may put it off for a time, but eventually they must face it, and, in that regard, they are entirely at its mercy. At the core of every human being lies a similar fear of God. As sinners, we are alienated from God; we have no communion with Him, but are as “filthy rags” in His presence. Recognizing our own helplessness and insufficiency, in addition to our general state of uncleanness, we stand amazed at God’s holiness, purity, and awesome power, and we are struck with fear, as, in our lowly state, we can do nothing to save ourselves from the inevitable judgement of this Most High God.

Although this knowledge gnaws at the conscience of every human, it is seldom acknowledged, but is shoved aside by futile pretenses such as “disbelief” in God.

The Book of Proverbs states a number of times that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” In order to teach His chosen ones wisdom, God awakens the afore-described fear of Him within our beings, but along with it, He introduces the good news of Jesus Christ, i.e., the glorious transaction which rescues our souls from their otherwise unavoidable damnation. This latter knowledge eliminates the horror of our own insufficiency and lowliness, and leaves only an awestruck reverence for God’s omnipotence, holiness, and purity—not to mention the scarcely believable love and mercy which He so bountifully bestows upon us. Because, according to Scripture, we cannot learn wisdom until we learn fear, we see that fear is vital to our existence. Do not marvel, then, that David urges the LORD  to put the nations in fear, “that [they] may know themselves to be but men.”

 

“Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none.”—Psalm 10:15, NKJV

Nine times out of ten, in order to purge us of our wickedness, God must first break us.

The first and most important part of salvation is belief in Christ, the Son of God, and confession of our sin to Him. This is the foundation of our faith, the first step of our walk with God. Once this foundation is laid, the rest of our lives are spent, or should be spent, drawing closer to God and growing in Him. It is during this time that the “breaking” takes place.

The foundation is laid: now the debris of our old life must be cleaned up to make room for the new building. If we are really on fire for God, as new believers usually are, we will fervently pray that He will cleanse us and build up our new man. Ironically, quite often, it is when God answers this prayer that much of our fire goes out. Perhaps that is because we spend more time looking forward to spiritual enlightenment than preparing ourselves for a destruction of inner evil. We will certainly be granted spiritual enlightenment, but not until our obstructive wickedness has been destroyed.
God searches the very depths of our being, penetrating our loaded vaults of dirty secrets and heinous deeds, flinging upon us the horrible consequences of each and every one, until they are entirely accounted for—i.e., until no wickedness remains. (We have Christ to thank that we reach that point at all.) When we ask God to heal us, we must be willing to let Him break us first.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Reflections on the Old Testament: The Book of Job

In Job chapter thirteen, Job places His trust in God in spite of his belief that God is afflicting him for no apparent reason: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” (Job 13:15, NKJV).

But in verse 20-21, sets parameters for this trust, saying: “Only two things do not do to me, then I will not hide myself from You: withdraw Your hand far from me, and let not the dread of You make me afraid.”

If we look at this from Job’s perspective, the great faith with which he was endowed becomes strikingly evident. Job believes that God is severely afflicting him without cause. He has expressed, in previous chapters, his terror of God and his utter confusion regarding his predicament. He believes God is the inflictor of his misery—but clings to Him as his only hope.

Many modern Christians, when facing various trials, will become (unjustly) angry at God for allowing their suffering. Job essentially believed that God was not just allowing his suffering, but that He was causing it—for no other reason at all, save, perhaps, His own amusement.

And yet, despite this belief, Job placed his full trust in God, and pled that, whatever God did to him, He would not withdraw Himself or make Job afraid of Him. Job possessed the knowledge of God’s invariable truth: that God is absolutely the only hope for mankind; and it was through this knowledge that he was able to place such implicit trust in God—because he realized that it was ridiculous for him to abandon his one hope and prop when he needed it most. Though in Job’s case, God was allowing Satan to afflict Job in order to test his faith, God is completely capable of inflicting misery—and not always for obvious reasons. But this we know (through the grace of God): that God never inflicts misery “for fun”; that He is infallibly in control, and that He is our only hope.

 

“I will teach you about the hand of God; what is with the Almighty I will not conceal. Surely all of you have seen it; why then do you behave with complete nonsense?”—Job 27:11-12, NKJV

What do these verses mean? I am sure they can be interpreted a myriad of different ways, but to me, they seemed directly applicable to the universe and man’s perception of it. Allow me to explain.

Second only to the Bible, nature delivers the greatest insights into God’s character that are possible for human beings to explore. We are constantly surrounded by the marvels of God as reflected through His glorious creation! There is not a single human being who can honestly that God is hidden from them, or that He is too mysterious and distant for them to know Him. If the Bible is “too difficult” for us, even so, we have no excuse—our very lives are, alone, enough to irrevocably verify the Almighty’s existence and preeminence, but in addition to this we are so privileged as to daily behold the wonders and beauties of a vast universe, all of which not only point invariably to their Creator, but also reveal to us His divine majesty, power, sovereignty, and love.

Now, return to Job 27:11-12. It might just as well be nature itself speaking! “I will teach you about the hand of God; what is with the Almighty I will not conceal.” God’s truth is so obviously revealed to us in nature that it is amazing that men still so blatantly deny it, but see what the next verse says: “Surely all of you have seen it; why then do you behave with complete nonsense?”
All human beings are exposed to nature. Everyone has seen the wonders of God, has beheld His awesome creation—but so many still refuse to acknowledge the Creator. They “behave with complete nonsense,” viewing the natural world through a thick film of fallacy—seeing the miracles of nature, even studying them to the deepest detail, but failing to see the Purpose; “always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” (2 Timothy 3:7, NKJV). “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:20-22, NKJV).

Saturday, April 9, 2016


EASTER IS A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY. What greater reason to celebrate than the glorious death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Consider, for a moment, how hopeless the human race would be without this most blessed—but most painful—transaction. And then consider the vast wealth of hope we now have because of it—because of Christ—and rejoice all the more!

But it is not just something to be celebrated. Let Easter be a joyful reminder of the task Christ has laid before us; let it buoy us upward from the depressing chaos of the world by reminding us of the awesome power and love of our Savior. By all means, let us celebrate Easter with all joy and heartiness, but let us then proceed to share the good news with those to whom Easter is only a celebration of springtime, and let us cultivate the Holy Spirit that has so graciously been placed in us by a most benevolent God.

The utter dependence that mankind has upon Christ inadvertently became the theme of my longest and most noteworthy “Reflections on the Old Testament” this month. God’s timing is amazing, is it not? I happened to be primarily studying the Book of Job this month and nearly every chapter so obviously points to Christ as the only Hope that it has left me quite stunned time and time again! And the fact that such observations were made just in time for Easter was a “coincidence” for which I can take absolutely no credit. But then, is not the entire Bible about Christ? And should not every month of the year be bursting with His glory? Therefore whether or not such a “coincidence” should be a marvel is entirely dependent upon one’s perspective.

Whatever your perspective is, God is good! Let that be my final word.

 

Yours truly, I remain

Your humble servant and sister in Christ,
Ruth Verrinder, editor


Reflections on the Old Testament: Continued

 

In Nehemiah chapter thirteen, the temple of God is ill-used by wicked and negligent Israelites, and falls into disarray during the absence of Nehemiah. Among other things, the priest prepares a room in the temple for the wicked Tobiah, and the Levites are denied their portions. When Nehemiah returned, he wasted no time in setting things right: driving Tobiah out, cleansing the rooms, and returning to the Levites their portions and duties.

What is the lesson that can be gleaned from this?

Jesus Christ refers to Christians themselves as “the temple of God,” so this chapter can be directly applied to us. The Holy Spirit is our “Nehemiah”—getting us back on track and putting us back together when we fall back into our old nature. When we succumb to sin—which we all too often do—we are just like the Israelites, giving away the rooms of God’s temple to wickedness and neglecting the righteous duties assigned to us. But the Holy Spirit always rushes back at us with the guilt-inflicting question: “Why is the house of God forsaken?” and we are set in our place again (see Neh. 13:11).

It is best of all to cling tightly to the Holy Spirit and thus avoid falling into sin in the first place, but as long as we are on this earth we will make mistakes. The sign of spiritual maturity is ushering the Holy Spirit in sooner and clinging to it a little more tightly each time. Is not the patience of God a wondrous thing?

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”—Esther 4:14, NKJV

God always puts us in the position in which we may best serve Him. That may mean leadership, like Queen Esther, or it may mean a humble, inglorious occupation. All we must do is make the best of whatever we are given—“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl. 9:10, NKJV).

Do not think it strange when your position in life changes, or seems unfair; God orders the steps of those who serve Him, and never gives you anything unless you can use it for His glory.

The Book of Esther is unique in that it never actually mentions God, but is fraught with miracles and “coincidences” that speak loudly and powerfully of His handiwork.

The author (the human one, at least!) of this book, whether intentionally or unintentionally, gives glory to God without ever mentioning His name, but simply by presenting the miraculous redemption of the Jews which could only have been possible through the intervention of an almighty God.

“After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.”—Job 3:22, NKJV

Observe how, rather than cursing God when calamity strikes him, Job curses himself.

What a lesson we can all learn from Job! For whatever reason, the natural instinct in mankind is to blame God for our misfortunes, or if not Him, then the people around us. Rarely, if ever, do we consider our own shortcomings and follies, and how we might have prevented a misfortune, or what God may be trying to teach us through it.

Again, when calamity strikes, we are often driven to curse or blame someone or something. This is the experience that Job had, but he resisted blasphemy and instead cursed the day of his birth. He did not understand why God had let him live to see such days, but trusted Him as the omniscient constant amid so many variables.

 

Job chapter seven is a powerful portrayal of the state of man without Christ.

“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope. Oh, remember that my life is a breath! My eye will never again see good.”—Job 7:6-7 (NKJV)

These verses summarize the unhappy plight of mankind since the Fall, and this entire chapter, as well as many other passages, elaborates on the depressing futility, hopelessness, and grief of a life without God.

“Like a servant who earnestly desires the shade, and like a hired man who eagerly looks for his wages, so I have been allotted months of futility, and wearisome nights have been appointed to me.”—Job 7:2-3 (NKJV)

But how does all this apply to Job—a man who followed God wholeheartedly; a man whom God Himself called “righteous”? Why is it that Job should find himself in such a state of hopelessness and misery?

We know from Job chapter one that God allowed Satan to afflict Job in order to test his faith. This may mean that, during this time, God had actually departed from Job, leaving him truly destitute, as his lengthy expressions of misery strongly indicate. But if this is true, then we are compelled to ask the inevitable question: why? Why would God forsake a servant as dedicated as Job? It could certainly not be punishment, as this whole thing was started by God telling Satan how righteous Job was. So what then?

The answer is simple.

At some point in the life of every Christian, God must show us how hopeless we are without Him—how we cannot survive without Him. Though we may acknowledge this truth, we never truly understand it until God withdraws His hand.

This is what happened to Job. Yes, he was a dedicated servant; yes, he was a righteous man—but all this was given to him by God, just like all his wealth, and God needed to take him to the next level. Job needed to really understand how much he relied on God, but he could only truly understand when God withdrew from him.

Now, mind you, God did not forsake Job. God promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and we know that God cannot lie.

Rather, by “withdrawing,” I mean that God removes everything you hold dear, until it is just you and Him, and then you realize that, though all through the long, hard process it felt like He really did leave you, He was always there, and that He is all you need.

In Job chapter nine, it is obvious that Job is longing for the Messiah. He compares his previously pious and prosperous life with the idea, implanted by his friends, that God is punishing him for some wrong-doing, and concludes that it is impossible for man to be righteous or to in any way please God. He compares the majesty and power of God with the insignificance and weakness of man, and concludes that it is impossible for the two to have any communion, but that, rather, mankind is simply an abominable parasite in the sight of God.

In the following verses, you can see Job’s miserable acceptance of his own degradation and humiliation, as well as his hopeless desire for purity and beauty:

“If it is a matter of strength, indeed He is strong; and if of justice, who will appoint my day in court? Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me; though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse.”—Job 9:19-20, NKJV

“If I am condemned, why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and cleanse my hands with soap, yet You will plunge me into the pit, and my own clothes will abhor me. For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both. Let Him take His rod away from me, and do not let dread of Him terrify me. Then I would speak and not fear Him, but it is not so with me.”—Job 9:29-35, NKJV

Job speaks for all mankind. He finds himself condemned, perverse, without hope of righteousness; a man who “labored in vain” to attain righteousness and washed himself with “snow water and soap” only to be plunged into the pit of perversity by the pure holiness of God.

This is the outcry of mankind since the Fall: to be free from the humiliation of sin, to speak with God and walk with Him without fear or shame—to be as Adam and Eve in Paradise!

And here is the key verse: “Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both.”

Job desires a mediator; someone who will close the great chasm that separates the Most High from the lowest of the low.

Who is the mediator between God and man? Who is the desire of all mankind? Who is the only hope of righteousness and salvation for the sons of men? And what cleanses all sin? Who but Christ Jesus, and His shed blood!

The Book of Job chronicles the outcry of a fallen world, and the miserable existence of man separated from God, with no one to stand in the gap.
Though often considered a depressing book, Job is a constant reminder of how infinitely important the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ really is.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


On Love: The World’s Definition vs. God’s

          By Ruth Verrinder

I WAS INSPIRED TO WRITE AN article on the subject of love from a Biblical viewpoint some months ago, but waited until now for two reasons: one, because I was not, at the time, ready, and two, because the month of Valentine’s Day seemed appropriate for such a subject. At any rate, much thought and preparation has gone into this, and it is my ardent prayer that it will prove enlightening and beneficial to some, if not all, my readers. I have no doubt that it will, if indeed it is all from the Lord, for we know that His Word “does not return void.”

Love is a wildly misunderstood concept. To the world, it is often synonymous with passion, desire, or sentiment. It is commonly accepted to be merely an emotion springing from the heart—the heart, which is “wicked and deceitful above all things,” according to Scripture. It is sad to think how the world takes a great and admirable thing like love, and entrusts it to the keeping of the most untrustworthy part of the human being! It is because of this mistake that so many misconceptions of love have been made. Perhaps one of the most prominent today is the idea that love is tolerance. So many people are convinced that a loving nature is one that accepts and allows anything and everything—whether evil or good—if it makes someone happy. There are so many problems with this! For one, the world has a very warped concept of happiness, correlating it with the sensual pleasures of sin rather than the righteous joy of Christ. This mistake leads people to tolerate wickedness, even if they know it to be evil, because they think it makes someone happy. They don’t understand that one can never truly be happy with sin and that it would be ever so much better to speak the truth as gently as possible and let it hurt as it may. The pain is bearable and temporary, and it is necessary to ensure a real happiness in the future. Unfortunately, the idea of tolerance being mandatory to love is one that many Christians have bought into. Christians are not perfect. Although in soul and spirit we have been cleansed from our sin, we still dwell in a sinful body which we must overcome. This includes the “bad side” of the heart—which causes most, if not all, of the problems of misunderstanding love.

Man’s heart is a complicated thing; it does many things for us—good and bad. This one thing is definite: it is the weak hearts that are most susceptible to sin. By nature, we have weak hearts, which is why our natural perspective of love through them is so warped. Psalm 73:26 says: “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (NKJV). Our heart and flesh will fail us, leading us down the wrong path under false pretenses of pleasure and, yes, of love. “…But God is the strength of my heart”—it is through Him and Him alone that the good things of the heart are strengthened and the bad things made weak.

All good things come from God. There is no exception to this rule.

So, then, what is love? Although most of my readers probably already know the answer (I certainly hope so, at any rate!), let’s take a look just the same.

The definition of love is given in three simple words: “God is love.”

Because the world is separated from God by sin, it is also separated from love. But it still yearns for the Creator, and it tries to fill that void with earthly things. It still yearns for love, and it tries to fill that void with affection, warmth of feeling, and sentiment. It refuses to accept the truth—that one cannot know love unless one knows God (see 1 John 4:8).

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest manifestation of love the world has ever seen or ever will see, and when we accept the salvation made available to us through that glorious event, the seed of love is planted within us, and its fruits invade every facet of our being. This love is also known as the Holy Spirit and it is a shame indeed when we allow sin to take its place in our hearts—or in any other part of us, for that matter.

To truly see what God says concerning love, let us look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV).

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”

For one thing, this sounds a great deal like the fruit of the Spirit, as told in Galatians chapter five. So much so, in fact, that I am compelled to share Galatians 5:22-26 for the purpose of comparison:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

This comparison not only proves the unity of love and the Holy Spirit (i.e. God), but it also reveals many other truths. Recall the verse “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  

When Christ was crucified, all the sin of the world was crucified and buried with Him—and left in the grave when He arose. This same transaction takes place in us (although on a much less grand scale) when we become Christ’s. Because the Holy Spirit is implanted within us, “the flesh with its passions and desires” no longer has any appeal for us, and we readily nail it to the Cross of Christ, exchanging it for the real and potent love of God—we exchange the wicked passions and desires of the flesh for the righteous passions and desires of God.

“Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4, NKJV). The hearts of those who delight themselves in the Lord will desire righteous things—things that the Lord is waiting and ready to bestow upon us, “pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing.”

It is our hearts that desire things, and delight in things, and God fills the hearts that belong to Him with desire of Him, and delight in Him.

The unfortunate thing about the world, is that they have hearts just like ours, only without God. This produces every kind of abomination—because the nature of every human being is to desire sinful things and to delight in wickedness. Thus, their replacement for love is lust and shallow sentiment.

They yearn for real love, and, incidentally, there are many times in which their moral conduct is actually raised when they feel affection or desire. But that is perhaps the saddest thing of all—for we, as Christians, know all too well that the morals of mankind fall utterly short of righteousness. Recall 1 Cor. 13:4-8. Does that sound like something a human being could attain on his own? Certainly not! Jesus Christ alone matches that description, therefore how can anyone who does not know Christ possibly hope to know love? “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” –1 John 3:8-9, NKJV. All creation groans because of the curse, and it cries out to God—the embodiment of righteousness—for redemption. The soul of man yearns for something higher, and it tries desperately to reach the Great Rock—but it is blinded by sin and does not see that Jesus Christ is the only way to reach that height; that He bowed Himself down to the lowest of the low that we might reach it.

Sin is the great barrier. Since the fateful moment in the Garden of Eden, it has enslaved mankind, subjecting us to the most wretched punishment of all—separation from God. It feeds us false—but delicate—morsels of worldly pleasure and comfort. We are blinded into actually embracing the Barrier, the Slaver. And we have no idea what it is keeping us from! We have no idea what love is, we have no idea who God is! We embrace our slavery, because it is all we have ever known.

But even so, our soul retains a memory of Eden, and yearns for the Creator—dimly aware of the burden of sin, but too weak to protest or fight against its cruel lies.

It is out of this dark world that Jesus calls us.

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

--1 John 4:9-10 (NKJV)

Christ alone can cleanse us of sin and implant love within us.

Jesus Christ satisfies every longing of the human spirit. Sin satisfies the flesh alone—and that only temporarily. How readily, then, we exchange the burden and false satisfaction of sin for the pure and full satisfaction of Jesus Christ! And oh, the glories, when once we do!

But if the Lord plants love in us, we must cultivate it—not let it diminish and fall to the wayside. We must water it and take care of it, as a precious gift that Jesus Christ has entrusted to us. The pervading theme of 1 John is that we must love one another. Some example verses are 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” And 1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

God loves us so much, that it is a terrible abomination when we do not return this love. And how do we return it? We love one another. We only way we can truly show our love for God on this earth is by loving others. “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother who he has seen, how can he love God who he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21, NKJV).

Our love of others must spring from our love of God. There may be affections for others that do not spring from God, but true love can only spring from God, the Eternal Source. He is love, and love never fails.

With this outlook, we see what an awesome privilege it is to love, and how stupid we are to be negligent in cultivating it.

I could go on forever on this subject—at any rate, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” By which I mean that I would keep writing, except that the computer screen is hurting my eyes and I am tired of sitting.

I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 3 and 4—they speak more deeply of love than I ever could. Allow me now to conclude with the appropriate verse:
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”—1 Corinthians 13:13, NKJV