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Amen: Four Meanings in Scripture (Spurgeon)

August 29, 2013 Leave a comment

From Spurgeon’s 1862 New Year sermon, the following interesting points regarding the word ‘Amen’ in scripture.

First, what the Puritans observed:

 it is a very remarkable thing—that under the old Law, there was no amen to the blessings; the only amen was to the curses! When they pronounced the curses, “All the people said Amen.” Under the Law there never was an amen to the blessing! Now, it is an equally remarkable, and more blessed thing, that under the Gospel, there is no amen to the curses—the only amen is to the blessings!

The Four meanings of the word ‘Amen’:

1)      The Desire of the Heart – In agreement with what the Lord has said.  “Behold, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” We say amen at the end of the prayer, to signify, “Lord, let it be so” —it is our heart’s desire.

2)      The Affirmation of Our Faith:  We only say amen to that which we really believe to be true. We add our affidavit, as it were, to God’s promise, that we believe Him to be faithful and true.

3)      Expresses the joy of the heart:  When of old they brought forth a Jewish king, the High Priest took a horn of oil and poured it on his head; then came forward a herald, and the moment he had sounded the trumpet, one with a loud voice said, “God save the king! God save the king!” and all the people said, “Amen!”

4)      An Amen of Resolution:  It means, “I, in the name of God, solemnly pledge myself that in His strength I will seek to make it so; to Him be Glory both now and forever.”

The Shield of Faith: The Shield Metaphor (Spurgeon)

July 10, 2013 1 comment

From my recent Spurgeon sermon reading, an overview of sermon #416, “The Shield of Faith”.  From the text Ephesians 6:16, Spurgeon looked at several aspects of the shield as a metaphor for our faith.

One interesting point (new to me) is that the ancients used many types of shields, but that the shield in view here is a full-size one able to completely cover a man.  Often I picture the sword fighting scene in the modern-setting “Pilgrim’s Progress” movie and the relatively small shield that Christian holds in his hand; but the shield Paul was thinking of was much larger:

Different kinds of shields were used by the ancients, but there is a special reference in our text to the large shield which was sometimes employed. I believe the word which is translated “shield,” sometimes signifies a door, because their shields were as large as a door. They covered the man entirely.

Spurgeon also references the psalmist’s idea, “You, Lord will bless the righteous, with favor will You compass him as with a shield.” (Psalm 5:12).

Faith is like a shield in the following ways:

  •  A shield protects us from attack

The large shield covered the whole body: it guards the head and the heart, and protects the armor. Similarly, faith guards the head, the heart, and our armor.

  •  Receives the blows which are meant for the man himself

Why enlist, young men, if you are not needed to fight? What is the good of a fair-weather soldier—one who stays at home to feed at the public expense? No, let the soldier be ready when war comes; let him expect the conflict as a part and necessary consequence of his profession. But be armed with faith—it receives the blows! So must our faith do—it must be cut at, it must bear the blows.

Spurgeon has strong words regarding the cowards who do not receive the blows, the persecution, as they ought to.

Ashamed of Christ they make no profession of Him, or having professed Christ, ashamed of the profession, they hide themselves by deserting their colors, by conformity to the world. Perhaps they are even called to preach the Gospel, but they do it in so quiet and gentle a way, like men who wear soft raiment, and ought to be in kings’ houses. Unlike John the Baptist, they are “reeds shaken with the wind.” Of them no one says anything bad because they have done no ill to Satan’s kingdom!  Against them Satan never roars—why should he? He is not afraid of them, therefore he need not come out against them.  “Let them alone,” he says, “thousands such as those will never shake my kingdom!”

  • It has good need to be strong

A man who has some pasteboard shield may lift it up against his foe, the sword will go through it and reach his heart. … He who would use a shield must take care that it be a shield of proof. He who has true faith, the faith of God’s elect, has such a shield that he will see the swords of his enemies go to a thousand shivers over it every time they smite the shield of faith!

  • It is of no use, except it is well handled.  A shield needs handling, and so does faith.

So there are some silly professors who have a faith, but they have not got it with them when they need it. They have it with them when there are no enemies. When all goes well with them, then they can believe; but just when the pinch comes, then their faith fails.

Spurgeon then suggests three practical ways to handle the shield:

  1. Quote the promises of God against the attacks of your enemy
  2. With the doctrines.  Handle the shield doctrinally.
  3. Experimentally:   we remember how God has helped us in the past
  • Like in olden times and days of chivalry, the shield (our faith) carries the Christian’s glory, the Christian’s coat of arms

what is the Christian’s coat of arms? Well, good Joseph Irons used to say it was a Cross and a crown, with the words “No Cross, no crown”—a most blessed coat of arms, too! … Some of the old Reformers used to have an anvil for their coat of arms ,and a significant one, too, with this motto, “The anvil has broken many hammers.” By which they meant that they stood still, and just let men hammer at them till their hammers broke of themselves!

Spurgeon’s Sermons in the Book of Job

May 9, 2013 3 comments

Common teaching through the book of Job, at churches with superficial teaching, may include pointing out the general and obvious teaching in Job: the legalism of Job’s three friends, assuming that Job is suffering because of his wickedness, along with general observations about how Job at the end intercedes for his friends, like how Christ intercedes for us.

But for real depth and meat in the book of Job, I have recently been finding many great treasures there, from a handful of Spurgeon sermons.  As mentioned here previously, Spurgeon was a textual preacher, who preached more in some books than others.  Spurgeongems.org reveals that Spurgeon preached 99 messages from texts in Job, and from 34 of the 42 chapters.  Three of these I have read recently, in Spurgeon’s volume 7 of sermons (#352, #404  and #406).  The book of Job, and sermons from it, provides such variety and material for our lives: the proper times of celebration, suffering, hope, God’s Divine Purpose, and prayer.

See this previous post for Spurgeon’s interesting “Merry Christmas” sermon from Job 1.  Sermon #404, from Job 42 (Job’s prayer for his friends) is a convicting one about intercessory prayer and its importance in our lives as well as in those we pray for:

 You and I may be naturally hard, and harsh, and unlovely of spirit, but much praying for others will remind us we have, indeed, a relationship to the saints, that their interests are ours, that we are jointly concerned with them in all the privileges of Grace. I do not know anything which, through the Grace of God, may be a better means of uniting us, the one to the other, than constant prayer for each other. You cannot harbor enmity in your soul against your Brother after you have learned to pray for him!

Sermon #406 is another excellent one, this time looking at God’s Divine Purpose: Job 23:13 — But He is of one mind, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. Here Spurgeon considers God’s great sovereign purposes, from the little details and our individual lives, to the big picture, even including His divine purpose for the nations:

 To enlarge our thoughts a moment, have you ever noticed, in reading history, how nations suddenly decay? When their civilization has advanced so far that we thought it would produce men of the highest mold, suddenly old age begins to wrinkle its brow, its arm grows weak, the scepter falls, and the crown drops from the head, and we have to say, “Is not the world gone back again?” The barbarian has sacked the city, and where once everything was beauty, now there is nothing but ruthless bloodshed and destruction! But, my Brothers and Sisters, all those things were but the carrying out of the Divine Plan! …

And so has it been with the race of men—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome have crumbled, each and all—when their hour had come, to be succeeded by a better. And if this race of ours should ever be eclipsed, if the Anglo Saxons’ boasted pride should yet be stained, even then it will prove to be a link in the Divine purpose. Still, in the end His one mind shall be carried out; His one great result shall be thereby achieved. Not only the decay of nations, but the apparent degeneration of some races of men—and even the total extinction of others—forms a part of the fixed purpose of God!

Jesus, the Light of the World: The True Pillar of Fire (Exodus Wilderness Wandering)

November 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Jesus is the Light of the World:  in my early Christian years I associated that phrase with a Christian music song (Carman, Jesus is the Light of the World), and the basic gospel message and references in that song: the truth that comes when we are born again, the Holy Spirit working in the heart so that we understand and love that which we hated before.  Also, that Christ does not merely point us to the light (the manner of the teachers of non-Christian religions), but that He actually IS the light.

In S. Lewis Johnson’s series on the gospel of John, I’m now in John chapter 8, considering some additional observations concerning John 8:12, Jesus’ statement: I am the Light of the World.

This statement is part of the two chapters, John 7 and 8, centered around the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem; so we look at the specific events of that time and the things done at this particular feast.  Some commentators therefore connect Jesus’ statement to the candelabra that were lit, in the first days of the feast:   some have suggested that since the candelabra of the temple areas, they were placed in the court of the women, were a significant feature of the celebration of the feast, that he said it in the light of that fact.  The candelabra were lighted on the first day or so of that feast.  And on those first days or so, they shown all over the city, because the light was reflected off of the top of the temple areas so that anyone in Jerusalem who had a courtyard outside of their houses would have the light that came from the candelabra in the temple area. 

However, the candelabra light was only lit in the first days and not continued – whereas Jesus’ statement suggests continuation.  The candelabra were also fixed, stationary objects, not moving about as Jesus describes here:  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. In response, those who see this connection between the candelabra light and Jesus’ statement, say that His statement was made in contrast to the relative darkness of the last days of the feast.

If we look at other statements from this section, though, another association emerges: the Israelites’ time in the wilderness.  Christ has already said that He was the true manna (John 6:32-35) that they ate then.  In John 7:37-38, the last and great day of the feast, Christ identified Himself as that living water which came out from the rock that was struck: in reference to the ceremonial event on the last day of the feast, when the Jews reenacted that great event of the water coming forth from the rock, by which they understood that their God was with them through those forty years in the desert.  Now, the “light of the world” is also a reference to that wilderness experience: the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, that physical manifestation of God present with them.  For as Exodus describes, they continually followed that pillar, moving when the cloud lifted and staying camped when the cloud remained.  So in John 8, this may well be what our Lord was especially thinking of:  “I am the light of the world.”  I am the fulfillment.  I’m the antitype of all that was signified by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire.

From the very next message in SLJ’s Gospel of John series:

All the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God. That’s part of our birthright, that’s part of our salvation, to be led by the Spirit. We don’t always follow, but we are constantly led. We don’t have to ask the Lord for guidance; He gives us guidance. The guidance is there; what we need to do is ask the Lord to enable us to follow the guidance that He gives us. We have the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire in better form, in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Gospel of John: Jesus the I Am, Walking on the Water

October 1, 2012 7 comments

Just a few interesting things to note from S. Lewis Johnson’s study of the gospel of John, now in chapter 6 — the account of Jesus walking on the water.

When Jesus speaks to the frightened disciples:  the expression “It is I” refers back to Exodus 3 and God’s words to Moses in the burning bush:  I am who I am.  Here we also note the time period, described by John, that it was near the time of the Passover.  The Jews’ Passover ceremony included emphasis on Isaiah 43:2: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.  Here the disciples were, literally passing through the waters and experiencing a storm on the sea of Galilee.  Jesus came to them, walking on the water, providing them a real-life picture of the promise from that Passover text in Isaiah.

This was the second incident of a storm in the boat.  In the first one, Jesus was with them, asleep.  But this time they were on their own, and terrified at seeing the figure walking on the water.  Here too is a picture of our growth as we experience the storms of life:  this situation as more difficult than the previous one, and a challenge to grow.  I have seen the spiritual application of this in my own life as well, that the challenges in my early Christian years were much easier than later experiences.

John’s account of Jesus walking on the water specifically mentions that immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” The other accounts do not mention this, and S. Lewis Johnson here observed that John is especially considered the apostle of love.  This description expresses John’s great love for His Lord. After all, when you’re in love, the time spent with that person passes by so quickly: the time after Jesus joined them on the boat went by so quick, that John describes it as immediately.

For a typology lesson, SLJ also notes the parallels between this incident and this church age followed by Christ’s Second Coming.  I never saw this in the text, and certainly do not base my belief and understanding on this typology alone (and we have plenty of other texts for doctrinal support of the Second Coming), but the observation is interesting to consider:

I think this story is not only history and it’s not only parable in the sense that we find spiritual principles in it, but it may also be designed to be something of a prophecy of the course of this age.  The disciples are on the sea, toiling in the midst of difficulties, the Lord Jesus is on the mountain praying; but there is a climactic triumphant conclusion.

Well, if you think for just a moment, that’s characteristic of this age.  We are in the boat in the midst of the storms of life.  The Lord Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, therefore living to make intercession for the saints of God; guaranteeing that they are all going to reach the predestined determination that the will of God has set for us.  The church is in the midst of the nations of the world and in a tremendous struggle.  We are in the world but not of the world, engaged in the struggle for the souls of men.

But the Lord Jesus is going to return at the fourth watch when things appear to be very difficult and as if there’s no true conclusion to be reached.  He is going to come.  And sad to say some are not going to recognize him when he does come.  Some are going to think perhaps that it is a ghost.  But he’s going to come and he’s going to still the storms of this human existence and he’s going to establish his kingdom upon the earth.

Spurgeon’s Practical, Close-to-Home Sermons

April 27, 2012 2 comments

A well-known blogger, who also likes Spurgeon, has often pointed to a shortcoming in Spurgeon, that he never preached on practical matters, only high doctrine.  I understand his point, in that Spurgeon excelled in textual preaching, and even when preaching from “practical” texts dealing with Christian living, Spurgeon would take off in another “textual” direction instead.

In a different sense, though, Spurgeon was very practical and encouraging, with hard-hitting messages and many illustrations of daily life.  I’m now reading through Spurgeon’s volume 6 (1860) sermons.  Numbers 320 and 321 I found especially encouraging, as ones that hit very close to home.  The first of these, Contentment, includes great reminders of God’s sovereignty and wisdom in placing us exactly where we need to be in our daily circumstances of life:

You kneel down in the morning and you say, “Your will be done!” Suppose you get up and want your own will and rebel against the dispensation of your heavenly Father—have you not made yourself out to be a hypocrite? The language of your prayer is at variance with the feeling of your heart; let it always be sufficient for you to think that you are where God put you.

In the second message, The Jeer of Sarcasm, and the Retort of Piety, Spurgeon takes a longer than usual (for him) passage:  3 full verses, 2 Samuel 6:20-22, the occasion of Michal’s criticism of David after he danced before the Lord while bringing in the ark.

You may suppose there is very little suffering for Christ now—I speak what I know—there is still a vast deal of suffering! I do not mean burning, I do not mean hanging, I do not mean persecution by law. It is a sort of slow martyrdom. I can tell you how it is effected. Everything a young man does is thrown in his teeth; things harmless and indifferent in themselves are twisted into accusation that he does wrong. If he speaks, his words are brought up against him. If he is silent it is worse. Whatever he does is misrepresented and from morning to night there is the taunt always ready.

How accurate Spurgeon was, in the descriptions of “slow martyrdom” for those who face such persecution from a close family member, even a wife or husband.  The jeer of sarcasm may not happen every moment or even every day.  Likewise Michal only made this specific jeer on this one occasion.  But it does come up frequently, providing a definite barrier and limitation to free communication in one’s own home, and in a way similar to what Spurgeon described.  Remain silent, saying nothing about your own beliefs and that which you love (great doctrines from the word of God), and be accused of “not being any fun” and a “boring person to be around.”  Quietly spend time reading God’s word before breakfast and the workday begins – oh that’s too fanatical, and you should just get more sleep, don’t try to do all that.  The jeerer — a nominal Christian like David’s Michal, focused more on form than substance — cannot understand such behavior as anything other than “being legalistic” and “thinking you know everything.”  Personal sanctification – as practiced in the desire for entertainment that is more edifying, eschewing secular music and books that include foul language – is likewise seen as arrogance and legalism.

I like the term he used, “slow martyrdom,” and recall what I considered on this matter a few years ago: the feeling that it would be easier to endure a sudden, one-time event that led to martyrdom, since tradition martyrdom does involve a brief incident with a generally known “end date” at which time the person is free from the persecution, away from the body and at home with the Lord.  By contrast, the continual day-in-day-out life with an unbeliever doesn’t have a known end-point and “quick escape,” but a long delay and continued trials and persecution, and still having to live in this world.

Spurgeon recognized these types of people, the jeerers (Michal) and the pious (David), acknowledging that some believers, in God’s providence, must experience this type of “slow martyrdom” in their own homes, even as others are spared that particular trial.  He also noted that it happens just as much with husbands critical of godly wives as vice versa, and made great application from the David and Michal situation.

In closing, another excerpt of encouragement from this Spurgeon sermon:

Ah, Brothers and Sisters, you need not fear, you can bear witness for the Truth of God whatever is said—you must bear with the slanderer and forbear. If they throw anything in your teeth, still stand up for your Lord Jesus.  Don’t yield a single inch, and the day shall come when you shall have honor even in the eyes of those who in the world once laughed at you and put you to open shame.

The Old Testament with S. Lewis Johnson: Nearing the End (Malachi)

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s been a little over two years now since I started seriously listening to S. Lewis Johnson sermons, starting with his Genesis series.  At that time I set a goal to listen to all his book series, starting sequentially through all the Old Testament books he taught.  SLJ taught through far more of the Old Testament than many other preachers had, at least from what was available on various church websites, and from my general study of eschatology at that time I was coming to appreciate the Old Testament: for all the references to it in Revelation and elsewhere, for instance.

I had heard his name somewhere online, though I forget exactly where and when, in reference to John MacArthur:  another teacher of similar beliefs.  That summer (2009) I listened to the Eschatology series on the headphones at work (the incredibly small M3U files in Windows Media Player), and then started looking at the various names of Bible book series on the Believers Chapel website.  Listening to half-hour “Grace to You” radio programs before breakfast every morning wasn’t working very well (due to personal circumstances), and so the idea came, to instead listen to half-sermons each morning, downloaded and burned to MP3 CDs, starting with the 66-part Genesis series.  Previously I had read through John MacArthur’s Genesis series, which only covered the first 11 chapters, and listened to a few topical series including Jim McClarty’s Eschatology series, and MacArthur’s Revelation series.

Along with the Horner Bible Reading (started that March), it was time to get into OT book studies.  Here is my first blog reference to Johnson’s Genesis series, from July  2009.  Last week I started the Malachi series.  Actually a few more Old Testament series are lined up after this:  the second Zechariah series (The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History), also “Messianic Prophecies in Isaiah”  and “Old Testament Anticipation of the Messiah” (a radio series of half-hour length teachings).  But Malachi of course ends the Old Testament book series, it being the last book in our Old Testament (though not, as Johnson points out in the Malachi introduction, the last book in the Jews’ Bible).

Spurgeon: How Christ Was Shamed … for the Joy Set Before Him

August 1, 2011 1 comment

From the familiar text in Hebrews 12:2, some great observations from Spurgeon concerning the shame that Christ despised.

“Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame,
and is now set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.”

Shame is something that mankind fears most of all, even more so than death. The Bible gives us several examples of characters who, even at the point of death, were most concerned about their honor:

  • Abimelech in Judges 9, for example, who didn’t want it said that a woman had slain him
  • King Saul, in 1 Samuel 31, fell upon his own sword so it wouldn’t be said that he fell by the Philistines
  • King Zedekiah:  who albeit he seemed reckless enough, he was afraid to fall into the hands of the Chaldeans lest the Jews who had gone over to Nebuchadnezzar should mock him.  (Jeremiah 38:19)

Spurgeon further observed:

It is well known that criminals and malefactors have often had a greater fear of public contempt than of anything else. Nothing can so break down the human spirit as to continually be subject to contempt—the visible and manifest contempt of one’s fellows! In fact, to go further, shame is so frightful to man that it is one of the ingredients of Hell itself! It is one of the bitterest drops in that awful cup of misery—the shame of everlasting contempt to which wicked men awake in the day of their resurrection. To be despised of men, despised of angels, despised of God is one of the depths of Hell! Shame, then, is a terrible thing to endure. And many of the proudest natures have been subdued when once they have been subjected to it. In the Savior’s case, shame would be peculiarly shameful.  The nobler a man’s nature, the more readily does he perceive the slightest contempt and the more acutely does he feel it. That contempt which an ordinary man might bear without suffering—he who has been bred to be obeyed and who has all his life been honored—would feel most bitterly. Beggared princes and despised monarchs are among the most miserable of men!

From that little phrase “the shame” we can look back to the gospel accounts and observe the many ways in which Christ was shamed:

  •     Shameful accusations:  blasphemy (among the Jews) and sedition (to the Romans)
  •     Shameful mocking of many kinds, from Herod and from Pilate’s soldiers

They mocked His person, both His humanity (stripping Him of His garments), and His Divine person:
“If You are the Son of God, come down from the Cross and we will believe on You.”

They mocked Him as God, in all His offices of King, Prophet and Priest:

  •     The true King, they gave a crown of thorns and a purple robe
  •     The true prophet:  they blindfolded Him and said “prophesy! Who hit you?”
  •     The true Priest:  “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us!” “Ah, He saved others; Himself He could not save,”they laughed!

They mocked Him in His sufferings, and they even mocked His prayers.  Here Spurgeon observes:

Did you ever read in all the annals of executions, or of murders, that ever men mocked their fellow creatures’ prayers? I have read stories of some dastardly villains who have sought to slay their enemies and seeing their death approaching, the victims have said, “give me a moment or two for prayer”—and rare has been the cases when this has been disallowed! But I never read of a case in which when the prayer was uttered it has been laughed at and made the object of a jest! But here hangs the Savior and every word He speaks becomes the subject of a pun, the motto of a jest. And when at the last He utters the most thrilling deathshriek that ever startled earth and Hell, “Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabacthani,” even then they must pun upon it and say, “He calls for Elijah; let us see whether Elijah will come and take Him down.” He was mocked even in His prayer!

Yet as Hebrews 12:2 tells us, He endured the cross, and despised the shame — for the joy set befor Him.  Some closing words from Spurgeon on that thought:

the joy which Christ felt! It was the joy of feeding us with the Bread of Heaven—the joy of clothing poor, naked sinners in His own Righteousness—the joy of finding mansions in Heaven for homeless souls—of delivering us from the prison of Hell and giving us the eternal enjoyments of Heaven! But why should Christ look on us? Why should He choose to do this for us? Oh, my Friends, we never deserved anything at His hands! As a good old writer says, “When I look at the Crucifixion of Christ, I remember that my sins put Him to death. I see not Pilate, but I see myself in Pilate’s place, bartering Christ for honor. I hear not the cry of the Jews, but I hear my sins yelling out, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him.’ I see not iron nails, but I see my own iniquities fastening him to the Cross! I see no spear, but I behold my  unbelief piercing His poor wounded side—
‘For You, my sins, my cruel sins, His chief tormentors were!
Each of my sins became a nail and unbelief the spear.’”

The Proper Way to “Find Christ in the Text”

June 2, 2011 Leave a comment

While listening to one of S. Lewis Johnson’s messages through the prophet Micah, I heard a sermon illustration — a story — that I’ve heard often at the local church.  Or rather, I thought I had heard that story before.  But Johnson included the full account, which makes far more sense than the shortened version, along with greater explanation.

Both versions have the first part: an account of a young preacher who preached a sermon in the presence of an older preacher.  The young man asked the older preacher what he thought of his sermon, and the old man told him it was a poor sermon; the reason was that the young man had not preached Christ in the message.  The young man replied that, well, Christ was not in the text.

Here, the shortened version, from a pastor known to allegorize and spiritualize texts to “find Christ” — including ways not at all clear from a text itself — simply adds that “you always find Christ in the text,” and that’s the first and most important thing to do.  Then follow a few sentences of praise about how wonderful Christ is, and that’s what the sermon must be about, the refrain about “nothing but Christ and Him crucified.”

But here is the full version:

The old preacher said, Don’t you know, young man, that from every town and every village and every hamlet in England there is a road that goes to London?

Yes, said the young man.

Aye, said the old preacher, and so from every text in Scripture there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures that is Christ.  And my dear brother, your business is when you go to a text to say: Now what is the road to Christ?  And then preach a sermon running along the road toward the great metropolis, Christ.  And he said, I have never yet found a text that had not a plain and direct road to Christ in it.  And if I ever should find one that had no such road, I’d make a road.  I’d run over the hedge and ditch but I would get at my master.  For a sermon is neither fit for the land nor yet for the dunghill unless there is a savor of Christ in it.

As SLJ then further explained:

I think that’s what our Lord meant when he was speaking in Luke chapter 24 and saying to the disciples on the Emmaus road, Don’t you realize that in all of the Old Testament we have teaching concerning Christ?  And beginning at Moses and the prophets, he spoke unto them in all things of himself.  Later on in that chapter, the psalms are mentioned as well.  So that all of the Old Testament is one vast testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ and ultimately it is difficult to find any text in the Bible that will not ultimately bring you to Jesus Christ.  He was right.  And if we miss that, we do miss something that is very important.

Mr. Spurgeon said that whenever he opened up a text, he always went straight across country to Jesus Christ.  That was the way he preached.  It’s proper of course to give the grammatical historical meaning of a text.  No one wants to skip that.  I surely don’t want to skip that.  But also, I want to be sure that what I am going to say about a text is ultimately going to have to do with him who makes all texts meaningful for us, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Puns in the Bible: The Book of Micah

May 26, 2011 2 comments

Micah’s Warnings to the Towns of Judah

As I continue going through the minor prophets with S. Lewis Johnson, now in the book of Micah, I observe the similarities between several of these minor prophets — and thus similar applications. The books of Hosea, Amos and Micah were written during the same general time period (the 8th century BC), and contain similar warnings against Israel’s apostasy, including hypocrisy and formalism, even a “promise box” religion, a notional faith not evidenced in how we live.   These sermon series were delivered at various times throughout the 1970s and 1980s, not intended to be listened to in sequence, yet the “application” to our daily church life is similar:  how our natural tendency in churches is to just follow the routine, go through the motions, and easily turn cold towards spiritual things.

Hosea and Amos wrote to the northern kingdom of Israel, whereas Micah wrote to both Israel and Judah, yet the problems are the same.  Yet each prophet has his own style and particular teachings, such as Hosea’s marriage illustration, or Amos’ shepherd experience.  Micah in particular included some interesting puns, word-plays in the original Hebrew, in the first chapter references to locations within Judah — names and meanings that his audience no doubt recognized.  Consider Micah 1:10-15, which names several places in Judah:  Beth-le-aphrah, Shaphir, Zaanan, Beth-ezel, Maroth, Lachish, Moresheth-gath, Achzib, and Mareshah — just names that we skim over, but with interesting meanings as used in the verses.

  • The name “Beth-le-aphrah” means “town of dust” — so Micah here says “in Beth-le-aphrah roll yourselves in the dust.”
  • In “Pass on your way, inhabitants of Shaphir” the name Shaphri is very close to the Hebrew word for fair or beautiful, a “fair town.”
  • In verse 11, the inhabitants of Za-anan (“going out”) will not be able to go out.
    Beth-ezel (“Standton”) will have its standing place taken away.
  • In Maroth (bitter land) they wait anxiously for better things, but it will not come.
  • Jerusalem, the city of fortune or city of peace: misfortune and disaster is coming.  No peace is coming to the city of peace.
  • Lachish — “Chariotsburg” — is addressed in reference to the chariots that were stored there.
  • Moresheth Gath:  “betrothed” — the city is promised to another:  “Therefore you shall give parting gifts to Moresheth Gath.”
  • Achzib — “Deceitville” shall be a deceitful thing
  • Mareshah — (possessor or heir) — will have a new, foreign hei

This section begins and ends with references to David’s life:  “Tell it not in Gath” in verse 10, a clear reference to 2 Samuel 1, David’s lament at the news of the defeat at Mt. Gilboa, the battle that killed King Saul and his son Jonathan.  Then the closing, verse 15, references Adullam (“the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam”): the cave where David dwelled as an outlaw, a place of rough living among malcontents.  Yet such is what shall come upon Israel.