Rahab’s Persevering Faith


Rahabs Persevering Faith

Well I guess I’m officially old. Sure I turned forty last September, but that did not phase me; it was just another day. No, I am now old because of something far more damaging to my youthful-ego… the classic rock station is now playing songs from my youth. The soundtrack of my teens and early twenty’s is now old. Don’t get me wrong; I am flattered that my music made on the same station as my dad’s music, because he called it garbage. Ironic, is it not? Nonetheless, I was not ready for this to happen. 

Unfortunately, the trauma brought on by this realization has caused me to forget the song that pushed me over the proverbial hill. However, there is another classic song from my teens that I often hear on the classic station, R.E.M.’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).

I really to like that song (even if it does make me classic). It is one of the tracks where the tempo demands you roll the windows down, turn the radio up and sing along with gusto. The gist of the song, at least the repeated chorus, is that the world as we know it is coming to an end, but that’s alright because “I feel fine.” The song will occasionally be featured in a post-apocalyptic movie (one of my favorite genres), usually somewhere in the opening scene. Its use foreshadows the impending disaster, but do not worry – humanity will prevail and survive.

Bringing this around to our lesson: if I were to put a sound track to the story of Rahab, I think I would choose this song for this particular scene in her life. It was the end of the world as she knew but she would be fine. Let’s explore why. Thus far in our study of Rahab’s faith, we have considered Rahab’s Working Faith and her Outreaching Faith. In this, our third installment, let’s turn our attention to her Persevering Faith 

The Pledge:

You will recall from our previous posts that under the leadership of Joshua, the children of Israel had ended their forty-year wondering and were poised to take the Promised Land. Just before their first invasion, Joshua sent two spies into the land (Joshua 2:1).

However, their clandestine operation was foiled, and with their covers blown the two spies took shelter in the home of “a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1). With some quick thinking, Rahab concealed the two men and sent their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Once the coast was clear, she brought the two spies out from their hiding place and asked for her and her family’s safety during the coming invasion (2:12-13). The two spies pledged that she and her family would be saved if she followed these conditions: not telling anyone their mission, identifying her house with a scarlet cord, and no one could leave the home (2:14-21).

With the promise of safety secured Rahab let the two spies “down by a rope through the window, for her house was built upon the city wall, so that she lived on the wall” (2:15). The city wall probably formed the back wall of her house with a window opening up the outside. As we will see, this detail will play an important role in the testing of her faith. 

The Wait:

As soon as Rahab had helped the spies escape “she tied the scarlet cord in the window”(2:21). Then she waited. A close reading of Joshua 3:1-6:14 reveals that nearly a month passed from the time the spies left, to the day Jericho fell. (I’m allotting 2-3 weeks to heal from the circumcision.)

Do not discount the agony of her waiting. I have no doubt that while Rahab waited, fears and anxieties arose in her heart. Put yourself in her sandals! Imagine being locked up in your house fearful to leave least you die. The kids were crying, your dad is doubting, your sister is silently withdrawn and as usual your brother is no help. The tension is thick in the air. Then confusion and bewilderment really set in when the army of Israel comes against the city and does nothing but march around the city once a day for six days (6:1-13). Certainly, the stress of waiting tested her faith. 

The End:

The climatic fall of Jericho is recorded in Joshua 6:15-27. After marching around the city once a day for six days, the text says, 

“On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priest had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout, for the Lord has given you the city’… As soon as the people heard the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.” (Joshua 6:15-16, 20)

With her house situated on along the city’s wall, Rahab’s home must have violently shook as Jericho’s wall came tumbling down (cf. 2:15). As I envision what it must have been like within the walls of her home, I feel fear all around and I hear ear piercing screams. The instinct to run into the streets must have been incredibly hard to squelch (cf. 2:19).

Then to compound matters, the roar of deadly battle exploded outside her door and the army of God stormed the city. So great was the annihilation we are told, “They devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (6:21). Finally, after the battle had died down and before the city was burned, the two spies went into the defeated city, “and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her” (6:23).

As we have already noted, Rahab was a woman of great faith. What we must understand is that her faith was made great through testing (cf. Romans 5:2-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9). The risk she took in hiding the spies and accepting their word was a test of faith. Each day she anxiously waited for her salvation was a test of faith. Staying in her home as the wall fell and the battle ensued was a test of faith. Through each one of these tests, she did not give in or turn back; she persevered.  

To say Rahab had a Persevering Faith does not imply that she was never afraid or anxious about the future. She was human, to feel and experience those emotions is only natural. Rather, what it meant was that she did not succumb to those fears or worries. With each test, her faith grew stronger and served as an unshakable anchor for her life and for those around her. Only through testing could her faith, her great faith, produce the endurance necessary to hold onto the promises of salvation. In essence she lived out truth of James 1:2-4; 

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

As Christians today, we need, more than ever, to model Rahab’s Persevering Faith. When our faith is tested and negative emotions flood our hearts we must hold onto to the One in whom we have believed, and with His help rise above the chaos of this world (cf. 2 Timothy 1:12). Our faith should serve as “a sure steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Sadly, for far too many Christians their faith does not impact their day-to-day lives and thus they end up being “tossed to and fro by the waves” (Ephesians 4:14) of fear and doubt. Therefore, they give in and give up.

Much like Rahab, we too have been given a pledge of salvation, and, like her, our faith is continually tested as we wait for the end to come. The question is will we give up or persevere to the end?

The Pledge:

The Lord Jesus has pledged to return and take us home to be with Him forever.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

The promise of the Lord’s return should bring comfort (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) and provide a catalyst to endure amid the troubles and trails of life.

 The Wait:

However, it has been nearly 2,000 years since Christ Jesus pledged to return. Because it has been so long it would be so easy now, as some did in New Testament times, to question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). As each day passes it can become harder to wait and resist the temptations of this wicked world. Thus we are admonished to have a Persevering Faith that will,  

 “Be patient… until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”(James 5:7-8)

 The End:

As the last days approach, “times of difficulty” for believers will increase (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-9).  Then suddenly,

 “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works are done on it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

He then continued by asking,

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:11-12a)

The pledge has been made; the Lord Jesus will return. The wait continues, but the end is near. What sort or people then should we be? People who demonstrate a Persevering Faith. Believers who do not give in or give up, but rather live lives of holiness and godliness as we wait for our blessed hope – the appearing of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. For the Spirit has promised,

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trail, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12) 

The end of the world as we know it is coming. Will you be fine? If you have a Persevering Faith like Rahab you will. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news. 

Rahab’s Outreaching Faith


Rahabs Outreaching Faith

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, one of the leading candidates was asked about their religious beliefs. In part, the candidate replied they were a Christian, however, their faith was deeply personal and something they did not talk about. Needless to say, this particular candidate was ridiculed by many for offering an insincere and hollow response.

Personally, I believe the candidate in question was trying to pander to religious voters and non-religious voters alike; so the criticism was warranted. Frankly, the very idea that we would not share our faith in Christ runs counter to New Testament teaching. The good news of Christ demands that we share it with others. That is the purpose of this blog and hopefully at the heart of every believer’s life. But sadly, there are too many so-called Christians who typify the attitude expressed by a certain presidential candidate; they simply want reach out to others and share their faith.

In our last post, we began a four part series exploring different facets of the faith of the Old Testament character Rahab. You will recall that she was a Gentile prostitute living in the city of Jericho who, at great personal risk, saved two Israelite spies from her countrymen. Consequently, she was rewarded and memorialized for her working faith (cf. James 2:14-26). In this, our second installment, I want to direct our focus to Rahab’s Outreaching Faith. The way she reached out to others and shared her faith is a model for us today as we seek to do the same.

You can continue Rahab’s story with part 1 – Rahab’s Working Faith, and part 3 Rahab’s Persevering Faith

The daring story of ancient espionage involving Rahab and the two spies is recorded in Joshua 2:1-24. With their covers blown, the two spies took shelter in the home of “a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1). With some quick thinking, she concealed the two men and sent their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Once the coast was clear, she brought the secret agents out from their hiding place and asked,

“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (2:12-13)

Just before the spies departed, they confirmed their agreement with Rahab. Under the two-fold condition that she identify her house with a scarlet cord and no one leave the home. Then all who were gathered under her roof would be spared (2:14-21). A little over a week later, on the day of the miraculous taking of the Jericho (we’ll have more to say about this in our next post), Joshua reminded the people,

“And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent” (Joshua 6:17).

As the city and its inhabitants laid in ruins, Joshua honored the promise of safety to the household of Rahab by ordering the two spies to, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her” (6:22). The record states,

“So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything kin it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive.” (6:23-25a)

I do not know about you, but I think God is wanting us to see something here by repeating the fact that she saved her family. Four times we are reminded that because of Rahab her family was saved from certain death. She was not merely concerned with herself. Her concern included her family and household. Rahab did not keep her faith in God a secret, she shared it with others and consequently they escaped God’s judgment. This is God’s design for spreading the gospel; one person sharing with another person the good news of salvation. It is what every Christian should be doing.

I’m sure that you would agree that as Christian we should be sharing our faith with others, but frankly how many of us are doing it on a regular basis? I venture to say very few. So, why do we not purse this most fundamental Christian act? Well, I guess some folks still think STRANGER DANGER! Others think they do not know enough Bible. While with some there is the perception that evangelism is the preacher’s job. These reasons (and we could cite many others) help explain our inactivity. Nevertheless, it should not be this way. In the model of Rahab, we should possess an outreaching faith, one that we will not hold inside but must share with others. To help equip us for this task, I would like to use the commission of Mark 5:19 as a model for us to follow.

In the first half of Mark 5, we read of Jesus’ healing the demoniac of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20). It indeed is a marvelous account of one of the Lord’s great miracles. Following the miracle, Mark notes that “the man who had been possessed with demons begged [Jesus] that he might be with Him” (5:18). However, Jesus had other plans for him, so He sent the man away commissioning him to: 

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).

Let’s break this verse down into three parts: 1) Where to Go; 2) Who to See; 3) What to Say.

Where to Go:

Too often missionaries are portrayed as people who leave home and go off to live and work in some far away land. No doubt, the church needs men and women who will do this kind of work, but more importantly Christians need to have a missionary mindset here at “home.”

Our mission field is where we live, work and play. We need not go across the seas to share the gospel, rather we need to go across the yard, the street, across town, the room, the table, or wherever we might find ourselves in this life. An outreaching faith goes home and shares the gospel with others.

Who to See:

I admire people who can easily transition a polite “hello” into a conversation about God and salvation. I do not have that gift and because it is a rare talent, I suspect you do not either. For the most part, most of us are uncomfortable talking to strangers about the gospel. Thankfully, the commission of Mark 5:19 does not require that of us, instead, Jesus sent the Gadarene home to those he knew best; his “friends.”

It is only natural that we share our faith with those who are closest to us. When Andrew found Jesus, his brother Peter was the first person he went to (John 1:35-42). When Matthew answered the Lord’s call, he invited his tax collecting friends to sit at table with Jesus (Luke 5:27-32). When the Samaritan woman concluded Jesus was the Christ, she brought her whole village out to meet Him (John 4:1-45). Then there is Cornelius (Acts 10:24), Lydia (Acts 16:15) and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:33) who made sure their family and friends heard the good news of Jesus. Tapping into our network of family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors is God’s number one plan for evangelism. If will open our eyes we will see that, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

What to Say:

It is a common practice in advertising to rely heavily on testimonials. Companies can give you all the technical information for why you should buy their product. But rarely does that hold any weight compared to a trusted friend saying this product is worth having because it improved their life. What is true in advertising is also true with the gospel.

Sharing our faith need not be a theological exegesis of the scriptures. Remember, the Gadarene was told to go, “tell how much the Lord has done for [him], and how He has had mercy on [him]” (Mark 5:19). His sharing of Jesus’ mercy and love would not be in technical jargon, but instead in personal tones. He could say, “Here is the man I used to be, here is who I am now, and here is how Jesus changed me.” That would have been a powerful message.

We all have a story of how our faith has transformed our lives; we need to simply tell it to others. “Here is the man/woman I used to be, here is who I am now, here is how Jesus changed me and here is how Jesus will do the same for you.” Couched in a personal story, your faith will be easier to share and your transformed life becomes a living testimony of the gospel’s power. One note: If you do not think you have a story, then you really need to do a serious gut check about your relationship with Jesus.

Rahab’s outreaching faith resulted in the salvation of her family. Her faith was deeply personal yet, rather than keeping it in, her faith propelled her to reach out to others so they could experience salvation as well. The question then is how concerned are you about the salvation of your friends and family? Do you have an outreaching faith like Rahab? If not, then I would encourage you today to pray to God asking Him to light a fire in your heart to share your faith with others. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.

One last thought: There’s an old hymn I remember singing as a youth. Its words paint a haunting picture that I hope will encourage you to exercise an outreach faith. The song is entitled, “You Never Mentioned Him to Me” written by James Rowe (1949):

When in the better land, before the bar we stand
How deeply grieved our souls will be
If any lost one there, should cry in deep despair
You never mentioned him to me

O let us spread the word, where-ever it may be heard
Help groping souls the light to see
That yonder none may say, you showed me not the way
You never mentioned him to me

A few sweet words may guide, a lost one to his side
Or turn sad eyes on Calvary
So work as days go by, that yonder none may cry
You never mentioned him to me

Chorus
You never mentioned him to me
Nor help me the light to see
You met me day by day and knew I was a-stray
You never mentioned him to me

 

Rahab’s Working Faith


Rahabs Working Faith

When my wife and I found out we were going to have our fourth child, people immediately asked us three questions: First it was, “Don’t you know what causes that by now?” Yes we’re well aware of what causes this. Then they asked, “Well, do you know what you’re going to have?” Yes, a girl. Immediately followed by, “Have you picked out a name yet?” Yes we have, but sorry I cannot tell you what it is. Finally, “When is the baby due?” End of May.


You can continue Rahab’s story with part 2  – Rahab’s Outreaching Faith and part 3 – Rahab’s Persevering Faith


I have to admit that it makes me happy to see others excited about our new addition. I do not mind all the questions one bit. In fact, I especially love the question about her name.  Like most parents, we take our children’s names seriously because names matter. Whether we will admit it or not, we subconsciously stereotype and form expectations of our peers and co-workers simply based on their first name. What do you think when you hear the name Mercedes or Bubba? Like it or not those names carry certain connotations.

While we are keeping our baby’s full name top secret, I can assure you that we will not bestow on our daughter the name of Rahab. We are not alone in this, according the U.S. Social Security Administration, Rahab has never made it into the top 1,000 girl names since 1900 (the first year for which data is available). I suspect it is based on the descriptive noun that is attached to her name throughout scripture, “harlot.” Time and again, the Bible reader is reminded of the fact that Rahab was a prostitute. (We’ll address this in the last post.)

Nevertheless, she was a woman of impressive faith. So much so, her story, that of a Gentile woman nonetheless, is recorded in the annals of Hebrew history (cf. Joshua 2:1-21; 6:17, 23, 25). Furthermore, the New Testament writers point to her faithfulness in an effort to fortify the fragile faith of Jewish believers (cf. Hebrews 11:31). Finally, James used her, alongside Abraham of all people, as a classic example of an active, working faith (cf. James 2:24-25). The only time we are not reminded of her past sin is when she makes a surprise appearance in the linage of Jesus (cf. Matthew 1:5).

Over the next few post, I plan to explore how this godly woman’s faith shaped her actions and life. It is my prayer that we will be challenged to a deeper and more faithful service for our Lord through this study.

As the book of Joshua opens, we find that after 40 years of wilderness wondering the children of Israel are poised to enter the Promised Land. Though it was a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8; et. al.) numerous battles were to be fought against the Canaanite inhabitants before the land could be conquered. The first such encounter would be a key city in the Jordan Valley, Jericho. It is here, along the massive walls of this fortified city, that the story of Rahab’s legendary faith is recorded for all posterity.

In preparation for the battle, Joshua dispatched two spies to, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho” (Joshua 2:1a). The spy’s intent to remain undercover was somehow foiled, and they took refuge in “the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1b-2). At some personal risk, she hid the Jewish spies from her own people, sending their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Then, when the coast was clear, “she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall” (2:15-16). It was her protecting the spies that the New Testament writers point to as an example of a working faith.

So what set Rahab apart from the other inhabitants of Jericho? She reported to the spies how all in Jericho had heard of the Lord God’s drying up of the Red Sea and His destroying the two kings of the Ammonites (Joshua 2:10; cf. Exodus 14:21-31; Numbers 21:21-35). Moreover she added, “And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and the earth beneath” (2:11). Everyone in this great city believed (or had faith if you will) in God and His mighty works, yet, their faith lead only to fearful trembling. (Their faith was useless, akin to the faith of demons cf. James 2:19). However, Rahab was different. Her faith lead to action and in turn, those actions led to the saving of her life and the life of her family.

Spend any time in church and hopefully, sooner rather than later, Ephesians 2:8-9 will be emphasized in a lesson:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

As Christians, this passage is a cornerstone belief of our faith. Our works cannot save us, rather, it is by God’s grace through faith we are saved. However, while we are not saved by works we are saved to work. Paul makes this abundantly clear in the next verse, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). Thus, good works are the subsequent and resultant fruit and evidence of faith.

This is the point that James drives home in 2:14-16 of his epistle. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (2:17). Faith that is not accompanied by works is stone-cold dead and frankly is no faith at all. A mere profession of faith is unworkable without that faith being put into practice. The godly works of a believer proves the existence of their faith. He sums up his argument in verses 24-26 noting:

“You see a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

Rahab demonstrated the reality of her faith when she protected the messengers of God. Thus, she became a model of faith completed by works. A model we as Christians today should follow.

But we need to recognize that a working faith like Rahab’s is more than sitting in the pew each Sunday and fulfilling our weekly spiritual duty. Do not get me wrong, that is important, but having a working faith like Rahab’s is so much more. Staying in James’ epistle we find a definition of a working faith called religion in this passage:

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle the tongue but deceives heart this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:26-27)

All Christians should be challenged by these two verses because it demands that our faith extends beyond our assemblies and worship services to the point it permeates our day-to-day lives.

James catalogs three characteristics of the truly religious person who has a working faith. First, they keep a tight rein on their speech (cf. James 3:2-6; 1 Peter 3:8-17). Second, they demonstrate sacrificial love by helping the helpless (cf. Matthew 25:34-36; 1 John 3:17-19). Finally, they keep themselves unstained by the world’s sinfulness (cf. James 4:4-10; Romans 12:2). This is the essence of the working faith.

God could have made the spies invisible or smote the people with blindness or used angels, but He chose to use a Gentile woman with courage to act on her faith. While our culture may not memorialize Rahab by naming our daughters after her, we as Christians should model our faith after hers. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.

The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Humanity (John 1:1-18)


Gospel-of-John

Scripture: John 1:1-18

  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all might believe through Him. He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light.

  The true Light which gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

  The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about him. He cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me, for He was before me.’” From His fullness we all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:1-18)


Lessons for Downloading/Printing:

Next: The Genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1.1-17)

Previous: The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Humanity (John 1.1-18)


Give this reading a title:

The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Humanity,or

John’s Sublime Portrait of Jesus

Who are the main people?

Jesus – Though not mentioned by name until the next to last verse, Jesus is the main subject of the apostle John’s epic prologue to his gospel. In these opening eighteen verses, John draws us into the story of Jesus through amazingly sublime expressions of the Savior’s greatness describing Him in terms of: the Word, the life, the true light, and the only Son of the Father. Obviously, in a series on The Life and Teachings of Jesus we will, along the way, have much to say about each of these, especially Jesus as life, light and son of God, so let’s focus our attention on Jesus as “the Word.”

Many biblical scholars note that perhaps John was incorporating the Greek philosophical background of the “word,” or in the Greek “logos,” into his prologue. Any in-depth commentary on the Gospel of John will include comments on this subject. However, for the purposes of this lesson, I’ll leave that area to the experts and explore an avenue we can more readily see and that is John’s description of Jesus as, “the Word” harkens back to God’s word in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, God’s “Word” is His powerful self-expression in creation (Genesis 1:3ff; Psalm 33:6), wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-36), revelation (Jeremiah 1:4; etc.) and salvation (Psalm 107:20; Isaiah 55:10, 11). Many others passages could be cited but these will suffice to prove the point. So, according to John, God the Father’s ultimate self-disclosure, the bodily fulfillment of His “Word” from times past, then is in the person of His Son, Jesus the Christ who has come to reveal the Father to us through His incarnate person (cf. v. 18; John 14:8, 9; Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6; Hebrews 1:3). In our Lord’s own words, Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

God – Understood as God the Father since Jesus is His “only son” (v. 14). He is the “only God” (v. 18) who desired to reveal Himself to humanity through Jesus, so that we might “believe in His name” and receive “the right to become children of God” (v. 12). Together, God the Father, along with His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one and form the triune God (cf. v. 1; Genesis 1:26; Matthew 28:19). We will return to the subject of Jesus as divine in a later lesson. If you would like more on this subject of the Godhead/Trinity my good friend Ethan Longhenry has a couple of lessons that would be most helpful: The Godhead and God’s Divinity in the Creation.

John – While John the Baptist is mentioned in vv. 6-8, let’s wait until a later lesson to expound upon him and his work as “witness,” or forerunner, of Jesus, the Word.

What is happening?

In the opening lines of his gospel, John sets forth to introduce the great truths and themes which we will continually visit throughout our study, such as: Jesus’ eternal nature (vv. 1-3), Jesus incarnate (vv. 4-5), the work of John the Baptist as the forerunner of Jesus (vv. 6-8), Jesus’ rejection by His own people (vv. 9-11), the saving work of Jesus (vv. 12-13) and the glorious Jesus (vv. 14-18). Over the many lessons of our study we will explore the richness of each of these topics.

When/Where do these events take place?

Each of the four gospels starts with some kind of beginning statement (cf. Matthew 1:1; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:1, 2), yet John goes back farther than the rest to the very beginning, or you might even say before creation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (vv. 1, 2). John then traces the story of Jesus from before the beginning down through the ages to His incarnation.

While we are here under this heading let’s take a moment to say a word about when/where John wrote his gospel. Many bible scholars date the writing of John’s gospel to sometime between 80-90 A.D., though others would put it at least a decade earlier and more in the time-frame of the composition of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Furthermore, early church history states John wrote this work at the city of Ephesus, where tradition holds he lived out the later years of his life.

Why do these events occur?

From John’s own words we learn why he wrote his inspired gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30, 31). “Believing that Jesus is the Christ” was the purpose 2,000 years ago and it is still the purpose today.

What is one truth you learned from today’s reading?

What Jesus taught and what He did are tied inseparable to who He is. Although Jesus took upon Himself full humanity and lived as a man, He never ceased to be the eternal God; creator and sustainer of all things and who has always existed. This is the foundation of all truth about Jesus.

How does this truth apply to your life?

When Jesus, the God-man, “became flesh and dwelt among us,” He became the perfect teacher – showing us how God thinks and therefore how we should think (Philippians 2:5-11); the perfect example – He shows us how to live godly lives and empowers us to live that way (1 Peter 2:21); and the perfect sacrifice – Jesus came as a sacrifice to satisfy the Father’s wrath against humanities’ sins (Colossians 1:15-23). Therefore, the entire focus of our lives must be, Jesus the Christ, the Word of God.

Write a short prayer, asking God to help you respond to His truth.

Blessed Father, thank you for sending our Savior Jesus. As we closely examine the life and teachings of Your son, strengthen our faith to see Him as Your perfect Word. And as Your children Father, fill our hearts with our Lord’s light, grace, truth and life. So that in eternity we might bask in Your glory. Amen.

So, what did you get out of this week’s study? You can share your notes using the comments section. Thank you for reading and keep sharing the good news of the Lord.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus


rich man and lazarus

In these tough economic times panhandling is a common scene. Visit any sizable city and it seems there is someone on every corner asking for money. No doubt, a few desperately need help; nevertheless the majority of panhandlers are taking advantage of the generosity of others. It is enough to make you numb to the problem of poverty and thus help no one. Worse yet, we could begin to think of ourselves as superior people because we are not like the poor person holding the sign. Our Lord told a parable of a rich man who whose heart was numb to the plight of a panhandler. In this passage Jesus challenged the conventional thinking of His day regarding riches and poverty and in the process taught His disciples the importance of using money to aid the poor.

Our parable[i] is set within the context of our Lords’ teaching on the use of riches and the Pharisees’ ridiculing of His instructions. Following the Lost Parables (Luke 15:1-32), Luke recorded the parable of the Unjust Steward and its accompanying principles governing the way disciples viewed and used material possessions (16:1-13). In summary, Jesus taught that we love and serve God, and use money in this life to make friends in eternity. However, “the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things and they ridiculed Him” (16:14). The underlying problem of the Pharisaical system was that they were seeking approval from “men” rather than God (16:15). Their standard of righteousness was based on outward appearances others could evaluate; thus, in their hearts they loved money more than God (16:15a; cf. Luke 20:47). Therefore, in vv. 16-18, our Lord accused those who prided themselves as keepers of the law with being its corrupters. They had created loopholes in the Law which enabled them to fulfill their sinful desires, cases in point: marriage, divorce, and what constituted adultery (16:18). The Pharisees had corrupted God’s law to the point that their righteous-cloaked greed was exalted among men; nevertheless it was “an abomination in the sight of God” (See Jesus’ rebuke of the practice called Corban; Mark 7:10-13). Our Lord’s swift two-point rebuke set the stage for the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

The Lord begins with a vivid picture of “a certain rich man” (16:19) who lived in lavish opulence. He wore luxurious “purple” robes; even his undergarments were made of “fine linen” and his life consisted of “feast[ing] sumptuously every day” on the finest of foods. In the mind of the Pharisees this man’s riches proved he was righteousness (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 37:25; Proverbs 13:22). So entrenched was this belief, that when Jesus taught on the difficulty “a rich person” would have entering the kingdom of God, the astonished disciples asked, “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:25-27).

Outside the rich man’s gate was “a poor man named Lazarus” whose body was “covered with sores” (16:20) and who lived daily on the brink of starvation. From where he laid, he could have smelled the delicious foods and heard the revelry from the daily feast. His only desire was “to be fed with” the crumbs that “fell from the rich man’s table,” and yet the rich man and his guests repeatedly ignored him (16:21a). “But instead the dogs would come and lick his sores” (16:21b HCSB), providing Lazarus his only earthly relief[ii]. In the eyes of the Pharisees, and popular culture, Lazarus was getting what he deserved because sickness and poverty were viewed as divine judgments for sinfulness (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15-68; John 9:2, 34). In light of his plight, Lazarus’ name seemed a mockery; “He whom God helps” appeared to be he whom God has abandoned.

In the process of time, both the rich man and Lazarus died. In a Pharisaical frame of mind, the eternal destinies of these two men were fixed. The rich man would carry on his festive lifestyle in the presence of Abraham, while Lazarus’ torturous sufferings would continue in Hades. However, Jesus completely reversed the conventional expectations, thus dramatically illustrating His words, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (16:15).

“The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side” (16:22a). Death brought an end to Lazarus’ suffering. Too poor for a funeral, his hollow body of skin and bones would have been dumped in a potter’s field, quickly forgotten by all who knew him. Yet, unseen to human eyes, “He whom God helps” was quickly escorted by the angels to Abraham’s side. The phrase, “Abraham’s side” (ESV) or “bosom” (KJV) denotes closeness and honor in a meal setting (ref. John 13:25; 21:20; cf. Matthew 8:10-12; Luke 13:28-30). In life, Lazarus was a sick, starving beggar who lived outside the rich man’s gate; in eternity he was on the inside as an honored guest at the table of Abraham. The words of the Psalmist sum up his life: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6).

“The rich man also died and was buried” (16:22b). His life of ease, comfort and pleasure suddenly ended. His riches would have afforded him a grand funeral, yet from a divine perspective it was not worth mentioning. On the other side of the grave, the rich man found himself in the hellish torment of Hades. From there “he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side” (16:23). In life he had not used his wealth to aid the poor, thus he had no friends to receive him in the eternal dwelling (16:9). He had callously hidden his eyes to the plight of poor Lazarus; consequently, he would suffer eternal curses (ref. Proverbs 28:27).

From the flames of torment the rich man “called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me” (16:24a). The unsympathetic rich man was now the beggar pleading for mercy and, in a way, seeking to become “He whom God helps.” He appealed to Abraham based on their kinship (16:24, 27, 30), however, his relationship to the patriarch had not guaranteed his salvation, nor would it ensure him minimal comforts (cf. John 8:31ff). He entreated Abraham to send “Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue” pleading, “for I am in anguish in this flame” (16:24). Despite their relationship and the rich man’s suffering, he received no comfort. “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all of this,” Abraham added, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (16:25-26). Just as Lazarus was refused help from the rich man’s table, the rich man was refused help from Abraham’s table.

Rebuffed, the rich man pleaded, “Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (16:27-28). Since his eternal state was fixed, perhaps he thought he could change the course of his brothers’ lives. In a figurative sense, the rich man’s brothers were the Pharisees who were listening to this parable. Presumably, the five brothers lived lives of luxury just as he had and yet he realized that one can gain the whole world but lose his own soul (ref. Luke 9:25). Again, Abraham was not persuaded to grant his request, “They have Moses and the Prophets,” he said, “let them hear them” (16:29). To “hear” means to listen and obey. The rich man’s brothers, and the Pharisees they represented, had ample information to reform their lives. Countless passages in the Old Testament called for Jews to compassionately use their wealth to alleviate the plight of the poor. Deuteronomy 15:11 summarizes those instructions, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” Also, the prophet Amos bluntly described the judgment of God against the rich of Israel who, at the expense of the impoverished, lived indulgent lives (ref. Amos 4:1-3; et. al). Furthermore, even the Proverbs spoke of the blessedness of aiding the poverty-stricken (ref. 19:17; 22:9; 28:27; 29:7). Though the Pharisees had ignored God’s word regarding the use of their riches to help the poor, these instructions still stood and they would ultimately be judged by them (16:15-18).

Amazingly, the rich man sought to correct Abraham’s assessment of his brothers’ situation. He knew too well that they would require something more than scripture. “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (16:30). Ironically, no one listened to Lazarus’ pleas for help in life, but the rich man was sure they would heed him in death. Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (16:31). Abraham pointed out the brothers’ refusal to repent was the result of hard hearts toward God and His word, which no supernatural event would cure. With these words, our Lord ended His parable.

I often picture Jesus walking away at this point, leaving the Pharisees alone to fume over what He had said, shocked by the dramatic and unexpected turn of events. Not only had this seemingly righteous man been sentenced to a life of eternal torment, but his own patriarch refused his request for mercy. In dramatic fashion, our Lord drove home the consequences of seeking the approval of men and ignoring divine teachings, especially on the proper use of wealth in aiding the poor.

The great lesson taught in this parable is timeless and foundational to the faith: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This love is expressed by obeying the Lord’s commands to help the poor, cheerfully supplying the needs of one’s deprived neighbors (cf. James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:17-19). Scripture nowhere teaches that being well off is sinful. Rather, our Lord, through this and other passages, sounded a note of warning concerning the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22). Paul’s exhortation in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 is an excellent summary of our Lord’s teachings and a fitting conclusion to our study: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God…They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” 

A shorten form of this article appears in the August issue of Biblical Insights.


[i] Some debate surrounds the question of whether or not this is a parable or a factual story. Generally, those who believe this passage relates the events of a true-life story base their argument on two facts. First, they say, since this story is not introduced as a parable is should be views as a factual story. However, three other stories in Luke’s gospel are not introduced as parables but are recognized as such: The Good Samaritan (10:30-37); The Great Banquet (14:12-24); and The Unjust Steward (16:1-8) and several others. Therefore, just because a parable lacks a formal introduction that alone does not disqualify it as being a parable. The second reason put forth for why this is not a parable is that the poor man has a name, Lazarus. This fact is seen as significant since no other character in our Lord’s parables is provided a proper name. However, this argument fails to take into account the meaning Lazarus’ name and how it fits into the context of the parable itself, something that we will do in our study. But, someone might ask, “Why does it matter whether this is a parable or a factual story?” They would be right; ultimately it does not matter so long as the central message of this story is kept in context. Nevertheless, it has been my experience that those who are adamant about calling this a factual story do so in order to discuss, as they call it, the intermediate state of the dead and tragically ignore the powerful message our Lord taught about riches and helping the poor. Throughout this study I will refer to this story as a parable.

[ii] Commenting on v. 21, Robert’s Word Pictures states: “Moreover, even the dogs” (alla kai hoi kunes). For alla kai see also Luke 12:7; 24:22. Alla can mean either “moreover,” though it often means “but.” Here it depends on how one construes Luke’s meaning. Additionally, in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (Downers Grove, IVP), pp. 385-386, Kenneth Bailey provides three reasons why the licking of the dogs should be viewed as a compassionate , especially in contrast to the Rich Man’s uncompassionate actions. First, he states alla should be translated as “but instead” thus forming a contrast with the rich man. He continues to state that in the Greek this contrast is clearly seen and important to the story. Second, he cites a Harvard study to show that dog saliva contains helpful antibodies that facilitate healing. Third, somehow the ancients knew this and a major healing temple was present in the ancient city of Ashkelon. There archaeologist have unearthed over 1,300 dog skeletons used in the temple. This would also explain the prohibition of Deuteronomy 23:18 which forbade the worshiper from bringing “the wages of a dog” into the temple treasury. In the ancient world dogs were not kept as pets but where used for idolatrous healings. Therefore, since, as RWP points out, the language of the verse does not force one to accept the dog’s licking of Lazarus sores increased his pain and suffering, I’m inclined to accept Bailey’s explanation.

Wise Saying #30


keep-calm-and-fear-god-

Wise Saying #30:

“My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster from them will rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?” (24:21-22)

In a time ever increasing political deadlock, increasing governmental encroachment and arrogant politicians here is valuable wisdom from heaven. The noblest of people will consider it and adjust their lives accordingly. As we close out our look at the Thirty Sayings of the Wiseman we end with the often repeated admonishment, “fear God” (cf. Deuteronomy 6:2; Proverbs 1:7; 23:17; Ecclesiastes 12:13). However, in today’s saying, the Wiseman joins our reverence for the Lord with honor for “the king.” The first admonition seems so easy for believers, the second not so much. Nevertheless, as the apostles Paul and Peter so clearly explain, in Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, governing authorities are God’s earthly representatives, instituted to punish evil. Therefore, the “fear of the Lord” demands fear, or reverence, of the king and the government he represents. Thus, wisdom states that we do not “join with those” who promote disdain toward, not only God, but also our leaders and government since this sort of person will suffer “disaster” and “ruin” since they resist not only man, but ultimately God (cf. Romans 13:2). So today friends, by faith, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).

This is the last post in the Thirty Sayings of the Wiseman series.

It’s my prayer that this series of short devotionals encouraged you to press on in the faith. Soon, I’m planning on having them together in one document but only after a thorough editing. Also, if you are interested these same post over on my Spanish blog compartiendolasbuenasnuevas.wordpress.com where my good friend Don Elliot does the translating. May all we do be to His glory and honor. ~Clay

Wise Saying #29


angry woman2

Wise Saying #29:

“Do not be angered by evildoers, and do not be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” [i] (24:19-20)

Does it ever make you fuming mad that the lives of sinners seem so easy-going and fun as compared to your morally austere existence? Have you ever wished your life could be as carefree as theirs? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then welcome to the Christian race. The Wiseman warns us against the common, and especially alluring, temptation of envying sinners. So powerful is this enticement, he warns against it three other times (cf. 3:31; 23:17-18; 24:1; see also Sayings #14 and #19). Twice David and Aspah muse about the topic (Psalms 37, 73). And bringing it closer to home, in the old standard Farther Along, we lyrically wonder ourselves why the faithful have it so hard while the wicked live in such prosperous ease[ii]. Burning with envy over the evildoer’s success is foolishness, since God has ordained that their prosperity and ease is but temporary. Sinners have no future seeing as, “They will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (Psalm 37:1).  So today, allow God to deal with the wicked and let’s, “Delight [ourselves] in the Lord and He will give [us] the desires of [our] hearts” (37:4).

This week’s theme: The Thirty Sayings of the Wiseman

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[i] Nearly all English translations begin verse 19 with the word “fret.” So, for example, the ESV says, “Fret not…” When I think about the word “fret” I think anxiety or worry. However, according to Brown-Driver-Briggs the Hebrew here means to “to be hot, furious, burn, become angry, be kindled.” Therefore, the Wiseman is not saying don’t worry about the wicked but don’t become angry over the wicked and their prosperous, and/or carefree lifestyle. (The life of the wicked must seem good or fun in order to be an object of envy.) The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this verse, “Don’t be agitated…” I have taken the liberty to translate my own version of this verse in an attempt to capture what I believe the Wiseman intended to say.

[ii] The first verse says, “Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder, Why it should be thus all the day long, While there are others living about us, Never molested tho’ in the wrong.” The chorus states that while our lot in life may seem unfair now, “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why.” So then we are admonished to, “Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine, We’ll understand it all by and by.” Another verse adds, “Toils of the road will then seem as nothing, As we sweep thro’ the beautiful gate.” This hymn is an old standard in many churches in the South.