The Biblical Evidences for God’s Existence: The Fool.

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” (Psalm 14:1a)

What does the Bible teach about God’s existence? Joe Boot writes, in his article Broader Cultural and Philosophical Challenges, that “We must begin any pursuit of knowledge with confident submission to God in his Word.”

Nowhere does Scripture argue for the validity of God’s reality. On the contrary, the very first verse in the Bible sets forth the existence of God as truth. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 ESV).

There are two basic philosophies in the world. Call them worldviews. These worldviews form the basis of how people live and think about life. However, these two worldviews are diametrically opposed to each other. They always have been and always will be. They are mutually exclusive. They represent the ongoing conflict between truth and deception, between what is real and what is unreal.

The first basic worldview is known as Biblical Theism. It is the religious belief that humanity, life, the earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being.  As we will see, the proposition of creationism begins at the very outset of God’s revealed truth, the Bible. The consequence of Biblical Theism is that the God of the Bible is the One, True Creator (Is. 42:1-5; Acts 17:22-28). Therefore, creation is accountable to Him. The purpose of life therefore is to glorify the One, True Creator by loving Him and loving others by being obedient to His revealed truth contained in the Holy Scriptures (I Cor. 10:31; Eph. 1:15).

The second basic worldview is known as Atheistic Naturalism.  Naturalism commonly refers to the philosophical belief that only natural laws and forces (as opposed to supernatural ones) operate in the world and that nothing exists beyond the natural world. Natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural world. The goal of science is to discover and publish these laws.

Philosopher Paul Kurtz argues that nature is best accounted for by reference to material principles. These principles include mass, energy, and other physical and chemical properties accepted by the scientific community. Further, this sense of naturalism holds that spirits, deities, and ghosts are not real and that there is no ultimate “purpose” in nature.  The conclusion of Atheistic Naturalism is that there is no God to whom the natural world is accountable. There is no ultimate and singular purpose to life and living. Therefore, the natural world does whatever it desires in order to establish some reason or purpose for life and living.

Psalm 14 is a Psalm of David. He began the psalm by acknowledging the reality of the fool. The fool, no matter when or who, is a senseless, godless, and worthless individual. The fool is not unintelligent but lacks understanding or even the capacity for understanding. This implies a willful moral insolence, impudence and disobedience to the law of God (Dt. 32:6, 21; Ps. 74:18; Ezek. 13:3).

The fool continues to say in his mind, emotions and will, or his soul, that God does not exist. For him, God is non-existent. The fool endeavors to live his life from this perspective. Some may even try to convince others of the value of this worldview.

Have you encountered such an individual? I have. I’m sure you have also. What specific purpose does the fool embrace in order to acquire a purpose for life within the natural realm void of a personal God? This is what we will examine when next we meet.

Have a blessed day in the knowledge that the One, True God of the Bible exists. He not only exists, but He has made Himself known (Ps. 19).

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph. The Death of Joseph.

22 So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years. 23 And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own. 24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.” (Genesis 50:22–26 (ESV)

Having returned to Egypt following the burial of his father, Jacob, Joseph remained in Egypt. So also did his extended family including his eleven brothers. Joseph would live until the age of 110.

Joseph’s life was full of the LORD’s blessings. For example, he lived to see the birth of his great-great grandchildren by Ephraim. He also lived to see his grandchildren by Manasseh. Joseph experienced the joy of being a grandfather (Prov. 17:6).

When Joseph’s death drew near, he prophesied that the LORD would bring Jacob’s family, Israel, out of the land of Egypt. The LORD would return them to the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex.3:1-8).

Joseph then asked his brothers to return his body to Canaan, following his death, when the appropriate time arrived (Ex. 13:19). This request was based upon the assurance of the previous prophecy.

Joseph’s life in many ways parallels are own as believers in Christ. Trails may come in a variety of ways and circumstances (James 1:1-5), but the LORD knows what is best for each of us. Therefore, we trust Him (Prov. 3:5-6) for He is trustworthy (Psalm 119:138).

One author explains, “Joseph died before seeing the Lord consummate His redemption, as today’s passage indicates. Jacob’s favorite son certainly led a favored life, for he ruled over Egypt (Gen. 41:39–43) and fathered two tribes of Israel (48:1–6). Furthermore, Joseph enjoyed a great blessing in seeing many of his grandchildren, some of whom he adopted as his own (50:23; Ps. 128Prov. 17:6). He also lived to age 110, the ideal lifespan according to the ancient Egyptians. Still, Joseph died outside of the Promised Land (Gen. 50:26), the place where our Father pledged an abundant and secure life to all who kept the covenant (Gen. 15; 17:1–14; 22:15–18; 35:9–15). Joseph realized the Lord saves all who believe and follow His word, even if salvation’s greatest reward is not received until after death (see 2 Tim. 4:6–8).”

John 11:25–26 (ESV) records Jesus saying, 25I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Do you?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Of the State of Men after Death and of the Resurrection of the Dead.

We will continue to devote each Lord’s Day in 2022 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2022. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Thirty-Two. Of the State of Men after Death and of the Resurrection of the Dead.

1. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption;a but their souls (which neither die nor sleep), having an immortal subsistence,b immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies:c and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.d Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.

a. Gen 3:19Acts 13:36. • b. Eccl 12:7Luke 23:43. • c. Phil 1:23 with Acts 3:21 and Eph 4:102 Cor 5:168Heb 12:23. • d. Luke 16:23-24Acts 1:251 Pet 3:19Jude 1:6-7.

2. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed;a and all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.b

a. 1 Cor 15:51-521 Thes 4:17. • b. Job 19:26-271 Cor 15:42-44.

3. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honor, and be made conformable to his own glorious body.a

a. John 5:28-29Acts 24:151 Cor 15:42Phil 3:21.

I encourage you to read the portions of Scripture listed in this post. Have a blessed Lord’s Day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph. God’s Good Purposes.

15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:15–20 (ESV)

Romans 8:28 (NASB95) says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God has a purpose and a plan in everything that happens in our lives. He orchestrates events in our lives according to the good pleasure of sovereign will (Eph.1:3-6). Today’s text from Genesis 50:15-20 parallels Romans 8:28.

Jacob had died. It was in the immediate aftermath of his death that Joseph’s brothers wondered if he would finally enact retribution against them for their sin against him years before (Gen. 37). They reasoned, ““It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”

The brothers could not come in contact directly with Joseph due to his high government positon, so they sent a message to him. The message said, “Your father gave this command before he died:‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”

Joseph was genuinely grieved by their concerns. Did his brothers not realize that God sovereignly directed all the events in Joseph’s life, including his brothers’ actions against him? Apparently they did not.

When Joseph and his brothers gathered together, he made a remarkable statement reflecting the divine providence of God. Joseph said, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Joseph assures his brothers of his pardon, stating the lesson his life teaches us: God overrides the intents and deeds of wicked men to bring about good (Gen. 50:20). Or, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). What the Lord does and allows is always good — because a good and praiseworthy end is always His goal, and He always accomplishes it. God blamelessly works concurrently with men, even in their evil events, to achieve an ultimate good. We can only trust with confidence a Lord who controls everything. If He is unable to use wickedness to further His plan, then evil remains free from His rule, and we could never be sure of His final victory.”

John Calvin says, “Let the impious busy themselves as they please, let them rage, let them mingle heaven and earth; yet they shall gain nothing by their ardor; and not only shall their impetuosity prove ineffectual, but shall be turned to an issue the reverse of that which they intended, so that they shall promote our salvation, though they do it reluctantly.”    

Remember, our God reigns. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph. Jacob is Buried.

11 When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. 12 Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, 13 for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. 14 After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.” (Genesis 50:11–14 (ESV)

How often to you consider the impact of a single life when watching a funeral procession traveling down the road in route to a cemetery? If there are a few cars in the procession you may think the deceased had a limited impact upon the people they knew. However, a long procession is often regarded as a testimony that the deceased was dearly loved and had impacted many people.  

Jacob’s burial did not go unnoticed by the inhabitants of Canaan. The Canaanites saw the mourning which took place and remarked that it was a heavy and burdensome mourning ceremony. That is why they called the place where this burial occurred as Abel-mizraim meaning a meadow of Egypt east of the Jordan River.

In death, much more so than in life, Jacob’s sons were obedient to him and fulfilled his commands for his burial. He was buried in the cave of the field at Machpelah. This was the field which Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, bought from Ephron the Hittite (Gen. 23:10-20). As can be the case with large families, this family’s traditions reach back several generations.

One author writes, “The death of a believer provides us with a good opportunity to reaffirm our belief in the resurrection of the dead. Though we properly grieve the loss of a loved one because we no longer have fellowship with him on earth, we should also be joyful, because we know that our separation will only be temporary and that those who die in Christ have certainly passed into new life. Do what you can to encourage other believers to rejoice in Christ when Christians die.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob’s Burial Procession.

So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. 10 When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and grievous lamentation, and he made a mourning for his father seven days.” (Genesis 50:7–10 (ESV)

Genesis 46:1–4 (ESV) says, “So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

What God promised Jacob as the patriarch prepared to depart for Egypt was fulfilled as Joseph prepared to bring Jacob’s body back to Canaan. God would also keep His promise in making Jacob’s family into a great nation (Ex. 1:1-7).

Who all accompanied Joseph back to Canaan in order to bury Jacob’s body? There was quite an entourage. The text says there were chariots and horsemen. Moses concluded by saying, “It was a very great company.”

The persons involved in the journey included Joseph, all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of Pharaoh’s household, and all the elders of Egypt. Additionally, Joseph’s family came, along with his brothers. The only ones who remained behind in Goshen were the children, the flocks and the herds.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “The original audience of Genesis — the Israelites freed from Egyptian slavery — also needed assurance of God’s faithfulness. Our Father inspired Moses to write Genesis to tell His people that they must stand against the pharaoh and follow Moses into the Promised Land. By keeping His promise to Jacob, God revealed His fidelity to the Israelites and gave them confidence that He would keep His promise to be with them as they left the land of the Nile (Ex. 3–4).”

Upon their arrival in Canaan, there was a great lamentation in memory of Jacob. The time for mourning lasted seven days.

Dr. Sproul explains, “Since the Promised Land was the realm of God’s presence and blessing, Jacob’s voyage from Egypt to Canaan dimly reveals his passing from death to life, which will be fully consummated at the resurrection (Rev. 20:11–15). Today, we can rejoice when a believer dies, even as we grieve our loss, because we know he has entered new life.”

Early church father, John Chrysostom, comments: “Since death has been turned into slumber and life’s end into repose, and since there is great certitude of resurrection, we rejoice and exult at death like people moving from one life to another” (Homilies on Genesis, 67.17).

1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV) says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”  

The death of Jacob brought about a time of grief and mourning for Jacob’s family. It is evidenct that for all his human frailties, Jacob’s family loved him. It was appropriate for them to mourn his death.

It is also appropriate for believers in Christ today to mourn the death of their loved ones. Thankfully, for those who die in Christ, there is the confidence of eternal life in heaven. That eternal truth sooths the grieving heart of those loved ones who remain on earth.  

Soli deo Gloria!   

The Journey of Joseph: Joseph Requests to Bury His Father.

And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, ‘My father made me swear, saying, “I am about to die: in my tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.” Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return.’ ” And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.” (Genesis 50:4–6 (ESV)

It is interesting to observe from today’s text that even though Joseph was the second in command of all of Egypt, he did not presume upon his authority. Prior to his leaving for Canaan to bury his father Jacob, Joseph requested permission from Pharaoh to make the journey.

Additionally, Joseph did not inquire directly to Pharaoh but rather spoke to his household. He asked them to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf regarding his request. This displays not only a sensitivity to palace decorum but also a humble spirit (Micah 6:8).  

Another reason for Joseph not speaking directly to Pharaoh was cultural. During times of mourning, it was Hebrew custom to let one’s hair and beard grow. Such an appearance would have been objectionable to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:14).

Following the seventy days of mourning, Joseph prepared to take Jacob’s back to Canaan for burial. Pharaoh was more than willing to give Joseph permission to go and make the journey. Joseph promised to return to Egypt following the burial.

One commentator explains, “Jacob’s favorite son is deferential when speaking with the king. His conditional statement, “If now I have found favor,” is designed to communicate the gravity and importance of the request. Joseph implies here that his stewardship should give him enough standing in Pharaoh’s eyes to have his wish granted. Moreover, Joseph leaves out Jacob’s plea that he not be interred in the land of the Nile (Gen. 47:29–31) as well as his desire to lay with his ancestors (Gen. 49:28–33), most likely because he did not want the pharaoh to doubt his loyalty to Egypt. Joseph pledges to return to Egypt and stresses that Jacob belonged in the tomb he labored to prepare to assuage any fears the king might have. Therefore, Pharaoh grants his request (50:5–6). Though an adult himself, Joseph remains committed to honoring his father by honoring his godly plea for burial in Canaan. May we all likewise be committed to respecting our elders (Deut. 5:16).”

No matter how old and successful we may be, God calls us to respect those who are older and who possess positions of responsibility. These positions may include the work place, school administrators and teachers, neighbors, government employees such as police and first responders, along with church leadership (Ephesians 6:1-3; I Timothy 5:1; I Peter 2:13-17).

Whatever our age, may each believer in Christ show respect to those for whom respect is due. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!   

The Journey of Joseph: Mourning over Jacob’s Death.  

1Then Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. Forty days were required for it, for that is how many are required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.” (Genesis 50:1–3 (ESV)

No matter how much you prepare for a loved one’s eventual death, it is still a shock when it occurs. Both my parents died following an extended illness and eventual hospice care. This was the same situation with my wife’s mother. Preparations were made and goodbyes were said prior to their demise. However, the arrival of their deaths was a disturbing moment.

Unfortunately, there are some families who do not have the opportunity to properly prepare for mourning. A longtime and dear friend of mine was suddenly killed in an automobile accident. There was no emotional preparation for her homecoming to heaven. Her death was sudden and severe.

In both scenarios, the sudden realization of the reality of death hits hard. Thankfully, the sting of death is softened by the reality that loved ones are believers in Christ.

Even though Joseph knew his dad was dying, the reality of Jacob’s death still impacted him emotionally. Joseph fell on his father’s face, wept over him and kissed him. His sorrow was real and sincere.

Today’s text goes on to say that Joseph instructed his Egyptian servants and physicians to embalm Jacob. As today, embalming was done to slow down the process of the body’s decay following death. The process then would involve anointing the body with perfumes.   

The Egyptians wept as a sign of their sorrow. It was an example of the respect the Egyptians had for Joseph and for his father.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Egypt holds Jacob in high esteem; the mourning period observed when he dies (Gen. 49:33–50:3) is only two days shorter than the one prescribed for a pharaoh’s death. They also embalm Jacob’s body, at Joseph’s behest, for the long journey ahead. Similarly, the Israelites buried their dead instead of burning them, because preserving the body intact exhibited a belief that God will renew what He made “very good” (1:26–31), a resurrection to life incorruptible (Dan. 12:21 Cor. 15:42); thus, later Israelites continued to bury their dead. Cremation was avoided since it was applied to heinous sinners (Lev. 20:14; 21:9) and was practiced in ancient times by pagan idolaters.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13 (ESV) says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”

Believers in Christ are not immune to grief. Death occurs for believers and non-believers alike. However, a Christian’s grief is not a hopeless sorrow. There is a confident expectation beyond the grave for the believer in Christ and for their family.

Soli deo Gloria!    

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob’s Death.  

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. 29 Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” 33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” (Genesis 49:28–33 (ESV)

Moses recorded the final moments of the patriarch Jacob. Following Jacob’s blessings upon his sons he requested that they bury him in the land of Canaan. This paralleled his earlier request of Joseph (Gen. 47:29-31).   

Jacob said to them, ““I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.”

In effect, Jacob desired to be buried in the family plot. He possessed a strong sense of his family’s heritage.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Like Abraham and Isaac, Jacob demonstrates his trust in the Lord’s promise in asking to be buried with them at Machpelah, in the good land the Creator promised to his family (Gen. 49:29–32). God’s faithfulness to His word guarantees Jacob’s salvation, and he teaches his sons this lesson by having them bury him there.”

John Calvin writes, “Jacob did not wish to be carried into the land of Canaan, as if he would be nearer to heaven for being buried there; but that, being dead, he might claim possession of a land which he had held during his life…because it was profitable that the memory of the promise should be renewed, by this symbol, among his surviving sons, in order that they might aspire to it.”

Following his blessings and last instructions to his sons, Jacob died. Today’s text says, “When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.”

Dr. John Walvoord states, “So Jacob died after 147 years (Gen. 47:28) of struggle; his sorrow came to an end. Infirmities, he had many; sins, not a few. But Jacob had an unquenchable desire for God’s blessing. He had a deep piety that habitually relied on God in spite of all else. In the end he died as a man of genuine faith. He learned in his life where the real blessings came from, and he fought with God and man to be privileged to hand them on to his sons.”

It has been said that it is not as important how you start, but how you finish. Jacob finished well, by the grace of God. May we strive to finish well in the life the LORD has given to us.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Of Synods and Councils.

We will continue to devote each Lord’s Day in 2022 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2022. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Thirty-One. Of Synods and Councils.

1. For the better government and further edification of the Church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called synods or councils.a

a. Acts 15:246.

2. As magistrates may lawfully call a synod of ministers and other fit persons to consult and advise with about matters of religion;a so, if magistrates be open enemies to the Church, the ministers of Christ, of themselves, by virtue of their office, or they, with other fit persons, upon delegation from their churches, may meet together in such assemblies.b

a. Isa 49:232 Chron 19:8-1129-30 throughout; Prov 11:14Mat 2:4-51 Tim 2:1-2. • b. Acts 15:2422-2325.

3. It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially, to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his Word.a

a. Mat 18:17-20Acts 15:15192427-3116:4.

4. All synods or councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both.a

a. Acts 17:111 Cor 2:52 Cor 1:24Eph 2:20.

5. Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.a

a. Luke 12:13-14John 18:36.

I encourage you to read the portions of Scripture listed in this post. Have a blessed Lord’s Day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Benjamin.  

“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil.” (Genesis 49:27 (ESV)

Jacob articulated his concluding oracle to his youngest son Benjamin. It was brief but not without significance.

Jacob directly compared Benjamin to a ravenous wolf. Jacob said, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf.”  The literal grammar in the Hebrew is “Benjamin, a wolf, is ravenous.” Notice the state of being verb “is.” This is a present and active state of being verb. More than comparing his son to a wolf by what he would do, Jacob compared Benjamin to a wolf on the basis of his character or who he was.

The word ravenous means to tear to pieces or to rend, slash and shred. Add the noun “wolf” to the equation and you have a man, and later a tribe, that would be predatory in their behavior because the man and the tribe was predatory in their nature. Not only would Benjamin become a predator but a ravenous predator.  

The predatory characteristic would be evidenced all the time. There would be no respite. Jacob said concerning Benjamin, “in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil.” Whether by day or night, Benjamin and his progeny would be unrelenting in their violent nature and subsequent behavior.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “The Bible is clear that our lives are in large measure molded by the sins (and righteousness) of our forefathers. Benjamin and his offspring are a good example of this truth. Jacob blesses his youngest son in today’s passage, revealing that this tribe will be like a wolf who devours its prey and in the evening divides its spoil (Gen. 49:27). Benjamin will satisfy himself and then divvy up what is left over. In other words, there is the potential for this clan to enjoy abundant success within the family of Israel. Benjamin went on to succeed and father many godly individuals. Ehud, a Benjaminite judge, rescued Israel from Moab (Judg. 3:12–30). Jonathan hailed from the tribe of Benjamin, and, unlike his father Saul, he loved David (1 Sam. 9:1–2; 14:49; 18:1–5). Esther, who saved her people from extinction during Persian rule, and her cousin Mordecai also counted Benjamin as a forefather (Est. 2:5–7). Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, was a Benjaminite as well (Rom. 11:1).”

Dr. Sproul continues by explaining, “Though they had sinful ancestors like the rest of us, all of these persons finally chose righteousness over evil. However, the wolf imagery is also forboding, warning of potential danger ahead for Benjamin. This tribe would also be capable of producing unfaithful men. Aside from King Saul, there is the ghastly episode in the period of the judges when certain Benjaminites raped a Levite’s concubine, leading to her death. The authorities in this tribe were unwilling to punish these evil men and compounded sin when they rose to defend them (Judg. 19–21)! These men chose to follow the sin of their clan, and they suffered the inevitable results.”

All believers in Christ have ancestors, near and distant, whose characteristics are seen in their own lives, whether positive or negative. May each of us resolve to emulate and demonstrate the character of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:1-2).

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Joseph. Part Three.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. 23 The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, 24 yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 25 by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26 The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.” (Genesis 49:22-26)

It should not be a surprise that Jacob’s oracle concerning his son Joseph, and his posterity, should contain an abundance of blessings. The fact is, this oracle is filled with God’s prophetic blessings upon Joseph.

To begin with, Jacob compared Joseph to a fruitful bough by a spring. In the Hebrew language, a bough referred to a young animal, a son or a grandson. It was a reference to one’s descendants (Lev. 6:11; 19:18).

Secondly, Jacob acknowledged Joseph had been the victim of personal assault. Jacob likened it to archers shooting at him, attacking him and severely harassing him. Jacob used strong words with vivid imagery.

Third, Jacob extensively emphasized the future blessings of the LORD upon the life of Joseph. Jacob said, “by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you” (Gen. 49:25). These are acknowledged blessings, or divine favor, from the Almighty and from heaven above.

What is the scope of this future favor from the LORD upon Joseph? These are blessings from heaven above. These are blessing of the deep. They are blessings of the breasts. They are blessings of the womb.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “In these verses are several marvelous titles for God—the Mighty One of Jacob … the Shepherd (cf. 48:15), the Rock of Israel … your father’s God … the Almighty (šadday; cf. ’ēl šadday in 17:1)—the One who ensures blessings from the heavens above (i.e., rain for crops) from the deep … below (i.e., streams and wells for water), and from the breast and womb (i.e., abundant offspring). Jacob bestowed on Joseph the greater blessings because he was the prince among his brothers (cf. 41:41).”

Jacob concludes his oracle regarding Joseph and his posterity by uttering a concluding praise of the blessing from God. “The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.”

May each believer in Christ view life from the perspective of God’s generous blessings. May each of us be forever grateful.  

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him, all creatures here below,

Praise Him above the Heavenly host,

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Amen!

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Joseph. Part Two.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. 23 The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, 24 yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 25 by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26 The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.” (Genesis 49:22-26)

It should not be a surprise that Jacob’s oracle concerning his son Joseph, and his posterity, should contain an abundance of blessings. The fact is, this oracle is filled with God’s prophetic blessings upon Joseph.

To begin with, Jacob compared Joseph to a fruitful bough by a spring. In the Hebrew language, a bough referred to a young animal, a son or a grandson. It was a reference to one’s descendants (Lev. 6:11; 19:18).

Secondly, Jacob acknowledged Joseph had been the victim of personal assault. Jacob likened it to archers shooting at him, attacking him and severely harassing him. Jacob used strong words with vivid imagery.

Yet in spite of these attacks, Jacob indicated that Joseph remained unmoved. The reason for this resolute strong and courageous demeanor was that God was with him (Gen. 39:1-2; 21; Acts 7:9). As the LORD had been with Joseph’s Grandfather Isaac (Gen. 26:24-28) and Father Jacob (Gen. 28:15), He had also been with him.

Dr. R. C. Sproul states, “As with Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (Gen. 49:3–7), Jacob offers a succinct summary of Joseph’s life. “Archers bitterly attacked him” (v. 23), that is, Joseph’s brothers, Potiphar’s wife, and others did their best to destroy this favored son. Nevertheless, Joseph was not defeated. This emphasis on God’s presence is a lesson that we must never forget. Worldly success can blind us, making it easy to believe the lie that we can also prevail with God through our own efforts. In fact, this is what happened to the offspring of Joseph’s son Ephraim centuries later when they led the northern kingdom Israel into idolatry and self-reliance, and earned the Lord’s condemnation (Hos. 9). Those who profess Christ can do the same thing (see Jer. 18:1–101 Cor. 5), and so we ought to beware of the dangers of complacency.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord. Remember, He is always with us (Heb. 13:5-6).

Soli deo Gloria!     

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Joseph. Part One.

22 “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. 23 The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, 24 yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 25 by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26 The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.” (Genesis 49:22-26)

It should not be a surprise that Jacob’s oracle concerning his son Joseph, and his posterity, should contain an abundance of blessings. The fact is, this oracle is filled with God’s prophetic blessings upon Joseph.

To begin with, Jacob compared Joseph to a fruitful bough by a spring. In the Hebrew language, a bough referred to a young animal, a son or a grandson. It was a reference to one’s descendants (Lev. 6:11; 19:18).

The word fruitful means flourishing and to produce an offspring or harvest of the same kind in a successive generation. Jacob proclaimed that Joseph, and his sons, were fruitful vines, or boughs producing fruit (Gen. 49:22).

The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament explains, “A bough means to flourish, i.e., produce an offspring or harvest of the same kind in a successive generation, implying an abundance (Gen. 1:22; 17:6, 20; 28:3; 41:52; 48:4; Lev 26:9; Ps 105:24+). It may also refer to a fruitful vine, formally, son of a fruit-bearer, or a very productive vine or bough producing fruit (Ge 49:22).”

Notice the emphatic use of the phrase fruitful bough. Jacob used it twice to place great emphasis on Joseph’s legacy.

A spring may refer to a spring of water, i.e., a water source which comes up from a ground water source and is a valuable spot in arid land (Ex 15:27). However, the word is metaphorically used in today’s text to mean understanding or to have mental perception (Gen. 3:5). It is the capacity to see and understand (Lev 26:16). Jacob prophesied that Joseph and his progeny would possess discernment and understanding in their abundance. Not a bad combination to have.

Dr. R.C. Sproul explains, “Appropriately enough, given that he has been the most righteous of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph receives a blessing that is paralleled only by the one Jacob gave to Judah (Gen. 49:8–12). Today’s passage is one more indication that Joseph’s years of faithful service to God and men have not been in vain, for he is rewarded for his devotion.

May all believers have the same perspective in their service unto the Lord. Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Gad, Asher and Naphtali.

19 “Raiders shall raid Gad, but he shall raid at their heels. 20 “Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal delicacies. 21 “Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears beautiful fawns.” (Genesis 49:19–21 (ESV)

Jacob’s prayer for his children’s deliverance (Gen. 49:18) was well founded. His oracles concerning Gad, Asher and Naphtali indicate their future oppression by enemies and the need for the LORD’s salvation.  

Regarding Gad, Jacob declared raiders would attack him but he would give as well as he received. The reason for this ongoing conflict was because the tribe settled east of the Jordan River, on the border with other nations (Josh. 13:24–28). Jacob predicted that the tribe would overcome their enemies. Ultimately, the Tribe of Gad be known for their military skill (1 Chron. 5:18–22). 

Regarding Asher, he and his progeny would be prosperous and productive.  Jacob spoke of the tribe’s great wealth (Gen. 49:20). The Tribe of Asher would settle along the shore of the Mediterranean in a fertile area north of Mt. Carmel (Josh. 19:24–31). The trade routes enabled Asher’s offspring to provide “royal delicacies” (Gen. 49:20), which were food for palaces near and far. The prophetess Anna, who faithfully worshiped and proclaimed God’s redemption, came from the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36–38).

Regarding Naphtali, the imagery here is difficult to translate. Perhaps, Naphtali, like a doe, would be a free spirited mountain people. Deborah sang of the people of Naphtali risking their lives “on the heights of the field” (Judges 5:18). That tribe settled northwest of the Sea of Kinnereth (Galilee).

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, Jacob is possibly predicting that Naphtali will start off as a free spirit and then settle down with his family and the nation. Even the footloose Naphtali will one day have a permanent home in Canaan, near the Sea of Galilee (Josh. 19:32–39). Barak, whose army saved Israel from king Jabin of Hazor (Judg. 4), is one famous Naphtalite.”

Puritan Matthew Henry states, “Among God’s Israel is to be found a great variety of dispositions, contrary to each other, yet all contributing to the beauty and strength of the body.”

Believers in Christ should know that the Lord will use our various differences to build up the body of Christ today. How is the Lord using your unique gifts and personality for the benefit of the church? Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Dan.

16 “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. 18 I wait for your salvation, O Lord.” (Genesis 49:16–18 (ESV)

Dan’s mother was Bilhah, maid of Jacob’s wife Rachel (Gen. 30:1–6). Dan’s descendants settled in Israel overlooking the Huleh Plain, in a territory actually assigned to Naphtali, Dan’s full brother (Gen. 30:7–8; 35:25; Jos 19:32–48). The two brothers are mentioned together in a number of references (e.g., Ex. 1:4).

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains, “Dan’s name was given to him not by Bilhah but by Rachel, who considered the child her own. Rachel had long been childless—a shame to women in ancient cultures—and she was jealous of Jacob’s other wife, Leah, who had already borne him four sons. Rachel viewed the birth of Bilhah’s son as averting her shame and as God’s vindication of her status as wife. The name Dan (“he judged”) meant that God had judged her and had vindicated her through the child’s birth (Gen. 30:6).”

In his oracle, Jacob explained that his son Dan would judge his people. The tribe intended to provide justice would in reality become like a treacherousserpent on the roadside. In the time of the Judges the first major practice of idolatry appeared in the tribe of Dan (Judges 18:30).

Moses would describe the tribe of Dan as being like a lion’s cub that leaps from Bashan (Deut. 33:22). This may have been a reference to the tribe’s northern settlement in Israel which included the forests of Bashan.

Following his oracle concerning Dan, Jacob prayed for the salvation from Yahweh. Why this interjection for deliverance by the LORD?

Dr. John Walvoord explains, “He may have been indirectly reminding his sons of their need for dependence on the Lord (if he needed it, certainly they did too). Or he may have been expressing his desire to enjoy the messianic hope, when he would be delivered from all trouble and grief (cf. “redemption” in Anna’s desires; Luke 2:38).”

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Israel’s affirmation of Dan implicitly affirms the full citizenship of his other eleven sons in the future nation, even those whom Leah and Rachel did not birth. Yet Dan will also show himself to be an Israelite through his powerful judgeship. Jacob calls him a serpent (v. 17), having in mind a poisonous yellow desert snake who would hide in crevices or burrow in the sand and strike unsuspecting people or animals. Like this serpent, Dan will be small compared to his prey but far deadlier than his victim suspects. The tribe of Dan does indeed end up as one of Israel’s smaller clans; however, perhaps the most well-known of all the judges emerges from this tribe centuries after Jacob. Samson, a Danite, would rescue the Israelites from the Philistines, usually by relying on his own craftiness (Judg. 13–16).”

Though Danite tribe, the serpent, saved Israel in Samson’s day, their remaining history would not be so celebrated. The Danites would steal an idol and slaughter a quiet, unsuspecting people (Judg. 17–18). Both of these activities flagrantly violate God’s word (Judges 18:27).

Believers in Christ must be on guard that we are not like the tribe of Dan. The tribe began well and then rejected God’s will. May we press on and persevere in faith “so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). Have a God honoring day.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Of Church Censures.

We will continue to devote each Lord’s Day in 2022 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2022. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Thirty. Of Church Censures.

1. The Lord Jesus, as king and head of his Church, hath therein appointed a government in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.a

a. Isa 9:6-7Mat 28:18-20Acts 20:17281 Cor 12:281 Thes 5:121 Tim 5:17Heb 13:71724.

2. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed, by virtue whereof they have power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel, and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.a

a. Mat 16:1918:17-18John 20:21-232 Cor 2:6-8.

3. Church censures are necessary for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren; for deterring of others from the like offenses; for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump; for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel; and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.a

a. Mat 7:6; 1 Cor 5 throughout; 11:27-34 with Jude 1:231 Tim 1:205:20.

4. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season, and by excommunication from the Church, according to the nature of the crime and demerit of the person.a

a. Mat 18:171 Cor 5:4-5131 Thes 5:122 Thes 3:614-15Titus 3:10.

I encourage you to read the portions of Scripture listed in this post. Have a blessed Lord’s Day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Issachar.

14“Issachar is a strong donkey, crouching between the sheepfolds. 15 He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant at forced labor.” (Genesis 49:14–15 (ESV)

Jacob’s fifth eldest son born by Leah was Issachar (Gen. 30:17-18).  Jacob’s blessing of Issachar followed his blessing upon Zebulun. No reason is given as to why Jacob blessed these two sons in reverse order of their birth. Issachar’s name perhaps means “reward.”

Jacob said, “Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds” (Gen. 49:14, nasb). This image suggests a loaded donkey who refuses to move his burden, a lazy man who is unwilling to do his share of the work. This is not an admirable quality.

Little is known about Issachar except what he did along with the other sons of Israel. He himself had four sons (Gen. 46:13), who headed clans in the tribe (1 Chr. 7:1–5). His family went with Jacob to Egypt, where they died (although Issachar’s remains were subsequently moved to Shechem with the other 12 patriarchs—Acts 7:16).

Historically, Issachar was the main tribe involved in the fighting led by the judge Deborah. She was a member of the tribe (Judges 5:15). During the time of David, there were men of the tribe of Issachar who had an understanding of what Israel ought to do in warfare (1 Chr. 12:32). These men supported David as king to replace King Saul.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains, “Issachar was assigned the fourth lot of land after the ark was taken to Shiloh (Joshua 19:17). This included the cities of Jezreel, Shunem, and En-gannim, and it lay between the mountains of Gilboa and Tabor. Their allotment was bordered on the south and west by the tribe of Manasseh, on the north by Zebulun and Naphtali, and on the east by the river Jordan. This territory was largely a fertile plain and was often threatened by the Canaanites nearby as well as by foreign invaders.”

One commentator adds, “Issachar is likened to a strong donkey loaded down with saddlebags. Some see in the saddlebags a reference to two great elevations which marked the boundaries of this tribe. Issachar would be comfortable in his pleasant land. He would rather be a slave and have peace than resist oppression and have liberty (49:14–15).”

Today, may believers in Christ would rather make doctrinal concessions against biblical truth in order to maintain a veneer of harmony within the church. Fellowship at all costs is pursued at the expense of sound doctrine (Acts 20:17-35; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; Jude 3-4). This results in the gospel being perverted and compromised.

1 Timothy 6:10–12 (ESV) says, 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  

May we resist spiritual oppression and possess liberty than pursue peace resulting in slavery.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Zebulun.

13 “Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon.” (Genesis 49:13 (ESV)

Zebulun was the sixth eldest son of Jacob. Jacob’s fifth eldest son born by Leah was Issachar.  Jacob’s blessing of Issachar followed his blessing upon Zebulun. No reason is given as to why Jacob blessed these two sons in reverse order of their birth.

Zebulun was the sixth and last son borne to Jacob by Leah, who named the boy Zebulun, meaning “abode and, dwelling.” Jacob indicated that Zebulun, along with the tribe who would bear the name, would dwell at the shore of the sea. The reference to the sea would be the Mediterranean Sea. The Tribe of Zebulun would be enriched by seaborne trade (though the tribe did not actually border the Mediterranean (Josh. 19:10–11).

One commentator writes, “Zebulun would live by the seashore toward Sidon. This tribe would be a haven for ships (Gen. 49:13). The tribe of Zebulun was not actually given an inheritance on the coast. Apparently the meaning of the prediction is that this tribe would have direct access to the sea and would enjoy the abundance of sea commerce.”

It is interesting to note that Jacob did not say anything positive or negative about this son. However, in Deuteronomy 33:18-19, Moses recorded words of commendation regarding the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar.

One author writes, “In Deuteronomy 31 Moses was the statesman, and in chapter 32 the singer; now in chapter 33 he is the seer. Like Jacob in Genesis 49, Moses looked into the future of the tribes. He assumed the role of a father to the tribes in these verses. While the tribal oracles in Genesis 49 contain judgmental elements, here the thrust is almost entirely positive.”

Deuteronomy 33:18–19 (ESV) says, 18 And of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and Issachar, in your tents. 19 They shall call peoples to their mountain; there they offer right sacrifices; for they draw from the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Moses’ reference to right sacrifices meant that Zebulun’s offerings to God were righteous and honest. In other words, the tribe’s sacrifices to God were correct and done in the right way. This was a commendable statement by Moses on behalf of the Tribe of Zebulun.

What practical application may we make concerning Jacob’s son Zebulun? First, he was one who did not stand out in the crowd. His other brothers overshadowed him. Second, at times he went along with the crowd in doing what was not right (Gen. 37). Third, although not the most prosperous (Deut. 33:6), Zebulun, and the subsequent tribe, became consistent and true worshipers of Yahweh (Deut. 33:19).

Many of us will never stand out in the crowd. Most of us will be like a Zebulun. It is okay if we never achieve notoriety. God knows us and that is what is important. May we continue to live for the LORD, even in relative obscurity, just like Zebulun along with many others.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Judah. Part Three.

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11 Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” (Genesis 49:8–12 (ESV)

Immediately following Jacob’s oracle toward Reuben, Simeon and Levi, the patriarch then turned his attention to his fourth eldest son: Judah. Jacob had much to say to Judah. Therefore, it will take us several days to unpack today’s text.

To begin with, Jacob told Judah that his brothers would praise him. This would be an ongoing public expression of thanksgiving. A wordplay was used here because the name Judah means “praise” (Gen. 29:35). Secondly, Jacob likened Judah to a lion’s cub. The lion would become an iconic image for not only Judah, but also for the tribe bearing his name.

Thirdly, Jacob used the images of a foal, donkey, a vine and its grapes. What do these images, and others, represent? These imageries foreshadow the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:1-6). The 1,000 year reign of Christ will be one of abundance and prosperity.

One commentator writes, “For Judah, grapevines will be so abundant that they will be used for hitching posts; wine will be as abundant as wash water. In Judah, people’s eyes will be red or bright from wine and their teeth will be white from drinking much milk. These are picturesque ways of describing the suitability of Judah’s territory for vineyards. Such opulence will be evident in the Millennium (Isa. 61:6–7; 65:21–25; Zech. 3:10).”

Matthew Henry writes, “Many excellent pens have been admirable well employed in explaining and illustrating this famous prophecy of Christ. It should be a very fruitful tribe, especially that it should abound with milk for babes, and wine to make glad the heart of strong men (v. 11, 12)—vines so common in the hedge-rows and so strong that they should tie their asses to them, and so fruitful that they should load their asses from them—wine as plentiful as water, so that the men of that tribe should be very healthful and lively, their eyes brisk and sparkling, their teeth white. Much of what is here said concerning Judah is to be applied to our Lord Jesus.”

So encouraged to know that this fallen world is ultimately not the eternal home for the believer in Christ. Christ’s rule and reign will eternally be fulfilled when He returns to earth in power, might and glory.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Judah. Part Two.

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11 Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” (Genesis 49:8–12 (ESV)

Immediately following Jacob’s oracle toward Reuben, Simeon and Levi, the patriarch then turned his attention to his fourth eldest son: Judah. Jacob had much to say to Judah. Therefore, it will take us several days to unpack today’s text.

To begin with, Jacob told Judah that his brothers would praise him. This would be an ongoing public expression of thanksgiving. A wordplay was used here because the name Judah means “praise” (Gen. 29:35).

Secondly, Jacob likened Judah to a lion’s cub. The lion would become an iconic image for not only Judah, but also for the tribe bearing his name.

Additionally, the image of the lion would translate into Judah becoming the kingly tribe of Israel. Jacob indicated that the scepter, the staff and rod of a king, would never leave Judah. Consequently, tribute and obedience would be given to Judah and his progeny.

However, Jacob’s oracle point to a greater king to come. The greater king would be known as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. This would be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 5:1-5).

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains, “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is a title of the Messiah that appears only in Revelation 5:5: “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has conquered” (nlt). This is an allusion to the messianic promise of Genesis 49:9–10, “Judah is a young lion.… The scepter will not depart from Judah” (nlt). The expression summarizes the OT hope that the Messiah would come as a conquering hero, delivering his people from every form of spiritual, political, and social evil. The OT frequently employs the lion as a symbol of power and the complete ability to subdue one’s enemies (Job 10:16; Ps. 10:9; Ezek. 1:10; Dan. 7:1–4). The author of Revelation expressed the belief of all Christians—that Christ is the deliverer who would defeat all the powers of evil. However, in contrast to the OT hope, the deliverer comes not as the conquering Lion of military power, but rather as the Lamb, who suffers and is sacrificed for the sins of his people (Rev. 5:6).”

Matthew Henry writes, “God was praised for him (Gen. 29:35), praised by him, and praised in him; and therefore his brethren shall praise him. Those that are to God for a praise shall be the praise of their brethren.”

May each of us in Christ find our praise by God, praise in God resulting in praise and honor from fellow believers to the glory of God. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Judah. Part One.

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11 Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” (Genesis 49:8–12 (ESV)

Immediately following Jacob’s oracle toward Reuben, Simeon and Levi, the patriarch then turned his attention to his fourth eldest son: Judah. Jacob had much to say to Judah. Therefore, it will take us several days to unpack today’s text.

To begin with, Jacob told Judah that his brothers would praise him. This would be an ongoing public expression of thanksgiving. A wordplay was used here because the name Judah means “praise” (Gen. 29:35).

Judah’s brothers, including their descendants, would not only worship him, but he would also have victory over the enemies of Israel. This coincides with Jacob’s expression “your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies.” What does this mean?

One commentator explains, “The expression “your hand on the neck of your enemies” was a token of superiority and triumph. Job makes use of a similar metaphor when he represents God as taking him by the neck and shaking him: “He seized me by the neck and crushed me” (Job 16:12). David wrote, “Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me” (2 Samuel 22:41, KJV). The implication of the expression is much like the later action of victorious soldiers putting their feet on the necks of their enemies: “When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, ‘Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.’ So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks” (Joshua 10:24).”

The Tribe of Judah would be superior to the rest of the tribes; not only more numerous and illustrious, but having a dominion over them. Judah was the lawgiver (Ps. 60:7). That tribe led the caravan through the wilderness, and in the conquest of Canaan (Judges 1:2).

Dr. R .C. Sproul writes, “Recall that Judah sinned grievously when he led the sale of Joseph into Egyptian slavery (Gen. 37:12–28). Later on, he wickedly failed to provide a husband and thus an heir and provider to his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Gen.38:1–23; Deut. 25:5–10). Were this the end of his story, Judah would have lost the greatest portion of Jacob’s favor as well. However, Judah showed himself sensitive to the Spirit when he confessed his evil deeds concerning Tamar (Gen. 38:24–26). Judah’s repentance bore its fullest fruit later on when he offered to sacrifice himself and take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave (Gen. 44). Judah inherits the firstborn’s rights because of his selflessness. Jacob declares in today’s passage that Judah’s brothers will praise Him and that he will have his hand “on the neck” of his enemies (49:8). In other words, Judah will triumph over his foes. Jacob’s other sons will also bow to Judah, according to the same verse.”  

Jacob’s prophecy would ultimately be fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Judah sought exaltation but was humbled. When Judah humbled himself, God exalted him. True humility, evidence by Christ (Phil. 2:5-11), results in exaltation.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Journey of Joseph: Jacob Blesses Simeon and Levi.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. 7Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” (Genesis 49:5–7 (ESV)

After blessing his eldest son Reuben, Jacob then blessed the next two eldest sons: Simeon and Levi. However, whereas Jacob balanced blessings with judgment regarding Reuben. He had no such balance with the next two sons. Jacob’s oracle toward Simeon and Levi was solely one of condemnation.

Jacob identified his sons with the phrase, “weapons of violence are their swords” In other words, Simeon and Levi were violent men whose plans and possessions resulted in destruction. The references to violence and killing was a remembrance of the sign and seal of circumcision to exact revenge upon the Shechemites for violating their sister Dinah (Gen. 34).

Second, Jacob personally stated that he did not want to be a part of their schemes or their purposes. He did not want his wealth, honor and reputation to be in any way associated or united with them.

Third, Jacob reasoned that the Simeon’s and Levi’s violent nature was due to their anger and wrath. The word anger pertains to their facial expressions and even their intense breathing. The word wrath refers to the pleasure they experienced when they attacked. Jacob also said their anger was fierce or intense while their wrath was severe and stubborn.

Jacob heralded a curse upon these two sons. As they brought harm and injury to others, their father prayed that the LORD would bring injury and harm upon them. Jacob promised them that he would divide and disperse their progeny in the land of Israel.

On author explains, “As expected, Jacob’s words would come true in the history of the nation of Israel. Simeon is the only tribe Moses does not bless in Deuteronomy 33, and he is given only a select number of cities in Judah’s territory (Josh. 19:1–9). The tribe of Judah eventually absorbs the Simeonites, and they disappear from history.  Levi is also scattered throughout Israel, but his tribe fares better in the history of redemption. Moses, a son of Levi (Ex. 2:1–10), later mediates the old covenant. Moreover, God would choose the Levites to be His priests (Num. 3:5–13), restoring honor to these displaced sons of Jacob.”

 John Calvin writes that God’s “incredible goodness unexpectedly shone forth, when that which was the punishment of Levi became changed into the reward of the priesthood.”

Throughout redemptive history, God extends His grace to even the worse of sinners (I Tim. 1:12-15). It is through His sovereign grace alone, by God given faith alone, and through the person and work of Jesus Christ alone that God delivers any sinner from the penalty, power and eventual presence of the consequences of their sin.

May each of us today thank the LORD for His amazing grace toward sinners deserving of His wrath (Rom. 1:18; Eph. 2:1-3). Have a blessed day in the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!   

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Of the Lord’s Supper. Part Four.  

We will continue to devote each Lord’s Day in 2022 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2022. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Twenty Nine. Of The Lord’s Supper. Part Four.

7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament,a do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are, to their outward senses.b

a. 1 Cor 11:28. • b. 1 Cor 10:16.

8. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries,a or be admitted thereunto.b

a. 1 Cor 11:27-292 Cor 6:14-16. • b. Mat 7:61 Cor 5:6-7132 Thes 3:614-15.

I encourage you to read the portions of Scripture listed in this post. Have a blessed Lord’s Day.

Soli deo Gloria!