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Mark 5:21-34 – Matthew Henry commentary

January 15, 2012 Comments off

Mark 5:21-34

Mar 5:21  And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea.
Mar 5:22  And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
Mar 5:23  And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
Mar 5:24  And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
Mar 5:25  And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
Mar 5:26  And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
Mar 5:27  When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
Mar 5:28  For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
Mar 5:29  And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
Mar 5:30  And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
Mar 5:31  And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
Mar 5:32  And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
Mar 5:33  But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
Mar 5:34  And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

The Gadarenes having desired Christ to leave their country, he did not stay to trouble them long, but presently went by water, as he came, back to the other side (Mar_5:21), and there much people gathered to him. Note, If there be some that reject Christ, yet there are others that receive him, and bid him welcome. A despised gospel will cross the water, and go where it will have better entertainment. Now among the many that applied themselves to him,
I. Here is one, that comes openly to beg a cure for a sick child; and it is no less a person than one of the rulers of the synagogue, one that presided in the synagogue-worship or, as some think, one of the judges of the consistory court, which was in every city, consisting of twenty-three. He was not named in Matthew, he is here, Jairus, or Jair, Jdg_10:3. He addressed himself to Christ, though a ruler, with great humility and reverence; When he saw him, he fell at his feet, giving honour to him as one really greater than he appeared to be; and with great importunity, he besought him greatly, as one in earnest, as one that not only valued the mercy he came for, but that knew he could obtain it no where else. The case is this, He has a little daughter, about twelve years old, the darling of the family, and she lies a dying; but he believes that if Christ will but come, and lay his hands upon her, she will return even from the gates of the grave. He said, at first, when he came, She lies a dying (so Mark); but afterward, upon fresh information sent him, he saith, She is even now dead (so Matthew); but he still prosecutes his suit; see Luk_8:42-49. Christ readily agreed, and went with him, Mar_5:24.
II. Here is another, that comes clandestinely to steal a cure (if I may so say) for herself; and she got the relief she came for. This cure was wrought by the way, as he was going to raise the ruler’s daughter, and was followed by a crowd. See how Christ improved his time, and lost none of the precious moments of it. Many of his discourses, and some of his miracles, are dates by the way-side; we should be doing good, not only when we sit in the house, but when we walk by the way, Deu_6:7. Now observe,
1. The piteous case of this poor woman. She had a constant issue of blood upon her, for twelve years, which had thrown her, no doubt, into great weakness, had embittered the comfort of her life, and threatened to be her death in a little time. She had had the best advice of physicians, that she could get, and had made use of the many medicines and methods they prescribed: as long as she had any thing to give them, they had kept her in hopes that they could cure her; but now that she had spent all she had among them, they gave her up as incurable. See here, (1.) That skin for skin, and all that a man has, will be give for life and health; she spent all she had upon physicians. (2.) It is ill with those patients whose physicians are their worst disease; who suffer by their physicians, instead of being relieved by them. (3.) Those that are not bettered by medicines, commonly grow worse, and the disease gets the more ground. (4.) It is usual with people not to apply themselves to Christ, till they have tried in vain all other helpers, and find them, as certainly they will, physicians of no value. And he will be found a sure refuge, even to those who make him their last refuge.
2. The strong faith that she had in the power of Christ to heal her; she said within herself, though it doth not appear that she was encouraged by any preceding instance to say it, If I may but touch his clothes, I shall be whole, Mar_5:28. She believed that he cured, not as a prophet, by virtue derived from God, but as the Son of God, by a virtue inherent in himself. Her case was such as she could not in modesty tell him publicly, as others did their grievances, and therefore a private cure was what she wished for, and her faith was suited to her case.
3. The wonderful effect produced by it; She came in the crowd behind him, and with much ado got to touch his garment, and immediately she felt the cure wrought, Mar_5:29. The flux of blood was dried up, and she felt herself perfectly well all over her, as well as ever she was in her life, in an instant; by this it appears that the cure was altogether miraculous; for those that in such cases are cured by natural means, recover their strength slowly and gradually, and not per saltum – all at once; but as for God, his work is perfect. Note, Those whom Christ heals of the disease of sin, that bloody issue, cannot but experience in themselves a universal change for the better.
4. Christ’s enquiry after his concealed patient, and the encouragement he gave her, upon the discovery of her; Christ knew in himself that virtue had gone out of him, Mar_5:30. He knew it not by any deficiency of spirits, through the exhausting of this virtue, but rather by an agility of spirits, in the exerting of it, and the innate and inseparable pleasure he had in doing good. And being desirous to see his patient, he asked, not in displeasure, as one affronted, but in tenderness, as one concerned, Who touched my clothes? The disciples, not without a show of rudeness and indecency, almost ridiculed his question (Mar_5:31); The multitudes throng thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? As if it had been an improper question. Christ passed by the affront, and looks around to see her that had done this thing; not that he might blame her for her presumption, but that he might commend and encourage her faith, and by his own act and deed might warrant and confirm the cure, and ratify to her that which she had surreptitiously obtained. He needed not that any should inform him, for he had presently his eye upon her. Note, As secret acts of sin, so secret acts of faith, are known to the Lord Jesus, and are under his eye. If believers derive virtue from Christ ever so closely, he knows it, and is pleased with it. The poor woman, hereupon, presented herself to the Lord Jesus (Mar_5:33), fearing and trembling, not knowing how he would take it. Note, Christ’s patients are often trembling, when they have reason to be triumphing. She might have come boldly, knowing what was done in her; yet, knowing that, she fears and trembles. It was a surprise, and was not yet, as it should have been, a pleasing surprise. However, she fell down before him. Note, There is nothing better for those that fear and tremble, than to throw themselves at the feet of the Lord Jesus; to humble themselves before him, and refer themselves to him. And she told him all the truth. Note, We must not be ashamed to own the secret transactions between Christ and our souls; but, when called to it, mention, to his praise, and the encouragement of others, what he has done for our souls, and the experience we have had of healing virtue derived from him. And the consideration of this, that nothing can be hid from Christ, should engage us to confess all to him. See what an encouraging word he gave her (Mar_5:34); Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. Note, Christ puts honour upon faith, because faith gives honour to Christ. But see how what is done by faith on earth is ratified in heaven; Christ saith, Be whole of thy disease. Note, If our faith sets the seal of its amen to the power and promise of God, saying, “So it is, and so let it be to me;” God’s grace will set the seal of its amen to the prayers and hopes of faith, saying, “So be it, and so it shall be, to thee.” And therefore, “Go in peace; be well satisfied that thy cure is honestly come by, is effectually wrought, and take the comfort of it.” Note, They that by faith are healed of their spiritual diseases, have reason to go in peace.

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How a rabbi found peace – Testimony of Dr. Max Wertheimer

January 11, 2012 Comments off

Born of orthodox Jewish parents, my earliest childhood impression was of my parents rising in the morning very early in order to spend a long time reading the Hebrew prayers. Even in the cold winter, before fires were kindled for their physical comfort, they carried on faithfully these early devotions. Insofar as their knowledge of God was concerned, they were a devout and God-fearing couple.

From the age of five to fifteen my training was in a Jewish school, in orthodox Judaism. A scholarly Hebrew instructed me in the five books of Moses. I went to the Gymnasium for my classical training and later was apprenticed to a manufacturer, doing office work. My associates at that time led me into the sinful pleasures of the world, and although I attended synagogue and read my Hebrew prayers on the Sabbath, I drifted from the faith of my fathers.

A parental decision to send me to America to pursue my classical education brought me to Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I graduated in seven years, having meanwhile taken my degrees in letters and Hebrew literature, and four years later my Master’s degree. We studied the Old Testament, translated it from Hebrew into the vernacular, went through Jewish history from beginning to the present day, and learned the oral laws.

After finishing the rabbinical course we were publicly ordained and inducted into the rabbinical office. My first call was to Dayton, Ohio, where I officiated as rabbi for ten years, during which I made many friends and received many tokens of love which I treasure highly. In my Friday evening lectures I spoke on social, industrial and economic questions, monotheism, ethical culture, the moral systems of the Jews, etc. In the Saturday morning addresses I took weekly sections of the Pentateuch, followed by a corresponding section of the prophets. On Sunday I taught Sunday School from eight in the morning until five in the evening, with one hour intermission for dinner.

In 1895, a series of meetings was held in the Christian Church of Dayton, with various denominational pastors giving addresses on their religion. I stood proudly before that audience of professing Christians and told them why I was a Jew and would not believe in their Christ as my Messiah and Savior. I gloried in Reform Judaism that acknowledged no need of an atoning sacrifice for sin, a religion of ethics which quieted qualms of conscience through a smug self-righteousness. In the audience sat an humble aged woman, a devout Christian, who was deeply stirred as she listened. “O God,” she prayed, “bring Dr. Wertheimer to realize his utter need of that Savior he so boastingly rejects. Bring him if necessary to the very depths in order that he may know his need of my Lord Jesus Christ.”

What unforeseen forces were brought into action as a result of that unknown woman’s heart-cry! How perfectly satisfied with life I was that day: I had a young, attractive, accomplished wife, was rabbi of the B’nai Yeshorun Synagogue, had a beautiful home, a comfortable income, a place of prominence in the community, had become an honorary member of the ministerial association, was a member of the Present-Day Club, served as chaplain in the Masonic lodge, and was a popular speaker before women’s clubs, schools, civic organizations, etc. Had you visited my library at that time you would have found a wide range of reading. I had every book Bob Ingersoll wrote, read them, and corresponded with the author. I was an oft-invited guest speaker in every denominational church in the city. I was satisfied with life! My wife and I enjoyed the musical treats, we had a large home, two servants, and a beautiful baby boy and daughter, Rose.

Suddenly there came a change! My wife was taken seriously ill, and in spite of many physicians and specialists, she died, leaving me a distraught widower with two little children. After the funeral I put Rose in the care of my mother-in-law, advertised for a housekeeper for myself and boy, and found myself the most miserable of men. I could not sleep. I walked the streets, striving to forget the void, the vacancy in my heart and life. My dreams of a successful career and serene domestic life were all shattered. Where was comfort to be found? The heavens were brass when I called on the God of my fathers! How could I speak as a rabbi words of comfort to others when my own sorrow had brought me to despair? I investigated Spiritism but found it utter fallacy. I attended meetings and read the literature of Theosophy and Christian Science, only to find it futile and hopeless. My experience was comparable to Job’s when he cried, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope” (Job 7:6). The tenth year of my rabbinical office drew to its close. I decided not to accept re-election, and resigned. I wanted to think over things! I would study! Where is the spirit and soul of one who was such a gifted pianist, who gave charm to life, who made existence so sweet? What had become of all the faculties, the intents and purposes of that active, keen mind? I turned to my Bible!

I studied about Judaism, but it answered no questions, satisfied no craving of my heart. Then I began reading the New Testament and comparing it with the Old Testament. Many passages were read, pondered, meditated upon. One made a definite impression: the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, eleventh verse, last clause: “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). Here was the only mention of that phrase “My righteous servant” I could find. It is found nowhere else in the Word of God, in either testament. We have “David my servant,” “Isaiah my servant,” “Daniel my servant,” but here it is “my righteous servant.” I said to myself: “Who is that righteous servant? To whom does the prophet refer?” I argued, “Whoever that ‘righteous servant’ of Jehovah is, of one thing I am sure: he is not Israel, because the prophet declares Israel to be a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a leprous nation. The righteous servant of Jehovah must be One Who is holy. If it isn’t Israel, who could it be?” I decided it must be Isaiah. But in Isaiah 6 I found it could never be the prophet, for he confesses himself to be a guilty sinner and a man of unclean lips in God’s sight. “My righteous servant.” Who could it be? Then I began to study the context of the fifty-third chapter and in Isaiah 50:6 I found, “I gave my back to the smiters.” I pondered that: Who gave his back to the smiters? In the beginning of the chapter it says, “Thus saith Jehovah.” Jehovah is the only speaker in the chapter. Jehovah gave His back to the smiters? Had God a back? When and why was it smitten? Who smote it? Further I read: “Who gave his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair.” And still further: “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” What did all this mean? Who had been so abused? When? Why? Did Jehovah have all these human characteristics?

I studied more and more various prophetic utterances. In Psalm 110:1 it is written: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Here was David himself, speaking of his own seed and calling Him “Lord.” How did He get up there? Why didn’t God specify? Why didn’t He speak so plainly to Israel that every Jew could understand?

In confusion I decided to begin at the first chapter of Isaiah and read the book through. I was stopped at the ninth: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Here was a most incomprehensible thing!

I was faced with the doctrine of the trinity. We Jews have a popular monotheistic slogan: “Sh’ma Yisroel, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai echod” (Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD, Deuteronomy 6:4). The word echod means one. Upon that word the doctrine of unity of Jehovah is rooted and grounded, the entire philosophy of Judaism is based. Taught by the rabbis for ages, that word echod means absolute unity. Now I could not believe it; my teaching was wrong! I began to study the word and I discovered it meant not absolute unity but composite unity. Let me illustrate: Adam and Eve became one flesh; the Hebrew for one flesh is bosor echod, a composite unity. Moses sent twelve spies into Canaan, and they returned bearing a gigantic bunch of grapes. That cluster of grapes is called in Hebrew eschol-echod. With hundreds of grapes on the stem it could not have been an absolute unity; they are called in Hebrew “one cluster,” composite unity. There was wickedness committed in Gibeah of Benjamin which disgraced Jehovah and His name and character. The other tribes were indignant and “all the people arose as one man.” That is what I want you to see: at that time the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were 400,000 men of war, yet they were “knit together as one man” (in Hebrew: ish echod). Here again composite unity: thousands acted as one! These and other Scriptures showed conclusively that echod cannot be an absolute unity.

God revealed Himself to Abraham as Almighty (El Shaddai). The first letter of this word is schin; it has three strokes joined as one. This letter is on the top of the phylacteries and on the casing of the door posts. Jews have always taken this letter as symbolical of the godhead because it had three strokes (one for each Person in the trinity), joined together as one to show unity. But another question troubled me: if He Who was on the cross was truly an incarnation of Jehovah, then who was in heaven? I turned to the eighteenth of Genesis. Abraham had three visitors; two angels, and the third he addressed fourteen times as Jehovah. Later, two went away, but the third said to Abraham: “Shall I hide from Abraham that which I shall do? I am going down to Sodom and Gommorah to see whether or not they have done altogether according to the report which has come to me. If not, I will know I am going to destroy the cities.” Abraham interceded for them, the Lord went His way, and Abraham went home. Now here is the point: We find Jehovah inspecting the moral condition of Sodom and Gomorrah and refusing to spare them because not even ten righteous citizens could be found within their borders. But in this same chapter we have this statement: “Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven.” How and why could there be two Jehovahs, one walking the streets of Sodom and another in heavenly places? It must be one omnipresent Jehovah! Then if that were true, He could be simultaneously both in heaven and with and in Jesus on the cross.

Another problem succeeded it: “Why is the name Jesus never mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures?” I studied this question. Imagine my surprise when I found that 275 years before Christ, King Ptolemy Philadelphus summoned men from Palestine and bade them translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek vernacular. They took the Pentateuch first and when they came to the name “Joshua” they translated it the book of “Yesous,” written with a circumflex over it to show there had been a suppression of Hebrew that could not be expressed in Greek. When Joshua went into Canaan with the other eleven spies he was called “Yehoshua” (Jehovah is the Savior). That is exactly what the word “Jesus” means.

I could hold out in unbelief no longer; I was convinced of the truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. I cried, “Lord, I believe that Thou as Jehovah Yesous hast made the atonement for me. I believe that Jehovah Yesous died for me! I believe Thou hast made provision for me! I believe Thou hast the ability and power! From henceforth I will publicly confess Yeshua as my Savior and Lord!” Thus after months of searching I was convinced that Jesus was the righteous servant of Jehovah—Jehovah-tsidkenu, “The LORD our righteousness!”

On March 30, 1904, I publicly confessed Christ in the Central Baptist Church, and having been licensed to preach, doors readily opened to me. I was persuaded to enter Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, from which I graduated after a year of study. Mr. Icenbarger, at my request, called a council of Dayton Association of ministers, and 35 Baptist pastors assembled in Central Church questioned me relative to my personal faith and doctrine. My ordination took place that evening, and my first call came from Ada, Ohio, where I served as pastor for five years. From there the New Covenant Mission in Pittsburgh, of which Maurice Ruben was founder and superintendent for many years, called me to be their pastor-evangelist. After two and a half years of this ministry I was convinced that God was calling me to a wider sphere in preaching the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile, depending upon the Lord for the support of myself and family. In 1913 we returned to Ada, the little flock over which I had been under-shepherd for five years being very dear to our hearts.

I started out in Bible teaching, and God was ever faithful. Were I to write of all the manifestations of His goodness and grace, it would fill a book. Critical operations, publication of my books, supplying all our needs—He never failed to care and provide. In Christ I have found my only abiding comfort for every sorrow.

As a rabbi I had yearned to give the bereaved some hope on which to lean, but how could I give that which I did not possess? I gave sympathy, but in times of heart-aching grief and tragedy, sympathy is of little comfort. But to the heartbroken how satisfying and glorious are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). And again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath [possesses now] everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

There is but one eternal life. There is but one source of eternal life; that is God’s Son. What a great and glorious message we, His redeemed ones, are commissioned to deliver today!

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Watch and pray – JC Philpot

January 11, 2012 Comments off

“Watch and pray.”—Mark 13:33

There is no keeping up faith except by prayer and watchfulness. As prayer declines in the bosom, so does the strength of faith. You may go on neglecting prayer and supplication until every grain of faith seems lost out of your bosom, and may come at last to think you never knew anything of a work of God upon your heart, and have been deceived in believing there was any grace there. By watchfulness also is the love of God maintained. Unless you watch against your besetting sins, against the snares spread for your feet, against the temptations that daily and hourly beset your path, against being overcome by the strength or subtlety of your unwearied foe, you are sure to fall; and if you fall you will bring guilt and bondage, darkness and distress into your mind, and cut off for a time all friendly intercourse with God.

Therefore you must pray and watch; for without watchfulness, prayer is of little efficacy. And if we neglect the Scriptures, or read them carelessly, unbelievingly, they will do us little good. They must be read with believing eyes and heart, received as the revelation of God, and must be mixed with faith, or assuredly they will not profit us (Heb. 4:2). The life of God is a very deep, secret, and sacred thing in the soul. God, it is true, will maintain it; he will not leave his work unaccomplished; but unless we read and pray, watch and meditate, wage war against besetting sins, and seek the Lord’s face continually, we shall find the strength and power of faith very sensibly decline; and if so, there is no comfortable walking with God.

Categories: Faith, Prayer Tags: , ,

The Transfiguration: Exposition of Luke 9:28-36 by J. C. Ryle

January 1, 2012 Comments off

The event described in these verses, commonly called “the transfiguration,” is one of the most remarkable in the history of our Lord’s earthly ministry. It is one of those passages which we should always read with peculiar thankfulness. It lifts a corner of the veil which hangs over the world to come, and throws light on some of the deepest truths of our religion.

In the first place, this passage shows us something of the glory which Christ will have at His second coming. We read that “the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His clothing was white and glistering,” and that the disciples who were with Him “saw His glory.”

We need not doubt that this marvelous vision was meant to encourage and strengthen our Lord’s disciples. They had just been hearing of the cross and passion, and the self-denial and sufferings to which they must submit themselves, if they would be saved. They were now cheered by a glimpse of the “glory that should follow,” and the reward which all faithful servants of their Master would one day receive. They had seen their Master’s day of weakness. They now saw, for a few minutes, a pattern and specimen of His future power.

Let us take comfort in the thought, that there are good things laid up in store for all true Christians, which shall make ample amends for the afflictions of this present time. Now is the season for carrying the cross, and sharing in our Savior’s humiliation. The crown, the kingdom, the glory, are all yet to come. Christ and His people are now, like David in the cave of Adullam, despised, and lightly esteemed by the world. There seems no form or loveliness in Him, or in His service. But the hour comes, and will soon be here, when Christ shall take to Himself His great power and reign, and put down every enemy under His feet. And then the glory which was first seen for a few minutes, by three witnesses on the Mount of Transfiguration, shall be seen by all the world, and never hidden to all eternity.

In the second place, this passage shows us the safety of all true believers who have been removed from this world. We are told that when our Lord appeared in glory, Moses and Elijah were seen with Him, standing and speaking with Him. Moses had been dead nearly fifteen hundred years. Elijah had been taken up by a whirlwind from the earth more than nine hundred years before this time. Yet here these holy men were seen once more alive, and not only alive, but in glory!

Let us take comfort in the blessed thought that there is a resurrection and a life to come. All is not over, when the last breath is drawn. There is another world beyond the grave. But, above all, let us take comfort in the thought, that until the day dawns, and the resurrection begins, the people of God are safe with Christ. There is much about their present condition, no doubt, which is deeply mysterious. Where is their local habitation? What knowledge have they of things on earth? These are questions we cannot answer. But let it suffice us to know that Jesus is taking care of them, and will bring them with Him at the last day. He showed Moses and Elijah to His disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, and He will show us all who have fallen asleep in Him, at His second advent. Our brethren and sisters in Christ are in good keeping. They are not lost, but gone before us.

In the third place, this passage shows us that the Old Testament saints in glory take a deep interest in Christ’s atoning death. We are told that when Moses and Elijah appeared in glory with our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, they “talked with Him.” And what was the subject of their conversation? We are not obliged to make conjectures and guesses about this. Luke tells us, “they spoke of His decease, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” They knew the meaning of that death. They knew how much depended on it. Therefore they “talked” about it.

It is a grave mistake to suppose that holy men and women under the Old Testament knew nothing about the sacrifice which Christ was to offer up for the sin of the word. Their light, no doubt, was far less clear than ours. They saw things afar off and indistinctly, which we see, as it were, close at hand. But there is not the slightest proof that any Old Testament saint ever looked to any other satisfaction for sin, but that which God promised to make by sending Messiah. From Abel downwards the whole company of old believers appear to have been ever resting on a promised sacrifice, and a blood of almighty efficacy yet to be revealed. From the beginning of the world there has never been but one foundation of hope and peace for sinners–the death of an Almighty Mediator between God and man. That foundation is the center truth of all revealed religion. It was the subject of which Moses and Elijah were seen speaking when they appeared in glory. They spoke of the atoning death of Christ.

Let us take heed that this death of Christ is the ground of all our confidence. Nothing else will give us comfort in the hour of death and the day of judgment. Our own works are all defective and imperfect. Our sins are more in number than the hairs of our heads. (Psalm 40:12.) Christ dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification, must be our only plea, if we wish to be saved. Happy is that man who has learned to cease from his own works, and to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ! If saints in glory see in Christ’s death so much beauty, that they must needs talk of it, how much more ought sinners on earth!

In the last place, the passage shows us the immense distance between Christ and all other teachers whom God has given to man. We are told that when Peter, “not knowing what he said,” proposed to make three tabernacles on the mount, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, as if all three deserved equal honor, this proposal was at once rebuked in a remarkable way–“There came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear Him.” That voice was the voice of God the Father, conveying both reproof and instruction. That voice proclaimed to Peter’s ear that however great Moses and Elijah might be, there stood One before him far greater than they. They were but servants; He was the King’s Son. They were but stars; He was the Sun. They were but witnesses; He was the Truth.

Forever let that solemn word of the Father ring in our ears, and give the key-note to our religion. Let us honor ministers for their Master’s sake. Let us follow them so long as they follow Christ. But let it be our principal aim to hear Christ’s voice, and follow Him wherever He goes. Let some talk, if they will, of the voice of the Church. Let others be content to say, “I hear this preacher, or that clergyman.” Let us never be satisfied unless the Spirit witnesses within us that we hear Christ Himself, and are His disciples.

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Categories: Gospel, Jesus the Messiah Tags:

Ecclesiastes 7:11-22 – Matthew Henry commentary

January 1, 2012 Comments off

Solomon, in these verses, recommends wisdom to us as the best antidote against those distempers of mind which we are liable to, by reason of the vanity and vexation of spirit that there are in the things of this world. Here are some of the praises and the precepts of wisdom.
I. The praises of wisdom. Many things are here said in its commendation, to engage us to get and retain wisdom. 1. Wisdom is necessary to the right managing and improving of our worldly possessions: Wisdom is good with an inheritance, that is, an inheritance is good for little without wisdom. Though a man have a great estate, though it come easily to him, by descent from his ancestors, if he have not wisdom to use it for the end for which he has it, he had better have been without it. Wisdom is not only good for the poor, to make them content and easy, but it is good for the rich too, good with riches to keep a man from getting hurt by them, and to enable a man to do good with them. Wisdom is good of itself, and makes a man useful; but, if he have a good estate with it, that will put him into a greater capacity of being useful, and with his wealth he may be more serviceable to his generation than he could have been without it; he will also make friends to himself, Luk_16:9. Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, yea, better too (so the margin reads it); it is more our own, more our honour, will make us greater blessings, will remain longer with us, and turn to a better account. 2. It is of great advantage to us throughout the whole course of our passage through this world: By it there is real profit to those that see the sun, both to those that have it and to their contemporaries. It is pleasant to see the sun (Ecc_11:7), but that pleasure is not comparable to the pleasure of wisdom. The light of this world is an advantage to us in doing the business of this world (Joh_11:9); but to those that have that advantage, unless withal they have wisdom wherewith to manage their business, that advantage is worth little to them. The clearness of the eye of the understanding is of greater use to us than bodily eye-sight. 3. It contributes much more to our safety, and is a shelter to us from the storms of trouble and its scorching heat; it is a shadow (so the word is), as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Wisdom is a defence, and money (that is, as money) is a defence. As a rich man makes his wealth, so a wise man makes his wisdom, a strong city. In the shadow of wisdom (so the words run) and in the shadow of money there is safety. He puts wisdom and money together, to confirm what he had said before, that wisdom is good with an inheritance. Wisdom is as a wall, and money may serve as a thorn hedge, which protects the field. 4. It is joy and true happiness to a man. This is the excellency of knowledge, divine knowledge, not only above money, but above wisdom too, human wisdom, the wisdom of this world, that it gives life to those that have it. The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and that is life; it prolongs life. Men’s wealth exposes their lives, but their wisdom protects them. Nay, whereas wealth will not lengthen out the natural life, true wisdom will give spiritual life, the earnest of eternal life; so much better is it to get wisdom than gold. 5. It will put strength into a man, and be his stay and support (Ecc_7:19): Wisdom strengthens the wise, strengthens their spirits, and makes them bold and resolute, by keeping them always on sure grounds. It strengthens their interest, and gains them friends and reputation. It strengthens them for their services under their sufferings, and against the attacks that are made upon them, more than ten mighty men, great commanders, strengthen the city. Those that are truly wise and good are taken under God’s protection, and are safer there than if ten of the mightiest men in the city, men of the greatest power and interest, should undertake to secure them, and become their patrons.
II. Some of the precepts of wisdom, that wisdom which will be of so much advantage to us.
1. We must have an eye to God and to his hand in every thing that befals us (Ecc_7:13): Consider the work of God. To silence our complaints concerning cross events, let us consider the hand of God in them and not open our mouths against that which is his doing; let us look upon the disposal of our condition and all the circumstances of it as the work of God, and consider it as the product of his eternal counsel, which is fulfilled in every thing that befals us. Consider that every work of God is wise, just, and good, and there is an admirable beauty and harmony in his works, and all will appear at last to have been for the best. Let us therefore give him the glory of all his works concerning us, and study to answer his designs in them. Consider the work of God as that which we cannot make any alteration of. Who can make that straight which he has made crooked? Who can change the nature of things from what is settled by the God of nature? If he speak trouble, who can make peace? And, if he hedge up the way with thorns, who can get forward? If desolating judgments go forth with commission, who can put a stop to them? Since therefore we cannot mend God’s work, we ought to make the best of it.
2. We must accommodate ourselves to the various dispensations of Providence that respect us, and do the work and duty of the day in its day, Ecc_7:14. Observe, (1.) How the appointments and events of Providence are counterchanged. In this world, at the same time, some are in prosperity, others are in adversity; the same persons at one time are in great prosperity, at another time in great adversity; nay, one event prosperous, and another grievous, may occur to the same person at the same time. Both come from the hand of God; out of his mouth both evil and good proceed (Isa_14:7), and he has set the one over against the other, so that there is a very short and easy passage between them, and they are a foil to each other. Day and night, summer and winter, are set the one over against the other, that in prosperity we may rejoice as though we rejoiced not, and in adversity may weep as though we wept not, for we may plainly see the one from the other and quickly exchange the one for the other; and it is to the end that man may find nothing after him, that he may not be at any certainty concerning future events or the continuance of the present scene, but may live in a dependence upon Providence and be ready for whatever happens. Or that man may find nothing in the work of God which he can pretend to amend. (2.) How we must comply with the will of God in events of both kinds. Our religion, in general, must be the same in all conditions, but the particular instances and exercises of it must vary, as our outward condition does, that we may walk after the Lord. [1.] In a day of prosperity (and it is but a day), we must be joyful, be in good, be doing good, and getting good, maintain a holy cheerfulness, and serve the Lord with gladness of heart in the abundance of all things. “When the world smiles, rejoice in God, and praise him, and let the joy of the Lord be thy strength.” [2.] In a day of adversity (and that is but a day too) consider. Times of affliction are proper times for consideration, then God calls to consider (Hag_1:5), then, if ever, we are disposed to it, and no good will be gotten by the affliction without it. We cannot answer God’s end in afflicting us unless we consider why and wherefore he contends with us. And consideration is necessary also to our comfort and support under our afflictions.
3. We must not be offended at the greatest prosperity of wicked people, nor at the saddest calamities that may befal the godly in this life, Ecc_7:15. Wisdom will teach us how to construe those dark chapters of Providence so as to reconcile them with the wisdom, holiness, goodness, and faithfulness of God. We must not think it strange; Solomon tells us there were instances of this kind in his time: “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity; I have taken notice of all that passed, and this has been as surprising and perplexing to me as any thing.” Observe, Though Solomon was so wise and great a man, yet he calls the days of his life the days of his vanity, for the best days on earth are so, in comparison with the days of eternity. Or perhaps he refers to the days of his apostasy from God (those were indeed the days of his vanity) and reflects upon this as one thing that tempted him to infidelity, or at least to indifferency in religion, that he saw just men perishing in their righteousness, that the greatest piety would not secure men from the greatest afflictions by the hand of God, nay, and sometimes did expose men to the greatest injuries from the hands of wicked and unreasonable men. Naboth perished in his righteousness, and Abel long before. He had also seen wicked men prolonging their lives in their wickedness; they live, become old, yea, are mighty in power (Job_21:7), yea, and by their fraud and violence they screen themselves from the sword of justice. “Now, in this, consider the work of God, and let it not be a stumbling-block to thee.” The calamities of the righteous are preparing them for their future blessedness, and the wicked, while their days are prolonged, are but ripening for ruin. There is a judgment to come, which will rectify this seeming irregularity, to the glory of God and the full satisfaction of all his people, and we must wait with patience till then.
4. Wisdom will be of use both for caution to saints in their way, and for a check to sinners in their way. (1.) As to saints, it will engage them to proceed and persevere in their righteousness, and yet will be an admonition to them to take heed of running into extremes: A just man may perish in his righteousness, but let him not, by his own imprudence and rash zeal, pull trouble upon his own head, and then reflect upon Providence as dealing hardly with him. “Be not righteous overmuch, Ecc_7:16. In the acts of righteousness govern thyself by the rules of prudence, and be not transported, no, not by a zeal for God, into any intemperate heats or passions, or any practices unbecoming thy character or dangerous to thy interests.” Note, There may be over-doing in well-doing. Self-denial and mortification of the flesh are good; but if we prejudice our health by them, and unfit ourselves for the service of God, we are righteous overmuch. To reprove those that offend is good, but to cast that pearl before swine, who will turn again and rend us, is to be righteous overmuch. “Make not thyself over-wise. Be not opinionative, and conceited of thy own abilities. Set not up for a dictator, nor pretend to give law to, and give judgment upon, all about thee. Set not up for a critic, to find fault with every thing that is said and done, nor busy thyself in other men’s matters, as if thou knewest every thing and couldst do any thing. Why shouldst thou destroy thyself, as fools often do by meddling with strife that belongs not to them? Why shouldst thou provoke authority, and run thyself into the briers, by needless contradictions, and by going out of thy sphere to correct what is amiss? Be wise as serpents; beware of men.” (2.) As to sinners, if it cannot prevail with them to forsake their sins, yet it may restrain them from growing very exorbitant. It is true there is a wicked man that prolongs his life in his wickedness (Ecc_7:15); but let none say that therefore they may safely be as wicked as they will; no, be not overmuch wicked (Ecc_7:17); do not run to an excess of riot. Many that will not be wrought upon by the fear of God, and a dread of the torments of hell, to avoid all sin, will yet, if they have ever so little consideration, avoid those sins that ruin their health and estate, and expose them to public justice. And Solomon here makes use of these considerations. “The magistrate bears not the sword in vain, has a quick eye and a heavy hand, and is a terror to evil-doers; therefore be afraid of coming within his reach, be not so foolish as to lay thyself open to the law, why shouldst thou die before thy time?” Solomon, in these two cautions, had probably a special regard to some of his own subjects that were disaffected to his government and were meditating the revolt which they made immediately after his death. Some, it may be, quarrelled with the sins of their governor, and made them their pretence; to them he says, Be not righteous overmuch. Others were weary of the strictness of the government, and the temple-service, and that made them desirous to set up another king; but he frightens both from their seditious practices with the sword of justice, and others likewise from meddling with those that were given to change.
5. Wisdom will direct us in the mean between two extremes, and keep us always in the way of our duty, which we shall find a plain and safe way (Ecc_7:18): “It is good that thou shouldst take hold of this, this wisdom, this care, not to run thyself into snares. Yea, also from this withdraw not thy hand; never slacken thy diligence, nor abate thy resolution to maintain a due decorum, and a good government of thyself. Take hold of the bridle by which thy head-strong passions must be held in from hurrying thee into one mischief or other, as the horse and mule that have no understanding; and, having taken hold of it, keep thy hold, and withdraw not thy hand from it, for, it thou do, the liberty that they will take will be as the letting forth of water, and thou wilt not easily recover thy hold again. Be conscientious, and yet be cautious, and to this exercise thyself. Govern thyself steadily by the principles of religion, and thou shalt find that he that fears God shall come forth out of all those straits and difficulties which those run themselves into that cast off that fear.” The fear of the Lord is that wisdom which will serve as a clue to extricate us out of the most intricate labyrinths. Honesty is the best policy. Those that truly fear God have but one end to serve, and therefore act steadily. God has likewise promised to direct those that fear him, and to order their steps not only in the right way, but out of every dangerous way, Psa_37:23, Psa_37:24.
6. Wisdom will teach us how to conduct ourselves in reference to the sins and offences of others, which commonly contribute more than any thing else to the disturbance of our repose, which contract both guilt and grief.
(1.) Wisdom teaches us not to expect that those we deal with should be faultless; we ourselves are not so, none are so, no, not the best. This wisdom strengthens the wise as much as any thing, and arms them against the danger that arises from provocation (Ecc_7:19), so that they are not put into any disorder by it. They consider that those they have dealings and conversation with are not incarnate angels, but sinful sons and daughters of Adam: even the best are so, insomuch that there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not, Ecc_7:20. Solomon had this in his prayer (1Ki_8:46), in his proverbs (Pro_20:9), and here in his preaching. Note, [1.] It is the character of just men that they do good; for the tree is known by its fruits. [2.] The best men, and those that do most good, yet cannot say that they are perfectly free from sin; even those that are sanctified are not sinless. None that live on this side of heaven live without sin. If we say, We have not sinned, we deceive ourselves. [3.] We sin even in our doing good; there is something defective, nay, something offensive, in our best performances. That which, for the substance of it, is good, and pleasing to God, is not so well done as it should be, and omissions in duty are sins, as well as omissions of duty. [4.] It is only just men upon earth that are subject thus to sin and infirmity; the spirits of just men, when they have got clear of the body, are made perfect in holiness (Heb_12:23), and in heaven they do good and sin not.
(2.) Wisdom teaches us not to be quicksighted, or quickscented, in apprehending and resenting affronts, but to wink at many of the injuries that are done us, and act as if we did not see them (Ecc_7:21): “Take no heed to all words that are spoken; set not thy heart to them. Vex not thyself at men’s peevish reflections upon thee, or suspicions of thee, but be as a deaf man that hears not, Psa_38:13, Psa_38:14. Be not solicitous or inquisitive to know what people say of thee; if they speak well of thee, it will feed thy pride, if ill, it will stir up thy passion. See therefore that thou approve thyself to God and thy own conscience, and then heed not what men say of thee. Hearkeners, we say, seldom hear good of themselves; if thou heed every word that is spoken, perhaps thou wilt hear thy own servant curse thee when he thinks thou dost not hear him; thou wilt be told that he does, and perhaps told falsely, if thou have thy ear open to tale-bearers, Pro_29:12. Nay, perhaps it is true, and thou mayest stand behind the curtain and hear it thyself, mayest hear thyself not only blamed and despised, but cursed, the worst evil said of thee and wished to thee, and that by a servant, one of the meanest rank, of the abjects, nay, by thy own servant, who should be an advocate for thee, and protect thy good name as well as thy other interests. Perhaps it is a servant thou hast been kind to, and yet he requites thee thus ill, and this will vex thee; thou hadst better not have heard it. Perhaps it is a servant thou hast wronged and dealt unjustly with, and, though he dares not tell thee so, he tells others so, and tells God so, and then thy own conscience will join with him in the reproach, which will make it much more uneasy.” The good names of the greatest lie much at the mercy even of the meanest. And perhaps there is a great deal more evil said of us than we think there is, and by those from whom we little expected it. But we do not consult our own repose, no, nor our credit, though we pretend to be jealous of it, if we take notice of every word that is spoken diminishingly of us; it is easier to pass by twenty such affronts than to avenge one.
(3.) Wisdom puts us in mind of our own faults (Ecc_7:22): “Be not enraged at those that speak ill of thee, or wish ill to thee, for oftentimes, in that case, if thou retire into thyself, thy own conscience will tell thee that thou thyself hast cursed others, spoken ill of them and wished ill to them, and thou art paid in thy own coin.” Note, When any affront or injury is done us it is seasonable to examine our consciences whether we have not done the same, or as bad, to others; and if, upon reflection, we find we have, we must take that occasion to renew our repentance for it, must justify God, and make use of it to qualify our own resentments. If we be truly angry with ourselves, as we ought to be, for backbiting and censuring others, we shall be the less angry with others for backbiting and censuring us. We must show all meekness towards all men, for we ourselves were sometimes foolish, Tit_3:2, Tit_3:3; Mat_7:1, Mat_7:2; Jam_3:1, Jam_3:2.

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