Is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture,
created from 1501 to 1504
By the Italian
With a height of 5.17-metre (17 ft 0 in), the David was
the first colossal marble statue after antiquity,
a precedent for the 16th century and beyond.
was originally commissioned
as one of a series of statues of prophets
to be positioned along the roofline of the
of Florence Cathedral, but was instead
placed in the public square in front of the Palazzo della Signoria,
the seat of civic government in Florence,
where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504. In 1873,
the statue was moved to the Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence, and in 1910 replaced at the original location by a replica.
The biblical figure David was a favoured subject in the art of Florence. Because of the nature of the figure it represented, the statue soon came to symbolize the defence of civil liberties embodied in the Republic of Florence, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival sta
The pose of Michelangelo's David is unlike that of earlier Renaissance depictions of David. The bronze statues by Donatello and Verrocchio represented the hero standing victorious over the head of Goliath, and the painter Andrea del Castagno had shown the boy in mid-swing, even as Goliath's head rested between his feet, but no earlier Florentine artist had omitted the giant altogether. According to most scholars, David is depicted before his battle with Goliath. Instead of being shown victorious over a foe much larger than he, David looks tense and ready for battle after he has made the decision to fight Goliath, but, before the battle has actually taken place. His brow is drawn, his neck tense, and the veins bulge out of his lowered right hand. His left hand holds a sling that is draped over his shoulder and down to his right hand, which holds the handle of the sling.
The nudity reflects the story of David as stated in the Bible, similar to Adam in the Garden. I Samuel 17:38–39: "And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him."
The idea of there being
“pearly gates” in heaven
Is based on a reference in
The book of Revelation describing the
Twelve gates of New Jerusalem.
The passage describes an immense and lovely city with a wall built of jasper (a kind of precious stone that can be red, yellow, brown, or green)
and twelve foundations of different gemstones.
Then it describes the gates themselves: “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass”
In popular imagination, the “pearly gates” are often considered as the entrance into heaven, but Revelation shows the gates as belonging to the city of New Jerusalem. The city and heaven are not exactly synonymous; the city comes “down out of heaven” (Revelation 21:2) and is part of the new earth (Revelation 21:1). Also, contrary to the popular idea that the pearly gates bar heaven’s entrance, the Bible says the gates of pearl will always be open: they “will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there” (Revelation 21:22–25). The gates, made of a single pearl, will be entered by the redeemed in the eternal state: “Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:26–27).
The promise of entry to
The New Jerusalem
beautiful and daunting.
The idea of such a city is wonderful to think about--
a place where
nothing false or unclean
or harmful will ever be
able to enter
And the pearly gates will be a dazzling sight. However, we have all done bad things and told lies. Does this mean that we will not be able to enter the New Jerusalem? The answer is “it depends.” We are all sinners, but those whose sin is forgiven by the blood of Christ are named in the Lamb’s book of life. “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1).
Those who are in Christ are the children of God
and will receive an eternal inheritance
(1 Peter 1:4).
Psalm 119 is a long acrostic poem dedicated singularly to
value of God’s Word.
In verse 105, the psalmist declares to the Lord, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (ESV). Just as a lamp brightens a path for our feet to walk, God’s Word provides the illumination and guidance we need to walk in this world.
The word translated “lamp” in this passage is ner in the original Hebrew. It refers to a small clay lantern with a solitary wick. The psalmist describes the Word of God as a lamp carried on his journey to distinguish the way and keep him from stumbling off course and going astray. The light of God’s Word allows us to see the right direction. It is God’s guidance for our travels through life on earth.
Proverbs 6:23 offers a companion thought: “For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.” The guidance referred to by the biblical writers is not the advice of career counselors or pop magazines but rock-solid truth for navigating difficult moral choices in a dark and fallen world.
Ideas like moral relativism, situational ethics, and subjectivism make staying on the right path all the more challenging and perplexing. Worldly voices claim, “There are many paths to God,” “There’s no such thing as absolute truth,” and “Just do what feels right to you.” If we aren’t careful about the choices we make, if we listen to these voices rather than rely on God’s illuminating truth to guide us on the right roads, we will quickly encounter grief and ruin.
Only God’s Word provides the direction we need. Second Peter 1:19 describes it as a reliable lamp shining in a dark place: “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
The apostle Paul told his young protégé, Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NLT). If we study God’s Word frequently and diligently, if we give it our full attention, it will provide us with the direction, correction, and wisdom we need to succeed in life and do the Lord’s work.
Obeying God’s Word brings blessings and rewards: “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (Psalm 1:1–3, NLT; see also Exodus 15:26; Psalm 128:1; James 1:22–25). On his deathbed, King David told his son Solomon, “Keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn” (1 Kings 2:3, ESV).
God’s Word has extraordinary power, says Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The Word of God is alive because He is a living God (Hebrews 3:12; 2 Corinthians 6:16). His words are full of energy, life, power, and productivity—they cause things to happen (Psalm 33:9). If we allow it to, if we don’t ignore it, God’s Word will take an active presence in our lives. We can trust the Word of God to accomplish whatever purpose God intends for it and to prosper wherever He sends it (Isaiah 55:11). For this reason, we ought to study it (2 Timothy 2:15), meditate on it (Psalm 119:97), hold firmly to it (Philippians 2:16), and hide it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).
Christians can say to God,
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a
light to my path”
because the Word of God is the living energy that actively provides
illumination, insight, direction, and guidance
for our pilgrimage through a dark and sinful world.
Containing 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest single chapter in the Bible. The author of Psalm 119 is unknown, but most scholars agree that it was written by David, Ezra, or Daniel. Each of these proposed authors suffered serious difficulties in his life, and the author of Psalm 119 reflects that in descriptions of plots, slanders, and taunts against him (verses 23, 42, 51, 150 ), persecutions (verses 61, 86, 95, 110, 121, 134, 157, 161), and afflictions (verses 67, 71, 143, 153). The persecution and affliction of the man (and woman)
of God is a major theme of Psalm 119.
Another prominent theme in Psalm 119 is
the profound truth that the Word of God is all-sufficient.
Psalm 119 is an expansion of Psalm 19:7–9:
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
There are eight different terms referring to
The Word of God
throughout the psalm: law, testimonies, precepts, statues, commandments, judgments, word, and ordinances. In almost every verse, the Word of God is mentioned. Psalm 119 affirms not only the character of the Scriptures, but it affirms that God’s Word reflects the very character of God Himself. Notice these attributes of God ascribed to Scripture in Psalm 119:
(verses 7, 62, 75, 106, 123, 138, 144, 160, 164, 172)
2. Trustworthiness (verse 42)
3. Truthfulness (verses 43, 142, 151, 160)
4. Faithfulness (verse 86)
5. Unchangeableness (verse 89)
6. Eternality (verses 90,152)
7. Light (verse 105)
8. Purity (verse 140)
The format of Psalm 119 is an alphabetic acrostic, meaning that the first letters of each line in Hebrew follow through the alphabet, 8 lines per letter, thus 8 lines x 22 letters in Hebrew = 176 lines.
One message of this psalm is that we are to live a lifestyle that demonstrates obedience to the Lord,
who is a God of order
(hence the acrostic structure), not of chaos.
The psalm opens with two beatitudes.
are those whose ways are blameless, who live according to God’s law, who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart.
The author of the psalm is a man who has known great trouble in his life, but also one who has come through it with a deep and passionate understanding of God’s unfailing love and compassion (Psalm 119:75–77).
Throughout his affliction, the author clings to the truths he learns from the Scriptures, which are eternal and “stand firm in the heavens”
His love for the Word of God
and his dedication to remember it and live by it is a theme
that is repeated over and over
(verses 11, 15–16, 24, 34, 44, 47, 55, 60, etc.).
These are the lessons for us in this great psalm.
The Word of God
sufficient to make us
train us in righteousness,
for every good work
(2 Timothy 3:15–17)
The Scriptures are a reflection of God’s nature,
and from them we learn that we can trust
His character and His plan and purposes for mankind,
even when those
plans include affliction and persecution.
Blessed indeed are we
if our delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on His law
we meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2).
This verse offers a stern warning not to add
to the words of Revelation;
the next verse also
condemns those who would attempt to censor it.
Adding to the book of Revelation
brings God's judgment:
plagues will fall on the one who adds to Revelation.
referring to those who try to make this
writing say things it does not say: warping the text for
their own ends.
Adding comments, content, or interpretations
minimize Revelation's commands and promises
to calling the Holy Spirit,
inspired the book, a liar.
Otherwise known as
blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,
the one and only unpardonable sin
When Moses gave God's statutes and rules to Israel,
“You shall not add to the word that I command you,
nor take from it,
that you may keep the commandments of the LORD
your God that I command you"
Also, in Deuteronomy 12:32, the Lord warned:
"Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do.
You shall not add to it or take from it."
Proverbs 30:5–6 says,
“Every word of God proves
Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you
you be found a liar."
perfect and authoritative
and needs no human additions.
A message as complex as Revelation,
in particular, cannot be manipulated
without risking severe error
(1 Corinthians 4:6)
“For I testify together to everyone
who hears the Words of the prophecy of this Book:
If anyone adds to these things,
God will add
on him the plagues that have been
written in this Book.
And if anyone
takes away from the Words of the
Book of this prophecy,
God will take away his part out of
Book of Life, and out of the holy city,
and from the things which have
written in this Book.”
This warning is given specifically
to those who
distort the message of the Book of Revelation.
Author of Revelation
and the giver of the
vision to the apostle John
As such, He concludes
The book with a confirmation
His testimony to the finality
prophecies contained in Revelation.
These are His words,
and He warns
against distorting them in any way,
whether through additions, subtractions,
falsifications, alterations, or intentional
The warning is explicit and dire. The plagues of Revelation
will be visited upon anyone guilty of
tampering in any way
with the revelations in the book,
and those who dare to do so
will have no part in eternal life in heaven.
The principle applies
to anyone who seeks to intentionally
Moses gave a similar warning in Deuteronomy 4:1-2, where
he cautioned the Israelites
that they must listen to and obey the commandments of the Lord,
neither adding to nor taking away from
His revealed Word. Proverbs 30:5-6
contains a similar admonition to anyone who would add to God’s words:
he will be rebuked and proven to be a liar.
We must be careful
handle the Bible
with care and reverence so as to
not distort its message.
In Galatians 5:16-18, the Apostle Paul tells us,
“So I say, walk by the Spirit,
and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit,
and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.
They are in conflict with each other, so that you are
not to do whatever you want.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
When a person refers to being
“led by the Spirit,”
often it is hard for us to understand what that means.
Being Led by the Spirit
From the time a person places faith in Christ,
they are given the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit permanently indwells believers, and
He will never leave us.
Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit
as “the Helper” (John 14:26, ESV).
He is referred to as “the Helper” because He helps us in our struggles.
When we don’t know what to pray for,
the Holy Spirit intercedes with moans and groans
that words cannot express
There are times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed with sorrow, pain, and grief. In these times, we may not know how to process our feelings — much less express them in words to our Heavenly Father.
The Holy Spirit can intervene
on our behalf
and communicate our feelings to the Father.
In addition to intervening on our behalf and guiding us, the Holy Spirit can also lead us if we allow Him. The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity, which means He is God. Many people do not know that the Holy Spirit is God, but He is God.
He is even often overlooked
and downplayed among
Christian circles who know He is God.
The Holy Spirit deserves
recognition and worship because
He is God,
and He is completely
worthy of our praise.
Being led by the Spirit is a popular topic among Christians, yet not many people are aware of what this means. When Paul is telling us to be “led” by the Spirit, he is referring to the fact that we should be open and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
The Holy Spirit wants us to do the right things and to avoid sin. He can convict our hearts and minds when we commit a sin. Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we can repent and turn back to God.
If a person consistently refuses to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they can become cold and callous to the Spirit’s guidance. When a person consistently refuses the Spirit’s guidance, they will not be able to be led by the Spirit.
Instead, they will be led by the sinful flesh. As believers, we need to follow after God and obey the Holy Spirit’s convictions and guidance.
When we listen to the Spirit’s convictions and guidance,
we can truly be led by the Spirit.
Being willing and open to the Holy Spirit's guidance is the only true way of how a person can be led by the Spirit.
Due to our fallen nature, we
all have sinful flesh
This means we are all born into sin and we all freely sin.
The sinful nature stays with us until we die. Many Christians believe a person’s sinful flesh is destroyed once they place faith in Christ; however, this is not true.
When a person places faith in Christ, they are forgiven of their sins, yet their sin nature is not completely eradicated. Our sinful nature will not be eradicated until we are with Christ in heaven.
Since we will continue to struggle with our sinful flesh throughout our earthly lives, we are constantly being tempted by our sinful nature. Our sinful flesh wants us to follow it rather than to follow the Holy Spirit.
When we choose to follow the Holy Spirit, then we are not walking in accordance with the flesh (Galatians 5:16-18). Our sinful flesh and the Holy Spirit are both constantly in conflict inside of us.
This can be troubling for us because oftentimes the easiest thing to do is to follow our sinful flesh rather than the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Obeying the Holy Spirit and following Him is always the right thing to do.
Allowing yourself to be led
by the Holy Spirit will help you grow
in your relationship in Christ as well as it will help you grow
in your Christian maturity.
If we choose to follow the sinful flesh,
we will hurt God, others, and ourselves.
Following the lead of the Holy Spirit can be hard, but it is completely worth it. It is important to note that if we are not being led by the Holy Spirit, then we are being led by our own sinful nature.
As Christians, we have to take the active decision to choose to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit rather than our sinful flesh.
Following the Holy Spirit’s GuidanceIn order to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, you have to follow His guidance. In addition to yielding to His conviction, you can also become aware of the Holy Spirit’s leading through reading the Bible.
There is much information about the
in the Bible and the more we learn about Him,
the better we will be at discerning
His leading and guidance.
A few aspects of the Holy Spirit’s leading are the
fruits of the Spirit.
When we are being led by the Spirit,
we will produce these fruits in our lives, including
love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control.
The opposite of the fruits of the Spirit are the deeds of the
flesh as Paul tells us,
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality,
impurity and debauchery; idolatry
We can distinguish who is leading our life based on our actions, thought patterns, and behaviors. If we are cultivating and producing the fruits of the Spirit in our life, then we are truly being led by the Holy Spirit and we are walking in accordance with His will.
On the other hand, if we see the deeds of the sinful flesh being cultivated and produced in our lives, then we are following the lead of our sinful flesh and are walking in accordance with our sin nature.
What Does This Mean?If you find today that you are being led by your sinful flesh rather than the Holy Spirit, you can change direction today. Ask God to help you be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s convictions and ask Him to help you cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in your life.
The Lord answers
every prayer in
accordance with His will
and these types of prayers are in accordance with His will.
After praying, you can start reading the Bible intentionally
and searching out the
verses/passages/chapters of the Bible to obtain the
Holy Spirit’s guidance.
The Bible is the only way God speaks to us in the modern-day.
He does not speak to us from thunderclouds nor through prophets.
He has completely
revealed Himself in
and we can yield to the Holy Spirit’s guidance
by reading, reflecting, and applying the
Bible in our lives.
Being led by the Spirit means to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance as revealed to us in the Bible. Throughout our lives, we will constantly be challenged to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit or the leading of our sinful nature.
The challenge will be hard, but with the help of God, we can follow the Holy Spirit’s lead throughout our lives and bring glory to the Creator of our hearts.
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.”
In this chapter of Matthew’s Gospel,
the harsh rebuke
“Woe to you…” seven times in a row in reference to the scribes and Pharisees. He also calls them “blind guides,” “hypocrites,” “whitewashed tombs,” “serpents,” “brood of vipers,” and “murderers.” Jesus could not be any clearer about His wholehearted and harsh rebukes of these religious leaders.
Why is Jesus so harsh toward the scribes and Pharisees? Because they are doing one of the grave evils one can do. They are misleading people in the name of God. Nothing could be worse.
the scribes and Pharisees
may not see it this way.
But that is precisely one of the main reasons Jesus is so strong in His public rebuke of these religious leaders. His strong rebuke is an act of mercy on His part in that the scribes and Pharisees need more than just a simple invitation to repentance. They need to have their twisted malice laid out before them clearly and definitively. And it needs to be laid out for them and also for others to see.
This rebuke of Jesus is not spoken
in irrational anger or hatred;
it is spoken in the hope that these truths
will sink in
and they will repent
Reflect, today, upon two important lessons from these rebukes.
First, ponder whether or not you struggle with the ugly sins of self-righteousness. Do you act religious, while at the same time fail to be truly merciful?
Second, be aware that at times the most loving thing you can do for another is to rebuke them. Be careful with this and make sure that any rebuke offered is truly from the Lord. Do not hesitate to do so when, with a well formed conscience, you discern this to be from God.
It may be the best way to win this form of sinner back to Christ.
But when he,
the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into
all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
he will speak only what he hears,
will tell you what is yet to come
It is difficult for us to even imagine, isn’t it?
These men and women had been with Jesus from the beginning.
Spent countless hours walking together;
spending nights in
who-knows-where type of places.
They watched in awe
as he performed miracle after miracle, healing after healing.
They knew he was special.
Eventually, they also knew
he was the
The Chosen One
The Son of God
Jesus was forever teaching them. Helping them. Guiding them. And yet…
They also watched as he challenged — no, confronted is more like it — the religious leaders of the day. He stood up to them. Defied them. And those he challenged didn’t like it.
His disciples knew it was a dangerous game and they feared for him — and for themselves. They feared the worst, and the worst came to pass. What would they do then? What would happen next? What did the future hold?
More than once he told them that he was going to be leaving them soon. Knowing their doubts and fears, as he always does, Jesus reassured them he would not leave them alone. He would leave them with an advocate. A counselor (John 14:25-27).
And he gave them an inkling into who the Advocate is and what he would do:
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father — the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:26-27).
Why Is the Spirit of Truth Significant?
The Bible is so much more than just words written on a page. It is more than what the words seem to mean in whatever language or translation version we happen to be reading.
It is far more than a list of do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations, or rites and rituals. Yet so many of us have failed at some point to move to the next level of understanding.
Often, the disciples themselves did not understand the teachings found in Jesus’ words. They asked him why he taught in parables (Matthew 13:11-13).
But despite their lack of understanding, Jesus did not leave them without a hope to eventually understand the spiritual intent of Jesus’ words (John 14:16-21; 16:12-15).
“I have more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” Jesus knew the disciples would be unable to understand the spiritual meaning, the spiritual truth, of His words at that moment.
The Holy Spirit was with them, but not yet inthem (John 14:17) — thus, they were hearing the words but were not yet able to grasp a full understanding.
It would not be until they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, after Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 2:4) that they would have the power to begin to understand the Truth of who Christ is, and the true spiritual meaning of his teachings.
And boy, how it changed them.
The Spirit of Truth Is Revealed to UsIn his letter to the Corinthians, Paul referred to these two levels of understanding: mind vs. heart; human understanding vs. spiritual understanding; born of the flesh vs. taught by the Spirit of God.
No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him — these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words (1 Corinthians 2:7-13).
- God’s wisdom — a mystery (v. 7).
- Which none of the rulers of this age understood (v. 8).
- Wisdom “no eye has seen or ears has heard, and no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him” (v. 9).
- These are things that God has revealed to us by his Spirit (v. 10).
Clearly, we can possess human knowledge,
math and the sciences, and the like. But there is knowledge we humans are not capable of knowing, or discerning, without the help of the Spirit.
That same knowledge, which God reveals to those who give themselves to Jesus. Those he calls by his Spirit.
God’s Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He guides us so that God’s wisdom can travel the 12 inches from our heads to our hearts.
Just as the “spirit of the world” enables us to understand the things of the world, so God’s Spirit helps us understand the spiritual truths of God.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit (v. 14).
No one who does not have the Spirit of Truth living within them can begin to understand the spiritual truths of God. They are considered foolishness to them.
Jesus knew his words would fall on many deaf ears. It was not his intent that the multitudes would understand the spiritual meaning of his teachings — yet. So, when the disciples asked,
“Why do you speak in parables?” Jesus answered
with the Truth.
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them” (Matthew 13:11).
And then Jesus said this:
But God has blessed you. You understand what you see with your eyes. And you understand what you hear with your ears (v. 16).
What Does This Mean?Will we have all the answers? Of course not. But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, enables this understanding within us, so that we can begin to comprehend and appreciate things beyond the physical world we see, know, and understand the Truth.
And the Truth will set us free (John 8:32).
The letter to the church at Laodicea is the harshest of the seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor. By His indictment of their “deeds” (Revelation 3:15), Jesus makes it clear that this is a dead church. The members of this church see themselves as “rich” and self-sufficient, but the Lord sees them as “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (verse 17). Their lukewarm faith was hypocritical; their church was full of unconverted, pretend Christians.
Jesus frequently equates deeds with a person’s true spiritual state: “By their fruit you will recognize them,” and “Every good tree bears good fruit” (Matthew 7:16–17). Clearly, the lukewarm deeds of the Laodiceans were not in keeping with true salvation. The deeds of the true believer will be “hot” or “cold”—that is, they will benefit the world in some way and reflect the spiritual passion of a life transformed. Lukewarm deeds, however—those done without joy, without love, and without the fire of the Spirit—do harm to the watching world. The lukewarm are those who claim to know God but live as though He doesn’t exist.
They may go to church
practice a form of religion,
their inner state is one of
They claim to be Christians,
their hearts are unchanged,
hypocrisy is sickening to God
The fact that the lukewarm individuals to whom Christ speaks are not saved is seen in the picture of Jesus standing outside of the church (Revelation 3:20). He has not yet been welcomed into their midst. In love, the Lord rebukes and disciplines them, commanding them to repent (verse 19). He sees their lukewarm attitudes as “shameful nakedness” that needs to be clothed in the white garments of true righteousness (verse 18). He urges them to be earnest, or zealous, and commit themselves totally to Him. Our Lord is gracious and long-suffering and gives the lukewarm time to repent.
The Laodiceans enjoyed material prosperity that, coupled with a semblance of true religion, led them to a false sense of security and independence (see Mark 10:23).
The expression “I am rich;
I have acquired wealth” (Revelation 3:17) stresses that the
wealth attained came though
self-exertion. Spiritually, they had great needs.
A self-sufficient attitude and lukewarm faith
are constant dangers
when people live lives of ease and prosperity.
What does 2 Timothy 3:16 mean?
After noting the importance of the "sacred writings" for wisdom for salvation in the previous verse, Paul makes one of the most important and frequently-quoted statements in the entire Bible: "All Scripture is breathed out by God." The "All Scripture" in this case most specifically referred to the Old Testament, since the full New Testament did not yet exist. At the time Paul wrote these words, books such as the Gospel of John and Revelation had not yet been written. However, this principle would still apply to all Scripture given by God, including the 27 books of the New Testament. New Testament writers recognized Scripture even as it was written (2 Peter 3:15–16).
The description here of God's word is the Greek theopneustos. This is very literally translated as "God-breathed." Human authors put the words to paper, through their own personal perspectives and styles. But the ultimate source of this information is not human, but divine. The Greek language makes this particular description even more layered. The Greek root word pneo is used for wind, breath, a spirit, or "the" Spirit. This is a wordplay Jesus uses when speaking to Nicodemus (John 3:8). In a symbolic sense, in Greek, the word Paul uses is a model of the Bible itself: an extension of God's will, formed out of His spirit, in written form.
As such, this written Scripture is perfect (Psalm 19; 119). Because all Scripture is perfect, it is "profitable" for many areas of life. Paul lists four areas in this verse. First, Scripture is profitable for teaching. It is to be used to instruct people to know God better. Second, Scripture is profitable for reproof or rebuke, the idea of exposing or pointing out sin. Third, Scripture is useful for correction. Scripture both points out sin and offers a solution to it. Fourth, Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness. Though similar to teaching, training is more focused on practical application. From Scripture we learn what is true, what is wrong, how to correct wrong, and how to apply truth.
John Bunyan, in the second part of his book
The Pilgrim’s Progress,
describes the time when Christiana and her companions
must descend into the
Valley of Humiliation.
Bunyan describes that place as
“a steep hill, and the way was slippery.”
In other words, it’s never easy to humble oneself,
and when our path
demands humility of us, we can easily slip up.
Humility can be defined as the
absence of pride, just as darkness is the absence of
We cannot become more humble by focusing on humility,
as it becomes a source of pride
when we believe we have achieved it.
C.S. Lewis describes humility not as thinking less of ourselves,
but as thinking of ourselves less.
With that definition in mind, the Bible has much to say about
seeing ourselves in proper perspective.
Holding the biblical perspective humbles us.
Humility increases when we are willing
to be humbled
by God, circumstances, and others.
Our sinful natures do not want to
We tend to protect our pride as though it were our best friend,
but pride gets in the way of our relationship with God.
He resists the prideful
but gives grace to the humble
He will work with us when
we desire humility,
development of humility will be painful.
Despite the discomfort,
we find an added
measure of grace to sustain us as
we suffer through
the refining process
The first step in humbling ourselves is to
our motives for the things we do.
Whenever we see that our actions are geared to elicit
favorable opinions from others, we should bring it to the Lord.
We can pray something like this:
“Lord, You see what I’m about to do here. Is this for
Your glory or for mine?
Examine my heart.
Am I desiring to give
or keep some for myself?”
It’s not always wrong to want to make a good impression,
but when we make the majority of our
choices based on pleasing people, we may
have a pride problem.
We can confess our wrong motives and commit to doing only
glorifies the Lord and not us.
That may mean deferring the
praise we get
to another who also deserves it.
Another step in humbling ourselves is to evaluate our response when we are slighted, overlooked, or underappreciated. We admit to ourselves and to God that the sting of self-pity we feel is pride demanding to defend itself.
Rather than give in to it,
we instead choose to embrace the opportunity to learn humility.
We can pray something like this:
“Father, I’m hurt and angry right now because they left me out
(or didn’t appreciate me, etc.).
Thank You for this opportunity to deal with
some areas of pride in my life
that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
If I’m overlooked,
comfort knowing Christ
overlooked, rejected, and misunderstood.”
Learning to be more humble involves capturing prideful moments and bringing them to the Lord so they cannot grow.
We allow Him to turn something harmful into something
beneficial for our
Recognizing areas of pride is a critical part of defeating it,
so we must be prepared
to agree with the Lord when He points them out to us.
The Bible gives examples of proud men who nevertheless humbled themselves when faced with the judgment of God. King Hezekiah struggled with pride, but he humbled himself and turned away God’s wrath from Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:25–26). The wicked kings Ahab (1 Kings 21:27–29), Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:1–12), and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:10–13) all wisely chose to humble themselves and seek the Lord’s mercy. In each case, mercy was granted.
The Bible lavishes praise on the humble. Jesus, of course, modeled humility (Matthew 11:29). Moses was “more humble than any other person” (Numbers 12:3). Paul reminded the Corinthians that, even though he was an apostle and their spiritual elder, he was humble when he was among them (2 Corinthians 10:1). Jesus taught that those who wish to be great must be the most humble (Matthew 23:12). Many places in Scripture command us to humble ourselves (Ephesians 4:2; 1 Peter 3:8; 5:6). If we don’t humble ourselves, God will do it, and that can be even more painful (Luke 1:52; 18:14).
When we abandon ourselves to the will of God, there is no room for pride. He may require us to do some humbling things, but it will be for our betterment. We cooperate with Him in the process by seeking unimportant jobs, working behind the scenes, helping when no one else does, and reminding ourselves that our reward is in heaven (Matthew 6:4). Those whose gaze is locked firmly on eternity find it easier to embrace humility on earth.
As we learn to be more humble, we discover that the place of the humble is a place of beauty. To continue Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, once Christiana and her friends make their descent into the Valley of Humiliation, they find it to be a peaceful, abundant land. The author describes it: “This Valley of Humiliation . . . is the best and most useful brave piece of ground in all those parts. It is fat ground, and . . . consisteth much in meadows. . . . Behold how green this Valley is, also how beautified with lilies (Song. 2:1). I have also known many labouring men that have got good estates in this Valley of Humiliation . . .
for indeed it is a very fruitful soil,
and doth bring forth by handfuls.”
The apostle Paul wrote a warning
for the church:
“The time will come when men will
not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather
around them a great number
of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”
(2 Timothy 4:3).
The Greek word translated “itching” literally means “to itch, rub, scratch, or tickle.” To want one’s ears “tickled” is to desire massages rather than messages—sermons that charm rather than challenge, entertain rather than edify, and please rather than preach. The people Paul warns about will have, as one commentator put it, “ears which have to be continually titillated with novelties.”
is a figure of speech that refers to people’s desires, felt needs, or wants. It is these desires that impel a person to believe whatever he wants to believe rather than the actual truth itself. When people have “itching ears,” they decide for themselves what is right or wrong, and they seek out others to support their notions. “Itching ears” are concerned with what feels good or comfortable, not with the truth—after all, truth is often uncomfortable. Paul’s warning is that the church would one day contain those who only opened their ears to those who would scratch their “itch.”
Those with “itching ears” only want teachers who will assure them that all is well, teachers who say, “Peace, peace . . . when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Where there is a demand for something, the suppliers are not far away. Paul says that not only will there be great demand for watered-down, personalized messages, but there will be “a great number of teachers” willing to provide such pap and steer people away from “sound doctrine.”
Evidence today of people having “itching ears” includes the popularity of messages that people are not required to change, as if repentance were outmoded; that people are basically good; that God is too loving to judge anyone; that the cross, with all its blood, is not really necessary; and that God wants His children to be healthy, wealthy, and content in this world. As people turn their backs on the truth about sin and condemnation, they disregard their need for repentance and forgiveness. And a craving for “new” and “fresher” ideas grows—even though there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9–10)—accompanied by a longing to feel good about who they are and where they’re going. Messages that tickle ears can fill a lot of churches, sell a lot of books, and buy a lot of time on cable tv.
Some of the early followers of Jesus complained about some of the Lord’s words: “Many of his disciples said, ʻThis is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ . . . From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:60, 66). Walking away from hard truth is easy to do.
In today’s postmodern church, we see many walking away from the hard truth. Some churches that once preached sound doctrine now teach as acceptable the very evils the Bible condemns. Some pastors are afraid to preach on certain passages of the Bible. “Christian feminists” deny God as a heavenly Father, calling Him a “she.” “Gay Christians” are not only welcomed without repentance into church fellowship but into the pulpit, as well.
The church’s remedy for those who have “itching ears” is found in the same passage of 2 Timothy: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). It is a solemn charge, made “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom” (verse 1). And it contains all the elements needed to combat the temptation to tickle ears: preach, correct, rebuke, and encourage. The content of preaching must be the written Word of God, and it must be preached when convenient and when inconvenient. This takes “great patience and careful instruction,” but sound doctrine is worth it.
The church’s quest to manage the comfort level of its audience must never take priority over preaching the Word. The fear of offending people’s sensibilities can never supersede the fear of offending God. Rather, the church should follow the example of the apostles: “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
The church today, more than ever, needs to re-examine the teachings it endorses. We need to ask ourselves the following questions:
• Are our teachings truly from God or simply itches we want to scratch?
• Are we standing on solid biblical grounds, or have we allowed the world to influence our thinking?
• Have we guarded ourselves from the schemes of Satan (Ephesians 6:11)?
• Are we keeping ourselves “blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)?
The truth is,
God is not
concerned with scratching our itches
transforming us into the
image of His Son
(Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
In Revelation 3:14–21,
the Lord is describing the “lukewarm” heart attitude of those in the Laodicean church, an attitude manifested by their deeds. The Laodiceans were neither cold nor hot in relation to God, just lukewarm. Hot water can cleanse and purify; cold water can refresh and enliven.
But lukewarm water carries no similar value.
The Laodiceans understood the Lord’s analogy because their city drinking water came over an aqueduct from a spring six miles to the south, and it arrived disgustingly lukewarm. Laodicean water was not hot like the nearby hot springs that people bathed in, nor was it refreshingly cold for drinking. It was lukewarm, good for nothing. In fact, it was nauseating, and that was the Lord’s response to the Laodiceans—they sickened Him, and He said, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (verse 16).
There are some words that we often use in our ministry that may seem innocent but do really impose something negative. This is problematic because it can create confusion among the members of our Church and even towards how we perceive ourselves.
There is a saying that “words build worlds” and as long as we continue to use these words or phrases, we will come to the knowledge that it really is okay to use them.
One of the most common among these mistakes is the phrase “your truth” versus The Truth. While these phrases are obviously different, they can sometimes be mistakenly interchanged.
“Your truth” or “my truth” is a phrase that we should refrain from using especially when we are talking about The Truth.
Here are four reasons why this matters.
1. Your Truth Is GroundlessWhen analyzing and evaluating data and metrics related to their work, leaders frequently insist on a “single source of truth.”
When people show up to meetings with conflicting facts because they’re taking reports from multiple sources or relying on their own impressions, it’s a huge source of aggravation. Just because someone believes something is true doesn’t mean it is true for everyone else.
There are many different perspectives or interpretations of truth, but there is only One Truth. The truth can be expressed in a variety of ways,
but there is only One Truth.
Declaring something to be “my truth” creates false and counterproductive impressions that truth is fluid, that it is not a consistent and unavoidable reality with which we must contend.
It does not benefit individuals; rather, it harms them by leaving them with
nothing constant or reliable on which to rely.
2. Your Truth Is UnspiritualAs a Christian, maturing entails desiring God’s truth rather than inventing our own.
The impulse to adhere to “my truth” isn’t new; it dates back to the Garden of Eden. We can assert, as Adam and Eve did, that it is our right to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to decide what is proper and good and what isn’t.
And by doing so, we put ourselves in the position of having to define truth. But, because we aren’t truth creators, we shouldn’t act (or speak) as if we are.
The Truth as stated in John 14:6, “Jesus answered,
‘I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes
to the Father except through me.’”
We are free if we know him
and cleave to his truth as stated in
“Then you will know the truth, and the
truth will set you free.”
We’re no longer under the constraint of building our lives on the foundation of fragility — our limited experience and understanding.
We are no longer bound by ego;
instead, we are free
to know Truth himself.
3. Your Truth Is Not Reliant on GodThe Apostle Paul refers to the good news of Jesus as “my gospel” in the Book of Romans and 2 Timothy,
This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares (Romans 2:16)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel (2 Timothy 2:8).
He was so moved by the gospel that he took it close to his heart and clung to it closely.
But, unlike “my truth,” “my gospel” had nothing to do with Paul’s competence or self-reliance. He wasn’t announcing a course of action for himself. He wasn’t distinguishing himself from others, as if there were two gospels: one for him and one for others as stated in Galatians 1:6–9,
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!
As we have already said, so now I say again:
is preaching to you a gospel
other than what you accepted,
under God’s curse!
The Apostle Paul saw him as a jar of clay containing the treasure — the Gospel of Jesus Christ as stated in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
That’s how we should see ourselves: frail and reliant on the Lord of Truth. Jesus is far better and more liberating than the pressure to find and proclaim our own.
4. Only the Truth Is God’s WordWe can read several passages in the Bible that talk about The Truth. First, there is John 14:6, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
There is also a passage from the Book of Genesis that says, “Send one of your numbers to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” (42:16).
Both passages have a different context in terms of truth but both of them similarly wanted to impose that there is The Truth.
It is clear from Jesus’ statement that The Truth is the Word, and the Word is Jesus. While the passage in Genesis states not to impose “your truth” but only tell what is The Truth.
Truth be told, The truth can never be “your truth” because The Truth is Jesus. Jesus is the Word that came to life to save us. Because of this, we should never make the mistake of interchanging these phrases — as if we are saying we are Jesus in saying, “your truth or my truth.”
What Does This Mean?There are innocent mistakes that we make while we do our sermons or Bible studies or even when we speak to others. However, we should be keener in knowing our mistakes especially if we are talking about truth. “Your truth” is definitely different from
The Truth because the Truth is Jesus. Practically speaking, “your truth” is groundless, unspiritual, and insulting to God.
Happiness is a tricky thing. It is a driving force in our lives. We all want to be happy. More importantly, God wants us to be happy.
God longs for God’s goodness to be realized in our daily lives. True happiness is not something to be experienced only in the next life, it is something God wishes to bless us with right now.
The tricky part is we do not always know what makes us truly happy. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we can easily be swayed by what is “pleasing for the eyes” (Genesis 3:6).
Too often we swap happiness with pleasure only to find that it creates a spiritual disease within us. Happiness must be more than merely getting what we want.
This, ultimately, leads us to all types of questions. How do we navigate the complex road or true happiness? How do we know what will truly make us happy?
Are there any clues in Scripture about where happiness can be found? Below are three biblical keys to how to live your life in full happiness.
1. Recognize the Insufficiency of Worldly HappinessThe happiness that God wishes to bless us with is rooted in God’s vision for our lives. It can be tempting to believe that happiness is based on a life devoid of struggle or strife. Unfortunately, this is not a biblical truth. Jesus is forthright about the difficulties his followers will face.
Never once does he promise a life of ease or problem-free bliss. Jesus plainly discloses, “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33), and “everyone will hate you because of me” (Luke 21:17).
Given such statements, where can true happiness be found?
It is important to recognize that the world around us can only offer so much. Sure, some of what it offers may be good and pleasurable, but it will always be elusive and transitory. The things of this world are easily destroyed by the decay of rust and the actions of thieves (Matthew 6:19-20).
Thus, centering our lives on what we can receive from the world condemns us to a pale imitation of true happiness. We will never be truly satisfied. Jesus says, “What good is it for a person to gain the whole world and forfeit the soul? What can one give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
The point that Jesus is making is that that the deep satisfaction of our hearts can never be found in the baubles of the world. Internally, we long for something more.
True, biblical, happiness is found in the deep and abiding satisfaction of our innermost desires. We seek not earthly treasures, but heavenly ones. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
The fun thing about this is that the very delight God gives us is God’s very self — the one in whom we delight! Whenever the Bible speaks about happiness (either through the terms “delight,” “joy,” or “blessedness”), it is frequently linked to an experience of God’s presence in our lives.
Happiness is not found in worldly trinkets. This is because, ultimately, this is not what we long for. We long for the internal completeness, the harmony, that comes from being in the presence of God.
The good news is that this heaven-based happiness is not something we must wait for. In God’s grace, we are invited to experience this in our lives today. God wishes to bless us with the happiness that is rooted in the Spirit of God abiding in us.
2. Rejoice in the Presence of the LordWhile happiness is a state of contentment and satisfaction, it is also an active experience. It is near impossible to be happy and not express it. We smile. We laugh. We sing. The same is true regarding our experience of true spiritual happiness.
If happiness, biblically speaking, is a state of spiritual satisfaction in the presence of God, this will produce the activity of praise and rejoicing in our lives. Happiness is rooted in praise.
James specifically writes “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). Rejoicing helps us recognize the connection between our happiness and the presence of God.
Praise results from the acknowledgment of the Lord’s activity in our lives. Furthermore, as the Lord is always active, we can always usher praise.
We can always rejoice that the Lord is present in our lives, working in ways that is deeper than we can imagine or dream. This creates an inner spiritual confidence within us, one untouched by the circumstances of our lives.
Of course, this does not mean we will never struggle. There will be times where we face sadness, or anger, or frustration. True biblical happiness is not a denial of the hardships in life. It is the deep and profound contentment that comes from knowing that we are never alone.
The Lord never leaves nor forsakes us and is with us “even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). This is God’s promise to us, a promise in which we rejoice.
3. Realize Your Identity Is in ChristThis world offers a myriad of voices, all vying for attention. Each voice tells us who we ought to be or what we ought to do. These voices cast an ever-shifting picture of success, popularity, fame, or legacy.
Trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” can be exhausting at the best of times, and in the end, such efforts will always be rendered void by the constant change in ideal.
This can create deep unhappiness within us because we never feel comfortable with who we are. Biblical happiness, however, is to know who we are in Christ.
In Christ, our identity is set. It cannot be taken away or denied. It does not change. We are people crafted in the image of God and redeemed by Christ’s love. This truth overwhelms even the strongest of contrary voices.
The Book of Ephesians declares, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus” (2:10). The Greek word for “handiwork” is the word poiema — it is the word out of which we derive “poem” or “poetic.”
You are God’s poem. You are God’s work of creativity and artistry. Nothing contradicts this fundamental truth. Knowing our identity in Christ helps us stand against any dissatisfaction, frustration, or any spiritual disease that we may carry within.
We become deeply and unshakably happy because we know that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
When this truth becomes the foundation of our identity, it also becomes the foundation of our happiness. We are happy because we know ourselves to be the beloved of God.
What Does This Mean?Yes, happiness can be a tricky thing. We tend to assume that happiness is earthly, defined by the occurrences and happenstances of life. This simply is not true. The truth is happiness is a spiritual attitude of confidence and contentment.
We only become truly happy when we realize that the transitory world cannot give us the spiritual satisfaction we long for. Our ultimate desire, that soul-deep happiness to which we all long for, is found in the presence of Jesus.
This means that being happy — truly happy — is to accept and live within the everlasting love of Jesus.
There is a reason why fire alarms are loud and jarring. Our brain loves comfort and security. When something jarring, like a fire alarm, happens, the brain immediately puts our body into response mode.
There is a part of our brains that follows the mantra of the father on The Croods: “always be afraid and don’t do anything new.” This is why we notice things that do not square up with previous beliefs.
And it’s also why we might at first consider them dangerous. The false (or even the weird) will stick out to grab our attention so our brains can tell our bodies how to respond.
A Spiritual Reason?We are holistic beings, and God has wired us this way for a reason. Or has He? What if always scanning for negativity actually comes from the Fall? Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed before the Fall.
There wasn’t danger. They weren’t afraid of exposure. But once the Fall happened, they immediately began noticing that things were off. They started to see the negative.
Perhaps, one could say that God has graciously made our bodies adaptable. And since the Fall, this particular tool has been important for our survival.
In a world of danger and falsehood, it is important for us to have bodies that know how to respond effectively. But I believe our bodies were originally created to scan the horizon, looking for beauty instead of danger.
Consider what Paul says in Philippians 4:8,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
This is the general tenor of Scripture. We are encouraged to fix our minds, focus our hearts, and center our attention on the good and beautiful. Yes, we are called to be on alert and to watch out.
But that is part of the “not yet” of redemption. We still live in a world with a roaring lion prowling around, seeking who he can devour. But there is coming a day when lions will be no longer.
This is why I have said in the past that the foundation of discernment is hope and not suspicion. Redemption means that we scan the horizons looking for the fingerprints of the rescuing Lion of the Tribe of Judah and not only for the devastation of the prowling lion who seeks to devour.
Scripture continually tells those of us who are redeemed to avoid things like grumbling and complaining but to fix our hope upon the redemption which awaits us.
How Can We Combat This?In one sense, we do well to continue to be on alert for false teaching. The Bible does indeed warn us of the dangers. We are told to “test the Spirits” (1 John 4:1).
We are foolish if we try to pretend like we still live in the Garden of Eden without lions and liars. We do well to stay vigilant. Knowing the truth and watching for falsehood.
But we’re also foolish if we pretend like redemption hasn’t happened. We don’t merely live outside of Eden. We live in the land where the Son of God has set foot.
We live where redemption happens. Because of this we ought to be people who are alert to the false but are saturated in the truth.
Our brains will tend to habituate the gospel. What I mean is that when we see and hear these old truths, we will store them away as familiar. These truths will be no more different to us than two plus two equals four.
We will nod our heads in polite agreement, store it away as safe and familiar, and throw ourselves into the negative world of social media — where every day, “somebody is wrong on the internet.” So, how do we fight this?
One way we fight this is by cultivating curiosity. If the scriptures are inexhaustible and the gospel is deeper than we ourselves, then we should always have some element of “new information.”
We can always learn new things about ourselves and our engagement with God. We will never exhaust the riches of God. And we’ll never plumb the depths of the gospel.
If we determine to be curious, then we’ll be on our way to combating the habituation of the gospel. When we’re no longer captivated by the truth, it’s because we think we’ve exhausted it.
Secondly, we are able to enjoy truth when we are no longer on high alert. When we live in fear, we’re always looking upon the horizon for danger.
But if we believe that Christ has secured redemption for us and that all of the greatest problems in the world have already been solved in Christ, we can begin to enjoy what Christ has purchased. It’s okay to hope.
Jared Wilson, in his book Gospel Deeps, points out the benefits of being able to enjoy God for who He is. Wilson says it this way:
“If I don’t believe the gospel, I will miss out on the joy of the it-ness of things. I will be looking to these things as drugs, as appetite-fillers, as fulfillers, as powers, as gods, as worshipers of the god of myself.
If steak or win or coffee or chocolate or anything else other than God is the highlight of my day or the ultimate joy of my heart, my joy is temporary, hollow, thin. But if I believe in the gospel, I can finally enjoy the chocolate-ness of chocolate and the coffee-ness of coffee. Only the gospel frees me to enjoy things as they truly now are and as they someday will be.”
What Does This Mean?Because we no longer live in the Garden of Eden, our bodies are geared toward attention to falsehood rather than the truth. But through Jesus’ redemption, we are again captivated by truth.
Yes, while we still live outside of Eden, we must watch and diligently look for falsehood. But we’re also being redeemed. The primary bent of our heart should be toward delighting in that which is truth.
Truth should demand more attention than false in the life of the believer.
Suffering Highlights DependenceSuffering does not ultimately create dependence; it highlights dependence. We are always utterly dependent, whether we know it or not. God is good to us to continue to remind us, so that we don’t run after idols that might seem better and more reliable than him in the moment. One way God jogs our memory and preserves our joy in him in the midst of suffering is through one another. It’s important that we walk through suffering in community with other believers who can point us to Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 1:11, Paul says that he wants many to join in praying for him so that, as God sustains him, God will get more glory. Paul knows sharing suffering and bearing each other’s burdens gives God glory. It’s humbling to let people in on our weaknesses, but it serves to highlight God’s powerful sustaining grace.
Strength in WeaknessOngoing pain and suffering tends to isolate
us from one another. We get sick of being “the sick one” and tired of being “the one who is always worn out.” We don’t like revealing our weakness. But God receives glory when we let others in to see his strength in our weakness. God receives glory when we don’t act like we have it all together, but instead admit that God is holding us together through the gospel of his Son, the ministry of his Spirit, and the prayers of his people.
A less remembered part of suffering together as believers is the way those who are suffering can comfort others in deep and unique ways. Ongoing pain and suffering tends to turn our focus inward on ourselves. It’s so constant that it begins to consume and color everything we do — always living in a protective stance.
However, God beautifully comforts the suffering through the means of fellow-sufferers. In fact, Paul says that’s one of God’s plans for our pain:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3–5)
God’s Purpose in Suffering — and ComfortWe are fellow-heirs with Jesus Christ, sons and daughters of the living God through the gospel (Romans 8:13–17). And because of this relationship, the all-powerful Ruler of the universe is also a Father of mercies and a God of all comfort. Here Paul says that God comforts them in all their afflictions. There’s no affliction that God is unaware of or distant from. God is infinitely interested in the care and comfort of his sons and daughters in all their afflictions. So you are never alone in your suffering, whatever the pain or loss might be.
But notice God’s purpose for his comfort. As we look to God for comfort and hope in suffering, he means to spur us on to comfort others who are being afflicted with the same comfort we’ve received from God.
God comforts us so that we can comfort others.
God grants us mercy so that we can be merciful to others.
God stands whole-heartedly with us in our suffering so that we will stand whole-heartedly with others who are suffering.
God never leaves us alone in our suffering so that we won’t leave others alone in theirs.
It’s beautiful when comfort spreads in this way, and it should happen often in the body of Christ. It is sweet to see people redeem their suffering by taking their eyes off of themselves and turning them toward God to find strength, and then toward others to offer the comfort that God provided them.
Everyone Is SufferingNot only is it sweet, but it is necessary for the glory of God and for the good of his church. Suffering comes in many and varied forms. As a young pastor, one of the first things I realized is that everyone is suffering. It looks different in many cases, but no one that I know yet has completely escaped the curse and pain of suffering.
I’ve been humbled again and again watching my wife — after years of chronic pain — selflessly serve other sufferers behind the scenes. She has always been compassionate, but through her suffering, she is now always moving towards others’ suffering because she knows the pain and the struggles. She knows when to encourage. She knows when to simply groan with someone. God has comforted her so that she can comfort others. It is all his grace in her pain. It is all his strength in her weakness. He deserves all the glory, and yet he still means to use her to accomplish his purpose of comforting others.
God means for us to not let our suffering become an excuse to keep our weakness hidden or to just focus on ourselves. Rather, we show a beautiful display of the gospel and of the very comfort of Christ as we let others in to see our weakness in order to say Christ’s strength is strong enough for them — their weakness, their pain, their suffering. We beautifully display the goodness of the gospel as we turn our eyes upward to God and then outward to others to be his means of comfort for them. Then, we will redeem our suffering — or better, we will realize one of God’s good purposes for it.
We must be ready to share our comfort in the midst of suffering, because God’s glory is at stake and because the sufferers are many.
Since God is the source of all goodness, his glory is the wellspring of all joy. What God does for his own sake benefits us. Therefore whatever glorifies him is good for us.
And that includes the suffering he allows or brings (biblically, either or both terms can apply) into our lives.
God refines us in our suffering and graciously explains why: “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this” (Isaiah 48:10). For emphasis, God repeats this reason.
If you don’t understand that the universe is about God and his glory—and that whatever exalts God’s glory also works for your ultimate good—then you will misunderstand this passage and countless others. Some consider God egotistical or cruel to test us for his sake. But the testing he does for his sake accrues to our eternal benefit.
How often have you heard people say, “I grew closest to God when my life was free from pain and suffering”?
Suffering can help us grow and mature.Josef Tson, who faced much evil in communist Romania, told me, “This world, with all its evil, is God’s deliberately chosen environment for people to grow in their characters. The character and trustworthiness we form here, we take with us there, to Heaven. Romans and 1 Peter 4:19 make clear that suffering is a grace from God. It is a grace given us now to prepare us for living forever.”
Mountain climbers could save time and energy if they reached the summit in a helicopter, but their ultimate purpose is conquest, not efficiency. Sure, they want to reach a goal, but they want to do so the hard way by testing their character and resolve.
God could create scientists, mathematicians, athletes, and musicians. He doesn’t. He creates children who take on those roles over a long process. We learn to excel by handling failure. Only in cultivating discipline, endurance, and patience do we find satisfaction and reward.
As dentists, physicians, parents, and pet owners regularly demonstrate, suffering may be lovingly inflicted for a higher good.We think to “love” means to “do no harm,” when it really means “to be willing to do short-term harm for a redemptive purpose.” A physician who re-breaks an arm in order for it to heal properly harms his patient in order to heal him. In his book, A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote,
But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. … What do people mean when they say “I am not afraid of God because I know He is good”? Have they never even been to a dentist?
If cancer or paralysis or a car accident prompts us to draw on God’s strength to become more conformed to Christ, then regardless of the human, demonic, or natural forces involved, God will be glorified in it. A friend whose husband died wrote,
One thing that I’ve become convinced of is that God has different definitions for words than I do. For example, He does work all things for my eternal good and His eternal glory. But his definition of good is different than mine. My “good” would never include cancer and young widowhood. My “good” would include healing and dying together in our sleep when we are in our nineties. But cancer was good because of what God did that He couldn’t do any other way. Cancer was, in fact, necessary to make Bob and me look more like Jesus.
God sometimes uses suffering to punish evil.
While personal suffering doesn’t always come as punishment for sin, this doesn’t mean it never does. God speaks of bringing judgment on his children for participating in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-32). David knew he’d suffered because of his sin (see Psalm 32:3-4). Christ said, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (Revelation 3:19).
God’s occasional direct punishment in this life reminds us of judgment to come, just as his . occasional direct rewards in this life remind us of coming reward. But we should never assume we know God’s reasons when he hasn’t made them plain.
God can use suffering to display his work in you.When Christ’s disciples asked whose sin lay behind a man born blind, Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned” (John 9:3). Jesus then redirected his disciples from thinking about the cause of the man’s disability to considering the purpose for it. He said, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Eugene Peterson paraphrases Christ’s words this way: “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do” (The Message).
Nick Vujicic entered this world without arms or legs. As told in his life story on his website, www.lifewithoutlimbs.org, both his mom and his dad, an Australian pastor, felt devastated by their firstborn son’s condition. “If God is a God of love,” they said, “then why would he let something like this happen, and especially to committed Christians?”
But they chose to trust God despite their questions.
Nick struggled at school where other students bullied and rejected him. “At that stage in my childhood,” he said, “I could understand His love to a point. But … I still got hung up on the fact that if God really loved me, why did He make me like this? I wondered if I’d done something wrong and began to feel certain that this must be true.
Thoughts of suicide plagued Nick until one day the fifteen-year-old read the story in John 9 about the man born blind: “but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (New King James Version). He surrendered his life to Christ. Now, at age twenty-six, he’s earned a bachelor’s degree and encourages others as a motivational speaker.
“Due to the emotional struggles I had experienced with bullying, self-esteem and loneliness,” Nick says, “God began to instill a passion of sharing my story and experiences to help others cope with whatever challenge they might have in their lives. Turning my struggles into something that would glorify God and bless others, I realized my purpose! The Lord was going to use me to encourage and inspire others to live to their fullest potential and not let anything get in the way of accomplishing their hopes and dreams. God’s purpose became clearer to me and now I’m fully convinced and understand that His glory is revealed as He uses me just the way I am. And even more wonderful, He can use me in ways others can’t be used.”
As Michelangelo used his chisel to form David from a marble block, so God may use suffering to form us into the image of Christ.When Nanci and I saw David in Florence, it took our breath away. To produce his masterpiece, Michelangelo chose a stone that all other artists had rejected. Seeing that huge marble block’s hidden potential, he chipped away everything that wasn’t David. The master worked daily
to transform it into something surpassingly beautiful.
Now, if marble had feelings,
it wouldn’t like the chiseling process. It might resent the sculptor.
While Michelangelo may not have called upon the stone to cooperate with him, God has called us to yield ourselves by submitting to his chisel. Because we fail to see the person God intends to form through our adversity, we too may resent the chiseling.
The Master Artist chose us, the flawed and unusable,
to be crafted into the image of Christ to fulfill our destiny
in displaying Jesus to the watching universe.
We ask God to remove the chisel because it hurts, but it’s a means of transformation:
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory”
(2 Corinthians 3:18).
In her book When God Weeps, Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “Before my paralysis, my hands reached for a lot of wrong things, and my feet took me into some bad places. After my paralysis, tempting choices were scaled down considerably. My particular affliction is divinely hand-tailored expressly for me. Nobody has to suffer ‘transverse spinal lesion at the fourth-fifth cervical’ exactly as I did to be conformed to his image.”
God uses suffering to purge sin from our lives, strengthen our commitment to him, force us to depend on his grace, bind us together with other believers, produce discernment, foster sensitivity, discipline our minds, impart wisdom, stretch our hope, cause us to know Christ better, make us long for truth, lead us to repentance of sin, teach us to give thanks in times of sorrow, increase our faith, and strengthen our character. And once he accomplishes such great things, often we can see that our suffering has been worth it.
God doesn’t simply want us to feel good. He wants us to be good. And very often the road to being good involves not feeling good.
Psalm 22 begins with the most anguished cry in human history: “
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These are the words that Jesus took on His lips at the depth of His suffering on the cross. His suffering was unique at that point as He offered Himself up for the sins of His people. And so, we have tended to see this cry as unique to Jesus. But such an approach to these words is clearly wrong. Jesus was not inventing unique words to interpret His suffering. Rather, He was quoting Psalm 22:1. These words were first uttered by David, and David was speaking for all of God’s people. We need to reflect on these words and the whole psalm as they relate to Christ and to all His people in order to understand them fully.
The psalm begins with a section dominated by the agonized prayer of David (Ps. 22:1–21). David is expressing in the first place his own experience of feeling abandoned by God. Here is the most intense suffering God’s servant can know—not just that enemies surround him (Ps. 22:7, 12–13) and that his body is in dreadful pain (Ps. 22:14–16), but that he feels that God does not hear him and does not care about his suffering. And this is not just the experience of David. It is the experience of all God’s people in the face of terrible trouble. We wonder how our loving heavenly Father can stand idly by when we are in such distress.
Yet, even in this extreme distress, David never loses faith or falls into complete hopelessness. His anguish leads him to prayer, and the first words of the prayer are “My God.” Even in his suffering and wondering about the ways of God, he does not let go of his knowledge that God is his God. In the midst of his anguish, he articulates that faith. He remembers God’s past faithfulness in Israel’s history: “In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (Ps. 22:4–5). Then, David remembers God’s past care in his own personal life: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (Ps. 22:9–10). A recurring spiritual remedy in the Psalms is to fill the mind with memories of God’s past faithfulness to assure us of His present faithfulness.
We see David’s hope also in the earnestness of his prayer for present relief. He knows that God can help, and he turns to God as the only one who will help: “But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!” (Ps. 22:19). We must never stop praying, even in our deepest distress.
John Calvin in his commentary concluded that a sense of being forsaken by God, far from being unique to Christ or rare for the believer, is a regular and frequent struggle for believers. He wrote, “There is not one of the godly who does not daily experience in himself the same thing. According to the judgment of the flesh, he thinks he is cast off and forsaken by God, while yet he apprehends by faith the grace of God, which is hidden from the eye of sense and reason.” We must not think that living the Christian life is easy or that we will not daily have to bear the cross.
This psalm is not only the experience of every believer, but it is also a very remarkable and specific prophecy of the sufferings of Jesus. We see the scene of the crucifixion especially clearly in the words, “A company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Ps. 22:16–18). Here we see that indeed this psalm comes to its fullest realization in Jesus.
This psalm is not only the experience of every believer, but it is also a very remarkable and specific prophecy of the sufferings of Jesus. Jesus knew this psalm and quoted its first words to identify with us in our suffering, since He bore on the cross our agony and suffering. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death” (Heb. 2:14). Jesus does deliver us by becoming our substitute and the sacrifice for our sins.
In the second part of this psalm, the mood and tone change dramatically. Agonized prayer turns to ardent praise. The psalmist comes to be filled with praise: “In the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (Ps. 22:22). He calls on his brothers to join him in praise: “
You who fear the Lord, praise him!” (Ps. 22:23).
This ardent praise is for the success of the cause of God. The failure that at the beginning of the psalm seemed certain is now swallowed up in victory. This success will not just be personal or individual but will be worldwide. The praise rests on the abundant promise:
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. . . . All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust. (Ps. 22:27, 29)
After suffering comes the glory of a worldwide kingdom.
God’s success will not only affect the whole world, but will also span the generations: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation” (v. 30). The picture here is not of a brief time of success for the cause of the Lord, but the assurance that the time of suffering will lead to a time of great spreading of the knowledge of God throughout the earth. And surely, since the time of Pentecost, we have seen the fulfillment of this promise. All around the world today, Jesus is known and worshiped. Even while suffering continues in this world, we have seen Christ’s promise realized: “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
This success is the Lord’s doing, “for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Ps. 22:28). He is the active One who ultimately gives victory to His cause. The Lord achieves His triumph through the instruments He uses. And David sees himself as an instrument especially in his proclaiming the goodness and mercy of his God: “I will tell of your name to my brothers” (Ps. 22:22). Jesus also is the speaker in verse 22, as we are told in Hebrews 2:12 (this citation shows again how fully the New Testament sees Jesus speaking in the Psalter).
The psalmist, indeed, proclaims the name of God, particularly in terms of His saving mercy: “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (Ps. 22:24). Such proclamation is vital to the mission of God in the world. As Calvin wrote, “God begets and multiplies his Church only by means of the word.” Those who have experienced God’s mercy must tell others about it.
While God uses instruments to accomplish His purposes, the glory is His alone, for it is He who acts through them and ensures their success. For that reason, this psalm ends with this firm certainty: “He has done it” (Ps. 22:31). Our God hears our prayers, fulfills His promises, and fills us with praise. “From him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
As we seek to understand Psalm 22 so that we can appropriate it and use it, we need to see in it the direction of the history of the church: first suffering and then glory. We also need to see something of a pattern of piety for the church and for the individual Christian. The pattern is this: The real and inescapable problems of life in this fallen world should lead us to prayer. Prayer should lead us to remembering and meditation on the promises of God, both those fulfilled in the past and those that we trust will be fulfilled in the future. Remembering the promises of God will help us to praise Him as we ought. As we praise Him, we can continue to face with grace and faith the problems that come daily into our lives.
To understand why David was a man after God’s own heart, we need to see what characteristics he had to qualify for such an exalted description. In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul speaks of God’s feelings about King David: “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’” (Acts 13:22). The answer to why David was considered a man after God’s own heart is found right in the verse: David did whatever God wanted him to do.
An obvious question is how could God still call David
a man after His own heart
when David committed such terrible sins,
including adultery and murder?
We learn much of David’s character in the book of Psalms as he opened up his life for all to examine. David’s lifewas a portrait of success and failure, and the biblical record highlights the fact that David was far from perfect. But what made David a cut above the rest was that his heart was pointed toward God. He had a deep desire to follow God’s will and do “everything” God wanted him to do. He was a man after God’s own heart. Let’s look at some characteristics of David’s life to discover what that entails:
Part of why David is called a man after God’s own heart is that he had absolute faith in God. Nowhere in Scripture is this point better illustrated than in 1 Samuel 17 where David as a young shepherd boy fearlessly slew the Philistine, Goliath. Shortly before the duel, we see direct evidence of David’s faith when David says, “‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the LORD be with you!’” (verse 37). David was fully aware that God was in control of his life, and he had faith that God would deliver him from impending danger. How else would one venture into a potentially fatal situation with such calm and confidence? David knew early on in life that God was to be trusted and obeyed. As we see in Scripture, David’s faith pleased God, and God rewards David for his faithfulness.
Another reason David was a man after God’s own heart is that he absolutely loved God’s Law. Of the 150 psalms in the Bible, David is credited for writing over half of them. Writing at various and often troubling times in his life, David repeatedly mentioned how much he loved God’s perfect Word. We find a beautiful example of this in Psalm 119:47–48: “For I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.” It is not hard to see his complete adoration for God’s Word. Also notice how David “meditates” on God’s statutes. God granted David understanding and wisdom through daily meditation. We would do well to not only read God’s Word but also think about it throughout the day, for God loves us to think about Him. “Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways” (Psalm 119:2–3).
David was a man after God’s own heart in that he was truly thankful. “I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O LORD, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 26:6–7). David’s life was marked by seasons of great peace and prosperity as well as times of fear and despair. But through all of the seasons in his life, he never forgot to thank the Lord for everything that he had. It is truly one of David’s finest characteristics. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4, ESV). As followers of Jesus Christ, we would do well to follow David’s lead of offering praise through thanksgiving to our Lord.
After he sinned, David was truly repentant.
David’s sin with Bathsheba is recorded in 2 Samuel 11:2–5. The mighty fall hard, and David’s fall included adultery, lying, and murder. He had sinned against God, and he admits it in 2 Samuel 12:13: “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’” But admitting our sin and asking for forgiveness is only half of the equation. The other half is repentance, and David did that as well. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance to God: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!" (Psalm 51:1–2).
In conclusion, David was a man after God’s own heart because he demonstrated his faith and was committed to following the Lord. Yes, his faith was tested on a grand scale, and he failed at times. But after his sin he sought and received the Lord’s forgiveness. In the final analysis, David loved God’s Law and sought to follow it exactly. As a man after God’s own heart, David is a role model for all of us.
The first mention in the Old Testament of
the “City of David”
is found in 2 Samuel 5:7: “David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.” In this account, David had been made king of the entire nation of Israel, and he led his army to take the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites (verse 6). Upon winning this city, David“took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him” (2 Samuel 5:9–10).
Though Jerusalem had already existed as a city, it became known as the City of David after David conquered it. During his reign in the city, David developed it into a much larger urban area. Later, the ark would be brought to Jerusalem, and David would make plans for a temple to be constructed under the direction of his son Solomon.
In the Old Testament, the phrase “City of David” is used of Jerusalem 45 times. In the New Testament, the phrase is found twice—although, in the New Testament, the phrase refers to Bethlehem, where David was born.
The practice of naming a city by the name of its leader was quite common in the ancient Mediterranean world. Heshbon was the city of Sihon, its king (Numbers 21:26). First Samuel 15:5 refers to the city of Amalek. Some cities took their names from a founder (Alexandria), from a notable characteristic (Jericho, the City of Palm Trees), or from a local deity (Susa).
Jerusalem has been known as the City of David for more than 3,000 years as God has continued to keep the memory of His servant David alive for many generations. There is also a close association between King David and Jesus Christ, the Son of David (Matthew 1:1). Both were born in Bethlehem and died in Jerusalem. Both came from obscurity to be kings. Both were devoted to God. Jesus was a descendant of David (Revelation 22:16) from the tribe of Judah, where David first reigned.
In fact, the City of David is the place where Jesus is to reign in the future. The final chapters of the Bible describe a New Jerusalem where God’s people will reign forever, marking the earthly City of David with an eternal honor.
Psalm 96 may hold the key to understanding why worship has continuously evolved throughout history, and new songs have ever been written and sung to the Lord. The psalmist declared, “O sing unto the LORD a new song: Sing unto the LORD, all the earth. Sing unto the LORD, bless his name”
(Psalm 96:1–2, KJV).
Many other psalms unite in the refrain: “Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him” (Psalm 98:1). David intoned, “I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you” (Psalm 144:9). “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy,” insists Psalm 33:3. Again and again, God’s people are encouraged to “Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people” (Psalm 149:1).
In each of these passages,
new means “original,” “fresh,” “one of a kind,”
and “never seen before,” or, in this case, “never heard before.” God is a creative God. He’s always doing something new—like saving, intervening, answering prayers, and working miracles. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18–19). Right before this, the Lord declared, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth” (Isaiah 42:9–10, ESV).
When we are born into the family of God, He makes us new creatures in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul explained, “The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17; see also Galatians 6:15). To the Corinthians, Paul said, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).
One thing our inventive God loves is for His newly created people to express innovative, spontaneous, and unrehearsed praise and thanks to Him. Singing unto the Lord a new song is the natural reaction of an individual who is newly saved and transformed by the Lord: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:3, ESV).
The “new song” we sing does not have to be a newly composed worship number. The new song is merely a fresh response of praise and thanks—one that matches the freshness of God’s goodness and mercy, which are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). A new song springs forth unrehearsed from the heart of a worshiper who has been struck anew with wonder at the greatness of God and the salvation He has provided. When we see the mighty hand of God working in a way we’ve never observed before, we can’t help but burst forth with a song we’ve never sung before.
A new song has been heard from people of every generation—sung by a choir of born-again believers who have tasted and seen the goodness and salvation of the Lord. From days of old and for all eternity, followers from every tribe, language, people, and nation sing unto the Lord a new song (Revelation 5:9). Throughout the earth and before the throne of God in heaven, we can hear the redeemed singing a new song to the Lord (Revelation 14:3).
The new heaven and new earth are also mentioned in Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22, and 2 Peter 3:13. Peter tells us that the new heaven and new earth will be “where righteousness dwells.” Isaiah says that “the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Things will be completely new, and the old order of things, with the accompanying sorrow and tragedy, will be gone.
The new earth will be free from sin, evil, sickness, suffering, and death. It will be similar to our current earth, but without the curse of sin. It will be earth as God originally intended it to be. It will be Eden restored.
A major feature of the new earth will be the New Jerusalem. John calls it “the Holy City . . . coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). This glorious city, with its streets of gold and pearly gates, is situated on a new, glorious earth. The tree of life will be there (Revelation 22:2). This city represents the final state of redeemed mankind, forever in fellowship with God: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. . . . His servants will serve him. They will see his face” (Revelation 21:3; 22:3–4).
In the new heavens and new earth, Scripture says, there are seven
things notable for their absence—seven things that are “no more”:
• no more sea (Revelation 21:1)
• no more death (Revelation 21:4)
• no more mourning (Revelation 21:4)
• no more weeping (Revelation 21:4)
• no more pain (Revelation 21:4)
• no more curse (Revelation 22:3)
• no more night (Revelation 22:5)
The creation of the new heavens and new earth
brings the promise that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). This event comes after the tribulation, after the Lord’s second coming, after the millennial kingdom, after the final rebellion, after the final judgment of Satan, and after the Great White Throne Judgment. The brief description of the new heavens and new earth is the last glimpse into eternity that the Bible gives.
The New Jerusalem, which is also called the Tabernacle of God, the Holy City, the City of God, the Celestial City, the City Foursquare, and Heavenly Jerusalem, is literally heaven on earth. It is referred to in the Bible in several places (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 11:10; 12:22–24; and 13:14), but it is most fully described in Revelation 21.
In Revelation 21, the recorded history of man is at its end. All of the ages have come and gone. Christ has gathered His church in the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17). The Tribulation has passed (Revelation 6—18). The battle of Armageddon has been fought and won by our Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:17–21). Satan has been chained for the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:1–3). A new, glorious temple has been established in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40—48). The final rebellion against God has been quashed, and Satan has received his just punishment, an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7–10.) The Great White Throne Judgment has taken place, and mankind has been judged (Revelation 20:11–15).
In Revelation 21:1
God does a complete make-over of heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:12–13). The new heaven and new earth are what some call the “eternal state” and will be “where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). After the re-creation, God reveals the New Jerusalem. John sees a glimpse of it in his vision: “The Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). This is the city that Abraham looked for in faith (Hebrews 11:10). It is the place where God will dwell with His people forever (Revelation 21:3). Inhabitants of this celestial city will have all tears wiped away (Revelation 21:4).
The New Jerusalem
will be fantastically huge. John records that the city is nearly 1,400 miles long, and it is as wide and as high as it is long—the New Jerusalem being in equal in length, width, and depth (Revelation 21:15–17). The city will be dazzling in every way. It is lighted by the glory of God (verse 23). Its twelve foundations, bearing the names of the twelve apostles, are “decorated with every kind of precious stone” (verse 19). It has twelve gates, each a single pearl, bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (verses 12 and 21). The street will be made of pure gold (verse 21).
The New Jerusalem will be a place of unimagined blessing.
The curse of the old earth will be gone
(Revelation 22:3). In the city are the tree of life “for the healing of the nations” and the river of life (verses 1–2).
It is the place that Paul spoke of: “In the coming ages [God] might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
The New Jerusalem is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises.
The New Jerusalem is God’s goodness made fully manifest.
Who are the residents of the
The Father and the Lamb are there
Angels are at the gates (verse 12). But the city will be filled with God’s redeemed children. The New Jerusalem is the righteous counter to the evil Babylon (Revelation 17), destroyed by God’s judgment (Revelation 18). The wicked had their city, and God has His. To which city do you belong? Babylon the Great or the New Jerusalem? If you believe that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again and have asked God to save you by His grace, then you are a citizen of the New Jerusalem. “God raised [you] up with Christ and seated [you] with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). You have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4). If
you have not yet trusted
Christ as your Savior,
then we urge you to receive Him.
The invitation is extended:
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘
And let the one who hears say,
Let the one
who is thirsty come; and let the one
who wishes take the
free gift of the water of life”