Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Hymn

A hymn--suggested tune: DUNDEE

v. 1
In love our Lord came to the world,
to save a fallen race.
He came to bring His poor the news,
of God's amazing grace.

v. 2
So to this earth and lower still,
in mercy Jesus went.
The pains of hell our Lord endured,
to pay our awful debt.

v. 3
Our Lord came not to save the good,
for there are none of them.
For all have sinned against the Lord,
and all men stand condemned.

v. 4
The folks who bring the gospel news,
are sinners just like you.
But they are cleansed by Jesus' blood,
through faith He'll cleanse you too.

v. 5
Repent, believe and come to Christ,
and stay near Jesus' side.
And in His Word and at His feet,
His strength will be supplied.

v. 6
The mission of our Lord goes on,
until He comes again.
And some will go and some support,
and all give all they can.

v. 7
Take up your cross and follow Christ,
and die with Him each day.
For glorious is Christ our Lord,
the truth, the life, the way.

v. 8
How great the glory of our Lord,
who rules in heav'n and earth.
We give our lives an offering,
incomparable His worth.

v. 9
Be with us, Lord, Your presence near,
and hear our prayers and cries.
By faith we walk, but long to see,
Your glory with our eyes.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Proverbs 14:21 --- Loving the World and Christ's Family


Proverbs 14:21
Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

There are two contrasts in our proverb.  "Whoever despises his neighbor" is contrasted with "he who is generous to the poor."  "Is a sinner" is contrasted with "blessed is."

If the two great commandments are first to love God with all our heart, and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we cannot despise our neighbor.  The word "despises" in Hebrew "means treating with contempt, discarding one as worthless."[1]   Kitchen adds that the verb includes belittling or ridiculing our neighbor.[2]

Our Lord teaches us who our neighbor is in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Before we get to the parable, we need to see what leads up to it:
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10)

This lawyer asks Jesus a question that contains a contradiction.  One does not "do" anything to receive an inheritance.  An inheritance is a gift.  Jesus answered the question of the expert in the Old Testament with a question.  This expert answered Jesus' question correctly.  If one keeps God's Law perfectly, then one will have eternal life.  But, of course, no one has ever kept God's instruction perfectly, except Jesus.  This led the man to ask a second question, which leads to the parable of the good Samaritan:

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

The lawyer wants to justify himself, to get God's approval, by doing good.  But in order to do this, he must make the Law doable!  This means he must narrow the scope of the word neighbor.  So he asks Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus' answer flows from the parable.  Essentially our neighbor is whoever comes across our path in need.  Neighbor, therefore is a broad term.  We don't get to pick and choose our neighbors.

The parable, though, has another dimension, which was seen by early church fathers like Origen, Ambrose, and Augustine.  They believed that the Good Samaritan was a symbol for Jesus.  I agree.  Jesus came in great compassion from the heavenly Jerusalem to the low point of Jericho.  Jericho is located near the aptly named Dead Sea, which is the lowest point on earth.  Jesus was the ultimate neighbor to the human race, coming from heaven to earth to offer himself as the supremely costly sacrifice, which alone can heal us of the fatal wound of sin.

Therefore, as Christ's disciples, we must love the inhabitants of the world.  We must go into the world and make disciples of all nations.  We proclaim the only answer to the fatal wound of sin.  We must love, not despise, the world by bringing our unbelieving neighbors the gospel.

But we must also love in an even greater way "the poor," who have come to Christ from out of the world.  For such believers are in the family of Jesus, and we are all brothers.  How we treat these brothers, Jesus teaches, is how we treat him.  Great blessing and beatitude comes to those who treat his family members well, for Jesus is united to them.  Thus, our Lord will say on the last day:

"'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" (Matthew 25:34-40)
















 


[1] Ross, Proverbs, 988.
[2] Kitchen, Proverbs, 314.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The "Poor" in the Psalms

Excursus:  The "Poor" in the Psalms and Its Relation to Proverbs

I tend to view the poor in the Proverbs in a similar way to how the poor are viewed in the book of Psalms.  This is relevant for Proverbs, because Solomon is the chief composer of Proverbs just as his father David is the chief author of the Psalms.  Since it is hard to imagine that Solomon, who appears to have been familiar with the wisdom writings of the nations around him (1 Kings 4:29-31), would have been unfamiliar with his own father's psalms.  Thus, it seems hard to imagine that Solomon was not influenced by the Psalms.  It seems reasonable to expect, then, a similar view of the poor and their identification in both the Psalms and Proverbs. 

In this excursus (see also the excursus on Jesus' Use of the Word Poor), I will take a brief look at the 25 times the word poor is used in Psalms.  I will argue that with one exception, and possibly two, which certainly do not disprove the rule, the poor in the Psalms are a synonym for the Lord's people, and especially describes their inward disposition.  This dovetails nicely with our Lord's spiritual definition of "the poor in spirit" and his use of the word poor, to whom belongs the kingdom of heaven as taught in his first beatitude (Matthew 5:3). 

I will go through the occurrences in order.  The first is found in 9:18 and the last is found in 132:15.  The first twelve occurrences of the word poor occur in book one of the Psalms (1-41), and establish the pattern of the word's usage.  Five occurrences occur in book two Psalms (42-72) with three occurring in Psalm 72, a psalm of Solomon, which is particularly important in establishing a link with Proverbs.  There are three occurrences of the word in book three (73-89), and five times poor appears in book five (107-150).

            Psalm 9:17-18
                        17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
                all the nations that forget God.
                        18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
                and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

This chiastic construction parallels "Sheol" and "perish forever" in the outer frame, contrasting the wicked and the poor.  The inner frame is connected with the idea of forgetting.  Unlike the wicked/nations who forget God, the needy/poor are not forgotten by God.  The wicked forget God with the disastrous result that they will perish forever.  But the needy, who it is implied remember Him, will not perish forever.

            Psalm 10:2, 8-9
            In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
               let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

            His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
                        9     he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
            he lurks that he may seize the poor;
                he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

In this psalm the wicked are pursuing and persecuting the poor and helpless.  But the truth that the poor are not just the poor in general, is shown in verse 14.  Here we see that the poor, who have been identified with the helpless in verses 8 and 9, have a commitment to the Lord.  For verse 14 says, "to you the helpless commits himself."

            Psalm 12:5
            “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
                I will now arise,” says the Lord;
                “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”

Here the poor are those who long for the safety and refuge the Lord gives.  The Lord guards them from a wicked generation, which is described in the psalm.  The poor are classified with the "godly" and "faithful" of verse one, which consists of a small remnant.

            Psalm 14:6
            You would shame the plans of the poor,
              but the Lord is his refuge.

Again, the poor is not just anyone who is poor, but rather those have the Lord as their refuge.

            Psalm 34:6
            This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
                and saved him out of all his troubles.

David is the writer of this psalm.  Even though he is the king of Israel, and the richest man in the land, yet he describes himself as poor.  Since David is the small "c" christ, which means anointed one, he prefigures Christ Jesus, the true King.  In David's words we hear Christ speaking.  Starting in verse 8, David/Christ begins to teach "his children."  It is significant that verse 20 is true of Jesus, as the Righteous One, for on the cross not one of his bones was broken.

            Psalm 35:10
            “O Lord, who is like you,
            delivering the poor
                from him who is too strong for him,
                the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

After describing his suffering in verses 1-8 by the hands of those who "without cause" hated him, David/Christ joyfully describes his deliverance.  Thus, once again, the King, who by definition is fabulously wealthy, is described as poor in spirit!  So too, then, must be his people.

            Psalm 37:14
            The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
                to bring down the poor and needy,
                to slay those whose way is upright;

The poor and needy are parallel with the upright.  Thus, the poor here cannot be the literal poor.  The poor and needy are synonymous with the upright, thus, the parallelism points to the inward disposition of the upright, which is to be poor in spirit.

            Psalm 40:17
            As for me, I am poor and needy,
                but the Lord takes thought for me.
            You are my help and my deliverer;
                do not delay, O my God!

Hebrews 10:5-7 places Psalm 40:6-8 into the mouth of Jesus.  Since there is no change of speaker in this psalm, the entire Psalm must be regarded as the words of our Lord.  Therefore, for the third time, Jesus, through David, describes himself as poor!

            Psalm 41:1-2
            Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
                In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
            the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
              he is called blessed in the land;
               you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.

In verses 1-3, David teaches that the Lord considers the poor and delivers them from trouble and sickness (verse 3).  He describes this trouble in words that remind us of Jesus' death and resurrection:

            They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him;
                he will not rise again from where he lies.”
                        9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
                who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
                        10 But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
               and raise me up, that I may repay them!

Putting this all together, then, we see that the poor, who suffer but are delivered by the Lord, are imitating and participating in the sufferings and deliverance of the Christ to whom David points.

            Psalm 49:2
            Hear this, all peoples!
                Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
                        2 both low and high,
                rich and poor together!

This is the only time I can find a literal rather than a metaphorical use of the word poor in the Psalms, with one possible exception.  Here it is used together with the rich as a merism.  A merism brings together two contrasting words to refer to the whole.  Both low and high and rich and poor are merisms to emphasize that all the inhabitants of the world are addressed in Psalm 49.  This fits the emphasis of book two of the Psalms (42-72), which announces that the Davidic king is established and the world would be wise to bow before the Lord and his anointed king.

Interestingly, though, Psalm 49 contains a polemic against wealth, which is seen as a rival to God (v. 6, 13, 16-20).  In the psalm, it is not the literal poor who are saved indiscriminately, but those with understanding (v. 20), and are partakers in God's costly ransom (v. 8, 15).


            Psalm 70:5
            But I am poor and needy;
                hasten to me, O God!
            You are my help and my deliverer;
             O Lord, do not delay!

Here is another instance where David/Christ describes himself as poor and needy.  The whole earth belongs to the Lord, according to Psalm 24:1, and yet our Lord describes himself as poor!  2 Corinthians 8:9 describes the grace that has come to us in Christ:  "though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).  True wealth is found in Christ Jesus through faith and love.  But that wealth is given to the poor in spirit.  Our Lord's inward disposition as the most blessed man is described in the first beatitude:  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
           
            Psalm 72:2, 4, 12
            May he judge your people with righteousness,
                and your poor with justice!
            May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
                give deliverance to the children of the needy,
                and crush the oppressor!
            12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
                the poor and him who has no helper.

First, notice that in verse two, "your people" is parallel to "your poor."  The "your' refers to God in line one.  The royal son, the Davidic king, is to judge or rule the Lord's people, to defend their cause in verse four, and to deliver them in verse 12.  In verse 17, God's royal son, whose name is to endure forever, is the one in whom God's people, the poor, are blessed.  Thus, we have Solomon, using the words poor and needy in a most significant way.  For he describes the poor as the people who belong to God and his royal son, who foreshadowed Christ.  To read the poor in Psalm 72 as the literal poor is just plain poor reading.

            Psalm 74:18-21
18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
                and a foolish people reviles your name.
                        19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
                do not forget the life of your poor forever.
20 Have regard for the covenant,
                for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
                        21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
                let the poor and needy praise your name.

This psalm is a prayer for the Lord's exiled people.  The "enemy" and a "foolish people," who "reviles" the Lord's name, rule over his people.  The poor in verse 19 are identified with Israel, which is often pictured as a dove.  In verses 20 and 21, it is clear that the poor are members of the covenant.  Once again, the poor in the Psalms refer not to the literal poor, but metaphorically to the Lord's people.

Psalm 86:1
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
                for I am poor and needy.

In this prayer of David, we see David/Christ again describe himself as poor and needy.  This is the basis of his expectation of being heard by the Lord!  Thus, poverty is a description of the inner being of Jesus Christ and his people.  This poverty of spirit, therefore, is the right spirit for man in his humanity.  Verse two immediately follows with the words, "I am godly . . . [and] trust in You."  True riches are found, therefore, in the trust, which unites us to our God.

Psalm 109:16, 22
16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
                but pursued the poor and needy
                and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.
22 For I am poor and needy,
                and my heart is stricken within me.

This is a psalm of David.  The early church saw it as about Christ in his sufferings on our behalf.  The last two verses (30-31) point to his resurrection.  The psalm focuses on the opposition to Christ, and especially on the one who would betray Jesus, namely, Judas.  Peter cites the psalm in Acts 1:20 when a successor for Judas is chosen.  Verses 16 and 22 show the close connection between Christ and his people.  Once again, our Lord is seen as the consummately poor man, in verse 22.  To attack Christ's people (16), the poor, is to attack him.  To attack Christ, the poor man, is to attack his people.  Thus, at Paul's conversion, the Lord Jesus says to Saul, who became Paul, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me" (Acts 9:4, 22:7).  Saul was persecuting Christ's people, but Jesus is so intimately linked to his people, that persecution of them is persecution of him.  Because Christ is poor in spirit, so must his people be who are united to him by faith.

Psalm 112:9
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
                his righteousness endures forever;
                his horn is exalted in honor.

This psalm is about the blessings that come to those who fear the Lord.  And, yet, it is hard not to see Jesus as both the pattern of this fear of the Lord, and the dispenser of spiritual blessings to his people, the poor.  When verse 3 of the psalm says, "Wealth and riches are in his house," it is hard not to see an allusion to Wisdom in Proverbs 3:16 and 9:1.  Psalm 112:9 could be read of Christ, who after his exaltation gives gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8).  Or, it could be read as the good believers do for others, especially, to those in the household of God.  It seems to me, this is the one instance in the Psalms where giving to the literal poor may be in view.  But given the association of the word poor with believers, our rule for charity must follow Galatians 6:10: "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."  The poor in Christ, and especially, the literal poor in Christ's church, have a priority.

Psalm 113:7-8
He raises the poor from the dust
                and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
                        8 to make them sit with princes,
                with the princes of his people.

In the Bible, repentance is associated with sackcloth, dust and ashes.  In this age, as our baptism into Christ's death signifies, daily dying with Christ is our way of life.  God only exalts the humble, who mourn their sin.  Thus, in this life we both mourn our low condition and exult in our high position as those who have been seated in the heavenly realms with Christ (Ephesians 2:6).  Our baptism is the symbol of both our continual mourning and continual joy, for we have both died with Christ and been raised with him.  Law and gospel are our rule in our Lord's church.  To do away with either is dangerous to our spiritual health.

Psalm 132:11, 13-16
11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath
                from which he will not turn back:
            “One of the sons of your body
                I will set on your throne.

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;
                he has desired it for his dwelling place:
                        14 “This is my resting place forever;
                here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
                        15 I will abundantly bless her provisions;
               I will satisfy her poor with bread.
                        16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
               and her saints will shout for joy.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of David set on the throne forever (11).  He has ascended to the heavenly Zion (13-14), and he satisfies his "poor with bread" (15), clothing his people with salvation.  Significantly, this final reference to the poor points to the Lord's Supper and baptism (16).  For in the Supper he gives us the true bread of his body, and in baptism we put on Christ Jesus, "for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).















 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Proverbs 14:15 --- Spiritual Warfare

Proverbs 14:15
The simple believes everything,
    but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
                                   
Gary Brady opens his comments on this verse with a word about "the simple" or gullible.  He writes:  "They say that the word gullible has not appeared in English dictionaries since 1975."  He then adds, "If you believe that then you are definitely gullible!"[1]
                                                      
The simple person in Proverbs is the person who tends to follow popular opinion.  As Ephesians 4:14 puts it, he is the person who is "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."  The simple person is the person who does not yet understand the reality of our world that it is a place of spiritual warfare which began when Eve gullibly believed the lie of the serpent in the garden.  From that point on the battle for the hearts and minds of men ensued, and the warning from the apostle John must be heeded: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

The other day someone, who belongs to a Protestant mainline church with liberal tendencies, told me that one of their former pastors sent him a book.  The book taught that the historical facts of the Christian faith, things like the incarnation, miracles, the death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord do not matter.  Instead what matters is what these things symbolize and teach.  While I was glad this person saw through this nonsense, it is a bit sad that he sat under this person's preaching for a number of years, but was unable to discern the pastor's lack of soundness.  How easily we can be deceived to the detriment of our souls.  We are all in need of discernment to "discern the truth about events, people, enticements and promises."[2]  We need the Berean spirit, who tested even the apostle's words against the Old Testament Scriptures:  "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."

We should not be surprised that the historicity and truthfulness of the Word of God are always under attack.  This was the serpent's modus operandi and strategy from the beginning.  "Did God really say?" he asked.  But the Christian faith is historical as we all acknowledge every time we confess the Apostles Creed and the words, "He suffered under Pontius Pilate."  Why mention Pontius Pilate?  We mention this Roman governor because we believe our Lord truly suffered, truly died, and truly rose bodily from the tomb in a historical time and place.

While it appears we have strayed a bit from our proverb, we really have not.  We must read the imprecise parallelism into each parallel.  The imprecise parallel is this:

            "believes everything"
            is parallel with
            "gives thought to his steps."

The simple who is prone to believe "any word" (this is the literal rendering of the Hebrew) he hears, is just the opposite of the prudent man, who believes the Word of God, and judges all things through that holy lens.  Similarly, the prudent man who gives thought to his steps is just the opposite of the simple man who does not give thought to his steps, but lives however he pleases.  One man is guided by the Word of God, and walks in the light of its teaching.  The other man is guided by whatever word is popular in his culture and lives however he pleases, with no regard to the Lord and his Word.  One man follows the second Adam's course, Jesus Christ, to his eternal blessing; the other man follows the first Adam's course to eternal ruin.

Faith is only as sound as its object.  The Word of God which points to the Word incarnate, is flawless and perfect.  The only reason, we don't see this is because like the simple, we have believed false words from our culture, or even from our church, about Scripture.  Our Lord believed the Scriptures were completely true and without error, and so should we.  Jesus, speaking of the entire word of God or "Law," was so confident of its veracity, that he believed it down to the smallest marks (iota and dot) of the Hebrew alphabet: "For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18).

Bridges is right when he writes, "To believe every word of God is faith.  To believe every word of man is credulity."[3]  Let us close with this paean of praise to the Word of God from Psalm 19:7-11:

            The law of the Lord is perfect,
                reviving the soul;
            the testimony of the Lord is sure,
                making wise the simple;
            the precepts of the Lord are right,
                rejoicing the heart;
            the commandment of the Lord is pure,
                enlightening the eyes;
            the fear of the Lord is clean,
                enduring forever;
            the rules of the Lord are true,
                and righteous altogether.
            More to be desired are they than gold,
                even much fine gold;
            sweeter also than honey
                and drippings of the honeycomb.
            Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
                in keeping them there is great reward.


 





[1] Brady, Proverbs, 392.
[2] Kitchen, Proverbs, 310.
[3] Bridges, Proverbs, 179.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Proverbs 14:11: The Hidden Resurrection Life of the Believer

Proverbs 14:11 
The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
    but the tent of the upright will flourish.
                                        
I agree with John Kitchen, that this proverb "points to final outcomes."[1]  Proverbs are always ultimately true.[2]  Some commentators deny the proverbs make anything more than general promises, but this is because they fail to believe the proverbs ever speak of eschatology or "final outcomes," as Kitchen puts it.  Their unbelief stems from a failure to understand the hope that Abraham and his spiritual descendants had; a failure to read Proverbs in the light of the New Testament; and the truth that the Old Testament was, strangely enough, written for new covenant believers more than it was for those under the old covenant:

"For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through    endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."   (Romans 15:4) "I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints." (Colossians 1:25-26) "It was revealed to them [the Old Testament prophets] that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look." (1 Peter 1:12)

The verb "will flourish" in line two, fills us with images of Spring.  Derek Kidner says, "Flourish is an energetic word in Hebrew, suggesting a tree bursting into bud."[3]  Since "will flourish" is parallel to "will be destroyed," it is reasonable to see both verbs as pointing to final outcomes.  As we have learned, in parallelism, each parallel is to be projected into the other.  This is what makes parallelism so instructive.  In this particular instance, the idea of budding points us to a resurrection. 

The bodies of believers in this age are compared by the apostle to tents.  We long in these tents, i.e., our bodies, to put on our heavenly bodies, for these present tents are wearing out:

"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building    from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we    groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not   be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that    we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is     mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee." (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

But notice that the Spirit is given to us as a guarantee of future resurrection.  The Spirit who dwells in believers is the Spirit of the age to come.  He is the Spirit of the future.  He is the Spirit of the resurrection age.  Therefore, the flourishing of believers begins in this life.  While outwardly our bodies decay, inwardly our spirits are beginning to flourish with the resurrection life that flows from our resurrected and ascended Lord.  Already in this present evil age, believers are beginning to experience the resurrection age to come.

It is at this point, Harry Ironside, the pastor of Moody Bible Church from 1929-1948, makes an insightful comment.  He writes, "The pilgrim's tent wherein the upright tabernacles as he journeys through a foreign scene --- foreign to the new nature within him --- will abide and flourish till tenting days are over."[4]  I don't think Ironside is saying the believer will enjoy perfect health in this life.  But what he is saying is that the new nature we are given by the Spirit is foreign to the spirit of this world, which is passing away.  The believer who has the Spirit of the age to come within him enjoys a secret communion with the Lord that the worldling, the unbeliever, who lives for this life only, knows nothing about (cf. Proverbs 3:32; Matthew 6:6).  The resurrection life is already flowing within us because we are the branches joined to Jesus Christ, the resurrected Lord, who is the vine (John 15). 

Amazingly, this is what the Spirit of God was indicating (see 1 Peter 1:10-11) to the inspired Old Testament writers, who were speaking about the age to come and the new covenant age we live in as believers.  While outwardly, believers partake of the disease and death that characterize this present evil age that rejects God and his Son, inwardly, away from the blinded eyes of a world focused on this world only, the resurrected Christ already is giving his spiritually poor the life and spiritual wealth of the age to come.  But it is not seen yet outwardly, for in this life the resurrection life is hidden and waiting its revelation at the coming of Jesus Christ.  Thus, believers walk by faith and not sight, but that walk can be a flourishing and joyful one even in a world that's dying because of its unbelief.








                                                                                            




                                                                                              



[1] Kitchen, Proverbs, 307.
[2] Daniel L. Akin and Jonathan Akin.  Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Exalting Jesus in Proverbs, 19.
[3] Kidner, Proverb, 102.
[4] Ironside, Proverbs, 163.

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