Christ’s Covenant-Keeping Love for You #1 (Matt. 4:1-11)

2020-11-28T10:10:24-05:00 November 30th, 2020|

“Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23). John baptized Him, and the Holy Spirit anointed Him for ministry (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18). Luke then adds, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). The Gospel of Matthew puts it this way; “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matt. 4:1-2).

We immediately associate these texts with two Old Testament circumstances. First, Israel was in the wilderness for forty years. God himself states the reason for this wilderness experience. “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2).

The wilderness experience was for testing to expose and reveal the content of the people’s hearts. God already knew the content of their hearts. He wanted the people to see and learn the real content of their hearts.

Second, the word translated “tempted” can also be translated as “tested.” From God’s perspective, He tested Jesus to expose the content of His heart. From the devil’s perspective, he tempted Jesus to sin as he tempted and succeeded with Adam in the Garden.

These two similarities remind us that Jesus is the “last Adam,” or “the second [representative] man” (1 Cor. 15:45, 47). He enters the world as the promised seed (Gen. 3:15). He fulfills His covenant responsibilities to His Father, where Adam failed. Jesus Christ also represents His people, both Jew and Gentile. Thus He displays His love for His Father and sustains these tests and temptations on behalf of His people. It is within this framework that Scripture calls us to understand why the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

When the confrontation is engaged, “The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”‘” (Matt. 4:3-4). The devil provokes the Savior. “Son of God, indeed! Prove your status here and now. Adam failed long ago in this test and displayed for all generations his true heart. Use your divine power to gratify your fleshly desires and hunger.”

Jesus’ response is direct and straightforward. He quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3. In doing so, Jesus shows that He realizes that His confrontation with the devil is a test of His heart (Deut. 8:2). Will He keep His Father’s commandments or not? Jesus also knows that Deuteronomy is the second iteration of God’s covenant; it is the second law. The heart of the law is love. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4-5).

In essence, Jesus says to the devil, “No devil, I will not turn rocks into fresh-baked loaves to satisfy myself at your command. Because I love my Father, I will carry out His will. I will live by His word. I will keep covenant with Him. [Part Two, Next Week.]

Denny Prutow

Never Good Enough

2020-11-15T09:35:49-05:00 November 16th, 2020|

Pete, “How’s it going?” Max, “Not very well.” Pete, “What’s the problem?” Max, “Oh, I know I’m not a Mormon or a Muslim or an old Pharisee. I know doing good works does not save me. But I’m always coming up short, thinking that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not living better, that I do not please God the way I should. It’s really getting me down.” Pete, “But….” Max, “But the Bible seems to push me in this direction; sermons seem to push me in this direction; your Calvinistic bent, with its heavy emphasis on the Law, seems to push me in this direction. I just can’t live up to all the expectations.”

Yes, God has a standard by which we ought to live. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I too hang my head, acknowledging I fall far short of the mark. I sin daily in thought, word, and deed. My sins are many and very great (Amos 5:2). However, the gospel is simple, beautiful, powerful, and comforting. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). This gospel motivates and propels us.

Christ died once. The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices day after day, month after month, and year after year. Christ died once for all time; He never needs to repeat His sacrifice. His sacrifice was also for sins; that is, He died on account of our sins. Our sins put Him on the cross. As the only just or righteous person, the only person on the face of the earth living without sin, He died in place of sinners, unjust and unrighteous people, like you and me. He took the punishment due to you and me. But why did He purpose to live a perfect life? Why did He purpose to surrender His life on a cruel cross and die the most horrible and inhumane death by crucifixion?

He did this to take us by the hand and lead us into the very presence of His Father. Based on His perfect life and atoning death, He leads us into the presence of God. We do not approach God on our own merit. We have not; we will not. Our failure is great, and our weakness is evident. But Christ’s work is final and complete; only His merit saves. Our response is simple trust; we bring nothing to the table. Our faith is an acknowledgment of our emptiness, that we have nothing to offer God. Christ is complete. As we trust Christ, all His righteousness becomes ours. His death pays for all our sins, errors, and perversity. Christ presents us to the Father based on His work. He came into the world for this purpose. “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:1-2).

Therefore, Christ establishes the ground upon which we live. What we do and how we live, we do and live as an expression of thanksgiving and love for God and salvation in Jesus Christ. Always maintain this biblical perspective. Paul puts it this way, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, italics mine). When you maintain this perspective on the life you owe to God, it is a joy and not a burden to live for Him.

Denny Prutow

Why is the one-point sermon such a hard sell?

2020-11-02T14:03:27-05:00 November 9th, 2020|

“Well, I don’t think a sermon must have one main point.” That was the response of a well-respected senior pastor in our denomination. It immediately undercut all I had just said. We were speakers in a conference on sermon preparation and preaching. My first session reviewed a series of preachers and professors, emphasizing that sermons should have one central point. But now, I had just been blown out of the water. Why is the one point sermon such a hard sell? We think the concept is unnecessary and foolish.

We can say the same thing about sequential sentence outlines. We think they are also foolish and unnecessary. Why? We believe that writing a sermon is just like writing a paper. Not so! We prepare sermons for people to hear. We write articles for individuals to read. Writing and speaking are different media. Reading and listening are very different activities. One Sabbath morning after worship, I said to my wife, “Pastor has begun another book.” Looking at me quizzically, she responded, “How do you know?” My answer was simple. “We just got the opening chapter in this morning’s sermon.” Our pastor composed the sermon for later reading as part of a book.

“‘There is little doubt,’ Scottish preacher Eric J. Alexander writes, ‘that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the greatest preacher the English-speaking world has seen in the twentieth century'”(Lawson, 2016, p. 2). What were the foundation stones upon which this great expositor built his preaching? “Lloyd-Jones realized the expositor must capture the central thrust of his text. He called the main idea of the sermon the ‘doctrine'”(Lawson 91). What did Lloyd-Jones think about finding the main point of a text and determining his sermons’ central point? “He conceded this [process] is sometimes the most difficult and time-consuming work of sermon preparation”(Lawson, 2016, p. 91). This great preacher understood the importance of sermons having one central idea.

What about the need for a logical sequence of thought? “Lloyd-Jones was explicit that the sermon divisions are not to be placed in random order. To the contrary, these headings must be arranged in a logical sequence that best presents the particular doctrine that the text teaches”(Lawson, 2016, p. 88). In other words, individual sermon points ought not to point back to a central point like spokes on a wheel. Lloyd-Jones described sermon points as follows, “Each one should lead to the next, and ultimately lead to a definite conclusion” (Lawson, 2016, p. 89). Dr. Lloyd-Jones also understood the power of a sequential outline.

My favorite quote on this subject comes from W. J. T. Shedd. “Sermons are more defective in respect to unity of structure, and a constant progress toward a single end, than in any other respect”(Shedd, 1877, p 147). Sermons can be bushel baskets of facts tossed out to members of a congregation to grab what they may. However, a sermon arrow striking a human heart with God’s truth will yield much more fruit.

Denny Prutow
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Books Cited
Lawson, S. J. (2016). The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust.

Shed, W. G. T. (1877). Homiletics and Pastoral Theology. New York: Scribners.

Preaching is Prophesying

2020-10-31T10:44:39-05:00 November 2nd, 2020|

A large part of the work of Jesus was preaching (Mark 1:14). He often carried out His preaching ministry in the Synagogue. “They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach” (Mark 1:21). Jesus’ teaching was different. “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). The teaching of Jesus was striking, not only because of its content but because of how He taught.

The scribes were masters of the material of Scripture. They could inform Israel about its content; they were also masters of the traditional interpretations of Scripture. Their presentations were informative; they were informational. The scribes “expounded the law of Moses by rote,” and their teachings “came not from the heart” (Matthew Henry).

On the other hand, Jesus taught and proclaimed the gospel with authority. There were force and power present in His words. There were a prophetic tone and quality to His preaching. Sixteenth-century Puritan, William Perkins, reminds us, “Preaching the Word is prophesying in the name and on behalf of Christ” (The Art of Prophesying, 7). Preaching is, therefore, more than feeding the mind. “There is more to preaching than imparting information…. Unless sermons address the affections, they have failed as sermons” (Derek Thomas, A Passionate Plea for Preaching, 38).

Speaking of content, the note on Mark 1:22 in the Geneva Bible (1599) says of Jesus, “He teacheth that doctrine, by which alone Satan is driven out of the world, which he also confirmeth by a miracle.” After emphasizing His deity, seen in the forepart of Mark, our Lord taught, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly” (Mark 8:31-32). Preaching worthy of the name sets forth Christ and His work as the alone answer to the wiles and power of the devil. Biblical preaching’s essential content is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and its profound implications. “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

We tend to put more emphasis on content than on presentation. We fall prey to the modern educational heresy. “Give people enough information, and they will be all right.” This posture pervades modern sex education. If you give kids the needed information, they will make proper decisions. We also become purveyors of information. Just give the people of the church the teaching, the information, they need. Of course, we would say, the difference is the new birth. However, our response emphasizes the listener. The emphasis in Mark 1:22 is different. “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” The preaching of Christ was prophetic in character.

Have we as a church lost our prophetic voice? Have we been settling for teaching, teaching like the scribes, rather than preaching, which is prophesying? Jesus stood in the prophetic tradition (Deuteronomy 18:15). And so the people “were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority.” Pray for a vibrant prophetic voice within the church in our day. Pray for a muscular prophetic voice across the visible church.

Denny Prutow

The Heart of the Goal (1 Timothy 1:5, Part Three)

2020-10-20T09:49:46-05:00 October 26th, 2020|

“But the goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Paul now expands the idea of love. “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Here we see the beginning of confidence in preaching and teaching. We can be confident that God produces love in the hearts of men, women, young people, and children. He works love in hearts, which Scripture defines, describes, and exemplifies. God does so by producing and creating good consciences, pure hearts, and sincere faith.

What is a pure heart? It is a heart that God cleanses. He removes the ugly stain of sin. The heart is the center and core of the inner person, including the thinking, the feeling, and the volition. When God operates on the heart, He changes thinking. When God performs spiritual heart surgery, He bridles emotions. When God’s heart operations also alter the will. He changes our sinful inclinations. He gives us a godly attitude or disposition. In this way, He produces love. The goal of our instruction is love emanating from a pure heart. God uses instruction as a means to renew hearts and bring about love.

Also, God uses biblical instruction to foster love by producing and creating good consciences. The conscience is knowledge standing alongside the activities in which we engage. Listen to the word “con-science.” Science refers to knowledge. You have also heard of chili con-carne, chili with meat. Conscience refers to knowledge standing along with and beside our conduct.

When you do something, your conscience reacts. If you do something wrong or immoral, your conscience feels terrible; you feel guilty. When you do something good, your conscience responds accordingly. The word good simply means, Godlike. Your conscience ought to be Godlike. That is, it ought to say, “yes,” when God says, “yes,” and “no,” when God says, “no.” Through faith in Jesus Christ, God cleanses your conscience. Through biblical instruction, God trains your conscience so that it works properly. It says “yes” when God says “yes.” “The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience.”

Paul adds sincere or un-hypocritical faith. This faith says, “I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I trust Him as the One Who died on Calvary’s cross to pay the penalty due to me for my sins. I am free from the guilt of sin because of the work of Jesus Christ. This faith is un-hypocritical because of the life standing behind it. With a good conscience and a heart directed towards God, there is loving obedience to God’s commandments. “The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Finally, biblical instruction elicits love out of or from a renewed heart, conscience, and will. In Ezekiel 36:27-27, God promises, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Paul’s ministry recorded in Acts 16:14 exemplifies this process. “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

Peter also explains the same process. When God opens our hearts, He causes us to be born again. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again” (1 Peter 1:3). And what is the means God uses in this spiritual heart surgery? “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God … And this is the word which was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23). God uses biblical instruction to change hearts and produce love. Trust Him to do so. “The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Denny Prutow

A Definition, Description, and Example (1 Timothy 1:5, Part Two)

2020-10-20T09:41:04-05:00 October 19th, 2020|

 “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Scripture defines, describes, and exemplifies the goal of love. To define love, look at 1 John 5:3. “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.” Here is a straightforward definition. Outwardly, love is keeping God’s commandments. If you love God, you do not take His name in vain and use it loosely. If you love your neighbor, you do not lie to your neighbor. You do not steal from your neighbor. You do not covet your neighbor’s possessions. You do not commit adultery with your neighbor’s wife. This definition of love is straightforward, very concrete, and very clear. Our Lord Jesus Christ exemplifies this definition. He kept the law perfectly; He lived the life of love.

This definition is not enough. Scripture also describes love for us in a very familiar passage. Let’s begin with 1 Corinthians 13:4. “Love is patient.” This statement is a description. The subject is love. We have a linking verb. The predicate adjective describes the subject. “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” We must present the truth. But we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We must do so patiently; we must do so kindly. We must also do so gently because the goal of our instruction is love.

There’s a third aspect of love that is quite important. I’ve already alluded to the fact that our Lord Jesus exemplifies this love. Philippians 2:5 speaks of this example. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” The text speaks about Christ going to the cross and being obedient to the point of death. Have this attitude.

My oldest daughter was a vice-principal in a high school, and she knows first-hand about the attitude of many teenagers. Attitude can be a problem. However, an attitude that is in line with God and with Jesus Christ is a great blessing. Such an attitude is a characteristic of love. I’m quite taken by a concise arresting statement of W. G. T. Shedd. “Love is inclination” (Dogmatic Theology, 2:208). He’s talking about the inclination of the heart or the attitude of the heart. When you love the Lord your God, you have an attitude or frame of mind positively disposed toward God. This attitude, this inclination, is love. Philippians 2:5 says the same thing about Jesus Christ. Have this attitude, this love, in your heart, which is also in Christ Jesus.

When you have this attitude, you embrace the commandments of God. You walk in these commandments as described in 1 Corinthians 13 with kindness, patience, and forbearance. Your life displays the love of God, inwardly, and outwardly. Wrapping together this definition, description, and example, you have what Paul is speaking of in 1 Timothy 1:5, “The goal of our instruction is love.”

Denny Prutow

The Goal of Our Instruction (1 Timothy 1:5, Part One)

2020-10-20T09:42:10-05:00 October 12th, 2020|

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

The apostle Paul writes the fledgling minister, Timothy. He has several concerns. Some have an interest in speculative matters, which have to do with theology. Others are deeply interested in teaching the law of God, but they do not understand the real reasons for the law. Paul, therefore, urges Timothy not to engage in speculative matters.  He admonishes Timothy to warn others not to use God’s law unlawfully. Paul contends, “The goal of our instruction is love out of a pure heart and a clear conscience and a sincere faith.”  

As we pointedly apply this teaching within the church, where does it lead us? Here is my conviction. You can trust God to utilize our instruction within the church to build up men, women, young people, and children in love. The text leads us in this direction. The church’s classic marks are the faithful preaching of the gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline. In each of these marks, the goal is love.

Notice the apostle Paul tells us very directly, “The goal of our instruction is love.” By divine inspiration, he is telling us we have something to teach. If we understand this truth correctly, we know God gives us that which we teach. He gives us our instruction. The word actually can be translated as command. In the New American Standard Version, verse 18 says, “this command I entrust to you.” We have a command.  We have instruction.

Paul is talking about these commands and instructions throughout 1 Timothy. All you have to do is briefly look through its pages.  Chapter 2:1. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men.” Chapter 3:2, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach.” Verse 8, “Deacons likewise must be men of dignity.” In chapter 4, Paul warns against apostasy. “Prescribe and teach these things,” says Paul in verse 11. Paul instructs individuals of different standing within the church in chapter 5.  For example, in verse 1, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man but rather appeal to him as a father.”

As pastors, elders, and Bible teachers, we study Greek and Hebrew to correctly understand these instructions. We study Biblical theology. We study Systematic theology. We study Historical theology and church history to know how those in past times interpreted the Bible. We research and teach the principles of Biblical interpretation. All of these facets of study concentrate on instruction that comes from the Bible. In this sense, God guides everything we do. He outlines our instruction.

Giving instruction, however, is not our ultimate goal. “But the goal of our instruction is love.” We need to understand instruction is not an end in itself. The instruction itself has a purpose. Whether we are in the classroom or the pulpit, our instruction is not the end God has in view. If my instruction is an end in itself, it is easy for me to become argumentative when I argue my case. If my instruction is an end in itself, it is easy for me to be contentious when I contend for the truth. Instruction, however, is not an end in itself. “The goal of our instruction is love.”

In football, the game is not an end in itself. Just going out on the field and playing is not sufficient. You’ve got to get that ball over the goal line more times than your opponent. A losing coach will lose his job. It’s serious business.  In basketball, it’s the same. A team must get more balls through the hoop or through the goal. We must always understand instruction is not an end in itself.  It has a goal. Paul tells us the goal. “The goal of our instruction is love.”

Again, the church’s classic marks are to faithfully preach the gospel, correctly administer the sacraments, and properly exercise church discipline. In the preaching of the gospel, “God demonstrates His love toward us” (Romans 5:8). At the same time, Baptism portrays that “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The Lord’s Supper pictures God’s demonstration of love in that “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And Jesus Christ says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Revelation 3:19). On the preacher’s side, your goal is to form love in the lives of those you teach and counsel, and discipline. On the listener’s side, trust Christ to use the teaching you hear to form God’s love within you.

Denny Prutow

God’s Picture Book

2020-09-20T08:38:46-05:00 September 21st, 2020|

The Book of Revelation paints astonishing pictures. However, the images are not the actual realities they represent. For example, chapter 6 presents the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first horseman is a picture of the gospel riding through history and to victory. Compare Psalm 45:3-5. War, famine, and death follow closely. Death’s footman is hell. These enemies of the gospel are both temporal and spiritual. The temporal and secular divert energies and resources from the more essential spiritual. The picture is a powerful portrayal of the forces working out God’s story at the behest of Christ (Revelation 5:9). Albertus Pieters, The Lamb, The Woman and the Dragon, presents this same helpful philosophy of history approach.

Revelation also introduces a pseudo-trinity composed of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The dragon is the devil, the serpent of old (Revelation 12:9). The beast rising from the sea of nations, the image of the dragon (Revelation 13:1-2), is anti-Christian governmental power. The beast was Rome in the first century. The USSR was a manifestation of the beast in the twentieth century. A professor from Ukraine visiting our church asked after a fellowship dinner, “Seventy years of atheism in the USSR proved its bankruptcy, why is America moving in that direction?” Good question!

Sadly the USA is a modern manifestation of the beast. Democrats and Republicans alike seek answers to our national problems by tinkering with government. Neither big government nor small government will answer the roots of war, famine, and death (James 4:1-4). The real answer to national woes is Jesus Christ; the Kingdom of God is the only eternal kingdom.

The mark of the beast is the work of the unholy spirit in unbelievers. It is the imprint of anti-Christian thought on their lives and conduct. This mark is, therefore, not physical but spiritual. It manifests itself in the deeds of the flesh; it advocates war, both carnal and spiritual. It promotes famine, both physical and that of the Word of God. It leads to death and hell.

The false prophet rising from the earth is a lying spirit infiltrating the prestigious institutions of culture, education, science, media, and the arts (Revelation 13:11-12). We know full well education, science, and the arts are not innately evil. Christians began most of our schools, colleges, and universities. Science first examined our universe to know the glories of God. Some of the world’s most outstanding art came from the hearts and hands of believers. However, an education rooted in anti-Christian principles leads young people away from Christ. Science, grounded in anti-Christian presuppositions, directs people away from their Creator. The arts and media too often propagate lawless living, which leads society to perdition. The false prophet is active today and is the handmaid of government. It is not inconsequential that education, science, media, and the arts are so enamored with and supportive of the power of the anti-Christian government in our own nations.

This assessment of the beast and false prophet of Revelation 13 reflects a conviction regarding the government. National confession of Christ is a great need. In terms of the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:18, God commissions us to build a society and culture honoring Him. This mandate means governments should honor Jesus Christ. The beast and the false prophet are the antitheses to this position. Yes, nations owe allegiance to Christ. “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” (Revelation 15:3).

Denny Prutow

Our King Has Come (1-2 Samuel)

2020-09-12T10:19:37-05:00 September 14th, 2020|

Judges accentuates the need of the people for a king. Ruth promises the coming of the king. The Books of Samuel record his actual arrival. First Samuel begins with the birth of the prophet Samuel (c. 1140), the last of Israel’s judges. In 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines capture the Ark of God at Shiloh. Then, in 1 Samuel 10, Samuel anoints Saul as King at the insistence of the people (c. 1070) and contrary to the warnings of Moses (Deut. 17).

But God rejects Saul (1 Sam. 15), and Samuel anoints David as king (c. 1065, 1 Sam. 16). A long struggle ensues as Saul seeks to destroy his rival. David exercises great patience waiting on God’s time to assume the official leadership of the kingdom. In the meantime, Samuel dies (1 Sam. 25) and is mourned by the people (c. 1057). Finally, Saul is wounded in battle against the Philistines and, rather than being found by the enemy, he ends his own life by falling on his sword (c. 1055, 1 Sam. 31).

After mourning Saul’s death, the men of Judah anoint David as their King (c. 1053, 2 Sam. 2). Meanwhile, under the command of Abner, the remnants of Saul’s army anoint Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, as King over Israel. Civil war breaks out between the house of David and the house of Saul. After the assassination of Ishbosheth (2 Sam. 4), David becomes king over all Israel (2 Sam. 5).

At this point, David sacks the stronghold of the Jebusites. Mount Zion becomes the City of David. At this time, the Lord also gives the Philistines into the hand of David. And the Ark of God is returned to Jerusalem with great pomp and celebration (2 Sam. 6).

All of the preceding prepares the way for God’s covenant with David (c. 1042).

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son (2 Sam. 7:12-14).

David is astonished by God’s promise, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind” (2 Sam. 7:18-19, emphasis added).

David proceeds to consolidate the kingdom against all opposition. Once accomplished, he calls for a census against the advice of Joab, the commander of his army (c. 1017, 2 Sam. 24). God answers with a plague, and 70,000 men die. The prophet Gad directs David to build an altar and offer sacrifices (2 Sam. 24:18). God answers David’s sacrifice, halts the plague, and thus reveals the location for His temple, His chosen place for worship (Deut. 12, 2 Chron. 22:1). Second Samuel closes with David representing the people before God as both a king and a priest.

The kingship of David foreshadows the Kingship of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32). And as predicted and foreshadowed, Jesus Christ, our King, came into the world. The temple of old foreshadows the church of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 6:16). And as foreshadowed, Jesus Christ is building His place of worship, the church (Matt. 16:18). Thus we see that 1-2 Samuel, like the rest of Israel’s history, “were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

Denny Prutow

Needed: The King and Savior

2020-07-24T13:36:09-05:00 September 7th, 2020|

The Book of Judges recounts a downward spiral. “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (Judges 2:11). “So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel” (Judges 2:14). “But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer” (Judges 3:9). “Whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers” (Judges 2:19)

Samson was the 12th and last of the judges in this book. In many ways, the story of his life is a “tragedy.” He is the hero who dies in the end. Judges 16:29-30 says,

And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.

Three other stories intrude upon the narratives of the twelve judges, which embellish the larger story of Israel’s downward spiral into sin and degradation. None of these stories involve a judge in Israel.

The first story is the tragic life and death of Abimelech, a son of Gideon (Judges 9). He murdered his brothers and sought to be king. In the end, “a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull” (Judges 9:53). As Judges 9:56 testifies, “Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.”

Second, there is the tragic story of Micah’s shrine, household god’s, and personally ordained priest (Judges 17-18). Members of the tribe of Dan confiscated Micah’s idol and priest. “And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves” (Judges 18:30).

Third, there is the story of a Levite and his concubine (Judges 19-21). She was ravished in Gibeah of Benjamin in a way reminiscent of Sodom. Civil war ensued. The tribe of Benjamin was nearly eradicated. The remedy was a plot to circumvent one vow by keeping another. The final words of Judges tell the tale. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

There is a fourth story, which follows the Book of Judges, in the Greek Old Testament. Ruth takes place during the time of the judges; it gives us the minority report. It is the story of how Ruth meets Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, marries him, and God restores Ruth to her deceased husband’s inheritance. As it “happens,” Ruth and Boaz are the great-grandparents of David (Ruth 4:21-22) and part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1).

The lesson of the Book of Judges is that Israel desperately needs a Savior and King. Ruth assures Israel that the Savior and King is coming. When David is born, His forerunner appears. Thus it was that Ruth gave birth to Him.

Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him (Ruth 4:14-15, italics added).

We also need this Savior and King, Jesus Christ, the LORD.

Denny Prutow