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The New Testament temple

A few weeks ago we studied the Davidic Covenant when we reached 2 Samuel 7. We talked about David’s son Solomon being the near and partial fulfillment of God’s promises, and the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ, being the future, and greater fulfillment of God’s promises. For example, Solomon sat on David’s throne temporarily, but Jesus will sit on David’s throne permanently.

One parallel we didn’t address in detail though relates to the construction of a temple or house for God. Solomon built the temple so he looks like the near AND future complete fulfillment of that prophecy, until we consider the temple or house Jesus built for God. In fact, I’d say again that the temple Solomon built for God was ONLY a near and partial fulfillment of the prophecy. The greater and complete fulfillment was found in the house or temple Jesus built. In other words, the Old Testament temple Solomon built only looked forward to the New Testament temple Jesus would build. The temple Solomon built only lasted a few centuries, but the temple Jesus built and is building will last forever.

1 Timothy 3:15 says “the house of God…is the church.”  In Matthew 16:18 Jesus famously said, “I will build My church.” All the believers in Christ are the house or temple of God built by Jesus containing God’s presence in the Person of the Holy Spirit:

1 Corinthians 3:9 You are God’s building.

  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you
  • 1 Peter 2:5 You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house
  • Hebrews 3:6 Christ as a Son over [God’s] own house, whose house we are

What does that mean to be God’s temple? Just like the temple in the Old Testament was the residence or dwelling of God’s presence, so too does being part of the church or New Testament temple mean to dwell with God. 2 Corinthians 6:16 says, “And what agreement has the temple of God (referring to believers) with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”
(Lev 26:12, Jer 32:38, Eze 37:27)

Jesus built the church and is still building it. Ephesians 2:20-22 says the church has “been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The church is the body of Christ. Jesus ascended to heaven in Acts 1 and sent His Holy Spirit in Acts 2 to create the church and be the spiritual body of Christ in the absence of the physical body of Christ. During Jesus’ earthly ministry Jesus discussed His body being the temple of God, but He was completely misunderstood. John 2:19-21 says, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’

Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’

But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

This is the time of year we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. There’s probably no better focus for our thoughts than the temple Jesus built, because it was only by His sacrifice that our sins could be forgiven and the way could be opened for God’s Holy Spirit to indwell us. It was only through Christ’s crucifixion that we could receive by faith the righteousness of God’s Son enabling us to be part of the church Jesus faithfully built and is still building.

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Part of The Remnant

In my last blog we looked at God’s goodness and severity (Rom 11:22) shown through instances of His judgment in the past when a large number of wicked people were punished and a small number of righteous individuals were delivered:

  • Noah and his family in the days of the flood
  • Lot and those with him delivered from Sodom and Gomorrah
  • The Kenites in 1 Samuel 15 who were delivered when God expected Saul to wipe out all the Amalekites

In these instances a large number of people were judged, while a smaller select number of people are removed. For anyone familiar with Bible prophecy, of course this sounds very much like the Rapture before the Great Tribulation (GT)

 

Let’s look at the example with Noah and his family more closely to fully reveal the typology:

  • The flood is a picture of the GT
  • Noah and his family are a picture of the Jews who survive through the GT
  • Enoch is removed prior to the flood as a picture of the Church removed prior to the GT
  • The wicked destroyed by the flood are a picture of the ungodly destroyed during the GT

 

Another beautiful type of the Rapture is contained in the Book of Daniel. In the second chapter King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon constructs a statue of himself that he expects his nation to worship. Those who refuse are cast into the fiery furnace. Here’s the typology:

  • In the actual Great Tribulation the Antichrist (AC) constructs an image of himself and expects the world to worship it. Rev 13:15 says, “as many as would not worship the image of the beast [are] killed.” Nebuchadnezzar is a picture of the AC and his statue is a picture of the AC’s statue.
  • Daniel’s three friends who refuse (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) are thrown into the furnace, but survive through it. They’re a picture of the Jews who survive through the GT.
  • Daniel is conspicuously absent from the entire account even though we could of course be sure he wouldn’t have bowed down to the image either. He’s a picture of the church absent from the GT safely in heaven with the LORD.
  • The soldiers burned trying to harm Daniel’s three friends are pictures of the unrighteous followers of the AC killed during the GT.

 

The small group of individuals that avoid judgment (Noah and his family, Lot and his family, the Kenites, Daniel and his friends, etc) are known as The Remnant; the small group of faithful people following the LORD while surrounded by unbelievers and wickedness. Paul discusses this group in Romans 11…

 

Verse 3 quotes Elijah saying, “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”(1 Kin 19:10, 14)?

 

The context for this quote is Elijah thought he was the only prophet still faithful to God during the time of national unfaithfulness as Israel was engaging in the state-sponsored worship of Baal under Ahab and Jezebel. 1 Kings 18:19 said, “the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah,eat at Jezebel’s table.” When the nation’s queen is feeding the false prophets at her own table, you know the nation’s in a dark place, hence Elijah’s despair.

 

Back to Romans 11:4 Paul continues and says, “And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand (that sounds like a lot, but that’s 7,000 out of millions) who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”(quoting 1 Kin 19:18) 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.

 

The two words, “present time” are very important, because they mean it was exactly the same in Paul’s day. In other words, just like there was a faithful remnant in Elijah’s day, there was a faithful remnant in Paul’s day.

 

What does all this have to do with us? Nothing has changed. Just like in:

  • Noah day’s when he and his family were delivered from the flood
  • Lot’s day when he and his daughters were delivered from S&G
  • Just like in the Kenites day when they were removed from the Amalekites who were to be destroyed
  • Elijah’s day when he was one of only 7,000 who hadn’t bowed to Baal
  • Paul’s day in Romans 11 when he was one of only a small number of faithful Jews

There is always only a faithful remnant that is truly following God that will escape His wrath and judgment. That’s why Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many (those destroyed by the flood, those destroyed by incineration in Sodom and Gomorrah, the Amalekites, sadly many in our day, etc.) enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few (only a Remnant) find it.

 

One of the difficulties associated with being part of the Remnant is that it’s tempting to look and say, “If we’re right, why are there so few of us and so many of them? Maybe we’re wrong and they’re right. Could we really be right and all of them wrong?”

 

It’s important to remember that by definition being part of The Remnant means always being only part of a small number.

 

To feel and look different than the majority, than the world, is to be where you should be. It is to be like Noah and his family in the ancient world. It is to be like the Kenites in the time of the Amalekites. It is to be like Daniel and his friends in Babylon. It is to be set apart from the world.

 

A good way to end this is by asking…

  • If people looked at your life…would they think you look like a Remnant, or would they think you look like everyone else?
  • If people looked at your marriage…
  • If people came in to your home…
  • If people could see how you spend your money…
  • If people could see what you watch on television…
  • If people listened to the way you talk…
  • If people could see how you spend your time…

Would they think you look like part of a Remnant that is different than the rest of the world or would they think you look like the majority?

 

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God’s goodness and severity…

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.

  

Before I discuss verse 14 I’d like to say a few things: People have an amazing tendency to want to look at Scripture and shape it to what they want to believe, as opposed to letting it shape them. The question is, Regardless of how difficult some things might be to believe, will we believe them if the Bible teaches them? Many of these difficult teachings relate to God’s sovereignty…not His sovereignty when good things happen, but when “bad” things happen. I put bad in quotations, because I want to use the word loosely since many times situations we believe to be “bad” might be good…just not the way we would like them to good, or more importantly just not the way we happen to think of things as being good.

 

One very simple example relates to a woman I knew who regularly asked me to pray for her son to get out of jail. She viewed his time incarcerated as something “bad”, but I was pretty certain that while he was there, it was actually “good” for him. He was forced to think about what he did, and hopefully pray and read his Bible, something I believe he didn’t do when released.

 

Back to the subject: people like to think God allows things, but don’t want to see Him as making them happen. Is there really a difference? If God didn’t stop something, is it because He couldn’t stop it? We would all say no, because we believe in God’s omniscience (we believe He’s all powerful). So if He didn’t stop it, but could stop it, what does that say? (Let’s answer this a little later, but keep it in mind.)

 

I’ve heard a lot of people say things about God and what He does and doesn’t do and much of it sounds really good…there’s just one problem: it’s not biblical. The Bible needs to be our authority on God and what He does and what He’s like, and whether we like it or not, the Bible presents God as sovereign…not just over the good, but even over the “bad”.

 

The biggest struggle most of us have with this verse probably isn’t that a distressing spirit “troubled” Saul (or many Bibles translate “troubled” as “tormented”), but that the verse says the spirit, or demon was “from the LORD.” In other words, we probably wouldn’t mind it if God allowed this, but the fact that it looks like He DID it is concerning.

 

In other words, people feel better about saying God allowed something to happen as opposed to making something happen. Oftentimes this is referred to as God being “active” or “passive.” In fact, one commentator I thoroughly enjoy “defended” God’s actions in verse 14 by stating, “If God is all-good, why did He send a distressing spirit upon Saul? There are two senses in which God may send something. He may send something in the active sense, or He may send something in a passive sense. Actively, God never initiates or performs evil; He is the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17). Passively, God may withdraw the hand of His protection, and therefore allow evil to come, without being the source of the evil itself.”1

 

The first question that comes to mind for me is, “What difference is there between God allowing something or doing something?” As asked earlier, if God could stop something but didn’t, is there really any difference?

 

Applying it to our lives, if I knew a building was about to explode and I could disarm the bomb saving all the people, but chose not to, would I be any less culpable than the person who planted the explosive? Personally, I don’t really think so, and if we use the biblical example of the man who suffered more than anyone else possibly in history, I think we have biblical support that this is the case…

 

Even though Satan was the one afflicting Job, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Job essentially recognized God’s hand in his testing and it’s evident in verses like these:

  • In Job 1:21 he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
  • In Job 13:15 he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Both of these verses show that Job recognized God as the One “taking away” and “slaying him.”

 

These are by no means the only verses dealing with God’s sovereignty over affliction and calamity:

  • Isa 45:7 I form the light and create darkness,
    I make peace and create calamity;
    I, the LORD, do all these things.
  • Lam 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    That woe and well-being proceed?
  • Micah 1:12 For the inhabitant of Maroth pined for good,
    But disaster came down from the LORD
    To the gate of Jerusalem.
  • Amos 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?
    If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

 

One additional problem for me with painting God as being passive, or passively allowing things to happen is that…it paints God as being passive! The Bible never represents God as being passive. The Bible presents God as completely sovereign. By definition, God’s sovereignty means He isn’t passive. If He were passive, He wouldn’t be sovereign.

 

Here’s an interesting example from Scripture, contrasting two verses describing the same event. One verse is from 2 Samuel and the other verse is from 1 Chronicles:

  • 2 Sam 24:1 Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”
  • 1 Chr 21:1 Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.

 

One verse says God moved David to number Israel and the other verse says Satan moved David to number Israel? What are we to make of that? If we understand God’s sovereignty, that He is ultimately behind everything that happens, then we can even understand, how in a way that might not be comfortable for us, even Satan serves God’s purposes. Whether we like it or are comfortable with it, Satan furthers God’s plans.

 

If that isn’t comfortable for you, think about this: What if Satan did NOT further God’s plans? What would that mean? That would mean that Satan could thwart or compromise God’s plans. That would mean God can’t control Satan. That would mean Satan poses a threat to God and His will. Now THAT is an uncomfortable thought!

 

Here are a few biblical examples:

 

We know it was God’s will for Jesus to die on the cross. Who was one of the most instrumental people in that taking place? Judas. Look at these verses from Luke 22:

3 Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. 4 So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.

 

Satan indwelt Judas who then went and betrayed Jesus. Satan used Judas to betray Jesus (as a note, this does not remove Judas’ responsibility or punishment for his actions). We know it was God’s will for Jesus to be crucified and Judas’ betrayal was a crucial aspect of that taking place. In other words, simply put, Judas/Satan was very instrumental in accomplishing God’s will.

 

When Jesus was before Pontius Pilate, another terribly ungodly man who was instrumental in Jesus’ crucifixion, John 19:10 and 11 record: “10 Then Pilate said to Him [Jesus], “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

 

Jesus clearly let Pilate know that as wicked and terrible as his actions looked, God was the One who was sovereignly directing the course of events. Now, isn’t that actually comforting? The alternative is that man was responsible for crucifying Jesus, and He and the Father were unwitting, powerless bystanders, watching these events unfold apart from their wishes, unable to prevent the impending death.

 

When Peter spoke to the crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2 he said, 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

 

Peter makes it clear that Jesus was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” to be “put to death.”

 

When Adam and Eve sinned, their responsibility in sinning wasn’t removed any more than Judas’ and Pilate’s responsibilities for their actions were removed; however, to say their sin wasn’t part of God’s plan is to deny the clear teaching of Scripture. Revelation 13:8 says Jesus is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” What does that mean? It means before the foundations of the earth had ever been lain, God had already determined to crucify Christ, and since God’s will is so sure to come to past, to say that God has determined to crucify Christ is to be able to speak of Him as crucified even before the crucifixion has taken place.

 

God crucified Jesus to take the punishment our sins deserved, and it was at the fall, through Adam’s actions that sin was introduced into the world. Satan was the one who deceived Eve who gave to Adam, who brought sin into creation, starting the chain of events that would lead to Jesus’ crucifixion. In that sense, Satan was initiating God’s redemptive plan. The alternative is to believe God had to sit back helplessly, and perhaps even surprised, as these events unfolded.

 

The point is that to say Satan moved David or God moved David is to say the same thing since His allowance of a situation doesn’t remove His sovereignty from it.

 

Although this might sound unsettling, it should ultimately be comforting, because how much confidence could we have in God if we thought He was only sovereign over the good, but somehow couldn’t control or prevent the “bad”?

 

If someone I loved was in a terrible accident and might die, would it comfort me to think God might want to save the person, but be unable to do so? The comfort would be in knowing He could save the person.

 

Whether comforting or unsettling, for God’s divine purposes, He sent this demonic spirit that tormented Saul. The rest of the chapter reveals much of the good this “bad” event brought:

  1. First, God used this to establish David’s throne, in that this is how David was brought into Saul’s life, because even though David had been anointed as the next king, it still leaves the question, “As a shepherd boy, and the youngest of eight sons, how is he actually going to become the next king?” God begins answering that question here.
  2. Second, for the first time David is now in a royal court, beginning to learn the customs and manners he would need to be king.
  3. Third, and by far the most important reason: this is all going to do a tremendous work in David’s life. Bringing David into Saul’s presence was going to provide David with a living warning about the danger of disobeying God. Looking at Saul every day in his afflicted state would serve as a tremendous object lesson to David of the need to obey God. And ultimately, all of this is recorded to serve as the exact same warning in our lives.

 

 

 


1 http://enduringword.com/commentaries/0916.htm

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Did God send or allow Saul’s tormenting spirit?

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.

The struggle isn’t with a distressing spirit “troubling” Saul, but that the verse says it’s “from the LORD.” We feel comfortable with God allowing something bad to happen, but we don’t like to think of God causing something bad to happen.

Is there much difference between God allowing something

 

The first question that comes to mind for me is, “What difference is there between God allowing something or doing something?” As asked earlier, if God could stop something but didn’t, is there really any difference?

Applying it to our lives, if I knew a building was about to explode and I could disarm the bomb saving all the people, but chose not to, would I be any less culpable than the person who planted the explosive? Personally, I don’t really think so, and if we use the biblical example of the man who suffered more than anyone else possibly in history, I think we have biblical support that this is the case…

Even though Satan was the one afflicting Job, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Job essentially recognized God’s hand in his testing and it’s evident in verses like these:

  • In Job 1:21 he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
  • In Job 13:15 he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Both of these verses show that Job recognized God as the One “taking away” and “slaying him.”

 

These are by no means the only verses dealing with God’s sovereignty over affliction and calamity:

  • Isa 45:7 I form the light and create darkness,
    I make peace and create calamity;
    I, the LORD, do all these things.
  • Lam 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    That woe and well-being proceed?
  • Micah 1:12 For the inhabitant of Maroth pined for good,
    But disaster came down from the LORD
    To the gate of Jerusalem.
  • Amos 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?
    If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

 

One additional problem for me with painting God as being passive, or passively allowing things to happen is that…it paints God as being passive! The Bible never represents God as being passive. The Bible presents God as completely sovereign. By definition, God’s sovereignty means He isn’t passive. If He were passive, He wouldn’t be sovereign.

 

Here’s an interesting example from Scripture, contrasting two verses describing the same event. One verse is from 2 Samuel and the other verse is from 1 Chronicles:

  • 2 Sam 24:1 Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”
  • 1 Chr 21:1 Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.

 

One verse says God moved David to number Israel and the other verse says Satan moved David to number Israel? What are we to make of that? If we understand God’s sovereignty, that He is ultimately behind everything that happens, then we can even understand, how in a way that might not be comfortable for us, even Satan serves God’s purposes. Whether we like it or are comfortable with it, Satan furthers God’s plans.

 

If that isn’t comfortable for you, think about this: What if Satan did NOT further God’s plans? What would that mean? That would mean that Satan could thwart or compromise God’s plans. That would mean God can’t control Satan. That would mean Satan poses a threat to God and His will. Now THAT is an uncomfortable thought!

 

Here are a few biblical examples:

 

We know it was God’s will for Jesus to die on the cross. Who was one of the most instrumental people in that taking place? Judas. Look at these verses from Luke 22:

3 Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. 4 So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.

 

Satan indwelt Judas who then went and betrayed Jesus. Satan used Judas to betray Jesus (as a note, this does not remove Judas’ responsibility or punishment for his actions). We know it was God’s will for Jesus to be crucified and Judas’ betrayal was a crucial aspect of that taking place. In other words, simply put, Judas/Satan was very instrumental in accomplishing God’s will.

 

When Jesus was before Pontius Pilate, another terribly ungodly man who was instrumental in Jesus’ crucifixion, John 19:10 and 11 record: “10 Then Pilate said to Him [Jesus], “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

 

Jesus clearly let Pilate know that as wicked and terrible as his actions looked, God was the One who was sovereignly directing the course of events. Now, isn’t that actually comforting? The alternative is that man was responsible for crucifying Jesus, and He and the Father were unwitting, powerless bystanders, watching these events unfold apart from their wishes, unable to prevent the impending death.

 

When Peter spoke to the crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2 he said, 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

 

Peter makes it clear that Jesus was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” to be “put to death.”

 

When Adam and Eve sinned, their responsibility in sinning wasn’t removed any more than Judas’ and Pilate’s responsibilities for their actions were removed; however, to say their sin wasn’t part of God’s plan is to deny the clear teaching of Scripture. Revelation 13:8 says Jesus is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” What does that mean? It means before the foundations of the earth had ever been lain, God had already determined to crucify Christ, and since God’s will is so sure to come to past, to say that God has determined to crucify Christ is to be able to speak of Him as crucified even before the crucifixion has taken place.

 

God crucified Jesus to take the punishment our sins deserved, and it was at the fall, through Adam’s actions that sin was introduced into the world. Satan was the one who deceived Eve who gave to Adam, who brought sin into creation, starting the chain of events that would lead to Jesus’ crucifixion. In that sense, Satan was initiating God’s redemptive plan. The alternative is to believe God had to sit back helplessly, and perhaps even surprised, as these events unfolded.

 

The point is that to say Satan moved David or God moved David is to say the same thing since His allowance of a situation doesn’t remove His sovereignty from it.

 

Although this might sound unsettling, it should ultimately be comforting, because how much confidence could we have in God if we thought He was only sovereign over the good, but somehow couldn’t control or prevent the “bad”?

 

If someone I loved was in a terrible accident and might die, would it comfort me to think God might want to save the person, but be unable to do so? The comfort would be in knowing He could save the person.

 

Whether comforting or unsettling, for God’s divine purposes, He sent this demonic spirit that tormented Saul. The rest of the chapter reveals much of the good this “bad” event brought:

  1. First, God used this to establish David’s throne, in that this is how David was brought into Saul’s life, because even though David had been anointed as the next king, it still leaves the question, “As a shepherd boy, and the youngest of eight sons, how is he actually going to become the next king?” God begins answering that question here.
  2. Second, for the first time David is now in a royal court, beginning to learn the customs and manners he would need to be king.
  3. Third, and by far the most important reason: this is all going to do a tremendous work in David’s life. Bringing David into Saul’s presence was going to provide David with a living warning about the danger of disobeying God. Looking at Saul every day in his afflicted state would serve as a tremendous object lesson to David of the need to obey God. And ultimately, all of this is recorded to serve as the exact same warning in our lives.

 

 

 


1 http://enduringword.com/commentaries/0916.htm

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Why did Jesus call a woman a dog?

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre little dogAn interesting – and possibly confusing – account took place between Jesus and a woman He called a “little dog.” Matthew 15:21-22:

Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

The woman is a Canaanite, which makes her one of the Jews’ ancient enemies and a surprising person to seek Jesus’ help. When Israel entered the Promised Land they were supposed to destroy these people, because of their wickedness.

Matthew 15:23-24:

But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Why did Jesus say this?

  • God told Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Primarily this referred to the Messiah coming from Israel, but it also referred to Israel being the witness nation. The Jews would receive the Gospel first and spread it to the surrounding world.
  • Romans 1:16 says, “the gospel is…for the Jew first.”
  • When Jesus sent out the Twelve He said, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:5a-6). Jesus didn’t forbid the disciples from preaching to Gentiles if they encountered them along the way, but they were to go first to Israel.

Jesus told the Canaanite woman the Jews had to have the first opportunity to accept Him. Matthew 15:25-26:

Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

The “children” are the Jews, and the “bread” is the spiritual food or Gospel.

The Greek word for “dog” is kyōn, and it is a derogatory term the Jews used for Gentiles. The word Jesus used for “little dogs” is kynarion, and it’s not derogatory or cruel. It can be used affectionately, even of a family pet.

Matthew 15:27-28:

And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

The woman accepted the situation, including who she was.

She couldn’t stop the Gospel from going to the Jews first, and she couldn’t change her ethnicity. But she could be persistent and demonstrate her faith. She even says, “I’m not asking for the portion that belongs to the Jews. I just want some of the crumbs.”

Jesus rewarded the woman. The irony is many Jews would miss out on God’s salvation, because they didn’t have this woman’s faith, persistence, or humility. Many Gentiles would find salvation. They received the crumbs the Gentiles rejected, or that “fell from the table.”

Consider the progression:

  1. Jesus ignores her in verse 23.
  2. Jesus tells her, “No,” in verse 24.
  3. She asks again in verse 25.
  4. Jesus says, “No,” again in verse 26.
  5. She asks again in verse 27.
  6. Jesus helps her in verse 28.

This is a great illustration of the persistence needed in prayer. See also (Luke 11:5-13 and 18:1-8).

C. H. Spurgeon said, “Dear friend, possibly someone has whispered in your ear, ‘Suppose you are not one of the elect.’ Well, that was very much what our Lord’s expression meant to her. She was not one of the chosen people, and she had heard Christ say, ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ Notice that this woman does not battle with that truth at all, she does not raise any question about it; she wisely waives it, and she just goes on praying, ‘Lord, help me! Lord, have mercy upon me!’ I invite you, dear friend, to do just the same.