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Pain and Hope in the Bible

ESV Bible headerWhere is the hope in Psalm 88?

Didn’t Paul say in Romans 15:4, “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?”

Why, then, is such a hopeless psalm like Psalm 88 in the Bible?

This text is in the Bible so that when suffering and pain come and we are between the affliction and the triumph in the midst of the questions, pain, and clouds of doubt, we may see that what we are feeling is normal. It has all been felt before, and all the questions have been asked before. We are not the first. We are not alone. And we are not in danger of losing our faith.

God is a big God who can handle our questions, our anger, and our pain. This is clear from the fact that God has many psalms and verses in his Word in which godly people are struggling with doubts about his goodness and care for them. It is especially clear from Psalm 88, which doesn’t even end with a message of hope.

God cares about us in the midst of the pain. His goal isn’t just to get us out of the pain to the joy; he also wants us to see that he is for us and with us in the pain. It is true that weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5). The morning will dawn and God will remove every tear (Rev. 21:4), but God is not just concerned about the morning, the new day when you can shout for joy. He is with us even in the night when there is nothing but weeping, when the tears are so thick that we can’t see. When we are in the deepest pit and darkness weighs on our souls and God feels so absent that we wonder if he is even real, this psalm reminds us that he is with us even then.

Even more remarkable than the experience of the psalmist in Psalm 88 is the experience of the Son of God on Calvary. The night he was betrayed he went to Gethsemane in order to pray, He brought Peter, James, and John with him that they might pray for him and comfort him, for he told them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matt. 26:38).

Jesus, the Divine Son, was full of sorrow, and his sorrow was so deep that it was like death. His agony was so intense and severe that his “sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). When we read the story of Christ’s passion, we often gloss over his astounding statement, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Because of the sin of man, the Son of God who is the Father’s beloved and delight was forsaken. He was abandoned and left all alone. The depth of this pain is greater than we can know. There has been no greater pain in all of history.

Why is the depth of Christ’s pain significant for us? Because “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). In the midst of our pain we may feel alone and believe that no one has hurt as badly as we hurt. But it isn’t true. Jesus Christ has felt such pain; indeed, he has felt pain that would have destroyed us. He is able to sympathize. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

This post was adapted from Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. This particular portion was contributed by Dustin Shramek.

April 24, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,ESV | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:40 am | 0 Comments »

Christ in All of Scripture – Isaiah 11:1-5



Isaiah 11:1-5

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”

God never abandoned Israel, promising that amid the apparently destitute land there remained “the holy seed” found in a stump (Isa. 6:13). Coming forth from the line of David (Isa. 11:1), this “root of Jesse” would signal to the nations a new reality (Isa. 11:10).

At Jesus’ baptism, as he rose out of the water, the Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and the Gospel writers appear to connect this event with the messianic expectations of Isaiah (see Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; cf. Isa. 11:2, 61:1). Here is the true fulfillment of this expectation, as the one conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) grows in wisdom, understanding, and counsel, so that “his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:3; cf. Heb. 5:7–9). These words provide one of the most profound definitions of “the fear of the Lord” in the Old Testament. We hardly have a modern word equivalent to this Hebrew word for “fear.” The word cannot simply mean “terror,” because God’s people are called to love their Lord—impossible if they only live in terror of him. Many theologians, therefore, substitute words such as “awe” or “reverence” for this Old Testament use of “fear.” Such words help our understanding, but this passage (Isa. 11:2–3) reminds us that Christ will “delight” in the fear of the Lord. So, we are made to understand that the loving regard that the eternal Son has for his Father is the fear of the Lord. This is not merely reverence for divine power but is proper regard for all that God is: just, holy, powerful, wise, loving, compassionate, and merciful.

Contributing to this “proper regard” are Isaiah’s prophecies of the new world order. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, all who believe in him become a part of this promised new creation. With the coming of this “stump of Jesse” a radical shift in the way of the world is expected: chaos will turn to harmony, fear to laughter, death to life (Isa. 11:6–9). We who are new creatures in Christ joyfully participate in the work of the kingdom that we anticipate (Isa. 11:4–10), seeking reconciliation in Jesus’ name by pursuing peace, justice, creation care, and life-promoting goodness (cf. Deut. 26:13). In part we do this by putting on the full armor of God, first truly worn by Christ (cf. Isa. 11:5) but now given to us by his Spirit. In so doing we wage the battle not against foreign political powers but against “the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Echoing the words of Isaiah, we are encouraged to stand, to put on the “belt of truth, and . . . the breastplate of righteousness,” being ready “by the gospel of peace” to hold up “the shield of faith” and the “helmet of salvation,” fighting back with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13–17).

This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.


April 21, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,ESV,GTB | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:36 am | 0 Comments »

Christ in All of Scripture – Mark 4:35-41



Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Jesus continues to display his expanding range of power in every sphere of creation: power over the laws and forces of nature (Mark 4:35–41), power over the spiritual and demonic world (Mark 5:1–20), and power over human illness and death (Mark 5:21–43).

Jesus is not merely a political messiah along the lines of a Davidic king (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12–15). Rather, this Messiah is God, the eternal Son (see Psalm 2; Psalm 110:1, 5; Dan. 7:13–14; cf. 2 Sam. 7:16). He is Yahweh, come in the flesh (Isa. 40:3). It is crucial to realize this, since only God has the power to deliver and to save from the brokenness of our world and the bondage of sinful rebellion against him (e.g., Isa. 25:9; Isa. 33:22; Isa. 35:4; Isa. 37:20; Isa. 38:20; Jer. 17:14; Zech. 8:7; Zech.9:16; Heb. 7:25).

It is a great source of encouragement for followers of Jesus to remember who they serve: the triune Creator of this universe. The power of the eternal Son protects and guides with utter reliability, even in great distress. Since Jesus has paid the price for our sinful rebellion and has overcome the powers of Satan and the grip of death, his followers are in good hands—whether at any given moment this results in life or in death (Phil. 1:20–23). For in the gospel we know that because Christ has died and risen, and we are united to him, all that happens to us comes to us from the hand of a loving Father. All wrath has been removed. He does everything for our good.

This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.


April 14, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,ESV,Gospel Transformation Bible | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Christ in All of Scripture – Exodus 3:13-16



Exodus 3:13-16

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.

Naming has great importance in the Bible. In the garden of Eden, the giving of names demonstrates lordship over the creation (Gen. 1:26–27; Gen.2:19, 23; Gen. 3:20) and can often relate to hopes (Gen. 4:1), memories (Gen. 35:18), or prophecies (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:21). In naming, one’s character is revealed.

Moses’ question is therefore supremely important: what is the name, the character, of this God of whom I will speak? God’s response seems enigmatic. But notice how the revelation of God’s name builds: “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14a); “Say this . . . , ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14b); “Say this . . . , ‘The Lord [I am], the God of your fathers’” (Ex. 3:15, 16). In other words, this living, personal God who revealed himself to Abraham and made covenant with him is the God who is moving to deliver his people now.

All of this makes Jesus’ own use of this divine name significant as well, not only in the seven “I am” statements in the Gospel of John (John 6:35; John 8:12; John 10:9, 11; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 15:1), but especially his declaration to the Pharisees that “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). In saying this, Jesus was claiming to be the same living, personal God who made covenant with Abraham, the same God who revealed himself to Moses, and the one who was now moving to deliver his people.

This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.


April 7, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,ESV,Gospel Transformation Bible,Uncategorized | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:30 am | 0 Comments »

Three lessons about Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16-17

ESV Bible header

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

1. Scripture is inspired.

Paul affirmed with elegant finality that “all Scripture is breathed out by God.” You can hear the meaning of the transliteration of the Greek word Theopneustos (God-breathed–Theo = “God” and pneustos = “breath”). More literally, “All Scripture is breathed into by God.” When you speak, your word is “you-breathed” – your breath, conditioned by your mind, pours forth in speech. You breathe out your words. This belief that Scripture was “breathed into by God” perfectly expresses the view of the first-century Jews about the Old Testament writings.[1]

The early church believed exactly the same thing. As Peter declared, “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20, 21). The Old Testament Scriptures were God’s breath, God’s words.

Beautifully, we see that this is also how the early church regarded the Gospels and the Epistles. In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul uses the same word for Scripture (graphe) that he uses here in 3:16 to refer to quotations from both the Old Testament and New Testament: “For Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain’ [Deuteronomy 25:4] and ‘The laborer deserves his wages’ [Luke 10:7].”

Similarly, the Apostle Peter includes Paul’s writings in the category of Scripture (graphe): “There are some things in [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). It is clear that Peter regarded Paul’s writing to be Scripture!

2. Scripture is useful.

The apostle uses two pairs of words to flesh out Scripture’s usefulness – “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (v. 16b). The first pair – “teaching” and “reproof”– have to do with doctrine. Positively, all Scripture is “profitable for teaching.” That is why the whole of both Testaments must be studied – not just Romans, not just the Old Testament, not just the Gospels. All the didactic, poetic, narrative, apocalyptic, proverbial, and epical sections together are to make up the tapestry of our teaching. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching.”

And of course when this is done, there will also be “reproof.” Those true to the Scriptures cannot escape this duty. Together the “teaching” and the “reproof” produce the boon of sound doctrine. It is for want of both that the church has so often fallen into error.

The second pair–”correction” and “training in righteousness”–have to do with conduct. “Correction” comes from the Greek word for “straight,” which the New Living Translation helpfully renders, “It straightens us out.” God’s Word is useful in a practical way. Those who accept its reproof will begin to find their lives straightening out. Then they will be ready for the Word’s positive effect of “training in righteousness.” The righteousness that has come to the believer by faith is actualized by the training of God’s Word. In sum, the God-breathed Word is “profitable” for all of life, all doctrine and all duty, all creed and all conduct–everything!

3. Scripture equips.

Paul ends this section on the sufficiency of Scripture by saying, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (v. 17). Paul here uses two forms of the Greek word for equip (an adjective [“complete”] and a participle [“equipped”]) to make his point. The man of God is super-equipped by the Word of God. The man of God is before all else a man of the Bible.

The testimony of God’s Holy Word is that it is his breath and that it is everything to believers. The book of Deuteronomy records that when moses had finished writing the words of the law and had given it to the Levites to place beside the ark and had sung his song, the song of Moses, he said, “Take heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Deuteronomy 32:46, 47; cf. 31:9–13; 21:1–43).

This set the standard for the proper regard for the Scriptures of the old covenant. This is why the psalmist devoted the 176 verses of Psalm 119 to the celebration of the Scripture, using the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet as a structure. In effect, he said God’s Word is everything from A to Z. The Scriptures are life!

When Jesus began his ministry and was tempted by Satan, his encyclopedic knowledge of the Word enabled him to defeat the tempter with three deft quotations from Deuteronomy (see Luke 4:1–13; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:13, 16). Jesus Christ, God incarnate, leaned on the sufficiency of Scripture in his hour of need. Indeed, his summary response to the tempter was like a bookend to Moses’ declaration that the Scriptures are “your life,” for Jesus insisted that they are the soul’s essential food–”It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Luke 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Scriptures were life to Moses and food to Jesus. They cannot and must not be anything less to us. They are the very breath of God.


This post was adapted from the Preaching the Word commentary 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit by R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell.


[1] J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1963), p. 203.

April 3, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,ESV,Uncategorized | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:44 am | 1 Comment »