My other blog is called The Quiet Life. It refers literally to the fact that I do not like noise. I like to live where there will not be loud noises, sustained interrupting noises, or any otherwise unpleasant noises. I do not like them.
More philosophically the blog title refers to this verse from 1 Thessalonians 4:11 which is an important verse to me,
and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,
I like the word ‘aspire’ and then the surprise of what comes next- ‘live quietly’. Usually aspirations include lofty things like winning the Pulitzer or becoming President of the US. Or at least, getting that raise or becoming a homeowner. One does not aspire to be quiet. Not unless you’re a Christian and you’re used to the Bible illustrating an upside down lifestyle. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Meek shall inherit the earth. Do not expect to be served but to serve. Now we see that a holy aspiration is to live quietly. Why?
First, his readers should lead a restful life. The word translated quiet (hēsychazein) means quiet in the sense of restfulness (cf. Acts 22:2; 2 Thes. 3:12; 1 Tim. 2:2, 11), rather than quiet as opposed to talkativeness (sigaō; cf. Acts 21:40; 1 Cor. 14:34). The former means “undisturbed, settled, not noisy,” while the latter means “silent.” Paul was telling the Thessalonians to be less frantic, not less exuberant. A person who is constantly on the move is frequently a bother to other people as well as somewhat distracted from his own walk with God. The latter can lead to the former. But a Christian who strives to be at peace with himself and God will be a source of peace to his brethren. Such quietude constitutes a practical demonstration of love for others.
Second, Paul recommended minding one’s own business. The connection with love for the brethren is obvious (cf. Prov. 25:17).
Third, working with one’s own hands demonstrates love for the brethren because a self-supporting person is not a burden to others. Paul himself set the example by working with his hands when he was in Thessalonica (1 Thes. 2:9). Too restful a life can be a problem also, and Paul guarded against that with this instruction. This verse dignifies manual labor. The reference also suggests that many, perhaps most, in the church came out of the working class. The Greeks deplored manual labor and relegated it to slaves as much as possible. But the Jews held it in esteem; every Jewish boy was taught a trade regardless of his family’s wealth. Work itself is a blessing, and working with one’s hands should never be despised by Christians. A man who is willing to work with his hands demonstrates his love for his brethren by being willing to humble himself to provide for his own needs so that he does not depend on others but provides for himself.
Source: Constable, T. L. (1985). 1 Thessalonians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures
Live quietly, be diligent in our spiritual duties, raise a family, work well at our jobs…a quiet life serving the Lord pleases Him.
The section in 1 Peter 1 titled “Called to be holy,” especially verses 10, & 13-21. This blog entry is about sharing my thoughts of the parallels between 1 Peter 1:1-21 and Zechariah 3. Chapter 3 in Zechariah is a tremendous passage in a tremendous book.
Perhaps the reference Peter makes to the prophets of old prophesying about the grace of God can be seen in view here in Zech 3:1-5. Let’s see.
“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 2The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” 3Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” 5Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.”
My understanding is that Joshua the High Priest here is a picture of all Israel, called to be a holy (priestly) people before God and a light to the Gentiles. Now, I don’t want to spiritualize this passage or make it be about the Church.
In this vision, God was giving direct comfort and an explicit message to Israel, but there is a wider view that I think I as a NT believer after the cross can safely take in seeing the character of satan in this scenes and the character of God, because those things don’t change.
In looking at the nature of the uncleanliness of Israel in their sin … the words used here refer to their uncleanness as human waste of the filthiest kind. That is what “Joshua”/Israel was covered in. That is how God looks at sin. This is always instructive to see. Sin is not just ugly, but it is the worst sort of pollution. It’s absolute corruption.
The thought of standing before God in my own waste is a jarring enough picture. Satan is right to accuse Israel, they were filthy. They were idolatrous, blasphemous, and sinning upon sin. How does that old adage go? ‘When satan talks to us he lies but when he talks to God he tells the truth’. He is truthfully pointing out the sin that was staining Israel.
Satan accuses us New Testament believers also, including me. (Rev 12:10). I can imagine him standing next to Jesus saying, “Did you see that? She is filthy with sin!” Ow!
But the wondrous part is when I read in Zechariah that the LORD rebuked satan for pointing it out and making the accusation!! He reminds satan that He has pulled Israel out of the fire (and us too, after the cross, 1 John 2:1). How great is His mercy that despite our filth, He loves His chosen people (and by extension, us)! It is a tremendous, tremendous scene.
And then His mercy deepens by His decision to place clean garments on Israel. They truly are a people close to His heart aren’t they! And His Holy, Merciful nature is that He also put clean garments on us when we become justified. Perhaps I can say that as Peter says in verse 7, the faith that is “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” is this garment of salvation! The clean garments he places on us, and it is an amazing thing. Faith in His word He’ll cleanse us of our sin and have it remain so, forever, despite satan’s accusations.
As Zechariah closes out the section saying that the LORD ordered that a clean turban be put on the High Priest’s head, we read in Exodus 28:36 that the turban had an engraving on it that said “HOLY TO THE LORD”.
Replacing Israel’s filth stained garments, and after the cross, replacing the Church age believer’s filth stained garments, is to me the most incredible act in the entire universe. Is this what the angels think also, and is why they long to look into such things? (1 Peter 1:12). I dare to speculate perhaps so.
As we read further in the 1 Peter 1 chapter, the upcoming verses 13-15, the call of Peter for us to be holy is contrasted by this scene in Zechariah of the grace and mercy of God, who cleans His children of our own excrement, calls us holy, and gives us the garments to prove it so. Though the scene in Zechariah is discrete to Israel, I can use that picture to extend it through the cross to understand that He rebukes my accuser, cleans me of my filth, places on my head His name, and ordains over me the call to be Holy. We are to be holy because He is holy (Lev 11:44).
Understanding where I came from and what God has done for me through Jesus, and seeing the scene described so graphically in Zechariah helps me want to adhere fervently to the call of Peter to be holy for His sake- and not mine.
Did you ever get home from a long week and your body just throbs? Pulses with stress and worldly pollution and reverberating with clanging and noise you just can’t seem to get out or clear your head?
Saturday morning I slept late, always nice. (until 7:00 am!). I roasted broccoli, butternut squash, orange peppers, and spaghetti squash. On weekends when I process the produce and cook, I listen to sermons. I enjoy Refnet, Reformation Network. It’s a 24-hour online radio station featuring expositional sermons, prayers from the Valley of Vision, music and hymns, devotionals, some talk on news issues from a Christian perspective, and plain old reading of the word, uninterrupted and unadulterated. It’s a great network. No ads, and it’s free.
So on Saturday morning while my hands worked, my mind was busy listening. I listened to three sermons on RefNet.fm while I cooked: Alistair Begg on David and Goliath (which is not about facing your giants but is about the might of God), RC Sproul on Mary’s Magnificat (brought me to tears), and John MacArthur on predestination in Romans 8, gorgeous.
As for the prayers, I heard one from the Valley of Vision that was so lovely, it was so beautifully written. Here is just part of it:
Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be yours alone. Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in you, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of you as Savior, Master, Lord, and King. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in your Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from you. The Valley of Vision (Puritan Prayer)
When people are stressed or overwhelmed they do a lot of things. They work out. They go for a walk. They cook ;). They enjoy their hobby/game/movie. For the Christian, there is no better stress reliever than the Word. Read it or listen to it. I don’t know how to explain the supernatural advance of the Spirit in us, but when I listen to the reading of the word and sermons explaining the word and music that praises the Lord, it does something to me. It washes me from the inside. It restores me, cleans me, revives me.
After a few hours, my heart was expanded with love for Jesus, my head was full of scripture, and my belly was satisfied with food He had provided.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; (Psalm 19:7a)
he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)
I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Thy word. (Psalm 119:107)
for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:29)
Power- and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might (Ephesians 1:19)
The reviving energy of the Word is part of the great power He bestows on us.
The word “power” (dynamis; cf. 3:20) means a spiritually dynamic and living force. This power of God is directed toward believers. Paul then used three additional words to describe God’s power. It is according to the working (energeian, “energetic power,” from which comes the Eng. “energy”) of the might (kratous, “power that overcomes resistance,” as in Christ’s miracles; this word is used only of God, never of believers) of God’s inherent strength (ischyos) which He provides (cf. 6:10; 1 Peter 4:11). This magnificent accumulation of words for power under scores the magnitude of God’s “great power” available to Christians. Hoehner, H. W. (1985). Ephesians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 620). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
What a good and loving God we have. His word is eternal and strong, it refreshes, revives, strengthens, and enlivens. Don’t put off reading it or listening to it.
Most of us aren’t farmers. Many of us don’t garden. Having lost our connection to the land, sometimes the biblical symbolism of certain agricultural meanings are lost to us. Let’s look at the almond tree.
The almond tree is mentioned in scripture several times and always in interesting contexts. Almond tree twigs are mentioned as early as Genesis 30:37 and Genesis 43:11. In Exodus 25:33, God is describing how the Golden Lampstand in the Tabernacle should look.
three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand.
Calyx is the collective name for sepals of a flower. Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains,
“A native of Syria and Palestine. In form, blossoms, and fruit it resembles the peach tree. Its blossoms are of a very pale pink colour, and appear before its leaves. Its Hebrew name, shaked, signifying “wakeful, hastening,” is given to it on account of its putting forth its blossoms so early, generally in February, and sometimes even in January“
The International Standard Bible encyclopedia says,
“The masses of almond trees in full bloom in some parts of Palestine make a very beautiful and striking sight. The bloom of some varieties is almost pure white, from a little distance, in other parts the delicate pink, always present at the inner part of the petals, is diffused enough to give a pink blush to the whole blossom.”
Did you know that there are sweet almonds and bitter almonds. Bitter almonds are toxic. It becomes cyanide when crushed and mixed with other enzymes inside the almond.
“Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote poetically about the scent of bitter almonds and the fate of unrequited love as a lead-in to murder by cyanide poisoning. And in bitter almond oil as in a tragic romance, the sweet and the toxic are inextricably entangled.
Benzaldehyde is made by the decomposition of amygdalin (named for Prunus amygdalus, and in turn responsible for the bitterness that gives bitter almonds their common name). The other decomposition products are glucose (sweet) and hydrogen cyanide (toxic). … The utility of amygdalin to the plant is for defense, specifically as a deterrent to grazers from eating the valuable seed as well as the dispensable fruit. Inside the cells of the almond kernel, amygdalin is sequestered from the enzyme that breaks it down: amygdalin hydrolase. Crushing, as happens when the plant is grazed upon, brings the enzyme and amygdalin together, and cyanide is produced as a result–as much as 4-9mg per almond.”
Aaron’s rod famously budded almond leaves, blossoms, and fully ripe fruit. The LORD did this to prove that Aaron was His designated spokesman, with Moses.
On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. (Numbers 17:8)
As with Aaron’s rod, Jeremiah 1:11 use of the almond as a symbol. Jeremiah 1:11-12:
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”
Pulpit Commentary says of Verse 12. – I will hasten my word; literally, I am wakeful over my word; alluding to the meaning of the Hebrew word for almond. The LORD will hasten to perform His judgments of Jerusalem which He proclaimed in His word to Jeremiah.
“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘Love in the Time of Cholera”. In Genesis 43:11 one of the ‘best gifts’ of the land that Joseph’s father Jacob urged his sons to bring to Egypt (unknowingly, to Joseph) were almonds.
In Plants of the Bible, it says, “The almond, Amygdalus communis, is a medium sized tree with narrow, light green leaves. Unlike the fig and olive, the almond does not live to a great age. The almond is a well-known symbol of resurrection because it is the first tree to flower. The white, five-parted flowers are up to two inches across and come in the late winter before the leaves of the tree develop. Because they may flower as early as late January or early February, it is sometimes possible to find almond flowers with snow.“
Charles Spurgeon preached on the lessons of the Almond Tree. He says here,
“While I have felt compelled to speak of these solemn Truths, I am glad to turn to the other part of the subject which is this—that God is quick in performing His promises. They are like the almond tree—they blossom and bear fruit very quickly. “What sort of promises,” you ask, “are thus speedily fulfilled?” Well, first, the promise to give salvation to all these who believe in the Lo rd Jesus Christ. Listen— “The moment a sinner believes, And trusts in his crucified God, His pardon at once he receives, Redemption in full thro’ His blood.” I see “a branch of an almond tree” here. The Psalmist says, “His word runs very swiftly,” and I am a witness that it does. Many years ago, I, a poor sinner, went into a place of worship to hear the Gospel preached. The preacher repeated the Lord’s command, “Look unto Me, and be you saved.” I looked to Christ and I was saved that very instant. It takes no longer to tell the story than it did to work the miracle of mercy. Swift as a lightning flash I looked to Christ, and the great deed was done! I was a pardoned and justified soul—in a word, I was saved! Why should not the same thing happen to you who are here? It will happen to everyone who shall now be led to believe in Jesus Christ.”
On this most joyous of days, you who wonder at our joy, it is because we looked to Christ as our all in all, forgiver of sins, Lamb of God. You, also, look to Christ – and be saved. The almond tree blooms, quick with promises. The most wondrous promise of all is the resurrection of the Son of God.
Aaron’s rod budded, sprouted, and offered fully formed fruit, all at the same time. “According to the law of nature, all living things have a beginning and an end. However, this was not the case with Aaron’s rod, for God gave it a new lease of life. This miracle hinted at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though death came to the world because of the actions of the first man, Adam, resurrection would come about on account of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:17–22). Hence, when Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn 11:25). … the flowering rod served to quell Korah’s rebellion and re-affirmed Aaron’s position as high priest. Furthermore, this wondrous sign hinted at the future Messiah and His status as the firstfruits of resurrection (1 Cor 15:20).” (source)
Hermeneutics. It’s not a word you hear often inside of churches. In our watered down state, preachers and pastors rarely use the “big words” any more. If they do, they’re abashed and even apologize for saying theological words like ‘justification’ or ‘inerrancy.’ However hermeneutics is a battleground in our continued spiritual warfare against the schemes of the devil. You must know what it is.
“O Lord of the oceans, My little bark sails on a restless sea, Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely; Suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course; Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals; Bring me to harbor with flying pennants, Hull unbreached, cargo, unspoiled.“
Excerpt from ‘Voyage‘,The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Edited by Arthur Bennett
I simply love the Valley of Vision Puritan devotionals. They are so Jesus-centered. It’s refreshing to read and ponder written prayers devoid of anything from today’s toxic effects of me-centered, prosperity, self-esteem nonsense.
I lived aboard a small yacht for two years, and through that experience I have a deep appreciation for the biblical allusions related to anything nautical. The Lighthouse, the stormy seas, the waves, reefs, and lee-side are all familiar to me and I can deeply identify with them. I suppose it is the same with the believing farmers and fishermen regarding the agricultural or fishing metaphors. Not that one needs to have had a certain life experience before understanding, but the life experience Jesus causes us to have does deepen some aspects of the Word and we gravitate to them on a different level. It’s like when a person becomes a parent for the first time, they understand the biblical verses related to parenting on a different level then they did before.
Though our boat is at anchor in this photo, we spent many a day where the sea looked as calm and as flat as it is in the picture as we tried capturing wisps of wind flowing here and there and inching along over tiny waves.
The sailor is ever restless. We want to go and we thus pray for wind. The wind comes but it’s not enough, or it’s too much. When the boat finally settles on a loping rhythm up and down the waves, the sailor wishes he was in port. Of course the moment one is in port, one wishes for the freedom of the sea. And so it goes.
The frustration of no wind can’t be overstated. The luffing sails, slack and listless seem almost an affront. One cannot manufacture wind. One cannot control the wind. One only waits, hopes, prays, and looks. The sailor learns patience. The sailor learns to relinquish control.
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
The opposite is a problem, too. Too much wind can damage the boat, set the sailor off his course, or even swamp him and all will be lost at sea. The storms can be terrifying.
But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. (Jonah 1:4-5a)
Luke wrote of the travails Paul endured when he put on a ship that set forth too late in the year. In their part of the world, winter was a time when many storms brewed up and winds became contrary in a moment.
The Storm at Sea: Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. (Acts 27:13-15).
And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. (Acts 27:4).
Sailors know the prevailing wind‘s direction given the time of year. Prevailing winds are winds that blow predominantly from a single general direction over a particular point on the Earth’s surface. They try to use islands as their shelter, making it a lee. This means if the prevailing wind comes from the east toward the west, if you sail or anchor on the west side, the island has blocked the wind and you will have more peaceful waters upon which to sail or sleep. Like this:
As the poet stated in Valley of Vision, “Bring me to harbor with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo, unspoiled.” That is always the sailor’s main objective- get to harbor. Sailors are not made to voyage permanently, or Christians are not made to pilgrimage permanently. We are all voyaging toward one and only one harbor, the feet of the risen Jesus in the safety of His harbor, the Kingdom of God.
Until then we have a great and powerful Captain, our Rock to shelter and protect us from the storms and winds that try to blow us off course or drown us. Our Lord is our ever-present and mightily capable Captain of safety. Thus, thanks to Jesus Christ, it is well with our sail soul.
“As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” (Acts 17:10-12).
How many times have we heard some celebrity caught in a traffic stop or in an indiscretion and when called to account on it, says “Don’t you know who I am?” They balk and they yell and they squirm and try to escape accountability due to their position. Quite often, their ego is inflated to a large enough degree that they never expect they’ll be asked to support their views or explain their mistake. Even more often, the person calling them to account are seen as the ones with the problem. “Don’t you know who that is?” they are told. “Don’t ask him to explain himself!” as if there ever comes a point when someone is above the law.
Growing up, I used to watch the PBS Masterpiece Theatre classic “I, Claudius”. It was about one of the least known Emperors of the Roman Empire, Claudius. Claudius is not as well known, being sandwiched in history between the more famous emperors Caligula and Nero. I was fascinated with the Roman banquets, of which the show “I, Claudius” had many. I used to wonder why they ate while reclining. It seemed cumbersome to me.
Jesus only calls those sheep whose names have been written down since before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4). Those sheep know His voice and listen to them. Those sheep follow Him out of the sheepfold and into green pastures. He doesn’t put a general call into the sheepfold and wait to see who will come out. He knows them by name, and He calls them.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (John 10:1-4)
John 10:1–2. Verses 1–5 describe a morning shepherding scene. A shepherd enters through a gate into a walled enclosure which has several flocks in one sheep pen. The enclosure, with stone walls, is guarded at night by a doorkeeper to prevent thieves and beasts of prey from entering. Anyone who would climb the wall would do it for no good purpose.
John 10:3–4. By contrast, the shepherd has a right to enter the sheep pen. The watchman opens the gate, and the shepherd comes in to call his own sheep by name (out from the other flocks). Shepherds knew their sheep well and gave them names. As sheep hear the sound of their owner’s familiar voice, they go to him. He leads them out of the pen till his flock is formed. Then he goes out toward the fields with the sheep following him.
John 10:5–6. If a stranger enters the pen, the sheep run away from him because his voice is not familiar. The point of this figure of speech consists in how a shepherd forms his flock. People come to God because He calls them (cf. vv. 16, 27; Rom. 8:28, 30). Their proper response to His call is to follow Him (cf. John 1:43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19, 22). But this spiritual lesson was missed by those who heard Jesus, even though they certainly understood the local shepherd/sheep relationship. In their blindness, they could not see Jesus as the Lord who is the Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23).
John 10:7–9. Jesus then developed the shepherd/sheep figure of speech in another way. After a shepherd’s flock has been separated from the other sheep, he takes them to pasture. Near the pasture is an enclosure for the sheep. The shepherd takes his place in the doorway or entrance and functions as a door or gate. The sheep can go out to the pasture in front of the enclosure, or if afraid, they can retreat into the security of the enclosure. The spiritual meaning is that Jesus is the only Gate by which people can enter into God’s provision for them.
When Jesus said, All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, He referred to those leaders of the nation who cared not for the spiritual good of the people but only for themselves. Jesus the Shepherd provides security for His flock from enemies (whoever enters through Me will be saved, or “kept safe”). He also provides for their daily needs (the sheep come in and go out, and find pasture).
Source: Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 309–310). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
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