Posted in abel, blood, good shepherd, prophecy, shepherd

The First Blood and the Last Blood

The first human blood shed in the Bible was a shepherd’s blood, shed by one who rejected God in jealousy and anger.

Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. (Genesis 4:2b)
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. (Genesis 4:10)

The Death of Abel – Gustave Doré (1832-83)

The last blood needed for sin’s atonement was the blood of Jesus.

and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12-14)

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)

Chris Powers, fullofeyes.com

The Last Blood. Listen to it entirely. It builds to a devastating climax.

Posted in bible, encouragement, good shepherd, sheepfold, shepherd

His sheep know His voice

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.

EPrata photo

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.

The People’s Bible Encyclopedia, Charles Barnes

EPrata photo
Posted in church, discernment, encouragement, john macarthur, shepherd, shepherds conference, tribute

John MacArthur: An Honorable and Trustworthy Shepherd

Wikipedia

The Lord sends us honorable and trustworthy overseers, no matter the generation in which we live. He sent the early church fathers, the generation after the Apostles, many of them martyrs: Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement…and He has sent us men from then until now. I’d like to focus on the now and one of these trustworthy and honorable men: Dr. John F. MacArthur

Dr John Fullerton MacArthur was born on June 19, 1939, last week he turned 76 years old. He has been serving as a pastor continuously since 1964. He is pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California, part of LA and has been the senior pastor-teacher there for 46 years.

He has preached over 3000 sermons. He has written over 150 books. He has authored innumerable essays. He is currently President of The Master’s College and The Master’s Seminary, the seminary he founded specifically to raise up men in the faith and strengthen them in solid doctrine. He has participated in countless conferences, one of which he founded, The Shepherds’ Conference, a gathering designed to minister to men.

I could list all his accomplishments and activities but this isn’t a reproduction of his resume. Instead, this bare listing of achievements and activities is presented to illustrate a commitment, diligence, and a Godly effort all in the sphere of tasks in which God has put forth in certain, specific men of the faith.

From Grace Community Church website

I consider him part of the theological genealogy of extraordinary men the Lord has raised up, and many others do as well. This is a line that includes Hus, Edwards, Spurgeon. Moreover, Jesus not only planted him in a place where ministry flourished, but He then allowed MacArthur to stay and stay and stay. In these years of church-hopping, ambitious pastors whose length of term usually only lasts 3-5 years, staying at one church and preaching 30, 40, 50 years is unheard of. During a sermon some years ago, MacArthur joked that the Lord led him to Grace Community Church in 1969 and “sort of just left me here.” As a result, we are blessed with sermons explaining each and every verse of the New Testament. To my knowledge MacArthur is the only preacher to have taught expositorily through the whole New Testament, and from one church no less. Even more of a blessing, each and every one of those sermons are recorded and transcribed. And best of all, they are all available for free online for the edification of the body.

Here is a first-hand account of the unprecedented achievement of having preached through the entire New Testament verse-by-verse from a congregant who was there as MacArthur closed in on the last verse.

Sunday, June 05, 2011
John MacArthur – Unprecedented Preaching Achievement
By any standard Grace Community is a big and successful Church, and with good reason, for sound fundamental Christianity is taught there verse by verse every week. The teaching of John MacArthur feeds the need for honest down to earth understandable exposition of God’s Word. You can doubt all you want, but once you have heard it you will know the truth of it.

Today was a milestone in the history of this amazing worship center. In a sanctuary packed as usual, John MacArthur brought to a close what can only be described as a nearly unprecedented achievement in his or any other preacher’s long career as shepherd of his flock. Today as he brought to a conclusion his study of the Gospel of Mark, he completed a forty three year sojourn through the entire New Testament. All these sermons were from the same pulpit.

John MacArthur is firm and forthright, never wavering in his criticism of sins of our time. He fully recognizes that Christianity is under attack and teaches us the basic truths to which we must attend if we are to achieve the gift of eternal life with our Lord.

His sermons are packed with substantial insights into the real meaning of every verse. Never have I enjoyed the Word of God so clearly explained.

Together with his unfaltering teaching style there is a humor that is playful and understanding of our human foibles. Showing his humanity and ongoing love for his wife, John presented Patricia with a beautiful rose to thank her for all her support during this academic and preaching epic.

I asked John how he managed to collect and collate all the information he has used to produce the over three thousand five hundred sermons, which are all recorded and available on line through Grace To You, and how big his staff was. His answer, “Neil, I mine all my own data.”

Dr. MacArthur, President of the Master’s College, and pastor of Grace Community Church is nothing short of phenomenal.

His Spirit-led ministry has delivered spiritual blessings to me and many others, as the above testimony attests. The emails and comments my sisters send me that bring me to tears the most are the ones where someone says they found MacArthur through my site or another’s, and were led out of a Charismatic church…or their faith was strengthened, or they now understand the Doctrines of Grace, or they have been blessed spiritually in some other way from material MacArthur has preached or written. He has touched countless lives for the betterment of the faith, more than any other one person in this generation, I maintain.

He is not only learned, but he lives the life that is expected of pastors. He’s wise, kind, and humble. There has never been a hint of a scandal nor a waver of one inch, not even an hour, from solid doctrine. Those qualities are in such short supply it is refreshing to be given opportunity to revel in preaching that is from God’s heart and not man’s pride or the devil’s error.

In example of his wisdom and caring for his flock and the flock in general, on May 24 he preached a sermon called “Hope for a doomed nation.” He usually goes on vacation in June for three or four weeks. He prepared this sermon for his flock just prior to his departure, saying,

So as we look at our nation – and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks when I’m not here. I’m just kind of preempting that a little bit by helping you to be able to think through whatever happens.

Since that date we as a nation have experienced the Charleston SC church shootings, the embarrassing mega-pastor Tullian Tchividjian adultery and resignation from one of the most famous churches in America, and the Supreme Court’s nationalization of homosexual perversity and with it, opening the door to actual Christian persecution in the US.

Even then, on vacation but never vacating his duty as an under-shepherd, MacArthur issued a sensitive and wise statement on the Charleston church shooting, prescient blog essays just days before the Tchividjian resignation naming Tchividjian as a hyper-grace addict and warning us of it, and sent an open letter to all Master’s Seminary alumni comforting and advising them in the aftermath of the SCOTUS decision. He is a calming influence.

In addition, there is solace in trusting a man who has continued to live a holy life and is a leading example of godliness right before our eyes. We mourn but are also saddened and angry when authors, theologians, professors and pastors we had trusted fall, one after another.

MacArthur with his wife Patricia on the day he completed
preaching the New Testament verse by verse. 43 years! Source

MacArthur preached at the 2001 Ligonier Conference titled Holiness. The sermon MacArthur delivered is “A Call to Holiness“. It is one of those sermons where the listener feels even after years have passed since it was spoken, the strength of the Spirit’s presence within the words uttered is tangibly felt. There is no transcript but I transcribed the part which speaks to a pastor persevering in a long, well-lived, holy life. He said:

“People come to me so often, if I can be personal for a moment, and say, “I’m praying for you”. A lady stopped me out in the hall and said ‘I’m praying for you. We’re praying that you don’t fall into some sin… as so many have and disappointed us so greatly. People will ask me, how do you live your life to prevent that? To whom are you accountable? Do you have an accountability group? Let me tell you something. I have a group of elders that surround me. Among those elders are some very precious friends. They spend a lot of time with me day in and day out. They’re exposed to everything there is to see and know about me. I’m a fairly transparent person. They are there and I want them to tell me whenever I’ve overstepped a line that would bring dishonor to the Lord.

Even tighter than that, I have four children that love Christ and walk with Christ. The three older ones are married. The three older ones and their spouses have these immense and probably unrealistic expectations of me. My son who lives in Chicago called me a few months ago. “Dad I’ve just been thinking about you and praying about you and I called to tell you, ‘don’t mess up.’ ” [audience laughter]. This is my son, this is what I told him. “Dad do you know what it would do to me and the other kids if you ever messed up your life and did something immoral?” I told him, Mark, thank you for your prayers and your concern. It means everything to me.”

And then, I have 11 little grandchildren. They expect their Papa to live the way God expects us to live. I look into their little faces and I read them bible stories and I pray with them so often as Patricia and I gather with them around our kitchen table. And I look into their shining faces and I cannot find it in me to do anything to destroy their trust in Christ. It would kill me.

But the most intimate point of accountability humanly speaking is my beloved treasure Patricia. She is right here in the second row. Most of you don’t know her, you should. [gesturing for her to stand]. Honey let them see how God blessed me. Now, this lady expects me to live what I preach all the time. I want to be Christ to her. I don’t want her to be disappointed in her pastor. I don’t want her heart turned away from Christ. I don’t want the standard lowered. That’s the accountability. Her expectations and my love for her is the accountability.

But you know in the end, as precious as all those people are, as intimately as they are connected to my life, even they don’t know what I think. And if you are going to be holy, my friends, you have to win the battle on the inside.

 

Screen shot from MacArthur’s testimony

He continued the sermon from the text explaining just how to do that. And for the last 58 years since he committed his life to Christ, MacArthur has remained above reproach, with no scandal. You notice in the text his focus was first on not bringing reproach onto the Lord, and also being an example to his children, grandchildren, and to properly lead his wife. His life as a witness is powerful and his credibility as a preacher of the holy word is thus credible in the highest order.

This last one is a double blessing because over time, one can listen to sermons from MacArthur from every decade since he arrived at GCC in February 1969 and bask in the pure, unadulterated Word of God. I’ve done so, having listened to sermons from every era in which he has preached, and have not found any major threads of apostasy, error, or swerving from the narrow path the Lord has laid out to us in His word. Oftentimes pastors have a blind spot or some kind of error in one area. Sometimes they start out well, like Andy Stanley, and then just kind of collapse in front of our eyes, descending into liberalism and then error. Not so John MacArthur. The Lord has kept him.

My friend R. Craig Fulford wrote in an email (and gave permission for this to be excerpted and published):

Dr. MacArthur’s Grace to You Website has always been amazingly good but over the last year they have made huge efforts to increase the user friendly aspect.

When you have made the many contributions he has, it becomes quite difficult to archive those efforts. However, his staff has really improved on how to search his efforts in any number of different ways. Frank Barker told me once that Dr. MacArthur was the most prolific contributor to the Reformed Doctrine he had ever seen. But with that comes the difficult task of making sure all of those wonderful efforts do not get lost in the shuffle.

Over the last several months, I have spent a great deal of time just examining his web site and discovering the many different ways to locate what I’m interested in whether it be by exposition, topic, scriptural reference or any other of the myriad of ways we might want to examine Scripture. You would think with the amount of his available documentation, created over almost a half a century of time, you would see a number of contradictions within his teachings but that is just not the case. There is, however, a notable growth in the level of his discernment and Christian maturity, as you might expect.

There is also a conspicuous lack of “fund raising” activities and over a period of time there are few resources left with any cost, except for his most current publications. That is particularly impressive when you stop and consider the millions and millions of dollars that could have been generated by his efforts. As a matter of fact, when “The Gospel of Jesus” was first published, the only book that out sold it under the category of Christianity was the Bible itself.

And now Dr. MacArthur has completed decades of work on his 33 volume commentary of the New Testament. It is available in print and in a Kindle format. I have both and don’t know why every Christian on planet earth doesn’t if they don’t. Especially at its hugely discounted price.

Do you get the idea that MacArthur is a gift to us, a blessing of manifold and untold reverberations throughout Christendom? I do not exaggerate. In listening to many of his sermons, occasionally he offers a small glimpse of his behind-the-scenes work. He doesn’t say much about himself or his interactions with others, lay-people or fellow pastors. Only once in a while. His call to Mark Driscoll after the Scotland debacle where Driscoll shocked the people with his profane and lascivious “sermon” on the Song of Solomon…an encounter with Robert Schuller, counseling a prostitute, dealing with an unwarranted lawsuit, holding the hand of a homosexual man in the hospital dying of AIDS, flying hours upon hours to remote nations to teach new pastors in closed countries eager for the word, smuggling bibles into China… his tireless work seen and unseen for the cause of Christ is an example to us.

In 2010, a brand-new volume by Hughes Oliphant Old was published. It is titled, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 7: Our Own Time, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), The guys at TeamPyro (at that time led by Phil Johnson, Executive Director of John MacArthur’s Grace To You website and one of the preachers at MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, published an excerpt from Olds’ book. Between pages 551 and 558, one of the pastors the book highlights is the preaching of Dr. John MacArthur.

Now, the Hughes Olds is kind of a strange duck. He openly admits to disbelieving in satan, demons and demon possession. He admits to having doubts about the authority of scripture. Yet he marvels at the authority that MacArthur preaches, noting “part of the foundation of his effectiveness as an interpreter” is that his “basic assumption [is] that the text of Scripture is reliable.” His review should be taken as someone who is perhaps an unbeliever or a weak believer astonished at the preaching of a man with a settled belief in the integrity, authority, and reliability of scripture. From that perspective, Olds’ review is remarkable. Here is an excerpt.

In the review, Olds wrote in his conclusion,

Why do so many people listen to MacArthur, this product of all the wrong schools? How can he pack out a church on Sunday morning in an age in which church attendance has seriously lagged? Here is a preacher who has nothing in the way of a winning personality, good looks, or charm. Here is a preacher who offers us nothing in the way of sophisticated homiletical packaging. No one would suggest that he is a master of the art of oratory. What he seems to have is a witness to true authority. He recognizes in Scripture the Word of God, and when he preaches, it is Scripture that one hears. It is not that the words of John MacArthur are so interesting as it is that the Word of God is of surpassing interest. That is why one listens.

Now, I am not a sycophant. I’m not an uncritical flunky mindlessly parroting plaudits. I still do test what he says against scripture. I do listen to other pastors, my own, of course, and Phil Johnson, S. Lewis Johnson, Adrian Rogers, Lloyd-Jones, Don Green, Paul Washer… I do read other commentaries besides his, including Gill’s Exposition and Matthew Henry. I do enjoy other authors on the topics of scripture besides MacArthur, including Bridges, Spurgeon, Flavel, and Edwards. I think it would be a problem to follow one man alone and proclaim him to the world, that would be idolatry.

But I do adore John MacArthur for all the right reasons. I commend him and his vast ministry to you. I proclaim him in the strongest possible terms as trustworthy and edifying. When Charles Haddon Spurgeon died in January 1892, a Memorial Edition of his Life and Works was published that same year. I am serious when I say MacArthur is in a genealogical line of specially empowered raised up men who edify the brethren and advance the faith. Here is one of the tributes to Spurgeon written in the biography:

You ask a brief estimate of Mr Spurgeon’s life and work. Volumes would not do them justice. The world is his debtor. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was called a Baptist, but was one of those men too great to be claimed by any denomination. Millions of believers of every name were edified by his words, and quickened by the example of his wonderful life.

Among his many admirable traits, and at the root of them, lay his clear apprehension of divine truth, his firm grasp of it, inflexible loyalty to it, and incessant proclamation of it. He was a man of a whole Bible. From Genesis to Revelation it was to him “the true Word of the true God.”

If he was conspicuous for anything, he was conspicuous for his unswerving allegiance to ‘the Word.’ His theology was as broad and as narrow as the Bible. With him, “thus saith the Lord” settled everything.

With a warm heart and a very clear head, a very busy hand and a supreme devotion to the Master he served, men may call him narrow if they please. God has set the seal of divine approval, passing contradiction, on the work of the London Tabernacle pastor, and called him to his reward. What a reward!”

In 2006 I was a new Christian, having moved from my home environment in New England all the way to Georgia, where I knew no one. I was alone. I began attending church for the first time in my 43 years of life, and I had not a clue as to how to study the bible, much less read it. I mentioned before that prior to moving to Georgia I had not gone to church but had relied on radio and TV for preaching. I listened to Joel Osteen, the biggest and most popular tv preacher in the US, which I thought was the proper barometer for assessing the ministry of preachers. I also listened to Endtime Ministries’ radio prophecy personality Irvin Baxter. After a short while, Baxter’s fervent fixation on the post-tribulation rapture began to bother me. The Spirit graciously led me away from that man’s erroneous and personally unique interpretations of eschatology. However I began to realize that it was a wild and woolly, sometimes scary, world of preaching out there and I felt adrift and exposed. I had not known that there were different interpretations of scripture and that many men preaching it were just plain wrong. This was a new idea to me. I sought the Holy Spirit’s wisdom to know whom to listen to and whom to trust.

That was when He led me to John MacArthur. It was, as so many sisters have commented and emailed me, literally a God-send. I tested what was being preached against scripture and happily found it to be true. The reliability of his preaching, his humble and clean life, and frankly, the free or nearly free resources at his website were a boon to my impoverished but seeking heart and my poor battered checkbook. From there, I grew. I found Phil Johnson, his editor and executive director of Grace To You, and I found S. Lewis Johnson, a pastor of a former generation MacArthur recommended. And so on, the circles widened.

The tribute I posted above which is dedicated to Spurgeon contains similar if not exact words that can be applied to the life and ministry of Dr John F. MacArthur. Too much? Hardly. The benefit we as Christians have received from this tireless man’s Godly dedication and efforts in Christ’s name are uncountable, and manifold. I can’t wait for the day they will be revealed in the throne room of heaven. He is the Pastor for our generation.

I believe that recognizing this and affirming this glorifies Christ because it acknowledges His Spirit’s work in the Body. I began this essay by saying “The Lord sends us honorable and trustworthy overseers” and I end it with praise and thanks by saying the same thing. He used MacArthur to snatch me from the jaws of a wolf like Osteen and confusing men like Baxter and only the Lord knows who else if I had stayed on that muddled path. Who knows what other wolf would have dragged me off in false doctrine and poor Godly examples. Raising up good men is the Lord’s doing because He has care and concern for the people of His church. Peter wrote of overseers,

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

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Further Reading

Website, many resources: Grace To You

Church: Grace Community Church

John MacArthur’s Biography (and book list)

Posted in boaz, field, kinsman redeemer, ruth, shepherd

The Most Important Field

For a lot of guys (and gals too I guess) the football field is the most important field. They pay attention to what happens on it. They diligently keep stats, wanting to know all the minutiae regarding their team, or their favorite player. In season, the football field dominates their life.

For moms, oftentimes the soccer field is the dominant field. In season, the soccer field is ground zero to which all her activities point. The main thrust of the day is to get the child to practice or to the game on time. To be present at the field to cheer on the child. To comfort the child in what happens on the field that may have upset him or her. And to celebrate what happens on the field in victory.

There are lots of meaningful fields in people’s lives. The field where he first proposed. The field where you won your first game (for me, the field hockey field). The field where you bring your beloved dog to play in pleasant past-times. The field where you had picnics with your father, and where they dug it up, to your horror, to put up a parking garage, or a subdivision.

However there is only one field of importance. Shepherds Field.

Source: Images of the Holy Land

‎Black goats glean the remains of the yellow grass at the end of a long summer in the surroundings of the Shepherds’ Field. This primeval landscape was the background of many of the events related in the Old and New Testament. Rachel died and was buried nearby, Ruth met Boaz, a meeting which was to lead to the birth of King David, and the shepherds first heard from the angel about the birth of Jesus nearby in Bethlehem. “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus is the treasure. It was a privilege for the angels to announce Him to the inhabitants of the earth, initially, the shepherds in the field. And here is a beautiful picture of the coming Savior, who will open His field to the Gentiles, redeem them, feed them, and protect them.

Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. 4And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you!” And they answered, “The Lord bless you.” 5Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.”

8Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” 10Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” 11But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” 13Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:1-13)

We serve an incredible Jesus, who was announced to lowly shepherds in the field.

Posted in beth moore, chris hull, discernment, false teacher, shepherd

Lutheran pastor on Beth Moore: "She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing trying to destroy my flock"

In 2012, thanks to Sola Sisters, some of us became aware that a pastor named Jim Murphy of First Baptist Church in Johnson City NY spoke to his congregation sternly about their lack of effort in applying biblical discernment. He said this after he repented in front of them himself, for not guarding them from false doctrines as he should. He led the people through a history of post-modernism and biblically showed how and why false teachers from ‘out there’ can and do get ‘in here’ to their church. If not through the pulpit, false doctrines can come in through Ladies Ministry studies, Sunday School Curricula, and/or the church library.

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Even if the pastor himself is solid and would never think to quote a Beth Moore or a Sarah Young, these false teachers enter the church by other means. Pastor Murphy said he was sorry for not having provided enough oversight in the aforementioned areas, and said the tentacles of satan had so far reached far and deep. He went on a mission to overhaul all the aforementioned areas. In addition, he promised to name names in warning his flock away from certain teachers who have shown by their fruit they are dangerous.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-16a)

Many of us who listened to Pastor Murphy’s online sermon applauded it and were thrilled to see one faithful shepherd executing the biblical command to guard the sheep. (Acts 20:28-31)

Additionally, we know that there are other pastors out there doing the same, even when we can’t see or hear them. We trust the Lord who has raised up faithful shepherds to empower them with discernment, courage, and fortitude to withstand the tsunami of falsity attempting to sweep into the church and to speak against it. We can’t see them, but we know they’re there and doing it. We live by faith, not by sight, knowing that doctrinal protection by good under-shepherds is occurring. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

But it is still thrilling to see when it happens, it’s a visible demonstration of the Goodness of the Holy Spirit.

Well, here is another example. Also in 2012, a Lutheran named Chris Hull, who is Senior Pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Normal, Illinois, was interviewed on a Lutheran radio show called Issues Etc. He noticed several of the ladies of his flock were doing Beth Moore studies, so he set about researching what they were consuming. He was aghast at his findings.

To Beth Moore, Jesus is more sympathizer than Savior. ~Pastor Chris HullHis talk is linked here, and below is posted a lengthy excerpted transcript of his interview. There are a few things he speaks of through the lens of being Lutheran that I do not agree with, for example, the sacraments being more than representational, and of being their ‘father’, but despite these few things, his opposition to Moore is worth a read. He takes it from a theological point of view, speaking of the false things Moore teaches that I haven’t heard before, or at least, in my opinion speaks of them in such a way as to bring new light on why Moore is false. It’s a new perspective, even though this interview is surfacing now (thanks to an eagle eyed and thoughtful reader who sent it to me).

In this essay, I’m showing you three things. First, the different perspective that the pastor brings to the table regarding Moore’s theology. Second, if you read the excerpts below or better yet, listen to the half-hour interview linked above, you will see HOW the pastor went about assessing Moore’s theology and how he considered whether she was good for his flock. Third, once he came to his conclusions, note the kind of language he uses to definitively state them. He didn’t apologize, back-pedal, or waver when explaining exactly what the problem was. Too many teachers, pastors etc seem almost apologetic when saying that so-and-so is a false teacher. Many hesitate to say even that, claiming that gentleness, caution, and tolerance are called for.

I say no.

“Guilty Spirit” EPrata collage
w/digital overlay

If a person, by their fruit and/or lifestyle has demonstrated that they are false, we are beyond caution and tolerance. We are at war with the false teaching they bring! If they have proven themselves false (and Moore certainly has) it means they are against Jesus and operating for satan. It means they are out for your destruction. It means they are a liar, seeking filthy lucre. We don’t have to be mean, but we need to be clear! We do NOT need to say, “Well, gee, in some ways this teacher has helped me, and I don’t agree with everything they say, but…” No, sir. Paul was clear:

So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Cor 11:15)

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.  (2 John 1:11)

See the Apostle of Love calling false teachers wicked, as not having God in them, and for believers to refuse them hospitality! Therefore note the clarity and conciseness with which Pastor Hull expresses his findings. You definitely know where he stands. He stands with Jesus. He guards His flock.

Here are excerpts from Pastor Chris Hull’s interview on Issues, Etc. regarding Beth Moore.

Q. What role does Jesus play in Beth Moore’s Theology?

Pastor Hull

Pr. Hull: I’d say it’s mainly example. Christ is our example. Lutherans have fought that mindset for many years, this ‘what would Jesus DO mentality.’ Worse, and I hate to say this because it sounds silly, but to her, Jesus is more of a lover, even. He’s the man who understands me. He’s the man who gets me. No other man in my life gets me, but Jesus does. That’s a big problem. Yes, He does get us all, because He died for us. So I would agree with her there, yes He gets you. But He gets you because He takes your sin upon Himself and dies your death. But she never gets to that point. It’s more of a ‘He’s there for me in my need.’ It’s a very abstract ‘there’. He’s never there in concreteness in the means of grace, but rather, just there. Like a spiritual life coach giving me a pat on the back when I need it. And that’s Jesus in her book. Jesus is more sympathizer than savior. … It’s very, very shallow spirituality.

What you get with Beth Moore’s bible studies is emotionalism. You know, getting into how I feel and things of that nature. Her main appeal to women in her studies is getting into the mind-set of people in the bible. For example, in her study, “Jesus the one and only”, she gets into: How did Mary feel? or what was Joseph thinking? There is no actual theology here, it is all, what do I think they were feeling and does that relate to my feelings today. The best part is, she will quote like 20 bible verses, that have nothing to do with that actual passage in scripture in order to support your emotion, she is using the bible to tell you the feelings you have are natural and good and you should feel comforted in that, and therefore powerful. It’s all about God respects you, that is one of the main appeals to women is that God respects them in their feelings, in their stage in life.

Q. How would you summarize her message?

Beth Moore

Pr. Hull: A typical evangelical one of free will. She is a lazy Arminian, who says that our greatest gift God gives us is our free will to choose Him. How can that comfort people? If that’s the gift God gives us is free will, saying and you have to get into the bible to read more of the bible, and the more you read the bible the more you will know about God and the more you know about God, the more God will love you. And then, once God loves you He will respect you as a human being.

Her bible studies are mostly prose, not much doctrine, a lot of fill-in-the blanks type of questions. Here’s a question, read this one bible verse, and fill in the blank. It’s like reading a Dan Brown novel the Da Vinci Code, you feel smart after because it’s short chapters.

Q. What view of man in his fallen state does Beth Moore promote in her popular books and bible studies?

Pr. Hull: Her view of man is that man has problems, man is sinful but only because of what he does. You’re born in a state of neutrality, like Adam (she doesn’t knock Eve as much) and will I take the forbidden fruit or will I do good? This is the Christian life a neutral state and which one will I choose. It’s Arminian theology. If I choose good, God will be pleased. You see this especially in her books. There is this one book about getting out of the ditches, how do I get out of despair, and you don’t see things like “From depths of woe I cried to Thee“, you see ‘What can I do to get out of this problem in life.’

Expulsion of Adam and Eve
from the Garden, Masaccio,
1426-7

My wife went to one of the bible studies and she walked out saying ‘I had no comfort in the Gospel. It was all about what I need to do.’ She made the comment that if someone with clinical depression came in they’d probably want to go home and do something to themselves. Because it is just depressing to read, it gives no hope in Christ Jesus. Whatsoever.

[A clip is played with Moore emphasizing self-improvement, using the phrase “we are God’s masterpiece” and emphasizing change in terms of self-improvement].

Pr. Hull: Self-improvement is contrary to scripture. Romans 6 talks about that. We died with Christ so we shall also rise with Christ. You must die in this world. How can you progress in self-improvement if the point of the faith is to actually die to self? Beth Moore takes scripture out of the equation and replaces it with emotion and human reason.

Q.: Beth Moore had a little foothold on the congregation you currently serve when you arrived as its new pastor, how deep did it drive you into researching what Beth Moore believes and teaches?

Don’t believe the propaganda!

Pr. Hull: They did 2 Beth Moore studies the first year I was here, so I read both of those. I read 4 of her books, I watched a bunch of her Youtube videos…I spent way too much time with Beth Moore. But the problem is, and I guess I can say this on the radio: she is a wolf in sheep’s clothing trying to destroy my flock. The only way I could get her out was knowing her. Knowing her abilities, knowing how she gets in and twists. And I learned it.

But getting rid of it was the problem. Because Beth Moore becomes a friend with the church, she becomes good friends with people. How do you get rid of a friend? You have to say this ‘friend’ is no good for you. This friend wants to hurt you. This friend desires your death. She wants to give you this poisonous loaf of bread covered in sugar and tell you it’s good for you. And all it’s going to do is kill you over time and you won’t even recognize it…the problem is to compassionately say to your blessed flock that not only will this harm you, but it will be your end if you continue to place trust in this propaganda.

All Beth Moore Critiques Here in One Place

Beth Moore Confronts Young Pastor’s Wife for Criticizing Her Direct, Divine Revelation

Posted in good shepherd, I am the door, sheep, shepherd, the worthless shepherd

Jesus as Shepherd, and I AM the Door

Shed door, inside are sheep! EPrata photo

To plumb the Bible’s depths is such a treasure and a pleasure. It never ends. I’ve been studying about the Shepherd and one of His I AM statements, “I AM the door”.

The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times. Jesus uses the metaphor of the Shepherd often, and said here in arguably the most famous statement,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Did you ever notice there were a lot of shepherds in the bible? There were even the unnamed shepherds watching their flocks by night, the first recipients of the Good News.

Numerous biblical characters are associated with the occupation of shepherding: Abel (Gen. 4:2), Abraham (Gen. 13:7), Isaac (Gen. 26:20), Jacob and his sons (especially Joseph, Gen. 30:36; 46:32), Laban (and his daughter Rachel, Gen. 29:9), Moses (Exod 3:1), and David (1 Sam. 16:11). Source Holman treasury of key Bible words, Carpenter, E. E.

Shepherds’ work was never ending, lonely, and dangerous. They had few tools, the rod as a crook to extracting sheep from difficulty and the staff or club for fending off wild animals; (1Samuel 17:34-37). We know David also had a slingshot. Shepherds also had pouch for food and used their wrap as a cloak and also a blanket.

There was not a lot of grass so shepherds had to move the flock often. Sheep are followers. If one sheep walks over a cliff the rest will follow. They don’t defend themselves against prey, they simply huddle up and then there’s a slaughter. They are scared of moving water and will only drink from still water, (“He maketh me lie down near still waters”) but if they fall into moving water they will drown.

EPrata photo

When night-time came the shepherd had two options. Using one of his tools, the rod, he could lead the sheep (never drive them) into a sheepfold in the field. (Luke 2:8) This was simply a crudely made rock enclosure, usually a circle, so-high and topped with thorns to prevent prey or robbers scaling it to get in (John 10:1).

The shepherd brought the sheep to the fold one by one. He’d let down his rod to bar it from coming in, and he would inspect the sheep from head to toe. He was looking for injuries, disease, or anything that might need attention. The lanolin, a waxy substance the sheep excrete to keep their wool dry, often hid cysts or cuts, so he had to closely inspect each sheep before lifting up his rod to allow them entry.

Just as the lost are closely examined at the Great White Throne Judgment as seen in Revelation 20:11-15. The saved are allowed in but we are still inspected. (Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10)

The shepherd also counted the sheep as they went in, to see if any were still out there, or for tithing purposes. (Matthew 18:12; Jer. 33:13).

I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. (Ezekiel 20:37)

And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. (Leviticus 27:32)

The sheepfold had no door. The shepherd placed his rod and staff across the opening and bedded down at the threshold, becoming the door.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9)

I’ll discuss the going in and out in another blog essay. The other option was to lead the sheep to a community sheepfold or a privately owned sheepfold in town. (Zephaniah 2:6). Sometimes the shepherd would make use of his lean-to or another enclosure in town, going through the same process with the rod as each sheep entered. This time, the shepherd would have hired a hireling to watch the sheep at night, and he’d go to his own bed until morning. Sometimes hirelings were not worthy and ran away. (John 10:13)

EPrata photo. Actual sheepfold door, with wheelbarrow

In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord (Jeremiah 33:13)

He is the Good Shepherd. He is the door, where inside the sheep are counted, examined, protected, loved, and cared for.

Posted in sheep, shepherd

The Great Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd

The John MacArthur, Grace to You annual Shepherds’ Conference is going on right now in California. You can follow the twitter feed at #shepconf, or go to the website at ShepherdsConference.org

The purpose of this annual conference is to minister to the pastors, elders, and leaders of the local church. Its focus is to make the conference a time for our men to be refreshed and rejuvenated in their ministry. Men from around the world attend, and it is a beautiful sight to see and hear thousands of men singing hymns such “It is Well With My Soul” and seeing them gather. It is also wonderful to be able to pray for so many at once.

One of the first sermons preached at the 2013 conference was by Phil Johnson about the Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd.

“Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)

Brethren, Jesus is with us, always. No matter what you are going through, He is with you. He cares for you as one of His lambs, nourishing us, rounding us up, leading us to calm waters, giving us pastures to refresh us. He protects us from wolves and gives us shelter under His wings to steady us from the storms. How good to hear His voice, in the bible, and how great it will be to hear it audibly when He, the Chief Shepherd, calls us home, and we follow Him as the sheep we are. (John 10:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Is there anything more comforting than knowing that the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, knows His sheep…us?

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20).

Abel was a shepherd, and when Cain killed Abel Abel’s blood cried out from the ground. (Genesis 4:2, Genesis 4:10). David was a Shepherd, and perhaps this was why God called David a “man after my own heart”. (Acts 13:22). Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).  “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24)

And so on Crucifixion Day, it was the blood of Jesus that cried out from the ground. (Matthew 27:51).

Yet the Shepherd rose again! Our Chief will care for His sheep forever!

“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4).

But the glory is His. Let us cast our crowns back to Him and praise Him for His work in heaven and on earth. There is nothing we are going through that you and He can’t get through together.After all, he created us, He will keep us in His care.

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

Revelation 4:10-11

Posted in flock, pastor, shepherd

Value your pastor

I pray for pastors that the Lord would keep their hearts soft. I know that soft hearts receive wounds more deeply than hard hearts, but such is the territory of love. Those with a tender heart toward God feel deeply. (1 Samuel 24:5; 2 Kings 22:19).

Yet they go on, and on, and on; soldiers of truth marching forward unafraid of the evil before them.

“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.” (Psalms 112:7)

I pray that you have the blessing of a pastor with a heart fixed on the Lord. We receive evil tidings these days, and the pastor is on the front line of all those tidings. Pray for him ceaselessly.

The LORD said “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15). Tender and knowledgeable Pastors who care for their flocks are a gift from God.

GotQuestions explains pastoral care

“Beyond preparing and delivering a sermon, pastors provide biblical counseling, visit the sick and injured in hospitals, and disciple members of the congregation through phone calls, lunch meetings, and other social engagements. Many pastors serve as chaplains in hospitals, the military, workplaces, schools, and prisons. All of these ministries are aspects of pastoral care.

In reality, pastoral-care ministries are just as valuable as the delivery of a sermon. Caring for a person who is struggling with a difficulty, being present during a time of pain, praying with someone in a crisis – these are the moments when spiritual breakthroughs occur. Ministering through a good, biblically sound sermon is absolutely necessary. But ministering through a personal touch, i.e., pastoral care, is just as important.”

Do you have a pastor who does all that? Pray for him! And know that the more mature he becomes in sanctification, the more deeply he will feel the hurts of his flock and the sins of the world.

In one way, he is a first responder. It is often said that policemen and firemen rush IN to danger when everyone is running out. Pastors rush in to deal with evil tidings when most would rather run away from them. They are a spiritual first responder. Care for him, love him, do not begrudge him, and above all, pray for him.

Posted in flock, sheep, shepherd

The Shepherd speaks to His sheep

“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. ” (Matthew 9:36-38 KJV).

Barnes Notes:

But when he saw the multitudes – That followed him from place to place. When he saw their anxiety to be instructed and saved.

He was moved with compassion on them – He pitied them.

Because they fainted – The word used here refers to the weariness and fatigue which results from labor and being burdened. He saw the people burdened with the rites of religion and the doctrines of the Pharisees; sinking down under their ignorance and the weight of their traditions; neglected by those who ought to have been enlightened teachers; and scattered and driven out without care and attention. With great beauty he compares them to sheep wandering without a shepherd. Judea was a land of flocks and herds. The faithful shepherd, by day and night, was with his flock. He defended it, made it to lie down in green pastures, and led it beside the still waters, Psalm 23:2. Without his care the sheep would stray away. They were in danger of wild beasts. They panted in the summer sun, and they did not know where the cooling shade and stream was. So, said the Saviour, is it with this people. No wonder that the compassionate Redeemer was moved with pity.

Jesus is a wonderful, wonderful Savior. Jesus went about preaching and proclaiming….and healing. Let’s look at the healing for a moment.

John wrote that Jesus did so many miracles that all the books of the world could not contain them. (John 21:25). We read the record of the types of miracles but certainly not the entire body of miraculous work that Jesus did. Most of the miracles were healing. (Matthew 9:36). You note the verse says Jesus drove out every sickness and every disease. This means every type and every last one. For all intents and purposes, the Land was cleansed from disease during Jesus’s ministry.

Blindness? Healed. (John 9:6-7). Paralyzed? Healed. (Mark 2:12). Internal injury? Healed. (Mark 5:21-43). Leprosy? Healed. (Matthew 8:1-4). No matter what the sickness or injury, whether it was from birth or recent, no matter if it was internal or external, Jesus healed them.

When Jesus was concluding His ministry, “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matthew 10:1). Healing continued (for a while, pp.19-26).

Why would Jesus be so consumed with not only proclaiming and preaching, but healing? MacArthur interprets that it is the compassion of Jesus that is the basis for Jesus doing this work. That Jesus wanted us to know that He cares, that God is concerned with each of them. Would a good shepherd see a sheep with an injury and not care for it? Of course He would bind their leg, minister to their illness. The sheep otherwise would be so scared and in such pain! A good shepherd helps His sheep.

The Pharisees had been preaching a distant God, a harsh god, an inattentive God. The people, as the opening verse stated, were sheep without a Shepherd. Even though God was on His throne and entirely involved in the people’s lives and His care for them just as potent as the day He created Adam, the people did not know it. They were being led by false teachers proclaiming false doctrine. The worst impact of that false doctrine was that they were fainting and scattering.

Notice a second thing about Jesus and His healing. It was instant and it was total. Each person He healed was made whole. If you read Colossians, Paul preaches that Jesus is ALL we need. All that Jesus does is perfect and entire. This includes the healings, as we see from the following sample verses:

“And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” (Mark 5:34)

“Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment.” (Matthew 9:22)

“And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.” (John 5:9)

“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:19).

The healings Jesus performed in His compassion as Shepherd unto His sheep were complete. It is the same with His spiritual healing. He makes us whole, instantly. Our sanctification (growth in Christ over our lives) is progressive, but when we are justified, the spiritual healing at the moment of our conversion is whole, complete, and entire. That is what the Book of Colossians is about. Read the Colossians 1-2 and note how many times you read the words ‘fullness’, ‘all’, ‘filled’, ‘fully’.

He is our all in all, His work is perfect and complete. It is complete in us. Far from being a distant and uncaring God, our Christ is loving and compassionate. He is our Shepherd, and we need never wander or faint again. Though we long for the restful pastures and still waters of the Kingdom in body and in presence, we do have that rest and calm now on earth until the Day. Our Shepherd is mighty and is standing at the center of our lives with His crook, caring for each of us every moment. His eye is upon His sheep. I pray that you hear His voice, speaking love and care to you now.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. ” (John 10:14-16)

Selah.

Posted in bible, prophecy, shepherd

Reclining at Jesus’s bosom

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. Who wouldn’t overlook him, being sandwiched between Caligula and Nero, lol. I was fascinated with the Roman banquets, of which the show “I, Claudius” had many, and I used to wonder why they ate while reclining. It seemed cumbersome to me.

However, Amos mentioned reclining while eating in Amos 6:7- “Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives, And those who recline at banquets shall be removed.” Amos lived in around 760 BC. As a matter of fact, the first known artistic depiction of someone reclining while eating is captured in this ‘Garden Party’ relief from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Nineveh, Iraq, about 645 BC, well before the Roman Empire. The relief is currently housed at the British Museum. King Ashurbanipal reigned from 669-631 BC. Here he is shown eating while reclining on his left side, with a pillow propped under his armpit and his wife upright in front of him. This custom was later shown in Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art and writings. It was picked up in Jewish traditions.

source

I was then and I am still bemused by the Roman custom of eating while reclining. The Romans said it aided digestion. It also was a cultural boast, that the upper class Romans were so wealthy they could afford to not only sit to eat, but to recline. Leisure was a mark of class and wealth.

The photo below from Wikimedia Commons shows a re-enactment of a Roman banquet. The Romans would lie on their left side with a pillow under their armpit. They would use their right hand to eat. Their feet would extend out and away from the specially designed couches upon which they would recline for many hours. Dinners took a while, interspersed as they were with conversation and entertainment. Women were allowed to participate at dinners at later stages of the Empire, and usually sat in upright chairs in front of their husbands.

This reenactment of a Roman banquet shows members of the upper class reclining on couches. The women wear their chiton and palla, while the men wear purple-bordered togas, denoting their position of senator. As women are present, this is most likely a dinner party, as opposed to a symposium, where women would only be permitted if they were entertainers.

As the custom caught on, the middle class then the lower classes copied the posture of reclining while eating.

The typical dinner would include nine guests. There were three reclining couches arranged in a semicircle, with three diners to a couch. The inside of the horseshoe was left open so slaves could pour wine and serve food. Anything not eaten, like bones or shells, were cast to the floor to be swept up by the slaves later.

The host would assume the place in the middle of the central couch and to be placed next to him was the place of honor. It is like “the head table” at a wedding. The place of honor was given to the one on his left. Jesus spoke to this when he said in Matthew 23:6, “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,”

As Barnes’ Notes describes, “On these the guests reclined, leaning on their left side, with their feet extended from the table, and so lying that the head of one naturally reclined on the bosom of another. To recline near to one in this manner denoted intimacy, and was what was meant by lying “in the bosom” of another, John 13:23; Luke 16:22-23.

“John 13:23– “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.”

Embroidered altar dossal, 1633. source

Barnes continues, “As the feet were extended “from” the table, and as they reclined instead of sitting, it was easy to approach the feet behind, and even unperceived. Thus, in Luke 7:37-38, while Jesus reclined in this manner, a woman that had been a sinner came to his feet “behind him,” and washed them with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. She stood on the outside of the couches. So our Saviour washed the feet of his disciples as they reclined on a couch in this manner, John 13:4-12. Whenever we read in the New Testament of “sitting” at meals, it always means reclining in this manner, and never sitting as we do. The chief seat, or the “uppermost” one, was the middle couch at the upper end of the table. This the Pharisees loved, as a post of honor or distinction.”

All one had to do if wanting to ask a private question or make a one-on-one comment was to lean back against the person next to you, and with your head at their bosom, ask it in a low voice. The Beloved Disciple, assumed to to be John, asked this of Jesus when prompted by Peter, who was going to be His betrayer?

“He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25).

Jesus replied to the Beloved Disciple who had just asked Jesus who His betrayer was going to be by saying it is the one to whom I will dip this bread (Verse 26). Because Jesus was able to hand Judas the bread it it assumed that Judas had been reclining at the second place of honor, to the Host’s left.

Though Jesus certainly had upside down ideas about the places of honor, so the ritual usually associated with Roman & Jewish dining places can’t be dogmatically assumed, except for Jesus being at the center. “When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:  “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 14:7-11).

The handing of bread that had been dipped was a custom of friendship, or reconciliation. By Jesus handing Judas the bread He was giving an offer of friendship at that late stage, and still giving Judas grace to change his mind.

Judas was close to Jesus because Judas was handed the bread and he took it.

“After the morsel, Satan then entered into him.” (John 13:27).

So Judas accepted the gesture but still resolved to betray Jesus! Then Jesus said, “What you do, do quickly.”

Here are a couple of other verses referring to intimacy and closeness in proximity by being at the bosom-

Luke 16:22– “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.”

Isaiah 40:11– “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.”

The picture of the different people at the bosom of Abraham or Jesus shows us rest, intimacy, care. Are you reclining at Jesus’ bosom today? It is an amazing thing to know that He is holy, holy, holy; that His thunder can rend the earth into pieces, but that love of His forgiven is as gentle and accessible as being able to lay your head on His bosom. He will even gather you into His arms and carry you. He is not just the Judge of all sins, He is not only the Subduer of foes, but He is the gentle Shepherd, able to tenderly carry the feeble and the weak. Come to Him today, your Shepherd, your Companion.
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