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Wordwise Insight, Issue #027
March 14, 2007
Greetings

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. "All Things," About Praising God, The Gospel Invitation, and more

READER Q & A. About the hymns "Day by Day," and "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need," About the word "not" in Isaiah 9:3, and more

REVIEWS & IDEAS. Rest Ministries, which has many resources for the chronically ill


BIBLE INSIGHTS

ALL THINGS
Second Peter 1:3 assures us “His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” So, what are these “all things”?

1) Knowledge through God’s Word (II Tim. 3:16-17, which assures us by His promises, II Pet. 1:4).

2) Power through the indwelling Holy Spirit (II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:22-23).

3) Cleansing through the efficacy of the shed blood of Christ and His high priestly advocacy (I Jn. 1:7, 9; 2:1-2; Heb. 7:25) when we falter and fall.

4) Angelic ministration at the bidding of the Lord (Heb. 1:14; cf. Matt. 4:11; Lk. 22:43).

It should be noted, further, that access to all four of these can be implemented or enriched through believing prayer (Ps. 50:15; 91:14-16; 145:17-20; Isa. 41:10).

ABOUT PRAISING GOD
Luke records a time when, “The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen” (Lk. 19:37). The passage suggests or illustrates some important things about praise.

1) Praising God is something “disciples” do, those who are committed followers of the Lord.

2) It is an activity in which we “all” should engage.

3) God’s people should unite in praise, as they did here. Their corporate praise was unified and apparently unanimous.

4) It was joyful–like the announcement of His coming had been (Lk. 2:10). However there is an irony here. With a better understanding, Jesus weeps in the midst of their joy (vs. 41). On this side of eternity, no joy is unmitigated.

5) It was “loud.” This indicates enthusiasm, and it meant their praise became a witness to those around. Praise should not be deafening or raucous. But if it is clear and forceful it can be a testimony to others.

6) It was necessary (vs. 40), implying that it was also supremely appropriate to the moment. Something great and long-promised was happening (cf. Zech. 9:9-10). Praise was necessary in spite of the objections of unbelief (vs. 39). There are times when God simply must be praised.

7) The reason for praise given here is “the mighty works they had seen” in the earthly ministry of Christ–but also in the fulfilment of God sovereign purpose in the presentation of the King (vs. 38).

8) Praise in this life must be tinged with compassion and concern. For while we rejoice and praise the Lord, many are still in bondage and spiritual darkness (vs. 41-42). It is not too much to suggest that a praising heart will also be a missionary heart, seeking to bring others into the experience of praise.

THE GOSPEL INVITATION
The people of Israel were on their way to the Promised Land, and we read this: “Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel [also called Jethro] the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, ‘We are setting out for the place of which the Lord has said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the Lord has promised good things to Israel” (Num. 10:29).

This appeal to Hobab–who was likely the brother of Zipporah, Moses’ wife–provides an illustration of some aspects of the gospel invitation on this side of the cross.

1) There is personal testimony. ( They told of being “on their way,” just was we are on a spiritual journey.) We have not arrived yet, but we are on the way.

2) There is a biblical foundation for faith and confidence affirmed (“The Lord has said.”) We are pilgrims under orders from the Lord Himself, and trusting in His Word.

3) There is a sincere invitation ("Come with us.") Why not join the company of the committed?

4) There is a pledge of support. (“We will treat you well.”) That assurance needs to be conveyed to the seeking soul, that the body of God’s people can give loving help for the journey.

5) There is an expression of hope and the anticipation of future blessing (“The Lord has promised.") Greater blessings–eternal ones–await us up ahead. Come along and be a part of that.

THE LEARNER-SERVANT PRINCIPLES
On the website there is an article about discipleship called The Learner-Servant Principles. Extensively referenced to Scripture, and with many diagrams, this material will give you a unique perspective on the subject. The seven basic principles are interconnected. They show the essence of discipleship as it is revealed in God’s Word, four key things God expects of us, and how sin contrasts with the four. As well, you will gain a helpful understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. The framework described can also be used to analyze passage after passage in the Bible. Please study the material, put it to use, and pass it on!

TRUTH IN OUR TRIALS. Check out the extensive outline study on the subject of suffering at Truth About Suffering.

THE DA VINCI CODE is often in the news these days. The novel by Dan Brown claims to be based on fact. Is it? Check out the resources in this newsletter, as well as the following article The Da Vinci Code.


READER Q & A

Question: Nancy asks, “Do you know the story behind the hymn "Day by Day? I would appreciate this information. Thank you.”

Answer: In his autobiography, Out of the Depths, hymn writer John Newton makes this practical observation: “Sometimes I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in the course of a year to a great bundle of [fire wood], far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once; He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we are to carry today, and then another which we are to carry tomorrow, and so on. This we might easily manage, if we would only take the burden appointed for us each day; but we chose to increase our troubles by carrying yesterday's stick over again today, and adding tomorrow's burden to our load, before we are required to bear it.”

It is well said. So often our fretting over yesterday’s failures and our speculation about tomorrow’s possible problems robs us of present peace. In discussing the crippling danger of anxious care, the Lord Jesus reminds us, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). As creatures of time, we live in the present moment, and that is where the Lord has promised to help us. We are invited to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). And His pledge is, “As you days, so shall your strength be” (Deut. 33:25).

Of course this does not preclude planning for the future. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” (Lk. 14:28). Setting goals and evaluating our resources is one thing. Worrying and stewing over things that are beyond our control is quite another. Even with the best of preparation, tomorrow will have its unexpected challenges--and its blessings, too. We must leave that in God’s hands, looking to Him for the wisdom and strength to do His will (Heb. 4:16). His promise is, “My grace is sufficient for you” (II Cor. 12:9).

One who learned to take each day as it came was Carolina Sandell Berg (1832-1903). Lina Sandell, as she was commonly known, was married in 1867, to C. O. Berg, a merchant in the city of Stockholm. Mrs. Berg was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, in Sweden. She wrote numerous hymns that were used of God in the revivals that touched Scandinavia in the late 19th century. Her early contributions gained her the nickname “the Fanny Crosby of Sweden.” But one day in 1852 tragedy struck. She and her father were traveling by sea to Gothenburg when the ship pitched, suddenly. Pastor Sandell was thrown overboard and drowned. It is said that the songs which flowed from the young woman’s grieving heart afterward had a new spiritual depth. They breathed a simple, child-like faith, and an keen awareness of the presence of her loving Lord. She had learned the importance of trusting Him moment by moment.

“Day by Day” is one such hymn. It says, “Day by day and with each passing moment, / Strength I find to meet my trials here; / Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, / I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. / He whose heart is kind beyond all measure / Gives unto each day what He deems best— / Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, / Mingling toil with peace and rest.” Then the last stanza is a prayerful appeal. “Help me then in ev’ry tribulation / So to trust Thy promises, O Lord, / That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation / Offered me within Thy holy Word. / Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, / E’er to take, as from a father’s hand, / One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, / Till I reach the promised land.” That is how to deal with all the days God gives us--one by one--with our eyes on Him, and our trust in His unfailing Word.

Question: Gloria asks, “Do you have a story for Resignation also known as “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need"? We are using it throughout Lent. Thanks.”

Answer: There is not much information available on the hymn itself. I’ll give you what I know, and also tell you a bit about the author. “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” is a paraphrase of Psalm 23. It was written by Isaac Watts and first published in 1719, when he was 45 years old. “Resignation” is not the name of the hymn, but a name given to the tune frequently used with the song. It is a traditional American melody whose origins are obscure.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was both a pastor and a brilliant scholar, authoring some 60 books. He was also a hymn writer who has given us about 700 hymns. Considering that he died 260 years ago, it is a measure of the quality of his work that many of his hymns (around 25) are still in common use. Watts is called “the Father of English Hymnody,” because it was by his efforts that the church of his time broke away from singing only the words of Scripture (chiefly psalms). It was believed that to sing anything else in the house of God was a heresy tantamount to adding to the Word of God! But young Isaac argued with his father (a deacon in the church) that to focus on the Psalms meant they were missing important New Testament truths, particularly about the saving work of Christ.

Deacon Watts said sternly, “That old hymnal was good enough for your grandfather, and your father, so I reckon it will have to be good enough for you!” But the son was not to be so easily discouraged. He responded, “Father, I have [a hymn] which is better. Will you listen to it?” And his father was willing to hear what his son had composed. The words were indeed prophetic. The hymn begins, “Behold, the glories of the Lamb, / Amidst His Father’s throne; / Prepare new honours for His name, / And songs before unknown.” History records that Deacon Watts rose from his seat, put his arm around Isaac, and apologized for his hasty words. The congregation sang the hymn the next morning. It was such a blessing the people asked for more. The year was 1692–when Isaac Watts was only 18. But he began turning out one new hymn a week for them, a practice he kept up for years.

A compilation of these (including the hymn you ask about) was published in 1719 with the descriptive title, The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and Applied to the Christian State and Worship. (They went in for long titles back then!) But the title is helpful, because it clearly explains the purpose behind Watts’s work. He had published Hymns and Spiritual Songs a few years earlier (in 1707, and a re-edited version in 1709). I mention that work because it contained the author’s masterpiece, still considered among the greatest two or three hymns in the English language--“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

Watts lived to the age of 75, which was exceptional in that day. But in 1712 he had to retire from pastoral ministry, due to failing health. He went to live with the family of Sir Thomas Abney, and became a tutor to his children. Perhaps the hymn in question was written during his time of infirmity and suffering, which would give it particular poignancy. We know the author laboured from 1700 to 1719 on the book which first contained the hymn in question. When the volume was completed he wrote, “May that God, who has favoured me with life and capacity to finish this work for the service of His churches, after so many years of tiresome sickness and confinement, accept this humble offering from a thankful heart.”

Question: Glenn asks, “In the King James translation, verse 3 [of Isaiah 9] includes the word “not.” ‘Thou has multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy; they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.’ In my New King James Version and other more modern translations, the word "not" is omitted. What is the correct translation according to the original Hebrew?”

Answer: Good question. While I am confident in the absolute accuracy of the original manuscripts of the Scriptures, that is no guarantee that every copy made is free from mistakes. But having said that, we have enough manuscript evidence and other tools that can help us arrive at what God's Word originally said with precision.

In the case you mention, with the word "not" in there, the verse actually seems to contradict itself, since it goes on to say “they rejoice”! It contradicts the context too--that the people have “seen a great light” (cause for rejoicing). The passage concerns the coming of the Messiah, and particularly His future glorious reign (vs. 6-7).

The correct rendering, I believe, omits the word "not." It is a small difference in the Hebrew text, one easily missed by a copier. “Not” = lo' but the Hebrew lo = to him (i.e. "You multiply the nation, You increase to him joy.") Another possibility seems to be that the Hebrew word haggil'o was wrongly divided into two words by some copier, with the last syllable, lo, being treated as a separate word. Even a tiny space left by a copier could result in that difference.

Both because of the context, and because of the possible technical transmission problems, it seems best to omit the word "not." Concerning the Messiah's millennial kingdom, the Lord later speaks of multiplied joys, "Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying" (Isa. 65:18-19).

SEEKING A NEW PASTOR for your church? Check out the Pastoral Questionnaire.


BIBLE STUDY: Available now on the Wordwise website is a discussion Bible study on The Lord's Prayer. Why not check it out at The Lord's Prayer.


REVIEWS & IDEAS

1) REST MINISTRIES
Have you ever heard of Rest Ministries Incorporated? It is a Christian organization, based in California, that ministers to those who chronically ill or deal with chronic pain. Doctrinally, they are sound on the basics of the Christian faith, and balanced in their view of bodily healing. (While they do not believe in healing-on-demand for all who are sick, they believe God can and does heal on occasion by supernatural means, and by His grace.)

This organization offers a number of helpful resources for your church, or for any individual who copes day by day with physical infirmity. HopeKeepers Magazine is their quarterly publication, providing encouragement and practical tools for living with chronic illness. If you are a pastor, your deaconesses and others in the church will greatly benefit from having a copy of the book Beyond Casseroles–505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. (Loaded with practical ideas and tips!) They have produced other fine books and Bible studies too numerous to mention here.

The organization also offers help to churches wishing to develop a support group for the chronically ill (HopeKeepers Groups). Why would you want to do that? Because it can provide an exciting new outreach for Christ! Here are some statistics from Rest Ministries to consider: Nearly 1 in 2 Americans has a chronic condition of some kind. And 96% of illness is invisible. The divorce rate for the chronically ill is over 75%. Uncontrollable physical pain is a factor in 70% of suicides. Some 66% of sufferers say if their church started a Bible study for those with chronic illness they would definitely attend.

The Rest Ministries website provides hundreds of pages of resources and links that can be of help with this kind of ministry. About 50,000 people a month visit the site. The overwhelming majority of these feel their church does not understand invisible illness. This ministry and their literature is highly recommended. Check it out at: REST MINISTRIES / P.O. Box 502928 / San Diego CA 92150; or phone (888) 751-7378; or go to the website Rest Ministries Incorporated.

2) THE BEST BIBLE STUDY TOOL EVER. At least, the best one I have ever discovered, is fully described on the website. Strictly speaking, this is not an idea for your church program but for you, personally. However, if you try it, you may want to share it with your Sunday School class or Bible study group. If a number of you begin using it and trading insights, you may be amazed at what will happen! See Best Bible Study Tool.

3) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

4) Check out EXPLORING CHRISTIANITY, a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.



If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.
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