"Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them'" (Luke 15:1-2)
Jesus receives people outside the faith community, treats them with tenderness, and calls them to repentance and faith in God who loves them.
First, some definitions. Who were these people in Luke 15:1-2?
Tax Collectors. Tax collectors were people who collected various taxes for the Romans who occupied Palestine. They often charged much more than they should to make themselves rich (Ref. 1). The Jewish people despised the tax collectors and considered any Jew a traitor who was a tax collector for the Romans. Jesus called Matthew (Levi), a tax collector, to be his disciple (Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27-28).
Sinners. The synoptic gospel writers often lumped together "tax collectors" and "sinners" (Matthew 9:10-11, Mark 2:15-16, Luke 5:30, Luke 15:1). The Pharisees shunned both tax collectors and people that the Pharisees deemed "sinners," including:
1) People who lived blatantly in contradiction to the law - such as murderers, robbers, and prostitutes (Luke 7:37, Matthew 21:31, Ref. 2 below).
2) "The people of the land" (am ha-aretz) who did not observe the Pharisees' strict interpretation of the law (Matthew 23:1-5, Ref. 3). This category included almost everybody, so many "sinners" were in the daily company of Jesus (Matthew 11:18-19, Mark 2:15, Luke 15:1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3).
Pharisees. The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect. "Pharisee" is derived from the Aramaic term, peras ("to divide and separate"). Hence, a Pharisee was someone "separated from sin" (Ref. 4). The Pharisees separated themselves from the great mass of the populace—the "people of the land" (am ha-aretz)—by their "strict adherence to the minutia of their legal tradition" (Ref. 5).
The Pharisees believed the deception that they earned merit before God based on religious works (Luke 18:10-13, Ref. 5). In contrast, true believers in Christ recognize "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Pharisees appeared in the gospels as the chief antagonists of Jesus (Matthew 19:3, Matthew 22:15, Mark 8:11-12, Ref. 5).
The Pharisees largely were members of the middle class—businessmen, merchants, and tradesmen of their day (Ref. 5). In legal matters, the Pharisees had recourse to the professionals in the law, the scribes (described below).
Scribes. The scribes were educated teachers and authorities in the Mosaic law (Ref. 6). In Jesus' day, the scribes were legal professionals who drafted documents such as contracts for marriage, loans, or sale of land (Ref. 7). The scribes questioned Jesus' authority, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" (Mark 11:28). The scribes participated with the Pharisees in criticizing Jesus and his disciples (Mark 7:5-8). Jesus pronounced multiple woes against the practices of the scribes and Pharisees (interesting reading, Matthew 23:13-36).
What are the main principles in Luke 15:1-2?
God Draws Sinners to Jesus. Luke 15:1 is remarkable because not only does Jesus seek people who are lost (Luke 19:10), but also that God draws people who are sinners to seek Jesus. Luke, the gospel writer, says, "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him" (Luke 15:1).
At the time of the event that Luke describes in Luke 15:1-2, Jesus was in the last months of his earthly ministry (Ref. 8 below). Many people whom the Pharisees shunned as sinners recognized their need for Jesus and came to him. These were people through home and family associations or through their occupations or immoral living were looked upon with disfavor by the Pharisees and scribes. Often they were indifferent or had little to do with their more religious and orthodox countrymen. "The religious people, Pharisees in heart, despised them and looked on them as hopelessly lost" (Ref. 9).
No one spoke to these people like Jesus. To these people who were "outside of the synagogues" of their time Jesus brought hope. Jesus spoke to them with tenderness. Sinners came to Jesus as their Great Physician to find healing for their spiritual, emotional, and physical ailments. Jesus did not overlook their sin, but called these people to repentance (Luke 5:29-32, Mark 1:14-15).
Jesus Receives Sinners - Then and Now. Luke 15:2 tells us, "And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" The Pharisees, the religious establishment of Jesus' day, were indignant that Jesus associated with people outside the synagogue community who did not keep the rules the Pharisees believed necessary for merit with God. In contrast, Jesus deliberately showed people the true nature of God. He reached out in kindness to people outside the religious establishment. He treated them with tenderness, and he called them to repentance and faith in God who loves them. Jesus does the same today.
The Pharisees accused Jesus of receiving sinners. That was (and is) a true accusation. Jesus does receive sinners - then and now. The Greek work for receive means actively look for, expectantly wait, and warmly receive (Ref. 10). Jesus is like the excellent example of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The father expectantly waited for his son to return to him. When the prodigal son returned, the son repented of his sin, and the father received him with great joy.
Jesus expectantly waits to receive you.
Apply. Come to Jesus. He will warmly receive you. Come to Jesus. He will heal you of your spiritual, emotional, and physical sickness. Jesus will forgive your sin and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
(refer to "Story Planner")
2. A Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson, Editor, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1978
8. Key to the Tree of Jesus' Life and Harmony of the Gospels, The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fourth Improved Edition, B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Company, Inc., 1964
Photo source: FreeBibleImages.org
"How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave ninety and nine, and go into the mountains, and seek that which is gone astray?" (Matthew 18:12 1599 Geneva Bible)
This article describes the scripture allusions for verse 2 of the children's hymn, "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us." In verse 2 the hymn teaches us that Jesus befriends us, guards our way, keeps watch over us, defends us from sin, and seeks us when we go astray.
In the first article in this series, Ref. 1, we learned about the background for the hymn text author, Dorothy A. Thrupp, and the hymn tune composer, William B. Bradbury. We also discussed the Biblical truths in verse 1 - that Jesus is our great Shepherd who leads us, cares for us, feeds us, and protects us. Jesus has redeemed us ("bought us"), and we belong to him (Ref. 1).
Consider. At what time or times in your life did Jesus seek you when you had gone astray? In what ways does Jesus guard you and defend you from sin?
Verse 2 for "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us"
"We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray."
-- Dorothy A. Thrupp (1779-1847, Ref. 2)
To see the lyric sheet for all four verses of "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" on one page, click here. The lyrics are provided by Timeless Truths (Ref. 3).
The Bible verses cited below are linked to the BibleGateway.com website and are quoted from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless noted otherwise (Ref. 4).
Scripture Allusions - Verse 2
"We are Thine, Thou dost befriend us, be the Guardian of our way"
This first line in verse 2 declares that we belong to Jesus, that he befriends us, and then asks Jesus to guard our way.
We are Thine. We now belong to Jesus because he has redeemed us. The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus about "our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:13-14 NASB). This phrase, "We are Thine," continues the theme of redemption that the author stated at the end of verse 1 (Ref. 1, Ref. 3).
Thou dost befriend us. Not only has Jesus given his life in the past to show us that he is our friend (John 15:13), he also loves us and treats us with close personal affection now in the present (Ref. 5). Jesus told his disciples, and he tells us who believe in him and follow him now, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15). Because Jesus is our Friend and we are his friend we love him and we keep his commandments (John 14:15, John 15:14).
Be the Guardian of our way. In this phrase, we ask Jesus to be our spiritual "guard rails" and keep us on the right path. Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come" (John 16:13, Ref. 6).
"Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray."
The three phrases in this line continue the image of the good Shepherd and what he does to protect his flock, his sheep. All three phrases are in prayer-like language.
Keep Thy flock. In the phrase, "keep Thy flock," we ask Jesus, our Shepherd, to guard and protect us with personal interest and vigilance (Ref. 7). We learn the meaning of "keep" from a famous verse about the birth of the Savior. "And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). The Greek word in Luke 2:8 for keeping means guarding, protecting, and exercising unbroken vigilance (Ref. 7).
From sin defend us. Jesus defends us from sin through the word of God and the Holy Spirit whom he has sent to indwell those who believe in Christ. Jesus said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:16). David described the importance of memorizing and remembering scripture so he could apply it to guard himself from sin (Psalm 119:9-11). Jesus remembered and quoted scripture to defend himself from the devil when the devil tempted him (Matthew 4:1-11). The Apostle Paul instructed believers about the importance of the word of God coupled with truth and faith to "extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one" (Ephesians 6:13-17).
Seek us when we go astray. When we go astray (off course), Jesus will come looking for us. Jesus said, "How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave ninety and nine, and go into the mountains, and seek that which is gone astray?" (Matthew 18:12 1599 Geneva Bible). The Greek word for astray (used twice in this verse) means "get off-course; to deviate from the correct path (circuit, course), roaming into error, wandering; (passive) be misled" (Ref. 8). Note the interesting parallel in Genesis when the Lord God came walking in the garden seeking Adam and Eve after they had sinned (Genesis 3:8-9).
"Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray." (Phrase repeated)
The hymn text reminds us to pray in child-like trust to our Savior who protects us, defends us, and seeks us when we go astray. The request to God, "Hear my prayer," is common in the Psalms. David prayed, "O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth" (Psalm 54:2). "Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy!" (Psalm 143:1).
John the disciple of Jesus wrote to believers in Christ, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us" (1 John 5:13-14, italics added).
Listen and Sing Along
Click on this YouTube link - Solo piano meditation on the hymn "Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us" with sing-along lyrics. Recorded by Rick Betts - March, 2011.
Thank you, Jesus, for seeking us and finding us when we have gone astray. Thank you, Good Shepherd, for leading us and guarding us in the way that leads to eternal life (John 10:27-28).
Image Source: Ref. 1
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:1-3)
"I am the good shepherd." (John 10:11, 14)
This article describes the author background and then the scripture allusions for verse 1 of the hymn, "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us." This article is the first in a series on this theologically-rich children's hymn. Reference 2 describes the scripture allusions in verse 2 of "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us."
Hymn Text Author
Researchers do not know for sure the circumstances about how the text for "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" was written; however, researchers attribute this beloved hymn of the Christian faith to Englishwoman Dorothy Ann Thrupp (1779-1847) (Ref. 3, Ref. 4). Miss Thrupp is "particularly remembered as a writer of hymns for children" (Ref. 4). "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" first appeared unsigned (unattributed) in her collection, Hymns for the Young, in 1836 (Ref. 4). Ms. Thrupp wrote this hymn for teaching young children the message of a "caring Christ who loves all his children" (Ref. 3).
Hymn Tune Composer
William Batchelder Bradbury (1816-1868) was an American musician who composed the tune in 1859 most often associated with "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" (Ref. 3, Ref. 5 below, Ref. 6). He named the tune "Bradbury" after himself (Ref. 3, Ref. 5). Mr. Bradbury "modified the original words meant for children and broadened the meaning to include all the congregation" (Ref. 3).
Mr. Bradbury also composed the tunes to many popular hymns including "Jesus Loves Me," "He Leadeth Me," and "My Hope is Built" (Ref. 6). In addition to being an excellent musician and composer, Mr. Bradbury served as a music educator, choir leader, organist, and was a devoted reader of the Bible (Ref. 7, Ref. 8).
All of the Bible verses below are linked to the BibleGateway.com website (Ref. 9). The verses below are quoted from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless noted otherwise.
To see the lyric sheet for all four verses of "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us" on one page, click here. The lyrics are provided by Timeless Truths (Ref. 10).
Scripture Allusions - Verse 1
The first verse of this great hymn teaches children that Christ is our great Shepherd who leads us, cares for us, feeds us, and protects us. The verse also explains that Christ has redeemed us and that we are his possession.
"Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need Thy tender care"
The Lord is our Shepherd who leads us and cares for us.
Psalm 23:1-3 -- "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (2) He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (3) He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
Psalm 23:5 -- "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
Isaiah 40:11 (KJV) -- "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."
John 10:11 -- "I am the good shepherd." (also John 10:14)
"In Thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use Thy folds prepare."
The Lord feeds us in pleasant pastures and protects us.
Ezekiel 34:14 (KJV) -- "I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel."
A fold was a walled in, hedged, or fenced place for keeping and protecting sheep or other livestock (Ref. 11, Numbers 32:24 KJV). Jesus referred to such a sheepfold in John 10:1 (KJV). "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." Jesus not only is the means of access to the fold; he also is the Shepherd who protects the sheep in the fold with his own body at 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, Ref. 12).
"Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, Thine we are." (Phrase repeated)
The phrase, "Thou hast bought us, Thine we are," explains to children the meaning of redemption. HELPS Word-studies defines redeem as "to release (set free) by paying the full ransom"; (figuratively) to restore "something back, into the possession of its rightful owner" (Ref. 13). Christ has purchased us and now we are his possession.
Titus 2:13-14 (italics added) -- " ... waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."
1 Peter 1:18-19 (KJV) -- "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
Listen and Sing Along
Click on this YouTube link - Solo piano meditation on the hymn "Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us" with sing-along lyrics. Recorded by Rick Betts - March, 2011.
Thank you, Jesus, for being my Savior and Shepherd. Thank you for leading me and for all the ways that you care for me.
5. The United Methodist Hymnal, The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989
10. Reference 10 begins next line
"When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4)
"Trust and confidence in the Lord is the best antidote against fears" -- John Gill (1697-1771) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2).
Consider. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate yourself for trusting in God when you are afraid?
Biblical Background. David wrote Psalm 56 during one of the lowest points in his life. Saul, the king of Israel, was determined to kill David (1 Samuel 20:30-33). Even though Jonathan, Saul's son, and David were close friends, Jonathan advised David to flee from Saul (1 Samuel 20:41-42). David came to Nob to Ahimelech, the priest (1 Samuel 21:1). David lied to Ahimelech about the purpose of his visit (1 Samuel 21:2). David received from Ahimelech consecrated bread and the sword of Goliath (1 Samuel 21:6, 1 Samuel 21:9). David arose and "fled that day from Saul" to Achish king of Gath, a city in Philistine territory (1 Samuel 21:10, Ref. 3).
Gath was the home town of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4). David had killed Goliath in battle (1 Samuel 17:41-49). David now had the sword of Goliath with him. The servants of Achish knew of David's reputation. "Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced, saying, 'Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?" (1 Samuel 21:11). The scripture says "David took these words to heart and greatly feared Achish king of Gath" (1 Samuel 21:12). David then "disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely" (1 Samuel 21:13).
When I Am Afraid, I Will Put My Trust in You. Despite David's fear and troubled emotional state, David makes an astounding declaration about trusting in God when he was afraid. "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4). David repeats his declaration of trust in Psalm 56:11, "In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid." Note the subtle change in tense from "I will put my trust" in verse 3 to "I have put my trust" in verse 11.
David openly admitted his human emotion of fear, of being afraid.
David, despite his imperfect life and his fear, provides us an example to follow when we are afraid. David states that when he is afraid (literally "in the day," or occasion, of his fear) that he will put his trust (confidence) in the Lord (Psalm 56:3, Ref. 4, Ref. 5, Ref. 6).
David frequently wrote in the Psalms about trusting in God. I suggest you will find encouragement and strength when you read these verses. Refer to "Bible Verses About Trusting in God" (Ref. 7).
David recognized that the remedy, the antidote, for fear is to trust in God. Despite his imperfections, David put his confidence in God and in God's care. Will you do the same?
Apply. If you are afraid today, pray to God. Ask God to take away your fear. Ask God to strengthen you and to help you put your complete trust in him. Thank him for his work in you to deliver you from your fear and for taking care of your concerns. Keep on trusting in God.
Suggested Listening. Listen to Alan Jackson's Official Music Video, "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus (Live)."
For More Reading on This Topic. For more scriptures that help to counter fear and anxiety, check these resources:
"God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)
This lesson explains God's promise to be the refuge, strength, and help of his people (Psalm 46:1).
Consider. Do you need God's help and strength for what you are facing today? How can you better experience God's protection as your refuge?
God is Our Refuge. The Bible tells us that God is our place of safety and protection from danger and distress. A refuge is a place where we go, and while we are inside, we are protected because our refuge surrounds us as our defense. David writes, "For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy" (Psalm 61:3). Solomon writes, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe" (Proverbs 18:10). David tells us from his own experience, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them" (Psalm 34:7, italics added).
The Bible provides several clear images for God as our refuge - a tower that we run into (Psalm 61:3, Proverbs 18:10), our shelter from the storm (Isaiah 25:4), our rock and fortress (Psalm 18:2), our shield (Psalm 28:7), and our hiding place (Psalm 32:7).
God is Our Strength. Note that Psalm 46:1 does not just say "God is strong" (which he is). This scripture verse says that God is our strength. We who are God's people can receive, experience, and apply God's strength to face our enemies such as worry, fear, discouragement, and opposition. God gives us the strength to accomplish the work he gives us to do in the face of these enemies.
The Apostle Paul knew that God was his strength. Paul wrote during his imprisonment, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). God provides strength to the believer to accomplish what God gives the believer faith to do (1 John 5:4). As believers, we need God's strength when we encounter resistance and trials. God provides us that strength.
Hymn composer Will L. Thompson (1847-1909) writes, "Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all; He is my strength from day to day, Without him I would fall" (Ref. 1). David writes, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him" (Psalm 28:7).
God is a Very Present (Proven) Help in Trouble. The word for help means aid, assistance (Ref. 2, Ref. 3). The word translated as present means proven to be (Ref. 4), that is, God is proven to be our help in trouble. The word very means exceedingly, emphasizing that this statement is true (Ref. 5, Ref. 6). Because God is proven to be our help in trouble, we have nothing to fear (Psalm 46:2).
David writes, "For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy" (Psalm 63:7). The writer of Hebrews states, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6).
Summary. Let's review the main principles in this lesson.
1. God is our "go to" place for refuge, safety, and protection from danger. God surrounds us as our defense.
2. God is our source of strength to face our enemies and to do the work he gives us to do.
3. God is proven to be our help in trouble, and we have nothing to fear, repeat, we have nothing to fear.
Apply. Take time now to pray. Thank God for being your refuge - your protection, your place of safety. Ask God to give you strength and faith to face your enemies and to do the work that God has given you to do. Thank God that because of him you have nothing to fear.
Listen to/Watch Video. "A Mighty Fortress" sung by HeartSong - Cedarville University, Cedarville, Ohio, USA.
"Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's." (2 Chronicles 20:15)
This article presents five steps to deal with our personal crises - steps that are scriptural, methodical, and effective. All of us at times either have faced or will face personal crises. Circumstances like this strike at the core of our being – physical, spiritual, and emotional. The Bible is a great comfort to us any time, but especially during difficult times - such as the times we are going through now.
Step 1: Recall God's Promises
The first place to turn to is to the Bible. Get your attention off of your problem and on to God. Read and meditate upon God’s promises. This step has a vastly therapeutic effect.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3)
For your encouragement, I have included links to 26 additional "promises passages" from God's word. You may see all of these verses written out in just one click here (Ref. 1 - "Bible Verses for Times of Crisis").
Additional promises: Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:9; Psalm 16:8; Psalm 23:1; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 34:4; Psalm 34:7; Psalm 55:22; Psalm 56:3-4; Psalm 68:19-20; Psalm 91:1-6; Psalm 103:1-5; Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 26:3-4; Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:2; Matthew 11:28; John 14:27; Romans 8:28; Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:6-7; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 6:19; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Revelation 21:4.
Read your Bible regularly, not just when you have a crisis. Memorize scripture verses. That way, when a crisis arises, you can immediately draw upon familiar, comforting words of scripture, and you will be well-equipped to deal with difficult situations when they occur (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Step 2: Put Your Trust in God through Prayer
Prayer is an open conversation with God. Even a short prayer, "Help me," is long enough. Talk with God and ask him to take care of your problem. Trust God to act (Proverbs 3:5-6). Ask God to take care of your problem according to God's will, not your own (1 John 5:14-15). Trust that God is in control of the situation.
Step 3: Solicit Prayer Support from other Christians
Other Christians can bring you much encouragement by praying with you or for you. Share your need or concern with Christian friends, and ask for their prayers. When you are "down," others can pray from strength and lift you up. "Plug in" with one or more small groups of Christians, for example, a Bible study or prayer group, or a fellowship group. Small groups can provide you tremendous personal support (Matthew 18:19-20; Galatians 6:2; James 5:16).
Step 4: Believe that God Will Act
Keep the faith. Remember that you have prayed. Keep on praying. Don’t give up. Feed your faith, not your doubts. Whichever one you feed will grow (Luke 18:1-8; Mark 9:21-24; Psalm 37:5; Hebrews 11:1). God will do what he promises.
Step 5: Testify Publicly to the Results that God Provides
Tell others how God answered your prayers. By this, you will encourage other people. Jesus expects you to “go public” with your testimony about his work in your life – that God may be glorified (Matthew 10:32; Mark 5:18-20; Psalm 66:16, 1 Peter 3:15).
Praise God that God's word never passes away (Matthew 24:35)! We can always count on God to help us through difficult times. God's promises are true and everlasting.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
This lesson explains Jesus' invitation in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
This lesson is the third in a series on God's Invitations in the Bible, specifically, the "Comes" of God's word. The first lesson in the series is "Come Now, Let Us Reason Together (Isaiah 1:18)" (Ref. 1). The second lesson is "God's Great Invitation - Come, Satisfy Your Thirst" based on Isaiah 55:1 (Ref. 2).
Consider. What heavy burden is weighing you down today?
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden. If you are weary (literally, exhausted from labor), then Jesus' invitation is for you (Ref. 3). If you are weighted down with a heavy burden such as worry, sin, or sorrow, then Jesus' invitation is for you. However, it is not enough just to read about or hear Jesus' words and then do nothing. To receive the rest that Jesus promises, you need to accept his invitation and come to him in faith.
Jesus who says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden" is the same God who says "Come, everyone who thirsts" (Isaiah 55:1) and "Come now, let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18). Jesus also says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37).
I will give you rest. Jesus himself is the Rest Giver (Ref. 4). Only Jesus can dispel your fear (John 14:27). Only Jesus can forgive your sin (Mark 2:9-11). Only Jesus can give you peace in your soul and a clean conscience (Numbers 6:24-26, John 14:27, Philippians 4:6-7, Hebrews 10:22). Do you want the rest that only Jesus provides? Then come to Jesus by faith. As soon as you come to Jesus you will get that rest (Ref. 4).
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me. HELPS Word-studies defines a yoke as a wooden bar placed over the neck of a pair of animals so they can pull together (see illustration). Figuratively, a yoke is what unites (joins) two people to move (work) together as one (Ref. 5).
Notice that in Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus gives us a two-part summons. Our response to both parts is needed for a full Christian life. In the first part (as we discussed above), Jesus invites us to come to him for pardon, refreshment, and rest. In the second part, Jesus asks us to take on his yoke -- to submit our wills to him, to learn from him, to obey him, to serve him, and to become like him (Ref. 4).
Coming to Jesus is not just a one-time experience -- it is for a lifetime. Coming to Jesus includes willingly taking on the yoke of Jesus by learning from him and serving him the rest of our lives in an ongoing relationship. Are you willing to submit to his yoke?
You will find rest for your souls. Jesus promises that when we take his yoke upon us by accepting his teaching and by serving him that we will find rest for our souls. The Greek word here for rest means inner rest (tranquility) (Ref. 6). Jesus quotes the prophet Jeremiah, "Thus says the Lord: 'Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls'" (Jeremiah 6:16).
My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Jesus contrasts his yoke to the heavy burden of minute legal observance that the scribes and Pharisees of that time put on the shoulders of the Jewish people (Matthew 23:1-4, Acts 15:10, Ref. 7). In contrast, Jesus says that "my yoke" (literally, the yoke of Me) "is easy" (gentle, pleasant, kind) "and my burden" (literally, the burden of Me) "is light" (of little weight and easily carried) (Ref. 8, Ref. 9, Ref. 10).
Apply. In prayer, give your heavy burden to Jesus. Receive from him the rest that he promises. Submit your will to him, and willingly receive his yoke of instruction. Serve Jesus gladly, joyfully yoked with him in an ongoing relationship.
"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1)
This lesson explains God’s great invitation in Isaiah 55:1, "Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters," and "Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."
This lesson is the second in a series on God's Invitations in the Bible, specifically, the "Comes" of God's word. The first lesson in the series was "Come Now, Let Us Reason Together (Isaiah 1:18)" (Ref. 1).
Consider. Are you are spiritually thirsty or hungry? Come to God and find true refreshment and nourishment for your soul.
Everyone who thirsts. God invites thirsty people to come to him. When you are thirsty, you know that you have an intense desire to satisfy your thirst (for example, with a drink of water). When you are a sinner you may already sense your need for salvation (Matthew 5:6, Ref. 2). God, and only God, is the one who can satisfy your thirst. The Psalmist recognized the thirsting of his soul when he wrote, "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Psalm 42:1-2).
Come to the waters. God himself is the source of the water that truly refreshes and revives. Isaiah describes God as the source of this spiritual water. The Lord said, "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants" (Isaiah 44:3). Likewise, when Jesus, the Son of God, encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, he said to her, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:13-14). God invites you to come to him to satisfy your spiritual thirst (John 7:37).
And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. God invites people who have no money (literally, no silver) to come to him (Ref.3). Come to God and receive the food that truly satisfies your hungry soul.
No money is required to buy what God offers because God provides it free. A poor person cannot pay for it, and a rich person cannot purchase it. God freely offers salvation to people in our time because Christ has already paid the price (1 Peter 1:18-19). To receive salvation, God only requires that we put our faith and trust in his Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9, Ref. 4).
God provides food that truly satisfies. God alludes to the food that satisfies in Isaiah 55:2, "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Scripture tells us that the real blessing which truly satisfies people's wants and desires is Jesus himself. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35, Ref. 5).
Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. In Isaiah 55:1, wine and milk are figurative for God's choicest blessings (Ref. 6). Wine is a gift of God (Genesis 27:28). Melchizedek, priest of God Most High, brought wine and bread together to Abraham (Genesis 14:18). The Psalmist wrote that wine gladdens the heart of man (Psalm 104:14-15). Milk provides nourishment needed for sustenance and growth (Proverbs 27:27, 1 Peter 2:2).
God offers spiritual blessing without money and without price. No silver or gold can buy the blessing which God offers (Ref. 7). Jesus Christ himself is the gift that God freely offers (John 3:16, Ref. 4). Jesus Christ is the all-sufficient supply for every thirst of the human soul (John 7:37, Ref. 8).
How will you respond to God's great invitation?
Apply. Accept God's great invitation. Come to God and find true satisfaction for the hunger and thirst of your soul. Accept Jesus Christ, God's Son, who promises, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).
"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." (Isaiah 1:18)
This lesson is the first in a series on the "Comes" of God's word. This lesson describes God's invitation in Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."
Consider. In Isaiah 1:18-20 (Old Testament), God's forgiveness was conditional on the people's obedience to God. How do people today receive God's forgiveness now that Christ has paid the penalty for sin?
Introduction. Being accused of having hands full of blood was a serious accusation. Yet, that is exactly how the Lord accused the people of Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1) in Isaiah 1:15, "Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood." Having hands full of blood is a symbol for the cruel wrongs the people had committed including the guilt of actual murder (Isaiah 1:21, Ref. 1). Isaiah had already spoken against the people for their rebellion against God (Isaiah 1:2) and for the insincerity of their sacrifices, offerings, festivals, and prayers (Isaiah 1:11-15).
Come Now. In Isaiah 1:18, God says "Come now." The Hebrew word for come is halak, which means to go, come, walk (Ref. 2). Here in Isaiah 1:18 "Come" is a summons for the recipient of the message to approach the speaker (God). Although God does not force the people of Judah and Jerusalem to come to him, God strongly urges the people to come to him that they might receive his pardon. Likewise, today God strongly urges all sinners to come to him.
Let Us Reason Together. The Hebrew word for let us reason together, yakach, means to decide, adjudge, prove, and argue (Ref. 3, Job 13:15). The idea is that of a legal process in which each party maintains his own case (Ref. 4, Isaiah 43:26). God proposes to present to the people of Judah and Jerusalem the principles on which he is willing to forgive their sins and bestow his pardon (Ref. 5). God describes the terms for pardon in Isaiah 1:18-20.
Though Your Sins Are Like Scarlet. The stain of the people's sins are bright red and indelible like the scarlet dye used by the ancients. The ancients made scarlet and crimson dyes from the dried bodies of the insect (worm), Coccus ilicis found on oak trees in Spain and in the countries east of the Mediterranean (Ref. 5, Ref. 6, Ref. 7).
When it was time for the female Coccus ilicis to give birth, she would attach herself permanently to an oak tree. Her body protected her eggs until the larvae were hatched and able to live on their own. As the mother died, she oozed a crimson fluid which stained her body and the surrounding wood. The death of the female Coccus ilicis paints a picture of the death of Christ who sacrificed his blood on the wood of the cross that others, by believing in him, may live (Ref. 7, Ref. 8).
The scarlet dye was indelible. Cotton material was dipped in this color twice so the stain was permanent (Ref. 5). The stain of the red dye (and likewise the stain of sin in the human heart) could not be washed away by man alone. That is why we as sinners need God's action to wash us clean.
The scarlet dye was known since early in the Old Testament times, centuries before the prophet Isaiah. For further study, I suggest you check these cross references:
They will be White as Snow. Only God can forgive sin. Only God can cleanse people and wash away their sin. David recognized this principle. He prayed to God, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!" (Psalm 51:1-2). David also wrote, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7). White symbolizes innocence and purity (Ref. 9). "White as snow " is "a powerful figurative description of the result of forgiveness" (Ref. 10 below).
Though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Scarlet and crimson are similar reddish colors. Scarlet is bright red with an orange tint. Crimson is a strong, bright, deep red color combined with some blue or violet, resulting in a small degree of purple (Ref. 11). Crimson is associated with the stain of blood (Isaiah 1:15, Ref. 12). The ancients employed crimson color to dye wool (Ref. 5).
The Hebrew word for red in the phrase "red like Crimson" is adom, which means glaring, flagrant in Isaiah 1:18 (Brown-Driver-Briggs, Ref. 13).
Though their sins are flagrant and appear as deep stains, God, upon their repentance and reformation, will remove their sins so they will be like wool restored to its original, undyed whiteness (Ref. 14).
Forgiveness - by Obedience or By Faith? In the Old Testament, God's relationship with man was based on obedience to God. Isaiah confirms this point in regard to God's forgiveness. In Isaiah 1:18 God offers forgiveness and cleansing to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. However, God's forgiveness and cleansing was conditional based on their willingness to obey God. Isaiah 1:19-20 describes the conditions for God's forgiveness, and the consequences for not obeying God. "If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 1:19-20, italics added). For further study on God's relationship with man in the Old Testament based on obedience, I suggest reading Deuteronomy 30:15-20.
In the New Testament, God's relationship with man is based on faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul writes, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Faith in Christ means believing in, trusting in, and having confidence in Christ (Ref. 15). Peter preached to the Gentiles gathered in Cornelius' house that through the name of Jesus everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:34-43). God's power to cleanse our sins "white as snow" is through the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7).
Let's review the main principles in this lesson:
1. God invites all sinners to come to him that we might receive his pardon (Isaiah 1:18).
2. The stain of sin is red as scarlet (Isaiah 1:18).
3. Only God can wash our sins white as snow (Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 51:7). As a result of Christ's death, we know that it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
4. In the Old Testament, God's forgiveness was conditional on the people's obedience to God (Isaiah 1:18-20). In the New Testament, God provides forgiveness and cleansing through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8, Acts 10:43).
Apply. If you do not know Christ, come to him, confess your sin, and ask him to forgive you. Put your faith and trust in him and walk in the cleansed life that Christ has given you. If you do have faith in Christ as your Savior, walk with him in the light. Thank him for forgiving your sin and for cleansing you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9).
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges - Isaiah 1:15
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges - Isaiah 1:18
Barnes' Notes on the Bible - Isaiah 1:18
10. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985, note on Isaiah 1:18
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers - Isaiah 1:18
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary - Isaiah 1:18
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'" (John 14:6)
Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). This lesson explains the "I am the life" portion of this verse. I encourage you to read first the two predecessor lessons which explain the "I am the way" and "I am the truth" portions of this verse. Here are the links:
"Jesus is the Way to Heaven" (Ref. 1)
"Jesus is the Truth" (Ref. 2)
The About the Way page also teaches about the Way of God in the Old Testament and the Way in the New Testament.
Consider. What does it mean to you that Jesus Christ said "I am the life"?
Jesus is the Creator and Source of Life. Jesus Christ is the source or fountain of all life. Scripture tells us "For by Him all things were created" and "All things have been created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16). John writes, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (John 1:3).
The Greek word for life is zóé, which means both physical (present) and spiritual (particularly future) existence (Ref. 3). Life always comes from and is sustained by God.
"Life" here has no limitation, and includes life of the body, the life of the soul, the life of the spirit, life in the present, and life in the future (Ref. 4).
Life is through Christ rather than the Law. Jesus' Jewish listeners were familiar with the law given through Moses. Yes. God gave the law (Exodus 20:1-17, Exodus 24:12). Yes. God instructed the Israelites to obey the law (Deuteronomy 30:15-18). However, the law itself did not impart life. Only Jesus can impart life. I suggest that this point is central to what Jesus meant when he said "I am the life."
The Apostle Paul emphasizes faith in Christ versus the inability of the law to impart life. "If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:21). "For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law" (Galatians 3:21). "The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24, italics added).
Jesus is the Key to Blessed Life. Jesus spoke about the sheep under his care, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they [believers] may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10, brackets added). The Greek word for abundantly in this verse is perissos, which means all-around and going beyond the expected limit (more than enough) (Ref. 5). As believers in Christ, Jesus cares for us and meets our needs. David, the Psalmist, captured this truth when he wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake" (Psalm 23:1-3).
Jesus is the Giver of Eternal Life. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28, italics added).
The Greek word for eternal in eternal life is aiónios, which means unending, and age-long (Strong's Concordance - Ref. 6). Aiónios includes the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting (Ref. 6). "Aiónios does not focus on the future per se, but rather on the quality of the age it relates to. Thus, believers live in eternal life right now, experiencing this quality of God's life now as a present possession" (Helps Word-studies - Ref. 6, Ref. 7).
Jesus Christ is the life. Jesus imparts life that the law cannot impart. Jesus is the key to a blessed life. To those who believe in him, Jesus gives eternal life - the quality of life which begins now and continues into eternity after our physical death. Thanks be to God for Jesus who is our life!
Apply. Take time now to thank God for the life that he gives you through his Son, Jesus Christ.
(Ellicott's Commentary on John 1:4)
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"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." -- Jesus speaking in John 14:6
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