Forum Summary: Four Keys to Successful Decision-Making

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

When we’re young, there are so many unknowns to face.

We make decisions every day of our lives, and God wants us to develop the capacity to make good decisions as part of our training, whether the decisions involve spiritual questions or the physical decisions that impact us in so many unexpected ways. Sound decision-making is one of the primary lessons we are to learn in this life. In this week’s Forum, Dr. Jeffrey Fall shared with the Living Ed students four key principles to good decision-making.

Key 1. Get the Facts

Sometimes, you won’t have all the information, and making a poorly informed decision can end in disaster. If we gather all the facts, we get more pieces of the puzzle, which will give us a clearer picture of the situation. As an example, in Joshua 24—at the end of Joshua’s life—Israel had to make a decision. There were those who were loyal to God, those who were attracted to the Canaanite gods and customs, and the majority who hadn’t yet decided. God, through Joshua, laid out the facts—how He had led them from Egypt and intervened on their behalf many times. Joshua 24:16-18 shows us that when faced with the evidence, Israel made the right choice in this case.

Key 2. Seek Counsel

As human beings, we have a tendency to “go it alone” and try to figure things out for ourselves, yet Proverbs 11:14 shows us that counsel is an important part of decision-making. When we receive good counsel, it can open our eyes to aspects of the decision we might not have seen before. Seeking counsel may not come naturally at first, but when we do so, we embrace God’s way of passing on spiritual insight to us. However, we need to be careful to seek counsel from the right sources. As Psalm 1:1 tells us, we should avoid seeking counsel from the ungodly.

Key 3: Set Your Priorities in Order

Not every priority should hold the same value as we make decisions. God expects us to discern the weightier matters of the law and ask ourselves, “What would God’s highest priority be in this situation?” Our goal is to set our priorities in line with His priorities. For instance, while the Sabbath is a day of rest, we go to Services because being with our brethren and learning more about His way is a higher priority than just physically resting. As 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us, we are to be “rightly dividing the word of truth”—setting our priorities in the right order.

Key 4: Ask God for Directions

Even when we have the facts and have received proper counsel, the right decision won’t always be obvious. Going to God in prayer is a valuable decision-making tool, as is fasting about the decision. In Isaiah 58:1–11, God promises that He will guide us continually if we do our part. Fasting over a decision and asking God to show us His will brings nothing but benefit to us. Even if God’s answer to our question is no, we can take comfort in the fact that He knows what’s best for us.

We will make countless decisions throughout our lives; God won’t do it all for us. He’s teaching us the principles of proper decision-making. As we go through life, we can have confidence in these principles designed by our Father. He is seeking children who can make successful decisions, and He is always looking out for our best interests.

Course Spotlight: The Nazarite Vow

What is a Nazarite vow? Do we have any examples of a Nazarite vow in the Scriptures? In Lectures 2, 3, and 4, Dr. Meredith describes how Paul and his companions participated in a Nazarite vow.


Assembly Summary: The Disposable Era

Author: Yolanda Watt | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

It is really easy to give up and quit when we are doing something that is difficult or out of our comfort zone.

We live in an era of variety, in which people can easily change their minds. Mr. Ferreira lamented that in today’s world people are no longer interested in fixing things; instead they just replace them. This kind of attitude is so prevalent that it is even found in relationships and marriages. Couples are no longer interested in trying to work through their relationships, and instead they get a divorce, only to start the cycle all over again. Mr. Ferreira also talked about this in relation to people moving from one church to the next when they encounter issues. He refers to such people as “church fleas” hopping from one group to another.

Mr. Ferreira mentioned that we are to be long-suffering and patient, and followed that up with two thought-provoking questions: Do you follow through on your commitments (Matthew 5:37)? Are you grounded and steadfast (Matthew 7:13–14)? 

Five lessons from a simple pencil

Mr. Ferreira related these questions to a story about a pencil maker who told a pencil that if it remembered five lessons, it would be a successful pencil.

First, we will be able to do great things only if we allow ourselves to be held in someone’s hand—we must learn to rely on God for strength. If we are in God’s hands, anything is possible (Matthew 19:26).

Like a pencil, we also will experience painful sharpening from time to time, but this is needed for us to become better. God wants us to improve on a daily basis; it does not happen all at once at baptism. A Christian cannot grow without going through tests and trials. The trials might not feel great, but giving up on God’s way of life is never an option for true Christians (Romans 5:3–4; Matthew 24:13).

A pencil also has an eraser at the back of it to fix mistakes. Our “eraser” is genuine repentance (Isaiah 55:6–7; Psalm 103:11–12). Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, repenting from our sins allows those sins to be erased from the record of our lives in God’s sight. We all make mistakes—and with God’s help, we are able to repent of our mistakes and correct them. 

No matter how fancy a pencil’s exterior is, the lead within it is the most important part. Likewise, the most important part of Christians is always what’s inside. We should not define ourselves solely by who we are physically; we should remember that what is in our hearts is what truly matters in God’s sight (1 Samuel 16:6–7; Jeremiah 17:10).

On every surface a pencil is used, it leaves a mark. We, too, leave marks as we go about our lives, through the examples we set and the legacies we leave behind. It is a Christian’s responsibility to strive to exemplify Christ’s life and leave a legacy that points back to Him (1 Peter 2:21–23; 1 Timothy 4:12).

 As Christians, we can all learn from the lessons of a pencil. We need to make sure that we stick to our commitment to God’s way of life—we cannot afford to give up when things get tough. With His help, we will be examples of those who stand apart from the disposable era.

Course Spotlight: The “Perpetual Virginity” of Mary

The write-up below is a typical Catholic explanation of the “perpetual virginity of Christ”. In order to understand why Dr. Meredith emphasizes the scriptural emphasis on Christ’s brothers in John 2:12, it’s helpful to know the Catholic view…

Course Spotlight from The Life Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 1) The Early Life of Christ

Digging Deeper: Simon of Cyrene

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank
| Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 8 min.

Did you know that Jesus was so weakened by his various beatings before His crucifixion that a passerby was conscripted by Roman soldiers into carrying Jesus’ cross or crossbeam to the crucifixion site?

The Gospels draw attention to this stranger who was dragged into the commotion of the execution of a prophet from Galilee. This stranger’s sacrificial act of mercy is noted in the Gospels. Digging Deeper this week considers who he may have been, what he carried, and how this experience may have changed his life—and has changed ours.

Our focus verse is: “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross” (Matthew 27:32 KJV throughout). This story appears in all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The other two references are Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26. John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible describes Cyrene as: “… a place in Libya, and one of the five cities called Pentapolis: which were these, Berenice, Arsinoe, Ptolemais, Apollonia, and Cyrene (l); Kir in Amos 1:5 is rendered by the Targum, קירני, ‘Cyrene’, as it is also by the Vulgate Latin” (e-Sword 13.0.0). It was a capital city about 800 miles west from Jerusalem, being where Tripoli is today.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary provides important historical information about the Roman province of Cyrene that was along the Mediterranean Coast: “A hundred thousand Jews from Palestine had been settled in this province by Ptolemy Soter (323-285 B.C.), where by this time they had greatly increased in number. They had a synagogue in Jerusalem [Acts 6:9] for such of their number as went thither to the annual feasts” (e-Sword 13.0.0). The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds: “… its population included many local Libyans, resident Greeks and Jews” (Tecarta Bible App).

Who was Simon?

In the Bible, several people are named Simon, an abbreviated form of Simeon. He was either born Jewish or was a convert (proselyte) of the Diaspora (Jews outside the Holy Land). The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature by John McClintock and James Strong describes him as: “A Hellenistic Jew, born at Cyrene on the north coast of Africa, who was present at Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus either as an attendant at the feast (Acts 2:10) or as one of the numerous settlers at Jerusalem from that place (Acts 6:9)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).  

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible comments that: “Simon was a Greek name very commonly used by Jews (because it resembled the patriarchal name Simeon). His coming to Jerusalem probably suggests that he is Jewish by faith, whatever his ethnic background.” (Tecarta Bible App). He may have traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. Little did he suspect the experience that lay before him. Roman soldiers had the authority, called the right of impressment, to draft a passerby to help carry the cross to the crucifixion site. Simon was in the right place at the right time for this duty.

William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible characterizes what it may have been like for Simon when the Roman soldier approached him to bear Jesus’ cross: “This must have been a grim day for Simon of Cyrene. Palestine was an occupied country and any man might be impressed into the Roman service for any task. The sign of impressment was a tap on the shoulder with the flat of a Roman spear. Simon was from Cyrene in Africa. No doubt he had come from that far off land for the Passover. No doubt he had scraped and saved for many years in order to come. No doubt he was gratifying the ambition of a lifetime to eat one Passover in Jerusalem. Then this happened to him” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

The burden that changed him

The reason Simon was drafted to bear the cross is that Jesus had been so weakened by His scourging that he probably stumbled in carrying His cross, though He had set out doing so (John 19:17). The ESV Study Bible declares: “The skin and muscles of his back would have been severely lacerated, and he could have suffered severe injury to his internal organs” (Tecarta Bible App). It was customary for the prisoner to carry his crossbeam, called a patibulum, to the crucifixion site, where it was attached to the upright stake. The KJV Study Bible adds: “The transverse piece was usually carried separately and attached by rope to the vertical pole at the place of execution” (Ibid.).

It was also possible Jesus had been carrying the entire cross, which could weigh up to 30-40 pounds. Describing this cross, the ESV Study Bible details: “The most common Greek word for ‘cross’ (stauros), though originally designating a ‘sharpened pole,’ became associated before the NT with various penal means of suspending bodies (before or after death), including those employing a crux, or cross-shaped device, for crucifixion” (Tecarta Bible App). If it was the entire cross Jesus was carrying, Simon may have assisted Him by carrying one end.

John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible suggests that the Romans inducted Simon to help Jesus carry His cross to Golgatha: “… not out of good will to Christ, but fearing lest through his faintness and weakness, he should, die before he got to the place of execution, and they be disappointed of their end, the crucifixion of him; or because they were in haste to have him executed, and he was not able to go so fast as they desired…” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Undoubtedly, this experience was life-changing for Simon. The NKJ Study Bible notes: “Simon must have been (or later became) a Christian; it is unlikely that he would be referred to by name if he were a stranger to the Christian community” (Tecarta Bible App). Some even suggest Simon is the Simeon of Acts 13:1 who served as one of the teachers in Antioch’s young church. If that was the case, his experience carrying Jesus’ cross, no doubt, propelled him to discipleship.

Simon’s sons, Alexander and Rufus, were later known by the early church (Mark 15:21). From the world of archaeology, The NIV Study Bible reports: “A first-century ad ossuary (a limestone box containing the bones of the dead; see note on Mt 26:3) bearing the inscription ‘Alexander (son) of Simon’ was found in 1941 in Jerusalem” (Tecarta Bible App). It may have been the same Alexander. John Kitto’s Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature extends this linkage further: “The family of Simon seems to have resided afterwards at Rome; for St. Paul, in his epistle to the church there, salutes the wife of Simon with tenderness and respect, calling her his ‘mother,’ though he does not expressly name her: ‘Salute Rufus, and his mother and mine’ (Romans 16:13)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

The true weight of the matter

The Gnomon New Testament by John Bengel offers a solemn lesson for all Christians from this account: “There was neither Jew nor Roman who was willing to bear the burden of the cross. Men were present at that time from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Even in the remotest regions Christ has since found those who would bear His cross.—ἵνα ἄρῃ, to bear) Simon is not said to have borne it unwillingly. Well has Athanasius (Book i. fol. 10, 11) said, in his sermon on the Passion [Suffering], ‘Simon, a mere man, bore the cross, that all might know that the Lord underwent, not His own death, but that of men'” (Bible Analyzer 

Spiritually, Jesus carried Simon’s cross, on which he would have died for his sins. Similarly, Jesus bore the cross for each one of us to remove our sins. At baptism, Christians are symbolically crucified with Christ (Romans 6:3-7).  As Jesus’ disciples, we are to carry our crosses continually: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This means death to ourselves so that we may live unto Christ.

The Apostle Paul used this same metaphorical language: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus was crucified outside the city gates of Jerusalem (Hebrews 13:12). Notice Paul’s use of this detail: “Let us go forth therefore unto him without [outside] the camp, bearing his reproach” (Hebrews 13:13). Every Christian vicariously carries Jesus’ cross as Simon literally did. We too have been drafted to do so, not by brutal Roman soldiers, but by our Savior Who liberated us from sin.

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA, and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Forum Summary: Should you become an entrepreneur?

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

Mr. Michael Thiel is an entrepreneur in advertising, currently writing ads and marketing in about ten industries.

For this his forum, Mr. Thiel gave a presentation on aspects of entrepreneurship and what it takes to become an entrepreneur.

What Does an Entrepreneur Do?

To become an entrepreneur, you must first have an idea for a product or service of some sort. Even if you lack total confidence in your idea, you can test it out, and if it works, knowing that it does will motivate you to move forward. 

But if it fails, you can still analyze and learn from the failure. Progress is achieved by acknowledging your failures, reflecting on them, and learning from them. If you can do this, failure will have no effect on your ability to succeed—it will only help pave the way. 

Requirements of Entrepreneurship

Once your idea is set in motion as a business, you will engage in two types of work as an entrepreneur: Productive work that benefits or furthers your efforts to build your business—such as getting clients, making products, etc.—and  “unproductive” activities that might not get you more work, but still need to be done, such as accounting, filing taxes, etc. Beyond that, here are two things to keep in mind in order to be successful as an entrepreneur: 

  1. You must love it! To keep your business alive, you must love either what you do or the market that you serve. That will be the source of your motivation to keep going—you can’t just be in it for the money. This motivation will help you persevere through difficult times. 
  2. You must be flexible. You may have an idea that may not be marketable or doesn’t have a market at all; if you can’t sell your idea, but still stick to it no matter what, you’re heading for failure. Flexibility is key—sometimes you may need to try another idea or market to find success.

The Pros and Cons of Being an Entrepreneur

There are some downsides to entrepreneurship—you’ll have to pay higher taxes in the form of self-employment tax, you won’t be given health insurance or no paid time off, your pay will not be guaranteed, and everything that goes wrong will be your fault. Also, if you promise a customer something, it will be up to you to see it through, no matter what. 

On the flip side, there are many perks: you won’t be pressured to work on the Sabbath, you won’t have to worry about job security, you will often be able to work from home, your travel will be tax-deductible in certain cases, you will get all the proceeds directly, you will be able to say no to work you don’t want to do, and you will be able to become known for your work. 

If you can meet these requirements and stick with it, then, as Mr. Thiel said, you will have an overwhelming chance of turning your idea into a successful business.

Assembly Summary: Why are you here?

Author: Yolanda Watt | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 6 min.

Mr. Dexter Wakefield opened his lecture with something Mr. Armstrong used to ask on Holy Days and Sabbaths: “Why are you here?”

Mr. Wakefield stated that we have quite a few reasons for being here—some excellent reasons and others that may not be so excellent. We may have primary, secondary, or even tertiary reasons as to why we are in the Church of God and in Living Education. Mr. Wakefield referenced 1 Chronicles 28:9, saying that God knows the intent of the thoughts of our heart, which goes deeply into our psychology. 

Mr. Wakefield then asked a challenging question: “Why do some people leave the Church?” He revealed that, over the years, he has seen that those who leave the Church have lost their reason for being in it. If something happens that troubles or challenges us, having the right reasons for being in God’s Church can remind us of what we stand for. Examining our reasons for being in the Church, in order to prioritize the right reasons and become aware of the weak reasons, can strengthen our devotion to the Body of Christ.

Some Weak Reasons for Being in the Church

  • I want to avoid the tribulation. Mr. Wakefield mentioned that some people may think that they will simply attend Church services when things get rough in the world—but “that’s an illusion.” It is going to be much harder to come to services then than it is now.
  • I want to be a Philadelphian: If you have a small doctrinal disagreement that makes you feel more Philadelphian than another person, you might start to consider that other person Laodicean. Mr. Wakefield believes that true Philadelphians do not worry about being Philadelphian—rather, they are occupied with God’s truth and the Work. He went on to compare prideful people—those who think of themselves as Philadelphian while looking down on other members—to the practice of Judo, in which a small person is able to throw a larger person. The idea in Judo is not to resist the attacker, but to pull them farther in the direction they are already going and then throw them off balance. Satan does the same with a prideful person; that person can be easily deceived.
  • I want to avoid the lake of fire: While it is good to have a bit of fear for the lake of fire, it should not be a primary reason for being in the Church. People who have an irrational fear of the lake of fire can be easily deceived and manipulated. Yes, we want to make sure we are not sinning willfully, but if avoiding the lake of fire is a person’s entire motivation, that person will be tripped up once doubt comes in.
  • I want to get salvation: This is a great motivation to have, but when it is the only one, it may lead to a begrudging attitude toward the commandments of God. If someone has no love for the commandments, they may go along with an unbiblical change in doctrine that challenges the commandments. This is exactly what happened in the Worldwide Church of God. By contrast, God’s people learn to love His commandments and obey them from the heart.
  • The Church is where my friends are: In John 15:12–17, we are commanded to love each other, and it is fine to want to be with our friends—but that should not be the main reason we are in the Church. If it is, and a friendship ends or a friend leaves the Church, our own reason for being here will be demolished.
  • I want to be in a loving environment: If this is the primary reason for a person staying in the Church, that person will leave once another Church member offends them. It is good to be in a loving environment, but our reasons for being here must be stronger than that.
  • I want intellectual stimulation: The problem with this reason is that those who are motivated by it always want to hear something new. Mr. Wakefield referenced Acts 17:18–21, explaining that we should go deeper in the truth, not move on to a different “truth.” He mentioned he has seen individuals spending quite a bit of time on the Internet looking for a new doctrine that contradicts the truth. Spiritual growth results not from always learning new “truth,” but in changing our hearts and our character.
  • I want to be where a particular minister is: God provides spiritual services to his children through his true ministers and those who serve under those ministers. Everyone has their personal preferences, but if one minister is someone’s main reason for being in the Church, what happens if that minister leaves? We must remember that Christ does the Work and ministers occupy an office that Christ works through. We must also consider our brethren around the world, some of whom only see a minister a few times a year and have to rely on video sermons. Their reasons for being in the Church can be instructive to us.
  • I’m comfortable here: Currently, many find attending with the Living Church of God to be stable and comfortable, but what happens when we have turmoil? After all, we will be hated during the end times. “If your priority is comfort and stability in the Living Church, then the end times are going to be tough for you,” stated Mr. Wakefield. Satan will focus his activities where God’s work and truth are.

Strong Reasons for Being in the Church

  • I want to obey God and seek His Kingdom first: If we have genuine love for the real God and the truth revealed in His word, we will be rooted in a desire to stay amongst those who share that love.
  • To learn the truth of God: Many eras of God’s Church did not have all of the truth and understanding that we have in the Church today. We must evaluate what is most important to us. The truth has been challenged in various times and it will be challenged again, so we all need to maintain a solid understanding of exactly what the Bible teaches.
  • To be part of the Work of God: Christ is accomplishing through His Church the Work of proclaiming the Gospel of God’s Kingdom to the world, and we must recognize where that work is being done. In Ephesians 4:14–16, we are taught that we all have an important part in what the Church is doing.

It is important for us to consider our primary reasons for being in the Church, making sure that those reasons are strong. Wherever Christ is, His truth and His work will be, and this can serve as our guiding beacon. If we consider carefully why we are here, we can develop the conviction to stay with God’s truth and His work.

Digging Deeper: The Finger of God

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 8 min.

Did you know, that God is so powerful that He can work mighty miracles merely with His finger?

He truly is the Almighty, Who is omnipotent—all-powerful. He does not have to muster strength to work miracles. In Creation, He spoke the physical world into existence (Genesis 1). However, there are phrases in Scripture referring to His body parts employed for work. This Digging Deeper explores a peculiar expression used in both Testaments that expresses the mighty power of the Creator.

Four times in our Bible, the expression the finger of God appears. To understand what this expression signifies, let us first look at some articles from Bible reference works. Robert Hawker’s Poor Man’s Concordance declares: “This is a very common expression in Scripture, to denote the works of God. Thus the magicians in the court of Pharaoh were compelled to acknowledge the finger of God concerning several of the ten plagues of Egypt which the Lord brought upon the Egyptians” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Significance of fingers

Fingers were important for conversation in that world, as explained by The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: “The fingers are to the Oriental essential in conversation; their language is frequently very eloquent and expressive. They often show what the mouth does not dare to utter, especially grave insult and scorn” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary expands this thought: “To put forth one’s finger, is a bantering, insulting gesture. ‘If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, and the putting out of the finger,’ Isaiah 58:9; if thou take away from the midst of thee the chain, or yoke, wherewith thou loadest thy debtors; and forbear pointing at them, and using jeering or menacing gestures” (Ibid.) In effect, God insulted the Egyptian gods in the characteristic way of that period (Exodus 12:12).

The ISBE continues: “The ‘finger of God,’ like the ‘hand of God,’ is synonymous with power, omnipotence, sometimes with the additional meaning of the infallible evidence of Divine authorship visible in all His works (Psalm 8:3; Luke 11:20), especially in His law (Exodus 8:19; 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10; compare Exodus 32:15, 32:16)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Egyptians versus God’s finger

The first place this phrase appears is: “Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said” (Exodus 8:19 KJV throughout). This was what the magicians concluded during the third plague of lice upon Egypt. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible reports: “This expression is thoroughly Egyptian; it need not imply that the magicians recognized Yahweh, the God who performed the marvel. They may possibly have referred it to as a god that was hostile to their own protectors” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Notice that they did not attribute this plague to the power of YHVH, the covenant name of God with Israel, but to elohim. Elohim is a word referring to any god. They acknowledged this was the result of the power of a god.

The Expository Notes of Dr. Constable explains: “The ‘finger of God’ (Exodus 8:19) is a phrase denoting creative omnipotence in Scripture (Exodus 31:18; Psalm 8:3; Luke 11:20)” (Ibid.). God was superior in power to all the Egyptian gods. We may wonder why the finger was chosen. Henry Morris’ Defender’s Study Bible provides this historical note: “Egyptian magical texts occasionally refer to ‘the finger of’ one of their gods or goddesses. Here they recognize the miracle as emanating from the finger of the true God of creation” (Ibid.). Dr. Peter Pett’s Commentary explains further: “In Egyptian texts we find reference to the ‘finger of Seth’ and ‘the finger of Thoth’. This was thus a typically Egyptian way of expressing the situation. We would say, ‘God must have had a hand in this.’ Note the use of ‘God.’ They were not thinking of Yahweh specifically, but of the divine” (Ibid.).

In this biblical text, the magicians were helpless in overturning this plague of lice. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible perceptively notes: “God has the devil in a chain, and limits him both as a deceiver and as a destroyer; hitherto he shall come, but no further. The devil’s agents when God permitted them, could do great things; but when he laid an embargo upon them, though but with his finger, they could do nothing” (e-Sword 13.0.0)

Writing on stone

Our next two references relate to God’s inscribing the 10 Commandments on two stone tablets:

“And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18).

“And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly” (Deuteronomy 9:10).

God made it truly clear that the 10 Commandments originated with God, not Moses. It ought to be referred to as “God’s law.” It is the “Mosaic law” only in a secondary and derivative sense. Henry Morris’ Defender’s Study Bible comments: “The fact that the Ten Commandments were written on stone by God Himself is stressed no less than seven times (Exodus 31:18; 32:15; 34:1,28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 9:10; 10:4). This is an indication of the importance placed by God on these stone-inscribed words” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Again, Morris states: “The fact that God wrote the Ten Commandments down Himself, rather than through a prophet, indicates the unique importance He places on these ten laws, as the foundation for all human legal systems. Also see note on Deuteronomy 9:10” (Ibid.)

We may wonder how God did it. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers addresses this question: ” We must understand that the tables were inscribed by some supernatural process, and not by any human hand. The exact nature of the supernatural process is not revealed to us” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Similarly, only He can inscribe His law on the hearts of Christians by the Spirit today (2 Corinthians 3:3). On the permanence of God’s law, notice David Guzik’s comment in his Enduring Word Commentary: “We often say that something can be changed because ‘it’s not written in stone.’ These commandments were written in stone” (Ibid.).

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges adds an important historical explanation on Exodus 31:18: “The practice of inscribing laws on tables of metal or stone was very general in antiquity: Rome, Athens, Crete, Carthage, Palmyra, Babylonia, all supply examples…That the tables on which the Decalogue was written are said to have been inscribed by ‘the finger of God’ (cf. Exodus 34:1) is an expression (Di.) of the sanctity and venerable antiquity attributed to them” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Its comment on Deuteronomy 9:10 is also insightful: “With His own voice, face to face, God spake the words of the covenant (Deuteronomy 4:12 f., Deuteronomy 5:4) and now with His own finger wrote them. Thus by a double metaphor is the directly divine origin and supreme sanctity of the Ten Words emphasised” (Ibid.). God’s spoken word and hands were significant in the Creation as well: (Psalm 8:3; 33:6).

Power in His finger

Our last reference comes from Jesus’ confrontation with critics who accused Him of employing the power of Beelzebub to work miracles. Instead, He declared: “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20). In Matthew’s parallel passage, Jesus stated he cast out devils by the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28). The finger of God works miracles by the Spirit of God. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers notes: “As the ‘hand’ denotes power generally, so the ‘finger’ symbolises power in its concentrated and specially-directed energy” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Gary H. Everett’s Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures adds: “The Scriptures use the phrase ‘hand of God,’ or ‘power of God’ to express God reaching down to mankind in a display of mighty power. In contrast, the phrase ‘finger of God’ seems to indicate that God is able to cast out devils with very little effort” (Ibid.).

Christians serve a mighty Savior Who was Israel’s God of the Old Testament and Who thwarted Pharaoh and his magicians, inscribed the 10 Commandments on stone tablets, and cast out devils with merely His finger. Though symbolic, these verses demonstrate that Christ is the Almighty Creator and Savior. He is invincible. When He returns to earth, He will once again exercise His mighty power to deliver His people and establish the Kingdom of God.

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA, and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: Student Responses – “How do you pray?”

Did you know we have a feature in some of our courses where students can share their responses to a specific question? For example, in the Prayer Unit there are over 200 responses to the question: “How do you pray?” Would you like to share your response as well?

Course Spotlight From Tools for Christian Growth: Prayer

Assembly Summary: The Enemy Knows You

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 2 min. 30 sec.

In his assembly, Mr. Cristian Orrego warned the Living Education students about the many ways Satan tries to distract us from the truth.

He advised them to be aware of these influences and to be careful not to fall into the enemy’s tangled web of deception.

Two Options

We either live God’s way of life, or we let Satan trap us in his web of deceptions. There is no in-between. We all have personal desires and dreams, and yet, even more fundamentally, we have an innate desire for eternity, as is revealed in Ecclesiastes 3:11. This is why mankind has always searched for the purpose of his existence—something to fill the emptiness inside him. Yet this emptiness can only be filled by God or Satan—so with what are we fulfilling these desires?

The Magnitude of the Deception

Satan has had a lot of experience dealing with the human family. He knows our needs as well as our wants, and can use these fleshly desires to manipulate and deceive us. There are many ways he accomplishes this, and one of them can be seen in people today: God is being replaced with evolution in the minds of many. What does this leave for anyone to hope for? This can only produce a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness. In response, people turn to materialism and hedonism. If we remove God from our lives, the enemy will fill that spiritual emptiness with evil.

The Standards That Matter

We all need to examine whether the one who rules our minds is God or Satan. The enemy can and does use the examples of celebrities, peers, fictional characters, and social media influencers in his attempts to lead us away from following Christ’s example in our lives. In many subtle ways, the prince of the power of the air tries to distract us from what we should be doing every day—spending time with God and living our lives according to the standards He sets for us. If our minds are preoccupied with ideas and examples that are against the law of God, we will perish.

God’s way leads us to eternal life, to the materialization of our dreams, to true social justice, to a real and solid purpose for our existence, and to true freedom. Only His way will lead us to the Kingdom, and that kingdom is the only place where we will find all that we long for. If we are tired of evil and injustice, then we need to always live according to the word of God with the help of His Holy Spirit, putting aside the shallow, selfish, and vain path that leads to death.