Digging Deeper: The Book Unlike Any Other

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

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min., 44 sec

Did you know that there is one book in human history that is unlike any other?

Innumerable books have been written through the millennia of humankind’s existence. Solomon commented on this even in his time of the 900s B.C.: “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end“(Ecclesiastes 12:12 KJV). It is impossible to imagine how many more books have been written since his time. I remember hearing years ago that another book about the American Civil War is released every day! These volumes describe only one event of U.S. history. Uncountable books have been written on all aspects of human knowledge. However, this Digging Deeper will reveal the book unlike any other.

That incomparable book is the Holy Bible. You may own one or several copies of this volume. To this day, it still is one of the most purchased books every year. What is it about this book that draws people to it, even if they don’t read it? Many think of owning one as a kind of good luck charm. People know there is something special about it, even if they do not know much about what is inside. Look on the spine of your Bible. Commonly, it is called the Holy Bible (at least on older Bibles). What does the word bible mean in common usage? Additionally, why is this particular book called holy? There is good reason why it is thus entitled. 

The word bible simply means “book.” In common usage, the word bible is used in titles of handbooks or manuals, such as for hunters or fishermen. However, the word bible in the titles of these books is not preceded by the word holy. We need to explore these two words in greater depth to understand why the Scriptures are called the Holy Bible. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) in its article “The Bible” provides us the derivation of our word bible: “The word ‘Bible’ is the equivalent of the Greek word biblia (diminutive from bı́blos, the inner bark of the papyrus), meaning originally ‘books'” (e-Sword 12.1). 

Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary in its article “Bible” explains the origin of our word bible further: “The word Bible comes from the Greek Βιβλος, or Βιβλιον, and is used to denote any book; but is emphatically applied to the book of inspired Scripture, which is ‘the book’ as being superior in excellence to all other books. Βιβλιον again comes from Βιβλος, the Egyptian reed, from which the ancient paper was procured” (Bible Analyzer The word has a humble origin, descending from the papyrus plant that grows in marshy areas. Reeds of this plant were cut, sliced, dried, and pounded at right angles onto another piece of papyrus to make a sheet – a sheet of paper. Our word paper descends from papyrus

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia provides further development of the term: “Jerome’s name for the Bible (4th century) was ‘the Divine Library’ (Bibliotheca Divina). Afterward came an important change from plural to singular meaning. ‘In process of time this name, with many others of Greek origin, passed into the vocabulary of the western church; and in the 13th century, by a happy solecism, the neuter plural came to be regarded as a feminine singular, and ‘’The Books’ became by common consent ‘The Book'(biblia, singular), in which form the word was passed into the languages of modern Europe’ (Westcott, Bible in the Church, 5). Its earliest occurrences in English are in Piers Plowman, Chaucer and Wycliffe” (e-Sword 12.1).  This constructive but unusual occurrence seems to have been providential since “The Books” became “The Book!” The ISBE continues: “This word designates the collection of the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament recognized and in use in the Christian churches. Different religions (such as the Zoroastrian, Hindu, Buddhist, Mohammedan) have their collections of sacred writings, sometimes spoken of as their ‘Bibles.’ The Jews acknowledge only the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Christians add the writings contained in the New Testament” (Ibid.). 

Christians refer to the Sacred Scriptures as the Holy Bible. Let us now focus on the word holyWebster’s 1828 Dictionary in its article “Holy” provides this second definition in its list: “Hallowed; consecrated or set apart to a sacred use, or to the service or worship of God; a sense frequent in Scripture; as the holy sabbath; holy oil; holy vessels; a holy nation; the holy temple; a holy priesthood” (e-Sword 12.1). Therefore, we may conclude that the Holy Bible is a volume inspired by God as hallowed, consecrated, and set apart for sacred use in the service and worship of Him. In this way, it is The Book unlike any other. When we refer to The Bible we need to capitalize the first b in the word Bible for this reason. This acknowledges the respect people afford to God’s Book. Smith’s Bible Dictionary elaborates on this term, “It is The Book as being superior to all other books. But the application of the word BIBLE to the collected books of the Old and New Testaments is not to be traced farther back than the fifth century of our era” (e-Sword 12.1). 

The Holy Bible contains the Old and New Testaments. Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines them this way, “The Bible consists of two great parts, called the Old and New Testaments, separated by an interval of nearly four hundred years. These Testaments are further divided into sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New. These books are a library in themselves being written in every known form of old literature. Twenty-two of them are historical, five are poetical, eighteen are prophetical, twenty-one are epistolary” (e-Sword 12.1). There are within several different genres of literature, as Smith continues, “They contain logical arguments, poetry, songs and hymns, history, biography, stories, parables, fables [fictitous stories meant to teach a moral lesson], eloquence, law, letters and philosophy” (Ibid.). God inspired each genre in its unique purpose for conveying His message. Smith then describes the over 40 different human authors God inspired: “Among these authors were kings, farmers, mechanics, scientific men, lawyers, generals, fishermen, ministers and priests, a tax-collector, a doctor, some rich, some poor, some city bred, some country born — thus touching all the experiences of men extending over 1500 years” (Ibid.).

Our Holy Bible is God’s story in which He narrates His plan of salvation from creation (Genesis) to new creation (Revelation). Smith’s Bible Dictionary elaborates, “The Holy Bible is the name given to the revelation of God to man contained in sixty-six books or pamphlets, bound together and forming one book and only one, for it has in reality one author and one purpose and plan, and is the development of one scheme of the redemption of man” (e-Sword 12.1). Ancient books were written on long scrolls of papyrus or parchment (animal skins). A change was made centuries ago (that may be attributable to the early Christian church) of binding together several smaller sheets of paper on one common edge. This was called a codex. This enabled preachers a convenient way of transporting the Bible on their long journeys. 

This Bible’s story includes the coming of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to provide the necessary substitutionary atonement for human sin. Christians are blessed with four volumes about the life, teachings, and ministry of Jesus. Even then, these four are only a summary of His remarkable life and times. One of the four authors, John, informs us, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25 KJV). However, these four volumes included in the 66 books of the Holy Bible provide Christians all they need to understand God’s magnificent plan of salvation.

Despite the various genres of literature, the many human authors, the vast separation of time between when these authors composed their books, God’s story contains one overarching theme: the redemption and salvation of those He made in His image. The next time you open your Bible, remind yourself that this is God’s Book and that He is communicating with you unlike in any other book. The Holy Bible is the Book of Books!

Ken Frank

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.

Digging Deeper: Something Better Than Life

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

Estimated Reading Time: 6 min., 25 sec.

Did you know that there is something better than life itself?

It is only natural to treasure and protect our lives because they are so precious and relatively short. We try to take good care of ourselves and live safely to preserve life. To us, it is one of the most precious things of our earthly existence. However, one biblical writer asserted that there was something in his life that was even better than life itself. Most people would find this hard to believe. Nonetheless, this is what the Holy Bible states. In my daily Bible reading, occasionally I come across an intriguing phrase that arouses my interest. Researching some of them has lead to several of my Digging Deeper articles. This topic is another one.  Today’s Digging Deeper will disclose this superior blessing that is better than life.

The word better appears 7 times in the Book of Psalms. Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible Notes provides a list of them entitled “Seven Better Things In Psalms”:

1. A little with righteousness is better than the riches of many wicked (Psa 37:16).

2. God’s lovingkindness is better than life itself (Psa 63:3).

3. Praise is better than sacrifices (Psa 69:31).

4. One day in God’s house is better than a thousand other days (Psa 84:10).

5. Trust in God is better than confidence in man (Psa 118:8).

6. Trust in God is better than confidence in princes (Psa 118:9).

7. Truth is better than gold and silver (Psa 119:72). (Bible Analyzer

Our focus for this article will be on just one: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee”  (Psalm 63:3 KJV). The superscription in this psalm’s first verse tells us it is “A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.”  David spent much time outdoors in his younger years, first as a shepherd boy, later when he was on the run from his persecutor, King Saul, and even later when he as a warrior-king leading his army against their enemies. He knew many dangers and developed a special bond with his God that enabled him to trust Him and fully appreciate the Almighty’s lovingkindness. 

The English word lovingkindess appears 30 times in our Authorized Version (KJV) of the Bible, all in the Old Testament. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Vol. 1 defines it as, “Affectionate tenderness and consideration; kindness arising from a deep personal love, as the active love of God for his creatures” (Oxford University Press, 1986, Letter L, p.470). Years ago, I read that when the English translators came to the original Hebrew word, hesed, they did not have an exact English equivalent. Stephen D. Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words explains: “Concerning the translation of hesed with reference to the character of Yahweh, it is difficult, if not impossible, to precisely convey the full meaning of the term with just one English word or phrase. The semantic range of the term is rich and complex” (Hendrickson Publishers, 2006, p. 634). Therefore, the English translators created a new word by combining loving and kindness to express the meaning of the Hebrew word. The OED reports that The Coverdale Bible, the first complete Modern English translation of the Bible, first introduced lovingkindness in 1535 (Ibid.). The Coverdale Bible was also the first printed complete English Bible. English Bibles produced after the Coverdale Bible followed its example by translating the Hebrew word as lovingkindness.

 Hesed appears about 250 times in the Hebrew Bible and is usually translated today as “mercy,” “kindness,” or “steadfast love.” Renn gives this initial definition: “…hesed constitutes one of the most significant theological terms in the Hebrew Scriptures. The right understanding of the term is bound up with its relationship to the divine covenant with Israel. When applied to Yahweh, hesed is fundamentally the expression of his loyalty and devotion to the solemn promises attached to the covenant. It is most commonly applied to God, but it is also used to describe a human quality, as well as expressing human commitment to the covenant” (Ibid., p. 633).

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) also connects this Hebrew word to God’s forgiveness: “When used of God hesed denotes, in general, ‘the Divine Love condescending to His creatures, more especially to sinners, in unmerited kindness’” (Delitzsch). It is frequently associated with forgiveness, and is practically equivalent to ‘mercy’ or ‘mercifulness’ (Exodus 20:6)…” (e-Sword 12.1). David certainly needed God’s forgiveness, for example after his affair with Bathsheba and his ordering of her husband Uriah’s death. David deserved death, but God forgave him because of His lovingkindness (2 Samuel 12:13). Notice this cross-reference: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba. HAVE mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions”  (Psalm 51:1 KJV).

We all need such divine forgiveness! The ISBE article continues: “Cheyne (Encyclopedia Biblica) regards hesed as denoting paternal affection on God’s part, answered by filial and loyal affection and brotherly love on man’s part (philadelphia in the New Testament). The word ‘lovingkindness’ does not occur in the New Testament, but as its equivalents we have such terms as ‘mercy,’ ‘goodness,’ ‘kindness,’ ‘brotherly love’” (e-Sword 12.1).

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains why David considered God’s lovingkindess better than life: “Life is the most valued and valuable thing pertaining to this world which we can possess … But, above this, David valued the favor and friendship of God. If one or the other was to be sacrificed, he preferred that it should be his life; he would be willing to exchange that for the favor of God. Life was not desirable, life furnished no comforts – no joys – without the divine favor” (e-Sword 12.1). David had a change of heart that today we call “repentance.” Once he surrendered to God, he had a different set of values. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible illustrates: “This is the language of every regenerate soul. But O how few prefer the approbation of God to the blessings of life, or even to life itself in any circumstances” (e-Sword 12.1). So many today live for themselves apart from God’s lovingkindness with the philosophy, “Eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). 

John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible takes this understanding a step further: “For life without the love of God is nothing else than death: a man that has no share in the love of God is dead while he lives; all the enjoyments of life, health, riches, honour, friends, & c. are nothing without the love of God; the meanest temporal blessings with it are preferable to the greatest without it, Proverbs 15:17; it lasts longer than life, and therefore must be better than that; death cannot separate from it; it continues to all eternity” (e-Sword 12.1). Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible provides a further consideration: “God’s lovingkindness is in itself, and in the account of all the saints, better than life. It is our spiritual life, and that is better than temporal life, Psalm 30:5. It is better, a thousand times, to die in God’s favour than to live under his wrath” (e-Sword 12.1).

Our focus verse came from the Book of Psalms, which was Israel’s hymnbook and praise literature. It displays “true values” in a world that has lost its way through sin. Our world’s sense of “values” are often corrupt and ungodly. By contrast, God’s people strive for godly virtues. David was inspired to write about many of these virtues in his psalms. Now that Christ has come, Christians have even more reason to consider God’s lovingkindness better than life!

Ken Frank

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.

Digging Deeper: Christ the Creator

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

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min

Did you know that our Lord Jesus Christ is the one of whom it is spoken, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 KJV)?

Many people think of the Creator is the one Christians now know as “God the Father.” However, New Testament Scriptures clarify that the Father created all things by Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-2; Ephesians 3:8-9). This is such an important doctrine it is surprising that more Christians are not taught this. In this Digging Deeper, we will explore this wonderful truth that should encourage us to appreciate this intricate and magnificent creation from our Savior – and to take better care of it (Genesis 2:15).

Colossians 1:15 declares that Christ is “the image of the invisible God.” Then follow our keystone Scriptures from which we will launch our study about Christ’s preeminence in Creation: Colossians 1:16-17 KJV “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  (17)  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” The NKJ Study Bible notes that “This early Christian hymn emphasizes the superiority of Christ over all creation” (Tecarta Bible App). 

Joseph Henry Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament explains that the Greek words for “all things” in v. 16 are ta panta, which mean “the universe of things,”  or “the totality of created things” (Bible Analyzer The NIV Study Bible notes that “Seven times in vv. 15 – 20 Paul mentions ‘all creation,’ ‘all things’ and ‘everything,’ thus stressing that Christ is supreme over all” (Tecarta Bible App). Realizing this, we can now better appreciate that the One who sacrificed His life for us to become our Savior was also the Creator of Genesis 1:1.

Notice that Jesus Christ is the Creator, not the created, as some heretical teachers, such as Arians, have proclaimed. This explanation from The Henry Morris Study Bible elaborates: “Jesus Christ certainly is not a created being—not even the first created being—as many have argued, for the obvious reason that He Himself is the Creator of all things in heaven and earth, material and spiritual, visible or invisible. Only God can create, and God did not create Himself!” (Master Books, 2071, p. 1831). 

The Gospel of John begins with this teaching because it is fundamental for understanding who Jesus Christ is as God and Savior. Speaking of the one called the Word, notice what John writes: (John 1:3 KJV)  “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Notice further down (John 1:10 KJV):  “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” The world did not know its Creator and, through its rebellion, offended Him! Nonetheless, when a person repents and is converted, he/she …”is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10). How forgiving and generous is our Creator and Savior!

Notice that creation includes not only the things visible but things invisible as well, including the angelic world. Colossians 1:16 proclaims that Christ created the invisible creatures and their thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. Explaining these various terms, The KJV Study Bible notes: “‘Thrones’ refer to angels who sit on thrones as rulers; ‘dominions’ refer to domains or kingdoms over which these heavenly beings reign, ‘principalities’ refer to rulers, and ‘powers’ refer to angelic monarchs who wield regal power. Since Christ created these various ranks of angels, He is supreme over them. Striking a blow at the Colossian heresy advocating angel worship (2:18), this text forbids Christians to pay homage to angels or other heavenly beings created by God” (Tecarta Bible App).

Worship of these angelic creatures was part of the multi-faceted Colossian heresy. The NKJ Study Bible explains Colossians 1:16 further: “This idea is in direct contradiction to the false teaching, later known as Gnosticism, that was developing in the Colossian church. In general, Gnostics believed that various angelic beings were the creators of the earth and that Christ was one among many of these angels” (Ibid.). 

These angelic designations are also a warning to Christians. The ESV Study Bible adds: “Paul is using the current Jewish terms for various rankings of angels (although he doesn’t explain their relative ranks). His emphasis here may be on the evil angels, since they play a significant part in this letter (Col. 2:8, 10, 15, 20). This would not mean, however, that Jesus created evil angels; all spiritual powers were created by Jesus, but some later chose to rebel against God and so to become evil” (Tecarta Bible App). 

These wicked angels no doubt rebelled with Lucifer. Here is what The Henry Morris Study Bible reports: “The pagan world, whether of the ancient Greeks or of the modern New Agers, has always believed in angels, demons or spirit beings of various types and powers, and it is vital for us to understand that such beings do exist and can wield great influence in the visible world as well as the invisible. Many have rebelled against Him, both men and angels, always justifying themselves by maintaining they are the products of some cosmic evolutionary process instead of creation by the eternal, transcendent God.” (Master Books, 2071, p. 1832).

Colossians 1:17 adds: “…by him [Christ] all things consist.” Bullinger’s Companion Bible explains that the word consist means, “cohere, or hold together” (e-Sword 12.1). The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges elaborates on this word: “I.e., literally, stand together, hold together. The Latin-English ‘consist‘ (Latin versions, constant) exactly renders the Greek. ‘He is the principle of cohesion in the Universe. He impresses upon creation that unity and solidarity which makes it a cosmos instead of a chaos’ (Lightfoot)” (Ibid.). If the Creator were not alive, our universe would come apart. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible explains this phrase in detail: “They not only subsist in their beings, but consist in their order and dependences. He not only created them all at first, but it is by the word of his power that they are still upheld, Hebrews 1:3. The whole creation is kept together by the power of the Son of God, and made to consist in its proper frame. It is preserved from disbanding and running into confusion” (Ibid.). Christ is not only the Creator but the Conserver as well. Robertson’s Word Pictures adds, “Christ is the controlling and unifying force in nature. The Gnostic philosophy that matter is evil and was created by a remote aeon is thus swept away. The Son of God’s love is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe which is not evil” (Ibid.).

Colossians 1:16 concludes by stressing that Christ created all things for Himself! The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary edited by Joseph S. Exell states, “The most elaborate and majestic machinery of the universe and the most highly gifted intelligence alike exist only to serve the ultimate purpose of creation’s Lord. All created things gather their significance, dignity, and glory by their connection with Him…It is a narrow philosophy that teaches that all things were made for man. The grand end of all our endeavours should ever be the glory of Christ” (e-Sword 12.1). This refers to the grand scheme known as the salvation plan of God. The universe is here for a reason. All of us are potentially part of this redemption venture. Christ intends to add to the Famly of God and restore His Creation. Already, Christ has given us derivative and limited creative powers that depend on His sustaining the universe. We have a choice whether to enter His eternal program or to oppose it as did Satan and the wicked angels. Christ intends to share eternity with those He has redeemed. Prepare yourself for a future of expanding creativity!

Ken Frank

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.

Digging Deeper: Wisdom as a Tree of Life

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min.

Did you know that biblical wisdom is connected to the tree of life?

No doubt, all of us are familiar with the tree of life offered to our original parents in the the Book of Genesis. Did you realize that the Bible refers to the tree of life after Genesis? References to it appear in Proverbs and Revelation. However, those in Proverbs take on a slightly different concept than its appearance in Genesis. This Digging Deeper will explore one verse in Proverbs to broaden our understanding on this well-known phrase.

In Proverbs 3, God inspires a section dealing with the blessing offered to those who find wisdom. Here is the beginning verse of this section: Proverbs 3:13 KJV: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.” Our focus verse describes wisdom: Proverbs 3:18 KJV “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.” Let’s explore what is the connection between the original tree of life and wisdom in this passage.

There are six different Hebrew words translated “wisdom” in the Book of Proverbs. The Hebrew word for wisdom in Proverbs 3:13 is chokmah, which occurs 141 times in the Hebrew Bible and almost always is translated “wisdom.” Stephen D. Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words provides a definition: “Wisdom refers to knowledge coupled with an inner quality that embodies a heart and life in conformity with the purposes and character of God” (Hendrickson Publishers, 2006, p. 1050). Expanding this further, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon reports that, in this context, it refers to ethical and religious wisdom and that “…its fundamental principle is to fear God Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 15:33; Job 28:18” (Bible Analyzer The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature by McClintock and Strong further notes that it “…in a general sense, is a comprehensive knowledge of things in their proper nature and relations, together with the power of combining them in the most useful manner. Among the Hebrews, the term ‘wisdom’ comprehended a wide circle of virtues and mental endowments (Exodus 28:3; 31:6; 1 Kings 3:28; 4:29-34), and its precise import in the Scriptures can only be ascertained by a close attention to the context.” (e-Sword 12.1). One of the keys to effective Bible study is understanding the context in which a particular verse stands.

Wisdom is Solomon’s main theme in the Book of Proverbs and he returns to it often. The Expositor’s Bible, edited by W. Robertson Nicholl, in its annotation on Proverbs 3:13 explains its connection to submission to God: “Now, the supreme bliss of the heavenly wisdom is that it leads us into this detailed obedience to the law which is our life; it sets us under the immediate and unbroken control of God” (Bible Analyzer Notice that this source upholds God’s law! Obedience to God’s law (torah) is what makes our lives meaningful and purposeful because they will be directed according to God’s will. This reference work then relates wisdom to Proverbs 3:7 KJV: “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” The fear of God is reverential awe and worship; it should even invoke terror if we disobey Him (2 Corinthians 5:11). Notice Galatians 6:7 KJV:  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” 

Now we need to connect wisdom with the tree of life in Proverbs 3:18. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible comments on the tree of life: “This and the other references in Proverbs (11:30; 13:12; 15:4) are the only allusions in any book of the Old Testament, after Genesis, to the ‘tree’ itself, or to its spiritual significance” (e-Sword 12.1). However, the Book of Revelation returns to the image of the tree of life, connecting it more to its significance in Genesis. Barnes continues, “Wisdom is the ‘tree of life,’ giving a true immortality. The symbol entered largely into the religious imagery of Assyria, Egypt, and Persia. Philo, going a step further, found in the two trees the ideal representatives of speculative knowledge and moral wisdom; and the same image subserves a higher purpose in the promises and the visions of Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2.” (Ibid.).

The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series provides us a modern comparison for the phrase “tree of life”: “Like ‘Fountain of Youth’ in our language, so ‘Tree of Life’ in Bible days stood for something very desirable” (e-Sword 12.1). People have sought the proverbial fountain of youth for generations. The NET Bible explains the use of tree of life in Proverbs 3:18: “The metaphor compares wisdom to the symbol of vitality and fullness of life” (e-Sword 12.1). Living full lives resulting in energized vitality flow from biblical wisdom. Joseph S. Exell informs us in The Pulpit Commentary that “This expression obviously refers to ‘the tree of life’ (etshakayyim), which was placed in the midst of the garden of Eden, and conferred immortality on those who ate of its fruit. (Genesis 2:9; 3:22) So Wisdom becomes equally life giving to those who lay hold on her, who taste of her fruit. She communicates life in its manifold fulness and richness…to those who seize her firmly”  (Bible Analyzer Wisdom becomes a “tree of life” to us when we heed it, which results in happiness, prosperity, and godliness. Exell continues, “The Authorized Version [KJV] aptly renders the original. The necessity for ‘retaining’ as well as ‘laying hold’ of Wisdom is pointed out. The verb (tamak) is ‘to hold fast something taken.’ Such will be blessed who hold Wisdom tenaciously and perseveringly” (Ibid.). 

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary adds another vital detail: “‘Lay hold’ (machaziquim) – literally, lay hold with a tenacious grasp, not to be severed from her: from a Hebrew root ‘strong.’ Compare Proverbs 11:30; 13:12; 15:4, for similar references to ‘the tree of life.’ Wisdom brings life to her possessors, as the tree of life in Paradise would have done to our first parents, but that they forfeited it (Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24)” (e-Sword 12.1). Imagine how different life would be in our world if our original parents had obeyed God in that original test. The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series continues this admonition: “Our verse points out the importance both of laying hold upon (obtaining) wisdom and then of retaining it. Unfortunately, many never obtain it, and sadly some who have had it have not retained it later. So, we should work to possess it, and we should be careful not to let it get away from us” (Ibid.).

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible connects biblical wisdom to true religion: “The blessings which wisdom – true religion – gives to men, preserve them in life, comfort them through life, cause them to triumph in death, and ensure them a glorious immortality” (e-Sword 12.1). Isn’t this what all of us want? God has not hidden this truth from us. The Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, Vol 3 takes us back to the beginning: “Because our first parents rejected wisdom as a guide and followed Satan, none of us has been privileged to taste of the tree of life. Divine wisdom will lead us into a way of life that will have much the same result. It will give us a fuller and longer life in this world, and gain for us access to the tree of life itself in the world to come (Revelation 22:14).” (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1976, p. 957). However, there are necessary steps along the way: repentance and faith. Exell’s The Pulpit Commentary in its comment on Proverbs 3:18 adds this connection of the tree of life to the tree on which Jesus died to provide our atonement, redemption, and salvation (1 Peter 2:24) : “Old ecclesiastical writers saw in the expression a reference to Christ’s redeeming work. ‘The tree of life is the cross of Christ…’ (quoted by Delitzsch)” (Bible Analyzer Only through Christ, who is our Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30) shall we finally have access to the ultimate “tree of life” (Revelation 2:7). 

Ken Frank

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.

Digging Deeper: The Secret of God

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min

Did you know that Job, an ancient Old Testament character, believed he had lost the “secret of God” during his prolonged trial?

The Book of Job, perhaps the oldest book of our Old Testament, narrates his story. It introduces him as a righteous and devout man enjoying God’s blessing of prosperity and happiness upon his family. However, within a short time his possessions, children, health, and the respect from his wife and closest friends are taken from him. This story is certainly one of the saddest and most tragic accounts of a man who lost it all – except his life. He lamented his past prosperous life but one of the many things he longed to see restored most was “the secret of God.” To what did he refer?

Our home base verse for this study is Job 29:4 KJV “As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle [dwelling]…” The secret of God was one of several things Job lamented in his parable (Job 29:1) that he had lost and longed to have restored. He could not understand why a just and loving God would deprive him of the very blessings that signaled he was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1). This mysterious book is part of a set of Old Testament books called “wisdom literature” that ask difficult and complex questions of life. This book has elicited much discussion and printed commentary trying to understand the purpose of Job’s suffering. Nonetheless, this book is still a favorite in “The Bible as Literature” university classes for its exploration of human suffering.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible explains the special privilege of experiencing the secret of God: “The secret of the Lord is said to be with those that fear him, for he shows them that in his covenant which others see not”, Psa 25:14. God communicates his favor and grace to his people, and receives the return of their devotion in a way secret to the world (e-Sword 12.1). The phrase “the secret of God” appears in only two verses in the Book of Job, using the same Hebrew words for “secret” and “God.” These two verses are Job15:8 and Job29:4. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines the word for “secret” (sod) as “familiar converse with God, intimacy” and the word for “God”, which is eloah, is defined as “God” or “a false god” (Bible Analyzer Our focus for this Digging Deeper column will be on the word sod for “secret.”  

Job believed he had lost the intimate fellowship with the God that he had served faithfully for so long. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible describes the secret of God as a time when “…God conversed freely with him, as one bosom-friend with another. He knew God’s mind, and was not in the dark about it, as, of late, he had been” (e-Sword 12.1). Job thought he had a close association with the Almighty but now could not understand why He seemed to have abandoned him (Job 29:5). That special relationship had changed and Job did not know why.

In the Ancient Near East, councils of men as the leaders of communities would meet together to discuss important local issues. The Hebrew word sod has this fascinating background to Job’s thought. The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary offers this note for Job 15:8: “The Hebrew means properly the cushions on which a divan [committee] of councilors in the East usually sit. God’s servants are admitted to God’s secrets (Psa 25:14; Gen 18:17; Joh 15:15)” (e-Sword 12.1). Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible explains that the Hebrew word for “secret” can be either the cushions on which they sit or the council members (Ibid.). Job lamented that the secret of God was no longer upon his dwelling – that he was no longer in intimate association with his God who shared private conversations with those on His council. Job once knew God’s thinking due to this special relationship. At that time he was part of God’s inner circle, but no longer. Now amid his terrible suffering, Job could not understand God’s permitting it. He thought he did not deserve it. The good news about Job is that it appears that by the end of the story the secret of God has again come upon his dwelling.

Cross-references elucidate an application for the secret of God on how we may enjoy this special relationship.  Psa 25:14 KJV declares “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.” The word for secret is the same Hebrew word used in Job 29:4 referring to a divan or circle of friends deliberating together confidentially. Once again, this depicts the closeness, intimacy of friendship, and fellowship between God and His faithful people. God does not share His secrets with everyone but only with those who fear Him and keep His covenant. This body of chosen people is God’s special assembly: His nation anciently and today His church. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible comments on this verse: “Those that receive the truth in the love of it, and experience the power of it, best understand the mystery of it. They know the meaning of his providence, and what God is doing with them, better than others… They know by experience the blessings of the covenant and the pleasure of that fellowship which gracious souls have with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. This honour have all his saints” (e-Sword 12.1). 

A similar statement comes from Pro 3:32 KJV: “For the froward [perverse, self-willed] is abomination to the LORD : but his secret is with the righteous.” An Old Testament patriarch with whom God had such a close relationship was Abraham: Gen18:17-19 KJV  “And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;  (18)  Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?  (19)  For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” God shared His secret with Abraham concerning His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham was not only a friend of God but also a prophet of God (Gen 20:7). Notice what God says in Amos 3:7 KJV: “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” God shares secret counsel with those who have entered His special covenant and are His faithful servants.

This same idea is expressed by Jesus to His followers in our New Testament: Joh 15:15 KJV “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” What an honor it is to be called Jesus’ friends! Christians are the people with whom He shares His deepest thoughts and promises. He does not do so with everyone but only those with whom He is in covenant. Paul reflects on this special relationship in Col 3:3 KJV: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” As a result, Paul tells us to set our affection on things which are above (Col 3:1-2). If we do, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4). Eternally, we shall cherish the secret of God.

Ken Frank

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.

Digging Deeper: The Residue of Men

Author: Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min., 48 sec.

Did you know that it was God’s intention from the beginning to include non-Israelites, called Gentiles or the nations, in His plan of salvation?

Though God chose Israel to become a model nation, it always was His will that other peoples would be offered the same salvation. Israel was supposed to become a Godly example that other nations would wish to emulate (Deuteronomy 4:6-8). However, by the time of Jesus, many of the Jewish people (especially the ruling elites) had come to look down upon Gentiles, even referring to them as dogs. Jesus’ preaching to Gentiles during His ministry no doubt raised some eyebrows! This “Digging Deeper” highlights the ministry of the early church to not only preach to the Jew first but also to Gentiles. This is made plain by the ministries of Jesus, Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and others in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Acts 15 chronicles the first ministerial conference called to settle a question about whether Gentiles needed first to become Jews before they could become Christians. The hot button issue of the day was the matter of circumcision. For centuries, male converts to the Abrahamic faith needed to be circumcised to become full proselytes. Some former Pharisees in the early church insisted such Gentile converts needed bodily circumcision to enter the Christian faith. Nonetheless, chapter after chapter in the early part of Acts revealed that God gave His Holy Spirit to Gentiles without circumcision, illustrating that now it was circumcision of the heart and not of the flesh that was required (Romans 2:28-29).

After Peter, Barnabas, and Paul testified how God provided His spirit to the Gentiles apart from bodily circumcision, the resident pastor of the Jerusalem church, James, announced the church’s decision that it would not insist upon circumcision of Gentiles. For authority, he turned to the prophets of the Hebrew Bible as evidence that this was God’s will all along (Acts 15:15). Acts 15:17 KJV is especially pertinent: “That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible explains James’ pronouncement: “He confirms this with a quotation out of the Old Testament: he could not prove the calling of the Gentiles by a vision, as Peter could, nor by miracles wrought by his hand, as Paul and Barnabas could, but he would prove that it was foretold in the Old Testament, and therefore it must be fulfilled, Acts 15:15” (e-Sword 12.1).

Thayer’s Greek Definitions reports that the word “residue” is a translation of the Greek New Testament word kataloipos that appears only here and means that which is “left remaining” (e-Sword 12.1).  It refers to the faithful remnant of humankind who are not of Israelite descent. The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition declares that “residue” comes to English from the Latin neuter residuus and means, “That which remains after a part is taken, separated, removed or designated” (Ibid.). After God had separated Israel, the rest of humankind fit this definition. Thayer then reports that the word “men” in Acts 15:17 is a translation of the word anthropos which means “a human being, whether male or female” (Ibid.).

James only quoted one prophet concerning the welcoming of non-Israelites into the faith but there were several others. Notice that in Acts 15:15 he states, “And to this agree the words of the prophets…” The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges explains: “Only one prophet is here quoted, viz. Amos (Act_9:11-12), but the audience would recall other like passages, as St Paul does Romans 15:9-12, quoting from the books of Moses, David and Isaiah” (e-Sword 12.1). There were numerous Old Testament prophecies about Gentiles entering the faith. Matthew Henry notes that “…most of the Old Testament prophets spoke more or less of the calling in of the Gentiles, even Moses himself, Romans 10:19. It was the general expectation of the pious Jews that the Messiah should be a light to enlighten the Gentiles (Luke 2:32)…” (Ibid.). Here is a partial list of other Old Testament prophecies of Gentiles turning to God:  Isaiah 2:2; 9:2; 11:10; 25:6; 52:15; Jeremiah 4:2; 16:19; Daniel 7:14; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 8:23.

Starting in Acts 15:15, James rephrases Amos; however, the phrasing is quite different. The original passage from Amos 9:11-12 KJV reads,  “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:  (12)  That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.” Why James used this passage and modified a few words is critical to note. It was common in the New Testament era for God’s inspired leaders to quote the Old Testament verses freely to fit a new situation. This was done by God’s illumination to expand the application for a later generation. As Chief Editor, God is free to edit His own text.

These New Testament authors also may have been citing a different Hebrew text from the one that is the basis of our English Old Testament. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol 6 says that James “may have quoted from a form of the Hebrew text that was more closely related to the LXX [Septuagint Greek] than is the Masoretic [the text underlying our English Old Testament]. Discoveries at Qumran have shown that such texts existed for at least parts of the OT” (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980, p. 309). What supports this idea is the phrase “I will return” in Acts 15:16. This is “…a favorite Hebrew expression for,  ‘I will do such and such again’…This may be an indication that James quoted the OT in Hebrew'” (Ibid.).

Another possibility is that James is quoting from a Greek translation of the Hebrew text. The NET Bible explains, “James demonstrated a high degree of cultural sensitivity when he cited a version of the text (the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) that Gentiles would use” (e-Sword 12.1). Why would James quote a Greek version instead of Hebrew? A Popular Commentary on the New Testament edited by Philip Schaff explains, “The LXX. here, as not unfrequently, give a paraphrase rather than a literal translation of the original, and regard ‘Edom’ (a common Rabbinical idea) as a general representative of those who were strangers to the God of Israel. No doubt the LXX. version was quoted by James on account of the many foreign Jews present at the Council; these would be familiar with the Greek Scriptures, not with the original Hebrew” (Ibid.). Joseph S. Excell’s The Pulpit Commentary additionally explains why Edom represents all Gentiles: “Edom, as the nation most hostile to the Jews and furthest from David’s house, is put by a natural figure for the whole Gentile world” (Bible Analyzer

Bob Utley’s You Can Understand the Bible additionally adds another reason why James would choose a Greek translation: “James quotes the Septuagint because in this case it uniquely fits his purpose of expressing the universal nature of God’s promise of redemption” (e-Sword 12.1). In the first century, Greek was a universal language. Matthew Henry explains why God broadened His calling: “The Jews were for many ages so peculiarly favoured that the residue of men seemed neglected; but now God will have an eye to them, and his name shall be called upon by the Gentiles; his name shall be declared and published among them, and they shall be brought both to know his name and to call upon it: they shall call themselves the people of God, and he shall call them so; and thus, by consent of both parties, his name is called upon them” (Ibid.). This was God’s doing since it was His plan since the “beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).

The ministerial decision on circumcision officially settled the dispute between the Pharisaic element of the church and the new Gentile believers – the “residue of men.” Bob Utley’s You Can Understand the Bible enlarges: “These changes would be devastating to a ‘circumcision party’ of believers. Now the chief Apostle (Peter), the converted rabbi Apostle (Paul), and the leader of the Jerusalem church (James) all agree against them…” (e-Sword 12.1). One of the greatest church controversies was settled simply by referencing its own Holy Book. God’s word settled the matter, as it always must.

Ken Frank

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.

New Hymn Composition Project – Update

With our recent reliance on streaming technology, including our musical praise of God, it seems appropriate to revisit our recorded versions of our hymns, and consider updating the audio using the most recent recording technology. As part of this effort, Mr. Weston has approved including additional hymns that have been written by talented musicians in the Living Church of God. As we read in Psalm 98:1, it gives glory to God to “sing to the Lord a new song!” 

Thank-you to those who have contributed new compositions to our collection of songs to be considered for inclusion in our hymns! More than a dozen song-writers have participated so far.

For more information and to contribute a hymn, navigate to our Hymn Project webpage through the link below!