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Digging Deeper: Daily Benefits

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


Estimated Reading time: 6 min.

Did you know that God showers us with blessings daily?

The year 2020 has been a year unlike any other in the memory of many people and one that most wish to leave behind rapidly. As a new civil year begins, their hopes are for a better year to come. The world has focused on the coronavirus, economic downturn, natural disasters, ethnic conflict, wars, terrorism, political chaos, and many other horrors. Because of this many have been absorbed with life’s travails. For a change of pace, we will learn in this Digging Deeper that, despite all this, God supplies His people daily blessings. An old hymn admonishes us to “name them [blessings] one by one.” Let us remind ourselves of God’s many daily blessings that will help us concentrate on a broad perspective of the Christian life itself.

Our focus verse is: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Psalm 68:19 KJV). This verse challenges us to stop and take a big picture view of life to discover the many ways God is good to us because of His grace – whether it be “common grace” for all humankind (Matthew 5:45) or “particular grace” for His called ones (John 1:16). Yes, we certainly have many more challenges than we did a year ago. Nonetheless, it will benefit us to stop and consider this verse in light of the present alarming and dangerous experience.

Blessings or burdens?

There is a textual matter about this verse to consider first. Henry Morris in his article “Loaded with Blessing” for December 31, 2020 in the Days of Praise daily newsletter explains: “In our text verse, the words ‘with benefits’ have been supplied by the translators. Some might, therefore, conclude that the verse could mean that God is daily loading us with burdens instead of benefits. The context, however, assures us that the emphasis is really on His blessings. For that matter, even a burden can become a blessing if we take it as a gift from God for our spiritual benefit.” In many ways, God bears our burdens – many times without our even realizing it. Let us now consider our focus verse incrementally.

The annotation for our verse in Joseph S. Exell’s The Biblical Illustrator provides material for careful consideration:

“II. What God does for us: He ‘daily loadeth us with benefits.’

1. The nature of God’s gift. ‘Benefits,’ not deserts.

2. Their number. ‘Loadeth.’

3. The frequency of their communication. ‘Daily.’ And these benefits flow to us freely, unsolicited, unimplored, unsought. Seasonably, exactly as we need them. Critics state that it should be read ‘who bears our burdens, or supports us, every day.’ In the wilderness God bare Israel as a man doth bear his son (Deuteronomy 1:31). Or as an eagle bears her young on her wings (Deuteronomy 32:11). The promise is (Isaiah 46:4). We have our cares, and burdens, and anxieties, but God invites us to cast them upon Him (Psalm 55:22) (e-Sword 12.2).”

Don’t Forget His Daily Gifts

We may confidently roll our troubles into His strong arms. We need not bear them alone. Concurrently, our challenge is to not forget His daily benefits: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2 KJV). We live busy lives, thinking often of our current and coming experiences. Our danger is forgetting the many benefits He has already afforded us and those He is providing presently. For one thing, we should daily praise Him for His salvation. Notice this compelling verse: “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV).

Our focus verse instructs us to bless the LORD for these benefits. How do we bless God? We usually think of His blessing us. Exell’s The Biblical Illustrator again provides food for thought on how to accomplish this:

“III. What we should do in return. ‘Blessed be the Lord.’ To bless signifies to extol, exalt, or speak well of a person; and to bless the Lord is to speak good of His name.

1. We should bless the Lord sincerely. Hypocrisy is hateful to God.

2. We should bless the Lord affectionately. Our gratitude should be the effusion of love.

3. We should bless the Lord constantly. ‘I will bless the Lord at all times.’

4. We should bless the Lord practically. To say, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord,’ while we practically violate His laws, must be abominable in His sight. Let us ‘praise Him not only with our lips but by our lives,’ etc. (e-Sword 12.2).”

How could we ever repay the Almighty for these benefits? Notice: “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me” (Psalm 116:12 KJV)? We can never fully recompense our Father sufficiently for all He does for us. Without a doubt, He intervenes to spare us from accidents and other calamities without our realizing it. We may have suffered defeats, losses, disappointments, and injuries of all sorts this past year. Yet, if we were to count His benefits they would still outnumber these difficulties.

Remembering His Purpose

As we continue to face the global problems brought on by the coronavirus, here is a verse that directs us to never forget to thank the Great God for his daily benefits: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV). Even burdens we are enduring now have a purpose in God’s grand scheme of salvation. God’s people are especially assured of His continuing grace in this well-known verse: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 KJV). God allows even these serious problems to strengthen our faith in His overall superintendence of our salvation. Henry Morris provides a fitting conclusion to help us keep our perspective: “Each day we have the indwelling presence of His Spirit, the illuminating guidance of His Word, the daily provision of all real needs, and the assurance of His love. He has surely loaded us with benefits!” (Days of Praise, December 31, 2020).


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: Abraham the Teacher

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


Estimated Reading time: 7 min. 46 sec.

Did you know that the first mention of teaching children God’s ways is in the same chapter of Genesis in which God’s angels came down to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?

The cities of the plain (Genesis 19:29) had become so wicked that God was left with no choice but to execute judgment upon them. However, tucked in the middle of this story is likely the first direct reference to what we today call education – the instruction of students. This Digging Deeper dives into this topic to discover the surprising account behind God’s commendation of his prophet, Abraham (Genesis 20:7).

Our focus verse for this study is: “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” (Genesis 18:19 KJV). This verse occurs in the context of God’s decision to reveal to Abraham His intent to destroy these wicked cities (Genesis 18:17-21). The reason God decided to inform Abraham of His mission was that He knew Abraham would direct his children and household servants in God’s ways and not the ways of the world that lead to such evil. Much of the way cities and cultures develop depends on what their citizens are taught as children.

Teaching the two great commandments

Notice that the content of Abraham’s instruction for his family and servants is equivalent to the two great commandments, to love God supremely and one’s neighbors as oneself, that Jesus expounded in the Book of Matthew: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV).

Genesis 18:19 describes these two great commandments as “the way of the LORD” and “to do justice and judgment.” John Gill in his Exposition of the Bible defines justice and judgment: ” … to attend to all the laws, statutes, and judgments of God; to do that which is just and right between man and man; not as a justifying righteousness, by which Abraham himself was not justified before God; but to show their regard to the will of God, in gratitude for favours received from him, and to glorify him, as well as for the good of their fellow creatures” (e-Sword 12.2). Paul explains the value of a believer’s example: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8 KJV).

Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments explains God’s decision to reveal His plan to Abraham: “This is a bright part of Abraham’s character. He not only prayed with his family, but he taught them, as a man of knowledge; nay, he commanded them, as a man in authority, and was prophet and king, as well as priest, in his own house. And he not only took care of his children, but of his household: his servants were catechised [instructed] servants. Masters of families should instruct, and inspect the manners of all under their roof” (e-Sword 12.2). Abraham and his family were exceptions to the people living in this region. They needed to know why God would execute such violent retribution on the cities of the plain. This household was spared because they served the one true God.

Their survival was a means of evangelism in the righteous ways of the LORD, as described by the Cambridge Bible for Colleges and Schools: “The purpose for which God has known and sought out Abraham is here epitomized; (1) that, through the obedience of him and his folk, a true righteousness, according to ‘the way of the Lord,’ may be propagated; (2) that the Divine fulfilment of the promise may be carried out unhindered. Family life is the sphere of chosen service” (e-Sword 12.2). As a household, they were an example of God’s grace who set a sterling example of serving the one true God during an evil era.

The responsibility of parents

Henry Morris in his Defender’s Study Bible comments on Genesis 18:19: “This is the first specific reference in the Bible to the teaching of children, indicating that such instruction is the primary responsibility of the father and should take the form of commandments, centering first on the ways of the Lord, then on justice and judgment to fellow-men” (e-Sword 12.2). Home spiritual education begins with the father as head of the household as supported by his wife. In homes where the father is an unbeliever, the mother should provide this necessary instruction as discreetly as possible in such a difficult circumstance. We will see below an example of just such a mother and grandmother who did.

A supporting statement to Henry Morris’ comment comes from his “Days of Praise” article for December 29, 2020, entitled  True Education: “This is a very important verse comprising the first direct reference in the Bible to what we today would call education, and it is given in connection with God’s approving testimony concerning Abraham. Note that nothing is said concerning degrees or diplomas, the sciences or humanities, school buildings or textbooks.” It makes the case that God’s highest priority of fathers (and supporting mothers) is teaching children love for God and neighbor. This article continues: “Such instruction is the responsibility of the home—not of the government or some educational association. It is to be given in the context of God’s promises and plans (thus in the context of divine revelation) and is to be framed in terms of ‘commands.'”

Examples of Education

The Bible contains many references to teaching, instruction, and learning. One of the major themes of the Book of Proverbs is training those referred to as the simple (i.e., the inexperienced, immature, innocent, guileless, and harmless young people who have not yet developed biblical wisdom) (Proverbs 1:4 KJV). A companion New Testament command to fathers is: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 KJV). Of his protege, Timothy, Paul writes: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15 KJV). Timothy’s father was a Greek (Acts 16:1 KJV) and apparently an unbeliever. Nonetheless, Timothy had been instructed in God’s truth by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5 KJV). Paul continued to develop Timothy’s spiritual education by writing two epistles (1 and 2 Timothy) to him with instructions on how to organize and pastor first-century Churches of God.

During the time of Moses after the Exodus, God incorporated a command to parents to accept this responsibility seriously: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 KJV). Abraham and Timothy’s mother and grandmother understood and fulfilled this responsibility.

Teaching the next generation

Abraham knew his obligation to God about 600 years before the law was codified in the time of Moses. God’s expectation of parents has remained the same throughout human history. The lesson for us today is to examine our response to this duty if we are parents or even grandparents (Deuteronomy 4:9-10 KJV). This is one way God’s truth is propagated from generation to generation. Geness 18:19 is one of the first statements of the law of parental authority. Joshua, Moses’ protege, asserted his family’s loyalty to God this way: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15 KJV).


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: A Hanukkah Confrontation

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


Estimated Reading time: 8 min. 19 sec.

Did you know that Jesus was almost stoned (literally) on a Jewish holiday?

The Gospel of John makes the only reference to an added Jewish holiday from the second century BC. This was not one of God’s original festivals and Holy Days but an eight-day special national observance, somewhat comparable to many countries’ national holidays. In 2020, the Jewish people will observe Hanukkah between December 11-18. This Digging Deeper explores the significant backstory to this holiday and Jesus’ presence during its AD 30 observance in Jerusalem.

This article’s focus verses are: John 10:22-23 KJV  “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.  (23)  And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” Two or three months have transpired since Jesus observed the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in AD 30 (John 7). What happened on the Feast of the Dedication contributed to His crucifixion a few months later in the spring of AD 31. The rest of John 10 seems to have occurred during this national feast.

History of Hanukkah

To understand what happened in John 10, we need to explore some history of this observance. In the Intertestamental Period (the roughly 400 years between the Books of Malachi and Matthew), Jewish authors composed several books, known as the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, that were not considered inspired by God and thus were not included in the Old Testament canon. Two of these books were 1 and 2 Maccabees. These books do, however, provide historical background for this holiday.

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible summarizes from the Books of Maccabees the carnage in Jerusalem as the result of an invasion by a Seleucid king during the Greek period :

The temple and city were taken by Antiochus Epiphanes in the year 167 b.c. He killed 40,000 inhabitants, and sold 40,000 more as slaves. In addition to this, he sacrificed a sow on the altar of burnt-offerings, and a broth being made of this, he sprinkled it all over the temple. The city and temple were recovered three years afterward by Judas Maccabaeus, and the temple was purified with great pomp and solemnity.

(e-Sword 12.2)

Antiochus Epiphanes also erected an image of Zeus in the Temple. After the Jews conquered and cleansed the Temple, the altar was rededicated to the God of Israel with a special observance of 8 days.

Hanukkah Traditions

Today, this Feast of the Dedication is commonly called Hanukkah, but that is only one of several names:

  1. Feast of the dedication (Heb Hanukkah) – Hebrew name
  2. Feast of the renewing or the renovation – Greek name
  3. Feast of lights (lamps) – Josephus
  4. Feast of the Maccabees – Jewish name
  5. Feast of Illumination – Talmudic name

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary informs us how Hanukkah was originally observed: “This feast began on the 25th Chisleu (December) and lasted eight days but did not require attendance at Jerusalem. Assembled in the Temple or in the synagogues or the places where they resided, the Jews sang ‘Hallel,’ carrying palm and other branches; and there was a grand illumination of the Temple and private houses” (Kindle App). 

One may wonder what was the reason for celebrating it for 8 days. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary continues:

The origin of the illumination of the Temple is unknown, although tradition says that when the sacred ‘lampstands’ of the restored Temple were to be lighted only one flagon of oil, sealed with the signet of the high priest, was found to feed the lamps. This was pure oil, but only sufficient for one day—when by a miracle the oil increased, and the flagon remained filled for eight days, in memory of which the Temple and private houses were ordered to be illuminated for the same period. No public mourning or fast was allowed on account of calamity or bereavement.

(Kindle App)

National Observances

Several centuries earlier, another added national observance, called Purim, originated from a successful rebuff of a Persian attempt at genocide of the Jews, as chronicled in Esther 9. Some Jews believed that Numbers 10:10 authorized them to observe these national days besides those mandated by God when it refers to “any day of national thanksgiving.” The cleansing of the Temple in 164 BC was an occasion of special thanksgiving and celebration. However, it was one of other altar dedications in the Holy Scripture:

  1. That of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 5:3);
  2. the dedication of the Temple in the days of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:3-19); and
  3. the dedication of the Temple after the Captivity (Ezra 6:16).

In John 7, Jesus observed the Feast of Tabernacles during which the Temple ceremony included special water and light processions. A few months later, He was again in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication, also called the Feast of Lights. Our readers may have already noticed that both of these feasts included special light ceremonies. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary explains: “The similarity between this festival and the ‘feast of Booths’ [Tabernacles] would seem to indicate some intended connection between the two. Without doubt, our Lord attended this festival at Jerusalem (John 10:22). It is still observed by the Jews” (Kindle App). John chapters 8-10 occurred between these two festivals. Notice this significant assertion from Jesus: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5 KJV). He may have deliberately referenced these special light ceremonies as typical of His mission.

Jesus may have alluded to Hanukkah in other ways in John 10. Notice John 10:36: “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” The word sanctified means “set apart, consecrated or dedicated to God.” He was dedicated to God, just as was the Temple altar in the days of the Maccabees. Additionally, notice: John 10:30-31 KJV ” I and my Father are one.  (31)  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” Clearly, the Jewish rulers understood Jesus had asserted His divinity so they accused Him of blasphemy (John 10:33). This was not the first time they tried to stone Him between Tabernacles and Dedication: “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59 KJV). Stoning to death was the Jewish form of capital punishment. However, in the first century, the Jews had to gain approval from Roman authorities before executing anyone. It may also be significant that the Temple altar that had been defiled but later cleansed by the Maccabeans was composed of stones.

There may be yet another reference to Hanukkah in this account in John. We have already seen that Jesus claimed divinity. The one who defiled the Temple altar was the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes who ruled from 175-164 BC. A Commentary on the Bible by Arthur S. Peake describes him as: ” … an arbitrary and eccentric king, half magnificent and half buffoon. His very name (the god manifest) speaks of Greek religion debased by Eastern king-worship, and there was a further departure from the old Greek ways of thinking when he used persecution to ‘reform this most repulsive people,’ as Tacitus calls the Jews” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22). If Jesus was making a connection to Antiochus Epiphanes’ claim, He drew a sharp contrast since this king was merely a man.

Not the appointed time

John 10:22 does not directly inform us that Jesus observed this national holiday, though this is implied. Nonetheless, Christians have drawn from this verse an example of His approval of observing national holidays. What is certain is that Jesus took advantage of the occasion to advance His kingdom message by referring to His divine identity and association with the Father. He had already begun to predict his coming death as a sacrifice for sins. Things He said and did on that Hanukkah contributed to the vitriol of the Jewish rulers that would culminate in His death the following spring. However, He would not remain dead. Speaking of His coming resurrection, He referenced the Temple when He  ” … said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 KJV). He spoke of the temple of His body that would be resurrected after three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). However, the Jews would later accuse Him of threatening the Temple (Mark 14:58).

The Jewish rulers were no match for Jesus during this Hanukkah confrontation. He informed them they were not of His sheep (John 10:26-29) and He escaped from their attempt to kill him by fleeing to Perea to continue His ministry before His coming sacrificial death on Passover, AD 31 (John 10:38-42). Hanukkah was not the assigned time for His death – Passover was, as stated in 1 Corinthians 5:7 KJV: ” … For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”


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: Lessons from the Rechabites

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


Estimated Reading Time: 6 min.

Did you know that during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem God instructed Jeremiah to unknowingly direct a neighboring nomadic tribe to disobey an ancestor’s command?

Jeremiah would learn that they had been faithful to that command for about two and a half centuries. God contrasted the obedience of these non-Israelites to the disobedience of the Jews to His commands, which eventually led to this invasion and captivity. These nomads were Rechabites, a branch of the Kenites related to Moses’ father-in-law. This Digging Deeper analyzes Jeremiah 35 illustrating lessons for Christians today.

Before we delve into this chapter, we should consider earlier historical events as backstories. In about 841 BC, King Jehu of Judah vigorously opposed Baalism in the days of wicked King Ahab of Israel because of his “zeal for the LORD” (2 Kings 10:15-16). One of his allies was a man named Jonadab (also called Jehonadab) who was from this Kenite tribe. Smith’s Bible Dictionary reports that Jonadab’s ancestor was Rechab whose house: “…is identified with a section of the Kenites, a Midianitish tribe who came into Canaan with the Israelites, and retained their nomadic habits” (e-Sword 12.2).

Who were the Rechabites?

The Rechabites were only distantly related to the twelve tribes of Israel. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains: “A part of the Kenite tribe joined the Israelites during the wilderness wanderings (Numbers 10:29-32; Judges 1:16; 4:17), becoming identified with the tribe of Judah … Rechab was the ancestor or founder of a family, or order, in Israel known as the Rechabites, who at various times were conspicuous in the religious life of the nation” (e-Sword 12.2).

Wine-drinking was excessive in the Ancient Near East for Canaanite worship and its association with Baalism. During the reign of King Jehu of Judah (841-814 BC), the Rechabites joined him in a vigorous assault on Baalism (2 Kings 10:15-23). Jonadab made a family rule that they would drink no wine, like the Nazarites (Numbers 6:1-21), and that they would not build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyards but dwell in tents as nomads (Jerermiah 35:6-9). Fausset’s Bible Dictionary explains this requirement: “The ascetic rule against wine, houses, sowing, and planting (Jeremiah 35), was a safeguard against the corrupting license of the Phoenician cities and their idolatries (Amos 2:7-8; 6:3-6)” (e-Sword 12.2). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia adds further: “They followed this simple life in order to guard against the enervating tendencies of sensualism, and as a covenant of fidelity to Yahweh, to whom they wholly devoted themselves when they joined themselves to Israel” (Ibid.).

A Faithful Example

The Babylonian captivity of the House of Judah came in three waves, finalizing in 587/6 BC when the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple and carried away thousands of Jews as captives back to the Babylonian empire. Before Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of the cities of Judah, these Rechabites fled to Jerusalem. Jeremiah was commanded by God to set before them pots full of wine with cups in the Temple and then instruct them to drink (Jeremiah 35:1-5). They refused, not out of disrespect for Jeremiah or the Almighty, but in obedience to their ancestor’s by-gone command. For about two and a half centuries these people had obeyed their ancestor, Rechab, and would not dishonor him even at the request of Jeremiah.

God’s word emphasizes that their faithfulness to Jonadab’s decree contrasted to the utter faithlessness of the Jews to His commands (Jerermiah 35:12-17). Because the Jews refused to heed His many prophets, who called them to repent through several centuries, God punished them with captivity as had been prophesied. These Rechabites were more faithful to an ancestor’s command than the Jews were to God’s greater commandments.

The description of these ancient people who were faithful to an ancestor’s command from about two and a half centuries before is included in Holy Scripture to instruct Christians. Notice what the apostle Paul writes: “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11 KJV). Paul’s point is that when we read the Old Testament, Christians are obligated to draw from it lessons for righteous living today. This story provides lessons by comparing the lesser to the greater. Joseph S. Exell’s The Biblical Illustrator contrasts the obedience of the Rechabites with Christians, who disobey Christ, with this admonition:

III. Wherein it shames Christian disobedience.

1. These Rechabites are obedient to their father Jonadab, a mere man who had been dead nearly three hundred years, while Judah is in open and flagrant disobedience to the Most High God.

2. Jonadab commanded but once, and he had instant and constant heed, generation upon generation, for centuries. “But I,” saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel—“I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking. I have also sent unto you,” &c.

3. Obedience to Jonadab was at a cost, and it brought at the best only power to endure and the spirit of independence. It left the Rechabites poor and homeless. Obedience to God was also at a cost, but it gave His people assured possessions, peace of conscience, protection from their enemies, and all the exceeding riches of an eternal inheritance in God’s kingdom of grace and glory. Yet the Rechabites obeyed Jonadab with a beautiful constancy, while Judah hearkened not to the voice of the Lord. (e-Sword 12.2)

Old Lessons Made New

Again from The Biblical Illustrator, here are some positive things we should learn:

I. Wherein it resembles Christian obedience.

1. It was total. They did not consult their preferences or their “affinities.” They did not proceed upon any law of “natural selection.” They did not show punctilious fidelity with reference to one commandment, and great laxity concerning another. This is one essential characteristic of Christian obedience. It is total. If we can make choice of such commands as we feel like obeying and disregard the rest, what are we but masters instead of subjects, dictating terms instead of receiving orders?

2. It was constant. It kept an unbroken path. It bore the stress of storms and tests. And herein it was marked by another essential characteristic of Christian obedience—a beautiful constancy. Enlistment in the Lord’s army is for life, and there is no discharge in that war. (Ibid.)

This little-known aside in the Book of Jeremiah teaches Christians that, by contrast to the price the Rechabites paid for their rigorous faithfulness to Jonadab’s command, we have been mightily blessed by the God of the universe who gave His only begotten Son that we might live forever. Christian “Rechabites” who are committed to His commands will make old lessons new again.


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 Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

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


Estimated Reading Time: 7 min. 27 sec.

Did you know that the Bible refers to thanksgiving as a sacrifice?

This week, Americans will once again observe their national Thanksgiving Day. Canadians observed a similar day in October. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are restricting the size of their gatherings. Nonetheless, despite the hardships we have faced this year, we all have much for which to thank God. Non-believers may discuss during the meal what they are thankful for. By contrast, not only should Christians itemize things for which we are grateful, but more importantly, they need to thank the One who has provided such blessings. This Digging Deeper explores one biblical aspect of this timely topic for the holiday.

Our highlight verse is: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD” (Psalm 116:17 KJV). Here the psalmist resolves future worship of God. Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible notes that this verse is one of:

Seven Vows Of David In Psalm 116

1. I will love the Lord (Psalm 116:1).

2. I will call upon Him as long as I live (Psalm 116:2).

3. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 116:9).

4. I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:13).

5. I will pay my vows to the Lord in public (Psalm 116:14; 116:18).

6. I will offer to the Lord the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 116:17).

7. I will call upon the name of the Lord. (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22)

Parallel verses to Psalm 116:17 are:

“And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22 KJV);

“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD” (John 2:9 KJV).

Others verses describe the associated sacrifice of praise during God’s promised restoration of His nation and amplified by the New Testament:

“Thus saith the LORD; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast,  (11)  The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD” Jeremiah 33:10-11 KJV; 

“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.  (16)  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” Hebrews 13:15-16 KJV. 

These verses declare thanksgiving and praise as sacrifices. However, animal sacrifices are not always intended in these descriptions. First, let us discover its historical background and then search for principles we can apply as Christians. Concerning ceremonial sacrifices offered at the Tabernacle and Temple, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges in its note on Leviticus 7:11-12 explains that thanksgiving offerings were one of three kinds of peace offerings: “For thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:12), to commemorate deliverance from sickness or danger. In Psalms 107, after mentioning perils out of which the Lord delivers man, the Psalmist says ‘let them offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving’ (Leviticus 7:22)” (e-Sword 12.2).

Sacrifices don’t have to be physical

Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible note on Psalm 116:17 explains how the term sacrifices is used in the Old Testament:

Sacrifices are often distinguished from burnt offerings, though burnt offerings were also sacrifices (Exodus 20:24; Leviticus 1:3-17). Sacrifices were not all burnt offerings; some were poured out and others eaten. Anything offered to God is a sacrifice: firstborn sons (Exodus 13:15); praise (Psalm 107:22; Psalm 116:17; Hebrews 13:15); a broken and contrite heart and spirit (Psalm 51:17); the offering of Christ on the cross (1 Corinthians 5:7); and many other kinds as well. (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22)

The sacrifice of thanksgiving was not always a physical offering on the altar. Some sources note that it was a public acknowledgment denoting worship or adoration of the Great God. The Pulpit Commentary, edited by H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, for Psalm 116:17 notes that the psalmist’s reference here is scarcely “…an actual sacrifice. Rather, simple thanksgiving, which, from a sincere heart, is the best sacrifice (see Psalm 50:14 and Hosea 14:2)” (e-Sword 12.2). It then offers this explanation: “Religion is not acts, but it can express itself in acts. Religion is heart-feeling. It is the devotion of a man’s self to God. Formal sacrifices are but the representation of the spiritual sacrifices for which God calls; and their value depends on the spiritual sacrifice being offered through them. ‘They that worship the Father must worship him in spirit and in truth'” (Ibid.).

“Worship Him in spirit…”

From this, we learn there are spiritual sacrifices. The Bible describes several spiritual sacrifices that Christians should offer, as itemized by R.A. Torrey’s New Topical Textbook:

  • Prayer (Psalm 141:2)
  • Thanksgiving (Psalm 27:6; 107:22; 116:17; Hebrews 13:15)
  • Devotedness (Romans 12:1; Philippians 2:17)
  • Benevolence (Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:16)
  • Righteousness (Psalm 4:5; 51:19)
  • A broken spirit (Psalm 51:17)
  • Martyrdom (Philippians 2:7; 2 Timothy 4:6) (e-Sword 12.2).

The Thompson Chain Reference Bible lists verses showing that God would rather have sincere praise and thanks from obedient lives than thousands of animal sacrifices: “1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6; 51:16, 17; Isaiah 1:11; Hosea 6:6; Matthews 9:13;12:7; Hebrews 9:9” (e-Sword 12.2).

Hymns of Thanksgiving

Believers do publicly praise God on Thanksgiving Day when someone leads in prayer as a family gathers around the table before they begin to eat. Our American tradition has biblical roots to the ancient Israelites. Some feasters add Bible reading before the prayer. There are numerous thanksgiving psalms in our Bible, including several in Psalms 107-150, considered Book 5 of the 5 books of the Psalms. Bob Utley’s You Can Understand the Bible offers this set of “…hymns of thanksgiving, 9-10; 11; 16; 30; 32; 34; 92; 116; 138…” (e-Sword 12.2). Some people read one of these psalms before their Thanksgiving prayer. Psalm 100 is one this writer has customarily read for several years.

The Bridgeway Bible Dictionary in its article on Thanksgiving explains the occasions when God’s people should give thanks to our Great God:

The lives of God’s people are to be characterized by the offering of thanksgiving to God always, for everything, and in all circumstances (Eph 5:19-20; Phi 4:6; 1Th 5:18). They are to give thanks for blessings, spiritual and physical (Col 1:12; 1Ti 4:3-4), in their own lives and in the lives of others (Act 28:15; 2Th 1:3; 2:13). Thanksgiving is part of praise, prayer and worship (Psa 95:1-7; 116:17; Col 4:2; Rev 7:12; 11:17). (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22) 

Through this brief study, we have learned that there are several ways to offer sacrifice to God. No longer do Christians travel to the Tabernacle or Temple to offer physical thanksgiving or praise sacrifices to God. However, the Scriptures provided in this study declare there are spiritual sacrifices even more important to God. God desires such thanksgiving and praise. The King James Bible Commentary provides a fitting summation of the lesson from Psalm 116:17: “This is not an actual sacrifice, but rather a heart filled with grateful praise to which is given voice” (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005, p. 642).

Despite the difficult year the world has endured, Christians have much for which to be thankful. Count Your Blessings has been a popular hymn over the decades. It encourages us to “name them one by one.” If we begin to do so, we would soon realize how large a list of blessings we can thank God for this Thanksgiving Day. Let us offer Him the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” that is well-pleasing.


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: Jeremiah’s Rescuer

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


Estimated Reading Time: 7 min.

Did you know that the prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a dungeon but was rescued by an Ethiopian eunuch?

Because Jeremiah faithfully prophesied the Babylonian captivity of the House of Judah and Jerusalem in 587/586 BC and urged surrender to the enemy forces, he was declared a traitor by his countrymen and punished.  In my daily Bible reading not long ago I revisited this story, sparking an idea for this Digging Deeper. Regular readers of this column may remember my article, “A Lesson from the Ethiopian Eunuch,” from the Book of Acts. Today’s Old Testament story will add the second of these two Ethiopian eunuchs who displayed more spiritual sense and faithfulness than most Jews of their time.

“…Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God”

The scriptural references for this story are Jeremiah 38:7-13 and Jeremiah 39:16-18. As I checked a cross-reference from the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, I was drawn to a particular prophecy from the Book of Psalms: “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God (Psalm 68:31 KJV)”. These two stories portray the active response by Ethiopian Gentiles to the God of Israel. These Africans recognized the superiority of Israel’s God and wanted to loyally serve Him. The Old Testament makes plain that God intended His salvation message to reach non-Israelite peoples. These two Ethiopians, separated by several centuries, displayed courageous responsiveness that many of God’s elect nation did not.

Servant of the King

During the Babylonian siege of the House of Judah, the Jewish king, Zedekiah, acquiesced to some of his princes who requested that Jeremiah be cast into a dungeon (probably a cistern) for his pointed preaching (Jeremiah 38:1-6). The ESV Study Bible comments that “Cisterns were dug out of rock, had a small opening, and spread out at the bottom. Escape from such a place was virtually impossible, so perhaps only notorious prisoners were put there…(Tecarta Bible App)”. Because of the prolonged siege, the cistern may have had only mire (mud) and not water. Being left there with no food would induce Jeremiah’s slow, filthy death. Recognizing the threat to the prophet’s life, an Ethiopian eunuch came to the rescue (Jeremiah 38:7-9). This man’s name was Ebed-melech, which means “servant of the king.” The Expository Notes of Dr. [Thomas L.] Constable defines his origin: “He happened to be an Ethiopian or Cushite (from modern-day southern Egypt, northeastern Sudan, Eritrea, and northern Ethiopia) (e-Sword 12.2)”.

Ebed-melech is described as a eunuch. Most likely, this meant that he was an emasculated man who was placed in charge of the king’s harem, ensuring that he would not stealthily beget the heir to the throne. This extreme measure preserved royal bloodlines. The word later evolved in common usage to refer to a high court official (chamberlain), whether or not the man had been physically altered. Even into fairly modern times, this practice of castration of servants was common in royal courts. Notice this comment from The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary: “The eunuchs over harems in the present day are mostly from Nubia or Abyssinia (e-Sword 12.2)”.  Physically mutilated men were forbidden from entering into the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:1). As a result, Ebed-melech served the king as his slave with a courtly position but was not a full Jewish convert. This office gave him frequent access to the king himself, enabling him to appeal to King Zedekiah for Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38:8-9).

Who was Ebed-Melech?

The Pulpit Commentary, edited by H. D. M. Spence, D.D. and Joseph S. Exell, M.A. characterizes this man who came to Jeremiah’s rescue as

“(1) An alien. A negro, and not a Jew, and one from his office disqualified from participating in the benefits of the covenant. It is the more remarkable that none of Jeremiah’s countrymen interposed.

(2) A servant of a vicious king. The establishments of such princes are usually stamped with the same character, and their members are but the creatures of their masters. There is something doubly unlooked for, therefore, in such an advocate and friend. It is like a salutation from one of “Caesar’s household.” [in the time of Paul in Rome]

(3) It is also probable that he was one called out by the occasion. No mention of him is made either before or after.” (e-Sword 12.2)

As a castrated male, Ebed-melech had no hope of becoming a Jewish proselyte to the Israelite faith. However, Ebed-melech had more spiritual sense than most native Jews during this tragic period. He recognized the injustice shown to one of God’s faithful prophets and was moved with compassion for Jeremiah. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, edited by Joseph S. Excell, explains that this Ethiopian eunuch was:

“1. Deeply affected by the miseries of God’s servant (Jeremiah 38:7). To hear of what was done troubled him. He had ‘a heart at leisure for itself to soothe and sympathise.’

2. Impelled by pity to attempt his help (Jeremiah 38:8). Not passive sympathy only; he set himself to aid his deliverance. ‘A little help is worth a deal of pity.’

3. Saw the wickedness of the cruelty shown to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:9). The inhumanity was shocking to his kind nature; but the sin of it was equally evident, for abuse of God’s messenger was defiance of God!

4. Dealt very tenderly with him in rescuing him (Jeremiah 38:12). His gentleness is touching. He realised how sick and weak the prophet must be through the horrors of his imprisonment, and from being deprived of food. A tender heart makes the hand gentle.” (e-Sword 12.2)

An Unexpected Friend

Robert Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary explains the significance of this act: “See how the Lord raiseth instruments, from the most unexpected quarters, for the deliverance of his people. Here was a stranger, and a Gentile, prompted to fly to the rescue of one of the Lord’s prophets, when all the people of the land were consenting to his death (e-Sword 12.2)”. This story portrays how impious and uncivil were most of the national and religious leaders of the House of Judah before its captivity to Babylon. Fausset’s Bible Dictionary draws out a lesson for us: “Often God raises friends to His people from quarters from whence least they could expect it. Ebedmelech’s courageous interference in Jeremiah’s behalf, at a time when he might naturally fear the wrath of the princes to which even the king had to yield (Jeremiah 38:4-13; 39:16-18), brought deliverance not only to the prophet, but ultimately to himself as his reward from God (e-Sword 12.1).” Jeremiah was rescued from the dungeon because of the efforts of this merciful and brave Gentile (Jeremiah 38:10-13). For his faithfulness to Jeremiah, God protected Ebed-melech when the city of Jerusalem finally fell to the Babylonians, during which time thousands of Jews perished (Jeremiah 39:16-18). Ebed-melech had put his trust in the God of Israel (Jeremiah 39:18).

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Entire Bible summarizes the character of this faithful African: “Christ found more faith among Gentiles than among Jews. Ebed-melech lived in a wicked court and in a very corrupt degenerate age, and yet had a great sense both of equity and piety. God has his remnant in all places, among all sorts. There were saints even in Caesar’s household (e-Sword 12.2)”. Israelite genetics do not matter to God as much as responsive, faithful, and obedient hearts of those who desire to serve him. These two Ethiopians longed to serve the God of Israel as best they could. They were not granted all the privileges of God’s nation but they possessed the kind of responsive faith that God treasures. What a touching lesson may be drawn from this little-known story for believers of all nationalities today!


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 Bond of Peace

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


Estimated Reading Time: 6 min.

Did you know Christ realized that, even though He commanded the Church of God to be peacemakers, this ideal would be difficult to fully achieve since it had the potential to break down into bitter disputes?

If anyone knows the nature of human beings it is Christ, who is our Creator (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16). Even though He granted believers the powerful Holy Spirit of love and unity, He realized that fully meeting that standard would be difficult to attain at times. Nonetheless, He commands His followers to strive continually for the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). This Digging Deeper will explore this vital topic to remind Christians of one of our ultimate goals in the universal body of Christ, especially while we live at a time of global disunity, partisanship, and chaos.

Our primary text for consideration reads: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3 KJV). The cohesion that should hold together Christians as they unitedly preach the gospel is called a “bond.” The phrase “the bond of peace” can be understood in a couple of ways. Ethelbert Bullinger presents what he considers the most likely position in his Figures of Speech Used in the Bible: this phrase is a figure of speech called a genitive of apposition: “‘The bond of peace’: i.e., the bond, which is peace.'” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22). In other words, the bond consists of peace. A Popular Commentary on the New Testament edited by Philip Schaff elaborates further: “’ Peace’ is the result of peace with God, and, binding Christians together, it is ‘a condition and symbol of that inner unity wrought by the indwelling Spirit of God’ (Alford). Hence an outward unity, which does not bind Christians in peace, can scarcely be ‘the unity of the Spirit'” (e-Sword 12.1). This unity results from Christ, who is our peace, bringing together Jews and Gentiles into one united body (Ephesians 2:13-14). Peaceable relations between believers continue to hold them together.

Bonds and Ligaments

The Websters Unabridged Dictionary, 1913 defines a bond as: “1. That which binds, ties, fastens, or confines, or by which anything is fastened or bound, as a cord, chain, etc.; a band; a ligament; a shackle or a manacle” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22). Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines the Greek word (sundesmos) translated “bond” much the same way (e-Sword 12.1). Significantly, bond is compared to the ligaments that hold together parts of the human body. Christ likens his church to His body in the Book of Ephesians.

Peace of Believers

A couple of ways the English word peace is defined by Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is:

1. In a general sense, a state of quiet or tranquillity; freedom from disturbance or agitation; applicable to society, to individuals, or to the temper of the mind…

5. Freedom from agitation or disturbance by the passions, as from fear, terror, anger, anxiety or the like; quietness of mind; tranquillity; calmness; quiet of conscience (e-Sword 12.1). Once again, the English translation agrees closely with the meaning of the Greek word (eirene) here (e-Sword 12.1).

Martin Manser in his Dictionary of Bible Themes defines peace as: “The state of harmony that is available to believers through having a right relationship with God and others and is especially associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22). He next explains peace experienced among believers: “Peace is the birthright of every believer in all circumstances. It is found only in God and is maintained through having a close relationship with him” (Ibid.). Finally, he defines what destroys peace among humans: “Because of human sinfulness, God’s provision of peace is always under threat. Scripture shows that this breaking of peace has implications for the whole of creation” (Ibid.). The bond of peace is an on-going project, not only among humans in general but among believers in their congregations as well. Christians must ever be on guard for that which they might do or say that assaults this bond of peace.

Maintaining the Bond

The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol 6 comments that in Ephesians 4:1-2 Paul enumerated the virtues to be exercised to maintain the bond of peace: to walk worthy of our vocation with all lowliness, meekness, longsuffering and forbearing one another in love. Following his admonition to keep the unity in the bond of peace, he lists seven particulars of which this unity is comprised (Ephesians 4:4-6):

  1. one body
  2. one spirit
  3. one hope of our calling
  4. one Lord
  5. one faith
  6. one baptism
  7. one God and Father of all (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980, p. 1021).

Peace is an aspect of God’s nature. He is referred to in Scripture as “the God of peace” (Romans 15:33;16:20; 2 Corinthians13:11; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20). Christians who serve the God of peace and the Lord Jesus Christ must actively preserve this precious bond among themselves. The Devil delights in and promotes strife and contention among God’s people. He is the great divider, not an uniter (except in rebellion against God).

Other notable Bible verses relating to the bond of peace include:

  • Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it (Psalm 34:14 KJV).
  • Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9 KJV).
  • If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18 KJV).
  • For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV).

The Expository Notes of Dr. [Thomas L.] Constable provides us a fitting citation to conclude our short study on this essential Christian virtue: “Christians must preserve the unity between believers that God has created in the church. Paul viewed peace as what keeps potential factions together. He had in mind peace between all kinds of diverse groups in the church, the most basic being Jews and Gentiles” (e-Sword 12.1). Christians’ goal is to live up to the peace that Christ has already afforded them. They must recognize that He has offered this same peace to every true believer through activating God’s spirit within them. Remembering this responsibility tempers our tempers and promotes patience, understanding, forgiveness, and love as we endeavor  “… to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3 KJV).


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: Ye Are My Witnesses

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


Est. reading time: 7 min. 48 sec.

Did you know that God appointed the nation of Israel to be His witnesses to all other nations?

Of all the nations around the globe, God chose a slave people in Egypt, set them free by a series of miracles, guided them on a perilous journey through the Sinai wilderness, and delivered them to the Promised Land. They were a privileged but obligated people. With privilege comes responsibility. This Digging Deeper explores Israel’s God-appointed task to represent Him to the world. We will learn that even though they failed in that task, God did not abandon them and will yet employ them as His witnesses in the future. Additionally, there is a lesson for Christian witness today.

Our central passage for this study is: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God (Isaiah 43:10-12 KJV)”. Another companion verse is: “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any (Isaiah 44:8 KJV).”

Witnesses in the future

These verses are part of the second major section of the Book of Isaiah. Is it merely coincidence (or design?) that this book has 66 chapters, corresponding to the 66 books of our English Bible. Another parallel is that chapters 1-39 equal the number of Old Testament books (39) and chapters 40-66 equal the number of New Testament books (27). Even the themes of each section parallel those of the corresponding testament. The Book of Isaiah is heavily Messianic, especially in the second section. Our three primary verses referring to Israel as God’s witnesses all come from this second section. This informs us that God still has a plan for Israel to represent Him in the Millennium and beyond.

The scene portrayed in Isaiah 43 is a courtroom in which God challenges the nations to gather and present their gods to compete with the Almighty in prophesying the future (Isaiah 43:9). Verses 10-12 then notify Israel that they are to witness to the truth about the one true God: there is no other. Webster’s 1913 Unabridged Dictionary defines a witness in law as: “One who testifies in a cause, or gives evidence before a judicial tribunal; as, the witness in court agreed in all essential facts” (e-Sword 12.1). God chose Israel for this holy task to testify that there is one God, that He is supreme, that He is good, that He can be trusted, that He has our best interests at heart, and that someday we may join Him in eternity.

The Ideal Example

The Dake Annotated Reference Bible presents four reasons God chose Israel as His witnesses:

  1. That you may know Me (Isaiah 43:10).
  2. That you may believe Me.
  3. That you may understand that I am He.
  4. That you may witness that I am God (Isaiah 43:12). (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22)

Israel will need to know God intellectually and relationally to teach other nations about Him. Jeremiah informs people how to know God: “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart (Jeremiah 24:7 KJV).” This new heart requires faith and understanding to prepare witnesses to testify that the God described in Scripture is the only true God.

The Dake Annotated Reference Bible then describes eight things Israel was to bear witness to:

  1. That I am He (43:10; note b, 41:4).
  2. That before Me there was no God formed.
  3. That after Me there will be no God formed.
  4. That I am Jehovah (Isaiah 43:11).
  5. That beside Me there is no Savior.
  6. That I have declared former things which have already come to pass (Isaiah 43:12; 41:21-24; 41:26; 42:8-9; 43:9).
  7. That I have saved you (Isaiah 43:12).
  8. That I have showed you things when no strange god among you could reveal them to you. (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22)

Only when Israel is cured of its idolatry is it capable of witnessing to polytheistic nations that the many gods they serve are vain, fiendish, and non-existent in reality. In the world to come, all nations will serve only one God. Pagan worship will not be tolerated and all icons will be removed and destroyed. God will not share His worship with other deities. There is no other Savior.

A Witness for Repentance

Solomon’s dedicatory speech for the magnificent Temple declared that one reason for its existence (among others) was to attract the Gentile nations to repent of their idolatry and serve the Creator. Notice what he said: “Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name’s sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house; Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name (2 Chronicles 6:32-33 KJV).”

During Israel’s heyday, no doubt many Gentiles did take advantage of this golden opportunity to convert. For example, the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon to learn more about Israel’s faith. Regrettably, it was not long afterward that Solomon compromised with idolatry by accepting the gods of his foreign wives into his kingdom. This leaven eventually so corrupted the nation Israel that God was left with no choice but to punish His people because they rejected the prophets He sent for hundreds of years to call the nation to repent.

Witnesses Today

Ancient Israel failed in its responsibility to represent the Almighty (Amos 3:9-11; Jeremiah 2:9-13; 18:13). However, in the Millennium when it is cured of idolatry, it will finally fulfill its assigned duty. In the meantime, God’s church today has the same mission: to witness to the one true God and Savior. Numerous verses in our New Testament describe how the early church did just that: Luke 1:2; 24:48; Acts 1:22; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:16. For example, notice what Paul wrote: “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 KJV).

Joseph S. Excell in his The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary enumerates qualities required of Christians to witness to God today: “1. Knowledge. 2. Veracity. 3. Consistency. 4. Patience. 5. Boldness, firmness. (H. E. I. 3922–3976) (e-Sword 12.1).” Christians need to study Holy Scripture to understand the true God since He has revealed His mind through it. They need to be reliable witnesses who affirm that what the Bible says is correct. They need to live consistently holy lives that effectively declare the truth. Patience and endurance are required to present this consistent message over and over if need be. In a world of opposition, they will require boldness and firmness. Strong convictions will fortify Christians that despite the opposition they will continue to represent a Holy God. The New Testament records how God’s early church did just that against all odds.

The lesson for Christians today is that the world is watching us, examining whether we live consistently holy lives that represent our only Savior, creating an attractive alternative to the hopelessness and futility of the gods of other world religions. In this time of world history with increasing danger and chaos, people need truth and hope. God calls upon His church to present this saving message to unbelievers by challenging us with this mission: “Ye are my witnesses.”  


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: Open Thy Mouth Wide

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


Estimated reading time: 7 min. 19 sec.

Did you know that God offers to fulfill our needs abundantly if only we were so faith-filled as to ask for and expect them?

Sometimes Christians hesitate to ask for the big things, thinking it would be presumptuous or selfish to do so. Nonetheless, God challenges us to think big and pray big! He assures us He will supply our needs according to His will. This Digging Deeper focuses on a verse that has the potential to change our thinking about asking God for large blessings – and expecting to receive them!

Our focus verse in this article is: “I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10 KJV). This command is not as strange as it may sound. Joseph S. Exell and Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones in their The Pulpit Commentary cite an earlier source: “The figure in the text is explained in Thomson’s ‘Land and the Book.’ ‘It is said to have been a custom in Persia, that when the king wishes to do a visitor especial honour, he desires him to open his mouth wide, and the king then crams it full of sweetmeats, and sometimes even with jewels. And to this day it is a mark of politeness in Orientals to tear off the daintiest bits of meat for a guest, and either lay them before him, or put them in his mouth'” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22).

If they only had obeyed…

As the first part of this verse indicates, reference is made to Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. God laments that His nation had stopped listening to Him; consequently, He gave them up to their sinful desires. How different things would have been if only they had hearkened to and obeyed Him (vv. 11-13). He next explains how enriched their lives would have been if only they had been faithful. God would have defended them from enemies and provided them the choicest wheat and honey to satisfy their desires (vv. 14-16). 

What is notable about the opening of this psalm is that it makes reference to the Feast of Trumpets (v. 3) and probably the Feast of Tabernacles when it refers to “our solemn feast day,” according to The Ultimate Cross References Treasury (e-Sword 12.1). The NIV Study Bible describes this psalm as: “A festival song. It was probably composed for use at both the New Year festival (the first day of the [seventh] month, “New Moon”) and the beginning of Tabernacles (the 15th day of the month, full moon) … As memorials of God’s saving acts, Israel’s annual religious festivals called the nation to celebration, remembrance and recommitment (see Ps 95)” (Tecarta Bible App). These festivals reminded Israel of God’s Torah, i.e., His law (teaching, or instruction) that related to the steps in God’s plan of salvationThe Churches of God will soon be observing the Feast of Tabernacles so this psalm is relevant for our spiritual preparation for this joyous occasion. 

Like Baby Birds

Verse 10 includes a colorful metaphor, as explained by Joseph S. Exell in his The Biblical Illustrator: “The psalmist had probably often noticed how the young birds open their mouths wide for the food which they know the parent bird will give them, and for which, therefore, they wait with such eager expectancy. And he points to this familiar fact, and bids his countrymen in like manner expect blessing from God, for God will not disappoint them” (e-Sword 12.1). Notice that we are to expect God’s blessing! Exell goes on to explain that the condition for receiving from God is: “‘Open thy mouth wide’ … The picture is one of simple dependence and trust. Proud self-sufficiency shuts out the fulness of God. The first step to strength is to realize our own helplessness, simply to ‘open the mouth wide,’ that God may fill it” (Ibid.). These are the prerequisites for such in-filling. 

Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible adds his perspective: “The meaning here is, ‘I can amply supply all your needs. You need not go to other gods – the gods of other lands – as if there were any deficiency in my power or resources; as if I were not able to meet your necessities. All your needs I can meet. Ask what you need – what you will; come to me and make any request with reference to yourselves as individuals or as a nation – to this life or the life to come – and you will find in me all abundant supply for all your needs, and a willingness to bless you commensurate with my resources’” (e-Sword 12.1). Notice that Barnes makes the point that these requested blessings are not just for this life but even for our lives in the world to come. 

Barnes continues in his Notes on the Bible with an application for today: “What is here said of the Hebrews may be said of the people of God at all times. There is not a want of our nature – of our bodies or our souls; a want pertaining to this life or the life to come – to ourselves, to our families, to our friends, to the church, or to our country – which God is not able to meet; and there is not a real necessity in any of these respects which he is not willing to meet” (e-Sword 12.1). Here Barnes expands our requests to include those for loved ones, acquaintances, associates, fellow Christians, and our nation. The nations of the world truly need the prayers of God’s people!

If We Bodly Ask

We need not be shy in asking boldly with anticipation. Adam Clarke in his Commentary on the Bible exhorts: “Let thy desires be ever so extensive, I will gratify them if thou wilt be faithful to me. Thou shalt lack no manner of thing that is good” (e-Sword 12.1). Do we crave God’s truth? This verse shows that the more morally hungry we are the better fed we shall be. Joseph S. Exell’s The Bible Illustrator explains that such a request implies health: “The body without appetite for food is diseased; the intellect without appetite for truth is diseased; and the soul without appetite for righteousness is diseased” (Ibid.). If we do not crave God’s provision, we are unhealthy in some way. We must recognize our needs for God’s intervention and meet God’s requirement. Exell then presents the conditions for such filling: “Proud self-sufficiency shuts out the fulness of God. The first step to strength is to realize our own helplessness, simply to ‘open the mouth wide,’ that God may fill it” (Ibid.). 

In his The Pulpit Commentary Joseph S. Exell notes that some never open their mouths at all, others open their mouths but not wide. He then presents the conditions for being fed by God: “There must be:

1. A mouth to open; that is, power to believe. Now, we all have that, and use it every day about other things.

2. Need of God’s blessing. Unquestionably there is that.

3. Sense of this need. Consciousness of it, and distress because of it. Hunger after God’s blessing.

4. Will to believe. Trust is more a matter of the will than of the reason. ‘I will trust, and not be afraid.’ Refuse to doubt, resolve to believe” (Bible Analyzer 5.4.1.22). 

Expecting to be filled

During the autumn festivals, God’s people have the prospect of being very well fed by God through His ministers in sermonettes, sermons, and Bible studies. However, what we have read in this study explains the conditions for such in-filling. We must humbly recognize our need for God’s provision, ask Him in believing prayer for it, and expect that He shall fill it as He has promised, according to His will and timetable. We must open our mouths like baby birds expecting our parents to feed us. However, to be very well fed, we must open them wide!


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: Good and Pleasant Unity

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education


Estimated Reading Time: 8 min. 21 sec.

Did you know that unity among Christian brethren is described by God in the Book of Psalms as good and pleasant using two colorful similes?

We live at a time in western culture when individualism prevails over community spirit. Regrettably, this has created a yawning chasm difficult to breach when people insist that their way is the only way. This is a comparatively modern social separation. The Ancient Near East in which God developed the nation Israel was much more community-minded. How individuals chose to conduct themselves had consequences for their immediate families, clans, tribes, and nation. This Digging Deeper showcases a short Old Testament psalm about God’s instruction on unity among those who call each other brethren.

Our focus passage will be Psalm 133. The Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, Vol. 3 describes this psalm as “… a short but beautiful poem extolling the blessedness of brotherly unity. Such unity characterized the meetings of the Israelites at the great festivals of Jerusalem. Harmony and brotherly love prevailed on these occasions” (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977, p. 918). The Churches of God are rapidly approaching God’s sacred fall festival season. This descriptive hymn from Israel’s hymnbook provides some much-needed balm during this stressful time of world history that has strained relations – even among brethren. Let’s take a closer look at a favorite hymn of many to prepare ourselves to celebrate God’s Feasts in the right spirit.

A Hymn for a Special Occasion

Psalm 133 is part of a lengthy section of 15 psalms (120-134) known as the Songs of Degrees, or Ascents. Some commentators suggest that these were hymns sung by the Israelites on their way to celebrate the festivals at Jerusalem. They ascended in elevation through the Judean hills into the city of Jerusalem. Others suggest these 15 psalms in some way corresponded to 15 steps leading up to or into the Temple. The ESV Study Bible notes: “Some traditional Jewish interpreters have suggested that these were songs sung on the ‘steps’ (as the same word can mean, e.g., Exodus 20:26), either in parts of the temple or up from a spring in Jerusalem; others have taken them as geared toward returning to Jerusalem from exile (cf. Ezra 1:3)” (Tecarta Bible App).

The NKJ Study Bible adds further: “As pilgrim families made the arduous journey to the holy city for festive worship, they would use these psalms as encouragement along the way. It is also possible that once they arrived in Jerusalem, they would sing these songs anew as they drew near the temple, reenacting their journey and affirming God’s blessing on their path” (Tecarta Bible App). Whatever their origin, these 15 psalms were a special collection of hymns for such special occasions as God’s festivals. Unity was essential as Israelites from all their tribal allotments gathered in large numbers to worship in Jerusalem. These long and arduous journeys on foot or beast required cooperation and support – fruits of unity.

The theme for this article is verse 1: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  (Psalm 133:1 KJV). The superscription for this psalm announces that this psalm is “A Song of degrees of David.” It is one of four in this 15-psalm set ascribed to him. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible reports that “As God’s people fill Jerusalem to celebrate the great festivals, this reminds them that unity is good and pleasant. Their pilgrimage is not simply an individualistic act of piety but expresses solidarity with the larger body of God’s people” (Tecarta Bible App). Notice that this stresses solidarity with the larger congregation, not individualism. The NKJ Study Bible notes that “Good and …pleasant may be rephrased as ‘great delight’ or ‘good pleasure.’ There is a sense of serene wonder in these words describing the unity of God’s people” (Ibid.).

Like Oil on a Beard

Verse 2 of Psalm 133 describes this unity by reference to the simile of anointing oil as explained by the ESV Study Bible: “The first simile is the ordination oil on the head of Aaron and his descendants (cf. Exodus 30:22–33). This oil made the priests ‘holy,’ consecrated to God’s purpose. The image means that when Israel is true to its ideal, it is displaying genuine consecration and carrying out its calling in the world” (Tecarta Bible App). What the oil represented is explained by the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: “Anointing with oil was used to symbolize God’s authorization and empowerment of a king (see notes on 1 Samuel 2:10; 10:1) or other representative, such as a priest, for divine service … The ritual that set apart Aaron and his sons for priestly service involved pouring oil on their heads and garments (Exodus 29:1, 7, 21, 29; Leviticus 8:2, 12). This ‘sacred anointing oil’ (Exodus 30:25) consisted of a mixture of oil and four spices (myrrh, cinnamon, calamus and cassia [Exodus 30:23–24]) uniquely combined by the special skills of a perfumer (Exodus 31:1–3, 11; 37:29; 1 Samuel 8:13)” (Ibid.).

This anointing was not “a little dab will do you” as clarified by the NIV Study Bible: “The oil of Aaron’s anointing (Exodus 29:7; Lev 21:10) saturated all the hair of his beard and ran down on his priestly robe, signifying his total consecration to holy service. Similarly, communal harmony sanctifies God’s people” (Tecarta Bible App). God’s people are to be set apart from others through their unity and love. Additionally, the NKJ Study Bible notes: “This psalm pictures the oil in such large quantity that it flows from the head to the beard to the garment of Aaron, who represented the priests of God. When God’s people live together in unity, they experience God’s blessing” (Ibid.). This second verse teaches us that unity is expected by God and that it sanctifies and empowers His people for service.

Like Dew on a Mountain

The third verse, concluding Psalm 133, mentions a second simile: dew on Hermon. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible pinpoints this mountain: “One of the highest peaks in Israel’s northern mountain region, it was well watered by rain, snow and dew, making it cool and lush (Jeremiah 18:14). Vegetation in the dryer regions of southern Israel, where Jerusalem and Mount Zion were located, depended on dew and what little rain it received. Thus, for the temple mount (Mount Zion) to experience the dew of Mount Hermon pictures conditions of refreshment” (Tecarta Bible App). Mount Hermon’s dew was vital for productivity. The ESV Study Bible further explains:”…the dew is crucial for the vegetation during the dry season (Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy. 33:28; 2 Samuel 1:21; 1 Kings 17:1; Proverbs 3:20; 19:12; Hosea 14:5; Haggai 1:10; Zechariah 8:12), and the image conveys the thought of a fruitful land. This too was part of the covenantal ideal (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1–14)” (Ibid.). Unity is the model that adds refreshment and fruitfulness to brotherly harmony and love.

Concerning the second and third verses, the NIV Study Bible notes: “The two similes (vv. 2–3) are well chosen: God’s blessings flowed to Israel through the priestly ministrations at the sanctuary (Exodus 29:44–46; Leviticus 9:22–24; Numbers 6:24–26)—epitomizing God’s redemptive mercies—and through heaven’s dew that sustained life in the fields—epitomizing God’s providential mercies in the creation order” (Tecarta Bible App). God’s redemptive and providential mercies should be the causes of brethren uniting together in combined worship.

A Portrait of the Kingdom

One wonders if the ancient Israelites ever fully achieved such incomparable unity. The NKJ Study Bible answers: “The intent of God is for the good of His people in this life and in the life to come. The people of Israel rarely achieved the level of unity—or the level of blessing—that the poem describes. Ultimately, this is a portrait of the kingdom of God. One day there will be the spiritual unity of God’s people that this poem describes” (Tecarta Bible App). Though we may never fully achieve the unity so described by these verses, God’s people need to strive for such a goal more and more unto the perfect day.

To bring together the meaning of these three verses, the ESV Study Bible notes: “Since this is a Song of Ascents, the ‘brothers dwelling in unity’ would be the fellow Israelite pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem, abiding in peace with one another. The ideal Israel is a community of true brotherhood, where the members practice mutual concern for one another; if this were achieved, it would indeed be good and pleasant. This should be the goal of church life (John 17:20–23)” (Tecarta Bible App).

As we gather together during God’s festivals, unity is an essential ingredient as explained by the NIV Zondervan Study Bible: “Their pilgrimage is not simply an individualistic act of piety but expresses solidarity with the larger body of God’s people” (Tecarta Bible App). Unity among brethren is an anointing that consecrates our relationships, provides refreshment, and promotes growth. Our festival observance must not be solely for one’s private devotion and service of God. In the family of God, no one is an island. Adapting our behavior required during a pandemic, we are to safely join ourselves to other members of God’s earthly family to enjoy a brief foretaste of the coming good and pleasant kingdom 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.