Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education
Did you know that God has provided humankind two revelations of His character and plan?
Christians are familiar with His written revelation called the Holy Bible. But what many do not realize is that long before a written record was provided for His people, God revealed Himself another way. This one has been available to all people, believers or non-believers alike no matter what language they speak. Throughout the centuries, avid Bible students have referred to these as “God’s Two Books.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible on Psalm 19 explains: “There are two excellent books which the great God has published for the instruction and edification of the children of men; this psalm treats of them both, and recommends them both to our diligent study. I. The book of the creatures, in which we may easily read the power and godhead of the Creator (Psalm 19:1-6). II. The book of the scriptures, which makes known to us the will of God concerning our duty. He shows the excellency and usefulness of that book (Psalm 19:7-11) and then teaches us how to improve it [our duty] (Psalm 19:12-14).” Both of these books reveal the glory of God!
Psalm 19 provides us a description of both of these revelations of God. The first one is creation itself, covered in Psalm 19:1-6. God has provided a theology through the natural world. By definition, theology is the study of God. Theologians have referred to this as “general revelation,” “natural revelation” or “natural theology.” The second revelation is described in Psalm 19:7-14, commonly called “special revelation,” “written revelation” or “supernatural theology.” All believers want to know more about the God they serve. They need to be diligent Bible students. However, they may be missing out on an entire second revelation because of a misunderstanding that there is today a war between science and religion. There is no such war between true science and biblical religion. God is the greatest scientist. Many famous human scientists have been dedicated Bible students such as Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton, Johann Kepler, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and Francis Bacon (The Henry Morris Study Bible, Appendix 7). God’s word holds us accountable for knowing God through what he has created. Notice Romans 1:19-20 (KJV throughout): “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, many people worldwide have been sheltering at home or are quarantined under orders from civic officials. A report from a recent newsletter from the NPR radio program, Living On Earth, stated that “Americans spend more time inside than some whales spend time underwater. In many ways, we are an indoor species.” This study by Joe Allen, who is Director of the Healthy Buildings Program and Assistant Professor at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health stated that “By the time we reach 80 years old, we will have spent 72 years of our lives indoors. However, these homes, offices, schools, and hospitals often lack fresh air and have an outsized impact on our wellbeing, health, creativity, and focus.”
After several weeks of this seclusion, many are now experiencing cabin fever with detrimental psychological effects. One of the most often recommended remedies from mental health experts has been to get outdoors, even onto one’s property or (if with safe distancing) to a local park. Indoors we are surrounded by things that humans have made. But outdoors, we are surrounded by what the Creator has made, much of which we often take for granted. Go outside and notice the blue sky, white clouds, and the various flora and fauna of our world. On a clear night, admire the astral bodies – even through common light pollution in many urban areas. Allow your mind to reflect on the biggest questions of life: Who are we?, How did we get here?, Where are we going?, What is wrong with the world?, and How may it be redeemed? By doing so, we free our minds even temporarily from our constant mundane concerns and pause to admire all that God has made for us to inherit once His redemption plan culminates.
Psalm 19:7-9 describes an even greater revelation: God’s sacred word contained in the Holy Bible. In these few verses, God describes His word with six titles, six attributes, and six effects. As beautiful as are the manifestations of God’s glory seen in the heavens, still more beautiful and more magnificent is God’s sacred word. These descriptions deserve our closer, personal study as we approach Pentecost, which commemorates God’s giving His law (Exodus 20) and His Holy Spirit (Acts 2.) Putting these into graphic form would look like this:
|Titles for God’s Word||Attributes of God’s Word||Effects of God’s Word|
|law (Torah Hebrew word often translated “law” but more fully referring to “instruction,” “teaching,” or “doctrine”)||perfect||converting the soul|
|testimony||sure||making wise the simple|
|statutes||right||rejoicing the heart|
|commandment||pure||enlightening the eyes|
Psalm 19:11-14 reach into our innermost beings to challenge us to deal with known and unknown sins. It assures us that keeping God’s word provides a great reward (v. 11). Then v. 12 asks God to cleanse us from secret faults – things we may try to hide from God or even sins of which we are yet unaware. The spiritual lessons of the Days of Unleavened Bread challenge us to continue this cleansing process. We need God to show us where we are yet falling short of his grace (Romans 3:23). Then in v. 13 we consider the extremely dangerous presumptuous sins – sins that people commit deliberately. Only God can thoroughly cleanse us of secret faults and keep us from presumptuous sins (vv. 12-13). Living by God’s Two Books then enables us to pray sincerely, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”
Featured Passage: Daniel 4-5
King Nebuchadnezzar had a rich kingdom that dominated much of the world in its time, and he was proud of it. He became so filled with pride that God warned him through a dream that he was going to be greatly humbled. Just as Daniel interpreted, for seven years Nebuchadnezzar lived like an animal. When he finally came to his senses, he acknowledged that God was sovereign over all. After Nebuchadnezzar died, Belshazzar became king of Babylon. Belshazzar did not learn anything from Nebuchadnezzar’s mistake. You could say that the handwriting was on the wall.
- What happened to Nebuchadnezzar after he became filled with pride? Do you think Nebuchadnezzar learned anything from this experience?
- What did Belshazzar do that was considered a prideful act against God? From what example should he have learned about the consequences of pride?
- How did God get everyone’s attention? Can you imagine how frightened people must have been?
- What did the writing on the wall say? What did Daniel explain its meaning to be? Today, what does the expression “the handwriting is on the wall” mean?
- How long did it take for God’s warning to become true? Who ruled Babylon after Belshazzar?
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
Featured Passage: Daniel 1-2
The nation of Judah refused to repent of their sins, so God allowed the Jews to be carried away as captives to Babylon. Some of the first to be taken to Babylon were noblemen and their families; Daniel was most likely taken captive with this group. When they arrived in Babylon, Daniel was selected to be among the young men who would be taught the language, literature, and culture of the Babylonians. Even though he was a captive, Daniel was determined to live according to God’s laws which were certainly not practiced by the Babylonians. The first test came when Daniel’s first plate of food was set before him.
- Who was the king of Babylon when Daniel was taken captive?
- Why do you think Daniel did not want to eat the king’s delicacies? What did Daniel propose that he eat instead? Has there ever been a time when you have had to courageously stand up for your desire to follow God?
- What position did King Nebuchadnezzar give to Daniel? How did he get the position? What can we learn from this in relation to Proverbs 22:29?
- When the astrologers and magicians could not reveal to the king his dream, what did the king command be done to all the wise men? What did Daniel do when he heard about the proclamation?
- Who revealed to Daniel the dream and its meaning? What is important about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God
“Boy, things sure were better in the ’50s, weren’t they? People really took the Bible seriously back then, in the great Christian nations…
Sure, the Jim Crow stuff was a bit of a shame, and it was a pretty nightmarish time to be alive if you suffered from mental illness, I suppose—but seriously, weren’t the ’50s great?”
“How ‘bout those 1700s? Those founding fathers, they knew what righteousness was. They went to church every Sunday, you know. Yes, yes, you might be hanged if you kept the Sabbath in New England, and you could usually get away with murdering someone as long as you called it a ‘duel,’ but hey—at least people didn’t watch TV so much! Weren’t the 1700s great?”
“Wow, do I ever miss Egypt. We had everything we needed—all we could eat, and since we worked it all off, we never got fat. Yeah, Pharaoh could be a bit of a hardcase, but at least the Egyptians were better than these horrible Canaanites we’re up against now. Weren’t the Egypt days great?”
No. They weren’t.
Not from Wisdom
In his recent Assembly message, Mr. Mario Hernandez passionately warned against looking backward, longing for the way things used to be, because as soon as we do that, we’re no longer seeking first the Kingdom of God. We were created with eyes incapable of moving independently from each other, positioned at the front of our head—we can turn that head to look behind us, or we can keep it where it is and look ahead of us, but we can’t do both. Looking behind cancels out looking ahead.
Solomon had something to say about that: “Do not say, ‘Why were the earlier days better than these days?’ For it is not from wisdom that you inquire this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10, Modern English Version). I also like the simplicity in how the New Living Translation paraphrases it: “Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.”
Of course, we’re all guilty of this on some level. Have you ever wished you were a blissfully ignorant ten-year-old again? I have. And it’s just as much of a mistake to think of the modern era as any better than “the earlier days,” since modern generations are definitely guilty of many atrocities that past generations were not—and Scripture is pretty clear that society is on a perpetually downward spiral (1 Timothy 3:1-5).
But do we ever catch ourselves comparing the Kingdom of God to some “enlightened” nation of history? Because that’s really quite insulting to the Kingdom, actually. Every single era of human history has belonged to Satan, and had his influence all over it—so when we look back fondly at any one of those eras, we’re essentially saying, “You know, I miss how Satan’s world used to be. His influence was once far more agreeable. It was still a world blinded by sin, but at least the sin didn’t offend me quite so much as it does now. Wasn’t spiritual Egypt great?”
Beyond All Comparison
We humans thrive on comparison. In many ways, it’s how we visualize reality, and that’s not a bad thing at all. I use analogies ad nauseam, so I certainly don’t consider myself exempt.
But even when I’m tempted to think that the Kingdom will be “Like the garden of Eden,” I’m forgetting that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The “heart of man” includes the hearts of Adam and Eve. Even after experiencing harmony with God before human sin ever entered the world, they still could not even fathom the beauty of the coming Kingdom.
Tomorrow’s world is impossibly wonderful. Let’s not insult it by longing for yesterday’s.
Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty, Living Education
Did you know that there is a killer plague extant more dangerous than the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that will lead to, not only physical death, but spiritual death as well?
In recent months, the entire world has seen how quickly a before-unknown virus can work enormous suffering and death on defenseless humans. As tragic as this plague is, there is another even more deadly one. So insidious is this global pandemic that it has the potential of depriving people not only of mortal life but of eternal life in the kingdom of God. The good news is that there is a cure for it. Nonetheless, how difficult many will find its remedy.
King Solomon referred to this plague during his grand opening celebration of the first Temple. His father, King David of the United Monarchy, had arranged for the building materials but the project was completed by Solomon’s workers. The ceremony was held during the Feast of Tabernacles. In his dedicatory prayer, while he kneeled with his hands spread to heaven, Solomon blessed and thanked God, asked God to hear the prayers of the Israelites but he also accounted for the possibility that Israel would not always prove faithful in their covenant with Him, thereby incurring sin.
Here is how he described each person’s guilt: “What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers” (1Ki_8:38-40 KJV throughout).
Ethelbert Bullinger in his Companion Bible explained that the word plague here also has a sense of “punishment” since it is a figure of speech for the sin that produces it. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges noted that it was the “special infliction which is sent to him for his own correction, and for the relief of which he only can fitly pray.”
We have not only one account of this dedicatory prayer but two. The companion passage reads in part, “…when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house: Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:)…”(2Ch_6:28-30). In this account the words “his own sore and his own grief” parallel “the plague of his own heart” from 1 Ki 8:38. The Hebrew word for plague (neh’gah) at times bore the sense of “wound.” It is the same word rendered sore in 2Ch_6:29. In each case, the word is used metaphorically for a sore or wound that afflicts one’s conscience.
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explained the plague of his own heart as perceiving “one’s sinfulness, or recognize one’s sufferings as divine chastisements, and sin as their cause.” John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible noted that it means to “be sensible of his sin as the cause of his distress, and own it, though ever so privately committed, which none knows but God and his own heart; and which may be only an heart sin, not actually committed; as all sin is originally in the heart, and springs from it, that is the source of all wickedness; it may respect the corruption of nature, indwelling sin, which truly deserves this name, and which every good man is led to observe, confess, and bewail, Psa_51:4.” Gill acknowledges that sin, even sin committed only in the heart, has the power to afflict our conscience to bring us to confess it and repent of it so that forgiveness may occur. In His Sermon the Mount, Jesus too described sinning in the heart (Mat 5:27-28).
Gill continues by commenting on the companion verse: “In 2Ch_6:29 it is what particularly affects him, and gives him pain and sorrow, as every man best knows his own affliction and trouble, and so can best represent his own case to the Lord…” If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize our nagging conscience and take action, unless our conscience is seared (1 Tim 4:2).
During the confrontation between God and the Pharaoh of Egypt the Book of Exodus, God announced the seventh plague of hail to fall upon the Egyptians by stating, “For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth” (Exo_9:14). God attempted to reach Pharaoh through his heart; however, repeatedly he and his servants hardened their hearts and sinned more (Exo_9:34).
Humans have been set apart from the animal kingdom by being afforded a conscience by their Creator. Pricking that conscience is one way God works on human minds to bring them to repentance of sin, as He did upon Saul of Tarsus who later became the Apostle Paul (Act_9:5). Solomon, who wrote and collected eastern proverbs, stated, “The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy” (Pro_14:10).
David Guzik’s Commentary adds these further details about 1Ki_8:38: “Solomon recognized that some plagues are easily seen, but other plagues come from our own heart. Many are cursed by a plague that no one else can see, but lives in their own heart. Solomon asks God to answer such a plague-stricken man when he humbly pleads at the temple.” When people finally yield to their castigating consciences and repent before God they will find that “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psa_103:8). Only He has the cure for the plague of one’s heart.