Course Spotlight: Cities of the Book of Acts

Did you know we have a interactive map with information on the cities mentioned in Acts? Make the scriptures come to life by visualizing where they are while you read about them!

Course Spotlight From Acts of the Apostles: (Unit 3) Paul’s Imprisonment

Course Spotlight: Sabbath Day’s Journey

Used only in Acts 1:12, where it designates the distance from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus led His disciples on the day of His ascension. The expression comes from rabbinical usage to indicate the distance a Jew might travel on the Sabbath without transgressing the Law.

What was the limit set—and how did the rabbis travel on the Sabbath?

Course Spotlight From Acts of the Apostles (Unit 1) The Church Begins

Assembly Summary: Two Laws of Success

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

In his forum addressed to the Living Education students,

Mr. Greer opened by giving a brief description about his initial contact with the church, and that he would like to share with us what he wished he knew earlier in life. He then reminds us of the first two laws of success from Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet “The Seven Laws of Success”; namely set the right goals and education for preparation.

Set the right goals

Mr. Greer mentioned from Mr. Armstrong’s booklet that most people never plan their career goals and “allow themselves to drift. They make no effort to master or control their circumstances”. He mentioned that there are things we can do to control our success.

God has goals– The Bible mentioned that Jesus Christ was slain before the foundation of the world, and therefore God has plans. Even in the physical creation, God did not create everything all at once, but He did it in sequence. Christ planned to complete the work of His Father as seen in John 4:34” My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work”.

Education for preparation

“We did not come equipped with instinct. We need to learn, that we need to learn” Mr. Greer mentioned.  When we set goals, we need to follow through. Preparation provides a path as it gives a step to take. We must also realize that our goals can change. Mr. Greer stated that based on surveys taken by university students, that paths to being successful lies in four steps:

  1. Write down your goal.
  2. Plan how to achieve your goal (and write it down as well).
  3. Share your goals with family or friends.
  4. Update your family or friends on your goals.

Goal setting has no real boundaries. We may not always get the goal right, but the process will help us succeed. We must always involve God in our goals as seen in Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” The process of achieving our goals is a blessing.

Course Spotlight: The Trumpet in History

There are over 140 references to the blowing of the trumpet or “shofar” in the Bible. Ninety percent of these are in the Old Testament while there are eleven references of trumpets in the New Testament. Check out how trumpets are used throughout Scripture!

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Trumpets

Digging Deeper: Those Who Love His Appearing

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

Estimated Reading Time: 8 min., 32 sec.

Did you know that God promises a crown of righteousness to all those who love Jesus’ appearing?

Not only are Christians to look for it but they are to love it. This presents a different dimension for believers as they patiently await the soon coming of their Lord. Just what did the apostle Paul mean by this phrase? Observant Christians around the globe will soon observe the Festival of Trumpets, which represents, by typology, Jesus’ Second Coming after seven trumpet plagues. This Digging Deeper explores Paul’s phrase about loving His appearing to gain a deeper appreciation for how Christians should await the coming of our Lord while we prepare for the next Holy Day.

Our focus verse is: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8 KJV throughout). This verse comes near the end of Paul’s last epistle in our New Testament. He is suffering deplorable conditions in a Roman prison awaiting his execution during a time of growing anti-Christian activism in the Roman government. In this epistle, Paul gives final instructions to his young protégé, Timothy, to carry on preaching the gospel and caring for the Churches of God in Paul’s absence. Paul knows his time is very short and that he had almost finished his apostolic work. The bottom line was that he had “kept the faith” (2 Timothy 2:6-7).

Fighting and Running

Verses 7 and 8 are based figuratively on athletic competition, like the Olympics today, that was popular in the Greek and Roman Empires, including in the city of Corinth. In verse 7, Paul declares: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7 KJV). The image he portrays is that of the first-century boxer in fierce combat. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible describes this combat: “Boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26–27), one of the most popular Greek competitions, was violent. Boxers’ leather gloves protected most of their forearms but left the fingers bare. A still more violent version was a form of combat known as the pankration, which mixed boxing with wrestling. Its only rules were against gouging the eyes of one’s adversary and biting” (Tecarta Bible App). Of course, Paul meant he had fought a fierce spiritual battle.

In the next phrase, Paul declared he had finished his course, referring to a foot racecourse. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines this Greek word for course: “dromos (G1408), properly, ‘a running, a race’ (from edramon, ‘to run’), hence, metaphorically, denotes ‘a career, course of occupation, or of life,’ viewed in a special aspect, Acts 13:25; Acts 20:24; 2 Timothy 4:7” (e-Sword 13.0). Earlier, Paul stated he desired to finish his course with joy (Acts 20:24).

Competing for the Crown

The reward for finishing first in a contest was a crown. The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible defines it as: “A wreath (Greek stephanos, not the kingly diadēma) was awarded for first place in a race (v. 7), like a gold medal today” (Tecarta Bible App). The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains these material crowns: “Victors’ crowns at Greek competitions were wreaths: wild olive for the Olympics and pine or withered celery for the Isthmian Games” (Tecarta Bible App). David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary suggests how this Greek word likely brought back a painful memory to Paul: “Before Paul was a Christian he supervised the execution of the first martyr and then began to kill as many other Christians as he could. But now at the end of his life he was ready to receive a crown – a stephanos. It is likely that he remembered the name of the first martyr, who died at Paul’s own hands: Stephanos (Stephen)” (e-Sword 13.0).

Various crowns are assured Christians in the New Testament, as described by The Defender’s Study Bible: “This is one of the crowns symbolizing rewards for faithful service, which Christ will award at His judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:14). These include: ‘an incorruptible [crown]’ (1 Corinthians 9:25), the ‘crown of rejoicing’ (1 Thessalonians 2:19), ‘the crown of life’ (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), and ‘a crown of glory’ (1 Peter 5:4)” (e-Sword 13.0).

But the one Paul mentions in our focus verse is the crown of righteousness. This phrase has been understood with different senses as explained by the NIV Study Bible: “He could be referring to (1) a crown given as a reward for a righteous life, (2) a crown consisting of righteousness or (3) a crown given righteously (justly) by the righteous Judge” (Tecarta Bible App). Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible connects Christ the Righteous Judge with a judge in Roman games: “He alludes here to the brabeus, or umpire in the Grecian games, whose office it was to declare the victor, and to give the crown” (e-Sword 13.0).

Only one winner?

Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible comments that only one person won the prize in these games: “At the Grecian games, but one could obtain the prize; 1 Corinthians 9:24. All the rest who contended in those games, no matter how numerous they were, or how skillfully they contended, or how much effort they made, were of course subjected to the mortification of a failure, and to all the ill-feeling and envy to which such a failure might give rise” (e-Sword 13.0). By contrast, in the Christian “athletic games,” all potentially could be awarded, as Barnes continues: “No matter how numerous the competitors, or how worthy any one of them may be, or how pre-eminent above his brethren, yet all may obtain the prize … No one is excluded because another is successful; no one fails of the reward because another obtains it. Who, then, would not make an effort to win the immortal crown” (Ibid.)?

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible explains Christ’s reasoning why all could receive this prize: “Here is a reward, but it is a reward not of debt but of grace; for it is by the grace of God that even an apostle is fitted for glory. And this reward is common to the faithful; it is given, not only to apostles, but to all them that love his appearing. This crown is laid up – it is in view, but not in possession” (e-Sword 13.0). The Expository Notes of Dr. Constable describe the proper attitude for receiving such a reward: “An expectation of reward is also a recognition of God’s grace. Those who anticipate reward will not be able to boast, ‘Look at my accomplishments.’ They should be able to offer praise to God by saying, ‘Thank you, Lord, for what you have produced in me.’ The very expectation of reward is an acknowledgment of God’s grace'” (e-Sword 13.0).

Love His Appearing

In verse 8, the words that day have a special significance as explained by the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible: “A time of final reckoning, for good or ill. See 1:12,18; see also note on 1:12. Jesus spoke of ‘that day’ over a dozen times, both as judgment (Luke 21:34) and as a joyful time of reward (Luke 6:23) and reunion with Christ (Matt 26:29)” (Tecarta Bible App).

Receiving such a reward by all Christians is dependent on their loving His appearing, as explained by The Expository Notes of Dr. Constable: “This reward (victor’s crown, Gr. stephanos) will go to all Christians like Paul who, by the way they lived, demonstrated a longing for the Lord’s return. Not all Christians are anxious for the Lord to return since some know they need to change their way of living” (e-Sword 13.0).

Sir W. Robertson Nicoll’s The Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts portrays various attitudes Christians may express towards the prospect of Jesus’ return: “There are four attitudes of mind in which we may stand respecting the ‘appearing’ of Christ. By far the worst is ‘indifference’; and that indifference may be either the dullness of ignorance, or the apathy or the deadness of the moral feelings. The next state is, ‘fear’. There is always something very good when there is ‘fear’. It requires faith to ‘fear’. But above ‘fear’ is ‘hope’. ‘Hope’ is expectation with desire: knowledge enough to be able to anticipate and grace enough to be able to wish it And here the ladder is generally cut off; but God carries it one step higher—’love’. ‘Love’ is as much above ‘hope’ as ‘hope’ is above ‘fear’—for ‘hope’ may be selfish, ‘love’ cannot be; ‘hope’ may be for what a person gives, ‘love’ must be for the person himself” (e-Sword 13.0). 

Christians are to prepare for Jesus’ return. They need to examine themselves regarding their attitude to Jesus’ coming, as expressed in these four different attitudes from our previous quotation. Christians should examine themselves in springtime before Passover, but they also should examine themselves in autumn before the Festival of Trumpets. In this festival season, absorb and meditate upon these words from the apostle John: “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

Kenneth Frank headshot

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

LivingEd – Charlotte: Orientation Week 2021

On August 6, eleven students arrived in Charlotte to begin a brand new year at Living Education – Charlotte.

After taking some time to settle-in and spend the Sabbath together, the students prepared to leave on Sunday with some of the faculty for their first adventure together in the mountains of North Carolina. The students and faculty arrived in Blowing Rock that evening in time to eat a delicious meal and to fellowship together for a while. Over the next two days, the students spent time listening to presentations by the faculty on all topics LivingEd, sharing yummy meals, learning about each other through games and fellowship, and testing their courage on a white-water rafting adventure.

The presentation portion of the trip not only helped to welcome the students to the program, but meant to explain the program expectations and the LivingEd culture, and to give an overview of what the students had to look forward to during the next nine months. Along with Mr. McNair’s overview of program expectations and opportunities,  Mr. Kenneth Frank presented to the students a history of education in the church, and Mr. Ruddlesden encouraged the students to take advantage of their opportunity and to consider ways they could serve others, both in the program and in the local church congregation. The topics seemed well-received as the students enthusiastically engaged in the interactive aspects of the presentations.

The students at Blowing Rock

After the presentations, the group took some time to drive over to The Blowing Rock, which is a beautiful look-out point to the surrounding mountains. The students enjoyed walking around the park and getting some cool pictures before heading back to the cabins for dinner.

Tuesday was a full day of white water rafting thoroughly enjoyed by all, after which the students and faculty got back on the road for the three hour trek home. However, Orientation was not yet over for the students. The rest of the week was used as an introduction to their core classes, instructors, work-study positions at headquarters, and dorm life. Via webex, the students met each of the Living Church of God department heads and learned a bit more about operations at the headquarters building. They also heard from several of the leaders at headquarters on topics to help prepare them for student life such as “The Myth of Multi-tasking”, “Goal Setting”, “Study Less, Study Smart”, and more.

At the conclusion of Orientation week the students got to spend some time settling-in, and preparing for classes to begin on Monday. As a Friday morning bonus, the guys had the opportunity to take a special class with Chef McNair on the topic of “Expert Bachelor Cooking” which was certainly beneficial for all involved. The McNair’s hosted all the students for a special Friday night dinner. The rain could not stop the evening from being a splendid ending to an exciting week. The students look forward to the upcoming weeks and all the unique and inspiring opportunities in store for them.

Forum Summary: Your Pillars

Author: Caanin Fausone | Student, LivingEd-Charlotte

Estimated reading time: 1 min. 18 sec.

“What are Your Pillars”?

This week in a lecture addressed to Living Education students, Mr. Wally Smith brought attention to this thought-provoking question—How should we as Christians invest in and develop our ideological pillars—and more importantly, as members of the church what should our “pillars” be? Pillars, simply put, are ideals and beliefs that hold up our worldview, and they can range from something as trivial as “red M&M’s are the best flavor” to fundamental truths such as “God exists.” 

Invest Time in Your Beliefs

  “Your worldview is like a pair of rose-tinted sunglasses,” Mr. Smith explained. It affects how we see the world and influences the decisions we make.  Because of this, it is important that we spend some time developing our beliefs and lay a solid foundation to build our worldview upon. Mr. Smith went on to read Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” 

“Can Your Pillars Stand the Test of Time”? 

“Choose your central pillars with care” Mr. Smith admonished the students. It is important that during our younger years we take advantage of our time and establish moral pillars that can stand the test of time and will endure disaster and the collapse of other less important ideals. With these strong foundational beliefs, we as Christians will be able to weather the uncertain moral landscape of our world today.

Caanin headshot

Caanin is a student at LivingEd – Charlotte and is excited and interested in learning more about God’s way of life and developing a closer relationship with God during his time at Living Education. Caanin has past experience working as a sales representative, and currently works as a server at Southgate Brewing Company. In high school, Caanin participated in basketball, football, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Academic Decathlon. For his work-study position, Caanin is on the program staff for Living Education and works with data analytics and statistics reporting.

Course Spotlight: Biblical Meaning of “Elohim”

The very first name that God applies to Himself in the Old Testament is “Elohim.” “In the beginning God [Hebrew Elohim] created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Elohim is used 31 times in the first chapter of Genesis—and clearly identifies “God” as the Creator. But what does Elohim mean?

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

Digging Deeper: Fire Shut Up In My Bones

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

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min., 56 sec.

Did you know that when God commands a man to preach His message, he feels compelled to comply?

Even when he tries to refrain from doing so, he senses an overwhelming urgency to deliver the message regardless of the consequences. Jeremiah was one such prophet who, because of his suffering for preaching God’s word, tried to restrain himself from doing so but found he could no longer hold back. Today’s Digging Deeper considers this compulsion of God’s chosen men who speak for Him.

Our focus verse comes from Jeremiah’s experience: “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay [stop, hold back](Jeremiah 20:9 KJV throughout). Later in his book, Jeremiah states, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29 KJV). Fire and a hammer are two of several metaphors for God’s word used in Scripture.

Not of their own will

The NET Bible Notes explain the phrase “speak…in his name” from Jeremiah 20:9: “This idiom occurs in passages where someone functions as the messenger under the authority of another. See Exodus 5:23; Deuteronomy 18:19, 29:20; Jeremiah 14:14” (e-Sword 13.0). God had called Jeremiah at a young age and sent him to preach to the House of Judah before the final collapse of this kingdom to the Babylonians (Jeremiah 1:4-10). In Jeremiah 1:9, God put His words into Jeremiah’s mouth to proclaim to others. When God’s word becomes a part of a person’s inner life, that person is never the same again. That person has been given precious, divine truth that must be shared with others (Jeremiah 26:2).

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges describes what God’s prophets experienced: “These vv. shew us that the prophets did not speak of their own will. It was an influence which they could not resist that urged them forward, in spite of the certain ills that should follow to themselves. ‘Here there rings out clearly the prophet’s unfaltering certainty of the real inspiration which is the source of all his message.’ Pe. Cp. Jeremiah 23:29; so Amos 3:8 and 1 Corinthians 9:16″ (e-Sword 13.0).

Discouraged yet conflicted

When Jeremiah acquiesced to begin preaching after he was first called, he did not receive the kind of response he expected and hoped for. By Jeremiah chapter 20, he had been preaching for some time but was receiving little positive response. From king to pauper, Jeremiah’s message fell on deaf ears. People spoke back to him, threatened him, imprisoned him, and even lowered him into a slime pit to die. He became very discouraged and challenged God about why He had sent him when so few, if any, were willing to heed and respond positively to his message. The Dake Annotated Reference Bible summarizes Jeremiah’s debate with God in Jeremiah 20:

“Tenfold Complaint Of Jeremiah:

  1. Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived (Jer 20:7).
  2. You are stronger than I, and You have prevailed.
  3. I was in derision daily.
  4. Everyone mocks me.
  5. Since I spake, I cried out violence and spoil (Jer 20:8).
  6. God’s word was made a reproach to me, and a derision daily.
  7. I determined not to speak the word of the Lord anymore in His name; but it was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I could not keep from speaking out (Jer 20:9).
  8. I heard the defaming of many (Jer 20:10).
  9. Fear was on every side.
  10. All my familiars [intimate friends] watched for me to quit speaking, thinking they would prevail against me and get revenge” (Bible Analyzer

The Common Man’s Reference Bible Notes explains Jeremiah’s internal debate: “This account reveals the mental conflicts of Jeremiah during the conflicts with the apostate priests and people. Jeremiah desired to quit because he was upset with the LORD (Jonah 4:9). Everyone was against Jeremiah and they wanted him to quit or slip up (1Cor 4:9). At this time Jeremiah was against himself, but God called him to this work. Jeremiah had memorized much Scripture and the words of God burned inside his heart. When a man has the word hid in his heart, he cannot be silent (Prov 21:28). It is not the beliefs, fundamentals, message, or principles, but the words that motivate a man to preach (Psa 12:6-7; Acts 4:31; Col 3:16)” (Bible Analyzer

The tremendous battle in the heart

The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series describes further this struggle in Jeremiah’s mind: “A tremendous battle rages in the heart and mind of this sensitive man of God. On the one hand he wanted to resign his ministry and retreat to the peaceful and quiet life at Anathoth. He could not bear to face the prospect of continued ridicule and opposition. He wanted to forget all about his recent unpleasant experiences and never preach another sermon again. On the other hand his heart was burdened with a sense of prophetic obligation and divine mission. The fire of God’s wrath against sin burns fiercely within him. He tries to hold it back but cannot. He becomes utterly exhausted from trying to fight his compulsion to preach. In spite of himself he must follow the divine call, he must resume his ministry (Jeremiah 20:9)” (e-Sword 13.0).

Once Jeremiah realized his precipitous mistake in trying to resist speaking God’s word, he realizes he has no choice but to do so, as explained by Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible:

I wilt not make mention of him – I will renounce the prophetic office, and return to my house.

As a burning fire shut up in my bones – He felt stings of conscience for the hasty and disobedient resolution he had formed; he felt ashamed of his own weakness, that did not confide in the promise and strength of God; and God’s word was in him as a strongly raging fire, and he was obliged to deliver it, in order to get rid of the tortures which he felt from suppressing the solemn message which God had given. It is as dangerous to refuse to go when called, as it is to run without a call”.

(e-Sword 13.0)

Another prophet, Amos, expressed his compulsion to proclaim God’s word faithfully: “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). In the New Testament era, the apostles Peter and John said: “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The apostle Paul too sensed his absolute necessity to preach God’s word: “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (1 Corithians 9:16-17).

The Defender’s Study Bible explains what compelled these servants of God: “The Word of God simply cannot be quenched for one who truly loves God and understands what God’s Word has done for him and what it means for the world. Even though that man is the object of reproach and derision because of it (Jeremiah 20:8), he must proclaim it to others in whatever way he can” (e-Sword 13.0).

The message must be proclaimed

Sometimes God’s people tire of proclaiming God’s word because, seemingly, it is without many positive responses. Ger de Koning’s Commentary on the Whole Bible offers food for thought: “We may also be overcome by the feeling that we no longer want to continue our service, that we no longer want to think about the LORD. After all, there is no point to it all. But then, like Jeremiah, we will still have no choice but to continue because we are inwardly convinced of the truth. The heart is burning, even though we are disappointed with the results of our service. When we see the state of corruption and the judgment that threatens, we cannot help but speak God’s words” (BibleTime 3.0.1).

These personal examples should move those whom God has called today to continue to proclaim the gospel to the world. It desperately needs to hear God’s word. We must proclaim it, or else God will hold us accountable (Ezekiel 33:1-9). God will strengthen us despite much opposition. In the end, if we are faithful, we will hear these words from our Savior: “…Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:23).

Kenneth Frank headshot

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

Digging Deeper: God is Watching Us

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

Estimated Reading Time: 8 min., 54 sec.

Did you know that God observes everything on our blue-green gem of a planet floating in the blackness of space?

He sees it all – the good, the bad, the miraculous, the appalling, the beautiful, and the ugly. Many live as if He does not exist, or if He does, as though He is unobservant of the goings-on here below. This Digging Deeper highlights a proverb that demonstrates God’s observing eyes over this miracle planet of life that humankind is threatening to destroy.

The music world lost a singer/songwriter and guitarist last week whose career was vaulted by her recording of a song composed by Julie Gold entitled “From A Distance.” Nanci Griffith had a long musical career whose recordings transpired genres including folk and country music. Many people prefer her beautiful rendition of this song in which the words of the chorus are “God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us – from a distance.” The aspirational theme of the song imagines what the world could be if only humankind lived in peace and harmony with God, itself, and the natural world. Instead, it suffers from war, disease, deprivation, hatred, and chaos because of global sinfulness.

Our focus verse is: “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3 KJV throughout). Ger de Koning’s Commentary on the Whole Bible contrasts these two groups of people: “The evil people are both the great sinners and the friendly people who live decently, but none of them allow God into their lives. They are both those who openly sin and those who secretly sin. God wants them to become aware that He sees them, so that they may repent. The good people are in themselves also sinners, but they do good because they have acknowledged to be sinners. They live from a good relationship with God. That relationship has become good by their confession of sins and their faith in the forgiveness of those sins by God” (BibleTime 3.0.1).

His eyes run to and fro

We will consider a few parallel cross-references. Bible reference works, both printed and electronic, make it convenient to perform such side studies. One cross-reference is especially pertinent in the light of recent world events. This was spoken by God during the reign of King Asa of Judah: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars. ” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Proverbs has a good deal to say about God’s overview of humankind, as illustrated by The ESV Study Bible: “The eyes of the LORD is a major theme in Proverbs: the Lord knows the actions and hearts of all, so he is neither pleased with nor fooled by one who offers sacrifices while continuing in the way of wickedness (cf. vv. 8–9, 11, 26, 29)” (Tecarta Bible App). Some may think they can appease God by their “religious” activities like monetary gifts to charities, hoping God will overlook their habitual sinfulness. God is not so easily fooled.

The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series declares that God is a perfect witness when it asserts: “Since He beholds both the evil and the good, God is not human, for human beings tend to see only the evil of their enemies and critics and to by-pass the evil in their friends and close relatives” (e-Sword 13.). Our problem is that we cannot read people’s hearts (minds) like God can. This proverb explains how observant the Almighty is: “Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men”? (Proverbs 15:11 KJV). We cannot hide anything from Him.

Beholding with a loving eye

Sometimes parents inform misbehaving children that God is watching them. To a point, this may remind children of what is expected of them by God. On the other hand, parents need balance, as explained by the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 3: “Beholding. Better, ‘keeping watch.’ Sometimes children are given the impression that God watches them in order to find cause for blame; but our heavenly Father watches with the pitiful, loving eye of One who knows the frailty of our nature (see Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 33:13; 90:8; 103:13-14″ (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977, p. 999). The cross-references from Psalms listed here are heart-warming: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

The Hebrew word translated beholding has a colorful usage in the Old Testament, as explained by The Holman KJV Study Bible: “The Hebrew word for beholding or being vigilant implies that proper action will be taken with regard to what is observed. It is used of the capable wife who watches over her household (31:27), of the watchman in Ezekiel who is obligated to sound the alarm (Ezek. 33:6), and of God Himself who watches and judges the nations (Ps. 66:7)” (Tecarta Bible App). The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges adds further: “The word is commonly used of a watchman (1 Samuel 14:16; 2 Samuel 13:34;18:24), and calls up the figure of the Almighty observing, as it were, from His lofty watch-tower in heaven all the doings of the dwellers upon earth.” (e-Sword 13.0).

Seeing the good and evil

Proverbs 15:3 not only alarms the wicked but encourages the faithful, as explained by The NKJ Study Bible: “That the eyes of the LORD are in every place watching everything chills those who do evil and comforts those who submit to Him (see Ecclesiastes 12:14)” (Tecarta Bible App). The cross-reference verse they offer is pertinent to our study: “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14 KJV). Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible assures God’s people: “The wicked shall not go unpunished, nor the righteous unrewarded, for God has his eye upon both and knows their true character; this speaks as much comfort to saints as terror to sinners” (e-Sword 13.0).

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible describes our focus verse’s instructional balance: “And if the consideration that his eye is in every place, have a tendency to appal those whose hearts are not right before him, and who seek for privacy, that they may commit iniquity; yet the other consideration, that his providence is everywhere, has a great tendency to encourage the upright, and all who may be in perilous or distressing circumstances” (e-Sword 13.).

God is extremely patient with human behavior, but there is a limit to His patience, as explained by Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “Beholding the evil and the good.—Waiting till the iniquity of the one is full (Genesis 15:16), watching to aid the other (Psalm 34:15,17)” (e-Sword 13.0). When some cross the line of no return in their evil, God will act – but within His overall plan. By contrast, the cross-references in this source from Psalms offer strong encouragement to God’s faithful people going through extreme troubles:

“The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” (Psalm 34:15)

“The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)

He sees and will act

Suffering people sometimes wonder if God truly sees what is happening here below. Joseph Parker’s The People’s Bible assures them: “Such words are at once a comfort and a terror. The universe would be but an infinite darkness were it not for the assurance that the eyes of the Lord watch every throbbing heart, every thought, every purpose, every action of the multitudinous life of men” (e-Sword 13.). God is watching and He will act on His own timetable. In the meantime, His people must continue to trust Him to rescue them.

God not only sees all, but He also knows our thoughts. Another cross-reference reminds us: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off” (Psalm 139:1-2). Joseph S. Exell’s The Preachers Complete Homiletical Commentary explains these verses: “God is the one potentate and judge who can claim a perfect knowledge of all His subjects from personal acquaintance with each individual. Not one is lost in the crowd; each one stands before Him as distinctly as if He were the only creature in the universe” (e-Sword 13.). Now that is personal attention!

The righteous may be assured that, though God bears long with them in their suffering while they continually cry unto Him (Luke 18:7), He will finally act and reward them accordingly. Daniel Whedon’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments explains that God beholds the evil and the good in order: ” …  as is implied, to judge accurately of their character and conduct, and to reward and punish accordingly. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (e-Sword 13.0). The Bible reference this source just summarized was spoken by Abraham to God as He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). God is fair and can be trusted to fairly punish the wicked and reward the righteous for the “eyes of the LORD are in every place…”

Kenneth Frank headshot

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