Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices – Lessening of Sin

Thomas Brooks in “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s devices” lists strategies that Satan uses to entice us to sin. The third strategy is by extenuating and lessening of sin.

Ah! says Satan, it is but a little pride, a little worldliness, a little uncleanness, a little drunkenness, etc… Alas! says Satan, it is but a very little sin that you stick so at. You may commit it without any danger to your soul. It is but a little one; you may commit it, and yet your soul shall live.

Satan minimizes sin to lessen our horror and disdain for it. In fact, Satan will make sin seem very small before we sin and impossibly huge after we sin.

For remedies, Brooks has us consider:

  1. Sins which we are apt to account small have brought upon men the greatest wrath of God. He lists examples: “… the eating of an apple, gathering a few sticks on the Sabbath day, and touching of the ark.” It does not matter if sin appears small or minor to us, but how sin appears to God. Do you love, cherish, and practice what He hates? “Therefore, when Satan says it is but a little one–you must say, Oh! but those sins which you call little, are such as will cause God to rain hell out of heaven upon sinners.”
  2. Giving way to a less sin makes way for the committing of a greater sin. Sin is a wedge and can only lead to more and more sin. “If we commit one sin to avoid another, it is just we should avoid neither… Sin is of an encroaching nature; it creeps on the soul by degrees, step by step, until it has the soul to the very height of sin.” Brooks again provides a Biblical example: “David gives way to his wandering eye, and this led him to those foul sins that caused God to break his bones, and to turn his day into night, and to leave his soul in great darkness.” Sin brings forth death. It cannot do otherwise. A small sin is merely an entree into greater sin and death.
  3. It is sad to sin against God for a trifle. “It is devilish to sin without a temptation; it is little less than devilish to sin on a little occasion… The less the temptation is to sin–the greater is that sin. Saul’s sin in not waiting for Samuel, was not so much in the matter–but it was much in the malice of it…” It would be a great evil to dishonor, lie, or cheat a friend on account of a small matter; how much more so to sin against God for small temptations? Is not Christ worth more than those twenty silver pieces?
  4. There is great danger… in the smallest sins. “Greater sins do sooner startle the soul, and awaken and rouse up the soul to repentance, than lesser sins do. Little sins often slide into the soul, and breed, and work secretly and indiscernibly in the soul…” “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). We may be on watch for great and famous sins, but do we care for even the smallest infection?
  5. Other saints have chosen to suffer the worst of torments, rather than commit the least sin. “Daniel and his companions … would rather choose to burn, and be cast to the lions–than they would bow to the idol which Nebuchadnezzar had set up… they would rather burn than sin! They knew it was far better to burn for their not sinning, than that God and conscience should raise a hell, a fire in their bosoms for sin.” Look to our brothers and sisters who have gone before us — they viewed all sin as something to be avoided whatever the cost.
  6. The soul is never able to stand under the guilt and weight of the least sin. For those sins committed intentionally, you know you will feel guilty afterwards and you know what that will feel like. Why set yourself up for such an ordeal?
  7. There is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction. God the Father did not spare His own Son. God’s wrath was poured out full measure for sins great and small. This is God’s evaluation of sin.

We must see sin as God sees it, hate it as He hates it, and to prepare our minds beforehand for how we will meet it. Purpose now, before temptation, to accept the suffering, displeasure, discomfort, and scorn that comes from not sinning so when those times come your decision will be already made.

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Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices – Gilded Sin

In “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” Puritan Thomas Brooks lists several “devices” or strategies Satan uses to tempt us. Previously we covered Satan’s strategy to “present the bait and hide the hook” – that is, to present everything that is alluring and attractive about sin while hiding or denying everything hurtful and damning about sin. Today we’ll look at Satan’s second strategy to tempt us – by painting sin with virtue’s colors:

Satan knows that if he would present sin in its own nature and dress, the soul would rather fly from it than yield to it; and therefore he presents it unto us, not in its own proper colors–but painted and gilded over with the name and show of virtue, that we may the more easily be overcome by it, and take the more pleasure in committing of it.

Gilding refers to the process of covering an object with a thin, outer coating of gold. Satan will attempt to depict sin as “virtue”, that is, as goodness. Sin is essentially deceptive – it shows itself to be something other than it really is. Brooks gives examples:

PRIDE, he presents to the soul under the name and notion of neatness and cleanliness; and COVETOUSNESS (which the apostle condemns for idolatry) to be but good business; and DRUNKENNESS to be good fellowship, and RIOTOUSNESS under the name and notion of liberality, and WANTONNESS as a trick of youth.

Every sin can be excused, rationalized, or depicted as a harmless exercise of something good and virtuous. To be on guard, Brooks offers four remedies:

  1. Consider that sin is never a whit the less filthy, vile, and abominable–by its being colored and painted with virtue’s colors. “A poisonous pill is never a whit less poisonous because it is gilded over with gold.” The “gilding” or “painting” or depicting of sin relates only to its external appearance – its power to kill, destroy, ensnare, and ruin has not been changed.
  2. That the more sin is painted forth under the color of virtue, the more dangerous it is to the souls of men. I have heard men talk of the “good” in abandoning their wives, families, and even their faith under the delusion that it is for the best. Such men are walk in deep darkness.
  3. To look on sin with that eye with which within a short time, we shall see it. “When you shall lie upon a dying bed, and stand before a judgment-seat, sin shall be unmasked … that which formerly appeared most sweet will appear most bitter.” Brooks asks us to contemplate the true nature of sin in all of its vileness and ugliness. Though it may seem pleasing now, there comes a day when it will not appear so. “Look upon sin now as you must look upon it to all eternity, and as God, conscience, and Satan will present it to you another day!”
  4. That even those very sins that Satan paints… cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus. Christ came to save sinners, and for that purpose he paid nothing less than His very blood. He endured not only physical pain, but an entire life of condescension, pain, and toil for us and for our good.

In the same vein as the last point, Spuregon describes the hatred of sin all of us should have:

He looks upon [sin] as we should regard a knife rusted with gore, wherewith some villain had killed our mother, our wife, or child. Could we play with it? Could we bear it about our persons or endure it in our sight? No, accursed thing! stained with the heart’s blood of my beloved, I would fain fling thee into the bottomless abyss! Sin is that dagger which stabbed the Saviour’s heart, and henceforth it must be the abomination of every man who has been redeemed by the atoning sacrifice.

Let us flee from playing with the very sins for which our Lord died.

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Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices – Proof and the First Device

Brooks begins by proving that Satan has “devices” by which he tempts people. He points us to Ephesians 6:11 – “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” God would not have commanded us to put on armor if it weren’t absolutely necessary. Brooks notes that the word translated, “wiles” points to a snare or a trap that is set behind someone or comes upon them quickly. He also calls it “waylaying”, in that the word points to crafty people taking every advantage they can get to capture their prey. Satan’s wiles are crafty and deceitful traps that are designed to surprise and ensnare people. Brooks notes that by these deceptive traps, “Satan [does] more hurt in his sheep’s skin than by roaring like a lion.”

Brooks also points to 2 Tim. 2:26 – “And that they might recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” The word translated “to recover” points to one who awakens from sleep or drunkenness. The word translated “to take captive” means to be taken alive. In a military context it refers to a prisoner of war. Satan’s devices aim to not only ensnare or trip up but to take people captive as slaves to do his bidding.

Having proved that Satan has devices to ensnare us, he moves to the first device: “To present the bait and hide the hook.”

Satan will “present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul yielding to sin–and to hide from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow committing of sin.” Satan baits sin by showing how good or pleasurable or wonderful the sin will feel or be while hiding any negative consequence of that sin. Brooks points us to Genesis 3 and the fall of our first parents. Satan promised that Adam & Eve would not die but have their eyes opened and be like God.

Brooks describes how this device operates:

There is an opening of the eyes of the mind to contemplation and joy–and there is an opening of the eyes of the body to shame and confusion. He promises them the former–but intends the latter, and so Satan cheats them–giving them an apple in exchange for a paradise, as he deals by thousands now a days.

In short, Satan never puts forth a temptation of the form, “Eat this and you will die”, but rather “Eat this and you will be like God.” The subtle deception entices our thoughts and imaginations and we are deceived from seeing what is really being offered.

For remedies, consider:

  1. Keep at the greatest distance from sin (Rom. 12:9). “The best course to prevent falling into the pit is to keep at the greatest distance from it; he who will be so bold as to attempt to dance upon the brink of the pit, may find by woeful experience that it is a righteous thing with God that he should fall into the pit.”
  2. Consider that sin is but a bitter sweet (Job 20:12-14). “That seeming sweet that is in sin will quickly vanish; and lasting shame, sorrow, horrow, and terror will come in the room (place) thereof … Many eat that on earth what they digest in hell… Adam’s apple was a bitter sweet; Esau’s bowl of stew was a bitter sweet; the Israelite’s quails a bitter sweet… Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…”
  3. Solemnly to consider that sin will usher in the greatest and the saddest losses that can be upon souls.
  4. Seriously to consider that sin is of a very deceitful and bewitching nature. “Sin is from the greatest deceiver, it is a child of [Satan’s] own begetting, it is the ground of all the deceit in the world, and it is in its own nature exceeding deceitful… It will with Delilah smile upon us, that it may betray us into the hands of the devil, as she did Samson into the hands of the Philistines. Sin gives Satan a power over us, and an advantage to accuse us and to lay claim to us… Sin so bewitches the soul, that it makes the soul call evil good, and good evil; bitter sweet and sweet bitter, light darkness and darkness light… a man bewitched with sin had rather lose God, Christ, heaven, and his own soul–than part with his sin.”

We must seriously consider that the least sin will damn any of us; that is promises life and happiness, threatens pain and sorrow, but cannot deliver any of its promises. Sin has the worst credit rating in the world! We must see sin for what it is — not to judge if something is “right in our own eyes” but on the basis of what God has revealed to us in His Word and by His Spirit. Satan approaches Adam & Eve with, “Did God say…?” and the only way we see through these devices is by knowing, believing, and acting upon what God has said.

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Introducing “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” by Thomas Brooks

Recently Thomas Brooks’ old book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, came up in conversation. I had made a joke about doing a course called, “Defense Against the Dark Arts” where we would study sin, temptation, and how to protect ourselves against them. There was some interest in the topic, so I’ll be blogging chapter by chapter through Brooks’ book. Brooks is an actual Puritan – he lived during the 17th century in England and was part of that movement – and his work shows all the marks of Puritanism. On the plus side, Puritan writings contain a deep theology aimed at helping people to know and experience God. This is often called “experiental” or “experimental” theology. Theology for the purpose of living worship. Another hallmark of this kind of writing is its extreme organization. Books were often meticulously outlined. This is a bit of a mixed blessing – while there is a good structure and organization to the book, just reading the outline can be overwhelming. Finally, Puritan were writers in the 17th century and so their language can be difficult and the sentences hard to read. I haven’t found Brooks to be too difficult but other writers’ styles – like John Owen – definitely hampers comprehension.

You can find a free PDF of the book here.

After 8 pages of outline, Brooks throws in essentially three introductions – the Epistle Dedicatory, a “Word to the Reader”, and an introduction. We’ll look at each section in turn.

The Epistle Dedicatory

Brooks’ addresses “Watchmen”, that is, pastors and those who have been charged to be caretakers of souls. To this end he enjoins them:

Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter. It is my work as a Christian, but much more as I am a Watchman, to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver; which I have endeavored to do in the following discourse, according to that measure of grace which I have received from the Lord.

He then goes on to describe Satan’s work in tempting believers to sin and the variety of ways and means he has. Temptations suit the unique frame of heart of each believer – “Whatever sin the heart of man is most prone to, that the devil will help forward.” (Page 10)

Brooks lists seven reasons he wrote this book:

  1. Satan has “a better advantage” against us than we think. In the famous words of G.I. Joe, knowing this is half the battle.
  2. A bunch of people asked him to write this book.
  3. While writing this he felt especially under spiritual attack.
  4. This stuff is really useful.
  5. He doesn’t know anyone else who has written on this.
  6. He has friends who are far away and wants to write to them.
  7. He doesn’t know when he will die, so he figures why not write a little somethin’-somethin’.

Finally Brooks blesses the readers, asks for their prayers, and makes his purpose clear:

That you would make it your business to study Christ, his Word, your own hearts, Satan’s plots, and eternity–more than ever. That you would endeavor more to be inwardly sincere than outwardly glorious; to live, than to have a mere name to live. That you would labor with all your might to be thankful under mercies, and faithful in your places, and humble under divine appearances, and fruitful under precious ordinances. That as your means and mercies are greater than others–so your account before God may not prove a worse than others.

For a close, remember this, that your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well-doing, and heaven shall make amends for all!

A Word to the Reader

Here Brooks addresses the reader directly and tells them to “buy the truth” (Proverbs 23:23) whatever the cost. He gives four pieces of counsel:

  1. “You must know that every man cannot be excellent, yet every man may be useful.”
  2. “It is not hasty reading—but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul… It is not he who reads most—but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”
  3. “Know that it is not the knowing, nor the talking, nor the reading man–but the doing man, that at last will be found the happiest man…Reader, If it is not strong upon your heart to practice what you read, to what end do you read? To increase your own condemnation?”
  4. There are marginal notes that are worth reading. (Seriously, that’s his fourth piece of counsel. We’re suppose to read them.)


Brooks sets the context in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11: a unrepentant church member who had been disciplined earlier (perhaps the incestuous person from 1 Cor. 5:1ff) was sufficient (v. 6) and asks the church to forgive this person (vv. 7-10) so that the disciplined member may not be overcome with sorrow. A second reason to forgive this disciplined member is in v. 11: “lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” Brooks takes this as his theme verse for the book. He unpacks this verse a little in the introduction:

  • “Lest Satan should overreach us. The word … is taken from the greedy merchant, who seeks and takes all opportunities to beguile and deceive others. Satan is that wily merchant, that devours, not widows’ houses–but most men’s souls!”
  • “He is but a Christian in title only, who has not personal experience of Satan’s stratagems.”
  • “Satan has his several devices to deceive, entangle, and undo the souls of men.”

Brooks will prove that Satan has these “devices” (strategies, plots, machinations, stratagems, or more generally “ways”). He will then enumerate in good Puritan fashion each device. He will show us “the remedy” – that is, how to resist and overcome these devices not just generally but specifically for each device. Then Brooks wraps up with a few concluding remarks.

This post is already at one thousand words so we’ll pick up next time with “proving the point” – Satan has devices at his disposal to entangle and ensnare the souls of believers.

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Early Christian Community

Recently we heard a sermon on Acts 2:42-47 that described the earliest Christian community. One person mentioned that they wish the contemporary church was more like what was described. I’ve heard that complaint a lot and it does seem fair – we are far away from what is described by these few verses. I wanted to draw attention to two texts – one outside of the New Testament and one later in Acts.

First, the Epistle to Diognetus was written as early as 120 AD and contains a defense of the Christian faith. Chapter 5 contains a brief description of the manner of Christians during that time, which I’ve reproduced here in full:

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

A few highlights:

  • Christians live by revealed truth – not “speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men”
  • Christianity transcended cultural boundaries and norms
  • Christian practice was decidedly pro-life over against a culture that permitted and encouraged the slaughter of children. Hence, “they do not destroy their offspring.” or more literally, “they do not throw away fetuses.” For more, see Tertullian’s around 200AD.
  • To paraphrase Tim Keller, pagans were “generous” with their bodies and strict with their money; Christians are generous with their money and “strict” with their bodies. We share everything except our spouses.

What kind of witness would this bring against a hostile culture?

The second text I want to mention is Acts 5;1-11:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

I’ll let D. A. Carson speak on this one:

THE ACCOUNT OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA, whose names are recorded in the earliest Christian records because of their deceit (Acts 5:1-11), is disturbing on several grounds. Certainly the early church thought so (Acts 5:5, 11). Four observations focus the issues:

First, revival does not guarantee the absence of sin in a community. When many people are converted and genuinely transformed, when many are renewed and truly learn to hate sin, others find it more attractive to be thought holy than to be holy. Revival offers many temptations to hypocrisy that would be less potent when the temper of the age is secularistic or pagan.

Second, the issue is not so much the disposition of the money that Ananias and Sapphira obtained when they sold a piece of property as the lie they told. Apparently there were some members who were selling properties and donating all of the proceeds to the church to help in its varied ministries, not least the relief of the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, the man called Barnabas was exemplary in this respect (Acts 4:36-37), and serves as a foil to Ananias and Sapphira. But these two sold their property, kept some of the proceeds for themselves, and pretended that they were giving everything.

It was this claim to sanctity and self-denial, this pretense of generosity and piety, that was so offensive. Left unchecked, it might well multiply. It would certainly place into positions of honor people whose conduct did not deserve it. But worse, it was a blatant lie against the Holy Spirit — as if the Spirit of God could not know the truth, or would not care. In this sense it was a supremely presumptuous act, betraying a stance so removed from the God-centeredness of genuine faith that it was idolatrous.

Third, another element of the issue was conspiracy. It was not enough that Ananias pulled this wicked stunt himself. He acted “with his wife’s full knowledge” (Acts 5:2); indeed, her lying was not only passive but active (Acts 5:8), betraying a shared commitment to deceive believers and defy God.

Fourth, in times of genuine revival, judgment may be more immediate than in times of decay. When God walks away from the church and lets the multiplying sin take its course, that is the worst judgment of all; it will inevitably end in irretrievable disaster. But when God responds to sin with prompt severity, lessons are learned, and the church is spared a worse drift. In this case, great fear fell not only on the church but also on all who heard of these events (Acts 5:5, 11).

It is written: “He whose walk is upright fears the LORD; but he in whose ways are devious despises him” (Prov. 14:2).

The church has always been a mixture of both supernatural blessing causing good works and false believers doing evil.

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Reflections on Mark 14

Mark 14:3-9 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

  • Is it possible to waste something on God?
  • Worship is costly. “… I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (1 Chron. 21:24)
  • Costly worship may bring the rebuke of other disciples but it brings the praise of Christ

Jesus is not flippant towards the poor, as if he implying that since the poor will always be here we need not help. He is alluding to Deuteronomy 15:1-11, which rather than portraying the presence of the poor as a fateful inevitability commands us to action. First, notice the contrast:

Deut. 15:4 – “But there will be no poor among you…”
Deut. 15:11 – “For there will never cease to be poor in the land…”

God’s institution of providing for the poor through the wealth of the common people is not a magic panacea nor is it useless. Though we will always have the poor with us, the impossibility of fully solving the problem does freeze us in inaction but rather pushes us all the more. With God’s blessing upon us there need not be any poor among us. And though “there will never cease to be poor in the land,” God commands us to “wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”

“She has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” The women who went to the tomb thought they would anoint Jesus for burial but were too late. He was not there. Let us not delay in adorning Christ.

Mark 14:27 – “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’

Mark 14:29 – “Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.'”

Mark 14:30 – “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today… you yourself will disown me three times.”

Mark 14:31 – “But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ … ”

How more certain could Peter’s denial be? Christ Himself said it was written beforehand in Scripture. Peter denied it. Jesus made it explicit and personal. Peter denied it.

What warnings in Scripture do we fail to heed?

Mark 14:60-64 – “And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.”

The other charges Jesus need not answer, as their own testimony did not agree about what he had said three years earlier (John 2:19). But what could he do when directly questioned about being the Christ?

  • If he remained silent, what would that communicate? That he was afraid? That he couldn’t prove the claim? That he didn’t know?
  • If he said, “No, I am not the Christ,” wouldn’t that be a lie? And a lie against his own fundamental nature?
  • If he said, “Yes, I am,” wouldn’t he be charged, convicted, and killed?

Christ could not not tell the truth. Truly He is the man “who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind” (Psalm 15:4 NIV). He is the one who will dwell on God’s holy hill. (Psa. 15, Psa. 24, Psa. 2:6)

Mark 14:65 – “And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.”

Mark 15:17-18 – “And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!””

Mark 15:31 – “So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.””

Christ works as our priest, prophet, and king. And He was fully humiliated in all three offices.

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Reflections on Genesis 49-50

Genesis 47:6: “… Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land.”

Genesis 49:29-30: Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place.

Better to be buried in a small cave in the promised land than in the best land in all of Egypt.

How inconvenient would this be – to carry a dead body through the desert in a time of famine; to bring all those people; to weep for forty days? Does it matter?

Genesis 49:33: When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.

The idiom “was gathered to his people” is a way of talking about death. What does it say about belief in the afterlife?

Genesis 50:15-17 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

  • Afraid to face their brother directly, they send a messenger to deliver fabricated words.
  • Their consciences are still loaded with guilt
  • They feared that Joseph’s care was only for them because of their father.
  • Joseph sees through the lie immediately and is grieved.

Aren’t we like the brothers? When we sin against God and feel grief we fear that God’s forgiveness may somehow be less than genuine. We bring fabricated words in an attempt to secure, if it were possible, more forgiveness. Is Christ grieved over this? Doesn’t He see through this? Was His work insufficient to secure a full pardon?

Read the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne:

I feel when I have sinned an immediate reluctance to go to Christ. I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would not do to go, as if it were making Christ the minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe, and a thousand other excuses. But I am persuaded they are all lies direct from hell.

John argues the opposite way—‘If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father.’ The holy sensitiveness of the soul that shrinks from the touch of sin, the acute susceptibility of the conscience at the slightest shade of guilt, will of necessity draw the spiritual mind frequently to the blood of Jesus. And herein lies the secret of a heavenly walk. Acquaint yourself with it, my reader, as the most precious secret of your life. He who lives in the habit of a prompt and minute acknowledgement of sin, with his eye reposing calmly, believingly, upon the crucified Redeemer, soars in spirit where the eagle’s pinion [wings] range not.

Genesis 50:18-21: His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

  1. Their bowing down is an ironic fulfillment of Joseph’s original dream in Genesis 37. Not irony in sheer coincidence, but dramatic irony: the very actions they took to stop the dream from coming about were the actions that ensured that the dream would be fulfilled.
  2. Joseph doesn’t punish them because they don’t deserve it, or because they have children, or because dad wouldn’t want him to, or any other “horizontal” reason. Joseph doesn’t punish his brothers because that judgment belongs to God alone. “… am I in the place of God?” See also Joseph’s reason for not sleeping with Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:9 – “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” – and how he interprets dreams in Genesis 40:8 – “Do not interpretations belong to God?”. Joseph’s view of reality, the lenses that he sees all things through, is that everything is in reference to God. Joseph thinks of all things “vertically”.
  3. Man being in the place of God is the heart of folly and arrogance. God being in the place of man is the heart of grace and mercy.
  4. God ultimately overrides human sin, evil, and catastrophe for His glory and our good.

Genesis 50:20 is a succinct definition of the doctrine of providence. We are not subject to fate, futility, chance, or blind luck. History moves on towards a single purpose with God sovereignly orchestrating events. We may often wonder why a particular evil has happened – God has not promised to nor is He required to answer us in this way. But when we wonder if good can come out of evil God has answered definitively at the cross. See Acts 2:23, Acts 4:27-28.

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Rock of Ages (When the Day Seems Long) by Indelible Grace Music

Listen here

Rock of Ages, when the day seems long
From this labor and this heartache, I have come
The skies will wear out, but you remain the same
Rock of Ages, I praise your name

Rock of Ages, you have brought me near
You have poured out your life-blood, your love, your tears
To make this stone heart come alive again
Rock of Ages, forgive my sin.


Rock of ages. Rock of ages.
Bind your children until the kingdom comes.
Rock of ages your will be done

Rock of Ages, when in want or rest,
My desperate need for such a Savior I confess
Pull these idols out from my heart embrace.
Rock of Ages, I need your grace.

Rock of Ages, broken scorned for me.
Who am I that you would die to make me free?
To give me glory, (you) took the death and pain.
Rock of Ages, my Offering.

Repeat Chorus

Rock of Ages, “It is done!” you cried.
The curtain’s torn and I see justice satisfied
Now write your mercy, on my heart and hands.
Rock of ages, in faith I stand.

Rock of Ages, my great hope secure.
Your promise holds just like an anchor to my soul
Bind your children with cords of love and grace.
Rock of Ages, we give you praise.

Genesis 47:9 – “Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life…”

This hymn has gotten me through many days.

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Reflections on Genesis 46-47

Genesis 12:10 – Now there was a famine in the land.  So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.

Genesis 26:1 – Now there was a famine in the land — besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time –and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar.  the LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.”

Genesis 46:3 – Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.”

  • There was a famine in the promised land in the time of Abraham and he went down to Egypt – no comment from the narrator or God.
  • There was another famine in the promised land in the time of Isaac and he was forbidden to go down to Egypt.
  • There was yet another famine in the time of Jacob and he was commanded and encouraged to go down to Egypt.

Is it a sin for people to go down to Egypt to flee famine?  Maybe, Yes, and No.  It depends.  Beyond the most trivial matters it is difficult to answer, “Is it a sin to do X?” Often this question comes from sincere believers but it has been abstracted away from any concrete situation or people.  Perhaps we can’t answer the question because it is ill-formed.  Perhaps there is no appropriate answer for the question they are asking.  It depends.

But what does it depend on – their situation?  Ultimately, no.  On hearing and obeying the Word of God.  As important as exercising our God-given rationality is, we should not shy away from seeking His face and asking for His help.


Genesis 46:30 – Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.”

Luke 2:29 – “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation.”

Nunc dimittis. Now dismiss.  When Jacob saw Joseph – his son who he thought was dead – his joy was so full that he felt that his life had reached its conclusion.  When Simon saw Jesus – the Son who would die – his joy was so full that he felt like his life had reached its conclusion.

Who or what are you waiting for?


Genesis 47:25 – And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord we will be servants to Pharaoh.”

With Joseph in charge, everybody wins:

  • Pharaoh increases in wealth
  • The Egyptian people are kept alive
  • Joseph is honored in the sight of all
  • The house of Israel is saved
  • God is glorified, even by unbelievers

This is the sign of God’s blessing.  The Egyptian people view Joseph as a savior, not as a despot.  What will it be like when the savior greater than Joseph arrives?

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  • Towards my wife
    • I have never regretted being patient with my wife
    • I have never regretted encouraging my wife
    • I have never regretted spending time with my wife
    • I have never regretted paying attention to my wife
    • I have never regretted being gentle towards my wife
  • Towards my work
    • I have never regretted attempting what I was told was impossible
    • I have never regretted redoubling my efforts to solve a problem
    • I have never regretted assisting a co-worker
    • I have never regretted double checking my work to be thorough
    • I have never regretted learning something about the code, the product, or the procedures we use
  • Towards my God
    • I have never regretted spending time reading the Bible
    • I have never regretted spending time in prayer
    • I have never regretted spending time worshipping
    • I have never regretted making my petitions known to God
    • I have never regretted trusting in the Lord for His provision


  • Towards my wife
    • I have always regretted making a joke at her expense
    • I have always regretted becoming angry with her
    • I have always regretted being impatient with her
    • I have always regretted not listening to her attentively
    • I have always regretted not prioritizing her needs – physical, emotional, and spiritual
  • Towards my work
    • I have always regretted cutting corners
    • I have always regretted lying about the quality or completeness of my work
    • I have always regretted not taking notes about what I should know or tasks I should accomplish
    • I have always regretted being impatient with coworkers
  • Towards my God
    • I have always regretted the slightest sin, no matter how sweet it seemed at the time
    • I have always regretted not studying the Bible more
    • I have always regretted not committing my cares to God
    • I have always regretted not knowing and experiencing Him as deeply or often as I should
    • I have always regretted blaming Him for His providence
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