Literal Bible Versions

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

Those of us who are “Bible Geeks” tend to make use of a wide variety of Bible versions, translations and the occasional paraphrase. So, every time I discover a new one, I am compelled to investigate. Once again this has happened: I recently discovered the Literal Standard Version, released this past February. As you can tell, I’m late to the table with my thoughts on this one. (I’ll blame it on the pandemic, which really has nothing to do with it).

My Pastor has said that all translations are but commentaries on the original text. I agree with that statement — it’s hard not to. That being said, there are different types of commentaries that are either literal or dynamic in nature. For the purpose of studying the sacred text, I prefer literal versions. However, I also avail myself of some of the fine dynamic translations like the NIV or NLT to often see a different perspective.

In keeping with the topic of this post, I’ll stick to a discussion of some of the more literal versions. Aside from the recently released Literal Standard Version I already mentioned there are others worthy of note, such as Young’s 1898 literal translation (the LSV is based on Young’s work). There is also the very capable Lexham English Bible. Other (less literal) word-for-word translations that are excellent for study include the New American Standard Bible, its parent the American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, the New King James Version and the King James Version. It should be noted that both the ASV and YLT frequently use the term “Jehovah” for the name of God rather than Lord, Yahweh or YHWH. That might be an issue for some. I know in my mind and heart when I see an interpretation of God’s name I immediately think of Yahweh, not Jehovah. What is key here is that we pay attention to the fact that the name of God is being referred to, right?

I will spend some time with the LSV and offer a brief review at a later time — in case anyone might be interested in picking up a copy (I purchased a paperback edition from Amazon well under $20).

To wrap this up, literal versions have advantage for the serious Bible student. They tend to offer less bias and guesswork than dynamic translations such as the very capable NLT or NIV. I use both versions often and appreciate them on their own merits, but they are not the first text I use when studying a more intriguing topic or passage. They are best consulted after reading a more literal version. I often find the resources in the NIV Study Bible and the HCSB Study Bible as invaluable. The best thing you might do is to check out different versions on an app like YouVersion or Bible Gateway, or a wealth of other choices. Happy studying!

Sovereign

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. -Romans 8:28 NLT

A few years ago, the pastor of a church I was attending diffused a heated poltical debate that was taking place among some Christians on social media by reminding us that “God is in charge.” (A simple enough statement, not requiring a great deal of cerebral effort to comprehend). Yet, such a thing is so impacting on the human psyche — as it reduces all stress as it relieves us of all the awesome responsibilities undertaken by our creator.

It’s 2020 and there’s yet another presidential election in America. People from opposite ideologies are prone to tout how important this election is. Both insist that the future of America depends on the outcome of the vote. While I could not agree more with such thinking (all elections change things), whatever will happen is already decided.

The Apostle Paul knew what he was talking about when he wrote the letter to the Romans. We, as flawed humans dependent upon the grace of God, can misconstrue the meaning of verses like Romans 8:28 and consider it a promise that everything is going to be fine — as we see fine. But God is sovereign, and His plans do not always equate to something we see as desirable. We have no guarantee of health and wealth, for example, as some prosperity preachers would have you believe. A sign of maturity in the believer would be to see God’s will in all of our affairs as the only desirable thing. Unfortunately, we can all fall short of that mark. Thank Him for His grace!

The day after the election will likely come. I hope to arise that day and begin a day secure in the knowledge that Jesus is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords — regardless of who is to occupy the White House in the coming year.

FEAR: The Bad and the Good!

The first thing to remember about the fear that we often think of is that it is NOT from God but from Satan (2 Tim. 1:7). In fact, as believers, like Israel, God commands us NOT to fear and pledges to be with us through it all (Isaiah 43:1-2). The key to success in being blessed with His help is to keep our trust in Him through EVERY circumstance (Philippians 4 :6-7; Psalm 34:4). 

To rid ourselves from fear, we must know what we are afraid of. Once we know the fear, we can begin to get rid of it.

Fear is painful. It is painful to  believers and serves the purposes of Satan (1 John 4:18). The first thing we just do is make a conscious effort to trust God (Psalm 56:3). Then we can move forward, secure in the knowledge of God’s presence in our lives (Isaiah 41:10).

It’s very easy to stay up nights and worry about the coming day or some day in the near future. The Bible teaches us this simple truth: Worry (a product of fear) is a sin (Matthew 6:25, 34; 1 Peter 5:7). Better to focus on trust in and love of God! Do we waste time on worry or spend time trusting and loving God?

Here are some more encouraging verses on the topic of fear from God’s Word: Psalm 118:6; Psalm 23:4).

I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. -Psalms 36:1 NIV

Is there such a thing as good fear? There is one fear that is a good to have: THE FEAR OF THE LORD (Proverbs 3:7; Luke 12:5; Matthew 10:28). Let’s take a few minutes to examine what the Bible has to say about it. The first thing we should understand as we embark on our journey to know God better is the fact that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). He will take care of the needs of those who fear Him (Psalm 34:9). As much as we are commanded not to fear the things of the world, we are also to fear the Lord (Joshua 24:14; Ecclesiastes 12:13).

The following image contains an excerpt from a favorite study resource, the ESV Keyword Study Bible, that discusses the meaning of the fear of the Lord as portrayed and encouraged in Scripture: 

The Old Testament is not the only place in Scripture that talks about the Fear of the Lord. There is plenty of discussion of this topic in the New Testament. In Acts 9:31, the Greek word used for fear means a deep and reverential sense of accountability to God or Christ. Here are some other verses that speak of this fear: Romans 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:11; 7:1; Ephesians 5:21 (reverence).

Here is a comment from John Macarthur on the topic of the fear of God: While many Christians today think of the Lord in friendly, passive terms, the truth is that none of us would be leaping into the arms of our Father. The testimony of Scripture is clear: All sinners—even strong believers with mature faith—are right to cower in the light of God’s holiness. 

Of course, as Christians, we know the answer is Jesus. We can approach Him in fearful reverence, knowing His love for us because of Jesus and His sacrifice for us.

Meditations On The 23rd Psalm

The 23rd Psalm is probably the best known and loved  psalm in the Bible. There are at least two reasons for this: it is written in a simple, clear way with most words of 2 syllables and a few with 3. This makes it easy to understand without leaving a lot of room for different views. Second, it has a deeply personal feel to it. Many times in this short psalm are the words I, me, my and mine used. The truths contained in this psalm are easy to apply directly to our lives. 

To know the joy of this psalm, we need a personal relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11). The presence and sacrifice of Jesus are made clear in Psalm 22, where He is portrayed as the One dying for our sins on the cross.

We know that the Great Shepherd in Psalm 23 is Jesus our Lord. This is easy to see in the Scriptures (Heb. 13:20-21). We also know that our Shepherd is mighty God Himself, the Great I AM (Ex. 3:14; John 8:58). (His identity is never more clear than in John 1:1-3).

Psalm 23 opens with the LORD is my Shepherd. It doesn’t say the Shepherd. This conveys a personal, one-on-one relationship with Him. We can say by faith what is said in a famous verse of the Old Testament: He is ours and we are His (Song 2:16). He is our King whose perfect rule will be established (Lk. 23:2-3).  

Only Jesus could be our Great Shepherd, who never slumbers or sleeps — but always keeps watch over us (Ps. 121:3-5). We are the sheep of His pasture (Ps. 100:3). We are His creation (Eph. 2:10). Because of His divine protection and care, we have no reason to want anything. We are to be content in our present circumstances (Phil.4:11-12).

Because of Jesus, we are free to “lie down in green pastures.” This gives us a picture of rest and contentment. A sheep will rest when it feels protected from its enemies, is not troubled by the activities of other sheep in the flock and is free from hunger. Our Lord provides such things for the asking when we cast our burdens on Him (Ps. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:7). If we keep focused on Him, we shall feel His peace (Is. 26:3). Is this the experience we have in our own lives? 

In order to experience the “rest” written about in the second verse, we must remember WHO is our great Shepherd. With the LORD as our Shepherd & Helper, there is nothing to fear from anyone (Ps. 56:3-4; Is. 12:2). We must remember who it is that is to lead us. As sheep, it is all too easy for us to choose our own path and go our own way, possibly leading to harm or our own destruction. How does He lead us? He does so by His word (Ps. 119:105). If we meditate on His word, He will guide us on the right path. 

In verse 3, we read that He restores our soul. Not only does He make sure that our physical needs are taken care of, He also restores us spiritually. Pertaining to the second part of this verse, the King James Version Bible Commentary says the paths are “not rabbit trails to oblivion but are paths of pleasantness and peace” (Prov. 3:17). Once again we are reminded that it is He who should lead us to be sure we are on a path to righteousness and not one of our own destruction. 

In verse 4, we discover the Great Shepherd taking us through the valley of the shadow of death. Yet, as frightening as that may seem, we are to fear no evil because we are being led by the greatest Shepherd of them all, the Lord Jesus. The rod and staff are symbols of the shepherd’s office. They remind the sheep of the Shepherd’s rule as He guides them on a dangerous journey to a better pasture.

Verse 5 shows us that we can have perfect peace even in the presence of our enemies. There are 2 questions we might consider when we think about the table prepared: What is on the table and who is at the table? Put another way, we might think of food and fellowship. The food meets the needs of our souls, as reminded by our Lord. Only He can truly provide what we need (Jn. 6:35).

Who do we find at the table? First, our Lord Jesus — our great Shepherd. Second, there are those of us who are lost sheep, found by Him and redeemed. The table is a place where food is shared. Often food is shared by people in fellowship with each other. Jesus uses the idea of sharing meals together to remind us to keep fellowship with Him and each other (Rev. 3:20; Jn. 21:17).

Thou anointest my head with oil. Shepherds would carry a flask of oil and apply it to the scratched faces of their sheep who would get injured looking for food among thorns and thistles. Jesus often provides us healing on our journey. Anointing often infers blessing (Ps. 45:7;  92:10; Ecc. 9:8). Our cups may run over as we are continually filled to overflowing with the hope provided by the Spirit of God (Ro. 15:13).

In the 6th and final verse, we are offered absolute assurance that the graces of goodness and mercy will follow us all of our lives  and we will be with Him forever. This is the prayer of Psalm 27:4. We are assured that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He will come for us! (Jn. 14:2-3)

Psalm 91

It seems appropriate in this period of time, with everything going on in our country right now, to reflect on the only real security we have — that which we have been graciously granted by God.

Thinking about this, I turned to Psalm 91. The King James Study Bible says the keyword to describe this psalm is ‘security.’ That would be hard to argue as we start reading this psalm.

Several terms that refer to security are given in this psalm: shelter, shadow and refuge. Beginning in verse 3, the psalmist plainly tells us that the Lord protects us from danger. That will become evident as we delve into this sacred masterpiece.

The KJV Study Bible also has an interesting footnote that states there are two distinct voices in this psalm: one which assures the faithful of God’s protection and the second one is the Lord Himself, pledging His care in verses 14-16.

Because there are some similarities with Psalm 90, some think the author was Moses. However, there are also similarities with Psalms 27 and 31, some think it was David. Regardless of the human hand, we [as believers] know the true author was the Holy Spirit. G. Campbell Morgan calls this psalm “one of the greatest possessions of the saints.” Spurgeon says there is “not a more cheering psalm” and speaks of its nobility. Martin Luther called it “the most distinguished jewel among all the psalms of consolation.”

Ps. 91:1-2. While this is a great promise of blessing to believers, it does not necessarily apply to all believers. A believer must dwell “in the secret place” and be willing to abide under the shadow of the Almighty. What does it mean to abide? Literally, the Hebrew signifies it is ‘to pass the night,’ implying a continuous or constant dwelling, not just a temporary visitation during some trouble or calamity (Nelson KJV Commentary). A famous preacher of the 19th century has this to say about the “secret place of the Most High” and believer’s use of it: “Every child of God looks towards the inner sanctuary and the mercy-seat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place; they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not habitually reside in the mysterious presence.” (Spurgeon)

Spurgeon points out that the idea of the “Shadow of the Most High” implies great nearness, as one would need to be very near to another to fall under their shadow. I think it is always prudent to ask ourselves if we are living in nearness to God or have we strayed far away?

Scripture speaks of the shadow of the Almighty in 4 ways:
• The shadow of the rock (Isa. 32:2).
• The shadow of the tree (SS 2:3).
• The shadow of His wings (Ps. 63:7).
• The shadow of His hand (Is. 49 :2).

Frequently, the Psalms claim that God is our refuge and He is trustworthy (18:2; 144:2; 31:6; 55:23; 56:3; 61:4). It is of little meaning to simply say He is our refuge and fortress if we don’t first ask for and use the faith that He will give us.

Ps. 91:3-4. Now we discover how God brings His protection, comfort and care. First, He rescues us from the traps that Satan and the world like to set for us (Ps. 124:6-8). As Spurgeon says, “we are foolish and weak as poor little birds.” The “fowler” works in secret, changes his traps and methods often so that his prey does not get wise, also entices with pleasure or profit and often uses decoys in an attempt to confuse us.

Ps. 91:5-6. What about the ‘terror’ of the night? Sometimes during the night, we are presented with the opportunity to overthink things and dwell on those frightening, unpleasant thoughts that could bring us to a state of absolute despair, separating us from God. Once again, here are Spurgeon’s thoughts concerning the matter: “our fears turn the sweet season of repose into one of dread…” The only way to overcome such fears is to have a close communion with the Lord. Throughout scripture, time and again, we are told that He will deliver us in times of trouble (Job 5:19).

Whether by day or night, terror can strike in many different forms. Arrows, pestilence– they serve to illustrate that terror can come in many different ways.

Ps. 91:7. We are once again reminded that the Almighty is our shield and strength. No harm can befall us unless He allows it. Although we may feel overwhelmed at times, God is SOVEREIGN.

Ps. 91:8. Sometimes it seems like the wicked people of this world get away with everything. Asaph felt this way (Ps. 73:3-5). Persistence in faith will reveal the true end of such evil and the benefit of being a part of God’s family. Asaph realized this (Ps. 73:23-28).

Ps. 91:9-10. The Bible has much to say about taking refuge in the LORD and depicting God as our refuge (2 Sam. 22:2-3, 31, 33; Ps. 2:12; 5:11; 7:1). Note: the KJV and NKJV both render ‘taking refuge’ as putting trust in.

A person will not usually attempt to take refuge where there isn’t any trust. The blessings of God are not automatic. They require some action on our part. While we can do nothing ourselves to achieve salvation, in order to feel the assurance of His protection and care, we must make the LORD our ‘habitation.’ Once we strive for that, we will know the blessing and witness the justice of Proverbs 12:21.

Ps. 91:11-13. One of the many blessings of being an heir to the kingdom is the service of angelic beings (ministering spirits) who serve us as the LORD sees fit (Heb. 1 :14). With their assistance, we can conquer any threat this world puts in our path. “Over force and fraud shalt thou march victoriously” (Spurgeon).

Ps. 91:14-16. In these last few verses, we see that a believer’s trust in God pays off. Not just the angels of God, but He Himself will help us directly. It has been noted that these last two verses are not spoken by God’s people, but to God’s people by the LORD Himself.

Setting your love on God isn’t just simply a matter of waiting for a feeling to come, it involves making a choice to think and act toward God in “ways that express and build love” (David Guzik). He goes on to write that these ways include spending time with God, listening to God, reading what He has written to us, speaking to God, thinking of God in unoccupied moments, adoring God, speaking of God to others, giving to God and making glad sacrifices to Him and for Him (Enduring Word Commentary). When we do, we can experience the bounty of His loving protection and care (Isa. 43:2).

No Secrets

O Lord , you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. -Psalms 139:1-3 NRSV

Think about it – He knows ALL about us, yet He loves us with an unparalleled love! No secrets. No need for them.

A Promise that will be kept!

The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord ! May your hearts live for ever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord ; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. Psalms 22:26‭-‬27 RSV

The day is coming when God will be treated with the respect He is due! Don’t lose heart, His word is true!

Everything or Nothing…

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37‭-‬39 NIV

That’s not really asking a lot, when you consider what He did for us that are called by God into His family. Scripture is replete with statements indicating that we must be “all in” or we are out. The concept of “easy believism” must be exposed for the incredibly harmful false doctrine that it is.

Hope

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Romans 15:13 KJV https://bible.com/bible/1/rom.15.13.KJV

As believers, we need to be ever mindful of the fact that we have a hope the world does not have. They don’t, because they choose not to. Thank God for His mercy and grace, for He has given us a choice.