Lessons from the Life of Nathan the Prophet

There is great benefit in studying the lives of key figures in the Bible. While the greater lessons of the passages below involve the greater themes of promise of the Davidic covenant and continuing the Davidic line, and while Christ is our greatest example, we find many practical lessons from men of old as well (cf. Heb 11; 1 Cor 10:6, 11; Phil 3:17), including Nathan the prophet. There is certainly more to be learned from the life of Nathan than what is found below, but these practical lessons were beneficial to me and hopefully are to you as well.

If you have time, I would encourage you to read each passage along with the points that follow―2 Samuel 7:1–17, 2 Samuel 12:1–25, and 1 Kings 1:5–30.

Be ready to be confronted with God’s Word (2 Samuel 7:1–17; cf. 1 Chron 17:1–15). 

In 2 Sam 7:1–3, David consulted Nathan about with a grand plan—to replace the mobile tabernacle with a permanent temple. As was true (cf. 1 Sam 16:18; 18:12; 2 Sam 7:9), the Lord was with David, blessing him in his efforts as a king. So, on that basis, Nathan told David to “God, do all that is in your heart” (2 Sam 7:3). After all, David was a man after God’s own heart and would seem to carry out God’s desires (1 Sam 13:14; 16:7; Acts 13:22)

However, that very night God spoke to Nathan in a vision and commanded him to tell David of a greater house that God would build for him, an eternal dynasty (2 Sam 7:17).

We also find out later that the reason God did not let David build the temple is because he was a man of blood, war, and unrest (1 Chron 22:7–9; 28:3; 1 Kgs 5:3). Though God was with David to win these wars, God wanted a man of peace to build His house. Nathan either did not think through or was simply ignorant of God’s thinking on the matter. That “the word of the Lord came” (1 Chron 22:8) and “God said” (1 Chron 28:3) to David to not build the temple likely assumes Nathan as the means of bringing God’s Word to David.

Nobody wants to tell somebody not to carry out his dreams, especially when one has just done so. But, when God leads us to change our minds on significant matters, we must be willing to follow His leading and even lead others in doing the same.

Be ready to confront with God’s Word (2 Samuel 12:1–23).

In response to God’s bidding to confront David for his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah, Nathan artfully told the shepherd-king about a story involving family’s pet lamb, slain by a rich man who selfishly chose not to kill his own (2 Sam 12:1–4). Arousing David’s anger, Nathan showed how David had aroused God’s anger just the same and forcefully stated, “You are the man!” (2 Sam 12:5–7).

Nathan did not give a broad accusation. He specified the details of what David did and gave specific consequences by the Lord’s Word as to what would befall David, some of which took place right away (2 Sam 12:8–23).

Psalm 51, David’s psalm of repentance for his sins involving Bathsheba and Uriah shows how God can do a mighty work in one of His own that leads to repentance, in part through the confrontation by another one of His people.

Be ready to comfort with God’s Word (2 Sam 12:24–25).

After the first child of Bathsheba died, Solomon was born. By Nathan’s message, David gave him an additional name as the Lord commanded, Jedidiah, “beloved of the Lord” (2 Sam 12:24–25).

Sometimes faithfully confronting a another’s sin may allow you to be the one to minister to him later as he recovers and walks again with the Lord.

Be ready to ask others questions about God’s Word (1 Kings 1:5–30).

As commanded by God, Solomon was expected to be king (1 Chron 22:9). Adonijah, however, attempted to take advantage of his father David’s lack of declaration on the matter and exalted himself as king before the people (1 Kgs 1:5–10; cf. 1:17, 30). Nathan was assumed to be loyal to David and not even invited to be part of this process.

Nathan moved David to action by instructing Bathsheba to ask questions about the matter and followed her in doing the same (1 Kings 1:15–31). David had not sinned yet in this matter, and Nathan’s wisdom in asking questions allowed the Spirit to prompt David to actions that were based upon God’s earlier promises in the Davidic Covenant (cf. 2 Sam 7:12–13 with 1 Chron 22:8–9).

Sometimes all one needs to do is be quick to listen by asking some questions and be slow to speak before casting any accusations (cf. James 1:19). Sometimes all one needs is a question from a friend that the Spirit can use to prompt a person to action.

Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow

In his “last will and testament” in 2 Tim 4:6–8, Paul (1) sees his impending death, (2) looks back at his life, and (3) considers his future. In light of his words, we could ask ourselves the three questions that you find below.

What is your “today”?

While still alive, Paul realized his end was near: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim 4:6). Paul was a prisoner and apparently about to die (cf. 2 Tim 1:8, 16–17). As drink offerings were things poured out (e.g., Num 15:5–10), so Paul’s blood was about to be poured out in martyrdom (cf. Phil 2:17). Paul was likely beheaded under Emperor Nero in AD 67 or 68.

We must remember that our lives are like soon-vanishing mist (James 4:14). We know not what a day will bring forth (Prov 27:1). Our soul may be required by God tonight (cf. Luke 12:20). Then comes the judgment (Heb 9:27). Whatever today for us may be, let us live so that, like Paul in 2 Tim 4:7–8, we might be assured by our past faithfulness that we will be in heaven.

What was your “yesterday”?

Paul soberly reflected, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). The articles give a sense of finality―it is the fight, the race, the faith. The rhythm and variety of life descriptions adds to the sobriety. After his two metaphors (fight, race), Paul plainly says of his 35-year ministry, “I have kept the faith.” His belief, his exercise thereof, its content, its imperatives and implications―Paul kept it all.

May we live so that we can look back at our lives at any point and certainly at its end and be able to say that we have done the same.

What will be your “tomorrow”?

“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4:8).

Looking to the future, Paul anticipates the full experience of righteousness (i.e., the crown is righteousness, being the thing it is “of”; cf. 1 Thess 2:19; James 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10). This is not righteousness earned but awarded by the Lord, his righteous Judge. It comes through faith and by God’s declaration through His Son (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). This award is given “on that day” when Christ appears. Christians love this appearing in that they hope for it and find their affections what will be through Christ and not in what is passing away.

Christians today are included in “all who have loved His appearing.” May we find hope both now and in life’s dying moments that the full experience of our righteousness will be granted to us by our Savior at His appearing.

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What Is an Evangelist?

Only three verses in the NT in use the title “evangelist”: “On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him” (Acts 21:8 ESV); “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” (Eph 4:11 ESV); “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5 ESV).

From 2 Tim 4:5, in following Timothy’s example, we see that we are to do the work of an evangelist, though we might not be called as evangelists ourselves. From Eph 4:11, we see that Christ gave evangelists to the church. Were we to read on in Eph 4:12, we would see that the purpose for their giving was “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). From Acts 21:8, we have an illustration of an evangelist in Philip. Looking back at his life, he was “one of the seven,” one who was “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). As an evangelist, he proclaimed the gospel to crowds in Samaria (Acts 8:5–6), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26–38), and to all the towns within his roughly 55-mile trek from Azotus to Caesarea (Acts 8:40).

Added to this, we could remind ourselves that the verb evangelizō is used over 50 times in the NT, meaning “to bring or announce good news.” For the Christian, it is to preach the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers (e.g., Acts 8:40). Along this line of thought, other words are used for preaching, specifying the content to be the evangelion, that is, the gospel (e.g,. Mark 1:15).

From this terribly brief survey, we could at least say that an evangelist is someone who takes the gospel to those who have not heard it before, whether it be to one person at a time, or large crowds within a given city. It is someone who does not stay long in one place, likely leaving behind planted churches so that he can take the gospel to new places that have never heard it before. And yet, he is also someone who ministers to the saints by equipping them for the work of the ministry, likely teaching them to do what he himself is specially gifted to do, namely, persuasively giving the good news of the gospel to unbelievers.

May we all do the work of an evangelist, and may God bless the evangelists who take the gospel to where it has not been heard.

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 14:14–20)

Passage Summary

John again looked and saw Christ (cf. 1:13) with a sickle, sharpened for the painful judgment to follow (14:14). Relaying orders from the Father, another angel (a fourth; cf. 14:6, 8, 9) instructed Christ to reap the earth of its harvest, wicked man in the prime of his evil (14:15). So, Christ did so and was joined by an angel (a fifth) with another sharp sickle (14:16–17). Yet another angel (a sixth), designated as the one with authority over the fire (cf. 8:3–5; 16:8–9), commanded the fifth angel to join the harvest and reap the earth’s vineyard with his sickle (14:18). He did so, bringing about a sea of blood as high as a horse’s bridle and as far as 200 miles long (14:19–20).

 Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
14:14 Dan 7:13 One like a son of man is pictured on the clouds.
14:18 Joel 3:13 There is a command to use the sickle to harvest  evil in its ripeness and put it in the winepress, both pictures of the wrath of God.
14:19 Isa 63:1–6 God tramples the wicked, leaving much blood as the result of trampling upon them in the winepress of His wrath.
14:20 Joel 3:13 The winepress, now full, is trodden.

 A Parting Thought

Christ Himself is active with His angels in administering divine wrath upon mankind, now at its full with sin. May we be grateful that this wrath is not for us and that the world is not yet as wicked as it one day shall be.

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2 Timothy 3:16–17 – Part 4 of 4: The Sufficiency of Scripture

Click here to read part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this series.

The emphasis in the second clause of 2 Tim 3:17 is to clarify for what and to what the extent the man of God has become “complete.” Specifically, Scripture has “equipped” him for good works, the extent of which is “every good work.” If a man of God ever wonders what it is that he should do, he need only to look in Scripture and find instruction as to “every good work.”

Here we find something of the sufficiency of Scripture. Wayne Grudem defines this phrase in this way: “The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly”1.

As to Scripture giving us everything we need for salvation, 2 Tim 3:15 states that “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Likewise, James reminded his readers that God “brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18). Peter, too, says to his readers that they had “been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23).

From 2 Tim 3:17, every good work is possible when Scripture profits us through its teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Though this text was from Paul to Timothy, a man of God, it was to be read before all with Timothy in Ephesus (“you” is plural in 2 Tim 4:22). And, insomuch as Timothy or any Christian leader is to be an example for all Christians (cf. 1 Pet 5:3), so also must all Christians strive to imitate this faith (cf. Heb 13:7). What equips men of God for every good work equips every Christian just the same. As David said to God’s people long ago, those “who walk in the law of the Lord” are “blameless” (Ps 119:1). Scripture is sufficient to guide us in obeying God perfectly.

Certainly, our obedience is not apart from the power of the Spirit of God. Peter implies the Spirit’s role when speaking of God’s “divine power” as that which “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” but only does so “through the knowledge of Him who called us,” which for us, comes from God’s Word (2 Pet 1:3). As in 2 Tim 3:17, all-inclusive language is used (“all things”) to describe what is possible through God’s Word (“the knowledge of Him”).

  1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), p. 127 []

2 Timothy 3:16–17 – Part 3 of 4: The Purpose of Scripture

Click here to read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

All Scripture is inspired by God and therefore profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). In 2 Tim 3:16–17, the purpose for these functions of Scripture is “so that” (Greek, hina) or simply “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17). In other words, when “the man of God” has rightly applied himself to allowing the Scripture to teach, reprove, correct, and train him in his belief and behavior, he “may be complete,” which is to say that he will be “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16).

That “complete” is further described as “equipped for every good work” can be seen in that both “complete” (artios) and “equipped” (exērtismenos, from exartizō) share the same Greek root (art-), tying the two clauses of 2 Tim 3:17 together.

The emphasis in the first clause is the person. Scripture is profitable in its various functions, literally translated, “so that complete may be the of-God man.” In 1 Timothy 6:11, Timothy is emphatically called out―“O man of God” (ō anthrōpe theou)―to flee what is sinful and pursue what is fitting for his call as a “man of God.” Here in 2 Tim 3:17, the order of words is varied so as to emphasize identity of who Timothy was as a man. He was “the of-God man” (ho tou theou anthrōpos). And if his identity was so tightly bound to God as to be identified as “the of-God man,” then it was only fitting that the of-God Scripture should be that which shapes him for his role. When God has called a man to His service, it is to be one whose life conforms to what God has said.

A second note on “the of-God man”―again, while the wording is varied, it recalls Paul’s earlier address to Timothy as “O man of God” in 1 Tim 6:11. These uses in turn recall a regularly used title in the OT―“the man of God,” used almost 70 times. It is used most often for men like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, David, and prophets in general (Deut 33:1; 1 Kgs 17:8, 24; 2 Kgs 4:7; 1 Sam 9:7; 2 Chron 8:14; et al). As a preacher of God’s Word, Timothy’s role as a man of God was to echo the lives of these prophets of old and declare only what God had said. Their lives were tightly bound to God and His purposes that, were there to be one descriptor of who they were as men, it would be that they were “of God.” While men of God today do not receive direct revelation today as did these prophets of old, our function is still the same―to say what God has said and no more and let our lives reflect who He is. Let us get ourselves out of the way for God’s people so that when they hear us preach, they actually hear Him and walk away changed by the Spirit and Word.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 – Part 2 of 4: The Function of Scripture

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

“All Scripture is…profitable for” four functions stated in 2 Tim 3:16, “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The first two functions have to do with the positive and negative of belief. Scripture is “profitable for teaching,” that is, instructing what is right and true. It is also “profitable…for correction,” that is, exposing and denying what false.

The second two functions have to do with the negative and positive of conduct. Scripture is “profitable…for correction,” which has the idea of correcting aberrant behavior. It is also “profitable…for training in righteousness,” which is to instruct one in right behavior.

To clarify, all of these functions go together. 1 Timothy 1:8–10 catalogues a list of sins and then also condemns “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim 1:10). Sound doctrine leads to sound behavior. Instruction in doctrine always has implications for the Christian life. This is why Paul tells Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).

Looking more closely at 2 Tim 4:2, Paul seems to match the four functions of Scripture in 2 Tim 3:16 with four imperatives given to Timothy.1 He is told to “preach the word…reprove, rebuke, and exhort.” Notice the chart:

2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 4:2
Teaching (didaskalian) Preach (kēruzon)
Reproof (elegmon) Reprove (elegzon)
Correction (epanorthōsin) Rebuke (epitimēson)
Training in Righteousness (paideian tēn en dikaiosunē) Exhort (parakaleson)

To “preach” is to herald and publicly declare the truth. To “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” all assume doing so from the basis of God’s Word and dealing with sin, and thus Timothy was to carry out each action “with patience and instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).

Given this profitability of Scripture, we should be sure to saturate our lives with it in every venue. We should certainly assemble with the church for worship where the Word is regularly preached. As we are able, we should study, memorize, learn, and meditate upon Scripture as well. Such habits can only allow us to profit from God’s Word.

  1. Cf. George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), p. 449. []

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 14:6–13)

Passage Summary

Another angel (cf. 12:7) was flying above, proclaiming his gospel to the world (14:6). Commands therein were to fear God and give Him glory in light of the final outpouring of His wrath, as well as to worship Him as the Creator of all things (14:7). A second angel announced the fall of Babylon (likely a literal city, yet symbolic of and related to the nations) as if it had taken place already (14:8). A third angel loudly warned his hearers of God’s eternal wrath for those who worshiped the beast and received his mark (14:9–11). The saints are then called to endure, which, in context, is to bear the wrath of the beast on earth than that of God forever in fire (14:12). God or Christ (cf. 1:11, 19) commanded John to write, promising blessing to those who die at the hands of the beast, specifically that they would rest (unlike their enemies; cf. 14:11) as a reward for their good deeds (14:13). 

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
14:7 Exod 20:11 God created all things, represented by some of its parts.
14:8 Isa 21:9; Jer 51:7–8 Babylon fell for making the earth drink from its cup of sin.
14:10 Gen 19:24 Sulfur, fire, and brimstone are elements used by God in executing His wrath.
14:10 Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15–18 God’s wrath is pictured as the content of a cup poured out on its recipients.
14:11 Isa 34:9–10; 66:24 God’s fiery punishment lasts forever, during both night and day, and yields unending smoke.

A Parting Thought

This is perhaps the most horrific picture of eternal torment and what happens to those suffer it forever. May we endure and know that this punishment is not for us and also know that our good works assure us of rest and yield us reward in heaven in time to come.

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The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 14:1–5)

Passage Summary

John looks past the Tribulation to see the Lamb standing on Mount Zion in contrast to the dragon and beasts standing on the sand (14:1). Zion could be the literal Jerusalem in the Millennium, thus showing the Lamb’s victory in the face of what precedes it (cf. Zech 14:1–2). John then hears a voice like the roar of waters, loud thunder, and harps, a collective heavenly voice of those singing before the four creatures, elders, and the throne (14:3). The 144,000 from 7:4–8 learn their song, those who were redeemed during the Tribulation as the first of many to be saved during this time (cf. 7:9–14) and due to the hardships of this time, remained celibate (14:3–4). They were also truthful and blameless (14:5). 

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
14:1 Ps 2:6 Mount Zion is the central location from which God’s Anointed rules.
14:1 Ezek 9:4 Those marked by God are His own, persevere, and are protected by Him.
14:2 Ezek 1:24; 43:2 Both prophets heard something that sounded like roaring waters.
14:2–3 Ps 144:9 A new song is sung and joined by the sound of harps.
14:5 Zeph 3:13 The remnant in each passage speaks truth (cf. Isa 53:9).

 A Parting Thought

As with the 144,000, God sometimes calls people to difficult tasks with difficult circumstances. Just as they are the redeemed who will be with the Lamb, so shall it be true of us, and whatever tasks and circumstances may be ours, let us persevere just the same.

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The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 13:11–18)

Passage Summary

John saw another beast (a person; cf. 19:20; 20:10) coming from the earth and not the sea, like a lamb and not ferocious beasts, with two and not ten horns, and speaking like a dragon (13:11). His authority was for bringing about the worship of the first beast, even by imitating the miracles of the two witnesses (13:12–13; cf. 11:5). These signs were to deceive people and have them make an image of the first beast (13:14). This image was given life to speak and to slay those who did not worship the first beast (13:15). It then restricted buying and selling to those marked with 666, the name or number of the name of the beast that Christians at this time will somehow use to identify the beast as the antichrist (13:16–18).

 Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
13:13 2 Kgs 1:9–12 Both involve a person calling down fire from above.
13:14–15 Dan 3:1, 4–6 Those who did not worship the image were to be executed.

A Parting Thought

Despite an “unholy trinity” of the dragon, sea-beast, and earth-beast that are promoted by the beast-image for a false system of worship, complete with a resurrection and mark of membership, God’s people will not be deceived at this time (cf. Matt 24:14) and will be able to identify the Antichrist. Let us be watchful that we are not deceived by false prophets and antichrists in our own time as well.

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