It is difficult to say when and where exactly Job lived. Ezekiel mentions Job as part of a prophecy against Jerusalem just before the exile (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). This clarifies two points about him: that he existed and is not poetic, and that he must have lived prior to the Babylonian exile. Further, the book of Job opens with a note that he lived “in the land of Uz” (Job 1:1). The land of Uz is mentioned specifically in two other places: Jeremiah 25:20, where it seems to be distinguished from several other regions, and Lamentations 4:21, where the “daughter of Edom” dwells, suggesting that it was toward the south of Israel. The mention of the Sabeans, that is, Sheba, who lived even further south attacking the flocks in Job 1:15, suggests that he may have lived before the days of Solomon, since the queen of Sheba visits him in 1 Kings 10. If Uz was indeed somewhere in the vicinity or in the land of Edom, this would suggest (but only suggest) that he lived sometime between the days of Esau and the days of Solomon, a period of several hundred years.

Attempting to determine when Job lived is important because it emphasizes his words in the reading for today. Easter, of course, is primarily and rightly concerned with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Having conquered sin and death, Christ has redeemed His people and reigns triumphant forever as the One who died and now lives. Job, whenever he lived, testifies to Christ whom he knew only at a distance and yet longed to see His day.

The book of Job is divided into several parts: the introduction, where Job suffers several calamities (Job 1:1-2:13); the discourses with his three friends (Job 3:1-31:40); the rebuke of Elihu (Job 31:1-37:24); the rebuke of the Lord (Job 38:1-41:34); and Job’s repentance and restoration (Job 42). Within the discourses, Job repeatedly and correctly makes the claim that the Lord is chastising him when he has done nothing wrong. This is an important consideration, because his three friends continually assert that he must have sinned in order to bring on such disasters (such as Job 18:5, just before the pericope, where Bildad says that God punishes the wicked). It is only when Job demands that the Lord be answerable to him, as if the Almighty had to explain His ways, that Job earns the rebuke of Elihu and the Lord (Job 31). This explains why the Lord says of him that he is a righteous man (Job 1:8 and 2:3) and also rebukes his three friends after his repentance for not speaking truthfully “as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).

Therefore, in chapter 19, Job is in the right and correctly rebukes his less-than-helpful friends. The evils Job is experiencing have come for unexplained reasons, which he recognizes. His friends do not believe him, and so he cries out for vindication. This, then, explains his words in Job 19:23-24. Job is appealing to the future as a way of showing that what he says is right. He wants his discourse “recorded in a book” so that he will be vindicated in the future. But even a book might perish, so he wants them chiseled into the rock and filled in with lead, a far more permanent way.

But what makes this passage so important for a day like Easter is that he appeals to God. He says that “I know that my Redeemer lives” and that He will bring him justice. “At the last he will stand upon the earth,” both in the days when Christ came to die on the cross and also at the Last Day. “After my skin has been thus destroyed,” that is to say, long after his own death and suffering the curse of death, “yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Here is a clear and very early witness to the resurrection of all flesh. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:52-55). Job knew this, though he did not know the day, and he knew that he would be comforted long after his flesh had crumbled away. Job lives, because Jesus Christ lives, and Job will see God with his own eyes, because Jesus stands as the living Lord.

“Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever” (Zechariah 1:5)? Do we hear these words of the prophet Zechariah? While in their context these words are meant to call to mind the need to return to the Lord, they also point to the time which is always flying away. The previous generations once lived and worked and loved just as we do, but now they have gone. Our way is also short, but we are always on the brink of eternity.

But Zechariah’s words are especially important for those the Lord has called to proclaim His Word. It is one thing to call to mind that we are mortal, and that cannot be stressed enough. The men called to serve as the messengers of the living God, however, must remember that the time spent in His service is shorter still.

Pastors are, after all, jars of clay bearing the treasure of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7). They are not from everlasting to everlasting. We have been given a charge and appointed a time to fulfill it. Will this sermon be our last? “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16). The prophets, do they live forever?

These words are meant to remind us that we too will pass away, but they should also spur us to action. It does no good to turn back when handed the plow (Luke 9:62). Our time may indeed be short, but that should remind us of the urgency of our task. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Even if the field is rocky and the plow is in less than perfect condition, a pastor is sent to do what his Lord would have him do. Would you run away like Jonah, complaining of the Lord’s mercy (Jonah 4)? Would you point out your inadequacy like Jeremiah, being but a youth (Jeremiah 1:6)? Would you demand that the Lord send someone else like Moses, who could not speak well (Exodus 4:10)? The Lord has given you a charge and sent you to carry out His will. It is not yours to hesitate (1 Kings 20:35-36; Jeremiah 48:10). Who indeed is sufficent for these things? In ourselves, we are nothing, but in Christ, we have been set for this great task. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16-17).

But our fathers and the men who served in the same field as we call to us as well to fulfill the ministry which has been given to us by the mercy of God. They knew hardships and toil, great joys and great sorrows, just as we do. They are the forgotten shepherds of the living God, who eagerly ran the race set before them. They planted churches, serving dozens of congregations and preaching stations, often at the same time. They travelled long miles in the days before roads. They braved bad weather and endangered their health to bring the Word to people far off. They rode on horseback or on the trains or through dirt roads that turned to mud in the rain. Their task was long and hard and is now largely forgotten among men, nameless men who will not grace the pages of history books. But their deeds have not been forgotten by their Lord whom they served, and He will give to them a crown which will never fade.

So take heart, sons of the prophets. Your time is short and your calling is urgent. But the Lord who is faithful has called you, and He will sustain you for the work. “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

The darkness and the light

Of all the books in the Bible, Revelation is popularly held to be the darkest, the most difficult, the strangest book of Scripture. Bible classes spends years attempting to unravel its mysteries, but many Christians react to its puzzles in just the opposite way by throwing up their hands in exasperation and forgetting the book they never knew. Its reputation is far, far greater than the knowledge of it, so that Gösswein can speak of Revelation as a “nest of chiliasts,” and in his day as in ours, specific Christian pastors and teachers spring immediately to mind.

Is misuse of Scripture a testimony to Scripture’s darkness and perhaps Scripture’s uselessness? If no one can agree on what Revelation means, why try? Extending the same question one step further: if no one can agree on what Scripture means in so many places, why try? This mass of disagreement, fanatical opinion, skeptical disdain, and textual obscurity is daunting. But Gösswein neither throws up his hands nor insists with idiotic vehemence. He does not think the problem with Revelation is the book of Revelation. The problem with Revelation is who reads it.

Scripture is not a book like other books that just anyone can take up and read. A person who reads Revelation apart from the Spirit of God reads only darkness. Gösswein:

All divine revelation is to [the unspiritual reader] concealment and growing darkness, because the flesh has no enlightened eyes of understanding for the things of the Spirit of God.

Scripture is not unclear because its divine Author is not Himself unclear, uncertain, or unable to express Himself in human language. Scripture is found to be dark by those who are in the dark. Scripture is distant and inscrutable to those who are distant from the Lord.

This only appears to be tautological until one connects it to a point Gösswein makes about the importance Revelation has for chiliasts, those who read the book in what he describes as a “fleshly” manner. One will find in Revelation either chiliastic puzzles or nothing comprehensible so long as one reads without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. Gösswein himself “grew up among chiliasts and imbibed chiliasm with my mother’s milk.” He knows what it is and how it is that people find in Revelation fantastic schemes of earthly kingdoms and Jesus reigning like David from a throne in the city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jews. That fleshly longing for earthly glory and power Gösswein even identifies with “state-churchliness (Staatskirchentum) and the ‘Christian state,’” connecting chiliastic dreams of earthly power and military strife with the church’s longing for earthly validation and support apart from God’s Word.

As he makes the point that Scripture must be understood on its own terms, so that the one who would understand Revelation should above all read the biblical prophets, especially Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Daniel, Gösswein explains that there is only one way for man to receive God’s light so that he can read and understand Scripture. There is only one “cure” for chiliasm or any other fleshly way of reading Scripture and of understanding the Lord. He says it is the same way David was shown the light: the “terrors of the law must go through the whole body,” and then the “Sun of Righteousness in the gospel must rise, so that the gospel becomes everything.”

Scripture must be understood on its own terms, and its own terms begin with the reader’s knowledge of God’s law and His gospel. That dynamic makes the reader a wholly different person than he was before, enlightened by the Spirit with the knowledge of Christ. Only the one who knows the gospel can find Scripture profitable to him as he searches out Scripture’s treasures, and they are opened to him, clearly and beautifully with the Spirit teaching the reader from Scripture what Scripture itself means. Scripture is clear to those with eyes to see. Scripture in every part is glorious and endlessly rewarding to those with eyes fixed on Christ.

Zechariah wrote his entire book within the context of the rebuilding of the temple.  The prophet Ezra records that Cyrus, the king of Persia who had recently conquered what was left of the Neo-Babylonian empire, made a decree to send the Jews back to the land of Israel in the first year of his reign, approximately 538 B.C. (Ezra 1:1-4).  They began this work in the second year, approximately 537 B.C. (Ezra 3:8).  However, because of opposition from people like the Samaritans, work ceased until the second year of Darius (Ezra 4:24).  The Lord gave the command to resume the work of rebuilding the temple on the first day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius, approximately 520 B.C. (Haggai 1:1), and they resumed the work on the 24th of that same month (Haggai 1:15).  They finished the work of rebuilding on 3 Adar, the twelfth month, in the sixth year of Darius, approximately 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15).

The date notices Zechariah gives all fall within the context of the resumed work.  Zechariah first receives the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the eighth month of the second year of Darius, approximately two months after the work was renewed (Zechariah 1:1).  His visions, which form the first part of the book until the end of chapter 6, came on the 24th of the eleventh month of the same year (Zechariah 1:7).  The remainder, in which this reading falls, come on the 4th of the ninth month in the fourth year of Darius, approximately two years before the work was finished (Zechariah 7:1).

Where his fellow prophet Haggai stirred up the returned exiles to the work of rebuilding, the Lord inspired Zechariah to proclaim a message of hope.  After all, the exiles had initially been zealous for the work of rebuilding, but their zeal had disappeared.  They had fallen into all kinds of idolatry and sins, even after the Lord had brought them back (Ezra 9-10).  It was not enough to have a rebuilt temple and a still faithless people.  While Zechariah assisted Ezra in this work (Nehemiah 8:4), it seems that the Jews remained hardened, since Zechariah would later become a martyr (Matthew 23:35).

Nevertheless, the immediate context for Zechariah 9 is the coming judgment against the enemies of Israel.  Damascus to the northeast, Lebanon to the northwest, and Philistia to the southwest, all the historical enemies of Israel would be cut off for their sins against God’s people (Zechariah 9:1-8).  Because the Lord also refers to Javan, typically understood to be Greece, in Zechariah 9:13, this passage seems to encompass all enemies generally.  In other words, there will no longer be war in Israel when the king comes to reign in triumph.  All who have set themselves against Israel will be cut off when the king comes.

“Daughter of Zion,” apart from one reference by David in Psalm 9:15, occurs primarily among the later prophets, from the days of Isaiah onward (for example, Isaiah 37:22; Zephaniah 3:14; and Lamentations 2:13).  The Lord refers to Israel as a woman in many other passages, such as Hosea 2:2, Ezekiel 23, and especially notably in Revelation 21:2.  The bride is called to rejoice and to shout aloud (a word which also occurs in Joshua 6, which is to say, a war-cry or a cry of triumph).  When the King comes, He will come in triumph and victory, and he will put an end to war and be indeed the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6; see also Isaiah 2:4; Joel 3:10; and Micah 4:3).

However, there is a contrast at work here.  This just and victorious King will come humble and riding on a male donkey.  His coming will not be in the way one would expect, even though it is no less triumphant.  Much like the prophecy of Isaiah, Immanuel will eat curds and honey—the food of poverty—from his earliest years (Isaiah 7:15).  Ahaz’ faithlessness meant that the line of David would seem to fail by passing into poverty and ruin.  Even so, the true Son of David, poor and humble, would come to claim His rightful throne and reign as the promised heir forever (2 Samuel 7:12).  All of this shows why the Apostles cited this passage as part of the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15).

Finally, Zechariah notes that the reign of Christ will be from “sea as far as sea and from the river as far as the end of the land.”  This is nearly an exact quotation of Psalm 72:8, the psalm of Solomon which prays for the welfare of the king.  It refers poetically to the promises which God had made to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-20), to Israel through Moses (Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24), and to Joshua (Joshua 1:4).  Not only would this enormous tract of land encompass all of the territory of the enemies of Israel (as the Lord promised elsewhere in passages like Genesis 22:17 and 24:60), it is also a larger territory than Israel ever possessed historically.  The closest to come to this was Solomon, who “ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:21).  But Solomon fell into sin and the kingdom divided as a result.  But with the coming of Christ, the one greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31), the Lord will again be King over His people and reign in triumph as the Crucified One.

“A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God” (Isaiah 10:21).  Though Israel had gone into captivity, the Lord promised that He would bring a remnant back to the land.  Isaiah prophesied that Cyrus would be the Lord’s instrument (Isaiah 44:28).  God was indeed faithful, and a remnant of Israel returned, just as He had promised (Ezra 1).  In 538 B.C., the exiles returned to Jerusalem and began the work of rebuilding.  In the second year of their return, they began the great undertaking of rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 3:8-13).  Who could be anything except thankful for what the Lord had done for His people?

But zeal for this work flagged.  What must have been a fire for the Lord had reduced to barely smoldering ashes.  The Samaritans opposed the work after Zerubbabel rejected their offer (Ezra 4:1-5).  Those who returned began to intermarry with the people of the land, Samaritans and others (Ezra 9:1-2).  It seemed like a lot of work that would take a long time to complete.  Perhaps things were better this way.  Perhaps they would get around to finishing what they started, but they needed to settle in first.  Work on the temple ceased for many years.

This was the situation Haggai faced.  “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord” (Haggai 1:2).  They were complacent and more interested in secular affairs.  Business needed to be done.  Families needed to be cared for.  The temple could wait.  But the Lord declared:  “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins” (Haggai 1:4)?  You are concerned for the welfare of your own houses, while the welfare of the house of God goes to ruin.  Good intentions for the temple weren’t enough.

There is an important warning from Haggai for the Church in the present, especially in the United States.  This is an age of materialism, an age which has brought forth a level of prosperity which finds virtually no parallel in history.  The great temptation is to be concerned for the things of this world, for the bread which perishes.  Wealth has a way of drawing attention to itself.

But Haggai’s warning isn’t simply one of where funding needs to be directed.  Money is one consideration, to be sure, but the material welfare of the Temple is not the main point in this passage.  After all, David desired to build the first Temple for the Lord, recognizing a disparity between his cedar house and the tent of the Tabernacle (2 Samuel 7:1-3).  But the Lord did not command him to do it.  “In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar’” (2 Samuel 7:7)?

Rather, Haggai speaks against the smoldering zeal of Israel, the mindset which is more interested in the things of the world than in the things of God.  Neglect of God’s house is one way in which this mindset shows itself.  By becoming so focused on worldly things, God is pushed out of the picture.  Woe to those who forget the Lord who gave them houses and cisterns and vineyards (Deuteronomy 6:10-12)!

But neglect is not the only way this mindset appears, as it happened in the days of Haggai.  Christians can also become worldly minded while seeming to serve the Lord.  Do we not observe Your feasts, O Lord, and give what we have to Your sanctuary?  Have we not raised a mighty house to Your name and sing Your praises with a beautiful worship service?  “Did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name” (Matthew 7:22)?

In the same way that Paul speaks about the value of circumcision in Romans 3:1, a beautiful church has much to commend it.  But a beautiful sanctuary can be devoid of the Word.  Elaborate vestments can be distracting.  Some of the most magnificent liturgies in the world proclaim blatant lies.  Nor does a lack of these things mean that our worship is automatically more acceptable to God.  As Amos says, ““I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21-24).

Rather, the Lord is worshiped in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).  Blessed is the one who hears the Word of God and keeps it (Luke 11:28).  As Jesus said to Judas, the son of James, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).  A living faith, given and sustained by the Holy Spirit, makes our sacrifice pleasing in God’s sight (Hebrews 11:4).  Such a faith will not neglect the things of God’s house, nor will it be pleased with merely the externals in themselves.  Certainly, the beauty of the Temple and of our churches is of value in every way.  It is not by nature bad or useless.  But a Christian is one who worships inwardly and not only outwardly.

The apostolicity of Revelation

Though we have already covered the authorship of Revelation and Gösswein’s unbending assertion of the apostle John’s authorship of the book, there is another ground for critiquing the book’s apostolic origin. If a critic finds everywhere that the oldest orthodox authors affirm the apostle’s authorship, he can still turn to what Gösswein calls “inner criticism.” “Inner criticism” examines the style, the vocabulary, and other literary factors, and in this case, finds little to no evidence that John wrote Revelation.

Gösswein defends the book on several fronts:

Inspiration does not obliterate variety of expression and style.

The apparent strangeness of Revelation is no obstacle to its inspiration by the Holy Spirit. If the same Spirit spoke in “many and various ways through the prophets” and if the same Spirit spoke through Peter and through Paul, then He can also speak through John in that apostle’s very distinctive manner of expressing the truths of Christ. Gösswein makes this point briefly and concludes with the rhetorical flourish: “Where is there anywhere in [Revelation] that would be against divine inspiration and an apostolic manner of writing, against the honor and the doctrine of Jesus Christ?”

Revelation isn’t a book for beginners.

It is no accident that Revelation is last in the canon of Scripture. Gösswein quotes Luthardt’s 1861 commentary, “One should not begin the reading of Holy Scripture with it; rather should he close his reading with it.” Then Gösswein says in his own words, “It is not for children and beginners in knowledge, any less than the books of Ezekiel and Daniel.” Then with characteristic Latin brevity, Jerome says in Gösswein’s final quote, “Revelation has as many secrets as words.” The book is not impenetrable, but it is not for the faint of heart or for the one unskilled in Scripture. That Revelation quotes the Old Testament more than any other New Testament means for the reader that much more fruitful but hard labor.

The book everywhere bears the marks of the apostle John.

Gösswein briefly rejects Erasmus’ rather frivolous contention that the apostle’s provision of his own name in Revelation, something he does not do in the gospel or his epistles, means that the apostle did not write Revelation. He points out that Jeremiah names himself 120 times as no argument that it is un-Christian to name oneself in an inspired writing. Likewise the churchly title on many manuscripts attributing the book to “John the Divine” or “John the Theologian,” pompous as such as a title may seem to some, is neither the apostle’s self-description nor an inaccurate description of a man who teaches Christ so richly.

The strongest portion of Gösswein’s defense is his tracing of Revelation’s connections to other Johannine writings. Critics from Erasmus to the towering figure of late 19th-century higher criticism, De Wette, were certain the book was too stylistically estranged from John’s gospel and epistles that the author of Revelation had to be someone other than the evangelist or letter writer. Gösswein responds in several ways:

The number of Semitisms in the book results from John’s need to clothe divine thoughts in “the old holy language of the Hebrews” because it had “for such a long time been the clothing of prophecy.” The abundance of Semitisms incomprehensible to Gentile audiences is an argument for Revelation’s date within the first generation of Christians, before the relative eclipse of ethnically Jewish Christians within a massively Gentile church had occurred.

De Wette’s failure to comprehend the book’s high Christology and graphic manner of expression proves “the natural man receives nothing from the Spirit of God.” The higher critic’s inability to comprehend Scripture is the product of unbelief. He does not grasp Scripture because he has not grasped Christ by faith. Therefore the simple idea that John could be expressing himself rather differently under persecution in Patmos than in his gospel or his epistles becomes for the higher critic proof that the book is non-apostolic. The unbelieving mind will find to be true what the unbelieving heart already believes.

Revelation links up very well with other Johannine works:

  1. Quoting John Gerhard’s 1643 commentary, Gösswein points to the divine command to spread the apostolic knowledge of Christ at Rev 1:1; Jn. 21:24; and 1 Jn. 1:1.
  2. No other apostle or evangelist than John names the Son of God the Word, as he does at Jn. 1:1; 2:14; 1 Jn. 1:1; 5:7; and Rev. 19:13.
  3. John often speaks of witnessing, bearing witness, and witnesses at Jn. 5:39; 14:15, 21, 23; 15:26; 19:35; 21:25; 1 Jn. 1:2; and Rev. 1:2, 5, 9; 12:17; 14:12; 17:6; 19:10; and 22:9, 14.
  4. John calls Jesus the Lamb of God in Jn. 1:19 and twenty-nine times in Revelation.
  5. In his gospel John speaks of those who pierced Christ (19:34, 37) as he does at Rev. 1:7.
  6. 1 Jn. 1:7 is clear that Christ washes and cleanses from sin by his blood, as Rev. 1:6 also states.
  7. The image of water and the well of life appears in John’s gospel (4:10, 14; 7:38) and in Revelation 7:17; 21:6; 22:1, 17.

All of these points taken together, the Scripture itself testifying to the apostolicity and the christocentricity of Revelation along with John’s gospel and his epistles, amount to an overwhelming testimony that Revelation is the work of the apostle John, high and difficult as its construction and style may be, that clearly proclaims Christ the Lamb of God as Savior.

Like Jacob a couple of weeks ago, the Old Testament reading for the Fifth Sunday in Lent is reaching a high point. Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his promised and beloved son Isaac. Within the wider context of Genesis, this chapter comes toward the end of the section which deals primarily with Abraham. The “generations of Terah” began in Genesis 11:27 and will end in a few chapters in Genesis 25:12. Chapter 23 deals with the death of Sarah before beginning to focus on Isaac in Genesis 24. This is plainly the last major event in the life of Abraham.

The passage begins by noting that God is testing Abraham. The Scriptures clearly forbid man testing God, as seen clearly in Deuteronomy 6:16. However, God frequently tests men, such as in Exodus 15:25, Deuteronomy 8:2, Psalm 26:2, and 2 Chronicles 32:31. Such passages also clarify that God intends to prove the faithfulness of those who He tests. All people, like Adam, are by nature covenant-breakers (Hosea 6:7). Like a vassal who has broken faith in the past, it is reasonable to ask whether he will prove true in the future. This, then, is why it is forbidden to test God: it at least asks whether God will be faithful in His promises, something which the Scriptures teach over and over again. Even when God asks Ahab to test Him in Isaiah 7:10-12, He seeks to show in this extraordinary instance that He is steadfast and true to His Word. But such testing should not alarm us. God does not seek to crush with such testing, but rather to chastise and discipline those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6).

The Lord commands Abraham to take Isaac to Mount Moriah to the north. Abraham had been dwelling in or near Gerar as of Genesis 20:1 and making a treaty with Abimelech in Beersheba in Genesis 21, both of which are toward the southern end of the land of Israel in the Negeb. Moriah is in what would later be Jerusalem. The Lord appeared to David on Moriah in 1 Chronicles 21:18-22:1 when David sought to avert the plague brought on by his census. Solomon therefore builds the temple on Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). The second temple, built over the ruins of the first, thus was also on Moriah, which means that Jesus would spend much of His time teaching in the same place where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham notes to his young men that he and Isaac will go and “bow down” and return, a gesture of worship. Hebrews 11:17-19 strengthens this point, since Abraham did all of this “by faith,” recognizing that God can also raise the dead. Faith shows itself by its works, which is the point of James 2:21. Being justified by works is tantamount to saying that a good tree produces good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). Abraham also demonstrates this through naming the place Jehovah-Jireh, that is, “The Lord will see” in the sense of “will see to it, or will provide” (Genesis 22:8 and 22:14). Even though he had not yet seen the lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham knew by faith that the Lord would see to it.  Even if he had to follow through with the sacrifice, the Lord would raise Isaac from the dead and see to His promises.

Much could be made of the ram caught in the thicket being sacrificed “instead of” or “in place of” Isaac. After the Lord stops Abraham’s hand, He sees to it that a substitute for Isaac is found. This notion of substitution continues throughout all of Scripture, first in the animal sacrifices of Leviticus 1 and following, and finally in the great substitution of Christ on the cross for our sins. Because of this, allegory is unnecessary.  God substitutes His own Son for those who hated Him in order that He might have mercy on them and deliver them from the coming wrath (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Finally, the Lord renews His promise to Abraham and includes a beautiful oath: “By Myself I have sworn.” This phrase occurs in four places in the Old Testament: here in Genesis 22:16, Isaiah 45:23, Jeremiah 22:5, and 49:13. Here and in Isaiah, the phrase is used to strengthen a promise: it is the Lord who shall save and no other. However, in Jeremiah, the Lord uses it to seal a judgment: Judah shall become desolate and Bozrah shall become a waste. Thus, it is a highly intense modifier, a solemn promise that what the Lord has said will without doubt come to pass (Numbers 23:19). “For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:16-18).

Unbelievers are not the only ones prone to sinful security.  Sin certainly hardens the heart of the unbeliever into believing that there is always more time (Luke 2:16-21).  But abused mercy has a way of hardening the heart in a way that unbelief cannot.  The one who sins believing that he has God’s favor is in a more dangerous position than the one who does not believe (Luke 12:47-48).

“Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O sons of Israel, against all the clans that I brought up out of the land of Egypt, saying:  ‘You only have I known out of all the clans of the earth’” (Amos 3:1-2).  The Lord directed this prophecy, which came through the shepherd Amos, against the idolatrous northern kingdom of Israel in the days of the second Jeroboam.  For hundreds of years Israel had walked in the footsteps of the first Jeroboam, who had led Israel into sin (1 Kings 12:25-33).  But they did not imagine themselves to be apostate or idolatrous.  After all, they still offered burnt offerings to the Lord and peace offerings, didn’t they (Amos 5:21-22)?  Didn’t they at least observe the Sabbath, even if they had things to do after the requirement was over (Amos 8:4-6)?  Idolatry is always papered over, serving the Lord in one’s own mind in ways that he has not commanded, or claiming to fear God and yet going after other gods (Zechariah 1:4-6; 1 Kings 18:21; 2 Kings 17:39-41).

This is why it is so easy for sin to blind the one who has received mercy and turn again toward sin as a result.  “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’” (Matthew 3:9).  “A Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:29).  “Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13).  The prophets fought against this hardness, for the people had convinced themselves that the Lord would not bring disaster upon His people.  He has made all of these wonderful promises to our fathers!  Why would He now bring judgment?

But the judgment of God rests heavier upon those who have known His mercy and yet rejected it.  This is why He reminds them of His former mercy in bringing them up out of Egypt.  They have known His grace and His love for them and for their fathers.  The Lord did not choose them because they were unique in any way, but because He loved them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).  Yet they should not lull themselves to sleep because God is long-suffering.  The patience of God does not mean He is unaware or does not care.

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to meet?”  No.  “Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?”  No.  “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid?”  No.  “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?”  No!  These things do not just happen, as if the forces of nature were mindless and independent, the way we so often view them.  Disasters are a call to repentance.  Amos makes this abundantly clear later:  the Lord sends famine, drought, blight, locusts, pestilence, and war as a call to forsake evil and turn toward him, “yet you did not return to me” (Amos 4:6-11).

It is true that in Jesus Christ, Christians know the mercy of the Father.  Jesus is our forgiveness and our life.  In Him, the work of our salvation is finished.  But will we look to our Baptism and say that I may do as I please, because I have been baptized into Christ?  Will we receive the Lord’s Supper while holding a grudge in our hearts?  “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1)?  Will we imagine that only the Jews were prone to carnal security?  “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1)!

But disasters are not a blind call to repentance.  It is all too easy to see “acts of God” and attribute them to natural forces.  The Lord has not, however, left us with only a mute witness in the world.  “For the Lord does nothing without revealing His secret to his servants the prophets.  The lion has roared; who will not fear?  The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy” (Amos 3:7-8)?  In His holy Word, the Lord calls us to repentance.  In the Scriptures, we have more than ample warning.

And through His servants, the prophets and also the apostles, the Lord has declared this Word to us.  Through the living voice of those whom He has called to proclaim His message, the Lord declares this Word.  Who can but prophesy?  The living Word proclaimed by the Holy Spirit is a fire in the bones, incapable of being restrained (Jeremiah 20:9).  We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).  “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16)!  The watchman of the house of Israel cannot but speak what he has heard, lest he endanger his own soul also (Ezekiel 3:17-18).

The authorship of Revelation

Before covering specific opinions about the authorship of Revelation, we should note that Gösswein’s use of patristic material and accurate knowledge of the Fathers are exemplary for a parish pastor. His opinions are strong but well-founded, and his coverage of authorship in four or five pages is as comprehensive as anything except the most specialized modern commentaries. He does not plead his simplicity as “just a parish pastor” or his ignorance as “not a professional exegete.” There is no necessary distinction between the pastor, the scholar, and the exegete. Gösswein unites those roles in himself to expound Scripture.

Gösswein unapologetically affirms that the apostle John authored Revelation. His contention on the authorship of Revelation is that uncertainty on the topic dates from the third century with Marcion’s denial of its Johannine provenance. Tertullian is quoted to effect that though Marcion denies Revelation’s Johannine authorship, the lines of bishops in the seven churches of Revelation can be traced back to John (Contra Marcionem, lib. IV). Gösswein himself points out that none of the seven churches mentioned in the book is the source of any doubt about Revelation’s apostolic authorship. Gösswein finds many citations of or allusions to Revelation in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna. Irenaeus’ simple use of Revelation as “a writing of the Apostle John very often” and defense of the reading of 666 in Rev. 13:18 against differing manuscripts’ reading of 616 witness (Adversus haereses V:30) to the knowledge of Revelation and the affirmation of its Johannine authorship by a disciple of Polycarp and a native of Asia Minor.

Clement of Alexandria gives no indication that anyone opposes the apostolic authorship of Revelation, citing the book simply as the apostle John’s work. Gösswein also cites Origen’s unqualified affirmation of John’s authorship and names other supporters of the same position: Melito of Sardis, Papias, Theophilus of Antioch, Justin Martyr. He affirms that not only is apostolic authorship universally maintained by the Fathers but that also all agree that “in great old age, exiled to the island of Patmos, John the apostle received the Revelation.” He cites Eusebius, who mentions the historical circumstance of the Revelation and the doubts about the book on the basis of “critical comparison of the style, dogmatic polemic, and the darkness of the misuse of the book.” Gösswein does not understand Papias (cited in Eusebius) as affirming a separate “presbyter John” from the apostle but uncomplicatedly uses Papias as part of his evidence.

The patristic doubters of its apostolic authorship, of whom Gösswein mentions Dionysius of Alexandria and Jerome chiefly, complain of its obscure style, the darkness of its symbols and words, and the “fleshly, Jewish, and heathen thoughts of the chiliasts…too closely related” to the book. So for Gösswein the heretical misuse of the book is the source of the later Fathers’ doubts about the book. Its heretical misuse is the source of its orthodox neglect. What began with the doubts of the heretic Marcion is recapitulated in the dislike of Jerome for the apostolic book.

Gösswein sees church history as the battleground of orthodoxy with heresy, a battle extending into every realm of church life, including isagogical issues like the authorship of biblical books. He utilizes closely argued historical research to discover the third-century origin of doubts of Revelation’s apostolic authorship and marshals many Fathers to refute those doubts and affirm the book’s apostolic provenance.

The first verse in Exodus 16 is important for establishing the context of the pericope for the Fourth Sunday in Lent and should not be excluded. Israel set out from Egypt on the fifteen day of the first month (Numbers 33:3) and has now arrived in the wilderness of Sin thirty days later (assuming that each month in the calendar in the days of Moses had thirty days, as Moses himself suggests in the flood lasting for 150 days or 5 months in Genesis 7:11, 8:3-4). They have just left Elim and the waters of Marah and are heading generally southward toward Sinai.

In this short period of time, Israel has not only left behind the plagues of Egypt but also passed through the Red Sea. They cannot have forgotten the wonders of God in so short a period, even if their hardness of heart causes them to ignore them. However, forgetting even the sweetening of the waters of Marah not that many days ago (Exodus 15:25), they begin to grumble for food. Israel begins to wonder whether they will have enough to eat in the wilderness. Who could find enough food for a congregation likely numbering in the millions (Exodus 12:37)? They even begin to imagine they had it better in Egypt, even though they had cried out to the Lord in their distress (Exodus 2:23-25).

The Lord in His providence provides them with bread from heaven. Manna, described as bread in Exodus 16:4, defies exact description. It is described as “fine,” a word used to describe the dust in Isaiah 29:5 which is contrasted with chaff. Its appearance is like “hoarfrost,” the crystalline frost which tends to form on objects like branches. It is said to either “crackle” or be “flaky,” though that particular word in Exodus 16:14 occurs only here in the Old Testament. Manna is also “white” and like “coriander seed,” but that comes from the Greek Septuagint.  “Coriander” is used to translate this word which is also unique to manna in Exodus 16:31 and Numbers 11:7.  Small wonder that manna means “what is it” in Hebrew!

Together with a miraculous abundance of quail, manna is meant as a sign to Israel that it is the Lord who has brought them out of Egypt (Exodus 16:6). They are given sufficient food in a land which could not normally support millions. Each one measured out an omer of the manna, a unique measurement which only occurs in this passage and is explained in Exodus 16:36. This omer would be enough for every person, literally “a man to the mouth of his eating,” that is, as much as one needs (which occurs in Exodus 12:4; 16:16; 16:18). This corresponds to the Lord’s command that the bread be gathered daily, except on the Sabbath. It is the “matter of a day in that day” and finds a clear parallel in the petition “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). God will provide what we need on the day in which we need it. Why then should we worry? (Matthew 6:25-34).

By following these commands regarding gathering outwardly, Israel would also show an inward trust. When they “measured it with an omer” as the Lord commanded day by day, there would be no lack and no surplus, only exactly what is needed. This is why Paul refers to Exodus 16:18 in 2 Corinthians 8:15. The congregations who had much shared with those who had little, and nothing is left over or lacking as a result. This also applies to the multiplication miracles in Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-39; Mark 6:32-44; 8:1-10; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-13. Jesus multiplies according to the need so that no one is left hungry. God’s providence is perfect.

Yet many do not listen. They go out to gather on the Sabbath anyway, despite the clear prohibition. They do not believe that the Lord will indeed provide for them. They keep it until the morning, because they want an insurance policy that they will have bread tomorrow. Like their descendants in Jesus’ day, they seek God not because of signs, but because they ate bread (John 6:26). They have no faith.

As a final note, Aaron is commanded to keep a jar of manna as a testimony for future generations of what the Lord has done (Exodus 16:32-34). It would call to mind what God had done as a way of reassuring what God would continue to do for His people. Hebrews 9:1-5 notes that this golden urn was placed within the ark together with Aaron’s staff and the tablets. It was certainly a holy object, since it rested within the ark of the testimony. But 1 Kings 8:9 and 2 Chronicles 5:10 state that both this urn and the staff were gone by the time the ark reached the temple. It is not clear where they went, perhaps being lost through the negligence of the priests or during the captivity of the ark in 1 Samuel 4-6. However, the Lord willed for this to happen, for much like the bronze snake in 2 Kings 18:4, physical reminders always carry with them a temptation in the hearts of sinful men toward idolatry.