More of Joseph Caryl

Here are some profound thoughts from that master on the Book of Job, Joseph Caryl.

From volume 1, pg. 470: “When a wise man falleth into trouble, he falleth forward, that is, he falleth into those troubles, which he did fore-see; but when an ungodly man, a wicked man falleth into trouble, he falleth backward, he falleth into those evils, which he never thought of, much less feared.” Caryl is commenting on Job 3:25.

Page 456: “Every truth is beautiful, but the truths of God are beauty.”

Page 451: “As the first death doth part soul and body unwillingly, so the second death keepeth soul and body together unwillingly.”

And finally, from page 475-476, commenting on Luke 12:19: “I am safe in Him, I am quiet and at rest; he saith to his soul, ‘Soul, doest thou see That Christ, and doest thou take notice of those promises? Thou hast goods layed up in him, in them for many years, yea for eternity; soul, take thine ease, take it fully, thou hast riches, thou hast an estate that can never be spent; soul, eat, drink, and be merry; his blood is drink indeed, and his flesh is meat indeed, joy in Christ is joy indeed, unspeakable joy here, and fulness of joy hereafter.'”

Abraham, Friend of God

Genesis 18:1-15
How hard it is to believe someone, isn’t it? We might think that the other person doesn’t have the power to back up what he’s saying. Or we might find him unreliable in general. In any case, we have trouble trusting what someone says. If someone were to come up to you and say, “I’m going to give you a million dollars,” you probably wouldn’t believe that person, would you? Even if it were someone you knew, you would probably have your doubts. “Where did that person come up with a million dollars?” you might very legitimately ask. Often, though, even if God Himself were to give us a promise, we would doubt that God could do it. That’s because we are thinking about human beings, and what they have the ability to do, when we should be thinking about God, who does anything He wants to do. Do we really believe in the God of creation and salvation? What we have in our story today is a contrast between the reaction of Abraham and the reaction of Sarah. It has much to teach us about believing what God has told us.

It says in the very first verse that the Lord appeared to Abraham. This is a story of the Lord appearing to Abraham, His friend. But Abraham doesn’t necessarily know that it is the Lord, yet. Abraham is sitting on his door step, probably having eaten his noon meal, and maybe getting a little drowsy. It was, after all, the heat of the day. No one liked to travel in the heat of the day, especially since the temps could be upwards of 120 degrees.

Along come three men and stand right before him. That is exactly the same as if someone were to knock on our door. They didn’t have doors in their tents, and so the thing to do if you wanted some food was to stand in front of the tent, and wait for the master to come out and feed you. The Lord is standing at the door and knocking.
Abraham looked up in surprise, seeing three men who seemed to have come from nowhere. The ESV is clearer on the surprise here. There is the word, “behold” in the original. But Abraham doesn’t miss a beat. He instantly does his duty as a host. He rushes to meet them, and invites them to stay for a little something to eat. Abraham is amazingly polite here. First, he mentions their unspoken needs. Since travelers usually wore sandals in those days, their feet would have been quite dirty. And so it was the host’s job to make sure that the feet would be comfortable. I’m sure you know the feeling of having sand or dirt in-between your toes. Very uncomfortable. And so, the ancient host would wash the feet. Now, in verse 5, the NIV really doesn’t help us very much. It just says, “Let me get you something to eat.” The original implies that Abraham is saying, “Let me get you a little something to eat.” The difference is important. It is another evidence of Abraham’s politeness. Abraham doesn’t want his visitors to think that they are a bother to him. And so, he promises them just a little refreshment, while intending to feast them royally.

An interesting question here is whether Abraham knows who his visitors are. In verse 3, Abraham says, “my lord,” or “O Lord.” The word is the Hebrew word used for God, but also used for our word, “sir.” It could be either. But in any case, the identity of one of the persons is revealed in the course of the conversation.

Abraham does much better than he promised. Three seahs of fine flour is a little over twenty gallons of flour, much more than what is needed for these guests. It is “fine flour,” the best quality available. Furthermore, Abraham takes one of the best calves in his flock, and gives it to his servant to prepare. Abraham picks it out himself. He wants to make sure that only the finest will be served to his guests. If Abraham knows that his visitor is God Himself, then he is offering to God an offering. If Abraham doesn’t know, then he is giving something better than he knows. In either case, this is a royal feast. And when the three men ate the meal prepared, Abraham is the proper host, and stands and attends to their every need before they even ask.

Now, some in the early church have said that the three men are the three persons of the Trinity. That is going a bit far. For one thing, in 19:1, two of the men are said to be angels. For another, when Abraham addresses one person from among the three, it is only that one person who responds in a manner one would expect of God Himself. So what we probably have here is the preincarnate Christ with two angels.

Notice that these three men have a very intimate fellowship with Abraham. There is communion among the four people. Abraham is the only person in the entire OT with whom God actually sits down and eats. Abraham is also the only person in the entire OT who is called the friend of God. We will see next week that God does not hide from Abraham what He is going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah precisely because Abraham is the friend of God.

In the second half of our story, we see the Lord revealing Himself to Abraham and Sarah. First, we have the rather startling question in verse 9. It is startling because these are men whom Abraham has never seen before: how do they know Sarah’s name? Not only that, they know that the name is Sarah, not Sarai: the new name and not the old name. Then in verse 10, we see God revealed clearly for Abraham and Sarah to see: The Lord promises that Sarah is going to have a son next year. We have seen how the promises of God become more and more specific over time. First, Abraham would be the father of many nations. Then Abraham will have a son, and then Abraham would have a son by Sarah, and now the son will be born a year from this time. And as the promise gets more and more specific, the doubt grows in Sarah’s mind, even as it diminishes in Abraham’s mind. Abraham completely trusts the Lord’s word here. His faith is not yet entirely mature, but it is growing.

However, Sarah’s faith is still very weak. She is standing at the door of the tent behind the three men, listening to this promise. She thinks that the three men cannot see her. She laughs in her heart, or “to herself.” The text again says that Sarah and Abraham were old. As if we had forgotten. Sarah says to herself, “This is crazy! I am a shriveled-up woman, well-past child-bearing years. And yet here is this man telling me that I am going to have a son. He might as well tell me that I was going to the moon!”

Notice here quickly that Sarah calls Abraham her lord in verse 12. 1 Peter 3:6 says this: “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” This is where Sarah calls him her lord. She submits to her under shepherd Abraham, but she does not submit to her real Lord, God Almighty. And so, she says this is unbelief.

But the Lord cannot believe her unbelief. He says, “Why in the world did Sarah laugh? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Now, the Lord demonstrates that He is the Lord, simply because He saw what was going on in her mind. She thought that He didn’t see, but He did. The Lord is omniscient: that is, He sees and knows all things. The Lord asks this question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Is the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead too hard for the Lord? Did Jesus really secure a place for us in heaven? Are ALL our sins taken away by the blood of the lamb? Is anything too hard for the Lord? Apparently, Sarah thought that this was too difficult for the Lord. The Lord could bring order out of chaos at creation. The Lord could save Noah from the Flood. The Lord could save Abraham and Sarah while they were in Egypt, but the Lord couldn’t give her a son. That was simply impossible. How like us. Aren’t we the ones with little faith? We are just like Sarah.

And then we see Sarah doing what we all do when we are caught: we deny that we have done it. We say that we have obeyed, or that we have had faith, when we really didn’t obey, and certainly didn’t have faith. Is that being honest with God? Why in the world do we think that we can get away with lying to the Lord? He sees everything! There is nothing that is hidden from God. You can’t go anywhere and hide from Him.

What we have to understand is that God has done the seemingly impossible thing of saving us from sin and death. God brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus. The resurrection was much harder than giving Sarah a son, because the resurrection involved defeating death itself. But Sarah’s conception points us to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Are you a friend of God? John 15:12-15 says this: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made know to you.” Are you the friend of Jesus? We are not talking about a mere acquaintance. We are not talking about someone whom you somewhat know. We are talking about someone who tells you everything, and to whom you tell everything. We are talking about someone with whom we have the closest connections, someone with whom we have communion all the time.

Now, our sin means that we do not have this friendship naturally. We do not have this friendship, because the basis of friendship is trust, honesty, and loyalty, none of which we have with God because of our sin. Our sin has made us enemies of God. We are the farthest thing from God in our natural state. What we need then is someone who can bridge the gap between God and us. That person is Jesus. What a friend He is for sinners! There is no one like Him.

If we are friends with God again, then we must be friends also with one another. In fact, we show our love for God by showing our love for one another. It is a complete and utter lie for someone to say, “I love God, but I won’t love my brother and sister in Christ.” that is a lie, my friends. It is impossible. Instead, we should show that kind of hospitality that Abraham showed. He showed it to someone that he didn’t know was an angel. That is probably what Hebrews 13:1-2 is getting at: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” And as Jesus said, if we do this to one of the least of these brothers, we have done it unto Him. We should show hospitality, but not just to that circle of close friends around us. That is the comfortable way of doing it, though, isn’t it? Instead, we should show hospitality to those who cannot pay us back. That is our way of showing friendship.

The other way of showing friendship to God is to believe Him. Friends believe and trust each other. Friendship is impossible without trust. So we should trust God when He says that our sins are forgiven past, present and future. We often think that our sins are too much for god to handle. That is a lie. That is like Sarah saying that God cannot give her a child. It is unbelief. Let us not wander around in unbelief, but trust in the promises of God.

1 Corinthians

Lots of good stuff here.

First-rate: Thiselton, Garland, Barrett, Fee, Hodge, Collins, Naylor

Second-rate: Blomberg, Clark, Conzelman, Godet, Hays, Robertson/Plummer, Sampley, Thrall, Bruce, Luther

Forthcoming: Belleville (WBC), Ellis (ICC), Rosner/Ciampa (PNTC), Verbrugge (EBC rev.)

Conservative: Thiselton, Garland, Fee (though with one bad lapse), Hodge, Naylor, Blomberg, Clark, Godet, Bruce, Luther

Moderate: Barrett, Collins, Hays, Robertson/Plummer, Thrall, Sampley

Liberal: Conzelmann

Of the forthcoming commentaries, Belleville will be fairly conservative, Ellis should be moderate to conservative, Rosner/Ciampa should be conservative, and Verbrugge will be conservative.