A Spurgeon Snapshot: The Iniquity of Doing Nothing (Day 067, Numbers 32:23)

“But if you don’t do this, you will certainly sin against the Lord; be sure your sin will catch up with you. Build cities for your dependents and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.””
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭32‬:‭23‬-‭24‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Numbers 32 tells the story of how some of the tribes of Israel wanted to stay on the west side of the Jordan and claim their inheritance from those conquered lands. Moses initially objects, thinking they are refusing to join in the fight to claim the Promised Land. After all, God had commanded all of them—not just 10 1/2 tribes—to drive out the Canaanites. But the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh assured Moses that they would join the fight until all the land was conquered, and only then go back across the Jordan to settle. In verse 23, Moses binds them to that promise, emphasizing that failure to fight with their brothers would be a sin against God.

Here’s how Spurgeon framed this for the church today:

The iniquity of doing nothing is a sin that is not so often spoken as it should be. It is, sadly, common among professed Christians and needs to be dealt with. The sin is to forget one’s share in the holy war to be carried out for God and for His church…

On Sunday some worshipers care only about feeding their souls. Soul-saving is pushed into the background. Unless we shake off that horrible selfishness and feel that the essence of our religion lies in love; and that one of the first fruits of [love] is to care about the salvation of others, then this text solemnly threatens us.

Beloved, don’t stay on your side of the Jordan. Join the fight.

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

A Spurgeon Snapshot: The Daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1-5)

27 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad … The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.” (Numbers 27:1-5)

In this tiny little story, we see a picture of incredible faith, and an incredibly gracious God. The backstory is that in Israelite culture, land is of vital importance. Many of the passages we find so tedious in Leviticus-Joshua are about the division of the land, the laws for inheritance of the land, the reverting of the land back to its ancestral allotments in the years of Jubilee, and on and on. Even today, the national newspaper in Israel is called Haaretz (The Land).

So, yeah. Land was a big deal. And in this patriarchal culture, the assumption is that land would pass from father to son. So Zelophehad’s daughters were concerned that their family’s allotment would be given to whomever married the daughters. So they came to Moses with the question: Will our father’s name disappear when we get to the Promised Land?

Here is Spurgeon’s insight on this obscure passage:

The children of Israel had not seen the Promised Land, but God had declared that he would plant them in a land that flowed with milk and honey. that land would belong to them and to their descendants by a covenant of salt forever. These women believed in and valued this heritage. They were not like like Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. They regarded it, though they had never beheld it, as being something exceedingly substantial, and they didn’t want to be left out when the land was divided. They were anxious about an inheritance they had never soon, and in this regard they may testify to us.

There is an inheritance that is far better than the land of Canaan. May we all believe in it and long for it!

Charles Spurgeon

What a picture of Hebrews 11:1. Zelophehad’s daughters had the substance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen! God, give me a longing for the inheritance that is stored up for me.

A Spurgeon Snapshot: How Pain Plays a Part in God’s Plan (Exodus 1:13-14)

13 They [the Egyptian taskmasters] worked the Israelites ruthlessly 14 and made their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar and in all kinds of fieldwork. They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them. (Exodus 1:13-14)

At the church I serve, I’m currently taking a small group through a study of Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. It is a six session video series where Dr. Keller sits down with a group of nonbelievers and discusses the questions they have about Christianity. Last night’s session was “If there is a god, why is there so much suffering in the world?” It was a twenty minute video, but we spent nearly an hour talking about it together. It’s not hard to see why this topic hit such a nerve. Just in our group last night was:

  • My friend who lost his wife to cancer five years ago.
  • A licensed professional counselor.
  • A volunteer missionary who has done extensive work in Haiti.
  • A large number who are working their way through the Bible this year, so we recently spent two weeks on Job. And if you aren’t familiar with Job, “why do good people suffer” is kind of the main point.
  • All of us are still dealing with the effects of the tornado that tore through our county a few weeks ago, killing seven.

And to top it all off, we had been at the funeral of a young man who grew up in our church just the day before. 34 years old, heart attack. When our worship pastor and I visited the family to plan the service, it was one of the most painful conversations we’ve ever had with a family who has lost a loved one.

So last night, we found we were asking the same questions as the unbelievers in the video, and feeling nearly the same frustration at the oversimplified, pat answers we sometimes hear. Worse, we realized that these canned answers are the very ones we have sometimes given ourselves.

This morning, as I opened my Spurgeon Study Bible to Exodus, I read these words from Spurgeon, who was reflecting on the fact that the Israelites had settled in Egypt, even though their home was in Canaan:

The land of Goshen was fruitful, and the Israelites had been greatly favored by the Egyptian king. The mass of them, therefore, had little thought of ever leaving that country. … [So] the first thing to be done with the Israelites was to cause them to be anxious to come out of Egypt… He must bring them out in such a way that they would be willing to come out, so that they would march forth with joy and delight, being thoroughly weary and sick of all Egypt and therefore rejoicing to get away from it.

Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 72

So is it possible that God uses pain in this world to make us eager for our true home? Is that why growing old usually means growing tired? Is that why we often mutter “Come, Lord Jesus!” whenever the world seems out of control?

Perhaps you’ve heard the quote, “People don’t change until it hurts too much to stay the same.” I’ve heard it applied to making changes in a church, but I’ve also heard it said by people recovering from addiction. Like the Israelites in Egypt, we would never long for a better place if there was no suffering in this one.

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

A Spurgeon Snapshot: What was Joseph Up To? (Genesis 42:17)

“So Joseph imprisoned them together for three days.” Genesis‬ ‭42‬:‭17‬ ‭CSB‬‬

I’ve often wondered about the mind games Joseph played with his brothers. Accusing them of being spies. Locking them up. Keeping Simeon. Returning their silver. Was he getting revenge for how the had treated them years before?

Spurgeon suggests that it was all designed to bring his brothers to repentance. That Joseph arranged these trials so his brothers would say, in verses 21 and 22:

“Then they said to each other, “Obviously, we are being punished for what we did to our brother. We saw his deep distress when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this trouble has come to us.” But Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to harm the boy? But you wouldn’t listen. Now we must account for his blood!””
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭42‬:‭21‬-‭22‬ ‭CSB‬‬

You see confession: “We saw his distress… but we would not listen.”

You see taking responsibility for sin: “Now we must account for his blood!”

Spurgeon wrote:

When the Lord Jesus Christ intended to save us … he began by convincing us of our iniquity. He dealt heavy blows on our self-righteousness. He laid us in the dust and seemed to roll us in the mire….

It was all to wean us from self-righteousness, to pull us up by the roots…to compel us to rest in his blood and righteousness and to seek our soul’s life entirely from him. The great blessing of salvation is often preceded by thick clouds and tempests.

Spurgeon Study Bible, p 60.

It wasn’t spite or pettiness. It was love. It was wounding, but it was also healing (Job 5:18). It was kindness that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4). It didn’t seem like kindness at the time. It never does. But there is a Hand behind the hardship.

There always is.

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

A Spurgeon Snapshot: Was Isaac also Deceitful? (Genesis 27:2-4)

“He [Isaac] said, “Look, I am old and do not know the day of my death. So now take your hunting gear, your quiver and bow, and go out in the field to hunt some game for me. Then make me a delicious meal that I love and bring it to me to eat, so that I can bless you before I die.””
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭27‬:‭2‬-‭4‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Just when you think you know everything there is to know about a passage you’ve probably read a hundred times, along comes Charles Spurgeon, pointing out a detail you had never noticed before.

In the account of Jacob getting Isaac’s blessing instead of Esau (Genesis 27), Spurgeon suggests that Isaac was acting deceitfully, not just Jacob and Rebekah. He points out that the usual custom for a dying patriarch was to call the entire family in so they could all hear the blessing, similar to a modern day reading of a will in the presence of all the surviving family members.

But Isaac didn’t do this. Out of earshot from his wife (or so he thought), he arranged for Esau to bring him a meal so he could bless him one on one. Spurgeon notes the contrast between this and Jacob’s blessing of his children in the next generation (see Genesis 49:1). Then, Spurgeon writes:

But this blessing was to be done in a covert, secret way. Isaac was afraid of the valid objection that might be raised by his wife, that God had said the elder should serve the younger. …He had no confidence in his wife and did not tell her what he was going to do. And it is generally a bad thing that a man is going to do when he does not tell his wife about it.

Spurgeon Study Bible, p 37.

Wow! Not only a fresh interpretation from nearly 200 years ago, but also some of the most sound marriage advice a husband will ever hear. Go Spurgeon!

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

Day 019: Why the Oldest Saints Get the Toughest Tests (Gen. 22:1)

“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Take your son,” he said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”” Genesis‬ ‭22‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Through the Bible: Genesis 22-24

About the Image: I couldn’t find any information about the artist of this painting, but the image wrecked me. It’s the only painting I could find of Abraham and Isaac that emphasizes the deep love of the father for the son, instead of a raised knife at the point of the sacrifice. It’s also one of the few that shows Isaac as an adult and not as a young boy.

The story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac is at turns inspiring, horrifying, and terrifying. We are inspired by Abraham’s faith. We are horrified at the idea that God would ask anyone to sacrifice their own child. And we are terrified that God might ask one of us to make a similar sacrifice.

First, let me clear one thing up: God told Isaiah to offer Isaac; not to sacrifice Isaac. Child sacrifice always has been and always will be abhorrent to God (see Jeremiah 19:5 ). When you do a quick survey of the way the major English translations treat the chapter headings (and remember that the chapter headings are not part of the original text), you see a difference in what they emphasize:

  • ESV and CSB: “The Sacrifice of Isaac”
  • NASB: “The Offering of Isaac”
  • NIV: “Abraham Tested”
  • NKJV: “Abraham’s Faith Confirmed”
  • NLT: “Abraham’s Faith Tested”

In my opinion, the last three get it right. The first two get it wrong, and the New American Standard is in the middle.

So let’s look at the terrifying part of this story: would God ever put me to the test like this, and if so, how would I do? Just like we talked about with Job, (see Day 004: Have You Considered my Servant?), it’s hard for me to imagine God staking His reputation on my feeble faith. I don’t think I would obey if I thought God was asking me to make as great a sacrifice as He asked of Abraham.

But this morning, a note in the Spurgeon Study Bible changed everything for me. Spurgeon noticed the first three words of Genesis 22: “After these things.” What things?

  • Abraham obediently leading his family from Ur to Canaan (Genesis 12:4)
  • Abraham humbly offering his nephew the first pick of the land (Genesis 13:9)
  • Abraham bravely rescuing Lot when he was taken captive (Genesis 14:16)
  • Abraham confidently believing the promises of God (Genesis 15:6)
  • Abraham faithfully submitting to circumcision for himself and his household (Genesis 17:23)
  • Abraham persistently interceding for the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-32)

Do you see it? Abraham had already demonstrated decades of trust in God before this ultimate test. Spurgeon wrote this about those three words, “After these things:”

God did not try Abraham like this at the beginning… There was a course of education to prepare him for this great testing time, and the Lord knows how to educate us up to such a point that we can endure, in years to come, what we could not endure today.

Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 28

Beloved, have you noticed in our reading so far that God gives the toughest tests to the oldest saints? Abraham was between 100 and 140 at this point (based on Sarah’s age in 23:1). Noah was six hundred when the flood came (Genesis 7:6). We don’t know how old Job was when God tested him, but he was old enough to have seven adult sons and daughters (Job 1:2), and to have Elihu call him old (Job 32:6). These men had demonstrated a lifetime of trust and obedience before they faced these tests. All three of them exhibited what author Eugene Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Friends, if you look at Abraham and think, “I could never pass that kind of test,” don’t be discouraged about it. Don’t discount what God is doing in your life right now, and be confident that God doesn’t set us up for failure. He is never going to give you a test that He doesn’t believe you are capable of passing. You may not be ready for it today, but take courage:

School’s not out yet.

Spurgeon Snapshot: The Trouble With Canaan… (Genesis 12:6)

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

There is a great line in the movie Braveheart. King Edward, the ruthless and cruel king of England, is talking with his advisors about how to crush the uprisings in Scotland. He says, “The trouble with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots.”

The same could be said of Canaan, the country to which God sent His servant Abram in Genesis 12. Verse 6 gives what is treated like a minor detail, but the entire history of Israel will prove that it is anything but:

…(At that time the Canaanites were in the land.)

Even after Joshua and the Israelites conquered the Promised Land and divided it into twelve tribes, the Canaanites would continue to be a snare to the Israelites.

The trouble with Canaan is that it’s full of Canaanites.

Here is what Charles Spurgeon had to say about this verse:

…We are to be separated from the people among whom we dwell–to dwell among them yet not to be of them… This is not an easy task. It is far easier to become a monk, or a nun, and shut ourselves up alone than it is to live in the midst of ungodly people and yet to be, ourselves, godly. To trade with the usual followers of commerce and not to fall into their business customs. To mix with the usual host of thinker, yet not to think as they think…

Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 17

Israel mostly failed at this. They became enamored with the worship of Canaanite gods and goddesses. Even some of the kings of Israel and Judah sacrificed their own children in the fires of Molech. Kings were judged as good or bad depending on whether they tore down the high places (shrines and altars to Ashtoreth), or built them up again. Almost every prophet warned against idolatry.

The problem with the people of Israel was that they were full of Canaan.

How true is that of God’s people today? It’s been said that a ship is safe in the ocean as long as the ocean is not in the ship. We are still to be in the world but not of the world (John 5:19).

A Spurgeon Snapshot: Without the Shedding of Blood…(Genesis 8:20-22)

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord. He took some of every kind of clean animal and every kind of clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, he said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of human beings, even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward. And I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done.” Genesis‬ ‭8‬:‭20‬-‭21‬ ‭CSB‬‬

From the first chapters of Genesis, God establishes a pattern we will see all through Scripture: “Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). I had always thought that was established in Leviticus, when God gives instructions for the various sacrifices. But here we are on Day 3, and we’ve already seen it three times! Consider:

  • In Genesis 3:21, God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and Eve. In order to cover their shame (another word for “cover” is atone) an animal’s blood was shed.
  • In Genesis 4:3-4, the brothers Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God. Cain’s offering of produce was rejected. Abel’s offering of the firstborn of his flock was accepted.
  • In Genesis 8:20, the first thing Noah did when he came out of the ark was build an altar and sacrifice an animal.

Spoiler alert for those of you doing a chronological reading plan: you’ll see it again in Day Four’s reading. Pay attention to what Job does the morning after any of his sons hosted a banquet (Job 1:4-6). If you accept the scholars’ view that Job was written before the Torah, then this is yet another example of a burnt offering made before the sacrificial system was instituted.

The three accounts in Genesis do not explicitly say that this was a sin offering. Still, this is one more reinforcement that an acceptable offering involves the shedding of blood. And all three of these point to Jesus. As an animal was skinned to cover the shame of Adam and Eve, Jesus was stripped and nailed to a cross to cover our shame. As Abel offered a firstborn lamb as a sacrifice, Jesus is the Lamb of God; the firstborn of Mary and Joseph, and indeed the “firstborn of many brothers” (Romans 8:29).

Of Noah’s sacrifice, Spurgeon writes:

It was Noah’s confidence in a bleeding sacrifice that gave him acceptance with the Lord. God thought about his Son and that great sacrifice to be offered long afterwards on the cross, and he smelled the pleasing aroma.

With any study Bible, bear in mind that only the biblical text is divinely inspired, not the notes at the bottom of the page. The Spurgeon Study Bible is no different. It’s presumptuous to say definitively what God was thinking if God Himself does not reveal it. Still, this is one more place where an acceptable sacrifice required the shedding of blood. And it illustrates a principle I learned a long time ago:

The Old Testament contains the New Testament, and the New Testament explains the Old Testament.

A Spurgeon Snapshot: “Come Lord Jesus” and “Come Ye Sinners” (Revelation 22:17-21)

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

In the last chapter of Revelation, the verb “come” is used multiple times. In verse 17 alone, the Holy Spirit and the Bride of Christ (that is, the church) say “Come.” Anyone who hears (which goes back to the refrain used for all seven churches at the beginning of Revelation–“He who has an ear let him hear”) says “Come.” There is an invitation to all who are thirsty to come, and drink freely of the water of life (verse 17). Then in verse 20, Jesus assures us that He is coming soon, to which we respond, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

Spurgeon wrote, “Here is a twofold ministry… We say to Jesus ‘Come,’ and we say to the sinner, ‘Come’.” There’s the ministry of prayer for the return of Christ, but there is also the ministry of evangelism, where we beg lost people to come to Christ.

It is a sad calamity when any church ceases from its mission work. Such a church is clearly out of fellowship with the Spirit of God and has ceased to work with him… [It is] for this purpose there is a church left on the earth.

Charles H Spurgeon

If we read the book of Revelation with an inward focus; that is, only with an eye as to whether or not we ourselves are ready for the second coming of Jesus, we’ve lost the plot. The purpose of the book was never about becoming so familiar with the timeline of dispensational premillenialism that we will be able to spot the antichrist and brace for the tribulation (or the Rapture, if you aren’t mid-Trib). It is about praying for the Lord to come, and preparing the world for His coming.

Let the two parts be evenly balanced. Let there be prayer to our Lord–“Come quickly!”–and an equal measure of entreaty to sinners–“Come to Christ!” Let us blend the two in wise proportion and set both on fire. Let us tell of Christ’s coming for judgment and then invite people to come to Christ’s for mercy. Let us warn them that he is on the way but tell them that he waits to be gracious. While he lingers, they have time for repentance. Thus, we will both drive and draw, both convince and comfort.

Charles H Spurgeon
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