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The Absurdity of Evolution, Illustrated From Daniel’s University Experience (An excerpt from a readable talk by D.W. Gooding)

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Commenting on Daniel’s rejection of Babylonian food (Daniel 1):

“Many of the forces and objects that the Babylonians worshipped as gods were real enough. Their fault was, as Paul would put it, ‘they worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator’ (Rom 1:25). Today atheists of one sort or another laugh at the ancient world for its polytheism and its idols. They have long since got rid of them. They think in fact that they have had the intellectual courage to go the whole road and they have banished not only polytheism but monotheism as well. They have got rid of the whole concept of god—one or many—and are left, so they think, with freedom. But what are they really left with? Well, just matter and energy—both of them by definition mindless, purposeless and irrational—so that everything and everyone that now is has arrived at its present state by evolution out of the basic constituents, matter and energy.

But what of this evolution? In the popular mind it is doubtless a goddess, every bit as much as an ancient goddess. Her name is frequently spelled with a capital letter, Evolution. She controls, directs, accounts for the change of this organ, and the function of that. Actually, she doesn’t exist at all. There is no such thing or force (still less, mind or purpose) as Evolution. At the best, evolution is only a name put by some scientists on a process through which they see, or think they see, matter going; and according to them the process is as blind and mindless as the matter and energy which is going through the process. What, then, controls this process? Ultimately, chance. Many of the ancients were inclined to agree, only they called chance a goddess. The difference is minimal. In the end what is the relation of man and his mind to this combination of blind matter and purposeless energy controlled by mindless chance? Does man control them, or they him? Obviously this is a question that we need to ask, if we are going to talk about gaining freedom to develop by getting rid of the idea of a personal purposeful creator. And the answer to the question is: without any doubt they control him at the practical level.

Naturally he does his best to control or at least cajole them, as the ancient did his gods. Eventually he dies, in spite of all his efforts, and there is nothing that he can do to stop it. At the logical level too, it is obvious that they control him. If man and his mind are nothing but the chance product of mindless matter worked on by blind forces, it makes no logical sense to talk of man controlling this mindless matter and these blind forces which constitute his own mind. Those who have the thoroughness to take their materialistic evolutionary theories to their logical conclusion hold that it is man’s cells and genes that determine him and his behaviour, and his so-called thinking. Man, they conclude, is a pre-set machine; he has no real freedom.

These mindless things are his masters, and by definition will always remain so. Of course he tries to understand them by his science so that he can then cajole them by his technology; but they prove endlessly more complex than he anticipates, and they remain his masters. But men have aspirations! Yes, and other men have other aspirations. Who shall say which are good and which are bad, which ought to triumph and which should be suppressed, when there is no ultimate court of appeal except blind matter and mindless forces? The only hope of a golden age would be if in the end the conflicting forces came into some kind of equilibrium. Till then you may expect the forces to fight among themselves every bit as much as the ancient gods and goddesses, and just as arbitrarily and irrationally as those gods and goddesses are reputed to have fought among themselves, with the battle going on all the time at a level beyond man’s power to control it.

The fact is that ancient man was talking ultimately about the same matter and forces as we are, though the ancients did not understand so much about them as we do (and we do not understand all that much). The ancients said that these things were in control of the universe and of man and man’s affairs. Since they were much more powerful than he was, he called them gods and goddesses, hoping that they were more sensible as well as more powerful, though it was rarely apparent that they were. The modern atheist agrees with the ancient polytheist that these things are in control. He calls them not gods and goddesses but atoms, protons, neutrons, cells, genes, forces—but it makes little difference. According to him they still produce and control this world, and beyond and above their mindless workings there is no Creator, no Mind, in whose love and wisdom man’s own love and reason can confidently trust.

Man is the prisoner of irrational forces. Why, then, do men believe the theory of atheistic evolution? Are they forced to it by the evidence, by rigorous inescapable logic? No! The theory, even according to some of its propounders themselves, is unproved and unprovable. To accept it as truth is as much an act of faith as believing in a Creator, except that by definition the atheist’s act of faith implies that his mind, logic and reason—his aesthetic sense and his love—are the products of blind forces working by purposeless chance upon mindless matter, and therefore ultimately meaningless. It is surely the strangest of strange things how this anti-intellectualist theory has come to be the unquestioned—and in some quarters the unquestionable—basic constituent in so many academic courses, and served up as though it were proven fact to schoolchildren, undergraduates and the general public. Isn’t it time that a few more people in the name of reason itself protested at the food?

Mercifully, there is scarcely an atheist living who is prepared to swallow his atheism neat and undiluted. Even the most extreme of them seem, in spite of their presuppositions, to hold that there are real values in life. Humanity, they maintain, is valuable and ought to be loved. Everyone ought to have a social conscience and love his fellow—or the state, or someone or ones. But then values and duties cannot be derived logically from their atheistic premises. You cannot logically turn an ought into an is. If the truth were told they have pinched these values and duties out of the temple of Jehovah and, like Nebuchadnezzar, installed them in the temples of their own ideologies where logically they do not belong. But you will never produce a golden age for man on the basis of atheistic ideology decorated with a few golden vessels stolen from the worship of Jehovah.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel & The King’s Food: Why All The Fuss? (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2016), 9-11. Download it in its entirety here.

“The Humbling of Nebuchadnezzar” (A guest-post by D.W. Gooding)

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Commenting on Daniel 4:28-33 –  “What a disaster it was to see poor old Nebuchadnezzar. He had failed to live to the glory of God. He had made himself the chief end. And now the great beautifier of Babylon, who had imposed order on the waste lands of that part of the world and made something beautiful of it, was living like an animal. He had just let himself go without any order whatsoever, and was living like a beast.

The discipline carries a message by itself. The New Testament talks about these things in those solemn and black verses in Romans 1. What happens when men decide not to acknowledge God? God judges them (v. 32). Not merely in the day to come, but he judges them now. Because they refuse to retain the knowledge of God, God gives them over to a debased mind—God does it. It is not that they develop a debased mind, and then God judges them for having it—the debased mind is God’s judgment on them. They said they could enjoy life without God and the discipline of God on that kind of thing is to deliver people over to a reprobate judgment. Their own judgment goes all astray; they dishonour their bodies and then glory in perversion.

It is not merely that God will judge them for it; this is the judgment of God—‘God gave them up to a debased mind’ (v. 28). They shall receive in their bodies their due penalty, says Paul (v. 27), a mind that can no longer discern what is truly holy, healthy and beautifully human, but descends to the level of the beasts.

Listen to Peter, talking to the church. He says that there are false teachers who will come into the church preaching permissiveness, that pre-marital unchastity is OK, just like the world does it.

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption. (2 Pet 2:12 KJV)

That is God’s judgment on a decadent civilization. We need, therefore, to evaluate the culture that surrounds us. Our young people especially need help and guidance in this very matter; the peer pressures in school and in society are tremendous. Satan finds it so easy to represent God (as he did to Eve) as a kill-joy who wants to keep us back from beautiful things p 56 and lovely experiences. It is so easy to swallow part of the lie and think that to indulge ourselves is the way to health and maturity. It isn’t.

We need to evaluate art. I love going round art galleries, but not all art is good. Much of it is, but some of it is positively evil. Not all literature is good. It secretly used to amaze me to see young women coming up to university and reading subjects that involved them reading literature written by the most rabid existentialist philosophers, preaching their values. Good literature is good, like good bread and butter is good; it is not to be despised. We don’t have to avoid the world’s good literature. In the world there is good and healthy literature, but there is also poisonous literature. And not all you see on the TV is good, is it? It is not good when believers are watching programmes late on a Saturday night for which they would need to repent before they go to the Lord’s Supper on Sunday morning.

Our minds are our most valuable things. Listen to the advice of the apostle,

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8)

But fill your mind with the immoral trash and beastliness of the world, and what you sow you will reap.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 55-56. [Italics original.] Read the entire work here.

God’s Justice & Love (A guest-post by David Gooding)

Friday, January 26th, 2018

“‘What is the answer to evil?’ asks the psalmist.

Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Ps 98:8–9)

  Don’t you want there to be a judgment? Who wants the evil of the world to go unchecked for ever? The unconverted man with any moral sense would want a judgment; even if he doesn’t believe in it and thinks it is ‘whistling in the dark’ and comforting yourself with fairy tales. But he would hope it is true that evil will not go on for ever, and there is going to be a judgment.

[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)

  Picture the scene with the help of the imagery. ‘The Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool’ (Dan 7:9). Over against this fearful, hideous beast, put the triumph of rationality and wisdom. The books are opened—a perfect record; the thrones are set—perfect justice. The ultimate triumph of rationality, wisdom and justice. Incidentally, notice that it is not one throne, but thrones. We shall come to that again.

  Praise God in your heart that the vision is true and let us preach it unashamedly. It is gospel for our world; let us hold up our heads before the atheist and the humanist. Precisely at this point they have no gospel to preach. The humanist declares that his interest is in humanity. He has got rid of God with all his tyranny and he is on man’s side.

  Let’s take him to visit Auschwitz. Here is a row of cells and the occupants are scheduled to be gassed next Thursday. What shall we say to them?

  When they see us and think we bring hope they ask, ‘What are you doing for us? We want justice.’

  I will say, ‘You will not get justice in this world. You will be gassed, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. But there is hope; this life is not the end. The sense of right and wrong that you have in your heart is not your own imagination. Our Creator put it there; it is not put there to mock you. There is to be a judgment where earth’s wrongs will be put right. For you, there is forgiveness of all your sins right now, if you will have it. The marvellous assurance from the judge himself is that, if you trust him, you will never come into judgment, but will pass from death to life.’

  And what will the humanist say to them? These people want justice, and he is interested in humanity; he has got rid of God in order to improve the lot of humanity. But he will have to say, ‘I am sorry, you are not going to get justice in this life. You are going to be gassed on Thursday, and since there is no God, no life to come and no judgment, you are never going to get justice.’ The prisoners will say, ‘Do you mean that all my hope in justice has been a mocking delusion?’

‘Yes,’ says the humanist.

  And it is not just Hitler’s victims in the gas chambers. Who shall count the multi-millions that have died unjustly in this world? God has an answer to it, our sense of right and wrong is not put there to mock us. It comes from our Creator God and there is going to be a judgment where earth’s wrongs will be put right. The resurrection of Christ is the final assurance of the fact.

Perhaps some of you are saying, ‘You denounce one tyrant and his excessive power; but you seem to substitute one tyrant for another tyrant who happens to have a bit more power, namely almighty God.’

Is that so? The final answer in the great struggle of life is simply who has the greatest power. The beast destroyed other people; now God destroys him. What’s the difference? They both destroy. You wouldn’t say anything so silly, would you? God has anticipated this objection. ‘With the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man’ (Dan 7:13). We know exactly who that person is. It was precisely with reference to that text that our Lord claimed to be the Son of Man. To his judges in the priestly court, he said,

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son . . . And he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:22, 27)

Our Lord is qualified to be judge because he is the Son of Man. The amazing grace of almighty God, he shall judge nobody. It will not be a question of God Almighty, in his position of God Almighty, just crushing his creatures; God himself has decreed that the judgment of man shall be done by a man, a perfect man who isn’t obsessed with power. As he looked over his beloved mother city of Jerusalem and saw the sufferings that must descend upon that city he (the judge in that final day) broke down and wept over it.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt 23:37)

  The judgment of mankind will be in the hand of that sinless, compassionate, perfect, ideal Son of Man.

It is not a question of who has the greatest power, but who has the greatest love 

  Nobody—not even the devil himself—has ever thought that he could attain greater power than God Almighty. The ultimate question is, who loves man the best? Judgment shall be given to the Son of Man. Not only because it shall be judgment by peer (man judged by man), but because of his worthiness to judge.

I would remind you of that well-loved vision of Revelation 5, where the hosts of heaven proclaim the Lamb worthy to take the book and open the seals. With that the preparations for the judgment of mankind begin. Why is he worthy to do it? It is not only because he is the Son of Man, but because he himself was slain. There shall be no voice raised at this judgment to say it is unfair and he is unqualified. They shall be shown Calvary and how the wild beasts tore him there, with their enmity and jealousy, their envy and spite, their power politics, both religious and civil. Invested with the very power of God, why did he put up with it?

  If you were out walking and a mosquito landed upon you and stung you, you wouldn’t think twice what you would do to it. But to think that a little bit of clay six foot tall should turn round and do insult to God and crucify his Son—why didn’t God smudge out the planet? Because that’s not God! Before the blessed Son of God should mount the throne in judgment, he was first lifted up on the cross of Calvary. He is worthy to execute judgment because he was slain so that men might go free and be redeemed.

  And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’ (Rev 5:9–10)

  God is determined not just to destroy creation—he will not thus yield to defeat. Christ is going to make something of it and he will yet make something of human beings. By his redemption not only to forgive them, but to turn them into a kingdom of priests to live and serve God for his eternal pleasure . . .  The answer to the destructive power of the unregenerate Gentile political system is not only that God shall have a judgment; and not only shall the Son, the Messiah, be the judge; but dominion shall be given to the saints.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 41-43. [Italics original.] Read the entire work here.

Daniel’s Gospel For A Hopeless World (A Guest-post by D.W. Gooding)

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

“Though he prospered so remarkably in this strange and, to him, foreign culture, we were led to admire the fact that he maintained not only his personal piety and continued praying to his God, but he maintained his faith. The faith of Israel; that Israel was God’s chosen and elect people, carrying a special role in the world and given a glorious and unique gospel message to preach to the Gentiles. What a glorious message that was for Daniel to bear in that pagan Gentile court. There is hope for this world; there is coming a glorious time of peace and plenty and glory.

  Our life’s experience is not meant to mock us; this world is not a deceit, it comes from the hand of God. The glories of creation around us are not sent to mock us; there is a future for this world. Though this world is marred at present, God has a redemption for it. The day is coming when creation herself shall be delivered from her bondage to corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:21 KJV).

  Like Daniel, we are privileged to carry that glorious message of hope to our own contemporaries, who flounder in their humanism, atheism and general worldliness and ungodliness and have no ultimate hope. It is worthwhile noticing that, at this stage in history, this gospel message preached by Daniel (in the Old Testament and elaborated in the New) stands in marked contrast to other major religious faiths in the world. We need that observation nowadays, for there is a spirit abroad that advocates pluralism.

  They say, ‘Let’s take the best out of all religions. Are not all religions different ways of climbing the same mountain, so it doesn’t matter whether you come up the northern face, or the southern face, the east or the west? If you persevere you will all come up the mountain and meet each other there. All the world religions are but different ways of climbing the same mountain and coming to the same pinnacle at the end.’

  It sounds wonderful, but of course a moment’s thought is enough to show that it isn’t true and the great religious faiths of the world would be insulted if you took them so superficially. The only way to show respect for the great religious faiths of the world is to study them and take them seriously. If you do, you will find that there are irreconcilable differences and contradictions between Judaism and Christianity on the one hand, and, say, Hinduism on the other.

  Hinduism, for the most part (although Hinduism is a name given to a whole collection of religions), holds that the material universe (and therefore, our bodies) is, if not unworthy, certainly less than the ideal. This material world was created by some lesser deity, who had not enough wisdom not to do it and went and created this rather demeaning world of matter, instead of leaving things as pure spirit. The ideal for each individual, therefore, is to pass through the cycle of existence as quickly as possible. Being born in this material world, you die and go out into the world of pure spirit; then, having been re-born by reincarnation into this material world, you go back again through death into the immaterial spiritual world. The individual’s wisdom would be to try and escape that endless cycle of re-birth and death; to escape from this material world into the great spirit world beyond.

  As for human history, they say that human history in this world has no particular goal. It is like a wheel that simply goes round everlastingly in circles, getting absolutely nowhere: an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Therefore, the wisdom for each individual is to escape from the rim of the wheel (it doesn’t matter through which spoke) and try and get away from the material world into the refined essence of Nirvana, or whatever you would call it.

  At once you will see that that stands in marked contrast to what Judaism and Christianity are saying. The Bible says that this material world around us is not an illusion. It is not unworthy; it is the very handiwork of God, the almighty Creator. When he created it he pronounced that it was good, and good it is. And not only the creation around us, but ourselves. Our human bodies are not things to be despised, to be run away from (as the Greek philosophers like Socrates used to say). Our human bodies are good.

  It is true that creation has been marred by the rebellion of the creature; but still again the Old and New Testaments combine to tell us that God, in his great mercy, has a scheme of redemption for his creatures, from which springs new and everlasting hope. There is forgiveness and there is redemption. And not only forgiveness for our sins, but the very body of matter that we inhabit, says the Bible, shall one day be redeemed itself. Our blessed Lord’s bodily resurrection from the grave is but the firstfruits of a coming vast harvest. God will not be content to preserve our redeemed spirits, he is going to raise our redeemed bodies from the dead and make them like our Lord’s glorious body (Phil 3:21). And, not content with that, creation herself shall be delivered from her bondage to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21).

  God the Creator is not going to be defeated. He is not going to bring this planet to an end and say, ‘Sorry, it all went wrong and it is beyond my power to redeem it.’ God shall yet be victorious. There is hope and we have a gospel message to preach. In the words of the apostle, ‘According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Pet 1:3) . . . What a glorious gospel it was that Daniel, even in those far-off days, could bring to that highly developed civilization that, for all its sophistication, had no hope.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 21-23. [Italics original.] Download the entire work here.

Daniel At The University (a Guest-post by David Gooding)

Friday, January 19th, 2018

“Daniel didn’t object to the opportunity to be educated; he gladly accepted the courses they offered him in the university. Moreover, when they changed his name and the names of his colleagues (names that incorporated the name of God) and gave them names that incorporated the names of their idols, Daniel didn’t object (1:7). You can’t stop people calling you what they will, can you? But when he was supposed to eat the king’s meat in the university dining room, which would have been offered to the gods according to the ceremonies of the time, then he and his colleagues downright refused. They had heard about idolatry from Jeremiah and Isaiah and had seen signs of it amongst the apostates in Israel. But to see idolatry in the university in Babylon, ‘No!’ said Daniel, ‘I will not submit to it.’ Why not? Because an idolatrous interpretation of the universe is a false interpretation. It is not true!

What was the idolatrous interpretation of the universe? To put it as briefly as I can, according to the New Testament the ancient nations knew the true God, but ‘did not see fit to acknowledge God’ (Rom 1:28). When they ceased believing in the true God they didn’t start believing in nothing, they had to make gods of their own. Their gods were, on the one part, the deification of the forces of Nature: the storm, the moon, the sun, the great powers of chaos, and so forth. They also made gods out of the physiological processes of the human body. They worshipped the goddess of love. And when they felt aggressive urges they said a god had got a hold of them, so they worshipped the god of war. When men lose faith in the true God that is what they do.

If ever there was an age in modern times that worshipped the goddess of love (Aphrodite), it is our modern world. Ask this bright young woman who has just murdered her lover’s wife and she will say, ‘It was love that made me do it.’ That’s supposed to be enough excuse? And then the jury lets them off, saying that it was love made them do it. It’s just like the ancients; they would have said, ‘The goddess Aphrodite got hold of me.’ You can’t resist a goddess and if it is love that moves you to murder your lover’s wife you must not call that murder. You will say, ‘I was blinded by love.’

Our modern world may not worship idols made of stone and wood any more. But if you ask our modern atheists and humanists what they regard as the ultimate powers that brought in and will yet destroy our universe, they will answer in their scientific jargon exactly as the old idolaters of the ancient world, ‘There is no God!’

What brought our universe and me into being?

‘Basic energy; the strong atomic power and the weak atomic power, electromagnetism and gravity, a bit of physiology, chemistry and biology put in!’

And the interesting thing about that is, all these powers and processes are utterly mindless. They don’t know what they do, and when they have done it they don’t know they have done it. They have no purpose, they are utterly blind. They have made us without intending to and one day they will destroy us. And when they have destroyed us and our planet they won’t know they have done it. That’s idolatry of the highest order, and it is taught in many of our schools from the infants upwards—atheistic, humanistic evolution.

P 18 Daniel wouldn’t have it. Even if it cost him his university career, he wouldn’t have it. He wouldn’t compromise his faith, so he refused to eat the food that had been offered to idols. Why? Because the idolatrous interpretation of the universe isn’t true. And universities are places where we are supposed to examine the truth. It not only demeans God; it demeans mankind too. What is the value of a human being? Why shouldn’t you kill anyone? If one of these days you had a mind to, and you saw a sophisticated computer coming towards you, you might be tempted to kick it in the ‘ribs’ and destroy the thing. Nobody would charge you with murder. What’s the difference between destroying a sophisticated computer and destroying a human being? Well, if there is no God, there is very little difference; both are the end products of blind evolution.

But if there is a God, there is a difference. Man, says the Bible, is made in the image of God (Gen 1:26–27). Human beings are more important than the whole universe put together. You wouldn’t think of worshipping the sun up in the sky. My poor little brain is but the size of a grapefruit and the sun is millions and millions of miles across, but a human brain is more significant than the sun. I know the sun is there; the sun doesn’t know I am here. I know how the sun works, thanks to the scientists; the sun doesn’t know how I work. It is just so much gas and a few atoms running around—a big atomic furnace, so some scientists say. A human brain is infinitely more significant. And would you hold a view that says that one day the sun in its mindlessness will explode and the earth will evaporate, and that will be the end of the human race? If that is true, then we are not what we thought we were. We are merely the end products of mindless, irrational, purposeless forces with no future ahead of us but ultimate extinction, not only for us as individuals but for the whole human race.

Daniel wouldn’t believe it. He believed there is a God and that man is made in the image of God. It is there that our values are based. Some of us tell the Russians (with as much sympathy as we can), ‘If in years past you had believed that man was made in the image of God, Stalin wouldn’t have eliminated sixty million.’

Daniel stood uncompromisingly for the God of the Old Testament, the unique Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, and mankind made in his image. This is the truth about man.

We should try to understand what the scientists say, both the believing scientists and the unbelieving; and the technologists, believing and unbelieving. We are not to be ignoramuses! Like Daniel, we shall welcome every bit of education; but we shall need to stand within the world of education for the truth about God and the truth about man.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 17-18. For more click here.

“Daniel, A Public Figure Who Trusted The Lord” (A Guest-post by D.W. Gooding)

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Photo by KRK

“. . . [I]n spite of the fact that he lived his life as an expatriate in a foreign culture and rose to such eminence within that culture and in their civil service, he was a man who not only maintained his piety, but he maintained also his faith and hope. He maintained his personal life of prayer, and not only in private. Under the first king of Persia, through an edict of the state that banned prayer to any god except to the emperor for a period of a month or so, Daniel maintained his devotions and made sure that the public were aware that he continued in his life of devoted prayer to his God, in spite of his success in the Gentile world.

There have been many men (and there are still many), having been brought up in a Christian environment, and then rising to great positions in the state or in industry or science, who quietly maintain their devotion, if not always publicly. They say their prayers at night, even if nobody else knows about it. But Daniel did not only maintain his devotion, he maintained his faith and that is another thing altogether. He maintained his Jewish hope. That is all the more remarkable because Daniel’s faith was not some vague kind of religion composed mostly of moral precepts, ‘Do good and try to be kind and honest.’ Daniel’s hope was centred on this, that Israel’s God was the only true God amidst the multitude of gods and goddesses that all the nations of the ancient Middle East worshipped. Daniel held that the God of Israel was the only true God, and that all the other gods of the nations were only nonsense; idolatrous figments of human imagination. You will see at once that that kind of view wouldn’t necessarily have been in great favour in the civil service of Babylon, nor in the temples of that nation, but he maintained it nonetheless.

Daniel’s faith was that not only was Israel’s God the only true god—the transcendent Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, but that that transcendent Creator had chosen Israel to carry a sublime, distinct and special role among all the other nations. They weren’t just one more nation; Israel’s faith was that they had been chosen by God Almighty and raised up to carry a testimony to the true God, to protest in his name against their idolatry and to point the other nations to him who is the true God, in such words as Isaiah would have heralded, ‘Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other’ (45:22).

That was Israel’s faith, a pointer and missionary for the true God, chosen by him for this unique ministry among the nations. It was Israel’s faith; and it was certainly Daniel’s persuasion that grew deeper as the years went by, that it was through Israel that the salvation of the world would come about. Daniel maintained that faith throughout his long years, in spite of all that he came to know about the brilliant civilizations of Babylon and Persia and for all his success in those Gentile fields.”

David W. Gooding, Daniel: Civil Servant & Saint. (Coleraine, NI, UK: The Myrtlefield Trust, 2017), 9; more available here.

The Comforter Cometh

Thursday, March 31st, 2011


“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and
devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Luke 2:25
In this world of sorrow people yearn for deliverance from life‘s problems and stresses. If only
someone could give them relief from the things that oppress their spirits and make their lives
drudgery, they reason, then their lives would be ideal. First-century Israel was no different, for
the Jews of that day longed for liberation from the onerous yolk of Rome as well as a restoration
of the glories of their independent past. Against this backdrop, a devout man named Simeon
walked into the Temple precincts one day in order to see the fulfillment of ancient prophecy. His
aspirations went far beyond nationalistic sentiments or personal desires for an easier life. Rather,
he awaited the coming of ―the Consolation of Israel‖ – the advent of the Messiah, a person
whose life and actions would have cosmic and eternal effect for Israel and the nations.
Thou Wilt Command Thy Servant’s Consolationi
The translators of The New King James Version rightly capitalize ―Consolation‖ in Luke 2:25,
recognizing that it is a messianic title, and not merely a description of an activity towards Israel.
It is true that the nation will one day be consoled – in addition to many other nations that will
share in the blessing of Christ‘s millennial reign – yet one must remember that this comfort is
bound up in one person: the Messiah Jesus.ii The phrase ―the Consolation of Israel‖ certainly had
technical messianic overtones in other contemporary Jewish sourcesiii, and later Rabbinic
Judaism frequently employed it to refer to the Messiah.iv As one historian notes: ―In Rab.
Judaism the ‘consolation of Israel’ is a blanket term for the fulfillment of Messianic
expectation…‖v Another author agrees: ―…’the consolation of Israel,’ is rooted in the consolation
language which in Isaiah is connected with God‘s eschatological restoration of his people (Isa
40:1; 49:13; 51:3; 52:9; 57:18; 66:10–11).‖vi David Gooding further elucidates the origins of this
expression, saying:
The delightful term ‘consolation of Israel’ suggests that his expectation was based on the
programme enunciated in such passages as Isaiah 40ff. He was looking for the day when
Israel’s warfare and chastisement would be over, and God would ‘comfort his people’.
Nor was Simeon narrowly concerned simply for the future of Israel. Basing himself again
on Isaiah’s predictions (e.g. 42:6; 49:6 etc.) he foresaw the time when the light of God’s
salvation would spread to the very ends of the earth (see 2:31-32).vii
Comfort Ye My People
After all of the awful things that happened to Israel in antiquity, the nation collectively felt
an understandable desire for comfort from their woes. As the land in between competing
southern and northern superpowers – Egypt, Aram, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia to name
but a few – they experienced periodic military invasions. They were also harassed by their
western and eastern neighbors: Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Ammon. At the end of the Old
Testament period, Babylonian captivity successively gave way to Medo-Persian and
Hellenistic domination. The outward assaults were matched by inward spiritual declension,
as the Jewish people repeatedly struggled with departure from the Lord, bringing in idolatry,
perversion, disunity, and spiritual impoverishment. In addition to these national calamities,
individual Israelites felt the weight of personal sin, as well the burdens of living in a fallen
world.viii Yet the Lord spoke of personally comforting His people in the future as their perfect
Shepherd King (Isa. 40.) As two linguists assert: ―Comforting is God‘s proper work. He turns
earlier desolation into perfect consolation both in individuals…and also in the people of God,
cf. Is. 54:11 ff.; 51:19 ff.‖ix Subsequent pogroms, pervasive anti-Semitism, and the horrors of
the Holocaust (ha-Shoah, to the Jews) augment the needed comfort for the Jewish people.
The future time of Jacob‘s trouble – the Tribulation of the New Testament – will turn the
nation‘s eyes to its Messiah (e.g. Zech. 12:1-13:1; Rom. 11:25-29.) The Consoler of Israel
will defend them and usher in His reign among them.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Luke 2:25 is pregnant with the expectation of what Peter called ―the restoration of all things‖
(Acts 3:21.) Pius believers like Simeon patiently and earnestly awaited personal, national, and
global deliverance from the powers of evil. Messiah‘s kingdom will eventually fulfill all of the
prophecies for Israel‘s restoration and glory, as well as accomplish the ultimate triumph over sin
and evil in the universe. Charles Wesley‘s classic hymn captures the spirit of Simeon‘s rejoicing
Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.x
As Woudstra writes: ―Thus in one comprehensive gesture we see all the messianic prophecies
plus all the saving interventions of God in behalf of His people summed up in this one beautiful
phrase: the consolation of Israel.‖xi
God‘s New Creation is centered in the person and work of His glorious Son. This man will
console His redeemed people during His Millennial reign and the eternal kingdom that lies
beyond it (Isa. 66 and Rev. 21-22.) In his inimitable way, J. Vernon McGee straightforwardly
articulates the centrality of Christ in His Father‘s plans for the present and future manifestations
of His salvation: ― God had promised Simeon that he would see the salvation of God. What did he
see? He saw a little Baby. Salvation is a Person, and not something that you do. Salvation is a
Person, and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ. You either have Him, or you don‘t have Him.
You either trust Him, or you don‘t trust Him.‖xii
Things Future, Nor Things That Are Nowxiii
While Isaiah 40:1-2 and Luke 2:30-32 teach that ―the Consolation of Israel‖ will one day
extend His comfort over all the earth, He also presently gives His comfort to those know Him by
faith. This personal Comforter presently ministers for His children before the throne of God (1
John 2:1-2; Heb. 7:24-28.) In their struggles and trials He consoles His people. As James G.
Deck‘s poetry fittingly express this truth in song:
O JESUS, gracious Saviour,
Upon the Father’s throne —
Whose wondrous love and favour
Have made our cause Thine own;
Thy people to Thee ever
For grace and help repair,
For Thou, they know, wilt never
Refuse their griefs to share.
O Lord, through tribulation
Our pilgrim-journey lies,
Through scorn and sore temptation,
And watchful enemies;
Midst never-ceasing dangers
We through the desert roam;
As pilgrims here and strangers,
We seek the rest to come.
O Lord, Thou too once hasted
This weary desert through,
Once fully tried and tasted
Its bitterness and woe;
And hence Thy heart is tender
In truest sympathy,
Though now the heavens render
All praise to Thee on high.
O by Thy Holy Spirit
Reveal in us Thy love,
The joy we shall inherit
With Thee, our Head above;
May all this consolation
Our trembling hearts sustain,
Sure — though through tribulation —
The promised rest to gain.xiv
Do our hearts rejoice in the great Consoler ? Like Simeon are we looking for His coming? Or do
the things of this world distract us from our Lord and Savior? Let every saint examine
themselves to ensure that they are currently enjoying fellowship with and trusting in the Lord
Jesus Christ. Those who seek strength and comfort from Him will never be disappointed. As the
Psalmist says: ―When I thought, ‗My foot slips,‘ your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When
the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul‖ (Psa. 94:18-19, ESV.)
i Anonymous paraphrase of Psa. 42, ―As pants the hart for streams,‖ found here: Accessed on 3/31/11.
ii The terms Messiah (Hebrew) & Christ (Greek) are equivalent, & when not transliterated are best translated
―Anointed One.‖
iiiPlummer affirms that ―Those ‘who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death’ (i.79) need consolation; and the
salvation which the Messiah was to bring was specially called such by the Jews…There was a belief that a time of
great troubles (dolores Messiae) would precede the coming of the Christ. Hence the Messiah Himself was spoken of
as ‘the Consoler,’ or ‘the Consolation.’‖ Alfred Plummer, ICC: A Critical & Exegetical Commentary On The Gospel
According To St. Luke. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903, p. 66. [Italics in the original.]
Farrar adds that ―‗May I see the consolation of Israel!‘ was a common Jewish formula, and a prayer for the Advent
of the Messiah was daily used.‖ F.W. Farrar, The Cambridge Bible For Schools & Colleges: Luke. Cambridge: The
University Press, 1890, p. 72. Compare the Pseudepigraphical work of the first or second century A.D., 2 Baruch
44:7: ―For if ye endure and persevere in His fear, And do not forget His law, The times shall change over you for
good. And ye shall see the consolation of Zion.‖ Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. Edited by Robert Henry
Charles. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004. [Emphasis mine.] For background on 2 Baruch, see
James H. Charlesworth, ―Baruch, Book of 2 (Syriac)‖ in Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary,
Vol. 1. New York: Doubleday, 1996, pp. 620f.
The Dead Sea Scrolls also evidence this messianic association of ―the consolation.‖ Referring to one of them,
4Q176, Hatina remarks: ―Fragments 1–11 are of greater value for NT studies. They are a fairly well preserved
anthology of biblical texts. Except for the possible reference to Psalm 79:2–3 at the beginning of the first fragment,
all of the quotations are taken from what is today called Second Isaiah, namely, Isaiah 40:1–5; 41:8–10; 43:1–7;
49:7, 13–18; 51:22–23b; 51:23c–52:3; 54:4–10a. The quotations are arranged sequentially and preserved accurately,
which suggests that the compiler read progressively through Isaiah 40–55 and recorded certain texts. While the
fragmentary condition of the document prevents us from understanding the broader significance that the quotations
once had for the Qumran community, an informed inference can be made on the basis of a common theme running
through the quotations. In every quotation Yahweh offers words of consolation or comfort—the meaning of the
Hebrew word Tanḥumim in the title given the scroll—to his people Israel by assuring them that he is a faithful and
loving God who will soon bring restoration to those in despair. Although Second Isaiah was originally concerned
with the release of the Israelites from Babylonian exile, the Qumran community interpreted these texts as prophecies
relevant for their own day.” Thomas R. Hatina, “Consolations/Tanhumin (4 Q176)” in Porter, Stanley E., and Craig
A. Evans. Dictionary of New Testament Background : A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship.
electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
iv Darrel Bock comments: ―In fact, later rabbis will call the Messiah Menahem, or Comforter (Schmitz and Stählin
1967:793; y. Berakot 2:3). It was such deliverance that Simeon expected.‖ Darrell L. Bock, IVP NT Commentary:
Luke. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 1994, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc.,
PO Box 100, Hiawatha, Iowa.
v G. Braumann, “Comfort” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, ed. Colin
Brown. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971, p. 329.
vi John Nolland, Word Biblical Commentary : Luke 1:1-9:20. Vol. 35A. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p. 118.
vii D.W. Gooding, According to Luke. pp. 55f. Electronic ed., accessed here: on 3/29/11.
Morris‘ comments are also helpful: ― The consolation of Israel for which he looked is another name for the coming
of the Messiah (cf. SB). This was expected to be preceded by a time of great suffering (‗the woes of the Messiah‘)‚
so that he would certainly bring comfort. In days when the nation was oppressed the faithful looked all the more
intensely for the Deliverer who would solve their problems.‖ Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary.
Tyndale New Testament Commentaries Vol. 3. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988, p. 104 [Italics
Other helpful quotes on Jewish understanding of the phrase:
― Simeon had waited for ‘the consolation of Israel’ (2:25), a term used for the hope of God‘s restoration of the
theocracy to that nation.‖ Cleon L. Rogers, Jr., “The Davidic Covenant in the Gospels,” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume
150:600 (Oct. ’93). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1993, p. 466.
―The consolation of Israel, for which Simeon had waited, refers to the coming messianic age.‖ Mark C. Black, The
College Press NIV Commentary: Luke. College Press Publ. Co., 1998, p. 36 [Emphasis original.]
viii Consider Ecclesiastes and Malachi just to name a few of the ancient laments against sin and injustice uttered by
godly souls. Romans 8:22-26 articulates the groaning of the godly in this fallen world: ―For we know that the whole
creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of
the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But
if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our
weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for
us with groanings which cannot be uttered.‖
ix Otto Schmitz & Gustav Stahlin, “παράκλησις” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. 5. Edited by
Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964, pp.
x Charles Wesley, ―Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,‖ Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord (London: William Strahan,
1745), number 10. I quote the first stanza only, found here: Accessed on 3/30/11.
xi Martin H. Woudstra, ―Theological Influence On Translation,‖ Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume 10. Lynchburg, VA: Evangelical Theological Society, Spring 1967, p. 97.
xii J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 4. electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, p. 254.
[Italics original.]
xiii A.M. Toplady, ―A Debtor to mercy alone,‖ Spiritual Songs, #326 found here: Accessed on 3/31/11.
xiv J.G. Deck, ―O Jesus Gracious Saviour,‖ in Spiritual Songs, #187 found here: Accessed on 3/31/11.