Big thanks to EricL as always…support his work at top right…
The issues addressed are familiar to all of us who have seen matters like this covered up over the years…
“I am writing this letter to you as a follow up to the one you received from Steve Baughman. I have reviewed the C&MA Public Statement regarding Ravi Zacharias and the C&MA Discipline Policy Handbook and believe that the recent unwillingness to consider the overwhelming evidence and discipline Ravi Zacharias not only undermines the moral and spiritual authority of the organization/denomination but more importantly, the credibility of the Gospel of Christ.
As such, I would urge you to read this letter with thoughtful consideration for five reasons:
1. The decision made by C&MA to not discipline Ravi Zacharias is not justified in any sense. More importantly, I will explain how the response actually trivializes very important matters regarding the conduct of Ravi Zacharias and RZIM.
2. This is not an attempt to deliberately contradict the recent verdict issued by the C&MA. As a Christian, I do respect the organization, especially its founder A.B. Simpson. However, any organization involved in deliberations that are not truth conducive, especially if it is undertaken to shield or protect a person involved in sin, then it is the responsibility of the Christian community to hold them accountable.
3. This letter is an attempt to motivate the leadership at C&MA to seriously reconsider their decision in regards to Ravi Zacharias. If the C&MA does decide to not discipline Ravi Zacharias then they must properly justify their decision. The press release on the Organization’s website which neither addresses the depth of the issue nor the breadth of the available evidence will not suffice.
4. This matter regarding the character and conduct of Ravi Zacharias is not going to disappear. The evidence is overwhelming, those who have been the victims of Ravi’s intentional deceit will not be silenced and the folks in the pew who once had a cultic devotion to Ravi and his organization are now beginning to ponder the facts with an open mind.
5. I am convinced that we will never be able to get beyond this issue, unless Ravi confesses and admits his sin. When that transpires, reconciliation anfd healing can begin and Ravi can continue with his ministry with true effectiveness because he will be preaching a message that he himself embodies. Unless this happens, the Christian community will continue to be mocked, sin will continue to be explained away and the ministry will continue to operate as a business.
ADDRESSING THE PRESS RELEASE ON THE C&MA WEBSITE CONCERNING RAVI ZACHARIAS
(A) RAVI”S ACADEMIC CREDENTIALS
“Recently Mr. Zacharias has been accused of exaggerating his academic credentials. Mr. Zacharias and his employer, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, have revised and clarified their communications to address these concerns. The C&MA has determined that there is no basis for formal discipline regarding this matter”
(I) Let me address the first part of the C&MA report: “Mr. Zacharias has been accused of exaggerating his academic credentials.” The fact of the matter is that he did not exaggerate his academic credentials, he blatantly LIED.
Let me just present a few claims that Ravi and RZIM have made for almost 30 years. Claims that are outright false!
1. Ravi claiming to be a “visiting scholar at Cambridge University” when he was on sabbatical for 3 months at Ridley Hall (a Church of England training center) in the city of Cambridge. Cambridge University has explicitly denied in an official letter that they ever invited him as a visiting scholar. What he really did was to sit in on one or two courses at the university due to close proximity. I have personally spoken to the Director of Programs at Ridley Hall and he explicitly told me that Rildey Hall is an independent entity and being admitted into Ridley on a sabbatical has nothing whatsoever to do with Cambridge University. As such, first and foremost, Ravi was on sabbatical and was not a visiting scholar at any time. Secondly, he was at Ridley Hall and not at Cambridge University. However, his website, promotional material, speaking bios, introductions etc., refer to him as a “visiting scholar at Cambridge University.” The most outrageous fact is that three of his books state that he was educated at Cambridge University (in the back cover).
2. Ravi claiming that he is a lecturer at Oxford University when the university has clearly denied in an official letter that he was never a lecturer or a professor there at any time.This was also on the RZIM website and Ravi repeats it numerous times on various youtube videos and even in his autobiography. He has never ever been a professor or lecturer at Oxford University. He has spoken at Wycliffe Hall (which is not a constituent college of Oxford University) but then we also have a letter from Wycliffe Hall stating that he never held any official teaching positions at their institution either.
3. Ravi claiming on his website that he has been conferred with “8 doctoral degrees” without disclosing that the degrees were honorary. There are also at least two endorsements that Ravi made of other authors and in the back covers of their books he is listed as “Ravi Zacharias Ph.D.” There are many people with honorary doctorates and they are meticulous in accurately portraying it as such. Ravi never utilized the word “honorary” until it became an issue.
4. Ravi repeatedly saying (you can check various youtube videos) that he studied “Quantum Physics” under John Polkinghorne at Cambridge University in 1990 when Dr. Polkinghorne stopped teaching Physics in 1979. Additionally, Ravi was never a student or visiting scholar at Cambridge University to begin with, as I mentioned earlier. In fact, his sabbatical at Ridley Hall under the supervision of Jeremy Begbie was on the “Romantic Poets”. What this has to do with Quantum Physics is something that those of you who are reading this letter will have to figure out. Additionally, Ravi was at Ridley Hall for only three months (1 term). I don’t think the time frame is sufficient to become very conversant with the romantic poets or in a subject as rigorous and complex as Quantum Physics.
5. Ravi declaring that he lectures at universities like Harvard and Yale when all these events were organized by Christian groups and local churches which would rent an auditorium on the university campus to hold the meetings. For instance, one of the organizers for the Harvard event was the Chinese Holy Ghost Fellowship.
6. Ravi saying that he was the Chair of a Department that did not exist at the institution where he taught in the 80’s.
7. Ravi stating that he won a prestigious international “All Asian Preaching Award” when what he actually participated in was a local preaching contest organized by Youth For Christ (YFC) in India. Steve Baughman spoke to all three judges who were at the competition and they have officially confirmed that Ravi’s claims are false.
8. Ravi states that his first book was based on lectures delivered at the Bell Labs in New Jersey but they have absolutely no record of him.
9. MOST IMPORTANTLY, Why did Ravi and RZIM completely change the content on their website after all the lies and deceit became public? Why did Ravi and RZIM not offer evidence that would render my case obsolete? Why could Ravi not produce a letter that shows that he was in fact invited by Cambridge University to be a visiting scholar at their institution? With absolutely no evidence to substantiate their claims, Ravi and RZIM decided to tactically change the content on their website? Fortunately, we have screen shots of the website before and after the controversy.
(II) The second part of the C&MA report says “Mr. Zacharias and his employer, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, have revised and clarified their communications to address these concerns.'”
1. This is almost laughable if it wasn’t serious enough to make one cringe. Apparently, if you lie and deceive for almost 30 years and are unfortunately caught red-handed, all you need to do according to the C&MA report is to change the content on your website, brochures, speaking bios i.e., “revise and clarify your communications” and move on with business as usual.
2. This unfortunate statement by the C&MA overlooks the public deception that Ravi and RZIM perpetrated to make their ministry more appealing to the Church and the world. Let me pinpoint a few pertinent realities that C&MA overlooked in order to justify their position.
(a) This was not done by Ravi or RZIM for a year or two, although that would be case enough to discipline them. This was done over a period of almost 30 years.
(b) This affected how the donors saw the organization and made their respective contributions. They perceived Ravi (and some still do) as a Cambridge scholar and Oxford professor who studied Quantum Physics etc., and supported the ministry accordingly. This, simple put, is ill-gotten gain, especially from a financial standpoint!
(c) This affected how the donors supported other ministries that are involved in a similar domain (Apologetics). Other like William Lane Craig, for instance, were not seen as on par with the “intellect” of Ravi Zacharias and the dollar amount in contributions reflected this conviction. In actuality, William Lane Craig is probably the foremost evangelical Christian philosopher and thinker currently alive while Ravi is nothing more than a “marketed” intellectual who knows how to give very effective and self-promoting presentations.
(d) This is a very important point. The C&MA report does injustice to other Apologists, Christian Philosophers etc., who do portray themselves truthfully and with utmost humility. None of them have come under criticism for falsely presenting their academic credentials and the reason is obvious. They actually have them!
(c) The C&MA is basically saying that there is no accountability needed for decades of lying and deceit. The question is not if Ravi and RZIM have “revised and calrified their communication”. The question first and foremost is, why did they communicate what they did for almost 30 years? Secondly, why did they change their website only after the threat of being exposed? Thirdly and most importantly, what Ravi and RZIM did cannot be “revised and clarified” because they did not overlook or accidentally market something that was misunderstood. This was a deliberate attempt by a man and his ministry to engage in false marketing to deceive the public for personal and professional gain. This scheme was sustained and sharpened for almost three decades and clearly would have continued if the truth had not come to light.
(III) The third part of the C&MA report says “The C&MA has determined that there is no basis for formal discipline regarding this matter”
1. An unbelievable statement. THERE IS NO BASIS FOR FORMAL DISCIPLINE? How about lying? How about intentional deceit? How about profiting from misrepresentation? How about making claims that were just not true? How about the letters and official documents from institutions like Cambridge, Oxford and Ridley Hall to show the extend of the manipulation and misrepresentation?
2. This conclusion by C&MA is in a word, unjustified and even borders on moral and spiritual bankruptcy.
(B) RAVI’S ONLINE AFFAIR
“Mr. Zacharias has also been accused of engaging in an immoral relationship with a woman through the use of electronic communications. The C&MA recently completed a thorough inquiry of these accusations, including interviews with those involved and a review of all available documentation and records. While it is not appropriate to publicly discuss the nuances of these allegations, the available evidence does not provide a basis for formal discipline under the C&MA policy.”
1. What does “theC&MA recently completed a thorough inquiry of these accusations, including interviews with those involved and a review of all available documentation and records” really mean? Did C&MA actually recover all the emails involved in the correspondence between Ravi and Lori Anne? What are we to make of “all available documentation and records”? It seems to invoke in your mind and mine a context of serious investigative effort but in actuality means nothing at all since we are not told what these documents and records are. So we are to blindly trust that an organization under which Ravi is credentialed and has very many friends, will be completely impartial and seek the truth.
2. What does “interviews with those involved” amount to? Did they interview Lori Anne? Did they even make an attempt to hear her side of the story?
3. What they really did can be understood by their conclusive statement “while it is not appropriate to publicly discuss the nuances of these allegations, the available evidence does not provide a basis for formal discipline under the C&MA policy.” What this really means is the following: YOU HAVE TO TAKE US AT OUR WORD. NO, WE WILL NOT BE OFFERING ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THE DOCUMENTS OR RECORDS. NO, WE WILL NOT LET YOU KNOW IF WE SPOKE TO LORI ANNE. NO, WE WILL NOT DISCUSS THE DETAILS OR TRY TO REFUTE OR RESPOND TO THE EVIDENCE THAT SEEMS TO IMPLICATE RAVI. WE WILL JUST STAND MY HIM AND CHEER HIM ON WITH THE EXPECTATION THAT YOU WILL JOIN THE BANDWAGON AS WELL!
THIS IS WHAT IT ALL MEANS!!!
4. More importantly, they have not answered the following questions:
(a) Why did Ravi threaten suicide in his email to Lori Anne Thompson?
(b) Why does he accuse Lori of betraying him in the email?
(c) Why does Ravi ask Lori if she was going to reveal his name to her husband and plead with her to meet him in person before doing anything?
(d) Why did Ravi not report to the RZIM board when he started receiving the nude pictures from Lori? Why did he continue to engage Lori for quite sometime (as he himself admits) till the demand for 5 million?
(e) Why has neither Ravi nor RZIM denied anything from the emails?
(C) THE C&MA DISCIPLINE POLICY HANDBOOK
I really don’t want to undertake a line by line analysis of theC&MA Discipline Policy Handbook. Let me just quote a paragraph from the handbook that draws the essentials together for disciplinary measure to be implemented
“Transition from the informal, relational kind of discipline to the formal, documented kind happens when there is no confession of sin and repentance, or when someone is at risk of imminent harm or has been harmed, the testimony of Christ in the church and community is threatened, or the sin renders the person unqualified to serve in their position of ministry….. Documentation requirements are reasonable.”
1. The evidence that I have presented is indeed overwhelming. Ravi Zacharias and RZIM have been involved in lies and deceit in terms of misrepresenting academic credentials for years and the details of the recent online affair. However, there is “no confession of sin and repentance” since Ravi and RZIM are portraying this as an attack by detractors, by non-believers and Atheists who want to ruin a very effective ministry. There is no confession of sin and repentance, because Ravi and RZIM are trying to trivialize what is a very serious issue of the conduct and character of Ravi Zacharias as well as RZIM. There is no confession of sin and repentance, because Ravi and RZIM are trying to conduct business as usual without taking time for confession and reflection. There is no confession of sin and repentance, because Ravi is not willing to concede even lies that can be immediately substantiated e.g., numerous youtube videos where he actually states that his was a visiting scholar at Cambridge University, an official lecturer at Oxford University, studied Quantum Physics under John Polkinghorne etc. etc. etc., claims that have clearly been proven beyond a shadow of doubt to be absolutely false! AS SUCH, RAVI AND RZIM SHOULD BE DISCIPLINED!
2. The next part states “when someone is at risk of imminent harm or has been harmed”. I would submit that Ravi is at risk of imminent harm that could be potentially self-inflicted. Since he has not refuted the ‘suicide note’ we can consider them to be factual and that puts forth the possibility the Ravi might continue to harbor suicidal tendencies. With the press that all of this is gaining and the pressure to finally accept what he and his organization have done due to the overwhelming evidence, he might in fact try to “bid the world goodbye” (Ravi’s words to Lori Anne). I don’t mean to trivialize the situation or poke fun at Ravi. I mean what I have stated very seriously. Ravi could in fact be a threat to himself and potentially his family since there is, and properly so, mounting evidence and pressure to face the truth.
3. The Policy Handbook continues with “the testimony of Christ in the church and community is threatened”. Nothing is more devastating that this reality. The world is literally mocking the Church for sacrificing substance at the altar of the spectacular. The non-Christians are now convinced that Christians are hypocrites. The intellectuals and those in the scientific community have their confirmation that Christians don’t really care about evidence, even when it is substantial, and employ nothing but blind faith. The person in the pew, the believer, is wondering if the Gospel can still retain its credibility when the messenger does not exemplify his message. The believer is wondering if Truth will prevail and the testimony of Christ will be secure!
4. The following words are binding not only on the C&MA but the church as a whole: “the sin renders the person unqualified to serve in their position of ministry”. I really don’t want to reiterate the points I have already made. What RAVI ZACHARIAS AND RZIM HAVE DONE IS SIN. NO MATTER HOW YOU DRESS IT UP AND TRY TO JUSTIFY IT, SIN IS SIN PERIOD!
THIS DISQUALIFIES HIM FROM THE MINISTRY!
5. I think that all the evidence I have offered suffice to show the nature of what has transpired due to the intentions and actions of Ravi Zacharias. All documents are available on raviwatch.com
If any further documentation is needed please do let me know.
(D) CONCLUDING COMMENTS
1. This document is written for the Leadership at C&MA, especially those who are immediately involved with disciplinary matters within the denomination.
2. This document has also been prepared for those who are part of the C&MA denomination. Pastors, teachers, those in positions of leadership or just the laity. Each one of these groups is equally important to the sustaining and well-being of the denomination. Accordingly, sometimes change and challenge will have to come from the bottom up. As such, after reviewing the evidence, if any of you feel strongly about the need to discipline Ravi Zacharias, I would ask you to make your voice heard, for the sake of the Gospel and your denomination.
3. This document is also for the review of Christians worldwide and even non-Christians. It is for anyone who still cares about integrity, decency and TRUTH!
MY FINAL COMMENT: THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT RAVI ZACHARIAS BUT ABOUT THE INTEGRITY AND FUTURE OF THE C&MA DENOMINATION. THIS ISSUE HAS GAINED ENOUGH PROMINENCE IN THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA TO ATTRACT THE NEEDED ATTENTION TO ENSURE THAT TRUTH IS NOT COMPROMISED FOR ORGANIZATIONAL LOYALTY. MANY OF YOU IN THE LEADERSHIP OF THIS DENOMINATION WILL NO DOUBT BE GOOD FRIENDS WITH RAVI AND VERY WELL ACQUAINTED WITH RZIM. THIS MAY CAUSE YOU TO JUSTIFY HIS INTENTIONS AND ACTIONS BUT YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN PERIL. YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE BEFORE GOD, YOUR DENOMINATION AND THE WORLD AT LARGE.
I SINCERELY HOPE THAT YOU WILL PRAYERFULLY CONSIDER THE EVIDENCE AND RE-ISSUE ANOTHER REPORT. IF RAVI IS DEEMED NOT GUILTY, THEN YOU SHOULD PROVIDE EVIDENCE TO SUBSTANTIATE YOUR DECISION. JUST MAKING OR ISSUING BLANK COMMENTS LIKE THE RECENT PUBLIC STATEMENT BY THE C&MA WILL NOT DO ANYMORE!
IF RAVI IS IN FACT GUILTY, AS WE DO THINK HE IS, IMMEDIATE AND SWIFT DISCIPLINARY ACTION NEEDS TO BE UNDERTAKEN WITHOUT DELAY.
I remember Sharon.
I received a telephone call from a student at the university where I was a chaplain. “Duane, my cousin’s dying from cancer. She wants to talk to a priest and be baptized. Will you see her?”
I really wanted to say, “No”, to refer the young man to the hospital chaplain. I was tired. I had a class to prepare. In the end, however, more from guilt than from compassion, I said, “Yes”. God, however, works even through guilt and, unknown to myself, I embarked on a journey that led through the waters of baptism and death to the release of souls and the glimpsing of rainbows.
I met Sharon on a dark afternoon in February. Lent was about to begin. She was slumped on a chair in her room – swollen feet propped on a stool, legs covered with a blanket, a bathrobe draped over skeletal shoulders, a bandana wrapped around a bald head – a forty-six year-old divorced mother of two, with only days to live.
As I walked in, she smiled. In that moment, one of the quiet miracles in my life took place. A peace that only comes from enduring unspeakable pain flooded the room with light and warmth. In an instant, her smile erased all my seminary-learned strategies of care for the dying. Before we exchanged names, I was conscious that she was to teach and I was to learn about dying and living.
We talked an hour that first day. I spoke to her about baptism, about the Cross and the empty tomb. She told me about anger and sorrow, about being scared and sad. She wanted to be baptized, but not yet. She asked me to come back and talk some more. It was an invitation to enter her world, to share her final days.
For the next two weeks, I saw Sharon every other day. We marveled at revised values in the face of death, tried to imagine being in heaven, quarried for little signs of God’s presence, held hands. She showed me her bald head. I showed her a scar from a car wreck. She joked about “cheery chaplain” visitors who pretended she wasn’t dying. She talked about her favorite place by a lake. Once, in a mutual glance, we saw unexpected tears in each other’s eyes.
The pain mounted and she knew the end was near. Now connected to tubes, her bandana askew on her head, she told me how much she missed her garden, planting her tomatoes in the early Spring, seeing the first rainbow after the showers of the season. Suddenly, she stopped and asked if I would baptize her on my next visit.
As I drove to the hospital the next day, a story came to mind. It was from E.B. White’s introduction to his wife’s last book on gardening. He described in great detail how his wife, who was very old and in great pain, went out into the garden in the late Autumn to plant bulbs. She knew that she would not see another Spring and so, in his words, “she knelt on the ground under the dark skies in that dying October calmly plotting the resurrection”. I pulled my car into a garden center near the hospital. I bought a simple clay pot filled with dirt and mulch and a packet of tomato seeds. I put them in the front seat next to my stole and my silver baptismal shell. Thus armed, I went to visit Sharon to plot a small resurrection of our own.
We talked it over. I said that the plant would be a symbol of what was happening to her in her baptism as it blossomed and bore fruit. Just as her baptism would be a sacramental sign of new life, so would the planting of a simple seed. Its new life, springing out of the earth, would be an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual reality of her life in heaven. I told her I would tend it well. She joked and asked why I couldn’t provide a rainbow as well. She stared down at the seed. She said that her body felt like its hard, dry shell… ready to crack. After a pause, she said that she knew there’d be another Spring.
Together we planted the seed. Then Sharon was baptized. The water from the silver bowl was poured into the hard earth of the clay pot.
As I got ready to leave, I asked if I could pray with her. Sharon said, “No, this time I want to.” She had never prayed before in my presence and I anticipated some formal, awkward invocation. Instead, I found myself listening to a warm intimate chat between two friends. She apologized to God for her anger at not being able to die sooner. She thanked him for her baptism and the time to plant seeds. She told Him that He could be in charge and that she loved Him. I placed the clay pot on the window sill and kissed her good-bye.
The phone rang the next evening. It was Sharon’s nurse. “Can you come to the hospital right away?” When I arrived, Sharon was unconscious. Her body was slack, her eyes closed. Her slow breathing sounded like boiling water. I pulled up a chair, took her hand and put my lips close to her ear. “Sharon, it’s Duane.” Her eyes opened for a moment, then shut. I said a short prayer and went to look for the nurse.
For the next hour nothing happened. Sharon’s hand was cool, her breaths ragged and harsh. The nurse walked in, looked at Sharon’s face and nodded. I anointed Sharon with oil, took her hand and read from the Prayer Book:
Into thy hands, O Merciful Savior, we commend Thy servant Sharon. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech Thee, a sheep of Thine own flock, a sinner of Thine own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of Thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
The room was silent. A young doctor came in, felt for a pulse, looked at me and said, “I’m sorry”. I wondered why.
I stayed behind as the room emptied and looked at Sharon. The shell had cracked and now she was free. I said good-by to this person I had come to love and took the clay pot from the window sill, staring at the hard and unyielding earth it contained.
Nothing happened. As those who know me can testify, I know nothing about gardening. I felt foolish day by day watering dirt. I wanted to throw it away. After all, life from an old clay pot sitting in an empty room?
Some weeks later we had a Spring storm. Afterwards I went around the house to see if water had gotten in through the windows. Looking out of one window to a stand of trees nearby, I could see a rainbow forming as the rain moved off against the light to the east. At that instant, I glanced at the clay pot. First I smiled, then I started to laugh. She had gotten it all.
A tiny blade was poking through the dirt. It was half an inch tall, light green and straight as an arrow. It had pushed a big clump of soil to one side as it emerged, and it now faced the sun shining through the rainbow.
The Book of the Revelation of St. John the Divine tells us that we see only half of the rainbow, for the other half continues in heaven, encircling the throne of God with all the saints attending Him. Through the waters of baptism and the freeing of a soul, Sharon was seeing the other half.
For a moment, even in Lent, the stone was rolled away, the curtain was torn in two, and the resurrection had begun.
Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
1. I think this quote from Wendell Berry should be made part of the canon…“When we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”…
2. You will either believe that all of life is a religious experience or you will spend your life seeking one…
3. Most of what passes for charismata in the church today is utterly trivial and self centered…spiritual masturbation without the decency to seek privacy…
4. Much of what I hear when people speak of “praying for revival” is a prayer for “people to think like us”… if and when revival comes it will offend most of those praying for it and they will commence to pray against it…
5. I’ve started to be encouraged by the reports of a decline in religion…I choose to see it as Jesus cleaning the chalkboard…
6. Saeed Abedini was arrested again...having just returned from an overseas trip to attempt to free his (alleged) long time mistress. He’s not worth writing a full article on…allegedly…
7. The revelation of God in nature is a companion to His revelation in scripture and both are components of His full revelation in Christ…instead of arguing about revelation, I think it better to simply recognize it…
8. According to a “literal” reading of Genesis, animals were created for companionship…so your pets are really more in sync with the kingdom than the people who criticize how much you care about your pets…
9. Few things bring me more comfort than a fire in the fireplace on a cold morning…
10. I think the church calendar should include the start of baseball season as a feast day…
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of
darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of
this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit
us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come
again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the
dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and
for ever. Amen.
The Scroll and the Lamb
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
- This is a continuation of what John is seeing through the ‘open door’.
- In chapter 4 he sees one seated on the throne – now he sees a scroll, and now we are introduced to someone else.
- Scrolls are big in the Bible;
- Ezekiel 3:3 = “And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.”
- Jeremiah 36:27 = “Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
- Luke = Jesus goes to the synagogue and reads from the scroll of Isaiah and speaks of its fulfillment in their hearing.
- Who holds the scroll? God – in his right hand = power & might. God is in control and God is always running the verbs.
- Exodus 15:6 = “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.”
- Psalm 44:3 = “for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.”
- Sealed – when something is sealed it is the opposite of revealing. When something is sealed there is no action going on. You do not know the content and you do not know what it is to be doing.
- When you have something open, then you have revelation –something happening – action.
- 7 seals = complete sealing.
- Look at the paradox – the open door to see the ‘closed’ scroll.
2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”
- So who is worthy to open this scroll? No one!
- Note the loud voice. I guess even angels are excitable.
- Who is this mighty angel? Gabriel? Michael? We do not know.
3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,
- Look at the certainty of the statement. No one! In heaven or under the earth – no one nowhere.
4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.
- Think of this impact on John as he is brought to loud weeping.
- I imagine there is silence once it is realized – no one.
- Think who is here and they are still silent – 24 elders … silent. The 4 living creatures … silent. The millions of heavenly hosts gathered around God’s throne … silent.
5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
- Note the difference in the descriptions laid out in v. 5 & 6. How heaven describes Jesus (5) and how we see him (6).
- Lion of the tribe of Judah = a political type description of messiah. He is going to be a king. The Son of David 2 Sam 7
- Root of David conquers – v. 6-14
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
- Wait, saw a lamb? I thought I would see a lion. Not just any lamb but one that has been slain … slaughtered and butchered for sacrifice (the sacrificial Passover lamb.)
- Note in v 5 it says he has conquered – this is where the victory is – in the sacrifice – on the altar.
- Is this lamb the hope of the church? What about David before Goliath?
- What is the normal future of a lamb? To become lamb chops … not to give life.
- The lamb John sees is the lamb who takes away the sin of the world – John 1:29. He is the Passover lamb to which all previous Passover lambs pointed.
- Paul writes of this in 1 Cor 5:7b – “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
- 1 Peter 1:19 – “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
- Hebrews 10:1-18 – this entire section is about Jesus as the only sacrifice that counts. The one sacrifice, once for all for all people.
- This is the Christian religion – that Jesus, his passion, his death, his resurrection, IS victory, this is the victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell.
- It is heaven for us – for all generations.
- Seven horns = horns are always a symbol for power.
- Seven eyes = sees all, knows all
- Seven spirits = the Holy Spirit. The 7 spirits of the Lord (1) will rest on him says Isaiah the prophet – (2) the spirit of wisdom, (3) of understanding, (4) of counsel, (5) of power, (6) of knowledge, (7) and the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2
7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
- The picture of God sitting on his throne is very important. God has done his Good Friday; he has done his Mt Calvary.
- This whole scene in Rev 5 is needed to interpret the whole Book of Revelation – John turns looking for a lion and sees a lamb.
- The lamb, not the lion, is God’s revelation to you and to me.
- God’s revelation is always different than the revelation we look for. We look for lions and he gives us a little David. We look for lions and he gives us a slain lamb.
- In Jesus we see God for who he is.
- In Jesus we see the very heart of the gospel.
- In Jesus we are given to see all of reality – the facts of our lives.
- In Jesus we know what God thinks of us, we know how God treats us and we know what God has done for us.
- And, we would not expect this. Everything we see here contradicts our values and our ideas of how things should be done – how things should be done in this world.
- How do we do this? We keep maps and charts – we are score keepers, tit for tat, quid pro quo kind of world.
- We look for lions, we look for Goliaths – this is how our world works.
- If you want to see God doing his best work, you look here. However, we are prone to ask “where are you God? The world is going to hell in a hand basket.”
- He is working here in Christ – the lamb who is slain. He died. He is the victim.
“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
Last week in Part 3 of this four part series on Psalm 51, we examined David’s plea for renewal (vv. 7-12). This week we will conclude this series by looking at David’s vow to teach and praise (vv. 13-17).
Part 4 – The Vow to Teach and Praise (vv. 13-17)
“13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
David is so confident that God will grant his petitions for forgiveness and renewal that he vows: “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” The joy the Gospel creates in the heart of a penitent sinner is often irrepressible. We are given similar examples in the gospels. Often when Jesus healed someone, He would strictly command them to tell no one, but they would not keep silent. For example: “And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” (Mark 7:35-36; see also Mark 1:45 and Luke 5:15)
Note that David did not say “I will teach transgressors ‘your laws.’ ” He says “your ways.” David understands that sinners will return (i.e., repent or convert) to the God of steadfast love and abundant mercy, to the God who is gracious to contrite hearts.
The law can spiritually break a sinner’s bones and ready him for grace, but it cannot create a clean heart or renew a right spirit. Paul also wrote: “for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” On the other hand, the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel creates faith, a clean conscience, a new heart and a right spirit. Thus David vows to proclaim the Gospel to transgressors. Moreover, he is confident that others will receive the Word and return to God with joy and gladness.
David’s second vow has the characteristics of both teaching and praise. The dead can do neither from the grave. Thus if God delivers David from divine judgment for his culpability in the murder of Uriah, David will “sing aloud of [His] righteousness.” The significant point here is that God’s righteousness includes his mercy. Paul explained this connection (and the connection to Christ) beautifully in his letter to the Romans:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:21-26)
David’s third vow begins with a request that God would grant him the courage to praise Him publically: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” The public praise of God is a gift of the Holy Spirit: “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3).
To praise the Lord publicly is tantamount to engaging in a battle against the devil, the world, our own flesh and all its vices. It involves personal humiliation in that we are declaring that we are not our own lords. We may be tempted, for fear of danger, gain of security or due to the bad advice of friends or family, to close our lips. Therefore, we might pray for strength to ignore the suggestions of the devil, the world and our own flesh to keep silent, and that God would grant us courage to publically declare His praise.
The sacrifice of praise from a humbled and contrite heart is most pleasing to God. These are gifts of the Holy Spirit who comes to us through the Word of God and learned in the school of experience.
“18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.”
This article concludes this series on Psalm 51. Thank you for reading!
Closing prayer: Heavenly Father, may the words of this Psalm of David dwell in us richly. For the sake of your Son our Lord, grant us your steadfast love and abundant mercy. Protect us from the schemes of the devil and deliver us from evil. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
In preparing for writing these articles, I made extensive use of the following works:
Brug, John F. Peoples Bible Commentary: Psalms 1. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005. Print.
Ngien, Dennis. Fruit for the Soul: Luther on the Lament Psalms. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015. Print.
Terrien, Samuel. The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003. Print
With memes and headlines against colored backgrounds they are imagining with evident glee the discomfort that Hawking is going through having found out that their god exists.
The problem is that their god doesn’t exist…at least not with the attitude they have.
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” (Ezekiel 33:11 ESV)
What should our attitude be when someone enters eternity having seemingly denied Christ?
There but for the grace of God, go I.
The grace of God is the only thing between you and whatever an unbeliever faces on the other side.
Maybe we need to define grace again for some.
It is the unmerited favor of God.
You don’t deserve it.
You didn’t earn it.
You deserved whatever you believe hell is as much as any unbeliever…but grace…
Listen to Dr. Packer;
“What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
When an unbeliever leaves this life the only acceptable responses are grief over the loss, fear over their destiny, and gratitude to God that we have a sure hope.
Anything else is sin and a a clear sign that someone doesn’t understand who they really are or what Christ accomplished for them.
Now may God give me the grace to love those who I scorn because they somehow believe they were inherently better than the departed sinner…
We were also informed that the church was a Calvary Chapel affiliate and asked what that meant in terms of possible actions by denominational leaders.
In any case, the discipline is the same for both groups…removal from the database.
CGN will not be involved in this process in any other way.
Neither the Calvary Chapel Association, nor CGN will get involved in local church scandals because that creates legal liability for the organization…liability that cost Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa a lot of money over the years.
As this scandal deepens it would seem prudent to me to remove this “church” from the CGN database immediately…I’ll be checking the site frequently to see if that happens.