Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Remez: Key to Understanding Several Puzzles

You are here

Remez

Key to Understanding Several Puzzles

Downloads
MP4 Video - 1080p (2.15 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (1.3 GB)
MP3 Audio (40.69 MB)

Downloads

Remez: Key to Understanding Several Puzzles

MP4 Video - 1080p (2.15 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (1.3 GB)
MP3 Audio (40.69 MB)
×

Remez, a Hebrew word meaning "hint" or "clue," is a technique long used by Jewish teachers and rabbis to point their audience to other biblical passages. Remez comes in at least three forms—spoken, written, or action. A close look at the Gospels reveals that all four Gospel writers, Jesus Christ, God the Father and John the Baptizer used remez at different times. When we grasp the concept and how it was used, it explains several unusual incidents in the Gospels and gives us deeper understanding of the messages recorded there for us.

Transcript

[Scott Ashley] Okay. Today, I want to talk about a subject that I've been discussing a lot in our Gospels classes with the Ambassador Bible College students. And that is the subject of remez, remez. I'd like all of you to say remez.

Congregation: Remez.

Scott Ashley: Remez. Okay, good. Good. Remez is a word you've likely never heard before the last minute here. It is a more modern Hebrew word that is not found in the Bible. It's a different concept that has come along. However, it does describe something that is found in the Bible, and that is a teaching method that appears again and again and again in the Gospels. It's actually used between 300 and 400 times in the Gospels. So that's how common it is. Like most Hebrew words, remez has several different but related meanings. Its general meaning is a hint or a clue or a look back.

For instance, if you were talking to somebody in Israel who speaks Hebrew today and you wanted to say, "Give me a hint or give me a clue," you would say, "Give me a remez." It means hint or clue or a look back. It's a concept that's somewhat hard for us to understand because there is no equivalent for it in English or in our English-speaking culture in history. But it is something that has been used for the last 2,000 years by Jewish rabbis, by Jewish teachers. And to help us understand how this was used, we need to understand something about the educational system in Galilee in the first century when Jesus was teaching.

At that time, Jewish schoolboys were expected to memorize the five books of Moses by age 12. And I don't just mean the names of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the entirety of the five books of Moses. Maybe our school kids think they have it tough. Imagine trying to do that. And if you were successful at that, you would then go on after age 12 and start memorizing large portions of the rest of the Hebrew Bible with the goal that, eventually, you would memorize the entirety of the Old Testament books, the entirety. And this was the requirement for someone who was to be a rabbi.

This is why we see Jesus and Paul, who is also a rabbi, continually just quoting, off the top of their heads, different passages from throughout the Old Testament because, as rabbis, they had memorized the entirety of the Old Testament. And they would do that. Again, that was their schooling. That was the basic educational system. And, of course, the young girls would also memorize other parts of the Bible, not necessarily the five books of Moses, but things like the Psalms, like the Proverbs, books like that. So they also memorized large portions of Scripture up to the end of their formal schooling. And then, of course, on the Sabbath day, they would go to Sabbath services where there would be regular readings from the Scripture. There would be deep discussions of the Scriptures at the local synagogue as well as at the temple in Jerusalem.

So the bottom line, and the reason I recount this, is that in first-century Judea and Galilee, the people were extremely scripturally-literate. And we see this reflected in the Gospels where people get into deep discussions with Jesus about which is the greatest commandment of the law and things like this. And people constantly quoting Scripture back and forth and asking people questions about Scriptures. So as a result of this, Jewish teachers and rabbis would use a kind of shorthand in referring to Bible passages.

They would cite a short section of Scripture or what we would call a verse, our verse divisions didn't come along till much, much later, and the audience would know to fill in the rest of the passage. For instance, if I got up here and sang to you… which I won't inflict on you. If I sang to you, "Oh, beautiful for spacious skies," what comes next? You all know, "for amber waves of grain." If I sang to you, "Onward Christian soldiers," you all fill in, "marching as to war," because you've memorized it. You know it. It's embedded in your brain there. So this was kind of a shorthand method that Bible writers and Jesus used constantly to teach. And again, this is where the hint or the clue or the look back comes in, they would give part of a verse and the audience fills in the rest of it.

So that's the basic idea. And to give you a modern-day illustration… because again, this technique is still used by Jewish teachers to this day. It was used 2,000 years ago and it's still being used to this day. And I'll tell you a story that was told by the individual that I learned this concept from about remez. And this is how he was introduced to it a number of years ago. And he told of a banquet that he went to that was to honor a Jewish professor who was retiring from Oxford University. And this Jewish professor had devoted his entire lifetimes to studying the Bible and to proving that it was authentic, that it was real, that it was real history, that it was really the Word of God. He devoted his entire academic career to teaching that to his students.

So they had this retirement banquet. And it so happened this student had a… this professor had a well-known student who also received his Ph.D. under this retiring professor. However, the student went in the opposite direction. Instead of devoting a career to proving the Bible is God's Word, the student devoted his career to disproving the Bible. Saying the Bible is just a collection of made-up stories by people who wrote long after the fact. So this was devastating to the retiring professor. And it hurt him deeply to know that his former student had done this.

So at this retirement banquet for this professor, they had a question and answer session, and someone asked this Jewish professor what he thought about the work of this student who had gone the exact opposite way. And the professor thought for a minute, and then he said in Hebrew, what would be translated into English as, "I have nourished and brought up children." I have nourished and brought up children. And there is dead silence in the room. And it took this American, who is just learning Hebrew, a little while to figure out what's going on and to make the connection and realize where this phrase "I have nourished and brought up children" comes from.

The professor was quoting the first half of Isaiah 1:2 Isaiah 1:2Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD has spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
American King James Version×
, where God says, ''I have nourished and brought up children.'' That's the part that he quoted in Hebrew, and he stopped. The professor didn't quote the last part of the verse. He didn't need to because his audience is predominantly Jewish. They're familiar with the Scriptures, they know them. Many of them have memorized the Scriptures and he knew that they would know the last part of the verse. What is the last part of the verse? "And they have rebelled against me." They have rebelled against me.

So he was asked what he thought about the work of his former student. And he answers the question in a very Jewish way, using a remez. What he was saying is that he had taught the truth to the student. He had nourished and brought him up, but when he was old, he rebelled against the professor's teaching. So he gave part of an answer to the Bible verse and let the audience fill in the rest. And this is a classic example of remez. And, again, it's been used for the last 2,000 years and is still used to this day where the teacher gives part of a verse, and his audience, knowing the Scripture, fills in the rest of the verse. And we find this teaching method used again and again and again in the Gospels.

Jesus uses it repeatedly. John the Baptist uses it. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John use it in writing their versions of the gospel. God the Father even uses this method as recorded in the Gospels. And again, this teaching method is so common that it's used 300 to 400 times in the Gospels. The exact number just kind of depends on how you define it, how loosely or how tightly you define something as a remez. But again, it is a very, very common technique, and we've covered several dozen of them to this point in our Gospels class so far this year.

So in today's sermon, what I would like to do is to examine several examples of remez to help us to see how it is used, how it helps us understand some puzzling passages that we've wondered about over the years in the Gospels, and also how understanding the concept of remez will bring us a new depth and a new and greater and deeper understanding of the level of richness that is found there in the Gospels.

And as we go through these examples, again, the point of a remez is to give a hint or a clue about a deeper message that is there. So I want to help us to think about these and see what the message is in some of these because if we don't catch that message, we miss a large part of what the Gospel writers are telling us about different incidents that we find there in the Gospels.

So let's start with a really easy remez and see if we can pick out the point, the hint or the clue as to what the gospel writer is telling us. Who can tell us what the first few words of the Gospel of John are? Anyone. In the beginning. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Where does "In the beginning" come from? It's very obvious, in the beginning, in Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
American King James Version×
. "In the beginning," John says, "was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
American King James Version×
''In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.''

So John gives us a remez in the first three words of his Gospel right there. He gives us a clue. He gives us a hint. What is he hinting about? What's the point? What's the message? The message is, go back to Genesis. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." So what is John telling his readers? What's his point? He's telling them, essentially, "Hey, you all know Genesis 1 where it says, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Guess what, I'm going to tell you in my gospel about the God who created the heavens and the earth because I met that God. I lived with that God for three years. I handled Him. I touched Him, I listened to Him. He was my rabbi, He was my teacher. And now let me tell you about that God."

And then he goes on, skipping down a few verses, ''And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.'' So he says, “I'm going to tell you about that God that you read about back there in Genesis 1, because I knew Him personally.”

Let's look at another remez that may be a little bit more difficult. And that is, what title does Jesus Christ use most often for Himself? What title does He use most often for Himself? It's pretty obvious, and you'll kick yourself if you're not getting it, but it's Son of Man, Son of Man. And He uses it 84 times in the Gospels for Himself. Let's look at just a few of these to get a feel for how He uses it. Matthew 20:28 Matthew 20:28Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
American King James Version×
, ''Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.'' Matthew 24:27 Matthew 24:27For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
American King James Version×
, ''For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.'' Matthew 24:30 Matthew 24:30And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
American King James Version×
, ''Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.''

So again, Jesus uses this phrase of Himself 84 times in the Gospels, far and above any other title, but why? Why this particular term? Why this particular term? Why this and not something else? What's the hint or the clue that He's telling His audience to think about or to look back to from calling Himself the Son of Man? In other words, what's His point? What's the point of this remez is He uses so often? Well, where does the term Son of Man appear in the Bible?

You've all read it before. You probably don't remember off the top of your head, but it's Daniel 7. Daniel 7, verses 13 and 14. This is one of Daniel's visions, and he sees an astounding vision that is revealed to him. He says, ''I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man,'' the same exact phrase, same exact term, ''coming with the clouds of heaven! And He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.'' Why does Daniel say Son of Man and Ancient of Days instead of Father and Son?

Well, because the father-son relationship did not exist yet. That wouldn't exist until Jesus is born as a son to the virgin, Mary. So it doesn't exist yet. So it's not the Father and Son. It is the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days. That's how Daniel describes their relationship. But notice what else about this prophecy here. ''The Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days and they brought Him near before Him," in verse 14. ''Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.''

So what is the point when Jesus applies this term, Son of Man, to Himself? What's the hint? What's the clue? What's the remez? What He's telling His disciples and everyone around Him is that He is the Son of Man of Daniel's prophecy. In other words, that He is the one who will be given this everlasting Kingdom that shall never be destroyed. In other words, what He's saying, to sum it up, He's saying He is the promised Messiah. He is the one who will receive that Kingdom and will bring that Kingdom that will be established throughout the earth and will last forever.

You know, a lot of people read through the Gospels and they say, ''Why doesn't Jesus come right out and say He's the Messiah?'' Well, He does. He does again and again and again and again and again. He just does it in a very Jewish way. He does it in a way that His Jewish audience would have understood with references like this, to Him taking the title Son of Man on Himself.

Let's take a look at another remez. We find it over in Matthew 21, in verses 15 and 16, and this is a… yeah, starting it out with some of the easy ones. Now, we'll start to get into some that are a little more challenging to understand and to get the point. And this is a classic example of one where Jesus quotes part of a Scripture and expects His audience to fill in the rest. So Matthew 21:15 Matthew 21:15And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased,
American King James Version×
, ''But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant and said to Him, 'Do you hear what these are saying?'" Referring to the children. “And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants you have perfected praise”?’''

So where does this phrase "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, you have perfected praise" come from? And what is Jesus' point in quoting this to the audience there, to the Sadducees, to the priest and so on? It's actually a quote from Psalms 8:2 Psalms 8:2Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings have you ordained strength because of your enemies, that you might still the enemy and the avenger.
American King James Version×
. This is from the New Living Translation. And again, the wording won't match the 100% because, again, the Psalm is written in Hebrew and it's translated for us into English. Jesus is speaking Hebrew or Aramaic, and it's recorded and translated into Greek by Matthew. And then the Greek is translated into English for us. So the language will not match up in hardly any examples of remez, but you can see the obvious similarity and that this is indeed what He is quoting.

So Jesus quotes Psalms 8:2 Psalms 8:2Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings have you ordained strength because of your enemies, that you might still the enemy and the avenger.
American King James Version×
to them. ''You have taught children and nursing infants to give you praise,” but is that all to it? What is Jesus' point? Why this particular quote that He gives back to the people there who were being critical of Him? Is He seeing something else here? Let's read the rest of the story. ''They silence your enemies who are seeking revenge.'' Jesus quotes part of a passage, but his real message to them is what follows. What does Jesus call these people who are criticizing Him and condemning Him? He's calling them God's enemies. He's calling them God's enemies. He calls the Sadducees and the priests and their accomplices God's enemies.

And the context of this is He has overturned the money changer's tables and so on and has driven out of the temple those who have turned the temple and temple worship into a great money-making opportunity for themselves with which they are lining their own pockets by stealing from the people. So He calls them God's enemies, but He does this through a remez. Did they understand what Jesus was saying? Well, if you read the rest of Matthew, you don't, because Matthew doesn't record their reaction to it. However, in the parallel account in Mark and Luke, they do record their reaction to Jesus' statement. And notice what it says, Mark 11:18 Mark 11:18And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
American King James Version×
, ''And the scribes and chief priest heard it and sought how they might destroy him.'' For what? For saying that, "Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise"? No, for Jesus telling them they're God's enemies.

Luke says, ''But the chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people sought to destroy him after hearing that.'' Again, not for saying, "Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected for praise," but for calling them the enemies of God. They got the message. They got the point of the remez there. But if you don't understand the teaching method that Jesus is using here, you miss the connection. The connection makes absolutely no sense in English unless you go back and read the latter part of Psalms 8:2 Psalms 8:2Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings have you ordained strength because of your enemies, that you might still the enemy and the avenger.
American King James Version×
.

One of the most amazing examples of remez, and this is found in Matthew 11, verses 2 through 5, and this is between Jesus and the disciples of John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer, as I call him. And to set the stage for this, John has been imprisoned in the fortress palace of Herod Antipas, who's one of the sons of Herod the Great. And he's been imprisoned for calling Herod's marriage adulterous because he has married his own sister-in-law, the wife of his brother Philip, so it's an adulterous relationship. Herod called him on that, and he gets locked up in Herod's dungeon, and he's been in prison for some time, maybe up to a year. We're not sure. The Gospels don't tell us.

So John has been imprisoned in this dungeon in Herod's fortress palace, and he's wondering what's going on because he knows that he is the forerunner of the Messiah. But this isn't what he expected, because, after all, what's the Messiah to do? The Messiah is to come and set everything right on the earth. So why is he sitting here in this hot, stinking, dirty, filthy dungeon of Herod? So he sends a message, he sends two of his disciples to Jesus, as we read here in Matthew 11:2 Matthew 11:2Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
American King James Version×
. "And when John had heard in prison about the works,'' and this word "works" means miracles of Jesus, ''he sent two of his disciples and said to him, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?'"

Now, this is a really odd question. "Are You the Coming One or do we look for another?" Now, if you're John and you're in Herod's dungeon, what questions are you going to want to ask Jesus? Well, first you're going to want to ask, "Are you really the Messiah?" And second, "If you really are the Messiah, why am I sitting here in this stinking dungeon cell, and when am I going to get out?" And guess what? That's exactly the question he asks. That's exactly the question he asks, "Are You the Coming One?"

What is John's question? If you don't know the text, and if you don't know remez, you don't get to play. You don't know. So where does John get this phrase "the Coming One" from? Where does that appear in the Bible? It appears in Zechariah 9, the prophecy of the Messiah. Zechariah 9:9-11 Zechariah 9:9-11 [9] Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes to you: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on an ass, and on a colt the foal of an ass. [10] And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace to the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. [11] As for you also, by the blood of your covenant I have sent forth your prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.
American King James Version×
, ''Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.'' And this is a well-known messianic prophecy. And, of course, Jesus will fulfill this several days before His crucifixion, when He rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. And this King from this prophecy was known as the Coming One. This was the prophecy of the Coming One, the King who was going to come as the Messiah.

But why did John use this particular prophecy of the Messiah? There are literally dozens of prophecies he could have used. He could have asked are you Abraham's Seed? Are you the Seed of the woman? Are you the prophet like Moses? Are you the Son of David? Are you the Bud or the Rod from Jesse, rather? Are you the Wonderful Counselor? Are you the Prince of Peace? Why does John use the prophecy, "Are you the Coming One?" Why that prophecy? Well, this is actually a double remez, because John is asking Jesus if He's the Messiah and also asking, "When am I going to get out of Herod's prison?"

In Zechariah, John uses this prophecy because of something that is foretold in this prophecy that the Coming One would do. And what would it be? Down two verses in Zechariah 9:11 Zechariah 9:11As for you also, by the blood of your covenant I have sent forth your prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.
American King James Version×
, This Messiah "will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.’' From the dungeon, from the jail cell, in other words. So John essentially says, "I know you're the Messiah, but if you're the Messiah, then when are you going to set the prisoners free? When are we going to be free? When am I going to get out of Herod's dungeon?" is what he is asking. So he asks Jesus a double question with this one remez, "Are you the Coming One?" Because the Coming One is the Messiah. The Coming One frees the prisoners. "Are you really the Messiah? And when am I going to get out of Herod's jail?"

And he knows Jesus is so familiar with the Scriptures that he will recognize the reference and make the connection that John is in prison and he wants to know when he's going to be released. And how does Jesus respond to the question? John asked him a question with a remez, Jesus responds with actually several examples of remez. Let's notice that. "Jesus answered," Matthew 11:4 Matthew 11:4Jesus answered and said to them, Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see:
American King James Version×
, answered and said to them, to the disciples of John, ''Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: ‘The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.’'' So how is Jesus responding to John's remez? He answers with another remez. He's paraphrasing from several prophecies from Isaiah of things the Messiah will do.

Let's look at them. First one, Isaiah 35:5-10 Isaiah 35:5-10 [5] Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. [6] Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. [7] And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. [8] And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. [9] No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: [10] And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy on their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
American King James Version×
, ''Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened.” The blind see. “The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” The deaf hear and “The lame shall leap like a deer." The lame walk. He also paraphrases from Isaiah 42:6-7 Isaiah 42:6-7 [6] I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; [7] To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
American King James Version×
, ''I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, to open blind eyes.” Again, the blind see. He also paraphrases from Isaiah 61:1 Isaiah 61:1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
American King James Version×
, ''The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me… to preach good tidings to the poor." The poor have the gospel preached to them. He responds from several different passages in Isaiah to John's remez there.

But let's notice, let's go back and look at the passages Jesus quotes and see what He quotes and what He leaves out. Because His answer, He answers on the surface. "Yes. You see the miracles. These are proof that I am the Messiah." But how does He answer the second part of John's question, which is, "When am I going to get out of Herod's jail?" Let's notice. Let's go back and read the context. Isaiah 35:5-10 Isaiah 35:5-10 [5] Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. [6] Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. [7] And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. [8] And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. [9] No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: [10] And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy on their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
American King James Version×
, ''Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,’' Jesus paraphrases that. ''The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. The lame shall leap like a deer,'' but then you skip down to verse 10, ''And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,’' what does ransomed mean? It means to be bought back and released from prison or bondage. He's talking about a prisoner being freed with a ransom being paid.

Isaiah 42:6-7 Isaiah 42:6-7 [6] I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; [7] To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
American King James Version×
, ''I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness… to open blind eyes,'' which Jesus paraphrases, but what does Jesus leave out? “To bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” Jesus doesn't quote that part. The next one, Isaiah 61:1 Isaiah 61:1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
American King James Version×
, ''The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me… to preach good tidings to the poor.'' Jesus quotes that part. ''He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.'' All three passages, Jesus quotes part of it, but He stops before quoting the part about the prisoners being set free. Here we have a remez where the message is actually the opposite, and Jesus emphasizes it three different times by quoting from passages that all end with the prisoners are going to be set free.

And by emphasizing those passages to John… and John, again, has memorized the Scriptures. He's a rabbi. He knows his Bible well. He's memorized it. He knows what they say, and that triple emphasis means not that the prisoners are going to be set free, but Jesus tells John's disciples, "John, My cousin, My fellow rabbi, the great teacher, he's not going to get out of Herod's jail. He's not going to get out of Herod's dungeon alive." That's the point. That's how He answers it. And I imagine Jesus' eyes are probably filled with tears when He says this because He knew this is the end of the line for John. Just as in a few years, it'll be the end of the line for Him.

Can we know that this is what Jesus meant? Well, yes, we can. Let's go back to Jesus' response again. ''The blind see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear. The dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them." And then he says, quoting from the NIV, ''Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me.'' Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. There's nothing offensive here that would cause somebody to stumble and fall away. What could be offensive about the blind seeing, the lame walking, the lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised up and the poor having the gospel preached to them? There's nothing offensive in that. There's nothing there that can cause someone to fall away. But He tells John's disciples, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of Me," because John is not going to be released. He's going to die in Herod's prison. And, indeed, it will come to pass before long that that is exactly what happens, and Herod has him beheaded.

So we've seen several different written remez, like John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
American King James Version×
, ''In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.'' Referring back to Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
American King James Version×
. We've seen several examples of spoken remez like this, like other passages from Jesus. There's another kind of remez that appears in the Gospels too. And that is what you could call an action remez, or an acted-out remez is probably a better term for it. In other words, a remez that creates a picture or a message by what one does. By what one does. That's why I call it an action or acted-out remez, and these are fascinating examples as well.

Let's start with one that is quite obvious. Matthew 3:4 Matthew 3:4And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
American King James Version×
, and this is talking about John the Baptizer, verse 4, ''And John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist.'' Now, why does John dress this way? Does it ring a bell? Does it give us a hint or a clue to something that happened earlier that's recorded for us in the Bible? There's two unusual things about the way John is dressed. One is he wears a leather belt around his waist. Because we, today, take leather belts for granted. And all of us have several, probably, in our closets. But leather was pretty valuable then. It was expensive. You didn't wear a leather belt around your waist. You wore just a cord or a rope woven out of fibers because leather was too expensive to use in that frivolous way.

So leather belts were uncommon, used to wrap around your robe. You'd just tie a rope around to keep your robe from flapping in the breeze there. So that was unusual, to be wearing a leather belt. And it was also unusual that John is wearing a garment of animal hair. Most people wore garments made out of linen or out of wool from sheep, not of animal hair, particularly down in the Jordan Valley, because where is John conducting his ministry? It's down in the Jordan River Valley. If any of you've ever been in the Jordan River Valley, what's it like? It is extremely hot and extremely humid. So you're not going to be wearing a heavy garment of animal hair down in the Jordan River Valley unless there is a point to it unless there's a specific purpose to it.

So does the Bible talk about any other individual who wears a garment of hair and a leather belt? Let's go back about 800 years, a number of centuries earlier, and we find an account here. 2 Kings 1:7-8 2 Kings 1:7-8 [7] And he said to them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words? [8] And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.
American King James Version×
. This is in the time of King Ahaziah. And Ahaziah has a couple of messengers who come to him bearing bad news. ''Then the King Ahaziah said to them," the messengers, ''What kind of man was it who came up to meet you and told you this bad news?'' The bad news is he's going to die. "And they replied, 'He was a man with a garment of hair and a leather belt around his waist.'' And the king knows immediately who it is. It's Elijah the Tishbite because again, the clothing is very distinctive. People in that period didn't wear garments of hair with a leather belt around them either. So it's very distinctive. And King Ahaziah immediately knows who it is, just by the way he's dressed. He knows it's the prophet Elijah and he's in trouble.

So the prophet Elijah wore something that was so distinctive, stood out so much that these men use that as how they described the man, and King Ahaziah immediately recognized. So what's the point when John the Baptizer comes along many centuries later wearing a garment of hair and wearing a leather belt? Well, to answer that, we need to understand what John's mission was. Luke 1:13-17 Luke 1:13-17 [13] But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. [14] And you shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. [15] For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. [16] And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. [17] And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
American King James Version×
and this is where the angel appears to John's father, Zacharias, and announces that his wife Elizabeth is going to give birth to a son. And he describes the mission of what this son will do. But the angel said to Zacharias, ''Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.''

And skipping down a few verses, verse 16, ''And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.'' And then he describes his mission, verse 17, ''He will also go before Him,” before the Messiah “in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’'' quoting from the prophecy of Elijah, or John the Baptizer, in Malachi, "in the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." So John's mission is what? His mission is to be a second Elijah. And he knows that. So what does John do? He dresses like Elijah, wearing a garment of animal hair and a leather belt around his waist, just like Elijah did centuries before. He also does something else to convey the message that he is the second Elijah as well.

Let's notice in the Gospels two places, and these are the only two places where it mentions John is baptizing people. One, we find in John 1:28 John 1:28These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
American King James Version×
, ''These things were done in Bethabara, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.'' Bethabara, you can look it up on your map, but it's just north of the Dead Sea. And some of you, if you've crossed the Allenby Bridge between Jerusalem and going over to Amman, Jordan, it's very near that area, and they've actually uncovered, excavated some of the ruins in that area. And this is one of the places that John is baptizing.

And then the other place where… John 3:23 John 3:23And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
American King James Version×
, ''John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim because there was much water there.'' And this, again, is in the Jordan River. And this place, the second one, Aenon near Salim, is about halfway, roughly, between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, about 30, 35 miles north of the Dead Sea. Why those two places? Well, obviously, as it says, there was much water there. The water needs to be deep enough to baptize people. But is there another reason why John works, conducts his ministry in these two particular spots that are mentioned in John's Gospel? Did anything significant happen earlier in these two spots? Actually, yes. The first spot, Aenon near Salim is quite near. It's where Elisha is from, the prophet Elisha. And it's also very near where Elijah chose Elisha to be his successor and placed his mantle on him. It's also just a few miles from the spot where, if you remember the story during the famine in the land, God miraculously provides for the prophet Elijah by having ravens come and feed him in the wilderness, very near this spot.

So John is baptizing near Elijah's spot. What about the other place? The one down near the Dead Sea? At Bethabara or Bethany Beyond the Jordan, it's called, that's again down near the northern end of the Dead Sea, just across the Jordan Valley from the city of Jericho. Does it have a connection with Elijah? Well, yes it does because it is there that the prophet Elijah ascends into heaven on a fiery chariot and leaves Elijah… Elisha, rather, as his successor.

So what is John the Baptizer doing? He's dressing like Elijah with a garment of hair with a leather belt, and he's conducting his ministry at two places that are significant, very significant, probably the most significant in the ministry of Elijah the prophet. So he is doing a visual remez, or an acted-out remez, or an action remez. He's not openly telling people that he's a second Elijah, but he's telling them he is the Elijah by the way that he's dressed and where he's conducting his ministry. Now, it's not the way we would convey the message today, but that, again, is a very Jewish way of conveying a message there. You might think back to some of the odd things that God told His prophets of old to do, to carry out in symbolic actions, things that portrayed specific messages of what was going to happen to Israel, or Judah. It's the same kind of thing that John is doing as a prophet, as a successor to the prophet Elijah.

And Jesus also does this, at times. He does what we could call an action remez or an acted-out remez. One that I just covered in the ABC class yesterday is… you'll find it in Luke 7. We won't turn there because it's a fairly detailed account. I won't show it on screen, but it's Luke 7, you can write that down, where Jesus raises the only son of a woman from the dead. And it's an unusual incident. He's walking through the countryside with His followers, and He sees a funeral procession coming out of the town of Nain, N-A-I-N, and He stops the procession, raises the young man from the dead, and the young man sits up and starts talking. He's not even asked to resurrect the young man. He just does it. He stops the funeral procession and raises the man to life again, even though he's dead.

So why does He do it? What's the remez? What's the hint? What's the clue? What's the message that he is sending there? Do you remember another biblical story of a prophet raising the only son of a widow from the dead? Anybody remember that? You'll find it in 2 Kings 4, and that's where the prophet Elisha raises the only son of a widow from the dead. Where did that take place? The names have changed. That took place at Shunem. She was the Shunammite woman. Where is Shunem them and where is Nain? They're about a half a mile apart, about a half a mile apart. And Nain is where Jesus raises this woman's only son from the dead, resurrects him to life without being asked. Why does He do it? Why does He do it? Did the people get the point? What was the point?

Let's turn to Luke 7 and read verse 16, ''Then fear came upon them all after they see this young man raised to life again and they glorified God, saying, ''A great prophet has risen up among us.'' Why do they say a great prophet? Why not a great healer? Why not a great miracle worker? Because He healed the dead man and raised Him to life. He performed a miracle and raised him to life. Why a great prophet? Because everybody knew that just down the road is where Elisha had raised the son of the widow from. And here Jesus does the same thing, and their response, their spontaneous outburst is, "A great prophet has risen up among us,” a great prophet like Elisha, and that's the point of the remez. That's the point of the remez. Again, it's an acted-out remez. Jesus sends the message that He is a great prophet like Elisha by raising the woman's only son from the dead, just as Elisha had done.

I want to conclude this sermon with one final remez, and this is another action remez or an acted-out remez, you might say. And it's, to me, one of probably the most fascinating one. We find it over in Acts 8:2-11 Acts 8:2-11 [2] And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. [3] As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. [4] Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. [5] Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ to them. [6] And the people with one accord gave heed to those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. [7] For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. [8] And there was great joy in that city. [9] But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: [10] To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. [11] And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
American King James Version×
. And this is one that has puzzled us for many decades in the Church because we have not understood this teaching technique of remez. And we didn't understand that Jesus is doing a remez and when we understand that, that explains what is going on here and why Jesus does what He does and why the people react in the way that He does. It's a very familiar story about the woman caught in adultery.

So let's read through it, then we'll come back and take a closer look. John 8:2 John 8:2And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down, and taught them.
American King James Version×
, ''Now early in the morning Jesus came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had sent her in the midst,” or in the middle, “they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now, Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?’" And what is their motivation? Verse 6, ''This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.'' So that's their motivation, and Jesus knows what their motivation is. ''But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He didn't hear. So when they continued asking Him, 'What do we do? Do we stone this woman or not?' Jesus raised Himself up and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.' And again He stooped and wrote on the ground.'' In verse 9, ''Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last."

So what's going on here? This sounds a little weird. Why does Jesus write in the dust with His finger? And why do they all leave after He does that? What's going on? What's the remez? What's the point? What does it all mean? Let's look at it again. Let's back up. Verse 6, ''This they said, testing Him…'' Again, that's their attitude. Their attitude isn't to righteously uphold God's law. They're looking for something for which they can accuse Jesus. ''This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though he hadn't heard them.'' Rather an odd reaction, isn't it?

Let's keep reading, verse 7, ''So when they continued asking Him, 'What do we do with this woman?' He raised Himself up and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.''' And then He does what? “Once again, He stoops down and writes in the dust.” So what does Jesus do in response to their attempt to trap Him? He stoops down and writes in the dust with His finger. “So they ask Him again, and He says, ‘He who is innocent, let him cast the first stone.' And then He stoops down and He writes in the dust again with His finger.” He's saying, ''Okay, you didn't get the message the first time. I'll do it again." And He stoops and writes in the dust a second time. And as a result of Jesus writing in the dust with His finger, they drop their stones and they file out and they walk away, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. That's the visual remez or the action remez, the acted-out remez that Jesus does. He doesn't quote Scripture, but He refers them to a Scripture by His actions.

Jesus is telling them to look at Jeremiah 17:13 Jeremiah 17:13O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake you shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
American King James Version×
. Reading from the NIV, it says, ''O Lord, the hope of Israel; all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust… written in the dust because they have forsaken God. They've forsaken the Lord.” What's the point? What's Jesus's message? What's He telling them? He's telling them, "You have forsaken God in your evil hearts because you're trying to trap Me and you want to put this woman to death. If you want to do that, go ahead. But in your hearts, you know that you have forsaken God and you want to kill an innocent Man, and your names are going to be written in the dust. And when it comes time for judgment, there's going to be, like, whoosh. A gust of wind comes along, and you're blotted out, and it's though you'd never existed."

"Yeah, you want to keep your attitude. You want to condemn Me, you want to kill this woman? Go ahead, but your names are written in the dust, and God is going to blot you out as though you never existed." Did they get the point? Yeah, they got the point. Verse 9, "And those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest, even to the last." They got Jesus's message, they knew their Bibles, they knew the Scriptures, they knew their actions were evil and ungodly, and they were in danger of having their names written in the dust to be blotted out by God at the time of judgment. So they drop their stones and they walk away. This is a very powerful remez by Jesus, and it has its intended effect on them.

So that's the last of the remez examples I want to give you, but I want to wrap it up with a few things, a few lessons we can and should learn from this. What do we learn from this? What are some takeaways? Well, first of all, the culture of that day and place is very different from ours today. The culture of that day and place is very different from ours today. This is just one example, and there are many others throughout the Bible. The way we think and view things is 2,000 years removed from that. Our thinking is based on Greco-Roman thinking and education and thinking very logically and so on. But their thinking is based on Eastern thinking, which is much more visually oriented. That's why Jesus and others use this visual remez technique.

And so we need to understand the culture of that day and place is very different from ours. And that leads us to a second point, and that is that if we are to properly understand God's Word, we have to first understand what it meant to the audience to whom it was originally written. If we are to understand properly God's Word, we need to understand what it meant to the audience to whom it was written. Now, this is not to say the Bible is not universal, because it is, it applies to all people of all ages and all places. But we live 2,000 years removed in time and 7,000 years removed on the other side of the world from the holy land. We live in a very modern, technological culture that changes by the day. And they lived in a mostly rural, agricultural culture that didn't change for centuries.

And if we look at the Bible through our lens of today, we miss an awful lot of the story that they understood in practice today, as we see from these different examples of remez here. Again, we need to look at it through the lens of how those people understood things in that day and that place. And that leads us to a third point, and that is that if we are to understand God's Word as He expects us to, we need to be diligently studying it. If we are to understand God's Word as He expects us to, we need to be diligently studying that.

Now, did you catch that in all of these examples of remez that we've talked about today, God never once explicitly spelled it out for us? Not once, not once. Jesus never explained the examples of remez he used. John the Baptist never explained it. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John never explain it. God the Father, when He uses it, never explained it. The obvious point is they expect us all to be so familiar with God's Word that we'll make the connection. He expects us to be that familiar with God's Word that we will make the connection, that we will get the hint, that we will understand the clue, the remez, and look back at that. And that's why I say, understand God's Word as He expects us to, as He expects us to. He clearly expects us to understand these examples of remez. And the only way we can understand it is to be familiar with God's Word as the people then were familiar with God's Word, because if you don't know God's Word, you can't play, and you miss a lot of the story.

And a final point is that God cannot use His Word within us if we don't know that Word if we're not putting it within us. God cannot use His Word within us if we don't know that Word if we're not putting it within us. What did Jesus Christ say God's Holy Spirit would do for us? John 14:26 John 14:26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
American King James Version×
, we won't turn there, but it says, "The helper, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you."

So a purpose of God's Spirit within us is to teach us and to give us understanding of, in other words, and to bring to remembrance those things we learned from God's Word that God has said to us. But how can we bring it to remembrance if we're not studying it? We can't remember it if it's never gone into our minds. We can't remember it if it's never gone into our minds. If we haven't learned it, there's nothing there for God's Spirit to work with, to bring to remembrance. It's a blank slate. It's an empty bucket. And God's Spirit can't help us understand God's Word if we're not taking in God's Word through studying His Word.

So as sons and daughters of our God, we are to grow in grace and knowledge to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Jesus Christ. And how can we do that if we aren't studying His Word, His revelation, the accounts of His life there in the Gospels and His mind as reflected throughout the rest of Scripture. So this is our calling. This is our calling. So let's make sure that we make our calling and election sure by continually filling our minds with the richness and the depth of the Word of God.

You might also be interested in....

Many believe they will spend eternity with God in heaven after death. But is...