|Volume 18 Number 5 May 2016||
“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12). Paul commanded Titus that he should live soberly. What does it mean to live soberly? Webster defines “soberly” as “without intemperance, without enthusiasm, without intemperate passion; coolly; calmly; moderately, gravely; seriously.”
While these definitions are good, Paul was actually painting a more colorful picture as to how we are to live. From the immediate context we can see that to live “soberly, righteously, and godly” is preferred to living ungodly with cares for worldly lusts. When we venture into the Greek, we can learn a little more information about what it means to live soberly. The Greek word translated “soberly” in the KJV is “sophronos.” Though this word is only found once in its adverb form, it can be found used in other parts of speech. One of those examples in found in Luke 8:26-36 (verse 35 in particular).
And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. (Luke 8:26-36)
Here we have a man who wandered around in the wilderness with no clothes. He dwelled in the caves and in the tombs, and he was considered wild by all of the townsmen. Any attempt to bind him proved useless. We learn that the source of this madness was the legion of demons that was within him that Jesus cast out. After the demons left the man, he returned to living soberly or “in his right mind.”
The English phrase “in his right mind” is actually only one word in the Greek: “sophroneo.” It is the same word translated soberly in our Titus passage, but it is just in a different part of speech: a verb.
This knowledge gives us some insight as to what Paul meant in Titus 2:12, and why he contrasted following worldly lusts to living soberly. Before we became Christians we were subject to the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, but when we became Christians, we put off those things and began to desire those things that are above. “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:8-10). “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
In order to live soberly, we must deny ourselves and follow Christ. We must put to death the things of the flesh and allow Christ’s desires to be our desires. The man who was possessed by demons was miserable in every way. It was only when those demons were cast out that he was able to live soberly. We too must rid ourselves of the demons of lust, covetousness, etc. in order the live soberly.
A Voice Was Heard in Ramah
When Jesus was born, He was visited by wise men. Before they came to Him, however, they were instructed by Herod to reveal the location of the Messiah once they found Him (Matthew 2:7-8). However, they were warned of God to not return to Herod (Matthew 2:12). This caused Herod to go into a rage, and so he ordered the death of every male child two-years-old and younger that was living in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). Miraculously, God had warned that danger was coming so that Joseph took the family down to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15).
Matthew then said that Herod, in ordering the execution of the children, fulfilled a prophecy by Jeremiah. “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matthew 2:17-18; Jeremiah 31:15). This quotation and application of Jeremiah’s prophecy has caused scholars, both liberal and conservative, a world of trouble.
“St. Matthew, who is ever fond of accommodation, applies these words, Mat 2:17, Mat 2:18, to the massacre of the children at Bethlehem. That is, they were suitable to that occasion, and therefore he so applied them; but they are not a prediction of that event” (Adam Clarke). “Matthew does not mean that Jeremiah predicted the slaughter at Bethlehem; but that his words, though spoken as to another occasion, were so chosen of the Spirit that they might be fitly applied to this latter occasion” (J.W. McGarvey). Dayton Keesee, in his Truth for Today commentary, concedes that the verse in Jeremiah is either typological or perhaps a prophecy that had two fulfillments (page 90).
So, are the bulk of scholars correct? Did Matthew (being inspired by the Holy Spirit) simply reach back into the Old Testament and pluck a verse out of context? Or, was the prophecy in Jeremiah originally intended to be a Messianic prophecy?
From Jeremiah 30 to Jeremiah 33, Jeremiah involved himself in a prophecy concerning the restoration of the two houses of Jacob (Israel and Judah) into one body with one head (see Hosea 1:11). While Judah returned from captivity after the 70-year period expired, Israel (the ten northern tribes) were lost. Hosea said that they would be swallowed up by the Gentiles (Hosea 8:8). Therefore, this prophecy looks past the sixth century B.C. and into the first century when the Gospel would be preached unto all nations in order that they might be free from the bondage of sin (John 8:31-38). This is why Jesus said that He was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Unfortunately, we do not have space to develop the nature and purpose of Jeremiah 30 to 33, but a quick read-through while paying attention to who is being addressed will be profitable to you.
So, what does Jeremiah 31:15 mean? How is it a Messianic prophecy, and not one necessarily dealing with the events going on in Judah in Jeremiah’s time? In order for Judah and Israel to be reunited, David (Jesus) would have to be born. Shortly before Jesus’ birth, it was made known to the people that their Messiah was on the way (Luke 1:13-17, 30-33, 42-45, 65, 67-80, etc.). The expectancy of the people can be seen in Luke 24:21 and Luke 2:38. “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done” (Luke 24:21). “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
So what happened when Herod ordered the death of Jesus Christ – the Redeemer of Israel? What happened when all hope seemed to be lost? What happens when you compound that onto the tragic loss of the children at the hands of an evil king? Rachel weeps over the tragedy.
However, God saved Jesus from that death. Therefore, Jeremiah says, “Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border” (Jeremiah 31:16-17).
God promised that all hope had not been lost and that Jesus would redeem Israel still (Ezekiel 37). We now live in that kingdom as part of the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).