Upon encountering a man blind from birth, the disciples assumed that the cause for his blindness must have been someone’s sin. Jesus, however, told them that his blindness was so that the work of God might be displayed in him. Teaching from John 9, Alistair Begg leads us through this dramatic illustration of every human’s spiritual condition—blindness—and the remedy: receiving spiritual sight as an undeserved gift from Jesus.
We’re going to read from the Bible, in John’s Gospel and in chapter 9.
John chapter 9, and I’ll read from verse 1 to 12:
“As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
“‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I[’m] in the world, I am the light of the world.’
“Having said this, he [spat] on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
“His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?’ Some claimed that he was.
“Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’
“But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’
“‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they demanded.
“He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’
“‘Where is this man?’ they asked him.
“‘I don’t know,’ he said.”
Well, let’s begin in John 20:30–31. I point you here purposefully, because this is where John tells us the purpose of his Gospel. He explains here in verse 30 that not all the miraculous signs that Jesus did in the company of his disciples have been recorded in this Gospel, but instead, there’s been a selection given, and the selection that has been used has been used in order that the things that have been written may foster belief, that people may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and then that by believing they may find life in his name. Someone pointed this out to me some time ago, suggesting that this may actually be a key for working our way through John’s Gospel. I think it’s quite a good idea. In other words, what you have in the signs is evidence, the evidence then providing the basis for believing, and the believing giving way to life in the name of Jesus. Evidence, belief, and spiritual life.
Now, I begin there this morning because we have been looking these last couple of weeks—we took a passing glance at what this meant for Nicodemus. We then tried to focus a little more carefully on what it meant for the woman at the well in John chapter 4. And we come now this morning, and in the following mornings till we get to the end of chapter 9 of John’s Gospel, to look at what this meant in the life of this man to whom we are introduced in verse 1.
Notice, first of all, the man’s condition: “As he went along”—as Jesus went along—“he saw a man blind from birth.” This man had been born blind. And as was often the case at that time—and indeed, not only in that era—the man’s recourse was simply to sit out on the street and hope that people would be benevolent towards him. And in verse 8, we are discovering that his profession, or his circumstance, had been that of a blind beggar. So we are in no doubt that his condition was pitiful, that it was in every instance hopeless, that he was actually quite helpless in relationship to the circumstance that he faced.
He was not, as we will discover later in this story, devoid of personality. He was a colorful personality. He had a mind of his own; he was quick-witted in his response to those who put pressure upon him. Indeed, I hope that you will read John chapter 9 as we go forward with it, and you will find out that what I’m telling you is true. But his condition is such that without a miracle, he was destined to live his life in darkness. It’s very important that we understand that. I’ll say it to you again: his condition was such that without intervention from outside of himself, he was destined to live his life in darkness.
Now, his condition gives rise to a question—the question that is posed in verse 2 by the disciples. Those who are following Jesus ask a question that many of us perhaps regard as almost inevitable: “Rabbi,” they said, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Now, the assumption made by the disciples that the sin and suffering of this man are intimately connected is, of course, generally true, isn’t it? Sin and suffering are connected. Indeed, the Bible makes it clear in Genesis chapter 3 that it was the entry of sin into the world that changed everything in terms of the goodness of the world that God had made. God made the world and everything in it, and he pronounced that it was good. And all of the thorns, and the thistles, and the bloodshed, and the disagreement, and the disharmony, and the murder, and the mayhem, and the weeds, and the tsunamis, and all of the earthquakes, and everything else is generally linked to the fact of the fall of man—sin, suffering, disease, disorder, arriving hard on the heels of the rebellion and disobedience of Adam and Eve.
So, the assumption on the part of the disciples is understandable, and as I say, it is generally true. However, for them to attempt to join the dots between sin and the sufferings of a particular individual is to put themselves on shaky ground. And that is exactly what they discover in the answer that Jesus gives. They’ve concluded that the man’s blindness is the result either of his own sin—the Jews believed that you could sin in the womb; they had a concept of prenatal sinfulness—or that it was directly related to what his parents had done. Jesus, then, answers their concern.
Incidentally, the question of sin as it relates to suffering, and suffering in general, is a question that I think most of us face all the time. We face it in our individual lives as we go to the doctor and receive reports. We face it as we engage in living life in the community and listening to people. I met someone just in the last few days who said to me that the particular friend whom they had in mind had decided that there was no place for God at all because of the Holocaust, and that the suffering of the Holocaust was sufficient to allow that individual to make a conclusive, logical deduction that God could not exist. Well, we understand why he would make an emotional response in that way. It’s not exactly logically foolproof to make that deduction; that’s not our concern at the moment.
But I do want to say this to you in passing: we need to be ready for the suffering question. We need to be ready for the suffering question in a way that doesn’t argue unconvincingly or unkindly, or does not throw verses at people, as if, somehow or another, slabs of information will address the disruption in their hearts and minds. I think we can say that the Bible does not provide us with some kind of mathematical, foolproof explanation of suffering, but I think we can equally say that Christianity provides as good an answer to the question of suffering as can be found in any of the other world religions, and certainly as can be found in the realm of atheism.
And many of our friends who have concluded that life is okay without God are often the ones who are quick to blame God for the suffering that they see. They don’t believe that God exists, but they are prepared to bring him out of mothball existence, as it were, in order that they might blame him for the bad things that have happened. We need to be ready for that, and again, and not in an unkind way, say to our friends, “You know, if there is no God, and if we have evolved by chance over millions of years, then everything that happens, good things or bad things, must be viewed as simply the result of random selection—of a random process of blind indifference.” Therefore, there is no cause for concern. There is no legitimate cause for concern. Because from that perspective, to ask the question “Why?” is not only meaningless; it is irrational.
But people always ask the question “Why?” don’t they? Because God has set eternity in their hearts. He has made them as moral beings. And as a result of that, they understand that the “Why?” question is directly related to the oughtness of their lives. And this week you will meet them again, as you walk from a hospital ward, as you take a seat on a plane, as you sit for coffee somewhere: people asking the question, “Why is he in that chair, if this God you say you know is alive and well?” Even those closest to Jesus have those kinds of questions. And ultimately, without some mathematical, formulaic answer, Christianity introduces us not to a God on a deck chair but to a God on a cross, who understands rejection, who understands pain, who understands grief at its deepest level.
That as an aside.
Verse 3 brings us to the answer that Jesus gives. The condition gives rise to the question, the question gives rise to the answer: “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus.” In other words, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause and effect here,” says Jesus. “He wasn’t blind because of his own sin, or because of his parents’ sin.” No, “This [has] happened,” he says, “so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” “God knows exactly what’s going on here,” he says.
“The work of God might be displayed in his life.” What is the work of God? It is to bring men and women to belief. It is to bring men and women to belief. In John chapter 6: “Then they [came to him and said], ‘What must we do to do the works [that] God requires?’ [And] Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one [that] he has sent.’” The work of God is to bring about belief in the lives of men and women. And “this [has] happened”—this has taken place in this man’s life—“so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Displayed first of all in his physical healing, in the restoration of his physical sight, and displayed ultimately and finally in him being brought to spiritual sight.
You see, the real story here, the focus of the story, doesn’t actually come in the little section we’re dealing with just now. That’s the danger of dealing with a section in isolation. But the focus of the story, you really need to wait until you get to verse 35. The man’s been thrown out by the Pharisees. They don’t like the way he’s been cheeky to them. “And when [Jesus] found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’” To which the man, who now has his sight, says, “‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.”
That’s the close of the story. That’s the focus of the story. This is the work of God: that men and women might believe in his one and only Son. Everyone who believes may have eternal life: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believe[s] in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus says, “Instead of you fellows sitting around asking the wrong questions, let me say to you: it is time for us, together, to be involved in the work of God. We,” he says, “need to be about the work of him who sent me.”
Harps back to John 4 again, doesn’t it? They come back. He has food. “Did someone bring him food?” Jesus said, “My food … is to do the will of him who sent me and to [accomplish] his work.” Once again, here the issue is the same. “Come on, fellows,” he says, “think it out. Night is coming, when no one will be able to work. While I’m in the world, I am the light of the world.” Not suggesting that when he is ascended into heaven he is no longer the Light of the World, but simply focusing the fact that here, in the days of his incarnation, the light shines in a dramatic fullness such as will not be seen again until Christ returns.
Now, can we pause and just acknowledge that as mysterious as this is, we understand it? “This has happened so that the work of God might be displayed in [this man’s] life.” In other words, his blindness was the key to his salvation. His blindness was the key to his salvation. Indeed, we would say that were it not for his blindness, then the encounter would never have happened, and therefore, we would have no record of the fact that the man came to see spiritually.
And what is true of this man is often true when people tell you how they became Christians. I’m sure there are at least a few this morning in this room who would testify somewhere along these lines: “I was going along perfectly well without God. I didn’t really have much interest in him at all. I certainly didn’t think that I lived in the darkness or had to come into the light.” And then there was some kind of collapse. Something happened, either physically or emotionally. Turmoil and pain entered into your life. And in that, all of your foundations were rocked and unsettled, and that which was a very unattractive encounter became the very means whereby you looked for an answer beyond yourself.
You may actually be here this morning, and that’s exactly where you are. I don’t know, because I don’t know all the congregation. It may be that you have wandered in here, or you have purposefully come here, because of something that has happened to you in recent days, and it is a happenstance over which you have no control. It is either ugly or unpalatable. It is certainly something that shows you that you have lost your bearings, and you have no mechanism, no means of restoration. God understands all of that. God is not taken by surprise.
Edinburgh, Monday night, before the first Sunday night in the month, when we had our guest service, we went out into the community and went up and down the tenement buildings, knocking the doors and offering to people a guest service invitation: “Hello, we’re from a city-center church. We would like the opportunity to invite you this coming Sunday evening to our guest service.” “Thank you very much.” “And if you have a moment, we’d like to tell you why it is that we’re even having a guest service.” That usually said, “No, that’s fine. Thank you. Goodbye.” But every so often, someone said, “Well, okay, why don’t you just come in for a moment?” And in the couple go. We always went in twos. Either you went with your wife or you went with another man, but you never went with another woman or another man—which was very, very wise, and still is.
And the two men went into the house, spoke for about five minutes, said, “Well, we need to keep going. We would pray with you, if that’s all right?” The couple, in their late sixties, said, “That’s okay.” And then, as they were ready to pray, the lady said, “Will you pray for those who have cancer?” And so the men prayed. And when the prayer was over, the lady stood up immediately and turned off the overhead light and turned on a table lamp; the room immediately went into a much dimmer perspective. And as the two gentlemen left, they realized that the tears were running down the woman’s face.
Turned out she was a quite fascinating lady. She was from a Huguenot background. She had a background that had put her in a realm of society in Edinburgh whereby she was very well known. Everybody knew her. When I used to visit her, she used to delight to give me water out of a gin bottle—a Gordon’s gin bottle. I remember the first afternoon she gave it to me. I didn’t know what to do. She said, “Would you care for something? Would you care for a drink of water?” I said, “Yes,” and she poured it out of a Gordon’s gin bottle. And I thought, “Well, I don’t know what I do here,” but I drank it in any case. And it was very, very tasty, but it was just actually… it was tap water. But she had a great sense of humor.
And her funeral service was attended by hundreds and hundreds of people from the city of Edinburgh. They wanted to know what had happened to this lady, that in the dying embers of her life, as she faced cancer, she faced death with such triumph. And her husband outlived her by a number of years. I would see him every Sunday that I would go back to Edinburgh, and he would be seated still up in the balcony, the only gap being the gap left by his wife. But it was her cancer that was the mechanism that brought her to face the fact that she was blind and she needed Jesus.
God moves in mysterious ways
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And he rides upon the storm.
Now, having answered in such a straightforward way, he takes action in a way that is equally straightforward. “Having said this”—having explained this—“he [spat] on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.” This is the kind of thing we used to do as boys in Scotland! I mean, you made these pastes. Do you remember? Spitting and all kinds of things, hoping your mother wasn’t anywhere to see you. Just making filthy concoctions. I mean, there is nothing that is sort of… there’s no medic here at the moment who’s going, “Oh, this looks beautiful!” I mean, you’re the rubber glove department, you folks. You’re all covered up and masked up and everything up. And here, look at this spectacle! “And having said that, he spat on the ground.” Jesus spits. The Creator spits. The Creator, who took and fashioned a man out of his own created dust, takes again his own dust and spits in it.
You see, what we have in these signs is not the circus coming to town. What we have in these signs are signs to the identity of Christ. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? That’s the question that you ought to be asking if you don’t believe: Who is this man in this story? Who is this person who spits on the ground and rubs mud on someone’s eyelids? None other than the creator of the universe!
You see, we can’t set him aside as a nice man doing kind things and speaking to children in a way that is endearing, as if, somehow or another, we can set him aside on that basis. No, because he won’t allow us to. He stands before us, doing these dramatic things and making these unbelievable assertions.
You see, what John is doing in his Gospel is simply working out his prologue. Do you remember how he begins? “In the beginning was the Word.” That’s the Logos. That is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [And] he was with God in the beginning. [And] through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” So, for him in 2 of John—John 2—to give his first miraculous sign and bring water to wine—hey, “In him was life, and [the] life was the light of [man].” For him to heal the nobleman’s son. For him to feed the five thousand. For him to walk on the water. For him to raise Lazarus, in chapter 11. For him to deal with this man in chapter 9. The Jewish mind understood this. The Jew understood: this is an expression of divinity. That’s why the Pharisees are so infuriated! Because now they’ve gotta put these two pieces of the puzzle together: “One, undeniably, this must be God, but we don’t like him as a Messiah. Therefore, we can’t get what we want without getting what we don’t want. If we want him to be God, then he has to be our Messiah, but we don’t want him.”
Exodus 4: “Moses, I want you to go to Pharaoh.” Moses to God: “I don’t think I’m the man for going to Pharaoh. I’m not a very eloquent person.” Remember how God responds? “Who made your mouth?” And it’s in that context that he says, “Who is it that can make you speak or make you dumb? Who is it that can make you blind or make you see?” The answer is, God. The psalmist says it all the time: God is the one who opens the blind eyes. God is the one who brings from darkness into light. And the sign of the Messianic Age, as you find in Isaiah all the time, and one of the great signs of the Messianic Age is that the Messiah will step onto the stage of history, and the lame will walk, and the deaf will hear, and the blind will see!
John says, “Here’s my evidence. Here are my signs. They’re here in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Evidence, belief, life.
Some of us have set aside Christianity without ever having considered the evidence. That is intellectually… not so good. At least examine the evidence, and see whether he is not the person he claims to be.
That’s why when he sat down after he’d read the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke chapter 4, all the eyes in the synagogue were fastened on him. They wanted to find out what he was going to say next, because he had read such a dramatic piece from the Old Testament: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, … he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor … sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners … recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ … And he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” And they looked at one another and they said, “Isn’t this the boy from the carpenter family, from Joseph? Who does he think he is, saying something like that?” Well, he’s either crazy, or he’s a liar, or he is who he said he is.
Evidence, belief, life.
Now, the final sentence in verse 7—and we must draw this to a close—the final sentence in verse 7 is as matter-of-fact as anything you could ever read, isn’t it? This is one of the things that makes me realize the Gospels are just the Gospels. You know, if someone was inventing this, I think it would have a lot more to it, don’t you think? Magic mud—you know, something like that. “Then he got the magic mud, which was kept in the old canister that they had found underneath the old temple, over by the Fountain of Zippa-Doo Life,” and the, you know, and sort of, “Whoa!”
It says, no, he’s just like [spitting noise, sound of hands rubbing together]. The guy’s like, “Okay, what now?
“Well, go over to the pool…”
“How do I get there?”
“I’ll get somebody to get you there, don’t worry. Come on. Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.”
“So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” “So the man went … washed, and came home seeing.” What! “So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” Yes, that’s exactly right—and put the cat among the pigeons for the neighborhood! Because the people began to say to one another, “Isn’t this the … man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “Yeah, that’s who he is.” Others said, “No, he just looks like him. He has a very similar look.” But the man said, “I am the man! I wanna be who I am. I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?”
“Well, mud, spit, wash, Siloam. I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Oh yeah? Well where is the man?”
“I don’t know where he is.”
“Ah, come on!”
Have you ever told somebody about how you became a Christian? “Somebody told me that Jesus’ blood was shed for my sins.”
“Blood shed for your sins? What is that about?”
“Well, Jesus died and bore my sins. The pastor told me that if I would metaphorically plunge myself into that fountain that Christ provided by his death, that I would be cleansed and I would be made to see.”
“Come on! Come on! I mean, next thing you’re gonna be telling me that some guy spat on the ground, made mud, put it on somebody’s eyes, and the guy was walking around going, ‘Hey, hey! I can see everything!’”
Say, “That’s what I am gonna tell you. In fact, that’s exactly what it says.”
Well, we have to stop, don’t we? But not without acknowledging that some of you are asking the right question, and the right question is this: “What in the world does this have to do with anything? And certainly, what does it have to do with me? What possible relevance does it have as I get ready to go out of here and have my lunch?” Really, the question is “So what?” isn’t it? “So what?” It’s the right question. Let me give it to you as straightforwardly as I can, and we’ll pick it up from here next time.
The man’s physical condition is a mirror image of the spiritual condition of you and of me. It’s not a very nice thing to say in polite company, but it is what the Bible says—namely, that we are blind beggars; that we are spiritually blind, and that we are entirely unable to rectify our predicament. We’re blind as a result of our partnership and solidarity with Adam and Eve in their sin, and we’re blind, culpably, because we neither understand the Light, nor do we recognize him, nor are we prepared to come into the light, because we like darkness rather than light.
“This is the verdict,” John 3:19: “Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” By nature, we’re selfish, proud, envious, and we attempt to live with the cover-up, choosing not to love the light. In fact, we hate the light. It’s perfectly understandable. If we expose ourselves to the light, then all our dirty, dark secrets will be revealed. No one likes that kind of process. So although we throw up the smoke screen of our intellectual arguments—and I’m not denying that people have genuine and significant intellectual questions. Let’s be honest about that. But let’s also be equally honest that most of our unbelief is not an intellectual issue; it’s a moral issue. It’s a moral issue.
We know ourselves to be stained and dirty. And therefore, if someone asks us to come out into the light and show ourselves up for what we are, that is a process that does not appeal to us. We would rather run again into the darkness. If you spill coffee on your trousers, gentlemen, after you’ve only just pulled out the driveway of your car, you either have to turn around, go back in the house, get another pair of trousers, or you hope that where you’re going is dark. Isn’t that right? I mean, you’re going out to dinner, and your wife says to you, “Oh, don’t worry. I don’t think… I think the restaurant is quite dark.” Say, “Well, that’s good, because I’m gonna have to conceal this.” You go into the restaurant; it’s blazing light! It’s like, “Oh, for goodness’ sake! That is embarrassing. If I’d known how light it was, I would not have come in here like this.” That’s our nature. We love darkness rather than light because our deeds are evil.
You go to Hong Kong: drama, bright, jazzy. Invitations to every imaginable fleshly, earthly pleasure known to sinful man, and every one of them saying to you, with the bright shining lights, “Come on in here! It’s fabulous in here! Come in here!” Did you ever go in there? The contrast’s phenomenal, isn’t it? You are plunged into immediate darkness. Why? Because it would be embarrassing if they turned the lights up.
We are blind beggars. We cannot make ourselves see. Jesus comes to expose our blindness, to touch our lives, and to make us new.
When John Newton got it, he sat down and wrote it in a hymn, didn’t he?
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now [I’m] found,
[I] was blind, but now I see.
Peter says to the scattered believers of his day, he says, “You were once not a people, but now you are a people. Now you’re a chosen generation, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, who has brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Well, you know where you are today, and so do I. I wonder, are you prepared to face up to your blindness? You could just cry out to Jesus like another man who was blind did, blind Bartimaeus. He just shouted out. He didn’t care what anybody heard. He just called out in the street, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus says, “What is it that you want me to do for you?” And Bartimaeus said, “Jesus, I want to see.”
That’s all you need to do. He said to the man, “Go and wash.” He went and washed. Have you ever been and washed in the cleansing pool provided by the atoning death of Jesus? If not, you remain in darkness. Go and wash.
Father, grant that we might hear your voice, way beyond the voice of a mere man. May we respond only to that which is of yourself. Anything that is unclear or unhelpful or unwise, banish it from our recollection, we pray.
Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that you continue to hear the cries of those who sit beside the roadsides. Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. O God, help us not to be like the Pharisees, who were so convinced that they could see that they compounded their blindness. Show us how blind we really are, in order that the light of the glory of the gospel of Jesus may set us free.
Into your care and keeping we commend one another in the hours of this day. We ask for your attendant blessing on all that we do; may we honor you. And as we come together, many of us, this evening, in the evening hour, grant that we might do so in genuine expectation.
And may the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest and remain with each one, today and forevermore. Amen.
 See Ecclesiastes 3:11.
 John 6:28–29 (NIV 1984).
 John 3:16 (KJV).
 John 4:34 (NIV 1984).
 William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (1773). Lyrics lightly altered.
 John 1:1–3 (NIV 1984).
 John 1:4 (NIV 1984).
 See John 4:43–54.
 See John 6:1–15.
 See John 6:16–24.
 Exodus 4:10–11 (paraphrased).
 See, for instance, Psalm 146:8.
 See, for instance, Psalm 18:28; Psalm 112:4.
 See, for instance, Isaiah 35:5.
 John 20:31 (paraphrased).
 Luke 4:18, 21 (NIV 1984).
 John 3:19 (paraphrased).
 John Newton, “Amazing Grace” (1779).
 1 Peter 2:9–10 (paraphrased).
 See Mark 10:48–51.
 See Luke 5:32.
Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.