16 March 2012

Providence Is Sweet

by Phil Johnson

ast week during the Shepherds' Conference John MacArthur was presented with one of the first copies of the Arabic version of the MacArthur Study Bible. The Bibles were printed and officially released a couple of weeks ago in Beirut, Lebanon, and the first printing sold out immediately. A few copies were sent to America to be on display during the Shepherds' Conference.

I was unprepared for the reception the Bible would get. At least two dozen people stopped me during the conference to ask how to obtain copies. (Answer: Grace to You will make them available for purchase shortly, as soon as the second printing is available.)

One man who asked about the Bibles was visiting from Europe, where he ministers to a congregation of Arabic-speaking people, mostly expatriates from the Middle East. He was more eager than most to get a copy of the Study Bible as soon as possible, and I found his thumbnail description of his ministry so fascinating that I invited him to my office the week after the Shepherds' Conference. I resolved to get my hands on one of the display Bibles if possible and give it to him before he returned to Europe.

Turns out I was able to do that. When that pastor came to my office and I handed him the Bible, he took it with the kind of care and gentle touch you'd use when someone hands you a newborn baby. As he opened it, tears came to his eyes, and he turned to the middle and started reading aloud.

When he finished, I asked, "What was the section you read?"

"Psalm 121," he said.

"I have a special request," I said. "Would you read that psalm again? And may I record it as you read?"

He gave me permission to tape and post this short video, as long as I did not put his face on the Internet:

When he finished the second time, I asked, "What made you choose Psalm 121? Because that is the very text I'm currently studying." (I'm preparing to teach a series on the Psalms of Ascent:)

"That's my favorite psalm and the first text I ever preached on," he said.

The whole encounter was a wonderful reminder of how precious the Word of God is, how gracious God's providence is, how amazing the fellowship of the saints is, and how enjoyable heaven will be. If two believers from completely different cultures living half a planet apart can meet for the first time and instantly have so much in common and find so many reasons to rejoice together, I can't wait until heaven when our fellowship will be unhindered by sin, selfishness, language differences, or anything else.

By the way, I was able to get my hands on one other display copy of the Arabic MSB. I gave it to the Arabic-speaking cook at a Mediterranean restaurant I frequent. He's not a Christian (yet), but a friend of mine has been explaining the gospel to him. He also teared up when I gave him the Bible.

Phil's signature


Adam Rodriguez said...

This is awesome Phil! Thank you so much for sharing!

PaulCassidy said...


What a blessing! I was at the Shepherd's Conference with five fellow ministers and we were all very encouraged to know that MacArthur's study bible would soon be changing thousands of lives all over the Middle East. Soli Deo Gloria!

Paul Cassidy

C.D. Houston said...

Praise God for this wonderful gift to the Arabic speaking world. My prayer is that many will come to know the One who is the Word.

Eddie Eddings said...

kshoFantastic! My wife and I will be purchasing a few when we arrive in the States this summer. (I played this video aloud while my wife was putting on make-up in another room - she starting rejoicing.)

(She wanted me to tell you that)

Do you know when Kindle might have this available?

Eddie Eddings said...

the "ksho" on the front of the Fantastic was somehow brought in as I was typing the words proving I am not a robot. (they're not Arabic)

Nash Equilibrium said...

That is cool. Thanks for sharing. My brother has been a missionary in an arabic speaking country for 30 years, and I'm going to send him this article.

Lynda O said...

Praise God! Thanks for sharing that, Phil. I'm also looking forward to your series on the Psalms of Ascent.

Manfred said...

I was there as well and wanted to ask our Lebanese brothers a couple questions about the Arabic translation:

1) How is the name of the biblical God translated? Several ministries have chosen to use "Allah", compromising the witness of Truth and giving comfort to the lie that the Muslim god is the biblical God.

2) How are therms "Father" and "Son" translated? Wycliffe has had their heads handed to them for using terms such as "protector" and "proxy", respectively.

I pray the folks handling this Bible do not play such foolish games with the Word of God.

Kevin Zuber said...


The Word of God always is.

Heaven (sigh), yes . . . heaven.

Sir Brass said...


In arabic, the word for God is "Allah." Not specifically the Islamic God or YHWH, but just "God." Arabic Christians use the term, though some may prefer Jehovah, for YHWH.

So, it's not a compromise to use "Allah" as the translation of "God." It's just simply the language.

Rachael Starke said...

Loved this.

We have a dear elderly lady who lives on our culdesac who is Iranian and a widow. She's hard of hearing and her English isn't great, but our girls and she have struck up a sweet friendship. I've been praying about how we could possibly share the gospel with her.

I have part of my answer. :) Looking forward to the second printing.

Anonymous said...

The Word of God is beautiful, in any language. Thank you for sharing this with us, Phil.

Gabby said...

How beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I can't type well - there's something in my eye...

Manfred said...

Sir Brass - I respectfully disagree. "Allah" is fully loaded with Muslim presuppositions that are easily overlooked in conversations, leading some to believe their "Allah" is our God. This happened with Lutheran missionaries in Korea over a hundred years ago, when they accepted a Great High Shaman as the local word for God and the Koreans who professed Christ ended up with a mish-mash of demonic religion cloaked with some Christian terms.

Many Christian Arabs hate the use of Allah in the Bible, knowing how it confuses people and gives cover to those who hate the Lord.

VcdeChagn said...

I gave it to the Arabic-speaking cook at a Mediterranean restaurant I frequent.

As I was reading your article, I decided I should buy one for the owner of a small Mediterranean restaurant in our area. Interesting that you mentioned the same thing at the end of the article. Praise God!

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Wonderful post. The key to reformation and revival.

Chris and Jess said...

Wow, I love this so much, I say along with you, "how precious the Word of God is, how gracious God's providence is, how amazing the fellowship of the saints is, and how enjoyable heaven will be." Praise Jesus for His church that can not be thwarted by distance, nor language, nor culture!

Jeri Tanner said...

Beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this.

Stefan said...


That is a wonderful story. Thank you for pointing us to that amazing Psalm. Providence builds upon providence, because it is exactly what I needed to read and meditate on today.

dac said...


CGrim said...

Manfred, "Allah" is the most accurate translation. Are you really suggesting that translators use a less-accurate word in order to get across what they want to convey? Wouldn't this mean the translators themselves are placing themselves above the authority of Scripture (as Wycliffe did)?

I think the safest route would be to translate scripture as precisely and accurately as possible and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to open people's eyes to the truth, rather than to attempt to "improve" it with our human meddling, only to find that we've muddied the waters.

Frank Turk said...

Who knew Phil Johnson was so missional?

mel winstead said...

Thanks, Phil for sharing this. I also met and was blessed to feloowship with international Christians at last year's Shepherds' conference. This post and the video is the purpose for which God gave 'US' (double entendre intended) religious liberty.I am so glad you were able to bless this international pastor and that GTY was able to bless the Lebanese people with the MSB! Thanks for your ministry!
-mel winstead, pastor in Marshville, NC and editor of www.upperroomcafe.net.

Keith Farmer said...

I have purchased and have had the privilege of distributing many MSBs. On one particular occasion one of the bibles I purchased for an individual accompanied him to India on a mission trip. The local missionary was mesmerized by the study bible so my friend gave him his bible. My thoughts were how wonderful to be a part of spreading Reformed Doctrinal Truth to India via the John MacArthur study bible...God's providence is amazing!

donsands said...

Excellent! Thanks for the post. Very edifying. The Word of God is precious; more precious than all the riches this world can give.

Made me think of this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JK_6osCH74

"Word of God speak
Would you pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That you're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In your holiness"

Manfred said...


The first Arabic translation of the Bible was made about the 9th century. Nowhere is the name of Allah found in the Old or New Testament. When Islam became the dominant political force people were coerced to use the name Allah for God or suffer the consequences from the hands of militant Muslims. Because of Islam's dominance Allah became the common name of God. The translators of the Bible gave in to the religious pressures and substituted Allah for Yahweh in the Arabic Bibles, but this is not the name of the God of the Hebrews, nor of the creator who made heaven and earth because of its source in paganism. His nature and attributes have only a few basic similarities and many more differences. And the most important point is that all through the Qu'ran it says Allah has no son.

(excerpted from http://www.letusreason.org/islam6.htm)

Israel Sanchez said...

A wonderful testimony of God's sovereignty!

kairo said...

TO GOD BE THE GLORY. I praise the Lord for those whom the Holy Spirit has anointed to bring the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ to people from every tongue, tribe and nation and I take comfort in knowing that we ALL can play a role through the prayerful and financial support of your ministry. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.