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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 28, 2018
The Extent of God’s Mercy
Jesus’ Journeys – Luke 17:11-12
This morning we return to the gospel of Luke in our study of the Life of Christ. Turn to Luke 17:11.
As much as we would like to have a very detailed description and exact sequence of all the places Jesus went and what He did, the gospel writers focus on the teaching and actions of Jesus and did not present a travelogue or even a detailed biography of Jesus’ life. What the apostle John wrote in John 21:25 applies to all, “And there are other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” At times the particular location was significant to their description of the life of Jesus, but at other times it was only incidental and might not be mentioned at all.
We know from John 10 that Jesus had been in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, (Hanukkah), which occurs in mid-December. From John 10:40 we know that Jesus “went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing.” This was in the region of Perea. We know from Luke 13:22 that Jesus was in some location passing through from village to village teaching while proceeding to Jerusalem. That leads to uncertainty about whether Jesus was in Perea or had returned up to Galilee, especially since John 11:17 notes that it took Jesus four days to travel from wherever He was to Bethany of Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead. Since Luke does not include this trip to Bethany in his narrative, there are questions as to the exact chronology and location. Did the events recorded in Luke 13:22-17:10 occur in Perea or Galilee? If Jesus was in Perea, did these events occur before or after Jesus received word about Lazarus and had started his journey to Bethany? These events happen in rapid succession and perhaps would explain why it took Jesus four days instead of two to make the journey. John 11:54 states Jesus went to a city called Ephraim which is thought to have been on or near the border of Judea and Samaria.
As we begin our study of our passage today, we find that Jesus has traveled north. Luke 17:11 states, “While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee.” Why would Jesus do that instead of just going back south to Jerusalem? The most probable explanation is that Jesus went back up to Galilee in order to join in with the many pilgrims traveling from there on their way to Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus would have known this would be His last journey to Jerusalem before His crucifixion, and it is reasonable that He would want to make it with people He knew.
From that border area, they travel the most common route down into the Jordan valley into Perea to avoid Samaria, and then cross the Jordan and begin the ascent to Jerusalem from Jericho (Luke 18:35). Luke 17:12 then tells us that “as He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him.” It is a particular village, but Luke does not give its name or specific location. It is simply one of the many that would have been along the way as Jesus journeys with His disciples and the pilgrims from Galilee to Jerusalem for Passover.
Ten Lepers – Luke 17:12-13
Our text states, 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
A question that immediately comes to mind is why they are standing at a distance and shouting to get Jesus’ attention instead of coming right up to Him and begging for Him to heal them. The answer is that Leviticus 13 & 14 have extensive regulations concerning leprosy and what was to be done if it occurred. These regulations included being prohibited from being in close contact with those who do not have leprosy.
Let me start here by clarifying what is meant by the term “leprosy.” As used in English Bible translations, leprosy could refer to any of several skin diseases of humans or fungus or molds in buildings and on clothing. It does not appear the term was specifically associated with Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy, until the eighth or ninth century by Arabic Physician John of Damascus.
Hansen’s disease is caused by Mycobacterium leprae, which is slow growing, but affects the nerves, skin, eyes and lining of the nose. It can be treated and cured now if caught early, but until anti-biotics, it was greatly feared not only because of unsightly skin lesions, nodules or ulcers, but more so because of its devastating effects in causing crippling of the hands and feet, paralysis and blindness. Damaged nerves cause people to lose sensitivity to heat, cuts and abrasions so that its victims can literally rub away parts of their hands, feet and nose. It is contagious through aspiration of droplets caused by coughing or sneezing, but only with close and prolonged contact with someone with untreated leprosy. Ninety-five percent of people have a natural immunity to this disease.
Some of the descriptions given in Leviticus 13 & 14 do match the skin problems caused by Hansen’s disease, but also those of several other diseases. Here are the descriptions of leprosy (terx / tsr’t) in humans: 1) skin with swelling, a scab or a bright spot that appears deeper than the body and hair in the affected area turning white that spreads over time (Lev. 13:1-8). 2) White swelling of the skin with hair turned white and raw flesh in the swelling. It is leprous as long as there is raw flesh (Lev. 13:9-17). 3) A boil with a white or reddish-white bright spot with hair that has turned white that spreads over time (Lev. 13:18-23). 4) A burn scar with a bright spot that is reddish-white or white that is lower than the skin and with hair that turns white that spreads over time (Lev. 13:24-28). 5) An infection or scale on the head or beard that is deeper than the skin with yellowish hair and spreads (Lev. 13:29-37). 6) A reddish-white infection on a bald head that spreads. Leviticus 13 & 14 continue with similar descriptions of leprosy of clothing and buildings.
Leprosy posed two dangers. First, there was danger that it was disease that could spread to other people, or in the case of a fungus or mold, to other objects and buildings. The second danger was that anything with leprosy, including people, was declared to be unclean. People with it were excluded from Jewish social life, and objects and buildings with it would be unusable because they would make any person that touched them unclean.
Leviticus 13:45-46 describes the great restrictions put on people with any leprosy. “As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 “He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”
That is why these ten lepers were standing at a distance and raising their voices to get Jesus’ attention instead of coming up to Him. Luke notes in 17:16 that one of these ten men was a Samaritan. He would normally have been excluded from being able to have such a close association with Jewish men because he would have been considered unclean due to his mixed Jewish and Gentile heritage, but leprosy reduced them all to an even lower status of being unclean.
The descriptions in Leviticus 13 were to distinguish if the person did or did not have leprosy. If the leprous spot spread or raw flesh remained, the person continued to be leprous. If it healed or did not spread, the person was no longer considered leprous. Therefore there was some hope when a case first occurred. For example, a psoriasis flare up could fit one of the descriptions in Leviticus 13 with red skin covered with white scales and lesions that can crack and bleed, but such flare ups subside and the person would no longer be considered leprous. Miriam’s leprosy came by divine judgment, but it only lasted a week (Numbers 12).
But there are also various forms of skin diseases that do not go away with a week or two and leave the person condemned as unclean. Nearly all of the people mentioned in the Bible with leprosy had some permanent form of it. They no longer had any hope of being cured and expected to die with it as did King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26). That is why the healing of it would be considered a miracle such as Naaman in 2 Kings 5. That was the case with these men. The fact that they have banded together and are actively seeking Jesus out for mercy demonstrates they had a permanent form of it, otherwise they would have been home waiting to see if it healed. These men are desperate.
They raise their voices to get Jesus attention and implore Him saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” They call Jesus by name indicating they recognized Him and therefore knew His reputation for healing people. We can safely presume they had heard about Jesus previously healing a Galilean man of leprosy for Luke 5:15 specifically states that this miracle resulted in news about Jesus spreading even farther with even more crowds coming to Him for healing. They also call Him, Master, using a term (ejpistavthV / epistatēs) meaning “one who is set over.” This is the only recorded usage other than by the 12 disciples. They recognize Jesus’ authority.
It is significant that they do not specifically ask for healing but instead for mercy. This is a demonstration of humility for mercy is kindness shown to one in great need. This is a plea for pity and action taken to relieve the suffering. But mercy also has an element that recognizes that such kindness is not deserved and so is not demanded. It is a humble request, a plea, an appeal, a prayer.
Such is the manner in which we should always come to God. Even if your situation is desperate, you can make no demands on God. You can only humbly request. We make supplication to God confident in His character to respond with mercy, grace and love. That is why Paul can say in Philippians 4:6-7 that such prayers put an end to anxiety and bring about the peace of God which passes all comprehension and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We lay out our condition before our Lord and trust Him to respond with what is best for us and His glory.
Why is it that people do not pray in this manner? I think this passage points to two reasons. First, they are not yet desperate enough to seek out the Savior and call to Him. As James 4:2 states, “You do not have because you do not ask.” The second reason is that they do not yet trust God. Isaiah 26:3 states that it is the steadfast of mind that God will keep in perfect peace because he trusts in God.
Divine Healing – Luke 17:14
Unlike most of the previous healings Jesus has performed, He does not pronounce it or do something to bring it about. Jesus touched the previous leper that He healed (Luke 5:12-13). Luke 17:14 records, When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed.
Jesus simply commands them to follow the instructions given in Leviticus 14 to go show themselves to the priest to be examined for cleansing. In a real sense, Leviticus made the priests the health inspectors. The text is clear that these lepers are made clean, signifying they were healed of their leprosy, while they were going to see the priest. This was a test of their faith. They called Him master, but would they trust Him enough to obey His command? They did and received the blessing.
Jesus did not always require an action on the part of the people He healed. Sometimes their coming to Him was a demonstration of their faith. Other times nothing is indicated about the faith of the one healed. Jesus healed some people without ever seeing them such as the Centurion’s servant (Luke 7). There certainly was not faith exhibited or requested when Jesus stopped the funeral procession in Nain and raised the dead man back to life. But when Jesus does give a command, should it be expected that the blessing will come before the command is obeyed? Of course not as this passage demonstrates. Why then do professing Christians so often treat God in that manner?
Frankly it is quite childish to demand that God do what you desire before you do what He commands. That is as silly as saying you are going to hold your breath until you get what you want. Yet that is the way people, including professing Christians, often act. They think they can bargain with God – “If you do this, I will do that.” “I will worship You if you bless me.” However, the reality of such bargains is telling God you wont’ do that unless He does this. It is actually “I won’t worship you unless you bless me.” But God is worthy to be worshiped whether He blesses you the way you want Him to or not.
Let me give a practical example of this to a very materialistic society. Worldly people quickly become anxious about having enough food, clothing, shelter and stuff for life, and even those that have an abundance of all these things fret about how to get more. In Matt. 6:25-34 Jesus tells His followers not to worry about the things needed for life because the heavenly Father knows our needs. His promise is “seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” That is a one way conditional promise. You do this first and God will do that. Failure to obey God and meet the condition voids the promise. If you disobey God and you are not starving, it is because God is gracious (Psalm 104). If you are starving, it is because your disobedience to God’s commands have voided the promise.
However, the natural mindset of man is to reverse the conditions as if he has something God needs. Man’s bargain is, “God, if you bless me, then I will serve you.” But the reality is that God is completely self-sufficient as the only autonomous being that exists. God does not need you or anything you think you can give Him, and you certainly cannot earn anything from Him. Jesus had just pointed out in Luke 17:10 that even if you fulfilled every command of God perfectly, you are still but an unworthy slave that has only done what he ought. Elihu wisely pointed out in Job 35:6-7, “If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against Him? And if your transgressions are many, what do you do to Him? 7 “If you are righteous, what do you give to Him, Or what does He receive from your hand?”
The reality is that God does not need you, but you are completely dependent upon Him. Every breath you breathe and every morsel of food you eat is a gift of mercy from Him. Efforts to make bargains with God to get Him to do what you want or expecting Him to bless you before you obey are foolish exercises is sinful selfishness. Those things demonstrate striving to have your will done instead of God’s will. You may be excellent at manipulating other people to get your way, but God cannot be manipulated.
If you want to be content in life as explained in Philippians 4:11-13 and 1 Timothy 6:8, then learn to be satisfied with what God provides and trust that not only will He provide it, but He will also enable you to respond to any circumstance in a godly manner. If you want to see God at work in your life, then learn to obey Him first. Do not take the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience for granted. I will quickly add here from John 7:17, that if you want to know if Jesus and His teaching is from God, then you must be willing to do God’s will, otherwise you will not recognize the truth.
To summarize: If you want to know God and see His hand at work, then be like these ten lepers and learn to have enough faith to obey His commands before the blessings come.
Thankful Samaritan, Proud Jews – Luke 17:15-18
All ten of these lepers were cleansed from their leprosy as they were going on their way to show themselves to the priest. Only one of them responded quickly to recognize the miracle, its source and to give thanks. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”
There is no doubt the other nine would have been very happy about being healed of their leprosy, but Luke points out that it was only the Samaritan that has an immediate reaction in glorifying God, and he does so in a loud voice. He wanted others to know what God had just done for him. That also means that even if he was the last one in the line of the ten who had been walking away to go see the priest, his shouting would have attracted their attention to see what he did. He goes back to Jesus and falls on his face before Him. That is an act of worship. He humbly bowed down before Jesus acknowledging by his actions what he had proclaimed earlier. Jesus was indeed master with authority from God to work miracles to remove and heal diseases and cleanse the foul.
Why does Luke emphasize that this man was a Samaritan? Because it would have been unexpected. The Samaritans followed a religion that reflected their heritage of being a mix of Jew and Gentile. They were descendants of the people Assyria had brought into Israel after destroying the nation and deporting the people. These foreigners intermarried with the remnant of Jews in the land and, according to 2 Kings 17, created a religion that practiced the paganism of their fathers mixed with elements of the Mosaic Law in an effort to appease what they thought was just the god of that land. They did not have a proper fear of the Lord nor did they follow the commands of the Lord.
The Jews disdained the Samaritans and contended with them that their religion was false, which it was, but in doing so were blinded to how false their own worship of God had become. The Jews should have been the ones that quickly gave praise to God and thanked Jesus for granting their plea for mercy. Instead it was only the Samaritan.
That says something about both the nature of God and the nature of man. The healing of all ten lepers demonstrates the graciousness of God extended to Jew and Gentile alike. The Jews were and still are God’s chosen people through whom He will glorify Himself in a special way. But God was and still is also gracious to Gentiles who by heritage are outside God’s covenant with Israel, and yet still recipients of God’s mercy and grace extended to them to be forgiven and adopted into God’s family. That occurred before Jesus’ death and resurrection, and since then the wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down with a new covenant where both are made into God’s people adopted into His family and in this age is known as the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:28).
The response of the Samaritan also demonstrates a general truth found throughout Scripture. Humility is the key to godliness. The Scriptures give warning after warning about pride and command after command to be humble. All ten of the lepers should have been humbled by their condition, but the Samaritan was in the most humble position because he was still considered to be an outcast. The nine leprous Jews apparently retained their pride about being Jews for incredibly, they ignored the actions of the Samaritan and continued on their way without returning to follow his example.
Were they deaf to the Samaritan glorifying God with a loud voice? Where they blind to not see that the Samaritan had left their group to return to Jesus? Where they ignorant of the fact that not only he but they too had been cleansed of their leprosy? Where their minds so focused on going to the priest that they could not comprehend what had just happened? Where their hearts so proud that they responded as if they deserved to be healed instead of humbly returning to give thanks to Jesus who had granted them such mercy? Apparently so.
In verses 17-18 Jesus draws specific attention to the fact that all ten were cleansed of their leprosy, but only one, the foreigner, had turned back to glorify God. I wish they were the exception to human response to the mercy God pours out on man, but they are not. Man receives blessing after blessing from God and all of it undeserved, yet only a small percentage give Him thanks for it. The vast majority of humanity takes the kindness of God for granted, and so much so, that they get upset with God when the results of their own sin, the sin of other people and consequences of living in a sin cursed world come upon them. Some even blaspheme Him as cruel unless He removes the consequences of sin and blesses. How proud, ignorant and blind!
The Exceptional Extent of God’s Mercy – Luke 17:19
The extent of God’s mercy extends to exceptional lengths as we will see in verse 19, and that exposes the pride, ignorance and blindness of those who blaspheme God as cruel because He does not act the way they want. Only the proud will put themselves in a position of being the judge of God as if it is right for the pot to judge the potter. God is creator and all of His attributes would remain including kindness, mercy, grace and love even if He never extended to man anything demonstrating any those characteristics. He has the right to make any creature for any purpose He desires.
The ignorance of such blasphemers is exposed in their failure to acknowledge God’s abounding mercy and kindness to the world. Romans 2:4 states that the kindness of God should lead man to repentance, but such people take God’s goodness for granted and so remain ignorant of it. But this is also a personal blindness because they also take for granted the mercies of God they themselves have received. They are no different than these nine lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy, but after receiving it, they ignored Him and went on their merry way.
Let me make this more personal. Have you had anything to eat and drink available to you in the last 24 hours? That is the goodness of God. Do you have clothes to wear? That is the kindness of God. Do you have a place in which you can take shelter from the storm even if it is temporary because a stranger let you in? That is the benevolence of God. Are you still breathing? That is the mercy of God. Those are basic things of life and to those could be added all the specific blessings you have received from God’s hand. Do you take them for granted or have you given God thanks for them?
The Samaritan recognized that he had been cleansed and He returned to thank Jesus for His mercy falling at His feet in worship. That says a lot about the character of this man and his faith. Jesus recognized that with verse 19 recording, 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” Actually, it is a stronger statement than that as more literally translated in Young’s and the Lexham versions, “your faith has saved you.”
The Greek word here, ( swv/zw / sōzō, can be broad in its usage, but its basic meaning is “to make safe, sound” (TDNT). Restoration of physical health, “to be made well,” would fit, but since he and the other nine had already been cleansed from their leprosy, Jesus’ statement here would then mean more than just that. Since Jesus states this as a result of his faith, and this man’s faith was also demonstrated in returning to give thanks and worship Jesus, my conclusion is that the faith referenced is toward Jesus Himself and not just the ability to heal, and therefore its result is spiritual salvation and not just physical healing. This is the exceptional extent of the mercy of God.
God’s mercy extends far beyond His kindness in providing for the basic needs of His creatures, but also the means by which man is redeemed and forgiven his sin removing its eternal consequences and then blessing with adoption into His family. He grants man a new nature and heaven as his eternal home. Faith in Jesus as the Messiah is the means by which God’s redemptive grace is applied to the individual resulting in salvation as stated in Ephesians 2:8. This Samaritan man exhibited the humility, thankfulness and worship of that kind of faith in Jesus. I believe that is why Jesus said his faith had saved him.
The question then goes to you. Do you have such a faith in Jesus? If so, then it should be demonstrated in your humility, your thankfulness to God for His manifold mercies, and worship of Jesus. Do not be like the nine lepers who took God’s mercy for granted and ignored Jesus. Ten lepers received God’s mercy and were healed. Only one was saved.
Sermon Notes – 1/28/2018
The Extent of God’s Mercy: Luke 17:11-19
Jesus’ Journeys – Luke 17:11-12
John 21:25 – We do not know as much about Jesus as we might like, but we know enough to ______in Him
Jesus traveled from Jerusalem to Perea to ? to Bethany to Ephraim to Galilee/Samaria border
Jesus probably went north to join with Galilean pilgrims
Ten Lepers – Luke 17:12-13
Biblical “____________” included much more than Hansen’s disease (Mycobacterium leprae)
______________ disease is terrible, but hard to catch, and 95% of people are naturally immune
Leviticus 13 descriptions fit several other ____________ diseases
Leprosy was serious because: 1) It might be ________________
2) It made the person “_________ ” restricting them from being near others – Leviticus 13;45-46
A new case of “leprosy” might go away within a ___________ of weeks (Example: psoriasis)
Those with a ___________ leprosy would lose hope of ever being healed and cleansed
The call Jesus by name and recognize His authority addressing Him as “________” (ejpistavthV / epistatēs)
They humbly plead for ___________recognizing the kindness requested is not deserved
You must be _____________ in prayer and then trust God to gain His peace – Philippians 4:6-7
People pray improperly because they are not desperate enough to _______(James 4:2) and do not trust God
Divine Healing – Luke 17:14
Jesus simply commands them to follow the ____________of Leviticus 14 to show themselves to the priest
They are cleansed (healed) _________ going to the priest – obedience came before healing
You cannot demand God fulfill your desires as a condition of obedience; you cannot _________with God
The promise to provide in Matthew 6:33 is ____________ as are many of God’s promises
God does not _______ you or anything from you – Job 35:6-7, but you are completely dependent on Him
Contentment comes from being satisfied with God’s provision and __________Him – Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Tim. 6:8
If you want to see God’s hand at work, learn to have enough faith to _________ Him before blessings come
Thankful Samaritan, Proud Jews – Luke 17:15-18
All would have been happy about being healed, but _____the Samaritan returned to praise, thank & worship
The Samaritan’s response was ______________ since he was from an outcast people & false religion
God’s mercy and grace extends to both Jew and ___________
_______________ is the key to godliness
The nine Jewish lepers were neither deaf, blind nor ignorant, but they were apparently _________
Most people take God’s mercy and blessings for __________, and some even blaspheme Him when missing
The Exceptional Extent of God’s Mercy – Luke 17:19
The proud think they are in a position to ____________ God, their Creator
The ignorant do not ________God’s kindness which should cause them to repent – blind to personal mercies
Having food, clothing, shelter and breathing are all from the goodness, kindness, and __________ of God
Verse 19 – Jesus said, “your faith has made you well” – swv/zw / sōzō- “__________ you”
Since he was already physically healed, this is a reference to ____________ salvation due to faith in Jesus
God’s mercy has provided a means to _________ sin and remove its eternal consequences – Jesus Christ!
Ephesians 2:8-9, the man received God’s grace and exhibited __________in Jesus, the Master, the Messiah
Your faith should be demonstrated in your ___________, thankfulness to God, and worship of Jesus
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times a reference is made to leprosy. 2) Discuss with your parents the importance of the response of the Samaritan to be cleansed from leprosy.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why the precise location and time of Jesus’ travels uncertain? Use a map and locate the places we know Jesus would have been from John 10 & 11 to Luke 17:11? Locate these places on a map. Why would Jesus go to the border of Galilee and Samaria in order to journey to Jerusalem? What is Hansen’s disease? How is it similar to the descriptions of leprosy in Leviticus 13 and how is it different? Why were such severe restrictions put on those who had leprosy, even if only temporarily (Leviticus 13:45-46)? Were these ten men desperate? Explain. What is the significance of them calling Jesus by both His name and Master (ejpistavthV / epistatēs)? Why did they ask for mercy instead of healing? How does desperation change the way a person prays? How does trusting God change the way a person prays? When were the ten lepers healed – what was the sequence of events? Is faith necessary for God to work? Explain. Give examples. Can you bargain with God? Why or why not? What attributes of God are displayed when He makes a conditional promise yet still keeps it even when man fails? What attributes are displayed when God voids a promise because man has not kept the conditions? Must God provide for your needs? Explain. What is necessary for a person to be able to live a content life? Are you content? If not, what needs to change? All ten lepers were cleansed, why then did only the Samaritan return to praise God, give thanks and worship Jesus? Why was that unexpected? What reasons could there be that the nine Jewish lepers did not do the same? Do most humans give thanks to God for His kindness or do they take it for granted? Explain. Why do some blaspheme God as cruel if He does not act with the kindness? Why does pride block thankfulness and lead to blasphemy? How does ignorance block thankfulness? Does Jesus’ statement in Luke 17:19 refer to the man’s faith making him well physically or saving him spiritually? Explain your reasoning? How can a man have his sins forgiven and their eternal consequences removed? What will happen to your soul when you die? How can you be sure that is what will happen? If you do not know that you will go to heaven, what needs to change?
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