ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE BELIEVER
by J. E. Todd
JOHN THE BAPTIST
JONATHAN AND HIS TIMES
by W. W. Fereday
by C. Jones
THE SERVANT SONGS OF ISAIAH
by G. Hutchinson
BIRDS OF THE BIBLE (GENESIS)
by I. McKee
by M. Rudge
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by L. Buote
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
28) “THOU SHALT … THOU SHALT NOT”
Read Chapter 22
Deuteronomy chs.22-25 address a wide range of situations that could arise in the everyday life and conduct of God's people. The diversity in these chapters makes it difficult to trace a unifying theme, but there is a great deal to commend Raymond Brown's suggestion that the overall subject is “good neighbours.” Our current chapter covers a variety of topics, and these may be summarised as follows:
- 1) preservation of property, vv.1-4;
- 2) propriety in clothing, v.5;
- 3) protection of birds, vv.6-7;
- 4) prevention of accidents, v.8;
- 5) prohibition of mixtures, vv.9-12;
- 6) purity in relationships, vv.13-30.
The last of these merits a separate study and, in the Lord's will, this will be the subject of paper number 30.
It is worth pointing out that the “statutes and judgments” which God's people were to “observe to do in the land,” Deut.12.1, should be considered in the light of 1Cor.9.8-10, “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care of oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.” We can therefore turn to these chapters with confidence that God has lessons for us in mind.
1) PRESERVATION OF PROPERTY, vv.1-4
These verses where the words “thy brother” or “thy brother's” occur six times, illustrate the fact “that the members should have the same care one for another,” 1Cor.12.25. In this connection, we should notice the following:
i) They were not to be disinterested, v.1. “Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again “unto thy brother.” These instructions go beyond the eighth commandment, “thou shalt not steal,” whether it is theft in the usual sense of the word of theft under the mantle of “finder's keeping,” and point out that it is quite wrong to “look the other way” when a brother's interests are endangered. The words “thou shalt not … hide thyself,” or something similar, occur three times in these verses. It is all too easy, when a fellow-believer encounters some difficulty, to say, “it's nothing to do with me.” For most of us the loss of an ox or sheep does not arise, but many of the Lord's people lose their jobs, or their health, or find themselves in reduced circumstances. In some parts of the world they lose everything. The New Testament has something to say about this: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” Jms.2.15-16. Compare 1Jn.3.17-18. How much do we really care?
ii) They were not to plead distance, v.2. “And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again.” There are no boundaries here. But we are very good at drawing them! Even within assemblies! Without forgetting believers who are further afield, it is all too possible that there are local believers “in fellowship” (one of our customary expressions) who are “not nigh” us, and we don't really “know” them too well. In other words, they aren't exactly members of our little circle (yes, we do have them) but, in any case (we say) they do tend to be “on the fringe” of assembly life. How much do we really care for our “brother” (to use the language of our chapter) in these circumstances when his interests are endangered? It is very convenient, to “write him off” by saying, “well, it might not have happened if he had been more committed to the assembly” or “he has always been an awkward brother.” This might be true, but is our attitude right?
iii) They were not to differentiate, v.3. “In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost things of thy brother's, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise; thou mayest not hide thyself.” God's people were to show their care for each other “right across the board.” There was to be attention to detail. Fellowship is enriched, and hearts are warmed, through what appear to be little deeds of kindness and thoughtfulness. We are to “consider one another to provoke unto love and good works,” Heb.10.24. There should be no “pecking order” or “credit rating” in our concern for fellow-believers.
iv) They were not to deny assistance, v.4. “Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt help him to lift them up again.” Today we would call this “roadside assistance!” A brother is in trouble and needs some help. We are to have “compassion one of another, be pitiful, be courteous,” 1Pet.3.8. It reflects poorly on God's people when believers say, “my unsaved neighbours took more interest in me than the assembly showed.” Let's take steps to ensure that when help is needed it never has to be said of us, “he passed by on the other side,” Lk.10.31.
2) PROPRIETY IN CLOTHING, v.5
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.” While C. A. Coates quite rightly observes in this connection that it “might be as uncomely for a brother to be silent in the assembly as for a sister to speak there,” we cannot escape the literal meaning of this verse. It must be said, although the subject is distasteful and objectionable to pure minds, that this solemn prohibition clearly refers to transvestite practices which were “all part of the corrupt and immoral context of the land Israel was about to inherit. This prohibition is a warning to the Hebrew people not to identify with the degrading sexual and homosexual practices of the Canaanites” (Raymond Brown).
Having said this, it might be opportune to say that the Lord's people should gladly recognise and maintain the distinctive glories given at creation to “the man” and “the woman.” It is the writer's conviction that these God-given distinctions should govern, amongst other things, the dress of His people. It is also his conviction that these distinctions should be maintained at all times, and not only in assembly gatherings.
3) PROTECTION OF BIRDS, vv.6-7
The inclusion, at this juncture, of a statute relating to conservation, is not easily explained, but there is no doubt about its strength. The commands “thou shalt not … thou shalt” apply as much here as elsewhere in the chapter. God expected his people to care for birds as well as straying oxen of sheep. Since “the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof,” men “have no right to plunder God's property” (Raymond Brown). It has been suggested that while the eggs and young birds could be taken for food, perhaps because of extreme hunger, the hen bird must be preserved so that ornithological life can continue. The words, “that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days” could well carry the warning that if men and women damage the life around them, they will ultimately damage themselves.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By J. E. Todd (England)
13. THE FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The planting of an orchard has a single purpose, the production of fruit. God has planted the gift of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer with the purpose of producing spiritual fruit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,” Gal.5.22-23.
What exactly is this spiritual fruit? We must know and understand this, for this is what is expected of us as believers!
The Lord Jesus Christ quoted from the Old Testament, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” Lev.19.18, Matt.22.39. This means to behave toward others with the same care for their well-being as we are concerned for our own well-being. This, He said, was foundational to all the teaching of the Old Testament, v.40. But in His teaching the Lord raised the level of love for His disciples. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I loved you, that ye also love one another,” Jn.13.34. This teaching means that Christian love can be involved in serving others to the point of sacrifice. That Christian love may on occasions demand putting others welfare BEFORE our own welfare. “Even Christ pleased not Himself,” Rom.15.3. All this is illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Lk.10.25-37.
This world can provide joy. But earthly joy has a flaw, it is dependent upon congenial circumstances. When the ever changing circumstances of life darken, then that joy can give place to sadness and sorrow, worry and fear.
The Lord’s disciples were elated with joy by the power Christ had given them to cast out evil spirits. But He cautioned them, “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven,” Lk.10.20. The Lord turned their attention to the heavenly and eternal joys that cannot be dimmed by the sorrows of this life.” “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation,” Isa.12.3. We share the joy of the risen Lord, “That My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full … I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you,” Jn.15.11; 16.22.
The people of the world can experience peace when their outward circumstances are favourable. But that peace has the same flaw as worldly joy, it is wholly dependent on those favourable circumstances. Worldly peace is vulnerable, it can be shattered by events outside our control. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” Jn.14.27. What was this peace of Jesus? Why was it different? The Lord’s peace was the result of His perfect communion with the Father. It was the peace of heaven, the peace of eternity. Where all is under control, the control of an omnipotent God.
If we truly walk in communion with Christ, He shares that peace with us. “My peace I give unto you.” This is beautifully expressed in the words of John Greenleaf Whittier,
- “Drop thy still dews of quietness
- Till all our strivings cease:
- Take from our souls the strain and stress,
- And let our ordered lives confess
- The beauty of Thy peace.”
The original Greek word says literally “long-tempered”, this is why it is often translated “longsuffering” as in the Authorised Version. The word “patience” is the modern English equivalent. Patience is a calm perseverance, even under provocative circumstances, which means in the context of the Christian life to calmly pursue holiness in the face of temptation. The Lord’s obedience to His Father in His three year journey to the cross is the perfect example of persevering patience. Paul’s experience of patience is summed up in his own words, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,” 2Tim4.7.
The Authorised Version translates the original word here as “gentleness,” but as “kind” in Eph.4.32. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Two great truths about kindness are brought to us in this verse. First, kindness is the opposite of hard-heartedness. Second, we are to be kind to all people, even to those whose actions toward us need forgiving.
Goodness is those attitudes, words and deeds which have beneficial effect. In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul emphasises the importance of goodness in the life of the believer. “That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” 12.2. “Cleave to that which is good,” 12.9. “Do that which is good,” 13.3.
Here it is not speaking of faith in the active sense of having faith in the Lord, but in the passive sense of us being faithful to the Lord. The context here in Galatians is of spiritual fruit in the believer’s life, not about the Lord being worthy of our confidence, but about us being worthy of the Lord’s confidence in us. In modern terms it is about loyalty and trustworthiness. Can our fellow-believers rely upon us at all times? Can the Lord rely upon us at all times to bear a faithful witness in word and deed?
The Authorised Version translates this word “meekness.” The line in the children’s hymn, “Gentle Jesus meek and mild” gathers together three words, gentle, meek and mild, which surround this original Greek word which is not easy to translate. A fourth word “humility” might be added. But it must be emphasised that although these four words are often associated with weakness, the exact opposite is true in Scripture. As exhibited in the life of the Lord, gentleness and meekness and mildness and humility are a great power. The power to pursue the will of God despite all the adverse circumstances, and to do so without resentment toward God and retaliation toward man. It is the power to do all those things which pride is too weak to do, such as the act of incarnation and the acceptance of the cross! “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich,” 2Cor.8.9.
Self-control is perhaps a more suitable translation of the word temperance, because temperance has now come to mean only one form of temperance, that is in relation to alcohol.
Self-control is not the control of our lives by self, it is the opposite, the control of self by the power of the Holy Spirit. Self is our fallen human nature, often referred to in Scripture as the flesh. The power of the Holy Spirit for good and the power of the flesh for evil are opposed to each other. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would,” Gal.5.17.
How then are we to experience the controlling power of the Holy Spirit over self? As the Holy Spirit fills the life with the eightfold fruit already listed, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith and meekness, then the works of the flesh are excluded. Faith expects the Holy Spirit to provide these expelling virtues. This attitude of faith is taught in baptism, Rom.6.1-14. The new convert is being taught by baptism this basic truth of the Christian life, which is walking by faith. Also a public opportunity to declare the willingness to practice this basic principle of Christian living. Which is?
The person is lowered into the water symbolising the death and burial of the “old man,” that is the life controlled by self. The raising up from the water symbolising the resurrection of the “new man,” that is the life controlled by the Spirit of Christ. As such he will display the ninth of these virtues, “temperance.”
We have further testimony from the lips of this beloved and honoured servant of God — testimony, moreover, drawn forth, not by any “question” about purifying — or any appeal to his personal feelings on the subject of his ministry; but simply by his intense admiration of Christ as an object for his own heart. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me. And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptising with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptiseth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God,” Jn.1.29-36.
Here was what occupied John’s heart. The Lamb of God. Peerless, precious object! Satisfying portion! Christ Himself — His work — His Person. In v.20 we have one great branch of His work; “He taketh away the sin of the world.” His atoning death is the foundation of everything. It is the propitiation for His people’s sins; and for the whole world. In virtue of this precious sacrifice, every stain is removed from the believer’s conscience; and in virtue thereof every stain shall yet be obliterated from the whole creation. The cross is the divine pedestal on which the glory of God and the blessedness of man shall rest for ever.
Then in v.33 we have another branch of Christ’s work. “He baptiseth with the Holy Ghost.” This was made good on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost came down from the risen and glorified Head to baptise believers into one body. We do not attempt to enter upon these weighty subjects here, inasmuch as our object is to present to the heart of the reader the great practical effect of occupation with Christ Himself — the only true object of all believers. This effect comes very strikingly out in the following verses. “Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God,” vv.35,36.
Here the Baptist is wholly engrossed with the Person of his Lord, and hence we have no reference to His work. This is a point of the deepest possible interest and moment. “John stood” — fixed — riveted — gazing upon the most glorious object that had ever fixed the gaze of men or angels — the object of the Father’s delight and of heaven’s adoration — “the Lamb of God.” And mark the effect. “The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.” They felt, no doubt, that there must be something peculiarly attractive in One who could so command their master’s heart, and therefore, leaving him, they attached themselves to that glorious Person of whom he spoke.
This is full of instruction for us. There is immense moral power in true occupation of heart with Christ, and in the testimony which flows from thence. The positive enjoyment of Christ; feeding upon, and delighting in Him; the heart going out, in holy adoration, after Him; the affections centred in Him; these are the things that tell powerfully upon the hearts of others, because they tell upon our own hearts and ways. A man who is finding His delight in Christ is lifted out of himself, and lifted above the circumstances and influences which surround him. Such an one is morally elevated above the thoughts and opinions of men; he enjoys a holy calmness and independence; he is not thinking about himself, or seeking a name or a place for himself. He has found a satisfying portion, and is therefore able to tell the world that he is wholly independent of it. Was John troubled by the loss of his disciples? Nay, it was the joy of his heart to see them finding their centre and their object where he had found his own. He had not sought to make a party, or to gather disciples around himself. He had borne witness to another, and that other was “the Lamb of God,” in whom he himself delighted, not only because of His work, but because of His worth — His moral glory — His intrinsic, peerless, divine excellence. He heard the Bridegroom’s voice and saw His face, and His joy was full.
Now we may well inquire, What can the world offer to a man whose joy is full? What can circumstances, what can the creature do for him? If men slight and desert him; if they wound and insult him — what then? Why, he can say, “My joy is full. I have found all I want in that blessed One who not only has taken away my sins and filled me with the Holy Ghost, but who has drawn me to Himself and filled me with His own divine preciousness and eternal excellency.”
Reader, let us earnestly seek to know more of this deep blessedness. Rest assured we shall find therein an effectual cure for the thousand and one ills that afflict us in the scene through which we are passing. How is it that professors so often exhibit a morose and unlovely temper? Why are they peevish, fretful, and irritable in the domestic life? Who so ruffled and put about by the petty annoyance of their daily history? Why so easily upset by the most contemptible trifles? Why put out of temper if the dinner be not properly and punctually served up? Why so touchy and tenacious? Why so ready to take offence if self be touched or its interests intruded upon? Ah! the answer is easily given. The poor heart is not finding its centre, its satisfying portion, in “the Lamb of God.” Here lies the secret of our failure. The moment we take our eye off Christ — the moment we cease to abide in Him by a living faith, that moment we get under the power of every passing current of circumstances and influences; we become feeble and lose our balance; self and its surroundings rise into prominence and fill the heart’s vision; and thus, instead of exhibiting the beautiful features of the image of Christ, we exhibit the very reverse, even the odious and humiliating tempers and dispositions of unsubdued nature.
May God enable us to lay these things seriously to heart, for we may depend upon it that serious damage is done to the cause of Christ, and grievous dishonour brought upon His holy name by the uncomely manners, tempers, and ways of those who profess to belong to Him.
by W. W. Fereday
There is a remarkable similarity between Jonathan in the Old Testament and Barnabas in the New. Both were gracious and affectionate; both were signally used of God in their day; but both manifested deplorable weakness in a moment of crisis. Barnabas broke with Paul, special vessel of the Spirit in his time; and Jonathan parted with David, Jehovah’s choice for the throne of Israel. In both cases, natural affection was the snare; Barnabas could not give up John Mark, and Jonathan could not give up Saul.
The break-down of these truly excellent saints is recorded for our instruction. Perhaps there is nothing that so hinders full loyalty to Christ as natural affection. We find it so difficult to give Him the place of absolute supremacy in our hearts and lives. Levi is specially commended in Deut.33.8-11 because in the day of the golden calf he “said unto his father and mother I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren nor knew his own children.” In Lk.14.26, the Lord Jesus points out a similar path for all who would be His disciples. The natural must be subservient to the spiritual if we would follow Him. The rejected One — our God in “the likeness of sinful flesh” laid it down emphatically, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me,” Matt.10.37. What a test for our hearts!
Jonathan — “Jehovah hath given” (as real a gift from God to Israel as Paul to the Church) — came forward at a very evil time in Israel. The King of the people’s choice was already a failure. The very enemy that he was specially appointed to save Israel from, 1Sam.9.16, was oppressing the nation sorely. The people had everywhere been disarmed (the King and his son being alone permitted to keep their swords), and even the blacksmiths’ shops were closed by order of the Philistines lest they should forge weapons. God’s time had not yet come for David to be brought upon the scene, and the whole position seemed utterly hopeless. The awfulness of this will only be realised as we remember that Israel was God’s chosen people for the blessing and guidance of all the nations upon earth. They had become utterly degraded and impotent by unfaithfulness to God. Is there any picture here of the present forlorn and powerless condition of the Church of God?
But God is never without resource. In every emergency He has His man. So Jonathan was raised up, that “fair flower which God caused to blossom in the wilderness of Israel at that sorrowful moment” (Darby). His story may be divided into three parts thus:
- 1. His relation to Jehovah.
- 2. His relation to David.
- 3. His relation to Saul.
The second part covers the largest space in the inspired record. In 1Sam.14 he so acquitted himself that the people declared “he hath wrought with God this day” v.45. It is a great thing to work with God, and it must not be confounded with working for God. To work with God is to have His mind for the moment, so that the worker moves as God moves, and along the line that He marks out. We see this illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles, and it is the secret of spiritual success. Such discernment is the fruit of exercise of heart before God. It cannot be acquired otherwise.
Jonathan was distressed by the condition of things in Israel. We doubt not prayer was behind it when he said to his armour-bearer one day, “Come and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” It was a step of faith. Two men with but one sword between them, marching out to attack a powerful foe, encamped on craggy heights, practically inaccessible!
“He Told Not His Father” — There was no real wish to hide anything, but men who have no faith themselves are apt to discourage and hinder those who have. David would certainly never have gone down into the Valley of Elah had he paid heed to Saul, 1Sam.17.33. It was better to have the co-operation of a lowly soul such as the unnamed armour-bearer, if possessed of like faith, than the sanction and support of a monarch who had no faith at all. Saul had the forms of religion about him. Jehovah’s priest was there, wearing an ephod, and the ark was not far away. But what is the value of forms if power is lacking? The past and present history of Christendom is a sufficient answer.
Be it noted that both Jonathan and his armour-bearer were young men. We are apt to connect conspicuous faith with age and experience. But Scripture abounds with extraordinary faith in young men. David wrote the majority of his Psalms before he attained the age of thirty; Daniel and his pious companions were still in their youth when they made their stand for God; Elihu gave utterance to sounder wisdom than Job’s more venerable friends, and of Timothy Paul was able to say, I have no man who will naturally care for your state … ye know the proof of him,” etc. Phil. 2. We would therefore encourage younger brethren to exercise themselves spiritually about the condition of things around them, and also concerning the deep deep need. They may then be prepared to say with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me” Isa.6.8. The only person expressly called “a man of God” in the New Testament was the comparatively youthful Timothy, 1Tim.6.11. Yet he was a timid, sensitive character, not unlike Jeremiah in an earlier day. But grace knows how to strengthen and make bold the one whose heart is right towards God, and who yearns to be used of Him.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By C. Jones (Wales)
This is a Messianic Psalm, that is, one which is concerned primarily with the glorious Person and work of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Psalm was written by David, possibly at a time when Saul, whose life David had spared, gave him a period of comparative rest. David shows in the Psalm that he knows that God can be trusted and relied upon to overrule and control all events for the good and the preservation of His servant in this life, through death and beyond.
The words “Michtam of David” appear as the heading of the Psalm, as they do in Ps.56-60, all of which were written in the time of David's rejection. The meaning of the word Michtam is not known with certainty but it can be translated as meaning “golden.” The Psalm certainly is “golden” in that gold speaks of Deity and the Lord was possessed of both Deity and Holy Humanity. The Psalm has been described as “David's golden jewel.” Other meanings suggested for the word Michtam include “hidden,” implying that the Psalm has secret or mysterious meanings not readily apparent on the surface. The word has been translated in the Septuagint to convey the thought of the words of the Psalm being engraved or inscribed, making us think of the everlasting truth of the Word of God.
The life of the Lord Jesus Christ was lived entirely and completely in obedience to God and for His glory. The Psalm speaks of the Lord's life as a dependent Man on this earth and of His resurrection. The Holy Spirit caused Peter to quote from the Psalm on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2.25-32, when he spoke of the resurrection of the Lord which was prophesied by David, Acts 2.30,31. Paul quoted from the Psalm when speaking of the Lord's resurrection and of the fact that His body saw no corruption, Acts 13.32-37.
The Dependent, Obedient and Satisfied Man of Faith, vv.1-7
In the days of His incarnation the Lord was entirely dependent on, and obedient to, God His Father, Phil.2.8, whom He trusted to preserve and keep Him, v.1. Throughout the Psalm, God is addressed directly by the Lord Jesus. The word translated God in v.1 is El. It is singular and conveys the thought of the omnipotent, all-powerful, strong and mighty One. The Psalm records the Lord's thoughts and the words He spoke to His Father in heaven and so He did not use a plural form which could have referred to the Trinity.
The Lord's subjection to His Father is seen in v.2 where we read “O My soul, thou hast said unto the Lord (Jehovah), Thou art My Lord (Adonai).” The name Jehovah indicates that God has an un-derived, eternal existence and that the cause of His existence is in Himself. He is immutable and eternally unchanging, Mal.3.6. Jehovah is God's name in His relationship with men. It is the covenant name and is used in connection with God's purpose in redemption, Ex.3.14-16; 6.3. Adonai means Sovereign Lord, Master or owner.
The Lord said “My goodness extendeth not to thee,” v.2, that is, all that the Lord did glorified God but did not add to God's intrinsic glory and excellence. Christ's suffering and sacrifice greatly benefited “the saints that are in the earth, … the excellent, in whom is all My delight,” v.3. The “saints”, those who have been saved, have been beyond measure, and beyond imagination, by the Lord's work on the Cross. Whatever conformity to Him there is in the lives of “the saints,” “the excellent,” is all of grace and it is in the saints that the Lord delights. The Lord finds His satisfaction in God His Father and delights in the people of God. The Lord has always delighted in His Father and in the “sons of men,” Prov.8.30,31. Those of us who are believers should also find our joy and satisfaction in God our Father whom we love, and show by our lives that we delight in, and love, fellow-believers, Jn.13.35; 1Jn.1.3,4; 3.14.
God has no pleasure in those who seek after idols and other gods. The Lord's entire pleasure and satisfaction is in God His Father and His delight is in the saints. He would not bow down to or worship the Devil, Matt.4.9,10. Misery and sorrow will be experienced by those who worship false gods and idols, v.4. if a believer allows sin, or an idol, that is anyone or anything, to enter his life and come between him and God, then he will lose the joy of his salvation, Ps.51.21, and his service for God will be hindered until the sin is confessed and abandoned or the idol is set aside. The things we spend a great deal of time thinking about have a profound influence on our behaviour. If we spend our time meditating on God and His Written Word and seeking to serve Him in accordance with His revealed will, we shall become more God-like, 2Cor.3.18, increasingly “partakers of the divine nature,” 2Pet.1.4, and more “conformed to the image of His Son,” Rom.8.29. If we allow some idol to dominate our thinking then, ultimately, we will suffer the consequences.
The Lord Jesus' delight, joy and satisfaction is in God His Father whom He loves and trusts implicitly. His desire is the fellowship and love of His Father: this is His portion and His cup which He enjoys to the full, v.5. he could say to God, “thou mantainest My lot,” v.5. The Lord's lot, that is, His future, His inheritance in eternity, like that of the believer is certain and sure because it is maintained by Jehovah. The Lord always did those things that pleased His Father, Jn.8.29, who had planned every aspect of His life. Because of His faith in God and His absolute obedience and delight in doing the will of God, Ps.40.8; Phil. 2.8, He enjoyed peace, joy and satisfaction which were independent of the circumstances which surrounded Him while He lived on earth and anticipated eternity, v.6.
The Lord praised and blessed Jehovah for the counsel He received from Him during His life on earth. The Lord spent nights in prayer and meditation receiving guidance and instruction, v.7, which sustained Him in all the trials and tribulations He passed through. He always obeyed the counsel and direction He received for He could say “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work,” Jn.4.34.
The Path of Life, vv.8-11
The Lord never deviated from the path of obedience to God. He was steadfast, constant and true and delighted in being God's perfect Servant. He kept Jehovah always before Him as the centre of His life and thoughts. Jehovah was always at His “right hand,” v.8, providing stability, security and protection, enabling Him to fulfil the will of God to the very end when He cried in triumph and victory, “It is finished,” Jn.19.30. The Lord says that He is glad and rejoices, v.9. He was happy because He did His Father's perfect will while on earth. He looked beyond His awful substitutionary sacrifice on the Cross when He would glorify His Father, bearing the sin of the whole world, Jn.1.29; 1Jn.2.2, to the eternal joy that was before Him when He would sit on the right hand of the throne of God, Heb.12.2, and would “see of the travail of His soul, and … be satisfied,” Isa.53.11.
The Lord Jesus, although equal with God His Father, served and obeyed Him, and with single-minded devotion He set His face steadfastly to do His Father's will. The Lord could say, “My flesh also shall rest in hope,” v.9. He knew that after His death His soul would not be left in Sheol and that His body would not see corruption, v.10, for He would be raised from the dead. He could anticipate His glorious victory over sin, death and the Devil, and His ascension back to heaven to sit on the “right hand of the Majesty on high,” Heb.1.3.
The Lord's happiness and rejoicing were due to His absolute faith and trust in His Father. He was completely confident that He would be raised from among the dead and it was for the joy that was set before Him that He endured the Cross and despised the shame, Heb.12.2. He knew that His pathway of obedience through life and into death was a “path of life,” v.11, for it led back to heaven where He and the redeemed with Him would experience eternal bliss, fulness of joy, with nothing to spoil that joy, and pleasures for evermore, v.11. In v.8 Jehovah was seen at the Lord's right hand during His time on earth, but in v.11 the Lord is seen at the right hand of His Father in heaven, a position of power, blessing and eternal happiness.
Meditating on Ps.16, on the lovely life of the Lord Jesus Christ, His obedience to His Father and His delight, joy, trust and faith in Him, brings peace and joy to the heart of a believer for whom He has taken the terror from the grave, removed the sting of death, 1Cor.15.51-57, and opened a path to eternal life in heaven. The beauties and perfections of that “holy thing,” Lk.1.35, God's “Holy One,” Ps.16.10, shine through the Psalm together with His joy in doing His Father's will and His joyous anticipation of His resurrection, of being exalted to the right hand of His Father and being with Him and the redeemed for ever, sharing eternal bliss and joy.
By G. Hutchinson (N. Ireland)
PAPER 1 — Isaiah 42.1-9
The prophecy of Isaiah is undoubtedly one of the best-loved books of the Old Testament. If personal experience is anything to go by, it is often the starting point for believers as they seek comfort and guidance during difficult times. Verses such as “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in Thee,” 26.3, and “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee,” 41.13, represent nuggets of truth for the weary and downcast believer. Bible students have also found the book to be a mine of historic and prophetic truth and much of God’s plan for the nation of Israel would be impenetrable without its pages. It is also an oft-quoted book for evangelistic purposes and this comes as no surprise given that the title (and prophet’s name) means ‘Jehovah’s salvation.’ However, for many the most appealing feature of the book is that it is so full of the Lord Jesus Christ. The current articles seek to emphasise this fact by examining a four part series where the Holy Spirit directs the readers’ attention to the attributes of Messiah as the Servant of Jehovah, 42.1-9; 49.1-13; 50.4-11; 52.13-53.12. The aim of this series is therefore to present some devotional truth from the aforementioned sections of the prophecy together with appropriate practical applications. The first ‘servant song’ is found in the forty-second chapter and in order to capture its broad meaning there are three main points to address:
EXPLANATION OF THE SONG
In the first servant song (or poem), Jehovah gives an extremely intimate description of His perfect Servant with only a faint anticipation of His suffering. The speaker is Jehovah, v.5, and in the opening section He has an open-ended audience, vv.1-4, whereas in the latter part He speaks directly to His servant, vv.6-9. In many regards, this portion of God’s Word is as intimate as Jn.ch.17 where we are similarly privileged to listen to deity speaking directly with deity. The subject is one where the virtues of the Servant are extolled. Whereas the reader has previously been called to “behold” the worthless nature of false idols, 41.29, Jehovah now draws attention to His Servant, 42.1. There can be no comparison between false idols and God’s eternal Son (see 42.8) and the pre-eminent position is rightfully His. It is equally important to outline the setting for, as with the other ‘songs’, this meditation of Jehovah’s Servant is located in an interesting section of the prophecy.
It is well known that the book has a broad two-fold division. The first section comprises chs.1-39 and the second chs.40-66. These ‘songs’ are not in the first section where judgment is the theme, but in the second where comfort is the theme. Therefore, while the ‘songs’ may intensify in their description of the Servant’s sufferings, they have this one common feature — the Lord Jesus is the only true source of comfort for His people. The disciples certainly learnt this truth when, on the eve of Calvary, they were reminded that the Lord bestows a special and abiding peace to His own, Jn.14.27. In terms of the structure of this opening song there are three clear phases:
- the Personality of the Servant in vv.1-4;
- the Responsibility of the Servant in vv.5-7;
- the Sovereignty of the Servant in vv.8-9.
INTERPRETATION OF THE SONG
As the readers’ attention is drawn to the Personality Of Jehovah’s Servant, vv.1-4, three truths emerge.
Firstly, notice who He is! In language that anticipates His baptism, the Lord is shown as the precious possession of Jehovah. In the opening verse, notice the repetition of terms such as “My” and “Mine” and compare this with passages such as Matt.3.17 and Mk.1.11. Accepting that others share in the title of “servant” (Israel, for example, in 41.8), there seems to be a special emphasis in this section where Jehovah identifies Himself with His perfect Servant. If Jehovah is quick to associate Himself with the Lord Jesus, there should be no hesitation on our part as we tell others of our own allegiance to Him.
Secondly, notice where He is! He is upheld by Jehovah, v.1, again indicating association and support. The same language is also used of the nation (Israel) as God’s chosen servant, 41.10, and believers today can similarly rejoice in the association and strength that we derive from the Lord on a daily basis.
Finally, in contemplation of the Servant’s personality we consider what He is! The first attribute is that of meekness, v.2. He is not characterised as one who cries or lifts up His voice in the street in order that He might be heard. John Riddle, in his insightful commentary on Isaiah, remarks that “the Servant would not be a rabble-rouser or make a spectacle of Himself.” It is also worth emphasising that the collective teaching of the chapter illustrates that “meekness is not weakness” for whereas Messiah will not cry in order to gain publicity He would (later) be marked by the cry of triumph, v.13. His second attribute is that of gentleness, v.3. With descriptions that denote the weary and oppressed — “bruised reed” and “smoking flax” — the Lord exercises a gracious ministry in order to ensure those who belong to Him are given proper care. This comes as no surprise given that “He is a gracious Sovereign, not a tyrant” (F. D. Lindsey). The final attribute is that of the Servant’s faithfulness, v.4. In order to draw out the Servant’s distinctive character there is a play on words that is not immediately apparent in the Authorised rendering of vv.3,4. The word “fail” means to grow dim and reflects the “smoking” flax of v.3; the word “discouraged” means to be bruised or crushed and reflects the “bruised” reed of v.3. In other words, while we may grow weary in the face of opposition with our zeal waning from time-to-time, this is not the case with the Perfect Servant! His radiance does not grow dim nor will He be crushed for He must establish judgment on the earth.
In terms of the Responsibility Of The Servant, vv.5-7, Jehovah prefaces His remarks by reminding the reader that He is the omnipotent Creator of the universe, v.5. We then learn that the Servant is to be the mediator of a covenant that yokes Jew (referred to as “the people” in v6) and Gentile together. The nature of this covenant is elsewhere described in the Old Testament (cp Jer.31.31-34) and it has, at its heart, the sacrifice of the Servant, cp Heb.9.15. Another feature of His work is that of illuminator for the Servant would be “a light of the Gentiles,” v.6. This anticipates the Saviour’s own description of Himself in Jn.8.12 as the “Light of the world.” In this present dispensation, the believer is called to shine in a world increasingly darkened by sin, Phil.2.15. Though never able to match the brightness of the Lord’s illuminating light, it is clear that holiness is a key factor that influences the extent to which we are able to shine for God. The section then concludes with the Servant described as a liberator, v.7. This verse finds its fulfilment in Lk.4.18-19 when, in the synagogue at Nazareth, the Servant outlined the intent of His earthly mission — to bring freedom to those under bondage from sin and Satan, cp Heb.2.14-15.
In terms of the Sovereignty Of The Servant, vv.8-9, the passage teaches that by means of His work, Jehovah — who has no peer, v.8 — will bring about the fulfilment of prophetic Scripture, v.9; (cp Rev.19.10). The “former things” are taken as reference to the deliverance of Israel from exile under the reign of Cyrus, Ezra 1.1-4, whereas the “new things” appear to reveal conditions associated with the coming millennial kingdom. The perfect Servant is pivotal as He establishes the kingdom, v.4b.
APPLICATION OF THE SONG
There are a number of practical applications outlined in the first “Servant song.” For example, we note the centrality of Christ, since on the basis of how Isaiah’s prophecy is quoted in Matt.12.17-21, we learn that the Lord is the predominant theme of Scripture. The passage also teaches that the Holy Spirit is the true source of strength for Christian service. As the Spirit is inextricably linked to the ministry of the perfect Servant, v.1 (cp 11.2), so He is likewise fundamental in our own work for God. The joy of Jehovah is also evident and here it finds its source in His Servant, v1. God is neither abstract nor distant and He desires His own to render service that gives Him pleasure, 1Thess.4.1. Finally, the character of Christians should be that of the Perfect Servant — humble, gentle and faithful.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee (N. Ireland)
The Lord Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, encouraged His hearers to “Behold the fowls of the air,” Matt.6.26, and learn practical, spiritual lessons.
Birds are visible all around us, whether we live in a remote part of the countryside or in the heart of a city. They are the most commonly observed species of wildlife. Birds add colour and interest to our gardens in mid-winter, by their songs in spring and by their nesting endeavours.
On a personal note I have in my possession a book entitled “Home Life in Bird-Land,” which, along with a Bible, a New Testament, and some photographs, are the only remaining tangible links to the first person in our family to be saved, sometime early in the 1900’s.
The foreword of that book, which deals with the early years of nest photography, has an interesting introductory comment. It states, “The earth is full of the glory of the Lord, but some of us have not opened our eyes wide to see it. Observe, with a renewed zest and a fresh clearness, the ways of God in His dealings with some humbler members of His glorious creation: and it will vividly renew our sense of the infinite wisdom of Him who doeth all things well — Who provides the birds of the air with their nests, and without Whom not a sparrow falls to the ground.”
Not every book in the Bible makes reference to birds. In some books only general reference is made, while other writers evidence a familiarity with various species and their habits from which they draw spiritual lessons that remain applicable today. These should interest us.
It may seem surprising in this book of beginnings that only four species of birds are individually identified: raven, dove, turtledove and pigeon; although there are more general instructive references. Also, of the many persons named in Genesis, birds are only mentioned in relation to four men: Adam, Noah, Abram and Joseph. We shall consider Adam first.
Did Adam waken to the sound of birdsong? It would appear so since God created birds on the fifth day of creation. Adam was formed of the dust of the ground on the sixth day. And those were days, not ages. When “day” is used in association with an ordinal number in Scripture, as on this occasion “the fifth” day, God expects us to understand it as a 24-hour day, a fact reinforced in Gen.1 by the frequent mention of “evening and morning.”
The first reference to birds in Scripture is found in Gen.1.20-23: “And God said, Let the water bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.”
Birds and sea creatures were created simultaneously. This fact, authenticated by “And God said,” rebuts the Darwinian pseudo-scientific, atheistic, evolution theory, which is actively promoted via the mass media and the educational curriculum. Evolution seeks to deny God, and His place in creation. But distinct bird species, male and female, fully capable of flight, existed “after his kind” from the outset, although as yet unnamed. God is the God of vitality, purpose and increase. The creation was never intended to be static.
God’s governmental purpose for man is then outlined in Gen.1.26, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” This purpose is reiterated in Gen.1.28. God is the God of Headship and rule.
God then attends to the provision of food; for man, and all living creatures. “And God said, Behold I have given you (man) every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so,” Gen.1.29,30. God is the Provider and Sustainer, meeting the dietary needs of His creation.
The next reference to birds is found in relation to their naming, when the distinctiveness of the species and the creatorial provision for their multiplication demonstrated to Adam his need for an help meet. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all the cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him,” Gen.2.18-20. God is the God of order and distinctiveness. And this first review of all creatures, including the abundant variety of bird species, must have impressed Adam with not only the wonders of nature but inspired awe at the greatness and glory of God.
From this brief overview of the initial references to birds, and their association with Adam, we should expect to learn some valuable lessons from the birds of the Bible.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By M. Rudge (England)
Bible Colleges are normally associated with the need to provide teaching and training for personnel who will serve in the organisations, which such Colleges represent. We appreciate that there are Colleges and Institutes, where men have devoted their lives to the study of the Word of God. They set a high standard of Biblical scholarship and exposition, which is exemplary and has been a blessing to many students of Scripture. However, they are institutions that can be limited by the denominational background of the teachers and the predominance of views which limit or even misrepresent, the teaching of Scripture.
We must not overlook the fact that Bible Colleges are often training students for a vocation as a ministerial class, which is contrary to the mind of God. We must also remember that courses at Bible Colleges are usually designed to lead the student to an academic qualification, which becomes a prerequisite for the obtaining of a position of service within some Denomination or Society. This leads to a distinctive, separate, ministerial class, which excludes those who do not possess the required qualification. Clerisy has been described as “the dispensational sin against the Holy Spirit,” because human authorisation of a ministerial class is a denial of the truth that it is exclusively the Divine prerogative to bestow and direct the exercise of spiritual gift.
Spiritual gift is bestowed by God, Rom.12.3-8; 1Cor.12.28-31; by Christ, as the risen and exalted Head of the Church, Eph.4.7-16; and by the Holy Spirit, who is also in sovereign control of its exercise, 1Cor.12.4-11. It does not require human authorisation but recognition.
The conversion and commission of the apostle Paul is unique in many respects. However, it does provide us with a pattern for service, which is very relevant to the question of authorisation of service and our spiritual education. The opening chapter of the epistle to the Galatians places considerable emphasis upon the Divine source of Paul’s ministry and its message. It has established principles that are of fundamental importance.
W. Trew writes concerning Paul’s appointment to service, “by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.” In Gal.1.1, “Jesus Christ” is mentioned before “God the Father.” Here it is to emphasise that absolute authority is in His hand, as raised from the dead, and that appointment to service in relation to the present administration of God is His prerogative. It is very evident that this cuts at the very roots of the principle of human ordination so essential to clerisy.
Fully conscious of his Divine call and commission, Paul had no need to refer to men in authority that he might receive credentials from their hands further to accredit or authorise him. … For any man or body of men to claim the right to licence, and so to authorise the use of spiritual gift that the risen Lord has given, is an intrusion upon the sovereign rights of Christ, the only Head of the Church.”
F.W. Grant writes, “As we think of the character of Christianity, it is plain how fully the Divine call and commission are characteristic of its ministry … The gift is from God alone. The possession of the God-given gift carries with it the responsibility and Divine commission to use the gift that God has given, in the sphere that God appoints. To accept human ordination or authorisation of it would only be to dishonour the glorious Giver.”
In Gal.1, Paul wrote, concerning events after his conversion, “immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem …” Paul’s time in Arabia answered to Moses’ forty years at the backside of the desert, when two thirds of his life was over before he received the call to lead Israel. It answered to David’s period in the wilderness, when he was hunted by Saul like “a partridge in the mountains.” Every servant needs a comparable period when they have more to do with God than with men. When Paul left Arabia, he returned to Damascus, where he had been converted. During his visit to Jerusalem three years after his conversion, Greek speaking Jews, “went about to kill him, which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus,” where he was born and brought up. He “came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia,” where he served for about six or seven years before Barnabas brought him to Antioch and “a whole year they assembled with the church and taught much people.” When he was commended to the grace of God for the work, Acts 13.2,3, Barnabas was the senior man at the commencement of their service together. Paul served locally and with an older man, before he was led into his distinctive service as the apostle to the Gentiles. Joshua was “Moses’ minister,” before he led the people in the conquest of the land, Josh.1.1; Ex.24.13. Elijah’s mantle fell upon Elisha, “Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.” Barnabas and Paul “had John (Mark) to their minister.”
When the apostle Paul commenced his second missionary journey, he came to Derbe and Lystra, where he found Timothy, who was “well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him.” Here is another important aspect of a servant’s education and training, where he first learns to serve in the company of older men. This is an education that no Bible College can provide.
Bible Colleges usurp the unique position of the assembly, as the place where it is the responsibility of overseers, teachers and shepherds, to teach the Scriptures and communicate its truths to the people of God and to spiritually educate the next generation. There is special emphasis placed upon the need to commit an outline of apostolic teaching to “faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” The assembly is also the sphere where there is liberty for spiritual gift to be exercised and developed and where the truth is not only taught but also can be practiced in the reality of assembly life. No Bible College course or curriculum can be a substitute for the real thing.
In the New Testament it is the assembly, which is the spiritual university, where careful, systematic, positive instruction should meet the highest standards. Overseers are responsible to see that Divine order is maintained and that the Holy Spirit is able to direct spiritual exercise and develop spiritual gift. Sadly, this is frequently lacking but it does not alter the truth of what the Scriptures teach.
The serious purpose and standards of Bible study at Bible Colleges and Institutes is a challenge to all who take the place of leadership as teachers in the churches of God and to younger men, who must be prepared to devote as much time as possible to the study of the Scriptures over a considerable period, as part of preparation for service. This is a challenge that leaves us with no room for complacency.
by Larry Buote (Canada)
I was born and raised in a strict French speaking Roman Catholic home on Prince Edward Island and first heard of salvation through grace alone in April 1965. Jn.3.36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” was quoted in a shoe store by a man who was saved five years previously under G. A. Ramsey and I was saved about an hour later, while meditating on the verse. I was 17 years old and far from God. Not only so, but I was lost to any direction in life, away from family and alone as the prodigal. I slept in the local jail that night because I had no other place to go. God had spoken to me through the death on my dad and my uncle a few years previous, but I had taken my own way, and sin with its many snares was destroying my life. The story of the cross I knew well, but never heard that it was enough to save my soul. As a boy I wondered about being sure of heaven, or if such a thing was possible. When I heard the sweet words, “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life,” I understood that He paid it all, and that my part was only to believe or trust the Lord Jesus who died to take away my sins. It was what my soul needed, I believed the promise of God, and got everlasting life.
In 1966 I met Mr. E. V. Davey at the Pugwash Jct. conference. He lived in Montreal with his family and had been commended to the Lord’s work in Quebec by the Brock Avenue assembly in Toronto. Mr. Davey was never known for his preaching ability but his 20-minute word at that conference stirred my soul. He exhorted us to go in for souls and, as I soon discovered, he first practiced what he preached. When men were few to take interest in lost souls in Quebec, he came, and he stuck with the work until he went home to heaven at age 81. There are assemblies of believers in a few small Quebec towns today largely because of his visiting work. He visited in Edmundston, New Brunswick, long before there was an assembly in Green River and one family contacted in the 70's is now part of the Green River fellowship. As in the case of every true pioneer, he often worked alone, but was also ready to take a novice along. Many valuable lessons were learned in those memorable days, both of dependence upon God and how to exercise good judgement. Snowstorms would often hinder, but he would never get frustrated or discouraged, his patience was a quality we often desired.
So at the 1966 Pugwash Jct. conference he spoke of Quebec and the need for workers. He mentioned a new work in eastern Quebec which was of particular interest to me, because of the year and the month which this work started, April 1965. That was the month and year in which I was saved in Summerside P. E. I. At first it was to me an interesting coincidence, but later I wondered about the Lord’s hand in my life at the same time as he was working among French speaking people 500 miles away.
In 1969 I travelled from Nova Scotia to Montreal by train and spent a week with the Daveys. As he took me to visit a few families who lived in out of the way places, it became evident that this was his predominant way of working. He never was involved in big Gospel campaigns but would be willing to walk miles to speak to one soul. While returning home to Nova Scotia from Montreal I stopped in Mont Joli, a town in eastern Quebec, where the new work mentioned was ongoing. The town of Price, where we now live, is two miles from Mont Joli. Mr. Davey gave me the names of two families that I visited at that time. I was received warmly and encouraged to come live in the area.
In July 1970, after further encouragement from Mr. Davey and others, Stella and I, with our two young children, moved from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia to Price, Quebec. Our third child was born in Quebec in 1971. From 1970 to 1978 I sold business clothing which involved extensive travel in the spring and fall. Other months were spent in the Lord’s work. Stella spent much time entertaining the workers, which came to our area from Ontario and other parts of Quebec. In the winter of 1978 there was discussion of my commendation to the work by Mr. Davey and the local brethren of the new Price assembly. The brethren in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia were contacted and wrote a letter stating their approval of my commendation. After more prayer a letter was written and signed by all the brethren on 17th February 1978. This made little change in our activities as I was already visiting and preaching. I was getting less involved in my clothing business and a number of believers were already supporting us.
We continued labouring in the immediate area and before our hall was built in 1988, the number of believers grew to 27 in fellowship. Some have since left and others have gone to heaven. We have since widened our circle of labour into New Brunswick, where we have seen His hand with us in souls saved and assemblies planted.
We appreciate all who have assisted the work by their prayers and fellowship and we know all their labour is noted in heaven and will be righteously rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ.
THE OLDEST MAN IN THE WORLD?
The “International Conference on Satisfactory Longevity” was held in Cuba in May 2005. Cuba is proud of having more than 2,700 citizens over 100 years of age. At the conference Mercedes Matilde Nunez, aged 102, sang a popular song. Juana Hernandez Fernandez (103) and Professor Eduardo (104) danced. And Amada Hernandez Fernandez (102) announced that she should really be in the kitchen preparing the meal!
Unfortunately Benito Martinez Abrogan did not attend. He decided not to travel the 240 miles to the conference, staying at home to grow bananas and breed fighting cocks. The conference therefore missed his celebrity status as, on 19th June 2005, he celebrated his 125th birthday!
His precise age was always something of a mystery. His Cuban identity papers showed that he had been in Cuba since 1925, but his age on arrival was uncertain. As he had come from Haiti the Cuban government sent officials to Haiti to check, but official records could not be found. Other Cuban officials interviewed Senor Abrogan’s oldest neighbours who confirmed that he had always been the most elderly person they had ever known. But the man himself never suffered from any doubts. Beaming his huge toothless smile, he confidently declared that his year of birth was 1880. “I am,” he would proudly say, “the oldest person in the world!”
Maybe he was the world’s oldest man. But Benito Martinez Abrogan died on 11 October 2006. A long life had come to an end.
This reminds us of the refrain “and he died” employed eight times in Genesis chapter 5, the Bible’s longevity chapter. It is even said of the Bible’s oldest man, “And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died,” Genesis 5.27.
Solemn as this is, the Bible tells us of the origin of death: “Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” Romans 5.12. More solemn still, the Bible also informs us, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9.27.
Death by sin. Death passed upon all men. Death as an appointment. Judgment after death.
Surely it is time to be serious? Is it not time to face reality? How can we escape this Divine sentence? Is there anyone who could assist? Thank God there is One: God’s own Son, the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to turn from self-delusion, self-righteousness and sin; and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ who finished the work required for our salvation by His death on Calvary’s cross, after which He was buried, and rose again.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3.16.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5.6-8.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53.5,6.
Our dear brother Ronnie Johnston, who served on the committee of this magazine for many years, went to be with the Lord on Sunday 6th May. Ronnie was a man greatly beloved and will be sorely missed in the home, in the assembly, and in the work of this magazine. His faithfulness to, and love for, the Word of God marked him as a man of rich spiritual character. Prayer would be valued for his widow, three daughters and their husbands, all of whom are in fellowship.
- He leads me through smiles and tears, griefs follow gladness.
Yet welcome both alike, for they work out His will.
— J. Douglas
- His love cannot be questioned.
His living cannot be defiled.
His strength cannot be prevented.
— J. Douglas