ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
MEDITATIONS ON THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE
TRUTH FROM TITUS
by B. Currie
THE LEVITICAL OFFERINGS
by T. Wilson
by C. Jones
A SPOTLIGHT ON JOSEPH's TEN (OLDER) HALF BROTHERS
by B.E. Avery
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
No.5: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth"
Read chapter 3.1-15
We have noticed that the book of Amos commences with eight judgments. The first six judgments are pronounced against Israel’s neighbours: Damascus, Gaza, Tyrus, Edom, Ammon and Moab, and the last two against God’s people themselves, Judah and Israel. In this chapter the Lord commences His pronouncements against Israel in detail, although it is significant that the passage commences with reference to "the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt" v.1, perhaps reminding us that what God has to say to one group of people is applicable to all His people: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" Rev.2.7 etc. We must notice at least five important lessons in these verses, of which the last leads to the pronouncement of judgment on the nation:
Privilege determines responsibility - vv.1,2
Sin mars fellowship - v.3
Warnings cannot be ignored - vv.4-6
God reveals His purposes - v.7
God’s Word must be communicated - vv.8-15
PRIVILEGE DETERMINES RESPONSIBILITY, vv.1,2
The Privilege, vv.1,2a
"Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth." As noted in our introduction, the words "Hear this word" or "Hear ye this word", occur at 3.1, 4.1 and 5.1. The words, "you only have I known", refer to God’s predetermination, and Deut.7.6-8 should be read in this connection. Similar language is used of believers today: "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son" Rom.8.29. See also 1Pet.2.9.
The Responsibility, v.2b
The words which follow, "therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities", make strange reading until we realise that privilege determines responsibility. The principle can be seen in the New Testament so far as Israel is concerned. The gospel is "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" Rom.1.6, and "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" is "upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile" Rom.2.9,10. The principle is clearly demonstrated in the teaching of the Lord Jesus: see Matt.11.21-24; 12.41,42. For unregenerate men and women there will be degrees of punishment contingent on privilege. The Lord Jesus made this clear: see Lk.12.47,48. The principle, "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required", is applicable to believers as well, especially to Bible teachers, Jms.3.1. A priest was required to bring a greater sin-offering than the other Israelites, Lev.4.3. He, above all people, was well aware of the character of God.
SIN MARS FELLOWSHIP, v.3
The statement, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" is followed by the question, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed [except by making an arrangement]?" The Lord desired to be in the closest fellowship with His people. He had said, "If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them … I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people" Lev.26.3-12. But His people failed to keep their covenant responsibilities, and fellowship had been destroyed. In consequence, He was obliged to punish their iniquities.
There can be no doubt that the human race was created for God’s pleasure, and to enjoy fellowship with Him. This is apparent from the beginning of human history, Gen.3.8. Sin then destroyed their "walk together", but God’s intentions can never be thwarted. The Lord Jesus said of the faithful believers at Sardis, "They shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy" Rev.3.4. In the meantime, there have been men who walked with God, and this is particularly said of Enoch, Gen.5.22, and Noah, Gen.6.9. The ‘Enoch chapter’ in the New Testament commences with the words, "as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God" 1Thess.4.1. It is so important for us to remember that sin mars fellowship. Hence the injunctions in 2Cor.6.14-16. How glad we are that when fellowship with God is interrupted, provision is made for restoration, 1Jn.1.9, but we must never forget that if "I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" Ps.66.18.
WARNINGS CANNOT BE IGNORED, vv.4-6
These verses develop the words, "I will punish you for all your iniquities" v.2. Three pictures are used here to emphasise the seriousness of warnings:
The Roar of a Lion, v.4
The lesson lies in the two cries of the lion.
"Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey?" This has been described as the ‘pouncing roar’ of the lion. It has been said that he has four feet off the ground when he roars like this! He does not roar otherwise. As J.A.Motyer points out, "The Lion is still roaring, 3.8, therefore the prey has not yet been seized. There is still a chance to come to terms. Hope has not yet vanished".
"Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?" This is the low ‘grumbling cry’ of the lion as the prey is devoured.
The two-fold lesson is clear. In the first case, danger is imminent. In the second case, it is too late!
The Preparation of a Trap, v.5
Again, the lesson is in two connected parts.
"Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin (perhaps referring to a noose) is for him?" The bird is snared because it deliberately invites capture and destruction.
"Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?" The trap has been sprung. The victim is caught. "Will the snare spring up from the earth when nothing at all hath been taken?" (J.N.D.).
Again, the same two-fold lesson is taught. In the first case, danger is imminent. In the second case, it is too late.
The Blowing of a Trumpet, v.6
For the third time, the lesson is in two parts.
"Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?" The trumpet is blown to warn the city, and the opportunity existed for the nation to have dealings with God.
"Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" The enemy is in the city. The word "evil" refers to the terrible aftermath. ‘Calamity never falls without the directive hand of God’ (J.A.Motyer).
Again, the same two-fold lesson is taught. In the first case, danger is imminent. In the second case, it is too late.
Before the three pictures are interpreted, and we learn how the lion has roared and how the trumpet has sounded, we too must remember that warnings cannot be ignored. Very clearly, the figures employed conveyed warnings of imminent danger: God’s people faced captivity and loss of inheritance. The New Testament warns believers of spiritual danger: "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy" 1Cor.3.17; "He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption" Gal.6.8. We must never forget that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" 2Cor.5.10. See also 1 Cor.3.15.
GOD REVEALS HIS PURPOSES, v.7
"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets". All that God intends to do He has revealed in His Word. See, for example, Rom.16.25,26; Eph.3.1-8. The true prophet is a man who "stood in the counsel of the Lord and hath perceived and heard His word" Jer.23.18. This was the case at Antioch: "As they [‘certain prophets and teachers’] ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" Acts 13.2. The Lord communicates His Word to men and women who are in fellowship with Him, like Abraham, Gen.18.17, and Moses, Ex.33.11; Num.12.6-8.
It is important to remember that while Scriptures are complete, and there is nothing to be added to "the faith once delivered unto the saints" Jude v.3, we do need to be constantly in His presence seeking daily help and guidance, knowing that He will never direct us in opposition to His own Word. We should also say that there are many matters on which we do not have to pray for guidance, for the simple reason the Word of God is perfectly clear! How important then to be thoroughly acquainted with the Scriptures!
GOD’S WORD MUST BE COMMUNICATED, vv.8-15
These verses tell us about the compelling power of God’s Word, v.8, and then the content of God’s Word to Israel, vv.9-15.
The Compelling Power of God’s Word, v.8
If the Lord imparts His Word to His servants, v.7, then His servants are to impart His Word to others, v.8, and they are to do so with deep conviction. "The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" Jeremiah knew all about this: "Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" Jer.20.9, and so did Paul: "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me: yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" 1Cor.9.16 . See also Acts 4.20; 18.5.
The Content of God’s Word to Israel, vv.9-15
Judgment would fall in three areas of national life in which Israel found security and satisfaction: it would destroy their:
Military Security, vv.9-12
Religious Security, vv.13,14
Material Security, v.15
i) Military Security, vv.9-12. In these verses, the word "palaces" occurs four times, vv.9,10,11. It also occurs several times in chapters 1 and 2, and means "fortress" or "stronghold". Their military strength would evaporate. We should notice the following:
The External Witnesses: "Publish in the palaces of Ashdod, and in the palaces of the land of Egypt, and say, Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria, and behold the great tumults in the midst thereof, and the oppressed in the midst thereof" v.9. Ashdod and Egypt, people who "had no special revelation, and who had never experienced special redemption" (J.A.Motyer) are invited to sit in judgment upon people who had enjoyed both, but whose social injustice and oppression had sunk to a lower level than that of their two pagan neighbours. Sadly, it is not unknown for God’s people to act in a way that attracts the condemnation of non-believers.
The Internal Weakness: "For they know not to do right, saith the Lord God, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces" v.10. Israel was militarily strong (see 2Kgs.14.23-27), but it was rotten at the core: "they know not to do right". First appearances can be deceptive. "Bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking … with malice" Eph.4.31, together with lack of loving care, 1Jn.3.17; Jms. 2.15,16, will weaken and ultimately destroy an assembly.
The Eventual Destruction: "Therefore thus saith the Lord God; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled" v.11. The destruction of the nation would be so complete that not much would remain: in fact what would be left is compared to the remains of a sheep. Such would be the end of the people that "dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch" or "that sit in Samaria in the corner of a couch [footnote: ‘the best place of the divan in the houses of the rich’], and upon the damask of a bed" (J.N.D.).
ii) Religious Security, vv.13,14. Their religious security would be unavailing: "Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord God, the God of hosts (none can withstand Him), that in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground". Bethel, with all its sacred associations in the past, Gen.28.11-22; 35.1-15, had become a centre of idolatry: "Come to Bethel, and transgress" Amos 4.4. Jeroboam the son of Nebat had placed one of his two golden calves there, 1Kgs.12.25-33. As J.A.Motyer points out, "Heresy … never stands idle. Jeroboam built an altar in Bethel, 1Kgs.12.32, but Amos speaks of "altars". Israel went to Bethel and Gilgal, but they did not seek the Lord, Amos 5.4,5. Grasping the "horns of the altar" did not do Joab much good, 1Kgs 2.28, and it would be no good running to the altars at Bethel in time of distress: "Bethel shall come to nought" Amos 5.5. See also Hos.8.5,6; 10.5,6.
iii) Material Security, v.15. Their godless material security would be destroyed: "And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the Lord". Notice the emphasis on "houses": "the winter house … the summer house … the houses of ivory … the great houses". "False religion with all its display ends in total collapse of shrine and society alike" (J.A.Motyer).
- to be continued (D.V.)
THE HELMET OF SALVATION
The helmet of salvation and the shield of faith are intimately connected, though perfectly distinct. The latter is confidence in what God is; the former in what He has done. The shield conveys the idea of a more general confidence in God Himself, the helmet of a more special personal assurance in the deliverance He has brought for us in Christ Jesus. Thus, as we have seen, the one is over all, the other crowns all. Our defensive armour is complete. We can hold up our heads with holy boldness in the day of battle; we can meet the strongest enemy, or all the hosts of hell with invincible courage; we have put on "the whole armour of God," we are covered with the strength and the salvation of God. Bless the Lord! What a new salvation! "Complete in Him, Who is the head of all principality and power." What enemy can harm us, what enemy can reach us there? In the light as God is in the light, the rulers of this world's darkness will never venture there. We are raised in Him even above the angels that never sinned. Wonderful, blessed, glorious truth! May we use it for His glory, the blessing of our souls, and the defeat of our enemies!
But hast thou well considered, my soul, that our "helmet" is a known salvation? More, much more, than merely hoping to be saved at last. The enemy would soon cast down such a helmet from thy head. Well, but is it not Scriptural to hope for salvation? What does the apostle mean when he says, "And for an helmet the hope of salvation?" Surely nothing can be plainer than that. True, but the apostle is speaking in 1Thess.5 of the hope of the Lord's coming; not of our forgiveness and acceptance. In this connection it includes glory, for which, of course, we hope or wait. Some think that whenever and wherever the word "salvation" is used, it must mean the salvation of the soul from sin and hell. This is a great mistake, and it has been the means of perplexing many, and leading many into false doctrine. The passage referred to is extremely beautiful. "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." Those here addressed are the children of light and of the day - children that are walking in communion with God in "faith and love," and with the bright, far-seeing eye of "hope", fixed more especially on Christ, Who is coming to take us up to be with Himself in glory. This is the true and proper hope of the Christian - of the church - the hope of her Lord's coming. We have now everything but glory. We are still in the natural body, therefore we hope, we wait for the glorious body; but not uncertainly, thank the Lord: no, we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God, Rom.5.2, Phil.3.21.
But there is another passage which teaches, as many say, that a known salvation is impossible in this world — that we must wait till we come to the judgment seat before we can know for certain how it will go with us. It is this, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Now, it is said, we may work well for a while, but sadly fail in the end and come short at last.
As in the other passage, the mistake arises from not seeing the meaning of the word "salvation." To see its application the connection must be considered. Both in this verse and throughout the epistle "salvation" is regarded as a future thing. Paul himself says, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect." This, of course, he could not be until he was with Christ in glory. Clearly then our final deliverance from conflict of every kind is implied in the word "salvation" as here used. Hence Christ is spoken of as a "Saviour" in the same chapter, when He comes to transform our vile bodies. "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall change our vile body, that it may be finished like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself." Here it is not merely a question of the salvation of the soul from sin, but of the body from humiliation. The mistake arises from supposing that "salvation" has only one meaning in the New Testament. Those who think so must often feel in a difficulty. For example, in Rom.13.11 we read, "For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." How is this to be explained? Simply by the context. There is difficulty. We find it spoken of in connection with "the day;" but the day had not arrived — the day of glory. But it was coming nearer and nearer every day. Hence the heart is cheered and encouraged in conflict by the Spirit's word which follows: "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light."
What then, thou mayest still ask, is the real meaning of these words, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Carefully look for a moment, my soul, at what goes before, and what follows after these words. Then thou wilt find the key to the passage. Paul has left the saints at Philippi, God is with them. Not that God was absent when Paul was present, that is not the question. God never leaves nor forsakes His people. But when a father is present and doing everything for his children, they are disposed to lean on him; when he is away from them, they must think and work for themselves. Thus it was, so far, with the Philippians. "Wherefore," he says, "my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." The apostle who last laboured among them was now far away, a prisoner at Rome. He was no longer present to help them with his counsel and spiritual energy. They were now cast more immediately on God Himself. Hence he says, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Therefore, they ought to work all the more earnestly, even with "fear and trembling," seeing God was working in them. He exhorts them to "fear and tremble," not lest they should fall and be lost, but lest they should dishonour God by any want of zeal, diligence, earnestness, or faithfulness, in the day of trial.
All hinges then, thou wilt now see, on these two things, the absence of the apostle; the presence of God. They had now to meet the wiles of the enemy without the aid of Paul's presence; but God was engaged for them, and acting in them; therefore their loss was turned into great gain. They were thrown entirely upon God for all needed help, counsel, and guidance. Nothing can be more encouraging than this passage when rightly understood. In place of perplexing and weakening the believer, it nerves him for service and warfare. What a thought, when we find ourselves engaged in such a conflict, to know that God Himself is with us and engaged for us! At the same time, we must not forget that there is a deep and solemn warning in the apostle's words. As if he had said, You have many difficulties and dangers to meet and overcome in your path through the wilderness. The conflict is a serious one: you have the efforts of a mighty, subtle, and active foe to war against; and I am no longer with you to help with my counsel, to exhort and stir you up by my example; so that you must be more prayerful, more watchful, more circumspect, more personally dependent on the resources of God Gimself. "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Thus were they crowned, and so should every warrior be crowned, in the day of battle, with a known and an enjoyed salvation.
The apostle is our noble example in all this, as well as our wise counsellor. It was this helmet of salvation that gave him, when a prisoner and in chains, such boldness and energy in the midst of his enemies. Undaunted by the power of the world that was arrayed before him, he lifted up his head in the conscious enjoyment of his relationship to God, and of his resources in Him; and earnestly wished his judges and his audience were as happy as himself. "I would to God," said Paul to Agrippa, "that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and alogether such as I am, except these bonds," Acts 26.29. He was not thinking about himself, he had nothing to fear for himself; no blow from the enemy could deprive him of his helmet, it was secured by the cross and the glory of Jesus; and brightly it shone before all. This present, known salvation set him free to think about others, care for the good of others, and appeal to the hearts of others, in words of burning eloquence. Thus may we war and fight, with salvation as our helmet, through the power of an ungrieved Holy Spirit.
- to be continued (D.V.)
Truth From Titus - Paper 8
by B. Currie (N. Ireland)
In the last paper we noticed that the chapter has to do with behaviour and divided the chapter as follows.
v.1 - Standard of Behaviour: "sound doctrine";
vv.2-6 - Saints and Behaviour: v.2, aged men; v.3 aged women; vv.4,5 young women; v.6 young men;
vv.7,8 - Servant and Behaviour: "shewing thyself a pattern of good works";
vv.9,10 - Servants and Behaviour: v.9 "exhort servants";
vv.11-14 - Salvation and Behaviour: v.12 "teaching us that denying ...";
v.15 - Speaking and Behaviour: "let no man despise thee".
We considered the first two sections and now we come to:
Vv.7,8 - SERVANT AND BEHAVIOUR
V.7, "In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity"
The man who is going to give such ministry must be the epitome of his teaching. This is exemplified in Paul who wrote to the Thessalonians, "ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake" 1Thess.1.5, and in 2.9-12, "For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, Who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory."
Gideon could say, "look on me and do likewise" Judg.7.17. Peter instructed the elders to be "ensamples to the flock" 1Pet.5.3.
The example set is very comprehensive since it is to cover "all things". Paul used the same word here translated "pattern" to Timothy in 1Tim.4.12, " be thou an example of the believers …". It is the word used in Jn.20.25, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails ...". His practice of "good works" is noted before his doctrine and then his speech in v.8. We recall the Lord’s words, "whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" Matt.5.19. This order is recorded also by Luke, Acts 1.1, "… all that Jesus began both to do and teach".
The way in which teaching (doctrine) is given is important. "Shewing uncorruptness" means the teacher has no insincere motives. He will not be seeking applause from men by playing to the gallery and adjusting his message to suit the audience. His teaching ought to be consistent as he teaches the same things in every place. In 1Cor.4.17 Paul said, "… as I teach every where in every church". The teacher is to be marked by "gravity" – see v.2 and 1Tim.2.2; 3.4,8,11. This implies a person who shows such a dignified character that he will have the respect of his audience. He will not be marked by flippancy when he is handling the Word of God. Jokes, fanciful stories, play-acting, being overly animated, will not be part of his platform conduct. The R.V. and J.N.D. and many more versions omit the final word in the verse, "sincerity".
V.8, "Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you."
"Sound speech" is that which is healthy and will produce health in the spiritual realm. This is not necessarily public teaching but relates to normal private conversations. What is said then ought to be in accord with his public utterances. This precludes human imagination and wild interpretations so that the speaker appears to be different and sees doctrines that never were known before. The old maxim is generally right – if it is new it is not true and if it is true it is not new!
His speech is such "that cannot be condemned". It is not open to censure. It is sad when a servant and thus his ministry, is left open to criticism because of his private conversations or the word being poorly and foolishly handled.
If the Scriptures are handled with dignity and the private conversations are becoming Christianity then "that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you". We must not only consider friends but also beware of foes who listen to our discourses. The word "evil" is a wide word implying any slight or paltry thing and shows that the enemies will take hold of the slightest thing in order to attack. Instead of criticising they should be ashamed as they see and hear the word expounded correctly in practice and preaching. Thus Christian behaviour is not only an example to other Christians, but is also a defence against the enemies. It is well to note that J.N.D. translates the end of v.8 as "… to say about us". If this was to refer to Titus only it would have read "thee", but "us" embraces all Christians.
Vv,9,10 - SERVANTS AND BEHAVIOUR
Vv.9,10 "Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."
Titus is told to "exhort servants" (doulos) and this is to have a five-fold focus so that they would "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things".
In Duty - Obedience
The servants are "to be obedient unto their own masters". This is essentially the same as is said regarding wives in v.5, where they are to be "obedient to their own husbands". Here the word "masters" (despotes) is our word despots. Obedience to their masters was an obligation that Christianity did not dissolve, even if the master was himself a Christian. In this present age the place of the master would be reflected in an employer, albeit without the despotic rule. Nevertheless, a Christian living in our day ought not to be involved in rebellion against his employer, an attitude that is seen in strikes, protests and pickets.
In Desire - Well-Pleasing
The servant ought "to please them well in all things". The word "please" is seen, for example, in Rom.12.1,2 as "acceptable" and in Phil.4.18 and Heb.13.21 as "wellpleasing". We should seek to do our best for our employer, and while we may not be the most intelligent employee, we should be the most industrious. The expression "all things" is very wide but cannot include matters wherein Christian testimony is compromised. A Christian cannot be involved in underhand and dishonest practices even if the boss says he must. He cannot tell lies when his employer instructs him so to do. In these matters the instruction of Acts 5.29 prevails: "We ought to obey God rather than men".
In Declaration - Not Answering Again
The expression "not answering again" is used in 1.9, as "gainsayers". It is composed of two words "anti" meaning ‘instead of’ or ‘against’ and "lego" meaning ‘to speak’. The servant is not to declare himself against his master but he ought to show a willing compliance with the master’s will.
In Dependability - Not Purloining
The word "purloining" is translated by J.N.D. as "not robbing their masters". The only other mentions of the word are both in relation to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.2 "kept back" and v.3 "keep back". It means ‘to set apart for one's self’, ‘to embezzle’ or ‘to pilfer’. This was normal practice for these people but Christians are expected to be different. Pilfering in our day would include the employer’s stationery, telephone, the time for which we are paid, etc.
In Demeanour - But Shewing All Good Fidelity
In their deportment two matters are to be displayed, which are in contrast with "purloining" in the previous verse, hence "but". The first is "shewing all good fidelity" indicating that the Christian servant should show faithfulness to God, His Word and his master. This honesty and integrity will permit the master to have implicit trust in the servant. This could vividly be illustrated from the lives of both Joseph and Daniel. Such a faithful testimony is a great boon to the gospel allowing the message to prosper in places where it normally may not reach.
The second is "that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." In v.5 the behaviour of the sisters was so that the doctrine "would not be blasphemed" and that is negative. Here the doctrine is to be adorned and this is the positive side. The word "adorned" (kosmeo) is our word ‘cosmetic’ and it means ‘to put in order’ or ‘to ornament’. This is done by the demonstration of Christ-like grace and not by any humanly devised cosmetic ornamentation. This is clear in the use of the word in other places, "women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array" 1Tim.2.9; "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel" 1Pet.3.3.
To realise that our behaviour, even in the work place, can adorn the doctrine and make it more attractive to those around must unquestionably ensure that our lives are dignified.
- to be continued (D.V.)
by Tom Wilson (Scotland)
SWEET SAVOUR OFFERINGS - THE MEAL OFFERING
(For this study please read Leviticus chapter 2.)
The meal offering was the only one of the five principal offerings that was bloodless. No animal was slain, yet the Spirit of God stresses that it was "an offering made by fire" vv.2,3,9,10,11,16; its fragrance was not that of the burnt offering, but all its fragrance – the frankincense – was a sweet savour to God. It was not the poor man’s burnt offering, as some Rabbis have suggested. It was permissible to offer the meal (or cereal or meat) offering on its own, but often it accompanied the burnt offering or peace offering; see Num.15.3,4. In Leviticus chapter 2, the guidance about the meal (or grain) offering follows the burnt offering because it often accompanied the burnt offering.
The Hebrew word minchah is translated 131 times as "meal offering." Literally, the word means "gift" but often carries a particular sense: it was the gift that was given to a superior in order to secure favour able treatment. When Jacob sought to obtain favour from Esau, he brought him a gift, Gen.32.21,22; and, for similar reasons, unwittingly he made a gift to Joseph, Gen.43.11,15. It was the common expression for tribute or homage to a ruling monarch. The word minchah captures the worshipper’s attitude before his God: he wishes to please his God.
The chapter divides into four sections, three of which conclude with a statement emphasising the importance of the offering:
the offering of fine flour, vv.1-3;
the offering of baked items, vv.4-10;
prohibitions to be respected, vv.11-13;
the offering of firstfruits, vv.14-16.
Sections 1 and 2 end with a statement such as: "it is most holy of the offerings of the Lord made by fire"; Section 4 with: "it is an offering made by fire unto the Lord." The sections relate to the three kinds of meal offering acceptable to God:
fine flour, vv.1-3;
baked in the oven or pan or pot, vv.4-11;
the first fruits of the corn, vv.14-16.
The ingredients were grain, oil, frankincense and salt. The grain might be in the form of fine flour or husked ears of corn. The offering might be offered in the three forms noted above, but God Himself specified the requirements of the altar. Clearly, the ingredients of this bloodless offering are markedly different from the other four offerings described in 1.1-3.17, and must therefore present different aspects of Christ.
The Fine Flour
The fine flour was baked for Abraham’s heavenly guests, Gen.18.6; and was on Solomon’s royal table, 1Kgs.4.22. A memorial of it was to be burned on the altar as a sweet savour. Ex.39.2 indicates that it would be fine wheaten flour, prepared from the inner kernel of the wheat ("as opposed to the whole kernel and bran"). It portrays to us the distinctiveness of the One who grew up in Nazareth, but partook of none of its coarse ways.
In smooth and silken whiteness,
Without a rough’ning grain,
In clear, unbroken brightness,
Without a speck or stain,
The fine flour in its beauty
The perfect man portrays
In all His path of duty,
In all His heavenly ways.
(I. Y. Ewan)
At vv.3,10, the meal offering, which was the right of Aaron and his sons, is called "most holy," lest it be "used for any of the ordinary purposes of life."
Oil was important in near-eastern life in Bible times. It was used for cooking and for light, but also as the base for ointments and perfumes. 800 years were to pass before Isaiah would identify the symbolic oil of Jewish ceremonies with the Holy Spirit Himself, to enable Peter to testify to Cornelius: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power." The importance of and emphasis on, the oil in this offering is evident:
"pour oil upon it" v.1;
"mingled with oil" v.4;
"anointed with oil" v.4;
"mingled with oil" v.5;
"in pieces and pour oil thereon" v.6;
"with oil" v.7;
"put oil upon it" v.15;
"of the oil", v.16.
The Gospel of Luke emphasises the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Lord Jesus. Mary conceived because the Holy Spirit came upon her, Lk.1.35. The Lord was anointed when the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him" Lk.3.22, which Luke in Lk.4.18 describes as the fulfilment of Isa.61.1,2. Luke enables us to view "Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit" Lk.4.1; "led by the Spirit into the wilderness" Lk.4.1; "in the power of the Spirit" Lk.4.14. The references to the oil in Leviticus chapter 2 find their fulfilment in the Spirit’s activity in a life in which the Spirit was neither quenched nor grieved.
Although the remnant of the meal offering was the portion of Aaron and his sons, none of the frankincense was theirs. The frankincense was tapped from trees that grew in the most unforgiving of environments, yet when the flame touched it, the odour produced was beautiful. A handful of the flour and some of the oil was burned "with all the frankincense" vv.2,16. God claimed all the frankincense, for only He could fully appreciate that precious incense. We need to be reminded that there is that about Christ that delights His Father, which we cannot fully value aright what was produced in the most difficult of environments.
The frankincense was traded long before Moses was instructed to include it in the meal offering, so too was salt. Salt was used in seasoning and in preserving foods, but also medicinally, Ezek.16.4. It was mandatory to include it in the meal offering. Later, in his prophecy of a future temple, Ezekiel wrote of salt being "cast upon" burnt offerings, Ezek.43.24. Num.18.19 uses the phrase "a covenant of salt" to describe an enduring covenant. The phrase occurs again five centuries later in Israel’s history, 2Chron.13.5.
In the context of the meal offering, principles are established which were to apply to all offerings, vv.11,13. We know that in the life of the Lord Jesus abiding principles were established, such as, "Even Christ pleased not Himself" Rom.15.3; "I do always those things that please [the Father]" Jn.8.29. No worldly influence corrupted Him in word, or thought or deed. Those principles established in vv.11,13 not only demanded salt, but they prohibited both leaven and honey. Leaven might have been added to puff up the offering to make it more presentable, honey to make it more palatable. No additions were permitted that might disguise the piquancy of the salt. The life the Lord lived before men was unattractive and unpalatable to many; and more, it left a taste they could not endure, for it revealed how unfaithful they had been in their covenant with Jehovah.
Preparing The Offering
The exercise of the offerer might be to bring cakes or wafers or pan-fried cakes. Three cooking vessels are mentioned: the oven, but not like the baker’s oven, Hos.7.4,6, but an open-topped cylinder, v.4; a large flat iron pan (or griddle), on which would be baked large flat thin cakes, v.5; and the frying pan, a pot, usually with a lid, v.7. The observer would see little of what was happening within the open-topped cylinder, but a great deal when the griddle was in use. How much he might see when the frying pan was on the flame would depend on whether or not the lid was on or off.
The Lord’s early years in Nazareth had few observers. Few in Nazareth had been impressed by the young man from a relatively poor home, or they would not have been so readily filled with wrath, Lk.4.16-30. In the course of His public ministry, many thousands saw His miracles and heard His words. Those closing scenes comprised scenes viewed almost entirely by those participating in some way, scenes that drew many out of Jerusalem to gaze on a crucifixion unlike any other; and scenes cloaked in unnatural darkness impenetrable to human gaze. But in all of them the fire tried the Holy Sufferer.
Also to be prepared for the altar were the firstfruits of the harvest. We can with some certainty identify the fine flour as wheat flour, but we do not know whether the green ears were from the barley harvest or the wheat harvest that followed some seven weeks later, Ruth 2.23. Two words are used for firstfruits in three verses; at v.12, the word (Strong 7218) means first in rank, the highest of his kind; the second word (Strong 1069), occurring twice in v.14 relates to time, so carries the sense of firstborn or firstling. We have Scriptural authority for describing our Lord as the firstborn and the firstfruit, Rom.8.29; Col.1.15,18; 1Cor.15.20,23.
"Roasted" or "parched corn" was a near-east delicacy. Wealthy Boaz reached Ruth parched corn, Ruth 2.4. It was the food of the nobility. Jesse sent by the hand of David an ephah of parched corn to sustain his conscripted sons, 1Sam.17.17. It was the food of the military. Abigail sent five measures of parched corn to appease David when her husband’s boorish behaviour had endangered her whole household, 1Sam.25.18. She esteemed it the food of royalty. At Mahanaim, David again received parched corn, this time from Shobi, Machir and Barzillai, 1Sam.25.28. They also considered parched corn to be the food of royalty. Here it is the food of Deity, so with some oil and all the frankincense, it too became an offering made by fire.
In that far-off day, the memorial handfuls of the meal offering that were placed on the altar ascended as a savour of rest, vv.2,9,16. At v.2, it is the worshipper’s handful; at v.9, the priest’s, but the memorial was delightful to God, as is the saints’ appreciation of Christ in our day.
- to be continued (D.V.)
by C. Jones (Wales)
Psalm 72 is the last Psalm in the second of the five books into which the Book of Psalms was originally divided. Each of the five books ends with a doxology. In Psalm 72, we read the prayer of the aged king David for his son Solomon who was established as king before David died. David wanted spiritual, social and economic blessings to characterise the reign of his son. The Psalm, however, looks beyond the reign of Solomon, for it is a Messianic Psalm and foretells the glorious, future millennial reign on earth of the Lord Jesus Christ. It forms an exception to the general rule that for a Psalm to be Messianic it must refer to the Messiah and be applied to Him in the New Testament.
Before he died, David instructed Solomon to walk in the ways of God and keep His commandments, 1Kgs.2.1-4, and in his early days Solomon loved the Lord, worshipped Him and sought to reign righteously. Solomon started well and "loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father", 1Kgs.3.3.
Justice is one of the themes of Psalm 72, and Solomon prayed for wisdom that he might rule and judge justly and wisely, 1Kgs.3.9-14. Under Solomon there was peace and commercial prosperity and the nation became wealthy. However, as he grew older, Solomon lived in an increasingly lavish style, disobeyed God's commandments and became involved in idolatry, moral degradation and evil, 1Kgs.11.1-8. He no longer loved the Lord as he once did, "his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God' 1Kgs.11.4, and "his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel" 1Kgs.11.9. Solomon suffered for his sins, for God stirred up adversaries against him, 1Kgs.11.9-43. Solomon's life and the changes he experienced bring to mind the admonition, "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" 1Cor.10.2
How Solomon's life contrasts with that of the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on this earth. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" Heb.7.26, and always did the things that pleased His Father, Jn.8.29. He was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross", Phil.2.8, and He finished the work His Father had given Him to do, Jn.17.4.
He shall reign, vv,1-7
'David prayed to God (Elohim), v1. The Hebrew word Elohim speaks of might, sovereignty, majesty, omnipotence, and governing and creatorial power. The title is used in connection with God in relation to His creation and His creatures. David prayed that God, Who rules in the kingdom of men, Dan.4.32, would enable Solomon to rule in accordance with the will, mind and wisdom of God. David prayed that Solomon, his son, would reign righteously, justly, equitably and without partiality. He prayed that Solomon might reign in peace and that he would right wrongs and relieve the poor and the oppressed, vv. 1-4. Such a reign would result in great blessings for the people.
V.4 tells us that he "shall break in pieces the oppressor". Solomon's peaceful and prosperous reign began with judgment on Adonijah, Shimei and Joab who had behaved in ways which were contrary to David's will and the prosperity of his kingdom. When the Lord Jesus begins His reign of righteousness and peace there will be judgment. All who oppose the Lord will be judged, the armies surrounding Jerusalem will be defeated at the battle of Armageddon and then living nations will be judged. Matt.25.31-46. The people who are saved during the Tribulation will go into the kingdom but those who are not saved will go into the eternal punishment which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
Only the Lord Jesus Christ possesses the righteousness, wisdom and justice of God for He is God incarnate, 1Tim.3.16; Jn.5.30. When He rules over the earth in the Millennium the Lord will rule with Divine wisdom, perfect justice, righteousness and peace. There can be no real peace without righteousness, for the "work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever" Isa.32.17. When the Messiah reigns there will be righteousness and peace, Ps.85.10; Isa.9.7; Mic.4.3.
Psalm 72 is David's prayer for his son Solomon, but as prophet, Acts 2.30, David looked beyond the reign of Solomon. The Lord Jesus Christ, a greater than Solomon, Matt.12.42, and His wonderful reign are in view, and God who has bestowed such a King and such blessings on the people will be revered eternally with a godly fear, v.5.
In the glorious and righteous reign of the only begotten, eternal and beloved Son of God there will be prosperity, plenty and peace, vv.6,7. Melchizedek was referred to as "King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace" Heb.7.2. The Lord Jesus Christ is "a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec Heb.7.17. Melchizedec was both king and priest. As a royal priest he was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ who is eternally the King of righteousness and King of peace, and He is our Great High Priest. The Lord will be seen in the Millennium as both King and Priest. He will be King of Righteousness, King of Peace and Priest of the Most High God. We read, "He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" Zech.6.13. The Lord Jesus Christ is the "Prince of Peace" Isa.9.6, and those of us who are believers "have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" Rom.5.1. He made peace through the blood of His cross" Col.1.20, and now we can enjoy "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" Phil.4.7. In the Millennium the Lord will rule in righteousness and will bring peace to this sin ridden world where conflicts and wars prevail.
He shall have dominion, vv.8-11
When He reigns, the Lord will have universal dominion and all people, no matter who they are or where they live, will come under His gracious, righteous and absolute dominion. God promised the land to Abraham, Gen.15.18, and in Ezek.47.13-23 the borders and boundaries of the land which will be occupied by the twelve tribes of Israel during the Millennium are delineated. However, there is no part of the world which will not be ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ at that time. All people will bow before Him and His enemies will be in submission to Him, vv.8,9. All people will be blessed when the Lord reigns and kings will gladly do homage and bring gifts to Him. Every nation will serve Him, vv.10,11.
He shall deliver, vv.12-14
When the Lord Jesus Christ walked on this earth in the days of His flesh, He showed, by His deeds and teaching, His love, grace, mercy, kindness and compassion. He is eternally unchanging, He is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" Heb.13.8, and when He reigns supreme with absolute power, He will deliver, protect and bless the poor, the needy and the weak. He will care for all His subjects, vv.12-14.
All nations shall call Him blessed, vv.15-17
All people will respond to the wonderful reign of the Lord Jesus Christ which will display His infinite power, wisdom, love and grace. Some will bring gold to Him and prayer "shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised" v.15.
Sin has affected not just mankind but the entire creation, and "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" Rom.8.22, but dramatic physical changes will take place during the reign of the Messiah. There will be prosperity and plenty. An abundance of corn will grow even on what, in the past, were barren mountain tops. In those days "the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose" Isa.5.1. Aggression will be removed from animals and the wolf "shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid… They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" Isa.11.6-9. Not only will plant and animal life flourish but men in the cities will flourish also. There will be peace and prosperity in the cities and in the country, v.16.
All the blessings people enjoy at the present time come from the unchanging God, Jms.1.17, and all spiritual blessings enjoyed by believers, both now and in eternity, are a result of the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross. His kingdom is eternal and will go on beyond the Millennium. Men will enjoy the blessings He bestows. He will be praised throughout the entire world and "all nations shall call him blessed' v.17.
Blessed be the Lord God, vv.18,19
In the doxology, vv. 18,19, God is blessed and praised because all the wonderful things that are spoken of in the Psalm will be brought about by His power and because they are in accordance with His perfect will. The name of God, Elohim, which was used in v.1 is now combined with Jehovah. We read "Blessed be the Lord [Jehovah] God [Elohim], the God [Elohim] of Israel, Who only doeth wondrous things" v.18. The name Jehovah causes us to think of the eternal, immutable, independent, self-existing God, Who has made and keeps covenants. God's name will be blessed eternally and the whole earth will be filled with His glory, v.19.
The prayers of David, v.20
David's prayers for his son Solomon are ended, v.20. David was a man of prayer: he wrote, "I cry unto Thee daily' Ps.86.3. He prayed for Solomon and he prayed for Israel and his last words show his concern for the nation, 2Sam.23.1-5.
When the Lord Jesus Christ, who is greater than Solomon, rules over Israel and the other nations, then David's prayers will be completely and finally answered in and through Him.
by B.E. Avery (England)
We often consider with profit the details of the life and witness of Joseph, but perhaps tend to ignore the lessons that can be learnt from his ten older half- brothers in their relationship with Joseph and ultimately with Joseph’s God. They too had an interesting association with how God dealt with their despised brother. Twelve stages in their history are indicated below and may stimulate some to further, spiritually rewarding study. All references are from Genesis. We can discern their:
- Resentment, 37.4-11;
- Rejection, 37.26-28;
- Remembrance, 42.21;
- Reaction, 42.21;
- Repentance (after five tests - Sin, 42.20; Truth, v.34; Greed, 43.15; Jealousy, v.34; Selfishness, 44.34);
- Response, 43.3;
- Recognition, 45.4;
- Restoration, 45.15;
- Reward, 45.21,22;
- Reunion, 46.29;
- Relapse, 50.17;
- Realisation, 50.20.
- "Three score years and ten" the Word of God declares,
- Is all man's lot in life we read, we cannot linger here.
- Perhaps a few more years are granted, this we cannot tell,
- Our life span soon is o'er, launched out for Heaven or Hell.
- Some years ago I read what another poet pens,
- That many, sadly, will not reach, the "three score years and ten".
- Says he;
- "Some to breakfast and away, others to dinner stay,
- The old man he but sups and goes to bed,
- Large is his debt who lingers out the day".
- "Three score years and ten" at length is but a fleeting stay
- And looking back along the path is but as yesterday.
- "Swift as the weaver's shuttle" as Job would say,
- Or James, "as a vapour that appeareth, and vanisheth away."
- This is our life just like a passing look,
- O heed these lessons found in God's own Book!
- He is giving us a message in this Psalm that time is short,
- Eternity is sure, and we require a refuge and a fort,
- A shelter from the coming storm our sins demand
- 'Secret' though they be from others, God has known, and planned
- A Judgment Day, for every one, sin's penalty to pay.
- Can there be a shelter from this fearsome Judgment Day?
- Read the word Isaiah has to say,
- "A man shall be a hiding place from the storm" and who is He?
- It is Christ Who died upon the cross and shed His blood, for me?
- How good that God provides for guilty sinners such as I
- A Saviour in His own dear Son, sent forth to die,
- What must be done by sinners to escape this awful throne?
- To flee to Him, there's refuge in the Lord alone,
- Believe in Him, receive Him to your heart,
- Trust Him as your Saviour now and from your sins depart.
- He bore the penalty to set you free He will forgive and take your sins away.
- You can escape the Judgment only by this way.
- He is the Saviour, He is my Saviour, He can be yours today.
- "Three score years and ten" is all the Bible states.
- "Apply your heart to wisdom" before it is too late.
- It's not the wisest thing to do to take your chance.
- Don't gamble with your soul, your life enhance
- By believing in this Saviour for security
- And by preparing now, in life's brevity
- You shall have life for all eternity.
- If on the 70 mark or more on borrowed time you are
- "By reason of strength fourscore" or more
- The message of the Psalm is this, "soon to be cut off and fly away"
- No matter just how long we stay there is for all an "appointed day"
- In which we die, not morbid is this message but glad.
- God gave His Son, born to die for sinners, the only Son He had.
- And so this brief reminder in love is sent to all
- "Prepare to meet thy God" is Amos' wise call.
Last January, in N. Ireland there was an outbreak of a bacterial infection called Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. In a two-week period it caused the death of three infants. This infection causes breathing difficulties and tissue damage. It is reported that the bacteria can take hold in areas such as sinks and in water pipes with stagnant water and can live for several days on various surfaces. A university bacteriologist reportedly said that this is a bug which is very common in nature. The hospital ordered a deep clean of the neo-natal ward involved and succeeded in eradicating the infection.
This reminds us very vividly of the greatest infection that ever affected the human race. It does not have a long, scientific name like Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, but has a simple three-letter name, sin. This entered the human race at its outset and so the whole stream was contaminated at its source and everyone is infected. Just as Pseudomonas is very common in nature; so is sin. It is common in every human being and is part of our nature. The fact that we commit acts of sin proves that we are sinners and so the Bible states, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3.23.
The result of the outbreak in the hospital was death. The Bible says of sin, "sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death" James 1.15. Again we read in God’s Word, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" Romans 5.12. This means that we will die because we are sinners. Those little children had no consciousness of sin, but they died. Death is not a result of sickness, since healthy people die, for example, in accidents; nor is it the result of old age; nor is it attributed to social conditions because rich and poor, the well-fed and the starving, all die. It is the result of sin.
The hospital ward needed a deep cleaning to eradicate the problem. It is very blessed to know that our sins can all be cleansed and that without any human agency. The detergent to remove the defilement of sin has never been discovered by man. Religion, good works, philosophy and the like, will never take away sins. Dear reader, revel in these glorious words, "the blood of Jesus Christ His [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin" 1John 1.7. The Bible declares of another company, "These are they which … have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" Revelation 7.14. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God shed His blood sacrificially on the cross of Calvary, so that God, on a righteous basis, could forgive our sins. The hymn-writer John Stockton penned precious words:
For Jesus shed His precious blood
Rich blessings to bestow;
Plunge now into the crimson flood
That washes white as snow.
It is a comfort to know that the children who died in infancy were not old enough to be responsible to God but were sheltered by the efficacy of His blood and are now in the glory. But what about the readers who are mature and are accountable to God for every sin? Those who die without the Saviour, face eternal punishment, but for all who have accepted Him, the blessings of heaven for all eternity have been purchased by His precious blood.
Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life-giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.
(L. E. Jones)
If I have taken the Christ of the cross for salvation then I should take the cross of the Christ in reproach.