ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TESTIMONY IN TROUBLOUS TIMES
by I. McKee
CHRISTIAN CONDUCT IN A MODERN WORLD
by W. A. Boyd
by J. A. Davidson
by W. W. Fereday
THE PERPLEXED PROPHET: AN OVERVIEW OF HABAKKUK
by G. Hutchinson
by J. Burnett
TAKE THE LEVITES INSTEAD
by W. Fraser Naismith
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by P. Simms
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
HAGGAI - PAPER 9 - "FROM THIS DAY I WILL BLESS YOU"
Read Chapter 2.20-23
We come to our final study in this most instructive little book. Let us have firmly established in our minds the four messages that Haggai has brought before us:
1) TO REPROVE THEIR IDLENESS, 1.1-15:
2) TO RESTORE THEIR CONFIDENCE, 2.1-9:
3) TO REBUKE THEIR UNHOLINESS, 2.10-19:
4) TO REWARD THEIR LEADER, 2.20-23.
With the third message Haggai concluded his ministry to the people at large and ended on a happy note. Now his final message is addressed to Zerubbabel personally and it is a message of encouragement.
4) TO REWARD THEIR LEADER, 2.20-23:
"And again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah." He is called, "O Zerubbabel, my servant," v23. He was a ‘key player’ at this period of Israel's history. His role is acknowledged by God in Zech.4. "Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain … The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands also shall finish it … For who hath despised the day of small things? For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel," v7-10. It is rather interesting to compare the promise made to David in 1Sam.7. Both men either built, or proposed to build, a house for God. "Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Shalt thou build Me an house to dwell in? … Also the Lord telleth thee that He will make thee an house," v5,11. Now, centuries later, Zerubbabel is promised a glorious future. God is no man's debtor!
We must consider the following:
A) The Time, v21-22:
"I will shake the heavens and the earth, and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen, and will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother." This is followed by the words, "In that day," which point forward to the end-time. See, for example, Isa.11.10-11, and 12.1.
i) The power of God over creation. We have already encountered the words, I will shake the heavens and the earth," see 2.6. The effect on men and women is described in Isa.2.19, "And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth, 2.19-21. Compare Rev.6.12-17.
ii) the power of God over empires. We must bear in mind that Zerubbabel was "governor of Judah" not ‘king of Judah,’ and therefore subject to the king of Persia. It was "the times of the Gentiles." Zerubbabel is now conducted across the centuries to the end of Gentile domination, when God will "overthrow the throne of kingdoms … and destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen." The "throne of kingdoms" is the throne of "the beast," see Rev.13.2 and 16.10. He will be a world ruler. Hence the title, "the throne of kingdoms." The "kingdoms of the heathen" and the "ten kings" who will "give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled," Rev.17.12,17. See also Rev. 19.19. The self-destruction ("every one by the sword of his brother"), is also described in Zech.14.13.
B) The Man, v23:
Whilst, of course, the Lord Jesus will reign as "King of kings, and Lord of lords," this passage clearly refers to Zerubbabel himself, "In that day, said the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord." Zerubbabel is named personally, and so is his father! Although most commentators tell us that this verse refers to the Lord Jesus, ‘of whom Zerubbabel was a type’ (quote), it does seem obvious that Zerubbabel, like David (see Jer.30.9; Ezek.24.23-24; Hosea 3.5 etc.) will have a role in the coming kingdom. Having shaken "the heavens and the earth," and overthrown "the strength of the kingdoms," God will establish His kingdom, in which Zerubbabel will have an important place. This brings us to:
C) The reward, v23:
"in that day will I take thee … and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts." Past faithfulness would bring future reward. Notice the sovereignty of God. He chooses and places His servants. See 1Cor.12.18. The faithfulness of Zerubbabel must be contrasted with the unfaithfulness of his grandfather, Jehoiachin (Coniah): "as I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence," Jer.22.24. Now the sentence is reversed. ‘The signet ring, engraved with the king's seal, was used to endorse all official documents (see Esth.8.10). It was so precious that, to guard against theft, it was usually worn on the king's person.’ (J. G. Baldwin). The words, "I … will make thee as a signet," therefore emphasise the security of Zerubbabel, the closeness of his relationship with God, and the importance of his future role. A signet conveys the authority of its owner. How much do we convey the authority of our divine Master? A signet was used to make an impression. Are we making an impression for the Lord Jesus?
It is immensely satisfying to read that both Haggai and Zechariah saw positive results from their ministry: "And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia," Ezra 6.14.
Will there be positive results in OUR lives as a result of Haggai's preaching?
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 10 - From Ancient Archives to Completion and Celebration (Ezra Chapter 5)
The focus of the narrative now shifts from Jerusalem to Babylon. In Ezra 6.1-5, we have the Divine record of Darius Hystaspes commissioning a search of the Persian archives for the text of Cyrus’ decree about rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. When at last the decree was found at the summer palace some 300 miles east of Babylon, it testified to the veracity of the elders of the Jews, Ezra 5.13-15. Detailing the site location, building specifications and budget provision, it also showed how God had preserved the consecrated vessels of the sanctuary during the years in Babylon. And if God so takes care of consecrated vessels, how much more does He take care of consecrated believers?
On the basis of Cyrus’ decree Darius provided the clarification sought by Tatnai, Ezra 5.17. Accusations against the Jewish builders were rejected and hindrance of the Temple construction was prohibited, Ezra 6.6,7. He also made generous provision from tax revenues to finance the building and ordered the supply of all that was necessary for the Levitical Offerings, Ezra 6.8,9. Truly "when a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him," Prov.16.7.
Darius desires that the Jews at Jerusalem "may offer sacrifice of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons", Ezra 6.10. A heathen emperor making such a request condemns contemporary world leaders who are oblivious to the fact that "there is a God in heaven," Dan.2.28. Finally, Darius declares that interference with the work of the house of God would incur the death sentence and, should he be unable to carry this out, invokes the power of God to effect this judgment, Ezra 6.11,12.
In Ezra 6.13 the scene reverts from Babylon to Jerusalem. Tatnai and his administrators implement instantly the decree of Darius and the building of the Temple is brought to fruition. "And they builded it, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel," Ezra 6.14. How rare this is! Do we not dream about more things than we commence, commence more things than we finish and, of the things we finish, are not most of them only half done? The builders gave priority to God before acknowledging Cyrus’ and Darius’ providential association in the rebuilding and Artaxerxes later role in maintaining the Temple. Thus they acknowledge the primacy of God’s Word, not subordinate circumstances, as the true guide to faith: a lesson we do well to learn.
Comparing Ezra 6.15 with Ezra 4.24 shows that, from the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, the rebuilding took over 4 years. It was concluded in 515 BC, some 21 years after the laying of the foundation stone! While not as glorious as that of Solomon’s, this Temple stood for 585 years, 185 years longer than Solomon’s and in its precincts walked the Son of God!
We note that Zerubbabel and Jeshua are no longer named in the historical narrative. Perhaps they had died during the period since the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah. While we cannot be sure of this, the fact remains that God’s work goes on beyond the lives and strength of men, no matter how valuable their service has been. Also the names of those persons officiating at the dedication of the house of God are not recorded, suggesting a lack of men of a spiritual calibre similar to that of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. But this does not hinder their joy in God.
The dedication of the Temple is described in Ezra 6.16-18. This house of God is for "the children of Israel", not just those of the remnant tribes. They envisage future regathering and are not prepared to accept present straightened circumstances. With anticipation of better days there is present joy unmixed with weeping, the first mention of joy in 14 years, Ezra 3.13. Nothing is gained by morbid retrospection. Whereas the sacrifices at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple totalled 142,000 animals (2 Chron.7.5) here only 100 oxen, 200 rams, 400 lambs and 12 goats are sacrificed, representing large heartedness despite prevailing circumstances.
But these people are not oblivious to reality and weakness. Hence they offer "a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel", Ezra 6.17. In this they equal the exercise of "the princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were princes of the tribes", Num.7. A consciousness of sin and the immeasurable cost of its removal must never be overlooked, even in seasons of celebration. They also instituted regular, orderly service for the Priests and Levites in accordance with first principles, "as it is written in the book of Moses", Ezra 6.18.
Then we have the keeping of the Passover, the first in association with the new Temple, Ezra 6.19-22. This feast has spiritual resonance with the deliverance from Egypt, the dedication of Solomon’s Temple and with revivals in the days of Hezekiah and Josiah. But the emphasis here is on purity. "The Priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure", Ezra 6.20. Purity and personal preparation are essential, even in days of relative poverty. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation", Ps.24.3-5.
Also, the Passover was eaten by "all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel", Ezra 6.21. These may be proselytes who had separated from Samaritan sin and/or descendants of Jews left behind in the land 70 years before. Whatever their origin it is clear that true seekers are truly separate and holy people are nourished by unleavened food. But anyone who mistakenly thinks that separation, dedication and seeking after God produce a life of drudgery should consider Ezra 6.22, "for the Lord had made them joyful". God is the source of true joy. Holiness and happiness are ever found together.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.5 – THE CONSECRATED SERVANT (Continued)
(B) Paul and the Poor Saints (Romans 15.25-29)
We noted in a previous study that Paul had expressed a desire to visit the saints in Rome, and he expected that this would materialize according to the will of God. Until the present he has been hindered in making the journey to Rome, 15.22, and now in ch.15.25-29, he goes on to explain the nature of that hindrance. He has been genuinely delayed because of the need of "the poor saints at Jerusalem," 15.26. Their deprivation outweighs his desire. The Apostle explains his impending trip to Jerusalem in very instructive terms, in which he gives us an insight into the nature of his help for them and instruction in the practical subject of relief for those in need.
The paragraph (15.25-29) divides as follows;
1. The Special Commission (v25).
2. The Saints’ Contribution (v26).
3. The Gentiles’ Indebtedness (v27).
4. The Servant’s Commitment (v28,29).
1. The Special Commission, (v25). Paul eagerly anticipated meeting the believers in Rome. He expected to enjoy their company, 15.24, and see fruit among them, 1.13, yet there was a pressing need with the saints at Jerusalem. For this consecrated servant of God, the daily burden of the care of all the assemblies, 2Cor.11.28, affected how he lived and served his Master. The Apostle to the Gentiles would have relished the opportunity to preach the gospel in Rome, the metropolis of the Gentile world’s greatest empire. With the eye of an evangelist he could envisage the attentive audiences and the abundant fruit among them. As the special custodian of the mystery doctrines of the New Testament he would thrill at the thought of imparting some spiritual gift to the assemblies already established in the city. Their faith and obedience had spread abroad, 1.8; 16.19, and they would be well able to assimilate the strong meat in the teaching he would give. Many a lesser man would have forgotten the plight of a few poor saints at Jerusalem; after all who would really want to be the "Jerusalem postman?" Surely it would be more profitable to make straight for Rome and fulfil a life-long ambition? Not so with Paul. We have already seen the difference in Paul as a consecrated servant, and others. His big concern is always to do the Master’s will. He does not worship at the shrine of numbers, and as a lowly bondservant he is not affected by status.
(A) Commissioned to visit Jerusalem, "But now I go unto Jerusalem …".
The conjunction "but" highlights the contrast between Paul and many others. In spite of the very real attractions of Rome he is driven in another direction by a sense of duty and service to Christ. The passive form of the expression "now I go," shows that Paul had not taken this service for Jerusalem upon himself - he was under the control of Another. The gives a beautiful balance to his spiritual motivation for the trip. There was a need in Jerusalem and the saints in Macedonia and Achaia had provided to meet that need, and someone must make the 800 miles or so to take their provision to Jerusalem. While Paul’s compulsion was strong enough to cause him to postpone an intended trip to Rome, it was not a compulsion of his own making. This was the service of God and His people.
(B) Commissioned to minister to the saints, "… to minister unto the saints."
The word that Paul used to describe his activity as "ministry," is the general word for deacon service and has the idea of benefiting others. What a dignity this imparts to the trip and the gift. It also has the idea that the undertaking of the journey itself was part of that service. It was not that he was travelling to Jerusalem and would then serve the saints while he was there. The journey itself was a vital ingredient in the service. This ought to encourage us to be diligent in everything we do in the service of Christ: even the more mundane tasks are ennobled with the dignity of service for the Master. This was not a secular duty, like the distribution of charity to the needy. It was a sacred and dignified service, recognized by the Lord. There is a modern counterpart seen in the material and financial assistance sent by assemblies in countries where there is abundance, to saints in other needy parts. Careful note should also be taken of how this service was carried out. The relief was carried by trusted stewards, directly to the saints in need. This can still be done today. It is very unwise for assemblies to send relief to needy saints other than by trusted representatives. The relief was delivered right to the saints, not to a secular relief agency in Jerusalem. The donors maintained their autonomy and the integrity of their gift.
2. The Saints’ Contribution, (v26).
(A) The Recipients. The expression "the poor saints at Jerusalem" indicates their utter destitution. Likely, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were not in such penury, but there was a definite need among the believers. This need was sufficiently grievous to move the hearts of the saints in Macedonia and Achaia when they heard of it.
(B) The Contributors. A casual reading of these verses might make you think that the point of the passage is that Gentiles were giving to Jews, or that the rich were giving to the poor. The emphasis in the passage is neither. The saints in Macedonia and Achaia had been partakers of spiritual things and were sending help in material things. This is more than rich/poor; Jew/Gentile. The point is that what was being done was spiritual in nature. We ought to remember this when we respond to a material need, and give of our substance for the assistance of others — it is a spiritual exercise. Notice, too, that they "were pleased to make a certain contribution …". They had a genuine delight in what they had undertaken to do. How do we give? Is it a delight or a drudgery? A delighted believer will be happy to dig deeply into his resources for the blessing of others. Conversely, one whose pleasure is shallow in this sort of exercise, will always have a shallow pocket!
(C) The Contribution. The phrase "a certain contribution", indicates that there was a specific exercise behind the gift. This was not what happens when a person hears of a need and shrugs his shoulders saying, "well, if you’re stuck come and see me." Exercised saints with burdened hearts responded in a way that helped the needy and glorified the Lord. The word "contribution" is the word translated "fellowship," Acts 2.42, and "communion," 1Cor.10.16. The help sent to Jerusalem was more than the currency of the day; the gift of money was imbued with the bonds of Christian love and spiritual affection. It possessed such a spiritual beauty and dignity that the Apostle was prepared to give himself wholeheartedly to its safe conveyance to Jerusalem.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. A. Davidson (Northern Ireland)
PAPER 7 — ATTIRE : PART 2
THE NEW ADORNING:
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ," Gal.3.26-27. Christ is said passively to be put on by believers when He dwells in their hearts by faith. That is at conversion we become indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are thus put into vital union with Christ. "Put on Christ" means that He is the expression of our standing as in Christ before God. This is positional in dignity and character as sons, v26, by salvation, v27. Our new garments declare: "for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found," Lk.15.24.
We are to be clothed in the new man; what God has created in us. God never patches up an old garment. God is continually bringing this new creation into a full knowledge of Himself where there is no national, religious or social distinctions: "But Christ is all in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another," Col.3.11-13. This is our spiritual apparel, the wardrobe of the new man, the practical sevenfold beauty of those who are chosen, sanctified and loved. "Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness," Eph.4.24.
Clothing is the outward index of the inward life. How we dress outwardly expresses the inward. Character finds expression in the nature of our attire. The proud adorn conspicuously, the lewd dress indelicately, the casual tend to appear shabbily but the spiritual are attired with modesty. Clothing and covering:-
Manifests commitment: For example at the Wedding, "When the King came in to see the guests, He saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment," Matt.22.11.
Shows readiness: In holy living. "Gird up (as a loose flowing garment) the loins of your mind," 1Pet.1.13.
Reveals character: Paul described modest apparel. "Which becometh women professing godliness with good works," 1Tim.2.10.
Reflects occasion: In the coming together of the Church, Paul says of the woman: "Let her be covered," 1Cor.11.6.
Brings conformity: At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, "To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: For the fine linen is the righteousness of saints," Rev.19.8.
Declares consummation: "The Holy City, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband," Rev.21.2.
The fruit of the Spirit in the believer's life will be manifest in the translation of what is represented in imputed righteousness (unseen) into an imparted holiness (seen) in life and conduct.
These pages will be read by the Lord's people from the cold regions of the earth to the heat of the tropics. As we claim the solemnity of the Presence of God wherever we meet, it is imperative that the company of saints in whatever society, be marked by dignity and godliness. This applies to the man as well as the woman. To dress down in modern lightsome casual dress is not in keeping with reverence in the Lord's presence. "Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire," Heb.12.28-29. "I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array," 1Tim.2.8-9. Thus Paul considers the literal outward adornment to be a manifestation of ‘shamefacedness’ which is translated ‘reverence’ in Heb.12.28. ‘Modest’ means ‘well arranged, seemly, decent, proper, becoming or orderly.’ The word ‘apparel’ refers to ‘a garment let down’ and ‘loose.’ The emphasis is on a garment that does not accentuate the precise figure of a woman's body.
"Be not conformed (fashioned) to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God," Rom.12.2. We cannot serve God with this world (age) as our model. The renewed mind had a new way of thinking so that these things which appealed to our unregenerate mind no longer attract. The catwalk's scant attire of the modern fashion world should have no appeal to the child of God. We are to shun every appearance of evil. The styles of women partially uncovered stir base desires and make provision for the lusts of the flesh. Adam forfeited his distinguished garment of innocency and became unclothed. Sin brought death and nakedness, mankind became undraped, blushingly self-conscious, left in a state of shame and confusion.
Artificial clothing began with fig leaf aprons of the sin stained garden and mankind ever since, has struggled with an inadequate remedy. Even coats of animal skin indicate a decline to a lower order of clothing than God's ideal. Fallen mankind has turned the evidence of our humiliation to a manifestation of human pride. Outrageous plume, feathered headwear, rich woolliness, fur skins and the hide of the beast have been used to manifest sinful depravity. The climax of man's rebellion will be the worship of the Beast and the blasphemy of the Woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, Rev.17.3-4.
The godly and saintly will avoid the modern with becoming unostentatiousness, choosing sobriety rather than the costly. We also avoid the extreme of distasteful appearance or shabby dowdiness. God forbade garments fabricated from the mixture of wool and linen. This mixture in a hot climate causes inflammation of the flesh and the draining of strength. Wool is an animal product for the comfort of the flesh but linen speaks of the righteousness of saints and the promotion of the spiritual.
Find the virtuous woman of Proverbs: "Strength and honour are her clothing," Prov.31.25. We live in a world of camouflage and counterfeit. Human parade should never be seen in the assembly. Nature itself is usually very sparing of glaring colours. Loveliness needs not the aid of foreign adornment and the grace of God is the beauty of Heaven. The fashions of earthlings change. Have we ever looked at an old photograph and exclaimed "Such a sight!" God's fashions never change; in the next section we shall consider apparel which is incorruptible.
We have seen in the Pauline writing that we are to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," Rom.13.14. Put on Christ-likeness, Col.3.12. "Put on the new man," Col.3.10; Eph.4.24. "Put on the armour of light," Rom.13.12. How blessed the prospect of the Lord's return. we shall put on immortality, 1Cor.15.53. "For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life," 2Cor.5.2-5. The present state of departed saints is the unclothed state. They await the rapture of the saints when with the living: "We shall be changed," 1Cor.15.51. "When this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality," 1Cor.15.33. The consummating gain will be to be alive at His Coming. We groan being burdened by the frailties and limitations of this body. Paul's metaphor is that of putting one garment over another not to cover it but to absorb and transfigure it. "Who shall change our vile body (body of limitations), that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body," Phil.3.21.
Let us presently be adorned in the beautiful garments of practical santification, the white raiment of the overcomer, the adornment of a meek and quiet spirit, the elegant comeliness of a Christ-like life. What we weave down here is intimately associated with what we shall wear up there.
The supreme example is Christ: "The Altogether Lovely." In birth He knew the wrapping around of swaddling clothes, for He became poor; in sacrifice, they parted His seamless raiment among them; on the Mount, He was transfigured before them; "His raiment was white as the light," Matt.17.2. Paul says we shall be fashioned like unto His glorious body, Phil.3.21. As we have put on Christ, let us put on the Christ likeness of the new man, for the night is far spent, the day is at hand. R. Murray McCheyne penned the words:-
"When I stand before Thy Throne
Dressed in beauty not mine own;
When I see Thee as Thou art -
Love Thee with unsinning heart;
Then Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe."
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 6 — "TAKE OF THE BLOOD"
In Ex.12.7, for the first time in Holy Scripture, we have blood mentioned in connection with man’s deliverance and blessing. In various passages in the book of Genesis, blood is spoken of as the evidence of human guilt (notably in the story of Cain and Abel), and in the early chapters of Exodus blood is twice introduced as one of God’s judgments upon rebellious Egypt, 4.9, 7.17. Now, in accordance of the Paschal lamb, it comes before us as the means whereby God’s believing people were sheltered from destruction. From this point onward to the close of the book of God, the doctrine of atoning blood stands out in unmistakable characters. By blood, and by blood alone, can men be saved.
These were the instructions given to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: "They shall take of the blood and strike it on the two side-posts and on the upper door-post of the houses wherein they shall eat it," Ex.12.7. Further on in the chapter we hear Moses addressing the elders of Israel thus: "Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side-posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning," v21-22. The various steps were thus made perfectly clear for God’s people. The dullest amongst them could not well misunderstand what was so essential to his salvation. First the lamb was to be selected for sacrifice; then it was to be brought into the house, four days later it was to be killed; and finally the blood was to be sprinkled upon the lintel and side-posts of the house of every man of Israel. It was not enough to kill the lamb, nor even to preserve the blood in a basin, it must be sprinkled in obedience to the word of Jehovah.
The meaning for us in this day is plain enough. Christ, the Lamb of God, has been slain: His precious blood has been shed; all that God requires from the sinner who would escape the wrath to come is to accept these mighty facts in simple-hearted faith. But just as in Egypt that night no man could help his neighbour, each being compelled to sprinkle the blood for himself. So now no man can shelter himself under the cloak of another’s faith; each must appropriate for himself Christ’s precious blood as the only safeguard of his soul. To those who have done this, Peter writes thus: "Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory: that your faith and hope might be in God," 1Pet.1.18-21. The sentiments expressed in this passage manifestly go far beyond anything that was experienced in Egypt in Moses’ day. Then it was simply a matter of keeping God as Judge out of the house; now, on the righteous basis of the blood of Christ, every believer is brought to God, accepted and taken into favour in the risen One, and withal entitled to know it in the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Graeme Hutchinson (N. Ireland)
In the opening chapter of the prophecy, Habakkuk desired to express the burden that was upon his heart. To his credit, he approached the right Person - the Lord! We may sub-divide the chapter into three:
The Anxiety of Habakkuk
In 1.1-4 we learn of what troubled the prophet. Although the succeeding verses will indicate that the burden was heavy for Habakkuk, it is also important to appreciate that such emotional concerns went with the job! For example, other OT prophets that spoke of burdens include Isaiah (Isa.13.1); Nahum (Nah.1.1); Zechariah (Zech.9.1, 12.1) and Malachi (Mal.1.1). Clearly the role of these prophets was to convey a very weighty message, often embracing warnings of judgment and appeals for repentance. Is this not the same for us today, as we carry forth the message of the gospel? May the sight of such a burden have the same impact upon us as it did upon Habakkuk - drawing us into the sanctuary and prompting earnest prayer and supplication.
As we read these opening verses of the prophecy, it is obvious that the concerns of Habakkuk came in three directions:
Habakkuk was saddened at the iniquity of the nation. On two occasions in the opening verses of ch.1, Habakkuk uses a word to sum up the condition of the nation - ‘Violence,’ v2,3. Clearly things were bad, for this word reminds us of the days of Noah: ‘… the earth was filled with violence,’ Gen.6.11. Moreover, the people were neglecting the law, v4, unlike in the earlier days of king Josiah where the law was revered, 2Chron.34.14,19, and kept 2Chron.34.31. Obviously the extent of sin within an individual or nation can be judged by how far removed they are from the Word of God. For the believer, we ought to follow the example of the Psalmist: ‘Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee,’ Ps.119.11.
Habakkuk was saddened at the injustice of the righteous. In Habakkuk 1.4b, the prophet spoke of how the righteous were being compassed (Strong 3803 - besieged or hemmed in) by the wicked. Those who sought to live acceptably before the Lord were finding their path fraught with difficulty and opposition. For us today, such problems should not take us unawares, for the Lord has already given us clear warning: ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation,’ Jn.16.33.
Therefore, to be forearmed! As the Apostle Paul could speak to the saints at Corinth, this age is not for reigning, 1Cor.4.9, but rather for service and opposition, 1Cor.4.10-13.
Habakkuk was saddened at the apparent inactivity of the Lord. Coupled with the concerns already outlined, an added burden for Habakkuk was that his prayers seemingly fell on closed ears, v2. The Psalmist in Ps.13.1-4 expressed a similar concern: ‘How long wilt thou forget me … How long wilt thou hide thy face from me.’ Many believers today feel the same anxiety, when they wonder why God remains silent to their prayers. However, the answer to this surely comes from the central tenet of the prophecy, namely that we ought to exercise faith, Heb.2.4; Ps.13.5. Accepting that God's will is perfect, Rom.12.2 and that our present circumstances, no matter how difficult, are the best that God has for us at the moment. This is the point that the prophet eventually reaches in Hab.3.17-18.
The Answer for Habakkuk
In 1.5-11 the Lord replied to the concern of Habakkuk that his prayers were being unanswered. One wonders whether the reply was even more burdensome than the earlier concerns expressed in v1-4. The nation of Babylon was to be used as the rod to punish Judah! In this section we may observe the following:
In 1.5-6 we have the invasion of Babylon (Chaldeans). Even the Lord anticipated the way that Habakkuk would respond to the news of Babylon being used to punish Judah: ‘I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe,’ v5. Judah was amongst those dwelling places that Babylon would possess by invasion, and this was the beloved nation of Habakkuk. Truly, ‘how unsearchable are His (God's) judgments and His ways past finding out,’ Rom.11.33. The apostle Paul in Acts 13.41 later quoted Hab.1.5, where again it is used as a word of warning.
In 1.7-11 we have the description of Babylon. The way in which the Lord described the nation of Babylon makes for sober reading. Verses 7a and 8 show that they were aggressive. Some of the descriptive terms include terrible, dreadful, and fierce as the evening wolves. Verses 7b and 11 illustrate that they were arrogant: ‘their dignity shall proceed of themselves’ and to them, their strength was their god. Verses 9 and 10 remind us that they were able - gathering prisoners (or captivity) as the sand, and treating other kings in a contemptible way.
However, as we contemplate this nation that was to invade Judah, it would remind us of two things. Firstly, the rebellion of Judah must have been very great to warrant such punishment. Secondly, the righteousness of God is equally great. As Habakkuk states himself in a different context, God is ‘of purer eyes than to behold evil,’ 1.13, and thus sin within Judah had to be punished. Surely this ought to promote a godly life in each of His children today, as we remember just how holy is our God, 1Pet.1.14-16.
The Appeal from Habakkuk
These were difficult times for Habakkuk. His nation had followed a path of sin and rebellion, and now he was informed that they were to be invaded by Babylon. From 1.12 to 2.1, the prophet begins to reason with God. The reasoning takes a threefold approach:
In 1.12-14 he speaks of the God that is Wonderful. As with any true prophet, Habakkuk begins to reason with God on the basis of His character. In these verses we have presented some very precious truths relating to God. Firstly, we note that He is the Everlasting One. Here the prophet uses similar language to that found in Mic.5.2 — One who has no beginning, and who will have no end. As Rev.1.8 states, ‘I am Alpha and Omega.’ He is also the Holy One, a phrase particularly common within the prophecy of Isaiah (see, for example, Isa.1.4; 5.19,24; 12.6). The holiness, in the light of Prov.5.21 — ‘for the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings’ — it is important for us to walk circumspectly, Eph. 5.15. He is also the Sovereign One, Babylon had been established by God to fulfil His own sovereign purpose, albeit unknown to the Babylonians! This One is also our God, He is in complete control and nothing happens to His children without His knowledge and permission, Matt.10.29-31. Finally, the prophet spoke of God as the Mighty One, (Strong 6697 - rock or refuge). This is the same term that is used in Deut.32.4: ‘He is the Rock, His work is perfect.’ This is One who is deserving of continual remembrance, Deut.32.18; One we can go for shelter and security.
Therefore, on the basis of God's character, Habakkuk found it difficult to understand how (and why) God would use a nation like Babylon to punish Judah. The inhabitants of Judah were just like the fish of the sea, v14, vulnerable and open to attack from the Babylonians. However, perhaps Habakkuk was forgetting that to which he had borne testimony, namely that God is sovereign. Often we too have to bow and accept that whilst His ways are not our ways, Isa.55.8-9, He is in control.
In 1.15-17 he speaks of the nation that was wicked. Just as the fisherman take the fish from the sea, the Babylonian Empire was able to trawl through the nations and take captive those they desired. They were also dealing treacherously with their prey, v13, and they worshipped that which had brought them success, v16. Why was God allowing his to happen, enquired Habakkuk! As we now shall observe, the only place where God's servants can understand such complex matters is when they are alone, in the sanctuary, Ps.73.17.
In 2.1 he speaks of the prophet that waited. Such was the confidence that the prophet had in God, he went to the watchtower to await and see how God would respond to his arguments. Perhaps patience is one of the most difficult of all virtues, however, it is numbered amongst those qualities mentioned in 2Pet.1.5-8. Morever, as the prophet Isaiah could state in Isa.64.4: ‘the Lord worketh for him that waiteth upon Him’ (RV). Although it forms part of the next section of the prophecy, 2.2 illustrates that God again responded to the concerns of His prophet: ‘And the Lord answered me …’. May we take comfort from the fact that we too can approach the throne of grace with confidence, Heb.4.16, conscious that the Lord will respond to our fears. Often, however, we are called to wait!
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Jim Burnett (Scotland)
Psalm 102.7. Also Matthew 10.28-31; Luke 12.4-7
The book of Psalms is one of five consecutive books in the Old Testament that form a group by themselves, commonly called the poetic books.
1. Job - the EXPERIENCE of SORROW:
2. Psalms - the EXPRESSION of JOY:
3. Proverbs - the ENTRANCE of TRUTH:
4. Ecclesiastes - the EMPTINESS of EARTH:
5. Song of Songs - the ENJOYMENT of LOVE:
The Psalmist deals with many topics and draws lessons from the most insignificant and in our verse, Ps.102.7 it is the sparrow. The verse can be considered in a two-fold way. Firstly, the Psalmist relates for us an experience that he had known in a deeply personal way. What it was we do not know but the language conveys something most grievous. Secondly the spiritual eye can see something of what our beloved Saviour endured at the place called Calvary. In these articles we shall consider the verse in this dual aspect, firstly thinking of the Psalmist's experience.
Note things in the verse that are marked by their absence.
I. "I watch" - NO RELAXATION:
II. "Am as a sparrow" - NO ESTIMATION:
III. "Alone" - NO CONSOLATION:
IV. "Upon the house top" - NO PROTECTION.
Many years ago we were privileged to listen to a brother expounding the truth of the tabernacle. Each evening he highlighted certain pieces of furniture under the same headings — its POSITION; its PATTERN; its PURPOSE; its PRACTICAL TEACHING. The Lord's Day following, another servant came more than 60 miles away and knowing nothing of the former ministry he spoke on things that were absent from the tabernacle — no WINDOW; no FLOOR; no SEAT etc. Again if we turn to 1 Samuel there are seven things that were not there. Here are the first three. The reader should seek out the others and be prepared to read through to the last chapter!
1.2 - Hannah NO CHILDREN:
3.1 - There was NO OPEN VISION:
4.21 - There was NO GLORY.
Coming back to our verse:
I. NO RELAXATION:
Why was the Psalmist so alert, so vigilant, continually watching? The reason is found in v8, "Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me." He was ever conscious of the fact that his enemies were never far away. Relaxation for one minute could have been disastrous. We hear the Lord giving His disciples some timely words, "watch and pray."
In these days of drift and departure we would do well to take these words to heart. To drop our defence would only serve to expose us to the fiery darts of the evil one. This warning is required by all. NO servant regardless of how godly, how knowledgeable about the Bible, how well respected among the saints is above the temptations of the devil. It is not what we are ORALLY that matters — it is what we are MORALLY. Remember what it says of Solomon, "even him did outlandish women cause to sin." Neh.13.26.
Because we are so vulnerable it behoves us to cleave wholeheartedly to God and to the Word of His grace. Let us watch and pray lest we enter into temptation. We shall remember the words of an old sister — Satan tempts to bring out the worst in us but God tests to bring out the best in us.
Lest there should be misunderstanding we should add that it is not wrong to relax in the sense of taking a holiday from the routine and pressure of life. Did not the Lord Jesus say to His own, "Come ye yourselves apart and rest awhile?"
II. NO ESTIMATION:
The writer lines himself to a sparrow. This particular bird is mentioned in four contexts in the Bible — twice in the gospels and twice in the Psalms. In Matthew and Luke it is the WORTHLESSNESS of the bird that is highlighted. Matt.10.29 says that two sparrows are sold for a farthing, thus we expect four for two farthings. But no! Lk.12.6 tells us that we would get five — one is thrown in for good measure. The bird is of no real value. It is lightly esteemed in the eyes of men. This was true of the Saviour and true of all who love Him and follow Him bearing His reproach. The world has not changed. They have no time for God, His Christ and therefore for His church. We cannot expect to be treated differently from our beloved Lord. It is not that we should invite the scorn of men but if we have never known what it means to be lightly esteemed by a world that put Him on the cross then we would do well to ask, "Am I really living the Christian life as I should?" Food for thought!
To encourage those who are despised by the world we should note that there is One in heaven who loves us:
Rom.5.8, "But God commendeth His love toward us," Literally HIS OWN LOVE.
Rom.8.32, "He that spared not HIS OWN SON,"
Heb.13.12, "that He might sanctify the people with HIS OWN BLOOD, suffered without the gate."
How blessed, how encouraging to be among HIS OWN!
III. NO CONSOLATION:
The common house sparrow is usually found in company with others, even in flocks. Here it is alone. There are two things many fear in life — one is POVERTY and the other LONELINESS. While the writer of this paper has never really experienced either, we judge loneliness to be feared the most. Of course being alone is different from being lonely. Some of our sweetest moments have been spent alone with God, alone with our thoughts. This was so with Jacob. In Gen.32 he was left alone with God and he had an unforgettable experience. When the sun rose upon him a new day had dawned and he had felt the transforming hand of God. From that day on, he halted upon his thigh. Another has said, "Far better for THE SUN TO RISE upon a LIMPING ISRAEL than for THE SUN TO SET upon a LYING JACOB." Loneliness is quite different. There are many lonely people these days. Bedridden saints, sometimes forgotten, who long for a visit. Just someone to call for a few minutes, a little reading, a short prayer, a kind word — that's all that's required. To all lonely hearts could I cheer your spirit and tell you that there is One above, standing behind the shadows, keeping watch over His own. You can confidently cast "all your care upon Him for He careth for you," or as another puts it so beautifully, "It matters to Him about you." What a heart warming thought to enjoy. It matters to Him that you are lonely; It matters to Him that you are so weak and ill; It matters to Him that your family are still not saved; It matters to Him that in middle life you have lost your job.
Remember these three phrases spoken by the Lord?
John 19.30, "It is finished" - I AM SAVED;
Luke 4.4,8,10, "It is written" - I AM SURE:
Matt.14.27, "It is I" - I AM SATISFIED.
That He is the only source of help is declared again by the Psalmist in Ps.121.1, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." Another rendering perhaps gives the better meaning when is in the form of a question, "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come?" The answer is given, v2 "My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth." There is no source of help on earth or from among men — it comes from the Lord Himself who is all powerful.
IV. NO PROTECTION
This sparrow is on the housetop and exposed to the elements — rain, wind and storm. Sometimes we feel the full force of the storms of life. Mk.4.37 says "there arose a great storm." Sometimes storms arise without much warning — a phone call; a knock at the door; a late night visitor — and suddenly life is thrown into turmoil. Events come that change your life completely. But please note that Mk.4 says that "He arose."
Dear child of God as you face the storms of life please keep before you this blessed thought, that no matter what may arise in your experience, He Himself will arise to bring comfort, to bring sweet peace.
One day and perhaps soon He will arise and say to all of us, "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away." S. of S. 2.13. Away from all the storms, from all the sorrow, all the pain and enter into the eternal joy of his presence.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. Fraser Naismith (Scotland)
The nation of Israel was divided thus: A large company, males of 20 years old and upwards; they were the Warriors. A smaller company composed of one tribe, viz. Levi, and they were the Workers. Then there was the smallest company of all embracing one family — Aaron and his sons, and they were Worshippers.
The tribe of Levi was brought near, Num.3.6. One can readily appreciate that a people at a distance could not possibly serve the Lord suitably. They were presented before Aaron, the priest, that they might minister to him. The believer today has been brought nigh, from the place of distance, by the precious blood of Christ, and been presented by the Father to Christ, Jn.17.6.
This tribe was chosen instead of the firstborn. God had claimed every firstborn as His, and such were accepted on the ground of redemption. There is not only the evidence of Divine sovereignty but also of Divine possession, for, said Jehovah, "They shall be Mine." Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a ‘first-born one’ (in Heb.12.23 the noun is in the plural and refers to the redeemed — ‘first-born ones’). Paul's words are true — "ye are not your own," 1Cor.6.19 — for we have been bought and redeemed. We have been the objects of divine election before we had a being: compare Ps.139.16 with Eph.1.4. Election is the sovereign act of God: we had neither voice nor choice in that matter, otherwise it could not be His election.
The Levites represented the congregation of Israel and acted for them. They were connected with the High Priest subjectively; that is, they were in a position where they had to obey. If we would serve the Lord Christ acceptably we must first know His salvation — the redemption which is in Christ Jesus — then our wills must be subordinate to His. We would follow the example of the Perfect Servant who said "Not My will, but Thine be done." Levi was separated to God; yet, in an interesting manner, connected with all Israel, Num.8.6-14. The moral ground of Levi's title to serve the Lord may be seen by examining the blessing of Moses upon that tribe, Deut.33.8-11. It was threefold: not to see their parents; not to know their children; and not to acknowledge their brethren. In other words, all natural claims had to be set aside while the things of Jehovah were given paramount place in their lives. How aptly this applies to the many servants of the Lord who have gone to lands afar to declare the Glad Tidings!
Moses, representing the claims of Jehovah, sprinkled water of purifying upon them, Num.8.7-22. Water symbolises a number of things in Holy Writ; sometimes it signifies the Word of God. It was befitting that the thing which typified the Word of God should be applied to them. Then a razor was used to remove the growth of nature: for there can be no place for the flesh in the things of the Lord. Then the garments had to be washed; and this would suggest that the habits have to be cleansed, for only a person who knows what it is to be crucified with Christ can effectively preach a crucified Christ. After that, a young bullock with his meal offering, and a young bullock for a sin offering, were taken and presented to God. The meal offering, composed of fine flour and oil, eloquently speaks of Christ and the Spirit — the Lord Jesus Christ was begotten of the Holy Ghost and was anointed with the Holy Ghost in view of the service in which He would engage for God, His Father. He was "justified in the Spirit." One bullock was for a burnt offering, v12, and this typifies that perfect life given up wholly for God. The other bullock was for a sin offering, and denotes that life given up on our behalf.
The words of Num.18 are addressed to Aaron, who typifies Christ in many ways. Aaron was the High Priest in Israel, while Christ is become a High Priest of good things to come. V2 shows us the tribe of Levi in relationship to Aaron and they are spoken of as "thy brethren." Our blessed Lord is "not ashamed to call them (us) brethren," Heb.2.11. The Levite was "joined unto thee," signifying the union which has been made and which is indissoluble; nor can all the changes of time impair it, Jn.17.21. The Levite was "to minister unto thee," symbolising that activity in which we engage today as we would serve God. One can readily appreciate that external service should never be severed from the priesthood that enters inside the sanctuary. Service outside is dependent upon the activities of Christ within; for His words are ever true, "Without Me ye can do nothing." In Num.18.9-19 God indicated the priestly position in the camp of Israel; they had their portion from specified offerings, and they ate the shewbread. In v20-24 we are informed what the Levite's position was, and how God had ordained that the tithes of the people would be for their support and sustenance. The priests fed from within, while the Levites fed from without; yet both received their portion from Jehovah. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians he had in mind this passage in Num.18. The Levite, who ministered about holy things, lived of such things; while the priest, who waited at the altar, was a partaker with the altar, 1Cor.9.13.
In 1Cor.16.2 the Holy Spirit gives guidance as to our giving; we have to ‘lay by’ as God has prospered us. It may be some of us will blush for shame at the Day of Review when our givings are examined in the light of our prosperity! Who ordains and sends forth to serve? The Lord Himself, as indicated in Mk.3.14 and 6.7!
Christ, the Son of God, has sent me
Through the midnight lands:
Mine the mighty ordination
Of the pierced hands.
(From Ter Steegen's Poems).
Locality makes no difference so far as the servant is concerned. Assemblies do not control the servant and his activities for the Lord. He is responsible to the Lord alone, and shall give account to Him for the manner in which he has used or abused his opportunities. Though the assemblies do not control the servant they have a responsibility towards those who serve the Lord, as Paul indicated in 1Cor.9.11: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" And again, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service," 2Cor.11.8. There is a principle enunciated to which we would do well to take heed, viz., "To do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased," Heb.13.16.
May the Lord be pleased to teach to us our responsibility towards the Levites — those who serve the Lord Christ, at this present moment!
by Peter Simms (Canada)
I had the privilege of being brought up in a godly home and was saved as a boy of eleven.
In our home the Bible was daily read, and I bowed my knee daily with the rest of the family as we were committed to the Lord by my Father. Twice on Lord’s Day and twice during the week, we walked a couple of miles to the regular meetings in the Arnstein Gospel Hall. In 1948 a new Gospel Hall was built, and a couple of preachers Mr. Albert Joyce, and Mr. Frank Pearce came for a series of gospel meetings in the new hall. They were powerful preachers of the old school, who were not much concerned with scholarship in a gospel meeting, and as I went to listen to them preach nightly, I was brought, by the Spirit of God, under conviction of sin, and awful soul trouble. All thoughts of playing and sporting myself were gone, as I had but one burning desire, I wanted to be saved. One day while lying on a couch on the veranda, my very wise mother who could detect something was wrong with her son, came and very gently sat beside me and said, "Son, you want to be saved don’t you?" And with a quivering lip I answered, "Yes, mother, I want to be saved." She told me to stay behind and talk with the preachers, and that I did, but it was to no avail, for I knew all that they were telling me.
The meetings ended, the preachers left, and I was not saved. My awful distress though, never left me, I was in total misery and fear. One night I lay in bed, looking out through the window across the horizon, unable to sleep for fear the Lord might come or I might die during the night. As I lay there in my desperation, I told the Lord that I could not believe any more than I did and that I would have to go to hell because my belief was too small. As I lay there giving up, knowing I was lost, a verse from a Sunday school text flashed into my mind, and I quote it now as it came to my young mind "if thou shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." In a split second it dawned on me that Jesus had died for me, and that God had raised Him from the dead. I believe it, and God says I’m saved. It’s more than fifty years now, but the moment is as fresh in my mind as the night I got saved.
I was baptised and received into the Brock Avenue Gospel Hall in the city of Toronto, Canada. There I was married to Marlene Booth and we served the Lord in that assembly for a number of years. There was always a deep exercise to know the Lord but I had great problems concerning the old man who was supposed to be dead, but in my experience seemed to be very much alive. A brother from Scotland, called David Craig, who served the Lord mostly in Ireland, came to visit Canada. He never knew it, but God sent him for me, because he took up the great subjects of the gospel and I learned what positional truth was, and at long last I realised I was free. From then on I began to grow spiritually, and a great desire to tell others of the gospel gripped my soul. This we did in open air work, hospital visitation and as brethren throughout the city invited me to preach the gospel at various meetings, on Sunday nights.
There came a time when I wanted to give my life in some way to the service of the Lord, and one day in His presence I bowed before Him, and put my life, and all I had on the altar of dedication. It was a very real experience and is still fresh in my mind though initially done so long ago.
Having always loved the gospel, and having learned from Mr. David Craig that God put me in Christ and thus gave to me all that heaven could give, I felt I owed it to others to tell them of the same glorious gospel that set me free. We moved to the Birchcliff assembly and after some years of prayer and soul exercise before the Lord, my wife and I made known, to the responsible brethren, our exercise. They assured us they would not stand in our way, and so we took the next step and wrote to brother Danny Usher of Trinidad, whom we heard give a missionary report of his work in the Caribbean in general and Trinidad in particular. He informed us that there were a number of Islands in the Caribbean with no missionaries. He advised us to come and visit the islands. This I did, and visited Antigua, Trinidad, and Dominica. It was here in Dominica I met Mrs. S. McCune and a very small assembly with six in the fellowship, and a whole island lying in spiritual darkness. God seemed to say to me, this is the place for you. I was thirty years of age, strong and adventurous, qualities which I later realised I needed. I went home to Toronto and was told by a preaching brother that I should not go to this island with my little family, for we would never last. Within a few days we got a letter from a brother in the Caribbean encouraging us to come, and expressing the great need. So in happy fellowship with our assembly, in September 1969 we set off for Dominica. There we spent twenty five years, the best years of our life. Sinners heard the gospel, many were saved, and assemblies were formed. They are at this present time functioning as New Testament assemblies and preaching the same gospel we took to them many years ago.
We would covet the prayers of the saints for the continuation and the preservation of the work.
Many battles have been fought and lives lost, many words have been written, many people imprisoned and downtrodden all because they wanted to preserve freedom. There are areas of the world where it would be impossible to publish this magazine, read any Christian literature or even the Bible itself. We gladly acknowledge and truly appreciate the sacrifice of those who laid down their lives to ensure that we enjoy this freedom.
However, in a Bible context what is freedom? Are you free? You may answer, "Of course I am free. I have the same rights and liberties as every one else." Your answer is correct in relation to men and politics in this land and things regarding this life. The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, said, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed," John 8.36. The people to whom He spoke may have thought that He was referring to the bondage of the Jews to the Romans, but His ministry was not political but spiritual. He had just said previously, v34, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." In reality He is teaching that the person who presently and actively is involved in sin, is not free but is the slave of sin. How startling for many to realise ‘I am not free. I am in bondage.’ You may argue this does not apply to you. Well, test yourself. Try to give up that habit; that friendship, that darling sin and you will experience, as did the author many years ago, I am in bondage.
Others may bring a message that promises freedom but only brings the recipient into bondage to the preacher or religion or some obscure sect. "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage," 2 Peter 2.19.
How is the freedom obtained? Again we repeat the words of the Lord Jesus, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Freedom is only found in Him. Thus the apostle taught the Galatians, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…". The Lord Jesus gave some reasons why He came from heaven in Luke 4.18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised …".
Just as others died in the last war, for example, to procure our freedom, when He died upon the cross at Calvary, outside Jerusalem, He paid the great price, the ultimate price for our freedom from sin and Satan. It is recorded in Hebrews 2.14, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that, is the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." The one who holds us in the bondage and thraldom of sin has been defeated and we can be free! What a message! O sinner believe it! Receive the liberating Saviour and throw off the shackles that bind you in the misery of your sin and be ready with us for the glorious liberty which shall be experienced in the future. "Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God," Romans 8.21.
He giveth grace unto the lowly.
Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 3:12
I cannot do great things for Him,
Who did so much for me,
But I would like to show my love,
Lord Jesus unto Thee.
And so I ask Thee: Give me grace,
My little place to fill,
That I may always walk with Thee,
And always do Thy will.
The most irksome thing in life is to be a slave; but to be a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ is Heaven begun on earth.
Joseph of Arimathea
(Quotations from Mark ch.15)
"He took Him down," that body he had begged for,
A body marked, disfigured as a man.
That body which ungodly men had handled
In consummation of God's highest plan.
"He wrapped Him" in the costly linen grave clothes,
Purchased at his expense, to wrap his Lord.
And with another secretive disciple,
Embalmed it, lacking knowledge of His Word.
"He laid Him" in the tomb within the garden,
A place wherein no other man had lain.
The sacrifice he was so well prepared for,
His heart filled with devotion, grief and pain.
He "rolled a stone" across that open grave mouth,
A stone, which Rome would seal within a day.
That stone, which on the first day's glorious morning,
Was rolled away, for empty tomb display.
He gave his tomb, his time, his worldly substance,
All to the Lord he'd worshipped from afar.
The record of the Word of God declares him,
Though ‘secret’, one who served and loved his Lord.
(J. Paterson, Jnr. Scotland)