On every hand and in every walk of life there is a need. Declining moral standards in high places, lying, cheating, perjury, adultery have left men bewildered and despondent. There is a great need. Economists have identified it, politicians clamour for it, entrepreneurs need it, newspaper editors write about it and the ordinary citizens would welcome it. What is it? It is a MAN! We who read the word of God know the man they will get — he will be a superman, a statesman of a kind, but Satan's man. Some of us believe he is already alive and waiting in the wings until the church is raptured to heaven and subsequently he will be revealed.
Is there not a similar need among the saved? Do we not crave a particular kind of man? What is the need of the day? Let the wise man answer, "a faithful man who can find?" Prov.20.6. Life in the world is marked by give and take; principles are compromised for the sake of expediency and cosmetic unity; standards are never absolute and those who promote an absolute standard are deemed bigoted and narrow minded. Such thinking can pervade the minds of the saints until there is much unprofitable and sceptical questioning.
A faithful man will be unswerving in his devotion to God and his obedience to His Word. Faithfulness is a qualification for all service and is demanded in stewards, "it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful," 1Cor.4.2. It is much valued by God, "Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with Me," Ps.101.6. It will bring its own reward both now and at the Judgment Seat, "A faithful man shall abound with blessings," Prov.28.20; "the LORD preserveth the faithful," Ps.31.23; "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," Matt.25.21,23.
With such blessings promised we would expect to find many in the Bible described as 'faithful'. But there are so few, it seems to be a non too prevalent characteristic. Among the few who are personally described are the following, from each part of the Bible.
Num.12.7, "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house." Neh.7.2, "he was a faithful man, and feared God above many."
Neh.13.13, "I made treasures over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zacuur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren."
Isa.8.2, "I look unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah."
Dan.6.4, "he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him." lCor.4.17, "Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord..."
Col.1.7, "Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ..."
Col.4.7, "Tychicus, a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord..."
Col.4.9, "Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother..."
1Pet.5.12, "Silvanus, a faithful brother..."
Rev.2.13, "Antipas was my faithful martyr..."
If the testimony is to be perpetuated this is our great need. 2Tim.2.2, "the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." As the apostle covers four generations in one verse, the men who are required are not clever, educated, verbose but FAITHFUL. The rarity of such is underlined by the Psalmist, "Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men," Ps.12.1.
The question asked by the wise man was, "a faithful man who can find?" Where is he? Can he be trained? Some think he must be a hard, legal, ungracious, unloving, overbearing man. Not so brethren, the men we need are those who will stand uncompromisingly, yet graciously, for the truth of God and, in fact, be just like the Lord Jesus, "from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness," Rev.1.5.
May the year upon which we have entered, see a greater devotion in the lives of the saints and a desire begotten in the hearts of some to be worthy of the description, 'faithful'.
The imminence of the coming millennium is further emphasised as we enter the year 1999 — the last of the 1900's. The daily countdown to the year 2000 is ongoing in some newspapers and the continuing publicity regarding the Millennium Dome, etc., concentrates the minds of many on the future.
As to the past, it is almost 2000 years ago since Mary "brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a.manger; because there was no room for them in the inn," Luke 2.7.
Recent controversy would indicate that little or nothing of Christ or Christianity will be found in the plans of men for the coming year 2000. How sad — still no room for the Son of the Highest.
Every believer will, however, remember that He who came in by way of the manger — God Incarnate, and went out by way of the cross, the suffering Man and the conquering God, is coming again. How secure and glorious the promise, and without dates or times, "I will come again."
The magazine continues to be dependent upon the faithfulness of a God who never fails. Likewise we are indebted to those who enable the work to continue by their prayers, practical fellowship, and the contribution of written ministry. The control, circulation and accounting of the magazine are in the capable hands of the Editor, the Secretary, and the Accountant, and we are deeply thankful for their diligence in these operations.
We are thankful for the letters of appreciation from readers of the magazine, and we trust that all who read may be blessed and edified.
The opening words of this interesting chapter are most significant. "The same day went Jesus out of the house and sat by the seaside." "The same day...out of the house...by the sea." What an eventful day that had been. It was the day that the Pharisees had held council how to destroy Him. It was the day they had rejected Him in His three-fold greatness. It was the day they blasphemed the Spirit of God and thereby committed the unpardonable sin. It was the day He announced a new relationship, greater than natural ties. On that day He, in figure, left the house of Israel and began a ministry by the sea, which is ever a symbol of Gentile nations. He went into a ship. He was physically out of reach of the multitudes, but they could hear His voice. All this is so apt a picture of present conditions. The Saviour has gone out of reach but His voice is yet heard, with a message of grace particularly relevant to Gentiles.
He will speak in parables, taking the familiar things of life to illustrate things spiritual. There follow seven parables of the kingdom and an eighth parable which deals with the responsibility of those who presume to teach. We must not confuse the kingdom with the church. The church may indeed be in the kingdom but the kingdom is more extensive than the church and there are two lines of truth which must be distinguished. These seven parables will describe the course and character of the kingdom from the commencement of our Lord's ministry and during His absence and until He returns at the consummation of the age. It is the kingdom in a mystery form. Prophets who knew about a kingdom had not however envisaged a kingdom quite like this, with the King absent. Hence these are things "new and old." It will be shown that not everything in the kingdom is genuine, whereas, of course, everything in the church is. A kingdom is the domain of a king. Often in a kingdom there are subjects who are not truly subject. The kingdom of the heavens is the rule of the heavens on earth, but there are those in that kingdom whose allegiance is feigned and nominal, and this will be judged.
The first parable, that of the sower, tells of opposition to the kingdom in a threefold way. It is the work of those old enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Some seed will fall on the hard-trodden wayside. The birds of the air snatch it away and there is no growth. Other seed will fall into shallow stony ground where there is promise, until the sun comes up and the scorched seed is withered. Again, some seed will fall among thorns, where it is choked. Jesus later explains to His disciples. The field is the world. The seed is the Word. It is the work of the wicked one to catch the seed away. With some there is a fleshy, emotional response which does not endure. With others, the cares of the world or the deceitfulness of riches choke the word. Rich and poor alike are vulnerable. But in spite of the opposition of the devil, the flesh, and the world, there is yet good seed which falls into good ground and bears fruit.
A second parable tells of tares being sown among the wheat. This is still opposition, but in the form of imitation. The tares are "darnel", a poisonous grass which bears a resemblance to the true wheat. Our Lord later explains this parable also. While men have slept the enemy has been busy. Is it yet so in our day? It is not our business, and indeed it is not possible for us, to purge the kingdom from the offending darnel. The Lord of the harvest and His angels will attend to that at the end of the age.
Another parable likens the kingdom to a grain of mustard seed sown in the field. There is a small beginning but phenomenal outward growth. How small indeed were those beginnings. A manger in Bethlehem. A carpenter's home in Nazareth. A few fishermen. A despised Jesus. An upper room. A cross and a tomb outside Jerusalem. What a great professing Christendom has grown from these. Birds of the air which would snatch away the good seed actually lodge in the branches of this great tree. The unclean birds are caged in a system of their own making, Rev.18.2.
There is yet another parable which portrays the outward growth of the kingdom. A woman kneads leaven into three measures of meal until the whole is leavened. No Jew would ever have understood leaven as a symbol of anything but evil. How soon did the leaven of evil doctrine corrupt the fine flour. Almost every aspect of Christ's person and work has been corrupted somewhere in Christendom. His essential deity; His real and pure humanity; His virgin birth; His miracles; the virtue of His cross; His bodily resurrection; His visible ascension and the promise of His return; these have all been "leavened". These fundamental doctrines are today being down-graded, doubted, denied, and destroyed, in many a pulpit in Christendom. But if all this seems discouraging, and causes us to wonder if there is anything good in the kingdom, yes, indeed, there are yet three more parables which will show that there is that which is real and genuine and precious to the Lord. There is treasure in the field. There is a goodly pearl to be purchased. There are good fish in the net. Look at Israel. There will yet be a remnant nation, His own peculiar treasure. See the church, a pearl of great price for His glory. From the nations there will be those, who, like the sheep of another parable in Matthew 25 will enjoy millennial bliss with Him. There is indeed a genuine thing within the Kingdom in all aspects. There is always something for Him.
Did the disciples understand all these things? They said that they did. Well then, they must be like diligent householders and bring out of their treasures things new and old. They would of course have knowledge of things which had been taught of old by Old Testament prophets and Psalmists. But these twelve were now highly privileged men, recipients of new revelation of new things of a new economy. The old things would need to be reiterated and restated. The new things would need to be explained and expounded, and this was their responsibility as those instructed in matters of the kingdom.
The parables are finished now. The people are amazed, as ever, at the Saviour's wisdom. Is He not the carpenter's son? Are not the names of His mother, and His brethren and sisters, well known to them all? How does such an One do such mighty works and possess such knowledge? Their unbelief robs them. His mighty works were limited there because of it. As he said, a prophet is not without honour except in his own country.
In chapter 14 the days will get darker still, with the murder of John Baptist, the King's friend and forerunner.
The best comments on any part of the Bible are generally found in the Bible itself. You couldn't possibly do better than the following when it comes to the book of Esther — "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour," Isa.45.15. As we said in our introduction, God may not be named in the book of Esther, but His hand is constantly seen. How about this for another appropriate comment: "Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep?" Ps.121.4.
The way in which the book of Esther displays the providence of God, makes it quite unique in the Bible, and we don't have to wait long before it all starts to happen. The opening two chapters alone describe three principal events:
The Removal of Vashti.
The Selection of Esther.
The Loyalty of Mordecai.
1) THE REMOVAL OF VASHTI
A) The Feast of Ahasuerus. vl-9
This incident is set against the background of a remarkable feast made by Ahasuerus for "all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces...", 1.3. The feast lasted for approximately six months, and was followed by a further feast, lasting seven days, for "all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small...", 1.5. Shushan (Hebrew), or Susa (Greek), was the winter capital of the Persian Empire, and was situated some two hundred miles east of Babylon. Daniel saw the place in a vision (see Dan.8: it's worth reading the whole chapter since it describes the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire and its defeat by Greece), and Nehemiah served Artaxeres there (see Neh.1.1).
The outstanding feature of the narrative in v1-9, is its detail. In describing the extent of the kingdom: "This is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces...", 1.1. In describing the excellence of the kingdom: "He shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty...", 1.4. Just look at the detail in the description of the feast in the "court of the garden of the king's palace," 1.6-7. Even the drinking vessels are said to be "diverse one from another," 1.7
Since "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," we can be excused for asking the question, 'Why so much detail?' In view of the fact that we are reliably informed by competent historians that the feast was called to settle details for the invasion of Greece, we could also ask the question, 'Why the absence of detail?' After all, the book does not mention this most important event.
i) Why the surfeit of detail? We must remember that Esther describes people who, unlike the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem, possessed little — if any — interest in the glory of God. His glory was of no apparent concern to either Esther or Mordecai. They act without reference to Him. When God's glory is neither sought nor considered, human glory gains the ascendancy, and the graphic detail here emphasises this fact. We cannot doubt the magnificence of the Persian court, but it was Godless glory. This is what God says about it all: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me...", Jer.9.23-24. Paul cites this passage in 1 Cor. 1.31. The assembly is a place where, "No flesh should glory in His presence," and where, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." See also 1Pet.1.24-25.
The Lord Jesus described the glory of Solomon as follows: "Consider the lilies of the field ... And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these," Matt.6.28-29. Solomon's court must have been breathtaking — the queen of Sheba certainly found it like that: "there was no more spirit in her," 1Kgs.10.5. But the glory of Solomon was very different from the glory of Ahasuerus. Read 1Kgs.3.5-15.
ii) Why the absence of detail? The proposed invasion of Greece by Persia was of undoubted importance in the purpose of God. See again Dan.8 and, additionally, Dan.11. The fourth Persian king in v2, is most probably Ahasuerus or, to give him his other name, Xerxes. But that is of minor importance in Esther. The welfare of God's people is much more important than the rise and fall of nations. That is why emphasis is placed here on what seems to be a comparatively unimportant internal problem. It is also the reason for the assignment of just two verses, Lk.3.1-2, to seven Very Important People by human standards, and three whole chapters, Lk.1-3, to seven even more Very Important People by divine standards, although utterly obscure by human standards. God's seven are infinitely more valuable to Him than the world's seven. The Lord Jesus stands, of course, incomparably alone.
B) The Refusal of Vashti. v10-12
This paragraph raises some most interesting questions, although we must not lose sight of the fact that the entire story emphasises the providence of God.
i) Was Ahasuerus drunk? "On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine," v10. Let's take stock of the facts in endeavouring to assess the situation. We are told that there was "royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king." We are also told that "the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure." John C. Whitcomb ('Esther — Triumph of God's Sovereignty', Moody Press) writes as follows: 'Usually the king pledged his guests to drink a certain amount, but now they could drink as much or as little as they desired.' Whitcomb continues by quoting Herodotus: the Persians "are very fond of wine, and drink it in large quantities ... It is also their general practice to deliberate upon affairs of weight when they are drunk ... sometimes, however, they are sober at their first deliberation, but in this case they always reconsider the matter under the influence of wine." In all fairness, we are not told that this was a drunken revel, and we can only note that there was "wine in abundance" with no prohibition on over-indulgence nor upon abstemiousness. It would perhaps be perverse to add, "but knowing human nature ...!'
As to the king himself. The word "merry" in itself does not necessarily signify drunkenness. But it might be helpful to consider other occasions where the phrase is used: "And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken...", 1Sam.25.36. "Now Absalom had commanded his servants saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine...", 2Sam. 13.18. If the verse had said, 'the heart of the king was merry', then it could be construed to mean elation and joy. But, "merry with wine" does imply, at the very least, that he was not entirely sober!
ii) Was Vashti justified in refusing to appear? It could be argued that she should have come at the king's request, irrespective of his insobriety or otherwise. It could be argued that the king only wished to display the beauty of his wife. On the other hand, it could be argued that the request was unreasonable, particularly since after six day's drinking, the company would hardly clap politely, and murmur admiring approval! Perhaps it is hardly appropriate to superimpose Christian virtues on a Persian court, but it's worth remembering New Testament teaching: "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered, 1Pet.3.7. Ahasuerus doesn't seem to fit in there very well, does he?
C) The Advice of Memucan. v!3-22
Vashti lost her crown, and 'Women's Lib.' was banished. It would be rather interesting to see what would happen today, wouldn't it?! Listen to the advice of Memucan, spokesman for the "seven princes of Persia and Media": "Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes...", 1.16-17. Notice that it is "all women" in v17, and "the ladies of Persia and Media" in v18. The former means women in general, whilst the latter means 'the ladies of the aristocracy' (Whitcomb), i.e. the wives of the seven princes. The resulting decree required that "all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small," v20, and "that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people," v22. The last phrase is rendered by JND as follows: 'and should speak according to the language of his people' with the footnote, 'i.e. should speak his own tongue.' The meaning is a little obscure, but presumably indicates that 'the rule of the husband in the house was to be shown by the fact that only the native tongue of the head of the house was to be used in the family." C.F.Keil.
At first glance, all this seems quite remarkable in view of Biblical teaching. God had said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him," Gen.2.18. It is very important to distinguish between the two words, "help meet." Eve was a "help" to Adam: not to lead or guide him, or to exercise authority over him: but to "help' him. On the other hand, Eve was not in any way inferior to Adam. She was his counterpart and answered to him in every way — she was "meet for him." Rightly understood, this does not produce male despotism and female subservience. The New Testament says, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord," that is, with the devotion in which they submit themselves to the Lord. "Husbands, love your wives ... so ought men to love their wives as their own bodies...", Eph.5.22-28. See also Col.3.18-19 and 1Pet.3.1-7.
The royal decree now seems a little less impressive. It is very one-sided, and stresses the obligations of Persian wives with no reference to the obligations of Persian husbands. In summary, it falls far short of Bible teaching on the subject.
We have noted that in the book of Genesis the lives of many men of God centre around a single feature. In the case of Joseph it is the clothes he wore.
THE GARMENT OF HIS FATHER'S LOVE
'Now Israel loved Joseph more than all this children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a long garment with sleeves,' Gen.37.3 (R.V. margin). The favour bestowed with this type of coat was exemption from manual labour because of the length of the garment and its sleeves. Jacob had other reasons to love and trust Joseph, for he kept his father informed of his brothers' evil behaviour. 'Joseph brought unto his father their evil report," Gen.37.2. Their behaviour was dangerous, 'Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land ... and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house,' Gen.34.30. Such parental favour provoked the jealousy of his brothers, 'When his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him,' Gen.37.4.
'Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God,' 1Jn.3.1. God has expressed His love for the believer by clothing him in the garments of salvation. "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the robe of righteousness," Isa.61.10. The fact that the believer can testify to the assurance of salvation because of the love of God is often the cause of jealous criticism by the world at large, including many religious people.
THE GARMENT OF HIS PURITY
'She (Potiphar's wife) caught him (Joseph) by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out,' Gen.39.12. The garment Joseph left behind as he fled, refusing to commit immorality, was in fact the symbol of his purity. "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God, v9. It was falsely interpreted by Potiphar the unbeliever, 'When his master heard the words of his wife ... his wrath was kindled," v19.
'Flee fornication,' 1Cor.6.18. 'Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity (love), peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart,' 2Tim.2.22. As Christians we are to flee immorality in all its forms. Sexual intercourse is to take place only within the bonds of scriptural marriage. To be pure we must flee from the immorality which is rife in the society around us.
THE GARMENT OF HIS SUFFERING
'Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh,' Gen.41.14. When called from prison to the presence of Pharaoh, Joseph put off his prison clothes. Those prison clothes speak of his suffering for righteousness sake. He had been imprisoned because of lies told against him by Potiphar's wife, 39.17, false judgments made about him by Potiphar, 39.20, and neglect by the butler who should have shown gratitude, 41.19. But Joseph bore it patiently for the Lord was with him, 39.21.
Jesus said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven," Matt.5.10-12.
THE GARMENT OF HIS PRESENTATION
Joseph could not appear in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, in his prison garb. This necessitated a change of clothes, suitable for the occasion. 'He shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh, Gen.41.14. This reminds us of the parable of the necessary wedding garment, Matt.22.11-14. 'He (the king) saith unto him, Friend, how earnest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless,' v12. But as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are suitably attired to stand in the presence of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. 'Have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,' Rev.7.14.
THE GARMENT OF HIS REWARD
"Then Pharaoh ... arrayed him (Joseph) in vestures of fine linen,' Gen.41.42. Guiding Pharaoh's action was God's will that Joseph should be rewarded according to the promises of God, Gen.37.5-11, for his faithfulness and honouring of God. The Lord Jesus Christ says to His disciples, "Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just," Lk.14.14.
Joseph's fine linen garments were symbolic of his being raised to the ranks of the Egyptian nobility. When the church is raised to heavenly glory it is said of her, '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. —to be continued (D.V.)
Following the division of the Kingdom, the first king to be installed over the nation of Judah was that of Rehoboam. Although he only reigned for 17 years -1Kgs.14.21 - the spiritual climate in Judah during his reign was sadly one of departure and defeat - 'And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord ...' 1Kgs.14.22. Therefore, with such a background we need to deepen our understanding of the life and times of king Rehoboam.
(a) His Family
The sad character of Rehoboam's reign over Judah can, in part, be traced back to the legacy received from his father - Solomon - and his mother - Naamah. 1Kgs.11.4 records that through multiplying wives, Solomon not only disobeyed the directions of Deut.17.17, but he left the gate open for Satan to enter. One example of the impact that Satan's entrance had on the nation can be found with Rehoboam's mother, for on three separate occasions the Word of God reminds us of her full title - 'Naamah an Ammonitess' (1Kgs.14.21, 31; 2Chron.12.13). Obviously scripture stresses her lineage for a reason, but what was so significant with the nation of Ammon? Consider the following:
Originated in Sin
Gen.19.38 reminds us that Naamah came from a nation that was born out of a sinful relationship between Lot and his younger daughter. Although Moab emerged at the same time under similar conditions, one descendant - Ruth - was later to enter the Israelite royal family (Ruth 2.2; 4.13) and make a positive impact, the same cannot be said of Naamah. We do well to apply the instruction of Paul in 2Cor.6.14 to the issue of marriage - 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers'.
Organised Idol Worship
As an Ammonite, Naamah would have worshipped the idol-god Molech/Milcom 1Kgs.11.5,7,33. This organisation was known to sacrifice children upon altars 2Kgs.23.10 - and thus it is not surprising that the Word of God refers to it simply as an abomination. Undoubtedly it was through the influence of his mother that Rehoboam endeavoured to replicate the worship practices of neighbouring nations -1Kgs.14.24. Obviously if you leave the door ajar for Satan you can expect an avalanche! This section would also stress the importance of cultivating good skills as parents, as and when necessary. Solomon could say in Prov.22.6 - 'Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it'. For Rehoboam, his training was inappropriate and was evident throughout his life - we must avoid this at all costs.
(b) His Frailty
By the time Rehoboam was 46 years of age, the king of Egypt - Shishak - invaded Jerusalem and took away many items that belonged to the nation of Judah (1Kgs.14.25; 2Chron.12.9). Whilst this may not appear unusual for any king to engage in battle against the enemy, the significant point to remember is that Egypt appears to have fully penetrated the boundary of Judah. Furthermore, this invasion was the first serious attack against Judah by any foreign power since the reign of Saul. Thus, it is profitable to explore the incident in a little more detail.
2Chron.12.5 makes it clear why Shishak was able to penetrate the nation of Judah - 'Ye (Rehoboam) have forsaken me .. therefore ..'. In other words, given the spiritual condition of Rehoboam, Egypt was able to enter enemy territory. There is an obvious application for ourselves. By pursuing a path that is displeasing to God we leave ourselves open to attack from the enemy.(Eph.6.13).
Not only was Egypt able to enter the land of Judah but, as 1Kgs.14.26 and 2Chron.12.9 record, all the treasures of the houses that belonged to the Lord and Rehoboam were plundered. Failure to live in a right way before God not only allows the enemy to enter, but also robs us of the opportunity to enjoy all the treasures that Christians can (and should) enjoy - Eph.3.16.
In order to be fair toward Rehoboam, it is necessary to illustrate that upon humbling himself, God allowed a partial reprieve - 2Chron.12.6-8. However, this incident reflects more favourably upon God than Rehoboam. Such is the patience and long-suffering nature of God that He always seeks to observe a glimmer of genuine repentance, and once shown, He will respond in some favourable way.
(c) His Fluctuations
Consistency was hardly an accurate way to describe the life of Rehoboam. On the down side, 2Chron.10.13 records how Rehoboam failed to follow the advice and guidance given by the old (and experienced) men of Judah. Perhaps this is a problem within the assemblies today - Tit.2.3-9. On the up side, 2Chron.11.17 records how, for three brief years, the nation pursued the ways of David and Solomon and was strengthened accordingly. On the down side, 2Chron.12.1 illustrates that upon establishing the Kingdom he forsook the commandments of the Lord. Finally on the up side, we have already considered 2Chron.l2.6, where Rehoboam shows some tenderness toward the Lord and his prophet.
How unlike Rehoboam were the early Christians - he was changeable; they were consistent (Acts 2.42). How apt are Paul's instruction to Timothy concerning the Word and the various instructions contained therein: 'continue in them' (1Tim.4.16).
(d) His Failure
Perhaps the one verse that signifies the general problem in the life of Rehoboam can be found in 2Chron.12.14: 'And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord'. In other words, whilst one may question the decisions Rehoboam made with his head - especially in 2Chron.10 - the problem was not intellectual, rather emotional; not with the head, rather with the heart. However, in order to develop the importance of having a 'prepared heart' we must consider two of Rehoboam's relatives - David and Jehoshaphat. Consider:
The Danger of Decline
Even though centuries separate the reign of David and the record of the New Testament, the testimony of Scripture remains consistent regarding David: 1Sam.13.14 and Acts 13.22 - a man after God's own heart. It is sad to consider the decline in the spiritual condition of the king from David to his grandson Rehoboam. Obviously spirituality is not something that we inherit on an automatic basis from our forefathers, rather we must individually labour for such an accolade. In other words, if we are blessed with a godly ancestry we should be extremely thankful and endeavour to perpetuate the same characteristics, not represent a departure.
The Capacity for Change
Even though Rehoboam 'prepared not his heart to seek the Lord' it is encouraging to notice that this pattern was reversed some years later by one of his descendants. For instance, 2Chron.l9.3 records the words spoken by Jehu concerning Jehoshaphat - 'thou .. hast prepared thine heart to seek God'. If our backgrounds do not serve to help us in our service for the Lord, they definitely should not stand as a hindrance. Remember, the Lord takes no thought for what our relatives are like, His only concern is that we have a heart for Him and His work.
See paper 1 for details of Bibliography/Figures —to be continued (D. V.)
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME 2
11(b)—The Bride, the Lamb's Wife
The next step is the presentation to Himself, and for this we wait: "That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish,' Eph.5.27. This takes place when He descends into the air to receive His blood-bought Bride to Himself. The last Adam is to have a partner in His dominion, even as the first. She shall sit with Him on His throne, even as He now sits with the Father on His throne.
Thou too shalt reign — He will not wear
His crown of joy alone; And earth His royal bride shall see
Beside Him on the throne.
What a transformation His grace will effect in that day! The Church will then be glorious; each member of it bearing His own heavenly image. No spot or wrinkle will be seen. Every bit of worldliness is a stain on the garment of the Bride. Wrinkles are signs of decay. Alas! there were many to be seen before the great Apostle of the Church went to his rest. He saw love declining, zeal waning, and the world creeping in on every hand. But the holy, yet loving, hand of the Lord Jesus will remove all in that day. Everything that would remind of wilderness, failure, shall be obliterated. The Church will then be holy, not only in nature, but in ways. She will be without blemish also. In the midst of much that grieves and disheartens now, how joyful and elevating is the contemplation of it! After showing that in doing all this Christ loves the Church even as Himself, well does the Apostle close by saying: "This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and the Church," Eph.5.32.
Turn now to Rev.19.1-10. There we have the marriage supper of the Lamb. It must be carefully observed that this is a heavenly scene preparatory to the appearing of Christ with all His saints. This scene is therefore entirely distinct from that which is described in Psa.45. There we have the Messiah present on earth with His sword girded upon His thigh for the subjugation of all His foes, and for the establishment of His glorious kingdom. At His right hand stands the Queen in gold of Ophir, but we must not understand her to be the Church of God. It is Israel, the earthly associate of the Messiah, as the Church is the heavenly Bride of the Lamb. To Israel it will then be said, "Thou shalt no more be termed forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a man marrieth a virgin, so shalt thy sons marry thee, and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee," Isa.62.4,5. The mutual affection of Messiah and Israel will be found fully expressed in the Song of Solomon.
But the Church's association with the Lamb is heavenly in its character; the nuptials are brought before us in Rev.19. We do not regard this as the presenting to Himself of Eph.5.27. That is the first thing after the meeting in the air, and is entirely between the Bridegroom and the Bride. The marriage supper is the public event when all friends of the Bridegroom are called together to share in the general joy.
This apparently immediately follows the judgment of Babylon the Great. When the false woman is thus dealt with, all heaven is filled with triumph and praise. While earth is mourning over her overthrow, the courts of heaven are resounding with Alleluias. Then the true Bride is seen: "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of many thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice and give honour to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His with hath made herself ready," Rev.19.6,7. From this point we hear no more of the four-and-twenty elders. We believe them to represent the whole company of the heavenly saints, i.e., the believers of Old Testament times and the Church of God. Now that the Bride is brought forward as such, the symbol of the elders is dropped. The different classes of saints fall into their respective places, and are henceforward shown in their own particular relation to Christ.
What a moment of joy that will be for Christ and for us! He will then see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. He will see, at least in measure, that He has not laboured in vain nor spent His strength for nought. His blessed heart longs for the time when He will surround Himself with all those for whom He died. He will not rest until He has finished the thing and has us all at home in the Father's house in glory. In contemplating future glories, we are apt to think principally of the bliss that will then be ours. But let us think of Christ's part in the matter. It is the day of the gladness of His heart. His were the sorrow and woe; His shall be the blessedness and joy. He is worthy of it all.
The marriage supper is not described in detail. It would not accord with the general character of the Book of Revelation. A few sentences are written, but that is all. We read, "His wife hath made herself ready." This does not imply any sort of human fitness, which could have no place in heaven, but simply (so we judge) that she has put on the garments which divine grace has provided. According to His riches in glory, all is given, that the heavenly Bride may be found a suitable companion for the Lamb.
But though there is no such thing as human fitness, the excellent deeds of the saints, wrought on earth through the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, are had in remembrance at the wedding feast. "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness (lit. "righteousnesses") of the saints," Rev.19.8. Never will Christ forget the good works of His own. His eye notes and His hand records every little reproduction of Himself, whether in general walk or in active service. Even a cup of cold water for His sake will be remembered above, no small encouragement, surely, for all who really seek the honour of His Name. In this sense, we are weaving our garments now. Solemn, yet blessed thought for us all!
Whilst being conscious of the unenviable position in which the Israelites were, we are reminded as New Testament believers that unlike them, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds," 2Cor.10.4, and it is well that that is the case, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood" where carnal weapons might possibly avail, "but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," Eph.6.12. Having so warned us, Paul reveals something of the spiritual armoury which is available to us and without the use of which we will very soon succumb to the enemy's attacks. We are encouraged to make use of the whole weapons system both defensive and offensive, but before we consider attack we must ensure that we are suitably protected. "Having your loins girt about with truth," v14. That is, we are able to be free from those encumbrances which would cause us to stumble, as would have done the long flowing robes which, in times of strenuous activity, needed to be tucked up out of the way. Timothy is encouraged to "Neither give heed to fables and genealogies which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith," 1Tim.1.4. He is warned against those "desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm," 1Tim. 1.7. To "refuse profane and old wives' fables and exercise thyself rather unto godliness," 1Tim.4.7, and to "Take heed unto thyself and to the doctrine, continue in them, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee," 1Tim.4.16. The teachings of men will tend always to that of the scribes and Pharisees, of whom the Lord Jesus said, "They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders," Matt.23.4. His desires for us are exactly the opposite. He assures us that, "If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," Jn.8.3,12. Holding of truth in love, both in word and action (see Eph.4.15) is essential for our defence. It frees us from carnal and legalistic entanglements whilst safeguarding us from licentious indiscipline.
However, in case we are deluded into thinking that only a negative attitude of not succumbing to error is required, we are told of "the breastplate of righteousness," v14. This raises a very practical matter for it will show how much our knowledge of the truth really means to our hearts. Are we for instance so vitally conscious of the imminence of the Lord's return that our lives, as distinct from what we say, reflect our conviction. John assures us that, "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as He is pure," 1Jn.3.3. The Lord Jesus said that, "If a man love Me" as against just saying so, "he will keep My words," Jn.14.23. Nothing will make us easier targets for Satanic attacks, particularly via outsiders, than if we lead lives which do not accord with our professed beliefs. A life of positive righteousness will not free us from attack, indeed such lives often provoke spiritual hostility, as in the case of Job. But James says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations — blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him," Jas.1.2,12. A life of practical holiness gladdens the heart of the Lord Jesus and this in itself should encourage us to cultivate it.
Then, if we know the truth and it is being worked out in our lives, our feet will itch to be "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace," v15. We will, as a direct result of our heart's experience, have a desire to evangelise, and from our understanding and acceptance of truth, have the ability to do so. So much effort is wasted because we will not follow the sequence of Scripture. We can never make real to others what is not real to ourselves. Ahimaz was full of zeal when he entreated Joab to allow him to be his messenger, but he had no answer to the question, "Wherefore wilt thou run my son, seeing thou hast no tidings ready?" He ran nevertheless, but the only message he could give was, "I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was," 2Sam. 18.22,29. "How shall they preach except they be sent?" asks Paul. "As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things," Rom.10.15. This is godly order. It is God sending those who have been prepared in heart and who, in consequence, are able to share the message with others because they have themselves received, understood and acted upon it. This need not shut any of us out. It should give us a desire to be so enabled and awake in us the wish to be in the path of blessing by being in the path of obedience.
"Above all" says Paul, "taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (one)," vl6. "Now faith" we are told, "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," Heb.11.1. It is not a vague abstract virtue unrelated to realities. Faith is nothing by itself, it must be centred on an object or being and there must be grounds for an individual placing their faith in the said object or being. Misplaced faith is as useless as no faith at all, it is in fact worse, for it can lead to a false sense of security. What then is to be the centre of faith for us? It is of course the blessed Person of our Lord Jesus Himself. However little we know of His word, however small may be our understanding of what He has accomplished, a simple trust in Him as a living Saviour will give us the assurance of eternal security. But what are the grounds on which we base such a claim? Why, "The Scripture saith, whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed," Rom.10.11. We trust unreservedly in the Lord Jesus, and do so with confidence, because of the promise of His word. That is very elementary, it is what we teach the children, but this is all faith is. Now there is of course a development of this faith, this trust, this confidence. How does this come about? By the measure in which our knowledge of the Lord Jesus increases and the extent to which we seek out and appropriate to ourselves the promises of His word. Now, when the devil attacks from a particular direction we can have confidence in the person of Christ because of the truth of His word applied to that specific attack. The devil may say that my circle of friends is limited because of my Christian profession, as indeed it almost certainly will be. But I can say that even if I had no earthly friends at all "He (the Lord), hath said I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," Heb.13.5. This is not just what I would like the situation to be, or even what I hope it might be, it is what "He hath said" it is, and so I can rest securely in Him because of His promise. So by taking His word and applying it to our daily living, the effectiveness of our shield is increased and the fiery darts fall harmlessly at our feet.
Many a good word is put to a wrong use, and the word sanctification is certainly one which is very often employed in a sense different from, and contrary to, its use in Scripture. So, before looking at the subject we must define the term.
In the Bible it generally means to set apart, hallow, dedicate, consecrate. It is the setting apart of things or persons for a special purpose, as opposed to the common usage. It does not necessarily imply a change in the composition of the article or the condition of the person. Sanctified wood does not become gold nor is it improved as timber.
The first occurrence of the word concerns the Sabbath which God sanctified, Gen.2.3. It was to be a day set apart from the others in its use. It was not different in length or weather. A field or a house could be sanctified, Lev.27.14,19. Mount Sinai was sanctified, Ex.19.23. The tabernacle and its furnishings were sanctified, Ex.29.44; 40.10,11. The gold and the gifts in the temple, Matt.23.17,19. Food can be sanctified, 1Tim.4.5. Nations were called "sanctified ones" for the fulfilling of God's purpose in the destruction of Babylon, Is.13.3. An unbelieving husband or wife is sanctified, 1Cor.7.14. The Father sanctified the Son, Jn.10.36, and the Son sanctified Himself, Jn.17.19. Here it very clearly refers to setting apart for a special mission, and not to any improving or purifying of the Son of God.
With regard to the sanctification of Christians, in order to clearer understanding, we will consider it under three headings: before conversion, at conversion, and after conversion.
SANCTIFICATION BEFORE CONVERSION
Please open your Bible and read 2Thes.2.13 and 1Pet.1.2. In the former we read of "salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." In the latter of "sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." This sanctification precedes belief and obedience and is with a view to salvation and sprinkling of the blood. It means that God by His Spirit lays hold of sinners, separates them from the careless and unheeding, burdens them about eternal things, convinces them of sin and guilt and they are brought to faith in Christ. This is the common experience of all who have been saved. They were no different from others but were made to differ. Without this sanctification none can be saved. It is by the operation of the Spirit of God, not by the persuasion or earnestness of the preacher.
SANCTIFICATION AT CONVERSION
In the New Testament all believers are called saints, holy ones, or sanctified ones, 2Thes.1.10. Even the unspiritual Corinthians were sanctified in Christ Jesus and called saints, 1Cor.1.2. Every believing sinner is, at conversion, cut off from his old standing in Adam and blessed in Christ. He is set apart from the position of guilt and condemnation in which he had been and is in Christ where there is no condemnation, Rom.8.1. Let us be clear on this point, read Heb.10.10-14. It is here stated in the clearest of terms that by the one perfect sacrifice of the cross, believing sinners are once and for all and for ever sanctified. To this sanctification nothing can be added nor subtracted. It is as complete at the moment of conversion as it will be in the eternal glory. By the death of Christ, who suffered without the camp that He might sanctify the people by His own blood, sin has been put away from before God and sins have been borne away from the believer, Heb.13.12; 9.26,28. The believer is sanctified in Christ Jesus and there can be no more question of guilt, or judgment or penalty. He has been separated from these by the cross and has acquired a perfect standing before God, accepted in the Beloved, Eph.1.6. He has been set apart for God from a world that crucified and rejects Christ. He died to its abuse and its applause, its religion and its politics. This sanctification is the common lot of every believer, of the babe in Christ and of the mature man of God.
SANCTIFICATION AFTER CONVERSION
It must be kept in mind, however, that sanctification is not only positional but practical, not only of standing but of state. It is of this latter that Heb.12.14 speaks: "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Unless there is some measure of practical sanctification, separation to God from evil, there is no salvation. Therefore Peter exhorts: "As He which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation," 1Pet.1.15. This practical holiness is in all manner of living. It is to reach spirit, soul and body, 1Thes.5.23. It affects moral conduct, 1Cor.6.11, even in the intimacies of domestic life, 1Thes.4.1-7. It involves separation from filthiness of the flesh and spirit, from moral and religious evil, 2Cor.7.1.
The word of God in the power of the Spirit is the means of producing this holiness. The Lord Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy word is truth," Jn.17.17. And He sanctifies His church by the Word, Eph.5.26. Ps. 119.9 teaches that it is by heeding the Word that our way may be cleansed. The reading, meditating and studying of Scripture carried on daily and continually will purify the life of the believer and make him to be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, 2Tim.2.21. The goal is, to be sanctified wholly, 1Thes.5.23. Obedience to the instructions of the Lord will result in "perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord," 2Cor.6.14; 7.1. It is no matter of boasting and empty talking. Sanctification is separation from evil unto God, and full sanctification would be perfect separation from evil and perfect dedication to God.
It is evident then that sanctification means neither the improvement nor the extinction of the old sinful nature. The former is impossible and the latter will not take place while we are in this mortal body. Before conversion the believer had one nature wholly sinful. Since, he has two natures, one still wholly sinful, the other completely holy. In eternity he will only have the latter. Meanwhile he is to mortify his members which are upon the earth, Col.3.5, and fortify the new nature, 1Pet.2.1,2.
The two most important things in life are being saved and knowing that one is in the will of God. Yet how often we lose sight of these fundamental pillars to a happy life! It is a good thing to recount the experiences of life and trace the hand of God as He directs and steers.
My childhood began in the town of Ballymena, Northern Ireland and was associated with the assembly at Harryville. There were nine children in the family and the way of salvation was understood clearly from very early days. Sunday School, Children's Meetings and Gospel Meetings were normal activities that had a major influence in shaping my childhood days. It is now as I look back, that the immense value of teaching the Holy Scriptures to children is clear.
During the Spring of 1967, two Evangelists, Messrs. James Martin and Thomas McNeill, came to an area on the outskirts of Ballymena town for a series of Gospel meetings. I clearly remember being present at the erection of the portable hall in preparation for the meeting in Ballykeel but I had no serious thoughts about salvation until after a few weeks of the series. At the end of the sixth week Mr. Martin announced that unless there was a definite interest in the seventh week, the meetings would end. That comment was the first word in six weeks of preaching, that reached my soul! I began to think periodically during the next week about eternal matters but still no deep soul interest.
On the Lord's Day evening commencing the eighth week of meetings, the Spirit of God spoke to me very definitely during the meeting. I have no recollection of what was preached in the meeting but I realized I wasn't ready for the Rapture. I recall deciding that I was going to be saved that night, no matter what else happened. That step was important, until then I had drifted, so to speak. Occasionally I had thoughts of salvation to a greater or lesser extent, but never settling in my heart that salvation was what I needed and wanted. The pleasures of the world and its attraction were never much of a problem to me, but what hindered me from being saved was just old-fashioned procrastination. I always intended to be saved — sometime.
On coming home from the meeting that Lord's Day evening, I went straight to my bedroom and began poring over the pages of my Bible. For quite a time I wrestled in my mind — "How could I be sure?"; "Did I have enough faith?" These were genuine questions in my heart that needed to be addressed; they were not ploys placed there by Satan, but as a child I wanted to be absolutely sure of salvation. After about an hour and a half of reading different tracts and passages of Scripture I read Isaiah 53. As I read verse five, the light of the glorious gospel dawned upon my young sinful heart — "with His stripes we are healed." The question was — "am I willing to take God at His Word?" I saw Christ as the Saviour of sinners upon a cross of shame and the peace of forgiveness filled my soul when I placed my trust in Him — should the Lord come I was ready.
Teenage years were much as any other young person in assembly fellowship, they comprised the very ordinary routine of meetings, but there was nonetheless a steady diet of solid teaching from the Word of God that has since stood me in good stead. At sixteen years of age I was baptised and received into the fellowship of the Harryville assembly. I was always delighted to attend a missionary report meeting; and from a very early age was interested in taking the gospel to some of the remote places in the world so often spoken of in missionary meetings. Was that just the romantic dream of boyhood? I have no doubt that it was not, but was rather the working of the Holy Spirit in preparing the ground for the future. Sometimes that desire would lie dormant for long periods, but it took very little to bring it to the surface. An early memory of a definite stirring by the Holy Spirit was listening to Mr. Philip Thompson reporting of the Lord's work in Tanzania. Having read 1Chron.29.5, he threw out the challenge to the audience — was I willing? The question, left unsettled, burned in my heart for months.
In 1978 as a young married man I heard Mr. David Armstrong from Harryville assembly speak in a ministry meeting of the need for a definite experience of committal to the Lord as found in Romans 12.1. That summer night when I returned to our home from a small ministry meeting in Carnlough Gospel Hall, I did just that. I was willing to consecrate my service unto the Lord, 1Chron.29.5; to present my body a living sacrifice, Rom.12.1.1 shared the experience with my wife Maud, and from that moment in our lives there was a definite desire to do the Lord's bidding at whatever cost.
Over the intervening years there were various interests in missionary work, but uppermost was the continent of Africa. In 1983 we were further directed towards the continent, but this time more specifically South Africa, as a result of a report given in Enniskillen by Mr. Kenneth Elliott. We had moved to live in Enniskillen in 1980 because of employment and were happily involved in the work of the assembly there. From that initial pointer towards South Africa until we arrived was a period of seven years. During these years we kept busy in the assembly at Enniskillen, especially in children's work and series of gospel meetings around County Fermanagh. As I was a serving Police Officer, I was curtailed in my movements around the border areas, but we spent as much time as possible and engaged in gospel work wherever we could with reasonable safety. Seeing the blessing of the Lord in His work in these days of preparation was another important pointer for us. One thing we learned in these years, God is never in a hurry! "It is no vain thing to wait upon the Lord."
The process of clarification of the Lord's will for us was step by step over those years. Many important lessons were learned in the scriptural manner; "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little there a little," Isa.28.13. Often one becomes impatient when it appears that God doesn't move at the same rate as we. Learning to recognize and obey the Lord's timing is vital. Our approach to the elders of the Enniskillen assembly, where we had been in fellowship for over nine years, met with a hearty response and we were commended to the Lord's work in South Africa by the assembly.
On the 10th February, 1990 we arrived at Cape Town airport and from there took our first steps in following the Lord's guidance in this great land. Our arrival in South Africa did not mean the end of learning; since then we have been learning still further lessons in obeying His will as a servant. Sometimes the lesson is learning to recognize the Lord's will in the circumstances of life and on other occasions the lesson is about responding to that will. We have to be continually reminded that, irrespective of the pressures to do otherwise, the supreme test for any servant is willingness to obey The Master, whatever the perceived cost.
With the relative affluence of the UK it is customary for us to be spoilt for choice, to the extent that making up our minds can be a real problem. What will we select from the well-stocked shelves of supermarkets? Where will we go for our holidays? What type of car will we purchase? What clothes will we wear? What gifts will we choose for loved ones?
But in the matter of salvation, choice is restricted for there is only one means whereby our sins can be forgiven and our souls be saved. There is only one Saviour who can save from hell. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," Acts 4.12. In the wisdom of God this will avoid confusion. We are not advised to choose our own way but must accept God's offer of salvation in the substitutionary death of His Son. Whatever the country, clime, culture or creed, there is only one door to heaven—Christ Himself. "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved ..." Jn.10.9.
Irrespective of race or religion, social status or academic achievements, salvation is obtainable only by trusting Christ. There is no priest, prophet or patriarch who has the power to save the soul eternally.
'Life is found alone in Jesus, Only there 'tis offered thee.'
Do not allow yourself to be misdirected, do not lose your way in the maze of men's ideas and philosophies, but listen to the tender, pleading voice of the One who loves your soul and died that you might be in heaven with Him forever. "He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life," Jn.6.47. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," Matt.11.28.
The choice is yours—Christ or the world, sin or salvation—it may seem relatively unimportant but it will affect your eternal destiny. No other choice can ever be more crucial or have such far-reaching consequences. Your decision will not only affect you for the years of life but for the ceaseless eternity. No one can make the choice for you, many will try to influence your decision but ultimately you must decide.
In Matt.27.22, Pilate asked, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" The multitude replied, "Let Him be crucified." He received a letter from his wife urging him to "have nothing to do with that just Man," Matt.27.19. The Jews protested, when they noticed a weakening of Pilate's resolve, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Ceasar's friend," Jn.19.12. Advice was coming from every quarter but the onerous decision was Pilate's alone. The cry of the multitude and the priests prevailed. Pilate bowed to pressure and made the wrong decision—fatal choice, to be regretted eternally.
What will you do with Jesus? Your choice will determine where you will be in eternity, for there are but two destinies, heaven or hell and when life is over, the rest of your eternal existence will find you in one of these two places. 'And each his solemn choice must make, No neutral ground can be. It must be Christ or death's deep lake For all eternity.'
No earthly gain, no fleeting fame, no passing pleasure, no companion's friendship could ever compensate for the loss incurred by making the wrong choice in relation to Christ. Decide for Christ today and be assured of heaven eternally.