The Holy Mount! So Peter calls it come forty years later. He could never forget that day (or was it night?) when he and the brothers James and John had climbed that mount with the Master. They had left earth behind on a lower plane for a little while and they had been rewarded with a sight of glory which remained with them until the end of their lives. Was it Tabor? Or Hermon? Tabor, with its 1850 feet, could hardly be described as "an high mountain." The majestic Hermon however, towered some 10,000 feet high, the highest mountain in the region. But whether Tabor or Hermon, it most certainly was "the holy mount" where the glory of the Saviour shone out beyond the guise of the carpenter, where the face of the Man of Sorrows was as radiant as the sun, and where Peter declares, "We were eyewitnesses of His majesty," 2Pet.1.16.
Matthew and Mark say that it was after six days. Luke says that it was after eight days. There is no discrepancy. Luke counts the first and last days of that period; Matthew and Mark count the six intervening days only.
These three privileged men were to get, as the Saviour had promised, ch.16.28, a preview of the kingdom. They were to see that kingdom in miniature, in microcosm, and the King Himself gloriously pre-eminent in the midst of all. His garments, the Galilean homespun of His humble humanity, became dazzling white, white and glistering, white as the light, white as snow. In a holy dependency Jesus had gone up into the mountain to pray, ch.9.18. Heaven rewards the dependent Man and His disciples with a foregleam of the glory that is to be His as Jehovah's anointed King. His countenance and His raiment shine in that glory. What encouragement and moral comfort was this. Dark Calvary lay ahead. His visage would be marred there and cruel men would gamble-for His stained garments at the foot of His cross, and they would write above His thorn-crowned head "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." But if the sorrows of Golgotha lay ahead of Him now, then kingdom glory lay beyond Golgotha, and it would be assurance for His disciples to know this.
As the glory shone the heavenly visitors arrived, Moses and Elijah. It was fitting that Moses should be there. He was the founder, under God, of that economy which was soon to be done away. His types and shadows had foretold the Messiah. It was fitting too that Elijah should be there. He was the great reformer and recoverer of the nation, leading it back as Moses had led it out. They engaged in holy conversation with the King. Luke says that they talked of His exodus which He was about to accomplish. How well Moses knew the word "exodus"! The King's departure out of the world would be of His own arranging, whatever men may think.
Peter's Jewish mind desires to stay here. He had objected to the predicted suffering in ch.16.22, but this glory was different! It was good to be here. Poor Peter! He makes two blunders. First, it was not in the purpose of God to stay here. The Master was on His determined way to Jerusalem and to Calvary. It was not yet time for the glory. Second, and perhaps the greater error was in these words, "One for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias." Is the King to be on the same level as the law-giver and the prophet? But no. The heavenly ones must not stay. The law and the prophets must withdraw. Jesus must be left alone in solitary glory. A bright cloud overshadowed them. This was no ordinary cloud. It was doubtless the Shekinah. It was "the excellent glory," 2Pet.1.l7. The Father's voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." The Son would speak for the Father. The Son would declare all the purpose of God. The King must be supreme. Hear Him! The fearful disciples fell on their faces before Him. In kindness He touched them and when they lifted up their eyes they saw no man save Jesus only.
Now they must come down from the mount, but they would not preach what they had seen. Not yet. The nation had already rejected the King. Now He was on His way to Calvary to die, and the preaching of His Messiahship was finished. He had told them so at Caesarea Philippi, ch.16.20. Elijah had come to them in the ministry of John Baptist, and they had rejected him. It was all up with Israel. But down below, in the valley, on the plain, there was great need, and He would go among them and minister to them in spite of their unbelief.
A distraught father brings a demon-possessed boy to Him through the multitude. According to Luke he is an only begotten son, this boy, Lk.9.38. How the heart of that Blessed Only Begotten went out to him! The King does what His disciples could not do. Demons must obey Him, if not them, in their little faith. He rebukes the demon and delivers the child, and again, while in Galilee, announces His pending sufferings, death, and resurrection.
There follows, in Capernaum, the question of His paying the tribute money. This was a voluntary Temple tax, an annual half-shekel. Did Peter's master pay it? "Yes", Peter assured them, but when Peter came into the house the Saviour anticipated him and asked the question. "What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?" Peter knew that it was of strangers. "Then are the children free" said Jesus. But He would not offend, or give undue cause for criticism. He directs Peter to go to the sea and to the fish with the money in its mouth to give to those who received the tribute. That closing expression in the chapter is very beautiful, "For me and thee." The Master, in grace and kindness, would associate Himself with His disciple in the littlest things of life and would make provision even for the payment of His servant's taxes. King though He is, He will take kind notice of His people, with all their failings. He is still the same.
In previous studies, we have used the expression, 'the providence of God.' Perhaps the time has come for a definition. The word "providence" comes from two Latin words: 'pro', meaning 'before', and 'video', meaning 7 see'. It therefore means, 'activity arising from foresight.' There is no supernatural intervention in the book of Esther, but the series of non-miraculous events clearly reveals the overruling hand of God. The silence of God does not mean that He has surrendered His sovereignty.
The providential care of God for His people now becomes strikingly apparent, as Mordecai apparently realises for the first time: 'who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" 4.14.
Three characters take an active part in the proceedings. We have already met Mordecai and Esther, but we now meet Hatach, one of the King's chamberlains. He plays a most important part in the story. We may not aspire to Mordecai or Esther, but we can all fulfil the role of Hatach! We can divide the chapter as follows: (1) The reaction of Mordecai, v1-4; (2) The role of Hatach, v5-10; (3) The responsibility of Esther, v11-17.
1) THE REACTION OF MORDECAI. v1-4
"When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry; and came even before the king's gate; for none might enter into the king's gate clothed with sackcloth," v1-2. (Eastern potentates expected their subjects to be deliriously happy at all times: compare Neh.2.1-2). Although Esther was "exceedingly grieved" when informed by her maids and chamberlains, it is evident that she was not aware of the reason for Mordecai's grief: see v5. Ahasuerus had not confided in his queen and, by our standards, she seemed strangely insulted from the outside world. Bearing in mind that God's people were in peril, let us ask some questions:
Are we concerned about the threat to our existence? Yes, we have eternal life. The Lord Jesus said, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish," Jn. 10.28. But we have a great enemy, and he is bent on destroying the testimony. Haman exhibited the character of his dark master who "as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour," lPet.5.8. But "we are not ignorant of his devices," for."Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light," 2Cor.11.14. Persecution is not nearly so successful as corruption.
But do we really care about the sad decline in spiritual power and faithfulness to the word of God? When Nehemiah learned that "the place which the Lord shall choose to place His Name there" was in ruins, he could have shrugged his shoulders and carried on serving wine to the king, but he "sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven," Neh.1.4. Daniel was not a party to the sins which resulted in the Babylonian captivity, but he set his "face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes," Dan.9.3. Paul "ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" as he anticipated "grievous wolves" from without, and "men ... speaking perverse things" from within, Acts 20.29-31.
Are we out of touch with the feelings of Christ? It would be rather unfair to criticise Esther. She was evidently cocooned from national life, and was blissfully unaware of the crisis. But what about us? The Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Human misery touched Him deeply. See Mk.7.34, 'And looking up to heaven He groaned...' JND. In that sense, how much do we know of the "Fellowship of His sufferings?" We tend to become impervious and insensitive to human need. Generally speaking, we have surrounded ourselves with every creature comfort, and become quite unaware of a grieving Christ.
Are we out of touch with one another? Ahasuerus certainly didn't communicate with his wife. Had he done so, a little queenly advice and good common sense might have nudged him in a completely different direction! The Lord's people need to be in constant touch with each other. Paul might have acted entirely on his own authority in Acts 15, but "they (that is, the local "brethren" v1) determined that Paul and Barnabas ... should go up to Jerusalem, unto the apostles and elders, about this question. And being brought on their way by the church," v1-3. Fellowship is vital. We should add that assembly elders need to be in constant touch with each other, and in constant touch with the flock.
2) THE ROLE OF HATACH. v5-10
The frequent reference to Hatach leaves you with the impression that he is mentioned quite deliberately. He must certainly not be overlooked. "Then called Esther for Hatach ... and gave him a commandment to Mordecai ... so Hatach went forth to Mordecai ... and Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him ... also he gave him a copy of the writing of the decree ... and Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai. Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai." Now let us see what we can learn from all this:
No service for God escapes His notice. Hatach isn't one of the big 'stars' in the story (forgive the play on Esther's name!), but he does valuable work. The Bible is just full of such examples. What about Paul's nephew in Acts 23? Or the little captive maid in 2Kgs.5? Just think what would have happened if the sons of Merari had found it rather undignified to carry tent pegs and tent cords, and jettisoned them en route through the wilderness! None of us is in a position to compare different aspects of Christian service in terms of their importance. Everything is important, and everything is known to God.
No service for God should be beneath our dignity. Hatach was one of the "Icing's chamberlains," but he was quite willing to act as a messenger boy! The Lord Jesus was willing to act as a servant: "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto (that is, to be served), but to minister (that is, to serve), and to give His life a ransom for many," Mk.10.45. Those of us who preach should never get 'too big for our spiritual boots,' and we shouldn't encourage others to do so either.
No service for God should be undertaken without strict reference to His Word. Hatach was devoid of any ideas of his own! He had nothing to contribute to the dialogue between Esther and Mordecai. He simply repeated what he was told to say — without any embroidery. Our business is to communicate the word of God: nothing more, and nothing less. Hatach did exactly what he was told, and repeated exactly what he was told.
No service for God should be undertaken without strict personal integrity. Esther obviously trusted Hatach implicitly. J. C. Whitcomb refers to 'the delicate task she entrusted to him,' and continues: 'and Mordecai must have trusted him too, for he divulged to him Esther's true nationality and thus her dangerous position (cf. v8 - "for her people").' There was no tittle-tattle by Hatach. No betrayal of confidences. He was totally trustworthy, and could be safely relied upon to carry detailed information, v7, and important instructions, v8. At the same time he was at considerable risk. Just suppose Haman had found out about his visits to Mordecai.
We will consider the balance of the chapter in our study. God willing.
King Ahab was the eighth ruler of the Northern Kingdom - Israel - and for over twenty years (874-853 BC) he emerged as one whose name is synonymous with weakness and sin. The record of Scripture bears testimony to:
(a) His Inheritance
1Kgs.16.25-26 provide us with an insight into the character of Ahab's father, Omri, and the condition of the nation that Ahab inherited. Although we all inherit the sinful nature from our parents, Jn.3.6, it appears that the character of Omri was especially replicated in the life of his son. For instance, in terms of the influence that Omri made on Ahab, we can make the following observations:
It was Strong
1Kgs.16.25 illustrates that during the reign of Omri, a sad point in the nation's history had been reached - '(he) did worse than all that were before him.' However, in the case of Ahab the maxim, like father like son, was true, for in 1Ki.16.30 we read that 'Ahab .. did evil .. above all that were before him.' In other words, Ahab, whose name means 'father's brother', displayed all that was bad in his father. Within any close environment, especially the home, we all have the power to exert influences over others - make sure that your influence is for good.
It was Serious
1Kgs. 16.26 states that Omri actually provoked the Lord to anger. This approach was repeated by Ahab, as 1Ki.16.33 records. Thus, both father and son abused the long-suffering nature of God by their sinful practices and the end was that the Lord's anger was poured out upon them. An important gospel principle - if sinners abuse the long-suffering nature of God by refusing His offer of shelter, it will only end in them facing the awful outpouring of His wrath. For believers, we can provoke in a good sense: 'And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works,' Heb.10.24.
(c) His Iniquity
Whilst scripture faithfully records the fact that Ahab's activities were reckoned as 'evil' by the Lord, 1Ki.16.30, and his son, Ahaziah, followed in the same path 1Kgs.22.51-52, the comprehensive way in which his life is documented means that it is possible to identify various spheres wherein his sin was apparent. There are three specific areas:
Against the Will of God
1Kgs. 16.31 suggests that Ahab's marriage to Jezebel was a flagrant rejection of God's commandments. The writer stresses that no pressure was placed upon Ahab to enter into matrimony with Jezebel, rather 'he took to wife.' Moreover, the important point to stress was that his wife was of pagan extracts and so he disobeyed Deut.7.1-6. The remainder of Ahab's life testifies to the implications of such disobedience -
1Kgs.21.5-8 record how the woman controlled the home, which was contrary to the original instructions of Gen.2.20-24 and the injunction given by Paul in Eph.5.22-24;
through her union and subsequent position as Queen, Jezebel was able to inculcate the nation with her own paginate practices, 1Ki.18, and eventually infiltrate the nation of Judah through her own daughter, Athaliah, 2Chron.21.5-6, with disastrous consequences. Surely there must be some truth in the saying: 'a wife will either make or break a man'! The life of Ahab is living testimony as to the importance of entering into marriage with the utmost caution and spiritual guidance.
Against the Men of God
During the reign of Ahab, the Lord raised up the prophet, Elijah, to counteract the sinful practices of the royal throne. 1Kil7.1; 18.17-19; 21.20 record that the prophet was faithful to his mission for, with great courage, he stood up against the sinful practices that were growing throughout the nation. Little wonder that Ahab could look upon Elijah and say 'O mine enemy,' 1Ki.21.20, for he exposed all that was wrong in the nation. In the case of Micaiah, 1Ki.22.7-28, another prophet, he too was faithful in his service, but Ahab said 'I hate him,' 1Ki.22.8. In the New Testament period, the Lord Jesus was treated in the same way, Jn.15.18, and as his followers we can expect the same treatment, Jn.15.19. The more comfortable we feel in the world and the more enjoyable we find their practices, then the less fellowship we are enjoying with the Lord. Remember the words of Rom.12.2: 'Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould' (Phillips Translation).
Against the Word of God
1Kgs.21.1-16 record the sad incident of Naboth's vineyard in Jezreel. Although we shall return to the narrative in the subsequent paper, it is important to outline why it was inappropriate for Ahab to even desire, let alone take, the vineyard that belonged to his neighbour. 1Ki.21.3 illustrates that Naboth had a better grasp of the Scriptures than the king, Num.36.9 records that the land was to be passed down through the family line of Naboth, not used as a means of trade. Such was the faithfulness of Naboth that he was not prepared to sell the land for royal favour or material gain, 1Ki.21.2. Are we as faithful to the Word as Naboth? Are you prepared to compromise some truth for personal gain?
(c) His Idolatry
The first king over the Northern Kingdom of Israel was Jeroboam, 1Ki.12.20, and he established the worship of false gods (v28) that bore sad resemblance to the rebellious activities of the Israelites in Ex.32.4-8. As Ahab modelled himself on Jeroboam, 1Ki.16.31, and with the association of his wife, Jezebel, he soon introduced false gods into the nation (v32-33). The idols were of a twofold variety:
Baal was believed to control fertility in agriculture, beasts and mankind and thus it was important to secure their favour, especially in areas such as Israel where rainfall was low. 1Ki.19.18 illustrates the powerful influence that Baal exerted over the nation and Jer.19.5 points to its depraved practices.
During the period of the judges, both Baal and Asherah figured prominently amongst the Israelites, Jud.2.13; 3.7; 6.30. Asherah was said to be figured as a wooden image implanted into the ground and adjacent to an altar of Baal. Sadly Ahab was not alone in his associations with Asherah, Manasseh introduced it into the Temple at Jerusalem, 2Kgs.21.3,7, but Josiah later burnt it, 2Kgs.23.4.
Whilst it is sad to observe that Ahab introduced images into a nation that had such strong connections with the true God, it is even more solemn to note the development in his sin:
Initially Ahab 'served Baal', 1Ki.16.31. Obviously under the influence of his wife he was introduced to such images. Bad associations!
The next step for Ahab was that he 'worshipped', 1Ki.16.31, the false gods. The bad associations led to improper activities!
The final stage for Ahab was that he pursued godless aspirations! 'He reared up an altar for Baal,' 1Ki.16.32, and 'made a grove (Asherah)', 1Ki.16.33. His desire was to increase the popularity of the false gods, and 1Ki.18.19 would suggest that he had some success.
Surely the record of Ahab's idolatry is proof that sin has a 'snow-ball' effect. It may all start with the company we keep, but soon it will reflect in our outward activities and finally the sin, no matter its nature, will become an imbedded desire. Surely prevention is better than cure: be careful as to who your 'friends'are!
In our next paper we shall consider Ahab's industry, influence, interests and immaturity.
2. The Heavenly Saints are to have part with Christ in this dominion. By "the heavenly saints" we mean not merely the Church of this dispensation, but all whose portion is above.* We observe at least four classes of these in Scripture: (1) The Old Testament believers; (2) the Church of God; (3) the latter-day witnesses who lose their lives for the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God; and (4) those who refuse to worship the beast and his image. The first two of these classes will be removed to heaven at the Lord's descent into the air, in order to facilitate their coming with Him at His public appearing, lThess.4.13-18; lCor.15.23,51-55; Col.3.4. The third and fourth classes will apparently be raised at His appearing, in time to have part in His administration of the kingdom, Rev. 6.9-11; 15.2-4; 20.4. All these are to share the reign of Christ. "The Saints of the Most High (or, high places) shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever," Dan.7.18.
* The saints of the present period will, of course, have a closer and more intimate association with Christ than others. When He fills all in all, the Church, His body, has a special place, Eph.1.22,23.
Here a difficulty may present itself to the minds of some of our readers. It has been asked: "Are the heavenly saints to be actually on the earth during the kingdom?" By no means; our home is above. Even Christ Himself will not be personally present on earth throughout that period, else where the need for a "prince" to represent Him in Jerusalem? Ezek.44.1-3; 45.7-25, etc. Matt.13.41-43, may help us here. First we read of The Kingdom of the Son, out of which all evil will be purged. This is the earthly part evidently. Then we read of The Kingdom of the Father, and it is in that that we are to have our place; "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Our position in relation to the earth is thus compared to that of the sun. We shall be the world's light-givers, and dispensers of divine blessing. We shall visit the earth with Christ at His appearing, and probably afterwards; but our own proper habitation is the Father's house above.
The thought of such dignity should influence our walk in the world now. This is what the Apostle brought before the Corinthians, when, in utter forgetfulness of what they had been called to, they carried their grievances against each other before the world. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?" ICor.6.1-3. Our association with Christ in the coming kingdom is thus referred to as a truth well-known in that day. How grievous the fall when Christians not only lost sight of their own future place as the world's rulers and judges, but even admitted the idea of standing before the Great White Throne to be judged themselves! The notion of a general judgment, to which we refer, is a serious dishonour to the accomplished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ere we leave this point, another important consideration must be briefly noticed. Our respective places in the coming kingdom will be allotted according to our walk and service in the present age. To the faithful servant the Lord will say, "I will make thee ruler over many things," Matt.25.21-23. This is frequently brought forward in the epistles as an incentive to godliness of walk and diligence in service, 2Tim.4.1,2; 2Thess.1.5; 2Pet.1.11. Let every Christian reader lay this seriously to heart. Suppose any to deliberately choose a path of ease and honour in this world, as the carnal Corinthians of old, will they — can they stand well in the approaching kingdom? lCor.4.8-14. Impossible. But if, on the other hand, any are willing to let the world go by for Christ's sake, content to bear the cross day by day, will He fail to reward them suitably in the day of His glory? In this way David acted towards the companions of his distress when he reached the throne. The Greater than David will be equally mindful of every bit of faithfulness to His Word and Name.
Please read the following passages of Holy Scripture carefully and prayerfully. Try to read them as if for the first time, leaving aside any ideas you have previously held on the subject: Matt.26.26-30; Mk.14.22-26; Lk.22.14-23; Acts 2.41-43; 20.6-11; 1Cor.10.16-21; 11.17-34. As you do so we venture to say that you will be surprised by the absolute simplicity of the whole proceedings. There is no reference to a consecrated building, no mention of a church official to preside, no consecration of the emblems, no dispensing of the supper, no receiving of the communion, no word of a sacrament, no partaking of the body and blood, no feeding of the soul. Most certainly there is no altar, no sacrifice, no mysterious movements nor mutterings, no mass.
When the ideas and practices added by men have been removed we can see the true picture. A company of disciples of Christ gathered together as a church of God, on the first day of the week. A loaf of bread and a cup containing the fruit of the vine. Eating the bread and drinking the cup together in remembrance of the Lord Jesus. A declaring of His death and a looking forward to His return.
It is the Lord's supper for it was instituted by the Lord. It is not the Father's supper for His children; it is the Lord's supper for his disciples. Fatherhood is not prominent; Lordship is. Please note the repetition of the title Lord in 1Cor.11,20,23,26,27,29,32. The Lord commanded: "This do." It is the disciple's place to do this.
The Lord presided at the institution and left no successor. So at the celebration no president is seen; neither pope, patriarch, prelate, priest, pastor, preacher, nor presbyter presides. All are disciples. None has the "right" to be there. It is most unholy daring to claim the "right" to partake. The Lord alone has "rights" there. Those who partake gladly own that it is of purest grace that they find themselves present.
Those who partake are a company of believing sinners, disciples of Christ, who have been baptized, Acts 2.41,42. It is not a casual meeting of believers. They have come together as a church, a church of God, a local congregation, 1 Cor. 11.18-22. The Church comes together in one place, the gathered saints partake of the Lord's supper. It is a collective act of the church, 1Cor.10.16,17. To carry the emblems to those who are not able to be present is an imitation of Rome.
The Lord Jesus took bread, the bread that was at hand for another purpose, the Passover. He took the cup and only incidentally do we know that it contained the fruit of the vine. The emblems are the loaf and the cup.
He gave thanks just as He did in feeding the multitude in Matt. 15.36. He blessed just as in feeding the multitude in Matt.14.19. Indeed Matthew and Mark use "bless" in the case of the bread and "give thanks" in the case of the cup, showing that both words express the same thought. It does not speak of giving thanks "for the bread" or "for the cup." There is no thought of consecration, much less of trans-substantiation. That which was eaten was bread and they drank of the cup. "This is my body" is no more literal than "This cup is the new covenant."
The Lord said: "This do in remembrance of me." Not a word about eating the body and blood of the Lord, nor feeding on Christ. The Lord's supper is not the subject in Jn.6 which was spoken some time before the institution. In that chapter eating and drinking are symbolic, meaning believing and coming, Jn.6.35,51-58. In the supper the eating and drinking are literal. The bread and the cup bring before the Christian the incarnation and death of the Son of God with all that these imply. The partaking in common of the bread and cup signifies communion, fellowship, partnership in the one Saviour and the one sacrifice. All are of one heart and mind in this. Communion is not something given to us or received by us, it is the collective enjoyment of one common object.
As well as the remembrance it was also said that "Ye do show the Lord's death." It is not a representation, as the mass claims to be, but a declaration, a proclamation. Just as in baptism there is a declaration made, so also in the Lord's supper each partaker testifies to his individual sharing in the common faith, and in the results that flow from the Lord's atoning death.
It is to be carried out "till He come." When that event takes place the whole church will be caught up into His presence to be for ever with the Lord. Then we shall see Himself and shall need no emblems to bring Him before us. We shall see Him whom having not seen we love.
The eating and the drinking are to be done worthily, in a worthy manner. We must partake of the supper with an examined, exercised heart and with spiritual discernment of its significance. It is neither a social occasion nor a fellowship meal. It is the Lord's supper and is meant to bring the hearts of the saints into a state of collective occupation with Christ Himself. This will always result in the outpouring of worship to our blessed God.
Dear child of God, your Lord and Saviour, with the cross looming before Him, said: "This do." You, in gratitude of heart, should seek to do just what He said according to the example of the disciples in Acts 20.7
WHEN? Upon the first day of the week . . .
WHO? the disciples
WHERE? came together
WHY? to break bread.
In our former considerations of the house in Prov.9, we have noted:
the CONSTRUCTION, the CONFLICTS and COURAGE with respect to the house. We shall now consider:
CATERING IN THE HOUSE:
We read in Prov.9.2, 'she hath furnished her table.' There is the necessity for Milk for the lambs; Meat for the developed; Medicine for the sick. These are essential to ensure the good health of those in the house.
We find seven ingredients for the diet of those who partake of the table in Gen.43.11.
1. "The best fruits of the land' = EDIFYING MINISTRY.
It must be the best. Nothing stale but fresh from the Sanctuary. For instance, three things are mentioned in Lk.11.11,12, stones, serpents and scorpions. A stone is a hard ministry; a serpent is a dangerous ministry; and a scorpion is the worst of all, a disastrous ministry. None of this will come into the compass of lCor.14.3, 'edification, and exhortation, and comfort.' This will be produced by waiting on each other as led by the Spirit.
2. 'A little Balm' = HEALING MINISTRY.
Putting on the wound that which will first draw out the corruption and then that which will bring in the healing process.
3. 'A little Honey' = CHRIST EXALTING MINISTRY.
This is sweet and will attract the bees. Such ministry will attract the saints and therefore acts also as a gathering ministry. However, it has to be placed accessibly. Too often it is out of reach and above the heads of the saints.
4. 'Spices' = HEART WARMING MINISTRY.
There is no mention of the amount, it is an unnamed quantity. The saints who have become cold at heart need a ministry which will be stirring up. Spice is not put on a wound, it is for the heart.
5. 'Myrrh' = LOVING MINISTRY.
This is love shown firstly to Christ then to His own. In lCor.13 the myrrh is missing. What we have, what we do and what we profess are all of no value apart from the 'myrrh' of love.
6. 'Nuts' = PREPARED MINISTRY.
When feeding the sheep we move from the milk to the nuts. This ministry needs to be broken down to get to the kernel. Those who feed the saints need to break the shell to allow the hungry souls to benefit from the meat. Doctrine must be practically applied and not taught in a vacuum.
7. 'Almonds' = FRUITFUL MINISTRY.
Aaron's rod that budded brings before us fruitfulness and that out of death. Out of the deadness of a life without God there is now the production of fruit for His glory. Ministry should be designed to produce such in the lives of the saints. Spring has come, the winter is past and there ought to be the visible indications of growth showing the life of God in the soul. Happy are the saints where the table is spread with these dainties.
THE CHARGE OF THE HOUSE:
Prov.9.3. 'She crieth upon the highest places of the city.' This may find its counterpart in 2Tim.4.2,5, 'Preach the Word ... Rebuke, Reprove, Exhort... Watch, Endure, Evangelise. These are seven exercises which must be seen as we view the progress of the house. The preaching (Gospel) or the teaching (Ministry) of the Word. In Nehemiah's day there was a cry heard, "Bring the Book." We all need to bring the book, in whatever sphere of service we are involved. May that desire increase and may there be more diligence as we find the Book. As we approach the Book we often feel rebuked. So little spiritual progress can be seen in our lives. We feel so far removed from the standard laid down. Then at times we are rebuked by ministry given from the Book and so often reproved. We must ever be thankful for those dear brethren who watch over us and would so often exhort us in the ways that please the Lord. For that spirit of endurance to continue teaching in spite of so little response.
THE CHARACTER OF THE HOUSE:
The character of those who make up the house. Prov.9.3, 'she hath sent forth her maidens.' The individuals give character to the gathering and so to the house. In Jms.3.17 we find seven lovely maidens.
The 'Pure' maiden. Purity is a must in any assembly. Note well Heb.12.14.
The 'Peaceable' maiden. Ps.119.165 — Never be a disturber.
The 'Gentle' maiden. Meek like Moses.
The Tranquil maiden, 'Easy to be entreated'. In contrast to a Belial kind of person, lSam.25.17. Such a son or daughter cannot be spoken to.
The Fruitful maiden, 'Full of mercy'. Good fruits, just like Dorcas.
The Unbiased maiden, 'Without Partiality'. Very scarce at times, yet very necessary. Jms.2.2.
The Straight maiden, 'Without Hypocrisy'.
What a pleasure to meet saints and assemblies where these maidens can be seen. Job's three daughters are thus named as they bring out these precious traits, Job 42.14.
'Jemima' = Light of the morning. In this we see soul beauty. We must be honest.
'Kezia' = Breath of the garden. In this we see soul experience. We must be holy.
'Kerenhappuch' = Fullness of blessing. In this we see soul praise. We must be happy.
THE CONVICTION OF THE HOUSE:
Prov.9.4, 'Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither.' We need conviction as to the place. If there was more conviction there would be more loyalty and less departure.
There is one place of gathering as we have already seen in the beginning of our study, Acts 2.41.
There is one Person to whom the saints gather, our Lord Jesus Christ, Matt.18.20; 1Cor.1.10.
The believers now baptized, were added unto them. This is the moment when exercised believers are received into the fellowship of believers who meet and gather according to the Word of God. In Matt.18.20, the following features can be seen. There is
Place of gathering.
Plurality of people.
Two or three
In My Name
In the midst
In Lk.22.11 some things are said about the place, it is an upper room, above street level. The place of high spiritual activity. Not the language of the street, but the language of Heaven. It is already furnished. We bring nothing into the place, nor do we take anything out of it. All the furnishings have been supplied by Him. They are found in 1Cor.12, where Paul speaks of diversities of gifts and he teaches how they function in harmony to the edification of the body. Not all the gifts in one person but each having some. Not a person choosing his gift or being educated for it, but God has set members as it has pleased Him. We need to know what He has given us and use it in humility and thus maintain harmony.
We trust these simple things will help to strengthen the testimonies of the Lord's people in days of declension.
Another of those whose prowess marked him out as being "more honourable than the thirty" though "he attained not to the first three," was Benaiah (Jah has built). It is encouraging to see that while his activities were undertaken in differing circumstances than those of Eleazar, they earned him the same recognition. Whilst we are encouraged to "covet earnestly the best gifts," lCor.12.31, we remember that Timothy needed the exhortation to "neglect not the gift that is in thee," lTim.4.14. God does not wish us to be so taken up with what we would like to do, that we refrain from doing that for which he has given us ability. We do not read of Benaiah, as we do of Abishai for instance, that "he lifted up his spear against three hundred and slew them." His achievements were not commenced in the public eye nor were they of outstanding spectacle. "He slew two lionlike men of Moab; he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow." A cornered lion, in the treacherous conditions of a snowy day, was something which could very easily have been given a wide berth, with the pious hope that in such circumstances it would probably die anyway. Who was around to see such an undertaking and to give the deserved acclaim? Solomon urges us, however, "whatever thy hand findeth to do, do with thy might," Ecc.9.10, and we have the promise of the Lord Jesus that, "thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly," Matt.6.6. This is not to say that recognition will come down here, but Paul does assure us that whilst "the good works of some are manifest beforehand — they that are otherwise cannot be hid," lTim.5.25. To have left the lion may have been prudent, but could have easily exposed to danger any unwary or unsuspecting traveller passing that way. It is also, so often the case in assemblies, that a potential danger is not dealt with on the grounds that if left well alone it will disappear. This hope is seldom borne out in practice. "Know ye not," asks Paul, "that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Purge out therefore the old leaven that ye may be a new lump as ye are unleavened," lCor.5.6-7. We are unfortunately prone to leaving such problems until God Himself has to intervene directly because of our laxity. This may bring chastening to a degree which would not have occurred had we lived up to our responsibilities, "for if we would judge ourselves we should not be judged," lCor.11.31 (i.e. governmentally). In dealing with a little known but potentially deadly danger, Benaiah was rendering incalculable service to his fellow men as we may to our fellow saints.
Having so acted in obscurity, he is now called on for more public service. This is a principle in activities for the Lord, for "he that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much," Lk.16.10. He has proved himself trustworthy and is now faced with a situation very like that which his leader, David, had faced in the past. "An Egyptian, a man of great stature five cubits high, (Goliath was six cubits and a span) and in the Egyptian's hand was a spear like a weaver's beam." How awe-inspiring a sight, but how comforting to be able to look to that even more terrible challenger of God and His people and to remember his defeat. This is not a lion lurking in a pit but a direct challenge to God's people. Such a challenge must be dealt with publicly and in a convincing manner. In dealing with those causing upset at Corinth, Paul is quick to disillusion them concerning their sneering jibe, "his letters are weighty and powerful but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible. Let such an one think this," he says, "that such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present," 2Cor.10.10-11. He leaves them in no doubt that he will use the authority given him by the Lord to safeguard the believers from those he calls "false apostles, deceitful workers, - (Satan's) ministers," 2Cor.11.13-15. Whilst we cannot claim authority in the way that Paul could, as an apostle, it is given to brethren to use the authority of the Word of God in the defence of saints. The degree to which we can do this effectively is dependent on the extent to which the truth of that word has been appropriated for ourselves and the measure of our preparedness to rest solely and confidently upon it. Benaiah does not go down to the enemy with an even bigger spear than that wielded by the Egyptian but with a staff. David in like manner, rejecting the armour of Saul, used a sling to slay Goliath, the same sling as was normally used by him to head off any sheep that were tending to stray and bring them back to the security of the flock. Both these men demonstrate that they were predominantly concerned with caring rather than warring, but that which had its primary use in the good of the sheep, could be used with devastating effect upon intruding enemies. So, while we read of "the sincere milk of the word," lPet.2.2 and "the comfort of the Scriptures," Rom.15.4 we are exhorted to include in our armour "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God," Eph.6.17.
Against a man armed as was Benaiah, all the might of the enemy was of no avail and he was slain ignominiously with his own spear. What exploits might we achieve if we are prepared to accept and act on the truth that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds," 2Cor.l0.4.
Benaiah began in a small way and gradually developed and widened his sphere of service and usefulness. So much so that towards the end of David's reign we find him "over the Cherethites and Pelethites," 2Sam.20.23, the executioners and couriers, an elite palace guard. Later still, after the defection and execution of Joab, he reached the highest point of military rank and status, being appointed over the host of Solomon's army. May we too, by diligent attention to each service we seek to render, by cultivating an understanding and appreciation of the Word of God, and through it He of whom it speaks, know what it is to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," 2Pet.3.18. May our lives show by spiritual growth and development that it is true of us that "Jah has built."
Sin involves being unrestrained: instead of doing God's will, doing that which is right in one's own eyes, Jud.21.25. It is "... transgression of the law," Un.3.4: it is lawlessness. The children of Israel had sinned, they had disobeyed God. They had failed to trust the eternal sovereign God and had refused to go up and possess the Promised land.
As a consequence of sin, they came under the wrath of God, v7, and were condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years before going into Canaan. There is no such thing as sin hidden from God, v8, Ps.139.1-4, and v9-ll stress again the consequences of sin and the uncertainty, fear and distress caused to unbelievers by the inevitability of death. Those over twenty years of age knew the distressing truth that they would not reach Canaan and that they would die in the wilderness, Num.14.26-33. The wonderful truth for believers, however, is that the Lord Jesus Christ came "... 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," Heb.2.14,15.
Moses mentions a life span of seventy years and adds that if a person lives longer the extra years are attended by increasing problems, v10, Ecc.21.1. This, of course, is true, and yet an aged believer, although longing to depart and be with the Lord, 2Cor.5.8 which is far better, Phil.1.21,23, so often has a peace that passes understanding, Phil.4.7 and a glowing testimony based on many years of walking with God.
Our life spans are limited as a consequence of sin. We read in Rom.5.12 "... by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." We do well to meditate on the holiness of God and His hatred of sin, Hab.1.13. His ways are not our ways, Isa.55.8 and the greater our appreciation of the power, grace and mercy of God, and of the love of God revealed to us in the life, sufferings and substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the greater will be our hatred of sin, our love for God and gratitude for the wonderful salvation the Lord procured for us. Meditation on these things will increase our desire to obey and serve Him.
When we consider the dark despair and hopelessness felt by the children of Israel which are depicted in this psalm, and consider that the adults knew they would die in the desert, it all brings into sharp contrast the outlook for the believer. The eternal God planned our salvation before the world was. It is all of grace and through the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ and the shedding of His precious blood, IPet.1.18,19. God "... saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our. Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel," 2Tim. 1.9,10. If the Lord does not return before the believer dies, 1Thess.4.13-18 then death is the gateway to eternal bliss. In the light of all that we know and experience, what kind of people ought we to be "... in all holy conversation and godliness," 2Pet.3.11.
God's wrath against sin cannot be exaggerated, v11. We read "... our God is a consuming fire," Heb.12.29, Deut.4.24, and "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," Heb. 10.31. Just as our finite minds can by no means fully appreciate the love of God, Eph.3.19 nor the extent of the suffering of the Lord on the Cross, neither can we appreciate the awful wrath of God against sin. The flood in the days of Noah and the destruction of Sodom, Lk. 17.26-29 give some insight into the extent of God's hatred of sin and His wrath. The closer we are to God the greater will be our appreciation of God's hatred of sin and our sensitivity to sin in ourselves. Also, the closer we are to God the greater will be our love and our reverence for Him and our awe of the Majesty on high.
Grace and Blessing, v12-17
The earlier verses of the psalm have been a preparation for the prayer which Moses now makes to God. There has been a stress, in the earlier part of the psalm, on the eternal, unchanging God who cares for and protects His people and hates sin. The nature and brievity of life have also been brought before us and Moses' prayer in verse 12 would make us consider our responsibility regarding the use of the time remaining in our lives. The number of our days is determined by God and we need to ask God to teach us to use time, energy and all the resources He has given to us, with the wisdom which only He can provide. God gives us wisdom when we study His Word and are taught by the Spirit as we meditate on what we have read.
We have today to use, we are not guaranteed tomorrow, Prov.27.1, Jas.4.13-15. Life is uncertain and the Lord could return at any second. If we have sought wisdom from God to use our time to His glory, in accordance with His perfect will, then He will supply the strength for us to complete the work He has given us to do, Deut.33.25. Our eternal, unchanging God gives us each day. His compassion never changes, it is "...new every morning..." and great is His faithfulness, Lam.3.23. Consideration of our responsibility for the use of time, that is our stewardship of this scarce resource, might lead us to see a need to adjust our priorities in the light of eternity and the Judgment Seat of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to make the best use of every opportunity to serve God because the days are indeed evil, Eph.5.16.
Moses prays in verse 13, asking God to have mercy on "Thy servants." He intercedes on behalf of the children of Israel. They were being punished by God but were still His people. We saw in verse 1 that the word used there for Lord was Adonai (Sovereign Lord, Ruler). The word used for Lord in verse 13 is Jehovah, the covenant name of the God of Israel. This name speaks of the Eternal, Self-sufficient One. It is used in connection with God's purpose in redemption, Exod.3.14-16, 6.3. Moses knew God would again be merciful to His people and wondered how long it would be before His mercy and blessing would be seen. God was merciful and the next generation entered Canaan.
God's chastisement only benefits and "... yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby," Heb.12.11. Moses prays in verse 14 that they may receive mercy from God so that the rest of their brief days might be spent in God's mercy and grace. The disbelief of the Israelites was sin and sin comes between God and His people. But when God chastises His people and this is followed by confession of the sin and true repentance, God, who is "...rich in mercy..." Eph.2.4, will bring them back into blessing. As believers, we know that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," Un.1.9. If we repent and confess our sins, they will be forgiven and we can go forward and experience once again God's mercy and grace in our lives.
Moses asks, in verse 15, that they might experience as many years of gladness as they have experienced years in which God has afflicted them. He asks that instead of suffering under righteous judgment they might once again see God graciously working for them.
In verse 16 Moses prays for blessing on their children. After Kadesh-barnea, Israel's future in Canaan lay with the younger generation, for they would go forward to the Promised Land. In the days in which we live young children and young believers are being bombarded with false teaching and alluring advertising of all manner of products and activities. We need to pray for them fervently that they might be protected from the evil around them and that they might be blessed by God. Moses finally, in verse 17, asks God's blessing on their work. Here, when Moses speaks of the beauty of the "Lord our God" he uses the word Jehovah for Lord, which we have already considered, and the word Elohim for God. Elohim speaks of God's creatorial and governing power, majesty and omnipotence. If we have ordered our time, and if our work for Him is in accordance with His will and is done in the strength He provides and to His glory, then it will be blessed. Without Him we can do nothing, Jn.15.5, but with Him "...all things are possible," Matt.19.26. The believer who is empowered and directed by God will experience joy and satisfaction in serving God and He will be glorified. Believers are blessed in this life and can look forward to blessings in eternity. In the light of what we have been considering regarding our eternal, loving, holy God and Father and our brief lives and tendency to sin, we would do well to take to heart God's word to us in lCor.15.58, "...be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
In 1Kgs.3 we have Elisha ministering to the necessities of Kings. In chapter 4 He ministers to a widow and her sons. There is room in the Divine compassions for both the exalted and the lowly. The widow cried to Elisha for help and he responds, 'Tell me, what hast thou in the house'?. She said, 'Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house save a pot of oil.' What a pitiful story is here, suggestive of the meditations which preplexed Asaph in Ps.73. The question as to why the godly suffer while the ungodly prosper has frequently been a sore puzzle to tried hearts. The dear woman had nothing left but debts and slavery for her sons.
Unbelief is apt to cry in such circumstances, '... all these things are against me,' Gen.42.36. But we know all is under His control and, 'that all things work together for good to them that love God,' Rom.8.28.
The greater the emergency the greater the opportunity for God to show Himself on behalf of His people. She sought the aid of the Man of God. This title is first applied to Moses in Deut.33.1. Moses cut himself adrift from the world so that he might be wholly for God. The Church in these days needs men of God.
What had Elisha for the distressed widow? Nothing as far as his own resources were concerned, yet he more than met her need. What have we to meet the need of souls? The knowledge and provision of, God.
What hast thou in the house? Nothing save a pot of oil, but there were great potentialities in the pot of oil though the widow knew it not. Whatever else we lack, every Christian has his or her pot of oil, i.e. the power of the Holy Spirit within. Let us use this in faith, and all our difficulties become as nothing. Elisha tells the widow to borrow empty vessels from her neighbours and fill them all. This she did, in private, until there remained no more empty vessels. Now observe a remarkable thing, the oil flowed while a vessel remained to take it. It was only when the son said there is not a vessel more that the oil stayed. What a great lesson is here — the blessing is limited by men only. In chapter 3 the Kings obtained water according to the depth of the ditches that were prepared. It is always man who limits the blessing, the widow's need was now met, so the prophet bade her, 'go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children on the rest.'
We have a debt to discharge, which only the power of the Spirit can enable us to discharge. Paul felt this deeply in Rom. 1.14, 'I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, to the wise and unwise.' How he paid that debt is described in Rom.15.1. 'I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ.' We must pay our debt and for this the power of the Spirit is necessary and all sufficient. Elisha added, 'live thou and thy children on the rest.'
The power of the Spirit within enables us to live for Christ. Paul in Gal.2.20 says, 'I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.'
I was born on the fourth of February, 1921 in Upper Ballinderry, County Antrim. In our home, no one was saved and the Bible was not read, yet there was a measure of the fear of the Lord and a great respect for the Lord's Day. On that day only essential work was done, all shoes were polished and potatoes washed on Saturday. We were sent to Sunday School and the religious service as soon as we were able to go.
When I was six years old, the late Robert Curran and William Bunting had five weeks of gospel meetings in Killultagh Orange Hall, where my father was Master, and, as some were under conviction of sin, they had a few more weeks in a farmhouse on the Tansey Road, I remember one morning, early, being with my mother in the kitchen as she was baking bread, when my father came in and told her how he was saved during the night. As a lost sinner he had received Christ as his Saviour. I remember him putting his pipe and tobacco into the fire; 2Cor.5.7.
"This day is salvation come to this house," Lk.19.9, was true of our house, as with the house of Zacchaeus. My father bought a Bible, read it and sought to obey its teaching. He was later baptised as a believer and added to the assembly at Wallace Avenue, Lisburn, where he "continued steadfastly" until his home call to heaven. He also gathered his children, especially on the Lord's Day and read the Word and prayed with us. He often read Rom.3, Jn.3 and Lk.16, regarding sin, salvation, heaven and hell and eternity. These Scriptures and truths never left me; they spoiled me for the world, its sins, pleasures and religions. I had learned the truth, "Ye must be born again" and it left me without peace until I was saved on the twenty-sixth of February, 1937 at the age of sixteen. Mother went to the Church of Ireland, loved her prayer book and was slow to bow to "thus saith the Lord."
Early in 1937 gospel meetings commenced in a little hall on the Tansey Road, where a Mr. William Collins and others carried on a Sunday School work and a gospel meeting every Lord's Day. I began to attend these meetings and came under deep conviction of sin.
On the twenty-sixth of February, I left the hall alone, as I wanted to be alone with God. That night I knew that it was my "time of visitation" and I was faced with the choice between Christ or the world that crucified Him, sin or salvation, heaven or hell for eternity. The desire to be saved had swallowed up every other desire and longing only for salvation, I called upon God, like the publican of Lk.18. "God be merciful to me a sinner." Alone with God under the canopy of heaven, away from every distracting influence, God opened my eyes to "behold the Lamb of God" and to understand as never before that He died for me and for my sins. That moment, as a repentant sinner, trusting Him as my Substitute and Saviour my burden of sin was gone and the peace of God, real and divine, entered and I knew that all was well for eternity. On the road I just thanked God for giving His Son to die for me and for saving me. The words of Jn.3.36 gave divine assurance "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." The second half of the verse is equally true: "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him."
Long before I was saved, I had a burden about my dear mother's salvation, and as soon as I was saved, went straight home to her, put my arms about her and told her: "God has saved me and I wanted to tell you first". I remember her reply "I am glad to hear it, for you needed it." I recall my next words "Mother, you need it also. You are a good mother, but your goodness and your religion will never fit you for Heaven. Ye must be born again is God's message to us all." There was some resentment and some tears, but the Word of God got in.
Right away I obtained some gospel tracts and began to distribute these and to pray for the salvation of the unsaved. If I had not been already saved, on the twelfth of July, I would have been away with the Orangemen. Instead I got a bag of tracts and distributed them in the field at Ballymacash to all who would receive them. Today I recall some with whom I went to school; they are long since gone into eternity and were never awakened and saved.
In April 1939, when I was eighteen, I joined the R.U.C. and wherever I went I sought to take the Gospel to both policemen and civilians. Eternity will reveal the results. When stationed in Holywood, at the time when Lord Craigavon was Prime Minister, news reached me that there were gospel meetings in the Tansy Hall and Mr. Bob Dagnell, a good sound gospeller was preaching. It was possible to ride my bicycle from Holywood to home, take my mother to the meeting, cycle back to Holywood, in time to go on night duty at Lord Craigavon's residence. My mother heard the Gospel for the first time and in the mercy of God, was awakened and saved.
Later when stationed at Comber, I met a young lady who is now my wife. After exercise in prayer, we were baptised together in Apsley Street Gospel Hall and received into assembly fellowship on the same Lord's Day, each to a different assembly. We were married in March 1945, happily and in the Lord. I believe marriage to be the next important step after conversion, binding for life and indissoluble by man. "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder," Matt. 19.6.
Having been transferred to Newry in 1944, we set up our home there at Courtney Hill and became increasingly involved in Gospel work. In 1946 I was promoted and transferred to Roslea in County Fermanagh and in a year was put in charge of the station.
Our first child, David, was taken to Heaven at ten months. I remember getting on my knees beside his little body and saying to God "I have learned the solemn lesson that this world is not worth living for." "Only one life, t'will soon be past and only what's done in the will of God will last."
God graciously saved a number of the men stationed at Roslea and raised them up as living monuments of the grace of God. This gave much joy and encouragement to Mr. and Mrs. William Deering, also to the assemblies at Clones and Monaghan and all who came to help in the Gospel each Lord's Day.
Every Saturday evening when possible, the Gospel was preached in the open air in towns and villages in the Counties of Monaghan and Cavan. In Bailieborough, County Cavan, every Saturday for three months, the Gospel was preached, with 20 to 30 helpers from assemblies at Newry, Drumlough, Gransha and even Belfast. Mr. John Zebedee of Ebenezer, Belfast, Mr. Sandy McMurray of Donegal Road, and Dr. T. Hagan often helped us.
With Mr. Allen we had a few weeks' Gospel meetings in Stonewall Gospel Hall in Bailieborough with some fruit. The Deering family, Mr. and Mrs. Totten of Monaghan, my wife and many others laboured consistently to care for all who came to help in the Gospel. The judgment seat of Christ will bring a full reward.
In 1951 with promotion just ahead, after exercise in prayer, I made known my exercise to leave my secular employment and in absolute dependence on God alone, to devote all my time and energy to the Lord's work. A letter of commendation was given to me, signed by leading brethren in the Clones, Monaghan, Stonewall and Newry assemblies. All except one of those who signed are now with Christ.
"Having therefore obtained help from God, I continue until this day," Acts 26.22.
The very sight of this word on an envelope or document compels us to act immediately to discover what is so demanding and important and cannot wait until another day. You would consider it foolhardy to ignore this word as the consequences of so doing could be catastrophic and costly and yet my dear friend unsaved, you are neglecting the salvation of your soul and there is without doubt nothing more urgent. No business crisis, no political dilemma, no health problem, no social or medical appointment can be more urgent than the salvation of your soul.
There are several considerations that cause me to make such a bold statement. I will ask you to ponder three soberly — death, the Coming of the Lord and the possibility of you wearying God by your persistent procrastination. You cannot forecast the specific time or date of any of these events and so it is most important that you are saved before any of them overtakes you.
Death—"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Heb.9.27. "For we must needs die..." 2Sam.14.14. "The wages of sin is death..." Rom.63.
Some wealthy people in America have instructed that their bodies be deep-frozen and stored in refrigerated warehouses, in the hope that one day there will be a cure for all known diseases and then they will be revived to continue living in that elusive Utopia of which they dream. They are, however ignorant of this important fact that the body is only a house of clay and cannot live without a soul. "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death:" Ecl.8.8. At the moment of death, the immortal soul leaves the body for heaven or hell and you have not the power to recall it from that unseen world. God alone possesses that power and will reunite body and soul in His own time. Think much of this, my dear friend—when you die, you leave your body and if not saved, you go immediately to hell.
The Coming of the Lord—Though the world is full of scoffers who make light of this great event, it will undoubtedly take place in spite of their unbelief. It must, for Christ Himself said, "And if I go...I will come again", Jn.14.3
Angels announced to the disciples who had watched the Saviour ascending back to the Father's house, "This same Jesus ... shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." Acts1.11.
Paul the Apostle wrote to the believers in Thessalonica, "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven..." 1Thess.4.16.
Dear reader, are you ready for the Coming again of the Lord Jesus? If not, this great event will sever your every hope of salvation and in a moment will seal your fate. Matt.25 teaches that only those who were ready went in and the door was shut.
Wearying God—There are many who presume upon the mercy and long-suffering of God but He has warned, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." Gen.6.3. "Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?" Isa.7.13.
It is dangerous in the extreme for you to trifle with the great matter of salvation and continue to persist in unbelief—one day God will take your then decision as final, you will have crossed the boundary between His mercy and His wrath and there will then be no possibility of salvation.
In view of these solemn considerations, is not your precious soul's salvation, a matter of unparalleled urgency? Attend to it without delay—"Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation." 2Cor.6.2. Before it is too late, trust Him who did all that was demanded for your eternal salvation, believing that what He accomplished on the cross is fully sufficient to save you from hell and bring you to heaven. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Acts.16.31.