31. The Anointing, The Betrayal, and The Denial (Ch.26)
"When Jesus had finished all these sayings ...". The Saviour's discourses are ended, and now we are to be occupied with His last hours before Calvary. This sad but beautiful chapter begins in the house of Simon, in Bethany on the Mount of Olives. It wends its way through the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane to the palace of Caiaphas the High Priest on the Mount Zion. With the Saviour, the reader crosses the Kidron Valley three times in the course of the chapter. There are several prominent personalities here, each of them playing a part for good or ill in these final events of the life of Jesus. Simon the leper, Mary of Bethany, Judas Iscariot, Peter, the sons of Zebedee, Caiaphas, Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders. These, with others not specifically identified, were all involved in the sorrows of those closing hours. These leaders of the nation, having already in principle rejected Him, now gather in council in the house of Caiaphas to plan His arrest and death. They wish to do this as quietly and as subtly as possible, and not on the feast day, fearing an uproar among the people.
There follows a delightful interlude in the sacred record, the immortal story of the woman in Bethany who anointed the Person of Christ with a fragrance that filled the house and must have lingered for days. Sixty years later John identifies the woman as Mary, Jn.12.3. She seemed to anticipate His death and her precious spikenard could have been employed to embalm His holy body, but had this devoted woman learned also, as she sat at His feet, that He would rise again? He would not need embalming! She would therefore pour the spikenard upon Him now. Here, in Matthew's Gospel, she anoints the head of the King. In John's account it is His feet. There is no discrepancy. She anoints His whole Person but Matthew, Mark, and John, will each record that which suits his particular theme. The disciples complain indignantly about "this waste." How sad it was. How hurtful to Him, and what a slight to Mary. The Saviour defends her. It was a beautiful thing which she did and it would be an everlasting memorial to her when much else would be forgotten. So it has been as He said. Until this day, almost two thousand years later, thosc-who love Him love to read, to tell, and to sing, the story of the woman who so lavished her love upon Him in a dark hour.
Judas Iscariot is remembered too, but for a wholly different reason. Mary has freely given. Judas will covenant for what he,,can. get. He barters with the priests. What price, what reward, for betraying the Master to them? The highest bid he can get from them is just the price of a slave, thirty pieces of silver, Ex.21.23, and now he awaits an opportune moment for his treachery. In the Upper Room the Lord announces the betrayal, and, whether the disciples understood it fully or not, He indicates the traitor. Judas leaves the room on his dastardly mission. Our Lord never trusted Judas, as David had once trusted Ahithopel. Compare Ps.41.9 with Jn.13.18 where the words "in whom I trusted" are omitted. They share together what is often called "The Last Supper." It was this indeed. It was their last meal together and it was also the end of the ceremonial Passover. This was about to be fulfilled in the death of the Lamb of God, and was to be superseded by a simple supper of remembrance which He now institutes, and, having sung a hymn,;-they leave the Upper Room for the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane. He warns them that they will soon be scattered like a flock. Peter boldly avows that he personally will never be offended; he would die with his Master sooner than deny Him, but He who knows all things knows both the fact, and the time, of poor Peter's approaching denial.
The Garden of Gethsemane is shrouded in mystery. Even the privileged Peter, James and John, cannot go all the way with Him. "He went a little farther." Gethsemane means "The Olive Press," where the oil was crushed from the olives. As another has written -
Gethsemane, the Olive Press,
And why so named let angels guess!
Here, in an agony, our Lord anticipates the Cross. He does not shrink from dying. He would be saved, not from death but out of death. But this was no ordinary death. He was to become the holy Sin-Bearer. The face of God would be hidden from Him. Darkness! Loneliness! Forsaken! There was no other way! With the thought of it all He was exceedingly sorrowful and very heavy. He fell on His face to the ground, praying, and while His disciples waited, they slept. Their spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. He returned to speak with them and while they talked, Judas, who knew the place, arrived with a multitude. They carried swords and staves. O the irony of it! Swords and staves to arrest the Prince of Peace! Did they think that He would fight? Judas called Him "Master" and He called Judas "Friend". Judas kissed Him and the foul deed was done. They laid hold on Him. Bold Peter wielded the sword. It was courageous but foolish. As others have remarked, Peter was a fisherman, not a swordsman. The Lord reprimands him, pointing out that more than twelve legions of angels would come to His defence if commanded, but the Scriptures predicting His sufferings must be fulfilled.
The ribald crowd leaves the Mount of Olives for the Mount Zion, crossing back over the Kidron Valley. Peter followed afar off and then sat in the courtyard with the servants to see the end. In the High Priest's palace the chief priests and elders, with the council, arranged for the testimony of false witnesses against Jesus, to determine His death. The witnesses did not agree, although many came, willing to testify, but at last they found two. Jesus had spoken of destroying their temple, they said, and of building it again in three days. It was a distortion of His ministry of some three years earlier, when in this way He had predicted His own death and resurrection, Jn.2.19-21. To this charge Jesus made no answer, until He was adjured by the High Priest. Such an adjuration which demanded a response. He must say whether or not He was the Christ, the Son of God. He answered in the affirmative, telling them that one day they would see Him, ttoe-Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of power. He would come in glory, in the clouds of heaven. This was enough! It was blasphemy they said, and they needed no further witnesses. He was guilty of death. Caiaphas rent his clothes. What a symbolic act, though he did not know it. He was signifying the end of the Levitical priesthood. There would indeed be two more High Priests after Caiaphas, but they would be formal, powerless figureheads, and then, AD70, the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of Judaism and the old order. They then buffeted and beat the Saviour. They spat on His face and mocked and derided Him. How calm He was in the midst of it all. What majesty, and dignity!
Meanwhile Peter is outside, sitting with the servants at a coal fire. He was challenged by a girl, who said, "Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee." He denied, "I know not what thou sayest." Later, in the porch, another maid saw him. She spoke, not to Peter, but to others who were there, "This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth." Again he denied, this time with an oath, saying, "I do not know the man." After a while came yet another, who, speaking directly to Peter said, "surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee." For the third time Peter denied, cursing and swearing, saying, "I know not the man." In the midst of the early morning the cock crows! Poor Peter! He remembers the conversation in the garden, just a few hours earlier. He leaves the crowd, going out to be alone with his remorse and his tears. He wept bitterly. Jesus had told him, "I will pray for thee, that thy faith fail not." His faith did not fail, but his courage did. The man who had been singing in the Upper Room, had been sleeping in the garden, and now he was swearing in the courtyard.
Is there not a warning here, regarding the believer's associations and company, and a caution also, against complacency? Peter walked with them, stood with them, and then sat with them, at the comfort of their fire. He failed to recognise the danger at the first challenge. A second one did not seem to alert him. The third challenge came, and now it was too late. He yielded and lapsed. One day the Saviour would challenge him again, three times, at another similar fire on the shore of Lake Galilee, Jn.21. It would be a public restoration for the man who had failed. But that is another story.
We come to the grand finale of the book, and Esther doesn't get a mention! Whilst reference is made to Ahasuerus, even this only serves to- emphasise the "greatness of Mordecai," v2. But the very language used to describe Mordecai, obliges us to turn over the pages of our Bibles until we read of another Deliverer: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end," Lk. 1.32-33. The Lord Jesus is "great" in every sphere. It has been often said that no one attribute of the Lord Jesus is greater than any other, because He is great in every way.
He is "a great prophet." "And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us," Lk.7.16.
He is "a great priest." "Having a great priest ('an high priest' A.V.) over the house of God," Heb.10.22 R.V.
He is "a great high priest." "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into ('through') the heavens, Jesus the Son of God," Heb.4.14.
He is "the great king." "Jerusalem ... is the city of the great King," Matt.5.35. (This quotes Ps.48.2).
He is "the great shepherd of the sheep." Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep," Heb.13.20.
He is "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," Tit.2.13.
Esther ch.10 therefore reminds us of the coming glory of Christ, and we have no difficulty in applying the closing verse to Him: "great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed." With this in mind, we ought to take another look at events described in the book of Esther. Preachers have often told us that 'coming events cast their shadows before them.' Let's quote John C. Whitcomb again: 'It is perfectly clear, then, that the titanic death-struggle of the book of Esther simply cannot be understood apart from the satanic purposes toward Israel which the general context of Scripture reveals.' Those 'satanic purposes' will culminate in an all-out attempt to annihilate Israel at the end-time. In this connection, we have already identified Haman as a picture of both Satan, and of the "man of sin." What is more, Haman appears to be completely successful until the end of ch.5, just as Satan appears to be completely successful by the end of Rev.13. Now let's recall what happened with effect from Esther 6:
We are introduced to an exalted man. He is the man whom the king delighteth to honour."
That exalted man intervenes on behalf of his people. The day of their destruction becomes the day of their deliverance. See Zech.14.2-14; "For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled ... then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations."
The Jews defeated their enemies, including Haman's ten sons. Listen to Zechariah again: "In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, 12.6. The enemy attack will be launched by the ten-part kingdom of the beast, but the invader will suffer the same fate as Haman's ten sons.
Having defeated their enemies, the Jews enjoyed rest and peace. This recalls Israel's millennial blessings, when God's people will experience "joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts," Zech.8.19. Micah tells us that "they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid," 4.4
The Jews remembered their deliverance. They will again. Notice who will attend the "feast of tabernacles" in Zech.14.16.
The deliverer of the Jews is given the highest place. He was "next unto king Ahasuerus." The Lord Jesus will "sit and rule upon His throne," Zech.6.13.
The deliverer of the Jews undertakes their welfare: "Mordecai ... seeking the wealth of his people," v3. Isaiah describes the care which will be bestowed upon the nation: "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and shall carry them in His bosom," 40.11. That will do for an introduction. You will be able to expand the outline. The book has been well entitled, 'The Prophecy of Esther!'
The "greatness of Mordecai" was enhanced by the stature of Ahasuerus, and it can only be for this reason that the Persian king is mentioned in the chapter. Mordecai was not "next" to some tinpot third world dictator: he was "next" to a world-wide emperor. (Rather like Joseph). "And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea. And all the acts of his power and of his might ... are they not written in the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?" Mordecai was honoured by the supreme authority of the day. Notice two things.
1) HE WAS GREAT IN RELATION TO THE KING
A) "The greatness of Mordecai, whereunto the king advanced him," v2. We have noticed more than once, that Mordecai never sought his own glory. When he had good cause to clamour for reward, he made no attempt to secure it himself. He waited the king's pleasure. It is always delightful to turn to Phil.2: "And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him," v8-9. The Lord Jesus perfectly illustrated lPet.5.6; "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."
B) "For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus," v3. The Old Testament supplies further examples of the way in which the Jew always seems to get to the top. Think about Joseph with Pharaoh, and Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. (What about Disraeli with Queen Victoria?!). You'll notice how this is emphasised here: "For Mordecai the Jew." The hated Jew, whom Haman would have hanged, is "far above all." There was another Jew. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour," Act.5.30. If Mordecai was "next unto king Ahasuerus," then "the Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool," Ps. 110.1.
2) HE WAS GREAT IN RELATION TO HIS PEOPLE
Four statements are made in v3:
A) "Great among the Jews." The man who had delivered them, was honoured amongst them. The Lord Jesus is greater than the best of men. This is the point made in Hebrews. It's not that the Lord Jesus is better than second rate men: He is better than first rate men.
He is greater than the most illustrious Jews of the past. "Then said the Jews unto him ... art Thou greater that our father Abraham, which is dead?" Jn.8.53. The question was heavy with irony. But the answer is 'Yes, He is greater than Abraham.' The Samaritan woman asked, "Art Thou greater than our father Jacob which gave us this well?" Jn.4.12. The answer is 'yes, He is greater than Jacob.' "Greater than Jonas ... greater than Solomon."
He will be "great among the Jews" in His coming reign. We have already referred to Lk. 1.32-33, "He shall be great ... and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever." The words, "And the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David," cite Isa.9.7; "Upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever." But not only "great among the Jews": He will be "Head over the heathen," Ps. 18.43.
B) "accepted of the multitude of His brethren." The man who had delivered them was accepted by them. The Lord Jesus "Came unto His own (things), and His own (people) received Him not." Jn.1.11. In the first instance, "neither did His brethren (His own family) believe on Him," Jn.7.5. Isaiah recounts to the attitude of the nation: "He is despised and rejected of men ... He was despised, and we esteemed Him not," 53.3.
When He returns, "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son," Zech.12.10. at the same time, they will say: "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us," Isa.25.9.
The blessing or otherwise of the Gentile nations in the millennial reign of Christ will depend on their attitude to the Jews during the great tribulation. See Matt.2.31-46. Notice v40: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
C) "Seeking the wealth ('welfare' JND) of His people." The man who had delivered them, cared for them. When the Lord Jesus first came, it was 'seeking the welfare of His people': "Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil ... Whom they slew and hanged on a tree," ActslO.38-39. When the Lord Jesus returns, it will be 'seeking the welfare of His people.' "He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment ... He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor," Ps.72.1-4.
D) "Speaking peace to all His seed." The man who had delivered them, was favourable toward them. The Lord Jesus shall "see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands," Isa.53.10 When He reigns, "all Thy (Israel's) children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of Thy children," Isa.54.13. "For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river," Isa.66.12. See also Ps.22.30, "A seed shall serve Him: it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation."
But what about our relationship with the Lord Jesus? Can we apply the words, "His brethren ... His people ... His seed?"
"His brethren." See Jn.20.17, "Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My father and your Father; and to My God, and your God." See also Heb.2.11-12, "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren: saying, I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren; in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee."
"His people." See Rom.9.25, "I will call them My people, which were not My people."
"His seed." Heb.2.13, "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me."
Josiah, similar to his great-grandfather Hezekiah, sought to serve the Lord during his reign as king of Judah. Since he was only eight years old when he took control of the nation, 2Chron.34.1, he followed the instructions given by one of his forefathers, 'Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth,' Ecc.12.1. We may observe:
(a) The Commencement of His Reign
Despite the progress that Hezekiah secured during his twenty-nine years upon the throne, the activities of Manasseh and Ammon had brought the nation into a bad state. Thus, the mountain that Josiah had to scale in order to establish a testimony for God was immense and no doubt daunting. Nonetheless, consider:
• The Foundation
Josiah was the fulfilment of a prophecy given by a man of God during the reign of Jeroboam, lKg.13.2. However, whilst being the product of God's will, the young king was still earnest in showing a high regard for the Law. For instance, he listened to it being read, 2Chron.34.18; he humbled himself before it, 2Chron.34.19; 27; he shared its content with others, 2Chron.34.30, and, most importantly, he applied it to his own life, 2Chron.34.33.
Thus, the reign of Josiah is profitable for all believers to read and apply in this present age. For, whilst our relationship with God is the fulfilment of sovereign purpose, 2Tim.l.9, it is still our responsibility to serve Him and study His word, 2Tim.2.15. May we listen to its instructions, humble ourselves before it, share it with others and apply it to our own lives.
• The Continuation
The most outstanding feature of Josiah's reign was that he kept on going (almost)! For instance, by the age of sixteen he sought after God in a way similar to godly David, 2Chron.34.3a; by twenty he began a campaign to rid the nation of idolatry, 34.3b; by twenty-six he kept a Passover in Judah that was memorable, 2Chron.35.18,19. All in all, Josiah exhibited that feature that was common to the early church, he continued steadfastly, Acts 2.42.
Thus may we reflect the attitude of Josiah in our own lives by pursuing a path of godliness. Also with a steadfast heart, may we be found on such a path for the duration of our service on earth.
(b) The Character of His Reign
Having observed the way in which Josiah began his reign as king of Judah, it is important to examine how he discharged his responsibilities. The record of 2Chron.34,35 outline four important areas of study:
• The Destruction of the Idols
As we have already observed, from the early age of twenty, Josiah desired to purge the nation from the idols that were prevalent during the reign of previous kings such as Ahaz, Manasseh and Solomon, 2Kg.23.11-13; 2Chron.34.3. Moreover, as 2Chron.34.7 illustrates, the campaign to remove the idols throughout the nation and the subsequent return to the throne in Jerusalem was conditional upon completing the task he had set out to do. This same persistent character is exemplified in 34.4, where Josiah not only broke down the idols and images, but he went so far as to make dust out of them.
Whilst it is unlikely that we should encounter such brazen and literal idolatry in our day, surely the attitude of Josiah is desirable for all within the New Testament assembly: confronting error 'head-on' and not resting until it is completely removed.
• The Restoration of the Temple
Such was the depravity into which Judah had descended, 2Chron.34.8 suggests that a full six years were necessary for Josiah to destroy the idols. However, instead of resting content in a job well done, his attention was then turned to the temple and the condition therein. In an orderly fashion the temple was repaired, v10, and appropriately, those that laboured within the temple did so 'faithfully', v12.
While there is much that we can glean from this passage with regard to the assembly, the important point to stress is that faithfulness is the vital ingredient for any worker. That is why Paul exhorts Timothy in 2Tim.2.2 to commit the truth, not to the successful brethren, rather to those that are 'faithful'.
• The Communication of the Word
In the course of repairing the temple, the High Priest - Hilkiah - found a copy of the book of the Law of the Lord, v14. From this moment, the revival throughout the nation appears to gain further ground. Not only is the book read before the king, v18, but he shows a tender and contrite heart, v27, and he then embarks on a programme designed to lead the nation along a spiritual path, v30-33. We also observe that, despite the knowledge of certain judgment, v23-25, the king was still comprehensive in conveying the truths of the whole book, 'he read in their ears all the words of the book,' v30.
As we move towards the end of this dispensation, with divine judgment soon to be outpoured, surely we need to place the same emphasis upon the Word of God. Careful and consistent meditation upon the Word is the only antidote to departure amongst the people of God. Such meditation must be with diligence, 2Tim.2.15, embracing all areas of the truth, Acts 20.27; 2Tim.3.16. As Thomas Watson once said, 'Leave not off reading the Bible till you find your hearts warmed ... Let it not only inform you, but inflame you.'
• The Celebration of the Passover
2Chron.35 describes how, in the same year in repairing the temple, 2Chron.34.8, he celebrated the Passover, 35.19. With the ark in its proper place, 35.3, the servants performing their proper roles, 35.2, 4-6, and the procedures properly adhered to, 35.13, the nation was able to observe a memorable feast, 35.18.
Just as the Passover anticipated Calvary, so the Lord's Supper looks back to the death of the Saviour. With the Lord occupying the central place as His people break bread, Matt.18.20; Col.1.18, saints performing their respective roles with due dignity and responsibility, and with the pattern being clearly followed, we too are sure to have memorable occasions wherein we remember the Lord.
(c) The Conclusion of His Reign
2Chron.35.20-27 record the unfortunate events where Josiah became entangled with the affairs of the world and so ended up being killed, v24. Sadly, the same persistent character that was used so profitably to eradicate the idols earlier in his reign, was now the very factor that lead to his own downfall and destruction. For, despite Necho (the king of Egypt) telling Josiah not to meddle, he still engaged in the battle at Megiddo, v22. Nevertheless, as a mark of the esteem in which the nation held the king, we are informed that 'all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah,' v24.
Thus, the testimony of Josiah, just like the kings that preceded him, stresses the need to be steadfast in our service for the Lord. Would it not be profitable for us all to learn this one lesson from the kings of Judah and Israel: to commence our spiritual life with vigour; to continue steadfastly and to end well!
'And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem (stump) of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,' Isa.l 1.1-2. Jesse was the father of King David and therefore the ancestor of the whole line of the kings of Judah. The kings of the house of David are here likened to a tree. But in Isaiah's day the time was approaching when the tree would be cut down, leaving only a stump. A line of kings in the house of David was broken by the Babylonian invasion and the following captivity. 'Like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains standing when it is felled. The holy seed is in the stump,' Isa.6.13, R.S.V. But out of that root and stump of Jesse would grow a new branch in a future day. This One, the Branch, would not just reign over Judah, but would draw His people from all nations. 'And in that day shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and His rest shall be glorious,' Isa. 11.10.
(The picture of a monarch as a tree, being felled to a stump and then reviving to life again, is used of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in Daniel chapter four. A Pharaoh of Egypt is also likened to a tree in Ezekiel chapter thirty-one).
In Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's day that felling of the tree of the kings of David's line took place at the hands of the Babylonians. 'For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until He had cast them (the kings) out from His presence,' 2Kg.24.20. But both prophets looked forward to the day when the stump of David's line would produce a new Branch. 'Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,' Jer.23.5-6, see also 33.14-16. Ezekiel also records, "And David My Servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one Shepherd," Ezek.37.24.
The prophet Zechariah encouraged the Jews returning from the Babylonian captivity by speaking of the coming Branch. "Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth My servant the BRANCH," 3.8. In the crowning of Joshua (see 6.9-15) we see that the Man who is the Branch will combine within Himself the offices of Priest and King. "Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, "Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD," 6.11-12.
The apostle Paul quotes Isa.11.10 to identify 'the root of Jesse' with the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the Gentiles. 'And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and He that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust," Rom.15.12. 'That the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy,' v9.
The prophetic picture of the Branch teaches us an important truth concerning the coming of Christ, that He is to be the King of David's line. "Of this man's (David's) seed hath God according to His promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus," Acts 13.23. "The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David," Lk.1.32. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; as He spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began," Lk.68-70.
"And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise, " (Heb.6.15) In the first part of Heb.6.(v1-8), we have one of the "warning passages," which characterise this epistle. Now, in the second part of the chapter, v9-20, the writer balances this word of warning with a word of encouragement. The warning at the start of the chapter is not meant to discourage or to give anxiety to those who are genuinely saved. Thus the writer seeks to assure the readers of his confidence in them. He speaks of "promise" or "promises" four times in this section, v12,13,15,17, and "hope" three times, v11,18,19 - in the last of these three verses, although the word "hope" is in italics, it is evidently implied. Abraham is the Old Testament character whom the writer uses to encourage his readers with regard to God's promises to them, and to us.
We will consider the writer's message of encouragement in five sections:-
The Salvation and its Evidence, v9,10;
The Saints and their Endurance, v11,12;
The Servant and his Example, v13-15;
The Swearing and its Explanation, v16,17;
The Soul and its Encouragement, v18-20.
1. The Salvation and its Evidence, v9,10
The writer has just spoken of those whose experiences have come short of salvation, v4,5, and whose actions show that they know nothing of salvation, v6. But now he turns to his readers, and the pronouns change from "those", v4, "they", v6, and "them", v6, to "you", v9,11, "your", v10, and "ye", v10,12. Unlike the first group, who have not produced true evidence of salvation, those to whom he writes are characterised by "things that accompany salvation," v9. This fact, of a profession of salvation being evidenced by the fruit that it produces, is in line with the subject of the previous paper - true faith produces good works. These true believers are like the land of v7, which brings forth suitable fruit, whereas those of v4-6 are like the land of v8, which brings forth thorns and briers.
But what are the "things that accompany salvation," the things that have caused the writer to be "persuaded" that his readers are truly saved? v10 gives us an example - their "work and labour of love." Their ministry to the saints was out of love for "His Name." Their love for God caused them to love His people. Nor was this an intermittent work - it had taken place in the past, and continued to the time of writing of the epistle ("ye have ministered ... and do minister").
What a contrast between those of v10 and those of v6! Those of v10 loved God, and showed it by ministering to the saints; those of v6 had no love for God, and were showing it by crucifying afresh the Son of God, and putting Him to an open shame. And we can each ask ourselves: "Do I have the 'things that accompany salvation?' Do I have a love for God and for His people, that results in practical caring for their needs?" It is evidence that salvation has taken place in one's life.
2. The Saints and their Endurance, v11,12
In v9,10, the writer has spoken of the past and present of his readers; so far they have shown evidence of salvation. Now he turns to look at their future. The good characteristics must not end there. His "desire", v11, is that "every one" will "shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end." If they continue strenuously in their ministry to the saints, this will indicate their continuing hope; it will show that they are fully expecting, right to the end of their pathway, that God's promises to them will be fulfilled.
He desires that they do not become "slothful", v12. This is the same word as is translated "dull" in 5.11. There it referred to dullness of hearing; here it is referring to one's actions. How can one avoid this sluggish, slothful state? By a pathway of "faith and patience," v12. Both are important — the faith lays hold upon the promises, and the patience waits for them to be fulfilled.
In these three verses, v10-12, we have the familiar trilogy of faith, hope and love, given in reverse order to 1Cor.13 — "love" in v10; "hope" in v11, and "faith" in v12. Surely these are also some of the things that accompany salvation." Let us be, as the writer would desire, "followers" of those who have followed such a pathway, right "unto the end."
3. The Servant and his Example, v13-15
Having exhorted his readers, in v12, to be imitators of those who "through faith and patience inherit the promises," the writer now gives them an example of one whom they can imitate: Abraham.
The incident referred to is in Gen.22.16-18, which was God's statement to Abraham resulting from his offering up of Isaac. In this passage, God swore to Abraham that:
his seed would be numerous, v17;
his seed would possess the gate of his enemies, v17;
in his seed all nations of the earth would be blessed, v18.
What was Abraham's response? It was that already indicated in v12 — a pathway of faith and patience. He died without seeing these promises fulfilled, as Heb. 11.13,39 show. In those two verses of ch.11, it is faith that is emphasised — "died in faith," 11.13; "obtained a good report through faith," 11.39. Here in 6.15, it is patience that is emphasised: "after he had patiently endured." And when it is said that "he obtained the promise," there is no contradiction with 11.13,39, what it says that he did not receive the promise. In his lifetime, he did not see the actual fulfilment, but God had promised it, with an oath, swearing by Himself, v13, and that was, for Abraham, as good as the fulfilment itself. Thus 11.13 says that he (and others too, such as Isaac and-Jacob) "embraced" the promise, that is, he took it to himself, as his own. When a sinful man makes a promise, we cannot be confident of fulfilment until we see it in actuality. This is not so for God - when He makes a promise, it is not necessary to make such a sharp distinction between the promise and fulfilment — for one is as good as the other. As far as Abraham was concerned, when God had promised, it was as if he had already fulfilled his promise.
What an example for us to follow! God has made promise to us. We have not yet seen the fulfilment. But there is no doubt about the fulfilment, just as in Abraham's case. Let us therefore follow the example of Abraham, in a pathway of faith and patience.
4. The Swearing and its Explanation, v16,17
Now the writer explains the significance of God's oath to Abraham, and its relevance to us:
Verse 16 begins with the word "For" — here is the explanation of what has gone before — "men verily swear by the greater." The writer is not here advocating the practice of swearing (the Lord Jesus Christ said we should not do it, Matt.5.33-37. Rather, he is simply stating a fact; this is what men do, they swear by one greater than themselves. This gives witness to the reality of what they are saying. When they make an oath, there can be no doubt about the sincerity of what they are saying: it "is to them an end of all strife." Once a person has made an oath, there is no more argument about what he is saying, it is taken that he means what he says.
In v17, the writer moves from the human case to what God did. When He made the promise, He swore with an oath. As far as the certainty of fulfilment was concerned, His promise was enough. God keeps His word. But He was "willing" to show to the "heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel" — He wanted them to have no doubt whatsoever that His promise was real and unchangeable — so He interposed Himself with an oath. He swore by Himself, v13, because He could swear by no greater. Although His promise was enough, He showed it "more abundantly" by His oath. There could be no strife, no dispute, no doubt. The promise was immutable.
But all this was not just for Abraham's benefit: it was for the "heirs of promise." And that takes us in, as we will see in v 18. How are we among the "heirs of promise"? How can we be related to God's promise and oath in Gen.22.16-18? Because it was a universal promise: "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," Gen.22.18. God's promise and oath to Abraham includes blessing on all nations through the Lord Jesus Christ, and includes all who follow in the faith of Abraham. The promises regarding the land are not part of those in Gen.22.16-18, and are not ours, but the promise of blessing to all nations through Jesus Christ most certainly is.
5. The Soul and its Encouragement, v18-20.
Finally the writer brings to his readers, and to us, a word of encouragement, based on the previous teaching - "we might have a strong consolation," a strong encouragement. This encouragement is based on the "two immutable things," v18, those two things being the promise and the oath. In these two things (as in everything else) it was "impossible for God to lie." We can thus be encouraged. Three pictures are used to encourage us:
(a) The City of refuge, v18.
Here the emphasis is on the past: we "have fled."
In this use of the perfect tense, we have a past action, of fleeing, with results that continue to the present. Just as the manslayer in the Old Testament "fled" (the same word is used in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, for a man fleeing to a city of refuge, e.g. Josh.20), to the city of refuge, we too have "fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." The "hope" is based on none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
(b) The Anchor, v19.
Here the emphasis is on the present: "we have."
The anchor is something we have as a present possession. What a lovely picture the anchor is — an anchor is not in the boat, but it is linked directly to it. It is unseen by those in the ship, but they know it is there, and they depend upon it for the security and stability of the vessel.
So it is for us. Our hope is outside of ourselves, yet we are joined to it. We cannot see it, but we know it is there. It gives us security, or to use the writer's words, it is "sure" (it will not fail) and "steadfast" (it is firmly fixed).
Not only so, but it "entereth into that within the veil," the anchor is already in the harbour. It is some comfort to sailors on a stormy sea to know that the vessel is anchored to the seabed, but it is of much greater comfort to them if they know the anchor is already in the harbour. Our hope is already in the very presence of God —- what security!
(c) the Forerunner, v20.
Here the emphasis is on the future: the forerunner is one who is sent on before, to prepare the way for those who will follow.
Our forerunner, the Lord Jesus Christ, is already "within the veil." He has already entered into the very presence of God, and His presence there is the assurance that we too will follow.
At the end of the chapter, the writer refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as a "High Priest." Surely therefore, we can see a connection between each of the above three pictures and the office of high priest:
As far as the City of Refuge is concerned, the manslayer could stay in the city of refuge as long as the high priest lived, and he was totally safe there. But when the high priest died, he left the city, and returned to his own city (e.g. Josh.20.6). Now he was covered by trie law, as the manslayer left the city of refuge on the death of the high priest, it must have been with mixed feelings: he was free at last, but he was leaving the place, the only place, where he had known security. What if some hot-headed relative of the person whom he had killed was waiting at home, biding his time until he could take revenge? If so, then the death of the high priest meant, not safety, but loss of it: his refuge had gone.
Not so for us, who have fled for refuge. Why not? Because our High Priest is "made an high priest for ever," v20. We will never see the death of our High Priest, so we will never have to leave our refuge to which we have fled. We will be safe in our spiritual city of refuge as long as our High Priest lives, which is for ever. What security!
As far as the Anchor is concerned, its description for us is as follows: "which entereth into that within the veil." "Entereth" is a present participle, denoting the fact that our hope is continually within the veil, because our High Priest is continually within the veil. There is never a time when He is not within the veil, so our hope is anchored there.
How different it was in connection with the priests of the Old Covenant. On only one day of the year was the high priest allowed to enter within the veil, and only for limited periods on that one day. For the vast majority of the time, the area within the veil of the tabernacle was "out of bounds," even to the high priest! But our hope is anchored continually "within the veil," and not the veil of a physical tabernacle, but in "heaven itself."
As far as the Forerunner is concerned, the high priest under the Old Covenant was in no sense a forerunner. There was no hope of his people ever following him within the veil. As they watched him disappear, the best they could hope for was that he would safely appear out again, his life spared. The possibility-of him being the first of many that were to follow was unthinkable! But our High Priest has entered there as our "forerunner." We will follow Him into the very presence of God.
What a promise is ours! We who have fled to Him for refuge need have no fears. Let us be encouraged, as we continue on the pathway of faith and patience.
The last word of the passage under consideration is "Melchisedec." This name would lead us on to another interesting mention of Abraham in the New Testament. This is what the writer to the Hebrews does, in ch.7, he uses Abraham's encounter with Melchisedec to discuss the greatest Priesthood. In the will of the Lord, this will be the subject of the next paper.
(c) The Christian - A Heavenly-Citizen (Romans 13.11-14)
In the last paper we saw that verses 11-14 had the following broad four-fold division:
v11 - Spiritual Vigilance:
v12 - Spiritual Equipment:
v13 - Spiritual Behaviour:
v14 - Spiritual Provision.
We have dealt with the first two and now we come to:
v13 — The Response of Spiritual Behaviour— "Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying." Now that the issue of where we are living has been settled, the apostle goes on to call for appropriate behaviour. He uses a general description — "walk honestly," to demand a life style that is becoming of our profession. Our manner of living should enhance the claim that we are children of the day and of the light, therefore we ought to have no involvement in the activities of darkness. The apostle commands that we live as already in the day. Our behaviour and demeanour ought to be of such a standard as to be compatible with the presence of the Lord — as if He had already come and we were with Him! That is the apostle's approach to the practical demands of our life now. A life of saintliness is contrasted with a life of sinfulness and he describes the works of darkness as:
"Rioting" — unrestrained licentious parties and revelry.
"Drunkenness" — uncontrolled inebriation through alcohol.
"Chambering" -— immoral behaviour of any kind.
"Wantonness" — debauchery and degradation.
"Strife" — dissention and bickering.
"Envying" — jealousy out of a spirit of self-seeking.
The Holy Spirit has highlighted three areas of life in which the lack of self control is evidenced in unseemly behaviour that ought never to be seen in a Christian's life:
Self control in personal life — rioting and drunkenness.
Self control in moral life — chambering and wantonness.
Self control in social life — strife and envying.
It ought to search our hearts that strife and envying come in for the same censure as the grosser sins of immorality and debauchery. They are equally unacceptable to Paul; is it so with us?
v14— The Reality of Spiritual Provision, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Thank God there is power for the Christian that wants to please the Lord in his life. This power is found in Appropriation of Christ and then in Renunciation of self. To "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" is not just adornment but is a vital piece of equipment for the spiritual battle we face with the world of darkness. Paul is dealing with the very real issue of protection from the assaults of the darkness and the ability to overcome its activities. We need to understand that we are in a battle, the conflict is great and God intends that we conquer the foe. The only way to overcome the foe is to appropriate in all His blessed fulness the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting to notice that the Holy Spirit here employs the full title for the exalted Lord. We can conquer the forces of evil by putting on the One Who has already conquered them .at Calvary and nullified their power. To "put on" means to appropriate the Lord Jesus Christ in all the fulness of His person and work as found in the Word of God. To give Him absolute control of the life; body, soul and spirit. Anything less will reduce our power and effectiveness in the conflict and result in failure against the activities of darkness. This positive appropriation of the Lord Jesus Christ enables us to deal with the many temptations and snares on the pathway of daily life. It enables us to handle the strategic and subtle onslaught by our old external enemies, the world and the devil.
The renunciation of self is how we can effectively deal with our old internal enemy, the flesh. It is the flesh within me that responds to temptation and feels satisfied when I commit sin. While we can "put,on" the Lord Jesus Christ we cannot "put off the flesh; it is with us until the grave or the day breaks in glorious rapture. The strategy for defeat of the activities of the darkness through the medium of the flesh is to ensure we never provide the flesh with an opportunity to sin. This command, as the former, covers body, soul and spirit. We should not go anywhere, even though not actually engaged in a sinful activity, that could compromise my testimony by giving an opportunity to the flesh to become active in response to temptation. It also includes the things with which I engage my mind. It is possible for us to store the mind with such a quantity of flammable material that it requires only one fiery dart from the enemy to start a blazing inferno with devastating results. Notice that here, as in other passages, the flesh and lusts are linked together. That is how the flesh operates — creating strong desires for its own gratification by sinful activity. Joseph fleeing from the clutches of Potiphar's wife is an example of not giving the flesh any opportunity for self-gratification.
The only safeguard is to occupy our minds with Christ so that there is no opportunity for the flesh to seek its own gratification by the active and strong desires it creates. The desires of the flesh when aroused are overwhelming and we cannot overcome them in our own strength, our only resource is the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant Him lordship in the realm of the mind with its desires and the flesh can be kept in control. In a world that is awash with all sorts of means and media to engage the mind we need to ensure we starve the flesh of every opportunity to express itself. Many a disaster could have been averted had the soporific effects of the flesh been shaken off by spiritual vigilance. The same flesh that induces spiritual slumber and sloth can suddenly roar to life in sinful voracity and the results are catastrophic.
I eased my uncle's car into a position so that we could have a clear view of a narrow space between two old houses. He looked quizzically at me wondering what fascination a space between two houses might have. "Do you see that window on the second floor?" I asked. Tears came to my eyes as I told him that back in 1942, as a child of nine years, I came to know Christ as my Saviour. A note of gratitude rose silently from my heart to God the Father in Heaven. Then we drove away.
That was in the 1980's when I visited Winnipeg, Canada. My uncle had been recently saved, so could enter into my joy. He had loaned me his car so I could relive the most important event that anyone can have in life.
• PARENTS WITH A CONCERN
It was a cold night that 15th of February as my parents led me and my two sisters, along snowy Harbison Ave. Little did they know that something in the Gospel meeting which had just finished in the East Kildonan Gospel Hall had caused me concern about my soul. Father and Mother were active in the local assembly, and Dad was an elder there. He also preached the Gospel and ministered the Word in other halls. Sometimes I would go with him. Both parents had a great desire that their children would come to know Christ as Saviour.
As I lay in the darkness in my bedroom on the second floor I was concerned about my soul's salvation. I don't know who preached that night but I was made aware of my personal need. I called my mother who thought I wanted milk and cookies. She told me to go to sleep but I continued to call.
Something in my voice transmitted a sense of needing more than food to eat. Mother stood in the doorway of the bedroom and asked what I wanted. "I want to be saved," was my reply. It must have been a thrill for her to hear those words.
• JOHN 14:1-6
Bringing her Bible to my bedside, Mother turned to various Scriptures. There was no need to "prove" I was a sinner and needed salvation. She read the opening words of Jn.14 where the Lord Jesus speaks to troubled hearts, as was mine. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me," v6. The simplicity of the words was understandable to a young mind and right then and there I trusted Christ as my Saviour.
A lady known as Auntie Dartnell was visiting my mother one afternoon of that same week and Mother called me to tell her what had happened in my life. I fled downstairs to where my father was fixing something in his shop. My mother later expressed her disappointment that I had been reluctant to tell what the Lord had done for me. "That won't happen again," I promised and soon I was explaining the way of salvation to my sister Gwyneth. To my surprise, she believed the truth and was saved.
• A TRAINING GROUND
At age fourteen, I had dreams of becoming a pilot, or a radio announcer and thought it would be nice to travel. I consciously shelved the idea of a pilot for he had to work on Sunday. Radio announcing of worldly songs was incompatible with Christian witness.
My parents moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver when I was fifteen. Later I went to work at the Canadian National Telegraphs. Mrs. Tom Hay (of Japan) would periodically take me along with her sons for a car ride.
She would drive out to Deep Cove, a community about 15 kilometres from Vancouver. A desire to start a Sunday School there was born in my heart. Deep Cove is nestled at the foot of the mountains with a natural harbour for pleasure craft. Along with Bill Hague, now my brother-in-law, we started a Sunday School work and it proved a good training ground for several of us. We went door to door with invitations to the Sunday School, and on numerous occasions were called upon to defend our faith in Christ. It was a test of fire for young people, having to respond to hard-bitten agnostics as well as to the main-line church members who saw us as intruders in their closed society.
• A CONSTANT EXERCISE
With parents who supported missionaries and workers in a practical way, serving the Lord was considered a privilege and the Lord's work was always before our mind. Years later I realised that the letters read during family Bible Reading when I was a child were in fact letters of acknowledgment from workers.
While still in my teens and working for the Telegraph Company, I sought a transfer to the province of Newfoundland, on the opposite side of Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia. Gospel work was taking hold in that province and 1 was willing to go there to work and be a help. However, three business offices I wrote all answered negatively, so I concluded that Newfoundland was not in God's plans for me.
Evelyn and I were married in 1954. We had agreed that should the Lord call us into His work, we both were willing to go. We were in fellowship in the South Main assembly and continued to work in Deep Cove.
I wondered if Africa might be a place to which the Lord might call us, and used to cull addresses from a list appearing in the Pen Pals wanted column of the local newspaper. I wrote friendly letters and sent tracts. There were interesting responses but none which resembled a call.
• CHILE COMES INTO FOCUS
Mr. Stenhouse visited Vancouver and he spoke of the need in Chile. The year we were married, I transferred to the Meteorology office, and later became an Air Traffic Controller at the Vancouver airport. The future was secure, the pay was good, and from the world's standpoint, I was set for the next twenty-five years at which time AT Controllers could retire.
Early in the 1950's, brethren Bill Funston, founder of HORIZONS magazine, and Basil Boyd started a missionary prayer meeting in Mr. Funston's home. If no missionary was visiting the city, they asked different brethren to obtain information and give a report on some mission field. Argentina was first, then Brazil and then they chose Chile as the next country. They asked me to do the presentation. I used missionary magazine reports as a data source to speak of the land that would become our adopted home. This caused an increase in our missionary exercise.
Later, brother William McBride, who laboured in Chile, visited Vancouver and brother Funston invited people to his home to have a visit with him. Brother Funston insisted on us staying for a while to chat and left me alone with brother McBride in a room. "Is there work for Air Traffic Controllers in Chile?" I enquired. It was not a logical question, for such sensitive positions are in the hands of nationals and furthermore, I couldn't speak Spanish. "Anyone going to Chile goes to work full-time in the Lord's work," was the clear reply.
Further contact with brother McBride produced an exercise of soul. He asked me to pronounce some Spanish words and once he left Vancouver, he bought a self-help book called Hugo's Spanish Simplified. He sent it to me by mail with a note saying, "Perhaps this book will be of some interest to you." Were we being nudged towards service for the Lord in Chile? We had purchased a home and our first daughter was soon to be born and these were considerations we would have to take into account.
• PRAYING FOR GUIDANCE
My wife and I had been praying for some indication from God, and had set a time limit as we waited upon God. If there was no guidance by a certain month, we would conclude that our labours were to continue in the Vancouver area. The book arrived about four days before the time period ended.
Different texts of Scripture seemed to speak to us but Exodus 33 was particularly precious. It was when Moses was faced with a decision. He said, v13 "Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, shew me now Thy way, that I may know Thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight: ...v14 And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest; v15 And He (Moses) said unto Him (Jehovah), If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." This seemed to sum up our feelings.
Around this time, brother Funston asked me how long I was thinking of staying at the airport and counselled me about serving the Lord abroad. I told him of some indications I had received so he urged us to make our exercise known to the brethren at South Main Gospel Hall. We had to sell the house to pay the fare for the boat trip down to Chile. We would feel confirmed if the house sold, and if it didn't sell by the end of August 1959, we would take it off the market. On the second last day of the month, a Greek man with a Russian wife who had arrived the day before from Australia purchased our dwelling and by October, we obeyed the different indicators God had given us to leave homeland, loved ones, and job security. We arrived November 14th, 1959 at the port of Valparaiso.
• IN CONCLUSION
In the Conversion of an individual and a Call to the work, God uses different circumstances to make His will known. I thank God for godly parents, exercised
elders, and an interested missionary whose input into our lives helped us detect God's will as He called us to serve Him. Working with others in Gospel activities in the local assembly also contributed to our spiritual formation and experience in serving with others.
We thank God that our four children are all saved and along with their spouses, are active in local churches. During the forty years we have served the Lord in Chile, we recognise the value of the lessons learned before we left and for the counsel given. Arnold Adams, who had served the Lord in Cuba, wrote, "I am glad that you have decided to stop directing people from the heavens to land on earth, and now will show people the way to leave earth and go to Heaven." And the decision about being a pilot, or a radio announcer, and travelling? The Lord allowed me to work in Air Traffic Control and I also obtained my private pilot's license. Instead of worldly music being presented on radio, the Lord has given me the opportunity to produce a 15 minute daily gospel program, which has been on the air since 1963 in Chile.
Furthermore, we travelled to one of the two countries in the world considered to be in the "uttermost part of the earth" from Jerusalem. May God be praised.
An old Scots minister wearily climbed into the pulpit. He had just received a harsh criticism from one of the elders. "Something is radically wrong with your ministry. Only one person has received salvation this whole year, and he is only a boy." The pastor was heartbroken. He had tried to be faithful. Was there any point in continuing in the ministry?
After the service, the minister lingered in the church. Then a child named Robert approached to speak to him. "Do you think, sir, if I work for an education, that I could become a preacher?" "Yes, Robert; I think you can."
Years later, Robert Moffat returned to London from Africa. He had enlarged the knowledge of the geography of Africa, he had given tribes the Bible in their own language, he had established churches there. He had been faithful.
Robert Moffat spoke in London about the needs of Africa. "There is a vast plain to the north where I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been."
A Scottish medical student was in the audience. He asked Mr. Moffat, "Would I do for Africa?" And so the direction for the life of David Livingstone was changed, and the population of a whole continent felt its effects.
If we are faithful, we pray and we study, we plant and we water, but God gives the harvest, even though it seems to be only a boy.
On Saturday, 16th October 1999, engineering history was made when a gigantic wheel, weighing 1500 tons, was lifted through ninety degrees into a vertical position. It is now the fourth tallest structure in London and offers those who are brave enough to travel in its glass capsules, an unrivalled view of the capital.
My friend, do you realise that there is One from whose eyes you can never hide — no matter how distant the country, how dark the corner or how deep the cave, His eye is constantly upon you. The Psalmist David asked, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?" Ps.139.7. "If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee," Ps.139.11,12. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do," Heb.4.13.
In the Old Testament, Jonah thought that he could run away from God, but soon discovered that his every movement had been observed.
In Jn.3.19 the charge is made that "men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Many feel that because no other human being has seen them, then all is well but let every criminal, every terrorist, every sinner know assuredly that God has seen everything and knows every detail of the crime.
It is obvious that since you cannot hide from God, then He has been a witness to your every sin and they have been unerringly recorded in Heaven, not one has been missed, overlooked or forgotten. What can you do? Do not try to hide, as did Adam and Eve, among the trees of the Garden of Eden, and do not try to disguise your evil and parade your virtues as did the Pharisee in Lk. 18.11,12 — these tactics are futile and foolish and will result in eternal judgment.
Come to Christ, come as you are, acknowledge your sin and look to Him for mercy and pardon. God Himself invites and instructs you to come: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," Isa.1.18, "him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out," Jn.6.37.
But you may ask, "How can I be pardoned when I deserve to be punished? How can I be spared when I ought to suffer?" Let me joyfully tell you of something that happened in dense, impenetrable darkness on a skull-like hill outside Jerusalem many years ago. Men could not see what was happening for God had veiled the sun but because One who was innocent and sinless, was punished, you can be pardoned, though guilty.
Uplifted upon the Cross of Calvary, God's beloved Son, "was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed," Isa.53.5.
"... the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me," Gal.2.20.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood!
Hallelujah! What a Saviour.
May you trust Him even now and find refuge from the righteous retribution your sins deserve.