Haggai - Paper 7 — "I will fill this house with glory"
Read Chapter 2.1-9
Just to refresh our memories, the book of Haggai comprises four messages:
TO REPROVE THEIR IDLENESS, 1.1-15:
TO RESTORE THEIR CONFIDENCE, 2.1-9:
TO REBUKE THEIR UNHOLINESS, 2.10-19:
TO REWARD THEIR LEADER, 2.20-23.
We have thought of the first and we come now to the second:
2) TO RESTORE THEIR CONFIDENCE, 2.1-9
This is addressed, in the first place, to the "senior citizens" in Jerusalem. They had lived long enough to remember the original temple. "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?" So God knew exactly what they were thinking and saying about the rebuilding project! As we would say, ‘not much!’ But God does not censure them. He encourages them. We do not have a hard and unmerciful God. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust," Ps.103.13-14. The second message, therefore, was intended to revive their flagging spirits by giving them confidence for the future, and encouraging them to continue with the temple reconstruction.
We can divide the passage as follows:
THE MONTH, v1. The message came at a significant time:
THE MEN, v2. The message is addressed individually and collectively:
THE MESSAGE, v3-9. It covers past memories, v3; present encouragement, v4-5; and prospective glory, v6-9.
A) THE MONTH, v1
"In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the Lord by the prophet Haggai." There are at least two important lessons here:
i) The significance of the time:
The second message was delivered four weeks after work had recommenced on the temple. See 1.14-15, "They came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, in the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king." So work had restarted, but some people were already discouraged. We all know that discouragement is never far away. A buoyant start is not always followed by undiminished enthusiasm! But God did not intend to let His people give up once they had started the work! He therefore spoke to them again through Haggai, and He continued to speak. Zechariah had a message for them in the "eighth month," 1.1, Haggai in the "ninth month," 2.10, and Zechariah again in the "eleventh month," 1.7.
This reminds us that we need the word of God at all times. We need it to ‘get us going,’ and we need it to ‘keep us going.’ Paul laid excellent foundations when he visited Thessalonica. The two epistles abound with references to his oral teaching there. The assembly had been reared on a balanced spiritual diet covering doctrine, practical living, church order and prophecy. Check it out! But they needed further help and encouragement. Paul therefore sent Timothy to "establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith," 1Thess.3.2. However well assemblies have been founded, and however good past teaching has been, we cannot dispense with the Word of God. We need to constantly hear His voice. We notice, then, that God continued to speak to His people through Haggai and Zechariah. They needed His help and encouragement as much in ch.2, as they had in ch.1!
ii) The significance of the date:
The "seventh month" has further significance. The second message was delivered when the Jews celebrated the "feast of tabernacles," see Lev.23.23-43, and Ezra 3.4. This commenced on the "fifteenth day of the seventh month," and lasted for seven days (that is, until the twenty-first day), after which there was an "eighth day." It was the last festival in the Jewish calendar, and took place after Israel had "gathered in the fruit of the land." It was a time of great rejoicing and, bearing in mind the prophetic significance of the Jewish calendar, anticipated the coming glorious millennial age. Bearing in mind the recent drought, 1.11, there probably wasn’t much to celebrate, and in any case, we are not specifically told that the feast was kept that year. But the "feast of tabernacles" also looked back to the beginning of their nationhood, and their deliverance from Egypt: "Ye shall dwell in booths seven days that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt," v42-43.
But now, Israel was again in virtual captivity. After all, they were only a small group in a country that had been annexed by a foreign power. There was no apparent prospect of a glorious national future! It must have been thoroughly depressing for them! But God had good news for them! But before this, however, we must notice:
B) THE MEN, v2
"Speak now to Zerubbabel the sons of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people." There are important lessons here:
i) The urgency of the message:
"Speak now to Zerubbabel … and to Joshua the son of Josedech … and to the residue of the people." Haggai was not to delay. He was to address the situation immediately. Delay could prove dangerous. Discouragement could spread, and the whole project could be in jeopardy. Urgency permeates this chapter. We have already noticed the repetition of "now." See v2,4,11,15,18. So often, things begin to go wrong, and good men stay silent. Whilst elders must not be abrasive, and act like ‘a bull in a china shop,’ they must address assembly problems without delay. This is particularly true where moral and doctrinal issues are concerned, for "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," 1Cor.5.6; Gal.5.9. We should also recognise the urgency of the Lord’s work: perhaps He is saying to us, "Son, go work today in my vineyard," Matt 21.28. How often we fail when an opportunity occurs to witness for Christ. The Lord says, "Speak now," but so often we keep quiet!
ii) The recipients of the message:
a) It was addressed individually. Leaving aside for a moment the important role of Zerubbabel and Joshua, let’s just register the fact that these two men are named. The word of God was addressed to them personally. We all ought to say, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" We must all feel the ‘cutting edge’ of God’s word.
We have already discussed the roles of Zerubbabel and Joshua, but it certainly will not hurt to remind ourselves that good leadership involves healthy public lives, and healthy private lives. Or, to put it another way, a healthy life before men, and a healthy life before God. Or, to put it in yet another way, a healthy ‘princely’ life, and a healthy ‘priestly’ life. (Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, and great-grandson of Josiah: his royal descent is traced in Matt.1.12-13). Paul refers to the need for good leadership in Rom.12.8, "He that ruleth with diligence." That can never be achieved without spending time in the presence of God. It is worth noticing that kings and priests were not always in harmony. See, for example, 2Chron.28.16-21. We must also notice that so far as Israel was concerned, the roles were never united in one person. (Melchisedec was both king and priest, see Gen.14.18, but that was long before Israel’s national history commenced!) But the Lord Jesus will combine both roles: He will "build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both," Zech.6.12-13.
b) It was addressed corporately. "Speak now to the residue of the people." As we shall see, this was not a case of dealing with the ‘other ranks,’ after saluting the officers! The description, "residue of the people," emphasises their value and importance. It was a divine compliment! But we must notice that God addressed individuals and companies of people. The word of God touches our individual lives, and our collective assembly lives. We are not left to do as we please personally, or collectively. God has a pattern for local church life, and it must therefore be second to none. Anything else must be inferior. God does not have alternatives.
But what about this expression, "the residue (sheerith) of the people?" Compare 1.12&14, "the remnant (sheerith) of the people." Perhaps, from their point of view, it was added cause for despondency. After all, that’s all they were: just a "remnant": not everybody came back from Babylonia. But these were people who turned their backs on Babylon, and set their hearts and their faces on the ‘place of the name!’ It was only the people who came back that heard the voice of God! God acknowledged their loyalty to Him.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Testimony in Troublous Times
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 7 — Foundations and Feelings (Ezra 3.8-13)
Having re-established the centrality of the altar, the leaders of those returned from Babylon unite to authorise the rebuilding of the house of the Lord. This was in "the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month," Ezra.3.8.
While seven months have passed between verse 7 and 8 of Ezra ch.3, they were not marked by inactivity. Cedars had to be obtained from Lebanon and masons and carpenters would be engaged in vital preparatory work. During this period the major grain harvests would be gathered in and those feasts, appropriate to the commencement of the Jewish year, observed. However it is perhaps more significant that when Solomon built the house of the Lord some 480 years earlier, he commenced the work in the second month, 1Kgs.6.1. Again, this suggests a continuing exercise to observe Scriptural precedent.
As noted in Ezra 2.40, only 74 working Levites returned from Babylon. Now, in Ezra 3.8, we are informed that "the Levites, from twenty years old and upward" were appointed to take forward the work of temple construction. While twenty-five was the commencement age for Levites serving at the tabernacle, Num.8.24, this reduction to twenty years is not the result of an arbitrary decision prompted by necessity. It is again consistent with precedent in relation to service at Solomon's temple, "For by the last words of David the Levites were numbered from twenty years old and above," 1Chron.23.27. While it is unlikely that all of the 74 Levites superintending this task were as young as twenty years of age, nevertheless Scripture envisages that some could be.
This raised two important matters of relevance for assembly life today. First of all leaders amongst the companies of the Lord's people must be able to delegate responsibility for precise tasks to younger brethren, provided they have personal and spiritual qualities of an exemplary character. Examples from both the Old and New Testaments stipulate that such should be "able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness," Ex.18.21, or "men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom," Acts 6.3. If leaders do not have the foresight to develop the abilities and employ the talents of younger brethren they will incur an unhealthy overburden on themselves to the detriment of the well being of the whole assembly. In addition, it will mean that the rising generation may not be best prepared to meet the onerous responsibilities of leading the Lord's people when older brethren are taken home to heaven.
The second point to underline is that the younger generation should have an active and prayerful interest in preparing for whatever responsibility the Lord, in His sovereignty, may purpose for them. Personal spiritual development will not occur if they have a disinterested attitude or consider that responsibility is only incurred in later life. "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth," Lam.3.27. "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop (overseer), he desireth a good work," 1Tim.3.1.
In setting forward the work of temple reconstruction we note the willingness of the workmen, Ezra 3.9. They worked "together" denoting that all of those named, without exception, were united in this exercise. Soon "the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord" and Zerubbabel and Jeshua "set the priests in their apparel with trumpets and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David King of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord," Ezra 3.9,10. These expressions of praise were entirely appropriate then. However, the pattern now is to "be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," Eph.5.18-20. While the word "melody" in that verse conveys the thought "to play on a stringed instrument" it is made clear that that music is "within the heart." Keeping the instrumental music in that realm will keep the soul sweet and the position Scriptural.
But alongside the expressions of unalloyed joy ancient men wept with a loud voice when they compared the commencement of the present work with the glory of the former. In one sense it was appropriate that they should feel humiliation, but care has to be taken by older brethren not to discourage the exercise of the younger. After all it was the sins of previous generations, as well as their own, that caused the destruction of Solomon's temple. "Good old days," that so often are gilded with romantic retrospect, are seldom as glorious. Seventy years sojourn by the rivers of Babylon testified to that.
Nevertheless while it is true that older saints may be given overly to pessimism and a dwelling in the past, the aspiration and potential of younger saints may often be tainted with overconfidence and foolhardiness. That is why, even today, it is necessary for older and younger believers to engage in the things of God together. Segregation on the basis of age or gender is neither helpful nor Scriptural. We need balance between experience and enthusiasm, between wisdom and willingness.
Perhaps the mingling of the expressions of joy and the sound of weeping, Ezra 3.13, were equally acceptable to God. However, what is clear is that it had an impact on the whole vicinity as "the noise was heard afar off." The reconstruction, therefore, had a good start but can this exercise be maintained? Is it not true with us all that oftentimes exercise that commences with spiritual freshness can quickly degenerate?
—to be continued (D.V.)
Christian Conduct in a Modern World
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No.4 — THE CONSIDERATE LIFE (Continued)
(F) Remember God’s Programme (Romans 15.8-13)
The section of the epistle that deals with the subject of the Considerate Life runs from Ch.14.1 through to 15.13. The verses that we will consider in this paper are the conclusion to that major section. In his conclusion Paul returns to one of the major themes of the epistle, the purpose of God towards mankind. He shows us again that the purpose of God is two-fold; it has to do with "the fathers," v8, and "the Gentiles," v9. This purpose is centred in the person of Christ, and the Trinity are involved in its outworking: "Jesus Christ," v8; "The God of Hope;" "The Holy Spirit," v13. The apostle teaches that God in His purpose is not unfaithful in neglecting the promises made to Abraham; nor is He unrighteous in blessing the Gentiles. God retains His righteous character in both His Word and ways. Fulfilling His promises to the Jews and extending mercy to the Gentiles through the person of His Son achieve this.
The paragraph comprising v8-13 is divided as follows:
The Privilege of the Gentiles, v8, 9 (a).
The Praise of the Gentiles, v9 (b) — 11.
The Potentate of the Gentiles, v12.
The Plenitude of the Gentiles, v13.
1. The Privilege of the Gentiles, v8,9a. With the repeated mention of the Gentiles (x10 in Ch.15), the apostle is emphasizing their privilege and obvious part in the plan of God. God has brought them into blessing. God blessed the Jew, firstly by making the promises to the fathers, and secondly in confirming these promises by sending the Messiah to the nation of Israel. However, blessing is not exclusive to Israel, the Gentiles also are the recipients of God’s mercy and will glorify Him for it. The Messiah came to exercise a ministry to the Jews, v8, and to extend mercy to the nations, v9.
All the promises of blessing that had been made to the fathers of the nation of Israel find their fulfilment in the Messiah. Verses 8 and 9 are difficult to analyse grammatically and have been debated by scholars over the years. It may help us to understand them if we view them like this:
1. "Jesus Christ has become a minister of the circumcision," v8.
HISTORICALLY — the Messiah has come to the Jews as the servant of God.
2. "For the truth of God," v8.
SPIRITUALLY — the service of the Messiah was to do with the truth of God.
3. "To confirm the promises made unto the fathers," v8.
PROPHETICALLY — only the Messiah could establish the prophecies and promises to Israel.
4. "That the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy," v9.
DISPENSATIONALLY — only by the establishment of the promises made to the Jews could the Gentile nations be blessed. The gospel was "to the Jew first and also to the Greek," Rom. 1.16.
By describing the Jews as "the circumcision" there is a reminder of the faithfulness of God in the covenant that He had earlier established with Abraham, and thus the apostle introduces the subject of the "promises made to the fathers." Christ is the executor of the fulfilment of every promise made to the Jews. Terms like "truth," "confirm" and "promises" would be very familiar to the saved Jews in Rome. The promises of God to Israel had not been forgotten, and bringing the Gentiles into blessing was not in any way displacing the Jews. By extending mercy to the Gentiles, God is actually fulfilling the promises made to the Jews.
2. The Praise Of The Gentiles, v9b — 11. In verses 9-12 the apostle quotes four passages of the Old Testament in the Septuagint; these are from the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. By drawing his support from each of the three divisions of the Old Testament Scriptures, the apostle shows that all of the Word of God corroborates what he has stated concerning the Gentiles being blessed by God. In v9b there is the association of peoples in praise to God. The praise to God by the Jews will be in association with the Gentile nations who have also been brought into blessing, "therefore will I give praise unto thee among the Gentiles" (R.V.). In v10 there is the association of praise to God. The Gentiles will not be idle bystanders but will join in full measure with the Jews in praise to God, "rejoice ye Gentiles with His people" (R.V.). In v11 there is the ascription of praise to God. The Gentile nations will have every reason to praise God in their own right as the recipients of mercy. Their praise will not be borrowed, but sincerely from the heart they will praise the Lord Who so mercifully blessed them, "praise the Lord all ye Gentiles" (R.V.). Presently in the age of grace, the Gentiles praise God without the accompanying praise of the Jews as the Nation of Israel is far from God. These Old Testament quotations will have their complete fulfilment in Millennial glory when the Jewish nation and the Gentiles join in praise under the sway of the Messiah’s sceptre.
3. The Potentate of the Gentiles, v12. In this verse we see that the Gentiles’ wholehearted acceptance of the Messiah is the reason for such voluminous praise. When the Gentiles accept the mercy of God as extended to them in Christ, they will accept Him as Lord and offer Him their praise. The prophet Isaiah weaves two great truths together with skill in this verse: the ancestry of the Messiah as "the root of Jesse" and the ascendancy of the Messiah as "He that ariseth to rule over the Gentiles" (R.V.). Here again the fulfilment of the purpose of God is seen in Christ in relation to the Jews and the Gentile nations. The implication is clear; the purpose of God in His Son has been to unite Jew and Gentile under the singular authority of Messiah’s kingdom. If we go back to the earliest promises of a nation and blessing to Abraham, we find that God promised to bless Abraham and all the families of the earth through him. The nations of the earth are already enjoying the blessing of God in salvation through Christ who is a descendant of Abraham. Sadly, Israel is now out of the sphere of divine blessing, but the apostle has clearly shown that they have not been rejected completely by God, chs.9-11, in fact, they are the means through which Messiah has come, Who will bless all mankind. From both Jew and Gentile there will be praise to God.
4. The Plenitude of the Gentiles, v13. The connection between v12&13 is clear;
v12 — "In Him shall the Gentiles hope…" (R.V.).
v13 — "Now the God of hope…"
The apostle brings this lengthy section which began at ch.14.1 to a close in a fitting way — by prayer. His prayer expresses his desire that the saints at Rome be filled completely full with joy and peace, so that their hope would continue to grow. In the succinct expression of his desire we learn truths that are fundamental to the Christian faith. Hope, faith, joy and peace are features of the believer’s life; in fact joy and peace are seen as features of the kingdom of God, ch.14.17. Paul’s prayer is stating these truths;
The Author of hope is God — "The God of hope."
The Agent of hope is the Holy Spirit — "Through the power of the Holy Spirit."
The Channel of hope is faith — "In believing."
The Measure of hope is increasing — "That ye may abound in hope."
The Pre-requisite of hope is joy and peace — "Fill you with all joy and peace."
If the Christians at Rome take heed to Paul’s desire as expressed in His prayer for them, they will be in the full enjoyment of these blessings in their faith in Christ. Their enabling by the power of the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of power and the Spirit of holiness, will be as a consequence of their faith. From this point in the chapter we are shown the completeness of God’s blessing by the use of such words as; fill, full, filled, fullness, abound, etc.
The previous prayer by Paul is in 15.5 where he speaks of the "God of patience and consolation," here God is described as "The God of hope." He is the constant source of present grace as the God of patience and consolation. In the title "the God of hope" He is the God of present confidence and future glory. They will experience strength as they rely upon the God of patience Who is also the source of hope, so that their hope abounds.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. A. Davidson (Northern Ireland)
PAPER 5 — ANATOMY : THE BODY
The metaphor of the human body is perhaps the most easily understood. We do not need to go to the East to study it and its features are as up to date today as in the Greek or Roman culture of Paul’s day. The Apostle had the inspired skill of teaching the saints through objects they could easily understand. He takes lessons from the human body to develop spiritual truths concerning the head, members, ears, foot, exercise and sickness. In this health conscious age, everyday conversations are often about physical illness. We sympathetically pray for saints who are physically ill but all too often fail to recognise the symptoms of spiritual ailments in ourselves. Many believers have physical problems which form the basis of frequent discussions and sometimes gross exaggeration while we sadly neglect to pray for saints who are spiritually not doing well.
Paul’s writings derive illustrations from the anatomy of the body which can be considered in four ways:-
1) DOCTRINALLY - THE CHURCH IS HIS BODY
1) CONTROL: "And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all," Eph.1.22-23. The control, headship, supremacy and unique nearness to Christ in resurrection, are seen in the relationship of the Body to the Head. This teaches:-
Intimacy as we learn His innermost secrets and submit to his will.
Intelligence as we enter into His purpose and what He is doing in the present age.
Interests as intimately linked to Him now and in His glorious future.
ii) COMPOSITION: "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ," Rom.12.4-5. Although a variety of distinct members yet the body is one, composed of all believers from the moment of salvation, Jew and Gentile, from Pentecost to the Rapture, the most of which are already in Heaven. This is the Great Mystery, Purposed from Eternity, Purchased at Calvary, Preserved in Entirety, whose Prospect is Glory.
iii) CONSTITUTION: "For as the body is one, and hath many members (constituents), and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body (physical): so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body," 1Cor.12.12-13. From Pentecost the Holy Ghost is not with His people but in His people. At conversion we are regenerated, indwelt, part of one body, common, once for all. Baptism in the Spirit is never an exhortation in the New Testament, never an experience subsequent to conversion and never an explicit, selective experience true of some and not of others.
iv) COMPLETENESS: "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him (Christ) in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love," Eph.4.15-16. All God’s development with us is to reproduce Christ in us. God never puts less than that which is perfect before us and never lowers the standard to meet our weaknesses. The working of the various gifts is meant to bring about spiritual development in us. Thus as we grow up into Christ in all things, we aim at that perfection so that it should not be such a big change for us when we do reach Heaven. This is the standard and just as the joints of the body function as a unit and the body grows physically, so by help, dependence and fellowship of each other, we are nourished and develop spiritually.
2) SPIRITUALITY - THE ASSEMBLY IN BODY CHARACTER
Now ye are [the] body of Christ, and members in particular," 1Cor.12.27. This is the Church of God at Corinth, the church local in body character. The unity of the assembled local company as we gather to remember the Lord is seen in the breaking of bread. "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread," 1Cor.10.16-17. Everyone who partakes of the Lord’s Supper enters into communion and this is distinct from the Church which is His Body considered previously.
The Apostle takes up the metaphor of the physical body in 1Cor.12 to show that in the assembly there is:-
i) UNITY: "The body is one, and hath many members," 1Cor.12.12. Under the headship of Christ, the manifestations of the Holy Spirit as seen in the gifts, are to function as the members function in a literal physical body. Each individual member functions in the unity of the body for the benefit of the whole entity. The foot, the hand, the ear, the eye are all needed as expressing diversity in unity.
ii) VARIETY: "If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?" 1Cor.12.17. In the assembly we need ministry to build up, exhortation to stir up, comfort to bind up. Some are marked by shepherd care, others by generous giving, not all are fitted to visit the sick, yet all are required in the sphere for which they are fitted. The eye may be more easily hurt, the foot may be less prominent, the ear may be less comely, yet they function so that the body may see, move and hear. If one member ceased to function the body is disabled. If a prominent member such as an arm or leg is missing, the body is disabled but some smaller internal organs which are never seen, are absolutely vital to the survival of the body. The assembly is not an organisation where everyone has their turn, but a living organism of interdependent members all in subjection to the Head so that there be no schism in the body. Some have professed for a life time, to be working for God and never have learned to work with their brethren.
iii) SOVEREIGNTY: "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him," 1Cor.12.18. God gives a variety of gifts to further His purposes and He has settled who will do the work. We might have the will and determination to do a certain thing when we are not fitted for, or expected to do it. No one will write with his foot when he still has his hand.
iv) SYMPATHY: "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." 1Cor.12.26. If a hand is hurt the body is weaker and if a toe is hurt the progress is hindered. So in the days of suffering as in days of blessing, there is an expression of love and oneness among the Lord’s people that cannot be expressed in the closest relationships of the unsaved.
3) METAPHORICALLY - THE ACTIONS AND THE AILMENTS OF THE HUMAN BODY
We are familiar with such expressions as ‘seated in Christ.’ Paul speaks of ‘walking in the Spirit’ and we have considered the metaphor in an earlier paper of ‘running in the race.’ Paul draws many lessons from the actions, activities and ailments of the human body.
"Walk in newness of life," Rom.6.4. There must be clear evidence in our daily walk that baptism is not the act of a moment, but the fact of a lifetime. "Walk becomingly as in the day" (Newberry) Rom.13.13. As we wait and watch for the Lord’s Return, this imminent event should also have a practical outcome in our walk.
Paul also drew parallels with the ailments of the human body and as he was accompanied on many of his journeys and imprisonment by Luke, the physician and writer, he may have benefited from his company as he uses medical terms in the diagnosis of the spiritual sickness of saints. "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome (healthy, health giving) words … he is proud, knowing nothing, but sick" (Newberry) 1Tim.6.3-4. The symptoms of physical sickness is usually a lack of energy, too weary to work and what was once a pleasure becomes a toil. If we ever feel an increased tendency to miss the meetings, are content to let someone else do the work, have not the same appetite for the Word of God, or grow a little irritable with others, it is time to take our own spiritual temperature. These initial tendencies may indicate the start of a more serious complaint or even a threat of an acute heart condition.
Paul found that some saints had a very irritating complaint called "itching ears," 2Tim.4.3. These ears will want to hear a selective ministry, have a controlled platform, perhaps even a paid pastor so that they will only hear what suits them.
Other patients which Paul had to deal with, suffered from "canker" or gangrene. This ailment usually affects the feet and spreads, developing into a condition of spiritual mortification.
Some ailments leave the patient difficult to nurse; "gender strifes," irritable and quarrelsome; "oppose themselves," cause division and others are of a headstrong mental state, "highminded," 2Tim.2.23-25.
Paul also wrote to Timothy about those who had a "conscience seared," 1Tim.4.2. These are very difficult cases to help as they trifle with the truth and depart from the faith.
In this health conscious age, doctors favour preventive treatment and this begins with good food and plenty of exercise. This is also what the apostle prescribed. "Nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine … exercise thyself rather unto godliness," 1Tim.4.6-7.
If medicine is required, Paul had no doubt what should be prescribed; "sound (health giving) doctrine," 1Tim.1.10; "sound (wholesome) words," 2Tim.1.13. It is not dangerous to exceed the stated dose of this medicine and if taken and applied, recovery will begin immediately. The ingredients are clearly stated:- "the glorious gospel," 1Tim. 1.11, which will warm the heart of the saints; "the words of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1Tim.6.3, in His earthly ministry; apostolic teaching "heard of me," 2Tim.1.13; the plain Word of God to "reprove, rebuke, exhort," 2Tim. 4.2; the latter may be bitter to take but will have great beneficial results.
4) PROPHETICALLY - THE CHANGED BODY
"It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body," 1Cor.15.44. The resurrection of the dead in Christ will not be the resuscitation of this body nor the reassembling of the former body nor the resumption of material existence but the transformation of this natural body to immortal life, spoken of by Paul as the great harvest of the seed that has been sown. The future body of the believer will be Incorruptible, "raised in incorruption," 1Cor.15.42; Glorious, "raised in power," 1Cor.15.43, and Spiritual, "a spiritual body," 1Cor.15.44. Be diligent in the service of our soon coming Lord, beloved, in this little vessel of clay as we await His coming; the Redeemed Body, "the redemption of the body," Rom.8.23; the Eternal Body, "eternal in the heavens," 2Cor.5.1; how marvellous, it will be a body like our Lord’s, "like unto his glorious body," Phil.3.21.
Said the little verse on the wall of the room of the elderly saint:-
"Be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet."
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 3 — "THE TENTH DAY"
The fact is remarkable that while the Passover month was to be henceforward the first in the year to the people of Israel, the lamb was not appointed to be slain on the first day of that month. One might almost have supposed that Jehovah would have commenced the new reckoning with the great fact of redemption. Yet this is what we read in Ex.3: "Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb." Ten days were thus to run their course ere the victim was drawn from the flock for death.
Numbers are used in Holy Scripture with divine significance. The frequent occurrence of "seven" and "twelve" in the book of God is sufficient to suggest this to every observant reader. This is scarcely the place in which to show the meaning of all the numerals divinely employed; for our present purpose it is enough to say that "ten" represents the full measure of human responsibility. Thus we have ten commandments in Ex.20; ten virgins in Matt.25.1-13, and ten pounds in Lk.19.13. The ten days of Ex.12.3 speak to us therefore of the ages of responsibility (or probation) which ran their course ere God sent forth His beloved Son to be the Lamb of God, the taker away of the sin of the world.
The preceding ages of responsibility were divinely designed to teach men their deep need of a Saviour, that thus they might be disposed to welcome Him with adoring appreciation at His appearing. Taking Archbishop Usher’s chronology (which cannot, however, be insisted upon) men were being thus disciplined during forty centuries. During that long period God’s ways with His fallen creatures varied considerably. Until Noah’s day men had the testimony of creation and the voice of conscience. No Scriptures existed, and there was neither sovereign nor magistrate to call evil-doers to account. The end was the Deluge, the earth having become full of corruption and violence. When Noah and his sons were re-established in the cleansed earth, God set up the principle of human government, Gen.9.6 — a merciful provision intended as a curb upon wickedness. This quickly failed; Noah’s drunkenness, Nimrod’s tyranny, the building of the tower of Babel, and the idoltary which soon covered the earth proving only too sadly that magistracy (however excellent as an institution) is inefficient as applied to so rebellious a being as man.
Later there was the giving of the law, with its solemn "Thou shall nots" and its accompanying threats and curses for all who were disobedient thereto. The law was given to Israel only, Ex.20.2; Psa.147.19-20; for God would demonstrate in that nation the moral condition of flesh everywhere. The commandments had scarcely gone forth from Jehovah’s lips before the first was violated by the setting up of the golden calf; and this was but the commencement of a long history of transgression culminating at last in the murder of the Son of God, who was constrained by lawless men to tread the same path of blood as all others who had ever sought to bring God before their consciences. The parable of the husbandmen in Matt.21.33-46 declares the wretched story vividly.
Thus men proved, during forty centuries, that under every variety of circumstances and conditions there was nothing but evil in their hearts. This terrible fact having been fully demonstrated, God sent forth His Son. "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly," Rom.5.6. God’s "due time" is set forth typically in "the tenth day" of Ex.12.3. Oh, that men everywhere understood the lesson of it, for then would they renounce all pretension to goodness and strength in themselves, and glory in Christ alone!
—to be continued (D.V.)
Extempore Speaking. It's Uses and Abuses
by D. S. Parrack (England)
It may well be worthwhile now to look at some practical aspects, including, some misconceptions, which can lead to the abuses referred to in the title.
There are certain words and phrases which are sometimes seen as synonyms for extempore speaking. Perhaps the simplest of these are given as ‘being unrehearsed‘, or ‘not being prepared in advance‘. Someone once quoted, as an alleged saying of Spurgeon, "It takes a lot of preparation to be a good extempore speaker." That, taken at face value, is a direct contradiction in terms, but in Bible ministry at least it is very true. Towards the end of a time when he had spoken many parables, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man which is an house-holder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old," Matt.13.52. Treasure usually takes a long time, and probably a lot of effort, to accumulate. Although any specific occasion of ministry may not have been prepared or rehearsed in advance, the ability to speak without such preparation can only come if there are stored up resources on which to draw. One of the activities of the Holy Spirit spoken of by the Lord Jesus was to "bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you," Jn.14.26. You cannot remember something which you never knew, something which perhaps someone told you but to which you paid no attention. After someone has spoken at an ‘open platform’ conference, a rare occurrence nowadays, one hearer wishing to express appreciation said "It must have taken you a long while to prepare a message like that." "Yes" replied the speaker, "it has taken me most of my life." That is speaking without rehearsal, but most certainly not without preparation and listeners who pay attention can usually distinguish very easily between the two.
Another alleged alternative is ‘ad libbing’ which really means ‘at pleasure,’ or colloquially, ‘as one pleases.’ That is most certainly not the spirit in which anyone should attempt to minister amongst believers, whether extemporarily or by invitation. Paul says with all seriousness, "Let a man so account of us as the ministers (servants JND) of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful," 1Cor.4.1-2. Since, then, we are stewards of God and servants of Christ among His people, we ought not to please ourselves as to what we are teaching or ministering. That would include not always riding our own favourite hobby-horse and not erecting a series of targets just so as to be able to show how adept we are at knocking them down. Our prime concern should be the honouring of the Lord Jesus among His people and in practice this is best achieved by their being edified, or built up, in Him. We need in our service to respond positively to the challenge. "Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church," 1Cor.14.12.
When asked recently to explain the meaning of extempore speaking, one person answered, "It is speaking off the cuff." Now that is precisely what it is not. ‘Speaking off the cuff’ was what some speakers did, especially at dinners or functions, in the days when men, on such occasions, wore stiff cuffs on which notes could be written and could just as easily be kept hidden from the audience. No sheaves of notes were required, no prompts from someone nearby, and the impression was given of someone speaking knowledgeably and fluently without recourse to any prepared script. Unfortunately, and this is one area where the abuse of ‘open meetings’ is most common and deliberate, some individuals prepare in advance just what it is they are determined to say. Not by literally writing on their cuffs but sometimes with an annotated Bible or by simply quoting from memory what they had rehearsed beforehand. Of course our hearts, and our minds, need to be prepared before we come to any meeting and especially so to the most usual form of ‘open meeting’ nowadays, the Lord’s Supper (see e.g. 1Cor.11.28). That will be to our own benefit as well as for the good of others but to come determined to make some particular point, or to deal with some supposed problem, in the course of a worship meeting, is taking unscrupulous advantage of the situation and fellow believers are entitled to expect better than that from each other.
One further aspect related to the immediate context, and which applies especially to the breaking of bread meeting, is that of maintaining a theme. This is in turn linked with what is often referred to as ‘being led by the Spirit.’
It is only to be expected that if one person commences a particular line of thought in their praying, reading or speaking, that the minds of others will tend to gravitate to that area of things. We ought not to feel though, that we are always bound to follow such a lead or, of even more concern, to suggest that anyone else who fails to follow is cutting across a predetermined theme for the whole meeting. After all, Paul’s letters do not usually concentrate on just one aspect of truth.
The question of either sticking to a theme, or conversely, not feeling bound by convention to follow a given line of thought, would be resolved much more easily if we took to heart some of the earlier points of this discussion. If, for instance, we were not merely pleasing ourselves or emphasising our own pet theories. It might help too in this context to remember Paul’s words regarding what, in the very simplest terms, could and could not, be expected from a person speaking under the guidance, or control, of the Holy Spirit. "Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed," which is so obvious that it hardly seems necessary to say, but it is just part of the matter. "And no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit," 1Cor.12.3. These words came near the very beginning of the section of this letter dealing with the overall subject of the use of spiritual gifts in the local church. If everything that we say then, can be clearly seen as pointing to the worth and work of the Lord Jesus, we can accept it as the fulfilling by the Holy Spirit of that function of His. "He shall glorify me, for He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you," Jn.16.14. This is the essence of the Spirit led worship, a glorifying of, an expressing of the worth of, the Person of the Lord Jesus.
The term ‘led by the Spirit’ is not, in fact, one which, in the N.T., is used in connection with worship or public speaking. It is related to practical activity or daily living. We read, that "Jesus - was led by the Spirit into the wilderness," Lk.4.1. Paul, in writing both to the Romans and the Galatians, and saying to them respectively, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God," Rom.8.14 and "If you are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law," Gal.5.18, is talking about the practical implications resulting from their new life in the Lord Jesus. He refers to himself and those at Rome as "— us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit," Rom.8.4, and he wants that to be evidenced in daily living by the Galatians, to whom he gives the encouragement "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh," Gal.5.16. ‘Walking’ is, in the reality of Christian experience, an ongoing, progressive activity, and that is what the leading of the Spirit should result in for us.
There are no more fitting or appropriate words with which to conclude this whole discussion than those which Paul uses to close the chapter of which our chosen verses are part. "Let all things be done decently (comelily JND, or decorously) and in order," v40
Hebrews Chapter 9 — The Day of Atonement Surpassed
by J. C. Gibson (Scotland)
The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jewish converts who were tempted to go back to the dead and obsolete ritual of the Jewish religion. The writer's main argument of persuasion is the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ over everything contained in that religious system. This reasoning can be seen in this chapter with such phrases as: ‘a greater and more perfect tabernacle,’ v11, ‘how much more,’ v14 and ‘better sacrifices,’ v23. On occasions many believers are tempted to return to their old way of living before salvation; we must never forget that what we have in Christ is so much better than the best the world has to offer.
Chapter 9 can be divided into two main sections:-
THE CEREMONY, v1-10:
THE CROSS, v11-28.
a) THE CEREMONY, v1-10:
These verses speak about the religious service that took place in the typical tabernacle with a particular emphasis on the Day of Atonement, Lev.16. This special emphasis on the Day of Atonement is alluded to in v3-4 where we read that the position of the golden censer is the holiest of all. Under normal circumstances it was placed in the first tabernacle often called the holy place, Ex.30.1-6. However, on the Day of Atonement it was especially associated with the holiest of all, Lev.16.12-13, as Aaron had to burn incense and in so doing produce a cloud that would cover the mercy seat when he went into God's presence so as not to die. Verse 7 also indicates the Day of Atonement when it speaks of entering the holiest of all, which took place on that day.
We have here a summary of the whole sacrificial system. It was marked by regulation, v1 — ‘ordinances of divine service.’ As a God given religion it was to be obeyed in its smallest detail. It was characterised by:
a) REPETITION, v6 — ‘always.’ Every day the priests went into the first tabernacle, their work never finished. Every year without exception on the Day of Atonement the high priest had to go into the holiest of all, v7. An item of furniture we might at first glance feel is missing from the tabernacle is a chair. But of course there was no place for one because the work was never completed, and so there could be no provision for rest. The painting of the Forth Rail Bridge, in Scotland illustrates this well. Once the team has finished painting the entire structure it is time to start all over again. So the sacrificial system never ceased.
b) RESTRICTION, v7-8. It was not that the ceremony prevented men from coming into the presence of God. Rather, the purpose of its design was to reveal the great distance between men and God and that the way into the holiest of all was barred as a result of their sins. Written over the whole of the Old Testament is the phrase, no entry yet.
b) THE CROSS, v11-28
The Day of Atonement was central to Israel's national religious life but what took place at Calvary is so much better. The shadows must give place to the substance. Although that day appeared so important in its time, this chapter teaches us that it only anticipated Calvary and therefore is no longer necessary.
There are two main considerations in this chapter, the consequences and the characteristics of the cross.
1. ITS CONSEQUENCES:
The Old Testament taught, ‘not yet,’ v8. The veil acted as a barrier into the holiest of all. Through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ access has been achieved, and this barrier has been removed, Matt.27.51. The temple veil was rent from the top, signalling to us that it was the work of God rather than man; otherwise it would have been rent from the bottom. The Old Testament system was laborious, it was ‘imposed on them,’ v10. The Greek word used here is ‘epikeimai’ meaning to lie on, suggesting a burden. It is used literally in Jn.11.38 of the stone lying on the grave of Lazarus, no doubt a hefty weight. Despite the bright colours of the priest's garments and the intricate details to be performed, the whole system, far from being a joy to men's hearts, became a wearisome burden. In Act.15.10 Peter describes it as a yoke which they were unable to bear. This burden was removed at Calvary, Col.2.14. The Old Testament system announced its own demise, for it only continued ‘until,’ v10. Now that the Lord Jesus Christ has come the ceremony is no longer necessary, and Judaism has been rendered obsolete, for He has put a finish to it, Heb.8.13. Built into the whole system was a ‘best before’ date, that date being the cross. When Jehovah gave Moses, at mount Sinai, instructions concerning the sacrifices they were only meant to be for a certain predetermined period of time. The words ‘the time of reformation,’ v10, indicate that wrongs have been put straight. ‘Diorthosis’ is the word used here, meaning to make straight or to set things right. It is used in the Septuagint in Jer.7.3 of Israel amending her ways, and is the word from which we get the medical term orthopaedics. We might well ask ourselves, if the cross put matters straight, what was the purpose of the law? It acted in much the same way as a modern X-ray. It showed up the fact that things were not right but had no power in itself to rectify the situation, just as an X-ray cannot fix or straighten a broken bone.
A more detailed outline of the consequences of the cross will be presented in the next paper (DV).
—to be concluded (D.V.)
My Conversion and Call (76)
by Brian Currie (Belfast)
I was born on 23rd December 1946 into a home where both my parents were saved. In fact my father was saved on 17th March earlier in that same year. From my earliest days I was prayed for and prayed with and taught "the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus," 2Tim.3.15. My presence at Sunday School, children’s meetings and gospel meetings was not optional, it was obligatory. It was a common thing on a Lord’s day afternoon for my mother to play the piano and she would join with my father in the singing of hymns. Often they would sing "Will the circle be unbroken;" "Are you washed in blood of the Lamb?"; and many other good gospel based hymns. On these occasions I sometimes longed to know their Saviour as my own.
When in my boyhood, there were many times I desired salvation. This was often when brethren preached on the Lord’s coming to the air for His own and rapture them to glory. I knew I would be left for the judgment of God and that eventually the lake of fire would be my abode.
However time passed and I left school and went to University. I became captivated by the theories of men, both those of Darwin and Marx. If any reader is dabbling with such theories please remember they are just that — THEORIES. They have no real scientific proof. It is not an exaggeration to say they have their origins in hell.
My greatest love in life was the game of rugby. I was considered good at it and by the age of 19 years was winning representative honours. Thus by that age I could have been described as a sports loving, pleasure seeking, young man of atheistic tendencies.
In the summer of 1967 I went with a friend to London, England, to work for the summer vacation. There we had an apartment and lived as we wished. There was no gospel, no preaching and absolutely no restraint. When I was at home my mother always placed a restraint on me by her presence. No matter what time of the night or morning I would come home she would always have been sitting waiting and most probably praying. She would frequently say, "Your friends will laugh you into hell, but they will not laugh you out of it." There was no such thing as that while we lived in London and we thought it was just great. My friend and I decided that when we returned from London to Belfast we would leave home, get an apartment, and continue our worldly ways. We returned in September. By November we still had not managed to get suitable accommodation and I was living at home. I still went to the gospel meeting every Lord’s day evening. I considered it a small price to pay to keep peace at home for I knew it pleased my parents.
In the month of November the late Mr. Albert Leckie from Scotland came to Glenburn Gospel Hall, where my parents were in fellowship, for gospel meetings. I went on the Lord’s Day evenings as usual but had no thought whatsoever about my eternal welfare. I considered salvation to be some kind of emotional upheaval, which was the experience of weak minded folk who needed the thought of some great Utopia in the sky to help them through this world. On 26th November Mr. Leckie spoke from Matt.25, the parable of the ten virgins and his subject was the coming again of the Lord Jesus for His own. The Holy Spirit of God was at work and I trembled. I was really alarmed since I thought I had built an intellectual shield around me and would never be bothered with such thoughts again. When I left the meeting there was only one thought in my mind and it came again and again — "the Lord’s coming and you’re not saved; the Lord’s coming and you’re not saved."
It was my habit to spend the Lord’s day evenings in a snooker club and I went along thinking that I could get away from these thoughts, but to no avail. I made the excuse to my companions that I was unwell and made my way home still with this in my mind, "the Lord’s coming and you’re not saved; the Lord’s coming and you’re not saved." I went to bed and lying in bed pondering this great matter the words of Lk.18.13 came to me and I made them the cry of my heart to God, "God be merciful to me a sinner." At that very moment I was saved and born into the family of God.
I did not tell anyone what had happened. I thought I would see if this was real or imaginary. However, Rom.10.9 constantly came before me, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Some of my colleagues noticed a change because I had stopped smoking. I went to the Rugby club for training on the Tuesday night and refused to go to the bar afterwards. Even though I had not publicly confessed Christ as my Saviour, the word was around the rugby club, "the big fellow has got religious."
My father asked me to go to meeting on the Wednesday night and to his surprise I agreed to go. After the meeting Mr. Leckie, uninvited and unexpectedly, called to our home for supper and he asked me, in front of the whole company, "Brian, what do you think of this matter of salvation?" With Rom.10.9 still in my mind I replied, "When are you saved, when you believe or when you confess?" He pointed out that it was when a person believes and asked me why I had asked that question. It was then I publicly confessed that I had accepted God’s offer of salvation. In our home that evening there was joy which was undescribable — the prodigal had returned. Some time later I asked Mr. Leckie what brought him to our home that particular evening and he replied that during the meeting on Wednesday night he noticed something he never saw before, I was singing!
The following May I was baptised and received into the fellowship in Glenburn Gospel Hall in East Belfast. In June 1971 I was married and came to live in Dunmurry and was heartily received by the assembly meeting in the Gospel Hall there.
From my early Christian days I had a desire to read and learn God’s Word. I did not do much preaching. My father advised me not to preach until I knew what I was preaching about and that I should read the Bible first. However after I was married a brother from the assembly at Derriaghy called Tom Armstrong asked me to accompany him on Lord’s Day evenings to preach the gospel. This happy association continued for over 20 years. We had a series of meetings together in a portable hall close to where we lived in 1976 and the Lord was pleased to bless in salvation. Other series of meetings followed with different brethren and the Lord was gracious in giving encouragement here and there by blessing His word to the salvation of souls. I became more and more exercised about full time work for the Lord. My problem was where should I go to serve Him? I spoke to Mr. E. Fairfield about Venezuela and Mr. A. Hull about Nova Scotia but neither of these areas opened up for me. I was encouraged by Acts 12.16, "But Peter continued knocking . . ." and I kept praying. The latter part of Isa.24.15 struck me forcibly "Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, (even) the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea." I wondered for a long time where are the "isles of the sea" for me? The last place I wanted them to be was the British Isles. The amount of service I was undertaking was increasing with gospel meetings, ministry meetings and the editorship of this magazine. It was becoming difficult to keep my lecturing and research work going at the University where I was employed and undertake all the work of the Lord that was coming my way.
In 1988 I had occasion to visit part of the USA on business and met with the saints where I could. I spent a Lord’s day in McKeesport and afterwards Mr. Harold Clarke asked, "when are you going to stop wasting your time lecturing and get at the Lord’s work?" Obviously he knew absolutely nothing of my exercise. In 1991 I accompanied Mr. Thomas Bentley on a trip to Malaysia, Hong Kong and China. He was most positive in his encouragement to me. One Lord’s day he spoke from Jn.12.25,26, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will (my) Father honour." I felt it was a message direct from heaven to me. In 1992 David McAlister and I shared gospel meetings in his home assembly in Parkgate Gospel Hall and later that year I spoke at his farewell meeting as he, his wife and little daughter, left Belfast to serve the Lord in Zambia. At that meeting I felt such a hypocrite since I was encouraging David and his wife to do something that I had never done.
At the beginning of 1993 I was invited to join Mr. Jack Lennox for gospel meetings in the Ebenezer Gospel Hall, Bangor, Co. Down. I felt the matter was coming to a climax and asked the Lord in the words of Ps.86.17, "Shew me a token for good; . . ." This He graciously did when a number of souls professed faith in the Lord Jesus. Brother Lennox also encouraged me to give my time to the Lord’s work. On 20th March I attended a conference in Glenburn Gospel Hall where one of the preachers was Mr. Jim Flanigan. He spoke on peace and one of his texts was Col.3.15, "let the peace of God rule in your hearts, . . ." . At this particular time my mind was in turmoil and I was having no peace. I thought there is only one thing to do and that is to speak to the overseeing brethren in Dunmurry and at least I will have peace. I spoke to them briefly the next day and subsequently we had a longer discussion. A few weeks later the brethren indicated that they were very happy to be identified with my exercise and would have no hesitation in commending me to the grace of God for the work.
I left my employment on 30th September 1993 and joined brother Jack Lennox in the work of the gospel. We have been encouraged to have seen the Lord’s hand in blessing since then and many have been the assurances that we did not miss the Lord’s pathway for us. He has been most gracious and has provided for us in every way. To God be the glory, great things he hath done! "Brethren pray for us".
Good Tidings from Heaven
THE COST OF LIVING
Unfortunately we live in a violent society where life is cheap but there is a sanctity and preciousness about human life which we must never lose sight of. Life is bestowed by God and none but He has the right to take it. Many a mother has had to choose between her life and that of her unborn child and some have forfeited their life to allow their child to live. That has been the high price paid for the life of some; their birth meant the death of a mother. Who can tell the sense of indebtedness that such must feel when, in later life, the facts are relayed to them. What bonds of love bind them to the one whose face they never saw, who died that they might live. Just such an incident occurred in Genesis 35 when Rachel died as she gave birth to Benjamin.
But have you ever given thought to the price that was paid so that you might have eternal life? God gave His only Son and He, who alone had the right to live because He is sinless, died voluntarily, so "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John 3.16.
Sin and death are inextricably linked; it is the penalty due to our sin. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," Ezekiel 18.4;
"The wages of sin is death,…" Romans 6.23;
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Romans 5.12;
"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment," Hebrew 9.27;
"…and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death," James 1.15.
One of the thieves crucified with Christ rightly remarked to the other thief, "…we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man (Jesus) hath done nothing amiss," Luke 23.41.
But if we are to escape the penalty of sin then He must die. "…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures," 1 Corinthians 15.3;
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God,…" 1 Peter 3.18;
"The Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me," Galatians 2.20;
"…Christ died for the ungodly," Romans 5.6.
With thorned-crowned head, my debt He paid,
As His life’s blood ebbed away;
And my peace was won ‘neath the darkened sun
On that strange and dreadful day.
His death was like no other, violent in the extreme because of man’s intense hatred of Christ and yet vital for the putting away of sin and the providing of salvation. He died not as a martyr but as a Mediator, not as a sinner but as a Saviour. His death will forever bear testimony to the righteousness of God, it will be the unfading symbol of Love Divine. "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," Romans 5.7,8.
His death was no accident nor was it a tragedy; He died because He loved us so and desired us to be with Him in Heaven eternally.
What will your response be to such amazing love? Can you reject such a Saviour? Receive Him as your own just now — no one else is deserving of your trust; He paid the full price demanded that you might have everlasting life.
TUNE: SOUTHGATE ("Peace Peace is mine;)
We approach Thy throne with singing,
Our thanksgivings to Thee bringing,
He in whom Thy heart found pleasure,
Every day increasing measure.
We these precious mem'ries treasure,
His was total dedication,
To Thee His God.
All He gave in consecration,
To Thee His God.
He all worship is deserving,
Yet as man found daily serving,
Faithfully and never swerving,
To Thee His God.
By the Jordan see Him walking.
Behold the Lamb!
View His working, hear His talking.
Behold the Lamb!
Spotless Lamb of Thy providing,
Ever with Thyself abiding.
Always in Thyself confiding,
Behold the Lamb!
Matthew J. Cordner
The trains of religion are scheduled for derailment; There is not enough power to reach their destination.
We are holding lightly and selling cheaply the inheritancethat cost our fathers everything.
God is a shade from the sun of prosperity, and a harbour from thestorm of adversity.
CREATION AND REDEMPTION
Creation's work doth unto man display
God's Power Eternal and Divinity,
But yet a greater work by faith we see
Accomplished once upon Golgotha's tree.
There Christ Himself, God's well-beloved Son
Redemption's work so gloriously hath done,
That by His Blood to God are we brought nigh
Sweet fellowship forever to enjoy.
Our Lord Himself, the Firstborn from the dead
Now liveth ever as the Church's Head,
In Him complete are we by Grace divine
So truly one as branches in the vine.
When glorified our Lord the Spirit sent
To comfort us here in our mortal tent,
The things of Christ He to the saints doth show
While passing through the wilderness below.
But soon shall come our absent Lord again
And change us to His glorious image then,
Our ransomed tongues shall sing around the Throne
Forever worthy is the Lamb alone.
The late James H. Wilkinson (Co. Tyrone)
God is my strength and power; and He maketh my way perfect.
2 Sam. 22.33
As thy days, so shall thy strength be.
"As thy days" — oh, blessed promise!
Day by day His strength is mine;
Balm for evey bitter sorrow,
Grace to wait and not repine;
Strength to cast my care upon Him,
Faith to trust His power divine.