As we have seen, this chapter contains a variety of “statutes and judgments,” 12.1, all of which deal with different aspects of distress, including distress in the community over a slain man, distress to women prisoners of war, distress in family life over inheritance and disobedience. The five cases may be summarised as follows:
1) investigating an unsolved murder, v1-9;
2) marrying a captive woman, v10-14;
3) endowing a firstborn son, v15-17;
4) punishing a rebellious son, v18-21;
5) burying an executed criminal, v22-23.
1) INVESTIGATING AN UNSOLVED MURDER, v1-9
We have already noticed that the overriding lesson of these verses is that sin is immensely grave, whether or not the culprit has been identified, and that since sin had been committed against the Lord, His claims must be met. The death of the heifer reminds us that the death of Christ is not only the basis on which fellowship with God is created, but also the basis on which that fellowship is restored when interrupted by sin.
2) MARRYING A CAPTIVE WOMAN, v10-14
Some commentators evidently regard this passage as an allegory. “The captive woman of verse 11, is, no doubt, a figure of Israel” (C. A. Coates); “Verses 10-17 bear in a very special way upon Israel's relationship to Jehovah” (C. H. Mackintosh). Whilst this could be true, the principal lessons of these verses lie in their plain sense. In the first place, we should ask how the possibility of marrying a captive foreign woman can be reconciled with the earlier prohibition against such intermarriage. See Deut.7.1-4. The answer involves the “golden rule” of Biblical interpretation which is, “always look at the context!” It has been rightly said that “a text taken out of its context becomes a pretext for anything!” God's people were prohibited from intermarriage with the original inhabitants of Caanan, but in this case, prisoners had been taken in a foreign campaign. We noticed this clear distinction in Deut.20.13-18. Amongst other things, we should notice the following:
i) The purity of desire for the woman, v10-11. We should notice the wholesome wording here: “When thou … seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire for her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife.” Without attempting to sound “super-natural,” prospective husbands ought to bear in mind beauty of character when conducting “affairs of the heart.” Physical beauty is, of course, an added bonus! However, Solomon did observe that “as a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion,” Prov.11.22. In other words, “beauty is only skin deep!” But, above all, do notice that the Hebrew soldier here “wouldest have her to …wife.” Not “to the gratification of physical desires,” but “to wife.” This means “giving honour unto the wife … as being heirs together of the grace of life,” 1Pet.3.7. There is a beauty and dignity about marriage.
ii) The provision for the woman, v12-13A. The woman was to “shave her head, and pare her nails; and … put the raiment of her captivity from off her … and bewail her father and her mother a full month.” During all this time, she was to remain in the house of her future husband. Should the “human rights” movement protest loudly here, it should be pointed out that the God of Israel provided deliverance from the inhumane degradation which she would have certainly received at the hands of pagan conquerors. She was provided with shelter, clothing, and opportunity to grieve. While the instructions, “shave her head, and pare her nails” could refer to sorrow at bereavement, it seems more likely that they indicate a clean break with past life, possibly the outward symbols of former paganism. She was beginning a new life.
iii) The preservation of the woman, v13B. “And after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.” As Raymond Brown points out, “The Hebrew captor had no “rights” whatever in the matter. The physical, moral, and emotional welfare of the Gentile woman was of far greater importance than the sexual desires of her conqueror … No man loves a woman as deeply as he says he does if he insists on pre-marital sexual relationships with her.” The moral integrity of Boaz is fully disclosed by the fact that he was “afraid” when he “turned himself: and, behold, a woman lay at his feet.” It was not until the proper legal processes had been completed that he “took Ruth, and she was his wife: and … he went in unto her,” Ruth 3.8; 4.13. The Word of God remains binding upon us: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints,” Eph.5.3.
iv) The protection of the woman, v14. It could be argued that the words, “have no delight in her,” refer to the period in which the woman had lived in the man's house, during which he had discovered that he didn't want to marry her after all. However, the expression, “because thou hast humbled her,” points in another direction. Compare Deut.22.24,29; Judg.19.24; Ezek.22.10-11. The use of the word “humbled” in these passages strongly suggests that sexual relationships without marital love humiliates women.
In the case here, the interests of the woman concerned were to be protected: the man was not to add to her sorrows. “Thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.” It has been nicely pointed out that “God cares for the slave, the foreigner and for those who have lost the support of their husbands, whether they are Israelites or not” (Raymond Brown). This situation, together with the case described in Deut.24.1-2, must be understood in the light of Matt.19.3-9 and in particular the Lord's words, “but from the beginning it was not so,” v8.
3) ENDOWING A FIRSTBORN SON, v15-17
If the man above had fallen out of love with the “beautiful woman” captured during a foreign campaign, then here we have a man who had fallen out of love with the wife who had borne him his “firstborn son.” In this case, the son concerned was not to be deprived of the inheritance to which he is entitled. There was to be no favouritism in the family. It is worth pointing out that if a Hebrew father had two sons, he divided his inheritance into three and gave two portions to the firstborn son. The reason is given: “for he is the beginning of his (the father's) strength, the right of the firstborn is his,” v17. Compare Gen.49.3.
We should remember, however, that the right of firstborn could be given to a son who was not the “first to be born.” This is clear from 2Chr.5.1. Reuben's birthright was given, for good reasons, to “the sons of Joseph the son of Israel,” and henceforth Joseph is usually represented in the tribal listings by his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. In this way, Joseph received his “double portion,” and this is maintained in the New Testament, where the “sealed … servants of our God” are listed tribe by tribe, including, not Ephraim and Manasseh, but Manasseh and Joseph, Rev.7.1-8. Ephraim (in whose territory Samaria was located), together with Dan, is excluded from service because of idolatry.
In this connection, it is most important that we should understand why the Lord Jesus is called “the firstborn of every creature (‘the firstborn of all creation,’ JND),” Col 1.15. This statement is used by the Jehovah's Witnesses to support their assertion that “God's first creation was His Son.” The Lord Jesus is described as “the firstborn” on five occasions in the New Testament: Rom.8.29; Col.1.15,18; Heb.1.6; Rev.1.5. The word is used in the plural in Heb.12.23, “the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven.” As we have seen, in the Old Testament, the title “firstborn” was not synonymous with the “first to be born.” A further example occurs in 1Chr.26.10-11: “Also Hosah, of the children of Merari, had sons; Simri the chief (for though he was not the firstborn, yet his father made him the chief), Hilkiah the second … Tebaliah … Zechariah.” It is clear from events in the patriarchal families (we must not forget Jacob and Esau in this connection) that the word “firstborn” referred to the head or principal son in the family, and was used, not necessarily in a chronological sense, but essentially to describe the unique relationship between the father and the son designated in this way. In Ps.89.27, David is described as “my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.” He is supreme amongst earthly monarchs. It is even more applicable to the Lord Jesus, Who is of “the house and lineage of David!” See Lk.2.4. as “the firstborn of all creation,” JND, the Lord Jesus has both precedence and pre-eminence over creation.
We should add that the Jehovah's Witnesses also use Rev.3.14 (“The beginning of the creation of God)” to bolster their blasphemous doctrine that Christ is a created being. However, the word “beginning” means “originator.” He is not, as they suggest, the “first to be created,” but the Creator! He is the “originator” of creation.
4) PUNISHING A REBELLIOUS SON, v18-21
If the son above enjoyed a happy and honourable relationship with his father, the son here is in a totally different position. He is “stubborn and rebellious” and refuses to “obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them,” v18. His parents describe him as “a glutton, and a drunkard,” v20. Having been reprimanded and chastened by his parents, he nevertheless persists in his depraved conduct. We now wait to see what the Word of God prescribes in these circumstances. The young man is not referred to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. He is not told to “go away and be a better boy” or given a period of “community service” by a young offenders' court. He is not even locked up for the night. He is stoned to death by the “men of his city.” This was not a case of “rough justice”: “so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear,” v21. In an excellent piece, Raymond Brown points out that the Lord must be obeyed (the covenant stated that parents must be honoured, Deut.5.16); the offender must be challenged (but he had disregarded the earnest appeals of his parents); the parents must be supported; the community must be protected: “if such an unworthy member of the family was allowed to continue his corrupt lifestyle unchecked, it would not be long before he would be joined by others. Sin has a sick way of reproducing itself within communities and everything must be done to halt its rapidly depraving influence within society.”
Whilst we have to say with Paul, “what have I to do to judge them also that are without … them that are without God judgeth,” 1Cor.5.12-13, we have good cause to lament the failure of “the powers that be,” Rom.13.1, to deal with evil in society, of which drunkenness is one, v20. It is, however, the business of the assembly to exercise discipline when sin is committed by the Lord's people, and 1Cor.5 should be carefully read in this connection.
It has been said that these verses describe “the Old Testament prodigal son.” We are happy to say that the New Testament story of “the prodigal son” ends in a totally different way. C. H. Mackintosh has a beautiful piece here: “In Deut.21, we see the hand of God, in righteous government, executing judgment upon the rebellious; in Lk.15, we see the heart of God pouring itself out, in soul-subduing tenderness upon the poor repentant one, giving him the sweet assurance that it is His own deep joy to get back His lost one. The persistent rebel meets the stone of judgment; the returning penitent meets the kiss of love.”
We cannot leave this section of the chapter without reference to the obedient Son, who not only said, “wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?” but who “went down with them (Joseph and Mary), and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them,” Lk.2.49-51. Unlike the depraved son in Deut.21, He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man,” Lk.2.52.
5) BURYING AN EXECUTED CRIMINAL, v22-23
There are, undoubtedly, good humanitarian grounds for this particular statute, and these must include the deep emotional stress of the criminal's family. A body left overnight would become carrion for wild beasts and voracious birds. It is specifically stated that the land was not to be defiled by allowing the corpse to remain unburied, and it is important to remember the requirement for cleanliness in all the affairs of God's people. It had been rightly said that the Hebrews would have no difficulty with the subject of sanctification. Purity and separation from all defilement was an integral part of daily life.
But there is more here. The New Testament refers to this passage in Gal.3.13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” The king of Ai, the Canaanite kings, and Haman were all hanged. The Lord Jesus hung upon the cross as a common criminal. Unlike the guilty party here, He suffered a death He did not deserve and bore the punishment of our sins. He has “redeemed us from the curse of the law.” The Greek word rendered “redeemed” (exagorazo) means deliverance with a view to freedom. If “the curse of the law” was the “second death,” then the Lord Jesus experienced that very same death (an eternity of death concentrated in three hours) on the cross, causing Him to cry, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The law which demanded the death of the sinner, has been satisfied in the death of Christ.
My soul looks back to see
The burden Thou didst bear
When hanging on the accursed tree,
And knows her guilt was there.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Gospel of the Glory of Christ
*Quotations throughout are from the Revised Version
Christ’s Death Vicarious
Let me remind you that in Scripture we are never told that Christ lived “for” us; or that Christ kept the law “for” us; or that the life of the Lord Jesus had any atoning efficacy. His life demonstrated His competence to undertake the work, but the work itself was done at Calvary. And when that work had been accomplished God raised His Son from among the dead. He “was delivered up for (because of) our trespasses, and was raised again for (because of) our justification,” Rom.4.25.
His Resurrection and After
There are many implications of the resurrection; time forbids me to dwell upon them now. For forty days He companied with His disciples, and then the history ends in such words as these: “A cloud received Him out of their sight,” Acts 1.9. So far the testimony of men to what they saw and heard, but now revelation comes in that faith may follow where sight fails. He was received into Heaven, passed through all the Heavens, entered into Heaven itself, and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Heb.1.4; 5.14; 9.12,24. There He has resumed the glory He had with His Father before the world was, Jn.17.5. Consider how He is occupied there: “Whither as a forerunner Jesus is entered,” “to prepare a place” for us, Heb.6.20; Jn.14.2. Consider Him as the “great Priest over the house of God,” and “if any man sin,” let us remember that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” And if the fear of death descends upon our souls at times, let us remember that when Stephen died the Lord arose from the Throne of God to receive his spirit. In bereavement let us comfort ourselves and others with the thought that He has conquered death, and “brought to nought him that had the power of death, that is the Devil,” Heb.10.21; 1Jn.2.1; Acts 7.54-60; Heb.2.14,15.
Head of His Body, the Church
Consider, too, that the Lord Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God, there to be the Head of the Church, and let us remember that that Church, growing here from age to age, is the building of the Lord, by His Holy Spirit. Or, if another figure is used, it is His Body, and from Him is supplied from day to day all that Body needs for its nourishment and completion. The human body is composed of its members, its tissues, its ligaments, its nerves, its circulatory system, and what not, and all this has its analogy in the Body which Christ is building and nourishing. All that is necessary for the sustenance of that Body is supplied from the Head, and nothing is necessary to its growth and maintenance in health and efficiency, save and except that which it receives along the appointed channels from the Lord Himself. The connection between the Head and every remotest member of that body is complete; however these members may be scattered, all are bound by an unbreakable cord with the Lord in Heaven, Eph.1.20-22; 2.19-22; 3.7-13.
The Gathering Centre
Around the Throne of God the hosts of Heaven join in His praise, ascribing the honour and the glory and the dominion and power, and every worthy thing, to the Lamb that sits upon the throne; and then remember that He had also said that “where two or three are gathered together unto (eis) My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” He Who is in the midst of the throne of Heaven is in the midst of the two or three of His own who gather together there, and not less really here than there. And in thus gathering us, what is the end in view? It is that, in whatever feebleness, there might be reproduced here that Heavenly scene of worship, that we, too, might in the congregation ascribe to Him honour and glory and praise, Matt.18.20; Rev.5.
From worship we go forth to service.
The Abiding Presence
It may fall to your lot some day, as in past years it has fallen to mine, to stand amid a hostile mob, to face men with hatred glaring out of their eyes, to see them gnash their teeth and stamp their feet and declare their hatred for you and for your Lord; and the Devil will be there to suggest the danger in which you stand, and to bring vividly before you the possibilities of the next few minutes; but then you will find, too, that the Lord will come Himself and remind you that He is with you, that all you need for that emergency, for that moment of terror, for that demand on brain and nerve and muscle, will Himself supply, for has He not said, “Lo I am with you?”
The Advent Glory
Finally, there is the glory of His Coming again. He is coming to judge; and the scene on Calvary seems to foreshadow His judgment. The Lord, as ever, is in the midst; on the one hand is the man who rejected Him, and on the other is the man who put his trust in Him. So it is still. This world is divided by an unseen line; on one side are those who have not trusted Christ, on the other are those whose sole hope is in Him. In that Day the line will become visible, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout … and we (that are in Christ) that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up;” the judgment will have begun. Those who neglect this great salvation will be left behind. Then, as I understand the Scripture, we who have been caught away to be with the Lord, will be made manifest before His Judgment-seat, for though grace takes us to Heaven, loyalty to Christ here determines our place and position there. Salvation is of grace, but crowns must be earned, 1Thess.4.13-18; 2Cor.5.1-10.
When the earth is ripe for its judgment, then, as the lightning flashes from one end of the Heaven to the other, so the glory of the Son of Man will be displayed. He will come for the deliverance of His people Israel, and for the overthrow of the Antichrist. Then he will establish His Kingdom upon the earth, even as it is written: “The seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in Heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.” There can be no Millennium until Christ brings it. He does not look to men to prepare a kingdom for Him; He will bring it and establish it, that the glory may not be ours but His own, Matt.24.27; 2Thess.2.8; Rev.11.15.
There is not time now to trace the course of the Millennium, or to suggest its character. It will end in a rebellion, but in that rebellion also He will be the Victor; He will overthrow the last of His enemies, and death itself shall be destroyed. Then shall come to pass that which is written, that “God — God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the One yet Triune God — may be all in all,” 1Cor.15.28.
The Holy Spirit and the Believer
By J. E. Todd (England)
11. FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian Christians, reminds them that they have already received the Holy Spirit, “Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,” 1.13. Then he exhorts them to be filled with the Holy Spirit. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit,” 5.18.
What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? In this very verse an illustration is given of what it means. The drunkard is controlled by the wine within him. He is dragged down to a level of conduct. Every sin is possible as control is surrendered to the alcoholic spirit within him. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. But in this case the conduct of the believer is lifted up to a Christlike level. “To be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,” Eph.3.16-17.
How am I to be filled with the Holy Spirit? “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God,” Rom.6.13. “Yield yourselves unto God.” This means to step out by faith in God, trusting Him to supply the power, by His Spirit, to live such a life.
What will such a life be like? Let us return to Paul’s exhortation. First, Paul echoes Isaiah’s oft given call to Israel to awake out of sleep (e.g. Isa.52.1) and walk in the light which the Lord gives (e.g. Isa.60.1). “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light,” Eph.5.14. In plain language, become spiritually alert. In v15 to use one’s wisdom to live carefully, looking round and giving attention to details, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” In v16 to treat this matter of living a holy life in an evil world with the utmost urgency, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” In v17 to lay aside the folly of selfwill and live in obedience to the will of the Lord as set out in His Word, “Wherefore be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” In v19 entering into this enterprise cheerfully and joyfully, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” In v20 to be truly thankful to the Lord for the great privilege of living to the glory of God, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In v21 to have a reverence for our Lord, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,” (R.S.V.). Or, as Peter puts it, “In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord,” 1Pet.3.15 (R.S.V.). We live such a life out of reverence for His person, He is God manifest in flesh. Out of reverence for Him as my personal Saviour. Out of reverence for Him as my risen Lord.
How can I live such a life? I cannot! But, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of (in) the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me,” Gal.2.20. The Holy Spirit’s work is to create in us a holy life which displays the loveliness of Christ. Again, “To be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,” Eph.3.16-17.
12. WALKING IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
It is often assumed that to be filled with the Spirit is the pinnacle of Christian experience. But to be under the control of the Holy Spirit at one point in time is not of itself a guarantee to be under His control at another time. But to walk in the Spirit means to be filled with the Spirit continually.
The Scripture says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh … If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit,” Gal.5.16,25. As we have received new life from the Holy Spirit at the new birth, then we are able to walk in the Spirit. This would mean that we continually desire and trust and expect the Holy Spirit by His power to fill our lives with His fruit under all circumstances, favourable or unfavourable.
To “walk” is an apt New Testament term to illustrate the process and experience of living. We all “walk” through life hour by hour with its ever changing scenery of events, great and small, happy and sad. The numerous references to the Christian’s daily walk in the New Testament inform us that such a life will have the following characteristics.
As the result of the new birth we are, “a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them,” Gal.6.15-16. We will walk in newness of life, “Even so we also should walk in newness of life,” Rom.6.4. We follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,” Jn.8.12. Therefore, “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,” 1Jn.1.7. Therefore we shall obey His teaching, “This is love, that we walk after His commandments,” 2Jn.6. Then we shall be walking in the truth, “The truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth,” 3Jn.3. By such a life of good works, “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” Eph.2.10, we shall please God, “How ye ought to walk and to please God,” 1Thess.4.1. Also by acts of love, “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us,” Eph.5.2, we shall fulfil the requirements of the law, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Rom.8.4, 13.10. Such a life will be worthy of our calling as disciples of our Lord, “That ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” Eph.4.1, Col.1.10, 1Thess.2.12. This walk is to be achieved by faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” 2Cor.5.7. That is faith in the living Christ who dwells within us by His Spirit, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him,” Col.2.6. As we carefully and wisely walk in this way, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,” Eph.5.15, Col.4.5, we shall become more like our Master, “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He (Christ) walked,” 1Jn.2.6.
We must give constant attention to our walk in “the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” Phil.2.15.
A great help to our walking in the Spirit is to be continually conscious of the Lord’s presence with us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The patriarchs of old set us an example of those who were conscious that they were walking in the presence of God. “Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him,” Gen.5.24. “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God,” 6.9. God said to Abraham, “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me; and be thou perfect,” 17.1. To which Abraham was able to say at a later date, “The LORD before whom I walk,” 24.40.
But something even greater is available to us, for the Holy Spirit of God is not just with us, He is in us, “For He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you,” Jn.14.17.
—to be continued (D.V.)
“He Hath Declared Him”
by M. Hayward (England)
THE MANIFEST GLORY OF THE WORD
“And dwelt among us” — or literally, “pitched His tent among us.” In wilderness days, God had “walked in a tent and in a tabernacle,” 2Sam.7.6, but now in a deeper sense God has made His presence known in the midst of Israel again. The reason God was able to be amongst His people of old time was because of the work of atonement, Lev.16.16. If the Word is God, can He be here on any lesser basis? Clearly not, but John the Baptist is able to announce Him as the One who would bear away the sin of the world, and on the basis of what He would do at Calvary, Christ can be amongst men despite their sin.
“And we beheld His glory” — John and his fellow apostles saw with calm and detailed scrutiny the glory of Christ, He giving them ample opportunity to do so. With this we may compare the experience of Moses when he requested a sight of the glory of God — he was put in the cleft of the rock, covered with God’s hand, and only saw the back parts or afterglow of God’s glory, Ex.33.12-23. There were no views of Christ’s glory barred to the apostles, however, for the knowledge of the glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ, 2Cor.4.6, and that face is not veiled.
“The glory as of the only begotten of the Father” — If an earthly only begotten son and his father were to manifest their relationship in an ideal way, there would be a glory about that relationship. How much more so when the Son and the Father are both Divine persons! And this is precisely the glory that John saw and wrote about. As God’s only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus is deeply loved of His Father, and stands in dignified and intimate relationship with Him. This relationship is expressed in mutual affection, complete unity of intention, and absolute confidence. These things, are glorious, and John was privileged to see the glory of them. Thereafter he recorded what he saw and heard, so that others might have a share in the sight of the glory too, 1Jn.1.3.
“Full of grace and truth” — The grace of Christ is known by His readiness to bless freely, without any expectation of a return. His truth is seen is His absolute conformity to that which is real and ideal, for truth may be defined as “That which corresponds to the ideal.” The glory of God which Moses asked to see in Ex.33.18, 19 was known by the proclamation of what His name was, Ex.34.5-8. Moses simply heard the recital of various aspects of the Name of God, whereas John saw them worked out in practice in the life of God’s Son. This proclaimed name of God may be resolved into two components; grace, (merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving), and truth, (abundant in truth, by no means clear the guilty, visiting the sins of the fathers). Of these two things Christ is full, and since grace reveals the God who is Love, 1Jn.4.8, and truth reveals the God who is Light, 1Jn.1.5, and Christ is full of grace and full of truth, by Him God is told out to perfection.
THE DECLARED PRECEDENCE OF THE WORD
“John bare witness of Him, and cried saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me:” — Here is the exclamation of John, who was of Levi’s tribe, as to the suitability and worthiness of God’s chosen. The tribe of Levi had sided with Moses at Sinai when the people broke God’s law, Ex.32.26, and now their representative is siding with the one who came in grace. The apostle John never calls the forerunner John the Baptist, but rather describes him as a witness, or testimony bearer. Here John testifies of Christ’s superiority. The words “He was before me,” show that John the Baptist has grasped the truth as to the Deity of Christ, and therefore His fitness and ability to display God. As to birth, the Lord Jesus was after John, but as to worth, He has precedence. All the prophets and the law prophesied until John, Matt.11.13, and it is fitting that this representative of the law should bear witness to the superiority of Him who came in grace.
THE RECEIVED FULNESS OF THE WORD
“And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” — John describes the experience of all believers when he speaks of receiving His fulness. Since the grace and truth expressed in Christ is the outworking of Divine Life, and the believer shares in that life when he is born of God, then at that moment of new birth grace and truth are received out of His glorious fulness. All that His grace bestows and His truth reveals is made good to us.
Any pleasing and Christ-like features that God can see in His people, have been produced only because we have received of His fulness of grace and truth. That grace is regulated by truth, lest we turn it into sentiment or licence. The truth is accompanied by grace, lest we turn it into legality. Moreover, the apostle assures us that the grace we receive from Christ, whether initially or constantly, exactly corresponds to our need at the moment, so that the grace expressed in Christ, corresponds to the grace we need from Christ.
“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” — note, the word “but” is supplied, for John is putting two parallel statements in sharp contrast. The word “for” is present because John sees the need to explain why grace and truth are needed, and also to tell us how the constant supply of them is maintained.
Moses gave the law to Israel, but he did not see the glory of God when the tables were intact. It was only when the law had been broken that he appealed for a sight of the glory on the basis of the grace of God — it was not found in the law. Note the references to grace in Ex.33.12,13,16,17; 34.9. Whereas the Law was given through Moses on cold, unyielding tables of stone that were external to the mediator, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, expressed in a living person, the Word become flesh. Instead of grace and truth being abstract ideas, they are now fully expressed in a person. This had not happened before, and the law certainly could not have brought it about. Since grace and truth are expressed in Jesus Christ, they remain in all their glory.
THE UNIQUE ABILITY OF THE WORD
“No man hath seen God at any time” — an echo of the words of God to Moses, “There shall no man see Me, and live,” Ex.33.20. The physical eye cannot look upon God, but the spiritual eye can, as He is made manifest in Christ, who said, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father,” Jn.14.9. John the apostle, who did see Him with the physical eye, does not give any description of Him as to His appearance, even though he says “That which we have seen … declare we unto you,” 1 Jn.1.3. So the sight is not physical but spiritual, the discerning of the glory as in v.14.
“The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” — Having excluded everyone else by the phrase “No man hath seen God at any time,” John brings his opening section to a climax by telling us three further things about the Word.
i) John declares that the Word is the Son of God, and as such is in direct and intimate relationship with the Father. Sonship involves the sharing of character and nature, and since God’s character and nature are eternal, so must the Sonship of Christ be eternal. In Jn.10.30, 36, “I and My Father are one,” and “I am the Son of God,” are used by Christ as synonymous terms. To be the Son of God is to be God.
ii) He is only begotten Son, which tells of His uniqueness. Although it is God’s will that His people should be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brethren, yet the sonship of these brethren is derived, for they are sons by adoption, Gal.4.5,6, Rom.8.15, having been slaves before. His Sonship is distinct, for if the sonship of believers was only a question of degree, with the Word merely being closer to God in some way, then He could not be the only begotten Son. His sonship, therefore, is a matter of kind, not of degree.
The title only begotten is also one of affection, as it was in the case of Isaac. He was not physically Abraham’s only son, (the equivalent of only begotten), for there was Ishmael. But spiritually considered, he was the darling of his father’s heart. So Christ in a far deeper way is the eternal object of His Father’s affections.
iii) He is said to be in the bosom of the Father. This indicates intimacy. Not only is the Lord Jesus in eternal relationship with the Father as His only begotten Son, but also is privy to His counsels and purpose. When Peter wished to enquire of the Lord in the upper room, he did it through the one who was leaning on His bosom at supper, Jn.13.21-25. From his position of nearness and affection, John was able to enquire of the Lord, and receive an answer. John was in Christ’s bosom because he had moved there, whereas Christ is eternally in the bosom of the Father, such is the force of the word “being”. He is uniquely able to disclose to us what is in the Father’s heart. The word bosom means “a bosom, or hollow thing.” What a contrast with Moses, who was placed in the cleft (or “bored out place”) of the rock whilst God’s glory passed by. The law was written on hard tables of stone, whereas grace is made known by a living Christ. It is appropriate, then, that Moses the lawgiver should be hidden in a hollow in a cold, hard rock, whereas Christ is in the hollow of the Father’s bosom.
As one who is in eternal relationship with the Father, is deeply loved of the Father, and who fully knows the mind of the Father, the Son of God is uniquely able to declare Him, and this He has done fully. He is the Word, the discloser of God’s thoughts, and has discharged the responsibility laid upon Him when He was sent to declare God. In words and deeds of grace and truth, as detailed in the rest of John’s gospel, the Lord Jesus told out the Father, and thus the glory of God is revealed in a way that can be understood and appreciated. There is no Divine hand now, as there was with Moses, shielding us from the sight of the glory. All is revealed, and God may be known by those who have the capacity to know Him. And it is the possession of eternal life which gives that capacity. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent,” Jn.17.3.
John The Baptist
Turn to Jn.3.25: “Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.” There were questions then, as there are, alas! questions now, for our hearts are full of questions. “And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptiseth, and all men come to Him.”
Here as something calculated to test the heart of the Baptist. Could he bear to lose all his disciples? Was he prepared for desertion? Was he really up to the height of his own words? Was he merely a voice, a nothing, and a nobody? These were pertinent questions; for we all know it is one thing to talk humbly, and another thing to be humble. It is one thing to speak about self-emptiness, and quite another to be self-emptied.
Was the Baptist, then, up to the mark? Was he prepared to be superseded and set aside? Was it of any moment to him who did the work provided the work was done? Hearken to his reply: “John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” This is a great practical truth. Let us seize it and hold it fast. It is an effectual remedy for self-confidence and self-exaltation. If a man can “take unto himself” nothing — if he can do nothing — if he is nothing, it ill becomes him to be boastful, pretentious, or self-occupied. The abiding sense of our own nothingness would ever keep us humble. The abiding sense of God’s goodness would ever keep us happy. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” The remembrance of this would ever keep us looking up. Whatever good there is in us, or around us, comes from heaven — comes from God — the living and ever flowing source of all goodness and blessedness. To be near Him, to have Him before the heart, to serve in His holy presence, is the true secret of peace, the unfailing safeguard against envy and jealousy.
The Baptist knew something of this, and hence he had an answer ready for his disciples. “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Here lay the deep and precious secret of John’s happiness and peace. His joy was not in his own work, not in gathering a number of disciples round himself, not in the success or acceptableness of his ministry, not in his personal influence or popularity, not in any or all of these things put together. His pure and holy joy was to stand and hear the voice of the Bridegroom, and to see others, to see his own disciples, to see all, flocking to that blessed One, and finding all their springs in Him.
“This is my joy, which ne’er can fail,
To see my Saviour’s arm prevail,
And mark His steps of grace;
Now new-born souls convinced of sin,
His blood revealed to them within,
Extol the Lamb in every place.”
Such, then, was the Baptist’s estimate of himself and of his Lord. As to himself, he was but a voice, and must decrease. As to his Lord, He was the Bridegroom; He was from heaven; He was above all; the centre of all; whose glory must increase and fill with its blessed beams the whole universe of God, when all other glory shall have faded away for ever.
— to be continued (D.V.)
By C. Jones (Wales)
Psalm 8 is a Messianic Psalm. It is sometimes said that to be a Messianic Psalm it must speak of the Lord Jesus Christ, be quoted in the New Testament and be applied to Him. There are, however, three exceptions to this general rule, and they are Psalms 24, 72 and 89, which are Messianic Psalms but are not quoted in the New Testament and there applied to the Lord.
Psalm 8 is quoted and applied to the Lord four times in the New Testament, in Matt.21.16; 1Cor.15.27; Eph.1.20-22, and Heb.2.6-9. This Psalm was written by David and headed “To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.” There is no general agreement regarding the meaning of the word “Gittith.” It is quite commonly believed to refer to a musical instrument which David came across during the time he spent in Gath. Some say the word should be translated “wine-press.”
Worship, Praise and Glory, v1-3
The Psalm begins with the same words and praise as those with which it ends, namely, “O Lord (Jehovah) our Lord (Adonai), how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!” v1. The psalmist addresses God directly, praising Jehovah, the One who has an underived, eternal existence and who is unchanging, and Adonai, the Sovereign Lord and Master. David worshipped, praised and exalted the Almighty whose glory is seen in the earth and in the heavens. When the Lord Jesus Christ rules over the earth during the Millennium, God will be praised and worshipped throughout the earth and the heavens.
Some men presume, in their conceit, pride and arrogance, to deny the very existence of God. But God, in His infinite love, grace and wisdom, caused little ones in the temple court to cry out “Hosanna to the son of David;” and when the chief priests and scribes were displeased, the Lord, quoting Ps.8.2, said to them, “Yea, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?” Matt.21.15,16. Those who are wise in their own eyes often cannot see and understand things which, by the grace of God, some young children believe and understand. On one occasion the Lord said “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes,” Matt.11.25. It is lovely and marvellous to hear young ones, whether they are young in years or those who have been recently saved, praising God and speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. God, in His sovereignty, can use the words of young ones to overcome and silence “the enemy and the avenger,” v2, that is Satan.
When he was a shepherd, David would have seen the stars in the night sky. He would have seen them clearly in all their glory and splendour, unspoiled by the light pollution which affects so many of us today. David knew that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handywork,” Ps.19.1, and in Ps.8.3 he wrote of “Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained.” In Ps.19.4-6 he could write of the glory of the sun. When we look up and consider the heavens or look through a microscope and see things which are invisible to the naked eye, then we see the beauty and order of parts of God's wonderful creation and experience feelings of awe and wonder.
Dominion and worship, v4-9
Having considered God's wonderful and immense creation, David exclaimed “What is man (enosh), that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man (adam), that Thou visitest him?” v4. The first word used for “man” is enosh meaning mortal, frail, weak man. The second word translated “man” in the verse is adam referring to man's position as God's vice-regent over His creation. Man is an insignificant speck on an insignificant planet. Why then is God concerned with mortal, frail man who is a sinner, Gen.3.1-6; Rom.3.23, and has lost his position of dignity as vice-regent over creation? God cares for man because “God is love,” 1Jn.4.8. God loves the world, Jn.3.16; Christ loves the Church, Eph.5.25, and each one of the saints can say the Son of God “loved me, and gave Himself for me,” Gal.2.20. The love of God for man caused Him to “visit” Adam and Eve” in the garden in the cool of the day,” Gen.3.8. That same love caused the Lord Jesus Christ to come to earth to suffer, bleed and die on the Cross so that those of us who repent and put our faith and trust in Him, believing that He died on the Cross, suffering there, instead of us, the punishment our sins deserve from God, would be saved. God “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” Rom.8.32. God is “the God of all grace,” 1Pet.5.10, and the coming of His Son to this earth to suffer and die for our sins was a visitation of grace. The Lord wept over Jerusalem because He could say of that city “thou knewest not the time of thy visitation,” Lk.19.44.
Man was made “a little lower than the angels,” v5. This could mean that man was made a little lower in power than the angels or for a little time lower than the angels. He was not simply made higher than the animals but a little lower than the angels. He was crowned “with glory and honour,” v5. God gave the first Adam dominion over creation, over the beasts, birds and fish, v6-8; Gen.1.26-28, and Adam named the animals, Gen.2.19-20.
The first Adam sinned and lost his God-given dominion but the Second Man, the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ could not and did not fail and He showed His power over His creation while He was here on earth, Mk.4.39-41; Jn.2.3-11; 6.5-14; Mk.1.13; Lk.19.30; Matt.17.27.
Psalm 8 is quoted in Heb.2.6-9. The writer to the Hebrews says “we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for very man,” Heb.2.8,9. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Man, the last Adam, has “done all things well,” Mk.7.37. Dominion in “the world to come,” Heb.2.5, that is the Millennium, will not be given to the angels but to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” over 80 times. The title describes the Lord's relationship and identification with man. He was not the Son of a man, but the Son of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, will have dominion over all things, for He gained the victory where Adam had failed. He will come back to take dominion over the whole world in the Millennium, Dan.7.13,14; Rev.14.14. “All things” will be put under His feet, v6. In Eph.1.22,23, we learn that God “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,” 1Cor.15.28.
Having considered the amazing truths presented in Psalm 8, David is overcome with the wonder of it all and can only worship and praise saying, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!” v9.
by Steve Walvatne (U.S.A.)
The Lord had no use for bricks. Composed of slime (clay) and stubble (straw or chaff), they were the product of fallen man. In Genesis we read, “They had brick for stone,” 11.3. That is, bricks were manufactured to mimic stone and serve as a substitute. Two passages of Scripture highlight their production, Gen.11 and Ex. chs.1 and 5. In the first, bricks are associated with brotherhood, in the second, bondage. In Genesis the carnal (“children of men”) are handling brick, while in Exodus, it’s the chosen (“My people”). The first group made bricks through contrivance, the latter through coercion.
Cush and Mizraim were descendants of the accursed Ham and their names denote blackness. Their prodigies, the Nimrod of Babel and the Pharaohs of Egypt, were true sons of darkness. They were renowned monarchs, Gen.10.8; Ex.1.8, and murderers, Gen.10.9; Ex.1.16, 22, and as such typical of the devil who is “the prince (leader) of this world,” Jn.14.30, and “a murderer from the beginning,” Jn.8.44. It is little wonder that their kingdoms were distinguished by structures built of brick — Babel (Babylon) typifying the religious world with all its ritualism and idolatry, and Egypt the secular world in independence from God. Both subdued the Lord’s earthly people for a time, and attempt to do the same with His heavenly people now.
But God does not build with brick. Regardless of the proficiency His people achieved in the brickyards of Egypt, not a single brick was allowed in the construction of God’s earthly house. Any impurity, imitation, or invention of man was unacceptable, for they were contrary to the very nature of God. It was an affront to His holiness when at a later time, Israel offered incense on altars of brick, Isa.65.3. “They should have made altars of stone. Stones are made by God … They substituted their own works (bricks) for and in stead of God’s works (stones)” (Wilson’s Dictionary of Bible Types).
The cry at Babel was “Let us make brick,” and in it one hears the deceptive hiss of the Serpent. “Let us make man,” Gen.1.26, were the words of the Triune God at creation when He formed man from “the dust of the ground,” Gen.2.7. And what are bricks, but dust or clay from the ground? Unlike inanimate bricks, however, God breathed into man’s nostrils “the breath of life and man became a living soul,” Gen.2.7. Satan could not replicate this, though in a future day, he will try. Working through the Beast in Jerusalem, he will appear to give life to the image of the Beast, Rev.13.15, but it will all be an evil hoax. “It is breath that is given, not life, for this latter God ever keeps in His own hand” (Walter Scott).
Spiritual life distinguishes saints from sinners. “Ye also as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house,” 1Pet.2.5. Living stones, not lifeless bricks! “And you hath He quickened (made alive) who were dead in trespasses and sins,” Eph.2.1. Yet the devil ever seeks to imitate reality. Thus, we read of tares mingled with wheat, Matt.13.25, 38-39, wolves in sheep’s clothing, Matt.7.15, whited sepulchres, Matt.23.27, and clouds without water, Jude 12, etc. But, “the Lord knoweth them that are His,” 2Tim.2.19. Upon the breastplate of Aaron the High Priest were twelve stones, Ex.28.15-21, — not a single brick — and in like manner, the Lord carries on His heart the names of those who are truly His.
In this context saints must be vigilant. While we cannot see the heart, the Lord has blessed us with the faculty for discernment that we might discriminate between the true and false. “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” Matt.7.16. Impostors are exposed by what they produce. Sometimes questionable “converts” are prematurely baptised and received into assembly fellowship. This is a grave mistake; for tremendous havoc is wrought when mere “bricks” (false professors) gain a foothold amongst the “living stones” of an assembly. Paul warned of “perilous times” when some would have “a form of godliness” but deny the power thereof, 2Tim.3.5 — that is, there would be “brick for stone.” The devil has muddied the waters by deluding certain souls with an “easy believism” that is devoid of any true work of God. Those in soul trouble should be approached in “fear and trembling,” lest words be put in their mouths. If blind leaders in Christendom are accountable for deceiving poor sinners, how much more shall we who know the truth, be accountable in this at the Judgment Seat of Christ? “I am weary of public bragging, this counting of unhatched chickens, this exhibition of doubtful spoils,” stated C. H. Spurgeon. “Lay aside such numberings of the people, such idle pretence of certifying in half a minute that which will need the testing of a lifetime.” The Psalmist said in Ps.144.11, “Rid me and deliver me from the hand of strange children whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.”
Bricks were a product of the “plain”, Gen.11.2; Ex.1.14. The plain is a low land or valley, emblematic of the world’s low estate, and thus a fit place for ungodly activity. It was “all the plain of Jordan,” Gen.13.11, that captured Lot’s attention and led to his downfall. And poor Samson, “loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah,” Judg.16.4, precipitating the loss of his spiritual strength. Nehemiah on the other hand, refused to meet the world on its low level in the plain of Ono, declaring, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down” Neh.6.2,3. The men of Babel sought brotherhood on the plain; Lot sought bounty; and Samson, beauty. How insidious it is! Its charm has seduced many saints, ruining testimonies that were full of promise. But Nehemiah was preserved. He was busy building a wall that the Jewish remnant might be protected from the enemies of the plain.
Believers today have been raised up together and made to sit together in “heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” Eph.2.6, and should therefore avoid the “plain” where worldly alliances abound (unions, fraternities, lodges, clubs, etc.) and where all that’s produced is of a “brick” nature. Paul admonished the Corinthians, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” 2Cor.6.14, and the prophet Amos asked, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” 3.3. How sad that saints would align themselves with “brick makers,” when they have the inestimable privilege of working in gold, silver, and precious stones, 1Cor.3.12!
Brick by brick the tower of Babel was erected with its peak pointing heavenward. Doubtless, it was a manufactured centre for religious unity. “There it stood, lofty in its unequalled grandeur. But when God wants to look at it … He has to stoop low to see this puny extravagance” (J. M. Boice). The world is saturated with such yet, though not a word of Scripture condones their existence. They are empty shells; only false forms. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” 2Cor.6.17.
What a contrast to Babel was Pentecost, where the Lord established His church. Rather than language being confounded, the listeners were confounded, when “every man heard (the apostles) speak in his own language,” Acts 2.6. “Grace broke through the barrier which man’s pride and folly had caused to be erected, in order that every man might hear and understand the glad tidings of salvation … to give them, in reality, one language, one centre, one object, one hope, one life” (C. H. Mackintosh). There was nothing of brick here! In fact, such was the mighty power of God, that “fear came upon every soul,” Acts 2.43, and none without spiritual life “dared to attach themselves to them,” Acts 5.13, Weymouth.
The Lord dispersed the enthusiastic alliance at Babel, while He delivered the enslaved assembly in Egypt. He frustrated the former by confounding their speech; He freed the latter by cleaving the sea.
Enslaved by the Egyptian world, the children of Israel were forced to make bricks. Saints can recall similar days of bondage when they “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” Eph.2.2. And when they sought release from their load as Israel did, Ex.5.7,8, the burden and distress of sin only seemed to increase. But thank God for divine intervention that wrought deliverance. “Stand still,” said Moses, “and see the salvation of the Lord,” Ex.14.13. A way was opened before them, and such is the case spiritually when lost souls are brought into the good of God’s salvation.
But once delivered, the devil seeks to occupy believers again, with “brick-like” activities. None are immune to the temptation. One might think the strong young men of John’s first epistle, with their knowledge of Scripture and past victories over Satan, would be exempt from danger. Yet John instructs them, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world … For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world,” 2.14-16. Just as the devil will use this world to keep a sinner from being saved, so he’ll use it to keep a saint from being spiritual. “If we are determined to go in for the world, then know this, in doing so we forfeit fellowship with God” (J. R. Caldwell).
Bricks. We must eschew them as God does. The martyr, Jim Elliot, wrote, “He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” May this be the response of our hearts, as we move through a world that is engrossed with “bricks”!
When life has waned and we look back
Upon the deeds of a chosen track;
Will slime and stubble mark the way,
And lead to loss on Judgment Day?
Or will we bring before His throne,
The lustre of a precious stone?
And hear His words so sweetly tell,
That we as stewards, have done well?
Lessons from Lepers
by B. E. Avery (England)
The Bible records many instances of people who suffered from leprosy. Sometimes individuals are brought before us, but on at least two occasions a group is mentioned. Four are found in the Old Testament and ten in the New. Let us look at these two groups in some detail.
In 2Kgs.6 we read of Samaria being besieged by the Syrians. The city was surrounded by the enemy and food had become very scarce. Such were conditions that children were being killed for food, v26-29. The king was much distressed yet threatened to execute God’s prophet, Elisha, as he blamed God for the trouble. However, Elisha proclaimed the word he received from the Lord that at this time the following day food would be sold there at a normal price. We are immediately directed to the words of one of the king’s servants who mocked God’s message. He was told that he would see the food but not partake of it, 7.2.
Our attention is now drawn to four men, lepers, who, because of their condition, were kept outside the city walls near the gate. They may well have felt their isolation and incurable condition keenly. Why should this have happened to them? An expression we still hear today and perhaps echo in our minds at times of distress and disappointment in our lives. God knew their state and under His sovereign hand was to use their unfortunate situation to bring deliverance and blessing to the suffering inhabitants of the city. Great service was to come out of their sad condition. God can still use our weakness for His glory, so let us beware of feeling unfairly treated or forgotten by our Lord.
In ch.7 lepers decide to approach the Syrian camp in the hope of getting food, having considered the three options open to them, see v4. As a result of Divine intervention, they find the camp deserted and are able to satisfy their hunger. After a while their consciences brought Home to them their selfish attitude so they returned to the city with their “good tidings,” v9. Have we not good news to share too? After some investigation the king allowed the people to go and fetch food. The aforementioned king’s servant was put in charge of the city gate, was soon knocked down and trampled to death by the starving crowd. So he did see the evidence of God’s provision, but was denied the enjoyment of it, just as the prophet had said. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked,” Gal.6.7.
Another group of lepers, ten this time, appear in Lk.17.12. They differ in five ways and yet are the same in five ways. They all came from different backgrounds; were different physically, mentally and personality-wise; of differing ages; were at different stages of their common disease; and there was a different response to their cure at least with one of them. Five things were the same. They all had the same plague, leprosy; were all in the same place, afar off; they all met the same Person, the Lord; all received the same prescription, to go to the priests; and they all experienced the same power, in cleansing. Only one though, returned to the Lord to give thanks and he was a Samaritan. Could it be that those most conscious of being blessed are more thankful? Refer to Lk.7.47. May we be as “the odd one out” too!
We catch a glimpse of the Lord’s feelings shown in His question asked in v17, “but where are the nine?” How often have we been hurt and disappointed when our kindness and care has not been appreciated. We are cleansed from our sins because of the infinite price He paid on the cross. How often does He have cause to feel hurt by our attitude towards Him and the costly salvation obtained for us? May we never cease to be thankful and prove it in our lives daily, as we seek to follow Him in the path of His choosing for us.
Good Tidings from Heaven
WHICH FAITH IS RIGHT?
How can I know which religion is correct? Many people ask this question. When it comes to choosing a religion, there is no lack of variety. If you made a list of all the religions, it would be a very long list indeed.
You may say, “If those who study religion cannot agree, how can I be expected to make up my mind? Or, “It is impossible to study all religions to find the correct one.” Or again, “If there is a God, surely He would make the way to Himself very clear, and not leave a person to face such a confusion of conflicting religions.” But before we turn our back on religion as an insoluble problem, let us consider one statement.
Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God and proved that claim by miraculous signs, read John 10.36-38. He allowed Himself to be crucified, John 10.17.18, but God raised Him from the dead and He showed Himself alive. “The apostles whom also He had chosen: to whom He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days,” Acts 1.2,3. This is the statement Jesus made, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me,” John 14.6.
Here then is the answer to the question, “Which religion is correct?” The answer is, “None!”
The way to God is not found in a religion, creed, denomination or sect, it is found in a PERSON. That person is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. “As many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name,” John 1.12.
The Bible teaches us that having broken God’s laws, we are sinners. “Sin is the transgression of the law,” 1John 3.4. God’s law has condemned us to separation from Him for ever, read Revelation 20.11-15. We need to be saved from the eternal consequences of our sins, and all religious observances are helpless to save us. They could not save Nicodemus the Pharisee, John 3.1-16; nor the rich young ruler, Matthew 19.16-26; nor Saul of Tarsus, Philippians 3.4-9. Only Jesus Christ can save us. “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world,” 1John 4.14. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” Acts 4.12.
The reason salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ is simple. First, He alone has atoned for sin by His death upon the cross. “Christ died for our sins,” 1Corinthians 15.3. “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” 1Peter 2.24. If we trust in Christ, as the One who removed our sin by bearing it Himself, then our sins are forgiven by God.
Second, Jesus Christ is now risen from the dead. If we trust Him as the One who is alive, He will give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then with Christ living within by the Holy Spirit, the Christian has the power to live a good life.
Accept Him now, and then you have the only religion you need. “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life,” 1John 5.11-12.
‘THROUGH HIM’ in Romans
(Note: the Greek preposition dia is translated as ‘through’ and ‘by’ in the Authorised version).
By whom we have received grace and apostleship, 1.5
I thank my God through Jesus Christ, 1.8
God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, 2.16
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 5.1
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace, 5.2
We shall be saved from wrath through Him, 5.9
We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 5.11
By whom we have now received the (reconciliation), 5.11
Grace reign … by Jesus Christ our Lord, 5.21
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, 7.25
we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us, 8.37
For … through Him, and to Him, are all things, 11.36
To God … be glory through Jesus Christ, 16.27
by H. A. Barnes (England)
God's Purpose of Grace
The late James H. Wilkinson (Co. Tyrone)
The Bible doth to young and old
God's purpose of Grace unfold,
How Jesus came on earth to die
And bring to God the sinner nigh.
Now all who do in Christ confide
By God Himself are justified,
For He who died our souls to save
Arose victorious o'er the grave.
Ascended now to Heaven on high
His peerless Name let's magnify,
Till He His ransomed hence away
From earth shall call, O gladsome day!
In Sacred Writ we further see
That Christ shall in the glory be,
Adored by Heaven's unnumbered throng
While endless ages roll along.