ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
by R. Plant
THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
by J. C. Gibson
by J. Sinclair
MARY, OUR LORD'S MOTHER
by J. Voisey
THE LORD'S PRECIOUS ONES
by D. McKinley
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
39) "ALL THESE BLESSINGS"
Read Chapter 28.1-14
As we have already noted, chapters 27-28 extend chapters 12-26 by enumerating the consequences of obedience and disobedience. They also prepare the way for chapters 29-30 where the whole body of teaching commencing with chapter 4 is presented in the form of a covenant. C. H. Mackintosh carefully distinguishes between chapters 27 and 28: "chapter 27 is ... moral and personal; chapter 28 is dispensational and national". A glance at the two chapters confirms his observation. In chapter 27, for example, we read "Cursed be he ... Cursed be he ..." vv.15-26, whereas chapter 28 commences with "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God ...the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth" v1. At the same time, the two chapters jointly emphasise a most important lesson. Get the man right, and you get the nation right. Good spiritual health, 3Jn.2, should be a priority for all believers, for themselves and for the good of the assembly to which they belong.
The chapter clearly divides into two sections:
- "All these blessings" vv.1-14;
- "All these curses" vv.15-68.
Israel’s obedience would be followed by the former, and their disobedience would result in the latter. The overall lesson of the chapter is as clear as that!
1) "ALL THESE BLESSINGS", vv.1-14
The blessings described in these verses therefore rest on simple obedience. "If thou shalt hearken diligently ... all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee ..." vv.1-2. We should notice that Moses does say "hearken diligently", reminding us of the Lord’s teaching: "Take heed what ye hear" Mk.4.24; "Take heed therefore how ye hear" Lk.8.18. Notice too that they were to "observe and ... do", reminding us of Jms.1.22. Blessings are not the only things that "overtake" people, v.2. See vv.15,45. Compare Zech.1.6 (JND).
In this study, we will address "all these blessings" by noticing the expression "the Lord thy God will" v.1, and the recurring expression, "the Lord shall" vv.8,9,11,12,13. Bearing in mind that "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning" Rom.15.4, we may look at these "blessings" as pictures of the Divine blessings available to God’s people today, and since the chapter deals with Israel nationally, we can apply the lessons of the passage particularly to assembly life.
a) "The Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth", vv.1-6
David exclaimed, "And what one nation in the earth is like Thy people, even like Israel …?" 2Sam.7.23. Israel should have had, and will have in the future, a towering presence in the world. Bearing in mind that local assemblies should not deviate from declaring "all the counsel of God" Acts 20.27, it is highly unlikely that they will be "set … on high" in society. On the other hand, "those that are unlearned, or unbelievers" ought to be able to say, "God is in you of a truth" 1Cor.14.25. The New Testament pattern for gathering cannot be improved upon. It is divinely-given. It does not need to be ‘dragged screaming’ into the twenty-first century. It is therefore most important that we commend it by godly conduct. The spiritual life of such people is illustrated in the verses which follow:
i) "Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field", v.3. We must not forget the literality of this for Israel, but at the same time we must remember that "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" Eph.1.3. C.A.Coates has a helpful piece here, "Blessing in the city has typical reference to our enjoyment of those common and mutual interests which we have as "fellow-citizens with the saints". As we walk by the Spirit in obedience, our relations with our fellow-citizens will be happy". He suggests that Eph.2.19-22 refer to what he calls "our ‘city’ relationships", and continues: "Then from ‘the city’ we go to ‘the field’ … The field is the place of labour … where the labourer awaits the precious fruit of the earth, having patience for it until it receive the early and the latter rain" Jms.5.7 (J.N.D.). It is where "The husbandman must labour before partaking of the fruits" 2Tim.2.6 (J.N.D.). We must not cease to pray that as assemblies we will be "blessed in the city, and … in the field", and this means that we must "hearken diligently … observe and … do all His commandments …".
ii) "Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground", and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep", v.4. Obedience results in fruitfulness. See Col.1.9-10. Quite clearly, Israel’s obedience to God’s word would bring expectation of divine blessing in family, agriculture, and animal husbandry. Apart from any specific lessons (where we must guard against fanciful applications), perhaps this simply emphasises that no part of national life would be excluded from blessing. However, it is certainly not too fanciful to say that every assembly ought to pray with Rachel, "Give me children, or else I die" Gen.30.1. We should also notice that Paul borrows from agriculture in saying to the assembly at Corinth, "ye are God’s husbandry (margin, ‘tillage’)" 1Cor.3.9. In fact, the local assembly should resemble a vineyard in displaying the "fruit of the Spirit" Gal.5.22. The reference to "cattle … kine … sheep" reminds us of animals offered in sacrifice. It is a great blessing to be fruitful in this realm! Restored Israel will say, "so will we render the calves of our lips" Hos.14.4, and this is cited in Heb.13.15, "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
iii) "Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store (‘kneading-trough’, JND)", v.5. "Basket" and "kneading-trough" represent two stages in the provision of food. The former refers to the gathering of grain, and the latter to the way in which it is made available as bread. Bearing in mind that these verses describe national (corporate) blessing, we can say that another feature of a "blessed" assembly is the provision of food for the Lord’s people by men who have freshly filled their baskets by reading the Scriptures, and placed the fruit of their labour in the ‘kneading-trough’ of meditation and preparation in order that it may "become available in a suitable form for intelligent appropriation" (C.A. Coates).
iv) "Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out", v.6. In general terms, this evidently refers to the whole round of life. The order is reversed in Ps.121.8. More particularly, it does remind us that in worship believers have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" Heb.10.19, and that in service they heed His command, "Go ye therefore, and teach (‘make disciples of’) all nations …" Matt.28.19.
The verses which follow display a change in emphasis. Thus far, the blessings themselves have been emphasised. The word "blessed" occurs six times in vv.3-6. But in vv.7-14 the divine source of the blessings is stressed. Hence, as we have already noticed, the recurring expression, "The Lord shall …". We are utterly dependent upon the Lord for blessing and help.
b) "The Lord shall cause thine enemies … to be smitten", v.7
This is exactly what happened when God’s people were obedient to Him, and "hearkened" to His voice, v.2. Their enemies were "smitten" when conquering the land. Read the book of Joshua, But do notice that things went badly wrong when God’s word was disobeyed: see chapter 7. Their enemies were "smitten" when facing invasion. See, for example, events in 2 Chronicles chapter 20. We are all too aware that enemies "rise up" against us in assembly life. James refers to them as follows: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" Jms.4.1. The "enemies" of division and wrangling will be "smitten" when believers "hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord", and "by love serve one another" Gal.5.13, being "clothed with humility" 1Pet.5.5, and "in lowliness of mind" esteeming "other better than themselves" Phil.2.3.
c) "The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses", v.8
The word "storehouses" can be rendered ‘barns’ (AV margin) or ‘granaries’ (J.N.D.). The word is only found here and in Prov.3.10. If the "basket" refers to food freshly gathered, then the ‘storehouse’ refers to the accumulation of food, which reminds us that the assembly benefits from well-stocked minds. This can be illustrated from Eph.6.17 where the words, "And take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God", refer "not to the whole Bible as such, but to the individual Scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with Scripture" (W.E.Vine).
d) "The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself", vv.9-10
At this point, Moses reminds the people again that the fulfilment of God’s promise ("the Lord shall establish thee … as He hath sworn unto thee", referring to Ex.19.5-6) was dependent on their obedience ("if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in His ways"). We must notice the way in which the "holy people" would have a distinctive testimony in the world: "And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord (‘that the name of Jehovah is called on thee’ J.N.D. margin); and they shall be afraid of thee". We are told that ‘the world has moved on’ and that the ‘Christian message’ must be adapted to our changed circumstances. It is therefore striking to notice here, and everywhere in Scripture, that there is no question of God’s people becoming "conformed to this world" Rom.12.2, or accommodating the world, but rather of walking "as children of light" Eph.5.8. The world must see the very character of God in our lives. See 1Pet.1.15-16. People may not be "afraid" of us in the usual sense of the word, but we ought at least to earn their respect by our holy living. The nations will certainly "fear and tremble" when they hear of all that God has done for His people in the Millennium, Jer.33.9.
e) "The Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods", v.11
This has been rendered, "And Jehovah will give thee abundance of good, in the fruit of thy body … cattle … ground …" (J.N.D.). Compare v.4, but as we have already noticed, the emphasis here is on the source of these blessings. David fully recognised this in crying to God for deliverance so that "our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace; that our garners may be full ... that our sheep may bring forth thousands … that our oxen may be strong to labour" Ps.144.12-14. No wonder Israel was told, "Remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth" Deut.8.18. Progress and prosperity in every sphere depend completely on divine blessing, and the spiritual realm is no exception. In Paul’s words, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase …" 1Cor.3.6-7. This does not exempt us from labour, any more than it exempts the farmer from labour: "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough" Prov.28.19.
f) "The Lord shall open unto thee His good treasure", v.12
Rain and dew are evidence of divine favour, and their withdrawal is evidence of divine disfavour. See 1Kgs.17.1. Very clearly, hearkening diligently, observing, and doing "all His commandments" will bring enjoyment of God’s favour. "Jehovah will open to thee His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain unto thy land in its season, and to bless all the work of thy hand" (JND). Compare Ps.65.11-13, with its evident reference to rainfall; "Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness; and Thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness …" The Lord’s blessing in this way would put God’s people in a position to help others: "and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow". Their thriving economy would enable them to provide international banking and financial services! The lesson is clear: if we are going to help others we must be enjoying "His good treasure" of Divine favour ourselves.
g) "The Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail", v.13
This continues the idea of superiority. Once again, we must not overlook the literality of this so far as the nation is concerned. The reign of Solomon witnessed the past ascendancy of the nation, but even this will pale into insignificance when the "greater than Solomon" has "dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" Ps.72.8. But spiritual superiority is quite different. In fact, it does not look like superiority at all! "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" 1Jn.5.4; "And they (the tribulation martyrs) overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" Rev.12.11.
The passage ends as it begins. "All these blessings" are contingent upon hearkening "unto the commandments of the Lord thy God … to observe and to do them". Moses continues: "And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them" vv.13-14. Divine blessing still rests upon obedience. Nothing has changed in principle. "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" 1Sam.15.22.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By R. Plant (England)
Paper 8 — The Value of the Sunday School Teacher
Some of the most valuable and yet undervalued people in our assemblies today are those who seek to teach in our Sunday Schools. Dedicated teachers put many hours of effort in each week so as to be fully prepared to teach sound Biblical and gospel truth to our young people on a weekly basis. Sadly, often this work is passed over as we seek to give place and time to the ‘Big Name’ preachers and teachers in the assemblies of the Lord’s people. We know of course that the Lord sees all and assesses all done for Him and does so righteously, however it is most cheering to those seeking to serve the Lord weekly with their little Sunday school class, when someone passes on a word of encouragement to them.
In taking up the subject of the Sunday school teacher I have to acknowledge at the outset my ignorance of so much of this work. I spend most of my time in schools and children’s meetings so in order to write this I have relied upon conversations that I have had over many years with experienced and dedicated teachers as well as my own observations of Sunday schools in many assemblies that I have had the privilege to address.
As with any work for the Lord, no matter how great or small, prayer must play a huge and vital part as has been noted in previous papers. I believe very strongly that every Sunday school teacher working weekly with a small class of children should take Hannah’s words to heart, "For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him" 1Sam.1.27. Sunday school teachers need to daily pray for each child in their class if they are going to see real fruit for the Lord as a result of their work.
Another very important Scripture to have in mind in this work is Paul’s words to Timothy "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" 1Tim.4.12. Sunday school teachers should be examples and set examples in all these areas as outlined by the apostle Paul. We need to be careful about what and how we say things, generous to the children we teach, show a real faith in our Lord as well as seeking to live a holy life. There is no point in seeking to teach the children if we are constantly short tempered and sharp with them. I also believe that in any work for God we should dress reverently and respectfully. To see Sunday school teachers and children’s meetings leaders dressed in T-shirts and jeans is both dishonouring to God and demeaning to the message of the Gospel. The apparel worn by Solomon’s servants was one of the many attributes that impressed the Queen of Sheba in her visit to this mighty king! 1Kgs.10.5. Let the children we seek to teach be impressed by our conduct and clothing.
We have already alluded in the first paper to the need for setting aside time each week to suitably prepare for this work. Sad to say I have observed far too many times that no adequate preparation had been carried out, neither the Sunday School Superintendent (or however the brother leading the work is decribed) nor his teachers. We then have to ask the question why are our Sunday schools so small? If there is a good superintendent with a heart for the work, a good interest in the children, a vision from the Lord and someone who is imaginative then it usually you will find that the teachers will follow his example. If, however, the one who leads the work does not put in the groundwork before standing up in front of the school then it can hardly be expected that the teachers to be enthused! The work is only as strong as those leading it just as the assembly is only as strong as those who guide it. "Where there is no vision the people perish" Prov.29.18. Would it be beneficial (where it was numerically possible) for the position of the superintendent to be switched every six months or so between at least two but even better three or four brethren who can encourage, exhort, and educate each other and give different but vital leadership to the all important teachers? This would help to stop the work becoming stale and also allow for new ideas and thoughts (Scriptural of course) to be discussed and introduced especially where leadership in this direction is weak. Of course I appreciate that in many places those fulfilling these important roles only do so because there is no one else available to help them due to the smallness of the assembly. Such are to be highly commended for carrying on the work despite their limitations. However for a brother with no real gift, vision or interest in the work to seek to carry on holding such a position of authority when there are those around more suitably gifted for the work than he is a very serious thing indeed.
One of the values that the writer sees of Sunday school work and Sunday school teaching is being able to get alongside the children in a smaller group format and therefore being able to really get to know each child along with their needs and thinking. This allows the teacher to tailor their lessons more suitably to their target audience and in doing so hopefully show that the Word of God has answers to the various questions, burdens, and problems that so many children have, see 1Tim.3.16. This makes the Sunday school lesson much more personal than the weekly Children’s meeting where we try to spread the gospel net as wide and far as we can to reach each and every soul gathered in. A further advantage of the Sunday school class is the opportunity to provide a more detailed and consistent teaching of Scripture than would usually be the case in children’s meetings. As will be seen later, I believe that a good solid grounding covering all the major teachings of God’s Word is vital to our generation and can to a very large degree be carried out in our Sunday school classes by wholehearted and hardworking teachers, see 1Tim.4.11.
The writer is not really one for using set books and guides to provide outlines for a series of children’s lessons. Whereas I believe that there is some value in these types of resources, as we shall see, I also feel that they limit the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives when He may want us to guide the lesson in a certain direction in order to reach one particular child. That said there is very much to be said for the sound and systematic teaching of the Word of God to the children who attend our Sunday schools week by week.
Again, in considering carefully many Sunday school outlines and guidebooks produced by various organisations, I have noted that much of the content is poor, weak and very shallow when it comes to imparting Biblical truth and especially Gospel truth to the children. Is it possible that the weak type of Sunday school lessons that are so often taught are symptomatic of some of these poorer publications? Some, who were brought up in Sunday Schools in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, have stated that they were taught the meaning of Old Testament symbol’s, The Offering’s, The Feasts, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Kings and even parts of the Minor prophets with the gospel applied to each. The result was that as they moved through Sunday school they were getting a full and well rounded diet of Spiritual truth that the Holy Spirit could use to bring conviction and ultimately conversion.
Often the argument presented against such being taught in Sunday school is that the children will not understand. In this enlightened generation I wonder why it is that children thirty and forty years ago could be made to understand these important teachings but children today cannot? The teaching of the Word of God and addressing these issues is the teachers’ responsibility and they need to work hard at finding the best way to make these parts of the Bible interesting to today’s generation. Of course, to teach these truths in a clear and logical manner, the teachers need to be conversant with these great subjects themselves. Also with this type of systematic teaching the whole Bible takes on a new meaning as children see how the Bible is not a jumble of differing collected stories but a complete whole with the Old Testament pointing forward to the coming and work of Christ and the whole of the New Testament looking back to the fact that He has come and the consequences of His work on the cross for both the believer and unbeliever. Therefore, may I suggest that if Sunday school guidance notes are to be used then they should be thoroughly vetted prior to use to appraise their depth and value?
Now in risk of contradicting myself very seriously I would like to make mention of a set of Sunday school lessons many of which I have read through and have found to be first class in their content and clarity. These were written many years ago by Jill Masters, and while they are not assembly based, their content is very sound and fundamental. They are called ‘Lessons for Life’ and come in four volumes. These excellent lessons take a Sunday school class through all the major characters, doctrines, subjects, and principles of the Bible on a four yearly basis using one volume each year. The lessons are clearly laid out in a weekly format with Bible readings, main thoughts and lesson aims all simply presented. The way they are produced also allows new ‘novice’ teachers to learn and become familiar with major Bible doctrines whilst preparing their Sunday school lessons. These lessons alternate every few weeks between Old and New Testament to help avoid boredom and keep the children interested in the various subjects as they are taught. The only warning to be raised is that these are linked with the Metropolitan Tabernacle and are strongly Calvinistic. However, if the user of them is aware of this there will be no difficulty in overcoming this problem with, what is otherwise, an excellent set of publications.
The lessons are such that they could be used (if assemblies were prepared to invest a little in their Sunday School work) systematically each week with each class so that everyone, from the primary to more senior scholars, was taught exactly the same at the same time. The advantage of this is that the lessons can be simplified for younger children and made more detailed for those older ones. This may also encourage the theme of the Sunday school lesson to be the subject of conversation among families and siblings long after the lesson has been completed allowing discussion of the teaching of Scripture on a more or less equal footing. You never know what goes on in homes as the result of the work done in assemblies among the young! Another advantage is that when children move up a class each year they will continue to be taught the same syllabus without having to go back over ground they may already have covered with another teacher. Using the same lesson each week among each class also allows for the production of worksheets to be taken home by all the pupils directing them all to the same passage of Scripture.
As the reader will by now have realised the writer believes that systematic and consistent teaching of the whole Word of God should be provided week by week by Sunday school teachers. Whether they use guidance notes as detailed above or their own detailed syllabus, planning should be made not just by individual teachers for the coming week but by the whole Sunday school under the direction of the Superintendent for each class for the coming year and beyond.
Overall our Sunday school teachers work very hard under sometimes very trying conditions as they seek to point lost and very needy young people to the Saviour. It is our prayer that Sunday school teachers might be encouraged to carry on with this vital work even when we find the weekly grind of Sunday school teaching a great burden of heart.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By J. C. Gibson (England)
The Eleventh — Thirteenth Post-resurrection Appearances
The Eleventh Post-resurrection Appearance: The Ascension Place
The Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, as a glorified Man, from Mount Olivet. It had previously been labelled "the mount of corruption" because of Solomon’s idolatrous high places, 2Kgs.23.13, and it was on this mountain that God’s glory stood while reluctantly departing from Jerusalem because of its murder, disobedience and rampant idolatry, Ezek.11.6,12,18,23. Israel had not changed. They were now guilty of the grossest act of disobedience in murdering Messiah. Therefore, how fitting that God’s glory, in Christ, again departed from this site. Israel’s Messiah will also return to the Mount of Olives to save Jerusalem from an international onslaught and establish His worldwide kingdom, Zech.14.3-5. Having completed the work of salvation, He has sat down at God’s right hand, Heb.1.3; 10.12; 12.2 — the place of supreme authority, Eph.1.19-22; 1Pet.3.22 — waiting that time when His enemies will be made His footstool, Ps.110.1. This glorious manifestation will parallel the ascension. "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven", Acts 1.11. The manner was personally, visibly and with clouds, reminding us of Dan.7.13 and Rev.1.7. The Lord’s wounded hands, uplifted in blessing, Lk.24.50,51, were not only a stark reminder of men’s cruelty, but also anticipated His present high priestly intercession, Heb.4.15.
The Old Testament pictured Christ ascending as a mighty conqueror accompanied by prisoners and spoil: "Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men" Ps.68.18. In "(passing) through the heavens" Heb.4.14 (J.N.D.) — Satan’s domain, Eph.2.2 — the Saviour thus triumphed over the forces of darkness, Col.2.15. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians relates Psalm 68 to Christ’s bestowal of gifts on His church, Eph.4.7-13. Certainly, the Holy Spirit could not have been given till the Lord Jesus Christ was glorified, Jn.7.39. And while church truth was not taught in the Old Testament, Eph.3.2-7, in the light of the New Testament these faint foreshadowings can be detected. During His public ministry the Lord Jesus had also foretold His return to heaven, Jn.6.62; 7.33; 14.1-3; 16.28; 20.17. Therefore, the ascension confirmed His words to be true.
God’s perfect Servant was "acquainted with grief" Is.53.3. But now, the "Man of sorrows" is at God’s right hand where "there are pleasures for evermore" Ps.16.11. The disciples, who had sorrowed after His death, now "worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy" Lk.24.52; Jn.16.20-22. Christ’s presence in heaven should also make us glad. He has prepared a place for us, Jn.14.3; He "ever liveth to make intercession for (us)" Heb.7.25, and as our forerunner, He guarantees our place in heaven, Heb.6.20.
The Twelfth Post-resurrection Appearance:
The Stoning of Stephen (Acts 7.54-60)
Stephen was an honest man, "full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" Acts 6.3. He, together with six others, was chosen to oversee the distribution of food to the needy in the early church, Acts 6.1-3. It quickly became apparent, however, that this faithful servant was also a gifted preacher. Unable "to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake," certain Jews, accusing him of blasphemy, "brought him to the council (Sanhedrin)" Acts 6.12. His defence became a hard-hitting denunciation of the Jewish nation. The accused became the accuser. He carefully selected highlights from Israel’s chequered past to emphasise their repeated rejection of God’s servants. "The patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt" Acts 7.9. Even Moses "they refused" Acts 7.35. In fact, Stephen challenged them: "which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" Acts 7.52. They still were what they had always been, now having betrayed and murdered "the Just One" Acts 7.52. The guilty Jews "were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth … cast him out of the city, and stoned him" Acts 7.54,58.
In this extreme and inescapable situation Stephen was encouraged by a sight of Christ in glory Acts 7.55,56. His closing words, "lay not this sin to their charge" Acts 7.60, echoed the Saviour’s words on the cross, Lk.23.34, and were soon answered in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.
The Thirteenth Post-resurrection Appearance: Saul of Tarsus
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, a fanatical Christian-hating Pharisee, was amazing. He consented to Stephen’s death, Acts 8.1, "made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison" Acts 8.3, and even persecuted "this way unto the death" Acts 22.4. Saul was so determined to stamp out this new cult, as he perceived it, that he, "still breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, came to the high priest and asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues, so that if he found any who were of the way (emphasising Christianity’s exclusive claims), both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem" Acts 9.1,2 (J.N.D.). But his rampage was cut short, for as he drew near to Damascus the glorious resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, who outshines the mid-day sun, Acts 22.6; 26.13, appeared unto him. Realisation hit his soul. This Jesus of Nazareth, whom He hated, was the Jehovah of Scripture whom he professed to serve, Acts 9.6; 22.8. In an instant the church’s great enemy was transformed into one of its greatest proponents, 2Cor.5.17. This sudden and enduring change further confirmed Christ’s resurrection and power.
God had been working behind the scenes. Everything about Saul’s genetic make-up, family background, upbringing, Phil.3.5, and even education at the feet of Gamaliel, Acts 22.3, was preparing him for God’s service. After all, as a chosen vessel, Acts 9.15; 22.14, he had been separated from his mother’s womb, Gal.1.15; Acts 22.10. God’s will for him included tremendous suffering, Acts 9.16; 2Cor.11.23-28, as He preached Christ to Jews, Gentiles and Kings, Acts 9.15; 22.15; 26.26; Gal.1.16. In his efforts to open men’s eyes and "turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in (Christ)" Acts 26.18, Saul faithfully preached a message of repentance, Acts 20.21; 26.20. And all of this from a man who "was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious" 1Tim.1.13. His persecution of believers had touched Christ’s heart: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Acts 9.4,5. The Lord’s words, "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (sharp goads used to spur on cattle)" Acts 9.5, suggest that Saul had kept ignoring a gnawing conscience. This all proved that Saul, as with every saint, was saved without personal merit, purely of divine grace, Gal.1.15, and according to God’s eternal purpose. Every born again believer has been "chosen … in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world" Eph.1.4.
Saul’s conversion proves that no one is too bad for salvation, 1Tim.1.12-16, and even though his experience was unique, for no one sees Christ today, Jn.20.29; 1Pet.1.8, yet his life is a brilliant example for every Christian.
- Salvation: he was saved, 1Tim.1.15.
- Submission: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts 9.6.
- Baptism: he was immediately baptised (baptizo means dip) Acts 9.17,18, symbolizing the washing away of sins, and our association with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection unto newness of life, Rom.6.3,4.
- Prayer: "behold, he prayeth" Acts 9.11.
- Fellowship: "he assayed to join himself to the disciples" Acts 9.26
- Testimony: "straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God" Acts 9.20.
- Suffering: the persecutor became the persecuted, Acts 9.23-25,29,30; 2Cor.11.32,33, because "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" Acts 14.22.
Paul likened his conversion to a premature birth, 1Cor.15.8, for as a Jew, his salvation also anticipated the time when "all Israel shall be saved" Rom.11.26.
—to be continued ((D.V.)
By J. Sinclair (Scotland)
b) The Elements of the Charge, 2.1 - 6.19
In Paper 1 we noted that this portion had several sub-sections:
- Prayer in House of God, 2.1-7
- Deportment in House of God, 2.8-15
- Rule in House of God, 3.1-7
- Deacons in House of God, 3.8-13
- Behaviour in House of God, 3.14-16
- Departure in House of God, 4.1-16
- Relationships in House of God, 5.1-6.19
The first one was dealt with in Paper 2 and we come to the second:
ii) Deportment in House of God, 2.8-15
Paul commences by dealing with men. It is interesting to note that this word is not referring to mankind, generically, but to the masculine, that is men and not women. He is giving an authoritative statement that men should pray everywhere. That is in every place where believers assemble in fellowship as comprising house of God. This means that women cannot pray audibly when the saints gather collectively. Men have to lift up holy hands. Their condition has to be in agreement with their action. Stress is being laid on a holy spiritual condition. A second essential is their prayers have to be without wrath, not characterised by human anger and, thirdly, their prayers have not to be characterised by doubting. This word means disputations or quarrelsomeness displaying controversy and contention. It could also mean sceptic. It would not permit the carnality displayed in innuendo prayers.
The second part deals with the conduct of women in assembly gatherings. First of all he shows how she should appear before God, vv.9 and 10. She should be adorned with seemly apparel, with moral repugnance to that which is base or unseemly, and with sound judgment or inner self-government. Completely contrary to the women of the world the godly sister will not be adorned with ornate or extravagant hair styles, or gold, or pearls or costly raiment. Their appearance before God should be in agreement with their profession of godliness. That is with good works, adorning themselves in agreement with a practical realisation of their reverence for God.
In vv.11-14, Paul deals with how they should participate in assembly gatherings. They should learn the Scriptures, in such gatherings in quietness, that is not speaking publicly, but in all subjection to the Word of God. They should also not teach in public not usurping authority, which word is used only here in the New Testament. It means not exercising authority over or literally, not to do a thing oneself. When it comes to public teaching they have to be silent, in quietness with no utterances. This is not without a sound Scriptural basis that is now given. God’s order in creation is the first reason. God shows Adam being first in creation was to be the head, the one to give direction and have authority. He then deals with how sin came into the world and gives his second reason for her silence. Eve allowed herself to be deceived by Satan and fell into transgression. In doing this, Eve stepped out of her place. The woman proved she was not fit for leadership. In contrast, Adam was not fully beguiled by the serpent, but he sinned in consciousness.
Paul in the closing verse shows the purpose and plan of God for women in assembly fellowship. Her salvation or her position is in childbearing. Paul is stating the high privilege sisters have in rearing men for God. This is something which is exclusively their privilege and not men’s. He also shows that this blessing runs in agreement with this already stated in relation to sobriety and silence in the church.
iii) Rule in House of God, 3.1-7
The whole of this section is dealing with bishops in the local church. We need to be clear who these brethren are. The word "bishop" means he exercises shepherd and godly care in the assembly. The same men are sometimes termed "overseers" showing he superintends indicating the character of the work. On other occasions they are termed "elders" indicating spiritual maturity is in evidence.
In v.1 Paul shows the importance of the work. This is the second "faithful saying" in the book. It shows that the saying is true and trustworthy and can be accepted without doubt, that this is a good work. A man must desire this work. He must have an exercise begotten of the Spirit of God and must aspire to it in a good sense. The words, "office of a bishop" are better translated, "desireth overseership". Here he shows the work entails visitation, overseeing and lays stress, not on the function but on the character of the work — not on the position but on devotion to the work. In saying "he desireth a good work", Paul is indicating this work is a noble work, intrinsically good, admirable and shows it is not an office but a work suggesting labour and toil.
In vv.2-7 Paul indicates the qualifications of overseers. In using, in the original, the term, "the bishop" he does not mean one bishop but indicates qualifications that apply to each one. Bishops in the Scriptures are never seen operating as individuals but are always in the plural. There are some sixteen qualifications listed. They are being set forth as a standard to which a man can aspire if he desires this work. The church does not appoint overseers - that is the work of the Holy Spirit of God, but the church recognises or acknowledges them because of the work they are doing.
Paul commences the qualifications with stating they "must be blameless." This means giving no cause for blame, not open to censure, without reproach. Then the bishop must be "the husband of one wife." Taken literally it means he must be a one-woman man. He must at any time be, and has been, the husband of only one living woman. The qualification also deals with his conduct in relation to other women. He must be beyond reproach and careful in his behaviour to other women. He must be "vigilant" or temperate, "sober" or sober minded meaning that he is discreet and sensible. Next, "of good behaviour" implying being orderly and modest as opposed to being ‘uncouth.’ He is to be "given to hospitality", literally meaning a lover of strangers. His home is open to others. The next qualification is "apt to teach." This does not mean he has to be an able minister of the Word but he has the spiritual aptitude for importing knowledge to members of the church. Not merely a readiness to teach but he has the spiritual ability and power because he knows the Word of God and has applied it to himself. He has not to be a drunkard, nor a "striker", nor "greedy of filthy lucre", although this last phrase has doubtful authority. He has also to be "patient" or forbearing and not contentious. He must not be "covetous", that is he has not to be marked with an obsession for money. His aptitude for rule must first be seen in how he rules "his own house" before he seeks to rule the local Church of God. The rule in this case means to take care of, signifying the type of rule.
Paul concludes the qualifications necessary in vv.6-7. He has not to be a "novice", which means one newly planted. Lack of experience is in view as opposed to youthfulness. The danger in being a novice is that of "being lifted up with pride" and so falling "into the condemnation of the devil". This means undergoing the same judgment of the devil when God brought him low because of his pride. Finally Paul states an overseer has to "have a good report from them which are without". He must have a good testimony from the folks in the world who are onlookers. This will prevent him from falling into "reproach" or scorn from outsiders and from "the snare of the devil". This means he will be saved from any trap of the devil related to inconsistency with his profession and thus bring disrepute on his testimony and work.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. Voisey, (Wales)
It pleased God to choose Mary to be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. The angel’s words to her are striking, "hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women". Later Elizabeth speaking by the Holy Ghost, echoed those same words; "blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb".
Mary and Joseph were not rich or influential, but of humble situation in life. Joseph was a carpenter and our Lord worked at this trade in His early life down here. In her song of praise to the Lord, Mary acknowledged her own low estate. When they sought accommodation in Bethlehem, they were not accorded any special consideration, and they were obliged to seek shelter in a stable, and lay the infant Jesus in a manger. The offering they brought for Mary’s purification after the childbirth, was that of a poor man, as provided for in God’s kindly laws, Lev.12.8, for we do not have to be rich to walk in obedience to the will of God. They lived in Nazareth, an unimportant and despised place, Jn.1.46.
HER PLACE IN THE PURPOSE OF GOD
In general men do not honour God or think about the working out of His purpose, but He has never ceased to be involved with this world, and ordering all things according to His own will. The birth of the Saviour is part of that great purpose. In Gen.3.15, God foretold that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head and through Isaiah prophesied that the promised Deliverer would be born of a virgin, 7.14. Mary was that woman, and "when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, and made under the law" Gal.4.4. The Genesis prophecy has yet to be fulfilled.
Micah, prophesied that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judah, 5.2, which defined its location since there is another town of that name in the north of the Holy Land. Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, but that was to be no problem, for by a seemingly unexpected turn of events, the emperor in far-off Rome decreed that all his subjects were to be registered for tax purposes in the place where they had come from: so they came to Bethlehem at the time when the Lord Jesus was to be born. God employs men and events of history to bring about His own sovereign will. "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out" Rom.11.33. Nothing thwarts God’s will and with Him all things are possible.
When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a Son, who was to be great, and sit on David’s throne, Lk.1.32,33, she was apprehensive, but accepting his reassuring words submitted herself to God’s will. Simeon and Anna would later recognise that the child in Mary’s arms was the Messiah.
HER PLACE IN RELATION TO HER SON
As a Child the Lord was subject to His parents. This is right for all children under law and under grace. However, when He was twelve years old and had, as usual, accompanied His parents to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, He remained behind when they set out to return to Nazareth. When they realised He was not in their company they went back to Jerusalem, and found Him in the temple. In answer to their concerns He said to them, "wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?" See Lk.2.41-52. It would seem that they had failed to realise that the time had come when He must begin to gently loose the bonds of their parental supervision, that He must begin to do His father’s work. After all they had known what manner of Child He was, and the destiny appointed for Him.
This loosening of His family ties is progressively marked in the gospels. At the wedding in Cana, Mary is twice referred to as "the mother of Jesus", but when she seemed to take it upon herself to hint to Him He should do something because the wine had run out, He gently reminds her that she must now look upon Him in a different way. He said not "Mother", but "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come" Jn.2.1-4. Mary would no longer be in a position to suggest to Him what He should do.
On another occasion, He was teaching and His mother and brothers came, sending word that they wished to speak to Him, but He would no longer recognise such restricted relationship after the flesh. "Who is my mother, and who are My brethren?" Looking at all His disciples He said, "Behold My mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother" Matt.12. 46-50.
One day when He was speaking, a woman in the listening crowd shouted unto Him "blessed is the womb that bare Thee", but He replied, "yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it" Lk.11. 27,28.
Mary was to be no longer thought of as having influence over the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather the reverse was true as is seen when He hung upon the cross and gave Mary into the care of the beloved disciple and said to them, "woman behold thy son", and "son behold thy mother". (John 19. 25-27)
HER PLACE IN THE CHURCH
Our last glimpse of Mary is in the upper room with the disciples, the other women and the Lord’s brethren who now believed on Him, Acts 1.14. Her part had been wonderfully fulfilled; now she must take her place with everyone else in the church. No divine honours can be accorded her and no one in the upper room prayed to her. She is not the "queen of heaven" nor the "mother of God" nor any such other extravagant title Christendom has bestowed upon her. She has no special powers of intercession before the Lord on account of their relationship.
Many artists have attempted to put on canvas their ideas as to how Mary might have looked, but we do not know for Scripture is silent on such details. Surely she was thoughtful, gentle and tender, a woman who feared the Lord, whose spiritual adornment is still a powerful example for us today.
Of Mary’s virgin purity there can be no doubt, but there is in Scripture not the slightest hint that she herself had been born by an "immaculate conception", or that she was always a virgin, and that at the end of her life she was carried up into heaven. Let her own words remind us of the sort of woman Mary was and she would have us to praise God. "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name" Lk.1.46-49.
By D. McKinley (Canada)
"Them that feared the Lord" 3.16.
In a very insolent generation they stood out as different. Others said, "Wherein hast Thou loved us?"; "Wherein have we despised Thy name?"; "Wherein have we polluted Thee?"; "Wherein have we wearied Him?"; "Wherein shall we return?" and "What have we spoken so much against Thee?" But these souls had a godly fear, a fear of displeasing the God they loved. Their language was like that of the hymn-writer
- "Lord I desire to live as one,
- Who bears a blood-bought name,
- That fears of naught but grieving Thee,
- And knows no other shame."
- (C. L. Bancroft)
The "fear of the Lord" is not a cringeing, resentful dread of an unknown and capricious superior Being. Rather it is the glad, loving, submission of a grateful heart that would be pained to cause its object disappointment of any kind.
they "Spake often one to another" 3.16.
They gravitated towards each other, because they all owned the same Lord. They spake of HIM. (Just like Anna in the temple "She … spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem".) What do we speak of most readily? The weather? The price of fuel? The news of the day? Do we find it easy to speak of Him? How we long to reach Charles Wesley’s spiritual condition, when he wrote,
- "My heart is full of Christ, and longs
- Its glorious matters to declare,
- Of Him I make my loftiest songs,
- And cannot from His praise forbear;
- My ready tongue makes haste to sing
- The glories of my Lord and King."
There are things that the Lord forbids us to converse about; "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things that are done of them in secret." (Eph,5.11,12.) There are things that the Lord tells us are unprofitable to converse about; "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies and contentions and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain" Tit.3.9. Thank God He tells us what is good to speak about; "Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine" Tit.2.1; "Speaking the truth in love" Eph.4.15; "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" Eph.4.19. What do we sing about?
- We’ll sing of the Shepherd that died,
- That died for the sake of the flock;
- His love to the utmost was tried,
- But firmly endured as a rock.
- We’ll sing of such subjects alone.
- None other our tongues shall employ,
- Till fully His love becomes known
- In yonder bright regions of joy.
- (Thomas Kelly)
"The Lord hearkened and heard" 3.16
It is a solemn thing to us to remember that every word we speak is heard of God, but a sweet thing to God when our conversation is commendable and about things dear to His heart. Our Lord’s pilgrimage on earth was characterised by the statement at twelve years of age, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?" The Father found perfect delight in the unswerving focus of His Son in "the things of my Father". The Lord spoke about worshipping His Father, Jn.4.23. What a privilege we have, to engage our spirits with the Great Eternal Spirit in adoring worship. He spoke of "My Father’s House" Jn.14.2. Our Father appreciates it, when we speak of heaven, our eternal abode.
- O make us each more holy
- In spirit pure and meek:
- More like to heavenly citizens
- As more of heaven we speak.
- (Mary. B. Peters)
He said, "I honour My Father" Jn.8.49, thus indicating that He appreciates it when we seek to honour God in our assembly activities and in our business transactions. He spoke of "My Father’s will" Jn.5.30. He values it when together we seek to simply carry out God’s Word personally and collectively. He stated that "My Father worketh" Jn.5.17. He appreciates our involvement in His service. There is much activity in the evangelical world that is touted as "service", but what the Father appreciates is humble service in line with His will. Good to not only speak to one another about the work, but to enjoy fellowship in the fulfilling of it.
"A book of remembrance was written before Him" 3.16.
What they conversed about was so appreciated by the Lord that He had it recorded to their credit. What about our conversations? What has been and is being recorded, of our conversation that our ever-hearing Lord values as we meet with one another? Is the content "Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise"? Job said, "My record is on high" Job 16.19, and God appreciated it so much that He wrote it in the Scriptures for us to read! God’s rebuke to Job’s three friends was "Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right as My servant Job hath" Job 42.7.
"They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels" 3.17.
People, whose whole interest is in the Lord and His things, presently are valued by the Lord as His "peculiar treasure" but He has a future purpose to bring them out in display in "that day". We will usually take good care of anything for which we pay a lot of money and we appreciate when others express their admiration of it. God has paid the ultimate price for us, even "the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" 1 Pet.1.19. He appreciates His purchase now and in a coming day will display to the whole wondering universe, the treasure for which He paid so much. Glorious prospect for us who were once "by nature the children of wrath, even as others"! Eph.2.3. "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" Dan.12.3.
"And I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" 3.17.
The precious are preserved. The faithful are favoured. The piously obedient are protectively overshadowed by a caring God, who in grace has made us sons by adoption. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Rom.8.31.
- Though the sons of night blaspheme,
- More there are with us than them;
- God with us, we cannot fear;
- Fear, ye fiends, for Christ is here!
- Lo to faith’s enlightened sight,
- All the mountain flames with light!
- Hell is nigh, but God is nigher,
- Circling us with hosts of fire.
- (C. Wesley)
"Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not" 3.18.
Those that fear the Lord and stand in His counsels will have a sharpened discernment in Divine things. We live in a day when there is a great push for change in assembly practices. The insolent will clamour to have new ideas introduced and if resisted will demand chapter and verse for all our practices in assembly life. We readily agree that we should have solid Scriptural principles and precepts to guide us and to instruct every genuine seeker after truth. But the godly will have a "sense" of what is right and wrong, because of living in the atmosphere of the Lord’s presence. Can we turn to a text to guide us exactly as to how to proceed in our remembrance meeting? Why do we spend significant time in a variety of audible worship, in prayer and song or devotional reading, before actually breaking the bread? Is it not that godly men with a lot of spiritual discernment developed this practice in accord with 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14? It is at the peril of losing much that is precious, that we start tampering with the practices developed by assembly men and women of an earlier day, who feared the Lord above many.
"Behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble: And the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch" 4.1. A searching time of judgment is ahead. God is going to arise to contend with His foes. There will be a very thorough and exhaustive searching out of all that display traits of the evil one (pride and wickedness), but will it touch God’s precious ones? Nay verily! They will enjoy the protection of the One they reverence and serve.
"But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings" 4.2. The coming day of glory will break for the godly remnant and out of all their affliction and persecution the bright dawn of Messiah’s return will deliver them. All the heartaches will instantly be healed by the righteous King claiming His throne and instituting His divine rule over a blessed Israel and across the broad empires of a groaning world. And what is our hope? The Morning Star will arise to call us out of this sin-cursed earth before the thunderbolts of Tribulation wrath begin to shake this world from pole to pole. What a bright prospect! What grace to be assured that, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear (be manifested), then shall ye also appear (be manifested) with Him in glory" Col.3.4. How glorious that when we are caught up, we are going to be where He is. We will be with Him in His entire future program. "So shall we ever be with the Lord" 1 Thess.4.7.
"Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel" 4.4. For the last of the last days of the old dispensation, what was needed? Something new and novel? No! It was "Back to the Book!" It was back to the original holy oracles given by God over 1000 years previously. What do we need for the closing days of the period of Grace? Just the same — back to the original. Back to simple God-ordained apostolic teaching of almost 2000 years ago; back to precious truths rediscovered and gladly re-instituted as a testimony to an absent Lord by godly men of some 150 to 170 years ago. In these Laodicean days we need a simple humble return to the obedient faith that our Lord Himself exhibited while on earth. He was "obedient unto (to the extent of) death, even the death of the cross" Phil.2.8. Undivided love for His Father produced uncompromising obedience to the Father’s will. Today we don’t need plans and programs culled from the religious confusion of Babylon. We greatly need the godly fear that marked these ancient saints, renewed in our hearts as we await the consummation of our hopes in His glorious appearing.
We are pleased to announce the availability of our next "Assembly Testimony" book. This is entitled "The Spirit of Glory" and deals with the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As with the former books, it is available from our brother William Neill whose address may be found inside the front cover of the magazine.
Each day every person makes many choices. Some may be trivial as we choose what to wear or what to eat; others will influence matters in our work place; others may influence who rules over us locally or nationally; others will set the trend for life as we choose a career, a partner for life or a place to live. The most important choice that a person can ever make decides the eternal destiny of his or her soul. This is a choice to accept or reject the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, as our personal Saviour.
In the Bible, in the book of Hebrews, we read of a choice made by the great leader Moses. In chapter 11.23-26 we read, "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward."
This choice was personal. None else could make this decision for him; he must make it for himself. The phrase in v.24, "when he was come to years" indicates that this was the considered choice of a mature man. It was not a childish, ill-informed, emotional choice. As we consider God’s offer of salvation through the sacrificial death of His Son on Calvary’s cross, so long ago, we have a choice to make. A young man in Matthew 19.22 made the wrong choice, "when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions". In Hebrews 12.16,17 a man called Esau made the wrong choice and found it was impossible to get the blessing. As you continue to read this page, you will make a choice — that is inevitable. Be sure you make the right one!
His choice meant a refusal, "when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter". All the glory of Egypt was offered. He could have all that his heart desired as he would have been in a position of exceptional power and prominence. But he refused it all.
This may seem illogical. What is illogical when considered in terms of time becomes very logical when the dimension of eternity is introduced. What is the most important, possessions during life and at the end eternal judgment, or a lesser life now but the eternal glory of heaven at the end? The apostle Paul stated his judgment in Romans 8.18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Thus his choice was eternal. The contrasting expressions in vv.25,26 should be noted and weighed by the reader — "the pleasures of sin for a season … the recompence of the reward." Few would deny that there is an amount of pleasure to be found in sin, but it is all temporary and does not last. Certainly it will not give satisfaction in eternity. Moses was long sighted and looked into eternity and thus made his choice.
It may seem illogical that a Man who died by crucifixion almost 2,000 years ago can save us in this present time. However, when we appreciate the truth of the gospel, "… Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that He was seen. …" 1Corinthians 15.3-5, it becomes very logical and most acceptable. We say in the words of Moses, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live" Deuteronomy 30.19.
TEN THOUSAND TALENTS
by J. Newton
- Ten thousand talents once I owed,
- And nothing had to pay;
- But Jesus freed me from the load,
- And washed my debt away.
- Yet once the Lord forgave my sin,
- And blotted out my score,
- Much more indebted I have been
- Than e'er I was before.
- My guilt is cancelled quite, I know,
- And satisfaction made;
- But the vast debt of love I owe
- Can never be repaid.
- The love I owe for sin forgiven,
- For power to believe,
- For present peace, and promised Heaven,
- No angel can conceive.
- That love of Thine, Thou sinner's Friend,
- Witness Thy bleeding heart,
- My little all can ne'er extend
- To pay a thousandth part.
- Nay more — the poor returns I make
- I first from Thee obtain;
- And 'tis of grace that Thou wilt take
- Such poor returns again.
- 'Tis well — it shall my glory be
- (Let who will boast their store),
- In time, and to eternity,
- To owe Thee more and more.