ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
by R. Plant
by J. Sinclair
SALVATION AND HOW TO POSSESS IT
by J. Ritchie
THE UNEQUAL YOKE - UNTENABLE
by Tony van der Schyff
by A. Summers
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
41) “All these curses” (2)
Read Chapter 28.49-68
In our first paper on this part of Deuteronomy chapter 28 we suggested that vv.15-48 could be entitled ‘The extent of the curses’, and vv.49-68 ‘The intensity of the curses’.
A) THE EXTENT OF THE CURSES, vv.15-48
As we have seen, these verses describe curses before captivity vv.16-35, and curses in captivity vv.36-44, together with the reason: “Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded thee” vv.45-48.
B) THE INTENSITY OF THE CURSES, vv49-68
This section amplifies the privations of God’s people when they are “smitten” before their enemies and “removed into all the kingdoms of the earth” v.25. In this connection, we must notice:
- The Swift Enemy, vv.49-51;
- The Siege Conditions, vv.52-57;
- The Shrinking Numbers, vv.58-62;
- The Scattered Nation, vv.63-68.
a) The Swift Enemy, vv.49-51
“The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth ...” While some suggest that this refers to the eagles of Rome, it seems more likely that reference is made here to the Chaldeans. See Hab.1.6-8: “For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation ... their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.” See also Jer.48.40; 49.22. It was “the king of the Chaldees” who fulfilled v.50: he “slew their young men ... and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age” 2Chron.36.17.
b) The Siege Conditions, vv.52-57
“And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land ...” It is noteworthy that the faith of God’s people was in their “high and fenced walls” rather than in the Lord. Compare 1Sam.4.3, where the ark of the covenant was regarded as nothing more than a talisman. There is a lesson here. It is not unknown for believers to glory in their assembly with all its attention (rightly) to procedural and doctrinal detail, together with its gift and ability, but it is highly dangerous for any company of God’s people to regard itself as a centre of excellence, or to be regarded by others as a centre of excellence. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” 1Cor.1.31.
The horrifying description in these verses should be read in conjunction with 2Kgs.6.26-29, and more particularly, since the passage anticipates the Chaldean siege, Lam.2.20; 4.10. Spiritual cannibalism is equally horrifying: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” Gal.5.15.
c) The Shrinking Numbers, vv.58-62
Ellicott’s Commentary is worth quoting here with reference to v.58: “It is no light matter when the Almighty says to any people or to any person, “I am Jehovah thy God” (the first Note of the Decalogue). They who are His must obey Him, love Him, and acknowledge Him. He will not be mocked. Never did He in all history ‘assay to go and take Him a nation’ Deut.4.34, from the midst of other nations as He took Israel. Hence these tremendous consequences.” This illustrates the important Bible principle that privilege determines responsibility. We do well to ponder v.62, “And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God”, and ask ourselves the question, “To what extent are we responsible for diminishing numbers in assembly fellowship? Is it because we have failed to “observe and do all the words ... written in this book?” Returning to the immediate context, the “long continuance” v.59, spans many centuries, from the Babylonian captivity down to the present day. The suffering of God’s people during this period is now anticipated:
d) The Scattered Nation, vv.63-68
The sad conditions and reduced circumstances in these verses may be summarised in the following way:
i) Removal from the land, v.63. “And it shall come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.” The clear prediction of deportation here was fulfilled in the removal of the northern kingdom (Israel) by the Assyrians, 2Kings chapter 17, and the removal of the southern kingdom (Judah) by the Chaldeans, 2Chronicles chapter 36. God’s people lost the blessings and benefits of “the land” then, and disobedience will mean the same for us now. How terrible to lose the joy of our inheritance!
ii) Residence among the nations, v.64. “And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other.” There is no need to amplify this. Jewish communities, with their synagogues, are found all over the world. The New Testament refers to the dispersion. See, for example, Acts 2.5-11, “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven ... Parthians, and Medes and Elamites ... strangers of Rome ... Cretes and Arabians ...”; 1Pet.1.1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia ...”
iii) Recourse to idolatry, v64. “There thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.” We do not possess details of this idolatry in the dispersion, except Egypt, Jer.44.17, and evidently in Babylon, Ezek.33.25. Ellicott’s Commentary adds, “But they were slaves to the worshippers of other gods.”
iv) Respite denied, vv.65-67. This has been fulfilled in the lifetime of many (older) readers, let alone in the more distant past. “And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot (which should have been firmly planted in Canaan, Josh.1.3) have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind.” The persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, with their unspeakable concentration camps, looms before us in these verses. “And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: in the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! And at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! For the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.”
v) Return to Egypt, v.68. This could be said to be the final blow. It was a case of ‘back to square one’. We do know, of course, that while some Jews sought exile in Egypt, Jeremiah chapters 42-44, they only represented a small part of the nation. According to Josephus (quoted in Ellicott’s Commentary), Titus shipped many Jews off to Egypt. Since the word “buy” occurs in Neh.5.8, it has been suggested that the meaning here is, ‘Ye shall be sold as slaves to your enemies, and there will be no one to redeem you’.
In reviewing the solemn lessons of this chapter, we do well to listen to Moses again: “Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart ... He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until He have destroyed thee” vv.47-48. As Warren Henderson (Choice Gleanings, 19th January 2008 observes) “Moses was reminding the children of Israel that their behaviour would either bring God’s blessing or judgment. At the forefront of the warnings was the exhortation three times to listen to the voice of the Lord and to do His commandments. Yet obeying His commands was not enough - to avoid judgment one must serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness of heart. The Lord wants more than mere submission; He wants our willing and happy service. Only then are we truly submitted to Him!”
—to be continued (D.V.)
By R. Plant (England)
Paper 10 - Helping our Children to Grow
Most will agree with the sentiment that there are few things as thrilling in the Christian life as seeing a soul repenting of their sin, trusting the Lord Jesus and then desiring to make progress in the things of the Lord. However, have you ever stopped to think how difficult it can be for children saved in the assemblies to make progress in the Christian life? Children need to grow in spiritual things just as they grow physically and gradually develop from their childish ways into mature adults; however they need guidance and training. The first thing that will bring benefit is prayer for their spiritual well being, and this is the responsibility of all saints, not just parents, Sunday school teachers and elders. In the responsibility of guiding and nurturing children we need God’s presence and power, since we cannot achieve anything without Him. In the midst of all the difficulties we remember, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” Jms.5.16. Whatever the issue in life, whether spiritual or otherwise it is vital to seek God’s direction by prayer and the searching of the Scriptures.
Today children are being forced to grow up far too quickly and young children are sadly loosing their innocence and child-like spirit at increasingly younger ages. At times this pressure from the world works its way into the assemblies of the Lord’s people often resulting in steps being taken by a child long before they are mature enough to really understand what they are doing. Often, as a result of pressures from their peers and others, children can feel compelled to request baptism and then seek fellowship and thus be channelled into a life of hypocrisy due to never having had the freedom to grow at their own level and in their own time. We need to think seriously about the result of children being baptised and added to assembly fellowship at an age far too young for them to either appreciate or cope with the expectations placed upon their shoulders. While not seeking to stipulate a minimum age for baptism, it is interesting to note that the age of responsibility in the United Kingdom is eighteen (sixteen in Scotland) and in Canada and other places nineteen! Is it not worth noting too that the age of being numbered with the people of God in Num.1.3 was twenty and that of being admitted into the Levitical work was thirty? These are mentioned to provoke some thought with regard to our need to seek God’s mind and will more clearly in how we respond to children’s needs and desires after they have professed to be saved.
Many readers will know from experience that the joy of hearing of one being saved can be followed by big disappointments. This can happen because young people are left to fend pretty much for themselves in relation to Bible reading and prayer when much guidance and encouragement is needed. Personally, I was saved out of the world at sixteen as the result of a good friend at school witnessing to me. I wanted to read the Bible for myself and started naturally enough at the beginning. All went well until I reached about chapter 25 of the book of Exodus. Once I had struggled through the teaching of the Tabernacle (in which, then, I could see no relevance to me) I came to the book of Leviticus and promptly gave up reading in chapter 2! Thankfully I found the first two ‘Day by Day’ daily reading books based on the Old and New Testaments and used these extensively to work my way through the Bible for the next five years. We sometimes see our children saved at ages much younger than I was and expect them to make progress on their own with little or no guidance from those of us who should be the most willing to help and instruct them. It is necessary to assist in the desire for “the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby” 1Pet.2.2. It is of course good to place books suitable for their age into their hands to help and guide them in their early faltering steps of Christian growth.
It is also vitally important as they face issues and temptations at school that we talk with them, pray with them and turn them to appropriate Scriptures. We also need to take time to show them how to have their own personal quiet time, how and where to start reading their Bibles and how to pray. These at least are the basics we should be providing for younger believers. It is necessary that time should be made in assembly life to cater for those young in the faith who need to know and understand that the Bible and its teaching are relevant for everyday situations in school or college, in relationships with others and, in fact, every experience of life.
Spending time together as a family in praying and reading the Bible is most valuable and really essential. However in the busyness of life important times like these can be all too easily crowded out! I do believe though that it is immensely important for a family to spend time together around the Word of God. Another vitally important occasion to spend time with children is just before they go to bed. How important it is to share time with our children on these occasions finding out any problems or difficulties that they have had through the day, reading the Bible and praying for them and with them. It is at this time, perhaps more than any other, that our children are taught to rely on God for daily living. What a recipe for disaster it is for Christian parents to carelessly send their children to bed without a thought of their spiritual needs!
The Scriptures clearly teach that the assembly is the place where Christians should gather. A pre-requisite of reception to the assembly is to be baptism. Not that baptism is merely a means of entrance to the assembly, but the order is “they that gladly received His word were baptised” Acts 2.41. Some other ‘church’ communities have a series of baptism or confirmation classes for those wanting to join the ‘church’, whereas in the assemblies we often find a simple interview is sufficient to gauge the reality of salvation and the young person’s grasp of the truth of baptism. We well know Paul was saved only three days when he was baptised, but he being a highly intelligent and well taught man would clearly understand the significance of the event. If a young person desires baptism why cannot the Biblical teaching concerning baptism be clearly explained to them so that they thoroughly understand what is involved? We need to make sure that children are not seeking baptism because their friends were baptised at that age or it’s the in thing to do. Children can feel pressurised to conform as they review the reports of the baptism, or are attracted by the presents that have been given and the fuss that has been made of others who have been baptised. Sometimes this most precious act of obedience has almost been made into a ‘circus’ event in many assemblies! By clear teaching the young people can decide if they really are prepared for the commitment and responsibilities that go with such an act of obedience.
Of course following on from baptism is the vitally important step of reception into assembly fellowship. In my experience a person seeking fellowship speaks to the elders in an assembly, and it is usual that following from the baptism, an announcement is made to the assembly and if no objections are made, the person is welcomed into the fellowship. A number of our young people think that assembly fellowship means that they can partake of the emblems, and yet there is so much more to assembly reception than that. Are we not failing in our care and responsibilities towards these young believers if we have not given them a basic grounding at a level they can understand of what an assembly is, how it functions, what it practises and how to know the joy of the Lord in it? If they understand these things beforehand we may be less likely to find them disgruntled with assembly life in later years.
I am mindful of what I have already written about children having too much responsibility too young! However, once in fellowship, we need to involve those who are making progress and encourage them to get involved in the work of the assembly. Encouraging them to be at the assembly prayer meeting is perhaps a good place to start, 1Tim.2.8. We should not be asking them to take other public duties if they cannot be first involved in this most vital of meetings! I also firmly believe that a young brother (or older one for that matter) should not be gracing the gospel platform until they have begun to be exercised about and take part in worship on a Lord’s Day morning! It has been truly said that the “devil will always find something for idle hands to do” and so we need to keep our young people active. It is good to observe young people both male and female becoming involved in various aspects of the assembly. Young brothers taking part acceptably in the meetings, the younger sisters working with older ones, without going outside their God given sphere of service, and to see young and old working together in, for example, tract distribution. Of course there can be the danger of progressing too quickly and this needs to be prayerfully considered. However it is also sad if older brethren have little enthusiasm to see the younger saints progress in their faith and therefore fail to encourage them, and give them a little responsibility in the assembly. I will never forget one prayer of our late brother Robert McPheat “O Lord, make the young people of today twenty times better than ever we have been”! Would that we all had that attitude about new young believers today!
- To be continued (D.V.)
By J. Sinclair (Scotland)
In Paper 1 we noted that the portion from 2.1-6.19 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
In our studies we have reached the sixth:
- Departure in House of God, 4.1-16
The sixth element of behaviour in House of God concerns conduct in the assembly in times of departure. The passage can be analysed as follows:
- Warning on approaching departure, vv.1-5
- Antidote No. 1 - Godliness of the Servant, vv.6-11
- Antidote No. 2 - Personal conduct of the Servant, vv.12-16
- Warning on approaching departure vv.1-5
a) Warning on approaching departure, vv.1-5
He commences this first section by the foretelling, in v.1, of the approaching departure and he does so by the Spirit of God. In the activity of Satanic forces, there is a contrast to “the mystery of godliness” at the end of chapter 3. He indicates that the Spirit has spoken in express terms, which would appear to be a direct revelation of God given to Paul as in 1 Cor.11.23. It would happen in “latter times.” That is in times later than the present time of writing. This is different from last days in 2 Tim.3.1 where reference is to the last days of the present dispensation.
Having foretold the departure he deals with the details of the departure in vv.1-5. He declares that those concerned will apostatise “from the faith”, which is the whole body of Christian doctrine. They will give “heed” (not just listen), but apply themselves “to seducing spirits” which are the powers of darkness behind the evil teachers’ teaching here called the “doctrines of demons". These men will speak “lies in hypocrisy” with “their consciences being seared” so they cannot respond to right or wrong. He then details the substance of the lies they will propagate. Namely, “forbidding to marry” and “to abstain from meats". He gives three reasons for rejecting these teachings, particularly in relation to meats. Reason 1 is that God created these meats “to be received with thanksgiving". Reason 2 states that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if received with thanksgiving". The Scripture teaches that before eating we should give God thanks for the food. Reason 3 is “it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer". The Word of God sets it apart and in our prayers we are asking God to set it apart to our good, physically and spiritually.
b) Antidote No. 1 - Godliness of the Servant, vv.6-11
In this second section, Paul shows how the godliness of the servant is an antidote for departure of this kind. Timothy is first of all exhorted to put the brethren in remembrance of the things repudiated in vv.3-5. This is his first duty as an antidote for such departure. In so doing he will be a good servant of Jesus Christ. This will be evidence he is “nourished up” or fully conversant with “the words of the faith”, or the words in which the faith finds expression. This stresses the importance of the words used in the teaching of the Scriptures. He adds “and of good doctrine” or sound teaching which is the way in which the faith is expressed. It will also be evident he has followed closely the faith and the sound doctrine. He has been conversant and practised that which he teaches, “whereunto thou hast attained".
He turns to the servant’s personal exercise in relation to godliness in the midst of departure. He has to “refuse profane and old wives' fables” v.7. These are things having no connection with God and myths with no scriptural support. His exercise has to be more positive. It is a personal exercise to godliness. This involves fellowship with God cultivated by constant meditation in His Word and communion in prayer. This spiritual exercise is more profitable. Physical exercise profits a little or for a little time but is no comparison to godliness. It profits “unto all things”, not only the body but also soul and spirit. Next he shows godliness is superior because it not only affects in time but in eternity. “Having promise of the life that now is”, brings the highest satisfaction and happiness now, “and of that which is to come”, brings the promise of being well pleasing in heaven. A life well pleasing here has the promise of being well pleasing then. In v.9 the dependability of pursuing such an exercise is confirmed. The statement in v.8 “is a faithful saying”, one that is trustworthy and worthy of all acceptation, that is without hesitation or questioning.
Because of the life that now is and that which is to come, Paul shows, in v.10, that these encourage us to continue in godliness, labouring or toiling to weariness and suffering reproach. We do this because “we trust in the living God". That is we believe God and take Him at His Word regarding this life and “that which is to come.” Our hope is in the living God as opposed to all that is dead and lifeless. This trust is secure in Him because He “is the Saviour of all men”, that is His salvation is available to all but it effectually applies to those who believe. Paul closes this section exhorting Timothy to speak these things in vv.7-10 with authority and to instruct the saints in them.
c) Antidote No. 2 - Personal conduct of the Servant, vv.12-16
In v.12 Timothy is instructed to be an “example of the believers”. He has to give no one occasion to despise his youth but to be a pattern in speech, manner of life, love, in faith in God, and in purity in motives and acts.
In v.13 he has to give attendance to certain things. This means to give thought and attention to “reading”, probably involving public reading of the Scriptures. He has then to give attendance “to exhortation”, meaning encouragement and exhorting his hearers to adopt a course of action which is right in the sight of God. Till Paul comes back he has also to give attendance “to doctrine”, that is the exposition of the Scriptures.
In his personal conduct the servant has also to “neglect not the gift” that is his, v.14. This word “neglect” means to be careless about a thing. Timothy’s gift had a threefold importance. First of all it was in him, put there by the spirit of God at conversion. Every believer has a gift or gifts from God given at conversion. Secondly it was given him “by prophecy". These prophecies were given by the Holy Spirit who had bestowed the gift, so there was no doubt as to Timothy’s fitness for the work. In this present day, God gives spiritual perception to others as to a person’s fitness in relation to a particular gift. The third important factor about his gift is that it was accompanied “with the laying on of the hands” of the elders. This is a public demonstration of identification with Timothy in his ministry, recognising he was gifted in a particular way by God.
In v.15, Timothy has also in his personal conduct to “meditate”, that is to be diligent, attend carefully to these things. These things are those of v.14, being an example, giving attendance to reading etc, and neglecting not the gift. He has to give himself “wholly to them”, to throw himself wholly without reserve into his personal conduct as a servant in the midst of departure. He should do this with the objective that his progress will be manifest to all. All will see his progress, it will be unquestionable.
The fifth instruction as to his personal behaviour is in v.16 and is to “take heed". First of all he has to fasten his attention on his personal conduct, “take heed unto thyself". He has then to pay particular attention to what he is teaching and see it is in accord with his conduct. He has not to slacken but to continue in these two objectives. The encouragement to continue is twofold. He will not only save himself, that is save himself from falling into sin but he will also save them that hear him. By a godly life and sound teaching he will also save others from falling into sin.
- To be continued (D.V.)
By J. Ritchie
Some saints are afflicted with doubts regarding the possession of salvation and this new series is designed to highlight the truth of assurance. These papers are taken from an old (undated) book called "Salvation and How to Possess it," published by J. Ritchie
God’s Purpose Revealed
By W.H. Bennet
It may help us to form some idea of the greatness of God’s salvation if we consider that from the time sin entered the world He has been occupied with the great and glorious work of saving the lost. It was His purpose to manifest His love by giving His Son to die to put sin away and reconcile sinners unto Himself, and when Satan, who had previously fallen and become the enemy of God, succeeded in seducing men to sin, God at once announced His purpose of grace in His solemn sentence on the serpent, that is on Satan who had assumed that form: He declared that there would be a mighty conflict between the serpent and the seed of the woman, that is His own Son who should in the fulness of time become man by being born of a woman, and that while the serpent or Satan should bruise the heel of the woman’s seed, He would wound Satan’s head, that is inflict upon him a destruction from which he should never recover. This promise of grace to man was always in the mind of God, and for four thousand years He constantly, by prophecy and by type, brought it before man.
In the mightiest work of deliverance or salvation He wrought in early times, God was pleased to give a very clear picture of the ground on which the still greater salvation of the present time should become the portion of those who are made partakers of it. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, concerning whom God had made great promises, were in Egypt as bond-slaves. God had used their going to Egypt to prevent their mingling with the people of Canaan, and He allowed them to be enslaved in Egypt to keep them separate from the people of that land.
But the time of promise had come when God would deliver them and lead them to their promised land. He sent sore judgments upon Pharaoh and his people because they refused to obey His command to release the people, and He was about to send the last great judgment which would compel submission. In doing this He would still more clearly mark off the Israelites from the Egyptians, and teach them that they were not delivered for any merit or by any power of their own, but simply by His will and in His way.
This was done by the institution of the passover, and especially by the fact that the deliverance of the Israelites depended entirely upon the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb.
God commanded that the people should take a lamb, and He gave very explicit direction as to what they were to do with it; but that which would secure their safety was the blood. When they killed the lamb they were to put the blood in a basin and then take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood.
Upon that God’s eye would rest, as He said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you.” Moreover, the blood was to give them the assurance of safety, “the blood shall be to you for a token.” But the blood must be used according to God’s direction. It was not enough that the lamb should be killed and its blood put in a basin; that would not have saved if the blood had not been sprinkled.
The Gospel which tells us that the Lamb of God has been slain and His blood given for salvation, puts those who hear it and know it into a position corresponding to that of the one who had killed the lamb and taken its blood in a basin. But it is possible to occupy that position and yet be lost! A man might put the basin aside very carefully and even treat it reverently, keeping it on a shelf or in a cupboard, but that would be of no avail if he had not sprinkled it; so one may know the Gospel, may even treat it with some respect, but he can derive no benefit from it unless there be a personal appropriation of it. “Christ died for our sins.” Christ died for my sins. I believe in Him as the One Who died for me; Who was dealt with by God in my stead, Who bore sin, and put it away by the sacrifice of Himself, the sure proof of which is found in the fact that God raised Him from the dead; and as a sinner I cast myself upon Him, I rely upon Him for salvation.
This personal reception of Christ for one’s self puts one in possession of salvation, and nothing else will do so. It is like taking refuge under the sprinkled blood, and the one who does this is safe. No further enquiry was made about those who were in the blood-sprinkled house. There was no question about personal character — no question what a man was or had been; God’s eye was upon the blood, and it was the blood which saved from the stroke of judgment. So it is now, we may have been religious and respectable, or we may have been the opposite; but the one question is, Have we received Christ as a personal Saviour, so that we can say with the Apostle Paul, “He loved me and gave Himself for me”? Then, if we have been religious, we shall be glad to know Him as our Saviour from dead works, and if we have been living what even the world regards as sinful lives, we shall equally rejoice in His power to save.
It may still be asked, “How may I know whether I am secured or not?” God’s word was, “The blood shall be to you for a token.” Have you bowed before God as a sinner and confessed in His presence that your only trust is in the precious blood of Christ? Then may you be assured that the precious blood cleanses you and gives you a fitness for God’s presence, for “If the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ … purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” It is a matter of faith, not feeling; and what is faith? It is taking God at His Word. They who are of faith own God’s grace in the gift of His own Son, and rely upon Him as the One who died and rose again for the salvation of which He thus became the Author, Heb.5.9. And that salvation is theirs. All have not the same enjoyment of it, for that depends upon the measure in which God is known and His Word is relied upon. The keeping of the passover and the sprinkling of the blood was an expression of faith, and it was this obedience of faith which put the one who exercised it into the place of safety irrespective of what he felt about it. He believed that the stroke of judgment would fall upon Egypt, and he believed that the way to be preserved from it was by being sheltered in a blood-sprinkled house. Acting upon this, doing what God told him, he was safe, irrespective of what he felt about it.
We may imagine two men — the first did as God commanded and was in the house with his family around him; he felt and said, “This is a terrible night and the judgment will be awful; I hope we shall not be touched by it, I hope I sprinkled the blood in the right way and that it is plain enough for the destroyer to see it; but I tremble lest anything be wrong.” His neighbour says, “This is, indeed, a fearful night, and it would be a solemn thing to be exposed to the stroke of judgment; but I have done what God told me to do, I have sprinkled the blood, and God said, ‘The blood shall be to you for a token,’ therefore I know that we are safe and we may feed upon the lamb in peace with the comfort of being assured that no judgment can reach us.”
Would the second of these men be safer than the first? By no means; but the second would honour God far more by relying upon His Word, and therefore being assured of his preservation. So now salvation is secured to all who as self-condemned sinners bow before God and rely upon the precious blood of Christ to put away their sins. The true believer can say, “I know that I am both sinful and helpless, but I rely upon God’s Word that ‘while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,’ and therefore I can praise God for my safety.” Salvation depends upon being under the blood of sprinkling; peace and joy depend upon knowing we are there; and if we are there the knowledge that it is so is the fruit of accepting the assurance of God’s Word.
The blood of sprinkling marked off the Israelites very definitely from Egypt, and they could have no question as to whether they belonged to Egypt or not, for they were in the attitude of pilgrims and were waiting for the summons to depart.
So now those who trust the precious blood of Christ for salvation are marked off from the world, and ought to know that they do not belong to it. The Israelites were occupied as no Egyptian could have been; they were feeding upon the flesh of the lamb whose blood shielded them, and was to them a token that He would deliver them from all the consequences of sin as to body as well as the soul, and give them to know the salvation of God in all its fulness and that forever.
- To be continued (D.V.)
By Tony van der Schyff (Wynberg, S. Africa)
Read: 2 Corinthians 6.14-18; 7.1
To highlight these principles of separation, the apostle Paul uses five different words to describe the interaction required to render the yoke equal. These principles will apply whether the yoke is that of the marital, the business, the social, the emotional or the spiritual. The five words with their meanings are set out as follows:
- Fellowship: Gr koinonia, a sharing of the same thing. A heart-partnership. A holding something together in common the one with the other. This means there must be commonality in the yoke for it to be equal.
- Communion: the enjoyment of the same portion; a social interaction. This means there must be communion in the yoke for it to be equal.
- Concord: Gr sumphonesis, a musical term which implies harmony in sound and voice. Christ and Belial can never be in harmony with each other. This means there must be concord in the yoke for it to be equal.
- Part: Gr meris, implies a portion in or of, where the one part complements the other. This means there must be compatibility in the yoke for it to be equal.
- Agreement: Gr sunkatathesis, to hold a common opinion; to concur with; to be well minded, to be well disposed to.
This means there must be concurrence in the yoke for it to be equal.
With these five descriptive words in mind, we now look at the five sets of opposing elements.
- Righteousness with unrighteousness.
- Light with darkness.
- Christ with Belial.
- The believer with an infidel (unbeliever). The infidel is the person who acknowledges the existence of God but denies a personal God.
- The temple of God with [the temple of] idols.
These diametrically opposed elements can be summed up as follows:
- What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness: i.e. opposing positions.
- What communion hath light with darkness: i.e. opposing perspectives.
- What concord hath Christ with Belial: i.e. opposing persons.
- What part hath the believer with an infidel: i.e. opposing professions.
- What agreement hath the temple of God with the temple of idols: i.e. opposing places.
Having spelled out the five descriptive words of the unequal yoke and having spelled out the five opposing elements, the apostle proceeds to put them in juxtaposition to clearly illustrate the importance of seeing how absolutely opposed and unequal they are with and to each other. He poses five questions all introduced with the word “What”. “What fellowship, what communion, what concord, what part, what agreement … hath …”
In other words, what do the five opposing elements have in common? Are there any consistencies between them? Do they concur with each other? Do they complement each other? Do they congratulate each other? To each of these questions the answer is an emphatic, unequivocal, resounding “No! they do not - and they never can”! There is absolutely nothing in common with them. They are completely and utterly opposed to each other, and therefore the explicit warning given, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”! There must be no conflict of interest. It is never a question of consensus but a question of conviction.
The believer might be asking, “but how do these opposing elements affect my life and my living as a child of God? Surely I can get by with my unsaved partner and we can work together to obtain an understanding in our relationship or partnership. Who knows, maybe things will get better and work out just right for us. Frankly, I cannot see how such a yoke can really affect me!” By taking a very close look at the Scriptures, it soon becomes clear that:
1. With the distinction between righteousness and unrighteousness:
This will affect my Wages. Peter warns us about the wages of unrighteousness, 2 Pet.2.15.
Righteousness is the state of the believer who has been justified by faith. Unrighteousness (more correctly iniquity) is the state of the unbeliever; the fruit of unbelief.
2. With the distinction between light and darkness:
This will affect my Walk. The apostle John enjoins us to walk in the light, 1 Jn.1.6-7. In 1 Thess.5.5 believers are described as the children of light and to walk as such. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”
3. With the distinction between Christ and Belial:
This will affect my Will. The will of the Lord that is good and acceptable and perfect, Rom.12.2.
Belial in the original means “worthlessness, unprofitableness, wickedness“. Since Satan is opposed to God, so Anti-Christ is opposed to Christ, so Belial opposed to Christ. The believer must denounce all attitudes and actions that are anti-God and anti-Christian.
4. With the distinction between a believer and an infidel:
This will affect my Witness. The apostle John confirms that the believer in Christ has the witness in himself, 1 Jn.5.10. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.”
5. With the distinction between the temple of God and the temple of idols:
This will affect my Worship. The Lord Jesus Himself reminded Satan about true worship, “thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” Matt.4.10. He also reminded the Samaritan woman at the well, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” God is [a] Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” Jn.4.23-24.
God Himself makes the call. “Wherefore, come ye out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.“ As already mentioned, “The unclean thing” which we are enjoined to “touch not” v17, covers all that is in the world that is alien and foreign to God and His Word. We are in the world but not of the world! There always will be things and people to which and to whom the Christian has to say NO! Look again at those five elements which are opposed to all that is of God.
1. Unrighteousness (lawlessness). “The law was not made for a righteous man but for the lawless and disobedient; for the ungodly …” 1 Tim.1.9. Unrighteousness or lawlessness, reminds us of the world and its Irreverence. Ungodly man has no respect and reverence for God. God’s name and the name of Christ are used as an expletive and the things of God are mocked and derided. The Christian believer can have no fellowship with someone who displays an open irreverence for Divine things and who will not acknowledge and confess his or her own unrighteousness.
2. Darkness. “They were vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened …” Rom.1.21. The darkness spoken of here reminds us of the world and its Imaginations. The Christian believer can have no communion with the ways and the works of darkness. God the Father has “delivered us from the power (the thraldom) of darkness and has translated (transferred) us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” Col.1.12.
3. Belial (Satan). Scripture warns about “doctrines of demons” 1 Tim.4.1. We are enjoined to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” Jms.4.7. Belial will remind us of the world and its Isms. Is it now a known fact that in this modern world of ours, never before has there been such a plethora of demonism, occultism, mysticism, gnosticism, ascetism, relativism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islamism! The Christian believer can have no concord with anything that is of Satan and of satanic influence.
4. Infidel (unbeliever). “But the fearful, unbelieving, abominable … shall have their part in the lake of fire” Rev.21.8. And again, “He that believeth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is anti-Christ” 1 Jn.4.2. The infidel reminds us of the world and its Infidelity. The Christian believer can have no part with an infidel.
5. Idols. “Sorcerers and idolators, liars, shall have their part in the lake of fire” Rev.21.8. Idols remind us of the world and its Idolatry. An idol is anything and everything that comes between me and the Lord; that usurps the place in my heart and life which rightly belongs to Him, the One who has bought me with His own precious blood and made me His very own! The Christian believer can have no agreement with idols, idolatrous places or idol worship. May the Lord deliver and preserve us from the world with its irreverence, imaginations, isms, infidelity and idolatry. That we indeed come out from among (withdraw completely from and dissociate from) those who practise and perpetuate these things and that we be separate (set apart) from the world and its influences and be set apart unto God.
-To be continued (D.V.)
By A. Summers (Scotland)
The last section of the book of Ezekiel, chs.40-48, contains the plans of a remarkable building. It is a temple so large that it measures approximately one mile square. Westminster Abbey is 2,972 square meters. This temple is approximately 2,590,000 square metres – nearly one thousand times bigger! These dimensions are to be found in the following passage. “He measured the east side with the measuring reed, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed round about. He measured the north side, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed round about. He measured the south side, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed. He turned about to the west side, and measured five hundred reeds with the measuring reed. He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place” Ezek.42.16-20.
REED OR CUBIT?
While the A.V., R.V., N.K.J.V. and New Translation all follow the Hebrew text which uses the “reed” as the unit of measurement, other translations such as the N.I.V. and N.L.T. follow the Greek text of the Septuagint which states that the temple is 500 cubits square. A cubit is about one sixth of the length of a reed, Ezek.40.5. It would appear that the main reason why the Septuagint is preferred by many modern day translators and commentators is because it scales the Temple down to a size that fits into the borders of present day Israel. Thus for example Lamar Cooper in what is in other respects an admirable commentary on Ezekiel states, “if the unit of measurement was a six cubit rod, then the complex would have been three thousand cubits on each side instead of five hundred. A temple complex this size would be larger than the topography of Jerusalem.” (1)
Tatford likewise says that the use of reeds is “evidently an error” (2) and Taylor, “obviously wrong”.(3) Alexander (4) however points out that in 45.2 the temple is said to be “five hundred ... square round about” specifying neither reed nor cubit as the unit of measurement. Thereafter however, the text goes on to state that the border or “suburbs” shall be “fifty cubits round about” which, Alexander argues, implies that Ezekiel is distinguishing the unit of measurement for the border from that used for the temple. Whether that is a good argument or not, the author believes that the Hebrew text should be followed. Why should the otherwise reliable Hebrew text be abandoned in favour of the somewhat unreliable Greek text of the Septuagint? It is suggested that the following considerations point to a “large” temple and not a “small” temple.
i) It will be a Temple for the whole world and not merely a single nation. That world will not be filled with a conglomeration of religions but a world converted to the worship of the Lord. If as Isaiah states “all nations shall flow unto it” Isa.2.2, the temple will have to be very large. If the temple is 500 cubits square then Ezekiel’s Temple will be smaller than Herod’s temple.(5) Hardly a likely state of affairs!
ii) Israel in the Millennium will be a very different place from the Israel we know today. Isaiah and Zechariah speak of a physical rearrangement of the landscape of Israel. The landscape is levelled into a great plain, Zech.14.10, the Mount of Olives is cloven in two, Zech.14.4, and the temple stands on a mountain top, Isa.2.2; Mic.4.1,2. Although many commentators interpret these passages metaphorically it appears that they speak of real physical changes to the topography of Israel. Once this is accepted there is no need to worry whether the temple described by Ezekiel together with the “holy oblation” and the “prince’s portion” will fit into the physical dimensions of present day Israel since these boundaries may well have disappeared. There is every reason to believe that the new Israel will be enlarged so as to accommodate the temple and the allotments of land to the priests, the Prince and the tribes.
iii) If the real reason why the reed is abandoned in favour of the cubit is because the translators and commentators cannot bring themselves to believe that such a large structure could ever be built, this author would demur. True believers should have no difficulty in accepting that the Lord is capable of building a “super temple” for the unique conditions that will prevail during the Millennium.
In Scripture spiritual ideals are often expressed in concrete ways, e.g. priests are clothed in white garments in order to emphasise their purity, furniture that speaks of Christ is made of pure gold to emphasise His worth. Here an ideal is expressed in the location of the Temple. God places the temple on a summit that exceeds in height all other mountain peaks. This reflects not only the prominence that the House of God occupies in His thinking, but the place it ought to occupy in the thinking of those that fill its courts. Today the assembly answers to the millennial temple as the place where God meets His people and where they unite in corporate worship. As He has elevated it so too should we. To meet in the House should be the high point of the week. To gather with His people should represent the summit of our ambitions. If there is another place or object which has greater attraction for us then we have failed to appreciate the status of the House.
Its size also suggests that God has made room for His people. None need wait at the door. His great House is built so as to accommodate the people who will flow up to it. There will be no queues because of a lack of space and nobody refused admittance because of overcrowding. The Lord Jesus was refused admittance to the inn but the worshippers in the day of His glory will be brought near to “the place of My throne” 43.7. That is not to say that admission is unrestricted. Ezekiel records the conditions of access , “No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter my sanctuary ... And the Levites that are gone astray far from me, when Israel went astray ... shall not come near to Me ... But I will make them keepers of the charge of the House ... but the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok ... shall come near to me to minister ... they shall enter into my sanctuary” 44.9,10,13,15.
Although there is ample room, God will not relax His standards and allow anyone in. The “stranger” is permitted access provided he has submitted to circumcision, the ancient sign of fidelity to God and His covenant. Obedience to God has however to be both external (“in flesh”) and internal (“in heart”); see Col. 2:11. So also the assembly should have no room for the “stranger” who is disobedient to God’s Word whether in outward form or in heart and spirit.
He is equally discriminating in distributing responsibility in the Temple. Thus the failure of the Levites operates as a bar to their successors entering high office. By contrast the loyalty of Zadok, 1 Kings chapter 1, results in reward and privilege for his progeny. Likewise in the assembly it is those who have proved their fidelity to the Lord that are fitted for responsibility while those who have failed should be kept in check.
- To be continued (D.V.)
It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day and we were sitting on a grass area near to the beach having a picnic. All was most pleasant and enjoyable. The children were enjoying themselves, playing games and frolicking on the grass. Other families were on the sand, some building sand castles and others splashing about in the water. The whole scene was one of blissful joy and happiness.
We noticed a dark cloud in the distance and wondered what was to come. The vast majority of people either did not see the cloud or did not care. After all it was far away and nothing could be allowed to disturb this unusually happy day. However, as the cloud approached we, and a few others, packed up and took our picnic stuff back to the car. We had just finished this when there came some very large spots of rain quickly followed by a downpour.
The beach and the grass area were very speedily vacated and as one group passed our car a woman called to her children, “Get to the car quickly, because there is no shelter here.” What a statement! What solemn, spiritual lessons can be learned here!
Some people think that life is just a jolly time and will go on without their pleasant lifestyle being interrupted. Others fool themselves by thinking that a life of sin involving squalor and uncleanness is acceptable and even normal. Yet, whether we consider the rich or those less fortunate, the dark clouds of Divine judgment are gathering and soon will pour out God’s wrath upon all. This world has rejected God and the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3.16. God’s Son “came into the world to save sinners” 1 Timothy 1.15. Rather than being accepted He was rejected and crucified. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” John 1.11. God will deal with this world because of their rejection of His Son.
Just as we noticed the darkening skies and others were unconcerned, so with the reading of the prophetic Scriptures. These clearly indicate that the return of Christ to the air to rapture His people away to heaven is an event that is not too far distant. After that event this world that continues to manifest a hostile attitude towards God, will bear the weight of Divine wrath.
Dear reader, are you concerned as to where you will find a shelter? Will you realise too late, “There is no shelter here”? Those who lived in the days of Noah were warned about the coming flood but they rejected the shelter of the ark and only 8 souls were saved. The Lord Jesus Christ bore the punishment for our sins when He died upon the cross and all who trust Him for eternal salvation will find in Him a shelter from God’s judgment. “And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” Isaiah 32.2. Augustus Toplady wrote a very famous hymn when he was caught in a thunderstorm in Burrington Coombe, England, a rocky glen running up into the heart of the Mendip range and there, taking shelter between two massive piers of limestone rock, he penned the hymn, part of which is quoted,
- “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Not the labour of my hands
- Let me hide myself in Thee; Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;
- Let the water and the blood, Could my zeal no respite know,
- From Thy wounded side which flowed, Could my tears forever flow,
- Be of sin the double cure; All for sin could not atone;
- Save from wrath and make me pure. Thou must save, and Thou alone.”
Dear reader, make sure you have Him as your eternal shelter, because there is no shelter here.
God’s Purpose of Grace
- 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.
By the late James H. Wilkinson
Scripture Outlines in Sevens
By Howard Barnes (England)
- Truths about bad things: ‘Full of...’
- . . . extortion and excess . . . hypocrisy and iniquity, Matt. 23. 25, 28
- . . . ravening and wickedness, Lk. 11. 39
- . . . all subtilty and all mischief, Acts 13. 10
- . . . adultery, 2 Pet. 2. 14
- . . . envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, Rom. 1. 29
- . . . deadly poison, Jas. 3. 8
- . . . cursing and bitterness, Rom. 3. 14
- Truths about good things: ‘Full of...’
- . . . the Holy Ghost and wisdom, Acts 6. 3 (cp. 7. 55)
- . . . faith and of the Holy Ghost, Acts 6. 5, Acts 11. 24
- . . . faith and power, Acts 6. 8
- . . . good works and almsdeeds, Acts 9. 36
- . . . goodness, filled with all knowledge, Rom. 15. 14
- . . . heaviness, Phil. 2. 26
- . . . mercy and good fruits, Jas. 3. 17
- Divine truths: ‘God is...’
- . . . a merciful God, Deut. 4. 31
- . . . a refuge for us, Psa. 62. 8
- . . . a sun and shield, Psa. 84. 11
- . . . a Spirit, Jn. 4. 24
- . . . a consuming fire, Heb. 12. 29
- . . . light, 1 Jn. 1. 5
- . . . love,1 Jn. 4. 16
- Some ‘great’ things in Hebrews
- So great salvation, 2. 3
- A great high priest, 4. 14
- A great man, 7. 4
- A great fight, 10. 32
- Great recompence of reward, 10. 35
- A great cloud of witnesses, 12. 1
- Great shepherd of the sheep, 13. 20
When Christ Comes Back to Earth to Reign
- He comes in glorious majesty
- In flaming fire and vengeance just.
- He who had come in poverty
- To seek and save those who were lost.
- They who on earth refused His grace
- Eternally will call in vain.
- Banished forever from His face
- When Christ comes back to earth to reign.
- His feet will stand upon the mount
- From which disciples watched Him go.
- The ground will cleave and lo a fount
- Will from His holy temple flow.
- Down through the vale a living stream
- Life-bringing to the hill and plain.
- The salty sea with fish will teem
- When Christ comes back to earth to reign.
- His judgment will be swift upon
- The beast whom Satan will inspire;
- He and His prophet judged anon
- And cast into the lake of fire.
- Jerusalem will be besieged,
- Her enemies entirely slain,
- And living nations will be judged
- When Christ comes back to earth to reign.
- The mountain peaks will fruitful be
- The desert blossom like a rose.
- For everywhere from sea to sea
- The glories of Jehovah glows.
- The wolf and lamb together dwell,
- As Eden is restored again.
- From all creation praise will swell
- When Christ comes back to earth to reign.
- Kings will fall down before His face
- And bring their worship and their gifts.
- The needy folk will know His grace
- When He their care and burden lifts.
- Satan is bound one thousand years
- And with him evil, sin and pain,
- The source of misery and tears
- When Christ comes back to earth to reign.
By Matthew J. Cordiner (Scotland)
Praying for Missionaries
By D. Hodgetts (Wales)