Having acquainted the people with "the words of the covenant", which the Lord commanded him to "make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab", 29.1, Moses now makes preparation for his departure. Chapters 31-34 deal with the charge of Moses to Joshua and the Levites, chapter 31, the song of Moses describing the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel, chapter 32, the blessing of Moses upon the tribes, chapter 33, and the death of Moses on Mount Nebo, chapter 34.
Chapter 31 may be divided as follows:
Promised Leadership, vv.1-8;
Public Reading, vv.9-13;
Predicted Apostasy, vv.14-23;
Permanent Witness, vv.24-29.
PROMISED LEADERSHIP, vv.1-8
The leadership of God’s people was both unseen and seen: "The Lord thy God, He will go over before thee...and Joshua, He shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath said (see Num.27.15-23)" v.3. These verses refer to leadership for the nation, vv.3-6, and leadership for Joshua, vv.7-8. No leader amongst God’s people can function effectively without enjoying divine leadership himself. Joshua was ‘a leader led’. The leadership of God’s people is described in three ways:
Past Leadership, v.2;
Permanent Leadership, vv.3-6;
Prospective Leadership, vv.7-8.
a) Past leadership, v.2
"And Moses went, and spake these words unto all Israel. And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in (although ‘his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated’, 34.7): also the Lord hath said unto me, thou shalt not go over this Jordan". This prohibition is explained in 32.48-52. It is noteworthy that Moses does not bemoan ‘his gray hairs’ or complain about "the holy discipline exercised toward him", C.H.Mackintosh. He did not "waste time secretly sighing for the days that had gone", Raymond Brown. As so often, C.H.Mackintosh is well worth quoting further: "Not a word of murmuring or repining as to himself, not the faintest tinge of envy or jealousy in his reference to the one who was to take his place ... every selfish consideration is swallowed up in the one grand object of encouraging the hearts of the people to tread, with firm step, the pathway of obedience, which was then, is now, and ever must be the path of victory, the path of blessing, the path of peace".
b) Permanent leadership, vv.3-6
While Moses knew that he would not "go over this Jordan", he also knew that God’s people would not be left to their own devices: "The Lord thy God, He will go over before thee". There would be a change in their earthly leader ("Joshua, he shall go over before thee") but not in their heavenly leader. In this connection we should notice:
i) God’s Unchanging Purpose, v.3. "He will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them". Despite their murmurings and disobedience, it was still His purpose to give them the land in accordance with the promise made to the patriarchs. It was "the good land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers" Deut. 6.18. The change of leadership had not been accompanied by a change of plan. It is equally true to say this is God’s purpose for us too. He has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ", Eph.1.4, and we encounter some of these "spiritual blessings" as we continue to read Ephesians 1: "He hath chosen us in Him ... having predestinated us ... made us accepted in the Beloved...in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins". God wants us to enjoy it all! He still says, "Go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it!" Josh.1.11. God gave His people a "good land" and there was plenty to enjoy, but it did have boundaries. There are no boundaries, either in time or space, to our inheritance!
ii) God’s Unchanging Power, vv.4-5. "The Lord shall do unto them as He did to Sihon and Og, kings of the Amorites ... And the Lord shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you". The conquest of the land would not to be achieved by military might. In the words of Ps.44.3, "they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but by Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them". This reminds us that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" 2 Cor.10.4. The Lord Jesus said, "ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you..." Acts 1.8. His power is unchanged!
iii) God’s Unchanging Presence, v.6. "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee". He would both go before them, v.3, and go with them, v.6. We are assured of God’s unchanging presence: "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" Heb.13.5. Paul proved that the Lord would "never leave" "nor forsake" him: see Acts 18.9-10 and 2 Tim.4.16-17. It is worth emphasising however, that our enjoyment of the Lord’s presence is dependent on our obedience. See 2 Chr.15.2 and Jms.4.8.
c) Prospective leadership, vv.7-8
"And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it". This was enough to make any man go weak at the knees! Joshua knew only too well that Israel had caused Moses a perpetual headache: "For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?" v.27. Not much consolation for Joshua here! But we must not think for one moment that God ‘threw him in at the deep end’. For something like forty years, Joshua had been in the school of God. (You should have no difficulty in agreeing that it was around forty years). He had been thoroughly trained for the task ahead, and now the time had come to put the lessons into practice.
We should notice that Joshua was commissioned "in the sight of all Israel". The entire nation witnessed his call to service and participated in his commendation! There was nothing secretive about his God-given role. Notice too that Moses emphasised that Joshua was under an obligation to serve the Lord in this way: "thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it". Joshua was not given a range of options or alternatives. We should all be able to say with Paul, "necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" 1Cor.9.16. Joshua might well have trembled if his commission ended there! But he was assured of divine resources in discharging his responsibilities: "Be strong and of a good courage ... And the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed". We should also notice that the promises made to Joshua via Moses, were also made to him directly in Joshua 1.5-9. God speaks to us through other people, and He speaks to us directly through His Word.
The Lord Jesus made the same promise to His disciples: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (age)" Matt.28.19-20.
2) PUBLIC READING, vv.9-13
"And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel" v.9. It was placed in the care of the priests, emphasising its sanctity. It was located "at the side of the ark of the covenant of Jehovah your God", v.26, JND, and therefore lay at the very centre of national life. But the elders were to make arrangements for it to be read publicly, emphasising its authority. In this connection we should notice
When the Law was to be Read, v.10;
Where the Law was to be Read, v.11;
to Whom the Law was to be Read, v.12;
Why the Law was to be Read, vv.12-13.
a) When the Law was to be Read, v.10
"At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles". As Raymond Brown observes, "This ... was a highly fitting occasion for the reading of the covenant. God’s plan was that the word should be publicly recalled at a time of generous compassion, 15.1-2, and at a festival of joyful thanksgiving, 16.13-15." The law would be read to the people in connection with their obligations to others, and in connection with their indebtedness to the Lord. As we noted in studying Deuteronomy ch.16, the "feast of tabernacles" stressed the ongoing goodness of God. He had both provided for them in the wilderness, and in the land. This "feast" looked back to deliverance from Egypt, hence the "tabernacles" or "booths", and celebrated God’s continuing provision for them. It reminded them that they were dependent upon Him in the wilderness, and it reminded them that they were dependent upon Him in the land. It was therefore most appropriate that people should be reminded of the requirements of God who had so wonderfully blessed them.
The provisions of Deut. chapter 31 were certainly put into practice in Neh. chapter 8. Nehemiah travelled to Jerusalem in BC 445, ninety-one years after Zerububbel led the first group of exiles back from Babylon in BC 536, at which time the children of Israel "kept also the feast of tabernacles" Ezra 3.4. The intervening period is exactly thirteen periods of seven years, so we can conclude that they had got it exactly right!
b) Where the Law was to be Read, v.11
"When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place that He shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing". The "place that He shall choose" is dealt with extensively in Deut. chapter12, and in this connection we noted that the ‘place of the name’ today is the local assembly, of which the Lord Jesus said, "where two or three are gathered together in (‘unto’, JND) My name, there am I in the midst of them" Matt.18.20. Over this verse (v.11 above) we could write Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, "Give attendance to reading" 1Tim.4.13. Whilst the word 'anagnosis' can refer to private or public reading, the context shows that Paul is referring here to public reading, and it is significant that in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), exactly the same word is used in Neh.8.8, "caused them to understand the reading". The public reading of the Word of God is most important. The Scriptures should be read at every assembly meeting. They should be read carefully and clearly. C.H.Mackinosh, writing in the nineteenth century, saw increasing danger: "There is a growing thirst for religious excitement, and a growing distaste for the calm study of Holy Scripture and the spiritual exercises of the Christian assembly. It is perfectly useless to deny it. We cannot shut our eyes to it. The evidence of it meets us on every hand". The "growing thirst" has become an ‘insatiable desire’ today. But C.H.Mackintosh does continue: "Thank God, there are a few here and there, who really love the Word of God, and delight to meet, in holy fellowship, for the study of its precious truths. May the Lord increase the number of such, and bless them abundantly. May our lot be cast with them "till travelling days are done".
We will consider c) to Whom the Law was to be Read, v.12 and d) Why the Law was to be Read, vv.12-13, together with the balance of the chapter, in our next paper, God willing.
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
By Dr. W. J. Matthews
Among the many perplexing questions and worries of this life there is none which can be compared for importance with the great twofold question: Can one be saved and know it? A man may be mistaken about many things and not suffer serious loss thereby, but if he makes a mistake regarding his soul’s salvation it will prove a fatal loss for eternity. "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul," Mk.8.36.
Life with all its cares and worries passes on, and all get through, some one way, some another; but death does not end all, for if a man dies in his sins, judgment follows. "As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment," Heb.9.27.
That this momentous question is of interest to all is clear from the fact that every one at times has serious thoughts about eternity, and most have them from an early period in life. The cause of this is that the Holy Spirit is in the world to convince men of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, Jn.16.8.
But in most cases these strivings of the Spirit are allowed to pass away, until the heart becomes hardened and the conscience deadened, through worldly pleasure, evil companionship, earthly cares, and many such things. And besides this, "the god of this world (the devil) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them," 2Cor.4.4, so that many people come to think that it is impossible for a man to be saved and know it in this life. Alas! this is the lamentable condition of multitudes, who finally settle down at ease, without further thought about the matter until they awake up in eternity. Then the judgment! Reader, pause and ask yourself the question, "How will it be with me in that awful day?" In the parable of the judgment of the nations we read, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal," Matt.25.46. and in 2Thess.1.7,8,9, we are warned that "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power."
But it is not the will of God that men should perish thus, for He has provided salvation for all, as it is written, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared," Tit.2.11, (margin) and again, "Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth; for there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all," 1Tim.2.4-6. and to this end "He appeared, to put away sin by the Sacrifice of Himself," Heb.9.26. Moreover, it is said "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself," 2Cor.v.19. "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," Jn.3.16. And the apostle Paul says, "Who loved me and gave Himself for me," Gal.2.20.
Many other Scriptures might be cited to shew that God willeth the salvation of all men, and that none need perish. But each individual is responsible to receive it for himself, and thus make it his own, by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross.
We would emphasise this fact, that salvation is a free gift from God, appropriated by faith alone. "For by Grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of words, lest any man should boast," Eph.2.8.9. Notwithstanding this, the idea is common amongst men that the anxious soul must feel something before he is saved. By no means! Salvation is not received by some inward feeling, but by faith alone; that is, by simply resting on Christ and His finished work. Do nothing, feel nothing, but trust in Christ. When the jailor at Philippi fell down before Paul and Silas and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the Word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." That same night he was saved and the Word of the Lord gave him the assurance of it, for it is written, "he rejoiced believing in God with all his house," Acts 16.31-34. And the apostle John says, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that he have eternal life," 1Jn.5.13.
But the question is sometimes asked, "Is it not possible for one to be saved without knowing it?" Now seeing that regeneration and conversion to God are the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul, and that "He witnesseth with our spirit, that we are children of God," Rom.8.16, and that "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are become new," 2Cor.5.17, we cannot understand how this work of the Holy Spirit, both inward and outward, can take place without one knowing it.
The change is described as being brought "out of darkness into His marvellous light," 1Pet.2.9, as a deliverance from the power of darkness, and a translation into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, Col.1.13. And this is only the beginning of the new life received, for the soul now grows in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2Pet.3.18.
On the other hand, where regeneration has not taken place, there can be no growth in grace, because there is no spiritual life — the individual is still "dead in trespasses and sins," Eph.2.1.
It is, however, to be feared that many profess conversion under the influence of excitement at evangelistic meetings, who have not received Christ at all, and this danger is enhanced by the superficial gospel which is sometimes preached, and which is calculated to lead to a mere profession of faith, where there has been no conviction of sin, and no preparation of heart to receive Christ; all of which can only deceive the soul, and "the last state of that man is worse than the first," Lk.11.26. As the apostle Peter says, "It is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire," 2Pet.2.22.
In conclusion, the writer bears testimony to the saving power of the gospel of Christ in his own experience, for a period of quite half a century, since he trusted the Lord Jesus Christ by believing His Word, "Verily Verily I say unto you, he that heareth My Word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life," Jn.5.24.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have hope. This hope, imparted at conversion and empowered by the Holy Spirit, enables us to rely on the promises of God and to live our lives in the light of future events. But we also have hopes – glorious events that we look forward to, and for which we eagerly wait. To list these hopes is a lengthy exercise, to rank them an impossible, not to say pointless, one. In any discussion of the believer’s hopes, the Rapture is likely to come quickly to mind, not because it is the greatest or most important of our hopes, but because it is the most immediate. This is a unique feature of this event – it awaits the fulfilment of no prophecy, the accomplishment of no historical milestone. It is imminent. It could occur at any moment.
Christ’s return to the air to take His own from the earth is exclusively a truth of the New Testament. And, of all the books of the New Testament, it is 1 Thessalonians that refers to it most often and in the greatest detail. The Rapture, indeed, appears in every chapter of this epistle but it is chapter 4 that most fully unfolds to us the lightning-swift sequence of events that, collectively, we term the Rapture: "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" vv.16-17.
There are three important subjects in these verses – the Saviour, the summons, and the saints. It is precious to notice that the Lord is mentioned at the beginning and end of this passage. He Himself commences it as He comes to the air to call and to claim His own, snatching them away. But if He is the beginning of the Rapture, He is also its end – the whole point of the event is to unite us with Him – "and so shall we ever be with the Lord". It is this truth that thrills us. Sometimes we are guilty of over-preoccupation with the event, debating the mechanics of the Rapture. Would that the Saviour, and not the spectacular, was at the heart of our expectation – we look not for an event, but a Person, not an "it" but "Him". Notice too that He is the Lord – when we obey His summoning trumpet and His gathering shout, we will be obeying the One who has the claims of Lordship upon all that we are.
The verses also outline a threefold summons – the "shout", the "voice of the archangel", and "the trump of God". Each element of this glorious summons speaks of His authority, whether over death, the powers of the air, or His own. The summons is irresistible, the way is clear, and His saints obey. Not only will they be unique in responding, they will be unique in hearing. The summoning trumpet of the Roman military camp was full of significance to the legionaries, demanding and receiving their immediate obedience. That same trumpet was meaningless to those who were not enlisted, over whom it had no authority. So the summons that wrenches us from earth to the presence of our Lord will be disregarded and unheard by those who owe Him no allegiance.
Finally, the verses speak of the saints. From every age and every part they will gather to be with Himself. The infinite authority of the divine summons will transport saints from prisons and torture chambers. It will rip believers from an entangling world, and it will reach into the tombs of centuries, raising those who are "dead in Christ". The church will be united, for the first time, since Pentecost: the unity that has existed all along finally revealed as we gather to our Saviour and go in, to go out no more.
Blessed morning! Long expected,
Lo! They fill the peopled air,
Mourners once by man rejected,
They, with Him, exalted there,
Sing His praises,
And His throne of glory share.
In considering this glorious event, we have a tendency to think what it will mean for us, and there is nothing unscriptural in that – these hopes are intended to encourage and enliven God’s people. However, it is precious to reflect not only on what the Rapture means to us, but on what it means to Christ. For, it is clear, however fervently we may wish for this event to take place, the Saviour’s desire for it, and for us, is greater still.
We can profitably note that the Rapture is -
The Answer to Christ’s Prayer
It is dangerous, and not a little foolish, to claim that any passage of Scripture has outstanding importance – all the Word of God is necessary, precious, and sacred. Nonetheless, we cannot help but feel, as we come to John chapter 17, that we stand on exceptionally holy ground. In the very shadows of Calvary, we are privileged to hear the Lord Jesus pray, and are given a most precious insight into His desires for His own. He asks many wonderful things for His people: among them these lovely words: "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" v.24. There may be a partial fulfilment of this when a believer is called home, and is "absent from the body", and "present with the Lord" 2Cor.5.8. But Christ’s prayer, encompassing all the redeemed of this age, has yet to be answered. Almost two millennia have passed since the request was made. However, delay is not denial, and the prayer of Christ for His own will be answered when all that have been given to Him "shall see Him as He is" 1Jn.3.2.
The Accomplishment of Christ’s Promise
A little earlier that Passover evening, dark clouds were already beginning to gather. The betrayer had gone forth, and Peter’s denial had been prophesied. In this atmosphere of darkness and seeming defeat – the very hour of the power of darkness – the Saviour gave His disciples a bright word of comfort, and a promise: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" Jn.14.1-3. In the circumstances, it was understandable that the disciples should focus more on His going. Nevertheless for us, it is the fact of His coming – immediate, imminent, and eagerly awaited – that shines most brightly in these verses. He has promised, and the words of confidence that Naomi spoke about Boaz’s promise are even more appropriate to our heavenly Boaz: He "will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day" Ruth 3.18.
The Acquiring of Christ’s Purchase
We who are saved are "redeemed with the precious blood of Christ" 1Pet.1.19. Christ’s work was not a down payment. The price of our redemption was fully paid at Calvary; however, our redemption itself is not complete. Ephesians reminds us that we have been "sealed with the Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" Eph.1.13-4. Indeed, it is this very truth that Paul turns to in Romans chapter 8 to illustrate the fact that hope looks forward to the accomplishment of divine promises. In that passage, we are seen as those "which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope" vv.23-24. The price has been completely paid. The purchase has been sealed, marked as Christ’s, but the moment is still to come when He will claim His purchase, and finally acquire that which He prized so highly that "He sold all that He had and bought it" Matt.13.46.
Anticipation of Christ’s People
The Rapture is the longing of our Lord, answering His prayer, fulfilling His promise, and finalising His purchase. But what does it mean for us? Is it possible that we become blinded to the hope of Christ’s return, distracted by the daily realities of our lives? Is the event that is so eagerly anticipated by our Redeemer a matter of indifference to us? May God help us to emulate the believers of Thessalonica who so beautifully combined activity and anticipation: "ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" 1Thess.1.9-10. May this glorious expectation energise our service as we cry "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" Rev.22.20.
In the first article we noticed three important matters about Moses’ parents. These were as follows and we dealt with the first two, so in this paper the third is considered.
Their Baby Boy.
Their Buoyant Faith.
Their Buoyant Faith
Amram and Jochebed’s faith had a power that led them to hide their baby son for three months, despite the awful threat of the Egyptian command that hung over their heads Ex.2.2; Acts.7.20; Heb.11.23. The command had been that every baby boy should be killed and cast into the river, the river of death! It was like the proverbial sword of Damocles, the sword of death hanging over the head of Moses! Moses was "born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months" Acts.7.20, with all the care, love and devotion that loving parents would bestow on their offspring. When they could hide him no longer, they decided to commit him to the river of death in an ark of bulrushes, fully believing that God was able to deliver their baby son from certain death. We see the parents' trust, hope, courage and faith in Jehovah, the Living God of Israel. What a challenge to us as parents and grandparents today, often faced with difficulties respecting our offspring! What do we do, who do we turn to when faced with the forces of the foe, with the sword of Satan himself, with the onslaughts of the opposer, when our children and grandchildren come under his fierce attacks. The Lord help us to emulate the faith, the trust of an Amram and a Jochebed. To really believe and own that God "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" Eph.3.20.
Amram and Jochebed’s faith enabled them to see a prospect and a potential in their baby son. He was "a goodly child" Ex.2.2, "exceeding fair" Acts.7.20 [Fair in the sight of Jehovah], "a proper child" Heb.11.23 [goodly, beautiful, comely, no ordinary child]. Amram and Jochebed not only saw the physical attractiveness of Moses, but more importantly, they saw in him future spiritual usefulness for God to become the deliverer of the people of God from Egyptian bondage. This again presents a challenge to us as parents and even grandparents today. While we acknowledge that grace does not run in the blood, do we see in our children or grandchildren potential for God to be used in His service for the "people of God" and for the "glory of God", in keeping with the meaning of the names of Amram and Jochebed? What an over-joyous thing it must have been for Jochebed when Miriam came to call her and when Pharaoh’s daughter said, "Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it" Ex.2.9. How, as a God-fearing and devoted mother, she must have spent all the time she could find as Moses grew and developed, to teach, train and tutor him in the knowledge of Jehovah, the promises of the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the preservation of their forefathers under Joseph’s wise and prudent administration in Egypt until, after the death of Joseph, things turned for the worst. They were now in bondage with the burdens growing greater by the day and they were looking to Jehovah for a deliverer! May every mother and grandmother have the fearlessness of the midwives and the faith of a Jochebed to rear children and grandchildren "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" Eph.6.4, with the help of husbands and grandfathers. The biblical injunction "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" Prov.22.6, is as relevant and real today as it was in the days of Solomon.
Parental training and guidance is a God-given responsibility. The onus rests upon Christian parents to ensure that children are brought up in accordance with what is proper for their development, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. It is always a very healthy practice for children from a tender age to be brought to the assembly meetings so that they are brought under the influence and impact of a spiritual environment. As they grow and develop and reach the age of understanding, they come under the sound of the gospel and the teaching ministry of God’s Word. Many have proven by experience that not only do children begin to develop physically, mentally and emotionally, but also morally and spiritually as they are taught Scriptural principles and godly, christian practices which will stand them in good stead. And while they are growing and developing in this way, parents continue to pray that they might be saved, baptised and be added to the assembly fellowship.
Amram and Jochebed’s faith was unmoved by the politics of Egypt. "They were not afraid of the king’s commandment" Heb.11.23. They did not fight against it, but they were not afraid of it. Therein lies the difference. "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe" Prov.29.25 and again, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" Prov.1.7. As believers we are not called upon to engage and embroil ourselves in the politics and the political machinations of this world and its systems, but we are enjoined to pray for those in government, "For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" 1Tim.2.2-4. "For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" Phil.3.20, and even when we see government legislation and political expediency going against the grain of good governance and that which should be God-honouring, it should move us to pray more earnestly and perseveringly and keep us looking upward and forward toward the bright prospect of the soon and near return of our Saviour Who will rule and reign in righteousness and equity! No Christian believer should resort to public demonstrations in the form of industrial strikes, political marches and the like against the powers that be - all of which usually ends up in violence, destruction of property and damage in one way or another. Political posturing and picketing is not the Christian’s mandate. We have the power of prayer and the Potentate of potentates on our side and to Whom we can turn! Rom.13.1-2 is very clear, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation". See also Tit.3.1 and 1Pet.2.13. Thus our ‘politics’ is the politics of prayer and not public demonstrations!
So, as the faith of Moses’ parents is unfolded to us, we can only say, simple folks but what sublime faith! What a challenge to all of us in today’s world.
It is not without reason that Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. His tears were those of a man of God who was in close communion with God; a man devoted to the honour of God and to the prosperity of the people of God. His heart was broken because God has been dishonoured and because the people had been robbed of their wealth and blessing, the result of their evil ways and the sore discipline of God upon them.
The spirit of Jeremiah is again seen in the apostle Paul of whose tears we read again and again. Perhaps we have forgotten how to weep before God because we are not in close communion with Him. In Acts 20.19 Paul’s tears were the result of his deep exercise in relation to the service of God, "serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears". In Acts 20.31 they were the result of his awareness of the dangers from without and within to which the assembly at Ephesus was exposed, "I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears." In 2 Cor.2.4 his tears were the result of grave disorders in the assembly at Corinth, "out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears". Things at Corinth were at a very low ebb spiritually but instead of mourning they were puffed up, 1 Cor.5.2. They were carnal and insensitive to the dishonour done to the name of God and to the public disgrace that had been brought to Christ. What a dreadful blight had been brought upon the public testimony of the Lord entrusted to them, yet they seemed indifferent and unaware of their true condition and so failed to mourn. However, Paul wept because he was in fellowship with God.
When there are low spiritual conditions or unscriptural practices amongst the people of God the godly weep in the presence of God and cry to Him for an increase of spiritual desire in the saints for the glory of God. This shows that the godly, at least, are in fellowship with God.
Jeremiah was a man of that character, in his heart the honour of God’s name and the richest blessing of the people of God were paramount. The testimony of God was precious in the heart of Jeremiah and so it ought to be in our hearts.
In Lamentations chapter 4 there are seven things that bowed Jeremiah before God with a heavy and burdened heart causing him deep exercise and tears. The counterparts of these can be seen today as elucidated as follows.
V.1 – The Loss of Divine Order and Unity
Jeremiah speaks of "the stones of the sanctuary poured out in the top of every street." Those precious stones of the sanctuary that ought to have been built together to form the habitation of God were now dispersed throughout the city. The house of God was devastated, the temple of God lay in ruins and the stones were scattered. That was the very opposite to what ought to have been. It was not what God had intended. Peter allows us to apply this: "ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house" 1Pet.2.5. We know that the Church dispensational is the Spiritual House but the local assembly is this character, "ye are God’s building", "ye are the temple of God" 1 Cor.3.9,16. Believers, as living stones, built together in the locality to form a habitation of God in the power of the Spirit of God. The mind of God is that all saints in locality be joined, built together in a spiritual harmony to form a dwelling place for Him and to bear a collective testimony to all the truth of God for His glory. The divine order is that of oneness, harmony, being "of one heart and of one soul" Acts 4.32, "standing fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel" Phil.1.27. God intends every believer in the assembly to live in the power of the essential oneness of life eternal into which the amazing grace of God has brought us. Each believer in the assembly is essential to the rest and all ought to appreciate the solemn responsibility of bearing a faithful and collective testimony to all the truth of God in the locality. How dreadful to see disharmony, division and strife in any local assembly. Instead of being built together, being scattered by carnality, self-will, bitterness, materialism or worldliness. How we should mourn and weep because of this kind of condition that is with us today – the loss of divine order and unity. We need to guard against such a loss.
VV. 1-2 – The Loss of Spiritual Values
"How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!", "the precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!" The loss of divine order and unity inevitably led to the loss of spiritual values which in turn lead to the loss of testimony. "They are esteemed as earthen pitchers." Clearly what is in view is the estimation of onlookers, it is a matter of testimony. The local assembly cannot be torn by strife and marred by carnality without the loss of spiritual values and without a corresponding loss of spiritual power and effectiveness in testimony for God. Why are so many assemblies weak? Why is there no effectiveness in testimony? Why are assemblies diminishing in certain areas? The answer may well be because the loss of divine order and the loss of spiritual values. The value of spiritual development and godly deportment. The value of maintaining a harmonious collective testimony to all the truth of God for His pleasure and glory. In 1 Cor.12.25 we read, "there should be no schism [division] in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another." With such a clear, plain, emphatic and simple statement how can any believer think that strife and division are desirable? The assembly of Corinth was gold but it had become dim because of the loss of spiritual values. They were the kind of Christians the world could tolerate or even admire, 1 Cor.4.8. They were right positionally but not conditionally. We know that it is better to be dim gold than shining brass, but gold was never intended to be dim. Oh that assemblies were shining gold bearing a pure and clear testimony to the truth and character of God. We must not allow the world or surrounding conditions affect our appreciation of divine truth and rob us of the value of spiritual things. The loss of spiritual values should cause us to weep before God and long for a return to those values set out in the Word of God.
V.3 – The Loss of Spiritual Affection
"Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones; the daughter of My people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness." The creatures were marked by a care for their own and therefore provided nourishment for them at expense to themselves but that wasn’t true of the people of God in Jeremiah’s day. Is this true in the day in which we live? The greatest need today is for priestly men who spend time in the sanctuary in communion with God and who carry the saints upon their hearts. Men who carry upon their hearts in the presence of God the burden of the care of God’s people. Men who are like mothers, who at cost to themselves obtain food to feed the saints, "we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children" 1 Thess.2.7. There is a great need for men who will shepherd the flock. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood [or the blood of His own]" Acts 20.28. "His own" is emphatic and emphasises the preciousness of the local assembly to the heart of God. That which is precious to His heart He has committed into the hands of men, elders who are responsible to provide food for the flock. The Lord is not indifferent to the welfare of the assembly in their hands and thus the need for faithfulness. Priestly men who carry the saints upon their hearts and intercede on their behalf are like Christ our great High Priest and Intercessor. We need men who, because of their love to saints and because of devotion to Christ, will live for the spiritual well-being of all. Men with affection who will maintain things for God and seek to nourish the saints. How we ought to mourn the loss of spiritual affection amongst the assemblies.
This beautiful Psalm is full of praise, delight and happiness. It is concerned with a royal wedding, but we do not know which. It could have been, for instance, the marriage of Hezekiah to Hephzibah, 2Kgs.20.21; 21.1, or the marriage of Solomon to Pharaoh’s daughter, 1Kgs.3.1. Whichever marriage is in view, believers will see that a "greater than Solomon is here", Matt.12.42, and that this is a Messianic Psalm. Vv.6,7 of the Psalm are quoted in Heb.1.8,9 and they are applied to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The pen of a ready writer - v.1
Whoever the human writer might have been, the words of the Psalm were inspired by the Holy Spirit, 2Tim.3.16; 2Pet.1.21, Who delights to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, Jn.15.26; 16.13,14. The writer’s heart was full of praise and love for the One of Whom he wrote, v.1, and "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" Matt.12.34. He wanted to use his pen to tell of the manifold beauties of the King, His Bride, and the glorious events which will take place in the future.
Thy throne O God - vv.2-9
The Lord Jesus Christ is supremely beautiful in every aspect of His being. In every way He is "fairer than the children of men" v.2. He is "altogether lovely" S of S. 5.16. All His attributes and characteristics are eternal, constant and beautifully balanced. No one could ever speak with such authority and grace and He is blessed by God eternally, v.2; Jn. 7.46; Lk. 4.22.
The Lord is possessed of moral glory which is absolute, infinite and unsurpassable. He is holy, Lk. 1.35; Acts 2.27, and "full of grace and truth" Jn.1.14. The psalmist writes of the Lord’s official glory as King. He is "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" Rev.19.16. We learn in vv.3-7 that the Lord is a warrior, and the Spirit brings before us thoughts of rule, majesty, dominion, authority and power, speaking of His sword, His throne, His sceptre and His anointing with "the oil of gladness above thy fellows". In His incarnation He was like us, His "fellows", in every way apart from sin, Heb.2.16.17; Phil.2.6-8; Jn.1.14 (RV); Heb.4.15. He is incapable of sinning, 2Cor.5.21; 1Pet. 2.22; 1Jn.3.5. He, the holy, mighty One Who is righteous, will ride gloriously and majestically and will prosper, always pursuing truth, meekness and righteousness. After "the marriage supper of the Lamb" Rev.19.9, the Lord will come to defeat His enemies and reign eternally, Rev.19.11-21. None will be able to oppose Him. He will establish an eternal kingdom, 2Pet.1.11, and He will rule righteously and equitably as Prophet, Deut.18.18; Priest, Ps.110.4; Zech.6.13, and King, v.1.
The Lord was possessed of holy Humanity, but never ceased to be what He is eternally and that is God, Jn.1.14 (RV); 1Tim.3.16; Matt.1.23. His divine glory is brought before us in v.6 where we have a clear, unequivocal statement of the Lord’s deity for God addresses His Son as "God". There are other places in the Scriptures where the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as God, Isa.9.6; Jn.1.1; 20.28; Rom.9.5; Tit.2.13; 1Jn. 5.20. V.6, together with v.7, is quoted in the New Testament where we read "unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy Kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" Heb.1.8,9.
The Lord has a mediatorial glory. He is the "one mediator between God and men" 1Tim.2.5. He left the "ivory palaces", v.8, of heaven to come down to this earth where He was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" Isa.53.3. He came to glorify His Father, Jn.17.1, Whom He loved, Jn.14.31, and to make possible our salvation, Lk.19.10; 1Tim.1.15.
When the Lord was on this earth His life rose to His father like a sweet swelling savour. Every aspect of His being and work was fragrant. God anointed Him with the "oil of gladness". Myrrh, aloes and cassia, which are mentioned in v.8, are fragrant. Myrrh and cassia are two of the spices that went into the oil used to anoint Aaron and his sons. The Israelites were not allowed to use this oil in their own perfumes, Ex.30.22-33. Myrrh would speak of beauty and sweetness, aloes of bitterness and cassia of healing. Myrrh was one of the gifts presented to the Lord by the wise men, Matt.2.11, and myrrh and aloes were brought by Nicodemus at His death, Jn.19.39.
In the ivory palaces the music of stringed instruments made Him glad, v.8, R.V., and when He leaves again to reign, the queen will stand at His right hand "in gold of Ophir" v.9. Some believe the queen to be redeemed Israel which will be attended by representatives of Gentile nations. Others see the queen, as being the Bride, the church, and this might well be the case. There is a glorious future ahead in the millennium and in eternity for both Israel and the church.
Worship thou Him - vv.10-15
The queen is instructed to consider, to forget her own people and her father’s house. She is told to break completely with her life before she was redeemed. She is to be totally dedicated to her royal bridegroom, the King, v.10. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Saviour and Lord of all believers. He should be Lord of every aspect of our lives, and our love, obedience and loyalty to Him should cause all other duties and concerns to be subordinated to His service, Lk.14.26; Phil.3.8; Matt.10.37.
In the garden of Eden, sin brought discord between Adam and Eve, Gen.3.12,13, but the bride spoken of in Psalm 45 will love, respect, obey and worship the King, her Lord, v.11. It will be an eternal union of mutual love.
In the millennium, Gentile nations, represented by "the daughter of Tyre", will bring gifts to Jerusalem, v.12, when they come to learn of the Lord, Zech.8.22,23, and worship Him. Tyre was a city famous for its commerce and wealth.
The "king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework" vv.13,14. The Lord "loved the church, and gave Himself for it" Eph.5,25. The church is pure "within" for the Lord has sacrificed the church and cleansed it "with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" Eph.5.26,27.
In Revelation chapter 19 we read of gladness and rejoicing, "for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready" Rev.19.7. The Bride is seen as clothed in "fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" Rev. 19.8. As believers grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him and are obedient to Him then they shall do those "good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" Eph.2.10. These righteous deeds glorify God and form the wedding garment of the Bride. Righteousness and true happiness are inseparable and there will be great gladness and rejoicing as the Bride, attired in her glorious wedding garment, enters the King’s palace attended by her virgin companions, possibly the Jewish remnant, vv.14,15.
Praise for ever and ever - vv.16,17
God now addresses His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the King. Eternal joy and everlasting bliss will be experienced by the Lord Jesus Christ and those He has redeemed. On the cross, He shed His precious blood, 1Pet.1.18,19; Heb.9.22, which cleanses us from all sin, 1Jn.1.7. The completed work of the Lord on the cross, is the basis of salvation not only of "thy fathers", the patriarchs, but also of "thy children" v.16. His "children" Heb. 2.13, His "seed" Isa.53.10, will serve Him in the Kingdom, v.16, and His people will rejoice and praise Him eternally, v.17.
Ecclesiastes chapter 11 contains two verses that speak of sowing. The first is v4, "He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." This reminds us of the danger of not sowing and therefore of not reaping either! An unhealthy interest in external circumstances, in this case wind and clouds, will cause the work to be left undone with the consequent lack of harvest.
Spiritually this can be a lesson for us, who are encouraged to sow the good seed of the Word of God, see Ps.126.5, 6. External circumstances can be discouraging and difficult but we need to look beyond such and see the Lord of the harvest, lest we become immersed in the problems surrounding the work and thus find ourselves disheartened and depressed. In such a state we can lose our desire for souls and our sense of indebtedness and responsibility to the Lord as His servants.
The second verse is v6, "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." This should stimulate us, whether at the beginning or nearing the end of life’s opportunities, we are exhorted, yes commanded, to sow the seed. It is interesting to note that we are told that we do not know which is the best time to sow and which will prosper, whether all or some. May we encourage young believers to start sowing now, in the morning of Christian experience? Do not find excuses such as lack of knowledge, experience or even of time. Since you are the Lord’s, He can use you and may encourage you by seeing fruit for this labour early in life. If this is blessedly so, it is no excuse in later years to look back and take early retirement from His work. As you continue to the evening of life’s experience, it may please the Lord to bless again your labours and "both" may "be alike good."
Perhaps you have laboured for many years and have seen no outward evidence of blessing. Do not give up. The word is that we do not know which of either the early or late service shall prosper but we know some of it "SHALL prosper". There is no reason to cease seeking to sow the seed, indeed encouragement to continue is found in these verses.
The prosperity or increase of the seed sown is in the hand of the Lord, see v5. May we learn to trust Him through our lifetime of service and ensure that all we do is for our Saviour’s glory and the blessing of others.
It is amazing how prices change. Many U.K. readers will remember the old currency of pounds, shillings and pence, when there were 12 pence to the shilling and twenty shillings to the pound. Half a crown (12.5p) would have gone a long way and a big white five-pound note was a king’s ransom! Decimalisation dispensed with that and many would argue, led to a great price increase.
Also the cost of houses, cars and even normal, every day commodities, seems to soar. Trying to keep up with this has engendered in people a great desire for riches and this keeps the gambling industry going. Why the big interest in riches? We are told all our worries would be over. People swallow all this despite the evidence showing the opposite. Many movie and sports stars with their millions of money seem to be unhappy people. With all their riches they leave behind a trail of broken marriages, deserted children and some have a suicidal end. Supposing you won the lottery! What then? A big car, a mansion with a swimming pool, a villa in the sun, a yacht and so on. But what then? Some day it must all be left behind and what then?
There is only one thing that does not change in value and that is the human soul. The Lord Jesus Christ said, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark 8.36. Your soul, the real person, is of more value than the entire world. The reason is simple yet most solemn, it will never cease to exist and is your most precious possession. Dear reader, you have a one-way ticket to eternity and you are not coming back. The big question is, "What is after death?"
There are but two places, heaven and hell and you have the choice. I think every sane person would say, "I don’t want to be in hell, I want to be in heaven." But how can I get there and how can I be sure? If my soul is so precious then it will take a tremendous price to buy a place in heaven for all eternity.
There is no possibility of materialistic wealth on earth buying a ‘heavenly plot’. The cost of our redemption is extremely valuable, so much so that it is recorded, "the redemption of their soul is precious" and because of this "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." Psalm 49.7,8. There is only thing that can equate to the value of the soul and purchase its redemption. Here is what the apostle Peter wrote, "ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" 1Peter 1.18,19. Peter is highlighting an illustration that may be found in Exodus chapter 12. The Lamb is identified in John 1.29, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." He, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, went to the cross of Calvary where He was crucified and He shed His precious blood and died so that we may be saved. The apostle John wrote, "...the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" 1John 1.7.
When the saved all reach heaven they shall sing one great song. They will not be singing of church, chapel, mission hall, gospel hall; nor will they be boasting of their religion, their good works or their ordinances. What is their song? "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" Revelation 5.9.
It is His blood alone that can redeem us and give us the assurance of a place in heaven. This alone is the vast, mighty, incalculable, price that will atone for our sins. The moment you trust Him with your soul, the value of His precious blood will be put to your account and you can be sure of heaven for all eternity. How rich are you for eternity?