It has been stated that in Old Testament times children were named whereas in our day they are labelled! This sentiment highlights the fact that in a past day children were given a name that perhaps indicated the ambition of the parents for their children, or the parents’ relationship with God, or sometimes celebrated an outstanding family or national event. In the early chapters of 1 Chronicles there are long lists of names and it is likely that many readers skip these chapters, finding them boring to read. Yet, as we appreciate that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Tim.3.16, we ought not to lightly esteem any part of it.
In 1Chronicles chapter 3 the sons of David are listed and in v.23 it is recorded, “and the sons of Neariah; Elioenai, and Hezekiah, and Azrikam, three”. The name of the father is Neariah, which means, “servant of Jehovah”. This is a title that ought to describe every believer. To be His servant is not optional because “… ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body …” 1Cor.6.19,20. The wondrous price of the redeeming blood of our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased us and every member of our physical body should be used for His glory. We are reminded, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God … But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” Rom.6.13,22.
It may be stated naturally and with some justification, that this not an easy way to live. Where do we get the power to live as His servant? The first son of Neariah is Elioenai, which means, “unto Jehovah are my eyes”. How beautifully true. The Psalmist states, “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; So our eyes wait upon the LORD our God...” Ps.123.2. If we keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him, looking for guidance and grace, then we will be able to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” Heb.12.28.
The more we delight in Him the more strength we will have to serve Him and that is the next son, Hezekiah, which means "Jehovah is my strength". In His service all human strength will fail and we must learn the flesh is of no avail. Our Lord said, “without Me ye can do nothing” Jn.15.5. Paul learned, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” Phil.4.13. There are those in our day who seek to cover their spiritual powerlessness by introducing all kinds of modern innovations, until the service of the Lord loses its dignity and is reduced to the level of entertainment. Oh for a return to the principle of doing God’s work in God’s way and then we will experience God’s strength.
Will this kind of service work? Will we see success against the enemy? The third son is Azrikam, meaning, "help against the enemy". It is only as we serve Him in a Scriptural and God-honouring manner that we will get help to conquer the enemy. God has provided all we require to be victorious. The twofold reference to His armour in Ephesians chapter 6 is worthy of note: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil ... Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” vv.11,13.
May the Lord enable us to serve Him with our eyes fixed upon Him and enjoying His strength as we live victoriously. As a result, when He returns shortly for His own, we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” Matt.25.23.
2011 – another year closer to the Lord’s return! For many readers of “Assembly Testimony” the year now past has been marked by change, both joyful and otherwise. It has been our common experience to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” Rom.12.15.
We have experienced God’s continual goodness during 2010. Some have experienced blessing in their family and in assembly life. For every soul saved and for every evidence of spiritual progress, we give God thanks. Preservation in personal and collective testimony is also a cause for gratitude. So also for every milestone in life marked by God’s blessing.
But we do not forget those who have suffered loss in the year that is past – of bereavement, of physical and mental ill-health, or loss of employment. And we are conscious that this magazine is read by believers in lands that have experienced earthquakes, floods and famine in the previous 12 months. Some saints have experienced persecution of varying degrees of severity.
The Committee of “Assembly Testimony” is encouraged by correspondence from many lands expressing gratitude for the magazine. Some believers and assemblies are in remote locations and, therefore, have even more cause to appreciate written ministry. And to those dear saints in eventide homes and hospitals we extend special greetings.
Although no thanks has been sought, it is incumbent to acknowledge the contribution of so many to the continuation of the “Assembly Testimony” magazine. Those who supply material for publication are very conscious of the “wood offering” aspect of preparation – labour, cutting and arranging to be fit for presentation to the Lord and for the edification of His people. Thanks is also due to our editor for that unseen, yet vital, ministry that requires meticulous care and attention to detail.
All Committee members have active engagement in respect of the magazine and related books, sharing responsibility for distribution, proof-reading, correspondence and accounts. The contribution of those whose names do not appear in the inside cover of the magazine but who assist in proof-reading the text of the books, maintaining the web-site, and helping in other ways, have an equally vital role.
Our appreciation is also expressed to our Accountant for auditing the accounts and for his sage advice. And it would be remiss not to acknowledge our indebtedness to Mooney Media, Banbridge, for all their continued assistance in relation to printing the magazine with timely regularity. The valued assistance of Impression Print in the publication of “My Conversion and Call” is also acknowledged with gratitude.
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” 2Thess.3.1.
We have already noted that 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 then made preparation for his departure. This is covered in chapters 31-34, which 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.
In his inimitable way, C.H.Mackintosh points out that "It is full of interest and comfort to find that the last words of the lawgiver were words of unmingled blessing…We have meditated upon the marvellous song, with its mingled notes of grace and government: but we are now called to hearken to words of most precious benediction, words of sweetest comfort and consolation, words flowing from the very heart of the God of Israel and giving His own loving thoughts respecting them, and His onlook into their glorious future." It would be difficult to find a better introduction to the chapter than that!
Raymond Brown points out that "Moses' final words in these concluding chapters are so superbly balanced. The song in chapter 32 is intentionally severe as it emphasises its stark truth with reiterated warnings. The message in chapter 33 is more personal, expounded with warmth and compassionate understanding. Both aspects are necessary; it is not always easy for God’s messengers to maintain the necessary balance." Chapter 33 may be divided as follows:
the Lord’s past care for them, vv.1-5
the Lord’s present purpose for them, vv.6-25
the Lord’s future blessing upon them, vv.26-29
THE LORD’S PAST CARE FOR THEM, vv.1-5
Israel was about to cross the Jordan and claim their God-given inheritance. It was not a case of negotiating the river and then fanning out to colonise the land at leisure. Possession of Canaan required a determined campaign against strong opposition, and for all the people knew, nothing had changed since their spies reconnoitred the land some forty years previously - see Num.13.28. Moreover the man who had led them for those forty years was about to leave them. In human terms, the future looked rather uncertain. Moses therefore calls upon the people to remember the Lord’s power and provision for them in the past. Raymond Brown puts it like this: "At a time when the natural preoccupation of the tribes was to look ahead to a threatening future, here is a deliberate act of ‘looking back’ to a treasured past." Moses brief review of past events centres on the unchanging God, of Whom he is later to say, "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" v.27. Israel would cross the Jordan without Moses, but they would not embark on the journey without God.
The blessing of Moses, "the man of God" v.1, therefore commences by calling upon the entire nation to remember how the Lord led them, v.2, and how the Lord loved them, vv.3-5. Moses is the first to be called "the man of God". Compare, for example, 1Sam.9.6; 1Kgs.12: 22; 1Kgs.17.18; 2Kgs.4.7; Jer.35.1; 1Tim.6.11.
How The Lord Led Them, v.2
"And he said, The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints: from His right hand went a fiery law for them". We should notice at least three things here:
The places to which He took them. Sinai, Seir and Paran all play a significant part in Israel’s history.
Sinai - It was at Sinai that the Lord said, "Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people", to which "all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" Ex.19.5-7. It was there that "Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God" Ex.19.17, and it was there that the commandments, Ex.20.1-17 and the "judgments", Ex.21.1, were given. But that was not all. The words, "The Lord came from Sinai", indicate that having given them His word, He went with them on the journey. While believers today "are not come unto the mount that might be touched" Heb.12.18, they are none the less in relationship with God, subject to His Word, and in the enjoyment of His presence.
Seir - It is not without significance that we are told "There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea" Deut.1.2. According to Gesenius, the verb here, 'to rise' ("rose up", A.V.), means ‘to scatter rays’ and is used in connection with the sun. The phrase "rose up from Seir unto them" could therefore indicate the way in which the Lord illuminated the path of His people through difficult and dangerous territory.
Paran - It was at Paran that the guiding cloud first stopped after Israel left Sinai. "And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran" Num.10.12. Gesenius explains that the verb "shined" ("He shined forth from mount Paran") means "to give light, to be bright" and is "especially used of Jehovah as appearing in very bright light".
In summary, all three places are connected with the presence and guidance of God, reminding us that "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb.13.5).
The power which He exercised for them. "He came with ten thousands of saints." This evidently refers to the presence of angels - see Ps.68.17. Raymond Brown calls this, "God coming…escorted by angels in triumphant procession", reminding us that He is "the Lord of hosts" Who "doeth according to His will in the army of heaven" Dan.4.35. Whilst we are told that the literal translation is ‘He came from the ten thousands of holy ones’ (R.V. - see also J.N.D.) there can be little doubt that the A.V. gives the sense of the words, and this corroborated the rendering ‘with holy myriads (J.N.D. margin). Compare Dan.7.10.
The provision which He made for them. "From His right hand went a fiery law for them" or ‘fire to guide them’ (J.N.D. margin). According to C.A.Coates, "this is probably an allusion to the pillar of fire which gave them light". The guidance given to His people in this way, described as "a fiery law for them", was in no way weak or uncertain. The expression "His right hand" signifies power. See Ex.15.6. The movements of Israel in the wilderness were governed by the movements of the cloud by day and the fire by night (Num.10.15-23) and while we do not look for such visible phenomena today, we do have the sure and reliable Word of God to guide us as "strangers and pilgrims" in the world (1Pet.2.11).
How The Lord Loved Them, vv.3-5
These beautiful verses emphasise that the Lord led His people because He loved them. In fact, His love secured immeasurable blessings for them, and we should notice the following:
The sovereignty of His love. "Yea, He loved the people (or ‘tribes’, J.N.D.)" v.3. On a technical note, the word "people" here is plural, and this normally indicates the Gentile nations. But the context here demands another explanation, and this is given above.
God’s love for His people is not explained. Love is its own motive. We met this in an earlier study: see Deut.7.7,8. There was nothing transient about God’s love for His people: He loved them "with an everlasting love" Jer.31.3. This is emphasised in the New Testament: having said, "For whom He did foreknow ... predestinate ... called ... justified ... glorified", Paul exclaimed, "who shall separate us from the love of Christ", and continued by saying that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" Rom.8.29-39.
Jude does not say, "Keep yourselves in the love of God" v.21, without good reason. Failure to do so will be followed by inevitable spiritual decline. At the end of the Old Testament, God’s people doubted His love, Mal.1.2, and the results of this are described as the book of Malachi proceeds. At the end of the New Testament, the Lord Jesus had to say to the church at Ephesus, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" Rev.2.4. An assembly that has lost its passion for Christ has lost the reason to exist.
The safety of His hand. "All His saints are in Thy hand". As Raymond Brown rightly observes, "Though in the Old Testament holy ones ("saints", A.V.) is used both of angels and of the Lord’s people, the context makes it clear that the latter are in view here". Centuries later, Jeremiah was commanded to remind God’s people of their early love and devotion to the Lord: "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown", with this result: "Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase" (Jer. 2.2,3). There can be no holiness without love for the Lord.
Those lives, which have been consecrated to the Lord, are His special care. The Israelites could fear that they might fall into the hands of the Canaanites but, however difficult the way ahead, God had promised to keep them safe in His strong hand. Compare Jn.10.28,29. David fed God’s people "according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands" Ps.78.72. How much more so "the good shepherd!"
The submission at His feet. "They sat down at Thy feet" v.3. This is not the usual Old Testament word for sitting: according to Gesenius it signifies ‘to lie down’, and he translates, "and they lay down at Thy feet" with the explanation "at the foot of mount Sinai". One thing is very clear: by sitting - or lying - at His feet, the people were in a position to receive instruction: "they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of Thy words." We learn from this the necessity for quietness and calm if we are to hear the Lord’s voice.
This was the place of Mary: she "sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His Word" Lk.10.39. Saul of Tarsus, as he was at the time, was "brought up in this city (Jerusalem) at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers" Acts 22.3, but Mary "sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His Word". Now that’s education of the highest order!
The sufficiency of His Word. "Every one shall receive of Thy words" v.3, or "Each receiveth of Thy words" (J.N.D.). The Word of God is addressed to all God’s people and at the same time it is sufficient for each one personally. His "divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" 2Pet.1.3, and the "all things" includes His word which is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" 2Tim.3.16,17. It is significant that the law commanded by Moses is called "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" v.4. Jeremiah found this inheritance very sweet: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" Jer.15.16.
The strength of His rule. "And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together" v.5. Solomon said, "Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?" Eccl.8.4. Jeshurun, see also Deut.32.15; 33.26, or Jeshurun, Isa.44.2, is generally taken to mean ‘the upright one’, although some prefer ‘beloved of Jehovah’. The name "Jeshurun" anticipates the ultimate uprightness of the nation. While Raymond Brown states that "the portrait is of God as Israel’s king", it seems more likely that it is actually Moses who is described in this way, but this does not obscure the fact that he exercised divinely-given authority. The gathered people recognised that he ruled for God, and it is important today that assemblies should recognise the authority of their elders, see 1Thess.5.12,13; Heb.13.17. It should be said that elders should have the moral right to be acknowledged in this way. The word "rule" Heb.13.17, means ‘to lead’, and this is not always seen in those who claim eldership.
It has been suggested that the words, "Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" v.4, are "evidently not what Moses said, but an explanatory parenthesis, inserted by the writer, who was probably Joshua" (Ellicott’s Commentary). If this is the case, then the same suggestion would be applicable to v.5.
In His love for Israel, the Lord had made abundant provision for them in the past. Moses now turns to the blessings that the Lord intended for the various tribes. They could listen to him with the confidence that the God Who had not failed them in the past was perfectly able to achieve His purposes for them, tribe by tribe.
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
"DON'T THINK! MAKE SURE!"
By Joseph Glancy
When I was a young man serving my apprenticeship, one of my duties was to take down the names of those who called to see my employer in his absence. On his return one day he asked me if any one had called. Pausing a few moments, I replied, "I don't think so," I have never forgotten the rebuke I received from him. Standing with his finger pointed, and calling me by my name, he said, "Don't think, always make sure!" Now if it is a matter of so great importance to make sure in business matters, how much more important is it that we should not think but make sure with regard to our souls' salvation, before passing out of time into eternity.
Ere one can be saved and have the assurance of it, he must first realise his need as a sinner. You may be one of many thousands today who have "a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge; for they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God," Rom.10.2,3. And this knowledge can only be obtained from the Word of God. Up to the present you may not have sought it there, and have been content to measure yourself with others; or you may have read the Scriptures and be "like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass," who "goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was," Jms.1.23,24. But the Scriptures plainly teach that man is a fallen creature, guilty, polluted, helpless; and unless we get hold of this truth, the way of salvation by Christ will be disregarded and despised by us. In other words, we cannot be saved until we believe that we are lost. Man is altogether polluted in every faculty of his being, for "from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores," Isa.1.6. We concede that persons may be outwardly moral, and even a pattern to others; but no man is spiritually good. He neither loves God nor truly fears Him. He may have a superstitious dread of Him as an Almighty Being, but no real fear of offending Him, and no true desire to please and glorify Him. A spirit of independence pervades every child of Adam, and is, at the same time, an effect and an evidence of our apostacy from God. Self-will, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-complacency, are but a few branches which issue from this root. Whatever differences there may be between men as to their outward disposition, there is none in this, that self has usurped the place of God, and is to every natural man the principle by which all his actions are governed. Here all are upon an equal footing; and the most respected of men on a level with the most degraded.
"There is no Difference," saith the Lord
For "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," Rom.3.22,23. The seed of every evil lies buried in our fallen nature. In some it manifests itself by its more hateful fruits, but in all it lives. There is not even a spark of goodness in us - never was - never will be - until we are saved; and then it will not be a spark, but a new life, communicated by God the Holy Ghost the moment we believe.
In those who are born again, though their walk may be imperfect, there is a predominant principle of love to God, begotten by the Holy Spirit; whereas in the best of men, who have not been born again, there is a rooted enmity against Him. Thus the two classes are as far apart as heaven and hell; yet a fatal mistake which millions make is to compare their lives with those who are saved, as though the latter were depending on their outward life and conduct, as the ground of their acceptance with God. Has it not often been remarked, "So and so says he is saved, yet my life compares favourably with his; and although I cannot say I am saved, I have just as good a chance of heaven as he." If these are your thoughts they may prove fatal to you. While it is true on the one hand that the conduct of some who are truly saved may not be all that it ought to be, it is equally true that, were it as perfect as Enoch's, it could never fit them for heaven. The saved sinner does not depend on the merits of his conduct, prayers, or works as the ground of his salvation, but only on the merits of the sacrifice of Christ.
Therefore as fallen creatures, wholly incapable of saving ourselves, we are shut up to the way of salvation provided for us in the gospel. God does not consult us, nor ask our approbation of His plan. He calls us, not to give our opinion, but to accept salvation on His own terms, the very best that He can offer, without money and without price, Isa.55.1. To dispute or sit in judgment on His wisdom is vain. I was on board the ill-fated Lusitania when it was torpedoed and sunk, with the loss of over one thousand lives. When the ship was struck I realised my danger, and instead of concerning myself with the wickedness of the enemy or the neglect of others, the thought uppermost in my mind was, what must I do to save myself from drowning? I knew that there was a sufficient number of life-jackets for all the passengers, but this did not save me. I must act and act quickly, for the ship was sinking, so I appropriated one for myself, and having put it on, jumped into the water. It kept me up, and I was saved. Now this exactly illustrates the sinner's position. He is about to perish in the great deep. Shall he waste time in complaining, or ask, "Why did God make me thus?" If he does, the answer is, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God!" The fact is that God has spoken, and His Word is final; therefore, our only consideration under the circumstances should be
How Shall I Be Saved From Perishing?
If such is your desire, you can be saved before you lay this book out of your hands.
Since all are involved in one common ruin, Rom.3.23, all alike need an atonement, but where shall it be found. The whole creation could not supply one. But God of His infinite mercy had devised a way whereby He could be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. He had entered into covenant with His only begotten Son, Whose sacrifice He would accept on the sinner's behalf; so that he would have, from amongst the fallen sons of Adam, a seed who would serve Him, and enjoy His presence for all eternity, This wondrous sacrifice has been duly offered. The Lord Jesus Christ "was made in the likeness of men, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross"; and having put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, God has exalted Him to His right hand, and given Him the name which is above every name. Sin has been purged and justice has been satisfied;
The Extreme Penalty has been borne on our behalf, and by raising the Lord Jesus Christ from among the dead, God declares His approval of His sacrifice.
"The judgment fell on Jesus' head,
By His shed blood sin's debt is paid."
On the basis of this redemption work the gospel message has gone forth from the eternal throne to every living creature, "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. Thus God has done all that is required to meet the needs of fallen man by giving His Son as the Ransom; and His Word to assure those who accept Him of their eternal security. He now turns to you and asks:
Will you accept this gift He offers?
Your salvation depends upon your consent. If you are willing, God is willing, and you may be saved now. If you are not and die in your sins, you will one day awake to eternal judgment. But possibly you may say, "I have always believed, and yet I am not saved." Well, it comes to this, you believe in the very same way that many of the passsengers on the Lusitania believed in the life-jackets, yet were drowned because they did not put them on. But you may say, "How do I know whether my faith is the right kind or not?"
The Faith that Saves and unites to the Lord Jesus Christ is a definite act which takes place when a sinner acknowledges his guilt, and accepts Christ and His finished work as the ground of his acceptance with God. In other words, it appropriates Christ for oneself, in the same way as the writer appropriated the life-jacket for himself.
But let us be very clear about this, that "Salvation is of the Lord," and that one may have been baptised, confirmed, and be a "church" member, or even an elder or churchwarden, and yet be lost. Nor will our contrition avail us. Rivers of tears, if we could shed them, would never avail to cleanse us from a single stain of sin. The blood of Christ, and that alone, can atone for our guilt, and fit us for the presence of God.
The reader may now say, "I would like to be saved, but how can I be sure?" If this is your difficulty, thank God it can be met. Not only can you have salvation, but also the knowledge of it the moment you accept Christ. It is not "I think", but "I know". Before he was saved, Naaman said, "I thought", 2Kgs.5.11. After he was saved he could say, "Now I know", v.15. Paul, too, before his conversion only "thought", Acts 26.9. Afterwards he was able to say, "I know", 2Tim.1.12. It is not feelings, happy or otherwise, which give the assurance, but it is the assurance that gives peace and happiness to the believer. Let me illustrate it. A man having been found guilty of murder, the sentence of death has been pronounced on him, and with feelings of misery and despair he awaits the day of execution. But on the previous night the Governor of the prison enters his cell with a message that the King has been pleased to pardon him, and that therefore he will not have to die. The convict goes out and tells the others the good news that he is saved from the penalty of death. They ask him how does he know? Does he say, "I am saved because I feel so happy?" Nay, but his answer is, "I am saved because the king says it, and he won't go back on his word; and I am happy because I know it." Now supposing his fellow-convicts remind him of his crime and rake up his whole past life to make him doubt, would this trouble him? Nay, for even if his life had been a thousand times worse he would still be in the position to say, "I know that I was guilty and I deserved to die, but I am pardoned, for the King says it." From the foregoing it is plain that the assurance comes not from feelings, but from the statement of one who has authority to make it. So the assurance of our salvation comes from the Word of God, from the highest authority — God Himself — Who says:
"He that believeth on the Son hath Everlasting Life," Jn.3.36. But let us not forget that to others the proof of our salvation will be the fact that
"Old things are passed away," and that all things are become new, 2Cor.5.17.
The theme of hope is a major preoccupation in Peter’s first epistle. The epistle is addressed to scattered strangers and, however we choose to interpret this designation, it is likely that at least some of those to whom Peter wrote would have been, in effect, refugees. Certainly, they "were in heaviness through manifold temptations" 1.6. Dispersed from their homes and loved ones and called to live for God in a hostile society these believers needed to be reminded of the hope that they had, a hope of things far above and beyond the distresses of their present existence. It is, perhaps, for this reason that Peter begins his epistle by reminding the believers of the basis of that hope. In chapter one he outlines for them the "ABC" of that hope.
Assured by the Resurrection
Throughout the first chapter of the epistle, Peter emphasises the foundational importance of the resurrection of Christ to the hope of the believer. So, in v.3, he blesses God who has "begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Later, he draws a similar connection, reminding his readers that they have believed in the God Who raised Christ "up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God" v.21. For Peter the resurrection of Christ from the dead underwrites every promise of God. If the stone, the tomb, the Roman seal, and death itself could not stand in God’s way, what obstacle could? Christ’s resurrection assures the believer that, no matter what the obstacles presented by circumstances, no matter how hopeless their existence seemed, the power of God – that same power that raised Christ from the dead – is able to triumph, and see the promises of God fulfilled. This makes the hope of the believer starkly different from the hopes of the world. The unsaved hope for the best – they hope because of uncertainty. The Saviour’s empty tomb means that the believer hopes because of certainty, the certainty that what God has promised He will perform. The resurrection assures our hope.
Based on Scripture
If the resurrection assures our hope, then the Scriptures direct it. Peter makes it clear that Christian hope is based firmly on the foundation of Scripture. It is for this reason that he reminds his readers of the Old Testament prophets who only dimly understood "what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" v.11. The special blessing for saints of the present dispensation is that these Scriptures, so obscure even to those that wrote them, provide the basis for our hope. The hope of the believer is not an optimistic feeling that things will turn out as we would wish. Rather, it is a confidence based on the Divinely revealed Word of God, that Word that "liveth and abideth for ever" v.23, and that "endureth for ever" v.25. Hope that is without the Word of God does not deserve the name. We only stand firm for the future with Scripture as our foundation.
Centred on Christ
The believer’s hope is centred on Christ. This is true, not only in the sense that His death brings us salvation, and thus hope, or that His resurrection assures our hope, but also because He is the sum of our hope. We are accustomed to think of the hopes of the Church, to begin at the Rapture and work through the riches of prophetic revelation, but all these precious hopes are summed up in Christ. We do expect the Rapture, just as we long for the manifestation of Christ, but it should be true of us that we look not for an event but for a person, not for "it" but for "Him". This certainly is the emphasis of Peter’s teaching in this chapter, as he directs the eye of the believer to the "appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" vv.7,8. A few verses later, he once more centres their expectation on Christ, exhorting them to "hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" v.13. These verses do have a specific focus in time – it is the return of Christ to the earth that Peter anticipates here. But the focus is on Christ as the centre and the sum of the believer’s hope.
The Hope that is in you
This, then, is the sort of hope that Peter has in mind when, in the third chapter of the epistle, he charges his readers to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" 3.15. This verse adds some detail to our understanding of the believer’s hope.
Firstly, it is an essential hope. Peter takes it for granted that this hope is part of the experience of each individual believer, as it ought to be. One of the greatest things that salvation does for sinners is to bring hope. Perhaps the saddest description of the unsaved is given to us in 1Thess.4.13, where Paul speaks of them as "others who have no hope". By contrast, all believers have been "begotten ... unto a lively hope" 1Pet.1.3. It is an essential and indispensible part of the believer’s life.
But the hope that Peter speaks of is also an evident hope. He envisages that those who observed the lives of these believers would be struck by the hope that was evident in the character of these beleaguered believers, in spite of contrary circumstances. We too, in our own age, should similarly live lives of evident hope. It is unthinkable that this should not be so – that believers (who alone have hope in a hopeless world) should not live so that that hope is evident to all, is a tragedy indeed. Peter expects that it will not be so in the life of these believers.
And when they are asked, they should be ready to prove that the believer’s hope is an explicable hope. Based on the foundation laid by Peter in the first chapter, the believer’s hope is not, as the world might call it, "pie in the sky" refusal to face reality. Rather, it is an entirely reasonable response to the power and the promises of God. Thus we should be ready to defend it as such, ready, at a moment’s notice, to account for that which makes us distinct in a hopeless world.
The hope of the believer assures us: but it ought not to make us arrogant. It is Peter’s desire that the saints be confident in the declaration of their hope, but he also desires that they maintain it in meekness. The man who had once sought to defend the truth, to defend Christ himself with a drawn sword, has since learned that there is a right way and a correct spirit in which to testify to the truth of God.
Since Peter wrote words inspired by the Holy Spirit, his desire for his readers was also God’s desire for those believers and for each of us today. By His grace He has brought to us a hope unique to His own. It is His desire that we should understand it with our minds, enjoy it in our hearts, live it in our lives, and explain it with our lips, to His glory.
Before we conclude these papers, we must observe one final word in the study of the faith of Moses. The lessons we learn from his life of faith must also lead us to see somewhat of the Person and work of Christ. To this end, we observe the following:
The Reproach of Christ – v.26, "Esteeming the reproach of Christ."
This is the reproach implying the shame borne for Christ. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us, "Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without [outside] the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without [outside] the camp, bearing His reproach" 13.12,13. The exhortation here is for the believer to walk the pathway of separation with Christ Who was rejected by His own and by the world of mankind. The phrase "outside the gate" indicates the place of suffering. The phrase "outside the camp" indicates the place of separation. The "gate" represents the place of rejection, repugnance and revilement while the "camp" represents the place of organised, ritualistic religion. Heb.12.2 states of the Lord Jesus Christ, "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising [having despised] the shame [attaching thereto], and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Thank God the cross, the place of reproach, became the place of redemption accomplished. The Saviour’s triumphant cry was "Finished" [Gr tetelestai] before He bowed His blessed brow and dismissed His Spirit. Thank God He is no longer on the tree, no longer in the tomb, but on the throne! No longer suspended on the tree of reproach, no longer sealed in the tomb but seated on the throne of royal, resplendent majesty and glory! In the meantime, while we await His soon and imminent return, in the world He is still despised and rejected, still reviled and reproached. The call to the Christian believer is to "go forth [from all that would prevent us] unto Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach".
The Riches of Christ – v.26, "Far greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt".
2Cor.8.9, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." The Scriptures speak in various ways of the riches that belong to Christ:
Rich in goodness and forbearance, Rom.2.4
Rich in wisdom and knowledge, Rom.11.33
Rich in grace, Eph.1.7; 2.7
Rich in glory, Eph.1.18; 3.16
Rich in mercy, Eph.2.4.
Other references include Col.1.19 "For it pleased the Father that in Him [the Son] should all fullness dwell". Col.2.9 "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Col.2.3, "In Whom [Christ] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." We sometimes sing the chorus:
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine;
He owns the rivers and the rocks and rills, The sun and stars that shine.
Wonderful riches, more than tongue can tell, They are my Father’s, so they’re mine as well;
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and I know He cares for me!
(John W. Peterson)
This is perfectly true and highlights the riches of all that is His in creation. But oh, think of all the riches which belong to Him as a result of Who He is and as a result of all that He has done in the matter of redemption! The above-quoted Scripture references involve subject matter which fall outside the scope of this study, but the riches spoken of there, demonstrate the quantity and the quality, the intent and the extent, the decree and the degree of all the riches of God in Christ! Moses regarded and valued the riches of Christ "far greater than all the treasures of Egypt". All the gold, silver and precious metals which lie untapped in the bowels of the earth and that lie mined and stored in the vaults of all the financial institutions and the royal houses of this world, cannot compare with the infinite, immeasurable, incomputable, incalculable riches which reside in Jesus, our Lord! Yet, the marvel of it all! "He who was rich, yet for your [our] sakes He became poor, that ye [we] through His poverty might be rich." Think of the poverty of His earthly life and ministry when He became Man and tabernacled amongst men. He was laid in a borrowed manager, He preached from a borrowed boat, He illustrated a lesson by using a borrowed coin, He rode on a borrowed donkey, He kept the last Passover feast in a borrowed room, He was buried in a borrowed tomb! The Saviour was willing to endure and experience such poverty and deprivation in order that He might bring us up out of the horror of the "horrible pit", and out of the misery of the "miry clay" of sin and degradation, and set our feet upon the impregnable, immovable rock of His redeeming grace! Ps.40.2. Well has the Psalmist penned the words: "The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens. Who is like unto the Lord our God, Who dwelleth on high, Who humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth! He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; That He may set him with princes, even with the princes of His people" Ps.113.4-8. May we be helped in our evaluation and appreciation of the riches of Christ and all that has accrued to us as a result thereof. We exult with Paul in Eph.2.4-7, "But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
The REWARD of Christ – v.26, "For he had respect unto the recompense of the reward."
There are a number of Scriptures that clearly indicate rewards are always linked to and associated with our works. These Scriptures speak of the reward being a "crown" [Gr. Stephanos] which is reserved for faithful witness and testimony for Christ. The subject of "crowns" is a subject all on its own and falls outside the scope of this study. However, for the purposes of this meditation, we would like to look at just two references to encourage our hearts, that we so run the race of faith that we might obtain the prize, the incorruptible, imperishable crown. "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible" 1Cor.9.24,25.
The first Scripture is 2Tim.4.7,8 where Paul says "I have fought a [the] good fight, I have finished my course [the race], I have [firmly] kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown [the crown] of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give [award] me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."
Here Paul speaks of the reward being "the crown of righteousness" which is laid up or reserved in store, not only for right living that is consistent with God’s standard of righteousness, but also for right labouring consistent with God’s standard of Divine service. The reason why we are saying "right living" and "right labouring" is because of the possibility of living and labouring in the work, ostensibly for Christ – but such living and labouring may be all for self [the exaltation of the ego], and not for Christ! This is why Paul was able to confidently affirm, "I have fought, I have finished, I have kept". His living, his labours and his love for Christ were consistent throughout so as to be beyond any question of any doubt. Paul’s testimony in line with 1Tim.2.7 and 2Tim.1.11 is that as a Divinely-appointed preacher, he has fought the good fight of faith; as a Divinely-appointed apostle, he has finished the race, completed his course, the course of the chosen vessel; as a Divinely-appointed teacher, he has firmly and faithfully kept the faith - the whole framework and fabric of revealed truth; the faith once and for all delivered to the saints; the whole counsel of God which he did not shun to declare. This reward of the crown of righteousness is not only laid up and kept in store for right standards of living coupled with right standards of labouring in the things of the Lord, but also for all them who rightly love and long for Christ’s appearing – who love, yearningly wait for and welcome the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ! What a recompense of reward! What a compensation! The crown of righteousness from the Lord, the Righteous Judge, in that coming day of reward!
The second Scripture is Rev.22.12, "Behold, I come quickly [I am coming soon]; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
Here John presents the Lord Jesus Christ as the soon-coming One who brings with Him a reward that He will give to each believer. The reward is designed by Him and will be dispensed by Him, and will be determined in accord with the quality [not so much the quantity] of work produced in the field of faith and faithfulness by each and every redeemed soul.
In His address to each of the seven assemblies in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, our Lord clearly indicated His intimate knowledge of each assembly’s work when He said "I know thy works". To the overcomer in each local assembly, Christ gives the promise of a reward. It makes a most interesting study!
Now with the Judgment Seat of Christ in view, every exercise and spiritual service will come under the scrutiny of His omniscient eye and be evaluated in line with His own sovereign ‘scorecard’. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad [worthless]" 2Cor.5.10.
Although Moses was not allowed to enter the earthly Promised Land, he received the recompense of the reward. He died on the top of Pisgah in Mount Nebo. If we may so say, God Himself conducted the funeral service for "He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre" Deut.34.5,6. Is it not centuries later, on another mountain, at the scene of the transfiguration of Christ, that Moses is seen, appearing with Elijah on that holy mount and together they speak of Christ and "His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem" Lk.9.28-35. Although Moses did not gain the earthly reward of entrance into the Promised Land, he gained a far greater reward, a heavenly reward, in the very paradise of God!
The REVELATION of Christ – v.27, "For he endured as seeing Him Who is invisible."
In the burning bush experience that Moses had, recorded in Exodus chapter 3, Jehovah made Himself known as "I AM that I AM" v.14. Jehovah revealed Himself to Moses as the uncreated, underived, self-existent, self-determining, self-sustaining, eternally active GOD! What a revelation! The only way in which Moses could see "Him who is invisible" was with the eye of faith. The Hebrew writer reminds us "But without faith [as the operating, obeying principle], it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God, must believe that He is, [God] and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" Heb.11.6. Faith is the essential, indispensible ingredient which enables the one coming to God to believe not only in the essential being and existence of God ["must believe that God is God"], but also in the effectual and experiential blessing that follows ["and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him"].
Many New Testament Scriptures confirm that Christ is the full and final revelation of God to Man, see Jn.1.18; 8.56; 14.8,9; Col.1.15. As the Lord’s people, our constant desire should be that He would make Himself known to us more and more. Perhaps in the same way He made Himself known to the Emmaus Road disciples who "told what things were done in the way, and how He was known of them in breaking of bread" Lk.24.35. But He had also revealed Himself to them [although "their eyes were holden"] by the way in which He explored the Scriptures, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets" v.27a, and "the words which I spake … and which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me" v.44. Then He expounded the Scriptures for, "He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" v.27b. Then He exposed [expositioned] the Scriptures when He said, "O fools [foolish ones], and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" v.25,26, and again, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things" vv.46-48. By now He had enlightened their understanding for, "Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures" v.45.
Moses endured [persevered] as seeing Him Who is invisible. God by His Spirit has beamed the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Christ Who is the Image of God, into our hearts so as to beam forth the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. See 2Cor.4.4-6.
The REDEMPTION through Christ – v.28, "Through faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood."
These two observations must lead us to see the perfect work of redemption accomplished by Christ on the Cross. Every lamb offered on Jewish altars, every sprinkling of blood, every celebrated Passover feast, pointed forward to Christ, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" Jn.1.29. The Jewish Passover has been superseded and replaced by a new feast. A feast instituted by the Lord Jesus Himself in the night of His betrayal. It is a feast to remind us of His redemptive work demonstrated in the giving of His body and the outpouring of His blood. He said, "Take, eat: this is [the symbol of] My body which is broken [given] for you", and "This cup is the new testament [ratified and established] in My blood: this do ye, as oft [every time] as ye drink it" 1Cor.11.24a-25a.
It is called a feast of remembrance because our Lord said, "This do in remembrance of Me" 1Cor.11.24b-25b. Not a remembrance of who and what we were by nature and what we now are through grace, exceedingly precious as this is, but a remembrance of HIM, the greatness and glory of His Person and the grandeur and glory of His accomplished redemptive work! 1Corinthians 11.23-34 that deals with the doctrinal teaching and the practical implications of the Lord’s Supper, cannot really be dealt with in this paper. However, the reader is encouraged to constantly read this passage and to make a study of its preciousness and practical import.
When the writer was a young man, around the middle of the last century, some groups of the Lord’s people emphasised the importance of teaching among the saints, whilst others emphasised the importance of preaching the gospel to sinners. Both are noble and necessary aims, but over time they were carried to extremes with sad results.
Some concentrated on teaching which led them to extremes of separation, resulting in virtual isolation being practised in church and daily life. Meanwhile those who concentrated on gospel work were led into unscriptural associations and worldliness, feeling that they had to become more like the world in order to attract unbelievers to hear the gospel. Many such gatherings became "entertainment orientated" leading to virtual integration into worldliness rather than separation from the world and a "lukewarm" condition in witness resulted.
This paper is an attempt to draw attention to a further division that the author has detected in later years among assemblies.
Those assemblies that are recognised as "traditional" (and we trust are also Scriptural) are despised by those that have adopted more "trendy" attitudes. This is reflected on the public notice board displayed outside the meeting places where "Halls" have become "Evangelical churches" or "chapels". The following list is indicative and not comprehensive - the "assembly" is referred to as a "church"; "meetings" have become "services"; the "Breaking of Bread" or "The Lord’s Supper" is now called "The Communion Service"; "house groups" have become common; letters of commendation are no longer anticipated from visiting believers; the language used to address Divine persons has been trivialised; the A.V. has been virtually abandoned in favour of "modern" translations; the sisters’ head covering has become optional and they are often free to take part audibly in assembly meetings; inter-denominationalism is encouraged and music is emphasised with music groups formed and music leaders required. One could go on, but we forbear.
These innovations have led to another danger which is that companies who have not changed in the aforementioned ways have become proud of their position, showing a cold and hard attitude to others, thus becoming as lukewarm and feeble as those they criticise.
May we be delivered from unbalanced extremes that are found all around us today, that the Lord may be glorified and the saints built up on their most holy faith.
With the speed and facility of modern travel it is possible to have breakfast in the UK and tea in the USA. In travel terms the world has shrunk and this has opened up a whole new vista on holiday destinations with many companies specialising in long haul flights to exotic and distant locations. Travellers are less restricted in their choice and even the most remote places have become accessible, so you can be here today and almost anywhere on earth tomorrow. Maybe, even now as you read this article, you have read the brochures and planned your summer holiday.
However the apostle James in his epistle warns against presuming that we can do this or that tomorrow. In Chapter 4.14,15 we read; " Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." Solomon in his wisdom, wrote in Proverbs 27.1;"Boast not thyself of tomorrow; For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."
Life is uncertain, I can call only the present moment mine and I cannot state definitely what I shall do or where I will be tomorrow. You may expect to be in the office, or work on the farm as usual, or attend school as you have so often done but can you be sure? Perhaps life has become rather monotonous and drab and every day seems to be the same but tomorrow could be different. You may feel that you are in a secure routine and there appears to be nothing on the horizon to threaten that but things can change suddenly and unexpectedly. You may on the other hand have planned something out of the ordinary for tomorrow, but will your ambitions ever be realised?
So, where will you be tomorrow? At home, at work, in hospital, in heaven, in hell? What will you be doing tomorrow? Working, travelling, weeping, rejoicing, resting? How will you be tomorrow? Healthy, happy, excited, disappointed, tired, sick, dead? You say, "I have no idea, no one can be sure."
But there are those of us who know that if things don't work out as planned, if calamities should suddenly overtake us, if life should unexpectedly be brought to an end, that all is well for eternity.
There is not the slightest doubt in our minds because the Word of God has assured us. Note the confidence of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8.38,39; "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." John writes in his first epistle, chapter 5.13; "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." Paul's last letter was 2 Timothy and in chapter 1.12 he wrote;"...for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."
Dear reader, do you have such confidence or do you have nagging doubts and apprehension regarding the future? Are you persuaded or perplexed? Before the end of today you could be able to sing, "It is well, it is well with my soul."
The facts regarding Christ's death on your behalf are absolutely beyond dispute. In 1Corinthians 15.3 we read; "...Christ died for our sins..." In 1Peter 2.24 it is stated; " Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" In Romans 5.8 we read; " Christ died for us."
All has been done that you might be in heaven - are you prepared to trust Christ and depend exclusively on Him and what He has done at Calvary to save you from hell and take you to heaven? If so, then tomorrow will hold no dread for you and peace will be yours amid all the uncertainties of life.