March/April 2013

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

TRUTH FROM TITUS
by B. Currie

THE LEVITICAL OFFERINGS
by T. Wilson

NEW TESTAMENT SYMBOLS
by A. Summers

FOLLOW THOU ME
by C. Jones

WHERE ARE THE SHEPHERDS?
by J.V. Paterson

RELATIONSHIPS IN PROVERBS
by J. Paterson Jnr

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)

No.8 "Seek ye me, and ye shall live"

 

Read Chapter 5.1-9

This chapter contains the third of the three messages delivered by God through Amos to Israel: "Hear this word" v.1: compare 3.1 and 4.1. The chapter comprises two lamentations in view of coming judgment: "Hear this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation [qinah, meaning ‘a mournful song’], O house of Israel" v.1; "Alas! Alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation (nehi, meaning ‘wailing, or ‘a song of wailing’) to wailing (misped, another word for ‘wailing’)" v.16.

The first lamentation, vv.1-15, arises from Divine judgment on Israel’s civil injustice. This is emphasised in vv.7-8; 10-13. The second lamentation, vv.16-27, arises from Divine judgment on Israel’s religious hypocrisy. This is emphasised in vv.21-24. In both sections of the chapter, Amos commences with a lamentation, vv.1-3; 16-20, continues with the reason for the lamentation, vv.4-13; 21-26, and concludes with either an appeal, vv.14,15 or a statement of inevitable judgment, v.27. It is most noticeable that while there is the possibility of grace and mercy in the first case, vv.15,16, there is no mention of this in the second, v.27, and this emphasises the Lord’s particular abhorrence of religious hypocrisy.

THE FIRST LAMENTATION, vv.1-15

As already noted, this arises from Divine judgment on Israel’s civil injustice. The section may be divided as follows:

  • he laments the death of the nation, vv.1-3

  • he expresses God’s desire for the nation, vv.4-9

  • he describes the injustice of the nation, vv.10-13

  • he makes an appeal to the nation, vv.14,15.

He Laments the Death of the Nation, vv.1-3

"Hear this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel". It can be summarised like this: the nation will fall: "The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise" v.2; will be forsaken: "she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up" v.2; will be few: "The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel" v.3.

As Peter C. Craigie (The Twelve Prophets, Volume 1) points out, "Normally, one only employs a lament after the death has occurred. And yet the words are addressed to an assembled crowd of Israelites, apparently alive and kicking."

These verses underline the solemn lesson that rebellion against God leaves people helpless and hopeless. The nation, described as "the virgin of Israel", untouched and unviolated (M.F.Unger), would be invaded and carried into captivity. Referring now to the reduction in numbers, it has been said that "the city that would have sent out a thousand soldiers would now only be able to send out a hundred" and "only a handful of ragged war-weary men will be left of Israel’s proud army" (supplied by Justin Waldron). All this has a solemn message for us today, and we must seriously ask how much we are responsible for local spiritual weakness and reduced numbers. Lamentation over closed assemblies is all too common.

It should be said that the glowing description of restoration and renewal at the end of the prophecy, 9.11-15, does not mean that Amos has contradicted himself! When he says that the "virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise", he refers to the cessation of the northern kingdom, Israel, as opposed to Judah in the south. Israel, the northern kingdom, will never be reconstituted. Samaria, its capital, has no future. The ten northern tribes will ultimately enjoy Divine blessing, but not as a separate kingdom; hence the dirge here. In view of coming judgment, Amos was prospectively singing a lament at the funeral of Israel.

He Expresses God’s Desire for the Nation, vv.4-9

Against this dark background, Amos speaks about the possibility of life. He had been lamenting the death of the nation, but this sad prospect brought no pleasure to the Lord. The Lord wanted the nation to live. Hence we read: "For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live" v.4; "Seek the Lord, and ye shall live" v.6; "Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion …" v.8. (It should be stressed that these verses refer to national life, although we must not ignore their personal application). Later in the chapter, we hear Amos say, "Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live" v.14. The sequence needs no explanation. If they genuinely sought the Lord, then they would obviously seek those things that please Him. They would seek good, and not evil"

To summarise the section: they were to seek the Lord as their covenant-keeping God, vv.4-6: He was Jehovah ("the Lord", A.V.); they were to seek Him as the Creator-God, vv.7-9.

They Were to Seek Him as the Covenant-Keeping Lord, vv.4-6

They were warned against trusting in places, rather than in the Lord. After all, Bethel, Gilgal and Beer-sheba were places with an illustrious history. Surely God was to be found there. But this was not the case. They were to "seek the Lord" for two reasons: because national survival depended on it, vv.4,5 and because preservation from judgment depended on it, v.6.

Because National Survival Depended on it. "For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye Me, and ye shall live: but seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beer-sheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought" vv.4,5. These people evidently thought that in order to please the Lord all they needed to do was to go to the right places, and that was all. Never mind about righteous living. They were so wrong. Terribly wrong! We can fall into the same trap. Of course we ought to go to places where Christ is honoured, and where the Word of God is taught and practised. But simply being there is not enough. We are to be "obedient children" 1Pet.1.14, in every department of our lives. Spiritual strength doesn’t just lie in being in the right place, but in living the right way, and in a personal relationship with the Lord: "let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth" Jer.9.24.

The words, "Seek ye Me, and ye shall live", should be read in conjunction with the following: "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God" Ps.42.2; "O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is" Ps.63.1; "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God" Ps.84.2.

The words, "But seek not Bethel…Gilgal…Beer-sheba", remind us that places with an illustrious history can suffer fearful decline.

Bethel was a place with sacred associations: Jacob said of Bethel, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not" Gen.28.16; "Jacob … built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el: because there God appeared unto him" Gen.35.7; "And Jacob called the place where God spake with him, Bethel" Gen.35.15; Bethel was therefore the place of Divine presence and revelation: it was where God spoke. But not now: there was no revelation and no promise. There was a golden calf there, 1Kgs.12.28,29.

Gilgal was the first place of encampment in the land, and it was there that the twelve stones were erected which had been taken from the bed of Jordan. Circumcision was re-instituted there: the first Passover in the land was kept there: they ate the fruit of Canaan there: Joshua’s headquarters were there. Gilgal stood for the possession of the land. But not now; dispossession was imminent.

Beersheba figured in the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was there that Abraham was addressed by Abimelech and Phichol: "God is with thee in all that thou doest" Gen.21.22. It was there that the Lord promised His presence with Isaac: "And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee" Gen.26.23,24. It was there that the Lord promised His presence to Jacob: "And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob … I will go down with thee into Egypt" Gen.46.1-4. Beersheba, meaning ‘the well of the oath’ because of the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech, stood for the assurance of God’s presence. But not now; there was no sense of His presence.

So they went, they thought, to the right places. But they were only places: they had become places of pilgrimage, with a nominal acknowledgement of God, but nothing else. Israel had lost all that the shrines stood for, because they did not seek the Lord Himself. This is the lesson of Ephesus. The believers would have certainly said, "we are in the right place", but the Lord Jesus said: "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" Rev.2.4. Orthodoxy without devotion to Christ was met with severe censure: "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" Rev.2.5.

Having noticed that they were to "seek the Lord" because it was a matter of life or death, Amos now gives the second reason why they were to "seek the Lord":

Because Preservation From Judgment Depended on it, v.6. "Seek ye the Lord, and ye shall live; lest He break out like a fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel." (The expression, "house of Joseph" refers to Israel, the northern kingdom, bearing in mind that Ephraim, Joseph’s younger son, often stands for the nation as a whole. Samaria, Israel’s capital city, was in the territory of Ephraim). Bethel, with all its past associations, and with its golden calf, would not be able to save them. The shrine would avail nothing. In the words of Isaiah, they were to "Seek … the Lord while He may be found, call … upon him while He is near" Isa.55.6. But why such severity? Does nominal acknowledgement of God without true and sincere devotion in Him really merit such sweeping judgment?

The reasons for the severity of Divine judgment follow: "Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth" v.7. This is actually the beginning of a longer sentence but it does serve to emphasise that when people do not "seek the Lord" they decline morally, and fall into all kinds of sinful practices. Judgment is then inevitable. They had forgotten that "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" Prov.14.34. They went to the right places, but it effected no change in their conduct. This is the solemn message of 1John: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth" 1Jn.1.6; "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" 1Jn.2.4.

They Were to Seek Him as the Creator-God, vv.7-9

The reference to God’s mighty power in creation at this point in the chapter is probably explained by Israel’s idolatry. Amos refers to this as follows: "ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves" v.26. We are told that this verse refers to Saturn, and we may therefore conclude that these verses emphasise that Israel was to worship the Creator of the stars, not imaginary gods! "Ye who turn judgment to wormwood (a bitter and poisonous plant), and leave off righteousness in the earth [cast down righteousness to the earth, J.N.D.], Seek him that maketh the seven stars (‘Pleiades’, J.N.D.) and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is His name: that strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress". The "seven stars" are elsewhere called Pleiades, Job 9.9; 38.31. The constellation of Pleiades "in its rising and setting marked the commencement and termination of the season of navigation" (M.F.Unger). Put another way, its rising before daybreak heralds the arrival of spring. Orion (known as ‘the hunter’) is "an outstanding southern constellation" (M.F.Unger). Some say that the rising of Orion after sunset signals the onset of winter: others that it releases the earth from the bonds of winter. God’s power in the celestial and terrestrial creation is matched by His power in the affairs of men. "He causeth destruction to break forth suddenly upon the strong, and bringeth destruction upon the fortress" v.9, J.N.D.; see also R.V. The power of the omnipotent God, Whom they had failed to obey, would sweep them away. How necessary to "seek the Lord"!

The remaining verses covering the first lamentation in this chapter. vv.10-15 will be considered in the opening section of our next study, God willing. In these verses, as noted in the introduction, Amos describes the injustice of the nation, vv.10-13, and makes an appeal to the nation, vv.14,15.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Truth From Titus - Paper 11

by B. Currie (N. Ireland)

We have noted that the last chapter of Titus has three sections – vv.1-7 the subject is REGENERATION: vv.8-11 deal with REJECTION and in vv.12-15 there are REQUESTS. In these next few papers we shall deal with vv.1-7 and the subject of REGENERATION. We have seen that the subject of regeneration can be expounded by asking and answering three questions:

  • Why was regeneration necessary? – The answer is in v.3

  • How did regeneration come about? – The answer is in vv.4-6

  • What difference did regeneration make? - The answer is in vv.1, 2 as it relates

to our Present Responsibility, and in v.7 as it relates to our Future Destiny.

In this paper we continue with question 2.

We have seen that we were wrong inwardly and outwardly. Therefore two things are required. For the outward there is washing and for the inward there is renewing. Both of these happen at conversion.

Washing of regeneration - this is, in a sense, external and was to remove all defilement and sin. In John chapter 13 the Lord Jesus was about to wash the disciples’ feet and Peter objected. When the Lord explained to him the consequences of not having his feet washed Peter wanted to be washed all over. In v.10 we read, "Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit…". This seems a strange expression until we note that two different words for "wash" have been used. The first word means to bathe, to wash all over. The second word means to wash part of the body and is used in John chapter 13 in vv. 5,6,8,10,12,14.

Thus there is a bathing that does not need to be repeated and there is a partial washing, of the feet, which requires repetition. This initial washing is called here, in Titus chapter 3, the "washing of regeneration".

In the same vein is Heb.10.22, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Some suggest that this is a literal washing and refers to baptism. If we take the "body" literally, then we must take the "hearts sprinkled" literally also! This is another reference to "the washing of regeneration." Another Scripture, which links closely here, is Jn.3.5, "… Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God".

For the sake of completeness we ought to mention that 1 Cor.6.11 is different. The word there means "to wash off or away", and as used in the Middle Voice it means "to wash oneself". As expounded by W. E. Vine, it "indicates that the converts at Corinth, by their obedience to the faith, voluntarily gave testimony to the complete spiritual change Divinely wrought in them."

Renewing of the Holy Ghost - this is internal and involves a complete renovation, a complete change for the better. As defined earlier it is the introduction of a completely new state. The Holy Ghost, Who uses the Word of God to reach the repentant and believing sinner, brings about this renewing.

The "washing" and the "renewing" are brought together in 2Cor.5.17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; (this is washing) behold, all things are become new, (this is renewing).

He shed on us abundantly - this verb, in the aorist tense, does not permit an ongoing process. Just as v.5 "saved" is complete and not a process, so this shedding which happened only once and is explained by the use of the same expression in Acts 2.33, "having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." It is the same word as is used for the pouring out of the vials in Revelation chapter 16.

On the day of Pentecost, Acts chapter 2, the Lord Jesus poured out the Holy Ghost in rich profusion and He has never been recalled. Thus we need not expect any further outpouring in our day. The Holy Ghost is a Divine Person, not an influence. We cannot conceive of part of this Person being poured out. On that great day He was poured out totally and, said the Lord Jesus, "… He may abide with you for ever;" Jn.14.16. As long as the church is here, He will be here also.

Some may point to the same word being used in Acts 10.45 as evidence that there is an ongoing out-pouring of the Holy Ghost, "… on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." It is to be noted that the tense here is not as in Acts 2.33. There it is an aorist, pointing to an action complete at that time. In Acts 10.45 it is the perfect tense meaning that the action is viewed as having been completed in the past, but has present and ongoing effects. Thus in Acts chapter 10 the Gentiles came into the good of that which was done in Acts chapter 2. There has not been a fresh outpouring of the Holy Ghost since Acts chapter 2. When a person becomes a Christian through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, at that moment they come into the good of the event described in Acts chapter 2.

What Difference Did Regeneration Make?

The answer is in 3.1,2 with respect to our Present Responsibility, and in v.7 with respect to our Future Destiny.

3.1,2 - Present Responsibility

"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, [but] gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men."

Since we belong to a new order of things, changes are expected. In these verses, two are highlighted.

3.1 - No Anarchy Politically;

3.2 - No Antagonism Socially.

3.1 - No Anarchy Politically

Put them in mind - This is an apostolic command from Paul to Titus. He is to continually and constantly remind the believers of this responsibility.

to be subject - They, and so we, are to submit or obey as the troops would their military leadership. It has been translated twice as "obedient" already in the epistle in 2.5,9. Paul uses it in the same context in Rom.13.1 "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers."

to obey magistrates – The only other mentions of this word are in the book of the Acts – 5.29,32, "obey" and 27.21, "have hearkened".

The teaching is practical for us. Unless such subjection hinders our obedience to the Word of God, we are to be obedient to every kind of ruler whether national or local. It matters not whether we like the people concerned, agree with the laws passed or even find them unfair. We submit and pay our local and national taxes, and live life as quietly as possible.

The constant reminder is required because when laws are passed which we do not like we could soon forget our position and become involved politically. In 1Tim.2.1,2 we are taught that our only point of contact with the murky world of politics is in prayer, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Note that we do not pray that our particular brand of politics will prevail, but we do pray that those in authority will so act that we may live and so serve God quietly and peaceably.

In the New Testament there are high incentives for us to be in subjection to the "powers that be". Here it is Regeneration: Rom.13.1, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers" is based on Justification: 1Pet.2.13, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake"; it has as its motivation the subject of Redemption.

3.2 - No Antagonism Socially

to speak evil - Literally means to blaspheme, to injure by speech, to rail or to revile. The classic examples are to be found at the trial of the Lord Jesus and when He hung on the cross. Matt.26.65, "…He hath spoken blasphemy"; 27.39, "they that passed by reviled Him…". The word has been used already in the epistle in 2.5, "… that the Word of God be not blasphemed".

Such uncouth language and behaviour have no part in the life of those who have entered into this new state of regeneration.

no brawlers - The only other mention of this word in the New Testament is in relation to overseers in 1Tim.3.3, "… not a brawler …". It means we are not always quarrelsome, not fighting or given to contention. Some people have the unhappy knack of being able to cause trouble anywhere and over very little. If we are always objecting about paltry and incidental things, when a serious matter arises our objection will scarcely be considered.

Now we are taught that it is not all negative, what we should not do, but there is the positive side.

gentle - This occurs five times in the New Testament – in Jms.3.17 and 1Pet.2.18 it is also rendered "gentle"; in 1Tim.3.3, "patient" and in Phil.4.5, "moderation." It means to be very reasonable, behave in a seemly way, "not insisting on the letter of the law", W. E. Vine. This person will neither be biased nor rash in coming to a conclusion, but will weigh all the facts in a reasonable manner. In personal matters this person will suffer the wrong rather than brawl. There will be no insistence on an apology nor will there be threats if one is not forthcoming.

shewing all meekness - This person will not be haughty and self-assertive. This is a feature of the Lord Jesus, 2 Cor.10.1, and is part of the "fruit of the Spirit", Gal.5.23. In the world such a characteristic is interpreted as weakness and so they send employees on self-assertiveness courses. This is far from the standard God desires from His people. Rather than being weakness, meekness is really power under control.

unto all men - This manner of living is to be displayed to "all men" - not just to believers. It is all meekness to all men. What a standard! Some can be very delightful on the Lord’s Day when at the meetings and very difficult on Monday when in business. Such duplicity is not acceptable Christian behaviour.

3.7 - Future Destiny

"That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

being justified by His grace - The subject of justification is too vast to be covered in a few sentences but we may notice that it is here "being justified by [ek, out of] His grace" which brings to our attention the Prompting of Justification. In Rom.5.1, we read, "being justified by [ek, out of] faith" - the Principle of Justification. Again in Rom.5.9, we read, "being now justified by [en, in virtue of] His blood" - the Power of Justification. We are absolutely clear of every charge and will never face such again.

"heirs according to the hope of eternal life" - When Paul writes about eternal life he deems it to be in the future, whereas with John it is present. See, for example, Jn.3.15 and 10.28. John is teaching us that we can presently enjoy that which Paul says we shall enter into fully in eternity.

With the "hope of eternal life" here linked with heirship the thought is probably linked with our inheritance. The glory of the thought sometimes overwhelms us that we are "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" Rom.8.17. Again, Paul teaches us that "… thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" Gal.4.7. Peter brings the inheritance into focus when he writes in 1Pet.1.4, that we have "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you."

  • "incorruptible" - it is not subject to Death and suggests Immortality

  • "undefiled" - it is not subject to Defect and suggests Purity

  • "fadeth not away" - it is not subject to Decay and suggests Beauty

  • "reserved in heaven" - it is not subject to Dissolution and suggests Certainty.

This should cause thanksgiving to arise to God from our worshipping hearts as it did with Paul when he wrote, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" Col.1.12.

To be continued (D.V.)

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The Levitical Offerings - 7

by Tom Wilson (Scotland)

THE NON-SAVOUR OFFERINGS – THE TRESPASS OFFERING

(For this study please read Leviticus 5.13-6.7.)

The trespass offering is never mentioned in the New Testament, although Isaiah chapter 53, the earliest interpretation of the significance of the trespass offering, is cited many times; indeed, the New Testament contains some 65 quotations from, or references to, Isaiah’s prophecy. There, in that song of sweetest sadness, Isaiah with piercing insight looks forward to Calvary; and beyond Calvary to the times of the restitution of all things, forward to Christ’s glory. Tenderly, the suffering Servant’s death is described: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities" Isa.53.5. We should also note that the "offering for sin" in Isaiah 53.10 is literally a trespass offering (Strong 0817).

Clearly, the sin offering and the trespass offering together dealt with the relationship of the individual and his God. On an annual basis, the ceremonies of the great Day of Atonement addressed the relationship of the nation to Jehovah; in the main, the sin and trespass offerings deal with matters concerning individuals and their state before God. When a trespass offering was offered, it is clear that each specific sin requires the sinner to meet compensation charges that relate to the sin, but the same offering – a ram. However, when a sin offering was offered, there were variable burdens to be borne in terms of providing a sacrificial animal or an alternative offering, but the wide variation catered for in the legislation is related to the standing of the sinner, not the seriousness of his sin.

The trespass offering has a vocabulary that is not used in the legislation for the sin offering. We meet "estimation" 5.15,18; 6.6; "the shekel of the sanctuary" 5.15; "amend for the harm" 5.16; "restore" 6.4,5. We also meet the phrase "the fifth part" 5.16; 6.5. The language of the trespass offering is used by David in the memorable words Ps.69.4: "Then I restored that which I took not away", thus providing us with a commentary on Christ Himself as the trespass offering. In his Assembly Testimony article in 1967, J.Cowan wrote tellingly: "As it would be entirely impossible for man to meet the requirement of God in relation to his trespass, in an actual way, how happy are we that the imposition of the Divine requirement has been laid upon Him – upon Christ": "He was wounded for our transgressions … the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all … for the transgression of my people was He stricken …Thou hast made His soul an offering for sin (lit., a trespass offering) … He bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors" Isa.53.5,6,8,10,12.

That other great psalm of the cross, Psalm 22 is the psalm of the sin offering. Together Psalms 22 and 69 provide much for the meditative soul. Again, in the history of the Lord’s death in the Gospels, Mark portrays the abandonment of the Sin-offering, whilst Matthew reveals the cost paid by the Trespass-offering.

The new topic of the trespass offering begins with the reiteration of the phrase verifying the direct Divine communication Moses received from the Lord, 5.14. This time we do not read: "If a soul shall sin through ignorance …" 4.2; but "if a soul commit a trespass …" 5.15. The section extends from 5.14-6.8, twenty-four verses, half the number of verses devoted to the sin-offering, 4.1-5.13. The reason for the shorter section on the trespass-offering is not that it is easier to understand, but because of the similarity of priestly altar service, which 7.7: "As the sin-offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them."

Three cases are presented in 5.15-6.7, each of which will lead to the offering of a trespass offering. The first is a serious affront against the Lord, 5.15,16; the second a general outline related to a breach of a commandment, 5.17-19; the third a case of violation of rights against one’s neighbour, using His name in a false oath, 6.1-7. The three may be viewed as follows:

  1. A breach of covenant through ignorance in the holy things of the Lord;

  2. A breach of a commandment through ignorance;

  3. A breach of covenant in sin against his neighbour.

The structure would suggest that the first two go together, since the third is introduced by "And the Lord said unto Moses". Since both the first and third cases deal with a violation of rights, in the first case the Lord’s, in the second his neighbour’s, it is reasonable to assume that the second is again dealing with violation of rights, probably again against Jehovah.

CASE 1: SIN IN THE HOLY THINGS

Kiel & Delitzsch translate 5.15: "If a soul commit a breach of trust, and sin in going wrong in the holy gifts of God." This serious trespass (Strong 4604) they define as acting "secretly, unfaithfully, especially against Jehovah, either by falling away from Him into idolatry, 26.40; Deut.32.51; Josh.22.16, or by infringing His rights, abstracting something that rightly belonged to Him." They list under "holy things" sacrifices, first-fruits, tithes, etc. JFB add, "in eating of meats, which belonged to the priests alone". In Israel’s later history, the sin of Achan was the kind of treacherous sin envisaged in this verse that cost Israel dearly, Josh.6.17-19; 7.11.

None should underestimate the importance of the principles underpinning this first case. Until restitution is made, where the whole tithe has not been brought in to the treasure house, how can there be food in the Lord’s house or peace in the land or bountiful harvests in the field, Mal.3.10,12? If the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow and the poor are neglected, how could they expect God to bless the work of their hand, Deut.14.29; 15.7-11? Through Moses, the Lord is asking; "Will a man rob God?" Mal.3.8. In an agricultural society, the levers of power involved control of the rain, the plant diseases and the marauding animal life from the beetle to the wolf and the lion. God acted governmentally in those ways, and He still acts, causing even the gold and silver to rust, 1Pet.1.18 and allowing thieves to break in and steal, Matt.6.19. In the governmental ways of God, restitution is still an active principle none dare ignore. At one level, it should be seen in those who sow unto you spiritual things, reaping material things such as food, clothes and rental costs, 1Cor.9.11. Of particular interest in this regard, is the chronicler’s record of Jeremiah’s explanation of Judah’s exile in Babylon: the exiles would be in Babylon "until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths, for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years" 2Chron.36.21. Clearly, over a period of 500 years they had been committing "a trespass … in the holy things of the Lord" by ignoring Leviticus chapter 25.

In this first case, there was a requirement to estimate the loss to the things of God, v.15. The estimate was to be in "shekels of the sanctuary", v.15. It would be easier to estimate the loss in a business transaction; nonetheless, a view was taken if amends were to be made for the harm done, v.16; and a fifth part was to be added.

THE SECOND CASE

As noted above, it is likely that vv.17-19 deal with one more case of violation of rights against Jehovah. The guidance given even when only one commandment had been broken; note the phrase "any of all of the commandments" v.17 J.N.D. To break one commandment might seem a trifle among men. However, v.19 closes the section with the stark reminder that a breach that men might condone is "certainly" a trespass against the Lord. Such an emphasis is sadly lacking today, even among the people of God.

The occurrences of the word "commandments" (Strong 4687) at v.17 is the fifth in the book; see also 4.2,13,22,27. (The only other occurrences in Leviticus are at 22.31; 26.3,14,15; 27.34). It is unlikely that the commandments breached would be restricted to one of the negative commandments from the Ten Words – working on the Sabbath, killing, committing adultery, stealing, lying or coveting.

THE THIRD CASE - PERJURY

Twice in vv.1-5 we read about lying and twice about swearing falsely. The name of Jehovah had been used in vain in a protestation of innocence. Unbeknown to the culprit, there was an unseen Witness, Who saw his misappropriation of another’s property and heard his denials and his oaths. These sins God would not ignore.

This third case of trespass includes a number of examples where monies or goods are being withheld to which the keeper has no legal right. How he may have gained possession is outlined in vv.1-5. The sin is a trespass against Jehovah and will involve the restoration of the monies or goods, reparation of 20% and an offering of a ram without blemish. At Ex.22.4-9, the reparation for similar offences is 100% above the loss sustained. The traditional explanation is that the not-guilty plea if rejected by the court, the penalty was double the loss, but if the culprit confesses his guilt, his punishment is reduced considerably. Rashi, the 11th century Jewish scholar, notes that word "fifth part" is plural at 6.5, suggesting that the offended party may be due "several such additions." Kiel & Delitzsch agree that a fifth part was to be added to in respect of "every one of the things abstracted or withheld unjustly." No minimising of the effects of the trespass was to be countenanced.

How the priest would set about making atonement for the trespass is not detailed here but the law of the trespass offering does provide the necessary detail, 7.1-6. The ram (Strong 352), probably around two years old, was the offering when a sin of trespass had been committed. The acceptance of that offering allowed the pronouncement of the words the penitent longed to hear: "It shall be forgiven him" 5.16,18; 6.7.

To be continued (D.V.)

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New Testament Symbols

A. Summers (Scotland)

Paper 3 - THE BREAD AND THE CUP. Part 2

 

THE SUBSTANCE OF THE EMBLEMS

The substance of the emblems has generated huge controversy over the years. Roman Catholics believe that the bread and wine are by some miraculous process turned into the actual body and blood of Christ. This doctrine is called "transubstantiation". Other denominations hold variations on this theme such as "consubstantiation". The root of the controversy is whether the words "this is My body" and "this is My blood" Lk.22.19,20, are to be interpreted literally. However, if the Lord meant these words literally, He was holding parts of His own body at the Last Supper, a notion that is absurd. The sensible way to look at these words is to understand them as figures of speech. When the Lord said "I am the door" He did not mean that He was a real door! Because they believe in transubstantiation Roman Catholics actually worship the wafer and cup as if they were the actual body and blood of Christ. They also re-offer the body of Christ on the altar thus denying the finality of Christ’s death.

THE STATUS OF THE EMBLEMS

Roman Catholics believe that taking the "sacraments" (the wafer and the cup) actually communicates grace to the participant. For this reason they perform the "Mass" at the bedsides of dying people so that when they die they are fit to be accepted by God. In this connection they misapply the Lord’s teachings in Jn.6.53-56 when He said "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life". They understand this to refer to the bread and wine taken at the Mass or Communion. It is clear that He is not speaking of the emblems used at the Lord’s Supper since that was not instituted until just before the crucifixion. The Lord Jesus is speaking about Himself as the "Bread of Life" vv.35,48, and His words are a figure of speech designed to show the disciples their need to be sustained by Him. The references to the flesh and blood of the Lord in this chapter are connected to salvation whereas the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper are linked to communion and worship. Important as the emblems used on the Lord’s Day are, no earthly symbol can alter the spiritual state of the participant. Salvation is not received through emblems. Salvation is by grace through faith.

THE SHARING OF THE EMBLEMS

The bread was of course eaten by the disciples. Each took a part of the loaf. Likewise when we share the cup we each drink of one cup. The point is that we all share together in the one provision. Thus in symbol we declare that though we are many we all share in one common provision made by the life and death of Christ. The Breaking of Bread is a declaration of the unity and fellowship of God’s people, 1Cor.10.16.

THE SEPARATION OF THE EMBLEMS

While it is wise not to press symbolism too far, it should be noted that the cup of wine stands apart from the bread. This suggests that the blood has been shed and teaches us that the sacrifice has been accomplished. Some good brethren argue that we should follow the example of the Lord and pour wine into the cup at the Lord’s Supper and thus symbolically depict the shedding of the blood of Christ. However, it has to be observed that there is no record of the Lord pouring wine into a cup from a flagon or decanter during the Last Supper. No doubt someone at some stage had filled the cup but neither the Lord nor the apostles thereafter make any attempt to draw attention to this or to give it any particular significance. Nor is there any inference that this was done by the Lord as He conducted the first Breaking of the Bread. The words "this cup is the new testament in My blood which is shed for you" Lk.22.20, do not imply that as He spoke He was pouring wine into the cup. The pouring out or shedding of the blood of Christ is a figure of speech for what He would do on the Cross when He gave His life as a sacrifice for sin. It appears that the object of the verb "shed" or "poured" is its nearest antecedent namely "the blood" and not "the cup". So our Lord was not pouring out a cup but was describing the shedding of His own blood. By this He indicated that His would be a sacrificial and violent death. The fact that the words "is shed" are in the present tense indicates that He was speaking of an event that would take place on the morrow as if it were occurring in the present.

The Lord (and for that matter the apostles also) often spoke of future events as if they were occurring in the present e.g. (lit.) "I go (present tense) to prepare a place for you" and "if I go I will come again (present tense) to receive you ..." Jn.14.2,3. Both these sayings in the Upper Room are in the present tense though they refer to events that had yet to occur. The scholars call this use of language the "futuristic present tense". Undoubtedly the purpose of the Lord was to show that although He was at that very moment handling the cup which spoke of His death He spoke of the shedding of His blood as if it were occurring there and then as He offered the disciples the emblem of His death.

It should also be noted that if the words "which is shed (or poured out) for you are applied to the cup and not the blood, then the cup would have to be emptied of its contents. But if the cup was poured out what would the believers be left to drink? It is respectfully suggested that the practice of filling up a cup from a decanter cannot be based on a Scripture which enjoins the pouring out of a cup. The wine in the cup is sufficient proof that the blood has been poured out. There is no need to re-enact this by pouring wine into the cup. It is sometimes said that the words "this do" 1Cor.11.25, indicate that the Lord was doing something with the cup which we should also do. With this we can all agree. What then should we "do"? The words "this do" cannot refer to the act of drinking the cup since then the Lord would in effect be saying "drink the cup every time you drink it". Such a construction would not make sense. For the reasons given above He was not pouring the wine into the cup. The most straightforward interpretation is that what He was "doing" was taking the emblems and offering thanks for them.

Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that many spiritual believers do prefer to pour the wine out of a decanter into the cup. I do not believe that differences about these matters should disrupt fellowship. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" Rom.14.5.

THE SEQUENCE OF THE EMBLEMS

It is noteworthy that the Lord first broke the bread and then took the cup. Not the other way around. This, I suggest, indicates that the incarnation and life of Christ was a precursor to His death. His sinless life was the foundation of His sacrificial death. That is not to say that the bread is not linked to His death since the Lord says that it signifies His body "given for you" Lk.22.19. In 1Cor.10.16 the order is reversed and Paul speaks first of the cup and then of the bread. In this Paul is seeking to draw attention to the fact that the believers in Corinth, who had become divided and antagonistic to one another, had lost sight of the fact that through the Lord’s death they had been united. Each believer had been brought into the blessing of salvation on the common ground of the death of Christ.

THE SINGULARITY OF THE EMBLEMS

It is clear that when the Lord’s Supper was inaugurated the Lord used one loaf and one cup. That of course was all that was necessary for a group of twelve men if we include the Lord in the number. Thereafter, the apostle Paul uses the single loaf and single cup to teach important truths about the essential unity of God’s people, 1Cor.10.17. For that reason it is clear that multiple loaves and multiple cups do not fulfil the teaching of Scripture. Although it may take some time for the emblems to be passed round when there are large groups of Christians, the time involved should not deter us from keeping one cup and one loaf. If it should be objected that this practice may prolong the meeting unduly, it should be remembered that the main reason we gather is to "break bread". While it may be good and godly to have an hour or so of extempore praise before breaking bread, the focus is on the emblems.

To be continued (D.V.)

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FOLLOW THOU ME

C. Jones (Wales)

Paper 1

 

They followed Him

The apostle Peter is better known than many of the other disciples. His name always appears first when the disciples are listed in the Scriptures, and he, together with James and John, was with the Lord on a number of very significant occasions, Mk.5.37; 9.2; 14.33. The Holy Spirit brings before us in the Scriptures both the strengths and weaknesses of this unpredictable, energetic man of action who was an impetuous, courageous, lovable man who loved his Lord and Saviour to Whom he was devoted. Peter could, by the grace of God, rise to great spiritual heights. He could also fail his Lord and yet be raised again to sacrificial service for Him. Peter would often speak to the Lord when the other disciples remained silent, Mk.8.29; 9.5; 10.28; 14.29. He knew what it was to be filled with the Holy Spirit: he experienced the wisdom and power of God and had wonderful revelations.

As a result of John the Baptist's statement, "Behold the Lamb of God", Andrew, Peter's brother, and another disciple followed the Lord to where He dwelt. The Spirit revealed to Andrew the truth that the Lord was the long looked for Messiah, and he went to find his brother Simon, who was later named Peter, and told him that they had found the Messiah, Jn.1.35-41. Andrew brought his brother Simon to meet the Lord, and what tremendous work God did through Simon who became the most prominent of the Lord's disciples. Witnessing should begin at home and among those we meet in our everyday lives. It is often more difficult to begin to witness to those who know us well than it is to witness to complete strangers.

Andrew introduced Simon to the Lord, and when the Lord saw him He said, "Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone", Jn.1.42. "Cephas", which means "a stone", is an Aramaic word and is the same as "Petros" in the Greek, that is, Peter. He is often called Simon Peter, and in Acts 10.5 is referred to as "Simon, whose surname is Peter". The giving of a name implies ownership and responsibilities to the owner.

Peter and Andrew lived in Bethsaida (the name means "house of fishing") on the Sea of Galilee, Jn.1.44. They were partners with Zebedee and his sons, John and James, in a fishing business which was large enough to employ "hired servants", Mk.1.20. When the Lord was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Peter and Andrew casting a net into the sea to catch fish. The Lord said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men". The Lord called them to serve Him, and they immediately left their nets and followed Him. The same day He called James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to follow Him, Matt.4.18-22.

On a day when the Lord was preaching to a large number of people by the Sea of Galilee, there were two empty boats on the shore. Their owners were washing their nets. In order that He might be heard more easily, the Lord went into the boat which belonged to Peter and asked him to move out a little from the shore. The Lord then sat down and taught the people from the boat. After He had finished preaching, the Lord told Peter to move out into the deep water and let down his nets to catch fish. Peter, an experienced fisherman, had been fishing all night but had caught nothing. He did not do exactly as the Lord had told him to do but only let down one net and they caught so many fish that the net began to break and Peter called their partners to help them. The catch filled both boats which began to sink.

Peter was astonished, as were those with him. He realized that he was in the presence of Deity. One who could control His creation, Lk.5.1-7. Peter was overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sinfulness, and said, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord" Lk.5.8. In his first encounter with the Lord, Jn.1.42, Peter would have been conscious of, and attracted by, the grace of the One to Whom he was introduced, but now he was conscious of his own sinfulness. Awareness of God's immutable holiness brings a consciousness of one's own sinfulness and unworthiness, as it did to Isaiah, Isa.6.5, and Job, Job 42.5,6. Peter addressed Christ as "Lord", and asked Him to depart from him. Peter was physically capable, had he so wished, of going away from the Lord. However, he did not do so but stayed close to Him, Lk.5.8. The Lord spoke graciously to Peter and said, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men" v.10. They did not stop to sell the great number of fish but brought their boats to the shore and "forsook all, and followed Him" v.11.

Thou art the Christ

Peter was privileged to have remarkable experiences with his Lord and Master and God-given insights into Divine truths. Notwithstanding the fact that he had to be saved by the Lord when, having taken his eyes off Him he began to sink, Peter had, at the Lord's command, climbed out of a boat and actually walked on water towards the Lord, Matt.14.29-31. Also, he was with the Lord at the raising from the dead of Jairus' daughter, Lk.8.41,42,49-56; on the Mount of Transfiguration, Matt.17.1-9, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mk.14.32-42.

On a number of occasions, Peter spoke unwisely, Mk.9.5,6; 14.29-31; Matt.16.22,23. However, when the Lord asked the disciples if they would desert Him as others had done, it was Peter who answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life Jn.6.68. At another time, the Lord asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" Matt.16.13. The Lord knew all things, Jn.2.25; 21.17, but He wanted the disciples to think about what men were saying concerning Himself. Some thought He was John the Baptist. Some thought He was Elijah. Others thought He might be Jeremiah or "one of the prophets" Matt. 16.14. The disciples, like believers today, were privileged to know much more about the Lord than others did, and the Lord said to them, "But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God", Matt.16.15,16. Peter confessed that the Lord was the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God, and the Lord said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood bath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven" v.17. Peter's answer regarding the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ was not the result of human speculation or reasoning, for he had been blessed with a revelation from God. Each of us who has been saved by grace through faith, Eph.2.8, should praise, thank and worship God for the truths regarding the Lord which God has, in His mercy and grace, revealed to us. Meditation on these things will cause us to want to serve Him, worship Him and follow Him more closely.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Where Are The Shepherds?

by J.V. Paterson (Scotland)

Paper 1

As an older saint of God and one that has seen many changes among the assemblies, this article is written to raise a clarion call of dangers to, what we have come to know and love, namely the local assembly. Much ministry and that of great variety is given today both orally and in writing in the many publications that abound, but how many are teaching the truths of the assembly? For example, it seems quite a while since the following questions were addressed in conferences: Why we are where we are? Why the assembly is different from all other gatherings and separate from all in Christendom? On what principles do we gather? Why are we so different in doctrine and practice? These are lacking in presentation among us in the general round of conferences and ministry meetings. Thankfully some publications advance local church doctrine but not many.

The previous generation always directed our ways towards the assembly. Today the saints are being guided into the bypath meadow of ignoring Scriptural doctrines that leads to a kind of entertainment and the features of the assembly that we have known for years are ignored. We might ask why is this so and why the drive for change? The present day has witnessed the overthrow of many assembly principles that were bought at great personal cost and held dearly, for over a century in the United Kingdom.

A few examples will suffice to highlight the modern downward trend.

  • The denial of Headship and Lordship:

  • The casual dress and language in approach to God:

  • The casual presentation of the gospel and the use of modern technology:

  • The breakdown of the principles of reception and discipline, that leads to the ‘Open Table’ concept.

  • The advance of Amillennial doctrine.

So we could go on and many who read this article know about these things. There is much talk among the saints about these changes and much complaining but alas few men of conviction arise to stem this tide of modernism, that can only be assessed as rebellion.

Where are the Shepherds among us? This is a most vital question and one that needs addressed in a most urgent way if we are to recover the sad decline in the assemblies today.

We love to think about our Lord Jesus and His tenderness and love but we do Him an injustice if we do not take note of His attitude to the practices at the Temple and His word, "Take these things hence" Jn.2.16. Alas, His Father’s House became their house and Jesus went out of the Temple, never to return saying, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" Matt.23.38. Conditions were not found suitable for His holy presence and we find Him purging the Temple twice until at last He leaves their house desolate. What lessons we learn in this.

As one brought up in what might be called a strict assembly, I thank God for every time the shepherds corrected me as a young man. Some say that the problem today is that many young saints cannot be corrected since their attitude is not submissive to the teaching of Scripture and if we seek to adjust them then we could lose them. If this be true, it betrays the sad failure of the elders to correct this spirit. It possibly would be better to lose them than lose the presence of God in the midst of His people for where strife and rebellion are He will not be present. The Lord will not presence Himself locally where He cannot be morally. Yes, of course, we would love to keep them with us, but surely not at any cost? The elders need to have convictions formed regarding these matters and if their family circle is affected, it will be the test of the reality of these convictions. If the oversight fails in this then their weakness is exposed and they will soon be overruled by the opposing forces that want their own way and to do their own thing and the assembly as we have known it will change, not for the better but rather the worse.

There is already glaring evidence that where changes have taken place there remains no resemblance to the former assembly that for years stood in testimony for assembly truth in doctrine and godly life. Gospel Halls, once so called, have had their name changed and have become veritable halls of entertainment with all varieties of programmes of singing and bands all in the name of gospel enterprise in seeking to attract sinners to the gospel message. All this is a grief of heart to any spiritual person who values what the assembly is, and a great lack of reverence to the memory of brethren who held strongly and taught clearly the doctrines of assembly principles for God.

The great surprise in all this is the support of many conference preachers and local elders who know better but choose to support the younger element in this unscriptural excitement that panders to the flesh. The ministry in this paper may not please some brethren but they must arrive at the same conclusion if the assemblies are to be free from the intrusions of the flesh and the innovations of the determined who want to bulldoze over the saints, caring not for age or experience to get what they want. No regard for the Word of God or the clear doctrine of the Church of God is the sad position of these believers and they require to be censured by those who are responsible for the flock, quoting the words of the late John Douglas of Ashgill, "We are holding lightly and selling cheaply the inheritance of our fathers".

(These papers were in the process of preparation by our dear brother when he was called home. They have been submitted by his son)

To be continued (D.V.)

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Relationships in Proverbs

by James Paterson Jnr. (Scotland)

No.1 - Husband and Wife

In the book of Proverbs the union of one man with one woman is clearly shown. It would seem that while kings practised polygamy, the common Israelite seldom engaged in it. The endorsement of monogamy as the norm is seen in Proverbs by the absence of any reference to polygamy and the emphasis of the personal bond existing between husband and wife.

So important is the relationship of marriage that the writers give sound instruction to choosing a life partner. To the man advice is given, "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones" 12.4. He is instructed how to recognise one who is God given, "House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD" 19.14. The man is also reminded not to make good looks a priority, "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised." 31.30, but to look for a woman who fears the Lord; is discreet, "As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion" 11.22; is wise, "Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands" 14.1; and is not contentious or troublesome, "A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind," 27.15,16.

The woman should also take note of desirable praiseworthy traits in a man. Many examples are given in various verses, i.e. willing to be instructed, good, righteous, "Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish. A good man obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will He condemn. A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved" 12.1-3. Other desirable attributes are also given in the same chapter; wisdom, kindness, contentment, "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding" 12.10,11. Such instruction to men and women would still apply today.

The unity of the relationship is seen in various ways in the book. They speak with one voice when bringing up their children: "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother" 1.8; 6.20. The relationship is one to be preserved, even in the face of temptation of "a strange woman" 5.3. The husband is instructed to be not merely loyal, but "ravished always with her love" 5.19, because she is, "the wife of thy youth" 5.18. She is the one with whom the learning processes of life have been experienced therefore considerable instruction is given to the husband to stay close and disregard the temptation from outside.

The wife is seen not as being an accessory to the husband but as a critical partner in the relationship. She builds stability, "Every wise woman buildeth her house" 14.1: she is an important compliment to her husband, "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing" 18.22: her virtue makes her the crown of her husband, "a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband" 12.4. The high position of a wife is seen in the verses often referred to in chapter 31 of the book where the object of her behaviour and result of her character is the good standing of her husband. "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her" 31.11; "Her husband is known in the gates" 31.23.

So it would follow that if such great emphasis were made regarding the importance of the marriage bond, the corrupting of that bond due to the practice of sexual sin is a serious matter. Many instructions are given to avoid immorality and warnings are given of the resultant judgment imposed on those who defile the marriage bond, "And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray" 5.20-23. The destructive results of immorality are seen throughout the book. Some of these are; a loss of honour, 5.9; a source of irremovable reproach, 6.33; a loss of liberty, 23.27,28; loss of possessions, 29.3; loss of health, 2.18,19; proof of the lack of wisdom, 6.23. The ultimate loss is seen, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent" 6.27-29.

In this day of immorality and disregard for the importance and indissolubility of the marriage bond, the book of Proverbs is relevant and immensely topical, and so we would be wise to embrace the wisdom of the book, to preserve that which is God ordained and God-honouring, "incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding" 2.2.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Good Tidings from Heaven

Someone's looking for you!

In this busy world, where so many prying eyes are frequently upon us, it is difficult to escape the surveillance that we are so often under. Transactions carried out, using our credit cards, mean that we can be easily tracked and our movements monitored. CCTV cameras are everywhere and with sites like Google Earth, very little remains secret; complete strangers can visit our homes and move down our streets, undetected. "Big Brother Is Watching!"

All this is disconcerting and intimidating, but SOMEONE IS LOOKING FOR YOU; Someone Who has no ulterior motives, no evil intentions and Who desires your welfare and eternal blessing. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil …" Jeremiah 29.11. His love for you and His interest in you are unparalleled. His eye is upon you every moment of every day and night. Even when you are forgetful of Him and He is not in your thoughts, He is caring for you, "For in Him we live, and move, and have our being" Acts 17.28, "… He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" Acts 17.25. You may not have the slightest interest in Him but that does not diminish His interest in you. Who is this mysterious Friend? It is the Lord.

My dear friend, your life will never be fulfilling until you are linked to Christ. There will always be something missing while you keep this Friend at arm’s length. You can never be satisfied until He is everything to you. The greatest reason for getting to know Christ is that you can never be in heaven without Him. He is the only Saviour of sinners, Acts 4.12; the only way to eternal rest, John 14.6; the only door to heaven, John 10.9 and His blood alone cleanses from all sin, 1John 1.7.

He is looking for you – do you not feel your need of Him? You have kept Him waiting for your response; you have treated Him with contempt, but still He waits.

Behold, a Stranger at the door,

He gently knocks - has knocked before;

Has waited long, is waiting still:

You use no other friend so ill.

(Joseph Grigg)

My friend, it is in your interests to be reconciled to this Friend, Who proved His love by dying alone upon the cross at Calvary to save you from hell and eternal judgment. You never asked for His help; you did not deserve Him to intervene on your behalf, but had He not cared sufficiently to come from heaven and bear the punishment you deserved forever, your case would be totally hopeless. However, because He loved you and sacrificed Himself for you, you can be saved eternally. I urge you to trust Him before He at last wearies of your continual rejection of Him and turns sadly away – forever.

Admit Him – for the human breast

Ne’er entertained so kind a guest;

Admit Him – or the hour’s at hand,

When at His door denied you’ll stand.

(Joseph Grigg)

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