In our previous study we noted that this chapter comprises two lamentations in view of coming judgment. The first lamentation, vv.1-15, arises from Divine judgment on Israel’s civil injustice, and the second, vv.16-27, from Divine judgment on Israel’s religious hypocrisy.
THE FIRST LAMENTATION, vv.1-15
In the previous paper we noted that this 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.
We considered the first two of these.
He Describes the Injustice of the Nation, vv.10-13
Their recourse to Bethel, Gilgal and Beer-sheba had no moral effect whatsoever. They went to these places, but that was all. Their empty, religious profession was accompanied by moral bankruptcy. It was a cloak for evil conduct. There was no spiritual reality. We have already noticed this: "Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion …" vv.7,8.
Perhaps we ought to ask ourselves about our conduct. If, for example, our lives are not affected in any way by our attendance at the Lord’s Supper, then our presence means very little, if anything at all. To seek God in sincerity will produce moral character and Divine likeness. We will be "the children of light" Jn.12.36.
We should notice the expression "in the gate", vv.10,12,15. The "gate" was the law-court in ancient cities. It has been said that "Judicial decisions for each community were taken at the gate of the city, where the heads of families and other elders assembled to hear witnesses, arbitrate disputes, decide controversies, and generally dispense justice. The space on the inner side of the gate, together with rooms or alcoves in the gate area itself, were used as courtrooms". The best Old Testament example is found in Ruth 4.1,2. But a sorry picture of Israel’s justice greets us in these verses.
They Despised the Truth
"They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly" v.10. Compare 2.12, "Ye … commanded the prophets, saying, prophesy not." People do like to hear what they like to hear. We certainly live in the age described by Paul: "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine" 2Tim.4.3. "Itching ears" do not relish "sound doctrine". The faithful Bible teacher can expect a rough ride. In Hosea’s day they were saying, "the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad" Hos.9.7.
They Dispensed with Compassion
"Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens [exactions] of wheat" v.11. In New Testament language, there was no "care one for another" 1Cor.12.25. Assemblies should be caring communities: see Jms.2.15,16; 1Jn.3.17,18. Those responsible for such inequity would not enjoy their ill-gotten gains: "ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them" v.11.
They Dispensed with Justice
"For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right" v.12. The judiciary could be manipulated. Money talked! There was no impartiality. Jms.2.1-13 now becomes compulsory reading! We would not (hopefully!) contemplate bribery and corruption for one moment, but we could easily become "partial" Jms.2.4. For example, it is not unknown for people to demand high standards from other believers, but to conveniently lower them for members of their own families! Moreover, it would be unwise to protest in Israel: "Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time" v.13. It was safer to keep your mouth shut, because you never knew what might happen if you protested. Something like, ‘You wouldn’t want to spoil your prospects, now, would you?’
He Makes an Appeal to the Nation, vv.14,15
He calls for change: "Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate" vv.14,15. Compare 1Thess.5.21,22: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." The Lord Jesus "loved righteousness, and hated iniquity" Heb.1.9.
Do notice the words, "and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken" v.14, or ‘and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye say’ J.N.D. So they wanted God’s presence: they expected Him to be with them. They wanted the right thing, but as things were, they were wrong in their expectation. How could He be with them in the current circumstances? A ‘C-change’ was necessary if this was to be the case: "Seek good, and not evil … Hate the evil, and love the good". Compare Ps.24.3-6, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his Holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob, Selah".
The appeal for change is accompanied by the possibility of blessing: "It may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph" v.15. Compare Joel 2.14. This is where Amos started: "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. We have already noted that Joseph stands for the northern kingdom. See our comments against v.6. However, J.A.Motyer points out that it is specifically stated on three occasions that "the Lord was with Joseph" Gen.39.2,21,23, all of them referring to a period in his life ‘when hope had sunk beyond the horizon’. As "the Lord, the God of hosts" v.14, and "the Lord God of hosts" v.15, the Lord was perfectly able to deliver His people or, to use the language here, be "gracious unto the remnant of Joseph". He had not "forgotten to be gracious" Ps. 77.9. J.A.Motyer nicely observes that "the ‘may be’ of grace rightly rebukes complacent human hearts, but in the divine heart there is no ‘may be’. The God of grace cannot forget to be gracious". But we must remember that this was dependent on the repentance of the people. In Isaiah’s words, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" Isa.55.7.
This brings us to:
THE SECOND LAMENTATION, vv.16-27
As already noted, this arises from Divine judgment on Israel’s religious hypocrisy. This is emphasised as follows: "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer Me burnt-offerings and meat-offerings, I will not accept them … Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs … But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream" vv.21-24.
In this section of the chapter Amos does four things:
he anticipates their national sorrow, vv.16,17
he asserts that God will be with them, vv.18-20
he abhors their religious practices, vv.21-26
he announces their coming captivity, v.27
He Anticipates their National Sorrow, vv.16,17
"Therefore the Lord [Jehovah], the God of hosts [Elohim Tsebahoth], the Lord Adonai, [the sovereign Lord], saith thus: Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing. And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee (not "pass over", Ex.12.13) saith the Lord". The same expression ("pass through") is used in connection with Divine judgment on Egypt, Ex.12.12. There is nothing but "wailing … wailing … wailing". It has been said that Divine judgment on Israel would be so widespread that they would run out of professional mourners, and have to hire farmers to do the job. The title "God of hosts" should be noticed. The title "Lord of hosts" is used in connection with Divine support for God’s people, whereas "God of hosts" is used in connection with their judgment.
He Asserts that God Will be with Them, vv.18-20
Having noted that these people wanted the presence of God, v.14, Amos tells them that they would have it, but not in the way they expected: "Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?". They desired "the day of the Lord", evidently thinking that it would a day of judgment on their enemies. But it would be a day of judgment upon them! They would find no joy, vv.16,17, no light, v.18, and no escape, v.19. The outstanding feature of "the day of the Lord" will be its darkness, v.20. Compare Zeph.1.15. The "day of the Lord", whether at the end-time (1Thess.5.2,3), or at any other time, is always a time of Divine judgment. It must be said, however, that strictly speaking, "the day of the Lord" includes the millennium, and it could be that these people were selecting what suited them, and conveniently closing their eyes to the judgment associated with the period.
The expression, "the day of the Lord", reminds us that we do need to distinguish between various ‘days’ mentioned in the N.T. There are four:
Man's day - see 1Cor.4.3, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment", where the words, "man's judgment", are literally, ‘man's day’ (anthropinos hemera), and we therefore learn that Paul was not concerned about the light men could throw upon his service. The term ‘man's day’ only occurs here. "It denotes the period during which world government has been put into man's hands"(J.M.Davies). We live at the moment, therefore, in ‘man's day’.
The day of Jesus Christ - see Phil.1.6. It is elsewhere called "the day of Christ" Phil.1.10; 2.16, "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" 1Cor.1.8, "the day of the Lord Jesus" 1Cor.5.5; 2Cor.1.14, and "that day" 2Tim.4.8. These passages all refer to the Lord's coming for His Church (the Rapture), and to His review and reward of our work for Him. This will take place in heaven.
The day of the Lord - see 1Thess.5.2. Unlike "the day of Christ", this refers to events on earth, and includes Divine judgment on wicked men, together with the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. 2Thess.2.2 calls for special comment. The A.V. reads "that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us that the day of Christ is at hand", whereas the revised text reads ‘that ye be not soon shaken in mind…as that the day of the Lord is present’ R.V./J.N.D. The Old Testament prophecies abound with references to "the day of the LORD", most of which refer to events at the end-time, and some of which describe current or imminent events, but which point forward to events at the end-time. Prophetic students often say that ‘coming events cast their shadow before them’.
The day of God - This expression occurs only in 2Pet.3.12, and refers to the eternal state: "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein (‘by reason of which’, J.N.D. the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
The remaining verses covering the second lamentation in this chapter, vv.21-27, will be considered in our next study, God willing. In these verses, as noted above, Amos abhors their religious practices, vv.21-26, and announces their coming captivity, v.27.
We have noted that chapter 3 divides into three paragraphs– vv.1-7 the subject is REGENERATION: vv.8-11 deal with REJECTION and in vv.12-15 there are REQUESTS. In former papers we have thought of the first section. The remainder of the chapter could be divided as follows.
Vv.8-11 - REJECTION
In v.8 there are Good and Profitable things – "These things are good and profitable unto men". In vv.9-11 there are Grievous and Avoidable things, both in terms of Principles, v.9, "avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law" and People, vv.10,11, "A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject".
Vv.12-15 - REQUESTS
In these verses there are Gracious and Desirable things in terms of Personnel, vv.12,13, "Artemas, Tychicus, Zenas, Apollos"; things Practical, v.14, "let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful"; and things Personal to Paul, v.15, "all that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all".
V.8 - Good and Profitable Things – "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."
The previous verses have given to us the doctrine of regeneration and now we have the practice. This is always the order since doctrine must affect our practices. Our beliefs control our behaviour or our convictions control our conduct.
This is a faithful saying – this expression occurs five times in the Pastoral Epistles. 1Tim.1.15 where it has to do with the Gospel; 1Tim.3.1 where the context is assembly Government; 1Tim.4.8,9 with respect to Godliness; 2Tim.2.11, where it is Glory and here it involves Good Works.
These things – this is how the previous chapter concluded: 2.15, "These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee." The 11 occurrences of "things" in the epistle highlight the practical nature of the teaching. Sometimes there is a desire as expressed in Isa.30.10, "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things", but all true ministry will have a practical application to our lives.
I will that thou affirm constantly - this is Paul’s definite, deliberate purpose and shows his apostolic authority. "Affirm constantly" is one word that implies a strong and confident affirmation and the present tense indicates that this is to be ongoing. We need to be constantly and regularly reminded of God’s standards for our lives. As teaching is given with conviction there will be no thought of apologising for Divine truth. We were taught in 2.15 that teaching was given "with all authority". The Cretians in particular and saints generally need strong and scriptural leadership.
That they which have believed in God – These are they who have believed and continue to believe God. The preposition "in" is best omitted since salvation comes through believing the record God gave of His Son and of men, and we exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is confirmed in Jn.5.24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that he that hears My word, and believes Him that has sent Me, has life eternal, and does not come into judgment, but is passed out of death into life" J.N.D.
Might be careful – the believer should thoughtfully consider, ponder every action or decision as to how it will affect my testimony individually and the collective assembly testimony.
To maintain good works – "maintain" implies that before and overall should be our carefulness and diligence to guard and advance our testimony by "good works". These are works that are beautiful and have occurred throughout the epistle. In 1.16 to deny them is an Insult to Profession: 2.7 they are Identified in the Preacher: 2.14 there is the Intention of His Passion: 3.1 the context is to be Immune From Politics: here and in v.14 they are Important to Practise.
These things are good and profitable unto men - the best and most profitable way of overcoming criticism and counteracting error is to live a godly, Christian life and display this in being neighbourly, kindly, helpful and courteous.
Now we turn from profitable things to those that are unprofitable, v.9, "they are unprofitable and vain".
Vv.9-11 - Grievous and Avoidable Things
V.9 - Principles – "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain."
But avoid – This is an apostolic command that is to be done for oneself. It means to take evasive action; to stand aside, step around so as to avoid. The word is in 2Tim.2.16 as "shun".
Foolish – this is the word from which we get our word "moron". Matthew uses it for the foolish man who built on the sand and the foolish virgins, 7.26; 25.2. It means to be dull or sluggish.
Questions – this word occurs in three other references in the epistles to Timothy: 1Tim.1.4; 6.4 and 2Tim.2.23. It implies a searching to debate some matter of controversy. Foolish questions pervade modern society and seem to be very appealing to nature. They certainly keep the world of science and research going as they wonder about various matters such as those relating to evolution, alien life, philosophical reasoning about what is good or evil, etc. These have snared many young people in this day of questioning things formerly taken for granted. In many ways this can be good and enlightening, provided it does not undermine faith.
Genealogies – uselessly delving into meaningless records of descent or lineage.
Contentions – the word is variously translated as "debate", Rom.1.29; "strife", Rom.13.13; "contentions", 1Cor.1.11; "variance", Gal.5.20; and means the believer is to avoid strife and contention which just lead to divisions.
Strivings about the law – the root of the word is "sword" and suggests a fight, combat, contention, a quarrel. They seem to have legal battles or wordy fights about Mosaic and Pharisaic and Gnostic regulations. No wonder Paul says, "they are unprofitable" meaning ‘vain’, ‘empty and worthless’. They have no value in promoting a holy life or good works and must be avoided. We ought to be positive and seek to edify rather than raise questions that are designed to make us appear smart. V.9 could be a good text for a Bible Reading!
Vv.10,11 - People – "A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject"
A man that is an heretick – This is the only mention of this word and has the basic meaning of pertaining to choice. It means one who will divide the saints by wanting them to choose his way and his teaching. One who is schismatic, factious but not necessarily a follower of false doctrine. He is a factious man, who seeks to sectionalise the saints by drawing adherents after himself.
How do we deal with such? He is to be admonished once, then twice and finally avoided. After the first and second admonition – The final action is not taken hurriedly or in a fit of pique. The man is to be warned, literally the word means ‘to put in mind’, ‘to train by word’, implying ‘to put sense into’. So the party-makers are told that they are wrong and that the saints will have no part with that kind of behaviour.
However, if they persist we are to reject them. This is another Pauline command and means they are to be refused or avoided. The use of the word in the Pastoral Epistles highlights the meaning: 1Tim.4.7, "But refuse profane and old wives' fables"; 5.11, "the younger widows refuse"; 2Tim.2.23, "foolish and unlearned questions avoid".
While initially the person may not be excommunicated, this will be the result. As the saints refuse to enter into all that this person wishes and he is avoided it is likely he will leave the assembly because he has no following. He will be so isolated that assembly life will be intolerable for him and so he will either admit his error or leave. If he persists in creating division the assembly will be left with no alternative but to excommunicate him.
v.11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself"
Knowing - continue to know by observation. The rejection is not a hard-hearted thing, but based upon clear evidence and observation. The saints know that he is one of this kind and "is subverted". That is he was and continues to be turned or twisted and is such a real crank that it is impossible to deal with him.
Sinneth being condemned of himself - He has missed the mark and has wandered from the law of God, an action that leaves him self-condemned. All that comes upon him is his own fault because he, by his actions and words has judged himself.
At Lev.26.46, as Moses authenticates "by his hand" the revelation given in Leviticus, he describes the nature of Jehovah’s revelation to the nation: "These are the statutes and judgments and laws (Strong 8451) which the Lord made between Himself and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai." There are, however, only eight other laws in the book, in addition to the seven comprising the law of the offerings, 6.9,14,25; 7.1,7,11,37. Although there is a law relating to each individual offering, 6.9,14,25; 7.1,11, they are brought under the singular term "law" at 7.37. It is appropriate to speak about the law of the offerings.
The commandments contained in 6.9-7.21 are addressed to Aaron and his sons, v.9. They clearly identify the priests’ portion of each offering an offerer might bring and several areas of priestly responsibility not previously detailed in the earlier chapters. From 7.22-38 the audience is wider; there all Israel is addressed. The focus of those verses is also related to the eating portions of the sacrifices, excepting the burnt offering.
The phrase "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying…" occurs at 6.8,19,24; 7.22,28, providing the following structure:
The laws of the burnt and meal offerings, 6.8-18;
The priests’ meal offering, 6.18-23;
The law of the sin and trespass offerings, 6.24-7.21;
Prohibitions to be observed, 7.22-27;
Guidance about the peace offering, 7.28-38.
Clearly the offerings are not classified as sweet savour and non-savour offerings. The order of the offerings is also changed from that given in 1.1-6.7, as the Lord sets out for Moses the Law of the offerings. The new order is the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sin offering and the closely-related trespass offering, followed by the peace offering. The reasons for the change of order would seem to emphasise the acceptance the worshipper needed in the burnt offering with the meal offering that often accompanied; thereafter the two guilt offerings show how that relationship could be restored when sin came in. The climax in the peace offering shows how God desired His people to be in the joy of the Lord in a variety of experiences, a joy that would be shared with others. As we shall note, more detail is given about the purpose of the peace offering, considerably beyond the amplification given about the other four offerings in the law of the offerings.
THE LAW OF THE BURNT OFFERING
At v.9 both the R.V. and J.N.D. translate "on the hearth" where the A.V. reads, "because of the burning". Six times over we are informed that the fire on the altar should not go out, twice in each of vv.9,12,13. We cannot help but notice the fire responsibilities of the priests. At 9.24, "there came a fire out from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the fat." The priests were responsible to ensure that fire continued to burn, that there would always be a visible testimony to the nation’s worship of Jehovah. Both day and night the sweet savour of the burnt offering was also to reach the nostrils of their God. The exercise required wood, v.12, of which Neh.10.34 and 13.31 will later speak more particularly.
We also note that the ashes are to be treated with respect because they came from the altar, 6.10,11. The place of the ashes is mentioned at 1.16 and again at 4.12. At 1.16, it is "beside the altar" on the east side; at 4.12 it is a clean place outside the camp. These were not ordinary ashes; indeed it is this word for ‘ashes’ (Strong 1880) that we find in the expression "dust and ashes", Gen.18.27. The word is related to the word "(animal) fat," for other than the burnt offering, the main thing that burned on the brazen altar was fat; different kinds of fat from the animal. Not even the priest was allowed to eat that fat. Appropriately dressed, as he would be on the Day of Atonement, the priest was required to transport the ashes outside the camp. According to rabbinical writings, lots were cast each morning to determine which priests would undertake this task. Even the removal of the ashes was to be undertaken with the dignity befitting the altar of burnt offering.
The priests’ activities in respect of the altar of burnt offering and the burnt offerings themselves were not specifically rewarded. Not until 7.8 do we learn that the offering priest was entitled to the skin of the animal offered.
THE LAW OF THE MEAL OFFERING
Reminders are given that this offering is to be offered "before the Lord, before the altar" and that from that offering (here probably accompanying the burnt offering) the Lord must have His portion, 6.14,15. Unlike the procedures for burnt offerings, the priests were to partake of the remainder of the meal offering. What is stressed here is the place where it would be eaten. They would partake of the meal offering in "a holy place, in the court of the tent of meeting" v.16. The Lord states that the meal offering is "most holy" v.17; see 2.3,10. (The same phrase is used of the sin and trespass offerings, 6.25, 29; 7.1,6.) Lehrman notes the danger that left over grain might be baked with leaven. Even after the altar had consumed the Lord’s portion, the same standards were to be upheld in respect of the priests’ portion.
The priests’ meal offering was to be offered on the day of their anointing. However, Josephus notes that it was offered daily from then onwards, v.20; Antiquities 3:10:7. Its ritual mirrored that of the voluntary meal offering except that all of it was for the Lord; no portion was retained for the priests.
THE LAWS OF THE SIN AND TRESPASS OFFERINGS
The description "most holy" marks both offerings. The implications are several:
the eating of the animal was compulsory and its remains could not be treated as common, 6.26; 7.6;
the person who touched the flesh of the offering was to be considered "holy", 6.27;
the blood of the offering touching a person’s clothing rendered him "holy", 6.27;
The vessels in which the flesh of the sacrifice was boiled (A.V. "sodden") had to be destroyed or washed and scoured, 6.28.
The carelessness of the offerer may have brought him into contact with the flesh of the sacrifice, but the priest should have been more scrupulous in sprinkling the blood, 4.25,30,34; 7.9, in order to avoid blood splashing on to the offerer. The Lord’s claims on the individual carelessly having come into contact with holy things might have proved too great for one not prepared for the demands it would bring. Sadly, even today, there are those who fail to answer to God’s claims despite their profession that they rest on the One Who was made sin for us.
THE LAW OF THE PEACE OFFERING
This law provides for the worshipper who wishes to give God thanks or to respond to God because he has vowed; or for a number of reasons that might be described as "voluntary". The peace offering was not obligatory but for the heart of God. It also brought joy to the widest circle of participants. The peace offering was Israel’s fellowship offering.
The exercises that led to the offering of a peace offering were all worthy, but some could be sustained more than others, so the law of the peace offering specifies the period over which the peace offering could be enjoyed.
In a world where men are so blatantly unthankful, 2Tim.3.2, every saint of God should see themselves as "bound to give thanks" 2Thess.2.13. Every day demands a fresh exercise as we seize the opportunity to say, "I thank God". Not surprisingly, the peace offering linked with thanksgiving had to be eaten that day, 7.15. Even an exercised Israelite had to be aware of how quickly thankfulness could evaporate. Every day, Christians "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father" Col.3.17.
Where there had been a definite exercise that led to a vow or that moved the heart to give to God beyond the tithes, the half-shekel of atonement money and other obligations, the peace offering could be eaten on the day it was offered or on the morrow, 7.16. God, Who knew their frame, forbad extending the eating to the third day, 7.18. Whatever remained of the sacrifice until the third day had to be burned (Strong 8313), 7.17.
The peace offering was widely shared. First of all, God received His portion, then the offering priest, 7.32,33; Aaron’s sons, 7.31-35; Aaron’s daughters, 10.14; Num.18.11; and of course the offerer and his friends. The vocabulary of Exodus chapter 29 of heave and wave offerings is reprised in 7.28-36 as the statute setting out the priests’ portion is enunciated. The breast of the sacrificial victim was to be waved; the right shoulder heaved. Scrutiny of the breast reminds the lover of Christ that the all-seeing eye found no unholy motives there. The energy that lifted the heavy right shoulder, carried forward the work the Father had given Him to do and was unfailing in the One who still works with His own, Mk.16.20. On the types Aaronic priests fed; on the antitype the New Testament priest feeds.
Perhaps it is because the fellowship with the right to partake of this sacrifice was so wide, that great emphasis is laid on the perpetual prohibition against eating the fat or blood of the offering, 3.17; 7.22-27; a section addressed to all Israel, not just the priests. There would be much that priests knew that commoners didn’t. Prohibition for acquired uncleanness is also stressed in respect of partaking of the peace offering, 7.19-21, similar to that included in the sin offering ritual, 5.2,3.
The long portion of Scripture from 6.8 ends with two verses that insist upon the importance of the five offerings specified in chapters 1-7, and the consecration offerings, associated with the priests’ induction, v.35. The singular noun "the law" 7.37 reminds us of the single ritual within which each is placed. The summary contains words that describe the exercises connected with the altar: "offering" (Strong 4503) "sacrifice" (Strong 2077) and "oblation" (Strong 7133). Already terms like "statute" 3.17; 6.18,22; 7.34,36, have been used, qualified by reminders of the unchanging nature of the decrees. Now in the summary we meet the word "law" and twice the verb "command" set in the context of Sinai’s authority. Many centuries passed before a Man spoke of things concerning Himself, which doubtless contained references to the Levitical offerings, Lk.24.27.
Despite the elaborate ceremonies fashioned by Christendom, the Lord’s Supper is (or should be) the model of simplicity. The prerequisites are a gathered church, the presence of bread and wine, the offering of thanks for what these symbols depict (audibly by the brethren and inaudibly by the sisters) and participation by each member in these emblems. Scripture does not declare how long the gathering should last nor state that it should take place in a religious building. While it is preferable to make it the first observance of the Lord’s Day we must recognise that in some cultures this may not be possible (cp. Troas, Acts 20.7 and Corinth, 1Cor.11.17,20-22,33,34). Whatever arrangements are made must be "unto edifying" 1Cor.14.26. While it is best to stick as closely as possible to the original pattern that does not extend to a need to use modern replicas of the wine in use in Israel in AD33 nor does it require us to bake loaves with the same techniques and ingredients as were used at Passover suppers. There are assemblies, e.g. in the African bush, that have no access to or the means of making bread or wine and instead use the most closely related substitute that is available. While this is not ideal it is preferable to having no Breaking of Bread. This reminds us that the emblems are important but they have no virtue in themselves save to the extent that they direct us to think about the spiritual matters that they signify.
THE SANCTION FOR THE SUPPER
It should be remembered that it is not an option to remember the Lord. He said "this do in remembrance of Me" 1Cor.11.24. Since this is a command we should strive to be present each Lord’s Day with an assembly so that we can remember the Lord. There are legitimate reasons for missing the Breaking of Bread such as infirmity or sickness but otherwise we should as far as possible seek to obey the Lord’s words..
THE SUNDAY SUPPER
Whereas baptism is a once for all experience and does not require to be repeated, the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup is a repeated experience. It appears from the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples were in the habit of remembering the Lord Jesus on the first day of the week, Acts 20.7. Since Sunday, the first day of the week, was the day the Lord rose from the dead, Matt.28.1; Mk.16.2, it makes sense that they should choose to remember the Lord on that day. Most of the early Christians were Jews and the last day of the week, the Sabbath, was the day when they traditionally met. The significance of the Sabbath is the commemoration of God’s rest after the work of creation. Christians were instructed by Paul to stop observing the Sabbath, Col.2.16. Thus, although there is no passage of Scripture, which deals with the topic directly, it is clear that apostolic practice as recorded by Luke under the guidance of the Spirit was that they did so on Sunday*. Many denominations have a "Communion Sunday" every 3 or 6 months. Others celebrate Mass frequently, at funerals, weddings, bedsides, rallies etc. There are private masses, public masses, Saturday night masses, daily masses - confusion reigns!
* We call Sunday "the Lord’s Day". The expression "the Lord’s Day" is only used once in the N.T. in Rev. 1.10. Some think that the phrase is a reference to the future "Day of the Lord" when the Lord returns in judgment but for grammatical and contextual reasons it seems likely that John is speaking about the first day of the week. The early church certainly thought so since "the Lord’s Day" is a common term for Sunday in literature from the second century.
THE SIGN OF THE SUPPER
Whereas baptism is a personal testimony by an individual Christian, the Breaking of Bread is a corporate testimony by the assembly. We nowhere read of people celebrating the Lord’s Supper on their own. In the Upper Room, before Calvary, it was observed by the apostles (minus Judas who had left by that stage to betray the Lord) and the Lord Himself. These apostles were the founding members of the church in Jerusalem. Thereafter every occasion on which we read of the Lord’s Supper we find the disciples meeting collectively to break bread. Thus the remembrance is a collective act and is only Scripturally celebrated where there is an established assembly.
THE SUMMATION OF THE SUPPER
In summary, when an assembly breaks bread and drinks the cup it should offer thanks, as He gave thanks at that first Supper. In taking the emblems they are reminded of His holy humanity, His redemptive death and their dependence on Him. As they break bread they do so "till He come" 1Cor.11.26.
The Lord told the disciples that there would come a time when He would be deserted by all of them. Peter, being full of love for his Lord, and full of courage, pride and self-confidence, spoke up and said, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I" Mk.14.29. The Lord said to him, "before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice" Mk.14.30. Peter protested vehemently and, meaning every word, said that he would not deny the Lord but was prepared to die with Him, and so said all the other disciples, Mk. 14.31.
When they came to arrest the Lord, the disciples all deserted Him and fled, Mk. 14.50. Peter and John, however, returned to follow the Lord, Jn.18.15, but Peter followed Him "afar off" Lk.22.54. A servant-girl came to Peter and said that he had been with Jesus but Peter denied this and the cock crowed, Mk.14.68. Shortly after, another young girl saw him and told those around that Peter had been with the Lord. Peter denied with an oath, and said, "I do not know the man" Matt.26.72. A little later, some of those standing by claimed that Peter's accent identified him as a Galilean. Peter cursed and denied that he knew the Lord, Matt.26.69-75. The cock then crowed for the second time and Peter remembered that the Lord had said that before the cock would crow twice he would deny Him three times.
When the cock crowed the second time, the Lord turned and looked at Peter, Lk.22.61. In that look Peter saw the Lord's unchanging love for him, His grace, and the Lord's sorrow caused by Peter's denials. That look broke Peter down, and he "went out, and wept bitterly" Lk.22.62. Peter repented with bitter tears and his self-confidence and self-sufficiency were destroyed. He was now in a condition to be restored to the Lord Who was shortly going to suffer, bleed and die for him. The Lord had prayed that Peter's faith would not fail, Lk.22.31,32. Peter's faith did not fail although his courage did, and later he was graciously restored and used by God to strengthen his brethren.
We would do well to consider the causes of Peter's downfall. His three denials were the result of self-confidence, pride and the fear of man, Prov.29.25. Pride and self-confidence led to a lack of dependence on God and, as a consequence, lack of prayer. When the Lord found Peter, James and John sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said to Peter, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation", and graciously added, "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" Matt.26.41.
Peter followed the Lord "afar off'. If we do not follow the Lord closely, obeying His will as revealed to us in His Word, we shall backslide, and move further away from our Lord and Saviour. If we fail to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach, lead and empower us and, instead, rely on ourselves, we are sure to fail the Lord.
Peter stood to warm himself by a fire of coals, Jn.18.18; he settled down among the Lord's enemies and "sat down among them", Lk.22.55. Peter followed "afar off', then stood, then sat down among the ungodly. Peter's settling down brings to mind the downward progression into sin depicted in Ps.1.1, which speaks of walking, then standing and then sitting with the ungodly. We are told to live separated lives, 2Cor.6.17. Demas forsook Paul, "having loved this present world", 2Tim.4.10. We are warned that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God" Jms.4.4. Despite all the world has to offer, a backsliding believer will never be completely at ease in the company of unbelievers. Peter wrote of "just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked", among whom he had chosen to dwell, 2Pet.2.7. The backslider will neither be happy in the company of unbelievers nor in that of believers. Peter was away from the Lord, but the Lord loved him and Peter loved the Lord.
Lovest thou Me?
When the Lord looked at him, Peter experienced great sorrow and sadness. These were the first stirrings of true repentance.
After the Lord's resurrection, an angel said to the women who had come to the empty tomb, "tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him" Mk.16.7. When the two disciples who had met the Lord on the road to Emmaus went back to Jerusalem, the other disciples said to them, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon" Lk.24.34. The Lord had graciously met and talked with Peter. We may never know what passed between them, but Peter was restored at this meeting.
The disciples went fishing one night on the Sea of Galilee, but caught nothing. In the morning the Lord stood on the shore, but at first they did not recognise Him. He told them to "Cast the net on the right side of the ship" Jn.21.6. In His omniscience the Lord knew where the fish were, and they caught many. This would have reminded some of the disciples of a similar experience in the past, Lk.5.4-7. John knew that it was the Lord, and as soon as he told Peter, Peter, in his eagerness to be with his Lord, jumped into the water and swam to the shore.
On the beach there was a fire with fish laid on it. The fire was made from coals. This would have reminded Peter of the coal fire at which he had warmed himself when he denied the Lord, Jn.18.18,25. After they had eaten, the Lord spoke to Peter in the presence of the other disciples, Jn.21.15-19. Peter had denied the Lord three times, and this was the third time the Lord appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. The Lord drew from Peter three confessions of Peter's love for Himself, vv.15-17. He asked Peter if he loved Him more than the others who were with them loved Him. Peter said that the Lord knew that he loved Him, but now his pride and self-confidence were gone and he did not add "more than these". Peter was told by the Lord, "Feed My lambs". The Lord then asked Peter the same question a second time, but omitted the words "more than these". Peter gave the same answer again and the Lord said "Feed My sheep". The third time the question was asked, Peter "was grieved" and said to the Lord, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love Thee". Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep".
Two different Greek words for "love" are used in the record of the conversation between the Lord and Peter. The word used by the Lord in the first and second questions was "agape" and means a love which is deep, unselfish and constant. The other word used for love is "phileo". This is a weaker word and means a general, tender affection and personal attachment. Peter, with all self-confidence gone, was careful to use the weaker word "phiko" in his answers to the Lord's three questions, and this was the word used by the Lord the third time He questioned Peter. The use, by the Lord, of "phileo" in the third question broke Peter down, and, all boasting gone, he told the Lord that He, in His omniscience, knew that Peter loved Him. The Lord then told Peter that he would indeed die for Him as he had once said he was prepared to do, and the Lord said to him, "Follow Me" vv.18,19. The Lord clearly and definitely identified it as being Peter's personal responsibility to follow Him when, a little later, He said to him, "follow thou Me v.22.
Peter was fully and publicly restored and would henceforth serve the Lord he loved, obeying the Lord's command, "follow thou Me". He would follow the Lord closely, not "afar off'. Peter had learned to rely, not on himself, but on the power of God. Peter made mistakes, as we all do, in our service for our Lord and Saviour. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely wise, holy and incapable of sinning, and only He could say that He always did what pleased His Father. He glorified His Father in all He did and said, and finished the work His Father had given Him to do, Jn.8.29; 17.4.
The Lord's gracious dealings with Peter, His longsuffering and love, led Peter to repentance, restoration and service as a dependent servant, and show that the Lord, in His love, grace and wisdom, can forgive and restore us when we fail Him. We read, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins 1Jn.1.9. If we are truly repentant He will use us again in His service. We must be vigilant, and be careful to stay close to the Lord, obeying what the Holy Spirit will teach us as we meditate on the Word of God. Let us bear in mind the admonition, "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall", 1Cor.10.12. We are saved eternally and can never lose our salvation, Jn.3.36; 10.28,29, and the Lord has work for us to do in the time that remains for us on this earth. He says to each believer, as He said to Peter, "follow thou Me".
In the first paper we noted many trends that are not conducive to the upbuilding of assembly testimony and the need for men of conviction and true shepherd hearts to stem the tide of modernism. The lack of shepherds is the real problem we have today. We badly need men who really care who will guide by example and exercise love and use the Book and the crook when required.
Another point is that today the local assemblies are suffering because of the diary. Too many are now away elsewhere and exercise for the local company appears to be secondary and not primary. "Mine own vineyard have I not kept" S of S.1.6, is all too common today. So the need is for consistent shepherding in the assemblies. The shepherd will be found where the sheep of his own fold are.
In Ezekiel chapter 34, a great chapter on this subject, we learn that the sheep are scattered, because there were no shepherds. None to visit the sick, none to draw alongside, none to care. Please read this chapter and see how God regards this condition among His people. Read how He regards the shepherds, v.2 "Woe be to the shepherds that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock". In vv.2-6 we see the disregard the shepherds had for the sheep in their needful conditions.
The Scriptures are full of illustrations on this subject but three shepherds will suffice for this paper, men who were responsible, Jacob, Moses and David, who kept sheep for another namely, Laban, Jethro and Jesse respectively.
JACOB – Gen.29.10, "Jacob, watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother."
Jacob Refreshing - he drew from the depths to refresh the sheep. The saints are refreshed when brethren bring truth from the depths of the Word. Dear reader, are the sheep of your assembly being taught and refreshed by the Word?
Gen.31.38-41 - Jacob Serving – he is dedicated. These verses present a catalogue of faithful service for 20 years. "These 20 years have I been with thee: Thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the lambs of the flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee, I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night". How responsible the shepherd is! The Lord Jesus Christ could say, "None of them is lost" Jn.17.12. Can the shepherds of today say this?
MOSES - Ex.3.1, "Moses led the flock of Jethro his father in law to the backside of the desert and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb"
Moses Leading - he directed the sheep away to seclusion, the desert. To feed on the sweet herbs of the mountain he led them to the heights. Where are we leading the sheep today? Christ on high in exaltation and glory is food for His sheep. What sublime teaching is here for the saints; are the shepherds rising to this ministry?
DAVID - 1Sam.17.34, "A lion and a bear took a lamb, I went after it, slew the lion and bear and delivered the lamb."
David Defending - Do not the sheep today belong to another and are the shepherds not accountable to Him? Heb.13.17 would teach us so: "Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account." Can the saints count on you as an elder/shepherd to support them when the enemy assails? The hireling fleeth when the wolf cometh, probably because they are not his sheep. In contrast, Christ is: The Good Shepherd in His death, Jn.10.11; the Great Shepherd in Resurrection, Heb.13.20; the Chief Shepherd in His Coming Again, 1Pet.5.4.
There are others to whom we could refer, like Joseph who, in Genesis chapter 46, led His father and brethren and their flocks to the land of Goshen which means, land of Sun, land of Rain and land of Pasture. This is where true shepherds will lead the flock, to the green pasture of the Word of God. It is evident that God has raised shepherds for He requires His sheep to be led, fed and taught. Could it be that some are not responding to God’s gift to them of the shepherd?
(These papers were in the process of preparation by our dear brother when he was called home. They have been submitted by his son)
In Proverbs the family holds the central place in society which it received in the Decalogue, where three times over its importance is seen; "Honour thy father and thy mother..." Deut.5.16; "Thou shalt not commit adultery" Deut.5.18; "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife..." Deut.5.21. Family life which is briefly mentioned in those verses comes to prominence in Proverbs, being seen in the unity of parents, the faithful bringing up of children, and the outcome of either obeying or disobeying the instructions given.
The unity of parents mentioned in the previous article is critical in the guidance of children in the home 1.8; 6.20. This is amplified by the Lord Jesus, "every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" Matt.12.25.
The main resource of parents in teaching their children is that which is described in Proverbs as their 'law'. This is taught in the home by the parents to their children with loving persistence. While this instruction is seen as being irksome to some and may well be rejected as we will see below, the responsibility to teach is never reduced. The 'law', 'tora' is a wide term which includes commands 3.1; 7.2, but is not confined to such. Basically it means direction, and its aim is to develop wise habits of thought and action. "Bind them upon thy fingers; write them upon the table of thine heart" 7.3. This will equip the child to find his way through life with sureness and honour: "Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble" 3.23; "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck" 1.9.
It should be noted that Proverbs is well known for its praise of the rod, "he that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" 13.24. Note the word "betimes". As chastisement is administered with a view to development and not as an irrational vent to anger, it must be administered only when the situation warrants it. While we do not advocate the physical rod, the book teaches that some form of corporal punishment is beneficial in the development of a child. "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" 22.15, and so training is required. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" 22.6. Training is always for the benefit of the child, not the parent, although the parent invariably benefits from a well brought up child, and while discipline may be unpleasant to administer it may be the necessary action in the circumstance.
We are living in a 'PC' society, but please remember that while something may be politically correct it can be Scripturally wrong. While there are parents who have only themselves to blame for their shame, "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" 29.15, it is ultimately the individual himself who must bear his own blame for his attitude to wisdom: "whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father" 29.3. The child is instructed to abide in the teaching of the parent and allow such wisdom to mould his life. It is incongruous that the converse should ever happen and a parent change to imbibe the will of a child; such an idea is foreign to the book of Proverbs and indeed to Scripture as a whole.
The outcome of upbringing should be an acknowledgement of the guiding hand of the parents: "For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live" 4.3,4. This is a lovely description of a child acknowledging his upbringing. However, this is not always the case, and in the book there are reminders that the best training cannot instil wisdom, but only encourage the child to seek it. There are a variety of unwise sons: an idle son that causes shame, 10.5; one who despises his parents, 15.20; one who curses, 19.26; destroys his parents and brings shame, 19.26; is profligate with his parents' possessions, 28.24; or even mocks his parents, 30.17. Such sons will reap the consequences of rejecting the teaching of their parents to embrace wisdom. I quote one example, "The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it" 30.17.
Conversely, the son who embraces wisdom rightfully deserves acknowledgement. "A wise son maketh a glad father" 10.1; 15.20; "A wise son heareth his father's instruction" 13.1. The writer acknowledges that while all children in a family may receive the same teaching from their parents, the outcome may well be completely different in each child. As we have stated, each individual is responsible before God for how they react to the instruction.
The most important part of child education comes from within the home. Society today expects that the Education Authority will teach children life qualities and so many parents shirk their responsibility. This results in many children arriving at school without basic knowledge of obedience, discipline, respect, and not knowing right from wrong; their parents having opted out of their responsibility. The book of Proverbs shows that life's basic qualities are taught in a loving family environment by the parents.
In Feb.2013, an 18-year-old British backpacker went missing in the Australian outback for three days. He was young, healthy and very fit, since he was a keen long-distance runner. He had been working on a cattle station in Queensland and decided to go for a jog. In the heat of some 40oC he became disorientated and instead of running back to the cattle station and safety, he was going in the opposite direction. Thankfully, there were folks searching for him and he was found during a helicopter search of the region. It must have been a dreadful ordeal for this man and his family; almost unimaginable.
Yet, his physical predicament is a reflection of our spiritual condition. Many people are disorientated when their spiritual state is analysed. This is because they think they are on a path through the journey of life that will end in the bliss and glory of heaven, but they are going the wrong way. If the young man in Australia had not been found the result would have been death. Dear reader, if you are never found, your journey will end in eternal death, which is the judgment of God for eternity. This is definitely unimaginable.
Let us consider if we are on the right way and going in the right direction. To do so, we need an infallible map that will point us to the right road. This we have in the Bible, the only book inspired by God. Many say that because of their good works they will find the way to heaven. What does the Bible say about that? Ephesians 2.8,9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Language could not be clearer: we cannot get to heaven by our own efforts. In fact, God’s estimation of our humanly-produced righteousness is stated, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" Isaiah 64.6.
In Australia, the young man’s salvation came from above – the helicopter. How appropriate when we think of the true way of salvation, because it also came from above. "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. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" John 3.16,17. We read the following concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" Luke 19.10.
He came from heaven and through His sinless life and the well-recorded miracles that He performed, displayed incontrovertibly that He was the Son of God. This sinless Man allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross of Calvary in order that salvation could be our eternal portion. "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" 1Corinthians 15.3; "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" Ephesians 1.7. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" 1Peter 3.18. If you put your faith in Him; believe on Him, God will put to your spiritual account the value of His Son’s death and you will be saved.
He took the guilty sinner’s place,
And suffered in his stead;
For man, (O miracle of grace!)
For man the Saviour bled.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" Acts 16.31.