July/August 2013

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

TRUTH FROM TITUS
by B. Currie

NEW TESTAMENT SYMBOLS
by A. Summers

WHERE ARE THE SHEPHERDS?
by J.V. Paterson

RELATIONSHIPS IN PROVERBS
by J. Paterson Jnr

ASSEMBLY LESSONS FROM SOLOMON'S TEMPLE
by D. McKinley

THE POWER OF GOD FOR A POWERLESS MAN
by W. A. Boyd

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN

QUOTES

 


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)

AMOS

 

No.10: "Let judgment run down as waters"

Read Chapter 5. 21-27

In our previous study we commenced consideration of the second of the two lamentations into which this chapter is divided. 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 SECOND LAMENTATION, vv.16-27

In this section of the chapter Amos does four things, and we thought of the first two:

  • 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 Abhors Their Religious Practices, vv.21-26

As we have seen, they went to the right places,v.5, but they were wrong, and they wanted the right thing,v.14, but they were wrong. Now we must notice that they worshipped in the right way, but they were wrong! There was plenty of orthodox religion, vv.21-23, but no righteousness, v.24. The whole thing was a shameful sham. Attention is drawn to at least four things in these solemn verses.

He Detested Their Religion - "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer Me burnt-offerings and your meat-offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols" vv.21-23. It was orthodox; but it was devoid of reality. As J.A.Motyer observes, "they went in for religion in a big way at Gilgal. They took their religious duties seriously, the feasts at which attendance was, by law, obligatory, and the solemn assemblies, ‘red letter’ days on the ‘church calendar’ which must be observed, v.21; they entered fully into their religious privileges, bringing burnt offerings, cereal offerings and peace offerings symbolic of their status as God’s people and their fellowship with Him and with each other, v.22; they gave full expression to their religious joys, singing songs to the accompaniment of harps, v.23. Somehow the vivacity of it all and the thrill of it all communicates itself. One can almost hear the singing. But God could not! All He heard was noise!"

Isaiah knew all about it: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts... the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with... Your new moons and appointed feasts My soul hateth" Isa.1.11-14.

Notice the significant omissions by Amos: the ‘sweet-savour offerings’ are mentioned ("burnt-offerings…meat-offerings…peace-offerings"), together with "songs" and "melody", but there is no mention of sin-offerings or trespass-offerings. In New Testament language, there was no self-examination, 1Cor.11.28, and no recognition of the fact that "if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged", 1Cor.11.31.

He Desired Righteousness - "But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream" v.24. Micah reads similarly: "He showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Mic.6.8. James emphasises the lesson: "If any man among you seem to be religious [threskos, outwardly religious], and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world", Jms.1.26,27.

The word translated "run down" (galal, meaning ‘roll’) derives from the same Hebrew word which gives Gilgal (meaning ‘circle’ or ‘wheel’) its name. See Josh.5.8,9: "And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people … the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away (galal) the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day." As J.A.Motyer observes, "It is as if the Lord is saying, ‘Yes, you have been to Gilgal, but there is a rolling you have forgotten, the rolling of justice and righteousness’." Religion without righteousness is more than meaningless, it is sheer hypocrisy. It has been said that "A momentary flow of justice and righteousness will not do; these virtues are to keep on in the social order like a stream that does not dry up with summer heat".

He Describes Their Insincerity - "Have ye offered unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?" v.25: or "Did ye bring unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness?" J.N.D/R.V. Amos does not appear to give us the answer to the question, unless it carries its own answer! It is often said that to ask the question is to answer it. In other words, the answer is self-evident. This seems to be the case here, but we must look at the possible answers:

Yes, you did "bring unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness", in which case the question implies that there was a time when God’s people obeyed Him, but that this had now changed. They had become idolatrous. There had been a terrible deterioration in their worship. Support for this may well be found by simply reading vv.25,26 together: "Have ye offered unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch …"

No, you did not "bring unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness", in which case the answer is incorrect! Sacrifices and offerings were certainly made in the wilderness. See, for example, Num.10.12-20. Some commentators assert that because Israel was in the wilderness "their circumstances in life made such formal worship impossible" (Peter C. Craigie), but this was evidently not the case.

Yes, you did "bring…sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness", but you did not bring them "unto Me". In other words, even in the wilderness they were going through the motions, but there was no reality about their worship, just as there was no reality about their worship in the days of Amos, vv.21-24. The constant murmuring and disobedience of God’s people in the wilderness proclaimed the insincerity of their worship. Just think about events at Sinai, Ex.32.1-35, and at Shittim, Num.25.1-3, where "they joined themselves also unto Baal-peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead (that is, the sacrifices offered to dead idols)" Ps.106.28. The reference to the "forty years" really says it all: it was forty years of wandering because of unbelief. Unbelief kept them out of the land for forty years, and unbelief would take them out of the land, v.27.

The third answer appears to suit the context, and was evidently understood in this way by Stephen in his address to the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Acts 7.1-53. The quotation from Amos occurs in the section of his argument in which he traces the history of idolatry in Israel. Here are Stephen’s words: "And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to Me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon" Acts 7.41-43.

Perhaps it should be said that Stephen does not mean that having made the golden calf, v.41, God immediately "gave them up to worship the host of heaven" v.42, but that this was the ultimate result of their idolatry at Sinai. Similarly, Stephen does not mean that Israel were carrying "the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan" through the wilderness, and offering Levitical sacrifices at the same time. Rather that "the worship of the planetary powers, for which the nation lost its liberty and suffered deportation, was the climax of that idolatrous process which began in the wilderness" (F.F.Bruce).

This is very solemn. If we are right in saying that the question, "Have ye offered unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?" v.25, means ‘did you really offer sacrifices to Me in the wilderness’, implying that their worship was formal and superficial, then their superficiality ultimately led to outright idolatry. This is now described, v.26. Let us be warned. If our worship is ceremonially correct but lacking in reality, it will not be long before even the outward form is cast aside.

He Describes Their Resultant Idolatry - "But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves" v.26. While, evidently, they had not practised this in the wilderness, they were certainly doing it in the days of Amos, along with their "feast days … solemn … assemblies … burnt-offerings … meat-offerings … peace-offerings … songs … viols" vv.21-23.

At this point we need some technical help, but it has to be said that the ‘technical help’ available is not always easy to follow!

"But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch." According to F.F.Bruce (The Book of the Acts), "the tabernacle of Moloch" (or, as Amos has it, "the tabernacle of your Moloch") can be rendered ‘Sakkut your king’. We are told that the Hebrew word rendered "tabernacle" in this verse (sikkuth) has strong connections with an Akkadian word (sakkut), referring to the planet Saturn. F.F.Bruce also states that the word "Moloch" is ‘probably Hebrew melek, meaning "king", used as a divine title’. To the layman, this all looks very complicated, and seems to involve some alteration of the original text, something that should be regarded with great caution, even though the R.V. does read: ‘Yea, ye have borne Siccuth your king’.

On reflection, and bearing in mind that the word "tabernacle" here (sikkuth) means ‘a booth or tent’ (Gesenius), it seems better to follow the A.V. as it stands. The Old Testament refers to the Sukkiims, 2Chr.12.3, meaning ‘dwellers in tents’ (Gesenius). Let’s go further and say that it also seems better to take Moloch as it stands, rather than assuming that the original Hebrew word meaning Moloch somehow got changed to another word (melek) meaning ‘king’. On balance, it does seem that the A.V. makes perfectly good sense without requiring an amendment to the original text! It simply means that Israel had made a house, box or tent in which the idol was placed. Moloch (or Molech) was the god of Ammon. Solomon built a "high place" to Molech, and to Chemosh, 1Kgs.11.7. We are told that the idol was made of brass, with extended arms. It was heated and children were placed in the arms and burnt to death. According to Adam Clark, "Moloch was generally understood to be the sun".

"And Chiun your images". Possibly the plural here ("images") refers to the many images made to represent Chiun. Piecing together various shreds of information, it appears (according to Gesenius) that Chiun could be the Egyptian name for Saturn, which was worshipped in Assyria under the name Kaiwan, but other scholars suggest that the word actually refers to the pedestal on which the idol (Moloch, or Molech) stood. According to M.F.Unger the word ‘Chiun’ evidently comes from a root meaning ‘to set firmly’.

"The star of your god". Stephen calls this "the star of your god Remphan" Acts 7.43. According to F.F.Bruce, Remphan (it has various other spellings) ‘seems to be a form of repa, an Egyptian name of Saturn, used by Septuagint (LXX) translators (those who translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek) to replace Kaiwan, an Assyrian name for the same planet. There is nothing unusual about the word "star". It means what it says! Perhaps M.F.Unger is right in saying that "‘the star of your god’ probably refers to the representation of the planet Saturn on the head of the image of the idol".

There can be no doubt that the people who heard Amos, and Stephen, preach would have been able to follow all this without difficulty. Leaving aside the detail which is interesting, if not particularly profitable, it does seem that Israel was evidently worshipping the ‘astral deities’ (in this case, the sun and Saturn), rather than "Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night … The LORD is His name" v.8.

He Announces Their Coming Captivity, v.27

"Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts". The words "beyond Damascus" point to Assyria, which lay to the north-east of Damascus. Idolatry ends in captivity. Notice that Stephen said, "beyond Babylon" Acts 7.43, whereas Amos said, "beyond Damascus". This was not a mistake on Stephen's part, as some suggest. Amos deals with the northern kingdom, and refers to the captivity described in 2 Kgs.17. 6. Stephen ‘updates’ the quotation to take in the final captivity, to Babylon.

As J.A.Motyer observes, "The gods of Assyria occupied the hearts of Israel long before the armies of Assyria occupied its streets and towns ... ‘the LORD, Whose name is the God of hosts’ will not be mocked".

"Little children, keep yourselves from idols" 1Jn.5. 21.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Truth From Titus - Paper 13

by B. Currie (N. Ireland)

We have noted that chapter 3 divides into three paragraphs – vv.1-7 where the subject is REGENERATION: vv.8-11 deal with REJECTION and in vv.12-15 there are REQUESTS. In this last section we saw that 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".

Vv.12-15 – REQUESTS or GRACIOUS and DESIRABLE THINGS;

Vv.12,13 - Personnel – "When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them."

In these verses we can discern the People, the Pronouncement, the Plan and the Provision.

The People – four men are mentioned in these verses.

Artemas – his name means ‘whole or sound’ and since this is the only time he is mentioned in the Bible we know nothing about him. This is an encouragement for many of us because it shows that we do not have to be well known to work for God and to be appreciated by Him. A man who is ‘whole and sound’ is invaluable to the testimony if we take the implication that he is prospering in the things of God and sound in doctrine.

Tychicus – We learn from Acts 20.4 that he was from Asia. He appears to have been one of Paul’s closest and most relied upon fellow-workers as can be detected from Eph.6.21, "Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things": Col.4.7, "All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord". These references show that he was:

"a beloved brother" – he was loved in the work: "a faithful minister" – he was loyal in the work: "a fellowservant" – He laboured In The work: "in the Lord" - He was lawful in the work.

Zenas – again this is his only mention in the Bible. Perhaps he was a Jewish lawyer, or scribe, an interpreter of Moses’ law among the Jews. Some have also suggested that, because of his Gentile name, he was a lawyer in the sphere of Roman law and would have been valuable to Paul who was in and out of prison. At least we can learn that God has His servants in every sphere of life and brings them to prominence when they are needed.

Apollos – We know quite a lot about Apollos, for example from Acts 18.24-28. Regarding his nationality he was a Jew, who had been convinced of the error of hypocritical Judaism, repented and had been baptised unto John’s baptism. As to his oratory he was "an eloquent man". His ability is seen in the statement that he was, "mighty in the scriptures". The expressions "being fervent in the spirit" and "he began to speak boldly" indicate his intensity. With all of these qualities he was not so proud that he could not be corrected, "Aquila and Priscilla … took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" and this reveals his humility.

The Pronouncement - "be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis"

Paul only asked Titus to come after he had made provision for the saints in his ministry. To Paul, the needs of the saints are more important than our own personal needs. This is the attitude of all who have a shepherd heart and is a reflection of the mind of Christ, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" Phil.2.4,5.

The Plan - "for I have determined there to winter."

As long as all was subject to the will of the Lord, Paul had no problem in making arrangements for the future, although it would be very questionable if he carried a long-term diary! This expression also shows that he was at liberty when writing the epistle and so was between his first and second imprisonments.

The Provision – "Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them."

Such wording usually implies some financial assistance and so this may imply that Paul expected practical fellowship between the Lord’s servants.

V.14 – Practical"let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful."

let ours - what a lovely way to address the saints, ‘ours’ or ‘our folks’, ‘our people’.

learn to maintain good works– the burden of financial support was not to fall on Titus alone, but the saints were to feel their responsibility and have fellowship with the brethren. This is looked upon as being "good works", meaning beautiful and noble, and it also brings fruit.

for necessary uses – this has the idea of assisting in cases of urgent need.

V.15 – Personal"All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen."

The sentence begins and ends with "all" showing that the apostle Paul was always mannerly and embracive. The epistle is surrounded by grace: see 1.4. "All" need grace and the reservoir of God is full to provide all grace to all saints in all situations.

Concluded

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New Testament Symbols

A. Summers (Scotland)

Paper 5 – THE HEAD COVERING, Part 1

In this study we will consider the subject of head covering. I am not aware of any major denomination which regards head covering as a Biblical truth that ought to be practised today. It is, nevertheless, an important truth. This can be deduced from two factors. First the passage in question is not a short one; it occupies a lengthy section of 1Corinthians chapter 11. Second, the apostle uses headcovering to highlight important issues such as the relationship between Christ and the Father and between man and woman. Although it may be difficult to work out all the implications of 1Corinthians chapter 11 and although there are things "hard to be understood", the main thrust of the passage is clear. That being so, it is not open to a Christian to ignore the teaching of the Word of God.

HEADSHIP

We shall try to elucidate the passage and deal with the practical issues afterwards.

V.3 "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."

It is evident that the word "head" here does not refer to the human head. Instead it signifies someone who is in a position of authority over another in the same way that a physical head controls the human body. The words translated "man" in verse 3 are respectively andros and aner and are both from the same root and may signify a male or a person. The words "every man" in the first part of the verse indicates that the apostle has mankind in view. In the second part the word "man" is aner which can mean either a male or a husband. The word "woman" is gune which means either a female or a wife. In this context it is clear that "man" and "woman" is the correct translation. If aner meant "husband" and gune "wife" then all unmarried women (the young, the single and the widowed) would fall outside the scope of the headship of man and be covered only by the headship of Christ, which is untenable. Headship governs the relationship of (a) the Son to the Father, (b) the Son to humanity and (c) the two parts of humanity to one another. He puts (a) out of order at the end of the list since his main concern is (b) and (c). "Headship" does not infer superiority since God (the Father) has headship or authority over Christ though equal with Him, Phil.2.6.

V.4 "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head."

Only human heads can be "covered" so the word "head" in the first part of the verse has its usual meaning unlike v.3. In the first part of the verse the word "head" is either the head of v.3 (Christ) or the head of v.4 (his own head). The preferable interpretation is that the head is his own head (see parallel in v.5). That being so, wearing a head covering brings dishonour on the man’s own head. The dishonour arises because he is wearing a symbol of submission that ought to be worn by the woman. Please note that headship of the Father over Christ and the headship of Christ over man does not make head covering necessary. It is only the headship existing between a man and woman that necessitates it.

V.5 "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as [the same as] if she were shaven."

As in the previous verse the word "head" appears twice. The first use is unquestionably the physical head whereas the second may (as in v.4) be either her own head or her spiritual "head". Given that the dishonoured head is likened to a shaven head however it is probable that throughout the verse the physical head is in view. For this reason the man’s head of v.4 should consistently be interpreted as a reference to his own head. A woman without her head covered is "even all one" (equivalent to) a woman with a shaved head. Paul draws a parallel between a head with no covering and a head with no hair. If hair is the head covering (as some say) he would be saying "a woman with no hair is like a woman with no hair" which makes no sense. It is clear from this verse that a head covering is something a woman wears on her head and is not to be confused with her natural covering namely the hair that grows from her head.

V.6 "For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."

He restates the point by saying that an uncovered head is as shameful as a "shorn" or "shaven" head. "Shorn" translates keiro the word used in Acts 8.32 to translate Isa.53.7 "a sheep before her shearers". It is also used in Acts 18.18 where we read "having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow" (cf. Acts 21.24-26; Num.6.1-21). What he is saying is, if a woman has no head covering this is as shameful as if her natural covering had been removed by cutting her hair short or shaving off all her hair.

V.7 "For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man."

Here Paul goes back to creation to explain the shame of the covered/uncovered head. Man is the "image" of God not through physical resemblance but because (unlike the brute creation) he is spiritually aware. He is God’s "glory" in that he was made for the purpose of honouring Him and was the crown of creation; see 1Tim.2.13. By contrast Eve was formed by God from Adam to assist Adam and honour him. Note that Paul does not deny that she too is made in the "image" of God. The teaching is that man was made for God, woman was made for man.

V.8 "For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man."

Adam came first. Eve was formed from Adam’s rib.

V.9 "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man."

God made Eve for Adam, Gen.2.18. This defines a woman’s position in a properly ordered society. This does not infer inferiority since Scripture treats men and women as of equal worth.

V.10 "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels."

"For this cause" refers to his teaching just stated. The word "power" means "authority" and refers to the symbolic meaning of the head covering which she wears "on" her physical head. "Because of the angels" introduces a second reason that is not fully explained by the apostle. Evidently it is not only God and man that may be offended by disorder.

V.11 "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord."

He makes it clear that man and woman are interdependent and ought to honour and respect each other. This ideal is fully realised by those who are "in the Lord".

V.12 "For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God."

Although Eve came from Adam, all men ever since have been born of a woman; so man cannot claim he does not need the woman or look down on women. Although we were all born of women everyone ultimately owes their existence to the Creator God.

V.13 "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?"

He concludes by referring back to the issue with which he began and speaks of the shame inherent in a woman praying to God without her head covered.

Vv.14,15 "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering."

Hitherto Paul’s argument has been rooted in Scripture and specifically the book of Genesis. Here his argument rests on "nature". What is natural (h physis) is what conforms to social propriety. In most cultures men have shorter hair than women. "Nature" is not a reference to a biological difference between sexes. Men after all can grow very long hair. He therefore draws a parallel between the need for a woman to cover her head and the fact that convention dictates that she should have long hair. The covering here differs from the covering further up the chapter. The words for "cover" and "uncovered" (vv.4-7) are katakalyptomai ("to have on the head") and akatakaluptos (not to have on the head). Here the word for "covering" is peribolaion which signifies a covering such as a cloak, see Heb.1.12. As we have seen Paul regards the two types of covering as connected since a woman with an uncovered head is the equivalent of a woman without nature’s covering (let her be shaven or shorn). The two coverings should not be confused. Paul uses different language for the covering worn on the head from the hair that grows from the head.

V.16 "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God."

These truths were widely practised wherever assemblies were to be found.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Where Are The Shepherds?

by J.V. Paterson (Scotland)

Paper 3

There are four passages of Scripture where the words "as sheep without a shepherd" are found. These passages are:

  • Num.27.12-18: Regarding Moses - the thought is Leading

  • 1Kgs.22.17: Regarding Micaiah - the thought is Ruling

  • Matt.9.36: Regarding the Lord Jesus - the thought is Praying

  • Mk.6.34: Regarding the Lord Jesus - the thought is Teaching and Feeding.

In these three persons we have three Prophets who all have concern for sheep.

Here we learn from:

  • Moses: A ministry of Caution

  • Micaiah: A ministry of Correction

  • Lord Jesus: A ministry of Concern, Care and Comfort.

Let us consider the respective contexts and grasp the principles outlined in each. We shall detect the need of our present day as we mark men of real exercise regarding the well-being of the sheep. We note that the little flock, the assembly, was purchased by the blood of His own (Son), Acts 20.28, teaching us the value of the flock. Paul reminds us that we have "ten thousand instructors in Christ but not many fathers"1Cor 4:15. Is it not so today?

MOSES - A MINISTRY OF CAUTION

Num.27.16,17, "Set a man over the congregation which may go out before them and which may go in before them, which may lead them out and which may lead them in that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep that have no shepherd."

A Prayer of Appeal. "Set a man", not any man, but one who would go before the face of the people leading them by example in worship and service. Without these kind of men the sheep can be scattered. Men who want the sheep in green pastures and look to benefit them and not their own ends as recorded of the shepherds in Ezekiel chapter 34. Are there men with this interest in our assemblies today who would forsake going away to preach elsewhere in order to abide by the flock, to feed the sheep, to tend the flock, to feed the lambs as a priority in assembly life? These men are worth their weight in gold, supporting the weak, visiting the sick, praying with the saints in trouble, and many other neglected exercises today facing God’s dear people.

A Pattern of Approval. This carries the thought of being with the people, first among them, then over them. This principle is in 1Chr.12.4, "Ismaiah the Gibeonite among the thirty, and over the thirty". 1Thess.5.12 likewise, "Know them that labour (Wearied out, fatigued) among (in a fixed place) you and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you." The necessity of first being among you is paramount, men of experience who have served in the lowly spheres of assembly life; who have been among the saints in visiting, praying, succouring, supporting, and strengthening in all the trials through which the saints have passed, working in harmony with the elders and helping. Men who have brought refreshment like Onesiphorus, and like Aquila who was given to hospitality and whose wife was in support with his exercise. "Let them first be approved"? This is the stipulation for the deacon in 1Tim.3.10; how careful God’s Word is. Many today are preaching and teaching that have never been proved in assembly life or experienced the rigours of caring for the flock. They want to get round the world of assemblies teaching and preaching and have never first proved themselves in their own local assembly.

Moses' prayer is wise: it must be a man approved, in whom is the Spirit and who comes from among the people. How clear is the quality of the person who will lead His people; we do well to take note of these details that qualify one for shepherding service. Most will have noted the qualifying requirements for the elders in 1Timothy chapter 3 showing clearly the responsibility placed on one who would lead the saints. God Himself lays down the pattern of approval and we must endeavour to comply if we have the desire for this work. Seventeen qualifying features mark the bishop/elder/overseer, in this section, fourteen are personal and three have an outlet to others. The standard is high; who will go in for this work today?

A Person Appointed. Joshua was the man in God’s mind who in his experience served his apprenticeship with Moses. This younger man had proved himself in a number of ways set out under the following headings. These points are worthy to be considered by all who aspire to lead.

Power over Amalek - Ex.17.8, "discomfited Amalek".

Young men have you considered this principle? Have you learned that Amalek is a type of the flesh? What an enemy is the flesh, governed by self will, self interest, what I want, not what God wants. This young man Joshua had power over Amalek. This is a requirement for leadership and shepherding the flock of God. There are many Scriptures that would teach us about this enemy and we must remember that no flesh shall glory in His presence,1Cor.1.29. Note it is not any man appointed it is the man who has power to gain victories over the flesh.

Power of Discernment - Ex.32.17, "there is the noise of war in the camp".

Here again is Joshua seen as he with Moses descends the mountain. It is Joshua who discerns the noise; read this chapter and see that this younger man by the sound of the singing detects that things were not right in the camp. The singing was not redemption songs but praise addressed to the golden calf, that which displaced God in His redemptive power and glory. We may think about the music and songs that are sung in our day, many saints even making public on Internet their favourite music and songsters showing their low spiritual state and lack of spiritual discernment. This course followed by some has led to problems in assemblies, as it has put into the minds of saints that entertainment in a religious guise is acceptable. Such concerts rouse the emotions since they merely stir the flesh and are of no spiritual value.

Eph.5.19, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns an spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Here the heart is the instrument and the singing and melody is to the Lord. No spiritual person could say that this presentation of musical assortment is unto the Lord where the drums and bands are promoted today in some assemblies. It is without question mere fleshly entertainment. Sadder still it is to see the teachers who support this form of service on one hand and still want to serve in the assemblies which would not have fellowship with this excitement. All this shows lack of discernment in a number of saints and servants who have no regard for the separating principles of assembly testimony today. Another sad feature is that in only a few years, since the home call of many dear servants of God who laboured in the Word and doctrine, has this change come. They are forgotten, and their teaching that kept the assemblies apart from all this modern trend, is forsaken.

Power in Prayer - Ex.33.11, "And Moses turned again into the camp but his servant Joshua, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle (tent of meeting)."

What a place to stay; why? Here is an interesting statement. While Moses was away Joshua stayed where God was. Perhaps he was not in the inner shrine where God met with Moses but in the precincts of His presence he abode. The godly reverence, the holy atmosphere, the silence and soberness of Divine presence, the awesomeness and fearful awareness that God’s holy eye is upon you would melt self into submission and nothingness and into an attitude of worship and prayer. Here is a young man with an appreciation of the holy presence of God and no doubt praying for the people and for Moses.

Power over Pride - Num.11.29, "enviest thou for my sake".

There is an interesting incident when the seventy were given of the spirit of Moses and two of them prophesied in the camp Eldad and Medad. A young man ran in to tell Moses that "Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp" and Joshua said, "My Lord Moses forbid them." Note the respect to his leader, Moses was the prophet and Joshua envied for his sake that others were doing this work. What respect do we give our leaders? The man who will be chosen to lead will first have been led and been submissive and respectful to his leaders. This is an important point for the younger brethren to ponder.

Power in the Spirit - Num.27.18, "take thee Joshua in whom is the Spirit."

Here is the evidence of a Spirit-filled man. The man for the task must be gifted and suited and fitted by the Spirit. Joshua has as it were served his apprenticeship; God has fitted him and so he will succeed Moses in this great task of leadership in taking the people into the land.

Praise of Moses - Deut. 31.7, "Be strong and of good courage, thou shalt go with this people and cause them to inherit."

Joshua has the commendation of Moses, and so we ask, "young men have you the commendation of your elder brethren?" This is most important. When I was visiting in another country I met a young man who was "out full time in the work". In conversation with him I discovered that he had gone out on his own without commendation from the assembly. We spoke at length and I advised him to return home and get the support of his assembly and a letter of commendation before going any further. How important this is. Joshua is encouraged to be strong and of good courage.

(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.3 – Friends, Part 1

The common word for friend in the Old Testament ‘rea’ is often translated ‘neighbour’, e.g. "thou shalt love thy neighbour (rea) as thyself" Lev.19.18, and carries with it the range of meaning of our English word, "fellow". At its nearest it is used of the person with whom one has a close relationship, but at its other extreme carries the idea of, the other fellow. This is seen, for example, in the use of the same word, "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just, but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him" Prov.18.17; and in contrast, "A friend loveth at all times…" 17.17. The words highlighted are the same in Hebrew. As is usual in such language situations, the context dictates the meaning.

Another word that is used is ‘ahab’ which is stronger and carries with it the idea of affection and can be translated, ‘one who loves’. The strongest term for a friend, ‘allup’, a ‘bosom friend’, is often used in the context of betrayal: "Which forsaketh the guide of her youth…" 2.17. It is also used in the situation of estrangement, "A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends" 16.28.

It is unfortunate that the word ‘friend’ has been somewhat diluted in our modern language use, by the new relationship of, ‘Facebook friends’. In this electronic meeting place, people who perhaps never meet, nor share similarities, and can be diametrically opposed in some ways, have access to each other’s lives through photos and comment. This belittles the relationship of friends, and has almost made the true meaning of friends a misnomer.

On the other hand the book of Proverbs emphasises, that a few close friends are far better than a host of acquaintances and stand in a class by themselves. Let us then firstly consider the good friend and secondly, the good neighbour.

A good friend will be a source of:

COMFORT

Good friendship remains consistent through the variations of life, this is seen in, "a friend loveth at all times and a brother is born for adversity" 17.17; and again, "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother" 18.24. A friend who can offer comfort and can be trusted when the circumstances of life are adverse, is a blessing. To know the compassion and concern of friends is more often better experienced than explained.

CONSTANCY

There are those in Proverbs who would be best described as, ‘fair weather friends’, seen for example in, "the rich hath many friends" 14.20; again, "wealth maketh many friends" 19.4; and again "every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts" 19.6. Bought friendship is no friendship at all. We have seen previously the comfort brought by friends in adversity 17.17; 18.24, however, not only does Proverbs speak of the friendship we would hope to receive, but of that which we should give: "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not ... better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off" 27.10. We are instructed not only to receive, but to give loyalty, especially to old friends, rather than drop them in the pursuit of new friends.

COUNSEL

In chapter 27 of Proverbs the two sides of friendly counsel are seen. First is the cheering effect of friendship, "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel" 27.9. Then there is the positive aspect of the healthy clash of personalities or views, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" 27.17. True friendship will have both elements, the reassuring and the bracing. It would be poor friendship that had all cheer and none of the stimulation effected by ‘iron on iron’, and so a further warning is given, "He that walketh with the wise shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" 13.20.

CANDOUR

It would follow from the previous point of the counsel of friends that true friends will have to be open to the honesty and frankness of such counsel. While initially such frankness may seem unpalatable, Scripture does state, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend" 27.6. Friends will not shirk the responsibility of advising or if necessary, correcting a good friend. "A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet" 29.5. The closest of friendships need guarding. A real danger to friendship is from malice; the whisperer’s delight in disruption, "A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends" 16.28. Or it can come from the delight of one who holds an advantage and pursues it, "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth friends" 17.9.

While candour is necessary in friendships, it may take some time before any thanks for such service is received, we may have to wait until afterwards: "He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue" 28.23.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Assembly Lessons from Solomon's Temple

David McKinley (Canada)

Paper 1

ITS WHEREABOUTS

The temple was built on Mount Moriah, on the threshingfloor of Ornan. These both were connected with sacrifice, see Gen.22.2 and 1Chr.21.15; 22.1. This parallels the New Testament assembly of saints gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that is founded on the Person and sacrifice of God’s beloved Son, "Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" Heb.9.14.

ITS WORTH

King David bought the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite for the place of the altar. "So David gave to Ornan for the place 600 shekels of gold by weight" 1Chr.21.25. (Newberry gives the talent as just over 114lbs. There were 3000 shekels in the talent so a shekel was about 0.61ozs.) On Jan. 30th 2013, gold was quoted at a price of $1692 (Canadian) per troy ounce. By this estimation David paid the equivalent of $619,272 (or £385,558) for the threshing-floor which became the temple site, 1Chr.22.1.

Silver on the same date was at almost $32 per troy ounce. David had from the spoil of his victories laid up in store gold and silver in abundance. "Now in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the Lord 100,000 talents of gold and 1,000,000 of silver and of brass and iron without weight" 1Chr.22.14. At current rates, gold was worth $3,096,360 per talent and the silver talent worth $58,560. So David’s store of gold and silver was worth $120,487,200,000 (or £75,015,200,000).

David gave of his "own proper good 3,000 talents of gold of Ophir and 7,000 talents of refined silver" 1Chr.29.3,4. This good example led the chief of the fathers to offer 5,000 talents of gold + 10,000 talents of silver. For a total of $25,766,400,000

Adding all three together we get the astounding sum of $146,254,219,272 (or £91,057,705,773) not counting the value of the brass and iron.

The lesson for us today is that God’s house, (the assembly) is a place of immeasurable value! Every soul saved by grace is purchased, not with corruptible things as silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ. The assembly is the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1Cor.3.17. Who can value the worth of that which is of Divine origin and is indwelt by Divine persons?

ITS WEIGHT

This house was not a flimsy construction! It was a very sturdy structure of large pre-cut stones: "And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house" 1Kgs.5.17. "And the house when it was in building, was built of stone ready-made before it was brought thither:" 1Kgs.6.7.

The lesson here for us is that the assembly is a place of solidity and weight. Its foundation is the weighty oracles of God laid down by Christ’s apostles. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon … for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" 1Cor.3.10,11. Christ and the doctrines of Christ form the basis for the building of an assembly. Those who form the local testimony must be resting on Christ and be "steadfast, unmovable" in character, "not carried about with every wind of doctrine". They are prepared beforehand by manifesting a reality of being "living stones" before being brought into the assembly of God. We need to guard against building in the mass-produced "bricks of Babel".

ITS WORKMEN

"And now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding … the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and to find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father" 2Chr.2.13,14,17,18

When God directed Solomon to build the temple he fitted men for the work. Here we see that gift was essential to erect a temple for God. Today God raises up men to do His work. There was variety of tasks, yet God provided the necessary skill to accomplish His will. Today it is still the same. Are we doing the work in the assembly for which God has fitted us? Are our efforts tending to the glory of God and the edification of the people of God? Have we "stirred up the gift" that the Holy Spirit has imparted to us with a view to strengthening that which is of God?

ITS WORD

"And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto its place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place" 2Chr.5.7.

Right in the centre of the innermost shrine of this holy house was the law of God! How appropriate! Everything was done according to the pattern given to David. God’s will was done; God’s Word was obeyed and so the tables of the law are central. So in the assembly today, God’s Word must have the central place. "All the Word of God for all the people of God" was the burden of the godly men who re-established assembly truth in the 19th century. It should still be our motto today. "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them" Isa.8.20.

To be continued (D.V.)

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The Power of God for a Powerless Man

By W. A. Boyd (N. Ireland)

Read Luke 5.17-26

INTRODUCTION

The story of the palsied man as recorded by Luke commences with an expression that is like a trademark to Luke: "and it came to pass" 5.17. John never uses this expression, Matthews uses it 6 times, and Mark uses it 4 times. Luke uses it 128 times: 69 times in his Gospel and 59 times in the Acts of the Apostles. Even though it appears to be a casual expression, Luke never uses it to describe an incidental event; it is always used to relate the story of something that is purposeful. When that expression is noticed in Luke’s writings, normally it will introduce a significant event. In this story, the significance lay in teaching for the religious leaders, who were seated around the Saviour as He taught. The healing of the palsied man was used by the Saviour as an object lesson for the dim-sighted and dull-minded Pharisees and doctors of the law. There are valuable lessons, especially for gospel work, in a short study of the characters in the incident: the crippled man, the critical men, the concerned men and the capable Man.

THE CRIPPLED MAN

His Helpless Condition is highlighted in v.18 by the expression "taken with a palsy"; paralysed and unable to help himself. He was unable to make his own way to the Saviour for healing. The gospel preacher needs to continually remind himself that the sinners to whom he preaches cannot ever save themselves, nor contribute in any way towards their salvation beyond what Scripture demands of them: "repent ye and believe the gospel" Mk.1.15. While it is vital that sinners understand that salvation is "not of works" Eph.2.8,9, it is wrong to create the impression that they have nothing to do. Salvation requires that they turn from their sins (repentance) and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (believe). Sinners will not be saved automatically nor against their will, they must bow to the demands of the Word of God by repentance and active faith in Christ.

His Happy Conversion is seen in v.25. Imagine the delight in his heart, and the hearts of the concerned men who brought him to the Saviour, when "he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God." He left enjoying a new power; now able to do something he could not do before; lift his couch and walk home. He left to enter a new pathway; he had not walked that path before. He left engaging in a new praise: he was "glorifying God". His praise was not momentary but continual. These are the marks of a genuine conversion: the saved person receives the new power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Genuine conversion directs the convert into a new pathway in life: the old pursuits and pleasures are left behind, where they belong. A person who professes to be saved must have praise in his heart for God. If he does not enjoy the worship and praise of the Saviour Who died for him and saved him, he should carefully examine himself before God to see if he is saved.

THE CRITICAL MEN

As is often the case, there are those standing idly by who will criticise and try to hinder the blessing of others. The Pharisees, as experts in what a person should do, were continually devising men’s laws. The doctors of the law, as experts in how a person should do what the Pharisees demanded, were continually distorting God’s law. As with many ‘experts’ in religion, their only contribution to the event was a hindrance. We should always be able to counteract their influence and show sinners that law-keeping and religious rituals do not contribute to salvation.

It is sad when believers want to engage in petty criticism of the gospel. If a preacher has been in the presence of God and has a message from God to deliver to the people, let him get on with it. The presence of these men hindered the four concerned men getting their paralysed friend to the Saviour. Perhaps we should bear that in mind the next time we feel inclined to criticise the preacher; we could be a hindrance to the work of the gospel. Not only were they a hindrance, but, as is still often the case, those who criticised most and loudest were not doing anything to help the powerless man get to the Saviour.

THE CONCERNED MEN

A large crowd of people have gathered around the Saviour, for they have come from "every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem" 5.17. Among that large crowd there are four men with a burden that was created by another’s need. Who would you rather be in the story: among the minority with a burden, or among the majority who were a hindrance? Those four men had only one objective; "to bring him in, and to lay him before Him" 5.18. We should have a burden to get unsaved people into the presence of the Saviour, and when we get them there we should be equally burdened to lay them "before Him". It is good to get unsaved to the gospel meeting, but the preacher cannot save; we need to get them before the Saviour.

These men were determined; neither the crowd nor a climb would hold them back. They were resourceful; they took him as near to the Saviour as they could and then removed the obstacle of the roof tiles. What provoked such determination and resourcefulness? They were aware of the man’s poor condition and the Saviour’s power that was "present to heal" 5.17. If we were as aware of the plight of lost sinners and the power of Saviour to save them, we would be less embarrassed or reticent to try to get them to the Saviour.

THE CAPABLE MAN

There are two very notable things about the Lord Jesus in the passage: His power to heal and to forgive sins. "The power of the Lord was present" 5.17; "The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins" 5.24. Where the power of the Lord is present in gospel meetings you can be confident that that power can forgive sins. Do not be doubtful about whether the Saviour could save the friend you want to bring to the gospel meeting.

Another notable thing about the Saviour is His perception of both groups. In v.20, He "saw their faith", that is, He saw the faith of the group of five men; the paralysed man and his four friends. In v.22, "He perceived their thoughts": the unspoken murmuring and complaining of the religious leaders as they "began to reason". We can take comfort that the Lord will recognise our faith and efforts to get our unsaved friends to Him. We should also be challenged by the fact that He can perceive the complaints and criticisms that we raise unnecessarily.

Concluded

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Good Tidings from Heaven

 

Cover-UP

This is a term, used increasingly, to describe a situation where the truth has been suppressed, the facts have been misreported and people misled by a string of lies and a web of deceit. This is done deliberately to obscure the truth and to allow the guilty to appear innocent.

The recent Leveson inquiry attempted to discover the truth behind phone-hacking scandals and shockingly intrusive journalism that had been tolerated for years without people being fully aware of the full extent of such deplorable malpractice. The inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster, when many football fans were trampled to death, was carried out to reveal what really happened on that tragic day of the 15th. April 1989. A concerted effort had been made by the police to shift the blame onto the fans and only now are we discovering who really was to blame and what actually happened. Again and again, demands are made for public inquiries to try to ascertain the facts and disclose the truth. After years of silence and deception, many are finally being brought to justice for crimes they had covered up for decades.

Humans have been involved in cover-up since the dawn of their history; read Genesis chapter 3 and listen to Adam and Eve as they try to shift the blame and distort the facts. How rare it is for people to acknowledge the truth especially when they are at fault; few will willingly bear the blame and confess their wrongdoing. How difficult it is to admit, as did King David in Psalm 51.4, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight." God will not tolerate any other attitude; He sees through our deceit and He demands total honesty if we are to be blessed. "Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts …" Psalm 51.6.

My friend, do not attempt to cover up your sin; God cannot be deceived; His all-seeing, penetrating eyes easily pierce the flimsy defence of your deception; He knows the truth; He has witnessed and recorded your every sin; not one has been overlooked or omitted. "… all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do" Hebrews 4.13. "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; … but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes" Psalm 50.21.

However, the guilty may be pardoned, the lawbreakers can be justified and your every sin can be forgiven. It was when the prodigal son of Luke chapter 15 was prepared to acknowledge that he had sinned, that he received the kiss of forgiveness and the embrace of reconciliation from his father. Guilty though you are, "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3.23, yet you can have every charge of guilt removed, never to be raised again. All this has been made possible by the willingness of One Who was sinless, God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to become accountable for our sins and to bear the fearful punishment we deserved. We did all the sinning but He bore all the suffering, "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" 1Peter 2.24. "Christ died for our sins" 1Corinthians 15.3.

You can escape the eternal consequences of your sins by trusting the Saviour God provided and by depending alone upon His death to shield you from the just judgment you deserve. Don’t cover up your sins; confess them and find refuge in the One Who "took the guilty sinner’s place and suffered in his stead".

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Quotes

 

Christ's Death For Us:

No one could have done it if they would.

No one would have done it if they could.

 
J. Ferguson
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