ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
NEW TESTAMENT SYMBOLS
by A. Summers
A SYMPATHETIC HIGH PRIEST
by Tony van der Schyff
SONG OF SOLOMON
by M. Hew
BIRDS OF THE BIBLE (JOB)
by I. McKee
by C. Jones
THE PREACHING OF HELL
by Franklin Ferguson
Our beloved brother passed into the presence of his Lord and Saviour at 11.45 pm on the 18th September and his precious remains were laid to rest on 2nd October. The week before his home call he had suffered a stroke but he had a peaceful end and, in his own words, was "utterly thankful".
John Glenville was a unique man in many ways. As the work of this magazine grew, and it was before the age of electronic banking, it became necessary to have a trustworthy representative in Britain. who would receive and acknowledge gifts for the magazine work from those in England, Scotland and Wales. John Glenville was the man and he was formally announced as such in issue No. 40, March/April 1959. He continued to do this faithfully until increasing years meant he relinquished this responsibility at the close of 1999.
We, who knew him, really appreciated a man of integrity, reliability and conviction. His memory for people and their names, their families’ names, was just phenomenal. His prayer list was immense and he spent hours on the behalf of so very many, at the throne of grace. He loved to speak of the ‘rapture’ when the Lord Jesus would come for His own and snatch them away to heaven.
We can still hear his watchword and we can envisage his signature in the visitors' book – "Maranatha"! It will not be long until this is realised and we will meet Him in the air. The Psalmist said, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" Ps.30.5: the morning is not far away. Until then, please remember his loved ones in prayer.
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
No. 12: "They are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph"
Read chapter 6.1-6
In the previous paper we noted the chapter commences with security and comfort, vv.1-6, and concludes with destruction and captivity, vv.7-14. We entitled the three main paragraphs as follows:
• Idle Leaders, vv.1-6
• Inescapable Judgment, vv.7-11;
• Irreversible Law, vv.12-14.
IDLE LEADERS, vv.1-6
In this paragraph we saw that the leadership is marked by:
• self-satisfaction, or pride, vv.1,2
• self-indulgence, or indolence vv.3-6
We considered the first and now come to:
This section describes the opulence and excesses of the rulers. Self-indulgent leadership will bring destruction. So far as they were concerned "the evil day" was "far away". But in actual fact they were causing "the seat [habitation] of violence to come near" v.3.
Their action was precipitating calamity. In terms of Israel’s future (the northern kingdom), this could refer either to the dark spectre of Assyria, or to the disintegration of the nation after Jeroboam’s death. Jeroboam reigned for forty-one years: in the next forty years six kings reigned: Zechariah (six months), Jeroboam’s son, who died at the hand of Shallum; Shallum reigned for one month, and died at the hand of Menahem; Menahem reigned for ten years and was guilty of terrible violence: see 2Kgs.15.16: during his reign Pul (Assyria) invaded. Menahem was succeeded by his son Pekahiah who reigned for two years and died at the hand of Pekah. Pekah reigned for twenty years, during which Tiglath-pileser (Assyria) invaded, and died at the hand of Hoshea. Hoshea reigned for nine years, and during his reign Shalmaneser (Assyria) invaded and deported Israel ‘lock, stock and barrel’.
A description of the self-indulgence of the leadership follows, vv.4-6: we should notice: what interested them, vv.4-6a and what did not interest them, v.6b.
What interested them, vv.4-6a
"That lie … stretch themselves … eat … chant … invent … drink … anoint". There is nothing athletic here! Fasting and self-denial are conspicuous by their absence! Bodily well-being is placed before godliness. Bodily appetites are paramount. The motto was "take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry" Lk.12.20. Look at it like this:
"That lie upon beds of ivory and stretch themselves upon their couches" v.4. There’s not a trace of Ps.4.4, "stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed", or of Ps.16.7, "my reins also instruct me in the night season", or of Josh.1.8, "thou shalt meditate therein [‘this book of the law’] day and night". Rom.13.11-14 is now compulsory reading.
"That eat of the lambs out of the flock, and calves out of the midst of the stall" v.4. Nothing but the best. Only young animals with tender flesh. No mutton! Nothing ‘chewy’, no trace of 1Cor.10.31 here: "whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God", or 1Tim.4.4,5: "For every creature is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer". Rom.14.17 must now be read.
"That chant to the sound of the viol [‘the lute’, J.N.D.], and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David" or "that sing idle songs to the sounds the viol" v.5, (R.V.). (Amos would not approve of ‘top of the pops’). No trace of Eph.5.19 here, "speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord", or 1Cor.14.15 either: "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also".
"That drink wine in bowls" v.6. Looks like a binge: not by the glass, but "in bowls". No trace of Eph.5.18 here: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit."
That "anoint themselves with the chief ointments" v.6. There was nothing of Phil.4.18 here: "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God", or of 2Cor.2.15 either: "we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ."
What did not interest them, v.6b
They were "not grieved for the affliction of Joseph". (Note other references to Joseph: 5.6, "the house of Joseph "; 5.15, "the remnant of Joseph"). This refers to the way in which Joseph was treated by his brothers: "and they took him, and cast him into a pit … and they sat down to eat bread" Gen.37.24; "And they said one to another, we are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear" Gen.42.21. The word "affliction" carries the idea of destruction or breaking. There was no interest in the care and welfare of others. The rulers were given to self-indulgence. Compare Isa.63.9.
Israel’s self-indulgent leaders had no care for the overall testimony. They had no interest in others. But what of the assembly leaders?
They are not to be self-indulgent. It could not be said of Israel’s leaders: "given to hospitality … not given to wine … not greedy of filthy lucre" 1Tim.3.2,3. It should be noted that material prosperity is not in itself censured in Scripture: it is a wrong attitude to material prosperity that is censured. So: "but they that will be rich [‘that will to be rich’, margin: set their hearts on being rich] fall into temptation and a snare … for the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" 1Tim.6.9,10.
They are not to be oblivious of the Lord’s people. It could not be said of Israel’s leaders, taking "care of the house of God" 1Tim.3.5. Israel’s shepherds were certainly living up to Ezekiel’s description: "woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? ... the diseased have ye not strengthened , neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost…" Ezek.34.2-4. They were quite unlike the "good Shepherd" Who "giveth His life for the sheep" Jn.10.11. The Lord Jesus is not only the "good Shepherd", "the great Shepherd" Heb.13.20, and the "chief Shepherd" 1Pet.5.4, He is the 'pattern Shepherd’. "He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out …He goeth before them … they know His voice". Under His tender care, the sheep "go in and out, and find pasture".
Moreover, He continues by saying. "I know My sheep and am known of Mine" Jn.10.3,4,9,14. What an example to assembly shepherds!
To be continued, (D.V.)
A. Summers (Scotland)
Paper 7 – THE HEADCOVERING, Part 3
Nearly all Christian leaders and authors today say that this section was only applicable to Corinth or to Greek society in the 1st century. Is that so?
Paul does not give any hint that what he had to say was unique to Corinth or Greek culture. The other truths he teaches in the epistle such as the holiness of the assembly and the supremacy of love are all universal truths. It should also be noted that when summing up his argument he states in v.16 "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God." The "we" refers to the apostles and "the churches of God" refers to all other churches at that time which were scattered round the Mediterranean basin in a great variety of different countries including present day Israel, Greece, Italy and Turkey. If all these churches were of the same mind then there was nothing unique about Corinth or Greece. In addition, in this section Paul appeals to the order God established in creation which is applicable to all people in all places and times. He refers to "nature" which is that instinct God gives people about what is right and wrong. Although many commentators argue that this is shaped by culture and society, Paul is indicating that a Christian’s innate sense of what is right and proper should lead him to the conclusion that there ought to be a distinction between the sexes in the gatherings of the church and in public service for God.
What does this passage have to teach about hairstyles?
Nothing. Elaborate hairstyles are dealt with by Peter in 1Pet.3.3 and Paul in 1Tim.2.9. What Paul is doing in this passage is contrasting hair length. Paul does not deal with the issue of whether that hair is worn up or down. These are matters for the good sense of the sisters. The "braiding" and "plaiting" of 1Tim.2.9 and 1Pet.3.3 do not refer to hair that is tied back or pinned up but hair arrangements that are highly elaborate and designed to attract attention.
If the principles in chapter 11 are universal why did priests cover their heads in the tabernacle and temple?
It is certainly true that men wore headcoverings in the Old Testament. The High Priest wore a mitre (or turban) and the priests wore bonnets. This practice is also described in the millennial temple in Ezekiel, Ezek.44.18. It may be that the reason for the change in 1Corinthians chapter 11 is that there were no women present in the tabernacle and temple.1 The High Priests and the priests were always males. In the church males and females are both members and women attend occasions of public prayer and preaching. In recognition of this new situation the old obligation of head covering as a sign of the submission of the male priest before God is changed and the female covers her head when in the company of the men. The symbol of the priest’s submission to God is now worn by woman in token of her submission to man. Although male Jews today wear prayer shawls over their heads in the synagogue there is no Scriptural precedent for this.
1Although Herod built a Court of the Women, no instruction is given in Scripture for such a place in connection with the construction of the tabernacle, Solomon’s temple or Ezekiel’s temple.
How long should a women’s hair be and how short should a man’s be?
There is no way of answering this question precisely since some have hair that will not grow long whereas others have hair that can grow very long. There is no verse in the Bible that sets down rules for hair length in centimetres or inches. What is clear, however, is that a sister’s hair should be long and long hair is the opposite of short hair. It is obvious, therefore, that there should be a pronounced distinction between the sexes in hair length. In considering this matter our guidance should be taken from Scripture, not the world around us or even the hairstyles of other Christians. As for men it is as shameful for a man to have long hair as it is for a woman to have short hair, 1Cor.11.14. Scripture teaches that men should have short hair but does not expect them to shave their heads that is to remove their hair.
The fact that the assemblies ask women to cover their heads in the assembly gatherings is clearly not a "Brethren thing"; it is the teaching of the Word of God. Likewise the obligation on men to keep their hair short and for women to keep their hair long is firmly founded on Holy Scripture.
By Tony van der Schyff (S. Africa)
Read Heb.4.14-16: "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
It goes without saying that the epistle was written to Hebrew believers who had converted from Judaism to Christianity and were passing through a time of trial and testing as far as their faith in Christ was concerned. To "lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed" 12.12,13, the writer draws their attention to the Lord Jesus Christ, their Great High Priest, Who has a sympathetic heart and Who is well able to strengthen, succour and sustain them, despite the oppression and the opposition against them.
We shall think of Him as He is presented in the verses above.
There is the IRREFUTABLE FACT of our Great High Priest. "Seeing then that we have [having therefore] a great high priest …"
In the epistle itself, we have the first implied reference to this Great High Priest in 1.3: "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Purification for sins is the work of Christ, our Great High Priest. Having dealt with the question of human sin in all its terrifying totality, once and for all on the cross by His voluntary, vicarious and victorious work, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high!
The second reference is in 2.17: "Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people": that is, to make propitiation for sins. People are reconciled, not sins. Sin must be judged and God's holiness satisfied and the solid foundation for this was laid by His death on Calvary, in which a righteous God could be propitiated and recalcitrant man could be pardoned and reconciled to God.
A great high priest who can be merciful [compassionate, understanding] to man in making propitiation for man’s sins and faithful [true in every respect] to God in satisfying all the requirements of a holy, just and righteous God!
The third reference is in 3.1,2: "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful [Vincent notes: "who is faithful as He ever was] to Him that appointed Him [that marked Him out], as also Moses was faithful in all his house" [God’s house: see Num. 12.7].
"O Lord, we would the path retrace
Which Thou on earth hast trod –
To man Thy wondrous love and grace,
Thy faithfulness to God.
Faithful amidst unfaithfulness,
‘Midst darkness only light;
Thou didst Thy Father’s name confess,
And in His will delight".
(J G Deck)
Thus, in the light of these Scriptures, we have the Irrefutable Fact of the High Priest – the Lord Jesus Christ Himself – that we, together with every believer, have Him as a personal and presiding High Priest. This irrefutable fact should be more than enough to strengthen our faith and trust in Him!
We note the INCOMPARABILITY of our Great High Priest. "… we have a great high priest."
Christ, our High Priest is a Great High Priest. There is none that can be compared with Him. He is greater than the prophets, 1.1; greater than angels, 1.4-14; greater than Moses, 3.3-6; greater than Joshua, 4.6-11; greater than Aaron, 5.3-10; greater than the temple, Matt 12.6; greater than Jonah, Matt.12.41; Lk.11.32; greater than Solomon, Matt.12.42; Lk 11.31; greater than John the Baptist, Lk.7.28. The woman at Sychar’s well asked, "Art Thou greater than our father Jacob?" Jn.4.12. The Jews asked our Lord, "Art Thou greater than our father Abraham?" Jn.8.53. Our Lord’s wonderful reply was, "Before Abraham was I AM." Jn.8.58 – before Abraham was formed in the womb, brought into being and had an existence, I AM - the uncreated, underived, self-existent, self-determining, self-sustaining, eternal GOD! Christ, our Great High Priest incomparable in His greatness and glory!
We are taught the INVINCIBILITY of our Great High Priest. "that (Who) is passed into the heavens..."
Passed through the heavens. He passed through the aerial heavens [enemy territory where Satan, the prince of the power of the air and his demonic hosts operate], through the astral heavens [the stellar expanses of the cosmos in its bewildering vastness], and right into the third heaven [the heaven of heavens, the very abode and presence of God]. Christ as Great High Priest passed through the heavens as the great Conqueror of every spiritual foe in all the incomparable might of His invincibility!
Eph 1.20, 21 "Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world [age], but also in that which is to come." He is coming back again through the heavens to the air [at the rapture: 1Thess. 4.17] and to the earth [at the Revelation: 2Thess. 1.7-10] and He shall reign supreme!
We can see the IDENTITY of our Great High Priest. "…Jesus, the Son of God…".
Jesus: the Name associated with His Humanity, His Manhood, His Messiahship, His Saviourhood. He is God’s anointed, appointed, approved One! The Christ, the long-promised Seed of the Woman; the Saviour of Whom it was announced, "Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." Matt.1.21; Lk.1.31. JEHOVAH of the Old Testament is JESUS of the New Testament!
The Son of God: the Name associated with His Deity, His Eternality, His Equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The word of the announcing angel to Mary was, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God" Lk.1.35.
The Hebrew writer identifies this Great High Priest as "Jesus, the Son of God". He is not only Divine but also human. Absolute Deity combined with perfect humanity in one glorious Person!
"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail, the Incarnate Deity,
Pleased as Man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel!"
Now we come to the INTEREST of our Great High Priest. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities…"
Here we have the double negative – "have not" and "cannot" which emphasises the beauty of the definitive positive of "but One who was tested in all points like as we are [in the same way that we are]". He has a personal interest in His people. As Weymouth commented, "you are His personal concern".
"Our infirmities" imply our weaknesses and our frailties. This tells us something of the compassion, the sympathy and the empathy of our high priest, Who has a deep interest in our human frailties. He knows what it is to be touched, to be acquainted with, to be sympathetic towards and empathetic in all that affects and afflicts us from time to time. One Who is "touched", Who has a "fellow-feeling" with us and Who shares the experiences of His people. Vincent makes the comment, "This is more than knowledge of human infirmity. It is feeling it by reason of a common experience with men".
"Partaker of the human name,
He knows the frailty of our frame,
And still remembers in the skies,
His tears, and griefs, and agonies.
In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows bears a part;
He knows and feels our every grief,
And gives the suffering saint relief."
To be concluded, (D.V.)
by Mark Hew (Australia)
BOOK INTRODUCTION OPENING REMARKS.
The Song of Solomon is a delightful love song between Solomon and his bride. As poetry, the Song is beautifully written. Yet like all Scripture, it was given not for literary enjoyment but for our spiritual instruction. We therefore ought to study this book intelligently, and allow its poetic imagery to reach our minds as well as touch our souls.
Given Solomon’s departure into polygamy during his reign, the Song was most likely written in his early years. However, in our Bibles the Song is placed last among Solomon’s writings as a fitting finale to his inspired trilogy.
Proverbs is the book of Learning, instructing our Heads. "A wise man will hear, and increase learning", Prov.1.5.
Ecclesiastes is the book of Labour, guiding our Hands. "What profit hath a man of all his labour?" Ecc.1.3.
But Song of Solomon is the book of Love, wooing our Hearts. "Thy love is better than wine", S of S.1.2.
The New Testament teaches that neither learning nor labour is spiritually profitable if love is absent, 1Cor.8.2, Rev.2.3,4. Love is absolutely indispensable, without which every effort for God is expended in vain, 1Cor.13.1-3.
Solomon himself failed to live this truth out to the end. His early devotion to God was extinguished by later infatuation with ungodly women and their idols, with sad results, 1Kings chapter 11. His own writings provide an apt commentary; ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’, Prov 4.23.
Likely penned by Solomon himself, the Song describes a marriage relationship which deepens with time. Solomon’s name occurs seven times in the book; his bride the Shulamite is named twice. There is no doubt the Song celebrates a genuine union between two real-life individuals.
Confusion has arisen regarding the relevance of the Song to present-day Christians. Uncertainty also exists whether the book applies to Israel, the church or both. How then might we accurately interpret this book and profitably apply its teaching? We submit there are good reasons to view this marriage union in the following ways:
1. Poetically: Solomon and the Shulamite
Scripture should be interpreted in light of the literary genre. The Song is poetry, and its language is often metaphorical rather than literal. Else we would conclude Solomon’s bride physically resembled "a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots" 1.9, hardly a compliment in any age or culture!
2. Prophetically: Messiah and Israel
Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture. Two sets of Old Testament passages in particular point to the spiritual message of the Song. Firstly, numerous prophecies depict Jehovah and Israel in a marriage union, Isa. 54.5; 62.4,5; Jer 2.2, 3.14, 31.32; Hosea 2.3. Secondly, Psalm 72 identifies Solomon’s reign as a foreshadowing of Messianic rule; even Solomon’s name means peace, a key feature of the future millennium. We thus conclude that Solomon’s marriage in this Song portrays Israel’s union to Messiah with particular emphasis on Christ’s future advent to bring in national blessing.
3. Pictorially: Christ and the Church
It is important to rightly divide the Word of Truth by distinguishing the church from Israel, 2Tim. 2.15, 1Cor. 10.32. Unlike Israel, the church was a mystery, previously "hid in God" and "not made known unto the sons of men", Eph 3.5,9. It is thus futile to search the Old Testament for prophetic details of the church.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, it is possible to discern faint pictorial outlines of the church in the O.T. We are clearly told that the marriage relationship is itself a picture of Christ and the church Eph. 5.31,32. Thus, key aspects of this spiritual union are divinely illustrated by marriages in our Old Testament:
The Redeeming of the Church at Christ’s expense is portrayed by Boaz’ grace toward a penniless Moabitess, 2Cor. 8.9; Rev. 5.9; Ruth 4.10.
The Drawing of the Church to an uplifted Christ is depicted by Abraham’s servant revealing Isaac’s glory to Rebekah, Jn. 12.32; Gal. 1.16,17; Eph 3.8-10; Gen. 24.36.
The Uniting of the Church to Christ is prefigured by the union of Adam and Eve, Eph.5.31,32; Gen. 2.24.
The Longing of the Church for Christ’s return is typified by the Shulamite’s anticipation of Solomon’s coming, Rev. 22.17; S of S 2.8,17.
4. Practically: Husbands and Wives
Christians are to heed Scriptural examples in the Old Testament, 1Cor. 10.11. The Song presents a generally harmonious marriage relationship, abounding with practical lessons for spouses. For example, the king addresses his bride throughout as ‘my love’; in return he is called ‘my beloved’. Here are constant reminders of the mutual affection which God expects in marriage; Eph. 5.33. Incidentally, the use of these terms throughout the book also aids us in determining the identity of the speaker.
5. Personally: Christ and the Believer
We are to apply Scripture personally, Rom. 15.4. In this regard, the Song illustrates the intimacy between Christ and each believer, reminding us of the privileges and responsibilities of such a relationship. Every Christian can wonder at "the Son of God Who loved me, and gave Himself for me", Gal 2.20.
As with all inspired writings, a distinct order is discernible in the arrangement of stanzas in this Song. We suggest one outline of the book’s structure; others have also been proposed with equal or greater merit.
An abrupt break in the narrative at 5.1 splits the Song naturally into two halves. The first half of the book presents the chronological progression of an eastern wedding, and may be divided by subject into a further four sections. The four sections each describe separate stages of the wedding, and conveniently parallel the book’s first four chapters.
Solomon and his love declare their love, suggesting they are already espoused. In Jewish culture, betrothed couples are considered technically married even before they come together, Matt.1.18,19.
Solomon arrives at the home of his bride to claim her for his own. Here, the joyous anticipation of the bride is almost palpable.
Solomon escorts his bride to his royal residence of the city of Jerusalem. The bride is conducted in security and comfort to the ensuing celebrations.
The very public celebrations are now followed by the equally private consummation. Physical intimacy is, of course, only appropriate and permissible within marriage and so it takes place here after the wedding service of the previous chapter.
The second half of the book presents a moral progression of the marriage relationship. Here the sections are defined by the predominant speaker.
The bride speaks from 5.2, describing her estrangement from her husband. Subsequently, her affections are revived to the extent she actively seeks him by the end of the section in 6.3.
Solomon extols his bride’s beauty, but also declares his intention to assess her personal fruitfulness, 6.11. The section ends at 7.9 with his delight in her bounty.
The bride speaks of resting in the all-embracing love of her beloved, 7.10. Her longing for him is her foremost thought as the book closes.
To conclude, the Song of Solomon is more than outstanding poetry. It highlights the necessity of love for spiritual progress, holds out hope for Israel’s future, and encourages personal devotion to Christ. For the many whose love has waxed cold, Matt.24.12, here is a sure antidote.
To be continued (D.V.)
Birds of the Bible (Job)
by Ian McKee (N. Ireland)
The book of Job provides us with an insight into the life of an extraordinary man under severe trial. It was about this person that "the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" Job 1.8. Yet it was that same man who, without knowing the background to his trial, sustained bereavement, pain, impoverishment, broken health, misrepresentation and extreme emotional pressure.
In the narrative of this book, which bears his name, we have insight to the knowledge the ancients had of astronomy, weather patterns, natural sciences and biodiversity. And, more particular to our considerations, we have ten sections that mention birds. A considerable number of species are mentioned: eagle, vulture, owl, raven, peacock, ostrich and hawk.
In the book of Job various persons speak: God speaks; Satan speaks; so does Job’s wife. But the main narrative is by Job himself at over twenty chapters, mainly in response to his three "friends" (likely they meant well) who speak for nine chapters. Eliphaz the Temanite speaks for four chapters, Bildad the Shuhite for three chapters and Zophar the Naamathite for two chapters. Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, a younger man yet one with arguably more spiritual insight, speaks for almost six chapters. Finally the Lord speaks to silence the speculation and His words are contained in four chapters.
But in the book, who speaks about birds? Not Satan, not Job’s wife; neither Eliphaz, Bildad nor Zophar; none of these mention birds. Elihu makes one reference and Job mentions birds on five occasions, but each of the references is short, representing little more than phrases. However, when the Lord speaks there are four bird sections totalling 13 verses, giving us the Creator’s commentary on ravens, peacocks, ostriches, hawks and eagles!
Although we are going to concentrate on the birds of the book, some further general comment is necessary. Job is a book of experience, of trials of faith in the crucible of affliction and stress. As such, the book is generally of less appeal to young and/or less mature believers. But what a comfort it is to those in sorrow, sickness, solitude, silence or slander.
The first recorded words of this mighty man follow silent heart worship when under pressure, "naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" Job 1.21. This is followed immediately by the Divine commendation, "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly". The last recorded words of Job are addressed to the Lord, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" Job 42.5,6. And it is on the basis of the Lord’s answer in Job chapters 38 to 41, and Job’s repentance, that blessing is again experienced.
The contrast between the first and last chapters of Job is worthy of prayerful consideration, as indeed are all the forty "testing" chapters in between.
We must now return to the birds. But let the birds in Job be a stimulus to return to the book as a whole. Should someone have their interest in this book rekindled, or even ignited for the first time, as a result of these articles, then these considerations will be worthwhile.
The first bird reference in the book is Job’s comment, "Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good. They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey" Job 9.25,26. The mounted messenger, the ship under sail, the eagle engaged, separately and together represent a factual statement about the brevity of life in the midst of Job’s distracted and specious reasoning.
"As the eagle that hasteth to the prey" emphasises focused, indeed single, intent. The greater proportion of an eagle’s brainpower is associated with its keen vision. And its powerful wing muscles provide speed with strength. The eagle’s very survival depends on it taking advantage of opportune prey. As Job witnessed the prowess and speed of the eagle powering in on its unsuspecting quarry he therefore employed it as an appropriate metaphor.
At their longest our lives will be of brief duration. They will pass quickly. Then they will be scanned for spiritual content; weighed for spiritual worth, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" 2Cor.5.10. On that day of manifestation all deeds, motives, and service will be reviewed. Everyone saved by Divine grace would surely covet the Lord’s approval and reward.
But do we really live our lives with a singular, dominating focus, with mind and sinew harnessed to the supreme objective of determining the Lord’s will for our individual lives and then seeking to pursue it? One man certainly did, with aquiline vision: "but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" Phil.3.13,14.
Finally, remember that it was when Job was looking up that he saw the eagle in down-stooping power!
To be continued (D.V.)
By C Jones (Wales)
Psalm 89 is often referred to as the "Covenant Psalm". It is the last psalm in the third of the five books into which the Book of Psalms was originally divided. Each of the psalms which comes at the end of the five books, psalms 41, 72, 89, 106, 150, closes with a doxology. The psalm is a "Maschil" psalm, that is, a psalm of instruction or one which will encourage contemplation. It was written by Ethan the Ezrahite who was a musician in king David's time. Ethan was noted for his wisdom, 1Kgs. 4.31.
The psalm is concerned with the Davidic covenant, 2Sam. 7.8-17, and the apparent failure of that covenant. The psalm stresses God's faithfulness, mercy and steadfast love which continue despite the unfaithfulness and sin of His people. The word used in the original text for "mercy" is sometimes translated as "lovingkindness". The power of God is revealed in that there is no doubt that through His omnipotence the things and events He has determined to bring about will always and inevitably come to pass. The complete fulfilment of the words in vv.27-29 can only refer to the Lord Jesus Christ and so the psalm can be identified as a Messianic psalm.
I have made a covenant, vv.1-4
The Psalm opens with praise to God. The Psalmist wants succeeding generations to know of His eternal mercy, steadfast lovingkindness and faithfulness, v.1. God's mercy and lovingkindness have been seen throughout the history of Israel and the world. His lovingkindness, mercy and faithfulness are established "in the very heavens": they are eternal, v.2.
The covenant God made with His chosen servant David, and which established the throne of David for ever, is brought before us in vv.3,4. The covenant will ultimately be fulfilled in and by great David's greater Son, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, for "the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David", Lk.1.32, and the faithful Lord Jesus, Rev.1.5, will rule over the kings of the earth. After He was born, the wise men came seeking the "King of the Jews", Matt.2.2, and when He was on the cross the words "THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS" were written above His head, Matt.27.37. The word "Selah" appears at the end of v.4, instructing us to stop, pause and consider carefully what has been said in the preceding verses.
Blessed is the people, vv.5-18
The Psalmist continues to praise God. The creation shows forth the might and power of God, Ps.l9.1-6, and His people and the heavenly hosts praise Him for His faithfulness, His Person and His accomplishments, v.5. There is none like the faithful God and He must be revered and honoured by all created beings, vv.6-8. God, the creator, rules, controls and owns all things and none can stand against Him or prevent His will being done, vv.9-13; Gen.1.1; Ex.14.21-31; Ps.50.10; Mk.4.37-41.
God is holy, Lev.19.2, and righteousness, justice and judgment are the basis of His throne. He is merciful and He is the very essence of truth, v.14; Tit.1.2. God is "rich in mercy", Eph.2.4. The Lord Jesus Christ is "the truth", Jn.14.6. He is "the faithful and true witness", Rev.3.14, and He who "ever liveth to make intercession" for us, Heb.7.25, is a "merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God", Heb.2.17. When He suffered, bled and died on the cross, God, His Father, punished His sinless, holy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the sins of the whole world, 1Jn.2.2, and now "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other", Ps.85.10. Because of the Lord's great substitutionary sacrifice God can "be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus", Rom.3.26.
The people who trust in their faithful, covenant-keeping God are happy and blessed. Day by day they are conscious of His presence as their shield and defender. They rejoice continually in their knowledge of God and His righteousness and lovingkindness, and rest and glory in their knowledge of His strength and protection. God, the Holy One of Israel, is their defender and king, vv.15-18.
How blessed, how happy are those who know and believe God and obey His commands. Those who have been saved by grace through faith in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, Eph.2.8, have a God-given peace that is independent of outside circumstances. Happy are the people who not only hear the gospel but believe and trust in God's wonderful way of salvation. They are conscious of His love, grace, mercy, holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, power and protection. They know the meaning of the words "happy is that people, whose God is the LORD", Ps.144.15. In the midst of a chaotic, unstable, waning world they know His presence, protection and guidance.
Higher than the kings of the earth, vv.19-37
In vv.19-37 the covenant that God made with David and his descendants is expounded and enlarged upon. God's faithfulness and lovingkindness can be seen in what is written. God had spoken to David in the past, v.19; 2Sam.7.17. He had chosen David and David had been anointed, 1Sam.16.13; 2Sam.5.3, equipped and prepared by God for the onerous task of being king of Israel. The merciful and faithful God would sustain David and empower and protect him, and the boundaries of his dominion would eventually stretch from the Mediterranean Sea to the river Euphrates, vv.20-26. David would know and acknowledge that God was his God, "the rock of my salvation", and the source of all his blessings, v.26. God is called "father" in v.26. David was conscious of God watching over him as a father cares for and protects his child.
We read in v.27 that God would make David "my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth". When the word "firstborn" is used in Scripture we have to carefully consider its meaning. The word can refer to either position or preeminence. We can see in v.27 a reference to the Messiah, the preeminent Lord Jesus Christ. He is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature", Col.1.15. The term "firstborn" here refers not to priority in time but to rank or status. The Lord is eternal and so existed before creation.
He created all things, Jn.1.1-3; Heb.1.2; Col.1.16,17. He is "the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence", Col.1.18. The Lord was the first to rise from among the dead never to die again, Rev.1.5; Rom.8.29; 6.9. He is preeminent in all things. He is the head of a new creation, the church, and because He rose, all believers will rise from the dead, 1 Cor.15.20-23; Rom.8.11. The Lord Jesus Christ is "higher than the kings of the earth", v.27, and He is "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS'', Rev.19.16. God's covenant with David and his descendants will stand forever, vv.28,29, and will be fulfilled finally and completely by the Lord Jesus Christ.
God gave warnings saying that if the people were unfaithful to Him and disobeyed His law, His statutes and His commandments then they would be punished, vv.30-32. Despite their disobedience and the resulting punishment, God would remain faithful and the unconditional covenant with David would continue steadfast forever, vv.33-37. God may, in His love and perfect wisdom, chasten believers as He chastened unfaithful Israel. He chastens His children for their blessing and benefit and for His glory, Heb.12.6-11. Such divine dealings may not always be in response to sin which has been committed but could be intended to bring a believer even closer to God.
The word selah is used at the end of v.37. Once again, the reader is instructed to stop, think and consider all the wonderful truths which the preceding verses contain. A believer would do well to meditate on the truths revealed in the Word of God regarding the nature of God, His unchanging lovingkindness, mercy, grace and faithfulness. Such meditation will result in peace, joy, thankfulness, worship and praise and an increasing desire to serve and please Him.
How long wilt, Thou hide Thyself? vv.38-52
The next section of the Psalm, vv.38-52, begins with the word "but" and this tells us that something is going to be brought before us which will contrast with, or modify, what has already been stated. Because of disobedience, God was displeased with the nation and it had suffered defeat. The throne had been dishonoured and it would seem that the nation had lost the protection that God had promised in the covenant He had made with David. The nation's enemies and neighbours were glad that it was declining in power and that the kingdom was breaking up, vv.38-45. It seemed that God had "made void the covenant of thy servant", v.39. The word selah appears yet again at the end of v.45. The reader is enjoined to consider what has been written and its causes and consequences.
God has brought chastening upon His chosen people, and v.46 begins with the sad, despairing and plaintive words, "How long, LORD [Jehovah]? wilt thou hide Thyself for ever?" God is angry with the people and the Psalmist calls on Jehovah, using the covenant name for God. He wants God to once again bless and favour the Davidic line. He asks how long will they experience God's wrath and stresses the brevity of life. He wants to see God's blessing and protection on the nation before he dies, vv.47,48. The Psalmist longs to see evidence, once again, of the existence of the Davidic covenant. The brevity of life is stressed several times in the Word of God, 2Sam.14.14; Job.14.1,2; Ps.103.15,16; Jms.4.14. The word selah is used once again in v.48. People would do well to stop and consider the brevity of life and the inevitability of existing eternally, either in heaven or separated from God and suffering eternally in the "lake of fire", Rev.20.15.
The Psalmist continues to cry to his God. He is very conscious of the sad changes which have come into his life. He looks back to happier times and to the covenant made with David which God seems to have set aside. He cannot see that the promises God made in that covenant are being fulfilled and he says, "Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy Truth?", v.49. He speaks to God of the shame, reproach and mocking to which the enemies of the nation have subjected God's people and His anointed, vv.50,51.
The experiences of the nation which contrast so markedly with the promises God made to David are explained in the psalm itself. We have seen already that God warned the people that if they forsook His law and did not keep His commandments then they would be chastised, vv.30-32. Nevertheless, we know that God's covenant is irrevocable and He will not violate it, vv.33-37.
God's faithfulness is mentioned seven times and His mercy and steadfast lovingkindness are stressed throughout the psalm. God will honour His covenant and His promises. All will be fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of David, for He will return to earth, sit on the throne of David and reign over all the earth. We have seen already that there are aspects of the psalm which will find their full and complete fulfilment in the Lord. We have seen Him as the firstborn over creation, Col.1.15, and ruler of the kings of the earth, Rev19.16. He controls His creation, Mk.4.39, and His throne will endure forever, Lk.1.1-33. His love is eternal and unchanging, and He is faithful and true. Jn.13.1; Heb.13.5,8; 2Thess.3.3; Rev.19.11. The sadness, rejection and suffering depicted in vv.38-45 could be applied to the Lord, for, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not", Jn1.11, and He was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief", Isa.53.3. His enemies seemed to have defeated Him when, as a substitute for others, He was bearing the wrath of God against sin and disobedience, and yet He was glorifying God, His Father, when He "bare our sins in His own body on the tree", 1Pet.2.24, and when He "once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God", 1Pet.3.18.
In v.52 we have the doxology, "Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen". The psalm comes to an end with worship and praise. After expressing his worries and disappointments because of the apparent failure and violation of the Davidic covenant, the Psalmist is restored to faith and confidence in his covenant-keeping God.
All down the centuries, the people of God have, like "faithful Abraham", Gal. 3.9, experienced uncertainties and trials and tests of their faith. However, whatever the circumstances, and no matter how things appear to be, the glorious truth is that the omnipotent, faithful, steadfast, all-wise God, Who is love, 1Jn.4.8, is in control of all things. His will will be done and His promises will be kept. God is working all things together for His glory and the eternal good and blessing of His children, Rom.8.28.
By the late Franklin Ferguson (New Zealand)
There is a widespread revolt against the doctrine of hell. It is generally excluded from the modern pulpit and platform and the religious press: Very few people believe in it now. Howbeit, the Son of God, during His public ministry on earth, preached hell fire and the everlasting punishment of all who disbelieve the gospel. His words are awful. He speaks of "hell fire" Matt.5.22, "whole body cast into hell" v.29, "a furnace of fire" Matt.5.22, "the fire that never shall be quenched" Mk.9.45. He well knew what He was saying! He taught the people in parables; but when interpreting to the disciples about the tares recorded in Matthew Chapter 13, the plain words "fire" and "furnace" are used, words He knew they would understand clearly.
The denial of the eternal punishment of the unbeliever is a matter of great moment; for, like the keystone in an arch, if it falls, so will the rest of it fall. The atonement of Christ and the infinite nature of sin, lose their character when hell is thrust aside. Satan is directing a vigorous attack against this doctrine of hell; and how awfully sad to see hoary-headed professors of theological colleges being used by him to discredit the solemn truth. But where the Devil cannot get in his lie of "no hell," then he gets in the thin edge of the wedge of doubt, suggesting that hell fire must not be understood as literal fire, it is "symbolical" language! Yet a symbol never comes fully up to the thing it symbolised, it cannot; so, from this showing, eternal fire is a worse form of fire than the fire we are acquainted with. When the fire assumes a mystical, not-understandable something or other, then it is a thing no longer alarming.
It has been well said that "the Word of God should be read on the principle that if the plain and obvious sense makes good sense we should seek no other sense." This principle is as sound as it is simple. Luther and the Reformers who shook Europe, used plainness of speech. Knox, Fox, Whitfield, Wesley, ranked high among God’s mighty men, and they scorned to use language of double meaning. Spurgeon, whose words have been blessed to the ends of the earth, preached the fire of hell in its literal awfulness, so that no person could mistake his meaning. This man was very unsparing of fanciful interpreters of Scripture, convinced that the Bible is meant to be understood by plain people in a plain way.
By all means let our preaching be equally balanced; God’s love and everlasting salvation; man’s ruin and eternal doom. Nothing but this will do. Keep to Scriptural terms, however plain; do not search for smoother words than God uses in expressing His solemn truths, for drowsy souls need something far different than velvet-tongued preaching.
Whilst bearing in mind all we have written, we wish it to be understood that we should abhor a heartless, glib way of speaking of hell, it is so serious. While not to be faithful about it must be regarded as worthy of censure, yet the subject should never be referred to except under deep conviction of its solemn and momentous nature.
(Reprinted from "The Bible Expositor". July, 1951)
Good Tidings from Heaven
It has been alarming to hear not only of individuals in debt, but also news of countries teetering on the brink of bankruptcy has sent a shudder through the entire world. For too long, governments have spent foolishly and have failed to curb reckless investments by banks and financial institutions. The result, precipitated by the credit collapse of 2008, has been that massive debts have been incurred that have left even the International Monetary Fund with worrying problems on their minds and many countries feeling that the problem had reached irremediable proportions.
Austerity measures, deeply unpopular with the citizens of the countries affected, have had to be introduced before financial "bale-outs" could be sanctioned by leading economies. Public services have had to be slashed; public assets have had to be sold off and other draconian measures have been introduced to alleviate, even in a very small way, this mammoth problem. The result has been a debt crisis of unprecedented severity that has left some countries saddled with debts that could never be paid, amounting to many trillions of dollars; figures that are incomprehensible.
Inflation; deflation; recession and depression are terms that we have become acquainted with; we have all been affected and our lifestyles will never be the same again. We have become acutely aware of spiralling costs; of the need to "tighten our belts" and many have become unemployed or bankrupt because debtors could not pay their bills. The harsh effects have permeated through every strata of society, affecting everyone. Unfortunately, some have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of their problems and have committed suicide; debt can be that debilitating and destructive. If, like so many others, you have become enmeshed in a problem, not of your making and you are struggling to survive on a day to day basis; please be assured of our understanding and heartfelt sympathy.
However, there is a more serious debt that few ever think about; the Bible speaks of us as debtors, saddled with a debt that we will never be able to pay. It is the debt that has been incurred by our sin and every day we live, the debt increases and the problem intensifies. Our only hope lies in finding someone wealthy enough who would be willing to pay the debt for us. To whom can we turn, hoping for a sympathetic response to our need? Who could possibly have the incalculable resources to meet such a gigantic need? You may not have been bothered by this debt but you can never be in heaven until that debt is completely cancelled. It is that serious!
The Bible uses terms such as "redeemed"; "redemption" and refers to Jesus Christ as the "Redeemer". In 1Peter1.18,19 we read, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ …" To redeem means to set free by the payment of a debt. We can only be liberated by the payment of a ransom and upon the cross at Calvary, the Lord Jesus paid that fearful price by the shedding of His precious blood. He "gave Himself a ransom for all …" 1Timothy 2.6. That is the only price acceptable to God and our every attempt to solve the problem, will be futile. Are you still in debt or can you rejoice with those of us who are saved, to know: "He’s mine because He died for me, He paid my debt, He set me free?"
- Moses was dead, Joshua arose
- To lead as God had planned
- And bring the Israelites of old
- Into the promised land.
- The commands of God he often heard
- Now he must meditate
- Both day and night to hear God’s voice
- The burden was so great.
- Isaac we read at eventide
- Went out to meditate,
- Would that we, too, each closing day
- Christ’s coming contemplate.
- David the psalmist, too, had learned
- The joy when thoughts would soar
- With freshness for the weary soul
- God’s will for him explore.
- Alone with God to meditate
- Upon God’s holy Word;
- The Holy Spirit then can bring
- A message from the Lord
- Providing food for saints on earth
- Manna to meet the need,
- Not just a sermon gathered up
- A carnal way to feed!
- But meditation will take time
- To saturate the mind,
- Allowing God’s Word to penetrate
- And in it blessing find.
- Oh may we all like Timothy
- Meditate upon God’s Word,
- And grow in grace and maturity
- More like our blessed Lord.