The word "Psalms" comes from a Hebrew word (tehillim) meaning ‘Praises’. It probably bears this title "because of its use as the hymn book for the religious services in the second temple (built in days of Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah)."1 In Greek translations of the Old Testament, the title, "The Psalms", comes from a word meaning to play an instrument (psallo), which strongly suggests "that Psalms are songs intended to be accompanied by instrumental music".2 It has been rightly observed, however, that in the New Testament, while the expression "making melody" means, literally, to sing with a stringed instrument accompaniment, it is the heart that is the instrument, "making melody in your heart to the Lord" Eph.5.19. Compare Col.3.16. It has been nicely said that "man’s heart is the harp from which the divine hand produces the richest music".3
Bearing in mind the limited space available (for obvious reasons), this introduction has to be brief. Nevertheless in studying the book of Psalms it is important to be aware of at least some of its features, and attention is drawn to the following: the structure of the Psalms; the setting of the Psalms; the subject of the Psalms; the superscripts to the Psalms. Readers who wish to explore these subjects in more detail should consult the various commentaries available, and a helpful guide in this direction may be found in the bibliography supplied by Mr. J.M. Flanigan.4
THE STRUCTURE OF THE PSALMS
It has to be said that, overall, there is no clearly discernible pattern of arrangement in the book of Psalms. Attempts have been made to prove that there is an ongoing and progressive development in thought and content as the book proceeds, but speaking kindly, such noble work thus far is less than convincing. The book of Psalms is obviously a collection, but linking all one hundred and fifty of them together in a logical sequence seems to be a little beyond ‘the wit of man’, perhaps, primarily, because this was never the Divine intention.
This does not mean, however, that the book is completely devoid of any kind of order. While there is, of course, only one book of Psalms, a Hebrew tradition (we are told) divides it into five sections (Psalms 1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 90-106; 107-150), all of which conclude with a doxology. If nothing else, this serves to emphasise the fact that ‘the chief end of man is to glorify God’, and that He will be glorified!
These five sections are often called the Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy sections of the book of Psalms. While, no doubt, there is a correlation between the five books of Moses and the five books of Psalms, it isn’t always a particularly easy task to assemble the required detail. Nevertheless, as J. Sidlow Baxter points out, the general correspondence is noticeable.5 The first group of Psalms, corresponding to Genesis, has a great deal to say about man. The second group, corresponding with Exodus, has much to say about deliverance. The third group, corresponding with Leviticus, with a majority of the psalms attributed to Asaph, emphasises the sanctuary. The fourth group, corresponding with Numbers and beginning with Psalm 90, the prayer of Moses, stresses the time when unrest and wandering will cease in the coming worldwide kingdom when the nations shall bow to God’s King. The fifth group, corresponding with Deuteronomy, contains a great deal of thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness, and places emphasis on the word of God, as for example, in Psalm 119 which refers in practically every verse to the written word of God. In this connection, the reader is referred, again, to J.M. Flanigan’s ‘Survey and Summary’ (pp.14,15)6 which expands the above. A.G. Clarke7 expands this even more (pp.22-25). Both are recommended reading.
We can, of course, go a little further and say that there are certainly groups of Psalms. The ‘Songs of degrees’, Psalms 120-134, are a case in point, and who amongst us has not heard preachers introduce Psalms 22-24 by saying that Psalm 22 is the first of a trilogy of Psalms, and that numerous titles have been given to them: for example: Psalm 22 - the Cross; Psalm 23 - the Crook; Psalm 24 - the Crown. Or, Psalm 22 - the Saviour; Psalm 23 - the Shepherd; Psalm 24 - the Sovereign. Another example may be found in Psalms 113-118, commonly known as "The Egyptian Hallel" (see 114.1). These psalms were evidently sung "on the great festive occasions, but were especially relevant and precious at the celebration of the Passover"8 and it is quite possible that Psalm 118 was the "hymn" sung in the Upper Room before the Lord and His disciples left for the Mount of Olives (Matt.26.30).
THE SETTING OF THE PSALMS
Very clearly, a large number of the Psalms were written by David, and relate, among other things, to his own life and experiences. This is important, and reminds us of the oft-quoted words (there is apparently more than one version of them):
"David’s harp had ne’er been strung
If David’s heart had ne’er been wrung"
David refers to real experiences in his Psalms. There is nothing theoretical about them nor, indeed, of any of the Psalms. Here is a man who proved the faithfulness of God in the vicissitudes of life. He wrote just under half of the Psalms and it is worth pointing out that Psalms 2 and 95 are attributed to him in the New Testament, Acts 4.25; Heb.4.7. In keeping with the fact that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" 2Tim.3.16, "the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my mouth" 2Sam.23.1,2. See also Matt.22.43; 2Pet.1.21.
Many of the psalms therefore originated in the spiritual revival of Israel under David and Solomon. Two bear the name of Solomon, 72 and 127. Other named psalmists during this period are Heman, Psalm 88; Ethan, Psalm 89; and Asaph, Psalms 50, 73-83, all of whom are mentioned in 1Chr.15.17,19. It seems almost certain that the eleven Psalms "for the sons of Korah" belong to the same period. Whoever wrote them, and David seems the most likely candidate, handed them to the "chief Musician" (the choirmaster) with instructions to put them in his portfolio for future use. We must remember that the choir did not sing in a public auditorium before a paying audience: they sang to the Lord! Surely there is a lesson here! We must not forget that one Psalm, 90, is attributed to Moses, and that, possibly, he also wrote Psalm 91.
This leaves some fifty anonymous psalms, sometimes called ‘the orphan psalms’. It is thought that some of these were written during the revivals in the reigns of Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah. Hezekiah certainly wrote psalms. He tells us that himself: "The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord" Isa.38.20. There can be little doubt that Hezekiah refers here to the ten unassigned "songs of degrees" (Psalms 120, 121, 123, 125, 126, 128-130, 132, 134. Regrettably, space does not permit us to develop the subject. Suffice to say that, as in the case of David, Hezekiah refers in these Psalms to real life experiences, and includes in his collection, four hitherto ‘unpublished’ Psalms by David, and one by Solomon, which were particularly appropriate to his circumstances.
It is further suggested, with justification, that some psalms relate to the period of Israel’s captivity. Psalm 137 is clearly a case in point, and Psalms 78 and 79 could also refer to this period, although we would have to make room for a second Asaph if this were the case. It has been suggested that the problem can be solved if we take these Psalms as prophetic.
THE SUBJECT OF THE PSALMS
The book of Psalms deals with a wide variety of subjects, including the following:
It is usually said that the ‘Messianic Psalms’ are 2, 8, 16, 22, 24, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 72, 89, 91, 102 and 110. They tell us about the Lord Jesus, and amongst other things, reveal to us His unspoken thoughts and desires. He said, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me", Lk.24.44. The apostle Peter referred to Psalm 16 in saying, "For David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face" Acts 2.25-35. This is not to say that all ‘Messianic Psalms’ are quoted in the New Testament. Psalm 72 is a case in point. We ought to add that some Psalms which are not strictly ‘Messianic’ can nevertheless be applied to the Lord Jesus, and in this regard Psalm 1, which is certainly the Psalm of the godly man, describes Him beautifully.
A vast number of psalms can be placed in this category, and all we will say at this juncture is that they cover every aspect of human experience, including penitence, prayer, perplexity and praise. So whether we are feeling elated or depressed, encouraged or discouraged, up or down, there is a Psalm, or Psalms, to which we may turn for help in expressing our thanksgiving, or for help in coping with our difficulties and problems. A.G. Clarke9 observes that the book commences with God blessing man, 1.1, and concludes with man blessing God, 150.1-6. Psalm 1, with its consideration of the godly man and the ungodly man, is the fountain head of a theme to which the book so often returns, culminating with the triumph of Christ, the supremely and pre-eminently godly Man, over Antichrist with all his ungodliness. See, for example, Ps.110. 6, "He shall smite through the head (singular) over a great country" (J.N.D).
It is usually said that there are seven "penitential psalms": 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143. However, Psalms 102, 130 and 143 can hardly be described as penitential, although it has to be said that Psalm 130 does warn against the possibility of sinning against the Lord, v.3. Psalm 102 is clearly a Messianic Psalm! The sorrow in these three psalms is not said to be the result of sin, which is clearly the case in Psalms 6, 32, 38 and 51. The "penitential psalms" remind us, amongst other things, that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" 1Jn.4.9.
Psalms 35, 58, 59, 69 (also a ‘Messianic Psalm’), 83, 109 and 137 have been called ‘Imprecatory Psalms’, this title being bestowed upon them in view of the psalmist’s request for Divine judgment upon the enemies of God’s people. While these psalms refer to righteous judgment, the Lord’s people today are required to act on the principle that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" Rom.5.20. This is enjoined by the Lord Jesus (see, for example, Matt.5.38,39) and in the Epistles (see, for example, Rom.12.19-21; 1Thess.5.15; 1Pet.3.19).
THE SUPERSCRIPTS TO THE PSALMS
Of the one hundred and fifty psalms which comprise the book, only thirty-four are without any title whatsoever. Fifty-two psalms have simple titles: "A Psalm of David … A Psalm of Asaph … A Prayer of David … A Psalm for Solomon … A Psalm for the sons of Korah". Fourteen psalms have titles referring to historical events, for example, "A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son". Thirty-nine psalms, including eight which also refer to historical events, have various superscripts, some referring to musical instruments or, possibly, the tune. The thirteen ‘Maschil Psalms’ are included here, ‘Maschil’ meaning ‘instruction’. So are the six ‘Michtam Psalms’, the word ‘Michtam’ being variously interpreted, together with the four ‘Altaschith Psalms’, ‘Altaschith’ meaning ‘destroy not’. Some superscripts are a little complicated, but in all cases there is evidently no reason to doubt that they were "a part of the primitive sacred text".10
In the Lord’s will, and with His help, we will now embark on studies in the First Book of Psalms, namely Psalms 1-41.
To be continued (D.V.)
1 Clarke, A.G. "Analytical Studies in the Psalms".
2 John Ritchie Ltd, Kilmarnock. 1967.
4 Flanigan, J.M "What the Bible Teaches". John Ritchie Ltd, Kilmarnock. 2001
5 Baxter, J. Sidlow, "Explore the Book, Volume 3", Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1964.
‘God maketh the solitary into families’ Ps.68.6 (J.N.D.)
We shall continue our study of ‘Family Life’ by considering the roles of the mother, the father and the children.
Every one of us began life in our mother’s womb. "And the woman conceived and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months" Ex.2.2. At the beginning of Genesis, the woman is prominent in the bringing in of sin. At the beginning of Exodus five women are prominent, namely Shiphrah, Puah, Jochebed, Thermutis and Miriam. In Genesis chapter 3 the woman disobeyed God, whereas in Exodus chapter 1 the women feared God. The woman of Genesis chapter 3 made aprons from fig leaves to cover herself, whereas the woman of Exodus chapter 2 made an ark from bulrushes to protect her son. Eve reared a murderer, but Jochebed reared a deliverer. In Genesis chapter 3, Eve multiplied sorrow but in Exodus chapter 15 Miriam led the song.
In Exodus chapter 2, God worked in the domestic sphere of home life. A mother is the first to influence, the first to encourage. The mother’s sphere is the home, the domestic realm, the personal and the private. Because she is less prominent than her husband, her role is no less vital, essential, dignified and godly.
When Stephen was speaking about Moses he said that he was nourished up in his father’s house, Acts 7.20. This connects with Eph.6.14, "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture [chastening] and admonition of the Lord".
God created the child to be helpless and dependant long enough to stay in the home for training. Some animals can walk on the day they are born and are self-sufficient within a number of weeks. Attractive and loveable as children are, they inherit a sinful nature: "Shapen in iniquity" Ps.51.5; "Estranged from the womb" Ps.58.3. This means that all need chastened, "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" Heb.12.7. Even God’s choicest saints are subject to His chastisement. Parents have the authority of God over their children. How serious and important is this responsibility. "Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord" Col.3.20. To neglect chastisement is to treat them as illegitimate children, see Heb.12.8.
The theories of silly impractical educators have brought the fabric of society to rottenness and produced uncontrollable rebels without any moral character or sense of right or wrong. Parental chastisement is commanded in the Word of God. Parents act for God in breaking the child’s stubbornness and obstinacy and rewarding righteousness. "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way" Isa.53.6. It was good of God not to allow each of us to go our own way. Correction when carried out calmly, consistently and prayerfully by parents united in their desire to raise children in a Scriptural way will bring joy in maturity to those who love the Lord.
Abraham was blessed because God could depend on him to control his household after him, Gen.18.17-19. Eli, though a good man in himself, saw sorrow in his home because he did not restrain his wicked sons, 1Sam.2.22-25; 3.12-14. No matter how sound in doctrine, fervent in spirit and clean in life a man is, he is not fit to be a servant of the Church if his children, who are still living in his house, are not in subjection, 1Tim.3.4,5,12.
In Exodus the emphasis is upon Moses’ mother, "she hid him three months" Ex.2.2, but in Acts the emphasis is upon his father, "Nourished up in his father’s house three months" Acts 7.20. However, in Hebrews his parents are in view, "Moses … was hid three months of his parents" Heb.11.23. Combining these three passages we see that his parents raised him together. The key word in rearing a family as in marriage is the word, ‘together’. The ideal marriage of Genesis chapter 24 was severely tested in chapter 27 where Isaac and Rebekah showed favouritism toward their sons.
"The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" Prov.29.15. Happy the child who learns early in life that sin brings trouble. A child controlled by his parents will learn to control himself. "The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly" Prov.20.30. A child who is calmly and firmly curbed will learn to curb himself or herself. Authority in the home will lead to submission to authority at school, authority of government and authority of God. The curbing of the hot temper and headstrong obstinacy of childhood will guide little feet into paths of morality and righteousness in youth and develop character and nobility in formative teenage years. Wilful disobedience cannot be overlooked. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" Prov.22.6. This means that he will not depart from the training. When he is away from home; when he or she is away from restraint, when they are away from their parents eye, they will not depart from the training.
Corporal punishment brings pain. The pulling of a tooth brings pain but may be necessary to bring ultimate relief. The amputation of a limb is extreme and brings pain but may be kindness in itself. Modernists say that we must rule by love not force. Educationalists say that we should instruct by reason not discipline. If these theories are right then it is wrong to have policemen, courts, traffic rules or penalties against murder. "For God so loved the world …" Jn.3.16. Is it right for God to punish sin? Has God the right to send rebels to hell who reject His love expressed in the giving of His Son? Real love as parents for their children will punish rebellion. Bible instruction for their eternal well-being will show them that sin needs to be punished. When sin goes unpunished, men and women, boys and girls go further into sin. Of course, such discipline is carried out in love and is never an excuse for cruelty and tyranny. Often, in administering the commensurate punishment, the pain felt by the parent is greater than that felt by the child.
We have been to countries where school authorities banned the reading of the Scriptures in schools and all references to the Creator were prohibited. The result was lawlessness and uncontrolled rebellion among pupils and students. These same authorities in recent years, have welcomed us back to teach Bible truths and standards that the youth of those lands may have some standards of morality and a basic knowledge of right and wrong. Our burden is for godly young couples, married in the Lord, with a little family that they are trying to bring up in a God-fearing home, praying fervently for help and salvation in early life.
Pseudo-psychologists, unprincipled politicians and ungodly teachers who are deficient of the fear of God and any knowledge of the Bible are attacking such home life. The philosophy, which says that we should never force our will on a child as this will hinder self-respect, is unscriptural nonsense.
"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" Ex.20.12. This is the first and primary commandment, which has to do with one’s duty to mankind. This is also the first commandment with promise of blessing, Eph.6.2. This is not tyrannical despotism but a happy family atmosphere of respect. Parents should merit this respect by attitude and example, which is well pleasing to the Lord. If this respect is present in a godly home, the child will not strike father or mother or call them by their Christian names. If they are taught to respect the giving of thanks and prayer and learn to sit reverently when the Bible is being read in the home, they will know to do this at the meetings. Children at the Gospel Meeting should not think that it is a trivial thing when the Bible is read. When the Gospel is being preached their formative impressions should not have taught them that they are better employed scribbling than listening. When old enough to listen at nursery school, they are old enough to listen to the story of the cross. Spurgeon said, that if a man has not preached the Gospel in such a way that the youngest child in the audience can understand, that man has not preached the Gospel. When children can read at day school, then at meeting they should be encouraged to read the Bible, not some cartoon type of distraction. It is good to have a home where it is accepted that all the family go to the meetings without question. The respect, love, privileges, comforts and reverence of a Christian home should mean that even unsaved teenagers would go willingly to hear the Gospel.
The Bible sets the standard for marriage, for the home and for the family. Happy will be the home when the Bible is systematically read at whatever time is convenient for all the family to be present. When they are young, pray with them kneeling at the bedside, read with them Bible stories and sing gospel choruses till sleep beckons. When older, the family reading and prayer gives the husband and father the leading role and responsibility in the home.
"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" 1Pet.3.7. Thus husband and wife, parents and children live daily in the sanctified atmosphere of prayer. There is a happy balance. Read the Bible but play ball together. Pray with them but play with them. Don’t go as a family to the circus but bring them to the zoo. Don’t go to the football or boxing match but be careful they are not watching worse in their bedrooms. "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes" Ps.101.3. We do not bring our children to the movies or nightclub; we must be careful not to allow the living room or bedroom to be transformed into a theatre or arena. "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, that ye may approve things that are excellent" Phil.1.9,10. A switch cannot control the temptations of television, videos, internet and DVDs. Fallen nature makes it impossible to pick and choose between the helpful and the harmful. Achievement of the highest order in academic and professional careers has been attained by those who testify that they were helped by the absence rather than the assistance of TV in the home.
"One that ruleth well his own home, having his children in subjection with all gravity" 1Tim.3.4. Rule, government and authority are of God. The husband and father is responsible as God’s representative. The alternative is anarchy and chaos. It is the father’s responsibility to see that the family is living within the income he provides and that they are not missing the blessing of a loving and spiritual Christian atmosphere in the home. The family altar, prayer in the home, giving of thanks at the table, courtesy, good manners and a sense of mutual responsibility help to develop such an atmosphere. From such a home, the family will readily and willingly go to the meetings. Where fathers in the domestic realm are weak and lazy and where they have immodestly dressed and fashion clad mothers, the offspring will be untrained and undisciplined.
Ten times the Lord gave thanks for food and six times He blessed the food. The believer’s house should have a family table and family meals. As a family there should be acknowledgement of dependence upon God for daily bread. This will lead to family conversation, the sharing of the experiences of the day at school or work, and that imparting of advice and care. Many families eat junk food or that warmed in a microwave oven, consumed before a TV screen and pass each other like zombies in the night. "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" Deut.6.6,7.
"Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" Gen.3.16; "Wives, submit yourselves unto you own husbands, as unto the Lord" Eph.5.22; "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to you own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives" 1Pet.3.1. Note the words, "rule", "submit", "reverence" and "subjection". God’s Word uses stronger language than modern preachers who try to explain it away as pertaining to former times. The modern feminist movement has infiltrated the domestic realm. The godly wife and mother will understand that wives ‘submit’ as if it were the Lord she was obeying. She is ‘subject’ to her husband, ‘in every thing’, that is how she directs the home, how she controls the children and how she spends the money. She has ‘reverence’ for her husband in loving admiration, not slavish cringing and sullen submission. A discontented home produces disobedient children and the man becomes a mere moneymaker, a necessary evil with no authority. We labour in the Gospel to see the families of the Lord’s people reached and saved. Too often prayers are hindered at home and the battle is lost before they leave the house.
In pursuing links between Peter’s ministry and Daniel, we arrive at 1 Peter chapter 4. The apostle divides our lives into two, "the rest of your time" v.2, R.V. and "the time past of our life" v.3. The history of the unconverted man is described in graphic language. They walk in "lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries", v.3. This is a catalogue of vices that reflects the character of Belshazzar’s court, seen full blown in the party that he threw on his last night on earth, Daniel chapter 5.
Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and the son of Nabonidus. Secular history recounts that Nabonidus was engaged in a military campaign elsewhere and the administration was left in Belshazzar’s hands and in that sense he was "the king" v.1. His empire was in its death throes with the Medes and Persians at the gate. In light of that, arranging the feast was recklessness beyond belief.
Frequently in Scripture, big social events ended in disaster. The birthday parties for Pharaoh and Herod; the sheep-shearing celebrations of Nabal and Absalom; the glittering banquets of Ahasuerus and Belshazzar, all issued in tragedy. With the city under siege and the consequent rationing, to make a "great feast to a thousand of his lords" was totally irresponsible. As usual, even in extreme situations the ruling classes looked after their own interests, and this whole scenario smacks of injustice, exploitation and prejudice. The Lord Jesus said, "when thou makest a feast, call the poor!" Lk.14.13.
Doubtless, their outrageous behaviour was fuelled by alcohol as implied by the following statements. "Drank wine" v.1; "tasted the wine" v.2; "that the king … might drink" v.2; "the king … drank" v.3; "They drank" v.4. The dangers of alcohol cannot be overstressed. Here, it emboldened Belshazzar to defy God. It robbed Ben-hadad of any sense of responsibility 1Kgs.20.12,16. It facilitated Lot’s disgusting behaviour, Gen.19.30-38. Some may think that these examples highlight what happens to the ungodly and the backslidden; they might argue that a mature believer can handle it and would know where to draw the line. Remember Noah, a man who had "walked with God", and yet wine was the catalyst in his spiritual collapse, Gen.9.20-23. Without doubt, abstinence is the safest policy for us all.
Belshazzar’s blasphemous behaviour demonstrates the innate hatred of the human heart towards the living God. His irreverence and defiance were expressed in his demand that the vessels from the temple be used in that drunken orgy. In the midst of a story of such blatant insolence, it is wonderful to observe that God had superintended the safety of these holy vessels; they had not been lost or destroyed despite all the intrigues and mischief of a pagan royal court.
Could it be that some of the lords and ladies had become uncomfortable with the turn of events on the big occasion? If they did have any qualms they were submerged in the general wave of euphoria that engulfed the banqueting hall, v.4, and they were swept along under Belshazzar’s baneful influence. Mass excitement is infectious so be cautious. "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" Ex.23.2. "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not" Prov.1.10.
The idols that Belshazzar worshipped had carved human features including hands, "but they handle not" Ps.115.7; they were lifeless. The living God has fingers that formed the universe, Ps.8.3, fingers that inscribed the law on tables of stone, Ex.31.18. Illuminated in a ghastly way by the flickering lamp, these same fingers now etch a message of judgment on the plaster of Belshazzar’s palace wall, v.5. The sight reduced the proud monarch to a quivering mass; his knees pounded against each other and his face clouded with terror, v.6. The strident voice that had called for the holy vessels now summoned the soothsayers who were as mesmerised as the king. Enter Daniel, and as ever, God’s power was shown to be superior to that of satanically energised men. It was thus in Egypt when Jannes and Jambres were eclipsed by Moses. At Mount Carmel, weight of numbers gave the prophets of Baal no advantage over Elijah. In the stronghold of the cult of Diana, God allowed "special miracles" that could not be replicated by wandering exorcists. Here, a man in touch with God shed light on what was an enigma to those who were in league with the devil.
Despite his reputation for sagacity and spiritual insight, Daniel had been sidelined by the current regime. Some people become peevish when overlooked. In Gideon’s day the men of Ephraim were piqued when they were not called to fight, Judg.8.1-3, and again in Jephthah’s time, chapter 12. Daniel held no feelings of injured pride and so he co-operated; "I will read the writing" v.17. Are we like him, able to rise above slights whither perceived or real? He gave help without thought of reward; for him, religion was never a medium for personal gain or self aggrandisement as with Balaam, or the temple traders, or Demetrius the silversmith or the false teachers who made "merchandise" of the people of God, 2Pet.2.3. Daniel’s motives were pure as were those of Elisha the prophet, 2Kgs.5.15,16. In our day, the same spirit is in evidence when like Paul we resolve that "when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge" 1 Cor.9.18.
It appears that the customary way to address ancient potentates was to say "live for ever". We should "pray for the life of the king, and of his sons" Ezra 6.10, but we know that they will never "live for ever". Daniel did conform to conventional norms, 6.21, but not here. A glance at the writing on the wall told him that this king would not live for ever! Earlier in the evening, the queen had addressed him, "O king, live for ever" v.10, little realising that it was his last night on earth! Perhaps we need to examine some customary greetings or compliments! For example, when you wish your neighbour or workmate "all the very best" they will assume that you mean all the very best of luck!
Daniel’s faithfulness deserves mention. He was addressing the man who perceived himself to be the most powerful man on earth, and yet uncompromisingly he charged him on the following counts.
Pride: "thou … hast not humbled thine heart" v.22, and that despite the fact that he was familiar with the history of Nebuchadnezzar. Politicians speak glibly about learning lessons from failures that are exposed by a public enquiry, but they rarely do. We too can ignore the lessons of history and replicate mistakes, as when Abraham replayed the Egyptian debacle at Gerar, Gen.12.10-20; 20.1-18.
Defiance: "thou … hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven", v.23. A puny mortal was confronting the Lord of heaven! Any breaches of the commands of Holy Scripture constitute a challenge to the authority of the Lord of heaven. Be compliant with His desires, even those described by the Lord Jesus as "these least commandments" Matt.5.19.
Irreverence: it was expressed in his misuse of the holy vessels, v.23. Never let us fail to distinguish between "the holy and profane" ["common" R.V.], Ezek.44.23.
Stupidity: imagine praising lifeless idols and failing to honour the life-sustaining sovereign God! He had failed to "glorify" that God, v.23. Proud men who fail to give God glory place themselves in danger. The acclaim of the crowd inflated Herod’s ego, and "the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory" Acts 12.23. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory" Ps.115.1. It is a directive that the believer should constantly keep in mind. We have been the recipients of a wealth of spiritual blessing. Let us be like the blind man who "followed Him, glorifying God" Lk.18.43, rather than the nine lepers of the previous chapter of whom the Saviour said, "where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger" 17.17,18.
Daniel’s nerve was on a par with that of Elijah and John the Baptist who confronted Ahab and Herod respectively. May God give us all the courage of these stalwarts. We are not in the business of spearheading protest movements against current social and moral evils, but we do need to avoid soft-pedalling the Gospel and watering down its demands because we are charged with being "fundamentalists" by acceptable religionists or militant secularists. Like Paul, let us be "bold in our God to speak … the gospel of God with much contention" 1Thess.2.2.
The writing on the wall spelled disaster for Belshazzar. Three statements are made, and items one and three undoubtedly revolve around item two, "weighed in the balances" v.27. The God Who meticulously proportioned His creation right down to weighing "the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance", is as particular in assessing human lives; Divine weights and measures feature once more. The verdict in every case is, "found wanting". God’s balances never weigh good against bad, or virtues against vices, but the individual is measured against the perfect standard expressed in the life of Christ: "found wanting" is the finding every time. The day of reckoning had now come for Belshazzar and because he was "found wanting" his kingdom was finished, to be divided between the Medes and Persians. His sentence did not linger; his damnation did not slumber, 2Pet.2.3. There was no stay of execution; "In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain" v.30.
It should be a fearful warning to any who trifle with God. He is "not mocked" Gal.6.7. No one can outmanoeuvre Him: "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished" Prov.11.21. Men may take counsel against Him and He will simply laugh at their futile endeavours to thwart Him, Ps.2.1-4. Let it be a solemn warning even to believers. "Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" Heb.12.28. We dare not treat God or the things of God with impunity: consequences are inevitable.
We have noted previously that the epistle could be divided into 5 sections and in the last issue we commenced a consideration of the third: vv.8-22 - Paul’s Appeal to Philemon for Acceptability. This was subdivided by noting the idea of receiving Onesimus: v.12, "thou therefore receive him"; v.17, "receive him as myself". This suggested the following:
Vv.8-12, Based on Love and Admiration for Paul:
v.9, "Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ".
Vv.13-17, Based on Loyalty and Association with Paul:
Loyalty, vv.13,14 "Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing".
Association, v.17, "If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself".
Vv.18-22, Based on Life and Appreciation of Paul:
Life, v.20, "Yea, brother".
Appreciation, v.19, "thou owest unto me even thine own self besides".
In the previous article we pondered the first of these subdivisions and now address the second.
Vv.13-17, Based on Loyalty and Association with Paul:
Loyalty, vv.13,14, "Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel: But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly."
Paul wants Philemon to know that he was not sending Onesimus away because he was a nuisance and Paul was glad to be rid of him. Rather he would have "retained" him. This means he would have ‘held him fast’ as can be seen from the following occurrences of the word. 1Thess.5.21, "hold fast that which is good"; Heb.3.6, "if we hold fast the confidence …". Such was the change in Onesimus that he became suitable company for Paul. However, his past life had to be sorted and regularised so that he could be useful in the service of God.
Paul makes three pertinent statements about the situation.
"in thy stead" - Onesimus may have served in the work of the Lord, in the company of Paul, as on the behalf of Philemon;
"he might have ministered unto me" - Onesimus would have been useful in performing deacon service to Paul. This lifts him from a bond slave to a deacon, which puts the emphasis on his service rather than his slavery; and
"in the bonds of the gospel" - another point that would have weighed heavily with Philemon. How could he refuse this plea from a man who was suffering and yet was prepared to do what was right in sending back the runaway thief. Note also that Paul’s bonds were for the gospel, not for any crime.
v.14, "without thy mind would I do nothing"
Even the apostle would not presume to make decisions for another. We must not take friendships for granted or take advantage of any situation that could be turned by us to our benefit while disadvantaging another. There are certain decisions that, of necessity, must be made personally.
In v.13 he would have kept Onesimus with him and the tense used indicates that this was his desire for a period of time. However, in v.14 the tense is different and means that after weighing up the situation he came to a decision. There are practical lessons to be learned from Paul’s behaviour in this circumstance:
Always consider a matter from many angles before making a decision;
Paul was prepared to sacrifice what would have been for his comfort to do what was right;
To retain something that is rightly belonging to another is fraud;
Onesimus going back was a testimony to the reality of his salvation - for him not to have gone back would have left the gospel open to the allegation that salvation sanctifies and excuses wrong doing; and
The principle of getting right where the problem arose is clear; which is seen also in the lives of so many personalities throughout the Bible.
"that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly."
We have already noted that devotion cannot be forced. The tabernacle work was supported by those who were "willing hearted", Ex.35.5,22. The Lord looks upon such people with pleasure, 2Cor.9.7, "so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver".
v.15, "receive" is a slightly different word from that used in v.13 and these together suggest the meaning, ‘I would fain have kept him, but he was your property to retain’.
"he therefore departed" Paul is very diplomatic in his use of language. He does not say ‘he fled in disgrace as a thief’ but ‘he departed’. How beautifully this illustrates the teaching that, "love covers a multitude of sins". All too often the failures of the Lord’s people are paraded, and often before the unsaved. The skin of the burnt offering was kept, but the skin of the sin offering was burnt, and never seen again. The word "departed" really means that he was parted, it implies that Paul saw the sovereign hand of God overruling in all these affairs. To see the hand of God in all aspects of life is a spiritual way to live. It was Joseph who said to his brethren in Gen.50.20, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good." We ought to keep in mind Rom.8.28, "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God …". Such an attitude will keep us from complaining and murmuring and maintain in us a thankful spirit.
v.16, "Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?"
Paul expected that the evangelical heart of Philemon would overcome any hostility towards Onesimus. The gospel makes such a difference that a bond slave becomes a brother and, not only so, but a brother beloved. It is not that he is no longer a slave, but the gospel overcomes all social, sexual and spiritual barriers, Gal.3.28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus". "In Christ" is where grace has placed us. The verse just quoted from Galatians has nothing to do with church order and the role of a sister in the assembly, as is so frequently misinterpreted. Class distinctions, haughtiness, snobbishness, etc have no place among us. Academic qualifications are most useful in the world, but not in the assembly. In the assembly we meet as brothers and sisters not as doctors and professors. We ought to remember as we write a letter of commendation that we don’t commend a doctor but a brother.
"in the flesh, and in the Lord" - Scroggie’s remark regarding this expression is worth quoting: ""in the flesh" - he had the brother for a slave; "in the Lord" he had the slave for a brother".
Association, v.17, "If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself."
This request, so appealing, could not be refused, Paul lifts Philemon to the level of a close companion in full fellowship with all that he is doing.
In the previous article we highlighted the ‘Appellations’ that displayed that Jesus Christ is God. We follow the subject by considering:
HIS ACTIVITIES – Divine Works
Certain works are beyond man’s capability to perform and are attributed to God Himself. A look at a cross-section of these acts reveals that they are also attributable to Christ. Thus Christ is God. Deity is His.
Gen.1.1. is a sublime statement of God’s creatorial power, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". In the New Testament Christ is seen to be the agent of creation. "And thou Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the works of Thine hands" Heb.1.10. "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made" Jn.1.3. "For by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth ..." Col.1.16. Christ is, "The beginning of the creation of God" Rev.3.14. The origin of creation is ascribed to our Lord. Only God can make something out of nothing, which is the essence of creation. All man’s hypotheses have to postulate some prior primordial soup or chemical composition out of which creation takes place, leading to theories of the eternity of matter. The Bible clearly declares a creation made out of nothing, made by Divine fiat, spoken into existence by the word of Deity.
Once creation is complete, how is it maintained? Is its continuance as random as its beginning is suggested to be? If it is governed by fixed laws are these ‘the laws of nature’ or ‘the laws of science’ or the ‘laws of God’?
"Upholding all things by the word of His power" Heb.1.3. Just as the worlds were spoken into being so they are maintained by the "word of His power". Christ is responsible for the planets in their orbits, and all the other ‘laws’ that govern our universe. The universe is not cold, impersonal and mechanistic. It is the work of an almighty God and His Divine Son. At the heart of the universe is the heart of Christ.
"By Him all things consist" Col.1.17. All things cohere, hold together, as a direct result of the omnipotence of Jesus Christ. "For in Him we live and move and have our being" Acts 17.28. He is not only our Creator but also our Environment. Every living thing is dependent on Christ for its existence. In man’s case, Christ provides the air that he breathes and the airways that allow him to breathe. Just as easily Christ can snuff out a man’s life by withholding the breath that he breathes. We have a sovereign Lord Jesus Christ to Whom "all power is given in heaven and in earth" Matt.28.18.
"For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them; even so, the Son quickeneth whom He will" Jn.5.21. "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth … unto the resurrection of life … unto the resurrection of damnation" Jn.5.28,29. When here on earth Christ raised Jairus’ daughter, the son of the widow of Nain and Lazarus of Bethany. He was equally responsible with the Father and Holy Spirit for His own unique resurrection. He said Himself of His own life, "I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again".
"For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son ... And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man" Jn.5.22,27.
The judgment seat of Christ is controlled by the Lord Jesus Christ. The judgments of the tribulation are subject to His authority. The judgment of the beasts and their armies at Armageddon will be in the hands of Christ when He returns. The judgment of Israel also the judgment of the Living Nations are subject to His power. Finally, He will be the judge at the Great White Throne assize. (Chastisement of sons and the husbandman’s work, Heb.12.5-11; Jn.15.1-6, are the responsibility of the Father). "The Lord Jesus Christ Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and kingdom" 2Tim.4.1.
Forgiveness of Sins
The scribes accused the Lord of blasphemy when He said to the paralysed man, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee", because they attributed the ability to forgive sins to God alone; "who can forgive sins but God only" Mk.2.5-7. They were wrong to accuse Christ of blasphemy but their latter statement was exactly right. Christ, being God, was able to forgive sins.
"The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins" Mk.2.10. The authority of God to forgive sins is equally possessed by our Lord. The extent of this power is "on earth". As long as a person is alive on earth it is possible for their sins to be forgiven. This power and ability does not extend beyond the grave. Forgiveness is not available to those who have died. After death it is forever too late. There is no second chance.
"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake" 1Jn.2.12. "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" 1Jn.1.9.
Resources to Meet Human Need
Our Lord fed both the 5,000 and 4,000. Despite the apparently meagre resources all were fed. Yet, more was collected up at the end than they had to begin with.
He provided healing for a whole range of diseases. Think of the woman with the issue of blood, the lepers, the blind and even those beyond the skills of the doctor, the dead: He healed them all. He provided living water for the woman of Samaria, Jn.4.14, and offered to quench the thirst of the whomsoever on that last, great day of the feast, "If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink" Jn.7.37. "I give unto My sheep eternal life" Jn.10.28.
Our Lord was able to supply resources for human needs when no one else could!
"Other signs truly did Jesus … But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" Jn.20.30,31. "Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs" Acts 2.22. "Salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord … God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders and with divers miracles" Heb.2.3,4.
The purpose of the miraculous was to promote belief on the part of the people and to prove the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Son of God. "Miracles" revealed the supernatural power to perform these acts. "Signs" indicated the spiritual significance of these supernatural acts. "Wonders" initiated the reaction in the onlookers who witnessed such acts.
HIS ADORATION – Worship, Prayer and Praise
In the temptation in the wilderness Satan said to the Saviour, "Worship Thou me". The Lord replied by quoting from Deuteronomy, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God".
In Acts 10.25,26 as Peter was entering Cornelius’ house, "Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him". Peter rebuked Cornelius saying, "I also am a man". Paul and Barnabas are visiting Lystra, where they heal a cripple. The locals declare, "The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men". They call Barnabas after the god Jupiter, and Paul after Mercury. They are about to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas but Paul restrained them with the words, "We also are men of like passions with you" Acts 14.18. John falls down at the feet of the guiding angel, who rebukes him, "See thou do it not … worship God" Rev.22.8,9.
The above examples indicate that it is God Who is to be worshipped and God alone. When men and angels were about to be worshipped, they rejected the worship and directed it instead to God.
Not so, our blessed Lord. He accepted worship and Matthew records many of these acts of worship. His book begins and ends with worship as Luke begins and ends with praise. He accepts worship from: The wise men, 2.2; a leper, 8.2; Jairus, 9.18; the disciples, 14.33; the Syrophoenician woman, 15.25; the servant, 18.26; the mother of James and John, 20.20; the woman at the tomb, 28.9; and Thomas, Jn.20.28. When He comes again God will say, Heb.1.6, "Let all the angels of God worship Him". Angels worship the Lamb in Rev.5.11,12; they worship God in Rev.7.11,12 using a similar sevenfold ascription of praise.
We also discover that Stephen prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ in Acts 7.59,60, when he was being stoned to death. Other passages where prayer is directed to Christ are, 1Tim.1.12,13; 1Thess.3.11,12; 2Cor.12.7-9.
None of these worshippers were rebuked by our Lord. As God He accepted worship and prayer, just as at His return to earth He will accept angelic worship. Praise to the Lord Jesus personally is recorded in doxologies also; 2Tim.4.18; 2Pet.3.18; Rev.1.5,6.
In the previous paper we noted three matters that were addressed in the time of revival. These were:
Esteem for God’s House
Exercise in Personal Sanctification and Purification of God’s House
Earnestness in Confession of Sin.
We continue by considering:
ENERGY TO REINSTATE SCRIPTURAL ORDER- "My sons, be not now negligent: for the LORD hath chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and that ye should minister unto Him, and burn incense" 2Chr.29.11.
It has been well said that if we want to make progress we must go back! To advance in spiritual things, we must go back to simple, spiritual obedience to the scriptural pattern. Standing before God, allowing His all-seeing eye to search us out through and through, is a fitting precursor to serving Him. There is no room for negligence; it takes spiritual energy from God to do God’s service. Are we half-hearted when the call comes to give out tracts or texts door-to-door? Are we negligent when there are gospel series in progress? Do we only attend occasionally when it suits us or are we whole-hearted at all the meetings, helping in prayer meetings, in bringing friends, neighbours and family to hear the good news? Are we diligent in study, in preparation for our Bible reading? Do we give of our time and energy to have food for God’s people as opportunity arises? Spiritual energy is another clear hallmark of revival.
ESTEEM FOR THE VALUE OF SACRIFICE - "Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD. And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he goats, for a sin offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of the LORD" 2Chr.29.20-23.
Every true revival has this clear feature: a deep appreciation for the value of Christ’s sacrifice. An older generation had less of this world’s goods and much less of this world’s education, but it was not uncommon for early saints to weep in deep heartfelt appreciation of the Lord and His death, when gathered round Himself. Do we sit down consciously in the presence of our once crucified and now exalted Lord, and feel our hearts well up in true appreciation? Do we mean with our hearts what we sing with our lips when we repeat the words:
Nought, nought I count as pleasure,
Compared, O Christ, with Thee,
Thy sorrow without measure,
Earned peace and joy for me!
I love to own, Lord Jesus,
Thy claims o’er me divine,
Bought with Thy blood most precious,
Whose can I be but Thine?
Does love to Christ and an unfeigned appreciation of His death bow our hearts before Him every day? Does this daily occupation with Him result in the spontaneous overflow of worship each Lord’s day? Well it is for that assembly that knows this experience on a regular basis. This is another hallmark of revival.
EVALUATION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF UNITY ACCORDING TO GOD’S MIND - "They made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel" 2Chr.29.24.
Had not ten tribes revolted against the house of David in the days of Rehoboam and followed a false leader, Jeroboam, who "made Israel to sin"? Had they not followed the ways of the heathen and dishonoured God? Why then would Hezekiah trouble to include all Israel in his offerings? Every true revival is marked by grasping, in some degree, God’s ideal for His people. Here was an understanding of God’s purpose to have all the sons of Israel giving united testimony to Israel’s God of redemption. We do not expect to see every genuine child of God separated from religious Babylon around us, but it should be our deep desire to see all God’s true children gathered in the only Scriptural gathering centre – the assembly of God. Today, we have two problems in this regard. Firstly, we have known of slackness in reception resulting in the unconverted gaining a place in a circle of fellowship, which only rightly belongs to true converts. Secondly, we have the problem of such false professors lusting for worldly ways to be introduced into the assembly, thus providing a stumbling block to genuine souls seeking to find their way out of the confusion of religious Babylon! Let us have hearts as wide open as God’s book, but no wider! Let us gladly embrace all who have true marks of a heavenly birth and encourage them to obey the Lord in gathering only to His blessed name!
ENRICHMENT OF WORSHIP IN SPIRITUAL SONGS - "And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets. ... And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also" 2Chr.29.25.
Every true revival has been marked by outbursts of praise in song. In the nineteenth century, when the truths of gathering to His name alone and of the Rapture of the church were ‘rediscovered’, there was an accompanying proliferation of deeply spiritual hymns which have enriched the praise of assemblies until this day.
Hezekiah’s retinue of people involved in praise, demonstrate a wide variety of harmony in worship. Should we not experience just as wide a scope, in a spiritual sense, in our thanksgiving? We often note the frequent announcement of the same few hymns, Lord’s day after Lord’s day, linked with a muted reluctance to trying unfamiliar hymns or tunes. Is this a mark of revival? We judge not! A happy spirit of enjoying Christ in the soul will result in a thirst for fresh ways of expressing our appreciation in song. Do we give out a familiar or favourite hymn just to fill a lull in the worship? Do we just give out a hymn because a familiar expression in someone else’s worship has suddenly brought it to mind? Such reasons for announcing a hymn are unworthy of the high privilege we enjoy around the Lord Himself. If hymns are a vital component of the full round of activity in worship at the Lord’s Supper, then they must be given out under the guidance of the Lord and the motivation of the Holy Spirit. Greater use and thus, familiarity, with our hymn book at home, would go a long way to enhancing our ability to be led to announce a hymn that fits with the current theme of worship at that juncture of the meeting. Our participation in song may not be the most pleasing to the ear of a music critic, but it is for the ear of God and should involve our spirit and our intellect. "I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also" 1Cor.14.15.
Come Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy praise.
Streams of mercy never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
If singing is the audible expression of joy, and it is, then let us think of the joys in store for us, who will sing the new song eternally: "Thou art worthy ... for Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood" Rev.5.9,10.
EXHORTATION OF OTHERS TO COME TO GOD’S CENTRE- "And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem" 2Chr.30.1.
This is the practical outcome of grasping God’s purpose for unity as mentioned above. If we are experiencing renewed joy in revival in God’s centre, we will express our love for all who have a right to enjoy that privilege, in seeking to see them gathered with us around the risen Lord Himself. Note that Hezekiah did not invite the heathen around to come; they had been a source of trouble and departure in the past. Likewise, we must be careful and discerning in who we encourage to seek a place in God’s assembly, but we will be burdened about any saints we know who are not gathered unto the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that God will teach them their place "without the camp" Heb.13.13. Some who loudly profess love for Christ, yet remain in unscriptural groups, may well repeat the sin of Ephraim and Manasseh who, in that day, laughed Hezekiah’s messengers to scorn and mocked them, 2Chr.30.10. We look for the humble-minded seeker after truth, who will be like the few who responded back then: "Nevertheless, divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem" 2Chr.30.11. To be continued, (D.V.)
One of the greatest threats facing us today is the emergence of stubborn ‘superbugs’ that are proving increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Indiscriminate over-prescription of antibiotics has caused some of these bacteria to mutate so that previously prescribed remedies are no longer effective. Hygiene regimes need to be more stringent if this serious problem is to be addressed adequately and alternatives to antibiotics are being researched. C-Difficile and MRSA are commonly known, quite widespread and feared to the extent that many dread a prolonged stay in hospital.
How they remind us of the even more lethal virus of sin with its universal impact on the souls and lives of humanity. It has targeted and touched every person without exception; there is no one anywhere who has not been affected and infected by its toxic power. To say that it is life-threatening is a huge understatement as it has not merely temporal consequences but also eternal results. It affects our present circumstances and impacts on our eternal well-being. Its effects are seen on every hand, in every strata of society, in all lands, among all peoples. Every part of creation has been affected and the evidence is overwhelming. Hospitals, asylums, cemeteries; the need for doctors, nurses, surgeons and therapists of all kinds, all attest to the disastrous consequences of the problem of sin which simply cannot be ignored. Sin has blighted lives, blackened characters, broken hearts and barred sinners from heaven. John Newton, who knew much of sin’s power and thraldom prior to his conversion, wrote so convincingly:
The worst of all diseases is light compared to sin,
On every part it seizes, but rages most within;
‘Tis palsy, dropsy, fever and madness all combined,
And none but a believer the least relief can find.
The Scriptures are unequivocal on this issue as it is too serious for mere speculation and philosophical debate. "… for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3.22,23. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" Romans 5.12.
Is there a cure; is there hope? Thank God, the Bible presents to us a wholly effective remedy that is tried and trusted and has brought blessed relief to many millions who have known the transforming power and blessing of salvation. There is only one remedy but it is so potent that it works on every occasion and has never been known to fail. The apostle John describes it in these lovely words, "… and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" 1John 1.7. God’s only Son came to earth to deal with the chronic problem of sin and at Calvary, He bore its fearful penalty and by His death has secured deliverance from sin’s consequences for all who will trust Him and depend alone upon the value and virtue of His sin-atoning sacrifice.
Like all remedies, its success depends upon you taking it; hearing about it, knowing about it is not enough; you must take it and so you must trust Christ to experience the blessings and benefits of salvation now, and be in heaven forever. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved …" Acts 16.31.