January/February 2016

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Contents

EDITOR’S MESSAGE

COMMITTEE NOTES

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM IN MATTHEW
by S. Fellowes

OBEDIENCE IN THE LIFE OF GIDEON
by C. Jones

QUESTIONS YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
by A. Summers

THE CHRISTIAN AND THE POLLING BOOTH
by D. McKinley

EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS
by J. Gibson

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN

QUOTES


Editor's Message

In days of disrespect and ill mannered loutishness it is almost an impossible task to tell people that there are things they must do. Parents find it difficult to restrain their children, even if there is a desire so to do; school teachers scarce can speak with authority to children; lawbreakers claim their human rights, even to the detriment of those whose rights they have violated. Against this background it is amazing to read in the Scriptures that there were things that the Son of God must do.

The word ‘must’ (dei) means something that is necessary, is right and proper. When He was just a boy of twelve years of age, He told the doctors [teachers] in the temple: "I must be about My Father’s business" Lk.2.49. Only He knew the tremendous implications of this statement, a statement of unparalleled devotion. The first time the word ‘dei’ is used in the New Testament gives us a glimpse of this devotion: "From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" Matt.16.21. This very comprehensive statement of His pathway on earth, reveals His omniscience and thus His willingness to do His Father’s "business". As He moved to Jerusalem there was work to do and so "He said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent" Lk.4.43. Again He stated, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" Jn.9.4. Moving continuously in the current of His Father’s will, He went on journeys of mercy: "He must needs go through Samaria" Jn.4.4.

The time came when He must be lifted up on the cross: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up" Jn.3.14. He said, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" Lk.24.46. We also hear the angelic testimony, "The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again" Lk.24.7. So His resurrection was also a must: "He must rise again from the dead" Jn.20.9.

Even this is not the end. His perfect acceptance by His Father is seen in Acts 3.21: "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things". We look further still, since after the rapture "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" 2Cor.5.10. Then, after the tribulation days, we shall reign with Him, "For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet" 1Cor.15.25. As "we wait for His Son from heaven" there are things that we must do to please Him. Obedient devotion to Him affects our talk, "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" Col.4.6; impacts on our behaviour, "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" 2Pet.3.11; regulates our walk, "how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more" 1Thess.4.1. These are matters that are understood by faith: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" Heb.11.6.

May it be, that in the year that now lies before us we shall seek to represent Him, reflecting Him, albeit in a very limited way, until we see Him, and as we do so, unsaved family and friends may be attracted to Him for salvation because, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" Acts 4.12.

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Committee Notes

As we move forward into a New Year we all, to varying degrees, take stock and reconsider our lives and service with both retrospect and anticipation.

In relation to Christian testimony, we are all too aware of being confronted by aggressive atheism and secular intolerance of Scriptural teaching. The spirit of the age is anti-God with the media promoting humanism, relativism and all that comes within their promotion of inclusiveness and diversity.

However, a thoughtful reading of the Acts of the Apostles and the New Testament epistles demonstrates that first century Christians lived in a society no less difficult than our own. Christian teaching ran counter to the social norms of the Greco-Roman world; its philosophical outlook and its pagan idolatry with associated debauchery. Added to that, they had to contend with the impact of slavery, overt religious and political persecution, martyrdom, movement of migrants and the effects of poverty. Yet it was that same generation that "turned the world upside down" Acts 17.6.

The example of those proto-Christians should stir us up from well-nourished apathy and depressive complacency. We too can go forward with the gospel message to a doomed world. We are not at any disadvantage to those New Testament trail-blazers: we too have a risen Christ, an indwelling Holy Spirit, the Holy Scriptures, the resource of prayer and a blessed hope. Opportunities abound. Let us go forward with focused endeavour!

Looking back, we continue to give thanks to God for His faithfulness in meeting all the needs incurred in the publication of the magazine and associated "Glory" books. We express our thanks to the Lord’s people for their practical fellowship and prayer. The articles submitted by our contributors to instruct and edify could not be provided apart from their diligence in reading, study, writing and refining. This doesn’t just take hours, but weeks and months of preparation, which must be accommodated alongside other spiritual responsibilities. Their input is very much appreciated. That their sacrifice has often been to the detriment of time otherwise engaged with their wives and family is also recognised.

Also, we express gratitude to our editor for the vital role that he discharges in selecting articles for inclusion to ensure the publication "of those things which are most surely believed among us", Lk.1.1.

The complementary time and energy of proof readers, printers, distributors, etc. are acknowledged with gratitude. The service and advice of our accountant continues to be valued. Every committee member has a role to fulfil and the harmonious interaction of all has been most beneficial.

"Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you" 2Thess.3.1.

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Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)

THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS

No.5: PSALM 3

It makes good sense to read Psalms 3 and 4 together under the title ‘Morning and Evening’. Psalm 3 carries the superscript, "A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom, his son", and Psalm 4 is introduced with some musical instructions: "To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David". "Neginoth" (from nagan, to strike) refers to the playing of stringed musical instruments. In the first case, we have some historical information, and in the second some musical information. Apparently, at least from the titles, the two Psalms do not appear to have much in common! But read them carefully, and first impressions begin to fade. We must notice some points of similarity:

  • Both Psalms record the words of David’s enemies: "Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God" 3.2; "There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?" 4.6.
  • Both Psalms refer to David’s glory, evidently his glory as king of Israel: "But Thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory" 3.3; "O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame?" 4.2.
  • Both Psalms refer to David’s confidence that God will hear him: "I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill" 3.4; "The LORD will hear when I call unto Him" 4.3.
  • Both Psalms describe David’s peace of mind. "I laid me down and slept; I awaked: for the LORD sustained me" 3.5; "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me to dwell in safety" 4.8.

It does seem therefore that the two Psalms refer to the same troubled period in David’s life.

Psalm 3 is a morning hymn. David had gone to bed that night with his enemies hard on his heels. But he had prayed before he did so, vv.4,5, and God had preserved him from harm. David evidently practised Paul’s exhortation, "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving" Col.4.2.

Psalm 4 is an evening hymn. Although God had delivered him out of the immediate crisis, v.1, David still wasn’t completely out of danger, vv.6,7, but he can sleep at night with complete confidence in God, v.8.

Before we look at these two Psalms in a little more detail, we should notice that they introduce us to a little word which keeps on appearing throughout the entire book (71 times). It is the word "Selah". It could mean, ‘pause’, or it could mean, ‘lift up’. Whatever the exact meaning, the intention seems quite clear. David is saying: ‘Now, think about that’. That’s good advice. We all need to stop, and just think about the significance of God’s Word. Don’t just rush through your daily readings. "Selah!"

Now to the first of our two Psalms:

PSALM 3

The verses in this Psalm may be divided as follows:

  • The Persecution He Experienced, vv.1,2:
  • The Protection He Enjoyed, vv.3,4:
  • The Peace He Received, vv.5,6:
  • The Prayer He Uttered, vv.7,8.

The Persecution He Experienced, vv.1,2

Bearing in mind the title of the Psalm, "A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son", we really must read 2 Samuel chapters 15-19. This will enable us to understand vv.1,2. David was faced with discouragement in two ways:

The Strength of Human Opposition, v.1.

Notice the size and strength of Absalom’s rebellion: "how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say … There is no help for him in God." David had good reason to say this. Witness, for example, the following: "So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel … And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom … The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom" 2Sam.15.6,12,13.

The Suggestion of Divine Opposition, v.2.

Listen to his enemies: "There is no help for him in God." Shimei is a sad example here: "The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son" 2Sam.16.8.

Doesn’t this remind us of another King? He also crossed the same brook, compare 2Sam.15.23 with Jn.18.1. He also was betrayed by a friend, who in both cases hanged themselves, compare 2Sam.15.31 with Jn.18.5, and 2Sam.17.23 with Matt.27.5. He also had a friend who pledged allegiance to Him, though with a different outcome, compare 2Sam.15.21 with Lk.22.33. He too was confronted by strong human opposition, and was told that His distress was the result of His own sin. Listen to the thinly-veiled sarcasm of the chief priests, scribes and elders: "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God" Matt.27.43. This is the force of Isa.53.4: "we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted". They thought that the Lord Jesus was suffering as a result of His own sin. Perhaps we should now read these two Psalms again - from a different point of view. They may not be ‘Messianic Psalms’ in the same way as Psalm 2, but they do remind us so much of the Lord Jesus.

But what about ourselves? What have these two verses got to say to us? Don’t we sometimes feel like David? Everything seems to be against us, and we wonder why there seems to be no Divine intervention. Well, if we feel like that just now, we must read on:

The Protection He Enjoyed, vv.3,4

"But Thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. Selah." David turns away from His adversaries, and speaks to God. It would have been disastrous to immerse himself in vv.1,2. He redirects his eyes and ears, something like this:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen H. Lemmel)

We can be so much like Peter who "walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid" Matt.14.28-30. Well David, certainly "saw the wind boisterous" vv.1,2, but now he is looking in the right direction for deliverance. We should notice at least four things that he says here:

He addresses God as, "the LORD (Jehovah)". This is the name that God used in making the covenant with His people Israel, Ex.3.13,14. David’s adversaries used a different word in v.2, meaning God as Creator (Elohim). But David addresses Him here as Jehovah. He knew Him as the faithful covenant-keeping God. He is our God too, saying to us, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" Heb.3.5.

He speaks about "the Lord" in three ways.

Firstly, He describes the Lord as "a shield for me". That is protection. In Gen.15.1 God promised to be a shield to an individual: in Deut.33.29, God promised to be a shield to a nation. He is our shield individually and collectively. He delivers us, not from persecution (as in David’s case), but from the spiritual damage that adversity and persecution can inflict upon us, 2Tim.4.18. We can say with Paul, "If God be for us, who can be against us? Rom.8.31.

Secondly he describes the Lord as "my glory". David’s adversaries had apparently robbed him of that (see, again, Ps.4.2). The king was in exile. But David recognised that his glory came from God, and therefore it was perfectly safe. We can leave things like our reputation and our position, in God’s hand. Don’t worry overmuch if you’re falsely accused, maligned or misunderstood. God has safeguarded your best interests perfectly.

Thirdly, he describes the Lord as "the lifter up of mine head". That is, from despondency and despair. He had left Zion weeping and with his head covered, 2Sam.15.30. Psalms 42 and 43 are now compulsory reading. See Psalm 42.5,11; 43.5.

He "cried unto the Lord". There is, we are told, some doubt about the actual tense here, but the setting of the words strongly suggests that it should be in the past, just as it is shown in the A.V. So we have a neat little pattern:

  1. The Lord was ‘for him’ at the time, v.3:
  2. The Lord had been ‘for him’ in the past, vv.4,5:
  3. The Lord would be ‘for him’ in the future, vv.6-8.

All of which reminds us that:

His love in times past forbids me to think,
He’ll leave me at last in ruin to sink.
Each sweet Ebenezer I hold in review
Confirms His good pleasure to see me right through.
(John Newton)

The words, "I cried unto the LORD" tell us that David was in earnest; there was nothing casual about his prayer. But why did David say, "I cried unto the LORD with my voice?" It seems rather superfluous, doesn’t it? Here is the explanation from an excellent commentator: "this is not just a silent prayer from the heart. The voices of his enemies were lifted up against him, and he will lift up his voice too".1

"He heard me out of His holy hill. Selah". The Lord Jesus could say, "Father, I thank Thee that thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always ..." Jn.11.41,42. Read 1Jn.5.14 and Ps.66.18. Don’t forget 1Pet.3.12. But where was God’s "holy hill?" No doubt we should bear in mind Ps.2.6 and Ps.15.1 in answering the question. David "had earlier brought the Ark of the Covenant to the tabernacle on Mount Zion, 2Sam.6.12-17, and now he lifts his eyes towards that holy mount".2

The Peace He Received, vv.5,6

"I laid me down and slept; I awakened: for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about". Do notice the sequence here: first of all David prayed and then, having committed the matter to God, he could rest in peace. Isn’t this Phil.4.6,7? "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God, (that is Ps.3.4). And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding [some say, ‘which is better than understanding’ ], shall keep [‘garrison’] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (that is Ps.3.5)". Just look at the depth of his peace: he didn’t underestimate the enemy - "ten thousands of people" - but he didn’t underestimate God’s power either! Now read 1Jn.5.4.

The Prayer He Uttered, vv.7,8

"Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God; for Thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; Thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: Thy blessing is upon Thy people. Selah." David’s adversaries had said "there is no help for him in God" v.2. Now David addresses Him as, "my God". It’s the same Divine title, Elohim, a plural word: the triune God. To smite someone on the cheek bone means that they are defenceless: they can’t ward off the blow. Broken teeth means that they have been rendered harmless. See Ps.58.6. It’s rather touching to notice that at the end of the Psalm, although David is in exile, he is still deeply interested in the blessing of God’s people.

"It is a beautiful conclusion to the Psalm. Enemies may abound; evil may appear to triumph; trials may come like the billows of a troubled sea; but God will bless His people in it all".3 No wonder David says, "Selah!"

To be Continued, (D.V.)

1,2,3. Flanigan, J.M. "Hebrews - What the Bible Teaches". John Ritchie Ltd, Kilmarnock, Scotland, 1986.

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The Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew Chapter 13

by S. Fellowes (Republic of Ireland)

No.4 - THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED

Matthew 13.31,32

There have been many ideas suggested as to the meaning of the parables of the mustard seed and of the leaven. Christendom has established a standard view which looks upon the growth of the tree and the spread of the leaven in a positive light. This present author must disagree with this interpretation, based on two illuminating principles.

Firstly, it is noticeable that of these seven parables the first two are interpreted by the Lord Jesus Himself, whereas the remaining five are not. However, there are clues given in the explanation of the first two that will help us to grasp the meaning of the other five. Secondly, comparing Scripture with Scripture will help us to "rightly divide the word of truth" 2Tim2.15.

THE SEED - ORIGINS

The mustard seed is known for its minute size; it is called "the least of all seeds" v.32. Yet, from this insignificant seed something enormous has grown. It seems best to view the small seed as the humble germ of Christianity founded by the meek and lowly Saviour.

Christ

As we trace His pathway from Bethlehem to the cross, every aspect of the life of Christ speaks of His unequalled humility, insignificant in the eyes of the world yet so precious to the heart of God. Consider His coming from "Bethlehem ... little among the thousands of Judah" Mic.5.2; being born of a peasant girl and raised in a carpenter’s home in despised Nazareth. As He grows into manhood, He refers to Himself as "meek and lowly" Matt.11.29; teaching humility by example when washing the disciples’ feet in John chapter 13; and ultimately, "humbl[ing] Himself" Phil.2.8, to go all the way to the cross. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" 2Cor.8.9. Our hearts would acquiesce with the words of the poet:

Self-humbled One whose preciousness
Was told in every breath,
He served in full devotedness,
Obedient unto death.
(Isaac Ewan)

Christianity

We need only to look at the early chapters of the book of Acts to see that the first believers took their character from their Lord. We read in Acts.2.45, they "sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need". They certainly had no problem with the god of materialism; Peter could declare "silver and gold have I none" Acts.3.6. Such preachers had "no pennies but plenty of power" (John Douglas); these "unlearned and ignorant men" Acts.4.13, with no formal training, would soon "turn the world upside down" 17.6.

These early saints were indeed like the mustard seed in character, small, humble, insignificant, selfless and simple. What was true of these believers is what God desires, and is the benchmark for Christians of every age.

THE TREE - OUTCOME

We are told that the mustard tree can "sometimes grow to a height of ten to fifteen feet" (Unger’s Bible dictionary). The exact dimensions are not given here but Luke tells us it became "a great tree" Lk.13.19. From the tiny seed there grew a monstrosity; its growth was sensational.

In other Scriptures the tree is seen as a figure of political power, see Ezek.17.3, and Daniel chapter 4 where Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream says: "the tree that thou sawest ... it is thou, O King, that art grown and become strong" vv.20,22. We thus judge that here we have a picture of what professed Christianity has become and is seen in Christendom with all its pomp and earthly greatness. The system is linked up with the world instead of being separate from it; involved in its politics instead of having its heart set upon the heavenly hope.

In 313 AD Constantine, the emperor of Rome, made "Christianity" the religion of the empire. He united church and state, institutionalising Christianity and making it popular. How unlike the blessed Saviour was this, and those who took sides with Him against the world! We recall the words of the late Jimmy Paton: "The church persecuted is the church pure; The church pure is the church powerful; The church patronised is the church in peril; The church fraternised is the church paralysed."

THE BIRDS - OCCUPANTS

The lodging of birds in the branches of the tree symbolises the activity of the evil one, vv.4,19, as seen also in Dan.4.21 and Rev.18.2. The birds signify the presence of evil teachers and their perverse teaching within the sphere of professing Christianity. Such falsehood is seen in abundance today, with an attack on such truths as the virgin birth of Christ, His impeccability and the absolute authority of Scripture. The fowls are not mere visitors, rather, they "lodge" v.32: they are at home there!

This departure in the historical development of Christendom is predicted in various apostolic writings, and hence need not come as a surprise. 2Tim.4.3,4; 2Pet.2.1,2; 1Jn.4.1. As false teachers increase it behoves us to "try the spirits" 1Jn.4.1; that is, to put them to the test. They may seem plausible, persuasive and intelligent but,

What think ye of Christ is the test
To try both your state and your scheme
You cannot be right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of Him
(John Newton)

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Obedience in the Life of Gideon

by Cliff Jones (Wales)

Paper 3

In the previous papers we considered Gideon and "Obedience to the Word of God" and "Humble and Feeling Inadequate".

EQUIPPED AND STRENGTHENED

Having been reassured that he had been truly commissioned by God, Gideon’s fears were removed and he had peace of mind. He was ready to obey God and he began to work for Him. The Lord told him to cut down a grove belonging to his father, and pull down the altar to Baal that was in the grove. He was to build an altar to the Lord, slay his father’s bullock and sacrifice it, using the wood of the grove he would cut down. In the night-time, Gideon and ten of his servants carried out the Lord’s commands, Judg.6.25-27. As preparation for service, we have to prepare ourselves and our homes that we might be clean and "meet for the master’s use" 2Tim.2.21. Service for God must begin at home, and all the idols in our lives have to be removed. Only then can we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, Rom.12.1, to serve God with God-given peace in our hearts, offering "the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name" Heb.13.15.

Destroying an altar used in the worship of an idol was a dangerous thing to do among people who worshipped Baal. It was a test of Gideon’s faith and obedience, and the following morning when the men of the town discovered what Gideon had done, they reacted adversely and sought to kill him, Judg.6.27-30. Sometimes, opposition to believers comes from within their own homes, but on this occasion Gideon received the support of his father, who argued that if Baal were a god he would be able to look after his own interests. Gideon’s father then named him "Jerubbaal", which means "let Baal plead" vv.31,32.

These events must have strengthened Gideon’s faith in God and His promise that the Israelites would be delivered. He prepared for the invasion of the Midianites and their allies who had invaded the land annually for seven years. The Midianites, Amalekites and others with them came and camped in the Jezreel valley, v.33. It is at this point in the narrative that we read, "But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon" v.34. The Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon in the sense of completely controlling and equipping him to defeat Israel’s oppressors. The Spirit came upon people in Old Testament times, empowering them to carry out specific service for God. From the day of Pentecost onwards, the Spirit has dwelt permanently within believers from the moment they are saved, Jn.14.17; 1Cor.6.19. Gideon’s next step was to summon the tribes, and he was joined by the men of Abiezer, Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, Judg.6.34,35.

The grace of God is shown when, despite his experiences since being called by God, the humble, self-doubting Gideon once again sought to be reassured that he was the one God would use to save Israel. Gideon put out a fleece of wool on the floor, asking that in the morning, the dew would have moistened the fleece, leaving the earth around it dry. God answered his prayer. Gideon again sought assurance and asked that the next night the fleece might be dry, with the dew moistening the surrounding earth only. God answered this prayer also, vv.36-40. Gideon was now fully assured that God would indeed use him to deliver Israel.

OBEDIENT AND VICTORIOUS

Gideon was now ready to do battle, and he and the men with him camped "beside the well of Harod" Judg.7.1. Their enemies were encamped about five miles away. They, with their camels, were a vast multitude and greatly outnumbered the Israelites but the omnipotent God was to give His people victory. As we read in Zech.4.6, victory was to be "Not by might, nor by power, but My spirit, saith the LORD of hosts", for "there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few" 1Sam.14.6. The glory for the victory was to be God’s and not Gideon’s, 7.2. Gideon’s army initially numbered 32,000 men, 7.3, but he was told by God to send the fearful back to their homes, vv.2,3. It must have taken a certain amount of courage for the 22,000 men who left to admit to their fear which would have adversely affected the morale of the army, Deut.20.8. A further reduction was achieved by observing the way the men drank water. Those who put their hands to their mouths were to be retained, while those who went down on their knees were rejected. Three hundred men were selected using this test. They would have been more watchful and alert than those who went down on their knees, vv.4-7.

God then instructed Gideon to go, accompanied by his servant, to the enemy camp in the night. He was to listen to what was being said so that he might be further encouraged and receive further confirmation of the forthcoming God-given victory, vv.9-12. When they got to the camp, they heard a man recounting a dream in which he had seen a loaf of barley bread roll into a Midianite tent and overturn it. The man to whom the dream was told interpreted the dream as meaning that God had delivered the invading army into the hands of Gideon, vv.13,14. On hearing the interpretation, Gideon worshipped God: he was now full of faith in God and looked to Him and not at circumstances. Gideon was fully persuaded and assured that he was the man to lead the pathetically small army of three hundred men to victory. Barley was the food of the poor, and appropriately represented Gideon who had such a poor opinion of himself, 6.15. This experience lifted Gideon, the man of faith, above all fear and self-doubt. He worshipped God and then served Him, v.15. The result was to be absolute victory.

Led by God, Gideon divided the three hundred men into three companies: each man had a trumpet and an earthenware pitcher with a torch inside it, v.16. In the darkness, they dispersed themselves around the enemy’s camp. Leaders among God’s people are responsible to God to be an example to others in their lives, words and deeds, and Gideon said to the men, "Look on me, and do likewise" v.17. Following his example, and at his command, they blew their trumpets, smashed their pitchers so that the flame shone forth, and shouted their battle cry, "The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon" v.20. Gideon’s army did not have to fight, for, thinking they were being attacked by a large army, chaos and panic spread among their enemies. The camels might well have stampeded, adding to the confusion. Some of the men fought among themselves and some took flight, vv.15-22. The Israelites, joined by the men of Ephraim, pursued the retreating army, and the Ephraimites captured and slew two of their leaders, Oreb and Zeeb, vv.23-25.

We are told, "Ye are the light of the world ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" Matt.5.14-16. The light shone out only when the pitchers were broken. Believers have a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and the light of the glorious gospel in their minds and hearts, and it is only when believers are broken, in the sense that the weak, failing, fragile human being does not in any way conceal the light of the gospel, that it can shine forth to the glory of God, the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessing of other people, 2Cor.4.6,7. God graciously works through frail humanity. God’s power and wisdom which overcame Israel’s enemies in Gideon’s day is still the same. He uses the humble, meek and weak to overcome the powers of evil. The men cried, "The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon" Judg.7.20, and today we have the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit Who will fill us Eph.5.18, if we live lives in submission to His will as revealed in His written Word, and we have "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" Eph.6.17. The people were united when they fought, defeated and pursued their enemies. It is in such conditions that God’s blessing is experienced, Ps.133.1.

Gideon’s life and experiences show the essential need to obey the Word of God. Gideon, fearful and hesitant as he was, was a man of faith and he obeyed God even when faced with overwhelming odds and when, from a human point of view, victory seemed impossible. Before he went out to witness for God and serve Him in public, Gideon had learned of God in private. Each of us must spend time alone with God, studying and meditating on His written Word and, in the power of the Spirit, obey what He reveals to us.

Gideon had not summoned the Ephraimites to join his army when he summoned the tribes, 6.34,35, but they seemed to have responded without hesitation when he asked for their assistance in pursuing the defeated enemy, 7.24. However, after the battle was over, they complained that they had not been invited to join Gideon’s army initially, 8.1. Gideon answered their complaint with humble, gentle, soothing words, stressing the contribution they had made in the conflict, vv.2,3.

Gideon and his army pursued the retreating enemy, and became weary but continued "faint, yet pursuing" v.4. They were tired, weak and hungry but the people of Succoth and Penuel refused to help them, fearing reprisals from the Midianites. Gideon’s reaction to their refusals was to threaten them with dire consequences, vv.5-9; 14-17. He had spoken to the Ephraimites gently and kindly, vv.2,3, but the men of Succoth and Penuel had spoken harshly to Gideon, and the consequences illustrate the truth of Prov.15.1, where we read, "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger".

The tenacious Gideon, with his small army, continued to pursue the retreating, defeated enemy soldiers who were 15,000 strong. This was all that remained of the initial 135,000 men. Once again, Gideon organized a surprise night attack: the enemy was routed and two of the kings of Midian were captured, Judg.8.10-13. These two kings had slain Gideon’s brothers and Gideon took revenge by executing them, vv.18-21.

The Israelites were full of gratitude for what Gideon had achieved as enabled by God. They were now free after seven years of oppression by the Midianites, and the fear, misery and impoverishment this had caused. They wanted Gideon to be their king and to be succeeded by his descendants. It was not in the will of God that a king should rule over Israel, 1Sam.8.5-7; 10-19, for God was their King. Gideon refused to be king, not being willing to go against the will of God. The people wanted to glorify Gideon: they said "thou hast delivered us" Judg.8.22. Gideon would not deprive God of the glory and praise for their deliverance from the Midianites and said, "The LORD shall rule over you" v.23.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Questions Young People Ask

by Alan Summers (Scotland)

No.3 - How Can I Know Which Church is Right?

There is only one way to determine which church is right and that is to ascertain if they practise what the Bible teaches. Before a young person can do that he or she will need to know what the Bible teaches about the church. Here are some basic points.

  1. The Bible is clear that the church is not a building, but is comprised of people who have been saved, e.g. 1Cor.1.1,2. Since this teaching is obviously disregarded in many denominations, such must be ruled out of our search for a Scripturally gathered company. Many so called churches are filled with people who have never repented of their sins and have never been born again. This may be because their church teaches that salvation is communicated by infant sprinkling and maintained by good works and confession. A good starting point is to ensure that for ‘church membership’ there is an insistence upon salvation by faith alone, and based exclusively on the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross.

  2. The Bible also is clear that people who are saved should be baptised. The examples of baptism given in Scripture all show people going into the water e.g. Jesus in the Jordan river, Matt.3.16, and the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert, Acts 8.38. If believers’ baptism by immersion is not clearly taught or that it is regarded as an optional extra, these would indicate that such a company is not faithful to Scripture. Everyone in the early church was baptised quickly after salvation. It is such an elementary requirement that there can be no room for compromise.

  3. The organisation and the system of government of the church is also important. In New Testament times it was very simple. The apostles exercised authority over the churches as a whole, e.g. 1Cor.12.28; Eph.2.20, and elders exercised authority over individual churches, Acts 20.28. Thus Paul could write letters to individual churches and command them to obey, e.g. 2Thess.3.6-12. He could also meet elders and give them oral instructions, Acts 20.17-35. With the death of the apostles, the right of any individual or group of individuals to exercise authority over the churches passed away. The Bible gives no indication that God intended anyone to take over their role or that any other layer of authority should be created to govern the churches. Thus today the sole repository of authority over a church (apart from Christ the risen Head) are the elders in that local church. No single person whether pope, bishop, priest or pastor is given authority by Scripture over a local church, Phil.1.1. Hence when we are looking for a church that is modelled on the pattern in the New Testament we should be looking for a place where the guidance of the church is in the hands of elders who are answerable to the Lord Jesus and to Him alone.

    While the organisational structure of the church may seem a non-essential matter, in fact it is of profound importance. The structure of the church determines whether it can function in the manner God intended. If there is a central body which trains or appoints leaders this prevents churches recognising those of their number, whom they know from experience and observation have been fitted by God for the task of shepherding His people, 1Tim.3.1-7. Thus the risk of unsuitable appointments made by a central body is avoided. If one person monopolises the preaching, teaching or pastoral responsibilities then the exercise of the gifts granted by the Spirit, 1Corinthians chapter 12, is stifled. God’s purpose is to allow each member to exercise their gift or gifts so that no one person can dominate the church. Structure is also important in connection with the preservation of the church. Where each church is autonomous this prevents error spreading rapidly through churches. When churches are part of a federated structure with central authority this is a real risk. Where each church stands on its own it is answerable to God for what it practises and can resist error imposed by those who otherwise might have authority over them. Equally where a church falls into error that error is less likely to spread elsewhere.

  4. Finally, the church is a place where headship is recognised, 1 Corinthians chapter 11. That is the headship of Christ over man and the headship of man over woman. This means that women should have their heads covered when the Word of God is taught publicly or where public prayer or worship is offered. 1Cor.14.34 teaches that women are to be silent in the church, that is they should not preach, teach, pray or worship audibly since the role of leading the church is for the man. 1Tim.2.11,12 supports this. Likewise 1Tim.2.9 properly translated means that the males should pray "everywhere". That is wherever public prayer is offered, men as opposed to women, should pray. The apostle then gives another instruction in "like manner" (that is with the same authority) in the following verse which is that women should dress modestly. If v.9 allowed women to pray this would contradict v.8. Paul would not say two directly opposed things in the one breath!

These are four basic points. No doubt the list could have been longer but if a church adheres to Scripture on these issues we can be sure that it will be a spiritual home to any young saved person.

Should I stay where I am and try to improve things?

The short answer is, ‘It depends’. Sometimes things are so far from the truth that the task is hopeless. If for example the church does not believe that the death of Christ and faith in Him is all that is necessary for salvation, it is hard to see how things can be improved. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit" 1Cor.2.14. In the book of the Revelation God tells His people to "get out" of the apostate religious organisation called "Babylon" Rev.18.4, partly because He was about to destroy it and partly because it was so corrupt. God tells His people not to share in its sins, v.4.

On the other hand it would not be right to leave a local assembly just because everything is not as it should be. Too often people leave churches because of personal issues or disagreements that are not sufficiently serious to justify leaving. When God puts us into a local church we become a part of a body just like a limb or organ, 1Cor.12.14-22. In other words we are there because God placed us just as a stone is put into a building. If a stone is removed God’s design is damaged. Generally it is best to find a place that is right in the basic doctrines outlined above and to do our best to build it up. We should only leave if marriage or employment or other circumstances devised by God make it necessary.

There are places in the world where there is nowhere locally that upholds basic doctrine. In that situation considerable wisdom is needed. To gather with some who love the Lord and read His Word is usually better than sitting at home but equally we should not seek to support that which is unbiblical and which may adversely affect us. In His grace God may through the testimony of a believer who works to spread the gospel where there is no assembly, plant a new church which is sound in essential doctrine. It is also possible that believers in the area may reconsider their practices and adopt Scriptural principles.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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The Christian And The Polling Booth

by David McKinley (Canada)

Paper 2

We have been considering reasons why a Christian who is separated unto the Lord will not be found taking part in political matters. The following have been considered: Our Superior Privilege, Our Lord’s Example, Our Citizenship, Our Character and Our Calling. We conclude with three further reasons.

BECAUSE OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN HUMAN GOVERNMENT

God superintends in the following ways:-

Whatsoever - "But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" Ps.115.3.

God has not abdicated His throne. He still superintends in the affairs of nations. He may allow evil men to try their schemes, that they may both prove the folly of their fancied wisdom and prove to all the enmity of their wicked hearts against "the God in whose hand [their] breath is" Dan.5.23. God’s wisdom is "not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to naught" 1Cor.2.6. Of our all-wise God we can say "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee" Ps.76.10. He can in His infinite wisdom, bring glory to His own name out of what seems to us the most disastrous circumstances, arising out of human weakness or wickedness. "The foolishness of God,(as judged by unregenerate humans), is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men" 1Cor.1.25.

Whomsoever: - "To the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men" Dan.4.19.

How can we know who should be voted in? We would naturally think that the most upright, the most God-fearing candidate should be selected, but what does God sometimes do? He allows wicked men to grasp the reins of power. His all-wise purpose may be to chastise a nation for their sin! For example in relation to king Saul we read "I gave them a king in my anger and took him away in my wrath" Hos.13.11. Bad rule is often a scourge on a sinful nation: (sadly, the same principle can apply to a carnally minded assembly!)

Whithersoever: - "The King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will" Prov.21.1.

The example of the considerate heart of king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return and build Jerusalem, after their 70 years in captivity, is an example of a heathen king whom God overruled to accomplish his purposes. "For Jacob My servant’s sake and Israel Mine elect I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me ... he shall build My city and he shall let go My captives" Isa.45.4,13.

Again we think of the case of Pilate, who wished to evade the issue of deciding against Christ. He was aware that it would be totally unjust. He discerned the unrighteous agenda of the chief priests and elders. He perceived the envy of the rulers of the people, but try as he might to avoid it, he must decide. So, while still protesting Christ’s innocence, "When he had scourged Jesus he delivered Him to be crucified" Matt.27.26. Pilate was not a robot; it was his considered decision taking all conflicting influences into account, that the best course for his political survival, was to give sentence "that it should be as they required" Lk.23.24. How enlightening then to hear Peter, lifting his eyes far above the rabble cry of the nation and the vacillation of the governor, say on the day of Pentecost "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" Acts2.23. "Man proposes but God disposes" is a proverb that is seen again and again in Biblical history. All events proceed according to the counsel of His own will. So it is then in the political upheavals of our day.

BECAUSE DEMOCRACY IS UNSCRIPTURAL

While the Western World boasts of its "freedom" and prides itself in democracy, few stop to think that democracy, (the rule of the majority), is not God’s ideal for government of nations, nor for the care of assemblies. The "ideal" ruler of mankind will be the man Christ Jesus, Who will soon take up the reins of world government as the sublime, benevolent dictator: "He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth" Ps.72.8. This world will then know the blessedness of perfect rule, and it will not be democracy! It will be Theocracy, God on the throne!

I digress a little to raise a practical word regarding assembly government. Democracy has no place in assemblies gathered to the Lord’s name. Every member of every Scripturally gathered assembly should manifest by their demeanour, dress, deportment, diligence and devotion that "Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" Phil.2.11. The only authority elders have in the rule of the assembly is derived from above, from the Lord Himself through the Scriptures. It will go ill with the company where the elders poll the congregation as to what they want and thus decide on a course of action. To do so would be seeking authority from beneath: that would be democracy in assembly rule and where it is introduced it will spell the doom of that company as a testimony to our absent Lord.

Some examples of the error of democracy can be found in Scripture as follows.

Saul of Tarsus - "Many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them" Acts 26.10. (Note: Newberry margin and J.N.D. translation give "vote" for "voice" in this verse.) Saul thus says he voted with the majority in his unsaved days. He did it sincerely but how very wrong he was!

Paul the Apostle - "When sailing was now dangerous ... Paul admonished them ‘I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage’ ... nevertheless the centurion believed the master and owner of the ship ... and because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence" Acts 27.9-12.

In this instance a veteran servant of God gave his advice, but the majority democratically over-ruled him and the result was shipwreck! Again to digress to assembly guidance, it is sadly not unknown for a company to yield to the demands of younger and less experienced people to chart a course of action that is unscriptural, disregarding the exercise of older, godly saints, to the detriment of the testimony.

Elijah the Prophet - "Then said Elijah unto the people ‘I even I only remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men’" 1Kgs.18.22.

They had "heaps of teachers" but only one prophet in touch with heaven! The majority were wrong in Elijah’s day. We don’t forget that the Lord had later to remind his servant that he was not alone, seven thousand had not bowed the knee to Baal, but where were they in the day of challenge? Even so seven thousand were a small minority compared with the thousands of Israel that had turned to idolatry.

BECAUSE OF THE SCRIPTURAL PROHIBITION

"Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" 2Cor.6.14. If I vote for a candidate in the political world I am casting my ballot in common cause with all who support that candidate. Others who vote for that same person may be atheist, agnostic, spiritist, ungodly, profane, morally unclean or whatever else, but my vote is counted with all the rest! I have thereby joined forces with all those unbelievers in supporting the candidate I have chosen! Such an action would bring me under the censure of the Lord Who said "If ye love Me keep My commandments" Jn.14.15.

If I, by my vote, put someone into office, who forms part of the government and if that government pass laws that are unrighteous, then indirectly I have contributed to the passing of those bad ordinances. What saith the Scripture? "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" 2Cor.6.14.

Until our Lord appears to translate us from this world to that better world above, of which we are already citizens, may we walk close to Him and far from this godless world in all aspects of its organization.

Nay world I turn away, though thou seem fair and good,
That friendly outstretched hand of thine is stained with Jesus’ blood!
If in thy least device I stoop to take a part,
All unaware thine influence steals God’s presence from my heart.
(Margaret Mauro)

(Concluded)

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The Early Galilean Ministry of The Lord Jesus

by Jeremy C. Gibson, England

Paper 2: The sinful Samaritans and the sick son.

Read: John 4.4-54.

It is assumed that Sychar was either the Old Testament city of Shechem (modern Nablus) or the nearby city of Askar. In this area, where God appeared to Abram after he entered the Promised Land, "God manifest in the flesh" now spoke to a Samaritan woman, Gen.12.6,7. Having returned from his uncle Laban and purchased this parcel of ground, Gen.33.18,19, Jacob sunk this well as an independent water supply, which water Christ used to picture everlasting life, Jn.4.14 and the Holy Spirit, 7.39. Joseph, whom the Egyptians named "Zaphnathpaaneah" Gen.41.45, meaning "revealer of a secret" or ‘saviour of the world" (Newberry margin), was eventually interred at Shechem, Josh.24.32, where the Lord Jesus laid bare this woman’s marital history and the Samaritans concluded, "this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" Jn.4.41,42. As a city of refuge, Josh.21.21, Shechem also pictured the eternal security which believers enjoy in Christ.

The Jews hated the Samaritans and had done so for many years. As early as 975BC the ten northern tribes separated themselves from the two southern tribes, a rift that remains to be mended, 1Kings chapter 12; Ezek.37.15-28. After years of idolatry, God used Assyria to deport these ten northern tribes, 2Kgs.17.1-23, replacing them with Gentiles who most probably intermarried with any remaining Israelites, producing a hybrid nation, 2Kgs.17.24. They responded to God’s judging them for worshipping their own imported idols by developing a syncretic religion which combined the worship of Jehovah with that of heathen deities, 2Kgs.17.25-41. This religion seems to have evolved over the centuries, so that by the first century the Samaritans accepted the Pentateuch alone as authoritative, rejecting all of Israel’s prophets after Moses. This deliberate rejection of the majority of the Old Testament meant that, although they retained the hope that God would "raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto [Moses]", who would reveal all things to them (Deut.18.15-19; Jn.4.19,25; Acts 3.22,23; 7.37), their knowledge of God was severely impaired, Jn.4.22. This religious ignorance was coupled with the belief that Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, was God’s appointed place of worship, Jn.4.20. Around about 400BC they built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, which was ultimately destroyed "by the Hasmonaean ruler John Hyrcanus about 108BC."1 Even when the Jews returned from exile in Babylon the Samaritans directly opposed their rebuilding of Jerusalem’s altar temple, Ezra 4.1-24, and walls, Neh.4.1-3.2 Given this background, it is not surprising to find that orthodox Jews had "no dealings with the Samaritans" Jn.4.9, considered them as bad as the demon possessed, Jn.8.48, and would invariably avoid Samaria when travelling from north to south or south to north. One other Jewish prejudice is worth mentioning. The rabbis taught that "he who prolongs conversation with a woman brings evil upon himself, ceases from the words of the law, and at last inherits Gehenna."3 As for Samaritan women, they were viewed as being in a continual state of defilement: see Lev.15.19-27; comp. Jn.4.27.4

Rising above these racial and gender discriminations, the Lord Jesus "must needs go through Samaria" Jn.4.4. Being the most direct route from Judaea to Galilee, it was time and energy efficient. However, He planned to meet a sinful, yet intelligent Samaritan woman, through whom He would save others, vv.28-30,35,39-42; this visit to Samaria also acted as a seed plot for a future harvest under Philip the evangelist, Acts 8.5-8. The eternal Son, Who sits on the throne of the universe and Who had stooped low to become a true man, experiencing physical thirst, v.7, hunger, v.31, and weariness, "sat thus on the well" v.6. In His effort to engage this woman’s mind and stir up within her an interest in the gift of God, vv.10,13-15, the Creator, Who holds "the waters in the hollow of His hand" Isa.40.12, courteously asked for a drink, v.7. With Divine skill, He drew her mind away from the temporal to the eternal, from the physical to the spiritual; He then sensitively exposed her sin, vv.16-18, and revealed to her amazing new truths about worship, vv.21-24. As the great Soul-Winner, evangelism satisfied Christ more than physical food, vv.31-36.

In the Old Testament Jehovah is described as "the fountain of living waters" Jer.2.13; 17.13. Legitimate sexual pleasure, within the constraints of marriage, are poetically compared to "a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters" SofS.4.15; see Prov.5.15. During Messiah’s benevolent reign, an endless healing flow of living water will proceed from Jerusalem, Zech.14.8. It is only when we get to the seventh chapter of John’s Gospel that he spells out exactly what the Lord Jesus meant when He spoke about living water: "this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive" Jn.7.39. Believers receive the Holy Spirit (God’s unmerited gift) at the moment of conversion, as a once and for all thirst-slaking drink of living water, v.14; see Act 2.38; 8.20; 10.45; 11.17. Having taken up His residence in their hearts, this life-imparting Spirit supplies limitless Divine energy and refreshment, like "a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life" v.14, J.N.D. As He transforms the lives of believers, generates true joy, and stimulates spiritual growth, through an increasing knowledge of Christ, see Jn.15.26; 16.14, the Holy Spirit wholly satisfies. Notice how this sinful Samaritan woman, who began by seeing Jesus of Nazareth as simply a Jewish man, v.9, came to the conclusion that He was the all-knowing Messiah, vv.25,26, of Whom she spoke ardently to her city. vv.28,29. Fully satisfied, she "left her waterpot" v.28.

The Holy Spirit also moves believers to worship. This worship is not restricted to a geographical place, such as Mount Gerizim, or even Jerusalem, v.21. Nor is it based on a limited revelation of God solely in the Pentateuch, but according to the truth of God’s full self-disclosure throughout the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, v.23. Rather than being worshipped through ritual and ceremony, God, Who is Spirit, is now worshipped in the Holy Spirit’s energy, by the Name of the Father, vv.23,24.

After a two-day stop in Samaria the Lord Jesus continued His northward journey into Galilee, where He was initially well received, Jn.4.43,45. Most people were only superficially impressed by the Lord’s miracles, Jn.2.23-25; 4.48; a small minority truly believed, including a nobleman who resided at Capernaum and was probably "attached to the entourage of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee (4BC – AD 39)."5 This nobleman, desperately concerned for his son, who was critically ill with a fever, Jn.4.47,52, ascended from Capernaum to Cana and earnestly besought Christ "that He would come down, and heal his son. for he was at the point of death" v.47.

Faced with a distraught father, instead of immediately relieving the man’s concern, the Saviour tested him. He tarred him with the same unbelieving brush of the multitudes: "except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe" v.48. Uninterested in signs or wonders, unconcerned with what Christ thought about him, only wishing for his son’s life to be spared, instead of justifying himself, the nobleman continued to plead, "Sir, come down ere my child die" v.49. Christ tested him yet again. Instead of travelling to Capernaum, "Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth" v.50. It was a mighty miracle which displayed Christ’s omnipresence since He could heal from a distance, and His omnipotence since even fever inducing micro-organisms bowed to His command. With no tangible proof that a miracle had taken place, "the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way" v.50. His joy must have been overwhelming when his servants affirmed, "Thy son liveth" v.51! After confirming with them that his son was healed "at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, thy son liveth … himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when He was come out of Judaea into Galilee" vv.53,54.

To be continued, (D.V.)

1. Bruce, F.F. "The Gospel of John". Pickering & Inglis, 1983, p.103.
2. Fensham, C.F. "The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah". Eerdman’s Publishing company, 1982, pp.65-78, 179-181.

3. cited by Bruce F.F. "The Gospel of John". Pickering & Inglis, 1983, p.112.

4. ibid.
5. ibid.
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Good Tidings from Heaven

DIY or DONE

There are thousands of DIY enthusiasts who are prepared to tackle jobs around the house themselves rather than engage the services of the experts. They purchase the requisite tools and equipment and many are confident that, given the proper instructions, they can carry out the work themselves. Others are prepared to pay extra and invite those who have the expertise and experience to do the plumbing, electrical work, lay the carpets or hang the wallpaper. They are convinced that they could never do as good a job themselves; they worry about making costly mistakes and for peace of mind they hire the services of those who carry out such work every day.

In spiritual matters it is just the same; in the ecclesiastical world, regardless of the religion, we are constantly encouraged to do, to pay, to pray, to attend, to practise and the moment will never arrive when we will know that we have achieved enough. Emphasis is laid on our input and it is a lifelong business. God is seen as demanding and difficult to satisfy; even when we have done our best we will have to wait till the day of judgment and anxiously await His assessment of our efforts.

Thankfully no such regime is endorsed by the Scriptures. The very opposite is true and the glad tidings of the gospel remind us of One, none less than the Son of God, Who came from heaven to do what we could never do and meet our need completely, leaving nothing for us to do but to trust Him. What lengths God has gone to; what expense He has borne; what He has given to save us from hell and fit us for heaven is beyond all telling. My friend, getting to heaven does not depend on what you can do for God but what He has done for you; the Lord Jesus said, "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do" John 17.4.

Let me focus your thoughts on Calvary, the sufferings and sacrifice of the only Saviour of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ, and remind you of what He accomplished there, that day. He undertook to bear the punishment due to our sins and to do all that God justly demanded before sinners could be pardoned and be fitted for heaven.

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden on Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.
(Charles H Gabriel)

Just before the Saviour died, He expressed triumphantly in a loud voice, "It is finished" John 19.30. The work is done; all our efforts, no matter how earnest or sincere, will accomplish nothing, but Christ has done all that God demanded and therefore all we need. Are you prepared to take Him at His word and trust Him alone for your eternal salvation?

Faith in Christ will save thee,
Sinner, trust God’s risen Son,
Trust the work that He has done,
To His arms now quickly run
Faith in Christ will save thee.

(Robert Lowry)

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Quotes

God hath in Himself
all power to defend you,
all wisdom to direct you,
all mercy to pardon you,
all grace to enrich you,
all righteousness to clothe you,
all goodness to supply you and
all happiness to crown you.
(Thomas Brooks)
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