GOD IS FAITHFUL—so the Apostle Paul declared to saints at Corinth and this has proved to be true over the intervening centuries. We have arrived at the beginning of another year—1985— and would encourage ourselves in the Lord. He has the key of David, He opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens, and He can and does set before His people many open doors.
The circulation of the magazine continues to increase, and readers kindly write to express their appreciation of the way in which we seek to stand foresquare on the Scriptures. We wish to thank the writers of the various articles, a lot of hard work goes into the production of these papers. They should be encouraged by the fact that many express that though they are simple saints, yet they are encouraged to go on for God in difficult days. The saints do need' encouragement in these days—so many troubles almost everywhere one looks. He never changes, but everything else does. We therefore try to present a variety of ministry to meet the varied needs of the Lord's people.
There is no doubt that these are difficult days. The word of God has indeed forewarned of us of this "In the last days perilous times shall come!" Difficult days internationally and nationally. Difficult days in Christendom, but also difficult days in the assemblies of the Lord's people. Determined efforts are being made all over the mainland of the British Isles to change the shape of the assemblies, to make them more like the denominations around, to remove the distinctive feature of obedience to the word of God, and to speed up a deliberate departure from the word of God. Overseeing brethren need to be more and more on their guard, to take heed to themselves and to all the little flock that is among them, in the which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers. The need is two-fold, to feed as Shepherds and to guard against evil wolves. There are those who circulate literature, hold seminars and seek to lead astray young men by personal contacts—Beware!
We need to strengthen our hands in the Lord, and teach our young folks the basic truths of the Faith. Doctrinatly, Prophetically and Church-wise the truth is being attacked by folks within— not from outside. Sound doctrine, Healthful words are needed, we must prove what we believe from the word of God. And young folk, take note—the only path that will please the Lord is the path of unquestioning obedience. Wake up brethren, we must contend for the faith which was once for all, delivered to the saints. Young men and' women, and there are many, many of them in the assemblies, need to realize that there is a need to get down to concentrated study of the Word of God. We not only need to know the Book, but do it, teach it, stand for it.
"Steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Quit you like men—be Strong!
Remember the Word of God is not out of date. The Lord, the Spirit, knows the end from the beginning. When He moved the apostles and prophets to write the New Testament scriptures He had a perfect knowledge of what things would be like in our day. He does not need to adjust His word for the conditions of our day. There is no new revelation. Our path should be simply one of absolute obedience to the word of God.
Let us see to it that the coming year be characterised by a determined effort to do and teach those things which are in accord with the word of God. We need to stand and advance.
Let us rejoice in the Lord—Stand fast in Him. "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh." He says "Hold fast till I come" and His reward is with Him.
May the Lord richly bless all our readers throughout the coming year. -- A. M. SALWAY GOODING.
by JOHN HEADING, Aberystwyth
(2) DOES IT MATTER?
Having considered various basic principles that should characterize the gatherings of the assembly for worship and service, we now examine four important questions that appear to have little relevance for traditional religion. These are: Does a pattern for the local assembly matter? Does it matter who gathers? Does it matter when we gather? Does it matter how we gather? Evidently it does matter, since the Word of God gives sufficient guidance to those who are exercised to seek out and to follow in its teaching.
1. Does a Pattern for the Local Assembly Matter? If not, then every man or group of men can do that which is right in his own eyes (Judg. 21.25). In the O.T., the pattern of the tabernacle and house mattered a lot; no architects among men were employed to produce their best designs. This was very important in the O.T., and no one should think in the present age of grace that things can be otherwise.
The idea of the pattern shown to Moses in the mount occurs six times. In Exodus 25.9 and Hebrews 8.5 the reference is to every component of the shadow of heavenly things, "See . . . that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount." Obedience was necessary on the part of Moses and of the builders; God's design (reflecting on the then-future Christ and His sacrifice) had to be followed. This pattern was of heavenly origin, instruction having been given to Moses on the mount. In Exodus 25.40 and Numbers 8.4 the reference is to the inner furniture of the tabernacle—the ark (the throne of God), the table (food for the priests), and the lampstand (the light of the Spirit of Christ): "look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount." In Exodus 26.30 a similar phrase refers to the boards and the coverings, recalling Paul's words, "I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon" (1 Cor. 3.10). The antitype refers to the establishment and maintenance of the assembly and its service. Finally, in Exodus 27.8 the reference is to the altar; it had to be made "as it was showed thee in the mount," speaking of worship. In the N.T., the breaking of bread had a similar origin. Firstly, the Lord pave it directly to His apostles, while later Paul also received it from the Lord and delivered it to the churches (1 Cor. 11.23).
Solomon's temple also had a divinely given origin. David declared, "All this ... the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the words of this pattern" (1 Chron. 28.12,19). Similarly with the church which is the house of the living God; the N.T. revelation knows of one pattern only. Throughout the Epistles of Paul, the apostle condemns and corrects deviations from it, as does the Lord in Revelation chs. 2-3. Hence it does matter what pattern we follow, and young converts should search diligently until they find it, and then remain with it all their lives.
2. Does it Matter who Gathers? In this connection, there are many warnings found in the O.T. In Deuteronomy 23.3 and Nehemiah 13.1, we find that Ammon and Moab were not to enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever. Strictly, these were near religious neighbours of Israel, but not according to truth. In Psalm 79.1 there was the recognition that the heathen had entered the inheritance of God, having denied "thy holy temple." This must have taken place many times throughout Israel's history, since only in the prophetic future can it be said with certainty, "there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 14.21; Ezek. 44.9). In the N.T., the Lord would not have those that defile to be present in a local company. The Corinthians were "not to keep company" with such (1 Cor. 5.11; 2 Cor. 6.14-18). Those forming the temple of the living God had to be separate, not touching the unclean thing. If the door is freely open, without "porters" to ensure "that none which was unclean in any thing should enter in" (2 Chron. 23.19), then every kind of evil man will take advantage of the liberty to enter in and sow the seeds of his particular propaganda. In many walks of social and political life today, this infiltration by pressure groups and militant minorities can cause disruption and havoc. It can be so in the local assembly. Paul warned the Ephesian elders that "grievous wolves" would attach themselves from the outside of the assembly to the eldership within, "not sparing the flock" (Acts 20.29). Into the churches of Galatia, the apostle recognized that "false brethren" had gained entrance, so that their traditional doctrine of circumcision should replace grace by bondage (Gal. 2.4.). In 1 John 2.19, John stated clearly that some antichrists had gone out from them, manifesting that "they were not all of us," meaning that these men had outwardly attached themselves to the assembly. How careful should we be todey, in the light of these scriptural warnings and examples! The church in Jerusalem had been wise, therefore, not to accept Saul into their company when he tried to seek fellowship after his conversion; a verbal reference from Barnabas concerning Saul's conversion and immediate testimony was first of all necessary before he could be received (Acts 9.26-28).
In the N.T., the only fellowship revealed to us is a full-time fellowship. Never was there the attitude, "here today, gone tomorrow;" the breaking of bread on the Lord's Day morning, but that is all for the rest of the week. There was no such thing as "communion tasting," since such a practice is not part of a lasting bond of spiritual fellowship. A brief and temporary fellowship is not visualized in the Scriptures; in fact, to encourage arbitrary and spasmodic participation can be dangerous, for such men may be "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil. 3.18), though if the assembly were entertaining angels unawares (Heb. 13.2), then no doubt the saints would love to know. For there must be an encouragement to spiritual interest and growth in those who are uncertain of the ground of gathering, with no stumbling of those young in the faith.
3. Does it Matter when we Gather? Certainly it did matter in the O.T. pattern laid down in the law. And since there is a corresponding N.T. pattern, then grace does not confirm a spirit of disobedience upon believers. Thus three times a year, a feast had to be kept unto the Lord, and all males had to appear before Him (Exod. 23.15). Again, every day the priests had to engage in the service of the altar, offering a lamb morning and evening (29.38-39). The psalmist expressed his desire to dwell for ever in the house of the Lord, so as to behold the beauty of the Lord (Psa. 23.6; 27.4). King Hezekiah would sing his songs "all the .days ... in the house of the Lord" (Isa. 38.20). In the assembly under erace, believers have an even greater privilege, and yet with a greater possibility of neglect. Certainly in Acts 2 there was spiritual regularity, with stedfastness in the continual gatherings. In Antioch, there was a series of meetings lasting for a whole year, when Paul and Barnabas "taught much people" (Acts 11.26). For Paul, "the first day of the week" was of great significance, for it was then that they came together to break bread (20.7); he had deliberately waited seven days in Troas for that meeting. Some time before that, he had written concerning the Lord's supper "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup" (1 Cor. 11.26). Paul could never neglect the local churches, as he wrote, "that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches (2 Cor. 11.28). Thus no brethren or sisters should find it a convenient habit to forsake the assembling of themselves together (Heb. 10.25). Practically speaking, they may find themselves too busy to attend, with no interest in the prayer meeting or in the Bible reading, perhaps finding the entertainment of the world (even in their homes) more attractive at the hour of prayer. Yet it appears to be a fact that those who are most busy in their ordinary daily lives have also the most regular times to devote themselves continually to assembly service. It is a question of devotion and spiritual priorities.
4. Does it Matter how we Gather? (i) The Lord promised that even when two or three were gathered in His Name, there He would be in the midst (Matt. 18.20). The spiritual atmosphere of the gathering should be such that it is recognized that He is there—not supposedly as in the evil doctrines of trans-substantiation and consubstantiation (that elevate the symbols to a position of idolatry), but truly "in the midst." Thus in John 20.19,26, the Risen Lord was with His own in the upper room, but He was not with the religious priests and Pharisees on the outside. Compare this with the times in the O.T. when He was not present (Num. 14.42; Psa. 78.60,61; Ezek. 11.22,23). In the assembly, we gather to His Person, and not to a man, however expert a preacher he may be, for the latter attitude is carnality.
(ii) There is no such thing in the N.T. as a division between clergy and laity. One has described this as the sin against the Holy Spirit in this dispensation, a practice that deprives the Spirit of His divine rights, even when Christians follow this practice. Rather, the true spiritual equipment of all believers is that of a common priesthood for worship, and a diversity of gifts for service.
(iii) The conduct of a meeting is described in 1 Corinthians 14. What is done should "excel to the edifying of the church" (v.12); all should "be done unto edifying" (v.26); all should be done "decently and in order" (v. 40)—namely, successively one by one (v. 31). It must be recognized that God, who controls, is not "the author of confusion" (v. 33). At the same time, women are to "keep silence in the churches" (v. 34; 1 Tim. 2.12), which is in contrast with much modern practice.
Practically speaking, when the hour is come for the meeting to commence, all should be present; a first hymn should not be looked upon as an excuse to arrive late as a matter of custom. In what is done, neither the time of the saints, nor the time of the Lord, should be wasted. There should be no unseemly noise, either before or after the meeting. Simple points like these need to be stressed quite often in these days.
In our final paper, we shall consider N.T. examples of assembly meetings.
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE (4)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
HIGH PRIESTLY GLORIES (ii)
Reading: Revelation 1, 13-18.
The Son of Man
Impressed by this three-fold title, John "turned to see the Voice"—yes, the Voice! Being turned, he was confronted with "seven golden lampstands" (R.V.), in the middle of which there stood "One like unto the Son of Man" (1.12f). The lampstands, like the one in the temple at Jerusalem already destroyed, are not said to be in a temple or in heaven but apparently they were on the earth being symbolical of seven named local churches.
The phrase, "like unto the Son of Man," occurs twice in the Apocalypse, and it is used of the pre-incarnate Christ in Daniel 7.13. Literally, the inspired text reads "like unto Son of Man." The omission of the definite article before the title "Son of Man" serves to stress a specific feature that characterizes Him as such. Essentially, this appellation signifies God's Ideal in humanity in contrast to all other sin-spoilt humans. Initially, the title was self-chosen by the Lord Jesus (Matt. 8.20), and it was always self-applied by Him; John 12.34 is not an exception, because the multitude quoted from His own statement.
John's attention was directed to the raiment of the Son of Man, Who was "clothed with a garment down to the foot, ..." This word "garment" (poderes, Gr.) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament but it is the word "robe" in the Septuagint of Exodus 28. 4,31.
Therefore, the Son of Man was attired with an ankle-length "robe" like that worn under the ephod by a high priest of old, and so the robe, all of blue in colour, points to His heavenly character and His high office of Priesthood.
John observed that He was "girt about the paps with a golden girdle." Of course, all men and women wore girdles around their loins (Exo. 12.11, Isa. 11.5), but here was One Whose chest was encircled with a golden girdle which, according to F. A. Tatford, signifies that "His affections were restrained and the sovereign cincture controlled His emotions," which is a view commonly held and often expressed. If this statement is examined in the light of what follows in chapters 2 and 3, then it is tantamount to saying that the love of Christ is governed, even to the point of restraint, by the spiritual condition of local churches, making divine love conditional and variable like human love. According to the scriptures, the love of Christ like other divine att ibutes is constant. However, the apparently unusual position of this Man's girdle remains a problem, but the scriptures themselves solve it, Later, John saw in the heavenly temple, seven angels clothed in pure and white linen like that worn by priests in the earthly temple, and these angel-priests had "their breasts girded with golden girdles" (15.6). This verse shows that, unlike other people, priests wore their girdles at chest level, with which John, as a Jew, was familiar. Hence, the golden girdle about the paps of the Son of Man, Who was arrayed in the priestly blue robe and standing in the midst of seven pieces of temple furniture, simply identified Him as High Priest.
Before leaving the subject of the girdle, it may be noted that the scriptures speak three times of Christ wearing a girdle. As Priest at present, He wears a golden girdle, which is a girdle of dignity (Rev. 1.13). As Servant in the past, He girded Himself with a towel, which was a girdle of humility (John 13.5). As King in the future, righteousness will be the girdle of His loins (Isa. 11.5), and it will be a girdle of majesty.
Although John in his gospel like other writers of Holy Writ makes no reference to the physical appearance of the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh, he describes the facial and other features of Him in exaltation. It is one of the wonders of scripture that no writer provides any detail of the Lord's bodily appearance during His sojourn on earth. Apart from divine inspiration, this would have been impossible. The scriptures only state He was "found in fashion as a man" (Phil. 2.8), and so all the pictures and paintings of Jesus of Nazareth are wholly the work of human imagination. Therefore, John's description of the Lord in glory is important, and the order of His seven physical features is noteworthy. The distinctive parts of His glorified body may be set out in a stepped pyramidal order :
3. Feet 5. Right hand
2. Eyes 6. Mouth
1. Head and hair 7. Countenance
Instantly, from this arrangement, it is seen that His Voice is central, and it was the Voice that John turned earlier to see. Then His other bodily parts are grouped in three dyads. The Voice may be likened to the central shaft of the golden lampstand in the temple and the other parts to the three pairs of its branches.
"His HEAD and His HAIRS were white like wool, as white as snow" (1.14). The blinding whiteness, beheld by John on the Mount of Transfiguration, was seen once more, and a similar symbolical phrase is used of "the Ancient of Days" Whose "hair of His head (was) like pure wool" (Dan. 7.9). With Christ, the white hairs do not denote senility or decay but wisdom, for He is "the wisdom of God" and He is "made unto us wisdom" (1 Cor. 1.24, 30).
"His EYES were as a flame of fire" (1.14). Daniel saw a "certain Man clothed in linen" Who had "eyes as lamps of fire" (Dan. 10.5f). With such penetrating vision, Christ, as the righteous Judge in a coming day, will scrutinize believers' works and hidden things will be brought to light (1 Cor. 3.13).
"And His FEET like unto fine brass as if burned in a urnace" (1.15). The soles of the feet of the four cherubic figures supporting the throne of God, as seen by Ezekiel in a vision, "sparkled like the colour of burnished brass" (Eze. 1.7). The feet of Christ which resembled burnished brass, refined in a furnace, symbolize the path of divine judgment which He will tread when He will exercise judgment in days to come.
"And His VOICE as the sound of many waters" (1.15), which is the simile used by Ezekiel when he saw the glory of the God of Israel, Whose "voice was like a noise of many waters," come from the way of the east to enter the millennial temple (Eze. 43.2). The under-lying imagery appears to be that no obstacle can resist a mighty torrent of water. As Judge, Christ will yet speak in a voice of irresistible authority with a sound of rushing water, which nobody will be able to withstand.
"And He had in His RIGHT HAND seven stars" (1.16).
A man's right hand is emblematic of authority and security, whilst the seven stars are symbolical of the seven angels of the seven churches. With believers, both individually and collectively as an assembly, the authority of Christ as Lord should be acknowledged and the security of their salvation is assured by Him.
"And out of His MOUTH a sharp two-edged sword" (1.16). This may be an allusion to Isaiah 49.2, "And He hath made My mouth like a sharp sword." The two-edged sword that proceeded out of His mouth is identified as the word of God (Heb. 4.12). "The words that I speak unto you," said the Lord Jesus, "they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6.63), but the quickening power of His word is not here in view. Also, the Lord Jesus said, "the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12.48), and it is His word which will be as a sword of judgment to them that reject it. Hence, the judicial aspect of the word of God is depicted in this vision.
"And His COUNTENANCE was as the sun shineth in his strength" (1.16). In the hour of His rejection, men spat upon His face but, in the day of His exaltation, His face shines with resplendent glory brighter than the noon-day sun as it shone upon the holy mount of His transfiguration. To eastern converts who once worshipped the sun-god, the allusion was obvious as they read these words. Here was One Whose radiance outshone the splendour of their former false god. Its brightness paled into nothing before His incomparable glory.
No similar seven-fold description of the glorified Son of Man is found in another book. Through the inspired writer, it is the Holy Spirit's pen-portrait of Him Who is the brightness of the glory of God and the express image of His Person (Heb. 1.3).
The effect of this vision upon John was overpowering, for he fell prostrate before this glorious Person, the One Whom he loved and adored. Yet again the glorified Christ spoke as He did at the beginning of the vision saying, "I am the First and the Last, and the Living One" (1.18, RV), asserting His eternal Being. As previously, the words "I AM" are emphatic, forming a distinct part of this three-fold title.
It is noteworthy that the glorified Christ, as High Priest, takes upon His lips the incommunicable Name, "I AM," and He does it as He stands ready to act as Judge.
This same Person, prior to being glorified and at the close of His ministry on earth, stood for trial before Caiaphas, the high priest as judge, who asked Him the question, "Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I AM : . . . " (the words are not capitalized in the AV). Here, the Divine Prisoner, destined to be the High Priest and Judge, is being judged, and He utters unequivocally the ineffable Name, "I AM."
In self-righteous compliance with the Mosaic law, the high priest avoided the name Jehovah by using the words "the Blessed" when speaking of Deity. Upon hearing the Prisoner before him utter the incommunicable Name, "the high priest rent his clothes" (Mark 14. 61-63) as an expression of anger and indignation at what, in his opinion, was a blatant breach of the Mosaic law (Lev. 24.16). Ironically,, by rending his garments, he himself broke the law (Lev. 21.10). The high priest's action was not without significance, for it marked the end of the Aaronic priesthood, giving place to the approaching and unchangeable Priesthood of the Divine Prisoner standing before him.
The Living One
Turning from the reiterated titles, "I AM the First and the Last" to the new title, "the Living One," which does not occur again in the book, Christ asserts His absolute authority over death and hades. "In Him was life" (John 1.4), uncreated, unoriginated and eternal. Yet that Self-existent One "became dead" (RV mgn.). In His incarnation, death had no claim upon Him because in Him was no sin, but, as the sinless One, He submitted Himself voluntarily to death (1 John 3.5; John 10.18). Outwardly, His death was a defeat for Himself and a victory for His opponents. Actually, the converse was true, for through death He brought to naught the devil who had the power of death (Heb. 2.14). In consequence. He was able to add, "I am alive for evermore." In the power of resurrection life, He now lives not merely for time but throughout eternity.
By subjecting Himself to death, Christ entered hades (equivalent to the OT 'sheol'), the waiting place for departed spirits of the Old Testament saints whom He released from their captivity and led them into heaven (Eph. 4.8), and so neither death nor hades could hold their prey for a moment longer. In resurrection power, Christ wrested from Satan the keys of death and hades. "Keys" are a symbol of authority. Satan, now a potentially defeated foe, has lost that infernal authority, and so Christ said triumphantly to John, "and I have the keys of death and hades" (1.18, RV). For believers, there should be no fear of death or hades. Although death demands their bodies, there is the prospect of resurrection and changed bodies, whilst hades, having been robbed of its victims, has no claim upon their souls.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(29) THE ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The work of the Spirit in the O.T. is different from Pentecost in extent, duration, content and purpose. We can only touch the fringe of this fascinating subject in this article.
The Spirit of God operates in the Creation of the material universe.
His Omnipotence in Creation. (Gen. 1.2,3; Job 26.13). "By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens." They are adorned, made beautiful. The Spirit of God "moved;" brooding over it, as a fowl does, when hatching eggs (Deut. 32.11). The beauty and splendour of the heavens is the work of the Trinity. What is "OF" the Father and "THROUGH" the Son, is "BY" the Spirit. Creation reveals the skill and omnipotence of the Spirit. He is the Operator and Executor in giving and sustaining life (Job 33.4; Psa. 104.30; Zech. 4.6). The New Creation is illustrated from the Old in 2 Cor. 4.6. Restoration follows ruin, illumination replaces the darkness, separation through light, the reconstruction of the earth for the habitation of man (Gen. 1.2-31); with 2 Cor. 5.17; we are recreated.
His Operation in Conviction (Gen. 6.3). In the days of Noah Divine interest was shown "strove," but Divine influence was rejected. The Spirit still convicts, the world is "sinful," the Lord Jesus proved holy and righteous, and Satan conquered and judged (John 16.8-11). The days of Noah are with us (Luke 17.26,27).
For Administration (Gen. 41.38; Dan. 4.9; 6.3). Joseph and Daniel were given understanding; perception to see, ability to discern, authority to guide and legislate above the great men of their day. Spirit taught and enabled for the most difficult tasks.
Inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1.21; 2 Tim. 3.16,17). Inspiration speaks of the divine authorship and perfection of the Word of God. All Scripture is of divine origin, it is inspired. Not the writers only, but the writings themselves, were inspired by God (2 Pet. 1.21). Verbal inspiration is proved by internal evidence (2 Sam. 23.2; Jer. 1.7,9; Neh. 9.30; Ezek. 2.7; Zech. 7.12). The authority of the Lord Jesus (Luk 24.44,47; Matt. 5.18; John 10.35). The Scriptures are the voice of God, the Word of God, no matter what the dispensation or instrument (Heb. 1.12). The very words of the original Scriptures were dictated by the Spirit of God. The passage quoted in Heb. 3.7, is taken from Psa. 95.7-11, the Author is the Holy Spirit. The expressions, "thus saith the Lord;" "Jehovah hath spoken," occur over 2,600 times in the O.T. The Scriptures are Divine in their source (2 Sam. 23.1); dynamic in their operation (Heb. 1.2,3); definite in their claim (Acts 3.21); and distinct in their prophecy, for Christ is the key (Luke 24.44,47).
His Association With Men (Exod. 31.1-4; Judg. 3.10; Neh. 9.20). In the construction of the Tabernacle we have a picture in Bezaleel of the Holy Spirit at work. Here is His educative activity preparing for all kinds of handiwork (Exod. 28.3; 31.3-5). God selects the individual that He requires for His particular purpose. True of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13.2). Equipped for service, engaged and energised by the Spirit (Exod. 31.2). The Spirit is concerned with our intellectual powers (Eph. 1.16). With executive ability as seen in Joshua (Num. 27.18; Deut. 34.9). As the Spirit filled those servants to work for God, then so we should be filled by Him (Eph. 5.18).
The Revelation of Truth (Neh. 9.20, 30). Nehemiah and David were instructed by the Spirit. David owning the Lordship of Christ (Psa. 110.1; Matt. 22.43,44). "God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets (Luke 1.70). The book of Psalms shows how unconstrained were the instruments used by the Spirit. Every conceivable experience of the child of God is met here. Sorrow, trial, gratitude, joy and worship; the Spirit of God is breathing through it all. The voice of the Spirit giving instruction is heard with authority and clarity.
Preparation for Service (Ezek. 2.2). Here is a man possessed by the Spirit, enlightened and established for a special task. He had revelation from God; controlled "Taken up," in communion, "heard a voice," and used as God's instrument. He fed so thoroughly on the roll that it found its way into the bloodstream of his life and the fibre of his being. His will was nerved and his mind was fed by a divinely prescribed diet of apparently unpalatable truth, it became sweetness (v. 3). One day the Lord released the tongue of His prophet (6.2; 37.4-7). The ruined state of Israel will be changed. The covenant made with Abraham will be honoured and God will restore Israel as a nation to national and spiritual blessing by His Spirit. Study the "I wills" of Gen. 17.2-8, with the "shall's" of Ezek. 37. In a future day there will be the vindication of the divine purpose and programme for Israel.
His Presentation of Christ (Isa. 11). All prophecy centres in Christ for the "testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19.10). Isaiah 11 brings out the fact that everything radiates around Christ and finds its centre in Him. A glorious picture of the Coming of the Original Creator (v. 1-5); the restoration of the animal creation (v. 6-9); and the blessing of the personal creature (v. 10-16).
The Disposer Of All Things. The Spirit was necessary for the creation of the universe, for conviction of sin, controlling God's servants who contributed in building, conquering the flesh and the world, communicating of holy truth to Israel, their conversion after the Church has gone and coming upon all flesh (Joel 2.15-32).
Like Micah we need to be full of power to warn and witness. (Micah 3.8—4.2). The Spirit now works in the Church as the Spirit of holiness, equipping for service (1 Cor. 12. 4-11) and using us as His instruments.
by E. R. BOWER (continued)
THE COMING AGE. (7.1 — 8.23)
(a) The question. (7.1-3)
v. 1. Nearly two years separate 1.7 and 7.1. Upon the 24th of the sixth month, the rebuilding of the Temple began, and was completed upon the 3rd of the twelfth month in the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 6.15), hence at the time of the question, the Temple was just half way to completion. Zechariah was not idle during these years for he gave assistance in the work of rebuilding (Ezra 5.1-2).
vv. 2-3. The opening of v. 2 can be read as, "When (the people) of Bethel sent . . ." or, "Bethel — Sherezer and Regem sent . ." From the names of these two men it is possible that they were captivity born. The fast to which they referred was that of the fifth month which commemorated the destruction of the Temple by Nebuzaradan (Jer. 52.12,13; 2 Kings 25.8-10). For 70 years the fast had been maintained, but now that the Captivity was back in the Land and the Temple was being restored, was it really necessary to continue this particular fast? Was this fast one of the wearisome things? Cf. Mai. 1.13. Did the questioners remember the prophecies and the promises concerning the 70 years captivity?
(b) The answer. (7.4—8.23)
The answer is in four parts; each part beginning with the prophetic formula, 'thus saith the Word of the Lord" or "then came the Word of the Lord."
Part One. Remonstrance. (7.4-7)
The feast of the 3rd day of the seventh month commemorated the murder of Gedaliah (Jer. 41.2; 2 Kings 25.25). The impact of these verses is that if the nation had obeyed the word of God those 70 years ago, then Jerusalem and Temple would have remained and Gedaliah would not have been slain and thus there would be no need to fast. It is their sin which should be considered. Fasting had become mere tradition. Go back to the Book, the Word of God. A message to ALL.
Part Two. Reminder. (7.8-14)
Cf. the marginal readings for vv. 11-12 and see Ex. 22. 21-24; Neh. 9.29; Jer. 7.5-7; 21.12; Is. 58.6-8, etc. The backsliding and/or stubborn shoulder was just like an ox or an ass kicking against the yoke and the pricks. Deaf ears were turned to the voice of the Spirit of God speaking through the prophets from Moses to Jeremiah; this is why they were a scattered people upon whom the curses of the Law had fallen. Would their return from captivity and their rebuilding of the Temple make things any better? The wasting of the Land of their desire (margin) could be laid to their charge. Would they now learn the lesson or would history be repeated. Note the importance of the words, "in His Spirit" (v.12) and see Neh. 9.30.
Part Three. Return and Redemption. (8.1-17)
This part sub-divides into seven separate 'sayings.'
(1) vv.1-2. The tense here is, "I am jealous." Israel is again reminded of Sinai and the Decalogue (Ex. 20. 5,6), ". . . for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that HATE Me." See Ezek. 39.28-29; Ex. 34.14; Deut. 4.24; 5.9; 6.15, and note that the jealousy of God is linked to Israel's idolatry.
(2) v.3. See Ps. 48.1,2; Is. 2.2,3; Jer. 31.23; Cf. Ezek. 11. 22-25; 43.1-6. "Rend your heart, and not your garments . . who knoweth if He will return and repent, and leave a blessing . . .?" (Joel 2.14). "Return unto Me, and I will return unto you." (Mai. 3.7). "City of Truth"—the faithful city. (Is. 1.21-27).
(3) vv. 4-5. See Jer. 33.10-16; Is. 65. 17-25. From devastation to abundance—a hope still cherished in the heart of true Israel, even as in Maccabean days (168-142 B.C.) when "Old men sat in the streets, talking together of their blessings, and the young men dressed themselves in warlike apparel . . . each man sat under his vine . . and they have none to fear" (1 Mace. 14).
(4) v.6. "Marvelous"—difficult; "these days"—those days, i.e. the days when this shall come to pass. Thus still future. What may be 'hard' or difficult (margin) *is not so with God. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19.26).
(5) vv. 7-8. See 10.8-12; cf. Hos. 1 and 2; Rev. 21.3; Is. 43. 5-6. The promises are sure.
(6) vv. 9-10. "the prophets"—Haggai, Zechariah (and others?). See Hag. 1.6-11; 2.15-19; "affliction"—the adversary, or oppressor. "Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little . . ." Why? "Because of Mine House that is waste . . ." True today, both in the temporal and in the spiritual.
vv. 11-13. "Seed . . . prosperous"—the seed of peace, the vine. The vine can flourish only in times of peace, hence to sit under the vine and the fig tree was to enjoy peace and prosperity. Cf. Josh. 23.15; Jer. 24. 8-10. "Yet have I planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed" (Jer. 2.21). Israel would remember Is. 5. 1-6; and Hos. 10.1. "The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel." and our Lord could say of Himself, "I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman ... ye are the branches." (John 15. 1-5). Note that the emphasis is upon the "remnant of this people" and the tense is future, thus the mention of the "former days" appears to indicate that the "latter days" are in view. "Fear not" for the end is certain. See Deut. 28, 29 and 30. The curse turned to blessing.
(7) vv. 14-15. Unrighteousness had brought about their captivity; righteousness would bring restoration. Israel in those post-captivity days was just a remnant; the fulfilment of the prophecy that they should be as sand on the shore, and as the stars of the heavens, remains future. (Gen. 15.5; 22.15-18; Deut. 28.62). The picture of the gardener cutivating only good seed and purging out the poor strains comes easily to mind. Cf. our Lord's parable (Luke 13.6-9), Would this remnant now bring forth the harvest that God looked for? The opportunity was given them in "those days," but the internal strife of v. 10 must cease. Another lesson for today. For Israel, however, Is. 5.1-7 would, as history shows, repeat itself.
vv. 16-17. "Execute the judgment" — see margin. In few words the Law is summarized and (Mark 12. 28-34) our Lord gave the enquiring scribe similar advice, "The first of all the commandments is, ... thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart ... and the second is like, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none greater than these."
Part Four. Rejoicing. (8.18-23).
This part divides into three 'sayings.'
(1) vv. 18-19. Having given, as it were, an introduction to the question of 7.3, a complete answer is now given, but two fasts are added to the two already mentioned in 7.5. In sequence the fasts commemorated the fall of Jerusalem in Zedekiah's eleventh year (Jer. 39.2; 52.4); the destruction of the Temple (Jer. 52.12,13; 2 Kings 25.8-10); the murder of Gedaliah (Jer. 41.2; 2 Kings 25.25); and the siege of Jerusalem in the ninth year of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25.1; Jer. 52.4) The fasts shall be turned to feasts of joy. Note the three exhortations in the answer—7.8; 8.16-17, and here. Jewish tradition, we are told, held the fasts in abeyance when there was peace and prosperity, but resumed them in times of trouble. A typical attitude throughout all generations! The question was (7.3), "Shall I weep?" And the answer? "The fasts shall be joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts, therefore . . ." Yet again we think of the Prince of Peace and of The Way. Judah mourned a destroyed Temple and a fallen Jerusalem; a murdered leader and a broken nation, but God would restore them all—if only . . .
(2) vv. 20-22. The fulfilment of the promise of God to Abraham (Gen. 22. 1-8) is long awaited, but Isaiah (2.1-4) and Micah (6.1-4) give assurance for the last days. The gathering of the nations to Jerusalem will be for peace and not for war; for intreaty and not treaty. The "inhabitants of one city" the LXX reads as the "inhabitants of five cities shall come together to one city." cf. Is 19.18-25.
(3) v. 23. "Immanuel"—God with us. Pogroms give place to prayers. "Those days are still the theme. Those days when Israel shall indeed be as the sand and as the stars for multitude, and ten men of the nations for every one Jew!
A NEW CREATION
(Galatians 6 : 15) by the Late C. F. HOGG
At the opening of a new year it is customary usually to greet each other with the familiar words 'a Happy New Year!'
There are conditions, however, for only in the new creation is true happiness to be found and experienced. On the old
creation sentence of death has been passed; it but awaits execution. Shall this year see the beginning of the end? Who knows, save God? But the wise are prepared. The happiest thing that can happen to any man, woman or child in this New Year is that in it he should pass out of death into life, out of the old creation into the new.
This old creation is patent enough; the new, though not so evident is as real, and with this difference in its favour, that whereas the old is doomed and must pass away, the new remains new for ever.
When we speak of anything as 'new' one or both of two ideas may be intended. We may mean new in time, or new in character. The Greek language has two words, however, where we have but one. When the Lord spoke of new wine in Matt. 9.17, He used the word that means newly produced, but when He spoke of the new 'fruit of the vine' in the Kingdom of God He used the word that describes character, for that wine will differ in kind from the wine of this world. It is with the second of these words we are concerned: that which tells not only of what is new, but of what is better because it is new.
1. The Christian is one who has been brought into the new creation by the communication to him of a New Life, which is 'the gift of God ... in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Henceforth his 'life is hid with Christ in God.' Indeed Christ Himself is our life, for life is not imparted save as faith brings us into living union with Him. In so saying the Apostle seems to have in mind words spoken more than once by the Lord, 'I am . . . the life.' To those who are united to Christ by faith, life is imparted by the Holy Spirit; they 'have passed out of death into life,' they are 'born anew.' A Christian, then, is not merely one who has been forgiven, he is a new creature in a new creation. For him 'the old things . . . are become new' (John 14.6; Rom. 6.3; 2 Cor. 5.17; Col. 3.3,4).
2. The Christian has a New Aim in life, for whereas his former ambition was to please himself, now he 'makes it his aim to be well-pleasing unto his Lord' (2 Cor. 5.9).
3. The Christian acts from a New Motive; a double motive, indeed, for while 'the love of Christ constraineth' him, he bears always in mind 'the fear of the Lord,' that is, the sense of responsibility to Christ at His Judgment-seat, where he fain would hear his Lord say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord' (Matt. 25.21; 2 Cor. 5.11,14).
4. The Christian measures himself by a New Standard, for whereas before he was satisfied to compare himself with those around him, now he takes for his pattern One Who, being 'meek and lowly in heart,' washed the feet of His disciples and said, 'I have given you an Example that you should do as I have done to you.' Only by acquiring His mind, and following His steps can we 'attain unto ... the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ' (John 13.5; Eph. 4.13).
5. Whereas the Christian was at one time under a law that wielded the power 'of sin and of death' he has been 'made free' therefrom by being brought under a New Law, 'the law of Christ;' the law by which Christ Himself walked, the law of Love. That law Christ defined when He said, 'A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' (Rom. 8.2; 1 Cor. 9.21; Gal. 6.2).
6. The Christian is not discouraged by these high ideals, for a New Power has come into his life. He prays that he 'may be strengthened with power through His (God's) Spirit in the inward man' and knows that his prayer is heard and answered. Nor does he doubt the adequacy of the promised power, since it is the same 'strength of His (God's) might which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead,' that now works in the Christian to enable him to live 'soberly and righteously and godly in this present age' (Eph. 2.19; 3.16; Tit. 2.12).
7. And whereas before the Christian was either careless of the end of the journey, or haunted by a 'certain fearful expectation of judgment,' now he rejoices in a New Destiny. He is numbered among those who confess that they are 'strangers and pilgrims on the earth . . . who seeking after a country of their own, . . . desire a better country, that is a heavenly.' He looks for 'the City which hath the foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God,' where are 'the Throne of God and of the Lamb' and where 'His servants shall do him service; and they shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads.' And not only does he look for a new environment, he knows that he himself shall be 'fashioned anew,' 'conformed to the image of (God's) Son': with the 'many brethren' beholding and sharing in the glory of the Firstborn in the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue 'confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.' (Heb. 11.10,14-16; Rev. 22.3; Phil. 2.10,11; 3.21).
As we salute the new year we ask ourselves in what sense will it be A NEW YEAR to us? Will it be new merely because the old has faded away? Will it be a year like that just gone, with its memories of faithlessness and defeat, of suffering shirked, of self-will and disloyalty, of pride and covetousness, of following the Lord afar off, of having a name to live yet in ways bordering on spiritual death? Or shall it be, in the grace, wisdcm and power of God, a New Year, a different kind of year, a year dominated by a purpose to walk with the Lord and to be well-pleasing unto him?
THE BELOVED OF THE LORD, OR ONE SON HIS WELL-BELOVED—Mark 12.6.
by H. H. SHACKCLOTH, Norwich
If there is one supreme motive for being present at the celebration of the Lord's supper it must be that the worshipper attends because his Lord is worthy of his devotion. Apart from the sense of gratitude for being the recipient of His abundant grace and mercy, the moral character of the Saviour as it is set forth in the Gospels calls forth wonder and admiration that such a Person could ever have passed through this world to manifest the glory of God, as it seen 'in the face of Jesus Christ.'
It was the fact of this unique revelation which called forth on two occasions the Divine exclamation, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
The first of these occurred when the Lord presented Himself to John the Baptist as He left nearby Galilee to identify Himself with the people as they responded to the call to repentance and confession of sin. (Matthew 3). Understandably, John fully grasped the seeming incongruity of such a request, because of his awareness of the sinless perfection of his Divine Visitor. His comment, 'I have need to be baptised of Thee, and comest Thou to me,' fully expresses his surprise.
That it became the Saviour, by submitting Himself to such an ordinance 'to fulfil all righteousness' prove con-clusively that whilst He was, by right, above the law, He none the less subjected Himself to the forerunner, as the last representative of tihe law and the prophets, for a baptism which in fact shewed that His purpose in Coming, though, 'made under the law,' and 'made of woman,' was to 'redeem them that were under the law.' (Galatians 4.4).
As John, the disciple, recalled this occasion, he wrote 'This is he that came by water, even Jesus Christ, not by water only, but by water and blood.' (1 John 5.6). His obedience had everything to do with the efficacy of His redeeming work.
This willing obedience to a Divinely given and extant law called forth the approbation of the Father from the open heaven.
If this first expression of the Father's love for His Son occurred during the early days of His ministry, the second, the occasion of the Transfiguration would seem to have taken place during the last year of His life (Matthew 17).
The first was an act of humiliation in keeping with the character of His mission; the second, an unveiling of the future King in His glory and Kingdom. The one marked the trend of His life on earth, the other the deserved place He was to occupy in the Day of His Power.
The well-known passage, Philippians 2. 5-11, expresses the apostle Paul's appreciation of this truth.
The prophetic word too, had declared the Father's love for His Son. The Saviour had healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day, much to the disapproval of the Pharisees, who as a result used the incident as a pretext for plotting His death. As the Lord withdrew Himself from them, He further demonstrated His healing power, which was said to be in fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy, "Behold, my servant, whom I have chosen, My Beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased, I will put my spirit upon Him, and He will shew judgement to the Gentiles.' (Isaiah 42.1-3, Matthew 12.10-18).
Here the Father's one-ness with His Son at the time of His rejection is seen as a confirmation of the prophetic word; that the Spirit ever rested upon Him. Truly He was beloved of the Father.
It may be further urged that our Lord is 'the Beloved' of the church. Little wonder that the inspired writer of the great poetic epic, 'The Song of Solomon' refers prophetically to 'the Beloved' something like twenty-seven times, and so doing furnishes a word-picture which harmonises readily with the sentiments of the New Testament writers.
In a past age it was more customary to refer to the Lord's Supper as the 'love-feast,' which it should continue to be if it is approached in the true spirit of worship.
In the gospel the Spirit-filled church as the Bride of Christ is seen to be eager for the coming of the Bridegroom after the midnight cry, 'Behold the Bridegroom cometh (Matthew 25. 1-11), and due preparation is seen to be made for His Coming. We can but conjecture the thoughts and feelings of the Bride, for as Mr. George Salton wrote in a contemporary periodical, 'The door is shut and no hint is given of what takes place behind the scenes. The marriage of the King's Son has come, and there in Matthew's Gospel the details stop. There is no description of the Bride, for the Gospel was not written to explain the high calling of the church, only to give glimpses of the condition on earth of Christendom which would profess to be under the rule of the absent King and to be loyal to Him whilst beneath the surface would abound iniquity, falsehood and apostasy'. (Morning Star 1895, p. 152). Alas the writer's interpretation has been fulfilled to a degree none would have dared to consider possible.
This brings us to an examination of what the New Testament epistles have to say about the attitudes of its few writers to the person of our Lord. We may feel a measure of surprise that so little was recorded of their deeper feelings. Paul rejoiced that, together with the Ephesian believers, he could say, 'We are accepted in the beloved' (Eph. 1.6) whilst John could state, 'we love Him because He first loved us' (1 John 4.19). His epistle none the less breathes a restrained devotion to the Godhead of the Father and the Son which is said to be proven in one way by the believer's love to his fellow Christians. We need to regard this observation in the light of the general teaching of the New Testament.' The key phrase in John's first epistle is, 'if a man say,' by which he discriminates between love in action and mawkish expressions of a devotion which is not backed by obedience.
Some of the protestations in some of the insipid choruses and 'group' productions prevalent today alongside the shallow lives seen in the professing church may explain why the stress in the New Testament is on our doings rather than our words. Those who love the Master, keep His Commandments however little they may understand the reason for them. Well did our Lord say, 'Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven' (Matthew 7.21). A principle for all time, and words we do well to ponder!
The beauty of Lebonan fadeth,
The glory of Carmel decays,
The dew falleth not upon Carmel,
And silent are Bethlehem's lays.
Fair Salem is shorn of her splendours,
And Sharon's delightsomeness wanes
But the glory of Jesus remaineth
His beauty for ever remains.
The chiefest among the ten thousand
The desire of all nations is He,
We never shall know what His beauty,
Till Him in the glory we see.
No shadow can cloud or diminish
The brightness which in Him obtains
For the beauty of Jesus remaineth
His beauty for ever remains.
To enumerate all that is to accrue to our Lord out of love to Himself it is decreed that the remnant of the estranged nation of Israel will ere long be counted among those who express their love to their Redeemer and Messiah.
Paul in his Roman Epistle expressed that which still obtains, 'blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved as it is written. 'There shall come out of Sion, the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away all their sins.', (Romans 11.25-27).
The major Prophets especially abound in promises of this people coming through tribulation, of being gathered from the four corners of the earth, only to survive a decimation of their numbers, and leaving a godly remnant, expecting and welcoming the wound-scarred Messiah with repentance and deep sorrow of heart. As the prophet writes—"I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for his firstborn (Zechariah 12.10,11). Those disciples that followed the Lord Jesus had much in common with their races' future. After three years and more of close relationship with Him He had to remind them that like every pious Jew, they believed in God, but need to believe in Him as Lord.' (John 14). An analogy with the people in that coming day, and providing a reason for their strange behaviour within a few hours, including Peter's denial, the general desertion, to say nothing of Judas Iscariot's betrayal, who must be regarded in quite a different relationship than the rest.
The reconciliation with the Lord on the part of Peter (John 21.15,17) seems a fitting fore-shadowing of this momentous event, concluding as it does with Peter's words 'Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee (v. 17).
The thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel describes in detail the final restoration of Israel (v. 11-31). May we take special note of the words 'I will set up one shepherd over them, even my servant David, he shall feed them, and he shall be their Shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God and my servant David a prince among them. I the Lord have spoken it' (vs. 23/24).
Though David had lived five hundred years before this time, and is therefore excluded from a literal fulfilment of these words they can only be understood to mean that the One who is the 'offspring of David' (Rev. 22.16) will take up His fore-parents name as a Prince among His people.
The very mention of the name of David (Heb.—beloved) is in itself a confession of their love to the One who long ago rejected, will have become the object of their Devotion; the Beloved indeed.
In Christian experience there is never a marking of time. We either have progressed during the last year or have tost ground.
There were those during the famine days in Egypt who, when the year was ended said to Joseph "our money js spent" (Gen. 47.18). They ended the year in poverty and need. However the Lord indicates that His mind for those who have come out of Egypt is that the end of the year should be marked by "the feast of ingathering" (Ex. 23.16). As we stand on the threshold of a new year and review that which is past we are either poverty stricken in Egypt or, in, the power of saparation from Egypt, bringing something to God for His pleasure.
As we, the committee of Assembly Testimony, look back over 1984 we can say with joy "there failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken" (Josh. 21.45). Our borders have been enlarged with the circulation of the magazine now In excess of 15,300 copies per issue. Despite higher costs of postage and printing the Lord continues to meet every need and to Him be all the glory. We gladly agree with the Psalmist "Thou crown-est the year with Thy goodness." (65.11).
In a day of departure and increasing darkness we appreciate all who have written articles for the magazine. Without their diligent and time consuming study the continuation of 'Assembly Testimony' would not be possible. It also is cheering to receive the correspondence of our readers who write to encourage us to press on in the work. Even with many turning from the truth the letters of appreciation by far outnumber those intimating "The place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us."
As we anticipate another year in the will of the Lord, we would covet the prayers of the Lord's people that we may be able to provide a scriptural magazine which will help to stem the fast flowing tide of modernism and declension.
We have cause to thank our Editor and his assistant, our Secretary and our brother Glenville for their faithful and untiring labours. Our brother Robert Martin continues to audit our accounts with careful diligence and gives any necessary professional advice cheerfully and without charge. We thankfully acknowledge his work assured that it is noted jn Heaven. As is known by most of our readers, and can be confirmed by our brother none of the brethren who share in the work receives any remuneration whatsoever. All of the money received is used exclusively to cover the expenses of the magazine and to improve it where necessary.
Finally our thanks goes to all who help with the distribution of the magazine and to our readers. If the saints are encouraged, instructed and helped on their homeward journey and drawn closer to Him, then the ambitions of the Committee will have been realised.
Brethren pray for us.
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (25), by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"HOW GREAT THOU ART"
CARL BOBERG (1859—1940)
"O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed :
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die—I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died, to take away my sin :
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home—what joy shall fill my heart!
Then shall I bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, 'My God, how great Thou art!' "
"How great Thou art!" is a majestic, soul-stirring hymn begetting worship to Almighty God. Though written originally 100 years ago by Carl Boberg as a Swedish poem, "O store Gud" (O great God), the sequence of events by which it has come to us in our English language is a fascinating story, involving many writers and translators, covering a period of over 60 years and taking us to many countries—to Sweden, to Estonia, to Russia, to Czechoslovakia, to Romania and to England. We are greatly indebted to Stuart K. .Hine, not only for giving to us the English version of this hymn but also for the documentation of its fascinating story in booklet form—"The story of 'How great Thou art!' "
The story of the hymn begins In Sweden in the year 1885. Carl Boberg, a young Swede, was then living in the town of Monsteras on Sweden's south-east coast. He had been born there of humble parentage in 1859 and there he had been converted to God! at the age of 19 when, as "a sinner beyond measure" he found rest for his troubled heart in the promise of John 14, v. 13, "Whatsoever you shall ask in my Name, that will I do"—that word of the Saviour had satisfied his heart. Boberg had reached the age of 26 andi on a summer's evening was returning home from a meeting when he was overtaken by a violent thunderstorm. The lightning flashes and the thunder peels filled his heart with awe. The storm passed quickly and the rainbow appeared. On reaching his home, he surveyed the scene from his open window. It was an inspiring atmosphere—before him lay the Monsteras inlet of the sea in perfect peace, across the inlet floated the song of the thrush from the distant woods, while the stillness of the evening was punctuated by the toll of the church beU. 'Twas then that Boberg composed "O store Gud" ("O Great God")—a lovely poem of nine verses.
This Swedish poem was translated 22 years later into the German, "Wie gross bist Du" ("How great Thou art") by Manfred von Glehn, a resident of Estonia and then from the German into the Russian by I.S. Prokhanoff, (known as the "Martin Luther of modern Russia"). Prokihanoff's version was greatly used of the Lord inside Russia but God was to send that message with accompanying blessing to yet wider spheres, and in His divine purpose Stuart K. Hine was instrumental in giving it to the English-speaking world. Mr. Hine first heard and learned it in the Russian when he and his wife were serving the lord in Western Ukraine. There they used it much in their labours for the Lord and God honoured and blessed it, but the re-birth of the hymn in its English form awaited their arrival among the Carpathian mountain villages of Czechoslovakia and Romania.
Just as Carl Boberg was inspired by the beauty of the Swedish landscape after a summer thunderstorm, so Stuart K. Hine tells us that the first verse of the English version was inspired by a remarkable thunderstorm in a Carpathian mountain village in Czechoslovakia where he had been forced to take shelter for the night. The second stanza, "When through the woods and forest glades I wander" was penned in mountainous Bukovina in Romania, where among "the woods and forest glades" he one day heard a group of young Christians spontaneously burst forth into singing Prokhanoff's Russian version of "How great Thou art!"
The writing of the great third verse, "And when I think—that God, His Son not sparing" is a thrilling story. Mr. Hine had been distributing gospels among the Carpathian mountain villagers. On arriving at one village, he found the Spirit of God1 already at work. Nineteen years earlier, through Divine providence, a Russian soldier had left behind him ,a bible. However, no-one in the village could read and the bible lay unopened through all those years. At length the wife of Dimitri learned to read and slowly she spelled out to her village neighbours (he words of God's book. She had come to the story of the cross, and when Mr. Hine arrived, he found many hearts in that village melted and broken down by the love of God. What a story for those villagers! They had never heard it before. In their surrounding beautiful mountainous scenery they had seen God's handiwork but never before had they heard that "God so loved . . . that He gave His only begotten Son" and they "scarce could take it in" that Calvary had been divinely planned for them. The hymn was completed many years later in England when Mr. and Mrs. Hine, forced to return to their homeland at the outbreak of World War II were working among displaced Eastern Europeans. The incessant question in the hearts of those refugees, "When are we going home?", "When are we going home?" gave the stimulus to the composing of that lovely concluding verse.
Two optional verses, having their roots in Boberg's original poem, further extol the greatness of the heart of God. In today's world, their truth is very real; and so comforting for the child of God.
"Oh, when I see ungrateful man defiling
This bounteous earth, God's gifts so good and great;
In foolish pride God's holy name reviling
And yet, in grace, His wrath and judgement wait;
When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance,
Bowed down with grief, to Him I lift my face;
And then in love He brings me sweet assurance:
'My child! For thee sufficient is My grace.' "
A simple two line melody befits the lovely words of this majestic hymn, born as a poem a century ago in south-east Sweden, hidden in obscurity for many years, put before the eyes of the world in its English form by Stuart K. Hine, and popularized during the 195O's by such elegant voices as James Galdwell of Central Africa and George Beverly Shea of America.
This is a great hymn for its theme is great. It speaks of God and God is great. "O LORD, my God, Thou art very great" (Psa. 104, v. 1). As Boberg gazed contemplatively on a tempest that was stilled he saw God there—sovereign, majestic, serene; and his heart like David's went on to ponder the great enigma, "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained: What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? (Psa. 8, 3,4) — man, so proud and puny; man, so selfish and sinful — and yet God1 was mindful and God visited His creature in compassion and in grace. The glory of God's creation has now been eclipsed by the glory of His redemption— may the undivided praise be to Him alone.
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and created."
"Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation:"
"O LORD, my God, Thou aft very great." Within our hearts we feel that He is too great for comprehension down here. Probably only when we get "home," will we appreciate the greatness of our God.
Then shall I bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim; 'my God, how great Thou art!
THE PRAYER OF THE PILGRIM
O Lord, once more,
as oft before,
I've heard Thy Word,
and notes so sweet have
captured once again
these wayward feet.
0 Lord, again
I've heard the sweet refrain
of Thy great love,
and Heavenly atmosphere has
reached my soul
from Thee above.
My cry is unto Thee
Whose dwelling is on High
Though clothed in light and Majesty,
Thou art to sinners nigh,
behold me Lord, a pilgrim straying oft,
I need to hear again Thine accent soft,
while on the journey Home I wait that call,
do guard these wandering footsteps still,
Lest I should fall.
Yet though so near, Thy whispers linger still,
as sacred challenges assail my will,
my heart is Thine, Redemption's part is done
and I forever will be Thine alone.
But Blessed Lord there is within my breast
the awful scourge of sin—I am oppressed,
O undertake for me, Thy power alone,
can lift an erring sinner to Thy throne.
O save me, keep me,
lead and guide me still
cause me to know the meaning of Thy will
so that I may be firmer in my stride,
as underneath Thy shadow I abide.
Thy work is great, the power to do it Thine,
nothing from my stained hands can 'complish ought,