ISAIAH 38 furnishes us with the account of another great trial in Hezekiah’s life, a trial quite different from either of the two which we have been considering. It is a personal trouble. Hezekiah is summoned to leave this world.
Whether his sickness was experienced before or after the destruction of Sennacherib’s host is difficult to determine. The statement of verse 6, “And I will deliver thee”, might indicate that the great deliverance from Assyria was yet future. On the other hand, it may only mean that, though Sennacherib had threatened to return to Jerusalem, the Lord would continue to defend the city.
In any case, Isaiah’s message was a sore disappointment to the king. He had hoped for a long and useful life, but much that he had planned to do for his beloved people still remained undone. The Assyrian danger weighed heavily upon him, as verse 6 implies, and as yet he had no heir to the throne. In view of these; considerations, and the further fact that at this time he was only 39 years old, just at life’s “noontide” (v. 10, R.V.), we can well understand that Hezekiah felt it hard to die.
But though grieved to the heart, the weeping king did not despair. “Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and PRAYED UNTO THE LORD" (v. 2). And once more, as on former occasions, this great saint proved that “PRAYER CHANGES THINGS.” Fifteen years were added to his life. So praise took the place of prayer, and the chapter which opens with the summons of death closes with a song of deliverance.
Thus, as we have seen, whether it concerned a trouble amongst his people, a trial from the world without, or suffering which affected his own person, Hezekiah prayed about it; and on each occasion that he did so, he proved that, like “Love” in 1 Cor. 13, PRAYER “NEVER FAILETH”. How slow we are to learn this lesson!
The Prayerless Chapter
Hitherto, every effort of the Devil to spoil the testimony of Hezekiah had failed. In Isaiah 39, however, he changes his tactics, assuming the role of a well-wisher; and what he had not succeeded in doing by the open opposition of Assyria, he now accomplished by the feigned friendship of Babylon.
The representatives of Merodach-Baladan came, professedly, to congratulate Hezekiah upon his recovery from his sickness
(v. 1); to learn more about the phenomenon of the sun’s shadow (2 Chron. 32:31), in which the Babylonians, as the most noted astronomers of ancient times, must have been particularly interested; and also, we may be sure, to honour Judah’s king in recognition of his recent victory over Assyria, Babylon’s inveterate enemy.
It was no small mark of honour which these ambassadors paid to Hezekiah, and as he listened to their flatteries and received from them the letters of greeting and handsome gifts of their imperial master, his heart must have swelled with self-confidence and pride. He seems to have been so completely overcome that the lessons, the tears, the vows of the past were all forgotten; and the man who had stood stoutly against the onslaughts of one enemy fell before the pretended friendship of another.
Doubtless, the real purpose of this visit was to propose to Hezekiah the formation of an alliance between Judah and Babylon; else what could the statement, “Hezekiah hearkened unto them” (2 Kings 20:13) mean? The suggestion met with the king’s approval, as the above quotation implies. Indeed, we are told that he “was glad” (Isaiah 39:2) to accept the friendship of this foreign court. Much in the spirit of a later king, who in the vanity of his heart said, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built?” Hezekiah disclosed to the ambassadors his treasures, perhaps to assure them what an asset it would be to have him as an ally.
Not until rebuked for it by Isaiah, whose message contains the first direct prophecy that it would be by the very power to which they were now allying themselves that the Jews would be brought into captivity, did Hezekiah realize the mistake he had made in uniting with a heathen nation. So cleverly had Satan’s snare been camouflaged that the unwary saint discerned it not, until he was entangled in its meshes.
In view of all this, we may profitably enquire what was the secret of Hezekiah’s fall. The answer, we believe, lies in the fact that in this "business of the ambassadors” Hezekiah did not acknowledge God. In all his earlier distresses, God had been his refuge, as we have already seen. To Him he had turned in every crisis, and never once had God failed him; nor would He have done so on this occasion. If only he had sought His counsel, and had spread before Him these letters from Babylon, as he had done with the communication from Assyria in chapter 37, the Lord would have revealed to him the subtlety and peril that lurked in his visitors’ proposals. Indeed, not only would the king have been saved from this unholy alliance, and his descendants from the far-reaching consequences thereof, as here foretold by Isaiah; but he would have had an excellent opportunity of speaking to these "strangers” from "a far country” (see 1 Kings 8:41, 42) about “the living and true God”.
Hezekiah, however, felt not his need of Divine guidance on this occasion. Isaiah 39 is THE PRAYERLESS CHAPTER in his life. The trust which had formerly reposed in the Lord was now transferred to a nation which was the hot-bed of idolatry. What a slight this was upon his God, Whose name the King never even mentions to these Babylonians! Like many another good man, he failed in the very thing which had been one of his strongest characteristics.
It is not difficult for us to detect how and why Hezekiah broke down in his testimony on this occasion. But if we are honest, must we not admit that at times we, too, have similarly failed? and has not the root cause of our backslidings been our failure to seek the Lord’s face about everything? How many troubles we might have avoided if only we had taken time to pray. LET US SEE TO IT THAT THERE ARE NO MORE PRAYERLESS CHAPTERS IN OUR LIVES. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:6).
“Well met, Lybius, I have not seen you for a long time. What have you been doing with yourself?”
“Indeed, Antigonus, the fact is I have been absent from Ephesus for quite a year past on business, and have only returned today. But I must say I am glad to have met with you so soon, for I know of no one better able to give me all the news of the happenings in the city since I left. But, by the way, can you tell me first of all the cause of that blackened spot I see in the middle of the marketplace. Have our Ephesian citizens been celebrating the arrival of the new proconsul from Rome, or is it that they have been making a blaze to show their gladness at the departure of his predecessor the other day? There must surely have been a very big bonfire, if one may judge by the traces which have been left.”
“You may well say so, Lybius, for if you had arrived but one day sooner, you might have beheld for yourself the biggest blaze ever seen in Ephesus, since the fanatical Herostratus burned Diana’s temple long ago, on the night when the great Alexander was bom. Yet it had nothing to do, either with the departing, or the arriving proconsul; and it was of materials the most costly that ever were used for a bonfire.”
“What mean you, Antigonus: surely no one would dream of putting costly materials on a bonfire, but rather the poorest and most useless obtainable, so long as they were such as might blaze up readily?”
“That, however, is just what they did, Lybius, for last night saw the burning in this marketplace of the worth of 50,000 silver pieces.”
"But how! In what form? Did the citizens cast their best furniture and household treasures into the flames? Or was it a work of madness?”
“Many indeed would say they have become mad who did it, but they have been in repute formerly as amongst the wisest men in the city, men who were deeply learned in all the occult sciences, and whose advice was sought by everyone. And the strange thing is that it is the very books in which their mystic formularies were contained that they have burned last night, books which could not be replaced for the weight of themselves in gold. It was a sight, I tell you, never to be forgotten, as we watched the hungry flames curling up around them, and now and then lighting up the golden letters of their titles. One of the first which caught my eye was a dusty old tome, “THE MISTAKES OF MOSES”, by Jannes and Jambres. It is commonly reported that its authors were drowned ere they had completed its last chapter. No sooner had this got well alight than I noticed just above it in the pile a set of volumes by Dr. Balaam, entitled, “HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.” That writer also is said to have met with an untimely end, just as he was experimenting with his own principles, at the hands of some ignorant people, who did not agree with them. The smoke from these volumes was so intense that for a time I could make out no further names; but at last my eye lighted on two more modern productions, which blazed up so suddenly that I could scarce make them out. One was, “THE LATEST IN THEOLOGY” by our fellow-citizen Hymenaeus; and the other “THE J's AND E'S OF THE PENTATEUCH” by Sceva the Jew. Others around me on the various sides of the fire were in like manner amusing themselves spelling out titles, as they appeared, until the heat became so fierce that we had all to stand back”
“But what was it all about, Antigonus? What induced those who were accounted sages to burn writings so valuable?”
“That, Lybius, is perhaps the strangest part of the whole story. It was done because of the influence of another Book, one which has been known about for quite a long time, as containing the sacred writings of the Jews, but of which formerly little notice was taken, except amongst themselves. It has recently been so taught and explained by one called Paulos, a teacher who arrived in our city some time ago, that many who have heard him now look on it as being the only Book of Knowledge in the world worthy of the name; and in proof of the value they set on it, they have consigned all these others to the flames. So mightily has it grown and prevailed over them. And yet it is about the last Book that one would expect any to take pleasure in; for it condemns in the severest fashion what it calls “sin”, and under that term it includes nearly everything that ordinary people take pleasure in, and indeed even the honour we pay to our great goddess Diana.”
“But surely there must be more than that in the Book, or nobody would listen to it.”
“Oh yes, this Paulos proves that it is full of prophecies, delivered many centuries ago, pointing forward to a Prince who was to appear; and who, although He would be grossly ill treated and slain, would by His very death bring about salvation from these so-called “sins", and from the punishment which, according to the Book, is to be the eternal fate of those who are guilty of them. These prophecies, he says, have had an exact fulfilment in the life and death of one, JESUS, whom he speaks of as the Son of God; but who, as Paulos himself acknowledges, was crucified as a criminal by the Governor of Judea nearly thirty years ago. Can you imagine being asked to look to One who was hung on a cross for salvation? Does it not seem the depths of foolishness? But of course I should tell you that Paulos alleges that the Man arose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion, and that He went back to heaven from whence, as he asserts, He came. He says that Jesus appeared afterwards to many competent witnesses; and that even he himself had seen Him in heaven, and by so seeing Him had been turned from being a persecutor of His followers, to become a preacher of the faith that once he had sought to destroy. This teaching has had remarkable effect, not only on the common populace, but on many of our chief citizens, some of whom you will doubtless meet with before long. They will tell you that formerly they were “dead in sins”, and that their worship of Diana and our other deities was sin also. They will say that since they have believed on this Jesus whom Paulos speaks of, they have become “alive unto God”; and that the Book, which they speak of as “God's Word”, has become full of meaning and instruction for them. Moreover I may tell you myself that, whatever the cause of it may be, these people are completely changed in their ways. Their manner of life has been as it were turned upside down, and their conduct has become a model of all that is right and kind and good. I have at times been so influenced by it, that I have felt like taking in the teachings myself, but for two things which have held me back. On the one hand I do not care to think of myself as being so wicked as their Book would make me out to be; and on the other, I do not like to think of salvation as being only obtainable through one who suffered the death of a felon slave on the cross.”
“Well I see I have certainly missed something by my absence from the city, Antigonus, and I really would like to hear this man Paulos for myself, and to know more of what is taught in that Book of his. It must be a wonderful Book indeed to have overcome all those others which were given to the flames last night. There is no time like the present, so come along like a good fellow, and bring me to the place where he teaches, that I may learn the secret of it all. If his old Book is right, then you and I are wrong, and the sooner we seek its light upon things the better.”
(An assumed conversation, written by the late Wm. Rodgers)
“And when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward” (1 Sam. 10:23). Saul must have been an outstanding man physically, yet spiritually he was dwarfed by the stripling David. When the people asked for a king, God gave them Saul first, then when Saul had been rejected by God, David was chosen—the “second man”: these two men afford a contrast which provides a fitting culmination to our study.
God gave the people of Israel Saul first to teach them that they should not judge by outward appearances, and that they should have no confidence in the flesh. Despite his physical stature, Saul was a coward, he was unspiritual, he was earth-bound. Samuel said of him, “See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like unto him among all the people?” And all the people shouted and said: “God save the King”. To judge outwardly, here was the ideal King, yet when Goliath’s challenge rang out the obvious man to accept it, physically speaking, was cringing in his tent in fear. He was unspiritual, for after saying to David: “Go, and the Lord be with you”, he tried to provide him with armour, armour in which he himself was afraid to face the foe, armour which was superfluous to the spiritual mind of David, whose sole confidence was in God. Saul was earth-bound, too, for when the people had sought him to make him king, he had been found hiding “among the stuff”. Anointed from a vial, which is of earthly origin, Saul was, like all the other "first” men we have studied, “of the earth, earthy”.
When David was anointed, he was God’s choice, "a man after mine own heart”, of whom Samuel is told: "Man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart”. David was found in what we have seen already to be the occupation of an earthly pilgrim—keeping his father’s sheep. That he is typical of the Great Shepherd of the sheep is evident, for he slew both the lion and the bear which attacked them. In his pastoral discourse (John 10) the Lord says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand”. David was anointed from a horn, suggestive of heavenly origin. While he was the Lord’s anointed, he spent a long time unrecognized and rejected by his people.
David, the anointed one in rejection, gives us a beautiful picture of Christ. For forty days Goliath has challenged the armies of the living God: "Choose you a man for you”. Israel is threatened with slavery if no champion is found. For forty days terror reigns in the camp of God’s people, with the people in despair as their chosen man, the best fitted naturally speaking, Saul, trembles in his tent. Then after forty days a champion is found—the man of God’s choice, the anointed one, yet not recognized as king by the people. David comes to Goliath “in the name of the Lord of hosts”. He goes down into the valley, typical of death, and there he slays the enemy. He fulfils in a figure the prophecy of Genesis 3:15: “It shall bruise thy head”, for thus does he slay Goliath. He comes up out of the valley of death in resurrection power to be acclaimed in triumph by the people he had liberated from the hand of the oppressor.
For forty centuries Satan challenged the fallen sons of Adam’s race to find a champion who would deliver them from the bondage of sin, but one could not be found. Then “in due time”, God sent His man, His “Anointed One”, for such is the meaning of “Christ”. Yet he was "despised and rejected of men”. He went into death, and slew “him that hath the power of death, that is to say, the devil”. In light of this we appreciate the scene which John describes so magnificently in Revelation 5: “And no man in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open the book . . . And one of the elders saith unto me: ‘Weep not, behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book . . . ’ And I beheld and lo, in the midst of the throne stood a lamb, as it had been slain ...” “The Root of David”—the One from whom David sprang; little wonder that David is typical of Christ in this respect! “The Root of David” prevailed, and it was in weakness—“a Lamb as it had been slain.” Here, of course, He is viewed with his work finished, reigning "in the midst of the Throne.”
As we have viewed these types of Christ and seen the weakness and failure of the first man, and the way in which God graciously foreshadows His man in the “second man”, we are brought to this final scene with David. “The Root of David” has triumphed; we have victory over Satan, sin and death in him. We live because he died. We shall triumph over death because He defeated him that hath the power of death. Thus shall we gather round the Throne and say: “Blessing and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever”. Thus, triumphant in His triumphs, we shall eternally worship “Him that liveth for ever and ever”.
TRUTHS which were fully taught thirty years ago and helpful to us young believers then, are very little heard of now. By some, the truth of separation to God is regarded as out of date and hardly ever spoken of. In some places it would be considered out of place to give out what God has written in His Word on the subject. It is not wanted. Thank God there are still those who, having learned such truths, seek by the grace of God to walk in them and teach them to others, just because they are in God’s Book, which never changes, and which, the longer I live, I seek grace to reverence and obey in all things. I would especially seek, for the help of young believers, to turn to some portions of the Word, which suggest a train of thought, which if developed and meditated on at home, will prove helpful and practical. Do not let us be like the slotful man, of whom it is said, that he “roasteth not that which he took in hunting” (Prov. 12:27), but let us dig deep in the Word of God and feed on it. Separation is a fundamental truth of God’s Word, and is extensively taught there.
In Genesis 1, we read that God said, “Let there be light, and light there was” (v. 3). Then immediately, that “God divided the light from the darkness” (v. 4). The application of this is clearly seen in the New Testament. The apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonians—which was the first epistle that he wrote—tells them, that they are “all children of the light and of the day”, and "not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:4,5). The Ephesians are reminded that though they were once “darkness”, they are now “light in the Lord” (Eph. 5.8), and the Corinthians are asked, “What communion hath light with darkness" (2 Cor. 6:14)? The children of God are separated by God from the world, and it is the will of God that they remain so separated here, as they will be in eternity. When we come to the end of the Book of God, we find the righteous and the wicked eternally separate, the children of God dwelling with Him who is their righteous God and Father, and the wicked with their father the devil in conscious misery (Rev. 21:3, 8), and this is to be so for ever.
In Genesis, chaps. 4 and 5, we see the two families, the two seeds, the lines of Cain and of Seth, their character and their ways. There is a marked difference and separation between them. In chap. 6 this separation of the light and the darkness ceases, and the two lines become amalgamated. The “sons of God” intermarried with the “daughters of men”. This unholy union brought the judgment of God in the flood. Some say these sons of God were angels. I do not believe it. Angels, we are told, do not marry (Matt. 22:30); they are spirits. These sons of God of Genesis 6 were the line of Seth (see Luke 3:38, where they are traced to Adam, who “was the son of God”), that godly line in which was Enoch “the seventh” from Adam (Jude 14). They became enamoured with “the daughters of men”—the seed of Cain, and leaving the place of separation intermarried with them. The same thing has been done again and again by children of God, and always with the same result, loss and ruin to the Christian. Let those who contemplate marriage be clear as to this, and take God into their counsel. In Gen. 24, where Abraham’s servant seeks a bride for Isaac, there is more about prayer and seeking guidance from God, than in any other part of Genesis.
The people of Israel were a chosen, redeemed, and separated people (Deut. 7:6). God had “severed” them from other people that they should be His (Lev. 20:26). They were to dwell alone and not be reckoned among the nations (Numb. 23:9). Their separation was to be real and manifest. They were to be Jehovah’s witnesses (Isa. 43:10) among the nations. He was their God, and He meant that the surrounding nations who knew Him not, might see the blessedness of that people whose God was Jehovah. In order to maintain this testimony they were to be obedient to His word: only thus could they be blessed and made a blessing. He gave them His word, and it was to be well with them while they kept it (Deut. 4:40). He gave them very explicit commandments what they were to do, and what they were not to do in all departments of life. They were not to inter-marry with the nations (Deut. 7:3). Why? Because God had so commanded. They were not to plough with an ox and an ass together; they were not to wear a garment of woollen and linen together (Deut. 22:16, 11). They were not to eat of certain beasts and fowls (Deut. 14:3, 19). Why? Because God had commanded it. It did not matter if the “other people” from whom God had separated them did it, that was to be no rule for them, it was theirs to obey the word of their God. They were “a special people unto Jehovah”, and His Word was to them their rule, not the practices of the nations around. And so it ought to be with the children of God now. The Lord Jesus says of His people, "I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19). “I have given them Thy Word” (John 17:14). The people of God are to be separate from the world and ruled in all things by the Word. There is to be no unhallowed alliance with, no conformity to, the world. If there is wholehearted obedience to God’s word, there will be true separation from the world, from its pleasures, its politics, its Co-operative Societies, and its religion alike, just because they are of the world, and the whole world lieth in the “Evil One” (1 John 5:19, R.V.). It does not take much discernment to see the Egypt world and the Sodom world, but it does require spirituality and acquaintance with God and His word to discern the Babylon world, with its false religion, adorned with portions of the word of God. It is this especially we need to be on our guard against, lest the wily adversary trip us up and lead us back into association with that from which God’s Word brought some of us out long ago. There is a word in 2 Cor. 6:14, 18, to which I will refer briefly in this connection. As I said before, our separation to God and unto the Name of the Lord Jesus if real, is so inclusive as to bring us out from every Association, every Confederation, every Amalgamation of this present world, whether political, philanthropic, or religious. God allows no unhallowed union of His people with the world. His Word is, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, what communion hath LIGHT with darkness”? This is very definite, very plain, is it not? And hear what follows, “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate and touch not the unclean”. In the language of the New Testament there are two tenses in the imperative mood. The one signifies to do a thing once for all, and not to delay in doing it. This last word means to come out instantly and completely, and when once out to there remain, not even “touching” that which is forbidden by and opposed to God. Therefore the believer’s separation to God and from the world is to be Instant, Complete and Final. In Psalm 119:60 we read, “I made haste, and DELAYED not to keep Thy commandments”. This word “delayed” means to “stand questioning”. He did not stand questioning the why and the wherefore of God’s commandment, but instantly obeyed. This is what pleases God, and brings blessing to the obedient soul, for in the keeping of His commandments “there is great reward” (Psa. 19:2).
ARE you a Philadelphian? I do not ask you if you are a Christian, but if you are a Philadelphian. A Philadelphian is one who has the character of that assembly as outlined in '* Rev. 3:7—13. Let us consider briefly its marks.
1. “Philadelphia” means “brotherly love.” If you love your brethren you will always seek their good. You will never J hate them, or you will betray your false profession. You will seek their company and not the company of the ungodly.
2. They have “an open door.” God has given us one with our neighbours, in our own street, in our locality. We can give out a tract, ask the children to attend the Sunday School, help in missionary work, and get interested in the great harvest field of the world.
3. “A little strength”; mark this. Any assembly to-day is but in remnant testimony. It ill becomes us therefore to claim to be the assembly of God in a city or district where there are other meetings of Christians; but those who gather together unto the name of the Lord, though but two or three in number (Matt. 18: 20), can say that they are an assembly, without making any high sounding Church claims.
4. “Kept my word”; now this means that there is no doctrine of Scripture that I deliberately reject or ignore. To keep the Word necessitates knowing the Word and seeking to demonstrate the Word in my life, and not joining with those who set aside that Word.
5. “Not denied my Name”; His name is our gathering centre (Deut. 12; Matt. 18:20). However honoured the names of Luther or Wesley or others, to gather to their name would be to come under the stricture of 1 Cor. 1:12—“I am of Paul, and I of Cephas,” etc.
6. “Kept the word of my patience.” "Be patient therefore brethren unto the coming of the Lord” (Jas. 5:8). Some say the Lord delayeth his coming, some scoff, others mock. The Lord’s coming is imminent. He comes for His bride, His body (no mutilated body, so there can be no partial rapture). The Church is raptured to Christ. This is the first act in the day of Christ, the commencement of His PAROUSIA. “He that hath his hope set on Him purifieth himself” (1 John 3:3). Are you then a Philadelphian? Is your assembly a Philadelphian assembly? If so, “Hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown”.
“He brought me forth also into a large place.” Ps. 18:19.
WE noticed this scripture this morning in our daily reading. We noticed too that it was God who brought forth his servant into a large place. Now, in seeking to apply the scripture to present day conditions, we firmly believe that it takes God to bring forth His people from the world, religious or otherwise. One of the weaknesses of assembly testimony today is the fact that many of the Christians in fellowship have been “free bom,” as it were. Their parents were there before them. They passed through the Sunday School and at some gospel meetings made a profession of conversion. Then they followed the custom, were baptized and got into the assembly. But they never have had any deep exercise of heart before God in seeing Him lead them forth without the camp to the name of the Lord Jesus. In a word, they have never seen the evils of sectarianism, and so it becomes comparatively easy for some of them to return to conventions, rallies, youth movements, and camps of a denominational nature.
It is a common accusation against the Lord’s people who meet in His name that they are “tight laced”, “exclusive,” “pretentious,” and so on. Well now, the Psalmist did not think that God had brought him to such a place, nor do we. It was “a large place.” First of all, the place to which we have been brought is large, because in it there is room for the Lordship of Christ to be owned. This is not so in any other place (we speak from experience). Christ is definitely recognized as Lord in the Assemblies of the saints, because of obedience to His commands.
Then, it is a large place because there is room for the Holy Spirit to act, operate and use whomsoever He will. Put this to test in the best denominational places and you will see that it would cause confusion. They get on better without the leading of the Holy Spirit. All such places have their constitution, their rules and regulations, formed, no doubt, sincerely, to get order and success in their enterprises. But we have seen one thousand Christians remember the Lord’s death without any disorder, though there was no prearranged programme, and no chairman present.
Again, it is a large place because there is room for all the Word of God to be read and carried out. This fact is what differentiates between assemblies and associations, between scriptural churches and ecclesiastical institutions. Not one of the latter would tolerate the “whole counsel of God.”
Some time ago, a very sincere Pentecostal Pastor asked us to conduct a series of Gospel meetings in his new Gospel Temple in one of our large cities. He stated that he would welcome a dynamic preacher to conduct a Gospel campaign. We thanked him for the invitation, for we have known him since he introduced Pentecostalism in Venezuela nearly fifty years ago; but we told him that if we were to conduct a series of meetings in his Temple we would divide his congregation. He asked us what we meant. We told him that we would have to preach a full orbed Gospel, and that would include what the Scripture teaches about women speaking in the church, etc. “Oh!” he said, "it would be understood that you would avoid doctrine, for that is what divides us.” We told him however, that we could not go into his place with our hands tied, tacitly or otherwise. No, the assembly is the largest place on earth for all the people of God. In it there is room for God, room for His Holy Spirit, and room for all His Holy Word.
Our object in the following pages is to create and sustain interest in the Bible—the Wonderful Book of all books.
THE Bible is not the best of human writings. It stands alone, outside, and apart from human literature. It is the only book in existence which can claim God as its Author. In this respect the Bible is unique.
The Book of books is a “Divine Library” consisting of 66 separate compositions, yet vitally linked together in unity of subjects and in Divine Revelation of God. My reference pocket Bible complete, is made up of 1,506 pages. How many of these pages can you read in a week, in a day? Make a beginning at once and you will never regret it. On the whole, the Bible as it is chaptered, is convenient for reading. We are indebted to Cardinal Hugo of the 13th Century for the 1,180 Chapters into which the Bible was broken up and distributed.
The Bible was written in the three continents of Africa, Asia and Europe, and in three languages—Hebrew, Syriac and Greek. The Bible is the product of at least 40 sanctified writers. Each of the pen men wrote under the controlling direction of the Holy Spirit, each letter, word and sentence being divinely inspired, yet in fullest accord with the individual characteristics of the heart and mind of the various writers. Thus we have a variety of style. There is no sameness in the Bible. Its every page glows in deep and ever deepening interest the more it is read. Its Divine Inspiration is unquestionable: See 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:11, 12; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; 2 Samuel 23:1-3; John 5:46, 47.
The critics are working to their own destruction. They can no more destroy the Bible than they can batter down the throne of the Eternal God. The truths of the Bible are imperishable. It is said and written, that the original manuscript of Moses, Isaiah, Paul, John and others have all perished. Not so. No historical evidence has been adduced in proof. The Word of God cannot perish (1 Peter 1:23, 25).
The Bible was composed during the slow progress of sixteen centuries. Some of the writers were unknown to each other even by name, living hundreds of miles apart, and at different periods so that collusion was impossible. Thus the unity of the faith in all its parts; the testimony borne to Christ by all the writers is of God. Not only is the Bible as a whole demonstrated to be of Divine production, but each book has its own story to tell of Divine arrangement. Thus the Psalter with its 150 sacred melodies took about 1,000 years for its completion. The first psalm chronologically is the 90th written by Moses, the last is the 137th, an anonymous composition. The 150 psalms are distributed into five books respectively ending with Nos. 41, 72, 89, 106, 150. These divisions exhibit a moral design, and one manifesting Divine wisdom. But this calls for separate and devout treatment, not at present however.
The Pentateuch is a veritable monument of antiquity, being the oldest record extant. ‘‘The foundations of European Legislation, Government, Law and Society are therein disclosed in their original simplicity and purity; also the earliest stages of human history.” The subjects treated of are numerous and momentous, such as creation, sin, sacrifice, the true knowledge of God, life, death, marriage, conscience, the rudiments of science, history, individual, family, and national responsibility to God, including a moral code of the highest order forming the basis of all religion and of all morality. In the human element in the Pentateuch, we can readily discern the intellectual and moral greatness of Moses. We are not surprised at the eulogistic terms in which the dying Stephen referred to Moses, “the father of history” (Acts 7:22).
The Bible covers the whole field of human enquiry, and far more besides. The Bible lifts one into the region of the Infinite, there to learn, to wonder, to adore, to worship! The Bible is a miracle and is constantly effecting moral miracles in every age, and in every land.
Asked as to how much time he spent in prayer, his reply was: “Hours, every day. But I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk, when I lie down, and when I rise. And the answers are always coming. Tens of thousands of times have my prayers been answered. When once I am persuaded that a thing is right, I go on praying for it till the end comes. I never give up! Thousands of souls have been saved in answer to my prayers. I shall meet tens of thousands of them in heaven. The great point is never to give up until the answer comes. I have been praying every day for fifty-two years for two men, sons of a friend of my youth. They are not converted yet, but they will be! How can it be otherwise? There is the unchanging promise of Jehovah, and on that I rest. The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do not go on praying; they do not persevere. If they desire anything for God’s glory, they should pray until they get it.”
Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13, 14.)