This Psalm carries the title, "To the chief Musician upon Nehiloth, A Psalm of David". There appears to be some disagreement over the meaning of ‘Nehiloth’: "Perhaps, wind instruments" (J.N.Darby); others say "For the flutes"; "No, no" says, C.I.Scofield, "Nehiloth is not a musical instrument, but means ‘inheritance’, and indicates the character of the Psalm. The righteous are the Lord’s inheritance". Some suggest that the superscript at the head of some Psalms is really the subscript of the preceding Psalm. The last word on the subject must go to J.M.Flanigan: "In many of the Psalms, the titles contain Hebrew words, the meaning of which have sometimes gone into obscurity. We cannot, therefore, be dogmatic about their interpretation". That’s good advice, and not only for interpreting the headings of Psalms! For sure, it’s definitely not something sufficiently important to keep us awake at night!
Read the Psalm through several times (of course!) and you’ll probably be impressed by its confidence and assurance. In this connection we should notice that the Psalmist was:
A MAN WHO CONFIDENTLY EXPECTED GOD TO HEAR HIM, vv.1-6
Now that’s something we all want to have. The Lord Jesus spoke about a man who "prayed thus with himself" Lk.18.11. The reasons for the Psalmist’s confidence are clearly stated, and we’ll take them in the order in which they occur. We must notice the Psalmist’s holy resolve to pray: "my words … my meditation … my cry" vv.1,2.
He Prayed Sincerely
"Give ear to my words, O LORD , consider my meditation" v.1. Now listen to something quite different: "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias (Isa.29.13) prophesy of you saying, ‘This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me’" Matt.15.7,8. It is a very serious thing to pray and preach with insincerity. We may impress others with our range of knowledge and orthodox beliefs, but do remember that "the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" 1Sam.16.7. It is sobering to ask, what about our private prayers? Let’s face it, when our hearts are not right with God, we usually don’t pray privately anyway. Absence of prayer is one sign of spiritual malaise.
However, you couldn’t charge this man with hypocrisy. His words expressed his thoughts. He didn’t say one thing, while thinking something else. His audible prayer expressed his inward life, and if you want to find out what he thought about, just read Ps.1.2 again (assuming that David wrote this too): "But his delight is in the law of the LORD ; and in His law doth he meditate day and night". That’s why he can say later on: "let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD , my strength and my Redeemer" Ps.19.14.
He Prayed Urgently
"Hearken unto the voice of my cry". David didn’t pray as a matter of mere routine. Mind you, it is an excellent routine to cultivate! He prayed with a sense of need and dependence on God. He needed help - and it could not be found anywhere else. He had to contend with enemies (see v.8), and so do we. We need strength for the daily battle against the world, the flesh and the devil.
He Prayed Respectfully
"Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God". This is very beautiful. "My King". David was a king, but He was subject to the King of kings. (He was also a shepherd, but he belonged to another Shepherd: "The LORD is my Shepherd"). "My God". It is the plural word ‘Elohim’. The singular is ‘Eloah’ which comes from a Hebrew word meaning ‘to worship’. So David served God ("my King") and he worshipped God ("my God"). We can hardly expect God to answer our prayers if we don’t serve Him and worship Him, can we?
He Prayed Firstly
"My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O LORD ; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up" v.3. The Lord Jesus began His day in this way: "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" Mk.1.35. Listen to His words in Isaiah chapter 50: "He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned" v.4. The Lord Jesus both prayed and listened in the morning. Do we? Compare Ps.88.13, "But unto Thee have I cried, O LORD ; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent Thee", where the words "prevent Thee" mean "come before Thee" (J.N.D). What about Ps.92.1,2? "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD , and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High: to shew forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night. Perhaps the Saviour says to us, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk!" Jn.5.8. It is not a case of ‘mind over matter’, but of ‘mind over mattress’.
He Prayed Thoughtfully
He didn’t rush in God’s presence. This is the force of "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee". The word was used in connection with the tabernacle and the sacrifices: "set in order" Ex.40.2,23; "lay the wood in order upon the fire ... shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar" Lev.1.7,8. You also have it in Gen.22.9. Give this some thought. Should we just pray about the first thing that comes into our head? Or should we give some prior thought to our prayer and praise?
He Prayed Expectantly
"And will look up". It means to ‘look up’ with expectancy. J.N.D’s footnote reads, "with a sense of waiting". That’s the meaning of Col.4.2, "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving". After all, what is the point of praying at all, if you don’t expect anything to happen? Habakkuk put it like this: "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me" Hab.2.1. Compare Ps.130.6, "My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning".
If the first three verses of this Psalm tell us who can expect God to hear their prayer, then the next three verses, vv.4-6, tell us who cannot expect to be heard. They speak for themselves, don’t they? "For Thou art not a God (El, meaning ‘the mighty God’) that hath pleasure in wickedness (‘lawlessness’): neither shall evil (perhaps ‘evil man’) dwell with Thee". The word "evil" v.4, has the idea of ‘injurious’; "foolish" v.5, means ‘boastful’ or ‘arrogant’; "iniquity" v.5, means ‘bad conduct’; "leasing" (v.6) means ‘lies’.
We should notice next that the Psalmist was also:
A MAN WHO CONFIDENTLY EXPECTED GOD TO LEAD HIM, vv.7-10
Now that’s also something that we all want to have, and the reasons for his confidence are given. "But as for me …", that is, as opposed to those described in vv.4-6. This little formula occurs several times in the Psalms, and makes an interesting and helpful study. See 17.15; 26.11; 35.13; 41.12; 55.16; 69.13; 73.2. "But as for me, I will …"
Come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercy
Or, "In the greatness of Thy lovingkindness" (J.N.D). That’s something that flows from God to man. But what about "Thy house?" It’s mentioned again in 2Sam.12.20, "Then David … came into the house of the LORD , and worshipped". One thing is clear: it certainly wasn’t the magnificent temple built by Solomon! It was, of course, the tabernacle, but why is the tabernacle called "Thy house" here? The answer is clearly given in Gen.28.16,17: "And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven". However, there wasn’t a building in sight! The important thing to remember about the words "house of God" is not the existence of a building, but the presence of God. So the "house of God" is the place where God dwells. David recognised that in the lovingkindness of God, he could draw near to God.
Don’t forget that in 1Tim.3.15, the local assembly is called "the house of God". This doesn’t refer to the building in which the assembly meets! May the Lord help us to recognise that in His lovingkindness, we too may enjoy His presence amongst His people. We should be thankful to God for our privileges in this way. The Psalmist continues: "But as for me …
In Thy fear will I worship toward Thy holy temple
"Thy fear". That’s something that flows from man to God. The fear of God flows from our love for God. It means that we are deeply disturbed at the possibility of grieving Him, and take every possible step not to cause Him sorrow. You will notice, therefore, David’s reverence for God, "in thy fear", and David’s devotion, "will I worship", and David’s recognition of God’s holiness, "toward Thy holy temple". What about "Thy holy temple?" Later Psalms certainly identify "His holy temple" with heaven. See Ps.11.4 and Ps.18.6. On the other hand, the tabernacle is also called "the temple" in 1Sam.1.9; 3.3, and it seems probable that the reference in Psalm 5 is also to the tabernacle. If the words, "Thy house" signify the presence of God, then the words "Thy holy temple" signify the purity of God’s presence.
We must not forget that in 1Cor.3.16,17, the local assembly is called "the temple of God". "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are".
This is the man that can say, "Lead me, O LORD , in Thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make Thy way straight [plain] before my face". So here is a man praying for guidance in enemy territory. He is being watched, that’s the meaning of "enemies" here: ‘them that watch me’. He must know how God wants him to act in these circumstances. He wants to be led in God’s righteousness, and in God’s way. Nothing else will do. No wonder the hymn writer Charlotte Elliott wrote:
"Thou art in the midst of foes:
Watch and pray."
Here is our man from Psalm 1: he doesn’t want to walk "in the counsel of the ungodly". But why ever not? Just read vv.9,10 here. What sort of counsel could we expect from that direction? The man who says, "As for me ...", can expect God to lead him. But we cannot expect God to lead us if we’re anything like David’s enemies.
Finally, we should notice that the Psalmist is:
A MAN WHO CONFIDENTLY EXPECTED GOD TO BLESS HIM, vv.11,12
Now that’s also something we all want to have: "The blessing of the LORD , it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it" Prov.10.22. Well, what kind of blessing? "But let all those that put their trust in Thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy … let them also that love Thy name be joyful in Thee" v.11. On what basis can we receive this blessing? "Those that … trust"; "them that love Thy Name" v.11; "the righteous" v.12. How is this blessing secured? "Thou defendest them" v.11; "with favour wilt Thou compass him as with a shield" v.12. It’s a big shield too: one that covers the whole body.
We now come to consider the last three parables of Matthew chapter thirteen. We observed previously that they are spoken privately to the Lord’s disciples and emphasise the fact that God’s purpose will triumph in the end.
THE PICTURE GIVEN
A treasure is something of value, of worth, a thing that is esteemed precious. When we examine the Old Testament we conclude from the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets that the treasure speaks consistently of Israel. Let the Scriptures speak: Ex.19.5, "Now therefore if ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people"; Deut.14.2, "the Lord hath chosen you to be a peculiar [treasure] people"; Ps.135.4, "For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure". Three times in these verses we have read the expression "peculiar treasure". This phrase conveys the thought of "personal property", translated by J.N.D. as "My own possession" (or similarly). Mal.3.17 reads, "And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels." In Hebrew the word "jewels" is the same as "treasure". All of this serves to establish in our minds the fact that the treasure embodies Israel as the personal property of Jehovah; valuable and precious in His sight.
THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS HIDDEN
God’s intention was that Israel should be the head of the nations, "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth" Deut.28.1. However, this was dependent upon their obedience to His word; obey and the blessings of Deuteronomy chapter 28 would be theirs, but disobey and the curses outlined in the same chapter would certainly come to pass. Among these many curses we read, "And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other" Deut.28.64. There is clearly a dispensational aspect to the chapter, predicting as it does Israel dispersed amongst the nations. This is precisely where the treasure was found "hidden in the field", and in v.38 we discover that "the field is the world". Because of unfaithfulness she is submerged amongst the nations. She has not lost her value to God; she is still "a treasure", but she has lost the place of pre-eminence she ought to have held amongst the nations.
One day, however, she will reclaim that place. Rom.11.25 tells us "blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." She is indeed "cast away" temporarily, Rom.11.15, but not "cast off" completely and finally, Rom.11.1. As for now, she is still in the field.
THE PERSON AND HIS ACTIONS
We read in our parable of "a man". He is surely the Son of man, the Son of Abraham and the Son of David, indeed none other than The Messiah Himself. This man does three things. First He "finds" the treasure in the field. When our Lord appeared in this world and was manifested unto the nation this is exactly how He found them, in a state of national bondage under Gentile dominion, longing for a national deliverance but having no thought of spiritual deliverance.
Secondly, He "hid it" in the very field where He found it. To the dispensational mind this makes perfect sense, fitting exactly into God’s dealings with the nation. The time for national glory had not come; they were not in the condition to receive it, because "His own received Him not" Jn.1.11. Therefore the Lord laid aside the nation, like the hidden treasure, because of their rejection of Him. One day He will come to reclaim it but not yet.
Finally He "purchased the field". He had joy in finding it, yet that joy was postponed: Matt.26.29 "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom." He then "sold all that He had" in order to purchase it. This brings the cross before us and the mighty price He paid when He gave all to secure the treasure. But note the parable does not say "He bought the treasure" but "He bought the field". Oh, consider the far-reaching effects of Calvary! Our minds are far too restricted when we think of the work of the cross. It touches first and foremost the throne of God, for it makes atonement for sin. Such is its infinite value that it provides salvation for the whole world. It is the basis of Israel’s future restoration, and wonder of wonders by God’s grace it reaches me! Furthermore, one day it will also extend to creation itself. Calvary is the basis for the removal of the curse, as outlined in Rom.8.19-23. Heb.2.9 states, "by the grace of God He should taste death for every thing" (J.N.D.).
The interpretation of the parable of the treasure is then that Israel has a special place in the sovereign purpose of God in relation to the kingdom. In a coming day, when the kingdom is in manifestation, the treasure will be displayed and the Gentile nations will gladly say, "we will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" Zech.8.23, for it will be blessedly true that "the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion" Ps.48.2.
In my opinion we should not drink alcohol even though there is no verse that says, "thou shalt not drink wine". It must be acknowledged that wine was used in Bible times. In the Old Testament the Nazarite took a vow to abstain from strong drink. By his vow he was refusing to do what he would otherwise have liberty to do. Saints in assembly fellowship today sip a little wine at the Lord’s Supper. The use of wine is required in connection with the Lord’s Supper, Lk.22.20, since wine is the emblem of the Lord’s blood. Likewise, before the pharmaceutical industry had developed tablets for stomach pain or medicine for digestive disorders, wine was used with the approval of the apostle Paul, 1Tim.5.23. So it is not possible to argue that there is an absolute prohibition in Scripture against the drinking of wine.
That said, the Bible does absolutely prohibit drunkenness, Eph.5.18, and lays great stress on sobriety, 1Tim.3.2,11; Titus 2.2,4,6. Wine and other alcoholic beverages are intoxicants and tend to undermine sobriety even if taken in small quantities. If taken in larger quantities they cause drunkenness. Since there is no command to drink wine other than in connection with the Lord’s Supper and since there are many ways of quenching thirst that do not involve the consumption of alcohol, the simplest way of remaining sober is to avoid drinking alcohol.
In the UK alcoholism is a huge problem. I take the view that if wine or beer etc. can lead to bad behaviour and if there are some who are prone to alcoholism and who may become alcoholics if introduced to strong drink, the most prudent course is to abstain from alcohol completely. The Bible, as well as every day life, shows that it can cause heartache and bring shame. Noah was a good man. But he took wine, became drunk and tragedy ensued, Gen.9.21.
The world has no conscience about sobriety and indeed seems to think the folly that accompanies drunkenness is amusing. I cannot help but think that there is something sinister about the way some unbelievers boast in their drunkenness, 2Cor.4.4. Alcohol lies behind most murders, large numbers of road traffic accidents and many cases of adultery and fornication. Alcohol is no friend. I know that there is strong social pressure to drink but Christians ought to be immune or at least resistant to such pressures.
The wise man’s verdict in Proverbs remains relevant to this modern age. Prov.20.1 "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise". Please read and carefully consider Prov.23.29-35. Rulers ought to bear in mind Prov.31.4 "... it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink".
Is it OK to Smoke?
Smoking is never mentioned in Scripture for the simple reason that smoking tobacco was a practice unknown in the days when Scripture was written. However, the issues it raises are familiar ones. Tobacco is addictive and harmful to health. This was not appreciated in days gone by. This may explain why some prominent Christians in the past smoked pipes and cigars! Nevertheless, now that it is known that it does cause cancer and lung conditions, the reason why a Christian should not smoke is the same as why no one should smoke - it is harmful! A Christian should be aware that his health is a gift from God, Lk.12.20; 1Sam.2.6. This suggests that we should not abuse the health God has granted. The Bible teaches that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1Cor.6.19. We should seek to make those bodies honouring to God. Not that we should strive after physical beauty or fitness as if these were ends in themselves but that we should nourish our bodies so that they may be used effectively in God’s service and reflect well on Him.
The Lord’s popularity with the multitudes continued to soar, so that as He stood by the lake of Gennesaret, "the people pressed upon Him to hear the word of God" Lk.5.1. Borrowing a ship, "He sat down, and taught the people out of the ship" Lk.5.3, the water acting as a natural sounding board to carry His voice clearly to the crowds.
He had deliberately chosen this precise portion of the lakeside. Bypassing the religious elite in Jerusalem, He selected His disciples from commoners in the north, on this occasion, Simon, Andrew, James and John. None of them had been formally educated in the rabbinic schools. Christ called them as they worked busily as fishermen, ideal preparation for catching men, Lk.5.10. Just as fishermen worked at night, the best time for catching fish; evangelists seek souls in the spiritual night of Christ’s rejection, Rom.13.12. Being physically demanding; they had "toiled all the night" Lk.5.5, often disappointing, "and have taken nothing" Lk.5.5, and requiring meticulous preparation; "washing their nets" to prevent them from rotting, Lk.5.2. Fishing had significant overlaps with gospel preaching. This secular work experience, combined with a personal acquaintance with and affection for Christ, far surpassed any formal religious training in preparing these men to serve the Lord.
Matthew and Mark give the impression that as soon as "Jesus said unto them, ‘Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.’ And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed Him" Mk.1.17,18. Luke, who seems to record the incident in flashback, fills in details which explain their rapid response. The disciples had already been introduced to Christ by John the Baptist, Jn.1.35-42, accompanied Him to the marriage in Cana, Jn.2.1,2, baptised additional disciples in Judea, Jn.4.2, and made their way northward with Him through Samaria, Jn.4.8. Now, having returned to their successful family fishing business, Zebedee, the father of James and John employed several hired servants, Mk.1.20, they needed to learn at least five important lessons before "they forsook all, and followed Him" Lk.5.11.
First, the Lord knew where the fish were and, as the sovereign Creator, He controlled their movements, comp. Isa.11.6-9. As Christ directed fish into their net, Lk.5.4,6, He can save sinners through the work of evangelists. On the day of Pentecost, for example, three thousand souls believed, Act 2.41. Second, detailed obedience is crucial. Although the Saviour commanded them to "let down your nets [plural] for a draught" Lk.5.4, tired and disappointed after an unsuccessful night of fishing, Peter only partly obeyed: "nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net [singular]" v.5. The result was such "a great multitude of fishes. and their net brake" v.6. If only Peter had let down more than one net, it would not have broken and they would have caught more fish. Peter’s need to beckon "unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them" v.7, actually emphasised a third vital aspect of evangelism team work. Fourth, neither they nor their dependents would lose out if they followed Christ, see 1Sam.2.30; Mal.3.10. The large draught of fish more than amply reimbursed Peter for the loan of his ship, and was likely sold to support the disciples’ families while they accompanied the Lord Jesus, preaching to the nation. Their forsaking all and following Christ did not bankrupt Zebedee’s family fishing business; nor did it leave Peter’s wife and mother-in-law destitute, without a house to live in. While Christian discipleship calls believers to prioritise the things of God, it should never abrogate family responsibilities. After all, "if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" 1Tim.5.8. "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord" Lk.5.8. This fifth lesson, of how utterly unworthy and sinful they were, and how glorious is the Lord Jesus, was probably the most important of all.
Capernaum was a town on the edge of the sea of Galilee, 695 feet below (Mediterranean) sea level.7 Its synagogue "was relatively new in the time of Christ, having recently been built by a benevolent Roman centurion ... constructed of white limestone, which was a marked contrast from the buildings surrounding it ... of dark almost black, stone commonly used in the area."8 Without hesitation, the Lord Jesus taught in this synagogue each sabbath, the people being "astonished at His doctrine. for He taught them as One that had authority, and not as the scribes" Mk.1.21,22; Lk.4.31. On one of these sabbaths the synagogue was defiled by a demoniac. Israel’s leaders may have failed to acknowledge Who Jesus of Nazareth truly was. The demon did not, crying out through the man, "I know Thee who Thou art; the Holy One of God" Lk.4.34. How would this amazing teacher respond to a direct challenge from the demon world? Rejecting the demon’s testimony, He silenced it with the words, "Hold thy peace [phimoō, to muzzle], and come out of him" Lk.4.35. In a rage, the unclean spirit threw the man down, cruelly convulsed him, "cried with a loud voice" Mk.1.26; Lk.4.35, and, with the utmost reluctance, "came out of him, and hurt him not" Lk.4.35. The amazement of the people increased. Not only was the Lord Jesus a wonderful teacher, but "with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him" Mk.1.27. News of this mighty teacher could not be contained, and "immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee" Mk.1.28.
Having displayed public power, the Lord Jesus showed that He was just as adept at meeting the needs of a family in their home, with tenderness and sympathy. Leaving the synagogue, He and the disciples appear to have made a straight course to the house which Peter shared with his wife (and possibly children), his mother-in-law and Andrew, his brother, Mk.1.29; Lk.4.38. James and John accompanied them, the inner circle of disciples; Peter, James and John, who were particularly close to the Lord and most privileged in the things which they saw already becoming apparent.
Peter’s mother-in-law lay incapacitated, Matt.8.14; Mk.1.30, having been "taken with a great fever" Lk.4.38, for believers are not exempt from illness. The Lord Jesus seems to have hardly settled down before they told Him about her. Most men, feeling the pressure of multiple tasks and demands, wishing for respite, may have given a sharp answer; but the Lord Jesus was always available for those who needed Him. As a true man He would experience weariness, which would cause our performances to dip, but the Lord’s ability to heal was the same at the end of a busy day as at its beginning. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, "took her by the hand, and lifted her up" Matt.8.15; Mk.1.31; Lk.4.39. It usually takes time to recuperate from a fever, but the Lord’s healing was instantaneous and complete, enabling her to serve straight away, Mk.1.31. Similarly, it is possible to serve God at the moment of conversion. The whole event throws out a challenge to believers- is Christ welcome in our homes; do we appeal to Him in times of family crisis?
News of the Lord’s power spread so quickly that in the evening, the sabbath being ended, many diseased and demon-possessed folks were brought to Christ. Mark recorded that "all the city was gathered together at the door" Mk.1.33. After an already busy day, late into the evening the Lord selflessly and powerfully brought order to the chaos. The unfolding scene again anticipated the future millennial kingdom. During the tribulation, just prior to the Lord’s return as King of kings, there will be a heightened level of demonic activity, Rev.16.13,14, Satan and his hordes sensing that their time is short. Similarly, during the Lord’s earthly ministry demons seemed to have expected the messianic kingdom to be established, recognising that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ [God’s anointed]; hence the high concentration of demonic activity at that time in Palestine. With absolute power He silenced them and exorcised them "with His word" Matt.8.16; Mk.1.34; Lk.4.41. The universal health which will mark His Kingdom, Isa.35.4, 5, was also anticipated that evening, when Christ removed human illness in His immediate presence. No case was too difficult. "He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them" Lk.4.40, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, "Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses" Isa.53.4; Matt.8.17.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
7. Bruce, F.F. "The Gospel of John", Pickering & Inglis, 1983, p.118.
8. McQuaid, Elwood. "The Outpouring. Jesus In The Feasts Of Israel", The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1990, p.82.
The Assyrian army were putting Jerusalem under siege. Who could Hezekiah turn to? God Who heard his prayer, 2Kgs.19.15, was in control as He always is; "And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses" 2Kgs.19.35. One angel, and one hundred and eighty five thousand slain, and in one night, and not a sword raised by an Israelite – what power!
David had numbered the people at Satan’s instigation or provocation, 1Chr.21.1, with even Joab advising against it, 2Sam.24.3, but David was not to be deterred. As a result judgment must ensue and one angel slew of Israel seventy thousand men, 2Sam.24.15,16. The great power of angels was also evident at the Lord’s resurrection, Matt.28.2.
They Are Extensive In Wisdom Though Not Omniscient
David was not taken in by the wiliness of the wise woman of Tekoa. He knew there was another clever hand behind it. "Is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this?" 2Sam.14.19. She cannot deny it: "Joab [hath] done this thing: and my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth" v.20.
They Are Great In Number Though Not Limitless
The Hebrews writer anticipates the great day, when we will be inhabitants of the celestial city, having as company among others a vast multitude of angelic beings; "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels" Heb.12.22. John heard the voice of a multitude of angels, "… ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands", attesting the worth of the Lamb, Rev.5.12.
They Are Involved In Unceasing Service
"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven" Matt.18.10. Perhaps in a related context: "… Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" Heb.1.14: the reference in Matthew indicating activity in heaven and the parallel passage in Hebrews corresponding activity on earth for the same company of people and in the same time frame.
The Ministry Of Angels
The ministry of angels covers a wide spectrum of activity. It will only be possible to skim the surface and give a brief overview. It will be helpful to consider the way in which their examples of ministry might be followed by believers today.
Ministry Godward – In many references angels are involved in serving their Creator. This ministry takes on the character of worship and service, as averred by the Lord as necessary in His answer to Satan during the temptations; "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" Matt.4.10. In Daniel 7.10, Daniel sees this double aspect of this ministry where myriads of angels are ministering worshipfully and reverently unto the Ancient of Days and others are standing before Him ready to move in willing service at a moment’s notice. In John’s vision of the four living creatures ("beasts" in the A.V. – perhaps cherubim) he sees this ministry as being unceasing: "And the four beasts [living creatures] had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" Rev.4.8.
Ministry Christward – In His manhood the Lord Jesus became "… a little lower than the angels" Heb.2.9,16. He was neither personally nor morally lower. Rather He was positionally lower in the relative hierarchy of creation for the purpose of implementing the Divine programme of the ages in relation to redemption. The fact of His superiority to angels was affirmed by their desire to constantly minister to Him both directly and indirectly. They were present to announce His birth, Lk.2.8-14, and minister to Him after His temptations, Matt.4.11; Mk.1.13. An angel strengthened Him in the garden of Gethsemane, Lk.22.43, and rolled away the stone from the tomb and announced His resurrection, Matt.28.2-7. Two angels announced His Second Advent to earth at the time of His ascension in Acts 1.10,11 and at that advent they will gather together His elect "… from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" Matt.24.31. They will then accompany the Son of Man when He sits on the "throne of His glory" to judge the living nations and decide on entrance to or exclusion from the millennial kingdom, Matt.25.31-46.
Ministry Churchward – In this connection the angels take a keen interest in developments that have taken place during the present dispensation of grace. Peter outlines in great detail the full panoply of gospel truth in 1Pet.1.1-12 and at the conclusion of this superb presentation says; "… of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently … which things the angels desire to look into". They can never experience it but are deeply interested in its transforming effects not only for the present, vv.6-9 but also in the future, vv.3-5. In parallel they, with God Himself, are joyful at the conversion of sinners, Lk.15.10.
They are not unaware of the cost to those who communicated that gospel and observed keenly the trials of the apostles; "… for I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men" 1Cor.4.9.
In relation to the corporate gatherings of the Lord’s people, they observe the public evidence of headship and subjection. In the fourth of seven reasons for female veiling outlined by Paul in 1Corinthians chapter 11 he says "… for this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels" v.10. He goes further in Ephesians chapter 3 indicating that the variegated glory of God is manifested through the church; "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by [through, R.V.] the church the manifold wisdom of God" vv.9,10. Interestingly too they attest to the dignity of overseers; "… against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality" 1Tim.5.19-21.
Ministry Saintward – J. M. Flanigan1 points out from Heb.1.14 that "… prior to conversion we have in some way been the objects of angelic ministry with a view to our preservation for eternal salvation". As Joseph Addison2 wrote in 1712:
"When in the slippery paths of youth with heedless steps I ran,
Thine arm unseen conveyed me safe, and led me up to man"
Also angels are "sent forth" by the Lord in the present as a recurring and protective ministry administered with a view to the fullness of final salvation in the future – also attested in Psalm 91; "… for He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways" vv.11,12). Compare also Acts 8.26; 10.3; 12.7-10; Dan.6.22; 9.21,22; Lk.16.22.
Ministry Manward/Worldward – Angels were involved in the giving of the law. The purpose was the communicating of the mind of God to man generally so that the recipients would be responsible to respond to the Word given. "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" Gal.3.19. "Who have received the law by the disposition of angels" Acts 7.53. The same Word that serves for the present indicates too the fact of universal responsibility in the presence of angels in the age to come; "… for the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works" Matt.16.27. "Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God" Lk.12.8,9.
There are many practical lessons from the above considerations. Are we, like the angels, aware of the awesome majesty of God and bowing in humble and reverent worship before Him? Are we willing to be involved in devoted service as the Throne-Sitter dictates? Are we available? What about the focus of our attention on the Person of Christ and on the Body of Christ? Are we moving with a consciousness that God’s eye is upon us? A study of angels is thus not merely an academic exercise. Since we are going to judge angels, 1Cor.6.3, it behoves us to learn from their relationship to their Creator. We have experienced the gospel which they desire to look into. Let’s see to it that we live in the light of the privileges we enjoy and the example they have set.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
1. Flanigan, J.M. "Hebrews in What the Bible Teaches." Ritchie, 1986.
2. Addison, J. "The Spectator." London Issue 453, August 9, 1712.
God is my witness that I am not pursuing a personal agenda in writing this article. I’m thankful that God, through his beloved people, has met my every need. This article is written so that more of the Lord’s people will be encouraged to enjoy the blessed results that flow from giving to the Lord.
In Norman Crawford’s excellent book "Gathering unto His Name" he writes, "if there is an error in regard to teaching on the practice of giving, it is that it is seldom if ever, mentioned and young believers are seldom taught the principles of Scriptural giving. It is likely that this is the best side on which to err, for so much that professes to be linked to the name of the Lord Jesus is characterised by begging for financial support".
Our giving should be systematic, proportional, individual, discriminatory, cheerful, and secret. There is a reward for giving to the Lord, both now and hereafter.
1Cor.16.2 says, "upon the first day of the week". We should not give haphazardly. If we do give that way, it is very easy to think that we are giving more in a year than we have actually given. The context of 1Corinthians chapter 16 shows that the collection was for the poor saints at Jerusalem, yet the principles involved are of abiding value. The first day of the week is the day that we remember the Lord Jesus and show forth His death in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup. That remembrance should have some effect on our giving.
Our devotion to Christ will decide how much we give, as is shown by the Lord’s teaching concerning the widow’s two mites in Lk.21.1-4. The Lord measures our giving, not by how much we give, but by how much we have left. The story is told about a wealthy assembly, some 60 years ago, where the offering seldom contained coins. However, one Lord’s Day morning the brethren found a dime in the offering. The following Lord’s Day a brother publicly criticised the one who had put the dime in the offering. After the meeting was over a brother came to him and said something like this, "I was the one who put the dime in the offering. I had medical bills to pay. After I paid all of them, all I had left was a dime and I put it in the offering". The brother who had criticised him was very ashamed that he had done so!
1Cor.16.2 directs, "as God hath prospered him". Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that we should tithe, i.e. give a tenth, and for very good reasons. It would have been extremely difficult for a man with a large family to give a tenth during the depression of the early nineteen thirties.
However, for those financially comfortable, shouldn’t we be giving more under grace than was required under the law? God leaves the percentage that we give up to each one of us. That means that if we received twice as much in 2015 as in 2014, then the Lord should receive at least twice as much (all other things being equal). We can certainly give beyond the percentage that we decided upon!
A young brother was taught to give systematically and proportionately to the Lord. He then laid aside a certain percentage of his wages as a result of that teaching, out of which he gave to the assembly offerings. One Saturday he had something left over from the previous week’s wages, so he asked the Lord what he should do with it and into his mind came a brother who was doing quite well in business. At first he thought to himself, he doesn’t need it, but the more he prayed about it, the more the Lord impressed on him that he should give it to that brother.
So he put the paper money in an envelope, took it to the man’s home, slipped it under the door, rang the doorbell, and ran away!! Three weeks later the Lord allowed him to learn why he had exercised him to do it. That brother came to him and said, "I had an unusual experience three weeks ago that I would like to share with you. Before I got saved I borrowed from as many acquaintances as I could and I never intended to pay any of them back. After I got saved I knew that was wrong so I have been trying to pay off those old debts." He went on, "three weeks ago I was coming home with my week’s pay in my pocket when I saw a man that I hadn’t seen for years. I went right over to him, took out my wallet, and paid him the money that I owed him. The man almost broke down in tears and said, "I gave up hopes a long time ago that I would ever see that money again!" The brother confessed, "You never would have seen it again if God hadn’t saved me" and told him how he was saved. The brother continued, "I went home to my wife and told her what happened." There was rent money due that day. They counted up all they had, and found that they had just enough money to pay the rent, but no money left over for food until the next payday. He asked his wife what they should do and he had a good wife who said, "Well, we’re saved now. The Lord will take care of us".
When he paid the landlady he had nothing left and he had two small children to feed. He went back to his wife and they got down on their knees and left their need with the Lord. He said, "We just got up off our knees and the doorbell rang. I opened the door and no one was there. I looked down and there was an envelope and in it was just enough to keep us going till next payday."
There is one God, 1Tim.2.5, but there is a plurality of Persons in the Godhead: three eternal, co-equal, separate and distinct Persons, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There are not three Gods but one God. For example, and by no means exhaustively, we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit mentioned in Matt.28.19 in connection with baptism; in Jn.14.26, in the upper room ministry, and in the benediction of 2Cor.13.14. The Holy Spirit came upon people in the Old Testament to enable them to perform certain feats or services for God. However, in the New Testament we learn that He now dwells permanently in every believer from the moment of salvation, Eph.1.13; 1Cor.6.19, and He dwells in each assembly of God’s people, 1Cor.3.16,17.
The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person. He is sensitive, Eph.4.30; He teaches, Jn.14.26; guides, Rom.8.14; intercedes, Rom.8.26; and should be obeyed, Acts 10.19-21. The Spirit can be quenched by disobedience, 1Thess.5.19; lied to, Acts 5.3; resisted, Acts 7.51, and blasphemed, Matt.12.31. He gives spiritual gifts to men for the glory of God and the spiritual blessing of believers, 1Cor.12.4-11.
We are told in Eph.4.30, "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption". The Holy Spirit can be grieved by an assembly of God’s people if that assembly deviates from the order of gathering laid down in the Word of God. The Spirit can be grieved also by the life and behaviour of an individual believer.
BE RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF YOUR MIND
God is holy, Lev.19.2, and those of us who have been saved by grace, Eph.2.8, are enjoined to live "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as He which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation" 1Pet.1.14,15. We should be living lives which are worthy of the call we have received, Eph.4.1, no longer living as those who have not been saved, Eph.2.3; 4.17-19. We should be noticeably different from unbelievers. Our minds should be occupied, not with sinful interests and pursuits but with knowing God, learning and doing His will, Jms.1.22. We should seek to serve Him, grow in faith, edify one another, be channels of blessing to others and witness for the Lord. The Holy Spirit endeavours to teach us and lead us so that we learn of Christ and seek to know Him, Eph.4.20, and become increasingly like Him, Rom.8.29.
When we were saved, the old man was crucified with Christ, Rom.6.6, and now we have "put on Christ" Gal.3.27, and are a new creation, 2Cor.5.17. Life is a continuous battle for the believer, for the flesh is still active within, and "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other" Gal.5.17. Victory can be gained only when we avail ourselves of the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit for "greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" 1Jn.4.4, and we are assured that if we walk in the Spirit we "shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" Gal.5.16. By the grace of God, we should "walk in newness of life" Rom.6.4. We should seek to "put off", cast away as a filthy garment the old man with its sinful practices and, with our minds renewed, "put on the new man", with its God-like righteousness, holiness and truth, Eph.4.22-24.
There is so much around us to stimulate evil thoughts which will give rise to evil behaviour and evil speech, for as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he" Prov.23.7. It all starts in the mind, and what we allow to enter our minds and dwell on is our responsibility and, ultimately, determines the way we live. Our thoughts determine our words as well as our actions, for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" Matt.12.34, and we need to pray, "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips" Ps.141.3.
God wants to control our minds and so does Satan. God wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, Eph.4.23; Rom.12.2. Our minds must be controlled by the Holy Spirit and then, with God-given grace in our hearts, Col.3.16, we will be enabled to serve the Lord in accordance with His will and perform those good works God would have us to do, Eph.2.10. The things we do and say reveal the thoughts which are in our minds and our spiritual condition. In Phil.2.5-11, we are given a wonderful insight into the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ and we are enjoined to "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" v.5. The Lord was "full of grace and truth" Jn.1.14. His speech was always gracious, Ps.45.2; Lk.4.22, and it was said of Him, "Never man spake like this man" Jn.7.46.
A believer whose mind has been gradually renewed by the Holy Spirit will turn increasingly from worldly ways to the things of God and seek to become more like our Lord and Saviour, Col.3.1. The believer will be able to "prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" Rom.12.2. He will know the mind of God, and in the changing situations through which he passes will be enabled, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to so behave that God will be glorified and the Lord Jesus Christ exalted.
The battle between the flesh and the Spirit will continue until we go to be with the Lord forever. In this battle we must take and use "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" Eph.6.17. By careful, prayerful study of the Scriptures, and being taught by gifted teachers empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can learn the will of God. Spiritual strength and growth are a result of time spent in prayer, studying the Scriptures and obeying what is revealed by the Holy Spirit, 1Pet.2.2. Satan would seek to prevent us from spending time in prayer and study of the written Word. Obedience to the revealed will of God will result in our leading lives which are separated from the world and to God, using our time and other God-given resources in the service of God, 2Cor.6.17; 1Jn.2.15.
In days of agitation and doubt, such as the present, the question is of paramount importance to us all - What is Faith? Much depends, both for the present and for the future, upon the answer we are able to give our hearts to this question. Perhaps the simplest account of what faith is, is furnished to us in the works of Paul the Apostle, uttered in the midst of the violent storm which befell him on his voyage to Rome. The circumstances were most distressing. For several days the vessel in which he sailed had been tossed up and down in the Adriatic, with every prospect of total loss. When his fellow travellers were at the point of despair, he told them of the simple message that had been conveyed to him by an angel of God, that not a life should be lost of all the 276 contained within the ship, adding: "Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me" Acts 27.25
Here we have the whole secret of faith "I believe God". The first man and his wife lost confidence in their Creator when in the garden, preferring rather to credit the word of the Serpent; ever since it has been common with man to distrust and disbelieve his God. Faith is the return of the soul to man’s original confidence in his Maker.
May the voice of God be heard today by those who desire to hear it? Most assuredly. It is conceivable that a Being of unfathomable love and goodness would leave the vast human family without some light wherewith to illuminate its darkness? The thought is unnatural and impossible. Where, then, may the Divine voice be heard? In the Scriptures, which are "God-breathed," as Paul assured his son Timothy long ago. Let us, then, cherish confidence in the sacred writings, accepting them as the very Word of God. If these be surrendered, all is gone; we are then without chart or rudder wherewith to shape our career through the intricacies of the present world. Where, too, if we refuse to hear the Scriptures, are we to turn for light concerning the unfathomable beyond?
The arch-enemy well knows where the key of the situation lies; hence his persistent efforts throughout all ages to wrest the Scriptures from human hands. His tactics change with changing times; at one season rousing secular authorities to an epidemic of Bible burning, at another season filling the religious atmosphere with unholy criticism. But whatever the tactics the aim is always the same, to destroy both faith, and that on which faith rests.
"Sirs, I believe God." In the Book He tells me of my sins, humbling me into the dust thereby. As a faithful Watchman, He warns me, in writings that will never deceive, what must be the consequences of sin, if pursued and loved. More, and better than all, He unfolds to me a heart of infinite affection, which held not back even from the sacrifice of His own well-beloved Son, that sinful men might, on a perfectly righteous basis, be saved and blessed for evermore. Surely such a God is worthy of all my heart’s confidence and love!
Should we stay or should we leave? That is the choice facing the citizens of the UK, in the first national referendum on membership of the European Union, on the 23rd June and the response to that important question will have widespread and far-reaching consequences.
Many are undecided and fearful to commit themselves because they are ignorant of the issues at stake and are uncertain as to the outcomes of their choice. If we decide to remain in the EU will Brussels impose greater restrictions on our freedom and sovereignty? If we leave will it have a detrimental effect on the economy and security of these islands? Who can tell? We will just have to wait and see.
When it comes to deciding whether to trust Christ or delay obtaining salvation, there is no doubt whatsoever as to the impact of that decision; our eternal destiny will thereby be determined: heaven or hell, eternal glory or endless gloom, heaven’s unclouded day or hell’s dark and cheerless night. Depending on what we do with Jesus will result on us being in; safely sheltered, eternally secure or out; barred from the bliss of heaven and forever enduring the torments of the lake of fire.
Those who vote in the forthcoming referendum will have to accept the will of the majority even though it may not be what they want. In the matter of salvation you make a personal choice and the resulting outcome will be the outcome of the choice you and you alone, make. No one else can make that decision for you; there is no salvation by proxy. Ponder well this individual and most important question, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" Matthew 27.22. Others will try to influence you, for better, for worse, but in the final analysis the choice is yours alone.
The outcome of the national referendum will inevitably affect millions, not only in the UK but it will have some impact right across Europe but the result of your personal decision to accept or reject Christ will affect you alone and that for all eternity; you will be the winner or loser forever. "If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it" Proverbs 9.12.
There was One Who made a conscious decision to come to planet Earth to die so that you could be in heaven forever. He said, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" Luke 19.10. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" John 10.10. It was a most costly course that He embarked upon, culminating in His lonely and ignominious death upon the cross at Calvary. Such love surely demands a response on your part: what will you do with Jesus?