March/April 2017

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

QUESTIONS YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
by A. Summers

EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS
by J. Gibson

ANGELS
by W. Banks

THOUGHTS ON PRIESTHOOD, WORSHIP AND BREAKING OF BREAD
by B. Balan

BEHAVIOUR IN THE HOUSE OF GOD
by A. Leckie

THE LORD WAS WITH HIM
by R. Reynolds

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN

QUOTE


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)

THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS

No.12: PSALM 9

INTRODUCTION

Psalms 9 and 10 are evidently companions, and some versions (Septuagint/Vulgate) show them as one piece. The phrase "times of trouble" Ps.9.9; 10.1, is unique to these two Psalms. However, the most interesting link between them is the Hebrew alphabet. To quote D. Kidner1, "Psalm 9 has most of the first 11 letters of the 22-letter Hebrew alphabet as the initials of alternate verses; but Psalm 10, after beginning with the 12th letter, drops the alphabetic scheme (i.e. in vv.2-11, which describe ‘the wicked’ (v.2) until verses 12-18 where the last four letters appear)". For an explanation of these omissions, see A.G. Clarke.2 That will do for the technicalities!

1. Kidner, D. "Psalms 1-72". Tyndale Commentaries, InterVarsity Press, 1973.

2. Clarke, Arthur G. "Analytical Studies in the Psalms". Ritchie Ltd, Kilmarnock, 1979.

Psalm 9, which carries the superscript "upon Muthlabben" (meaning ‘the death of the son’, or, as some prefer, ‘the death of the champion’, with Goliath fitting the bill) has two major components:

  1. vv.1-12, introduced by, "I will praise Thee, O LORD". Notice v.5: "Thou hast rebuked the heathen, Thou hast destroyed the wicked".

  2. vv.13-20, introduced by, "Have mercy upon me, O LORD". Notice vv.17,19: "The wicked shall be turned into hell … let the heathen be judged in Thy sight".

The first section of the Psalm expresses praise for past deliverance. The second section expresses a petition for present deliverance. David does not doubt God’s ability to deliver him from the present crisis. The repetition of "the heathen" and "the nations", not to mention "the world" v.8, shows that David was contending with an invader. Psalm 10 appears to deal with domestic conditions.

Bearing in mind the two major divisions, we must now look at the Psalm in more detail. As always, we should look for practical lessons. We must apply the Scriptures at all times.

DAVID’S PRAISE FOR PAST DELIVERANCE, vv.1-12

We should notice the following three sections:

  • the way in which David expresses praise, vv.1,2

  • the reasons for which David expresses praise, vv.3-8

  • the confidence with which David expresses praise, vv.9-12.

 

The Way in which David Expresses Praise, vv.1,2

"I will praise Thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all Thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in Thee: I will sing praise to Thy name, O Thou Most High". Read the verses carefully, and you will find plenty to think about. For example:

His Praise was Wholehearted, v.1. Not half-hearted! David wasn’t ‘going through the motions’. This was no mere routine. "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart" Matt.22.37. The New Testament puts it like this: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" Eph.5.19. See also Col.3.16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another; in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord". Note the punctuation in the R.V.

His Praise was Comprehensive, v.1. Not only, "with my whole heart", but, "all Thy marvellous works". You’ll sometimes hear preachers say that David used "an instrument of ten strings" (see, for example, Ps.33.2), not ‘one string’! In other words, he wasn’t restricted in his subject matter. We have so much for which to praise God.

When all Thy mercies, O my God,

My rising soul surveys,

Transported with the view, I’m lost

In wonder, love, and praise.

  (Joseph Addison)

They are "marvellous works", aren’t they? Notice that what was in his heart, v.1, was on his lips, v.2, reminding us that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" Matt.12.34.

His Praise was Progressive, vv.1,2. "I will shew forth all Thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in Thee". David rejoiced in all that God had done for him, and he rejoiced in God Himself. This is what we do at the Lord’s supper. Whilst we must never forget all that the Lord Jesus has done for us, let’s remember that He did say, "Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you [‘which is for you’]: this do in remembrance of Me … This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me" 1Cor.11.24,25.

His Praise was Intelligent, v.2. "I will sing praise to Thy name, O Thou Most High" (Jehovah-Elyon). The title first occurs in Gen.14.18, and is explained four verses later: "the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth" Gen.14.22. We encountered this Divine title at the end of Psalm 7, and thought a little about it in studying Psalm 8, where we said that it is so clear that He really is "the Possessor of heaven and earth": "O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens" Ps.8.1. It’s a very appropriate title in the current Psalm where, as we have already noted, emphasis is placed on God’s authority throughout the whole world.

The Reasons for which David Expresses Praise, vv.3-8

In vv.3-6, David thinks about all that God has done, and in vv.7,8, he thinks about all that God will do. In both cases, God sits upon His throne, vv.4,7. The Sunday School chorus, "God is still on the throne" seems an appropriate commentary on this section of the Psalm, doesn’t it? Why not sing it through, and judge for yourself!

What God Has Done, vv.3-6. The enemy has been defeated: "When mine enemies are turned back … O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end". While we can take vv.5,6 to describe "coming events as if they have already happened, so certain is their fulfilment and so clear the vision",3 David’s confidence is based on past victories. What about us? The Lord Jesus dealt with the enemy at Calvary: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" Heb.2.14,15. The final defeat of the enemy is certain, and then it will be said, "O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end".

David was faced with literal armies, whereas we "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities … against the rulers of the darkness of this world" Eph.6.12. However, like David, God is for us: "Thou hast maintained my right and my cause; Thou satest in the throne judging right" v.4. In New Testament language, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Rom.8.31. Remember this when you find the Christian life hard going. God is for you.

What God Will Do, vv.7,8. The very throne which is for us, v.4, is against the wicked: "But the LORD shall endure for ever: He hath prepared His throne for judgment" v.7. Notice the comparison between the transience of the enemy, and the permanence of the Lord: "Their memorial is perished with them. But the LORD shall endure for ever". This has been rendered, ‘The LORD sitteth enthroned for ever’. You’ll remember that Paul quoted v.8 on Mars Hill: "God … now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom He hath ordained" Acts 17.30,31.

The Confidence with which David Expresses Praise, vv.9-12

Here are three of his reasons for his confidence:

  • He is a refuge in difficulty, v.9

  • He is completely reliable, v.10

  • He is aware of our circumstances, v.12.

He is a Refuge in Difficulty, v.9, "The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble". Read this against the background of the preceding verses. "The LORD shall endure for ever" - that’s His permanence. "He shall judge the world in righteousness" - that’s His power. Now, "The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed" - that’s His protection. What a refuge! The word means a ‘high fortress’ or a ‘high tower’. Rather different to v.15: "the heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made". The saints are safe, and sinners sink. Don’t you think that it’s rather significant that the throne and the refuge should be so closely associated? Don’t we read about this in Heb.4.16? So, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need". He is still "a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble". Make sure that you go to Him when danger looms, and when it doesn’t!

He is Completely Reliable, v.10, "And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: for Thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek Thee". This is a beautiful verse. Knowing Him promotes confidence. Perhaps we so often turn to our own devices because we don’t know Him sufficiently. The little expression, "for Thou, LORD", is significant. ‘Jehovah’ is the covenant name. Doesn’t the verse remind you of Heb.13.5,6? It reads: "For He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee". So that we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me"".

He is Aware of our Circumstances, v.12, "When He maketh inquisition for blood, He remembereth them: He forgetteth not the cry of the humble" or "For He that maketh inquisition for blood remembereth them …" (R.V.). Peter cites Psalm 34 in saying, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" 1Pet.3.12.

DAVID’S PETITION FOR PRESENT DELIVERANCE, vv.13-20

A note of distress in now introduced: "Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death". There are at least three things to notice here:

The Hatred of Men, vv.13,14

"Them that hate me". The Lord Jesus said, "Ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake" Matt.10.22, and John remarks, "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" 1Jn.3.13. We must not forget that, basically, men are "enemies" of God, Rom.5.10.

Do notice the two gates: "the gates of death" and "the gates of the daughter of Zion". It has been said, "How often does Jehovah allow His people to be brought low so that He may uplift them to the very gates of heaven in praise for deliverance". Compare 2Cor.1.9-11. Oh, by the way, are you rejoicing in your salvation? See v.14, "I will rejoice in Thy salvation".

The Judgment of Men, vv.15-18

This judgment falls in two ways. First of all, God has determined that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". [Notice the R.V. rendering of v.16: "the LORD hath made Himself known, He hath executed judgment"]. So, "sunk down in the pit that they made … in the net which they hid is their own foot taken … the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands". Sin is like a boomerang. It is self-destructive. Do remember Haman, Esther 7.10. At this point we get two instructions, "Higgaion. Selah". Both carry the same idea: meditation (Higgaion) and thought (Selah). This should provoke thought, shouldn’t it?

Secondly, God determines the destiny of the wicked: "The wicked shall be turned [‘return’, R.V. - as if to say, that is their native element] into hell (Sheol) and all the nations that forget God". Sheol ("hell", A.V.) is the equivalent of Hades in the New Testament. It is the temporary residence of the wicked dead, pending final judgment. There is a significant connection between v.17, "the nations that forget God", and v.18, "the needy shall not alway be forgotten".

The Frailty of Men, vv.19,20

"Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail; let the heathen be judged in Thy sight. Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah." Notice that God is seated in v.4; now the Psalmist requests Him to stand! v.19. "Man … men" translates a word meaning ‘frail man’ (enosh). His opposition to God emphasises this above everything else. Compare Neh.1.11, "grant him mercy in the sight of this man". The Persian Emperor was simply "this man"!

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Questions Young People Ask

by Alan Summers (Scotland)

No.10 - What should the young Christian’s attitude be to sport?

The world sees sport as an unqualified good. It promotes fitness; it provides recreation; it rewards effort; it may even bring financial success. The media devote a great deal of time to covering the activities of sportsmen and women. The Bible by contrast has little to say about sport. The Old Testament is almost completely devoid of any reference to sport; cf. archery, 1Sam.2.20. Perhaps life in the times in which the patriarchs and prophets lived was too serious to leave much time for sport. In the New Testament there are more references to sport but these are of a metaphorical variety. Greek culture had introduced track and field to the world. The Olympic Games were first held in Greece and in Paul’s time athletic competitions were held throughout the Roman Empire. Paul uses the imagery of the sports field to illustrate the truth he taught in his epistles. Paul describes the Christian’s life as a foot race which needs to be run with patience and endurance, 1Cor.9.24; Heb.12.1. Paul refers to boxing, 1Cor.9.26, and wrestling, Eph.6.12. He refers to umpires, 2Tim.4.8, and to the wreaths given to victors in competition, 1Cor.9.25; 2Tim.2.5. Peter likewise uses this sporting metaphor, 1Pet.5.4. It is noticeable that these illustrations are all drawn from the sphere of individual endeavour. Team games are never mentioned in Scripture, perhaps because they did not exist or were not in widespread use.

The fact that sport is used by Paul as a source for spiritual metaphor implies that sport was not regarded by the apostle as inherently bad. Paul evidently regarded physical exercise, of which sport is an example, as worthwhile, 1Tim.4.8, although of limited value in comparison to spiritual effort or labour. In the New Testament he taught that the Christian’s body was a "temple of the Holy Spirit" 1Cor.6.19. He reasoned that if God had provided it and indwelt it, the body should be used in a way that honoured God. If that is so, then some physical exercise may legitimately be used as a means of keeping the body in a healthy condition.

Sport however is not without its dangers. If the young Christian devotes too much time to it, he or she may neglect spiritual matters. If sport occupies time that should be spent in Scripture reading or in meeting with the Lord’s people it is wasted time. Where the young Christian boy chooses to play football rather than attending the assembly, he is going astray. Where the young Christian girl devotes more time to swimming than she does to her Bible, she makes a mistake. The main thing in life is to serve God. Sport must never become our god. In addition, sport may also lead to dangerous associations being formed. The Christian needs to keep a wary eye on friendships that may lead him away from God. It may also be suggested that some sports are incompatible with Christianity. Boxing, for example, has as its object the desirability of rendering your opponent unconscious. Hardly "doing good unto all men" Gal.6.10.

To be continued, (D.V.)

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The Early Galilean Ministry of The Lord Jesus

by Jeremy C. Gibson, England

Paper 9: The withered hand and the withdrawal.

Read: Matt.12.9-21; Mk.3.1-12; Lk.6.6-11.

It was on another sabbath that the Lord "entered again into the synagogue" Mk.3.1. It may have been in Capernaum, given that Mark previously referred to the Capernaum synagogue, Mk.1.21. When we break into the biblical narrative the Lord was teaching in the synagogue, Lk.6.6. The Pharisees were fully aware that the Lord Jesus had power to heal and, when confronted with human suffering, would feel compelled to act compassionately. However, instead of bowing in adoring worship, they seem to have planted this man with a withered [xēros, dry] right hand as bait, in a carefully hatched plan to ensnare Christ. This physical impairment, which would have prevented him from working and probably been a source of embarrassment, may have been due to an injury or nerve lesion.

Cunningly, the Pharisees asked if it were lawful to heal on the sabbath, and "watched Him, whether He would heal ... that they might accuse Him" Matt.12.10; Mk.3.2. The Lord Jesus did not shrink from their challenge. Calm, unflappable and dignified, He commanded the man to "rise up, and stand forth in the midst" and then proceeded to expose the sheer magnitude of pharisaic hypocrisy, Lk.6.8. With glaring inconsistency, they would willingly lift sheep, which were of monetary value, out of a ditch on the sabbath – a good thing to do, Prov.12.10 – while deeming it unacceptable for Christ to heal this man, Matt.12.11,12. And this was despite their own lack of clarity as to what could and what could not be done on the sabbath. While there was a general consensus that it was acceptable to breach the sabbath to save life, there was uncertainty among the Jews as to what illnesses could or could not be healed, and their conclusions about what treatments could be used, involved stark inconsistencies. Their confused system of man-made rules had overshadowed the original meaning of the sabbath; instead of being a rest, it had become an unbearable weight, and now a weapon with which to assault the Saviour. And their system hardened their hearts to human suffering so that they were completely unmoved by this man’s physical plight and took no delight in his cure. Having exposed the hypocrisy of Jewish sabbath day practice, with the words, "is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or do evil? To save life, or to kill?" Mk.3.4, the Lord hinted at their plans to eliminate Him. Their ultimate hypocrisy was to accuse Christ of breaking the sabbath by doing good, while on the same sabbath they would plot His murder. He concluded that, since men are better than sheep, "it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days" Matt.12.12. Having no answer and unwilling to acknowledge their error, "they held their peace" Mk.3.4.

Then, after "a momentary flash of anger"24, "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand" Mk.3.5. By faith, and in full obedience to Christ’s words, the man willed his hand to do that which it could not do: "and he stretched it out. and his hand was restored whole as the other" Mk.3.5. In front of a hostile crowd, our Lord had completely and instantaneously healed a visible deformity. Given that God in the Old Testament restored a withered hand, 1Kgs.13.4-6, this miracle confirmed Christ’s Divine power. And since the Lord Jesus did not actually do anything physical (e.g. add a poultice), He did not break a single one of the Rabbinical rules regarding sabbath-day working. What He had done was "broken the sabbath-rest, as God breaks it, when He sends, or sustains, or restores life, or does good, all unseen and unheard, without touch or outward application, by the word of His power, by the presence of His life."25

24. Earle, R. "Mark The Gospel of Action", Moody Press, 197, p.33.

25. Edersheim, A. "The Life and Times of JESUS THE MESSIAH", Hendrickson Publishers, 1993, p. 516.

Instead of ensnaring the Lord Jesus, the Pharisees had been utterly humiliated. His argument for doing good on the sabbath was unassailable. His miracle was flawless; His character unimpeachable. However, instead of repenting, "they were filled with madness" Lk.6.11, "went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians [who supported Herod and favoured Roman rule] against Him, how they might destroy Him" Mk.3.6. Natural enemies were united in their plans to annihilate the One who saved life on the sabbath day, Lk.6.9.

Knowing their wicked scheming, the Lord "withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea" Matt.12.15; Mk.3.7. He did not do this out of fear but to avoid open confrontation, which would only hamper His service. And this became "the pattern of His ministry until His final and open rejection … opposition, withdrawal and continued ministry."26 News of His mighty miracles spread quickly, so that "a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judaea, And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea [Edom to the South], and from beyond Jordan [Peraea, East]; and they about Tyre and Sidon [North], a great multitude, when they had heard what great things He did, came unto Him" Mk.3.7,8. With limitless power, "He healed them all" Matt.12.15, so much so that "He spake to His disciples, that a small ship should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him. For He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon Him for to touch Him, as many as had plagues" Mk.3.9,10. Even "unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God" Mk.3.11.

26. Toussaint, S.D. "Behold the King. A Study of Matthew", Multnomah Press, Oregon 1980, p.161.

Wishing to avoid undue publicity and further conflict with the Pharisees, as well as shunning the witness of demons, the Lord "charged them that they should not make Him known" Matt.12.16. Such self-effacing humility fulfilled the character of Messiah as predicted by Isaiah, Isa.42.1-4; Matt.12.17-21. Having just drawn attention to the utter emptiness of heathen idols, Isa.41.29, Isaiah directed his readers to Jehovah’s perfect Servant: "Behold My servant" Isa.42.1. This depiction of Messiah showed His close association with the nation of Israel, which was also referred to as God’s servant, Isa.41.8, for He was the true Israelite, the embodiment of everything the nation ought to have been in its service for Jehovah, and was not. As with so many Old Testament messianic prophecies, where the first and second comings of Christ are merged, this passage in Isaiah emphasises the exceptional character of Messiah in His earthly ministry as well as anticipating His future rule. Notice the following details relating to Messiah in this section of Isaiah’s prophecy.

  • Owned by and serving Jehovah: "My servant" Isa.42.1

  • Depending on Jehovah: "whom I uphold [tamak, to sustain]" Isa.42.1

  • Selected by Jehovah: "Mine elect" Isa.42.1; "Whom I have chosen" Matt.12.18

  • Delighting Jehovah: "My Beloved, in Whom My soul is well pleased" Matt.12.18; comp. Matt.3.17; 17.5

  • Anointed & energised by Jehovah: "I have put My Spirit upon Him" Isa.42.1

  • Establishing justice: "He shall shew judgment to the Gentiles … till He send forth judgment unto victory" Matt.12.18,20

  • Humbly avoiding unnecessary strife and publicity: "He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets" Matt.12.19

  • Tenderly supporting the downcast: "A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench" Matt.12.20

  • Universal object of hope: "in His name shall the Gentiles trust" Matt.12.21; Isa.2.1-3; Zech.14.16

  • Determination to succeed: "He shall not fail nor be discouraged" Isa.42.4.

(Concluded)

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ANGELS

by William M. Banks (Scotland)

No.4a: THE FALL – GENESIS CHAPTER 3

INTRODUCTION

Everything in the universe was "very good" in Gen.1.31 after God’s work of creation over six days. However, that is not the case now. What happened to make the difference? Genesis chapter 3 provides the answer so far as "the world" is concerned. Its importance cannot be over emphasised. It outlines the introduction of sin "into the world" as delineated in Rom.5.12. Sin in the universe was introduced by Satan, detailed in Ezekiel chapter 28 and Isaiah chapter 14 (see previous article); but sin came into the world by a man.

This chapter gives the only possible explanation for the present condition of humanity and in particular accounts (among other things) for:

  • The presence of evil – hatred, crime, selfishness, corruption …

  • The universality of sin

  • The mystery of death.

It refutes the theory of evolution, since man started in the best possible conditions with but one restriction to test his loyalty, love and obedience to his Creator. Having failed that test his pathway has been downward ever since. There is no prospect of the Utopia envisaged by evolutionary theory.

THE PROCESS OF DECEPTION BY THE "OLD SERPENT ... THE DEVIL" - Rev.12.9; 20.2

The process of deception is given in five particulars:

  1. The appearance of the serpent, v.1a. He appears as the "shining one" (see earlier article and note the connection with the "beast of the field"). He would not at that time be going on his "belly" and eating "dust" as described later in this chapter, v.14. That was the result of the curse. Indeed, Paul describes him as an "angel of light" 2Cor.11.14, in the context where he refers to the activity of Satan here as "… the serpent [that] beguiled Eve through his subtilty" 2Cor.11.3. No doubt he was a subtly attractive, shining angel, with some of the blistering lustre of the precious stones described in Ezek.38.13. Such an attractive creature would not be easily missed nor easily put off!

  2. The implantation of the doubt, v.1b. The first words that Satan spoke cast doubts on the reliability of God’s Word – "… yea, hath God said?" The derision is palpable. In effect he was asking can the Word of God really be trusted. Is God really good? After all, surely He is making restrictions; "… ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden".

  3. The response of the woman, v.2,3. The woman’s first response; "… we may … but", involves five mistakes, in relative terms making God "less generous and more demanding."1

The first two were omissions. She omitted that she could "freely" eat of "every" tree, Gen.2.16.

  • The forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not "… in the midst of the garden" v.3a, as she said: that was the "tree of life" 2.9.

  • She added to what God had said by saying "… neither shall ye touch it" v.3b.

  • She introduced a "maybe" – "lest ye die" v.3c, thus toning down the direct unequivocal word from God; "… thou shalt surely die" 2.17!

Thus she omits, misquotes, adds to and dilutes the clear, unambiguous Word of God! "She disparaged the privileges, added to the prohibition and weakened the penalty."2

  1. The contradiction of the Divine Word. No doubt in his wisdom Satan recognised the woman’s ambivalence. He knew that his beguiling was being effective. He could now go a step further and introduce a direct contradiction to what God had said: "… ye shall not surely die"! He is really implying that God is lying.

  2. The maligning of the character of God. He implies that God is keeping back something from her in three spheres:

    • Your eyes shall be opened, v.5b

    • Ye shall be as gods, v.5c, – this was his own desire as Lucifer in Isa.14.14

    • You’ll know good and evil, v.5d. Sin did not add anything and they were left without the power to do the good or the ability to resist the evil!

Thus the process of deception proceeds in seven steps in relation to attacking the Word of God; doubting, omitting, misquoting, adding to, diluting, contradicting and maligning it. Anyone reading these pages with even a modicum of awareness of the current developments around us today will be struck with how up to date are all of these features. There is a concerted effort, even in religious circles, to pour scorn on the authenticity and infallibility of the Holy Scriptures. The attack is serious. We do well to stand firm on the plenary inspiration and absolute authority of our Bible.

1. Morris, H.M. “The Genesis Record”. Evangelical Press, 1976

2. Ross, A.P. “In The Bible Knowledge Commentary”. Editors Walvoord, J.F. and Zuck, R.B. Chariot Victor Publishing, 1985

THE FALL AND ITS CONSEQUENCES - vv.6-19

The Actual Fall and Its Immediate Results - vv.6,7

There was no need for either Eve or Adam to sin, though they had the capability of doing so. While created in innocent humanity, theirs was not the holy humanity later to be experienced by the Lord Jesus. However, they did have the opportunity of following the pathway later taken by the Lord in Lk.4.1-12 where He used, in His case, the written Word, in the same three spheres of temptation to which Eve was subjected. They of course had the spoken Word directly communicated to them. They were without excuse.

The first step on the downward spiral was that she saw, v.6a. What she saw parallels the features of the "cosmos", a sphere in alienation from God, as seen in 1Jn.2.16: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world". It might be helpful to summarise Eve’s response in a semi-tabular form. She saw that the tree with the forbidden fruit was:

  • Good for food – lust of the flesh – appetite – bodily senses

  • Pleasant to the eyes – lust of the eyes – pleasure – soul (seat of emotions)

  • Desirable for wisdom – pride of life – wisdom – spirit (centre of intelligence)

The result was that "… she took of the fruit thereof" v.6b, and she "did eat" v.6c. Not content with disobeying herself she "gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." While he was not deceived, 1Tim.2.14, he was disobedient, leading to the entrance of sin into the world; "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" Rom.5.12.

The immediate result was indeed opened eyes, v.7a, as promised, but it led, not to a higher plane of living, but to recognition of shame, v.7b, (perhaps recognising that the effect of their sin would be passed to succeeding generations), and to a futile attempt to cover that shame with fig leaves, v.7c. They were to learn that man’s approach to obtaining salvation is different from God’s!

The Interview With God - vv.8-13

In spite of their sin God was still interested in them. We should revel in the fact of Divine love thus expressed. His desire for fellowship with His creatures had not diminished. Indeed this was to be the case throughout the centuries of time; in the tabernacle, Ex.25.8; the temple, 2Chr.7.1; the incoming of the Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, Matt.1.23; Jn.1.14; the church, Matt.18.20; the millennial temple, Ezek.44.4; and the eternal state, "God with men" Rev.21.3. Of course, conditions are necessary in all of these cases. Sin has come in here in Genesis chapter 3, and instead of enjoying the communion as heretofore when "… they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: … Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden" v.8. What a shame; what futility! They could not be hid – good for us to remember.

The call of God is heard ringing through the garden, v.9; "Where art thou?" What a wonder! Salvation is God’s search for man, not man’s search for God. It is the movement of Divine sovereignty. God takes the initiative! This is the first question in the Bible that God asks. As W.H. Griffith Thomas3 has said, this question is

"A call of divine justice which cannot overlook sin,

A call of divine sorrow which grieves over the sinner,

A call of divine love which offers redemption from sin"

The response of Adam, v.10, is sad in the extreme. He had enjoyed the intimacy of communion but now; "I heard … I was afraid (sin breeds fear!) … I was naked … I hid myself". The probing question, v.11; "Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" leads to the transference of blame, instead of taking the opportunity for confession. The man blames the woman "… whom Thou gavest … me" – implicitly blaming God! v.12, and she in turn blames the serpent, v.13.

3. Griffith Thomas, W.H. “Genesis, a Devotional Commentary”. Kregel Publications, 1988

To be continued, (D.V.)

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Thoughts on Priesthood, Worship & Breaking of Bread

by Baiju V. Balan, India

Paper No. 4

Purpose - Why and What Is To Be Done In Observing It

A Definition of Breaking of Bread

"Grateful souls attracted by what they have found in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, coming together to obey Him in breaking bread and in doing so, speak to God and to one another about Him. They praise God for what Christ is and thank God for what He has done unto them."

Why should we break bread on Lord’s Day morning? The answer is very clear, the Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to do so. Not only that, though it should be sufficient, but the early church has practised it in obedience to the Lord and the principles of this practice are taught in the epistles. The amount of space given for this subject in the Holy Scriptures and the minute details provided as to its observance show how much this means to God and how much He values it.

What do we do in the Breaking of Bread?

Firstly, the Lord Jesus Christ commanded, "This do in remembrance of Me". Secondly, Paul said, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come." These two comprehensive statements provide us with enough information as to what we are supposed to do in the breaking of bread meeting.

We break the bread and eat our portion, then we drink from the cup. "This do" and "as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup". Just remembering the Lord is not enough, we should "do this" in remembrance of Him. The remembrance is not some ethereal thing but we physically partake of the bread and the cup. That is the purpose of the assembly gathering on the first day of the week, Acts 20.7.

We remember the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, "This do in remembrance of Me". As Peter said we "shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light". This is a most important matter. We are not asked to remember our past sins, present privileges or future prospects. We are not asked to remember the blessings we have received from God through Christ. We must proclaim the beauties and perfections of the person of Christ. In Him alone God the Father is well pleased. He alone satisfies God’s heart and we too should learn to look away from ourselves and find our satisfaction in the perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unless we grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is impossible to remember Him in a worthy manner. Paul’s ultimate aim in life was to know Him in an ever-increasing manner. As much as he came closer to Him Christ kept growing in stature before him. Concerning the light which appeared to him on the Damascus road first it is written, ‘a light’ Acts 9.3. After many years of knowing Him Paul says it was ‘a great light, Acts 22.6; and then he says it was ‘At midday a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun’! Acts 26.13. At last, he compares that light with the ultimate source of light available for man on earth and says the glory of Christ transcends far above it. Paul was not exaggerating, but he kept growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This showing forth of the glories of Christ is to God as well as to one another. A person who stands up and speaks to God concerning Christ performs the Godward aspect of remembrance. One who shares a few thoughts from the Word, again concerning the person and work of Christ, speaks to his fellow brethren, filling their hearts and minds with precious thoughts of Christ which prompts them to fall down in adoration and thank God for "the unspeakable gift". In Isaiah chapter 6 we have the adoration of the angels. They cry one to another concerning the Person Who is sitting on the throne, which is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, Jn.12.41, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory". Here we present to God the perfections of His beloved Son.

Paul reminds us that we remember not only the person of Christ but also the work of Christ, the great work of redemption that He accomplished on the cross of Calvary. This is something which no angel can speak of meaningfully. A soul saved by the grace of God from eternal death, a soul who is redeemed from the bondage of sin, Satan and law, a soul washed and cleansed from the defilement of sin alone can appreciate the value and the worth of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be able to proclaim what the death of the Lord Jesus Christ means to God, to law, to sin, to Satan and to us. It is a triumphant proclamation of great joy and victory.

Paul says we should not partake of the Supper in an unworthy manner, 1Cor.11.27,28. This principle applies to public contribution in the breaking of bread meeting too. Though every brother in the assembly has the liberty to participate publicly, only those who can contribute meaningfully should speak in public. Every contribution should be appropriate. The size of the animal was not an issue in the burnt offering of the Old Testament but the quality of it was, Leviticus chapter 1. Every animal offered, whether from herd, flocks, or fowls (see the size becoming smaller) what mattered was it should be without blemish. In the breaking of bread meeting the length of the contribution does not matter. It is always better to make contributions short so that others also can contribute. However, whether big or small it should be appropriate to the occasion. It should be fresh, Christ centred, Christ exalting, concentrating upon the Person and work of Christ and thus is God glorifying. It is not the place for the self-display but for the display of the glories of the Person of Christ and Him alone. Any inappropriate behaviour whether in person or in public contribution will bring damnation upon the participator. Therefore, "tarry one for another" and "let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."

(Concluded)

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Behaviour in the House of God

by Albert L. Leckie (Scotland)

Paper 4

1 TIMOTHY CHAPTER 3 (Continued)

The Deacon and Deaconess

If I understand the chapter right, it speaks not only of deacons but of deaconesses also, because v.11 says: "Even so must their wives"; and that should read, "Even so must the women". It is not the wives there, but the women, the deaconesses. Scripture speaks of deaconesses; Phoebe, for example, was a servant, a deaconess of the church.

The word "deacon" has a wide significance. It’s the word used in 4.6 where Paul speaks of being "a good minister [or deacon] of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine". There is a principle we must learn, dear brethren, and that is that words must always be interpreted and understood in light of the context. When you see the deacon in contrast to the elder, it always has in view the elder as a minister in spiritual things and the deacon in relation to material things. Both brothers and sisters can minister in relation to material things.

Qualifications

Also, note the injunction of v.10: "Let these also first be proved". Not everyone can undertake the work connected with an assembly. I go to certain places where brethren say, "Give him this to do" or "Give her that to do in order to keep them interested". The work of an assembly is far too serious for just anyone to do so as to keep them interested. The work of an assembly is entrusted to those who have first been proven.

Then observe v.13: "For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." Perhaps there are young men here and they’re hoping to get a good degree. Well, I hope they get it, but I personally, would rather have the degree of a good deacon, using that office well and purchasing by it a good degree and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Brethren, we are in need today of brothers and sisters who are prepared to fill the humble place; those who will serve the interest of the Lord in relation to the assembly no matter how menial the task might be. The happiest experiences of my young Christian life in connection with the assembly were those occasions when as young people we met weekly to scrub the hall. It was a joy. Not a duty, but a joy. Today, we must get people to come and put the heat on or scrub the hall. Why? There are so few prepared to serve the Lord in the menial things. The young men want to be preachers today; they’re not interested in the menial things of the assembly, but there is a reward for doing the menial things: "A good degree and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus".

1TIMOTHY CHAPTER 4

Here Paul writes that "Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits", etc. v.1, and then in v.6 tells Timothy: "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained". Days of departure were coming and it was Timothy’s responsibility to be a good minister of Jesus Christ.

If chapter 1 is seeing that the saints are preserved from erroneous doctrine, then chapter 4 is seeing that saints get the right kind of doctrine. "Timothy, you be a good minister of Jesus Christ." What makes a good minister of Jesus Christ? "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things." What things? The things Paul had been teaching him. This still marks a good minister of Jesus Christ. It is that brother who is prepared with grace and wisdom to put the saints in remembrance of the things Paul taught. There’s an instructive word in Ezek.43.10: "Thou son of man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern". That’s a good minister of Jesus Christ; one who shows the house to the house: in our day, that is Pauline ministry.

The Standard

In 2Tim.2.2, Paul told Timothy, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also". In this manner, testimony is maintained. The things Paul taught Timothy are committed to faithful men who then teach others also. But notice closely, dear brethren, the word of exhortation to Timothy: "The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men ...". Not something different, but exactly the same thing that thou hast heard of me. That was what he must commit to faithful men. He was not to add to it or take from it. A delightful thing is said about Isaac in Gen.26.18: "And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father … and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them". Not only did he dig the same wells his father had digged, but he did more; he called them by the same name.

Sometimes I am asked to different kinds of meetings that are given different kinds of names today. Some of these names are taken from programs on the TV or radio and I do not know what they mean because I never see the television or hear the radio. Brethren, it’s good to stick to the language of Scripture for that’s never out of date. There is always safety in sticking to the language of the Bible.

Paul instructed Timothy, "Hold fast the form of sound words [healthy words, or wholesome words] …" 2Tim.1.13, for there were words abroad that would "eat as doth a canker" 2Tim.2.17. The words of Scripture are wholesome or healthy and Timothy, in order to be a good minister of Jesus Christ, must put the brethren in remembrance of these things, calling them by the same name.

1TIMOTHY CHAPTER 5

This is a lovely chapter. It makes clear that an assembly ought to have the spirit of a family. This is most delightful. I wonder if we appreciate that God’s mind for the local church is that there be in it the spirit of a family. How do we arrive at this? Vv.1,2 read: "Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity."

Old Men

The elder of v.1 is not the elder of chapter 3. It is not an overseer. It means, "Rebuke not an older man" i.e. an aged brother. In the next verse it is elder women. Paul is speaking of older men and older women in the assembly. The same word is used in Acts chapter 2 where the apostle says, "Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" v.17. Timothy wasn’t to rebuke the aged brother or older man in the assembly. The word "rebuke" here literally means, "to strike hard upon". It involves the usage of hard speech. Some translate it: "Reprimand not sharply" or "Censure not severely an older man". If it was necessary to rebuke, Timothy, as a young man, was never to do it as a superior, but as a son. He was to entreat the older man as he would his father. If rebuke was necessary, he must approach the older as a parent, with reverence and tenderness. Even if they stand greatly condemned, he must do it with that humility of grace and respect that one would give his own father. "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God; I am the Lord" Lev.19.32. Young man, Christianity in no way detracts from the ordinary everyday courtesies. Christianity should make a gentleman of you. Reprimand not sharply the older brother, but entreat him as you would your father.

Young Men

"And the younger men as brethren." This is delightful. This word "brethren" is a designation of all God’s people. Treat them as equals, love them as brethren. When older brethren show superiority towards younger men, it’s the surest way of alienating them. Thank God for young men in assemblies today! Older brethren, never treat them with an air of superiority, but treat them as brethren. Do not overestimate their qualities or underestimate them either. Do not despise them, for they have a lifetime yet to prove their work. Treat them as brethren, not as children. All around there is an emphasis today on youth and I think most would agree that this emphasis is not producing better young men or better young women. Do not treat them as children, but as equals.

Women

There are also older women in the assembly; treat them as you would your own mother. There are younger women. How was Timothy to treat them? "As sisters," and then Paul adds an important addition, "with all purity". Always remember young brother that grace has brought us into a nearness of relationship which could expose us to danger. Therefore, at all times, younger men must give careful attention to decorum, to purity, to chastity. What a testimony we could be in the world if this simple practical teaching was carried out; if the spirit of a family existed in the assembly, with fathers, and mothers, and brothers and sisters.

Widows

The apostle goes on to speak of widows. This portion divides into two sections with each section divided into two categories. First, there are widows indeed, v.4. These have available sources of support, whose children and grandchildren must learn to support and provide for them, or alternatively they are widows that are desolate and without a source of support. These are chargeable to the assembly.

Then secondly, there are younger widows composed of two types: There is the incontinent young widow, vv.11-15, who desires to marry and thus, becomes exposed to danger: "But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry … I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully". In contrast there is the continent young widow, v.16, who is relieved not by the assembly (for this chapter teaches that she is not to be taken in the enrolment until she’s threescore years), but she has to be by her relatives. This is beautiful teaching.

Elders

There’s also teaching with regard to the elder here. This teaching is threefold: Honour them; protect them, and if need be, convict them. "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour." The word "honour" can sometimes mean "a price" as in Matt.27.6 where the thirty pieces of silver were the price of blood or in Acts 5.2,3, where Ananias and Sapphira "kept back part of the price …". Of course, it does not always mean "price". In 1Tim.6.1 we read: "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour …". That’s the same word that we have in 5.3, "Honour widows that are widows indeed". So what does it mean? We have an elder who is not just ruling, but he is doing it well. He is not just apt to teach, but he’s labouring, that is, he is persevering in the face of discouragement, in the matter of the Word and doctrine. Paul says, "Count them worthy of double honour. If they need your support financially, see that it is never lacking."

(This article has been transcribed from a recording of our late brother’s ministry and submitted for publication. This explains its somewhat colloquial style.)

(Concluded)

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The LORD was with him...” Genesis 39.3

by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)

Four times in this interesting chapter we read of the Lord’s presence with Joseph. So much had changed: no longer was he in the pleasant vale of Hebron that had been home for seventeen years; no longer was he with the flocks of his father; no longer was he wearing the coat of many colours which had identified his firstborn status. He was far from home in a strange, alien land where initially he could not understand the language; not now the beloved son but the bound slave; no longer enjoying the freedom and favours of his father’s home but bearing responsibilities in the home of an Egyptian. What precious memories must have crept into his mind as he laboured in Potiphar’s house and later languished in prison! A changed role, changed raiment, changed responsibilities but in the midst of all that was different there was the precious and real serenity of the Lord’s presence.

Dear believer, you may have had to accept unexpected and unwelcome changes in your life: in your health, in your employment; unexpected work commitments may have necessitated you relocating many miles distant, even to another country. You may have had to endure the numbing and irreversible change of bereavement in the loss of a very dear friend with whom you shared many happy years of love and companionship. Even as you read this you may be no longer at home but in hospital or hospice; you may no longer be able to cope on your own and are dependent on the care and help of others; circumstances may have changed beyond all recognition but on this precious and unalterable fact you can confidently rest, "I will be with thee …" Isa.43.2. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For Thou art with me …" Ps.23.4. Friends may be far from you but He is ever near. Their help may be unavailable or unable to meet your need but His everlasting and infallible arms are ever underneath.

Dear child of God, may your fears be stilled, your anxieties calmed and your mind reassured by the unfailing promise of the abiding presence of the "Friend that sticketh closer than a brother" Prov.18.24. "For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" Heb.13.5. Joseph’s father was not with him, his home was many miles distant but the Lord was with him, right there, where and as he was. How that blessed assurance sweetened life’s bitter cup and eased the pain of the unwelcome changes that had flooded into his experiences.

My beloved brother or sister, may you too know the comfort of His presence in your present trials. He will be with you every day, all the way until at last you are with Him, in the calm, changeless bliss of His eternal presence.

I must have the Saviour with me

In the onward march of life,

Through the tempest and the sunshine,

Through the battle and the strife.

I must have the Saviour with me,

That His eye the way may guide,

Till I reach the vale of Jordan,

Till I cross the rolling tide.

(Lizzie Edwards)

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Good Tidings from Heaven

Three Things That God Cannot Do!

It is commonly believed that God can do anything, but what does the Bible say?

GOD CANNOT LIE

"Ah," you say, "yes, I believe that God cannot lie." This may seem rather obvious or even a trick answer, but nevertheless absolutely true. In God’s own Word we read, "God, that cannot lie" Titus 1.2. God, and God alone, can make that claim.

GOD CANNOT CHANGE

"Oh, sure," you say, "I believe that God cannot change." This is also a rather obvious truth. God tells us in His Word, "I am the Lord, I change not" Malachi 3.6. This is another characteristic which is unique to God alone.

GOD CANNOT ALLOW SINNERS INTO HEAVEN

You say, "I’m not so sure about that one. I don’t know that I believe that." Do you know why we know that this is true - absolutely true? Because God Himself tells us, and God cannot lie and God cannot change. So, if God said it, it is true and it is true for all time. Jesus said, "Verily, verily [truly, truly], I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God ... verily, verily [truly, truly], I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" John 3.3,5.

You may reasonably question the truthfulness of whatever you hear from men, but what we find in God’s Word (the Bible) is absolutely true and true for ever, Psalm 119.89. Now, if God cannot allow sinners into heaven, this is very bad news for all of us because God also tells us: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3.23. That may be a difficult truth to accept of yourself, but accept it you must. You may have believed that you were pretty good, but you now know that you are a sinner. The Bible says in 1John 1.10: "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar." Is there more to the story? Is there a way to get to heaven? Let’s examine more of God’s true words to us.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" John 14.6. Jesus explains that there are not many ways to get to heaven. There is one way, and that way is Jesus Himself, because He alone died for our sins: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5.8. Again, we know this is true, because God said it and He doesn’t lie and He doesn’t change. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" Acts 4.12. Salvation is only through the Lord Jesus, God’s Son.

There is an incident recorded in the Bible where a man asked: "What must I do to be saved?" The answer was: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" Acts 16.30,31. You may say, "But, don’t I have to do something else?" God gives the answer: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" Ephesians 2.8,9. God made salvation so plain and so simple.

Simply take God at His Word. His Word is eternally true, Psalm 119.160. You now know that you are a sinner; you know that there is no salvation in works; and you know that you must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" Mark 1.15. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" Romans 10.9.

If you have repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then you may know that you have eternal life. God says in 1John 5.13: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life." In the past, you may have hoped that you were going to heaven, but now through Christ’s sacrificial death you may know it!

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Quote

THE BEST

Oh, for the peace of a perfect trust,
My loving God, in Thee;
Unwavering faith that never doubts
Thou choosest best for me.
 
Best, though my plans be all upset;
Best, though the way be rough;
Best, though my earthly store be scant;
In Thee I have enough.
 
Best, though my health and strength be gone;
Though weary days be mine,
Shut out from much that others have,
Not my will, Lord, but Thine.
 
And e’en though disappointments come,
They, too, are best for me:
To wean me from this changing world,
And lead me nearer Thee.
 
Oh, for the peace of a perfect trust,
That looks away from all:
And sees Thy Hand in everything,
In great events and small.
 
That hears Thy voice - a Father’s voice,
Directing for the best.
Oh, for the peace of a perfect trust,
A heart with Thee at rest.

Henry Swanpoel