Read Psalms 14, 15, and 16 together several times, and see if you can spot any common ground. The three Psalms certainly make very significant reading when you look at them in sequence. Let’s take a brief look.
In Psalm 14, "The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men" v.2, and came to a horrifying conclusion: "They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one" v.3. But there were exceptions: v.5 refers to "the generation of the righteous". The Psalm tells us what the wicked look like, but we don’t quite know what "the righteous" look like. But we find out in Psalm 15.
In Psalm 15, a question is asked: "LORD, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?" v.1. The answer follows: "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness" v.2. The Psalm ends, "He that doeth these things shall never be moved" v.5. But where can we see this man? Certainly not in Psalm 14! But you don’t have to look very far. In fact, just as far as Psalm 16.
In Psalm 16, we hear this man say: "I have set the LORD always before Me: because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved" v.8. He does not say, like the fool in Psalm 14, ‘No, God’ v.1. Just listen to the difference: "I have set the LORD always before Me" v.8. In Psalm 14, "they are all gone aside" v.3. But the man in Psalm 16 says, "I shall not be moved" v.8. Who is this man? The answer lies in Acts chapter 2: "For David speaketh concerning Him, ‘I foresaw the LORD always before My face, For He is on My right hand, that I should not be moved’" vv.25-28. Psalm 16 is a Messianic Psalm. The Lord Jesus is the Speaker. It is one of those passages described by Peter: "Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them (i.e. the Old Testament prophets) did signify, when It testified (better, ‘testifying’ J.N.D.) beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" 1Pet.1.11.
Forgive such a lengthy digression, but it’s always good to think about Christ, is it not? Now we must think about Psalm 15 itself.
Once again, we are not told exactly why David wrote Psalm 15. The most likely occasion, so far as it is possible to judge, seems to be the transfer of the ark from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem. See 2Sam.6.17, "And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle (tent) that David had pitched for it". There certainly does seem to be a similarity of language between this passage and the opening verse of Psalm 15: "LORD, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?"
There is a striking similarity between Psalm 15 and Psalm 24. As J.M. Flanigan points out ("What the Bible Teaches – Psalms"), "This short Psalm is composed of a question and an answer, and the sentiments expressed bear a close resemblance to the questions and answers of Psalm 24. References to the holy hill and to the house are to be found in each Psalm, and the descriptions of the moral fitness of Jehovah’s guests in His house are also very much alike."
There are three sections to the Psalm:
The Holiness of God’s Presence, v.1
The Fitness Needed for God’s Presence, vv.2-5a
The Stability of the Man who is Fit for God’s Presence, v.5b.
In this paper we will consider the first section, and then in the next paper, Lord Willing, we will look at the second and third sections.
THE HOLINESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE - v.1
The Psalm commences on a very happy note. God has not banned mankind from His presence. People can "abide in [His] tabernacle" and "dwell in [His] holy hill". As we shall see, this requires a high standard of life and conduct, but the fact remains that, given the right conditions, men can enjoy God’s presence. This does not, for one moment, lessen the sacred character of the privilege. It is "Thy tabernacle" and "Thy holy hill".
This is in itself quite wonderful. Man was created with the capacity for fellowship with God, and to enjoy the presence of God. This much, and much more, is implicit in the statement, "And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’" Gen.1.26. This happy situation was destroyed by sin, so much so that 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" Gen.3.8. But sin did not destroy God’s intentions. "Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" Ex.25.8. But the purpose of God in creating the human race awaits ultimate and complete fulfilment, hence Rev.21.3, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them …" But we can enjoy the presence of God now in a way unknown even by privileged Israel: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus ... let us draw near" Heb.10.19-22.
But what characterises the presence of God? It is "Thy holy hill". We must never forget that. We’ve already noticed the emphasis in Heb.10.19, "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus". It is also important to remember that the local assembly is "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 shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" 1Cor.3.16,17. It is worth remembering that in its immediate context these solemn words refer to the divisions that had emerged at Corinth. Anyone who divides an assembly is guilty of defiling (marring) the "temple of God".
But what about the double-emphasis in v.1? Read it again: "LORD, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?" The word "abide" is really ‘sojourn’ J.N.D., and paints the picture of a guest (see Ex.12.48,49: "when a stranger shall sojourn with thee … the stranger that sojourneth among you"), while the word "dwell" stresses citizenship. That should make good material for discussion. Can you be a guest and a citizen at the same time? Or can you be engaged in a wilderness journey (after all that is where tents were used, wasn’t it?: see Heb.11.9), and at the same time be settled permanently on a hill? Makes you think, does it not! No doubt you will refer to 1Pet.2.11: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims"; with Phil.3.20: "our conversation is in heaven"; Eph.2.19: "fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God"; and Heb.12.22: "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem".
We shall now consider Levi: the man; the tribe; and, given the close association of the tribal leaders and the subsequent tribal history, Simeon and Levi: the lessons.
LEVI - THE MAN
Jacob’s third son was also born to Leah, the unloved. "And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, ‘Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have borne him three sons:’ therefore was his name called Levi [joined]" Gen.29.34. Leah’s aspiration for a closer emotional relationship with Jacob is again disappointed; there is no joining of minds or deepening affection.
Levi’s early years are passed over in silence. He next appears in the sad and sordid events recorded for us in Genesis chapter 34. We have already considered these events in Paper No.5 in relation to "Simeon - the man", so there is no need for rehearsal here. The only additional point to note is that when Scripture refers to their joint deception and cruelty their names are recorded as "Simeon and Levi", in birth order. While Levi was the younger, there is no indication that he was ‘easily led’ or that he was less blameworthy. Simeon and Levi were equal partners in their cruelty.
We should take a moment to reflect on the potential of friendships. Everyone has a circle of acquaintances and, usually, a smaller group of friends. Acquaintances generally have a lesser impact upon us, while friends share greater intimacy and their effect is more profound. Stalwart spiritual friends are a force for good, giving positive encouragement, support and counsel. The opposite can apply where a friendship becomes detrimental and corrosive. May we be preserved from friendships of the Simeon and Levi character which, within the one brotherhood, had the capacity for division and destruction.
LEVI - JACOB’S PROPHECY
In Paper No.5, we considered the implications of Jacob’s conjoined prophetic utterance: "Simeon and Levi are brethren; Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; Unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: For in their anger they slew a man, And in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel" Gen.49.5-7.
We are told "the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years" Ex.6.16. It was a long time to live with the memory of murderous cruelty in early life, with the memory of his father’s censure and surely with some knowledge that "God requireth that which is past" Eccl.3.15.
However, reference to Levi’s sons associated with those journeying to Egypt with Jacob indicates God’s providential dealings and future intentions: "And the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari" Gen.46.11. Levi’s progeny restored the family name from opprobrium, as we shall see later.
LEVI - THE TRIBE
Let us now consider the history of the tribe, although it is not possible in these papers to provide character studies of the many persons in Scripture associated with this tribe. Similarly, space precludes any detailed digression into associated tabernacle or temple studies, or exposition of the book of Leviticus.
Levi soon features in the panorama of Divine purpose: "And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months" Ex.2.1,2. So starts the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The home of Amram and Jochebed produced a Miriam, an Aaron and a Moses. It is interesting that "the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years" Ex.6.20, exactly the same length as that of his tribal head, Ex.6.16. But surely Amram and Jochebed, as they looked back over their life with its trials and difficulties, had no regrets by giving God first place. Their joining in matrimony and exercise brought blessing, which should be the spiritual objective of every marriage of believers today.
LEVI - IN THE WILDERNESS
Decisions subsequent to making the golden calf set the true course for the tribe of Levi. The events recorded in Exodus chapter 32 demonstrate that the best of men (Aaron) can fail; and that there is a close association with idolatry and licentiousness. "And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:) then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Who is on the LORD’s side? Let him come unto me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him" Ex.32.25,26.
Levi not only gathered unto Moses in a public display of loyalty to God, but also demonstrably repudiated the sin of fellow Israelites. "And he [Moses] said unto them, ‘Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.’ And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men" Ex.32.27,28. Jacob’s prophecy in relation to the division of Levi from Simeon, and indeed other tribes, is beginning to be fulfilled. While Levi is again associated with the sword, here it is used for the honour of God under the direction of godly rule. It is no longer used in angry self will, but to serve the Lord’s interests.
The census position in relation to Levi is different from that of the other tribes: "But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them. For the LORD had spoken unto Moses, saying, ‘Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel,: but thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony ...’" Num.1.47-50. Levites who were opposed to fellow Israelites when they sinned are to support fellow Israelites when worshipping! Jacob’s prophecy continues to be progressively fulfilled.
In addition, their tents are pitched closer to the tabernacle than all other tribes: "But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony" Num.1.53. They protect their brethren from the risk associated with inadvertent trespass by any stranger into the realm of the sacred, Num.1.51. They are also in the midst of the tribes when on the move, following behind Judah (with Issachar and Zebulun) and Reuben (with Simeon and Gad), Num.2.17.
This tribe is also separated and sanctified: "Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him … And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel" Num.3.6-9. The special status of this consecrated tribe is also delineated: "And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine" Num.3.12. The names of the principal Levitical families (Gershonites, Kohathites, and Merarites) with their specific roles in relation to tabernacle service are also provided in Numbers chapter 3. They will be a dedicated and industrious tribe under priestly supervision: "And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall be chief over the chief of the Levites, and have the oversight of them that keep the charge of the sanctuary" Num.3.32.
Only after these duties, responsibilities and privileges are detailed are we told that of the Levites, "all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand" Num.3.39. (Remember the males of other tribes are numbered "from twenty years old and upward" Num.1.3.) Potential for Levitical service starts early, at one month old. Do we view our children in the same way, as having potential for service in the work of the Lord, or do we harbour other aspirations that they might be ‘someone important’ in this world? Children in the tribe of Levi knew from an early age that they had a different destiny and privilege to other children. They would learn by example in the home and observing the specific responsibilities of their parents. And today, what is learned in early life from God-fearing parents, grandparents, or other relations or mentors, has a bearing on subsequent usefulness for God. Our children should also be learning, even in unsaved days, from their attendance at all assembly gatherings. This represents a contemporary challenge to Christian parents.
We have the numbering of "all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward", a total of 22,273, Num.3.40-51. These are replaced by 22,000 Levites, with an additional financial contribution of 5 shekels apiece redemption money being paid to Aaron and his sons in respect of the 273 disparity, i.e. 1,365 shekels. Only those in the good of redemption can worship and serve; and there is ever a premium price on "true worshippers … for the Father seeketh such to worship Him" Jn.4.23. Remember the only place where ‘service’ comes before ‘worship’ is in the English dictionary! No brother should be engaged in preaching, whose tongue is not employed among the saints in thanksgiving and worship.
Specific and important Levitical tasks were to be performed by men "from thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old" Num.4.3,23,30. Service, even today, requires mature spiritual energy and strength. Too many believers are side-tracked between the ages of thirty and fifty by career progression, family distractions, leisure activities (and inactivity), etc. in what are the years of optimum opportunity. Failure of commitment and application to the range of assembly activities and responsibilities, particularly in these years, will lead to weakness in experience and maturity, with detrimental impact on leadership potential. Too many have dissipated their potential in the forlorn hope that they may, in retirement, be able to recover "the years that the locust hath eaten" Joel 2.25. While recovery and renewed application at any age is to be welcomed and encouraged, sadly the moral weight of their testimony may be reduced.
God could count on 8,580 Levites who were able to bear the weight of testimony in the years of their strength, Num.4.48. The question for us to consider is, "How many are there with these characteristics in ‘your’ assembly, neighbourhood or country today?" Can you be so counted? Also, are we encouraging and seeking to equip those who are younger to be able to succeed, and surpass, the current generation in spiritual capacity and strength?
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood" Acts 20.28. In assembly life today, shepherd care and spiritual commitment are all too often lacking.
FEED MY SHEEP
Addressing the apostolic band, perhaps on Mount Olivet, the majestic command of the risen Lord was "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel" Mk.16.15. His last recorded request of tender compassion was "feed My sheep" Jn.21.15-17.
"Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock" Ezek.34.2,3. God sought recovery of shepherd care in Israel. The flock was scattered because they had no shepherd. Oppressed by tyranny, scattered by misrule, impoverished because of neglect, they grew weak and sickly. False shepherds trod down the residue of the pastures, they fouled the water with their feet and they thrust aside with the shoulder: they "fed not My flock" Ezek.34.8.
Sheep wander; they will go through any gap and get lost in the next field. They are nervous creatures, easily startled; when one runs, they all run. Weighed down by their heavy fleece, when they get onto their backs they cannot get up. Helpless and soon sickly, they need constant care. In the east they are more light of foot so they could leap over rivers, climb slopes and rush into thickets. "I will feed My flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God" Ezek.34.15.
Shepherd care protects the flock from danger, preserves the flock together, provides the flock with pasture and pities the flock in its weakness. With over twenty years of assembly responsibility before going into full time service, you will allow the writer to say that, from experience, the work of a shepherd in the assembly is not easy. Young preachers without experience should not give lectures to elders, yet, are words of exhortation to overseers not necessary today? Some young believers leave the assembly, claiming that they are not being fed. That is no excuse for leaving; yet shepherds do have a responsibility to feed the flock. Some assembly Bible Readings are led by brethren who have not taken time to study the Scriptures in preparation for the meeting or even to feed their own souls. A non-teaching elder is a danger to the flock. From the Scriptures he should at least be able to show what he believes and why he believes it. Shepherd love and care should be shown to every believer. The most weak and troublesome may need to be carried on your back. Favouritism shown to some and a positive dislike to others will divide the flock. Do your best for "all the flock" Acts 20.28. The headline text to the elders of Ephesus begins, "Take heed to yourselves", which means they ought to be constantly maintaining a careful watch, to guard, themselves. The shepherd needs to be the example, he needs to lead from the front, not to administer a ‘three line whip’ from behind. When a brother has the confidence of the flock, they know that he has their welfare at heart and he can give teaching that they would not accept from others.
THE LITTLE FLOCK
"And to all the [little] flock". The true shepherd will have no favourites; his care will be inclusive of "all". "In [not "over": the preposition is en] the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers". The overseers [plural, from epi = "over", skopeo = "to look or watch"] need to keep a watchful eye on the flock and its welfare, with minds alert, not sleepy or careless to monitor the spiritual temperature of each, especially the weak, straying or indolent of the flock. Firm in their decisions based on the Word of God, they will retain the respect of the assembly. "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God" Heb.13.7. Contemplating attentively the example of the elders, an incentive will be left for the believers to imitate their holy living and conduct, and follow their teaching. Overseers will not be party rulers. Godly, Spirit-filled, elders are essential for the welfare of the little flock. Men whose heads are full of brains and whose pockets are full of money may be good businessmen but not so beneficial to the assembly. The assembly is a living organism to feed, not an organisation to manage. This requires men with love, discernment and wisdom, not natural ability or human management. There have been many sad happenings in assembly life which, with hindsight, might have been avoided had there been godly shepherd discernment to care, counsel, count, comfort and if necessary, correct.
"To feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood [the blood of His Own]". God Himself, in His Son, met the cost, stressing the price paid to acquire as a prize possession. This emphasises the value which God places upon "the little flock". In God’s assembly, nothing cheap will do.
Jacob "watered the flock", Moses "led the flock" and David "kept the sheep". These three shepherds took care of sheep that were not their own. David smote the lion because he loved the lamb. The Good Shepherd said, "I ... know My sheep, and am known of Mine" Jn.10.14.
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13.5
Hebrews and 1Peter are the only two epistles which deal with priesthood. Hebrews focuses on the perfect and permanent priesthood of the Lord Jesus; He it is Who bears our names upon His breast and, though pavilioned in splendour at the Father’s right hand, He "tends with sweet, unwearied care, the flock for which He bled."
Melchisidec and Aaron both lifted up their hands in blessing but neither of them had wounded hands. The wounded hands and feet of our Great High Priest bear testimony to the eternal value and efficacy of His once-for-all sacrifice to free us from the power and penalty of sin. These wounds are eloquent reminders of His matchless love for us. What a price He paid for us! He will never forsake or forget us and with confidence we can cast our every care on Him.
This changing world I cannot trust;
I need a friendship true and just;
One Friend alone can hope impart,
The "Friend of sinners" claims my heart.
He knoweth the way that I take. Job 23.10
Unmapped highways, an unfamiliar landscape, uncharted waters, sunlit peaks and valleys dark and deep; I have not gone this way heretofore; but "He knoweth the way that I take".
He is omniscient; He knows the end from the beginning; He is the One depicted in Dan.12.5-7 Who straddles the river of life, aware of all its mysterious meanderings and views its entire course. He knows what is around the next corner; He sees what lies on the farther side of the steep hill I am climbing.
He knows for He has been here; He has faced the problems and He has suffered pain. He was maligned, misunderstood and misrepresented. Did not the prophet wonder as he wrote, "He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief …" Isa.53.3? He knows, He cares and "He is able to succour them that are tempted" Heb.2.18.
Thou knowest all things and I’m glad ‘tis so;
On this I rest through life’s strange ebb and flow,
Chapter 1 is characterised by the amount of information it contains about Paul and the assembly at Philippi. This emerges as he explains why he is so attached to them. First of all he observes they had been supportive of him from the start, 1.5. Paul had brought the gospel to Philippi, Acts 16.12, along with Silas. It would appear that Luke was with them during the time spent there (see the use of "we" and "us" in Acts chapter 16 indicating that the author of Acts was with them). Two conversions mentioned in that chapter both result in offers of hospitality, Acts 16.15,34. This warm friendship and fellowship seems to have continued after the assembly was planted.
His affection for them is very clear, 1.3,7, and made prayer for them a joyful experience, 1.4. The letter may well have been written because of their concern about his state in prison and the attitude the Imperial Court had taken to the charge that the gospel he preached was contrary to Roman Law, 1.7; Acts 25.8.1 Unlike other letters there is no indication in Philippians that they were opposed to Paul in any way or had questions about his teaching.
1. Roman Law was tolerant of religion provided it did not undermine Roman interests. It is possible that the issue Paul faced was whether Christianity was an offshoot of Judaism which Roman Law permitted and if it was, whether it undermined the authority of Caesar in any way.
At the end of the letter, 4.15, he acknowledges that after he left Philippi they maintained their interest in him by sending fellowship to support his work. The letter is in part an acknowledgement of another gift sent to him while he was in prison, 4.18.
The Furtherance Of The Gospel
The chapter summarises Paul’s circumstances in Rome. He does not say much about his appeal or its prospects of success. He is, however, concerned about the effect his imprisonment was having on the Christians in Rome. By this time there were assemblies in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, but some of the Christians, it seems, were opposed to Paul and wanted to upset him, 1.15,16. Generally we should be wary of judging other people’s motives, but here it seems Paul knew their motive. Paul knew that they were preaching the gospel so as to upset him. Why they thought Paul would be upset is unspecified. Perhaps they thought that he was only happy if he was preaching? He makes it clear that his main interest is not the motive of the preacher but the proclamation of the gospel, 1.18.
The section between vv.20-26 sets out Paul’s raison d’être. We can learn valuable lessons by examining his motivations. Paul explains that the possibility of death (by execution) does not concern him, 1.23, if that is God’s will. He explains that his dominant reason for living is to honour Christ, 1.21. While death involved loss, e.g. loss of life for him, loss of his influence for the Philippians, 1.24, it also meant gain, 1.21. He would gain a reward for his service; he would gain eternal life in its fullest sense; he would gain the presence of the Saviour, 1.23. He explains that he is torn in two. He, in a sense, would welcome a guilty verdict since he would be executed and "depart … to be with Christ; which is far better" 1.23, but on the other hand the Philippians would be very upset and he would be unable to build up their faith, 1.25, by visiting them again. While he is confident he will return to the Philippians, 1.25, which implies that he expects his appeal to be successful, he also acknowledges the possibility of death, 1.20. He also regards that as a good outcome.
The Faith Of The Gospel
At the end of the chapter he gives some explicit teaching. He instructs the Philippians to live in a way that is consistent with the gospel, and in particular to be united as they worked to bring the gospel to the world, 1.27. In particular he warns them not to be intimidated by their opponents, 1.28. Suffering, as his experience in prison proved, was a privilege since it was endured for the sake of Christ. When he writes that it is "given" to the Christian "to believe" he is not teaching that God gave the faith to believe in the same way that a gift is thrust into the hand of an unsuspecting child. As He permits suffering to enter the believer’s life we may accept it as a gift, not a grief. So too He gives us the privilege of believing in Him not merely at conversion but every step of the Christian life thereafter.
PHILIPPIANS CHAPTER 2
The Ingredients of Unity - vv.1,2
The chapter opens with a plea from Paul. His desire is that the assembly should remain united, v.2. Unity covers a variety of matters. An assembly may be united in its beliefs but at variance over personal issues. True unity exists where there is both unity in doctrine and in personal relations. The only overt sign of disunity in the letter is his reference to the rift between Euodias and Syntyche, 4.2. Paul does not state what had caused their difference. However, it is probable that experience told the apostle that a minor rift can widen and lead to a split in the assembly. V.1 lists the characteristics that will preserve unity. These include love for our fellow-believers and the supply of help from God through the Spirit. The word "mind" appears frequently in vv.1-8. It means "attitude" or "spirit" as opposed to IQ. The key is to have the proper attitude to one another. If we love our fellow-believers and if the Spirit is working among us we can live in unity.
The Inspiration for Unity - vv.3-11
He then writes about the Lord Jesus and shows that He was characterised by humility, v.5. The Lord Jesus was never in assembly fellowship but He knew that self-sacrifice was necessary in order to bring blessing to others. Thus He was willing to veil the privileges of Deity and become a man. For example, as God in heaven He could not have known tiredness or hunger but as a baby and a man He did. In heaven He was revered as the Son of God, on earth He took on the "form of a servant" i.e. humanity, and endured all its restrictions so that the blessing of others might be procured. The ultimate example of His selflessness was the crucifixion. Although it is strictly not necessary to his argument Paul goes on to show that His selfless attitude resulted in recognition and prominence. As a result of His submission to death He was resurrected and exalted and acclaimed as Lord. The restrictions He undertook were temporary and were replaced in exaltation. He had been the Son of God eternally but as Jesus, the Son of Man, He was acclaimed as "Lord" i.e. of the same status as Jehovah.
The Importance of Unity - vv.12-18
Paul knew that the believers in Philippi had a high regard for him, v.18, and as he rejoiced in their faith so they rejoiced in him. He had never had any reason to rebuke them for disobedience, v.12. Since they cared for him he knew they would listen to him. While he had not come from heaven or been crucified, he had given his life sacrificially for the Christians, v.17. Some think that the predicament was so severe that the whole church needed "salvation", i.e. deliverance from destruction of the testimony through division, v.12, but this goes further than the text of the letter permits. There are problems but the assembly is not so far gone as to require salvation from division. Paul’s teaching was designed to avert rather than cure a break down of testimony. He teaches them that they should "work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling". Here he is teaching that they should "work out" the implications of their faith, v.17. The proper spirit for Christian living is "fear and trembling" v.12, and an acknowledgement that we are dependent on God, v.13. We must aspire to want what He wants and do what He wants. His admonition that they should not quarrel or criticise, v.14, gets to the heart of the issue in Philippi. Perhaps Paul knew that if things were not resolved their testimony would be ruined, v.15. Unity is therefore an important indicator that an assembly is in a good spiritual state.
The Interests of Unity - vv.19-24
Paul knew that the assembly needed support. In those days the churches were widely scattered. There was no network of assemblies and to have visiting speakers from other assemblies was probably unknown. Paul therefore sought to direct some of those he worked with to the assembly so that they would help it out. Timothy was someone he knew would help them. Although Paul’s position in Rome was difficult he knew that it was in the interests of the Philippians that someone should help them. Hence, although he would have benefited if Timothy had remained with him, he proposed to send him to them. This is an example of the selflessness Paul has been writing about.
The Illustration of Unity - vv.25-30
In this section Paul informs the Philippians about Epaphroditus who, it seems, had carried a letter (and gift, 4.18) from the Philippians to Paul in Rome ("your messenger" v.25) but had taken unwell when there. It must have been a serious illness, v.27, but he had recovered. He was not, it seems, an eminent brother since Paul encourages them to give him the respect he deserved, v.29. However, he was an example from their own company of the attitude that would preserve the assembly from division. He had not put his own interests first, v.30, and had suffered as a result, v.27. He was more anxious about others than himself, v.26. These characteristics would, if practised by everyone, have a unifying influence.
Written around A.D.62 or 63, it is a prison epistle, along with Ephesians, Philippians and Philemon. Tychicus carried the Ephesian and Colossian letters along with Onesimus, according to Col.4.7-9.
Geography of Colosse
The town of Colosse was located overlooking the Lycus River valley in central Asia Minor and was about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. Colosse was in declension as a town about the time of writing.
The Assembly at Colosse
Epaphras was probably the founding member of the assembly. He came to visit Paul in prison and, according to the Epistle to Philemon, became imprisoned with him. He gave Paul the report of the conditions and the progress of the believers. This caused Paul to write the epistle.
The error they faced was a mixture of Judaism (Jewish Law), Gnosticism (claim for special knowledge) and asceticism (severe self-discipline).
Outline of the Epistle
Chapter 1 – Intercession, and the Exaltation of the Lord Jesus
Chapter 2 – Correction of errors being propagated
Chapter 3 – Exhortations
Chapter 4 – Salutations
Introduction – vv.1,2
Paul begins by stating his credentials as an apostle of the risen Christ. As such he was distinct from the twelve who were apostles of the Lamb, Rev.21.14. His apostleship was to the Gentiles while Peter was the apostle of the circumcision (Jews), Gal.2.8. Paul was the last apostle in this sense, according to 1Cor.15.8. Note there are those, like Barnabas, described as apostles of the Church, but not in the same sense or with the same authority as the Twelve or Paul. Paul was made an apostle as a direct result of the active will of God in his life.
Next he speaks about his associate in the work, Timothy who was a younger believer and likely converted under Paul’s preaching. Described as "the brother", Timothy was no doubt exemplary of all that a brother should be. Paul now turns to the addressees, whom he calls "saints", which simply means sanctified ones, or those made holy through the work of Christ. They are also "faithful brethren", which may simply be underlining their position as those who have placed faith in the Lord Jesus or else is emphasising their trustworthiness and reliability. The customary greetings are offered, with grace to experience as Divine help and peace to enjoy in fellowship with Divine Persons.
Appreciation – vv.3-8
Paul writes, "We give thanks", and so ought we. There is thanksgiving in every chapter of this letter, either by example or exhortation. In 1.3,12 it is to Whom we give thanks. In 2.7 it is how we abound in thanksgiving. In 3.15,17 thanksgiving is to govern our attitude of heart and life. In 4.2 thanksgiving is a necessary ingredient in every prayer. Are we a people filled with gratitude to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? This title is used six times in the New Testament and emphasises the unique relationship in which God has been made known to us today. What Epaphras told Paul about the Colossians exercised him to be consistently surrounding them with his prayers. Epaphras had spoken of their faith in the heavenly Person of Jesus Christ, their love towards a heavenly people, the other believers, and their hope which was reserved in heaven itself, where it could not be assailed. Hendriksen has written, "Christian hope is not mere wishing. It is a fervent, yearning, confident expectation and patient waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises. There is a full Christ-centred assurance that these promises will be realised." This hope strengthens faith and stimulates love as these graces interact with each other. This hope he says is reserved for you: kept safe and secure in the very place to which they were destined.
Note that the word of the truth of the gospel came to them before the errors propagated by men, v.5. The veracity and reliability of the gospel is underlined. This gospel which goes out into all the world is effectual in every place it reaches. The gospel had been fruitful amongst the Colossians both in conversion and also in producing their character by forming the graces to which Paul has already referred.
It was through Epaphras that they had learned the gospel truths. He had preached and instructed them, being instrumental in laying the foundation of the assembly at Colosse and also at Hierapolis and Laodicea. Epaphras was a fellow-servant, a faithful minister and 4.12 tells us he was one of them (a Colossian), a servant of Christ who had a great zeal and laboured fervently in prayer for them. Paul reveals that Epaphras had made evident through his expressive words their Spirit-filled love. What a man of God Epaphras was!
Be thankful for:
Christian graces: faith, love and hope
Out of his thanksgiving flows earnest prayer for the Colossians. It is a good thing to examine our prayer life to determine whether it is healthy and regular. Paul speaks of the cause of his prayers, the continuity of his prayers and the content of his prayers. It was what he heard about them, no doubt from Epaphras, that caused him to pray for them. Does what we hear about other believers give us a cause to pray for their further spiritual development? Unceasing continuous prayer is difficult to practise and demands discipline in practical living but Paul was attentive to this. Praying was not just on a whim; for Paul it came from strong desires and was time spent asking God for an increase in the lives of others. Notice what Paul prayed for the Colossians:
Enlightenment in relation to God’s will, v.9
Enlargement in their practical walk, v.10
Empowerment in their witness, v.11.
The knowledge of His will is meant to be experiential and not just theoretical. How do we get to know God’s will for us? Through prayer, by His Word, through circumstances, by the Spirit’s leading and by submission and obedience to His hand upon us. Two qualities accompany this knowledge of His will:
Wisdom – the application of knowledge. Note then that it is not enough to know God’s will: we must apply it and work it out in our lives.
Spiritual understanding – comprehension, Divinely given, about the spiritual import of matters.
So then, knowing God’s will undoubtedly affects my walk, according to v.10. Consequently we must walk worthily, pleasingly and fruitfully. To "walk worthy" means to behave in a becoming fashion and in an appropriate manner for someone who acknowledges Christ as Lord! Notice that the pleasure is superlative ("all pleasing"), which involves giving complete satisfaction to the Lord Jesus. Then, am I a fruit-bearing Christian? The context here shows that good works are an opportunity to bear fruit for Him. The consequence of living in such a manner is that growth and development will spontaneously take place and my knowledge of God will correspondingly increase as well. We will be enlarged as believers. Observe: the knowledge of His grace, v.6; the knowledge of His will, v.9; and the knowledge of Himself, v.10.
Next there is empowerment in v.11 as we are "strengthened with all might". J.N. Darby (in the notes with his translation) says that this is, literally, "made powerful with all power". There is nothing meagre with God and He energises His people in accordance with His unlimited glory. What does God supply this power for? Firstly, it is with a view to patience: the ability to bear up under pressure and the ill-will of persons opposed to us and not to give in easily. Secondly, longsuffering: the quality that shows self-restraint and does not retaliate. Thirdly, it enables an inner joyfulness to be expressed in all circumstances. In v.12 there is thanksgiving again to the Father, Who equips us even in adversity to be competent to participate in the inheritance given to the saints and enjoyed by those who have been brought into the light. This is true spiritual enrichment as a result of our deliverance from the authority of the powers that dominate the darkness and our translation into the kingdom of the Son of His love. This happened once for all at the moment of our conversion.
Whenever He mentions the Son of God, Paul cannot refrain from expanding on the greatness of His work and the glories of His Person. That is why he speaks of our redemption and forgiveness in v.14. The ransom has been paid in precious blood and we have now become His possession. How blessed to be forgiven and to know that our sins can never be recalled against us because of the work of Christ at Calvary!
Introductory note on the Creation
God created all things through Jesus Christ. How did the Son of God create all things? In Gen.1.1 the word "create" means to make something out of nothing. With what then did He make all things? We are told in Ps.33.6,9: "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made … He spake, and it was done". 2Pet.3.5 says, "By the word of God the heavens were of old". It was by the power of His spoken word that creation was accomplished.
In the description of God’s creative acts in Genesis chapter 1, we have the phrase "And God said" six times, vv.9,11,14,20,24,26! Note God did not just start a process: He created the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, animals, the atmosphere, seas, trees, all vegetation and man and woman!
"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God" Heb.11.3.
God made unconditional covenants with Abraham. The promises made in these covenants include blessings for his descendants regarding possession of a land, glory and pre-eminence among the nations, and future blessings for all nations through the Jewish people, Gen.12.1-3; 13.14-17; 15.18. The Jews are God’s chosen earthly people, and His promises to the nation of Israel are unchanging and unalterable, for "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" Rom.11.29.
The nation rejected the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, Jn.1.11. Nevertheless, many Jews have been saved. They have been saved in the only way anyone can be saved, and that is by grace through faith in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, Eph.2.8. At the present time, the majority of the nation of Israel still reject the Messiah, Rom.11.7,8,25, but God has not "cast away His people" Rom.11.1,2. God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled. God is omnipotent: He is sovereign, and His sovereignty is absolute and unchanging. The sovereign will of the "God of all grace" 1Pet.5.10, will be done despite appearances, the opposition of men and the swelling tide of anti-Semitism.
As a result of the salvation of souls, we now have three classes of people in the world: these are Jews, Gentiles and the Church, 1Cor.10.32. Those Jews who have been saved are, together with saved Gentiles, part of the Body of Christ, the Church. On the day of Pentecost the Church was baptised in the Holy Spirit by the Lord Jesus, into one body, 1Cor.12.13. The Church is not found in the Old Testament, for it was a "mystery" until revealed by the apostle Paul, Eph.3.1-10; Col.1.26; Rom.16.25. The Church, the Body of Christ, is a heavenly people with a heavenly inheritance. The nation of Israel is an earthly people with an earthly inheritance. Led by the Holy Spirit, Paul, a Jew, wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" Rom.1.16. Saved Jews and Gentiles are "all one in Christ Jesus" Gal.3.28. The Lord has broken down "the middle wall of partition" between them, Eph.2.14.
HAS THE CHURCH REPLACED ISRAEL?
Following the rise of Israel as a nation in 1948, many Jews returned to the Land, but in unbelief, and the vast majority of the nation have not recognised the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah. The recent revival of memories of the Holocaust together with the present Palestinian-Israeli conflict have combined to cause many believers to pay particular attention to the future of Israel. Some believers teach that the promises God made to Israel no longer apply to that nation. They argue that, in His plans, Israel has been replaced by the Church and therefore there is no future for Israel, and the promises God made to Israel now apply to the Church. However, the Jews are God’s chosen people, and the promise He made to Abraham in Gen.12.3, still stands: "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed".
The sovereign, faithful God chose the nation for His own glory and the blessing of all nations. The holy Scriptures were entrusted to Israel, Rom.3.1,2, and the nation should have borne witness to the idol-worshipping nations around. Israel was God’s elect nation, and the only begotten, eternal, beloved Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was born as a Jew to glorify God His Father and make it possible for Jews and Gentiles to be saved, Matt.1.1; Gal.4.4,5.
In electing grace, the sovereign God chose believers "in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" Eph.1.4. God "will have all men to be saved" 1Tim.2.4 and so the Lord Jesus, "the Saviour of the world", was sent by God the Father, 1Jn.4.14; Jn.4.42. When the Lord was on the cross, God punished Him for the sins of the whole world, 1Jn.2.2; Jn.1.29, but not all people are saved. For the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus to be effective for a sinner, the sinner must repent and put his faith in the Lord, believing that He suffered, bled and died, suffering the punishment our sins deserve from God. At the Rapture, the completed Church, consisting of all those Jews and Gentiles who have been saved, whether they are alive at that time or have passed through death, will be taken to be with the Lord for ever, 1Thess.4.16,17. Those left on the earth will be either Jews or Gentiles: the Church will have been taken away.
At the present time, Israel is blinded, Rom.11.7,8. This blindness is only temporary, and in the future a remnant of the nation will repent and be saved. God has, by His grace, always had a faithful remnant of believing people, Rom.11.5,6, as He had in Elijah’s time when He had seven thousand in Israel who had not worshipped Baal, 1Kgs.19.18; Rom.11.4. During the coming Tribulation, there will be a remnant among those who will have returned to the land who will turn to the Lord Jesus. This faithful remnant will be saved and will witness that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah, Rev.7.3-8. Some will suffer martyrdom, Rev.6.9-11, but the survivors will go into the millennial kingdom, Zech.12.6-13.9.
At the end of this Tribulation, Jerusalem will be surrounded by her enemies and the Lord will return in glory, with the Church, to deliver His people, Zech.14.2-4. Then they will say, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" Lk.13.35. Israel will be blessed by God and will be foremost and leader among the nations, Deut.28.13. The time period when "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" Lk.21.24, will have come to an end.
The nation of Israel has rejected the Messiah but has not been set aside permanently, "but rather through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy" Rom.11.11. The gospel has gone to the Gentiles with unimaginable blessing for untold numbers of people. Paul speaks of the breaking off of some of the branches of the olive tree, and branches of the "wild olive tree", that is, Gentiles, being grafted into the olive tree, Rom.11.17, the olive tree being the line and place of privilege and favour.
There is a wonderful future ahead for a repentant, redeemed Israel: the Church has not replaced Israel. The nation has been set aside temporarily but the promises made by the ever faithful God in the covenant He made with Abraham still stand. When Israel is restored to the Lord, blessings will flow through her to all nations during the Millennium, Rom.11.12,15. In the Millennium, the Church will reign with the Lord Jesus Christ in righteousness, peace and prosperity, 2Tim.2.12; Israel will experience unprecedented blessing, Ezekiel chapter 37, Acts 3.19, and Gentiles will enjoy blessing and peace, Isa.11.10.
Flowing between the Temple Mount of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives lies a small stream, the brook Cedron, called in the Old Testament Kidron. We will see that it is mentioned in association with three men: David, Hezekiah and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness ... And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up" 2Sam.15.23,30.
David’s son Absalom had stolen the hearts of the men of Israel forcing David to flee from Jerusalem. Just as he approached the brook, Ittai came to him wishing to accompany him. He had only recently become one of David’s men, but displays his affection saying "in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be" 2Sam.15.21. Nothing would dissuade him from being with the king. It is touching to see this devotion, and we should ask ourselves: do we show the same loyalty and faithfulness to the Lord Jesus, in this day of His rejection?
Then we see Zadok and others bring the Ark of the Covenant with them. David displays a true understanding of the mind of God: the only place for the Ark was in Jerusalem, whatever the circumstance. David was prepared to leave his case with God as to whether he himself would return again to the city, but, whatever his future, the Ark was to remain there.
Having crossed over the brook, David commences his ascent of the Mount and we see a third man, Hushai, desiring to join David. Again David refuses, sending Hushai back to Jerusalem in order to thwart the dangerous counsels of one of Absalom’s advisers, Ahithophel. Hushai showed the same affection for David as Ruth had for Naomi, her mother-in-law: "And Ruth said, ‘Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me’" Ruth 1.16,17. Though he had wanted to go with David, Hushai accepted David’s request that he go back to the city, and work for him there. He was prepared to undergo difficulties and dangers in the cause of David, right where his foes were. We too are to be of service to our absent King, here in the very place where He is the object of the enmity of sinners.
"And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron" 2Chr.30.14.
Hezekiah’s predecessor, Ahaz, was one of the most wicked kings that Judah had ever known. He imposed idolatrous practices upon the people, setting up idols and pagan altars throughout the land and going as far as to burn his own sons in the fire. We read how he destroyed the vessels of the house of God, shut the doors of the temple, and when he died he was buried in the city but not with the other kings of Israel.
How refreshing it is to read of Hezekiah’s zeal for God. The first thing he did was to open and repair the doors of the temple, thus allowing access into the sanctuary. As we read of his life, we see that he sought to put God first in the affairs of the nation. Do we put God first in our life? This is the principle seen in 1Sam.2.30: "For them that honour Me I will honour."
Satan would, metaphorically speaking, seek to close the doors of the temple, to prevent access into the presence of God. Over the centuries, through persecution, ignorance and scorn, he has sown doubt and disbelief in the hearts of men but he has never been able to banish the spread of the Word of God and the precious truth that the Lord Jesus is the Door, by Whom men, in all confidence, are able to draw near to God. May God help us always to be among those who hold tenaciously to the whole counsel of God, who practise and teach it, and who, like Hezekiah, zealously repudiate all that is contrary to Divine truth.
THE LORD’S DETERMINATION
"When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples" Jn.18.1.
This reference to the Lord Jesus crossing the Cedron reminds us of His ancestor, David, having crossed it so many years before. In both cases the rightful king had been rejected by his own people, and was leaving with a band of faithful followers. On both occasions, the atmosphere was heavy with sorrow. However, for David, the exile was temporary, and a day came when he returned to the city and was welcomed by it. The same is true of the One Who left it on the night of His betrayal, as recorded by John. A blessed day is coming when its people will acclaim Him with the words, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" Matt.23.39.
Amongst the gardens mentioned in the Scriptures, there are two that come to mind. The first is the garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve transgressed and by their sin brought the whole of humanity with them into condemnation so that we read that "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Rom.3.23.
The second is Gethsemane, where the Saviour, conscious of what awaited Him, entered the garden to pray prior to the events leading up to His crucifixion. Unlike Adam and Eve, who, in Eden, went against God’s will, He was determined to do the Father’s will, accepting the suffering of the cross, being forsaken by God and bearing the terrible burden of our guilt. What a blessed contrast there is between the terrible consequences of the disobedience of that first couple, seen in Eden, and the unswerving devotion to the will of God shown by our blessed Lord in Gethsemane!
The endless wars, conflicts, and injustices we see in the world today only prove what the Bible has always declared concerning mankind: "The way of peace have they not known" Romans 3.17.
All efforts to achieve lasting peace fail miserably because the root of the problem is not dealt with. God alone has the solution to the problem of peace - not only for nations, but also for you. He has successfully dealt with the root cause of all turmoil - sin.
Now He offers sure and lasting peace for both the heart and conscience through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the comforting words of Jesus: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" John 14.27.
HOW CAN PEACE BE MADE?
Man can never "make his peace with God." Peace cannot be purchased or earned, nor can our tears, prayers, and resolutions ever make peace with Him. However, what we could not do, God has done perfectly and eternally!
"Having made peace through the blood of His cross" Colossians 1.20. What is it that has made peace? It is the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, on the cross bore, "the chastisement of our peace" Isaiah 53.5. There, the full penalty of God’s judgment against sin fell upon our spotless Substitute. Then, as a sign of His acceptance of Christ’s perfect work, God raised up Christ Jesus from the dead. Peace has been made!
HOW CAN YOU POSSESS PEACE?
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" Romans 5.1. It is one thing for peace to have been made, but it is another thing for this peace to be possessed. It is peace for all mankind, but not possessed by all mankind. This peace must be received, and here is where faith comes in.
Faith takes God at His word. First, it acknowledges one’s lost and ruined condition: "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3.23. Next, faith accepts Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour by trusting in Him Who died and rose again to put away sin. All who believe on Him receive this blessed peace. It can be yours to possess - today!
When we rest our faith upon Jesus Christ, we get much more than just a feeling of peace; we begin a real, eternal relationship with God. Instead of being under wrath and subject to judgment, the believer is accepted by God, becomes the object of His delight, and is looked upon as righteous before Him. Can you, dear reader, say, "I have peace with God"?
ARE YOU AT PEACE?
"He is our peace" Ephesians 2.14. Peace does not come from within ourselves. Peace comes from knowing Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. The believer has peace of conscience as to his sins, and peace of heart as to his circumstances. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace" John 16.33. Therefore, "Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace" Job 22.21.
"No man was found worthy … Thou art worthy". Revelation 5.4,9
When we see the unworthiness of ourselves and all others, the worthiness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ appears all the more glorious. Jacob said, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant" Gen.32.10. John said, "the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose" Lk.3.16. The centurion told Him, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee" Lk.7.6,7.
In Revelation chapter 5, it was not just on earth, but in heaven too, that "no man was found worthy" vv.3,4. Thankfully, however, John was not left to weep for long, for there was One Who was worthy, and soon he heard those glad words: "Thou art worthy … for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." What a work He has done, for us, the unworthy ones!
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" Proverbs 1.7
We live in a day when a high value is placed on the acquiring of knowledge, yet the great majority are totally wrong as to what true knowledge is, and how to attain it. "The fear of the LORD", reverence for Him, is the foundation upon which all true knowledge is built. Without this, any "knowledge" (so-called) is, at best, empty and useless. The "wise in this world" despise true wisdom, and the Divine means of obtaining it, but God calls them foolish, for so they are. May we ever live in the reverential fear of God, and not be swayed by the insidious influence of those who "professing themselves to be wise … became fools" Rom.1.22.
"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother" Proverbs 1.8
This verse is, of course, speaking of godly parents who teach their children the Word of God (as all Christian parents have a responsibility to do). Paul wrote to Timothy of "the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also" 2Tim.1.5. As children grow up, they face many influences that oppose what they learned from their parents. Have you had the privilege of being brought up under the instruction of believing parents, but are now in danger of rejecting the truth you learned in tender years? If so, then give heed to the words of this text. To do so will be for your unspeakable blessing, but to forsake the truth will be to your incalculable loss.