There is no truth of God in the New Testament that has the prominence given to it, that this truth of His coming again has. The coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ has been well called the “pole star” of the Church. When God graciously causes this blessed truth to take and hold a place in our hearts, it revolutionises our whole saved lives. We read our Bible in a way that was not before possible, which has led many to exclaim, “Why! I have got a new Bible.” It gives us an entirely new viewpoint of the things of earth, and it brings such a holy calm, peace, and rest into our lives, that is far better “felt than telt.” It draws out our affections to the Man at God’s right hand, our Saviour and Lord. It imparts to us a longing desire to see His face, and leads our hearts in response to His cry, “Behold, I come quickly,’ to cry out, “Even so come, Lord Jesus.” His coming for His Church is Personal; that is to say, He comes in Person for her. In the following Scriptures this fact is stated, “I come again” (John xiv: 3). You will notice in R.V. there is no “will.” The verb is not future, but present. This is so important, for it keeps the fact of His coming as a present hope in our hearts. Again, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven, &c. (1Thess. iv: 16). “We look for a Saviour” (Phil, iii: 20). The reader will readily think of other passages which establish this great truth—-the Personal return of our Lord.
Then this coming is titular, i.e., it is associated with His titles. When God brings Him before us as “Son of Man,” He does not want us to interpret it “Son of God,” and vice versa. No matter what the title may be, it is the same Blessed One; but it is God’s revealings of Him in different characteristics, relationships, and glories. His second advent is distinctly associated with His coming as “Son of Man:” His coming in manifested glories to Mount Olivet. This advent is Israel’s “hope.” The Old Testament is full of it, and it is to this coming the Synoptic Gospels refer.
But the Church’s hope is what the Old Testament knows nothing of. It is given by revelation in the New Testament. It is His coming not to earth, but into the clouds. It is secret and silent. It is for the Church which He calls “My Church.” She who is His body, that she might be His bride. It is her hope for “There is one Body and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. iv: 4). She who is built upon Him, not as “Son of Man,” but as Son of God (Matt, xvi: 16-18). She waits and looks for Him as such. The One whom having not seen she loves. The One, thank God. she will soon see, and be like Him, and be with Him for ever. See Him in His unveiled glory, with nothing for ever between. This is her Hope.
Repentance is treated in Holy Writ as the natural concomitant of faith. Hence the apostle preached to both Jews and Gentiles, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). What is this repentance? It may be defined as self-judgment or self-loathing. Now, seeing that we are all far more prone to judge others rather than ourselves, and to see other people’s sins more readily than our own, repentance, such as God looks for, must be, as faith, divinely wrought in the soul.
Perhaps the greatest preacher of repentance the world has ever known was John the Baptist. It was one of the most striking features of his testimony. His austere manner gave such offence to his contemporaries that they declared he had a demon. He was certainly a great leveller. All classes felt the sting of his words. Pharisees, punctilious in their religiousness though they were, winced under his stern denunciations of unreality. Sadducees also, who were characterised by their free handling of divine revelation, whereby they sought to eliminate from it all that is supernatural, trembled at the preacher’s burning words. John did not hesitate to call both Pharisees and Sadducees “a brood of vipers.” Yet, While doing this, he was by no means a companion of present-day Socialistic demagogues, who have eyes only for the sins of the rich and exalted; tax-gatherers, soldiers, and the common people in general all felt the severity of his lash in their turn.
The truth is that the whole human family, high and low, learned and unlearned, religious and irreligious, is by nature in a condition of alienation from God. Hence Paul’s statement when at Athens: “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30). For our help, we are furnished in the Scriptures with examples of repentance in persons drawn from all classes, both social and moral. Who is not familiar with the Miserere, Psalm 51? It is the confession of a king. Who has not heard of the words of sorrow for sin that were uttered in the ears of the dying Saviour at Calvary? It was the confession of a common thief. We recall also the wail of the upright Job, “Behold, I am vile;’’ and the lowly acknowledgement of the once self-righteous Paul that he was “the chief of sinners.”
It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). When the eyes of a man become opened to the truth concerning the God with whom we have to do, when all His love and grace pass in review before his soul, the natural pride and rebellion of his heart utterly gives way, and he is glad to lie in dust and ashes at His blessed feet. When the stupendous thought is grasped (fathomed it can never be), that God sacrificed His only-begotten Son for the putting away of our abominable sins and iniquities, even the most stout-hearted is constrained to yield. And what next? “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17).
Romans chapter sixteen impresses the reader with the courtesy extended by the Apostle Paul to the saints at Rome. Surely the assemblies of God’s people would profit if this virtue were more apparent in our dealings one with another. Paul was a servant with a warm heart for the children of God, this characteristic feature radiates from this portion. Is not this the atmosphere in which things are accomplished for God, without this there cannot be growth or fruit for God. Seldom does God use a coarse man or woman to do exploits, where courtesy and kindness are lacking there can be nothing but a contradiction of the message of Grace which we proclaim, this is a basic requirement in the servant’s inventory. Can it be otherwise, as recipients of love and kindness, beyond description, this must be reflected in the movements of those who would serve. Never let us forget, that this chapter, while expressing the personal feelings of Paul for his fellow believers, is part of the inspired word of God, and because of this, there is a lesson here for each of us.
It is worthy of note, that not once does the apostle mention material things, he was solely concerned with the spiritual welfare of his hearers, first things first, spiritual health is far more important than material prosperity.
This chapter, for the purpose of our study, could be divided as follows:
COMMENDATION (verses 1-2). This should be the criteria for all letters of commendation, therefore this is a scriptural letter. There are details outlined as to Christian character and service which are lost when the mass produced letter is used. The intelligence of those in fellowship is enlightened when such details are made known. Phoebe is described in a threefold way; firstly as a Sister, the Gospel elevated the status of women, and gave them the place that God intended that they should have, it is striking that Paul begins this chapter by naming a sister. There is no higher bond of relationship than that which is formed by the Grace of God (Mark 3:34), secondly as a Servant, do you know of a higher designation? The allocated sphere in which the sisters serve does not include the platform, but they have a most important place and role to fill in the assembly, how much we owe to the Phoebe’s and Priscilla’s. Thirdly she was known as a Succourer, Paul had experienced this quality. This word comes from the Greek word ‘prostatis’ which was a title given to a citizen of Athens whose job it was to attend to those without civic rights. (Vine). It has been suggested that Phoebe was a nurse working among the poor and needy, she certainly was held in high esteem. What attracts our service? Is it need?
This letter of commendation was not a mere ritual, but it had practical implications, these were two-fold; firstly, Receive her; this means to receive to one’s self, not a formalism, we tend to limit the receiving simply to the Remembrance Feast, when this is really into the fellowship of the assembly. Secondly, Assist her, ‘to place along side’ again ‘cause to stand’ to receive a stranger and be oblivious to the need that such a one could have, in the light of this letter is at fault, the responsibility of the assembly extends to daily living affecting our lives in the world as far as need is concerned. Would not this be more expressive of the meaning of the word fellowship?
EVALUATION (verses 3-15). Here we have a picture in miniature of the Bema of Christ, this would remind us that there is a day of reckoning and reward coming. Paul mentions three qualities displayed in the particular saints and which were worthy of such mention; firstly. Love, (v. 5, 8, 9 and 12), the importance of affection as being the medium in which growth is made and the work of God, prospered surely is emphasised in this passage. Secondly he mentions Labour, Mary ‘much labour’ (v. 6), Tryphosa ‘labour in the Lord’ (v. 12), and Persis who ‘laboured much’ (v. 12). Did the varying descriptive adjectives used by the apostle, upset those who were not mentioned? God forbid! Neither should the more abundant labours of others upset us! There is no hiding among those who are active, nor are there general descriptive terms used, but individual effort and energy is the deciding factor, the quality ‘of what sort it is’ (1Cor. 3:13) not ‘of what size it is.' The third quality mentioned is Loyalty, Priscilla and Aquilla, (v. 3), the sister’s name is mentioned first here where grace is in view, but in 1Cor. 16:19 where they send a salutation the brother’s name comes first. Andronicus and Junia in v. 7, seemingly relatives of Paul, ‘in Christ before me' this would teach us that Paul respected Christian seniority, a much neglected attitude today. Rufus, ‘his mother and mine’ reputedly the son of Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross of the Saviour (Matt. 27:32). Little wonder the maternal instincts of this dear sister went beyond her own family circle. Loyalty was appreciated by Paul inasmuch as it was firstly unto Him.
DENUNCIATION (verse 17), Paul's exhortation ‘Mark them which cause divisions and avoid them,’ would remind us that Church discipline provides for excommunication (1Cor. 5:13) and admonition (2Thess 3:15). In this passage the word ‘avoid’ conveys the idea of ‘turning away.’ Those to whom the apostle refers, could be the Judaisers of chapter fourteen, bearing the same features as Hymenaeus and Philetus (2Tim. 2:17) ‘good works and fair speeches’ a fine style of speaking, persuasive and appealing. Divisions are born by following certain brethren, and allowing their teaching to mould our lives, how far we should follow must be determined by the Scriptures of Truth. Paul’s warning is clear, the simple or the unsuspecting are ensnared, the preventative is to be established on and instructed in the teaching of the Word of God.
ANTICIPATION (verse 20), ‘And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly’ this verse would imply, that those to whom the apostle refers were inspired by Satan, we are not ignorant of his devices. ‘Your feet’ suggests that the Lord’s people will share in the final subjugation of Satan and his hosts. ‘Shortly’ Satan’s day are numbered, his activities will go on until the day of grace runs its course, but we are assured from the Scriptures that his doom is certain, three steps in his downfall are recorded for us in Revelation chapters 12:7-12; 20:1-3; 20:10.
SALUTATION (verse 25), ‘stablish you’ to fix, to make fast, we live in a world of change, of disturbing influences and doubts, in this respect there is a great need to be stable, this was a mark of the early Christians (Acts 2:42). The same thought in Ephesians 3:17. ‘rooted and grounded.’ The godly man of Psalm 1 was planted by the rivers of water, and as a result of this, was fadeless, fruitful, and flourishing. There must be a wholehearted acceptance of the Scriptures of Truth as being the inspired Word of God, revealing His purposes, the darkness is past and the true light now shineth, we have a full orbed revelation of all God’s plans and purposes as revealed in His Word. Does not this knowledge tend to impart stability, supporting us in every trial, helping us to trust in the darkness, awaiting the fulfilment of His promise ‘I will come again’ (John 14:3), this great event will be the signal of the beginning of the completion of all that God has determined as far as coming events on earth and heaven are concerned.
In our linking of the tribes that gathered around the Tabernacle, and the four faces of the Cherubim in Ezekiel ch. 1, with the four Gospels, we have already considered Matthew and Mark, and we must now come to Luke. Thus we shall think of the emerald (Reuben), the sapphire (Simeon), and the diamond (Gad) in connection with that most lovely of Gospels.
Perhaps we may start with Simeon, whose name means “Hearing.” When we first come across the name in Genesis ch. 29, we learn that it is Jehovah Who has done the hearing—He has listened to Leah’s laments. How good to know that we have a God Who hears! What a need, in our assembly meetings for prayer, for us to be men that God can hear! Now when we turn to Luke, we will find that he shows us a man that heaven could always hear. Look at the Lord Jesus after His baptism—ch. 3:21. See Him in the Wilderness after the healing of the leper; what is He doing?—ch. 5:21. He prays all night before choosing the apostles, ch. 6:12. In chapter 9 see Him praying—vv. 18, 28, 29. Look again at ch. 11:1, hear His words to Peter —“I prayed for thee”—ch. 22:32, see how Luke tells us that “being in an agony, He prayed the more earnestly”— what, more than when He was on the top of the mountain? ch. 22:44. On the Cross He prays—there is no cry of desolation in Luke, for this Gospel records neither the Trespass, nor the Sin offering, but presents us with the Peace offering. He begins and ends on the Cross with the words, “Father”—ch. 23:34 and 46.
Prayer has a vital importance in this Gospel: in addition to the Lord’s times of prayer already referred to, we have His instructions on prayer; this is the Gospel where the disciples come up with that perennial question, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This Gospel starts with the altar of Incense. “Let my prayers be set before Thee as incense,” was David’s prayer (Ps. 141:2). Prayer is not typified by incense, as we will see if we read Rev. 8:3: rather, incense sets before us the fragrance of Christ in His intercession for the saints of God: in the value of Who He is, our prayers to the Father, offered in His Name—go up in the fragrance of His own person! Thus in Rev. 5:8, the prayers are indeed identified with that which speaks of Qirist—the incense itself. Luke’s Gospel starts with the altar of Incense, to assure us that there is One coming Who will answer it in every detail: if the Old Covenant, in Luke’s first chapter, leads to a dumb priest, who only starts to speak, and to praise God, when his son, John is bom—the name John means “Gift of God,” speaking eloquently of the new covenant about to dawn—then Luke’s Gospel ends with the company of believer-priests who are daily in the Temple— not once a year, like Zachariah—blessing and praising God —ch. 24:53. Lovely picture! The Great Priest-like One of ch. 24:50 has just lifted up His hands over them in blessing. While He blesses them, he is parted from them, and carried up into heaven. Are we not assured that He is still blessing His own—that He ever liveth to make intercession, and that those prayers for His people are heard clearly by God. Who regards Him as the true Simeon— the One He can listen to with delight always?
Luke’s Gospel will encourage us to pray—more than that, to praise, for that is the dominant motif of the book. And it will also urge us to keep a clear heaven between ourselves and God. That, it seems, may be what is suggested by the sapphire stone, which belongs to Simeon. The sapphire is associated with heaven—not only by its blue colour—see Ex. 24:10 and Ezek. 1:26. The paved work under the God of Israels feet, and the throne itself are both of sapphire. Millenial Jerusalem will be so imbued with the qualities of heaven that its foundation will be of sapphires (Isa. 54:11). The Heavenly man, whose “belly is as bright ivory, overlaid with sapphire” (Song of Songs 5:14)—is in absolute contact with heaven- His praying, as the dependent man down here, shows it.
But if Simeon's name means “Hearing,” it would remind us that a two-way process is involved. He hears us: do we take time to listen to Him? Isa 50:4-9 will tell a wondrous story. There is the servant of Jehovah—what does He say about God? “He waketh morning by morning. He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.”
Morning by morning Thou didst wake
Amidst this poisoned air,
Yet no contagion touched Thy soul,
No sin disturbed Thy prayer.
Morning by morning He woke to listen to His Father. It is a delightful record, and it teaches us a practical lesson. He hears the message of the need to go to Calvary. “1 was not rebellious, neither turned away back ... I have set my face like a flint.” The reader is urged to consult Luke 9:51. 4VHe steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” There seems to me an allusion here to Isaiah 50:7. On the mount. He has spoken of His decease, or exodus that He is to accomplish at Jerusalem. Chapter 9 is really the turning point of Luke’s Gospel. From that position on the mount. He turned, we may say, to Calvary as something to be dealt with, “and it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem,” (Luke 13:33), so He sets His face to go there. As the greater than Simeon, He has heard what He must do. “I was not rebellious, neither turned away back." Read Luke 9:52, 53 and 62. He will not “look back” as that last verse puts it, again in a way reminiscent of Isaiah 50. Follow, in Luke, His pathway to Jerusalem, in chs. 9-20. Follow Him out of the upper room, and on to trial and then to the place which is called Calvary. The study is wonderful, and demonstrates what the dependent man-the man of Psa. 16—was ever like.
Reuben means “See! a son,” and is the tribe that is linked with the green emerald—emerald speaking of the freshness of life maintained in grace—compare Rev. 4:3. What freshness is found in Luke’s Gospel. Who is this dependent man? Listen to the four titles given to Him in ch. 1:32 and 35. “He shall be great.” Compare Jeremiah 33:18. “He shall be called the Son of the Highest.” That title— the Most High, (R.V.) links Him with the Millenial features of God, touched on firstly by Melchisedec—it is the title of God in relation to the Millenial earth. Here are two official titles. But further, “That which is to be born shall be called Holy”—(R.V.) v. 35. Great—He is officially; holy—He is personally. Adam was never holy: he was created innocent —hence he could sin. This One was holy in birth—as in life and death, and could not sin! “The Son of God”—that is His fourth name—it belongs to Him from all eternity, in incarnation, and in resurrection. We may well say, “See! a Son.” When we turn to ch. 9, we see how God will mark Him out. “Who is this?” asks the guilty Herod, (v. 9). After the feeding of the five thousand, He will ask His own, who have heard the people’s speculations about Him during the feeding, “Whom say the people that I am?” Peter will answer with their ideas, but then give his own—the Christ of God. That is good, but it is not enough. On the mount of Transfiguration, Peter will lower Him to Moses or Elijah (v. 33). The voice comes from the excellent glory, and says, “This is My beloved Son, hear Him.” “See! a Son” would be the voice of inspiration to us as we read Luke.
But, remembering the emerald, we say He is a green tree (Luke 23:31). The mention of the green tree takes us back to Psa. 53—“I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.” The man who is in the good of the Spirit can say that. Luke shows Him as such. The Spirit is there in His incarnation. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee.” That answers to Isa. 11:2-3. The Spirit comes upon Him at His baptism (Luke 3:22). That answers Isa. 42:1. The Spirit marks Him out as the Man that God was delighted to honour - “In whom My soul delighteth.” Then the Spirit is upon Him for service. What delightful steps are there, “in the power of the Spirit” to Galilee, into the place of rejection, there, on the Sabbath, to pick up Isa. 61 and read “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me.” So we follow the movements of this “green tree”—truly the man of the first Psalm, the truly blessed man, Who brought forth His fruit in its season. Even in Nazareth (ch. 2:40 and 52) we see signs of that.
The last tribe to be considered is Gad, whose name is a “troop.” Jacob says of him—“Gad, a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at last.” (Gen. 49:19). The passage in context refers to the revival of Israel’s fortunes, even though they are beaten down by the Man of Sin. But the passage has a beautiful application to the Lord. Leah called her son Gad, saying “A troop cometh.” If it is a troop coming it will indicate to us great power. And that is what Luke emphasises. The verse which tells us that is Luke 11:22. We have the description of Satan in v. 21, as having held man in captivity, but “When a stronger that he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him . . The phrase “stronger than he” is peculiar to Luke, though the passage is dealt with also in Matt. 12, and Mark 3. It is a delightful phrase, and it takes us back to Genesis 49, and to the blessing of Gad. He is marked by power—what He does will be done in such a way that there will be no opposers. The stone that is associated with him is the diamond. It is the hardest of stones and speaks of His matchless power, which in this Gospel, is associated with His dependence.
That Luke deals with this may be clearly seen. Look at the first chapter. There we read of Gabriel, whose name means “God is mighty.” Here we read of the right side of the altar, here we learn “He hath showed strength with His arm,” here we read too of a “horn of salvation.” The child is “strong in spirit,” (2:40) John speaks of Him as “mightier than I” (3:16). He moves in the “power of the spirit,” (4:14), has authority and power, (4:36); the “Power of the Lord” is present with Him (5:17);—that which is spoken of as “Virtue” (6:19; 8:46). We see Him conferring power (9:1; 10:19) (cp. 10:13). Only in Luke do we read of the people praising God for the “mighty works seen” (19:37). The disciples on the Emmaus road speak of Him as One “mighty in deed and word” (24:19), and at the end He speaks about the disciples themselves being endued with “power from on high” (24:29). John the Baptist might temporarily waver in faith, and ask “Art Thou He that should come?” (7:20), but in this Gospel we have no doubt that “a stronger than Satan” has come, and in Jerusalem, the apostate centre, lain hold on the “power of darkness” (22:53). That was the power that held Israel captive, as we read, “A troop shall overcome him.” Israel’s final victories will be because of the Man at God’s right hand. This demonstration of power prepares us for Acts.
How great the issues dealt with in Luke! And how feebly we grasp them, and grasp the person Who shines out so luminously in this Gospel. May the Lord help us to grow in our appreciation of Him.
In a scene of change and decay it is good to look heavenward and rejoice in the Unchanging Christ (1:12; 13:8). He is Incomparable (ch. 1); Indispensable (ch. 2, 3); Interested in us (ch. 4-6); Interceding for us (ch. 7-8); Has Intervened on our behalf (ch. 9, 10); Daily Inspires us (ch. 11, 12); and has promised never to let us down or leave us (ch. 13).
A sense of His Immutability should affect us in various ways :—
SYMPATHY FOR SAINTS v. 1-3. The chapter deals with domestic matters (v. 1-6); church matters (v. 7-21); and personal matters (v. 22-25). The final words of advice are aimed at their behaviour and their belief, both vitally important. The sweetness of love for members of the family of God. (v. 1). This is a normal course of action and should continue (John 13:34, 35; 1 John 3:18).
Hospitality to the needy is a practical manifestation of love (v. 2). There is encouragement and very pleasant surprises too. Abraham found it worth while (Gen. 18:1-15). Sympathy with suffering saints in severe trial is a family trait. Your turn may come, so remember them (1Cor. 12:27). Think of and pray for those who are in jail because of their testimony for Christ.
PURITY OF MORALS v. 4. Chastity in marriage should be regarded with deep reverence, it is a divine institution. The marriage bond and the sexual life within that bond, are to be held in high honour. Fleshly lust and the love of money (v. 5 R.V.) are the selfish appetites which most commonly get the better of men. All sins of impurity are sins against God’s holy ordinance of marriage. He will judge those who violate this fundamental law.
CERTAINTY OF HELP v. 5, 6. Honesty with regard to money should mark the whole course of our life and walk before God. Handle money with caution, never covet it, for it is inconsistent with the Christian life. Let love for Christ supersede love of material things (1Tim. 6:9, 10).
The attitude to adopt—“be content” the assurance given “for He hath said,” the adequate help we have—“I will never leave thee.”
Contentment with present possessions should characterize us, for we are assured of the Lord’s presence and provision.
His personal presence—“He, I will;” His perpetual presence “I will not at any time, for any cause, leave thee.” His protective presence—“I will never withdraw my aid or help.”
We have a well founded confidence (v. 6). In Christ we have perfect security and perfect peace.
STABILITY OF HEART v. 7-9. Past memories (v. 7 R.V.). Remember your past leaders; the exhortations they gave, the example they left, the experience of God they enjoyed. Imitate the faith and fidelity of former leaders and rely upon the Immutability of Christ (v. 8). He is always with us (v. 5); He is always the same. Christian leaders (v. 7) will come and go, but He remains the same.
Present difficulties (v. 9). The fallacy of false teaching is exposed. Judaism with its legal observances brought no lasting spiritual benefit. Legalism was barren of spiritual reality, but Christ and truth is the strengthening food of the New Covenant. Rules concerning foods and drinks do not promote holiness.
LOYALTY TO THE LORD v. 10-14. In view of our possession “an altar,” invisible and intangible. Our altar is Christ, this includes all the blessings associated with His atoning work. He is Priest and Sacrifice. There is no salvation apart from Christ so the readers are challenged to make their choice to go forth with Christ outside the earthly Jerusalem and bear the reproach of Christ (v. 3). Verse eleven reminds us that the burning of the bodies of the beasts without the camp has its answer in Christ’s suffering. Meats never did contribute anything towards the removal of sin.
David comes to Nob—situated on the great road to Jerusalem from the North—to Ahimelech the priest, as he journeys southwards away from Saul. He is alone and hungry. "Why alone?” asks Ahimelech trembling (fear of Saul was the cause), and David answers, covering the scope of his question: He asks for bread; it is given with somewhat solemn reluctance; it was the shewbread, lately replaced by the new loaves on the Holy Table in the Tabernacle. Reference to this was made by our Lord in Matthew 12:4. "Have you a sword?” asked David. "Yes, one Goliath’s.” "There is none like that, give it me” (it was his by right of conquest!) and he fled from Saul, but NOT (may we repeat) to become Saul’s opponent as could be too readily assumed. Verse 7 has a very ominous sound—Doeg the Edomite was there detained before the LORD—the Edomites were centuries-old enemies of God’s people.
Verse 10: That David should seek shelter with the Philistines surprises us, but the exigencies of the time must be borne in mind. Evidently it was not God’s choice for him, for he is recognised as enemy No. 1, and hastens to escape.
David comes to the Cave of Adullam, a vast intricate cavern, where he is joined by his brethren, his father and his mother (all remembering his anointing by Samuel) and all his father’s house: they must also flee Saul’s sword; and having arranged sanctuary for his parents with the King of
Moab and being advised by Gad, the Lord’s prophet, he leaves the stronghold, where so many mighty men were drawn to him, for the Forest of Hareth, with four hundred followers. V. 5. But not to be aggressive against Saul. Saul’s poverty is plainly evident in vv. 6-8: he has only a lying Edomite to further his wickedness on this occasion, vv. 9-10. Saul believes the lie in v. 10, now so firmly but vainly denied by Ahimelech in v. 15. He did not enquire of the Lord for David. The awful sequel to this is shown in vv. 16-19. Sadder, graver reading we could not imagine; reading which mirrors Saul’s grievous sinfulness and the exceeding wickedness of the sons of the aged priest, Eli (see 1Sam. 2:22-36 and ch. 3:11-14, here requited in Samuel’s lifetime). Saul is now cut off from priestly ministry and David is to be greatly helped by it, in that Abiathar, the only priest to escape from the slaughter commanded by Saul, flees to David with an ephod—priestly attire—and David values this as God’s provision for him, and acknowledges his share of accountability, but not responsibility, for what transpired, Ahimelech’s fears had not been groundless.
After seeking direction from God, in answer to a pressing call, David, true to character, saves the people of Keilah from ravaging Philistines, only to learn through Abiathar’s priestly ministry, that these very people will deliver him into Saul’s hands. Verse 14 makes it plain that Saul is obdurate, and David is keenly aware of it. Six hundred men are now with David, this is no small company to lead and hide. In the Wood of Ziph they shelter, and it is here, so far as the sacred record indicates, that the last meeting of Jonathan and David takes place (v. 16) “and Jonathan Saul's son arose and went to David into the wood and strengthened his hand in God" ... fear not! for the hands of my father shall not find thee and thou shalt be King over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee, and that also Saul my father knows:” and they two made a covenant before The LORD (vv. 17-18). These are words to muse upon.
The initiative is taken by Jonathan; he knew where to find David, if Saul did not. The sweet ministry was Jonathan’s (v. 16). The encouragement in David’s difficult pathway was Jonathan’s (v. 17). The reassurance as to the eventual outcome was Jonathan’s and the covenant, v. 18. was real and mutual, solemnised we may think with bowed heads and loyal hearts. The friendship, the warm love found an opportunity for expression: they were godly men, they understood each other perfectly: “face to face” is not that the test? It will be for all HI'S own on a coming day: “may we not be ashamed before HIM at HIS coming.” Jonathan was not ashamed. David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house, not to Saul with his armed men. They could not adjust matters so as to remain in each other’s company; the situation was understood and accepted, even though their individual circumstances were so much in contrast at that time. It is thus again that Jonahan openly gives recognition of David’s pre-eminence. Is there not here another parallel with John the Baptist, who found his fullest joy in hearing the Bridegroom’s voice, and whose greatest honour was to be the “friend of the bridegroom?” Jonathan did not live to see his fond anticipation realised, nor did John see the fullest consummation of his joy, but each was peculiarly ordained to minister to another’s honour and to set another before himself: paradoxically, how very great an honour for them both.
The Ziphites reveal David’s whereabouts to Saul, verse 19—even wicked men in power have their sycophants. The chief priests and rulers could find such, whom they sent with Judas to the garden to take the Lord Jesus, and to cry with them “crucify, crucify” at Pilate’s judgement hall. Saul will search David out throughout the thousands of Judah (v. 23), but God works for David in a critical situation, and Saul is drawn away to repel a Philistine attack, vv. 27-28.
V. 6. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him; Having written of his responsibility in ministry to the Colossians, Paul now goes into detail as to the practical application of this ministry. They had believed the Gospel, and had received into their hearts Christ Jesus as Lord. Paul had presented to them ‘The Great Christology’ (l: 15-23)—‘Christ is all;’ he had taught them concerning the indwelling Christ (1:27)—‘Christ in all’ (3: ll). They had received Christ into their hearts, by faith, as the One Who had been anointed, and sent forth by God into the world; they had appreciated Him as the incarnate Jesus, who had declared God to man (John 1:18); they had accepted Him as the Lord and Master of their lives; into His control they had submitted themselves. Having thus received Christ in all His fulness, they ought to regulate their lives, by submission to Him as a token of their incorporation into Him, as the Body controlled by the Head (1:18).
V. 7 “Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith," Three metaphors are now used to describe their reception of Christ. The first two describe their relation to Christ—
‘rooted’ a perfect passive participle—something done in the past, the effect of which carries on into the present- their conversion;
‘built up,' a present passive participle—continually being built up;
‘established,' also a present passive participle—this sets forth the means by which this relationship to Christ is being reinforced-‘by your faith’ (R.V.m.).
Their faith was, as it were, the cement that found them in Christ, “as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." This rooting, building up and establishing were all the result of the teaching of Epaphras (1:7). The responsibility of the Colossians was to rejoice abundantly in this relationship to Christ. It would lead to thanksgiving, to walking in Him, and not following the vague propositions of the Gnostics’ false teachings. Note the frequent use of thanksgiving in this epistle (1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2). This is the outcome of refusing the blandishments of the Gnostics, and following rather the ways that be in Christ, as Paul proceeds to set before them.
The admonitions presented in this epistle to the Colossian believers of the 1st Century apply with equal force to the Children of God to-day. Having received such blessings from God at conversion we do well to appreciate what incorporation into Christ implies—security in Him; walking in Him, with Him, after Him, close to Him; abounding in thanksgiving to Him. This all would keep us from the specious, false teaching that abounds in the world to-day.
Distinguish between the throne of the Caesars and the throne of David- the Beast (Rev. 13:1-10) occupies the former; the Antichrist (Rev. 13:11-18) occupies the latter.
Distinguish between the “little horn” of Dan. 7. and chap. 8.—the former is the Imperial head of the revived Roman Empire; the latter is the King of the North or Assyria.
Distinguish between Messiah the Prince (Dan. ix. 25) and the coming Prince (Dan. 9:26)—the former is Jehovah’s Anointed (Ps. 2:2, 6); the latter is the blasphemous Emperor of the West (Rev. 13:6).
Distinguish between the person who receives Divine honours (Rev. xiii. 12, 14) and the person who claims them (2 Thess. 2:4; Dan. 11:36)—the former sits upon the throne of the Caesars; the latter sits upon the throne of David.
Distinguish between the Satanically revived Empire and the devil-inspired Emperor—the former comes up out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 17:8): the latter attains his position by the sword (Dan. 7:24).
Distinguish between the Beast that goes into perdition, and the Beast that is cast into the lake of fire—the former is the Empire of Rome, revived and energised by Satan (Rev. 17:8); the latter is its last Imperial head, who challenges the claims of Christ at His coming (Rev. 19:19, 20).
Distinguish between the Assyrian confederacy and the Russian confederacy—the former is headed by the King of the North (Dan. 11:40); the latter by the Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal (Ezek. 38:2, R.V.).
Distinguish between the “Northern Army” (Joel 2:20) and the army that comes from the “uttermost parts of the north” (Ezek. 38:6,15, R.V.)—the former is the Assyrian, the rod of Jehovah’s anger (Isa. 10:5); the latter the combined forces of Russia and Germany; the former is destroyed in the Syrian desert (Joel 2:20); the latter on the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 39:4).
When the writer to the Hebrews exhorted the Christians, ‘be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares’ (Heb. 13:2) he stresses one important feature of the Christian home which had been demonstrated by Abraham, in what must be regarded as the first reference to home conditions in the Scriptures. (Gen. 18).
The occasion was ostensibly to further the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham, to make him the father of many nations through a miraculously conceived son. The circumstances confirmed to all succeeding generations the mind of God for Israel.
The writer however, ignores this at the time of writing and emphasises the manner in which the messengers of God were entertained. Viewing the incident in its entirety, we have principles suggested to us which have an important bearing on the believers’ home circle.
That this remarkable event involved the appearance of God in human form seems very clear. There are four references to ‘the Lord’ apart from the plain statement of verse one. ‘The Lord appeared unto him.'
One would suggest therefore, that the three men of verse 2 are co-essential with the Godhead in trinity. This adds tremendous weight to the important place home conditions occupy.
When the home life is expressed in its most complete unit, it will have both father, and what is more important a Heavenly Father. The father symbolises the full ideas of law and love, but his motivation must be to do the will of the Father in heaven.
He is also the family head, and although the Authorised Version speaks of him as ‘the saviour of the body,’ it needs to be stated that as important as the father of the family is from every point of view the literal rendering of this verse can be translated ‘He Himself being the Saviour of the Body’ (Ellicott). It means therefore that whilst the father should assume to be the final court of appeal, as the head, in home, the home is but a miniature representation of the great Body of the Church with the Son as its Saviour and incidentally, head in both areas of home and church.
Then, of course, the Holy Spirit must be given His place in the family circle. How often have we not heard the Visitor lo the godly ordered home remark on ‘the atmosphere of the home,’ because it’s a place where the Spirit's presence is felt.
Here we will experience the ‘freedom of the Spirit’ (2Cor. 3:17), and as all the graces of the Spirit are manifest. His fruit will be seen in every member (Gal. 5:2-3) and ‘the fellowship of the Spirit’ (Phil. 2:1) enjoyed to the full.
In the presence of such company can we wonder that Abraham ‘bowed himself toward the ground’ (v. 2)? If God designs to come to our homes, surely the spirit of reverence and worship will be known within its circle. We do well to practice family worship with all its members present. It must have been of inestimable benefit to Timothy that ‘from a child,’ says Paul, ‘thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation’ (2Tim. 3:15).
The ready welcome afforded these ‘strangers unawares’ on the part of Abraham is seen as he says, ‘pass not away I pray thee from thy servant’ (v. 3). We are not to be expected to admit of excluding such an One from our homes one may be sure, and to welcome one of His people is tantamount to receiving the Saviour Himself. To the ‘sheep’ of Matthew 25 He says ‘I was a stranger and ye took me in,’ and ‘insomuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’ (vs. 35 and 40). That which is good in the living nations because of their compassion for Israel, is equally meritorious in our home situation.
Furthermore if we would receive the measure of blessing which the well ordered home will attract to itself, it must be seen to be a place of service for the Lord. How gracious of our God to allow us to serve Him as readily within the confines of the home, as in the great ‘regions beyond.’
A modern paraphrase expresses this idea very beautifully with the statements, T am here to serve Thee’ (v. 3) and ‘Thou hast honoured me by coming to my home, so let me serve Thee’ (v. 5). Our blessed Lord adds yet another dimension to this idea of service in the home, as He proceeds to wash His disciples’ feet, implying that the home is a place of refreshment after the discomforts, hazards and weariness attaching to the journey of life. ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you,’ He says, ‘the servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent, greater than He that sent him. If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them.’ (John 13:17).
Then the home is seen to be the place for relaxation, ‘rest yourselves under the tree,’ says the patriarch (v. 4). Life is full of stresses and strains. The very pursuit of earning the living often requires that one’s faculties and strength are stretched to their human limits. The gracious words of the Saviour then become exceedingly precious, ‘Come ye yourselves apart and rest awhile, for there were many coming and going and they had no leisure so much as to eat’ (Mark 6:31).
After the rest there was the recuperation. Says Abraham, ‘I will fetch you a morsel of meat and comfort ye your hearts’ (v. 5).
There is a cycle of experiences in every life of service. It runs as follows—the effort, exhaustion, rest, recuperation, further effort. A servant of the Lord commenting on Psalm 23:3, ‘He restoreth my soul’ gives this picture of the sequence. ‘I have some grain. I grind it in the mill. I distribute the meal to the needy. I exhaust my supplies. He replenishes my store of grain.’
The whole object of the exercise is ‘to continue the journey (Gen. 18:5). The entire Christian life demands the grace of continuance.
‘Continue in my word’ says the Lord (John 8:31).
‘Continue in my love’ (John 15:9).
‘They continued with one accord’ (Acts 1:14).
‘Continue in faith’ (Acts 14:22).
‘Continue in prayer’ (Rom. 12:12).
That the Divine Visitors should say ‘so do as thou hast said, (v. 5), indicates the appreciation they felt as a result of their warm welcome. It was when our Lord came to the end of that memorable walk along the road to Emmaus that ‘he made as though he would have gone further. But they contrained Him, saying, abide with us for it is toward evening and the day is far spent’ (Luke 24:29).
Failure to welcome this unknown Companion and Guest would have cost them the revelation of Himself, and the never-to-be-forgotten experience as they commented, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures’ (v. 32).
One observes that Abraham’s appreciation of his Lord grew in depth with the length of the stay. At first he intended to give ‘a morsel of bread' (v. 5), but finally it was ‘three measures of fine flour, made into cakes, and a calf, tender and good, with butter and milk.’ Nothing was too good nor was the service grudgingly given, as ‘Abraham stood by them under the tree, and they did eat’ (v. 8).
The dressing of the calf could be delegated to the young man of his household, but the entertaining of the honoured guests, and the readiness with which he met their needs was his privilege alone.
As our Lord said to His disciples, ‘whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as He that serveth’ (Luke 22:27).
May this be the pattern of every home where Christ is honoured!
“Abounding therein with thanksgiving” Colossians 2:7.
One of the many marks of the unregenerate is stated by the writer to the Romans, “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, NEITHER WERE THANKFUL” (Rom. 1:21).
Time has not changed this sad verdict. Still in the world there is more ingratitude than thankfulness. The rich say they are overtaxed, the workers claim they are underpaid, the young feel they are in the wrong environment, and the aged assert they are neglected
How different the case of Paul. In writing to the saints at Colosse he gives “thanks to God ... praying always for” them. (1:3). Again in verse 12 he gives thanks to the Father for “the inheritance of the saints.’’ He urges them to “continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” (4:2), and he exhorts them “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God.” (3:17).
As we enter another year we may well pray, that God, by His grace, would1 find us all “abounding ... with thanksgiving.”
We thank God for His faithfulness to us throughout the past year. We thank Him for hearing the prayers of His beloved saints for us, and for the practical fellowship shown to us by His dear people, individually, or through the assemblies of His saints. To our contributors who have given much time and diligent study in the production of the papers submitted, and to all those who
have so kindly assisted in the distribution of the magazine, we offer our sincere and heart-felt thanks.
Gladly we join with many of our readers in expressing our gratitude to our Honorary Editor for the faithful discharge of his important task. The Lord knows the valuable time he gives to this work, and this in the midst of a busy life of ministry of the Word to the Lord’s people at home and abroad.
With much joy we thank our brother Glenville, who also is engaged busily in the work of the Lord, for his assistance in corresponding with our esteemed readers in Great Britain.