July/August 2020

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee

NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES
by A. Summers

NOTES ON THE PRAYERS OF THE SAVIOUR IN LUKE’S GOSPEL
by A. Henry

COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds

A BARREL AND A CRUSE - SMALL THINGS DURING A BIG CRISIS
by G. Khoo

"GOD WITH US"
by R. Reynolds

LESSONS FROM PRISON EXPERIENCES
by J. Gordon

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (England)

THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS

No.32: PSALM 22 (Part 3)

Our third meditation in this Psalm brings us to the second of the two sections into which it may be divided with reference to 1Pet.5.1, or 1Pet.1.11: "The sufferings of Christ" vv.1-21, and "The glory that shall be revealed" vv.22-31.

As we have seen, v.21 marks a complete change in the atmosphere of the Psalm. The verse begins with the cry "Save Me from the lion’s mouth" and ends with the answer to the cry: "Yea, from the horns of the wild-oxen Thou hast answered Me" R.V. In the opening lines of the Psalm we heard the Lord Jesus cry, "Thou hearest not" v.2. Now we hear Him say, "Thou hast heard Me" v.21. His sufferings were ended. He cried, "‘It is finished:’ and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost" Jn.19.30. The Lord Jesus was at rest – "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit" Lk.23.46 – and the remainder of the Psalm describes the blessed consequences of the Saviour’s suffering. God is praised in an ever-widening circle.

The section commences with reference to the Lord’s "brethren" v.22, who are then defined as "all … the seed of Jacob" and "all … the seed of Israel" v.23, and then described as "the great congregation" v.25, to be followed by "all the kindreds [families] of the nations" vv.27,28.

THE GLORY THAT SHALL BE REVEALED – vv.22-31

 

God is Praised amongst His Brethren – v.22

"I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee." According to Albert Barnes, the words "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren" mean ‘I will make thee known …’1 In the context of this Psalm, "My brethren" are His "brethren" in the Jewish nation: He "took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren" Heb.2.16,17. The passage looks forward to His Millennial reign, when it will be said, "The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing" Zeph.3.17. When Christ returns to reign, He will say, in effect, "But as for you, ye thought evil against Me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" Gen.50.20.

1. Barnes, A. "Barnes Notes: On the Old Testament, Psalm 22".

The wording in v.22 is so remarkable. In the earlier part of the Psalm, the Lord Jesus cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?", but there was no resentment and bitterness in the heart of Christ. Here, He shares His delight in God with His "brethren", and leads their praise. But we cannot leave the matter there.

In John chapter 20, the Lord Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, "Touch Me not … but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God" v.17. Do notice two important things here:

First of all, the Lord Jesus did not say, ‘I ascend unto our Father and to our God’. While it is wonderfully true that He is our God and Father, He is "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" Eph.1.3, in a unique sense. It is a relationship which none can share.

Secondly, the fact that the Lord Jesus said, "Go to My brethren", does not entitle us to address Him, as some do, as ‘Brother’ or even ‘Elder Brother’. In John chapters 20 and 21, the disciples spoke of Him as "the Lord" Jn.20.18,20,25; 21.7,12, and addressed Him as "Lord" 20.28; 21.15-17,21. See also Jn.13.13,14.

In Heb.2.11,12, the inspiring Holy Spirit takes the language of Ps.22.22, which manifestly refers, in context, to Israel, and wonderfully uses it in connection with the Church: "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren; saying, ‘I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee.’" The Lord Jesus may well have been alluding to Psalm 22 in saying, "I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it ..." Jn.17.26.

In passing, it has been said (by the late Albert Leckie) that there is today only one choir: every believer belongs to it, and the Lord Jesus is the Choirmaster.

God is Praised in Israel – vv.23,24

"Ye that fear the LORD, praise Him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye the seed of Israel" v.23. This evidently amplifies the phrase "My brethren" v.22. The Book of Malachi refers to a remnant amongst God’s people that "feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name" Mal.3.16. But here, the connection between "ye that fear the LORD" and "all ye the seed of Jacob … Israel" strongly suggests that Israel nationally will "fear the LORD". It has been said that the name "Jacob" reminds us of the depths to which the grace of God will go to reach a man, and that the name "Israel" reminds of the heights to which the grace of God will take that same man.

As we have observed in past studies, the "fear of the LORD" is not dread of the Lord, but an indication of love for Him. It is an attitude which says, ‘I love Him so much, that I wish nothing in my life that will cause Him grief and sorrow.’ It is therefore hardly surprising that those who "fear the LORD" will want to "praise Him"!

So far as Israel at present is concerned, "the vail is upon their heart"; but not for ever. "Nevertheless, when it [the heart] shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away" 2Cor.3.15,16. Individual Jews are being saved today; hence Rom.11.5, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace"; but nationally, the vail remains, until God pours "upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him …" Zech.12.10-14. In this connection, we should notice that Zechariah chapter 12 concludes with the words "All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart" v.14. When Paul says, "And so all Israel shall be saved" Rom.11.26, we must remember that national salvation will only take place after the nation has been greatly reduced in the Great Tribulation. However, the nation will again multiply: "out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small" Jer.30.19. Isa.51.11 will then be fulfilled: "The redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away." Christ will "give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" Isa.61.3.

In v.24, the Lord Jesus indicates why His people in vv.22,23 should burst into praise: "For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard". The New Testament tells us that "in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save Him from [‘out of’] death, and was heard in that He feared [‘for His piety’]" Heb.5.7. Had the Lord Jesus not been able to cry "It is finished", and to say, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit", we would all be eternally lost. But "through death" the Lord Jesus destroyed "him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver[ed] them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" Heb.2.14,15. Rather than despising "the affliction of the afflicted", God has said to Him, "Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" Ps.110.1. Rather than experiencing God hiding "His face from Him" the Lord Jesus has "entered … into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us" Heb.9.24, R.V.

Did Thy God e’en then forsake Thee, hide His face from Thy deep need?
In Thy face, once marred and smitten, all His glory now we read.

(Centra Thompson)

Having considered His "brethren" and "the seed of Jacob … the seed of Israel", we will go on in the next paper, in the will of the Lord, to look at "the great congregation" and "all the kindreds of the nations".

To be continued (D.V.)

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Traits of the Tribes

by Ian McKee, N. Ireland

Paper 20

JUDAH IN THE DAYS OF THE KINGS

It is not the purpose of this study to provide biographies of the twenty-two kings from the tribe of Judah, or a detailed history of that kingdom. In addition to David and Solomon, perhaps only Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah could be considered ‘good kings’ of Judah. However, their best days were in the early spiritual vigour of their reign when most dependent upon God. Pride, complacency, reduced spiritual vitality, immorality, and compromising business and military ventures with idolatrous unbelievers were variously their undoing. Sober consideration of their lives should lead us to pray like King David: "Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust" Ps.16.1.

Judah in the Days of David

Prior to David’s reign, Judah was not strong militarily. They contributed only thirty thousand in a total force of three hundred and thirty thousand; and ten thousand in an army of two hundred and ten thousand, 1Sam.11.8; 15.4. But the dynamics changed when the Philistines invaded, 1Sam.17.1. God already had a deliverer from Judah in waiting, one "anointed … in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward" 1Sam.16.13. In subsequently defeating Goliath, David demonstrated that ‘one man with God is a majority’. As a result, "the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines" 1Sam.17.52.

David displays a spirit of wisdom in the face of Saul’s causeless hatred. David "behaved himself wisely"; "behaved himself wisely in all his ways"; "behaved himself very wisely"; "behaved himself more wisely" 1Sam.18.5,14,15,30. The result was that "all Israel and Judah loved David" 1Sam.18.16. Of infinitely greater account is the Divine testimony, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will" Acts 13.22.

It was the hill country of Judah that provided David sanctuary in his ‘wilderness years’ 1Sam.22.5; 23.3,23. David, when a fugitive, secured Ziglag for Judah, although his subsequent usage of "Judah" in a lie is not to his credit, 1Sam.27.6,10. David later recovers from Amalekite raiders captives and plunder of that "which belongeth to Judah" and "the great spoil that they had taken … out of the land of Judah" 1Sam.30.14,16. Recovering the goods was not solely for personal gain: "he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends … and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt" 1Sam.30.26-31.

In those ‘wilderness years’ David was ‘serving his apprenticeship’ as a king, giving protection to the people of Judah. He was accepting the responsibility before he was ever afforded the full recognition of kingship. Such an attitude should apply to all spiritual leadership and service: "if a man desire the office of a bishop [‘overseership’], he desireth a good work"; "do the work of an evangelist" 1Tim.3.1; 2Tim.4.5. Work faithfully, sacrificially and competently and due recognition will follow. But be wary of those who desire recognition without ever accepting responsibility and working!

Following Saul’s death, David sought to enhance Judah’s defence: "he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow" 2Sam.1.18. Better for Judah to deal with enemies at a distance than have to engage at close quarters!

Then follows David’s reign over Judah. His question to the Lord, "Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" leads to "the men of Judah came, and … anointed David king over the house of Judah"; and "the house of Judah have anointed me king over them" 2Sam.2.1,4,7. The other tribes spurn David at first, "but the house of Judah followed David. And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months" 2Sam.2.10,11. His sphere of responsible service to Judah is recognised by those closest to him before he acquires additional stewardship. It is folly to seek a reputation ‘abroad’ greater than that justified from the discharge of local responsibilities. These additional ‘apprenticeship’ years were ever remembered: "In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah" 2Sam.5.5. It was not until ruling over the whole nation that he brought the ark of the covenant "from Baale [Kirjath-jearim] of Judah" to Zion, 2Sam.6.2. That which is of God belongs to all His people!

David’s great wickedness with Bathsheba showed that her husband, Uriah the Hittite, had greater concern for propriety than the king had: "The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents … as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing" 2Sam.11.11. How David must have felt the condemnatory words of the "LORD God of Israel" via Nathan the prophet, "and I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things" 2Sam.12.7,8. Uriah lost his life, but is included by association in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ, Matt.1.6. David kept his life, but lost his good name and much more besides by disregarding the command, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" Ex.20.14.

David’s return after Absalom’s rebellion retraced his earlier route to the throne: "And king David sent to Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, saying, ‘Speak unto the elders of Judah, saying, Why are ye the last to bring the king back to his house?’" 2Sam.19.11. The outcome was "he bowed the heart of all the men of Judah, even as the heart of one man … So the king returned, and … Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to conduct the king over Jordan" 2Sam.19.14,15.

Rebellion and strife continue to manifest themselves in David’s restoration: "and all the people of Judah conducted the king, and also half the people of Israel" 2Sam.19.40. Inter-tribal rivalry and recrimination follow and "the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel" 2Sam.19.43. Words can be as wounding as swords, but word-wounds take much longer to heal, if at all.

Other Men of Judah in the Days of David

Leadership does not get easier with the passage of time; and difficulties often come from unexpected sources. David’s most subtle and dangerous enemies were from Judah and from within his own family! Two of David’s sons, Absalom and Adonijah, led separate revolts against their father: Absalom when David was at the height of his powers; Adonijah when David was in decline, 2Sam.15.1-18.33; 1Kgs.1.5-2.25.

Joab, David’s nephew and chief of staff, often had a cruel personal agenda. In spite of his many military victories for David, he ended in rebellion with Adonijah, 1Kgs.1.7,41. David recalled that Joab "shed the blood of war in peace" 1Kgs.2.5. Potentially a great man of Judah, Joab could not adjust to changing circumstances, using the sword without royal permission, to David’s detriment. It is tragic when leaders inappropriately refight the battles of the past, with adverse results.

Abishai, Joab’s older brother, accompanied David into Saul’s camp and witnessed David’s mercy in sparing Saul’s life, 1Sam.26.6-12. Yet Abishai showed no similar constraint when he associated with Joab in the treacherous assassination of Abner, 2Sam.3.27-30. That said, he is listed as captain of David’s ‘second three’ among his mighty men: he hazarded his life to give David a draught of water from the well at Bethlehem; and he slew three hundred enemies, 2Sam.23.14-19; 1Chr.11.20,21. Abishai also saved David’s life by slaying the giant, Ishbi-benob, 2Sam.21.16,17.

Asahel, Joab’s younger brother, was ever loyal to David and was one of his mighty men, 2Sam.23.24; 1Chr.11.26. However, his zeal was greater than his capacity and experience, with fatal consequences, 2Sam.2.23.

Jonadab, another nephew, is referred to as a "very subtil man" who encouraged his cousin Amnon in incest, 2Sam.13.3-5. Jonadab also seemed to have ‘inside knowledge’ of Absalom’s murderous revenge on Amnon, 2Sam.13.32,33. He had a greater capacity for intrigue than for integrity!

Jonadab’s brother, Jonathan, was loyal to David, replicating his uncle’s prowess in slaying the last of the giants, 2Sam.21.21; 1Chr.20.7.

Amasa, another nephew, joined Absalom’s rebellion and led the rebel army, 2Sam.17.25. Later forgiven by David, Amasa was murdered by his cousin Joab under the guise of friendship, 2Sam.20.4-12.

So members of Judah’s extended ‘Royal Family’, from the very outset, manifested the full spectrum of their tribal traits: both leadership and treachery!

Judah in the Psalms

We know that in the Psalms David exhibited a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. There are nine references to Judah in the Psalms, some written by David, some by Asaph, with others unattributed.

We note references to Divine sovereignty and purpose: He "chose the tribe of Judah"; and "God … will build the cities of Judah" Ps.78.68; 69.35. We also note the correlation between the Divine presence and rule: "Judah was His sanctuary"; "In Judah is God known"; and "The princes of Judah and their council" Ps.114.2; 76.1; 68.27.

The two identical references to "Judah is my lawgiver" Ps.60.7; 108.8, remind us of Jacob’s patriarchal blessing, Gen.49.10. Another two almost identical references occur: "Let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Thy judgments" Ps.48.11, and "the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of Thy judgments" Ps.97.8. There is a close connection between the sanctuary and the throne.

While Judah is the royal tribe, this intimate association between the sanctuary and the throne is not surprising. Surely it was prefigured by Aaron, the first high priest, taking "Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife" Ex.6.23. Naashon was the "captain of the children of Judah" Num.2.3. Therefore, every descendant of Aaron combines the bloodlines of Levi and Judah! And the day will come when the Divine intention will be fulfilled by One Who will "bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" Zech.6.13.

To be continued (D.V.)

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NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES

By Alan Summers (Scotland)

Paper 16 – PHILEMON

THE PLACE OF THE LETTER

The letter of Paul to Philemon is one of the shortest books in the Bible. Although it is located just after the letters to Timothy and Titus, probably because the compiler of the canon wanted to keep Paul’s short letters together, it really sits alongside the Prison Epistles: Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. Although the letter does not say it was written at the same time as Colossians this seems likely. Paul is a prisoner, v.9, as he is in Colossians, and the people he mentions in the greetings section at the end of the letter to the Colossians are basically the same group as he mentions in the letter to Philemon. In particular he mentions Onesimus in Col.4.9, who he says is "one of you", that is, one of the Colossians, to whom he wrote. Onesimus likewise features prominently in Philemon so it is reasonable to conclude that the two letters are linked. In the letter to Philemon it emerges that Onesimus was a slave, v.16, who had run away, v.15, from Philemon, his master. Paul evidently assumes that this has caused Philemon financial loss, v.18, possibly through the loss of Onesimus’ services and the consequent need to hire alternative labour or possibly because Onesimus had stolen from Philemon; we do not really know.

THE POINT OF THE LETTER

The main point of the letter is to patch up the relationship between Onesimus and Philemon. Paul has met Onesimus while a prisoner and communicated the gospel with the result that Onesimus has been converted, vv.10,16. Paul thought that Onesimus should return to his master, v.12. His reasons are not explained but it seems likely that Paul recognised that this was the law. He no doubt also thought that since Philemon was a Christian there was no reason why Onesimus should not go back and put things right, especially as he was sent back not so much as Philemon’s slave but as a new brother. While the letter does not examine the institution of slavery it is evident that Paul expects Philemon to treat Onesimus in a favourable way. Many have suggested that if Philemon took Paul’s entreaties to heart he would have freed Onesimus. While Paul does not say so, he probably hoped that Philemon would see that the idea of a Christian owning another Christian as an item of property was inconsistent with human dignity and with the relationship that ought to exist between Christians. However that may be, Paul’s main aim was to ensure a good reception for Onesimus. He offers to pay any costs caused by Onesimus’ departure, vv.18,19. Paul also stresses how useful Onesimus had been to him while he was imprisoned, vv.11,13. What exactly Onesimus had done for Paul is unspecified. How they had met is also unclear. Onesimus might have picked up work in the prison or courts in Rome. He may have been arrested and shared a cell with Paul. We should not assume that Paul remained in the hired house mentioned in Acts 28.30. The indications in Philippians are that he was in close confinement during the trial process, Phil.1.13; 4.22, so he may have met Onesimus then. Whether the Roman authorities knew Onesimus was a runaway slave is doubtful. The indications in this letter are that until Paul wrote to him Philemon was unaware of the whereabouts of Onesimus. If so he would hardly have placed the Roman authorities on the ‘look out’.

In interceding for Onesimus Paul refrains from issuing Philemon with any instructions. Paul knew that what Philemon did with Onesimus was for Philemon. Under law he was Philemon’s property. Although he was an apostle and although Philemon had been converted through Paul’s ministry, v.19, he refrains from telling Philemon what to do. In Colossians we learned that Paul had never visited Colossae so although Philemon was resident there he must have encountered the apostle while away from home.

THE PUZZLES IN THE LETTER

There are intriguing features in the letter. Paul asks Philemon to prepare him lodgings, v.22. This assumes that he will be released and make his way to Colossae. It also assumes imminent release: if he was not likely to be in Colossae for some time, why make ready? What basis did Paul have for thinking he would be released? It may be that the trial process was nearing its conclusion and that the indications were that he would be released, possibly on conditions, see Phil.1.19,25, although the possibility of capital punishment could not be ruled out, Phil.1.20-24. If Paul was about to be released he seems to have decided to travel to Asia Minor, where Colossae was situated. This is a long journey so the lodgings may have been prepared for some time before he finally arrived. On the other hand we do not know how quickly the letter to Philemon took to reach its destination. It was probably carried by Tychicus and Onesimus, the bearers of the letter to the Colossians, Col.4.7-9.

THE PRESERVATION OF THE LETTER

Why is this little letter in the canon of Scripture? It was probably kept initially because it achieved its purpose. Philemon probably did receive Onesimus as a brother. Philemon no doubt marvelled that God had ordered things so that his slave would meet Paul and be saved through him, even though Onesimus was hundreds of miles away from Colossae. For these reasons the letter may have been kept by Philemon. It may even have been kept by the "church in [his] house" v.2. Of course the supervising hand of the Spirit also preserved the letter. As Col.4.16 makes clear, not everything Paul wrote was preserved.

THE PURPOSES OF THE LETTER

If Paul’s immediate goal was to protect Onesimus and to encourage Philemon to receive him again what was the Holy Spirit’s purpose in inspiring and preserving the letter for the benefit of the Church? There are a few possibilities. First it shines a light on how we should conduct ourselves when dealing with fellow Christians. While Paul evidently thought Philemon should forgive Onesimus’ past indiscretions he did not dictate to Philemon that he should do so. He therefore seeks to persuade Philemon to forget the past and rejoice in the salvation of his runaway slave. Paul even relies on his advanced years as a means of persuasion, v.9. His aim may not be to excite Philemon’s pity but to rely on his respect for his age and experience. In the days in which Paul wrote age was highly respected. So too today we should respect the advice of older saints. We should rejoice in God’s work in salvation and be ready to forget the past.

The letter also shows how willing Paul was to put himself ‘on the line’ for Christians. He offers to meet any costs caused by Philemon’s wrongdoing, v.18, even though he could not know exactly what the liability was. He identifies closely with Onesimus, v.12, even though in social terms he was nothing but a runaway slave. Although Paul was an apostle with huge personal authority and a privileged upbringing, he was a friend of slaves. We too should have the same spirit.

The letter also shows how God can bring good out of calamities and wrongdoing. Onesimus should not have run away. Paul does not try to persuade Onesimus to remain in Rome with him. He knows that if someone breaks the law and does wrong it must be put right. Although Philemon would have been put out by Onesimus’ departure, v.15 makes it clear that God was at work. Although he seemed to have run away from Philemon the departure was with a view to an eternal reunion.

Concluded

"Bible Class Notes: The Prison Epistles", published by, and available from, John Ritchie Ltd.

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Notes On The Prayers Of The Saviour In Luke’s Gospel

by Alistair Henry

These notes were written to accompany a series taught in the assembly Bible Class at Uxbridge, England. The series was shared by three brethren, which is reflected in the individual styles of writing of the notes.

Praying with the Disciples

PAPER 8 – Luke 11.1-13

The Lord Jesus Christ’s own prayers encouraged the disciples to think about their praying. Thus these studies should have the same effect upon us.

THE EXAMPLE OF PRAYER – v.1

By example the Saviour taught the disciples important lessons. We see:

1. The Habit of His Prayer – "He was praying in a certain place"

The change of circumstance or location did not alter the Saviour’s habit of prayer.

2. The Sacredness of His Prayer – "when He ceased"

No matter how earnest their desire to have instruction from the Saviour it was not right to interrupt His prayer. Prayer is communion with God; we should realise how precious and special that is.

3. The Difference of His Prayer – "teach us to pray ..."

They had heard others pray (the Saviour spoke of the long prayers of the Pharisees) but they wanted to pray like Him. We should want our prayer life to be different; to be like His.

4. The Value of Prayer – "as John taught ..."

The disciples recognised that the Law did not teach much about prayer. They had known that John Baptist had taught his disciples and now they too wanted to learn more about this great matter. Do we value prayer in the same way?

THE PATTERN OF PRAYER – vv.2-4

The Saviour did not give a formula to be repeated but rather a pattern from which to learn: "after this manner therefore pray ye" Matt.6.9. The prayer teaches us lessons about our attitude to God and our attitude to self. We note that the Godward aspects come first. As we pray we should seek:

1. An Appreciation of the God to Whom we Draw Near – "Our Father which art in heaven"

Two wonderful truths are apparent: He is our Father, and that is an encouragement to approach Him; and He is in the majesty of heaven, and that is the warning to reverence Him.

2. Things That Forward His Glory – "Hallowed be Thy name"

This is the desire that God would be given the deep respect that He truly deserves. We cannot pray for this to be universally true if we are not prepared to make it personally true.

3. Things in Accord with His Rule/Authority – "Thy kingdom come"

In its widest aspect this would include the future Millennial Kingdom and the Saviour’s future glory. In the present it is the establishing of the rule of God in the hearts and lives of individuals through the gospel. Do we own His absolute authority in our lives?

4. Things That Are According to His Will – "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth"

In heaven His will is done instantly, completely, unquestioningly. Our desire should be that that is how it is done on earth; and it will be in the Millennium. Do we exhibit the same willing obedience and complete submission?

5. To be Conscious of Our Own Need – "Give us day by day our daily bread"

We live a day at a time, conscious that God will supply all that we need for that day and so we can come to Him about each day.

6. To be Conscious of Our Own Failings – "And forgive us our sins ..."

As Christians we fail, see 1Jn.1.8-2.2 and we need to know that for fellowship with our heavenly Father to be restored then sin must be confronted. At the same time, we should not be begrudging in our dealings with others and should be fully prepared to extend to them the same forgiveness that God has shown to us.

7. To be Conscious of Our Limitations – "and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil"

God never tempts us to evil, Jms.1.13, but there are times when He does test us, Gen.22.1; 1Pet.1.6,7. This is praying that God would preserve us from circumstances where the flesh can prevail and we fall into sin. It is the desire to live a holy life that honours God. We cannot pray this if we deliberately place ourselves in temptation’s way.

THE PERSISTENCE OF PRAYER – vv.5-10

In our prayers we should have the confidence to come, and come again, to God with our requests. That confidence will be with humility and not arrogance ("ask"); with fervour but not demanding ("seek"); with patience and not frustration ("knock"). Persistence will be rewarded.

THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF PRAYER – vv.11-13

We have a God Who always has our good in view. Thus His answers to our prayers will be moulded by that.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Comfort for Christians in a Changing World

by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)

"… seeing Him who is invisible" Hebrews 11.27

It has been the secret of all who have done great exploits for God; their focus has been on the invisible and eternal.

It was the blind American writer Helen Keller who, when asked if she could think of anything worse than blindness, replied, "A person who has sight but no vision".

When Joshua and Caleb went to spy out Canaan, they looked higher than the stout, stone, seemingly impregnable walls and the fearsome giants; they saw God and returned with optimistic confidence to tell their kinsmen that God was able to overthrow every foe and overcome every obstacle, Num.13.26-14.9.

In the valley of Elah, young David did not focus on the bold, threatening giant who dared to defy God; he remembered the greatness of the God Who had enabled him to conquer the lion and the bear and boldly, he ran to attack the defiant Philistine, obtaining that memorable victory that we still thrill to think about, 1Sam.17.31-58.

May God readjust our focus that we may not become preoccupied with our circumstances, problems and difficulties, but see Him clearly, though invisible.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.

"I will trust, and not be afraid" Isaiah 12.2

Numberless are the causes of fear: the unknown, uncertainty, the power of our enemies, pain; the list goes on. There is but one solution to fear; unwavering trust in God.

There are times when we seem unable even to pray; our bodies are so weak and our minds so clouded with perplexities and stress; we can but trust. It is the simplest and yet at times, paradoxically, the most difficult thing to do. We will expend our last ounce of energy and in spite of being convinced of the futility of our efforts, will make one final, feeble, desperate attempt to resolve our difficulties instead of depending upon the infallible God.

God would remind us, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for Me?" Jer.32.27. Jeremiah was convinced of God’s ability, "Ah Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee" Jer.32.17.

Because He is almighty, and totally dependable, He is worthy of our implicit trust at all times.

Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
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A BARREL AND A CRUSE — SMALL THINGS DURING A BIG CRISIS

by Gideon Khoo (Malaysia)

1 KINGS CHAPTER 17

Paper 1

During this time of crisis, many of us are beginning to appreciate the simple things of life. When the Lord strips the world down to the minimum, mankind begins to realise that life is fragile and transient, and basic necessities that we all take for granted can very quickly be withdrawn from us. We as believers are also learning these vital lessons, albeit with a clear perspective of Divine purposes. It is during the time of trial that believers learn more than ever that they are at the Lord’s mercy. Suddenly, small things begin to matter; what seemed small in the busy day-to-day, is now viewed from a different perspective: a spiritual perspective.

This is the lesson we want to learn in 1Kings chapter 17. The chapter is divided into three different incidents which I have labelled with the following titles:

  • Provision by the Brook – vv.1–7
  • Purpose in the Barrel – vv.8–16
  • Prayer in the Bedroom – vv.17–24

In each of these three incidents, the prophet Elijah was put to a different test, but they all demanded his faith on the LORD. Each of the three incidents involved things that would have seemed small and insignificant, but how amazing it is to learn that it was these seemingly small things that the LORD used to sustain the prophet, and to manifest His Divine purposes. It was by a brook, and through ravens, that He learned that God could provide. And then it was a Gentile woman’s barrel and cruse that God employed to bring salvation to her and the prophet. It was in a little bedroom and on a humble bed on which the prophet himself had slept and, more importantly, prayed, that resurrection life was imparted. These were small things during a big crisis. These small things seem to come in pairs: the brook and the raven; the barrel and the cruse; the loft and the bed.

In this paper we will consider the first incident ("Provision by the Brook") and will go on to the other two in future articles, Lord Willing.

PROVISION BY THE BROOK – vv.1–7

Verse 1: "And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, ‘As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.’"

This is the first time the prophet Elijah is introduced. He enters the scene with very little introduction about his background, except that he was a Tishbite from Gilead. We do not know much about a Tishbite, but the ambiguity of the prophet’s origin seems intentional. A servant’s prior credentials are not as important as the work before him, except that he has been appointed by God for the mission. The world lays very much emphasis on a man’s secular qualifications before he is deemed fit for spiritual service. This is not how God chooses His servant for the service.

The servant of God recognises that his calling is all of God, and the first recorded words of Elijah upon entering into ministry are, "As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand …" This Divine title, "the LORD Who liveth", was likely a well-known title of Jehovah in the time of Elijah, because the widow will later cite this name of God, v.12, and so will other prophets, 1Kgs.18.10; 22.14. There is spiritual relevance in the way they addressed God. In the midst of spiritual deadness and unbridled idolatry, the LORD God Who liveth was a most suitable title. It is a precious thing for believers to know specific aspects of God in a personal way that reflects relevance to present conditions. Paul spoke about the "Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort" 2Cor.1.3, in the background of persecution and hardship. What a time now to know Him as the God of all comfort!

Elijah comes before the great Ahab, the king of Israel. Ahab was a wicked king and would be the nemesis of the prophet Elijah for the rest of his life of service. The first encounter between these two would set off a longstanding battle between good and evil: Elijah versus Ahab and Jezebel; but ultimately, God versus Baal.

The pronouncement of judgment by the prophet was short and terse. He gave credit to the LORD God of Israel, Who was the ultimate authority of the judgment that was about to fall. He pronounced the judgment faithfully and clearly, without fear of reprisal from the king. No diplomatic terminology was needed, and no sweet words were used to lighten the severity of the judgment: "there shall not be dew nor rain these years"! He bore the stewardship of the judgment and did not shrink from the burden of his responsibility when he said, "before whom I stand … but according to my word". Literally, the last part of the verse can be read, ‘but according to the mouth of my word’. It is going to be desolation, until King Ahab sees the mouth of the prophet again, that is, until he faces the prophet and hears him lift the judgment from the land.

Verses 2-4: "And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, ‘Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.’"

The Lord always remembers His own in every trial: immediately the word of the LORD came to the prophet; relief was coming for him. The LORD has now appointed a place of shelter for Elijah. It was not going to be luxurious, neither would Elijah’s prophet friends be there. The LORD sent him to the brook in Cherith to live a life of solitude and isolation. But there, He will provide for the prophet. We usually lament about a little isolation and feel that we are restricted in what we can do for ourselves and for the Lord, if our movements are curtailed. But Elijah, in his life of isolation by the brook, was living out a life ordered by God. He was letting God deal with the evil of the day, but he himself was keeping by the side and witnessing God’s hand of judgment while experiencing His grace in provision. We need to learn to embrace solitude with the Lord and be observant about His workings in our time. So many today are so worked up with the fact that there are no meetings because of the present spread of the disease. So many are thinking of innovative ways to organise some kind of virtual assembly meetings. But can I encourage the believers, that there is a reason why the Lord wants us to stay by the ‘sideline’ at this time. There is a purpose to this whole ordeal, and He wants us to stay by the sides while bigger purposes of His are being accomplished in this world. He wants us to experience solitude by the brook, while He deals with the famine of the land.

Solitude by the brook is not something to which we are accustomed. Our idea of being fed is to be at the ministry meetings and the Bible readings and the conferences. No doubt, these are important sources of spiritual nourishment. I suspect that the Lord is at this time testing us so that we might learn what it means to be fed outside these public means: to be fed in solitude. Many feel they would not receive spiritual nourishment if they are not at a meeting or a conference, because they have not formed a habit of being ‘fed by the brook’. This homebound experience tests us on whether we know feeding from the Word of God in private exercises and fellowship with the Lord. If we do not have the habit of reading our Bibles behind a closed door, then we have not known shelter by the brook Cherith in these trying times!

"But", you say, "was Elijah not suffering under the pronouncement of his own judgment?" The answer is: he was. Was the judgment not meant for King Ahab and his evil consorts, and the whole nation that had bowed to idolatry? It was; but therein lies the solemn lesson to be learned by all who are servants of God. The burden of judgment sometimes has to be experienced by those who preach and proclaim the same judgment. The calamities of this world are a result of sin, and often believers – who condemn sin through their preaching and their living – become part sufferers to these calamities. However, the difference is this: the Lord is on their side!

The LORD gave Elijah the brook for his drink, and the ravens brought the bread and flesh. He had a balanced diet! There was bread for his energy and flesh for his nutrition, both morning and evening. The LORD said, "I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there." Three words need attention here: "commanded", "feed", and "there". These three words are repeated in v.9 when the LORD says to Elijah that the woman of Zarephath will sustain him: "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee." The LORD commanded the ravens, and now He commands the heart of a woman. He feeds His people, and we must always remember that it is He Who provides.

The emphatic "there" is seen throughout the whole chapter, but it is of specific significance in v.4 ("feed thee there"), v.9 ("and dwell there") and v.19 ("where he abode": the word "there" is not in the English translations of v.19, but it is in the Hebrew). The LORD not only provides for us but directs our path and destination. In v.4, "there" is linked with Cherith; in v.9, "there" is linked with the house of the woman of Zarephath; in v.19 "there" is linked with the bedroom of Elijah.

Verses 5,6: "So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook."

Elijah obeyed: he went and did according to the word of the LORD. The ravens brought him food morning and evening. It is just marvellous to think that the Lord not only provides, but that He is considerate with regards to all our needs and pays careful attention to the detail of our provision. Why the need to bring food in two separate rounds each day? Simply because there was flesh. If the whole day’s meat was delivered in the morning, it would not have lasted till the evening under the heat of the wilderness weather. It was purely the grace of God that He not only provided for the whole day, but He was even thoughtful in His mode of supplying.

The raven was an unclean bird, Lev.11.15, so why did the LORD use such a creature to deliver His provision to the sheltered prophet? We first read of the raven in Gen.8.7, and it was the bird sent out by Noah to scout the condition of the land. Although it is a scavenger bird, we are told that it is capable of flying long distances. That was likely the reason why it was chosen by God to deliver food to Elijah. However, the prophet must have been surprised when God informed him that he was going to be fed by an unclean bird. Yet, it was the raven that kept him alive during the famine. Elijah lived in a very difficult and unusual time; and so do we. Perhaps, like Elijah, we might think that under these unusual and difficult times of a social lockdown, having to keep away from meetings is somewhat ‘unclean’. However, we should recognise that the Lord, Who is over all, and makes no mistakes, has allowed the temporary closure of assembly meetings to happen. If we do not see this as the Lord’s dealings, we might begin to take things into our own hands and might end up trespassing into areas that go against the flow of the New Testament pattern. Many suggest online ‘real-time’ assembly meetings, when the Lord has so clearly stated, "where two or three … there am I in the midst of them" Matt.18.20. I believe the "there" of Matt.18.20 clearly teaches the physical gathering of the saints into one geographical and locational place. We need to recognise that the ravens, though unclean, were sent for a reason, and, more importantly, were sent by God Himself. It would be tragic for Elijah if he turned the ravens away because he thought that they were unclean. It would be tragic if we fail to recognise that the temporary closure of meetings as a result of governmental edicts is part of God’s present dealings. It must humble us!

Elijah learned that small things could save life, his life. Through a brook, and unclean birds, the LORD kept the prophet and proved His faithfulness. We must all keep our eyes open: it could be that the Lord is employing the simplicity of life under the present conditions to teach us great truths and to cause us to experience His mercy. Let us be thankful for what we have, never take His provision for granted, and never lose sight of His ways.

Verse 7: "And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land."

The expression "And it came to pass after a while" can literally be translated as ‘And it came to pass at the border of days’ and carries the sense that the days have met their purpose in God’s programme. One would have hoped that at the end of days the famine would end, but that was not the case for Elijah; there was more to be accomplished for the LORD, and by the LORD. Therefore, He caused the brook to dry up, not to intensify the ordeal for Elijah, but that He might now move the prophet to a different location of service. However, this next assignment had nothing to do with so called ‘giant slaying’ type of work. It was not to confront the prophets of Baal and call fire from heaven; at least not yet. It was not to bring rain through clouds that looked like a man’s hand; at least not yet. It was to reach out to a Gentile woman in a time of trouble.

We are going to learn in this chapter that all of Elijah’s spiritual exercises revolve around gaining personal victory. From the pages of this chapter, the text might not describe the personal struggles of Elijah and what was in his mind, but can I suggest that he was struggling within himself and fighting a spiritual battle? God used some very unusual means to teach him and prepare him for his subsequent public ministries. He used some small things to prepare him for the epic confrontations, and we shall see later how these small things are linked to his subsequent battles. During these unusual times, in different pockets of testimonies, I wonder if there are young men or young women, whom God is preparing under the conditions of solitude and isolation, teaching them what it means to be fed by the brook. The Book of Revelation was written when the apostle John was under isolation. Look at how marvellous an inspired book he has left for us because he had allowed the Spirit to work through him under the severe conditions of solitude.

To be continued (D.V.)

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"God With Us"

by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)

Matthew 1.23

One of the things we are increasingly conscious of in these unprecedented days is the distance between us and loved ones and dear fellow-believers. Even though technology allows us to span the distance and overcome some of the difficulties, we are nevertheless aware of a wide gap physically between us and many we love. We cannot hold or hug those who are dear to us and a mere image on a screen leaves much to be desired. We have heard heart-rending and distressing stories of those who have died of Covid-19 and family members could not even visit them to comfort them or give them a final embrace in their last moments.

How blessed, when family and friends are far, that there is One Who is ever near, "a very present help in trouble" Ps.46.1. Christ Himself said, "Lo, I am with you alway [‘all the days’], even unto the end of the world [‘age’]" Matt.28.20. He has pledged to be with us at all times and forever: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" Heb.13.5, yet He Himself was forsaken at Calvary. Will we ever forget that lamentable cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Ps.22.1? Of course, God expressly stated His desire to be with His own, Ex.25.22, and behind the veil of blue, purple, scarlet and fine linen, with cherubim, in the Holiest of all, was that most significant item of furniture, called the Ark of the Covenant, which signified the indispensable presence of God among His people.

Four times in Genesis chapter 39 we read that "the LORD was with him [Joseph]" vv.2,3,21,23. No longer was he in the beautiful vale of Hebron, nor was he with his father or family; nor was he with the flocks he loved to tend; he was far from home and if ever a person felt isolated, it must have been Joseph. Instead of being the beloved son, he was the bound slave. In all circumstances, however, whether in the pastures of Hebron, his home for seventeen years, the pit where he had known the cruel hatred of his brothers, Potiphar’s house where he was wrongly accused, the prison where he never deserved to be or the palace where God eventually brought him, "the LORD was with him".

Just after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the believers were in lockdown, Jn.20.19-23. The doors were securely shut and every precaution was taken to keep the enemy out but just as the stone, the seal and the sentinels could not keep the Saviour in the tomb, so the locks could not keep the Saviour out and His welcome presence in their fearful circumstances cheered the troubled hearts of the saints.

We have had to accept unforeseen and unwelcome changes in our lives, but on this precious and unalterable fact we can confidently rest: "I will be with thee ..." Isa.43.2. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me ..." Ps.23.4. "Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them" Lk.24.15.

How precious and reassuring, His presence with us continually!

I must have the Saviour with me, for I dare not walk alone;
I must feel His presence near me, and His arm around me thrown.
I must have the Saviour with me in the onward march of life,
Through the tempest and the sunshine, through the battle and the strife.

  (Lizzie Edwards)

May we continue to enjoy His presence, provision and protection and may the Lord continue to bless you and yours.

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Lessons From Prison Experiences

by John Gordon (N. Ireland)

Paper 1

‘These are dark times but there is hope ahead.’

This was the headline of a news article which caught my attention in recent days. We would all agree that they are ‘dark times’ in which we are living and particularly so in recent weeks as the scourge of the Coronavirus has ripped across the world wreaking havoc and devastation on the empire of puny man. It is undoubtedly the fallout from the disobedience of man traced back to his rebellion against God at the beginning in the garden of Eden. Down through the centuries of time, man’s heart has been exposed as he continues to pursue a path of self-satisfying lust, doing that which is right in his own eyes and, for his own gratification, reducing the standards of a holy God. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Rom.3.23.

The news correspondent goes on to say that ‘there is hope ahead.’ Tragically, many will not experience that hope as the deadly virus Covid-19 claims the lives of tens of thousands worldwide. Many will find themselves in a place where there is ‘no hope’ and under God’s judgment for ever. I would imagine that what the writer of the news article had in mind was days on earth when this pandemic would be over, a vaccine having been found and people returning to enjoy themselves, filling their lives once again with the pleasures of this world. This is not guaranteed and for many it will be little more than ‘wishful thinking’.

Thankfully, you and I who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ can truly say that ‘these are dark times but there is hope ahead’. This world is not our home. We are passing through a place of which the poet penned, "This world is a wilderness wide". As children of God, we have a hope; something that is solid, settled, secure and satisfying: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" Col.1.27.

There have been ‘dark times’ in this world before, and for the people of God, both collectively and individually. As I thought on these things, my mind turned to the restrictions placed upon us during ‘lockdown’: social distancing, movements curtailed, gatherings of the Lord’s people and the visiting of needy saints not possible, etc., etc. Although we have all heard it said that opposition to and persecution of Christians may be our lot very soon, none of us even envisaged six months ago that, even in favoured lands where we have known the gospel to be publicly preached throughout our lifetimes, this would not be taking place, and believers would not be able to meet to remember the Lord.

Some have likened being in ‘lockdown’ to becoming, as it were, prisoners in our own homes. What I would like to consider is some of the prison experiences that we have recorded for us in Scripture and hopefully to learn some valuable lessons from them to strengthen us in ‘dark times’. For "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" 2Tim.3.16, and again, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" Rom.15.4.

JOSEPH AND HIS PATIENCE

Very often when we turn to Joseph we view him as a picture of the Lord Jesus. He was hated, despised, rejected and sold, yet he was the one who would meet the need of others when they turned to him in their desperate need. What a picture of our Saviour, Who experienced all of this and more when He was here! Then, on the appointed day, He made His way to Calvary where He suffered so that salvation would be provided to meet our need eternally.

There was a day when Joseph found himself in the prison, "a place where the king’s prisoners were bound" Gen.39.20. Despite his faithfulness, living a life marked by godly fear that was so different from an Egyptian lifestyle, God allowed him to be imprisoned. Joseph may well have asked the question, "Why?" What we must realise is that even though a believer may live an honourable life as Joseph did, yet no believer is exempt from trials. As Annie Johnson Flint wrote:

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Let me ask a question at this point. What was it that sustained Joseph in the prison? Well, the answer is quite simple and is recorded for us more than once: "the LORD was with Joseph".

During the present ‘lockdown’ we may be inclined to become very impatient. The question many are asking is, How long is this going to last? The answer is: God alone knows. He knows how much we are missing the fellowship and assembly gatherings together with all its activities. Presently, we yearn for the day when these cherished times will be restored. Remember, God has permitted these conditions to be (not caused them) but we need to be patient, just as Joseph was. Although he was in prison for a few years and lost his job when he was put there, God had a different role and better things in store for him when he was brought out again.

Dear brother, dear sister, let us be patient in our present situation. The Lord is with us every hour of every day and is working out His purposes just as He did with Joseph. We do not know what He has planned for us to do when we exit the present pandemic. In Rom.12.12 Paul writes, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer". Also, in chapter 5 verse 7 of his epistle, James writes, "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord."

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay:
Mould me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

PETER AND HIS PEACE

I, for one, would be very slow to criticise Peter. No doubt he made a number of blunders but which of us have not? Should I be inclined to find fault with Peter and his denial of knowing the Lord, my mind is immediately drawn to those words that he spoke to his Lord a few days after the resurrection, "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee" Jn.21.17.

Having been restored to the Lord, the apostle Peter went on to serve his Master faithfully. He saw thousands of souls saved as he preached and a firm foundation laid at the beginning of the Church age. For him it would ultimately lead to his life being taken from him. Precious words that he penned are given to us in the Epistles that he wrote. Writing in the first chapter of his First Epistle, he speaks of those who "are in heaviness through manifold temptations [‘trials’]" 1Pet.1.6. This was a proof of their faith, which Peter describes as "much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried [‘proved’] with fire". The purpose of this testing is that it "might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" 1Pet.1.7.

One day, Peter found himself in a prison and on ‘death row’ waiting for the moment of his execution as recorded in Acts chapter 12. Already Herod has taken the life of the apostle James and now Peter is being held in prison until after Easter to face his fate but much prayer is ascending on his behalf. In what was to be Peter’s last night alive, he is sleeping between two soldiers. What a peace! Here he is, able to sleep, even as death stares him in the face for he knows real peace with God. God heard, intervened and in answer to prayer, miraculously delivered him.

In these ‘dark times’, we have worries and cares as we think of family, friends, neighbours and others who are not ready to die. There is much need for prayer that they will be preserved at this time, delivered and saved. God hears and answers prayer as has been proven in the past and in the deliverance of Peter. Although we may have our fears, we have a lasting peace, knowing that for us, all is well for eternity. Think of those lovely words we sometimes sing:

I have a peace – and it’s calm as a river –
A peace that the friends of the world never knew;
My Saviour alone is its Author and Giver;
But O, could I know it was given to you!
For you I am praying – I’m praying for you.

In the next article, Lord Willing, we will look at Paul and Silas and their prayers and praise, and the Lord Jesus and His provision.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Good Tidings from Heaven

The Panacea for a Pandemic

In recent months scientists, medical experts and researchers have been working around the clock in search of a cure or vaccination for Covid-19. Huge amounts of money have been injected into the project and every attempt is being made to provide a solution to this global pandemic. Meanwhile many are dying and statistics are alarming. The virus has spread with amazing rapidity right across the world, just weeks after initial reports of its outbreak in Wuhan in China. No one has been spared: the rich, the poor, the famous and the unknown, religious and pagan; all classes have succumbed to its devastating effects. It has crossed all boundaries and no state, county, city, country or continent could halt its rapid advance.

There is a far greater global problem that few are willing to consider or talk about. It has not been around for months but has plagued humanity from the dawn of history, from that first calamitous act of rebellion and disobedience by Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. For them it had disastrous consequences, resulting in their eviction from that earthly paradise and forcing a yawning chasm between them and God. Since then, every generation, every single human being born into the world, apart from the Lord Jesus, has been affected and infected by the deadly ‘virus’ of sin. Every individual has tested positive! "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" Romans 5.12.

How serious is it? Just as serious as James starkly describes it, "… and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" James 1.15. It has damaged us physically, psychologically and spiritually; every stratum of creation has been impacted and there is no area where its frightening effects have not been felt. It is the source of human tears, the cause of sickness and death; it has filled hospitals and mental asylums and it brings human beings at last to the grave. Worse than all that, if not addressed, it will mean eternal banishment from God in Hell and the Lake of Fire, in unending torments and remorse, from whence there can be no escape.

Is there hope? Is there an effective remedy? Thank God, He undertook to provide the only cure for this most serious of ailments: it is one hundred per cent effective regardless of the severity of the case or the length of time one has suffered from this "worst of all diseases". Its curative power works in every country and climate and throughout the world there are millions who will readily testify to its tried and tested efficacy.

Is it expensive? God had to give His only Son; can you calculate the price of that gift? In order to save the lives of the sufferers, God’s Son had to forfeit His life. The only One Who could provide the remedy must be free of the infection Himself, immune to all contamination. On the cross He did everything that God demanded for us to be pardoned, have our every sin forgiven and receive eternal life. It was unimaginably expensive for God and Christ and yet, amazingly, this remedy is offered to you without money and without price: "… the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" Romans 6.23.

What must I do then? You cannot save yourself, you cannot escape the inevitable consequences of your condition by your own efforts but you can trust Christ to do for you what you cannot achieve yourself. Do not ignore the serious problem that you have; this remedy works without doubt, every time, but only if you take it. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" John 3.36. Please be warned: failure to do so will mean inevitable death and eternal exclusion from Heaven. The facts are stark, the consequences are fearful, the remedy works; there’s danger and death in delay.

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