Our lot is cast in a day marked by moral darkness, departure and declension. The features that marked failure at the beginning are noticeable as we approach the end. Satan moved in his subtilty in the garden of Eden and beguiled Eve. She gave him the opening by making at least two errors:
(i) she deserted headship,
(ii) she distorted the word of God.
The first is seen in the fact that she spoke to the serpent while alone and did not call her husband. The second can be noted by comparing Genesis 2. 16, 17 with Genesis 3. 2, 3. The careful reader will note that she made at least five mistakes.
These two errors are very prevalent in our day and they still give Satan the opportunity of attacking the work of God.
In the world at large feminism is rampant with career women, working wives and mothers the accepted standard of the day. This has been absorbed by the religious world until we have now the ordination of women in the established "church". In the assemblies neither worldly standards generally nor those of the religious world should really affect us, but it is true that what is outside will always have an influence on what is inside. It is sad when the Lord's people accept the thinking and the standards of the world.
The insidious attack on headship became apparent as sisters cut their hair, their God given glory, 1 Cor. 11. 15. This seems to have been tolerated and in many quarters corrective ministry has been withheld. The second phase of the attack is now upon us with sisters completely discarding the head covering. The refusal of brethren to deal with the first has rendered many impotent to deal with the second.
The distortion of the word of God is a related difficulty and is widely used by Satan. It seems he knows the Scriptures better than many saints! The introduction of modern versions has been a very subtle ploy by the enemy. It has robbed the saints of the "tools" required for diligent Bible study. Every student of God's word uses aids like W. E. Vine's dictionary, Wigram's concordance, Gesenius, Thayer, etc., etc. These are largely inaccessible to users of modern versions. Much of what passes for a translation is more in the character of a paraphrase and upon the distortions which appear is built the most serious error.
With such conditions around us it would be very easy to give up, but we must go on. We must preach and teach all the counsel of God and keep back nothing that would be profitable. The words of Hebrews 10. 23 are pertinent, "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)." What a stay for the people of God — He is faithful! He will not fail!
As we have entered a New Year, perhaps the final one of this dispensation, let us lay hold upon His faithfulness with all assurance and faith. His faithfulness can be experienced in every aspect of life.
1 Cor. 10.13
in relation to TEMPTATION.
1 John 1.9
in relation to CONFESSION.
2 Thess 3.3
in relation to PRESERVATION.
1 Cor. 1.9
in relation to PRESENTATION.
These references teach us that He will be faithful all the way through life. We can rely implicity on Him. The tide can be stayed and He will support us faithfully until we arrive safely in glory. MARANATHA.
BEHOLD THE MAN
(Meditations in Luke's Gospel)
by JIM FLANIGAN, (Belfast)
3. THE INCARNATION
O ever homeless Stranger,
Thus dearest Friend to me;
An outcast in a manger,
That Thou might'st with us be.
The incarnation of God's Son is the supreme mystery. Paul acknowledges it to be so, (1 Tim. 3.16). It is the coming into flesh of a divine Person. We cannot pretend to understand it. We dare not presume to explain it. It is incomprehensible to the human mind. But where we cannot understand, we can bow in wonder and in worship, and our souls may adore as we contemplate the immeasurable stoop that brought the Saviour from glory into our world of tears.
Every believing heart responds at once to the invitation of the shepherds, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass" Luke 2.15. Bethlehem! It ought to be pointed out again and again that there are two Bethlehems in Israel. There is a Bethlehem in Galilee, perhaps seven or eight miles from Nazareth. But the Bethlehem of the incarnation is in Judea, a few miles south of Jerusalem, and not in Galilee. Note then, the accuracy of Holy Scripture; "Bethlehem in the land of Judah", Matt. 2.6; "Bethlehem of Judea", Matt. 2.5; "Bethlehem Ephratah", Micah 5.2. It is to this Bethlehem that Caesar's decree brings Joseph and Mary for the advent of the promised Messiah and the accurate fulfilment of prophecy.
The first mention of Bethlehem in our Bible is most touching. It tells of the birth of a baby boy and the death of his mother. The child is born. Rachel names him "Benoni," the son of sorrow, and she dies. Jacob buried her at Bethlehem, and, looking at the child, he said, "Not Benoni, but Benjamin," which means, "the son of my right hand." That early infant of Bethlehem was, in some senses, a foreshadowing of Another who was to come. To Israel He would be known only as a Man of sorrows, but in glory He would sit at His Father's right hand.
Genesis 35 brings to us this first reference to Bethlehem in our Bible but there are are other intervening references before the birth of Christ. This is the Bethlehem of Ruth and Boaz. It is the Bethlehem of David, the shepherd boy who became king. It is a little town, sufficiently removed from the bustle of Jerusalem, nestling in the Judean hills. There is something delightfully picturesque about Bethlehem, but alas, royal David's city had no room for David's greater Son. The inn was crowded full. Perhaps money would have bought a room in it somewhere, but the couple who carried the unborn Christ to the inn door were not wealthy. Bethlehem was typical of the world at large, the world that "knew Him not" John 1.10. The little town slept on that night, as did the world around it, unaware that the Creator Himself was making His advent into it.
And so He came, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. The Lord of glory whose train filled the temple in Isaiah 6, wrapped up, a precious tiny human bundle, voluntarily dependent on Mary. It is to be observed that it was Mary, herself, who wrapped Him in the swaddling clothes. Mary, who had just brought Him forth, her firstborn, she herself, alone, laid Him in the manger cradle. Even the slave women of Egypt had midwives (Exod. 1.15-18). Mary, in her poverty, had not.
It is important to remember that though our Lord's conception was miraculous, His birth was natural. He made His holy entry into our world by the common process and trauma of natural childbirth. Conceived in a virgin womb though He was, He came, as others did, by pain and suffering, and very possibly with tears. Might this not be the plain and simple meaning of 1 John 5.6?
The miracle of the virgin conception is an essential founda-tional truth of the Gospel. It is fundamental, not optional. To challenge it is to question the integrity of such godly persons as Matthew and Joseph and Luke, and Mary herself, from whom, no doubt, Luke had received many of the details that he gives us. To deny the virgin conception of the Saviour is to deny the inspiration and the authority of the Word of God. The truth of the virgin birth is not dependent upon any disputed meaning of the word "virgin" in Isaiah 7.14. They argue, some do, that the word but indicates "a young woman." Even if that were proven to be so, does it in any way detract from the accounts given by Matthew and Luke, and by Joseph and Mary? No! Emphatically no! The young woman was a virgin. Her holy Child was conceived supernaturally by the ministry and power of the Spirit of God. She was still a virgin when her Child was born (Matt. 1.25). And so, in the fulness of the time He came of a woman (Gal. 4.4), in lowly and humble circumstances, born in an outside place, rejected as it were, from the very beginning.
Come now, and view that manger —
The Lord of glory see,
A houseless homeless Stranger
In this poor world for thee.
—(to be continued)
Messages from Muller
These are notes of addresses given by the late George Muller
On the Twenty-third Psalm
An address delivered at the Weekly Prayer-meeting on Monday Evening, July 24th, 1871.
In the measure in which, in our souls, we are enabled to say that Jehovah Himself is our Shepherd, just in that measure our hearts will say, "I shall not want." The second follows from the first; for it is written, "They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee." It is when God is not known that difficulty comes. The great point, therefore, is to acquaint ourselves with God, to know God for ourselves as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. And the more we know Him ourselves, the more easy will our hearts find it to say, "I shall not want." No one yet knew Jehovah without being able to exercise faith in Him.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters."
How precious! Not, He leadeth here and there to a dry morsel. Not, now and then He giveth a mouthful of green pasture. Far more than this. Here we have not only abundance of pasture, and green pasture, but lying down in it, that we may leisurely, abundantly, bountifully partake of it. Now this is just the way of our good and gracious Lord. It is His joy and delight not only to give as much as we need, but to give us abundantly. Oh, what joy has our good Shepherd in thus refreshing our hearts!
"He leadeth me beside the still waters." Not only has each just enough to drink to keep life in them, but they may drink again and again. He leadeth them, not to a noisy stream, where the poor sheep would be frightened, but to the gentle, quiet waters, where they may drink leisurely and calmly.
"He restoreth my soul. 'This is not to be understood as the bringing back of a backslider to God, for the Hebrew word here translated "restoreth" most assuredly would not bear that interpretation. It must he understood in the sense of refreshing, or strengthening, just as in retiring at night to rest, we lie down and sleep, and awake with our strength renewed. We must understand the restoring to be the renewal of strength. The connection also shows this to be the meaning.
"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for His name's sake."
It is the very joy and delight of the heart of God thus to lead us on, to help us forward, to strengthen us more and more. Here again we may betake ourselves to our Shepherd with the greatest confidence, and say, "Now it is for the honour and glory of Thy name that I should be strengthened, that I may walk in Thy ways and to Thine honour." "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."
Very precious! So that, let come what may, all will be well. Let the worst come, as the world would say, all will be well. The Shepherd is with us. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Why not? The Shepherd is with us. Oh! this Shepherd, this precious Shepherd, loves to accompany the sheep. If only they walk in His ways, whatever their circumstances may be, they may reckon upon His presence.
The sheep will say, as they regard the Shepherd, " Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over."
Here the figure ceases. The first four verses speak about the Lord under the figure of a Shepherd. Now He is spoken of under the figure of a Host caring for His guest. And how do we fare in this capacity? 'Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over." Here again how bountifully we are blessed by God — the Host. It is the very joy and delight of the heart of God to honour us. It was a mark of honour when guests were anointed by their host. And when they are not sparingly supplied: "My cup runneth over." Oh! what joy, what happiness should we not have, provided we walked statedly, habitually, at all times, and under all circumstances, simply in the ways of the Lord, having the single object in life to please Him.
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
The psalm ends with a bright and blessed prospect for us for the little of the future of time that is yet before us: "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Let come what may, there will be goodness and mercy. Friends may be taken; I may be tried in my Church position; I may be tried in various ways; yet goodness and mercy follow me. And here in this verse we have our own name. Goodness and mercy shall follow me — so-and-so; we may write our own name, and say to the glory of God regarding ourselves, goodness and mercy shall follow ME. This is no presumption. This tends to the glory of God. When we take God by His word, we are not going too far. We ought to go so far as to believe what God says regarding His children; and this is a universal promise regarding all the children of God.
"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
The Host having been so kind towards the guest, having an-nointed his head with oil, and so abundantly provided for him, the guest now says, "I will remain in the house; I will remain in it, and not be a visitor merely." In our inmost heart we say, "There is no house like the Father's house." And oh! to dwell in the presence of God; in spirit, to be in the Father's house; in spirit, to be in heaven now, there to abide — there, not to be a visitor only, a guest merely for a day or two or a week, but to say, "I will abide there, in the Father's house." Oh, how blessed! Now this is the present portion of the feeblest and weakest of the children of God; and if we would only have it, it is the very joy and delight of the heart of God to give us this blessed portion.
THE ATONEMENT (6)
by William Blane
Part II (continued)
Now let us turn our thoughts below
Upon the filling pit of woe,
And ask the question — Who shall dwell
With the devouring flames of hell?
The gate is wide, the way is broad,
That leads the soul away from God,
Yet never man in hell shall mourn
Who has not had a chance to turn.
Whether he be a pagan wild,
Or born a Christian's favoured child,
God will not suffer him to go
Unwarned to everlasting woe.
Where Revelation is unknown,
And men in heathen darkness groan,
His Spirit will the wand'rer seek,
Conscience and Providence will speak,
Creation will the Godhead show,
And God shall judge them as they know;
And though they cannot Christ refuse,
And shall be left without excuse;
For nothing but rejected light
Shall doom a soul to endless night.
But those who live in gospel lands,
Where many a faithful witness stands
To warn them from the downward road,
And point them to "the way" to God;
Who will not from destruction turn,
Shall deepest sink and saddest mourn.
O favoured-ladened Christendom!
From thee how many thousands come
The number of the damned to swell,
And louder make the wail of Hell.
When Death and Hell to judgment yield,
And earth shall be a teeming field
Of rising bodies — on that day,
When earth and heaven shall flee away,
Dissolving back again to space,
Before the Judge's awful face,
They, in their sins, before the throne
Shall stand (while He who sits thereon,
With retribution in His looks,
Shall judge them from the opened books)
Without one faint excuse to give,
Or reason why they ought to live.
"The Book of Life," whose precious leaves
No unbeliever's name receives,
Heav'n's solemn verdict shall reveal,
Eternally their doom to seal,
Which God Himself can not repeal.
With what confusion, grief and fear,
Shall they the solemn sentence hear!
Without the earth beneath their feet,
Or heav'n above — with no retreat
Except the burning, surging sea
Of fire and brimstone, which shall be,
With all its woe, relief from rays
Of light so searching, and the gaze
Of Him whose love they once refus'd,
And whose long-suffering they abus'd.
And as to all eternity,
In still increasing agony,
With madd'ning grief, in dark despair,
Through all their sins they suffer there,
The value of the Saviour's blood
They still shall prove is known to God,
And God alone; and shall confess
The cause of all their wretchedness,
From which they hope for no relief,
To be the sin of unbelief.
If, at the judgment, it were seen
That all are saved who could have been —
That, to the lost, God's offered Lamb
Was but a mockery and sham,
Which they were blinded to refuse,
His scant provision to excuse,
"I" would lighten up hell's gloomy plains
And turn to pleasure all its pains;
And those who into it were driven
Would not desire a place in heav'n,
While even there the favoured few
Their biassed choice would almost rue.
But like the cloud to Israel light,
And to th' Egyptians worse than night,
The Cross shall ever stand between
The upper and the nether scene;
The light of where the ransom'd dwell —
The deepest, darkest shade of hell.
The arch-fiend, too, the effect shall feel,
Of having bruised the Saviour's heel.
He, with his whole infernal crew,
In bitter, dire remorse shall rue
That e'er he left the nether sphere
To make his blind adventures here.
Hades and Death shall vanquished be
And all their prisoners set free.
The second death, the burning lake,
Shall all opposing powers o'ertake;
For He who once to death did yield,
That all His enemies shall be
Beneath His feet eternally.
Thus all below and all above
To all eternity shall prove,
In blissful gain, or rueful loss,
the value of the wondrous Cross.
by A. D. THROPAY (California)
F. The Promise of God for the Church 3.1-13
1. The mystery of the church 3.1 -6.
2. The minister of the mystery 3.7-13.
—For this cause: referring to all the preceding argument of God's grace (Expositors, A. T. Robinson); Some limit this phase as referring to verse 2.22 only.
—I: this word is emphatic.
—Paul: The emphatic designation of himself shows his personal interest in them. He refers to himself as "Paul" rather than as an "apostle," as an equal, rather than one with authority over them.
—the prisoner of: (tou) "of the."
—Christ, Jesus: (a) Paul states in this phrase that the Christ, or the Messiah, is Jesus, (b) Paul states that he was made a prisoner by Jesus the Christ. (The words are in the genitive tense of originating cause). Paul placed blame on no one for his imprisonment. He accepted all his circumstances as coming from God. He firmly believed that Christ Jesus was in full control of everything.
—for: (huper) On behalf of.
—you Gentiles: (a) Paul's imprisonment was on behalf of the Gentiles. It resulted from bringing them the Gospel, (b) His imprisonment would be for their benefit, helpful to their Christian life. (See verse 13). Paul was willing to suffer for the benefit of others. This is true love.
—If: (eige) "A supposition which is taken for granted." — "If indeed, as I may assume ..." (Expositors).
—ye have heard of: The phrase is a polite reminder of what they had certainly been taught. It is "a gentle appeal, expressed in hypothetical form, and conveying the hope that his words had not been quite forgotten." (Ellicot).
—the dispensation: (oikonomia) Literally, "Law of the house." This word has two meanings. (1) Administration, management, or arrangement of a house or property — 1 Timothy 1.4 and this epistle. (2) Office of administrator or steward, or administration of grace.
—of the grace: (charis) The unlimited (Romans 11.6), unmerited (Ephesians 2.8), unselfish (II Corinthians 8.9), uncompromised, unrecompensable, loving favour of God to the sinner which produces "leaping for joy" and "thankfulness."
—of God: This grace comes from God. It belongs to God because it is an attribute of God. Thus, it cannot be separated from God. God is in charge of the management of this grace.
—which is given me: "Such is the grammatical connection; not the 'stewardship' but the 'grace' is the thing given." (H. G. C. Moule) See verses 7 and 8.
—to you ward: God, as the administrator of grace, passed it on to Paul so that he would pass it on to the Gentiles. As we receive the same grace, we are to pass it on to others as well. We are to do this through the preaching of the Gospel and teaching believers grace and truth.
—How that: (hoti) "The fact that. . ." Paul is going to explain how God manages His grace.
—by: (kata) "according to; in accord with."
—revelation: (apokalupsis) "To draw back the veil." "To make bare or naked." "To uncover."
—He made known: (gnorizo) To bring to a thorough knowledge. That is a complete, exhaustive, and detailed understanding.
—unto me: By an act of uncovering certain facts, concepts and principles to the apostle Paul, God gave him a total picture of ...
—the mystery: (musterion) This word means primarily, "That which is known by the initiated (mustes)." (W. E. Vine) In the New Testament, it is a truth which was once hidden and unknown, but is now revealed. Such truth can only be understood by us through the Holy Spirit.
—As I wrote afore in few words: (en oligo) in brief. That is, he mentioned this mystery to them briefly in 1.9,10 and also in 2.11-22.
—whereby: (pros ho) "By which" (Newberry, Rickerberry); "in accordance with which" (Expositors); "Agreeably to which." (Vincent).
—when ye read: That is, read what follows; what he is about to say.
—ye may understand: (noeo) To perceive with the mind. To understand.
—my knowledge: (sunesis) Mental apprehension; insight depending on judgment and inference. (Expositors) — The apostle Paul had a complete exhaustive, and detailed understanding of the mystery according to verse 3. Now his desire is that the believers to whom he is writing will have the same type of understanding; that they will know all that he knows.
—in the mystery of Christ: This phrase may have three meanings.
1. "mystery relating to Christ." (Genitive of object).
2. "mystery originated by Christ." (Genitive of originating cause).
3. "mystery which is Christ." (Genitive of identity or apposition).
—which in other: (heteros) Another of a different kind.
—ages: (genea) "Generations." The period of time covered by a generation of men. (See Expositors).
—was not made known: (gnorizo) (As verse 3) To make known or to cause to be recognized. To bring to a thorough knowledge. That is a complete, exhaustive, and detailed understanding.
—unto the sons of men: Mankind in general, whether Jew or Gentile. God did not reveal this mystery to anyone prior to the New Testament apostles and prophets.
—as: (hos) It "has its proper comparative force." (Expositors) "Like as, even as, according as, in the same manner as." (Thayer).
—it is now: (nun) That is, in these Christian times.
—revealed: (apokalupto)) To uncover, unveil, reveal something that was hidden.
—unto His: These people who received the revelation belong to God.
—holy: (hagioi) These men also have God's character. — God sees to it that those that belong to Him become like Him.
—apostles: (apostles) to send one forth on a commission as a representative. In this case, they represented God.
—and prophets: Those who receive direct revelation from God by faith, and accurately relate to it others.
—by: (en) Literally, "in." "En" combines two ideas: (a) element or condition and (b) agency. The revelation was made to the apostles and prophets "in" and "by" God's Spirit.
—Spirit: there is no article in the original before the word "Spirit." It was revealed to them "in Spirit." The Holy Spirit revealed it to their spirit. It is totally a spiritual revelation, only understood by a person that is governed by the Holy Spirit.
—That the Gentiles: (ethne) This word is sometimes translated "Gentiles," sometimes "nations," and sometimes "heathen." In scripture it is used as a special term to designate non Jews. The word is a general term and can be translated, "peoples." It "means a 'mass,' 'host' or 'multitude' joined together by the same manners, customs or other distinctive features." It includes people united by a common ancestry, a common history and constitution, and/or a common language. (See TDNT). It therefore includes people within the bounds of a nation that may speak a different dialect or language and practice a different culture. We call these groups in this country, "ethnic groups." The word, then, although a general term, does not exclude the individual interest that God has in every possible group united on this earth.
—should be: (einai) "are." i.e. a fact, not a purpose. (Expositors) I Peter 3.7; Romans 8.17. What the Lord Jesus possesses is the inheritance of every believer. The inheritance of one, is the inheritance of all. All social, geographical, lingual, and racial barriers are broken down when a person becomes a believer in Christ.
—and of the same body: (sussoma) fellow body members, belonging jointly to the same body. (This word is unknown in classical Greek. It is not used anywhere else in the scriptures either. It may have been made up by Paul through the Spirit). If we belong to the same body, we are part of each other. I am part of you if you are saved and you are part of me.
—and partakers: (summetochos) Fellow partakers. A joint partaker. A partaker together with. (See 5.7). — What one Gentile group partakes of all groups can partake of. Each believer, being part of all other believers in the same body, can participate in the same spiritual realities.
—of His promise: (epangelia) "The promise of a gift graciously bestowed." (W. E. Vine).
—in the Christ: He is the reason for and the sphere in which the above three joint actualities take place.
—by: (dia) through, by means of.
—the Gospel: The Gentiles became possessors of the mystery through the agency of the Gospel. All the things that have been mentioned are realities for every saved person. Paul's desire, implanted by God, is that every believer will realize these facts, understand them and their implication, and live in their reality!
What is the implication of being a fellow heir of the same possessions? Will it affect jealousy? envy? greed? What else?
What affect does the reality of being part of the same body have on a believer? If you are part of another believer, how will that realization affect your attitude towards him/her? Will it affect a critical spirit? a condemning attitude? a cold attitude? anger? hatred? malice? Will their failures be yours? Will their successes be yours? How else will this affect you?
How does the reality of being a fellow partaker of God's promise to bestow gracious gifts on each believer without partiality affect us? Will it help us to share in another person's joy when they receive something that we do not seem to have presently? Does it give us hope? rest? satisfaction?
How does this revelation affect our understanding of and appreciation of God's character?
Lessons from the Life of David
By J. Burnett, (Dunfermline, Scotland)
2(b) — David and his Family
In the previous paper we noted David's relationship with his father. We shall now consider two further relationships.
2. HIS BROTHER ELIAB — THE RESTRAINT HE EXERCISED
In 1 Sam. 20.28 David's brother withstood him. One can almost hear the sarcasm in his voice when he asked, "with whom hast thou left those few sheep?" Having thus been taunted and publicly humiliated how was David going to react? We learn from v.30 that he "turned from him." Some might think this was a display of weakness but it rather was an evidence of inner strength. An ugly scene could so easily have developed that day if David had risen to the bait. He could have said things in the heat of the moment under severe provocation that would have left his testimony in ruins and his character tarnished. A lifetime of regret and bitter remorse would have been his to endure. The name of the Lord would have been dishonoured and the cause of God brought into disrepute. How wisely did young David behave himself, never for a moment allowing the flesh in Eliab to bring out the flesh that was in him — and in every one of us!
Now observe something very precious in 1 Chron. 27. Under the supervision of David certain men were being appointed over the tribes. When it came to Judah the man chosen was Elihu. From the margin of the Bible we learn that this was, in fact, Eliab his brother — the man who had belittled him in 1 Sam. 17. Here then is further proof of David's mighty greatness. There was a golden opportunity for an old score to be settled. Would he not have been fully justified in denying Eliab this great honour? A lesser man than David might have acted so but not the man after God's own heart. David would not allow personal matters to interfere with national interest. He could quite so easily sought revenge for the shameful way he had been treated, but instead he found grace from God to rise above the circumstances and act in a most commendable manner. Of such men the late Wm. Trew said, "THEIR ABSENCE.IS DECLARED: THEIR PRESENCE IS DEMANDED."
3. WITH HIS SON SOLOMON — THE RESPONSIBILITY HE FULFILLED
1 Chron. 22 records for us the abundant preparation David made for the building of the house, even though he was a man well stricken in years. As Wm. Sellick said, "it is possible while DESCENDING the hill of NATURE to ASCEND the hill of GRACE."
It has been one of the great joys of life to have been associated with old men who have retained right to the end a freshness and power that can only be the product of the Sanctuary. Although the outward man is perishing the inner man is being renewed daily. So it was with David. It was not given to David to actually build the house, for he was a man of war but it was nevertheless in his heart. It has been observed that it was Abraham's exercise to find an HEIR, it was David's desire to build a HOUSE and it was granted to Paul to find HEIRS to fill the HOUSE.
Please note in 2 Sam. 7, David, under a clear sky with no cloud between, confided in Nathan the prophet, his desire to secure a dwelling place for the Most High. Nathan gave him every encouragement and his full support. In 2 Sam. 12 the circumstances are very different for David was guilty of a most serious and grievous sin. No longer was the sky clear but dark and foreboding. David stood condemned, covered with shame and needing the solemn word of rebuke, "thou art the man." Who is God going to use to pronounce such weighty words of judgment? Nathan the man who had shared in David's joy when David was walking with the Lord in the light of his word. Here we have one of the great principles of Scripture and that is — there is such a thing as having the moral right and fitness to state certain things. The man who commended David in the good days was fit to bring David the sad words of condemnation.
In this chapter David is leaving behind rich material for his son to use for the building of the House. What will we leave behind by way of a spiritual legacy for a future generation? In
Acts 9, Dorcas left behind coats and garments. When Peter was shown these by the widows it is very likely they were wearing them. No doubt they were well made and had their own beauty, but they were something of practical worth. It is good when we give to the younger saints in the fellowship teaching which can be translated into their practical experience.
What joy would fill the heart of David to know his own son had been chosen to build for God. Lovely are the words of v.14, "and thou mayest add thereto." What a tremendous encouragement for Solomon, the younger man, to receive at a very critical moment in his life — to be permitted to add to all that his father had done. Thus it is with us — we can only hope to continue and advance the work our forefathers have done. Our late brother Robert McPheat, who left behind such a rich spiritual legacy, often would pray that our families would be far more earnest and zealous for God than ever we have been. Such sentiments will be endorsed by all the spiritual minded.
What shall he leave his sons? silver nor gold
Nor heritage, has he, nor herd nor fold;
Not these can he bequeath, but this he can —
The holy raiment of a saintly man.
The fair example of a life well spent,
Of daily 'tendance in the sacred tent,
Of ever praiseful heart and reverent mind,
What nobler gift can father leave behind?
That son, who drawing near the Throne of Grace,
Can say how well my father knew this place!
How oft I've heard his voice in fervent prayer!
Happy that son, that richly dowered heir.
Once more we see David being tested. The fact that he was denied the privilege of building did not sour his spirit or leave him bearing a grudge. He rejoiced to know that another would be raised up to continue the work and be honoured under the sovereign hand of God.
Having looked at David being proven in the FAMILY we shall note him in future papers (DV), in a time of FAMINE and in a day of FULLNESS.
(to be continued)
A Prophetic Perusal
by E. G. Parmenter (Barton-on-Sea)
4. The Reign of Christ
The return of Christ to this world and His subsequent reign will be altogether of a different character to that when He came the first time. No longer will He be the "Gentle, Jesus, meek and mild" of hymnology. He is coming back as King, all rule will be centred in Him and the awesome majesty of Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will fill all men with awe and wonder.
When Christ the King returns to this earth, there will be no day like it; it will be like the day in the time of Joshua "when the sun stood still and the moon stayed . . ." for the Lord who fought for Israel then, will go forth to fight against the nations (Joshua 10.12-14: Zech 14.12). His feet will once more stand upon the Mount of Olives: The Mount will split in two, creating a great valley and the remnant of Israel will flee by the way of escape created by the Lord.
What a momentous return! The armies of the nations massed around Jerusalem will be smitten with a plague of such a character as will compel every beholder to own the punitive hand of God. A panic shall seize upon the nations who will be beseiging Jerusalem. It will be a day of neither brightness or darkness. Tremendous convulsions will occur, like to the never to be forgotten earthquake of Uzziah's day. Great physical changes will take place in Palestine, Jerusalem is going to be lifted up, a prominent glorious city to dominate Palestine, Geba and Rimmon, a long mountain chain which marks the Northern and Southern boundaries of the kingdom of Judah, is pictured as sinking down into a plain (Zech 14.10-11). Then Jerusalem will stand exalted, the city of the Great King (Isa. 2.1-4). A river will flow out of the city Jerusalem, go down to the Dead Sea on one side and to the Great Sea on the other and neither heat of summer or cold of winter shall interrupt its perennial flow.
Ezek. 47 reveals that these living waters will issue from under the threshold of the house . . . "and it shall come to pass that everything that liveth, which moveth withersoever the rivers shall come, shall live." These living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, the dwelling place and throne of Jehovah (Ps. 46). All of which indicates that when the Lord comes to reign, from His throne, streams of lifegiving power and blessing will flow out unhindered and perpetually, and with the establishing of His throne in Jerusalem, the Lord shall be King over all the earth (Zech. 14.9).
Christ shall be supreme: He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the end of the earth. Yea all kings shall fall down before Him (Ps. 72.8-11).
Jerusalem, the metropolis of the earth, will be exalted above all cities, blessed with overflowing prosperity, guarded by divine power, and violence shall no more be heard in the land, wasting nor destruction within its borders, but her walls shall be called salvation and her gates praise; and God will be in the midst of her when Christ comes to reign. Israel will be regathered, regenerated and reinstated as God's special people among the nations.
He shall send forth His angels and shall gather together His elect from the four winds from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven (Mark 13.27). "Ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel: It shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown and they shall come that were ready to perish in the land of Assyria and the outcasts in the land of Egypt." Isa. 27.12-13. "For I will take you from among the nations and gather you out of all countries and will bring you into your own land and I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean." Ezek. 36.24-25. "In that day there shall a fountain be opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness." Zech. 13.1. "And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, there shall come out of Zion 'the deliverer' and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." Rom. 11.26. (cf Deut. 30.3-6; Isa. 11.11-12; Jer. 26.6-8; Ezek. 37.21-25).
The nations will be gathered for judgment. (Matt. 25.31-46).
The one who was born King (Matt. 2.2) to whom the Lord God will give the throne of His father David (Luke 1.32), who is destined to reign for ever, of whose kingdom there shall be no end (v.33), is seen in Matt. 25.31 having left His place on His father's throne, now come in His glory and all the holy angels with Him, and sitting upon the throne of His glory, before Him shall be gathered all nations. He shall separate them as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, saying, come ye blessed of my father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. "To them on His left hand He will say, depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."With regathered Israel, the sheep of the nations will enter the kingdom, forming the nucleus of the world's population to enjoy the blessing of the reign of Christ.
The temple will be built in which the glory of God will dwell.
"Behold the Man whose name is the Branch, He shall grow up out of His place and He shall build the temple of the Lord even He shall build the temple of the Lord." Zech. 6.12-13. The last nine chapters of Ezekiel's book portrays "the millennial temple, the sacrificial worship, the land, and the people of the kingdom age." The description of the temple given by the prophet is so detailed and the specifications and measurements so precise, that it forms a blueprint for a literal building. Other Old Testament prophesies confirm that there will be a temple dedicated to the service of Jehovah in the kingdom age. (Isa. 2.3; 60.13; Joel 3.18; Hag. 2.7-9). The building of the temple will be under the supervision of the Lord Himself, and throughout the reign of Christ it will demonstrate the holiness of God, be the dwelling place for the glory of God and the centre of divine government. When the Shekinah glory takes up its residence in the temple, it will not only be God's dwelling place and the seat of worship, but also the radiating centre of divine government for the millennial earth. It will be the mountain of Jehovah's house, established upon the top of the mountain and exalted above the hills unto which all nations shall flow (Isa. 2.4; Mic. 4.1-4; Exek. 37.26). And everyone that is left of the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King the Lord of hosts and to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zech. 14.16).
Creation will be released from the curse.
Rom. 8.19-22 reveals that creation was made subject to vanity not willingly but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope. Creation is in earnest expectation waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, at which time, it will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. The manifestation of the sons of God with Christ when He comes to reign, will mean for creation, release from the curse. "Then there shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountain." Ps. 72.16. "The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir trees, instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree." Isa. 5.12-13. "I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, the myrtle and the oil tree. I will set in the desert the fir tree, the pine and the box tree together." Isa. 41.17-20. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play on the hole of the adder, and the weaned child shall put forth its hand to the viper's den. They shall not destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Isa. 11.6-9.
Mankind shall be blessed.
'The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped: then shall the lame leap as the heart and the tongue of the dumb sing." Isa. 35.6-7. "The desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose: And every man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree and none shall make them afraid: They shall beat their swords into ploughshears and their spears into pruning hooks: And nations shall not lift up a sword against nation." Isa. 35.1-2; Mic. 4.3-4. "There shall be no more an infant of days, not an old man that hath not filled his days." Isa. 65.19-20. The true Melchizedek, King of Righteousness and the King of Peace, will be upon the throne, everything will be under his righteous sway and there will be no economic discontent. There will be no more inequitable distribution of goods. When the King comes, every man under his vine and under his fig tree will be content. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and they will produce the bread. Their spears into pruning hooks and they shall produce the wine. They will learn war no more.
His rule will be on earth centred at Jerusaleum.
The kingdom of Christ will be theocratic in its rule. God ruling through a Man. Immanuel, the rightful heir of David's throne will be King, born of a virgin. He shall come forth, a Ruler in Israel. "He shall reign and prosper and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth." Jer. 23.5. "The Lord shall be King over all the earth." Zech. 14.9. "Out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem." (Isa. 2.2-3).
His kingdom will be a material kingdom.
There will be cities, towns, villages. To the faithful servant the Lord said, "have thou authority over ten cities ..." Lk. 19.22-27. Its politics will be conducted in perfect righteousness and true holiness. He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. (Jer. 33.15). He will be a priest upon His throne, ruling in the grace and power of the sevenfold spirit. (Zech. 6.13: Isa. 11.2-3). The rod of iron indicates that there will be power in the throne. Might will be on the side of right. Evil will be repressed: And where it dares to raise its head the rod of iron will fall. There will be longevity of life, and death except as a penal measure in dealing with sin, will be removed.
What relevance has all this to the church?
When God puts all things under the feet of Christ and dominion over all things is given to Him in a public way and He is manifest as the Head over all things, He will not be alone. Paul tells us that He will be "Head over all things to the church." (Eph. 1.22). The church which is His body, viewed as His fulness, the compliment of Him who fills all things. He will take his bride, as Adam took Eve and share with the church, the glory and dignity of the great dominion given to Him by God. When He comes to take up His inheritance, and everything is under His feet. We shall stand at His side, as Eve stood by the side of Adam, sharing in the dominion which God had given them. He in like manner will share with us all the honour and glory of His dominion, which God determined for Him before the foundation of the world. Such is the place of honour marked out for the church as His body.
The scripture also reveals that we are not only His body, we are His bride. He loved her in the past, sanctifies her in the present and will present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5.25-27). In the book of the Revelation, John is given to see Christ coming down out of heaven with His beautiful bride to reign over the earth. Symbolised as that great city, holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. The length, breadth, and height all being the same, like to the sanctuary of old. A city into which, nothing that defileth can ever enter in. A magnificent spectacle of scintillating glory, descending from heaven, from which divine light is radiating, "the nations shall walk in the light of it and the kings of the earth will bring their glory and honour unto it." Rev. 21.9-27.
When Christ comes to reign, the church, the Lamb's wife, will be His royal bride, the object of His affections, all glorious, without one spot of defilement or wrinkle of age, altogether lovely, sharing with Him in the glory of His dominion. And after His reign of one thousand years on earth, she will still be the object of His eternal affections forever, throughout a long eternity.
The title of this article in itself gives no indication of the subject matter, but as it appears once only at the beginning of each year of Assembly Testimony, the title alone is one more reminder, among many, that another year has rolled its course.
Even the world at large pauses to reflect upon the past year, and the media will undoubtedly highlight many of the outstanding events and happenings, tragic and otherwise, of 1992. As to whether men of the world will profit by such reflection, is another matter.
As far as the saint is concerned, remembering and reflecting upon the past, seem to form a good part of spiritual exercise. The Lord through Moses would have His people remember from whence they had come — "But thou shalt remember that thous wast a bondman in Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee thence ..." Deut. 25.18. Interesting to note that this command was given against a background of possible injustice by His people. Surely a warning. On the other hand the apostle in writing to other Hebrews says "But call to remembrance the former days, in which,... ye endured a great fight of affliction" Heb. 10. 32. Surely an encouragement. May the Lord help us personally and assembly-wise, to profit by our remembrance and reflection.
Again we are indebted to the Lord for His faithfulness in another year of Assembly Testimony work. To so many we are grateful: Our Editor and Advisory Editor, Secretary and Accountant, each of whom give freely and gratuitously of their time and talent. These, together with those who contribute articles for the magazine, are helpers in the work of furthering the Word of God, in days of deepening spiritual darkness. Such work we know is only "till He come".
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (20)
by L. Swaan (Holland)
Both my wife and I were born and raised in Holland and there came through the experience of the second world war, she around Rotterdam and I around Amsterdam. We both had a religious background being brought up under the influence of Calvanistic teaching. We were taught that being sprinkled as infants we were brought into covenant relationship with God, had received the remission of sins, were made heirs of God and joint heirs with our Lord Jesus Christ! One can readily see that such teaching had no place for the New-birth of John 3, since covenant children will grow into salvation and cannot be lost. Thus we did have religion but without Christ. We thought we were travelling towards heaven and home but were on the broad road to hell — how extremely sad!
In 1948 I emigrated to Canada and Trudy (my wife) likewise in 1950, although at that time we did not know each other. It was in the third year there that God spoke for the first time. One night after the young people's meeting in the "church" my friend asked me the question where I would be in eternity if I was to die that night? He also asked me whether I was on the broad road or the narrow road? That night I made the great discovery by the power of the Spirit of God that I would be lost for all eternity and that because of my sins.
It was nearly two years later that I went with my girlfriend (now my wife) to a friend's birthday party and there we met an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Lankhaar from Lynden, who took the opportunity to tell us the story of their conversion. It was the first time that we heard the clear and simple (not easy) story of the gospel. Although my girlfriend wanted nothing to do with it, God in His mercy and grace was dealing with me and making me see my need of a Saviour.
It was not long after that we were married and soon started farming on our own. All the time there was one theme that occupied my mind and heart — the salvation of my soul. A dear friend at that time faithfully visited us and spoke about being saved through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. He also warned us of a lost sinner's hell for those who disobeyed the gospel.
We lost interest in the Dutch Church and the last time I went I fell fast asleep and did not wake up until the minister's wife woke me when the service was all over! We felt it was time to go some place where we would hear the gospel and we found an evangelical church where we liked the preaching and the programme and the gospel was presented in a worthy manner.
It was at this time our first baby was born and I remember bringing my wife to the hospital. On the way we stopped at the side of the road and cried to God to spare Trudy's life, which thing the Lord did. Sometime later at "church" one Lord's morning we heard a hymn sung:
"Just as I am without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God I come, I come."
I was very much moved by the truth of this lovely hymn and tears of repentance fell on the little baby lying in my arms. The minister then asked if any who were concerned wanted to come to the front and receive Christ as their Saviour, but I did not think this was God's way.
He subsequently paid us a visit in the little cottage where we lived and asked us whether we believed all the whole Bible and if we believed that we needed to be saved. We told him that we believed all that but were never BORN AGAIN. He prayed with us and told us that then we were saved and needed to thank the Lord for His salvation. We have no doubt that the dear man meant the very best for us, but we were never born of the Spirit. How true the words of John 1.13, "which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, BUT OF GOD."
In that same week this dear friend of ours left a tract on the table while we were out and wrote on it to read John 5.24 and not to stop until we had found the Person of John 5.24. All night the truth of this lovely verse went through my mind and even early the next morning while milking the cows I would try to understand and believe its message. The hearing and believing part of it did not seem to be difficult but to have everlasting life just seemed impossible.
The same morning after breakfast I went up to the hay loft to throw hay down for the cows and leaning on my hay fork I said, "Lord I have HEARD Thy word, I BELIEVE HIM that sent Thee," and at that very moment I realized for the first time that God said that I would receive EVERLASTING LIFE! Right there and then I knelt down and thanked the Lord for saving my soul. I did not jump around or shout but a deep peace and joy filled my soul as I knew my sins were forgiven and I was a child of God.
I went down from the hayloft that morning and as I walked towards the house my young wife was hanging clothes on the washline. She asked whether I was saved and I told her that the Lord had just saved me. She dropped the clothes on the ground and went into the house crying. She thought that we would have been saved together and now we were divided — one saved and one lost, and that truth really hit her. She took the little Bible and said she would never read it again and neither would she go to "church" for there was no more hope for her — she was destined for hell. For two days she lived in this hopeless condition until she read Romans 5.6 and trusted Christ as her Saviour right there in that little cottage on the old Carvolt Road in Langley (now 200 str.) B.C. Canada.
We could both sing from the heart:
"At the cross, at the cross,
Where we first saw the light
And the burden of our hearts rolled away,
It was there by faith we received our sight,
And now we are happy all the day."
Soon after being saved we became exercised about our family and friends. With much zeal (and often little knowledge) we preached the gospel to them which resulted in much opposition, and yet the Lord richly blessed the motives of our hearts which had been won for the Saviour. We continued in fellowship in the evangelical church although our friends who had been instrumental in our conversion were from the assembly. We felt the "brethren" were too narrow minded in many things and we did feel at home in this "church" where we liked the pastor and the programme. It was six months after salvation before we were baptised because the pastor would not baptise me while I was still smoking and he said that I could not be baptised with the outward sign of the world still with me.
Our friends from the gospel hall kept on visiting us and faithfully preached the truth of being gathered unto the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Little by little our eyes were being opened to the many truths of scripture:— the name on the building, the one man ministry, the priesthood of all believers, the collecting of money from the unsaved etc. We found it difficult to remain in this denomination and the desire was created within our hearts to ask the question, "Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?" We were invited to "come and see" (invitation), we came and saw where He dwelt (revelation), and abode with Him that day (habitation). This was in the South Main Street Gospel Hall in Vancouver, Canada. Sitting back that morning we saw for the first time what it meant to gather with Jesus in our midst, He being the only attraction to our souls, carrying out His last request to break the bread and drink the cup in fond remembrance of Himself, Luke 22.19; 1 Cor. 11.23-26. Tears of joy flowed freely that first day of the week. We cannot understand how some can leave such a place of nearness to Himself to have the pastor and the programme.
While farming we were much exercised about the unsaved and especially amongst the Dutch emigrants. We did know their religious background and many contacts were made and a good number were saved and some in assembly fellowship until this day.
It was a letter from Andre Bergsma which first made us think about the Netherlands. Andre had been labouring in Holland for a few years and in this letter to his mother outlined the great need and expressed his desire for fellow workers to help in that land. The Lord laid the burden for that country upon our hearts and we did not tell anybody but the Lord and we prayed for His guidance. In Gen. 24 we find some very precious principles concerning guidance from the Lord. First of all there must be a Godly Purpose of Heart, v.12; then there must be Guidance from The Word, v.13 (well of water); then we ask for Circumstances of Life, v. 14. We experienced this in a real way, first in selling the farm and then in connection with a definite call to the work.
I remember after we sold the farm we went to a missionary and home workers meeting. Those who spoke at that meeting brought before us three things which were most important in connection with the work of the Lord whether at home or abroad. First there must be a DESIRE, then a PASSION and finally a THUS SAITH THE LORD. We went home rather disappointed that day for we felt there was a desire and also a little passion, but we did not have a definite work from the Lord — Holland was not mentioned in the Scripture! My wife encouraged me to read the Scriptures and ask the Lord to show me from His word His will. While we were reading in Genesis we came to the portion regarding Jacob in ch. 31.31 where God told Jacob "to get out of this land and return to the land of thy kindred." The Lord spoke to me and as I read on, the words of v.38 made it very clear that it was the Lord's message to me. The words "these twenty years have I been with thee," made my mind go back to June 1948 when we came to Canada as emigrants and it was June 1968 when we left to go back to the land of our kindred, Holland.
We are thankful for these dealings of God with us. Many times in the midst of difficulty and disappointment and at times ready to give up, the remembrance of these words and the experience of our call have made us realise afresh that the Lord hath called and sent us to do His work and we cannot disobey.
May this simple testimony be a help to someone who may have an exercise to do the Lord's work whether at home or abroad.