The Lord’s Return – Imperative
The Local Assembly
The Tent, the Altar and the Well
Elijah the Tishbite
Judah Shall Go Up
by Wm. Bunting, Belfast.
THERE are four words in John 14. 3 upon which I wish to place emphasis: “I will come again”. Our Lord is the speaker and He says, “If I go and prepare a place for you I will come again”. The fact that our Lord said, “I will come again”, of course, implies that He had already come. That He did come is an historical fact which cannot be denied. The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest and grandest figure that has ever stepped across the stage of human affairs. He was born in the reign of the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, lived and laboured in this scene for over thirty years, suffered under Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor, was crucified and rose from the dead on the third morning. The late Sir Ambrose Fleming, the noted scientist, said, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most authentic fact in history”. While the late Dr. Graham Scroggie, in “Christ in the Creed”, enumerated ten different lines of evidence to prove the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and then said, “It is the best attested fact in all history”. Now, I want you to remember another fact—all of this had been accurately foretold in the ancient Hebrew Book, the Old Testament. It is in Christ that all its beams of prophetic glory find their focus. His sinless conception is implied in Genesis 3; His virgin birth is taught in Isaiah 7; that He would belong to the seed of Abraham is foretold in Genesis 12; that He would come of the royal tribe of Judah is declared in Genesis 49; and that He would be a descendant of kingly David is predicted in Ps. 32. The place of His birth is mentioned in Micah 5, the mode of His death in Ps. 22, and the time of it in Daniel 9. That He would be “numbered with the transgressors” and buried “with the rich” is prophesied in Isaiah 53. The purpose of His death is also stated in Isaiah 53: “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities”. Finally, His glorious resurrection is foretold in Psalm 16.
Now, in his book, “The Divinity of our Lord”, Bishop Liddon has demonstrated that in all, over three hundred Old Testament predictions were literally fulfilled in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Please observe that all of these predictions were in the Hebrew Bible hundreds of years before Christ was born. The fact that they were there and that everything foretold was fulfilled in detail, is a hallmark of the divine inspiration and absolute accuracy of the Old Testament. I say this because in Isaiah 45 God claims that it is His sole prerogative to unfold the scroll of future ages. Why, however, do I mention all these things?—because this blessed Person has promised to return. He says, “I will come again”. And we believe that just as surely as He came the first time, so surely will He come a second time. The one Coming is as certain as the other. Indeed, it is imperative that He should return. He must come again.
The return of our Lord Jesus Christ is imperative for the following reasons. He must come again to fulfil His own promise. On the last night that He spent upon earth ere He died, with the shadow of the awful cross falling over His pathway, He said, “I will come again”. And His last words from the throne, repeated three times in Revelation 22, just before the canon of Scripture closes, are these: “I come quickly”. You will admit it will be a very serious matter therefore if He does not come again. It will prove Him to be the greatest imposter that ever breathed. Such a thing is utterly unthinkable. Therefore He must come to fulfil His own word. His is the word of a gentleman of the strictest veracity.
In the second place, He must come to verify the prophetic Scriptures. His coming again is mentioned some three hundred and eighteen times in the New Testament. It is a major subject of prophecy. Christ, Himself, speaks of it, as we have seen. Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude all speak of it. And in Acts 1, holy angels who appear to the disciples, also speak about it. We believe that just as every Old Testament prediction of a suffering Saviour was fulfilled, as we have seen, so every New Testament prediction of a coming victorious Saviour will in like manner be fulfilled. “The Scriptures cannot be broken”. Christ must come again to verify the prophetic Scriptures.
Again, the Lord Jesus Christ must return to reap the great harvest sown at Calvary. He was the corn of wheat that “fell into the ground and died”. He did so, that in resurrection He might “bring forth much fruit” (John 12. 24). Well, He must come, to reap and to gather in the great harvest there sown in tears, in blood, in death. If He does not come Calvary will prove to have been a colossal failure. Is that possible? Myriads of voices answer, “NO”. Therefore, He must come to reap the harvest sown at Calvary. And what a glorious harvest that will be!
Further, the Lord Jesus Christ must come again to consummate the hope of His Church. It is comprised of all in this age who have experienced God’s salvation, irrespective of their colour, or of where they “hang their hat” on Sunday, as people say. Israel’s blessings as a nation were largely earthly. The Christian’s blessings are heavenly. Our calling is heavenly (Heb. 3. 1). Our citizenship is heavenly (Phil. 3. 20). Our names are enrolled in heaven (Phil. 4. 3). And our Forerunner is already in heaven (Heb. 9. 24). In a word, the Christian is a person who is heaven-born and heaven-bound, and it is his privilege and responsibility, in every aspect of life, to manifest heavenly character, even as Israel of old displayed the ribbon of blue—the heavenly colour. (Num. 15. 38). All down the ages, this hope of the coming of Christ has sustained suffering saints and dying martyrs. Now, amidst earth’s gathering moral and spiritual gloom, “this hope illumes with beams most cheering the hours of night”. And is Christ going to disappoint the Church, His blood-bought Bride? Is He only a disappointment? No, most certainly He is not. He must come therefore in order to consummate the hope of the Church, His beloved Bride.
Not only so, but the Lord Jesus Christ must come again to implement the Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants. These covenants were unconditional and were ratified by divine oath. According to the first, the whole land of Palestine belongs to Israel as an everlasting possession. According to the second, the Lord Jesus Christ must sit upon the throne of His father David, and regathered Israel must be the head of the nations. For some two thousand five hundred years now the Jews have been the tail of the nations, but according to God’s sworn promise they will one day be the head. And it must be admitted that they are the people fitted for world leadership. They have well been likened to the copestone of a pyramid which fits nowhere only at the top. Now, are these divinely constituted covenants to be treated by God their Author as mere scraps of paper? Verily they are not. Well then, the Lord Jesus Christ must come again in order to implement them by taking David’s throne, and restoring the Jewish nation to the role which the purpose of God has destined it to fill.
In addition, the Lord Jesus Christ must come again to save humanity from perishing. To-day the nations are seething with revolt. We have had two world wars in this convulsive century, and we are told that another is just around the corner. The nations are stockpiling the most fearful weapons of destruction. Bombs each equal to ten tone of T.N.T. left Hitler’s power crumbling in the dust. To-day the great nations have bombs, each equal to more than fifty million tons of T.N.T. In his day, Field Marshal Smuts said that “the nations were milling around like frightened sheep” and that Europe was like a man standing on the edge of a precipice. What would he say were he alive now? Sir Winston Churchill spoke (and he knew what he was saying) “of the frightening nightmares of the world’s future”. Is it any wonder, therefore, that statesmen live in fear of what may come upon us? Then there is the danger of world famine. It is said that one third of the world is overfed, one third of its population gets only enough to sustain life, and one third is dying of starvation. Is that not serious? But what adds to the peril is the fact which statistics show, namely, that from the year 1900 to the year 1960, the population of the world doubled itself, and it is believed that from 1960 to 1995 it will double itself again. How is the problem of feeding the world to be solved? Is the human race to die out? Or is it to destroy itself? No, God is still on the throne. He is ruling. He cannot allow His world to go to pieces. He is working out a great and glorious plan. In due time He will send again the long promised Christ and will install Him upon His holy hill of Zion. The Lord Jesus must return in order to save humanity from perishing.
Finally, I suggest that our Lord must come again to punish sin, to bruise Satan, and to rectify earth’s wrongs. Every sin is a capital crime in heaven’s court, being a blow aimed against a holy and good God. Then can sin go unpunished? Will right not eventually be vindicated? Will Satan, God’s great enemy not be crushed? If not, then sin, and Satan who is the wicked instigator of all earth’s woes, must have the final triumph. This surely cannot be. No, justice must prevail. Then Christ must come again, for only He has authority and power to punish the wicked, to rectify earth’s wrongs, to bring order out of earth’s chaos and light out of its darkness.
- “His power alone can right earth’s wrong,
- And heal the serpent’s sting.
- Oh earth break forth in glad new song;
- He’s coming back, our King.”
So let there be no mistake about it, the Lord Jesus Christ must come in order to punish the wicked and rectify earth’s wrongs.
Then let us be clear about this—the world has not seen the last of Jesus Christ. You may not welcome the thought of His return, and may try to forget about it, because it upsets your plans. That makes no difference. He must come again. Have you considered what it will mean if He does not return? It will mean: 1. That He Himself was a liar and deceiver; 2. That Holy Scripture is a compilation of forgery and falsehood; 3. That Calvary was an utter mistake and failure; 4. That the Church’s hope was but an illusive dream; 5. That the most sacred Covenants, ratified by Divine Oath, were only a lie; 6. That the entire world will sink under the burden of its iniquity in eternal outer darkness; 7. That Satan will mount God’s abdicated Throne, and that his black flag of sin and injustice will triumph forever. Are such things within the realm of possibility? No, of course, they are not. Then the Lord Jesus Christ must come again; and if He must come again, be certain about it, HE WILL COME AGAIN. Therefore sleep not. Be Ready (Matt. 25. 1-13), and Be Faithful (Matt. 25. 14-30).
Next issue: The Lord’s Return—Imminent.
by Wm. GIBSON.
IN 1 Corinthians 14. 34 the apostle says, “Let your women keep silence in the church, for it is not permitted them to speak”, etc. The Greek word for “speak” used here is “Salao”, which some tell us means, “to chatter”, and they say the apostle was forbidding them to chatter in the assembly. No doubt you have heard this put forward. Let me tell you this is utterly ridiculous. First, the word “chatter” does not occur anywhere in New Testament Scripture. Secondly, this word used for speak is the same word used in Acts 28. 25, “Well spake the Holy Spirit”; and again in John 17. 1, “These words spake Jesus and lifted up His eyes to heaven” etc. Nothing could be clearer or plainer than the words here.
The apostle in his letter to Timothy sets forth two reasons why women should be silent in the church. Let us look at the first one. “For Adam was first created then Eve”. So that in the beginning, in creation, God gave to Adam priority and priority involves headship as we have already seen. Now notice v. 34 of our chapter, “Let your women be silent in the church for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but to be in subjection as also saith the law”. So in the beginning, priority and headship were given to the man and the place of subjection to the woman; and says Paul, it is also applied under the law. So the headship of the man and the subjection of the woman were ordained by God in the beginning, maintained under the law, and remain unchanged for us in redemption to-day.
Now I am sure many people have wondered and asked the question why should God decree that women should be silent in the church. They tell me that some women are better speakers than men. Well, let us look at the second reason the apostle gives in writing to Timothy. He says, “For Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived was in the transgression”. Now, this is in my judgment a very important point. Adam was not deceived, what Adam did he did with his eyes open and the blame rightly was his. So we read, “As by one man sin entered,” etc. But this was not the case with Eve. As she talked with Satan she believed what he said, she was genuinely deceived by him, and this is one of the reasons that God gives for women being silent in the church.
Now what lies behind this? Well, in my judgment it is this. Women as a whole are more susceptible to satanic, evil spirits than men. If you think of Spiritism, ancient or modern, it is dominated by women. You remember when Saul sought help from the spirit world he said, “Seek me out a woman that hath a spirit of divination”. You remember too that in the Acts it was a girl out of whom Paul cast the spirit of divination, and so in modern Spiritism to-day women predominate as mediums. But what has this to do with our subject? Well, in the church we are dealing with spiritual things. We know very little about the spirit and spiritual really. God has placed a veil between the natural and spiritual, and unless God draws aside the veil, as He did in the case of the servant of Elisha, we are completely in the dark. When the veil was drawn aside for him he saw the heavens filled with the chariots of God. The apostle tells us in Hebrews that the Lord Jesus, the Forerunner, has gone through the veil, He has gone beyond the natural into the realm of the spiritual. We cannot see nor yet enter this realm whilst in the flesh. But our hope and faith, like an anchor, have gone through the veil, and an invisible chain links us with the spiritual word, and every day the hand of the Saviour draws in some of those anchor chains, and one here and another there, passes through the veil, drawn by the loving hand of the Master; “absent from the body present with the Lord”. But in the meantime a veil remains, and to a large extent the spirit world remains a mystery, and between the spirit and the spiritual there is only a hairsbreadth, and in this sphere evil spirits, the ministers of Satan, as angels of light, operate.
Old Testament Scripture abounds with this sort of thing —prophets in whom Satan placed lying spirits to deceive and confuse the people of God. What about the New Testament? You remember the incident when the Lord told the disciples that He must go to the cross. Peter you recall said, “Lord, be it far from Thee”, and the Lord turned and said to him, “Get thee behind me, Satan”. The Lord knew the voice that was speaking through the lips of Peter. You remember the case of Ananias in Acts, who sold the parcel of land and Peter said to him, “Why has Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit”? In this sphere Satan will do his utmost to deceive and confuse the minds of God’s people. So we have the exhortation, “Try the spirits, prove them, whether they be of God”. And so it seems to me that God has refused women public utterance in the things of the Spirit, lest she being deceived should lead others into deception.
Now the apostle finished off this dissertation with some very important words—“If any among you seem to be spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (v. 37). Therefore if any brother condones women’s ministry or seeks to argue against the teaching of the apostle in this regard, whatever pretensions he may make to spirituality, he is not a spiritual man. The Spirit of God will never lead a man contrary to the Word of God. He cannot, for to do so would be to deny Himself; to do so would give the lie to what He Himself has written, for remember, He, the Spirit, is it’s Author. And what about the sisters? What a joy it must be to God and to Christ to see godly women gladly, willingly accepting the position assigned to them by God, perhaps not altogether understanding it, yet accepting it and functioning in that sphere to the glory of God and the blessing of His gathered people.
by R. RONALD, Brandon.
“And he (Isaac) builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants digged a well” (Genesis 26. 25).
THESE three things, more or less related to the lives of the Patriachs, are significantly linked together in the history of Isaac. His life though not as outstanding as that of his father Abraham, nor as turbulent as that of his son Jacob, was nevertheless an enviable life. Even a commonplace life lived in fellowship with God, is a life well lived, and surely the spiritual counterpart of these three things realised in the life of the Christian is the secret of running well.
Among the Worthies of Hebrews 11 Isaac’s name finds a place along with the others, who, sojourning in a strange land, were content to dwell in tents, looking for a heavenly city. In this they became the grand example of the called-out company of this dispensation, with our heavenly portion and hope.
We here find Isaac prevented by a divine warning from following his father’s footsteps in going down into Egypt, in time of famine, permitted to sojourn in Gerar (Gen. 26. 3). From verse 6 we learn that Isaac dwelt there. Doubtless the covenant-blessings God was pleased to grant there, the hundred-fold reaping, and the flocks and herds, made it easy to settle down at Gerar.
However, the rebuke of Abimelech; the request, “Depart from us,” and the strife of the servants, led to the removal to the Valley of Gerar, and finally, to his going up to Beer-sheba. There God appeared to him “that same night”, suggesting a measure of restoration to a path of faith. The promise to Abraham was again confirmed to him. Here later the compliments of Abimelech and his consorts were paid to him, whom they had learned to respect and fear.
The Apostle Peter addressing those who were literally, “sojourners of the dispersion”, enjoins them and us “as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 1. 1, 2; 2. 11, R.V.). As such we have no right to hold, even the legitimate things of life, other than as a means to an end, and that end the glory of God. The moment these are held merely for self-gratification, or as an end in themselves, they will engender desires that are hostile to spiritual life and progress. The true pilgrim character maintained in our lives will preserve us from many a snare, and “lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition”.
The exchange of the tent and the companionship of Abraham, for a house in Sodom and all that this entailed, was a tragic one for Lot. It resulted in the loss of his possessions, more solemn, the loss of his testimony, and most tragic, the loss of his family. If some members of his family perished with Sodom, his daughters who escaped were surely ruined by what they had seen in Sodom, and their posterity became a curse to the people of God.
Can we say that our homes, the use of our means, and our conduct all bear witness to the fact that we are but strangers here? Are we not only heaven-born, and heaven-bound, but heaven-bent? Ever since the days of Cain and his clever descendants, men have been seeking to make themselves thoroughly at home in the world. When the true Church is caught away, what solemn judgments will fall on those who in the book of Revelation are so often referred to as “earth-dwellers”, where the word ‘dwell’ is just the opposite of the word ‘sojourn’.
Though there is no mention of an ALTAR in Gerar, the first recorded act of Isaac after reaching Beer-sheba was the building of an altar there. What the TENT was to the PILGRIM, the ALTAR was to the WORSHIPPER.
Though the altar was first of all the way of approach to God for the sinner, in the life of the believer it suggests worship, praise and supplication. It is interpreted for us in Hebrews 13, where we read, “We have an altar”, in contrast to that of the old order. The altar and sacrifice upon it are Christ sacrificed for us, partaken of savingly and sustainingly.
The following verses would take us in figure beyond the brazen altar, to the altar of incense where as “holy priests” we offer up “spiritual sacrifices”, here called “the sacrifice of praise” (v. 15).
Is there this altar in our private lives? The Word of God enjoins it. Christ indwelling our hearts by faith, our being filled with the Spirit, and the Word of Christ dwelling in us richly, will result in our “singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord” (Eph. 5. 18; Col. 3. 16).
What of our home life? Has the family altar been reared up, or is it in disrepair? Is the Word of God the daily aliment, ministering Christ in the family circle? Is there family prayer, and do the songs of Zion ascend day by day from the family group? Or have secular reading and worldly entertainment ruled these out of the home? Is a home without an altar truly a Christian home?
What of the privilege of collective praise, thanksgiving and worship in the assembly after the scriptural pattern— the altar of assembly testimony? Do I feel a responsibility toward such to maintain it in a godly way, by “steadfastly continuing in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers”? (Acts 2. 42).
How many a professing believer, for some earthly consideration, has neglected this altar! How many have set light by the assembly testimony, for the sake of a farm, business, a home, or a career! They may have gained prosperity and popularity, but have suffered irreparable loss spiritually.
Concerning a certain mining centre to which, in years gone by, many were attracted by the promise of wealth and highly-remunerative employment, it was said that there were more persons there who had been, but were no longer, in assembly fellowship, than believers in assembly fellowship in that city. Since the tent and altar aspect of our lives are so closely joined, we believe one cannot abandon the former without losing the power, if not the form, of the latter.
If the WELL, which was indispensable to life in a semi-arid land, speaks of communion and the resultant joy and blessing in the life of the believer, how important as a type it is.
The well at Beer-sheba was by no means the first one that Isaac dug. We read of some that Abraham had dug and the Philistines had stopped. Though Isaac reclaimed and renamed these, they along with others that Isaac dug, were relinquished and lost to the Philistines, ere the final move to Beer-sheba was made.
This suggests two things. First, it suggests that we have enemies that will do all that is in their power to rob us of the enjoyment of fellowship with God. The Philistines in after years were an ever-present and inveterate foe, seeking to rob Israel not only of their heritage, but of the enjoyment of their possessions. They represent “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places”, of Eph. 6. 12 (see R.V.), which contrive to rob us of the enjoyment of our spiritual blessings in Christ. And again, it suggests that fellowship with God is difficult to maintain in a wrong place.
The Valley of Gerar was little better than Gerar itself. This place of ‘strife’ was exchanged for Rehoboth, a place of ‘room’, and finally for the ‘Well of the Oath’, Beer-sheba, a place of rest.
So the path of true separation is the place of spiritual enlargement. Strife, one of the works of the flesh, is never conducive to communion and spiritual blessing. Isaac, Abraham-like, considered it an honour for a man to cease from strife, and he was rewarded for so doing. Strife has its blood-brothers, “envyings, strifes, divisions” (1 Cor. 3. 3). These stand in contrast to the brotherly-unity of Psalm 133, and will certainly rob us of the blessing and refreshment of that Psalm.
May we know the secret of the well, and by grace, maintain the tent-character and the altar-testimony, through the little while, till travelling days are done.
by the late H. BAILLIE, Belfast.
1 Kings 17. 2-7.
ELIJAH had been in the sanctuary where he had seen the holiness of God and heard His voice. He was commanded to tell Ahab the king that the dew and rain would be withheld from the land; this being a token of God’s displeasure with the nation on account of their disobedience. (See Lev. 26. 19; Deut. 11. 17; 28. 23; 1 Kings 8. 35). God’s holiness demanded a confession and forsaking of sin before blessing could be granted. When the people were humbled, and the false prophets slain, Elijah prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth brought forth her fruit (James 5. 18).
If we are to expect blessing in the assemblies to-day there must be humiliation, confession and clearing of ourselves from everything that would hinder the operation of the Holy Spirit. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5. 23-24). This verse teaches that it would be more glorifying to God to neglect even the most sacred duty, by leaving the altar and the gift, and be reconciled to our offended brother. If, instead of covering up the nakedness of the land by series of gospel efforts, we would humbly acknowledge our guilt, and remove the occasion of stumbling, then the brazen heavens would open up, and the refreshing rain and dew of the Holy Spirit would fall upon us, and a perishing world without would also reap the blessing.
The Lord allowed Elijah to be tested as to his own ministry. Firstly, he was sent to Cherith’s brook, there to learn that his God is a God above nature. Holding up His own laws, the Lord commanded the carnivorous birds to bring to the prophet his morning and evening meal of bread and flesh, thus proving the truth of Psalm 119. 91, R.V.: “All things are Thy servants.” After some time the brook dried up; Elijah was then told to go to Zarephath (meaning “Smelting” or “Refining”) and dwell there, as God had commanded a widow woman there to sustain him. Arriving at the gate, the prophet met the widow gathering sticks; he asked for a drink of water and a morsel of bread. The reply was, that there was nothing in the house, save a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, and she was gathering sticks to prepare the last meal for herself and her son before they died. The widow was then tested as to her trust in God. “Go make me a little cake,” said the prophet. “For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (v. 14). In Luke 4, the Lord Himself made honourable reference to this widow, as we read in verses 25 and 26: “But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land, but unto none of them was Elias sent save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.” Away on the outskirts of the land and a Gentile stranger, this woman was used by God to meet the need of His servant. “Faithful in that which is least, she was faithful also in much. With the prophet himself, she was allowed to see that Elijah’s God was a God above nationality and above circumstances. Still, another lesson has to be learned by the widow. From verses 17-24, the testing is more severe, and the widow and the prophet are now to experience that God is also a God above death.
May we too lift up our heads and look to the other side of the tomb, and hear our Risen Lord say: “I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1. 18).
- Give me, Lord Jesus, wheresoe’er I be
- An inward quietness, and trust in Thee,
- Let Thy presence lead me where there is no light,
- Be Thou my Deliverer, and all will be right.
(“The Believer’s Magazine”)
Judges 1. 1-20.
by JOHN STUBBS
THE book of Judges is a very practical book in its historical details, and as such holds much value for us as the people of God. Its history typically corresponds with the present days of departure, the failure of professing Christendom, and the appalling neglect of the spiritual inheritance by God’s dear people. Here in God’s wondrous ways He has furnished us with this book with all its divinely preserved details, a book in which we find precious principles and important lessons of particular help to us in our day, for does not Paul in 1 Cor. 10. 11 declare, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (or types): and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come”? It is not the people of Israel who are the figure, but that which happened to them. The history of Israel is drawn upon, in order that we may have urgent warnings and important lessons.
Joshua in his final appeal and address of warning and encouragement to Israel, reminds them that the promises of their God in relation to the inheritance would be fulfilled, yet warns them of the consequences of not obeying His commandments. He exhorts them with the same encouraging words as God did initially to him: “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses,” etc. He goes on to say, “One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God, He it is that fighteth for you, as He hath promised you” (Joshua 23. 6-13). What wondrous exploits, what great accomplishments, what noble victories would distinguish them if they continued faithful to God!
Thus we learn from this parting appeal of Joshua 23, the conditions necessary in order that the people might go on to what God had for them in the land:
- The need for courage to stand for their God (v. 6).
- The need for separation from the surrounding nations and their idolatry (vv. 7, 12).
- The need for faithfulness to the Lord their God (v. 8).
- The need for love to the Lord their God (v. 11).
With such plain and strong reminders of the moral conditions imposed upon the children of Israel by their God, of His past faithfulness and grace to their forefathers, with urgent warnings of the inevitable consequences of their disobedience if they went back and departed from their God, we may fully expect, with the people’s own assurance given in the response to Joshua’s twofold appeal in chapters 23 and 24 of the book of Joshua, that we would find progress and development in the things of God. Indeed the children of Israel gathered before Joshua to say to Him, “The Lord our God will we serve and His voice will we obey”. The venerable leader’s influence and testimony over the nation had been felt and experienced throughout all his lifetime (24. 31). In Joshua’s day the rule had been one of Theocracy (God’s direct rule in Israel). After he dies however, there is no man to take up the reins of leadership amongst God’s covenant people.
The book of Judges then continues with the history of the nation and God’s purposes for it. Joshua’s departure threw the people entirely upon God, His mercy, guidance and power. Thus the book of Judges commences rightly and fittingly with an earnest petition, a cry to God, that manifests dependence upon Him. There is an important lesson to be learned here, for this section is one of conflict and movement in going in for the various lots Jehovah had apportioned to the various tribes through Joshua. Their inheritance lay before them, but enemies presently occupied divinely ordained territory and thus prevented the people from entering into and fully enjoying it. In such circumstances they feel their need of God and beseech Him for His help, and God readily answers them.
Ah, beloved, if we are going to accomplish anything for God, if we are going to enjoy our blessings in Christ, we may be sure there will be conflict. We shall never enjoy anything if we do not go in for that which God has for us. In these dark apostate days in which the enemy has raised up barriers against us, in which the inheritance is despised by the many, how we need to be in touch with our God! Let us pray that we may know His guidance amidst all lawlessness in the world and lukewarmness in assemblies. This is the first important lesson our God would have us learn in these opening verses of Judges 1. What a marked contrast is presented between the opening verse and the closing verse of the book! We see in the first, God appealed to, Israel’s dependence on Him ere going in to possess the land, and the conflict in connection therewith; in the last verse, however, we find only that which so painfully and sadly sums up the record of the people’s repeated failures and disobedience: “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (21. 25).
(To be continued).
“The Blessed Hope”
- World chaos reigns! Bold lawlessness runs faster,
- And earth’s dark, night with deeper darkness grows!
- In many lands unparalleled disaster,—
- Wars, famines, earthquakes, floods,—’mongst many foes.
- The darkness deepens! Yes, but Dawn is nearer,
- The Lord from Heaven may soon be on His way:
- The “Blessed Hope in these dark days grows dearer,
- Our Saviour Christ will come—“Perhaps To-day!”
- Earth’s groans and cries all speak a hast’ning climax!
- Dictators rise, and rule with iron hand!
- Distress, unrest, and fear possess the nations:
- Bold lawlessness strides on in every land.
- Take heart, ye saints! Refuse to be discouraged:
- The Saviour cometh! Yes, may come to-day;
- The Glorious COMING—THAT is what we look for!
- Rejoice—Be glad—Wait—Work—And Watch—And Pray!
J. Danson Smith
- O Thou, by whom we come to God,
- The Life, the Truth, the Way;
- The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
- Lord, teach us how to pray.”