Brief Meditations on the Offerings
John M. Cowan
Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews
R. Woodhouse Beales
They Rose Up
On the Mountain
Change in Dispensation
Words of Truth
The Last Days
A. M. S. Gooding
BRIEF MEDITATIONS ON THE OFFERINGS
by JOHN M. COWAN, Motherwell
THE PEACE OFFERING—Leviticus 3.
THE Burnt Offering and the Meal Offering conjointly provide the Basis of our acceptation and approach; the Peace Offering, the Blessedness and Enjoyment of our acceptation and approach: According to Eph. 1. 6, He has made us accepted in the Beloved.
The measure of the pleasure which God found in Him was only equalled in the measure of the love He had for Him: He was the Well-beloved with whom God was Well Pleased . This was the one who, in life and death, had satisfied the claims of God in relation to the sin question and, not only so, but to a world corrupted by sin, where discord and death reigned, He has nullified death and brought life and incorruptibility to light by the Gospel. 2 Tim. 1. 10.
Where the first man, Adam, failed, our Blessed Lord Jesus has become more than conqueror. Although God had set the first man in innocence, with all its purity, with power and dominion infinitely great, yet from this exalted place of dominion, power and trust, Adam fell, and in falling, his ruin was complete. He, who should have been for the pleasure of God, has failed and has fallen; the garments of his glory have been most foully besmirched. Creation’s crown has fallen from his drooping head, and from his powerless fingers the sceptre of his dominion has dropped. Could ruin have been more complete? Not for himself alone, but for the manhood over which he was the “Head”, which has been corrupted at its source; not only the original act of sin, but the origin of a sinful nature.
Into this scene of desolation, discord and distress, our Blessed Lord has come. The work of recovery has been completed, a new manhood has been introduced and, in all the acceptability and worthiness of His own blessed person, this kind of manhood has been accepted by God.
This is what we have in type and shadow in the Old Testament and in its anti-typical fulness in the doctrine of the New. This then is the subject of our consideration, God visiting the nations and taking out of them a people for His name (Acts 15. 14). This, in its typical sense, He has accomplished when He visited Egypt, and from the power of Pharaoh (typically Satan), He has wrested from his grasp a people for His name. This people He has brought out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and into the wilderness, to provide a sanctuary for Him as He leads them home.
Even in Adam’s innocence, God only visited Eden, but now with this people whom He has rescued and redeemed, He desires to dwell, to make His home amongst them, to be their God, to be worshipped by them as they enjoy His presence with them on their homeward way. “Happy art thou O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord” (Deut. 33. 29). Saved by the Lord in the power of the precious paschal blood: such was its efficacy and value, its emancipating power, not in itself alone, but in that which it typified, “The Precious Blood of Christ”.
Such was the variegated excellence of the work of Christ on Calvary’s Cross, that it takes these many offerings to express, in any degree of fulness, the virtue of His Blood. Thus, in the nearness which is now ours, at one time in the place of distance, “but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the Blood of Christ” (Eph. 2. 13).
Israel having been brought into this place of nearness, the Sanctuary having now been built, these many offerings which so fittingly though typically express the excellence of the Lord Jesus as prescribed by God having been made known to them, their journeyings can now be undertaken joyfully, in the consciousness that a full provision for the maintenance of this nearness and communion has been made. This then is the import of the offerings: Approach and Acceptance in the Burnt Offering and the Meal Offering: the enjoyment of this approach and acceptation in the Peace Offering with the Festal Fellowship which this offering provides. But communion could so easily be broken, either ignorantly, inadvertently, or by intention. Had there been no provision for its restoration, then their journeyings would have been a joyless business indeed. However, as the Psalmist has said, “There is forgiveness with Thee that Thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130. 4), and so the Sin Offering and the Trespass Offering meet this need.
The Peace Offering then is not an offering which is brought in order that our peace with God might be obtained. “He has made peace by the blood of His Cross” (Col. 1. 20), and so on the ground of a peace made, as the joy of its experience is entered into, there is the upsurge of affections which have been stirred at their deepest depths, and desires begotten to express ourselves in profound gratitude and praise. Thus, the Peace Offering, as provided by God, becomes the avenue for the expression of our thanksgiving in the consciousness of the closeness and nearness which this aspect of His sacrifice provides—this wealth of Divine Blessing which Grace has brought us into and has made us responsive in this communal way.
In the Burnt Offering, the predominating feature was that the entirety of the offering was wholly for God, exclusively for Him alone. In the Peace Offering, there is a sharing with God, a communion and fellowship in the festal joys of this joint participation in the excellencies and worth of Him who has loved us and has loosed us from our sins in His Own Blood.
We understand that the word “Peace” is plural and could be rightly rendered “a sacrifice of Peaces”. One has suggested that the plural in the Hebrew is the completeness of a thing and would be expressive of the fulness of the peace which can now be enjoyed. There is a possibility that it may also contain that sense of the variegated character of the peace, its multi-coloured excellence and, as it is feasted upon, there is that variety of flavour so suited to the appetites of those who feast upon it, thus affording that sense of satisfaction which this alone could give.
(to be continued)
NOTES ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS
STUDY FOR BIBLE STUDENTS
by R. WOODHOUSE BEALES, Ipswich
THE subject of the High Priest has now been introduced, but there is a parenthesis now until we connect up with the reference to the High Priest in 4. 14-16. This parenthesis being taken up with the Rest or Inheritance, bringing before us the exhortations of the Holy Spirit.
We are invited to consider the Apostle and High Priest of our Confession Christ Jesus. As Apostle He came out from God to men, as High Priest He has gone back to represent man before God, and this introduces us to a short section having Moses as the chief actor, for he it was that brought the people out of Egypt and brought them up to the borders of the land of inheritance, where they refused to go in and were turned back into the wilderness. But Moses was faithful in all God’s house, this being we believe a reference, not to the Tabernacle as the house of God, but views Israel as God’s house. Moses’ faithfulness under all the trials he underwent is brought before us in those affecting chapters in Deuteronomy, where he pleads with the second generation and brings before them the faithfulness of God and himself as God’s servant, and the unbelief and sin of their forefathers, which precluded them from entering the promised land, this being the kind of warning needed by those to whom the Spirit was now speaking. Pleading with warnings as to the result of turning a deaf ear.
This chapter then revolves around Moses and not Aaron for he stood in a special relationship to God, the only faithful one (apart from Joshua and Caleb) in the nation and who we believe had at all times, unlike Aaron, access to the presence of God; with him God would speak face to face as a friend although Moses always retained that reverence that was due to Him. (See Numbers 12). But Moses was only a servant in that house, Christ is the Son over His own house. Now there follows the warnings of the Holy Spirit. It was unbelief which kept the first generation out of the land of inheritance of rest, it would be unbelief which would now prevent these professed believers from obtaining the rest (4. 11). This whole section traces the history of Israel showing that man in the first place broke into God’s sabbath rest through unbelief and sin and was turned out of his inheritance (v. 4), then they had failed in Joshua’s day (“Jesus” in v. 8 gives us the name “Joshua” in Greek). It was again preached in vain to them in David’s day, in the land, and was now preached to those to whom this epistle was sent. How would they respond? Would they go on to obtain it or would they turn back?
Two rests are spoken of, a present one and a future. “We which have believed do enter into rest” and “he that hath entered . . . hath ceased from his own works”, but also there “remaineth a rest (here the word is the keeping of a sabbath) to the people of God”, this bringing in view the future inheritance in the day which is yet future (the Millennium we believe), and the exhortation follows, “Let us labour, (or rather be diligent) therefore to enter into that rest” (v. 11). In spite of all their religious ceremonies and sacrifices and priesthood (now quite obsolete) the people of Israel could never attain to finality or true rest.
THE WORD OF GOD
This brings us to another seeming digression, verses 12-13, leading up to the thought of the High Priesthood of Christ. It is the Word of God which has brought us the knowledge of these superior blessings and urges us to lay hold upon them. It is a living Word, and powerful to convict and discern (the word is “critic”), it pierces and opens up with a quick movement. Some see in this the action of the priest in the slaying of the covenant victim, in order to show its fitness to be offered (and sometimes partaken); not only must it be blemishless without but perfect within.
The threefold nature of man is here referred to. First the soul and spirit (the self conscious life and the God conscious), it is often difficult to discern between the two and an Israelite, conversant only with what was outward and ritualistic often mistook this for what was truly inward and Godward. The joints and marrow again indicate what was most difficult to divide, the outward “dead” part of the anatomy and the living “core” transmitting life blood, nerve and nutriment to the whole system. The thoughts and intents of the heart have to do with the mind culminating in action. It is useless to stop at mere “thinking”; action must follow intent. These inner parts are open and naked before God. So the word becomes the living Word (Christ) with His discerning eyes as a flame of fire. (Revelation 1).
Having undergone such a test we might well shrink from and dread the outcome. What a mercy it is therefore to be met with the High Priest, touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and One who has been so tested and tried and has passed the test. Note the words, “yet without sin”.
The priests of old did not have such a preparation for their ministry. This verse (5. 7) is indeed holy ground and gives us a further insight into what He went through even before His death and in view of it. The words “from death” should read “out of death” and “in that He feared” should read “for His piety”.
He “learned obedience”. This does not mean that He learned to obey but rather He learned what obedience involved and what it cost. He had previously always commanded.
“Being made perfect” put alongside the similar thought in 2. 10 shows that He qualified to be the Leader of His people and also their High Priest by these sufferings.
THEY ROSE UP
by W. HARRISON, East Kilbride.
THE rising up of the Lord Jesus in the upper room to serve His own was followed in due course by the rising up of Judas to strike a bargain with the chief priests to sell his Master. (Matt. 26. 14, 15). The Teacher and the traitor knew what they wanted to do and it was
done. The eleven knew not what they were rising up to do until it was done. The warning word they heard (Matt. 26. 31-35) was received only as a word and not as a warning. The word about him who ate of his Lord’s bread lifting up his heel against Him was heard by the twelve. (John 13. 18). The one who fulfilled this moved out into the night. The last expression of fellowship among those who were left was the singing of a hymn. (Mark 14. 26). Of the singers One was going out to desertion, derision and death; of the others there was yet to be seen desertion and denial among them.
The first thing they did was to set aside their Lord’s word as to their stumbling and scattering. This word was given when Judas had gone. He could not be included among the sheep who would be scattered consequent upon the smiting of the Shepherd. His defection and treachery made the smiting and scattering possible. With Peter exceeding the rest in protesting this work was set aside by all . (Mark 14. 31).
Slumber follows the setting aside of the word. In this three only were involved. The others were to sit apart while their Lord prayed (v. 32). The chosen ones failed to watch with Him although Peter is singled out specially for reproof. The finding out of their failure on a second occasion finds them speechless. “They knew not what they should answer Him” (v. 40).
Slumber is succeeded by smiting and one of the slumberers is the smiter. In this Peter alone is involved. With a sword he smote a servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. (Mark 14. 47; John 18. 10). The scattering follows upon the smiting and in this none are excluded. “They all forsook Him and fled” (v. 50). Not by those who wish it is the word fulfilled but by those who wish it not.
The sole actor in the next act of the drama is Peter who sits with the constables warming himself in the light of the fire. (v. 54). Would he have been there but for his brother? Where Peter was a stranger John was known. Where John could walk delicately without challenge, Peter is challenged to his discomfiture. Yet it was John who went out and spoke to the porteress and brought in Peter. (John 18. 16).
A thrice repeated slumber marked Peter in the garden and a thrice repeated denial marked him in the palace of the high priest. His first two denials were sayings simply but his last was accompanied by swearing with solemn imprecation, “I know not this man of whom ye speak” (Mark 14. 71). Inward conscious knowledge of this Person he professed not to have.
A sobbing Peter closes the record of Mark 14. The fulfilment of the Lord’s words in their desertion of Him called forth no tears from the disciples. They were in too great haste to escape. The second cock-crowing that Peter heard called to mind the Lord’s word to him. Until then it had been no more than information to him but now it lived in his experience. “When he thought thereon he wept” (v. 72). To him the word had become quick and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword. (Heb. 4. 12). How bitter was his weeping: akin to that of his Lord over the city of Jerusalem with evident outward expression of grief. (Luke 19. 41). The road from singing to sobbing can be short indeed; the return journey can be painful and prolonged.
A twice repeated word may have a voice for us all to-day: “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 32. 6; 1 Cor. 10. 7).
ON THE MOUNTAIN
by the late H. Bailie
I WANT the reader to turn to the Old Testament Scriptures and look at three mountain scenes. The first is in Genesis 22. 2, where we have Abraham offering up Isaac. We shall call this “ the mountain of sacrifice or substitution ”. It is true that the word “substitution” occurs nowhere in our Bibles, but every believer is agreed that it is implied again and again. Take for instance, that passage in Matt. 20. 28, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for ( anti ) many”. Scripture is very explicit that the Son of God “was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed”.
As we follow Isaac up the mountain-side, and see him bound, and put in the place of death, with the wood ready for the fire beneath him and the knife raised above him, we have a picture of the sinner exposed to the judgment of God. Hell from beneath moved for his coming; justice above calling down vengeance upon his sins.
But listen to the voice from heaven: “Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And He said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns”. The ram is put in the place of Isaac; dies in his room and stead. Can we watch the scene without thinking about dark Calvary?
- I saw One hanging on a tree
- In agonies and blood,
- Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
- As near His cross I stood.
With chastened spirits and contrite hearts let us hasten to another mountain scene (Exodus 3. 1). “And he (Moses) led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb”. Here we have “the mountain of God’s holiness ”. As we listen we can hear the voice of Jehovah saying, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground”.
Moses was about to become God’s great public servant, and the lesson here taught was most essential for his future service. We need not only to look to Christ as our substitute bearing our sins, but we must remember that God is holy—yea, “our God is a consuming fire”, and we know that in us (that is, in our flesh) dwelleth no good thing. This is the grand lesson in Isaiah 6, where we have the prophet’s cleansing and consecration. The “woe is me” and the “here am I” are inseparable from true service. The sinful man at Jesus’ knees in Luke 5 was the man that was commissioned to catch men, and we have only to turn to Acts 2 to see how successful he was. Even Daniel, the prophet who received visions from God, confessed that his comeliness was turned into corruption. John, who leaned on the bosom of the Son of God in the days of His flesh, when he saw His holiness in resurrection glory, fell at His feet as dead.
All God’s choice servants have learned the lesson of the sanctuary and the throne, before they set out to serve the Lord in public. “Inside the veil” then “outside the camp”, is the order of scripture, and shall we not follow the Lord into the silence of the sanctuary, there to see His face and to hear His voice?
- Take time to be holy,
- The world rushes on;
- Spend much time in secret,
- With Jesus alone.
The third mountain scene is Hebron, “ the mountain of communion ”. In Joshua 14. 12, we have Caleb saying, “Give me this mountain whereof the Lord spake in that day”. Caleb had been in the land forty-five years before, and had tasted of its fruits. He knew God was for His
people. The giants with their walled cities were nothing to him. The inheritance must be possessed. If God be for us, who can be against us? He brought back the report as it was in his heart, and now, after all the wilderness wanderings, he asks for his mountain and receives Hebron. We know, if we are going to possess our inheritance, the world has to be overcome, the flesh has to be judged, and the devil resisted. And all this is possible through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. Jesus said, “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you”. May we know more of His presence and power, then we shall enjoy what God our Father has given us in Christ.
CHANGE IN DISPENSATION
“I see it now, I see it clearly,” said a Christian, who had long had confused views of the truth; “I see now there is a change in dispensation.”
Before this, he did not clearly distinguish between the law and the gospel, Israel and the Church, things heavenly: but now he learned from the Scriptures that there was a change in dispensation.
And so there is.
While God changes not, He is pleased in His sovereignty at one time to give a holy law from the burning mount, and bid all, under penalty of death, to keep far off; and at another time to send forth His beloved Son with words of pardon and blessing to all that come to Him.
God chose the former to show how great a sinner man is (Rom. iii. 20); He chose the latter to show that He loved him, though a sinner, and could save him (1 Tim. i. 15).
It was once God’s good pleasure to call an earthly people, the nation of Israel, to serve Him on earth; but now it is God’s sovereign will to call sinners (in grace) into relationship with Himself in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
In this dispensation He is calling out of the Gentiles “a people for His name” (Acts 15.14): in the next dispensation He will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth” (Eph. i. 10).
The great changes between the past and present dispensations are plainly set forth in the New Testament in different points of view. Let us look at some of them.
1. As to Sacrifice. In the last dispensation, there were many sacrifices, and often repeated. They were the remembrancers of sins, but never “took away sins.” They could not “make the comers thereunto perfect,” nor enable them to “draw near” to God, as having “no more conscience of sins”. In this dispensation, we have one sacrifice, once offered, never needing to be repeated. Blood so precious, and so entirely taking away sins, that God says, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”; thus purging the conscience, and enabling the worshipper to enter with boldness into the holiest of all. The change of dispensation is so marked that we are told that “He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second”. In the former God had no pleasure; with the latter He is well pleased (Heb. 10. 1-22).
2. Priesthood. The apostle says, “The priesthood being changed”, etc. How is it changed? The Aaronic order of priesthood was of the tribe of Levi, appointed without an oath, did not continue, passed from one person to another; the high priest was obliged to offer for his own sins, was always standing, because his work was never done, and had to remember the sins of the people over again once every year.
The Lord Jesus, the High Priest now, was of the tribe of Judah, and is of the Melchisedec order, was appointed by an oath, continueth for ever, and is unchangeable. He had not sins of His own to put away, because He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens”; and so perfect is His work, that after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Heb. 1. 3; 7.; 8. 10, 11, 12).
3. Worship. In the last dispensation, Jerusalem was the place of worship; the thick veil excluded the worshipper from the presence of God, and no one could enter into the holiest of all but the high priest once a year, and that only with blood and incense. In this dispensation, worship is purely spiritual, no earthly place of worship is recognised, the veil is rent, we enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.
All believers now are priests. The Father is the object of worship, Jesus the new and living way, and the Holy Spirit, who now dwells in every believer, the power of worship. The Lord Jesus so marked the change in worship, that He said, “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. . . . But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4. 20, 23. See also Heb. 10. 19-22).
4. Calling. In the last dispensation, God called a people from Egypt to Canaan, with a promise of earthly inheritance. Now God calls, by His gospel, with a high, holy,
and heavenly calling, blessing us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, having quickened us together with Him, and raised us up together; and made us sit together in heavenly places in Him. (Eph. 1 and 2).
5. Hope. The true hope of the last dispensation was Messiah, the Son of David, coming to set up His kingdom on earth, and reign before His ancients gloriously. The blessed hope of this dispensation is that Christ will come, change our vile bodies, and raise us up to meet Him in the air, to be for ever with the Lord. (John 14. 3; 1 Thess. 4. 16-17).
These are only some of the points of difference, but enough has been advanced to show that there really is a change in dispensation.
May the Lord help His children rightly to divide the word of truth, and serve Him acceptably.
Words of Truth (Volume 1) .
THE LAST DAYS
by A. M. S. GOODING
The List of Evils Examined
THERE is no doubt that the evils of the last days are the result of misplaced affections. “Lovers of self” has taken the place of “lovers of God”. It is worthy of note that in the opening verses of this chapter (2 Timothy 3) men viewed positively are “lovers of self”, “lovers of silver”, and “lovers of pleasure”, while viewed negatively they are “not lovers of God” and “no lovers of good” (R.V.). When affections cease to have their anchorage in God and man no longer loves, honours, reveres and obeys the God of Heaven, nothing but catastrophe can result.
“ Lovers of their own selves ”. He is utterly self-centred. How different from the demands made by the Lord Jesus on those who would be His disciples: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself”—say “No” to self, all self’s desires, plans, ambitions. Christ must be first, He must be all! How different to Pauline instruction to saints at Philippi: “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (2. 4). How like the spirit of Diotrephes: “who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them” (3 John 9). Does not the Pharisee of the well-known parable exemplify the same, spirit, and there is no doubt that he had a “form of godliness”: “ I thank Thee … I am not … I fast… I give … I possess” (Luke 18. 11, 12). When this spirit grips the heart it expresses itself like Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice, I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5. 2).—boastful, proud, blasphemous! Or it is seen as in Nebuchadnezzar, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the Kingdom by the might of my power and for the honour of my majesty” (Daniel 4. 30). Again note the features, “proud, boastful, arrogant”. While the features outlined in the passage before us are those so fully manifested amongst men in these last days, we as the people of God need to challenge our hearts as we read its solemn predictions lest we become infected with the spirit of the age. Is it not true that the early disciples were constantly desiring to be the greatest, even when the shadow of the cross lay athwart the path of their Lord? Places in the Kingdom! Places on the throne! Right hand or left hand! How unlike the blessed One who took a towel and girded Himself and washed the disciples’ feet. Loving self was a positive danger in the “first days”; how much more in these last days. Tracing this feature back to the beginning we read: “Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne … I will sit . . . I will ascend … I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14.13, 14).
Alongside “lovers of self” the word of God has placed “ lovers of siver ”. If men love self, then self must be gratified. It must possess and accumulate, whether it be gold or silver, possessions and goods. Self is untiring in its demands. It possesses a thirst that cannot be satisfied. The words “Thou shalt not covet” come as a challenge to our hearts to-day as Paul adds, “covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col.. 3. 5). We are living in a materialistic age when men and women have possessions and luxuries and leisure such as they have not known before, and yet there is more discontent and unthankfulness than ever all around. Do we not need deliverance constantly from this spirit and in its place cultivate the truth expressed thus:
- “Naught that I have mine own I’ll call,
- I’ll hold it for the Giver.”
Amos rebukes the women of his day, as he addresses them as the kine of Bashan (cows on excellent pasture with nothing to do but rest and eat while rolling their haughty eyes at all who pass by). He sees in them these cow-like features. He says that while they oppress the poor and needy, they say to their masters (lit. Lords / Husbands): “Bring and let us drink”. Thus he portrays an abundance of idleness, a living in luxury coupled with an unsatiable demand for more: Bring, bring, bring! Is it not true to-day that our womenfolk are extremely prone to the glittering temptations all around—all calculated to fill the heart with covetousness—that longing for more that has for its twin-sister discontent.
In the world however covetousness has reached its high-water-mark. Everyone must have every luxury and new appliance that can be imagined whether the persons have the ability to pay for the goods or not. Lovers of self and lovers of silver! Even the spirit of gambling has been given a cloak of respectability in our day, and the state, the business world, salesmanship and even professing Christendom indulge in practices once frowned on in order to spread their wares or obtain their objectives.
by the late J. MONEYPENNY.
IS THIS sin possible? Can it be that frail man has the power to rob the infinite God? Yes! this is possible —man can, and does constantly commit this robbery, but sadder still, God’s own children can and do commit this terrible sin. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed Me even this whole nation” (Malachi 3. 8, 9). These are His pungent, solemn words to His earthly people about four hundred years before Christ. And surely these words, “are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (1 Corinthians 10. 11). It is an undoubted fact that amidst all the privileges now, of the full-orbed “Gospel of the grace of God,” and with the completed revelation regarding the Church, and regarding the future of Israel, and of the world generally, and concerning all the glories to come—amidst all this wondrous light shed upon us, many of us are guilty of robbing Him to Whom we owe all.
Yes! robbing Him of the love and devotion of our hearts, robbing Him of our time, our talents, our influence; failing to enter practically into the solemn precious fact— “ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6. 19, 20)—or in other words failing in the full surrender to Him, which 5 s surely our reasonable service, because of all His tender mercies (Romans 12. 1). All who seek the will of the Lord will agree that systematic giving is distinctly taught in Old and New Testaments. We certainly cannot idly dismiss this godly example given to us by Abraham1 “the father of all them that believe,” and his action is stated not only in Genesis but also in the New Testament epistle—Hebrews. Also his example is continued to us in the case of his remarkable grandson—Jacob. And Solomon by the Spirit of God says in Proverbs 3. 9, 10— “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy bams be filled with plenty and thy presses shall burst out with new wine”. Does not this mean watchful systematic action? Then we cannot overlook the plain command in the distinctly church epistle: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come” (1 Cor. 16. 2). Assuredly this was a systematic rule, and it is in the epistle specially dealing with the local assembly, and written not only to the Corinthians, but also to “all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s” (1 Cor. 1. 2).
- 1. We must remember that as far as we know, there was no command to Abraham or Jacob to give tithes, it was the effect of grace on an occasion.
Granted that this was regarding a special matter of need, “the collection for the saints at Jerusalem” (16. 1-3), but surely the systematic action, enjoined by the Apostle, cannot be ignored in its real application to us. Then let us also earnestly note the remarkable testimony of the Lord Himself in Luke 16 where He earnestly tells us that unfaithfulness regarding earthly possession (“that which is least”) means unfaithfulness also in the spiritual (“in much”) and that upon faithfulness regarding the temporal, depends our entering into possession of our spiritual wealth. How solemn this truth! “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? ”
But some will say, “I don’t wish to put myself under legal rules, I want to reckon everything the Lord’s. Yet it is a deplorable fact that usually if there be no godly method, very little may be actually given. We have treacherous hearts, and so easily can other claims be allowed to crowd out the claims of God. Perhaps, practically speaking, not a few of God’s people reach very little, if any, further, than the putting of a small coin, in the collection box on Lord’s Day—never rising to the privilege and responsibility of a definite proportion “as God hath prospered them,” fearing they would sink into poverty if they did so. Yet the testimony of Old and New Testaments is the very opposite of this. Note the weighty precious words of Proverbs 11. 24, 25: “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself”. Then in Luke 6. 38: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again”.
And to return to the notable Scripture in Malachi with which we began. Immediately following the solemn double declaration, “Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed Me,” comes the precious command and holy challenge: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse . . . and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts”— and then this sevenfold marvellous promise —“if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Therefore any, or all of us, if we are conscious that we have failed regarding this glorious privilege and responsibility of Scriptural Giving, let us with confession in our hearts and lips, and with fixed purpose, “cease to do evil,” and “learn to do well.” From this day, this hour, seeking earnestly to obey the commands and blessed challenges of our Triune God, and thus experiencing as He surely desires, His promises, “exceeding great and precious.”
The Trial of Faith
- It’s only the finest and purest of Gold
- That comes through the furnace for so I am told,
- With the strength of His grace will I suffer to bare
- The afflictions and trials He thinks I should share;
- And strange as it seems yet this is the way
- The Potter will pattern this piece of His clay,
- But I long for the day when in Glory I see
- The Man who endured Calvary’s Cross just for me.