by the Editor
DANIEL THE PROPHET
by the late C. J. Atkins
RECOVERY AND ORDER
by Bryan Smith
THE THINGS WHICH ARE
by Dr. John Boyd
ABRAHAM—FRIEND OF GOD
by R. W. Beales
CAMEOS OF CHRIST
by J. B. D. Page
WOMEN IN THE SCRIPTURES
by E. Robinson
THE OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST
by B. Avery
by A. M. S. GOODING
THE days of Malachi were extremely dark. The lamp was indeed burning dim. The people of God had not only departed from His ways but were apparently unaware of their state, and indifferent in their attitude toward God. Their service for God had become so worthless, and meaningless, that God had to say “I have no pleasure in you, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.”
The days pictured for us in the message to Laodicea are very similar to those of Malachi. Plenty of Self! Complete self-satisfaction! “Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.” But in spite of their pleasure in their own self sufficiency they brought anything but pleasure to the heart of Christ who Himself knocks outside the door, while their lack of spiritual discernment did not make them feel the need of “eyesalve” for the anointing of their eyes.
Both these pictures of closing days are very applicable to the days in which we live. How many of the Lord’s people have time for everything else except the things of God! Too busy to attend the week-night meetings of the assembly— business, studies and other social engagements have a far superior place in their thinking. Of course there is often a large attendance at the Lord’s Supper (and for many that is the only meeting they attend—“Bread-breakers”). The Gospel Meeting is attended by some with almost a patronising interest and no concern for the salvation of souls. Sunday Schools and Bible Classes are carried on by the faithful few on Lord’s Day afternoon. And as for a ministry meeting on Lord’s Day afternoon—why, surely the saints need a rest!
Is it not about time we bestirred ourselves—and examined our ways? Our priorities in life are wrong. “Seek ye first” said the Lord Jesus. How slow we are to consider His words. Malachi’s day is surely our day. We will attend to divine things if we have nothing more important to occupy our time. We will give to the Lord that which is of no value to ourselves. We will use pious language, sing impressive words, listen to eloquent addresses, but where is the reality, the love, the faith, the fidelity that we profess?
It was in days of departure and indifference that Malachi wrote this heartening word “THEN!” Just then, in those circumstances. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another… they feared the Lord and thought upon His name.”
Surely we live in this period of “THEN.” Circumstances and conditions around us answer to the days of old. Departure, indifference, carnality and worldliness are apparent all around us—these form a dark background indeed upon which to superimpose the words “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” The writer to the Hebrews touches the same idea as he thinks of the day approaching. He says, “Forsaking not the assembling of yourselves together.” Yes, this is it, as the days get darker and worldliness abounds, it is imperative that those who fear the Lord gather together more often and talk together more often about the glories of our adorable Lord.
I have been encouraged recently, moving amongst some of the assemblies in England, to see companies of believers who love the right ways of the Lord, getting together more, supporting each others’ ministry meetings and conference meetings. This is good, and I take this opportunity to encourage you, my dear brethren and sisters. Those who love the Saviour’s Name and wish to obey His Word, find nothing to help them heavenwards in this old world or indeed in the company of worldly Christians. Those that fear the Lord must more and more get together. Some enjoy much fellowship in the things of God in their local assembly—see that there is ample opportunity for those of neighbouring assemblies to share that joy. Others feel starved of spiritual fellowship, are tired of the husks of mere academic ministry, they need to get together wth Christians of like mind—gather together, talk together, think together upon His Name.
Blessed occupation—His Name! What sustenance for the soul! What a topic for conversation! What a subject to move the heart to praise, the hands to work and the feet to run for Him.
As days darken and the coming of the Lord draws near may we find more and more of our joy in Him until Christ becomes all in all.
DANIEL THE PROPHET
by the late C. J. ATKINS
Ch. 3—Nebuchadnezzar’s Image and the Faithful Remnant
“Our God is able to deliver—but if not.. (v. 17)
THE histories of the book of Daniel are also prophetic. Certainly as well as giving present comfort to tried and tested people of God, this chapter gives a preview of conditions at the time of the end, with a command for universal worship of evil or else death as shown in Rev. 13:15.
Whilst at the end of chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar is seen prostrate in worship before Daniel and acknowledging that “your God is the God of gods, and the Lord of kings,” he could only refer to Him as “your God.” He would not yet bow to the only true God. Impressed by his dream and the interpretation, yet failing to acknowledge God as the Lord, his heart is lifted up in pride as he remembers the word “Thou art the head of gold” and he ponders on the diversity of the nations under his power. To weld them under his power, what better way to make them all subservient to one object of worship. What better object of worship than that which points to his own power. Thus he caused an image of gold, massive and glittering to be erected. Though it is not stated, it was probably in the form of a man as in his dreams. Thus it would represent the deification of man, an image 90 feet high and 9 feet broad.
To this image, dazzling in its splendour on the plains of Dura in Babylon, representatives of all the kingdom were summoned. All stations of life were to be present; administrators, military chiefs, presidents of civil governments, chief judges, controllers of the treasury, lawyers, governors of provinces v. 2, and “various people, nations and languages,” v. 4. All were to be gathered “unto the dedication of the image,” v. 3. With the aid of clamant and sensuous music from an orchestra both large and varied, Nebuchadnezzar sought to induce a spirit of homage, an open acknowledgement by captured or defeated peoples of the impotence of their gods and the superiority of the gods of their captor. At the sound of music, all must bow down in worship or be cast into the fiery furnace, v. 5-6. The orchestra is very prominent. It tends to draw out emotional or sensuous response, and in many religious gatherings much attention is given to music. With all its beauty, there is the need to guard lest our minds are led away to rejoice in the sweetness of the music rather than in the harmony of worship in the beauty of holiness. Ceremonials and chanting may stir emotions, but the Lord exhorts to “singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord,” Eph. 5:19, for “whoso offereth praise glorifies Me,” Ps. 50:23. A heart filled with the glory and beauty of Christ will give the finest purest music to the Father.
The music and the command wrought successfully in causing that mighty host to fall down in worship, the worship of glorified man. But amongst the host were some whose attention was divided, “certain Chaldeans.” These men forgot that they were present at this time only because Daniel and his companions had prevailed to deliver them from death due to the wrath of the king, ch. 2, v. 2, 12, 24. Knowing the courage and fidelity of the three, they did not expect them to bow down, and so sought an opportunity of satisfying their jealous hatred by accusing them, v. 8.
What a charge, “these men… have not regarded thee; they serve not thy gods, nor worship the image,” v. 12, a charge calculated to rouse the ire of the king; thee, thy gods the image. Three men alone amongst the multitudes, standing, despite the cost, for God’s honour. Forgetful of the honours so recently appointed to these men, as well as of his own acknowledgement of the God of gods, the king raged in fury and personally interrogated them. That they should thus counter his command seemed incredible, so he offered another chance. “It is true (or of purpose) ye worship not the image,” v. 14. What a noble answer is given, despite the seven fold heated furnace. “We are not careful to answer thee in this matter our God is able… and He will deliver us out of thine hand… but if not… we will not worship.” Calm, calculated confidence in God’s power and His ultimate purpose. God could deliver from the flames: He had promised support in floodwater or fire, Is. 43:2, but if He purposed to let them suffer they would still trust Him to deliver, as the psalmist had sung “Thou hast holden my right hand, Thou shalt guide with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory,” Ps. 73:23-24.
Before such confident faith, the king who could control empires, could only gnash his teeth in impotent rage, even as the Sanhedrin did when gazing on Stephen, Acts 7:54, as they saw his face as an angel, The king is made to witness the delivering power of God. Though the fierce flames destroyed the chosen mighty men who firmly bound the faithful servants of God, the flames could only serve to release the bonds as the three were flung into the furnace, there to walk with their beloved Lord. Well may Nebuchadnezzar question in his amazement “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?… Lo I see four men loose walking… they have no hurt,” v. 24, 25. Again he is made to acknowledge “the Most high God” as he calls the three from the furnace, and with all the mighty host, sees that “the fire had no power on their bodies,” v. 27. How meaningless is the decree which the monarch makes, seeking to uphold God’s power, but he again exalts the faithful ones.
What a picture of formal “religion.” With some impressive symbol of worship moved by emotional music, gathered in a unified host with all the dignity of rulers and powers, bowing at the signal of a man. So in the times of the end we read “the whole earth wondered after the beast: and they worshipped the dragon, because he gave his authority unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying “who is like unto the beast? and who is able to war with him… and all that dwell on the earth shall worship him,” Rev. 13:3, 4, 8, and “as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed,” Rev. 13:15. But as the Lord stood with the faithful three, so will He watch over the faithful remnant, so that although they yield their lives, the mighty Lord yet vindicates them. “I saw the souls of them that… worshipped not the beast neither his image… and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years,” Rev. 20:4.
So throughout every age and dispensation the Lord has had his faithful ones, Abraham, Isaac, Daniel, those who saw Him and believed, and since His Ascension, those “also that believe on Me through their word” (John 17:20) and throughout the “time of Jacob’s trouble” the great tribulation, still He will have the remnant. Though we at present may know little of testing, the fires of affliction for us are very small, yet even today many of the Lord’s chosen ones are suffering fierce persecution. May we pray that these might, in their fierce affliction, be upheld by that same divine Presence and that we be found faithful in the small tests, to say “we will not serve thy gods” nor pander to the claims of expediency, but will continuously and earnestly pray for those who are called to endure.
RECOVERY AND ORDER
A final comparison of Nehemiah and First Corinthians
by BRYAN SMITH
“ALSO that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off” (Nehemiah 13:43).
Paul, speaking of church destiny, in his conclusion, speaks of “two companies.” Not only the dead raised but, also, the living changed. What joy, beloved, in that day. “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthian 15:51, 52). But how do we read the term “the last trump.” The war trumpet. The overthrow of the enemy (Findlay, Godet) (Cf 1 Corinthian 14:8: 1Thessalonians 4:16: Number 10:9). Yes, it ‘sounded’ when the Lord rose from the dead, having accomplished redemption. It will sound for the last time in relation to the first resurrection. It will not be heard when death is finally overthrown because there is no redemption for any raised from the dead at the great white throne. The prophetic consummation (Marsh, Bruce). But Paul has already in this chapter outlined prophetic events subsequent to His coming—the putting down of all enemies; His reign as Messiah; the destruction of death, the last enemy; the delivering up of the kingdom to God, even the Father (v. 24-28). An allusion to the Roman army. After two preliminary soundings, they moved off at the last trump (Kelly, Rogers, Pickering). But where do we find this information? We seem more acquainted with Roman drill procedure than the Corinthians might have been themselves. In Israel the silver trumpets were for the calling of the assembly and for the journeying of the camps (Numbers 10:2). Soon will it be so with us, brethren. In the transformation of the body fitted for the heavenly kingdom we shall always be with the Lord. The wilderness is over, the inheritance is ours. With Paul we can anticipate that day of joy, “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthian 15:27).
* * * *
“And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the first fruits and for the tithes, to gather them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited” (Nehemiah 12:44).
It is interesting that the sizeable sum that the apostle hopes the Corinthians will accumulate is for the saints in Judah not now able to give as liberally as in Nehemiah’s day (1 Corinthian 16:1-4).
In the last chapter of his book, Nehemiah is largely occupied with failure that had again arisen at Jerusalem. His words “but in all this time was not I at Jerusalem” perhaps intimate that had he been there evil would have been early withstood. He writes of his return to the city after having received permission of the king, which permission he did not receive immediately but had to wait certain days (Nehemiah 13:6, 7).
Similarly, the apostle informs the Corinthians that not only was the work in Ephesus standing, it was actually advancing, despite the presence of many adversaries. He reminds the saints that he was coming to them (1 Corinthian 16:2, 3, 5, 7); but only if the Lord permit. Timothy, too, may come (v. 10), and concerning Apollos “I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time” (v. 12). The servants of the Lord must wait on Him for direction in their service.
* * * *
Later Nehemiah became aware of insufficient being provided for the Levites. “And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled everyone to his field. Then contended I with the rulers, and said, why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place” (Nehemiah 13:10, 11).
The apostle Paul mentions the travels of himself and Timothy in Divine service and is free to suggest ways whereby the brethren might have practical fellowship with them in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthian 16:5-11). He has given directions as to the forming of a fund, both in Galatia and Achaia (1 Corinthian 16:1) for the purpose of relieving extreme poverty in Judaea (Galatian 2:10). It is noted that he makes no mention of the establishing of a fund to maintain Timothy, Apollos and other servants of the Lord.
Nehemiah is no doubt disappointed at the evidence of declension in Israel. He has to contend with princes, people and priest (Nehemiah 13:17-31). He closes his book with the request that God would remember him for good.
How much happier that the apostle could commend the house of Stephanas which had taken the reins of true leadership among the saints and appeals for affectionate subjection to them (1 Corinthian 16:14-18). The apostle sends greetings (v. 19-21) and utters a solemn warning (v. 22). But he cannot close severely and assures them of his love to all, despite the severe rebukes and grave warnings contained in the epistle.
THE THINGS WHICH ARE
by Dr. JOHN BOYD
THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA
THYATIRA, the home of the church to which the fourth letter was sent, was a town situated some 40 miles to the east of Pergamos. It was known for the manufacture of a characteristic purple dye. The only other mention of Thyatira in the scripture is in Acts 16:14, where Lydia is found selling this dye in Philippi at the time of Paul’s first arrival in Europe. Lydia was his first convert at Philippi. Some have conjectured that it was she who introduced the gospel to Thyatira. If this were so it may be the reason why a woman in the assembly was causing so much trouble. Did the undue prominence of sisters still persist in the church?
To this church the Lord introduces Himself by a three-fold title,
- The Son of God, possibly taken from Ps. 2:7. This is suggested by the reference to authority over the nations, and ruling them with a rod of iron in vv. 26-27, a promise given to the Son of God in Ps. 2:8-9. It tells us that He who is seen as Son of Man in the vision of ch. 1 is also the omnipotent Son of God.
- His eyes are like a flame of fire, indicating the keen and piercing gaze of Him before whom all things are naked and open, who misses nothing as He walks amidst the churches. He searches the reins and the heart (v. 23). As such He knows all our inmost thoughts and plans.
- He has feet like fine brass, or ‘like unto burnished brass’ (R.V.), incandescent brass. His feet have been through the furnace of affliction, and are unbending in judicial purity and strength (v. 27). Thus to the church in Thyatira the Lord introduces Himself as the omniscient, omnipotent Son of God.
The Lord speaks of His knowledge of the church under three headings, designated by three occurrences of the word ‘thy’ in v. 19.
- Thy Works—how its members occupied themselves.
- Thy Nature. Their works were characterised by four qualities grouped under the second ‘thy.’ Note the order of these in the R.V.,
- Love—without any qualifications, but shown to all—to God, to the person of Christ, to one another, to the souls of men lost in sin, whose salvation they sought. This love commended and enhanced the value of their works (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
- Faith—in God, without which it would be impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6).
- Ministry (R.V.)—service rendered to others on behalf of God, to the poor and sick (Acts 6:1).
- Patience—persistence, still at the task when others have ceased. These four qualities arrange themselves into two pairs. Love and faith are inward and Godward. Ministry and patience are outward and manward. The second pair seem to be the outcome of the first.
- Thy Progress. Note the R.V. rendering of the end of v. 19, ‘and that thy last works are more than the first.’ Their works, so commendable, were still increasing. Thus the Lord recognised their works, their good works, their growing works. Can He find this in your assembly?
After mentioning these commendable things the Lord has some words of rebuke for them. He had something against the church. Whilst it was very active for God they had in their midst a false prophetess who was corrupting the minds of the believers, and worse still, they allowed her to remain in the church. The word translated ‘thou sufferest’ indicates that they let her go on unchecked; they allowed her to teach her false doctrine; they permitted her to seduce believers into committing fornication and eating things sacrificed unto idols. This was most likely spiritual fornication, turning the hearts of the believers from Christ, to whom they had been espoused as chaste virgins (2 Cor. 11:2). Jezebel here is figurative as was Balaam (v. 14). Ahab married Jezebel who actively promoted Baal worship in Israel. The result was that Ahab provoked the Lord by his idolatrous practices more than any king before him (1 King 16:31-33). Jezebel, an outsider, an alien from the nation of Israel, was a woman who usurped authority, and had no conscience about the great havoc she wrought amongst the people. Such was the danger at Thyatira. The first century Jezebel was a heathen; she did not belong to the church at Thyatira, and delighted in its corruption.
The woman suffered thus to remain in the church teaching these abominable things called herself a prophetess, one purporting to give messages from God. She is called in the R.V. margin, ‘thy wife Jezebel,’ the rendering of many ancient manuscripts, as though she were the wife of the ‘angel’ (v. 18). Does this imply that she occupied a place of authority in the church?
The evil taught in Thyatira was the same doctrine that troubled the church at Pergamos, only here it was introduced and practised by a woman, just as women to-day, permitted to teach in the church, often introduce false doctrine among true believers, e.g., Christian Science and Theosophy, both systems started by women. Let us be on our guard against such evil, and root it out early. Tn Ephesus, Pergamos and Thyatira the same trouble was manifesting itself, but in an increasing degree. In Ephesus it was known but hated; in Pergamos it was introduced and tolerated; in Thyatira it was taught and practised.
The Lord next deals with the action He proposed to take with this wicked woman, and her dupes. He says He is about to lay her on a bed (of sickness). The word here translated ‘cast’ is the usual word for one ‘lying sick’ (Matt. 8:6, 14). For the bed of fornication she will be given a bed of sickness. Those believers who had accepted her teaching, and committed spiritual adultery will bear great tribulation with her. This is not the Great Tribulation of Rev. 7:14, where a different expression is used, lit., ‘the tribulation, the great one,’ that is, the time of Jacob’s trouble. Those who were thus associated with her will, as she was, first be given an opportunity to repent of her (R.V.) works, the works she taught them to do. As to her children these will be killed with death —a Hebraism for a sure, cruel death (Gen. 2:17), not the ordinary death of men (Num 16:29). Thus we see here two groups who would share punishment with this Jezebel-like woman, (a) those who had committed adultery with her—like her unfaithful to God, but who may yet repent and turn to God (v. 22), and (b) those called her children—put in the place of emphasis in the sentence to indicate those who represent the fruit of her teaching, who followed her practices, and who like her refused to repent. This latter group is possibly those who claimed to have been initiated into the depths of Satanic worship. This two-fold judgment is seen in 1 Cor. 11:30—‘some weak and sickly… many sleep.’ A just retribution follows all.
The net result of this judgment was that the Lord would be feared amongst all the churches, at every place, and in every dispensation. He would be acknowledged as the all-searching and all-knowing One, whose gaze reaches to the inward parts of man’s being, to where his desires and affections lie. To each individual mixed up in this awful system the Lord would mete out punishment according to the extent of his participation in the evil.
The Lord has a word of encouragement and exhortation for the rest in Thyatira, the remnant in the church who had neither followed the woman’s teaching, nor professed to know the deep things of Satan. These latter prided themselves in their knowledge of the mystery of Satan’s working; they sought to pry into his power for evil, how he caused men to sin; they did this by tasting for themselves of forbidden things. This was the sin of the Garden of Eden, the desire to know good and evil. It was the spiritual fornication which the false prophetess taught. Upon those who had not meddled with this teaching the Lord would lay no other burden than that of abstaining from the doctrine, and holding fast the faith they had, what had been taught them by the Lord. This was a light burden (Matt. 11:29-30), but one that they must hold firmly; they must be strong in the faith until the Lord came back for them, to deliver them from all fear of falling.
Now follows the promise to the overcomer. Here is a departure from the normal sequence of the three previous letters. In those the promise to the overcomer was put last, after the Lord’s call to the individual believer to pay earnest heed to the messages. In the last four letters this order is changed. The mention of the overcomer is put before the call to hear, as though the Lord would address the exhortation to the overcomer more particularly rather than to the whole church.
But the Lord of the piercing gaze knows also those who are true to Him. Some such He saw in Thyatira. The Lord gave a two-fold promise to the true believer who overcomes and keeps to the end the words which He had commanded instead of keeping the words of the false prophetess. (1) He will share in the reign of the Son of God over the nations as promised to Him by His Father in Ps. 2:9. This is why the Lord introduced Himself to Thyatira by the title of Son of God. With Christ he will rule with a rod of iron, and break the nations into shivers like a potter’s vessel. At the end time, resplendent in white linen robes of spotless righteousness he will come with the Lord, and reign with Him (Rev. 19:14-15). He will come with Christ to execute judgment on the ungodly (Jude 14-15). (2) To him will be given the morning star. In Rev. 22:6 the Lord describes Himself as the morning star. He will give Himself, that is, He will reveal Himself to the overcomer in the character of One who is as a light springing up after a night of gloom, darkness and difficulty.
The overcomer who wants to hear should pay attention to what the Spirit has to say to the churches. To him particularly the Lord appeals in this sad day of departure.
Let us believers apply the lessons of this letter to ourselves, for we have the Son of God still walking amidst the churches; His piercing gaze still searches our hearts and minds; He still takes action against any such tendency as we have seen in the church in Thyatira; He is aware of undue prominence assumed by a sister in the church; He is quick to deal with her, and with those who support her, and with those beguiled by her teaching. Let us be alert to discern such tendencies, and quick to deal with them.
ABRAHAM—FRIEND OF GOD
by R. WOODHOUSE BEALES
Chapter 23—The Cave of Machpelah
THIS burying place of Abraham’s figures again and again in scripture and some have occasionally found a supposed discrepancy in the various accounts given, but they have not always fully considered the account given of the extent of the land surrounding it, nor the fact that it is possible that a further purchase was made. We must leave this with the reader, who will find the references to it in 25:9, 49:30 and 50:13. Also a reference in Acts 7:5 which tells us that Abraham did not own, in spite of the many promises made to him, so much as to set his foot on (a “bema”) while he lived, even though he was “the heir of the world” shewing to us the reality of his faith and confidence in God and that all these men of faith looked on to a future day when God will amply reward that faith. The description of this transaction follows faithfully the oriental method of bargaining, whereby the owner, willingly “giving” away what was asked for, proceeds to do some stiff bargaining and obtains the very highest price! Abraham comes out of this with colours flying. Would that we all did, similarly.
It is significant that the only piece of ground “owned” by the Lord Jesus in this world, was a sepulchre, and that was given Him voluntarily, the only place He had “to lay His head.” What a witness also this was to Abraham “thou art a mighty prince among us” unless this was a clever bit of flattery to extract more than the full value of the sepulchre. We cannot rule this out, knowing the worldly man as we do, although this “method” is not unknown among Christians, alas.
Chapter 24—A Bride for Isaac
Many do not like to regard this chapter as “highly typical” although it lends itself admirably to this treatment (although we note that certain valued commentaries do thus mention it briefly) but if it be not so we are somewhat surprised that it should have such detailed treatment. If it be not typical then there is little to be said about it, except to stress the fact that Abraham did not desire any bride for his son of the heathen nations around him although he was on such good terms with several. God was always seeking a “godly seed” and so should we. The un-named servant, most probably the Eliezer spoken of earlier (although some have denied this, but produced no evidence against it), who would have succeeded in an earlier day had there been no heir, shews himself to be a godly man, far beyond many of the present day, who was dependent upon God. knowing Him intimately, prayerful, urgent, lowly, worshipful and yet patient, seeking only the will of God and always speaking of his “master.”
It is noteworthy, if this typical view be allowed, that Isaac has not been seen or mentioned since his “sacrifice” and “resurrection” until he goes forth to meet his bride, which is significant. Abraham, too, is quite clear that God would guide and prosper this journey and quest (v. 7), and also acknowledges the human element if the woman would not be willing to follow the servant. This divine guidance and perfect timing is brought out fully in this chapter. All this is a wonderful instruction and pattern for any who wish to woo and win a soul for the heavenly Bridegroom, much of which is somewhat lost if a typical view be not allowed for this portion.
But this man so speaks and is so evidently under such divine guidance that “the thing proceedeth from the Lord” is the reply given by Rebekah’s brother and father and this servant also gains his point in making an immediate start upon this long, hazardous and arduous journey.
How this question so often comes, “Wilt thou go with this man?” and how happy when the reply is so prompt and definite “I will go.” Many alas, refuse to see the Church as the bride of Christ, much to their own impoverishment. We have no such difficulty, anything which magnifies the grace and glory of Christ, cannot but be acceptable to God His Father and Himself. Nothing much is said of the journey but we may well infer that the subject on the way, as this maid entrusts herself to such a journey and with men whom she has only recently met, was all about the servant’s “master,” his wealth, his “only sonship,” perhaps even, if the servant knew of it, his “sacrifice,” subjects concerning which we might well occupy the time of our pilgrimage, thinking and speaking of our Heavenly Bridegroom. She had received manifold and valuable gifts, but was now going to obtain “himself.” May our hearts and minds be similarly occupied day by day as we tread the desert, oft a wearisome way. The great hymn, “Midst the darkness, storm and sorrow…” revolves around this episode and wonderfully cheers the heart of the pilgrim.
It is an outstanding fact that here for the second time the word “love” occurs in the Bible, the first being in chapter 22, v. 2, when to Abraham God said, “Take now thy son, Thine only son, Isaac, who thou lovest… and offer him for a burnt offering.. Isaac being called in Hebrews 11 the “only begotten son,” Ishmael now forgotten, and now here Isaac “loves” Rebekah, the love of that son for his bride. There has also been no mention of Isaac at all since he was “offered” upon the mount. These things we suggest, in spite of certain difficulties, are pregnant with spiritual meaning for the one who has a heart for Christ and knows the relationship which exists between Him and His Church. There is now no mention of Abraham, only of Isaac and Rebekah, though of course Abraham was still alive. The servant too, retires from the scene, his work being accomplished. Some indeed would rob us of these thoughts and even pour ridicule upon them, but they have little to offer us in substitution therefore.
CAMEOS OF CHRIST (3)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
“The High and Lofty One” (continued)
THE second occurence of the phase, “high and lifted up,” is found in that great Servant Song of Isaiah 52:13—53:12. This song is a dialogue between God and a regenerate Israel (still future), and the opening words, “Behold My Servant…” spoken by Jehovah, refer not to Israel but Messiah.
In introducing His Servant, Jehovah says, “My Servant shall deal prudently (or, wisely, R.V.), He shall be exalted and extolled (or lifted up, R.V.), and be very high.” The Lord, having given the prophet a vision of the Pre-incarnate Christ, now speaks of the Incarnate Christ. In the former, Christ is seen as Adonai, the Sovereign upon His throne, but here He is beheld as the Servant, humbled and yet exalted.
This great stoop from sovereignty to servanthood is expressed by Paul’s two phrases: Christ Jesus, being in “the form of God,” took upon Him “the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6f). Christ assumed His Servant character for the fulfilment of the will of God upon the earth, even to the point of being “obedient unto death.” The “sufferings of Christ” were not the end, for there was “the glory (or, glories, lit.) that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11).
Of His Servant, the Lord said, “(He) shall deal prudently” (or, prosper, mgm). Apparently, according to one writer, both meanings are contained in the word used by Isaiah, and the combined translations may be a fuller rendering, ‘(he) shall deal prudently, with consequent prosperity,’ This describes the Servant’s life on earth, for He was prudent in all that he said and did, and men marvelled at His wisdom. When He gave up His life voluntarily in atoning sacrifice, no greater prosperity has ever accrued (cp. Isaiah 53:10f).
In the remainder of Jehovah’s pronouncement, “He shall be exalted, lifted up and be very high,” we have the beginning, progress and culmination of the Servant’s exaltation. The Servant’s first step of ascendancy is expressed in the prophet’s words “He shall be exalted…” signifying His Resurrection. The word translated “exalted,” according to one commentator, denotes ‘to rise up in exaltation.’ His resurrection was the beginning of His exaltation.
The next two steps of ascendancy are the qualifying words of the throne in chapter 6, but here in the reverse order and applied to the Person. The Servant, says Isaiah, shall be “lifted up,” which contains the thought of “a glorious ascent,’ and obviously His Ascension is in view— a truth somewhat overlooked by believers. “He was taken up, and a cloud (possibly the shekinah cloud) received Him” out of the disciples’ sight (Acts 1:9). Continuing, He “passed through the heavens,” the atmospheric and sidereal heavens, and was “carried up into heaven,” the presence of God (Hebrews 4:14, R.V.; Luke 24:51). His ascension was the progress of His exaltation.
The third step of ascent is expressed in the words, He shall be “very high,” which describe the Servant’s present position. Mark, who sets forth Christ in His Servant character, says that “He was received up into heaven,” to describe His ascension, “and sat on the right hand of God,” which is His position now (Mark 16:19). This is the culmination of His exaltation, seated at the right hand of God upon the heavenly throne. As Paul rightly says, “God hath highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9). The Servant is now the Sovereign!
Yet again, for the third time, the phrase, “high and lifted up,” occurs in Isaiah. In chapter 6, it describes the heavenly throne, occupied by Adonai, the Sovereign. In chapter 52, it is used of the exalted position of the Servant. In chapter 57, it is applied to the Person Himself as Saviour. The divine Speaker of the closing paragraph of chapter 57 introduces Himself as “the high and lofty One” (v. 15), signifying that, being enthroned and exalted, He is “far above all” and “all things are under His feet.” As Creator, all creatures are inferior to Him. As Sovereign, no monarchial power is His equal.
The 15th verse in Isaiah 57 reads: “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, Whose name is Holy…” By saying He “inhabiteth eternity,” the “high and lofty One” indicates superiority and supremacy. He belongs to eternity not time, for eternity is His home! Wisdom personifying the pre-incarnate Christ said, “I was anointed from eternity… before the earth was” (Proverbs 8:23, J.N.D.). As the Anointed One, the Lord Jesus is antecedent to time and He is eternal. “The high and lofty One” then adds that His “name is Holy,” which defines His character. With Him, holiness is not an attainment but an attribute.
Having described His personal glory, “the high and lofty One” now gives expression to His grace toward a repentant people. His dwelling-place is two-fold: from eternity, His habitation has been “the high and holy place” in heaven, but in grace He will indwell the 66 contrite and humble spirit” on earth. The latter will be realised among the Lord’s earthly people when they repent at His return in power and glory. In that day, they will know that the Holy One of Israel is their Saviour. Of the same Person, Paul writes concerning believers in this age, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Women in the Scriptures
by EDWARD ROBINSON
IT is noticeable throughout the world that where Christianity has gained a footing the status of women is higher than in pagan communities. This is not surprising for they are signally honoured in the Scriptures themselves, for instance in Luke 8:2, 3 and again in John 20, where the Lord in resurrection appears first to Mary, committing to her an outstanding message to the other disciples (v. 17). Further, in the salutations of Romans 16, women are singled out for quite special mention and commendation.
In Galatians 3:28, Paul makes a statement which has often been misapplied, ‘… there is neither male nor female…’ This clearly, in the light of much detailed instruction by the apostle, views the saints in a wholly spiritual sphere and not in their responsible setting in the Church, which remains so long as we are in the body. The apostle, the writer, let us remember, of so large a proportion of the New Testament, makes very plain the distinction between the functions of men and women. In the first Corinthian Epistle he makes several categorical statements which cannot be dismissed as ‘only Paul’s views’ or ‘these refer to the customs of his day.’ Such thoughts undermine the absolute authority of the Scriptures and are indeed refuted in Paul’s own words ‘If any think himself to be spiritual let him understand that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord’ (1 Cor. 14:37).
In chapter 11 of this Epistle, he treats of headship, first of all in God’s ordering for creation generally and then as to Church order, which is largely the theme of this first Epistle. He then specifically enjoins upon the woman the wearing of a covering (as distinct from the hair) where prayer is offered, which would cover all the gatherings together of the Lord’s people (vv. 3-15). Later he says ‘Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak… for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.’ These words are clear and unambiguous and the whole tenor of Paul’s teaching precludes the idea advanced that the reference is to a practice of ‘whispering together in church.’ The teaching is emphasised again in Paul’s first letter to Timothy in these words, ‘I will therefore that men pray everywhere’: the original Greek word for men signifying the male in contrast to the woman (2:8). Again (w. 11, 12) ‘Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.’ These words, so unequivocal, preclude the idea of a sister taking a lead in prayer as is the case of the one who participates audibly in a mixed company of God’s gathered people. It is no question of ability or of superiority or inferiority, but of simple obedience to the divine will expressed in the authoritative Word of God which does not change with the fashions of this world.
The Obedience of Christ
by B. E. AVERY
THERE are three references in the New Testament to the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, only three, and yet how much we can learn from them, we who were one time the children of disobedience ourselves, until we knew His gracious deliverance.
In Hebrews, ch. 5:8, we read concerning Christ, that, though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered. This does not imply that He learned how to be obedient, for He alone could never disobey the will of His Father God. Rather does it remind us that He experienced obedience, willingly submitting Himself to the Divine plan, the cost and consequences of which are suggested in the context of this verse. How often we have to experience suffering that we might discern God’s will and experience the joy of fulfilling it! How fruitful and profitable the result! May we, in whatever circumstances befall us “learn obedience” too, so following in His steps.
Phil. 2:8, also refers to the Lord’s obedience. Here we are brought to consider the extent of that obedience. We, who find it so easy to avoid answering to our Lord’s commands, either by ignoring them, or finding excuses, are brought face to face with the mind of Christ as it is manifested in His mighty stoop from heaven’s glory to the cursed tree! Obedient unto death (so often referred to as the “Supreme Sacrifice”) yet, even such a death as the cross. Oh, the shame! Oh, the suffering, oh, what an extent is this! Could any have gone further? Yea, who could have gone as far? Surely the extent of His obedience, as His experience of the same (although in such contrast to our feeble efforts and frequent failures) is an encouragement to us who are called to walk “even as He walked.”
Yet the above exercises would have been to no avail were it not for the knowledge of the effect of His obedience as recorded by Paul in his epistle to the Romans, ch. 5 (v. 19). In contrast to the effect of Adam’s disobedience to the revealed will of God, the result of Christ’s suffering and submission just considered are exactly the opposite! Just as by nature we are sinners in our relationship with the first man, so as we enter by faith into relationship with Him who is elsewhere described as the Second Man, the effect of His one act of obedience is made good in our experience, as we are, in God’s sight, “made righteous.”
Whilst we can never attain to the experience or extent of Christ’s obedience, although striving ever, with the help of the Holy Spirit to follow Him, well might we meditate upon the corresponding effect of His obedience. How wonderful, what a transformation and that eternal, too! Perhaps the reason why our lives and witness have so little effect is because we know correspondingly little of that experience and extent of obedience to the Lord’s commands as revealed in His Word.
May God help us that we might be those through whom He can work to lasting effect upon others who come within our sphere of influence. May we be able to say, with another, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision,” and we know, indeed, to what extent God was able to use that devoted servant and with what great effect!
NOTES BY THE COMMITTEE
- I want to know Thy guiding voice, to walk with Thee each day,
- Blest Saviour make me swift to hear and ready to obey.
- And thus the year I now begin a happy year will be…
- If I am seeking just to do the thing that pleaseth Thee.
How encouraging it is to notice, in days of unprecedented Satanic trials which bring so much danger and difficulty to the child of God, that we have the beautiful example of our Lord in His appreciation of the Word of God, and His grace in being so willingly subject to it. May His grace produce in us the same desire to be ‘swift to hear and ready to obey.’
We have been encouraged throughout another year to receive many expressions of appreciation of the help and blessing that “Assembly Testimony” has been through the ministry of the Word, as found in its pages. The Lord has been good to us in enabling this little service to His dear saints to continue, and we are very satisfied it is His will to continue another year, or until He comes.
Accordingly, we commence this year, as every past year, in our dependence on Him to meet the need, for He has so willed, that we do not possess sufficient funds for a year’s requirement. This might seem to be foolhardy to the natural man! It is the way of God’s leading for us, and we are happy in it. With joy we report further increase in circulation, and, notwithstanding the increasing costs of material, wages and postage, all demands have been met. For this we thank our faithful God.
The hearty fellowship with us, shown by so many in different ways is a great joy to us. We warmly thank those who have so abundantly laboured to produce the papers that have been a cheer and blessing to the saints. We likewise thank the many who have helped us in distribution of the magazine, and our sincere gratitude is offered to those who contributed so liberally towards our publishing costs, whether individually or through the assemblies of the saints. We can only offer our sincere thanks to all these, but are glad to remember that the Lord, Himself, will yet fully reward all that has been done, down here, by His dear saints for His glory.
Our indebtedness to our Editor is very great, who, in the midst of a very busy life, with much of it in the service of the Lord, continues to discharge his responsibility so well, and, like our contributors, receives no pecuniary gain.
Continue to remember us in your prayers. We thank those who do so. Our desire is that the Lord may so guide and help, that future issues, in His will, may be such as He can richly bless to all our readers in 1973 or “until He come.” And thus the year we now begin a happy year will be!
* * *
It is with profound regret we record the Home-call of our sister, Mrs. Mayhew, the dear wife of our esteemed brother who assists in our Committee. Mrs. Mayhew was 60 years in Christ. She bore a good testimony, was a great visitor of the saints, and was given to much hospitality to those engaged in the work of the Lord. In her usual place on her last Lord’s day when she entertained the preachers that evening, she had a seizure the next day, and in about an hour passed into the presence of the Lord she dearly loved and faithfully served. A large company attended the funeral on 13th December when her body was laid to rest until the Lord comes to the air for His redeemed ones. Please remember the husband and two sons, in fellowship, in your prayers, in their sudden and sad loss.
- Lord, Jesus Christ, Thy death alone
- Can for rebellious man atone,
- Can cleanse away the stain of sin,
- And give man peace and joy within.
- Thy precious blood as Sacrifice
- Was heaven’s sinless ransom price,
- To grant the captive liberty
- From Satan’s cruel tyranny.
- The world’s vast load of sin was laid
- Upon Thee when the debt was paid,
- When Thou didst face the hosts of hell,
- Forsaken was’t by God as well.
- Three hours enwrapt in darkness dense
- Satanic conflict was intense.
- Then, having died, from his domain
- Thou’rt risen, Conqueror, to reign.
- Now God on His unsullied throne
- Can justify by grace alone,
- Can tell how sins may be forgiven,
- And rebels reconciled with heaven.
- Lord Jesus Christ, enthroned above,
- How much we owe Thee for the love
- That led Thee to a Cross of shame
- To suffer pain and death and blame.
- No merit of our own we plead,
- But take Thy death for all our need
- As ransomed, saved, and blessed, we sing,
- ‘Worthy Thou art, Lord, Saviour, King.’
- Our gratitude we can’t express,
- But in Thy presence would confess,
- We long, with longing deep, to be
- More worthy followers of Thee.
- —Andrew Borland.