September/October 1972

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by Dr. John Boyd

by William Rodgers

by C. J. Atkins

by R. W. Beales

by H. C. Spence

by Bryan Smith

by J. B. D. Page

by Ray Dawes


The Son of God



The Letter to the Church in Smyrna

(Revelations 2:8-11)

The next church chosen by the Lord for investigation was that found in Smyrna, a city 35 miles north of Ephesus. Smyrna is the word translated ‘myrrh’ in Mark 15:23, a bitter, aromatic gum, one of the ingredients of the drink offered to the Lord on Calvary. It would seem by what the Lord reveals concerning this church that its name is reflected in its experiences. Bitter was the cup it was called to drink —tribulation, pseudo-Jewish opposition, poverty, suffering, imprisonment, trials and even martyrdom, as was the lot of Polycarp, one of the early fathers resident there. Whilst churches in the Western world to-day are relatively immune from these bitter onslaughts such are the trials of some of our brethren, especially those in communist countries. These churches find consolation and comfort in this letter. The Lord knows all about their bitter tribulation, their poverty, their reproach.

The title by which the Lord introduces Himself to Smyrna is taken from the revelation of His identity He gave to John in Revelation 1:17-18. He speaks of Himself as ‘the first and the last,’ indicating His eternal being, and essential deity. He seems to take to Himself the words of Moses in Psalm 90:2, ‘from everlasting to everlasting Thou are God.’ Then He reminds the suffering church in Smyrna that He ‘became dead, and lived again’ (R.V.m.), that is, He had triumphed over death. Thus the One who sent this message to the church would encourage its members by telling them of His perfect suitability to sympathise with them in their afflictions, for He, too, had suffered, and had been through death. That He had risen triumphantly from the grave imparted to them the assurance that His promise of a crown of life (v. 10) was no idle boast.

The Lord tells of His knowledge concerning the church — what He had observed in them. Some Mss. omit the words ‘thy works,’ What was evident to the Lord was the tribulation through which they were passing.. The word ‘tribulation’ suggests straitened circumstances, pressure from without, oppression from others. This was accompanied by poverty— the lack of the necessities of life, possibly because their profession of faith in Christ had brought reproach upon them, with consequent excommunication and neglect by their kith and kin.

The Lord’s commentary on the state of the church follows. Whilst in the eyes of the world they were poor, towards God they were possessed of divine riches, wealth that really mattered; they were laying up in heaven treasures for themselves; they accounted ‘the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,’ for, like Moses, they ‘looked unto the recompense of the reward’ (Hebrews 11:26). What a lesson for believers to-day who pay so much respect to the opinions and occupation of the world, and follow its customs! The Judgment Seat of Christ in a future day will reveal their folly.

But the Lord had also something to say by way of condemnation. Is it that some in the church claimed to be of Jewish descent, and possibly had introduced Judaistic teaching? By their revilement of true believers had they denied that they were truly born again? Their habits were not those of a Jewish synagogue, but of a synagogue of Satan. They were of their father the devil. Or it may be that what is here intended is the tribulation from so-called Jews outside the assembly. This is more likely in view of a similar expression in Rev. 3:9, where the ‘synagogue of Satan’ in Philadelphia refers to Jews apart from the church. A similar position was seen in Ephesus (Acts 19:9). The Jews spake evil of ‘the Way,’ and seized some of the believers (vv. 29, 33). Their circumcision was merely outward, in the flesh, not inwardly, in the spirit, of the heart (Romans 2:28). Being of ‘the synagogue of Satan’ would correspond with the intensions of the devil in v. 10.

Not only did the Lord know the tribulation through which the church had passed, but He was aware of what lay ahead of them. Suffering would continue to be their lot, but they must not be afraid. He who was ‘the first and the last’ knew all about the infliction—past, present and future; He knew the purpose of their suffering—to test their faithfulness; He knew what they would suffer—imprisonment; He knew also the duration of their tribulation—ten days. These may have been literal days, or more likely, days symbolising ten years. We know not how long it would last, but we know that what the Lord revealed to them was the fact that He knew all about their trial, its duration, and more important, that it would have an end. Ten is the number of completeness, telling of the full share of tribulation they must endure. What a word of comfort this must have been to the suffering church! What a consolation it brings to us to realise that the same Lord Jesus to-day knows all about our sufferings, whether they be oppression, poverty, testing, reviling.

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing His sight can dim:
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

In view of all thfs the Lord exhorts the church to faithfulness, even to death itself, should that be the outcome of their tribulation. He said in effect, ‘Let not thy faithfulness to Me stop short of enduring death itself.’ For such loyalty the Lord has a sure reward—‘I will give thee a crown of life.’ This is a picture taken from the Greek games, when he who had finished first in the race, and had triumphed, received the victor’s crown, a garland. But it was a wreath of laurel leaves that soon withered. The garland of the faithful martyr is no withering, fading trophy, but an incorruptible, unfading crown—a crown of life. It is one of seven crowns promised to believers in the New Testament,

  1. The Incorruptible Crown—for successful runners in the Christian race (1 Corinthians 9:25).
  2. The Crown of Rejoicing—for evangelists who will meet their converts at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
  3. The Crown of Righteousness—for those who served Christ with their eyes on the Lord’s Second Coming (2 Timothy 4:8, Revelations 3:10).
  4. The Crown of Life—for believers who have been patient in tribulation (James 1:12).
  5. The Crown of Glory—for overseers who have devotedly tended the flock of God (1 Peter 5:4).
  6. The Crown of Life—for Christian marytrs (Revelations 2:10).
  7. The Crown of Gold—for believers who have suffered, with a view to reigning later with Christ (Revelations 4:4).

The primary function of these crowns is not for the personal decoration of believers, but for the recipients to cast them at the feet of their beloved Lord in a coming day—to add to His glory (Revelations 4:10). What an incentive to faithful perseverance, that we might the more fully express our worship to Him who has done so much for us!

Whilst this message was sent to the church at Smyrna, the Lord would emphasise the fact that it was intended by the Spirit to be received and acted upon by all the churches, in all places, at all times, and even by us to-day.

Next follows the Lord’s promise to the individual overcomer, the true believer in the church. He would not be hurt of the second death. Overcoming might mean martyrdom for him, but even then only once would death touch him, and that would be physical death. The second death—banishment to the lake of fire for eternity (Revelations 20:14), would have no terrors for him; it will be the judgment on those whose names are not found written in the book of life (Revelation 20:15). Let us who are born again rejoice because such a sentence will not be our portion. With the poet we may confidently say, ‘The torment and the fire mine eyes shall never see.’ What a great salvation is ours! What a great Saviour we have in the Lord Jesus Christ!

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THE second paragraph of the two that make up our chapter (i.e., 2 Peter 1:12-21) has as its main features of interest, the reference to the Transfiguration, and that to the character and use of he written Word of God. The latter subject, as was pointed out in an earlier paper, is given prominence throughout Peter’s epistles, but nowhere does he deal with it so fully as here.

In verses 12-15, the apostle speaks of his desire that the saints may be kept in remembrance of the truths which he has already been bringing before them; and that, not only during the short time he may be yet with them, but also after he shall have been taken from them. And his statement concerning this in verse 15, “I will endeavour that ye may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in

remembrance,” evidently implies an expectation on his part that his writings will find a place in those Scriptures to which, in days to come, the saints will turn for guidance. In chapter 3:15, 16 we see him giving to the epistles of Paul a similar place amongst the “Scriptures.”

The Voice and the Word

In verses 16-18 he reminds them of what was to himself an unforgettable confirmation of the truth of the earlier Scriptures, as well as of the reality of “the Power and Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”—the scene on the mount of the Transfiguration. There he had been an eye-witness of the “majesty” of his Lord, and had seen in His company, the two great representatives of “the Law and the prophets.” He had heard them conversing with Him about “His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem;” and, more wonderful still, had heard the “Voice” which Moses and Elijah, alone amongst the prophets, had been privileged to hear in former days (see Numbers 12:6-8; Exodus 19:19; 1 Kings 19:12-13); and which now proclaimed, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The apostle’s readers had not personally the privilege that was his on this occasion; but they possessed the prophetic Word, of which it is an illustration and confirmation, and which was itself just as really “from heaven,” as was the Voice heard on the mount. Peter directs our attention to this comparison between the.two by using, twice with regard to each, a word meaning “brought” or “borne” (see margin of R.V., or Newberry). The Voice “was BORNE to Him from (rather ‘by’) the excellent glory’‘(v. 17), and it “was BORNE from heaven” (v. 18). Similarly the prophetic Word “was BORNE, not by will of man” (v. 21), but “men spake from God, being BORNE by the Holy Ghost” (v. 21).

A Lamp in a Dark Place

This being so, it follows that saints should give careful heed to the Word, “as unto a lamp shining in a dark place;” but it also follows that in doing so they need to remember that “no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation.” Only the Holy Spirit who dictated it can explain it, either to the writer ( 1st Peter 1:10-12), or to the reader (1 Cor. 2:10-12).

The words in verse 19, “Until the day dawn and the day-star arise,” must necessarily refer to the Lord’s Coming; for the dawn of day is here viewed as bringing to an end the need for the lamp, and since the lamp is the Word, it is unthinkable that any event or attainment, short of the Coming, could be looked upon as ending the saint’s dependence on it for guidance. But taking this view of the verse, its last three words seem to present a difficulty, and the question might be asked, Why, if it be the Coming that is referred to, should the daystar be said to “arise in your hearts?” To this it may be replied that if our Lord’s Coming does not dwell in our hearts as something to which we longingly look forward, we have little right to reckon ourselves amongst His people; and if it does so dwell, there is nothing farfetched in describing its actual occurence, from a subjective point of view, as the rising up in our hearts in daylight splendour of that which has been treasured in them and has been a light to us all the way along. It is not a matter of having a clear apprehension of the order and manner of the Coming, but of being true in heart to our Lord during His absence, and longing for Him to appear.

But perhaps the explanation, first suggested by Tregelles and since then adopted by various commentators, is the true one. He treats the illustrative portion of the verse, from “as” to “arise” as parenthetical, and links the final “in your hearts” with the previous “take heed.” Thus the exhortation would read, “To which ye do well that ye take heed (as unto a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawn and the daystar arise) in your hearts;” or simply, “To which ye do well that ye take heed in your hearts, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawn and the daystar arise.” In support of this view, he refers to 1 Peter 3:21 as a similar example of parenthesis in Peter’s style of writing.

A Holy Calling

The apostle’s use, here and elsewhere, of the word “holy” is worthy of notice, for it us one of many links which show the two epistles to be the works of the same author. It is found eight times in the first letter and six times in the second, one occurrence in each case being of the Holy Spirit; but what is most remarkable is the variety in the nouns to which it is prefixed. In 1st Peter 1:15,16 he repeats it four times in the command, “As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy…; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.” In ch. 2:5 he writes of “an holy priesthood,” in ch. 2:9 of ‘an holy nation,” and in ch. 3:5 of “the holy women” of olden time. In 2nd Peter 1:18 he uses it of “the holy mount,” in ch. 1:21 of “holy man of God,” in ch. 2:21 of “the holy commandment,” in ch. 3:2 of “the holy prophets; and finally in ch. 3:11 he urges upon his readers “all holy conversation and godliness.”

The above references in ch. 1:21 and ch. 3:2 to the holy character of those whom God used in giving us His Word stand out the more prominently by contrast with the uncleanness attributed to the “teachers of falsehood” of chapter 2, and to the “mockers” of truth of chapter 3. Turning from the first chapter to the second is like coming down from the scene on the “holy mount” to the sordid and corrupting scenes below. While Peter at ch. 1:16 speaks of “the Power and Coming” of our Lord, we meet at ch. 2:1 (see R.V.) with those who deny His Power, and at ch. 3:3, 4 with those who deny His Coming. And as one great object before the apostle, when writing this letter, was to stir up the minds of the saints in remembrance of the truths they had learned in the past; so another was to warn them of the errors with which they would be called upon to contend in the future.

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by C. J. Atkins

Daniel 2

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream… World Empires

Early in his reign the mighty Nebuchadnezzar was much concerned for the future of his far flung empire, and even on his bed, thoughts troubled him, Ch. 2 v. 1, 29. He did not realise that with all his power he was but a servant, a tool to work out the purpose of the almighty God of heaven, as had been stated in earlier prophecy, Jer. 27.5-9. When the wickedness of Jerusalem reached a climax, God used this servant as an instrument of judgment.

The chapter divides into six parts

  1. The forgotten dream, v. 1-3,
  2. Failure of the wise men and the command to destroy them, v. 4-16.
  3. The prayer meeting and answer, v. 17-19.
  4. Praise, and testimony before the king, v. 20-29.
  5. The dream and its interpretation, v. 29-45,
  6. The effect on the king and on Daniel and his companions, v. 46-49.

Though all nations and men trembled before the fierce wrath of the mighty king, he himself trembled at a dream, v. 1,3. Whether he really forgot, or made his demand to test the sincerity of the interpretation is not stated, but when the wise men answered a second time that the demand was unreasonable the king accused them of duplicity, v. 8, 9, “the thing is gone from me… ye have prepared lying words.” Daniel and his companions seem to have been absent until the decree to destroy all the wise men is made, when Daniel gently seeks for time v. 15. Confident in his God, Daniel promises a solution. This attitude of faith was rewarded, initially by a changed attitude of the king, permitting time to be given after previously refusing to give any time, v. 8, 12 and 16, and subsequently, after prayer. What a prayer meeting. All four unitedly pleading “mercies of the God of heaven” v. 18. Completely helpless, they seek to know God’s secret, that they might be delivered. What power there is in united fervent, believing prayer. (See Acts 12.5-14, 16, 17). See also how prayer turns to praise, v. 20. Our God is One Who holds all in His hand; wisdom and might are His, and He knoweth what is in the darkness, v. 20-22. Neither wise men, nor magicians may know, but God in heaven can reveal secrets, vs. 27, 28, 30.

With all his power, under the burden of affairs of the empire, Nebuchadnezzar was still concerned about the future as v. 1 and v. 29 show. Most people today, including rulers, are so concerned about the present that the future is little considered. Even some of those who profess to belong to Christ take little heed to the sure word of prophecy and so miss both the warning and the consolation which comes from the revelations God has given us concerning things which must come to pass. Nebuchadnezzar was sufficiently alert to realise that this was no ordinary dream. His spirit was troubled as he saw the image, so insecure, deteriorating in intrinsic value from head to foot, decreasing in density and thus so unstable that it is completely overthrown by means far beyond the work of man, a stone cut out without hands. Listening to the recounting of his dream, he is amazed that such a secret thing should be revealed to a young man, but Daniel stands boldly protesting that it is not skill of his own, nor his wisdom, but that it is the God of his fathers, the God in heaven who is making known to the king the destiny of empires right through the ages until “the latter days,” that is, the end of the times of the Gentiles, v. 23, 28, 30. Nobly and firmly Daniel asserted to the perplexed and troubled king “there is a God in heaven.” Though mankind no longer recognises Him, though His people Israel are scattered, and His glory is withdrawn from Jerusalem, He now, as “the God in heaven,” waits until at the end of the time, He will return to reign on earth in millenial glory, and after the thousand years and final overthrow of sin and darkness, to reign eternally over new heavens and a new earth. The majestic title “the God of heaven” occurs only in the books which speak of the scattering, judgment, and careful restoring of Israel, the books of Jonah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Revelation.

It was common practice for conquerors and potentates to make huge monuments, as for example those in Egypt, and the form was frequently that of some god, but the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was appropriately that of a man, symbolising world empires in man’s day as distinct from “The Day of the Lord.” The declining values from gold to iron and clay show degeneration of strength and of regal power and authority. The four parts, gold, silver, brass (or copper) and of iron merging to iron mixed with clay (or pottery) represent empires. The first three are stated in the book to be Babylon, ch. 2:37-38, and the succeeding world empire of Medo-Persia, ch. 5:28-31, whilst chapter 7 records the passing of the power of Persia to another defined in ch. 8:20-21 as the Grecian empire. The fourth empire, represented by the legs of iron and feet and toes of clay, is not named. As the Grecian empire was followed by a world-wide Roman empire, almost every commentator discusses the fitness of the symbol in representing the Roman power. Ancient Rome, however, did not completely fulfil the pattern represented by the image, and, therefore this world power is not named. Some six hundred years must elapse before God could reveal “the mystery hid in God” the dispensation of grace for the calling out of the Church during the interval which occurs before the fulfilment of the events represented by the toes of the image.

The interpretation from v. 37-39 is now history accurately foretold. The head of gold is said to be Nebuchadnezzar. Notice the title given by Daneil v. 37, king of kings. This accords with the words of Jeremiah (ch. 25:9 27:7 and 28:14). Gold, speaking of divinity is a fitting symbol for one who swayed an autocratic power under direct divine authority, to some extent manifesting the dominion power given to Adam (Gen. 1.28) but forfeited by the fall. The Babylonian power continued under Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27), Neriglasser, Nabonidus and his weak son Belshazzar acting as regent, until 538 B.C. when Cyrus took Babylon, and Darius the Mede became ruler ch. 5:31.

From this event, for centuries, until the rise of Alexander the Great and his world conquest, the Medo-Persian empire ruled the world. This was represented in the image by the breast and arms of silver. Two years after the conquest of Babylon as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, Cyrus acted on behalf of the exiles to help forward the restoration. “Cyrus, he is My shepherd and shall perform all My pleasure: even saying of Jerusalem, she shall be bulit: and to the temple, thy foundations shall be laid.” Is. 44:28. These words of the prophet, nearly two hundred years earlier, were fulfilled in 536 B.C. when Cyrus issued the decree authorising the return of the exiles from Babylon, Ezra 1:1-4. For some time at least, Daniel remained as one appointed by Darius as a president over other governors (Dan. 6.1-3) for in ch. 10 he is still away by the banks of the Tigris. The Medo-Persian empire continued its sway, and in 485 B.C. Xerxes I (or Ahasuerus) became King of Persia. Of his power it is written that “he reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces” Esther 1.1. He was followed by Artaxerxes in 465 who, in his twentieth year of reign issued the decree for the restoring of Jerusalem, Neh. 2.1-9, from which date commences the seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy Dan. 9.24, the prophecy leading up to the time called 4 6 the acceptable year of the Lord” is 61:2 and then on to “the time of the end.”

Just over one hundred years later, 336 B.C. Alexander the Great became king of Macedon: thus in the imagery of the dream, the silver breast and arms passed on to the “belly and thighs of brass… another third kingdom of brass which shall bear rule over all the earth” ch. 2:32, 39. These two empires are also typified in chapter 8 by “the ram which had two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia,” these are set aside by “the rough he-goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.” Dan. 8:20, 21. This second picture of the successive world empires was given in vision to Daniel, and also another vision, ch. 11, refers to the breaking up of the second empire, and the confusion attending the disruption of the third empire, ch. 11:3,4. In all this confusion, the Jews suffered great oppression and made an appeal to Rome, v. 30, and the fourth empire begins to appear.

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Genesis 20


Again Abraham puts his wife in jeopardy through his fear. Why was he journeying from the place of Communion and going down to Gerar, near to the Philistine country? His son, Isaac, later on did exactly the same. Are we to go as near as we can to the place of temptation? Some Christians do and then wonder at the troubles that come upon them. Suffice it to say that once again God has to intervene and protect His own miraculously and again Abraham is rebuked by the ungodly. His “testimony,” if such it can be called, is a poor one. God “causing him to ‘wander’” and yet the Lord makes the healing of the nation to stem from Abraham’s prayer. “For he is a prophet” the first occurence of this word, and also he was an intercessor. These are all salutary lessons for us in this day of compromise and unreality in the things of God and truth.

Genesis 21


Both Abraham and Sarah in their old age had been “quickened” and this is referred to in Romans 4:17 indicating the mighty power of a life-giving God. The life He has given to us now is none other than the very resurrection life of our Lord Jesus Christ, not the life He had when incarnate among men, but His risen life. This is not very well known among believers. “Since ye then are risen with Christ” thus runs the divine record. Why then the low-level lives of believers? This quickening of the patriarch and his wife caused him to know God in a new way even as the God of Resurrection. If He could do this, then indeed nothing was impossible to Him and we shall see this in chapter 22.

God as the God of resurrection life is also to be seen similarly in the priest Zacharias and we append a comment by Mr. R. Jennings of Belfast. “Zacharias was old and so was his wife… and it was highly improbable to say the least that a child could be bom. But Zacharias must have been conversant with the scriptures and have known the case of Abraham and Sarah. The problems were the same and what God had done for Abraham and Sarah could He not do also for Zacharias and Elizabeth?… Perhaps we could not expect Zacharias to spiritualise the Scriptures in the way we do nowadays, but a student of even the Old Testament could hardly miss the importance of numbers in the revelation of God’s mind to His people. What more suitable bride could Isaac have, that man who stood on resurrection ground, than the daughter of the eighth child of Nahor and Milcah? Noah was the eighth person (11 Peter 2:5) and he stood on the mountains of Ararat on the corresponding day of our Lord’s resurrection… and Zacharias was of the order of Abia (Luke 1:5) which was the eighth (1 Chronicles 24:10). This was most appropriate to Zacharias, for to him specially God was the God of resurrection, and thus One Who could bring life out of death, even the deadness of his wife. (Romans 4:19.)” In the previous chapter a wife destroyed, here a wife quickened.

And now follows a most important and far reaching event in the casting out of the bond woman and her son Ishmael. Abraham had relinquished one after another of his ties of nature and now has to cast out Hagar and their son, for this was Abraham’s son as well and it cost him much.

But Ishmael was mocking at Isaac who was to displace him. “Mocking” this record says, but further scriptures shew this to be much more than “mocking” even describing it as “persecuting.” If Galatians 2 speaks of the blessing of Abraham, in contrast to the curse of the law, then the promise to Abraham through the seed, which the law could not over-ride, (chapter 4) takes up the present theme and deals with the two wives, the two sons, the two covenants etc. and sneaks of the “persecution” of the son bom “after the Spirit” by the “son born after the flesh.” Also the persecution of the nation by the Egyptians, the “four hundred years” spoken of by God in chapter 15, dates from this event i.e. the birth of Isaac and the attitude of Ishmael, from all of which we gather that this mocking was far more than even most probably unto death, for the teaching based upon mere laughter but had the ominous intent of persecution this envisages “life” and “death,” but in the epistles spiritual life and death of which this was but a shadow.

The reader must read through the argument used by Paul and extract from it the spiritual teaching enshrined therein from Galatians 4:10 to 5:26 and Isaiah 54:1 etc. Time and space will not permit us to pursue this here but the reader is thus exhorted. This divine principle can be seen operating in three spheres, the first which is not here mentioned but is nonetheless real, the enmity between the children or Abraham, the natural children, (Israel as a nation) and the offspring of Ishmael, (the Mohammedan nations,) dire enmity between them and a determination for the extermination of the true seed who shall yet inherit the land. Next the contrast between the Israelites nationally, still in the flesh and unbelief and under the law, and the true Israel, the Spirit born seed; and next the enmity and conflict in the believer between the flesh and the Spirit. These are all hostile and cannot possibly be reconciled, and this is the subject of these passages. The same difference and conflict is seen in the encounter between the Lord Jesus and the Jews and the dire hostility shewn by the latter, even unto death. See John 8:30-59, a most important passage, where the Lord Jesus presses His enemies hard on this very subject of sonship and they take up stones to stone Him. The reader is exhorted to follow these out for they are vital to an understanding of the true position and relationship of the Christian and victory or defeat in the life. The passage in Romans 4 is slightly different and must be compared and contrasted. Romans has to do with the earlier life of the patriarch, Galatians with this period of his life.

Hagar was an Egyptian and Ishmael a half Egyptian, the nation which was to persecute and enslave the true seed and which had ultimately, and because of it, to be almost destroyed, but this casting out was grievous to Abraham but God assures him that it is the only way and indeed comes in at the last to preserve the lad whose cry was heard. See a comment on this situation in Isaiah 41:17.

All these truths shew to us the true character of the flesh, and in Galatians it includes, the religious flesh, the most subtle kind of all and most deceptive, and the utter necessity of knowing by experience the power of the Holy Spirit in the life, first of all delivering from sin and self, and next empowering and fruit-bearing. How much do we know of this?

The Well of the Oath

The latter part of this chapter is obscure in meaning but Beersheba becomes a landmark in the history of Israel, the words “from Dan to Beersheba” occurring seven times indicating the whole land of Palestine from the extreme North to the extreme South. This Abimelech may possibly be the same one who reproved Abraham over the matter of his wife Sarah, although it is believed that Abimelech is a Title rather than a name, but this episode shews that Abraham was recognised in spite of his lapses as being a man with whom God was, in all that he did. It is well that this is so, even in those in whom failure has been found, so let us take courage.

Why Abraham sojourns many days in Philistine country is not clear but here, though he has no altar yet he calls on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God (El Olam).

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We often delight to meditate upon the place that Mary of Bethany was found—“at the feet of the Lord Jesus.” We find Mary in this position on three different occasions, each one full of deepest meaning.

The first is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10:39. The place of Instruction—“Mary which also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His Word.” We are reminded that Martha was occupied for Him but Mary was occupied with Him. Martha was careful and troubled about many things and the Lord tenderly recognised this but said to her, “Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.” How blessed it is to come aside from this restless world and its many distractions and to “sit at His feet” and learn of Him, for none teaches like Him.

The next occasion we find Mary again “at His feet.” The place of Consolation. In John’s Gospel, chapter 11 we read of the sorrow that had entered into the home on the death of Lazarus. We note in verse 20 that “Martha as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming went and met Him, but Mary sat still in the house,” She who sat “at His feet” and heard His Word did not move until the message came to her, “The Master is come and calleth for thee” (verse 28). “She arose quickly and came to Him,” and in her deep sorrow she cast herself “at His feet,” “saying unto Him ‘Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died’” (verse 32) and then we have the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” (and one of the profoundest) (verse 35). The Lord did not weep because Lazarus had died for He was to raise him from the dead “that the glory of God might be manifested,” but He wept because He saw what sin had wrought and the bereavement that was “at His feet” that she found consolation—a place so dear to the heart of Mary.

Let us turn to John’s Gospel, chapter 12, and we see Mary yet again “at His feet”—The place of Adoration. We find here a threefold cord—a family circle that had not been broken. Lazarus was there raised to life and liberty, Martha served this time in her rightful place and Mary whose longing was for the place of nearness “took a pound of ointment of spikenard very costly (very precious) and anointed His feet and wiped His feet with her hair and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” (verse 3). Truly Mary’s act of devotion to her Lord personifies worship which is the highest occupation of the soul.

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A comparison of Nehemiah and 1 Corinthians


(No. 5)

From the call to self examination by the apostle Paul to the Corinthians we are reminded of Nehemiah’s narrative of the outcome of their dwelling in booths. “Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them” Nehemiah 9:1. The words of the Levites that follow are devoted to extolling the greatness of God in contrast to the littleness of man. In tracing the history of Israel, they bring out what God is in Himself, namely, righteous, gracious, forgiving, merciful, forbearing, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness vv. 8, 17, 19, 30, 31, 33, in contrast to man, who is proud, wilful, disobedient, rebellious, idolatrous, provocative, unthankful, wicked vv. 16, 18, 26, 28, 29, 33, 35. The result of their season of humiliation and self judgment was that the people bound themselves to a covenant “And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites and priests, seal unto it” Nehemiah 9:38. Then follows the record of those who sealed the covenant representatively on behalf of the people. Nehemiah 10:1-27. They covenanted to wholeheartedly adhere to the law of God in its entirety, to refuse intermarriage with the people of the land, to observe the sabbaths and to ensure the maintenance and Divine service of the house of God (w. 28-39). The sincerity of the people is most marked. The book does not end, however, without detailing the failure of the people to observe this covenant.

The covenant that the apostle has referred to is the new covenant which the Lord has made and not man. Good for us, brethren, that it is so. Suitably then, this paves the way to speak of the personal presence of the Holy Spirit in the assembly, who works to secure the honour of our Lord and the glory of God, gifting each believer as it pleases Him. 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Despite diversity of gift there is unity v. 12. But in this unity variety and their essential diversity is to be maintained v. 14. But how do we view the baptism in the Spirit mentioned at v. 13? Once for all, never repeated (Holliday, Jardine, Fereday, Bruce). But will there be no outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a future day after the translation of the church? “There are some who hold that the baptism of the Spirit was a once-for-all act, which took place at Pentecost when undoubtedly the one body was formed; but this verse seems to imply that drinking of the Spirit and being baptised in the Spirit are simultaneous experiences, in which case both take place at conversion.” (McShane). In the baptism of the Holy Spirit I am immersed into the fulness of the Spirit, losing my individuality as part of the one body. To drink into one Spirit I retain my identity, personally appropriating the fulness of the Spirit to serve the interests of the one body. The apostle continues to illustrate from the natural body so as to encourage those brethren not yet participating in the exercises of the company w. 15-17 and calls upon the more gifted men to consider their, as yet, less accomplished brethren, w. 18-31.

Notice is now made in Nehemiah 11 of those who were privileged to dwell at Jerusalem. It was the response of love to the place that God had set His heart upon. “And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.” Nehemiah 11:2. “They shall prosper that love thee” wrote the Psalmist of Jerusalem and so, too, the apostle Paul shows that love is indispensable to the spiritual prosperity of any assembly today.

Gift is unprofitable apart from love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Its intrinsic excellence shows its superiority to any gift (vv. 4-7). Paul cites three gifts that were passing in the, then, childhood state of the church—prophecy, tongue, knowledge (vv.8-11). They were like the prophets in Moses day to whom the Lord spoke in a dream. But it was not so with Moses himself. “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches” (See Numbers 12:6-8). “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” 1 Corinthians 13:12. The vision and the dream give way to the clear, because written, Word of God. “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three;” How abideth?— eternally. (Bunting, Marsh, Vine). But according to Paul himself, faith will give place to sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) and hope to possession (Romans 8:24). The present state only (Kelly, Broadbent, Heading). It is “these three” as against the three temporary gifts previously mentioned. “But the greatest of these is love” (v. 13). Why? Because faith and hope flow from love, ‘the root’ (Vine). Because love remains unchanged in its nature. (Bruce). Because eternal. (Kelly, Heading). Because diffused, faith and hope personal. (Calvin, Leckie). Because faith and hope useless apart from love fMeyer). Because God is love (Godet, Bunting). That which is of the nature of God it greater than that which is connected with the capacity of human nature.

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HIS GIRDLES (continued)


3. The present glory of Christ

From a scene of the humiliation of Christ just before the Cross (John 13), symbolic of the great stoop that He made even unto death, we now pass to a vision of the risen and glorified Lord, which absorbed the attention of the exiled apostle John (Revelation 1:13-16). As Christ was seen standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands like the one which lit the holy place of the tabernacle and the ten that later illumined the holy place of the temple, the imagery of the vision is drawn from the temple, and so throughout much of the Apocalypse.

This divine Figure is “clothed with a garment down to the foot.” The same word is used in Exodus 28:4, and 31, LXX, of the robe worn by a high priest. Wearing the long blue robe of the ephod, Christ is also “girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” This unusual position for a girdle has puzzled many, but a solution to the problem may be found in a later vision of the heavenly temple, when John saw seven angels, “clothed in pure and white linen and having their breasts girded with golden girdles” (Revelation 15:6). These seven angels, officiating in the heavenly temple and clad with priests’ linen garments (cp. Exodus 28:40), are undoubtedly angel-priests, and their golden girdles were also at chest level instead of the usual position around the loins. Hence, in chapter 1, our blessed Lord, “girt about the paps with a golden girdle,” is marked out in this manner as our great High Priest. The gold woven into this priestly girdle is a reminder of His divine nature and the glory of His Person.

The seven personal glories that follow, as beheld by John, are like a seven-light lampstand of the temple. The Voice is central, corresponding to the main shaft of a lampstand, whilst the other six features of His Person may be compared with the three pairs of lampstand branches. “His Voice” is described “as the sound of many waters,” which is the same voice of “the Glory of the God of Israel,” heard by Ezekiel (eh. 43:2). The Glory, as seen by Ezekiel in a vision, is not a symbol as in times past but a Person, even Messiah, Whom the prophet saw entering the temple to be built in the millennium. In his vision, John heard His Voice and in picturesque language borrowed from Ezekiel he says it was as the sound of many waters. As nothing can withstand the rushing waters of a river in flood, so who can challenge the resistless authority of Christ, the Head of the Church? The spirit of the age is to disregard, even to resist, authority, which leads to anarchy. It is evident in the world and even to some degree in assembly life where the Scriptures are not accepted as the final authority for belief and behaviour.

4. The millennial majesty of Christ

Looking into the future, Isaiah foresees at the close of chapter 10 the Antichrist as a proud cedar of Lebanon whose branches will be lopped by the Lord of Hosts. Immediately, in sharp contrast, he foretells in chapter 11 the coming of Christ as a Shoot out of the stock of Jesse and as a Branch bearing fruit. Describing the perfect character and virtues of Christ, the prophet says, “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,” which will be expressed by six spirits and they arranged in three dyads—“the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord”—they correspond to the tabernacle lampstand with its main stem and three pairs of branches from its sides.

Without differentiating between Messiah’s first and second comings, Isaiah looks forward to the millennium. But before peace can be established, Messiah will slay His proud cedarlike opponent, the Antichrist, with the breath of His lips, and this He will do when He returns with the saints in power and glory. Cp. 2Thessalonians 2:8.

Of the glorified Sovereign Lord, whose right it is to reign over the earth, the prophet says, “righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins” (11:5). This Old Testament seer is silent about the Coming King’s raiment except for the royal girdle and then, instead of describing it, he gives its symbolical significance. Concerning His Person and character, he will be the epitome of righteousness. After the gross darkness and lack of righteousness during Antichrist’s night of terror, Christ will arise as “the Sun of Righteousness” at the dawn of the millennial day. As the sun, “the greater light,” was made to “rule the day” in the natural order of things, so “the Sun of Righteousness” will be the Righteous Ruler in the times of restoration of all things. Christ will reign as King and the name, by which a regenerate Israel will call Him, will be Jehovah-Tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6), signifying that not only the King Himself will be righteous but also His subjects.

During Antichrist’s short rule, there will be a lack of righteousness and yet “peace and safety” (2Thessalonians 5:3) will be a political byword. When the reins of government are in the hands of the King of Righteousness, then “the work of righteousness shall be peace and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance” (Isiaah 32:17).

Finally, in anticipation of the Lord’s return, Peter exhorts us, “gird up the loins of your mind” (I Peter 1:13). This may be an allusion to the Children of Israel eating the pass-over with their loins girded” (Exodus 12:11)—with their girdles tightened, bracing up their long flowing robes, they were to be ready to depart for a better land. With this metaphor, Peter calls for a state of readiness and mental alertness in expectation of our being caught up from the Egypt of this world to the Lord in the air!

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The Ark of the Covenant: Exod. 25:10-22

The ARK had great importance for Israel. It is given first in the divine instructions for the tabernacle; indeed in one sense, the tabernacle was designed for it. It was the throne of God in the midst of Israel, where He dwelt, and met with Moses and the High Priest. The Ark assumed the central place when the people were on the march, and symbolised the presence of God with them, (cf. Joshua 3:11; 6:6).

The Ark is a pre-eminent figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. Its composition of shittim wood overlaid with gold points again to Him as the God-man; the crown upon the top indicates that Christ risen and glorified is intended. Upon the top of the ark, as a lid, was placed the mercy seat, a solid block of pure gold, the crown keeping it in place and hiding the join from view, On each end of the mercy seat there was a figure of a Cherub, beaten out of the same piece of gold, their wings covering the mercy seat and their faces looking towards it.

An initial purpose for the ark was to contain the law of the Lord, the two tablets of stone, (v. 21). The original two tablets were not thrown down by Moses in anger, but because of the sin of the people. He discerned that taking the tablets into the Camp would immediately expose them to the judgment of God. So he shattered them. The replacements were then safely preserved in the Ark beneath the mercy seat, upon which on the Day of Atonement the blood was sprinkled.

Hence the blood of sacrifice came between the law and the eye of a holy God, thus preserving the people and permitting God to dwell amongst them. The Cherubim who hitherto barred man’s approach to God, now steadfastly look with satisfied gaze downward upon the blood on the mercy seat. The men of Bethshemish 1 Samuel 6:19 foolishly looked into the Ark, and thereby exposed themselves to God’s judgment and over 50,000 were slain.

Christ is clearly discerned by the spiritual mind in these figures. Psalm 40:8 speaks of the Messiah coming with the law of God in the midst of His heart. The only One who perfectly fulfilled its righteous requirements, Romans 8:3, 4 in His life, and who fully met its penalty in His death on behalf of sinners. Romans 3:25 uses the very word ‘mercy seat’ (propitiation in A.V.) to describe Christ and His work. God sets Him forth as the only place where a Holy God and a guilty sinner can meet the blood stained mercy seat. The Law fulfilled, its penalty borne, the repentant sinner can be welcomed, cf. Luke 18:13 ‘be propitious to me…’

The Ark was the place of communion and communication, v. 22. Moses it appears had free access into the holy of holies to speak to God face to face; the High Priest was only permitted access annually on the Day of Atonement. Moses received revelations and guidance from before the Ark. This teaches us that revelation and guidance from God to the soul is only effectually made as we are consciously in His presence before the throne of grace. What a privilege! Let us linger in the sanctuary.

Later on we are informed that a pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded were laid up before the Lord within the Ark. Here were tokens of the people’s sins. The manna was a constant reminder of their murmurings and dissatisfaction with the heavenly food of God’s providing. The rod that budded recalled the rebellion of Korah against the authority of Moses and Aaron. What humbling lessons. May we not similarly fail. The Word of God is the sustenance provided for our spiritual welfare. We are to feed our souls continuously upon it. Many desire still the leeks and garlic of Egypt; let us be satisfied with the manna from Heaven. To feed upon the Word in communion with Christ by the Spirit will strengthen and sustain us in every circumstance of our pilgrimage. We are to own only one authority and that, Christ’s unique Lordship. Many have rebelled, even men of renown cf. Numbers 16:2 against Christ’s authority—Popes, prelates, priests, and religious organisations and denominations are their offspring. Let us heed the word of Moses ‘depart from the tents of these wicked men and touch nothing of theirs…’ Numbers 16:26.

The Ark was the only item of tabernacle furniture that was later transferred to the Temple, 1Kings 8:6. Then for the first time the staves that were used to bear the Ark were removed cf. Exodus 25:15 and 1 Kings 8:8. The Ark at last had reached its place of rest. The Temple in contrast to the Tabernacle was to be a permanent dwelling place for God. This projects our thoughts into the future when pilgrim days are at an end and we are at home with the Lord. Remarkably enough we are told that then there was nothing in the Ark but the two tablets of stone. The pot of manna and the flowering rod had probably been stolen by the Philistines when the Ark was in their possession. These facts however lead us to realise that in the glory with the Saviour, there will be no reminder of earthly murmurings or rebellion, all will be forever forgotten but the Law of our God shall stand forever, it shall never pass away.

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He was RICH beyond all human telling,
Through the vast ages, of the eternal past;
The “Lofty One” eternity His dwelling,
Creations “Workman” He the first and last.
“The Living One” from whom all life must spring;
“The WORD Eternal” heart of God expressed;
“The One Whose voice did out of chaos bring,
The earth in all its wondrous beauty dressed.
Yes! He was rich, in wisdom, knowledge, might
And all the Godhead’s fulness, vast, unknown;
This we know, from God’s own Word of Light.
“The Heir of all things,” high upon the throne.
“Rich in His Fathers Glory” and His Grace,
There in His loving bosom ever dwelling,
While the sweet melody of Angelic praise,
“To Him” their voices aye were swelling.
Oh wondrous home of peace and love,
Where He forever dwelt in glory bright.
Enthroned and crowned in majesty above,
“Himself” the source of Heaven’s love and light.
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