NOTES ON REVELATION
by J. Flanigan
MOSES IN THE TABERNACLE
by H. H. Shackcloth
THE OFFERING OF ISAAC
by William Mullan
MALACHI—The Messenger of God
by E. R. Bower
SOME ASSEMBLY FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
by B Currie
2nd EPISTLE to the THESSALONIANS
by John Heading
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. Hewitt
MESSAGES FROM MARK
by J. G. Good
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by Jack Strahan
Notes on Revelation
by Jim Flanigan, NORTHERN IRELAND
"THE TWO BEASTS”
Exactly twenty-five years ago, in October 1957, at a meeting of N.A.T.O. in Paris, Paul Henri Spaak, the then Secretary General, declared, "We do not want another Committee; we have too many already. What we want is a Man, of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people, and to lift us out of the economic morass into which we are sinking. Send us such a Man, and be he god or devil we will receive him." Popular newspapers reported with banner headlines—"GIVE US A MAN."
What we are about to contemplate in chapter 13 of the Revelation, is, in fact, God’s answer to that request. It is a divine account, written almost twenty centuries ago, of the advent of the Man for which the nations have clamoured. It is the chapter of the two dominant personalities of the last days; one a political supremo; the other his religious henchman.
John stood on the sand of the seashore. Some think that this should read "He" stood upon the sand, i.e. the Dragon. It is not of great importance and does not appear to affect subsequent interpretation. The predominant sight is that of a Beast emerging from the sea. It will soon become apparent that the Beast is both a System and an individual; both an Empire and a Man. He is the Man who will accept from the Devil what the Lord Jesus refused—power, authority, a Throne, and a Kingdom. "All these will I give Thee" (Matthew 4:8—9).
The sea is a consistent symbol of the restless masses of the Nations, and from this restlessness the Beast emerges. But this does not preclude the Man being a Jew. Well-known contemporary personalities have proved that a man may well rise up out of the sea of nations and yet be a Jew. Since those ancient people have long been absorbed in Gentile society it is not to be wondered at that from time to time some of her sons emerge from it into prominence. So it is here.
The word "Beast" must not be changed or diluted. It is the word for "wild beast" or "brute." It is not as the word of ch. 4 and other passages, which is simply "living ones." This Beast has all the stealth, rapidity, and cunning grace of the Grecian leopard; he has the strength and savagery of the Persian bear: and the dignity, power, and majesty, of the lion of Babylon (Dan. 7). These all combine in the seven-headed monster which is undoubtedly a revival of the ancient Roman Empire. The seven heads are seven Kings, or Kingdoms (Rev. 17.10). These have one thing at least in common; they have all, down the centuries, nurtured mystery Babylon. To see them as successive forms of Roman government is too weak. They are Kingdoms, Empires, most of which are now fallen. Who can they be but Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome of the past. A Rome of the future completes the seven. But this we leave until, God willing, we come to ch. 17. Sufficient to see here, that in this monster we have the final form of Gentile dominion, and the world wonders that the head which had seemed to be mortally wounded is resuscitated, and Rome is revived again.
The Dragon, of course, is only interested in the Beast’s supremacy inasmuch as that is the vehicle and means by which he himself is worshipped. This was his stated condition in Matthew 4 when he offered the kingdoms to our Lord. "Fall down and worship me," he demanded. Here he receives through the Beast, the worship of the world.
The Beast will be a master orator, and the power of oratory is well known. In his pride and arrogance he will sway the masses. For the first half of the week he may indeed ride the white horse in peaceful bloodless triumph, and carry the woman Babylon with him (ch. 17). But in the midst of the week he will be personally energised by Satan, and in blatant blsphemy against God and all gods, he will assume deity, and sit (in the form of his image) in the Temple, and receive world-wide homage from all kindreds and tongues and nations. If his Empire will have physical or geographical boundaries, his influence and fame will have none. All that dwell on the earth shall worship him, excepting those who belong to the Lamb. His dominion is therefore universal, and he inaugurates fierce persecution of the saints. But God will eventually and inevitably mete out righteous retribution. "He that leads others into captivity will himself go into captivity: he that kills with the sword must himself be killed with the sword:" and in the trial the saints must wait in faith and patience.
The second Beast rises out of the earth. He completes the evil trinity of this chapter, and is the lieutenant of the first Beast. The "earth" may well symbolise an ordered, settled society: the Land of Israel itself? This is in contrast to the international turbulence from which the first Beast emerged.
It is argued by some that this second Beast is Antichrist, because of his obvious religious characteristics, and because, it is asserted, the first Beast is a Gentile. But we have already seen that a man may well rise up out of the sea of nations and yet be a Jew. How many well known names could be mentioned! Also, is not the first Beast interested in religious matters? Worship and worshippers; temples and deities; what could be more religious than this? The second Beast, the false Prophet is essentially a subordinate, which an Antichrist will surely never be. He ministers, lamb-like, for the glory of his master, and speaks with the authority of the same Dragon who empowers both of them. There is a fiendish imitation of the mystery of the Trinity; an unseen Dragon, a throned Ruler, and a false Prophet alluring men and directing worship to both.
The ministry of the false Prophet is attended by miracles Supernatural phenomena, great wonders, and fire from heaven accompany his verbal directives. He has power to give breath to an image of the Beast which will sit as an abomination in the Temple, and the penalty for refusal to worship is the capital punishment, death. Buying or selling, whether domestic purchasing or commercial trading, will be almost impossible for those who will not wear his mark. How difficult and dangerous it will be then for those who bear Another Name in that day. Yet even in the dark days of vengeance, there will be those who will eventually come out of it all with white robes, and with the song of the Lamb on their lips.
The mark of the Beast is well known (and yet unknown!). It is "666". It may well be a literal mark. This is not unknown even to-day. There are many who now wear a visible indelible mark in their foreheads in honour of their god. Of course it may be something more subtle, more sophisticated, more complex than that. We must be sane and balanced in the realm of symbolism, and avoid sensationalism. Does Wm. Kelly speak for most when he says. "I do not pretend to solve any such question as this. I confess my ignorance as to the number" ?
However, we may profitably see in the number, by way of illustration (if not interpretation) that the Beast will, in three spheres, reach as high as a man may. It is not "777". That would be a triple perfection. "Six" is man’s number. From the sixth day on which he was created, he has laboured six days in his week, and "seven" has always been just out of his grasp. In three realms, the coming Ruler will just fall short of "7". He will dominate Religion, Politics, and Commerce. If one can control a man in these three spheres of his life, what is left of the man? If a nation could be so dominated, or the world, what is left? The Beast whose number is "666" is a cruel, devilish, despot, who will, in a three-fold way rule in the affairs of men. and so ensure his own supremacy.
But it is only for a little while, until He will come, whose right it is. and under Whose sceptre a millennial earth will enjoy real and true peace.
MOSES IN THE TABERNACLE
by H. H. SHACKCLOTH, Burnham Market
The test of the true leader is always seen at the time of crisis. This applies particularly to the servant of God, who, unlike those who hold the reins of temporary power, are convinced that however adverse circumstances seem to be. when God’s interests are involved He will guide the course of events to fulfil His purpose.
Moses was such a leader, one of a small number who were prepared to stand alone, if need be. when circumstances seemed hopeless. Both Daniel and Elijah were men of the same cast.
That he was facing a crisis we are left in no doubt. From the time Israel had left Egypt nothing had run smoothly for God’s servant. The people had but to face a shortage of bread or water before making unfavourable comparisons with their present and erstwhile lot in Egypt, complaining not only against Moses but the Lord himself.
The crucial moment arrives when Aaron relented in face of mounting pressure from the people and cast the golden calf as an object of worship during Moses’ absence to receive the Law from God.
The very first commandment still in process of being expressed in aural and visual form was at once broken and the pagan worship of their late captors instituted.
There is never any delay with God in denouncing sin, wherever He finds it, and as He breaks the news of Israel’s defection to Moses, he says to him, "Let me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them." (Ex. 32.10).
Fortunately for Israel, Moses did not fail as an intercessor, but pleaded for Israel with the strong argument that the enemies of God’s people would misconstrue the Divine motive. The ‘effectual fervent prayer’ of Moses prevailed as he pleaded the covenant promises of God to Abraham.
Little wonder that when Moses descended Sinai with the tables of the Law engraved by the finger of God, and first witnessed the unseemly activities of the host, that he cast them to the ground and literally broke what had already been irremedially wrecked.
The sentence Moses imposed for the sin of the people was both timely and appropriate, and we see the stark moral contrast between Aaron and himself as the latter makes his feeble excuse for his undoubted responsibility in the matter.
Levi’s loyalty and response to Moses’ appeal gives a measure of welcome relief as they rally to him, and are prepared to do battle with the leaders of the revolt, with no less than 3,000 of Israel dying in the course of it.
Moses’ second prayer is one of the notable unanswered prayers of the Bible as he offers to have his name eradicated from the Divine record provided that Israel’s remained intact.
Truly the spirit of Christ was in him to impel him to make such a plea. As God plagued the people for their sin and who heard His stern warning, there was an evident sign of a measure of repentance when they stripped themselves of their pagan ornaments in Mount Horeb (33.6).
It was at this point that a remarkable action on the part of Moses occurred. We read ‘and Moses took the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp, far off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and it came to pass that everyone which sought the Lord went out unto the Tabernacle of the Congregation which was without the camp.’ (Ex. 33.1).
A cursory reading of this verse and what follows in the immediate context poses a problem until one examines the circumstances carefully.
Although the full details of the materials and construction had already been given to Moses (25.30) in ‘the holy mount.’ so far the structure was not even begun, and was to be carried out according to the details of the future chapters (35-40) by Bezaleel and Aholiab the skilled master craftsmen who supervised the work.
This problem needs some explanation. The unthinking critic will conclude that a mistake has been made, or that the events are out of chronological order. Apart from another explanation the text itself refutes such ideas, and we must look elsewhere.
Fortunately the translators offer a satisfactory solution to the problem. We quote from George Rawlinson, one of the collaborators of Ellicott’s Commentary. ‘Moses took the tabernacle’ (33.7) rather ‘Moses took his tabernacle.’ The Hebrew article like the Greek has often the force of the possessive pronoun. Moses having experienced the blessedness of solitary communion with God during forty days spent on Sinai, felt now, as he had never felt before, the want of a ‘house of God’ whither he might retire for prayer and meditation, secure of being undisturbed. Months would necessarily elapse before the Tabernacle would be constructed according to the pattern which he had seen in the mount. During the interval he determined to make use of one of the existing tents as a ‘house of prayer,’ severing it from the others and giving it the name ‘Tent of Meeting’ which was afterwards appropriated to the Tabernacle. It would seem he selected his own tent for the purpose, probably because it was the best that the camp afforded and contented himself with another. God deigned to approve his design and descended in the cloudy pillar each time that Moses entered it! … (Commentary on Exodus (p. 314).
Moses unique meeting with God was to have special significance for our own times.
(To be continued)
THE OFFERING OF ISAAC
by WILLIAM MULLAN (Dublin)
Having enjoyed the many precious things brought out by your esteemed contributor Edward Robinson in his paper on "Consecration" (Assembly Testimony, Jan./Feb. ’82) I would like however to comment on some interesting features regarding the tremendous event of the offering of Isaac as recorded in Genesis 22.
Our brother states "What God provided as a substitute for Isaac was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns." (I refer to this later herein). He further indicates that the offering of Isaac in type speaks of Christ meeting the claims of God’s holiness. With this 1 fully agree, the burnt offering aspect of Christ, the first of the sweet-savour offerings (Leviticus I) ever and always speaking of Christ offering Himself in all His own perfections to meet the claims of the Throne of God. "The aspect of the work of Christ typified by the burnt offering must ever be, in God’s estimate the highest, the one which He most delights to contemplate" (John R. Caldwell in "Christ in the Levitical Offerings").
Mr. Robinson also rightly states that Abraham’s answer, "God will provide Himself a lamb" was prophetic, looking onward many centuries to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, but seeing that Isaac was the burnt-offering type of Christ, anc fully accepted of God as such, why the substitute? Twice in the chapter it is stated that God accepted the offering of Isaac absolutely as fully as if he had been slain and raised again from the dead, "from which He received him in a figure," (Hebrews 11.19) "thou hast not withheld thy son thine only son from Me." (verses 12 and 16). hence the immediate pronouncement of the blessing upon all nations (verse 18) pointing onwards to Christ.
Let us remember that Isaac as an obedient son is a type, not of the sinner needing a substitute, but of the Saviour Who needed none. Had God said anything to Abraham about a substitute? If Abraham had found no substitute, would it have altered God’s acceptance of Isaac as a burnt offering? Does not the fact that Abraham offered something, as it is stated, "in the stead of his son" (verse 13) seriously counteract and diminish the value of the whole typical aspect, seeing that in verse 12 God had already fully accepted the son as "not withheld" from Him. Yet. after that in verse 13 we read that Abraham "took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son," thus involving two burnt offerings, whereas God had commanded only one, and which He had already fully accepted. (I am aware of the teaching of the "ram of consecration" revealed at a later period in connection with the Tabernacle and the Aaronic priesthood (Exodus 29) but suggest that the only concern of God in Genesis 22 is the obedience of Abraham in the one offering of Isaac as a burnt offering).
I suggest that Abraham in "lifting up his eyes," (verse 13) saw what was neither commanded nor required, and did something superfluous to what he had just accomplished, his prophetic naming of the place, meaning, "The Lord will provide" pointing onwards, of course to Calvary.
God is silent on the whole matter of the ram. and had given no instructions regarding a second burnt offering, though doubtless the offering of it by Abraham was in deep gratitude to God for sparing Isaac. Thus God the heavenly Father, fully understanding the heart of an earthly father on so terrible and touching an occasion, made no comment concerning it, but passed it over, and in verses 15 and 16 "called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time . . . for because thou hast clone this thing, and hast not withheld thy son. thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee", etc., (no reference to a substitute. God having already fully accepted Isaac the burnt offering as a type of Christ for Whom there was no substitute when He offered Himself at Calvary.
In concluding these remarks, which I trust will be of help as perhaps overlooked by some, we must not miss the lovely typical teaching of the five chapters of Genesis woven round the story of Isaac, Abraham, Sarah and Rebekah— in chapter 21 the birth of Isaac, in 22 his typical death and resurrection, in 23 the death and burial of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, in 24 the seeking of the bride for Isaac, and in 25 the re-marriage of Abraham, all such events finding their fulfilment in anti-types of a far wider scale in and beyond the present New Testament age, i.e. in the birth, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spiritual death and burial of the Jews among the nations, the present out-calling of the bride of the Lamb, to be followed later by a godly Jewish remnant united as in a second marriage to Jehovah.
How significant too that before Rebekah was discovered and identified as the bride in chapter 24, she was already named in chapter 22 immediately following the acceptance of Isaac as the burnt offering, and that Isaac, in taking her was thus comforted after Sarah’s death (chapter 24.67).
During the present age-long spiritual death of the Jewish nation, what a comfort we, as New Testament believers must be to our heavenly Bridegroom waiting yonder in the Father’s home, of Whom the hymn-writer so beautifully reminds us, as
- "There, amidst the songs of Heaven,
- Sweeter to His ear
- Is the footfall through the desert.
- Ever drawing near.
- There, made ready are the mansions,
- Glorious, bright, and fair;
- But the bride the Father gave Him
- Still is wanting there."
"MALACHI—THE MESSENGER OF GOD FOR TODAY"
by E. R. BOWER of Malvern
An insignificant word — yet important — commences this chapter. The little word ‘For.’
vv. 1-3. A day was coming when judgment would fall upon those who did not fear the Name. And again the letter to the church at Corinth warns us, "EVERY man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try EVERY man’s work of what sort it is." (1 Cor. 3. 13-17). The ‘for’ of v. 1. is followed by one of the most beautiful ‘buts’ of the Scripture—"But unto you that fear His Name shall the
Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings . . . "How long?" should be the cry of waiting saints, and not "Why?"
v. 4. The final call to ‘Remember’ in the O.T.—"Remember the law of Moses My servant."
Just about one thousand years before, God had said to Joshua. "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night . . ." (Josh. 1.8). And today? "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3.16-17).
vv. 5-6. The day of the Lord. Elijah as seen in John the Baptist did come. He was refused, and the King whom he heralded was rejected. Thus there awaits another fulfilment before the final curse falls upon the earth—a "great and dreadful day." (Matt. 11.14; 16.14; Luke 1.17; 9.8; 9.19; John 1.21). Moses and Elijah the two appeared on the last page of O.T. prophecy, and they appear again with the Sun of righteousness upon the holy mount (Matt. 17.3; Mark 9.4; Luke 9.30).
To conclude: Is there any one Scripture which will sum up for us this book written for the times, and which finds a reflection in our own day? Malachi’s hearers had a centre which they thought little of, and to which they directed their cast-offs and their left-overs. We regard the Lord’s Table as our own centre of worship -an ever present reminder that our Lord is coming and will not tarry, "wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself (or, ‘prove himself), and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation (or. ‘judgment’) to himself, not discerning (or, ‘judging thoroughly; arriving at a right estimate of) the Lord’s body. (That is, the Lord Himself, and the Church which is His body). For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves we should not be judged. But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor. 11.27-32).
SOME ASSEMBLY FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
by B. CURRIE (Belfast)
5. GIVING IN THE ASSEMBLY
There are two major ways of giving outlined in the New Testament.
- (a) Giving by an individual
- (b) Giving by an assembly.
The former is indicated to us in Gal. 6.6 where "good things" are to be "communicated" to the teacher by the one being taught. That "good things" means material things seems obvious when we consider other references to the same word, e.g. Luke 1.53 "filled the hungry with good things;" 16.25 "thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things" etc. The basic idea in the word communicate is that of sharing and is variously translated partaker, partner and fellowship.
This means that the material things granted to us by the Lord should be shared with our fellow believers, e.g. our houses ought to be open for the saints, our cars put at their disposal, etc. This is how the beloved Gaius (3 John 5-8), and Philemon (v. 22), held their possessions. If our homes are to be sanctuaries for God’s people we need to be sure that there is nothing therein unbecoming a sanctuary or embarrassing to the spiritual saint.
However, it is the purpose of this paper to deal with the later of the two above, i.e. our giving in relation to the assembly. First of all we need to establish who ought to give.
PEOPLE WHO GIVE
In 1 Cor. 16 Paul deals with the difficulty raised by the Corinthians in connection with the collection. In v. 2 he says that he expected "each one of you" to give. When we remember that he was writing to people who had received the gospel and were saved (15.1.2). had been baptised (1.13). and were in "the church of God which is at Corinth" i.e. the local assembly, it becomes very obvious who should give. The same could be said of the Phillipians who sent a gift to Paul (4.18) and who are called saints (1.1). Thus it is only believers who can finance the work of God. The common practices found in Christendom of passing a receptacle around indiscriminately, appealing for funds, organising sales or shows to raise money are all degrading and dishonouring to the Lord and find no authority in the Scriptures. In fact 2 John 7 is clear "they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles."
Having established that only the saved can give to God we find that there are
PRE-REQUISITES TO GIVING
The Corinthians who gave "beyond their power" (2 Cor. 8.3) had first given "their own selves to the Lord" (v. 5). This was the secret of their outstanding generosity, and anyone who is similarly yielded to the Lord will not be of a miserly spirit. The apostle had also encouraged the churches of Galatia to give for the Jerusalem collection (1 Cor. 16.1), but when he later refers to those who gave, (Rom. 15.26), the saints of Macedonia and Achaia are commended but not so the Galatian churches. They had been troubled by legality which took them away from the simplicity of the gospel. Thus out of touch with the Lord they became legal and mean. The same will be found today that hard, legal men become tight fisted.
Not only should we be yielded to the Lord but for our giving to be acceptable we must be in a right relationship with our brethren. This principle is taught in Matt. 5.23-24.
Finally ail our day to day obligations must be met prior to giving e.g. rent, lighting, heating, etc. 2 Cor. 8.14 makes it clear that their giving was from their abundance "not that other men be eased and ye burdened." Also 1 Tim. 5.8 teaches that we must provide for our own household. However this does not mean that we live so extravagantly that all our money is spent and there is no abundance from which to give. We need to remember that salvation changed us from being owners of material things to stewards.
PATTERNS FOR GIVING
Of the many patterns or pictures of giving in the New Testament we shall consider four—God, the Lord Jesus, a woman and a man.
God is described by James as the "Giving God" which is the literal translation of James 1.5. This is confirmed by
John in his gospel (3.16). "For God so loved the world that He gave." Thus the thought of giving is bound up in the nature of God and so lies at the very heart of Christianity. This is further emphasised in 2 Cor. 9.15 where again God’s giving is brought before us "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." The inspiring motive is love—"God so loved—that He gave." So it should be with us, that out of a heart touched with the love of God we give to support His work.
The Lord Jesus is the supreme example of One who although He was rich from all eternity became poor, so very poor, that we who were bankrupt sinners might be rich for the great eternity to come (2 Cor. 8.9). As we ponder this our hearts are drawn out to Him and we willingly give for One we love. It was the love of Jonathan for a victorious David (1 Sam. 18.1-4), and the love of the people for a victorious Gideon (Jud. 8.24-26), that inspired the former to give to the latter in each case. In fact 2 Cor. 8.8 teaches that our giving proves the sincerity of our love.
As the Lord Jesus sat one day and watched how, not what, the people put into the treasury (Mark 14. 41-44), He indicated to His disciples a pattern for giving. This was the poor widow who cast in two mites. In His Omniscience the Lord knew it was all that she had and He said that she gave more than anyone else. The lesson for us is clear—it is not so much what we give that the Lord looks upon but it is the amount retained since it is this that sets our giving in its true perspective.
In the early church, at the beginning of the Acts, there was a need among the poor saints. To meet this need the Christians who owned property sold their lands or houses and gave the proceeds to the apostles for distribution among the poor. One man is singled out, Barnabas, who sold a field and laid the money at the apostle’s feet (Acts 4.34-37). The genuine and open actions of this good man are set in direct contrast to the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphirs in 5. 1-10. There is always the danger of giving in order to impress those around. This will lead to a loss of reward and so the Lord enjoins "let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." (Matt. 6.2-4). This precept is clearly violated by the publication of church or charity lists, which are really a subtle means of blackmailing money from people, who in the majority, are unsaved. While not wishing to make our conscience the rule for all it does seem difficult for the increasingly common idea of giving by covenant to allow us to keep within these scriptural injunctions.
PURPOSE OF GIVING
The most obvious reason for giving is to enable the work of the Lord in the local assembly to proceed. It is necessary that the room in which we meet is heated and lighted, is maintained in a presentable state (without being lavish) and, where applicable, due rent is paid. Each member of the assembly should feel their responsibility in this regard, which is only our duty and could hardly be classed as real giving to the Lord.
Having met these commitments the real outcome of our giving is to further the work of God and to help any saints who are in need. This should be done with deep exercise before the Lord as to who should receive support and how much should be given. While in some instances it is convenient to have some person with expertise to pass on a gift, the idea of a central pool from which a number of people receive on an indiscriminate rota basis would find no scriptural authority.
Among those who receive support from the assembly the following are prominent.
- Poor saints—Acts 4.34-37, 11.27-30, 24.17, Rom. 15.26, 1 Cor. 16.1, etc.
- Widows indeed—Acts 6.1, 1 Tim. 5. 3,5,9-10.
- Servants of the Lord— 1 Cor. 9.3-14, Phil. 4.14-20.
- Elders, who in the course of their shepherd work, incur expenses. 1 Tim. 5. 17-18.
PERSONS HANDLING THE GIFTS
The men who undertake the responsibility for material things can be chosen by the saints. Acts 6.3 "Look ye out among you" and 2 Cor. 8.19 "who were also chosen of the churches" would indicate this. However these men were to have high moral qualifications. Acts 6.3 "honest report, full of the Holy Ghost." It is to be noted that in each of the passages indicated, there was to be a plurality of men handling the gifts. The reason for this Paul gives in 2 Cor. 8.21.
"Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men." The fact that these men could be chosen proves that it is not the elders, necessarily, who deal with the material matters, since they are not chosen by men. but by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20.28). Their responsibility is more in the sphere of the spiritual welfare of the assembly although the relief for Judea was sent to the elders (Acts 11.30).
PROMISES CONNECTED WITH GIVING
As an encouragement to us, may precious promises are given to those who give to the Lord. One of the major encouragements is that we shall receive in the measure that we give. In fact the idea of sowing and reaping both in 2 Cor. 9.6-10 and Gal. 6.7-9 has for its major thrust the thought of giving. This truth is also contained in the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 6.38 "give and it shall be given unto you," and has been noted by Solomon in Prov. 11. 24-25, 22.9. Thus giving is a spiritual investment which will yield a great return in a day to come.
Not only so but Phil. 4.18 shows that God accepts our giving as a burnt offering ascending as a sweet savour to Himself. In fact the same is said, in Eph. 5.2, of the acceptability to God of the self sacrifice of Christ. This puts our giving on a very high level indeed. In this connection, that our giving is as worship, it is suggestive to find that we are to lay by "upon the first day of the week" (1 Cor. 16.2), i.e. the day when we remember and thus worship the Lord collectively. The thought of God being pleased with our sacrifices in relation to material things is also drawn to our attention in Heb. 13.16 "But to do good and to communicate forget not : for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
In conclusion our attitude to giving may be described in the words of the Lord Jesus in Matt. 10.8 "freely ye have received, freely give." This is done knowing that "God loveth a cheerful (hilarious) giver" (2 Cor. 9.7).
I read that He was wounded and bruised upon the tree. Yet felt no thrilling wonder as though He died for me; But since, oh since, I know it, and saw Him bear my load, I cannot cease from praising my great Redeemer God.
2nd Epistle to the THESSALONIANS
by J. HEADING, Aberystwyth
(7) ACTIVITY OF THE MAN OF SIN
In this paper, we conclude our remarks about Paul’s description of the man of sin. Verse 8 is an overall statement about his appearing and his ultimate destruction; verse 9 shows his further activity, while verse 10 deals with the effects on men. This is allowed by God at that time. v. II. and they will eventually be judged, v.12.
VERSE 8. This "Wicked" or lawless one will be revealed or uncovered when the divine Restraint is removed; Revelation 13 shows that there will be no restraint after the anti-Christ has come out of the earth. It is interesting to note that the word reveal, used so often in the N.T., appears only once to denote the uncovering of something evil. The man is designated as "lawless" because of the descriptions given here and in Revelations 13.11-17; he will take a stand of being without law before God. even though the divine law will still exist. He will force men to worship the political beast rather than God. Moreover, in the N.T. the Greek word for "lawless one" always appears in the plural (for example, the Lord was "numbered with the transgressors," Mark 15.18); only in our verse is the word in the singular, being therefore a unique description of a unique man.
Editors of the Greek text inform us that the title given to the Lord in this verse should be the fuller title "the Lord Jesus." No reign of righteousness will be possible before the Lord Jesus comes in glory and judgment, when the saints will come from heaven with Him. and when the two beasts will be cast into the lake of lire. This advent is described as "the brightness of his coming." namely, "the appearing of his coming (parousia)". The word parousia does not only refer to His coming for His saints (as 1 Cor. 15.23; 1 Thess. 4.15; 2 Thess. 2.1), but also to His coming with His saints in glory (as Matt. 24.27); the context must decide what is implied. This duality is easily explained when we realize that the word means "presence" (as Phil. 2.12; 2 Pet. 1.16).
Similarly with the word "brightness’ A.V., or "appearing," the actual word being "epiphany," a word Paul used five times in his pastoral Epistles, showing the preciousness of the thought to him at the end of his life. This word is used of the Lord’s first advent (2 Tim. 1.10); when He comes for His saints (1 Tim. 6.14); and when He comes in glory, (2 Thess. 2.8). Again, the context must decide.
The judgment will be "with the spirit of his mouth," or "with the breath of his mouth." This is not the gospel message to dispel the darkness so that the kingdom can expand. Rather, it is the means of destruction and removal. It is the Word of God in judgment that will effect this cleansing process. The terrors of this judgment are seen in a similar description, "the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone," (Isa. 30.33). In other words. His breath commenced (Gen. 2.7), and His breath will end. In Revelation 19.15, the means of judgment "out of his mouth" is seen as a sharp sword.
VERSE 9. The "coming" or parousia of the man of sin is now dealt with, taking place in the 70th week in Daniel 9.24-27. (There would be 69 weeks until the cutting off of Messiah, after which there would be the church age until the 70th week commences after the rapture). In the N.T., the word parousia is used six times of the Lord’s servants in various contexts, while all the rest refer to Christ, except one, which refers to this man of sin. In other words, there is a unique contrast to the parousia of the Lord referred to in verses 1 and 8.
The "working of Satan" will form the origin and basis of his works. This stands in complete contrast with the power of God in Christ and in us: "the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ" (Eph. 1.19-20); "the power that worketh in us" (3.20). By contrast in the present day, it is the prince of the power of the air whose spirit "now worketh in the children of disobedience," (2.2). In the future, this will be multiplied "with all power and signs and lying wonders." No doubt, wonders provide admiration to the mind, while signs contain a meaning behind the outward display. The Lord Jesus had warned that this activity would be prevalent, for false Christs and false prop-
nets will "show great signs and wonders." (Matt. 24.24). We find "power . . . great wonders . . . miracles" in Revelation 13.12-14, the second beast deriving this capacity from the dragon. All this is a deceiving copy of the Lord Jesus and His life, described as "approved of God … by miracles and wonders and signs" (Acts 2.22). The work of the apostles is also described as "signs and wonders . . . divers miracles" (Heb. 2.4), being accomplished by God. "Signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds" were also seen in the service and testimony of Paul (2 Cor. 12.12).
VERSE 10. This verse now shows the effects of this activity on mankind, and declares the reason why men are deceived.
- Because men receive not the love of the truth for salvation. They believed not the truth (v. 12), and had pleasure in unrighteousness (v. 12). Such hearts empty of Christ but full of Satan are ripe for every outside influence; when it is too late, they are unable to take any defensive action. Hence such men are stated to be "them that perish" — the present state of such men during their lives. God’s patience with men would not last for ever, as in Noah’s day. It appears that men during the day of the Lord who adhere to the anti-Christ’s activity are finally outside the scope of salvation. Apostasy produces perishing men with salvation beyond their grasp.
- Instead, they receive "all deceivableness of unrighteousness." Throughout history, men have been always ready to succomb to deception; Pharaoh’s magicians deceived the Egyptians, with the result that some of the plagues were considered not to be the work of God; Simon "bewitched the people of Samaria" with his sorcery, and all were quite ready to give heed to his deception (Acts 8.9-11). For the future, the Lord Jesus warned His disciples that deception would mark the end times (Matt. 24.5,11,24). Of course, only those who arc perishing will be deceived—those with the number 666 or the mark of the beast (Rev. 13. 16-17). But there will be those who reject the apostasy "the elect" in Matthew 24.24; those who gain "the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over the number of his name" (Rev. 15.2). On the other hand the vials of God’s wrath fall on those with the mark of the beast and who worship his image (16.2).
These men will not receive "the love of the truth," and will he perishing even in this life. This recalls what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema," namely, cursed in in judgment (1 Cor. 16.22).
VERSE 11. (iii) Because of God’s intervention. He will send them "strong delusion, that they should believe the lie." This is the exact opposite to His work by the Spirit, whereby He leads into all truth. To see how this may be achieved, we may refer to 2 Chronicles 18. 19-22, where there would be a "lying spirit" in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets, to compel him to go up to battle, there to fall. Speaking of the heathen. Paul wrote that "God gave them up unto vile affections" (Rom. 1.26), and that He "gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient" because men would not retain Him in their knowledge (v. 28). Even as far as Israel were concerned, "I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust," (Psa. 81.12). But in the future, God’s intervention will be even stronger, when men are compelled to "believe the lie" if they do not believe the truth. There will be no position of neutrality, so loved by agnostics today. "The lie" refers, of course, to the man of sin and his deceptions in his works and in his claims. Men will become anti-God in their outlook, accepting the man of sin as both God and Christ. As the Lord Jesus had said, men will receive another that comes in his own name (John 5.43).
VERSE 12. If men are perishing in their lifetimes, then they will be "damned." namely judged, at the end of their lives, at the appropriate time and place. The reason for this judgment will be that they "believed not the truth," which led to their believing the lie. There may be neutrality today, but then, with the power of Satan and not the power of the Spirit, this will be impossible.
Not only does lack of faith lead to belief in the lie. but it also leads to "pleasure in unrighteousness." As Paul realized in his last letter, "in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be . . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3. 1-4). In the N.T., the word "pleasure" in our verse 12 refers always either to God or to His people; only once does it apply to the aspirations of unbelievers.
Today, men’s pleasures arc so much directed towards entertainment involving the pleasures of sin; in the future, this will be unbounded. Moreover, in the present such deeds are not done in ignorance of God’s judgment; as Paul wrote, "knowing the judgment of God. that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom. 1.32). This shows why the media and entertainment place such value on crime and sin, because the unsaved heart is there loving unrighteousness. But when the restraint is removed, there will be worse to come, heading up for judgment.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
(18) The Atonement
Atonement by the sacrificial death of Christ is the central truth of the Bible. The Epistles explain the doctrine of atonement, the ceremonial of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) portrays the absolute necessity of the shedding of the blood of the sin offerings. The type is fulfilled by our Lord Jesus (Gal. 3.13; Heb. 13.12; John 3.14).
The word "atonement" is only found in the Old Testament. Leviticus ch. 16 is central in describing the procedure of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement in Israel. The one occurrence of the word in the N.T. is a mistranslation (Rom. 5.11). The Bible margin shows "reconciliation" as the alternative reading, and this without question, is the right translation (see also 2 Cor. 5. v. 18.19).
Hebrews ch. 9 is largely the exposition and application to us of the day of atonement.
The Meaning. The first time a word occurs explains its meaning in other places. The word atonement occurs in Gen. 6.14 and is rendered "pitch." it means to "cover over." The Hebrew word is Keph-phar, to cover and the noun "kopher" signifies a covering. Adam had a divine, complete covering and this illustrates the work of Christ in His death for sin. (Heb. 2.17; 9.12,14,22) "Mercy-seat" is another word so called because it was the covering or lid of the ark of the covenant (Exod. 25.17,21). It also means "to appease," "to make satisfaction’* (Gen. 32. 17-20). The present of cattle was designed to cover Jacob from Esau’s wrath, as the sacrifice of Christ covers the repentant sinner from God’s righteous indignation against sin. "I will appease" and then appear, ‘and he will accept" (v. 20). The simplest statement of this truth is perhaps found in the words, "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3.18; 2.24). The Person Who suffered on the Cross is the Son of God, the Lord of life and glory.
The Necessity. The awful fact of sin, its nature and effect. Sin has affected man’s relationship to God and also his own nature. "Sin is lawlessness," expressed in actual transgression. It brings man into a state of guilt before God. and issues in man’s entire separation from God (Gen. 3). Sin also affects all the power of man’s nature. It darkens the intellect, deadens the conscience, defiles the heart and distorts the will. God’s broken law must be honoured. His righteous character vindicated, and this great need is involved and expressed in the thought of atonement (Rom. 3.21-24).
Study the "musts" in the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus. The word is used by Christ Himself on eleven occasions. Here are a few : (Matt. 26.59; Mk. 8.31; Luke 2.49; 13.32.33; 22.37; 24.26.44; John 3.14; 9.3,4; 12.34). These indicate and unfold to us the vicarious atonement of His sacrificial death, and that nothing else will meet God’s claims or our needs.
The Provision. Only a Divine Person could offer perfect obedience and fulfil God’s will. This obedience must be perfect in thought, intent and motive, as well as in word and action (John 6.38-40; Heb. 10.7). Christ is the Daysman (Job 9.33). the Mediator Who is both God and Man, and Who is also free from sin (I Tim. 2.5; 1 John 3.5). Nothing short of the death of Christ could suffice (2 Cor. 5.21). Three prepositions used emphasise that Christ died "on behalf of" (1 Cor. 15.3); "with reference to" (Matt. 26.28); and "instead of us (Matt. 26.28; 1 Tim. 2.6).
The Means is by blood shed (Lev. 17.11; Heb. 9.22). The mercy-seat in Israel’s tabernacle was God’s earthly throne but it typified His throne in the heavens. The animal blood that was sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat, spake of the blood of His own dear Son (Rom. 5.9,10. Read Lev. 10.17: 16.10,11; 17.11). The blood shed indicates the life given, and speaks of the adequacy and sufficiency of the work of Christ (Rom. 3.25; Heb. 7.27; 9.28; 10.12). The preciousness of His blood can only be estimated by the dignity and purity of Him who shed it. In His Cross, and there alone, every Divine attribute was harmonized as regards its dealings with sin (Psa. 85.10). The Scripture knows of no atonement apart from shed blood (Deut. 12.23: Lev. 17.11; Heb. 9.12).
Christ is the satisfying atonement (Job. 33.29; Psa. 89.19). Spurgeon says "Christ is our Adornment and our Atonement." Study the various aspects of "the blood" in Heb. eh. 9,10, twelve references. Also the word "once."
To Whom Made. "It is before the Lord" (Lev. 14.18,31; 15.15; 15.30: 16.10). The Lord alone can estimate the sinfulness of sin, therefore atonement must be to Him. Atonement is a work done for us by the death of Christ. It expresses what Christ has given to God on our behalf. God is the One Who is Propitiated. It was God who required the Atonement and God Who provided it.
What His justice demanded His love provided (John 3.16). He now can be just and the justifier of him that be-lieveth in Jesus (Rom. 3.26). Reconciliation in the N.T. seems to emphasize man’s side (2 Cor. 5.20), but this presupposes an already existing reconciliation of God to man by the death of Christ. This means of a Propitiation, this Propitiation being the sacrificial offering of the death of Christ (1 Jn. 2.2): (Job 33.24 margin).
Only the priest could make an atonement (Lev. 16.6.10. 11,126.96.36.199. etc.). The priest acted in a twofold capacity: he represented God to the people and he represented the people to God. Our Lord did the same (Heb. 2.17: 9.14).
Unique and Voluntary. The death of Christ was the deliberate will and plan of God (Acts 2.23). In Scripture it stands in a place mysteriously unique, being sacrificial and propitiatory. Before the world was founded God the Father determined that His Son should fulfil the function of a Saviour for sinners (I Pet. 1.20).
The Father and the Son entered into a compact and a covenant; the Son was to accomplish the work assigned to Hirn (John 12.27; 17.2,4). It was the will of God to bruise Him (Isa. 53.10). The design of the whole plan of expiating sin by Christ’s sacrificial death was the Father’s (Rom. 3.25). Ch-ist willingly died upon the Cross (John 10.11.18; Isa. 50.4-6; Heb. 10.5-10). He poured out His soul unto death (Isa. 53.12). He gave Himself up as an offering and a sacrifice.
Its Dignity and Sufficiency. This is expressed in the terms used:—a "redemption," or deliverance by ransom (Matt. 20. 28); "purchase," as by a price (I Cor. 6.20); "covering," as by an interposition (Rom. 4.7); "under-taking of responsibility" as by a surety (Heb. 7.22); "bearing," in the sense of endurance of penalty (Lev. 24.15; Heb. 9.28); "acceptance" as of a propitatory sacrifice by an offended God (I John 2.2.3). "deliverance from the death-sentence of a Law, by virtue of one who has borne it (Gal. 3.13)" Dr. H. C. G. Moule. We cannot over-emphasize either the worth or the eternal character of Christ’s sacrifice (Heb. 9.13.14). His sacrifice was final once for all and utterly sufficient for all time (Heb. 9.26; 10.11,14; 1 Pet. 3.18).
The vicarious aspect of atonement is the manward side of the cross (Heb. 9.28). "Satisfaction" expresses the quality and effect of His work of suffering obedience even unto death regarded as a suffering of the penalty, in order to the release therefrom of his people.
Blessings. Some of these are found in Lev. ch. 16 (see Outline Studies in the Pentateuch pages 37,54). In v. 30 we have the key to the whole chapter, there is the work, the worker, the time and the purpose. That day was one of humiliation (v. 4) and affliction (v. 29). requiring sacrifice for the priest (v. 3). the people (v. 5) and his family (v. 17.33).
- The sprinkled blood brought forgiveness through imputation (v.21.22; 1 Pet. 2.24).
- Cleansing (v. 16.30; John 13.8; 1 John 1.7,9; Rev. 1.5).
- Perfect rest (v. 29; 23.27-29). No work to be done foreshadowing the fundamental principle (Eph. 2.9; Tit. 3.5).
- Nearness to God (v. 12-15; for the vail was opened. Christ’s death removed this last barrier (Luke 23.45). We have complete acceptance, the way into the holiest is now manifest (Heb. 9.8). We have access (Heb. 10.19-21).
MESSAGES FROM MARK
by J. G. GOOD
Matthew’s Gospel records for us the Sayings of our Lord Jesus, while Mark in his Gospel places emphasis on His Doings. Furthermore, Mark gives us details of the way in which the Saviour expressed His feelings in different situations. In particular, Mark is careful to note that on five occasions ‘He looked round about,’ (see Chs. 3.5-34, 5.32, 10.23, and 11.11. On this point, it is remarkable that Jehovah’s Perfect Servant, is described in Isaiah Ch. 42.19, ‘Who is blind but My servant,’ He never heard or saw that which would divert or distract from His consuming desire to accomplish the will of God.
In Ch. 3, the first ‘look’ is that of Condemnation, the second is one of Commendation. There are four scenes in this chapter alive with spiritual truth, connected with the Synagogue, Sea, Mountain and House.
THE SYNAGOGUE (Ch. 3.1). SIGNS OF A SYSTEM
We have three references to the synagogue in Mark’s Gospel, in Chs. 1.23, 3.1, and 6.2. The first is connected with Bondage, the second with Barrenness, and the third with Blindness.
The presence of the Holy One of God, exposed the condition of the man, the mission of this Servant was to destroy the works of the devil, this was a pointer to that which will precede that era of blessing, when Satan will be bound for a thousand years. Rev. 20.2. The essentials of this Kingdom will be purity and holiness, taking character from the King. The presence of this man in the synagogue was indicative of the condition of Israel as a nation, which required not outward but inward renewal.
The man with the withered hand, is the opposite of plucking the ears of corn, unable to enter into the truth of the coming kingdom, which will be founded upon the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 12.24).
Where the foregoing conditions prevail, blindness will be the consequence, no appreciation of the One Who was in their midst. ‘Is not this the carpenter’ (Ch. 6.3). Little wonder, ‘He marvelled at their unbelief (verse 6). This is the sad state of Christendom at large, wilfully rejecting the claims of Jehovah’s Servant.
THE SEA (Ch. 3.7). SEPARATION IN SERVICE
The Lord Jesus Christ, while here on earth, warned frequently regarding the dangers connected with a crowd, (e.g. Luke 12.1 and Matt. 3.7). Three thoughts are presented in this incident, the Problem, Peril and Pattern. There has always been a real danger of reverting to publicity and advertising, presuming that we can manipulate the masses for good. If there is to be association with Him, those affected must leave the multitude, there can never be affinity between the multitude and the servant, those who serve must never lose their identity. Is not this the truth taught at the end of this chapter to which this incident is leading? Our Lord is calling from the nations a people for Himself. (Acts 15.14).
The Problem of the crowd, brings the Peril of being influenced, causing a dilution of the message, compromise and conformity to worldly designs. The Pattern is so obvious, the ‘great’ multitude in contrast with the ‘little’ ship, there will always be a remnant faithful to the rejected Servant and King. The message we proclaim has no link with earth, it is good news from a far country. (Proverbs 25.25). When we veiw the ‘great’ multitude from the ‘little’ ship we are reminded of our dependence upon God. Let us imitate the Prince of Preachers, our Lord Jesus Christ, in maintaining a separate identity and never allowing the influence of the multitude to dim our vision as to their real need. ‘Abraham stood yet before the Lord’ (Gen. 18.22), this was Abraham’s vantage point, he realised the true need of those for whom he interceeded, this was his ‘little’ ship, from which he viewed human need and grasped Divine power!
THE MOUNTAIN (Ch. 3.13) SOVEREIGNTY OF SELECTION
The choice of servants is the Lord’s prerogative, and who are we to question the wisdom of such a choice. The mountain is the place where this happens, only those who spend time in the secret place will ever hear the call to serve, this does not just happen by chance. The mountain speaks of the need to be in the isolation of the presence of God. to have light from heaven, and confirmation of the mind of God. When we turn to Acts 13.2, we find the church in Antioch ministering to the Lord, occupied in worship, God had His portion, it is in this atmosphere that the voice of God is heard; ‘Separate Me Barnabas and Saul.’
They were Called, Commissioned, and Changed on the mountain. ‘And calleth whom He would,’ ‘that they should be with Him,’ ‘that He might send them forth to preach’ (verses 13 and 14). Three steps in the selective process each dependent on the other, and in the absence of one the others become inoperative. We can understand our wanting Him, but that He should want us to be ‘with Him’ is a truth too wonderful for words. Are we content merely to receive blessing, or are we exercised about bringing pleasure to Him.
It is impossible to be on the mountain with Him and not be Changed, (verse 16) ‘and Simon He surnamed Peter,’ character is formed by communion, the weak are made strong, fear gives way to trust, that which characterises the ‘old’ man withers on the mountain with Him!
THE HOUSE (Ch. 3.19) SUBMISSION TO THE SAVIOUR
The ‘house’ introduces us to a new order of things, our place in the house is connected with our attitude to, and appreciation for the worth of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice the varied expressions regarding the person of the Saviour in this chapter, firstly. His kinsmen, ‘He is beside Himself,’ (verse 21), the scribes, ‘He hath an unclean spirit,’ (verse 30), and His relations after the flesh, ‘standing without,’ (verse 31). The latter group, seemingly well disposed to the Lord, but unable to enter into the truth of this new relationship with Him. This house scene is a beautiful picture of a New Testament assembly relative to our Lord as the centre of gathering. There must be Acknowledgment. Adjustment, and Affection. AH hinges on a recognition of the Lordship of Christ, on ground of this acknowledgement, the next step will be that of adjustment, this will be in relation to the brethren, how can we harbour hard thoughts and be at variance one with another and profess to own His Lordship, (see Matt. 5.23). Relationships within the assembly takes character from our affections for Him, when our Lord has His rightful place in the affections of His people, it will be easy lo love those who share the circle with us, the circle of His favour and fellowship. There was no response in the synagogue, a lack of sympathy and understanding. His claims were ignored. This should be the criteria for those seeking a place of meeting, this place should be marked by, the acknowledgement of the Lordship of Christ.
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (13)
by JACK STRAHAN, Enniskillen
"WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS"
JOSEPH MEDLICOTT SCRIVEN (1819—1886)
Poets learn in suffering what they teach in song" — such a truth is amply illustrated from the circumstances surrounding the writing of the well-loved hymn, "What a friend we have in Jesus." Its author, Joseph Medlicott Scriven, was born on the 10th September, 1819, at Ballymoney Lodge, Banbridge in County Down. Northern Ireland. Joseph was the third and youngest son of Captain John Scriven and Jane Medlicott. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and took his B.A. degree there in 1842. In the same year, he became engaged to be married and for Joseph, life held promise of happiness. Marriage was arranged for the summer of 1844 but just on the eve of the wedding day, his sweetheart was accidentally drowned in the River Bann.
The following year, Scriven emigrated to Canada and settled around the borders of Lake Ontario where, for a time, he taught school near Port Hope and acted as a private tutor. There he gave himself to evangelistic and philanthropic work, preaching the gospel to crowds at fairs and markets and working untiringly for the poor and afflicted. Among the local people, he became known as, "the man who saws wood and carries water for sick people and for those unable to pay." In those years, he sustained the loss of his second sweetheart. Eliza Roche, the neice of a Caotain Pengally, took ill following a chill. Three years of lingering illness followed, during which Scriven stayed much by his fiancee’s bedside and helped with her nursing care. Eliza died in 1857 and wai buried in a small hillside cemetery ovsrlooking Rice Lake, just outside Bewdley, Ontario. An indescribable grief filled Scriven’s heart and for the remainder of his life he seemed to carry with him a secret sorrow. Yet the path, though dark, was one of close fellowship with God, for that seemingly tragic experience, rather than bringing in its train, bitterness and hardness of spirit, made his devotion to Christ all the more intense. It was in the year of Eliza’s death that Scriven wrote the words, "What a friend we have in Jesus," fixing at the top of the page, a short verse of scripture, "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5.17).
- "What a Friend we have in Jesus,
- All our sins and griefs to bear!
- What a privilege to carry
- Everything to God in prayer!
- O what peace we often forfeit,
- O what needless pain we bear!
- All because we do not carry
- Everything to God in prayer.
- Have we trials and temptations?
- Is there trouble anywhere?
- We should never be discouraged :
- Take it to the Lord in prayer!
- Can we find a Friend so faithful,
- Who will all our sorrows share?
- Jesus knows our every weakness :
- Take it to the Lord in prayer!
- Are we weak and heavy-laden,
- Cumbered with a load of care ?
- Blessed Saviour, still our refuge:
- Take it to the Lord in prayer!
- Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
- Take it to the Lord in prayer!
- In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
- Thou shalt find a solace there."
Scriven sent the words to his mother in Ireland and kept a copy for himself. No-one else knew of it until the time of Scriven’s last illness almost thirty years later, when he was cared for by a faithful Christian neighbour named James Sackville. One night on looking through some of Scriven’s papers, this neighbour-friend came across the manuscript, "What a friend we have in Jesus," and read it through with great delight. "Where did this come from? Who wrote it?" he asked. "I wrote it" Scriven replied, "Many years ago, my mother was going through a time of great sorrow and I wrote it to comfort her. I had not intended that anyone else should see it." Scriven’s own account of its authorship was, "The Lord and I did it between us." Afterwards, the poem was published in the local newspaper, ‘The Port Hope Guide.’ A copy of that paper was used to wrap a parcel dispatched to New York. When the recipient there unwrapped the parcel, he caught sight of Scriven’s poem and arranged to have it published. Eventually it was seen by the German-American composer, Charles C. Converse who set it to the simple melody so well known today. Scriven died in 1886 and was buried beside his sweetheart Eliza in the little cemetery near Bewdley. Nearby a large granite monument erected later and inscribed with the words of his hymn, pays fitting tribute to his life and witness.
Still in the hearts of millions, Joseph Scriven lives on through the words of his well-loved hymn, "What a friend we have in Jesus." In it, he tells us what he himself had learned through personal experience—that, over against the dark background of sin, grief, trial, temptation, discouragement, sorrow weakness, burden and disappointment in life, there is the Saviour—One to whom we can carry all our trouble. What a friend! —so faithful, loving at all times, changing not with the years, so interested, so tender, so aporoachable and understanding, and yet at the same time big enough to meet our every need. Paul exhorts the Phillipian believers, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known un:o God: and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4. v. 5 & 7). It is good to note from this scripture that the peace of God enters, not when our prayer is answered but when we commit the need and the burden to the Lord. How often is that peace forfeited, "all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer"! There is nothing too big for Him and there is nothing too small, for those Divine shoulders are strong enough to bear, that Divine heart is tender enough to share and in those Divine arms, we find "a solace there."
1982 has gone into the past. We are glad we have proved th"? abiding faithfulness of our God in meeting every need, bo’.h spiritual and material, in the production of the magazine. The weds of 1 Samuel 7.12 are appropriate : "Ebenezer; Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
Throughout the year, the Lord taught us afresh that He is in overall control of the exercises of His people. We express heartfelt thanks to our many friends, at home and abrcad for their kind gifts, letters, help in the distribution and introduction of tha magazine to new readers. We also thank all our contributors for their profitable papers resulting from much time devoted to the study of the Scriptures.
As we present this report, we are sure our readers will be interested to know that circulation figures continue to grow in spite of cancellations rendered necessary through the return of packets on account of the addressees having removed. We would urge recipients to inform us immediately a new address is necessary. As stewards of the money entrusted to us by the Lord’s dear people, it is incumbent upon us to AVOID WASTE in any form.
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Once again we feel special mention must be made of the unseen, time consuming labours of our Editor, whose consistent services are much appreciated. We record our gratitude to him.
It is our pleasure to thank our brother Robert Martin for continuing to audit our accounts—a task which he performs freely and willingly.
Reference to the untiring services of our brother Glenville is essential. For twenty four years his systematic help has been given cheerfully and we are happy to know that "God is not unrighteous to forget his work and labour of love" (Heb. 6.10). His example is stimulative to the Committee, who are deeply indebted to him.
It has been considered wise to increase our Committee. We are pleased to introduce the following well-known brethren who are agreeable to help :
- T. Armstrong, Derriaghy Assembly, near Belfast.
- B. Currie, Dunmurry Assembly, near Belfast.
- R. Johnston, Ebenezer Assembly, Bangor, Co. Down.
- J. McKeown, Banbridge Assembly, Co. Down.
Above all, those who have responsibility for the magazine feel much indebted for the prayers of readers, and now as we enter a new year would solicit further remembrance in prayer, that God may be glorified and His people edified through this ministry.
THE SON OF MAN
- Jesus, my Lord, how strong Thy love to me.
- Binding my heart ever closer to Thee,
- Thou cam’st to earth with heav’n’s fragrance freighted.
- Midst sinful men. Thy spirit e’er untainted.
- No place for Thee, Who all creation wrought
- Was found; Thou Who for us salvation brought.
- Foxes had holes, birds of the air their nest,
- The Son of man not where His head to rest.
- Grace, boundless grace to earth in Thee had come.
- Sin, long entrenched, by that grace overcome.
- No longer reigned, for grace was on the throne.
- And seated there, the King of grace alone.
- The Father’s bosom. Lord, Thy dwelling place.
- His radiant glory shining in Thy face.
- Blest Son of man, grace now is manifest.
- As in our heart Thou dwell’st, most welcome Guest.
—Edward Robinson, Exmouth.