TALKS TO YOUNG BELIEVERS
by John Ritchie
DOCTRINAL AND/OR EXPERIMENTAL
by E. Robinson
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by John B. D. Page
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
by Ernest Barker
THE NUMBER FOUR IN PROPHECY
by James Scott
JOSEPH—A TYPE OF CHRIST
by T. Cornforth Taws
ISAIAH’S PORTRAITS OF CHRIST
by J. Flanigan
THE DOCTRINE OF HUMILITY
by J. E. Todd
THOUGHTS OF CHRIST
by Eric G. Parmenter
Talks to Young Believers
by JOHN RITCHIE
It is often remarked that "so-and-so professes to be converted, but those who have the best opportunity of judging by his life and walk, have doubt about it." This is a sad testimony, and I hope none of us who are really the Lord’s are living in such a manner that anybody, either saint or sinner, could say so truthfully about any one of us.’Alas! it is too true of many. It might be profitable for our souls to enquire what some of the causes of this "crooked" living among those who profess to be the Lord’s are. Of course we must always remember that not every one who says "Lord, Lord," is a genuine child of God. Mere lip profession is very cheap, and in our days it is respectable to be called a Christian after some sort. There are plenty of people, old and young, who say that they have been converted, and so far as their tongues are concerned it seems feasable, for they can speak about the Lord quite fluently, but, for all that they are only hypocrites. Their lives belie their words, and it is by their "fruits" and not by their words, that the Lord Jesus says we may "know them" (Malt. 7.20). Many of this class know quite well that they are not born again, still they keep up their profession, as long as it will keep, for the purpose of deception. Then there are others, who honestly think for a time that they have been converted, because somebody told them so, or because "a change came over them," and such like. In times of awakening and revival, there is generally a number of such cases, which through time like the stony-ground bearers, "fall away," and go back to the world. It is easy enough accounting for these two classes being "crooked," to those who have spiritual discernment, and it is a mercy for themselves and for all concerned, when they come out in their true colours. But there are others, truly converted, yet whose testimony has not the clear ring about. The Galatian converts were of this sort, and the apostles had to write concerning them—"I stand in doubt of you" (Gal. 4. 20). Why was this? Once they were bright enough, as long as the Apostle was with them. But they had been "bewitched" (chap. 3.1) by somebody coming after, and preaching legality and worldliness to them, and this soon led them into "Doubting Castle," and to crookedness to walk. Beware, dear young saints, of this kind of preaching. There are lots of it all around you. Men are preaching up human nature, which God has condemned: preaching up the world, and trying to make it comfortable quarters for saints. They are saying by word and example, that the world is just the right place for a Christian, and there is no harm in this, that, and the other thing. But yon Cross has settled our account with the world, for ever. We are "crucified" (Gal. 6.14), and no longer "of it" (John 17.16). Demas and Lot were of the crooked class, and just from the same cause. Lot eyed the plains of Sodom for his cattle; he set his heart on being rich, and in the race for gold he got drawn nearer the city, next he sat at its gate, and latterly he had a "house" in it (see Gen. 19). O beware young saints, of setting forth on this dangerous path, where the world will draw you like a magnet into its embrace, and leave you where it left Lot, a "doubtful" in his testimony, and a backslider in his soul, and not a bit the richer either, for he was dragged out empty-handed. How sweet to turn to the history of one who says he was "well-known" (2 Cor. 6.9). There was no mistaking of Paul. Even the demons had to say—"Paul I know" (Acts 19.15). There was no mistaking on whose side he was. Christ was everything to him: he counted the world dung, and flung it behind him, pressing on to know Him more. His was a happy path. Even in his chains he was "always rejoicing" (2 Cor. 6.10), and at the end of the journey, he was as true and bright as at the beginning. Dear young saints, this is the happy path: the path of decision for Christ. There are no "doubtful Christians" there, all "well-known" on earth, in heaven, and in hell. And when yon judgement seat is set, and the Master gives His prizes, their’s will be the "well-done," and their’s the crown.
DOCTRINAL AND/OR EXPERIMENTAL
by E. ROBINSON (Exmouth)
There are a number of matters dealt with in the Scriptures so profound and far-reaching that we feel often only to have touched the fringe. Especially is this true of the writings, for instance, of John, as we continue to discover and wonder. Sometimes such are encountered, not as the main theme of the writer, as with Paul as well as with John, but inserted almost casually as an aside. So we find Paul, speaking of the Lord (J. N. D. says of God, agreeable with the context) ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being, as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also His offspring! (Acts 17.28). This verse alone is worthy of long consideration as we ask ourselves to what extent has it engaged our hearts and mind and become practical reality in our lives?
Paul’s use of the term ‘In Him’ (not by Him), is found also elsewhere, and is most intriguing: how closely linked and identified are we with the Christ? Do we not at times fail to lay hold of its deep significance. Peter and John were an example and a testimony of it: it is recorded of them that others ‘took knowledge of them that they had been (‘were,’ J. N. D.) with Jesus.’ (Acts 4.13). Again, Paul records (Rom. 8.1). ‘There is, therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.’ (note the title used ‘Christ Jesus,’ not Jesus Christ), referring to the Man in the glory. He says also, ‘Therefore, if any man be in Christ, there is a new creation.’ (2 Cor. 5.17, J. N. D.). In this same scripture, Paul expands on the truth of reconciliation, even using the expression ‘God was in Christ’; not, of course, using the expression in the sense of our relationship thus in Christ, but rather indicating that God was operating in and through Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. (v. 19).
Not surprisingly, perhaps the deepest of these thoughts is on the whole in the writings of John. In general, Paul writes concerning church principles and of how we are to conduct ourselves as moving together with one another as members of the body of Christ, his doctrine not just information but formation. John, on the other hand, has his own unique of ministry, quite distinct from the other three Gospels. Often did we but note them, he introduces thoughts maybe in a single sentence which could engage our minds for a very long time, almost inexhaustibly. Let us take an instance, taking it out of context (inexcusably), in his first Epistle (4 .17) the verse, ‘As He is, so are we in this world.’ Repeat this, pause, and repeat it again. We might have expected it to read ‘As He was, or again to read, ‘so shall we be.’ But no: it has no future implication, it is ‘in this world,’ not in the world to come. It is not a prophetic word, but typically, John writes of the present time, sometimes giving present power to what is actually future.
We mentioned context and it is not without importance that in the past doctrinal error has been known to creep in by its disregard in dealing fully with scriptural passages. However, in our consideration of this verse (1st John 4.17), there is no question of being led astray, as John says, "that we may have boldness in the day of judgement: because as He is, so are we in this world." How vast the contrast between one subject to judgement in that great and terrible day, and the blessedness of one being ‘as He is, in this world. We are here surely on such ground that passes well beyond our capacity of comprehension, though thankfully not of some understanding and appreciation by the Spirit. We can well understand that in the purpose of God heaven is to be peopled by those ‘as He is,’ but that it be ‘in this world,’ under the eye of God and before men constitutes a challenge and exercise of heart and mind. Nevertheless, our response, to God and Christ by the Spirit may well be greatly enlarged by the contemplation of divine intent.
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE (21)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE CELESTIAL CITY (2)
The City’s Light (ii)
Reading : Revelation 21 : 9 to 22 : 5.
The divine glory was not apparently the sole means of lighting the city, because the seer’s attention was turned to an unusual "light" (21.11). In his other writings, John has more to say about the subject of light than other New Testament writers but, for describing this unique "light," he uses a different Greek word, phoster, which means not only ‘light’ but also ‘light-giver’ and ‘luminary,’ and it is clearly figurative of Christ radiant with glory. Think of it! For this heavenly city, Christ is its ‘Light’; Christ is its ‘Light-giver’; Christ is its ‘Luminary’. This indicates that Christ is the Light that shone throughout its translucent structure of pure gold, being reflected in the many precious stones of its foundations and rebounding upon the huge pearls of its gates.
Digressing for a moment, it is only in Revelation that this word "light" (phoster, Greek) is used of Christ, whilst its only other occurrence is in the plural number where it is applied to Christians in Philippians 2.15, "… in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." Like the stars shining on a dark, moonless night (Gen. 1.16), believers should shine as luminaries in the moral darkness of this wicked world.
Having not seen a similar light before, the seer says the "light was like unto a stone most precious." This may be an echo of Isaiah (28.16), who foresaw the preciousness of Christ as a Stone. "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious," says Peter (1 Pel. 2.7). We may ask ourselves, -Is Christ more precious to us now than a year ago or ten years ago?’ Continuing with the similarity of the "light" to a precious stone, the seer says "even like a jasper stone, clear as a crystal," indicating that the light was not opaque, but crystal clear in shining. Of the many precious stones, the Light resembled a jasper. This is interesting, not only because the One sitting upon the throne in the heavenly sanctuary is likened to a jasper (4.3) but the surrounding wall of the city was of jasper, whilst the city’s first foundation was adorned with a jasper (21.18 ff). Such prominence given to the jasper above all other precious stones is significant. A jasper was one of the twelve precious stones set in the high priest’s breastplate, part of his garments for glory and for beauty (Exod. 28.21 ff), and these stones were engraved with the names of Israel’s twelve tribes. Being the twelfth stone in the breastplate, the jasper was inscribed with the twelfth tribe’s name, Benjamin, if taken according to age. On her death-bed, Rachel gave birth to her second child, Jacob’s twelfth son, and she named him Ben-oni, indicating ‘The son of my sorrow,’ but her husband called him Benjamin which denotes ‘The son of my right hand’ (Gen. 35.18). Such meanings direct one’s thoughts to Christ, first to His humiliation as ‘Man of sorrows’ (Isa. 53.3) and then to His exaltation. At His ascension, Christ was told, "Sit Thou on My right hand" by Jehovah for His present session in heaven, because it is the highest place of honour that could be bestowed upon Him (Acts 2: 33-35; cf. Heb. 1.3), which was recognised by Orientals even as Solomon told his mother to sit on his right hand (1 Kings 2.19; cf. Psa. 45.9). Christ, being likened to a jasper stone as the "Light" of the city, is seen in His exaltation. For illuminating the city, this exalted Man is radiant, and even luminous, with the brightness of the glory that God gave Him at His resurrection (1 Peter 1.21; John 17.24) as distinct from the glory that He had with God before the world was created (John 17.5), and the saints will be partakers of that God-given glory when it is unveiled to them at the Lord’s coming to the air for them (1 Peter 5.1).
In choosing this Greek word, phoster, with its several shades of meaning, John’s mind may have gone back to the Septuagint Version of Genesis 1.14,16, where the same word is used of ‘lights’ and ‘the two great lights’ for describing respectively the stars, and the sun and moon that God made on the fourth day of creation-week. Reflecting upon the necessity of these heavenly bodies as ‘lights’, ‘light-givers’ and ‘luminaries’ set in the expanse of heaven "to give light upon the earth,’ the seer sees that in contrast "the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb" (21.23, R.V.). Unlike this terrestrial ball which depends upon the sun and moon for light, the celestial city had no need of them because the Lamb is its "lamp," not meaning the provision of artificial light for a short time but in the sense of an independent Source of light. Obviously, only the Lamb, embodying the brightness of divine glory (Heb. 1.3) and Himself being radiant with incomparable light, could illumine this vast city.
"The nations shall walk by its light" (21.24, R. V.), says the seer. (N.B. For the human race to be divided into ‘nations’, it is the result of divine judgement, see Genesis 10, and so the setting of the city is millennial and not the eternal state when such divisions will be unknown). If the city were located upon the earth, say in Israel, then it could not operate as a light to nations in many parts of the world. Significantly, there is no mention that the city will be sited upon the earth, but the implication is that it will be located in the air, which at present is the sphere of Satanic activity (Eph. 2.2). With the city as an enormous luminary in the atmospheric heaven, then it will function as a light by which the nations will conduct themselves. This is borne out by Prof. J. D. Pentecost in Things to Come when he says, "Thus John sees the ‘great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God’. This dwelling place remains in the air, to cast its light, which is the shining of the effulgence of the Son, on to the earth so that ‘the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it’."
The city’s "light," in which the nations will walk, is the Greek word phos, meaning ‘light, which is underived and absolute’, and elsewhere it is used of Christ and of God (John 1.4ff; 8.12; 1 John 1.5). Therefore, the light shining from the city originates not from itself but from the Lamb Whose abode is in the city. This perfect light, complete in itself and unaffected by the sun or moon, is essentially the exalted Christ Himself, setting the city aglow with His glory (similar to the glow of the rising sun in Jerusalem today), so that the city becomes a luminary for the nations.
This phenomenon, foreseen in a vision by John, was foretold centuries earlier by Isaiah although, of course, he makes no reference to the celestial city as John does, but this Old Testament prophet said concerning Israel during the Messianic kingdom, "The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory, Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: the Lord shall be thine everlasting light,…" (Isa. 60.19 ff). The extinguishing of the sun and moon for light is unthinkable, because the certainty of the solar system is an assurance for the continuance of Israel as a nation to the end of time (Jer. 31.35 ff). But Isaiah realised that during the kingdom age the Shekinah glory shining forth from Jehovah-Messiah will be brighter than the light of either the sun or moon and it will be an everlasting light to Israel. As W. E. Vine expresses it in Isaiah, "The sun and moon will still exist, but will not be needed, owing to the effulgence radiating from the presence of the Lord and the Church, with His uncreated Shekinah glory." In his reference to the Church here, Vine has in mind its Apocalyptic symbol as a great city radiant with the light of the Lamb. Surely, our hearts should burn within when we realise that we shall not only partake of our Lord’s glory and behold His glory but also apparently reflect His glory in that day (1 Peter 5.1; John 17.24).
From these Scriptures, it would appear that the brightness of the light shining forth from the Lamb and the heavenly city will exceed that from the sun by day and the moon by night. The degree of such brilliance of light is brought out by Isaiah when he says, "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days,.." (Isa. 30.26). That is to say, the light reflected by the moon will equal the sun in brightness whilst the light emitted by the sun will be seven times brighter, which means that the sun’s light for seven days at present will be then concentrated into one day. Consequently, the seer says there will be no night in the celestial city and no need of a lamp or the sun (22.5), which will be equally true of the millennial earth. To the finite human mind, such a brilliance of light seems impossible, but there was a faint resemblance of it when Paul, as he approached Damascus at the time of his conversion, saw a light from heaven which was brighter than the mid-day sun of the orient (Acts 26.13). The brilliant light, which was seen by Paul, emanated from the glorified Christ, but it was then local whilst it will be global during the millennium.
(To be continued).
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
Reconciliation ! What a theme for the Gospel preacher; what a glorious truth for meditation. Propitiation is the work of Christ Godward. It has in view the satisfying of the demands of divine righteousness and divine holiness. God’s wrath must be appeased. It must be propitiated before God can bestow His favour and blessing (Luke 18.13; Rom. 5.10). Reconciliation is the work of Christ manward (1 John 2.2). It is for the whole world. Propitiation makes this possible (Heb. 2.17; Rom. 5.10). Reconciliation was not necessary from God’s side. Man has ever been the offender and enemy (Eph. 2.15,16; Col. 1.21,22).
The Meaning. In the N.T. the word is derived from three different Greek words. The verb form means "to change from enmity to friendship." Fausset says, "the changing of places, coming over from one to the other side." The reconciling of man to God (Rom. 5.10; 2 Cor. 5.18,19,20). The noun form has four occurrences (Rom. 5.11 (RV); 11.15; 2 Cor. 5.18,19). The word "reconcile" carries with it the idea of the removal of hostilities and the establishment of a peaceful relationship (Col. 1.20,21). The word means to reconcile completely (Eph. 2.16). Man was originally in fellowship with his Creator. With the invasion of sin into his life, man was separated from God. Through the work of His Son, God provided a way for man to be brought back to his Creator in a redeeming relationship. He can be restored to full communion, fellowship, and relationship with God (Rom. 5.10).
The Means of it. (Rom. 5.10; Eph. 2.13). The Lord Jesus is the One in Whom all is accomplished. The result of His work—"having made peace" (Col. 1.20). Christ has done what was necessary to accomplish reconciliation. The little preposition "THROUGH" occurs three times in this verse. It designates Christ as the Agent of reconciliation God’s holy demands are satisfied in the atonement for sin. It necessitated the personal agency of Christ at Calvary to effect our reconciliation (Heb. 9.22).
The cost involved—"the blood of His cross." His blood shed on Calvary—that bridged the gap between God and man and provided the means to bring man back into a right relationship with God.
"Unto Himself." God was not reconciled to man, man went wrong and was separated from God (Eph. 2.13). Reconciliation is a work of God for man and not a work of man for himself. By faith I rest on the work of Christ. He did it all for me at Calvary.
The Magnitude of it. Just as salvation is viewed in the N.T. in three tenses, so reconciliation by itself is presented in that way too. (a) The past provision was made by Christ in His death at Calvary (Col. 1.20). Reconciliation stands completed as a historical fact. (b) The present possession, its present acquisition, not some remotely future experience but a present reality. Distance and displacement are gone forever (v.21). This is the reach of reconciliation—"and YOU" (v.21; Rom. 5.1). (c) The prophetic announcement of eternity future—"reconcile all things." What a prospect, a reconciled earth when the Lord Jesus will be the Centre of the glory in the millenial age. These verses give us a sweeping panorama of the purpose of God for this world. The whole universe will undergo a process of re-orientation (Isa. 11; Rom. 8.19). We shall be "holy" – free from every trace and tint of sin, all defilement gone. "Unblameable" separated from former weaknesses and sinful tendencies. We shall be "unreprovable"; that is, no one, Satan, sinners, other saints—will be able to successfully hurl accusations against us (Rom. 8.33).
The Ministry of it. One of the major themes of 2 Cor. is that of ministry, chapter 5 particularly deals with this subject. The word translated "ministry" is the word "deacon," service on behalf of others. It means mundane work on behalf of others, (a) The reason for this ministry (2 Cor. 5.19). The work of Christ on our behalf is the foundation for our ministry to others. Reconciliation accomplished, experienced is to be proclaimed to others. We should be willing to obey the Lord and engage in this dignified ministry (v.19). (b) The recipients of this ministry. We are the chosen vessels through whom the Lord carries out this ministry to others. We are to beseech men to change their attitude and accept the provision God has made for them in Christ, (c) Our responsibility. It is "given" to us (2 Cor. 5.18). This is a decisive act; God has given us this responsibility and privilege of ministry.
The Message of it. This is described in verses 19,20. This is our stewardship—"committed to us." It is really His ministry and we are but stewards. (1) The announcement "God was in Christ." The sinless Saviour (v.21). His sinlessness qualified Him to be the Agent of reconciliation. The stupendous sacrifice — "sin for us." He was made sin on our behalf. The sin question was settled once for all (Rom. 4.25-5.1). The splendid standing—"made righteous" —justified freely by His grace. (2) The ambassadors (v.20). We are the personal representatives on earth of the glorified Christ in heaven. That is why we can herald this message with authority. (3) The appeal — "we beseech you." We beg or pray. Our appeal is urgent. As faithful ministers we should be earnest and sincere in our proclamation of the message. Through us it reaches others.
The reconciliation of Joseph and his brethren in Gen. 45 v.1-11, is a good illustration of this lesson.
- It was with sadness that we learned of the homecall of our dear brother J. B. Hewitt of Chesterfield. He was a regular and valued contributor to Assembly Testimony for many years and has left us articles still to be published. Prayer would be appreciated for his widow who is not at ail well.
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
Will The Church Pass Through It?
by ERNEST BARKER
(PART 2) A Thief in the Night.
We will now consider the opening verses of the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians, where we read these words:— "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." It is very necessary to distinguish between the "Coming of the Lord" in chapter 4, and the "Day of the Lord" in chapter 5. The "coming" will be an act of blessing. The "Day" will be a period of unparalleled judgement. The Apostle Peter in Acts 2.19 and 20, quoting from the prophecy of Joel, informs us that the day of the Lord will be preceded by certain definite signs which will be seen in heaven above and in the earth beneath, blood, fire, and vapour of smoke, and then follow these words : "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come." These heavenly phenomena will occur immediately after the days of the "great tribulation" to which we have already referred. The same apostle in his second epistle, chapter 3, 10 to 12, tells us that the Day of the Lord will terminate with greater and more terrible disasters than those which will precede it. Here are the exact words:— "In the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat: the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
It is not difficult to see that the phrase "as the thief in the night" indicates that the day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly. The thief is very careful to keep his victims in ignorance of the exact time of his arrival. Indeed, he does his utmost to arrange to come when he is least expected. Similarly the arrival of the "Day of the Lord" will take by surprise those whom it will overwhelm.
Now, the "coming of the Lord," mentioned in chapter 4, will not be an unexpected event. Tens of thousands of God’s beloved children are anticipating, daily and hourly, His glorious arrival, and the number of these "look-out" believers is rapidly increasing.
False Peace and Safety.
The writer then continues in this strain :— "For when they shall say, Peace and safety ; then sudden destruction cometh upon them . . . and they shall not escape" (1 Thess. 5.3). Here we see judgment, sudden and certain. The "Peace and Safety" mentioned in this passage are false. A false peace is worse than the severest storm, because in a severe storm a person realises his danger, and there may be a possibility of escape, but a false peace is altogether fatal, inasmuch as the victim thinks that all is well when all is wrong, and before he is aware of his danger he is engulfed in a calamity from which escape is impossible. The same applies to a false safety. The only real and abiding peace is that which the Lord Jesus made by the blood of His cross, and the only real safety is to be found in the eternal Rock of Ages.
But to whom does the pronoun "they" refer? Surely not to believers, and if not to believers it can only refer to those who are in darkness—to those who are without God and without Christ. To such will the "Day of the Lord" come as a thief in the night. Now let us notice carefully the following verse :— "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief." This most clearly indicates that the Day of the Lord has to do, not with the children of God, but with the sons of darkness. We who have been brought out of darkness into God’s most wonderful light are more involved in the closing verses of chapter 4 than the opening verses of chapter 5.
The Restraining Power.
One of the most important passages which prove that the Church will never pass through the Great Tribulation is 2 Thessalonians 2.7 :— "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work ; only He who now letteth (or hindereth) will let, until He be taken out of the way." The Apostle distinctly informs us that the day of Christ (or, as some authorities give, the "Day of the Lord") shall not arrive, except there come first the most terrible of apostasies, culminating in the manifestation of the man of sin. Then the Mystery of Iniquity will reach its climax, when the enemies of truth will have their own way, and when the forces of evil will be let loose.
This profound "Mystery of Iniquity" is already working, and has been working since the apostolic era, but it has been kept in check. Happily there has been a restraining power at work, so that, although the element of lawlessness has even now reached alarming proportions, it has not been allowed to exceed the border line. God allows the wrath of man to be exercised within certain limits that it might praise Him, but the remainder of wrath He restrains.
There will come a time, however, when this restraining power will be withdrawn, and then the man of sin—that "wicked one" — who will exalt himself above all that is worshipped, and will actually sit in the temple of God, "shewing himself that he is God"—will be revealed in all his diabolical powers, and signs, and lying wonders.
A most important question arises here :— What is this restraining power? The pronoun used is "He," not "it,"
which clearly means that it must be a person, and if it be a person it can surely be none other than the Holy Spirit of God. Believers are designated "the salt of the earth," the reason being that they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and therefore constitute an effective purifying agent on the earth in their corporate capacity. Were it not for the presence of God’s redeemed people in the world, the condition of things would be intolerable. As is well known, the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. When will He ascend? He will ascend with the Church when she is caught away to meet her glorified Lord. This being so, the restraining power will be removed when Christ comes for His own, previous to the period known as the Great Tribulation.
(To be continued)
THE NUMBER FOUR IN PROPHECY
In his night vision Daniel saw the four winds of heaven strive upon the great sea (Dan. 8.2,3), the well-known symbol for "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" (Rev. 17.15); and four great beasts came up from the sea, which, according to the inspired interpretation, represent four "kings," or kingdoms (ver. 17), that would arise out of the earth, signifying their moral origin.
It was also revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, in the form of a great image, that four Gentile kingdoms would arise out of the earth, of which his was the first. These were the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Macedonian, and the Roman. On the death of Alexander the Great his empire broke up, and ultimately formed into four kingdoms— Greece Assyria, Egypt, and Rome.
We believe that history will again repeat itself and that at "the time of the end" four great powers will again arise to contend for the mastery, namely the Russian, or northern confederacy; the Assyrian, or eastern confederacy; the Grecian, or Balkan confederacy; and the Roman, or western confederacy. Thus at the very end of the "’times of the Gentiles" these’ four great powers will be found facing each other—each with its allotted part to play on the prophetic stage—and all openly opposed to the claims of Jehovah and His anointed (Ps. 2), The first to be judged will be the western power; the second will be the Assyrian; the third the Grecian; and the last the Russian.
JOSEPH — A TYPE OF CHRIST
by T. CORNFORTH TAWS (Leicester)
The importance of the life and character of Joseph is emphasized in the Book of Genesis in that more space is devoted to him and his activities than to any of the Old Testament patriarchs recorded in this ‘Book of Beginnings.’
When we read this thrilling story of God’s overruling providence we learn much of Joseph as a beautiful type of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God sent by the Father to be the Messiah of Israel the Saviour of the world.
The secret of Joseph’s life with all its trials and temptations is simply stated in Gen. 39.2 ‘The Lord was with Joseph,’ suggesting to us that ‘If God be for us who can be against us.’ However, this simple statement reminds us of a profound truth concerning our Lord’s perfect union with the Father, as the Saviour Himself said ‘I and my Father are one.’ (John 10.30).
Joseph is best known for his ‘coat of many colours,’ which was a sign that he was Jacob’s favourite, his BELOVED SON, for we read ‘Israel loved Joseph more than all his children.’ This sign of devotion was also a mark of distinction which made Joseph outstanding, so that all knew he was ‘the chosen son.’ How this reminds us of God’s well beloved Son of Whom we read, ‘the Father loveth the Son’ and again Jesus said ‘Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world.’
In a unique way God the Father expressed His love and appreciation of the Lord Jesus Christ when He said ‘This is my Beloved Son’ (Luke 9.35) when on the Mount of Transfiguration.
As an OBEDIENT SERVANT we find Joseph a perfect example; reflecting the Messiah, the true Servant of Jehovah, of whom Isaiah prophesied in chapter 42 ‘Behold my Servant/ God’s Son willingly took the servant’s place and in the shadow of the cross He said ‘I am among you as He that serveth’ Luke 22.27, a truth re-echoed by Paul concerning our Saviour’ and took upon Him the form of a servant.’ (Phil. 2.7).
We notice the willingness of Joseph to do his father’s will and gladly going in search of his brethren. This reminds us how the Lord Jesus shewed His obedience to His Father by willingly coming into this world to find ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ those who were His brethren after the flesh. As a devoted servant He could say, ‘Lo I come in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God.’ (Psalm 40.7,8).
While referring to the Son of God as the rejected Servant John writes, ‘He came unto His own (possessions) and His own (people) received Him not’; this was a reflection of the treatment given to Joseph by his brethren and was anticipated by the Lord in the parable of the vineyard. (Matt. 21).
When we consider the Son of God as the UNIQUE SUFFERER, we find the type in Joseph very helpful. Why did Joseph suffer at the hands of his brethren?, only because of their envy and malice which is verily true of the ‘Man of Sorrows’ Who for envy was delivered to Pilate and then crucified. The prophetic statement ‘they hated me without a cause’ can be said of both Joseph and Jesus.
Despite the testimony of the Prophets and the Psalms that the Christ (Messiah) should suffer, the Jews as a nation, then and now, cannot accept a Suffering Saviour. Their concept of Messiah was a mighty deliverer, a national hero or a warrior king and even the Lord’s disciples thought that Christ would deliver them from the bondage of Rome. They looked for the restoration of the kingdom rather than the regeneration of the people.
Joseph suffered the shame of the dungeon but Jesus endured the shame of the cross, for ‘cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.’ Calvary reveals something of the physical sufferings and the spiritual anguish of the One whose soul was made an offering for sin,—the perfect Sin-Offering.
In God’s infinite goodness HE vindicated His servant Joseph who was exalted from the prison to the palace and exchanged rags for riches and regal splendour when Pharaoh arrayed him in vestures of fine linen: even so the Son of God who humbled Himself even to the death of the cross, God has highly exalted; He who was clothed with humility is now arrayed in majesty and crowned with glory and with honour and on day, before HIM every knee shall bow, even as the sons of Jacob bowed before Joseph when his dream was fulfilled.
Today we acknowledge God’s Son to be the TRIUMPHANT SAVIOUR, because like Joseph of old, HE is now the Saviour of the world Who has brought to all men the ‘Bread of life’ for Himself said ‘I am the living bread’ and has brought us salvation and satisfaction so that we ‘should not perish but have everlasting life.’ Joseph was honoured by Pharaoh, but God hath exalted His Son’ to be a Prince and a Saviour.’ (Acts 5.31).
Like Joseph we learn that our Saviour is a WISE STATESMAN. Remembering how the sons of Jacob were condemned by their sin and humiliated before ‘the governor of the land,’ we find that judgement was tempered with mercy because after three days in prison they were given full sacks and their money returned.
The ‘House of Israel’ is suffering for their sin of rejecting their Messiah and crucifying ‘the Lord of Glory.’ (1 Cor. 2.8): but Christ’s judgements are also blended with mercy, HE still calls them ‘My brethren’ and as His chosen earthly people are the objects of His ‘everlasting love.’ (Jer. 31.3).
When Joseph appeared to his brethren the first time we read ‘they knew him not’ (although he knew them) but it was on their second visit that ‘Joseph made himself known’ and said ‘I am Joseph.’
Tragically, the Jewish nation ‘knew not’ Jesus as their Messiah when He appeared unto them the first time. Only a few, like Peter acknowledged who He was and confessed ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
However when the Christ of God appears ‘the second time without sin unto salvation’ (Heb. 9.28) like Joseph HE will make Himself known to ‘His brethren’ not as the Man of Sorrows but as the true Messiah of Israel the Lord of Hosts. In that day the nation of Israel like Jacob’s sons, shall be troubled at His presence (Zech. 12.10), then will be a time of national mourning and repentance, but soon their sorrow shall turn into joy when they acknowledge the true Messiah as King of Righteousness and King of Peace.
The government of Egypt was entirely in the hand Joseph, so likewise in a coming day the Scripture regarding our risen LORD shall be fulfilled, ‘The government shall be upon His shoulder’ (sa. 9.6) and the world will be under the control of a wiser than Joseph, for when our Saviour reigns on the Throne of David it will be with a greater wisdom than Solomon, for with righteousness He shall judge the world (nations) and His people (the Jews) with equity.
We cannot close our meditation without affirming that the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world will ‘in that day’ be ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGN, the supreme ruler of the nations. Joseph confessed that throughout all his experiences God was working out His purpose (Gen. 45.7,8) which was for the blessing and salvation of His people Israel, and so with the Christ of God for we read in Acts 2.23 that what HE endured at the hand of evil men was all by ‘the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God’ and He Who was once crucified, God hath made ‘both Lord and Christ.’ (Acts 2.36).
Maybe the day is not far distant when our Saviour shall be revealed in all His majesty and glory and acclaimed ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’ thus fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah ‘In that day the LORD shall be King over all the earth.’
During His sovereign reign in the Millennium the Nation of Israel shall be united having ‘one king’ (Ezek. 37.22) and Shall dwell in ‘their own land’ (Ezek. 37.21) ‘The Land of Promise’ as made by covenant to the patriarch Abraham.
‘Alleluia : for the LORD GOD omnipotent reigneth.’ (Rev. 19.6)
ISAIAH’S PORTRAITS OF CHRIST
by J. FLANIGAN (Belfast)
3—"THE BRANCH" (Chapter 11)
Isaiah is not the only Old Testament prophet to portray our Lord as the Branch. Jeremiah and Zechariah are also familiar with this title of Messiah. The Hebrew word is "Netzar," and some have imagined a connection with "Nazarene." This is perhaps strained, but it is an interesting suggestion.
The early verses of Isaiah 11 are reminiscent of the golden Lampstand of Tabernacle and Temple. That Lampstand had a central stem with six branches: Three pairs of branches adorned the centre stem in beautiful symmetry, and this lovely theme is repeated in Isaiah 11, as we shall see.
There is a sharp and striking contrast here with the closing verses of chapter 10. There the Assyrians, the enemies of Israel, are described as a haughty forest of high trees. But they are cut down by Jehovah, and there they lie. The House of David has become like a felled tree also, and note that reference to the stump of "Jesse," who was of course, David’s father. The House of David has been reduced to its original Bethlehem insignificance, but a glorious thing is about to happen. While the forest thickets of the Gentiles lie as they have been felled, there springs a fresh green shoot or twig out of the stock of Jesse. A tender plant indeed, out of the parched ground of Israel; a Branch out of the roots to bear fruit for the pleasure of Jehovah. The tenderness of a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes in Jesse’s Bethlehem. The gentle quietness of a Boy and a gracious Youth brought up in despised Nazareth, a fruitful bough for God and for men.
Seven spirits are mentioned. The Spirit of Jehovah is the majestic central stem. Then follow the three pairs. There is the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding; the Spirit of Counsel and Might; the Spirit of Knowledge and the Fear of Jehovah.
"The Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon Him." The word "rest" means "to dwell; to abide; to be at home; settled." So it ever was with our Lord in abiding, unbroken communion with the Spirit. But perhaps especially do we see this as His baptism, and at the beginning of His ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth. The Spirit in bodily form as a gentle Dove abiding upon Him. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" He read in their hearing. Note the three Divine Persons in perfect unison and harmony—(1) The Spirit (2) of Jehovah (3) upon Me. The Dove abides upon the Son while the Father approves from the heavens.
In the three pairs of branches from the central stem we have the personal, official, and moral glory of Christ. These all have been displayed in Him in His ministry here upon earth, and will be displayed again on earth when He comes in Kingdom glory to rule. This is the theme of the greater portion of this chapter. The varied glories of the Messiah, the Branch, will give character to His kingdom when He reigns. Look at these glories.
"The spirit of Wisdom and Understanding." Wisdom and Understanding are the attributes of a Messiah who is Divine. They declare His Personal, essential, eternal glory. That the Messiah should be a Divine Person seemed impossible to the Jew. And it does yet. If the Lord their God was one Lord, and not like the many Gods of the heathen, how could the coming One be God also? This was ever their problem when our Lord claimed to be the Son of God. Rightly they saw this as a claim to Deity and this they could not accept. And this problem persists with them still, even though the first reference to God in Scripture is in the plurality of "Elohim." (Gen. 1.1). Compare Deut. 6.4. Wisdom and Understanding have been defined as follows.
- Wisdom: "The power to discern the nature of things."
- Understanding: "The ability to discern the differences."
"The spirit of Counsel and Might." Already, in an earlier meditation, we have seen our Lord as Counsellor, and as Mighty God. Here is a repetition of that same theme, and here is His official glory. What more necessary qualities in a ruler than Counsel and Might. How many mighty rulers have fallen for lack of counsel. How many wise rulers have fallen for lack of strength to implement what they knew to be right. These twin branches are necessary in balance. They are both in Christ. They have been defined thus—
- Counsel: "The gift of forming right conclusions."
- Might: "The ability to carry them out with energy."
"The spirit of Knowledge and of the Fear of Jehovah." This is not knowledge in a general sense, but knowledge of Jehovah. And this knowledge of Jehovah brings with it that reverence and dignity of behaviour which is characteristic of those who know the Lord. This is all seen in perfection in the Lord Jesus. We have come to call it "His moral glory." His knowledge of the Father was complete. He could say to the Jews, "Ye have not known Him; but I know Him" (John 8.55). It is the knowledge of one who was ever in the Father’s bosom. He knew His Father intimately. Such knowledge, based upon the fellowship of love, is accompanied by that desire to live only as pleases the Father. And so He lived. Even Christ pleased not Himself. In Him then is—
- Knowledge: "Full knowledge founded on a fellowship of love."
- Fear of Jehovah: "Reverence in the joy of pleasing the Lord."
All these things make our Lord "of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord." Literally, the beautiful sense of it is this—the fear of Jehovah is fragrance to Him. He senses with delight the fragrance of the fear of the Lord. He does not, will not, judge after outward appearances; His judgments will be according as to how matters are related to Jehovah. This desire for the glory of the Lord will determine the character of the Kingdom. Girded.with righteousness and faithfulness Christ will hold the sceptre in millennial glory. He will rule with impartiality and with equity. Having destroyed the Wicked One He will take His Throne. He who once was girded with swaddling bands, and with a towel, and with a purple mocking robe, and with grave clothes, will then be girded with glory to usher in an era of peace for earth.
O the glory of that Kingdom! Wolf and lamb will dwell at peace together; and leopard and kid; and calf and lion; and cow and bear. They will go to pasture together. The Prince of Peace is upon the Throne. A child will play safely at the adder’s den. The infant need no more fear the viper. Let us not spiritualise these beauties away. Such conditions happened literally when our Lord was here in the flesh. They will obtain when He comes again. It is a glorious restoration of Eden with a Man upon the Throne and the creation at peace. The Root of Jesse will be the gathering centre for the nations. Jew and Gentile alike will know the blessing of that benign reign and the Saviour too shall rest in His glory.
Today in Israel the great word on many lips is the word "Aliyah." It means "The Ascent;" "The Going Up." It is the opposite to "Diaspora," the dispersion. The Nation is coming home. Israel is returning to the Land. On the 15th May, 1948 the State of Israel was formally set up. Ben Gurion declared, with deep emotion, "For two thousand years we have waited for this hour, and now it has happened … the State of Israel is open for the ingathering of exiles . . .it will rest upon the foundations of liberty, justice and peace, as envisaged by the prophets of Israel." Alas, it is a regathering in sad unbelief. It is not yet the "Shalom" of the millenial day. There is yet no life in the dry bones. Nevertheless, we live in a remarkable age, when, looking back over the amazing events of the last half-century, it is difficult to believe that still there are those who do not see a future for Israel.
One day our Lord Jesus will be the gathering centre. He will assemble the outcasts of Israel and the dispersed of Judah. From the four corners of the earth they shall come; from Egypt and Assyria; from Pathros and Cush; from Elam and Shinar; from Hamath and the Islands of the Sea. Like as it was when Israel went up out of Egypt, so shall they go up again. Is it to be wondered at, that after chapter 11, comes the song of chapter 12. There is such a parallel with the redemption out of Egypt that Isaiah can only exclaim, "Sing unto the Lord for He hath done excellent things."
"Behold the Man whose name is THE BRANCH; . . . He shall build the temple of the Lord; . . . and he shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule upon his throne." Zechariah 6.12-13.
SUGGESTIVE BIBLE STUDIES
Patience in James 5
- The people who provoke to impatience ………… Vers. 1-6
- Principles and practice of patience ……………… Vers. 7-10
- The patience of Job ………………………………… Verse 11
- The danger of impatience ………………………… Verse 12
- Preventive measures against impatience ……… Vers. 13-18
- Results of patience in dealing with others …… Vers. 19-20
The Secret of the Lord
- Security of His saints…………………………… Psalm 91.1
- Encouragement for His saints ………………… Psa. 91.14-16
- Care for His saints ……………………………… Psalm 31.20
- Revelation to His saints ………………………… Psalm 25.14
- Preservation of His saints ……………………… Psalm 31.23
- Thought for His saints ………………………… Psalm 31.20
The Prophet Elisha
- His Call to service …………………………… 1 Kings 19.19
- His Consent and obedience ……………… 1 Kings 19.20-21
- His Choice and equipment ……………………… 2 Kings 2.9
- His Condition for blessing ………………… 2 Kings 2.10-12
- His Confidence in God …………………… 2 Kings 2.13-14
- His Commendation from the prophets ……… 2 Kings 2.15
- His Character, one of fidelity and devotion … 2 Kings 2.1-8
THE DOCTRINE OF HUMILITY
by J. E. TODD
It was said that the effect of Christian teaching had ‘turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6), or as someone has commented ‘turned the world right side up’! One of the outstanding features of our Lord’s teaching was to reverse the generally accepted standards of the world. The worldly ‘virtues’ of pride, arrogance and force He degraded to the level of sins (Matt. 20 : 20-28, 23 : 1-12); but the worldly ‘vices’ of gentleness, meekness and humility He elevated not just to virtues, but showed them, by His own example, to be part of the divine character! Hence Paul states the absolute necessity for each Christian to be ‘renewed in the spirit of your mind’ (Eph. 4 : 23). In standards of behaviour every Christian needs to be ‘de-programmed’ of worldly standards and then ‘re-educated’ by the Lord’s teaching. In no case is this need greater than in the doctrine of humility.
What is humility? By the world it is regarded as a weakness. The humble man is portrayed as weak in character, never exerting his rights and trampled on by everyone, an object of contempt. Unable in his weakness to achieve anything either for himself or others.
But our Lord showed by His teaching and example that humility is a power, a power so great that it is able to achieve results which no other power can.
The Lord began by showing that pride, which is the opposite of humility, is the very essence of sin. This is seen in His constant battle with the Pharisees and their arrogant religious pride. Pride is when love of self is placed first, above all other things The law of God requires mankind to love God with our Whole being and to love our neighbour as much as ourselves (Matt. 22 : 34-40). Sin is defined thus, ‘Sin is the transgression of the law’ (l John 3 : 4). The pride of loving ourselves first is the contradiction of all divine law, therefore pride is the very essence of sin. It is pride, the love of self, which prevents a Christian from doing some of the works which are esteemed in the sight of God. Pride is the weakness which is powerless to rise the spiritual heights of stooping to perform the humble task. It is a case of, ‘For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God'(Lukel6:15).
Humility, in contrast to pride, can be defined as the unconscious forgetfulness of self. The unconscious aspect of humility is most important. To be conscious of our unselfishness can stimulate pride in it, and when we become proud of our humility, we become hypocrites! Beware of the man who, boasts of his own humility! Humility is the liberation from all pride, self-esteem, claiming of rights, care of reputation, selfish ambition and even the fear of shame itself. Liberation from these things which can paralyse virtue.
Humility is the power to perform the mean, the monotonous and the unglamorous task. It is the power to pay the price of time and sacrifice to do the unnoticed and unrewarded task. It is the power to serve to God and others in those things which are considered to be ‘beneath one’s dignity.’
The most important fact about humility, as shown by our Lord’s example, is that it is an aspect of the divine character. O that we could grasp that fact. We are exhorted to have, the same humble attitude as the Lord Jesus Christ. He veiled His divine glory and became a servant. As a Man He further humbled Himself and became obedient to the extent of dying, even to execution on a cross (see Phil. 2 : 3-8). It was humility which enabled God the Son to lay aside all that was rightfully His (except His deity, He could not cease to be Himself) and become a Man. An atom of pride would have prevented this. But not only did He in humility become a Man, as a Man obeyed even to the point of death, the shameful death by crucifixion as a convicted criminal.
Thus humility gave its greatest display of power at the cross. ‘Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously’ (1 Pet. 2 : 23). No flash of pride, no self-esteem, no claiming of His rights, no selfish ambition, not even shame itself could force Him to relent, by the sheer power of His humility He was prepared to suffer such a death for the sake of others. ‘Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.’ (1 Pet. 2
In both these passages of scripture which declare His. humility, His humility is set before us, as Christians, as an example to follow. ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil. 2 : 5). ‘For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.’ (1 Pet. 2 : 21).
Where are we to find such humility for ourselves? It is found only in the divine sinless character of our Lord. He was the One who laid aside His garments, took the water and the towel and washed His disciples feet. The work of the meanest slave, voluntarily and spontaneously undertaken. Yet again, this incident is set before us as an example. ‘If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet: ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.’ (John 13 : 14-15). As we contemplate the glory of the Lord’s humility, the Holy Spirit can change us into that likeness. ‘But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ (2 Cor. 3 : 18). His exercise of His control over our lives is our only hope of reflecting the glory of His humility as we yield our lives to Him. ‘Yield yourselves .. as instruments.’ (Rom. 6 : 13).
We are to trust in the power of the Spirit of Christ within us to give us the power of humility. The power to forsake pride, self-esteem, rights, reputation, ambition and even the fear of shame. The power to obey Christ in the service of our fellows, even when the task is mean, monotonous and unglamorous. When no one even notices, compliments or rewards the effort. When the task is considered by others to be beneath their dignity. To continue when one is criticized because other consciences are pricked! That humility which is the power to do ANYTHING necessary for obedience to the Lord and the welfare of His people, and does it eagerly and without prompting or praise.
‘Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (servant); and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (slave): even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (serve).’ (Malt. 20 : 26-28).
‘He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.’ (Matt. 23 : 11-12).
Retrospection at the end of each year brings with it, as always, a sense of sadness as we survey the misery, grief and sorrow, caused by the wickedness of man — the anguish and dark despair resulting from man’s rebellion, whether open or secret, against God.
The categories of sin in Romans 1 and the amazing parallel in the last days, as foretold by Paul the apostle in II Timothy 3, clearly indicate that the passage of time, however long, does not change the human heart.
Yet it must be acknowledged, prevailing conditions do have their effect on God’s people. The words of the Lord Jesus spring readily to mind "and because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24 : 12). We do well to heed the warning.
Like the dark days of the judges, however, the conditions only serve as a black background against which God will display His grace. The clearest witness to this surely is the preaching of the Gospel to this latest hour and God in His long suffering giving man space to repent.
We are grateful to God in His patience to us. Such is His goodness that He deserves infinitely more from us than He demands from us.
We recall His faithfulness throughout another year of Assembly Testimony and wish to express our appreciation for all the helpful contributions by our brethren — such contributions involve, time, study and thought.
Our thanks go to the saints who help in the maintaining of the magazine by their practical fellowship.
We are also grateful for the continuing assistance of our brother Robert Martin who so ably "gives account" for us. To the editor (for whom wepray for a full recovery from his recent illness) and to the assistant editor, and secretary who give so diligently of their time, we record our gratitude.
As we enter another year in the will of God, we trust, that the ministry contained in the Assembly Testimony will continue to preserve and edify His people in Assembly gatherings until He come.
THOUGHTS OF CHRIST
(for the busy Housewife) No. 3
by Eric G. Parmenter, Clevedon
The many afflictions and sorrows which compassed the Saviour on earth added no new qualities to Him, they only served to reveal that which was already inherent in Him. The meekness which the Lord manifested on the cross, or in Pilate’s Judgement Hall, was not more perfect than that which marked Him as He grew up beneath the care of Joseph and Mary when "He went down with them . . . and was subject to them" sharing their low estate.
Moses was the meekest of men, and yet in meekness failed, speaking inadvisedly with his lips: John, the beloved disciple, who so well appreciated the value of love, was one of them who wished to call down fire from heaven; but our beloved Lord, under all circumstances was ever the same. The unchanging and unchangeable Christ.
The exhibitions of the meekness of Christ were all in the power of the Holy Spirit. Every word spoken, every feeling expressed was in that power and when He was searched by the fires of Calvary God delighted in a purity that was perfect in its fragance — His motives were pure, His service was fragrant. God alone evaluated and gave a true assessment of the worth of Jesus the perfect servant "Behold My Servant, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth."
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (43)
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"O LORD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH AND SEA"
CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH (1807 — 1885)
The congregation of the little country parish church at Stand-ford-in-the-Vale cum Goosey in Berkshire, England, had been very niggardly in their giving and week by week the collections remained meagre. At length and with exercise of heart, their minister, Christopher Wordsworth spoke to them of the duty and privilege of giving and finally decided to write for them a hymn. The hymn, consisting originally of nine stanzas, was sung repeatedly in that little Berkshire church and besides achieving a very practical outcome, has come down to us in all its richness and beauty,
- "O Lord of heaven, and earth, and sea,
- To Thee all praise and glory be;
- How shall we show our love to Thee,
- Giver of all?
- The golden sunshine, vernal air,
- Sweet flowers and fruits, Thy love declare;
- Where harvests ripen, Thou art there,
- Giver of all.
- Thou didst not spare Thine only Son,
- But gav’st Him for a world undone;
- And freely with that blessed One
- Thou givest all.
- We lose what on ourselves we spend,
- We have as treasure without end
- Whatever, Lord, to Thee we lend,
- Who givest all.
- Whatever, Lord, we lend to Thee
- Repaid a thousandfold will be;
- Then gladly will we give to Thee,
- Giver of all."
Christopher Wordsworth was the nephew of the famous poet-laureate, William Wordsworth, and the son of Christopher and Priscilla Wordsworth. He was born on October 30th, 1807 at Lambeth, the youngest of three brothers, all of whom in later years gained high distinction as prize men at their universities. Christopher’s education was first at Winchester and later at Trinity College, Cambridge. He matriculated at Trinity College in 1826 and following a brilliant career there, in which he carried off an unprecedented number of university and college prizes, graduted with many honours in 1830. On graduation he was elected a Fellow of the College and engaged as Classical Lecturer and in 1836 was chosen as Public Orator for the university. During his Trinity days, he travelled widely in Greece and the record of his travels he published in his "Athens and Attica" (1836).
In 1836, Wordsworth was elected Headmaster of Harrow School, an outstanding distinction for someone still under 30 years of age. In 1844, he was appointed by Sir Robert Peel as Canon of Westminster and two years later, he accepted the living of Stand-ford-in-the-Vale cum Goosey where for 19 years he ministered faithfully as vicar in that quiet parish in Berkshire. In 1869, he was elected Bishop of Lincoln, a post which he held for 15 years, resigning just a few months before his death on the 21st March, 1885.
Christopher Wordsworth has been described as, "a fine scholar, a great and good man." He was renowned as the most celebrated Greek scholar of his day, and with an enormous working capacity he became a prolific writer. In 1851, he published his "Memoirs of William Wordsworth," a fitting record of the great poet of Rydal Mount with whom he had kept in close touch over the years by visitation and by pen right up till his uncle’s death in 1850. His monumental work "A Commentary on the whole Bible," which might have been a long life’s labour for any scholar, was completed in the years 1856 — 1870, and in this notable commentary Wordsworth makes scripture interpret scripture. Other publications appeared with regularity and included, besides books, volumes of sermons, tracts, pamphlets, letters, addresses and speeches.
As a hymnwriter, Christopher Wordsworth contributed with distinction. He regarded, "the first duty of a hymn-writer to teach sound doctrine." The subject matter of his verse was varied and he wrote hymns for almost every season of the church’s year. These he compiled and published in 1862 as "The Holy Year" which was in essence a calendar of hymns containing 117 of his own compos-tions and 82 hymns from other sources. Francis Arthur Jones says of Wordsworth that he "wrote his hymns at all sorts of odd moments and in all sorts of places — in the train, riding or during a walk. If at night he was unable to sleep, he would get up and compose a few verses. The hymns were written on the backs of envelopes, small scraps of sermon paper or even on the margin of the book he happened to be reading. He was an extremely rapid writer but spared no pains in correcting till the composition satisfied him."
Of Wordsworth, as a hymnwriter and as a man, John Ellerton has this to say, "Christopher Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln, is one of whom we certainly do not just think as a writer of hymns but as a great scholar, a diligent and careful expositor, an accurate theologian and controversialist, a great and wise ruler in the church and a most holy, humble, loving, self-denying man. And the man is reflected in his verse. To read one of his best hymns is to look into a plain face, without one striking feature, but with an irresistible charm of honesty, intelligence and affection."
Great hymns full of great truth have come from Wordsworth’s pen, and include:
- "See the Conqueror mounts in triumph," telling of the glorious ascension of the Lord Jesus
- "Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost," paraphrasing the apostle Paul’s great chapter on love (1 Cor. 13)
- "The Galilean Fishers toil," portraying the Lord Jesus, coming, as of old, in the dark experiences of life
- "O Day of rest and gladness," speaking of the blessedness and beauty of the Lord’s day and
- "Hark! the sound of holy voices," picturing the redeemed of the ages, beyond tribulation and engaged in triumphant song.
"O Lord of heaven and earth and sea" is Wordsworth’s best known hymn. In it, he speaks of the greatness and of the goodness of God. All creation, daily and in every land, are the recipients of His beneficence. Egerton Young, who opened up the Nelson river district with the gospel was one day surrounded by 300 wild Indians. He read aloud to them and for some four hours expounded the sublime truth of John 3:16 that, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Their hearts were touched. They had never heard it before. When he had finished the principal chief stepped forward and spoke, "Missionary," he said, "God… I see His goodness in giving us the moose, the reindeer, the beaver and the bear. I see His loving-kindness in sending us, when the south winds blow, the ducks and geese; and when the snow and ice melt away, and our lakes and rivers are open again, I see how He fills them with fish. I have watched all this for years, and I have felt that the Great Spirit, so kind and watchful and loving … but what you have just said fills my heart and satisfies my longing….."
Truly God is the "giver of All" — of this there can be no dispute for He has given His Son and "how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8 v. 32).
Such beneficence can never be fully repaid. Nevertheless, our hearts have been touched by’its bounty and would like to give something in return. Whatever we give,1 however, is merely a sending back of what God has already given to us. David, at the close of life, after he had poured out all his treasure unto the Lord freely admitted, "For all things come of Thee, and of thine own have we given Thee" (1 Chr. 29 : 14), "O Lord our God, all this store … cometh of thine hand and is all thine own." (1 Chr. 29 :16).
Nor is God only the Great Giver. He will yet be the great Recompenser.
- "Whatever, Lord, we lend to Thee
- Repaid a thousandfold will be;
- Then gladly will we give to Thee,
- Giver of all."
A Spiritual House
- A thousand pebbles on the beach
- And never two the same
- There is a difference in each
- Of shape and size and name.
- Each has its own identity.
- A texture of its own.
- An individual history.
- All on the beach were thrown.
- The saints of God are on the shore.
- Secured by Jesus’ blood.
- Sheltered by Him for evermore.
- Safe from the raging flood.
- Each have a personality
- And different background too.
- A gift of varied quality.
- A special work to do.
- The Master-builder sees each stone
- Which has passed through the sea.
- He has a place for every one
- Where He would have them be.
- A glorious dwelling place today,
- Where each His Lordship owns,
- And truth and righteousness display.
- Composed of living stones.
THOU ART THE SAME
- Pole and pole, circled Equator,
- Measured earth, by the Creator, .;
- Fish, Fowl, beasts, stars in their courses
- Acknowledge Who wrought their resources.
- He Who stretched out the curtained skies
- Confounds the wisdom of the wise.
- He Who made; me so fearfully,
- Together, fashioned wondrously,
- Who by His power all things upholds, .
- Preserves theflocks within their folds,
- Call His Own sheep, the stars by name,
- Of Him ’tis said ‘Thou art the Same,
- Yesterday, today, forever
- I AM the LORD, I change not" – never
– JOHN GLENVILLE