CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by John B. D. Page
ISAIAH’S PORTRAITS OF CHRIST
by J. Flanigan
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
THE PROPHECY OF JONAH
by E. R Bower
by J. E. Todd
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
by Anthony Orsint
by E. W. Rogers
THOUGHTS OF CHRIST
by Erie G. Parmenter
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by Jack Strahan
"Behold how good and how pleasant it is tor brethren to dwell together in unity". So said the writer of Psalm 133. He adds "It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments; like the dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountain of Zion". In other words, brethren dwelling together in unity is an odour of the fragrance of the moral virtues of Christ, so satisfying to the nostrils of God. It is also like the all-enveloping dew of the Holy Spirit of God, refreshing and revitalizing all who are surrounded by it. The order of the psalm in the context suggests that this good and pleasant thing can be best enjoyed when the saints gather in "a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob". (Psalm 132.5) which leads on to "the servants of the Lord, standing in the house of the Lord, lifting up their hands in the sanctuary". (Psalm 134). This is the glorious climax of the "Psalms of the goings up".
This precious harmony, fellowship, unity of the saints should be enjoyed and cultivated by all the Lord’s people, hence we are to keep (not make) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace — walking worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love (Eph. 4.1 -3). We are, by way of contrast, warned: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord, looking diligently … lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you and thereby many be defiled (Hebrews 12.14,15).
Nothing gives the enemy more joy than marring what God has wrought; defiling what God has declared holy, dividing what He has joined together. Dividing the saints from within has always been more effective than seeking to destroy them from without! Paul enjoins all the saints in Rome (the church in the house of Priscilla and Aquilla, Romans 16.5) "Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermes and the brethren which are with them" (v. 14) Philologos, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympus, and all the saints which are with them" (v.15) — to "salute one another with a holy kiss". Then adds "Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which are causing divisions and occasions of stumbling contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them (turn away from them) for they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ". Stand together, strive together, work together, praise together, worship together — do not divide! For our encouragement the Spirit of God adds the promise "the God of Peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly". The enemy, the original cause of all strife and disunity is doomed to eternal punishment, the Lord and His saints will eternally triumph. He is coming! Let us stand together "Till He comes".
I would like to wish all my readers the Lord’s Richest Blessing throughout the coming year or Till He come"!
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE INCOMPARABLE CHRIST (v)
Reading : Revelation 22.16f.
THE BRIGHT AND MORNING STAR
On a clear night, it is estimated that over 2,000 stars may be seen with the naked eye, and yet it is said that "Lord Kelvin calculated mathematically, there ought to be 1,000 million stars in the universe", although astronomers believe there are many more than that number.
Astronomy is not a new science. Jewish tradition, according to Josephus, assures us that Bible astronomy was invented by Adam, Seth and Enoch. Even during the patriarchal period, men grouped stars under various names and named some individually according to the Scriptures (Job 9.9; 38.31ff). In those primeval times, did God communicate the names to them? "The Lord", says the Psalmist, "telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names" — little wonder that he adds, "His understanding is infinite"! (Psa. 147.4ff; cp. Isa. 40.26).
Stars vary considerably in size. Compared with the sun, some stars are much bigger whilst others are fractional in size, and they all differ in distance from the sun. They are different from one another in temperature and luminosity, for some are brighter than ; others. In colour, they range from blue to white, yellow and red. Paul rightly says, "one star differeth from another in glory" (1 Cor. 15.41), whilst David, gazing upwards at a night sky, says, "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psa. 19.1).
In the scriptures, stars are sometimes used illustratively. For instance, for conveying to Abraham his innumerable progeny, the Lord said to him, "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven" (Gen. 22.17). Again, Jude (v. 13) likens false teachers to "wandering stars", probably alluding to meteors, commonly called shooting stars, which flash across the sky instead of keeping to a set orbit.
Like other luminaries in the sky, God intended that the stars should be for "signs" besides other purposes (Gen. 1.14). Consequently, shortly after the birth of the Lord Jesus, "His star in the east" was seen as a sign (Matt. 2.2). At Messiah’s second coming with the saints to the earth, "there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars" (Luke 21.25), for "the stars shall withdraw their shining" (Joel 3.15) and even "fall from heaven" (Matt. 24.29).
In view of the many times stars are mentioned in the scriptures, it is not surprising that the glorified Lord designates to Himself a stellar title. For understanding its significance, some help may be derived from a few facts about the solar system, which consists of nine Major Planets, of which the first four, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, being relatively near the sun, form an inner group whilst the remaining five, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, are considerably further away. They all differ from one another in size and in distance from the sun, around which they orbit elliptically. It is one of the inner planets, Venus, which has been known for centuries as the morning and evening star, and this planet is about 67 million miles from the sun compared with the Earth’s 93 million miles besides being a little smaller than the Earth. Only one side of this planet always faces the sun, whilst the other is in continuous darkness. It’s lit up surface is as white as snow with some points and patches brighter than others. It is visible before the other two inner planets, Mercury and Mars, shining brightly in the morning and again in the evening. Alluding to Venus but without naming it, Christ describes Himself to the seer as "the Bright and Morning Star".
The Lord Jesus was not first in adopting this metaphorical title. In the ancient world, Venus was known as Lucifer, meaning ‘morning star’, ‘light-bearer’ and ‘shining one’, and it was worshipped by the Babylonians under the name, Ishtar. In describing the fall of the king of Babylon, Isaiah (14.12a) exclaims, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! …" the latter part of which may be rendered literally, according to one commentator, ‘O bright shining one, son of the dawn!’ Such language (like that of verses 12b—15) appears to be symbolic not only of the Babylonian monarch’s downfall but descriptive of the fall of Satan (Luke 10.18; cp. Rev. 12.8ff) as several writers suggest.
As Creator of all angels, God did not create Satan as such but, through his fall, he became the Adversary of God and of men. This is borne out in Studies in Isaiah, where F.C. Jennings says, "no ‘Satan’ could or did God make, but a brilliantly shining one, the very ‘Star of the Morning’, amid the hosts of heaven". When Lucifer said boastfully in his heart, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God (i.e., above other angels)… and be like the Most High", then such a proud challenge to his Creator meant his downfall (Isa. 14.13ff). Consequently, he is no longer a ‘shining one’, but he has become ‘the prince of darkness’ although he masquerades as ‘an angel of light’ (2 Cor. 11.14).
Turning now to Messiah’s claim to this title, by which Satan was known before his fall, it may help to quote C. F. Jennings again but this time in extenso, "the name of the bright and morning star, belonging to him whom we have known as the very antithesis of light and hopefulness, may give rise to a certain sense of resentment, since we know it as justly belonging to Another, who now claims it, and in whom all light and hope for our race is focused — Jesus, He is for us alone, the Bright and Morning Star". Continuing, he says, "that name of the Bright and Morning Star has been dragged into utter rain by the mighty creature to whom it was first given, but it is lifted therefrom by One who is indeed the true Bright and Morning Star".
In Revelation, this star is mentioned twice, first in a promise to the overcomer in the church at Thyatira: "And he that overcometh, … to him … I will give the morning star" (2.26,28). It is often assumed that "the morning star" here is a synonym for Christ Himself, but this is questionable because this star is said to be given to the overcomer. Therefore, as one writer suggests, there may be the thought of a gift, resembling the morning star, which is promised for the overcomer. In the other reference (22.16), the phrase refers clearly to Christ.
In his Notes on the New Testament, Albert Barnes says, "The ‘morning star’ is that brighter planet — Venus — which at some seasons of the year appears so beautiful in the east, leading on the morning — the harbinger of the day". As this planet is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the stellar heavens, it is a fitting emblem of the One who is "altogether lovely" (S. of S. 5.16). Although His own people, the Jews, saw in Him "no beauty" at His first advent (Isa. 53.2), the day will yet dawn when the veil of unbelief will be removed from their eyes and they will see "the King in His beauty" (Isa. 33.17). In that day, Balaam’s prophecy will be fulfilled, "there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (Num. 24.17), signifying that, as the Star of Jacob, He will exercise supreme authority and, as the Sceptre of Israel, He will rule as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Alluding to the outstanding brightness of Venus, Christ, as the "Morning Star", describes Himself as "bright". In his defence before Agrippa, Paul, recalling his encounter with the glorified Lord on the road to Damascus, says that he saw "at midday … a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun" (Acts 26.13). This means that the brilliance of the Lord’s glory emanating from His Person in heaven outshone the midday oriental sun. Such brightness of His glory is neither derived nor reflected from a source outside of Himself, which is borne out in Hebrews 1.3, where (omitting the italicized pronoun ‘his’ in the English Text) He is said to be "the brightness of glory". The word "brightness" (apaugasma, Greek), occurring only here, means "a shining forth of a light coming from a luminous body" (W. E. Vine), just as all stars are self-luminous bodies and they, unlike the moon, do not reflect the light of the sun. The glory of Christ is really two-fold, for there is His unseen glory that He had before the creation of the world (John 17.5), and there is His manifest glory which God gave Him at His resurrection (John 17.24; 1 Peter 1.21). Therefore, His whole Being is radiant with indescribably bright glory.
As the last rays of sunlight are about to disappear below the horizon, so the evening star shines in the night sky. Significantly, the Lord Jesus refrains from identifying Himself as ‘the Evening Star’. If He had so described Himself, then He would be seen as the harbinger of the night, which is figurative of the tribulation when "darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people" (Isa. 60.2). This is unthinkable, for His coming to the earth will be as light to dispel that darkness.
At the rising of the evening star, the bridegroom and bride went to their wedding, followed by the wedding-feast starting at midnight. Implicit in this eastern custom, the rising of the evening star, which heralds the dark hours of night, may be seen as the signal when the Lord Himself shall come to meet His bride, the Church, in the air and take her into the Father’s house for the marriage feast (1 Thess. 4.16ff; Rev. 19.7-9), because God has not purposed for her to pass through the gross darkness of the tribulation (1 Thess. 1.10; 5.9).
Turning from the bridal chamber to the hills, there is the shepherd who, while the early morning is still dark, watches hopefully for the morning star to appear in the sky. Its bright twinkle assures him that the darkness of night is passing and the first light of day is dawning as the sun rises soon to shine in all its brilliance. This appears to be the underlying imagery of Isaiah 60.1ff where the prophet anticipates Israel’s ascendancy after seven long years of tribulation darkness as he commands the nation, "Arise, shine,…" and the reason for the command follows, "for thy Light is come". The word "Light", used here figuratively of Christ, may be rendered literally as ‘light-giver’ which may be an allusion to Him as the Morning Star emitting His rays of light into a sin-darkened world. Continuing, the prophet calls out,"… and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee". As the rising sun in the eastern sky sheds forth its rays of light across the oriental countryside, so "the Glory of the Lord", no longer a symbol in the temple as in years of yore, is the personification of the glorified Messiah whose light of glory will rise and shine upon a regenerate Israel, and so ‘His glory shall be seen upon thee’, says Isaiah, which, having never been known before, will be unprecedented.
In The Revelation of Jesus Christ, F. W. Grant says so fittingly, "… as the Old Testament ends with the promise of the ‘Sun of Righteousness’, so the New Testament with that of the ‘Morning Star’. Christ Himself is both, and in both His coming is intimated, but, as is plain, in very different connections. The sun brings the day, flooding the earth with light, and this is in suited connection with the blessing of an earthly people, whose the Old Testament promises are (Rom. 9.4). The morning star heralds the day, but does not bring it: it rises when the earth is still dark, shining as it were for heaven alone. And this to us speaks of our being with Christ before the blessing for the earth comes".
When the Lord Jesus names Himself as "the Bright and Morning Star", then the Bride, whose heart is touched by the Spirit, responds instantly, "Come"! The one who hears the words of this prophecy is exhorted also to say to the Lord beseechingly, ‘Come’!—(To be continued).
by J. FLANIGAN (Belfast)
The contrast between Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 63 is like the contrast between Psalm 22 and Psalm 24, and like the contrast between John 19 and Revelation 19. It is the contrast between the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.
Isaiah 63 opens with a simple (but profound) question — "Who is this?". It is the question which they asked when our Lord was here. It is the question they will ask when He comes again. As He entered the City in lowly meekness, riding on a donkey, they asked, "Who is this?" (Matthew 21.10). When He returns to the City again, the question will be repeated, "Who is this?" (Psalm 24.8-10). It is the question of yesterday and the question of tomorrow. Here, in chapter 63, Isaiah foresees the day of Messiah’s triumph and vindication, and cries, "Who is this?"
The Conqueror is returning from Edom and Bozrah. In other parallel passages it will be Megiddo and Olivet. But there is no discrepancy. From Edom in the south; from Megiddo in the relative north; through Olivet, near to the Jerusalem centre, Messiah will travel in triumph. This is in perfect agreement with Revelation 14.20 — "blood to the horse bridles by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs". Sixteen hundred stadia! One hundred and sixty miles! The length of the Land from Dan to Beersheba! From Olivet to Megiddo and back through to Edom He will ride victoriously, and vanquish His enemies. In our present chapter He is returning from Edom.
"Who is this . . . with dyed garments?" We must not be influenced by a much-loved hymn (Redemption Songs 704): Its sentiments are touchingly beautiful and its language unsurpassed! But its interpretation of Isaiah 63 is a travesty. The blood that stains these garments is not the blood of the cross. This is the blood of Armageddon and Edom. It is not His own blood, but the blood of His enemies. The land has become a winepress. The judgement is a vintage. As grapes are trampled in a winepress so will our Lord tread down His enemies when He returns in glory. As the garments of those who tread the grapes in the winepress are stained with the juice of the trodden grapes, so will His garments, (in figure), be stained with the blood of His crushed foes.
His apparel is glorious. All His garments smell of myrrh; always. What garments He has worn. Swaddling bands in His Infancy; a seamless robe during His ministry; a slave’s apron on that last evening in the Upper Room; a scarlet robe of mockery on that last morning; linen grave clothes in the Tomb. Now, a vesture dipped in blood, bearing the glorious Name — "King of Kings and Lord of Lords". Glorious in His apparel indeed.
He travels in the greatness of His strength. In what apparent weakness did they once see Him upon the cross. A Carpenter crucified! A Galilean nailed to a Tree! Since that day of dishonour the world has not seen Him. He has been hidden in the heavens. A King rejected. A Sovereign in exile. But now He returns in power. His rejection was callous and cruel. His triumph is righteous. This is vindication. He is "mighty to save". He, to Whom they cried, "Save Thyself and us". He, of Whom they said, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save". He comes for the deliverance of His remnant people. He comes to emancipate the land and make it Immanuel’s Land indeed (Isaiah 8.8).
Notice the "aloneness" of the Conqueror. "I have trodden the winepress alone". How often He was "alone" when here on earth. He was "alone" in prayer (Matthew 14.23). He was "alone" in service (Mark 4.10). In the uniqueness of His Sonship too, He was "alone" (Luke 9.18,36). And He was "alone" in suffering (John 16.32). Here in Isaiah 63 He is "alone" again. Alone He treads the winepress. Alone He tramples His enemies in righteous anger. Alone He accomplishes the deliverance of His beleaguered people.
The day of vengeance has come. How graciously, at the commencement of His ministry, had our Lord closed the book in Nazareth, when reading from Isaiah 61. He had not then announced the day of vengeance. It was an acceptable year that He was introducing. It was a day of grace. Appropriately, He had closed the book. But in chapter 63 it is all different. It is the day of vengeance now.
The nations are presently being prepared for that day. Morally, Politically, Religiously, and Commercially, the world is being fashioned for the advent of a Man of Sin and for days of tribulation. We do not look for signs, but if signs there be, we may look at them. Morally, conditions are reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah. Politically, the shadows are large. The kingdoms of Europe with the movements in Israel and the Middle East all point to the end times. Religiously, the deep dark shadows are equally large. Ecumenism and the Charismatic confusion make it easy to believe that the day is not far distant. Commercially too, the amalgamations, the giant corporations, and the monopolies of the business world are suitable preparations for the Dictatorship which is to come. A man will accept from the Devil what Jesus refused (Matthew 4.8-9; Revelation 13.2b). The kingdoms of this world will be dominated by a Satanically inspired Superman. Many of Israel will bow the knee to him and receive his mark. Many of the faithful will be martyred. A remnant of Israel will be trapped, and look as though to be destroyed. But the Deliverer will come.
Armageddon appears to be the places where the armies will gather. The armies of the Beast and of the great Northern Confederacy; the Kings from the East and the King of the South, are all assembled. Suddenly, gloriously, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man appears. Those who are enemies of each other become allied with each other in common enmity against the Lamb. The Lord comes! He crushes them all. The Beast and the false Prophet are taken personally and cast alive into the Lake of Fire.
What triumph. What glory. What victory. Well might Isaiah cry, "Who is this . . . with garments dyed . . . glorious in His apparel.. . travelling in the greatness of His strength . .. mighty to save"!
by J. B.HEWITT.
Substitution is not a scriptural expression, but has been deducted from the phraseology found there. Substitution means "one man taking the place of another, and answering for him". The death of the Lord Jesus was not only redemptive (Eph. 1.7) and thus delivering (Rom. 4.25 RV), but reconciling (Col. 1.21,22 RV) and substitutionary (1 Tim. 2.6). Christ died on "BEHALF" of all, making salvation available for all mankind (Heb. 2.9; 2 Cor. 5.15), and for our sins (1 Cor. 15.3; Gal. 1.4). We proclaim this in the Gospel to the unsaved.
We do not proclaim that Christ died "INSTEAD" of all, because this would at once cancel all individual decision and the response of faith. On the two occasions the Lord spoke of the substitutionary aspect of His death it was to His disciples (Matt. 20.28; Mark 10.45). "A ransom FOR many" in both passages, the preposition "ANTI" is used and expresses the idea of substitution. Its meaning is "in exchange for" as the equivalent of "instead of. This can only apply to those who accept the Lord Jesus as Saviour. He is the Substitute of the believer, and becomes the sinners Substitute once He is received as Saviour.
ILLUSTRATIONS. The earliest record is Genesis 22, where Abraham is tested by God and told to offer his only son on Mount Moriah. A ram was provided in his stead. This foreshadowed Calvary (John 8.56). Peter’s message contains this truth (1 Pet. 2.24; 3.18). In Exodus 13.13 the firstborn of an ass was redeemed with a lamb.
The Israelites of old were taught the truth of substitution in the Levitical offerings. "It shall be accepted for him" (in his stead); to make an atonement for him". (Lev. 1.4). The offering was accepted for the offerer (v.4). He was accepted in his representative and so are we (Eph. 1.6). The day of atonement (Lev. 16) impresses this truth upon us. Two goats were presented before the Lord, the one was Jehovah’s but the other was for the people. The goat that was killed and its blood sprinkled upon and before the mercy seat makes propitiation before the eyes of God (v. 15). The transference of the sins to the head of the scapegoat illustrates substitution (v.21,22).
Isaiah ch.53 is one of the clearest portions on substitution where the Lord Jesus is the suffering Substitute (Acts 8.32-35). The language used is very impressive, "wounded, bruised", our iniquities upon Him, silent in suffering, "an offering for sin". "He bare the sin of many", and "numbered with the transgressors".
IMPORTANCE. Substitution in relation to other aspects of the death of Christ holds a prominent place in N.T. teaching. Apostolic teaching stresses this aspect of His death. It is attested in the preaching of Peter and Paul. The glory of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15.3). He was made sin for us (instead of us) (2 Cor. 5.21).
Philip made clear to the Eunuch the meaning of the death of Christ (Acts 8.32,37). Substitution is the actual bearing of the sins of all who believe (1 Cor. 15.3; Gal. 1.4; Heb. 10.12). Paul taught it was for all (2 Cor. 5.15; 1 Tim. 2.6). The Hebrew letter similarly (ch. 2.9,14,15). He was the substitute for all believers (Rom. 5.8; Gal. 2.20). He bore the judgement due to our sins (Rom. 3.25; 5.9; 1 Cor. 5.7).
Think of some of the many blessings procured for us because He is our Substitute "Justified from all things" (Acts 13.38,39), "redemption" and "the forgiveness of sins" (Eph. 1.7). An eternal .redemption and inheritance (Heb. 9.12,15). His priestly work in heaven for us (Heb. 2.17; 4.14-16; 7.26; 8.2; 9.24). We have access to God (Eph. 2.18; Heb. 10.19,20). A living hope and an inheritance (1 Peter 1.3,4).
Thus we preach propitiation to sinners (Rom. 3.25) and TEACH substitution to believers (1 Cor. 15.3; 2Cor. 5.15; Gal. 2.20).
- Blest morning! whose first dawning rays
- Behold the Son of God
- Arise triumphant from the grave,
- and leave His dark abode
- The great Redeemer lay,
- Till the revolving skies had brought
- The third, the appointed day.
- Hell and the grave combined their force
- To hold our Lord, in vain
- Sudden the Conqueror arose,
- And burst their feeble chain.
by E. R. Bower.
No. 2 — CHAPTER 1
V.1. "Now the word of Jehovah came unto Jonah" — a phrase repeated seven times in the book. (1.1; 2.10; 3.1,3; 4.4,9,10) and sufficient to assure us that the book is fact and not fiction; truth and not error; the word of God and not a man composed fable or myth.
V.2. Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness (violence) is come up before Me". Nineveh, on the left bank of the Tigris was the capital of Assyria. We are told that the city was 60 miles in circuit, 20 miles across, and that it was notorious for its violence and its cruelty. Its worship was idolatrous. Later, it would be destroyed, as Nahum, another of the ‘minor’ prophets not only foretold, but described its fall. God takes note of the wickedness of nations, cities and individuals.
V.3. "But Jonah rose up to flee .. .". One of the great ‘buts’ of Scripture. V.2. said, "ARISE, go … and cry", "but Jonah ROSE up to flee". Why should the prophet run away? He later confesses (4.2), "Therefore I hasted to flee . . . for I KNEW that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest of the evil", (or, ‘wickedness’ as in v.2). A word used of injurious works of evil,—especially to others. See 1.2,7,8; 3.8,10; 4.2. Cf. the opening of Nahum’s prophecy. Jonah, who knew the voice and word of God from previous experience, may well have known the purposes of God concerning Assyria;as the sword of God to bring judgement upon Israel, and in his. view, Ninevah’s destruction would be Israel’s salvation. Jonah does not appear to be the coward that some would make him. His rebellion against the command of God was the work of a misled hero; willing to disobey in order to save his people, and knowing that his own life might be in danger, or forfeit. Jonah was, and is, not the only one to attempt frustrate or advance the purposes of God. Cf. Abraham and Jacob, for instance. The thought creeps in that Jonah used his knowledge of the mercy of God as a comfort for his own disobedience. He was fleeing "from the presence of the Lord" (or, "from the face of Jehovah"), and we remind ourselves that when Adam fell, he was driven from Eden’s garden, and God "placed (or caused to dwell, or tabernacle) . . . Cherubims, and the flaming sword which turned every way to keep (or, preserve) the tree of life". Here was a Tabernacle at which Cain could worship, but "he went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod (wandering)". Thus, Jonah. Note the repetition of the phrase and also v. 10. Here is an emphasis upon the attitude of Jonah. From a mistaken patriotism (and he sees but his own point of view) he was willing to forsake the presence of God and the place where He was worshipped, as well as the people who were God’s people, and perhaps more importantly from a ‘Gospel’ point of view, he was forsaking those under the threat of judgement
V.4. "But" — in v.3 it was the ‘but’ of Jonah — plans of ‘mice and men’. Here, it is the ‘but’ of God who rules in the kingdoms of men. God sent out (or, cast down) a great wind into the sea. "Cast down" occurs four times in this first chapter (vv.4,5,12,15). Cf. the wind of Dan. 7.2. "Great" is one of the key words of this book where we see added to this great wind, a great city (1.2; 3.2,3; 4.11); a great tempest (1.4; (mighty): 1.12); and a great fish (1.17).
V.5. Another ‘but’ — the ‘but’ of disregard. "Mariners" — ‘salts’, cf modern usage.
V.6. "Call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us" — the captain’s recognition of Jonah as a worshipper of "the God" — how hardly are God’s men hidden! Is there a note of doubt in the captain’s "If…"?
V.7. "the lot fell upon Jonah". Men may cast lots, but it is God who determined the issues.
V.9. "I am an Hebrew; and I fear Jehovah the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land". "I am an Hebrew" answers the last three questions of the sailors, and the words, "I fear Jehovah" answers the first two questions. Jonah’s words do not give his real reason, his true answer which we see in 4.1-3. In any case the sailors knew (v. 10). Jonah was about to experience the works of Him who "made the sea". The wonders of the deep (Ps. 107.23-31) are to be shewn to him!
V.11. Even in the face of a sea "going on and raging" (margin) the sailors sought an answer to their own dilemma. If Jonah was running away from his God, then let Jonah, find and give the answer!
V.12. "Take me up… for I know…". Open confession is good for the soul. At last he knew the real cost of his journey was far greater than his fare (v.3). Count the cost before going counter to the will of God.
V.13. Human kindness and comradeship is exemplified by the sailors — the art of ‘pulling together’ as they ‘digged Hard’ (cf. Eng. ‘ploughing the main’ for a similar metaphor. These men shewed by their action more kindness than this "man of God". They were willing to save just one man; he was unwilling to aid the thousands of Ninevah when it was in his hands to do just that.
V.14. Human efforts fail. The men forsake their gods (v.5) and cry to Jehovah, — not for themselves, but for Jonah. Cf. the use of the phrase ‘innocent blood’ — Matt. 27.4 for instance!
V.15. A calm sea; a fear of Jehovah with sacrifices and vows. Cf. Matt. 8.26-27. What a story these men had to tell in later years!
V.17. "Now the Lord had prepared (appointed) a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights". Note the four ‘appointed’ things of the book. The great fish (1.17); a gourd (4.6); a worm (4.7); and ah east wind (4.8). We might give the heading of "Great preparation" to this chapter. The story of Jonah is a short one and it has taxed the credulity of many. The story is also, seemingly, a simple one, yet not as simple as may appear on the surface. It is the story Of a man of God who tried running away from God. It is the story of human emotions and traits. One man running away, at his own. confession, from the presence of God brought into play some of the Divine resources just as Israel might remember their deliverance from Egypt. We see a ship master leaving his post to seek a sleeping passenger; frightened sailors calling upon their gods;’ raging elements all combine to make a vivid picture. We see the superstition and the search for a scapegoat; we see the fel-lowfeeling of men in peril. Behind the picture, the preparations of God, both in the short term and in the long term, whether on behalf of Jonah, the sailors, or Nineveh, or the anticipation of the coming of His Son also with a message to a people threatened with judgement.
In the runaway path of the fleeing man of God, there came at the behest of God, a mighty wind and storm, a great fish, a gourd, a worm and an east wind. From the whale to the worm!
The sign of the prophet Jonah stands out as one of the O.T. signs which God gave to His people — and to a world.
Perhaps it is not entirely irrelevant to call to mind the words of Heb. 10.5, "Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me" — in itself a variant of Ps. 40.6, the Resurrection Psalm of the Obedient Servant.
(to be continued).
by J. E. TODD
Ambition is the strong desire to achieve a set purpose. On the one hand ambition, being a thing, is,of itself neither good nor bad, its morality depends upon the aim of the ambition. But on the other hand a life without ambition drifts aimlessly, it is ambition which gives to a life movement and direction.
Our Lord lived a life of dedicated ambition, ‘Then said I, "Lo, I come … to do thy will, 0 God’" (Heb. 10.7). He pursued this ambition with such dedication that, while still young in earthly years, He hung upon a cross atoning for our sins. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down for myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father’ (John 10.17-18).
What should be my ambition as a follower of the Lord? Paul concisely stated the Christian’s ambition, "For to me to live is Christ’ (Phil. 1.21).
An ambition consists of three parts. First, the aim, the ‘what’ of ambition. What is it that I am to achieve? Ambition must have a clearly defined aim. Second, the motive, the ‘why’ of ambition. We could perhaps achieve many, objectives, but these never become ambitions, because we have no desire to achieve them. There must be a compelling reason moving us to take up the aim as a personal ambition. Third, the means, the ‘how’ of ambition. If we do not possess the means to achieve the ambition it must remain an unfulfilled dream.
In the text we have quoted, ‘For to me to live is Christ’, we have the aim, the motive and the means of the Christian’s ambition contained in one concise statement.
First, the aim of the Christian’s ambition, ‘For to me to live is Christ’, for me the object of living is to be Christlike. Paul said, ‘For whom He (God) did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son’ (Rom. 8.29). Peter said, ‘Christ… leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps (1 Pet. 2.21). John said, ‘Because as He (Christ) is, so are we in this world’ (1 John 4.17). But what precisely was our Lord Jesus Christ like? ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth’ (John 1.14). His unique character was the perfect blend of grace and truth. Truth is the positive righteousness which cannot compromise with sin, it is absolute in its purity, honesty and integrity. But such a righteousness alone could be cold, hard, legalistic, proud and fault-finding with others. But with our Lord that absolute truth, that sinless righteousness, was combined with grace. Graciousness is warm, kind, understanding and sympathetic. This is the character of the Lord, that blending of grace and truth which is goodness. The Christian’s ambition is to be good and to do good, ‘For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness’ (Eph. 5.9).
Second, the motive which moves the Christian towards his ambition, ‘For to me to live is Christ’, for me the reason for living such a life is the Lord Jesus Christ. "For the love of Christ constrained! us’ (2 Cor. 5.14). It is the greatness of Christ’s love for us which moves us to live for Him. Charles Wesley described the greatness of that love:—
- ‘Amazing love! how can it be
- That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!’
Isaac Watts describes the constraining power of that love:—
- ‘Were the whole realm of nature mine,
- That were an offering far too small;
- Love so amazing, so divine,
- Demands my soul, my life, my all’.
When we come to the Lord’s table and admire the love of Christ and rejoice in it, that is excellent, but that love has still fallen short of its objective for us. Not until that love moves us to live for Christ does it achieve its purpose. ‘He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect,… as He is, so are we in this world… We love Him, because He first loved us’ (1 John 4.16-19).
Third, the means of achieving the Christian ambition, ‘For to me to live is Christ’, for me to live such a life requires Christ living in me. T in them’ (John 17.23,26), said our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘That He (God) would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith’ (Eph. 3.16-17). Our weak human nature could never live up to the standards of divine righteousness as expressed in the life of Christ. The Lord not only bore away the penalty of our sins in His death, He also rose again. Now He lives in each believer by His Spirit, so that the Christian can now live by faith, not faith in his own weak nature, but faith in the Spirit of Christ. Thus, and only thus, is the Christian able to fulfil the divine standard of love as expressed in the life of Christ. Jesus said, when He addressed His Father, "That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them’ (John 17.26).
It would be a waste of time for a person to spend years of his life training to be an engineer when his ambition was to become a doctor. If a great ambition is to be achieved, all else must take second place, nothing must be allowed to divert from the great goal. As a Christian, do you have a great ambition in life? If so, what is that ambition? Paul, as a Christian, was crystal clear on his part, ‘For to me to live is Christ’.
- The more love we give away, the more we have.
- Counting time is not as important as making time count.
- The resurrection assures what Calvary secures.
- Feelings are no substitute for facts and faith.
- He who forgives ends the quarrel.
- There is only one way to avoid criticism; say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.
- The harder you work at what you should be, the less you’ll
- try to hide what you are.
- —Anthony Orsini.
by E. W. ROGERS
The Inspiration of Scripture — Part 1
In all matters of interpretation, words are of the utmost importance. A lawyer, in interpreting the document before him, is not guided by what it is suggested the person concerned intended, but by what he actually has written. The words of the document count for everything; all else for nothing.
This is so in interpreting the Scriptures of Truth. Its words, the numbers of the words, whether singular, dual or plural, the tenses, genders and every other detail have to be weighed and considered. Conclusions reached should be deduced from what the Scriptures say, not from what others say of them. Seeing, therefore, that life’s real success and security for the eternal future are contingent upon obedient observance of the words of Scripture, it becomes a matter of vital importance to be assured that such words are accurate and dependable, that they are free from all error, and that they really present perfectly the message of God to man.
It is hot sufficient to affirm that the thoughts are inspired though the words are not, for if the words be faulty the thoughts cannot be accurately conveyed. Nothing short of verbal inspiration will suffice. Plenary inspiration is essential. Precise thought can only be conveyed in precise words.
It needs, however, a properly adjusted mind to receive the revelation, for precise thoughts-conveyed in precise words to a distorted or darkened mind fail to achieve anything of lasting good. The message can only be discerned by those who have the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2.14).
RELIABLE AND AUTHORITATIVE
To affirm the verbal inspiration of Scripture is to acknowledge ‘ that that book is a reliable and authoritative source of information pertaining to matters beyond human discovery; it morally binds the one who holds this doctrine to implicit and total obedience to its precepts; it gives confidence in its promises; it produces fear of its warnings. If the book be verbally inspired by the living God, it is the voice of the living God and cannot be ignored with impunity.
INSPIRATION NOT DICTATION
What then is inspiration? It is that process which resulted in a perfectly accurate and authoritative compilation of literature which everywhere bears the hallmark of divine origin. The process will ever remain a mystery. Certainly it is different from the inspiration of a poet, artist or musician.
Moreover, it is not mechanical dictation, for everywhere in Scripture the human element is discernible. As the Lord Jesus, the Word of God, was truly divine and truly human and the two natures were inseparably joined in His One Person, so, too, is the Scripture. The tears and logic of Paul, the zeal of Peter, the mysticism of John and the multitudinous traits of the other penmen of Scripture are manifest in their writings which constitute the book truly human; yet in every part the voice of God is to be heard which shows it to be really divine. Were it mere dictation it would be the word of God minus the characteristics of the human amenuenses, and it would thereby lose much of its value and appeal.
Local circumstances, moreover, gave rise to the writings. Problems and sins in the church at Corinth called for the two letters to it; the fickleness of the Galatians gave rise to their letter (Gal. 1.6); the misunderstanding of the Thessalonians afforded Paul occasion to write to them (2 Thess. 2.2), and so on.
COMMON DIVINE SOURCE
"Men from God spake as they were borne along (as ships are driven by the wind at sea) by the Spirit of God". (2 Pet. 1.21). Their writings were not the result of an independent decision to compose an essay or write a letter. They did not spring from the "will of man". They all had a common divine source, and, in consequence, each becomes an integral part of the whole. No penman could, therefore, claim an exclusive monopoly to interpret or explain his own writing, for, as a matter of fact, some of them failed to understand what they had written and had to search and investigate the meaning thereof. They wrote as reporters, yet also as pupils, and afterwards studied what they had written.
It was the Spirit of Christ who caused each of them to write (1 Peter 1.11). As a result thereof each part is interdependent upon the other, and is explained by it. It is, therefore, the Spirit, not human authorship, Who gives the capacity to interpret Scripture, which capacity every child of God possesses. (1 John 2.27).
‘All Scripture is God breathed and is necessarily ‘profitable’. (2 Tim. 3.16). Not merely was it God-breathed originally, but it always retains that living quality. It is, as another has said, still warm with the breath of God. Old and New Testaments are alike in this, for the phrase used by Paul covers the whole volume. The writers were inspired; the Scriptures are inspired. Paul in 1 Cor. 2. vv.9-16 discusses the general question of the origin of his writings and what he there says concerning them is true of the whole book. The subject matter was revealed by the Spirit of God in the first instance; it did not spring from sight, hear-say or imagination. The words, too, in which it was communicated were given equally by the Spirit, ‘communicating spiritual things by spiritual means’; and the interpretation thereof is by the same Spirit: ‘they are spiritually discerned’. Revelation, communication and explanation each has its source in Him.
REVELATION FROM GOD
The Scriptures contain information concerning much which, in the nature of the case, man could never discover. Revelation, therefore, is the basis of God’s communication to man. It is this which the rationalist emphatically denies, for he knows that to admit it is to admit the authority and validity of Holy Scriptures. Behind God’s revealing Himself in the Scriptures to man is His great love for fallen man and His longing desire for his recovery. The Scriptures then spring from the heart of God.
The very existence of the Scriptures themselves, as well as their survival despite all the endeavours made to destroy them, is further proof of their superhuman origin and character. They are a homogeneous whole, replete with Divine life which cannot be smothered or destroyed.
Despite variety of date and authorship, circumstances of writing and location of the penmen and many other differences, their unity is, indeed, remarkable. This itself testifies to their divine origin. The absence of any contradiction, notwithstanding the fact that there was no collusion on the part of any of the writers, attests the same.
Yet another evidence is the effect of the Scriptures upon human lives and their general good effect on communities wheresoever they are acknowledged. This declares indubitably that over the whole book may be inscribed the words ‘Thus saith the Lord’ (see 1 Peter 1.23). It has turned savages into saints. (To be continued).
by JOHN HEADING, Aberystwyth
The history of the house of the Lord in the Old Testament can so easily be neglected. If part of the Word of God is neglected, then one’s spiritual life may suffer. And this may further lead to weakness in assembly life and service, but it is only by the Scriptures that we can know this. A vicious circle thus sets in, leading to further weakness. Some local assemblies have lost their spiritual freshness because the Scriptures are not appreciated in their fulness.
In the Old Testament, weakness pertaining to the house of the Lord was quite commonplace. There was only real spiritual prosperity in the days of men such as David, Solomon, Jehoiada the priest, Hezekiah and Josiah. Why was this? Because here were men who were desirous to go back to the beginning, to be followers of Moses and David (2 Chron. 35.4-6). The same may be said of spiritual men today who lead the assemblies in keeping with the truth revealed long ago in New Testament times, avoiding more recent innovations which prove to be so attractive to the flesh.
The prophecy of Joel is essentially prophetical of the last days. But where the house of the Lord is mentioned, we may see a certain correspondence with the local assembly, enabling a typical interpretation to be made, and this is so helpful for spiritual freshness. It is not possible to decide exactly when Joel prophesied, so we cannot fix any definite circumstances in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles that refer to Joel’s prophecy. Suggestions have been made, but the lack of certainty leads to a more general applicability today of the principles contained in the prophecy.
There were things that were lacking in the house, and since this was God’s portion that was missing, He took notice; things had to be restored. Likewise in Paul’s day; he knew that there were things that were wanting in Crete, and he sent Titus to rectify matters (Titus 1.5). Today, when spirituality wanes, it is always God’s portion in Christ that is the first thing to be lost sight of. To those who are spiritually sensitive of heart, in an assembly that is pursuing a downward pathway, the ceaseless round of activity cannot hide the lack of positive adherence to the principles of Acts 2.42, where they "continued stedfastly". For true ministry saintward for edification leads to prayer and worship in the breaking of bread Godward.
This is a characteristic of Old Testament weakness. In Neh. 13.10,11 the tithes had not been brought for the Levites, so they forsook the house of God to return to their own fields to engage in agricultural pursuits.
What was lacking in Joel’s day? "The meat (meal) offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord" (Joel 1.9). The source of these offerings had been spoiled by the invasion of insects (v.4); the harvest had perished (v.l1); the vine had dried up (v.12). There was therefore a great shortage of ingredients for the offerings that would bring pleasure to God. Note that these were not blood sacrifices, as was the burnt offering.
Lev. 2 describes the meat (meal) offering, and the various degrees of burning on the altar, in the oven, the pan and the frying pan. The perfect flour was offered first to God, and then there was a portion to satisfy the priests (v.3). This speaks of the perfect character and life of Christ, tested on earth during the period of His humanity amongst men, and always found perfect, first as a sweet savour to His Father who always watched His Son walking and working here below, and then as a sweet portion for His people throughout the subsequent centuries. In John 4, He experienced physical weakness, yet the Father’s will was fully done. He experienced sorrow on account of the sorrow of others, whether for the two sisters of Lazarus or for the city of Jerusalem over which He wept. He experienced the exceeding sorrow and agony in the garden of Gethsemane, when His soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death. Thus we find in such incidents His infinite capacity to be the only worthy sacrifice when He died on the cross at the end of this period of testing, testing that manifested His perfection.
Thus when a meat (meal) offering was offered in the Old Testament, it was Christ who was before the heart of God, not the mere ritual which by itself could mean nothing. So when the meat (meal) offering was missing from the house of the Lord in Joel’s day, this meant that a portion of Christ was not being reflected to God. Only His Son could satisfy the heart of God, and it is the same today. Ritual, formality and even idolatry imply that those who adhere to such things are not holding the Head, the Son of God. There is nothing for God in such practices. The true offering has been cut off by means of these practices, and it is tragic if any believers are involved. Rather true believers should always realise what the meat offering means, and they should have a ready supply in worship and praise, for there is no lack when the heart is taken up with the Son of God.
As far as the drink offering is concerned, there is no separate description of it given in the Old Testament, as there is of the other offerings. So its significance must be found from the times in which it occurs. In Gen. 35.14, when God promised an extensive seed to Jacob, he poured a drink offering on the pillar of stone which he set up, the place being Bethel, the house of God. This is the only occurrence where the drink offering is not associated with sacrifice. Exodus 29.40 contains the first instruction to the priests; the continual burnt offering was associated with a meal offering and a drink offering at the door of the tabernacle before the Lord, and Num. 28.7 informs us that the drink offering was poured out "in the holy place". Taken together, this means that the place of pouring was just inside the holy place at its entrance. But Exod. 30.9 informs us that no drink offering was to be poured out upon the altar of incense further in the holy place before the vail. The first evidently refers to the Peron and work of the Lord Jesus when on earth, while the latter refers to His present work in heaven in the Father’s presence.
It is remarkable that the Gentile king Artaxerxes knew about the meat (meal) offerings and the drink offerings offered "upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem" in a letter given to Ezra the priest (Ezra 7.17).
The interpretation is now obvious: The antitype of the drink offering is something associated with, but distinct from, the burnt offering aspect of the death of Christ. The burnt offering refers to what was offered, the drink offering to the manner in which the sacrifice was offered, and the meat (meal) offering to the proven worth of the sacrifice. In John 18.4, we read, "Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth", showing the voluntary nature of His submission to the divine will. Paul writes in Phil. 2.7 that He took upon Himself the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; the outworking of this corresponds to the meat (meal) offering, for He was the corn of wheat. But v.8 goes further; "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross". This corresponds to the drink offering, the voluntary pouring out of His life on the altar in keeping with His words, "I lay down my life … I lay it down of myself (John 10.15-18). As the prophet said, "He hath poured out His soul unto death" (Isa. 53.12).
If this is cut off from the house of the Lord, what is there left of Christ in true worship? Thus God looks down to see what exists or what does not exist in each believer’s heart, in each local assembly, and in each denominationalistic church established by men.
—(To be concluded).
(for the busy Housewife) No. 9
by Eric G. Parmenter, Basingstoke
It must have been a moment of deep sorrow to John’s disciples when their master had fallen by the sword of Herod. The one on whom they had been accustomed to lean; had been taken from them and it became a moment of gloom and desolation for them. But there was one to whom they could come in their sorrow, into whose ear they could pour their grief — "They came and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus" (Matthew 14.12). There was not another heart on earth in which they could have found a response of love and sympathy as the heart of the Lord Jesus, He knew all about their sorrow, their loss, how they were feeling it. His ear was ever open, His heart ever ready to soothe and sympathise. "They went and told Jesus".
What tremendous value it is to have one who can really make our joys and sorrows His own. Although we cannot see Him with the natural eye, yet in the simplicity of faith we can go to Him, in all the preciousness and power of His perfect sympathy, and pour out the anguish of a desolate heart, knowing He will dry the tears, soothe the sorrow, heal the wound, fill the empty place. Jesus the perfect Man and sympathising Saviour has room for each and all, no matter when, how, or with what we come, His heart is always open, He will never fail, never disappoint, ‘Come and tell Jesus’.
At this time we often reflect on the faithfulness of God. This is however a two-edged sword. As we look back we can exclaim ‘God is faithful’, and as we look forward we know that, we can expect Him to continue to be so, as long as we remain faithful. If we chose a path of disobedience we should remember that 2 Tim. 2.13 is a warning and not an encouragement to loose living.
The same was true in the Old Testament. Deut. 7.9 reads ‘Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep the : commandments.’ In this chapter it can easily be seen that the Lord expected His people to be separate and distinct from the nations around and from their idolatrous worship. ,
In days of ecumenicity and compromise it behoves us still to tread a path of separation unto Him in order to experience the positive side of His faithfulness. To those who wish to escape every snare that would lead to rejection and loss at the judgement seat of Christ, He proves Himself faithful—1 Cor. 10.13.
With respect to the work of this magazine we can proclaim His faithfulness. The circulation continues in the region of 16,000 copies per issue and even in days of inflation the Lord, through His people, \ meets every need. We see His faithfulness in the labours of our editor (who has made a good recovery, for which we are thankful); his assistant; our secretary; the accountant and others too numerous to mention. Without the free, gratuitous and willing help of these brethren the publication would not be possible. It is surely of His faithfulness that gifted brethren take time to write articles for the encouragement and upbuilding of the saints. This is often a thankless task in a day when critics abound but we know their labours are appreciated in heaven—Heb. 6.10.
Finally we thank all our readers who take time to write their kind words of appreciation. Brethren pray for us, that our labours for the Lord will continue faithfully ’till He come’.
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"COME, THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING"
ROBERT ROBINSON (1735—1790)
One day, towards the close of the 18th century, a gentleman and lady sat side by side in a stage-coach as it rumbled its way through the English countryside. The lady appeared to be occupied with the content of the book in her hand, at times reading from its
open page, at times meditating on what she had just read. She was obviously enjoying her musings, the words of a lovely hymn,
- "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
- Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
- Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
- Call for songs of loudest praise.
- Teach me some melodious measure,
- Sung all flaming tongues above:
- O the vast, the boundless treasure
- Of my Lord’s unchanging love!
- Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
- Hither, by Thy help, I’m come;
- And I hope by Thy good pleasure,
- Safely to arrive at home.
- Jesus sought me when a stranger
- Wandering from the fold of God:
- He, to rescue me from danger,
- Interposed His precious blood.
- O to grace how great a debtor
- Daily I’m constrained to be!
- Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
- Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
- Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;.
- Prone to leave the God I love:
- Take my heart, O take and seal it,
- Seal it for Thy courts above".
She turned to the gentleman, to her a stranger, and sought to interest him in what was obviously delighting her heart. Holding before him the open page she enquired if he knew the hymn. At first he appeared embarrassed, even a little agitated; then he tried to parry her question but she persisted, telling him of the blessing that the words had brought to her own heart. After a period of silence, he burst into tears. "Madam" he said, "I am the poor, unhappy man who composed that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feeling I had then". The gentleman on the stage-coach was Robert Robinson; the hymn was the product of his pen some thirty years previously.
Robert Robinson was born of lowly parents at Swaffham, Norfolk on September 27th, 1735. In his native town he had been a pupil at the "Latin School" and then later in Mildenhall at its Endowed Grammar School where his master pronounced him, "a youth of large capacity, uncommon genius and refined taste". Robert had lost his father when he was eight and thereafter received the devoted care of his widowed mother whose one ambition for her boy was that he might one day become a clergyman in the Church of England. The circumstance of poverty, however, forbade such a pursuit.
As a youth of 14, Robert was apprenticed to a hairdresser in London but this work failed to interest him. He spent most of his time reading books; he was by nature a thoughtful and studious lad. He was besides a wild lad and early in his London days got linked up with a group of ungodly young men who habitually led him into trouble. Indeed, the time came when his deeds so shamed his own family that they refused to be responsibilities for his liabilities.
Then, at the age of 17, an incident happened which completely changed Robert’s whole life. The eventful day was May 24th, 1752, when his companions and he joined together to make sport of an old drunken fortune-teller; they wanted to laugh at her predictions. The old lady told Robinson of his future, that he would live to be a very old man and that he would see many generations of descendants. This prediction so impressed Robinson that he reasoned with himself, "and so, I am to see children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I will then, during my youth, endeavour to store my mind with all kinds of knowledge. I will see and hear and note down everything that is rare and wonderful, that I may sit, when incapable of other employments, and entertain my descendants. Then shall my company be rendered pleasant and I shall be respected, rather than neglected, in old age. Let me see, what can I acquire first? Oh, here is the famous Methodist preacher, White-field; he is to preach here, they say tonight; I will go and hear him".
Robinson went the same evening to the Tabernacle to hear Whitefield who, for that meeting, took as his text Matt. 3.7, "But when he (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, ‘O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’. Mr. Whitefield got to work on his text. He portrayed the Sadducees but his words failed to touch Robinson’s heart for he felt himself to be as good as any other. Then Mr. Whitefield described the Pharisees — ostentatious, seemingly righteous but within their hearts was the poisonous venom of the viper. That description fitted his own condition exactly and the word came as an arrow from God, penetrating deep into his heart. He shuddered. The preacher paused and, lifting up his hand to heaven and with tears flowing down his face, cried as only Mr. Whitefield could, "Oh, my hearers, the wrath to come! the wrath to come!" "Those words", Robinson later recounted to a friend, "sunk into my heart like lead in the water: I wept, and when the sermon was ended retired alone. For days and weeks I could think of little else. Those awful words would follow me wherever I went". Then some three years later, on December 10th, 1755, he "found full and free forgiveness through the precious blood of Jesus Christ". Robinson was then about 20 years of age.
"Jesus sought me when a stranger Wandering from the fold of God: He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood".
After conversion, Robinson took a deep interest in spiritual things. His heart hungered and thirsted for the word of God and for about three years he attended whatever meetings he could in the London area. The ministry of Gill and Wesley he found to be particularly satisfying. Robinson then became a minister of the gospel, first in his native Norfolk with the Calvinistic Methodists at Mildenhall, then for a short period with an Independent congregation at Norwich and in 1759, he moved to the Baptist Church in Cambridge. The latter was Robinson’s most notable ministry.
By 1790, Robinson was worn out and he retired to Birmingham where he passed away June 9th, 1790, at the age of 55. He was found dead in bed. Earlier he had expressed the wish that he might die, "softly, suddenly and alone"; his wish had been granted to him.
Robinson was an interesting personality; his characteristics were very diverse — sincere but unstable as water, able but most impulsive, eccentric though all the while a genius. As a preacher he had extraordinary talent; audiences were held spellbound under his ministry. As a writer he exhibited considerable ability, an able theologian with upwards of thirty publications coming from his pen; his works on the Person of Christ, of His divinity and His death, merited and received the highest acclaim. As a hymnwriter, Robinson wrote some good hymns, a number of them for children; his compositions on the whole were well wrought and judged by critics as, "terse yet melodious, evangelical but not sentimental".
"Come, Thou fount of every blessing" is Robinson’s best known hymn. It was written early in his Christian experience, around the year 1758. He was then about 23 years of age. At that time, he was a young minister in his native Norfolk but in heart was away from the Lord. What was he to do? Should he continue or, in all honesty, should he abandon the Christian ministry? He decided on the latter. Then the words of Psalm 116.7 were directed to his heart, "Return onto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee". An inner struggle ensued and raged until at last his soul "returned to its rest" and he consecrated himself fresh to the Lord. Afterwards, feeling that a record of his experience might be of help to others, he wrote the lines of this hymn. Subsequent history, however, reveals that in later years he again wandered away from the heart of the Lord. He was "prone to wander"; he was "prone to leave". The record tells us though that in life’s eventide, he experienced, as aforetime, the restoring grace of God.
We are all "prone to wander", "prone to leave" the God we love. The bent of the human heart is ever to stray from the pathway of fellowship with God, but over against every human departure and every human wandering there is corresponding and sufficient restoring grace; of that divine grace we all, like Robert Robinson, stand in daily need and to that same grace, we all are daily debtors.
- The LORD of Glory took our frame.
- He stooped, and to the world He came.
- That fallen men in sin and shame
- Might ransomed be.
- The LORD of Heaven became a Man,
- To carry out His Father’s plan
- Devised to reach poor sinful man
- And set him free.
- The LORD of Life went into Death,
- "To bear our sins", the scripture saith.
- A Sinless Sufferer on earth
- "He died for me".
- The LORD of Life, an Empty Tomb,
- Ascended high, a filled Throne,
- Lift up your heads, behold Him come,