CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by J. B. D. Page
by A. M. S. Gooding
THE HEIGHTS OF THE HILLS ARE HIS
by A. Naismith
by E. R. Bower
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
by E. Robinson
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by J. Strahan
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE LAMB IN HEAVEN (i)
Reading: Revelation 4 1-3.
"In chapters 4-5," says Prof. Heading in his commentary on Revelation, From Now to Eternity, "we see within heaven itself." No doubt, these two chapters provide an unparalleled description of heaven in figurative language together with Christ as the Lamb, the Object of heavenly worship.
Briefly, in these two chapters John saw a door opened in heaven and he heard a voice calling to him "Come up hither." Looking intently into heaven, he beheld a throne with its Divine Occupant and four cherubic beings around the throne who were encircled by twenty-four elders, seated and arrayed in white. In front of heaven’s throne, there were seven lamps burning brightly and what seemed to be a crystal clear sea of glass (4.1-11).
With rapt attention, the seer then gazed upon the Lamb, Whom he saw standing in the midst of the four cherubic beings and the twenty-four elders around the throne, whilst this celestial company prostrated themselves in worship to the Lamb. Holding their golden vials filled with burning incense, the elders sang to the accompaniment of their harps a song of praise to the Lamb. Then myriads of angels rendered their paean of praise to the Lamb, and there followed a doxology to Him from all other beings in heaven, on earth and under the earth (5.6-14).
Although many of the Lord’s people enter into the worship of these two chapters, some are perplexed by their symbolical language like that of other chapters in the book. Obviously, the setting is not on earth but in heaven, not the atmospheric or sidereal heavens which were the works of creation but "heaven itself," which is said to be "the presence of God" (Heb. 9.24). Therefore this third heaven should not be thought of as a part of creation and a physical location, because God Himself is uncreated and essentially Spirit (John 4.24). Yet this highest heaven is actual and real, for the Lord Jesus has ascended into it. Of this heaven, the highest of three heavens, John had a glimpse in a vision.
When an assembly elder was asked unexpectedly by a teenage youth, ‘What would heaven be like?’ he was nonplussed and, after a pause, he replied, ‘I don’t know.’ Admittedly, with our finite minds, we are able to relate persons and places to only that which is material and tangible, and it is difficult to describe heaven, which is in the realm of the spiritual, although it is our ultimate destiny and home.
In recording his vision of heaven, the God of heaven and the glorified Christ in heaven, John uses symbolism, drawn from the temple and its ritualism as we shall discover later, for describing that which is celestial and spiritual. To the unrenewed mind, such things are foolishness, but the spiritually minded have the spiritual faculty to interpret and understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2.14f, Col. 1.9)."
Before looking into these celestial mysteries, we may recall that Christ is depicted in chapter 1 as the High Priest, although there He is not seen in heaven.
Complementary to this priestly aspect of Him, He is presented in the 5th chapter as "the Lamb." Priesthood, of course, is incomplete without a sacrifice. Although sacrifice means suffering for the victim as it did for Christ upon the cross, such sacrificial sufferings belong to the past in the Apocalypse. In Revelation, Christ, as the Lamb, is seen not suffering but glorified, not humbled but exalted. The seer sees Him not as He was upon the cross, the Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world, but "the Lamb" as He is now in the midst of the throne in heaven.
A perusal of chapters 4 and 5 and subsequent chapters soon reveals the judicial power vested in the glorified Lamb, which He will use after the rapture of the Church. However, our purpose is to dwell upon not this prophetic aspect but the manifested glory of the Lamb. For an understanding of the celestial setting of the Lamb’s exaltation, the fact should not be ignored that the temple and almost every piece of its furniture is mentioned in this book besides distinct allusions to the ritualism of its services. Furthermore, the word "temple" occurs sixteen times, which is considerably more than its occurrences in many other books. In chapter 7.15 the millennial temple is in view, whilst chapter 11.1f refers to the temple of the tribulation, and in the remaining fourteen references the heavenly temple is seen. Of the two Greek words translated "temple," naos is the one used, meaning ‘sanctuary,’ as distinct from the temple building and the courts. For John, this meant that he peered into the heavenly sanctuary during this and other visions, and the sanctuary atmosphere of the book should be sensed by its readers.
For understanding the under-lying imagery associated with the heavenly temple and the Lamb, we need to realise what was happening in the temple at Jerusalem when Christ died upon the cross, with which John was acquainted.
For centuries, the hour of Christ’s death was foretold by the daily observance of the evening sacrifice (Ex. 29. 38-42, Num. 28.3-8). Likewise, the day of His death was foretold in the annual feast of passover (Lev. 23 : 5). The year, in which Christ would die, was foretold in prophecy (Dan. 9.25f).
According to the gospel record, not only was Daniel’s prophecy fulfilled in respect of the year of Christ’s death, but it was on the day for the feast of passover "at the ninth hour" (i.e. 3.00 p.m.) when "Jesus gave up the ghost" (Mark 14.12 and 15.34,37). The ninth hour was, of course, the time of the evening sacrifice, which was not without significance.
At the ninth hour as the evening sacrifice was being observed in the temple, Christ cried triumphantly "It is finished" (John 19.30), after which He bowed His head in death with His last words addressed to His Father in heaven upon His lips. His victorious cry was an implicit announcement that the work of salvation was then effected and complete. Strikingly, the outreach of salvation is related twice to the ninth hour early in the history of the Church. It was "at the hour of prayer being the ninth hour" when a paralytic Jew was not only healed but saved (Acts 3 : 1-8). Later, again "at the ninth hour" a Gentile was saved (Acts 10.1-3, 30-35). These scriptures show clearly how the evening sacrifice was the occasion first for the accomplishment of the work of salvation upon the cross and then for its subsequent outworking in two sinners, representative of believing Jews and believing Gentiles to constitute the Church (Eph. 2.15f.).
Obviously, John was familiar with these facts and the importance of the evening sacrifice in the Divine reckoning. With several allusions to the evening sacrifice in the Revelation, as we shall find later, it was undoubtedly in John’s thinking and it appears to be the background of this Apocalyptic title, "the Lamb," applied to Christ. Therefore, we need to acquaint ourselves with the procedure and ritualism of the evening sacrifice.
Briefly, for the observance of the "continual burnt offering" as both the morning and evening sacrifices were called (Ex. 29.42), lots were cast for selecting priests to perform the various parts of the service (Luke 1.9, cp. Prov. 16.33). One of the priests, chosen by the casting of lots, cleansed and prepared the altar in the inner court in readiness to receive the slain lamb. Another priest slew the lamb, using a golden bowl to catch its blood which he poured out at the base of the altar, and there may be an allusion to it in chapter 6.9. In the temple, a different priest dressed and lit the lamps of the golden lampstand and cleansed the golden altar (Ex. 30.7f). With these preparations finished, another priest entered the holy place for the burning of incense upon the golden altar, as Zecharias did, and this part of the service was known as "the time of incense" whilst the temple courts outside were filled with worshippers for half an hour of silent prayer (Luke 1.8-10 cp. Rev. 8.1). When this priest withdrew from the solitude of the holy place, other priests conducted audible prayer for the worshippers assembled outside in the courts for half an hour. Hence, these two half-hour sessions of prayer, first silent then audible, were known as "the hour of prayer" (Acts 3.1). Then came the climax of the service when the slain lamb with a meal offering added to it and a drink offering poured upon it (Ex. 29.38-41; Num. 28.3-8) was consumed by fire upon the altar in the inner court. With priests and Levites singing the set psalm for the day, the service ended. This brief resume of what transpired in, the temple when the Lamb of God died as a sacrifice upon the cross may clarify some allusions to the evening sacrifice and elucidate some symbolical terms in the Apocalypse, but the setting is, of course, the heavenly temple.
Turning now to chapter 4 : 1, we read that John, looking heavenwards saw "a door was open in heaven." To understand this statement, we need to recall that when Christ died upon the cross, the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom. But the priest, who stood beside the golden altar with burning incense upon it as part of the evening sacrifice, could not look into the holy of holies through the rent veil, because there was a closed door behind the veil, similar to the gold covered pair of olive wood doors behind the veil in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6.31f, cp. II Chron. 3.14). Having in mind this temple scene and the death of the Lamb of God, John now looked up towards heaven and he saw the door of the heavenly sanctuary open in contrast to the closed door behind the rent veil in the earthly temple.
As the seer gazed heavenwards, he did not see a veil. The purpose of the veil was a God-ordained barrier between the holy place, into which the priests entered, and the holy of holies where God dwelt (Ex. 26.33). This was under the law. The rending of the veil at the death of Christ signified that the veil was no longer a barrier between God and man but a means of access under grace (Heb. 10. 19-22), and the barrier could never be re-imposed either on earth or in heaven. In consequence, John looked beyond the rent veil through the open door into the celestial sanctuary.
"And the first voice which I heard was as it were a trumpet talking with me," says the seer. This trumpet-like voice, which he had already heard (1.10-13), he heard again. It was. undoubtedly, the voice of the Son of Man, arrayed in His Hieh Priestly garments, Whom the seer could not see in the heavenly sanctuary. John heard His clarion call, "Come up hither," which meant that he would be elevated to a higher plane without entering heaven itself. From this vantage point, he would be able to behold the heavenly temple together with its celestial beings and the activities of worship from a distance. Knowing that Solomon’s temple, with which he was fully acquainted from the scriptures, was a "pattern"—a word which means not a ‘plan’ but a ‘model,’ of which the reality is in heaven (II Chron. 28:11f, 19, cp. Ex. 25.9)—he peered into the true temple, which the Lord had built and not man (cp. Heb. 8.2 and 9.8).
As John looked through the open door of the heavenly holy of holies, he saw "a throne was set in heaven" (4.3). A perusal of Revelation reveals that the central feature of the book is not the Cross but the Throne. This is evident from the word "throne" occurring forty times, which is unequalled in any other Old or New Testament book. The earthly counterpart of this throne was found certainly not in a palace or in the second temple. For example, if the priest, who witnessed the rending of the veil when Christ died, had attempted to open the door behind the rent veil, although he would not have dared to do so, he would have found the holy of holies void and dark, because there was no ark of the covenant and no shekinah glory in the second temple. Therefore, the counterpart on earth must be in the first temple, built by Solomon.
In the holy of holies of Solomon’s temple, there was the ark of the covenant, having been the only piece of furniture transferred from the tabernacle into the temple, and the shekinah glory was upon the mercy seat (I Kings 8.6, 10). Returning to John’s vision of a throne in heaven, there appears to be an obvious similarity between the throne in the heavenly temple and the ark in the earthly one. The connection between the two is found in the Old Testament, of which John had an immense knowledge. According to I Chronicles 28.2, David had a heartfelt desire to build a house of rest for "the ark of the covenant of the Lord and (or, even) the footstool of God." If the ark symbolized the footstool of God, as stated here, then the mercy seat upon the ark was pictorial of the throne of God, which is implied in Psalm 99.1, "the Lord reigneth; … He sitteth between the cherubim." Here, the psalmist saw Jehovah reigning and His throne is the mercy seat, upon which He is seated between the two cherubim. Later in the psalm, the psalmist calls upon the people to "worship at His footstool" (v. 5), which is an oblique reference to the ark of the covenant. Although John refers specifically to the ark later in Revelation when he saw "the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of the covenant" (11.19), he beheld the mercy seat in chapter 4.3 as emblematic of the throne of God, as the Old Testament saints understood its significance.
(To be continued).
Of course the Swanwick Conference of some brethren takes place year by year, but my attention has just been drawn to an advertisement in a recent issue of the Christian Herald. It reads thus :
Women will attend the Brethren Swanwick
Under that heading it adds
"For the first time in history, women will be allowed to attend and take part in this year’s Swanwick Conference of Brethren." The advertiser seems to think that is important. He should realise that women have been attending conferences for years, but only in those where disobedience to the word of God is the order of the day do they take part. The Scripture forbids it. He knows, of course, that women attend and take part, even a leading part in the seminars of the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship.
The theme of the Conference is
"Change without decay—a church to meet the needs of the hour" — We remember "The Leaven of Swanwick" and warn again—Beware!
The Speakers will include : Dr. Alistair Noble, Education Officer for B.B.C. Scotland and Keswick Speaker Alan Nute — the names of the women who will take part are not mentioned.
The Conference will discuss community involvement, worship and communicating the Gospel.
The date of the conference will be 27th to 29th September. We notice that details can be obtained from Alan Batchelor, 15 Barncroft, Berkhamstead, Herts (Berkhampstead is also the home of the Secretary of the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship).
If a report of this conference is obtainable I shall review it. I would be very glad to receive unedited tapes of the whole conference if anyone can obtain them.
It would be advantageous, if a report were published, to put the names of those who ask questions and those who answer—Men and women should be prepared to stand by the things they say and not remain anonymous.—The Editor.
by A. NAISMITH
(iii) MOUNT SINAI
Sinai has been for centuries the subject of topographical controversy. Which of the summits in the range of mountains rising from the wilderness of Sinai was the mount from which amid thunders and lightnings, fires and earthquakes, issued the Law of Jehovah? The question has for long been under dispute, but the mass of evidence is in favour of that peak now known as Jebel Musa. ‘The claims of the different mountains of the Sinaitic peninsula to be that from which the law was delivered to Israel have been carefully analysed by one who knows the topographical details better, perhaps, than any other Englishman Col. Sir Charles Wilson, who gives his decision in favour of Jebel Musa, or Moses’ Mount, —a decision which must be accepted as final. It has been shown in detail by this author that all the requirements of the case as described in the Bible are met in their minutest details, if we accept Jebel Musa as the Mount of the Law. In this view the late Professor Palmer concurred.’ This eminence is 7,363 feet high, with a precipitous cliff just under 7,000 feet at its Northern end, and slopes down into a wide valley where Israel’s multitudes might easily have found camping space with their numerous flocks and herds, and from which the summit, except when enveloped in cloud or mist, would have been distinctly visible and the voice of Jehovah clearly heard in the thunder. Dr. F. B. Meyer describes this mountain as ‘a granite mass, deeply cleft with fissures,’ resembling in appearance a hugh altar. He also affirms that ‘all that transpired on its summit would have been easily visible to the furthest limits of the camp of two million souls pitched beneath.’
In the book of Deuteronomy, which means ‘the second statement of the law,’ the place where God unfolded His precepts is, with one exception (Deut. 32.2) consistently designated ‘Horeb,’ which is, at its first mention in Ex. 3.1, called ‘the mountain of God.’ The probable explanation of the difference is that Horeb denotes the whole range of hills while Sinai was the chief summit and the mountain on which Jehovah communicated the Law to Moses.
During the third month after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, the people reached the desert of Sinai (Ex. 19.1) from which place Kadesh-Barnea on the border of Canaan could be reached in eleven days by the Mount Seir route. The wilderness lay at the foot of Sinai and in such close proximity to it that the people could without difficulty appreach and touch the mountain. This Jehovah forbade them to do during the days of His awesome presence there (Ex. 19.12). It was upon Mount Sinai that God’s holy law was given, His covenant with Israel ratified, His sovereignty of Israel’s King recognised and the Levitical hierarchy and ceremonial established. Except for one reference in Judges, one in Nehemiah, and a few in the Psalms, no mention is made of Mount Sinai in the Old Testament Scriptures after the Pentateuch, in which it receives frequent mention. In the New Testament narrative Stephen refers to it in Acts 7.38, and in the New Testament doctrine Paul and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews use it as a figure of the law of Moses which emanated from its summit and of Judaism. (Gal. 4.24-25; Heb. 12.18-20). The only subsequent visit to that mountain-range recorded in Scripture is that of Elijah when Jezebel’s threats put his life in jeopardy. Sinai is thus almost entirely associated with the giving of the Law. It is, in a special sense,
The Mount of Transition
A new epoch began in the story of God’s relationships with men in Ex. 19. Prior to that, the nation which God had chosen in Abraham had enjoyed the favour of God’s unconditional promises in fulfilment of His gracious purposes in blessing. The covenant at Sinai inaugurated the era of Law, which succeeded the dispensation of Promise that had commenced with Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham. Israel’s redemption by blood, emancipation from Egyptian serfdom, and separation to Jehovah as His own chosen possession, were acts of Divine grace. At Sinai the nation entered into a covenant with Jehovah based on their acceptance of His righteous precepts and their willingness to fulfil His just requirements as the condition of future prosperity both temporal and spiritual. When Moses, the mediator of the Sinaitic covenant, presented to Israel the words of Jehovah making obedience to His Law essential to blessing, the people unanimously signified their acceptance of the covenant with the words, ‘All that Jehovah hath spoken we will do’ (Ex. 19.8). It was a transition from the period of the Theophanies when Jehovah revealed Himself to the pilgrim patriarchs as occasion arose, to a permanent revelation of His requirements and provisions in the moral and ceremonial Law
"One might have sought and found Thee presently At some fair oak, or bush, or cave, or well." "Is my God this way?" "No!" they would reply, "He is to Sinai gone, as we heard tell. List, ye may hear great Aaron’s bell." – George Herbert
Four times in Exodus (24.12; 31.8; 32.16; 34.1) and four times in Deuteronomy (4.13; 9.10; 10.2-4; 5.22) the writing of the Law on Sinai is attributed directly to Jehovah. Both the first tables of stone containing the ten commandments which were hurled to the ground by Moses at the foot of Sinai and the second tables of stone which were later deposited in the Ark of the covenant were written with the finger of God.’ Thus Mount Sinai was also
The Mount of Transcription
The written commands of God were communicated to Moses while Sinai was enveloped in thick cloud, mist and smoke, and presented the appearance of a volcano in eruption. The voice of Omnipotence was heard preparing the nation of Israel for the vision of the writing of Omniscence.
"God from the Mount of Sinai, whose grey top Did tremble, He descending, did Himself In thunder, lightning, and loud trumpet’s sound, Ordain them laws—part, such as appertain To evil justice: part, religious rites Of Sacrifice." (John Milton in ‘Paradise Lost’)
‘God has spoken’ by prophets, and in His Son (Heb. 1.1-2). God has also written, from time to time, and every time He writes, it is to impress His laws on the hearts and minds of His creature man. On the summit of the mountain He communicated in writing His Law of Righteousness. On the alabaster wall of Babylon’s royal palace, in the sight of a rebel monarch, He wrote His Law of Retribution. He stooped to inscribe on the earth, His footstool, His Law of Redemption, foreshadowed in John 8.6,8, and finalised on the Cross on Golgotha’s hill, ‘that He might redeem them that are under the law;’ and now He writes on the hearts of all who believe and accept His redeeming grace the Law of Regeneration (Heb. 10.16,17). The terms of God’s first manuscript have never been abrogated or modified, for His righteousness is ever perfect and His standard can never be lowered. The Decalogue is the supreme witness to God’s Majesty and holiness. Four of its enactments have become the basis for laws governing the civilised nations of the world today. Besides defining God’s righteous commandments, God’s holy law reveals man’s sinful state and condemns it. By convincing man of his impotence to fulfil the Divine requirements, the law opens the way for the communication of God’s matchless grace in His Son Jesus Christ. For the believer in Christ who is ‘not under law but under grace’ God’s moral law is still a standard by which to test his life, but not the regulator to control it. The first four commandments of the law reveal man’s duty to God, the remaining six his duty to his fellow-man. Failure in our duty to God is always followed by failure in our duty to our neighbour. ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Man’s love to God is expressed in a due regard for the unique honour due to His Person and reverence due to His name and His day. Man’s love to his neighbour is expressed in a due regard for the honour to which parents are entitled from their children and for the sanctity of his neighbour’s life, property and honour. Every breach of any part of God’s law is a violation of the whole. Sinai was also
The Mount of Transmission
Moses was the mediator of the old covenant: the Lord Jesus is the Mediator of the new. Jehovah descended upon the mountain in fire to communicate His law. Fire is symbolic of His holiness and judgement: ‘our God is a consuming fire.’ An earthquake shook the mountain so that it trembled in the presence of its Creator (Ps. 68.8). The law, too, that was transmitted was a fiery law (Deut. 33.2). It was to demonstrate the perverseness of the human heart and to burn in upon the mind of man, as a brand, the knowledge of sin. Holy, just and good in itself, it was to condemn all that is unholy, unrighteous and wicked in us. Clouds, fire, smoke and mysterious voices were the concomitants of the transmission of God’s law to the people of Israel. Dr. F. B Meyer helpfully enumerates the lessons to be learnt about God from the phenomena associated with the giving of the law.
(i) The Majesty of God was displayed in the thunders and lightnings, the brooding cloud, the trumpet peal and the tropical showers.
(ii) The Spirituality of God could be learnt from His invisibility while He gave utterance to His decrees.
(iii) The Holiness of God is evidenced by the meticulous instructions given to the people not to touch the mountain on pain of death, but to observe absolute purity and cleanliness of heart, person and dress.
(iv) The Royalty of God is manifested in His legislation, His edicts, His precepts. The laws of the Theocracy were accepted by Israel (Deut. 5.22).
On Sinai God employed two orders of beings, His creatures, to transmit His law to His people. It came through the disposition and ordination of angels, spiritual beings who serve in the presence of God (Acts 7.53; Gal. 3.19), and through the mediation of Moses, a human being who could communicate the Law to his fellow-men (Ex. 20.19; 21; 25.1; John 1.17; Gal. 3.19).
Descending from the mountain top, from the awesome solitude of the Divine presence, after receiving the first tables of stone, Moses saw a sight which kindled within him righteous indignation and moved him to hurl from his hands the stony tablets on which God’s commandments were engraved. His people had sinned grievously, and Sinai became
The Mount of Transgression
While Jehovah was communicating to Moses the first of His edicts on the summit of Sinai—’Thou shalt have no other gods before me’—followed by the second forbidding idolatry, Aaron, the brother of the mediator, was fashioning an idol, a golden calf, at the foot of the mountain for the people to worship, and telling them—’these be thy gods, O Israel’ (Ex. 31.1-4). Moses, the mediator between God and the people, became the advocate and interceded on their behalf with God. ‘Oh, this people have sinned a great sin,’ he cried; ‘yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book.’ The law
Moses was sent to transmit to the people had been broken. It condemned their sin; and their transgression exposed them to the wrath of a holy God.
"Oh! as we ponder on that scene appalling,
When God from Sinai spoke His holy law,
Like Moses on our faces humbly falling,
We feel and own our guilt with trembling awe,
But soon we hear a voice from Calvary, calling
Our eyes to see what Moses never saw."
At the Divine command Moses returned again to the summit of Sinai (Ex. 34.1-4) to receive from Jehovah the re-written law of commandments in place of the broken tablets. While there, natural fears forgotten, natural pleasures foregone, and natural appetites forsaken, Moses had a vision of the Lord of glory with Whom he communed. The vision made his countenance radiant so that, as he was about to descend with the second tables of stone, it is recorded that ‘Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone.’ For him Sinai had become
The Mount of Transfiguration
The radiance was a reflection of that Divine glory upon which he had gazed at the top of the mountain.
"The Prophet-leader came from out the cloud,
From long hours spent in communing with God,
Came forth and stretched his wonder-working rod,
And spake clear words to all the listening crowd.
"They gazed and looked, and lo, on brow and face,
A glory and a brightness not of earth,
The eye lit up with fire of heavenly birth,
The whole man bright with beams of God’s great grace.
"They looked and saw the glory, and they shrank
From that dread vision dazzling man’s frail sight;
They could not bear that full excess of light:
Far better veil of cloud, or marsh-mist dank.
"And so o’er face and brow he drew the veil;
They did not see the glory pass away;
And yet that heavenly brightness might not stay.
It vanished quickly, like a twice-told tale."
EDWARD HAYES PLUMPTRE.
For the Christian in this age of grace, redeemed by the blood of Christ from the curse of a broken law, there is the possibility of such a transfiguration and radiance of
face and life. We can formulate our request for this radiance in the words of the prayer of Moses the man of God (Fs. 90.17)— ‘And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us’! In like manner we too may be transfigured, ‘not as Moses—but we all, 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). The metamorphosis takes place by constantly gazing on the effulgent moral glory of Him Who now sits beyond the clouds, Who magnified the whole law and made it honourable, and by mirroring back His radiance of grace and character. Nor need we veil this beauty before the world, for it will not fade if we live in constant communion with our Lord.
by E. R. BOWER (continued)
THE SECOND BURDEN. (12.1 — 14.21).
(a) Israel’s future. (12.1 -13.9)
vv. 1-3. "All the tribes of Israel" (9.1) are included in this Word of the Lord. See Is. 42. 5-7; Amos 4.13 and contexts. The theme of this section is dominated by the words, "In that day," and again we remind ourselves of today’s events in the Middle East which indicate that "that day" is not too far distant, and Jerusalem is very much "a cup of trembling" (or, poison—margin), and a "burdensome stone" for all the peoples of the earth to a greater extent than ever before. Our thoughts turn, almost inevitably, to Matt. 21.42-44. See Dan. 2.34,44,45. Yet, in spite of the nations, Jerusalem will remain.
vv. 4-5. "I will open My eyes on the house of Judah" would show that Judah was now praying toward the House of God (see v.10) and Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the first Temple was being answered (1 Kings 8.29). "Judah will be caught up in the siege of Jerusalem" (v.2. N.E.B.), and God will see (as He did, 2 Kings 13.4-5; 14.26; for instance) the affliction of His people, and respond to their prayers. What the Lord did at Samaria (2 Kings 7.18), He will do at Jerusalem, and Judah will take their cue and their courage from the example set by Jerusalem. See 2 Kings 9.16 and compare the events of chaps. 18 and 19 with the events of "that day."
vv.6-7. Renewed hope sets alight the fighting spirit of the ‘clans’ of Judah, and the invading nations are shattered. Jerusalem remains safe, but Judah will be saved first so that Jerusalem will not take credit for Judah’s salvation; the first is last.
vv. 8-9. The ancient prophecies come to pass (Lev. 26. 3-12; Jos. 23. 8-11; Joel 3.10; 2 Sam. 22.30; Ps. 18). David was addressed as an "angel of God" (1 Sam. 29.9; 2 Sam. 14.17,20; 19.27). "In that day" will be the destruction of all who come against Jerusalem.
vv. 10-14. A commentator writes, "These are verses of almost unprecedented difficulty," but let us here consider the ‘easy’ things. God is going to pour out His spirit of grace and supplications—that which had been long foretold (Jer. 32. 36-41; Ezek. 11.17-20; Joel 2.28-30; Acts 2. 16-21). Cf. this spirit of grace and "seeking for grace" with v.l Jerusalem, where our Lord was crucified (Rev. 11.8) will yet look upon "Me"—the Lord (v.l)—the pierced One. See Luke 2.33 ("thine own soul ALSO"); John 19.25-37; Rev. 1.7; Ps. 22.16). Some read, "they shall look on Him" (as John 19.37), but it is still God who speaks, whether Jehovah of Zech. 12.14 or God manifest in flesh (John 10.30; Matt. 1.23).
Having seen and recognised the Pierced One, the mourning "as for his only son … in bitterness for his first-born." "Only son" is elsewhere translated as "darling" (Ps. 22.20; 35.17); both in Messianic context.
Cf. the refs. also at Gen. 22.2; Jer. 6.26; Amos. 8.10. It will be remembered that the title ‘first-born’ was a familiar one for Israel (Ex. 4.22; Ps. 89.27—also Messianic) so that there can be little doubt that "in that day" realisation will come to Israel, Judah and Jerusalem. In Acts 2.37 — the ‘that day,’ unfulfilled and incomplete—the One whom they had pierced was revealed as Lord and Christ and "when they heard this, they were pricked (pierced through) in their heart." This was a foretaste of ‘that day.’ "A great mourning"—a beating of the breast—cf. Luke 23.48) as for the death of Josiah (2 Chron. 35.24) which event became "an ordinance for Israel." The land shall mourn family by family (or, clan by clan), each with its own individual sorrow; the royal line and the priestly line; the line of Nathan son of David and Bathsheba, of which line came Zerubabbel and Joseph (as was supposed), father of our Lord. Luke 3.31; the line of Shimei, but why he is mentioned is not clear. He was the son of Gershom, son of Levi, and it was of his line that Asaph came. Asaph, Henan and Ethan/Jeduthun were the leaders of the Tabernacle choirs in Solomon’s time, and each in different ways was seer, counsellor psalmist and musician. It is the psalms of Asaph that begin the Levitical third book of the Psalter, and the psalms of Henan and Jeduthun which close it. The LXX (A.V. margin) has ‘Simeon’—Levi’s brother. It is as if each family comes to its own realisation as grace is given to them. Cf. 2 Chron. 6.29.
Chap. 13.1-2. Still in "that day," a fountain is opened for the house of David and for Jerusalem. It was David who first spoke of this fountain (Ps. 36.8-9). See Prov. 13.14; 14.27). "They have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters" (Jer. 2.13; 17.13) Cf. Ezek. 47; Zech. 14.8; Rev. 7.17.). For ‘uncleanness’ (but see margin) refer to Lev. 20.21 and context. Refs. Ezek. 9.9-12; Joel 3.18; Hos. 2.1-23; 6.10;—note refs. to ‘that day’); Hos. 23; Zech. 13.9. "Fountain is frequently associated with blood and with unclean-ness, but the fountain here is a cleansing fountain and reminds us of the hymn, "Blessed be the fountain of blood—To a world of sinners revealed." Even the names of their idols will be washed away (Hos. 2.17): the "idols shall He utterly abolish" (Is 2.18); false prophets and the unclean spirit (the only mention in the O.T.) will pass out of the land— what a Fountain! An unclean spirit can do so much harm e.g. 1 Kings 12. 19-23, but this Fountain will dismiss the unclean spirit, e.g. Luke 4. 33-36. The cry of "Unclean, unclean" will no longer be heard (Lev. 13.46). The repentance of 12. 1-14 brings the cleansing of 13. 1-2.
vv. 3-6. There will still be the false prophet in that day, but these will have no place among the people of God for the law of Deut. 13 will be applied with vigour, except that stoning appears to give place to a thrusting through, (cf. Deut. 13.15) A sense of shame appears among the prophets as they disown their false profession—"I am not a prophet, but a bondman from my youth." In context, these false prophets were the "idol shepherds" who, when challenged with the scars upon the back (Lit. ‘between your arms’) prevaricated and put the scars down to a brawl in the house of their friends. The scars may have been the result of frenzied self-flagelation as in idolatrous rites (1 Kings 18.28). This is not the usually accepted view of v.6, which is generally referred to the suffering of our Lord, and indeed, if we consider 12.10 "they shall look . . they shall mourn . . ." the personal pronouns give credence to their reference to our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. It does seem however that vv. 6-7 are of the two types of shepherd—the ‘idol’ and the True. Whatever view we may accept for v.6, there can be no doubt when we come to
v. 7. for our Lord quoted this verse (Matt. 26.31; Mark 14.27). The accent is upon, "MY Shepherd … the Man who stands next to Me" and as we wonder at this our thoughts go back to Is. 53.10, "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He hath put Him to grief . ." The Hebrew of "My Fellow" is a Levitical word (see, for instance, Lev. 6.2; 18.20; 19.15,17; 24.19; 25.14-15 — ‘neighbour’) denoting ‘equality with.’ If we should feel inclined to ask why this sword of justice was unsheathed against God’s Fellow the answer is again to be found in Is 53 and Matt. 8.17; 1 Pet. 1.18-21 and many other Scriptures. Our Lord, in quoting this verse, said, "I will smite . . ." "My Shepherd" is seen in John 10 and there, too, the Son of God is seen. "I and My Father are One." Cf. this verse with Is. 40.9-11; 2 Sam. 24.16; 1 Chron. 21.15-16. Israel was indeed scattered and a remnant preserved, as the following verses will show. In passing, this is the last mention of a sword in the O.T. Is it the same sword as in the first mention (Gen. 3.22-24; cf. John 14.6. See Rom. 5); the sword that kept "the way of the tree of life" now being told to awake?
vv. 8-9. So great was the "scattering" that Josephus (Wars, 6.9.2-4 and 7.1.1) wrote "Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (because they would not have spared any …)…" to which an expositor of our present verses asks, "We simply ask, What room is there now for a remnant?" Yet through the centuries worse has been seen to come upon the Jew, and the Holocaust is in living memory, and much worse is to come Here, "all the Land" is in ruin and two thirds of the people will be cut off and die. Cf. 1 Pet. 1.6-7; 4.12-13; Mai. 4.1-6. Tried by fire in very truth. Yet, as they have called time and time again from the depths of their sorrow, so will they cry again—and God will hear that cry and say, "It is My people." Gone now the day when Israel heard the word, "Ye are not My people" (Hos. 1.9). Recognition of the Pierced One will be followed by true repentance and restoration. (Hos. 2.23).
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(32) "SOME EMBLEMS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT"
The Bible is a book of Symbols, Types, Parables, Metaphors, Allegories and Emblems. There are a host of figurative representations of the Spirit, and each emblem sets forth graphic aspects of the identity, nature and ministry of the Holy Spirit. We shall look at seven emblems:
1. The Dove. Gen. 8.8-12; Song of Songs 4.1; 6.9; Matt. 3.16
The Beauty of His Character. The gentleness, cleanliness, swiftness and sharpness of sight, of the dove, makes it a telling emblem of the Spirit.
The first reference to the Holy Spirit in the Bible, represents Him as "moving" (brooding), generating warmth (Gen. 1.2). The same word is rendered "fluttereth" in Deut. 32.11. The two thoughts suggests the Spirit’s action in bringing into life and caring for the life which He produced.
The Dove in Gen. 8.9-12 came after the terrible judgment upon sin. The Spirit came after Calvary (John 7). After the waters of wrath had abated did the dove find a resting place (Matt. 3.16; John 1. 32,33; 3.34). If there had been no Calvary of redemption there would have been no Pentecost of blessing.
The dove gentle in manner, clean in nature, particular in food, constant in love, swift of wing, and beautiful in plumage, speak of the Perfection of the Spirit (Matt. 10.16; Songs 6.9; 5.16; Ps. 55.6; 68.13).
The Spirit’s mission is all about Christ, it centres in Him, points to Him, enhances and glorifies Him and unfolds Him. (see previous study, the Spirit in John).
2. Oil. Ex. 30.22-33; Num. 4.16; Zech. 4.1-7; 1 John 2.27RV
Spirit’s Sufficiency for Testimony. The practice of anoin-ing with oil, or with oil intermingled with certain perfumes were both common and sacred. It suggests the qualifying work of the Spirit. In the O.T. the anointing with oil was for the service of God, either a service rendered by a priest, prophet or a king (Lev. 8.2,10,12; 1 Sam. 10.1; 6; 16.13; Isa. 61.1; Luke 4.18,19). The holy anointing oil made sacred the vessels of the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons were anointed to minister before God (Ex. 40. 9-15). The Holy Spirit applies the indispensible preparation for the ministry (Acts 1.8).
We are anointed or "commissioned" for service (2 Cor. 1.21) and given an insight into Divine truth (1 John 2.27). This takes place at conversion. We need this anointing for the tasks we undertake in the service of God, and for truths we must understand of the ways of God.
The four ingredients of the anointing oil speak of the excellencies of Christ as the Son of Man (Ex. 30. 34-37). The holy oil alone continually lighted the Tabernacle where God was worshipped and where the person and work of Christ were wholly symbolized (Ex. 27.20,21). We need the constant renewal and light of the divine "oil" for service Godward and manward (Zech. 4.2-5). For every fresh task in the will of God may we share the Psalmist’s experience. "I shall be anointed with fresh oil" (Ps. 92.10).
3. Fire. Ex. 13.21; Isa. 4.4; Mal. 3.2,3; Acts 2.3-4; Rev. 4.5.
Spirit’s Penetrating Quality and Purifying Work. This astonishing element consumes, melts, warms, and energises. It has the power to change all materials into its own nature. It suggests the Spirit’s purifying action, which judges and consumes all impurity. His purging work aims to consume from the heart everything that is out of harmony with His Divine nature (Mai. 3.2,3).
The "flame of fire" in Ex. 3.2 and the bush not consumed is a picture of what Moses was to become, the fire of life and power and zeal is kept, continually alight. When he turned aside he received a revelation of the purpose of God (v. 6-8). The "pillar of cloud" is a symbol" of the Spirit’s presence in our hearts and Who accompanies us on the journey of life (Rom. 8.14).
He gives us light through the Word of God. The pillar and the cloud were never taken away (John 14.16). The Spirit’s ministry of liberation (2 Cor. 3.17); consecration (Isa 6.5-7); dedication (Isa. 44.4,5); illumination (Psa. 78.14; John 16.13); activation (Ps. 104.12-15; Acts 1.8) and assimilation (Ezek. 1.13; Eph. 4.3). The Baptism of fire (Matt. 3.11,12) is one of judgment. It is not mentioned by John to his disciples (John 1.33), nor by our Lord to His Apostles (Acts 1.3). Our Lord as Saviour baptizes us in the Holy Spirit (John 1.33; 1 Cor. 12.13). Later as Judge a baptism of fire (2 Thess. 1.8,9).
4. Wind. Job 33.4; Ezek. 37.7-10; John 3.3-8.
The Sovereignty of His Activities. The symbol speaks eloquently of the invisibility, the invaluability and the irresista-bility of the Holy Spirit. Invisible in essence yet its effect is substantial (John 3.8). His activity is effecting the new birth. Like the wind which is always blowing so the Spirit is ceaselessly restlessly on the move seeking an entrance into hearts and lives so that they may be regenerated and renewed. The action of the Spirit is heavenly, it is sovereign and infinitely above man "where it listeth."
When the Spirit is received, He is perceived. To know Him is to be led by His hand, swayed by His truth and cheered by His promises. Wind is powerful in its movements "rushing mighty wind" (Acts 2.2). "The Lord the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3.18). In Christian experience we must accept the sovereignty of the Spirit. We want to confine Him and seek to control Him but that is not God’s way. The Holy Spirit comes as wind and we cannot tell what issues may arise when we yield to His control.
In the final regathering of Israel a spiritual resurrection will be brought about by the agency of the Spirit of God (Ezek. 37.9,10).
5. Seal. Eph. 1.13; 4.30; 2 Cor. 1.22.
The Finality of His Work. Sealing is the immediate accompaniment of trusting the Lord Jesus (Eph. 1.13,14). Ephesus and Corinth were cities that had considerable commerce in timber in Paul’s day. When a merchant purchased timber he put his special mark upon the logs, and later he could identify the property by the seal he had put upon it. Seal is a mark of ownership (Hag. 2.23). Among the Jews, the seal was a token of the completion of a transaction, the price was paid and the seal placed on the contract making it definite (Jer. 32.9-10).
The seal is a mark of ownership, as when a farmer brands his cattle. (Hag. 2.23). It indicates authority (1 Kings 21.8; S. of S. 4.12). It speaks of secrecy (Dan. 12.9). The seal is the Holy Spirit, marking us out for holiness of life (Eph. 1.13,14). These Ephesians heard the Gospel, believed the message and were sealed. The evidence of the finished transaction of Calvary, was the importation of the Holy Spirit Who attested it. A past act—were sealed, a future event—a pledge and foretaste of the inheritance. The sealed cannot be lost (Eph. 4.30), for we were part of Christ (1 Cor. 12.12). A seal was placed on important documents (Esth. 8.8-10). The tomb was sealed to satisfy the chief priests (Matt. 27.62-66).
It marks off tribulation saints (Rev. 7.1-8: the abvss in (Rev. 20.1-3). Daniel’s prison was sealed (Dan. 6.17). These speak of authority and security.
6. Water. Isa. 44.1-5; Jer. 50.4,5; Zech. 12.10
Refreshing and Productive Power of The Spirit. "Behold, he smote the Rock, that the waters gushed out." (Psa. 78.20; 1 Cor. 10.4). The smitten Rock, the supplying stream overflowing. From the wounded Saviour, by the Spirit there comes to the saint blessings which satisfy (John 7.37). Water is indispensible for life. If it is so essential in the physical realm, it is yet more so in the spiritual (Job. 14.7-9; Isa. 44.1-5), here God promised to His people refreshment and reiving in their future recovery. On their restoration this promise will have its complete fulfilment. There will be fresh signs of life as they are revived. They will not be ashamed to own their identification with the Lord through the sovereign grace of God (Isa. 35.7).
The Lord Jesus may have had these portions and Ezek. 47.1, when He uttered the words recorded in John 7.37-39. Here the Spirit is represented as the unfailing inner source of streams of service and testimony. This will have a literal fulfilment in the Kingdom.
Note that Jesus stood, cried, and assured as He invited all to come and be satisfied. In verse 37 He proclaimed salvation, in v. 38 He spake of the Spirit’s blessing, and in v. 39 He speaks of the Spirit’s coming.
Christ in glory, the Risen and Exalted Saviour gives the Holy Spirit—as waters of blessing, yea rivers of living water. This is our portion today. Waters vivify (Ez. 47); they fruitify (Ps. 1.3); and gladly satisfy (Ps. 46.4). Caleb gave his daughter the upper and nether springs (Josh. 15.19; Judg. 1.15). Some see in this a double blessing of the Spirit given to us by our Lord. The "nether" blessing of His indwelling presence, and the "upper" spring of His enduring power.
7. Dew. Psalm 133.3; Hosea 14.5,6.
The Reality of His Ministry. The descent of the dew in a calm atmosphere is a symbol of the refreshing power of the Spirit (Ex. 16.13,14). (a) Dew is Divine in its source (Gen. 27.28; Job. 38.28). Dew is one of the gifts of God. So the Spirit is the perfect gift of His grace. Just as sunshine and dew are inseparable in the natural realm, so Christ and the Spirit are inseparable in the spiritual realm (John 14.16; 15.26). God delights to bestow upon us the dew of His Spirit.
(b) Dew is beneficial in its service (Psa. 133.3RV.). The copiousness of the dew of Hermon is well known. The vapour, coming in contact with the snowy sides of the mountain, is rapidly congealed, later in the form of dew it penetrates everywhere and saturates everything. The foot of Hermon is clad with orchards and gardens of marvellous fertility. Dwelling together in unity is likened to the precious ointment running down from the head of Aaron to the skirt of his garments, and to the dew from Hermon. Oneness of spirit is to keep the unity of the Spirit.
(c) Rich in its contents (Deut. 33.2). God’s Word drops into the heart and imparts its nature in those who allow it to work. If Christ is in the heart He will by the Spirit be a purifier and sanctifier.
The dew moistens everything where it falls; it leaves not one leaf unvisited. Such is the refreshing, renewing and reviving work of the Spirit (Hos. 14.5). Israel in a coming day will make confession, will desire cleansing and will know healing. They will be marked by beauty and stability. We today can experience strength by the Spirit (Eph. 3.16).
The Manna fell upon the dew (Ex. 16.13, 14). It was a mystery to the Israelites as in the sinless humanity of the Son of God (1 Tim. 3.16).
The practical application of these emblems is important. We are to be harmless as doves (Acts 10.38; Heb. 7.26). Like the anointing oil—consecrated to Christ (Acts 13.2; 15.26). The fire—our hearts should burn with devotion to Christ (Luke 24.32). As wind, energised by the Spirit in service for the Lord (1 Cor. 15.58). The seal reminds us that we belong to the Lord (Eph. 1.13; 1 Cor. 6.20). The overflowing river, a blessing to all we come in contact with (John 7.38). Like the dew, refreshing others by a ministry of Christ (Philemon 7).
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth
If in the sovereign grace and mercy of God we have been brought into the circle of the lovers of our Lord Jesus, most of us have at times come under heart-warming ministry concerning the Person of Christ. The exposition of the truth of scripture in general is necessary and affords light and understanding; but that which specifically is concerned with His Person strangely moves the heart with lasting effect. These remarks are prompted by the writer of the third Gospel, Luke, and his account of the ministry of the Lord in His encounter with the two disciples, disappointedly leaving the divine centre, Jerusalem, after the crucifixion of their Lord, on Whom all their hopes had been centred. (24.13-36).
Luke is a delightful writer, having in large measure a particular appreciation of the grace of God and of Christ. In this chapter, he records how the two talked together of all that had happened, manifestly marked by true affection for their Lord, yet with no great intelligence; ‘Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.’ As always, He responds to affection much more readily than to understanding and knowledge, with great skill He draws out from them their thoughts and reasonings, How much time and care He expends upon them, joining them in that long walk and would have gone further. But they ‘constrained Him,’ saying ‘Abide with us.’ His own heart would have been refreshed by their desires, as indeed to-day it would did we but constrain Him, ‘and He entered in to stay with them.’ We have referred to heart-warming ministry: they have to say ‘was not our heart burning within us as He spoke to us on the way and opened to us the Scriptures?’ They now knew not only the lowly Jesus, full of moral glory, but a Man in the glory of resurrection.
In but few words there is a definition of Christianity which is simple but pregnant with meaning and purpose— ‘Christianity is Christ.’ There are many instances of conversion which bear in themselves the seed of future full commitment to the Person of Christ. Quite often this is instantaneous; the classical instance, of course, being that of the great apostle, Paul. ‘And suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven,’ and a voice, ‘I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest.’ And Paul’s response, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ ‘And straitway in the synagogues he preached Jesus, that He is the Son of God.’ (Acts 9.3,20 J.N.D.). Doubtless Paul was a special vessel; nevertheless a model convert, immediately closely attached to his beloved Saviour.
In the preaching of the gospel it is, of course, all important to make clear that the forgiveness of sins can only be known by faith on the basis of the precious blood of Christ. However, it is essential to emphasize the necessity of a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus, involving personal attachment to Himself. If this attachment on the part of the preacher is also clearly conveyed it may well be that it is also transmitted to the hearer, a foundation which will bear much fruit throughout a pathway in days of testing conditions. The gospel is thus a matter of both heart and mind. John, who leaned on Jesus’ breast (the place of closest affection), says in his Gospel (1.12), ‘As many as received Him to them gave He power (the right) to be children of God, even to those who believe on His Name.’ How true in John’s heart ‘Christianity is CHRIST.’ He spoke the language of the Song of Songs, ‘He is altogether lovely,’ and again ‘it is the voice of my beloved’ (5.2). He had come under the spell of that voice, as others could say ‘never man spake like this Man.’ (John 7.46).
Blest Lord, Thou spakest; ’twas Thy voice That led our hearts to Thee; That drew us to that better choice, Where grace has set us free.
Thou wouldest that we should rejoice, And walk by faith below; Enough that we have heard Thy voice, And learned Thy love’s deep woe.
Oh to come under His own personal ministration—how it would endear Himself to one’s heart, accomplishing so much more than that of His most gifted servant.
But Paul brings to the saints at Corinth an Ephesian touch, ‘For I have espoused you unto one Man, to present you a chaste virgin to Christ.’ (2 Cor. 11.2. JND). The apostle, in his affection for the Lord (and for the saints, which is not unconnected), tells the Corinthians of the objective of his service, to which he was so whole-heartedly devoted. The church, as the bride, is the love-gift of the Father to the Son, which He has purchased with the blood of His own (i.e. of Christ). (Acts 20.28). It was to be the answer to the sufferings of Christ throughout an endless day, and indeed already, on the part of those—’Thy saints the prize and travail of Thy soul.’ One could say :
I have heard the voice of Jesus, Tell me not of aught beside, I have seen the face of Jesus, All my soul is satisfied.
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen.
"O HAPPY DAY THAT FIXED MY CHOICE"
PHILIP DODDRIDGE (1702—1751)
Philip Doddridge was the 20th child of his parents and was so feeble when he was born that no-one thought he would live. Nevertheless, he survived and grew up to become one of the most godly and revered men of the 18th century. Both his parents were devout believers in the Lord Jesus. His father was an oil-man by trade. His mother was the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman who, under bitter persecution, had fled from Bohemia to England. Young Philip was brought up in the nurture of the Lord, his mother teaching him the Holy Scriptures before he could read. Those early lessons were given at home around the open fire-place with its surround of blue Dutch tiles, portraying many bible characters and scenes.
Philip’s father and mother died when he was young and at 13 he entered a private school at St. Alban’s. There the local minister, Dr. Samuel Clark, a non-conformist, took a deep interest in the lad and acted as a second father to him. When only a boy, he felt called of God to enter the Christian ministry but as an orphan lad without means he saw no possibility of his hope ever being fulfilled. At 16 years of age, the Duchess of Bedford made an approach to him offering to pay for all his education provided he would enter the ministry of the Ohurch of England, but Philip declined that generous offer of the Duchess and threw in his lot with the Dissenters. He sought the Lord’s guidance and help through fervent prayer and one day while on his bended knees, a communication reached him from Dr. Clark offering to assist him in his training. In later life, Doddridge often praised God for this "so seasonable an interposition of Divine Providence." He entered Jennings’ Non-conformist Academy at Kibworth, Leicestershire, and finished his studies at Hinckley. When at Hinckley, Doddridge preached his first sermon as a young man of 20 years of age, taking as his text, 1 Cor. 16 v. 22, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." God blessed that first message and two souls were converted to God as the result. Very shortly afterwards, he accepted his first charge at Kibworth and there he remained for the next seven years.
In 1729, Doddridge received a call to Castle Hill Meeting in Northampton but was reluctant to move away from his flock at Kibworlh to the larger responsibility in Northampton. However, God through some very striking circumstances soon made the pathway clear to him and thus convinced that he should follow the Divine leading, he moved to Northampton and there he spent the remaining years of his life. His ministry at Northampton was his real life’s work and through his efforts an Academy was opened, where over the subsequent years, some 200 students prepared themselves for the dissenting ministry with much attention being given to sermon preparation, "May I remember that I am not here to acquire a reputation but to dispense the gospel which my Redeemer brought from heaven and sealed with His blood."
Doddridge was wise and kind; he was filled with unaffected goodness and had wide sympathies. In that city he made many friends and through these friendships won many of them for Christ. James Stonhouse, a young doctor of academic brilliance and limitless energies, had just then come to Northampton. This very attentive and popular young doctor was an avowed atheist. Doddridge courted his friendship and that strangely-assorted pair were thereafter often linked together in enterprising work in Northampton. They were the means of establishing a hospital in that town, something almost unknown in those days outside of the city of London. One day, a lady in her final illness summoned both Dr. Doddridge and Dr. Stonhouse to her bed-side and requested that Doddridge should preach her funeral sermon and that Stonhouse would attend. Though Stonhouse had never before been in a place of worship, he consented to go. He kept his promise and through, that message God spoke to his unbelieving heart. As a result he renounced his infidelity and was converted! to Christ. Writing to a friend afterwards of that great event, Stonhouse slated in his letter that, "the blessed instrument employed by God for effecting this great work was Dr. Doddridge."
Another incident in the historic ministry of Dr. Doddridge in Northampton is full of interest. An Irishman named O’Connell was convicted of a capital offence and condemned1 to die. Dr. Doddridge at great trouble and expense thoroughly investigated his case and was convinced of O’Connell’s innocence. Judgement, however, had been given and a reprieve could not be granted. On the day of his execution, O’Connell made a final request—that the cart carrying him to the gallows might stop for a few moments at Dr. Doddridge’s door. His request was granted. In that solemn moment, he knelt on the minister’s doorstep and in the presence of a great crowd was heard to say, Dr. Doddridge, every hair of my head thanks you; every throb of my heart thanks you; every drop of my blood thanks you; for you did your best to save me!"
Dr. Philip Doddridge held a very close friendship throughout life with Dr. Issac Watts, though Watts was by 30 years his senior, and stemming from that friendship came an outstanding literary work, "The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul," judged by many as the most useful book of the 18th century. It was translated into many languages and1 the reading of it reached and transformed the sinful heart of the young William Wil’berforce who later became the emancipator of the slaves. Doddridge’s other famous literary work, "The Family Expositor" was the prod’uct of many years devotion and toil and is a commentary on the entire New Testament. In recognition of Doddridge’s literary ability and contributions, the University of Aberdeen bestowed on him. an honorary doctorate.
Doddridge, as a minister of the gospel, was greatly used of God. He was a text preacher and to impress his text upon the hearts of his hearers, he composed an appropriate hymn to accompany his message. The first stanza of the hymn was given to introduce the subject, then the sermon was preached and at the close the complete hymn was sung by the congregation.
In this way most of Dr. Doddridge’s hymns came to be written. They were not published in his life-time but circulated widely in manuscript form. After Doddridge’s death in 1751, Job Orton, his life-long friend and biographer collected his hymns and published them in 1755 as "Hymns founded on Various Texts in the Holy Scriptures, by the late Philip Doddridge, D.D." That 1755 collection contained 375 hymns. In 1839 a great-grandson, John Doddridge, re-edited t’he hymns from1 the original manuscripts and this work contained 22 additional hymns. Dr. James Hamilton wrote of Doddridge’s hymns "at once beautiful and buoyant, these sacred strains are destined to convey the devout emotions of Doddridge to every shore where his Master is loved and where his mother-tongue is spoken."
Doddridge’s hymns in common usage today appear in various church hymnals but at least three are familiar to believers in assembly gatherings — "O happy day that fixed my choice," "Grace ’tis a charming sound," and "O God of Bethel, by Whose hand." This last mentioned was David Livingstone’s favourite hymn and he was often cheered by it during his lonely wanderings in central Africa; when at last his remains were brought to Westminster Abbey, it was the hymn chosen to be sung beside his grave.
The hymn, "O happy day that fixed my choice" is a great favourite of many and was chosen by Queen Victoria for one of her children who was about to publicly confess her vows to God.
"O happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Saviour and my God :
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.
O happy bond, that seals my vows
To Him who merits all my love :
Let cheerful anthems fill His house,
While to that sacred shrine I move.
‘Tis done, the great transaction’s done ;
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine:
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine.
Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful centre, rest:
With ashes who would grudge to part,
When called on angels’ bread to feast?
High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear:
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear."
Dr. Doddridge entitled this hymn, "Rejoicing in our Covenant Engagements with God." The words epitomise the whole life-experience of the author. As a boy in his early teens he had made a covenant with God; from year to year he had reviewed it, asking God’s pardon for failure to keep it as faithfully as he desired, and "in life’s latest hour," in the final stages of consumption in Lisbon on October 26th, 1751, when his wife noticed his lips moving and asked if he wanted anything he repled, "No, I am only renewing my covenant engagements with God."
"Blessed is the man" says James Montgomery, "that can take the words of this hymn and make them his own from personal experience." These words hae often been on our lips down here and it may be that in a future day, when the fulness of our salvation bursts upon our consciousness and we gaze into the face of our loving Redeemer that the language of our hearts will be
"O happy day that fixed my choice,
On Thee, my Saviour and my God!"
In this likeminded to Him be;
Who in the form of Deity,
Thought it not robbery to be
True God, in perfect equity:
But made Himself of no repute,
Took servant form, so absolute
He dispossessed Himself; became
Like very man, such was His aim.
Self humbled His Own dignity
To Calvary’s malignity.
Obedient even to Cross-death,
Fulfilled God’s Will, in His last breath.
Wherefore His God, extremely high
Exalted Christ above the sky,
Pronounced on Him that honoured Name
Above all Titles, marked by fame :
That every knee, Heaven, Earth and Hell,
Shall bow, and every tongue shall tell,
That Jesus Christ is Lord! His God,
The Father’s glory, spread abroad.
Shall universally declare,
That Christ, Who hung in deep despair,
To Nations, Peoples, everywhere,
This Christ is Sovereign Lord, and Heir !
-JOHN CAMPBELL, LARKHALL