BEHOLD YOUR KING
by J. Flanigan
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
MEN OF GENESIS
by J. E. Todd
THE KINGS OF JUDAH AND ISRAEL
by G. H. Hutchinson
PAPERS ON PROPHECY
by W. W. Fereday
CHARACTERISTICS OF DECLENSION
by D. S. Parrack
THE BELIEVER AND THE BIBLE
by H. W. Graham
THE BEGINNING OF WHOM
by John B. D. Page
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by D. C. Howard
(Meditations in Matthew)
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
16. The Prophet in Prison (Ch.11)
The charge to the twelve being concluded, our Lord now travels on to teach and preach in other cities. John Baptist, the King’s Ambassador, is in prison, and in some despondency. He has heard, in his imprisonment, of the mighty works that were being done by Jesus, and this creates a problem for John. Why, or how, should it be, that he, the King’s herald, should languish in prison while others were apparently enjoying a ministry of deliverance? If Jesus was truly the One who was to come why should His prophet be incarcerated in a prison cell? If others were being released from disease and deformity and demon possession, why should not he be released from his bonds? It seemed rational to so wonder.
John sends two of his disciples to Jesus with a rather sad question. "Art Thou He that should come? Or are we to wait for another?" Was this indeed the same prophet who so recently had cried fearlessly, "This is He"? How boldly and confidently by the banks of the Jordan had John pronounced Jesus to be the Messiah, Jn.1.10. How sadly does he ask, "Art Thou He"? Poor John! Is he occupied with self and circumstances rather than with the Lord? And has this introverted occupation created the doubts? How often it is so with ourselves.
Jesus continues in a busy ministry before answering them, cf.Lk.7.20-22. He then bids them go and tell John what they had witnessed. The blind were seeing; the lame were walking; the deaf were hearing. Lepers were being cleansed; the dead were being raised; the poor were hearing the glad tidings. Then, a special word for John, "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me". John, prophet that he was, would have been familiar with such scriptures as Isa.35.5-6. The Saviour would have John occupied with that Word, and this in turn would occupy him with the Messiah. Occupation with the Scriptures and with Christ was better than occupation with self and circumstances. It was, and is, the antidote for doubting.
John’s disciples having gone, Jesus now addresses the crowds concerning John. John was no reed blowing in the wind, He assures them. Neither was he just another prophet. He was the last of the prophets. He was that messenger of the Messiah predicted by Malachi 3.1, who would prepare the way for the coming of the Christ. There was no one born of women greater than John the Baptist. He was, if they had sense to see it, that Elijah who was to come. As we have earlier remarked, in his dress, in his dwelling, in his diet, and in his deportment, he was Elijah.
But the anomaly was this. John had come announcing the kingdom for which they had been waiting and yet they had opposed John. They had resisted him violently, which-meant that those who would enter the kingdom must strive, equally violently, and strenuously make their way into the blessing. It was being opposed with violence. It must be entered with great resolution.
Having commended John, our Lord now turns to upbraid the people. They were an unbelieving generation in spite of all that they had witnessed. They reminded the Saviour of a scene in the market place, of sulking children refusing to respond to the calls of their companions. Some were playing at weddings, some at funerals, as children do, but there were some who would play at nothing. They would neither dance to the piping nor lament at the mourning. So John had come, with sombre notes of warning and of judgment, but they would not respond. Jesus had come, with ‘ the sweet strains of love and grace, and still they would not respond. Of the austere John they said, "He has a demon". Of the meek and tender Jesus they complained, "A friend of publicans and sinners". But wisdom is always justified by those that are wise, and in due time both Jesus and John would be vindicated. The Saviour now turns to those privileged cities which had seen His mighty works around that northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. He pronounces woes upon them. Chorazin! Bethsaida! Capernaum! Today there are only black ruins of all three. Those other three cities, Tyre and Sidon and Sodom would have repented if they had had the privilege of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. In the day of judgment it would be more tolerable for Sodom. These Galilean cities would perish. They would be brought down to hell for their unbelief. These were solemn words from a Saviour who was meek and lowly in heart.
It was a sad movement for the Lord Jesus. He was rejected by the unbelief even of His own city, Capernaum. But He turns from them to His Father and commences His prayer with thanksgiving. He could rest upon the love of His Father and the greatness of sovereignty. "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth". If the wise and prudent of the world could not see these spiritual things well, babes of faith in their simplicity would see and enjoy what the great ones of earth could not. It was a cause for thanksgiving. There was an essential unity and harmony between the Father and the Son. There was an intimacy in love and purpose and it was the prerogative of the Son to reveal the Father to believing hearts.
The Saviour now turns back to the crowd. He extends that sweet and familiar invitation, "Come unto Me". How simple the vocabulary! How sincere the promise, "I will give you rest". Whether it is extended in a gospel context, to burdened sinners, or whether, as some think, it is for the weary servants of chapter 10, the invitation is equally precious, and to both, the promise is rest.
"Take My yoke upon you", He pleads. Service for Him is pleasant. His burden is light. There is rest for the sinner, rest for the saint, and rest for the servant. He is the best of Masters, meek and lowly, and He will surely and suitably reward all labour and toil that has been rendered for Him.
— to be continued (D.V.)
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
(1) INTRODUCTION. PART A
Our past studies have been devoted to Bible teaching in connection with the New Testament local assembly, and we prayerfully trust that God will enable us to enjoy, teach and maintain every divinely-given principle and practice. How important it is to recognise "all the counsel of God".
God has given us "richly all things to enjoy" in His word, and in His will, we are now going to turn to the Old Testament. We must never forget that "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning", but large parts of the Old Testament remain unexplored and unappreciated. The book of Esther is far more than a story with a fairy-tale ending, where everybody ‘lived happily ever after’! It is liberally furnished, as we might expect, with spiritual treasure. We might even call it, ‘the prophecy of Esther’. If our studies stimulate further study of the Old Testament, the series will be eminently worthwhile.
In introducing the book of Esther, we should at least consider the following: (1) The position of the book: (2) The providence of God: (3) The purpose of the story: (4) The part of the characters. In this paper, we will consider the first two of these.
1) THE POSITION OF THE BOOK
There are two ways to put the book in context, and we will deal with them in order of importance.
i) The Spiritual Context
Five Old Testament books cover the period of Israel’s history after their return from exile in Babylon. They are, of course, the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah cover the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. Nehemiah and Malachi deal with the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, and the following decline.
The book of Esther belongs to the same period, and describes a crisis at the heart of the Persian empire. The Jewish characters in the story evidently chose not to return to Jerusalem, and the unusual character of the book is largely due to this fact. It does not seem unjust to suggest that they belonged to the majority of exiles who once said, "How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land", but settled down quite comfortably after all. The language of Ps.137 had died on their lips: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy", v5-6. Others had turned their backs on Babylon, and returned to "the place which the Lord shall choose to place His Name there", Deut.16.2, etc. We must do the same. The Ecumenical Movement will reach its goal in "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH", Rev.17.5.
ii) The Historical Context
The book can be dated by reference to "Ahasuerus which reigned from India even to Ethopia…" 1.1. The name "Ahasuerus" was apparently an official name for Persian kings, rather like Pharaoh. There are two other Persian kings bearing the same title. See Dan.9.1 and Ezra 4.6. The Persian king here is better known in history as Xerxes. His reign commenced in BC485, and therefore the events recorded in the book of Esther took place between, approximately, BC483 (see 1.3, "In the third year of his reign") and BC474 (see 3.7, "In the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus"). This means that we can place the book of Esther between the expeditions to Jerusalem led by Zerubbabel and Ezra respectively. In other words, in the sixty years between Ezra chs. 6 and 7.
There is another interesting reference to the reign of Ahasuerus. Ch.2 tells us that Esther "was taken unto Ahasuerus … in the seventh year of his reign". So it took something like four or five years to replace Vashti as queen. But why the delay? The answer appears to be that Ahasuerus was engaged in war. A feast of one hundred and eighty days’ duration (1.4) almost seems an exaggeration until we discover that it was at this time that the king held a meeting at Susa to make arrangements for the invasion of Greece. Purely as a matter of interest, Xerxes (his Greek name) left Susa for the West in BC481, was eventually defeated at Salamis, and returned to Persia from Sardis in BC478. You won’t find all this in the Bible — it will mean a trip to the library! (You’ll also discover that he was murdered in BC464 by two of his officers, Mithridates and Artabanus). So it was shortly after his return from the disastrous campaign against Greece, that he made Esther queen.
2) THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, just as He is not mentioned in the Song of Solomon. This is certainly remarkable, since in this short book of 167 verses, there are 192 references to the king, 26 references to his kingdom, and his name, "Ahasuerus", occurs 29 times. The absence of God’s Name is quite unbelievable, until we remember that the Jews should never have been in Persia at all. Esther, queen of Persia, was in a totally wrong position for a Jewess, and Mordecai’s position in the king’s gate was no better. He was quite unpatriotic. We find him sitting, by his own choice, at the gate of a heathen sovereign. Let’s face it, neither Esther or Mordecai are particularly saintly in their behaviour.
We have a parallel in the history of Abraham. Read Gen.12.10-20, and you will discover that although God communicated with Abraham both before and after his stay in Egypt, He did not communicate with him whilst in Egypt. What’s more, there is no record of Abraham communicating with God whilst he was in Egypt. He certainly did so before and after (12.8 and 13.4), but not whilst in Egypt. But God was certainly at work behind the scenes: "the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues, because of Sarai, Abram’s wife", v17. So do not expect to hear God’s voice, and do not think that you will go on speaking to Him, when you are outside His will. Disobedience silences the voice of God, and silences your voice as well.
God may not be named in the book of Esther, but His hand is constantly seen. Matthew Henry puts it like this: "though the name of God be not in it, His finger is’. Vashti was deposed in most unjust circumstances, and the elevation of Esther raises some rather delicate questions. But her uncle was right in saying, "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this"? 4.14. It was no accident that Mordecai uncovered the plot to assassinate Ahasuerus. It was no accident that the king had a sleepless night before the second banquet. (What a mercy that they didn’t have sleeping pills in those days!). On the other hand, just suppose that Vashti had come when ordered by the king. Or suppose that Esther’s parents had lived … The book of Esther emphasises the providence and sovereignty of God — down to the smallest details.
But don’t trade on this. We must never think that to be used by God means divine approval. Just think about Balaam. He said some most sublime things, but he was nothing more than a wizard from Mesopotamia! God in His sovereignty may see fit to use us even when we are in a wrong position. But that does not mean that He endorses our position. See Romans 6.6.
Let’s say one further thing in connection with the absence of God’s name in the book of Esther. It has often been stated that the Name of God is in the book, but in acrostic form. Some authorities tell us that it is actually hidden on five occasions in this way in the original text. On four occasions, the name "Jehovah" occurs in this way, and the name "Ehyeh" (I am that I am) once. This certainly agrees with the character of the book. After all, although God remained hidden, He was working ceaselessly behind the scenes, and it therefore seems appropriate that He should hide His name!
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. E. Todd, England
6. Isaac and his Wells
We have noted that in the book of Genesis the lives of many men of God centre around a single feature. In the case of Isaac it was the wells he dug.
The Wells of Wealth
Isaac inherited great wealth from his father Abraham. "The Lord hath blessed my master (Abraham) greatly; and he is become great: and He hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses", Gen.24.35. ‘And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac’, Gen.25.5. But the preservation and enjoyment of that wealth, in the form of livestock, depended upon an abundant supply of life-giving water. Believers have inherited ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’, Eph.3.8. But to enjoy those riches we need to ‘draw water out of the wells of salvation’, Isa.12.3.
The Philistines filled in the wells which Isaac’s father Abraham had dug, realising that this would diminish Isaac’s wealth. But Isaac energetically redug those wells, Gen.26.18. In our own day each succeeding generation must ‘dig’ into the Scriptures, that they might ‘with joy … draw water from the wells of salvation’ for themselves. We cannot live on our forefathers’ knowledge and experience of the riches of Christ in the Scriptures. We must acquire that knowledge for ourselves by our own efforts. But the adversary will make every effort to frustrate us from this time-consuming task.
The Wells of Wrangling
‘Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. And the herdman of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, the water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek (Contention); because they strove with him. And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah (Enmity), Gen.29.19-21. As Isaac redug the wells he had to face contention and enmity. As we read and practise the Scriptures we do so in a world in which we are surrounded with religious contention and philosophical enmity on every hand. The men of Gerar claimed that the water was their own. How many voices around us claim that ‘the truth’ is theirs and theirs alone. All shades of atheism, agnosticism and religion would quarrel with the simple believer as he or she simply reads and believes and obeys the Scriptures. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world . . . We (apostles) are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us … Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error’, 1 Jn.4.1,6. The teaching of the Lord’s apostles is found only in the pages of the New Testament, not in the ‘Watchtower’ magazine or the ‘Book of Mormon’ or the utterances of so-called ‘prophets’ and ‘prophetesses’.
The Well of Wonderful Blessing
‘He (Isaac) removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth (Room); and he said, For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land’, Gen.26.22. As we continue to read and obey the Scriptures the Lord will bring us into a pleasant and spiritually fruitful experience. ‘Happy is the man that findeth wisdom . . . Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace’, Prov.3.13,17. ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (self-control)’, Gal.5.22-23.
The Well of Worship
‘He (Isaac) builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well’, Gen.26.25. At Beersheba, v23, Isaac became fully aware of God’s presence with him. The Lord appeared to him and confirmed the Abrahamic covenant with him, v24. Isaac’s response was to build an altar and worship God. And there at that place he dug another well.
Worship is one of the wells of salvation. As God reveals to us in the pages of Scripture the new covenant of grace betwixt Himself and us, sealed by the blood of Christ, we respond with worship. This is the purpose for which we were created and redeemed, to worship our Creator and Redeemer, Jn.4.23-24.
The Wells of Witness
That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug, "We have found water", Gen.25.32. Such was the blessing that Isaac received from God as he continued his well-digging that even his enemies were impressed. Abimelech, who had formerly hated Isaac, was forced to declare, "We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee", v28. Isaac welcomed them into covenant relationship with himself, ‘And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another’, v31.
If we, as believers, continually ‘with joy . . . draw water from the wells of salvation’, such will be the blessing of the Lord in our lives, that others will take notice. It should be the sheer spiritual quality of our Christian lives that breaks down the indifference of the unsaved around us. So that they, of their own free will, will seek to join with us in following the Lord.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Graeme Hutchinson (Belfast)
Introduction (Paper 2)
The period when the nation of Israel was divided and various kings had the responsibility of ruling over the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel, makes for profitable and compelling study. However, in order to place the series into a proper context and outline the benefits of study, we need to:
(a) ANALYSE THE PERIOD
As a nation, Israel was comprised of twelve tribes each having received their portion of land during the invasion and subsequent occupation of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. Although on previous occasions, there had been visible signs of strain within the nation – 2 Sam. 2.4-9; 2 Sam. 19.41-20.22 – this was exacerbated by the death of Solomon and the actions of his son – Rehoboam.
The Division of the Nation
With the death of Solomon in 931 BC the nation was divided into two kingdoms. In the South there was the nation of Judah – comprising the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and in the North there was the nation of Israel – comprising the remaining ten tribes.
Although a first reading of the relevant passages may indicate that the division was solely the result of man’s stubborn and ‘pig-headed’ nature, the words of the prophet Ahijah in 1 Kings 11.31 would suggest otherwise – ‘Take thee ten pieces for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold I will rend the kingdom…’. Thus, as always with this world, situations may appear out-of-control, but our God is in control and His sovereign will must prevail. A comforting thought!
The Variation within the Nation
Despite the two kingdoms originating from the same source, their history was to prove very different. Figure two (see paper 1) illustrates that regarding Israel, the various kings – nineteen in total – were all of an ungodly character, whereas the case of Judah (twenty) was more mixed. The period of time that elapsed during their existence was also different. For Israel it lasted from 931 BC until 722 BC – over 200 years, whereas Judah had a more prolonged history of almost 350 years (931 BC – 586 BC). Moreover, the agent that was used to bring the two kingdoms into captivity was different – for Israel it was Assyria (2 Kings 17) and for Judah it was Babylon (2 Kings 25).
Such differences, whether national or otherwise, have always been a feature of mankind. The one desire that God has for us is that we should be found amongst those who are reckoned – by Him – to be good.
The Description about the Nation
In terms of the Biblical record covering the period, the vast part of the narrative is found in the historical books of Kings and Chronicles. The latter focuses primarily on the Southern Kingdom of Judah and especially on the importance attached to the temple. Figure one (see paper 1) also indicates the role of the prophets during the period and many notables such as Isaiah (2 Chron. 32.20; Isa. 1.1); Jeremiah (2 Chron. 35.25); Amos (Amos 1.1); Hosea (Hosea 1.1); Micah (Micah 1.1) and various others, all supplement the records found in the historical books.
Therefore, just as with any part of Scripture, it is necessary to cull information from various books in order to understand the period and principles surrounding the various kings of Israel and Judah.
(b) ASSESS THE CHARACTERS
Amongst the many positive features regarding a study of the kings of Judah and Israel, the relevant passages provide a rich variety of personalities and characters. For instance, in our studies we have the opportunity of considering:
The Failure of the Kings
Without exception, each king of Israel and Judah was marked by failure and sin. For some like Hezekiah and Josiah, it was minimal, whereas with others, such as Ahab, their character was more sinful and ungodly. Although we can identify with, and derive some comfort from the failure of others, it is worthwhile to contrast each king with that of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a coming day when He reigns on earth, He will be a King who is incomparable. Heb. 1.12 records of the Saviour, ‘.. but thou art the same and thy years shall not fail’.
The Courage of the Prophets
As the means through which God spoke to His nation, the prophets were sometimes called to perform tasks of great courage and personal resolve. When we read of men such as Shemaiah (2 Chron. 12.5) and Hanani (2 Chron. 16.7-10) we are conscious that despite any personal fears, they confronted kings and endeavoured to bring them back into alignment with God’s way and will. For a prophet such as Jeremiah, his work led to tears as he lamented over the loss of a good king and the decline into wilful sin by the nation (2 Chron. 35.25). Although able to identify with the failure of the kings, it would be more commendable to have the characteristics of the Prophets – to labour for God despite personal fears and inevitable tears.
The Faithfulness of the Priests
Whilst the role of the prophets was that of revelation, in that they were charged with the responsibility of telling forth the consequences of rebellion, the role of the priests was mostly representation in nature. They stood between God and His people and men such as Jehoida (2 Chron. 24.2) and Azariah (2 Chron. 26.17) were characterised by faithfulness, in that they maintained the truth of God. With New Testament teaching, every believer is a priest (1 Pet. 2.4-5) and thus it is vital for us, especially in this age, to replicate the example set by the aforementioned – maintain the truth of God and keep faithful to Him.
The Influence of the Relatives
Irrespective of our background or position in life, we all possess the power to influence others – for good or bad! In the relevant passages, certain relatives are singled out as making a significant influence on the Kingdom. For instance, in 2 Chron. 22.10 the king’s death (Ahaziah) had opened the way for his mother Athaliah – to murder many of her own flesh and blood. An influence for bad! An opposite example is found in the succeeding verse (vll) where Jehoshabeath – a sister of the deceased king – protects her nephew (Joash), who subsequently reigns under the godly influence of his uncle – Jehoiada. An influence for good!
Within the family circle, we all have relatives. Is our influence – in the spiritual sense – for good or bad?
(c) APPLY THE LESSONS
Rom. 15.4 records that ‘whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning ..’. Therefore, we do not require a special formula to transform the record of the various kings into some relevant and up-to-date format – much the reverse. The passages are full of lessons that can help us in our service for the Lord. The following are only some of the more prominent:
The Need for Consistency
Kings such as Rehoboam are the archetypal examples of inconsistency. One moment he was obeying the Lord (2 Chron. 11.17) the next he was being disobedient (2 Chron. 12.1). On the other hand, chart the record of Josiah’s life who was a much more steady king – 2 Chron. 34.1, 3, 8; Ch 35.19. The Lord desires those who, like the early Christians, ‘continue(d) steadfastly’ (Acts 2.42).
The Possibility of Conversion
Although Manasseh commenced his reign very badly – 2 Chron. 33.2 – he was brought under affliction by the Lord and so was compelled to change his ways (v12-13). We can take comfort from the fact that irrespective of our spiritual condition, we can change for the good – given the love and long-suffering nature of God.
The Importance of Communion
Certain kings such as Asa, when confronted by problems, sought the help of other people rather than approach the throne of heaven (2 Chron.16.12). A much wiser example to follow would be that of Hezekiah, who sought the Lord in earnest prayer (2 Chron. 30.18; 32.20, 24).
The Danger of Complacency
One feature that can be traced throughout the majority of the kings is that when they achieved great victories in battle, or when they gained the respect of neighbouring countries, they fell into sin. One example would be that of Uzziah. It was only when he began to survey and enjoy his strength, that Uzziah departed from the ways of God (2 Chron. 26.16). The warning of 1 Cor. 10.12 is appropriate -‘Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall’.
The Need for Correction
Given the works and desires of various kings, it was necessary for God, on occasions, to raise up men who would confront them with their errors. The stature of the king can be observed in the way that they responded to the correction. For instance, with the case of Asa he responded with anger when he imprisoned the servant of God (2 Chron. 16.7-10). For Jehoshaphat his response was more of acceptance, when he sought to put matters right (2 Chron. 19.2-4). A good measure of our spirituality is to assess how we respond to valid and necessary correction.
The Peril of Compromise
With the nation divided into two separate Kingdoms, and with the North pursuing a godless way of life, it is sad to observe how various Icings of the South became entangled with them. The implication of the union between Jehoshaphat and Ahab was disastrous, and certainly had a legacy that lasted well beyond their deaths (2 Chron. 21.1-4). The counsel of the Apostle Paul is most wise – ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?’ (2 Cor. 6.14).
The Difficulty of Commitment
When the nation departed from God, it was difficult for any king to stand for the truth, and yet this was what they were instructed to do – Deut. 17.20. Josiah was one king who appeared to be singled out for praise in this respect (2 Chron. 34.24-28). Being godly in this world is necessarily difficult as we live in a godless environment, however, to be so is to follow after God (1 Pet. 1.15-16).
Many other practical lessons will emerge from our consideration of the kings of Judah and Israel. However, in the next paper we begin by examining the instruction to the kings – Deut. 17.14-20 – subsequent to which we assess the integrity of the various kings of Judah and Israel.
See paper 1 for details of Bibliography/Figures
- Dates are taken from: ‘A Survey of Israel’s History’, by Leon J. Wood, Zondervan (1986).
—to be continued (D.V.)
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME 2
10(d)—Babylon and the Beast
The harlot, then, will ride the beast. This is not true at the present moment, but Babylon will attain to this once more. The pontiffs chafe now because of their limited political power as compared with the past ages, and are always intriguing in order to possess more. Their dreams and desires will be abundantly realised at the time of the end, though but for a short space.
The harlot meets her judgment from those whom she has ruled. Weary of her charms, themselves being saturated with infidelity (rapidly working today), they turn upon her and destroy and despoil her: "And the ten horns which thou sawest and the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and shall burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil His will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled", v16,17. We quote here from the Revised Version. "And the beast" is correct, not "upon". The Beast, the imperial chief, and his satellite kings will be of one mind in their outburst of indignation and rage against the harlot. Superstition will fall before infidelity, never to have a resurrection. This will be disestablishment with a vengeance. All profession of the name of Christ will be abandoned, and the great wealth of Babylon seized and appropriated by the rulers of Christendom.
But though her fall will be brought about instrumentally by means of the powers of the world, the hand of God is in the matter. He has a long score to settle with the great corruptress and bloodthirsty persecutress of His saints. God’s side of the affair is shown in ch.18, and this explains ch.17, which tells us that "God hath put in their hearts to fulfil His will". In ch.18.1,2 we read, "After these things, I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird", etc.
Jerusalem of old met her doom at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but God was in it, and so here. God will permit the lawless hands of men to despoil and crush the whore, but it is His hand nevertheless. There is a solemn sequel to this overflow. Flushed with their achievement, the Beast and his confederates will turn upon the Lamb at His appearing, to their own ruin, it need hardly be said, ch.17.14.
The summons to "come out of her" has puzzled many readers of these chapters. We believe the Spirit of God intended the call to have influence with the people of God at all times, and not merely at the time when all is in process of fulfilment. Thus, wherever the anointed eye of the saint discerns any of the features of Babylon, it is incumbent on him to depart out, that he may have no fellowship with her inquiries, and so be clear of her plagues. "Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity", 2 Tim.2.19
The downfall of Babylon fills the kings of the earth — i.e., those outside the Roman empire — with sorrow and dismay. Their bitter lamentation is vividly described by the Spirit of God in Rev.18.9-14. The merchants and the shipmen take up the wail also: ‘And they cast dust on their heads and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate". Well may they weep and lament. The grievous departure from the simplicity of the apostolic upper room has caused the false Church to be the best customer the traders of the world ever had. But this, when once overthrown, will never be restored; her ruin is final and irrevocable.
A mighty angel significantly took up a great millstone in the presence of the seer and cast it into the sea saying, "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all". Israel, on the contrary, after her long career of evil, will be restored by God to His favour in sovereign grace and mercy.
Heaven and earth are at utter variance as to all this, as, alas about many other things besides. While earth is bemoaning the ruin of the splendid harlot all heaven is filled with rejoicing. "Alleluia" resounds through the courts of heaven that so foul a blot has been at last removed from before God, that so great and long-standing a dishonour to His truth has been brought to an end. The marriage of the Lamb follows, to the joy of God and His saints.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by D. S. Par rack, Somerset, England
The Psalm of triumph known familiarly as ‘the song of Deborah’, though it was in fact sung in concert with Barak, is one of the most eloquent and descriptive passages in Scripture. Not only is the narrative superbly graphic, it also embraces a vast range of style, from the cuttingly sarcastic contempt for the ditherings of Reuben to the outright anathema pronounced on Meroz, and its inhabitants "because they came not to the help of the Lord" (v23).
Outstanding as it is judged purely on literary merits, the song is of infinitely more value to believers for the spiritual lessons it contains. The time in which it is set has many parallels with our own and we must remember that, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" Rom.15.4.
Hope was in somewhat short supply in Israel at that time. The original occupation of Canaan had been achieved by the rapid deployment of infantry. Horses, either as cavalry or chariots, would have been near useless during the wilderness wanderings and skirmishes. Now they were faced with an enemy who could field nine hundred iron chariots and who, in consequence, was seemingly invincible. The enemy oppression lasted for twenty long weary years (see Jud.4.3).
There were four things characterising Jabin’s overlordship of Israel which are prevalent amongst God’s people today during times of declension and low spiritual ebb.
Firstly, "In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied and the travellers walked through by ways" (v6). Even though there were a few individuals who stood firm for their God, things generally were in such a state of disorder that it was no longer safe to travel by main roads. Since there was no recognised and capable authority to keep open the main lines of communication, by dealing with those who caused disruption, the only available course was to move surreptitiously by devious routes.
Unfortunately this is only too often the situation in which we find ourselves today. Those truths upon which companies of believers have been founded and built up over the years, are open to attack, sometimes from the most unexpected quarters. It is not considered safe even to refer to certain matters for fear of causing offence to one faction or the other. The easiest course being to let such subjects drop quietly out of sight for the sake of so-called harmony.
Paul was surely not merely stating what he himself had done, but showing the Ephesian elders what they should be doing when he said, "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20.27). Peter was not content with just having taught certain truths in the past. "Yea I think it meet" he says, "as long as I am in this tabernacle to stir you up by putting you in remembrance". He was not afraid of being accused of pushing personal views for he continues confidently, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Pet. 1.13-16). Samuel, conscious though he was of the continuous backslidings of Israel, could say, "Ye have done all this wickedness, yet turn not aside from following the Lord — I will teach you the good and right way" (1 Sam. 12.20-23). Isaiah speaks of a highway where, "The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein" (Isa.35.8). The teaching of Scripture is plain and simple to those prepared to accept it and to walk in obedience to it. The way is often made difficult by those wanting to take short-cuts, bypassing truths which they find unpalatable. In so doing they not only go astray themselves but cause others to do so as well. Remember the exhortation to the Hebrew Christians, who were doubtless under much pressure to follow a seemingly easier course, "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make "straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way" (Heb.12.12-13). There will always be some to whom the journey seems harder, but, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves" (Rom.15.1). There is always too, the possibility of an individual being sidetracked, but James says, "Brethren, if any of you (notice it is not "any of them") do err from the truth and one convert him, let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (Jas.5.19-20). We are warned by the apostle, "Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise" (Eph.5.15), remembering that "Narrow is the way which leadeth unto life" (Matt.7.14), but for once our feet are set firmly in that way, "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov.4.18).
The second indication of Israel’s low state was that, "The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel" (v7).
In the days of the patriarchs, the economy of the area enabled them to lead a nomadic life. By the time the redeemed Israelites returned to Canaan however, conditions had changed a great deal. The land was more densely populated, new urban areas had developed and it was now far more difficult for a single family unit to be self sufficient. The larger grouping of at least a village community was necessary with varied trades and skills, disparate but complementary, meeting the needs of all the inhabitants. Such communities could be virtually independent of those outside its bounds, whilst still maintaining amicable relations with them, but the individuals of which it was composed were mutually dependent on each other.
As in the later oppression by Midian when, "The children of Israel made the dens which are in the mountains, and caves and strongholds" (Judges 6.2) the pressure exerted by Jabin caused the breakdown of much of the collective life. It might well be that a handful of folk hidden away in the caves of the wilderness were less vulnerable to the more direct attention of the nation’s conquerors, but what a barren and unfruitful existence, how far removed from the promised enjoyments of "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex.3.8).
In the mind of the Lord, as expressed in Scripture, there is no conception of believers living out their lives in spiritual isolation. "God setteth the solitary in families" (Psa.68.6) and we are expected as brothers and sisters, to form a spiritual family in the local assembly. Paul speaks to Timothy of "The house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim.3.15). In the context there can be no doubt that he is speaking of the local church, referring to it as that which is the expression of God’s truth, the pillar upholding and the ground, or base, establishing. Individual believers not associating themselves with a local company, and we are not here referring to partisan labels, automatically cut themselves off from many of the present enjoyments of their faith. In every local church is a diversity of gift and enablement, dispensed by the Holy Spirit for the mutual comfort and building up of all, each individual fulfilling the role for which they have been specially fitted by that same blessed Spirit. No single member can be dispensed with by the others, for there exists a mixed need which can only be met in fullness by each member making his or her own spiritual and practical contribution. This does not mean being a mere nominal member as though the local church is some kind of dormitory suburb where we have an address but at which we spend just a few passing hours between the far more important periods of business or academic life. It does not mean attendance just at the breaking of bread, nor indeed being present at all assembly meetings, though we are of course warned against, "forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10.25). It demands a whole hearted allegiance, a full hearted fellowship, with all activities and a preparedness to cheerfully and willingly fulfil even the humblest task that benefits the company as a whole.
The sorry scattered state continued, "Until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel" (v7). The fact that a woman was used to stir up the men is evidence both of the tremendous influence that can be exerted by a godly sister and of the total disorder of God’s people which made her public activity necessary. It is at best foolishness, and at worst duplicity, to attempt from this incident to dispute the clear and precise teaching of the New Testament as to the position reserved for sisters in the local church. This does not however diminish one iota the praise due to Deborah for the courage and determination which she demonstrated. It is not to such virtues which she herself lays claim. She is far more concerned with caring for the people of God as "a mother of Israel". There is great need and scope for such an attitude of heart today. Whilst we tend normally to think of the responsibility of elders in connection with caring for the believers, it is a sphere of service in which we all ought to engage. One function of the assembly is, "that the members should have the same care one for another" (1 Cor.12.25). Where such mutual care and concern exist, it will show itself in love and affection, ensuring that the company as a whole is built up and nourished and that it is, in consequence, much better able to maintain an effective outreach testimony. It is sad when we see those professing to be leaders in local assemblies taken up with almost every other activity than the nurture and care of the believers. A company which is taught in the Scriptures and encouraged in real fellowship together is automatically an assembly which will be strong in its gospel witness. — to be continued (D. V.).
by H. W. Graham (Eire)
Your most valuable possession is the Bible. Pity is that so many have only a dusty copy on a shelf and live in spiritual poverty because they neglect their treasure-store. To help them to appreciate it we give a few hints.
Get a good-sized copy with readable print. You can choose between a well-bound edition which will last for years or a cheaper one that you can replace when it is worn. A Bible without notes is preferable. It is difficult for the average person to free himself from their influence.
Remember that the Bible is the Word of God, it is God-breathed, 2 Tim.3.16. Learned Biblical scholars can produce many reasons for accepting it as such. There is a mode of proof within the reach of all. Read it prayerfully and if God speaks to you through it, it is evidently His word.
READ THE BIBLE TOTALLY. You may have read Ps.23 scores of times and Matt.23 not even once. Some try to live on a diet of promises, others on a diet of precepts. You need the whole book for a balanced diet. If you read five chapters each Sunday and three every weekday you will just about get through the Bible in a year. So adopt some simple system of consecutive reading. Read it with discernment. All is not addressed to everybody. Sinners are not told to work out their own salvation. Christians are not commanded to bring animal sacrifices. Jews were not commissioned to observe the Lord’s supper. Notice to whom and in what circumstances a book or an epistle is written. Don’t be alarmed about "so many interpretations", read it for yourself and read it simply. The writer was once questioned about his interpretation of a certain passage. On declaring his point of view the questioner objected that it was far too simple, there must be a hidden meaning. Read each text in its context. Don’t try to understand a few isolated words. Take the whole passage and see what the subject is.
READ THE BIBLE DEVOTIONALLY. You need to hear daily the voice of God for the feeding, refreshing and reviving of your own soul and your spiritual life. Only in the Bible can you hear His voice.
READ THE BIBLE DOCTRINALLY. You need to learn divine truth. God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim.2.4. Faith in Christ saves. The knowledge of the truth establishes and confirms the believer. For growth and usefulness it is essential to have a good understanding of the fundamental truths of the gospel. We would not be prone to saying that such and such a chapter is the most important in the Bible, but we would venture to affirm that without a good grounding in Gen.3 there will be little progress. Only a clear perception of what the fall of mankind involves can permit a clear appreciation of the gospel. Only against the background of man’s ruin can we appreciate the wonder of divine grace, the value of Christ’s atoning death, the necessity of the new birth, the need of the Holy Spirit’s operation in order to effect conversion, and the fulness of the salvation which God provided to meet our need. One finds that most fundamental errors are due to defective views on the fall.
READ THE BIBLE PRACTICALLY. You need guidance and instruction about Christian living. For every department of life, light can be found in the guide book. Family affairs, business matters, your relation to such things as trade unions, employers’ federations, political organisations, church connections, Christian service — on all these and for all else a search of the Scriptures will give true guidance. You may not always get a direct command or prohibition but you will get insight into the mind of God. The writer was once perplexed about the right or wrong of participating in certain celebrations. One day he saw in a catalogue the announcement of a booklet dealing with that very subject. He neither bought the booklet nor did he ever read it. The title was enough: "My Lord has not told me to do it". That and many another problem has been solved by the same principle. It is wisdom to refrain from that which the Lord has not commanded.
READ THE BIBLE OBEDIENTLY. That is the great secret of growth in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. If God makes known to you some truth and you refuse to submit, you shut off the entrance of further light. You may even lose the light you already have. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams", 1 Sam.15.22. It is sadly true that some Christian workers, just like the Romish priests, are afraid of people reading the Bible for themselves. They are afraid to say to young Christians: "Search the Bible and do what it says". They fear the result. A friend of the writer was diligently reading his Bible a few days after his conversion, and was advised not to read the Bible too much. In surprise he inquired the reason and was informed that those who get saved and read the Bible leave the church.
What about helps to the understanding of the Bible? One is grateful for all the help received through books and magazines, but truth must be assimilated into one’s own spiritual being. There seems to be a real sense in which every student must start at the beginning and build up his own store of knowledge. That is why there is no really rapid course of study which can make one an efficient minister of the New Testament. No Bible School or Training College course can do it. The Bible cannot be learned that way, but by quiet study in the presence of God. That is the only knowledge worth having, but God is not in a hurry, He takes time to train His servants.
The Bible is sufficient and needs no supplement of human tradition. By it "the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works", 2 Tim.3.17. It is not a text book of theology. One cannot read up the chapter that deals with the Trinity, for example, and master that subject. To learn of the Trinity one begins at Gen. 1.1 and finds material on the subject right through to Rev.22. So with every other subject.
Young believer, if you want to live for God, and be a vessel unto honour meet for the Master’s use: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth", 2 Tim.2.15.
by John B. D. Page (Weston-Super-Mare)
In opening his Gospel, John looks back to the remote past when he says "In the beginning . . ." He starts his First Epistle by looking back to the recent past by saying, ". . . from the beginning . . ." These two introductory phrases relate to a Person presented impersonally as "the Word" who is God and He becomes Man. In the West, it seems strange for someone impersonal to be divine and human. But not in the East where John who, according to tradition, was writing from Ephesus, realised that the Greeks used the word logos translated here as "Word" for a supernatural appearing of a god. As a Jew, he knew that in the Old Testament "the Word" is sometimes personified for executing the will of God, as for instance in Ps.107.20 "he sent His word, .. ." and 147.15 ". . . His word runneth very swiftly". With the psalmist the personification of the "word" is poetical, but with John it is historical as he presents a Person named "the Word".
"In the beginning was the Word, . . ." says John in his Gospel where he may be alluding to Gen.1.1 when a creative act was done but here states that a Being then already existed. "In the beginning", that is to say, ‘At the first moment of time’ -"was the Word", indicating He did not then come into existence but He existed before time began. Time has a beginning, but "the Word" has no beginning. As He was pre-existent to time, He is eternal in His Being. During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus spoke in prayer of being with His Father "before the world was", Jn.17.5 by which He meant that before the world was created He existed. Of Christ’s pre-existence, Paul says in Col. 1.17, "He is before all things", meaning He was antecedent to creation.
Continuing, "and the Word was with God", says John. This statement means more than ‘an association with God’ but it denotes ‘a close relationship with God’ and being a distinct Personality within the triune Godhead. Having said that, "the Word" was neither inferior nor superior to God but He was equal with God. On one occasion the Lord Jesus said, "My Father worketh hitherto and I work". This angered the Jews who sought to kill Him for "making Himself equal with God", Jn.5.17f. Significantly, the Lord Jesus did not deny their charge. His co-equality with God is in harmony with the Scriptures.
Furthermore, "and the Word was God". This statement does not imply His Deity was relevant to only the distant past. This is evident from the imperfect tense of the verb ‘to be’ translated (for the third time in this first verse of chapter 1) as "was", conveying the thought of ‘was, is and ever will be’. Therefore, "the Word", was "God" in the Eternal past, still is throughout the span of time, and ever will be in the ages to come. In saying that He was "God" does not mean He was a mere attribute of the Godhead or was a God’. But it denotes He is truly and essentially God, infinite and perfect, and eternally God.
Re-affirming that the Word was "in the beginning", 1.2, John says what He then did: "All things were made by Him . . .", which means the heavens and the earth besides all celestial and terrestrial beings owe their existence to Him. Then the writer continues ". . . and without Him was not anything made that was made", 1.3, which means everything without exception, both animate and inanimate, was made by Him.
From the beginning of time, John turns to "the fulness of time", as it is said to be by Paul, when "the Word became flesh, . . ." 1.14,R.V. "The Word", existing from eternity, became Man! "The Word", essentially eternal, became temporal. In so doing, He did not assume a body, or enter into an existing body. His body was not created but "prepared", Heb.10.5 by super-natural conception and a natural birth, Matt.1.20f. And so, "God was manifest in the flesh", having two natures, the one divine and the other human, but one personality. He has not now set aside His garment of flesh. But as He is eternally God, so He became Man in time and is for eternity.
A few decades after Pentecost the real Manhood of the Risen Christ was denied by Gnostics who said He was merely a phantom and so John wrote his First Epistle to correct this gross error. "That which", referring to Christ impersonally as these heretics did, "was from the beginning" — not "in the beginning" but "from the beginning". This means not from the beginning of time or creation and not even from the beginning of His Manhood which was not disputed like His Godhood during His earthly ministry, but as the context shows, from the beginning of His exaltation which commenced with His resurrection from the dead.* The reality of the Risen Christ’s humanity is proved by the experience of the writer and his contemporaries in four ways: "that which we have heard" — He was audible; "that which we have seen with our eyes" — He was visible; "that which we have looked upon" — contemplatively; "and our hands have handled" — He was tangible. Such indisputable evidence was "concerning the Word of life", 1.1 R.V.
In proving the reality of the Risen Christ’s physical body, as stated so concisely in this opening verse of his First Epistle, John and other disciples were told, according to Lk.24.39, by the Risen Lord, "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have". This they did, John says in his Epistle. Admittedly a problem arises when the Lord Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, "Touch Me not; . . . Jn.20.17. This was not a general prohibition because He said on a later occasion to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: . . ." Jn.20.27. Scripture is silent whether Thomas did, but he had the opportunity to satisfy himself that the Risen Lord was not an apparition and that His resurrected body of flesh and bones was tangible and real.
The Risen Christ, Who is "the Word of life", is life which is eternal and able to impart eternal life to others.
As the hymn writer says:
- Eternal Word, eternal Son!
- The Father’s constant joy,
- What Thou hast done and What Thou art
- Shall all our tongues employ:
- Our life, our LORD, we Thee adore,
- Worthy are Thou for evermore!
[*Most commonly interpreted as referring to the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry —Ed.].
by D. C. Howard (Canada)
I was raised in an assembly-orientated home. My mother was saved in Ottawa where my father-to-be first met her and by whom he first heard that he needed to be saved. Through dear brother Thomas Shields of that city, a work-mate, he was reminded often about his soul during lunch breaks. Years later when having meetings in Ottawa with the small assembly, and Mr. Shields was still continuing, I was made to reflect on the words of the wise man: "Thine own friend and thy father’s friend forsake not". My father was eventually saved in Montreal alone in his room where he boarded, while his room-mate was at "the show", and as he often used to say: "Sitting in an old rocking chair at 450 Bleury Street" through the invitation of Matt.11.28. He said that if someone came in at that instant and asked him for the Bible reference he could not have told it. My parents were married in Montreal and enjoyed assembly fellowship there, and in that city this sinner was born February 6, 1915, and my younger brother a year and a half later.
The family moved to Toronto in 1919 and there I grew up. In those years the family walked to meetings over a mile each way. Regularly, every Sunday afternoon, we children walked over to the Bracondale hall for Sunday School as it was closer, and was an outreach work of the Central assembly where my folks were in fellowship. Brethren Patrizzio, McBain, and others worked that district. A gospel meeting, and prayer meeting were also carried on there.
Conviction of sin was chronic with me for years, but one Sunday night entering that Bracondale hall, I recall so distinctly feeling miserable but least of all expecting that I would be walking out "a new creation in Christ Jesus". It was May, 1930, and a sincere young preacher (John Spreeman, of Quebec) whom I was hearing for the first time, shot an arrow from his quiver, as directed by the blessed Spirit: "How do you know", he said, "but the instrument of death that will usher you into eternity may be already running the streets of Toronto"? I pictured myself walking home from that meeting (no car) daydreaming while attempting to cross a street; the driver of an on-coming car also daydreaming, striking me and killing me and my soul in HELL — LOST FOREVER. I felt the weight of the awful sin of rejecting Christ and hearing God saying: "It’s your last chance". I could not stand the thought. I planned to tell the preacher on the way out of that meeting that I wanted to be saved (music to a soul-winner), but my father shocked me by doing what he had not done before. Rising from his seat next to me he leaned over and said: "What about it, Doug"? I broke at once and was glued to my seat. Later in my father’s home, Mr. Spreeman chuckled as he recounted that night. "Anyone could do what I did that night — I only read two scriptures and you were saved". They were John 3.16 and John 5.24. Upon reading the second scripture the second time at my request, with courage brother Spreeman dared to make one simple comment on "Verily, verily" — it was "Truly, truly" and immediately I saw it was all really true, God DID love me, Christ DID die for me, and I was WELCOMED BY THE LORD.
The date was May 18th. One month later, to the day, I was baptized and ten days later received into assembly fellowship at the Central Gospel Hall, Toronto, then at the corner of Brunswick and Sussex Avenue. Soon I found myself with Christian young men in open air meetings, as many as three a week in various locations throughout Toronto. During the winter months for some years, on alternate Saturday nights, in the basement of the Central Hall (by then located at 25 Charles Street E.) I attended, with possibly a hundred more, the J. R. Littleproud Young Men’s Bible class which I found to be of great help.
When 21 years of age, I realised I was now a man and must think for myself and not necessarily follow blindly the movements of others. Also, I felt that preaching in the open air, teaching Sunday School, speaking in cottage meetings, or even preaching inside the Hall, I was only going through motions. There should be results. One day it occurred to me that I must not TRY to preach. I must tell it as from my innermost conviction, regardless of petty outlines, and look Heavenward so that God’s truth passed on verbally, would be blessed. This revolutionised my preaching in such a way that at open air meetings crowds would stop and gather to listen. Other Christians noticed, and more than one would ask me if I ever thought of the Lord’s work. Even this was not enough. I would have to have HIS approval. It was a thrill when in December 1988 I received a letter from a man in California stating that 50 years ago from the date of his letter he was saved in a meeting I shared with my old Sunday School teacher and a friend (three of us).
In 1938 "The growth of a Soul" by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor impressed me. Biographies of big exploits left me crippled, whereas the one just mentioned strengthened my faith. I began putting God to the test, or rather myself to the test. Then at every ministry meeting I attended through 1938-39 I was convicted that the Spirit was dealing with me and I was accountable.
In the summer of 1939, about three months after the assembly in Bracondale was formed in which I chose to fellowship, brother Wm. G. Smith, who from time to time visited Toronto, came to Bracondale on a visit. I thought he was in Nebraska. (We had preached in his tent the previous year during vacation time). After meeting this time he asked me when I would get my vacation. "Next week" I answered. His next question was, "Where are you going"? My reply was: "I have no plans". His third question was: "How long do you have?". I answered to the effect that it was open-ended. "Fine, brother, you better come with me". He took me to Nebraska (1100 miles away) and I was gone from home five months, returning with five dollars and no debts, but not yet having commendation from my brethren. I well remember that first gift which was handed to me while away from home. Being of an independent English nature, I was humbled, yet I knew this is the way it would have to be. After engaging in several gospel series closer to home during the next eighteen months, my brethren one day approached me as to what my story was. They arranged a meeting with me and in a few days presented me with their commendation signed by six brethren, all of whom I knew, and they would know me — even from the time I was a small boy. All these dear brethren are now with the Lord.
FIVE WAYS TO FREEDOM
Some time ago, my eye was attracted to a large poster advertising a book entitled, ‘Five Ways to Freedom’ which was on sale in a shopping mall. Nearby was a table on which were spread several copies of the book plus photographs of the author in his soldier’s uniform. On closer observation I was interested to notice that the man featured on the back cover of the book was the elderly man behind the desk. He had been a prisoner of war in a German concentration camp and after four failed attempts, managed to escape. Though he had failed four times, an irrepressible yearning for freedom impelled him to try, try and try again. The months of diligent planning were rewarded…
Dear reader, do you realise that you are not free but are in bondage to sin, perhaps not to the same extent as others, but nevertheless powerless to set yourself at liberty. Rom.6.17 describes us as the ‘servants of sin’. The price demanded for your freedom is so great that no earthly wealth could pay it, nor is there anything that you can offer to loose the shackles that detain you as a prisoner. Ps.49.7,8, "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (for the redemption of their soul is precious,…)". 1Pet.1.18,19, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things such as silver and gold,… But with the precious blood of Christ…".
I am delighted to remind you that there is a foolproof way of escape from hell, not five, not two, just one. Acts 4.12, "neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved". Millions have found it to be absolutely reliable. It involves no labour or planning on your part, it has been provided at infinite cost by God Himself and is totally risk-free. If you act upon this plan there is not the remotest possibility of you being lost forever.
There is only One who has the power to set you free but to secure your freedom, He Himself had to take the place of the guilty and bear the totality of judgment against our sins. You see, the barrier to freedom is SIN — justice demands your sins to be punished but God’s Son removed the barrier by bearing our punishment "in His own body on the tree", 1Pet.2.24. Such was His gracious mission to earth. Luke 4.18, "… He hath sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives,… to set at liberty them that are bruised". If He fails, we are slaves forever. Thank God, He was victorious. Heb.2.14,15, "… that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage". The proof of His success and the satisfaction His death brought to God, is His resurrection from among the dead. Seated now in heaven, He is worthy of your absolute trust and has pledged to save forever those who are prepared to trust Him. John 6.47, "He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life".
Many brave men from those evil concentration camps died brutally as their plans went disastrously wrong but if you trust Christ, you are transferring the responsibility of your salvation to One who is totally incapable of failure. Through faith in Christ, "millions have reached that blissful shore" and many more are on their way to it. There is no possibility of Christ failing you when you need Him most. John 10.28, "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand". John 17.12, "… those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost…".
If you do not accept this one and only means of deliverance, then forever you will be in a place whence there is no possibility of escape, Luke 16.26. "And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence".
Dear reader, trust Christ today — your eternal freedom depends on it.
- There is rest for the weary soul,
- There is rest in the Saviour’s love;
- There is rest in the grace that has made me whole—
- That seeks out those that rove.
- There is rest in the blessed yoke,
- That knows no will but His;
- That learns, from His path and the words He spoke,
- What that loving patience is.
- He that would refrain his foot from walking in a forbidden path must first refrain his heart from approving the same. Donald Ross
- If we do not proportion our giving according to our state, God will proportion our state according to our giving.
- J. Douglas