ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
JONATHAN AND HIS TIMES
by W. W. Fereday
THE SERVANT SONGS OF ISAIAH
by G. Hutchinson
BIRDS OF THE BIBLE (GENESIS)
by I. McKee
THE TRUTH OF GATHERING TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
by I. W. Gibson
THE DOUBLE OFFERINGS
by A. Summers
MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH 9.6
by J. M. Flanigan
It is hard to believe how fast time goes by and here we are on the threshold of another new year. As we look forward, in His will, there will be new problems to face; new difficulties to overcome; new friends to meet; new truths in the bible to discover; new areas of service to enjoy, etc. However, soon there will very definitely be a new song to sing!
Nine times in the Scriptures we read about a “new song.” The first of these is in Ps.33.3, “Sing unto Him a new song” and then reasons are given, “For the word of the LORD is right; and all His works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth,” vv.4-6. These reasons are because of His communication, His character and His creation.
Next there is Ps.40.3, “He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.” The Psalmist traces God’s dealings and notes that the LORD heard, v.1; He brought, v.2; He set, v.2; He established, v.2; He put, v.3. Respectively this covers the dimensions of height, depth, strength, length and breadth and all are required to embrace the immensity of salvation. Little wonder he states, “Many, O LORD my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered,” v.5.
The man who appreciates God in His person and provision, will show it in his praise and pronouncements, and this order is maintained in the next reference in Ps.96.1-3, “O sing unto the LORD a new song: … shew forth His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people.” The people who witness best are those who worship most.
The next four references have to do with the majesty of His universal millennial kingdom and the supremacy of His Kingship. Ps.98.1, “O sing unto the LORD a new song”; Ps.144.9, “I will sing a new song unto thee, O God”; Ps.149.1, “Sing unto the LORD a new song”; Isa.42.10, “Sing unto the LORD a new song.” We can sing truly,
- “When He comes in bright array
- And leads the conquering line,
- It will be glory then to say,
- That He’s a friend of mine.”
However before He comes to the earth He will come to the air and rapture His purchased bride to Himself. “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” 1Thess.4.16,17. When we reach heaven and the review of service that will take place at the judgment seat is past, then we read, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” Rev.5.9. That this takes place before the tribulation commences is easily seen from the fact that here He takes the sealed book and the tribulation commences with Him opening the seals in Rev.ch.6.
In heaven the redeemed will sing of His worthiness and the redemption purchased by His blood. Down through the annals of history many men have been willing and have wanted to take the reins of universal government, and have even commenced wars to try and obtain this position, but only One all-glorious Person has ever been worthy. What a Person, what a price, what resounding praise, what a prospect for us!
The praise of heaven is shared and echoed by the 144,000 who have been preserved through the tribulation to share the glory of the kingdom that the Lord Jesus Christ is about to establish as He returns to mount Zion. So it is written, “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth,” Rev.14.3.
As we anticipate this year with all its potential for sobs and sorrows, let us remember that very soon we could be in splendour and singing a new song. We ought to look upward and onward and “lift up the hands which hang down,” Heb.12.12, remembering, “now is our salvation nearer than when we believed,” Rom.13.11.
The pace of change of which we are increasingly conscious has accelerated alarmingly with wickedness and violence almost unprecedented. Gun and knife crimes are almost daily occurrences and the Utopia men once felt able to create, has receded out of view. Fear has gripped many hearts; despair, depression and despondency fill many minds and the sad features that marked the ante-diluvian age are evident on every hand. All this reminds His watching, waiting saints that “yet a little while, and He that shall come will come and will not tarry,” Heb.10.37. In the midst of all that oppresses “let us lift up our heads for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed,” Rom.13.11.
Another year we have been reminded of the dependability of our God, “not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord God spake concerning you, all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof,” Josh.23.14. To God, therefore, we render unfeigned thanks for His faithfulness and care.
We are likewise thankful to all who have contributed practically through their written ministry and gifts, and letters of encouragement received from those who have benefited from the articles, are much appreciated. We are again grateful to all who facilitate the distribution of the magazine, thus keeping postage costs to a minimum.
A special word of thanks is due to our brother Neill and his wife who over many years laboured “more abundantly” in the onerous responsibilities associated with the secretarial work relating to the magazine. Their sacrificial commitment has been appreciated so much by those of us who knew even a little of what that entailed, but has been noted by the Lord and will receive a full reward in that coming day. We are glad that our brother still intends to serve on the committee where his wise words of counsel and experience are highly valued. Our editor must be commended for the diligent way he continues to discharge his responsibilities in spite of being so busy in the service of the Lord. The accounts have again been audited freely by our accountant, whose professional advice and expertise are of inestimable value.
May we take this opportunity to solicit your prayers, that God may be glorified, His people blessed and edified and loved ones saved by His grace.
We wish you a happy and healthy New Year, in the anticipation that 2008 may be the year of Jubilee.
Ronald J. Johnston
It was with great sadness and a deep sense of loss that we learned of the passing of our beloved brother Ronnie Johnston on the 6th May 2007. It was not entirely unexpected as many of us had been shocked to see the deterioration in his condition in the months prior to his death.
Ronnie was born on the 4th January 1929 and at 27 years old was saved by the grace of God. In his secular employment with the Post Office, now Royal Mail, he rose to the level of Postmaster. His job meant moving home a number of times and so he was connected with a number of assemblies, both in N. Ireland and Scotland, before finally settling in Bangor, Co. Down, where he was a highly respected overseer in the Ebenezer assembly.
He was an intelligent brother with an evident gift for preaching the gospel and ministering the Word of God. His home was always open for the saints of God and many enjoyed spiritual fellowship with Ronnie and his faithful wife Jessie. His deep interest in spiritual matters was noticeable in the effort our brother made to attend meetings and conferences, even when in great weakness and discomfort. He often took part in Bible readings where his contributions were considered useful and instructive.
Since April 1983, Ronnie served on the committee of this magazine where his wise advice, born out of many years’ experience, was always profitable and helpful. He is sorely missed by all who knew him, since men of his spiritual calibre are scarce.
Our brother is survived by his wife who is confined to a nursing home, his three daughters and their husbands, all of whom are in Christ, and a number of grandchildren. We commend them all to God for His continuing mercy, grace and comfort.
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
31) “HE SHALL NOT ENTER INTO THE CONGREGATION OF THE LORD”
Read Chapter 23.1-8
We have already noted that Deut.chs.22-25 address a wide range of situations, and that their diversity makes it difficult to trace a unifying theme. Speaking in general terms, two things are abundantly clear. Firstly, that God is deeply concerned about the everyday life and conduct of His people and, secondly, the absence of any discernible order in the subject-matter emphasises that everything is important. We cannot grade these commandments into essential and non-essential categories. It is not altogether uncommon to hear believers referring to important and lesser important practices, particularly with reference to the local assembly. We must value, and practise, “all the counsel of God,” Acts 20.27. This particular chapter deals with eight subjects, and these may be summarised as follows:
- 1) purity in the congregation, vv.1-8;
- 2) personal hygiene, vv.9-11;
- 3) public health vv.12-14;
- 4) protecting refugees, vv.15-16;
- 5) practices forbidden, vv.17-18;
- 6) providing finance, vv.19-20;
- 7) performing vows, vv.21-23;
- 8) provision for the hungry, vv.24-25.
1) PURITY IN THE CONGREGATION, vv.1-8
The holiness of God demanded that the national life of His people must not be contaminated by outside influences. Although the expression “the congregation of the Lord” does not expressly refer to “the covenant community at worship,” there can be no doubt that the restrictions specified “were aimed at preserving Israel’s distinctive testimony to God’s holiness, and were designed to guard the Hebrew worshipping community to this and allied commandments ultimately brought about their downfall. These verses specify those who must be rejected, vv.1-6, together with those who could be received, vv.7-8. So far as the former are concerned, we should notice their permanent exclusion from “the congregation of the Lord”: “he … shall not come into the congregation of Jehovah … even his tenth generation shall not come into the congregation of Jehovah,” vv.1,2,3 (JND).
a) People to be excluded, vv.1-6
Three categories are mentioned in these verses, and it seems most likely that the first two cases refer to the obscene religious practices of the Canaanite nations. While, according to Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, it “was a very ancient practice for parents in the east … to mutilate their children, with a view to training them for service in the houses of the great,” it is known that the Canaanites practised castration, v.1. It is also known that children born to temple-prostitutes were devoted to pagan gods, v.2. As Raymond Brown observes, “These two classes of people were sad evidence of the physically and morally damaging practices of heathen religions, and it was not appropriate for them to share in the worship of a holy people.” Paul reminded the believers at Corinth that “the temple of God (the local assembly) is holy, which temple are ye,” 1Cor.3.17. Pagan corruption had invaded the assemblies at Pergamos, Rev.2.14, and Thyatira, Rev.2.20. What happens in the world can easily creep into our hearts, and through us into the assembly, unless we are spiritually vigilant.
The third class to be excluded were people who, although with some connection with God’s people, were bitterly opposed towards them. For our present study we need only concentrate on the reasons given here for the exclusion of the Ammonite and Moabite, vv.4-6. In the first place, they did nothing to help God’s people: “they met you not with bread and with water, when ye came forth out of Egypt” (this is not specifically mentioned in the earlier books), and in the second, they (the Moabites in particular) attempted to actively hinder them: “they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor … to curse thee, v.4. We could describe these as sins of omission and commission respectively, and we also can be guilty of both. There were to be no treaties or alliances with these people: “Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever,” v.6. The Ammonites and Moabites were so diametrically opposed to God’s people, that their inclusion in “the congregation of the Lord” was unthinkable. We must beware. The aims and objectives of local “Councils of Christian Churches” may seem laudable at first glance, but “love of the truth” is not on their agenda.
At this point, Neh.13.1-9 becomes compulsory reading: “On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever.” As a result, “they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.” The “mixed multitude” was bad enough, but what follows is even worse. It is almost unbelievable to discover that Eliashib (the high priest, above all people) was not only “allied unto Tobiah” (an Ammonite, Neh.4.3) but had actually “prepared for him a great chamber where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes …” What a change of use! This demonstrates what can happen when God’s people become allied to those who have no love for divine truth and, sadly, it continues to happen. In the Old Testament, “the house of our God,” Neh.4.4, was the temple. In the New Testament, it refers to the local assembly which is described as “the temple of God” indwelt by the Spirit of God, 1Cor.3.16. See also 1Tim.3.15. But so often worship gives place to whist, the Scriptures to socials, and the Gospel for games. A veritable chamber for Tobiah! God’s interests are pushed out. The frankincense was all for God. See Lev.2.2. In this, let alone in the other ways, God was robbed. Compare Mal.3.8-9. The assembly should be a place where God receives worship and adoration as we remember His Son.
How careful we must be when it comes to who, and what, we receive into God’s assembly! In this connection, we should have said something about Ruth. After all she was a Moabitess. But do notice what Boaz said about her in Ruth 1.11-12. We should have said something too about Ebed-melech, “one of the eunuchs (back to v.1) which was in the king’s house.” But do notice what the Lord said about him in Jer.39.18.
We cannot leave this section without noticing that although Balek enlisted the services of Balaam to curse Israel, “the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee,” v.5. In His love for His people (notice the expression “the Lord thy God”) God could not be prevailed upon to alter His attitude towards them, although His people could be prevailed upon to alter their attitude to Him. See Num.25.1-18 and 31.1-20. God’s purposes are immutable. See Rom.8.29-30, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Like Israel when threatened by Balaam, none can “lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect” and none can condemn them. Paul traces all this back to “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom.8.39.
b) People to be included, vv.7-8
Had no explanation been given, we would have great difficulty in understanding why provision was made for Edomites and Egyptians to “enter into the congregation of the Lord.” After all, “Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border,” and their refusal was accompanied by armed confrontation, Num.20.14-21. There is no need to document the hostility of the Egyptians. But we do have an explanation for this provision: “Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: and thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian, because thou wast a stranger in his land.”
We are told that “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come,” Heb.11.20. See Gen.27.38-40: “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above: and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother: and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” Rather than “let brotherly love continue,” we read that “Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him,” although it is noteworthy that when they next met, Esau made no attempt to implement his intention to kill Jacob. In fact Esau “ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him,” and called him “my brother,” Gen.33.4,9.
The subsequent conduct of Esau’s descendants was quite different, and it does seem clear that the reception of an Edomite into “the congregation of the Lord” rested on more than the fact that “he is thy brother.” The stipulation that an Edomite (or Egyptian) could not be admitted until “the third generation” suggests that “by the time the Israelites would be able to see whether such people were genuine in their desire to belong to God’s holy people” (Raymond Brown). This seems an eminently sensible explanation. An Edomite, full of hatred for God’s people, would not be a suitable candidate for admission. There must be a change in lifestyle, and it was just that radical change in the life of Saul of Tarsus that enabled Barnabas to introduce him to the church at Jerusalem, Acts 9.26-28.
A similar stipulation was to be applied to an Egyptian. In this case the original kindness of the Egyptians is specified as the basis of admission. The provision made for Jacob and his family when “the famine was sore in the land (Canaan),” Gen.43.1, was not to be forgotten, even though his descendants later suffered intense persecution at Egyptian hands. Once again, it has to be said that the reception of an Egyptian into “the congregation of the Lord” rested on more than the fact that “thou wast a stranger in his land.” The same change of life-style required in an Edomite was also required in an Egyptian. The “third generation” clause is applicable to both. It would be interesting to debate the point from which “the third generation” is dated. Some “food for thought” is supplied in the commentary by Jamieson, Fausset & Brown: “The grandchildren of Edomite or Egyptian proselytes were declared admissible to the full rights of citizenship as native Israelites.” However, what follows will certainly be acceptable to all: “God taught His people a practical lesson of generosity and gratitude for special deeds of kindness, to the forgetfulness of all the persecution and ill services sustained from these two nations.” There is certainly a lesson here for us as well:
- Have you had a kindness shown?
- Pass it on!
- ’Twas not given for thee alone:
- Pass it on!
- Let it travel down the years,
- Let it wipe another’s tears,
- Till in heaven, the deed appears —
- Pass it on!
We will consider the balance of the chapter, vv.9-25, with all its variety, in our next study, God willing.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by W. W. Fereday
But soon the friends met again, and David challenged Jonathan: “What have I done? What is mine iniquity, and what is my sin before thy father that he seeketh my life?” 1Sam.20.1. It was then arranged that David should absent himself from the royal table on a forthcoming special occasion under the pretence of going to Bethlehem to keep a yearly sacrifice with his family, and that Jonathan should report to him what the King said about it.
Readers of Holy Scripture are sometimes startled when they read of Acts Of Duplicity committed by persons generally commended by the Spirit of God, and they wonder how these things can be. Rahab’s falsehood concerning the whereabouts of the spies, and David’s conduct in the incident before us are examples. But why need we wonder? Is flesh anything better in the saint than in the sinner? Can any number of years of communion with God improve it, or render the saint less liable to temptation from it? As well expect the Ethiopian to change his skin, or the leopard his spots! The language of the Holy Spirit in Rom.7.7 is clear and unequivocal as to this. “The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Its hopeless depravity, and inveterate hostility to all that is of God, is thus declared.
But nothing is further from the mind of the Spirit than to sanction or excuse outbreaks of evil in those who are near to God. Indeed, the very opposite principle is found in Scripture. Thus to Israel of old Jehovah said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities,” Amos 3.2; and believers now are warned that if they call Him Father who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, they must pass the time of their sojourning here in fear, 1Pet.1.17. And the same Epistle tells us that “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God,” 1Pet.4.17.
The Shortcomings Of Saints both in the Old and New Testament dispensations are recorded because the Spirit of God is a faithful biographer, and would tell us the worst as well as the best about those in whom He is interested, and their sorrowful misdeeds are usually recorded without comment, in order that we may exercise our minds and hearts as we read, and so form a judgment from what we know of Scripture generally, as to what is pleasing to God, and what is not.
Until the great change takes place at the coming of the Lord Jesus, every conceivable evil is possible, even for the most devout. But our shortcomings are immeasurably more serious than those of Rahab, David, and Jonathan, because we have seen God’s judgment of flesh in the death of His Son, Rom.8.3, and have ourselves professedly accepted His judgment. In the words of the Apostle, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts,” Gal.5.24.
To return to Jonathan. He imperilled his life by repeating David’s story to the King, for the javelin was hurled at him, as twice before it had been hurled at David, 1Sam.19.11. The incident of the arrows which followed need not be detailed here. The breach between Saul and David was now hopeless and final. Deeply moving was the parting between Jonathan and David, “they kissed one another, and wept with one another until David exceeded,” 1Sam.20.41. The love was indeed wonderful, but the weak point was serious beyond degree. Jonathan would strip himself for David; he would speak up for him; he would kiss him; but he was not willing to share his rejection. Accordingly the one went whither he could, to the hill-side and the cave, and the other returned to the comforts of the city. But Jonathan finished on the wall of Bethshan, while David ascended the throne!
The paramount question for our souls today is this — how far are we prepared to go in our identification with Christ? The true path is clearly indicated for us by the Lord Himself in Jn.12.24-26. He, as the true grain of wheat, was about to “fall into the ground and die,” for only thus could God’s garner be filled. Apart from death, He must remain for ever alone. But we who derive from Him are ourselves grains of wheat and we are expected to accept death also. Only thus can we be fruitful for God. “He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me, let him follow Me, and where I am there shall also My servant be, if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour.” We accepted death in principle in our baptism, but have we really accepted it in practice? If so, how comes it that the world’s fashions and follies are promptly adopted amongst us as they appear? How can it be explained that some seek the world’s honours, municipal, parliamentary, and otherwise. Why the rush of so many to join with the ungodly in Co-operative Societies? And why the wave of militarism that has passed over the Assemblies of God in recent years, due to the influence, not of Holy Scripture, but of the world’s inflammatory Press.
The call for a well defined separation rings out clearly enough in the words, “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach,” Heb.13.12,13. Mark the words. He suffered, not to save His own from Hell (although that is true), but that He might sanctify them. He wanted a people who should be absolutely His own, and standing apart from the whole order of things from which He is excluded. This involves “reproach,” but shall we refuse it? Is He not worthy of the intense devotion of these poor hearts of ours?
The Last Meeting of David and Jonathan is noted in 1Sam.23.16-18. It took place at an opportune moment. Saul, the man who might have been throneless had not David confronted Goliath, was pursuing him with relentless energy; and the men of Keilah, whom he had recently rescued from the Philistines, were treacherously betraying him. Who could be trusted? To whom could David turn? The ground seemed to quake beneath his feet. Just then, Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. Spiritual fellowship and brotherly sympathy is as refreshing as the dew of heaven. Do not let us look for it, beloved brethren, but let us show it, for many are in need of it. The coming of Titus to Paul in Macedonia was as divinely timed as the coming of Jonathan to David in the wood 2Cor.7.5,6.
The parting of the ways had now come. Jonathan was fully aware of Jehovah’s purpose concerning David. So was Saul, 1Sam.24.20. So Was Abigail, 1Sam.25.30. So were many others, 2Sam.3.18. Jonathan, knowing what the issue must be, had already pledged David to show mercy to his seed, 1Sam.20.15. This being the position, David might well have said, as his Lord later, “He that is not with Me is against Me,” Matt.12.30. To contend with David was to contend with God. Every man’s choice must now be made. Alas, for Jonathan! Much as he loved David, and sincerely though he believed the divine purpose concerning him, he felt unable to follow him. Obadiah would befriend the prophets of Jehovah, but he was not willing to abandon Ahab’s palace to share the cave with them, 1Kgs.18.4. Moses, on the contrary, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and he identified himself once for all with the people of God in their poverty and contempt, Heb.11.23-27. The Holy Spirit gives his action a meaning and value far greater than Moses ever imagined. He calls it “the reproach of Christ.”
We would speak tenderly of such a man as Jonathan. No more attractive figure can be found on the sacred page, and his devotion to David will read its lessons to God’s saints while time lasts. But the failure must not be ignored. In the day of Christ all that is divinely excellent in us will be commended and rewarded; and all that is otherwise will be mercifully cast into eternal oblivion. But meanwhile the Spirit records the weaknesses and shortcomings of those who have trodden the path of faith before us, for our present instruction and blessing. The solemn lesson is ever before our eyes that only One has been perfect in all His ways.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By G. Hutchinson (N. Ireland)
PAPER 4 — Isaiah 52.13-53.12
This passage of Isaiah has been described as “the prophetic Messianic epic of the Old Testament” (David Baron) and the “magnum opus” of the Servant songs (F. D. Lindsey). The New Testament itself is not silent on the significance of the fourth Servant song, especially as it is quoted on regular and important intervals, Lk.22.37; Acts 8.30-35; Rom.10.16; 1Pet.2.22-25. This article gives only a brief overview of the concluding Servant song and has four main points:
THE POSITION OF THE SONG
Isaiah’s fourth Servant song occupies a strategically important place in the concluding book of comfort, chs.40-66. A previous article highlighted that this section of the prophecy can be arranged into three parts of nine chapters, chs.40-48; 49-57; 58-66. The middle section, chs.49-57, not only comprises three of the four Servant songs but ch.53 has central place with v.5 the middle verse. We therefore learn that the Lord Jesus (for He remains the Servant in view, Acts 8.34-35, is alone the true source of comfort. Moreover, the position of the fourth song also reminds the reader of the glory of Christ and the blessing of Calvary, for both the Saviour and His work on the cross represent the basis by which the repentant sinner can find true peace and comfort.
THE PARTICIPANTS OF THE SONG
As with the previous songs it is important to identify those who are speaking. Jehovah is evidently a key participant, 52.13-15; 53.11-12, and it is interesting that His remarks commence and conclude the song. As to the identity of the speaker in the middle verses, when the humiliation and suffering of the Servant are reported, 53.1-10, it is less clear. What is evident is that the song is a confession of those who previously failed to esteem the Servant, vv.1-4, but then accept the importance of His character and central role in redemption, vv.5-10. It is therefore appropriate to consider this song as that uttered by the believing (and future) Jewish remnant when they finally recognise their Messiah to be the Lord Jesus Himself, Zech.12.10. As the speakers comprise those who give the Servant His rightful place, we can briefly identify some important features. They are marked by contemplation of the Servant, 52.13, for He should always fill the gaze of those who experience redemption. Confession is also a critical part of the song, vv.3-4,6, and we too should willingly acknowledge our weakness as we stand in the presence of the Saviour. With the truth of substitution occupying a key strand throughout the song there is comprehension: the Servant took our place and died for us. This truth is something that can only be appreciated by those who receive the Servant as personal Saviour, cp 1Pet.2.24. Finally, all the participants outline their confidence in the Servant. Jehovah remarks that He will be vindicated in His service, 52.13-15, and the believing remnant are assured of His salvation, 53.5.
THE PROGRESSION OF THE SONG
This Servant song is marked by a seamless order and may be divided as follows. In the opening verses the Servant’s pre-eminence is clear, 52.13-15 and is followed by discussion of His pathway, 53.1-4; persecution, vv.5-9, and prospect, vv.10-12. Some brief comments are now made with regard to these individual sections.
In the opening part, Jehovah makes clear that His Servant, given His stature, “My servant” and wisdom, “deal prudently,” will be declared righteous in all His labours. Words of exaltation are then piled in speedy and successive order upon the Servant and reveal the current and, in particular, future glory of Messiah, v.13b. Remembrance is also made of the inestimable cost incurred by the Servant as He laboured for Jehovah, v.14, with the verse anticipating a fuller description of His sufferings later in the song. The salvation that stems from the Servant’s work on the cross incorporates all nations with equal emphasis placed on Jews and believing Gentiles. It is interesting to note in this regard that “consider” in 52.15 is rendered as “understand” elsewhere in the prophecy — cp 6.10. The Servant will be highly exalted because He humbled Himself in order to bless those who subsequently follow Him!
In terms of the Servant’s pathway there are some precious truths pertaining to His character. His greatness is evident in that He is the “arm of the Lord,” 53.1. We also view His tenderness for as the “tender plant” He is likened to a sapling as it emerges out of dry ground. Notice, however, that the tender plant is also the “plant of renown,” Ezek.34.29. Next we consider His comeliness and the term is rendered elsewhere in the prophecy as “glory,” 2.6. The nation of Israel palpably failed to perceive the unique glory of Jehovah’s perfect Servant. They desired a king in regal majesty but received One who appeared as a carpenter. Then, in common with other Servant songs, emphasis is placed on His devotedness as He laboured despite the opposition, v.3. Not only was He despised (considered a ‘vile person’ — see rendering in Dan.11.21) but He was ultimately rejected. Finally, with regard to this section, v.4 and its application in Matt.8.17 is revealed the powerfulness of the Servant: He alone was able to cure the demon-possessed and sick and thereby display His deity and power. However, despite these attributes the remnant faithfully record that the Servant’s ministry was wrongly evaluated — they considered Him to be the subject of Jehovah’s judgment, v.4b.
The section dealing with the Servant’s persecution starts with a dramatic “but” v.5. The believing remnant acknowledges that it was for them that the Servant suffered. The language employed is intensely solemn: “wounded” (pierced through); “bruised” (crushed); “chastised” (disciplined); “oppressed” (distress — see use in Ex.3.7); “afflicted” (humiliated); “slaughter” (to kill an animal) and ultimately “death” v.9. The persecution and death of the Servant is clearly substitutionary in nature as is seen by the language of v.5 and the concluding phrase of v.8. It was also necessary v.6a, since it was for sheep that had been wilful in their departure; voluntary, for the Lamb of God was led to the place of slaughter, v.7, but thankfully the suffering was temporary v.9. Despite the desire of the enemy, the perfect Servant was given an honourable burial and His innocence is emphasised, v.9.
Then, in terms of the concluding section of the song, the Godward aspect of Calvary is outlined and the Servant is also vindicated, vv.10-12. The reader is left in holy wonder at the opening remark of v.10: “yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” Men inflicted pain and suffering on the Servant but it was Jehovah who superintended the events of Calvary. With a remarkable economy of words we read that the Servant was made an offering (trespass) for sin. The consequences of His work are then outlined. Given that the Servant will see His seed, indicating those who believe on Him, irrespective of nationality, 52.15, there is an implicit reference to His resurrection, v.10b. If Joseph’s actions brought prosperity to the house of Potiphar, Gen.39.3, the perfect Servant is the basis for Jehovah to fulfil His plan for the world. The travail that He experienced will also bring the Servant satisfaction, v.11, for by His knowledge He will righteously declare many righteous! The song concludes with a reference to the Servant sharing the spoils of victory with the “strong”/“many” as the redeemed enter into the blessing of His substitutionary work, v.12.
THE PERSON OF THE SONG
Reference has already been made to the fact that both the Old and New Testaments identify the Servant in this passage as the Lord Jesus Christ. However, in addition there is a series of precious titles that deepen our knowledge and appreciation of Him. The first and last descriptions relate to when Jehovah speaks of Him as “My servant,” 52.13, and “My righteous Servant,” 53.11. If the Messianic titles of the passage are followed, the reader will enjoy a wondrous and never-ending, cycle of devotional truth. He is also described as “the arm of the Lord,” 53.1, for the perfect Servant is the complete and intimate revelation of divine power. Reference has previously been made to Messiah as a “tender plant,” v.2, and despite the barrenness of the field wherein He served — “dry ground” — He still brought pleasure to God. We too need to display a character that brings some satisfaction to God, especially in a world that continues to rebel against Him. As a “man of sorrows,” v.3, the Servant is not only marked by genuine humanity but He also knew what it was to be persecuted, though He still bore the sorrow of others, v.4. As the “lamb,” v.7, believers of all generations marvel at His submission, and as He is likened to a “sheep” silent before the shearer, thoughts turn to the dignity of the Saviour during His mock trial, Mk.14.61; 15.5. Finally, as the “offering for sin,” v10, we rejoice in His once-for-all sacrifice for sin and the salvation that flows from the atonement.
by Ian McKee (N. Ireland)
We come now to Abram’s association with birds, which is related for us in Gen.15.9-11. Two species are referred to by name, a turtle dove and a young pigeon, as well as to unspecified fowls.
Experiences of faith and failure, of progress and reversal, of encouragement and disappointment, as related in Genesis chps.11-14, fitted Abram for the events next recounted. On the basis of further revelation, Abram entreated God about his lack of posterity. He was answered by, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be,” Gen.15.5. God’s further revelation, “I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it,” Gen.5.7, emboldens Abram to ask, “Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”, Gen.15.8.
Turtle Dove and a Young Pigeon
God responds to Abram’s daring faith with “Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon,” Gen.15.9. Notice the distinction between the animals and birds. The animals are identified as either male or female; but the gender of the birds is not specified. The animals have to be three years old: but the age of the birds is unspecified. However, the turtle dove would appear to be mature in contrast to the young pigeon, as the word ‘young’ is the same as that used for a fledgling in Deut.32.11.
This is the commonest dove seen on migration through Israel in flocks numbering hundreds, even thousands, of individuals. It is a small and slim-bodied dove, with orange-brown upperparts and black feather centres, pale purplish-pink neck and breast, with a black and white barred patch on the side of its neck, and a black tail with white tip and edges. Its yellow eye is surrounded with a ring of red skin. A rapid and agile flyer, it flutters its wings and fans its tail during take-off and landing. A shy bird, with a soft purring song, it often seeks open farmland with bushes and trees. Its unlined nest is a flimsy construction for its clutch of 2 eggs. Turtle doves are extremely sensitive to disturbance in the vicinity of the nest and are easily alarmed into completely abandoning their clutches, preferring to build a new nest.
The precise species is not identified but is most likely a Rock Dove, the ancestor of the feral or domestic pigeon. Hence it would have mid-grey back and wings with a darker grey head with green and mauve sheen on the neck. This bird has a black tail and double black bars on its wings.
In the Judean desert flocks of Rock Doves fly west every morning from the cliffs and canyons where they breed and roost, crossing 12 miles of desert to feed on farmland. Towards noon they fly back to drink from waterholes and to rest in the shade of ravines. In the afternoon they fly again to the fields, gathering in large flocks towards evening to return to their roosting sites.
The parents feed nestlings for 6 days with pigeon milk and thereafter with seeds softened in the crop. Young pigeons fledge at 31/2 weeks and are independent at 5 weeks old.
God’s covenant with Abram is then ratified by the death of the covenant victims: the three animals, the turtle dove and the young pigeon. Their sacrificial death signifies that God cannot rescind His unilateral promises about sonship, heirship and all associated blessings. Abram “took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not,” Gen.15.10. All the potential, the sure-footedness and vigour of the sacrificed covenant victims are laid out before the eye of God. Similarly all spiritual and eternal blessings we receive are linked intrinsically with the One who, during three years of public ministry, manifested perfect service, a perfect walk and the mature vigour of consecration – and gave Himself in death for us. The turtle dove and young pigeon, dead, lying undivided over against each other, speak of the holy sensitivity and harmlessness of Christ, who was “cut off out of the land of the living,” Isa.53.8.
“And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away,” Gen.15.11. While unspecified these birds were ravenous, flesh-eaters. All that long, hot day Abram stood guard over that which spoke of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Abram, we need to be constantly vigilant and active to repel attacks upon the Saviour.
Abram’s watchful exercise was honoured. “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him … And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram,” Gen.15.12,17,18.
The believer who appreciates the holy sensitivity and gentleness of Christ, as portrayed in the turtle dove and the young pigeon; who defends all that His sacrifice portrayed; will become an effective light-bearer — a “burning lamp.” In that pathway they will experience trial and endure the “smoking furnace.” Times of testing, however, must not be allowed to impair our spiritual sensitivities, gentleness, service, consecration or vigour. In this connection, you can ponder the significance of the final phrase of Dan.3.27.
Lord willing, in the next paper we shall consider Joseph’s association with birds.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By Ian W. Gibson (Winnipeg, Canada)
The Truth of Gathering in Picture — 1 Samuel 22.1-2
In this passage, we see a group of about 400 men gathering to David, who was being hunted by Saul the king, in the cave Adullam. In v.2, “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them.” They came therefore to David in all their need of him, in order that their needs be met by him, and they were happy to be under David as their captain and to know his protection.
What a lovely picture this is of our gathering to the Lord Jesus today. We came to Him in all our great debt and need as sinners, and He met our need according to the riches of divine grace, and He blessed us according to the riches of divine glory, with an abundance of spiritual blessings, and thus we are happy to gather to Him who has fully met our need. And truly He has become a Captain over us; He is “the Captain” of our salvation, who is bringing many sons unto glory, Heb.2.10, and we know His spiritual protection over us will never fail.
When we think of David as “captain over them,” those who gathered to David must have had desires to serve him, and to please him. When David expressed in the cave Adullam, his longing and the desire of heart to drink again of the water from the well of Bethlehem, by the gate of Bethlehem, it was like a command to those around him. Three of his mighty men then risked their lives in breaking through the host of the Philistines, to bring that drink to David their captain, 2Sam.23.13-17. So those who gathered to David yielded to him as their captain and his word must have been as a law to them. We are caused to appreciate that the One to whom we gather is our sovereign Lord. He is the One to whom we must yield in subjection. In gathering to the person of Christ, we truly acknowledge His Lordship in His assembly and that it must be His will and His Word that is carried out, as we desire to serve Him and to please Him alone.
Every step of progress in the pathway of faith involves acknowledging the Lordship of Christ, and bowing in obedience to Him. At our conversion, we confessed Him as Lord and Saviour: Rom.10.9 “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved;” 1Cor.1.9 “called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” The language of conversion is, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Acts 9.6. The next specific step involves our baptism in which we also acknowledge His Lordship. Baptism is not optional, it is a public confession of the Lordship of Christ, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” Eph.4.5.
It is interesting to notice the language of the Acts, relevant to those who were added to the Church. In Acts 2.47, “And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.” Then in Acts 5.14, “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” Similarly in Acts 11.24, “and much people was added unto the Lord.” So there were those being added by the Lord, Acts 2, and to the Lord, Acts 5 and 11, indicating that the Lord only adds to the sphere where His Lordship is collectively acknowledged. The exhortation of Barnabas to those who gathered in Antioch was “that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord,” Acts 11.23.
All this emphasises the Lordship of Christ, individually, locally and dispensationally. We have acknowledged His Lordship in salvation, baptism and in reception local assembly fellowship. It is important that we grasp this basic truth, that as we gather in the assembly to the Lord Jesus alone, we are acknowledging that He must be Lord in His assembly.
There will come a day when all the universe will be obliged to bow down before Him, “That at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Phil.2.10-11. It will then be an obligation upon all to bow the knee, to confess His Lordship. That will not be for universal salvation, it will be for universal subjugation: all will be subject to Christ. He will receive universal vindication. But what will be an obligation for all men in that coming day, is an obligation for us today, who gather to Him in the local assembly. We are pleased to confess His Lordship, and in every collective gathering of the assembly, His Lordship is acknowledged, and publicly pronounced. That is what makes the breaking of bread meeting in particular so very precious; every Lord’s day morning we gather to partake of the Lord’s supper, 1Cor.11.20, and in so doing we “shew the Lord’s death till He come,” v.26.
Acknowledgement of His Lordship leaves no room at all for self-will or self-pleasing. It means there is the responsibility to be absolutely obedient to His Word, since He is Lord. We cannot pick and choose which parts of the apostolic teaching we do want or do not want to obey. We cannot decide, for example, to accept Paul’s teaching on the Church as the Body of Christ in Ephesians, but then reject his teaching relating to the local church, such as he gives in 1 Corinthians regarding the visible expression of headship and sisters keeping silent in the church. As we gather to the Lord Jesus, acknowledging His sovereign Lordship in the assembly, we are responsible to obey His every command, as it has been given to us in His Word. In Acts 2.42, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
Further, for those men who gathered to David in the cave, it was not a grand and glorious place, it was just a cave. But what drew them was their love for a person, David. They were not looking to anyone else or anywhere else to meet their needs. So it is in the assembly, as we gather to Christ, we look only to Him for all things, and we do not need anything else from the world outside. This is connected more with an acknowledgement of His Headship. Christ is “the Head of the Body, the Church, Col.1.18, and His Headship of the Church is to be acknowledged and displayed in the local assembly.
Headship (as distinct from Lordship) emphasises care, support, succour and direction, all flowing from the Head to edify the Body, and all in a sphere of love and affection. The assembly must, therefore, be ordered around the appreciation of Christ’s Headship. That will mean that in the assembly, everything we need flows from Christ the Head, and will be made good to us through the ministry of the Spirit of God. In the assembly, we look only to Christ for supply, for succour, for direction, for impulse, for motivation, for edification. We gather, therefore, wholly dependent on Him, not looking to the world for any resources. He will control and motivate the members in a way that will best serve His glory and be for the blessing of His people. We do not need to bring into the assembly anything from the world, as far as its wisdom or entertainment is concerned. It is not the wisdom of men or the world that we need in the assembly; it is only the constant supply of Christ our Head.
As we gather acknowledging His Headship, the assembly is to give expression to Christ and all His desires. The local assembly is not primarily for the world, nor even for the saints who gather; but it is for Christ the Head. It is not fundamentally about what we get out of the assembly, but rather it is about what we give to it, what we bring to it, and specifically what we bring to Christ, and what He receives from His assembly.
So, just as David had that pre-eminent place in the cave Adullam, amongst those who gathered to him, he was “captain over them,” so in the assembly Christ must have the pre-eminent and central place, “That in all things He might have the pre-eminence” Col.1.18. In his third epistle, John speaks of one called Diotrephes, v9, “who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them.” As such, he was taking the place Christ alone should have. It has often been noted that in the Scriptures, there is a man called Quartus (number 4, Rom.16.23), a man called Tertius (number 3, Rom.16.22), and a man called Secundus (number 2, Acts 20.4), but there is no-one named Primus (number 1), because Christ is Primus, He alone is pre-eminent. Diotrephes loved to be Primus; he was usurping Christ, and we must be preserved from such a thing as that. In gathering to the Lord Jesus Christ, we give Him the pre-eminent place, as we acknowledge His Lordship and His Headship in His assembly.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by A. Summers (Scotland)
In previous articles it has been pointed out that the Law of the Offerings in Leviticus carefully preserves the distinctiveness of each particular offering. There are exceptions however as noted in the previous article. Another is in the Law of the Leper.
The Law anticipated that a leper who had been removed from the camp of Israel might one day be cleansed and readmitted. When he sought re-admittance he was commanded to bring two birds, thought to be sparrows (Newberry marg. 14.4) the first of which was “killed” Lev.14.5 and the second freed in “the open field,” Lev.14.7. It is interesting to notice that the usual language of sacrifice is absent in the narrative. Thus for example the birds are not described as a sin or burnt offering and nothing is said of atonement. This is probably because these rites were transacted outside the camp and away from the altar. It was only once this rite of purification had been accomplished that on the eighth day he was readmitted to the congregation. Only then were offerings of the type mentioned elsewhere in Leviticus brought. In the passing it is worth noting that they are in their own way unique in that a triple offering was brought. Two he lambs for a trespass offering, Lev.14.10, 12, and a sin offering, 14.19, and a ewe lamb for a burnt offering, 14.10, 20.
The first bird was “killed”, Lev.14.5, and the second bird was released. Superficially this resembles the treatment of the goats of the Day of Atonement. There is one crucial difference. The second goat left the Camp as the Nation’s sin bearer. The second bird by contrast was released into the open field with the blood of the first bird and the water into which that blood had flowed having been applied to its plumage. It is suggested that the blood applied to the second bird spoke of the value of the death of the first bird and the running water, Lev.14.5 (lit. “living water”) of its cleansing effect. The leper, as he watched the bird climb into the sky, saw a vivid symbol of his cleansing and consequent release. Many commentators have seen the live bird as an emblem of the Lord Jesus in resurrection. The present writer however finds this difficult to accept in light of the fact that the live bird was dipped “in the blood of the bird that was killed,” Lev,14.6, which indicates that the blood of the victim was being applied to it cf. 14.14, 25. The Lord Jesus did not require the application of the blood of another to rise on the third day. If however, the dipping does not signify the application of the value of the death of the first bird to the second bird, the second bird like the scapegoat may represent another facet of the work done by the first sacrifice. Thus understood the second’s bird flight to the skies with the blood and water on its pinions represents a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus who having entered death now rises up into the sky in the power of His death and its acceptability before God. Thus it is written, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,” Heb.9.12; “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God,” Heb.10.12.
The accompanying cedar speaks of the Lord in His majesty, S of S 5.15, the hyssop of His humility, 1Kng.4.33, and the “scarlet”, probably scarlet cord or cloth which bound the hyssop to the piece of cedar wood, of the death of the Lord Jesus where majesty and humility were eternally bound together.
The other double offerings of the same sex and species are all carefully distinguished. The two turtle doves or young pigeons brought in Lev.5.7 are not two sin offerings but a sin offering and a burnt offering. The double offering for a man or woman with an issue, 15.14, 29, and the Nazarite, Num. 6.10, are a sin offering and burnt offering. The same is true of the double offering which concludes this short study, namely the double offering of turtledoves or young pigeons that a poor mother could bring after the birth of her son or daughter.
In Lev.12 the Lord describes the offerings which a mother was required to bring on the birth of a son or daughter. Although the matter is not free from doubt it would appear that the words which open Leviticus “If any man (ahdam -0120) of you bring an offering …” Lev.1.2, indicate that offerings could be brought by either a man or a woman since ahdam is the word which is usually used for mankind in general. However, the offerings of Lev.12 are the exclusive province of women. Even although the birth of a child is a blessing to the father, he is not enjoined to bring these offerings. It would appear that the principal reason for this is that the mother is regarded as having become ceremonially unclean through the process of childbirth. When one contemplates the physical accompaniments of birth it is easy to see why this should be so. After the Fall God decreed that birth would become a painful and unpleasant process. “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;” Gen.3.16. Thus there is a clear connection between the unpleasant side effects of childbirth and its cause — original sin. For this uncleanness with its spiritual associations the sin offering is brought.
Another feature worthy of attention is that the first offering brought is a burnt offering. In the other double offerings it is usually the sin offering that is brought first. This seems to demonstrate that the emphasis is not on the sin of the woman or what childbirth entails but on the worship of the mother as she brings her child back to God. She gives thanks for the child’s safe arrival. She gives thanks for her preservation through childbirth and she worships the Giver of Life. No doubt as she brought her offering and saw it laid on the altar in her heart she like Hannah offered her child in devotion back to the God that had given it. The offering therefore is primarily a joyful occasion.
The woman who had given birth was required to bring a lamb and a young pigeon or turtle dove. If however she was not able to bring a lamb and turtledove, she was permitted to bring the kind of offering with which these articles are concerned, namely two identical offerings, in this case a pair of turtledoves or young pigeons. The relaxation of the requirement to bring a lamb for a burnt offering teaches us that God makes provision for the poor. He does not demand what cannot be brought. God’s great desire is to be in fellowship with His people and He takes steps to keep us close to him rather than at a distance.
What lessons can be learned from the young pigeons or turtledoves? It has been pointed out that God does not select the animals for the altar on a random basis. First of all they must satisfy the criteria of ch.11 which sets out the basis upon which an animal is to be regarded as either clean or unclean. Next from the class of clean animals God singled out gregarious creatures that live in herds, flocks or pairs. In addition He identified the animals that were domestic animals. Thus cattle, sheep, goats, doves and turtledoves were selected for the altar from the vast diversity of God’s animal creation. It appears that God was choosing creatures that exhibited the features that God sought in man. They were not predatory. They fed on a “clean” diet. They lived in harmony with their fellow creatures. The two birds in this offering exemplify these points. Pigeons or turtledoves are domestic birds and have been kept by humans for thousands of years. They are monogamous and many have the same mate from year to year. The now extinct carrier pigeon is reported to have flocked in numbers of up to 2 million. They eat either seed or berries. These birds are not aggressive and when under attack will flee rather than fight. In all these ways the Lord taught His ancient people of the characteristics that would one day be perfectly exemplified in the Lord Jesus and should exemplify those that seek to bear His name.
The offerings are a wonderful source of practical teaching and above all else disclose the perfections of the Lord Jesus of whom it was said “Once in the end of the world (lit. ages) hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” Heb. 9.26.
by James M. Flanigan (N. Ireland)
PAPER 3 — THE GOVERNMENT SHALL BE UPON HIS SHOULDER
For long centuries the weight of government has been too great for men to bear. Nations and men have striven after authority and have vied and fought with each other to have it, only to find, when once they have it that the task is too heavy. They have, individually and nationally, staggered and fallen under the weight of it. Kings and kingdoms have come and gone. Emperors and empires have risen and fallen. Dictators have appeared and disappeared and today lawlessness and anarchy prevail in many parts of the habitable globe. The world has waited, and still waits, for a competent Ruler, but dismally failed to recognise the Prince of Peace when He was here on earth. Ironically, they cast out the One who could have carried the government under which they staggered.
The Child has been born and the Son has been given, and now Isaiah projects our thoughts far distant to consider the day when He will reign and the government will be upon His shoulder. From Bethlehem we are directed to kingdom glory. The Infant who lay in the manger will indeed sit on the throne. Humility will give place to authority and meekness to majesty. This verse now spans seven hundred years from the time of the prophecy until the birth of the Messiah and, to date, a further two thousand years, and still the world waits. Almost three millennia have come and gone since the days of the prophet, but the words of an ancient hymn are true –
- “A thousand ages in Thy sight are like an evening gone” — (Isaac Watts).
And so a restless confused world yet awaits Jehovah’s time for the bringing in of His Anointed. As Paul writes, “The whole creation groaneth” Rom. 8.22.
There have been many forms of government down the centuries. Israel had for a time enjoyed that perfect government, theocracy, when God Himself ruled over them and among them. But the hearts of men are seldom if ever satisfied and as the people looked around them they lusted for a king such as the nations had. “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations” they said to Samuel, 1Sam.8.5. Jehovah, oftimes wearied with their grumblings, warned them of the consequences but gave them a king in Saul. It was the advent of monarchy. It was their choice over theocracy. “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them”, He told Samuel. Saul was succeeded by David and David by Solomon and for centuries the nation had a variety of kings, sometimes good, sometimes evil. Concurrent with this the surrounding nations had their kings and emperors, their Caesars and Pharaohs, but none of this was ever ideal.
In many parts of the world men have decided that the perfect form of government is democracy. It has been defined as “The rule of the people by the people for the people.” Wars have been fought, and are yet being fought over the people’s right to democratic government but so many have failed to see the inevitable end of such rule. The strife for rights even within a nation’s own boundaries results in anarchy, when, as it was in the Book of Judges so long ago, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” Jud.21.25. It is a depressing downgrade, from theocracy to monarchy, to democracy and anarchy interspersed with dictatorships.
One day God’s King will return. There will be a monarchy which will, at the same time be a theocracy, for the King Himself will be a Divine Person. The Child born into humanity is the Son given, who is Deity, and when the time comes for Him to reign it will indeed be the rule of the Son of God and Son of Man in God’s appointed way. When He came before, the world did not know Him and His own people did not receive Him, Jn.1.10-11.
There is an expression which occurs more than twenty times in our Bible, in both Old and New Testaments – “The kings of the earth.” The last two occurrences, in the Book of Revelation, are almost like a summary of their entire history and future. “The kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse (The Lord Jesus), and against his army” Rev.19.19. This has been the general character of the kings of the earth, opposition to God and Christ. As in Ps.2.2, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed.” The apostles quoted this in prayer in Acts 4.26, “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ.” But when the rightful King is eventually enthroned in the beauty of His metropolis, the New Jerusalem, then “the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it” Rev.21.24. They will then acknowledge Him as indeed they acknowledged Solomon in his day. “King Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart” 2Chron.9.22-23. Perhaps this was intended as a preview of the glory of the greater Son of David in His kingdom, greater than the kings of the earth.
During that glorious millennial reign, earth will enjoy peace and prosperity such as she has never had since Eden. Messiah’s kingdom will know no boundaries, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” Ps.72.8.
- Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
- Doth his successive journeys run;
- His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
- Till moons shall wax and wane no more. (Isaac Watts).
It will be a reign of unparalleled bliss, when man will be at peace with man; when man will be at peace with the beast; and where the beast will be at peace with the beast. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord” Isa.11.9; 65.25.
The beauty of it all will pervade every realm. The human kingdom and the animal kingdom, and even the very solar system will be affected. “The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days” Isa.30.26. Men will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Weapons of warfare will be redundant for men shall learn war no more Isa.2.4; Micah 4.3.
Such will be the glory of Messiah’s reign that after describing it all in Psalm 72 David concludes by saying, “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.” When the Son of David sits upon His throne and the whole earth is filled with His glory David has nothing more to pray for.
So much promise is embraced in that word of Isa.9.6, “The government shall be upon His shoulder.” Well might we pray intelligently, “Thy kingdom come.”
—to be continued (D.V.)
THE ARMAGH RAILWAY DISASTER
On 12 June 1889, what was then the worst rail disaster in Europe, occurred at Armagh, Northern Ireland. An excursion train carrying 600 people left Armagh station for a Sunday school outing to the seaside at Warrenpoint. In a short period 88 were dead, mostly children, and 170 injured.
To cater for the demand, 3 extra carriages were added to the train without anyone thinking that it might be too much for the underpowered steam engine.
About 10.20 a.m. the train pulled out of the station with difficulty. It soon became clear that there was little hope of it making up the long incline out of the city and, 200 yards from the incline summit, the engine stalled. It was then decided to split the train in two, take the front carriages over the summit and come back for the rest.
Although all the carriages had brakes, they depended upon power from the engine to work. So when the last 10 carriages were uncoupled, they had nothing to stop them running back down the slope except the manual handbrake in the rear guards van. This was recognised as possibly inadequate, so stones were placed behind the carriage wheels for extra security.
But the engine pistons had stopped in such a way that the locomotive needed to reverse slightly before going forward. That jolt crushed the stones at the carriage wheels. The guards van handbrake proved unequal to the task. Ten carriages packed with children began rolling back. And the doors had been locked to prevent fare-dodgers!
Meanwhile the regular service 10.35 a.m. train had pulled out of Armagh station on a collision course with the approaching runaway carriages. Its horrified driver saw children being thrown out of the locked carriages as they careered towards him. He applied the brakes and managed to slow his train to 5 miles per hour but was powerless to prevent collision with the runaway carriages, which had increased speed to 40 miles per hour. The first three carriages burst apart, scattering their occupants down the embankment with disastrous consequences.
Accidents happen. Atrocities occur. Disasters take place. And when they do, it is only natural to ask “why?”
Indeed, there were such occurrences when the Lord Jesus Christ was here upon earth. They were the subject of general conversation then, as now. “There were present at that season some that told Him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices,” Luke 13.1. The Saviour immediately dismisses the current speculation and asks the pointed question that you should face in such circumstances. “Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” Luke 13.2,3.
The Lord follows with another subject of topical discussion: “or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” Luke 13.4,5.
Every tragedy may be God’s final wake-up call to some careless sinner. You?
THINGS OF THE LORD IN THE PSALMS
- The word of the LORD is tried, 18.30 … right, 33.4;
- The law of the LORD is perfect, 19.7;
- The statutes of the LORD are right, 19.8;
- The eye of the LORD is upon them that fear Him, 33.18;
- The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, 34.16;
- The voice of the LORD is full of majesty, 29.4;
- The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting, 103.17.
by H. A. Barnes (England)