ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
by R. Plant
BENAIAH – 1 CHRONICLES 11.10-25
by M. Minnaar
THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
by J. C. Gibson
by J. Sinclair
WHERE SHALL WISDOM BE FOUND?
by C. Jones
Those readers with some experience of life will readily agree that big changes can take place in a very short period of time. Life seems to be going well and suddenly something happens to cause great upheaval. We need not delineate all the causes — such as unemployment, sickness, bereavement, etc. — since they are too well known to those who have to deal with them. It is most interesting that the New Testament speaks about the crisis of “a moment”. On three occasions we read about “a moment”. All are different words in the original language yet they are the only occurrences of those words. In Lk.4.5 there is the moment of TEMPTATION; in 2Cor.4.17 it is the moment of TRIAL and in 1Cor.15.52 we are taught about the moment of TRANSFORMATION.
Lk.4.5 = MOMENT OF TEMPTATION “the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.”
The temptation was another attempt of the devil to stop God’s redemptive purpose. He tried this at the beginning of man’s history, when Cain slew Abel. He continued it right to the time of the birth of the Lord Jesus and the slaughter of the children under Herod. However, all had failed. Now the Redeemer has appeared and has been verified by God’s announcement from heaven, “This is My beloved Son”.
It must be emphasised that this series of temptations was not to see if the Lord would or would not succumb, but was to prove that such was impossible for Him. Pure gold does not react to acids as other metals and the non-reaction proves pure gold. So with our beloved Lord.
Regarding the temptation highlighted above we should note that there are many who want glory in this world and who are prepared to accept it from the “god of this age”. This the Lord refused. Will He lose forever? All the devil’s offers are for time alone. But when God gives glory it shall be everlasting, Ps.145.13, “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”; Dan.7.27, “… the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” ; Lk.1.33, “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end”; 2Pet.1.11 “… the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Living for eternity is of greater value than obtaining glory in time.
2Cor.4.17 = MOMENT OF TRIAL “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Verses 16-18 highlight a number of contrasts which emphasise the excellence of eternal values:
|v16:||outward and inward||= Out Stripped|
|perish and renewed||= Out Lived|
|v17:||light and weight||= Out Weighed|
|moment and eternal||= Out Lasted|
|affliction and glory||= Out Shone|
|v18:||seen and unseen||= Out Classed|
|temporal and eternal||= Out Valued|
It is difficult to define glory and impossible to weigh it! However a proper grasp of this truth within the soul allows us to say that the trials of life, while sometimes almost overwhelming, are light. Paul has the same thought in Rom.8.18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” We appreciate that a grasp of eternity is a great bulwark in the midst of the trials of life.
1Cor.15.52 = MOMENT OF TRANSFORMATION “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.”
Paul has stated, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”, v.50, and this would give concern to the Corinthians since they, like us, are flesh and blood. The answer is found in the mystery of the change and a moment describes the speed of the change. This change will be:
- v.51 Inclusive: “we shall all be changed” — there will be no partial rapture, it will involve all who are saved.
- v.52 Instantaneous: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” — an indivisible period of time;
Invoked: “at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” — this trumpet has nothing to do with those described in the Revelation. It describes His voice as taught in 1Thess.4.16.
- v.53 Immense: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” — this is the immensity of the change that will take place with those who are alive.
- v.54 Insuperable: “Death is swallowed up in victory” — the word ‘swallowed up’ literally means to drink down. Death is totally devoured.
- v.55 Illustrious: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” The RV and JND read “grave” in both clauses, and transposes them. It may be the living cry, “where is thy sting?” and the dead cry “where is thy victory?”
- v.57 Impregnable: “thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” — since it is coming to us through Him, it cannot be thwarted.
- v.58 Inspiring: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” — in light of the glorious future that lies before us, we should be diligent and undeterred in the work of the Lord.
The reality of imminent eternal blessing is a tremendous impetus for service in time.
In the midst of many and varied difficulties that can descend upon us so quickly, may the Lord encourage us all to work faithfully for Him as we wait expectantly for Him.
The year ended has brought many changes. These are reflected in the political and financial realms. The credit crunch, declining property values and instability surrounding employment and investments have fuelled wide spread apprehension and uncertainty. Unusual weather patterns have contributed to the surge of change which marches on relentlessly like the incoming tide.
How precious in the midst of so much change to be able to rely on an unchanging God: “For I am the Lord, I change not” Mal.3.6. This provides a blessed anchor and much valued assurance as we anticipate another year in the goodness of His will. The Lord is not only unchanging in His person but unchanging in His promises. Perhaps 2009 will be the year when the Saviour’s unfailing promise will be fulfilled: “I will come again” Jn.14.3. What a prospect amidst the darkness, difficulties and dilemmas that confront the people of God.
It has been the aim of the Committee to continue to ensure that the truth of God is taught and presented consistently through the magazine and its associated publications. During the year ended brother Ian McKee assumed the treasurer and secretarial responsibilities and it is appropriate at this stage to recognise the valuable contribution made by his predecessor brother Billy Neill. We are delighted that he continues to serve the Lord and the Committee and that he discharges the essential role of distributing the magazine.
The letters of encouragment from all parts of the world are greatly appreciated as is all assistance generously given in the distribution of the magazine, thus ensuring that costs are kept to a minimum. We are deeply grateful to our accountant for freely auditing our accounts and giving of his professional advice. A word of sincere thanks is due also to our editor who discharges his responsibility efficiently and willingly in the midst of many other demanding commitments. Thanks also go to all those who have had fellowship with us whether it be in the preparation of articles or through financial contributions, without which publication would be impossible. This also has allowed us to continue our venture in publishing the series of “Glory” books. Indications are that these publications are appreciated and are proving to be helpful.
Lord willing, as we embark on a new year it is the desire of the Committee that the things that remain be strengthened, Rev.3.2, the saints built up on their most holy faith, Jude 20, and that testimony be maintained until that moment when we shall see His face, Rev.22.4. Truly a blessed hope.
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
37) “Bless thy people Israel”
Read Chapter 26.15-19
As we pointed out when introducing our first study in this chapter, we have now reached the end of a large section of Deuteronomy (chapters 12-26) which deals in detail with “the statutes and judgments which ye shall observe to do in the land” 12.1. In view of the extent of this legislation, touching every part of individual and national life, we might have expected anything but a joyful conclusion to the section. After all, the sheer weight of it alone could make it a daunting proposition! But having entered the land, v.1, God’s grateful people, complete with their baskets of firstfruits, v.2, were to attend the “place of the name”, v.3, and engage in worship, v.10 and rejoicing, v.11. In view of their divinely-given blessings and privileges, vv.5-9, they said, in effect, “His commandments are not grievous (‘burdensome’)” 1Jn.5.3. Obedience and rejoicing go together: “If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” Jn.15.10-11.
Having noticed 1) the Presentation of the firstfruits, vv.1-11; 2) the Provision for others, vv.12-13; and 3) the Practice of obedience, v.14, we now consider:
4) THE PROMISED BLESSING, vv.15-19
Our passage begins with the closing words of the Israelite in connection with his triennial tithe, v.15, and follows with the words of Moses, vv.16-19.
i) What the Offerer was to Say, v.15
We must not miss the connection with the previous verse: “I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use … but I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that Thou hast commanded me. Look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Thy people Israel, and the land that Thou hast given us …”. Personal godliness is essential for collective blessing, as well as for personal blessing. The same principle can be seen in Psalm 51. Having cried, for example, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” v.2, David concludes by saying, “Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem” v.18. If the local assembly is to progress and prosper, every brother and sister in fellowship must be in tip-top spiritual health. In other words, we all need to be like Gaius: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” 3Jn.2. To be ‘in fellowship’ is an immense privilege, but it brings solemn personal responsibility. The assembly is influenced, one way or the other, by our personal lives.
ii) What Moses Said, vv.16-19
“This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments (thus concluding the section beginning, as we have noted, with 12.1): thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul” v.16. It is not a co-incidence that almost identical language is used in connection with their love for God: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” Deut. 6.5. We can conclude, without fear of contradiction, that love for God will be accompanied with love for His word, causing us to say, “O how I love Thy law! it is my meditation all the day … I love Thy commandments above gold … Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them” Ps.119.97,127,165. Whilst we must never despise a sense of duty, the Lord Jesus did say, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments … He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me” Jn.14.15,21.
The words, “keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul”, denote enthusiasm for the word of God. If we regard compliance with the word of God as an irksome task, we are in danger of abandoning it altogether. The children of Israel complained about the manna — they wanted variety, Num.11.5-6. Then they despised it entirely: “our soul loatheth this light bread” Num.21.5. Job and Jeremiah made no secret of their enthusiasm for God’s word: “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” Job 23.23; “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” Jer.15.16. Timothy was told, ‘Occupy thyself with these things; be wholly in them, that thy progress may be manifest to all’ 1Tim.4.15, J.N.D.
The statements that follow, together with the ceremony connected with the altar on Mount Ebal (see chapter 27), are “a solemn ratification by the new generation of Israel of the covenant made at Sinai” (A.W.Pink, Gleanings in Joshua). “Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine. And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, And Moses came, and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” Ex.19.5-8. We must now notice: what the people promised, v.17, and what the Lord promised, vv.18-19.
What the people promised, v.17
“Thou hast avouched (‘accepted’, J.N.D.) the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and to hearken unto His voice.” The people had signified their willingness to obey the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” Ex.20.3, and to display their devotion to Him in three ways:
By walking “in His ways”. Centuries later, the Lord recalled their initial devotion to Him: “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown”, but, alas, He had to say, “What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?” Jer.2.2-5. The Lord could not say of Israel, “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth … I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” 2 Jn.4; 3 Jn.4. The word “walk” signifies “the whole round of the activities of the individual life” (W.E.Vine). With this is mind, we should ask ourselves, ‘Am I walking in His ways?’ We must remember that His “ways” are different to our “ways” Isa.55.8-9.
By keeping “His statutes…commandments…judgments”. The Lord Jesus did not say, ‘He that hath My commandments, he it is that loveth Me’, but “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me” Jn.14.21. There can be little doubt that John refers to the Lord’s teaching here, and elsewhere, in saying, “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” 1Jn.2.3-4. It is sadly possible for both individual believers and assemblies of God’s people to enjoy the best Bible teaching, and still make shipwreck. While we must not put a premium on ignorance, knowing what the Scriptures say does not in itself guarantee spiritual health and divine blessing. “Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” Jms.1.25. We must ask ourselves, ‘Am I amongst those which “keep the sayings of this book?” Rev.22.9.
By hearkening “unto his voice”. The Lord Jesus said “Take heed therefore how ye hear” Lk.8.18, as well as “Take heed what ye hear” Mk.4.24. Both are most important. “Hearkening unto his voice” means more than the use of our natural faculties. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Let these sayings sink down into your ears” Lk.9.44. One of our modern expressions — ‘I hear you’ — conveys the Lord’s meaning quite well: not merely hearing what is said, but understanding what is said. But “hearkening” goes still further. It implies responding to His voice. See Ps.81.13, “Oh that My people had hearkened unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways”. We should ask ourselves, ‘Am I amongst those of whom “wisdom” says, “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors?” Prov.8.34.
What the Lord promised, vv.18-19
Having reminded the people of their undertaking, v.17, Moses now reminds them of God’s part in the covenant. In this connection we should notice the words, “as He hath promised thee” v.18, and “as He hath spoken” v.19. God’s promises here refer to Israel’s privileges together with their responsibilities, and this is emphasised in two couplets. In the first, God promises to possess His people as His very own v.18, and in the second to promote them above all other nations v.19. Both refer back to Ex.19.5, already cited by Moses in Deut.7.6.
He promises to possess them, v.18. “And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments”, or “And Jehovah hath accepted thee this day to be a people of possession to Him, as He told thee …” (J.N.D.). We learn then that a “peculiar people” must be an obedient people. On the one hand, Israel was wonderfully privileged, and on the other they were heavily responsible. The lesson is underlined in Amos 3.2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore (not ‘I will be lenient with you’) I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
We cannot sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, and keep this teaching safely ‘under lock and key’ in the Old Testament. Peter completely disabuses us of that idea: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people …” 1Pet.2.9. The word ‘peculiar’ comes from an old English root peculium meaning a personal possession. So, as we have seen, the expression “peculiar people” is better translated ‘a people for a possession’. Peter’s first readers had no need to be too disturbed when charged with the apparent folly of forsaking their national privileges: they belonged to God in a way never known before. The Lord Jesus said “My sheep … My brethren … My disciples”. They were (like us) ‘a people for a possession’ indeed! Wm. Lincoln puts it beautifully: “a people for God to clasp to His heart, to live in His love, to dwell in His presence”.
Peter continues with reference to our responsibilities: “that ye should shew forth the praises (‘excellencies, J.N.D.) of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light”. How well are we undertaking the tasks with which we are charged as ‘a people for a possession?’
He promises to promote them, v.19. “And to make thee high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as He hath spoken.” Compare Deut.7.6; 14.2. We learn then that a position of honour in the sight of God involves a holy life. It has been rightly said that “Everything is lost when purity is gone”. Holiness of life is not a qualification for promotion in business or in any other sphere of human activity, but it is a prerequisite for divine service. Do notice as well that Paul makes two astounding statements in 1Cor.6.2-3, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? … Do ye not know that we shall judge angels?” These are privileges of a higher order than even those which Israel will enjoy! But they incur current responsibility: “are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” The believers at Corinth were acting irresponsibly when their future privileges demanded that they acted responsibly.
Let it be said that although God’s people failed to honour their obligations, this has not annulled God’s promises. Israel will be in very truth ‘a people for a possession’. “Lo-ammi” (“not my people”) is not for ever, for “in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” Hos.1.9-10. He will promote His people, for “it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you” Zech.8.23.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By R. Plant (England)
Paper 6 — Schools Work
A door that is wide open is that of visiting the schools in an area with the intention of taking the school assembly, which may develop into further openings of RE lessons or after school children’s meetings, etc. If contacts are available with the schools through parents whose children attend, then that is a good way to seek access. If there is a contact with a teacher or even the head teacher in the school that is obviously a more direct way to proceed. Do not be overly concerned at rebuffs and refusals. The writer recently gained access to a local school after thirteen years of trying! At another place, last year only one school granted permission for us to visit, whereas this year over ten have allowed us to conduct their assemblies. If there is someone in the assembly who was able to devote some of their time in visiting the schools to tell a Bible story and present a simple explanation of the Gospel, that could prove very useful in the furtherance of the assemblies’ children’s work.
In the majority of places doors are open into the schools if we are prepared to take hold of them and make use of them. School assemblies are held regularly (at present) in most schools. More often than not teachers are only too glad for someone to come in and speak on those occasions as it saves them work and time! Teachers usually take up a moral point during these sessions but are for the most part more than happy for Bible stories to be told and explained. Again one should only seek access if you are confident enough to speak to large numbers of children (two to four hundred) at a time and also are able to make the Bible live for them. To take up fifteen minutes whilst boring the children (and staff) silly, is neither a good testimony, nor is it likely to encourage the children to attend the regular meetings in the Gospel Hall!
Usually you will be given between ten and fifteen minutes but longer periods can sometimes develop out of these visits. Always check with the school how long you are expected to speak. To go and take a forty five-minute assembly that usually lasts for fifteen to twenty minutes, would not be appreciated by staff, no matter how well you conducted it.
In order to build up confidence, and not close the door on your first visit, consideration should be exercised so as not to cause undue offence. We know that the Gospel is an offence and there will always be someone somewhere who is willing to criticise no matter what is said, just because it’s from the Bible. Recognising that, to go into a school and speak on the rich man and Lazarus, warning of hellfire and judgment would not be wise and could even damage the assembly testimony. One must remember on these occasions that you are a guest of the school. Once the door is open there really is ample scope for the presentation of the gospel to both children and the staff. However, it is advisable to dwell upon the positive sides of the gospel rather than the negative as this will certainly gain you more friends and return visits!
If a Bible story can be told in an interesting and gripping manner and with the use of good visuals that is a plus, although never let the enthusiasm of your story telling distract from the importance of the message. It is good to get across to the children that the Bible is an interesting and exciting book full of many great, true stories. A simple gospel application about the meaning of the death of Christ for our sins and to make us fit for heaven should of course always be given. A moral application affecting say behaviour in the school always goes down well with teachers and disarms them for the presentation of the truth of the gospel. For example if you were telling the story of the ‘Sick of the Palsy’ you may speak about friendship and point out what lengths the four men went to for their friend. Ask the children to make a special effort to be friends with one another. That would be the moral point the teachers will be seeking. Then you can point out that the Bible tells us the Lord Jesus is described as a “Friend who sticketh closer than a brother”. You may then point out what the Lord Jesus did to be our Saviour — came from heaven, born at Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose again, went back to heaven, is alive forever more. Then an explanation can be given that if we are prepared to repent of our sins and believe that the Lord Jesus died on the cross to save us, He is willing to forgive us our sin and make us fit for heaven.
A good rule to follow when conducting an assembly in a school is to avoid absolute statements. Something like, “all have sinned” needs to be prefaced with, “the Bible says” or “Christians believe”. I personally go for the former as it underlines that my message is from the Bible. In this politically correct world, we need to bare in mind when in situations like school work, that children are taught that all religions are equal and all religious books from the Koran to the Book of Mormon and a million and one others in between, are all equal with the Bible. Therefore, however much we may want to make an absolute statement about the divine authority of the Bible it may cause us to fall foul of the over zealous politically correct lobby that are to be found in so many of our schools. However, we can turn this greatly to our advantage by constantly stating “The Bible says” as this underlines the source of our message much more explicitly than if we just made a general statement about the Lord Jesus and our need of salvation.
Many Christian teachers are now indicating that the trend in government circles points towards the situation where it will not be too many years before we are stopped from going into schools to take assemblies and especially to preach the gospel. If this does materialise then visits may still be possible if only to tell a Bible story. Should this ever be the case, and we should be actively praying that these doors of gospel opportunity will remain open, then surely there will still be value in the telling of Bible stories so that children who may never hear them in any other form may become interested in the Word of God and seek from it salvation for themselves. Surely this is a work that the Holy Spirit will be able to do.
Another point to bear in mind is that many if not the majority of schools will want to do a Criminal Records Bureau disclosure check on you before allowing you in. If this has already been undertaken by the assembly, (as it should have been if you work with children) a copy of this along with a short C.V. with your contact details, should be passed on to the head teacher so that they have this information on file. It also means that should that head teacher leave, the replacement will be able to find details of who you are, where you are from and what you do.
Following the assembly often an invitation will be given to have a coffee with the staff which should never be turned down where possible. Who would want to turn down the opportunity of a free cup of coffee! The chance of getting to know the staff better on these occasions is one that should not be refused and can lead to some very fruitful and useful discussions. It is amazing to discover how many staff members used to have contacts with the gospel in the past and often with the assemblies.
Finally, but importantly, do make sure that you tell the children that you are from such and such a Gospel Hall or they will never know where to come to when in need of help. Also ask if you can mention the Sunday school or Children’s work as well. You will often be given permission to do so as well as be allowed to distribute leaflets for special series of children’s meetings. If distributing leaflets do count them in bundles of thirty-five before going to the school so that all the secretary has to do is place one bundle in each class. I have heard of occasions when leaflets have been thrown in the bin because the secretary has neither the time nor the inclination to count them out for the various classes! When all is taken into consideration there really is much value in a regular schools work.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Marius Minnaar (New Zealand)
In this consideration of Benaiah it was suggested that we ponder:
- The man who conquered Lions and Giants.
- The Lions of Moab.
- The Lion (giant) of Egypt.
- The Lion in the pit.
We now come to the fourth.
The lion in the pit
This enemy was not a lion-like Moabite or a lion-like Egyptian. No, this was a real lion, perhaps the worst enemy of all — an enormously powerful and mighty beast of the field. The lion is called the king of beasts, because it is indeed a very powerful animal. With his teeth a lion is able to bite through any bone of the human body, including even the thighbone. So powerful is this animal, that with one slap of his paw it can crush the human skull. Benaiah went down into a pit on a snowy day and faced a lion, and he killed it. Someone said, “He met the worst possible foe at the worst possible time under the worst possible circumstances, and prevailed.”
Benaiah met this lion in the worst possible place, a pit. If you are going to fight a lion, certainly the one place not to choose is a pit, where you cannot get away, where your movements are limited and there is no escape. Notice also, that he met this lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. That made it a very treacherous situation. Snow numbs the fingers and makes it difficult to handle weapons: it makes footing treacherous and slippery: it blinds the eyes — the brightness of the sun upon the snow can actually destroy your vision temporarily. All these factors were involved in this struggle when Benaiah met the lion in a pit in a snowy day.
In 1Pet.5.8 Satan is pictured as a lion. Here is an enemy who is sinister, and who, like a lion, has tremendous power and might, and is out looking for something to eat, “seeking whom he may devour”. Notice that Benaiah’s action was offensive — the kind we are to wage against the attacks of Satan. Benaiah was not caught off guard but took the offensive and went down into the pit. He killed the lion in the middle of the pit, not while he was backed into a corner! Remember that there is no armour for the back of the Christian soldier in Eph.6.13-17! We are commanded to “resist the devil” and we are promised that “he will flee from you” Jms.4.7.
Of course there are other personal lions in our lives that we face from day to day. How do we conquer them? What we want and need to know is, how did he win? Scripture doesn’t tell us how he did it, but there are some clues. How did he do it? He was able to kill the lion because he was a mighty man of valour. He was an overcomer. In the story of David and Goliath, one tends to think that David must have been afraid going out to face this mighty giant, but he said, “The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine”, 1Sam.17.37. These were mighty men of valour who had been in battles before and had learned to trust and rely upon the power of their God. Perhaps this is the primary reason that Benaiah won this battle with the lion. He trusted in, and relied on the God who gave him victory in the past, and not on his own strength.
How did he do it? The whole focus of this story is that Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, was able to kill this lion. In the Bible, when you want to know what a man is like, look at his name, because sometimes biblical names give us a clue to the character of the individual. Most of time you see Benaiah’s name it is always mentioned in tandem with his father’s. His name appears more than thirty times in the Old Testament, and except for three occasions it appears as “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So his father’s name is important too. The meaning of these two names, in their order of seniority is — Jehoiada means “God knows,” and Benaiah means “God builds.” These twin truths are the secret of how to meet a lion, the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances, and win.
Jehoiada’s name means “God knows.” The comfort we can take is that God knows exactly where we are. He put us where we are and He knows all about us. He knows every trouble and trial, tribulation and sorrow that we face. He knows about every lion, He knows about every giant, He knows about every Moabite. He knows! Our Lord Jesus said that even the hairs of our head are numbered. Not only does God know but He cares and He feels what we feel. This is characteristic of His Great High Priestly work. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” Heb.4.15. It is a comfort to our hearts to know that God knows.
Then there is Benaiah — “God builds.” He has a purpose in mind. He knows what is happening and He is using it to work toward an end. Paul says “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” 2 Cor.4.17, and “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” Rom.8.18. And this is not only in heaven some day, but now. Those who go through heartaches, pressure, problems, tribulation, always emerge when they are in God’s hand, softened, mellowed, more loving, warmer and more compassionate. God builds us up through the various experiences of life, no matter what they are. He builds Christian character as well as faith in Himself. He strengthens the inner man. Are we not all stronger after some testing times in our lives, after some trials we faced? Let’s treat all these obstacles or rocks in our pathways as stepping-stones to get closer to Him — that’s what He desires.
God often changed a man’s name when he changed his character. Jacob’s (supplanter) name was changed to Israel (prince with God) when Jacob went through a transforming experience in his life. He changed Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). He changed Sarai (dominating) to Sarah (princess). Our Lord Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter (rock) — and what a rock he was in the early church! Is God in the process of building character in your life? This is the secret of survival: God knows and God builds.
It is possible that someone reading this is facing a lion right now. You may feel that you’re down in a pit with a ferocious lion. It may be some personal, assembly or health problem. Lions come in all shapes and sizes and fashions, and we face them every day. Maybe you’re wondering: how am I going to face this ferocious foe? How am I going to stand against an enemy that seems so powerful and relentless? Maybe you feel a great deal of fear and powerlessness. But The Lord Jesus knows all about us — He knows and feels what we feel. This is a comforting truth. But even more than just knowing what we’re facing, God has brought it about: He has a purpose in mind and that is to build character in us. So in times of trouble, firstly remember: He brought you there, and secondly, you are not alone. You will overcome your lions in His power and strength. Your strength and faith will increase in the process, making you a stronger warrior for the battles to come.
Any of the three encounters with lions — the lion-like Moabite warriors, the lion-like Egyptian and the real lion – could have ended Benaiah’s life as well as his bright military future. But without those difficult experiences he might have disappeared from the pages of Scripture! It was indeed adversity that turned into an opportunity for Benaiah to prove himself as a valiant warrior.
Among the groups of mighty men he was not the most courageous, able, important or charismatic leader: he attained not to the first three, v.25. He was also the lowest in the second group. Isn’t it worthy to notice that God numbered him with the greatest. What an encouragement for us! We are nobodies compared with mighty men of faith but God counts the faithful the same as the greatest.
More mighty men are recorded in vv.24-39 and not much is said about them but their names are given. Is your name recorded on God’s list of mighty Christians? Every man who joined David in the wilderness entered into his kingdom but only a few made the list of mighty men. Every Christian has a place in the kingdom of Christ but only those who are willing to serve Him with courage and loyal devotion in spite of difficulty and rejection, and putting Him first in everything, will stand out as His “mighty ones” — men and woman who conquered lions.
By J. C. Gibson (England)
Paper 3 The Third — Sixth Post-resurrection Appearances
The Third Post-resurrection Appearance to Peter Privately (Lk.24.34; 1Cor.15.5)
The Lord Jesus tenderly appeared to this fallen apostle. No details are given. Neither should our most intimate moments with the Master ever be for public scrutiny.
The Fourth Post-resurrection Appearance: The Emmaus Road (Mk.16.12,13; Lk.24.13-35)
While Jerusalem was buzzing with the news of Christ’s death, Lk.24.18; Act.26.26, two of His disciples (perhaps a married couple) quietly walked 7-8 miles westward towards Emmaus, v.13. Having fully expected the Lord Jesus to redeem Israel from Roman occupation and establish His kingdom, v.21, they were devastated by His crucifixion, of which their nation was guilty, v.20. Furthermore, reports of His resurrection, vv.22-24, in combination with their own limited understanding of the Scriptures, v.25, only heightened their perplexity.
As “they talked together of all these things which had happened … Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them” vv.14,15. He was the Moses-like prophet, “mighty in deed and word,” who had humbly associated Himself with despised Nazareth, v.19; Deut.18.15-20. Now risen, He gave them a matchless, heart warming, v.32, exposition of the Old Testament: “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” v.27. The Bible is like a great portrait of God’s beloved Son, every detail fitting together into a perfect whole.
Viewed in this light, the Old Testament takes on a whole new meaning. Everything points to Christ. He is there in person, e.g. the angel of the Lord, Jud.13.21,22, picture, e.g. the sin offering, Lev.4.1-6.7, and clear prediction, e.g. Isaiah ch.53. Individual words carry significance, Gen.22.17,18; Gal.3.16. Tiny ceremonial instructions are full of importance, Ex.12.46; Jn.19.36. Even textual omissions were carefully planned, e.g. Melchizedek’s lineage, Gen.14.18-20; Heb.7.1-3. Let us, like the Old Testament prophets themselves, diligently search in the Holy Scriptures for Christ, His sufferings and glories, 1Pet.1.10,11.
These two disciples, like Mary and the apostles, Jn.20.14; 21.4, initially failed to recognise the Lord Jesus, v.16. However, their eyes were finally opened at mealtime, perhaps on seeing His wounded hands, vv.30,31. Their sorrow was turned to joy, Jn.16.22, and they eagerly “returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together” v.33.
The Fifth and Sixth Post-resurrection Appearances: A Secure Room (Mk.16.14-18; Lk.24.36-49; Jn.20.19-29)
The first of these two appearances took place on the evening of Christ’s resurrection, the second, one week later. Bar a few exceptions – the two from Emmaus and others were at the first, Lk.24.33; Thomas was only present at the second – they were to the same group of people. A secure room provided suitable privacy on both occasions. It is difficult to determine when Mark and Luke’s accounts actually finish. However, because John’s record includes teaching on evangelism and the Holy Spirit the latter verses in Mark and Luke have been included in this study.
THE LORD’S BODY
Christ’s resurrection body is not subject to the same physical limitations that we experience. Therefore, He did not enter through the doors — they were shut, Jn.20.19,26 — and His supernatural appearance terrified the disciples who “supposed that they had seen a spirit” Lk.24.37,38. Even in resurrection His body consists of flesh and a skeletal structure, Lk.24.39. Though now glorified, He still retains the wounds of Calvary, Lk.24.40; Jn.20.27; Zech.12.10; Rev.5.6 — Thomas’ intention to thrust his hand into His side suggests a very large wound. Incidentally, only here are the nails that pierced Christ’s hands and feet mentioned, so fulfilling the prediction “they pierced My hands and My feet” Ps.22.16. His resurrection body could be touched and had the capacity to eat Lk.24.39,42,43.
The Lord’s identity was concealed, Lk.24.16, or made known, Lk.24.31, at will.
THE LORD’S WORDS
Several vital issues were mentioned by the Lord.
a) Comfort And Correction
The disciples’ fear of Jewish reprisals was answered with the promise of peace, Lk.24.36; Jn.20.19,21,26. Their “unbelief and hardness of heart” were “upbraided” Mk.16.14, Thomas being particularly challenged, Jn.20.24,27.
b) Principles Of Evangelism
The Lord Jesus sent forth His disciples, just as the Father had sent Him, Jn.17.18; 20.21. The gospel of Christ is to be universally proclaimed. For this reason the disciples were commanded to go “into all the world” and to “all nations” preaching to “every creature”, Mk.16.15; Lk.24.47. That such witness began at Jerusalem, Lk.24.47, the place of the Lord’s rejection, was a wonderful reminder of the richness of God’s grace. This message, that centres on Christ Himself and hence is preached “in His name”, Lk.24.47, offers salvation, Mk.16.16, and remission of sins, Lk.24.47; Jn.20.23. In return, it demands repentance, Lk.24.47, and belief without sight, Mk.16.16; Jn.20.29; 1Pet.1.8; and following these, baptism. Woe to those who reject it. Their sins will be retained, Jn.20.23, and they themselves condemned because of unbelief, Mk.16.16. Let us remember the high price that many have paid for faithfulness to Christ: “witnesses”, Lk.24.48, translates martus from which we get martyr. “All but one of the eleven, it is claimed, were to be called to lay down their lives for their witness.”6 Several miraculous signs were to accompany “them that believe”, Mk.16.17,18: thus God confirmed the validity of their message, Heb.2.4. Each of these signs, except drinking poison, is recorded as having taken place in the early church but are now all obsolete
c) Scriptures Fulfilled
Christ is the key that unlocks the Old Testament, Lk.24.44. With unmistakable accuracy it predicted Christ’s suffering and resurrection, Lk.24.46. Just as these Scriptures received literal fulfilment, so shall those relating to His future glory. It is, however, only by Divine revelation that such Scriptures can be understood properly. Even the disciples, having accompanied the Lord Jesus for several years, and listened to His expositions of the Old Testament in relation to Himself, Lk.24.44, only rightly appreciated the prophecies when He “opened their understanding” Lk.24.45.
d) The Holy Spirit
He was promised by the Father and sent by the Son to clothe the disciples with heavenly power for, amongst other things, witnessing, Lk.24.48,49. Since the Lord commanded His disciples to wait at Jerusalem for the Spirit’s coming, Lk.24.49, His breathing on them on this occasion did not give the Holy Spirit, but rather anticipated the Pentecostal coming, Jn.20.22, when “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind” Act.2.2.
THE LORD’S DISCIPLES
Both occasions give a helpful example for Christians in local church fellowship. The eleven, and those with them, gathered together, Lk.24.33, for believers must never be isolationists. We are warned against “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” Heb.10.25. This simply leads to spiritual apathy and bitterness. By appearing to His disciples on subsequent Sundays, the Lord Jesus set apart the day of His resurrection, rather than the Sabbath, as a new special day for believers. From then on New Testament saints broke bread weekly on the first day of the week, Act.20.7. Just as the doors were shut, to protect from Jewish hostility, so a local assembly should be a place of security from sin and doctrinal error. “Jesus came and stood in the midst” Lk.24.30; Jn.20.19,26. In like manner, He must be central to every church gathering. Joy filled the disciples’ hearts when they saw His wounds, and recognised Him, Lk.24.41; Jn.20.20, because Christian joy is most fully experienced when contemplating Christ. Thomas was especially impressed by the Lord’s deity, Jn.20.28 — perhaps specifically His omniscience, since He knew exactly Thomas’ demand one week earlier for tangible proof of the resurrection, Jn.20.25,27. For whatever reason, Thomas was absent, and as such he missed a sight of Christ. We too lose much if we fail to have regular fellowship with the saints.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By J. Sinclair (Scotland)
This epistle was written by Paul to Timothy while he was in fellowship in the church at Ephesus.
The key to understanding the epistle is found in ch.3.15, where we are told that it was written so that we may know how to behave in house of God. It is important to note that in the original language there is no definite article — it is “house of God” not “the house of God.” “The House of God” embraces every believer from Pentecost to the Rapture; but as ‘house of God’ it means the local church at Ephesus. This is similar to 1Cor.12.27 where the local assembly at Corinth was “body of Christ” and not “the Body of Christ.”
The book can be divided as follows:
- Division 1
- 1.1-17 — The Initial Charge.
- Division 2
- 1.18 – 6.19 — The Continuation of the Charge.
- a) The Explanation of the Charge, 1.18-29;
- b) The Elements of the Charge, 2.1-6.19:
- i) Prayer in House of God, 2.1-7;
- ii) Deportment in House of God, 2.8-15;
- iii) Rule in House of God, 3.1-7;
- iv) Deacons in House of God, 3.8-13;
- v) Behaviour in House of God, 3.14-16;
- vi) Departure in House of God, 4.1-16;
- vii) Relationships in House of God, 5.1-6.19.
- Division 3
- 6.20-21 — The Final Charge.
1: 1.1-17 — THE INITIAL CHARGE
In v.1 Paul establishes his authority for writing. He is “an apostle”, a sent one, “of Jesus Christ, by the command of God our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ our Hope.” While there are no apostles in this present day, we still need to be sure we have the authority of the Word of God for all we teach.
V.2 details the recipient of the epistle. It is written to an individual, Timothy. He is Paul’s genuine, true son in or by faith in Christ Jesus, and Paul wishes his continual blessing in the experiencing of “grace, mercy and peace.” These blessings come from a relationship with God as Father and with Jesus Christ as Lord. Such relationships are the sole right of true believers.
In vv.3,4 Paul outlines the details of the Charge. Timothy has to remain at Ephesus while Paul leaves to go to Macedonia. The charge is laid out very precisely:
- Charge some — specific persons are involved and have to be commanded.
- Not to teach differently — not to teach different doctrine but ensure all teaching is in accordance with that already taught.
- Not to give heed — not only not to pay attention, but not to give assent.
- To fables — myths with no Scriptural foundation, things of the imagination.
- To endless genealogies — linked to the fables. They were limitless and being constantly manufactured, related to genealogies probably concerning the Jews’ greatness.
These result in providing questionings rather than “godly edifying” which is received in faith and not questioned.
V.5 sets out the purpose of the charge. The word ‘end’ means the aim, the purpose, that by which the charge is characterised. It has to be first characterised by love to fellow believers as opposed to controversy and disputations. That love has to be marked as coming from “a pure heart”, not governed by self-seeking or impure motives. It has also to be marked as coming from “a good conscience.” That is a conscience that is sincere before God and beneficial in its effects or acts in a beneficial way. The love has also to be marked by unfeigned faith. It had to come from a genuine faith in God and had to operate in faith in Him, in dependence on Him.
In vv.6-11 Paul deals with the failure of some to practise these things taught in v.5. They have “swerved” or missed the mark and wandered or “turned aside.” They are now involved in vain talking which is devoid of results, useless and to no purpose, desiring to be teachers of the law and not declaring the gospel. They do not understand what they say and what they so confidently affirm. Paul shows the true relationship between the law and the gospel in vv.8-11. The law is intrinsically good but has to be used according to its design. It was not given to provide a means of salvation. The law is not for a righteous man but was to highlight all that is “contrary to sound doctrine.” That sound doctrine is seen in “the glorious gospel of the blessed God”, committed to Paul’s trust. Paul shows the topic of the gospel, as opposed to law, is God’s Glory in righteousness and grace.
Paul has already stated his authority for writing this epistle in v.1 but here in vv.12-19 he details that authority. He was empowered by the Lord, considered faithful, appointed to the ministry, after he had obtained mercy and abundant grace. This was displayed to one who was “the chief of sinners”. “This is a faithful saying” that is it is trustworthy and the statement is used five times in the pastoral epistles. It is not only a trustworthy fact, but also worthy of complete acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. As the chief of sinners he obtained mercy for a pattern or ensample to others. None need hesitate if longsuffering was shown to him as the chief, all can obtain such mercy through believing on Him to life everlasting.
The contemplation of such mercy causes Paul to close the first division of the book with a doxology of praise. He commences such a doxology with “now”. This mercy shown calls for immediate praise. His sovereignty is acknowledged as well as His eternal existence. He is the Eternal King from the ages past to the ages to come. Paul calls attention to some of His attributes. He is “immortal” meaning incorruptible, essentially pure, not liable to corruption. He then says He is “invisible”, imperceptible to sight. Col.1.15 states that He “is the image of the invisible God”. Heb.11.29 records that Moses “endured, as seeing Him who is invisible”. All that God is, our Lord Jesus Christ is — He has every attribute of Deity. To such an One Paul ascribes “honour and glory unto the ages of the ages. Amen”. (J.N.D.).
—to be continued (D.V.)
by M. Rudge (Wales)
PAPER 1 — INTRODUCTION
The book of Job asks the question, “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? … Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding?” 28.12,20. This is an important question in view of the many references to wisdom and understanding and the knowledge on which it is based, both in the Old and New Testaments.
Job chapter 28 has been described as a ‘hymn in praise of wisdom’ and the book of Job as ‘the greatest poem of ancient or modern times’ (Tennyson). It is interesting that the narrative from chapter 4 to chapter 39 is poetry in the style of Hebrew poetry, which matches subject matter rather than the sameness of word endings.
Chapter 28 is ‘a poem of great beauty’ and deals with the subject of wisdom, human wisdom and divine wisdom. It separates the end of the somewhat exhausting dialogue between Job and his three friends, 3.1-27.23, and Job’s final speech, 29.1-31.40, which has been called ‘Job’s last stand’. It is so different to anything that has been said so far in its calm insight into the topic, that it seems likely that it is an independent, Spirit-inspired, insight, by the author of the book. The issue is repeated in the chapter in vv.12 and 20 and the answer is that wisdom is found in God alone — “God understandeth the way thereof, and He knoweth the place thereof” v.23. His wisdom and understanding are available to us in Divine revelation. “Behold, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” v.28. Divine revelation is made available to those who fear God and eschew evil, so that wisdom and understanding are also with them. It is not the wisdom of this world, or mere intellectual, theoretic wisdom, but wisdom which comes from increasing in the knowledge of God and the knowledge of His will in daily, personal experience and the wise ordering of our lives in practical daily living, Col.1.9-11, 27-2.4; “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation (manner of life) his works with meekness of wisdom”, Jms.3.13.
HUMAN WISDOM AND RESEARCH HAVE NOT DISCOVERED WISDOM, 28.1-11
This chapter begins with the statement, “Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it” v.1. Thus human wisdom and its attainments is the starting point of the chapter. The writer begins by expressing his appreciation of the way in which human wisdom is seen in the science and technology of his day, especially the skill of the mining industry. Mining was a major technological advance in Job’s day. It represents man’s ability to come to terms with the challenge and potential of every day life and to use it like raw materials to the best advantage.
Mines were worked for gold, silver, iron and copper, precious stones. It would be the equivalent of the latest technological advance and achievement in our day. The search for wisdom is like the search for precious metals. It involves sustained effort, motivation and persistence. Man is prepared to pay the price involved, working in the dark and in dangerous conditions. Perhaps there is a suggestion here of the darkness of the unknown in Job’s life and the insight that it will yet yield precious treasure.
“Man putteth an end to darkness, and exploreth the utmost limit, the stones of darkness … he openeth a shaft far from the inhabitants of earth” vv.3,4 (J.N.D.) See also vv.9-11.
If man achieves his object it is considered well worth all that is involved. In vv.7,8, the tribute to man’s skill, his powers of observation, his inventiveness, is something which sets Him apart from the lower orders of creation, where God’s creatures are renowned for their own special features. The vulture or falcon is an example of birds of prey, with their keen-sightedness, the lion with its courage and ability to invade any territory without fear, as the king of beasts. No bird of prey knows that hidden path; no falcon’s eye has seen it. Proud beasts do not set foot on it and no lion prowls there. See vv.7,8,21. Man’s superiority only makes his failure to find true wisdom, even sadder. Cp Isa.1.3.
The first section of the chapter with its appreciation of human wisdom, leads to v.12 and the central issue. The search for wisdom is infinitely superior to anything comparable to it in the world of mining but where is it to be found, where is the place that it dwells? The answer to this question is ultimately seen as something that evades and is out of the reach of the highest intellectual powers. Man’s remarkable success in many fields shows his tremendous potential but when the best construction has been put upon it, he has completely failed ‘to unearth wisdom.’ “It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing” v.13. It is not wisdom of this world.
If such effort is put into developing human potential for the treasures of earth, how much more should effort be put into the search for wisdom, Prov.8.1-21?
HUMAN WEALTH CANNOT PURCHASE WISDOM, 28.12-19
“But where shall (can) wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? (Where does understanding dwell?). Man knoweth not the price thereof (man does not comprehend its worth); Neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me” vv.13,14. The unique value of wisdom far surpasses any human treasure. Man does not only not know “the place thereof”, but also he does not know the price of wisdom, its true value. The writer stretches for words to express the value and worth of earthly treasures, which makes them so sought after, only to say that wisdom cannot be bought with them. Its value cannot be weighed, vv.15,19. Even the most renowned jewels cannot equal or be compared with it, so that there is no exchange rate for it, v.17. “No mention shall be made of coral or pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies” v.18. There is a price to be paid to acquire it but it is not human currency.
—to be continued (D.V.)
More people travel by plane than ever before. Formerly this mode of travel was solely the realm of the wealthy, but in the present society it appears that nearly everyone has been on a plane. The downturn in home-based holidays is largely due to the availability and economy of flights to lands where sunshine is almost guaranteed. When a person is checking in for a flight it is usual to find that the boarding pass contains the information telling the traveller through which gate the plane will be boarded. Sometimes the traveller will be told that the gate has not yet been decided and to keep watching the screen for details. The information regarding the gate is essential since the gate decides the destiny. If somehow the traveller gets through the wrong gate he will end up in the wrong place!
In the Bible the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, told a story about two gates and His message was that the gate decides the destiny. This illustration can be found in the first book of the New Testament, Matthew’s gospel, chapter 7 vv. 13, 14. He spoke of the dimensions of the gate and the destiny to which it would lead. One of the gates is wide and the other strait (narrow). The wide gate leads to destruction and the narrow gate to life. It is obvious which gate a clear thinking person would choose: or is it?
The wide gate is wide enough to allow a person to bring as much baggage as they wish. There will be no limit on weight or size. The pleasures, sins, entertainments, amusements of the world can all be brought through this gate. Everything that a person enjoys and that panders to a sinful nature will be welcome. When the person goes through the gate he will find that the way is thronging with a multitude of people all intent on having as much pleasure as they can find. They will be dancing merrily along the path, seemingly carefree and treating life so frivolously. The big problem is the destiny — it leads to destruction. This is not annihilation but rather it is eternal torment under the judgment of a holy and righteous God.
The narrow gate is different. There is only room for a sinner to enter — no baggage allowed. This is what is meant when the Bible speaks about ‘repentance’. All sin and folly is left behind and the person seeking the right way comes with nothing but a plea for the mercy of God. It involves humility and low thoughts of self and high thoughts of the Son of God. William Batty wrote,
- “O lovely sight, O heavenly form,
- For sinful souls to see;
- I’ll creep beside Him as a worm,
- And see Him die for me.”
The narrow gate leads to a narrow way where there are comparatively few other travellers. Yet they enjoy God and things spiritual and are very comfortable with each other’s company. Of course, the big contrast is the destiny — it leads to life. This means eternal life with God. It means heavenly glory and bliss for all eternity.
These two ways are mutually exclusive. It is impossible to be on both and so a decision has to be made — which gate and thus which destiny? The prodigal son in Luke chapter 15, realised the broad way was disappointing and unsatisfying and so he decided to get onto the narrow way. This he did by leaving the Godlessness of the world behind and retracing his steps to his father. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me,” John 14 v. 6. He opened up the way back to God by His death upon Calvary’s Cross where He died that we might live. Romans 5 v. 8 states, “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.
1 Sam. 12.20
- No outward show of service,
No fame of conquests won,
This path is for His judgment—
Seeks only His “Well done”.
- His grace is all-sufficient;
His promises are sure;
He grants the keeping power;
His mercy does endure.
- Oh for a will to will Thy will and then to will is well.
The willing will that wills God’s will within God’s will, will dwell.
- W. Gaw