ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TESTIMONY IN TROUBLOUS TIMES
by I. McKee
CHRISTIAN CONDUCT IN A MODERN WORLD
by W. A. Boyd
by J. A. Davidson
by W. W. Fereday
THE PERPLEXED PROPHET: AN OVERVIEW OF HABAKKUK
by G. Hutchinson
BEHOLD MY SERVANT
by W. F. Naismith
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by R. Plant
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
2) Reviewing the Journey: From Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea
Read Chapter 1
Deuteronomy ch.1-3 trace the journey of the children of Israel from Horeb, via Kadesh-barnea, to the plains of Moab. Apart from one delightful comment, 1.11, these chapters simply recite historical facts, but that does not make them unimportant. In subsequent chapters, Moses builds on those facts. We must never forget that Bible teaching is based on fact, and this explains why unregenerate men take every opportunity to either cast doubt on the historical accuracy of the Bible, or deny it completely. After all, doctrine is valueless if it is based on fiction! Just think of the consequences if we try to jettison the opening chapters of Genesis! It would even cast doubt on the veracity of the Lord Jesus. He did not believe in evolution! See Matt.19.4.
Whilst it is tempting to leap over these three chapters without further comment, we should at least prove that they are worthy of further study! Deut.1 commences with a general introduction to the book, v1-5, followed by a review of the journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea, v6-19, and events at Kadesh-barnea, v20-46.
1) INTRODUCTION, v1-5
i) Where Moses addressed the people. "These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness," v1, see also v5. Moses describes the occupancy of the land while they are still in the wilderness. The blessings of our inheritance, now and in the future, make current privations and current hostility bearable!
ii) When Moses addressed the people. It was after God had demonstrated that He was actively against His people’s sin. "In the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month." Compare Num.14.34. Note, again, the significant information in v2, "There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea." What should have taken eleven days, took thirty-eight years: see 2.14. Unbelief and disobedience will always push us ‘off course.’ It was also after God had demonstrated that He was actively for His people’s blessing. "After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites … and Og the king of Bashan." If we are going to enjoy our present inheritance in Christ, we will have to remember both lessons.
iii) Why Moses addressed the people. It was to convey "all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them." Enjoyment of the inheritance is contingent on obedience to the Word of God. Nothing has changed. See Jn.15.10-11.
2) THE JOURNEY FROM HOREB TO KADESH-BARNEA, v6-19
A) The purpose of the journey, v6-8
This was to possess the land. "Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites." Compare 2.3. The words "long enough" do not imply criticism, but they do remind us that we should be progressing in our Christian lives. "The mount of the Amorites" evidently refers to the hill country north of Kadesh-barnea, and implies that there was fighting ahead. The children of Israel would not possess their inheritance without difficulty. This is still true: see Eph.6.12. Notice:
i) The provision of the land. "Behold I have set the land before you." God had provided their inheritance, and there was nothing boring about it! Look at its variety in v7. We have every reason to be excited about our inheritance! God doesn’t bestow second rate blessings.
ii) The possession of the land. They were to "go in and possess the land" set before them, v8; see also v2,39. The word "possess" occurs approximately fifty times in Deuteronomy, plus other related words. The words "inherit" and "inheritance" occur almost forty times. This emphasises the great lesson of the book. God still says, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you," Jos.1.3. We must ‘possess our possessions.’
iii) The promise of the land. It was "the land … which the Lord sware unto your fathers." The children of Israel were about to enter the inheritance promised centuries beforehand. We must not forget that the promises made to the fathers were unconditional, and will be ultimately fulfilled. If God had predetermined Israel’s inheritance, just think of the way in which He has predetermined our blessings!
B) The problem of administration, v9-18
This section evidently refers to Ex.18, rather than Num.11, although the two passages have certain similarities. We should notice:
i) The difficulties of the work. "And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone," v9-10. The increasing problems and difficulties accompanying the population explosion, taxed Moses to the limit: "How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?", v12. Most assembly elders can empathise with Moses here. We must remember that they ‘watch for the souls’ of the saints, and we must therefore take steps to ensure that they can do this "with joy, and not with grief," Heb.13.17.
The statement, "I am not able to bear you myself alone," must be read in conjunction with "Thou hast seen how the Lord thy God bare thee," v31. See also Ex.19.4. His description of Israel recalls Gen.15.5. It is lovely to notice that the difficulties of the work did not turn Moses into a bitter and resentful old man: "The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as He promised you!", v11.
ii) The delegation of responsibility. "Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you," v13. We could call this ‘the appointment of under-shepherds.’ Notice the following:
(a) The job qualifications. "Wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes," v13. See also v15, "Wise men, and known." Amongst other things, they were to be men whose qualities were already acknowledged. That is precisely how an assembly recognises its elders! Sheep always know their shepherds.
(b) The job titles. "Rulers," v13; "heads," v15; "captains," v15; "officers," v15; "judges," v16. Compare 1Thess.5.12.
(c) The job specifications. "Judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s," v16-17. While there is not an exact parallel in New Testament teaching, there are lessons here for assembly overseers. See 1Pet.5.1-3.
C) The passage through the wilderness, v19
"And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of (‘on the way to,’ JND) the mountain of the Amorites, as the Lord our God commanded us, see v7; and we came to Kadesh-barnea." This world is certainly a "great and terrible wilderness." It was impossible for Israel to settle in such territory, but many Christians seem quite happy in this environment. We are, properly, "strangers and pilgrims," 1Pet. 2.11, and the world through which we pass should never cease to appal us. This brings us to:
3) UNBELIEF AT KADESH-BARNEA, v20-46
This section can be divided with reference to the expression "go up." See v21-22, 26, 28, 41. There was:
A) Encouragement to go up, v20-24
i) Encouragement, v20-21. "Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged." But they were discouraged, see v28.
ii) Exploration, v22-24. Notice that it was the people themselves who suggested that the land should be reconnoitred. Although God evidently granted their request, Num.13.1-3, it would have been better if they had proceeded in faith! After all, God had promised them possession, and had proved His ability to deliver them from all enemies. Israel said, "we will send men before us," v22, but Moses said, "The Lord your God, which goeth before you, he shall fight for you," v30.
B) Refusal to go up, v25-40
i) Refusal by the people, v25-28. They refused to "go up" in spite of the good report. "Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God," v25-26. Notice that they doubted God’s love: "Ye murmured in your tents (rebellion began in their homes: it often does), and said, Because the Lord hated us, He hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us," v27. Notice that they were discouraged by their brethren: "Whither shall we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our heart," v28. See 9.1-2. The Lord’s people can still be ‘wet blankets!’ We should be like the brethren in 1Cor.16.17-18, and Tychicus in Col.4.8.
ii) Remonstration by Moses, v29-33. God had proved both His power and His love for them. They had no reason to doubt Him. They had His power in Egypt, v30. They had proved His power in the wilderness, v 31. But it was to no avail: "Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God, Who sent in the way before you," v32-33. Can we say with Paul, "I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me?", Acts 27.25.
iii) Response by God, v34-40. He was angry with the people: "And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers." The exception was Caleb, who had "wholly followed the Lord," v34-36. God was angry with Moses: "Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go thither," v37-38. Notice that Joshua was to be encouraged: more about this in 3.21,28. We learn that unbelief is an insult to God, and that faith brings Him pleasure. Notice too that there is nothing arbitrary about His judgment: "Moreover your little ones … which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea," v39-40.
C) Determination to go up, v41-46
"We have sinned against the Lord, we will go up and fight … And the Lord said unto me, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you." But they "went presumptuously up into the hill." Israel behaved illogically. They would not go up with God, v21, 40, but they were willing to go up without Him! In the first place they were told to "go up," but they refused. In the second place, they were told not to "go up," but they went. It was a recipe for disaster, v44. Their words were impressive: "we will go up and fight, according to all that the Lord our God commanded us." But however pious the covering language, sin and rebellion will always bring defeat. Moses was obliged to remind them that they "rebelled against the commandment of the Lord," v43, and "returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord would not hearken to your voice, nor give ear unto you," v45. Alas, we can be just like Samson who said, "I will go out, as at other times before, and shake myself, And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him."
Moses’ review of their journey through the wilderness continues in Chapter 2.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee (Northern Ireland)
Paper 12 — Decree and Doxology
(Ezra Chapter 7.11-28)
The journey of Ezra and his companions from Babylon to Jerusalem took four months. The fact that it was accomplished successfully is stated first, Ezra 7.9. But of the development of the specific exercise, which led Ezra to determine this course of action, we are told nothing. Nor are we apprised how he acquired favour with Artaxerxes Longimanus, the Persian Emperor.
The Decree of the King (Ezra 7.11-26)
The imperial authority given to Ezra is recorded in a letter from Artaxerxes, the text of which is here preserved for us in Scripture. It is remarkable in its references to the name of God, to His will and to His worship.
Following a typical Persian preamble, the letter grants permission to Ezra to go up to Jerusalem with as many as wish to accompany him. There is one proviso: those who go must be "minded of their own freewill" to do so, Ezra 7.13. Nothing of a truly spiritual nature will be accomplished by coercion. After all, the demands are such as to require a wholehearted application. And if such wholeheartedness is not present, then that exercise will crumble in the face of adversity. The Lord Himself was explicit in regard to the demands of discipleship: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me", Mt.16.24.
Ezra was commissioned by the King and his Privy Council to conduct an inquiry. Although the precise terms of reference are not stated, he is to investigate the conditions of the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the law of the Lord that he studied, understood, practiced and taught, Ezra 7.14. This task may have been unanticipated, but Ezra’s competence to perform it was recognised by the highest in the land. Private exercise results in public acknowledgment.
He was also authorised to transport a considerable sum of money to Jerusalem to support the temple sacrifices, Ezra 7.15-18. This funding came from three sources. The first was a generous endowment from the King and his counsellors, which foreshadows a future day of millennial glory when the wealth of the nations shall be brought to Zion, Isaiah chapter 60. Funds were also donated by non-Jews in the province of Babylon plus freewill offerings from the Jewish residents. Whereas the funds authorised by Cyrus in Ezra chapter 1 were for the capital costs involved in temple reconstruction, these from Artaxerxes were for maintenance costs. This included the purchase of animals and other materials for sacrifice and Ezra and his companions were given discretion in relation to the use of the monies remaining.
In addition, unspecified vessels were also given for the Temple service, Ezra 7.19. These may have been the twenty basins of gold and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold, detailed in Ezra 8.27. And Ezra was given authority to fund from the royal treasury whatever other things were found to be needful, Ezra 7.20.
Artaxerxes then addresses the Persian treasurers in Syria to order them to facilitate Ezra’s needs, Ezra 7.21-24. This was to be done speedily to a budget limit of one hundred talents of silver, almost 4 tonnes! Did not Haggai declare to the Jewish remnant, "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts" Hag.2.8. Also given were one hundred measures of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, one hundred baths of oil and as much salt as they needed. These commodities were needed for sacrifice.
The provincial officers and treasurers are commanded to carry Artaxerxes’ orders completely into effect and provide tax exemption. He expresses sentiments similar to those of Cyrus and Darius; "for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons" Ezra 1.2-4; 6.10; 7.23. Artaxerxes clearly seeks to avoid wrath from God and desires Divine favour for his benefit and that of his dynasty. Had he been impressed by the reverence and awe that Ezra, and possibly others, accorded to Jehovah? If so, he is not the last person to read the Scriptures in the lives of the saints!
Finally Ezra is given civil authority to establish a judicial system, Ezra 7.25,26. This includes the appointment of magistrates and judges and the enforcement of legal sanctions including forfeitures, imprisonment, exile and even capital punishment. And why was he given such sweeping powers? Because Artaxerxes recognised that Ezra had been entrusted with the law of God, was scrupulous in determining the Divine mind and in carrying His will into effect. He could therefore be trusted to observe the law of the land and be faithful to the King’s command. Few men had such recognition in Gentile courts. In this regard Ezra stands alongside Joseph, Daniel, Mordecai and, later, Nehemiah.
But the Jews within Ezra’s jurisdiction, irrespective of their prior knowledge of the Word of God, were to be taught Divine truth. This is an important precept of particular relevance today as far too often those who teach God’s Word take for granted that truth is already known. Ezra made no such assumption and taught from first principles. So should we. Otherwise the rising generation will be deprived of a goodly heritage.
The doxology of Ezra (Ezra 7. 27.28)
This personal narrative, which continues to the end of chapter 9, begins with praise. Ezra blesses "the Lord God of our fathers" who inspired the policy of the king to adorn and beautify "the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem", Ezra 7.27. He does not become proud and self-centred as a result of the honour bestowed upon him. Rather he is humble as he considers how God blessed him before the king and all his courtiers and the result of that strengthening was that he "gathered together out of Israel chief men to go with me", Ezra 7.28. His humility led to enlargement of exercise and endeavour. May we have more of that humility today and see chief men raised among the brethren!
—to be continued, (D.V.)
by Walter A. Boyd (South Africa)
No. 5. THE CONSECRATED SERVANT (Continued)
C. Paul and Prayer (Romans 15.30-33)
The last four verses of chapter fifteen give an insight into the heart of the Apostle Paul, as he contemplated his intended journey to Jerusalem. In the previous section (15.25-29), we saw his clear and resolute intention to complete the task of taking practical help to the saints in Jerusalem, before making his way on to Rome. In this present section it is clear that Paul knew there were considerable dangers to be faced in such a journey. He realised that, when he reached Jerusalem, he would face the malicious intentions of them that believe not (15.31). Even though this was the case, the Apostle, just like his Master, did not hesitate to take the journey. His primary precautions for such a dangerous journey were to submit to the will of God (15.32), and solicit the prayers of the people of God (15.30). His commitment to the task in hand, and courage in the face of danger, are without question. The section has three main components;
1. His Request for prayer (v30)
2. The Matters for prayer (v31,32)
3. His Apostolic prayer (v33)
1. His Request for prayer (v.30).
This is the second of three specific requests that he makes in the epistle. Each commences with the words, I beseech you brethren (12.1, 15.30, 16.17). In the first he deals with consecration, in the last with identification, and in the present one with supplication. There are three matters to consider in his request for prayer.
A. The Incentive for prayer is two-fold:
For our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake and for the love of the Spirit. Paul affectionately addresses the saints in Rome as his "brethren." When his letter would be read among the saints in Rome they would find it difficult to refuse his request, because of the grounds and graciousness of his appeal.
By our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, is a complex phrase. It most likely means that he makes his request by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, and he expects them to respond because of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love which the Spirit gives.
B. The Intensity in the prayer is found in the word strive. By their prayers, the believers at Rome will be striving together with Paul for the accomplishment of his mission in the journey to Jerusalem. To strive, has the idea of joining side by side in the combat with the great Apostle. By using this word, he is letting us see that he expects a real conflict when he reaches Jerusalem. Paul appreciates his fellow-believers, and he is ready to engage their help in his labours. He is not beyond accepting the help of others.
C. The Intercession of their prayer is found in the words, to God for me. What a comfort to Paul, that saints as far away as Rome were interceding directly with God on his behalf. The commitment of praying saints gives courage and confidence to many a weary servant of God, as he faces danger and opposition in his work. Can we be relied upon to respond to such a request for prayer today? Perhaps we are too glib when we promise to pray for those in need. Do we keep every promise we make in this respect?
2. The Matters for prayer (v.31, 32).
Paul has three clear objectives before his mind for his journey to Jerusalem, and these are conveyed in the details of his request for prayer. It is not just a general request, like "pray for me." There is no fuzzy thinking here. He knows exactly what it is that he wants to accomplish, and can thus make specific requests for prayer to that end. He wanted them to be precise in their prayers: a brief, "God bless Paul," would not suffice! They were asked to pray for:
A. The Deliverance from his enemies (v.31). Paul knew well the character of those in Jerusalem who would oppose him. Perhaps they had been his cohorts in earlier unconverted days. The translation, them that believe not, is too weak; and is more accurately, them that are disobedient. These people have heard the gospel and rejected its claims, and demands for obedience. Those who at one time would have applauded his evil deeds against the Christians in Judea, are now opposing him, and he recognised the dangers that he faced from such people. Therefore, this is no melodramatic exaggeration in order to gain the sympathy of the believers in Rome. When you read Acts ch.21-28, where his eventual arrival in Rome and the treatment he received there are recorded, it is clear he had every reason to fear the worst. But, however real those fears were, he remained undeterred. The wickedness of men’s hearts, the witness of the Spirit, the warning of the prophet Agabus, and the weeping of concerned saints, would not change his plan to travel to Jerusalem, in the will of God. Only God could deliver from these dangers, and take him safely with the gift from the Gentile assemblies. That being so, what more does he need to do than commit himself to God, and ask for the prayers of fellow believers?
B. The Acceptance of his service (v.31). What Paul speaks of here, is more than the safe deposit of the funds that he was carrying to the Christians at Jerusalem. It includes the idea that Paul was anxious that the Jewish believers would heartily accept the gift from Gentile believers, as well as his part in its delivery. Perhaps the gift would be refused, because of where it came from; perhaps it would not be accepted, because of who carried it. These real concerns were committed to God in prayer, and Paul was happy to invoke the prayerful help of others to ensure the success of his mission. The Jewish acceptance of a Gentile gift would be a vindication of Paul’s teaching that, as Christians there is neither Jew nor Gentile, they are both one in Christ Jesus. His arrival in Jerusalem with a gift from Gentile assemblies would be a real test as to the acceptance and progress of his ministry among the Christians, as well as the possible cause of a tumult among the unsaved.
C. The Realisation of his plans (v.32). In ch.1.10,11, Paul expressed a longing to visit them in Rome. He is now asking them to pray with him to that end. Not just that he would reach Rome, but that he would reach them with joy, and be refreshed by his visit to them. Paul’s work was subject to the will of God, and his pursuance of that will guaranteed the joy he anticipated on reaching Rome, after successfully completing his service in Jerusalem.
3. His Apostolic prayer (v.33).
The Apostle’s benedictory prayer is closely linked to similar expressions found earlier in this chapter:
15.5 – Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded …
15.13 – Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing …
15.33 – Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
If they are going to live peacefully (be likeminded), and be filled with peace in believing, they will need the God of Peace to be with them. Paul wants them to experience and enjoy Divine peace in all its fullness and blessing: peace of heart, peace of mind, peace of conscience, peace of soul, and peace in relationships.
The Source of peace – The God of peace – His Person
The Substance of peace – Be with you – His Presence
The Scope of peace – With you all – His Plenitude
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. A. Davidson (Northern Ireland)
PAPER 8 — ACCOUNTANCY : PART 2
The apostle encouraged other investors, used his own account to the benefit of the Lord’s people and spoke of the day when each would have his account examined. He writes to the saints at Philippi: "Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account," Phil.4.17. In contrast to Corinthian narrowness and Galatian foolishness, Paul commends Philippian devotedness to the work of God through their practical gift to him. This assembly exercise he considered as a high yielding account, a good return on their investment, recompense from the Lord in the day of reckoning. In the context of partaking and imparting material things, the verb, ‘to communicate’ has the idea of gaining shares with. "But to do good and to communicate forget not," Heb.13.16.
Paul writes to Philemon, to intercede on behalf of Onesimus (his name means ‘Profitable’). "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account (reckon to me)", Phil.18. Here we have an example of how to act toward a brother to develop the virtues of Christ in him and how difficulties among the Lord’s people can be turned in God’s mercy to blessing and increase.
When Paul comes near to the end of his stewardship in the dismal surroundings of his prison cell, soon to be executed as a criminal, he is not defeated or disappointed. "For which cause I also, suffer these things; but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep (guard, safe keeping) for that day the deposit I have entrusted to Him. Have an outline of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Keep, by the Holy Ghost which dwells in us, the good deposit entrusted," 2Tim.1.12-14 (JND). Paul would never be free again yet he had the settled assurance, the absolute conviction that all which he as a believer and servant had entrusted as a deposit to the safe keeping of God, would be guarded by the power and might of God against robbery or loss. All that Paul valued, not only in salvation but in service, he had deposited with God. God does the keeping of all that is entrusted to Him, it is in the vault of Heaven, safe in the bank of Glory, as an account with God in light of the future time of reward. "Henceforth there is laid up (deposited, stored away, reserved) for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing," 2Tim.4.8. It is to be noted that in the meantime Paul has kept (as a deposit) the faith, ch.4, and Timothy likewise, has been entrusted with the deposit of sound words. In a day of carelessness and compromise, if we squander the treasures of sound doctrine and scriptural truths, we will sustain serious spiritual losses now and find in that day, that the account is shamefully empty.
The adjective form of the noun ‘profit,’ Mk.8.36, is often used by Paul in the pastoral Epistles:
Godliness of Life: "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having a promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come," 1Tim.4.8.
Guidance of the Scriptures: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2Tim.3.16.
Good works: "That they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men," Tit.3.8.
A godly, consistent life in obedience to the Scriptures is the secret to the profit taking (advantageous, beneficial) side of Paul’s ledger. He finds that bodily exercise has little profit in that it pertains to this life, and that some strive about words to no profit at all.
Soon our stewardship of the riches of Christ, the treasures of the Scriptures, the wealth of the Gospel and the precious truths of the Assembly will be called to account. What we have gained or lost will be manifested. For we must all appear (to be made manifest) before the judgment seat of Christ," 2Cor.5.10. "The day shall declare it," 1Cor.3.13. That day shall make evident what may be obscured at present. The true assessment of penetrating judicial discernment shall reveal the Lord’s estimate of what is in the account. Better to have His approval then even if we do not have man’s approval now. The ‘reward’ of past service will be in the nature of ‘hire’ for future service (Newbury). What we put into it now is determining our capacity to serve Him in His future kingdom.
The word which the Saviour used to describe the loss of Mk.8.36 is a very strong word involving the thought of a penalty, literal translation: "To be fined the soul of him." Paul also speaks of loss. "If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by (through) fire," 1Cor.3.15. Much of what seems to be large and imposing lacks substance and quality and is of no essential value. Such investment will come up with a low interest rate, loss of reward, as a bad workman suffers loss of wages. This involves the total rejection not of the man but of his account. He himself will pass through the fire to safety but he will experience the pangs of testing which will consume all that is worthless in his deposit.
May the Lord anoint our eyes with the heavenly eyesalve to set our affections on things above and to invest as a faithful and wise steward. Such wisdom will receive an hundredfold now, in this time and in the world to come, eternal life.
by W. W. Fereday
Paper 8 — "I WILL PASS OVER YOU"
The significance of Jehovah’s pledge to Israel — "I will pass over you," is frequently misunderstood. By many it is taken to mean mere exemption from destruction; whereas, in reality, a great deal more than this is involved in the words. We will quote Ex.12.23 at length in order that we may have the whole pledge before us: "Jehovah will pass through to smite the Egyptians: and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and upon the two side-posts, Jehovah will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you."
Jehovah "passing through" is thus one thing; but Jehovah "passing over" is quite another. Our inquiry just now is as to the latter. What does it mean? Isa.31.5 (R.V.) will help us here. "As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts protect Jerusalem: He will protect and deliver it, He will pass over and preserve it." The language of Isa.31 is thus very similar to that of Ex.12, and its meaning is transparent. It gives the idea of a mother-bird hovering over her nest, anxiously watching it, and mounting guard over her young. This is what Jehovah promised to do in Egypt for all who, in obedience to His word, sprinkled the blood upon their houses. He would Himself stand between them and all harm. "I will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you."
This presents to us a truly delightful view of the God with whom we have to do. He positively ranges Himself upon the side of those who, in faith, have sought the shelter of the blood of Jesus. The fact that He has raised His Son from amongst the dead is the public proof that every requirement of His throne has been fully met. In perfect consistency therefore with His own character of righteousness. He against whom all our sins have been committed is now able to constitute Himself the guardian of His believing people. Faithful to His word and to the precious blood of Jesus. He will never, while eternal ages roll, permit judgment to touch His own. This being most certainly true let us get rid of all servile fear. There is no room for dread in our relationships with such a God.
The men of Israel might well sit down in quiet confidence that night. Even if others’ wail of distress reached their ears they had no occasion for alarm. They had put the blood of the lamb between themselves and the destroyer and they had Jehovah Himself standing sentinel as it were, outside their sprinkled doors. Had anxious thoughts been entertained by them, they would have cast dishonour upon God — His faithfulness and truth. In like manner the unbelieving apprehensions of many in our day who truly love the Saviour’s name are a deep affront to the God of our salvation. As Toplady’s lines put it.
From whence this fear and unbelief,
If God, my Father, put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
Can He, the righteous Judge of men,
Condemn me for that debt of sin,
Which, Lord, was charged to Thee?
—to be continued (D.V.)
by Graeme Hutchinson (N. Ireland)
The final chapter in Habakkuk’s prophecy represents the climax in God’s dealings with His prophet. In ch.1 the atmosphere was one of depression, particularly as the prophet contemplated the sins of Judah and the fact that divine retribution would come through Babylon. In ch.3 the atmosphere changes to one of jubilation, for the prophet was living by faith, 2.4. However, faith must always be exercised in something, and for the prophet, his faith was placed in the prophecy of ch.2, or perhaps more accurately, the God of the prophecy! Our present focus is on the prayer/praise1 of ch.3, where we may learn the following important principles:
APPROACHING GOD’S PRESENCE
From 3.2 we may learn some lessons as to how we should approach the Lord in prayer. Whilst times have changed, the Lord has not, Heb.13.8, and thus it is incumbent upon us to learn from these holy men of God, 1Pet.1.21, particularly as to how they approached God. Consider the following:
Habakkuk’s prayer was reverent. The prophet, similar to Jeremiah, Jer.32.17, commences his prayer by showing the utmost respect and honour: ‘O Lord!’ In our prayer life, we must always be conscious of the One whom we approach. Whilst Habakkuk’s description of God in 1.12-13 would perhaps promote feelings of fear as we approach Him in prayer, the NT believer can take comfort from the truth that He is our Father, Jn.4.23, and we are invited to approach Him, Heb.4.16. Remember to be reverent!
Habakkuk’s prayer was humble. In 3.2 the prophet indicated that he had heard God’s report (concerning Judah and Babylon) and it had filled him with fear. In other words, the prophet acknowledged that whilst he could not understand God’s plans, he would stand back in awe. A healthy dose of realism is always important for effective prayers. Remember who we are and who He is!
Habakkuk’s prayer was orderly. The sequence by which the prophet approached the Lord is interesting.
First, he ADDRESSED the Lord with reverence.
Second, he ACKNOWLEDGED his own weakness and limitations.
Then (and only then) he ASKED the Lord for two specific items:
(a) that the Lord’s work – punishment of Judah by Babylon (see ch.1.5) – would be fulfilled and
(b) that in these acts of judgment, God would still remember mercy.
Therefore, whilst it is important to avoid any prescriptive or ‘how to’ approach in prayers, we can still learn from this experience of Habakkuk. Only petition the Lord on the solid foundation of reverence (who He is) and realism (who we are). Remember that God is a God of order, 1Cor.14.33,40, and thus it is important that He is approached in an orderly fashion.
1 Clearly from Hab.3.1 the chapter can be interpreted as the prophet praying to the Lord. However, the threefold repetition of Selah, (v3,9,13) suggests that the chapter may also be a musical psalm, which may explain the concluding phrase: ‘to the chief singer on my stringed instrument.’
APPREHENDING GOD’S POWER
The largest portion of ch.3 is found in this section, v3.15, where the prophet speaks of God and His awesome power. It may be subdivided into two:
The description of God’s power (3.3-7). In the first part of v3, the prophet recalled how God came down to the nation at Sinai to establish His covenant with them. The record of Moses in Deut.33.2 would bear testimony to the accuracy of Habakkuk’s words. Then, after a moment of contemplation (Selah), the prophet further describes the power of God.
First, there is THE COVERAGE – God’s power/glory is visible in both the heavens and the earth, v3b. Isaiah could speak in a similar way in Isa.6.1-3.
Second, there is THE CHARACTER – God’s power is akin to the penetrating brightness of the sun. Indeed, such is the extent of the power, it cannot be fully revealed, v4, for if it was, the whole earth would be consumed.
Finally, there is THE CAPABILITY – God’s power can bring havoc upon those who oppose Him, v5-7, for He is all-powerful. Cushan (Ethiopia) and Midian were two nations that lay on either side of the Red Sea and the mighty act of dividing the sea brought terror and distress to the souls of these nations, Ex.15.14-16; Deut.2.25; Josh.2.9; 5.1.
The display of God’s Power (3.8-15). Far from God’s power being reserved to mere theory, the prophet is able to pinpoint specific cases that demonstrate this omnipotent power. In nature, God has often used the natural forces to demonstrate His power. In the case of rivers, v8-9, we may consider the smiting of the river Jordan, Josh.3.14-17. Concerning mountains, v10, the appearance of the Lord at Sinai had caused this particular mountain to quake, Ex.19.18.
Also, the experience of Joshua at Beth-Horon, Josh.10.12-13, demonstrated that God could hold the sun and moon still, v11. However, aside from demonstrating His power in nature, God has also manifested it amongst the nations, v12-15. The interesting question to pose is — Why? Was God merely venting His power to illustrate His strength? The answer to this is given in v13. God has used His power – particularly in the context of the Israelites in bondage in Egypt – for a threefold purpose.
First, for the EMANCIPATION OF HIS PEOPLE – ‘Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people.’
Second, for the EXALTATION OF HIS SON – the anointed, Psa.2.2; Dan.9.26.
Third, for the ERADICATION OF EVIL – ‘thou woundest the head … of the house of the wicked.’
Whilst we presently live in a different dispensation (of grace), these principles still prevail in our age. For example, the supreme display of God’s power now, is in the salvation of a lost soul. This act will, at the one time, emancipate the sinner, Jn.8.36, and exalt the Son, 1Cor.1.30-31. Moreover, the wonder of it all is that the sinner can be declared righteous in God’s sight, Rom.3.26, and can then anticipate the day when the sinful nature will be eradicated altogether, 1Cor.15.53-57.
ACCEPTING GOD’S PATHWAY
The lengthy consideration that Habakkuk gave to God’s power was designed to strengthen his trust in the dealings of God, particularly as they related to Judah and Babylon. As the prophecy is drawn to a close, we may note the progression in the concluding four verses:
In 3.16 there was inward fear. In 3.2, the prophet stated that he had heard God’s programme concerning Judah and Babylon and he was afraid (Strong 3372 – frightened). Now, upon considering the omnipotent power of God, the prophet stated that he trembled (Strong 7264 – a violent emotion that provokes feelings of fear and wonderment). This fear is surely something that we ought to experience, particularly in our own days of distress. Almost every area of the prophet’s being was affected: belly (inward parts – NASB), lips and bones. However, in response to such a fearful state, the prophet could remark that his supreme desire was: "that I might rest in the day of distress’ (JND). Clearly the review of God’s power in the past, v3-15, had reassured the prophet that whilst Judah was to be invaded, the invading force would itself come under God’s wrath. From this we can glean one practical truth. When faced with the storms of life, there can only be one source of comfort – the Scriptures that contain the record of God’s dealing in the past. The Lord Himself is the supreme Example of this, Matt.4.4,7,10.
In 3.17 there was outward failure. Habakkuk outlined the most disastrous scenario that might befall the nation in times of invasion. The complete failure of the crops (figs, grapes, olives and grain were those items that the nation depended upon for food) and the destruction of the livestock (sheep and cattle). As we shall observe in the succeeding two verses, the prophet had clearly reached the point where he acknowledged that inward peace was not dependent upon outward circumstances. Job and the apostle Paul were two other servants of God who had reached this pinnacle of faith. Job 13.15: ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’ Phil.4.11: ‘Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.’
In 3.18-19 there was upward faith. The prophet’s faith in God was such that, although the invading force may bring complete destruction, v17, he would still rejoice in the Lord. This is much more than merely accepting God’s path in an unbegrudging fashion. The prophet would be joyful! In v17 the prophet’s peace was not found in outward circumstances, but rather in the confidence he placed in the God of his salvation, v18. The prophet likened his feet to that of a deer – an active and swift-footed animal. Just as such creatures can progress quickly through dark forests with confidence, so Habakkuk states that he would do the same during the dark days of invasion and punishment. Moreover, he states that he would be enabled to walk upon the ‘high places.’ Whereas having feet like deer gives stability, walking above the trial would give satisfaction, for it is only in such a position that the circumstances are placed in order. J. Ronald Blue remarks on this: ‘The Sovereign Lord gives triumph over circumstances to those who trust Him. The way to get out from under the load is to get right under the Lord. To be under the Lord is to be over the circumstances’ (Habakkuk in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Victor Books, 1986, p.1522).
As the prophet draws his book to a close, we are impressed with the strength of his faith. Babylon will invade Judah, but Habakkuk looked to the Lord to establish justice and righteousness. Little wonder that C I Scofield could state that these verses give us one of the strongest manifestations of faith in the Scriptures (Scofield Bible Notes).
by W. Fraser Naismith (Scotland)
What an elixir for the soul of the servant of Christ is found in a consideration of Jehovah’s perfect Servant!
God, on more than one occasion, had alluded to an illustrious person as "My servant" — and possibly Isaiah might have wondered to which one the Spirit referred. God had said — "My servant Moses … is faithful in all mine house;" and addressing Satan stated — "My servant Job … there is none like him in the earth." Such remarkable encomiums are worthy of note; yet neither of the servants alluded to could answer the description given by Isaiah. It must, therefore, be some other servant to whom Isaiah referred. Most of us must confess "we are unprofitable servants." Of this One we learn "He shall not fail nor be discouraged." The One who is declared to be "My Son;" "My King;" "My Shepherd;" "My Fellow;" is now described as "My Servant." Paul reminds us — "He took upon Him the form of a servant;" and Peter states — "He left us an example, that we should follow His steps."
"He shall not fail"
The work which Christ came to accomplish for the satisfaction of His Father and God is threefold. He came for Revelation; for Salvation; and for Subjugation. Has He failed in Revelation? Nay! "The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." The unveiling of the Father is marvellous. He has also revealed His truth and grace. He was the witness to the truth; and His unbosoming of the Father has brought to light the secrets of His great heart of love. Has He failed in Salvation? The redeemed answer — "neither is there salvation in any other!" For "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared;" and "the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Will He fail in Subjugation? Paul answers — "He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under His feet."
"Nor be discouraged"
There have been remarkable characters such as Elijah who fearlessly entered the presence of the king and made a startling observation without dread or fear; yet that same man became the despondent servant as he sought that God might take away his life, not knowing that God meant to take him to heaven without dying! Opposition is often great, but not any greater than that which confronted God’s Perfect Servant. He was dauntless; for He wielded with marked dexterity one weapon — the Word of God — and with it defeated all who sought to oppose Him.
The world, the flesh and the devil all gathered their forces to attack Christ. To the threefold temptation of the devil, Christ made reply: "It is written." He quoted from Deuteronomy three times and defeated the devil.
The world approached, and to it He replied — "ye search the Scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me." The flesh approached in the form of three companies — Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees. The first company presented a political question; the second came with a philosophical question; whilst the third asked a theological question. When Christ had answered them we learn "neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions."
The success of the Perfect Servant lay in His absolute dependence on God, Ps.16.1. He had His ear opened morning by morning to hear as the instructed, Isa.50.4. The wise man tells us of the blessedness of the man "that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors," Prov.8.34.
The Perfect Servant came to a hostile realm and was faithful amidst all unfaithfulness. Are we faithful in a scene of opposition? If we are, there awaits us the great commendation of the Lord Himself — "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Lord! when I’m weary with toiling,
And burdensome seem Thy commands:
If my load should lead to complaining;
Lord! show me Thy hands:
Thy bleeding hands; Thy cross-torn hands:
O! Saviour, show me Thy hands.
O! Christ, if my footsteps should falter
And I be prepared for retreat:
If desert or thorn cause lamenting;
Lord! show me Thy feet:
Thy nail-pierced feet; Thy cross-scarred feet:
O! Saviour, show me Thy feet.
Lord! dare I show Thee my hands and my feet?
by Robert Plant (England)
By its nature this must be a personal paper so, at the outset, we beg the reader’s forgiveness in the frequent use of the personal pronoun.
I was born during the early sixties in the village of Rochford just outside Southend-on-Sea in Essex. I have one sister, Anita, who is eighteen years my senior. My parents, although professing to be "Christian," knew nothing of salvation and hence the only occasions that would find me in a church building of any sort was for wedding and funerals. By the time I was old enough to remember anything of family life my sister had left home, and at the age of four my parents and I moved to Harrogate. There I soon made friends with a lad who lived opposite us and every weekend we would be found playing some form of sport: cricket, football, rugby, golf. The only time he was not available was on a Sunday morning when he attended the local Church of England Sunday School. I was invited to go and even encouraged by my parents, but five days of school was enough for me without going on Sunday as well, so I never did go; but the fact that he went has always stayed with me as being something rather unusual.
As I grew up my interest in cricket really took off and as a very young teenager I was selected to play for the Harrogate under sixteens’ and under eighteens’ teams at the same time. As well as the cricket I also became interested in a country and western singer who had died a few months before I was born. He became my idol, I longed to be able to sing like him, but the Lord gave me a hopeless flat voice! During the next four or five years I amassed some eighty LPs and over 120 cassette tapes of this particular person. I also wrote all over the world to other fans as well as the singer’s widow in America. My parents also had season tickets to watch Leeds Rugby League Club who used to play every other Sunday at home; so needless to say I thought nothing of spending a Sunday afternoon among the ungodly crowd of the terraces. Truly Satan had filled my heart and mind with anything and everything to keep me from Christ. However the Lord had His purpose.
During this period I met Wesley Downs at school who was in the same year as myself, he had ‘accidentally’ been lowered a grade and put into my class. Everybody in the class knew that there was something different about Wesley but we were never really able to find out just what it was until his birthday, when we asked him what his parents had given him as a present. Without any hesitation he replied "a New Schofield Reference Bible." Sad to say in the mid seventies I had no real idea what a Bible was, never mind a Schofield Reference Bible! We discovered that Wesley was a Christian. Well, in fact, he wasn’t! He was brought up in a godly home, attended all the meetings in the local assembly, even told me how to be saved, but he wasn’t himself! How like so many young people today, having the most blessed privileges of being brought up in a Christian home and knowing the Gospel and the claims of Christ upon their never dying souls, yet not saved and still on the road to hell. It is good to relate that Wesley did get saved a year or so later and this renewed his desire to tell me the Gospel. It came to such a point that to keep him quiet I said "Alright I believe it all, everything in the Bible except the bit at the beginning about Adam and Eve. It has been categorically proved that we came from monkeys!" I really thought that would have him stumped, but his reply was direct and simple, "Prove it, where’s the evidence, how do you know, were you there when it happened?" I had never thought of any of those things for I was only repeating what I had heard so often in the media. After four years of testimony we were coming up to the ‘O’ Level exams. We both knew that we would be going our separate ways once these were completed so Wesley asked his father, "What can I do about Robert, he just doesn’t seem interested in salvation." His father’s reply was very wise, "If you want to see God open a door you must first shut a door and pray earnestly about the matter." That was what Wesley and his family did. Whilst they were praying God was working.
Alongside my bed there was a pile of books from Radio Bible Class. Wesley had passed them on every month and I just added them to the pile unopened. One month before the exams in May 1981 I had a night where I just was not able to sleep. I tossed and turned until a brilliant idea came into my mind. "Read one of the booklets Wesley has given you, that will surely get you off to sleep." I picked up the first book "Heaven our eternal home." It spoke of Heaven and what it was like, what was there and what was not there. I read all thirty-two pages straight off and never even felt sleepy. At the end of reading it I knew two things; Heaven was real and my sin would keep me out of it. I picked up the next title "Heaven and how to get there." Just what a poor lost anxious hell bound soul required. It explained from the book of Romans three vital things "Man’s Ruin," 3.23; "God’s Remedy," 5.8; "Man’s Responsibility," 10.9. Having read this right through I knew the way of salvation and God spoke to my soul once again. This time under deep conviction I got out of bed and down on to my knees and prayed properly for the first time in my life. What a night that was when God in mercy looked upon me in all my lost ruined condition, showed me His Son upon Golgotha’s tree and saved my soul. That little patch of carpet in my parents back bedroom is the most precious place on earth to me.
Well now I was saved, what next? I had never been taught anything about separation, had never been to a meeting, but realised that the cricket and its various practise nights plus weekend games and the kind of life that went with it were not in keeping with the life of a Christian, so I gave it up. Shortly after I was saved I went to the Rugby League match as usual on the Sunday afternoon. I immediately knew that this was not a place where Christians ought to be. I made up my mind before the Lord that from now on the Sunday (although it wasn’t until later that I learned it was the Lord’s day) was for God alone. At a later date I also sorted out my record collection having heard ministry on worldliness that covered music and especially country and western music! Wesley’s father Mr. Stephen Downs took me under his wing and in fact I was almost adopted into the ‘Downs’ family for the ensuing years, being able to see what a Christ honouring home should be like where Christ and the Scriptures were everything. I was taught something of the beauty and preciousness of Christ to the believer, how to study the Bible and the great truths of the local assembly. In November of the same year I decided to ask for baptism having been convicted about this matter for a good period of time. I made up my mind to speak to the elders at the Gospel Hall in Harrogate on a Monday night after a ministry meeting with the late Jack Hunter. That night Mr. Hunter stood up and said "I am aware that I have indicated that I would be speaking from Nehemiah during the week but all day I have been exercised to talk on the subject of believers’ baptism!" I could have fallen through the floor. He had seven points none of which I can remember although I tried very hard thinking the elders would ask what they all were when I met with them. Needless to say I was able to relate my salvation to them and the seven points were not even raised. I was baptised later that month and for the first time my parents were in the Gospel Hall. In January of 1982 I was received into fellowship at the assembly in Harrogate.
The first time that I ever felt that God may be speaking to me about His service was about five years after being saved and this took place at a ministry meeting in Leeds being taken by our late brother Bill Craig. He spoke on Matt.24 but took the passage out of its context to speak on the Lord’s return to the air and what were we doing in the light of it to reach the lost. Later the same year whilst attending the New Year conference meetings in Harley Street, Scotland, I heard Ian Rees of Botswana speaking on a verse from the Proverbs, "My son give me thine heart and let thine eyes observe my ways." How that short message spoke to my soul. Many other events occurred in subsequent years far too numerous to mention. In November 1988 whilst living in South Wales, I was attending a series of meetings being taken by Albert Leckie in Nantgarw. On the Thursday morning I was contacted at work and told that Mr. Leckie had been called home. That night I told the Lord that I could never be what Mr. Leckie had been but I would do whatever He desired of my life.
In 1990 another homecall spoke possibly even more forcibly and vividly to me. I had spent some time working in Scotland and had good fellowship with the saints at the Mayfield assembly. Hence I got to know Robert McPheat and he greatly helped and encouraged me in the things of the Lord. Perhaps, Wesley’s father apart, he had the greatest influence upon my life. What a man of God he was. In July of that year he was called home. I remember telephoning one of the elders in Mayfield to confirm that the news was true, he said to me, "God calls His servants home but He raises up others to carry on His work." I determined then that if that was what the Lord wanted me to do I would do it.
During 1992 and 1993 the company for whom I worked, as a safety manager was desirous to send me on various courses in order to gain further qualifications. I had put them off as long as I felt I could and it seemed during this time every conference or ministry meeting that I attended was on the same subject, i.e. going out and working for the Lord. My daily Bible readings continuously seemed to support this exercise. I just could not get away from the call of God. Also at this time the number of meetings that I was being asked to take far outweighed the number of holidays that I was permitted to have. Something had to go.
I had also been praying for a year about a particular young lady in Lancashire called Karen. I had met her on several occasions and judged that she was a good spiritual girl with a deep love for the Lord, His Word and work. The Lord very graciously brought us together and we were married in April 1994.
The year prior to our marriage I had met with my elder brethren on a number of occasions both collectively and individually to put my exercise before them. After much prayer, in September 1993, the assembly at Harrogate gave me the right hand of fellowship and commended me to the Lord’s service. We acknowledge our own nothingness and worthlessness before Christ, continually marvelling that the Lord ever saved us let alone called us. He alone is faithful and has never let us down in any way despite our often lack of faith. We look back and say with the Psalmist "The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad."
ARE YOU SLEEPING?
A court in the UK found a man guilty of causing the death of folks on a train because he fell asleep at the wheel of his car, lost control and the car careered down a bank onto a railway line where it caused a train crash with resulting fatalities. It appears that if the driver of the car had been awake the disaster would not have happened.
To be sleepy at the end of the day is natural and to have a good night’s sleep is the way in which our bodies and minds are refreshed. In fact the Scriptures acknowledge, "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet," Ecclesiastes 5.12. There are many dear people who would love to enjoy a night’s undisturbed rest. However, as the case mentioned illustrates, there are times when it is dangerous to be asleep.
Do you know that there are people reading this paper who are fast asleep. You may say, "How could they read in their sleep?" Such a notion is very foolish. When a person is asleep they are unconscious of all that is happening around them. That is why a patient is put to sleep in the operating theatre and they become impervious to their surroundings and their pain. Thus the concept of sleeping is a very apt illustration of the spiritual state of people who have never been awakened by the gospel message to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
John described the world in his first epistle chapter 5 v 19, "….the whole world lieth in wickedness." The idea he is conveying is that the whole world lieth in the lap of the wicked one. He is saying that the wicked one, Satan himself, has taken the world’s population in his arms and, like a mother, has rocked them everyone to sleep. This has left them, and you dear reader, unconscious of what is happening all around.
Many illustrations are to be found in the Bible, where the condition of physically being asleep depicts the spiritual state of an unbeliever. Space dictates that we must suffice with two.
Sisera was unconscious of the proximity of death, Judges 4.21, "Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died." My dear reader, how close is death to you? If you knew, you could prepare for death and its ensuing consequences at your last moment, but since you do not know, you need to prepare now. This was the message of the Old Testament prophet, "…..prepare to meet thy God," Amos 4.12. Why is such a preparation needed? Let the Scriptures answer. Hebrews 9.27, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment".
Samson was unconscious of the proximity of weakness, Judges 16.19, Delilah "made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him." Previously he had strength to fight and overcome the enemies but now he was weak and impotent. With regard to your salvation you are weak and impotent and unable to effect your deliverance. Romans 5.6, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Here is the only way of escape and salvation – through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. He died that you might live. He "gave Himself a ransom for all," 1 Timothy 2.6.
Do not allow yourself to be duped and further deceived by the devil until it is too late and you are lost forever in the judgment of God. Be aroused, be awake to your need and "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…" Acts 16.31. It is stated in Romans 13.11, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep…".
Back to Basics
Back to Basics — hope forlorn,
The Word of God "they laughed to scorn." (2Cor.30.10)
Back to Basics — hopeless cry,
Back to Basics — Do or Die. (Deut. 27.26; Gal.3.10)
To do, is simply to obey,
To die, result of saying "Nay."
No other gods preceding Me, (Ex.20.3)
Nor bow down in idolatry. (Ex.20.4,5)
Nor take the Name of God in vain, (Ex.20.7)
Blasphemy’s unforgiven stain,
Remember, sabbath’s holy day, (Ex.20.8)
(Lord’s Day is Resurrection’s lay)
Honour father, and thy mother, (Ex.20.12)
Despising not the one or other. (Prov.19.26; 23.22)
Sixth commandment, shall not kill, (Ex.20.13)
Blood for blood, is God’s will, still (Num.35.33)
Do not commit adultery, (Ex.20.14)
Thou shalt not steal is number eight, (Ex.20.15)
"Thieves and robbers" at God’s gate, (Jn.10.8)
False witnesses with every breath,
Condemned "True Witness" unto death.
Tenth, do not covet any thing, (Ex.20.17)
For God accepts no offering
Save first accursed upon the Tree, (Deut.21.23; Gal.3.13)
One sacrifice for you and me.
Back to Basics is absurd
Unless ’tis back to God’s own Word.
Grace should magnify the God who shows it, and humble those who receive it.
Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.
It may be in the glory-cloud
His blessed voice will first be heard,
The living changed and those that rise
Shall meet the Saviour in the skies.
Oh, happy day; oh, happy day,
Forever with the Lord to stay;
No tears, no pain shall ever dim
The joys of those redeemed by Him.
Ecclesiastes — the heart is larger than the object.
Song of Solomon — the object is too large for the heart.
Jesus, my sorrow lies too deep
For human ministry;
It knows not how to tell itself
To any but to Thee.
Thou dost remember still, amid
The glories of God’s throne,
The sorrows of mortality,
For they were once Thine own.
Yes, for as if Thou would’st be God,
E’en in Thy misery,
There’s been no sorrow but Thine own
Untouched by sympathy.
Jesus, my fainting spirit brings
Its fearfulness to Thee,
Thine eye at least can penetrate
The clouded mystery.
And is it not enough, enough,
This holy sympathy?
There is no sorrow e’er so deep
But I may bring to Thee.
1823 Lady Powerscourt (1800-1836)
Written after the death of her husband, Viscount Powerscourt, a year after their marriage.
Lady Powerscourt was then only 23 years of age and she herself died at the age of 36.