ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
by R. Plant
THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
by J. C. Gibson
by J. Sinclair
WHERE SHALL WISDOM BE FOUND?
by M. Rudge
by C. Jones
FOUR CRISES IN THE LIFE OF JOSEPH
by B. E. Avery
THOMAS CRAIG BEGGS 1925-2008
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
38) “Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones” — Read Chapter 27.1-26
We now come to a new section in the book. Chapters 27-28 extend chapters 12-26 by enumerating the results and consequences of obedience and disobedience, and preparing the way for chapters 29-30 where the whole body of teaching commencing with chapter 4 is presented in the form of a covenant. See 29.1,9,14,21,25. Chapter 29 sets out the conditions necessary for the possession of Canaan, and chapter 30 sets out the conditions necessary for the repossession of Canaan following dispersion “among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee” vv.1,3.
What was to take place in chapter 27 was “a solemn ratification by the new generation of Israel of the covenant entered into by the fathers at Sinai” (A. W. Pink, Gleanings in Joshua). Their fathers had said, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” Ex.19.8, and now “the sanctions of the law were proclaimed in the hearing of the whole congregation, and by their repeated ‘Amen’, all Israel consented to the terms of the covenant” (A. W. Pink). When the law was given at Sinai, burnt offerings and peace offerings were offered to God on an altar of unhewn stone, Ex.20.24-25; 24.4-5: when the law was proclaimed at Ebal, the same sacrifices were offered on the same type of altar. See Josh. 8.31. The connection between Sinai and Ebal is very clear indeed. The presence of the ark (see Josh.8.33) was synonymous with the very presence of God Himself. It was a most solemn convocation.
The chapter may be divided as follows:
- The Raising Of The Altar, vv.1-10;
- The Recitation Of The Curses, vv.11-26.
1) THE RAISING OF THE ALTAR, vv.1-10
In this section, we must notice four things:
- the Site of the Altar, v.4;
- the Stones in the Altar, vv.5-6;
- the Sacrifices on the Altar, vv.6-7;
- the Scriptures by the Altar, vv.8-10.
a) The Site Of The Altar, v.4
“Therefore it shall be, when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaster them with plaster.” Compare Josh.8.30. On a technical note, the words “And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan … thou shalt set up great stones and plaster them with plaster”, evidently refer to a longer period of time than a day of twenty-four hours. According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, the word “day is often put for time”.
The significance of the site becomes clear when we remember that “Moses charged the people the same day, saying, These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan … And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse” vv.11-13. We might have expected the altar to be erected on mount Gerizim. But it was erected in the place of the curse! Compare Ex.24.4, “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord (the law), and rose up early in the morning (Joshua took notice of this: see Josh.3.1; 6.12 etc.), and builded an altar under the hill (Sinai), and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.”
The altar on mount Ebal, and altar at Sinai, remind us that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” Gal.3.13.
b) The Stones In The Altar, vv.5-6
“And there (on mount Ebal) shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift any iron tool upon them. Thou shalt build the altar of the Lord thy God of whole stones.” It has been nicely said that “the pile of stones on mount Ebal was not gathered to be thrown in judgment at sinners, but for an altar on which was to be offered a sacrifice for sinners” (A.W.Pink, Gleanings in Joshua).
We should notice two further references in the Old Testament:
- “An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me … And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it” Ex.20.24-26;
- “An altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron” Josh.8.31. This reminds us that our salvation is totally divine. No man has ‘lifted up any iron’ here! See Rom.4.4-8, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Compare Eph.2.8-10.
This altar certainly differs from the brazen altar in the tabernacle court. See Ex.27.1-8. It was a public declaration that Canaan had become the possession of God’s people, and that the God of Israel was not “like unto gold or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” Acts 17.29. F.B.Meyer (Joshua and the Land of Promise) comments: “Special directions as to its construction had been given in Deuteronomy chapter 27. It was to be built of unhewn stones, on which no iron tool had been lifted; probably to guard against any attempt to set forth the likeness of God, and to discountenance the florid and lascivious ornamentations of which the surrounding heathen were so fond.”
In the Old Testament, the altar was the meeting place between God and men. There could be no meeting apart from sacrifice. Hence we read, “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle” Heb.13.10. The altar required by God was made of divinely provided materials, and was not to be adorned, improved or beautified by man’s skill. Its construction left no room whatever for human glory. It was not to reflect human ideas and initiative. It was humble and unpretentious. If not of stone, then it was simply “a rude mound of earth” (A.W.Pink, referring to Ex.20.24). This reminds us of the prophecy, “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” Isa.53.2. Sadly, the Christ of the Bible is not the Christ of Christendom. We have only to think of the way in which religious leaders, and others, have endeavoured to make the Lord Jesus Christ and His teaching more acceptable and palatable. They have substituted ‘hewn stones’, shaped and polished to suit themselves, for the “whole stones” of Bible teaching.
c) The Sacrifices On The Altar, vv.6-7
“Thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord thy God: and thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the Lord thy God.” Both were ‘sweet-savour offerings’: see Lev.1.17; 3.5. Compare Ex.24.4-5.
- The “burnt offerings”. In this case, the whole of the victim was burnt (the word means to burn as incense), reminding us of the Lord Jesus who said, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God” Ps.40.8. This is quoted, but not completely, in Heb.10.7,9. In the burnt offering, the excellence of the offering was imputed to the offerer, reminding us that we are “accepted in the beloved” Eph.1.6. In the case of the sin offering, the sin of the offerer was imputed to the offering. Just think about that! We can draw near to God in worship because we are accepted in all the fragrance of Christ Himself!
- The “peace offerings”. In this case, part of the offering was burnt on the altar (God’s portion); part was eaten by the priest, and part was eaten by the offerer. In other words, the peace-offering beautifully depicts men and women enjoying fellowship and communion with God. We enjoy what God enjoys! F.B. Meyer puts it nicely: “We feed on the peace-offering when we meditate on the love and death of our blessed Lord, and enter into some of the Father’s thoughts of satisfaction at the work He did, and the spirit in which He did it.”
As C.H.Mackintosh points out, exquisitely, “the subject here is not the trespasser in act, or the sinner in nature, approaching the brazen altar with a trespass-offering or a sin-offering; but rather a people fully delivered, accepted and blessed — a people in the actual enjoyment of their relationship and their inheritance.”
d) The Scriptures By The Altar, vv.8-10
Commentators do not agree about this. Some suggest that the law was actually written on the altar, after it had been plastered for that purpose. At first glance, this seems to be the case according to Josh.8.31-32. On the other hand, Deut.27.2-8 does seem to suggest that there were two sets of stones. W.H.Groser (Joshua and his Successors) is quite adamant: “The definite article (‘the stones’ in Josh.8.32) is used because the command is supposed to be well known; i.e. the stones to which Moses referred in Deut.27.2, not, of course, the altar stones, but rude pillars, covered with lime-cement or mortar. These inscriptions would, in a dry climate, remain unaffected for centuries.” There were certainly two structures in Ex.24.4.
Having noticed the difference of opinion, the fact remains that, either way, the Scriptures were closely associated with the altar. A.W.Pink (Gleanings in Joshua) puts it like this: “The two things must not be separated: in presenting their offerings upon the altar, they spoke to God; in the writing of the law upon its stones (so we know Pink’s opinion about the problem!), He spoke to them, enforcing His holy claims upon them.” He adds, “Christ died to deliver His people from the penalty of the law, but not from obedience to its precepts.” That’s worth thinking about, particularly with reference to Rom.8.4. The altar commemorated God’s mercy to His people in enabling them to overcome their enemies, but it also reminded them that their successes must never make them forget His word. “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous” 1Jn.5.3.
2) THE RECITATION OF THE CURSES, vv.11-26
Six tribes (Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issacher, Joseph and Benjamin) stood “upon mount Gerizim to bless the people” v.12. Six tribes (Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali) stood “upon mount Ebal to curse” v.13. The curses were read with a loud voice by the Levites, and each of the twelve specific curses, vv.15-25, together with the final comprehensive curse, v.26, was met with a unanimous “Amen” from the vast multitude assembled on mount Ebal. It has been pointed out, however, that Deuteronomy chapter 27 says nothing about unanimous “Amens” from mount Gerizim: in fact, we don’t even have a list of the blessings! We do read of six blessings at the beginning of chapter 28, but they are matched word for word by six curses later in the same chapter. See vv.3-6, 16-19. The omission is significant. It emphasises that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” Rom.3.20.
In the words of C. H. Mackintosh, “There could not be a more impressive commentary on the words of the inspired apostle in Gal.3.10 — “For as many as are under the works of the law” — as many as are on that ground — “are under the curse; for it is written” — and here he quotes Deut.27.26 — “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them”. Mackintosh continues: “Israel, as to their actual moral condition, were on the ground of law, although the opening of our chapter presents a lovely picture of God’s thoughts respecting Israel, yet the close of it sets forth the sad and humiliating result of Israel’s real state before God. There is not a sound from Mount Gerizim, not one word of benediction; but, instead thereof, curse upon curse falls on the ears of the people.” We should notice that the Levites were to speak “unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice” v.14, and that “all the people shall say, Amen” vv.15-26. We can only conclude that even the people who stood on mount Gerizim had to signify their agreement to the curses!
Raymond Brown is probably correct in saying that the twelve curses suggest “specific examples” of ways in which the covenant might be violated. These cover secret idolatry, reminding us that idolatry begins in the heart, v.15; slighting parents, v.16 (see J.N.D.); stealing property, v.17; social injustice, vv.18-19; sexual deviation, vv.20-23; smiting to kill, vv.24-25. Believers can rejoice that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ” Gal.3.13.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By R. Plant (England)
Paper 7 — The Value of the Object Lesson
It would probably be true to say that object lessons have been used in Gospel work from the time our Lord was on earth right through to this present generation. To really appreciate the usefulness of this medium one needs to study carefully the Lord’s repeated use of everyday things. For example, consider Matthew chapter 13 and see how the Lord brings our attention to the sower and his seed, the fowls, the thorns, the soil, the wheat and tares, the grain of mustard seed, the leaven, the merchant man, the pearls, the field, the fishing net and the treasures old and new. The Lord used everyday objects in order to convey spiritual truth to the people and in so doing made weighty teaching easier to grasp and understand. A careful reading of the Gospels observing and meditating on the Lord’s timely use of everyday objects and events will reward the reader greatly and help them in their use of such lessons in children’s work. Of course the big problem with object lessons is that they have a very limited use and can really only be used as one off material. However, they do allow those who do not see themselves as children’s workers to enter more fully into this wonderful work by using material with which they feel more comfortable in order to present the gospel.
One of the main things that should be understood and applied in the use of object type lessons is to think ‘outside the box’. Look at just about everything you can see and try to find a simple gospel application to it. For example, should you be present at a Children’s meeting where the speaker did not arrive or you are asked to take and open Sunday school on the spur of the moment and you have nothing to use or show how would you fare? Take a quick look around and, even in a Gospel Hall, there are items that can be used to great benefit to present the truth of the gospel. Point out the door, the route of entry into the hall. Refer the children to the Lord’s words “I am the door by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved” Jn.10.9. Usually (sadly!) most halls have a clock in them. Speak about God’s clock and timing “It is time to seek the Lord” Hos.10.12. Again a window can be pointed out as something that lets in the light and reference can be made to “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” 2Cor.4.4. Every hall has seats and these can be used to point out that the Lord sat the people down before feeding five thousand of them but that He will be sitting one day on a Throne whilst judging them! You will usually have a set of keys with you and again these can be used to great effect, the door key, the car key, the safe key, and the office key etc. If there are gospel texts on the walls of the hall (as I strongly believe there should be) these can be pointed out and used to further emphasise the message. That way every time those children come into the hall they will see the text again and this will give further opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work in conviction. One could go on but hopefully these simple illustrations can suffice to show that with a little thought many everyday objects can be used to present the way of salvation.
I have suggested in another paper that a trip to the local toyshop will bare fruit in looking for suitable ideas for quizzes that can be adapted to teach Bible truth. In a similar manner many toys, models and other items can be used very simply to present the message of the Gospel. For example I have just purchased a model RAF Gnat jet plane similar to those used by the Red Arrows display team. I saw it in a model shop and then went home and thought about how this could be used. After deciding on its effectiveness I went back to purchase it. By using the name Red Arrows as a basis you can note that the colour red of course has many occurrences in the Bible both for sin and sin’s remedy. The arrow and arrows in the Scripture are often used in the judgment of God. Then by using the abbreviation RAF you can make up new words such as Ruined and Fallen for the Sinner, Refused and Forsaken for the Saviour and Redeemed and Forgiven for the Saint! A simple and practical object lesson as a result of looking round a model shop!
In extreme cases you may see something used in advertising a particular product that you feel will be a useful object lesson. By writing a simple and courteous letter to the manufacturer offering to purchase their advertising logo along with reason why you want it and how it will be used you will often find a parcel arriving on your doorstep with the item enclosed free of charge because the company can see not the gospel content but the advertising prospects for themselves in you using it!
Whenever you go out or into a town look out for potential object lessons as the world is full of them all ready to be used and they need not to be expensive either. Also keep in mind that object lessons should be simple and the simpler the better. For example I have often used shop names to preach the gospel from in the open air in town centres. There are some really great ones around. ‘Trespass’ — “all have sinned”; ‘The Works’ — “not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us”; ‘Lloyds TSB, HSBC, Bank of Scotland, Ulster bank’ etc. — “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth”.; ‘Pound World’ — “Ye shall be redeemed without money”; ‘International’ (The shop name is spelt slightly differently) — “For God so loved the world”; ‘Next’ — “I will come again”, “Behold I come quickly”; ‘New Look’ — “Ye must be born again”; ‘Past Times’ — “I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee”; ‘Mothercare’ — Not a mother’s care but a Father’s care, “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the World”. Again any walk down a high street will provide many more names that can easily be used to present simple gospel truth. How about thinking about Newspaper titles in a similar way? ‘The Telegraph’ and ‘Daily Mail’ — Means of communication, Heb.1.1,2; ‘The Times’ — “My times are in thy hands”; ‘The Express’ — “Behold I come quickly”; ‘The Observer’ — “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good”; ‘The Mirror’ — “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was”; ‘The Independent’ — “Without Me ye can do nothing”; ‘The Guardian’ — “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”. There may well be more titles local to your area that you will be able also to use. Other ideas that can be similarly used are chocolate boxes, sweet packets, garden birds, road signs, types of vehicles and many ideas surrounding various sports etc. We just need to look for them! Hopefully the above examples will help to give some ideas of what to look for and provide a key that will unlock a storehouse of everyday items that can be used in a profitable way to present Gospel truth to the young. Of course, by using these you are planting the seed of the Gospel into young souls that the Holy Spirit can use to convict them each time they see that particular shop, newspaper or item again.
If you can search out a little background information that too can be added for interest and will help to make the lesson all the more interesting for the children. I have often used the very well worn but still fascinating story of the Titanic tragedy. I take a model (Or sometimes two) and a few pictures. You can then speak of its design; who was the builder, where was it built and how much it cost. Its departure where it sailed from and who was on board. Its destination where it was going and how long it should have taken. Its danger the number of iceberg warnings that it received but ignored. Its distress the mayday calls it sent out, the ship nearby whose radio was turned off and those that were too far away to help. Its doom as it sank with over fifteen hundred people on board who had no hope of salvation. Its discovery by Robert Ballard in 1985. As you hopefully can see important spiritual truths can be made on each of these points whilst making the address you are giving interesting by adding the extra background information. With the advent of the internet a lot of basic information can be sourced readily and easily that will greatly enhance any good presentation. That said please do not allow your enthusiasm or passion for the object detract from your presentation of the gospel or the whole lesson will have been a waste of time. There is no point speaking for fifteen minutes showing your knowledge of whatever item you are using and leaving only two minutes to present the gospel!
A series of excellent publications that will get a further mention in the last paper are H. Y. Pickering’s books written in the 1920s and 1930s. There are about ten in total and all would be well worth republishing perhaps with a more modern tilt. “Eyegate to Heartgate”; “Seeing the Way to Heaven”; “How to Make and Show 100 object lessons” and “Bright Beams from the Blackboard” are just a few of his titles. Although sadly not available new you can often pick them up second hand for just a few pounds each. Their content and ideas are really first class and with the introduction of modern technology many of these excellent illustrations can be made very easily and brought up to date with a minimum of effort.
In dealing with this subject we must not lose sight of the fact that many of the best object lessons can be made from good Biblical stories if we have the time, talents and inclination to put some ideas together. (Any offers to help me here will be greatly appreciated!!) There is a dear brother in my own assembly who is the first to admit that he is not that comfortable doing children’s work. However the Lord has opened up doors to him in several of the village schools around our area. He asked another brother in the assembly who has the time and talents to produce him a replica Noah’s Ark which he then took into the various schools. Not only does this provide an opportunity to present the truth of the gospel but also to show a more accurate depiction of the ark than is usually found in most children’s story books! The brazen serpent is a very easy illustration to produce using a broom handle, toy plastic snake a couple of nails and tin of gold spray paint! A look on the internet auction site eBay may well furnish you with some good material that can bring home Biblical truth. Often you will see advertised there for a few pounds genuine Roman crucifixion nails, a crown of thorns made in Jerusalem (although a dear brother in Scotland made a much more authentic one for me from the Berburis bush)! All these things can be used as effective ways to present the gospel to the needy young people of our day.
Don’t be afraid to use your own expertise from your everyday employment if you can to present the gospel to the children. The opportunities are endless. The architect with his plans, the policeman with his law, the builder with his tools, the farmer with his animals, the bank manager with his money, the accountant with his balance, the shopkeeper with his products are just a few that spring to mind.
Maybe some feel that object lessons are a bit old fashioned for today’s generation. Just prepare one properly and try it. Probably you will be amazed how it captures the interest of the children. In doing so look to God for help to make the presentation interesting, clear, simple and gospel based. Who knows what the result may be!
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
By J. C. Gibson (England)
Paper 4 — The Seventh Post-resurrection Appearance: The Sea of Tiberias (Jn.ch.21)
FISHING — vv.1-14
Following His resurrection the Lord Jesus appeared and disappeared at will, always restricting these post-resurrection appearances to His own disciples, and never again showing Himself to an unbelieving world, v.1. Even these disciples failed to recognise Christ unless He actively revealed Himself to them, mirroring our own slowness to grasp spiritual truth, v.4. Since the disciples had probably lived near the Sea of Tiberias most of their lives, this occasion held many memories for them. Those that were fishermen had lived off its rich fish supply. It was here they heard the Lord teach multitudes from a little boat, caught a great multitude of fish at His direction and were then called into His service, Lk.5.1-11. On other occasions Christ had slept in their boat, stilled a storm, Mk.4.36-41, and even walked on the surface of the water, Jn.6.19. The bread and fish breakfast would have cast their minds back to the feeding of the five thousand. For Peter in particular the fire of coals would have been a painful reminder of the circumstances surrounding his denial, Jn.18.18.
Galilee was the pre-arranged rendezvous point with the Saviour, Matt.26.32; 28.7,10. While waiting for Him seven of the disciples went fishing. Many dear brethren see this fishing expedition as indicating a lack of faith, but we can learn valuable lessons for the Christian life and important principles governing evangelism which is true fishing for men.
- “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” Eph.5.16. Just like the disciples we should keep ourselves busy.
- “If any would not work, neither should he eat” 2Thess.3.10. Believers are expected to work in this world. The Lord Jesus had warned the disciples that, although up to this point He had supplied all their needs, from now on they would have to make their own careful preparations, Lk.22.35,36. On this basis they were quite right to go fishing. Even the apostle Paul, who could have legitimately lived off the gospel, 1Cor.9.14, worked as a tent-maker to provide for himself and his companions, Act.18.3; 20.34, and to protect from any allegation that in his pioneering, he was preaching the gospel for monetary gain.
- “With one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” Phil.1.27. Peter may have taken the lead but the seven disciples worked together. Christian unity is an essential component of any assembly outreach.
- “Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” 1Cor.15.58. By working hard all night the disciples showed the sustained effort required in God’s service.
- “Salvation is of the Lord” Jn.2.9. They toiled all night but “caught nothing” v.3. How often do evangelists feel like this? Never forget that “natural skill and persistent effort avail nothing apart from the will and power of the Lord.”7 At Christ’s word they cast the net and were unable “to draw it for the multitude of fishes” v.6. The Creator, knowing the fish’s position, directed them into the net. This is how evangelism works. The Christian obediently preaches the Gospel, but it is God that saves sinners. The Saviour said that “no man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” Jn.6.44. At Corinth the Lord encouraged Paul with the words, “I have much people in this city” Acts 18.11. Every fish was counted, v.11. And not one of God’s elect will ever be lost. In Antioch, despite Jewish objections, “the Gentiles … glorified the Word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” Acts 13.48.
7 The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine, 5 vols. (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), 1:319.
This large draught of fish, so similar to that previous incident, Lk.5.1-11, sparked instant recognition in John who joyously exclaimed, “It is the Lord” v.7. Peter, with typical enthusiasm, “girt his fisher’s coat unto him … and did cast himself into the sea” v7; comp.Matt.14.28-30. If only we could be as discerning as John and as passionate as Peter.
FEEDING — vv.15-19
Peter had bragged, “though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended … though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee” Matt.26.33,35. And yet, within hours he had denied Christ on three occasions. Fallen Peter now needed restoration. Having tenderly provided a good meal, vv.12,13, the Saviour asked Peter, in descending order of intensity, three searching questions. First, because of Peter’s previous boastfulness, “Lovest (agapaõ: “high and devoted love”8) thou Me more than these” v.15? Second, “Lovest (agapaõ) thou Me” v.16? And thirdly, “Lovest (phileõ: “love as a friend”9) thou Me” v.17? The last queried whether Peter even fondly loved Christ. It so cut to the quick that he had to simply confess, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love (phileõ) Thee” v.17. Peter never used agapaõ to describe his love, but having learnt his lesson used the weaker Greek word phileõ.
8 Robertson’s Word Pictures as cited in e-sword.
If our love for Christ is so central, how can we measure it? This chapter gives us four important reference points.
- Do I love believers? The Lord Jesus commanded Peter to “feed My lambs (younger believers)” v.15, “shepherd My sheep” v.16, (J.N.D.) and “feed My sheep” v.17. Shepherd care for God’s people proves love for Christ. Assembly elders are especially entrusted with this weighty responsibility, Act.20.28; 1Pet.5.1-3. It is wide-ranging and includes teaching the word, 1Tim.3.2, guiding by example, 1Pet.5.3, protecting from spiritual danger, supporting the weak, Ezek.34.4, and seeking the wandering, Ezek.34.5,6. This task is so demanding that only genuine love for the Saviour can equip a man for it. But always remember that “when the chief shepherd shall appear, (faithful shepherds) shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” 1Pet.5.4.
- Do I sacrifice myself? True discipleship is extremely costly, Lk.14.26,27. Peter, as an old man after a lifetime of service, would finally pay the ultimate price of martyrdom, and in so doing glorify God, vv.18,19. What an encouragement that Christ knows if, when and how we shall die, v22; Job.14.5.
- Do I long to be with Christ? Peter flung himself into the water to get to Christ, v.7; John “leaned on His breast at supper” v.20. What priority do we give to quiet times alone with the Master in prayer and Bible study?
- Am I obedient? Peter obediently “drew the net to land” vv.10,11. The Saviour spoke these challenging words: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments” Jn.14.15. The Old Testament promises that “in keeping (the statutes of the Lord) there is great reward” Ps.19.11.
FOLLOWING — vv.20-25
Fishing describes a Christian’s responsibility to the world and shepherding his duty to fellow believers. Following, on the other hand, summarises his relationship with the Lord Himself, vv.19,22. It includes emulating His moral excellence, 1Pet.2.21. In Peter’s case it meant following Him into death, vv.18,19. It should be ceaseless – imperative present tense — and so engage our attention that we never pry into other men’s lives, vv.20-22.
The Lord’s last recorded words in this gospel concern His return and hold out the possibility of it occurring in John’s lifetime. In one sense John did not die till He saw the Lord’s glorious return in vision form on the Isle of Patmos, Rev.19.11-20. The last three verses give three important principles about the Bible:
- Precision, v.23 — misunderstanding arises out of careless examination of a text in which every word is inspired.
- Reliability, v.24
- Brevity, v.24 — it takes greater thought and time to write concisely. Mark Twain once wrote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” The Bible is an amazing condensation of the infinite. Christ is truly an inexhaustible subject.
Due to the scarcity of detail we pass over the eighth and ninth appearances of our Lord Jesus.
The Tenth Post-resurrection Appearance: The Great Commission (Matt.28.16-20)
The disciples had obediently met with Christ at a pre-arranged rendezvous. Filled with a sense of His glory, they worshipped Him, though some doubted, vv.16,17. Their mission was no longer restricted to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matt.10.5,6, but included “all nations” v.19. Their goal was to “make disciples” v.19 (J.N.D.); having done this, to baptise them in the name of the triune God, and then to comprehensively teach them “to observe all things” commanded by the Lord Jesus, vv.19,20. This was an overwhelming assignment requiring super-human effort. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ assured them that He, having “all power … in heaven and upon earth,” would be with them “all the days” vv.18,20 (J.N.D.).
—to be continued (D.V.)
By J. Sinclair (Scotland)
2.1,18 – 6.19 — THE CONTINUATION OF THE CHARGE
We have noted that this part of the epistle is in two sections:
- The Explanation of the Charge, 1.18-29
- The Elements of the Charge, 2.1-6.19:
a) The Explanation of the Charge, 1.18-29
V.18 commences with “this charge” which is the continuation of the charge of vv.3,5. Paul commits a sacred trust to one of the next generation, his “son Timothy”. We ought to remember that the rising generation needs to have a strong commitment to carry on that which has been left to them as a trust.
The purpose of the charge is now delineated. He first of all shows the source of the purpose, it was by “the prophecies which went before” on him. God had indicated to Paul the fitness of Timothy for the task. By (in) them, the prophecies, Timothy was assured his calling was of God. When a man knows he is called and equipped by God it gives him strength and assurance. It was by these prophecies Timothy might war a good warfare, a warfare that is intrinsically good and admirable involving not just fighting but all the panoply of a soldier. This would involve “holding faith and a good conscience”. Timothy should possess and retain his faith, never letting it go and maintain a good conscience. That is a conscience that is beneficial to others acting out of sincerity before God. Where these have been abandoned the result has been “shipwreck” in the matter of “the faith”. This refers to the whole body of truth. Paul is speaking from experience and quotes Hymenaeus and Alexander as examples of such shipwreck. He then shows that such conduct and departure require excommunication. In 1 Corinthians chapter 5 excommunication was on the grounds of immorality. Such discipline is with a view to recovery. “That they may learn”, be corrected, be chastened or be disciplined, “not to blaspheme”, that is not to speak contemptuously of God and sacred things.
b) The Elements of the Charge, 2.1 – 6.19
In Paper 1 we noted that this portion had several sub-sections:
- Prayer in House of God, 2.1-7;
- Deportment in House of God, 2.8-15;
- Rule in House of God, 3.1-7;
- Deacons in House of God, 3.8-13;
- Behaviour in House of God, 3.14-16;
- Departure in House of God, 4.1-16;
- Relationships in House of God, 5.1-6,19.
i) Prayer in House of God, 2.1-7
The first element of behaviour in House of God is prayer which, Paul says, is of primary importance particularly as far as the burden of the epistle is concerned and with putting things in order in the assembly.
He deals with the scope and character of prayer. It should be marked by “supplications”, which underlines a sense of need and carries the thought of earnest pleading. He also uses the more comprehensive term of “prayers” which covers prayer in general and is confined to addressing God. It is frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles. Next he deals with “intercessions” which are petitions to a superior, pleading on behalf of others. The verb form of the word portrays freedom of access, confidence and holy intimacy in approaching God. Finally he indicates that prayer should also be marked with “giving of thanks”. We approach with a thankful heart as in Phil.4.6.
At the end of v.1 and into v.2 he gives teaching with respect to the scope and the subjects of prayer. Firstly, it should be “for all men”. All four aspects of the character of prayer should be used universally without discrimination. It should be for “kings”, meaning those in supreme authority, but also include those “in authority” who carry out the laws of kings, and those in high places locally and nationally. This means that believers are law abiding citizens except where it is contrary to the Word and Will of God.
The reasons for such prayers are now listed. Firstly “that we may lead a quiet” or tranquil life. This word is only used here in the New Testament. It is restfulness unmarred by outside disturbance, not affected by or participating in politics. The life has also to be “peaceable” or composed. It should be marked by “godliness” which implies doing what is well pleasing to God. “Honesty”, meaning becoming deportment and dignity involving a life of reverence, should also mark this life.
The intercessor should already be practising these things and his prayers for others and those in authority should be with a view to being able to continue in such a manner of life.
In v.3 we are taught that such prayer brings pleasure to God. The prayer of vv.1and 2 is admirable and welcome “in the sight of God our Saviour”. God is not only pleased with us doing this but He is pleased that we understand that He is looking on and that we are doing this for His pleasure. God our Saviour is God in His redemption and grace.
Next we are shown, in vv.4-9, how such prayer agrees with the purpose of God. God’s determinate purpose is for “all men to be saved”. This puts prayer for all men in agreement with the purpose of God that also includes coming to a full “knowledge of the truth”. He also shows how such prayer is in agreement with the death of Christ. There is one God for all, Jews and Gentiles alike. In addition, there is only “one mediator between God and men”. His death brings God and men together by His mediatorial work. That death so fits Him to mediate as He gave Himself a ransom on behalf of all. Here again this is in agreement with prayer for all men, since there is enough in His death to meet the need of all. The death of Christ is the central theme of apostolic ministry and testimony, it is “testified in due time”. Involved in Paul’s apostleship is that he should testify to the death of Christ. As such he affirms its truth and teaches the Gentiles faithfully and truthfully. This again involves all men and so is in agreement with prayer for all men.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Where shall Wisdom be Found?
by M. Rudge (Wales)
In the former paper the question has been noted, “but where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? … Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?” Job 28.12,20. It has been shown from this chapter where it does not come from. It is not in human wisdom and research, vv.1-11 nor can it be bought by human wealth, vv.12-19. Then where does it find its origin?
WISDOM COMES FROM GOD AND HIS SELF-REVELATION.
IT IS HIS GIFT, 28.20-28
Note the answer in v.23, “God understandeth the way thereof, And He knoweth the place thereof.” The truth is that only God knows the way to wisdom. Wisdom is only found in God. “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Col.2.2, which is a testimony to the Deity of Christ.
God sees everything from the vantage point of heaven, whereas we only see a very small part from where we are. This was the position in which Job and his friends were found. His knowledge and view of things is absolute, “For He looketh to the ends of the earth and seeth under the whole heaven” v.24. Creation displays His infinite wisdom, vv.25 -27; Ps.104.24; Jer.10.12; Prov.8.22. He established the decrees by which it was founded and by which it operates and has complete understanding of the way it functions. Creation is the beginning of Divine revelation.
In v.28 a conclusion is stated, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding”, cp 1.1,8; 2.3; and 1Pet.3.11, where to “eschew” evil, means to turn aside from it, (ek, “from”, klino, “to turn”).
The fear of the Lord is a life lived in communion with the Lord, in submission to His will, owning His Lordship. It is the beginning of wisdom. The true starting point for the knowledge of God is His self revelation, in His time and in His way, to those who fulfil the conditions He requires, summarised here as “the fear of the Lord”. Wisdom is His gift. It can come only from Him. Wisdom is a way of living.
Paul approached the subject of human wisdom and its relationship to Divine wisdom in the gospel from a different angle to the book of Job, when he exposed its folly, 1Cor.1.18-2.5. He did not go to Corinth with wisdom of words, “lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” 1.17. For Paul, wisdom is found in the word of the cross and he preached it knowing that in spite of its lack of human appeal and its foolishness to the natural mind, it was “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” He did not come to Corinth “with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” 2.1.5.
Paul is driving home the lesson of the book of Job to these intellectually-minded, highly gifted but carnal Corinthians. In making known the distinction between the message of the cross and human wisdom, he shows the inability of the natural mind to apprehend and submit to Divine revelation. In the second section of 1 Corinthians, he deals with the subject of wisdom among them that are perfect, 2.6-3.4. It was the wisdom of God in a mystery form, understood only by the initiated, those with God-given, spiritual faculties. It was a wisdom “which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” 2.8. Those things which are hidden from the natural man have been revealed to us by His Spirit in Spirit-taught words. Paul is speaking of the verbal inspiration of Scripture, 2.13.
“Who hath known the mind of the Lord …? But we have the mind of Christ”. We have the fulness of divine revelation in the completed Scriptures, 2.16. We have spiritual faculties which need to be developed if we are to make progress in understanding the mind of the Lord and live a life that is marked by spiritual insight. Knowledge provides us with the facts. Understanding is the ability to appreciate its significance and wisdom is the ability to use it to the best advantage. This requires effort, a serious approach and submission to the Will of God. It is the mind that is the most important factor in our spiritual development. It is here that judgments are made and attitudes are formed, which dictate the way we live our lives.
God has spoken unto us in His Son to give the complete revelation of Himself. It is the revelation of the Father in the Son, Jn.14.8,9. Its purpose is to give us a personal experience of the Father and the Son. The conditions are love and obedience, Jn.14.21-24.
“For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” Lk.16.8b. “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward” 2Cor.1.12.
by C. Jones (Wales)
No one is identified in the Word of God as being the human author of Ps.91. Some say that David was probably the author, and yet there is evidence in the Psalm which suggests that Moses might well have been the writer. Several of the expressions used are reminiscent of those used in chapters 32 and 33 of Deuteronomy. Moses is identified as the writer of Ps.90 which begins the fourth of the five sections into which the book of Psalms can be divided and Ps.90 and 91 might well be read together. Their contents form a strong contrast the one with the other. In Ps.90 we read of the brevity and insecurity of man’s life, and of destruction, wrath and trouble. In Ps.91 we read of security, deliverance and safety for those who rest and trust and have faith in God.
Ps.91 is a Messianic Psalm and speaks of the faith and trust of the Lord Jesus Christ in God His Father whom He loved, glorified and obeyed, Jn.13.31; 14.13,31; 17.4; Phil.2.8. Vv.11,12 were applied to the Lord by Satan when he tempted the Lord in the wilderness in the Psalm which can be appropriated and enjoyed as sources of blessing, comfort and assurance by a troubled believer who is trusting, resting and enjoying a deep-seated joy and peace in knowing and experiencing the love and care of God.
Under the shadow of the Almighty, vv.1-8
The Holy Spirit speaks in vv.1,3-13, the Son in v.2 and the Father in vv.14-16. The Names used to refer to God remind us of His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. In v.1 we read of dwelling in “the secret place of the most High (El Elyon)” and abiding “under the shadow of the Almighty (El Shaddai)”. El Elyon conveys the thought of “the most high God”, Gen.14.19, who owns all things. El Shaddai is Almighty God, Gen.17.1, the all-sufficient great Provider and Giver of gifts. The trusting believer will experience what it means to abide under God’s protection and to rest and enjoy the security of being in close fellowship with Him. This is an experience not known by unbelievers. The incarnate Lord Jesus Christ always dwelt in the shadow and protection of His Almighty God and Father.
In v.2 the Lord speaks saying, “I will say of the Lord (Jehovah), He is my refuge and my fortress: my God (Elohim); in Him will I trust”. The name Jehovah, Gen.2.4, indicates that God has an un-derived, eternal existence and that the cause of His existence is in Himself. He is the self-existent, self-sufficient One who possesses eternal life in Himself and reveals Himself. He is eternally unchanging. Elohim, Gen.1.1, speaks of might, sovereignty, majesty, omnipotence, and creatorial and governing power. The faith and trust of the Lord Jesus Christ in His God and Father were continuous and undeviating.
Dwelling under the protection of the Almighty is like dwelling in an impregnable refuge in which one can place implicit trust. Knowing the infinite power, love, wisdom and grace of God, the believer who trusts absolutely in Him can enjoy thinking in terms of “my refuge”, “my fortress” and “my God”, v.2. The words used in the first two verses cause one to think of the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat which were under the wings of the cherubim in the holy of holies in the Tabernacle, Ex.25.17-22.
The Lord Jesus Christ knew the infinite power of His Father and that all people and events are under His control. Daniel knew these things, Dan.4.17, and believers have the assurance, peace and comfort of knowing that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose”, Rom.8.28. God does not promise believers immunity from problems and trouble, but we know that He is in control and has promised to be with us at all times. We read in Matt.28.20, “lo, I am with you alway”, and in Heb.13.5, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”. God is able, in all the changing conditions and circumstances of life, to “deliver”, v.3, to protect and “cover”, v.4, like a bird protects her young under her feathers. God is to be trusted. His promises and His faithfulness, v.4, are to be relied upon at all times. God’s protection is continuous for each and every believer, throughout every day and every night, vv.5-8, for He “shall neither slumber nor sleep”, Ps.121.4.
To keep Thee in all Thy ways, vv.9-13
The Lord Jesus Christ made the Lord (Jehovah) His refuge and the most High (El Elyon) His dwelling place. No unexpected evil or disaster could assail Him, vv.9,10, and all that the Lord experienced was under the control of God and glorified God. The Lord was never overtaken by events: all that happened to Him was in accordance with the Will of God, Matt.26.39; Jn.5.30; 6.38; Acts 2.23; 3.18.
At the Lord’s baptism, God spoke saying “Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased”, Lk.3.22. Immediately after this, the Lord, “being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness”, Lk.4.1. He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Satan often uses this approach and attacks immediately after a believer has experienced a particular blessing or moment of joy in the Lord.
It is eternally true to say that the Lord Jesus Christ cannot sin. He “knew no sin”, 2Cor.5.21, “did no sin”, 1Pet.2.22, and “in Him is no sin”, 1Jn.3.5. The temptations served to prove that the Lord would not and could not sin. There was nothing in Him to respond to Satan’s temptations and He could say, “the prince of this world … hath nothing in Me”, Jn.14.30. The very suggestions of Satan hurt and offended the Lord’s sensitive Holy Being and “in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted”, Heb.2.18. As a result of His experiences, “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.
Satan tried to get the Lord to sin by persuading Him to do something spectacular, to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple. Satan can use Scripture, and on this occasion he misquoted Ps.91.11,12, claiming that God would use angels to prevent the Lord coming to any harm, thereby proving that He was the Messiah. Satan went as far in quoting as “He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee”, Lk.4.10, but omitted the words “in all Thy ways”, Ps.91.11.
God’s promises cannot be applied to acts which are not in accordance with His will. In replying to this temptation, the Lord quoted Scripture, Deut.6.16, and addressing Satan with Divine authority He said, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”, Lk.4.12. Satan failed completely to cause the Lord to take any action which was outside the Will of God His Father or which amounted to a testing of God.
In His victory over Satan in the wilderness, the Lord proved His complete dependence on God and His absolute dedication and perfect submission to the Will of God. He is the only and perfect Saviour, Jn.14.6; Heb.5.7-9. The temptations proved the Lord’s perfect fitness to be the Saviour of the world and He “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee,” Lk.4.14.
Those of us who are believers are assured of protection at all times, vv.10-13. Yet we have to fight against temptations and are enjoined to “take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”, Eph.6.17. The Lord used the written Word of God to defeat Satan, and each believer must study it, fill our mind and memory with it, meditate on it and, in times of temptation, use it in the power of the Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ has trampled on the head of the cunning serpent, that is, Satan, v.13; Gen.3.1,15; Rev.12.9, and has defeated the strong and ferocious one who “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”, 1Pet.5.8. Victory, peace and rest are assured for the trusting, believing saint, for we read in Rom.16.20, “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly”.
He hath set His love upon Me, vv.14-16
God now speaks saying, I will “deliver Him” that is, His Son, “set Him on high”, “answer Him”, “be with Him in trouble”, “deliver Him, and honour Him” and “With long life … satisfy Him, and shew Him My salvation”.
The Lord loves His Father with a Divine, eternal love, v.14; Jn.14.31, and God the Father loves His only begotten Son, Jn.3.35. God raised His beloved Son from among the dead, delivered Him and exalted Him, v.14; Acts 2.24,32,33; Eph.1.20, and now He sits “on the right hand of the Majesty on high”, Heb.1.3. The Lord spent much time in prayer to His Father, Matt.14.23; 26.36; Mk.1.35; Lk.6.12; 9.29; Jn.17.9. Prayer honours God and shows dependence on Him. God delivered His Son and honoured Him, v.15; Jn.13.32; Heb.5.7; 1Pet.1.21, and now He lives in the power of an endless life, v.16.
The promises made by God in vv.14-16 apply primarily to the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, they can be appropriated, enjoyed and rested on by the believer who, knowing God’s eternal Son as his own Lord and Saviour, is seeking, by the enabling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to walk in obedience to the revealed Will of God.
Psalm 91 is a lovely psalm which exalts the Lord Jesus Christ and glorifies God. It is full of the love of God and gives comfort, assurance and blessing to believers. We know our Lord, Rom.8.31-39. We are under the care and protection of the Almighty God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Four Crises in the Life of Joseph
By B. E. Avery (England)
With the exception of chapter 38 the last fourteen chapters of the book of Genesis are concerned with the life of Joseph. It is interesting to note that in the sixty-six verses where we read about what Joseph said he referred to God twenty-two times! How conscious he was of the Lord’s presence in his life. This was especially needful on four occasions when he was the subject of satanic temptation and Divine testing (in the permissive will of God). These took place in chapters 39,40,41 and 42-50.
In chapter 39 he was tested in circumstances of secrecy (involving self gratification). In chapter 40 he was tested in circumstances of adversity (involving self-pity). In chapter 41 he was tested in circumstances of prosperity (involving self-aggrandisement). In chapters 42-50 he was tested in circumstances of opportunity (self satisfaction). Each of these tests, are of increasing severity and solemnity perhaps reflected in some of his aforementioned references to God. In test 1 he speaks of God once, likewise in test 2. In test 3 he refers to God five times, and in test 4 thirteen times. Others, too, were affected. His two sons’ names, for example, and even Pharaoh, Joseph’s steward, his brethren and his father.
In chapter 42 Joseph’s brethren arrive in Egypt and stand before him. Surely Joseph’s final and greatest crisis to be handled! What an opportunity for revenge! But Joseph, under Divine guidance, sees this as an opportunity to test his brethren with a view to being reunited with them and his father. He has not seen them for around twenty-two years, no wonder they did not recognise him! He is now going to test them in circumstances of adversity for themselves, following in chapter 43 in circumstances of uncertainty, in chapter 44 of perplexity and in chapter 45 of discovery, leading to forgiveness, reconciliation and communion.
In 42.21,22 they acknowledge their guilt. Joseph is “our brother” now, no longer “this dreamer” or “our father’s son”, as they had spoken of him on their last acquaintance. In v.34 they are speaking the truth now (compare 37.32). In 43.21 there is no greed now (compare 37.26, 27) and in v.34 no jealousy now either (compare 37.4). In chapter 34 there is no callous indifference or selfishness shown v.34 (compare ch.37.33). They have come through all five “tests” with flying colours and now Joseph is able and willing to reveal himself to them at last. A picture (among many others) of Joseph as a type of Christ, who will yet reveal Himself to Israel in a coming day. “They shall look on Him whom they pierced” Zech ch.12.10. This also will be a day of recognition and repentance.
The story is not quite over. His brethren return to bring their father and their families to be near him in Egypt. In chapter 49 Jacob blesses his sons. God is not mentioned in connection with any except Joseph, where He is spoken of twice in v.25. How fitting and instructive. Now we come to chapter 50, the last in the book. Jacob has died and is buried and now Joseph’s brethren send a message to him for they believe that he will now “get his own back” in hatred. V.16 suggests that their father had entertained this idea too! It has been thought, however, that they may have slipped back into their old, deceptive ways. Be that as it may, they ask for forgiveness, as if Joseph had not shown this to them already. No wonder Joseph wept as he realised they still did not trust him! Do we not easily fall into similar thoughts with regard to our Saviour sometimes? How must He feel concerning us? This is the seventh time we read of Joseph shedding tears; perhaps these were the most bitter of all! In v.20 he reminds them of human responsibility and Divine sovereignty, a subject beyond our human comprehension, yet so often brought together in Scripture.
May we be guided and encouraged in our walk with and work for our beloved Saviour in our day, as we are reminded of the instructive record of the life of Joseph.
Thomas Craig Beggs 1925 – 2008
Our dearly beloved brother Thomas Beggs, who served on the Committee of "Assembly Testimony" magazine for some 40 years, has been called home to be with the Lord, which is, for him, very far better.
Thomas was born on 31 October 1925; he was saved on 6 February 1945 as he read Isaiah 53:5, and was called home on 25 December 2008. He was born both naturally and spiritually in the town of Dromore, Co. Down and spent his life serving the community in his shoe shop and serving the saints as a highly respected elder in the assembly. He was a most gracious man yet one of deep conviction and in this he epitomised the twin traits of "grace and truth". His Christian testimony was parallel to Luke 1.6, "righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless". He was very active in the work of the Lord being a loved Sunday School teacher, a most capable gospel preacher and a diligent distributor of gospel literature. In the work of this magazine we were often thankful for his wise counsel and perceptive advice. Men of his calibre are all too uncommon and he will not be replaced easily.
His passing into the presence of the Lord he loved and served with distinction, was peaceful. The exceptionally large funeral was another indication of how highly he was respected by many of different backgrounds.
Please remember his widow, Doreen, and two daughters, Hilary and Heather, in prayer as well as the assembly in Dromore, since all have suffered a heavy blow. Hilary is married to Ian McKee who is now the secretary and treasurer of this magazine, while Heather and her husband Crawford Brown, serve the Lord in Brazil.
We are thankful that the parting is only "till He come" and we can "comfort one another with these words".
Good Tidings from Heaven
WHAT IS GOD LIKE?
Many artists have used their talent to try to depict God. Some have sought to capture His likeness on canvas, others on the plaster of walls or ceilings of various buildings. All this has been futile since the Bible declares in two places that “No man hath seen God at any time” John 1.18; 1 John 4.12. We have no idea of the physical details of God. This is not surprising since “God is a spirit” John 4.24, and we cannot define a spirit in physical terms.
However the Bible does allow us to know what God is like in His character. This can be appreciated by tracing, in the Bible, the expression, “God is …”
The first expression we wish to consider is in 1 John 1.5, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all”. This is most startling when we read what the Bible says about us: “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” John 3.19. This teaches that mankind, including you and I, are in the dark morally and have no fitness to be in the presence of God. In fact, since light and darkness cannot dwell together and are in opposition to each other, God and man are totally opposed. This was so true that when the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God came into the world, we read, “the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not”.
In light of the above it is surprising to read that “God is love” 1 John 4.8. Many will deny this truth and point to natural disasters, the many tears shed and the multiplicity of diseases and say if there is a God of love why? The love of God is seen in that He has not left us to go on to eternal darkness but has intervened in providing a Saviour. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3.16. He did not only give Him to this earth but He gave Him to be crucified at the place called Calvary, outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. There God’s Son died for our sins and in order that we who were at such a distance, could be reconciled. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” 1 John 4.9,10. From these Scriptures we learn that by believing on Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, we will not perish, that is we will not experience eternal judgment, but we will have eternal life, which is the life of God and enjoy eternal bliss.
Perhaps a doubt arises in someone’s mind and they wonder if God can be really relied upon to fulfil this promise. 1 Corinthians 1.9 says, “God is faithful”. We need not fear to trust Him. He will not forsake us or let us down. The Bible says that our Saviour is eternally the same and will never forsake His own. “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” Hebrews 13.5. This is a wonderful promise that even gives a blessing if read backwards! Listen to the words of Isaiah, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness” Isaiah 41.10.
What happens if we refuse God’s love and His offer of salvation? Hebrews 12.29 records, “For our God is a consuming fire”. If we meet Him without the Saviour of His providing, it will mean eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the Lake of Fire” Revelation 20.15.
It would be wisdom on the part of every reader to ensure that you meet Him in life as a loving Saviour God rather than in eternity as One who is a consuming fire.
WHY WEEPEST THOU? (Selected)
- God careth for thee, weeping one,
- His hand is round thee now;
- or thee, His best is always done;
- O then, why weepest thou?
- God loves thee well, thou troubled one,
- Heaven wonders at such love;
- He loves thee as He loveth none
- In angel ranks above.
- Throughout the earth His earnest eye
- Hath careful searched, to see
- What spot it was beneath the sky
- That best befitted thee.
- Yet thou that chosen, holy place
- Profanest now with tears;
- And when thy soul should sing its praise,
- It weeps its idle fears.
- O wherefore, wherefore, dost thou wrong
- His heart who loves thee so?
- And rob Him of thy tribute song,
- To nurse thy thankless woe?
- If thou must weep, then weep for joy
- That God thy Father is;
- Whose grace does all its powers employ
- To load thy soul with bliss.
‘Knowing that …’
- tribulation worketh patience, Rom.5.3;
- Christ … dieth no more, Rom.6.9;
- we are absent from the LORD, 2Cor.5.6;
- your Master also is in heaven, Eph.6.9, Col.4.1;
- I am set for the defence of the gospel, Phil.1.17;
- Of the LORD ye shall receive the reward, Col.3.24;
- shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, 2Pet.1.14.
H.A. Barnes (England)
Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord,
which He will show to you today. – Ex. 14.13
- Stand still, my soul,
- For so thy Lord commands;
- E’en when thy way seems blocked,
- leave in His hands:
- His arm is mighty to divide the wave.
- Stand still, my soul,
- Stand still and thou shalt see
- How God works the impossible for thee,
- For with a great deliverance He does save.
Their office was … to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord,
and likewise at even … continually before the Lord. – 1 Chron. 23.28, 30-31
- The morning is the gate of day,
- But ere you enter there,
- See that you set, to guard it well,
- The sentinel of prayer.
- So shall God’s grace your steps attend
- And nothing else pass through,
- Save what can give the countersign,
- “The Father’s will for you.”