ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH 9.6
by J. M. Flanigan
by R. Plant
by C. Jones
BENAIAH – 1 CHRONICLES 11.10-25
by M. Minnaar
THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
by J. C. Gibson
“SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD” – Mark 14.8
by J. Paterson
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
34) “THEY SHALL JUSTIFY THE RIGHTEOUS, AND CONDEMN THE WICKED”
Read Chapter 25.1-19
With this chapter we reach the end of a section in the book (chs.22-25) dealing, as we have noticed, with a wide variety of situations that could arise in the lives of God’s people. Once again, it is difficult to trace a unifying theme, but there is some merit in C.A.Coates’ observation that “the principle of recompense runs through the chapter.” The chapter comprises six paragraphs:
- 1. Performing the law, vv.1-3;
- 2. Providing for oxen, v.4;
- 3. Perpetuating the family, vv.5-10;
- 4. Penalising improper intervention, vv.11-12;
- 5. Preventing dishonest trading, vv.13-16;
- 6. Punishing the Amalekites, vv.17-19.
1. PERFORMING THE LAW, vv.1-3
When disputes were brought to court, the punishment of offenders was to be carefully regulated. If, on the one hand, corporal punishment was to be administered, then, on the other, it was not to become what Raymond Brown calls “vicious and violent aggression”. The following should be noted:
- The investigation must be properly conducted. “If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked,” v.1. Solomon issued a severe warning against reversing this requirement, “he that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord,” Prov.17.15, and this is effectively repeated in Isa.5.22-23, “Woe unto them … which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!” All this reminds us to “judge not according to appearances, but judge righteous judgment,” Jn.7.24. It is all too easy to be biased, for example, by personal friendships or the general opinion of the ‘circle’ to which we belong, and to ‘pass sentence’ on fellow-believers without ever taking time to ascertain the facts of the case. After all, “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” Jn.7.51. Do notice that the case was to be heard by more than one judge. The law here refers to “judges” in the plural.
- The assessment must be properly made. “And it shall be, if the wicked man is worthy to be beaten …” v.2. So there was to be discrimination in punishing offenders. It was not a case of the same punishment for every crime, whatever its nature. It is worth remembering in this connection that exclusion from assembly fellowship was to be exercised in matters of extreme gravity: see 1Cor.5.11; 1Tim.1.20. While moral and doctrinal “leaven”, 1Cor.5.6; Gal.5.9, must be dealt with firmly, assemblies must guard against “putting people out of fellowship” for any reason.
- The punishment must be properly witnessed. “And it shall be, if the wicked man is worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault by a certain number,” v.2. The punishment must be administered in front of a judge. As Raymond Brown observes, there was the danger of the guilty man “being handed over to men who might commit acts of vindictive cruelty.” He continues, “The judge is personally responsible for seeing that the offender does not suffer more than the crime deserves.” 1Cor.5.4-5 now become compulsory reading. There is a proper procedure in excluding from assembly fellowship.
- The punishment must be properly limited. “Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee,” v.3. In the New Testament, exclusion from fellowship (“this punishment, which was inflicted of many,” 2Cor.2.7), although deserved, must be terminated when there is evidence of repentance: “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such an one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow,” 2Cor.2.6-7. It is worth noticing that the guilty man is called “thy brother” here in Deut.25.3, and “a brother” in 1Cor.5.11. For this reason, Paul counselled the assembly at Corinth, “confirm your love toward him,” 2Cor.2.8. To continue to exclude the man when he had repented could well create the impression in his mind that he was “vile” (‘despicable’, JND) in the eyes of his brethren. How terribly sad. Let this be a warning to us all.
We are told that the Jews became so afraid of accidentally exceeding “forty stripes” that they reduced the upper limit to thirty-nine, as Paul discovered on five occasions, 2Cor.11. 24.
2. PROVIDING FOR OXEN, v.4
Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.” According to Prov.12.10, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” “The animal had to serve its owner, but in return its owner must care for his animal” (Raymond Brown). Paul refers twice to this verse. First in 1Cor.9.9 where he asks two questions, “Doth God take care of oxen?” (to which the answer is “Yes!”), and “Or saith He it altogether for our sakes?” (to which the answer is, again, “Yes!”). He continues, “for our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.” The apostle is clearly teaching in 1Cor.9.1-14, that God’s servants ought to be financially supported by God’s people. The second reference is in 1Tim.5.18, “For the Scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, the labourer is worthy of his reward.” The writer heard a preacher (Mr.J.Harrison) say that the first refers to the servant of God whilst he is working, and the second to the servant of God when he has finished working, so that the servant should be supported whilst he is active, and when he has retired.
3. PERPETUATING THE FAMILY, vv.5-10
These verses deal with what is often called a “levirate marriage” (from the Latin word levir meaning “brother-in-law”). “If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother unto her,” v.5. This practice has a long tradition in the Old Testament, and reaches back to the patriarchal period. See Gen.38.6-10. Whilst this law was designed to ensure that the name of the deceased brother was “not put out of Israel,” v.6, it is not difficult to discern God’s care for bereaved wives in these circumstances. In the first place, the family was obliged to accept some responsibility for her welfare (she was not to remarry outside the family), the widow herself would be protected and given security, and it would be “an immense comfort to a dying husband … if he knew that his brother would accept a measure of responsibility for the care of his wife and the provision of a male child” (Raymond Brown).
This is an advance in the law of the kinsman-redeemer (Heb.goel). A goel was a member of the family, usually a brother, on whom rested the duty of “redeeming” property, Lev.25.23-28, and persons, Lev.25.47-55. He was also responsible for redressing wrong, and in this capacity he was called the “avenger” or “the revenger of blood”. See, for example, Num.35.9-34 etc. These are lovely pictures of the Lord Jesus and His work on our behalf. In His capacity as the goel, the Lord Jesus is both kinsman-avenger and kinsman-redeemer. As kinsman-avenger, He came to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” As kinsman-redeemer, He came to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” Heb.2.14-15. But now we have another aspect of the same law. If, under the provisions of Lev.25, the Lord Jesus has brought us out of bondage, then under the provisions of Deut.25, He has brought us into an abiding relationship with Himself.
In this connection we should notice that in Ruth 4, the law of the kinsman-redeemer is spelt out in detail, and that the Lord then worked within that very law to accomplish His purpose for Ruth through Boaz, resulting in the birth of Obed, then Jesse, David, and ultimately, “great David’s Greater Son.” But that is not all, when God planned our redemption through Christ, He worked within the framework of the same law to accomplish our eternal blessing!
Ruth 4 also illustrates the position of the widow’s brother-in-law who, in her own words, refused to “perform the duty of my husband’s brother,” Deut.25.7-10. In the book of Ruth, he is called the “nearer kinsman,” 3.12, and while he was willing to redeem the property, he was unwilling to accept the obligations which, in this case, went with it. As the “first man” in the narrative, he was certainly “of the earth: earthy,” 1Cor.15.47. While the “nearer kinsman” is sometimes taken as a picture of the law, it seems more appropriate to take him as a picture of “the flesh” (a New Testament term for our old sinful nature). “The flesh” is unwilling to make any sacrifice that will in any way undermine its well-being. Left to “the flesh,” there will be no redemption. We are not “debtors … to the flesh, to live after the flesh,” Rom.8.12. “The flesh” has done nothing at all for us. But “the second man,” the Lord Jesus (like “the second man,” Boaz, in the narrative) has done everything for us! The reference to spitting, v.9, reminds us that men spat in the face of the Lord Jesus. They heaped disgrace and humiliation upon Him. But He had come to do the part of the “goel”, to redeem enslaved men and women, and make them His very own.
C. A. Coates must be right in saying that “the spirit of all this is intended to influence us in our brotherly relations.” Obligations rest upon us too. We must beware of “that self-centred and ungracious spirit which was found in scribes and Pharisees, who thought only of themselves and their fancied righteousness, and cared nothing for the state and sorrow of Israel … God would cover such a spirit with disgrace and infamy” (C.A.Coates). How deeply are we concerned about the welfare of fellow-believers?
4. PENALISING IMPROPER INTERVENTION, vv.11-12
As Raymond Brown observes, these verses “anticipate a time when a woman might intervene during a bitter fight between her husband and another man.” He continues by saying, “The term employed here in the Hebrew text is one which would only be used to describe a violent act.” The severity of the punishment must be weighed against “the unfitting and improper” conduct of an Israelite woman in this way, the public abuse of her privileged and honoured status in society (a woman’s rights and privileges are stressed throughout the book), and the permanent damage that could be suffered by the man himself. Raymond Brown deals tastefully with this in saying, “A violent attack of this kind must have been motivated by a desire to cause the man permanent damage by destroying his ability to procreate … It is perfectly understandable for the woman to want to protect her husband in this brawl, but she is not at liberty to end the conflict in any way she chooses.”
5. PREVENTING DISHONEST TRADING, vv.13-16
“Thou shalt not have in thy bag (suggesting a travelling salesman) divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house (suggesting a local shop) divers measures, a great and a small,” vv.13-14. This statute should be read in conjunction with Prov.16.11; Amos 8.4-6; Mic.6.10-11. See also Hos.12.7. We must studiously avoid “divers weights” and “divers measures.” C. A. Coates provides a good example of “great and … small” measures in saying, “Personal feelings, either favourable or unfavourable, are very apt to lead to our weights being tampered with.” Even the Lord’s people can have double standards. It is all too easy to excuse the faults of someone we like, and to condemn the same faults in people we don’t like!
6. PUNISHING THE AMALEKITES, v.v17-19
“Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt … Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about … that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven: thou shalt not forget it.” Their particular crime was to attack God’s people when they were completely unprepared for the onslaught, and in so doing to target people in the rear of the huge caravan who could do nothing to defend themselves, v.18. Over the years, Amalek did not change. See, for example 1Sam.15 where the current generation of Amalekites are called “the sinners the Amalekites,” v.18, and their king, Agag, had “made women childless,” v.32. Our enemy has not changed either. He is pitiless, and picks off weak, vulnerable Christians. But, given the opportunity, he will pick off any Christian! We must all therefore ensure that we are “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine,” 1Tim.4.6, and “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might,” Eph.6.10, so that we can effectively deal with the foe. We cannot eradicate him, but we can effectively overcome him.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by James M. Flanigan (N. Ireland)
PAPER 7 — THE EVERLASTING FATHER
In the translation by J. N. Darby this appellate of Messiah is rendered “The Father of Eternity.” Others will suggest “The Father of the Ages” which is substantially the same. It is a declaration of the sovereignty of Messiah over all the cycles of time, for He is the author and originator of all. How beautiful it is to see that in that ancient prediction of the village of His nativity it is stated, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Heb. the days of eternity). Bethlehem may be the lowly beginning of a lovely life on earth, and it was, but the Baby in the manger is the Father of the Ages, the uncreated One who predates time and all created things.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews the writer says of the Son that by Him the “worlds” were made, Heb.1.2. In the literal sense this is true of course and it is emphasised in other places, “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made,” Jn.1.3. “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him” Col.1.16. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not,” Jn.1.10. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created,” Rev.4.11. Every created thing owes its existence to Him who created all.
True and thrilling as this is, it is not however the meaning of Heb.1.2. The word “worlds” there is in fact the word “ages” (Gk.aioon. Strong 165). The famed Greek Lexicon by Thayer says of the word that it means, “an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity, forever.” Many concede that the word did eventually come to include all that the ages produced but there seems little doubt that the basic meaning of aioon is indeed “ages”.
Such then is the greatness of the Messiah that He is called in our verse “The Father of the Ages”. In Heb.1.2 all the cycles of time emanate from Him, through Him, for Him, and to Him. The ages were planned by Him and for His glory and all revolve around Him, He in the midst.
In time we often reckon the ages as being dispensations, periods which are characterised by God’s various ways of dispensing His will and purpose for men. There are at least seven of these “dispensations” and possibly eight, as follows.
1. Innocence. (Gen.1.28 – 3.6)
Man was created in innocence and placed in a perfect environment. All that he needed, all that he could have desired, was in the Garden of Eden. He was however subjected to one simple test. In the creation he had a conferred sovereignty but there was a greater sovereignty than he and he must obey commands. He chose to disobey. He denied the sovereignty of the Creator and his own headship and the dispensation ended with his expulsion from the Garden, but with the promise of a Redeemer.
2. Conscience. (Gen.3.7 – 8.14)
For how long the first dispensation lasted we cannot tell, but that which followed lasted for some sixteen hundred years. It was the age of conscience. “Con-science” means going along with what we know. Man had deliberately chosen to disobey in Eden and now, with a knowledge of good and evil, he is placed under the moral responsibility of doing what he knows to be right and abstaining from what is wrong. Any approach to God would be on the grounds of sacrifice, Gen.4. This age ended with the flood, God’s judgment on a rebellious world.
3. Human Government. (Gen.8.15 – 11.32)
On their deliverance from the flood and their emergence from the ark Noah and his family inherited a new earth. To them was committed the responsibility to govern. It was a heavy responsibility which included the introduction of capital punishment for murder. “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed,” Gen.9.5-6.
4. Promise (Gen.12.1 – Ex.18-27)
From an idolatrous race God then called out a man, Abram, who became Abraham. To him God gave an unconditional promise of blessing and the pledge of an inheritance. “I will bless them that bless thee,” Gen.12.3. Sadly, the patriarch’s posterity came into bondage in Egypt until, by power and by blood they were redeemed. Eventually, after the great exodus, they arrived at Sinai.
5. Law (Ex.19.1 until Christ)
At Sinai God gave the nation His law. They promised “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD,” Ex.19.8. But they did not keep their promise and it was an age of sacrifice and offerings, of priesthood, judges, monarchy and captivity, until He came in whom the precepts of the law were exemplified, its promises fulfilled, and its penalties exacted at Calvary.
6. Grace (Acts chapter 2 — The Rapture)
On the memorable Day of Pentecost there began a new era. It was a mystery period with features not revealed to Old Testament prophets. A new assembly came into being in which there was neither Jew nor Gentile. The old middle wall of partition had been broken down and those in the great Church were now simply sinners saved by grace. The message preached to all men would be known as “The Gospel of the grace of God,” Acts 20.24. The coming of Christ for His Church will bring the age of grace to a close.
7. The Kingdom (Revelation chapters 19 – 20)
A period of unparalleled tribulation after the Rapture of the Church will prevail until the manifestation of the King. He had been rejected on earth, unrecognised by the world and refused by His own nation but He must reign and His return in glory will usher in a kingdom of bliss and prosperity promised by the psalmists and seers of the Old Testament. This is the last of the ordered ages, lasting for a thousand years. Man had been tested in innocence and under law but as he had failed in all that had gone before this age of prosperity will also end in revolt and in judgment proving that the heart of man has remained unchanged even in a kingdom of peace.
There will then be an eternal Sabbath, which is reckoned by many to be the eighth of the cycles of time. All these are ordered for His glory who is the Father of the Ages.
—to be concluded (D.V.)
By R. Plant (England)
Paper 4 — How to run a children’s meeting
So how can we run a thriving and successful children’s meeting? How can we teach the Scriptures to the young while maintaining interest and order? Perhaps the key word would be ‘Action’. Try to keep the whole time moving without a pause from start to finish. Sadly the days are gone when we could present a straight gospel message to the children for thirty minutes without them flinching. Everything around the young today is full of action and animation and the people of God need to be aware of this in seeking to work with the children. According to a recent Daily Telegraph article the average scene from children’s TV lasts no more than five seconds! The scenes are constantly changing to avoid boredom. Perhaps this is one reason that our modern generation of children find sitting still for more than two minutes almost impossible. Of course the Scriptural mandate that all must be done decently and in order should be very keenly applied.
As we have sought to point out in a previous paper there needs to be much preparation prior to ever standing before the children. Not only preparation of materials but also of the order in which the various materials are going to be presented. To be all mixed up and not knowing what is coming next leads to confusion and a loss of attention! All this too needs to be done with an eye on the clock. There is no point taking so long on the quiz that the weightier and more important matters of Bible Doctrines and Gospel presentation are neglected or cut down. In my previous job I had to attend a seminar the first session of which dealt with the average person’s capacity to retain information. It was pointed out to us that the average person would retain around eighty percent of all that was told them in the first twenty minutes of a lecture. For the next ten minutes their capacity dwindled to less than fifty percent and after forty minutes of listening what was retained was virtually nil. It occurred to me if that was how long the average adult could concentrate then a child’s level must be much smaller. It is advantageous, therefore, not to allow any one item in the meeting to run on longer than ten minutes before introducing a chorus and changing the emphasis of the meeting. In order to provide readers with some practical ideas there follow some ideas as to how a one-hour meeting could be arranged. These are presented for guidance only, with no intention of claiming dogmatically that this is how a meeting should be conducted, but from experience, these techniques have worked.
Firstly I split the children into two teams which are called the Old Testament and the New Testament and throughout the meeting these compete. The meeting commences with two good opening choruses, usually sung twice, followed by a couple of questions based on the content of the chorus so as to emphasise a particular line or phrase in that chorus. The opening prayer is usually no more than two or three sentences in length. Longer praying should be done at home! To expect children to sit for five minutes whilst you plead with the Lord for their souls and ask the Lord to save them requires much faith! Keep it short and simple. The prayer is followed with another quick chorus then straight into quiz.
This is usually based on the previous evening’s meetings so as to re-emphasise some of the aspects and teachings of that meeting. This can be used as a real gauge as to how well the children are remembering what they have been told. It is again emphasised that all aspects of the quiz must be Scriptural. This is a great secondary way of imparting good sound Biblical truth to the children. It has been found helpful to use card games where a set of A5 size cards are on display on a large board, all looking exactly the same on the facing side. On the reverse side there are different Bible themes depending on which set is being used, for example Bible numbers, Bible characters, Bible places, Bible things, etc. For a game involving Bible numbers for instance, when a question is answered correctly the team can choose a card and turn it over to discover a Bible number “Sixty six books in the Bible,” “Six hours the Lord was on the cross,” etc. These numbers can then be added to that team’s score and a brief explanation of that number can be given. For other quizzes scores can be placed on the cards. If one on Bible characters was being done, the apostle Paul might be plus 200 points but Ahab minus 200 points. Other quizzes are used to teach memory texts or other aspects of the Bible. There is so much in the Bible that material for these cards/quizzes is plentiful. More will be said on the use of quizzes in paper 5.
As noted in a previous paper, in my early years of children’s work, I used to tell the “Jungle Doctor” fables at this point but stopped this due to observing the children remembering the story but not the much more important spiritual lessons behind the story. This is not a criticism of the “Jungle Doctor” type stories and their gospel applications, nor of them being used in the home or given out as prizes. The gospel application is usually clear in them and our children can read far worse than these wonderful fables written by Paul White. My problem was, that if the children could not connect the story with the application, I was wasting my time and theirs also. I started using ready-made doctrinal lessons prepared by experienced children’s workers for use in such circumstances. It was thrilling to see the children in this ten-minute slot learning about the character of God, the nature of sin or the person of Christ and being able to remember these important doctrines the following evening. Lord willing, in a future article I intend to give some guidance as to what materials are available and where they can be obtained. Upon completing the lesson have another chorus that ties in with the lesson.
At this point we move quickly to what I call the “Vital Verse”, or the memory verse. The gospel message is vital to every soul so the title “Vital Verse” sounds about right. Personally, I would only teach one verse a week over five nights, as I believe it is more important that the children learn one verse well than many verses poorly. This also gives time to explain and illustrate difficult words and phrases, which again allows for good gospel application. It is a good idea to build the verse up night-by-night adding a phrase per night. Suppose, for example, the verse is Romans 6.23, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That would take four nights to teach with the last night for recapping. So the first night “For the wages of sin is death,” is taught. This allows an explanation of what sin is and also what wages are. The second night, “But the gift of God is eternal life” which allows us to show what is meant by eternal life and also what a gift is and who pays for it. At meeting three there would be added, “Through Jesus Christ” giving an application of the one way of salvation through the Lord Jesus and finally during meeting four, “Our Lord”, with the associated teaching concerning the Lordship of Christ. This, of course, can be translated into a weekly session for either Sunday school or children’s meetings. Following on from the text is another chorus used to break the various sections of the meeting.
No, don’t worry it’s not a time for theological debate on tenses or verbs! However the author feels very strongly that we have failed in our work with the children if we fail at some point in our meeting to actually pick up a Bible and read from it. Great sections do not have to be read, but at least a verse or two should be read from the portion you intend to use for your main message. This gets the children used to hearing the Bible read which is a good thing. The second quiz is based on the reading of the Bible. In other words the children have to listen to what is read in order to answer the questions that will be asked, as these will all be based on the passage read. Always make sure too that you have the reading ready so that all you have to do is pick up your Bible and read. If there is even a brief pause, while the teacher looks for the passage it can result in restlessness among the children.
Following the second quiz based on the Bible passage and another chorus, there will be ten minutes or so to present the gospel message. This should be ample time to get the simple basics of the gospel across to the children. One thing to remember when using visual aids is not to allow them to detract from your gospel content. To show for instance a picture of Esther and add “This is Esther and as you can see she is very beautiful,” places far too much attention on the visual which is then lost on your message. One way to help avoid this is to print out suitable Bible verses or parts of Bible verses that are shown to the children at the same time as the visual. Go through the message carefully and pick a verse or part of a verse that is appropriate to use with the visual. By placing the verse up at the same time as the visual, the Word of God rather than the visuals is emphasised. An incidental advantage is that these can also be an “aide memoire” to the speaker, because when speaking to children notes cannot be used! It is far more important to get the children focused on the Scriptures than on the visuals. Perhaps six visuals and corresponding verses for each message is enough so as to avoid overkill of information and also to keep to the allotted time. Having completed the message, the meeting is closed with a brief word of prayer.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by C. Jones (Wales)
David might well have written Ps.40 when he fled from his son Absalom, who had rebelled against him. There are many thoughts brought before us in the Psalm that could be a reflection of the sufferings and experiences of David at that time. The Psalm is, however, Messianic since vv.6-8 are quoted in Heb.10.5-7, telling us what the Lord said to His Father when He came into the world.
He brought Me up, vv.1-5
After the Lord Jesus Christ had voluntarily died upon the cross He “waited patiently,” v.1, for three days and three nights for God His father to raise Him out from among the dead; from the “horrible pit” and “miry clay,” v.2. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus showed God’s complete satisfaction with the work done on the cross by His beloved Son. The Lord “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification,” Rom.4.25, and now sits “on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Heb.1.3, from whence He will return for believers, to take them to be forever with Himself, 1Thess.4.16,17.
Those of us who have been saved by grace have been brought up out of the horrible pit of sin and our feet have been set upon a rock that is Christ. We should thank, worship and praise Him. As a result of the praise of believers, many “shall trust in the Lord,” v.3. Blessed, or happy, is the “man that maketh the LORD his trust,” v.4. By the grace of God, this man turns away from pride and lying delusions. The wonderful things God has done, and the lovely thoughts He has concerning His Son and the redeemed, cannot be numbered, v.5. In eternity, the redeemed will learn more and more of the wonders of salvation and “the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus,” Eph.2.7. The Lord will sing praise to God His Father and will lead the redeemed in praising God, Ps.22.22,25; Heb.2.12.
I delight to do Thy will, vv.6-8
The Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect Servant. He “took upon Him the form of a servant … and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” Phil.2.7,8. We read, “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; Mine ears hast Thou opened (digged, bored or pierced),” v.6, and in Heb.10.5, “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared Me.” The latter is a quotation from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which the Holy Spirit caused the writer to the Hebrews to use. In both cases, the words convey the willingness of the Lord to obey His Father’s will, for God’s law was in His heart, v.8. When a servant’s ear was bored by his master it showed that the servant loved his master and did not, when the opportunity arose, want to go out free but wanted to continue to serve and obey his master, Ex.21.1-6; Deut.15.12-18. The Lord became a willing servant, Phil.2.7. His ear was always open to listen to His Father, Isa.50.4,5, and in the body which had been prepared for Him, He obeyed His Father with every aspect of His being.
The Lord always did those things that pleased His Father, Jn.8.29. His obedience was consistent and undeviating. The animals which were slaughtered in connection with the sacrifices and offerings brought before us in the Old Testament would have resisted death, but the Lord died voluntarily, Phil.2.8. His obedience was not irksome to Him. He was not simply resigned to doing the will of God, for His will was His Father’s will, and He could say, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within My heart,” v.8, and “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work,” Jn.4.34. The aim and purpose of the perfect Servant during His incarnation was always to do the will of God, His Father, Lk.22.42, and He, for “the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,” Heb.12.2.
The offerings described in the Book of Leviticus bring before us types and pictures which reveal aspects of the Person and work on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord, the great and wonderful antitype, fulfilled them beautifully, absolutely and completely. God found no delight in “Sacrifice (the peace offering) and offering (the meal offering)” or burnt or sin offerings, v.6. They all anticipated the suffering and death of the Lord on the cross, but had degenerated into mere ritual and empty ceremony, 1Sam.15.22; Hos.6.6; Amos 5.21-24; Mal.1.7,8. They were but types and shadows, Heb.10.1-4, and the Lord’s sacrifice for sins on the cross superseded and rendered obsolete the repetitive sacrifices of the old order. His substitutionary work abolished the sacrificial system, for we are told so clearly that “this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God,” Heb.10.12.
The coming into the world of the Lord, and His sufferings and experiences, were foretold in the “volume of the book,” v.7, that is, the Word of God. They were foretold, not only in the Levitical Offerings but in the Messianic Psalms and other parts of the Old Testament such as Isa.50.5,6; chapter 53, and the Lord spoke of such prophecies, Lk.24.25-27,44; Jn.5.39,46.
I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation, vv.9,10
During His incarnation, the Lord witnessed and testified to Israel. He graciously revealed to the Jews the character and nature of God, His Father. He told them of God’s righteousness, holiness, faithfulness, love, mercy and grace, vv.9,10. The nation, however, rejected the Messiah, Jn.1.11; 19.15; Lk.19.14, and rejected the only way of salvation through Him, Jn.14.6; Acts 4.12; 16.31. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can fully know and understand God, His Father, Jn.10.15. We read “no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him,” Matt.11.27. And again, “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” Jn.1.18. Only the Lord could declare and fully reveal God’s “wonderful works” and “thoughts” v.5; His “will” and His “law” v.8; His “righteousness”, “faithfulness”, “salvation”, “loving kindness” and “truth” v.10, and His “tender mercies,” v.11.
Deliver Me: O LORD, vv.11-17
In the first part of the Psalm, vv.1-5, the Lord spoke of His resurrection, whereas in the closing verses He speaks of His crucifixion, vv.11-17. The Lord, when “bearing our sins’ heavy load” called on God, v.11; Ps.22.1-21, but God was silent until the work was fully accomplished, Ps.22.21-31. When the Lord was on the cross, God “laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” Isa.53.6. While the words of v.12 undoubtedly have David’s experience in view, may we see a glimpse of Him who, while sinlessly perfect in Himself, bore our sins as our Substitute, 1Pet.2.24? The Lord trusted implicitly that God would ultimately deliver Him from His suffering and raise Him from among the dead, v.13. Those who hate Him, who reject Him and are His enemies, Rom.5.10, will be “ashamed and confounded” and “desolate”, and will be in “the lake of fire” in eternity, vv.14,15; Rev.20.15.
Those who are saved are called upon to “rejoice and be glad,” to praise God continually, saying, “The LORD be magnified,” v.16.
The Lord knew that God would eventually deliver Him and He prayed “make no tarrying, O My God,” v.17. God did not tarry, and after His Son had been in the grave for three days He was raised from the dead. In vv.1-5 we read of God’s answer to the Lord’s prayer which is brought before us in vv.11-17. God always knows the end of all things before they begin. The plan of salvation was formulated even before the world was created, Eph.1.4; 2Thess.2.13. The triumph and resurrection of the Lord were assured and inevitable. In Isa.65.24 we read “before they call, I will answer,” and the answer to the prayer of the Lord could be presented to us even before we read of His prayer to His God. So great is our God, He is always worthy of our thanks and our praise, and He tells us that “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me,” Ps.50.23.
by Marius Minnaar (New Zealand)
In the last paper we noted that David’s mighty men were listed in three groups.
The first group of 3 mighty men
- Adino single-handedly slaughtered 800 men.
- Eleazer single-handedly fought a foe so unrelentingly that his hand was literally locked to his sword.
- Shamah single-handedly defended a field of lentils against the Philistine invaders.
The second group of 3 mighty men
They broke through the enemy lines of the Philistines, putting their lives at risk to draw water from the well to refresh David. So highly did David regard this act of bravery and sacrifice that he refused to drink it and poured it out as an offering to the Lord.
- Abishai single-handedly killed more than 300 men in battle at once.
- Benaiah killed a lion, two lion-like Moabite giants, and a lion-like Egyptian giant.
There seems to be no record of the name or achievements of the third man in the second group.
The third group of 30 mighty men
Asahel, the brother of Joab and Abishai, seems to be the leader of this group of thirty mighty men: his name appears first in both lists of names in this group. He was a swift-footed, athletic and fearless warrior. His life was marked by consistency and commitment as seen in his pursuing of Abner, the general of Saul’s army. He was special in his death as his name is mentioned among those who died in battle in 2Sam.2.32, “there lacked of David’s servants nineteen men and Asahel.” He was also special in his burial. He is the only one among the 380 fallen soldiers that was buried.
The thirty mighty men of the third group have all reached positions of great and high honour in David’s esteem and David’s kingdom. He, together with the Spirit of God, recognized their loyalty and courage in their devotion to him forever, by recording their names on the rolls of honour. David knew his men by name. He knew each one of them personally. He knew every detail of their brave and courageous acts, and detailed them, acknowledged them and rewarded them. How did he know them so well? He fought alongside them; he suffered with them; slept under the stars with them; defended them; fought for them; he loved every one of them.
The purpose of these papers is to focus on one man in the second group of three mighty men: Benaiah.
We shall look at him under the following headings:
- 1. The man who conquered Lions and Giants.
- 2. The Lions of Moab.
- 3. The Lion (giant) of Egypt.
- 4. The Lion in the pit.
The Man who conquered Lions & Giants
Benaiah was more honourable than any of the mighty men of David except the three chiefs of the first group and the chief of his own group. He was put in charge of David’s personal guard. When King David began to reign over all Israel, Benaiah was appointed as one of David’s most important leaders – he was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, 2Sam.8.15-18. Benaiah’s appointment wasn’t merely a matter of politics: he deserved that appointment. He was a truly courageous warrior and leader: “And Benaiah … the son of a valiant man … who had done many acts; he slew two lionlike men of Moab … a lion in a pit. And he slew an Egyptian, a man of great stature.” What made him such a great and fearless warrior? He observed his father and his king, and followed in their footsteps.
His father was Jehoiada who was a valiant man, and who is always recorded in association with his more famous son as in the phrase, “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada”. Benaiah was the “son of a valiant man” but it doesn’t say that he was valiant when he started! He became courageous by daring to do the impossible! A great and spiritual father or mother is no guarantee for a life of faith. There is a responsibility on our part to observe, to imitate and to follow. However, Jehoiada’s courageous example led to his son being courageous. What example are we to the generation that follows? Is it one that is honourable and worthy to follow? He observed his father’s courage and faith, and followed in his footsteps. Don’t we have great examples from both the Old and New Testament to follow? However, our greatest example is our blessed Lord.
There can be little doubt that David’s killing of the lion as a shepherd boy, as well as the battle between David and Goliath deeply affected and inspired him, for he imitated David and followed in his footsteps also, 1Chron.11.22,23. To imitate David’s courage needed the same trust and faith in God as David had, for he did not imitate David’s speech, mannerisms, etc., but his acts of faith. Paul would ask his readers today to follow him as he follows Christ: Do we have the same courage, faith and trust in God as a Paul of old? May we today desire to be like Paul, Benaiah, David and above all, like Christ. There were the observation and following of his king, but another quality of this man was his absolute loyalty to his king. In 2Sam.23, Benaiah is included in that group of men who broke the enemy lines to get water from the well at Bethlehem to satisfy the desire of their king — an event that David remembered right until the time of his death. David longed for a refreshing drink from the well of his hometown Bethlehem. The mighty three broke through the enemy lines and brought the water to David at great personal cost and that in spite of the overwhelming obstacle of the Philistine army. They did not respond to David’s command. This was not a military duty. They acted out of love and loyalty to their king. Similarly, our worship of the Lord should not be performed as a duty, but as an act of devotion because we love Him. True worship will involve time and effort and sacrifice, and sometimes the overcoming of great barriers and obstacles. Have you ever noticed how many obstacles and barriers seem to present themselves when we try to spend some time with the Lord, or when attempting to read or study God’s Word?
The fact that David poured the water out on the ground makes it seem like these three mighty men were involved in an exercise that was a waste of time. However, so impressed was David with this effort and act of bravery, that he honoured it by pouring it out as a offering to the Lord. We seem to spend a lot of time going to meetings, preparing for Bible readings, attending conferences, in quiet meditation, in worship, etc. and this may appear to some people as a waste of time and effort. But from heaven’s perspective, our time with Him and for Him, our quiet meditation and worship mean a lot to Him, and as in David’s case they always bring refreshment to the heart of our Lord.
It is this characteristic which made Benaiah a useful servant all his life, for he was loyal to both David and Solomon. To be useful for Christ our loyalty should be to Him, not to men or a system. He rewards faithfulness and loyalty by adding responsibility and effectiveness to our life — is there anything greater than being an instrument used by the Lord? Faithfulness in the service of his king was always his priority in everything: as a young man he broke enemy lines for water from the well for the king and also imitated the king in killing a lion in a pit, two lion-like men and an Egyptian giant. Later in life there was the responsibility of the king’s guard as chief of the Cherethites and Pelethites. Later still, he became a defender of the truth seeing Solomon on the throne, to make sure the King David’s wishes were fulfilled. As an older man, there was effectiveness in maturity — he became the captain of the host of Israel’s armies, a position held by Joab in David’s army.
This is the kind of faithfulness God wants to see in us: faithfulness to Christ in all our years! In Scripture, an enthusiastic start usually means the person ends well – the early years (as a Christian) usually set the tone for the rest. Therefore a special message to our younger men and woman, as well as those young in the faith: learn the most important lesson in your life, a principle that will guide you all the days of our lives is to put Christ first! Matt.6.33.
—to be continued (D.V.)
By J. C. Gibson (England)
PAPER 1 — INTRODUCTION
The historical, literal and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the bedrock of Christianity. Everything Christians hold precious stands or falls on this miraculous event. It declared Christ to be God’s beloved Son, reversed man’s verdict on Him, Acts 3.15; 5.30; 10.39,40; 13.29,30; Rom.1.4, and was central to all New Testament gospel preaching, being firmly believed by the early church, Acts 2.24-36; 4.2,33; 17.3,18,32; 1Cor.15.4,12; 2Tim.2.8. It was so significant that the earth actually shook and an angel was sent to proclaim the glad tidings, Matt.28.2-6. With every member of the Godhead being actively involved, Christ’s resurrection is the New Testament measure of divine power, Jn.2.19; 10.18; Acts 2.24; Rom.1.4; 6.4; Eph.1.19 20.
This doctrine is so fundamental to the Christian faith it is not surprising to find that it has been constantly attacked. Israel’s leaders were the first to deny it when they bribed the Roman soldiers to lie, saying that “His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept,” Matt.28.11-15. The stakes are high. Here are a few of the devastating results of an untrue biblical record on this subject.
a) Holy Scripture is Invalidated
Resurrection was a familiar Old Testament concept. The Lord Jesus proved the possibility of resurrection to unbelieving Sadducees by quoting God’s words to Moses: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” Ex.3.6; Matt.22.31,32, thereby indicating that a future resurrection is essential. Job was convinced that, although his body would decompose after death, “yet in my flesh shall I see God,” Job 19.26. Daniel also saw a future resurrection: “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt,” Dan.12.2.
In addition to these general resurrection references, the Old Testament, when read in the light of the New Testament, also specifically mentions Christ’s resurrection, whether in picture form or direct prediction, Acts 13.32-37; 26.22,23; 1Cor.15.4. Adam was “a type (tupos) of Him who is coming,” Rom.5.14 (YLT). Finding no suitable help for him, “the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead therefore; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man,” Gen.2.21,22. Adam’s short sleep was an early Old Testament allusion to Christ’s death and resurrection to purchase His church-bride, Eph.5.25. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac … accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure (parabole),” Gen.22.1-19; Heb.11.17-19. Thus, Abraham and Isaac’s journey to Mount Moriah was a parabolic representation of Christ’s future death and resurrection. Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish foreshadowed Christ’s resurrection on the third day, Jon.1.17; Matt.12.38-40. Even the intricately detailed Levitical ceremonies pictured resurrection. Think, for instance, of the two birds used to cleanse healed lepers. The slain bird probably represented Christ’s death while the freed bird signified His resurrection, Lev.14.4-7. The feast of firstfruits is another case. Christ rose from the dead as the firstfruits, and therefore was the guarantee of a future resurrection harvest, Lev.23.10,11; 1Cor.15.20-23. King David’s crystal clear words, “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption,” Ps.16.10, were not fulfilled in David himself, who is now “both dead and buried,” Acts 2.29, but looked forward to a holy Messiah whose body would not decompose in the tomb and whom death could not hold, Acts 2.24. Numerous Old Testament prophecies of Messianic glory are still to be accomplished, and only can be if Messiah is now alive.
The New Testament itself consistently views Christ’s resurrection as an accomplished fact, teaches that He is presently in heaven and predicts that He will soon return. Therefore, if Christ is still dead nothing that the Bible says can ever be trusted again.
b) Christ is Discredited
The Lord Jesus repeatedly spoke of His own resurrection, even claiming power to raise Himself from the dead, Matt.20.19; Mk.8.31; 9.31; 10.34; Lk.18.33; Jn.2.19; 10.18. He promised, “I will come again,” Jn.14.3. His resurrection confirmed the truthfulness of His own words, Matt.28.6. Sadly, a dead Christ is a flawed Christ who cannot be trusted and who certainly cannot save.
c) Salvation is Negated
The resurrection “is the seal of the great work that He came on earth to do … the crowning proof that the ransom He paid for sinners was accepted.”1 He was not only “delivered for our offences,” but “was raised again for our justification,” Rom.4.25. Belief in Christ’s resurrection is essential for salvation, Rom.10.9. If the Lord Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, all gospel preaching is in vain; all trust in the Saviour is completely misplaced; and we are yet in our sins, 1Cor.15.14,15,17.
d) Hope is Lost
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus assures us that He has authority over Hades and death, Rev.1.18, and confirms Him as this world’s future judge, Acts 17.31. It gives Christians hope for the future, 1Cor.6.14; 15.20; 2Cor.4.14; 1Pet.1.3, and power for the present, Rom.6.4,5; 7.4; 8.11; Eph.1.19,20; Phil.3.10; Col.2.12; 3.1. If it were not for His resurrection and ascension “the doorway to His present work in heaven”2 — we would have neither a heavenly Advocate, 1Jn.2.1, nor a sympathetic High Priest, Heb.2.17; 4.14-16. If Christ is not raised every sacrifice made for Him by believers down through the centuries has been a futile waste, 1Cor.15.18,19.
But what proof exists that He has truly risen? For a start, the empty tomb, and the failure of Israel’s leaders to produce a body, is strong evidence. Then there are all those post-resurrection appearances when He appeared and disappeared at will, Lk.24.16,31,35, in various forms, Mk.16.12, and under differing circumstances, to teach His disciples, Acts 1.2-8. Though raised from the dead He remains a man of flesh and bones, still bearing Calvary’s wounds, Lk.24.39,40. After His resurrection He could walk, Lk.24.15, breathe, Jn.20.22, be touched, Matt.28.9, sympathize with His people’s grief, Lk.24.17, and even eat a meal, Lk.24.41-43.
The amazing transformation in the disciples’ demeanour is further confirmation that Christ is alive. Their fear and devastation at His death quickly gave place to joy, Jn.20.20, and holy courage, Acts 2.14. What else, other than Christ’s resurrection, could explain this? Being an eye-witness to His resurrection was an essential apostolic qualification, Acts 1.22; 4.33. For this reason any apostolic claims today are false and absurd. The apostles’ witness to His resurrection was backed up by Holy Spirit energised miracles, Jn.7.39; Acts 3,4; Heb.2.4. These miracles also proved that Christ was raised, exalted, ascended and all-powerful. Even the early church’s setting aside the first day of the week as special, Acts 20.7; 1Cor.16.2, something unheard of in the Old Testament, suggested that this was the day of Christ’s resurrection.
Since the post-resurrection appearances are the prime supporting evidence for this vital doctrine they deserve our careful study. They can be catalogued as follows:
- Mary Magdalene, Matt.28.1-15; Mk.15.47-16.11; Lk.23.55-24.12; Jn.20.1-18.
- The women, Matt.28.1-15; Mk.15.47-16.11; Lk.23.55-24.12; Jn.20.1-18.
- Privately to Peter, Lk.24.34; 1Cor.15.5.
- The Emmaus Road, Mk.16.12,13; Lk.24.13-35.
- A Secure Room, Mk.16.14-18; Lk.24.36-49; Jn.20.19-29.
- Sea of Tiberias, Jn.21.
- “He appeared to above five hundred brethren at once”, 1Cor.15.6.
- “He appeared to James”, 1Cor.15.7.
- The Great Commission, Matt.28.16-20.
- Christ’s Ascension, Mk.16.19,20; Lk.24.50-53; Acts 1.3-12.
- Stephen, the First Christian Martyr, Acts 7.54-60.
- Saul of Tarsus, (Acts 9.1-31; 22.5-16; 26.12-20; 1Cor.9.1;15.8; Gal.1.15,16; 1Tim.1.12-16.
- The Apocalypse, Rev.1.9-20.
—To be continued (D.V.)
By J. Paterson, Jnr. (Scotland)
These words were spoken by the Lord Jesus as a testimony to Mary of Bethany when she poured upon His person her alabaster box of precious ointment. Such was the love and appreciation of this woman for her Saviour that she ventured to the very edge of decorum, disregarded the inquisitive eyes and critical tongues of those present, and lavished her love on the person of her Lord. Whether the Lord Jesus meant that similar to the widow of Mk.12.44, who “did cast in all that she had, even all her living,” or simply that regardless of the cost of the ointment, and in anticipation of His burial, she expressed the highest testimonial of her love to Christ, matters not. In either case, it was a costly and intelligent expression of the purest and strongest love.
All believers are under obligation to Christ. As we gaze at His cross work, view our lost estate from which we have been rescued or wait with anticipation for His call to the Father’s house, we ask the question, “How much do I owe?” In hearts filled with a sense of gratitude and love we should be inspired to express our indebtedness to Him.
It is not the day when we can, like some did while He moved in His earthly ministry, open our door, spread a feast, or anoint Him with ointment, but there is still the opportunity for the believer to show our love to Christ. There are two spheres in which we can show our indebtedness to Christ. These are our attitude to His people and our attitude to His cause. With regard to His people, all believers have opportunity of doing something for Christ in the way of comforting the sorrowing, relieving the needy, restoring those gone out of the way, refreshing and relieving our fellow believers. Brotherly love is love to Christ. It is not a sign of weakness to, “have love one to another,” Jn.13.35. This is an emphatic expression of our relationship to Christ, so much so that even unbelievers take note, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.” However the main force of our brotherly love is as an expression of our obedience and therefore our love to Christ.
The cause of Christ is that in which every believer is obliged to be active. The doctrine, precepts and object of the Word of God is Christ, and through the Word the believer has the direction as to how we can further His cause. Our education in the Word, our adherence to the Word and our preaching and teaching of the Word are involved in our furthering the cause of Christ. Therefore, just as no believer is exempt from expressing brotherly love, every believer is obliged to further the cause of Christ. No individual is so poor, so illiterate, or so obscure as to have no opportunity of performing an act of service for the Saviour. Granted, some have greater opportunity than others, but all have opportunity. To do something in spreading the cause of Christ is a duty binding on the conscience of every believer, but it is a privilege within the reach of everyone’s desire. There is no need for a feeling of helplessness or uselessness which would depress and discourage, but each believer should feel in their very soul that there is a work to be done, a post to be occupied and service in which to be engaged.
In true Christian service no one is superfluous, and although some might deem the work to be done not to be for them to do, God does expect every believer to further the cause of Christ. Mary could have kept that which was hers, it would have retained, perhaps increased, its value, but she broke the box, and in doing so unleashed a fragrance upon her Lord which was not limited to the aroma that filled the house, but which has spread down through generations as a testimony of love and appreciation. This fragrance flows because, “she has done what she could.”
15 MINUTES AT THE TOP
Sir Edmund Hillary died on 10 January 2008, aged 88. He made his name (with Sherpa Norgay Tenzing) as the first to climb Mount Everest. Both men spent the night of 28/29 May 1953 in a small tent 1,100 feet beneath the summit. They arose at 4 a.m. with the temperature at minus 27ºC. At 6 a.m. they crawled out of their tent into the bitterly cold snow and gusting winds to achieve in the next five hours what no one had done before.
They proceeded cautiously, cutting steps along the left-hand side of the summit ridge until they reached the fifty-foot cliff face now called the Hillary Step. “The rock itself, smooth and almost holdless, might have been an interesting problem to a group of climbers in the Lake District,” Hillary wrote, “but here was a barrier beyond our feeble strength to overcome.” Hillary wedged himself into a narrow crack between the rock and a snow cornice hanging over the 11,000 foot drop into Tibet, dug in his crampons and levered himself upwards. Although painful and exhausting, he made it. Then heaving hard on his rope, he helped Tenzing wriggle up.
Their strength flagging, they continued cutting steps into the snowy ridge until they stood on the roof of the world. Then, 15 minutes after they had reached the summit, they commenced the equally hazardous descent — to fame, acclaim and honour. What if they had failed? They would be statistically irrelevant: just another two bodies in frozen preservation, with dozens more since, on the upper slopes of Everest! Alternatively, if the snow cornice had given way, they would have plunged almost two miles into Tibet! Successful risk-taking and subsequent reward are the experience of few. Risk and failure are the lot of multitudes. Yet all around are those who would hazard everything — life and soul, and heaven — for 15 minutes at the top! Achievement for achievement’s sake becomes an all-consuming passion. The cult of ephemeral celebrity is all-pervasive. And the withering wreath of human glory still has tremendous appeal. Everything is hazarded for fame.
The question posed by the Lord Jesus Christ is still pertinent today, both to risk-takers and the risk-averse: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8.36, 37. We have only one run through life. Then eternity. Eternity where?
Mountaineers take care about their hand-holds and foot-holds in case they slip. “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip … how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”, Hebrews 2.1-3.
“Lay hold on eternal life” is Paul’s closing and repeated advice, I Timothy 6.12,19. Do not let the possibility of salvation slip from your grasp. Lay hold upon it. Put your full weight upon the promises in the Gospel. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” I Timothy 1.15. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” Romans 5.6.
Freedom is the right to speak and act without constraint
so long as that freedom is not used to deny others
the same right J. Paton
The cross of Christ finishes us with earth.
The death of Christ fits us for Heaven. H. Scott
CHRISTIAN PARENT “The course of this world”
- Mark yon broad and rapid stream!
- Brilliant though its surface seem,
- Mingling in its depths below
- Poisonous currents surely flow.
- Christian parent, pause to think
- On that treacherous river’s brink,
- Ere you launch your tiny bark
- On those waters deep and dark.
- Yours the path of Jesus here;
- Seek it for your children dear.
- Though you cannot life impart,
- Cannot bow the stubborn heart,
- Do not help to weave a chain
- You would gladly break again.
- Shall not He Who for you died
- Food and raiment still provide?
- He Who has your children given,
- He can bless for earth and heaven.
- Seek then first His holy will,
- Seek His pleasure to fulfil,
- Constant still in faith and prayer
- That this blessing they may share.
And when by the Spirit’s power
- Comes the gladly welcomed hour,
- When the lips you love so well
- Of a Saviour’s grace shall tell,
- They will have no cause to say
- That you turned their feet astray;
- Rather, from their earliest youth
- Taught and nurtured in the truth,
- May their light unhindered shine,
- To the praise of grace divine.