ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee
COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds
NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES
by A. Summers
by I. Steele
THE GREATNESS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
by W. Gustafson
THE GIFT OF TONGUES
by W. M. Banks
NOTES ON THE PRAYERS OF THE SAVIOUR IN LUKE’S GOSPEL
by A. Henry
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.25: Psalm 18 (Part 3)
We have already noticed, twice, that Psalm 18 may be divided as follows: David’s deliverance from his enemies, vv.1-27, and David’s destruction of his enemies, vv.28-50. In our first two papers we considered the first of these, which therefore brings us to:
DAVID’S DESTRUCTION OF HIS ENEMIES – vv.28-50
Having considered David’s deliverance from his enemies under four headings, we will do the same with the passage now before us:
- The Perfection of the Lord – vv.28-31
- The Provision by the Lord – vv.32-36
- The Power from the Lord – vv.37-45
- The Praise to the Lord – vv.46-50
We should notice the connection with the previous verses which culminate with the words, “For Thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks” v.27, or “but the haughty eyes wilt Thou bring down” J.N.D. David proved the veracity of these words. He belonged to the “afflicted people” but the Lord had saved him! Now he speaks about his salvation, vv.28-36, together with the way in which his haughty enemies had been defeated, vv.37-45.
The Perfection of the Lord – vv.28-31
The words, “As for God, His way is perfect” v.30, lie at the centre of this paragraph. The word “perfect” (tamin) means ‘whole’ or ‘complete’ (“Young’s Analytical Concordance”), and we should notice the following:
The Perfection of God’s Help – vv.28,29
“For Thou wilt light my candle [‘for it is Thou that makest my lamp to shine’ J.N.D.]: the LORD my God will lighten [‘enlighteneth’ J.N.D.] my darkness. For by Thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall”. Keil and Delitzsch suggest that “darkness” refers to the way in which the Lord “had lifted him out of a condition of depression and contempt into one of glory and honour”. David certainly had his ‘dark’ moments. See, for example, 1Sam.27.1. Paul knew something about this as well. See, for example, 1Cor.2.3; Phil.2.27. The present tense (“enlighteneth”) also expresses David’s confidence for the future. He was assured of the Lord’s ongoing help. David takes no credit for his achievements: “for it is Thou that makest my lamp to shine” J.N.D.; “For by Thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall”. The “troop” suggests superior forces (compare 1Sam.30.8), and the “wall” great obstacles. Remember:
- Got any valleys you think are uncrossable?
- Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
- God specialises in things thought impossible:
- He can do what none other can do.
Or, in Bible language, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” Phil.4.12,13.
The Perfection of God’s Ways – v.30
Solomon said that “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Prov.14.12, but “As for God, His way is perfect”. He never makes a mistake. We may not always understand what He does and why He does it, but we can rest with absolute confidence in the fact that “He hath done all things well” Mk.7.37. We do have to remember that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” Isa.55.8,9. Having surveyed God’s purpose for Israel, Paul exclaims, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” Rom.11.33.
We must apply this to ourselves practically, and say that “His way”, as revealed in the Scriptures, cannot be bettered. What He wants us to do, and how He wants us to do it, must be perfect. Paul calls this “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Rom.12.2. Our prayer should be, “Teach me Thy way, O LORD” Ps.27.11.
The Perfection of God’s Word – v.30
“The word of the LORD is tried”. The word “tried” refers to the process of refining. There is no dross in the Word of God. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” Ps.12.6. Peter refers to the “sincere milk of the word” 1Pet.2.2. “Sincere” means ‘guileless’ or ‘pure’ (W.E. Vine).
The Perfection of God’s Strength – vv.30,31
“He is a buckler [‘shield’] to all those that trust in Him. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?” Do notice the personal note here: “to all those that trust in Him”. We can trust Him absolutely. Just think about His three titles here. In the first place He is “God” (Eloah, singular of Elohim, the ‘Adorable One’); in the second He is “the LORD” (Jehovah, emphasising His eternity); in the third He is “our God” (Elohim, a plural word reminding us that He is the Triune God).
The Provision by the Lord – vv.32-36
These verses remind us of 2Cor.3.5,6, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God: who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament”. Notice how the Lord had provided for David: “It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.” This reminds us that “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness” 2Pet.1.3. It also reminds us that we are to be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” and “put on the whole armour of God” Eph.6.10,11.
The passage is rich material for meditation and preaching. Strength (“God that girdeth me with strength”); stability (“He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet”); salvation (“Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation”); safety (“Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; so that my feet did not slip”). You should have no difficulty in constructing a fine sermon from these verses! Here are a few comments on them:
“God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect” – v.32
We cannot miss the connection with v.30: “As for God, His way is perfect (tamin)”; now, He “maketh my way perfect (tamin).” The word is sometimes rendered ‘upright’. God’s great desire is to reproduce His own character in His people.
“He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places” – v.33
Compare Deut.32.13 and Hab.3.19. The “high places” refer to David’s elevated position as king of Israel. His throne was stable.
“He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms” – v.34
We must remember that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” 2Cor.10.4. This is best illustrated by the way in which Jericho was conquered. We need to handle our weapons correctly. We are engaged in a war! See Eph.6.12. Steel as we know it today did not exist when the Authorised Version was published, but the word was obviously in use in connection with metallurgy. It refers to ‘brass’ or, better, ‘copper’ or ‘bronze’.
“Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great” – v.35
J.M. Flanigan calls the last phrase a “strangely beautiful expression”. Where would any of us be if God had not dealt with us in this way? In David’s own words, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” Ps.103.10. The Lord Jesus was characterised by gentleness: “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench” Matt.12.19,20.
He combines strength, v.34, and gentleness, v.35, and this is beautifully described in Isa.40.10,11: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him … He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”
“Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet [‘ankles’ J.N.D.] did not slip” – v.36
Keil and Delitzsch explain this as follows: “God made his steps broad … provided the walker with a broad space for free motion, removing obstructions and stumbling-blocks out of the way”. In our own words, ‘the Lord enabled David to keep his balance!’ Listen to David again: “Thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not Thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?” Ps.56.13. Solomon put it like this: “When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble” Prov.4.12. Compare Jude v.24: “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy”.
David had been equipped by the Lord in this way for warfare against his enemies, and we now join him in his military campaigns. Having equipped His servant, God remained by his side in the conflict. So:
The Power from the Lord – vv.37-45
David is careful to acknowledge that he was “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” Eph.6.10. The enemy had been utterly routed. While David refers to himself, “I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them … I have wounded them” vv.37,38, he takes no personal credit for victory: “Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle … Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies” vv.39,40. Paul puts it as follows: “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” Rom.8.37. God has not changed. He can enable us to overcome. But do we “call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised”? Only then can we say, “so shall I be saved from my enemies” v.3. Perhaps we are not even aware of enemy activity. It is terrible to think that we could be defeatists without even knowing it! We should notice the correspondence between this passage and Ephesians chapter 6: the “darkness” v.28, reminds us of “the rulers of the darkness of this world”; “the word of the LORD” v.30, reminds us of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”; “feet” v.33, remind us of “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace”; “shield” v.35, reminds us of “the shield of faith”; “girded” v.39, reminds us of “loins girt about with truth”.
If we are correct in assuming that David originally wrote the song either when he “sat in his house, and the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies” 2Sam.7.1, or after his four campaigns described in 2Samuel chapter 8, then “mine enemies” v.37, “those that rose up against me” v.39, “them that hate me” v.40, were particularly the Philistines. David “smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer” 2Sam.5.25, and “smote the Philistines, and subdued them” 2Sam.8.1. During the first of the two battles described in 2Samuel chapter 5, the Philistines “left their images, and David and his men burned them” 2Sam.5.21, and he could be referring to this in saying, “They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but He answered them not” v.41.
In recalling his triumphs over external enemies, David also mentions the Lord’s help in establishing him as king over Israel itself. “Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people [singular]; and Thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places” vv.43-45. We must therefore notice:
“The people” – v.43
“Thou also hast delivered me from the strivings of the people” (“my people” 2Sam.22.44). This evidently refers to the years described in 2Sam.3.1, “Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David”. This period included the murder of Abner by Joab, and the murder of Ish-bosheth by Baanah and Rechab.
Other people – v.43
“Thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.” These verses (vv.43-45) have been translated as follows: “Thou hast made me the head of the nations: a people I knew not doth serve me. At the hearing of the ear, they obey me: strangers come cringing unto me. Strangers have faded away, and they come trembling forth from their close places” J.N.D.
David was therefore both king of Israel and “head of the heathen”! This points us to ‘great David’s greater Son’, Who will be acknowledged as “King of Israel” Jn.1.49, and “King of nations” Jer.10.7. See Psalm 2: “Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion … Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession” vv.6,8.
All this causes David to conclude his song with praise to God for His goodness and faithfulness to him:
The Praise to the Lord – vv.46-50
We should notice four strands in David’s thanksgiving to the Lord for His delivering power:
He Is the Living God
“The LORD liveth; and blessed be my Rock; and let the God [Elohim] of my salvation be exalted” v.46, or “Jehovah liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation” J.N.D. The word “rock” (sur) occurs several times in Deuteronomy chapter 32 where it is used as a Divine title: for example, “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee … For their rock is not as our Rock” vv.18,31. The word “rock” suggests strength and security, and that can only be true because He is the living God.
Like the Thessalonians, we “serve the living and true God”, and are identified with Him in three ways: we are “the children of the living God” Rom.9.26; we have within “the Spirit of the living God” 2Cor.3.3; we (the local assembly) are “the temple of the living God” 2Cor.6.16.
He Is the Intervening God
“It is God [El] that avengeth me, and that subdueth the people [plural, ‘peoples’, referring to the Gentile nations] under me. He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, Thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: Thou hast delivered me from the violent man” vv.47,48. The “violent man” could refer to Saul. As J. Baldwin (writing on 2Samuel chapter 22) observes, “One specific answer to prayer can bring home the fact that the Lord lives … David had countless occasions to which he could point, and which he summarises now”.
He Is the Praiseworthy God
“Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto Thy name” v.49. We should notice where David expresses his thanks to God: it is “among the heathen”. It is very easy to confess Him when we gather with fellow-believers, but do we confess Him before unsaved people?
This verse is cited by Paul in Rom.15.8,9: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, ‘For this cause will I confess to Thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto Thy name’”. This quotation is the first of four prophetical passages cited to show that Christ would bring blessing to both Jew and Gentile.
He Is the Faithful God
“Great deliverance giveth He to His king; and sheweth mercy to His anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore” v.50. David refers here to the promises made to him in 2Sam.7.16, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.” The singular collective noun (“his seed”) points forward to Christ. Compare Gen.22.18 and Gal.3.16. The Lord Jesus will fulfil all the promises made to David: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” Lk.1.32,33.
The way in which this “song” ends is similar to the conclusion of other songs of praise. “Sing ye to the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea” Ex.15.21. “The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall He thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength unto His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed” 1Sam.2.10. “He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever” Lk.1.54,55.
To be continued (D.V.)
Traits of the Tribes
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
SIMEON AND LEVI – THE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION
We have considered Simeon and Levi, the second and third sons of Jacob and Leah, and their tribal history. We will now consider James’ practical application. While James wrote to first-century Jewish Christians, his epistle is equally applicable to us, as the character traits of the twelve tribes are detectable in varying degrees in contemporary personalities. He writes to warn and encourage his readers to rise above natural tendencies; to manifest Christian virtues in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
JAMES’ SIMEON AND LEVI SECTION
It is acknowledged that there is some subjectivity in considering James’ epistle in relation to individual tribes. However, the section from Jms.1.13-27 best relates to character traits in the personalities of Simeon and Levi and, in varying degrees, their tribes.
Everyone, just as Simeon and Levi, is responsible for his or her own actions and the consequences. Yet how very often excuses are made. Simeon and Levi evidently considered Shechem’s seduction of their sister, Dinah, as justification for their conspiracy and murder, Genesis chapter 34. Human nature will often seek self-justification in support of self-will.
But in relation to temptation we read, “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted of God:’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man” Jms.1.13. No Christian should ever say this; and certainly not while seeking to justify failure! Such temptation is totally inconsistent with the character and actions of God. Just as it is impossible for God to be tempted of evil, it is equally impossible for God to test men with anything that is base or degrading.
So where does this temptation come from? “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” Jms.1.14. Let us be very clear, every individual Christian experiences temptation. But such temptation, which caused little or no concern in unsaved days, should now cause a believer acute spiritual tension, given the indwelling Holy Spirit and a conscience educated by the Word of God.
Every believer experiences the internal war between the new life imparted at conversion and the old sinful nature, the flesh, which is neither improved nor, presently, removed. The new life has to be nurtured and fed from the spiritual resources made available to us. Temptation first seeks to lure our sensual appetite or imaginings. Once the flesh is engaged, the desired object may become so increasingly attractive that the desire proceeds from the psychological to the practical, an action ensues and, later, consequences are reaped.
This is explained by James: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” Jms.1.15. There are only two possible responses to such inner craving: either it is resolutely resisted and disallowed; or it is acted upon, which leads to sin and its consequences. Our sinful nature, the flesh, will undoubtedly experience such longings across a range of issues to a greater or lesser degree.
It is when the will surrenders to the temptation that lust, in whatever form it takes, gives birth to sin, which is destructive to spiritual wellbeing and communion with God. No believer can say that he or she has not experienced enticement to sin, or has never sinned, 1Jn.1.8. We must therefore seek to keep ‘short accounts with God’. In dependence upon God, in the power of the Holy Spirit and guided by the Word of God, we must: resist the temptation; or confess any failure, repent of that sin and forsake it. Otherwise sin takes its own course of development to its ultimate disastrous outcome.
Simeon and Levi jointly entertained thoughts, which led to actions, which led to death, in Genesis chapter 34. Similarly Zimri, a Simeonite prince, succumbed to Cozbi’s enticement, Num.25.6,14,15, with enflamed thoughts leading to action resulting in death. These incidents show that their sin also had serious implications for third parties; and for generations to come.
“Do not err, my beloved brethren” Jms.1.16, is a ‘hinge verse’ which warns about the risk of self-deception about the source and consequences of sin, Jms.1.13-15, and warns lest we should doubt God and His goodness, Jms.1.17,18. Hence we next read, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” Jms.1.17. Everything proceeding from God descends to us as a continual stream, bearing testimony to His goodness and revealing that God is light. God’s gifts to mankind are beneficial and complete. They demonstrate His lavish generosity and perfect intention. Nor can they be anything else as He is changeless, without even a scintilla of variation.
James continues to give instruction on how to avoid other Simeonite and Levite characteristics. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” Jms.1.19,20. We must be diligent, meditative and purposeful in our attention to the Word of God; assimilate its truth; and practise it. Descendants of Levi demonstrated this in response to the crisis of the golden calf: they awaited the word of Moses, and administered judgment in accordance with his command, Ex.32.26-28. They did not act from any “wrath of man” impulse. Similarly Phinehas, in using the javelin to slay Zimri and Cozbi, Num.25.7,8, acted only after the mind of the Lord had first been committed to Moses and then communicated to him. Neither self-will nor anger governed the actions of these Levites. So early tribal characteristics can be overcome; by adherence to God’s Word.
James develops his teaching further: “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” Jms.1.21. Partial purity and/or partial obedience are not God’s intention for the believer. Everything inconsistent with Christian life and virtue must be discarded and forsaken. With a humble attitude, we must allow the Word of God to be implanted, to germinate and grow. Only this will foster the spiritual growth and maturity to deliver from the destructive consequences of sin. Consideration of the Scriptures should lead to appropriate action: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” Jms.1.22.
While the tribal history of Simeon was unremarkable, that of Levi was noteworthy. However, there were times when Levites sinned grievously: such as Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, Lev.10.1,2; and Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli, 1Sam.2.12-17,22-25. These illustrate the warning, “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” Jms.1.23,24. Those Levites named enjoyed great privilege, but had a casual and dismissive attitude to truth. If we only glance at the mirror of the Word of God, momentarily recognise that something needs attention, but do not take the necessary corrective action, we will never benefit from it. Other thoughts will soon displace any transient awareness of deficiency.
Other descendants of Levi took a different and beneficial attitude. Samuel and Ezra, for instance, exemplify the truth, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” Jms.1.25. A genuine and continuing interest in the Scriptures empowers a freedom to do what one ought, in the lives of those who practise what they learn. Further blessing will result as obedience responds to the generosity of God.
But even for Levites, such as those in receipt of Malachi’s ministry, there is ever a danger of being satisfied with mere outward form. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” Jms.1.26. Outward appearances may fool others. Indeed we may even deceive ourselves! However, the stark reality is that if the inherent power of the living Word of God is not actively engaged, our life will become worthless and futile.
True liberty and service proceed from: the reality of Divine life within; freedom from moral pollution; and a genuine response to God’s goodness and to the guidance of His Word. This should result in a care for others and meeting needs, particularly for those who cannot return the favour. But service must never be at the expense of carelessness in relation to personal purity and righteousness. Similarly, rectitude must never become a reason for superior pride and withdrawal from obligations toward others. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” Jms.1.27.
We have considered Simeon and Levi. Their history started with conspiracy and cruelty and proceeded subsequently in government and grace. Simeon’s tribal history is unremarkable, with some exceptions. In contrast, Levi’s history progressed with a glory offset by some sad aberrations. James’ epistle pulls the strands together and gives us guidance to avoid such character traits. We should take due heed, for what characterised those sons of Jacob and their posterity, is part of the ‘DNA’ of our fallen humanity!
So having previously considered Reuben, Simeon and Levi, we shall next examine Judah and his lessons.
To be continued (D.V.)
Comfort for Christians in a Changing World
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
“Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them.” Luke 24.15
With heavy hearts they turned their back on Jerusalem and began the cheerless tramp to Emmaus. Sadly they plodded on, preoccupied with the thought that “He which should have redeemed Israel” had been condemned to death and was crucified. Their hopes and aspirations had been cruelly crushed.
Then a “Stranger” joined them; they considered that He must not have been aware of all that had taken place. If only they had known!
He it was Who had been in the epicentre of the storm; over His head the skies had darkened instantaneously at noonday and the mighty cataracts of judgment broke upon Him. It was Jesus Himself, just risen from the dead.
Soon their broken hearts were burning hearts as “He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” He made sense of all they did not understand; they realised He knew full well the reason for their heartaches. Let us learn that Jesus is never far from sorrowing saints.
- He walks with me and He talks with me,
- And He tells me I am His own.
- And the joys we share as we journey there,
None other has ever known.
“For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, ‘Fear not; I will help thee’” Isaiah 41.13
The problems and pressures of life perplex; the incessant changes are disconcerting and distressing but when the burdens increase and your strength fails, how intimate and how genuine the care of the God under Whose wings you have come to trust.
When you reach the limits of endurance, feel the tender yet powerful touch of the One Who has promised to hold your hand; what pity yet what power His touch conveys; what sympathy and yet what succour! O the help and healing He affords!
In the midst of the storm, how comforting to feel the secure grip of God’s hand and the reassuring whisper of His voice, stilling our fears and calming our troubled breast, “Fear not, I will help thee”.
May my tear-dimmed eyes look off to Him; may my trembling hand feel the warmth of His loving clasp and may my bruised frame feel the tenderness of His loving embrace.
- Fear not, He is with thee; O be not dismayed!
He, He is thy God, and will still give thee aid;
- He’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
- Upheld by His righteous, omnipotent hand.
NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES
By Alan Summers (Scotland)
Paper 9 – EPHESIANS CHAPTER 5
The opening verses of chapter 5 are linked with the closing verse of chapter 4. In 4.32 the apostle has encouraged people to forgive one another as God has forgiven us. In 5.1 he encourages us to imitate God. Forgiving others when we would not naturally be inclined to do so involves imitating God. The Greek word translated “followers” is mimetai from which we get the word “mimic”. Paul says we should be followers of God “as dear children”. He knew that children copy their parents or those that they admire. So it should be with Christians. There is a saying that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. In other words people who are sincere in their admiration of others tend to copy their behaviour. We should copy God. That imitation covers other aspects of God’s nature. Christ gave Himself sacrificially, 5.2, so we ought to give sacrificially.
The apostle then lists a series of behaviours that are inconsistent with God’s character. Sexual intimacy before marriage is forbidden. Sexual unfaithfulness after marriage is forbidden, v.3. Greed is forbidden. Bad language is forbidden, v.4. Empty chatter is forbidden. People whose lives are characterised by such behaviour will never enter God’s kingdom,1 v.5. He is not saying that a Christian who commits these sins cannot enter the kingdom. Sadly Christians do commit these sins, but he is assuming that no one who has been truly born again could possibly live a life characterised by these sins, see v.7. If someone who professed salvation did live such a life, then his profession would be empty. The kingdom spoken of here is a future kingdom since it will be “inherited”. This presupposes that at some point in the future the saints will receive a kingdom as an inheritance.
- 1. God’s kingdom includes the idea of being taken to heaven, which is a realm under His kingship, but extends beyond that to the return of the Church to the new earth after the Millennium.
It is interesting to note that Paul describes the covetous man as an “idolater” v.5. This does not mean that he actually worshipped an idol of stone or wood. Paul means that the person worshipped wealth rather than God. No doubt he did not worship gold or silver as such but accumulating wealth had displaced God as the main focus of his life. When that happens a person has become an idolater.
In the middle of the section vv.8-14, Paul utilises language we usually associate with the apostle John. He speaks of “light” and “darkness”. John and other Bible authors often link light with good and darkness with evil. Paul’s point is that Christians should live upright lives. Paul intermixes this metaphor with another metaphor viz. fruitfulness, and links “light” with “fruit” vv.9,11. Fruitfulness speaks of that which is good and wholesome. V.14 is a quotation but it is not clear what is being quoted since there is no Old Testament passage that follows these words. It may be a hymn expressing the idea that on salvation we rise from spiritual death and Christ shines on us as the sun shines on those who have emerged from darkness into the day.
It is obvious that Paul considered the pagan world in which the Ephesians lived as irredeemably corrupt. Some of their sins were so gross that it was a shame even to speak about them, v.12. Roman and Greek society tolerated virtually any kind of sexual behaviour. Relations between persons of the same sex, with children and slaves were all considered acceptable. Many societies have begun to move back towards the moral standards of ancient Greece and Rome. More generally Paul warns the Ephesians against immorality between the sexes. These days those who refrain from sexual relations before marriage are unusual. Likewise spouses who remain faithful to their partners are, according to the surveys of social attitudes, the exception rather than the rule.
Christians are also expected to be wise and exercise moderation in all they do. One key aspect of wisdom is the proper use of time. Time is a precious commodity. It can be frittered away or it can be “redeemed” v.16. In other words it can serve useful purposes or it can serve worldly purposes. In the Old Testament if an object was redeemed it was transferred out of one person’s ownership into the ownership of another by the payment of a redemption price. The apostle encourages us to ‘buy back’ time so that it is utilised for proper purposes. Paul’s warning against drunkenness is a warning that time spent drinking is wasted time, v.18.
By contrast he gives an example of a profitable use of time and refers to hymn singing. Hymns travel horizontally, v.19, and vertically, v.20. The words and music combine to bless those who engage in the singing. It seems clear from the fact that the singers “speak” to one another that corporate hymn singing is in view. These are not solos. The hymns also involve praise to God as we “give thanks”. The melody arises from the heart which stresses the idea that God is not so much interested in the tunefulness of the voice or the musical arrangement as the delight the singer takes in the subject of praise.
The final section of chapter 5 focuses on the relationship between a wife and a husband. Paul deals with the woman first and teaches that a wife should submit to her husband. Since marriage is a partnership between two people, couples often have to make decisions about matters affecting them both. This passage teaches that a wife cannot disregard her husband’s wishes or seek to impose her wishes in preference to her husband’s. Submission involves deference to the husband. The passage does not entitle the husband to operate as a sort of dictator. As we will see his obligation of love to her forbids that. In a successful marriage, decisions are made with a bit of ‘give and take’. A wife should be completely free to express her point of view, but ultimately where there is a difference of opinion, the wife should submit. She should do so in good grace and not conduct a form of ‘guerrilla warfare’ against her husband as retaliation!
Next, Paul deals with men and teaches that a husband is expected to love his wife. The obligation of love is different from the obligation of submission. Love may inspire a great variety of behaviours whereas submission is a particular attitude. Submission may arise from love, obedience or passivity. The standard set for the husband’s love is Christ’s love for the Church. His love was sacrificial and unqualified so a very high standard is set. It is noteworthy that Paul does not teach that a wife should love her husband. He might have done so since mutual love, unlike mutual submission, is both possible and desirable. In focussing on the husband’s obligation to love he may be signalling that callousness and indifference is primarily a male affliction. He is assuming that a woman who is loved will love in return.
There is no indication that the obligations mentioned in this section depend on the worthiness of the other party. We might expect a wife to be relieved of her obligation of submission if the husband is unpleasant. We might expect the husband to be relieved of his obligation of love if the wife is unfaithful. Subject to the qualification below, this is not the apostle’s teaching. The duties of submission and love arise not because the other party deserves it but because the Lord requires them and the relationship of marriage flourishes if nurtured by them. The reason why the Church submits to Christ is that He created it and it owes its existence to Him. Similarly (although this is implied) the wife stands in the position of Eve as one who derives her existence from Adam and was made to be a support to Adam. Likewise men should love their wives not only because God wishes them to but because it is the proper thing to do.
Are the obligations of submission and love unqualified? If the wife finds herself with a husband who beats or abuses her, the obligation of submission does not compel her to adhere, see 1Cor.7.15.2 If a wife deserts her husband or is unfaithful to him he should still seek to love her no matter how unworthy of that love she has proved to be. Christ loved the Church although it has proved to be unfaithful and disobedient. His love is our measure.3
- 2. While one of the key features of marriage is that the partners should adhere to one another Paul is very clear that desertion of itself does not end marriage. 1Cor.7.15 is best understood as an encouragement to an abandoned spouse. She should not feel compelled to adhere where that would only bring constant disruption and heartache when “God hath called us to peace”. “Bondage” describes a union that has become intolerable or impossible, not a basis for re-marriage. The general theme of the chapter, vv.17-24, 29-31, is that parties should accept the status quo even if it is unpalatable. The only point at which the apostle permits re-marriage in express terms is v.39. This passage says nothing about divorcing on the grounds of adultery, far less mutual consent.
- 3. Some argue that the “fornication” of Matt.5.32 and 19.9 is (or includes) adultery and that there is permission to remarry where adultery occurs. Others consider that “fornication” means pre-marital intercourse. In my view this is the correct interpretation. Engagements (called betrothal in those days) according to the practice of the Jews required to be terminated by divorce, Lk.2.5; Matt.1.18,19, when pre-marital moral sin was established prior to marriage. While fornication (porneia) is used at times in Scripture to cover sexual sins including adultery, 1Cor.6.13; Eph.5.3, the context sometimes requires a narrower meaning viz. premarital intercourse; e.g. Jn.8.41. Adultery, by contrast, (moichao) has only one meaning i.e. intercourse outside the marriage bond. Where both words are used side by side I consider the purpose is to cover both pre- and post-marital sin. More generally it can be observed in connection with Matt.5.32 and 19.9, that it would be odd if the Lord condemned sex outside marriage as adultery and then permitted the wrongdoer in reliance on his or her own sin to divorce. This may be why many allow re-marriage only to the innocent party. However, there is no discussion of innocent or guilty parties here or anywhere in Scripture. Anyone with practical experience of life knows that allocating blame for marriage breakdown is a difficult task. If adultery occurs it is often the symptom not the cause of breakdown.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Ian Steele (Scotland)
Paper 7 — COLOSSIANS 4.1-9
Great importance has been given to prayer from the start of this epistle. Now here at the end the apostle encourages them to keep on praying. Elsewhere we are told that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Are we tempted to give up? No, don’t lose heart, for “the eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry”.
Sometimes servants of God ask us to pray for them and their circumstances. How often do we say we will and then forget them? Let us try to be more faithful in remembering them!
Approaching and reaching unbelievers is quite a daunting task. We need to pray for two things here: firstly, how to be wise in our approach and not just to blunder in cutting off ears; and, secondly, that God would open up opportunities for us that may not be missed and will prove to be fruitful!
Masters and Servants, v.1
The chapter break is very unfortunate and it is evident that v.1 belongs to the final section of chapter 3. Christian masters are reminded that they must maintain a sense of what is right in dealing with those who work for them. Equal treatment forbids the indulgence of favouritism or partiality. Finally, masters must ever be aware that they are responsible to a superior Master, Who is above, in heaven.
Watching in Prayer, Walking in Wisdom and Words of Grace, vv.2-6
Watching in Prayer, vv.2-4
Three features are to qualify our prayers: namely perseverance, perception and praise. We have to work at our prayers and not give up, following the example of the widow in Luke chapter 18. We are also to be alert and aware of circumstances around us when we pray. The Lord instructed the disciples in the garden to “watch and pray” but, sadly, when He returned He found them heavy with sleep. Paul himself is a great example of giving thanks in prayer as 1.3,12 demonstrate.
Paul requested that he and the servants with him might have a place in their prayers. He wanted a door to be opened, but not a door of liberty from prison, but a door of opportunity to speak the message of the gospel, which he calls here “the mystery of Christ”.
Walking in Wisdom, v.5
V.5 emphasises that it takes wisdom to approach non-Christians but nevertheless we are to buy up the opportunities afforded to us. Time is passing swiftly and the question is: are we using it to present Christ to the perishing?
Words of Grace, v.6
People around us are looking for answers but it is not only important to know what to say but also how to say it. That is why, like the Lord Jesus, we will use gracious words and guarded words, guided by God to put before one and another the very specific response that they need.
Paul’s Commendation of Tychicus and Onesimus, vv.7-9
Paul has spoken little about his own personal circumstances in the epistle. He leaves the details of that to the discretion of Timothy to inform the assembly when he arrives in Colosse. How precious, though, is the confidence he has in Tychicus, who will carry this letter and the letter to Ephesus, along with a personal letter to Philemon.
Paul tells of his intimate affection for him as a brother, his complete trust in him as one who has proved faithful and his fellowship with him in the service of God. The earliest reference to him is in Acts 20.4, where we learn he was a man of Asia and accompanied Paul with others at the end of his third missionary journey. Besides this passage and Ephesians chapter 6 Tychicus is also mentioned in 2Timothy chapter 4 and Titus chapter 3, where Paul would send him to help the saints at Ephesus and Crete.
Accompanying him was Onesimus, returning no longer as a runaway slave but as a faithful and beloved brother. Notice that faithfulness comes first here, to demonstrate the trust Paul now had in a man whose life and character had been changed by the power of the gospel! Paul’s affectionate relationship with him was the basis to endear Onesimus to the Colossians that they might warmly receive him. For, says the apostle, “[he] is one of you.”
The final section of this letter is not just casual greetings formally presented.
In it we understand who accompanied Paul at Rome and supported him in his first imprisonment. Some of these servants of God had travelled many weary miles and borne hardships in spreading the gospel with Paul. Have we gone the extra mile with the word of life and have we borne any hardships for the Lord Jesus?
Paul’s care for the assemblies is also evident in the mention of Laodicea and Hierapolis along with Colosse. Evidently he desired the same truth contained in the Colossian letter to be accepted and practised by the other assemblies as well. It is a reminder to us that what is truth in one assembly is without doubt truth in every assembly! We cannot pick and choose what to accept and what to refuse.
In vv.10,11 three of Paul’s companions in Rome, who are Jewish men, send greetings: Aristarchus, Marcus and Jesus Justus. There was great antagonism against Paul among the Jews but here were three men who stood with him, soothing and consoling him and prepared to be prisoners for Christ. Aristarchus is with Paul in Acts chapter 19 and mentioned again in Acts chapter 20 as a man of Thessalonica and he evidently travelled to Rome with Paul, as Acts 27.2 confirms. Marcus is identified as the relative of Barnabas, whom Paul and Barnabas disagreed about in Acts 15.37,38. However any questions or doubts Paul may have had regarding Mark are no longer valid and he confirms Mark has to be received by the Colossians. Later, in 2Tim.4.11, Paul requests Timothy to bring Mark with him as “he is profitable to me for the ministry”. Mark of course is also the disciple who wrote the Servant Gospel. The third Jew is Jesus Justus, of whom we know nothing else but he was a co-worker with the others in presenting the claims of God’s kingdom through the gospel.
Of the next three men, vv.12-14, we can highlight the fervent prayers of Epaphras, the faithful presence of doctor Luke and the faltering position of Demas. The intimacy of Epaphras with the Colossians is seen in that he is one of them. Then we have underlined his dignity as a servant of Christ and his consistency as a man of prayer, always energetically interceding that they may be consolidated and complete according to God’s will for them. The constant presence of Luke ministering to the needs of Paul was undoubtedly a tower of strength to the apostle and draws out the affectionate term “the beloved physician”. In 2Timothy chapter 4 Paul writes “Only Luke is with me.” Demas is mentioned but only in sending greetings and we are left to wonder if Paul had already some sense of the defection that would be recorded by him in 2Tim.4.10. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica”.
Three final names are recorded: Nymphas, Archippus and Paul himself, vv.15-18. There is some textual uncertainty as to whether we should read “Nympha”, in the feminine, and “the church which is in her house”. If that be the case, here is a sister noted in Scripture, who provided accommodation in her home for the assembly at Laodicea to gather together. As such she joins others like Priscilla and Aquila and Philemon, who also made room in their homes for the assembly to gather. Paul refers here to another letter, from Laodicea (v.16), which is to be read at Colosse and some think this may in fact have been the Epistle to the Ephesians, which was intended to be circulated to the other assemblies in that region.
Archippus is noted here and in Philemon, to whom exhortation is directed that he might make sure of the accomplishment of the work of God which he has received from the Lord. It is sad when the service of God is littered with unfulfilled tasks and the challenge here ought to be felt by all of us!
The last verse gives authentication to the whole epistle. Paul writes the final greeting in his own handwriting. Forged letters were used to undermine the faith of the believers as, for example, Paul refers to in 2Thessalonians chapter 2. It was necessary then to complete the dictated epistle by signing it off in his own hand.
Thus he concludes with an appeal to remember his bonds and an assurance in his final benediction of the accompaniment of grace, ever present with them.
This series of articles is now available as a book: “Colossians – Pocket Commentary Series”, published by “Ritche Christian Media”.
The Gift of Tongues
by Wiliam M. Banks (Scotland)
The subject of the gift of tongues is important in the context of the so-called ‘Pentecostal’ and ‘Charismatic’ movements. The ‘Pentecostal’ movement began around 1900 and the ‘Charismatic’ movement around 1960. This gift of the Spirit is given special emphasis in their circles with ‘The doctrine of subsequence’ (power received after conversion in a subsequent experience) and ‘The question of tarrying’ (tarrying meetings after conversion to wait for the promise of the Spirit). The gift of tongues is perhaps (with the gift of healing) the most controversial of all the gifts of the Spirit.
However, the emphasis by these movements on the spectacular and outward manifestation in the word ‘charismatic’ is not in keeping with its meaning in the New Testament. There the word, charisma, means “a gift of grace, a gift involving grace (charis) on the part of God as the donor. It is used
- of His free bestowments upon sinners, Rom.5.15,16; 6.23; 11.29;
- of His endowments upon believers by the operation of the Holy Spirit in the churches, Rom.12.6; 1Cor.1.7; 12.4,9,28,30,31; 1Tim.4.14; 2Tim.1.6; 1Pet 4.10;
- of that which is imparted through human instruction, Rom.1.11;
- of the natural “gift” of continence, consequent upon the grace of God as Creator, 1Cor.7.7;
- of gracious deliverances granted in answer to the prayers of fellow believers, 2Cor.1.11″1.
- 1. Vine, W.E. “Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”. World, U.S.A., No date.
A cognate word is used of the Lord in Lk.2.52: “Jesus increased … in favour with God and man”. The emphasis on the supernatural and spectacular is not therefore that of the New Testament.
We believe that the tongues (and dialects) of Mk.16.17; Acts 2.4,11 (vv.6,8, “dialects”); 10.46; 19.6 are similar to the tongues of 1Corinthians chapters 12-14 (found around twenty times).
THE NECESSITY FOR THE MIRACULOUS
The miraculous is only used by God sparingly and at times of special revelation and visitation. Miracles belong to particular periods when God is speaking through accredited messengers. There have been three such periods in history:
The Period of Moses (the Law)
Miracles were signs of imminent deliverance on the one hand and impending doom on the other. This was also the case in the conquest of Canaan.
The Period of Elijah and Elisha (the Prophets)
This represented the beginning of the prophetic period. Signs were given to authenticate the message and ministry of the prophets.
The Period of Christ and the Apostles (Heb.2.4; cf. John’s Gospel)
The miracles (signs) of Christ were enacted to confirm His Messiahship and Deity, Jn.20.31. They were also a confirmation of the integrity of the apostles and the validity of their message. The message was from “Him” through “them” to “us” Heb.2.3. The richness of the miraculous in the apostolic age indicates the richness of the revelation: they were objective signs, not subjective experiences.
In each case, once the necessity for authentication had been met, the miraculous receded.
THE PURPOSE OF TONGUES
The purpose of tongues is seen in three different books of the New Testament: Mark, Acts and 1Corinthians. There is a different emphasis in each.
A Sign in Attestation of the Gospel, Mk.16.17,18 – Prophetically
Here “tongues” is one of five signs given to them that believe. “In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover”. Clearly if there is insistence in retaining one of these signs then there should be equal emphasis on all. In other words if there is emphasis on retaining tongues as one of the ongoing signs there ought to be an acknowledgement that the others exist as well. Those who insist on speaking in tongues as a sign of spiritual maturity should be willing to “drink any deadly thing” and to “take up serpents”. The signs were needed because of a new message, new messengers and new places to be explored.
A Sign in Proof of the Genuineness of the Work of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2.10,19 – Historically
In Acts chapter 2 speaking in tongues is found in the context of the birthday of the Church, at Pentecost, Acts 2.32-36; the formation of one new body. It was essentially a sign of the resurrection and exaltation of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit as seen in v.33 in particular: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear”. The Jews who had gathered at Jerusalem for Pentecost from a variety of geographic locations heard the apostles speak in their own tongue; in fact, in their own dialect, vv.6,8, “the wonderful works of God” v.11. The gathering that was thus generated then heard the apostle Peter preaching to them in the language familiar in Jerusalem. It was altogether a unique occasion with the tongues being a sign to Jewish unbelievers of a work of God in their midst.
The second reference to speaking in tongues in Acts is in relation to salvation in the house of Cornelius, 10.45,46. This was equally a unique occasion and demonstrated the formation of one new man (see Eph.2.15). It was a sign of the descent of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Gentiles: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” 11.15,16. Speaking in tongues on this occasion follows the preaching, in contrast to chapter 2, where it preceded the preaching. Here it was the evidence to Jewish believers of the genuineness of the message of salvation going out to the Gentiles, and of the gospel being universal in invitation.
The third reference in Acts is in relation to the disciples of John the Baptist, 19.1-7. In this case it was the sign of a new dispensation or a “sign of accomplished redemption”. The twelve “disciples” who had almost certainly believed after Pentecost belonged in knowledge and experience to a former dispensation, perhaps as a result of the preaching of Apollos, Acts 18.24-28. They were now converted to Christianity and re-baptised. Paul then “laid his hands upon them”, and “the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied” 19.6. “If they had believed John’s message and been baptised during the time of John’s ministry their baptism would have been valid. None of the disciples were re-baptised after Pentecost”2. In this case again speaking in tongues was a sign to believing Jews of the genuineness of the work of the Holy Spirit.
- 2. Hunter, J. “What the Bible Teaches: 1Corinthians”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock, 1986.
Hence in the three instances in Acts speaking in tongues is a supernatural manifestation of the Spirit in the form of empowering men to speak in languages not known by them (see Acts 2.8), nevertheless existing foreign languages and dialects. It is abundantly clear that none of the circumstances obtaining in each of these cases is possible today.
A Sign in Association with the Church in its Infancy, 1Corinthians chapters 12-14 – Doctrinally
The Corinthians were emphasising the spectacular and misusing the gift of tongues to the detriment of the spiritual development of the church. The whole burden of chapters 12-14 is to wean them away from their emphasis on and misuse of this temporary gift and to emphasise the gifts which will edify the assembly. This will be developed in the next paper.
To be continued (D.V.)
Notes On The Prayers Of The Saviour In Luke’s Gospel
by Alistair Henry
These notes were written to accompany a series taught in the assembly Bible Class at Uxbridge, England. The series was shared by three brethren, which is reflected in the individual styles of writing of the notes.
Readings: Ps.22.9-12; Lk.3.21,22; 5.16; 10.21; 11.1; 22.41-44; Jn.12.27,28; 17.1; Heb.5.7
Whilst each of the Gospel writers records something of the prayer life of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is Luke who gives the most extensive account. This would indicate to us that the dependent Man demonstrated that dependence upon God by being the Man of prayer. As we study this subject we will discover truth about the Saviour, as His prayers teach us things about Himself, and also, we trust, we will be encouraged in our own praying. When the disciples listened to the Saviour praying, Lk.11.1, it prompted them to ask Him to teach them to pray.
Why Did the Saviour Pray?
A study of His prayers should teach us much about our spiritual life as well.
In this series, we will consider the prayers of the Saviour under the following headings:
- Praying at His Baptism – Lk.3.21,22
- Praying in the Wilderness – Lk.5.16
- Praying before Choosing the Disciples – Lk.6.12
- Praying when Alone – Lk.9.18
- Praying on the Mount of Transfiguration – Lk.9.28,29
- Praying with Rejoicing – Lk.10.20-24
- Praying with the Disciples – Lk.11.1-13
- Praying in the Upper Room – Lk.22.14-20
- Praying for Simon – Lk.22.31-34
- Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane – Lk.22.39-46
- Praying at the Cross (1) – Lk.23.34
- Praying at the Cross (2) – Lk.23.46
To be continued (D.V.)
Good Tidings from Heaven
The Kilogram Standard
When we say, for example, that a bag of sugar weighs 2 kilograms, what does that mean? What is the standard against which everything is weighed? Since 1889, the “kilogram standard” has been a metal alloy, known as ‘Le Grand K’, which is kept in a secure location in a Paris suburb. Its mass is exactly 1kg, so a 2kg bag of sugar weighs twice what it does.
However, there is a problem: this alloy has changed over the years; not by very much, but, in a world where precise measurement is vital, the deterioration is enough to convince scientists that a new standard is needed. So, on 16 November 2018, the “General Conference on Weights and Measures” voted to change the standard. After 20 May 2019, a kilogram will be defined in terms of the amount of electricity needed to balance the weight of an object.
Over the years, efforts have been made to maintain the mass of ‘Le Grand K’, but in vain: in this imperfect world, change is inevitable. However, the God Who made it all never changes: “I am the LORD, I change not” Malachi 3.6. He is totally, unchangeably righteous. Not only so, but, unlike the standards of this world, His standards never change; not even a little. The prophet Habakkuk said of Him, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” Habakkuk 13. His home, Heaven, is pure and free from sin, and the standard for those who want to be there with Him eternally is perfect righteousness. However, none of us has reached that standard: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3.23.
Many people, who accept the fact that scientists cannot tolerate even tiny changes in standards, regard God differently, and expect Him to relax His righteous standard. However, God cannot lower His standard, and ‘let us in’ to Heaven in our sins. As we stand before Him, our destiny is Hell and the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20.14,15.
There is only One Who has lived up to God’s righteous standard, and that is His Son, Jesus Christ, Who came into this world, lived a holy, righteous, sinless life, and went to the cross, where He bore the judgment of God for a sinful world. The work that He did fully satisfied God, and on the virtue of His shed blood, God is able to declare any sinner who repents and trusts in Him righteous in His sight. God has not lowered His standard: in the death of Christ His righteousness is maintained, and yet He can declare the believing sinner righteous in His eyes. God is “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” Romans 3.26.
The change in the “kilogram standard” will not affect most of us: a bag of sugar will feel the same as it did before! If we ignore this piece of scientific news, we will be none the worse for doing so. But we cannot afford to ignore God’s standard. His Word comes to you today: “There is no God else beside Me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” Isaiah 45.21,22.