ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
by B. Currie
JESUS CHRIST IS GOD
by J. Griffiths
HALLMARKS OF REVIVAL
by D. McKinley
THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM IN MATTHEW
by S. Fellowes
OBEDIENCE IN THE LIFE OF GIDEON
by C. Jones
by W. Gustafson
QUESTIONS YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
by A. Summers
THE COVERING OF A WOMAN’S HEAD
by H. Butcher
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.3: PSALM 2, Part 1
In our brief introduction to the book of Psalms, we said that some of the Psalms are ‘Messianic’. This simply means that they point us forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Peter made this quite clear on the day of Pentecost. He introduced a quotation from Psalm 16 by saying, “For David speaketh concerning Him“, and ended his quotation with, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet … he, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ” Acts 2.25-31.
Psalm 2 is the first ‘Messianic Psalm’. The New Testament confirms that it was written by David, “Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage” Acts 4.25, and that it is the second psalm, “as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee” Acts 13.33. The question is sometimes asked: “Did the prophets appreciate that their utterances had a prophetic nature?” David certainly did! See, again, Acts 2.30: “Therefore being a prophet … he, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ”.
The New Testament references to this Psalm leave us in no doubt at all that it refers to the Lord Jesus. We will look at these references later. But where does the word ‘Messiah’ come from, and what does it mean? The word itself is taken straight out of the Hebrew language and is found just twice as such in the Old Testament, Dan.9.25,26. It is usually translated ‘Anointed’, and we have an example in this very Psalm: “the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed“. The New Testament equivalent is “Christ”. Both the words “Messiah” and “Christ”, mean ‘the Anointed One’. They tell us that the Lord Jesus is God’s chosen King. He is, of course, “King of kings, and Lord of lords”.
While Psalm 1 is certainly a fitting introduction to the whole book of Psalms, perhaps we ought to say that Psalms 1 and 2 together are a fitting introduction to the whole book of Psalms. For example:
Psalm 1 describes the ‘blessed man’, not ‘men’; he is very much alone: but the words, “ungodly, sinners, scornful” are all plural words. Psalm 2 describes the ‘anointed King’. He also is very much alone: but the enemies are plural, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed”. So it is the godly man versus ungodly men in Psalm 1, and God’s King versus the “kings of the earth” in Psalm 2.
Ps.1.1 tells us about, “the counsel of the ungodly”. Ps.2.2 tells us about the counsel of ungodly rulers: “the rulers take counsel together”.
Ps.1.6 tells us that “the way of the ungodly will perish“. Ps.2.12 urges the rulers to “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way”.
Ps.1.2 tells us about the meditation of the godly man: “in His law doth he meditate day and night”. Ps.2.2 tells about the meditation of the ungodly: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine (the Hebrew word means ‘meditate’) a vain thing?”.
Ps.1.1 begins with, “Blessed is the man”. Ps.2.12 ends with, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him”.
Just one more thing before we look at Psalm 2 itself: whilst Psalm 1 describes the ‘godly man’ generally, there can be no doubt that the description fits only one Godly Man perfectly. That is, “the man, Christ Jesus” 1Tim.2.5. Why not go over Psalm 1 again, and think about the way in which it describes Him? So Psalms 1 and 2 can be linked like this:
In Psalm 1, the Lord Jesus is the ‘Blessed Man’: it describes His moral glory.
In Psalm 2, the Lord Jesus is the ‘Anointed King’: it describes His regal glory.
The two are linked in Psalm 45 – another ‘Messianic Psalm’: “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” v.7.
Psalm 2 divides into four equal parts. There are three verses in each section:
The Attack on Divine Rule, vv.1-3
The Assurance of Divine Reign, vv.4-6
The Assertion of Divine Rights, vv.7-9
The Advice to Seek Divine Reconciliation. vv.10-12.
It is commonly said that we hear the voice of man in vv.1-3; the voice of Jehovah in vv.4-6; the voice of the Messiah in vv.7-9; the voice of the Spirit in vv.10-12.
THE ATTACK ON DIVINE RULE, vv.1-3
The Psalm commences with the word “Why?” It expresses the futility of what follows! In Psalm 1, the ungodly reject the word of God. But Psalm 2 takes this one stage further. Here we have an outright rebellion against God Himself. The word “ungodly” in Ps.1.1 etc., means ‘lawless’. But Psalm 2 describes a revolt against the Lawgiver Himself: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us”. People don’t want the Word of God, and they don’t want God Himself. Paul speaks about this in 2Thess.2.7, “For the mystery of iniquity (‘lawlessness’) doth already work”. But where does it lead? “And then shall that Wicked (‘lawless one’) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming” vv.7,8. Who is “that Wicked?” You’ll find the answer in vv.3,4: “that man of sin … the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God”. 2Thessalonians 2 in its entirety now becomes compulsory reading!
Now let’s try to grasp the main points in this part of the Psalm:
The Time of the Rebellion
The complete fulfilment of Psalm 2 lies in the future. “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth (the expression occurs nine times in Revelation), and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army” Rev.19.19. Chapter 16 tells us how they will actually combine: “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs … they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” vv.13-16. So the whole world is going to rise in armed rebellion against God and against Christ. All nations will be allied, and the alliance will be forged by satanic power. We ought to be glad that we are saved, otherwise we might have been involved in the rebellion!
But we did say ‘the complete fulfilment of Psalm 2 lies in the future’. Read Acts 4.24-28: “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ”. There’s Psalm 2 in the New Testament. What did they say next? Here it is: “For of a truth against Thy holy child (‘servant’, J.N.D./R.V.) Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together”. Do notice carefully that these early believers did not go on to say that Psalm 2 had been fulfilled. They applied Psalm 2: it contained an accurate description of the way in which the Lord Jesus had been universally rejected when He was here. But doesn’t this just show us that the world is going to confirm its rejection of Christ. The world did not want Him two thousand years ago, and it has not changed its mind one little bit.
The Size of the Rebellion
Everybody is involved: “Why do the heathen [it’s a plural word – ‘nations’] rage, and the people [plural word again] imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together”. (Note the four classes: see Acts 4.27: “heathen” = “Gentiles”; “people” = “the people of Israel”; “kings” = Herod; “rulers” = “Pontius Pilate”). The word “rage” means ‘assemble’: that’s outward and public. The word “imagine” means, as we have already noticed, ‘meditate’: that’s inward and private. So the rebellion is not only complete in terms of its size: people will be completely committed to it – body, mind and soul. Once nations jealously guarded their borders, and maintained their independence, but here it’s a case of interdependence.
The Strength of the Rebellion
If v.1 refers to men generally, then v.2 refers to the rulers particularly. We should notice what the Psalm says about them: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together“. So this is not some kind of uprising that takes place on the spur of the moment. It is deliberate and well planned. The words, “set themselves”, mean ‘station themselves’. World rulers pool their genius and experience against God.
The Object of the Rebellion
“Against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us”. We have already discussed the word “Anointed”. After consultation (“the rulers take counsel together”) the proposal is, “Let us break their bands asunder”. The rebellion will be in the name of ‘liberty’. Freedom from all Divinely appointed restrictions and restraint. God’s Word and God’s laws must be completely overthrown. It’s already happening, is it not? We have already noted Paul’s words in 2Thess.2.7, “the mystery of iniquity [‘lawlessness’] doth already work”. Just have a good look round: the abolition of the death penalty, the disregard for the sanctity of marriage, the licensing of homosexual relationships between consenting adults (the sin of Sodom), the increasing disregard for law and order. These trends will reach their zenith when men and women will publicly and unitedly wave their fists at God and Christ.
Tragically, men forget that those “bands” and “cords” were given by God in love for the maintenance of order and seemliness in the human race. We witness today the awful outcome when these restraints are cast aside. The wholesale adoption of the evolution theory has robbed men of their sense of accountability to God, with fearful results.
In our next study, God willing, we will consider: the Assurance of Divine Reign, vv.4-6; the Assertion of Divine Rights, vv.7-9; the Advice to Seek Divine Reconciliation, vv.10-12. To be Continued (D.V.)
by Brian Currie (N. Ireland)
In the second paper of this series we divided the epistle as follows:
vv.1-3 – Paul’s Approach to Philemon and his Acquaintances;
vv.4-7 – Paul’s Appreciation of Philemon and his Ability;
vv.8-22 – Paul’s Appeal to Philemon for Acceptability;
vv.23,24 – Paul’s Associates in Prison and their Activity;
v.25 – Paul’s Ambition for Philemon and the Assembly.
In this concluding paper we shall consider the final two sections.
Vv.23,24, Paul’s Associates in Prison and Their Activity: “There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.”
The epistle closes as it opens, with five names. These men knew the contents of the letter and were in agreement with it. Their fellowship was on the basis of commonly appreciated truth. The sweetest of all fellowship is with those who love all the truth of God.
Epaphras: he is mentioned only in Col.1.7, “As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ …”; 4.12, Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”. We should note his spiritual features (and these from a man who was likely named after the goddess Aphrodite).
“As ye also learned of Epaphras” – His Fruitfulness – the Colossian assembly was planted and established by him:
“our dear fellowservant” – His Fellowship – he could work with others and was appreciated by others in the work:
“who is for you a faithful minister [deacon] of Christ” – His Faithfulness – this was true even when he was unseen by them:
“always labouring fervently for you in prayers” – His Fervency – he is the only person commended by Paul for prayerfulness. This was especially important in the face of the false teaching at Colosse.
Here he is called “my fellowprisoner” – His Fearlessness.
In v.24 there are four more men. The first two are Jews and the next two are Gentiles. This shows the middle wall of partition is truly gone and men of different backgrounds and characters can labour harmoniously together in the work of the Lord.
Marcus: he was a relative, perhaps a cousin of Barnabas, Col.4.10, “Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas”. He was a son of Mary, Acts 12.12, “the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark” – his Family: He was saved under Peter’s preaching, 1Pet.5.13, “so doth Marcus my son” – his Faith. We learn of his Failure in Acts 15.37-39, “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus.”
He was the servant who failed yet wrote Mark’s gospel concerning the Servant Who could never fail – his Fulfilment. Mark was restored to usefulness as demonstrated here and in 2Tim.4.11, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry”. What a great encouragement, that our God is a God of evident recovery. If He was to set aside all who have turned aside, how many of us would remain?
Aristarchus: He is only elsewhere mentioned in Acts19.29; 20.4; 27.2; Col.4.10. These references seem to indicate that he was a devoted Friend of Paul.
Demas: He is only elsewhere mentioned in Col.4.14 and, where Paul sadly states, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” 2Tim.4.10. How sad! This was just about 2 years after Colossians and Philemon were written. It highlights the pull of the world and for Demas it seems the hardship involved in Christian testimony was too great. He did not necessarily apostatise, but wanted a more comfortable life. It reveals his Fall.
Lucas: This was one of the greatest men in the New Testament. Dr. Luke, from the commencement in the Acts right to 2Timothy, at the end of Paul’s life, Luke was consistently faithful – his Fidelity.
V.25, Paul’s Ambition for Philemon and the Assembly: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
“Grace” – A manifestation of grace would bring this, and every other difficulty, to a pleasant conclusion.
“with your spirit” – grace is to pervade the whole atmosphere in which a Christian lives. It is to go deeper than the ear, the mind, and the body, it is to be in our very spirit. It is to control us and to be seen in all our actions.
“Amen” – we ought to be able to say a hearty “Amen” when spiritual, Scriptural ministry is given, even when it hurts us!
Jesus Christ is God (4)
by J. Griffiths, Wales
In the previous paper we considered ‘His Essential Attributes’, which exhibit His transcendence over all. In this concluding article we shall ponder ‘His Moral Attributes’, which exhibit His immanence with his creature, man.
His Moral Attributes – Immanence
Most, though not all, of Christ’s moral attributes should be seen in the believer. The difference being that in Christ they are seen in the beauty of absolute perfection. In the following references the quality seen in God will appear first and then the same quality as seen in Christ.
Holiness: 1Pet.1.16, “I am holy”, says God.
Then with respect to Christ: Mk.1.24/Lk.4.34, the demons speak of the Lord Jesus as “the Holy One of God”. Acts 3.14, Peter, in his second address to the Jews says, “Ye denied the Holy One and Just”. In the letter to the Philadelphian church we read, “These things saith He that is holy, He that is true” Rev.3.7.
Sinlessness: 1Sam.15.29, “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent.”
1Jn.1.5, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” The references to the Lord Jesus are many. 1Pet.2.22, “Who did no sin” says practical Peter. 2Cor.5.21, “Who knew no sin” says professor Paul. 1Jn.3.5, “In Whom is no sin” says pious John. Heb.4.15, “without sin” or ‘sin apart’. Heb.7.12, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” Acts 4.27,30, “holy child [servant] Jesus.” Acts 2.27, “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” Lk.1.35, “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Jn.8.46, “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” Jn.14.30, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me.”
Justice: Isa.45.21, “There is no God else beside Me, a just God.”
Pilate’s wife advised him, “Have thou nothing to do with that just Man” Matt.27.19. Peter states, “ye denied the Holy One and the Just” Acts 3.14. Stephen spoke of “the coming of the Just One” Acts 7.52. Ananias said to Saul of Tarsus, “and see that Just One” Acts 22.14. Peter wrote, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust” 1Pet.3.18. John taught, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” 1Jn.1.9.
Goodness: “none is good, but one, that is, God” Matt.19.17.
As He interviewed the rich young ruler, our Lord said, “Why callest thou Me good? None is good, but one, that is, God” Matt.19.17. At the feast of tabernacles some of the people said, “He is a good man” Jn.7.12. Christ’s own testimony was, “I am the good shepherd … Many good works have I showed you” Jn.10.11,32. Peter, in Cornelius’ house, states, “He went about doing good” Acts 10.38.
Love: 1Jn.4.8, “God is love.”
This characteristic was displayed by the Saviour. “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you” Jn.15.19. “Having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end” Jn.13.1. “The Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” Gal.2.20. “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” Eph.5.25. “I love the Father” Jn.14.31.
Mercy: Ps.62.12, “Unto Thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy.”
“I will have mercy and not sacrifice” Matt.9.13. “The mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” Jude 21. “A merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God” Heb.2.17.
Faithfulness: 1Cor.1.9, “God is faithful.”
“He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” 1Jn.1.9. “He abideth faithful” 2Tim.2.13. “A white horse; and He that sat on him was called Faithful and True” Rev.19.11. He is a faithful Creator, declares Peter, a faithful High Priest, says Paul, and a faithful Witness concludes John.
Grace: Ex.34.6, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious.”
“Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” Jn.1.17. “Grace is poured into Thy lips” Ps.45.2. “Gracious words” Lk.4.22. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” Acts 15.11; 2Cor.8.9. “Full of grace and truth … and grace for [upon] grace” Jn.1.14,16.
Truth: Ps.31.5, “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”
Pilate asked, “What is truth?” The Truth stood in front of him but he was blind to the fact. “I am the way, the truth and the life” Jn.14.6. “He that is true” Rev.3.7. John writes of the true Light, the true Bread, the true Vine, the true God, the true Witness and the true Warrior.
Righteousness: Jer.23.6, “His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.”
“Certainly this was a righteous man” Lk.23.47, says the centurion at the cross. “The Lord, the righteous judge” 2Tim.4.8, writes Paul to Timothy. “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” 1Jn.2.1. Unconverted Lord Byron said, ‘If ever man was God and God was man, then Jesus Christ was both’.
During the fourth century the Arian controversy raged with the doctrines of the Trinity and Deity of Christ under attack from Arius and his disciples. During the reign of Theodosius the Great, his son Arcadius was at 16 years of age made co-heir and co-regent. A bishop, greatly opposed to Arius, had an appointment with the Emperor. He pointedly ignored Arcadius and addressed Theodosius. At the end of meeting he went over to Arcadius and said, “The Lord bless you, my son.”
Theodosius was incensed by the bishop’s attitude to his son and haughtily said, “Is that all the respect you pay to my son and equal?” Answered the bishop, “What must the eternal God think of you, who have allowed His co-equal and co-eternal Son to be degraded in His proper Divinity in every part of your empire!”
May we continue to uphold the fundamental principle of the Deity of Christ in days when so much truth is under attack.
Hallmarks of Revival As Seen In The Reign of Hezekiah
by David McKinley (Canada)
DANGERS TO BEWARE OF IN TIMES OF REVIVAL
As we have considered features of revival in the three former papers, it has been thought useful to highlight, in this final paper, some dangers to beware of in times of revival.
EXALTATION OF HEART – “But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem” 2Chr.32.25.
Alas, alas, the human heart is so base that as a result of God’s rich, sovereign grace in restoration and recovery we can begin to pride in it as if something in us had initiated it. No sinner would ever be saved apart from God’s first moving in grace and no saint or assembly would ever know revival apart from God drawing graciously near and granting it. Should we ever dare think that our meeting is really doing well, and secretly, or maybe even audibly, credit the recovery to what we did or how we prayed? No, never! Let us ascribe all glory to God if things have improved and let us humbly pray that the improvement may continue. The moment we take credit for progress, is the very same moment that revival stops; there is no standing still, declension has already begun again.
EASING OFF IN SELF INDULGENCE – “And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels; storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks. Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance:” 2Chr.32.27-29.
The man who so admirably promoted the enrichment of God’s house earlier, later surrounded himself with much which pandered to the pride of his heart. Everything that tends to pamper the flesh or promote self has a chilling effect on spiritual growth. Let us ask ourselves if we, who profess a heavenly birth and a heavenly destiny, are matching the poor worldlings in the playthings we choose? If we have children, there are many worldly things we must deny them for their own preservation, so we must provide them with healthy outlets for their energy and interest. It has been well said “If we don’t play with them it will be hard to pray with them”. We expect children to play, but we expect greater maturity from adults. A child may have a little toy yacht to sail, but does a Christian need a pleasure boat? Many of our children have played on a rocking horse but does a Christian need a racehorse? Many other parallels may be drawn but the principle is clear. Let us beware of ‘things’ and be occupied with the one thing that was the apostle Paul’s ambition: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” Phil.3.14.
Revival is precious, but let us beware of relaxing our exercise when the crest of the wave has passed and things seem to be running smoothly and prosperously.
EXPOSURE TO FAILURE – “Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon … God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart” 2Chr.32.31.
Here is the danger of self-reliance. It will surely lead to an exposure of the false centre of our trust! Hezekiah, who had known much of reliance on God in earlier, more difficult days, is seen relying on his own judgment, his own discernment, his own wisdom. Did it turn out well? Ah, no! Sad, sad day when a good king who had known much of being in God’s mind in spearheading revival, is found judging matters by the sight of his eyes and not looking to the Lord for guidance. What would any of us be if left to ourselves? We need God in our personal life, our assembly life and in all of our trials and tests. Woe betide us, in our public testimony, if God discerns a spirit of self-sufficiency and leaves us to our own devices, to prove our total inadequacy to carry on testimony without Divine aid.
May we be found exhibiting these hallmarks of revival in the testimonies with which we are associated and may we be preserved from the pitfalls that this good king sadly experienced, remembering that “all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” 1Cor.10.11.
The Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew Chapter 13
by S. Fellowes (Republic of Ireland)
No.2 – THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
Matthew 13 vv.1-9, 18-23.
This parable (as previously mentioned) commences a series of seven parables. As can be seen with the seven feasts of Jehovah in Leviticus chapter 23 and the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, they are presented in two groups, one consisting of four parables and one of three. The first four parables were spoken by the Lord publicly and emphasise Satan’s opposition to the work of God. The remaining three parables were spoken privately to His disciples, v.36, and lay emphasis on the fact that God’s purpose will triumph in the end. There are four principal points in this opening parable which we shall consider.
THE GENERAL CHARACTER
It will be observed that all of the other six parables are prefixed by the statement, “the kingdom of heaven is like(ned)”. This statement is not used in connection with the opening parable. The reason for this is that it is general in its character, and the principles involved in it cannot be tied down to any specific time. They were true when the Lord ministered, true of the disciples’ ministry and throughout the whole church period and even into tribulation days. Where there is a spiritual sower there will invariably be a mixed reception.
THE GOING FORTH
In v.3 we read “a sower went forth to sow”. This statement is deeply significant from a dispensational standpoint. While the sower represents every true dispenser of the Word, it must surely in its initial meaning refer to our Lord Jesus Christ in His ministry on earth.
From whom did He “go forth”? Scripture speaks of Israel as a fig tree, Hos.9.10, expected to produce fruit for God’s glory; as an olive tree, Jer.11.16,17, to bear testimony for God and as a vine, Isaiah chapter 5, to bring joy to His heart. In chapter five the prophet Isaiah informs us that God planted her in a “very fruitful hill”. She was “the choicest vine” guaranteed to bring forth fruit. Fruit she did produce but alas it was worthless. Note how Paul at the beginning of the dispensational section of the Roman epistle speaks likewise of her superlative Divinely bestowed blessings, Rom.9.4,5, yet of her sad rejection of God’s message, chapter 10. And so our Lord “goes forth” from the nation in all its barrenness to seek fruit elsewhere.
THE GERMINATING POWER OF THE WORD
Mark tells us “the sower soweth the word” 4.14. How important it is that we are convinced afresh of the priority and power of the Word of God in gospel preaching. In Heb.4.12 it is described as “quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword”. It is this that God uses. Rom.10.17 teaches us that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God”. If this was to be properly understood and applied, perhaps there would be less reliance upon story-telling, topical messages, emotional appeals and clever anecdotes in our gospel preaching. “Preach the word” 2Tim.4.2, is still the wholesome advice of the apostle. The Word should never be used as a mere starter to introduce my message nor a supplement brought in at the end as if it was of little import, rather, the Word of God should permeate the whole message from beginning to end. The words on a platform in a Belfast gospel hall come to mind: “Start promptly, finish punctually, preach the Word”!
Notice also “a sower went forth to sow and when he had sowed” Matt.13.3,4, and that is our responsibility, that is what we are asked to do, and that is where it ends. The results are not our responsibility. Oh, how simple and yet how safe is this principle, much heartache would be avoided if we just leave the results with God.
THE GROUND – ITS SIGNIFICANCE
How wonderful to see that the seed was sown everywhere! This is a gospel for all, a Saviour for all. Yet all will not react in the same way, and so we are introduced to four different responses.
The Wayside Hearer: Satan Prevails
Here is the careless sinner who wilfully rejects the message. Due to his wilful ignorance he does not understand it and this allows the devil to prevail. Satan, of course wastes no time. Mark tells us that he comes “immediately”, the great enemy of the souls of men. Paul said he was “not ignorant of his devices” 2Cor2.11, his plots, his schemes.
From the beginning of our Bible we learn how he operated then and has so continued to the present. Gen.3.1 “yea, hath God said?” Note, he did not say “God hath not said” but he sows a doubt, he implies that God’s Word should be subject to our judgment. This is where man went wrong at the first and has done ever since. Then in v.4 he states “ye shall not surely die”. This is a brazen, outright and shameless denial of God’s Word.
In v.5 Satan continues, “God doth know … ye shall be as gods, knowing both good and evil.” This demonstrates his disdain of God’s character. It is as if he is saying “He has kept something back from you, He’s not as good as you think.” Such are the devious ways of the evil one “from the beginning”.
The Stony-ground Hearer: Self Prevails
How encouraging to see results from gospel preaching! However, in this case the result is immediate and emotional. There has been no conscience reached, no conviction of sin, no recognition of guilt, no root, alas no reality. Of the mixed multitude which came out of Egypt not all appreciated the value of the blood of the Lamb. In Joshua’s day the Gibeonites succeeded in the art of deception, Joshua chapter 9. Judas remained amongst the very apostles undetected! The foolish virgins in Matthew chapter 25 also tell the story of profession without reality. These sad cases highlight the importance of preaching not for the emotions but preaching sin and repentance to reach the conscience by the Holy Spirit.
Time is always the tester, as is truth. In 1John chapters 1 and 2 we read again and again “if we say”. Saying alone is not sufficient, rather it is showing that is expected. However, in Matthew chapter 13 trials test the reality of the hearer and the stony-ground hearer is found out. The words of the late John Douglas sum it up “we don’t continue to be saved, we continue because we are saved”!
The Thorny-ground Hearer: Sin Prevails
The thorny-ground hearer is blinded to eternal realities. The world with all its anxieties, ambitions and attainments has captivated his soul; he is a slave to the world he loves. The word used for ‘world’ is the familiar word ‘aion’ better translated as ‘age’ in English. It is a period of time marked by certain moral and spiritual features.
With regard to this age, Paul speaks of its character in Gal.1.4 as “evil”. We discover its control in 2Cor.4.4, where he refers to the devil as “the god of this age”. Its concepts are seen in 1Cor.2.6, and its captivating power in 2Tim.4.10. It is a system wholly opposed to God and all that God values, governed by the devil and orchestrated to delude and damn sinners and ruin the usefulness of saints. Its power is great but God’s is greater.
The Good-ground Hearer: Spirit Prevails
God has promised to bless His Word. He will and He can, in spite of all that opposes it, and so we read “but some fell into good ground”. We find a parallel in Acts chapter 17 with Paul in Athens after his wonderful address at Mars’ hill. It is recorded in v.32 that “some mocked: others said we will hear thee again of this matter.” Was nothing achieved? V.34 reads “howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed”; and so we see that some seed fell on the good ground.
The order of fruit-bearing abundance, seems to fit with the dispensational order – some bore “an hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty”. The day of Pentecost inaugurated the great dispensation of grace with the blessing of three thousand souls. Although, as the day of grace has progressed, we do not now see that magnitude of blessing, we thank God that He is still blessing through the sowing of the good seed of His Word. May we value it more highly, conscious of the fact that any lasting results for God’s glory will be achieved alone through the sowing of the seed.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
Obedience in the Life of Gideon
by Cliff Jones (Wales)
OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD OF GOD
The love, grace, mercy and longsuffering of our unchanging God are revealed in the way He cared for and blessed His chosen people, Israel, when they were in Canaan. After Joshua died, they forgot the evidence they had seen of God’s power and grace shown in bringing them out of Egypt and leading them through the wilderness and into Canaan. Before Joshua died, he had spoken to the people, reminding them of God’s care for them and telling them to serve and obey Him. They had said, “The LORD our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey” Josh.24.24. The people listened to the words of Joshua and served and obeyed God during his lifetime and the lives of the elders who survived him, Josh.24.1-31. As time went on, however, the people changed their behaviour, disobeyed God, wandered away from Him and degenerated spiritually and morally. They did not keep themselves separate from the tribes who lived around them, but inter-married with the Canaanites, worshipped idols and made sacrifices to Baalim. The people drifted away from God, and we read, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” Judg.17.6.
The ever-faithful God punished the Israelites for their disobedience and unfaithfulness by allowing them to fall into the hands of their enemies, who ill-treated them. When the people would repent and cry to God for mercy and deliverance, He “raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them” Judg.2.16. God would raise up a judge (a deliverer or saviour) who, empowered by the Holy Spirit, Judg.3.10; 6.34; 14.6, would lead the people and deliver them from those who oppressed them. Following their deliverance by their gracious God, the circumstances in which the people lived improved and they enjoyed material prosperity.
In the course of time, the judge raised up by God would die and eventually the people reverted to their old sinful, disobedient ways. The same sequence of events kept on repeating itself for over three hundred years, during which time God raised up fifteen judges, of which fourteen were men and one was a woman. The judges God raised up were often weak and failing, but they had faith in God. We read of their faith in Heb.11.32,33, where the writer says “time would fail me to tell of Gedeon [Gideon], and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae … who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises …”. Gideon was one of the judges, and although conscious of his own inadequacy was graciously led by God to obey Him. Gideon’s obedience resulted in his being used by God to gain significant and dramatic victories over Israel’s enemies. It is sad to relate, however, that late in life he became proud and disobeyed the revealed will of God.
The events recorded for us in the book of Judges were recorded for our warning, guidance, help and admonition, 1Cor.10.11. Like the Israelites, we can be slow to learn by experience and may sometimes need to be chastened by God to bring us closer to Him in love and obedience, Heb.12.5-11. We have a much fuller revelation of God and His wonderful attributes than did the people we read of in the Old Testament. We have the revelation of God in His written Word. There is a gradual revelation of God by the prophets, the full and final revelation being in His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Jn.14.9; Col.1.15; Heb.11.3. When the Israelites chose to disobey God and lead un-separated lives, leaving the true God out of their thinking, then they suffered the consequences. As believers, we must search our hearts before God and ask ourselves whether or not we are living the lives He wants us to live, lives of obedience which are separated from the world and unto Him, Ps.1.1; 2Cor.6.14-18. He has given us His written Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit, 1Cor.6.19, to teach us and lead us. The Bible is not the product of men’s imaginations, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” 2Pet.1.21. Each and every Scripture is Divinely inspired, literally is “God breathed”, and has been given that we might know the mind and will of God. It is for our guidance, warning, encouragement and instruction in righteousness, 2Tim.3.16,17. The Word of God “liveth and abideth for ever” 1Pet.1.23: it is unchanging and unchangeable and nothing must be added or taken away from it, Deut.4.2; 12.32; Rev.22.18,19. It shows us our spiritual condition and the way we should live and behave, Ps.119.105, and it must be faithfully obeyed and adhered to by believers and assemblies of God’s people. The believer who prayerfully studies and meditates on the inerrant, infallible Word of God, and responds by obeying the teaching and directing of the Holy Spirit, will be enabled to progress towards greater spiritual maturity and serve God in accordance with His revealed will and to His glory, 1Pet.2.2.
To be Continued, (D.V.)
Ways in which Bethany is like a Scripturally Gathered Assembly
W Gustafson (USA)
INTRODUCTION TO BETHANY
Bethany would be insignificant to a Jew or a Roman. Bethany is called a “village” in Lk.10.38; 19.29,30, indicating its few residents. However, Bethany is very significant in the public and private ministry of the Lord Jesus.
He performed His greatest miracle (excluding His own resurrection) in Bethany by raising Lazarus from the grave after he had been dead four days. The Lord Jesus said in Jn.11.4, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”. Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead glorified Christ as the Son of God.
The fulfilment of God’s Word had important links with Bethany. The Lord began His triumphant entry into Jerusalem (recorded in all four Gospels) from Bethany or nearby, fulfilling important prophecies, Dan.9.25 (as Sir Robert Anderson shows in his book, “The Coming Prince”, this prophecy was precisely fulfilled on the very day that He rode into Jerusalem); and Zech.9.9 (quoted in Matthew’s and John’s Gospels). It is very likely that the last six nights He spent on earth before His betrayal were spent in Bethany (see later). He ascended from Bethany where the two men in white apparel gave them assuring words about His coming again to earth, Acts 1.9-11.
The Bible records His special appreciation of Bethany in these words, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” Jn.11.5. Though Scripture does not acquaint us with any of earth’s wise, mighty or noble there, John uniquely refers to Bethany as “the town of Mary and her sister Martha” Jn.11.1. The two or three in Bethany were precious to Him. In their home He received special attention and respect, Lk.10.38-42. In the home of Simon the leper in Bethany, Matt.26.6, the Lord received notable worship from Mary, service from Martha, and testimony from Lazarus, Jn.12.1-3.
Since Bethany was so important in our Lord’s public ministry it is all the more precious to consider ways that Bethany is like a Scripturally gathered assembly of the Lord’s people.
IN BOTH THE LORD LEADS HIS OWN
“And He led them out as far as to Bethany …” Lk.24.50. He could not have led them any further or He would have led them right into heaven, because He ascended from Bethany. The closest place to heaven is to be in a Scripturally gathered assembly, seeking to carry out the Word of God and knowing His presence. We read in Heb.13.15, “By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name”. By Him, the very One to Whom we are gathered, Heb.13.13. Our praises are acceptable through Him. There is only one Saviour for sinners and only one gathering centre for saints, the same Person in both cases, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jn.12.26 reads, “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me him will my Father honour”. This verse implies His presence in the ‘midst’, as in Matt.18.20, showing that we should be in an assembly gathered to the Lord’s name if we want to be where He is. Jn.10.3 tells us, “… He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out”, that is, those of the Jewish fold, for we read in the R.V. of v.16, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring [lead], and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd”. There is an important change in v.16 from the ‘fold’ of v.3, which is Jewish, to the ‘flock’ in reference to Christianity, Jew and Gentile without distinction in one body in the church. This is a little preview of the mystery revealed by the apostle Paul in Eph.3.3-6. Interestingly, Bethany is never once mentioned in the Old Testament, but it is 11 times in the New Testament. That is like church truth. There are good illustrations of some of God’s truth about the church in the Old Testament but we do not have church truth itself. It was a mystery that was first revealed by Paul in the New Testament, Eph.3.4-6.
The late J. J. Rouse, when he was newly saved had the desire to be a minister, in the denominational sense. However, he heard the late Donald Munroe and spoke to him after the meeting. When brother Munroe heard of his ambition he said, “Young man, you won’t be able to find one verse of Scripture to justify one-man ministry”. Later while telling this publicly, brother Rouse said, “I had the audacity to tell Mr. Munroe, that I could find lots of verses to justify one-man ministry”. He went on to say, “I’ve been searching for 40 years, and I haven’t found one yet.” No wonder, for there isn’t one to find!
IN BOTH THE LORD IS WELCOME DURING HIS REJECTION
Lk.9.58 records the words of Christ, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head”. You may have noticed that 41 verses later, Lk.10.38-42, we do read of a place where the Lord Jesus was welcome, at Bethany! There is no other geographical place in the New Testament that has such tender associations of Christ.
It is very likely that our Lord’s last six nights on earth (before the night of His betrayal) were spent in Bethany. Jn.12.1,12,13 shows clearly that the night before His triumphant entry into Jerusalem was spent in Bethany. Mk.11.10,11 show that the night of His entry was spent in Bethany. Mk.11.19 R.V., “And every evening He went forth out of the city”, refers to the last four nights before His betrayal. Lk.21.37 referring to the six nights before His betrayal reads in the R.V., “And every day He was teaching in the temple: and every night He went out, and lodged in the mount of Olives.” Bethany was on the eastern slopes of the mount of Olives, which explains why there is no contradiction, between Lk.24.50 and Acts 1.12.
Whether He spent those nights on the mount of Olives or in the home of Mary and Martha, it makes no difference to the fact that He was welcome in Bethany. He was not welcome in Jerusalem. It was dangerous for Him to stay in Jerusalem. Judas sought for an opportunity to betray Him and he did so on the night that Christ stayed in Jerusalem, Jn.13.30.
Bethany had only about 30 homes and was not important in the eyes of the world. Jerusalem was a much bigger place as well as being the religious centre. However, the Lord Jesus was not welcome there. The religious leaders were chief in wanting to put Him to death. He was asked, “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee; and goest Thou thither again?” Jn.11.8.
Bethany’s welcome is beautifully illustrated in 1Samuel chapter 22 where there were 400 gathered to David in the cave of Adullam. David was the attraction even as our Lord Jesus is the attraction of those gathered to His name, Matt.18.20 and Heb.13.13. I read about a brother in a fashionable congregation of whom less than a fourth were born again. He understood the truth of gathering to the Lord’s Name and left. Some months later he met a believer from the fashionable congregation who enquired of him, “Just where is it that you meet with these believers?” Hearing the location he said with disgust, “That’s nothing but a cave of Adullam”! The brother in the assembly replied, “That’s all it is, but remember the King is there”. That makes all the difference.
Please pardon a personal reference. For months before I got saved I was preaching morality during the lunch hour at the Boston Gear works where I worked. I preached against smoking, drinking alcohol etc. Men will not allow a 19 year old young man to preach like that without giving him quite a bit of ridicule and kidding, but after I got saved I began preaching Christ. Shortly afterwards I had to choose one of the night shifts, working seven days a week (due to the war) and this was in a different building. I chose from midnight to 8.00am so that I would not have to miss any meetings. One Lord’s Day morning at the 4.00am lunch hour the men mocked me more severely than ever before and I felt it keenly but I had real joy that the Lord Jesus was pleased that I had told them about Him.
I went home, changed my clothes, ate breakfast and went to remember the Lord Jesus in Boston. After the breaking of bread I was surprised when we sang a hymn so in keeping with what had transpired only hours earlier.
Our Lord is now rejected,
And by the world disowned,
By the many still neglected,
And by the few enthroned;
But soon He’ll come in glory:
The hour is drawing nigh,
For the crowning day is coming
By and By.
Our Lord Jesus will only have His rightful place in the assembly in the measure in which He is Lord in the hearts and lives of the believers that make up that assembly. All believers have the privilege of enthroning Him as Lord, 1Pet.3.15, “But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.” R.V.
John R. Caldwell called his commentary on 1Corinthians, “The Charter of the Church”. We could be a little more accurate in referring to it as the charter of the local church. 1Corinthians is pre-eminently the epistle of His Lordship, with 68 references to Christ as Lord, more than any two epistles together afterward.
To be Continued (D.V.)
Questions Young People Ask
No.1 – How Should a Christian dress?
By Alan Summers (Scotland)
As in many other aspects of life, the Bible sets out broad principles rather than stipulating a set of rules. We should not wear anything that is immodest in appearance or extravagant in cost, 1Pet.3.3,4; 1Tim.2.9,10. This means that what we should wear involves an exercise of judgment by the believer. Not everyone will be agreed down to the last millimetre of hem length, penny of cost or shade of colour. When we enter the realm of Christian conscience we must be slow to judge others. Having stated that, it is necessary to emphasise that the sisters have to be very careful how they dress. The world does not think it is wrong for a woman to dress in a revealing or suggestive way. In fact the world encourages women to dress in a manner that accentuates their figure or shape. However, a Christian lady should not seek to conform to the world’s values. Likewise, we should remember that God does not care about physical attractiveness. He is more interested in whether we have put on the spiritual “clothing” He has provided for the believer, Col.3.10,12; Eph.4.22,24.
What about assembly gatherings?
It is obvious that the way we dress is determined by the activity in which we are engaged. We wear pyjamas to bed. If we went to bed in our outdoor clothes we would be very uncomfortable. When we go hill walking we will probably put on a pair of stout boots and a warm jacket. Thus the nature of the occasion controls how we dress. This is so with the assembly gatherings. These gatherings are dignified and solemn occasions. Thus when we attend the assembly we should try to reflect this in our dress. If it would be disrespectful to attend a funeral or a wedding shoddily dressed, would it not also be disrespectful to meet with the Lord in casual clothes? Of course we should not overdress or try to impress people with our clothes, but we should dress in a way that befits the dignity of the church gatherings.
Is God not more interested in the heart than the outward appearance? – 1Sam.16.7.
He is. The most saintly man in the district may, in some countries of the world, be a beggar clad in rags. Rom.12.2 teaches however that the outward appearance is often a reflection of what we are inside. If a girl is modest in spirit she will be modest in dress. If a boy is sober in heart he will not want to wear flashy or pretentious clothes. We should remember that people often judge Christians by what they see! We should try through our appearance to reflect well on our Lord and Saviour.
What sort of clothes should I wear?
What we wear is determined by a variety of factors including our age and income. The poor should not judge a wealthy brother harshly because he can afford a nice suit. Equally the rich sister should not judge the poor sister because she cannot afford a nice dress. Whatever we wear we should seek to glorify God. We must try at all costs to avoid being worldly in our behaviour and dress. It should be noted that there is not a word in Scripture about the type of clothes the Lord wore. Scripture is equally silent about the dress of the apostles. It is noteworthy that when Peter went to meet the Lord Jesus after the resurrection he appreciated that he should not be in his “working clothes”, Jn.21.7.
Clothes also are a way of preserving the distinctiveness of the sexes. Although there is a trend today to blur the distinction God has placed between the sexes we should not follow that trend. Deut.22.5 is primarily a condemnation of those who deliberately decide to wear clothes intended for the opposite sex. The verse also shows however that a distinction between the sexes should be maintained by clothing. Thus, if the fashion trends of this world blur that distinction, we should take our guide from the word of God and not from our friends or fashion magazines.
To be Continued (D.V.)
The Covering of a Woman’s Head
by Harold Butcher (England)
1Cor.11.3-16 form one section of the chapter. The theme of the section is that when praying or prophesying a man should have his head uncovered and a woman should have her head covered. The portion deals more especially with the latter, namely the covering of a woman’s head. Presumably error in this matter was and is more prevalent by woman than by man. So far as Divine grace and position in Christ Jesus are concerned there is no male and female, Gal.3.28. So far as order and responsibility in the church are concerned, distinction is made between man and woman.
The length of the portion and the number of arguments adduced indicate the importance of the subject. God had the right to do no more than give the simple instruction for the obedience of men and women, but in His grace He has given much more. Six points are made regarding the covering of a woman’s head and these are considered as this article unfolds.
THE SHAME OF BEING UNCOVERED, vv.5,6
The removal of the hair was inflicted as a punishment on adulteresses. An uncovered head is as bad as a shaved head – a thing of shame. How searching are the words of v.6, “let her also be shorn”. The hair of the uncovered woman should be cut off.
THE SHROUDING OF MAN’S GLORY, v.7
Woman is man’s glory, and before God man’s glory should be veiled. Man’s head should not be covered, inasmuch as he is God’s image and glory. God’s glory should not be veiled.
THE SIGN OF AUTHORITY BEFORE ANGELS, vv.8-10
Any suggestion that the instructions of this passage are only for Corinth in Paul’s day is easily refuted. Appeal is made to the fact and purpose of creation. Woman was taken out of man, Gen.2.23, and woman was created for the sake of the man, Gen.2.20. This truth is neither geographical nor cultural since in any part of the world we look back to the fact and purpose of creation. Angels are looking on and for that reason a token of the authority under which woman stands in regard to man should be upon her head.
THE SEEMLINESS, v.13
Appeal is now made to what is comely. We should of ourselves come to the conclusion that feminine modesty demands a head covering when a woman prays to God.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NATURE’S GIFT, vv.14,15
God’s gift, through nature, of hair to woman should teach us that a head covering for a woman is comely. A comment on the subject of a woman’s hair will not be out of place. Sometimes it is maintained that providing the hair is longer than man’s, a sister comes within the scope of this Scripture, v.15. A godly sister, that is one who is concerned about pleasing her Lord, will choose a course free from doubt. A “half-length” will not satisfy her. Here nature’s gift is in view. Great use of the scissors greatly reduces God’s gift through nature. Should any gift of God be treated in such a way?
THE SILENCING OF ANY CONTENTIOUS PERSON, v.16
After all that has been said somebody may yet think to be contentious. The answer to such is the practice of the apostles and the assemblies of God. The ‘we’ is emphatic. We apostles and the assemblies of God have no such custom as the contentious person would uphold.
The next section, vv.17-34, contains five references to “coming together”, vv.17,18,20,33,34. V.18 speaks of coming together “in assembly”. Very significantly the section begins with a reference to coming together. The inference is that the former section, the subject of our consideration in this paper, does not relate exclusively to our coming together in assembly. We have confirmation of this inference if we compare v.5, “every woman … prophesying”, with vv.34,35 of chapter 14. Certainly the instructions of vv.4,5 apply to assembly gatherings whether for breaking of bread, preaching of the gospel, prayer or Bible-study, but not to such meetings only. At a children’s meeting, a funeral or a wedding, for example, our sisters should not throw off the token of submission. There too the angels are looking on, and Scriptural order must be maintained.
(This is an edited version of a paper that was published “AT” No.70 in 1964. It highlights a truth that is rarely taught).
Good Tidings from Heaven
One of the most pressing problems for the European Union presently is that of the migrants who set out to cross the Mediterranean every week in search of a better life. In the Far East a similarly ghastly scenario is unfolding as thousands of Rohingya migrants flee persecution in their homeland, Burma. Some of these have not been allowed to disembark in neighbouring countries and have been turned away to face the perils of the merciless Andaman sea, the horrors of further weeks adrift and the all too real possibility of perishing in the insatiable waves.
While many flee persecution, others are ‘economic’ migrants wanting to escape poverty, while yet others merely want peace and safety for their children. All have paid substantial sums to unscrupulous human traffickers and smugglers; they are herded like animals on to flimsy, unsafe boats that were never built for the journey they have to undertake. Many have perished, lost at sea and their hopes of reaching safety have been cruelly dashed.
They entrust their future to dishonest people who have no interest in their welfare and who could not care less if they ever reach their desired destination; all they are interested in are the ill-gotten gains of their evil trade. In some cases, crews have abandoned the boats and left their hapless passengers to face whatever dangers may befall them.
We are all migrants, crossing the uncertain sea of life with its countless dangers. We are being swept by the restless tides of time towards eternity with only one of two destinations ahead; heaven or hell. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day; even as we sleep, we are drifting nearer and nearer to the great forever that lies beyond this fleeting life, this brief crossing. We are moving inexorably from time to eternity, yes, but ‘whither, whither bound’? It is a journey from which we cannot escape; we cannot reverse, we cannot drop anchor and remain stationary, we cannot decelerate and yet many are careless, drifting aimlessly, with no assurance as to which destination they will inevitably arrive.
Many heed the unwise and mistaken advice to keep going and not worry about the outcome; it will all work out well eventually. Others have placed their hopes in religion, good works, charitable deeds, sailing along, with many a nagging doubt, towards an uncertain future. Others try to convince themselves that there is no great, eternal world on the other side, making lies their refuge and trying to rest and shelter in the tattered tent of atheism and agnosticism.
However, there are many of us who are sure as to where we are going and like the apostle Paul, we can confidently affirm, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” 2Timothy 1.12. We knew that we could never reach heaven by our own feeble efforts, nor did we deserve a home on that celestial shore and so we trusted our eternal wellbeing to the capable and competent hands of the Lord Jesus. We were certain that if we remained as we were, we would undoubtedly arrive in the eternal night of hell.
In spite of knowing all this, many, like the ill-fated mariners on board the ship where Jonah was a passenger, row all the harder and hope against all hope and sanity that they will at last make it to heaven. You have one; one only option, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” Acts 16.31.
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
- Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.
Watch! for the morning is breaking,
A moment, and He will be here!
The mists and the shadows are fleeing,
The darkness will soon disappear;
And He, for Whom ages have waited,
The Lord Who has tarried so long,
Will come in an outburst of glory,
A moment, and we shall be gone.
Watch! for the morning is breaking,
A moment, the crown will be won!
A moment, and we shall be with Him,
A moment, the journey is done!
Lord, keep us each moment unsleeping,
And count us all worthy to be
In that noble band of Thy watchers,
- Whose life is a vigil with Thee.
(M. E. Barber, 1869-1930)