ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee
NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES
by A. Summers
COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds
NOTES ON THE PRAYERS OF THE SAVIOUR IN LUKE’S GOSPEL
by K. Oh
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER
by I. Gibson
by W. Gustafson
Proverb to Ponder – Proverbs 15:16
Proverb to Ponder – Proverbs 7:4
“But that which ye have … hold fast till I come” Revelation 2.25
Doubtless the believers in Thyatira were encountering opposition from a godless world. However, that was not the main problem they faced: the great danger, addressed in the letter, Rev.2.18-29, was false doctrine, and the practices that inevitably resulted from acceptance of it. Looking around the world at the beginning of another new year, we see ever-increasing antagonism towards God, and towards all who would seek to live according to His Word, and to be witnesses to those who are still in their sins. Yet an even greater threat to testimony for God, individually and collectively, comes from the insidious influence of wrong teaching.
While we are greatly saddened by developments in society at large, it is also highly distressing to see assemblies of the Lord’s people, many of which used to be bright lampstands for God, succumbing to teachings and practices contrary to “those things which are most surely believed among us” Lk.1.1, with resultant loss of distinctiveness of testimony. Nevertheless, we must not despair. Even in Thyatira, there were those who remained faithful to the truth, and to them the Lord addressed the words quoted in the heading above. And, today, it must rejoice the heart of the Saviour to see many who, “in simplicity and godly sincerity” 2Cor.1.12, seek to continue steadfastly in accordance with God’s Word. All such would do well to take heed to the Lord’s words to those of like mind in Thyatira.
To what does the phrase “that which ye have” refer? Though there are many precious things that we have as believers, “that which” is singular, so it must be one particular thing, something obvious to the readers. The previous verse gives the key: it describes the saints addressed in v.25 as those who “have not this doctrine” v.24; a false teaching, which He has described in v.20. Thus, what they “have” (same word as in v.24) must be the very opposite of erroneous doctrine: the truth; in other words, the whole of what we read in God’s holy Word, the Bible. His written revelation is the only authority for doctrine and conduct, in every aspect of our lives. It is all we need, and we need it all.
We “have” it; it has been graciously given to us by God. But now our responsibility comes in: we are to “hold [it] fast”. Some meanings for this word include ‘continue to hold, retain’; ‘keep carefully and faithfully’; ‘not discard’. The message is unmistakable: we must hold to the truth, in spite of all efforts to force us to let it go; even if all around us are doing so; even in the face of opposition and ridicule. The Lord Himself tells us to “hold fast”, and what joy it must give Him to see His instruction being obeyed by those who love Him and His Word.
For how long are we to “hold fast”? Not until the pressure becomes too great, so that we feel we cannot hold out any longer; but, He says, “till I come”. He may come during the year that we are entering, or the end of 2020 may still find us here. The length of time is not the issue: whether long or short, we are to hold the truth tenaciously, until He comes and takes us to be forever with Himself. May we know His grace and help as we seek to do so.
It is our sincere desire and prayer that, in 2020, if the Lord be not come, the ‘Assembly Testimony’ magazine and associated publications may be instrumental in the Lord’s hand to the establishing and up-building of believers in the truth, to strengthen and encourage faithful saints to “hold fast”, and, where there has been departure, to be used in recovery. “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, ‘Where is the good way,’ and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” Jer.6.16.
Whatever our circumstances, in this year, may we all heed the words of Him Who gave Himself for us, and Who is coming for us: “But that which ye have … hold fast till I come”.
Each New Year brings its own changes, problems and perplexities. These seem to come with increasing intensity; words such as ‘momentous’ and ‘unprecedented’ are commonly used to describe the current deteriorating state of affairs on the world stage. Uncertainty and instability abound but rather than causing a God-consciousness they seem, generally speaking, to have the opposite effect.
Reflection is healthy. It gives opportunity to review the previous year and contemplate the challenges that lie ahead in the goodness of His will. Looking forward we cannot expect any reduction in difficulties, knowing that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” and against such a background we must do as Paul commanded Timothy: “continue … in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of …” 2Tim.3.13,14.
It is the continued exercise of the committee to ensure, through the publication of the magazine and the associated books, that teaching is available which will be “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” 2Tim.3.16,17.
We would convey our appreciation to all who contribute to this ongoing work. These contributions come at the cost of personal sacrifice and we know that “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” Heb.6.10.
It is both necessary and fitting to express our indebtedness to our editor for his diligence and attention to detail in ensuring that there is a wholesome variety of written ministry appropriate to the spiritual needs of a widely-cast international readership. Brother David McAllister has seamlessly settled into the role of editor and we are most grateful for this and would ask for the continued prayers of the Lord’s people for him in this role.
The work of ‘Assembly Testimony’ would not be possible without the gracious help of our God. The committee acknowledges freely that “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable” Ps.145.3.
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.29: Psalm 21
As we have already seen, Psalms 20 and 21 are closely related. They are separated by a battle. Psalm 20 anticipates victory, and Psalm 21 celebrates victory. The former ends with a prayer: “Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call” Ps.20.9, or ‘Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call’. The latter ends with praise: “Be Thou exalted, LORD, in Thine own strength: so will we sing and praise Thy power” Ps.21.13.
As a matter of interest, some commentators suggest that the superscript at the head of Psalm 22 is actually the subscript at the end of Psalm 21. To quote A.G. Clarke, in “Analytical Studies in the Psalms”, “The Hebrew words found in the subscript (Aijeleth Shahar) mean ‘The Hind of the Morning’, a poetical expression for the dawn of day. The first rays of the rising sun are likened to the horns of a deer appearing above the rising ground before its body comes into view”. This reminds us of Mal.4.2, “But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings [rays]”. While we may not all agree with A.G. Clarke’s view here, Psalm 21, like Malachi chapter 4, describes the dawn of glorious victory.
We have already noticed that the structure of Psalms 20 and 21 is similar. In Psalm 20, David is addressed in vv.1-5; he responds in vv.6-8; and prayer is made in v.9. In Psalm 21, David speaks in vv.1-7; the people respond in vv.8-12; and the Lord is praised in v.13.
We may divide Psalm 21 as follows:
- The Thanksgiving of the King – vv.1-7
- The Triumph of the King – vv.8-12
- The Tribute of the King – v.13
THE THANKSGIVING OF THE KING – vv.1-7
The king is speaking, either directly (referring to himself in the third person) or through a spokesman, throughout this section of the Psalm, which begins, “The king shall joy in Thy strength, O LORD” v.1, and ends, “For the king trusteth in the LORD” v.7. While, in the first instance, the Psalm celebrates David’s God-given victory, its language is even more suited to the lips of another King, of Whom it is said, “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. We must therefore look at this Psalm in two ways; just as we could have looked at Psalm 20 in two ways. We must consider its application to ourselves, and its application to Christ.
When David speaks about “salvation” in vv.1,5, he refers to deliverance and preservation in the battle against, perhaps, the Syrians. See our introduction to Psalm 20. However, we will introduce the application of this Psalm to ourselves by asking a question: Are you rejoicing in your salvation?
David was certainly rejoicing: “The king shall joy in Thy strength, O LORD; and in Thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!” v.1. There is no hint of self-congratulation here: it is “Thy strength” and “Thy salvation”; rather like Ps.18.29, “For by Thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.”
Salvation can bring problems; big problems: just ask the Christians to whom Peter wrote. They were right in the front line when it came to problems, but listen to what he says: “… kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time; Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” 1Pet.1.5-8.
Now, look at vv.2-7, and you will see at least seven reasons why we ought to rejoice in our salvation:
Because our God Answers Prayer
“Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the desire of his lips. Selah” v.2. David had seen the fulfilment of Ps.20.4,5, “The LORD … grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel … the LORD fulfil all thy petitions”. In the context of Psalm 20, he prayed for victory over his enemies.
Are you praying for victory over your enemies? Here are some of them: “The lust of the flesh … the lust of the eyes … the pride of life” 1Jn.2.16. Having described the Christian’s armour, Paul adds, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” Eph.6.18. We must rest in faith on statements like this: “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him” 1Jn.5.14,15.
Because our God Blesses Us
“For Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness” v.3. This has been rendered, “For thou hast met him with the blessings of goodness” J.N.D. The same word occurs in Ps.17.13: “Arise, O LORD, disappoint him“, and in Ps.18.5: “the snares of death prevented me”; but this is a rather different encounter! God met David with blessings. No wonder he exclaims, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” Ps.23.6. God has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” Eph.1.3.
God does not bless us grudgingly. He delights to do so, and takes the initiative. In the same way that Melchisedec met Abraham, Heb.7.1, God meets us with blessing: “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” Isa.65.24. So
- Count your blessings, name them one by one;
- And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Because our God Crowns Us
“Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head” v.3. Is this a reference to 2Sam.12.30? The New Testament mentions several crowns, including the “crown of life”. The Lord Jesus told the church at Smyrna, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a [the] crown of life” Rev.2.10. This does not mean that life itself is the crown, but that a crown will be awarded to those who are faithful in life. See also Jms.1.12, and 1Thess.2.19; 2Tim.4.8; 1Pet.5.4; Rev.3.11.
Because our God Gives Life
“He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever” v.4. When David asked for life, he meant deliverance from death in battle, and, at first sight, it might just seem, to our minds, that he uses rather exaggerated language here! It could be a Hebraism meaning long life, that is, indefinite length (compare Dan.2.4, “O king, live for ever”), or perhaps it is a reference to his endless dynasty, promised to him in 2Sam.7.16. However, one thing is sure: the Lord Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” Jn.10.28. He has delivered us from the power of death, enabling us to say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1Cor.15.55-57.
Are you still counting your blessings? Let us continue:
Because our God Honours Us
“His glory is great in [through] thy salvation: honour and majesty hast Thou laid upon him” v.5. Paul tells us that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” Rom.5.1,2. What about that amazing sequence of events in Rom.8.28-30? Hannah reached some great heights in her psalm of thanksgiving: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” 1Sam.2.8. We have been called “unto His kingdom and glory” 1Thess.2.12.
Because our God Uses us to Bless Others
“For Thou hast made him most blessed for ever” v.6, or ‘For Thou hast made him to be blessings for ever’ J.N.D. Trace the little expression “by us” in 2Cor.1.19,20; 2.14; 3.3; 5.20. What a privilege to be used by God like this for the good of others!
Because our God Looks upon us with Favour
“Thou hast made him exceeding glad with Thy countenance” v.6. The Revised Version renders this, ‘Thou makest him glad with joy in Thy presence’. In an earlier Psalm, David said, “LORD, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart …” Ps.4.6,7. While “the face of the LORD is against them that do evil” Ps.34.16, Aaron and his sons were instructed to bless Israel as follows: “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: the LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the LORD lift up the light of His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” Num.6.24-26. We should notice that “countenance” and “presence” translate one Hebrew word.
So, our salvation, v.1, has given us seven reasons to rejoice. The section concludes with a statement telling us how David received salvation with its blessings: “For the king trusteth in the LORD” v.7. Salvation, with its blessings, is by faith. But that is not all. The God Who saved and blessed David was the God Who loved him: “through the mercy [‘the loving-kindness’] of the Most High he shall not be moved” v.7. Bearing in mind that the title “Most High” conveys God’s absolute supremacy in “heaven and earth” (see Gen.14.22), we are not surprised that those that trust in Him “shall not be moved”! They are held secure by Divine omnipotence.
Now let us retrace our steps through the Psalm, and relate these verses to the Lord Jesus. Let us ask another question: How does the Lord Jesus rejoice in salvation?
He has won a great victory, and triumphed over enemy forces. This Psalm expresses His joy:
His Prayer Was Answered – v.2
See Heb.5.7: “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save Him from [‘out of’] death, and was heard in that He feared [‘because of His piety’]”.
He Experienced God’s Help and Blessing – v.3
See Jn.16.32: “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, and is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me”. See also Lk.22.43: “And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him”.
He Has Been Crowned – v.3
See Heb.2.9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour”.
He Will Reign Forever – v.4
“But unto the Son He saith, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever’” Heb.1.8.
He Has Been Honoured and Glorified – v.5
See Rev.5.12: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” See also Eph.1.19-23.
He Has Been Made a Blessing to Others – v.6
If we noticed the little expression “by us” in 2Corinthians, what about the little expression “in Christ Jesus” in 2Timothy? See 2Tim.1.1,9,13; 2.1,10; 3.12,15.
He Enjoys God’s Favour and Presence – v.6
See Ps.16.11: “In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
The chief priests said mockingly, “He trusted in God” Matt.27.43. They were right, “for the King trusteth in the LORD” Ps.21.7. The chief priests did not know, however, that “He shall not be moved” v.7. God has said to Him, “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool” Ps.110.1. This brings us to:
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING – vv.8-12
This section of the Psalm is addressed to David. Victory in the battle brought assurance of ultimate triumph over every foe, and reminds us of the hymn:
- Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin,
- Each victory will help you some other to win.
Of course, the hymnwriter is not saying that victory in a spiritual battle will make the next battle easier! Rather, each victory, accomplished in the strength of the Lord, increases our confidence in Him, and gives us ever increasing assurance of His help in battles to come, and of the final victory. As we can see, David would not achieve victory by his own military prowess and strength alone: “the LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them” v.9.
However, the language in this section of the Psalm is, again, even more appropriate in describing the ultimate triumph of Christ. See, for example, 2Thess.1.7-9: “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” See also Rev.19.11-21.
The words, “Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger” v.9, are, literally, ‘in the time of Thy presence’. This contrasts vividly with v.6, “Thou makest him glad with joy in Thy presence” R.V. The presence of God brings joy to us, but it will mean terror to the unsaved.
THE TRIBUTE OF THE KING – v.13
The last verse is addressed to the Lord. The Psalm commenced with, “The king shall joy in Thy strength, O LORD”. It now concludes, “Be Thou exalted, LORD, in Thine own strength”. The king is no longer seen. The Lord is all in all. “So will we sing and praise Thy power“.
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory” Ps.115.1.
To be continued (D.V.)
Traits of the Tribes
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
JUDAH – IN THE LAND
We now consider the tribal history of Judah in the Land itself, noting contrasts between some of its principal characters. As their tribal head manifested stark contrasts between his early and later life, early representatives of Judah to enter Canaan are very distinct: Achan evidences great folly; and Caleb exemplifies great faith.
Achan of the Tribe of Judah
The first mention of the tribe of Judah in the Land concerns the sin of “Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah” Josh.7.1. Achan displays characteristics typical of his tribal head in the early part of his life. Achan took of the “accursed thing”, that is, that which had been determined and dedicated by God for destruction. Achan sought to gain from secret sin and during the conquest and sacking of Jericho he coveted, purloined and sequestered “a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight” Josh.7.21. This was in direct contravention of Joshua’s instruction to refrain from the “accursed thing”, which also made plain that metals, precious or otherwise, were to be “consecrated unto the LORD” and come into His treasury, Josh.6.19. Achan looked, longed and lusted for that forbidden by God and, while he may have thought he gained, he ultimately lost everything. The parallels with Eden are obvious.
Achan, like Judah before him, had a wrong response to a garment. We remember from Genesis chapter 37 that Joseph’s esteem in the eyes of his father, Jacob, was betokened by a coat of many colours. It was the father’s love for Joseph that moved his brothers to hate him and, later, sell him into slavery. Joseph’s bloodstained coat was then used to deceive Jacob. And garments of deception and pledge brought about Judah’s moral downfall, Genesis chapter 38. Here an item of clothing contributed to Achan’s sin and its tragic aftermath. For a gorgeously embroidered Babylonish garment which he could never dare to wear in public, and for riches he could hardly use without risk of disclosure, he left a train of disaster.
If there was ever a person exemplifying “be sure your sin will find you out” Num.32.23, it was Achan! His naked greed was open to God and thirty-six innocent men died because of it, Josh.7.5. The subsequent arraignment of all the tribes results in Judah being singled out and then, via tribal families, Achan stands to be exposed before his fellows, Josh.7.16-18. The outcome is that Achan and his sons and daughters are executed, his animals are destroyed and, together with his inanimate possessions and his ill-gotten gains, they are all burned. Then a great heap of stones is raised over their ashes in the valley of Achor. If his tribal head, his great-great-grandfather, was susceptible to the sins of the flesh; Achan was susceptible to temptation from the world and his disobedience had disastrous consequences for so many. Sin is pervasive and damaging; truly “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” 1Cor.5.6; Gal.5.9. Achan manifested a spirit of covetousness which was fatal. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” 1Cor.10.12.
Caleb of the Tribe of Judah
The next reference to a person from Judah relates specifically to inheritance. “Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, ‘Thou knowest the thing that the LORD said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea’” Josh.14.6. Caleb rehearses what Joshua well knew: how that forty-five years earlier Caleb, who at that time was aged forty, countered the dispiriting report of the ten spies. “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it’” Num.13.30. Only Caleb, representing the tribe of Judah, and Joshua, representing Ephraim, gave a true report on that fateful day. But disappointment at the recoiling of the nation from the opportunity presented never soured Caleb’s soul nor diminished his exercise. He could say, “I wholly followed the LORD my God” Josh.14.8. If Bezaleel, whom we have previously considered, was filled with the Spirit of God, Caleb was the outstanding personality in the tribe of Judah who was filled with a spirit of faith. Unconquerable faith sustained Caleb during the long wilderness wanderings. “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” Rom.8.25.
Age did not weary Caleb! The passage of forty-five years did not in any way diminish the goal of his soul. He recalls with absolute clarity that “Moses sware on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD thy God’” Josh.14.9. He expresses gratitude to the LORD for His preserving hand upon him. He is now eighty-five years old and with no thought of retiring! “As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in” Josh.14.11.
But Caleb’s review of the past, and his thankfulness for the present, does not mean that he does not have aspirations yet to fulfil. “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said” Josh.14.12. Behind the oath of Moses, Caleb had heard the voice of the LORD. He continues to hold onto that word of absolute assurance, yet is never complacent nor self-sufficient; his exercise is ever on the premise “if so be the LORD will be with me”. Joshua blessed Caleb and “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel” Josh.14.14.
Achan and Caleb Contrasted
The contrast between Achan and Caleb, each of the tribe of Judah, could not be sharper. Each had desires: Achan for material gain, by robbing God; Caleb for God’s honour, as He had promised. Achan secured for himself a name in shame; Caleb’s aspiration secured for himself his desired destination. Achan lost his portion in the Land, his life and that of his children. Caleb secured his portion, which was passed to his progeny as an inheritance. Achan gained through loss a “great heap of stones” Josh.7.26. Caleb gained a mountain! And what a mountain it was: Hebron; the place where Abram built an altar; where Sarah died and was buried; where Abraham and Isaac sojourned; where Isaac died and was buried by Esau and Jacob; the residence of Joseph before leaving for Egypt, Gen.13.18; 23.2,19; 35.27-29; 37.14. Achan placed a low value on the things of God. Caleb carried in his soul, undimmed by the passage of years, a yearning that the heritage from the patriarchs might be realised as his own and be the inheritance of his family for ever. These are solemn matters to consider.
Judah, Possessing the Possession
In spite of Achan’s sin and its consequences, God’s purpose moved forward. While Moses surveyed “all the land of Judah” from Mount Pisgah, Deut.34.2, it was Joshua who “cut off the Anakims … from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel” Josh.11.21. Judah’s inheritance in prospect is now being possessed. Their inheritance was physical and territorial; ours is spiritual. Yet acquisition of that intended for us can only be secured by ongoing exercise. “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” Phil.3.12-14.
Joshua chapter 15 details the portion of land allotted to the tribe of Judah after the conquest of Canaan. The borders of the tribal territories are delineated and cities and towns are named. Yet in the midst of this inventory Caleb reappears. Caleb, who was given Hebron, now has to actually possess it for himself. He has to evict the current residents, men of great physical stature and military prowess, but Caleb prevails. “And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak” Josh.15.14. However, we shall leave the subsequent victory of “Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb” Josh.15.17, for later. But not everything was positive: “As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day [i.e. at the time of writing]” Josh.15.63.
The portion of the tribe of Judah, in the south of Canaan, became one of the reference points for the division of the Land for other tribes, Josh.18.5,11,14. As noted previously the portion of Simeon was within that of Judah, “for the part of the children of Judah was too much for them” Josh.19.9. A boundary with Judah is mentioned in a poetic way in Josh.19.34: “and to Judah upon Jordan toward the sunrising”.
We should note that Caleb’s city, “Kirjath-arba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah” Josh.20.7, became one of the six designated cities of refuge. Also, as noted previously, cities were assigned to the tribe of Levi from the territory of other tribes and Kohathites were given cities in Judah, Josh.21.4,9,11, including Hebron. So Caleb, who gained his city, then gave it for the service of the LORD. “But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession” Josh.21.12.
We shall next consider Judah in the days of the Judges.
To be continued (D.V.)
NOTES ON THE PRISON EPISTLES
By Alan Summers (Scotland)
Paper 13 – COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 2
THE CRISIS FOR THE CHURCH
Paul evidently foresaw problems for the Colossian church. He was concerned that someone might “beguile” v.4, and “spoil” them, v.8. This concern led to great “conflict” (agona, v.1) within him. This probably refers to deep spiritual concern rather than physical sufferings. He must have heard that there were people seeking to influence the Colossians. Thankfully they had not succumbed to the false teaching, v.5, but Paul evidently thought there was a risk.
If chapter 1 underlines the supremacy of Christ, chapter 2 gives us an explanation of why Paul felt it necessary to expound the supremacy of the Lord Jesus. First there were those who wanted to re-impose the Old Testament Law on the Christians at Colosse. Paul had no objection to the moral and spiritual values of the Old Testament and indeed restates some of them in this chapter, for example “thou shalt not bear false witness” Ex.20.16; Col.3.9. He did, however, repudiate the rites and ceremonies of the Old Testament. His objection is laid bare in v.16. Anyone who is familiar with the Acts of the Apostles or Galatians will know how hard Paul fought against those who sought to impose the Law on new Gentile converts. As he says in v.17, why go back to the shadows of the Law when in the Lord Jesus we have the “body”, that is, the substance? Why gaze at the shadow when you can gaze at the One Who cast the shadow?
However, there were other influences at work. It seems that the Colossians were being encouraged to worship angels, v.18. While other parts of the New Testament stress Christ’s supremacy over angels, for example Hebrews chapter 1, this is the only occasion where we read of anyone actually teaching they were worthy of worship. The point of 1.16 is now obvious. 2.10 stresses the Lord Jesus is the “head of all principality and power”.
Another influence which was pressing on the Colossians is what is usually called asceticism. Asceticism is found in many religions including Hinduism and Buddhism. Christendom embraced it wholeheartedly for many centuries. Asceticism is basically a lifestyle characterised by abstinence from worldly pleasure. Up to a point this is good. The Lord Jesus lived a simple lifestyle as did John Baptist, but asceticism can be carried to extremes. In v.23 we learn that the Colossians were being taught that they should neglect their bodies. Presumably this refers to prolonged fasting, flagellation and other forms of behaviour that damage the body. There is a balance between self-indulgence and self-harm. The body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” 1Cor.6.19, and is not to be abused. It may be that this type of teaching had its root in the idea that the body is inherently evil, vv.22,23, which was part of a teaching called Gnosticism. This may be the “philosophy” of v.8. Gnosticism taught that all matter is evil and that to bridge the gap between the material world populated by humans and God there was a host of intermediate beings the lowest of which created a world of evil matter. Probably the angels mentioned in Colossians are these intermediate beings.
As he states in the opening section of the chapter, Christians function properly when their hearts, v.2a, and minds, v.2b, are absorbed with Christ. A common appreciation of Christ leads to stability, vv.6,7, and fulfilment, v.10.
THE CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH
One of the hallmarks of Colossians is that Paul uses words and concepts associated with these false teachings. Paul’s aim in using the terminology of these rival belief systems was probably to accentuate the differences between Christianity and these rival systems. For example circumcision was a prominent sign of adherence to the Law. Under the Law children were circumcised when eight days old, Gen.17.12. Paul does not say circumcision is wrong as such though he would probably have categorised it along with the matters mentioned in v.16. Instead he speaks about the “circumcision made without hands” v.11a, and the “circumcision of Christ” v.11b, that is, the circumcision performed by Christ. Paul teaches that salvation involved the “circumcision” or cutting off of the root cause of sin and not just a portion of human flesh. This new circumcision was accomplished by Christ when He died on the cross. He is not of course teaching that after salvation we cease to have the capacity to sin but he is teaching that through salvation we are no longer to be judged or governed by the nature inherited from Adam.
Another example of Paul utilising his opponents’ ideas is his use of the words “fulness” 1.9,19; 2.9, and “knowledge” 1.9,10; 2.2,3. Gnosticism was a system of religious thought that involved gradual growth in enlightenment by being initiated into secret knowledge. Its adherents, in acquiring secret knowledge, achieved spiritual enlightenment. Of course Christianity also encourages growing knowledge, but it teaches that the only knowledge that matters is knowledge of Christ. Hence even the greatest philosophers cannot compare to Christ, v.8. Paul’s aim is to make the Colossians appreciate that any system of religion or philosophy of life that does not have Christ at its heart is worthless. He is like a treasure trove, vv.2,3. The Greeks believed that knowledge was valuable. Greek culture had given the world some of its greatest philosophers, but their nuggets of wisdom were nothing in comparison to the wealth to be found in Christ. The Greek gods they worshipped had a human form but were marked by weakness and vice. Christ took up humanity but in doing so displayed the full attributes of Deity, v.9. If they were tempted to worship angels Paul says they would do well to remember that Christ was not only the creator of all creatures (including angels) but He was their “head” or superior, v.10. As concerning the Judaising teachers, the rituals of the Old Testament had been superseded by Christ.
THE CENTRE OF THE CHURCH
We have noticed that 1.15-19 sets out the reasons for the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus. That famous section begins with the statement that He is “the image of the invisible God” and ends with “it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell”. This theme is picked up in 2.9 and states that “the fulness of the Godhead” or “the whole fulness of Deity” R.S.V., dwells in Him. The point here is that all the attributes of Deity dwell in the man Christ Jesus, which means that in taking up a human body and becoming man He did not lose any of the attributes of Deity and these dwell in Him. If that is the case any system of religion that displaced Him should be shunned. Judaism rejected His Deity and resurrection from the dead. If so, those that sought to force the Colossians to accept a religion of circumcision, feasts and sabbaths should be rejected. Likewise, if there were philosophers that had no place for Christ in their view of the world they too should be rejected. If teachers asked them to worship angels the Colossians should worship the Creator of the angels instead. In 1.18 He is described as the “head of … the church”; in 2.10 He is the “head of all principality and power”, that is, the mighty angels; in 2.19 He is again presented as the Head of the Church but here He does not just control the body (the Church) but He supplies power and energy to it. For this reason Christians are told to “hold” or remain connected to the Head, Who keeps the whole body united together.
The Colossians in their baptism allied themselves to the Lord Jesus, 2.12. The One Who had “circumcised” them (see above) was the One with Whom they had become identified in His death, burial and resurrection. On salvation we too died to the world and emerged in a new life. Baptism, which occurs after salvation, was a symbolic declaration of these facts.
His death on the cross is described as similar to a series of debts being cancelled, 2.14. The expression “handwriting of ordinances” was an expression in use at the time to mean a list of debts accumulated by a debtor. These debts were not monetary debts but spiritual debts involving breaches of God’s law. Paul uses a striking metaphor. He writes not of Christ being crucified but the debts being crucified. The nailing of the debts to the cross symbolised their payment and consequent extinction.
Hence the point of the chapter is to force the Colossians to realise the centrality of Christ. Anyone or anything that diminishes His status or displaces His role in the Church is to be rejected.
To be continued (D.V.)
Comfort for Christians in a Changing World
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
“We will remember Thy love …” Song of Solomon 1.4
His love is immeasurable, incomprehensible and interminable. It has inspired countless hymns but it is beyond all telling.
The Father’s love provided a Saviour for me for He gave His only Son and the love of Christ has provided an eternal salvation for me for He “gave Himself for me” Gal.2.20. His love for me today is as great as the love that led Him to die in my stead. His love never wanes or changes; it is as eternal as Himself, permanent and unvarying.
He continues to love me even when my heart is cold and when I must confess my sin and all too frequent wanderings; instead of the rod of chastisement I often feel the warm embrace of His love.
It is a solace and shelter for my soul in an uncaring world where true love is in short supply. In sorrow it is my comfort and my never-failing panoply on the pathway of life. No good thing will He withhold, so in His unchanging love I will rest now and forevermore.
- Though I forget Him and wander away;
- Still He doth love me wherever I stray;
- Back to His dear loving arms would I flee,
- When I remember that Jesus loves me.
“In all their affliction He was afflicted” Isaiah 63.9
Oftentimes our sorrows are multiplied, like Job’s, by the misunderstanding and lack of sympathy from would-be comforters. They mean well but their inability to console arises from the fact that they have never experienced what we are passing through.
Not so the sympathy and succour of the Lord Jesus; what a wealth of experience He has; He has trodden the rough valley of earth and He learned “obedience by the things which He suffered” Heb.5.8. Grief was His constant companion and daily He faced the hostility of an unbelieving world where His claims were disputed and denied.
Like Ezekiel, He sat where we sit, Ezek.3.15; He is Immanuel (God with us), Isa.7.14; Matt.1.23, and earthly scenes are familiar to Him and there is not an experience through which you will ever be called upon to pass that does not strike a chord in His loving breast. “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” Heb.4.15.
- Who can cheer the heart like Jesus,
- By His presence all Divine?
- True and tender, pure and precious,
- O how blest to call Him mine.
Notes On The Prayers Of The Saviour In Luke’s Gospel
by Kevin Oh
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.
PRAYING WHEN ALONE – Luke 9.18
This occasion when the Lord Jesus Christ was recorded as “alone praying” is mentioned by Luke in the context of the Lord’s testing of His disciples’ faith.
THE INCIDENT GIVING RISE TO THE SAVIOUR’S PRAYER
Both Matthew and Mark indicate that the Lord was with His disciples around the area of Caesarea Philippi, located north of the Sea of Galilee. The city was built upon a rocky hillside and was a prominent centre of idolatrous worship. It was the rocky area upon which the city was built which may have prompted the Lord to refer to “this rock” upon which He would build His Church, Matt.16.18.
THE IMPORTANCE THAT THE SAVIOUR ATTACHED TO PRAYER
It was not unusual for the Saviour to pray alone; this was His regular practice. On some occasions, of which this is one, the Lord prayed alone even when He was with His disciples. Doubtless He appreciated that it was necessary to withdraw a little distance from the twelve men to spend time in communion with His Father and preserve an important link with heaven amidst the rigours of the day.
Whilst Luke informs us of the occasion when the Lord was observed in the attitude of prayer, once again we notice that no information is given about the content of His prayer. We may, however, deduce that He could have been praying about the events which were shortly to unfold. The Saviour may have been asking His Father to reveal essential truth about His identity to His disciples.
THE INTEREST OF THE SAVIOUR AFTER HIS PRAYER
The Saviour initiates the conversation by asking His disciples, “Whom say the people that I am?” Lk.9.18. This led the disciples to offer a variety of replies: “John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again” Lk.9.19.
Then came the real test. The Lord asks His disciples the probing question, “But whom say ye that I am?” Lk.9.20. How would His very own disciples respond?
THE INSIGHT GIVEN TO PETER IN VIEW OF THE SAVIOUR’S PRAYER
Peter’s reply clearly demonstrated a spiritual appreciation of Who the Lord truly was: “The Christ of God” Lk.9.20. The entirety of the Lord’s testimony amongst His disciples until that point had convicted Peter that this Jesus was God’s fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the Messiah Who would come. Peter’s words were insightful and perceptive.
Matthew records that the Lord then said, “… flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven” Matt.16.17. The Lord had just been speaking to His Father in prayer and may have asked for Divine revelation to be given to His disciples about the truth concerning Himself.
Matthew then adds, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [Greek, Petros], and upon this rock [Greek, Petra] I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matt.16.18. The Church is not built upon Peter, as shown by the different Greek words used. Instead, it is built upon the Divinely-prompted utterance of Peter’s confession of Christ as the Son of God.
A similar thought in relation to the rock may be found at Matt.7.24, where the Lord said, “… whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock”. Here, the Lord teaches using a parallelism by depicting His sayings as “a rock”.
THE IMPRESSION OFFERED TO US OF THE SAVIOUR’S PRAYER
We may come across passages in the Scriptures that are puzzling to us during our daily reading. We are invited to bring the matter before the Father in prayer to ask Him for help in disclosing valuable truth and exposing vital lessons to us. Just as Peter derived illumination and help in seeing the Lord for Who He was, we can likewise be instructed “in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” Lk.24.27.
To be continued (D.V.)
Christ Our Passover
by Ian W. Gibson (Canada)
In the first paper, we considered the scrutiny and the sufficiency of Christ, the Passover Lamb.
THE SACRIFICE OF THE PASSOVER LAMB
In 1.Cor.5.7, the apostle Paul gives us the most direct New Testament reference to the Lord Jesus as the fulfilment of the Passover sacrifice: “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”. We know that for the Passover lamb to be the basis of the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, the lamb had to be more than just scrutinised; it had to become the sacrificial Passover lamb. The lamb had to be killed, and the blood of the lamb had to be shed, and applied to the two side posts and lintel of the doors. Significantly, the Passover in Exodus chapter 12 is the first mention in Scripture of blood associated with a sacrifice. There are a number of burnt offering sacrifices described throughout Genesis, when the blood of a sacrifice must have been shed, but the blood is not specifically mentioned in association with those sacrifices. God seems to wait for the Passover sacrifice to introduce the immense importance of the blood which He required.
The apostle Peter particularly emphasises the need for the sacrifice and shedding of the precious blood of Christ as the fulfillment of the Passover lamb at Calvary: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” 1Pet.1.18,19. In Exodus chapter 12, God was satisfied when He saw the blood of the Passover sacrifice. Likewise, at Calvary God was eternally satisfied when He saw “the precious blood of Christ”. This is God’s unique appreciation of the blood of His own dear Son, and believers in the Lord Jesus know that Christ’s precious blood is the only ground for their redemption and forgiveness.
On the night of the Passover in Exodus chapter 12, the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt, and delivered from their bondage under Pharaoh. The power to deliver the Israelites was based upon the blood of the Passover lamb, and the might of the Egyptian army could not prevent their exodus. We have been delivered from this world, and the evil one, by our Saviour’s sacrifice: “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” Gal.1.4. God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” Col.1.13, and the redemption price paid was Christ’s precious blood.
Believers in the Lord Jesus will always remember the immeasurable magnitude of suffering for sin associated with Christ’s sacrifice, when “the LORD … laid on Him the iniquity of us all” Isa.53.6, and “Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” Isa.53.10. The Passover lamb had to experience the fire: “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof” Ex.12.9. On the cross, our Saviour experienced the fire of God’s righteous wrath on account of sin; there was no quenching of that fire, and no mitigation of that suffering for sin. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us” 2Cor.5.21; “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” Rom.8.32. At Golgotha, the Saviour Himself refused to drink the vinegar mingled with gall, so that nothing would detract from the necessary reality of those sin-atoning sufferings; “Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger. From above hath He sent fire into My bones” Lam.1.12,13.
There at Golgotha, as the Bearer of sin, He was the Passover Lamb that was “roast with fire”. But again we can appreciate the sufficiency of the Passover Lamb at Calvary; the fire of God’s wrath did not consume the sacrifice, but He consumed the fire. He was the One Who could knowingly cry “It is finished” Jn.19.30, knowing that the fire was consumed, knowing He had fully answered the throne of God for man’s sin. At Golgotha, there were no ashes of a consumed sacrifice; having suffered for sins, He willingly went into death.
A seemingly small detail is given in Ex.12.46 concerning the sacrifice of the Passover lamb: “neither shall ye break a bone thereof”. This was wonderfully fulfilled at the crucifixion of the Saviour, and it tells us of the preserved dignity of Christ as the Passover Lamb. John chapter 19 narrates how the soldiers broke the legs of the two malefactors, but when they saw that the Lord Jesus was dead already, they brake not His legs, and “these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, ‘A bone of Him shall not be broken’” Jn.19.36. Ps.34.15-20 gives further explanation: “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous … The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth … Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken”. On the crosses on either side of the Lord Jesus was the broken body of an unrighteous malefactor; but on the centre cross was the unbroken, preserved, and dignified body of Jesus Christ, the righteous One. God ensured that the Lord’s body was preserved in this way; a wonderful testimony to the righteous character of the One Who fulfilled the Passover sacrifice.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Walter Gustafson, USA
The word “godliness” is not found in Paul’s epistles, except his ‘pastoral epistles’ (1 and 2Timothy and Titus). Of the fifteen times the word (Greek eusebeia) is found in the New Testament ten are in the ‘pastorals’, four are in 2Peter and one is in Acts 3.12, where Peter addresses the crowd of people, “Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness [‘godliness’ R.V.] we had made this man to walk?”
The word is especially characteristic of 1Timothy, where it occurs eight times. Additionally, it is in 1Tim.5.4, in the verb form: “let them learn first to shew piety [or ‘godliness’] at home”.
We should all be clear in our minds as to what godliness is. The late William Rodgers, of Omagh, Northern Ireland, has an excellent note: “So far as the English word is concerned, there can be little difficulty, (for ‘-ly’ as a suffix usually signifies ‘like’) and just as ‘manly’ means ‘man-like’ and ‘womanly’ means ‘woman-like’, so ‘godly’ means ‘God-like’. A final ‘-ness’ turns any of these into a noun of quality, giving us ‘manliness’, ‘womanliness’ and ‘godliness’. Godliness is therefore likeness to God, a standard that is surely high enough for any of us.”1
1 Rodgers, W. “Notes on the Pastoral Epistles”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
But William Rodgers2 and Jim Allen3 both tell us that the Greek word goes much further than the English word. It signifies giving to God His proper place in our hearts, minds and actions and rendering to Him the reverence that is due to Him. This always leads to character formed and conduct manifested that is pleasing to Him. It is really the New Testament equivalent of “the fear of the LORD” so often used in the Old Testament. We can say that the fear of the Lord is like a young man who loves his father and greatly respects him, so that he will only want to do what pleases him.
- 2 Ibid.
- 3 Allen, J. “What the Bible Teaches: 1Timothy”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
There are at least seven Psalms having one or more verses that should encourage each one of us to fear the Lord: “Oh how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee” Ps.31.19; “I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts” Ps.119.63. The Psalmist was very particular about his companions. So should we be too. When we fear the Lord, we are suitable companions for others who fear the Lord, as in Mal.3.16: “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.” “He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him” Ps.145.19; “The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him; in those that hope in His mercy” Ps.147.11.
Every child of God who fears the Lord has a twofold blessing in Ps.25.12,14. This is illustrated in Abraham, who was on friendly terms with God, as seen, for example, in Gen.17.18. He was truly “the Friend of God” Jms.2.23, but he was never called “the Friend of God” in Genesis. One thousand years later good King Jehoshaphat, in praying to God, referred to Abraham as “Thy friend” in 2Chr.20.7. About two hundred years later God Himself referred to Abraham as “My friend” Isa.41.8.
There is a double blessing for all who fear the Lord in Ps.34.7,9 and a triple blessing in Ps.103.11,13,17. These verses from seven Psalms should encourage each of us to fear the Lord, which is equivalent to godliness.
W.E. Gladstone was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for several terms, between 1868 and 1894. He is the one who wrote a book whose title referred to the Word of God as “The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture”. On his last visit to Oxford he was referring to all the improvements for the British people. He was so optimistic that it led to a challenge. One student asked, “Are we to understand that you have no misgivings for the future?” He answered slowly, “Yes, there is one thing that frightens me; the fear of the Lord seems to be disappearing from the minds of men”.
There is far less of the fear of God now than when I went to school. There is a verse that is repeated in almost identical words in three successive books of the Bible, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” Job 28.28; Ps.111.10; and Prov.9.10. There has been a ‘knowledge explosion’ in our schools, but judged by these three verses our public school system has deteriorated.
The fear of the Lord helps godliness. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” Prov.8.13; “By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil” Prov.16.6; “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” 2Cor.7.1. The fear of the Lord can regulate our thinking to please God.
To be continued (D.V.)
Good Tidings from Heaven
20/20 Vision in 2020
In mid-2019, an eye-catching advert appeared: “Get 20/20 vision before 2020”. It was from a company offering eye surgery, encouraging readers to have the operation before the end of 2019, so that by the beginning of the year 2020 they would have ‘normal vision’. It is now too late to have it before 2020, but doubtless the same business, and others, will continue to offer it in this New Year.
In John chapter 9 we read about a man who received a transformation in eyesight far greater than that offered by any surgical procedure: instantaneously he went from being totally blind, to seeing clearly. This miraculous change took place because the Lord Jesus Christ had pity on him and healed him.
This tremendous event is a “sign” of what Christ can do for us. The blind man was in physical darkness, where he had been all his life, and, until he met the Lord, he was destined to remain there. His physical darkness pictures our spiritual darkness: the darkness of sin, ignorance, and Satan’s dominion. That is where everyone is, from birth, and no-one can free himself from it, but is destined to go to Hell, and be in “the blackness of darkness for ever” Jude v.13. However, God desires to “deliver us from the power of darkness” Colossians 1.13, and so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, Who said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness” John 12.46.
In our story, the Lord Jesus made clay, put it on the man’s eyes, and then told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, which he did, and he was able to see, John 9.6,7. The Lord did the work, but to benefit from it the blind man had the responsibility to obey His command. It is so as far as salvation is concerned: Christ did all the work that was necessary, when He died for us at the cross, but if you are to be saved from your sins, you must obey the call of the gospel, by repenting and putting your trust in Him to save you. The Lord Jesus told Paul to preach the gospel message to people, “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me” Acts 26.18. Have you put your faith in Him, and received forgiveness of sins?
While the receiving of sight was a great blessing for that man, he received an even greater blessing that same day: he came to know that Jesus is the Son of God, believed in Him, and received salvation. In this New Year, this is the greatest blessing you could receive. Unlike physical eye surgery, it is free, there is no waiting list, there is no possibility of failure, and its benefits last eternally. Accept it today, and you can sing, in the words of John Newton:
- Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
- That saved a wretch like me!
- I once was lost, but now am found;
- Was blind, but now I see.
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” Heb.2.9;
“But to which of the angels said He at any time, ‘Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool’?” Heb.1.13
Robert Cleaver Chapman wrote, “Christ twice passed the angels by. He sank far below them in His humiliation; He rose far above them in His exaltation.” The first time He passed them, He went lower than anyone ever has, or ever could, to “bear our sins in His own body on the tree” 1Pet.2.24; the second time He passed them, He went higher than anyone ever has, or ever could, and is “set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” Heb.8.1.
- Sweet was the love that caused Thee, Lord, to pass the angels by,
- To bear Jehovah’s wrath for me, and on that cross to die.
- But Thou hast conquered death and hell; the victory is won;
- And Thou art seated, glorified, upon the Father’s throne.
A Proverb to Ponder
- “Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.” Proverbs 15.16
- Many think that “great treasure” is the key to happiness. It is not; indeed, it can cause much “trouble”. Those who “have the fear of the LORD” possess true wealth, even if they have “little” materially. If only we grasped this, we would be saved from pursuing material gain, at the expense of the spiritual well-being of ourselves and others. It is still true that “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will [‘desire to’ R.V.] be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” 1Tim.6.6-10.
“Say unto wisdom, ‘Thou art my sister;’ and call understanding thy kinswoman” Proverbs 7.4
- In this chapter, the “son” v.1, will be warned of the danger of an immoral relationship with a woman, vv.5-27. Before this, he is told that protection from this liaison is found in a totally different close relationship: with “wisdom” and “understanding”. The personification of these two virtues as female sets them in sharp contrast to “the strange woman” v.5. Preservation from immorality still consists in having a very close bond with wisdom and understanding. In a parallel way to our relationship with our natural kinsfolk, this relationship is loving, learning, and lasting: we need a deep love for the truth of God; we learn the mind of God and how to obey His Word; and it is a relationship that is to last throughout our lives: we must never depart from wisdom and understanding.
- “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Phil.1.21
There are many who preach Christ, but not so many who live Christ. My great aim will be to live Christ.
- Robert Cleaver Chapman