July/August 2024

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee

THE LAMB IN REVELATION
by W. Banks

A DECLARATION OF THOSE THINGS
by D. Williamson

GLIMPSES OF CHRIST
by D. Strahan

STANDING WITH GOD IN THE TIME OF GREAT DEPARTURE
by G. Khoo

COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN

QUOTES

Faith – Martin Luther


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle

THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS

No.56: PSALM 33 (Part 1)

Unlike the majority of Psalms in the first Book (Psalms 1-41), this composition bears no title and shares this distinction with Psalms 1, 2 and 10. According to the Septuagint (LXX), it is a Psalm of David, but as J.M. Flanigan points out, “there is no indication in the Psalm itself as to authorship, date of composition, or the circumstances in which it was written”1. It certainly commences on the same note with which Psalm 32 concludes: “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart … Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright” 32.11; 33.1.

The Psalm commences and concludes in the same way. There are three verses, or six lines, at the beginning, vv.1-3, and this is repeated at the conclusion, vv.20-22. It commences with rejoicing, v.1, and concludes with rejoicing, v.21, reminding us that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” Prov.17.22.

The Psalm may be divided as follows: first, the call to praise, vv.1-3; second, the causes for praise, vv.4-19; third, the certainty in praise, vv.20-22.

THE CALL TO PRAISE – vv.1-3

“Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto Him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto Him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.” The Psalm commences joyfully: “rejoice … praise … sing”.

“Rejoice in the Lord” v.1

The opening four words are important. The Lord’s people are to “rejoice” in Him because He is “the Lord”! In the Old Testament, “the Lord” translates the name “Jehovah”, with all its deep significance. It combines the tenses of the verb ‘to be’ and, according to Thomas Newberry, signifies “He that always was, that always is, and that ever is to come … It is a combination in marvellous perfection of the three periods of existence in one word, the future, the present, and the past.”2 No wonder we can rejoice in Him! In the words of another Psalm, “this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death” Ps.48.14.

Paul was insistent that the believers at Philippi should follow the Psalmist’s injunction here. Having referred to his “fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life”, he exclaims: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” Phil.4.3,4.

To “rejoice in the Lord” is not dependent on current circumstances. Just listen to Habakkuk: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” Hab.3.17,18.

It is not without significance that the Psalmist calls on the “righteous” and “the upright” to “rejoice in the Lord”. There is more to righteousness and uprightness than taking ‘the moral high ground’. The “righteous” and “the upright” rejoice in the Lord because He enables them to be described in this way. Their desire and ability to live in this way is God-given. It is therefore “comely”, or ‘befitting’, for “the upright” to rejoice in the Lord Who leads them “in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” Ps.23.3. We can add that it is ‘befitting’ because it is expected of the Lord’s people.

“Praise the Lord” v.2

Whilst musical instruments had their place in Old Testament worship, as here, in the New Testament the instrument is the heart, although it is only right to say that the hearts of God’s people in the Old Testament were to be involved in their worship and praise! See, for example Ps.9.1: “I will praise Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all Thy marvellous works.” We should consider this firstly, corporately, and secondly, personally.

Corporately

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another. In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing, with grace in your hearts, unto the Lord” Col.3.16 (please note the altered punctuation, including the full stop after “another” and then beginning a new sentence). If “the word of Christ” dwells in us “richly”, then our audible praise will flow from grateful hearts. So, while the New Testament does not provide for trained singers or choir pieces, it does have something to say about singing! See also 1Cor.14.15: “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also”. While we enjoy good tunes, we must give attention to the words of our hymns and choruses. (Remember that hymn and chorus writers are not always good theologians!). We should notice that it is “spiritual songs”, not just “songs”!

Individually

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart [‘with your heart’ J.N.D.] to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Eph.5.18-20. That is, as opposed to the “song of the drunkards” Ps.69.12. While the word heautois (“yourselves”) could signify ‘one to another’, it is more often rendered “to yourselves”. As A. Leckie observes: “Personal and not public worship is the subject.”3 It is our personal devotion to the Lord, hence, “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”. It has been suggested that “psalms” express personal experience, “hymns” are an ascription of praise to God, and “spiritual songs” express spiritual truths. While the expression, “making melody” (psallo) means to sing with a stringed instrument accompaniment, here it is the heart that is the instrument!

“Sing unto Him” v.3

Notice that it is a “new song”: “Sing unto Him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.” In the words of A.F. Kirkpatrick, “Fresh mercies demand a fresh expression of gratitude.”4 Here is an appropriate little piece by W.H. Burnett (Toronto): “There are no less than nine references to a ‘new song’ in our Bible, many of them provoked by the amazing grace of God, and His wondrous salvation. Often our praises become repetitive, lacking that freshness that should characterise our worship when we stand before God. When did you last sing a ‘new song’ to the Lord? In preparation for that moment of worship when we gather together, let us compose a ‘new song’, even praises to our God” (“Choice Gleanings”, 19th May 2004).

O the new, new song! O the new, new song!
I can sing it now with the ransomed throng:
Power and dominion to Him that shall reign,
Glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain.
(Flora Lydia Best Harris)

The words “play skilfully with a loud noise” indicate enthusiasm. Isaiah chapter 12, which describes Israel’s Millennial joy, concludes with increasing enthusiasm: “And in that day shall ye say” v.4; then, “Sing unto the Lord” v.5; then, “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion” v.6.

To be continued (D.V.)

1 Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
2 Newberry, Thomas. “Newberry Reference Study Bible”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock. From the Introduction.
3 Leckie, A. “What the Bible Teaches – Ephesians”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
4 Kirkpatrick, A.F. “The Book of Psalms”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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Traits of the Tribes

by Ian McKee (N. Ireland)

Paper 44

We now come to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth and Rachel’s second son. For the final time, we introduce our study by indicating that we shall consider ‘Benjamin – the Man’; ‘Benjamin – the Tribe’; and the relevant lessons.

BENJAMIN – THE MAN

Of all the sons of Jacob, only Benjamin was born in the Promised Land. His eleven older brothers were all born when Jacob sojourned with Laban in Padan-aram, in Mesopotamia. Benjamin is also unique among his brothers in that he never experienced a mother’s love. Indeed, the circumstances of his birth were tragic.

Jacob’s return from Padan-aram commenced a closer walk with God. His nocturnal wrestling experience brought him to a dependence upon God, his name was changed to “Israel” and he received God’s blessing: “And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh” Gen.32.31.

However, he is not immune from adverse circumstances and following the cruel actions of his sons, Simeon and Levi, Genesis chapter 34, “God said unto Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother’” Gen.35.1. Then followed personal and family revival and dedication, the removal of all items linked with idolatry, and the return to Bethel, the place of initial revelation, Gen.28.12-15. Hence Jacob “built there an altar, and called the place El-Beth-el [‘the God of Beth-el’]: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother” Gen.35.7. God appeared unto Jacob again; re-emphasised his new name, “Israel”; revealed Himself as “God Almighty”; promised a mighty progeny; and renewed His promises concerning the Land, Gen.35.9-12.

Following those high experiences, Jacob sustains a crushing blow. “And they journeyed from Beth-el; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath [Bethlehem]: and Rachel travailed and she had hard labour. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, ‘Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.’ And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni [‘Son of my sorrow’]: but his father called him Benjamin [‘Son of my right hand’]. And Rachel died …” Gen.35.16-19.

One wonders if Jacob recalled Rachel’s intemperate demand in the days of her earlier barrenness: “Give me children, or else I die” Gen.30.1. Perhaps he recalled his angry response: “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” Gen.30.2. Strange that they had disagreement before any children were born to them and, again, at the birth of their second and final child. Yet when naming Joseph, Rachel could say, “God hath taken away my reproach … the Lord shall add to me another son” Gen.30.23,24. All lives contain highs and lows, hopes and disappointments, faith and failures; and the marriage of Jacob and Rachel was no different, except that their experiences have been left on the page of Scripture for our instruction!

Rachel evidently wished her name for her son, “Ben-oni”, to be a tangible commemoration of the sorrow of her early death. However, Jacob had no desire to have such a reminder, but channelled his grief into great expectations for “Benjamin”, his new-born son. His desire, evidently, was that the ‘son of my right hand’ would be a comfort and strength to him in his grief. Jacob’s affections for Benjamin deepened further following his being cruelly duped into believing that Joseph was dead, Gen.37.31-34.

In the first listing of all the sons of Jacob, Gen.35.23-26, those sons with Leah are listed first; those with Rachel second; followed by those with Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid; and finally those with Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid. The care of the motherless Benjamin, and Joseph, would most likely have been delegated to Bilhah, in which case her contribution to the development of the twelve tribes deserves greater recognition.

Benjamin’s name does not reappear in Genesis until the great famine, which features prominently in the Joseph narrative. Jacob learns “that there is corn in Egypt” Gen.42.2, and sends his ten sons to purchase supplies: “But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, ‘Lest peradventure evil befall him.’” Gen.42.4. Did Jacob harbour longstanding suspicions about the ‘death’ of Joseph? Had he witnessed similar resentment towards Benjamin as the older brothers had once shown toward Joseph? Whatever the precise reason, Jacob’s keeping Benjamin close to him was something which was later rehearsed to the unrecognised Joseph: “we be twelve brethren, sons of our father; one is not, and the youngest is this day with our father in the land of Canaan” Gen.42.32.

The second excursion to purchase grain in Egypt required the attendance of Benjamin for both success and the release of Simeon from custody. The grief of Jacob is palpable in his lament and his criticism of ten of his sons: “Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and will ye take Benjamin away: all these things are against me” Gen.42.36. Jacob withheld his permission to let Benjamin go until the possibility of the starvation of all his family required action: “‘Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: and God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother [Simeon], and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.’ And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph” Gen.43.13-15. Joseph had maintained a distance from his brothers until they brought Benjamin: “And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, ‘Bring these men home, and slay and make ready: for these men shall dine with me at noon.’” Gen.43.16.

Joseph, at the noontime meal, “lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, ‘Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me?’ And he said, ‘God be gracious unto thee, my son.’” Gen.43.29. In so saying Joseph had to excuse himself and immediately he went to his chamber and wept. Indeed, anyone with the least degree of human sensitivity reading that account must similarly be moved by it! However, the meal resumed with Benjamin seated with the others according to birth order, yet Benjamin’s serving “was five times so much as any of theirs” Gen.43.34.

Joseph’s purpose to bring his ten older brothers to self-revelation and confession continues with the next phase climaxing with the discovery of the ‘planted evidence’. The arch-deceivers were outwitted. The search “began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack” Gen.44.12. Consternation led to conviction and honest confession on the part of the brothers; and the revelation of Joseph’s identity: “‘And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you’ … And he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck” Gen.45.12,14.

Subsequently all of Joseph’s brothers left to return to Canaan to bring their father and their families back to Egypt. Not only were they given wagons and provisions but “to all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment” Gen.45.22.

Following this the entire family of Jacob relocated to Goshen in Egypt. Among them were Benjamin’s sons: Belah, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard, Gen.46.19,21. See also Ex.1.3.

Benjamin – Jacob’s Prophecy

Our consideration of Benjamin to this point has reflected upon the sad circumstances of his birth, his being motherless, later bereft of his older sibling, withheld by his father from his ten older brothers, his centrality in Joseph’s scheme to expose reality, his weeping, etc. In many respects Benjamin, boy and young man, seems to have experienced little other than tragedy and sadness.

It may therefore be with a sense of shock that we read Jacob’s deathbed prophecy concerning Benjamin as a tribe: “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil” Gen.49.27. This does not reflect Jacob’s natural affection for Benjamin, but is a prophetic statement signifying this tribe’s warlike spirit, military prowess and impulsiveness. “Ravin” means to tear in pieces, so highlighting their tendency to ferocity. Wolf-like, Benjamin will display relentless courage and tenacity, securing victories to provide sufficient benefit for self and with a surplus to share.

That said, there is a contrasting aspect. While the Messianic line is through Judah and the Davidic family, the Psalmist Asaph supplies an interesting Messianic application: “Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, upon the son of man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself” Ps.80.17.

Perhaps the sadness and potential loneliness of Benjamin’s early life meant that he developed an independent resourcefulness, which was inculcated into the very psyche of his tribe. Given the frequent mention of left-handedness in subsequent references to this tribe, could it also be that their tribal progenitor was himself left-handed?

We shall next consider the tribe of Benjamin, that of the ‘son of my right hand’.

To be continued (D.V.)

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The Lamb in Revelation

by William M. Banks (Scotland)

PAPER 14

THE WIFE OF THE LAMB – Rev.21.9-22.5 (Part 1)

INTRODUCTION

The description of “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” is essentially a description of “that great city, the holy Jerusalem” 21.9,10. The description occupying 21.9-22.5 comes immediately after a description of the eternal state in vv.1-8. There are some very marked differences between these two sections. While most agree that vv.1-8 describe the eternal state, some demur about 21.9-22.5 describing the Millennial city. However there is a large variety of differences between the two descriptions, which seems to confirm that the latter describes Millennial conditions. This is assumed in the following paper.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN 21.1-8 AND 21.9-22.5

Feature

Reference 21.1-8

Reference 21.9-22.5

Time frame

Eternal state

Millennium

Name of city

“New Jerusalem” v.2

“Holy city Jerusalem” v.10, R.V.

Divine names

“God” only – [‘Day of God’ 2Pet.3.12]

“God”, “Lamb”, “Lord” …

Presence of seas

“No more sea” v.1

Water (River and Sea) during Millennium, 22.1,2; Zech.14.8; Rev.20.13

The last enemy

“No more death” v.4

Death implied during Millennium, 22.2, cf. Isa.65.20; war at end, 20.7-9

Clocks, calendar, compass

No time frame

“Every month” 22.2

Peoples

No nations: “them” v.3

“Nations of them” 21.24

Geography

No geographic locations

E, N, S, W, 21.13

Heavenly bodies

None mentioned

“Sun”, “moon” 21.23

The description of “the holy Jerusalem” in 21.9-22.5 is given by “one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues” 21.9. It was a similar angel (the same one?) who gave John the vision of “the great whore” in 17.1-18, as indicated in 17.1. In each case the call is given: “Come hither, I will shew thee …” but the subjects and circumstances are very different!

COMPARISON OF TWO VISIONS – CHAPTERS 17 AND 21

Chapter

Scene

Subject

Character

City

Nature

Association

17

Wilderness

Woman

Whore

Babylon

Abomination

Beast

21

High mountain

Bride

Wife

Jerusalem

Holy

Lamb

THE WIFE OF THE LAMB x– 21.9,14,22,23,27; 22.1,3: pictured as a celestial city

The introduction to the vision focusses on “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” 21.9. The intimate link between a bride and a city was not unusual in the ancient Near East. It is clear that this is the city which the Bride, the Church of the present dispensation, is going to occupy during the Millennium. However there is no doubt, as we shall see, that the city has eternal characteristics and, equally, the Church will occupy it during the eternal state. The introduction of the Bride as “the Lamb’s wife” shows her honour as being associated with the Lamb but also shows the Lamb’s intimate link with the city which He is supplying for His wife. Indeed there are seven references to the Lamb, which confirm His central and regulating influence. The references are to:

His wife, 21.9: she is seen as the fruit of Calvary’s suffering. Interestingly however she is also called “the bride”. As a bride she is seen as the object of Christ’s affection and the Lamb is seen as the Beloved1. She retains her bridal features and her bridal dress one thousand years later, in 21.2!

His apostles, 21.14: they, and He, are the Foundation. They linked Israel and the Church at the commencement of the present dispensation (compare John chapters 13 to 17; Eph.2.20, etc.) and will equally be involved as foundation members in the next, again linking Israel and the Church!

His fellowship, 21.22: the Lamb is the Temple of the celestial city along with “the Lord God Almighty”. The fundamental thought is that of fellowship enjoyed as prefigured in the Tabernacle, Ex.25.8, and Solomon’s temple; see also 2Cor.6.16.

His glory, 21.23: the Lamb is the Lamp of the city and in addition “the glory of God did lighten it”. There is no need of the sun or the moon: there was light in Genesis chapter 1 before “God made two great lights” in the firmament!

His control, 21.27: the Lamb determines, as the Guard, the qualification for entrance to the city. The names of aspirants must be in the Lamb’s book of life.

His supply, 22.1: the throne of God and the Lamb is the Spring of the “river of water of life” and “the tree of life” 22.2, which evidently receives its supply from the river.

His rule, 22.3: “the throne of God and of the Lamb” with the Lamb as the King being the centre of worship.

OUTLINE OF STUDY

  • The mountain scene – 21.9,10
  • The marks of the city – 21.11-14
  • The measurements of the city – 21.15-17
  • The materials of the city – 21.18-21
  • The majesty of the city – 21.21-27
  • The ministry of the city – 22.1-5

THE MOUNTAIN SCENE – 21.9,10

The vision is preceded by an invitation: “Come hither, I will shew …” v.9a. The subject is defined as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” v.9b. John was “carried … away in the Spirit” v.10a, just as he knew the same control earlier, in 1.10; 4.2; 17.3. Each introduced a climactic event requiring spiritual discernment. Here the atmosphere experienced is “a great and high mountain” v.10b, speaking of a place of fresh air, clear vision and Divine communication (compare mountain scenes in Matthew’s Gospel). The vision John saw might have been a little surprising: not a woman but a city, “the holy city, Jerusalem” v.10c, J.N.D., R.V.! This contrasts with “the holy city, new Jerusalem” of v.2. The source of the city is defined as “out of [ek] heaven from [apo] God” v.10d.

THE MARKS OF THE CITY – 21.11-14

There are two fundamental marks associated with the city; the first is in v.11: “having the glory of God”; the second is in vv.12-14: “having a wall great and high” R.V. The light emanating from the glory of God has two features indicated: first, the value of it is emphasised in v.11a; it is “like unto a stone most precious”. The gospel we preach has the same characteristic: “the glad tidings of the glory of the Christ” 2Cor.4.4, J.N.D., and “the glorious gospel of the blessed God” 1Tim.1.11. The second feature is the clarity of it: “like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” v.11b. Again there is a challenge to the gospel preacher: a clear message is necessary, presented with energy, fully understood by the hearer but containing detailed doctrinal content of eternal value.

The protection of the holiness of God is emphasised in vv.12-14: “a wall great and high” v.12a. Security, stability and permanence are illustrated. A wall keeps in and keeps out. There is a direct link with administrative authority: the wall had “twelve gates” v.12b. The numeral twelve is linked to administration, with the “gate” being the place of administration, Gen.19.1; Ruth 4.1. Interestingly, this is the first of five twelves associated with the wall and the first of twelve twelves associated with the city, indicating the perfection of administration during the Millennial kingdom.

There is also angelic ministry associated with the city: “twelve angels” at the gates, v.12b. These angels will communicate with earth from the satellite city as prophesied by the Lord in Jn.1.51 and experienced by Jacob in Gen.28.12. The inhabitants of the city, the Church of this age, will be responsible for their activity, 1Cor.6.3. The link with Israel will not be lost: the names of the twelve tribes will also be on the gates, v.12c; compare Matt.19.28. The locations of the gates provide for the universality of the administration, seen in “east … north … south … west” v.13: no geographical location is excluded. The twelve foundations have the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb: as referred to above, they linked Israel and the Church at the beginning and will do so again.

THE MEASUREMENTS OF THE CITY – 21.15-17

It is not surprising that the implement used to measure the city is golden, in keeping with its character: it is “a golden reed” v.15. It is to be used to measure “the city, and the gates … and the wall”. Interestingly however, no measurement is given for the gates! The value of administration is not in numbers but in quality! A reed had been used earlier, to measure “the temple … the altar, and them that worship” 11.1. Thus measurement flows from worship, but the basis of assessment is now golden, in keeping with the city! Without worship there is no value in numbers. The city is measured as a perfect cube: twelve thousand by twelve thousand by twelve thousand furlongs, v.16: the heavenly “holy of holies”; its capital city! Compare the perfect cubes in the Tabernacle and Temple. The wall is measured as twelve times twelve cubits, v.17.

To be continued (D.V.)

1 Sauer, E. “The Triumph of the Crucified”. The Paternoster Press, 1964.

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“A declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us” Luke 1.1

by Dennis Williamson (N. Ireland)

Paper 10

THE LORD’S SUPPER (BREAKING OF BREAD)

The ordinance of baptism, which we have considered, and the second ordinance, the Lord’s Supper, which we are now to consider, are linked together as highlighting public testimony. This is something to be remembered. At the very centre of assembly life and witness is the remembering of the Lord and the proclamation of His death. Focus for the people of God must be upon His Person and work.

The beauty and simplicity of this collective experience have long been precious for each true child of God who has been privileged to be part of it. This is as it should be, since it is in glad obedience to His expressed will, 1Cor.11.24,25. Our occupation and attention must be with and upon the Lord Himself. We worship in faith as we gather in His presence while our hearts are lifted to God and to Christ. There is an indescribable pleasure for the saints in this experience together. The understanding that He Himself is in the midst as promised, Matt.18.20, adds greatly to that pleasure.

That said, it is also very important that we guard against two serious problems which can occur, and which Satan exploits to the detriment of the precious atmosphere of the gathering. The one is formality and the other is familiarity. Both of these dangers are seen in 1Corinthians chapter 11. Formality (in the sense that they were observing the Lord’s Supper nominally, but not in reality) is assumed in the words of v.20: “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper”, and the reason is explained. Familiarity is obviously the problem addressed in the words of v.30: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep”. It is so very grievous to witness any degree of carelessness or irreverence as we gather.

At least eight times in the passage where Paul records the receiving of revelation regarding the Supper we find the Lordship of Christ mentioned: 1Cor.11.20, 23 (twice), 26, 27 (twice), 29, 32. This should tell us of the solemn atmosphere in which we gather and also of our own responsibility while there. Meditating on this should be part of our required preparation before coming.

Just as in the institution of the Supper recorded in Matt.26.26-28, Mk.14.22-25 and Lk.22.19,20, so in the commemoration in the Book of Acts and in its revelation in 1Corinthians chapter 11, there is no ministerial hierarchy or elaborate structure given to the proceedings. Rather, the marks of Godly simplicity are everywhere evident, and this is as it should be when the Lord is in the midst: He is preeminent!

For those who have a tendency towards ‘ultra-dispensationalism’, which doctrine sets aside these ordinances for the present era, I would point out that this revelation by Paul was first given to Gentile believers in Corinth and then to “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” 1Cor.1.2. The promulgation of ‘ultra-dispensationalism’ has adversely affected many believers. If encountered, its details must be examined by the Word of God, and it will be found that they do not stand the test of Scripture.

It must be clear to those who read the records in the Gospels that this institution was something entirely new for the present age, and only for the present age. Between the first mention of its practice in the Book of Acts, Acts 2.42, and the last mention, Acts 20.5-7, we find many principles being learnt by experience by local companies of believers during this transitional period. These principles were later confirmed by apostolic doctrine in the Epistles of Paul, and especially the instruction given by revelation recorded in 1Corinthians chapter 11, although it would seem that this record reached them before the Gospel records.

To examine all these passages referred to would take us beyond the limit of this present article, so we shall confine ourselves to the revelation given in 1Cor.11.17-34. Notice how Paul divides the section. He begins with the word “Now” v.17, and in the first part, vv.17-22, speaks of his condemnation, then he introduces the word “For” in v.23 and goes on to talk about revelation, vv.23-26. This is followed by the word “Wherefore” v.27, where he urges self-examination, vv.27-34.

The first mention of the verb “to come together” is in v.17, and this verb is used a further six times in the text between this verse and the end of chapter 14. Obviously the writer means us to learn that what he is teaching relates to the gathered company of believers in assembly fellowship. And it is to the gathering of the assembly that the Lord’s Supper relates. The idea of a few believers gathering together by themselves, on holiday or at home, and calling this the Lord’s Supper is foreign to the New Testament. Indeed it may have been that all the exercises referred to in chapters 11 to 14 took place on the same day, simply because of logistical considerations in those times, while now it is more convenient to spread them over the week. One thing is clear: the Lord’s Supper was connected with the Lord’s Day, and we are expected to remember the Lord while gathered.

Sadly, it seems that, while the saints at Corinth were coming together, Paul has to say to them, “this is not to eat the Lord’s supper” v.20. They were coming together “for the worse” and “not for the better” v.17. The reasons are given: there were divisions among them; some were drunken; some were despising the church of God; the poorer among them were made to feel ashamed. I wonder how many times we have gathered and it might be said of us, “this is not to eat the Lord’s supper”? The apostle could not praise them as he would have liked. We too should be careful of elements arising which divide believers. Humility, happiness and holiness should mark us as we gather.

DIRECT REVELATION

Paul speaks in v.23 of a special revelation given him by the Lord. It was not that he conceived it, but he received it. Having been given it in this way made him responsible to pass it on to others as a good steward. This is just what he is doing in this passage. It is good to be able to cite the authority of Scripture for what we practise. Many have added to what is here given, but the clarity and the simplicity of the instruction are evident. No amount of ritual or ceremony brings us near to God; we are accepted in the Beloved and can lift our hearts to Him in worship. Mere formality does not please God, but obedience to His revealed will does. No amount of technical adjustment or musical refinement can enhance true worship. It must be in spirit and in truth, Jn.4.23,24, for it to be acceptable.

DELIVERED PATTERN

It was on the night in which the Lord ‘was being betrayed’ that the Supper was instituted. Judas Iscariot had already removed himself from the little company in that upper room. In his heart was betrayal. During this process, those left were treated to something new by the Lord Himself. It was something related to those who were His own. The pattern of all future compliance is given in stark simplicity and yet holy dignity. Of course the treachery in the background was fully known to the Lord. Nevertheless, He took bread, gave thanks, “brake it, and said, ‘Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken [better ‘given’] for you: this do in remembrance of Me.’ After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come” 1Cor.11.24-26. There are slight differences in the Gospel records according to the context of each, but the pattern is clear. The instruction “This do” given by the Lord is fulfilled in references to ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’, repeated six times in the chapter before us, vv.22, 26, 27, 28, 29 (twice). Some have added their own actions to this as though these were part of the pattern, for example, moving toward the table in the midst, lifting and breaking the loaf, pouring out the cup; but these actions are not part of the remembrance. There is no place in the pattern for ‘dispensing the elements’ or ‘administering the sacrament’ as some teach and practise. The brother who for convenience distributes the symbols does not represent the Lord in so doing, nor has he himself any status above any other brother in the company. A distinction between ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’ in this area is just as unscriptural as in any other area.

DIVINE PERSON

These symbols (bread and wine) direct us to a glorious Person. “My body … My blood … remembrance of Me”. The symbols do not change in substance, before partaking, during partaking or after partaking. The doctrines of con-substantiation and trans-substantiation are not supported by any Scripture, and are therefore erroneous. Such theories have led to the blasphemous doctrine of the mass, and should be repudiated. The bread represents His body, and the cup represents His blood. The Lord stood before the disciples in His body and His blood. They could see Him and touch Him in their midst. ‘But what about the bread and wine?’ you ask. ‘Must it be a special sort of bread, and a specific wine?’ A consideration of worldwide conditions and culture will reveal at once the irrelevance of the question, and why the passages of Scripture do not insist upon these rules. The simplicity of the Lord’s Supper is everywhere apparent, and additions of any kind only lead to complexity and confusion.

DEFINITE PROCLAMATION

“Ye do shew [‘proclaim’] the Lord’s death” v.26. There is a sense in which at the Supper there is a silent proclamation seen already in the fact that the emblems are sitting separately on the table (body separated from blood means death). However, in the very act of obedience enjoined upon the saints at the gathering to remember Him, we proclaim (witness to) His death. This witness is to those gathered, more especially to those occupying the place of the unlearned or unbeliever. There is no suggestion that the witness is to spiritual intelligences or angels, but to those who might confess “that God is in you of a truth” 1Cor.14.25. What possibilities present themselves as we gather!

DELIGHTFUL PROSPECT

“Until He come” v.26. The collective remembrance of the Lord and the showing forth of His death is to continue until the end of this age, when the Lord returns to the air for His own. Every believer will then enjoy, without limitation, His immediate presence. “So shall we ever be with the Lord” 1Thess.4.17. All hindrances to gatherings will have gone, and not one will be absent, when we ‘all gather home in the morning’. No doubt, the Lord intended that as we remember Him we should also anticipate that blessed meeting in the air.

DANGEROUS POSSIBILITY

“Wherefore, whosoever [there is no partiality with God, for He is no respecter of persons] shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” v.27. The writer is not talking of a person being unworthy, but rather of the practice of acting in an unworthy manner (unworthily). It is to be noted that the apostle is referring to those who are already in fellowship. He wants self-examination before partaking. In other words, should any believer not be in the right spiritual condition after self-examination this needs to be corrected before eating, lest unjudged sin bring judgment. Notice, this is not an excuse for staying away; no, it says, “so let him eat” v.28. For the sake of clarity it might be said that the Scripture does not speak of ‘reception to the table’ as some speak. Reception is to the assembly; the Supper is just one of the privileges of the gatherings of the assembly.

DISTINCT PRESERVATION

God wants to preserve His people from the need of chastisement. This happened at Corinth: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” vv.30,31. One reason for this judgment is that the distinction between the people of God and the world may be maintained, v.32. The Lord Jesus when speaking to His Father about His own could say, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” Jn.17.16.

Meantime, when we gather we are to “tarry one for another” v.33, so that no place might be given to the flesh, as this would result in condemnation.

To be continued (D.V.)

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GLIMPSES OF CHRIST

by David Strahan (N. Ireland)

Paper 3

The Hind of the Dawn

Psalm 22 has the first place in a trilogy of Psalms that all speak of Christ. These Psalms point us to the:

Past: Psalm 22 describes the suffering of the cross. The commencement of the Psalm brings us right to the heart of Calvary and that central cry of the Saviour from the tree: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” v.1.

Present: in Psalm 23 David is delighting in One Who is his shepherd, who cares, leads and provides for his every need.

Future: Psalm 24 is a Psalm of majestic triumph that builds to a crescendo: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah” vv.9,10. This is not the Lord’s entrance into heaven but relates to the second coming, in mighty victory and glory, of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Of Psalm 22 C.H. Spurgeon once said, “We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this Psalm.” So then, with unshod feet and bowed hearts, let us consider the title of the Psalm.

“To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.” The two Hebrew words Aijeleth Shahar are found nowhere else in the Scriptures. The margin of the Newberry Bible indicates that these words mean ‘the hind of the dawn’.

The hind is the female deer, a picture of elegance and gracefulness as it moves across the expansive plains. The hind can be seen grazing on the dew-laden grasslands in the early morning. Drawing upon personal experience on a tour in the African bush early one morning, the guide said, “There is something that makes the deer unique among all the animals of the African savanna. When it is being hunted it never turns. For most other animals there comes a point in the chase, the hunt, when they will turn to face their pursuers and fight for their lives. But”, said he, “the deer never turns to attack.”

So then, the deer, or “the hind of the dawn” is a beautiful picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” 1Pet.2.23. Though surrounded and pursued by many enemies, all united against Him, He never turned. There was the occasion at Nazareth when His enemies led Him to the brow of the hill and sought to cast Him down headlong, “but He passing through the midst of them went His way” Lk.4.30. In the Temple when they took up stones to cast at Him “Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” Jn.8.59. Like the hind in its dignity and elegance He never turned to confront or attack those who pursued Him.

The imagery of the “hind of the dawn” is all the more striking when we consider the other animals in the Psalm. These hold the key to unlocking the understanding of the Psalm and our appreciation of the patient Sufferer of Golgotha.

BULLS

“Many bulls have compassed Me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round” Ps.22.12. The bulls of Bashan were remarkable for their size, strength and fierceness, owing to the rich pasturelands on which they fed. The bull is the symbol of brute strength that tramples all that is before it. The imagery is introduced here to represent men who behaved with brutality and violence.

But who are these men? In Deuteronomy chapter 14 we are given the list of clean animals. The beast that “parteth the hoof” and “cheweth the cud” was designated as clean. So the bull of Bashan is a clean animal. In “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy” Amos 4.1, the reference to the kine, or cattle, of Bashan is a denunciation of Israel’s leaders for their oppression of the poor and needy. Amos is speaking about the proud, arrogant, religious leaders of his day.

C.H. Spurgeon wrote: “The priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, rulers, and captains bellowed round the cross like wild cattle, fed in the fat and solitary pastures of Bashan, full of strength and fury; they stamped and foamed around the innocent One, and longed to gore Him to death with their cruelties.” The bulls of Bashan speak of the Jewish religious leaders. They are the ones who plotted the death of the Lord Jesus and who are charged with His death: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree” Acts 5.30.

DOGS

“For dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet” Ps.22.16.

If the bulls speak of the Jews, the dogs speak of the Gentiles. The Syrophenician woman in Mark chapter 7 referred to the dogs: “And she answered and said unto Him, ‘Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs’” Mk.7.28. She was taking her place just as a Gentile dog.

Notice the accuracy of this Psalm in relation to what these different groups did to Him:

Bulls compassed Him: “Many bulls have compassed Me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round” Ps.22.12.

Dogs crucified Him: “they pierced My hands and My feet” Ps.22.16.

While the Lord’s burial was after the manner of the Jews, His death was not after the manner of the Jews. It was not the bulls that pierced His hands and His feet: it was the Gentile dogs. The Romans crucified Him.  “Dogs” here is in the plural.

DOG

Then there is “the dog” (singular): “Deliver My soul from the sword; My darling from the power of the dog” Ps.22.20. There is a distinction between the “dogs” (plural) and the “dog” (singular).

In the dog there is a pointer to Pilate. Pilate was the official representative of the power and authority of Rome in Jerusalem. Remember that when speaking to the Lord Jesus Pilate said, “Speakest Thou not unto me? knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?” Jn.19.10. Imagine a man standing in the presence of the omnipotent Christ and saying, “I have power”!

The word in Ps.22.20 that is translated in our Authorised Version as “power” is translated over 1,350 times in the Old Testament as “hand”. What is really being said is ‘Deliver My soul from the sword; My darling from the hand of the dog.’ In Jn.19.10 the word translated “power” is the authority or the right or the power of rule/government. So Pilate is saying that he has the authority conveyed to him from Rome to either release or condemn the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus reminds him that were that power not given to him from above he could have no power over Him at all.

Therefore the ‘hand of the dog’ is the hand of Pilate who, despite finding no fault in Christ, condemned Him to death.

LION

“Save Me from the lion’s mouth” Ps.22.21. It is relatively easy to note from elsewhere in the Bible who the lion is: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” 1Pet.5.8. The roaring of the lion is also mentioned in Psalm 22: “They gaped upon Me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion” v.13.

The devil thought he had defeated the Lord Jesus, but, rather than the devil defeating the Lord Jesus, the Lord destroyed the devil: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” Heb.2.14. “And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” Col.2.15. The Saviour triumphed over all the forces of hell and Satan.

UNICORNS

“Save Me from the lion’s mouth: for Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns” Ps.22.21. The unicorns in this passage are not our common understanding of a unicorn. It is the wild ox, which has great branching horns, or the wild buffalo.

African guides are not afraid to take visitors close to elephants, giraffes and other wild creatures but they keep a very respectful distance from the wild buffalos. They have to be observed from a distance. They never roam alone, preferring to graze and roam in packs. They are very powerful beasts, able to pound their victims with their heads. They could be compared to the howling mob outside Pilate’s courtroom, of whom we read, “But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him’” Jn.19.15.

“And they cried out all at once, saying, ‘Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas’” Lk.23.18. They cried out all at once. Here was a mob working together with unity of purpose, opposed to Christ. The word “cry” in Lk.23.18 means ‘to raise a cry from the depth of the throat’, from which we get our English word ‘scream’. It shows the world united against Christ: vociferous with hatred.

All these were arrayed against Christ, “the Hind of the dawn”: the bulls, dogs, the dog, the lion and unicorns. He is the One Who never turned to attack them. Submissively He went to the cross and suffered with holy dignity. No action of His was ever unseemly, even in the face of such fierce foes and unified opposition. The hind has no horns for the battle or with which to defend itself. The Lord, on the other hand, was the One Who “could have called ten thousand angels, to destroy the world and set Him free … but He died alone for you and me” (words by Ray Overholt). As they nailed Him to the cross He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” Lk.23.34. What mercy and love was shown to those who persecuted Him!

It is striking to consider that when the Lord was with the wild beasts for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness they left no mark upon Him but the wild beasts of Psalm 22 left marks that He will wear eternally, for He said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing” Jn.20.27.

How didst Thou humble Thyself to be taken,
Led by Thy creatures, and nailed to the cross?
Hated of men, and of God, too, forsaken,
Shunning not darkness, the curse and the loss.
 
How hast Thou triumphed, and triumphed with glory,
Battled death’s forces, rolled back every wave!
Can we refrain, then, from telling the story,
How Thou art victor o’er death and the grave?
                                           (H. d’A. Champney)

To be continued (D.V.)

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Standing with God in the Time of Great Departure

(1Kings chapter 18)

by Gideon Khoo (Malaysia)

Paper 3

We have been considering this chapter in three sections:

  • Obadiah’s Victuals by the Providence of God – vv.1-16
  • Elijah’s Victory by the Power of God – vv.17-40
  • Elijah Vindicated by the Palm of God – vv.41-46

In this paper we will finish our study of the second section:

ELIJAH’S VICTORY BY THE POWER OF GOD – vv.17-40 (continued)

Verses 30-32

“And Elijah said unto all the people, ‘Come near unto me.’ And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, ‘Israel shall be thy name:’ and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.”

In v.21 we read that Elijah came near to the people; here he made the request for the people to do the same: to draw near to him. They all responded and drew nigh. If we take a prophetic view of this chapter, which we did briefly in vv.1,2, we might see Elijah here as a type of Christ. Just as Joseph said to his brethren, “Come near to me” Gen.45.4, the day will come when the heavenly Joseph will say the same to His people. Joseph drew near to his brethren despite their past cruelty towards him; Christ, typified by Elijah here, will also draw near to His people despite their idolatrous history. 

Elijah repaired the altar that was broken down by taking twelve stones which represented the twelve sons of Jacob. Here we are reminded of the incident where the Lord said to Jacob, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel” Gen.32.28. The covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob cannot be broken and nullified. Despite Israel’s waywardness, and the seriousness of their sin in following after Baal, they were still God’s people.

“Israel” means ‘prince of God’. But alas, the princely character of the sons of Israel is starkly missing here, and Ahab is nothing near to being a prince for God. Elijah is now reminding them of who they really are when he rebuilds the altar: they are the prince of God and should never have bowed to the beggarly elements of Baal worship. Israel was God’s covenantal people and should have separated themselves from any association with Baal. The Bible tells us that we are “kings and priests unto God” Rev.1.6, and therefore the lives that we live should reflect royal and priestly characters. How solemn when Paul had to remind the Corinthians: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” 2Cor.6.14,15. We might not think that we have any association with idolatry in our lives, but any element of this world that causes us to compromise our faithfulness to the Lord and dilute our spiritual conviction, is idolatry. To apply 2Cor.6.14 to every kind of association with unbelievers is over-generalisation, but to fail to notice that the crux of the passage is about how near idolatry can be to us, is to miss the warning Paul intends for his readers. We might be critical of the Israelites in their association with Baal, but we have to solemnly challenge ourselves: am I truly living up to the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I truly free of idolatry?

The altar here must have been an old altar, already set aside for a while, possibly because of Baal worship. It is possible that Mount Carmel was a key worship place for the Baal religion, and for Elijah to choose this place for the battle was to hit hard at the core of this false religion. Now he repairs the old altar. The literal translation is really ‘he healed the altar’. One of the greatest dangers in our Christian profession is to let our ‘altar’ crumble, whether it be worship or prayer. When that happens, we end up with ‘replacement altars’, compromised convictions, and the breaking down of the walls of separation. We become at risk of the infiltration of all kinds of idolatries in life. Is our ‘altar’ of prayer still functional? If not, it is time to ‘heal the altar’! The Lord Jesus said, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” Mk.14.38.

How would Elijah ‘heal’ the altar? He must have repaired it, but more importantly, he restored the altar to a form that was in accordance with the Word of God: “he built an altar in the name of the Lord”. This could also mean that his building activity was accompanied by prayer. Then he built a trench surrounding all four sides of the altar.

Verses 33-35

“And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, ‘Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.’ And he said, ‘Do it the second time.’ And they did it the second time. And he said, ‘Do it the third time.’ And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.”

We do not read of the prophets of Baal cutting the bullock into pieces or arranging the wood. But according to the instructions of Leviticus chapter 1, Elijah laid the wood in order upon the altar, cut the bullock into pieces and put the pieces upon the wood. For the prophets of Baal, it was only an attempt to show that they could call fire from heaven, though they failed. But for Elijah, and for God, the significance was more than just the show of miraculous power. In the mind of God, the bullock on the altar typified the death of Christ. Therefore, everything had to be done carefully and in accordance with the Word of God; the details mattered. When it comes to our understanding and appreciation of Christ, we must take a careful and detailed approach to our studies, so that we ‘lay the wood in order, and cut the pieces’. The prophets of Baal saw no need of such a preparation because the animal was nothing to them. But Calvary must always be examined with careful eyes, a sanctified curiosity, and an appetite for details.

Commentators have often wondered where all the water came from during a sore famine like that. In the place in Israel identified today as Mount Carmel, archeologists have discovered a water well. Wherever the water came from, we are told that Elijah instructed them to pour four barrels of water each time upon the burnt offering, for a total of three times. There were altogether twelve barrels of water poured upon the sacrifice, and the water flowed down and filled the trench. The number twelve marked the entire preparation: twelve stones for the altar, and twelve barrels of water poured on the sacrifice. It was stated in our commentary on 1Kgs.17.12,14  that the word “barrel” used for storing the meal would make an appearance again, here. The barrels here were definitely not from the widow’s house, but the repetition of this rare word reminds us of important spiritual truths that we have already gleaned from 1Kings chapter 17.

Verses 36,37

“And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, ‘Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.’”

We read again that Elijah the prophet “came near”. He drew near to the people in v.21, and the people drew near to him in v.30, but now he draws near to the Lord on behalf of the people: he brings the people near to the Lord. What a beautiful picture of Christ as the Intercessor! Three times in the Old Testament Elijah is called “Elijah the prophet” 1Kgs.18.36; 2Chr.21.12; Mal.4.5. Here, amongst all the false prophets, he is the prophet of God.

Elijah now prays. His private prayer life has begun much earlier, for James tells us “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months” Jms.5.17. We see him praying for the life of the widow’s son in 1Kings chapter 17, in an enclosed chamber. Now, as much as ever, he recognises the importance of prayer, and will soon experience the great power of prayer in this public setting. He knows that the Lord will not disappoint him, but it is important for him to cast himself upon God at this crucial time. His public and verbal prayer is also for the ears of the people, so that they might know the heart of God. Our public prayer in the presence of our brethren not only carries them to the throne of grace, but also brings the heart of God to their minds.

This whole arrangement of summoning the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel was not Elijah’s own initiative, but he did “all these things at [God’s] word”. God was going to manifest His glory before the eyes of the Israelites so that they might know that He was the God of Israel, and Elijah was His servant. The covenantal formula of God’s title as “the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel” is stated, to call on God’s mercy to be upon His people and to call on Him to remember the promises He had made to the patriarchs. But Elijah’s mention of the covenantal God was also to remind the Israelites that they were a special people.

Now Elijah’s request to God was this: “Answer me, O Lord, answer me!” (“Hear me, O Lord, hear me” A.V.). The prophets of Baal cried: “O Baal, hear [‘answer’] us” v.26, and there was no answer from Baal. But Elijah’s plea will be answered by God with fire. Why did God produce such a grand display of fire? Because the Lord wanted to restore His people, and to “turn their heart back again”. Countless times in the history of Israel, He has sent prophets and done the miraculous, all with the purpose of restoring Israel to Himself.

Verses 38-40

“Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, ‘The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God.’ And Elijah said unto them, ‘Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”

What happened next could never be reproduced or imitated, for it was fire directly from heaven, and the fierceness of the conflagration was such that nothing in its way was spared. Even the stones that made the altar were burnt up together with the sacrifice, and the water was licked up by the fire. It might be said that if it was not for the burnt offering the fire would have consumed the people.

When the fire of the Lord fell upon the burnt offering, the people fell on their faces. That was the expected reaction of the people. Only the prophets of Baal did not fall in worship, but they would soon fall in a different way. Prior to this, we read of another three occasions where the fire of the Lord consumed the sacrifice upon the altar. When Moses and Aaron came out from the Tabernacle to bless the people, fire came out from before the Lord to consume the sacrifice on the altar in Lev.9.24. The fire of the Lord consumed the sacrifice offered by David in 1Chr.21.26; and the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the sacrifice offered by Solomon at the dedication of the Temple in 2Chr.7.1. These events were all linked with great names of the past: Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, and now Elijah joins the ranks. From the days of the priests, to the days of the kings, and now the prophets, each of these offices bore testimony to the truth of Calvary and the necessity of the fierce fire of Jehovah upon the Sacrifice.

Upon seeing the fire of the Lord, the people cried, “The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God.” Hearing their cry in Hebrew will yield some rather interesting play on words: “Yahweh Hu ha-Elohim, Yahweh Hu ha-Elohim.” The people cried this again and again (even though in the text it is only quoted twice). Elijah’s name in Hebrew is Eli-ya-hu, meaning, ‘My God, He is Yahweh’. If you verbalise what the people were crying in Hebrew repetitively, and pay attention to those letters which I have underlined, you would nearly be saying the name Eli-ya-hu. In this victorious fight against Baal, not only were the people giving praise to Jehovah God, but Elijah was nearly hearing them cry out his own name in a victory shout! God was to be praised, and Elijah was also God’s victorious servant! The prophet would have been riding high emotionally and spiritually, and we would have thought this would last for the rest of his prophetic life, but we soon realise, when we read 1Kings chapter 19, that it was not the case. How solemn to learn, that climactic victories for a moment do not define lifetime faithfulness. We have always been taught that it is how we finish at the end that matters.

The prophets of Baal fall, and the brook Kishon becomes their grave. The judgment is decisive and total, for not one escapes. In chapter 17, we saw a few ‘theres’ that defined the milestones of Elijah’s life: the “there” of brook Cherith, 17.4; the “there” at the widow’s house, 17.9; and the “there” in the prophet’s upper loft, 17.19. You could not imagine that a scene of this magnitude in chapter 18 would pass by without a deserving “there”. So here we are: Elijah “slew them there” v.40. The “there” of brook Kishon was the place of judgment on evil and apostasy. May we all know how to loathe evil and reject idolatry in whatever shape and form; we all need the “there” of brook Kishon in our life.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Comfort for Christians in a Changing World

by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)

“Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” Ruth 2.10

The damsel from Moab was overcome that such kindness should be shown to someone so undeserving in her opinion. It was a surprise that Boaz should even notice her as she gleaned in the field of waving grain; a stranger she was, from a distant land where idolatry was the order of the day, yet as she stood there, a sense of wonder overwhelmed her as she thought of the unmerited kindness that had been lavished on her.

No wonder that John Newton, the infamous slave trader and the writer of that justly famous hymn “Amazing Grace”, marvelled at the stupendous grace “that saved a wretch like me”.

Have we lost the sense of wonder that we have been saved eternally, freely forgiven, forever, at the incalculable cost of the sufferings and death of a Father’s only Son? “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Rom.5.8. Like Mephibosheth, Ruth and countless others, we find ourselves asking, “Why, O Lord, such love to me?”

There’s the wonder of sunset at evening, the wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all! Just to think that God loves me!

 

“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea” Psalm 72.8

How blessed to know that the One Who so meekly trod these barren scenes, enduring so willingly and passively the cruel animosity of men, will reign eternally. The wreaths of empire will adorn the head once bound with cruel thorns that were intended to injure and insult the only perfect Person Who ever lived in this world. The Kingship so unanimously denied Him by unbelieving men, will be on display forever and will be seen and acknowledged by all, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil.2.10,11.

The Creator Who became the Child of Bethlehem and the Carpenter of Nazareth, was crucified ignominiously at Calvary but He will be the mighty Conqueror Whose final victory from which no enemy will recover, is assured, “and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” Lk.1.33.

The One Who caused Pilate to marvel by His silence before His accusers will reign without rivals and “the kings shall shut their mouths at Him” Isa.52.15.

Oh, the crowning day is coming! Is coming by and by!
When our Lord shall come in power and glory from on high!
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Good Tidings from Heaven

“All the Days of my Life”

The title of this article is a phrase which is found twice in the Holy Bible, in Psalm 23.6 and Psalm 27.4. It is amazing that when we are looking forward we think of years, for example Luke 12.19: “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry’”, but when we are looking back over the landscape of life we think of days that stand out in our memories. When the Pharaoh of Egypt asked the aged Jacob, “How old art thou?” his response was, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” Genesis 47.8,9.

Perhaps now you are recalling some of the days of your life: the day you started school, the day you left school, the day you were married, the day you graduated from university; of course none of us remembers the first day of our life and eventually the last day will arrive for “life at best is very brief”. There have been happy days, of laughter, and sad days, of crying. There are days we recall with great joy and others are painful as we remember the passing of loved ones which left an aching void in our lives. What a variety of days we experience in a lifetime: days of success and applause, and days of failure and embarrassment. Life is the aggregate of all these days and God has numbered our days and set bounds to our fleeting lifetime. We too are advised to “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” Psalm 90.12. Let us never forget that we will not be here forever; for there is “a time to be born, and a time to die” Ecclesiastes 3.2.

There is, however, a day which is absolutely essential if ever you will be in Heaven; it is the day of your salvation. How tragic it would be if that day was missing when it comes to the end of life; to have the date of your birth recorded, and the day you died but no record of a day when you were saved by the grace of God. Salvation is not a process which requires days, weeks or months, but a conscious, definite decision to trust Christ, in moments.

In Hebrews 5.7 we read of “the days of His flesh”, reminding us of the Saviour’s peerless pilgrimage in this very world. He spent many days here so that you might be in Heaven eternally. He Himself said, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” Luke 19.10. All those days He spent here should have impressed upon all who saw and heard Him that He was unique and sinless. Only a sinless person could die for sinners; Christ alone could be our Substitute and bear the punishment we deserved. That dark day arrived for the Lord Jesus when, uplifted upon the cross of Calvary, He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” 1Peter 2.24. “Oh, day of deepest sorrow, Day of unfathomed grief” (from a hymn by J.N. Darby). Before that day ended the Lord Jesus had done all that His Father demanded and paid in full the price of our eternal salvation. God is satisfied, Christ is all you need and His work sufficient to save you from Hell and bring you to Heaven. Trust Christ this very day and it will become the happiest day of your life.

O happy day that fixed my choice on Thee my Saviour and my God,
Well may this glowing heart rejoice, and tell its raptures all abroad.
Happy day! Happy day! When Jesus washed my sins away.
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QUOTES

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone … shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works … But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” Jms. 2.17,18,20
 
We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.
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