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
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER
by I. Gibson
by W. Gustafson
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.30: Psalm 22 (Part 1)
Psalm 22 is the first of a trilogy of Psalms, and numerous titles have been given to them. For example:
Psalm 22: the Cross; Psalm 23: the Crook; Psalm 24: the Crown
Psalm 22: the Saviour; Psalm 23: the Shepherd; Psalm 24: the Sovereign
Psalm 22: the Good Shepherd; Psalm 23: the Great Shepherd; Psalm 24: the Chief Shepherd
Psalm 22 is obviously Messianic: its reference to the Lord Jesus is clear and unquestionable, and we shall notice the numerous occasions on which it is cited in the Gospel records of the crucifixion, and elsewhere in the New Testament. Its title, particularly the words, Aijeleth Shahar, meaning ‘Hind of the Morning’ or ‘Hind of the Dawn’, points us to the Lord Jesus, Who, in all His gentleness and meekness, “was pursued by enemies from the dawning of His earthly life at Bethlehem until they slew Him at Calvary”.1
1. Flanigan, J. “What the Bible Teaches: Psalms“. John Ritchie Ltd.
Psalm 22 perfectly illustrates the fact that “holy men of God spake as they were moved [‘borne along’] by the Holy Ghost” 2Pet.1.21. In this Psalm David is describing events which were totally beyond his own experience, and he must have been among the questioners in 1Pet.1.10,11: “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when It testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow”. The prophets wanted to know to whom their prophecies referred, and when they would be fulfilled.
Psalm 22 divides into two clear sections, and words from 1Pet.5.1 could be placed over each section as follows:
“The sufferings of Christ” vv.1-21
“The glory that shall be revealed” vv.22-31
With this in mind, the two sections of the Psalm could be entitled:
Vv.1-21: “Thou hearest not [‘answerest not’ J.N.D.]” v.2
Vv.22-31: “Thou hast heard Me [‘answered Me’ J.N.D.]” v.21
THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST – vv.1-21
This section of the Psalm comprises five alternate paragraphs as follows:
Christ and God, vv.1-5
Christ and Man, vv.6-8
Christ and God, vv.9-11
Christ and Man, vv.12-18
Christ and God, vv.19-21
The three sections speaking of Christ and God are introduced by “Thou” and contain “Thou” and “Thee“. The two sections speaking of Christ and man contain the word “they“. There is one exception: central to the second passage describing the sufferings of the Lord Jesus at the hands of men lie the words “Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death” v.15. We are therefore reminded that although men were guilty of His death, He was nonetheless “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2.23.
Here are some general observations:
First, the word “far” occurs in each of the three paragraphs referring to His relationship with God: “Why art Thou so far from helping Me …?” v.1; “Be not far from Me” v.11; “But be not Thou far from Me, O LORD” v.19.
Second, the unswerving devotion of the suffering Saviour is stressed in each of the three paragraphs referring to His relationship with God: “My God, My God … O My God” vv.1,2; “Thou art My God from My mother’s belly” v.10; “O LORD: O My strength” v.19.
Third, the nearness of the persecutors is stressed in the two paragraphs referring to His relationship with men. God was “far“; men were “near“: “All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn” v.7; “Many bulls have compassed Me” v.12; “For dogs have compassed Me” v.16.
Fourth, from God, there was no help: “Why art Thou so far from helping Me” v.1; and from man, there was no help: “For there is none to help” v.11.
We must now, like Moses, with unshod feet, tread the sacred precincts of this Psalm with attention to its detail. The Gospel writers place the facts before us, and the Epistles lay before us the doctrine resting upon those facts, but Psalm 22 permits us to enter the heart and mind of Christ whilst upon the cross.
Christ and God – vv.1-5
His Cry to God in His Sufferings – vv.1,2
We should note the following:
His sufferings at the hand of God are placed first.
“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” v.1. We should now read, with hushed spirits, Matt.27.46 and Mk.15.34. The fact that His sufferings at the hand of God are placed first reminds us that while the cross displays the wickedness of the human heart, it displays the provision made to deal with human sin. God’s claims were met, at infinite cost. Isaiah chapter 53 tells us that “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth” Isa.53.7. He uttered no cry in this way when suffering at the hands of men, but now, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” While the question is answered in v.3, we must not conclude that it was asked only for technical reasons, that is, because it was predicted that He would so cry. It was a cry of deepest anguish.
His sufferings were not the result of His own sin.
The words “My God, My God” (see also vv.2,10) emphasise that the Saviour’s sufferings were not due to any moral deficiency in Him. “I have set the LORD always before Me” Ps.16.8. He never deviated in the slightest degree from the will of God.
There is a certain emphasis upon “Thou”: “why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Forsaken by man, yes, but why “Thou”? Particularly in view of the following: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” Ps.37.25; “For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not His saints” Ps.37.28; “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” Josh.1.5.
His sufferings do not imply that God did not love Him.
It is important to notice that the Lord Jesus did not say, ‘My Father, My Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ He was always – even at Calvary – in the bosom of the Father. The love and pleasure expressed at His baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration were undiminished at Calvary. “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life” Jn.10.17.
His sufferings were intense.
“Why art Thou so far from helping Me …?” or ‘far from my salvation’ J.N.D. Behind our English “helping Me” lies the Hebrew word yeshuah, meaning ‘salvation’, which is so rendered sixty-three times in the Old Testament. There was no salvation for the Saviour. The word “roaring” v.1, was also used by Job: “For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters” Job 3.24. It emphasises the intensity of the Saviour’s sufferings.
His sufferings were unabated.
His words, “O My God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent” v.2, anticipate the sufferings of the Lord Jesus on the cross during the heat of the day for three hours, and during the three hours of darkness. “And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him … And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour …” Mk.15.25,33. See Matt.27.45; Lk.23.44. It was, of course, at “the ninth hour” that “Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’” Mk.15.34.
His words, “and am not silent” v.2, are elsewhere rendered “but find no rest” R.V. margin, or “there is no rest for Me” J.N.D. There was no easing of Divine wrath. We may apply the Psalmist’s words to the Lord Jesus, “Thy wrath lieth hard upon me” Ps.88.7.
But it was not a cry of ignorance. He was the Lamb, “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world …” 1Pet.1.19,20. He entered into His sufferings intelligently.
His Clear Understanding in His Sufferings – v.3
The question asked in v.1 is answered in v.3: “But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel”. Our attention is drawn to the following:
First of all, He justifies God.
“But Thou art holy …” There is no bitterness, or criticism of God’s dealings with Him. Neither does He condemn the wicked men who nailed Him to the cross. He was suffering as the sin-bearer on account of God’s holiness. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” 1Pet.3.18.
Secondly, He states that God is worthy to be praised.
“Thou that inhabitest [‘dwellest amid’ J.N.D.] the praises of Israel.” This is an amazing statement in view of the fact that He was rejected by Israel, and it can only be explained by Divine grace.
It is worth mentioning here that our own inconveniences and difficulties, which cannot for one moment be compared with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, should never make us question either the justice or the love of God.
Israel will one day lift up its voice to God in praise for the suffering Messiah. God will then ‘inhabit the praises of Israel’ as never before.
His Comparison with Others in His Sufferings – vv.4,5
In the final two verses of the first paragraph, the Lord Jesus compares His own experience with that of the “fathers”. The connection with v.3 may well be that the praises amongst which God dwells arise from the deliverance described in these two verses.
The “fathers” were “delivered … and were not confounded”. Sinful men cried, v.5, and were delivered. The force of the comparison is brought out by the expressions “they trusted … they cried … they trusted”, with this result: “Thou didst deliver them“. But although Christ could say “My God” with complete justification, and had every moral right to be heard and delivered, He was “forsaken”. The sinless Saviour cried, v.2, but there was no salvation. Once again, we must emphasise that this was not a bitter complaint by the Lord Jesus.
In summary, vv.1,2 describe the sufferings of the Lord Jesus from which there was no salvation whereas vv.4,5 describe others in danger for whom there was salvation. The explanation lies in the central verse: v.3.
Christ and Man – vv.6-8
The Lord Jesus now speaks about His sufferings at the hands of men. The contrast between vv.4,5 and vv.6-8 is very clear indeed. “Our fathers trusted in Thee: they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them” v.4. Men said in mockery, “He trusted on the LORD that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him” v.8.
In passing, we must not overlook a further contrast. In v.3, God dwells amongst the praises of Israel. In vv.6-8, the Lord Jesus dwells amongst the taunts and derision of Israel.
As we have seen, this is the first of two passages dealing with the sufferings of the Lord Jesus at the hands of men. (The second passage is represented by vv.12-18). The verses now before us describe the verbal abuse levelled at the Lord Jesus. He “endured such contradiction [from a root meaning ‘to speak against’] of sinners against Himself” Heb.12.3. (We should note that this passage does not just say ‘contradiction of sinners against Himself’, but “such contradiction of sinners against Himself”.) The second of the two passages (vv.12-18, as noted) describes the physical violence that He suffered. The first has particular reference to the Jews; the second has particular reference to the Gentiles.
We should notice the following:
How He was Regarded
“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people” v.6. He was down-trodden: the lowest of the low, and was not even accorded the dignity of a man. He was treated as insignificant; hardly worthy of consideration, and, seemingly, utterly defenceless.
How He was Reviled
Verses 7 and 8 are cited in Matt.27.39-43, “And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads … Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders”, saying, “… He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The words, “seeing He delighted in Him” v.8, evidently refer, in view of Matt.27.43, to God’s delight in Christ, and are used sarcastically. The truth of the matter is, of course, that God did delight in Him: see Isa.42.1, “Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth …” The sarcasm levelled against the Lord Jesus is answered in the next section of the Psalm.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
We have previously considered Caleb’s spirit of faith, which sustained him during the wilderness wanderings until, as Judah’s representative, he realised his promised possession. Caleb’s faith leads us into the next phase of the history of the tribe of Judah.
JUDAH IN THE DAYS OF THE JUDGES
Joshua’s death, noted at the outset of the Book of Judges, seems to cause the children of Israel to consider their territorial shortcomings; and they seek the Lord’s guidance. “The LORD said, ‘Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand’” Judg.1.2.
Judah in response shows both leadership and an inclusive and co-operative spirit: “And Judah said unto Simeon … ‘Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot’. So Simeon went with him. And Judah went up …” Judg.1.3,4. Not to have included Simeon, whose tribal portion was within that of Judah, Josh.19.9, would have been arrogant and dismissive, features that are not conducive to effective leadership. The result of this united endeavour was that “the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand” Judg.1.4. These enemies suffered ten thousand casualties at the battle of Bezek and their leader was subsequently captured.
Another attempt is then made against Jerusalem: “Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire” Judg.1.8. We know that the citadel of Zion was not conquered until King David’s reign, 2Sam.5.7, yet this represents another step forward. “And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley” Judg.1.9.
Judah discovered that there were enemies arrayed against them on every hand, whether in pitched battles, in strongholds, in mountains, in valleys. Yet Judah led the contest against them. They were undaunted in the fight and showed courage and leadership. The death of Joshua seems to have re-energised their exercise, rather than causing them discouragement. It is an interesting feature that the tribe of Judah often manifests effective succession transfer, developing the next generation of leaders. Also the development of those leadership qualities is often within family relationships. We now witness such a transfer from Caleb to his nephew and son-in-law, Othniel.
Caleb’s victory over the three sons of Anak and the possession of Hebron, Josh.15.14, is restated, Judg.1.10, but from a tribal rather than a personal perspective. More ground has to be secured: “And from thence he [Caleb] went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjath-sepher: and Caleb said, ‘He that smitteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife’” Judg.1.11,12.
There are some important issues to consider. First, there is always more to do, more territory to conquer, more enemies to fight, more battles to win in spiritual warfare. The idea that we can achieve a summit in our experience to conclude that ‘we have made it’ is both delusional and dangerous. Conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil will not end until life here ends and we are taken home to heaven.
The second point to consider relates to the name of the city. “Debir” means ‘speaker’. The earlier name of the city was “Kirjath-sepher“, which means ‘city of books’. And another earlier name of this city, Josh.15.49, was “Kirjath-sannah“, which means ‘city of instruction’. Caleb’s challenge, in type, involves the capture of the city of instruction, which is contained in the books and which informs the speaker!
Before we look at Othniel’s endeavour and its outcome, let us make a practical digression. Spiritual progress in accordance with the mind of God cannot be achieved apart from ‘conquering the sixty-six books’, which collectively are our ‘city of instruction’. We all concur that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is 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. But do we read extensively and/or intensively with regularity in this precious volume? Or do we read sporadically, selectively and superficially? It is accepted that there “are some things hard to be understood” 2Pet.3.16, but that is no excuse for tardiness in our reading of Holy Scripture.
To ‘conquer the books’ of our inspired volume will involve hard work, diligent application, priority and time. The thoughtful consideration of the writings of spiritual men will also be beneficial. The disclaimer of so many that ‘I am not a reader’ is a threadbare excuse. Even a brief reflection will convince that we all do read a lot: of those things that interest us, or are perceived to be to our material benefit! And recordings and downloads are no substitute for personal perusal and meditation. When those who have dug into the sixty-six books, who are also gifted spritually to preach and teach, do actually speak, they should have something of value to say. It will take dogged determination of a Caleb-like character to deliver from superficial sermonising.
Othniel and Achsah
We are now introduced to a new leader and the first judge, who came from Judah. “And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it [Kirjath-sepher]: and he [Caleb] gave him Achsah his daughter to wife” Judg.1.13.
Achsah had her father’s spirit. This daughter of the tribe of Judah has aspirations as vital as were those of her father: “And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, ‘What wilt thou?’ And she said unto him, ‘Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water.’ And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs” Judg.1.14,15.
Othniel and Achsah were well matched! What Othniel took and secured by conquest, Achsah secures by request. She wanted replenishing resources for these sunlit fields to sustain in both normal conditions and in adverse. Water is often used in Scripture as a symbol of the Word of God and, also, the activity of the Holy Spirit. Have we aspirations today for the blessing of God to reach further and secure more spiritually than the generations that have preceeded us? Or are we satisfied with the status quo, or less? May we be like Othniel and Achsah. Indeed, may we be like Elisha responding to Elijah’s invitation when he said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” 2Kgs.2.9.
Further details of the conquests of the tribe of Judah are then given, plus details about relations of Moses’ father-in-law dwelling among Judah, Judg.1.16-19. Judah expanded its territory to the south, destroying Zephath; and west, to take the Philistine cities of Gaza, Askelon and Ekron. They were successful in the mountains, but restricted in the valleys because the Canaanite inhabitants had chariots of iron. And the exploits of Caleb are reiterated.
The detail of the days of the Judges is not the purpose of these considerations. However, the career of Othniel, from Judah, the first judge, is interesting, Judg.3.9-11. He is like Bezaleel in that “the Spirit of the LORD came upon him”. He not only judges, but also goes out to war: and “the LORD delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim. And the land had rest forty years.” This enemy came from the very place of idolatry from which the God of glory sovereignly called out Abraham. This king’s name is suggestive of concentrated darkness and wickedness. So we are reminded that sins and snares from the past are always to be feared and fought. But those who ‘conquer the book’ and who are refreshed by spiritual resources are best placed to defend and lead the people of God when they are assailed by the dark forces of this usurping king who has no legitimate rights in the land or over God’s people.
Other References to Judah in Judges
The turbulent times recorded in the Book of Judges also impacted on the tribe of Judah. Divine chastisement was incurred when the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord by indulging in idolatry and its associated licentiousness. “The children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah … so that Israel was sore distressed” Judg.10.9. Later “the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah” Judg.15.9. Then we have an unsavoury incident whereby three thousand men of Judah become Philistine proxies in the deliverance of Samson to his enemies, Judg.15.10-15. Although Samson prevailed, nevertheless the action of Judah, even when viewed in its best possible light, was morally ambiguous. However, we do recall that their tribal head was complicit in the selling of his brother Joseph! And such a treacherous trait is seen later at its worst in Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are detecting that Judah evidences two distinct tribal traits: leadership and treachery, yet these are not moral opposites as leadership in the wrong can similarly be devastating. The Book of Judges ends with a civil war: “And the children of Israel … asked counsel of God, and said, ‘Which of us shall go up first to battle against the children of Benjamin?’” – please note that their mind was already made up that they were going to fight! – “And the LORD said, ‘Judah shall go up first’” Judg.20.18. Leadership carries with it enormous responsibility. On this occasion Judah’s leadership led to the death of over ninety thousand men and the almost total elimination of the tribe of Benjamin. Strong leadership in the wrong context often has fatal consequences.
To be continued (D.V.)
By Alan Summers (Scotland)
Paper 14 – COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 3
In chapter 3 Paul moves away from the religious dangers of chapter 2 and looks at the moral dangers faced by the Colossians.
A HEAVENLY MIND
Paul writes of things above, 3.1,2, and contrasts them with the things that are on earth, 3.5. Although he does not identify the heavenly “things” he probably has in mind the virtues described in vv.12-17. These are the characteristics of heaven.
A HIDDEN LIFE
As in 2.12,13,20, Paul encourages the Colossians to think of themselves as identified with the Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection, 3.1,3.1 He tells them to focus on the day that they will be revealed from heaven with Him, 3.4. What does Paul mean by this? The idea seems to be that although our bodies are on earth, in every other respect we should live as if we had left the world behind and been raised with the Lord Jesus to heaven. Though our bodies are earth-bound, our hearts and spirits should be fastened to the Lord. We should think of ourselves as those who are with Him in spirit. On death our souls will join Him and in the resurrection our bodies will be raised to be where He is. At the second coming what has been hidden from the world’s view will be revealed, 3.3,4. Christ is hidden and He will be revealed. The Christian too is hidden in a different sense. Sometimes in the Bible that which is “hidden” is that which cannot be understood, Lk.9.45. We are an enigma to the world and have values and ambitions that it cannot comprehend. Our lives are “hid”.
1. The other idea is that the Christian is “as good as” raised and glorified in God’s mind and is treated as such.
A HOLY WALK
Chapter 3 is characterised by lists of vices and virtues. The first list of vices is in 3.5 and the second is in 3.8. The first list sets out things that must be put to death: “mortify” v.5, and it consists primarily of immoral deeds. The second list sets out things that must be put off like dirty clothes, 3.8, and consists of immoral words. In total there are eleven vices. The nature of the sin is clear in most cases but some require explanation:
“fornication” – sexual immorality of all sorts including adultery and pre-marital sex. In other contexts the words fornication and adultery appear together. On the reasonable assumption that the two words refer to different things, there fornication means pre-marital sex and adultery, unfaithfulness within the marriage bond
“uncleanness” – a wide term for immoral behaviour of whatever kind. Although Paul had never heard of the internet he would undoubtedly have regarded watching online pornography as “uncleanness”
“inordinate affection” – these two English words translate one Greek word which means ‘passion’. The context here indicates that Paul means sinful passion
“evil concupiscence” – this also is one word in the Greek text. It also means ‘passion’ or ‘lust’. While the word can refer to a good desire, for example Lk.22.15, “with desire I have desired to eat this passover with you”, here it means evil desire.
By contrast the heavenly virtues are listed in one large group, v.12. If evil is to be cast off like dirty clothes, virtue is to be put on like clean clothes, 3.10,12. These virtues include kindness, humility, meekness, patience, tolerance and forgiveness. He likens love to a belt that holds the other garments in place, 3.14.
A HEALED HUMANITY
Paul also says that Christians have “put off” the “old man” 3.9. This is an unusual metaphor. Had he said “mortify” that would be easier to follow since a “man” can be killed. Paul is probably using the word “put off” in a similar way to “mortify” in v.5 since “put off” can mean “to strip off violently”. It is used in 2.15 of what the Lord Jesus did when He “spoiled” principalities and powers in the sense that He stripped them of power.
Putting off the “old man” is part of a rich and varied set of descriptions in Scripture of what happens at salvation.2 The “new man” is a new status which we receive because of our new relationship with Christ, but it has a practical aspect as well since on salvation we put off the “deeds” v.9, of the old man. The “new man” is “put on” 3.10, at the same time. Paul teaches that this was a once-for-all act (compare Eph.4.22-24; Rom.6.6). The “old man” is to be distinguished from, although closely connected to, the flesh which continues to reside within Christians as a kind of legacy of the “old man”.
2. On salvation God “stripped off” the “old man” (what we were in Adam) and “put on” the “new man” (what we are in Christ). What we are by standing we should also be by state. Salvation made us “new creatures” 2Cor.5.17; Gal.6.15, and gave us new birth, Jn.3.3,7; 1Pet.1.23; 2.2.
Being made a new man brings entry into a new society where the ethnic, religious and social distinctions that divide humanity are erased, 3.11. The legacy of the first Adam is supplanted by the last Adam, 1Cor.15.45. In the beginning man had been made in God’s image, Gen.1.27, but because of the Fall that image was disfigured. The Fall also brought a knowledge of sin, Gen.3.5,22. The new man thrives through knowing Christ, 3.10. As his knowledge of God deepens so the image of God becomes clearer. The humanity that was ruined in the Fall is healed.
The new community ought to be marked by the virtues listed in v.12. They are “elect” (eklectoi), which means ‘chosen’. They are “holy”, which means ‘set apart’. Holiness is an aspect of salvation which constitutes believers “saints” or holy ones as well as a state of practical holiness. These chosen saints are “beloved” of God.
A HARMONIOUS SONG
In contrast to the war and tumult wrought by sin, believers have peace, v.15. They are also marked by song, v.16. These are not the empty songs of the world but give expression to the truth of the word of Christ. The Church did not abandon Israel’s ancient hymnbook, the Psalms, but added to them “hymns and spiritual songs”. This indicates that new compositions were circulated, designed to give expression to truths absent from the Psalms. In the New Testament the writers quote from snatches of the new songs composed to express the new truth of the Church era, for example, 2Tim.2.11-13. It is evident that melody is not the key issue, though a good tune always helps! These songs are vehicles designed to express vital truth and to praise the Lord. While it is good to enjoy hymns we must be careful they do not become a form of entertainment: that is far removed from their original purpose, 3.16,17.
A HAPPY HOME
The chapter ends with a description of how the Christian should live at home whether as a husband, wife, parent, child, master or slave. Ephesians has a similar section, 5.22-6.9. The six categories of people are arranged in pairs. In each case there is a relationship of subordination. The wife submits to the husband, the child to the parent and the slave to the master. The reciprocal duties are respectively of love, care and respect. Although the Scriptures teach the equality of man with woman, Gal.3.28; 1Cor.11.11,12; compare Col.3.11, submission is enjoined as the proper attitude of the wife to her husband, in the same way that the Son is submissive to the Father’s will without being His inferior. Since the relationship is based on love, the submission of the wife is not marked by ideas of inferiority on the part of the wife or dominance on the part of the husband. The child likewise submits. As a husband must not take advantage of his position so a parent must be sensitive to the child and not do anything that would turn the child against the parent, 3.21. As he deals with the relationship of slaves and masters Paul enlarges his perspective to include all believers. Whatever a believer does he ought to do as if it was service for God. His life is not compartmented. He ought to be anxious to show in his life the difference salvation has made. He recognises that the true assessor of His life is God Himself, 3.24,25. The section concludes in 4.1 with a revolutionary principle. Christian masters should not be content to follow the standards of the day in deciding what to pay or how to treat their slaves. If that is so with slaves the same can be said of employees or people whom Christians engage to do work for them. They should not give as little as they can but give what is “just and equal”. “Just” means ‘fair’ and “equal” means ‘giving equal pay for equal work’.
To be continued (D.V.)
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 ON THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION – Luke 9.28,29
The transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ occurred “about an eight days” Lk.9.28, after His teaching on the coming kingdom, Lk.9.18-27. Three favoured disciples (Peter, James and John) would shortly be granted the great privilege of seeing a glimpse of the glory of that kingdom, in the face of its King, the Saviour Himself.
The observant reader will notice that the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark refer to “after six days” Matt.17.1; Mk.9.2, which reconcile with Luke’s approximation of eight days.
A HEAVENLY PREOCCUPATION
Of the three ‘Synoptic Gospels’ (Matthew, Mark and Luke), only Luke informs us of the purpose for which the Lord took His disciples up to “a high mountain” Matt.17.1; Mk.9.2. His interest was to devote precious moments in sweet communion with the Father, Lk.9.28. While we may ascend a mountain to survey the view it offers of the earth below, the Lord’s desire was to scale the height of this peak to get a vision of heaven and to lift His voice to “the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity” Isa.57.15. Heaven’s approval was reciprocated in the form of the voices of three witnesses: His Father, Moses and Elijah.
Once again, Luke does not reveal to us the content of the Lord’s prayer upon the mountain. Could it be that the Saviour prayed in anticipation of the ultimate rejection upon the tree and His reign upon the throne of His kingdom thereafter? Or perhaps the Lord prayed that His own disciples would gain some valuable insight into both of these significant future events, the first of which would take place shortly.
A HEAVENLY TRANSFORMATION
The Gospels then narrate what occurred when the Lord began praying. He was “transfigured” before His disciples, Matt.17.2. The Greek word used here is metamorphoo, from which we derive the English word ‘metamorphosis’. The Lord’s transfiguration was evidenced by the change in the appearance of His countenance and clothes. This transformation powerfully depicted the One Who was inherently, incorruptibly and infinitely glorious.
His countenance was transformed from manhood to majesty. Matthew observed that “His face did shine as the sun” Matt.17.2, whilst Luke simply records that “the fashion of His countenance was altered” Lk.9.29. “Altered” suggests the idea of a difference in character.
His clothes reflected the purity of the King of glory. In Matthew’s words, “His raiment was white as the light” Matt.17.2. Mark writes that “His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them” Mk.9.3. A fuller has the task of cleaning clothes. Luke’s account succinctly harmonises both Matthew and Mark’s descriptions by declaring that “His raiment was white and glistering” Lk.9.29.
A HEAVENLY CONVERSATION
Moses and Elijah then appeared and began a conversation with the Lord, Matt.17.3; Mk.9.4; Lk.9.30. Moses was a representative of the Law and Elijah a representative of the Prophets. “The law and the prophets” summed up the Old Testament Scriptures Matt.7.12; 11.13; 22.40.
Only Luke reveals that the heavenly discussion centred on “His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” Lk.9.31. The Greek word for “decease” is exodos, thus pointing to the Lord’s exit (or exodus) through His death upon the cross.
A HEAVENLY INSTRUCTION
The final witness is the voice of the Father, Who says, “This is My beloved Son: hear Him” Lk.9.35. God expressed His delight with His beloved Son, and calls on all to hear Him. May we obey Him today!
To be continued (D.V.)
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
“If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8.31
God for us; what a comfort! What foe can stand when God fights for us? What obstacle cannot be surmounted? If [since] God be for us, then, as in the case of Peter in Acts chapter 12, the chains will fall off from our hands and the iron gate will open of its own accord, vv.7,10.
When Elisha was besieged in Dothan in 2Kings chapter 6, “an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots”. His terrified servant said, “Alas, my master! How shall we do?” The prophet replied, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” and he requested the Lord to open his servant’s eyes “that he may see”. What a sight the young man saw: “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” vv.15-17!
How precious to know that “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” Ps.46.7,11. What power; what protection His presence affords!
I know it, I believe it; I say it fearlessly,
That God the Highest, Mightiest, for ever loveth me.
At all times, in all places, He standeth by my side;
He rules the battle’s fury, the tempest and the tide.
“Me … first” 1Kings 17.13
God will not, will never, accept second place; Lordship teaches us that He is Lord of all or not Lord at all. This vital lesson was impressed on Israel in the very first commandment of the Decalogue: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”. Ex.20.3.
Sadly, for most of us, our own selfish interests take precedence over the things of God and the most important matters are pushed well down our list of priorities. Is it any wonder then, that our lives are so unfulfilling and unrewarding? A selfish life is a squandered life and a surrendered life is a satisfying life.
The fullness of this glad surrender is seen of course in God’s greatest and perfect Servant, His own Son, Who said, “I came down … not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” Jn.6.38.
Agonising in the garden of Gethsemane, He said still, as He faced the horrors of Golgotha, “Not My will, but Thine, be done” Lk.22.42.
Take my will, and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
- It shall be Thy royal throne.
by Ian W. Gibson (Canada)
THE WORSHIP OF THE PASSOVER LAMB
In Revelation chapter 5, the apostle John describes a future great scene of heavenly, angelic worship. The young, freshly slain Lamb, Who by His sacrifice satisfied the throne of God as far as man’s sin is concerned, is seen there in the midst of the throne, and in the midst of the four living creatures and twenty-four elders, and in the midst of that innumerable company of angels. He is the centre of heaven’s worship, and they are unitedly declaring the worth of the Passover Lamb, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” Rev.5.12. He is the only worthy One to be found in the whole universe, the only One worthy to take the scroll out of Him that sat on the throne and open it, and the only One worthy to be universally worshipped and adored.
The sealed scroll that the Lamb alone is worthy to take from the Thronesitter would speak of the title deeds of this universe. In Jeremiah chapter 32, the prophet Jeremiah bought the field of Hanameel, the price of seventeen shekels of silver was paid, the transaction was publicly witnessed, and a sealed “book of the purchase” Jer.32.12, “the evidence of the purchase” Jer.32.16, was given. This illustrates the principle in Judaism of a book being given to show entitlement to what has been purchased, until the final redemption of the purchased possession. The Lamb will take the sealed scroll, with heaven’s recognition that He has every entitlement to take possession of this universe; He has the creatorial rights, Rev.4.11, He has the legal and moral rights as the only worthy One, Rev.5.5, and He has the redemptive rights based upon His accomplished sacrifice, Rev.5.6,9.
Without the Passover lamb in Exodus chapter 12, the nation of Israel would never have known that glorious redemption and deliverance from Pharaoh. Likewise, without the Lord Jesus as the fulfilment of the Passover lamb, this world will never be delivered from the malicious influence of Satan. But the apostle John beheld the freshly slain, young Lamb standing in the midst of heaven’s throne, in all the glory of His victory at Calvary, and in all the vitality of His resurrection from the dead. He is evidently ready and Divinely able to reclaim the universe for God, as He is seen by John in all His Divine omnipotence: “having seven horns”; in all His Divine omniscience: “having … seven eyes”; and in all His Divine omnipresence: “the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” Rev.5.6.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can “behold the Lamb of God”, the “lamb without blemish and without spot”, “Christ our Passover … sacrificed for us”, in fresh wonder, appreciation and thanksgivings, and be in fellowship with heaven by saying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” Rev.5.12. The Lamb that was, in type, sufficient for the household in Exodus chapter 12, and sufficient for the world in Jn.1.29, is evidently sufficient for the universe in Revelation chapter 5, and so there will be this universal worship of the freshly slain Lamb. We look forward to that future day in heavenly glory, when we will all participate in the worship of the Passover Lamb, and acknowledge His worth for all eternity.
THE MARRIAGE OF THE PASSOVER LAMB
In Rev.19.7, there is a call made in heaven: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” The hosts of heaven exult on this blessed occasion when the One Who is the fulfilment of the Passover, the Lord Jesus as the young Lamb, is going to be eternally united to His bride, the Church. “Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it … That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Eph.5.25-27. He suffered immeasurably at Calvary to redeem the beloved object of all His affection, and therefore what a cause for gladness and rejoicing for the Saviour Himself, and for every redeemed person that comprises the Church, when there will be that tangible union of Christ and His bride.
How fitting that the Lord Jesus will on that occasion present His bride to Himself in all the sacrificial character of Himself as the spotless and unblemished Passover Lamb. This is “the marriage of the Lamb“, emphasising the Church as the fruit of the sufferings of Calvary, for without the Lamb’s sacrifice, there would be no bride for Himself. Christ is surely longing for this day, when He will privately present His Church to Himself, all for His own heart, for His own personal joy and eternal pleasure. At this marriage of the Lamb, there will be no others in immediate attendance; it will be for the peculiar joy of the Lamb Himself, and for His pleasure alone. He will appreciate the Church just for what she is to Himself, as His fulness, as His complement, a Church glorious, flawless and complete, perfectly suited to Himself, and bearing His own heavenly image. Then truly “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” Isa.53.11, when He will be joined eternally with those for whom He gave Himself in death.
Following the marriage, there will be the joyous occasion of “the marriage supper of the Lamb” Rev.19.9, to which other guests will be called, an event likely continuing on into the Millennial Kingdom reign of Christ, in which Old Testament and Tribulation saints will participate. These friends of the Bridegroom will rejoice greatly when they hear the Bridegroom’s voice, Jn.3.29; perhaps they will listen to the Lamb speaking of His eternal love for His bride, and share in His joy of being united to the Church, for which He gave Himself.
THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE PASSOVER LAMB
The day of the Passover in Exodus chapter 12 was to be remembered, and kept as “a feast to the LORD throughout your generations” Ex.12.14. An annual remembrance of the Passover was to be made once they had come into the land that the LORD would give them, Ex.12.25, but the Old Testament record tells us that they did not do this faithfully throughout their history. Significantly, the Saviour desired to keep the Passover feast with His disciples: “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” Lk.22.15. That was a truly solemn occasion immediately before He then instituted the Lord’s Supper as a weekly remembrance for the Church age of how He fulfilled the Passover sacrifice at Calvary. For the redeemed nation of Israel, there will be the keeping of the Passover, with other yearly feasts, in the future Millennial Kingdom, Ezek.45.21.
For the Church, the present weekly remembrance of our Saviour’s sacrifice is a blessed and joyful experience for every believer in assembly fellowship, and surely is a delight for the Lord Jesus Who is pleased to take His place in the midst of companies of believers, Matt.18.20. After the Rapture, and the marriage of the Lamb, Christ will eternally be the young, freshly slain Lamb of Calvary, and the Church will be eternally and indissolubly joined to Him as His bride, and fully able to behold Him in all His glory, Jn.17.24. We will for all eternity have fresh remembrance and appreciation of “Christ our Passover … sacrificed for us” 1.Cor.5.7.
by Walter Gustafson, USA
The most remarkable use of the word “godliness” is in 1Tim.3.16, where we read, “Great is the mystery of godliness”, followed by six statements about the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For most of the material in this introductory section, I am indebted to the book “The Mystery Doctrines of the New Testament” by the late T. Ernest Wilson.1 He links Paul’s writing in 1Tim.3.15,16 to Paul having in his mind the vision given to Jacob at Bethel when he fled from his brother Esau, described in Genesis chapter 28. Paul writes about the “house of God” and the “pillar … of the truth”. This reminds us of Jacob’s words in Gen.28.17, “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven”. Then he erected his pillar and made his vow. He did this as a result of seeing the vision of the ladder set up upon earth, the top of which reached to heaven, and the angels ascending and descending upon it.
1. Wilson, T.E. “Mystery Doctrines of the New Testament: God’s Sacred Secrets”. Loizeaux Bros., Neptune, New Jersey.
There seems to be a distinct reference to the ladder in the first clause of 1Tim.3.16, “God was manifested in the flesh”, in which we see the Lord Jesus coming down; in the last clause, “received up into glory”, in which He is going up; and in the centre, where we see the angels: “seen of angels”.
The passage seems to be based on the typology of Genesis chapter 28. The “house of God” is the local church at Ephesus and “these things” in 1Tim.3.14 would be the instructions of the first three chapters concerning the gospel, prayer, women’s place in the church, and the qualifications of elders and deacons in the local church. The pillar and ground of the truth would relate to public testimony, which each assembly is responsible to maintain. Paul is probably inspired at the word “truth” to give this tremendous statement concerning the truth of the Lord Jesus in 1Tim.3.16.
The word “mystery” does not mean something mysterious, but something that was not and could not be known until God revealed it. Two of the mysteries of the New Testament are called “great”. One is the relationship of Christ and His Church, illustrated by marriage, Eph.5.32. The other great mystery is “the mystery of godliness” 1Tim.3.16. Paul writes that it is “without controversy”, or by common consent. All are agreed that it is one of the most important secrets. It should be noted that to learn what godliness is, we should be occupied with the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, the secret of all godliness is occupation with a Person, with the One presented to us in this wonderful statement. The “mystery of iniquity” of 2Thess.2.7 is headed up in a person, the man of sin. In contrast, the “mystery of godliness” is headed up in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, 1Tim.3.16. Take time to behold Him; “take time to be holy”. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” 2Cor.3.18.
1Tim.3.15, in the Authorised Version, states that Paul wants Timothy to know how to behave himself. But he really wants all men to know how to behave, not just Timothy, as is brought out in other translations: “how one ought to conduct oneself” J.N.D., and “how men ought to behave themselves” R.V. God wants all of us in assembly fellowship to know how we ought to behave ourselves in the house of God. In the centre of 1Timothy is this tremendous statement concerning the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the heart and climax of the epistle and the most important use of the word “godliness”.
Some writers have thought that Paul was quoting a beautiful early Christian hymn in adoration of the Lord Jesus, but Patrick Fairbairn2 and others insist that it was not a quotation but original with Paul and comparable to the doxologies which he uses at the conclusion of other statements of doctrine. Examples are in Rom.8.38,39 and Rom.11.33-36. Surely the apostle Paul, directed by the Spirit of God, was well able to write such beautiful words as 1Tim.3.16.
2. Fairbairn, P. “Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles”. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“God was manifest in the flesh.”
The first clause indicates His Deity and the last His humanity. T. Ernest Wilson3 quotes Augustine’s words, “God: what more glorious; flesh: what more lowly; God in flesh: what more marvellous!” Luke uses two thousand five hundred words to write about the Incarnation; John uses eight words: “The Word was made [‘became’ R.V., J.N.D.] flesh and dwelt among us” Jn.1.14.
3. Wilson, T.E., ibid.
No mystery is more inscrutable than incarnate Deity. The Lord Jesus had two perfect complete natures in indissoluble union in His one blessed Person. He had full absolute Deity and sinless holy humanity. He had to have both to be our Saviour. He had to be a man in order to die, because God never dies; and He had to be God in order to bear all the punishment that our sins deserve. His humanity made His sacrifice possible; His Deity made His sacrifice of infinite value. Every line of the following fourteen lines of a poem is precious, but its author is unknown:
Like man He walked,
Like God He talked;
His words were oracles,
His works were miracles;
Of man the finest specimen,
Of God the true expression;
Crowned with Deity;
No taint of iniquity,
No trace of infirmity;
“Ecce Homo”, behold the Man,
“Ecce Deus”, behold thy God;
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail, incarnate Deity.
“Justified in the Spirit.”
The Lord Jesus was justified, or vindicated, at His baptism. Matthew writes of “the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him” and that the Father testified, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” Matt.3.16,17. The Father and the Spirit did not hesitate to give this testimony to Him even though they both knew that immediately after His baptism the Spirit would immediately drive Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days. The Father and the Spirit both knew that He was impeccable (that is, could not be tempted by evil) and He would never succumb to any solicitation of Satan.
He was also vindicated by the works that He did. “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him” Acts 10.38. These miracles were among the signs to which John referred in Jn.20.30,31, “that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”.
However, the greatest vindication of the Lord Jesus was His resurrection, in which all three persons of the Trinity were involved. We see the Father’s work in Rom.6.4: “Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father”, and also in Col.2.12: “the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead”. In Jn.10.17,18 we see that Christ was involved in His own resurrection by an act of His will: “I lay down My life, that I might take it again”. 1Pet.3.18 shows the Holy Spirit’s activity in His resurrection: “… being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit”. Similarly, Rom.1.4 shows the Spirit’s activity: “according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”.
The Lord Jesus was further vindicated on the Day of Pentecost including the message of Peter while he was filled with the Spirit, Acts 2.4.
“Seen of angels.”
There are at least six times that we read of angels nearby in connection with the earthly life of the Lord Jesus:
Before His birth, the angel Gabriel announced His conception to the virgin Mary, Lk.1.30,31;
An angel further explained His conception to Joseph, Matt.1.20;
Later angels told of His birth to the shepherds, Lk.2.10,11;
An angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect the child Jesus, Matt.2.13;
Angels ministered unto Him at His temptation, Matt.4.11;
An angel strengthened Him at Gethsemane, Lk.22.43.
After His resurrection an angel rolled back the stone, demonstrating to the soldiers that His body was not there because He had risen, Matt.28.2. Angels assured the women of His resurrection, “as He said” Matt.28.6. Angels at His ascension directed His disciples as to His future return, Acts 1.10,11. But there were no angels with Him at the cross! We read in Heb.1.3, “when He had by Himself purged our sins”.
“Preached unto the Gentiles.”
It was the Person of God’s Son that was preached, not a creed or a religion. The Lord Jesus completed the work of salvation for every person who will trust Him for salvation. Because of His Deity He was able to bear all the punishment that our sins deserved. The barrier between Jews and Gentiles was broken down so that believing Gentiles are fellow members with believing Jews in the true Church, Eph.2.14; 3.6.
These four words, “preached unto the Gentiles”, are a summary of the evangelistic work recorded in Acts and continued down through the centuries. While William Carey, David Livingstone and Hudson Taylor are some of the names of which we think, they are only examples of a great multitude of workers, in an ongoing work!
“Believed on in the world.”
This clause is obviously connected with the previous one. The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” Rom.1.16. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” Rom.10.17. The Word of God has a part in every true conversion. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” 1Pet.1.23. “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth” Jms.1.18.
The preaching of the gospel brought a response. Paul could write in 2Thess.1.10, “because our testimony among you was believed”. God’s provision of salvation had to be personally appropriated by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. The saving faith of the great multitudes of the redeemed has been a long series of confirmations of the truth of the mystery of godliness, centring on the Person of the Son of God. One day when their number shall be complete the Lord Jesus shall come to take all of them out of this world to the Father’s house.
“Received up into glory.”
This final clause is out of chronological sequence with the previous two, but it is the completion of the first clause. There He is coming down, in His incarnation. Here He is being received up, at His ascension. This is the wonderful climax of His life on earth of perfect godliness and His finished work of redeeming grace on the cross. It is also His introduction to His continuing work of intercession on the throne, at God’s right hand. He is the very same Person in heaven that He was here on earth. The Lord’s ascension had such a good effect on His disciples that we read, “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God” Lk.24.52,53.
Jim Allen has an excellent comment: “The term ‘in glory’ R.V., in a technical sense, goes beyond the act of ascension and exaltation to show the dazzling brightness of the very presence of God: there a Man is enthroned”.4
4. Allen, J. “What the Bible Teaches: 1Timothy”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
— To be continued (D.V.)
One of the most undesirable experiences that we can have is loneliness. Some folks look back to childhood days when they were surrounded by family members. However, eventually the great enemy, death, gate-crashed the family circle and, one by one, loved ones were taken and loneliness ensued. Others feel the emptiness that comes with loneliness especially when their spouse is taken away after many years of marriage. How hard it is, not least in the long winter evenings, to be alone in the house that formerly was alive with conversation.
If loneliness on earth for a period of time is so sad and painful, what an awful thing it must be to experience this for the ageless eternity. For every soul that dies without the Saviour, the only outlook is the lonely, endless blackness of darkness. Jude v.13 describes those “to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever”. Some people have the mistaken idea that when they arrive in Hell they will meet with their friends and enjoy an eternal party!
The Scriptures are very clear with regard to the place called Hell and the Lake of Fire, where people will be eternally. Acts 1.25 teaches that Judas “by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place”. Undoubtedly, this means the place of his own choosing, but also it indicates that it was a unique place for him, and him alone. According to the Bible all judgment by God is righteous, “the righteous judgment of God” Romans 2.5. I will not be punished for anybody else’s sins, but for my own sins, and since no-one has sinned exactly like me then no one will be in the exact same place as me.
How can we escape this punishment? The answer is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came from the glory of Heaven to save sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” 1Timothy 1.15. How did He do this? Anne Steele wrote,
He took the ruined sinner’s place, and suffered in his stead:
For man (O, miracle of grace!) for man the Saviour bled.
In order that mankind could escape the lonely darkness, the Saviour endured the judgment of God in the darkness that descended when He hung on the cross at Calvary. The Lord Jesus was crucified at the Jewish time of “the third hour [9a.m.]” Mark 15.25, but the dreadful intensity of suffering was “from the sixth hour [noon] … unto the ninth hour”, when “there was darkness over all the land” Matthew 27.45. It was then that “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities …” Isaiah 53.5; when His soul was made “an offering for sin” Isaiah 53.10. It was from the darkness and in His loneliness that “at the ninth hour [3p.m.]”, Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mark 15.34. Hannah Burlingham wrote,
Alone upon His cross, God’s judgment Jesus bore,
He paid in full the cost of glory evermore:
His precious blood was freely shed,
And Jesus crushed the serpent’s head.
We come into the good of this by faith and not by works: “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3.15.
“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” Proverbs 3.27
Here are three (of many) applications of this verse: firstly, Paul, wrote, “I am debtor … So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel” Rom.1.14,15. The gospel is a precious possession, to be shared with all, and not withheld. Secondly, do I owe someone money, and am able to pay, but have not done so? It is right to settle the matter now; not to do so is a bad testimony. Thirdly, there are many needing help, not only materially, but by our prayers, our words, and even our presence. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” Gal.6.10.
Is there someone the Lord has laid on my heart and conscience, to whom I can do good today? Then I ought to do it.