March/April 2022

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by J. Riddle

by I. McKee

by E.G. Parmenter

by P. Steele

by R. Reynolds

by K. Cooper



A Proverb to Ponder — Proverbs 14:7

Consider Him — Isa 53:10-12

John Bunyan

Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (England)


No.42: PSALM 26 (Part 1)

Psalm 26 is headed “A Psalm of David”, and while the Hebrew text has simply “Of David”, leading some to suggest that this indicates a Davidic collection rather than a Davidic composition, there is no good reason for doubting that David was the author. While it does not seem possible to confidently relate the Psalm to any particular experience in David’s life, it could refer to “the upheaval caused by Absalom’s rebellion”1, in which case he pleads his own integrity against the duplicity of his enemies. On the other hand, the Psalm could refer to “a time of national calamity”2. While we do not know the immediate circumstances of the Psalm, it is clear that David saw the possibility of righteous and unrighteous being swept away together: “Gather [‘sweep away’] not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men” v.9. He was repeating, substantially, the words of Abraham, “Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” Gen.18.23.

1. St. John, H. “The Collected Writings of Harold St. John – Vol. One”. Gospel Tract Publications, Glasgow.
2. Clarke, A.G. “Analytical Studies in the Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.

However, as Alfred Barnes3 points out, “it is not difficult to ascertain from its contents the state of mind in which it was composed”. David is deeply concerned that he should be acceptable to God, and in this he effectively expresses the proper desire of every child of God: “Wherefore we labour [‘make it our aim’], that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted [‘well-pleasing’] of Him” 2Cor.5.9.

3. Barnes, A. “Barnes’ Notes on the Psalms – Vol. One”. Multiple publishers.

It must be said that the language of this Psalm is most fitting on the lips of the Lord Jesus. He “loved righteousness, and hated iniquity” Heb.1.9; Ps.45.7, and could confidently say, “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him” Jn.8.29. He too loved the house of God. David said, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth” v.8, and the Lord’s disciples, having seen Him expel the traders from the Temple, and heard Him say, “Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house a house of merchandise”, “remembered that it was written, ‘The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up’” Jn.2.13-17.

With this in mind, we should notice that Psalms 26, 27 and 28 bring the Lord’s house before us in three different ways:

Firstly, in Psalm 26, David says, “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth” v.8. That is, he found his joy and delight there, as opposed to the company of “vain persons … dissemblers … evil doers … the wicked” vv.4,5.

Secondly, in Psalm 27, David says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” v.4. That is, the house of God was his refuge in adversity: “Though a host should encamp against me … for in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion [meaning ‘booth’ or ‘shelter’]” vv.3,5.

Thirdly, in Psalm 28, David says, “Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto Thee, when I lift up my hands toward Thy holy oracle” v.2, referring to the innermost part of the sanctuary, the ‘Holy of holies’. That is, the Lord’s house is a place of prayer and intercession. Notice reference in this Psalm to David’s hands, v.2, the enemy’s hands, v.4, and the Lord’s hands, v.5.

In the New Testament, the local assembly is described as “house of God” 1Tim.3.15. Corresponding to the above references to the Lord’s house in Psalms 26-28, it should be: a place where we find our delight as opposed to the world’s company; a place which is to us a sanctuary in adversity; and a place where we come with our petitions and intercession.

Psalm 26 clearly divides into two major sections, each governed by the words “mine integrity”:

  • David pleads past integrity as the basis of deliverance, vv.1-10: “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity” v.1;
  • David pledges future integrity and is confident of deliverance, vv.11,12: “But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity” v.11.


David gives three reasons why he should not be swept away with the wicked: he met Divine examination, vv.1-3; he practised moral separation, vv.4-7; and he loved God’s habitation, v.8

He Met Divine Examination – vv.1-3

“Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. For Thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in Thy truth.” The words “Judge me, O Lord” mean “do me justice: show me to be in the right; vindicate my integrity by discriminating between me and wicked men”4; see v.9.

4. Kirkpatrick, A.F. “The Book of Psalms”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

The subsection commences and concludes with David’s ‘walk’, referring to his whole tenor of life: “I have walked in mine integrity … I have walked in Thy truth” vv.1,3. In this connection, the references to the believer’s “walk” in the Epistle to the Ephesians should be carefully noted: “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” 2.10; “I … beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” 4.1; “walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind” 4.17; “walk in love” 5.2; “walk as children of light” 5.8; “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise” 5.15.

We should now notice the following: he prays for vindication, v.1; he invites inspection, v.2; he describes his occupation, v.3.

He Prays for Vindication – v.1

“Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity.” By “mine integrity”, David does not necessarily mean faultlessness: the meaning is whole-heartedness or sincerity5. “Sincerity of purpose and single-heartedness of devotion have been the rule of his life.”6

5. Kidner, D. “Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72”. Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester.
6. Kirkpatrick, A.F., ibid.

The apostle Paul could also effectively have said, “I have walked in mine integrity”. For example: “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness … Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe” 1Thess.2.5,10. Paul emphasised his integrity when addressing the Ephesian elders at Miletus: “Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind … Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men … I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel” Acts 20.18,19,26,33. Both David and Paul lived consciously in the sight of God. Their lives stood Divine inspection and scrutiny.

Having said this, the Lord Jesus stands alone in His integrity. As already noted, He was able to say of the Father, “I do always those things that please Him” Jn.8.29, to Whom He “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears … and was heard in that He feared [‘because of His piety’]” Heb.5.7.

Lest we should think that David was glorying in his integrity, he continues by saying, “I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide” v.1. His ability to “walk and to please God” 1Thess.4.1, was rooted in his faith in the Lord. It was a case of “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” 1Pet.1.5. In David’s later words, “O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer” Ps.31.23. The result of integrity of life coupled with faith in God is stability: “therefore I shall not slide”, meaning ‘shall not waver, or totter’.

He Invites Inspection – v.2

“Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.” Having spoken of his ‘walk’ v.1, which can be said to refer to his outward life, David now turns to his inward life: he refers to his “reins” and “heart”. The word “reins”, mostly translated “kidneys” in the Book of Leviticus, is “used symbolically as the seat of the emotions and affections”7, while the word “heart” refers to the seat of the will. In an earlier Psalm David says, “Thou hast proved mine heart; Thou hast visited me in the night; Thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing” Ps.17.3. His unseen motives and desires were as acceptable as his outward life. The first and last of the three expressions, “examine me”, “prove me” and “try my reins”, have reference to proving metals. David did not shrink from any test which would determine his spiritual and moral reality. The last of the three tests, “try my reins”, envisages a refiner smelting gold to remove any remaining dross.

7. Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.

It is always appropriate to pray, in David’s words, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Ps.139.24. The Lord Jesus warned against practising pretence: “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me” Matt.15.8; compare Isa.29.13.

We cannot fail to remember that the Lord Jesus said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart” Ps.40.7,8.

He Describes his Occupation – v.3

“For Thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in Thy truth.” The word “for” links the verses: so, “try my reins and my heart: for Thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in Thy truth”. David could confidently invite Divine inspection because his life was governed by the “lovingkindness” (or steadfast love) and “truth” of God. He never lost sight of God’s lovingkindness, and (as the Newberry margin explains) he “habitually walked” in God’s truth. The eye directs the feet: “Thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in Thy truth”. It is worth emphasising that David was not occupied with his love for God, but with God’s love for him. In Paul’s words, “For the love of Christ constraineth us …” 2Cor.5.14. Heb.12.1,2 links the feet with the eyes in a different way: “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …” In the words of J.M. Flanigan8, “The constant remembrance of the character of God was a deterrent to sin and an incentive to godly living. Remembering the kindness and love of God should always be to the believer an incentive to walk in truth.”

8. Ibid

To be continued (D.V.)

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Traits of the Tribes

by Ian McKee, N. Ireland

Paper 30


The inheritance of Naphtali was determined by lot, their borders delineated and their cities identified, Josh.19.32-39. “Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali” was appointed as one of the six cities of refuge, Josh.20.7; 21.32. Levites were granted cities in each tribal area, with Gershonites assigned part of their inheritance within Naphtali, Josh.21.6; 1Chr.6.62,76.

In the Time of the Judges

Naphtali’s history had an inauspicious start: “Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, nor … Beth-anath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became tributaries unto them” Judg.1.33.

The first time that Naphtali evidences military prowess is when “the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan … the captain of whose host was Sisera… he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel” Judg.4.2,3. Following the nation’s repentance Deborah the prophetess, who judged Israel at that time, “sent and called Barak … out of Kedesh-Naphtali”, and said to him, “Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, ‘Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun’?” Judg.4.6. Barak lost the privilege of being the sole victor, insisting that Deborah go with him. With the Lord’s help Barak’s ten thousand routed Sisera’s host at mount Tabor, totally annihilating them in the resultant pursuit, Judg.4.15,16, with Sisera having an ignominious death, Judg.4.21.

That victory is immortalised in the song of Deborah and Barak: “Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field” Judg.5.18. While other tribes vacillated or ignored the issue, Zebulun and Naphtali were counted when it mattered. Could that be said about us?

Naphtali also willingly responded to Gideon’s later call to arms against the Midianites: “But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abi-ezer was gathered after him. And he sent messengers … unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them” Judg.6.34,35. We then have the events involving Gideon and the fleece and the reduction of the Israelite army from thirty-two thousand to ten thousand and again from ten thousand to three hundred armed with trumpets and lamps in empty pitchers! The resounding victory at Moreh precipitated a more general uprising against the Midianites: “And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali … and pursued after the Midianites” Judg.7.23. Who better to employ in a pursuit than those like “a hind let loose”? The remnants of the Midianite host and their princes were fatally entrapped at the waters of Beth-barah and Jordan.

In the Time of the Kings

Among those who came to Hebron to make David king over all Israel were “of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand” 1Chr.12.34. “Moreover … Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, and meat, meal, cakes of figs, and bunches of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep abundantly: for there was joy in Israel” 1Chr.12.40. Are we active contributors to the joy of fellowship? The ruler of the tribe of Naphtali was “Jerimoth the son of Azriel” 1Chr.27.19.

Of Solomon’s twelve officials responsible for provision and supply, Ahimaaz represented Naphtali and he “took Basmath the daughter of Solomon to wife” 1Kgs.4.15, thus binding Naphtali on the northern border in closer allegiance to the royal dynasty. We have already considered Hiram of Tyre, called “a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali” 1Kgs.7.14, in his relation to the tribe of Dan.

After the division of the kingdom, into Judah and Israel, there was often warfare, at times involving third parties. Asa king of Judah depleted Temple and personal treasures to pay Ben-hadad of Syria to break his treaty with Baasha king of Israel, raid Israel’s northern territories and raise their siege of Ramah in Judah. It was unsavoury to so use monies gathered for the upkeep of the Temple. Ben-hadad “smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abel-beth-maachah, and all Cinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali” 1Kgs.15.20, indeed “all the store cities of Naphtali” 2Chr.16.4. The tribe guarding the northern frontier was betrayed by a good king of Judah acting with natural guile to the detriment of innocent people.

It was during Pekah king of Israel’s reign that Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria invaded Israel and “took … Kedesh … and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria” 2Kgs.15.29. The northern kingdom of Israel went into Assyrian captivity with mass deportations from tribal lands.

The initial reforms of Josiah king of Judah purged the land of idolatry in its many manifestations, including in the northern territories already cleared by the Assyrians: “And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali” 2Chr.34.6. While we long for revival in our day, similar resolution will be required, with a sober recognition that much territory has already been lost.


In a Messianic Psalm we read: “There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali” Ps.68.27. This refers to a reunited nation in the Millennial reign of Christ. We have Benjamin and Judah, the southern tribes, with Zebulun and Naphtali, representative of the northern tribes. In Zebulun and Naphtali being named together we have a link back to the song of Deborah, which immortalises the heroic acts of these tribes. There is also a forward look as these tribal areas were greatly blessed at the Lord’s first advent. Capernaum, “His own city” Matt.9.1, was in the territory of Naphtali.

Another Messianic chapter fittingly contains reference to these tribes: “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first He lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” Isa.9.1,2; compare Matt.4.13-16.

Naphtali is assured of a place in the Millennial Kingdom, Ezek.48.3,4, still in the north, but now considerably closer to the city and Temple! One of the three western gates of the city wall will bear the title “Naphtali” Ezek.48.34, again bearing testimony to the faithfulness of God throughout the generations of His people!


It was “the land of Nephthalim” Matt.4.13-15, in which One born into the tribe of Judah demonstrated that He was as “a hind let loose: He giveth goodly words” Gen.49.21. After Matthew’s reference to “Nephthalim”, Isa.9.2 is recited, followed immediately by glorious words: “From that time Jesus began to preach” Matt.4.17. The “goodly words” spoken in Galilee enthral and enthuse still!

Most of the Lord’s disciples came from Galilee, and the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, the great Galilean ministry of the Saviour, various resurrection appearances, etc. were within Naphtali.

The final reference to this tribe relates to their contributing twelve thousand to those sealed in Tribulation days, Rev.7.6.


We now consider James’ practical application to encourage Naphtali character traits.

If we are to promote “goodly words” we must first ensure that we do not use any unworthy words! “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge” Jms.4.11. This is not the Mosaic Law, but that governing Christian life and love. Transgressing such a law with its norms of behaviour, in effect, asserts that that law is bad and our self-willed standard is superior. Running others down, unworthy criticism, derogatory speech, censorious judging, etc. are inconsistent with Naphtalite “goodly words”.

“There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” Jms.4.12. God is the ultimate source of law and authority. He is both Lawgiver and Judge. The Lord Jesus Christ, within the borders of Naphtali, in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, delivered the manifesto of His Kingdom. His “goodly words” in Matthew chapters 5-7 make us understand how far we fall short in practice.

Naphtali, in the north, was potentially the first tribe to suffer from invasion. Life and commerce were more precarious in Naphtali, the first line of defence. Naphtali could say, “Go to now, ye that say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year and buy and sell, and get gain:’ whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” Jms.4.13,14.

Instruction is given to counteract such presumption: “For that ye ought to say, ‘If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that’” Jms.4.15. This is not a casual use of ‘D.V.’: we cannot automatically postscript God’s blessing to our desires! Rather we must evaluate our plans, small or great, by His standards as conveyed in the precepts and principles in His Word; and lay them before Him in prayer with a disposition that is open to His direction, or redirection! This would remove any self-willed boasting, which is evil according to Jms.4.16.

James also reminds us that sins of omission are as serious as sins of commission: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” Jms.4.17.

To be continued (D.V.)

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The Book of Ruth

By Eric G. Parmenter (Wales)

Paper 5

Three Illustrative Men


There are six individuals in the foreground of the story of Ruth: three poor women and three wealthy men; men who at different times come onto the stage as the events of the book unfold. These three men illustrate the spiritual conditions existing in the three churches in Revelation chapter 3.


The opening chapters of the Book of Revelation direct attention to the remarkable messages to the churches in Asia, and although the approach to them may vary they will be in perfect consistence with the truth of Scripture.

Local Approach

These messages were directed to assemblies that actually existed in the days of John the apostle. He was separated from these assemblies that once he visited and ministered to, but now, in the isolation of the Isle of Patmos, he learns that the risen Lord ministers to them. It is essential to remember that if, through unfavourable circumstances, our verbal ministry is not possible, the Lord does not forsake the saints but He undertakes and provides what is absolutely essential for the outworking of His purposes.

General Approach

These letters to the churches describe the general condition of things which will be found among companies of God’s people throughout the world today. In them we observe heaven’s view of the churches, revealing the mind of Christ in respect of their spiritual state and of their activities, as they bear testimony in the world. Reading these letters helps us to ascertain how He regards our own spiritual condition, as assemblies of believers today.

Dispensational Approach

There is in these messages dispensational truth, meaning they present a panoramic view of the stages of Church history. We may speak highly of certain movements in Church history and be thankful to God for the wonderful way He has worked through the centuries.

Individual Approach

There is an obvious individual aspect, as throughout the messages a personal appeal is made: “He that hath an ear, let him hear”. These letters set before us spiritual conditions that are seen in individuals in each of the churches. What we are as individuals is important: the character of local churches will be determined by our individual state. It does therefore behove us as the people of God to be concerned about our individual state before God.


A study of the spiritual conditions revealed in the letters to Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea will have a bearing on spiritual conditions in the Church in end times. Conditions found in these three churches are being replicated today, indicating we are living in the concluding days of church testimony on earth.

In the Book of Judges the awful departure from God is exposed; departure which obtained just three generations after Israel’s exodus from Egypt. In those same days, when the judges ruled and there was no king in Israel, the Book of Ruth emphasises the triumph of Divine sovereignty in the outworking of God’s purposes throughout those dark, difficult days.

The Church at Sardis

The Lord told the church at Sardis: “Thou hast a name”, indicating that the element of profession is high but they are not living up to that name. “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead … I have not found thy works perfect before God” Rev.3.1. Clearly they had become careless, and lost their focus on Christ, Who alone is to be the objective of life. To quote the late Mr. Jack Hunter: “Only Christ, always Christ, and no one else but Christ”.

It is evident that they were moving towards decline: “Strengthen the things which remain” Rev.3.2. It is very well to start a spiritual exercise, but a better thing to finish it. If things are not going well where we are, the command to us is “strengthen the things which remain”.

They had lost the sense of the grace of God: “Remember therefore how thou hast received” Rev.3.3. If we have forgotten the remarkable experience which was ours when we first trusted the Saviour, we are in a Sardis-like condition.

The Characteristics of the Church at Sardis Illustrated in Elimelech

His name means ‘My God is King’ and therefore in those very days when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”, he carried about in his name a testimony to the supremacy of Divine government. Like the church at Sardis his profession was high but when the testing time came he departed to the land of Moab. Let us remember that God ever tests the profession of His people. Elimelech ran away to avoid his testing time, and he found a grave in Moab. The lesson for us is clear and plain: let us not try to avoid Divine dealings with us by running away from them, because we will meet with something far more complicated. Elimelech’s profession was high, but he failed to carry it through in a time of famine. There was high profession in the church at Sardis but failure followed. How necessary for us to take to heart the words of the Lord when He spoke of putting our “hand to the plough, and looking back” Lk.9.62!

The Church at Laodicea

They were in a condition of self-sufficiency, where man is very prominent: “Thou sayest … and knowest not” Rev.3.17. The voice of the spiritually ignorant should not be heard in church government, and neither should self-sufficiency and selfish interests displace our dependence on God.

Laodicean Characteristics Illustrated in the Unnamed Near Kinsman

He is not, like Elimelech, guilty of departing to Moab, but he behaves in a selfish way. He is more concerned with the purity of his own Hebrew pedigree than the duty of “rais[ing] up the name of the dead upon his inheritance”, which duty involved marrying Ruth “the Moabitess” Ruth 4.5,10, which he was unwilling to do. He therefore surrendered his claim to Boaz, who was the son of a Gentile (Rachab, Matt.1.5) and as such had no purity of pedigree to safeguard. This unnamed near kinsman was like the Laodicean church: in the right position but the wrong condition. We too can be very orthodox and yet lack the spiritual condition and power that are so essential in carrying out the will of God as set forth in His Word.

The Church at Philadelphia

This church is characterised by a love of the Divine Word. The Lord’s word commending this church was, “Thou … hast kept My word” Rev.3.8. What loyalty means to God we cannot assess this side of glory, so do not let us lose heart, but continue to hold to the truth of the Scriptures, knowing that the Word of God will be the deciding factor at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Further, it was said of these believers, “and hast not denied My name” Rev.3.8. We should take this message to our hearts in these days when persecution of Christians is raging in various parts of the world, and be prepared should we experience like opposition as Christians.

In the difficulties facing them they had the expectation of the Lord’s coming: “Behold, I come quickly” Rev.3.11. We too ought to be living in hope of the imminent return of Christ.

Philadelphian Characteristics Illustrated in Boaz

In Ruth 2.4,12 we see Boaz naming the name of God at a time when other men were endorsing idolatrous conditions. We ask ourselves the questions, “Are we confessing the name of Christ? Is this true of our lives in general?”

In Ruth 2.8 Boaz speaks to Ruth: “Go not to glean in another field”. In the Pentateuch the law of gleaning appears three times, and the purpose of it was to save the people of God from selfishness and to produce a spirit of sympathy towards the needy and suffering. In those days of selfishness and lawlessness, Boaz retained an appreciation and regard for the authoritative law of God. How needful it is today for Christians to recognise that the Word of God is the supreme authority in spiritual matters.

Ruth 4.9,10 shows another delightful feature of Boaz. Obviously he obeys the injunction of God’s law with regard to the family that is threatened with extinction. He is prepared to give life, that is, by purchasing Ruth to be his wife, resulting in the birth of Obed, Boaz preserves the life of another family.

Boaz displays true Philadelphian characteristics in that he confesses the name of God and he shows love for the Word of God. Divine love working in us as believers will ever bring the spirit of sacrifice which is the expression of the Divine nature.

How great is the need for us to become like Boaz in character, irrespective of the awful departure of the days in which we are living, so that in the coming day when the Lord reviews our service and pilgrimage on earth, our loyalty, love and devotion will be evident.


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The God of Jacob

by Peter Steele (N. Ireland)

Paper 5


God wants us to grow continually in our understanding of Him and of His Son, 2Pet.3.18. We do not learn this in a school of earth, and it is not only through knowledge of the Bible, vital as that is; but the ‘school of experience’ is where we learn God most. In the life of Jacob, we see a beautiful journey of maturing experience. We can observe this growing maturity in the titles he uses of God throughout his life. In this paper and the following one, we will look at these titles, and in so doing we can view Jacob’s developing comprehension of God.


The Lord thy God (speaking to Isaac) – Gen.27.20

The God of my father – Gen.31.5,42; 32.9

In Gen.28.20,21 Jacob said, “If God will be with me, and will keep me… and will give me… so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God”. This shows that he was not yet able to call God his God; he felt that he could only do so when he had proved God by experience. At this early stage in the story of Jacob he only knew the Lord as the God of his father Isaac, as can be seen in the references above.

It is sad to see a believer who relies on the knowledge of God which his parents or grandparents had, without spending time to learn God himself. We can talk about men and women in the past who knew God, we can have a library of books by writers who knew God, we can listen to the ministry of men who know God, but God wants each of His children to come to know Him more and more personally.

Later in life, on the way to Egypt, Jacob pauses at Beersheba and offers sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac, Gen.46.1. On that occasion, however, it is not because he does not know God personally but because he is reflecting on God’s faithfulness to his father, who was also guided with regard to going to Egypt, Gen.26.2-5, and who also built an altar at Beersheba, Gen.26.23-25. So, while it is sad to see a believer who only has memories of those gone before who knew God, it is good for a believer who knows God personally also to remember His faithfulness to a previous generation.

God of our fathers, be the God
Of their succeeding race.
(Philip Doddridge)


The Lord – Gen.28.16

God – Gen.28.17

These two titles are used many more times by Jacob but I have referenced the occasion when the titles are used at Bethel, for it is there that Jacob grasps for the first time the fearfulness and magnitude of the name of the Lord and the name of God. As a boy, he would have learned these names from his Godly father and grandfather. In Gen.27.20 he uses these names in the act to deceive his father: “Because the Lord thy God brought it to me”. This shows how careless he was about the name of the Lord. But at Bethel, Jacob is gripped by these names: “the Lord is in this place” Gen.28.16, and “this is none other but the house of God” Gen.28.17. It is good when a believer is gripped by the fear of God and has a healthy reverence toward Him. We can see in the modern evangelical world a desire to bring God down to our level: their ‘worship music’, their books, their sermons, their activities, display an over-familiarity towards God of which our Puritan ancestors would never have dreamed. Let us shun these things, appreciate the great name of Jehovah which we worship and grasp that “our God is a consuming fire” Heb.12.29.

Notice that in Gen.32.29 Jacob was not told God’s name: “Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after My name?” Jacob learned that day that there is part of God’s name and Person that he could never fully understand. Manoah learned the same lesson many centuries later in a similar encounter, Judg.13.18.


El-elohe Israel (God, the God of Israel) – Gen.33.20

Jacob receives much criticism for his actions at the end of Genesis chapter 33. He buys a field and builds an altar in Shechem. Many say this was a ‘halfway house’ pilgrim life: as a pilgrim he should not have bought a field; he should have moved immediately to Bethel and raised an altar there, not in Shechem; and that this coming short of God’s purpose for him is to blame for the sorrows of chapter 34. There is likely a measure of truth in some of this because God calls Jacob to Bethel in chapter 35, which shows Shechem was not God’s ultimate intention for him. However do not forget that Abraham built an altar at Shechem, Gen.12.6,7, and Abraham bought a field, Genesis chapter 23. Also notice that the area of Shechem becomes significant in Scripture after this; the events described in the following passages take place in that area: Deuteronomy chapter 27; Josh.8.30-35; 24.32; Jn.4.5. Also can Jacob be fully blamed for the evil of his sons in chapter 34, which he roundly condemns, Gen.34.30; 49.5-7? While learning lessons from Jacob, perhaps we should not condemn him too much because in doing so we condemn ourselves, who too often settle down short of God’s intention for us as pilgrims.

Let us at least credit Jacob for the title that he gives to God when building this altar, El-elohe Israel: God, the God of Israel. This is the first time that Jacob calls God his God: no longer the God of his fathers but his God. It is no doubt based on the name change to Israel which he received at Jabbok. There will be more to learn and higher heights to climb, as we will learn in subsequent titles, but we can see progress here.

Note that part of this title, “God of Israel”, is used some two hundred times after this in Scripture, ending with Zacharias saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people” Lk.1.68.


El-beth-el (God of the house of God) – Gen.35.7

It is interesting to note in passing that in Gen.35.3 Jacob uses the singular title of God, El, for the first time instead of the plural Elohim. Now restored and returned to Beth-el, he calls the place, not now Beth-el, as in chapter 28, but El-beth-el. Jacob had learned this title in Syria when God had revealed Himself by that name, Gen.31.13. Jacob is now taken up with the God of the house of God Who had restored him. The secret for restoration to the joy of the house of God is always the same: a renewed appreciation of the God of the house of God. When a believer grows cold to the Lord Jesus, he or she will invariably grow cold to the place of His name, but it is a restored affection to Him that will restore our affection to the assembly.

The two on the road to Emmaus in Luke chapter 24 had left the company of the disciples. In their minds if Christ was in the grave, there was no longer any point in gathering with His disciples. But when the Saviour warmed their hearts by a personal conversation with them and showed them that He was alive, they speedily and gladly went back to the company to become a part of it again and be a blessing to it. Dear believer, if you have grown cold to and weary of the meetings, get into the presence of the Lord, allow His Word to warm your heart again to Him, and soon the meetings will become a joy and you will bring blessing to them. It is the God of the house of God Who restores us to the house of God.

When I would wander from the path astray,
Then He will draw me back into the way.
(Leonard Weaver)


El Shaddai – Gen.43.14; 48.3

I suggest that this title, which is translated “God Almighty” in the Authorised Version, contains the meaning of ‘God all-sufficient’1. I also suggest that Jacob learned this title in connection with his two visits to Bethel: Isaac used it in speaking to him as he was departing on his first journey to Bethel, Gen.28.3; and God revealed Himself by it to him on his second visit, Gen.35.11. In Genesis chapter 28 the title reassured Jacob in his fears that God was all-sufficient to protect, guide and meet his needs in his travels into Padan-aram, Syria, and to bring him back. In Genesis chapter 35 the title reassured Jacob that he did not need the idols which he had left behind at Shechem, buried under an oak tree; the El Shaddai was all-sufficient to fill his soul. In Gen.48.3 Jacob reflects on these memories and says to Joseph, “El Shaddai appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me.” In old age, after all the years of selfishness and grabbing; after all the years of fears and doubts, at last he had learned that his God had ever been his all-sufficient God and was all he needed. Have we learned that lesson?

1. See Newberry Bible Introduction, p.xii, and Stevenson, H.F. “Titles of the Triune God”, Crimond House, 2018.  Although we do not rule out the meaning ‘almighty’, that is already implied in El.

Jacob calls upon El Shaddai in Gen.43.14 to protect his sons in Egypt. He realised that the God Who was all-sufficient to preserve him in Syria was all-sufficient to preserve his sons in Egypt. Notice also that Jacob uses the title Shaddai (without the El) in the blessing of Joseph, Gen.49.25.

The Angel – Gen.48.16

In this verse Jacob reflects on God’s delivering hand upon him through life and calls God “the Angel which redeemed me from all evil”, an interesting title used for God showing His power surrounding him, His presence going with him, and His watchful eye over him. Angels in the Bible are often linked with physical protection and preservation. Isa.63.9 has similar language with regard to the sons of Jacob in their journeys: “the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity he redeemed them”. A brother I knew who has gone home to heaven used to tell us about preachers visiting his home when he was a young boy. Before they left, they kneeled in the living room and thanked God for preservation during the day from ‘dangers seen and unseen’. Perhaps we too should learn to be more reflective and grateful for physical as well as spiritual mercies.

We are seeing progress in Jacob from the titles he uses of God, but he will rise yet higher as we will see from the titles he uses in Genesis chapter 49. We will consider these in the next article, Lord Willing.

To be continued (D.V.)

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Comfort for Christians in a Changing World

by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)

“When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Rock that is higher than I” Psalm 61.2

Is there some dear brother or sister just now feeling you cannot take much more? Life is demanding more than you can give and your resources are exhausted. Waves of sorrow and trouble have been relentlessly pounding your feeble frame.

Perhaps you have reached the stage where you feel like requesting, as did Elijah in dark moments of deep depression, when “he requested for himself that he might die; and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life …’” 1Kgs.19.4.

Is there someone to whom I can turn in my depth of need? Is there somewhere I can obtain the solace and refuge of which I am in such dire need or do I just put my head down and try to weather the merciless storms of adversity? The Psalmist knew the answer: “… the Rock that is higher than I”! In his many distresses he had often resorted thither and found shelter from the storms, refuge from the heat and relief from the besetting problems that he encountered all too often. Peter too had discovered the balm for weary souls: “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” 1Pet.5.7.

Oh safe to the Rock that is higher than I
My soul in its conflicts and sorrows would fly;
So sinful, so weary, Thine, Thine would I be;
Thou blest Rock of Ages, I’m hiding in Thee.

“Thou art worthy …” Revelation 5.9

It is the glad acclaim of all who know and love the Lord; we have discovered but a little of the transcendent worth of the Saviour. All He is essentially, eternally and intrinsically; all He has accomplished for God’s glory and our eternal enrichment; all His words of comfort and counsel have endeared Him to us like no other and furnish us with countless reasons to acknowledge His surpassing greatness, goodness and glory.

He is supremely and singularly worthy; peerless and beyond compare and His worth will be recognised and proclaimed by the innumerable throng of the redeemed to all eternity. Above all, His worth is attested to by the supreme place of honour and dignity awarded to Him by His Father. By undisputed right He has been invited to sit where no other has ever been welcomed, “… on the right hand of the Majesty on high” Heb.1.3. His worth will be on eternal display and all, without exception, will be left in no doubt as to the all-eclipsing worth of the Father’s Son, our precious Saviour.

Every knee in heaven is bending
To the Lamb for sinners slain;
Every voice and harp is swelling,
“Worthy is the Lamb to reign.”
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The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Assembly Practice

(Modernisation, Transformation and Change: are they Needed?)

by Ken Cooper, England


One of the more obvious features of the last two years has been the introduction of a raft of new terms into our everyday speech. Terms such as ‘Covid-secure’ and ‘social distancing’ are entirely new. There are many more. The Covid-19 pandemic has also prompted a number of new practices in assembly testimony in some places. Many, but not all, of these changes involve the use of technology and the internet.

A number of believers are questioning whether the Lord has sent the pandemic as a wake-up call to His people. Some suggest it will be a much-needed prompt to modernisation, transformation and change in assembly testimony and practice. The pandemic is deemed, by some, to be the opportunity to ‘bring assembly practice into the twenty-first century’.


It may still be too early to assess the likely long-term effect the coronavirus pandemic will have on local assemblies. There are a number of emerging problems, issues and practices in certain places that give cause for concern. These problems, which vary from place to place, include for example: numerical decline; erratic attendance; practices that are dubious when viewed in the light of Scripture; an emphasis on lightness and the casual; increased dependence on technology and social media; doctrinal weakness; and worldliness. Many of these trends, but not all, have progressed at pace as a result of the pandemic. Some, which have been bubbling below the surface for some time, are now being exposed. The pandemic seems to have made them more explicit. Some of these problems may disappear over time but, taken as a whole, the potential for schism, confusion and decline is evident.

We must not discount the positive side to the experiences of the last couple of years. There are some changes that have had to be made as a consequence of the pandemic which have been valuable. These include:

  • The expansion of alternative opportunities and the establishment of new locations for gospel preaching. Public, open-air preaching in car parks, on farmers’ fields and on open sites has led to more unsaved than normal coming to hear the gospel;
  • The increased use of and reliance on local gift;
  • Greater flexibility in relation to meetings times and duration, and greater clarity as to their purpose;
  • The increased availability of teaching and preaching via the internet. The opportunities to present the gospel using the internet have been used to good effect by many. Use of the internet for preaching and teaching is not a new phenomenon and is really an extension of previous technology (for example, for several years there have been websites with recordings of messages, whereas previously they were distributed on cassette tapes or CDs). What seems to be new is the scale at which it is being taken up.

However, concerning this final point, on the use of the internet, a note of caution needs to be included. The following points should be weighed up carefully and prayerfully by anyone considering using this medium:

  • Preaching and teaching online is not the same as doing so in person. Not all men with public gift are suited to preach and teach using the internet;
  • If a decision is made that online teaching and preaching are going to be used, then Scriptural principles about teaching and preaching need to be applied. It should not be the opportunity for ‘any man ministry’. Those without public gift should not embark on internet preaching. The prior support of and guidance by local elders should be sought, and one should not proceed if it is not given;
  • Anyone employing technology ought to consider it essential that he would do so in a way that honours the Lord;
  • While online activities are not assembly gatherings, it must ever be remembered that, in the carrying out of such activities, the Lord and the local assembly are being represented. Hence, the practice, conduct and dress adopted in internet presentations should be consistent with what is deemed appropriate in local assembly gatherings.

Taking account of the negatives and positives the question is: has the pandemic set the foundation and impetus for ‘modernisation, transformation and change’ in assembly practice? These words, ‘modernisation’, ‘transformation’ and ‘change’, may strike one as vocabulary more suited to the world of politics and business management. The need for caution in using the language of the world, and especially that of the business world, in relation to Divine things is obvious.

In the face of current dilemmas, the only safe course is to revert to Scripture. What do the Scriptures say about modernisation, transformation and change?


Modernisation simply defined is conformity to the standards and practices of a modern world. It may be worked out in two ways: adopting the thinking of the world and adopting the practices and methods of the world. But the Scriptures tell us that the present condition of the world is (to quote from Vine’s explanation of “world”) one of “alienation from and opposition to God, e.g. John 7.7; 8.23; 14.30; 1Cor.2.12; Gal.4.3; 6.14; Col.2.8; Jas.1.27; 1 John 4.5 (thrice); 5.19”.1 Scripture describes the characteristics of this world, or age, as “evil” Gal.1.4, and its wisdom as “foolish” 1Cor.1.20. Its god is Satan, 2.Cor.4.4. The teaching of Scripture is clear: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” 1Jn.2.15.

1. Vine, W.E. “An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”. Multiple publishers.

In the realm of belief, modernisation would be to imbibe the thinking of the world and therefore, for example, to reject the fact of the world’s creation by God; to reject the distinction between and the respective roles of the sexes; and to abandon salvation by faith in favour of works. These are just a few examples. Sadly, this is where many in Christendom stand.

In the realm of practice, modernisation involves adoption of the world’s practices and methods, with the emphasis on allurement, the sensory, outward presentation and material gain, as opposed to matters affecting the heart, the soul, the spirit and the inner man. Practices that are introduced or that are under consideration need to be examined as to their true character. Many practices may not in themselves be wrong, but their true character, application and intent may be far from the spirit of God’s Word.

The need is not to modernise but to update our view to a Scriptural level so that we see the world for what it really is. If we do so, then the adoption of the world’s thinking and the imitation of the world’s methods will be firmly rejected. As a consequence we will take our place “without the camp” Heb.13.13.


Transformation simply defined is a change in belief, appearance, form and behaviour. Sadly, in a number of testimonies this is the path that is being pursued. The intent seems to be to attract others, to be like others or to not offend others as the ultimate goal.

The Scriptures speak about transformation, in Rom.12.2: “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”. In this chapter it is a change prompted by the power of God. It is an inward change. It is change that is sustained, not a temporary diversion along a path. It is something which is subsequently expressed in character and conduct. 2Cor.3.18 also speaks about being “changed into the same image”. This change is prompted by the Holy Spirit, where a person becomes Christlike in character.

The transformation that is needed in assembly testimony today is not a radical overhaul of current practice but a Christlike transformation in individual lives. Others may be attracted, not by any material or sensory experience, but by the lives of God’s people. We are to be “the epistle of Christ”; see 2Cor.3.3,4.


As believers we have been changed and we will be changed. The gospel changes our lives and our destination, Col.1.13; 1Jn.3.1,2. The fact that God is an unchanging God, Mal.3.6, and Christ is an unchanging Saviour, Heb.13.8, does not mean that we are to be intransigent, stubborn people. Change is something that should really interest us. We are not to be resistant to it. But we may rightly ask: what sort of change do we need? To address outward practice first seems to be a missing of the point. We need to address the matter of change in our own lives as the priority. In a spirit of self-examination and humility we need to imbibe and submit to Scripture, to spend more time in God’s presence, to spend more time in prayer (and less time on grazing the internet) and to review our zeal, motives and commitment to the things of the Lord. This will change us; it will change our family life and the way we bring up our children; it will change our disposition to fellow saints. It will change the tenor and tone of the assembly gatherings. It will lift them to hallowed occasions when the Lord’s presence is realised and enjoyed. Is there anything better? It will change our teaching and preaching and so in turn it will affect our public testimony. There is a danger that we are so preoccupied with the external, the mechanics and the methods, that we are missing the vital.

We need change; we need to be changed. The prayer of Paul in Ephesians chapter 3 is that we may “be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” v.16, Divinely enabled to live a ‘successful’ Christian life; that “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” v.17, Christ as the centre of our affections, “that experience known to and enjoyed by unwavering, undistracted faith”2; “filled with all the fulness of God” v.19, the life, character and virtues of God fully developed in us.

2. Leckie, A. “What the Bible Teaches – Ephesians”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock

So we are not to adopt ‘modern’ thinking and practices; on the contrary, we need to reject the manmade beliefs and methods that characterise this present evil world. And may the Lord make us “transformed”, “changed” believers in the true Scriptural sense, suited to face the post-pandemic challenges that lie ahead, in His will.

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Good Tidings from Heaven

Lost and Found in the Forest

In September 2021, a man in Turkey was drinking with friends, left them, and walked off into a nearby forest, where he spent the night. The next morning, he noticed a group of people, who told him that they were looking for a missing person. Desiring to be helpful, he joined the search. After some time, a member of the search party called out his name, and he responded, “I am here”. Only then did the truth become apparent to all: his family had reported him missing when he failed to return home, volunteers had set out to look for him, and, by joining one of the groups, he was, without knowing it, trying to find himself!

There were two reasons why it took so long for the man to be found: firstly, he did not know that he was lost, and, secondly, the search party did not know the one for whom they were looking, except for his name. The story is amusing, but for me the smile did not last long, for it soon came to my mind that this man is like many in the world today, whom the Bible describes as “lost”. In fact, that is the natural state of all mankind. Like the man in the story, we have wandered away, not from our friends, but from God. Isaiah 53.6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way”. In Luke chapter 15, to illustrate our lost condition, and our need to be found, the Lord Jesus also compares us to a lost sheep, as well as to a lost coin and a lost son.

Doubtless there were dangers for that man in the forest, but they were small compared to the danger that lost sinners face. Indeed, the word translated “lost” in the Bible is frequently translated “perish”, which brings before us the terrible reality that anyone who remains lost in sins will perish, that is, will end up in the Lake of Fire for ever.

Sadly, many are like the man in the story in another way: they are lost, but do not realise that they are lost, and they go on, happily, even trying to help others, and all the while ignorant of their own true status in the sight of God. This man had to learn that he was the one who was lost, and when he did, that was when he was found. If you are reading this message and have never understood that you are a lost sinner, perishing in your sins, and that you need to be saved if you are going to be in Heaven, you need to take in the true situation, and earnestly desire to be found.

At this point the comparison between this story and that of the lost sinner ends, for there is a stark contrast between the two: in this story, the searchers meant well, but they did not know the person for whom they were searching. The very opposite is the case for the Lord Jesus Christ, Who came to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” Luke 19.10. He knows everything about you, including every sin you have ever committed, yet He loves you so much that He went to the cross, to suffer, bleed and die for you, so that you could be “found”, receiving forgiveness of all your sins, salvation from eternal punishment, everlasting life, and a home in Heaven. He rose from the dead, and He will save you today, if you acknowledge your position as a lost sinner, repent, and trust in Him.

Jesus, I will trust Thee, trust Thee with my soul,
Guilty, lost and helpless, Thou canst make me whole:
There is none in heaven or on earth like Thee:
Thou hast died for sinners, therefore, Lord, for me.
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A Proverb to Ponder

“Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge” Proverbs 14.7

Many years after this Proverb was written, Paul had to rebuke the Corinthians: “Be not deceived: ‘Evil communications corrupt good manners.’ Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” 1Cor.15.33,34. They had carelessly allowed themselves to be exposed to, and influenced by, false teachers, who were ignorant of God, and this had been greatly to their spiritual detriment. It has always been the case that bad company destroys good character, and the twofold instruction of this verse, to discern and depart, is still essential: we need to use God’s Word to test all we hear, as to whether it is wise or foolish; and, if it is the latter, let us avoid associating with those whose words and ways are so harmful to our spiritual health.

Consider Him

“His soul an offering for sin … the travail of His soul … He hath poured out His soul unto death” Isaiah 53.10-12

Three times in these three verses, Isaiah writes of “His soul”. Instead, he could have used pronouns such as “Himself”, but “His soul” emphasises all the more strongly how very personal and intense the experience of His sufferings was for the Lord Jesus. The three uses of “His soul” highlight different aspects of His work: “His soul an offering for sin” refers to the trespass offering (in which full restitution was made, and the “fifth part” added), and thus would speak of its sufficiency; in “the travail of His soul” the sorrow He felt is vividly brought before us; and in “He hath poured out His soul unto death” the total selflessness that led Him “unto death, even the death of the cross” is powerfully portrayed. And, as a result, for Him of Whom it is asked, “Who shall declare His generation?” it will be true that “He shall see His seed”. Truly, “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied”!

O Jesus, Lord, who loved us like to Thee?
Fruit of Thy work, with Thee, too, there to see
Thy glory, Lord, while endless ages roll;
Thy saints the prize and travail of Thy soul.
(John Nelson Darby)

“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” Rom.8.3,4.

To run and work the Law commands, but gives us neither feet nor hands.
But better news the gospel brings: it bids us fly and gives us wings.
John Bunyan
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