ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee
THE LAMB IN REVELATION
by W. Banks
COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF KING JEHOSHAPHAT
by J. Hay
A DECLARATION OF THOSE THINGS
by D. Williamson
THE COMPASSIONATE CALL ON THE DAMASCUS ROAD
by R. Barton
GARMENTS OF THE LORD JESUS
by B. Currie
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.48: PSALM 29 (Part 1)
There can be little doubt that David would have been most impressed by the Epistle to the Romans. He is mentioned in the opening verses of the Epistle, where Paul refers to “the gospel of God … concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” Rom.1.1-3. Furthermore he would have discovered that Paul refers twice in the Epistle to his Psalms: “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin’” Rom.4.6-8; Ps.32.1,2; “And David saith, ‘Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway’” Rom.11.9,10; Ps.69.22,23.
There can also be little doubt that David would have agreed with Paul’s reference to the way in which God had revealed Himself in creation: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead”, leaving men “without excuse” Rom.1.20. You can almost hear David saying, ‘That’s just what I said a thousand years ago!’: “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens … When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” Ps.8.1,3,4; “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork” Ps.19.1.
He might well have added Psalm 29, which describes the noise and effect of a thunderstorm. “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth” v.3. But do notice that David is very careful in his wording. He does not talk about the power of nature: he describes the power of the Creator. The word “nature” is used in the New Testament to denote the Divine order in creation: the vile sin of Sodom is “against nature” Rom.1.26; men with long hair ignore the regular law and order of “nature”: “doth not even nature itself teach you …” 1Cor.11.14.
It has been pointed out that the Psalm charts the progress of the storm. It commences out at sea: “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters” v.3; it sweeps inland over Lebanon and Hermon: “The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars … He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn” vv.5,6; it dies away in the far south: “The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness; the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh” v.8. In the process, it passes over Jerusalem, but without in any way disturbing the calm and peace of the Temple: “in His temple doth every one speak of His glory” v.9, although it should be said that some commentators refer this to the heavenly temple.
A.F. Kirkpatrick suggests that the words, “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters” v.3, refer, not to “the sea, as though the storm were represented as coming in from the Mediterranean; but rather the waters collected in the dense masses of storm-cloud upon which Jehovah rides (cf. Ps.18.9; 104.3; Jer.10.13)”.1
- 1 Kirkpatrick, A.F. “The Book of Psalms”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
The Psalm obviously divides into three sections, culminating with peace after the storm: “The Lord will bless His people with peace” v.11. As J.M. Flanigan observes, “At last the storm subsides into calm and the closing word in the Psalm is ‘peace’. It is the lovely ‘Shalom’, and a beautiful reminder of Him who once slept in the storm and then arose to say, ‘Peace, be still.’”2
- 2 Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
It is striking that the Psalm commences with the threefold cry, “Give [yahab] unto the Lord” vv.1,2, and ends with, “The Lord will give [nathan] strength unto His people” v.11. As we give to the Lord, He will give to us. Compare Mal.3.10: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
The three sections of the Psalm are: first, “Worship the Lord” vv.1,2; second, “The voice of the Lord” vv.3-9; third, The peace of the Lord, vv.10,11.
“WORSHIP THE LORD” vv.1,2
“Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name [and what a name!]; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” In this case, the name is Jehovah, which Thomas Newberry calls “a combination in marvellous perfection of the three periods of existence in one word, the future, the present, and the past”3. We must notice at least three things in these verses:
- 3 “The Newberry Bible”. From the Introduction.
First, “Give unto the Lord”. But how can we possibly do that? Is there anything that we can add to His “glory and strength”? We “give unto the Lord” by recognising and declaring His glory and strength. One of the ‘Confessions’ states that “man’s chief end is to glorify God”. The human race exists for this purpose, and it is striking to notice how God reveals Himself in the very first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” Gen.1.1. The word Elohim is the plural of Eloah, which comes from the Hebrew root ahlah, meaning to worship or to adore. Gen.1.1 reveals Him as the adorable God. The words, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name” occur in this Psalm in the context of His creatorial power. But we have much more reason to do so:
- And when I think that God His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die – I scarce can take it in:
hat on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died, to take away my sin:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
We “give unto the Lord” in our priestly worship. See Acts 13.2: “As they [the prophets and teachers at Antioch] ministered to the Lord, and fasted …” The word “ministered” here (leitourgeo) is used of priestly service in Heb.10.11 (“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices”) and, in its noun form, in Heb.8.2 (“a minister of the sanctuary”). We must not sniff at the expression ‘saved to serve’. It is perfectly true. But we have also been saved to worship!
Second, “O ye mighty”. According to the Newberry margin, the word “mighty” means ‘sons of mighty ones’ (benee elim). The word elim is plural (the singular is el): “ye sons of the mighty ones” J.N.D. The only other occurrence of the Hebrew words together is in Ps.89.6: “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty [elim] can be likened unto the Lord?” The context here (“who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord?”) strongly suggests that the expression is used of angels. It is worth noticing that the word elohim (also plural) is used of angels in Ps.8.5: “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels [elohim]”. It seems, therefore, that David is calling on the heavenly hosts to ascribe praise and honour to the Lord. Compare Ps.103.20: “Bless the Lord, ye His angels [malak]”; Ps.148.2: “Praise ye Him, all His angels [malak]: praise ye Him, all His hosts.”
But if such language is fitting for the hosts of heaven, the ‘sons of the mighty’, it is equally fitting for those who are both “sons of God” Rom.8.19, and “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” Rom.8.17.
Third, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”. See also 1Chr.16.29 and Ps.96.9. The word “worship” here (shachah) means, literally, ‘to fall down’ or ‘to bow down’. Ezekiel fell (naphal) upon his face at the sight of the glory of the Lord, Ezek.1.28. While the expression “the beauty of holiness” certainly reminds us that holiness is beautiful whereas sin is ugly, some translate “holy array” or “holy splendour” J.N.D. In all probability this refers to the garments of the priests as they attended the sanctuary: “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come before Him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” 1Chr.16.29. See also 2Chr.20.21: “He [Jehoshaphat] appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness [‘praise in holy splendour’ J.N.D.]”. Aaron wore “holy garments … for glory and for beauty” Ex.28.2. Those who draw near to God must do so in acceptable attire. “Whether angels or men, the worshippers must be suitably attired for His august presence.”4 “As the priests in the earthly temple were clothed in ‘holy garments for glory and for beauty’ Ex.28.2, so even the ministrants in the heavenly temple must be arrayed befittingly.”5 We must heed the teaching of 1Pet.1.15,16: “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, ‘Be ye holy; for I am holy.’”
- 4 Flanigan, J.M., ibid.
- 5 Kirkpatrick, A.F., ibid.
We will consider the remaining two sections of the Psalm in the next issue, Lord willing.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
We now come to Jacob’s tenth son, Zebulun. Again, we shall consider the man, the tribe, and the relevant lessons.
ZEBULUN – THE MAN
Zebulun is the sixth and last son which Leah bore to Jacob: “And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. And Leah said, ‘God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons:’ and she called his name Zebulun” Gen.30.19,20. “Zebulun” means ‘dwelling’ or ‘habitation’, expressing Leah’s yearning for a closer relationship with Jacob. However, she continues to have a good spiritual attitude: “God hath endued me with a good dowry”. Leah had no complaints with God!
Zebulun, the progenitor of his tribe, is largely anonymous in the Scripture record. Evidently he was implicated in the enslavement of Joseph and its cover-up, Gen.37.23-36; and participated in the visits to Egypt to buy grain, Genesis chapters 42 and 43. He is named in the list of Jacob’s sons, Gen.35.23; and, with his three sons, listed with those who relocated to Egypt with Jacob, Gen.46.14; Ex.1.3.
JACOB’S PROPHETIC BLESSING
Jacob’s deathbed prophecy about this son is, “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon” Gen.49.13. A maritime association is indicated for Zebulun.
Jacob’s prophetic announcement gave precedence to the sons of Leah, the first four being in date order, namely Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. However, Zebulun, Leah’s sixth son, is placed before Issachar, her fifth son. Divine revelation may be indicating that the son of love, Zebulun, must take precedence over Issachar, the son begotten of hire.
ZEBULUN – THE TRIBE
Zebulun – in the Wilderness
The children of Zebulun “from twenty years old and upward” numbered 57,400 at the commencement of the wilderness journey, Num.1.30,31, and Zebulun was the fourth largest tribe. It was still the fourth largest tribe some forty years later, at the second census, at the end of the wilderness wanderings, Num.26.26,27, although their numbers had increased to 60,500.
Eliab was the captain of Zebulun at the start of the wilderness journey, Num.1.9; 2.7; 7.24; 10.16. This tribe camped on the east side of the Tabernacle, with those of Judah and Issachar, Num.2.3-9, and marched in the first group, under Judah’s banner, Num.2.9; 10.14-16. Gaddiel was Zebulun’s representative to spy the land of Canaan, Num.13.10, but was associated with the discouraging report. Elizaphan was the “prince of the tribe of … Zebulun” involved in the division of the land, Num.34.25.
Zebulun – Moses’ Prophetic Blessing
Moses’ censure-free blessing of Zebulun is, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents. They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand” Deut.33.18,19. Again, Zebulun is listed before his older brother Issachar. While Zebulun is linked with Issachar in this prophetic blessing, Zebulun has a closer association with Naphtali in subsequent history.
We have already considered this conjoined blessing in relation to Issachar. However, the greater part of the blessing applies to Zebulun. There is rejoicing in their going out which, we shall see, was expressed in great extent when our Lord was upon earth. Calling the people to the mountain to sacrifice may have special reference to Millennial days.
Zebulun – in the Land
After the conquest of Canaan, Zebulun stood on barren Mount Ebal to hear the curses of the Law, Deut.27.13; Josh.8.30-35. Joshua outlined Zebulun’s portion in the land with its twelve cities, Josh.19.10-16. Four of those cities were assigned to Levites, in particular for Merarites, Josh.21.7,34. The tribal territory was located between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. This is not surprising given Jacob’s pronouncement that “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven for ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon” Gen.49.13. While Zidon was an independent Phoenician port, Zebulun’s commercialism and trading enterprise must have brought the tribe into association with it. It was God’s purpose that Asher should conquer Zidon but, as we saw (in Paper 33), “the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites” Judg.1.32. The Zebulun Valley located in the Asher’s tribal area suggests that Zebulonites spread into Asherite territory, bringing them into closer proximity to Zidon.
In addition, the Via Maris (“the way of the sea” Isa.9.1) coastal road, which ran from Egypt to the lands north of Israel, passed through their territory. Thus Zebulun had maritime trading interests to east and west; and terrestrial commercial interests to north and south.
Zebulun – in the Days of the Judges
As with all the tribes settling west of the Jordan, “neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries” Judg.1.30.
Zebulun first demonstrated military ability when Israel was oppressed by Jabin king of Canaan and Sisera his commander, Judg.4.2. Deborah the prophetess, who judged Israel, ordered Barak, “Take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and … Zebulun” Judg.4.6. “Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet” Judg.4.10, and secured an overwhelming victory.
Deborah’s song of triumph praises Zebulun’s contribution: “And out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer”, or “handle the marshal’s staff” R.V., Judg.5.14. This commercial tribe was as deft with the sword as with the pen! Deborah added, “Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field” Judg.5.18. They could be counted on when it mattered!
Zebulun later rallied to Gideon’s call to arms against the Midianites: “he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh … unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came” Judg.6.35. Victory followed, with the total rout of the Midianites.
As well as contributing to victories, two Judges came from Zebulun: Ibzan and Elon. Following Jephthah’s six years of judging, “Ibzan of Beth-lehem judged Israel” Judg.12.8. Rather than Bethlehem Ephratah, also known as Bethlehem Judah, the city of David and the birthplace of our Lord Jesus Christ, this seems to be the Bethlehem in Zebulun. Ibzan “had thirty sons, and thirty daughters, whom he sent abroad, and took in thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years” Judg.12.9. Ibzan’s qualifications for leadership were manifest in the domestic sphere: the character of his home life was replicated in the sixty homes of his children. Ibzan’s influence then impacted on his children’s spouses, and with the establishment of those family units, his influence spread further. Given his family’s size it was well that Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’! Ibzan exemplifies “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” 1Tim.3.4,5. While his influence spread, Ibzan never left his local sphere: “Then died Ibzan, and was buried at Beth-lehem” Judg.12.10.
“And after him Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel; and he judged Israel ten years. And Elon the Zebulonite died, and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun” Judg.12.11,12. Ibzan had laid a good basis in his seven years of rule and Elon extended it by another ten years. It is good when peaceable conditions established by one man are built upon by another. Such conditions are never a reason for indolence. For instance, “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” Acts 9.31.
Zebulun – in the Kingdom
Men of Zebulun owned allegiance to David at Hebron: “Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart” 1Chr.12.33. Unity of purpose and singleness of heart are vital. These men were sincere, honest and loyal. They were not “unstable as water” like Reuben, Gen.49.4, or inviting the censure, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” Jms.1.8. They were Nathanael-like, Israelites indeed, “in whom is no guile” Jn.1.47. Zebulun provided the largest contingent of those who mustered at Hebron; and how much provision was brought over the longest distance by the northern tribes of Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali, to contribute to the “joy in Israel” 1Chr.12.40! During David’s reign Ishmaiah was Zebulun’s ruler, 1Chr.27.19.
During Hezekiah’s revival the Passover was reinstated, to which the northern tribes were invited: “the posts passed from city to city through the country … even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless divers … of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem” 2Chr.30.10,11. It takes courage to go against the prevailing mindset of deriding holy things. True hearts in Zebulun are an example to us still. Even though many coming the long distance from Zebulun to the Passover “had not cleansed themselves” and did “eat the passover otherwise than it was written” yet their exercise was honoured. “Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘The good Lord pardon every one’” 2Chr.30.18. God graciously answered that prayer “and healed the people” 2Chr.30.20. The joy experienced during that Passover and the seven-day festival of Unleavened Bread was such that the celebration was extended for a further seven days, 2Chr.30.23!
Zebulun – in Prophecy
This tribe is mentioned in a Messianic Psalm: “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. Faith looks beyond the disruption and division in the nation, which lay yet future when this Psalm was written, to days of reconciliation in the Millennial reign of Christ. Benjamin and Judah represent the southern tribes; Zebulun and Naphtali represent the northern tribes.
It is of these northern tribes that Isaiah speaks: “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.4.15,16. These tribes were greatly blessed during the Lord’s first advent. Nazareth, “where He had been brought up” Lk.4.16, was in the territory of Zebulun, and Capernaum, “His own city” Matt.9.1, was in that of Naphtali.
We note, in passing, that Gath-hepher, a town in Zebulun, only three miles from Nazareth, was the birthplace of Jonah, Jehovah’s imperfect servant, 2Kgs.14.25.
Ezekiel prophesies that Zebulun will have a portion on the south of the land in the Millennial Kingdom, Ezek.48.26,27, between the Mediterranean Sea and the (no longer) Dead Sea: a maritime nation again. The name “Zebulun” will be on one of the three gates on the southern side of the city, Ezek.48.33.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
“Yea, He is altogether lovely” Song of Solomon 5.16
Every feature of Christ is pleasing and every facet of His Person is engaging and enthralling. Within, without, intrinsically and eternally, physically and morally; He is the purest essence of loveliness, the only perfect specimen of unblemished beauty. No sin has ever defiled Him, no contagion has ever sullied Him, no blemish can ever be found in Him and no errors have ever been made by Him. He is in every aspect peerlessly perfect.
The passing of time will never erode His beauty and eternity’s ever-rolling ages will never cause it to wane. No decay or deterioration will ever deface the incomparable loveliness of Christ. Superlatives are inadequate to describe the transcending beauty of the peerless Christ. He is without a flaw, “all fair without, all pure within. Our blessèd Lord” (I. Ewan). His is loveliness at its most lovely, unmarred, unmixed and uneclipsed, spikenard of rarest purity. The more He is observed and scrutinised the more lovely He appears.
It will be our glad occupation forever to behold His beauty and gaze with undimmed vision upon the incomparable Christ.
- I have heard Him, and observed Him,
- Seen His beauty rich and rare,
- Seen His majesty and glory,
- And His bliss beyond compare.
“… His name shall be called Wonderful …” Isaiah 9.6
No one has ever inspired greater wonder than the Lord Jesus Christ. In celestial realms the chanting cherubim covered themselves in His awesome presence, unable to gaze upon the undimmed brilliance and unveiled glare of His glory and greatness.
During His pilgrimage of service and suffering on earth, He constantly caused men to marvel as they witnessed His miracles, heard His words and observed His purity and patience, even when frequently harassed by the needy, demanding, jostling multitudes. Day by day they saw the sensational; Christ accomplishing the seemingly impossible, “and were beyond measure astonished, saying, ‘He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak’” Mk.7.37. “And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as One that had authority, and not as the scribes” Mk.1.22. At another time onlookers were heard to say, “We never saw it on this fashion” Mk.2.12.
The greatest wonder is that He ever loved us and stooped to the unsounded depths of Calvary to save our souls from eternal woe.
- Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!
Isn’t Jesus my Lord wonderful?
Eyes have seen, ears have heard,
It’s recorded in God’s Word;
Isn’t Jesus my Lord wonderful?
By William M. Banks, Scotland
PAPER 6 — THE WORK OF THE LAMB – Rev.7.1-17; see v.14 (Part 1)
The blood of the Lamb, v.14, is indicative of the accomplished work of Calvary. The sealed servants of God in vv.1-8 proclaim the value of the work resulting in the vast multitude coming under the benefit of accomplished atonement, detailed in vv.9-17. There are thus two visions in the chapter: the first that of the sealing of the one hundred and forty-four thousand from the tribes of Israel in vv.1-8, and the second that of the fruit of their work in vv.9-17: “a great multitude, which no man could number” v.9, coming “out of great tribulation [‘the great tribulation’ R.V.]” v.14.
The chapter is a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seals and seems to answer the question at the end of chapter 6 (“Who shall be able to stand?”) in the context of apocalyptic judgments. Two groups will stand: the “sealed” vv.1-8, and the saved, vv.9-17. However, while the subject is contextually linked to chapter 6 the chronological time frame is not, since the Great Tribulation has not yet taken place. It appears that the one hundred and forty-four thousand are sealed sometime after the Rapture, and before the opening of the seals recorded in chapter 6, with a view to their ongoing activity throughout the Tribulation (in preaching the gospel of the kingdom?) resulting in the blessings recorded in vv.9-17. The first vision is thus retrospective and the second vision anticipatory.
The sealing of the one hundred and forty-four thousand from the nation of Israel – vv.1-8
- The four restraining angels – v.1
- The sealing angel – vv.2,3a
- The number of the sealed – vv.3b-8
The saved of the Tribulation (the Great one) and three paeans of praise – vv.9-17
- The first paean of praise – vv.9,10 (v.10), involving “a great multitude”
- The second paean of praise – vv.11,12 (v.12), involving “all the angels”
- The third paean of praise – vv.13-17 (vv.15-17), involving “one of the elders”
In this paper, we will consider the first vision (vv.1-8).
THE SEALING OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR THOUSAND FROM THE NATION OF ISRAEL – vv.1-8
It is evident that the one hundred and forty-four thousand are sealed after the Rapture (pictured as having taken place in 4.1: “… Come up hither”). However, immediately after the Rapture there is not one believer left on earth and no one of responsible age capable of communicating the gospel. There must therefore be a time lapse (evidenced by the word “till” in 7.3) before the “sealing” of eligible “servants of our God” v.3 (that is, the one hundred and forty-four thousand) can take place. The Word of God will of course be available, and the activity of the Spirit of God (as He moved in the Old Testament), but apart from direct Divine intervention (as was the case with the apostle Paul in Acts chapter 9) there would be no one capable of evangelising the post-Rapture world.
The “four winds” of v.1 are going to “hurt the earth” v.2, in judgment, v.3, and may well refer to the opening of the seals detailed in chapter 6. However this does not take place immediately either, since there must be a time lapse for the Antichrist (depicted in the first seal) to arise. The opening of the seals seems to be the prelude to the introduction of the seven final years of tribulation (Daniel’s seventieth week, Dan.9.25-27) immediately prior to the introduction of the Millennial Kingdom.
The Four Restraining Angels – v.1
The extent of the restraint is universal, v.1a. The numeral four appears three times: “four angels”, “four corners of the earth” and “four winds”, confirming this universality. The reason for the widespread restraint is that the prospective widespread judgment must be delayed for the reasons given above. The effect of it, v.1b, is that “the wind should not blow …”; the wind of judgment is delayed to permit the sealing. God is in control and dictating the movements.
The Sealing Angel – vv.2,3a
This is a most important angel. The work he undertakes has climactic consequences with one hundred and forty-four thousand from the nation of Israel capable of undertaking universal evangelism, and being able to survive some of the greatest opposition and “tribulation” the world has ever seen. The fact of their survival (to a man!) is evidenced by them appearing on Mount Zion with Christ at the commencement of His Millennial reign, 14.1. Several details are recorded about this angel:
His Location – v.2: “ascending from the east”
This is the location of the sun rising and indicates the source of blessing. His movement is an ascent, as is the case with all Divine service!
His Authority – v.2b: “having the seal of the living God”
The living God contrasts with the rampant idolatry which will be in full swing under the Beast, 13.1-10. The seal here speaks of ownership and security: belonging to God and assuredly secure and preserved by Him through the whole of the Tribulation period (till 14.1ff.); compare Eph.1.13,14. Hoste1 has interestingly suggested that this may be a fulfilment of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit “… upon … your sons and your daughters” Joel 2.28, while the balance of the chapter, vv.9-17, is the same effect “upon all flesh” Joel 2.28.
- 1 Hoste, W. “The Visions of John the Divine”. John Ritchie Ltd., No date.
His Urgent Command – vv.2c-3a: “Hurt not the earth … till …”
This is confirmation of the requirement for a time frame between the Rapture and the commencement of the judgment, 6.1, to permit sealing. A time frame between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation period is also needed for2: peace to be apparent, 1Thess.5.3; the Temple to be built, 11.1,2; the Antichrist to arise, 13.1,2; and the seat of the Beast to be established at Babylon, 16.10. It has also been suggested3 that there might be an inkling of this time frame in Dan.9.26, where we read of Messiah being cut off and the city being destroyed. We now know that there was a period of approximately forty years (a generation) between those two events. This took place at the commencement of the present dispensation, and could be paralleled at the commencement of the next.
- 2 Allen, J. “What the Bible Teaches – Revelation”. John Ritchie Ltd., 1997.
- 3 Leckie, A. Private Communication.
The Number of the Sealed – vv.3b-8
Those who are sealed are called “the servants [‘bondmen’] of our God” v.3b. While there is a necessary time frame, as indicated above, after the Rapture and before the preaching of “the gospel of the kingdom”, God does not leave Himself without a witness for long, after the Rapture of the Church. Very often it has been a remnant and it is no different here. Their witness is going to have dramatic effects. They were sealed “in their foreheads” v.3c, indicative of identification and association; it is with “His name [the Lamb’s name]” 14.1, R.V., and “His Father’s name” 14.1; compare 22.4 and contrast 13.16; 14.9. Their power in service is not their own but that of the Lamb and the Father!
The number involved is of interest, vv.4-8. It is one hundred and forty-four thousand, i.e. twelve x twelve thousand from each tribe. Twelve is the number of governmental administration. In the celestial city of 21.9ff there are no fewer than twelve twelves, indicating the perfection of universal administration under the reigning Sovereign during the Millennial Kingdom! Israel now becomes the centre of Divine dealings with the earth. It seems that Manasseh takes the place of Dan (was he omitted because of his particular association with idolatry? Gen.49.17; Amos 8.14); and Joseph takes that of Ephraim.
The subject of their preaching is not explicitly stated. However if the second company in the chapter is linked to the first (which seems incontrovertible) then by implication it must have been “the blood of the Lamb” v.14. The sacrificial atonement of Christ based on the shedding of His blood is the essential basis of all aspects of the gospel, which here would be “the gospel of the kingdom” as prophesied by the Lord: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” Matt.24.14. The gospel of the kingdom has entrance into the Millennial Kingdom in view, just as today the gospel of the grace of God has entrance into the Church which is His body as its objective.
To be continued (D.V.)
By Jack Hay (Scotland)
Paper 4 – BAD COMPANY
A DOWNWARD PATH
Jehoshaphat’s marriage pact with the house of Ahab, 2Chr.18.1, was the thin edge of the wedge. With the passing of a few years, he himself “went down to Ahab” v.2. On occasions, when Scripture speaks of individuals going “down” it is more than a geographical or topographical going down. There is an ominous ring to it! Abraham “went down” to Egypt, Gen.12.10. Samson “went down” to Timnath, Judg.14.1. Jonah “went down” to Joppa, Jonah 1.3. “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho” Lk.10.30. In each case, it ended badly. Thus when we read that Jehoshaphat “went down to Ahab” we begin to feel nervous.
As happens, one wrong step led to another. It was like that with his father, Asa, and the last chapter of his life was downhill all the way. He sought help from the Syrians rather than relying on the Lord. When rebuked, he was incandescent with rage and imprisoned Hanani the seer. “The same time”, he oppressed some of his people, and in his subsequent illness “he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians” 2Chronicles chapter 16. Mercifully, Jehoshaphat did not persist on his downward path, but when reprimanded he responded positively, and recovery was effected, 2Chr.19.1-4. Let us guard against taking a deliberate first step on the slippery slope, for we can never predict where it will all end.
If we were very generous, we might suggest that Jehoshaphat’s visit to Ahab was to encourage him to abandon Baal and to draw him back to Jehovah. Even if that unlikely situation was the case, he learned quickly that, rather than pulling Ahab up, he himself was in danger of being pulled down. Holiness is not contagious; uncleanness is, Hag.2.12,13. “Evil company doth corrupt good manners” 1Cor.15.33, R.V., and the man whose delight had been in the law of the Lord was now about to walk in the counsel of the ungodly, Ps.1.1,2; he was stepping out of verse 2 of the Psalm back into verse 1, so spiritually he was in reverse gear, and in danger of forfeiting the blessing of which that opening verse speaks.
A DECEITFUL PLOY
His reception at Samaria was designed to flatter. Sheep and oxen were killed “in abundance” 2Chr.18.2, a banquet that was designed to soften him up and prepare him for a proposal to co-operate in a military venture. Ahab was as subtle as his father the devil, Gen.3.1, and, sadly, the king of Judah was duped by his ingratiating manner. It is what a poet called the ‘friendly outstretched hand’ of the world, but a hand that ‘is stained with Jesus’ blood’. Never be naïve; be quick to recognise the flattering and deferential approach that is intended to quell any misgivings and garner support for some activity that you would be better to avoid. Abraham was aware of the danger of being obligated to the king of Sodom and so he rejected his cunning suggestion, Gen.14.17-24. Doubtless, the intervention of Melchizedek had been timely, and we can be influenced by the promptings of our great High Priest, but our wilfulness could override these promptings. Sadly, Jehoshaphat threw caution to the winds.
A DUBIOUS PROPOSAL
The history of Ramoth-gilead underscores the folly of the two and a half tribes opting to remain on the eastern side of Jordan, Numbers chapter 32. It left them perpetually vulnerable, for, as ever, the fringe is a perilous place to be. Be wholehearted rather than on the margins. At this point, Ramoth-gilead was under the heel of Syria, and Ahab had ambitions to retake it. To accomplish this, he felt the need of reinforcements in the form of Judah’s “men of war, mighty men of valour” 2Chr.17.13. Initially, Jehoshaphat was reluctant to co-operate, for he had to be “persuaded” 2Chr.18.2. Then he capitulated in a big way: “I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war” v.3. If only he had heeded Solomon’s advice he would have avoided so much grief: “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not … My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path” Prov.1.10,15. But Jehoshaphat signed up without reading the small print, and only after committing himself did he think about referring the matter to heaven. Never allow a persuasive silver tongue to wear you down. Despite daily pressure from royal courtiers, Mordecai refused to bow the knee to Haman, Esther 3.1-4. Be as firm as he was when resisting attempts to break your resolve about moral, spiritual and Biblical issues.
Only after agreeing to co-operate did Jehoshaphat think about asking the Lord about this: “Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord to day” 2Chr.18.4. Imagine asking an ungodly man to pray about a situation! Jehoshaphat should have known that to speak to God requires moral suitability. It is a lesson that we all need to learn; “holy hands” are necessary for congregational prayer, 1Tim.2.8, and being “a righteous man” is a prerequisite for the personal “effectual fervent prayer” that “availeth much” Jms.5.16. David knew that “integrity and uprightness” were essential if he was going to “wait” on God, Ps.25.21. Ahab’s character was far from righteous and his hands were far from holy. He was a stranger to integrity and uprightness, and yet he was being asked to pray!
Ahab marshalled four hundred false prophets and to a man they encouraged him to make his assault on Ramoth-gilead with the assurance that God would give the victory, 2Chr.18.5. Jehoshaphat was suspicious. God’s people do have the capacity to sift the information that comes their way, discerning between truth and error. Thus John instructed his readers to “try the spirits whether they are of God”, assuring them that they had the capacity to do it, and to be able to overcome false teaching and false teachers, “because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” 1Jn.4.1-4. He had already told them that they had “an unction from the Holy One” 2.20, so the indwelling Holy Spirit imparts to believers of the Church age the ability to be discerning. Even back in Old Testament days, Jehoshaphat detected that there was something wrong with this whole setup.
A DESPISED PROPHET
“Is there not here a prophet of the Lord here besides, that we might inquire of him?” 2Chr.18.6. At that point in time Elijah was still prominent; his rapture took place some time later, but God bypassed Elijah on this occasion and used Micaiah as His spokesman. The lesson is that God is not restricted in any way. He can use whom He will, when He will, and how He will. You may regard yourself as being a background person, far from the limelight and certainly not of the stature of Elijah, but if the faithfulness and commitment of Micaiah are features of your life, you are “meet for the master’s use” 2Tim.2.21.
Micaiah’s history of consistent opposition to Ahab’s evil ways sustained a smouldering bitterness in the king’s heart. “I hate him” was his confession to Jehoshaphat, 2Chr.18.7, and you can hardly read it without remembering the Lord’s words to His disciples, “the world hateth you” Jn.15.19, words that were echoed by the apostle John, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” 1Jn.3.13. Holy living creates resentment, and faithful witnessing causes annoyance. Expect a hostile reaction when you refuse to be untruthful, balk at some underhand proposal, or decline the opportunity to attend a function at some unsuitable establishment. It should be no surprise if the world hates you.
Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing Micaiah, and while a messenger was fetching the prophet the two kings sat pompously on their thrones while the four hundred false prophets predicted that there would be a successful outcome at Ramoth-gilead, 2Chr.18.8-11. Their main spokesman was a man called Zedekiah, who acted out a drama with iron horns to illustrate the point! He knew what was expected of a prophet! Certainly, genuine prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel did sometimes employ a dramatic approach, and made extensive use of action parables. That mode of communication was not extended into New Testament evangelism. Both Peter and Paul would have been very familiar with these Old Testament methods, but we never read of them employing such tactics. The gospel is communicated by preaching, then and now.
Micaiah’s guard primed him about what to say to maintain solidarity among the prophets, v.12, but he served notice that he would only impart the message of God, v.13. Being the odd man out would not faze him. Being only one among so many opponents would not intimidate him, just as it had not overawed Elijah at Carmel, 1Kings chapter 18. The hatred of the king would never induce him to soft-pedal the message from God. Let his resolve be a challenge to us, a minority ‘group’ trying to communicate an unpopular message to a hostile world; “in nothing terrified by your adversaries” Phil.1.28.
To be continued (D.V.)
“A declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us” Luke 1.1
by Dennis Williamson, N. Ireland
Paper 2 — BEHOLD THE MAN
In the first paper, we began considering the Godhead. Only one of the three Persons in the Godhead became man. That Person we have come to know and adore is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God, the Interpreter, the very Exegesis of God: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” Jn.1.18. He would declare all we know of the Father: “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” Matt.11.27. He alone could say, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” Jn.14.9.
In putting pen to paper, an awesome realisation fills our breast: that we are on “holy ground” as we speak of this unique Man. Through the long course of history in this world, there have been great men, noble men, men who have reached the apex of achievement in their chosen profession. Many others are remembered for the contribution they have made in the development of society. In the last century alone, the pace of progress has been staggering, and people rightly applaud men and women in industry, commerce and science for advancement in these fields. However, while freely acknowledging all this, we also register that since the dawn of history there has been only one perfect man: the Man Who died upon Calvary’s cross.
As we meditate a little upon His lovely Person, we are conscious of the words at the end of the Gospel by John: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” Jn.21.25.
Let us therefore reverently explore together some of those things which mark Him out as distinct from all others.
HE IS ETERNAL
This is more than that He was pre-existent before Bethlehem, while that is true. It is self-existence, or, as Paul says in Col.1.17, “He is before all things, and by Him all things consist”. Micah says regarding Him, “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” Mic.5.2. I like Fausset’s comment on this: “The terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable.”1 The Lord spoke to His Father of “the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” Jn.17.5. In verse 24 of the same chapter He states that He was loved before the foundation of the world. The words “sent”, “manifested” and “came”, which are so frequently used of the Lord Jesus, all involve prior existence. The angels are called sons of God in the Bible, that is, by creation; we believers are sons of God by adoption, Gal.4.5; but the Lord alone is the eternal Son.
- 1 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A.R., and Brown, D. “Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible”. 1871.
HE BECAME MAN
“The Word was made [‘became’] flesh, and dwelt among us” Jn.1.14. He was active in His own humanity. Heb.2.14 says, “Forasmuch as the children are partakers [passively] of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part [actively] of the same”. He voluntarily became man. Perhaps at this point it should be stressed that He did not take part in sinful humanity. His humanity was essentially holy. Not a trace of contagion from the ‘Fall’ was allowed to mar His perfection. His holiness could never be invaded by unholiness! From eternity to eternity He is inherently holy, and this includes His period in this scene of time; otherwise He could never have been the Saviour.
HE HAS TWO NATURES IN ONE PERSON
This is another unique feature of His manhood. The concept of “flesh” in Jn.1.14 involves more than just flesh and bone; it rather describes ‘all that man is’. For man to be man he must have the nature of man, and for God to be God He must have the nature of God. Both these natures are found distinctly and unconfusedly in the Person of Christ. He alone is God and man, yet One glorious Person, and that forever, for He has taken humanity back to the throne.
HE IS WITHOUT SIN
Those who falsely claim that Christ could have sinned emphasise that this was true of Him only as man. But since incarnation the Lord Jesus was never only man. I know that we hear at times, ‘As man He did this’ and ‘as God He did that’, and sometimes this is said with the highest of motives. But let us try to be careful, for the Lord Jesus is both God and man at all times and forever. His Person must not be divided, while His natures remain distinct. The Bible says He was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh” Rom.8.3. Outwardly he was like any other man. The woman at the well asked, “How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me …?” Jn.4.9. However, we know it was not sinful flesh for this was the only perfect man that ever lived. The record of His birth in Bethlehem is given by Dr. Luke in chapter 2 of his Gospel, but in Lk.1.35, before conception by the Holy Spirit, the voice of the angel said to Mary, “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God”. This prophecy indicated the total absence of sin in His humanity. The superintendence of God and the Holy Spirit assured this. The Word is so precious and pure: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee [production], and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee [protection]: therefore also that holy thing [perfection] that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Speculation in this area is both futile and wholly irreverent and invasive. If anything more needed to be said in this sphere, Luke (a doctor) would have been the man to say it, under God, but he did not, and we must not intrude where Scripture is silent.
These things are corroborated in other Scriptures. Peter says He “did no sin [fault or flaw]” 1Pet.2.22. Paul says He “knew no sin” 2Cor.5.21, meaning it was alien to Him. It was alien to Him, whether in origin, or process, or outcome. In other words, He was totally sinless. John, in His First Epistle says, “in Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5; not (as is often misquoted) ‘in Him was no sin’. If He could have sinned then, He can sin now, for He is “that same Jesus”. But the idea that He could have sinned is utter blasphemy and should not be even entertained by any believer. It was not that His Divine nature dominated His human nature, so that He was not able to sin, as some have said. Such a statement is erroneous, for both natures are equally holy. What a glorious Saviour!
HE WAS NOT SUBJECT TO DEATH
The death of a sinless man is unique in itself. The Bible informs us that “the wages of sin is death” Rom.6.23. Death is the product of sin: “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” Rom.5.12. Therefore the Lord being without sin, death had no claim upon Him. His assertion was, “No man taketh it [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” Jn.10.18. He was an all-powerful Saviour, for no one else could truthfully say these words. Accordingly, for us, when death calls then we must go, but, although there were many attempts on His life, the Lord could say, “Mine hour is not yet come.” He had the power of death in His control. He, unlike us, was never a dying man, until He chose to die. When He was standing before Pilate, that frustrated man would say to Him, “Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?” The calm and measured response of the Lord Jesus was, “Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given Thee from above” Jn.19.10,11. How He rested in the will of God and His timing!
HE DIED VOLUNTARILY
This follows directly from the previous point. The death of the Lord Jesus was unique for it was voluntary. As One Who had death and life in His control, He chose to die. The reasons for that death have filled volumes and will continue to do so. We may yet speak of some of these as we pursue these meditations. Meantime, never let us miss the wonder and the preciousness of the results of His death, in its effects, personally, nationally and globally, which have been experienced by millions, and will yet be felt by a groaning creation, Rom.8.21.22.
HE ROSE AGAIN TRIUMPHANTLY
Eph.4.10 says, “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” These actions are here attributed to Him alone. This One “destroy[ed] [‘rendered powerless’] him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver[ed] them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” Heb.2.14,15. He rose, never to die again! He lives in “the power of an endless life” Heb.7.16.
These are just some of the many things that make our Lord so special. May it be ours to grasp and guard them tenaciously until He comes back to take us home to be with Him and like Him forever!
To be continued (D.V.)
by Roderick Barton, England
As one of the most spiritual men of the early days of the Church was paying the ultimate price for his Godly testimony, a young man named Saul stood by, Acts 7.58. It is very striking that the name of the one minding the garments of those murderous men stoning Stephen should be mentioned. God is preparing the reader for the remarkable events of the Damascus Road and the impact for eternity of His intervention there.
As Saul was consenting, no doubt enthusiastically, to the cruel death of Stephen, Acts 8.1, he would have witnessed the spiritual intimacy and confidence of the victim’s devotion to Christ. Did such a display of graciousness shown by a man about to close his eyes forever on this world nudge at his conscience? Stephen had done him no harm. Was there ever a direct conversation between the two men? Perhaps not, for Saul does not appear to be one of those physically ‘in for the kill’. One thing seems certain, however: he appeared to be unmoved by the proceedings, for he stepped up the persecution of believers by making “havock of the church” Acts 8.3.
Nothing seemed to stop him sweeping through homes and carrying the believers off to prison. Not content with his actions locally, Saul sought written authority to continue his campaign at Damascus: a cruel, calculated plan to involve the authority of the religious hierocracy in a repeat of what he had already achieved. Acts chapter 9 opens by painting the picture of a man obsessed with threats of persecution. There seems no restraint upon his conduct. As far as he is concerned he is the spearhead to crush the Christians whom he deems to be in opposition to the Jews’ religion, its leaders and the Law.
The Scripture in v.3 says, “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus”. The destination for the accomplishment of his foul intentions lay before him, yet suddenly his whole world mercifully collapsed in a moment in the presence of a brilliant light greater than the noonday sun. Saul had come dramatically to the end of his unrighteous ambition. His response was, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” v.6. The uniqueness of his conversion brings before us the wondrous depths of compassion which Christ has for the rebel sinner. Saul deserved to be the object of Divine judgment, yet he received the complete opposite. Christ loved the man who “breath[ed] out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples” v.1, the man who caused such turmoil amongst the redeemed, the man who showed no restraint in his mission of persecution. All this highlights the immensity and infinite value of such statements as, “Christ died for the ungodly” Rom.5.6; “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” 1Tim.1.15; and the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” Matt.9.13. There is no limit to the impact of these statements upon men.
Later Saul (Paul) was to testify to, amongst others, Felix, Festus, Agrippa and Bernice of the wonder of the compassion and mercy of Christ to him on the Damascus Road. He spoke of the blessings of his salvation, which became more precious to him every day of his life. The result of this was that as his appreciation of the work of salvation wrought by the Lord Jesus at Calvary became greater and deeper, so his view of himself became less and less. Faithful, Godly servants of God are marked by their own progress in seeking to show that Christ’s preeminence should be paramount and their own virtues of no regard. Paul tells the saints at Corinth that he is “the least of the apostles” 1Cor.15.9. Later he writes to the church at Ephesus, describing himself as “less than the least of all saints” Eph.3.8. Still later, when penning his First Epistle to Timothy, he refers to himself as “the chief” of sinners, 1Tim.1.15. He lays himself bare before the Roman believers, saying, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” Rom.7.18. In verse 24 of the same chapter he exclaims, “O wretched man that I am!”
This view of himself certainly does not hinder him from heralding those triumphant words of blessed assurance in the first verse of the next chapter: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”. To Paul it is all about Christ, and nothing of self. The Damascus Road was the starting point of a life continually dedicated to Christ first and self last.
Do we live in daily appreciation of Christ’s compassion for us, Lam.3.22-24? Are we spiritually progressing to a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him because of it? Is our meditation of Him becoming sweeter, richer and more blessed because the Lord Jesus has so warmly embraced us with His love and grace, just as he did with Paul?
by Brian Currie, N. Ireland
There are just a few things that our Lord called His own, but He did speak concerning His garments on this wise: “And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, ‘They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots’” Matt.27.35, quoting the prophecy of Ps.22.18. Things or persons He called His own include: “My sheep” Jn.10.26,27; 21.16,17; “My God, My God” Matt.27.46; Mk.15.34; “My glory” Jn.17.24; “My grace” 2Cor.12.9; and here, “My garments”. This meditation will be concerned with the garments that He wore personally, and will not embrace the typical clothing of, for example, Israel’s high priest.
The reader may wish to find the glory of the Lord Jesus in the reference to His garments in Ps.45.8: “All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia …” These highlight His manifold and variegated glories. Myrrh speaks of bitterness. Reference is made to myrrh seven times in the Song of Songs, and it is connected with love and devotion. It often draws our attention to His life and death of suffering and bitterness. In Matthew chapter 2 it was offered by wise men in His infancy (gold: He was a special Man; frankincense: He was a sinless Man; myrrh: He was a suffering Man). It was offered to Him on the cross: “they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but He received it not” Mk.15.23. Nicodemus brought it at His burial: “brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight” Jn.19.39. It was sweet to the smell, illustrating that His bitterness is sweet to us when we discern it rightly. Then there were brought aloes, again emphasising the bitterness of the world to His holy character. Yet to us who are saved this is where we find such delightful sweetness. Cassia was also there. “Cassia” is from a root word meaning to stoop or bow down the head. This implies His communion with God, even through the night: “And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives” Jn.7.53; 8.1.
Our Lord wore five pieces of clothing: headpiece, outer robe, girdle, sandals and inner garment.
- Headpiece: the Discerning Son in John. His Deity
- Outer Robe: the Directing Sovereign in Matthew. His Royalty
- Girdle: the Display of Sympathy in Luke. His Sympathy
- Sandals: the Devoted Servant in Mark. His Activity
- Inner Garment: the Doctrine of the Saviour in the Epistles. His Beauty
HEADPIECE: the Discerning Son in John. His Deity
Note the many references to the knowledge of Christ in John’s Gospel:
- “He knew all men … He knew what was in man” 2.24,25;
- “I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine” 10.14;
- “Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father” 13.1;
- “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands …” 13.3;
- “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth and said unto them, ‘Whom seek ye?’” 18.4;
- “Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished … saith, ‘I thirst’” 19.28;
- Peter “said unto Him, ‘Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee’” 21.17.
These references display that He is omniscient, that is, He knows all things. This is a feature that belongs exclusively to Deity. We can have no secret compartments in life, when we are continually before the One Who has “eyes … as a flame of fire” Rev.1.14. Is not this typified in the head of the burnt offering, Lev.1.8?
OUTER ROBE: the Directing Sovereign in Matthew. His Royalty
1Sam.18.4 reads, “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” The robe here depicts rule and authority. We read in 1Kgs.22.10, “the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes …” These robes belong to the king and bring us to God’s King presented in Matthew’s Gospel. We see the King as He sits on the mountain side and teaches the audience the things of God, in chapters 5-7, commonly called ‘The Sermon on the Mount’. We also see Him on Mount Olivet in chapters 24,25, giving what is called ‘The Olivet Discourse’. We are reminded of the words of Eccl.8.4: “Where the word of a king is, there is power …”
Philippians chapter 2 pictures our heavenly David, the Lord Jesus, going down into the valley of Elah and coming up victoriously with the giant’s head in His hand. “And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand” 1Sam.17.57. Saul himself ought to have gone to face the giant and if he would not go then Jonathan should have gone, but these were too cowardly. Jonathan knows that David became their substitute and he bows before him. In 1Sam.18.3,4 Jonathan strips himself of every insignia of glory: “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.” This Paul did in Phil.3.7: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”
GIRDLE: the Display of Sympathy in Luke. His Sympathy
Our Saviour was girded as follows:
Girded in Glory, revealing His Majesty
“Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh … with Thy glory and Thy majesty …” Ps.45.3.
Girded in Grace, revealing His Humility
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded” Jn.13.4,5.
Girded in Gold, revealing His Scrutiny
We read of another occasion when He was girded and that was where He was “clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle” Rev.1.13.
The high priest wore the curious girdle, which was a symbol of His compassion and sympathy. Luke’s Gospel begins and ends with a priest, and with these two priests, Zacharias and our Lord, lifting up their hands: the Lord Jesus is the priestly Man throughout this Gospel. Notice, in the context of this meditation, three occasions where Divine compassion is illustrated by the actions and words of the Saviour:
- With respect to the widow of Nain, “He had compassion on her, and said unto her, ‘Weep not’” 7.13. This was in the circumstances of death;
- Regarding the certain Samaritan we read, “… when he saw him, he had compassion on him” 10.33. This was regarding a man whom religious leaders had disdained;
- The third time is in the story of the prodigal son: “… his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” 15.20. This compassion was shown to a man who was in debauchery.
SANDALS: the Devoted Servant in Mark. His Activity
Mark’s Gospel is unique as he highlights the busyness of Jehovah’s perfect Servant. He is not a lazy man. He does not pass the time, but rather He redeems it. It is remarkable that apart from chapter 8, and possibly chapter 14, every chapter after the opening one begins with “and”. He did this … and went there … and entered another place; and so it goes on. Read the words “straightway”, “forthwith” and “immediately”; they are all the same Greek word and they occur some forty times in Mark’s Gospel.
C.T. Studd wrote:
- Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
- Only what’s done for Christ will last.1
- 1 The poem from which these words are taken has eight stanzas, and was published in the September-October 2016 issue of “Assembly Testimony”.
INNER GARMENT: the Doctrine of the Saviour in the Epistles. His Beauty
This garment was not seen by men. Only God could see and appreciate the internal beauty of the Saviour. The inner garment was not rent, implying that we cannot tear God’s appreciation of Him. Think of His sinlessness, answering to the Passover lamb of Ex.12.9: “Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof”:
- “Who knew no sin …” 2Cor.5.21 “His head”, speaking of His mind;
- “Who did no sin …” 1Pet.2.22. “His legs”, speaking of His movements;
- “In Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5. “The purtenance”, speaking of His motives.
We conclude this meditation as we commenced it: “They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots.” The removal of His actual garments symbolises the denial by those who were gathered there of the glories of the Lord Jesus. However, this is not the end, as the thief, with rare spirituality, ‘put them on Him again’, in that his few words to the Lord acknowledged the glories that the world had denied: “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom” Lk.23.42:
- “Lord”: His Deity (John). His headpiece;
- “remember me”: His Sympathy (Luke). His girdle;
- “when Thou comest”: His Activity (Mark). His sandals;
- “into Thy kingdom”: His Royalty (Matthew). His robe.
What of the inner robe, speaking of His inner beauty, which was also denied by those who crucified Him? It was ‘replaced’ by God Himself, in that He expressed His total pleasure in His Son, and His appreciation of every glory that is His, by the resurrection: “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead” Acts 4.10; “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead” Acts 13.29,30.
Well may we rejoice in Him as we sing, “Hallelujah, what a Saviour!”
Crossing the Channel
On the 14th December 2022 we heard yet again the tragic news of migrants drowning in the icy waters of the English Channel as they were making the perilous crossing from France to the United Kingdom. On the 27th November 2021 twenty-seven migrants perished in one of the worst maritime disasters ever in the Channel.
What is the attraction that lures many to pay extortionate prices to criminal gangs, to climb on board an over-crowded, unseaworthy dinghy and attempt to reach the other side of arguably the busiest and most dangerous stretch of water in the world? Some, admittedly, are merely economic migrants but others are eager to escape war, genocide, persecution and famine to enjoy an easier life in what they perceive to be a better land. Illegal migration has become a problem of major proportions and attempts to satisfactorily solve the problem have failed and floundered with around forty thousand arriving illegally in the UK in 2022. Some gain asylum in the UK and live comfortably but others discover that their dream was just an illusion and it quickly became a nightmare.
In the spiritual realm there are many who are prepared to do their utmost; pay over a lifetime to gain a place in Heaven; say daily prayers; and many subject themselves to a life of hardship, and asceticism, doing penance for years to be sure of arriving in the “land that is fairer than day” (words from a hymn by Sanford F. Bennett). The majority, alas, do this because they have been misdirected throughout life to believe that Heaven and eternal life are rewards for good works, religious observance, church attendance and several other things which raise false hopes. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Proverbs 14.12.
The Bible clearly states that Christ did all that was necessary for us to be in Heaven, as He hung upon the cross at Calvary, where He died voluntarily and vicariously (in the stead of others). Just before He died, the Lord Jesus said, “It is finished” John 19.30, indicating that the work was done completely, that the penalty for sin was borne in its totality and the price to procure our eternal salvation was paid in full. Now salvation is free to all who are prepared to take God at His word and rely solely upon Christ and His accomplished work to safely arrive on Heaven’s golden shore. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” Ephesians 2.8,9. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” John 3.36.
We wonder at the risks many are prepared to take to reach the coast of the UK; we marvel that they are ready to forfeit their lives instead of investigating if there is not an easier, legal way of entering Britain. Sadly, all too many are willing to do almost anything to reach Heaven except obey the Word of God and do what the Scriptures say. They will listen to men instead of accepting the unchanging truth of God’s Word.
Regrettably many asylum seekers are made to feel unwelcome when they arrive in another country, but you can be sure of a warm welcome if you come as you are to Christ. He has said, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” John 6.37.
Migrants can choose to attempt the dangerous crossing or they can opt to remain in France or another country but one day you will have “to go to the other side” Mark 6.45. Your life on earth will be over, you will have no option but to leave this world and make the crossing to the eternal night of Hell or the unclouded brightness of Heaven. You will never be sent back: how necessary then to ensure you arrive at the right destination.
by Roy Reynolds, N. Ireland
- Unquenched by many waters’ flow,
- Unfathomed depths that none can know;
- His love can never measured be,
- His matchless love to worthless me.
- His Name by seraphim was praised,
- Angelic hosts their anthems raised;
- Forever clothed with majesty,
- Yet such His love, He thought on me.
- By His own words the worlds were framed;
- He made the stars and each He named;
- But to save me, to earth He came,
- Endured the cross, despised the shame.
- By power, He made the dead to live;
- To blinded eyes He sight did give;
- He calmed the storm and stilled the sea;
- But O such love, He died for me.
- Eli, lama sabachthani!
- List’ to His strange and plaintive cry:
- Forsaken by His God was He,
- And all because He lovèd me.
- And when at last to heaven I go,
- With grateful heart, while bending low
- Before the Lamb, my song shall be,
- Worthy art Thou Who lovèdst me!
- “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” Matt.6.33,34
- Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow – only today of its strength.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon