March/April 2024

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

by J. Riddle

by I. McKee

by W. Banks

by D. Williamson

by D. Strahan

by G. Khoo

by R. Reynolds



Soft answer — Proverbs 15:1

Weighing the spirits — Proverbs 16:2

Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle


No.54: PSALM 32 (Part 1)

Psalm 32 is the second of the seven suggested ‘penitential Psalms’. The others are Psalms 6, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143. However, Psalms 102, 130 and 143 can hardly be described as penitential, although it has to be said that Psalm 130 does warn against the possibility of sinning against the Lord: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” v.3. Psalm 102 is clearly a Messianic Psalm! The sorrow that these three Psalms express is not said to be the result of sin, which is clearly the case in Psalms 6, 32, 38 and 51:

Psalm 6 commences with the words, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure” v.1. David was evidently aware that he had incurred God’s displeasure, but no further information is given in the Psalm.

Psalm 32, as we shall see, contains David’s confession: “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;’ and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” v.5.

Psalm 38 opens with the words, similar to those with which Psalm 6 commences, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy wrath: neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure” v.1, and includes the confession: “For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me” v.4.

Psalm 51 is most explicit: “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight” vv.2-4. The occasion of the Psalm is given in the title: “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba.”

A.F. Kirkpatrick1 suggests that “Psalm 51 may have been the first heartfelt prayer for pardon; while this Psalm [Psalm 32], written somewhat later, when he had had time to calmly survey the past, records his experience for the warning and instruction of others, in fulfilment of the promise in Psalm 51.13 [‘Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee’].”

We must pause here and think about repentance. It means a change of mind, and involves turning from sin, and turning to God. We rightly emphasise the need for repentance when preaching the gospel. Paul testified “both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” Acts 20.21. He told King Agrippa that his preaching required both Jew and Gentile to “repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” Acts 26.20. But Christians need to repent as well. In five out of the seven letters addressed to the churches in Asia Minor (Revelation chapters 2 and 3), the Lord Jesus calls for repentance. See also 2Cor.7.8-10 and 2Tim.2.25. There can be no value in asking the Lord to forgive our sins, if we really have no intention of leaving them. How much are we really troubled by sin in our lives? If the four (not seven) “penitential Psalms” only teach us the need for repentance, their study will be very worthwhile, but in each case there is a great deal more to learn.

Psalm 32 carries the title, “A Psalm of David, Maschil”. The word Maschil means ‘instruction’, and this is the first of thirteen Psalms of this nature. The others are Psalms 42, 44, 45, 52, 53, 54, 55, 74, 78, 88, 89 and 142. Scholars tell us that the root of the word Maschil can be found, for example, in Gen.3.6: “a tree to be desired to make one wise [sakal]”, and Josh.1.7: “that thou mayest prosper [sakal] whithersoever thou goest”. It is in fact widely used in the context of instruction and wise behaviour, all of which reminds us of the necessity to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” Col.1.10.

As J.M. Flanigan2 points out, “If it should be objected that there is little doctrine or theology in this particular Maschil Psalm, nevertheless there is instruction in righteousness (2Tim.3.16), when one saint shares with others what he has learned by experience in the school of God.”

Psalm 32 comprises three main paragraphs: first, the blessings of forgiveness, vv.1,2; second, the accomplishment of forgiveness, vv.3-5; third, the results of forgiveness, vv.6-11.


“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” As A.G. Clarke3 points out, this is “cited in Rom.4.6-8 in support of the doctrine of righteousness apart from works”: “David … 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.’”

The word “blessed” (ashre) means ‘happy’, and is often translated in that way. According to Young’s Concordance4, it means ‘happy, very happy’. We can certainly understand that a “blessed” man, in this case a man who knew that he was forgiven, must be a ‘happy’ man! It is the opposite of “cursed”. See for example, Gal.3.10: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” “Blessed” is the opening word of the whole Psalter, Ps.1.1. “The blessedness of the first Psalm is the happiness of the man who walks apart from sin. The blessedness of Psalm 32 is the happiness of a man who has sinned and has been forgiven.”2

We should notice that David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses three terms for sin, and three terms for forgiveness.

The References to Sin

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” Attention is drawn to:

“Transgression”. The word (pesha) means ‘rebellion’ or ‘an act of revolt’. It refers to “the rebellion of a will that refuses to be subject to laws or prohibitions”.2

“Sin”. The word (chataah) means ‘a wandering from the way’, or ‘a missing of the mark, a deviation from the path of right and duty’.

“Iniquity”. The word (avon) means ‘perversity’ or ‘moral crookedness’. It has been described as “a perverse and depraved practising of known sin”.2

The References to Forgiveness

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” Attention is drawn to:

“Forgiven”. The word (nasa) means ‘to lift up or away’4, and denotes the removal of the burden of sin, release from a justly-incurred debt.

“Covered”. The word (kasah) means what it says: ‘to cover, conceal’.4 It is the hiding of the stain of sin. The same word is found in Gen.7.19,20: “the high hills … were covered … the mountains were covered”. The word “covered” therefore reminds us that “Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” Mic.7.19. It is also used in Gen.9.23: “And Shem and Japheth … covered the nakedness of their father”.

“Imputeth not”. The word (chashab) means ‘to think, devise, reckon’4 and therefore the words “imputeth not” mean that the Lord does not reckon, or charge, iniquity anymore to a man’s account. It means that his debt of sin is cancelled.

“The first of these [‘forgiven’] corrects any idea that ‘covered’ means hiding what is still present and unresolved.”5 James Davidson (quoted by J.M. Flanigan2) “describes it all as ‘the lifting of a burden; the protecting from deserved wrath; release from a justly incurred debt’”. J.M. Flanigan2 continues: “This was joy indeed, but such forgiveness demanded that the sinner should come without guile, sincerely penitent, and genuinely acknowledging the failure, pleading God’s mercy alone, as David indeed had done (Ps.51.1). Then, having so come, with no guile, this sincere transparency ought now to characterise the pardoned sinner living in the joy of his restoration to God. Note that it is truly possible, not only to be forgiven, but also to know it, and to have the joy of it. How blessed for the believer today to hear that lovely benediction, ‘Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee’ (Matt.9.2).”

The words, therefore, “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile”, indicate, firstly, the forgiveness of sins and, secondly, the practice of personal holiness (“no guile”). Having been reckoned righteous, we must practise the truth. We are not free to “continue in sin, that grace may abound” Rom.6.1.

In the next paper, Lord Willing, we will consider the remainder of this Psalm.

To be continued (D.V.)

1 Kirkpatrick, A.F. “The Book of Psalms”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
2 Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
3 Clarke, A.G. “Analytical Studies in the Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
4 Young, R. “Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible”. Multiple publishers.
5 Kidner, D. “Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72”. Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester.
Top of Page

Traits of the Tribes

by Ian McKee (N. Ireland)

Paper 42

We now need to consider Joseph’s younger son under the headings ‘Ephraim – the Man’ and ‘Ephraim – the Tribe’, before considering James’ New Testament commentary on the tribal traits of Joseph.


Ephraim means ‘fruitful’: “For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” Gen.41.52. Joseph’s affliction, from his older brothers and in Egypt, was real and painful but, in God’s purpose and providence, it produced fruitfulness.

Ephraim, like his older brother, Manasseh, is later named in full association with “the children of Israel, which came into Egypt” Gen.46.8,20, notwithstanding that their mother, Asenath, was Egyptian.

We have already considered Jacob’s bestowal of blessings on the sons of Joseph when considering Manasseh. One wonders if Ephraim went with his father and elder brother to visit his ailing grandfather with a mind-set that considered Manasseh as ‘the heir’ and himself as ‘the spare’. The outcome was no less a shock to him than it was to Joseph and Manasseh. Truly, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord” Isa.55.8.

Jacob’s commentary on his action in crossing over his hands in blessing is, “He [Manasseh] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations” Gen.48.19. Jacob blessed them, saying, “‘God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh:’ and he set Ephraim before Manasseh” Gen.48.20.

Every lifetime has associated challenges, opportunities and disappointments. Early certainties may never materialise; anticipated paths may close; unexpected opportunities may open. Pain always precedes birth and testing ever precedes approval. Joseph learned this: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” Gen.50.20. Another, through bitter experience, confessed, “But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” Job 23.10.

We trust that Ephraim and Manasseh each accepted God’s intention for them, and for their progeny. Damage caused by resentment is incalculable. Energy, time and resources spent in trying to be what God never intended is a tragic waste. Manasseh wasn’t Ephraim; and Ephraim wasn’t Manasseh – and God had His own purpose for each. Rather than dissipate spiritual potential in trying to be what God never intended, endeavour to ensure you become what God does intend! Remember, “As for God, His way is perfect” Ps.18.30.

In Joseph’s lifetime he “saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation” Gen.50.23. Ephraim’s name appears in genealogical records, Num.26.35-37; 1Chr.7.20-22.


We shall now consider Ephraim’s tribal history. Although the increasing influence of this tribe eventually led to the northern tribes being known collectively as “Ephraim” in the divided kingdom, that national aspect is not the subject of our consideration.

Ephraim – in the Wilderness

The men of Ephraim “from twenty years old and upward” at the start of the wilderness journey numbered 40,500 and they were the tenth largest tribe, Num.1.1-3,32,33. On the borders of the land, some forty years later, Ephraim’s numbers had declined to 32,500, to be ranked eleventh in tribal size, Num.26.35-37. However, the combined totals for Manasseh and Ephraim were 72,700 and 85,200 respectively. So Joseph’s descendants were greater in number than any other tribe when entering the land.

“Elishama the son of Ammihud” was the principal man of Ephraim during much of the wilderness era, Num.1.10; 2.18; 7.48; 10.22. Later, “Oshea [Joshua] the son of Nun” Num.13.8, was the Ephraimite spy who gave a true and encouraging report following his survey of the land of Canaan.

The two tribes descending from Joseph, plus the tribe of Benjamin, all who could trace their ancestry back to Jacob and Rachel, were together on the west side of the camp under the standard of Ephraim, Num.2.18-24. When the camp moved, those tribes under Ephraim’s standard were the third tranche, following immediately behind the Levites bearing the Tabernacle and its furniture, Num.2.17.

In relation to the division of the land, “Kemuel the son of Shiphtan” was Ephraim’s responsible delegate, Num.34.24.

Moses’ blessing encompassed the “ten thousands of Ephraim” Deut.33.17, before he ascended Pisgah, where his gaze included “the land of Ephraim” Deut.34.2, prior to his death and burial.

Ephraim – in the Land

Tribal heads were often later eclipsed by some of their descendants. For instance, Moses and Aaron eclipsed Levi, and David and Solomon were greater than Judah. In that context, Joshua, who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land and secured so many military victories, was greater than his tribal progenitor, Ephraim.

Joshua was not only an outstanding military leader, but was also an able administrator. His division of Canaan into tribal areas showed no favouritism to his own tribe, but complied with earlier determinations by Moses, Josh.14.3-5. The precise land allocations to Ephraim are detailed in Joshua chapter 16, although some intermixing of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh occurred, Josh.16.9; 17.8-10.

Although they had a notable leader in Joshua, in common with all the tribes settling west of the Jordan, Ephraim “drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute” Josh.16.10; compare Judg.1.29.

Joshua was careful to avoid any charge of nepotism, refusing Ephraim and Manasseh’s request for an additional allocation of land, advising them to “drive out the Canaanites” and conquer more territory, Josh.17.18. It is a mark of Joshua’s integrity that he did not bow to the selfish requests of his own tribe. Leaders must be impartial as well as competent.

Levites of the children of Kohath had four cities in Ephraim’s tribal area, Josh.21.5,20-22; 1Chr.6.66. These included “Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer” Josh.21.21.

Ephraim – in the Days of the Judges

The first reference to this tribe in the Book of Judges is, “Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them” Judg.1.29.

Israel’s subsequent servitude to Jabin king of Canaan was broken by the initiative of Deborah the prophetess and judge and Barak who secured a mighty victory over Sisera, captain of Jabin’s host, Judges chapter 4. The song of Deborah and Barak, Judges chapter 5, blessed the Lord for the deliverance and attributed praise, or otherwise, to tribal contributions, including, “Out of Ephraim there was a root [the most able] of them against Amalek” Judg.5.14. It is good to be able to count on such men in time of crisis.

Gideon’s later victory over Midianite oppressors is recounted in Judges chapters 6 and 7. While Gideon requested, and received, assistance from Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, Judg.6.35, he did not issue an early invitation to Ephraim. It was only later that “Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, ‘Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Beth-barah and Jordan.’ Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Beth-barah and Jordan” Judg.7.24. The Ephraimite response effectively cut off the Midianite line of retreat and led to the capture and execution of the two Midianite princes, Oreb and Zeeb, Judg.7.25.

However, after the destruction of the Midianites, the Ephraimites complained to Gideon: “‘Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites?’ And they did chide with him sharply” Judg.8.1. Even when jointly engaged in the work of the Lord there is always the risk of interpersonal grievances emerging. Why Gideon and Manasseh had not sought help from Ephraim at an earlier stage is not disclosed. However, timely and open communications might have avoided this Ephraimite flare-up. That said, it is always a pity when sharp words are used when initiating any conversation!

Time passed and a new enemy emerged: “the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah … Benjamin … Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed” Judg.10.9. Jephthah was then raised up by God to deliver His people, Judges chapter 11. However, Jephthah encountered a similar issue with Ephraim as Gideon had earlier, Judg.12.1-3. Whereas the Ephraimites had earlier chided sharply, Judg.8.1, Gideon was able to defuse the situation. Now Ephraimites, who felt slighted by not being called to fight with Ammon, threatened Jephthah: “We will burn thine house upon thee with fire” Judg.12.1. This received a fleshly, hot-headed response from Jephthah. Inter-tribal conflict broke out. Not only was Ephraim defeated, but the Ephraimites’ line of retreat was blocked at the fords of the Jordan. There Jephthah imposed a ‘pronunciation test’ to determine whether the captives lived or died. “Shibboleth” spoken correctly was offered as the condition of safe passage. However, any mispronunciation “Sibboleth” meant death: “and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand” Judg.12.6. Jephthah’s capacity for unrestrained cruelty is openly displayed: for the sake of forty-two thousand letter “h’s” omitted, forty-two thousand men were massacred, with widows and countless orphans left in sad homes throughout Ephraim. Enormous damage was caused, with adverse implications for generations to come. It all started with resentment, which led to threatening and then on to unrestrained cruelty.

One of the judges who succeeded Jephthah, Abdon, was buried “in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites” Judg.12.15. If the first reference to Ephraim in the Book of Judges, Judg.1.29, was about their failure to drive out their enemies, the last reference relates to an Ephraimite whose elevated burial site was in a position formerly held by their enemies. He certainly had taken Joshua’s advice to conquer more land rather than seek additional allocation of territory to the detriment of other tribes, Josh.17.18.

Abdon also left two generations behind him who exhibited princely dignity in their movements, Judg.12.14. That contrasts with Jephthah who, through rash folly, had no personal successors, as well as blighting succeeding generations in forty-two thousand Ephraimite homes, Judg.12.6. The lessons, surely, are obvious?

To be continued (D.V.)

Top of Page

The Lamb in Revelation

by William M. Banks (Scotland)


THE WEDDING OF THE LAMB  – Rev.19.1-16 (Part 2)

In the previous paper, the following outline was given, and the first section, covering vv.1-4, was considered:

  • The arrangements leading up to the marriage – vv.1-4
  • The opening hymn of praise – vv.5,6
  • The wedding ceremony – vv.7,8
  • The marriage supper (reception after the marriage) – vv.9a,b
  • The appropriate response in worship – vv.9c,10
  • The Lamb’s wife shares in His victory – vv.11-16

In this paper we will look at the next two sections, covering vv.5-8.


A wedding usually begins with an opening hymn of praise. It is no different at this wedding. The request in this case comes with heavenly backing.

The Request for Praise from the Heavenly Precentor – v.5

It is authoritative, since it comes “out of the throne” v.5a. It is the voice of heavenly beings and addressed to three classes of people:

  • “All ye His servants” v.5b: bond servants (slaves);
  • “Ye that fear Him” v.5c: reverential fear leading to worship;
  • “Small and great” v.5d: all classes of the redeemed, perhaps including the waiting wife.

The diversity is interesting and affirms that the redeemed come from a variety of backgrounds and are involved in a variety of activities.

The Response – v.6a-d

It is not surprising that there was a united response, v.6a, with the word “voice” used three times in this verse, being in the singular associated with plural nouns. It is interesting to compare this occurrence with others of a similar vein:

  • One voice, of a great multitude, to praise – 19.6;
  • One heart, of the two on the road to Emmaus, to burn – Lk.24.32;
  • One neck (J.N.D., singular), of a couple, Priscilla and Aquila, to lay               down – Rom.16.4;
  • One shoulder (Newberry margin; “consent” A.V.), of a nation, to serve      – Zeph.3.9.

The response was “as the voice of” (used three times):

  • “a great multitude [‘much people’, as v.1]” v.6b. Perhaps these are the martyred Gentiles of the Tribulation.
  • “many waters” v.6c. It was majestic; irresistible. It simply could not be restrained.
  • “mighty thunderings” v.6d. It was powerful: heaven is going to ring; it has never seen a wedding like this before!

The Refrain – v.6e-h

The refrain is really a Fourth Hallelujah Chorus. Its focus is on the name of the One Who is going to assume the reins of government. The title is most significant. The details are important:

The Lord – v.6e: Kurios = “Jehovah” Newberry margin. Newberry defines Jehovah as ‘I am that I am’ = ‘I will be that I will be’ = ‘I continue to be, and will be, what I continue to be, and will be’. He is supreme, eternal (unoriginated = ‘the ever existing One’), ‘the Coming One’, essentially Divine, authoritative, immutable, self-sustained, transcendent (existing apart from and not limited by the material universe), powerful and controller. Compare the title in Rev.1.4, “which is [the ever existing One], and which was [continuance in the past], and which is to come [the coming One, ever to come]”. It is little wonder that they praise! 

God – v.6f: Theos. W.E. Vine1 wrote: “In the Septuagint theos translates (with few exceptions) the Hebrew words Elohim and Jehovah, the former indicating His power and pre-eminence, the latter His unoriginated, immutable, eternal and self-sustained existence.”It is used of God as the Creator, Gen.1.1, and the covenant-keeping God. It is associated with the power of the spoken word. “And God [Elohim] said” is found ten times in Genesis chapter 1, indicating the power of the spoken word in creation. The same expression of Divine energy is going to be seen later in Revelation chapter 19, when the “sharp sword” going “out of His mouth” v.15, is going to be the means of devastating the enemy.

Omnipotent – v.6g: “Almighty”: the word is used nine times in Revelation (it is translated “Almighty” in the other eight occurrences) and indicates that the Lord God is in full control of all events without limitation. It is therefore apposite to conclude that “the Lord God omnipotent, reignethv.6h; see also 11.15. There are six references to the “Lord God Almighty” in Revelation, emphasising different characteristics: holiness, 4.8; taking power, 11.17; “Thy works … Thy ways … King of saints” 15.3; judgments, 16.7; reigning, 19.6; as the temple in the city, 21.22.

THE WEDDING CEREMONY – vv.7,8: “the marriage of the Lamb Is come”

The climax has now been reached: the marriage “is come”.  Bride (“wife”) and Bridegroom (“the Lamb”) have waited for this nuptial day for a long time, the Bridegroom longer, much longer, than the Bride: and He is still waiting yet! Not surprisingly, the day of Divine purpose is marked with acclamation and important lessons.

The Source of True Joy – v.7a

Throughout Scripture joy and worship are intimately linked. Indeed it seems impossible to be involved in true worship without true joy being the outcome. The language of Deut.26.10,11 is confirmatory: “… thou shalt … worship before the Lord thy God: and thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee”. So too is the experience of the apostles after the ascension of the Lord Jesus: “… they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” Lk.24.52; see also 2Chr.29.35,36. The opposite is the case when worship is withheld: “… joy is withered away from the sons of men … for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God” Joel 1.12,13. In v.7a of our chapter gladness and rejoicing are the result of giving “honour to Him”. 

The Participants in the Marriage – vv.7b,8

While there are always two participants in a marriage, it is usually the bride’s day. Here it is different: the Bridegroom is prominent! It is His marriage, v.7b, when He is going to enter into the full enjoyment and communion of His Bride. It was surely “the joy that was set before Him” Heb.12.2. The name given here is of course significant: “the Lamb” v.7c. Apart from Calvary, Jn.1.29, there would have been no marriage!

The wife is one of four women in Revelation: “Jezebel” 2.20, “a woman clothed with the sun” 12.1, “the great whore” 17.1, and “His wife” here, 19.7. Being the wife of the Lamb indicates that she is the fruit of Calvary’s suffering, the only basis for the relationship. As indicated earlier, it is the fulfilment of Gen.2.18,21,22: “‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him’ … And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man.” The “deep sleep” is a figure of Calvary: there would have been no Eve without it!

Interestingly, she is seen in Rev.21.2 “as a bride adorned for her husband”. Then it is one thousand years later (as it is after the Millennium) but she still has bridal features and is depicted as the object of Christ’s love; compare Gen.29.20.

She is currently in the betrothal phase (using the local church as representative of the dispensational Church, 2Cor.11.2), in her virgin purity, making preparation, vv.7d,8. As always, the bride’s dress is a big thing; compare Ps.45.13-16; Isa.61.10, and contrast the dress of the harlot in Rev.17.4. Two lessons ensue from the dress. The first is that of human responsibility: “His wife hath made herself ready” v.7d; the second is that of Divine sovereignty: “to her was granted” v.8a, permitting righteous acts now to be a preparation for the Kingdom later. This latter is pictured in the cloth, its condition and its colour. The cloth, v.8b,e, is “fine linen”, described as “the righteous acts of the saints” R.V. There is therefore a clear link with the Bema. Assessment has been made of our present “acts” and these are now being displayed in public by the dress we wear at the marriage. The condition is described as “clean [‘pure’ J.N.D.]” v.8c, thus expressing holiness and purity, consistent with the surroundings. The colour is “white [‘bright’ J.N.D.]” v.8d, reflecting the glory of the Lamb.

It is worth observing in passing that, while the actual presentation of the Bride to her Husband is not detailed here, there is a fourfold presentation indicated elsewhere in the New Testament. She is presented by the servant to his Master (using Paul’s words in 2Cor.11.2 representatively, as commented in the previous paragraph); by the Lord to Himself, Eph.5.27; by God to His Son, Jude 24, where the word “present” is a technical term used by the Greeks for presentation of a bride to the bridegroom; and finally by the Lord to the Millennial earth, Rev.21.9-22.5.

In the will of God, the final three sections, covering vv.9-16, will be the subject of our consideration for the next paper.

To be continued (D.V.)

1 Vine, W.E. “An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”.
Top of Page

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

by Dennis Williamson (N. Ireland)

Paper 8



The transition from truth concerning the Church (the ‘large’ entity, composed of all believers in this age) to that concerning the ‘local’ church, has been an area where history has taught us that not enough care has been taken to adhere to the reality that there are principles which apply to both, and others in which they differ from each other. This has been the case from the beginning of the Church, in the first century, right until the present day. Whatever partial recovery there has been at various stages over the centuries (and we may thank God for the deep spiritual exercise that brought about these changes), human wisdom has always had a negative influence on the maintenance of the purity and clarity of the truth revealed. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the apostle Paul, as he commences to deal with truth relating to the local church at Corinth, devotes the first four chapters of the First Epistle to correcting the application of human wisdom in a spiritual sphere: the local assembly. No doubt he has found some discrepancies in this area, which he brings before the saints, for their observation and ultimate preservation. This aspect of preventative ministry is still very much needed.

At this point we should examine in an honest way our reasons and motives with regard to the acceptance, or otherwise, of the truth of God, for “His commandments are not grievous”; that is, where true love abounds, and the new birth is evident, 1Jn.5.2,3.


Assuming that we, as we should, possess a mind to be subject to Scripture, having judged fleshly opposition from within or without, we are prepared to graciously accept the truth of God, Jn.7.17. This being so, human reasoning will not collide with God’s Word or with the truth it presents, for “the truth shall make you free”, said the Lord Jesus in Jn.8.32.

Considering then the truth regarding local churches, as we have previously observed relative to the Church (the ‘large’ company, “the church, which is His body” Eph.1.22,23), this is strictly New Testament ground. Again, it is introduced by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in Matt.18.17. When giving valuable instruction regarding the settlement of disputes among believers, the phrase is used, “tell it unto the church”. Obviously, one does not speak to a material building, or listen to it either! No, “the church” is the people gathered. See 1Cor.14.23: “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place”. The whole church here is referring to the local church at Corinth, consisting of believers gathered at Corinth. It will be understood that local problems are to be settled locally, not provincially or nationally or even internationally.

Christians locally do not gather on the ground of the one Body. This error has caused much confusion among certain believers, resulting in the erroneous doctrine of removing saints from ‘the Body’ because of discipline, which is actually and Scripturally impossible. The grief that has been caused to many individuals and families beguiled by those advancing this doctrine is enormous. It must be emphasised that a local church (assembly) functions on the basis of adherence to the Word of God alone, and that while under certain circumstances a person or persons may be excommunicated from a local company this cannot affect his or her membership of the Body of Christ, which remains secure. These, and other, distinctions between the ‘large’ Church and the ‘local’ church need to be observed and obeyed.

This inevitably means that the difference between a group of believers gathered for whatever reason, and a company of believers gathered Scripturally in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone, has to be based upon adherence to the Word of God. This will obviously preclude any gathering on denominational terms, even by those who mistakenly use the term “the Brethren”, as this is just another denominational term. All such titles must be rejected, because they are not supported by the Scriptures. The only names that we are at liberty to accept are those which the Bible gives us. “Saints”, “believers”, “Christians”, “followers”, “brethren” (not being used in a sectarian sense, but meaning that we are brothers and sisters in Christ), are appellations which the Word of God accepts. These terms are not divisive, but embrace each child of God. In a God-ordered assembly there is room for each believer who is consistently obedient to the Word, both morally and doctrinally. Ideally, it is for all the people of God who willingly adhere to all the Word of God. These facts must be known and practised by all gathered. The simplest definition of a local assembly might be that of a people gathered around a person, that Person being the Lord Jesus Christ.


No creeds, catechetical formulae, or constitutional statements are advanced in the Scriptures as a means of identification of the local church, but there are principles which govern gatherings of the people of God. Without addition or subtraction, these should be heartily obeyed. Those who teach the Word are responsible to hold forth these teachings, 2Tim.1.13; 2.2, that others may follow.

I would like to speak of these principles in a general way now, and perhaps continue in a more particular manner in future articles. Let us look at some truths in relation to the local assembly:

Its Autonomy

We might begin with the thought of the local church and its autonomy. One of the meanings given for this word in The Oxford Dictionary of English is as follows: “freedom from external control or influence”. This, I believe strongly, should be practised as well as taught. The local assembly has no visible head on earth. It has no central headquarters on earth. On earth, there is no appeal higher than the local church, but the Lord Himself in heaven. The assembly is responsible to the Lord alone, without external influences. If this were practised amongst us more, many problems would remain local and would be solved on local ground by local assembly government. There is sufficient evidence of this being taught at Corinth and sufficient supply from God for its outworking. For example, baptism was practised, chapter 1; unity was enjoined, chapters 2-4; discipline was to be exercised, chapter 5; tolerance was envisaged, chapters 6-10; headship was to be displayed and the Lordship of Christ acknowledged, chapter 11; the variety and yet unity of gift was explained, chapter 12; true love was to be demonstrated, chapter 13; sisters were to be silent, chapter 14; doctrine was to be guarded, chapter 15; and sacrificial giving was proposed, chapter 16. This was all functioning under a risen, exalted Lord. The idea that the local assembly is responsible to any evangelist or teacher is foreign to the New Testament.

Its Authority

Then there is the local assembly and its authority. In the world sphere it has no authority, 1Cor.5.12,13, but, being gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, it has His authority, and is responsible to act in keeping with His holy name, where any form of discipline or correction may be required. No assembly has authority over the government or practices of another assembly. Each assembly is responsible to the One Who alone walks in the midst, Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The Lord in the midst has the final word of authority. Man-made distinctions between the Lord’s people are an abomination to the Lord, for example, rich/poor, grades/trades, and young/old. Neither has anyone the authority to threaten another brother or sister, while any might be admonished by those spiritually qualified. Sadly, the terms ‘tight/loose’, ‘coming to the table’, an ‘open table’, ‘assembly material’ or ‘not assembly material’, with many others, may thrive among us at times but they find no authority in Scripture and are totally undignified phrases to be used in a local company of believers. To measure these statements against the Scriptures is to expose their folly. The presidency of the Holy Spirit is vital in each gathering, and a practical acknowledgement of this by those who take part publicly, showing a restrained attitude and waiting upon others in reverence, will contribute greatly to the spiritual atmosphere.

Its Arrangements

Note also its arrangements. “Let all things be done decently and in order [‘an arranging’ W.E. Vine]” 1Cor.14.40. Some have thought that being open to the control of the Spirit of God in the gatherings might lead to confusion. Happily, the very opposite is true, when Godly order is maintained.  As the apostle Paul considers the assembly at Colosse, he says, “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ” Col.2.5. So the local assembly is a place of order, where gathering is by the Holy Spirit, and gifts are under His control. God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, 1Cor.14.33. It is not sufficient to possess gift: this chapter teaches that it must be regulated when the assembly is gathered, confirming the absence of ‘one-man ministry’, or ‘any-man ministry’ in an ordered assembly. Such things are an insult to the Holy Spirit, however appealing they may be to the flesh.

Its Activities

These are many and varied. The principle is given in Acts 2.42: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” They gathered for prayer, Acts 4.31; for teaching, Acts 11.26; for a missionary report, Acts 14.26,27; to read, hear and discuss God’s Word, Acts 15.30-32. The elders gathered, Acts 15.6. There was also a gathering for discipline, 1Cor.5.4. As well as this, we see activity in the gospel throughout the Acts period, at various venues. In those early days there was visitation of the sick and widows in their affliction, Jms.1.27; 5.14. Public reading, exhortation and doctrine were engaged in, 1Tim.4.13, and much more. Gatherings were for spiritual progress, rather than recreational advancement. We would have to admit that today we lack the wholesome character of assembly life that is taught in the New Testament. We ought to get back to this “first love” Rev.2.4.

Its Associations

There is a very apt warning, the genre of which permeates the whole of the Bible. It is found in 2Cor.6.14-18 and is worth quoting in full: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’  ‘Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.’” Here we see that the promise of God far outweighs any apparent loss experienced in our testimony for Him in a godless world. We should be apart from the world, morally, commercially, ecclesiastically and maritally. Paul says in Phil.2.15, “among whom ye shine as lights in the world”.

To be continued (D.V.)

Top of Page


by David Strahan (N. Ireland)

Paper 1

The Dove

In the Scriptures the dove is used as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit: at the Lord’s baptism it is recorded, “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him” Matt.3.16. The dove is also a metaphor for the Saints: the Lord Jesus speaking to the disciples said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” Matt.10.16.

But, most beautifully, it is also used as a picture of the Lord Jesus Himself, bringing before us various aspects of His glorious Person. There are three features of the dove that are mentioned in the Bible that each point us to the Lord.


The first mention of a dove in the Scriptures is found in Genesis chapter 8. A wicked, sinful world had been judged by God in the Flood and Noah, opening the window of the ark, firstly sent forth a raven. Thereafter he sent forth a dove, “but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth” Gen.8.9. It has often been pointed out that the dove never rested on any of the unclean material littering the flood waters.

So, in Genesis it is the foot of the dove that is emphasised. That speaks to us of the sinless walk of Christ, One Whose feet and walk on this earth were marked by holiness. He was the “root out of a dry ground” Isa.53.2, drawing no sustenance from this earth. Here was a perfect Man, Who drew nourishment from a hidden source. He is sinless, holy, impeccable. It is not possible that He could sin.

It seems that the three times that Noah sent forth the dove, Gen.8.8,10,12, answer to three attestations to the sinlessness of Christ in the New Testament Epistles:

  • By Paul, the man of ability: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” 2Cor.5.21;
  • By Peter, the man of action: “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” 1Pet.2.22;
  • By John, the man of affection: “And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin” 1Jn.3.5.

The words of the hymn penned by Macleod Wylie are true and cause our hearts to rise in worship:

A perfect path of purest grace,
Unblemished and complete,
Was Thine, Thou spotless Nazarite,
Pure, even to the feet!
Thy stainless life, Thy lovely walk,
In every aspect true,
From the defilement all around
No taint of evil drew.
Morning by morning Thou didst wake
Amidst this poisoned air;
Yet no contagion touched Thy soul,
No sin disturbed Thy prayer.


When we turn to Leviticus it is the entire body of the dove that is brought before us. There were different animals that could be used for the burnt offering: of the herd, of the flock and also of the fowls. If the offerer was to bring his offering of the fowls then it was to be an “offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons” Lev.1.14.

At the altar the head of the turtledove was to be wrung off and the blood wrung out at the side of the altar. The priest was to pluck away its crop and feathers and cleave it with the wings thereof. The inoffensive and meek dove was to be burnt upon the altar, “a sweet savour unto the Lord”. In all that was done to the turtledove the priest was to ensure that he “shall not divide it asunder” Lev.1.17.

This all speaks to us of the sacrifice of Christ: the suffering that He endured, the blood that He shed. And yet no bone of Him was broken: “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken” Ps.34.20. Even though His hands and feet, which contain more than half the bones in a human body, were pierced, yet no bone of Him was broken. This is one of the wonders of Calvary.

No bone of Thee was broken,
Thou spotless, paschal Lamb!
Of life and peace a token
To us who know Thy Name;
The Head, for all the members,
The curse, the vengeance bore,
And God, our God, remembers
His people’s sins no more.
        (Robert C. Chapman)

What a tremendous cost it was for Him Who “loved the church, and gave Himself for it” Eph.5.25.


The third aspect of the dove that we wish to consider is the eyes. These are mentioned by the bride as she describes the glories of her beloved: “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set” S of S.5.12.

The eyes of the dove speak to us of gentleness and tenderness. We are reminded of One Who looked on the multitudes with compassion: “And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things” Mk.6.34. These were the eyes that were wet with tears at the grave of Lazarus when “Jesus wept” Jn.11.35.

One of the features of a dove’s sight is that it has singular focus: a dove focuses on one thing at a time and is not distracted by peripheral vision. It is comforting for us to know that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers” 1Pet.3.12. This is the same Lord Who saw the disciples when they were in the storm on the sea of Galilee: “And He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night He cometh unto them, walking upon the sea” Mk.6.48. He was focused on His own, not the storm or the boat. They were precious to Him. They never got beyond His vision. We are the same. The Lord sees not only our circumstances but He sees us in those circumstances. He sees and knows our every care.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song;
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades
Into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?
Does Jesus care when I’ve said “good-bye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches
Till it nearly breaks –
Is this aught to Him? Does He see?
O, yes, He cares; I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long nights dreary,
I know my Saviour cares.
           (Frank E. Graeff)

To be continued (D.V.)

Top of Page

Standing with God in the Time of Great Departure

(1Kings chapter 18)

by Gideon Khoo (Malaysia)

(This follows on from a series on 1Kings chapter 17, which was published in ‘Assembly Testimony’ from July to December 2020)

Paper 1

As with chapter 17, this chapter is divided into three sections:

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

Each section teaches us old yet precious lessons: that God can work behind the scenes or right before our eyes. Up till this point, we might have thought that Elijah was the only prophet preserved by God; but in this chapter and the next we will discover that there are others whom He has preserved, such as the one hundred prophets hidden by Obadiah, 18.4, and the seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal, 19.18. However, Elijah remains the prophet God will use in this epic battle between good and evil. While the other prophets remain hidden, Elijah stands out in public defiance against Jezebel and her prophets. He is still the special prophet God will use to accomplish His purpose. And we will see that victory is inevitable when God is in the fight.

However, perhaps the greatest spiritual lesson we might learn in this chapter is the principle of standing faithful with God even though the majority has turned away. Obadiah, though torn between both sides, still feared the true God. But we cannot say his conviction was such that he was willing to completely separate himself from evil influences. He had a career to keep. Elijah stands alone in this chapter, towering above his brethren, daring to be different, to be faithful, and to be public about his conviction, even when all had either gone the popular way of sitting on the fence or altogether turned aside.


Verses 1,2

“And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, ‘Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.’ And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.”

The expression “after many days” reminds us of the faithfulness of God. By this time, Elijah would have stayed for a prolonged period of perhaps one to two years in the house of the widow. What an encouragement to think that every day, the barrel of meal wasted not, neither the cruse of oil!

This is the third time “the word of the Lord came to Elijah”. There are seven occurrences of the word of the Lord coming to him (1Kgs.17.2,8; 18.1; 19.9; 21.17,28; and 2Kgs.1.15,16), and each involved a significant milestone in his spiritual life. This time it came in the third year since the beginning of the famine. In Lk.4.25 and Jms.5.17 we read that the famine lasted three years and six months. This period of three years and six months sounds too familiar in the Scripture for us to pass by carelessly. Three and a half years is the length of each of the two halves of the Tribulation. Therefore, this period of famine possibly signifies the second half of the Tribulation, called the ‘Great Tribulation’.

This opens up the vista of eschatological landscape for our consideration. Elijah and the prophets represent the remnant during the time of tribulation, and Jezebel pictures the evil influence cast upon the nation of Israel in the person of the Antichrist. In Rev.2.20, “Jezebel” is called a prophetess, or at least she calls herself a prophetess. In other words, she is a self-proclaimed prophetess, therefore a false prophet. We see therefore in Jezebel the characteristics of the Antichrist and the False Prophet rolled up in one. During the Great Tribulation, Israel will go through a period of severe hardship, much like the famine of Elijah’s days. But there will be a remnant that will refuse to be defiled by the evil influences of “Jezebel” and will stand firm till the end, like Elijah and the seven thousand. Space will not allow us to further develop this point, neither is it the focus of our study.

The Lord instructed the prophet to show himself to Ahab, because the rain was coming, and the famine was going to end. The time has come for Elijah to show himself publicly after three and a half years of solitude. But the prophet will not move until God has called him. Neither should we, until the Lord has given us the indication. And when He does, we will know.

In 17.1 Elijah said to Ahab that the land would not see rain until the prophet presented himself to Ahab with his word to that effect. Now Elijah shows himself before the evil king to prove the authority of his word. But the writer makes an interesting comment: “there was a sore famine in Samaria” v.2. The word “sore” is the same one used to describe the sickness of the widow’s son: “his sickness was so sore” 17.17. Perhaps the boy who fell ill was a picture of the devastation of the land. His illness was unto death, and so was the condition of the nation of Israel, unless the Lord intervened to save her agriculturally, but more so spiritually. The boy was saved, but will the land be delivered? Will the same Elijah be able to bring life again to a dying people? We will see in this chapter, presented in type, that the salvation of the nation can only be possible when they realise the significance of the Sacrifice consumed by the fire! Israel will experience the showers of blessing coming down when, and only when, they will have bowed before the Messiah and confessed: “The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God” v.39!

Verses 3-6

“And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly: for it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said unto Obadiah, ‘Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.’ So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.”

We are now introduced to this God-fearing man by the name of Obadiah. He was not a political “governor”, but was ‘over the house’ of Ahab, a steward, the man in charge of the king’s household and his servants: a very important position. We are told that he feared God greatly, but we are not sure why he chose to be associated with the evil Ahab and his demonic wife, Jezebel. However, before we become too critical of Obadiah, is it not true that our convictions can also be shaken, and our separation compromised, even though there is a deep sense of reverence and a fear of God in our soul? Not many would be willing to stand out and publicly side with God in a time of great departure. The stakes are too high, and it can sometimes cost us our career and our ‘rice bowl’.

Nevertheless, Obadiah was an important instrument used by God to preserve the one hundred prophets. God in His sovereignty does use men for different levels of service, even though they might not be tip-top in their spiritual condition or might be lacking in their separation. We can be sure that Obadiah was such a man used by God, because the text says that he hid the one hundred prophets, and “fed” them with bread and water. We might recall that Elijah was fed by the ravens, 17.4, and also by the widow of Zarephath, 17.9. The ravens and the widow were channels God used for Elijah’s provision. Likewise, Obadiah has now become a channel for preserving and sustaining God’s prophets. But what is most encouraging is the thought that Elijah was not the only faithful one “fed” by God. The Lord looks after His own, no matter where they are and regardless of the nature of their service. We might think that He only takes care of well-known preachers and renowned missionaries; but here we learn that those who might not play such a prominent role in the sphere of public service are also looked after and preserved providentially.

Ahab was oblivious and numb to the fact that the whole famine was caused by him and his queen. Instead of repenting and turning to the Lord to save his country and his people, he goes out on a scavenging search for grass for the horses and mules. His concern is for his possessions, more than for his people. We are told that Jezebel “cut off” the prophets of the Lord, v.4, and now Ahab is worried about the beasts being “cut off” v.5 (“lose” v.5, is the same word as “cut off” v.4). He allowed Jezebel to cut off God’s prophets but did not want to see his animals “cut off”. A leader who is more concerned about his own things, and is driven by motives of benefitting self, becomes an ineffective leader, and will eventually be rejected by God. Paul spoke commendably of Timothy in this respect: “For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” Phil.2.20,21.

Verses 7-16

“And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, ‘Art thou that my lord Elijah?’ And he answered him, ‘I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.’ And he said, ‘What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, ‘He is not there’; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, ‘Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.’ And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the Lord from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred men of the Lord’s prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now thou sayest, ‘Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here:’ and he shall slay me. And Elijah said, ‘As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day.’ So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.”

The prophet Elijah now meets Obadiah when the latter is searching for pastures for Ahab’s beasts. It seems that Elijah has a Divinely-given ability in finding persons. He met the woman of Zarephath at the gate of the city without the need to search her out. He also “found” Elisha the son of Shaphat when he “was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen” 19.19. After the murder of Naboth, God sent Elijah to Ahab once again to pronounce His displeasure and imminent judgment upon the king and Jezebel. Ahab asked Elijah, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” 21.20. Even Ahab acknowledged Elijah’s ability to find him. Perhaps the contrast is in Ahab’s failure to “find” grass, v.5, the basic commodity needed to keep his animals alive, versus Elijah’s gift in finding the persons to whom God has sent him. Our efforts to succeed in any pursuit will be futile if God is not on our side, no matter how hard we try. But if we stand with Him, He paves the way for us to do His will.

The encounter of Obadiah and Elijah begins with the former calling Elijah “my lord” v.7. Elijah distances himself from this association, and replies to Obadiah, “tell thy lord …” v.8. Obadiah’s lord was Ahab, and we cannot help but detect a tone of sarcasm in Elijah’s reply: Obadiah’s ultimate Lord should be Jehovah, but his association with evil Ahab betrays that.

Elijah tells Obadiah to inform Ahab of his arrival. But Obadiah is fearful for his life, for he does not trust Elijah’s word. The woman of Zarephath has already experimentally learned what Obadiah has not: that the prophet is “a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy [his] mouth is truth” 17.24. The Gentile woman now possesses more spiritual discernment than Obadiah. Her association with the man of God has given her spiritual insight. A man like Obadiah, of the household of Israel, should have been more familiar with the prophet of his own land than a Gentile woman was. This is so with Israel as a nation even today. They know nothing of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whereas the dispensation of grace has opened up the opportunity for Gentiles to see the One concerning Whom the word of the Lord in His mouth is truth. The Lord Jesus said, “But now ye seek to kill Me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham” Jn.8.40. Ahab, and in some measure Obadiah, represent the nation in rejection of the prophets sent by God, and ultimately of the Messiah, Matt.23.37.

In v.10 we are told that Ahab’s hatred for Elijah has resulted in an obsession to search him out. But he fails to hunt him down even though he had searched throughout the length and breadth of the land. His search for grass would have been futile because the famine was sore; his search for Elijah was equally fruitless. Poor Ahab! His hatred for Elijah was due to his own delusional conclusion that Elijah was the root cause of the famine. But he failed to see that he was really the one who “troubleth Israel” v.18. When we have deserted the path of faithfulness and holiness, we expose ourselves to self-deception. How many have ended up blaming their fellow brethren, when the problem lies just at their own doorstep? May we be preserved from spiritual delusion.

To be continued (D.V.)

Top of Page

Comfort for Christians in a Changing World

by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)

“… God is love” 1John 4.8

Beginningless, bottomless and boundless, ineffable and inexhaustible, everlasting and enduring; “love that no tongue can teach, love that no thought can reach; no love like His”. It is unmatched and unmerited and yet we have been the favoured objects of love Divine. For no reason, in spite of our abject unworthiness, He has loved us. That love has been expressed most fully in the almost incomprehensible fact that “He gave His only begotten Son” Jn.3.16.

In the verses which precede verse 8 John considers this amazing love until, overcome by the immensity of such love, He writes, with almost breathless wonder, “Beloved if God so loved us …” 1Jn.4.11. From the fathomless reservoir of His love He yielded up the dearest object of His eternal affection, the unfailing source of all His delight, His unique Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Well might we ask so often, “Why O Lord, such love to me?”

Three times Peter was challenged by the Lord Jesus with the personal and pointed question, “Lovest thou Me?” Jn.21.15,16,17. We all know Peter’s response; what is mine?

Oh, love of God, so rich and pure! How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure – the saints’ and angels’ song.

“Not this man, but Barabbas” John 18.40

To discharge a condemned criminal back into society, one who was proven to be guilty and worthy of death, was an offence to justice and, in many ways, a dangerous act and without Scriptural warrant. Such a custom of releasing a prisoner to coincide with the Passover was never commanded or condoned by God.

On the occasion in question, the choice seemed clear-cut and Pilate wrongly imagined that the masses would immediately prefer the Man Who had shown such tenderness and compassion, healing their sick, feeding the hungry and raising the dead. However, on that dark and shameful day, not a dissenting voice was heard, not a single hand was raised in protest against such grotesque barbarity, and with a wicked, cruel unanimity they all cried, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” Should anything surprise us in a world that made such a choice?

But we love Him and our desire is to “give this man place” Lk.14.9. He must have a preeminent place in our affections and in our assemblies. If life is to be meaningful and have a purpose, then Christ must be our main focus and like Paul we “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” Phil.3.8.

It cast me out, this world when once it found
That I within this rebel heart had crowned
The Man it had rejected, spurned and slain,
Whom God, in wondrous power, had raised to reign.
Top of Page

Good Tidings from Heaven

“There’s no such a thing as a Free lunch.”

The title of this article is a fairly common saying that suggests you can’t really have something for nothing. Even to obtain that which is allegedly free can incur hidden charges, perhaps small and inconsequential but still it proves the item is not completely free. Recently I saw a health course which was advertised as free; the word ‘free’ occurred several times in the paragraphs introducing the contents and benefits of signing up for this essential, must-have information. At the end of the advertisement, however, in very small print, it was revealed that it was free only for the first month and thereafter you were obliged to pay a monthly fee to receive the remainder of the course.

My friend, salvation is absolutely free; you have not to pay a penny or give God anything in exchange for this priceless possession. Salvation is not for sale; it is a free gift obtained without money and without price, to be received in an instant by an empty hand of faith. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6.23.

We preach constantly that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Many despise the grace of God; they want to earn salvation by good deeds or a religious life and condemn the gospel of His grace as being too cheap. The Bible states, however: “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. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us …” Titus 3.5. We will never be able to take credit for our salvation or boast of what we did to be in Heaven but acknowledge, “I was a guilty sinner, but Jesus died for me” (from a hymn by an unknown writer). The theme of Heaven’s song is, “Thou art worthy … for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood” Revelation 5.9.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of sinners, paid the full price for our salvation by His death at Calvary. What it cost Him is beyond all reckoning and yet He extends salvation to every undeserving sinner, asking for nothing in return. He does not ask you to perform a well-nigh impossible task or pay an almost unaffordable price for “so great salvation” Hebrews 2.3. There is no small print or almost illegible terms and conditions. When the Saviour cried, “It is finished” John 19.30, it can be translated as, ‘It has been paid in full’.

We urge you not to miss this stupendous offer but “take salvation, take it now and happy be” (from a hymn by Albert Midlane). What regrets the soul will have eternally who rejects such blessèd news and refuses such a gift!

For free as the glorious sunshine,
Yes, free as the light and the air,
Is the blessèd redemption of Jesus –
O what with His love may compare?
How simple God’s way of salvation!
Not trying or doing one’s best,
But just in believing in Jesus
The weary and sinful find rest!
               (John Vickers)
Top of Page


A Proverb to Ponder

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” Proverbs 15.1
The first phrase of this verse states how wrath is sent away; the second, how it is caused to rise. To give a “soft answer” does not mean to be insincere, or to deceive, or to flatter, or to compromise. The word “soft” is usually translated “tender”; once it is rendered “tenderhearted”, reminding us of Paul’s command: “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” Eph.4.32. A clear example of both cases is found in 1Samuel chapter 25, where Nabal’s “grievous words” in response to David’s men stirred up his anger, vv.10-13,21,22; while Abigail’s “soft answer” turned it away, vv.23-35. Each of us should ask: in this area, do I resemble Nabal, or Abigail? Do my words provoke anger, or do they pacify it?

A Proverb to Ponder

“All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits” Proverbs 16.2
The Lord Jesus told the Pharisees, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” Lk.16.15. Although the Pharisees were unbelievers, Paul’s admonition “to every man that is among you [the saints in Rome], not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” Rom.12.3, reminds us that none of us is exempt from this danger. Two successive chapters in 1Samuel illustrate the lessons of this verse: first, Saul boasts to Samuel: “I have performed the commandment of the Lord” 15.13, but Samuel swiftly shows him that he has not; second, God reminds Samuel that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” 16.7. Paul’s example is one for us to follow: “I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by [‘against’ Newberry margin] myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord” 1Cor.4.3,4.
Top of Page