ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee
THE GOD OF JACOB
by P. Steele
COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds
THE LAMB IN REVELATION
by W. Banks
SOME FEATURES OF THE HOUSE OF GOD
by M. Johannesen
The first item in the May-June 2021 issue of ‘Assembly Testimony’ was a tribute to our dear brother William (Billy) Neill, who departed to be with Christ on 11 February that year. Towards the end of the tribute, the following words appeared: “Please, dear saints, pray for his wife, Elizabeth, who is not in good health herself and who is surely feeling the loss of her husband very keenly.” One year and one week after Billy’s homecall, on 18 February 2022, his beloved Elizabeth reached the end of her sojourn here on earth, and now she too is “with Christ; which is far better”.
Our sister Elizabeth’s involvement with the work of ‘Assembly Testimony’ lasted for over half a century. She was saved in 1958, and baptised and received into fellowship in the assembly in Shanaghan, County Down, in 1959. That same year her father, brother John Hogg, became the Treasurer of ‘Assembly Testimony’, and over the years she was of great help to him in the administrative work associated with the production and distribution of the magazine. Billy and Elizabeth were married in 1979, and together they increasingly shouldered the responsibility of this work. In 1983, Billy took over as Treasurer/Secretary, and Elizabeth supported him strongly throughout his time in this position, until Billy voluntarily relinquished that role, at the end of 2007, and for the further six years during which he continued to be responsible for the distribution of the magazine. Thus, uniquely, over a long, uninterrupted period, she willingly and actively assisted, not one Treasurer/Secretary, but two. It would be impossible to enumerate everything she did, and only the Lord knows it all. However, an illustration of her commitment is that, as computers began to be utilised for some of the work previously carried out by hand, she attended night classes, so that this new tool could be employed to maximum effect, and she became proficient in its use. She also had qualifications in bookkeeping, and Billy and she always produced accurate accrual accounts. Although these were independently verified by a chartered accountant, Billy and Elizabeth’s attention to detail and cross-checking were such that miscalculations were non-existent!
After their marriage, Billy and Elizabeth were in fellowship in the assembly in Dunmurry, then in 1983 they moved to Banbridge and were faithful and active members of the assembly there for the rest of their days. Elizabeth’s funeral service was held in Banbridge Gospel Hall. Brother Brian Currie, a long time personal friend of Billy and Elizabeth, having fellowshipped with them at Dunmurry, as well as their long association together in publishing ‘Assembly Testimony’, read from three Old Testament passages. These were all so true of Elizabeth. From them he paid fitting tribute and brought home a challenge in the gospel to the audience:
“A wise woman” 2Sam.14.2 – wise in her declaration (“For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth He devise means, that His banished be not expelled from Him” v.14);
“A great woman” 2Kgs.4.8 – great in her discernment (she recognised a “holy man of God” v.9, and wanted to assist and build up the work of God, v.10);
“A virtuous woman” Prov.31.10 – virtuous in her diligence (three times she is mentioned in relation to “her husband”: she was devoted to him, v.11; her deportment was in keeping with his position, v.23; and she was distinguished by his praise, v.28).
At the grave, brother David Radcliffe also spoke in appreciation of our sister, sounded out the truths of the gospel, and brought words of comfort, using three New Testament references to the words “even so”:
“Even so must the Son of man be lifted up” Jn.3.14-16 – the “even so” of a finished work;
“Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things” 1Tim.3.11 – the “even so” of a faithful woman;
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” Rev.22.20,21 – the “even so” of final words.
The term ‘the end of an era’ is perhaps overused, but as far as the work of ‘Assembly Testimony’ is concerned it is accurate in the case of the passing of our sister Elizabeth. We acknowledge Billy and Elizabeth and their faithful labours, with thankfulness to God for the lives of a Godly couple who, diligently, consistently and unobtrusively, lived for Him and for His glory. They are greatly missed, yet we rejoice in the truth of another “even so” that was quoted at the graveside: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him… For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” 1Thess.4.14-18.
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.43: PSALM 26 (Part 2)
Last time, we saw that this Psalm can be considered in two major sections, each governed by the words “mine integrity”:
David pleads past integrity as the basis of deliverance, vv.1-10: “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity” v.1;
David pledges future integrity and is confident of deliverance, vv.11,12: “But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity” v.11.
We began the first section (HIS PAST INTEGRITY – vv.1-10), with its three reasons why David should not be swept away with the wicked: he met Divine examination, vv.1-3; he practised moral separation, vv.4-7; and he loved God’s habitation, v.8. Having discussed the first of these (He Met Divine Examination – vv.1-3), we come to:
He Practised Moral Separation – vv.4-7
“I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked. I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass Thine altar, O Lord: that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Thy wondrous works.” These verses should be compared with Ps.1.1: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
In the opening subsection of the Psalm, David has spoken of separation to God. Now he speaks of separation from evil. Separation is both positive and negative. The man who can say, “For Thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in Thy truth” v.3, will be able to say, “I have not sat with vain persons” v.4. This recalls the Nazarite vow. It begins: “When either man or woman … separate themselves unto the Lord“, and continues, “he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink …” Num.6.2-7. Notice, too, the order in Rom.12.1,2: “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God … And be not conformed to this world“. This does not mean that we must not ‘sit where they sit’ Ezek.3.15, but it does mean that we do not conform to the ways of the unsaved. The Lord Jesus was no isolationist, but He was separate.
This subsection of the Psalm deals with separation in three ways: individual relationships, v.4; corporate relationships, v.5; and self relationships, vv.6,7.
Individual Relationships – v.4
“I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers.” David is telling us, loudly and clearly, that he has nothing in common with them. “Vain persons” are people marked by “hollowness, falsehood, unreality”, and “dissemblers” (literally, ‘those who hide themselves’) are “hypocrites who disguise their real thoughts and purposes”1.
1 Kirkpatrick, A.F. “The Book of Psalms”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
In 1Cor.15.33, Paul makes this statement: “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” The sense of “communications” (Greek homilia), is ‘company’ or ‘association’. The sense of “manners” is “ethical conduct, morals”2. So we can read something like, ‘Bad company corrupts good living’. The Old Testament puts it as follows: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them … For they will turn away thy son from following Me” Deut.7.3,4. We have a saying that ‘A man is known by the company he keeps.’ David did not find his fellowship or company amongst those whose lives were displeasing to God. Where do we find our fellowship and companionship? Remember, what seems a potential ally can prove to be a potential enemy. The old hymn puts it clearly:
Shun evil companions, bad language disdain,
God’s name hold in reverence, nor take it in vain.
2 Vine, W.E. “Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”. Multiple publishers.
Corporate Relationships – v.5
“I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.” The sense of “congregation” is a ‘party’, “a rival group to God’s own”3. Paul deals with this in saying, “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?” 2Cor.6.14-16. If our associations require either denial of Divine truth, or compromise of Divine truth, then we are best without those associations.
3 Kidner, D. “Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72″. Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester.
Self Relationships – vv.6,7
“I will wash my hands in innocency: so will I compass Thine altar, O Lord: that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Thy wondrous works” vv.6,7. “Hands” in the Scriptures speak of dealings, of work. Hence, in the assembly prayer meeting, the brothers leading the prayers must hold up “holy hands, without wrath and doubting” 1Tim.2.8. The imagery employed here recalls the position of the laver, between the altar of burnt sacrifice and the tent itself. Attendance at the laver was essential to ministry both at the altar and in the tent: “For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: when they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the Lord” Ex.30.17-21.
This brings us to the very centre of the Psalm, and to a most important statement: “so will I compass Thine altar, O Lord”, perhaps meaning, “taking my place in the ring of worshippers around it”4. We must notice David’s reference to presence at the altar, v.6, and to praise at the altar, v.7:
4 Kirkpatrick, A.F., ibid.
Presence at the Altar – v.6
Attendance at “Thine altar” demanded separation of life in each of the three spheres noted. It was totally impossible for a man to wait on Divine things with one hand if on the other he was associating with the world, and finding his company and satisfaction there. God hates spiritual hybrids. “A sanctified walk is necessary for sanctuary worship.”5 No wonder Paul writes, “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast” 1Cor.5.8. In this connection it should be noted that the apostle refers here to the feasts of passover and unleavened bread. The fact that these two feasts are never divided in Scripture (see Mk.14.12; Lk.22.7) emphasises that redeemed people were to be a holy people, which was something that the church at Corinth needed to remember, and which is stressed in the passage. But there is more. David now tells us what he does at the altar:
5 Clarke, A.G. “Analytical Studies in the Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
Praise at the Altar – v.7
“That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Thy wondrous works.” So we notice, firstly, David’s presence at the altar, and, secondly, his praise at the altar. Once again, it would be utterly incongruous to exclaim, in the words of the hymn, “I am a stranger here, within a foreign land, My home is far away, upon a golden strand”, when we find our joys and pleasures where the unregenerate find theirs.
We have every reason to “publish with the voice of thanksgiving”. After all, “He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God” Ps.40.3. Moreover, we are to speak “to [ourselves] in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in [our] heart to the Lord” Eph.5.19. This brings us to:
He Loved God’s Habitation – v.8
“Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth.” There are several interesting things to notice here:
It was the place where God dwelt.
“Lord, I have loved … Thy house.” In the New Testament, the local assembly is described as the “house of God”. See, for example, 1Tim.3.15: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Having exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not”, Jacob said, “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” He therefore “called the name of that place Bethel” Gen.28.16-19. There was not a building in sight, but it was “the house of God”!
It was the place which David loved.
“Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house.” David’s heart was there. He “hated the congregation of evil doers” v.5, but He “loved the habitation of [God’s] house” v.8. Do we love “the house of God”? Is it always a joy and delight to meet with His people, bearing in mind that the “house of God” in the New Testament is the gathered people of God? Here is a nice piece written by Rick Morse (‘Choice Gleanings’, 2 May 2012): “I love the small assembly that God has put me in! Smallness enables close friendships, enables intimately shared concerns, enables sacrificial giving of time and resources, enables active participation from all, and enables focus on non-material things. Much of this happens of necessity, which may not exist in a larger setting. Corporate influences have programmed us to believe that bigger is better, but Gideon learned that God’s way is wiser and better, Judg.7.2-9.”
It was the place of Divine glory.
David describes it as “the place where Thine honour dwelleth” (“the place where Thy glory dwelleth” J.N.D.) Since it is “the place where Thine honour dwelleth”, we are not in a position to do what we think, or say what we think: all must be in keeping with the sacred character of the “house of God”. Each local assembly should be a place of which people ought to be able to say, “God is in you of a truth” 1Cor.14.25. It should be “noised [reported] that He [is] in the house” Mk.2.1. It should be said of each local assembly, “In His temple doth every one speak of His glory” Ps.29.9.
David now applies his past integrity to the immediate circumstances. He has described his life and conduct, and done so in view of threats posed by evil men, vv.4,5. The man who welcomed Divine examination, practised moral separation and loved God’s habitation now prays for deliverance from his enemies. He had not associated himself with sinful men in life, vv.4-6, and now prays that he will not be associated with them in calamity and death, vv.9,10. “Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men”.
HIS FUTURE INTEGRITY – vv.11,12
As to the past, he had been able to say, “I have walked in mine integrity”. Now he says, “As for me, I will walk in mine integrity”. As Alexander Maclaren points out, “The Psalm began with the profession that he had walked in his integrity; it ends with the vow that he will. It had begun with the prayer, ‘Judge me’; it ends with the expansion of it into ‘Redeem me’ – that is, from existing dangers, from evil-doers, or from their fate – and ‘Be gracious unto me’, the positive side of the same petition. He who purposes to walk uprightly has the right to expect God’s delivering and giving hand to be extended to him.”6 So: “As for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me. My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the Lord”. The expression “as for me” occurs several times in the Old Testament, and makes a nice little study: see, for example, Josh.24.15 (“as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”); Ps.17.15 (“As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness”); Ps.55.16 (“As for me, I will call upon God”).
6 Maclaren, A. “The Expositor’s Bible: The Psalms, Vol. 1”. Hodder and Stoughton, London.
David is confident of answered prayer. He prays, “Redeem me, and be merciful unto me”, and follows with, “My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the Lord.” The words “even place” translate a word (mishor) meaning ‘a plain, a level country’, and comes from a root meaning ‘uprightness’ or ‘justice’7. It is translated “straight” in Isa.40.4; 42.16, and “plain” in Ps.27.11 (“a plain path”). Harold St. John8 notes its use in connection with “the sunny uplands of Reuben’s territory … Josh.20.8”. In J.M. Flanigan’s9 words, “He knew where he stood, on the level ground of righteousness.” No wonder he can say, “In the congregations [not of “evil doers” v.5] will I bless the Lord.” In Alexander Maclaren’s10 words, “Gladdened by it, the psalmist is sure that his desire of compassing God’s altar with praise will be fulfilled, and that, instead of compulsory association with the ‘congregation of evil-doers’, he will bless Jehovah ‘in the congregations’ where His name is loved, and find himself among those who, like himself, delight in His praise.”
- 7 Gesenius, H.F.W. “Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon”. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
8 St. John, H. “The Collected Writings of Harold St. John – Vol. One”. Gospel Tract Publications, Glasgow.
9 Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms“. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
- 10 Maclaren, A., ibid.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
We shall now consider Jacob’s seventh son, Gad, the tribal history and the lessons we can learn.
GAD – THE MAN
Jacob already has four sons by Leah and two sons by Bilhah, Rachel’s maid. Now “when Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son. And Leah said, ‘A troop cometh:’ and she called his name Gad” Gen.30.9-11. Gad means ‘troop’, signifying a band of warriors, or a warlike tribe. That will characterise Gad but, at the point of naming, Leah was probably hoping that Zilpah would provide more sons for her to legally call her own.
As Rachel had used her handmaid in her rivalry with Leah, now we have the exact opposite. Leah, wrongly concluding that she was past childbearing, seeks to continue this intra-family competition. What started as a triangular issue between Jacob, Leah and Rachel has now expanded to involve Bilhah and Zilpah as well.
Like Dan and Naphtali, Gad is recognised as an equal son of Jacob, Gen.35.26. He was similarly implicated in Joseph’s “evil report” to Jacob, Gen.37.2; and was complicit in Joseph’s betrayal and the cover-up, Gen.37.18 et seq. He and his seven sons are included in the list of those who relocated with Jacob to Egypt, Gen.46.16; Ex.1.4.
JACOB’S PROPHETIC BLESSING
Jacob’s deathbed prophecy about this son is concise: “Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last” Gen.49.19. Although close to death, Jacob has clarity of mind to use a clever word-play. In essence he says, ‘Troop, a troop will troop upon him, but he will troop on their heels.’ Gad is being given an indication that although his tribe will sustain hostile pressure and suffer reverses they will ultimately prevail by attacking from behind, possibly by ‘hot pursuit’ after any raiders. Early setbacks will change to final victory.
GAD – THE TRIBE
Gad – in the Wilderness
The children of Gad “from twenty years old and upward” numbered 45,650 at the commencement of the wilderness journey, Num.1.3,24,25, when they were the eighth largest tribe. However, some forty years later their numbers had declined to 40,500, to be the tenth largest tribe, Num.26.15-18.
“Eliasaph the son of Deuel [or Reuel]” was the captain of the tribe at the start of the wilderness journey, Num.1.14; 2.14; 7.42; 10.20. Gad camped with the tribes of Reuben and Simeon to the south of the Tabernacle, Num.2.10-16; and when on the move they marched in the second group under the banner of Reuben, Num.10.18-20.
“Geuel the son of Machi” was the Gadite nominee to spy the land of Canaan. Sadly, he contributed to the evil report, which led to the wilderness wanderings, Num.13.15 et seq.
The tribe of Gad, with Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh, stopped short of God’s intention for them. They “had a very great multitude of cattle” and “they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle” Num.32.1. Their assessment of what was good for cattle supplanted God’s purpose of what was best for them. The lowing of cattle displaced the word of God! So they sought permission to settle outside the Promised Land, on the east side of Jordan. The first reference to this request records Reuben’s name before that of Gad, Num.32.1. However, the subsequent order of the names suggests that the primary initiative was Gad’s, Num.32.2,6,25,29,31,33. Permission was granted provided they assisted in the conquest of Canaan.
Gad – Moses’ Prophetic Blessing
Moses’ blessing of the tribes prior to his death is free of censure: “And of Gad he said, ‘Blessed be He that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head. And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the Lord, and His judgments with Israel’” Deut.33.20,21.
“Blessed be He that enlargeth Gad” reflects the fact that Gad sought and secured a considerable territory to the east of Jordan, in Gilead. However, Moses is careful to attribute their prosperity to God Himself. That tribal portion was defended with vigour. A warlike tribe, Gad was ruthless with foes: “he dwelleth as a lion”. They never accommodated Canaanites within their territory, as was the case with many tribes to the west of Jordan. Gad also degraded the strength of the enemies and, by striking at their leadership, he “teareth the arm with the crown of the head”. This tribe was assiduous in promoting its own interest: “he provided the first part for himself”.
The phrase “because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated” does present difficulty in interpretation. Some take it that a portion within their tribal possession was reserved for a prominent leader, “the lawgiver”. Rabbinical tradition links this to Moses’ secret grave; but Mount Pisgah and Beth-peor are in Reubenite territory, Deut.34.1,6. A less exotic but more likely meaning is an acknowledgment of Gad’s tribal location having been specifically agreed by that lawgiver!
Moses’ blessing acknowledges Gad’s willingness to support the other tribes in conquering the land: “and he came with the heads of his people”. In this Gad carried out God’s righteous will: “he executed the justice of the Lord, and His judgments with Israel”.
Gad – in the Land
Consistent with the promise of the eastern tribes, “the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spake unto them: about forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho” Josh.4.12,13. Following the conquest of Canaan, Gad stood on barren Mount Ebal to hear the curses of the Law, Deut.27.13; Josh.8.30-35. Joshua delineated and confirmed the tribal portion of those two and one half tribes as granted by Moses, Num.34.14; Josh.13.8-12,24-28; 18.7. A city of refuge was assigned to this tribe, “Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad” Josh.20.8, plus another three Levitical cities for “the children of Merari” Josh.21.38-40.
The warriors of Gad were included in the blessing of Joshua, “Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you: ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God. And now the Lord your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as He promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side Jordan” Josh.22.2-4. However, that blessing was accompanied with the warning, “But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments, and to cleave unto Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” Josh.22.5.
Their military duties concluded, they returned “with much riches … with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment”, the spoil of their enemies, to share with their families in Gilead, Josh.22.8.
While the commencement of Joshua chapter 22 was one of triumph and prosperity, the latter part recounts how tragedy almost occurred. Unitedly fighting common foes could easily have ended with civil war between the tribes on either side of Jordan about the erection of a great memorial altar east of the Jordan “at the passage of the children of Israel” Josh.22.11. The tribes on the west of Jordan had already mustered at Shiloh to go to war with those on the east; and only the wise intervention of Phineas prevented a bloodbath. Good intentions without explanation can lead to serious misunderstanding. Also, zeal without proper context could be disastrous. How easily and quickly allies in the work of the Lord could become adversaries, to the detriment of the testimony!
Gad – in the Days of the Judges
Inexplicably for a warrior tribe, Gad did not assist Deborah and Barak against the armies of Sisera. While no reason is given for this, Deborah’s scorn is conveyed in her terse comment, “Gilead abode beyond Jordan” Judg.5.17.
There are two judges who came from Gad. The first is “Jair, a Gileadite” who “judged Israel twenty and two years. And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havoth-jair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died, and was buried in Camon” Judg.10.3-5. Jair extended the twenty-three years of peace established by his predecessor, Tola, by a further twenty-two years. In addition, all of his sons manifested princely dignity and their cities enjoyed blessing. Periods of peace are to be welcomed, to allow consolidation and promote spiritual growth and prosperity among God’s people.
However, as a consequence of later idolatry, God chastised Israel with Philistine and Ammonite oppression, which impacted upon Gilead, Judg.10.7-18. The second judge from Gad, who was raised at this time, was Jephthah, a man of a different temperament. He was a “mighty man of valour” Judg.11.1, of whom it is recorded that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah” Judg.11.29. While his aggressive actions subdued the children of Ammon, Judg.11.33, sadly he also slaughtered 42,000 hapless Ephraimites who did not speak precisely as he did, Judg.12.6. His murderous attitude is summed up as making “a man an offender for a word, and … turn[ing] aside the just for a thing of nought” Isa.29.21.
Jephthah judged Israel for only six years, Judg.12.7. Although mentioned as a man of faith, Heb.11.32, his successes were overshadowed by the massacre of those Ephraimites. Also, his rash vow involving his own daughter and its sad outcome was unconscionable, Judg.11.30-40. His own words carried more weight with him than the word of God, Lev.5.4-6!
Jair prolonged peace in relative obscurity; Jephthah fused faith with ferocity. The unobtrusive ministry of Jair translated into blessing for the next generation. The unpredictable ministry of Jephthah led to devastation in Ephraim and sorrow in his own family. While neither compromised with the enemy, Jair displayed wisdom without war; Jephthah war without wisdom. Make you think?
To be continued (D.V.)
by Peter Steele (N. Ireland)
Paper 6 — THE GOD OF COMPREHENSION (Part 2)
We have been considering how Jacob’s comprehension of God increased through his life, and how this is seen in the titles he used for God. In the previous article we considered the following eight titles:
- Titles of Respect: “The Lord thy God” (speaking to Isaac) and “The God of my father”
- Titles of Reverence: “The Lord” and “God”
- A Title of Relationship: El-elohe Israel
- A Title of Restoration: El-beth-el
- Titles of Reassurance: El Shaddai and “The Angel”
Now we will approach the deathbed of Jacob in Genesis chapter 49 and listen to seven further titles Jacob uses of God and of Christ. We will see just how high this patriarch rose in the closing days of his life.
TITLES OF REALISATION
The Mighty God of Jacob – Gen.49.24
The God of thy father (speaking to Joseph) – Gen.49.25
In his blessing of Joseph, Jacob reaches high ground when he realises and confesses a sublime truth: that God was not only the “God of Israel”; He was the “Mighty God of Jacob“1. God was not only his God when he was “Israel”: rearing a pillar at Bethel, rearing an altar at Shechem, enjoying reunion with Joseph, blessing his sons, or worshipping, leaning upon the top of his staff. God was his God even when he was “Jacob”: running from home, a stranger in Syria, a fearful man at the ford Jabbok, and a doubting and despairing father when his sons were going back and forth between Canaan and Egypt. Jacob had come to learn that God was his God in dark days as well as bright; in faithless days as well as days of strong faith. Jacob had come to learn that God was not only the God of Israel; He was the God of Jacob.
1 On the alternation of the names “Jacob” and “Israel” in these latter chapters of Genesis, C.H. Mackintosh writes, “In general it may be remarked, that ‘Jacob’ sets forth the depth to which God had descended; ‘Israel’, the height to which Jacob was raised.” “Notes on the Book of Genesis”. G. Morrish, London.
It is a great day when a believer learns this lesson, that God’s character does not change with ours. God’s love to us does not depend on how steady our love has been toward Him; He is our God when we are like “Jacob” as well as when we are like “Israel”. “If we are unfaithful, He abides faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” 2Tim.2.13, J.N.D. Some think this teaching about the unconditional favour of God toward us will give a believer licence to sin and become more like Jacob. The very opposite is true: God’s unconditional grace should make us deeply thankful and desire every day, all the more, to be pleasing unto Him.
At the end of John Bunyan’s allegory, “The Holy War”, Emmanuel gives a speech to the city of Mansoul which gives a precious insight into the desire of Christ for His people: “Remember therefore, O my Mansoul, that thou art beloved of me; as I have, therefore taught thee to watch, to fight, to pray, and to make war against my foes; so now I command thee to believe that my love is constant to thee.” It would solve many doubts and fears and depressions among the saints if we kept ourselves in the love of God and ever remembered that our God is “the Mighty God of Jacob“.
- My love is oft-times low,
- My joy still ebbs and flows;
- But peace with Him remains the same,
- No change Jehovah knows.
TITLES OF THE REDEEMER
Ziegler, speaking of the lives recorded in the Scriptures, says, “Every superior and significant life becomes prophetic at its close”2. This was true of Isaac blessing his sons concerning things to come, Genesis chapter 27; Heb.11.20. It was true of Joseph, who prophesied of the exodus from Egypt, Gen.50.24,25; Heb.11.22. It was true of Moses, Deuteronomy chapter 33, and David, 2Sam.23.1-7, as we can see in their prophetic utterances. The warning and encouragements concerning things to come in 2Timothy, 2Peter and the Book of Revelation show that Paul, Peter and John became like a prophet in their closing days. Even the Lord Jesus, though always knowing all things, revealed a large panorama of future events on His last week on earth before going to the cross, Matthew chapters 24 and 25. Jacob, in Genesis chapter 49, is no exception, and in blessing his sons he speaks of “the latter days” and projects our minds far ahead, into the Millennium. In these statements he makes mention of five titles of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Keil, C.F. and Delitzsch, F. “The Pentateuch”. Hendrickson, 2011.
Shiloh – Gen.49.10
I suggest that this title means ‘giver of safety or prosperity’ (perhaps from Shalah, translated “safety” Job 3.26, and “prosper” Ps.122.6; Lam.1.5; this translation fits the context of Judah’s blessing in Genesis chapter 49). When our Lord Jesus returns as king, wars will be ended, danger and violence will be over, poverty will be a thing of the past and prosperity will be great. Amos 9.13 says that in that day the harvests will be so great that the reaper will still be gathering it in when the season for ploughing is round again: “the ploughman shall overtake the reaper”! He is the true Solomon (meaning ‘peace’) Who will bring peace to a restless world and the true Shiloh Who will bring prosperity to a devastated world. What an utterance this was to Judah! “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Thy Salvation – Gen.49.18
When speaking about Dan in Gen.49.17, Jacob says he will be like an adder which bites the horse’s heels. The word for heels is the word from which Jacob gets his name (‘the heel tripper; the supplanter’). And so Jacob seems to be acknowledging that the evil nature that would mark the tribe of Dan would be because they received their character from him. He knew that he was a sinner and so, despite his best intentions, the nation that would come from him would be made up of sinners too. And he realises that the salvation of the Lord, which was his only hope, will be the only hope for his sinful family too. And so he cries, “I have waited for Thy Salvation, O Lord.” I take this to be a title of the Lord Jesus. Jesus: “Jehovah saves”; this was the One for Whom Jacob was waiting. Thank God He has come! And Simeon, in answer to the cry of Jacob said, “Mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation” Lk.2.30. He has brought salvation to us, and when He comes again He will bring salvation to the sons of Jacob: “And so all Israel shall be saved” Rom.11.26.
The Shepherd – Gen.49.24
The Stone of Israel – Gen.49.24
From the Mighty God of Jacob would come the Shepherd and Stone of Israel, two beautiful titles of our Lord Jesus with which we are familiar. Notice other times in Scripture where they are brought together:
- Zech.10.4 – the Stone (Newberry Margin); Zech.11.4-14 – the Shepherd;
- Matt.21.42-44 – the Stone; Matt.25.32 – the Shepherd;
- 1Pet.2.4-8 – the Stone; 1Pet.2.25 – the Shepherd.
Also notice the similarities:
- The Stone (Zech.10.4) and Shepherd (Matt.2.6, Newberry margin) came out of Judah;
- The Father places great value on the Stone (Isa.28.16) and Shepherd (Jn.10.17);
- The nation rejected the Stone (Ps.118.22) and Shepherd (Zech.11.12,13);
- The nation will only be stable when the Stone has its rightful place (Isa.28.16) and will only abide in safety when the Shepherd has His rightful place (Mic.5.4, Newberry margin).
He is the Stone upon which we have built for eternity; He is the Shepherd for our experience; but what He is to us, He will be to the sons of Jacob when He returns to reign, the foundation beneath them and the great leader before them: the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel.
The Separated One – Gen.49.26
“Him that was separate from his brethren” is actually spoken by Jacob of Joseph but like so many aspects of Joseph’s life it reminds us of the Lord Jesus. The word “separate” is translated Nazarite later in Scripture, for example in Numbers chapter 6 (several times); Judg.13.5,7. Therefore, I suggest that the separation of Joseph here is not just the physical separation when he went down to Egypt but the separation of his character from that of his brethren: he rose above them in his devotion to his father and in his attitude toward God. And Jacob pronounces a special blessing upon this separated one.
I believe Jacob, speaking by inspiration, goes further than the separated one before him. Christ, the Son of the Father’s love, was separated from His brethren, the nation of Israel. He was often physically separate on earth because He spent time away from them as their hostility grew toward Him, until they cast Him out of the city to die. But He also was separate from them in His character: a root out of a dry ground, bringing pleasure to His Father among a people who yielded none; and even today He is “separate from sinners” Heb.7.26. Of all the blessings that the sons of Jacob will receive in a future day of glory, and even of the blessings we will enjoy then, the greatest blessings will be “on the crown of the head of Him that was separate from His brethren“.
What progress Jacob made in His life! From only knowing God as the God of his father, Isaac, in the early chapters of his life, to knowing God as his God, “the God of Jacob”, at the close of his days; and having an insight into the character of the Redeemer Who would come and deliver his children from their sins and bring the nations into blessing. Jacob certainly had grown in his comprehension of God. What about you? Are you learning more about God and about the Redeemer every day? With the textbook of Scripture in the classroom of experience God wants us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” 2Pet.3.18. This is the God of Comprehension, the God of Jacob. May He help us to learn more of Himself.
- In the desert God will teach thee
- What the God that thou hast found –
- Patient, gracious, powerful, holy –
- All His grace shall there abound.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
“We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture” Psalm 100.3
How blessed that we belong to God and He is not ashamed to call us His people! What a price He paid to redeem and reconcile us to Himself, to make us His “peculiar treasure” Ex.19.5!
Once we were conscious of our distance from Him. We were “by nature the children of wrath” Eph.2.3; held in bondage by “the power of darkness” Col.1.13, but we have been emancipated and brought “into the kingdom of His dear Son” Col.1.13. We call God our Father and heaven is our home.
As His people we are in His family, our names indelibly recorded in the register of the redeemed. As His sheep we are in His flock, no longer scattered, without a shepherd, but safe and secure from every danger and predator. Daily we prove His tender care and feast in pastures abundant. And, bless His name, we will be His forever!
- Oh no, I am not desolate,
- No orphan lone am I;
- The mighty God my Father is,
- His heaven my home on high!
“Behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” Revelation 4.2
Two great sights met the gladdened gaze of the beloved apostle John as, in spirit, he was transported to heaven: a throne set and the Throne-Sitter.
The throne was where it has been eternally and as it has always been, occupied by the supreme Sovereign. That throne has never been vacated and the Monarch will never abdicate. He will never be replaced or removed.
What a reassuring sight as we ponder this crumbling and chaotic world, shaking and shuddering, stumbling helplessly from crisis to crisis! The solidity and stability of the throne and the serenity of the Throne-Sitter, calm and in complete control, “no change Jehovah knows”!
There is neither a ripple nor ruffle on the sea of glass before the throne; there is clearest evidence of calm, composure and confidence. The scene has never changed and no one can ever disturb the celestial tranquillity of the dwelling place of God.
- God is still on the throne
- And He will remember His own;
- His promise is true, He will not forget you;
- God is still on the throne.
By William M. Banks, Scotland
This article is to introduce the subject of “The Lamb in Revelation” and to give a flavour of what is to come in succeeding contributions. As indicated below, there will be seven main subject areas. The purpose of this introductory article is to give a basis for future reference. It is merely a brief outline in each case. Some of the seven subjects will take more than one article to complete.
The Lamb has a large place in the Book of Revelation. The word used for “lamb” in Revelation (arnion) is used only by John in the New Testament. He uses it thirty times, only once outside of this book; in the plural, in Jn.21.15: “Feed My lambs”. It is also used of the second beast of Revelation chapter 13: “he had two horns like a lamb” v.11, which is “suggestive of his acting in the capacity of a false messiah, a travesty of the true”1.
The other twenty-eight references (4×7, indicating perfection and fulness in every sphere universally) are applied to Christ as the “Lamb” in a variety of perspectives. All of these references are given below (in the titles) in the context of the seven main studies to be addressed in this series.
THE WORTH OF THE LAMB – 5.6,8,12,13
The Lamb alone is found worthy to open “the book”. He is seen “in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders” v.6. As a result of His worth He becomes the object of worship and praise by the four “beasts” (‘living creatures’, which I take to be cherubim) and twenty-four elders, vv.8-10; by the angels, vv.11,12; and by every creature universally, vv.13,14.
THE WRATH OF THE LAMB – 6.1,16
In this chapter the Lamb opens the seals; the first in v.1, then a total of five more in turn. These are an unveiling of the judgments to be poured out on the world after the Rapture of the Church, incorporating the rise of the Antichrist, leading to war and famine and resulting in the death of twenty-five per cent of the population. This is followed by martyrdom (note: “souls” can speak and see and be clothed, vv.10,11).
The chapter closes with reference to the wrath of the Lamb, v.16, leading to unprecedented apocalyptic scenes of judgment in the sixth seal, vv.12-17.
1 Vine, W.E. “Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”. World, No date.
THE WORK OF THE LAMB – 7.9,10,14,17; see also 12.11; 15.3
The reference to “the blood of the Lamb” in 7.14 is an affirmation of His accomplished work. It is proclaimed by the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed of the nation of Israel, vv.1-8, effecting transformation for a “great multitude” out of the “great tribulation” vv.9-17.
The great multitude praises God for the accomplished work, vv.9,10, followed by the worship from angels, vv.11,12. The balance of the chapter indicates the source from which the multitude comes, vv.13,14, the service which they render, v.15, and the sustenance which they enjoy, vv.16,17: fed and watered by the Lamb!
The overcomers (by “the blood of the Lamb”) of 12.11 seem to be those martyred by refusing the mark of the beast, but assured of victory in the end. They sing the “song of Moses” and the “song of the Lamb” in 15.3, signifying victory over the enemy.
THE WRITING IN “THE BOOK OF LIFE” OF THE LAMB – 13.8
There are seven references to the “the book of life” in Revelation in the Authorised Version: 3.5; 13.8; 17.8; 20.12,15; 21.27; 22.19 (both J.N. Darby and the Revised Version translate this last as “the tree of life”). “The book of life is the register of the redeemed whose names are entered at the moment of their conversion to Christ.”2 In 13.8 it is called “the book of life of the Lamb” and in 21.27 it is called “the Lamb’s book of life”, emphasising the fact that it contains the names of the followers of the Lamb in difficult and trying times, in contrast to followers of the beast. It also indicates the price paid: Calvary’s suffering. The Lamb was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” 1Pet.1.20, and slain “from [apo = ‘away from’ = ‘since’] the foundation of the world” 13.8.
2 Allen, J. “What the Bible Teaches – Revelation”. John Ritchie Ltd., 1997.
THE WITNESSES OF THE LAMB – 14.1,4 (twice),10
In chapter 7 these one hundred and forty-four thousand were sealed to witness for the Lamb. They have been preserved intact through the Great Tribulation (a tremendous miracle) and now they are “with Him” 14.1, “on the mount Sion” to share in His Millennial Kingdom. They are now going to follow the Lamb “whithersoever He goeth” v.4a. They have the moral qualifications required, vv.4,5: virgin character, redeemed status, no guile, and are without fault. They are “firstfruits unto … the Lamb” v.4b, indicating that there are others to follow! They worship Christ, v.3, in contrast to worshippers of the beast, who will be judged “in the presence of [‘before’ J.N.D.] the Lamb” vv.9,10.
THE WEDDING OF THE LAMB – 19.7,9; see also 17.14 (twice)
The timing of the wedding is indicated in 19.1 as after the war of the Lamb, 17.14, with His assured victory, and the destruction of Babylon. The wedding takes place in heaven, v.1a, accompanied by the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’, vv.1,3,4,6; an evidence of the atmosphere of joy, v.7a. The importance of the Bridegroom together with the readiness of His wife, vv.7b,8, is emphasised. The wedding supper, v.9, follows the wedding, as usual, and pictures a scene of blessedness, that is, the Millennial Kingdom.
THE WIFE OF THE LAMB – 21.9,14,22,23,27; 22.1,3
The wife of the Lamb is pictured as a celestial city. There are seven references to the Lamb which give distinctive features of the Lamb3 in relation to His wife (the city). He is seen as the Beloved, 21.9, with His wife being the fruit of Calvary’s suffering. The apostles of the Lamb, 21.14, are the Foundation linking Israel and the Church. He is the Temple of the celestial city, 21.22, together with the Lord God the Almighty, as well as the Lamp, 21.23: “the glory of God did lighten it”. The qualification for entrance to the city, 21.27, is to have one’s name in the Lamb’s book of life, indicating that He is the Guard. “The throne of God and of the Lamb” is the source of the river of water of life, 22.1, with Him as the Spring. “The throne of God and of the Lamb” is the place where worship is centred, 22.3, with the Lamb as the King.
3 Sauer, E. “The Triumph of the Crucified”. The Paternoster Press, 1964.
To be continued (D.V.)
As Applied to Local Assembly Testimony
By Melvan Johannesen, Australia
In this article, we will consider some Scriptures where reference is made to the “house of God” or the “house of the Lord”, and from them we will seek to draw lessons on features that should characterise a local assembly and its testimony.
EMPHASIS ON THE DIVINE PRESENCE
“And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’ … And he called the name of that place Bethel” Gen.28.16-19.
It is very significant that this is the first mention of the term “house of God” in Scripture, and the Spirit of God is clearly emphasising the Divine presence: “Surely the Lord is in this place”. This calls for a reverential awe: “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him” Ps.89.7. In the New Testament the local assembly is viewed as “the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” 1Cor.3.16. If “therefore the whole church be come together into one place” and Scriptural order is observed and the Holy Spirit is presiding, then one coming into the gathering who is unsaved or unlearned should be convinced and report “that God is in you of a truth” 1Cor.14.23-25. This confirms the words of the Lord Jesus: “there am I in the midst of them” Matt.18.20. Also John writes concerning his Patmos vision: “I saw seven golden candlesticks [‘lampstands’]; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks [‘lampstands’] one like unto the Son of man” Rev.1.12,13.
EMPHASIS ON THE DIVINE NAME
“And David said to Solomon, ‘My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God: but the word of the Lord came to me, saying … “Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest … He [Solomon] shall build a house for My name“’ … ‘arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the Lord God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and the holy vessels of God, into the house that is to be built to the name of the Lord’” 1Chr.22.7-10,19.
When we look at the first mention of the features of a New Testament local assembly in Matt.18.20, the emphasis is on “where two or three are gathered together in My name“. The name always speaks of authority! An Old Testament example is, “For the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse” Esther 8.8. Likewise, in relation to the local assembly in the New Testament Paul wrote “unto the church of God which is at Corinth … with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” 1Cor.1.2; that is, owning His authority as Lord. Again, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing” 1Cor.1.10. Also, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together … with the power [‘authority’] of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1Cor.5.4.
EMPHASIS ON THE DIVINE PATTERN
“Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof … and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of the Lord … ‘All this,’ said David, ‘the Lord made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern’” 1Chr.28.11,12,19.
The importance of the pattern is again seen in the quotation “as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, ‘See,’ saith He, ‘that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount’” Heb.8.5. Likewise, the Lord Himself took the eleven up into a mountain and gave them the New Testament pattern for future local assembly testimony, to be observed unchanged until the end of this present ‘Church age’ Matt.28.16-20. This was emphasised by the Lord just prior to His being taken up into heaven, when “He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen” Acts 1.2. Then in Acts chapter 2, after Peter’s powerful gospel message, the pattern is clearly stated again: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” Acts 2.41,42. We need to see that the apostles’ doctrine is the basis of the fellowship! This pattern was adhered to throughout the Book of the Acts as assemblies were planted. The pattern remains constant as outlined in the New Testament epistles, and it is intended that that pattern should still be maintained in local testimony, “even unto the end of the world” Matt.28.20.
EMPHASIS ON THE DIVINE PILLAR OF TRUTH
“… that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” 1Tim.3.15.
This is a key verse in the First Epistle to Timothy. The predominant house of God feature here is that it is clearly the mind of God that the local assembly should be the pillar and support of the truth of God; a place where the Word of God is taught, supported and upheld. There are many aspects of Scriptural teaching to be upheld. There is vital teaching in relation to Divine Persons; teaching regarding the truth and presentation of the gospel; as well as a great need in these last days for assembly teaching; and many practical and prophetical lines of truth! Taking an overall view of this epistle (1Timothy), if the assembly is to uphold the truth of God, it will be necessary to:
- have sound (healthy) teaching, 1.3-11;
- have men with holy hands to pray and supportive women exercised in relation to modesty and godliness, 2.8-10;
- have shepherds and servants with spiritual fitness to guard, guide and serve; holding the mystery of the faith, 3.1-13;
- have those who are a Godly example and continuing in the doctrine, 4.11-16;
- observe the practical teaching; 5.1-25;
- be preserved from worldliness and appreciate the future glory of the King of kings, 6.1-21.
EMPHASIS ON THE DIVINE WORD OF GOD
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains … and many people shall go and say, ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths’: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” Isa.2.2,3.
This Scripture projects our minds forward to the future Millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, when Jerusalem will be the centre of worldwide administration, and the word of God will flow out and be honoured, appreciated and obeyed! Surely this is what the Lord would delight to see in local testimonies today! It was so in the Thessalonian assembly: “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord” 1Thess.1.8. Also, the Philadelphian assembly was told, “Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name” Rev.3.8. We recall Paul’s final words to the Ephesian elders: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up” Acts 20.32. So where the word of God is given its rightful place in the assembly of the saints, it should be a desirable place, Ps.27.4, and a holy place, as “holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever” Ps.93.5.
SUMMARY OF HOUSE OF GOD FEATURES IN PSALM 122
Some of the features that will mark Jerusalem as the gathering centre during the Millennium, seen in Psalm 122, are applicable to and suggestive of what God desires the assembly to be in this present “Church age”:
Place of the Divine Presence
“I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” v.1. This links with Ps.132.13: “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation.” Also in 1Cor.3.16 the local assembly is presented as the dwelling-place of God: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
Place of Divine Protection
“Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem” v.2. This illustrates the truth of 1Cor.5.12 (“For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?”), which clearly shows us that there is a “within” and a “without” of the fellowship of the local assembly.
Place of the Divine Pattern
“Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together” v.3. Again the necessity of building according to the pattern is emphasised in the New Testament: “let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” 1Cor.3.10, aiming for quality of materials as well as of workmanship!
Place of Partnership
Togetherness – “a city that is compact together” v.3, links with 1Cor.1.10: “perfectly joined together” and Phil.1.27: “striving together”.
Testimony – “unto the testimony of Israel”, v.4, links with the golden lampstands, Revelation chapters 2 and 3, which are Divine property and precious to Him.
Thankfulness – “To give thanks …” v.4. We can see this reflected in the Epistle to the Colossians, in which Paul writes of thankfulness to God in every chapter (1.3,12; 2.7; 3.15,17; 4.2).
Thrones of judgment – “there are set thrones of judgment” v.5. With this we can compare 1Corinthians chapter 5.
Place of Prayer and Prosperity
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem … Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces” vv.6,7. What blessing might result if all assembly believers worldwide were to pray earnestly for the peace and prosperity of all who are Scripturally gathered to His precious name!
In February, Ukraine quickly came to dominate news reports across the world. People who disagree about all kinds of things are united in sorrow at the heart-breaking turn of events and in sympathy for the men, women and children who are suffering so much. Many have worked hard and given generously to help alleviate their plight.
The sad comment of one Ukrainian MP was that “history is just repeating itself time and time again, and I don’t understand what is wrong with us humans and humanity, why we don’t learn from the lessons.” That is true, and in His Word, the Bible, God tells us that we should take heed to, and learn from, events in the world. We will consider three obvious, but vitally important, lessons from the current situation in Ukraine, which, if you pay heed to them and act upon them, will be for your eternal blessing.
Firstly, the war in Ukraine confronts us with the reality that we live in an imperfect world, where there is much misery and injustice. Paul’s words in Romans 3.16-18 are applicable to the atrocities taking place: “Destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” However, in this passage Paul is not only describing brutal men, but is showing (verses 9-12) that we are “all under sin … there is none righteous, no, not one … there is none that doeth good, no not one.” So, if our revulsion at the war in Ukraine stops at condemning the actions of others, we have failed to grasp the main lesson: that it shows up our own state, for we are all part of humanity that has sinned against God, and the world’s sad condition reflects the fact that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3.23.
Secondly, we cannot fail to see how powerless we humans are to solve problems like this. World leaders are trying, but few hold out much hope of success; and the highly commendable relief efforts will hopefully lessen the misery, but will not remove it. What is true of this problem is also true regarding the root cause: sin. We cannot rescue ourselves, or each other, from the eternal consequence of our sins, which is banishment from God, in Hell. Only God could save us, and He provided salvation, by giving His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born in this world; to live a sinless life; to die as the sacrifice for our sins upon the cross; to rise again and to ascend to Heaven, where He is today, alive forevermore, and from whence He will return for all who have trusted in Him, and take them out of this evil world, to be forever with Himself. Believers are eagerly expecting the return of God’s Son “from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” 1Thessalonians 1.10.
Finally, we are reminded how very uncertain life in this world is. Many mistakenly thought that war in Europe had been consigned to the history books. Millions of people who were going about their daily business have suddenly found themselves in great danger, and people are dying violently every day. The fear of chemical, or even nuclear, warfare is real. Although the people of Ukraine are seeing it more vividly than most other nations, James’ words are true of us all: “Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” James 4.14. Any of us, anywhere, could die at any time. Are you ready? Turn from your sins, and trust in Christ for salvation, while you still have the opportunity. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” 2Corinthians 6.2.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” Matthew 5.16
We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.
What comfort that even in the darkest hour God has this true-hearted seven thousand! If they do not come out so boldly in public separation from evil as we would desire, it is nevertheless joy to us to know that they sigh and groan over the sins of the times, and seek to keep their affections right towards their Lord and ours. “Thou hast a few names in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” Rev.3.10.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah” Psalm 46.1-3.
Come, let us sing the 46th Psalm and let them do their worst.