May/June 2024

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by J. Riddle

by I. McKee

by W. Banks

by D. Williamson

by D. Strahan

by G. Khoo

by R. Reynolds



Consider Him — “pleased not Himself”

Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle


No.55: PSALM 32 (Part 2)

We noted that Psalm 32 has three main paragraphs: the blessings of forgiveness, vv.1,2; the accomplishment of forgiveness, vv.3-5; and the results of forgiveness, vv.6-11. Having considered the first paragraph, we now turn to the remaining two:


Forgiveness can be enjoyed as the result of three things: conviction, vv.3,4; confession, v.5; and cleansing, v.5.

Conviction – vv.3,4

“When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.”

David’s words, “When I kept silence” v.3, evidently refer to the period between his sin with Bath-sheba and the subsequent murder by proxy of her husband, and his forgiveness as described in vv.1,2. See 2Sam.11.1-12.20. This was a period of unconfessed sin (“I kept silence”), with the result, “my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” His attempt “to stifle the pangs of conscience was taking its toll of him mentally and physically. He was becoming like an aged man … His sorrow was continuous … The man was in spiritual drought.”1 David had lost the joy of God’s salvation, Ps.51.12, and unconfessed sin in our lives will have precisely the same result. In David’s words, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin” Ps.38.3. But, as we shall now see, “He that covereth his sin shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” Prov.28.13.

Confession – v.5

“I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;’”. We should notice three words repeated from vv.1,2: “sin [chattaah] … iniquity [avon] … transgressions [pasha]”.

The word “acknowledged” (yada) means ‘to make known’2. David made known his sin to God, not because God was unaware of his guilt, but because true penitence involves confession of sin. The pain that this involves is part of the process leading to forgiveness, and this is confirmed in the New Testament: “If we confess our sins [not ‘sin’, but ‘sins’], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1Jn.1.9.

Cleansing – v.5

“And thou forgavest [nasa] the iniquity [avon] of my sin [chattath]. Selah.” Doubtless, David is recalling the way in which his guilt was highlighted by Nathan, leading him to confess his sin and receive Divine forgiveness: “And David said unto Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said unto David, ‘The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die’” 2Sam.12.13.

We should add that confession and forgiveness do not necessarily remove the consequences of sin. An additional result of David’s sin was the dishonour he brought on the Lord’s name: “thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” 2Sam.12.14. The “enemies of the Lord” must refer to the surrounding nations, amongst whom the news must have spread like wildfire. Centuries later, Paul was obliged to say of the Jewish nation, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” Rom.2.24. But what was the nature of their blasphemy here? We almost hear them saying, ‘The God of Israel allows His own people to flout His laws, and get away with it. What sort of a God is that?’ David had brought the Lord’s name into disrepute, and now the time had come for God to display His righteousness. David is told that the child, born within marriage but conceived in adultery, would die. God would not tolerate the slur on His name. David must reap the consequences of dishonouring God. This is a solemn warning to us all.

We must also remember the law of sowing and reaping: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” Gal.6.7:

  • David had “killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and … slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.” God’s judgment would fit the crime: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine
    house …” 2Sam.12.9,10.
  • David had destroyed the family life of Uriah. God’s judgment would fit the crime. His own family life would be destroyed: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house … I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” 2Sam.12.10,11.
  • David had “taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite … secretly”. Uriah knew nothing about it. God’s judgment would fit the crime: “I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun” 2Sam.12.10-12.


David now uses his own experience for the benefit of others. What follows has been described as “an exhortation based upon experience”3. Thus, “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found” v.6. We should notice the following three pairs of verses, which bring before us exhortation, vv.6,7; instruction, vv.8,9; and exultation, vv.10,11.

Exhortation – vv.6,7

The People Involved

They are called the “godly [chasid]”. The same people are called “saints” in other Psalms: “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints [chasid] of His” Ps.30.4; “O love the Lord, all ye His saints [chasid]” Ps.31.23; “let Thy saints shout for joy … her saints shall shout aloud for joy” Ps.132.9,16; “Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds” Ps.149.5. The same word (chasid) is used in Ps.116.15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” According to J.N. Darby, the word chasid means ‘those characterised by piety, grace, goodness’4.

Provision was therefore made for the forgiveness and restoration of God’s erring people (“the godly”, His “saints”) in the Old Testament, and, as already noted, provision is made for His people today: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1Jn.1.9.

The Urgency Involved

“For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found” v.6. There is certainly an implied warning here. We rightly stress this in gospel preaching: “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” Isa.55.6. The gospel preacher rightly refers to a day when they shall “call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me” Prov.1.28. While we would hesitate before suggesting that this could be applied to God’s people today, it does at least remind us of how older believers used to tell us to ‘keep short accounts with God’, by which they meant that if we do commit sin, we should immediately repent of it, confess it to God, and forsake it. This leads to:

The Confidence Involved

“Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him” v.6. The Godly man or woman who follows David’s advice and seeks the Lord’s forgiveness when necessary will not be overwhelmed when troubles come like “the floods of great waters”. A right relationship with God is essential to our preservation in the storms of life. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” Prov.18.10. But the question might well be asked: “How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” Jer.12.5, if our relationship with the Lord has been fractured by unconfessed sin. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are secure forever, and we will never lose our salvation; however, if we allow sin to interfere with our fellowship with God, then we will be ill prepared for the many difficulties that come our way in this life.

David speaks of his own confidence in this way. He is in the enjoyment of his own ministry! “Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah” v.7. The word “songs” (ron) denotes ‘a loud cry or song’.2 A similar word (ranan) is used in v.11 (“shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart”) and in Isa.12.6 (“Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee”). The “songs of deliverance” must include deliverance from fear: “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” Ps.34.4.

Instruction – vv.8,9

As J.M. Flanigan (supported by A.F. Kirkpatrick3) points out, “the pronoun changes. Now Jehovah is speaking to His servant and promises Divine guidance, if there is willingness to obey.”1 We therefore read, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” We should notice the following:

It involves education by God.

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go” v.8. This is so different to man’s way, of which Solomon said, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Prov.14.12.

God imparts instruction through the Holy Spirit. He instructs, teaches and guides. See 1Cor.2.12,13: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” Divine instruction is imparted through the Scriptures. It is not a question of ‘the teaching of the church’, or even ‘the teaching of the assemblies’, but “What saith the scripture?” Gal.4.30.

It involves the watchfulness of God.

“I will guide thee with Mine eye” v.8; or, “I will counsel [thee] with Mine eye upon thee” J.N.D.; alternatively, “I will give counsel, with Mine eye upon thee” J.N.D. margin. This suggests that His tender watchfulness over His people involves imparting appropriate counsel and guidance. David emphasises here His vigilance and care. He knows what is best for His children, and leads them accordingly. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” Ps.37.23. Compare Ps.33.18 (“Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him”) and Ps.34.15 (“The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous”). See also Ps.73.24: “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”

It involves submission to God.

“Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee” v.9; or, “Be ye not as a horse, as a mule, which have no understanding: whose trappings must be bit and bridle, for restraint, or they will not come unto thee” J.N.D. These animals are sometimes noted for their stubborn resistance, and must be forcibly and physically controlled by bit and bridle. As A.F. Kirkpatrick points out, “Brute animals without reason must be controlled and compelled by force to learn to submit to man’s will. If man will not draw near to God and obey Him of his own free will, he lowers himself to the level of a brute, and must expect to be treated accordingly and disciplined by judgment (Isaiah 26:9-11).”3 The Lord’s people are not to be like them. After all, you cannot counsel a mule!

Exultation – vv.10,11

David had experienced God’s heavy hand upon him, v.4, imposing control by pressure. But that was not God’s intention. His desire was gently to instruct, teach and guide His people. He looked for their intelligent co-operation. The wicked, who resist the will of God, can expect “many sorrows”, but “he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy [chesed, ‘loving-kindness’] shall compass him about” v.10. Once again, David is speaking out of experience. He had been “wicked” and been smitten with “many sorrows”, but now he is rejoicing in the loving-kindness of God. His joy runs over:

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart” v.11. There is nothing repressive about righteousness and uprightness. The “righteous” and the “upright in heart” are not in some kind of straitjacket! “Be glad in the Lord … and shout for joy”. A.F. Kirkpatrick rightly says that “all kindred spirits must share the joy of a pardoned soul, and rejoice in the contemplation of God’s gracious dealings with His people.”3

The joy with which Psalm 32 ends flows over into Psalm 33: “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright” v.1. Praise should be infectious!

To be continued (D.V.)

1 Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
2 Young, R. “Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible”. Multiple publishers.
3 Kirkpatrick, A.F. “The Book of Psalms”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
4 Darby, J.N. “The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation from the Original Languages”. Note at Ps.30.4.
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Traits of the Tribes

by Ian McKee (N. Ireland)

Paper 43

Ephraim – in the Kingdom

After David was anointed king over Judah, 2Sam.2.4, Abner led the opposition to it, with the tribe of Ephraim being specifically mentioned, 2Sam.2.9. Following Abner’s assassination any hopes of a Saul dynasty faded. Of those who later came to make David king in Jerusalem there were “of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valour, famous throughout the house of their fathers” 1Chr.12.30.

During the reign of Solomon, “Helez the Pelonite, of the children of Ephraim” and “Benaiah the Pirathonite, of the children of Ephraim” were two of the twelve captains responsible for provisioning the royal household, 1Chr.27.10,14. “Hoshea the son of Azaziah” was the ruler of the children of Ephraim in the devolved governance structures in Solomon’s kingdom, 1Chr.27.20.

During the revival under Asa, “strangers … out of Ephraim … in abundance” came to Jerusalem “when they saw that the Lord his God was with him” 2Chr.15.9.

Jehoshaphat, Asa’s successor, “strengthened himself against Israel. And he placed forces in … the cities of Ephraim, which Asa his father had taken” 2Chr.17.1,2.

When Ahaz promoted blatant idolatry in Judah, including abominable child sacrifice, God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria, whose army slew 120,000 men in one day and took a great multitude as captives to Damascus, 2Chr.28.1-6. However, we next read that “Zichri, a mighty man of Ephraim, slew Maaseiah the king’s [Ahaz’s] son, and Azrikam the governor of the house, and Elkanah that was next to the king. And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand, women, sons, and daughters, and took also away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria” 2Chr.28.7,8.

It is a serious business when God moves in chastisement against egregious sin. However, it is an outrage when others seek to take selfish advantage. Zichri slew three prominent men and took into captivity an even greater number of vulnerable people than the Syrians had killed. This onslaught did not have Divine sanction, which became apparent when Zichri and his hostages neared Samaria. The words of “a prophet of the Lord”, Oded, are illuminating: “Behold, because the Lord God of your fathers was wroth with Judah, He hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have slain them in a rage that reacheth up unto heaven. And now ye purpose to keep under the children of Judah and Jerusalem for bondmen and bondwomen unto you; but are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God? Now hear me therefore, and deliver the captives again, which ye have taken captive of your brethren: for the fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you” 2Chr.28.9-11.

The risk of Divine judgment as a result of this carnal and opportunistic attack and its aftermath, with the blatant hypocrisy involved, was recognised. So “certain of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah … Berechiah … Jehizkiah … Amasa … stood up against them that came from the war” 2Chr.28.12. These leading men, having heard the prophet Oded, recognised that Divine judgment should never become an occasion for subsequent insensitivity or hypocritical injustice. These four named Ephraimites were commendably compassionate: they released the captives, clothed and arrayed them, shod them, fed them, anointed them, brought them back to Jericho to their brethren and showed special care to the feeble, 2Chr.28.15. May we never develop a destructive Zichri-type attitude. The damage occasioned by one Ephraimite required a prophet’s rebuke plus the actions of four Ephraimites to (partially) remedy! We must avoid hasty and unspiritual assessments and actions. It is easier to cause havoc among the Lord’s people than to promote their welfare.

During Hezekiah’s revival, Ephraim was invited to attend the restored Passover at Jerusalem, 2Chr.30.1-10. Although not mentioned among the respondents in 2Chr.30.11, representatives of Ephraim are listed as being attendees in 2Chr.30.18. This resulted in the subsequent removal of idolatrous sites throughout Ephraim’s tribal area, 2Chr.31.1.

Josiah’s later revival effected a cleansing from idolatry in the former tribal territory of Ephraim, 2Chr.34.6. While the majority of the tribe had already been relocated by the Assyrians, some Ephraimites remained and they contributed financially to the repair of the Temple at Jerusalem, 2Chr.34.9.

Ephraim – in the Psalms

There are four Psalms in which Ephraim is specifically mentioned, three of which we have already considered in relation to Manasseh: Psalms 60, 80 and 108.

The lessons of history pervade the other Psalm, which includes: “The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in His law; and forgat His works, and His wonders that He had shewed them” Ps.78.9-11. Ephraim used to be the leading tribe per Jacob’s blessing, Joshua’s example, and being the initial location of the Tabernacle in the Land, at Shiloh in Ephraim. However, if confidence in God is lost, reverence will dissipate, the rehearsal of His earlier dealings will become an irrelevance and the moral courage needed to advance spiritual testimony will evaporate. “Moreover He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim” Ps.78.67. When Ephraim lost the ark of the Covenant from Shiloh, 1Sam.4.11, their days of early national leadership were over. The Ark never returned to Ephraim and in their place God “chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which He loved” Ps.78.68. Spiritual decline may start slowly, but will surely accelerate, with the succeeding generations sustaining the greatest loss.

Ephraim – in the Prophets

While there are almost sixty references to Ephraim in the Prophets, these are a synonym for the northern kingdom and therefore not within our present consideration.

However, in the future tribal settlement in the Millennial Kingdom, Ephraim will have a portion north of the Millennial city just beyond that of Reuben and before that of Manasseh, Ezek.48.5,6. Joseph’s sons stood side by side before Jacob in Gen.48.13; and their tribes will be side by side in the Millennium as allocated by Messiah Himself.


James wrote to first-century Jewish Christians and something of their tribal character traits may be evident in us as believers today.

James’ Joseph Section

Character traits associated with Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim may best be seen in Jms.5.1-13.

“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you” v.1, refers to the selfish rich who have little concern for fairness or social justice. When such face ruin, their lamentations are due to their riches being “corrupted”, their garments “moth eaten” and their gold and silver “cankered” vv.2,3. These “riches” are not the gold and silver separately mentioned, but perishable grain in storage granaries.

Such impoverishment would have been the outcome in Egypt. Without Divine intervention and the integrity of Joseph, Pharaoh’s riches would have testified to hard-hearted indifference and led to Divine judgment: “the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire” v.3.

The rich may intend to heap “treasure together for the last days” v.3, ignoring the cries of the oppressed: “the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth [‘the Lord of Hosts’]”: One Who is the ultimate ruler of this world, v.4.

Joseph, Zaphnath-paaneah, Gen.41.45, the ‘revealer of secrets’ and/or ‘saviour of the world’, was of a different character. He ensured that the grain gathered in the seven plenteous years did not corrupt; nor did the population starve. The united testimony of a preserved people was “Thou hast saved our lives” Gen.47.25.

The rich “have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton”, a life of self-indulgence and extravagance, which is compared with the fattening of cattle: “ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter” Jms.5.5. Also, “ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you” v.6. Desire for wealth led to judicial exploitation and even the death of the unresisting poor. This was as cruel and callous as the actions of Jephthah against the Ephraimites, Judg.12.6.

James exhorts the oppressed to avoid any worldly reaction to injustice. Patient self-restraint like that of Joseph is enjoined, “for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” Jms.5.8. However, like the farmer waiting for the harvest, we cannot influence the timing, but should remain in a state of confident anticipation and, in good courage, “stablish [our] hearts” v.8. It is vital not to let a spirit of grudging resentment arise, or to develop a censorious spirit. Rather, leave all with the coming Judge Who “standeth before the door” v.9. Joseph retained a spiritual equilibrium: “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.

We are also encouraged to look back to the worthies of old “who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience” Jms.5.10. James says, “Behold, we count them happy which endure” v.11, which is not ‘happiness’ as a superficial emotion. Rather it is in the sense of Divine ‘blessing’ on those who persevered under trial to graduate, with honours, in ‘the school of God’: people such as Joseph, Joshua and Gideon. “The end of the Lord” regarding Job is then cited, which is the refutation of Satan’s scurrilous statements and the vindication of Job’s faith and character. He discovered “that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” v.11. Joseph experienced the same.

The casual and duplicitous use of Divine names, etc., is condemned in the elaborate structure the Jews had developed of binding and non-binding oaths! James enjoins transparent honesty: “let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation” v.12. The disastrous vow of Jephthah stands out as a salutary lesson, Judg.11.30,31. The right attitude in affliction is to pray, trusting in God. Joseph’s experiences are an example.

To be continued (D.V.)

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The Lamb in Revelation

by William M. Banks (Scotland)


THE WEDDING OF THE LAMB – Rev.19.1-16 (Part 3)

We have been considering this subject using the following six-fold outline:

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

The previous two papers covered the first three sections; this one will cover the final three.


There is normally a supper after a wedding. Sometimes different people are invited to the supper from those who attend the wedding. It is no different here.

The Blessing Involved in Being Called

It is obviously important to be called to this supper; indeed, it is such a blessing that John is told to put it in writing. It is the fourth of the seven beatitudes in Revelation. John the Baptist recognised the honour and joy of being associated with this Bridegroom, Jn.3.29. The delineation of the called (“they” of v.9b) is not clearly detailed in this chapter. Some indication is given elsewhere. The elect of the nation of Israel are called to enjoy the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom in Matt.24.31. Additionally, the nations of the earth walk in the light of the Millennial city, Rev.21.24, which of course will be displaying the glory of “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” 21.9. Thus both Jews and Gentiles are going to be called to “the marriage supper of the Lamb”.

The Location of the Supper

Implicit in the above conclusions is that the earth will be the location for the supper. The supper is then synonymous with the Millennium. This is confirmed by two New Testament passages. In Matt.25.1,10 we read that “ten virgins … went forth to meet the bridegroom … the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut”. The word for “marriage” is in the plural and Newberry gives it as “marriage feasts” in the margin. The faithful of the Jewish nation waiting for the introduction of the Millennial Kingdom go in to enjoy the banquet.

In addition Lk.12.35-37 reads: “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” Now the net is widened to include the Gentile nations (“men”). The context is “the kingdom of God” v.31. The Lord is coming from the wedding and is going to be the Servant! Compare Isa.25.6.

It will be an occasion for the display of His Bride: “He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe … in that day” 2Thess.1.10. Amazingly. the Bridegroom will enjoy the reflected glory from His Bride!


The basis of John’s worship is the certainty of fulfilment of details which appear so incredulous that the truth needs to be affirmed: they are “the true sayings of God” v.9c. His reverence in worship is seen in that he “fell at his feet” v.10a. However, he had the wrong object of worship: a “fellowservant … of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus” v.10b. He is pointed to the true object of worship: “worship God” v.10c. At the same time the supremacy of Christ is affirmed: “the testimony of [or ‘borne by’ or ‘to’] Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” v.10d, that is, all prophecy centres on Him. An alternative suggestion is that the verse is saying that the Holy Spirit in the Prophets bears testimony to Jesus, 2Pet.1.21; compare 1Pet.1.10,11. Either way, Christ is supreme!


There is evidently a close link between this paragraph and the immediately preceding one. The specific connection is seen in the link between verses 8 and 14. The dress is the same and “the armies, which were in heaven” v.14, are an evident link to the Bride coming with her Bridegroom to establish His Kingdom as King of kings and Lord of lords, having defeated His enemies.

The Context Indicated – v.11a

Heaven is “opened” to permit egress (compare Jn.1.51), just as it was “opened” in 4.1 to permit entrance. The latter is a picture of the Rapture, the former of the Manifestation. The Bride now comes with Him to be displayed to the Millennial earth and to enjoy His exploits and sovereignty.

The Names of the Main Participant – vv.11,12,13,16

The Lord Jesus is given four interesting titles in this section:

He is called “Faithful and True” v.11. He is riding “a white horse [stallion]”, not now a “colt, the foal of an ass” Matt.21.5; Jn.12.14,15, and moves “in righteousness … [to] make war”. This is so different from the basis on which wars are waged now.

He has a “name written, that no man knew, but He Himself” v.12. It indicates His inscrutability; compare Matt.11.27: “… no man knoweth the Son, but the Father”. He has piercing eyes, v.12a, “as a flame of fire”, and “many crowns” (not seven, as the “dragon” 12.3, or ten, as the “beast” 13.1) on His head, v.12b: diadems of royalty and of imperial dignity.

In v.13 He is called the Word of God, affirming the authority of the spoken word which He uses to overcome His enemies. John is fond of this title. In his Gospel he calls Him “The Word” Jn.1.1, linking with His eternality, while in 1Jn.1.1 He is called “the Word of life”, linking with His manifestation in the past, as indicated in 1Jn.1.2. The evidence of His victory is seen in that He is “clothed with a vesture dipped in blood”, not from Calvary but from His enemies; compare Isa.63.1-6; Rev.14.17-20.

The fourth title used in this paragraph is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” v.16. The “war” of v.11 is now described, but victory was never in doubt; it was absolutely certain; compare 17.14, and the reversal of the title, and 1Tim.6.15. The implement of war is interesting: “a sharp sword” going “out of His mouth” v.15a: the power of His spoken word. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap: He layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” Ps.33.6-9. Compare also Rev.2.27; 19.21; Isa.11.4; 2Thess.2.8; Ps.2.9.

Verse 15 indicates three other details: firstly, the enemy to be overcome is “the nations” v.15b; compare Ps.2.1-5; secondly, the manner of the victory: “He shall rule them with a rod of iron” v.15c; compare Ps.2.9; thirdly, the certainty of the final triumph is seen in that “He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” v.15d. Woe betide the enemy!

The Honour of the Accompanying Participants – v.14

The accompanying wife of the Lamb is honoured to share in the spoils of victory. She “followed Him”, showing evidence of her intimate commitment to Him; compare 17.14; Jude 14,15. Like the Bridegroom, v.11, the dignity is evidenced by being “upon white horses”. Her dress is unchanged: she is “clothed in fine linen, white and clean”!

To be continued (D.V.)

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

by Dennis Williamson (N. Ireland)

Paper 9


At times this subject and practice of baptism is looked upon as somewhat of an optional extra in the believer’s life. After all, as it is true that water baptism cannot add anything to my salvation or eternal security, why should it be given such importance? The same thing could, of course, be said of many issues brought to our attention, for our obedience, in the Holy Scriptures. We might say that the importance that we ascribe to it will be commensurate with the value which we place upon God’s Word.

Obviously, water baptism applies to the body of the believer, but its teaching and subsequent implications impact upon the whole of the believer’s life and conduct. Indeed, the ordinance, rightly understood, is a public demonstration of what has already taken place in the experience of the child of God at conversion. By means of submission to water baptism, I am publicly declaring my identification with the Lord Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection from the dead, Rom.6.2-4, and in this way it has an essential bearing on the outworking of my life and conduct as a Christian.

The Lord Jesus Christ, before He left this scene for heaven, insisted upon two ordinances being observed by all who would follow Him. One of these is the Lord’s Supper, Lk.22.19,20, where I remember Him, and the fact that He died for me. The other is water baptism, where in obedience I recall the fact that I died with Him, Matt.28.19,20; Rom.6.2-4. Both of these are to be observed during this dispensation of grace, until the Lord returns.

There are many baptisms referred to in the New Testament, and they need to be distinguished. A list may be formed for further study regarding this subject:

  1. John Baptist baptised his followers unto repentance, Mk.1.4;
  2. The baptism of the Lord Jesus in the Jordan, Mk.1.9;
  3. The baptism of the cross, Lk.12.50;
  4. The baptism in the Holy Spirit, 1Cor.12.13;
  5. The baptism of suffering for disciples, Matt.20.23;
  6. The baptism of fire (judgment to come), Matt.3.11;
  7. The baptism of Israel unto Moses, 1Cor.10.2;
  8. The baptism of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 2.41.

A meditative perusal of these will yield many practical benefits, but for now we must limit our thoughts to the last one: believers’ baptism.

It is to be borne in mind that there is no mention in the New Testament of the baptism of infants, or of household baptism as it is practised in some circles. The reference in Acts chapter 16 stresses that all those who were baptised in the jailer’s household had first believed, vv.31,34.

The noun baptism comes from the Greek verb bapto, meaning ‘to dip’. The word was used by the Greeks for the dyeing of a garment, where the process would be to immerse the article in the dye, submerging it under the liquid so that when eventually it emerged it would be the desired colour. This is also how the word is used when it relates to water baptism of the believer in the early days of the Church. Acts 8.38,39 shows this put into practice, where it says, “… and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptised him. And when they were come up out of the water …” Specious arguments about the amount of water will have no weight with the true believer. The baptism was ‘in’ water, not ‘with’ water. Let us look a little closer and see the truth.


The value that the risen Lord placed upon the baptism of believers is mentioned here. As He commissions His servants, and charges them with the responsibility of preaching and teaching, the Lord enjoins upon them the need to practise this ordinance. The words are extremely clear and concise: “baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” v.19. The unity of the Godhead is behind the baptism. What further authority is needed? The scope of the commission is worldwide. The four ‘alls’ have been noted: all power, all peoples, all principles, and His presence all the days, until the end of the age. God has made it abundantly clear that in the issue of making disciples, one of the features is baptism. The very fact that this is included in the ‘Great Commission’ gives sufficient weight to believing in its importance. In Matthew the responsibility is upon the Lord’s servants to teach, whereas in Mark it is upon the believers to obey. It might be appropriate to state at this stage that the Bible knows nothing of ‘baptismal regeneration’, whether this relates to children or adults. Baptism, while a mark of obedience, adds nothing to my positional standing before God in grace, or to my salvation.


We come in our thoughts to the Book of Acts. Frequently we see that baptism follows believing, and rightly so. Water baptism is only for believers, Acts 2.41; 8.36-39; 9.18; 10.47; 16.33,34; 19.3-5; 22.16. Personally, I would urge caution at this point. Because baptism is linked to believing, some teach that it is not linked to the assembly. This, in my judgement, is a spurious argument, as it leaves out of consideration the completeness of the commission and the rest of the New Testament teaching. Where are baptised believers to find fellowship? Are they to be encouraged to look around the various denominations and make their choice? This is never taught in the Bible, and for obvious reasons. It is contrary to the mind of the Spirit. Those who teach the Word should not be reticent to say that the only place for fellowship is among saints in the local assembly, where the principles of the Word of God are owned, or if not, this can be challenged. It is important to believe that the Lord only adds where His Lordship is honoured, Acts 2.47. I realise this is not popular truth nowadays, but please ask: what is the alternative? The simplicity of Scripture gives the order: salvation – baptism – gathering with believers. Many reasons are cited for failing to adhere to this order, but where true exercise and submission to God’s Word prevail, the Divine order will be followed.


What happened in reality in true conversion is expressed publicly in submission to water baptism; that is, a change in the life, 2Cor.5.17. Those who have died to sin cannot live (continually) any longer therein, Rom.6.2. This is the premise upon which the apostle develops his doctrine here. In so doing, he introduces the significance of baptism and its indication of change. He is not merely asking if one is baptised. What he is stressing is: am I leading a baptised life? To understand the teaching of baptism demands that it impacts my life in a radical fashion. Paul is reminding us that we publicly said at baptism that we were finished with the world that crucified our Saviour. We identified with a risen Christ in newness of life. All things belonging to my Adam-standing are gone, passed away, and I am now a new creation, which new life is now to be expressed in my daily walk. My message then to all is that when Christ died, I died. When he was buried, so was I. The old I is gone, and I am now a new person, Gal.2.20. The figure of baptism expresses this for the believer. The practical outworking of it is taught by Paul in the remainder of Romans chapter 6, with the teaching gathered around the words “knowing” vv.6,9, then “reckon” v.11, and then “yield” v.13, that the power of this new life may become more evident.


The language of obedience and confession of the Lord Jesus as the Son of God comes from the lips of the true convert. Where this attitude is found, many of the manmade objections to baptism will disappear, both in the case of the individual and of the servant of God. “Philip said, ‘If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.’ And he [the eunuch] answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God’” Acts 8.37. This is the quality of submission and confession we should look for when dealing with new converts relative to the details of this ordinance and their application. Those seeking baptism should not come making demands (for example, as to when the baptism must take place, or who should perform it). A haughty attitude is a virtual denial of the truth of baptism, being the very opposite of the submissive spirit that should characterise all who desire to be baptised. It is also a hindrance to spiritual progress. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, Jms.4.6.


When Peter makes reference to baptism in the above passage, he highlights the figure, and indicates that submission to baptism literally only affects the person outwardly. In itself, it has no power to curb the filth of the flesh in us. Already we have learned that baptism is an outward manifestation of what happened at salvation. We are told that in Noah’s day eight souls were saved through water, coming out of the ark on to resurrection ground: Ararat, Gen.8.4. In like manner, baptism, in figure, brings us to resurrection ground, where any question of conscience is answered by the One “who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him”. So, while baptism does not have practical cleansing (“not the putting away of the filth of the flesh”), submission to it does reveal a conscience at one with heaven.

Much more might be said of this tremendous subject; however, we do trust that these few remarks may stir our hearts to obedience and loyalty to our beloved Lord.

To be continued (D.V.)

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by David Strahan (N. Ireland)

Paper 2

The Sparrow

Most readers of the Psalms know that the title of a Psalm often identifies its author: “A Psalm of David”, “A Psalm of Asaph” and so on. However, there are almost fifty Psalms in which the Psalmist is not clearly identified. Psalm 102 is one of these. The title of this Psalm is “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” Clearly the author, whoever that may be, wrote the Psalm out of great personal distress and affliction.

While perhaps we cannot be dogmatic as to the writer of Psalm 102, we can be sure of Whom it speaks. The Psalm is clearly Messianic, for three verses are quoted from the end of the Psalm in Hebrews chapter 1 with reference to the Lord Jesus. We often meditate on other verses in the Psalm and apply them to His earthly sojourn. One such verse is “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop” Ps.102.7. While descriptive of the experience of the Psalmist, it also describes One Whom we can clearly identify as the Lord. It is the words of this precious verse that we wish to consider in its component parts.


Ever vigilant, without any sleep. Day after day and night after night the Psalmist watched. Alert and ready. Attentive lest anything should take him by surprise. It was a solitary vigil. There was none to help him.

The Lord Jesus could say, “I watch”. He is the One Who resorted alone to the Mount of Olives. “And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the mount of Olives” Jn.7.53-8.1. This was not to sleep. He was watching in prayer on the mountainside. “And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” Lk.6.12.

On one occasion it was the fourth watch of the night when the Lord Jesus came to the disciples on the sea of Galilee: “And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea” Matt.14.25. The fourth watch of the night was the early hours between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Towards the end of the previous day the Lord Jesus had gone “up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone” Matt.14.23. He had been there on the mountain, alone, and praying. It was night and the ship on which the disciples were travelling was being tossed by the storm in the midst of the sea. While the Lord was not in the boat with them, it says, “He saw them” Mk.6.48. Saints troubled in the midst of life’s storms have the assurance that He watches. There is not a wave that breaks on the hull of their life that He does not see.

While the disciples slept the Lord watched. In Gethsemane the disciples were “sleeping for sorrow” Lk.22.45. The Lord knew their willingness of spirit but marvelled at the weakness of the flesh at such an hour of crisis: “And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, ‘What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?’” Matt.26.40. His was the greater sorrow and He watched and prayed like a sparrow alone upon the housetop.

NO APPRECIATION – “and am as a sparrow”

The Lord Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?” Matt.10.29. The Lord was teaching that the value of a sparrow is just about as little as anything. Two of them sold for a farthing: less than a penny! Matthew says ‘two for a farthing’ but when we come to Luke we find “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings” Lk.12.6. It brings us to the marketplace where the sparrows are sold. Two for a farthing; but if you take two farthings’ worth, you will have one thrown into the bargain; you shall have five. The sparrow was not valued highly.

The Lord also was lightly esteemed. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” Jn.1.11. He was not valued, except by a few: “And many of them said, ‘He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye Him?’” Jn.10.20. They said in derision, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Matt.13.55. The prophet said of Him, “He is despised and rejected of men” Isa.53.3.

They had no appreciation that the One in their midst was the Son of God, the Messiah, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” Jn.1.29. The world still has no appreciation of Him. Only a few own Him as their Lord and count Him, His name and all associated with Him as precious.


The sparrows of this land are seldom solitary. In the spring they return in their droves, filling the air with their gregarious and cheerful song. But the Psalmist knew what it was to be alone and he says that he was like a sparrow, separated from all companions and acquaintance, alone upon the housetop.

Perhaps some of the most affecting words concerning the Lord Jesus are “He was there alone” Matt.14.23. How often He prayed alone! He was alone on the mountain. He was alone in the synagogue at Nazareth, for there was none there who understood: “and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong” Lk.4.29.

Then we approach that loneliest of all scenes, the cross. There was an angel in the garden to strengthen, Lk.22.43, but none at the cross, “for there is none to help” Ps.22.11. That little company of disciples who associated with Him during the years of public ministry had “forsaken Him, and fled” Matt.26.56. And then there is that cry that pierces our hearts: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Matt.27.46.

It is said that Martin Luther set out to study this profound cry of the Saviour. He studied for a long time, in solitude, without food, and in deep meditation. At last he rose from his chair and was heard to exclaim in amazement, “God forsaken of God; who can understand it?”

It was alone the Saviour prayed
In dark Gethsemane;
Alone He drained the bitter cup
And suffered there for me.
It was alone the Saviour stood
In Pilate’s judgment hall;
Alone the crown of thorns He wore,
Forsaken thus by all.
Alone upon the cross He hung
That others He might save;
Forsaken then by God and man,
Alone, His life He gave.
Alone, alone, He bore it all alone;
He gave Himself to save His own,
He suffered, bled and died alone, alone.
    (Ben H. Price)

NO ABODE – “upon the house top”

The sparrow sits alone upon the housetop. It perches on the home of another but it is not its own home. Beneath its feet there are those who dwell in a place of security and comfort. The sparrow perched on the housetop is exposed to the elements and strikes a most lonely figure.

The words of the Lord Jesus touch our hearts: “And Jesus said unto him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head’” Lk.9.58. The Creator had come into His creation and yet had no place to call home. Surely “He became poor” 2Cor.8.9.

James G. Deck’s hymn identifies Him as the ‘homeless stranger’:

Lamb of God! When we behold Thee
Lowly in the manger laid:
Moving as a homeless stranger
In the world Thy hands had made;
When we see Thee in the garden,
In Thine agony of blood;
At Thy grace we are confounded,
Holy, spotless Lamb of God.

The heart of every believer rejoices knowing that the One of Whom it can be said, “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop” Ps.102.7, is now exalted. Rather than the housetop He is presently seated in the resplendence of heavenly glory: “… when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” Heb.1.3. This is where He rightly belongs.

Behold the Lamb with glory crowned,
To Him all power is given;
No place too high for Him is found,
No place too high in heaven.
He fills the throne, the throne above,
He fills it without wrong;
The object of His Father’s love,
The theme of angels’ song.
          (Thomas Kelly)

To be continued (D.V.)

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Standing with God in the Time of Great Departure

(1Kings chapter 18)

by Gideon Khoo (Malaysia)

Paper 2

In the first paper, we saw that this chapter is divided into three sections:

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

Having considered the first section, we now turn to the second:


We saw that the Lord was able to preserve His own miraculously, but also providentially. He fed Elijah miraculously through the brook, and through the widow’s barrel and cruse, chapter 17, but He also fed the one hundred prophets providentially through the hand of Obadiah. The providential hand of the Lord marks the days in which we live, and how good to know that He still works. However, Elijah lived in a time when the Lord was pleased to manifest Himself in visually spectacular ways; and Elijah was a special prophet chosen by Him. This section will show us how special he was.

In this section, we will see more than ever that standing with God can be a very lonely affair. But if one stands with God in His Word, the preference of the majority matters not. The popular route is oftentimes the pathway of compromise and middle ground, as we shall see. But those who dare to stand with God, even though being alone, will finally know vindication from God, in the now or in the hereafter.

Verses 17,18

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, ‘Art thou he that troubleth Israel?’ And he answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.’”

The expression “And it came to pass” signals a new section in the chapter. We are told in v.16 that Ahab went to meet Elijah. Obadiah stated that Ahab was searching high and low for Elijah, unsuccessfully, v.10, but when the right time came, “Ahab saw Elijah”. But what a way for Ahab to say ‘hello’! The evil king, who is spiritually delusional, asks, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” In 1Chr.2.7, the title “the troubler of Israel” is in reference to Achan, who took the accursed thing from Jericho and was stoned to death. He was the cause of the defeat of Israel at Ai, Joshua chapter 7. This title must have been well known in Israel, and Ahab used it to accuse Elijah of sin equal in gravity to that of Achan. But the prophet Elijah reminded Ahab that he was the real ‘Achan’ of Israel’s calamity because he had forsaken the commandment of the Lord and had walked after Baalim.

Verses 19,20

“‘Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.’ So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.”

The elevated topography of Mount Carmel, overlooking the vast expanse of the Valley of Jezreel below, makes for a dramatic showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Such a place would allow for “all Israel” to gather for the sight of their life. Though it is unlikely that every single Israelite was there, there must have been a great number, gathered to see this epic battle.

It is interesting that Ahab acceded to Elijah’s request. Perhaps he thought that the prophets of Baal, with their demonic devices, stood a very good chance of equalling, if not surpassing, the prophet Elijah in power. I have no doubt at all that these evil prophets possessed the demonic powers to perform certain supernatural acts, and King Ahab and the Israelites must have witnessed them before. The magicians of Pharaoh were able to mimic Aaron’s miracle by turning their own rods into serpents, Ex.7.12, but we shall see that demonic powers become completely impotent in the presence of the Lord.

The overwhelming disproportion of four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and another four hundred prophets of “the groves”, or ‘Asherah’, (though some commentators believe that these latter prophets eventually did not turn up for the showdown) versus one prophet of God, was intentionally arranged by Elijah to demonstrate to the people that only one prophet is needed when God is on his side.

Verses 21,22

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him.’ And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, ‘I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.’”

“Elijah drew near to all the people” is the literal translation of the first part of the verse. Despite the fact that all the people were not on his side, this prophet of grace drew near to them. It would have been natural for him to dismiss the people and keep them at a distance in this instance, but Elijah recognised that these were God’s covenant people, as will be evident in his prayer, v.36. His objective was to draw them back to the Lord again.

Elijah has already rebuked Ahab for following after Baalim, v.18. However, the prophet now appeals to the people, and calls upon them to be decisive in their allegiance: “If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him.” The prophet was by no means suggesting that Baal was another option, but he was challenging them to be real in their profession. The problem was that they wanted ‘the best of both worlds’. They wanted the legacy of their fathers’ religion, which defined the nation’s identity, and the association with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but they also wanted the sensual practices and sin-filled pleasures of Baal worship, and the association with a religion endorsed by their own monarch and his queen, possibly for commercial and political benefits.

The Israelites were ‘hovering’ (“halting” A.V.) between two opinions. The word ‘hovering’ is the same word as “pass over” (p̱âsaḥ). In the Passover story of Exodus chapter 12, the Lord “passed through” (‘âḇar) the land in destruction, but He “passed over” (p̱âsaḥ), or ‘hovered over’ the house which had the blood of the lamb applied on the upper and side posts of the door to cover the house from destruction, Ex.12.23. But here the Israelites are ‘hovering’ over two opinions, as if covering and protecting their sinful interest of ‘wanting both worlds’. So many Christians want the best of both worlds, and they would even attempt to protect, or ‘hover’, over this midway ‘sitting on the fence’ position! In their minds, oftentimes unconfessed, they want a mixture of worldly pleasures and a little dose of Christianity. The Lord Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” Matt.6.24.

What was the people’s response? They “answered him not a word”. What could they have said? The voice of their own pricked conscience had already drowned out whatever words they could possibly say. We will see later when the prophets of Baal called upon their god from morning till noon, there was no voice, “nor any that answered” v.26. Then, after they had cut themselves and continued to call until the time of the evening sacrifice, there was still no voice, “nor any that answered” v.29. What the writer of 1Kings is really saying is that the people were as silent as their false god. Baal was silenced in the presence of the true God, because Baal was no god at all. Those who worshipped this false god became as speechless and powerless as Baal.

In this showdown, what Elijah said was correct in the context of the present scene: that only he remained the “prophet of the Lord” in the midst of the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. But what should have been a privilege became a point of complaint later, when Elijah stood before the Lord, 19.10,14. That which magnified his victory became a point for justifying self-pity. But he was to learn that, in saying that he was the only prophet of the Lord, he was not exactly correct in the larger scheme of God’s plan, because there were still “seven thousand” who had “not bowed unto Baal” 19.18. We can sometimes be focused on our own circumstances, not knowing that the Lord has preserved elements of faithfulness of which we are not aware. Therefore, we should be encouraged that the Lord never allows the flame of His testimony to be extinguished, but we should also learn the solemn lesson that we are not irreplaceable in His work.

Verses 23,24

“‘Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.’ And all the people answered and said, ‘It is well spoken.’”

Elijah proposed a test that made it impossible for any kind of amateurish imitation or backdoor preparation. However, I would like to suggest (though perhaps it will be dismissed by some) that the Baal prophets truly believed that they could call fire from the skies. As previously suggested, these were men that possessed supernatural demonic powers and had before performed some kind of supernatural displays aided by the forces of darkness. But in this case, the evil forces were stiffened and silenced by Jehovah, as we shall see. A big animal was used because only a big fire could consume a sacrifice of this size. The test now is: will Baal answer? Will Jehovah answer? The people who answered not a word when their conscience was pricked now answer Elijah: ‘It is good.’

Verses 25-29

“And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.’ And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, ‘O Baal, hear us.’ But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, ‘Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.’ And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”

The prophets of Baal were given the opportunity to offer their sacrifice first, because Elijah wanted to embarrass these false prophets through their prolonged and futile efforts to call down fire. They called on Baal, from morning until noon. They cried, “Baal, answer us!” (“hear” v.26, means ‘answer’). Their activity intensified through the day as the silence of their god became prolonged. They began to “leap”, or ‘hover’, over the altar, v.26. We recall that Elijah challenged the people for their ‘hovering’ over two opinions, v.21. One would nearly wonder: where did they get that habit from? Then they cut themselves with knives and lancets until their blood gushed out. What a gory scene! We never read of them cutting the bullock into pieces, as Elijah would later do, but instead we read here that they cut themselves. Cutting the bullock into pieces brings our thoughts to the instructions of Leviticus chapter 1 on the preparation of the burnt offering, and ultimately leads us to think of the death of Christ. The devil would have none of that; instead he propels man into self-mutilation, self-destruction, and eventually eternal condemnation.

Elijah mocked them with some Hebrew alliterations: ‘Cry louder! He is a god after all; perhaps is he deliberating [siyach, “talking” A.V.], or relieving himself [sig, “pursuing” A.V.], or in a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping [yashen], or maybe even awake [yakas], and if that is so, something must be wrong seeing that he has not answered” (paraphrased by me). The first two verbs are “s” words and the last two verbs are “y” verbs. Upon hearing the sneers of Elijah, the prophets of Baal went into a rage. The word “prophesied” in v.29 is in an intensive form, and means ‘to go into a frantic rage’. This went on till the evening, yet there was no voice, nor answer, nor any attention from Baal. 

To be continued (D.V.)

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Comfort for Christians in a Changing World

by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)

“Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick” John 11.3

Who would have thought that the saintly trio from Bethany would ever have had their Godly lives so sadly and suddenly disrupted by the serious illness and unexpected death of one of their number? Scripture identifies one of them as being “that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair” Jn.11.2. What precious times of warm and intimate fellowship they had enjoyed with the Saviour yet now their family was shattered by sickness and bereavement!

Even Christians are not immune to suffering or exempt from sore trials. It has rightly been said that the purest gold comes through the hottest flame. Could Martha and Mary have seen beyond the trial to the wondrous experience of the raising of their brother in that never-to-be-forgotten scene described later in the chapter, their tears would have been dried and their hearts cheered. The almost intolerable waiting and wondering caused by the two-day delay of the Saviour, filled with unanswered questions as to why He had not come sooner and avoided the pain of separation, would all have been made clear if only they had remembered that He is too wise to make a mistake and too loving to cause a needless tear.

God hath not promised we shall not know toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear many a burden, many a care.

“He saw a man …” John 9.1

Many eyes had gazed upon this pitiful sight; some cast but a fleeting glimpse, others stared in rude curiosity, some saw him but then they averted their face as they were unwilling or unable to offer any assistance, but no eyes ever saw like those of the tender-hearted, compassionate Saviour. He observed this poor soul with interest and deepest pity. He would not pass by on the other side, unaffected by the man’s years of misery and need. What joy the blind man must have felt when he saw His face: the fairest face ever found on Planet Earth, the unblemished face of unsurpassed beauty; the face of the blessèd Man Who alone could give sight and forgive sins. How thankful he must have been for the rest of his life that Christ saw him!

Do you feel lonely, neglected, maybe even forgotten? Months have passed since you received a visit from someone who really cared and you are beginning to wonder if anyone cares. Even the Christians seem to suffer from sympathy fatigue!

The Saviour Who saw the man everyone else ignored sees you and He cares more than you will ever know. His eye is ever upon you, you matter to Him and “He careth for you” 1Pet.5.7.

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?
Oh, yes He cares; I know He cares.
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Good Tidings from Heaven

‘Kicking the Can down the Road’

There are a few expressions such as ‘putting it on the long finger’, ‘kicking it into the long grass’ and ‘putting it on the back burner’ which indicate actions and attitudes leading to the delay or postponement of matters which need to be addressed soon or immediately and which require urgent attention. These expressions reflect a careless, lackadaisical attitude which is prepared to put something important off to a later date. The word ‘procrastination’ really means leaving something until tomorrow (the Latin word cras means ‘tomorrow’). In effect the person is saying, “I know I ought to address this matter urgently but someday I’ll get round to thinking about it.”

One man characterised by such an attitude is Felix who, after hearing the preaching of Paul, trembled and showed obvious concern but then he said, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” Acts 24.25.

My friend, can you think of anything more important than ensuring that you will be in Heaven for eternity? Those eternal, endless ages stand in stark contrast to the few fleeting years of life and yet many people are obsessed and preoccupied with trivial and temporal things and neglect the salvation of their immortal soul. I urge you to delay no longer but just now to attend to the overwhelmingly important matter of your soul’s salvation. You have no guarantee of tomorrow, the Lord is coming and the day of grace, this golden age of opportunity, is fast coming to a close. No wonder the Scriptures state, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” 2Corinthians 6.2. “It is time to seek the Lord” Hosea 10.12. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” Isaiah 55.6. You will never be saved until salvation becomes the priority for you!

The Saviour did not postpone the sufferings He endured and the sacrifice He offered so that you might be saved. He did not try to delay the awful crisis that loomed large as the time approached. The will of God was of paramount importance to Him and the blessing of unworthy sinners so valuable to the Lord Jesus that His death on our behalf could not brook any delay. On the very day foretold centuries before by the prophets, to coincide with the Passover, He arrived at Calvary and “offered Himself without spot to God” Hebrews 9.14. He became answerable for our sins and bore the punishment as if He had been guilty, that we the guilty might be pardoned and obtain eternal salvation. “Christ died for the ungodly” Romans 5.6.

He longs to bless you and will not hesitate for a moment to save you if you would trust Him as your personal Saviour: He cannot save you unless and until you trust Him. It will only take a moment, but will determine your eternal destiny. Will you continue to hesitate as if this was just a paltry issue? Will you ‘kick the can down the road’ yet again or will you wisely, right now, trust Christ alone to be saved eternally?

What do you hope, dear sinner,
To gain by a further delay?
There’s no one to save you but Jesus,
There’s no other way but His way.
Why not? Why not?
Why not come to Him now?
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Consider Him

“For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, ‘The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me’” Romans 15.3
The context is Paul’s admonition for us to act, not on the basis of pleasing ourselves, but with the motive of seeking the benefit of others: “Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification” v.2. Paul supports his exhortation by speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, quoting from Ps.69.9: “the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me”. By this quote, Paul broadens the application: not only are we to sacrifice self-interest for the good of fellow-believers, but also in order to undergo the opposition of unbelievers. Christ set the example, by willingly suffering reproach for His Father’s sake; so we, following His pattern, should be prepared to endure reproach for His sake. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified” 1Pet.4.14.
Happy reproach to bear,
Shame, for His sake, to share;
Since we the crown shall wear
When He shall come.
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