ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee
UNTO THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH
by H. Rees
THE BOOK OF RUTH
by E.G. Parmenter
COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds
THE GOD OF JACOB
by P. Steele
AQUILA AND PRISCILLA
by W. Gustafson
A Proverb to Ponder — Proverbs 9:8
A Proverb to Ponder — Proverbs 12:18
Assembly Testimony Bible Class
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.40: PSALM 25 (Part 1)
We will introduce Psalm 25 by briefly considering its composition, background and division.
This Psalm is the first of several Psalms “which are composed in acrostic or alphabetical style, most probably intended to assist the Hebrew reader in the committing of the text to memory.”1 Other alphabetical Psalms are 34, 37, 111, 112 and 145 plus the most well-known of them all: Psalm 119. Therefore Psalm 25 has twenty-two verses, corresponding with the twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, but there are irregularities, including the omission of one letter and the inclusion of another in two places. It has been suggested that “the very irregularity may, indeed, be reflective of the national condition, and of the state of the Psalmist’s own heart, when the Psalm was composed.”2
- 1. Flanigan, J. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd.
- 2. Ibid.
William MacDonald observes that “it is difficult to find a unified theme; instead, the Psalm seems to be a pot-pourri of prayers and meditations with the only apparent link being the alphabetical one.”3 While we understand William MacDonald’s point, it seems better (or ‘evidently better’) not to use the term ‘pot-pourri’ in connection with any part of the Scriptures!
- 3. MacDonald, William. “Believer’s Bible Commentary”. Thomas Nelson Publishers.
A militant enemy! The Psalm begins and ends with reference to an enemy bent on David’s defeat and destruction. While it is not possible to relate the Psalm to any particular period or event in his life, it was evidently written in his later years (“Remember not the sins of my youth” v.7), and some feel that it belongs to the period of Absalom’s rebellion.
Do notice that the Psalm begins and ends in the same way. David refers at the beginning of the Psalm to trusting, waiting, not being ashamed and his enemies, vv.2,3, and he refers to the same four things at its conclusion, vv.19-21.
We have a similar enemy. He is bent on our defeat and destruction too. The Christian life is a battleground, not a playground. It does seem that David refers to a particular form of attack here; not so much physical persecution, but an attempt to destroy his integrity. Hence, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me” v.21, and the emphasis on the Lord’s guidance and instruction.
The Psalm may be divided into four parts as follows:
- David’s Prayer, vv.1-7: his cry of faith … for guidance … for mercy;
- David’s Assurance, vv.8-15: “The Lord … will [v.8] … will [v.9] … will [v.9] … shall [v.12] … will [v.14] … shall [v.15]”;
- David’s Affliction, vv.16-19: “desolate … afflicted … troubles … pain”;
- David’s Deliverance, vv.20-22.
We will consider the first part in this paper, and the remaining three in the following one, Lord Willing.
David’s Prayer – vv.1-7
“Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul” v.1. “Thee” is emphatic. In his distress, David looked in no other direction. See also v.15: “Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord”. Compare Acts 4.24: “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord”, and 2Chr.20.12: “we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee.”
“We should note the usage of “O Lord” (Jehovah) in the Psalm, vv.1,4,6,7,11, A.V. and R.V., possibly suggesting deep feeling. David also refers to “the Lord” (Jehovah) in vv.8,10,12,14,15. We should also notice his references to “God” (Elohim): “my God” v.2, “God of my salvation” v.5, and “O God” v.22.
In summary, “Jehovah, in all His eternal greatness, Elohim, in all His might and power, is the One to Whom David lifts up his heart and soul in prayer and praise.”4 His life is centred on the Lord. Paul puts it like this: “For to me to live is Christ” Phil.1.21.
- 4. Flanigan, J., ibid.
We must notice his cry of faith, vv.1-3; his cry for guidance, vv.4,5; his cry for mercy, vv.6,7:
His Cry of Faith – vv.1-3
“O my God, I trust in Thee: let me not be ashamed” v.2. Can we really say, “O my God, I trust in Thee”? The words “let me not be ashamed” refer to shame before his enemies. Compare v.20 (as noted, the Psalm ends as it begins). So, “Let not mine enemies triumph over me.” Obviously they were intent on his defeat! David “pleads that his trust in God might be vindicated. If it were not so he would be personally ashamed, disappointed and confused, and his enemies would exult.”5
- 5. Ibid.
Further, “Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed” (“Yea, none that wait on Thee shall be ashamed” J.N.D.), but “Let them be ashamed which transgress without cause” v.3. There was nothing narrow or selfish about David: he desired similar blessing for all who trusted in the Lord. Compare Isa.49.23: “For they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me”; Ps.27.14: “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
William MacDonald summarises as follows: “David’s dual supplication is that he will never be disappointed for having trusted in Jehovah, and that his enemies will never have occasion to gloat because God has failed His child. This is his prayer for all who depend on the Lord. As for those who deliberately deal falsely, he wishes them a full dose of shame.”6
- 6. MacDonald, William, ibid.
The words, “let me not be ashamed” recall Rom.1.16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”; 2Tim.1.8,12,16: “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord … I am not ashamed … Onesiphorus … was not ashamed of my chain”; 1Jn.2.28: “And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
His Cry for Guidance – vv.4,5
“Shew my Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me”. Notice the order here, and this is emphasised by J.N. Darby: “Make me to know Thy ways” v.4; “Make me to walk in Thy truth” v.5. Notice the expressions: “shew … teach” v.4, and “lead … teach” v.5; but always “Thy ways … Thy paths … Thy truth”. They were “paths of righteousness” Ps.23.3.
David made his petition on the basis that the Lord was “the God of my salvation”. The God Who has saved us is the God Who will guide us. David waited on God for this: “On Thee do I wait all the day.” Not ‘now and then’, or only in a crisis, but “all the day”. Compare v.21: “I wait on Thee.” We know that “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” Isa.40.31.
His Cry for Mercy – vv.6,7
Notice the word “remember”: “Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies and Thy loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old [‘they are from everlasting’ J.N.D.]. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Thy mercy [‘loving-kindness’ J.N.D.] remember Thou me for Thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.” Note “remember” v.6, and “remember not” v.7. Another man cried “Lord, remember me” Lk.23.42.
David therefore refers to submission to the will of God, vv.4,5, and confession of sin to God, vv.6,7. The latter is essential to the former. How glad we are that under the terms of the New Covenant, God says, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” Heb.10.17!
To be continued (D.V.)
Traits of the Tribes
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
DAN – THE FUTURE
While Dan is assured of a place in the future Millennial Kingdom, Ezek.48.1,2,32, there is no direct reference to this tribe in the New Testament. Dan does not contribute to the one hundred and forty-four thousand servants of God who were sealed, Rev.7.4-8. This may be due to their idolatrous history, with some speculating that the “man of sin … the son of perdition” 2Thess.2.3, may come from Dan. However, “that great city, the holy Jerusalem … had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” Rev.21.10-12.
DAN – THE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION
We now wish to consider James’ practical application in relation to Danite character traits. He writes to benefit first generation Jewish Christians and seeks to encourage them to rise above tribal tendencies.
It is James chapter 3 which addresses features evidenced in Danite history. That chapter deals with the power of the tongue and its control. Words represent a principal way in which our character is revealed: “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” Matt.12.37.
James commences with “My brethren, be not many masters [‘teachers’], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” Jms.3.1. He is not discouraging those gifted from developing as teachers but he discourages the rash forwardness of those not qualified to teach, whether by lack of gift or application. Vacuous verbosity is always to be discouraged! However, if the fact were more clearly recognised that every teacher is tested on his own ministry, there would be fewer seeking such prominence. Those who teach are held by the hearers to a strict level of scrutiny and accountability. So those who aspire to teach should not do so lightly, as it carries grave responsibilities. That said, every believer is expected to live his or her life consistently with Scripture and failure to do so will incur loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
He goes on to say, “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” Jms.3.2. This is true of all, not just the teacher. However, we are often more aware of how the words of others may have discouraged or stumbled us, rather than being conscious of the potential impact of our own words. Self-control in speech, and in all other areas of life, is a feature of spiritual maturity. To curb and control the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ in using our tongue will preserve from the promotion of sin and direct its activities beneficially. James further develops the thought: “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body” Jms.3.3. The whole bridle gives effect to the bit, to counteract natural impulses, secure obedience and give direction.
It was Jacob in his prophecy who said, “Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward” Gen.49.17. The dominant trait in the tribe of Dan was duplicity, placing themselves at the back of the horse to cause downfall, rather than being at its head to give direction. It would be a sad indictment should any believer be known for causing upset among the people of God rather than helping onward!
This tribe of whom it was sung, “And why did Dan remain in ships?” Judg.5.17, should understand, “Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor [‘steersman’] listeth” Jms.3.4. Small actions can have a major effect in reorientation. We, at all times, need to have control of the ‘tiller tongue’!
“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” Jms.3.5,6. The tongue here is portrayed as having independent personality invested with power. Uncontrolled it has an arrogant destructive potential, as was evident in the life of the judge from Dan, Samson.
Samson’s first recorded words are “I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife” and “Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” Judg.14.2,3. This expressed his unbridled desire, changed the course of his life and sparked a fire. There is something of the braggart in Samson’s riddle at the wedding feast but his words led to the death of thirty men, Judg.14.12-19, the later incineration of his wife and her father, Judg.15.6, and a great slaughter, Judg.15.8.
The “little member” is a major ‘tripping hazard’. While Samson’s carnal appetite caused his undoing, his tongue not only tripped him but tied him up at the end. In Judges chapter 16, in his interactions with Delilah, Samson told deliberate falsehoods on three successive occasions, no doubt deriving pleasure from his dissembling and its discomfiture of Delilah and her associates. His defeat followed his speaking of precious Nazarite matters to those who had no regard for them: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” Matt.7.6.
Sadly, there are far more examples than Samson to illustrate that “the tongue is a fire … and it is set on fire of hell” Jms.3.6. This was never God’s intention in giving mankind the gift of speech. Instead of being used properly it is a universal and aggressive agent for evil. No other physical member has such power and influence as well as having self-corrupting potential. Gehenna fire fuels the tongue’s destructive power when, without control, it becomes a tool of Satan.
James reminds his readers of mankind’s success in training animals, birds, etc., Jms.3.7, and goes on to state, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” Jms.3.8. We wonder how much audible arsenic and conversational cyanide was used by the five-man Danite scouting party who came to Laish, Judg.18.7. Their comprehensive survey and detailed assessment necessitated time in that region among those unsuspecting people, no doubt receiving eastern hospitality and honour. Those five Danites of deceitful tongue later unleased upon Laish “six hundred men appointed with weapons of war” Judg.18.11. Dan was indeed the ambush predator portrayed in Jacob’s prophecy!
The tongue is a double-dealing instrument. “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing” Jms.3.9,10. James asks three rhetorical questions showing the impossibility of a fountain alternatively dispensing fresh and salt water, a fig tree bearing olives, or a vine bearing figs, Jms.3.11,12. These illustrations place in sharp relief the fact that man alone can use his tongue to bless God and curse man. As man was made in the similitude or likeness of God, cursing man dishonours God.
Dan, as the second largest tribe, added volume to the song of redemption Ex.15.1-21. However, an unnamed male associated with the tribe of Dan later openly “blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed” Lev.24.11. We may have become inured to the casual blasphemy in society around but it still has the capacity to shock, depending on the circumstances and persons concerned. However, here unprecedented words were used openly in direct violation of the third commandment, Ex.20.7.
In tender affection James said, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” Jms.3.10. How many could, with honesty, use the words of the greatest man of the east: “Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul” Job 31.30? Reviewing our lifetime, surely there are many things which we wish we had said differently, or not at all.
We turn now from the negative to the positive in James chapter 3, for which there are also Danite illustrations. To the question, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?” Jms.3.13, our answer is Aholiab, Ex.31.6; 35.34,35; 38.23, and Hiram, 2Chr.2.13,14. These two outstanding Danites are not only skilled, but are able to bring their knowledge to bear on practical matters requiring very delicate handling. Each of these men could “shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom” Jms.3.13. No words of Aholiab and Hiram are recorded in Scripture! Their input to the construction of the Tabernacle and the Temple respectively stood the scrutiny not just of Moses and Solomon but also that of God.
Lasting results were achieved to benefit those of Levi when Aholiab of Dan cooperated with Bezaleel of Judah, and Hiram of Dan was subject to Solomon of Judah. These cooperative actions conducted in a spirit of “meekness of wisdom” resulted in the advancement of God’s purpose. Their attitude was the exact opposite of that which brings disaster: “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” Jms.3.14-16. Three descriptions are here given of the principal elements of idolatry introduced and perpetuated by Dan: “earthly, sensual, devilish”. Idolatry is the antithesis of everything that is ethical or spiritual.
James chapter 3 ends with verses that describe patient Aholiab-like and Hiram-like application to produce that which honoured God, beautified the Tabernacle and Temple and spoke typically of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. How carefully they worked in engraving, embroidering, weaving, stitching, working with precious metals and gemstones, etc.! We are not asked to handle in wisdom those precious materials; but we do have the present responsibility of exhibiting the outworking of spiritual wisdom. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” Jms.3.17,18. If we are as skilled and industrious in weaving the various ‘threads’ outlined in these verses as Aholiab and Hiram were, as they brought together those of purple, blue, fine linen and crimson to produce beauty for the eye of God, then we too would demonstrate the outworking of “wisdom that is from above”.
The course of Danite history generally makes for sad reading. Aholiab and Hiram, in contrast, show that it is possible to rise above natural temperament when there is submission to Divine wisdom. While the tribal trait includes deadly aggression, those two men were peaceable.
To be continued (D.V.)
Unto the Uttermost Part of the Earth
(This series is co-authored by three brethren.)
Paper 7 — Acts Chapter 14
by Huw Rees, Wales
This chapter has a ‘U-turn’ construction. After moving from Iconium to Lystra to Derbe, Paul returned from Derbe to Lystra to Iconium. Although the geography was the same, the repeat visits had a different purpose. As Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel during the outward journey, vv.1,3,7,9,15-17,21,25, they fulfilled the first half of the Great Commission (“preach the gospel to every creature”), Mk.16.15. On the return journey, as they instructed the disciples to obey the teachings of the Lord Jesus, vv.21-23, they fulfilled the second half of the Great Commission (“teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”), Matt.28.19,20. Even today we should copy this apostolic pattern: preach the gospel to sinners and teach the Word to the saints.
ICONIUM – vv.1-6
At Iconium, as in Antioch, Paul preached at the synagogue of the Jews, v.1. This was consistent with God’s dispensational dealings, Rom.1.16, as well as a reflection of Paul’s burden for his fellow-Israelites, Rom.10.1. The principle for us is that our gospel outreach should start with those who are near to us, whom we know well. The primary means for spreading the gospel has always been through verbal communication. Since “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Rom.10.17, any social enterprise or community engagement should take second place to preaching the Word of God. In both public preaching and personal witness the gospel is meant to be explained using words. Gospel work is essentially very straightforward: we sow the seed of God’s Word; the Lord saves, v.1.
The gospel has always been a polarising message, some accepting it, others rejecting it, v.2. Animosity often accompanies rejection. On this occasion the Jews stirred up antagonism toward the gospel preachers. In our day it is the secular world and its religion, under the subtle influence of “the god of this world”, which blinds and poisons the minds of the lost, 2Cor.4.4. Although opposition to the gospel takes many forms, its root source is Satan himself. We must remember that we are at war, “the weapons of our warfare … not [being] carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” 2Cor.10.4. The spiritual darkness that engulfs the world today should drive us to our knees in prayer.
Although Paul and Barnabas knew opposition would come, they continued boldly to preach the Word. They did not surrender or compromise. They did not soften their message or change their approach; they refused to accommodate worldly ideas or means of communication. Rather, as faithful stewards of the gospel they continued the work which God had committed to them, 1Cor.4.1,2. May the Lord help us not to be silenced by the pressure of a secular world, but instead courageously to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season” 2Tim.4.2.
LYSTRA – vv.7-19
Knowing that “the gospel of Christ … is the power of God unto salvation” Rom.1.16, with untiring zeal Paul and Barnabas laboured on. Arriving at Lystra, they again “preached the gospel” v.7. It was here they encountered a man who was disabled from birth, v.8. Although we cannot comprehend it, Divine sovereignty and human responsibility work hand in hand in salvation, and the healing of this man serves to illustrate this: as in the case of the blind man whom the Lord healed, God had over-ruled in his circumstances, Ex.4.11; Ps.139.13-17, so “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” Jn.9.3. The Lord Jesus taught that “no man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” Jn.6.44. On the other hand, Paul appreciated that this man “had faith to be healed” v.9.
“In writing the book of Acts, Luke seems to have made a special effort to show that everything Peter did, Paul did.”1 For example, both were visited by an angel, both raised someone from the dead, both were miraculously released from prison, and in this case both healed someone who was lame; compare Acts chapter 3. By doing this, Luke showed that Paul’s credentials, as the apostle to the Gentiles, equalled those of Peter, the apostle to the Jews. It is also a reminder that Jews and Gentiles stand in equal need before God. The gospel abolishes the enmity that existed between Jews and Gentiles, establishing peace between these two warring factions, reconciling both to God in one body. Converted Jews and Gentiles are now viewed as one new man in Christ, Eph.2.15,16.
- 1. Phillips J. “Exploring Galatians”. Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2004, p.68.
The miraculous healing of this lame man, vv.10,11, confirmed the Divine source of the word that the apostles preached, Mk.16.20. Although “the signs of an apostle” 2Cor.12.12, are not at work today, the salvation of souls and the subsequent change of lives is no less a demonstration of God’s power and confirmation of His Word.
Although the gospel answers the need of man, man’s sin can cause cultural difficulties to arise, as seen in the citizens of Lystra seeking to deify Paul and Barnabas, vv.11-13. The ecstatic reaction of the Lycaonians may partly be explained by the superstitious belief that Zeus had visited a local resident of the city.2 Paul and Barnabas could have used this situation for their own selfish ends but Paul explains elsewhere saying, “we do not, as the many, make a trade of the word of God; but as of sincerity … before God, we speak in Christ” 2Cor.2.17, J.N.D. As each of us makes known the gospel we need to ensure that our motives, method and message are transparent. We must not manipulate people and situations for our own benefit. Knowing that people tend to follow and honour men we must point people away from ourselves and direct them to the living God.
- 2. Gill, D.W.J., Gempf, C. “The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol. 2: Graeco-Roman Setting“. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994, p.82.
The apostles humbly said to the Lycaonians that they were “men with the same nature” v.15, N.K.J.V. In our gospel testimony we do not need to be self-deprecating, but we should humbly preach repentance towards God and faith in Christ. Paul had no qualms in calling their idols “vanities” v.15, reminding us of the balance of grace and truth in preaching the gospel.
Paul’s address to the heathen here was quite different from his message to the Antioch Jews. He adapted his message as the cultural context demanded. Arno C. Gaebelein quotes William Kelly in saying, “What is notable, I think, especially for all those engaged in the work of the Lord, is the variety in the character of the apostolic addresses. There is no such stiffness as we are apt to find in our day in the preaching of the gospel. Oh, what monotony! What sameness of routine, no matter who may be addressed! We find in the Scripture people dealt with as they were and there is that kind of an appeal to the conscience which was adapted to their peculiar state.”3
- 3. Gaebelein, A.C. “The Acts of the Apostles“. Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., Neptune, New Jersey, 1961, p.253.
Although the main tenets of the gospel never change there is plenty of scope in Scripture to adapt the presentation of the message. Our preaching should not be couched in jargon or antiquated language that no one understands. Since our society is increasingly turning away from God we would do well to emulate Paul’s preaching here, and on Mars Hill, Acts chapter 17, since the gospel must be presented in culturally relevant terms.
As Paul and Barnabas continued to preach, the world continued to persecute, v.19. Although Paul was singled out for suffering in a particular way, Acts 9.16, he reminded the Philippian Christians that “unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” Phil.1.29. He also reminded his converts later that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” Acts 14.22. In Iconium Paul escaped from the persecution, but here he was brutally stoned, v.19. Sometimes we may escape suffering; at other times God may take us through the eye of the storm. Nevertheless, we remember that the Lord is able to preserve His own, v.20.
DERBE AND HOME – vv.20-28
The unremarkable pivot of the geography of the chapter, v.21, is full of instruction. Gospel work is often carried out by a few weak believers presenting Christ through the seeming foolishness of preaching. Unvalued by men, but highly esteemed by God, we should emulate the consistency and conviction of the apostles.
As Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps homeward, they strengthened the hearts of early converts. Because salvation is not just the memory of past conversion but an ongoing vibrant reality, they exhorted “them to continue in the faith” v.22. The Christian life begins and continues with faith. Continuance is the proof of inner reality. The assemblies in Asia Minor did not need an umbilical cord attached to any external sources. Realising that the work did not depend on them, Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every assembly, committing them to the Lord, v.23. The New Testament shows that assemblies should be autonomous and quickly become self-sufficient (in the sense that they are not to be subject to the direction and control of other assemblies or individuals; this does not mean that they are free to act independently of God’s Word, or to consider that they do not need spiritual help from other assemblies and individual believers).
In difficult days, may we, with renewed vision and exercise of heart, go out with the gospel, labour in a specific locality and rely on the Lord to save and form companies of His own people. Although the day in which we live is spiritually dark the Lord has not changed and has never revoked His commission. “Go labour on, spend and be spent.”
To be continued (D.V.)
Comfort for Christians in a Changing World
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
“… in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” Luke 24.27
What a theme! The sacred volume, from cover to cover, advertises the solitary greatness of a peerless Person, the Son of God, the Man Christ Jesus. His glory gilds every page; He is the inexhaustible subject from Genesis to Revelation, the recipient of angelic adoration, the focus of prophetic prediction and the sole object of eternal praise.
He is the only hope for sinners who wish to be in heaven and no name is sweeter to a believer’s ear. His glory and His grace, His majesty and meekness, His supremacy and submission, elicit ceaseless praise from the redeemed. He is altogether lovely, pure and holy beyond imagination and the endless delight of His Father’s heart.
He is truly the incomparable Christ, in thought and word and deed. He is infinitely greater than the greatest, indescribably more lovely than the loveliest, to be weighted with distinctive glories for all eternity.
- Worship, honour, praise and blessing,
- Thou shalt then from all receive;
- Loudest praises, without ceasing,
- All that earth or heaven can give.
- In that day Thy saints will meet Thee,
- Welcome Thee with grateful song;
- Joyful hearts will ever greet Thee,
- Source of joy to all the throng.
“The LORD sitteth upon the flood” Psalm 29.10
Sometimes trouble, like a tsunami, sweeps unexpectedly into our lives, threatening to overflow and overwhelm us. The violence of the storm, the anger of the waves and the raging of the seas bring fear and alarm. We feel so powerless against the seemingly invincible onslaught and we imagine we are going to be swept away by the advancing tide of trouble.
Look out into the darkness and, like the disciples, as they crossed the sea of Tiberias, see your Saviour, Lord of wind and wave, tread the billows beneath His feet, in perfect and absolute control over all you dread. The waves may buffet relentlessly but He will not allow your little barque to go under.
He will be with you every day, all the way until, at last, you anchor safe in the haven of eternal rest, where never a ripple will ruffle the calm of that celestial shore.
- Rocks and storms I’ll fear no more,
- When on that eternal shore,
- Drop the anchor, furl the sail,
- Safe at home within the veil.
The Book of Ruth
By Eric G. Parmenter (Wales)
“The Threshing Floor” — A Foreshadowing of Divine Purposes
Ruth Chapter 3
The approach to chapter 3 must be along the lines of oriental thinking; otherwise there is the danger of entertaining wrong thoughts of the standards of modesty and purity practised in those days. Their standards were higher than those of the present day. The purity of Ruth’s character is emphasised first by the testimony of Boaz, in his initial conversation with her in the field, “Have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee?” 2.9-11. Secondly, all the people gave testimony to the character of Ruth, as Boaz said, “all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman” 3.10,11. The testimony of the people of the city, after the transaction was complete, declared the character of Ruth in their praise of her, 4.11,12.
Chapter 3 opens with Ruth’s mother-in-law saying, “Shall I not seek rest for thee …?” v.1. These words of Naomi refer not to rest for Ruth from her labouring in the harvest field during the past three months, but to matrimonial “rest”. The status of marriage was highly treasured by Hebrew women when the events in the story took place.
Speaking to Ruth, Naomi said that Boaz would be winnowing barley in the threshing floor that night. The threshing floor was the highest possible spot on the field. To it the corn was carried and there the oxen would drag around the threshing instrument. Afterwards, taking advantage of the night breeze, the corn would be thrown up against the wind, to separate the chaff from the grain, and, as was the custom, Boaz would sleep at the threshing floor to guard the produce of his land.
Naomi instructed Ruth: “Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee” v.3. This was the Hebrew custom of preparation for marriage. Ruth was a young widow, wearing the dress of widowhood. She has now to cast off her widow’s garments, and dress herself for marriage. Ruth was to claim the right that was hers of a kinsman redeemer.
ASPECTS OF DEVOTIONAL TRUTH
In chapter 2 Ruth displays the beautiful virtue of humility as she stoops to perform a manual task. Let us remember that all labour is sanctified by God. The Lord Jesus knew that it was necessary to take up carpenters’ tools to earn bread for the household. Ruth in chapter 3 displays her submission as she listens to the older woman who has a thorough knowledge of Hebrew law. The experience of age and enthusiasm of youth are both necessary.
Ruth in chapter 2 is busy gleaning. In chapter 3 the atmosphere is one of rest and devotion, with Ruth at the feet of Boaz.
“Wash thyself therefore.” In Ps.119.9 we read, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” We must be prepared to apply the truths of the Word of God to make them effective in our lives. We need daily cleansing, as we are moving through an evil and defiling world.
Ruth was also to anoint herself, Ruth 3.3. Oil is the symbol of the gracious ministry of the Spirit of God. She is to appear in the presence of her kinsman-redeemer anointed with oil. We too should bear the fragrance in our lives of the gracious ministry of the Spirit of God.
Next Ruth was told to “put thy raiment upon thee”. In Scripture, raiment speaks of character, and every Christian should have a good character, Eph.4.21-24. Our conduct and character must be acceptable to God.
Naomi now tells Ruth: “get thee down to the [threshing] floor”. She is to lie in the very spot where Boaz lies. No Scripture expresses this idea better than Phil.2.5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.
In chapter 2 Ruth gleans in the field for her own personal requirements, and she is rewarded ten times her daily requirement, v.17. Before the chapter closes she is giving to her mother-in-law what Boaz had given to her. Let us remember that we can never feed others unless we have first fed ourselves. In chapter 3 she has gone beyond these two stages: she is no longer occupied with her own personal need, or that of others, but she longs for the man himself. Only the Lord can satisfy the deepest aspirations of our hearts.
FORESHADOWINGS OF DIVINE PURPOSE
The cross-work of the Lord Jesus Christ is seen in picture form as we consider the threshing floor. The threshing floor was:
The Place of Bruising
The threshing floor in Scripture is a symbol of judgment. Here the corn was beaten out and bruised, and reminds us of Isa.53.10: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him”. Before we could partake of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life, it was essential for Him to die upon the cross and to undergo the solemn judgment of God.
The Place of Darkness
“It came to pass at midnight”: the darkest hour, Ruth 3.8. This reminds us of the Lord’s sufferings through the powers of darkness. Luke records that when the Lord was apprehended in Gethsemane, He said, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” Lk.22.53. We shall never understand what our Lord’s holy soul endured from the satanic attacks at the cross.
The Place of Satisfaction
“When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry” Ruth 3.7. The Lord said to His disciples, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” Jn.4.32, and “the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” Jn.18.11. In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is written, “Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame” Heb.12.2. The Saviour at the cross was satisfied; the work was finished.
The Place Where Faith Makes its Claim
It was at the threshing floor that Ruth claimed Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer. The cross is the place where we may make our claim and be brought into eternal relationship with God. Ruth’s faith received a three-fold assurance:
She Had the Word of Boaz
“Then will I do the part of a kinsman” v.13. We too have the word of our heavenly Boaz. “It is written” gives us complete assurance, which is not a matter of presumption but of taking Him at His word.
She Had the Gift of Boaz
“He measured six measures of barley” v.15. She carried away from the presence of Boaz far more than she carried away from the harvest field! Time spent in the presence of the Lord brings greater spiritual benefit to our own souls than our service for Him. This gift was the pledge to Ruth of the coming inheritance. The indwelling of the Spirit of God is the pledge of the inheritance which is ours in Christ Jesus now, Eph.1.13,14; it is also reserved in heaven for us to enjoy in its fulness in the future, 1Pet.1.3-5.
She Had the Work of Boaz
“Sit still, my daughter … for the man will not be in rest, until he hath finished the thing” v.18. Naomi’s words to Ruth remind us that the Lord Jesus is now in the eternal presence, preparing a place for us to spend eternity with Him.
THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST PICTURED IN THE THRESHING FLOOR
The threshing floor was an elevated place in the vicinity of the harvest field. “Judgment seat” (Greek, bema) means ‘elevated place’. The threshing floor was the culmination of the whole harvesting process: first the land was ploughed and conditioned, then the seed was sown and eventually the corn was harvested by the reapers. The servants of Boaz were entrusted with this work but it was Boaz himself who did the winnowing! At the Judgment Seat of Christ all our service is going to be revealed and reviewed and the Lord of glory Himself will separate the chaff from the wheat.
Boaz commends Ruth in v.10. It can be our joy to hear our Lord’s commendation in that coming day, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” Matt.25.21. Not only was Ruth commended, but she was rewarded, Ruth 3.15. We too shall be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ for faithful service. The Divine purpose is that these truths should regulate our lives and our thinking now.
GOD’S DEALINGS WITH THE JEWS PICTURED IN THE THRESHING FLOOR
The Church is God’s masterpiece and it is outstandingly His work of wisdom and grace, but we must not forget that He still has purposes towards His ancient people, the Jews. The threshing floor speaks of judgment and the prophets warn again and again of the coming Tribulation for the Jews. Israel will yet go through a time of tribulation unparalleled in their history in the world: it will be their ‘midnight hour’. It will appear that Satan has almost succeeded in exterminating them, but when everything seemingly is hopelessly lost, the Lord from heaven will deliver them and then will they have true contact with their Messiah. In genuine repentance every tribe and family will mourn for Him, and Israel, putting off her garments of widowhood, will enter into her inheritance, Rom.11.26,27.
To be continued (D.V.)
The God of Jacob
by Peter Steele (N. Ireland)
Paper 3 — (Genesis chapter 28) — Part 2
THE GOD OF CONDESCENSION
In the previous article, we considered “The God of Condescension”, from Genesis chapter 28, as far as Jacob’s story is concerned. Now we will look at the same chapter, from the standpoint of the Divine story.
GENESIS CHAPTER 28 IN THE DIVINE STORY
Genesis chapter 28 is the first mention of the “house of God” in our Bible, Gen.28.17. It commences a theme running through Scripture which shows us that God delights to dwell with men, Prov.8.31, and even though the communion between God and man was broken at the Fall, God will have a house on earth where fellowship can be enjoyed with man. In this theme, following Bethel, we read of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, followed by the Temple. Then “the Word became flesh and dwelt [‘tabernacled’] among us” Jn.1.14, J.N.D., and God dwelt with men in the Person of His Son. Today the local assembly is “house of God” 1Tim.3.16. In the future Millennial age “the Man whose name is The Branch … shall build the temple of the Lord” Zech.6.12, and God’s presence will be known in the land of Israel again. But if the theme begins in Genesis chapter 28, with “Behold a ladder”, the theme ends in the eternal state with another “Behold”: “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” Rev.21.3; compare similar language in Gen.28.20,21. So the theme of the house of God runs from Genesis to Revelation, beginning with this chapter we are considering.
Why in many passages of Scripture is the house of God called the house or habitation or tabernacle of the God of Jacob? (for example, Ps.132.5; Isa.2.3; Acts 7.46)? It is because it was to Jacob that it was first revealed that God desires to have a house on earth among men. So “the God of Jacob” often implies a God Who desires to condescend and dwell with men.
Bethel is a special picture of the local assembly; house of God. Notice four places in Scripture, before Acts chapter 2, that depict the local assembly:
- Bethel, Genesis chapter 28 – the unmarked place;
- The cave Adullam, 1Samuel chapter 22 – the unrecognised place;
- The place where the disciples abode after their question “Rabbi … where dwellest Thou?” Jn.1.38,39 – the unnamed place;
- A large upper room furnished, Luke chapter 22 – the uncontaminated place (above street level).
Let us notice some ways in which Bethel teaches us about the local assembly today:
A Significant Place
It was the presence of “the Lord” vv.13,16, that made the place significant. When Jacob arrived at it, he found an empty sun-bleached, uncultivated piece of ground outside the city of Luz. A few stones are the only features we read of there. Yet Jacob found out that this was God’s house. Visitors to the Middle East will tell us about great temples and beautiful monuments from the ancient world built by pagans as dwelling-places for their gods; but in Genesis chapter 28 we learn that the God of heaven is pleased to dwell in a place where there is nothing: nothing but God. Because of the simplicity of this place, the presence of “the Lord” was everything, there was nothing to rival it, nothing to compete with it, nothing to make up for it; His presence was all that mattered. Genesis chapter 28 teaches us the importance of the simplicity of the assembly. The Lord is not interested in grand buildings with trained choirs, white-robed officials and ceremonial prayers; neither does He find delight in business-like churches using oratory, loud music and worldly excitements to fill their auditoriums. The Lord chooses to dwell outside the camp of religion, Heb.13.13, in simple and (in man’s eyes) insignificant places, because it is there that His presence is everything: “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” Matt.18.20.
I know a man whose grandfather was saved at a gospel effort in his area, but the minister of the church of which he was a member was not happy about these meetings and made it clear that if anyone wanted this ‘higher life’, as he called it, there would be no room for them there. So he left the ‘established church’ and began to gather with a small company of believers who met in the loft of a farm shed. The cows were underneath as they were breaking bread above. Today, the assembly meets in a hall nearby.
But someone will say, “Surely the Lord will not stoop to dwell with His people in a barn where animals are!” To which we can reply, “Have you ever read Lk.2.7? He came to a manger!” Our Lord is One Who condescends to dwell in lowly places. He preferred to spend many nights in little Bethany over grand Jerusalem, because that was where He was loved; and whether under a grass roof in Papua New Guinea or among a dozen believers struggling on in a difficult area of the United Kingdom, His presence is promised and that is what matters. He chose Bethel to dwell in, insignificant by men’s standards, yet in heaven’s view the most significant place on earth.
A Selected Place
The Lord did not come to the place that Jacob had chosen; Jacob came to the place that the Lord had chosen. Compare Babel in chapter 11: the people chose the place and then built a tower seeking to reach up to heaven. That is the story of religion: man-chosen and man-made. However, this is not Babel. This is Bethel, where God chooses the place and heaven reaches down to earth. The assembly is not an organisation, begun or maintained by human wisdom. The assembly had its design and beginnings in the heart of God eternally. He has chosen it like He chose Zion for His habitation and rest in Old Testament days, Ps.132.13,14. It is not that we meet and then invite the Lord to be our guest, but He is present and gathers us as guests to be with Him.
A Solemn Place
It was “the gate of heaven” v.17. The gate in those times was the place of administration (as seen in Ruth chapter 4). So Bethel was heaven’s centre of administration, the place where God’s will was done on earth. Likewise today, God administers His rule not in any parliament buildings but in the assembly, Matt.18.18. It is the place where the will of heaven ought to be done on earth. When Christ returns to reign this will be the case universally, Matt.6.10, but until then God’s will is done in local companies of believers seeking to meet and live according to His Word. Presently God has nothing else on earth, and we should deeply value and revere this place. People in the world sin and behave as they will, often without present consequences, but in the house of God right and reverent behaviour is essential, 1Tim.3.15, and sin ought to be judged, 1Pet.4.17, because “this is the gate of heaven”.
A Spiritual Place
At Bethel, Jacob was awakened to spiritual things and his life was never the same again. The assembly should be primarily focused on spiritual things, and the saints, coming after a busy day or week involved in earthly affairs, should find a refreshment and refocus on the spiritual and eternal. But what about people who ‘light upon’ the place like Jacob did, unsaved people, or believers who are not familiar with the way we gather? They should be gripped by the fact that “God is in you of a truth” 1Cor.14.25. We ought to be burdened that more people would come to our meetings and make it the focus of prayer and hard work, but we ought to have a greater burden that God’s presence would be evident in our meetings so that when unsaved people do come they will be awakened to eternal realities and be saved; see Lk.5.17.
A Sacred Place
The place became a point of reference in Jacob’s life: in Gen.28.21 Jacob speaks about “my father’s house”, then in v.22 he speaks about “God’s house”. His father’s house used to be his point of reference but now he has been forced to flee from it and when he returns it will be to bury his father, Gen.35.27-29. Things will never be the same there again. Before Jacob leaves this place (Bethel), he erects a pillar, as an unchanging reminder that this is God’s house. Jacob has found a new point of reference in his life. It is this place that has changed him and will direct him in the difficulties of life in Syria, Genesis chapters 29 to 31. It is to this place that he will bring his family, Genesis chapter 35. It is of this place that he will tell his grandchildren, Gen.48.3,4. The house of God has become a place most sacred in the experience of Jacob.
What about you? Is the house of God the centre of the compass in your life? Like the children of Israel camping around the Tabernacle, does your life revolve around the assembly? Oh that we as God’s people would be so gripped like Jacob that this is the house of God, that it would become more sacred to us than family, work, possessions, everything! Our work life and family life would be conducted in light of it, and children and even grandchildren would come to understand how important it is to us.
Perhaps, like Jacob, you have ‘lighted upon’ the assembly; you just happen to be in it because your family is there or because it is near your house; you have little conviction for being there. By reading Genesis chapter 28 may you, like Jacob, waken up to the realisation that “the Lord is in this place”, erect a ‘pillar’, and make the assembly the most sacred spot of your experience.
“This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
- A sweeter place on earth can ne’er be found,
- ’Twould seem as if I rest on holy ground,
- As I along with kindred spirits meet,
- To worship, kneeling at His blessed feet.
To be continued (D.V.)
Aquila and Priscilla
by the late Walter N. Gustafson, U.S.A.
In Paper 1, we began to look at this delightful couple, finishing with their fellowship with Paul in Corinth. In this paper, we will consider them in the other cities with which they were associated.
So profitable and mutually satisfactory did their relationship with Paul prove to be that Aquila and Priscilla agreed to move their business to Ephesus when he went there. I read years ago that any business that moves more than fifty miles away has to start all over again in building up clientele. But they were spiritually enriched living with Paul.
From the fact that they left Corinth with Paul, it is likely that Paul directed Aquila and Priscilla in this move, and in their stay at Ephesus. They were willing to be guided by a spiritually older and more mature believer. They were not resentful of his advice. They were even willing to do all the extra work that moving their profitable business entailed. They were willing to do it for the sake of the gospel, showing the priority of the gospel in their personal lives!
When Paul sailed from Cenchrea (the eastern seaport of Corinth), he had Aquila and Priscilla with him, Acts 18.18. Arriving at Ephesus with them, he left them there, Acts 18.19, while he went on to Jerusalem. Their presence at Ephesus would not only lay the groundwork for his intended labour there, but would also provide him with a means of livelihood as well as a home while he worked in Ephesus.
Since there was no assembly at Ephesus as yet, Aquila and Priscilla went to the Jewish synagogue, Acts 18.24-26. They were sitting in the audience when Apollos, a noted preacher from Alexandria, began to preach. His eloquence and knowledge of the Scriptures deeply impressed them, but they soon noticed serious limitations in his message. Concerned that he was unaware of much that they themselves had learned (particularly from Paul), “Priscilla and Aquila … took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more carefully” Acts 18.26, R.V. They realised that Apollos was a very earnest and sincere man of great potential for the kingdom of God. The order of the names here (in the Revised Version) implies that Priscilla took the leading part in their ministry to Apollos. It was commendable of Aquila, if he recognised that she was the better fitted, that he allowed her to do so.
It is significant that Luke records that they “took him unto them” Acts 18.26. They tactfully taught Apollos in the privacy of their own home. They did not embarrass him by correcting him in public. It also guards against any suggestion that Priscilla was involved in public teaching. Those who advocate public teaching by sisters cannot use this Scripture as an example. She may well have been better taught than her husband, and more capable of helping Apollos in his understanding of Divine truth, but it was done in the private sphere, along with her husband; not in assembly gatherings.
It is to Apollos’ credit that he listened humbly to the two tentmakers, received their instruction, and became a more effective worker in the gospel. Aquila and Priscilla and other Ephesian believers encouraged and helped Apollos in his desire to minister God’s Word in Achaia, Acts 18.27.
Aquila and Priscilla lived in Ephesus for nearly three years, while Paul worked there on his third missionary journey. Apparently (as at Corinth) Paul lived and worked with them. Paul could tell the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.34, “These hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.”
When Paul wrote to Corinth from Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla (as former members of the Corinthian assembly) sent warmest greetings. “Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord” 1Cor.16.19. Their hearty greeting reflects their real affection for the Corinthian believers, the overflow of their common fellowship in the Lord. Paul added to their greeting, “with the church that is in their house” 1Cor.16.19. This gives us an added glimpse into the ministry of this hospitable couple. They not only provided a home for Paul but they also threw open their home as a meeting place for the believers at Ephesus. Their occupation as tentmakers probably required a spacious room that could be suitable as a gathering place for the assembly.
The New Testament gives one other glimpse of Aquila and Priscilla that seems chronologically to belong to their time of sojourn in Ephesus. Writing about them in Romans chapter 16, after describing them as “helpers in Christ Jesus”, Paul says, “Who have for my life laid down their own necks” Rom.16.4. That refers to the time when they willingly risked their own lives to save Paul. Paul’s reference to “temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews” (in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.19) shows that dangers often menaced his ministry at Ephesus. Paul deeply appreciated the brave actions of Aquila and Priscilla. He gratefully adds the comment, “unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” Rom.16.4.
The heroism that their act displays is simply sublime! Their brave deed was loyalty to the limit and Paul cherished the vivid memory of their unselfish courage. Once again they put the interests of God before their own interests. They probably thought that the death of Paul would be a greater loss for the cause of Christ than their own deaths. It makes us think of David’s men saying, “Thou art worth ten thousand of us” 2Sam.18.3.
Paul had plans to go to Rome while still at Ephesus, Acts 19.21, and he likely discussed his plans with Aquila and Priscilla. After the Ephesian riot, when finished with his work there, Paul decided to leave the city, as did Aquila and Priscilla. Most likely, they discussed with Paul their plans to return to Rome.
When Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans (from Corinth, some months later), he sent affectionate greetings to “Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus” Rom.16.3. Paul’s close ties with them led him to place them first in the long list of believers in Rome to whom he sent his greetings. Paul put them side by side with himself in the service of Christ. Paul also adds to this greeting, “likewise greet the church that is in their house” Rom.16.5. In Rome they did as they had done in Ephesus in opening their home as a meeting place for the saints. Since Paul never mentions their names in the four epistles that he later wrote while imprisoned in Rome, it appears that they had left the city again by that time.
The last mention of this remarkable couple is found in 2Tim.4.19, which reads “Salute Prisca and Aquila”. Since Timothy was in Ephesus when Paul wrote 2Timothy, it is obvious that they had moved back to Ephesus. They would be drawn to Ephesus not only because of the trade connections (that they had established previously), but also because of the strong ties that they had with the church at Ephesus, with whose planting they were intimately connected. Once again they are the first mention for greetings. As a devoted Christian couple they still lived and worked together. The apostle sent them his heartfelt love.
Truly we are blessed to be able to read about and consider such an exemplary couple. May God grant us all help, that we, like them, may seek to put the things of God first in our lives, that He will be glorified, His people blessed, and those in their sins reached with the great blessing of salvation.
Good Tidings from Heaven
A ‘Diamond Rush’
South Africa is famous for its diamonds. Not many ‘world records’ stand for more than a century, but a diamond discovered in that country in 1905 remains the largest ever found. So when, a few months ago, a cattle herder unearthed a promising-looking stone near a village in the east of the country, he hoped that it was that precious mineral. Word spread, and by mid-June this year many people had arrived, from different parts, to dig in the earth. Most were poor, and longed to discover gems that would lift them out of poverty.
The Bible describes a poverty that is not material, but spiritual, and which affects not just a high proportion of the population, but all of it: the condition of sin, which afflicts all of mankind. The wealthiest are not exempt: the Lord Jesus spoke of “a certain rich man” who was “not rich toward God” Luke 12.21. In Scriptures such as Luke 7.40-50, sin is likened to a huge debt, which we cannot pay. Hence, if left to ourselves, we would remain unforgiven, to suffer the consequences, in the Lake of Fire: a state of unending spiritual poverty, with no hope of escape.
The people who went seeking for diamonds knew their circumstances, and longed to escape (unlike many sinners, who are unaware of their situation, or who know it, but who have no desire to be free). Sadly, however, their hopes and efforts were in vain, for analysis of some of the stones showed that they were not diamonds, but quartz, and of minimal value. With heavy hearts, the workers packed up and headed home. And it is so for many in their sins, who seek to escape by methods such as religion, good works, or ‘doing one’s best’, which are of no avail, and inevitably result in disappointment.
Although the experts could tell the disillusioned diamond-seekers that they would not find diamonds in the place where they were searching, they were unable to point them to another location where they could dig and find them. In contrast, we are glad to be able to tell you where you will find what you need. Our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, saw us in the poverty of our sins, and came from Heaven to earth to rescue us from it. Paul wrote, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” 2Corinthians 8.9. This verse is not just saying that He experienced material poverty here (although that is true), but that He went all the way “unto death, even the death of the cross” Philippians 2.8. In order that we might be lifted out of our dire situation, He made the ultimate sacrifice: He laid down His own life, and by His suffering and death He provided for us eternal life, which is received by everyone who trusts in Him.
You will never find true wealth and satisfaction in the things of this world, but if you turn from your sins and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour today, you will, as the verse says, “be rich”; not in the things of this world, which do not last, but in the true riches: forgiveness, salvation, peace with God, a home in Heaven, and so much more.
- Now none but Christ can satisfy,
- None other name for me;
- There’s love, and life, and lasting joy,
- Lord Jesus, found in Thee!
A Proverb to Ponder
“Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” Proverbs 9.8
The counsel in this verse is addressed to the person deciding whether or not to give a rebuke, but it would be good for each of us to consider it from the standpoint of the person needing the reproof. The proverb is teaching us that it is a mark of wisdom to accept and appreciate the admonishing of godly people, who do so for our good, because they have a care for us. David wrote, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head” Ps.141.5. Matthew Henry comments: “… nor must a wise man think that his wisdom exempts him from reproof when he says or does any thing foolishly; but the more wisdom a man has the more desirous he should be to have his weaknesses shown him, because a little folly is a great blemish to him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.”
A Proverb to Ponder
“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health” Proverbs 12.18
The word translated “speaketh” here occurs only four times in the Scriptures, and it always has the connotation of speaking rashly, for example it is translated “spake unadvisedly” in Ps.106.33. When fleeing from Saul, David described his wicked opponents as “the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword” Ps.57.4. That should not be so of our tongues: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” Col.4.6. How easy it is, especially when provoked, for us to utter words without due thought; and what damage we do thereby! As we speak to others today, to what effect will we use our tongues? Piercing, or profiting? Slicing, or soothing? Cutting, or curing? Hurting, or healing?