ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee
UNTO THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE EARTH
by H. Rees
COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds
THE BOOK OF RUTH
by E.G. Parmenter
THE GOD OF JACOB
by P. Steele
MALE AND FEMALE CREATED HE THEM
by D. McAllister
AQUILA AND PRISCILLA
by W. Gustafson
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.39: PSALM 24 (Part 3)
In the previous two papers, we have been considering the first two sections of this wonderful Psalm: the Rights of the Creator, vv.1,2, and the Righteousness of the Creator, vv.3-6. This brings us to the final section:
THE REIGN OF THE CREATOR – vv.7-10
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.”
We should notice: the arrival of “the King of glory” v.7; the announcement of “the King of glory” vv.7,8; the achievements of “the King of glory” v.8; and the identity of “the King of glory” vv.9,10. Regarding the title “The King of glory”, it has been pointed out by Roy Reynolds (‘The Glory of the Messianic Psalms’) that “this Psalm is unique in that it contains this title five times and in no other Scripture is it to be found. The King of glory is identified, introduced and invited to enter where only He has undisputed right to be. His glory will radiate throughout the whole earth; He will be weighted with many diadems of glory, and all the world will see the effulgent excellency of the once despised Jesus.”
The Arrival of “the King of glory” – v.7
Where are these “gates” and “doors”? This section of the Psalm emphasises that He has right of entry to Zion. See, for example Isa.62.11: “Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him’”; Isa.59.20: “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion“. The words “Lift up your heads… and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors” suggest “doors … drawn up and down like a portcullis” (C.H. Spurgeon in ‘The Treasury of David’). These words convey the warmth and joy of the welcome given to the once-rejected Messiah. The expression “everlasting doors” must surely mean more than the antiquity of Jerusalem: it must surely embrace the future as well as the past. After all, “the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” Ps.87.2. They will give access to the city of Jerusalem, whose name “from that day shall be, ‘The Lord is there’ [‘Jehovah-Shammah’]” Ezek.48.31-35. “Everlasting doors” indeed!
The Announcement of “the King of glory” – vv.7,8
“The King of glory.” Not now “the King of the Jews”, nailed to the cross and crowned with thorns. In His glory, He wears “a golden crown” Rev.14.14, and “many diadems” Rev.19.12, J.N.D.
- Every mark of dark dishonour
- Heaped upon Thy thorn-crowned brow,
- All the depths of Thy heart’s sorrow
- Told in answering glory now.
— Centra Thompson
The Achievements of “the King of glory” – v.8
“The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” As Christ approaches Zion, two questions are asked in Isaiah chapter 63: first, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” v.1, and second, “Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?” v.2. We must now listen particularly to the answer He gives to the second question: “I have trodden the winepress alone … For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come …” vv.3-6. This does not refer to His great victory at Calvary, Heb.2.14,15, but to victory over hostile armies on earth. See Rev.19.11-21. The battle of Armageddon has been won, in a moment (see 2Thess.2.8), and Isaiah chapter 63 evidently describes an associated victory over hostile Arab peoples. The Conqueror has come to Zion. While in John chapter 1, “He came unto His own [things: land, city, Temple], and His own [people] received Him not” v.11, at the end-time, the godly remnant in Israel will exclaim, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” Isa.25.9.
The Identity of “the King of glory” – vv.9,10
The second response to the question, “Who is this King of glory?” v.10, emphasises His identity rather than His achievements. “The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.” He is Jehovah-Sabaoth, with unlimited power and resources at His disposal. He “doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, ‘What doest Thou?’” Dan.4.35.
Psalm 24 commences with His authority over the earth; it concludes with His authority in the heavens.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
DAN – IN THE TIMES OF THE KINGS
Although the progenitor of the tribe is mentioned, 1Chr.2.2, surprisingly there are no details provided of Dan’s tribal genealogy in the first nine chapters of 1Chronicles. When these historical books were written, the idolatrous course of this tribe had reached its fulness; hence the inspired penman omitted any reference: a case of the less said about Dan the better?
However, there are some scattered references to Dan in the reigns of the following kings, which we should consider.
Included in the men of Israel who “came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord” were “of the Danites expert in war twenty and eight thousand and six hundred” 1Chr.12.23,35. That is, they could be set in array. The men of Dan placed their expertise at the disposal of their sovereign, not here as ambush predators, but in ordered ranks. Here they were not leaving responsibilities to others and pursuing self-interest. As David surveyed those who came to pledge their allegiance and escort him to Jerusalem, he must have been gratified that so many had come from Dan.
We see included in the list of the princes of the tribes of Israel “of Dan, Azareel the son of Jeroham” 1Chr.27.22. The inclusion of a Danite prince evidences that this tribe’s loyalty to David is being transferred in an orderly way to Solomon.
We have, earlier, considered Aholiab of the tribe of Dan in constructing the Tabernacle. It is interesting to note that Danite skills were similarly employed when “Solomon determined to build a house for the name of the Lord” 2Chr.2.1. Hiram, king of Tyre, wrote to Solomon to say, “Now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding … the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and to find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father” 2Chr.2.13,14. “Cunning” in this context simply means the skilled, practical deployment of talent and wisdom.
The parallel passage in 1Kings states, “And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre. He was a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass” 1Kgs.7.13,14. Care has to be taken to distinguish between Hiram king of Tyre and Hiram, or Huram, the skilled workman.
We notice that 2Chronicles chapter 2 attributes this multi-talented individual to the tribe of Dan, whereas 1Kings chapter 7 indicates Naphtali. It is possible that his mother was a Danite whose first husband was from Naphtali, who was widowed (thus becoming a widow of Naphtali) and who later married a man of Tyre. Alternatively, the tribes of Dan and Naphtali may have come under the joint authority of Ahimaaz, 1Kgs.4.15, as a result of Solomon’s reorganisation of local government and supply. In any case, in Num.2.25-31 the tribe of Naphtali is said to have belonged to the camp of Dan.
The scale of Hiram’s responsibilities exceeded those of Bezaleel and Aholiab combined. The value of the materials entrusted to him in preparing the two ornate brazen pillars for the front of the Temple, the altar of brass, the molten sea with its bovine base, the ten lavers of brass, and associated vessels, plus the skill involved in making these highly decorated items would make them priceless. In addition, there was the golden altar, the table of gold, ten lampstands of pure gold, the vail, the two cherubim, plus many other items and furnishings to complete this building, of which David said, “The house that is to be builded for the Lord must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries” 1Chr.22.5.
We noted earlier that contemporary with Aholiab was an unnamed male, whose mother was from Dan, with his father being an Egyptian, who blasphemed and paid the ultimate penalty, Lev.24.10-23. In Hiram we have another male, whose mother was from Dan, with a father from Tyre, who was a blessing. The parallels and contrasts are striking, emphasising the point that men can rise above natural, tribal traits, depending upon where their true loyalties lie. Had Hiram remained in the service of the king of Tyre he might never have been known to us. It was when his services were given to another sovereign that his skill and abilities are recorded. “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. The results of Hiram’s service were very evident; and long outlived his own lifetime. May it be so for us also!
Solomon’s reign commenced with such promise, with a country unified, peaceful and prosperous. The dedication of the Temple was the zenith of Israel’s united monarchy, yet within thirty years the kingdom was irretrievably divided.
Jeroboam secured the allegiance of all the tribes other than Judah, Benjamin and Levi, plus representatives of other tribes: “For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem… And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came to Jerusalem” 2Chr.11.14-16. Jeroboam established idolatrous shrines at Dan and Beth-el to refocus his adherents away from God’s centre at Jerusalem. “Whereupon the king [Jeroboam] took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.’ And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan” 1Kgs.12.28-30.
Jeroboam’s introduction of idolatry associated with golden calves relied on precedent sadly facilitated by Aaron, Exodus chapter 32. Similar wording is used in the declarations of Aaron and Jeroboam, Ex.32.4,8; 1Kgs.12.28. Dan, as we have already seen, was the first tribe to openly introduce idolatry, Judges chapter 18, which meant that that tribe and that city were receptive to Jeroboam’s initiative. That which was according to Jeroboam’s policy, which was convenient and was sold to the people as a low cost alternative to the plain commands of Scripture, produced spiritual bankruptcy, bondage and banishment.
The choice of those who had relocated to Judah and Jerusalem was costly in temporal terms. Loyalty to the Word of God exacts a cost; but obedience in faith always brings eternal benefit.
During the reign of King Asa of Judah there was ongoing war with Baasha, king of Israel. Asa foolishly gave the remaining Temple treasures to Ben-hadad, king of Syria, to coerce him into an invasion of Israel. As a result, the Syrians smote Dan, 1Kgs.15.20; 2Chr.16.4. Asa’s actions were censured by “Hanani the seer” 2Chr.16.7-9. Asa had been a good king but his later history reminds us that good men can be tempted to fight unnecessary battles, in the wrong way, detrimentally, to impoverishment, causing collateral damage; on this occasion to Dan and others.
Jehu, king of Israel, who was raised up by God as an agent of vengeance and retribution, exterminated the abomination of Baal worship in Israel. “Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Beth-el, and that were in Dan” 2Kgs.10.29. That idolatry plagued the northern kingdom for over two hundred years, until Israel was carried away into Assyrian exile.
DAN – IN PROPHECY
Dan, the first tribe to openly introduce and sponsor idolatry in Israel, was the first tribe to suffer Divine retribution!
Amos announces Israel’s doom. He specifically condemns their blasphemous invoking of the golden calf at Dan to affirm truthfulness: “They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, ‘Thy God, O Dan, liveth;’… even they shall fall, and never rise up again” Amos 8.14. Dan was exiled following the Assyrian invasion. Violation of the first commandment, Ex.20.3-6, always has serious consequences!
The prophet Jeremiah referred to Dan by way of warning to Judah ahead of the later Babylonian invasion. Jeremiah pleads for genuine repentance on the part of Judah, warning that the Babylonians had crossed the northern border of Israel (Dan) and had reached the northern border of Judah (Mount Ephraim). He cries, “O, Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim” Jer.4.14,15. Jeremiah gives an even more graphic description: “The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein” Jer.8.16.
Ezekiel underscores the commercial links between Dan and Tyre in his Divinely inspired lamentation for Tyre: “Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market” Ezek.27.19. That chapter provides a preview of the yet future fall of commercial Babylon, Revelation chapter 18.
Let us not be oblivious to the fact that idolatry is still a snare: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” 1Jn.5.21. Golden calves at Dan are not in view here; but a focus on the golden prospects of educational attainment, career progression, financial prosperity and a myriad of other entanglements have waylaid many a promising brother or sister.
Notwithstanding its history, Dan is assured of a place in the future Millennial Kingdom, Ezek.48.1,2. However, their portion is in the extreme north of the land; the tribe farthest from the Millennial metropolis and Temple. They always sought to live in the borderlands far from the place where Jehovah placed His name; and they are assigned that place for one thousand years!
Yet one of the three gates on the east of the city wall will bear the title “Dan” Ezek.48.32.
To be continued (D.V.)
(This series is co-authored by three brethren.)
ANTIOCH, IN PISIDIA
by Jeremy Gibson, England
The Roman colony of Antioch was probably founded by Antiochus I Soter in the third century B.C. It now lies in ruins, one kilometre north of modern day Yalvac.2 Perga is also in ruins, situated fifteen kilometres east of the modern coastal city of Antalya (Biblical Attalia, 14.25). According to ‘Google Maps’ the two-hundred-kilometre direct route from Perga to Antioch takes approximately forty hours to walk, which includes a one-thousand-metre ascent through the Taurus Mountains. It is more likely that Paul travelled the less onerous, and less direct, Via Sebaste, a Roman road which linked Perga with Antioch and other Roman colonies in the area, including Iconium and Lystra.3
3. 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.384.
True to Paul’s missionary practice of preaching to the Jews first, he and Barnabas entered the Antioch “synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down” 13.14. After the public reading of the Law and the Prophets, when invited to give “any word of exhortation for the people” Paul stood up and energetically beckoned with his hand, saying, “Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience” vv.15,16. In his first recorded sermon we see the results of a lifetime immersed in Old Testament Scripture coupled with a direct revelation from the ascended Christ, Gal.1.12. He spoke clearly and concisely, and without compromise, fearlessly exposing the murderous ignorance of Israel’s leaders, v.27. In his carefully-structured message, after giving a selective synopsis of Old Testament history, vv.17-22, and introducing the seed of David, vv.23-25, Paul drove home the full soteriological implications of the gospel, vv.26-39, ending with a stern warning, vv.40,41.
Paul summarised what God had graciously done for the Jewish nation, from the call of the patriarchs to the enthronement of King David, and the raising up of his seed, vv.17-25. God chose Abraham and his family to be His channel of blessing to this world, v.17; Gen.12.2. While in Egypt, despite severe persecution, God “exalted the people” so that “the more [the Egyptians] afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” v.17, Ex.1.12. After four hundred years of affliction, God delivered them “with an high arm” v.17; Gen.15.13; Ex.6.6; Acts 7.6, and for the next forty years, as a tender Father, “nursed them in the desert” v.18, J.N.D.; Ex.4.22,23; Deut.1.31; Hos.11.1. Following another seven years (as a comparison of the ages of Caleb in Josh.14.7,10 shows), when Jehovah “had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, He divided their land to them by lot” v.19; Deut.7.1. Extending from Israel’s first servitude under Chushan-rishathaim, Judg.3.8, to Samuel’s anointing of Saul, 1Sam.10.1,2, God “gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years” Acts 13.20.4 When they “desired a king … God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years” v.21. But God removed Saul and in his place “raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also He gave testimony, and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will’” v.22; 1Sam.13.14; Ps.89.20. Paul climaxed his historical résumé by ‘leapfrogging’ approximately one thousand years, to when “God according to His promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus” vv.23-25.
4. Anstey, M. “Chronology of the Old Testament”. Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1973, pp.242,243.
Paul began the soteriological part of his message, vv.26-39, with a fresh appeal to his audience: “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent” v.26. Because Israel’s leaders misunderstood Who Jesus was, despite hearing the clear Messianic predictions of their own prophets read every sabbath, they “fulfilled them in condemning Him” v.27. The nation which had rejected Jehovah and “desired [aiteō] a king” v.21; 1Sam.8.4-7, also refused Christ, and “though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired [aiteō] they Pilate that He should be slain” v.28; Matt.26.59,60. It was only when every Old Testament prophecy concerning Christ’s suffering was accomplished that “they took Him down from the tree [the cross], and laid Him in a sepulchre” v.29; compare Deut.21.23.
Within the bounds of Divine restraint, men did their worst to Christ, “but God raised Him from the dead” v.30. Paul used three Old Testament quotations to show that this good news, verified by reliable witnesses, v.31; 1Cor.15.6, had also been promised to Israel’s forefathers, vv.32,33. Firstly: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto Me, ‘Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee’” Ps.2.7. While the Hebrew word yālad, translated “begotten”, “in its narrowest sense … [describes] the act of a woman in giving birth to a child”5, here it refers to God’s declaration of Christ’s eternal Sonship when He brought Him out from among the dead, v.33; Rom.1.4. He will declare it again when Christ rides triumphantly out of heaven to reign; compare Ps.2.6. Secondly: “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” Isa.55.3. Having outlined Israel’s future Millennial blessings, Isaiah chapter 54, which will be based on the New Covenant, Jer.31.31, and God’s promised mercy to David’s seed, 2Sam.7.12-16, Isaiah exhorted thirsty souls to turn to Jehovah for satisfaction, Isa.55.1,2. Since these Davidic mercies can only truly be enjoyed under the unchanging dominion of an ever-living Messiah, Christ’s irreversible resurrection assured their coming realisation, v.34. Thirdly: “For thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” Ps.16.10. In contrast to David’s death, burial and bodily decomposition, while awaiting resurrection, the Saviour’s holy body did not decay in the tomb, vv.35-37.
5. Harris, R.L.; Archer, G.L.; Waltke, B.K. “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament”. Moody Publishers, Chicago, 1980, p.379.
Paul appealed to his audience, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” v.38. Prioritising action over faith, demanding total obedience to all its precepts, and making no provision for presumptuous sins, the Law, which was given to Israel through Moses, was powerless to justify anyone, Ex.19.7,8; Num.15.30; Gal.3.10-12,19. In sharp contrast, “by [Christ] all [including Gentiles] that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” v.39. However, this good news comes with a solemn warning. Using the words of Habakkuk, Paul cautioned his audience that if they despised and rejected this message a judgment would fall upon them; a judgment so severe that they would not even believe the warning of it, vv.40,41; Hab.1.5. Jehovah had previously used the Babylonians to punish His erring people, Hab.1.6-10. In A.D.70 God used Roman legions to destroy Jerusalem and to disperse the nation. Now, all who reject the gospel will perish eternally in hades and, ultimately, the lake of fire.
“And as they went out they begged that these words might be spoken to them the ensuing sabbath. And the congregation of the synagogue having broken up, many of the Jews and of the worshipping proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God” vv.42,43, J.N.D. The confidence they had in Jehovah should now be placed in Christ, His appointed Saviour; compare Jn.14.1.
When large crowds gathered to hear the missionaries on the second sabbath, “filled with envy”, the Jews “spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” v.45. Waxing bold, he and Barnabas explained that “it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you [the Jews]: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” v.46. Because he represented Jehovah’s perfect Servant, to Whom it was said, “I have set Thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that Thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth”, Paul saw this move as a Divine imperative, v.47; Isa.49.6. This daring statement delighted the Gentiles, who “were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” v.48. By their telling others “the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region” v.49. Infuriated, “the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts” v.50. Far from being downcast, “they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium” v.51; Matt.10.14,15. The missionaries had gone, but the remaining disciples “were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” v.52.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
“My help cometh from the Lord” Psalm 121.2
Like never-failing streams descending from above, the unmerited blessings of God pour down daily upon us. When earthly help fails, when human strength and sympathy are exhausted, the granaries of Divine grace remain full and the bounteous mercies of God fail not. His strength never wanes, His faithfulness never falters, His interest never decreases and His love remains steadfast and unshaken.
When every other avenue is blocked, we ever have unrestricted access to the Lord to solicit the help of which we are in such deep need. How freely and gladly He grants His gracious succour and support! Yet we remember that dark day at Calvary when He Himself could ask, “Why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring?” Ps.22.1. In the depths of that dread experience He was forsaken by His God and said He, “Be not far from Me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help” Ps.22.11. He, however, has assured us, “‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ So that we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper’” Heb.13.5,6.
- O God, our help in ages past,
- Our hope for years to come,
- Our shelter from the stormy blast,
- And our eternal home!
“O Lord my God, Thou art very great” Psalm 104.1
His greatness is unsearchable, His power unlimited, His wisdom inscrutable and His might and majesty unparalleled. Worlds were framed by His word and the heavens are the work of His fingers. With deft skill and master stroke He hung the stars upon nothing and upholds “all things by the word of His power” Heb.1.3. His is eternal, intrinsic, personal and creative greatness.
As with Moses, God has but begun to show unto us His greatness, Deut.3.24, and how precious to know that “His love is as great as His power, and knows neither measure nor end” (Joseph Hart)! His fathomless, measureless love was most fully expressed in the unspeakable gift He freely bestowed, His well-beloved and only begotten Son. His mercy is great beyond all telling and we who are saved have known the greatness of His pardoning grace in justification and reconciliation. His greatness will be on eternal display and will never dim or diminish; it will inspire wonder and worship among His ransomed forever.
- And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing,
- Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
- That, on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
- He bled and died to take away my sin.
- Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee,
- How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
By Eric G. Parmenter (Wales)
“An Old-Fashioned Harvest Scene” — Illustrating the Normal Spiritual History of a Believer
Ruth Chapter 2
The Book of Ruth is characterised not only by the government of God, but by the grace of God and the guidance of God. The perfection of Divine guidance was demonstrated when Ruth the Gentile stranger came to Bethlehem and suggested to her mother-in-law that she would go and glean in the harvest fields, Ruth 2.2. We must take into account that the field she happened upon was the field belonging to Boaz, a landowner who had Gentile blood in his veins; his history stretched back to Rahab the harlot, Matt.1.5. It was into the field of a man who had sympathy with Gentiles that God led Ruth at the time of barley harvest.
In the simple description of this harvest scene in Ruth chapter 2, there is, in picture form, what should be the experience of one who has come to faith in Christ.
BOAZ, THE LORD OF THE HARVEST
Boaz is a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is seen in a number of ways:
Firstly, he was a kinsman of Elimelech, Naomi’s husband. By an act of providence Boaz shows grace and kindness to Ruth just in time and by his action we are reminded of the wonderful timeliness of the work of Christ, for “when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” Rom.5.6.
Secondly, he was “a mighty man of wealth” Ruth 2.1, indicating he had abundant resources; which reminds us of Christ. “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” 2Cor.8.9.
Thirdly, his name means ‘In him is strength’, which is an apt picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Strong One. Christ: strong to overcome the temptations of Satan in the wilderness; strong in His ministry and miracles; strong to overcome principalities and powers in His death on the cross; strong as the risen triumphant ascended Lord; and He will yet be manifest as the Strong One when He comes as the rider upon the white horse and subdues the military might of the earth, Rev.19.11,19-21.
THE SERVANT, THE OVERSEER OF THE WORK
The servant is a type of the Holy Spirit of God.
The estate of Boaz was orderly, with the element of authority present. That the overseer is nameless is not without significance. Often unnamed servants in the Bible can be viewed as types of the Spirit of God. At the present time we are living in the age when the Holy Spirit is active in a unique way, different from past ages. What need there is for a fresh realisation of His power!
The overseer had control of the young men and women, the servants of Boaz; in the same manner the Holy Spirit of God has control of the servants of God. The Spirit of God alone calls and equips and commissions a believer for the work of God, 1Corinthians chapter 12.
As well as being the overseer, this man was the informant. When Boaz appeared and made enquiries, this man had all the information necessary to answer fully the questions of Boaz concerning all who were working in his field. We are taught that the Spirit of God assists us, in intercession before the throne of God, Rom.8.26,27. Do we sometimes feel unable to express the feelings of our hearts in prayer? Let us never forget that there is a gracious Holy Spirit, Who interprets our hearts before the eternal throne of God. Prayer is not altogether dependent upon the expression of words; the Holy Spirit is the Informant of the throne of heaven.
THE LABOURERS IN THE FIELD
The reapers in the field represent the servants of Christ. There are two great lessons in Ruth chapter 2 for the servants of God, and they concern “the field” v.3, and “the house” v.7. There is not only a field in view, but also a house, erected for the benefit of the labourers in the field.
In the field these servants reaped under the charge of the overseer with respect to the commands of the master. We too are to labour in the harvest field (the world), bearing in mind that we are not left to the pathway of our own choosing! We labour with respect to the commands of our Lord and Master, under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Not only did they labour in the field: they rested in the house, and they were efficient labourers because they rested as well as worked! If we are to keep ourselves fresh in Divine service, we must learn to appreciate the house as well as the field. Today we can be far too busy, and in danger of losing those moments of quietness and communion that impart to us spiritual strength.
Doubtless there was much resentment and suspicion towards Ruth the Moabitess, but Boaz came along and showed kindness towards her and he expected that same attitude from his servants, Ruth 2.14-16. The question may be asked: do strangers coming amongst us see in us the attitude of our Lord and Master?
RUTH, THE GENTILE STRANGER
Ruth is now seen moving in a new sphere of life, and represents one who is newly born again and manifesting the fruits of this change.
She had come to trust the God of Israel through the life and testimony of her mother-in-law while they were living in Moab. Three things were expected of her in this new sphere of life: obedience to the word of Boaz, consistency in the field of Boaz, and communion with Boaz.
Observing the movements of Ruth there are certain features that are relevant to Christian life today:
Firstly, Ruth must glean for a livelihood. Christians must glean in the Holy Scriptures for their sustenance in order to grow in spiritual life and experience. For Ruth it meant that she had to stoop to glean, and stooping is hard work! We too must be prepared to stoop down in humility to receive the mind of God.
Secondly, she “continued even from the morning until now” v.7, and “gleaned in the field until even” v.17. Ruth kept at it and “beat out that she had gleaned” v.17. Here is an important lesson. To accumulate Scripture knowledge without the practical issue of making it our own has its dangers. There is great value in being prepared to stoop down and pick up what others have let fall and then make it our own by meditation. It is possible that this is where most of us fail. On Ruth’s return home it was obvious to her mother-in-law that her gleaning meant their present need was amply provided for. Ruth exemplifies the benefits of strenuous labour; it resulted in a sufficiency of supply both for herself and Naomi.
Thirdly, she was given a place at mealtime. At the table Boaz gave her “parched [roasted] corn” and “vinegar”. The corn speaks of the manhood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and roasting by fire of His sufferings. The parched corn was from a previous harvest, speaking of Christ’s triumphant resurrection. At Calvary Christ personally is typified in the “green ears of corn [corn cut down before reaching maturity: a reminder of Ps.102.23, ‘He shortened my days’] dried [parched] by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears” Lev.2.14, fulfilling the words of Isa.53.8,10: “He was cut off out of the land of the living” and “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him”. On the cross the Lord Jesus suffered, passing through the fire of Divine judgment. In resurrection He is the same blessed Man living in the power of an indissoluble life. The parched corn that Boaz gave to Ruth at the table is a picture of this truth. The “vinegar” was a sour wine used on such occasions, and together they are a reminder of the emblems used in the Lord’s Supper. The fact of them all sitting together sharing the same food at mealtime illustrates the marvellous Christian unity which obtains at the Lord’s Supper.
Fourthly, she was encouraged to remain in the field of Boaz. In his field there were several advantages for her. What she found there was: a friendly overseer, suitable associations with the master’s young men and young women, and refreshment prepared by the young men. Believers also will find suitable and similar blessings in the fellowship of God’s people, which is the Divine sphere appointed for the development of Christian character.
Fifthly, she sat with the reapers and shared the provision available for all that were in the house. Ruth found abundance and satisfaction as Boaz gave to her a special portion. In like manner we too can find satisfaction through personal communion with the Lord Jesus. What Boaz gave her was so abundant that not only was Ruth sufficed but she had some left over to give to Naomi, her mother-in-law. Naomi too enjoyed what Boaz had given to Ruth. The implication is obvious: we should be willing to share with others what we are enjoying of those precious things concerning the Lord which satisfies our own souls.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Peter Steele (N. Ireland)
THE GOD OF CONDESCENSION
(Genesis chapter 28)
In the previous (introductory) article, we considered “The God of Connection”. In this and the following article we will look at “The God of Condescension”, from Genesis chapter 28. This time our thoughts will be on Genesis chapter 28 in Jacob’s story; next time, Lord Willing, Genesis chapter 28 in the Divine story.
GENESIS CHAPTER 28 IN JACOB’S STORY
The Lodgings of Genesis Chapter 28
Fifty-five miles from home and with another three hundred to go, not knowing what evils would befall him on the way or what his reception would be if he ever arrived at his destination, Jacob stopped at a quiet place, took one of the nearby stones and put his head upon it to sleep. I can see him in the moonlight, time and time again tossing and turning and repositioning his head to get some comfort to be able to sleep. But the hard pillow was not the problem; the greater discomfort was in his soul. Behind him was a family that he had divided, a brother whom he had cheated, a father whom he had disappointed. Ahead of him was the fear of a future which he likely felt he would have to face in his own strength, because surely the God of his grandfather and father would not be with a deceiver like him. It was, in his own words, “the day of my distress” Gen.35.3. In those hours, Jacob did something that he is not recorded as having done before: he prayed to the Lord. Gen.35.3 says that God answered him, which shows that, maybe with a silent cry from the heart, before he fell asleep, Jacob prayed. It was a big thing for a man who always grabbed and got by his own intrigue. But God heard and God answered.
The Ladder of Genesis Chapter 28
“And behold a ladder” v.12! The Revised Version margin suggests Gen.28.13 to read, “And, behold, the Lord stood beside him“; the Lord was not at the top of the ladder but had descended the ladder to journey with Jacob. It was not a ladder from earth to heaven to tell Jacob that there was a way to heaven for him (though that was true) but a ladder from heaven to earth to assure Jacob that, despite his failures and now his wanderings, heaven is not far away from him and God is deeply interested in his life and his future and God will stoop to be with him and protect him in his journey and bring him back.
The Link of Genesis Chapter 28
In Genesis chapter 28 we see the Creator of all things descending to journey on earth with unworthy mankind. John, in the first chapter of his Gospel, records the Lord Jesus saying that He is the fulfilment of Jacob’s ladder: “And He saith unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man’” Jn.1.51. It is very suitable that the New Testament chapter in which Christ is the fulfilment of Jacob’s ladder is John chapter 1, for that is the chapter which begins with the truth that the Word Who is God, the Maker of all things, “became flesh and dwelt [‘tabernacled’ Newberry margin] among us” Jn.1.14. Christ is the ladder that shows men that God is near to them and that heaven is not far from humble hearts. And He will be the ladder in a future day that will bring the authority and blessing of heaven down to this earth when He reigns over it.
Every believer can look back like Jacob to a day of distress when, unsettled by the sin of the past and fearful of the destiny of the future, we cried to God in faith and He showed us that the link between us and Himself had been made by His Son at Calvary and from that day our life and future was changed and we knew the promise to be true, “I will not leave thee” Gen.28.15.
Though inhabiting eternity, our God dwells “in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit” Isa.57.15. He is the God of Condescension; the God of Jacob.
- When I took the place of sinner,
- And at Mercy’s footstool lay,
- Jesus took His place as Saviour,
- And at once put sin away.
— (John Dickie)
To be continued (D.V.)
by David McAllister (Ireland)
In a world that is so confused, where changes in society and what is regarded as normal and acceptable are changing with incredible rapidity, we would do well to remind ourselves, as believers, of what the Bible teaches on the subject of gender. This brief article is certainly not an in-depth treatment; rather it is a word to encourage us to hold to the never-changing principles in God’s holy Word.
We will consider the subject under four very broad headings. The first two relate to God’s responsibility, the latter two to our response:
Evolutionary dogma holds to the idea that everything, including gender, developed, of its own accord, over vast periods of time. While the scientific impossibility of this is evident, we will not pursue it here, for the purpose of this publication is to teach the Word of God, which is the only authority for our beliefs. On this subject, the Bible is unequivocal: in its very first chapter, we read of God making mankind, and that “male and female created He them” Gen.1.27; see also Gen.5.2.
This was confirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ when He said, “He which made them at the beginning made them male and female” Matt.19.4; and, “from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” Mk.10.6. Throughout the Scriptures, the distinction between male and female is maintained, right to the present age, for example Acts 5.14; 1Cor.11.3; 14.34,35; 1Tim.2.8,9; Titus 2.2-6.
God, Who is a God of order, has established gender distinction in the animal world as well. In the story of the Flood, it is emphasised that “male and female of all flesh” entered into the ark, Gen.6.19; 7.6. In the sacrificing of animals, the gender of the animals was important, for example the Passover lamb was to be “a male of the first year” Ex.12.5, while the ritual of Numbers chapter 19 necessitated a female, the “red heifer” Num.19.2.
Thus, it is clear that the two different genders have been established by God Himself, right from the beginning, and that this is part of His purpose for the world.
The modern notion that one’s gender is a matter of one’s own subjective choice runs totally contrary to Scripture, as well as to all evidence. Just as God is the One Who has created gender differences, it is He Who determines the gender of each person. While the study of genetics has led to an understanding of how, at a physical level, the gender of an individual is determined, the testimony of Scripture is clear that it is no random process: God has an interest in, and is active in, every aspect of a person and his or her development, right from the very beginning. We read, in Ps.139.13-16: “For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” How lovely it is to know that, right from conception, (and, indeed, before it!), through our development in the womb, our God was intimately involved in every detail.
Several times in the Scriptures, God promised to people that they would have a son, and this promise was fulfilled, for example the parents of Isaac, Gen.17.15-22, and John the Baptist, Lk.1.13, to take one case from each Testament. Although being informed of a child’s gender beforehand was exceptional, it nevertheless demonstrated that gender is under Divine superintendence, and each of us can rest assured of this fact: who I am is no accident, but part of God’s purpose for me.
We live in a very unhappy world, with many people discontented with how they are. Some are unhappy with their gender, and want to change it. Sadly, society is increasingly moving towards a position where such attitudes are encouraged, and where attempts to make this change are legitimised.
As believers, there is a sense in which we are not to be content with how we are. A prime example is that we should never be content with our state of spirituality, but should ever be striving for greater holiness. However, there are things that we cannot change, and gender is one of them. The Lord Jesus taught this great lesson: “Thou canst not make one hair white or black” Matt.5.36; “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” Matt.6.27. Changes to our essential beings are impossible, but they should not even be desired. We should be content, and not wish we were otherwise. If I remember that God made me who I am, that will preserve me from much discontentment, and wasting time and energy in wishing for things that He does not have for me. Christ has saved us, and if we appreciate this as we should, we will not be like this forlorn, dissatisfied world. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” 1Tim.6.6.
A believer, appalled by the changes taking place all around, can ask (inwardly, if not verbally), “What can I do?”, for we seem powerless to stem the tide of corruption that is sweeping across the planet. There are, however, things that we can do.
We can pray: for the little children who are being indoctrinated with such confusing messages at an ever younger age, at school and in the media; for the Christian parents who have to deal with this, and so many other issues, in a world that is increasingly hostile to those who seek to bring up children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” Eph.6.4; for those poor, sad, souls who are caught up in this awful web, that they may be delivered by the power of the gospel; for the dear saints who have close family members taken up in these things, and who “are at their wits’ end” Ps.107.27 (it is worth mentioning that the whole Psalm in which this term is found is excellent material for reading and meditating upon by those in such extremity). We will not be any help to them by insensitive talk, but we can bear them up in our prayers, and be available to help and support them practically.
We can show an example in our lives. Whilst recent years have seen an alarming acceleration in the openness and militancy in which this agenda has been promoted, the work by the enemy of God to oppose Divinely-ordained distinctions has been advancing for a long time. Believers who, by their appearance, dress and deportment, reflect their acknowledgment of gender distinction are thereby taking a stand against the trend. We can only expect things to get “worse and worse” 2Tim.3.13, but, in the midst of it all, we can, by our behaviour, show Whose we are and Whom we serve, Acts 27.23. And, while people may hate us, they do notice when we are living contentedly, and they cannot gainsay the reality of a joyful life lived in accordance with Divine principles. “Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” 1Pet.3.16; “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works … Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” Titus 2.7,8.
We need to carefully watch our thoughts and our speech (the latter is a reflection of the former). There is the danger that our abhorrence of these things could cause us to be overly interested in them, and that they would occupy too much of a place in our minds and our conversation. The sordid details of this subject do not make for wholesome discourse: in our homes, or in meetings, or anywhere else, even if we are speaking in condemnation of it. Let us heed the words of Paul: “it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” Eph.5.12. It is not enough to avoid our actions being affected by these things; we must also guard against our minds and our speech being contaminated by them.
We live in a very evil world, but that is nothing new. It is a very long time since Lot was “vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds)” 2Pet.2.7,8. And the world in which the recipients of Paul’s epistles lived was remarkably like the world of our day. He had good counsel for his readers, which is equally necessary for us: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” Phil.4.8.
by the late Walter N. Gustafson, U.S.A.
Our esteemed brother Mr. Gustafson contributed a number of very helpful articles to “Assembly Testimony” over the years. He submitted this two-part series on Aquila and Priscilla not very long before the Lord took him home to heaven, on 14 June 2020, at 98 years of age.
Aquila and Priscilla give us a beautiful Scriptural example of an ideal Christian couple. We have their names six times in the New Testament, and they are always together. They both lived for the world to come and they both had right priorities. How good it is for every Christian couple to do a lot of things together: to read the Word of God together, to pray together, to eat together, and to go to meetings together. This couple is an inspiration to every Christian couple. They are also an inspiration to every single saved person hoping to find a suitable life partner.
In Acts 5.1-10 we have the tragic example of a couple united to commit sin, but in Aquila and Priscilla we have the challenging example of a Christian couple wholeheartedly united in spirit, aim and deed. “They furnish the most beautiful example known to us in the apostolic age of the power for good that could be exerted by a husband and wife working in unison for the advancement of the gospel” (Arthur Cushman McGiffert).
Hospitality was an outstanding pattern of their lives. In Acts chapter 18 both Paul and Apollos were welcome in their home. At Ephesus and in Rome they hosted the whole assembly. Priscilla is like the virtuous woman of Prov.31.11: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her”. She fully supported her husband in his work, for we read in Acts 18.3 that “they were tentmakers”.
Most agree that Aquila was a freedman, meaning that he had been a slave but had obtained his freedom, likely by a considerable price. Ramsay quotes Knowling as saying, “The greater part of the Jews in Rome were freedmen”.
We see Aquila and Priscilla first in connection with Paul’s arrival in Corinth on his ‘second missionary journey’. When Paul arrived from Athens he “found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla” Acts 18.2. Although Aquila was a Jew, he had a Latin name, meaning ‘eagle’. It was common for Jews (in the dispersion) to have non-Jewish names. Aquila was a native of Pontus, where numerous Jews lived. Jews from Pontus were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2.9. Priscilla, Aquila’s wife, also had a Roman name. Some have held that she was a freedwoman. It is commonly held that Priscilla belonged by birth to an aristocratic family. Her name is purely Roman. It is likely that she was not a Jewess by the way that Luke refers to “a certain Jew named Aquila … with his wife Priscilla” Acts 18.2. In using “Jew” of Aquila only, Luke seems to be taking care to avoid saying that she was Jewish. If she was not a Jew we may well assume that she became a proselyte to Judaism (a common occurrence in Rome) before she married Aquila.
Although Aquila and Priscilla are always named together, the order varies. Her name comes before his four times, Acts 18.18, 26 (the Authorised Version has Aquila first in Acts 18.26, but in the Revised Version the order is reversed); Rom.16.3; 2Tim.4.19. The fact that Priscilla had a significant part, along with her husband, in instructing Apollos indicates that she was a woman of more than ordinary culture, a student and interpreter of Scripture. It is to Aquila’s credit that he allowed his wife to be so fully involved with him in the teaching. Every husband should take advantage of his wife’s thinking. Sometimes they know best what to do. (Two heads are usually better than one!). Her aristocratic background may have meant that she had some personal wealth, which enabled them to travel and to further the cause of Christ by often acting as hosts to the Christians wherever they lived.
It was in Corinth that Aquila and Priscilla began a friendship with the apostle Paul that lasted the rest of their lives. Aquila and Priscilla were just getting established as tentmakers when Paul arrived there, because Luke says of them, “lately come from Italy” Acts 18.2. Luke explains that they had moved to Corinth because Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome, Acts 18.2. We should notice that the Imperial decree only expelled them “from Rome”, not from Italy, but for some unstated reason Aquila and Priscilla had felt that it was best to go as far as to Corinth. Possibly they thought that the thriving commercial city of Corinth had better business opportunities than any other city, even in Italy. The decree of Claudius was used of God to bring them to Corinth.
Clearly, their common trade brought Paul into association with Aquila and Priscilla. A common spiritual interest is not ruled out. The view that they were already Christians is favoured since Luke gives no hint of their conversion through Paul. Because most unsaved Jews hated Paul, Aquila would be unlikely to give such a welcome to Paul if he were not already a Christian.
We should notice God’s sovereign workings. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will” Prov.21.1. God had moved Augustus to declare a decree that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem so that the Lord Jesus could be born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the prophecy of Mic.5.2. God’s control of the highest on earth is vital to bring about His great eternal purposes. God prompted the baby Moses to weep to melt the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter.
Acts chapter 18 shows that God acted ahead of Paul’s arrival, providing not only a home but a job to sustain him. We also see the perfection of God’s timing, in that they were “lately come from Italy” Acts 18.2. Long before the seven years of famine Joseph was next to Pharaoh. Before wicked Haman wanted all the Jews killed Esther was already queen.
We read in Ps.76.10, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain.” Joseph could say to his older brothers (who, very wrongly, had sold him into slavery), “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” Gen.50.20. Acts 2.23 gives us God’s side of the cross and man’s side: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Man’s wrath against Christ has resulted in infinite glory to God and measureless blessing to mankind.
Considering the sovereign workings of God should encourage each one of us to submit our wills to God’s will. His will is perfect, Rom.12.2.
When Paul came to Corinth he would have had no trouble finding other tentmakers since they would all be concentrated in one part of the city. Shortly before Paul came to Corinth Aquila and Priscilla had made their way to the street of the tentmakers and established themselves in business. Luke tells us: “they were tent makers” Acts 18.3. That phrase clearly indicates that Priscilla also used her skills in tent making. Paul found employment with them and “wrought” Acts 18.3; the tense indicating his steady work with them in tent making. This, along with the support received from the saints in Macedonia, allowed Paul (during the year and a half that he was in Corinth) to keep himself financially independent of the Corinthian assembly, 2Cor.11.9.
The Jews had wisely insisted that every Jewish boy learn a manual trade. The Jews dignified manual labour and believed that even a rabbi should have a skill. As a youth in Tarsus Paul learned the trade of tent making, a flourishing occupation in that city.
In the Book of Acts, Luke consistently refers to “Priscilla”, a diminutive of “Prisca”, whereas, in the Revised Version, she is consistently referred to in Paul’s writings as “Prisca”.
To be continued (D.V.)
Moving the Boundary
Earlier this year, a farmer driving his tractor noticed a large stone in his path, and moved it out of the way. Such an event would not normally cause headlines, but it did on this occasion, for the stone had been there for two hundred years, marking the border between Belgium and France. Thus, ‘on the ground’, the farmer was increasing the size of Belgium by about 7.5 feet, and reducing France by the same amount! It appears that he did not know the significance of his action, but it was serious nonetheless; for the boundary had been established by a treaty in 1820, and no-one had the right to move it.
That reminds me of a boundary that God has set up: between right and wrong, truth and error, good and evil. Some people deny its existence, or ignore it, while others think that they can decide for themselves where it lies. However it remains, fixed, and we all have transgressed it: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” Ecclesiastes 7.20. That is a serious matter, whether we realise it or not, for sin is against God, and we must face His judgment for it: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” Ezekiel 18.20. “The wicked shall be turned into hell” Psalm 9.17.
Although the farmer was in the wrong, the authorities had a forgiving attitude, and informed him that if he returned the stone to its proper place he would not face charges. Yet they also made it clear that if he refused to comply, a border commission would be convened, and he could suffer a large fine. I am glad to tell you that God does not want you to face the consequences of your sins either, and He offers a merciful solution to you. “The Lord … is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” 2Peter 3.9.
However, unlike the man putting back the stone, you cannot make things right yourself. Only God could take the necessary action, and He did so, sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. He, the pure, holy, sinless One, bore the judgment for our sins when He suffered and died, on the cross. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” Isaiah 53.5. He “knew no sin”, but God “made Him to be sin for us … that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” 2Corinthians 5.21. This right standing before God is freely received by all who repent and put their faith in Him.
I hope that the farmer admitted his wrong, appreciated the goodwill of the powers that be, and accepted their offer for resolving the problem. He would be very unwise to be stubborn, knowing the grave implications for him. Yet, sadly, there are many people today who are told that they are sinners, and offered God’s gracious way of forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ, but who wilfully refuse to accept it. For all such, the consequences are truly solemn: to stand in judgment, not before a border commission, but the great white throne, and therefrom to be “cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20.15. “To you is the word of this salvation sent” Acts 13.26. Be wise, and receive this salvation today, by trusting God’s Son, and accepting the gracious provision He has made.
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” Isa.53.3
“The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” Jn.17.14
It ill disposes the servant to seek to be rich and great and honoured in this world where his Lord was poor and mean and despised. — George Müller
“By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked” Proverbs 11.11
Since the contrast here is with the “mouth of the wicked”, the reference to “the blessing of the upright” may be particularly to the words they speak, including their prayers for their fellow-citizens (“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” 1Tim.2.1) and their words to them, in declaring the gospel, and in the general tenor of their speech: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” Col.4.6. All around we see the sad evidence of the truth of the latter part of the verse: the destructive results of what wicked men say. May our words (to God on behalf of people, and to people on behalf of God) be to the “blessing” of all, even if most of them do not realise or value it.
“He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace” Proverbs 11.12
The contrast between one, who “despiseth”, and another, who “holdeth his peace”, suggests that the first one does not just despise “his neighbour” in his heart, but expresses it verbally, by insulting him. Such an action demonstrates lack of wisdom, for it is harmful to everyone: to the speaker, to the one of whom he speaks, and to the hearers. It is neither glorifying to God, nor edifying to anyone, nor conducive to harmonious relationships. This Proverb is not advocating the covering up of wrongdoing, or saying we should not be straight in relating facts; rather, it is condemning the spirit that loves to see the wrong in others, and does not hesitate to slander them. In contrast, the prudent man, who understands the immense damage caused by the careless use of words, will show discretion, and if he can find nothing good to say about someone else, he will say nothing.