Answers to Correspondence by F. A. Hughes.



QUESTION: I should like some help on the two accounts of the threshing-floor, in 2 Samuel 24:18-25, and in 1 Chronicles 21:18-30. In some details they appear to vary.

ANSWER: As always, where at first sight there appears to be a variation in Scripture, careful consideration of the Word will reveal hidden truths and glories. Speaking generally the account in Samuel deals with the side of man's need; whereas Chronicles gives us the side of the purpose of God. This is by no means the only incident in these two books where the same principles are found.

Samuel speaks of silver — The glory of God in relation to the need of redemption for man.

Chronicles speaks of gold — The glory of God in relation to His own purposes, in which He displays Himself.

The movement commences in Samuel, "and Gad came up … ." whereas in Chronicles it says, "The Angel of Jehovah commanded Gad … ."

In Samuel the first words are from Araunah, expressive of a visitation to him. In Chronicles David at once speaks as to his desires as to what is for Jehovah.

Then again, in Samuel the threshing-floor only is mentioned as being bought (v. 21), whilst in Chronicles the "place" of the threshing-floor is in mind.

Once more, in Samuel Jehovah is entreated; in Chronicles He marks His complete acceptance of the matter by sending fire from heaven.

Finally, Chronicles adds, "This is the house of Jehovah Elohim, and this is the altar of burnt-offering for Israel" (1 Chron. 22:1, J.N.D.). Not only has sin been judged, the sacrifice is accepted, the whole position secured on the basis of sovereign grace; the people are accepted in grace and the place of God's habitation, where they could draw near to Him, was established. Hence man's sin was the occasion for God to meet it, and to glorify Himself in doing it, (the silver); at the same time He declared the thoughts of His own heart in its desire to have the people near to Himself, a hint of Divine purpose (the gold).

Chronicles only tells us "Now Ornan was threshing wheat". The features of that Blessed Man, Who alone could bring into evidence the thoughts and purposes of God, were (typically) in view in his exercises.

Samuel speaks of the King and his servants, but in Chronicles David alone fills Ornan's vision. Chronicles only speaks of Ornan and his sons, a further suggestion of purpose, especially if linked with the thought underlying 1 Chronicles 22:1.


QUESTION: Is Christ as Priest functioning after the Melchisedec order now or after the order of Aaron?

ANSWER: We must remember that Hebrews was written to Jewish believers, who would know the details of priesthood according to the old order.

The great point stressed in these chapters is the outstanding pre-eminence and glory and uniqueness of Christ as Priest. He is the Son. He is not subject to the limitations and weaknesses which marked other priests. The priesthood now is heavenly in character, and the personal glory and dignity of the One Who is there as Priest is reiterated. Hence there is the thought of "royalty" introduced, a royalty which will be manifested in a future day, but we, by the Spirit, understand and appreciate now the peculiar greatness attaching to the One Who is both King and Priest.

I believe Melchisedec is brought forward in so peculiar a way to give point to the uniqueness of the order of priesthood which is Christ's. Note, it says Melchisedec was "made like unto the Son of God" — not the Son of God made like unto Melchisedec.

A few well-known points may be referred to as showing the distinctive character of Christ's Priesthood. No mention of genealogy — for the priesthood according to Melchisedec was not derived through parentage, it was established by an oath. It abides for ever; is not transmitted to another; there is no thought of weakness nor of infirmity, but the outstanding feature and perhaps the only thing that is really said of Melchisedec is that he LIVED. This at once gives to the priesthood of Jesus a dignity and glory which are unique.

This new order of priesthood carries with it the thought of what is BETTER both as regards the sacrifices offered and of the covenant established. I am sure there is no need to go into detail as to that. The Scriptures clearly show the outstanding superiority of the whole order as now in the hands of this outstanding Person.

Thus the order of priesthood is seen to be glorious and abiding, and entirely suitable to those whose portion is not earthly but heavenly. It sets aside by its surpassing glory the Aaronic priesthood. Now, it must be noticed that there is no order of service recorded in relation to the Melchisedec priesthood, and hence the exercise of priesthood is after the pattern of Aaron, it must be so. We are still in the wilderness and the present service of priesthood is necessary, but we recognize the immense superiority of it, because whilst exercised after the pattern of Aaron, it is in the hands of One so much greater than Aaron, indeed God's Son. One Who is abidingly able to "save His people to the uttermost," and moreover One Who will shortly be manifested as King upon His throne.


QUESTION: In Matthew 4:1 it says, "Then Jesus was carried up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted of the devil." In Matt. 6:13 in instructing as to prayer it says, "and lead us not into temptation" (New Trans.). Could something be said to give help, the verses seem rather difficult to reconcile.

ANSWER: The passage in Matt. 4 is important as showing the perfection of Christ in Manhood, and we should have missed much if this incident had not been allowed and recorded. The following quotation from the Synopsis by J. N. Darby will be helpful.

"Having thus in grace taken up His position as man on earth, He commences (chapter 4) His earthly career, being led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. The righteous and Holy Man, the Son of God, enjoying the privileges proper to such a one, He must undergo the trial of those devices through which the first Adam fell. It is His spiritual condition which is tested. It is not now an innocent man in the enjoyment of all God's natural blessings, who is put to the proof in the midst of those blessings which should have made him remember God. Christ, nigh to God as His beloved Son, but in the midst of trial, having the knowledge of good and evil, and as to outward circumstances come down into the midst of man's fallen state, must have His faithfulness to this position fully tried with respect to His perfect obedience. To maintain this position, He must have no other will than that of His Father, and fulfil it or suffer it, whatever might be the consequences to Himself. He must fulfil it in the midst of all the difficulties, the privations, the isolation, the desert, where Satan's power was, which might tempt Him to follow an easier path than that which should be only for the glory of His Father. He must renounce all the rights that belonged to His own Person, save as He should receive them from God, yielding them up to Him with a perfect trust.

The enemy did his utmost to induce him to make use of His privileges, "If Thou be the Son of God," for His own relief, apart from the command of God, and in avoidance of the suffering which might accompany the performance of His will. But it was to lead Him to do His own will, not God's"

The prayer in chapter 6 will be taken up by the godly remnant in a coming day, and they will enter into the necessity of it with deep feeling and reality because of the conditions in which they will be found. But the spirit of it is ours now, and expresses the necessity of being maintained in constant dependence upon God, kept from Satan's power, and not regarding the testings of the pathway as something to be lightly entered upon. The soul that knows humility would not seek the temptations of an Abraham or of a Job.


QUESTION: Will you please give your judgment on the subject of four speakers in an open meeting? Are the instructions of 1 Corinthians 14:29 still binding upon us? Why does it say "at the most by three" in v. 17 but omit "at the most" in v. 29?

ANSWER: It is evident from Peter's words in his second epistle, 2 Peter 3:15-16, that all Paul's epistles have the authority of holy Scripture. Further, Paul himself says in the chapter under review, "the things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord" (v. 37). The exhortation in its limiting features has in mind the restraint of fleshly activity, and the promotion of order, in view of spiritual help. The exercise of gift needs to be regulated, and what more powerful regulation than the Scripture itself!

The inclusion of the words "at the most" in v. 27 would perhaps indicate that even three words were not always profitable! In practice have we not felt the danger of quality being overshadowed by quantity?

If we bore in mind that the meeting was for prophecy rather than for teaching, and that "edification, and exhortation, and comfort" were to result, then there may be fewer words yet a more distinct setting forth of God's present mind for His people.

In v.29 the apostle still limits the speakers to "two or three." Why do we so often think of "three and forget "two"?

The reading of J.N.D.'s helpful comments on the question in his synopsis is commended.


QUESTION: Matthew 13:44 speaks of a man who "selleth all that he hath" in order to buy the field in which the "treasure" was hidden. Vv. 45, 46 refer to the "merchant man" selling "all that he had" that he might purchase the "one pearl of great price."

What other treasure is there besides the Church — as given in verse 44?

ANSWER: The treasure in verse 44 is a wider thought than that of the pearl. It would involve the whole heavenly company, including the Old Testament saints, a wonderful number of whom are mentioned in Hebrews 11. The "pearl" would refer specifically to the church. The treasure is said to have been found and then hidden. This is not said of the "pearl." The Old Testament saints had already appeared for God in this world, and will be brought to light again in a coming day. The church did not come into evidence until after the death of Christ — it was formed as a result of suffering — hence its being likened to a pearl.

Further help on this can be obtained by a careful study of the "four and twenty elders" (both Old Testament and New Testament saints) in Revelation 5 and subsequent chapters, and the specific mention of the Lamb's wife in Revelation 19, from which point the four and twenty elders are not again mentioned as such.


QUESTION: What is meant by the expression "the desire of all nations" (Haggai 2:7)?

ANSWER: Scholars are agreed that this is a difficult translation. Perhaps the chief difficulty lies in the fact that the verb "shall come" is in the plural; thus "desire" would not be limited to one person or one thing. A careful examination of this word and its cognates will help. In Genesis 2:19 we get the first mention of this root — "every tree that is pleasant to the sight," etc.. Again we have the exact word, also translated as "pleasant" in Psalm 106:24 — "they despised the pleasant land." This word is also found in Jeremiah 3:19, "How shall I … give thee a pleasant land?" In 2 Chronicles 32:27 the same word is used to describe part of Hezekiah's wealth, and is there translated "precious." Now the striking thing is that in every one of these instances the pleasant, precious things which should have been a source of desire were either despised outright or not truly appreciated.

This spirit of non-appreciation was evident amongst the people of God in the days of Haggai. The lowly condition of the house of God did not appear to them in their low condition of soul, and the prophet was sent to awaken their interest, and to revive their appreciation and valuation of the things of their God. He is saying in effect "You may not think much of My house, but I will establish all that I have said in relation to it, and I will fill it with My glory." The fulfilment of this looks on to a future day, but it also involves the coming of the One blessed Person who alone could bring it about — hence the "desire" of necessity embraces the Messiah.

In the light of the New Testament we can see the reason for the plural verb. That blessed Man — Israel's Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ — God's blessed Son, will in Himself bring into fruition and display every thought of God, every promise, every feature of glory. The whole earth will be filled with glory — the full display of every thought and declaration of the blessed God. The eyes of Israel, and, indeed, of the nations too, will be opened to see in the erstwhile "despised Jesus" every precious feature calculated to satisfy the heart of God and of man. Lord! hasten the day!


QUESTION: Could I ask your help in regard to your article in a recent issue of P.T.? I had always understood that our Lord only fulfilled all the three anointed orders — Prophet, Priest and King. David, I think, falls short in Matthew 12:4; not lawful for him, only for the priests. However, recently it was pointed out that in Moses we see all three — Deuteronomy 18:15, Psalm 99:6 and Deuteronomy 33:5. No doubt this does bring Moses out more fully as a type of Christ, but I shall be glad of your comments as to what extent they were carried out. Previously I thought that in the light of Colossians 1:18 Christ alone could fulfil all three.

ANSWER: The question stresses how careful one must be in handling the Word of Scripture — especially when negatives are referred to. To state categorically that something is not to be found in Scripture, while oftentimes being actually true, does imply that one has, in measure at least, grasped the whole content of the book. How thankful we are for the help, correction, and even rebuke of the Inditer of the Word; and for those who, by their knowledge, are able also to help and correct.

Looking carefully at the question and at the passage to which it refers I do not find anything really wrong in the references to David. His acting as priest is not related to the incident referred to in Matthew 12, but concerns the details relative to the bringing up of the Ark in 2 Samuel 6. "He was girded with a linen ephod;" he "Offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings;" "He blessed the people in the Name of Jehovah of hosts." There is no suggestion that David was a priest "officially," he was not of the priestly tribe, but in 2 Samuel 6 he certainly acted with priestly instincts.

As to Moses — the Scriptures quoted by our questioner would establish quite definitely the features of priest and king, but that of prophet is perhaps not quiet so definitely stated. The reference by Peter in Acts 3 makes it clear that the One in mind is Christ personally — and in Deuteronomy 18 (and again in Deut. 34) the stress seems to be on the precious fact of Christ's humanity — "Of thy brethren, like unto me." Perhaps the outstanding feature in relation to Moses is the intimacy he enjoyed with God, and the freedom he had (even beyond that of Aaron) in going into the presence of Jehovah (see Exodus 25:22 and other Scriptures; see also collected Writings Expos. Vol. 1 p. 364). The words "like unto me" would happily remind us of the perfect communion between the Lord Jesus as Man, and the Father (John's Gospel). After saying this we are of the opinion that our contributor may not press the word "exclusively" in his paper — although Moses is not actually called a prophet.

How gladly we subscribe to the importance of our questioner's comment on Colossians 1:18! David, Moses and all others fulfilled their day — "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever." The pre-eminence and glory of His holy Person shines uniquely in every sphere in which we are privileged to behold Him. His official glories are enhanced by the charm and beauty of His holy Person.


QUESTION: Concerning-

1) "the mystery of the Christ" (Ephesians 3:4)

2) "the mystery of God" (Colossians 2:2 and Revelation 10:7)

3) "the mystery of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9)


1) Ephesians 3 speaks of that which was in the eternal purpose of God — hidden from eternity in God Himself, and involving the truth of the body in which, through the glad tidings both Jew and Gentile are "joint partakers." This truth by its very nature could not be made manifest in an earlier age in which Judaism had its place. It stands related to God's "promise in Christ Jesus by the glad tidings." God in counsel is thus the source of this ministry which was committed to the Apostle. Perhaps its most precious ingredient is the fact that God will "head up all things in the Christ."

2) Colossians deals with the same "mystery" from a somewhat different viewpoint. The Gentiles, who had no part in the privileges which were peculiar to God's earthly people, are now seen as those in whom Christ dwells as "the hope of glory." Christ, rejected on earth, is now the Head of the Church, and as in union with Himself the Gentiles are brought into a sphere of blessing and enjoyment beyond anything known in previous dispensations. The truth of the mystery is thus made effectual in affections by Christ Himself.

3) The "mystery of the faith" in 1 Timothy 3 is detailed in verse 16 of chapter 3. The wonder of the incarnation and all it involved. God manifested here and Man received in glory!

4) Revelation 10 speaks of the day when God will no longer act, as it were, behind the scenes — but His direct intervention in power will be manifested, and happenings which are now beyond our understanding will be clear. God will be justified in all His movements and ways in His dealing with men on the earth.


The exercise contained in the following question has reached us from several sources, and although we do not wish the pages of "Precious Things" to be devoted to controversial matters we deem the matter of such importance, and as so touching the honour of Christ, that we attempt an answer which we trust will be in accord with Scripture.

QUESTION: We understand that some brethren will not address the Lord Jesus personally either in prayer or in praise, and that this refusal is common to every occasion of gathering. Further we are led to believe that in some cases brethren who are free to so address the Lord have been excluded from fellowship.

ANSWER: We deal first with the latter part of the question. Even if brethren were right in their practice the attitude adopted with those who do not see eye to eye with them is sad indeed and finds no support in the Word of God. The writer is personally acquainted with two brothers (in different localities) who have been similarly treated. Would it not be more in accord with the Spirit of Christ if, in meekness and gentleness, brethren had opened their Bibles, knelt in prayer together, and sought the Lord's mind in the matter? There is absolutely no Scriptural ground for such an attitude to their brethren. On the other hand there is abundant testimony in the Scriptures that the Lord Jesus should be personally addressed both in prayer and in worship.

The refusal to pray to the Lord seems to be based on a misunderstanding of John 16:23. The two Greek words translated as "ask" are entirely different. "In that day ye shall ask (demand — EROTAO) Me nothing." This word is one used for a familiar request between persons moving together in intimacy — as the disciples had been, through wonderful grace, with the blessed Lord in His lowly pathway here. This relationship was now ending — and thus another word is used for the second "ask" in the verse — AITEO, which is a word used when one addresses a superior.  

"They might themselves go directly to the Father, who loved them, because they had believed in Jesus, and had received Him when he had humbled Himself in this world of sin … so that their joy might be full in the consciousness of the blessed portion of unfailing favour into which they were brought, and of the value of all that they possessed in Christ" (J. N. Darby).

Thus the verse involves an added privilege; it does not breathe the atmosphere of loss.

Of the martyr Stephen it is recorded "And they stoned Stephen, praying, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (the word "God" in the A.V. is not in the original). Again — Acts 7:60 — "he cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." At the beginning of his Christian life Paul (Saul) asked the Lord Jesus directly, "What shall I do, Lord" (Acts 22:10); Peter, too, had direct conversation with the Lord in relation to the blessing of Cornelius. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul "thrice besought the Lord" that the thorn in the flesh might be removed. In 2 Timothy 1 he sought mercy from the Lord for Onesiphorus. Do not 2 Timothy 4:14-18 indicate an atmosphere of precious communion between the aged servant and his Lord?

In Hebrews 4 we are exhorted to approach with boldness the throne of grace in order that, from that throne, we may obtain mercy and grace for present help. In Revelation 3 we read that the Lord Jesus is seated with His Father on His throne — the throne from which we are to seek help. In Ephesians and Colossians we read that Christ is both Head of and Head to the Church which is His body. Do not the members of the body receive direct impulse and instruction from the Head? And are we then not to seek such help and direction? The promise to the overcomer in Laodicea (Revelation 3) suggests a sphere of precious mutual intercourse — "I will … sup with Him and he with Me." Would not such a precious occasion be marked by an affectionate interchange of thought and word?

The Lord's Supper — the breaking of bread — is surely an occasion when our gracious Lord would say to His loved ones — "Let Me hear thy voice" (Song of Songs). Can we deny Him this? If His earthly people are yet unresponsive to His desire, shall not we, His chosen bride, gladly and willingly yield the praises of our hearts to Himself? It is the LORD'S Supper — where He should have undisputed dominical rights; He says — "this do in remembrance of Me" — a request confirmed from the glory for us in our day. It is neither the Father's supper, nor the Spirit's supper, although They each have Their happy part in the matter — it is the Lord's Supper! Is He to be left out of our response? Paul commences his epistles with greetings of grace and peace from "God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." As we respond in affection to these blessings should we limit such responses to the Father? Should we not bow in thanksgiving to the Lord Jesus too?

There are most precious outbursts of vocal praise directed to Christ in the Scriptures; how often we have rejoiced in the Apostle John's words in Revelation 1 — a chapter replete with intimate communications between the Lord and his servant — "Unto Him who has loved us (or, loves us), and washed us from our sins … to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." Need we refer at all to chapters 4 and 5 and to other utterances in this book of the unfolding of God's ways?

The Lord Jesus in a Scripture which so powerfully asserts His deity, puts Himself alongside the blessed God as an object for faith (John 14:1).

Finally — nothing that has been said would in any wise weaken our prayer and praise to our God and Father. Blessed privilege indeed! The writer himself is conscious that many of his prayers are so directed — but it is a divine decree "that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." "Even as" is a forceful word — in every way — in all things! Let us obey the Word!.

Postscript: Since writing the above I have noticed that in John 14:14 the "Englishman's Greek New Testament" gives a footnote reading, "If ye shall ask Me anything." My attention has also been called to the fact that one of the latest Greek Lexicons (Nestle) actually puts the word "Me" in the text itself.


QUESTION: "What is fellowship? Can it be found and enjoyed in the broken and scattered conditions today in Christendom?"

ANSWER: Fellowship is essentially related to the purpose and calling of God; there is no suggestion that man's thoughts and will have place in it at all. It has been rightly said that every division in Christendom has provided an avenue along which the will of man has run. Hence fellowship in its true sense has no place whatsoever in Christendom — it is Christian fellowship! It is not an organisation, neither is it strictly a religion; and although adherence to doctrine and truth is an integral element in it, yet it is not merely credal. Fellowship is related to the calling of the faithful God (1 Corinthians 1:9), thus from the divine side it is inviolable, not subject to change (Romans 11:29). The truth of this embedded in the soul would give stability and assurance in these difficult days.

"God is faithful, by whom ye have been called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." This verse is rich in unalterable blessedness, but carries also great responsibilities. Whilst the maintenance of the fellowship is in the hands of a faithful God, the enjoyment of it necessitates on the believer's part the recognition of God's holy nature. Something of the atmosphere of this fellowship is contained in the full title — "His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." The four-fold (universal) pre-eminence of the glorious Christ enriches the sphere with a fragrance which, as Himself, is unique. Pre-eminent as God's Beloved Son in whom He finds His delight; pre-eminent as Jesus the highly exalted of God; as Christ the One in whom "all things" will be headed up for God's own glory, and as Lord to whom undisputed universal allegiance shall be given. Called into this fellowship by the faithfulness of God, our hearts filled with joy and adoration as we contemplate the supremacy and glory of Christ, and maintained in the power and sanctity of so holy a sphere by the power of the Spirit of God. We rightly dwell upon the exhortation of Philippians 2:5, and the outstanding preciousness of the following verses, but we see how the atmosphere necessary for a true appreciation of the word is found, amongst other things, in the fellowship of the Spirit (verse 2). Here is "firmness and unity of heart" to be found. "This is the testimony of the presence and operation of the Spirit in the assembly … He keeps Christians together by His presence; they have but one heart and one subject. They act in common by the Spirit" (J.N.D.).

Here then is true fellowship; here the kind of persons with whom one may walk in these broken days — hearts responsive to the call of God, appreciating the unique preciousness of Christ, and yielding willingly to the overtures and guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. Brethren, as feeding our souls upon these four verses the features of the flesh and the dictates of man's will would find no place, and fellowship would be the practical enjoyment of all. How truly the following verses would appeal to our hearts!

1 Corinthians 10 touches upon the truth of fellowship (Communion is the same word) in a very precious and appealing way. It is a fellowship enriched with the preciousness of all that is involved in Christ's body and blood — ingredients incomparably beyond those pertaining to any fellowship in man's world. The "table of the Lord" is indeed rich in its provision, and as our affections are strengthened and stimulated would there not be an increased outflow of worship to our beloved Lord as we appreciated the cost at which these blessings have reached us. With what joy and responsive affection should we embrace each occasion of the Lord's supper (1 Cor. 11)!

Acts 2 introduces a most practical line of truth in regard to our subject. "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking bread and in prayers" (v. 42). Several most important points are to be observed, we can touch them but briefly. The apostles' teaching was Spirit-breathed (inspired). Every thought or idea of man, ritualistic, ecclesiastical, or merely personal will, is completely excluded. One of the outstanding features of the apostles' teaching in the days of the Acts was the way in which they guarded the Person of Christ and glorified His Name, holding tenaciously to the truth of His death and resurrection and glorification at God's right hand. Fellowship can only be known in company with those who follow this teaching; the introduction of any suggestion which mars the thought of Christ's glory and Person must be absolutely refused. The occasion of the Lord's Supper, the breaking of bread, will yield joy to His own heart from such who are found in fidelity to His Name, and the whole position will be maintained in the spirit of prayer and humility.

In 1 John 1 we have the expression that "fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." This is a vast subject. Sufficient for this paper to say that the relationship existing between the Father and the Son in revelation (John 17:3) is the sphere of eternal life. The affections existing between divine Persons is, beloved brethren, the atmosphere of the fellowship — it is the realm of life eternal.

It is encouraging to see in the exhortation regarding fellowship as presented in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 what is right and good is mentioned first in each case. The attraction and power of features pleasurable to God will enable us to refuse all that is contrary to his holiness.

May the appreciation and enjoyment of what the fellowship really is so wean our hearts from man's world and thoughts, that we may be able in our measure to say with the Apostle Paul-"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death" (Philippians 3:10).