A Bible Truth Magazine
The heart longing after the Person of Christ
"Nothing is of any value that does not spring from personal love to, and communion with, Christ Himself. We may have scripture at our finger ends; we may be able to preach with remarkable fluency, a fluency which unpracticed spirits may easily enough mistake for 'power'; but oh! if our hearts are not drinking deeply at the fountain head — if they are not enlivened and invigorated by the realization of the love of Christ, it will all end in mere flash and smoke. I have learnt … to be increasingly dissatisfied with everything, whether in myself or others, short of abiding, real, deep, divinely inwrought communion with, and conformity to, the blessed Master. Crotchets I despise; mere opinions I dread; controversy I shrink from; all 'ISMS I esteem as utterly worthless. But … I long to know more of His own precious Person, His work and his glory. And, then, oh! to live for Him: to labour, testify, preach, and pray, and all for Christ, and by the working of His grace in our hearts."
A new magazine for Christians needs some apology for surely there are enough periodicals circulating to satisfy every need. The editors of Truth & Testimony clearly are not persuaded that their work would be a duplication. Perhaps Truth & Testimony will be complementary to existing endeavours but the intention is to provide edification for all the children of God, especially in the field of Bible exposition. In the last century there was a very striking and extensive revival after a long and widespread slumber. The cry "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him" was made. The call was responded to. Today the fact is that many have returned to their slumbers and we need to be revived as to the wonderful prospect of seeing our Lord face to face and to live as if we really do know that He will be calling us up into the air at any moment. Of paramount importance then was the influence of Bible Study in the lives of Christians.
Sudden and little looked-for events have occurred in the world of late — our prayer is that many hitherto slumbering will be aroused to search the Scriptures of Truth rather than scanning the political horizon. Directing our attention to the events of the times, earthly things, will only disturb our judgment. Nothing merits our greater concentration of mind than those things which are above, where Christ is seated. It is our privilege to search the Word of God which is the Revelation from God. This alone tells of the wonderful things God has prepared for those that love Him. In many things we have moved away from Biblical standards because our understanding of God's Word has become so enfeebled.
A diversity of articles is planned for the edification and strengthening of the saints of God in every place where this periodical may go and be read. We desire that this magazine will direct the Lord's people into the way of God more accurately and help us return to Biblical precepts and practice. May the Scriptures be the guide in our lives.
We commit this endeavour to the One Who alone can bless the labours of His servants and give the increase, commending this work to the One to Whom the Church belongs and Who loves her that He may be pleased to use this to the glory of His precious name. E.N.C.
The Old in the New Explained
"Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel; which being interpreted is, God with us."
This verse, with the exception of the interpretation given at the end, is a quotation from Isaiah 7:14. Turning to that chapter we find that Rezin, King of Syria and Pekah, King of Israel (Ephraim), had formed a confederacy against Judah and Jerusalem. Their intention was to set aside the royal line of David, (and hence Messiah) and to place the son of Tabeal on the throne (v. 6). Nevertheless "Thus saith the Lord God, it shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass" (v. 7). Ephraim was to be broken "that it be not a people" (v. 8). Ahaz was invited by Jehovah to ask for a sign as verification of His word but in
false piety he refused to ask (v. 11/12). "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." The royal line of David's house was to continue till Messiah came, but how much further the sign goes! Not only would He be the virgin's son, the woman's seed of Genesis 3:15, but "Immanuel." As He comes into view in Matthew's gospel and we see Him to be the son of David (v. 1) this first of quotations from the old testament shows Him to be not man only, and miraculously such, but God Himself come down in grace. Might we overlook the meaning of this Name in our hurry to read on? Might we pass His glory by? That we might not do so the Holy Spirit Himself has given us its interpretation
"God with us"!
News from the Field
Bhutan is a small kingdom high in the eastern Himalayas with a population of 1.5 million. Accessible only by treacherous mule trails until 25 years ago, its tribesmen were open only to contact with Tibet. Only 5% are literate. The official language is Dzongkha but there are 15 languages used in all. Subsistence/barter economy is prevalent with a per capita income averaging at £50.00 per annum. Buddhism is strong and all public expression of Christianity is illegal. Only Mark's Gospel is available in Dzongkha. There is a real need for further Scripture translation and Christian literature in local vernaculars. There is widespread anti-Christian prejudice in the "Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon." The believers referred to in our correspondent's letter need your prayerful support.
Dear Brother in Christ,
Thanks for your encouraging letter dated 4 June '90. I'm extremely grateful to you for the books which you have dispatched from there. Here in Bhutan we appreciate the books you publish very much, because we don't have qualified pastors to feed us with nutritious spiritual food from the Word of God. We take help from spiritual books for ourselves and for those who are in fellowship with us.
The Government of this land is always against Christianity. So we work for the Lord very secretly and we don't have church buildings, neither do we have a professional pastor. We meet for worship, prayer and Bible study either in a rented house or in the house of a believer. Sometimes we go to the woods for prayer because of the fear of policemen.
Though there are about 300 believers in Bhutan divided into 5 local assemblies (due to the distance of places), they are very poor financially and are unable to purchase good books for their spiritual growth and edification. We have no headquarters to control or to support us. Our only Head is Christ and we live by faith.
In 1976 I was saved from a Hindu priest background in a village of a small state of India. Then I joined a denomination. But in 1985 Lord led me to come to Bhutan where gospel preaching is strictly prohibited. I left the denominations completely and came to Bhutan to work independently and began to preach to the poor and backward people of this dark heathen land. God blessed me much and gave some precious souls who are now shining witnesses of the Lord in this country. I don't receive any salary from any source but I always claim Matthew 6:33, and our God is always fulfilling His precious promises. I help the believers to know much from the word of God through whatever good books I receive from our friends and relatives in Christ.
We believe the Bible as the Word of God and give much time to study it. The Holy Spirit is our only teacher. Whatever He teaches we try to obey and He has really helped us to walk in His paths.
Rest, I will try to write next time. Please pray for us and if possible, please help us with good and profitable books. With love and greetings.
In Christ Yours,
J.D., Phuntsholing, Bhutan.
Care for the New-Born.
The much-loved stories of Jesus raising souls from the dead are full of spiritual instruction. At the present time we limit our meditation to only three points, easy to see and understand. The first, we need hardly say, is the comprehensive picture they present of the Saviour's complete victory over the "prince of terrors." The little maiden, Jairus' daughter (Matt. 9, Mark 5, Luke 8) was "at the point of death." The widow of Nain's boy (Luke 7) was dead and being carried to the place of burying. Lazarus (John 11) was "in the grave four days already." No case was beyond our Saviour's power. Very shortly He will "transform our body of humiliation," He will "Subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:21). He is declared Son of God with power … by resurrection of dead persons (Rom. 1:4).
The second valuable pointer in these stories is the direction in which souls grow when they are under the Divine hand. Of Jairus' daughter we read, "She rose and walked" (Mark 5:42). The influence of women is great, as both testaments testify; but their testimony is not a public one. Paul speaks of "Keepers at home" (Titus 2:5), not outward adornment, but good works (1 Tim. 2). Peter is on the same line, the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, and the winning conversation of the wives (1 Peter 3). Doubtless the world pattern today is to reverse the role of the sexes, but a godly sister instructed in the word will have no desire to overstep the Divine boundaries.
Jairus' daughter arose and walked. In the case of the widow of Nain's boy, he arose and began to speak. This would seem to be a complementary testimony. The sphere of the brothers is a public one, in prayer, and praise and administration. Paul tells us also that they are to speak "to edification, exhortation and comfort," and Peter says "if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." Some alas never open their mouths at all, and others speak too much. But at least here we have the Divine pattern. The young man "sat up and began to speak." In the case of Lazarus (John 12) there was a supper. It was a social occasion. Some will see in it a picture of the Lord's supper. Be it one or the other, Lazarus gives us the picture of the conduct and behaviour becoming to those who are raised from the dead. He sat at the table with Him. Such a consciousness with Lazarus adds tone and dignity to the occasion, and it is a model for us.
The third interesting lesson is that there is work to be done by those who stand by and watch the Master in His gracious operations. How wonderful this is. Only He, the Son of God, can raise from the dead, but He invites His own to have a part in the tremendous work which He has accomplished. For the little Maiden (Mark 5:43) He commanded that something should be given her to eat. Young souls, and older ones too, need food, exactly suited to their age and condition, a skilful matter, and calling for much nearness to the Master. Jesus Himself fed both the disciples (John 21) and the multitudes (in all 4 gospels). Peter was instructed to feed (John 21) and he passes on the exhortation (1 Peter 5). Stewards have to be faithful and wise if they are to give the portion of meat in due season (Luke 12:42). Paul assessed the situation in each assembly before he wrote his epistles, as the variety shows. And how rich and varied is the diet supplied! "Give ye them to eat" is the Master's word. Then the young man, who sat up and talked, he was delivered to his mother (Luke 7:15). This is especially touching. The public ministry of the word brings its joys, but also its strains and pressures, which are sometimes overlooked. "My brethren, be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater judgment" (James 3:1). Faithful ministry can also bring reproach and persecution, as with the prophets of old (Matt. 5:11 and 12). The Lord takes notice of this situation — with mother care, and who can care like a mother? Israel will prove it so in the tribulation of the coming day, "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you" (Isa. 66:13). Today we can prove this comfort in the assembly (Luke 10:30-37, the two pence perhaps representing spiritual and temporal care). It would seem the Lord Jesus Himself proved this comfort in the days of His sorrowing flesh when He found refreshment in the home in Bethany.
And finally, for Lazarus (John 11:44) coming forth from the sepulchre, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face bound about with a napkin, Jesus said (to those that stood by) "Loose him, and let him go." Souls need liberation if they are to sit at table with Him. Liberation from the world (2 Cor. 6:14 et seq.), from the ecclesiastical systems of men (Heb. 13:10-13) and from associations that defile (2 Tim. 2:19-22).
All this, and much more, is the provision of Divine care for new-born souls. The results manifestly redound to the Lord's glory and God's praise.
In Hebrews 3:12 we read a solemn warning: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." This might be a fitting description of Jeroboam, the first monarch of the separated Kingdom of Israel, one who came short of the promises of God through unbelief. Let us examine the background of Jeroboam's rise from obscurity to the throne of Israel. First we are confronted with
Solomon's Ungodly Ways
King Solomon, who had begun his reign in such a promising manner, was led astray by his many foreign wives. One wonders if he had obeyed the law of Moses when he became king, and copied out the conditions of kingship as set out in Deuteronomy 17:14-20? It is remarkable that, with all His God-given wisdom, he yet departed from all these principles, by multiplying wives, horses and riches, and these very things seem to have turned his heart away from God, so that we read the solemn words in 1 Kings 11:6: "Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord." What a warning for those that start well, but in their old age depart from the truth, and often lead younger believers astray! There was really no excuse for Solomon, because we read in verse 9: "The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded." As a result of this, God stirred up adversaries against him, one of whom was Jeroboam, a brave and diligent servant, whom Solomon put in a responsible position. The old prophet Ahijah was entrusted with a message for this young man. Tearing his new garment into twelve pieces, he gave ten pieces to Jeroboam, as a token that he was to rule over ten tribes, but for David's sake the other two tribes should remain under Rehoboam's rule. Next we notice
The Unchanging Word of God
God had promised the kingdom to David, as we read in Psalm 132:11: "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David, He will not turn from it, Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne." "Hath He said, and shall He not do it?" But now Solomon was confronted by another promise of God, made this time to Jeroboam, that part of the kingdom should be his. Instead of resting in the assurance of God, "Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father's sake," Solomon, like Herod in a later day, took the law into his own hands, and sought to kill Jeroboam; but, of course, God's promises could not be frustrated, and Jeroboam fled into Egypt until Solomon's death.
God's promise to Jeroboam was plain. The kingdom was his unconditionally. "Thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel." The perpetuation of the kingdom, on the other hand, was conditional upon his obedience. "If thou wilt hearken … walk in My ways, and do that is right in My sight … I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house." The kingdom was his. He had only to believe the promise of God for that. Yet, like Jacob, he felt that he needed to work out his own schemes to obtain the fulfilment of the promise. Are we not ourselves sometimes guilty of the same mistake? So often we are not content with God's clear promise, but try by our own efforts to obtain our object, sometimes at the cost of obedience to God's Word.
When the time came for Jeroboam to ascend the throne, God was already working. At the same time that he heard of King Solomon's death, messengers reached him, begging him to return, so that when Rehoboam foolishly followed the advice of his young friends, and spoke roughly to the representatives of the people, they immediately turned to Jeroboam, and made him king over the northern kingdom. Rehoboam set out with the intention of restoring the rebellious kingdom by military force, but Shemaiah, the man of God, pointed out that God's hand was in this matter, and Rehoboam wisely refrained from fighting against God.
Now we see
The Unbelief of Jeroboam
It would have been well for Jeroboam if he, too, had listened to God's messengers. The God of Israel could have blessed him and his descendants (one of whom, his son Abijah seems to have shown great promise), and he would never have deserved that terrible epithet, the man "that made Israel to sin." But the promises of God were not enough for this man. He reasoned on a purely human level.
In 1 Kings 12:26 we read: "Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem … they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam." The kingdom of Judah was privileged to have the temple of God in its midst. The northern kingdom had no temple. What should Jeroboam have done? It is easy for us to judge him, but let us remember that even David, the anointed of God, was once in such a low spiritual condition that he lost sight of God's promises, and said in his heart: "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul," and went down to join the Philistines, his people's enemies, and barely escaped from the shameful position of fighting with them against Saul's army.
There is no doubt that if Jeroboam had truly sought the mind of God about his problem, he would have been reassured, since, whatever happened, the kingdom was his, and, if he had set an example to his people by regularly going to Jerusalem to worship, the two kingdoms could perhaps have lived together in peace and godliness for many years. There were prophets in the northern kingdom, as we see in the next chapter, but it appears as though the ungodly example set by the king caused even the faithful to shrink from a public acknowledgment of trust in the living God.
Instead, however, of asking God, we read that Jeroboam "took counsel," evidently of men, and the result was the setting up of the two golden calves, one at Dan, in the far north, and the other, as a challenge to the God of Jacob, at Beth-el, of which place Jacob had declared, centuries before: "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." It is remarkable that he repeated the sin of Aaron and the people of Israel at the foot of Sinai, where God had already pronounced the solemn words: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Jeroboam even repeated the words of Aaron: "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Had he already forgotten the words of Ahijah, when he promised him the kingdom? This very kingdom had been taken away from Solomon's descendants because the people had forsaken God, and had turned to the abominations of the surrounding nations. Now Jeroboam was committing the same sin. It has been argued that Jeroboam was really worshipping Jehovah, but with the aid of visible images. This is urged to-day to excuse blatant idolatry. The Bible does not support this. It says plainly: "This thing became a sin." God does not require an image to enable men to worship Him. In fact, the very idea is condemned throughout Scripture.
God had said Ye shall worship in the place that I shall choose. Dan and Beth-el were Jeroboam's choice. To-day many seek to serve God and "worship" Him in the manner and the place that suits them, but the New Testament teaches us that the place must be of God's choosing, the place where Christ is in the midst, and where the Holy Spirit is free to lead in true worship. Then again, God had chosen Aaron and his sons to serve him as priests. Jeroboam had no access to God's priests, so he "made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi." Christendom has its counterpart, setting up a "priestly class," often composed of unconverted men (or women!), setting aside the Divine principle of the priesthood of all believers.
Not content with these alterations, Jeroboam even found fault with the feasts of Jehovah, although he had made some brief reference to the deliverance out of Egypt, upon which, to some extent, these feasts were based. How could he hold a Passover, if he had turned away from the God Who redeemed His people by blood, and delivered them by His power? He made his own feast (perhaps on his birthday, or the anniversary of his accession). The Divine record assures that it was "in the month which he had devised of his own heart." We may see a parallel to this in the "Saints' Days" and "Church Festivals" recognised in Christendom, while the regular coming together for prayer, edification and remembrance of the Lord's death is often sadly missing.
We know the result of Jeroboam's sad beginning. Of the 19 kings that sat on the throne of the northern kingdom it does not seem that one sought after God. Many were murdered by usurpers, who, in turn, were overthrown by others, until finally "the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight" (2 Kings 17:18), delivering them into the hands of the Assyrians.
These things were written for our learning. Our God and Father seeks worshippers, but those that worship in spirit and in truth. May it be true of us, as Paul writes to the Philippians: "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).
Low at Thy Feet
Low at Thy feet, Lord Jesus,
This is the place for me;
Here I have learned deep lessons:
Truth that has set me free.
Free from myself, Lord Jesus,
Free from the ways of men;
Chains of thought that have bound me
Never can bind again.
None but Thyself, Lord Jesus,
Conquered this wayward will,
But for Thy love constraining,
I had been wayward still.
Found in J.N. Darby's Bible after his home call
Book Review Bibliotheca Sacra
THE PROSPECT. Volumes 1 and 2. Guernsey: Stephen Barbet, 1850. Limited Edition Classic Facsimile Series No. 1. Reprint, London: Chapter Two, 1989. £36.00.
This facsimile publication of the first two volumes of The Prospect, William Kelly's first magazine, by Chapter Two (199 Plumstead Common Road, London) makes a real contribution to the Christian world, especially those interested in the truth of the Lord's return. It provides a compendium of the early writings of Plymouth Brethren leaders like Kelly, Darby, Mackintosh, and others, enabling libraries to add to their periodical collection material not previously available.
Volume 1 contains among many other significant items Kelly's complete "Notes on the Apocalypse." The focus of the periodical was on the premillennial return of Jesus Christ to the earth to fulfil the promises of God, a truth which, as Kelly noted, "of late years … has been strikingly and extensively revived among the children of God" p.1).
The republication of this periodical can be commended for providing a tool for biblical, theological, and historical study.
John A. Witmer in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 147
Women Praying and Prophesying
I have long thought that the expression "praying or prophesying" in 1 Corinthians 11 does not intimate that they are actually to be themselves teaching or praying, but that while women are in the Assembly, in the place, not in the act of praying or prophesying, they are to be covered. And my judgement is grounded on this, that the men, though they do not either pray or teach, yet being in the place of praying or teaching, are to be as much uncovered as those brethren or men who do pray and teach actually. How many men in our assemblies never actually do anything, and yet we should be as much offended by their being covered as if we saw the teaching, active brethren covered. So that it is the place and not the act of praying and prophesying that 1 Corinthians 11 contemplates.
Extract from letter of J.G. Bellett.