God's Consideration of Humiliation.
In the following article we will consider four kings of Judah and Israel who are said to have humbled themselves: Rehoboam, Ahab, Hezekiah and Manasseh. Their circumstances were very different, but we will see that in each case God took account of their humiliation, whatever the depth of it. This fact provides a practical lesson for us.
The Humiliation of Rehoboam. 2 Chronicles 12:5-8
The hardness and pride of Rehoboam, king Solomon's son, had been the direct cause of the division of the kingdom of Israel, though elsewhere the divine decree had announced it as a judgment on the behaviour of Solomon.
After the convulsions which had marked the beginning of his reign and a period of three years which seemed to be a promising start, Rehoboam “forsook the law of Jehovah, and all Israel with him” (2 Chr. 11:17; 2 Chr. 12:1). God then sent the king of one of the great powers of the era, Egypt, against them, with an immense army. The fortified cities of Judah were taken. Rehoboam and his chiefs took refuge in the city of Jerusalem, and there the prophet Shemaiah came to find him. He gave him this brief and solemn analysis of the situation: “Thus saith Jehovah: Ye have forsaken Me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak” (2 Chr. 12:5).
What is remarkable is that Rehoboam did not harden himself. He did not silence the prophet, as many others would have done, but, “the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, Jehovah is righteous” (2 Chr. 12:6). It is not easy to say, “Jehovah is righteous”, when one is under the judgment of God. Our tendency is rather to attempt to justify ourselves.
Although failure does not escape the eye of God, neither does any right action. “When Jehovah saw that they humbled themselves … ”, He said, “I will not destroy them, but I will grant them a little deliverance; and My wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless they shall be his servants” (2 Chr. 12:7-8).
We may think that the repentance of Rehoboam was not very profound, since the history of his life finishes with this sad conclusion: “And he did evil, for he applied not his heart to seek Jehovah” (2 Chr. 12:14). Nevertheless, there was humiliation, and God took account of it. The judgment was attenuated: “I will grant them a little deliverance”.
The Humiliation of Ahab. 1 Kings 21:27-29
“Surely there was none like to Ahab, who did sell himself to do evil in the sight of Jehovah, Jezebel his wife urging him on” (1 Kings 21:25).
The story of Ahab is a sad one, as presented to us in 1 Kings chapters 16 to 22. It is initially mixed with that of the prophet Elijah, whom God had raised up in those times of darkness and apostasy, to seek to bring the heart of the people of Israel back to Him. More than once Ahab heard God's warnings and saw the unfolding of His power and grace, but his heart was hardened. In chapter 21 we read how he seized the vineyard of Naboth, after Naboth had been stoned on Jezebel's orders. An iniquitous trial had condemned the just man and made it appear as if the corrupt king had defended the interests of God.
At the moment when Ahab came to take possession of the land which he had coveted and seized, Elijah met him and delivered a severe message on behalf of God: “In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall the dogs lick thy blood, even thine”, and, “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male … Him that dieth of Ahab in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the field shall the fowl of the heavens eat” (1 Kings 21:19, 21, 24).
Unexpectedly, this man bowed before the announcement of divine judgment: “And it came to pass when Ahab heard these words, that he rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly” (1 Kings 21:27). Would this good action be followed up? Would there be an attitude which showed repentance? Alas, we must note that there was not. In chapter 22 it was he again who hated and persecuted the prophet of Jehovah, and God made him perish by an arrow fired at random, which pierced him through a weak point in his armour. The fear of judgment seemed for a moment to have brought about the conversion of this man, but Satan managed to ensnare his prey and erase the effect of the Word of God. He died a reprobate.
But what is most striking in this story is that God, who knows the end from the beginning, was not indifferent to the humiliation of Ahab. The humiliation was only momentary and superficial, but God, as far as is righteous, took account of it. Elijah was, perhaps, not inclined to think much of it, but whatever the case may be, God pointed it out to him: “Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before Me?” (1 Kings 21:29). God delayed the execution of judgment till a later date: “Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house” (1 Kings 21:29). How much the grace of God surpasses our thoughts!
The Humiliation of Hezekiah.
2 Chronicles 32:24-26
The Scriptures relate only one failure of this faithful king. Towards the end of a life marked by devotion to Jehovah and confidence in Him throughout the greatest of trials, Hezekiah had to learn what was in his own heart. “God left him, to try him” (2 Chr. 32:31). During the visit of the ambassadors of Babylon, he was flattered by being honoured by the important people of this world, and sought to put himself on their level by showing them all his treasures. God sums up Hezekiah's attitude by these few words: “his heart was lifted up” (2 Chr. 32:25). Such words are especially serious for a man who spent all his life with God. Everything that the grace of God had produced in his heart during his life gave him a greater responsibility.
For this reason God sent the prophet Isaiah to him to open his eyes to the true character of his behaviour, and announced to him that all the treasures which he was proud of would soon be taken away to the palace of Babylon, along with some of his descendants. The second book of Kings and the book of the prophet Isaiah recount Hezekiah's reaction: “Good is the Word of Jehovah which thou hast spoken” (2 Kings 20:19; Isa. 39:8). If we only had these two books we might have some doubts about the meaning of this reply, as Hezekiah added “there shall be peace and truth in my days”. However, the book of Chronicles clearly says: “Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2 Chr. 32:26). This defines the character of his declaration, “Good is the Word of Jehovah which thou hast spoken”. The heart which had been lifted up was brought down and bowed under the discipline of God. It is no small thing to consider as “good” the word of judgment pronounced against us!
The book of Chronicles links the humiliation of Hezekiah with the fact that divine judgment was deferred: “the wrath of Jehovah came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah” (2 Chr. 32:26). The king was not alone. His court and his people had been united with him in pride and worldliness, and then united with him in humiliation. God took account of this. The judgment that He pronounced would be carried out, but later. Nearly a century would pass before its accomplishment through Nebuchadnezzar.
The Humiliation of Manasseh.
2 Chronicles 33:10-13
The account which opens chapter 33 of 2 Chronicles is terrifying. How could such a pious king as Hezekiah have a son like Manasseh? “He wrought evil beyond measure in the sight of Jehovah, to provoke Him to anger” (2 Chr. 33:6). “And Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations that Jehovah had destroyed from before the children of Israel” (2 Chr. 33:9). In His patience God spoke to Manasseh and to His people, to endeavour to bring them back to Himself, but they paid no attention.
Then sudden judgment fell on the impious king. Jehovah caused the chiefs of the king of Assyria to come against him, and Manasseh was bound in chains and taken away to Babylon. We would tend to say: “he got what he deserved, it is over for him and so much the better!” But God has resources which we can scarcely imagine. In prison, in distress, Manasseh came to himself and besought Jehovah. It is written that he “humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chr. 33:12). God “was intreated of him and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem” (2 Chr. 33:13). What marvellous grace of God, which infinitely surpasses or thoughts!
Re-established in his position, Manasseh produced what John the Baptist later called “fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). He demolished the idols which he had erected, and the altars which were consecrated to them, and sought to bring the people back from the wrong way in which he had driven them; a difficult work and necessarily incomplete!
Practical Consequences for Us
Firstly, the four accounts which we have considered are a genuine encouragement to humiliation. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6). “But to this man will I look: to the afflicted and contrite in spirit, and who trembleth at My Word” (Isa. 66:2). In considering our poor state and our failures, surely we have cause to deeply humble ourselves? God shows us through His Word that He will never be indifferent to our repentance. In grace He will appreciate, in a just measure, the reality of the judgment which we are inclined to apply to our own ways. May a deeper knowledge of this bring us more to His feet, with a broken spirit! “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
Secondly, these accounts give us instruction as to our collective life, in relation to the failures of our brethren. According to the New Testament, we must stand firm considering those who have fallen or who walk in a disorderly way. But the Scriptures show us that we must — as far as the Spirit of God enables us to discern — take account of the smallest sign of return, as the story of Ahab in particular shows us.
J. A. Monard.
Psalm 119 (4)
(Continued from page 128)
1. ALEPH (1000) — OX
The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is aleph, which means “ox” or “cow”. This name is derived from its figure in the most ancient alphabet, which represents the rude outlines of the head of an ox. It is still found in the remains of Phoenicean inscriptions, and is taken from the ancient sign of the “constellation” taurus (bull). “Eleph”, which is very similar, means “elephant”.
The words “aleph” and “eleph” come from the root meaning, “to learn”, or “to accustom oneself”. Thus, the elephant is the largest animal that has ever been “tamed” by man (or has been “accustomed” to man). God delights in “reconciling” man to Himself, in blessing man, so that he may be “accustomed” to God, and to other men, living in peace with all men, as Romans 12:18 exhorts. This living in peace with one another is what Jehovah wanted for the “thousands of Israel” (Num. 10:36). In the letter “aleph” we have the thought also of an ox tamed and accustomed to man and in service to man. Lastly, the word for lion in Hebrew is “ari”, which also starts with the letter “aleph”.
As a numeral it stands for one, but when there are two dots above it the value is one thousand. The first and second letters of the Greek alphabet are “alpha” and “beta”, from which we get our word alphabet. These two Greek letters have no meaning. In the Hebrew language they are also the first two letters, aleph and beth, and together they form the word “ab”, which means “father”. This shows how prominent the “Fatherhood” of God is in the Scriptures.
Right at the beginning of this Psalm we have the type of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who said: “I am among you as He that serveth” and, I “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Luke 22:27; Matt.20:28). He gave Himself, the supreme sacrifice. For the heart of the believer, who sees in Him the burnt offering, He is typified in the “ox”. This offering typified the largest apprehension of His Person.
Verses 1-24. Resources for the Pilgrim Journey
Section One. Verses 1-8 : “The Happy Ones in the Way”
Verses 1-3. Reasons why they are such happy people:
Verse 1: ASH-REY … “Blessed … ”
The word for “Blessed” in the Hebrew is in the plural, and therefore describes the “abundant blessings” that are the portion of all true believers in Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ … ” (Eph. 1:3).
a. Consider their character: “ … the perfect … ”.
They were not always “perfect”, but once sinners, every one going his own way, dead in trespasses and sins. But Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin, to redeem sinners both from the guilt and power of sin.
It is interesting that the “ox” signifies the greatest measure of appreciation of the Person and sacrifice of Christ in the book of Leviticus. This Psalm begins by reminding us of the blessed Person of Christ and His worthiness and greatness, and what He means to the Father. Here in this first verse the Lord Jesus Christ is brought before us as the supreme sacrifice for sin. The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the letter “tau” which means a “sign” or a “cross”. We see therefore that the Psalm begins and ends by reminding us of the Person and death of Christ on the cross for sinners, that they might be “perfect” before God, in Him. The word “perfect” has the meaning of “blameless, complete, whole, entire, sound” (Ex. 12:5; Lev. 3:5; Ps. 19:8).
b. Notice where they walk: “ … in the way … in the law of Jehovah”.
In Isaiah 53:6 we read: “… we have turned every one to his own way … ” That was in their unconverted days. Now they are the Lord's. They have “found” the true way: “ … Jesus says … I am the way, and the truth, and the life … ” (John 14:6).
c. See how they are making progress.
After being born again there must be growth. Not only have they found the way, but they are walking in it. They are making progress.
The Hebrew verb for “walking” is “Hah-Lach” and has the meaning of going on, or going forward. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked … ” (Ps. 1:1). This is very practical. We are “in Christ” and, “As therefore ye have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him … ” (Col. 2:6-7).
Verse 2: ASH-REY … “Happy and abundantly blessed … ”
There is a double blessing here:
a. “They … keep His testimonies … ”.
Remember what we said about this word “testimonies”? It testifies what God is, and it also shows me what I ought to be. Before we can “keep” His testimonies, we must first have received them, accepted them, and be willing to obey.
b. They “seek Him with the whole heart … ”
Notice that they seek “Him”; they seek to please Him, to be more like Him. This is not a merely “intellectual” activity, but it is a question of the whole heart being engaged. My heart yearning after Him day by day, all day long. “Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart”, is the wonderful promise (Jer. 29:13).
Verse 3: APH … “Also (they do no iniquity) … ”
Here we have a double purpose:
a. Negative: “ … they … do no iniquity … ” As they “keep” His testimonies, and seek the Lord with their whole heart, staying close to Him, they do not sin. It is not characteristic of a true Christian that he practises sin. Rather, an act of sin in the life of a believer is considered an “accident”, totally uncharacteristic of his position. “ … if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous … ” (1 John 3:9; 1 John 2:1).
b. Positive: “ … they walk in His ways.” They walk with Him, and in His strength. He is the “way” in which they walk; like Him. “He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6). The effect of “abiding” in Him is seen in our “walk”.
Verses 4-6. What is the secret of their happiness?
Verse 4: ATA … “Thou (hast commanded us) … ”
1. There is first of all complete submission. Remember that a “commandment” is a divine imperative decree: it is an order. Whether to Adam or to Noah, they had to submit. Adam did not, but Noah did submit. Are we willing to submit our will to His will? This submission is not imposed upon us, we are not forced to submit to our Lord Jesus! That would be servile. No, it is because we love Him that we willingly and gladly submit to Him.
The verse continues: “ … to keep thy precepts diligently”. There is nothing superficial about this submission! It is not a partial submission, but complete. There is no reserve, no holding back part, no hesitation, but a glad and whole-hearted surrender.
Verse 5: AH-GHALEY … “Oh that! (Would that!) … ”
2. Then there is next a complete abandon. This is a prayer! It is the deep longing of the heart expressed in a sigh! There is a profound consciousness of complete weakness and inability of ourselves to do anything that is pleasing and acceptable to God. Here is a cry for assistance, for help, for power! Surely the Lord hears such a sigh! Surely the Holy Spirit will direct you and me to “ … keep Thy statutes”, to do His will and not our own! A “statute” is a divine direction to obtain our obedience, or to arrest disobedience.
Verse 6: AHZ … “THEN … then shall I not be … ”
3. Lastly there is complete confidence. “Then”: consequently! He has learned from experience. He has learned from past mistakes. He has learned that he will not be ashamed, when he has “respect” unto all the Lord's commandments! He says as it were: “Yes, looking back I am ashamed of those times when I acted in self-confidence and in my own strength and wisdom, and failed miserably. But now I have learned not to have this 'self-confidence', but to have complete confidence in the Lord”.
We must learn not to pick and choose with regard to the Lord's will for us. All His ways are blessedness and peace, all His will is good and acceptable and perfectly suited to our needs.
Verses 7-8. The happy results:
Verse 7: AHDAK … “I will thank Thee … ”
We saw in verse six that he had learned some very important and useful lessons. Here in verse seven we see what more he has learned by submitting himself and surrendering himself to the Lord. He has “learned the judgments of the Lord's righteousness.” What does that mean? The judgments of His righteousness are the decisions He makes concerning right or wrong, which give expression and put into execution the righteous character of God. We have much to learn about His “judgments”. We must learn that He always judges righteously, never arbitrarily or with any prejudice, as men judge. We must learn now on earth from Him, how to judge like Him, so that later, when we reign with Him a thousand years, we shall be able to put into practice what we have learned. Whatever He thinks best is good and right, even when He must discipline as a tender and compassionate Father. One day, when we shall stand before His judgment seat to be recompensed, we shall praise Him with uprighteousness of heart for all His righteous judgments.
Verse 8: ASHAMAR … “I will keep … ”
Meanwhile we continue our walk as Christians here on earth. What is to be our ambition? “I will keep Thy statutes … ”, is what the Psalmist said he would do. “Keeping” means to observe and put into practice. His “statutes” are His directives to obtain our obedience. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments”, the Lord Jesus said (John 14:15). As well as many other things, that means that we love one another with the same divine love that He Himself has poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). So there is divine provision to enable us to do His bidding. All this will keep us humble, realizing that of ourselves we can do nothing, as the Lord Jesus said: “ … without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). The Psalmist finishes this first section of eight verses with a prayer: “ … O forsake me not utterly”, but there is no need for us, believers in the present dispensation of grace, to think that the Lord will ever abandon us or that the Holy Spirit will leave us or be taken from us, for He abides with us for ever (John 14:16). However, this should not make us careless, but encourage us to continue on our way with this constant prayer: “Lord Jesus keep me close to Thyself”.
From the above arrangement the reader will notice that every verses starts with the same letter “aleph”. In the next section each of the eight verses begins with the letter “beth”.
(To be continued, if the Lord will).
“The Sermon on the Mount” (2)
Blessed are they that mourn (Matthew 5:4)
Nobody likes to mourn. Many prefer to avoid those who are mourning. It is so difficult to find words of comfort when somebody mourns the death of a relative or a friend.When the Lord Jesus Christ called them that mourn “blessed” in this second “beatitude” He was not thinking of mourning over the loss of a beloved person. No, when He said “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted”, the meaning was a completely different one.
Here we are concerned with the kingdom of God and He had come as King (see Matt. 12:28). How was He received by His people? “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). When He was born, there was no room for them in the inn, king Herod tried to kill Him, and His relatives once said that He was like one demented. Even His disciples, who were closest to Him during the three years of His public service, often did not understand Him; one denied Him, and one even betrayed Him to His enemies!
Yes, our Lord had much reason for mourning. He cried over Jerusalem and said about the city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” (Matt.23:37-39). After His appearance in glory for the establishment of the millennium He will be joyfully welcomed by His people and will be truly “comforted”.
The believing remnant of the Jews will also go through deep mourning during the great tribulation, shortly before this appearance of Christ. They will mourn the hardened state of the hearts of the people who will follow the Antichrist, and mourn the guilt of the Jewish people and their complicity in the death of the Messiah. But they, too, will be comforted by the Lord Himself: “the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (Zech. 1:17). “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isa. 66:13. See also Isa. 40:1; Isa. 49:13; Isa. 51:3, 12; Isa. 61:2).
Are there not reasons for a similar mourning among God's people in the present day? Do we see how the Lord Jesus is being dishonoured within Christendom, how the Word of God is not taken seriously even by true Christians, how hardness of heart instead of love, self-will instead of obedience, meaningless formalism instead of true dependence on the Lord, and worldliness instead of separation from evil are spreading? Do we pass by carelessly and indifferently, or are we above such things in a judging, self-righteous manner? Or do we do what is right and pleasing to our Lord: do we really mourn over the Lord being thus dishonoured?We find such a mourning in the Old Testament with Nehemiah, who said to king Artaxerxes: “why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?” (Neh. 2:3). We also read of Daniel and Ezra that they mourned over the unfaithfulness of God's people and the consequences of that unfaithfulness (see Daniel 9 and Ezra 9-10). We can learn from what these men of God did. Considering their age, none of these men could be regarded as personally responsible. They were not self-righteous and did not think of themselves as above their people. They confessed their people's sin and included themselves in their guilt. They understood that they themselves were no better and that they formed part of this people. That is why God owned them and answered them. That was their comfort.If in our day we take such an attitude, then the beatitude is valid for us as well: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Surely this will be the case in perfection only at the Lord's return, but even now in this prospect we have the comfort that God Himself will wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there will be no more mourning (see Rev. 21:4).
1 John 4:19
Because Thou first loved me
I love Thee Lord,
Sweet truth revealed to me
In Thy blest word;
Thoughts of Thy wondrous grace
Pure deepest joy doth raise,
My heart o'erflows in praise
Saviour, to Thee.
Father, Thy love I know,
For Thou hast given
Thy well-beloved Son,
Sent Him from heaven:
Sent Him to show Thy heart,
Thy boundless love impart,
And take us where Thou art,
Cleansed and forgiven.
Fruit of His work complete,
Made meet to see
Thy house of perfect love,
My home to be.
Yet, by Thy Spirit now,
Can I before Thee bow,
In true devotion vow
My love to Thee.
Respond, my feeble soul
To love divine!
Closed be my heart's desires
To all but Thine.
Hush every outside voice;
Thou, Thou art all my choice,
O, let my soul rejoice
In Thee alone.
Muriel J. Flett (1922-1987).
The Third Epistle of John
John again takes up his pen to write a brief letter to the well-beloved Gaius. Like the previous epistle to the elect lady, this is brief enough to have been sent out on a single leaf of papyrus. Again, an urgent matter had arisen in John's pastoral sphere that required prompt attention. He expected to visit Gaius soon. Since Gaius was among the more common names in the first century Roman world, it is perhaps best not to rush into attempting to identify the recipient of this epistle with those of the same name in Acts 19:29, Acts 20:4 or 1 Corinthians 1:14. The Gaius of Romans 16:23 is described by Paul as “mine host”. John's well-beloved friend certainly knew something of the privilege of exercising Christian hospitality. John's affection for him was sincere. The truth was the sphere in which their mutual affection flourished.
There was apparently no need to pray for Gaius's spiritual prosperity, for John knew that his soul prospered. Gaius seems to have been an exemplary believer. John nevertheless expressed his desire regarding Gaius's material well-being. The word translated here “be in health” is found in Luke 7:10 and 15:27 where, in the King James translation, it is rendered “whole” and “safe and sound”. When Paul wrote to the assembly in Thessalonica, he prayed that their whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23).
The fidelity of Gaius's conduct was a source of great joy to the apostle (even an apostle needed encouragement). Here he was refreshed by good news from visiting brethren. John's soul was thrilled to hear about one of his children1. The testimony Gaius had is one that ought to characterise us in these last days. Is our walk in the path of truth or are we conducting our lives on some fondly cherished prejudice which we vainly think is Christianity?
Again, the elder addresses Gaius with the affectionate term “beloved”. His work was the fruit of his faith. Hebrews 13:1 speaks of “brotherly love”, philadelphia, and in 13:2 of being not forgetful to “entertain strangers.” The two words “entertain strangers” have been used to translate one Greek word — philoxenia, which literally means “love of strangers”. Here in verses 5 and 6 we find love operating in a similar way. The strangers were brethren hitherto unknown. The truth is emphasised before John takes up practical love. Mr. William Kelly writes, “One must have the truth intact before we can speak of love or exercise it: else we may be helping Satan against Christ under the name of charity”2. Those who had been ministered to by Gaius could only witness to his love. Gaius did not live for himself, but was a brother who proved his kindness in caring for and serving others.
“If thou bring forward” (verse 6)
John desired to encourage Gaius to go on in his excellent work. His chief delight was to care for those who had gone out into full time service for the Lord. He set them forward in a manner worthy of God, not just after a godly sort — see the marginal note in the King James translation. It is right that those who have gone forth for “His Name's sake” should be supported and helped on. Paul expressed his confidence in his brethren at Rome that by them he would be brought on his way to Spain (Rom. 15:24. See also 1 Cor. 16:6; 2 Cor. 1:16 and Titus 3:13). The phrase “bring forward on their journey” suggests that the financial needs of the Lord's servants would be met by the saints. With the sacrifices Gaius would make, God would be well pleased. Had not the Hebrews been instructed: “to do good, and to communicate, (share) forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16). This service was most comely. While 1 Corinthians 16 teaches us that much of what is given is into the assembly collection, it is evident that further resources should also be devoted to the Lord's interests of an assembly character.
1The phrase, “my children”, seems akin to Paul's, “mine own son”, and suggests John's part in the conversion of Gaius (Titus 1:4).
2Brief hints on the Epistles of John by W. Kelly, 1903.
“For His Name's sake” can also be rendered “for the sake of the Name”. Only one Name matters, the Name of Christ. The travellers were not tourists, but had a mission. They were in the Lord's service and the Lord's people were to take account of this fact. They went forth without any desire to profit from the world. They might be needy but they would not stoop to ask for support from the world. Rather, these emissaries of Christ sought the good of the Gentiles — to bring them the truth as it is in Jesus. They maintained their dignity as being His servants and He would supply their needs, albeit through the saints. How unlike this primitive state is so much that passes in Christendom today. Fund raising and soliciting monetary donations are so prominent a feature of Christendom now that not to be asking for money seems strange to some. An unconverted friend visited our meeting room and searched in vain for a box to make his offering. He was truly perplexed. “How does your church work?” he asked.
Paul condemns the many pedlars who were making gain by corrupting the Word of God (2 Cor. 2:17). He refused to be chargeable to those to whom he preached the gospel of God (1 Thess. 2:1-9; 2 Thess. 3:8).
Another thing to note is that these faithful itinerant preachers, who were without any visible means of support, were also outside any formal missionary society or committee. Para-church organisations were not known in apostolic times3. Neither did the church send them forth. Doubtless they had the confidence and fellowship of their brethren locally and where they served, but there is no mention of any man-made structure or committee involved in their calling or support. We need to maintain this Scriptural order and not resort to man's carnal devices, which usurp the place of Christ, and have many pitfalls.
3Readers would find “Even So Send I You”, by Cor Bruins, helpful on this point.
“We … ought” (verse 8)
This verse opens with a statement of our obligation. Of course the assembly delights to acknowledge and support those sent out by the Lord. It is evident that we Christians must support Christian enterprises. It was not to be the privilege of Gaius alone: the apostle writes, “we”, and joined himself with all who should support and receive the zealous servants of Christ. They would receive nothing from the Gentiles, but we should receive them, thereby being co-workers and so playing our part in spreading the truth.
We now come to a name which still festers with disgrace. Down through the centuries this dark blot stands recorded against a man who loved to usurp Christ's place (See Col. 1:18). John had written some letter, not in the canon of the New Testament, which had provoked Diotrephes' pride. The apostles of old were, and their writings still are, the highest authority on earth in the assembly. When apostles wrote they expected obedience (2 Thess. 3:4; 1 Cor. 14:37). There was to be no apostolic succession. Diotrephes was evidently the thin end of the wedge. Monarchial bishops were functioning by AD 120 (See the article “The Rise of Clergy in Early Christianity” at page 117 of volume 1 of this magazine).
If John should come, he would be present in apostolic power and would certainly bring up the matter. The word “prating” conveys the idea of nonsensical talk. Diotrephes was opposed to John's position and sought to undermine it with baseless and spiteful slander. He clearly had pretensions to ecclesiastical authority. He was more concerned about his own name than the Name to which the humble preachers had addicted themselves.
John turned then to give a word of personal counsel to his beloved Gaius. He was to imitate that which is good. John obliquely questioned whether Diotrephes was a believer at all: “but he that doeth evil hath not seen God”. The true Christian is “of God” (1 John 4:4, 6; 1 John 3:6).
The truth which Demetrius professed was embodied in him4. His life closely resembled it and was in conformity to the truth. Gaius could therefore have confidence in Demetrius, a man honoured of God. It is a good thing in an evil day to look for others who are like-minded and in sympathy with the apostles' doctrine and fellowship. John's approval of Demetrius would carry weight with Gaius. He need not be alone, for the Lord would provide others with whom he could have true fellowship.
John “had many things to write”: much more than could be contained on a single sheet of papyrus. However, the epistle shows that the urgent need was to warn and encourage Gaius. He would soon enjoy refreshing fellowship with the elder. Undoubtedly he would contribute with moral influence what was needed to help in the strife-ridden situation.
“Peace be to thee” is a greeting familiar to Jews but here so appropriate in view of the pressure of Diotrephes' maliciousness.
The designation “Friends” is unique in the epistles. The Lord called his disciples “My friends” (John 15:14). Their privilege to be such was conditional upon obedience. Gaius was to greet the friends by name. They did not form an amalgam of nameless ones whose individuality and personality did not matter. Gaius was not to greet in a vague way, but everyone, individually, by name. The assembly should be a closely knit community where all know each other personally and are able to greet one another by name.
4Mr. H. A. Ironside suggests that Demetrius was “the servant who had been so ruthlessly barred-out by this self elected leader”, Diotrephes.
The truth as to Christ was the passport among Christians.
Hospitality and support were encouraged to be exercised to all believers who were in the Lord's service.
In spite of dark blots in the testimony, we may take encouragement from faithful men such as Gaius and Demetrius.
Spiritual resources are available in turbulent times to those who obey Christ's commandments.
E. N. C.
The bibliography is as given at the end of the previous article on the Second Epistle of John (page 101) but with the following additions: Brief hints on the Epistles of John, by W. Kelly, T. Weston 1903; Addresses on the Epistles of John, etc., by H. A. Ironside, Loizeaux, 1931.
From Our Archive
The True Grace of God Wherein Ye Stand (1 Peter 5:12)
God is made known to us as the “God of all grace”, and the position in which we are set is that of tasting “that the Lord is gracious”. How hard it is for us to believe this, that the Lord is gracious. The natural feeling of our hearts is, I know that “Thou art an austere man”; there is want in all of us naturally of the understanding of the grace of God.
There is sometimes the thought that grace implies God's passing over sin, but no, grace supposes sin to be so horribly bad a thing that God cannot tolerate it: were it in the power of man, after being unrighteous and evil, to patch up his ways and mend himself so as to stand before God, there would be no need of grace. The very fact of the Lord's being gracious shows sin to be so evil a thing that, man being a sinner, his state is utterly ruined and hopeless and nothing but free grace will do for him — can meet his need.
We must learn what God is to us, not by our own thoughts, but by what He has revealed Himself to be and that is “the God of all grace”. The moment I understand that I am a sinful man, and yet that it was because the Lord knew the full extent of my sin and what its hatefulness was, that He came to me, I understand what grace is. Faith makes me see that God is greater than my sin and not that my sin is greater than God. The Lord that I have known as laying down His life for me, is the same Lord I have to do with every day of my life, and His dealings with me are on the same principles of grace. The great secret of growth is the looking up to the Lord as gracious. How precious, how strengthening it is, to know that Jesus is at this moment feeling and exercising the same love towards me as when He died on the cross for me.
This is a truth that should be used by us in the most common everyday circumstances of life. Suppose, for instance, I find an evil temper in myself, which I feel it difficult to overcome. Let me bring it to Jesus as my Friend and virtue goes out of Him for my need. Faith should be ever thus in exercise against temptations and not simply my own effort; my own effort against it will never be sufficient. The source of real strength is in the sense of the Lord's being gracious. The natural man in us always disbelieves Christ as the only source of strength and of every blessing. Suppose my soul is out of communion, the natural heart says, “I must correct the cause of this before I can come to Christ”, but He is gracious; and knowing this, the way is to return to Him at once, just as we are, and then humble ourselves deeply before Him. It is only in Him and from Him that we shall find that which will restore our souls. Humbleness in His presence is the only real humbleness. If we own ourselves in His presence to be just what we are, we shall find that He will show us nothing but grace.
It is Jesus who gives abiding rest to our souls and not what our thoughts about ourselves may be. Faith never thinks about that which is in ourselves as its ground of rest; it receives, loves and apprehends what God has revealed and what are God's thoughts about Jesus, in whom is His rest. As knowing Jesus to be precious to our souls, our eyes and our hearts being occupied with Him, they will be effectually prevented from being taken up with the vanity and sin around; and this too will be our strength against the sin and corruption of our own hearts. Whatever I see in myself that is not in Him is sin, but then it is not thinking of my own sins, and my own vileness and being occupied with them that will humble me, but thinking of the Lord Jesus, dwelling upon the excellency in Him. It is well to be done with ourselves and to be taken up with Jesus. We are entitled to forget ourselves, we are entitled to forget our sins, we are entitled to forget all but Jesus. There is nothing so hard for our hearts as to abide in the sense of grace, to continue practically conscious that we are not under law but under grace; it is by grace that the heart is “established”, but then there is nothing more difficult for us really to comprehend than the fulness of grace, that “grace of God” wherein we stand, and to walk in the power and consciousness of it. It is only in the presence of God that we can know it and there it is our privilege to be. The moment we get away from the presence of God there will always be certain workings of our own thoughts within us and our own thoughts can never reach up to the thoughts of God about us, to the “grace of God”.
Anything that I had the smallest possible right to expect could not be pure, free grace — could not be the “grace of God”. It is alone when in communion with Him that we are able to measure everything according to His grace. It is impossible, when we are abiding in the sense of God's presence, for anything, be what it may — even the state of the church — to shake us, for we count on God and then all things become a sphere and scene for the operation of His grace.
The having very simple thoughts of grace is the true source of our strength as Christians; and the abiding in the sense of grace, in the presence of God, is the secret of all holiness, peace and quietness of spirit. The “grace of God” is so unlimited, so full, so perfect, that if we get for a moment out of the presence of God we cannot have the true consciousness of it, we have no strength to apprehend it; and if we attempt to know it out of His presence, we shall only turn it to licentiousness. If we look at the simple fact of what grace is, it has no limits, no bounds. Be we what we may (and we cannot be worse than we are), in spite of all that, what God is towards us is LOVE. Neither our joy nor our peace is dependent on what we are to God, but on what He is to us, and this is grace.
Grace supposes all the sin and evil that is in us, and is the blessed revelation that, through Jesus, all the sin and evil has been put away. A single sin is more horrible to God than a thousand sins — nay, than all the sins in the world are to us; and yet, with the fullest consciousness of what we are, all that God is pleased to be towards us is LOVE.
In Romans 7 the state described is that of a person quickened, but whose whole set of reasonings centre in himself. He stops short of grace, of the simple fact that, whatever be his state, let him be as bad as he may, GOD IS LOVE, and only love towards him. Instead of looking at God, it is all “I” “I” “I”. Faith looks at God, as He has revealed Himself in grace. Let me ask you, “Am I or my state the object of faith?” No, faith never makes what is in my heart its object, but God's revelation of Himself in grace. Grace has reference to what GOD is and not to what we are, except indeed that the very greatness of our sins does but magnify the extent of the “grace of God”. At the same time we must remember that the object and necessary effect of grace is to bring our souls into communion with God — to sanctify us, by bringing the soul to know God and to love Him; therefore the knowledge of grace is the true source of sanctification. The triumph of grace is seen in this, that when man's enmity had cast out Jesus from the earth, God's love had brought in salvation by that very act — came in to atone for the sin of those who had rejected Him. In the view of the fullest development of man's sin, faith sees the fullest development of God's grace. I have got away from grace if I have the slightest doubt or hesitation about God's love. I shall then be saying, “I am unhappy because I am not what I should like to be”: that is not the question. The real question is whether God is what we should like Him to be, whether Jesus is all we could wish. If the consciousness of what we are — of what we find in ourselves, has any effect than, while it humbles us, to increase our adoration of what God is, we are off the ground of pure grace. Is there distress and distrust in your minds? See if it be not because you are still saying “I”, “I”, and losing sight of God's grace.
It is better to be thinking of what God is than of what we are. This looking at ourselves, at the bottom is really pride, a want of the thorough consciousness that we are good for nothing. Till we see this we never look quite away from self to God. In looking to Christ it is our privilege to forget ourselves. True humility does not so much consist in thinking badly of ourselves, as in not thinking of ourselves at all. I am too bad to be worth thinking about. What I want is to forget myself and to look to God, who is indeed worth all my thoughts. Is there need of being humbled about ourselves? We may be quite sure that will do it. Beloved, if we can say as in Romans 7 “in me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing”, we have thought quite long enough about ourselves; let us then think about Him who thought about us with thoughts of good and not of evil, long before we had thought of ourselves at all. Let us see what His thoughts of grace about us are and take up the words of faith “If God be for us, who can be against us?”.
Divine Care (3)
The Care of the Son and the Holy Spirit
In the two previous articles in this series we have been occupied with God's care and the care of the Father. We have seen how this care sustains the suffering saint and supplies his temporal needs. Here in Luke 10, in this well-known parable, the emphasis is upon our spiritual need and the way in which this is met. In a few brief words the Lord portrays the full extent of that need. Sin having ravaged the man, whose journey from the outset had the place of the curse at its end, he was left in a half-dead state (Joshua 6:26). It is a picture, not of Israel only, but of the whole human race. The priest and Levite could give no help. The ravages of sin might be less apparent in their case, but the direction and end of their course was the same as that of the “certain man”. Their function was connected with the law. The law was given to show that sin was there, but having done so it could only convict and condemn (Rom. 3:20; Rom. 7:7; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). It might “see” and “look at” the sinful state of mankind, but it must pass by “on the other side”, showing the need of a remedy, but bringing none (Rom. 8:3a).
The weakness of the law in this respect having been manifested, we read next of the “certain Samaritan”. What Christian would question that the Lord was speaking of Himself under this figure? In the course of his journey the Samaritan came where the “certain man” was. This can be connected with the incarnation. The Lord Jesus well knew what our need was, and in His care for us He came down to meet it. In becoming flesh He identified Himself with those who are the objects of His care, and took up their cause (Heb. 2:14-18). Those who despised the grace in which He came had no sense of need and rejected Him: “Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (John 8:48). Nevertheless, His heart went out to the needy ones. He was deeply moved and yearned with compassion1 over them. Yet this in itself, wonderful grace though it was, left the root of the malady untouched.
Here in Luke 10 we read concerning the Samaritan, not only that he “came where he was”, but also that he “went to him, and bound up his wounds … ” This latter statement may be connected with the cross. The human nature which the Lord took was untainted by sin, but in those three hours of darkness “Him who knew not sin” was “made sin for us … ” (2 Cor. 5:21; Matt. 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:44). He fully identified Himself there with our state, and was dealt with by God in our place (Isa. 53:5-6; Rom. 8:3b).
The word for care used in verses 34 and 35 is care “involving forethought and provision” (W.E.Vine's Expository Dictionary of Bible Words) and these two verses develop the provision that has been made. Oil and wine are poured in, and the wounds bound up. Oil is a figure of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus having been “delivered for our offences, and … raised again for our justification”, the “love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given unto us” (Rom. 4:25; Rom. 5:5). This in turn leads to the joy of which the wine speaks. It is the joy of reconciliation to God: “And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11).
The Holy Spirit may be referred to again under the figure of the Samaritan's “own beast” (verse 34). The man was placed upon it and brought to the inn. It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jesus Himself was carried through this world. The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of Christ”, or, “the Spirit of Jesus Christ”, only three times in Scripture (Rom. 8:9; Phil. 1:19 and 1 Peter 1:11). In Romans 8 possession of the Spirit of Christ identifies those who belong to Christ in this Christian dispensation: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His”. Philippians 1 verses 19-20 show that the power for Christian living and testimony is found in that Spirit: “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death”. The reference in 1 Peter 1 is to the Spirit of Christ in Old Testament prophets.
1The word translated compassion only occurs in the synoptic Gospels. There are twelve references. It is used eight times of the Lord (Matt. 9:36; Matt. 14:14; Matt. 15:32; Matt. 20:34; Mark 1:41; Mark 6:34; Mark 8:2; Luke 7:13), once in a request made to Him (Mark 9:22), and twice in parables that speak of Him (Matt. 18:27; Luke 10:33). The only other reference is in Luke 15:20, where it is used of the Father.
The inn to which the man was brought may be taken as representing “God's house, which is the assembly of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). In this connection we have a third figure of the Holy Spirit — the inn-keeper. When the time came for the Samaritan to depart, it was to the inn-keeper that the care of the man was entrusted. When the Lord Jesus was about to depart out of this world and go back to the Father, He spoke to the disciples of “another Comforter”. This Comforter is the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7). Of course, the Lord in glory continues to care for His own, but in view of His departing He committed their care to One who could care for them as He had done — another divine Person. If this is so how are we to understand the promise of recompense when the Lord returns: “ … and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (verse 35). The word for care in verses 34 and 35, already considered, only occurs once elsewhere in the New Testament. This third reference is helpful here: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5). The care which the Holy Spirit shows is often exercised through believers whose spiritual formation has had that end in view. There has been a process of training in God's school, so that responsibility in this matter can be fulfilled. Those who do so will receive a reward when the kingdom is manifested in glory. As we consider the care of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may we be given grace to mirror the same care.
R. F. W.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
The Life of David (7)
The Throne of David
The Promise. 2 Samuel 7:1-29
David said, “I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God”, but God said, “Thou shalt not build an house for My Name”. Why? Because David was a man of war and had shed much blood. For this reason he was disqualified from building God's house, the Temple (1 Chr. 28:2-4). David was shown to be a humble, obedient and godly servant of the Lord. Without reasoning or complaining he accepted God's refusal of his sincere desire to build Him a house. In his later life he gathered together enormous amounts of gold, silver and other materials to enable his son, Solomon, to build the Temple in Jerusalem. His energetic preparations showed that he had no pique because his offer had been refused. What a lesson for believers in Christ! Resentment and ill-feeling because one's own way is refused shows a bad spirit and an underlying impoverished spiritual condition.
However, if David was not to be honoured in building God's house, he received from God something much greater. Through Nathan the prophet, God revealed what he had in purpose for David. God promised David that he would have a house, a kingdom, and a throne for ever (2 Sam. 7:16). God knew in His foreknowledge that the magnificent Temple that Solomon would build would be destroyed. Although partially restored in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, it was finally destroyed and was replaced by an evil king, styled Herod the Great. God's promise to David was forever and would eventually be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of David. It is this wonderful truth that makes the study of the throne of David so interesting.
David's dignified reply, as he sat before Jehovah, was beautiful and intelligent. There was no God like Jehovah Elohim. There was no nation so great and blessed as the nation of Israel. The land of promise belonged to them according to God's purpose and sovereignty. In that land God's Name would be blessed. David realised that the promise concerning his house, kingdom and throne were related to the greatness of God and His people Israel. God's promise to David wasn't simply to make David great (“Thou … hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree” 1 Chr. 17:17). It was to implement His purposes in relation to Israel and the land of Israel, for His own glory and their blessing (1 Chr. 17:1-27). David, like Abraham, “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:20-21). When God speaks He doesn't tell lies or make exaggerated promises. It is good for us as Christians if we accept without question what God says in His Word. Any other attitude is unbelief.
The message from God through Nathan must have been sweet to David's disappointed soul. To be assured that a seed of his would always sit upon his throne in Jerusalem was high honour indeed. Were God's thoughts fulfilled in the historical record of his seed reigning in Jerusalem? We must confess that His purpose was not fulfilled. Read 1 and 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles and many portions in the prophets. The few good kings, beginning with Solomon, David's son, had mixed testimonies. Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoash, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah and Josiah possessed excellent features and did good things for God. Regrettably they had some ugly features too. Disobedience to do all God's will is failure to represent Him rightly. The other kings of Judah, not mentioned, were grossly evil and a disgrace to David's name. Not one of them, good or bad, had God's words fulfilled in their reign. Hear what God said, “thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Sam. 7:16). The last king of Judah was taken captive to Babylon. He was blinded, bound in brass chains and carried ignominiously to that city (2 Kings 25:7). Was God's promise overthrown? It was not. If the historical account of David's seed ended in abject failure, it is obvious that another seed of David must come in order that God's promise to David may be fulfilled. Assuredly that Seed has come.
It is interesting and worthy of note that the throne is always referred to as David's throne, not Solomon's or any other king's (1 Kings 2:12; Jer. 13:13; Jer. 29:16). Solomon made a throne (1 Kings 10:18; 2 Chr. 9:17-18). The divine record reads, “there was not the like made in any kingdom” (1 Kings 10:20). It was a great throne. It was made of ivory overlaid with refined gold: the very best gold that was available. It had six steps. There were two arm rests and a carved lion beside each one. Carved lions were placed at each end of the steps; so there were fourteen carved lions in total. A footstool of gold was provided for the king. All this has symbolic teaching and interest. It will have its fulfillment in the One who is to sit upon the throne of David in power and glory for a thousand years. The throne is a subject in itself.
The Psalm. (Psalm 89)
Psalm 72 presents a beautiful picture of the coming kingdom of the Son of God, great David's greater Son. It was written for Solomon, but the features mentioned in the Psalm were never seen in Solomon's reign. They will be fulfilled perfectly in the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 89 has been selected to show that the promise referred to in 2 Samuel 7 was embodied in the worship of Israel in song. Ethan, the Ezrahite, wrote the Psalm. He was contemporary with Solomon, but not as wise as he (1 Kings 4:31). Parts of the Psalm refer to God's covenant with David: to his throne, his seed, and the fact that his seed and throne shall endure for ever (verses 4, 29, 36).
“I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn unto David My servant” (verse 3). “My covenant shall stand fast with him” (verse 28). “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness, that I will not lie unto David” (verses 34, 35). The promise of 2 Samuel 7 is reiterated in song and its eventual fulfillment is as sure as God's Word which cannot be overthrown.
David's throne and seed are joined together in song as they were in the promise given to David and also the duration of time “for ever”. “Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations” (verse 4). “His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven” (verse 29). “His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah” (verses 36-37). God's thoughts concerning His servant furnished a theme for singing in the house of the Lord (Psalm 89-see heading and verse 1; 1 Chr. 25:6-7). For how long it was sung we do not know, but it embodied all the great thoughts that God had for His valued servant. A note of failure is mentioned in verses 38-51, in relation to David's seed. Anything committed into the hands of men results in sad and grievous failure. The Psalm in its fulness and blessing waits to be fulfilled in another Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Prophecies (1). Jeremiah 33:14-26
The service of Jeremiah the prophet was performed in a decadent period in Israel's history. Israel, the northern kingdom, hadn't had one good king reigning over it. It's idolatry and wickedness had gone from bad to worse and eventually, under God's permissive ways, had been scattered among its enemies. With Judah, the southern kingdom, God had had patience for His servant David's sake. When God's patience was at an end He announced through Jeremiah that Judah would be carried to Babylon after Jerusalem was destroyed. Judah would be in Babylon for 70 years. Zedekiah, the last king to sit on David's throne, was a wicked and evil king, and the rule of the seed of David, historically, ended in him. But God was not defeated. How could He be? A God who cannot perform His Word is not a true and living God. It is in this context that the prophecy of Jeremiah 33 is so beautiful and encouraging. After the remnant of Judah returned from Babylon according to God's Word, there was no king of the seed of David raised up to be king over Judah (Jer. 29:10). Obviously Jeremiah's prophecy has a future application and will be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, the Son of David. The return of the remnant of Judah to Jerusalem was preparatory for the coming of the Branch of righteousness out of David a few hundred years after the return (Jer. 33:15a). The genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 clearly establishes that Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter, was none other than the Son of David. The central emphasis in the prophecy is in verse 17: “David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel”. Note that it is the house of Israel and not just Judah. The prophecy contemplates the nation unified and God's centre, Jerusalem, the city of righteousness. The foolishness of Rehoboam, David's grandson, was the immediate cause of the division of Israel and Judah, though God had already told Solomon that the kingdom would be rent because of the idolatry of Solomon (1 Kings 11:9-13; 1 Kings 12:12-19, 24). The wisdom and righteousness of the Branch out of David will heal the division of Israel and bring it to a pinnacle of greatness under Himself.
(To be continued, if the Lord will).
News from the Field
Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea
Dear friends in the Lord,
During my recent trip the same hymn was sung in several meetings in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. One sentence of this hymn reads: “And bless the Lamb with cheerful voice”. The hymn has been translated into Bulu (South Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea) and Kaka (East Cameroon) and Kombe (Equatorial Guinea). It was a special experience again to give thanks to the Lord Jesus for His death on the cross, with brothers and sisters of different tribes and countries.
Both at the beginning and at the end of my trip I got to know of a new work in this country going on in two cities:
Yaoundé: Since last year Bert and Sjoerdje Eysink have been living in this city and I was able to stay with them for some days. By means of a Christian bookstore, a Bible correspondence course and weekly Bible studies, they regularly have new contacts with interested people. From the second of May there has been the breaking of bread in this city. Two brothers (Joseph and Aimé) help our brother Bert in the bookstore. They accompanied me to the airport and I enjoyed their fellowship in the Lord during the waiting time there. Their questions and remarks proved a deep interest in the Word of God. Please pray for:
physical and spiritual strength for Bert and Sjoerdje to do their work
the six other brothers and sisters of the local assembly at Yaoundé, that the mutual fellowship may increase, both by their meetings and by mutual visits in their homes.
Douala: Since last month Huite and Betty Oppenhuizen have settled down in this large port. I stayed two nights with them in their apartment and experienced how hot and humid it can be in this city. Since last year meetings have been held in the house of brother Tchakounté Pierre, and I had the opportunity to get to know several believers during a Bible reading. Huite will soon open a Christian bookstore where the meetings will take place. Three young brothers are selling books in the streets every day. Please pray for Huite and Betty, who in an oppressive climate will have a lot of work to do after the opening of the bookstore. There are many sects in Douala, and some disappointed members of these are looking for the truth.
Brother Olla'a Jean was willing to visit the brothers and sisters in East Cameroon with me. Both at Nol and at Gadji we had Bible studies with the brothers and sisters. The Lord is blessing His work in Nol. An older man (Jean), who in the past was drunk every day, came to the Lord a short time ago. I met him regularly during previous visits and I was deeply touched by the Lord's grace. Jean radiates rest and peace, and he often visits brother Joseph to talk with him about the Lord. He often ran away from his home when his sons came home drunk. The brothers and sisters at Nol need our prayers. Problems in families and among relatives threaten to disturb the good mutual fellowship. At the request of the brothers Simon and Albert we studied 1 Corinthians chapter 10 (the Lord's Table) and 1 Corinthians 11 (the Lord's Supper). On account of the teaching that one can be defiled inwardly (communion with demons) by an outward act (eating of what is sacrificed to an idol), we were asked about customs during burials amongst the Kakas. Brother Joseph proved that the animal, which people eat during a burial, is called a sacrifice in the Kaka language. People eat this sacrifice (also called “the meal of the dead one”) to avoid more evil. After his explanations those present understood that “things sacrificed to idols” are called simultaneously “pollutions of idols” (Acts 15:29, 20).
Because of heavy rainfull, we could not drive to Batouri to visit the Ernst family. A large part of the road was very bad and on the way back we had to plough through the mud. The car I had at my disposal suffered much on this trip.
In South Cameroon I was able to visit the assembly at Mebanga. The brothers themselves had prepared everything for a conference of two days and had invited interested people of another village (Toko). I heard the date of this conference too late, and so I could only stay there one day. By the grace of the Lord, the bothers Laurent and Robert are still stable in their spiritual life. The young brother Zeh Daniel will soon take his place at the Lord's Table at Mebanga. Please pray for a good and lasting relationship between this young brother and the older ones.
On the way back to Equatorial Guinea I had the opportunity to stay one night with brother Eneme Samuel at Mekomo and to hold Bible studies at Evolé, and Endendem after that. Brother Samuel asks for prayer for wisdom in the education of his children.
The brothers of Nko'emvon told me that the annual conference will take place from 24 to 28 August, God willing. Some brothers from Ebolowa and Nko'emvon will also organize gospel meetings in the villages of Adjap, Mekomo and Bikpwaé in August D.V. Please pray that the Lord will bless these activities.
The brothers Zue Jules and Eneme Samuel (from Cameroon) visited Eyangebôt some months ago, where they had talks with several brothers and sisters. Their visits were very useful for the Lord's work in Equatorial Guinea. Therefore I was thankful that brother Jules had the desire to accompany me to Equatorial Guinea. We had a good time with Albert and Sue Blok and with the brothers and sisters at Rio Ekuku and Eyangebôt. Together with Albert we held meetings in both villages and had exploratory talks about the Lord's work. At Eyangebôt the brothers Jules and Madiba (from Rio Ekuku) had a talk with an elderly man who has attended the meetings for many years. We found that he was a powerful witch-doctor who is using occult power. The grandson of another brother in this village is educated by a witch-doctor now, after he had been healed by this man. It is not clear to what extent he or his wife approve of this education of their grandson. We think that fear of the power of darkness keeps them from a resolute attitude. They do need our prayers.
Albert and Sue pray that it may be possible to start a youth center in the town of Bata, in order to reach young people. At Rio Ekuku Sue started a Bible study group for sisters and Audrey van Kampen, the teacher of their children, started a Bible class for children at Eyangebôt. The Bible correspondence course they recently started gives them many contacts with interested people and also a great deal of work.
We thank you very much for your prayers during this trip, particularly for Jeanette and our children at home. The Lord gave the daily strength we needed and we are very thankful to Him for this grace.