Honouring our Head
God anticipated that this particular Scripture would become a matter for contention and therefore Paul closes the subject by writing, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (v. 16). Yet this is the Word of God and deeply important for the true blessing of all the church of God on earth. Paul has stated the truth and will not allow it to be a contentious issue. The truth of God is too precious and vital to be dragged down to the level of human argument.
Let us therefore approach such a subject with reverent, humble faith, desiring only that God will make His will clearly known and understood. We shall never lose by bowing to His own will but will prosper more greatly in spiritual growth and wisdom.
First, we must remember that 1 Corinthians is written, not to individuals as such, but “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth … with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:2). Therefore what Paul is saying is to be taken to heart by the whole assembly as such. All the assembly will be affected by the obedience or disobedience of any individual in the assembly, so all should be concerned that individuals should bow to the authority of God's Word. This chapter begins the subject of the assembly in its functions together and the first 16 verses are introductory. Verse 17 speaks of the Corinthians actually gathering together and that verse clearly connects with verse 2, for he praises them in verse 2 and says he does not praise them in verse 17. For in verse 17 he shows that in coming together they were exposing their own disunity. That disunity could be corrected by a true regard to the introductory verses 1 to 16. How important then that these preparations for gathering are closely observed!
The assembly in Corinth is commended for keeping the instructions Paul had given them (v. 2) but there was a matter that needed to be specially called to their attention. He wanted them to understand that “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (v. 3). It is certainly just as important to insist on this today as it was in Paul's day, for its significance is much more vital than many want to realise. This is actually God's order in creation, though the world ignores it. But if the church of God is to maintain any proper order it cannot ignore God's order in creation. Some have imagined that this cannot apply to the Christian, since in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). However, that Scripture has to do with the new creation and though the assembly is blessed now with all the spiritual blessings of the new creation, yet, as long as we are on earth, we are still in the sphere of the first creation. Our relationships as men and women are clearly those of the first creation, where God's creatorial order still applies. For in glory there will be literally neither male nor female (Matt. 22:30).
“The head of every man is Christ.” This fact surely gives us no difficulty. But some do object to the clear, decided fact that “the head of the woman is the man.” This does not imply that man is better than or superior to the woman but God has given him that place of headship. More than that, “the head of Christ is God.” Certainly Christ, as the eternal Son of God, is fully equal with God, yet as Man He is willing to recognise that God is His head. Should it be hard then for a woman to recognise man as her head, though she is equal with him? We should all see the great wisdom of God in this and bow with thankfulness before Him for it.
However, a man praying or prophesying with his head covered dishonours his head. His head is Christ: he is therefore dishonouring Christ. Why? The man is set by God in the place of authority and this is to be exercised under the headship of Christ. If a man in this case covers his head he is covering up Christ and in this way he dishonours Him.
On the other hand, if a woman prays or prophesies with her head uncovered she dishonours her head. That is, she dishonours the man who is her head. In what way? She is virtually putting herself in the place that the man should have. That is sad dishonour. If she covers her head, she shows that her place is subjection to the man, which is right.
Some have wondered if this applies only if a woman prays or prophesies audibly, and if therefore she need use a head covering in the assembly because women keep silent in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:34). Yet in the assembly meetings every person in the assembly is to participate fully in all the prayers and ministry and reading of the Scriptures, though most individuals usually participate inaudibly. A woman's spiritual exercise of taking part without speaking is just as important as the man's place in furthering the welfare of the assembly. This is too easily forgotten in our tendency to exaggerate the public place. Those who are behind the scenes have far more effect in the way a meeting progresses than we generally stop to consider. Other Scriptures confirm this lovely fact, such as Acts 1:14 where the disciples “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” All were praying but certainly not all were praying audibly. Acts 4:24 says that the company there “lifted up their voice to God with one accord.” Again not every one would pray audibly but all prayed with one accord. This unity is beautiful. The same is found in Acts 12:12: “many were gathered together, praying” for Peter who was in prison. The many were praying but we could not think that all were praying audibly. This instruction then clearly applies to assembly gatherings, though it is not confined to these.
Some also have said that since a woman's hair is given her as a covering, this is sufficient. However, while it is true that God has given her long hair as a covering, He expects her, on this account, to also cover her own head, thus confirming her agreement with what God has done. Notice also how clearly Scripture answers this when we are told, “If the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn” (v. 6). Can this mean, “if a woman does not have hair, let her also cut her hair off?” The very question answers itself. The force of this verse is that if the woman refuses to cover her head then she might as well go all the way in refusing also what God has done in giving her long hair. But since it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her then cover her head. Honest simplicity of faith can only bow to the facts as God gives them.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God” (v. 7). As such he represents God and God is to be, not covered, but prominent. “But the woman is the glory of the man” and the glory of man is not to be prominent. For in creation the man was not from the woman, as has been true subsequently, but the woman from the man, as Eve was taken from Adam's side. She was created for the man, for God had said it was not good for man to be alone. This was God's order in creation and therefore the woman should have the sign of authority on her head, that is, that she is under authority to her head, the man. It is added here, “because of the angels.” Angels are vitally interested in the order God has prescribed in His creation and they care as to whether both man and woman are obedient.
“Nevertheless, neither is the man without (or independent of) the woman, neither the woman without (or independent of) the man, in the Lord” (v. 11). There is a unity in God's creation that is seen to be most beautiful when both man and woman keep their place and function as each is properly fitted to function. For though the woman came from man to begin with, yet since that time man has come through the woman. Both are given a dignity that is peculiar to each and both should act in the dignity that is becoming to the particular place God has given.
This being the case the assembly is told to judge in themselves, is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? How could we ever dare to answer yes to this? And it is added, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” In the world today things are so out of course that people cannot even discern this evident lesson from nature. But believers should have no difficulty with this. Also, if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her. Nature teaches us this also, though it is often ignored, not only by unbelievers but sadly also by many believers. “For her hair is given her for a covering.” This is what God has done, in effect telling the woman that it is her glory to be covered. Her willing consent to this will induce her to cover her head when prayer or prophesying is exercised.
We have been thankful to learn in recent months that a number of denominational churches have been awakened to a sense of failure in having ignored this Scripture, and the women have been stirred to wear head coverings in their gatherings. This is a refreshing contrast to the trend in the opposite direction.
It has been a concern to some that if a lady visits a meeting she may be offended because others are wearing head coverings while she has none. On this account some have not worn a head covering because of apprehension as to what the other may think. This is too bad. For always our obedience to the Word of God is the best possible testimony to anyone else. Compromise in this is disobedience. The visitor may rightly ask questions if she sees others wearing a covering. We know of a recent case where one asked such questions and this led to her conversion only a few days after and to the conversion of her husband also. Then in coming to meetings she willingly adopted the wearing of a head covering without being told to wear it.
May our God and Father give grace that both the believing man and the woman may gladly accept the dignity of the honour with which God has invested each one and function willingly in that place. We surely know that God would love to see this rather than any contention about a matter that He Himself, in His great love and wisdom, has found necessary to bring to our attention.
L. M. Grant
God's Dealings With Hosea
In the Psalms we read, “Jehovah trieth the righteous” (Ps. 11:5, J.N.D. Trans.) and when we consider the persons whom He chose to carry out His plans we see that, to quote Job's words, He “doeth great things past finding out” (Job 9:10). For example, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of myriads of people and yet he and Sarah had to wait until they were old before they had a son. David was anointed in his youth by Samuel but for many years he was pursued by Saul. Jeremiah, called by God from his youth to testify to kings, was imprisoned and even dropped into a pit and on one occasion his whole prophecy was torn up and thrown on the fire.
Hosea was also a faithful man but he had to experience terrible problems in his family life. He had to act as a living parable for the Jewish nation that had turned away from God. First he had to marry a worthless woman and then beget children whose names would be a constant reminder of the corruption and wickedness of his people. We can imagine how difficult this must have been for him but he faithfully carried out his commission. He might have reacted as Peter did when he received a vision of various creatures that he regarded as unclean. When he was told, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat,” as a pious Jew he said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” We know the divine answer: “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” We do not read that Hosea questioned his commission. It was enough for him that it was the word of the Lord. Nevertheless it must have been a difficult task to carry out.
The name of the firstborn was significant: “God scatters.” The ungodly northern kingdom was doomed. When next a daughter was born God told Hosea to give her the name of Lo-ruhamah, which means “not having obtained mercy.” The Lord explained the meaning of this name: as far as the northern kingdom was concerned: He could no longer show mercy. As we know, the Jews of the northern kingdom were eventually swept out of their land by the Assyrians and completely lost their identity. Nevertheless, the faithful God never lost sight of His people and to Hosea He revealed His eventual purpose for them. When a second son was born God told Hosea to give him the name of Lo-ammi which means “not My people.” It would have been disastrous for the nation if God had left them in that state. But Hosea was given a message from God, who is a God of mercy, and the promise was given to these undeserving people: “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea.”
In the second chapter of Hosea's prophecy we read the message that was to be brought to these ungrateful people. It must have been hard for Hosea to tell the people that God would have to discipline His own nation but they were unfaithful and disobedient. Because He loved them He did not want them to follow the behaviour of the surrounding nations. He reminded them that He had brought them up out of Egypt and even now He was ready to forgive them for their idolatry and renew His covenant with them. The valley of Achor (“trouble”) would become a door of hope. God would remove all the idols that had been so damaging to their spiritual life and have mercy upon them.
In Hosea 3 the prophet was reminded of his unfaithful wife and told to take her back again. It is pointed out that this wife's behaviour was just that which the nation of Israel had done to their God. They would have to learn their lessons by bitter experience. “The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image” but eventually they would return to the Lord their God.
The final appeal to this nation is given in the last chapter of Hosea's prophecy: “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God … say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.” From God's side the prophet could give them a message of hope: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely.”
We do not know if Hosea himself saw the effect of his solemn warnings and entreaties. The final fulfilment of his prophecy is yet to come and the restoration of Israel will be glorious. Meanwhile we are able to see something of the love that God still has for His earthly people. We know that the day is coming when our blessed Lord, who was rejected by His earthly people when He was here on earth, will be recognised as King of kings and Lord of lords. Israel shall be restored, the nations shall recognise Israel's supremacy, and the earth will at last enjoy peace. Meanwhile, since the Jewish nation cast out and crucified their divine Deliverer, God's messengers are scattered throughout the world and day by day thousands of Jews and Gentiles hear the good news and are added to the favoured company, the assembly of the Living God.
R. E. A. Retallick
Studies in the Book of Revelation (2)
(The Plumstead Conference, April 1995)
Continued from page 222
“And after this I saw four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the earth, nor upon the sea, nor upon any tree” (v. 1).
The order in which these things are presented to us is important. It is made clear that God has complete control of the situation, even of the worst powers which may act upon the earth. The earth may be in total turmoil but God takes care of the saints. He knows each one and this is so important for our comfort and consolation. Nothing is too difficult for Him, nor any situation too dangerous.
In this verse the expression “the earth” is used in two different senses. What I am referring to is, “on the four corners of the earth,” which I take to be literally the earth as we know it today. But further on in the verse, “that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea,” the earth has rather the significance of what is stable in contrast to what is in turmoil like the waves of the sea. Israel, for example, came from the hand of God having a certain measure of stability, while the sea seems to represent anarchy and that kind of thing amongst the nations.
In Revelation 6:13 we get the mighty wind as a figure of God's judgment and this is held back until God seals His own.
It is a very important thing that as much as God intervenes in judgment man refuses to repent. They are more and more against God. That is why their judgment is so much more awful. There is always time given for repentance. That is the essential message of the seven churches time, and God does not change.
In connection with the reference to, “nor any tree,” we are again shut up to symbols as taught to us in the Scriptures. “The trees of the Lord are full of sap,” we read in the Psalms (Ps. 104:16), speaking of the saints. But we find the tree also used in connection with Nebuchadnezzar. It seems to refer to persons, does it not? So that here no power can hinder God from His intended purpose in connection with blessing.
The tree also represents ruling power. In this connection the only emblem in blessing is the cedar tree in Ezekiel 17, which is a figure of the Lord Jesus. Usually in Scripture the tree is a ruling power where “the birds of the air” take refuge (Matt. 13:32). This was the moral character of the heads of the Gentile empires. The church in the Pergamos period should never have taken refuge under the wings of the political powers and should not subsequently have set herself as a governing body in which men of the world take refuge.
We find in Revelation that the powers of nature are several times connected with the angels and in Hebrews 1:7 you find that God has made the angels as winds (spirits). I think these winds in verse 1 of this chapter are connected with supernatural powers. In Zechariah 6 we have the question in connection with the four chariots, “What are these, my lord?” (verse 4), and in verse 5, “These are the four spirits of the heavens.” In the Dutch translation we have, “These are the four winds of the heavens.”
“And I saw another angel ascending from (the) sunrising, having (the) seal of (the) living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it had been given to hurt the earth and the sea … ” (v. 2).
Is this other angel in Revelation 7:2 Christ?
I don't think that it can be the Lord Jesus Christ. He says: “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God.” It seems unlikely that the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to there, speaking of “our God.” It isn't until chapter 8 that we have Christ coming forth in angelic form.
In the New Testament there are about a hundred and eighty six references to angels but I notice that seventy six of these are in the book of Revelation, so our consideration of angels is really a very important one. I think there are at least two clear instances where we can see that the angel is the Lord, that is Revelation 8:3 in connection with the incense, and then in Revelation 10 which we shall come to in a later reading. As to the angel here in verse 2, it is difficult to be absolutely dogmatic. There is the statement, “until we shall have sealed the bondmen of our God.” Although it is a divine activity, servants are prominent in this book and the Lord is using His servants in connection with the sealing. You get a somewhat similar instance in Revelation 18 where the angel cries with a strong voice: “Babylon the great is fallen.” Some think that that is again the Lord but it is difficult to say whether it is the Lord personally or whether it is one of His servants.
Regarding the interpretation of the symbols, we have spoken of the earth as a stable state and of the sea as an unstable state. As a general rule Scripture should be interpreted by Scripture and for example with regard to the sea one of the significant verses is Isaiah 57:20, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, and whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” Regarding the angels, we have to be careful, as it is said in Hebrews 1:14 that they are “ministering spirits, sent out for service on account of those who shall inherit salvation.” They are ministering to the saints but basically they are servants. They are important but it is God who is acting and the angels are only instruments. In the Evangelical world there are even books which emphasise the action of the angels for the believer, but the contact which the believer should have is with the Lord, with God. We should rely upon the action of God, or the Lord, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and not be preoccupied with the angels who are just instruments.
Could we link the sunrising in verse 2 with Ezekiel 43:2, “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east; and His voice was like the voice of many waters; and the earth was lit up with His glory.” In my understanding it has something to do with the blessings in relation to Israel. Israel seems distinctly in the mind of God when we come to the next section.
When the glory reluctantly departed from Israel it moved from the house to the city and to the mountain. I take that to be the Mount of Olives on the east side of Jerusalem. That will be the direction from which it will come back, in keeping with other Scriptures such as, “His feet shall stand … upon the mount of Olives” (Zech. 14:4).
The first eleven chapters of Ezekiel describe how the glory of God left the earthly house. It went from the holy place, stopped at the entrance gate, went to the east of the city, across the brook Cedron to the Mount of Olives and up into heaven. This is the way the Lord Jesus left the earth according to His future relationship with the earth but for us He left the earth from Bethany. Ezekiel also provides the link with the future time. Ezekiel 43 is a prophecy; it has not been fulfilled yet because at present the times of the Gentiles are still continuing and the double word Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi has been put on the people. But the way of the deliverance for them will be from the east, the rising sun.
This is connected with the cry of triumph in Psalm 24 when we read, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates.” This is not the weeping of the prophet but the rejoicing of his people as they see the glory now returning to the nation.
“ … saying, Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we shall have sealed the bondmen of our God upon their foreheads” (v. 3).
At the time when these Scriptures were written it seems that the Roman soldiers had a seal in their wrists and the worshippers in the idol temples had a seal on their foreheads. These were marks of ownership. Slaves also had a seal in their foreheads, marking them off as owned by those to whom they belonged. This is only an historical point but perhaps it throws up into greater relief the significance of the seal in the Scriptures that we are now reading. We find that the Jewish remnant are in the position where they are God's soldiers and worshippers and bondmen.
I suppose the whole gist of this puts things differently to what we know today. That is why we are sometimes at a loss to understand some of the passages here. We are used to the Lord's words, “I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God,” but in this passage that is not quite the case. God is not said to be “our Father” and the many references to angels in the book of Revelation seem to bring in a certain element of distance. The saints are regarded as servants in this book and even John is addressed in that way. Perhaps we find this difficult to understand because we are in a place of intimacy and nearness today.
The very first verses in the Revelation confirm this when we read, “to shew to His bondmen what must shortly take place; and He signified it, sending by His angel, to His bondman John.” This furnishes a key to the understanding of the whole book.
Is there the thought in the seal on the forehead that the seal is publicly known to everybody?
Yes. At that time it will be very clear as to who is on the Lord's side and who is on the beast's side. The two marks, the seal here and the mark of the beast, will be very apparent. There will be no middle ground. Today the barrier is often blurred and it is easy to be occupied in a lot of worldly activity with a thin veneer of Christianity on top of it.
Even today we should not be in the grey area because it is not according to the thought of God. That is the trouble with Laodicea. It is an assembly but the Lord is outside.
The seal represents the fact that those souls are saved and have God's life. They are not in the Christian position, obviously, but they live for evermore. Death has no power upon them any more. They may go through the first death but they will not be touched by the second death.
That is also the reason why it is of so much interest to consider such a chapter. Someone might ask why, since these believers are not Christians, we are studying these verses. But then we see the true character of the world which is totally an enemy of God and an enemy of the true believer. That is the real situation and how can we mix with the world? On the other hand those who are on the side of God are distinct. God has His eye upon them and takes care of them. In verses 9 to 11 of the previous chapter, which describe the opening of the fifth seal, it is so interesting to see that there is a connection between heaven and earth. Heaven is not indifferent to what happens on the earth and there is prayer which has consequences for the earth. It is not the kind of prayer that we should pray now, because they ask for revenge, but nevertheless there are prayers which have consequences.
“And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred (and) forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of (the) sons of Israel … ” (v. 4).
Those who go forth preaching the gospel of the kingdom are a continuation of the work of the disciples when the Lord was here. That is said in Matthew: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come” (Matt. 10:23). Looking at the disciples in John's Gospel, they are the nucleus of the assembly, but in Matthew they are representative of the Jewish remnant and that work is carried over. When the Lord was here that would have been only Judah and Benjamin. How is it then that in this passage we have the whole twelve tribes? I would have thought that the actual Jewish remnant continuing the work of the disciples was rather Revelation 14 than here in Revelation 7.
God will seal those from out of Judah and Benjamin in chapter 14, but here the principles that we see in Matthew 24 and in Revelation 14 extend to a larger group of witnesses, perhaps with a view to the everlasting gospel going to a wider circle than just the land of Israel.
Is it not the case that the other ten tribes are not brought back till after Jerusalem has been delivered from bondage?
That is Ezekiel 20. When the Lord addressed His disciples in front of the temple, at the beginning of Matthew 24, He was on the Mount of Olives. He considered His disciples as those who had received His secret, as those who were to form the basis of the church, and as those who will continue the testimony on earth after the rapture of the church. In other words, the period of the church is not excluded but it is not directly in view. If you don't remember this, Matthew 24 and 25 is impossible to understand and you are carried away into all sorts of difficulties. Matthew 10 tells us that that generation, unbelieving or believing ones, will have the same character as those who lived in the time of the Lord. Considering this, then definitely those marked with the seal carry God's testimony here on earth at that moment. I would say that the first witnesses will be from Judah and Benjamin, but among those who will be judged on the way back to Israel (Ezekiel 20) there will be a faithful remnant and those will be carrying God's testimony with the others. In other words they are the same company and the two and ten together will carry God's testimony at that moment.
It is difficult to place a time on the judgment of the ten tribes on their way back to Israel. In the first two books of Psalms it is only the Jewish remnant from Judah and Benjamin which are spoken of. In the third book, after the glory (Psalm 72), the ten tribes join with the two tribes. I don't know when this is in relation to the sequence of events of Revelation. I don't think it is an object of our faith. The teaching is morally important for us but we cannot date the events.
And the moral dealings of God are clearly delineated in connection with Judah and Benjamin, not in relation to the ten tribes who are largely passed over. We do see that eventually they are brought in. In Matthew 24:31 you find the gathering together of His elect from the four winds. That is the ten tribes. Again in Isaiah 11, verses 11 and 12, you find that there is a gathering in of the ten tribes, but how the work is accomplished in their souls I don't think Scripture tells us.
What we have in Matthew 24:31 regarding the trumpet gathering them together is the fulfilment of the Feast of Trumpets. The Feast of Trumpets comes before the Day of Atonement and the Day of Atonement is accomplished when they look upon Him whom they pierced (Zechariah 12:10). Those who are there and looking upon Him whom they pierced must be those who were present in the land when they crucified the Saviour.
Which is Judah and Benjamin. They are more guilty than the others.
When we consider the last part of Matthew 25, just before the judgment of the living, the messengers of the gospel of the kingdom are standing by the Lord Jesus on earth. Who are they? Are they essentially from the two tribes or have the ten tribes also joined them? We don't know but it may be something connected with Revelation 7.
When the judgments of the last half of the week fall upon this world you might think Israel are going to be completely obliterated, so heavy and so terrible are those judgments going to be. Before they start God says as it were, “I have sealed them all,” and no matter what happens, to repeat again the words from Romans 11, “And so all Israel shall be saved” (v. 26). We ought to cleave to that because there are hosts around us today who think that Israel is finished as a nation and that all their blessings are being fulfilled spiritually in the church today. That is absolutely wrong. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”
The purpose of this chapter is to consider all the saints. That is why we have the Gentiles from verse 9 onwards. For this reason it is clear that the ten tribes cannot be omitted. There is however the question why the people of Israel are numbered when no counting is made of the Gentiles?
I think the answer is that administration, as far as the earth is concerned, is committed to Israel. On the heavenly side you see administration coming out in the holy city in Revelation 21. In the meantime there is an administration in relation to blessing going out to the Gentiles. Here in Revelation 7 the twelve times twelve seems to indicate an administration in connection with the going forth of the everlasting gospel.
Even Satan acknowledges it at the last rebellion at the end of the millennium. He goes nowhere else except to Jerusalem to try to destroy the saints. The capital of the world in millennial times will not be London, excuse me, Paris, or even Rome. It will be Jerusalem. When the world was organised by God and humanity placed on the earth, Israel was the centre. It is the centre of the compass points in Scripture. To the north of Israel is Syria, which is “the king of the north.” To the south if Israel is Egypt, which is “the king of the south.” The capital of Christianity is in heaven where the Lord Jesus sits but God will recognise the millennial earth and the centre and capital will be Jerusalem. This is very humbling for the nations. After all, that little nation is nothing, so few, and yet it will be through Jerusalem and Israel that God will govern the entire world. That is why the 144,000 are sealed first and those from the Gentiles later.
Psalm 87: “And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her; and the Highest Himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count, when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there.” You don't read that about the Gentiles but Israel is counted.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
The editors are indebted to a reader who has drawn our attention to a mistake on page 216 of the previous issue. The 16th line of the second paragraph should read “The seventieth of the seventy years … ” and not “The seventh of the seven years … ”
Politics and the Christian
That the place of a Christian is in the world but not of it is very evident from the prayer of the Lord in John 17, ere he went to Golgotha. The example which the Lord set His disciples was one of meekness, humility and obscurity as to the affairs of this world. He came not to judge the world but that the world through Him might be saved. To that end He was willing to suffer what in the eyes of the world was defeat but in reality was the triumph of the grace of God. The way of freedom and liberty is now open to all, even though in this life a man may have to be subject to an overbearing government. True liberty is freedom from sin, the world and Satan, and the blood of Jesus has opened that new and living way, the way of liberty.
It is an open contradiction for a man who knows the way of liberty to be engaged in the politics of this world for such an one must be conscious of the scene of death all around. It is patently impossible to make comfortable those who are in the grip of death and to try is folly. They need life! The remedy is the preaching of the cross, solely and simply. It is God's remedy. It was commenced by Jesus and carried on by His apostles who made no attempt to better the world, defeat the Romans, or introduce education. They simply preached Christ and Him crucified. Those thus brought into liberty were then exhorted to obey them that had authority.
When Christians aspire to positions of power in the world they become prey to the doctrine of Balaam (see the letter to Pergamos) and this soon degenerates into the terrible excesses of Jezebel, who usurps authority (see the letter to Thyatira). However, the letter to Sardis expostulates that there is death in the midst and the works are incomplete before God. It is evident then that if a world-loving church gives rise to Romish corruption, Protestantism is also sadly at fault in that it harbours death and its works are incomplete.
What is needful therefore is a complete reappraisal of the situation by all right-minded Christians whose faith is founded on the finished work of Calvary and not on creeds and dogmas. Surely we would not be so occupied in making the dead more comfortable in their death that the Lord would come upon them as a thief? No! No! We would rather be found with our lamps trimmed and our eyes watchful, awaiting the glorious advent of the Life-Giver. Rather would we be found “Holding forth the word of life,” and “exhorting (encouraging) one another: and so much the more as ye (we) see the day approaching” (Phil. 2:16; Heb. 10: ).
Basil Wolf, Jr.
The author wrote this when in hospital in 1987 and passed it on to a sister who visited him at that time. He was called home to be with the Lord on 11 February 1995.
Having Loved His Own Which Were In The World (3)
The hearts of the disciples were filled with sorrow and loss. The Lord whom they loved was leaving them and they did not know where He was going or why. At the contemplation of not seeing Him again their hearts were deeply troubled.
How beautiful then were the Lord's words to His own, “Let not your heart be troubled.” He would have them without care even though His heart was burdened. If the Lord would have the feet of “His own” without defilement, He also would have their hearts without distracting fear. “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” He introduces them to the sphere of faith. If God was unseen and yet an object of faith, He was now going to be likewise. He would have their hearts hold Him as an object of living faith. Though absent from them He would still love them. “In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Love reveals to love where He is going. He speaks the truth in love that He may strengthen their confidence in Himself. His going away to the Father's house was so that He might make room for them. How this must have thrilled their hearts! It was for their sakes He was going away, that His place there might be their place. As He had dwelt in their circumstances, even so they would dwell in His. But such was His love that He would come personally and receive them to Himself and bring them into His place. “Where I am, there ye may be also.”
He is now conducting them to what is spiritual and not to what is material. Nor does He engage them with the details of what lay ahead for Him but with the One to whom He was going. “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” What He had just said was in no way mystical. They already knew, in a conscious way, the meaning of His words. Thomas, puzzled at this, asks as to “whither” and “the way.” The Lord's answer centres upon Himself as “the way,” and the Father as the “whither.” The end would be the fulness of what they already knew in measure, as He goes on to show. Love reveals to them the oneness and the fellowship of the Father and the Son. The One in their midst — the Son — seen and heard, represented the One unseen: the Father. He was made manifest in the Son.
The disciples, like Israel, had heard and witnessed His marvellous words and works, but never fully realised what they heard and saw. So the Lord has to say, “If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also.” He now brings them to the truth: “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” Love draws them on and closer to Himself. He makes known the oneness of the Father and the Son: “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.” What they heard and saw found its source in the Father. The works that the Lord did were not only proof of His own Person but also a revelation of the Father. How love delights to make known these things! But love would give “His own” part in this testimony. For as He represented the Father so those who believed on Him would represent Him. And those who are here for Him will have yet a fuller testimony when He goes back to the Father. If love bestows part and privilege, it also gives liberty. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do.” If “His own,” left in this world and bearing His Name, ask, He in the glory will answer freely for the glory of the Father. They, through the Son, can glorify the Father. His separation from them would, through His Name, guarantee confidence and assurance in Him. What blessings of love the Lord shows to “His own.”
(The brother who has written this series of articles
wishes to remain anonymous)
House, Not Made With Hands (2)
“For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1)
(Continued from page 195)
God's Purpose and the earnest of the Spirit
We have already seen that being “clothed upon” is the true hope of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only is this so but verse 5 assures us that it is the purpose of God for us: “Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 5:5). This is put just as clearly in Romans 8:29: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” To emphasise once more what has been said, to be “clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” is equivalent to being “conformed to the image of His Son.” However, there is also God's sovereign work within. This is described in the words, “Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God.” Sinful creatures as we are by nature, only the work of God could bring about such a radical change. This, and the work of redemption done by Another, has made us suitable for such a glorious end: to be like Him. We may pause and reflect on how indebted we are to God's sovereignty. There is nothing of ourselves for we were unable to contribute anything. It should draw from our hearts the worship which is rightly due to God. It might also be asked, “What manner of life ought to be seen in those who are the subjects of God's purpose and grace?”
As we wait for that time of being “clothed upon,” God has given us the “earnest of the Spirit.” This is a wonderful subject referred to in other Scriptures. In this same epistle, chapter 1, Paul refers to “the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (v. 22). And in Ephesians 1:14 the Holy Spirit of promise is said to be the “earnest of our inheritance.” The Holy Spirit is the guarantee or part-payment of the whole. The two references in 2 Corinthians teach us that there is present blessing to be enjoyed as we look forward in anticipation and the expression “in our hearts” confirms this.
At Home — Absent
The next three verses in 2 Corinthians 5 give us light as to the condition of the believer between falling asleep and the resurrection (v. 6-8). The state described in the earlier part of the chapter as “unclothed” is here given as “absent from the body,” and “present with the Lord” (v. 8). Before this Paul describes believers while alive as being “at home in the body” and “absent from the Lord” (v. 6). What is said here is in line with the earlier portion of the chapter that speaks of “our earthly house of this tabernacle.” It is but a temporary dwelling and while we are at home in it we are absent from the Lord.
Verse 7 is a very important parenthesis: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” This governs the whole of our lives while in our present flesh and blood condition. All the spiritual blessings we possess are true to faith but are not visible or tangible. If absent from the Lord, we have not seen Him with natural vision. However, faith carries with it great certainty and Hebrews 11 comes to mind in this connection: “Now faith is the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1, J.N.D. Trans.).
Faith gives certainty “But we see Jesus … ” (Heb. 2:9)
Faith attracts our hearts to Him “Whom having not seen, ye love” (1 Peter 1:8)
Faith gives us endurance “He (Moses) endured, as seeing Him who is invisible”
Yet with all the certainty which faith gives, keeping within the context of our chapter, it is still true that we are “at home in the body” and “absent from the Lord.”
Thinking again of the “unclothed” condition, referred to above, it is to be “present with the Lord.” Paul does not elaborate upon this state but the word “present” may be rendered “at home” (RV). This is a comforting word. At death the spirit leaves the mortal body but for the believer there is the consciousness of being at home. There is no such thought in Scripture as “soul sleep.” It is the body that is asleep, awaiting the shout of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16). This “unclothed” condition is referred to in another place as being “with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). There is no doubt about this. The Lord Jesus made this promise to the dying thief: “To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). How sweet is the thought, “with Me” — it is His desire. When the Lord comes again, to raise the sleeping saints and to change the living saints, the apostle says, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). To go back again to our original theme, we will spend that eternal day “with Him,” having “a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
The Christian's Ambition
Verse 9 brings us to the practical response. The apostle speaks for himself and his fellow-labourers. “Wherefore also we are zealous, whether present or absent, to be agreeable to Him” (J.N.D. Trans.). The word used here is “ambition.” The literal translation is, “Wherefore we are ambitious.” It has also been rendered, “We make it our aim.” While it was perfectly true that the apostle groaned, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with “our house which is from heaven,” as long as the Lord left him here he was ambitious to please Him. His sentiments are similar in the Epistle to the Philippians: “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). It seems as though he was in a quandary, not knowing which way it should be. He then thinks of the encouragement and help needed by the saints. He goes on, “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (v. 24).
This is where his ambition lay. Caring for the saints was all part of his intense desire to please the Lord. There cannot be a greater aim in life than to please Him. This should be the over-riding motive in every department of the believer's life. There are ambitions we all have which are legitimate. Young believers have to make decisions as to choosing a career and a marriage partner. But over and above this there is to be that single eye to please the Lord. The believer's body, of which so much has been said in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5, is to be presented to God as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).
The Judgment Seat of Christ
“For we must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of the Christ, that each may receive the things done in the body, according to those he has done, whether it be good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10, J.N.D. Trans.). This verse raises very sobering concerns. It appears to be much wider in its scope than the more familiar passage in 1 Corinthians 3:12 to 17 which deals with our service. Rather, the verse here deals with the “things done in the body.” Whichever way we view 2 Corinthians 5:10, one thing is certain: “we must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of the Christ.” Everything will be assessed at its true value. Thinking of this day, Paul writes of “the righteous judge” (2 Tim. 4:8).
It is not to be judged for our sins that we will be manifested there but that the value of our lives and conduct in His sight may be made known. The matter of our acceptance before God has been settled once and for all and the closing verse of this chapter is adequate proof of this: “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Christ's Greatness in the Epistle to Laodicea (3)
(Continued from page 210)
“Because thou sayest” (Rev. 3:17)
In contrast to the mouth of our blessed Lord we find in verse 17 what was proceeding out of the mouths of the Laodiceans. The assembly speaks about itself, not about Christ. What a contrast with what the Lord says in Revelation 3:10 concerning Philadelphia: “thou hast kept the word of My patience … ” The assembly in Philadelphia was characterised by faithfulness and loyalty to Christ, although He is presently absent from this scene. The Lord could say of them that they have “kept My word” and have “not denied my name” (Rev. 3:8). This appreciation of His Person and of His Word marked them and singled them out. Philadelphia appreciated Christ, did not have room but for Christ, and gave attention only to Christ.
In Laodicea this condition has totally changed. There is appreciation, room and attention for everything but Christ. This is the end of the course begun in Revelation 2:4, when first love was forsaken. Is this not illustrated in Israel's history, according to the words spoken by Moses? “Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein: And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deut. 8:12-14). Remember Agur's prayer in Proverbs 30:9: “Lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”
The culture in which the assembly of Laodicea was placed had its influence on it, as happens in our days as well. Laodicea was an important centre of trade and communication. Its wealth came partly from the production of a fine quality of famous wool. Laodicea was so wealthy that after the great earthquake of A.D. 17, which destroyed it, they refused help from Rome for the rebuilding of the city. In other words they did not feel the need for help. This is the attitude that prevailed in the assembly as well. “I am rich, and am grown rich, and have need of nothing” (J.N.D. Trans.). All this implies a warning for believers today who live in an affluent society. It also shows that having Philadelphia's principles is not sufficient for us today. As well as holding fast those principles we need to be found in the condition that characterises Philadelphia!
To say something is one thing but to be something is quite another. Sadly, the Christians in Laodicea said much about themselves but they were in God's eyes the very opposite of what they were claiming. This was in stark contrast to the Lord Jesus in His walk on earth and also to how He wants to be displayed in believers down here today (Phil. 2). Could that happen to us today? Paul anticipates such an attitude in Romans 11:19 and 25. There is the danger of being wise in our own eyes as if all our resources are in our own hands. This would be to despise the lessons of the history and failure of Israel, which are given for our instruction and admonition. It reminds us of Proverbs 13:7: “There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.”
I repeat the question: Could that happen to us today? I suggest a few key-words to pinpoint some of the things that the Lord touches upon in this verse. Laodicea speaks the language of pretension, which is the very opposite of the language which the Lord used (John 8:25). This language displays something that may be well hidden, namely pride and arrogance, but which is the cause of much evil (see many verses in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) and the Lord unmasks such pretension (cp. Rev. 2:9).
How we need to heed Paul's words, given in a different context in Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Pretentious talk is challenged by the apostle John in 1 John 1:6-2:9.
The book of Malachi provides many examples of this religious pretension in the history of the remnant that returned from the Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem. There are many lessons we can learn from this remnant, both in a positive and negative sense, including the stern warnings against an outward form without real appreciation of the things of the Lord.
Here follow a few more key-words which describe what was involved in this departure which so defied the Lord: self-centred, complacent, self-satisfied, self-exalting, self-righteous; claiming and proclaiming one's own greatness. These words mirror what is found in 2 Timothy 3:1ff and 4:3ff. In other words these are our days! Should we not ask ourselves whether we are guilty of some of these things and if so confess them to the Lord?
This marked departure from Philadelphia, having riches and everything else except the Lord, is not something that we should take lightly. The Lord when on earth said, “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24). This is the portion of the rich Pharisee who said in Luke 18:12, “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” For the historic parallel with Israel I also refer to Zechariah 11:5, “for I am rich.” Is that not the attitude of the unfaithful shepherds of Israel who are challenged by the Lord in Ezekiel 34?
The Lord warned against material riches in Matthew 13:22 (cp. Mark 4:19 and Luke 8:14). “He also that received seed among the thorns, is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” Compare also Luke 12:21: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The same kind of attitude can easily be found among Christians, as it was with the Corinthians of whom Paul had to say, “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you” (1 Cor. 4:8). What a contrast with Paul himself: “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10). And with the Macedonian believers of whom he testified: “How that, in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” (2 Cor. 8:2). This joy is the remedy for such a wrong Laodicean attitude. Such joy is found, of course, first of all in the Lord's own example: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
The Laodicean assembly was marked by materialism. What about us today? Listen again to Paul in 1 Timothy 6:9: “But they that will (or desire to) be rich, fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” And 1 Timothy 6:17f: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” Let us not put our confidence in ourselves or in our self-proclaimed riches, lest we fall under God's judgment: “Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten” (James 5:2). Are we indifferent to these warnings?
Claims of success
We are living in the days of the “health and wealth gospel” and professing Christians are building false securities. Self-supported and self-sufficient, Laodiceans do not really need the Lord: I “have need of nothing.” Today we build our own systems, not only of materialism but also of rationalism or ritualism, fundamentalism or exclusivism, modernism and ecumenicalism. In all those cases we have managed to organise and control things ourselves, and we don't need the Lord (of course, we don't say that). That is why I am always reluctant to consider a set of rules, as if it were possible to set out all God's principles in a simple list. No, when we think we have things quite under control, then we are very much mistaken.
Then we are ignorant of the real situation. The Lord in His compassion and zeal for His assembly continues to speak: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” There are five points that the all-seeing Judge brings out against the accused of which, despite high pretensions, they are not even aware. The Lord evaluates the Christians at Laodicea as being (1) wretched, (2) miserable, (3) poor, (4) blind and (5) naked. How would He appraise you and me? A. E. Bouter
(To be continued, of the Lord will)
It is clear, that if two or three are gathered together, it is an assembly, and if scripturally assembled, an assembly of God; and if not, what else? If the only one in a place, it is the assembly of God in the place. Yet I do object practically to taking the title, because the assembly of God in any place properly embraces all the saints in the place. And there is practical danger for souls in assuming the name, as losing sight of the ruin and setting up to be something. But it is not false in the supposed case. If there be one such and another is set up by man's will, independent of it, the first only is morally, in God's sight, the assembly of God; and the other is not at all so, because it is set up in independency of the unity of the body. I reject in the most entire and unhesitating manner the whole Independent system as unscriptural and a positive, unmitigated evil. Now that the unity of the body has been brought out, and the scriptural truth of it is known, it is simply a work of Satan. Ignorance of the truth is one thing, our common lot in many ways; opposition to it is another. I know it is alleged that the Church is now so in ruins that scriptural order according to the unity of the body cannot be maintained. Then let the objectors avow as honest men, that they seek unscriptural order, or rather disorder. But in truth it is impossible to meet at all in that case to break bread, except in defiance of God's word: for scripture says, “we are all one body; for we are all partakers of that one loaf.” We profess to be one body whenever we break bread; scripture knows nothing else. And they will find scripture too strong and perfect a bond for man's reasoning to break it.
J. N. D.
(The last paragraph of the article, “On Ecclesiastical Independency,” Collected writings, Volume 14, page 307,
Stow Hill edition)
Psalm 119 (16)
(Continued from page 202)
13. MEM — WATER (or Sources)
Verses 97-120. The Importance of Bible Study
Section Thirteen. Verses 97-104: “The Word of God is Living Water.”
Thirst for the living Word
Verse 97: ME-H … “Oh how (I love Thy law!)”
The Bible for Christians is the Word of God. It is for us the standard to which we refer. We do not test the Bible by our experience but we test our experience by the Bible. For the Psalmist the Word of God was the final word. Is it for you my dear reader? The so-called higher critics have the audacity to doubt many passages of the Bible and to undermine its authority.
Have you noticed how the writer of this Psalm is continually referring to the Word in its several aspects? It seems that he knew his Bible as far as it was then revealed and written down. Do you know your Bible? There is no doubt that in order for the Christian to be strong spiritually he must study the Bible. He must decide to set aside time for this study just as he is willing to set aside time for any project he really wants to do.
Do you always carry a copy of the Word with you? Not necessarily your study Bible but a small pocket edition so you have it handy when you are asked questions about your Christianity? When you reason with anyone, do you base what you say on the Scriptures? What a wonderful verse this is. Let us read it again: “O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day.”
The Bible is our absolute standard for conduct
Verse 98: ME-AH-YAVI … “ … than mine enemies … ”
The Bible has always been under attack from the enemy of our souls. We are under attack as Christians today and are continually challenged about our faith in that “old-fashioned book!”
I want you to be sure of this, that it is not unintelligent to believe in the Bible! Serious study of the Word of God will show that the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible is altogether what He claimed to be and that the Bible is worthy of our entire trust. We must then be willing to make an honest and total commitment to God.
The Psalmist is not arrogant when he says: “Thou … hast made me wiser than mine enemies … ,” or later in verse 99: “I have more understanding than all my teachers … ” What do these two verses really mean? First of all in our verse he is faced with enemies. They are not believers. They reject the Word, the Bible. They say that other books like the Veda and the Koran are also inspired, so what is so special about your Bible? These are people who reject the Bible outright. You and I therefore as Christians have knowledge that others who are not Christians do not have. The natural man (or the man without the Spirit) does not accept “the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him … ” (1 Cor. 2:14).
It gives spiritual intelligence
Verse 99: ME-KOHL … “ … than all (my teachers … )”
The teachers mentioned in this verse are not teachers in the Biblical sense: “And He (Christ) gave some … pastors and teachers … ” (Eph. 4:11). The Psalmist speaks of ordinary teachers, not spiritual gifts. It is these teachers who, unless they are Christians, are totally void of spiritual intelligence in the Biblical sense of the word. If therefore the writer says that he is wiser than his own teachers he is speaking of spiritual wisdom, for there is another kind of wisdom. This is what James says: “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish … But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:15, 17). Such wisdom from above is not acquired simply by our own intellectual abilities but is a gift from heaven.
This wisdom never makes proud
Verse 100: ME-ZAH-KEHNUM … “ … than the ancients … ”
The ancients in this verse are men of long experience. We must not think that these ancients are the same as the New Testament elders. An ancient in Israel was simply a wise old man with long experience. An elder in the New Testament is a brother in Christ who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. It is possible of course that even a present-day older brother is not as spiritually wise as a younger brother but the older brother certainly has more experience. As to wisdom in the sense of spiritual intelligence coupled with spirituality, this is not always necessarily connected with age or long experience.
To come back to our verse, “if the Psalmist had been taught to observe the precepts of the Lord in heart and life, then this was more than the most venerable sinner had ever learned, more than the philosopher of antiquity had so much as aspired to know. He had the Word with him and so outstripped his foes; he meditated on it and so outran his friends; he practised it and so outshone his elders” (Spurgeon, The Psalms).
It guides me in the right way
Verse 101: ME-KOHL … “ … from every (evil way … )”
Here is the practical side of this wisdom: it keeps us from every evil way! In verse 11 we saw that what kept him from sinning was that he hid the Word of God in his heart. Someone has well said: “If the Word does not keep you from sin, then sin will keep you from the Word.” We need God's Word every day to guide and direct our steps.
The Israelite of old was also to be deeply impressed with the importance of having that Word before his heart and thoughts all day long. Here is what we read in Deuteronomy 6:6-9: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” Good, sound advice for the believer in Christ today!
It keeps me from wandering
Verse 102: ME-MISH-PAHTAK … “ … from Thy judgments … ”
Another wonderful result of abiding in the Word and the Word abiding is us is that the Word will preserve us from going astray. “I have not departed from Thy judgments … ” is the testimony of the writer.
The Word of Christ should dwell in believers richly (Col. 3:16), so that we “henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive … ” (Eph. 4:14). The secret is that we stay close to the Lord Jesus. He has the words of eternal life. It is so easy to deviate and to be distracted and deceived. “Thou hast taught me,” continues the verse. We stay close to the Lord so that He may teach us. Do we really take time to be with Him and to listen to His voice so that we may be taught what He wants us to do?
The proof of the Word is found in obedience
Verse 103: ME-H … “How (sweet are Thy words … )”
Is the writer of these words the same as the one who wrote, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him?” (Ps. 34:8). To experience the sweetness of honey you have to taste it! “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (Prov. 27:7). When our hearts are full with other things, with worldy things, then we have no appetite for the Word. It is a good thing when we are hungry enough to accept every bitter thing put before us by our God and Father. Surely this is the result of reading and absorbing the Word of God. It makes us pliable in His hands and willing to do His will, which is always good and acceptable and perfect.
It will influence my sense of values
Verse 104: ME-PIK-KOO-DEEMAK … “Through Thy
precepts … ”
“I hate every false way.” This is the result of the daily renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit uses the Word of God to form our thoughts and to give us a completely new set of values. This leads us to hate the very things we loved when unconverted.
The Holy Spirit teaches me what are true priorities, what are true values and what is really important and of value to the Lord Jesus Christ. However, to hate what is false is characteristic of the new life we have received as Christians, though that is not the sum total. There is also the positive side: to delight in that which is good. Paul says, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man … ” (Rom. 7:22). The ultimate secret is of course that it is not even sufficient to “delight in the law of God … ” Paul found that in him, as regenerate and a believer in the gospel, he had sin dwelling in him. He struggled hard to make his flesh do the will of God but failed. He so much wanted to please the Lord but he found he had no strength of his own. But then he discovered the secret: there was power not in his own strength but only “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul thus capitulated and surrendered himself totally to the Lord.
News from the Field
Report of the visit of Andrew Poots and Edwin Cross to Bhutan, Nepal and India, November/December 1995
We are thankful to the Lord for allowing us, once more, to see some of the great work He is doing in the vast subcontinent of India. We are sure that you will be much encouraged to learn of the wonderful growth, not only in numbers but also the spiritual growth in many of the saints. On 6th November Andrew Poots and I flew to Delhi, the capital, to be met by brother Ronny Fernandes. We spent a day and a half there before travelling on to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. The journey was first by plane to Badogra, near Siliguri. The magnificent Himalayas could be seen from the plane, with Everest rising far above even the high range of snow covered peaks. Yet even before these were brought forth our God had His thoughts and purposes for the elect. How great was our privilege to be travelling to meet some of those who now by grace had received Christ as Saviour.
On landing we had to secure another visa in order to proceed further into this part of India. After some haggling we hired a local taxi. The journey to Jaigaon was expected to last three hours but it took 6 hours over some very rough roads. The damaged road surface and three substantial bridges washed away in the recent monsoon made progress very slow. We arrived on the Bhutan border at nightfall and had to search for the immigration office to secure exit visas in order to enter Bhutan. Having obtained the necessary stamp in the passports we crossed through the gate into Phuentsholing. The inhabitants of this border town are a mixture of Indians, Bangladeshis and Nepalese as well as ethnic Bhutia. The Bhutia are obliged by law to wear the distinctive traditional robes of Bhutan. We were met by a brother in the street and almost immediately we began to talk about the Lord's interests. That evening we settled in the hotel and prepared ourselves for the conference the next day. The brethren have a very good compound with a large meeting room, accommodation and all appropriate facilities. About 300 came together and visitors from Nepal and various parts of India were also present. We had the joy of seeing our brother Sat Pal Hans from the Punjab together with three other brothers from his meeting, including a young convert from the Sikh religion. We also met a brother and his wife from Imphal, Manipur, which is near the Burmese (Myanmar) border. He is full-time in the literature work and busy translating our literature into Manipuri. He also expressed a willingness to follow up our contacts in Burma.
It was a thrill to behold the order and keen interest in the ministry of the brethren. We took up the Ephesian epistle verse by verse and were enormously encouraged with the diligent note taking and enquiry. These believers have a variety of backgrounds, some having been Hindus and others Buddhists. A number had been converted to Christ in the last decade and then joined the Bahkt Singh sect (akin to the Chinese little flock associated with Watchman Nee). In 1989 our literature began to enter Bhutan (see T&T 1st issue, 1991) and in the course of time it had its effect in the hearts and minds of these believers. In 1991 a number came out of their sectarian associations and were given the right hand of fellowship by our brethren in neighbouring India. This step provoked much hostility, even to the point of being physically assaulted by Bahkt Singh men! There were also difficulties with the Buddhist authorities. These circumstances have led to a strong testimony and deep conviction as to the place they take outside the camp, bearing reproach for the Name of Christ. The saints meet in 10 localities throughout the country. We could only visit two places due to restrictions on foreigners. One interior assembly was only reached after many miles along tracks and rivers, over fallen tree bridges, up mountains, past giant spiders and through orange groves! All in this area are converted to Christ and it was a joy to taste the generous hospitality of the saints. We were also privileged to be present when they had a prayer meeting.
From Bhutan we travelled to Nepal. This country boasts itself as the only Hindu kingdom in the world. After immigration formalities, paying US$15 each for a visa, we had to hire a vehicle. Our Indian taxi driver had turned back at the frontier and we were left in a not very pleasant spot. We stood by the dusty road outside a Hindu temple and a eunuch dressed in a sari eyed us suspiciously. Various locals gathered round and tried to “help” us find a vehicle. We eventually hired a Jeep and set off on some of the most appalling roads I've encountered anywhere in the world. The shaking did little to promote a healthy spine! The dust was also a danger to healthy respiration. We drove past tea gardens with the snow covered Himalayas as a beautiful background. After some two or three hours bumping along at breakneck speed we came to the first of five refugee camps. Our brethren are found in and near each of these. We only had opportunity to visit three of the localities in Jahpa province where brethren gather to the Lord's Name. It is a most moving sight to behold how faithful to the Lord and how keen on the ministry these saints are. They have nothing in this world except a bamboo-weave hut and some simple items of furniture. The dangers of the insanitary conditions are ever present. The uncertainty of their situation and lack of employment are all calculated to undermine the morale of even the staunchest. Yet in this extremely hostile environment, surrounded by idolaters and political agitation, the saints go on. They have high hopes of seeing the testimony spread throughout Nepal and are looking to the Lord to give them an opened door for effective preaching and teaching. Bringing up a family, eking out a living, and seeking to maintain a testimony in the gospel and to the present truth of Christianity, are not easy tasks in such circumstances. Nevertheless it was a joy to behold the light of understanding on their faces as, sitting together in an hurricane-lamp lit hut, we shared with them the treasures of truth contained in the Scriptures. Other refugees peered in at the windows and doors and heard the gospel and the Scriptures being expounded. It is forbidden by law to preach in Nepal but these were special circumstances and we were thankful to the Lord for the privilege. Sadly we had to leave our beloved brethren in Nepal. At the border the Nepali immigration officials had gone home and we were not permitted to enter India until we had obtained the correct Nepalese exit stamp in our passports. We were obliged to go in search of the homes of the immigration men. Eventually we found four! All came to the office, and one did the necessary to our passports while the others looked on. Before having our travel documents returned we were obliged to pay all four a gratuity.
E. N. C.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)