The Christian Shepherd: 1999

Table of Contents

1. "A Vessel Unto Honor"
2. The Age of the Universe
3. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1998 - (l)
4. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (a)
5. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (b)
6. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (c)
7. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (d)
8. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (e)
9. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (f)
10. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (g)
11. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (h)
12. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (i)
13. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (j)
14. Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (k)
15. "Be Ye Holy, for I Am Holy"
16. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (a)
17. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (b)
18. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (c)
19. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (d)
20. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (e)
21. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (f)
22. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (g)
23. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (h)
24. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (i)
25. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (j)
26. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (k)
27. Bible Challenger: 1999 - (l)
28. Book Review: Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew, W. Kelly
29. Book Review: Notes and Jottings by J. N. Darby
30. Book Review: Selected Articles From the Collected Writings of J. N. Darby
31. Book Review: The Value of Letters
32. Christ Is Everything
33. Christ: The Shelter of the Church
34. Christians and Computers
35. Christians and Computers: Additional Warnings
36. Cleaving to the Ark
37. Counting the Cost
38. Cultivating a Shepherd's Heart
39. Dependence and Independence
40. Editorial: "A … Child Shall Lead Them"
41. Editorial: A Little Food and a Little Present
42. Editorial: Christian Maturity
43. Editorial: Elderly Brethren - A Treasure
44. Editorial: "He Shall Glorify Me"
45. Editorial: "I Know It in My Head"
46. Editorial: Keeping Heart in "Perilous Times"
47. Editorial: Living and Dying for the Faith
48. Editorial: "The Thief Cometh … to Steal"
49. Editorial: "Three Months"
50. Editorial: "When I Was a Child"
51. Editorial: "Y2K" - Should It Concern Believers?
52. The End of the Millennium
53. The Fear of the Lord
54. "Feed My Lambs": A Kind Cat
55. "Feed My Lambs": "Be Not Weary in Well Doing"
56. "Feed My Lambs": Papers for the Fire
57. "Feed My Lambs": The 28¢ Birthday Present
58. "Feed My Lambs": The Extra Box
59. "Feed the Flock": "But It Was Worth It"
60. "Feed the Flock": Doing Good
61. "Feed the Flock": Living Like an Eagle or a Chicken?
62. "Feed the Flock": The Example
63. "Feed the Flock": The Student
64. "Feed the Flock": The Teacher
65. "Feed the Flock": Willing to Go
66. The First Mark of Power
67. "For Our Profit" (Hebrews 12:10-11)
68. Fragment: A Book That Tells You All You Ever Did
69. Fragment: A Christian Lifestyle
70. Fragment: A Prayer
71. Fragment: A Radiant Life
72. Fragment: Abundance and Abasement - Which Is the Greater Snare?
73. Fragment: Attractiveness to the Eye of Faith
74. Fragment: Discipline and Friendship
75. Fragment: Don't Forget the Christian Children
76. Fragment: Esther 5:2
77. Fragment: Everything Service
78. Fragment: Faith
79. Fragment: God's Work - With or Without You
80. Fragment: Good - Better - Excellent
81. Fragment: Have You Ever Thought?
82. Fragment: Light that Dwelt in Darkness to Bring us to Light
83. Fragment: Living It Out
84. Fragment: Neglecting the Gift
85. Fragment: New Exercises
86. Fragment: Not Agents, but Instruments
87. Fragment: Nothing More Dangerous
88. Fragment: One Object
89. Fragment: Prayer and Complaints
90. Fragment: Reputation Vs. Character
91. Fragment: Resistance Results in Hardening
92. Fragment: Romans 12:13
93. Fragment: Setting Straight
94. Fragment: Sons - Spending
95. Fragment: Tending My Spiritual Garden
96. Fragment: The Best Inheritance
97. Fragment: The Difference Between the Bible and Other Books
98. Fragment: The Future
99. Fragment: The Life and Health of the Soul
100. Fragment: The Motive
101. Fragment: The Proof I Am a Student of the Word
102. Fragment: The Right Focus
103. Fragment: The Snare of Duties
104. Fragment: The Spring of Prayer
105. Fragment: The Unnamed Brother
106. Fragment: To Remove Fears and Give Peace
107. Fragment: To Truly Know That He Is Enough
108. Fragment: Until He Come
109. Fragment: What Shapes Us Morally
110. Fragment: What You Have Been Given
111. Fruit in Season
112. Gathered to Thy Name, Lord Jesus
113. "Go in Peace"
114. Good in the Midst of Evil
115. He Delights to Bless
116. "He Hath Done All Things Well"
117. His Joy in Salvation
118. His Suffering and Our Suffering
119. His the Joy - We the Recipients
120. "I Saw"
121. The Importance of Humiliation
122. It Matters Not
123. Jesus Died for Me
124. Jesus, We Watch
125. Leave the Miracle to Him
126. "Leaving the Natural Use": Misplacement of Marriage
127. "Leaving the Natural Use": Misplacement of Marriage
128. "Leaving the Natural Use": The Misuse of Marriage
129. "Leaving the Natural Use": The Misuse of Marriage
130. "Leaving the Natural Use": The Misuse of Marriage - "Things" That Harm Marriage
131. "Leaving the Natural Use": The Principle of Replenishing the Earth
132. A Letter on Marriage
133. "Looking Unto Jesus"
134. "Looking Unto Jesus"
135. "Looking Upon Jesus as He Walked": Luke 1-3
136. "Looking Upon Jesus as He Walked": Luke 4
137. "Looking Upon Jesus as He Walked": Luke 5
138. "Looking Upon Jesus as He Walked: Meditations on the Gospel of Luke - Luke 1
139. The Lost Watch
140. The Love of God
141. Low at His Feet
142. The Man in the Glory: 1 Timothy 2:5
143. Meditations on the "Place"
144. Meditations on the Word: Genesis 1-2
145. Meditations on the Word: Genesis 10-13
146. Meditations on the Word: Genesis 14-18
147. Meditations on the Word: Genesis 3-5
148. Meditations on the Word: Genesis 6-9
149. Mephibosheth: His Ability; Our Disability
150. The Name of Jesus Its Power and Value
151. Nearness and Blessings
152. "Not a Vessel More"
153. O Blessed Saviour
154. One Spirit With the Lord
155. "One Thing Have I Desired … "
156. Passing Through Jordan - A Question
157. The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ
158. Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 1:1-14
159. Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 1:15-2:13
160. Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 2:14-28
161. Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 2:29-40
162. Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 2:42-3:7
163. Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 3:8-26
164. "Praying Always"
165. The Price the Shepherd Paid
166. A Question About Assembly Meetings
167. A Question About Elders
168. Righteousness and Holiness
169. The Servant's Pathway
170. Seven Addresses to Seven Churches
171. The Seven Feasts of Jehovah: Part 1
172. The Seven Feasts of Jehovah: Part 2
173. The Seven Similitudes of the Kingdom: Matthew 13
174. Showing Our Colors
175. Singing and Hymns Question: Scriptural Basis for Appropriate Songs?
176. So Great Salvation
177. Sonship: Part 1
178. Sonship: Part 2 - Begotten, Only Begotten, First Begotten
179. Sonship: Part 3 - Romans 1 - Colossians 1 - Hebrews 1
180. Sonship: Part 4
181. A Testimony in Weakness
182. "That I May Know Him"
183. "Thy Will Be Done"
184. True Christian Faith: Courage to Live and Courage to Die Living Christ
185. Two Essential Characteristics of a Servant of God
186. Unbroken Fellowship of Father and Son
187. Waiting, Watching and Working
188. Walking Worthy
189. The Ways of God: Conclusion
190. The Ways of God
191. The Ways of God: The End of Christendom
192. The Ways of God: The Holy Spirit Acting Within the Church of God
193. "We Trusted": Luke 24
194. A Well of Springing Water
195. Where Is the Flock?
196. A Word of Entreaty and Warning
197. "Words Fitly Spoken"
198. Words From the Heart

"A Vessel Unto Honor"

Second Timothy directs the conduct of the faithful when confusion has come into [the Christian profession]. There is a rule for the faithful one: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
We must expect to find in a great house vessels to dishonor as well as vessels to honor, but again there is a rule for the faithful one. He must purify himself from the vessels to dishonor and “follow righteousness, faith, [love], peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
It is a frightful principle to say that we cannot distinguish between the children of God and the people of the world besides it is not true.
It is a frightful principle, for it is said, “By this shall all... know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Now, if I cannot discern them, I cannot love them, and the testimony which God desires is lost.
In the next place, it is not true practically, for we enjoy brotherly fellowship, and every faithful Christian makes a difference between a child of God and one who is not.
What would become of family affection, if a father said to his children, “You cannot tell who are your brothers and who are not; you must associate with everybody, without any distinction whatever!”
J. N. Darby (from Letters, Vol. 3)

The Age of the Universe

Great efforts are being made today even among Christians to substantiate the divine account of creation in Genesis 1, using principles of man’s science and wisdom. While true science will always support the Word of God, it is the height of arrogance for man to use his feeble wisdom as the standard by which he dares judge the Bible. We earnestly caution believers about man’s increasing efforts to use “science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20) to validate or, worse yet, to seek to repudiate the Word of God.
Our glorious God who created the universe and this world needs no confirmation from man’s puny scientific knowledge. His majesty and eternal glory demand total subjection of mind and heart to all He has revealed in the Bible. We trust that the following article will be a help and an encouragement to our readers. Ed.
God has not told us the age of this vast universe. He simply tells us that He created it. In Hebrews 11:3 we read, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” In Genesis 1:1 we are told, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
It is noticeable here that “the earth” (the planet on which we dwell) is singled out of the whole universe because it alone was to be inhabited, as we read in Isaiah 45:18, “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited.” It is the place where God was to display His character and ways. Genesis 1:1 is, if one may so speak, the beginning of “time,” as far as the universe is concerned, though God has not told us when this was.
The Ruin Between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2
In verse 2 we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The words “without form” used in this verse are the same in the Hebrew as is translated “in vain” (tohuw) in Isaiah 45:18, quoted above. God has not told us how it got into the condition spoken of here, “without form and void,” nor how long was the time that elapsed between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
It is interesting and instructive to notice in Jeremiah 4:23 that the same expression “without form and void” is used prophetically to describe the earth after man has ruined it by his sin, as it was described before the six days when God made it a suitable place for man. We read there, “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.” We see from these verses in God’s Word that there was a ruin between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, and there will be another ruin as the result of man’s sin, as described in Jeremiah 4:23.
How good to know that last of all, and best of all, there will be “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13). That will be the eternal earth (Rev. 21:16) with the second man, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-47), the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man in one person, as the center of new creation.
God Revealed: Light, Love and Purpose
God’s purpose in the Bible is not to satisfy our curiosity with all the details of His creation, but to reveal Himself in all the glory and majesty of His person as light and love and to reveal His purpose in creation. We read of this in Ephesians 1:10: “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him.”
The Bible does not tell us when the angels were created, but Job 38:1-7 shows us they were there when the earth was created. Satan, the greatest of these created beings, is presented to us under the figure of the king of Tyrus in Ezekiel 28:11-19. He fell through pride (see also 1 Timothy 3:6) and other angels fell with him. He is the prince of the devils (Matt. 12:24-32; Rev. 12:9).
Life and Death Before Genesis 1:2
Between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, there may have existed some forms of life, and though the Word of God is silent about this and about when the fall of Satan took place, we do know from the Scripture that he had access to the earth. Since “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), he may have brought death into that original creation.
However, if God’s Word is silent in these matters, it is good for us to be careful not to make statements as facts which cannot be supported by the Word of God. “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
Some have a difficulty about the question of sin, because Romans 5:12 says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” They believe, because of this verse, that there could not have been any forms of life or the death of such creatures before Adam’s sin. However, it is important to see how Scripture speaks. “The world” is spoken of as a system of things over which Adam, the first man (1 Cor. 15:45), was placed as head.
As to the physical earth or world as such, Satan brought a lie to Eve when he said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4), and this was before Adam or Eve had sinned. However, it is surely true that Adam brought sin into the present system of things, called “the world” (1 Cor. 1:21), for he was the responsible head of that creation (Gen. 1:26; Psa. 115:16).
God’s Word and Science
All God has been pleased to tell us of the time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 is that (in verse 2) it was not in the condition in which He made it. If He wanted us to know more, He would have told us.
Another has said, “Never let the things we don’t know spoil the things we do know.” God has not made it necessary for us to appeal to the findings of science to prove the truth of His Word. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). There is no conflict between true science and the Bible. Any problem that seems to exist is “science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20).
Six Days of Creation
The account that is given in Genesis 1:3-31 is to show us how in six days God, who has all power and wisdom, made the earth a suitable dwelling-place for man, arranging all for his good and happiness (Prov. 8:22-36). The universe had already been created in Genesis 1:1, and then in Genesis 1:2 we read, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
Exodus 20:11 speaks of these six days using the word “made.” “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” On the first day He said, “Let there be light.” On the second, He made what He called “Heaven,” on the third day He made what He called “Earth,” and in the following days, “all that in them is.” Last, Adam (with his wife) is placed at the head of that creation, giving them just one command necessary for their good and blessing.
Glories Far Greater Than Creation
How wonderful that God has given us such a revelation! Even though man sinned against His Creator, His grace has provided for our blessing at so great a cost to Himself! “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
More than this, there are many glorious things revealed in the Bible. We read in 2 Peter 1:34, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Knowing Him As More Than Creator
We trust that each who read these lines has already come to the Lord Jesus as a guilty sinner, finding that His precious blood cleanses from all sin and that He imparts a new life. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Upon believing the gospel, He gives the Holy Spirit as the power needed to live pleasing to the One who died for us and rose again.
May each be encouraged to read the Bible not just to learn facts about such things as creation but to find, as you read it, the wisdom of God for your whole pathway learning where to find Christian fellowship, where to gather together according to His Word, assured that “if any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself” (John 7:17).
“Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood... to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:56).
G. H. Hayhoe

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1998 - (l)

1. N ight and day Mark 4:27
2. O wner Isa. 1:3
3. T houghts 1 Cor. 3:20
4. H ighly esteemed Luke 16:15
5. I niquity 2 Tim. 2:19
6. N ew name Rev. 2:17
7. G old Job 23:10
“And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth NOTHING yet as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:2).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (a)

1. V anish away 1 Cor. 13:8
2. A boundeth 2 Thess. 1:3
3. U nfeigned 1 Tim. 1:5
4. N othing 1 Cor. 13:2
5. T emperate Titus 2:2
6. E difieth 1 Cor. 8:1
7. T idings 1 Thess. 3:6
8. H ope 1 Cor. 13:13
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity VAUNTETH not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Cor. 13:4).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (b)

1. P residents and princes Dan. 6:4
2. R iches Luke 16:11
3. E nemy Prov. 27:6
4. S ave sinners 1 Tim. 1:15
5. E nter thou into the joy of thy Lord Matt. 25:21,23
6. R iot or unruly Titus 1:6
7. V ery little Luke 19:17
8. E vil 2 Thess. 3:3
9. T alebearer Prov. 11:13
10. H elp Thou me Psa. 119:86
“O love the Lord, all ye His saints: for the Lord PRESERVETH the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer” (Psalm 31:23).
“By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (c)

1. U nto the heathen Gal. 2:9
2. N eighbor Lev. 6:2
3. F aithful 1 Cor. 1:9
4. R eceive the gift 2 Cor. 8:4
5. U nequally yoked together 2 Cor. 6:14
6. I n Acts 2:42
7. T he truth 1 John 1:6
8. F irst day Phil. 1:5
9. U nto His death Phil. 3:10
10. L ight 1 John 1:7
“And have no fellowship with the UNFRUITFUL works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (d)

1. J ephthah Judg. 11:3
2. A nswers Job 21:34
3. N ame Psa. 139:20
4. G race 1 Cor. 15:10
5. L abor Psa. 127:1
6. I maginations Rom. 1:21
7. N et Prov. 1:17
8. G enealogies Titus 3:9
“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain JANGLING” (1 Tim. 1:56).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (e)

1. W ild honey Matt. 3:4
2. H id it 2 Kings 7:8
3. I n kings’ houses Matt. 11:8
4. T en 2 Kings 5:5
5. E xceedingly grieved Esther 4:4
6. A ssembly James 2:2
7. S haved himself Gen. 41:14
8. S un goeth down Ex. 22:26
9. N eighbor Ex. 3:22
10. O vercometh Rev. 3:5
11. W axed not old Deut. 8:4

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (f)

1. C ontain the books John 21:25
2. A sower Matt. 13:3
3. R ather grew worse Mark 5:26
4. E xcept they wash they eat not Mark 7:4
5. F ind mercy 2 Tim. 1:18
6. U rge him vehemently Luke 11:53
7. L ord Matt. 25:22,24
“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art CAREFUL and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (g)

1. W asted it Gal. 1:13
2. E leven Ex. 26:8
3. I gnorant 2 Cor. 1:8
4. G ate of Samaria 2 Kings 7:1
5. H e hath done all things well Mark 7:37
6. E xalted 2 Cor. 12:7
7. T we thousand cubits Joshua 3:4
8. H ouse of God 2 Chron. 3:3
“To make the weight for the winds; and He WEIGHETH the waters by measure” (Job 28:25).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (h)

1. S erve thy gods Dan. 3:18
2. C amels Gen. 24:22
3. E kron 1 Sam. 6:17-18
4. P omegranate Ex. 28:34
5. T welve Num. 7:86
6. R od that budded Heb. 9:4
7. E phesus Rev. 2:1
“All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden Scepter, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:11).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (i)

1. L amentation and weeping Matt. 2:18
2. A pparel (suited for mourning) 2 Sam. 14:2
3. U tterly burned with fire Rev. 18:8
4. G rievous Gen. 50:11
5. H aman Esther 6:12
6. T hree full weeks Dan. 10:2
7. E sau Gen. 27:41
8. R efused to be comforted Gen. 37:35
“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your LAUGHTER be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (j)

1. D reams Dan. 1:17
2. A ffection Rom. 1:31
3. R iches Eccl. 9:11
4. K nowledge Prov. 17:27
5. E arth Jer. 51:15
6. N abal 1 Sam. 25:3
7. E xceeding much 1 Kings 4:29
8. D epart from evil Job 28:28
“Having the understanding DARKENED, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18).

Answers to Last Month's Bible Challenger: 1999 - (k)

1. U ttereth all his mind Prov. 29:11
2. P ondereth the heart Prov. 24:12
3. R iotous men Prov. 28:7
4. I nstruction Prov. 10:17
5. G God Prov. 19:8
6. H onored Prov. 27:18
7. T rubles Prov. 21:23
“Righteousness keepeth him that is UPRIGHT in the way: but wickedness overthroweth the sinner” (Prov. 13:6).

"Be Ye Holy, for I Am Holy"

Holiness has been defined as a nature which delights in purity and repels evil. In 1 Peter 2:5 believers are called holy priests.
In all manner of life, Christians should have the bearing of holiness, for we are made holy (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 4:24; Heb. 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Our spiritual standing is in holiness because of the work of Christ on the cross. We are exhorted to practically walk in that manner in our lives.
Appearances often reflect what is in the heart. For instance, we are careful what we wear to weddings, funerals or into the presence of a dignitary. Surely, we should have that same care about coming into the Lord’s presence in the assembly.
Conversation, too, marks holiness in walk. In Ephesians 5:4, “foolish talking” is forbidden to believers while James 3:8-10 calls our tongue an “unruly evil.” Let each seek that “the words of my mouth” are “acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord” (Psa. 19:14).
Behavior ought to be circumspect (Eph. 5:15-21), and we ought at all times to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).
Thoughts can be edifying or corrupting. Let us take heed to 2 Corinthians 2:11, watching “lest Satan should get an advantage” of us. Let us ever remember to “keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).
R. L. DeWitt (adapted)

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (a)

The first letter of each word of the following responses will form the word that tells one of the attributes of charity (love) which it does not engage in of itself. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of the words in the answer.
1. Scripture declares that charity never fails, but what is the predicted terminus of human knowledge? [2]
2. What word quantifies a group of Christians’ charity toward each other? [1]
3. A certain kind of faith which will compliment a good conscience as well as charity from a pure heart. [1]
4. That which a mountain mover actually is, when charity is consciously absent. [1]
5. One of the things sound doctrine dictates that aged men be, in addition to soundness in charity. [1]
6. Something charity does (in the human heart) in distinction to what knowledge does. [1]
7. Something good that Timothy carried away from the Thessalonian saints which gave evidence of their faith and charity. [1]
8. One of the three greats of the Christian profession, yet not attaining to the importance of charity. [1]

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (b)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the word describing the Lord’s constant activity towards His faithful saints. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. Those in high office who sought occasion to find fault with a faithful captive in a foreign land. [3]
2. Something which will hardly be entrusted to those who have not been faithful in things unrighteous. [1]
3. Someone whose deceitful kisses are in sharp contrast to the faithful wounds of a friend. [1]
4. The central purpose to which Christ came into the world, according to the faithful words of an apostle. [2]
5. The common commendation for two servants who had been faithful in what had been committed to them. [8]
6. Two behavioral attitudes which would not be consistent in faithful children. [3]
7. Something in which a good servant had been faithful and for which he was to be duly rewarded. [2]
8. Something from which the One who alone is faithful will surely keep every established believer. [1]
9. The name given to one who reveals secrets, as contrasted to those who are faithful in concealing a matter. [1]
10. A three-word prayer of the psalmist who recognized that the commandments of the Lord were faithful, yet he despaired of those who persecuted him wrongfully. [3]
Answers to these questions will be found in the next issue of Christian Shepherd.
R. Erisman

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (c)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the word that defines the works of darkness, thus the reason to avoid fellowship with them. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. To what outreach of the gospel were Barnabas and Paul embarking when they received the right hands of fellowship from those acknowledged as pillars? [3]
2. A nearby person in the Old Testament with whom fellowship was to be maintained in truthfulness. [1]
3. A characteristic of God that was displayed when He called us unto the fellowship of His Son. [1]
4. What had the Macedonian churches entreated Paul to do, that they might have fellowship in ministering to the saints? [3]
5. What New Testament principle is based on the Old Testament ban of plowing with mixed animals because of an impossibility of fellowship? [3]
6. A little word repeated three times telling how the early believers continued steadfastly. [3]
7. Something not done when the walk disagrees with the talk of fellowship with God. [2]
8. The time the Philippians began their fellowship with Paul in his work of the gospel. [2]
9. When Christians have fellowship with Christ’s sufferings, to what have they been made conformable? [3]
10. That which marks out the path where Christians can walk having fellowship one with another. [1]

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (d)

The first letters of the following responses will form the word that aptly describes what a vain thing a life is reduced to when someone who professes Christianity turns aside from the things pertaining to the new nature that is, a good conscience and unfeigned faith. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. The name of a man who judged Israel six years, who fled from his brethren but who was received by vain men. [1]
2. That which a certain man thought his would-be counselors were falsifying because their comfort was in vain. [1]
3. That which the enemies of God often take in vain as they speak wickedly of Him. [1]
4. Something bestowed not in vain, which drew forth more abundant labor from the man who was both persecutor and persecuted. [1]
5. Something house builders do, which might be in vain, if the Lord is not in the plans. [1]
6. That which became vain in those who knew not God, when their foolish heart was darkened. [1]
7. Something spread in vain when in full view of the anticipated quarry. [1]
8. One of several things to be avoided as unprofitable and vain in Christians’ interactions with each other. [1]

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (e)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the three words which describe the striking appearance of the raiment worn by a late-night visitor to some negligent “keepers.” [3] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. A part of the diet of one who wore raiment of camel’s hair. [2]
2. That which four diseased men did upon discovering a vast store of gold, silver and raiment. [2]
3. In New Testament times, where did one expect to find soft raiment worn? [3]
4. The number of raiment changes a certain army captain carried into a foreign country. [1]
5. The way a beautiful queen felt when she decided to send new raiment to her sackcloth-clothed uncle. [2]
6. The place where Christians should be mindful that respect of persons on the basis of raiment worn is unchristian. [1]
7. A manly routine accomplished by a prisoner (who also changed his raiment) before coming into the presence of a monarch. [2]
8. The celestial phenomenon which served as a time schedule for an Israelite to return the raiment that had been taken as a pledge. [3]
9. Of whom were certain women instructed to borrow precious jewels and raiment before making a hasty departure? [1]
10. The word that signifies a personal victory had been achieved by those that will receive white raiment as a reward. [1]
11. That which was said of the raiment which certain people had worn continually for forty years. [3]
Answers to these questions will be found in the next issue of Christian Shepherd.
R. Erisman

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (f)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the first of two words used in a double remonstrance because of the great anxiety over many things in a shared household. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. Something the world itself could not do, when considering the many things which might be written as a testimony to the deeds of the meek and lowly One. [3]
2. A familiar figure, in the springtime, which Jesus used as an object lesson when He spoke of many things in parables. [2]
3. The sad truth which a woman faced, who had suffered many things by many physicians, in her quest to be bettered. [3]
4. A self-inflicted restraint of the Pharisees, among many other things which they held, after visiting the marketplace. [6]
5. An apostle’s desire, that only the Lord could grant, for the one who was too ashamed of a chain, but ministered many things in a time of need. [2]
6. That which the Pharisees began to do, as they provoked Jesus to speak of many things. [3]
7. The title given to the one who had servants in his employ, who rewarded their faithfulness by making them rulers over many things. [1]

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (g)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the word chosen to certify that God placed a definite measure of water on the earth at the time of creation. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. Something Paul said he had done in his pre-conversion days to the church of God that was beyond measure in his hatred of the early Christians. [2]
2. The number of goats’ hair curtains, all of equal measure, that covered the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness. [1]
3. That which an apostle did not want the Corinthian saints to be when he wrote them of being pressed out of measure. [1]
4. The place where a prophet foretold that a measure of fine flour would be sold for a shekel: astounding news for a country in the midst of a great famine. [3]
5. What many said when they were astonished beyond measure that Jesus had healed both the deaf and the dumb. [6]
6. That which a gifted apostle might have become, above measure, except for a thorny restraint. [1]
7. A precise distance, by measure, that was to separate the people from the priests at a watery crossing. [3]
8. That which Solomon was building when he was instructed as to the measure of its length and breadth. [3]
Answers to these questions will be found in the next issue of Christian Shepherd.
R. Erisman

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (h)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the word which identifies a golden symbol used by a ruling monarch, granting permission to approach the throne. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. A brave statement by three Hebrew captives informing a heathen king what they wouldn’t do when called upon to worship a golden image. [3]
2. The word that identifies the thirsty animals that drank of the water drawn by a fair damsel who was rewarded with a golden earring. [1]
3. One of the Philistine cities in which five golden mice were a part of a trespass offering in an effort to remove the heavy hand of Israel’s God upon them. [1]
4. A particular fruit that alternated with a golden bell on the hem of a priestly garment. [1]
5. The number of golden spoons, full of incense, that were offered by the tribes of Israel at the dedication service of the tabernacle. [1]
6. Something within the ark of the covenant that especially related to Aaron, in addition to the golden pot of manna. [3]
7. The one church of seven listed that was reminded that there was an observer in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks the representation of the entire Christian profession. [1]

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (i)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the word that tells of something that should be turned to mourning when there is a sense that our hands and hearts are not right with God. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. The voice which was heard in Rama in a time of great mourning. [3]
2. Something a wise woman was instructed to put on in order to make a show of mourning. [1]
3. The final destiny of the great earthly religious system accompanied by death, mourning and famine. [4]
4. The word used to describe the mourning of many Egyptians at the time of the death of one who was a foreigner in their land. [1]
5. Someone who hastened to his house mourning, with his head noticeably covered. [1]
6. The time frame when a captive prophet was mourning. [3]
7. A Bible twin who thought to consummate his hatred toward his brother after certain days of mourning. [1]
8. A sorrowing father’s response to those who sought to assuage his grief when he thought surely he would enter the grave mourning for his son. [4]
Answers to these questions will be found in the next issue of Christian Shepherd.
R. Erisman

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (j)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the word that describes what happens to an enlightened understanding when blindness, ignorance and alienation have taken their toll. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each response.
1. Something in which an unblemished captive lad had understanding. [1]
2. Something natural that is lacking from those who are without understanding. [1]
3. That which men of understanding may very well find hard to come by. [1]
4. A man of understanding is said to have an excellent spirit. What does a man possess who spares his words? [1]
5. That which the Lord of hosts has made by His power as well as having stretched the heaven by His understanding. [1]
6. The name of the man whose wife was a woman of good understanding. [1]
7. To what degree did God give Solomon wisdom and understanding, as well as largeness of heart? [2]
8. Wisdom is declared to be the fear of the Lord. What is someone to do to gain understanding? [3]

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (k)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the word that identifies the one that righteousness keeps in the way (of life). [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. Something a fool does in contrast to a wise man who keeps it in, till afterward. [4]
2. That which the One who keeps the soul does, as He renders to every man according to his works. [3]
3. To whom is a son companion, that brings shame to his father, as contrasted to a wise son who keeps the law? [2]
4. What is it that the one who is in the way of life keeps? [1]
5. What shall someone find who keeps understanding? [1]
6. If one who keeps the fig tree is rewarded by the eating of figs, how is the one who waits on his master rewarded for his faithful service? [1]
7. From what will the soul of the one who keeps his mouth and tongue be kept? [1]

Bible Challenger: 1999 - (l)

The first letter of each of the following responses will form the word which describes the stamina of a man in the presence of temptation, forming the basis for his receiving the crown of life. [1] The number in brackets indicates the number of words in each answer.
1. The way which a faithful God prepares for His people in the time of temptation. [1]
2. The reason why some seeds, as mentioned in a parable, produce plants that fall away in a time of temptation. [2]
3. That which befalls those “who will be rich” as they fall into temptation. [2]
4. The ones who are reserved unto the day of judgment, while the godly are delivered out of temptation. [1]
5. The command to some sleeping disciples to prevent them from entering into temptation. [3]
6. That which those who enter into a closet desire to be delivered from as they are led away from temptation. [1]
7. For what purpose is the hour of temptation (tribulation period) sent to those who will then be earth dwellers? [3]
8. What is the message for those living today that can be learned from those who experienced the day of temptation in the wilderness? [4]

Book Review: Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew, W. Kelly

Some may think of Mr. Kelly’s writings as being, at times, rather deep, scholarly and not easily read or understood. While for many of his in-depth expositions of Scripture this may be so, the particular volume we are considering is an exception.
It is quite large (550+ pages), but the work is very readable, being mostly free of references to and critical comments about original Biblical languages that mark many of Mr. Kelly’s works. While we are thankful for such definitive works, which are especially valuable to the student of Scripture, the disciple will find, perhaps, more spiritual profit in such a format as is used here.
In his introduction, he states: “The author trusts that the volume may prove a help to those who accept Scripture as the Word of God and have confidence in the gracious guidance of the Holy Ghost, who is sent down from heaven to glorify our Lord Jesus. Critical questions have been sparingly discussed here: Elsewhere they may be entered into more fully.... On the present occasions, however, direct interpretation has been the aim, [as well as the] practical profit of souls.”
Mr. Kelly closes the volume with these words: “The disciples were about to enter on a troubled scene; but, “Lo, I [Jesus] am with you all the days, until the consummation of the age.” This was, and is, enough for faith.”

Book Review: Notes and Jottings by J. N. Darby

This volume contains notes of various readings and addresses given by Mr. Darby. It is profitable worthy of the time spent reading its pages.
It contains two especially helpful readings in which Mr. Darby gives a simple overview of Revelation, answering many questions. And, in a reading at Edinburgh, “the church and the camp” is considered in a short and concise five-page article.
Mr. Darby’s concise responses to questions are refreshing. The following excerpt from a reading on Hebrews 7 is typical of much of the volume.
Ques. Who was Melchisedec?
Ans. Melchisedec.
Ques. Was he Christ?
Ans. No; because he was “made like unto the Son of God.” He is purposely made mysterious.
Ques. What of his descent?
Ans. I don’t know. He is put there, and that is all I know, with neither beginning of days nor end of life as to priesthood.
Ques. What is the normal idea of priesthood?
Ans. “To offer gifts and sacrifices,” it says in Hebrews.
During another reading, the subject of practical Christianity was brought up. The following is an excerpt: “I had slipped, when in Canada, and broken my spectacles and someone kindly gave me a gold pair of glasses. I took them and thought no more about them, for one does not look a ‘gift horse in the mouth,’ as the saying is. But [when visiting the assembly] in ________ the brethren meet in a rather dark place, and I used my [gold] glasses.
“The other day I got a letter from dear _______ telling me he had spoken to a local brother there about all the many rings [he wore] on his fingers that they are vanity. At once the brother answered, ‘Oh, they are not a bit worse than Mr. Darby’s spectacles!’ Got another pair since!”

Book Review: Selected Articles From the Collected Writings of J. N. Darby

In Volume 20 of Mr. Darby’s Collected Writings there is an excellent and very readable article titled, “Churches and the Church.” Though written over 100 years ago, in our present day of spiritual coldness, weakness and confusion regarding the assembly (church) of God in this world and its local expression, this article is especially timely.
Mr. Darby takes up the scriptural truth of “the church” as the body of Christ, the habitation of God, by the Spirit. He then considers the “local churches” and how the gifts of the ascended Christ to His church affect these “local expressions” of His body.
We earnestly encourage our readers to carefully and prayerfully read this excellent article.
We also recommend the whole of Volume 21 of the Collected Writings. This lovely volume contains 56 articles many from addresses and gospel messages—which are full of edification and comfort. All are very readable and very helpful.
One article, “Lost or Saved,” is a searching gospel address from Acts 26. Another, a personal favorite, is titled, “The Panoply [Armor] of God,” a sweet and helpful meditation on Ephesians 6. Along with Volume 16, we recommend Volume 21 as an excellent addition to the believer’s library.

Book Review: The Value of Letters

When I was younger, a brother told me that he made it a daily practice, along with his reading of the Scriptures, to read from the three-volume set of the Letters of J. N. Darby. He found, contained in them, a wealth of doctrinal teaching, practical ministry and helpful advice for daily Christian living.
Though unable to make a similar claim to such diligent reading habits, I have over the years, and with great profit, read and reread Darby’s letters. These letters are heartily recommended especially to dear younger believers as a wonderful way of learning how the “doctrines” of Scripture bear on every area of the daily Christian life.
Also recommended along with this three-volume set are the following volumes: Assembly Writers Library: Ministry of J.G.B., which contains some of J. G. Bellett’s personal letters; Memorials of the Ministry of G. V. Wigram, Volume 2/3, which contains some of his personal correspondence; and the two-volume set of the Selected Ministry of A. H. Rule, containing some of his personal letters.
These sources have all proved to be a great personal help and blessing. They not only provide sound Scriptural teaching but also insight into how other believers have found answers in the Word of God for all that confronted them in this life.

Christ Is Everything

It is exceedingly important in these days to have Christ as the center of everything to us, so as to be able to say, “To me to live is Christ”; to be walking in the light of His glory shining down upon our path, in everything that glory kept uppermost; not to be allowing two lives to be active in us, the life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit, but to be sinking the life of the flesh and having only the life of Christ living in us.
We want reality, not a name. We want the eternal life in the soul so practically our own that it is seen by the way it works in us and the things that flow forth from it. Wonderful is the effect of “doing truth”!
Look at Paul. What were all those sufferings and all that self-denial of his but an immensely strong argument for all that people heard from his lips?
Seeing him act out the truth gave immense power to it. People might challenge him, but if they did, he could say, “Whether I have done it well or ill, I have been trying all my life to carry out practically the life that Christ has put in me. I may have failed, but my sole desire and aim has been to live Christ. If there is a corner of my heart that Christ has not searched down to the very bottom, I am undone. Ah! I would rather have Christ pointing out everything, than friends praising.”
G. V. Wigram

Christ: The Shelter of the Church

He said, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God,” and in the good pleasure of His will Christ became the shelter of the church. That is a solemn word when one looks around the world on all the miseries of domestic life and sees how little the husbands know how to be the shelter of their wives. My arm ought to be like the wing of the hen for her chickens, the place of shelter for my wife. Of course, with that comes authority, but it is not burdensome.
How little as individual Christians we know how to walk like Christ: “This must be done because it is the will of the Father. That must not be done, because it is not the will of the Father.” What a change it would make with our dear wives, if we husbands could take that ground! If my wife sees that I am will-less before the Father, what harmony would exist in the everyday circumstances of marriage. She would say in all things, “This is but an opportunity of being subject.”
I believe that in every case husbands, parents, children, masters and servants where there is something painful, something wrong, we shall find that it is in the higher, the more responsible member that the failure comes in first. But the wife, for example, cannot say, “Oh, but I have not a shelter in my husband!” What! Have you no Father in heaven? Cannot you bring His power to bear on your husband? Cannot you put your will aside, so as to be able to bring in the power of a higher relationship? If you can get that thought, you will be able to get strength and power to meet it all.
Of course there are difficulties in every relationship, but oh, to know what the setting is in which the two jewels are locked together! Pure gold not of Ophir, but of the antitype, Christ in heaven.
Marriage is like a finger pointing to the union of Christ and the church, and what a poor-hearted thing he must be who, with the arm of a wife pressing on his own, has never thought of it as pointing to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for that church, for whom He gave Himself and which He is to present to Himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
G. V. Wigram (from a wedding talk)

Christians and Computers

Technology generally is morally neutral. It is difficult for many believers to understand that there is a vast difference between technology and how it is used by man. For example, most of us make daily use of electricity to light our homes, wash our clothes, preserve our food and a host of other things. At the same time, electricity provides the energy used to provide all manner of corrupt and violent entertainment. The internal combustion engine is used to plow our fields, drive us to Bible conferences, pump water to places of need while at the same time powering destructive military vehicles. Airplanes carry missionaries across the seas to bring the gospel, but they also are used to wreak havoc in war. Television, used widely as a medical teaching medium and for many other beneficial purposes, also provides a window by which unspeakable depravity and corruption are brought into homes.
It is so with the computer. Most every area of our lives is affected by the computer. In many areas this technology is a great blessing. Yet, fallen and depraved man uses the very same computer technology to push violence and corruption into homes.
I know of no scripture which forbids the believer to have or use a computer, as some sects teach. It seems to me that believers should be alert to using technological advances for the furtherance of the Lord’s work, while also being alert to the dangers in the uses fallen man makes of such technologies.
Beneficial Uses of Computer Technology
The word processing features of computers have dramatically raised the efficiency of translators, writers and publishers. File storage has been made incredibly more efficient. Whole libraries of ministry of the Word are now available on CDROM (compact disks). Brethren in all parts of the earth, from Romania to Peru and Argentina, including missionaries in remote countries, can now be in almost instant touch with brethren in their home regions by means of email (electronic mail). Many brethren have created Internet web sites which are used to spread the gospel. Clearly, the computer age is marvelous!
Computers and the Christian Home
One of the chief dangers (and I speak from experience) of a home computer is its potential addictive use. Many find themselves immersed in wasting precious hours in recreational or non-recreational computer use. Of course, that is a danger in many of our normal occupations as well. Even cleaning the house and preparing meals can encumber one. The answer is to get before the Lord about it, and, if necessary, take a deliberate time off from using the computer—especially if it is taking control of free time.
Much has been made of the availability of moral filth on the Internet. Sadly, this is true. But is it not equally shocking the kind of magazines that are sold in our nearby convenience stores? Such corruption pervades the world in which we live. How we need to teach our children what God says about such things, making sure the very specific warnings of Proverbs are impressed on their souls.
In the case of computers, software programs are available to control access to unwanted Internet content. How well they work I cannot say, but parents should look into them if they decide to obtain Internet access on a home computer. The wealth of useful and profitable information available on the World Wide Web would not be worth the harm done to our children by lack of watchfulness and control on the part of parents.
Rapid and inexpensive communication technology among saints can be a great blessing. One thinks of Nehemiah’s day when it was said, “The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another” (ch. 4:19). But, at times, difficulties among believers have been exacerbated by ill-advised faxes and phone calls. Email makes such kinds of rapid communication even easier.
As in all things, whether to have a computer in the home or not must be a matter of personal exercise and communion with our Lord Jesus.
In closing, let me call attention to two passages of Scripture: “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matt. 5:30).
“For all things are yours... and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21,23).
R. K. Gorgas

Christians and Computers: Additional Warnings

Editor’s Note: Not all computers are Internet connected, but for those that are, we add the following warnings to our brother’s timely comments.
Parents who allow their children to have Internet access need to be aware of the great danger of Internet “chat rooms” places that people can enter online, to engage in “real-time” conversation with others who have accessed that “room.”
Most Internet service providers make no attempt to “police” these rooms. Thus there is no guard against who signs in, what is said, or personal information solicited from unsuspecting children. “For there are certain men crept in unawares” (Jude 4). “Just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7). Even more “family-oriented” providers such as America Online can’t adequately protect “chat rooms” against predators who often are disguised as children. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).
We believe access to such “rooms” ought to be denied to children, and they should not be allowed email contact with any unknown person. “Knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim. 3:14).
We also urge those planning to post family photographs or other personal information on a “home web page” to prayerfully consider whether it is wisdom to make such information available to any person who has access to the Internet.
“See therefore how ye walk carefully, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. For this reason be not foolish” (Eph. 5:15-17 JND).

Cleaving to the Ark

David held to the ark Solomon did not. He offered sacrifices in “high places” which were often mixed up with the brazen altar. Until the temple was built, the people went to “high places” earthly and carnal even when approaching the true God.
Solomon loved Jehovah, walked in the statutes of David, his father, but did not cleave to the ark which David had placed in Zion. Instead, Solomon offered sacrifices on the high places.
What a loss to a Christian not to seek in Christ (our Ark) the secret of His will, according to the revelation He has made of Himself while hidden.
N. Berry (adapted from J. N. Darby)

Counting the Cost

Have you counted the cost of drifting away,
Has His leading become hazy as you start each day?
Have the things that were plain now become less clear;
Has His Word and Spirit become harder to hear?
Have you counted the cost of neglecting His Word,
That once was precious when His voice you heard?
When worldly associates were kept at arm’s length,
For if they’re not, they will rob all your strength.
Have you counted the cost of neglecting the meetings,
As soon that needful communion will be fleeing?
Reading and prayer and that fellowship dear
Is needful for His own each week of the year.
Have you counted the cost of making excuses,
As a drifting ship will soon become useless?
When it runs aground on the shoals of time,
No number of excuses will be worth a dime.
Have you counted the cost of a critical attitude,
As you talk of your brethren in careless platitudes?
The cost is great, my dear one, don’t you see,
If another is hurt by saved sinners like we.
Have you thought of the cost when God sent His Son,
To die on the cross that our souls might be won?
The cost is impossible for men ere to tell,
What it cost the Father to save us from hell.
The cost is too great, O dear child of God,
Turn back to the fold and have your feet re-shod.
A simple confession is all that He needs
To restore to communion and our souls to feed.
W. Steves
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
“God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Cultivating a Shepherd's Heart

The cultivation of a shepherd’s heart in each believer is the result of fulfilling the exhortation given in 1 Peter 2:21, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.” Following His steps is expressed in Paul’s writings in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We all, with open [unveiled] face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
What a transformation takes place, which for the purposes of our meditation includes an attitude of heart (“the same image”) towards sinner and saint—one that reflects the very attitude of the heart of the Chief Shepherd Himself.
Gifts and a Shepherd’s Heart
The cultivating of a shepherd’s heart is needed for each believer, regardless of gift or place in the body of Christ. We learn from 1 Corinthians 12:18 that each member has a special place in the body: “Now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him.” According to Ephesians 4:11, that place may be a shepherd (pastor) and teacher. These two gifts are linked together, both in the original Greek and in the KJV Bible.
Another place in the body may be that of an elder. Peter looked at such as shepherds who should “feed the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2).
Still another place in the body may be that of a “help.” In 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 we read that all are not apostles, prophets, teachers or workers of miracles. But when speaking of helps, the words “are all” are left out. This would surely encourage all of us to be helps. May it be so in each renewed heart!
The Lord Jesus a Perfect Pattern
As a pattern for ourselves, let us trace the blessed Lord’s attitude as displayed toward three of His disciples in the Gospel of John Philip, Peter and Judas. We have listed these names in the moral order in which they were at a distance from the attitude of their blessed Master.
With the first two, training was given to bring them into conformity to His thoughts. With Judas, we find that the heart was so alienated from the Master that no correction was given.
In John 14:8-9 Jesus answered Philip’s request, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us,” with the penetrating question, “Have I been so long time with you [plural], and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip?” Throughout the gospel we see the Lord training him. It began in chapter 1 with “follow Me.” In chapter 6 when Philip asked, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” he learned who the source was. And then in chapter 12 it was to Philip that the Greeks said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” How tender was the Lord in dealing with Philip’s slowness of apprehension. May we have that same spirit in our response to the slowness of others!
In John 21, Peter is publicly restored with a tenderness of questioning which provides a wonderful pattern for each believer. Three times the blessed Lord asks him, “Lovest thou Me?” And after each question, He commissions Peter to care for the lambs and the sheep.
This restoration was needed because dear Peter, as a result of self-confidence, had three times denied that he knew the Lord. The two epistles of Peter give abundant proof of the perfect way in which the Chief Shepherd dealt with His erring disciple. May we “follow His steps,” displaying the spirit of a loving, tender attitude towards others and trusting the Lord for the work of restoration.
Judas, who sold the blessed Lord for 30 pieces of silver, received no admonition or training. Yet the Shepherd never revealed his true character to the other disciples. May we in this same blessed spirit of grace be ever so hesitant to speak of the failures or evil behavior of others.
Truth and Tenderness
Years ago, a fellow-Christian poured out in a concise, analytical way the inadequacies that several brothers at a conference Bible reading had displayed. The writer, who was there and to whom he had addressed his remarks, had to agree that his portrayals were accurate. But he thought, “Yes, brother, you are analytically correct, but what we need for such an occasion is a Shepherd’s heart.” God’s Word tells us, “Above all things have fervent [love] among yourselves: for [love] shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
When there was strife among the disciples about which of them should be accounted the greatest, the blessed Lord responded: “I am among you as He that serveth. Ye are they which have continued [persevered] with Me in My temptations” (Luke 22:27-28). What a perfect, divine response to the inadequacies that the disciples had displayed. Let us imitate that lovely attitude in all our dealings!
Attributes of the Shepherd
There are seven prominent attributes of the Shepherd given in Ezekiel 34: (1) feed the flock, (2) strengthen the diseased, (3) heal that which is sick, (4) bind up that which is broken, (5) bring again that which was driven away, (6) seek that which was lost, and (7) seek out those that are scattered. When the Chief Shepherd fulfills these things with His earthly sheep, the result is, “I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing” (Ezek. 34:26).
How good for believers to cultivate these same blessed virtues! Where they are displayed among God’s dear people, guided by the Spirit, be assured that the result will surely be “showers of blessing.”
P. S. Jacobsen (adapted)

Dependence and Independence

“And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:24).
I have thought a little differently about these verses since the Lord sent us another child. I had always pictured the child mentioned in Matthew 18 as being of grade school age. But I now feel that the little one could easily have been younger.
When our little girl came along, it was a delight to see her so dependent and responsive! She would contentedly lie where I placed her. She was happy when her diapers were changed or a bottle was given to her. She went without question wherever she was carried. She happily explored anything placed within her reach and, when tired, laid her head trustingly on my shoulder. What a happy and sweet relationship I enjoyed with her!
As an infant, her actions were best characterized by the happy word “dependence.” But as she has gotten older, I am increasingly aware that something is happening. Two letters “I” and “N” are creeping in front of that lovely word “dependence.” It is striking to see how soon the marks of IN-dependence in thought and action begin to mar the morally beautiful spirit of dependence!
There will surely need to be much patient discipline and unceasing labor devoted to our daughter, so that this sweet condition of dependence may mark her actions and the dreaded independence be checked.
Yet must we not all admit to that tendency of independence rather than resting in sweet, full dependence upon our God? It has been said that man gained independence at the fall and that God has been working ever since to take it out of him!
How wonderful to have our Father’s help in this matter and to know our blessed God as the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) and the “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10).
W. Porter

Editorial: "A … Child Shall Lead Them"

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).
The little evangelist sat in her schoolroom next to a classmate whose lunch box was covered with decorations which indicated to her that he didn’t know Jesus, her precious Saviour. Her love for the Lord Jesus and her tender concern for her classmate were deeply stirred. She must tell him about Jesus! She must warn him that if he isn’t saved he can’t go to heaven!
Her teacher, overhearing her earnest words, became quite upset. Pulling the little one aside, she sternly warned her not to talk about her religious beliefs to her classmates. “Besides,” scolded the teacher, “you’re wrong. Everyone is already saved!”
A note was sent home to the parents, asking that they make sure their daughter “understands” that “personal religious beliefs are unacceptable” as conversation in public school.
We’re aware that expressions of public Christian testimonies are, in varying degrees, silenced in lands governed by atheistic beliefs or where the awful darkness of idolatry and Satanic delusion have full sway. But some may think these kinds of things just don’t happen in so-called “Christian lands.” Think again. This event took place a few months ago in a small, conservative community in the midwestern United States a town so conservative that its laws forbid the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages in public establishments.
Christians need to listen soberly to the Spirit’s warning in 1 Thessalonians 5:4: “But ye... are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”
Many buy and sell today using a piece of paper on which is printed, “In God We Trust.” Yet few believers realize the so-called “Christian” liberties that they take for granted have never been privileges that the church ought to expect. In John 15:19 the Lord Jesus explains why Christians are hated. This hatred ought not to surprise believers (1 John 3:13), for the dark spirit of apostasy is fast sweeping over these well-favored, western lands. May these words, spoken by the Lord Jesus (Matt. 15:8, quoted from Isaiah 29:13) concerning the religious people of His day, not characterize those who are called by His blessed name in our day! “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.”
Let us, motivated by first love for Christ (Rev. 2:4) and the obedience of Noah (Heb. 11:7), believe God’s testimony of coming judgment on the world and professing Christendom. Then we too will move with fear, preparing a place of safety.

Editorial: A Little Food and a Little Present

“And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said... Go again, buy us a little food.
“And... Israel said... If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds” (Gen. 43:2,11).
Unbelief in the goodness of God a sad, restricting influence in believers’ lives is strikingly illustrated in the life of Jacob. But if we are to gain blessing from this account, it must serve as a mirror to our hearts—hearts which are prone to the same miserly thoughts of our gracious, giving God.
The Lord appeared to Jacob, as he fled from his brother Esau, with promises of rich, undeserved blessing. Regarding the land through which his grandfather Abraham had walked, the Lord said, “To thee will I give it, and to thy seed.” Regarding Jacob’s family, He said, “And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth... and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Regarding Jacob’s protection, Jehovah promised, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest.... I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken” (Gen. 28:13-15). But poor Jacob’s first thought of that place where he had met Jehovah and heard such wonderful things was, “How dreadful is this place!” How like our own unbelief!
For the next 21 years, Jacob received daily reminders of God’s rich grace. He had fled from his father’s house empty, but now he returned full blessed with children, servants, flocks, herds and great possessions (Gen. 31-33). Yet when Jacob hears that Esau is coming to meet him (Gen. 32:6), he forgets the Lord’s care. “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.”
Later, after his beloved Joseph had been lost (Gen. 37:31-37), yet another trial comes a famine. Still seemingly unaware that God was working for his blessing, Jacob hears that “there is corn in Egypt” and sends his sons to buy food (Gen. 42:12). But not one word of confidence in Jehovah do we hear from the lips of this dear, aged pilgrim.
Of course, the time comes when their supply of food from Egypt runs out (Gen. 43:2). How happy would it have been to have heard Jacob, in faith, repeat the words of Abraham: “God will provide.” Instead, looking only with the eyes of nature, he tells his sons, “Go again, buy us a little food.” He desires to buy only a little, because he knew his resources were insufficient to meet the famine, which had become greater to him than Jehovah!
Beloved brethren, our hearts are not one bit different! Never could we measure the limitless, divine provisions which God’s infinite grace has given to each of us! Yet when a famine looms in our lives, we, like Jacob, forget the largeness of His supply, thinking instead how we may get by with just a little food. How dishonoring to the “Giver of all good” are all such faithless thoughts! God has not withheld from us the “Son of His love” (Col. 1:13 JND), having “delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). Such divine provision is the very opposite of littleness. With the gift of His beloved Son comes the promise to “freely give us all things.” Our Father does not want His children existing as spiritual paupers, barely sustained by a little food.
He who does “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” invites us to “prove” Him and see “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).
With Jacob, we also see that not only was his heart constrained in trying to meet his needs (“buy... a little”), but it was equally constrained in giving to his benefactor take “a present, a little balm, and a little honey.”
This same spirit of littleness in giving may mark us also. If we refuse to draw upon the unlimited resources and largeness of our Father, the result will be that rather than a rich outpouring of thanksgiving and praise (Heb. 13), our hearts are only capable of giving to Him a little present.
Oh! that we might be enlarged to enjoy abundantly the exceeding great and precious promises which are ours in Christ! Will there not then be rivers of living water flowing from us?

Editorial: Christian Maturity

“That the man of God may be perfect” (2 Tim. 3:17).
The bird population inside the beautiful glass cage at the retirement home has recently increased by six tiny, brown, baby birds.
As they have grown, all six birds have appeared to be developing the same way. They have exhibited similar changes in color, they make similar chirping sounds, and they have developed similar flying abilities. In all things, they look alike, except for one marked peculiarity. One of the little birds has never developed a tail.
Initially, this lack of normal development was not evident, for at first none of the babies had a tail, nor could any of them fly. But then tail feathers began to appear on the other five. As they began hesitantly fluttering from branch to branch, that lack became increasingly obvious in the sixth. Our tailless little friend could no longer keep up with his siblings. Not possessing the means to properly balance himself, his clumsy, pitiful attempts to fly have been both sad and comical to watch.
Though safe from natural predators in his little world, he has become a nuisance to the other birds, and a danger, at times, even to himself. Unable to turn quickly and easily in flight, he has frequent collisions with the glass windows. Unstable when perching on a branch, he cannot properly balance himself, resulting in constant disruption to the other birds that are trying to rest there. Unpredictable in his landings because he cannot brake his flight, his approaches are positively annoying to the other birds, as he frequently collides with them.
Such an undeveloped spiritual state ought not to characterize those who are Christians. The results of such an imperfect condition in believers is of infinitely greater consequence to souls than the lack of a tail is to our little friend!
The Word of God often refers to the process of spiritual development in believers’ lives as becoming perfect. This does not mean that a child of God is to seek to attain a condition of sinless perfection. But there are many scriptures which exhort us to “be perfect” in the sense of being “fully matured” as believers. God does not intend that we be like that little bird, lacking what is part of normal growth thus finding our lives marked by instability, unable to live as mature men and women of God.
Abraham, one of the brightest examples of faith found in the Old Testament, was told by Jehovah, “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1). A few chapters later (Gen. 22) we have the sublime proof of Abraham’s perfect (fully matured) walk of faith before the Lord.
And how brilliantly does that proof shine! When told by God to offer his beloved Isaac for a burnt offering, we read that “Abraham rose up early in the morning.” Had he lacked fully matured faith, he would not have been able to rise “early in the morning” in immediate obedience to God’s command. What innumerable blessings have resulted to the family of faith because of Abraham’s fully matured faith (Rom. 4:11-12).
But “just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7), is a solemn example of the sad results of a believer’s life which has never properly matured. Consider the tragic effects of Lot’s imperfect, undeveloped life of faith on his dear family and on those among whom he lived in Sodom!
By contrast, in the New Testament we see a lovely example of the blessing resulting from the life of a fully matured believer, “Luke, the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). He writes: “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order” (Luke 1:3). Thus the Spirit, using this mature vessel, gives the divine record of the Son of Man in the gospel of Luke and, later, the history of the formation of the church, His bride, in Acts.
There is yet more. Again and again we are warned in Scripture of the loss incurred by those who, as the writer of Hebrews says, “are dull of hearing.” Had the Hebrew believers possessed fully developed faith, they would have been teaching others. But such was not the case, for we read, “Ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” Because the Hebrews were not perfect, they had “need of milk, and not of strong meat.”
When speaking of desire for the Word of God, believers are to be like newborn babes, always thirsting for the “sincere milk of the word.” Why? “That ye may grow thereby.” By desiring to feed on the Word, proper growth and development occur.
But as to maturing in the “most holy faith,” believers need more than milk, because “every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe” (Heb. 5:13). Mature believers are referred to as “them that are of full age.” These, feeding on the “strong meat” of the Word, have their senses exercised “to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).
Regarding our spirit as brethren, we are to be babes free of malice. Regarding our minds, we are to be grown men fully matured (1 Cor. 14:20).
Worldly life-styles will deny believers that spiritual food which results in full Christian maturity. The Apostle had to feed the carnal Corinthian believers “with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able (1 Cor. 3:12). His desire was that they might grow and mature, until they, like the Ephesians, might come “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13-14).
Believers are not to remain as babes “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine”—thus unable to walk the path marked out for faith. However, let us remember that the natural man can never receive “the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14-15 JND). Thus, it is only in “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) that there can be spiritual maturity.
Oh! that we “may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:17), not like that little, underdeveloped bird—unable, unstable and unpredictable—in the path of faith.

Editorial: Elderly Brethren - A Treasure

“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man” (Lev. 19:32).
One Friday, before taking our grandchildren to the zoo in Chicago, we stopped at a fast-food restaurant for lunch. The facility was experiencing its normal crowded, noon-hour rush. Leaving my wife and grandchildren seated at a table, I went to order. After what seemed a rather long wait, I finally got the food and went back to our table there to be greeted by my wife’s strangely sober expression.
She explained that while I was at the busy counter, our 4-year-old granddaughter had suddenly jumped up without asking permission and run to me through the crowd. Because she was keeping our little grandson occupied, my wife had no opportunity to stop her or bring her back. She did carefully watch our granddaughter as she stood next to me there. Then, assuming that I was aware of her presence, she turned her attention for just a moment to our grandson. When my wife again looked back to the counter, our granddaughter was gone, and I was still standing there—completely unaware of my granddaughter’s visit.
At that moment, an elderly man conspicuous because of his suit, tie and hat approached my wife and quietly said, “Your little girl went in there.” He pointed to a hallway that led to the employee entrance and public rest rooms. Managing a hurried but sincere “thank you for telling me,” my wife took our grandson and quickly went after her.
Going to the ladies’ room first, she opened the door and, not seeing anyone, called her name. There was no answer. Feeling a rising concern, she went back to the elderly gentleman and asked if he would look in the men’s room to see if she possibly was in there. He came back saying, “There’s no one in there.”
Quite frightened by now, my wife decided to look once more in the ladies’ room before opening the “employees only” door. To her great relief and thankfulness, she saw two familiar little shoes dangling just below the bottom of the stall door.
After realizing what had taken place during those few moments and considering what might have happened, I heartily thanked God for His tender mercies. Then both my wife and I turned again to thank our elderly friend, but he too was gone.
It is very doubtful that we will ever see him again, at least in this world. However, his watchful concern for our granddaughter gave us a fresh insight into the vital role our elderly brethren often play as “watchers,” preserving the local gathering.
A Striking Parallel
This experience reminded me not only of the awful violence directed against little children in this world, but also of the awful violence that Satan directs against the assembly. The assembly spiritually and our children physically need loving, careful protection in the same spirit of vigilant care that our elderly, unknown friend had shown for our granddaughter.
Paul whose daily burden was “the care of all the churches” when speaking of Timothy told the Philippians, “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state” (Phil. 2:20).
In a “day of small things” the testimony to God’s assembly is carried on in much feebleness “faint, yet pursuing” (Judg. 8:4). In some cases, for instance, only elderly brethren attend local midweek assembly meetings. What would happen to these meetings if they ceased to come?
Then, too, who can rightly value the priceless example that such steady, unswerving devotion provides for younger brethren? “Fix your eyes on those walking thus as you have us for a model” (Phil. 3:17 JND). “Whose faith follow” (Heb. 13:7). In not a few cases, it is this very watchful care and steady walk of our older brethren that God is pleased to use in preserving the local gathering. How thankful we should be for such loving care and service!
Principles From the Life of Barzillai
We think of the elderly Old Testament saint, Barzillai. He too lived in very dark, violent times times of great unrest in Israel (2 Sam. 17). David, the rightful king, “a man after [God’s] own heart,” fled from Jerusalem due to the rebellion of his own son Absalom. In the wilderness, when David was “come to Mahanaim,” Shobi, Machir and Barzillai met and cared for him and his followers.
In this account we find valuable principles provided for all who have the care and preservation of the assembly on their heart.
The Principle of Fellowship
We will first notice that Barzillai did not act alone. He was in fellowship with others in his desire to succor David. What a “pleasant” thing for brethren to “dwell together in unity” (Psa. 133:1), to walk together with a common object before them the glory of Christ. The Apostle writes to believers in 1 John 1 so “that ye also may have fellowship with us.” How blessed is the assembly where brethren earnestly seek its care in oneness of mind. How vital is such fellowship! “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
The Principle of Humility
Barzillai was evidently the oldest of the three who came to David at Mahanaim. He was a “very great man” (2 Sam. 19:32), and he is identified as the one who “had maintained the king while he abode at Mahanaim” (JND). Yet he takes the low place. When first mentioned in 2 Samuel 17:27, his name is placed last. What Barzillai so beautifully portrays, the Lord Jesus teaches in Luke 22:26: “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” How happy the assembly where the principle of humility is thus practiced by each one. “Let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3).
The Principle of Selflessness
David does not forget Barzillai’s loving care. When he returns to Jerusalem, he tells Barzillai, “Come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 19:33). This was an honor rightly deserved, we may say, by this dear, elderly saint.
Barzillai’s gracious response gives us another principle. He does not seek to please himself, but he thinks of the younger, in view of their blessing. “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good” (Rom. 15:2). Thus it is that Chimham becomes the beneficiary of David’s kindness. “Behold thy servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king.”
Does this not touchingly remind us of the untold number of ways our beloved elderly brethren quietly and without notice serve the assembly that it might be preserved to those of us who are younger? What a heritage these dear brethren leave by such selfless, loving care for those who are younger!
The Principle of Inheritance
Shortly before David dies, he gives final instructions to his son Solomon in order that the kingdom would be preserved. It is sweet to see that Barzillai’s care and service are still bearing their seasonable fruit. “But show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table: for so they came to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother” (1 Kings 2:7).
Let us thank God for our elderly brethren and seek to be more vigilant for ourselves that what is so precious to the heart of Christ and so under attack of Satan be preserved “till He come.”
“A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prov. 13:22).

Editorial: "He Shall Glorify Me"

In so many wondrous ways, the Spirit of God glorifies the person of Christ, delighting to bring Him constantly before our gaze desiring that our vision might be filled with Christ. Our heart’s affections ought to break forth in praise as we consider the Word, God incarnate, the Eternal Son, full of grace and truth. And while such musings are of the deepest, sweetest value, we also find in them many encouragements for our daily Christian walk.
For example, four times in John’s gospel the Spirit of God tells of those who had the unspeakable privilege of beholding the “Son of His love” in one of His beautiful characters. While in two of these cases wicked unbelief denied those who beheld Him from blessing, faith gleans from them rich profit, both in worship and in receiving succor for our daily path.
Beholding Him Our Peace
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
First we have Him presented by the Spirit as the burnt offering, wholly for God. We are directed to behold Him the Lamb of God the One who alone, first and forever, satisfied God concerning sin. Here Jesus is rightfully displayed, we may say, before the adoring gaze of all heaven as He walked in this scene. Believers are invited by God to have fellowship with His delight in that Object.
Until this moment in John’s writings, through all the ages of Scripture, Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” and Abraham’s answer, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering,” had remained unfulfilled.
Now the Word incarnate, full of “grace and truth,” the Lamb of God’s providing, has appeared. And so the Spirit directs our gaze towards that which has no equal in all creation the burnt offering rendering a sweet savor, fully satisfying to God. Directed by the Spirit we gaze in wonder and adoration at this infinitely sure and precious foundation of rest, finding sweet assurance and peace for our hearts.
Sweetest rest and peace have filled us,
Sweeter praise than tongue can tell;
God is satisfied with Jesus;
We are satisfied as well.
(Little Flock Hymnbook #57)
Beholding Him Our Delight
“Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36).
Again the Spirit directs our gaze to the Lamb but this time it is “looking upon Jesus as He walked” that we behold Him. What an object in which we delight—all the ways that divine love, grace and truth shine perfectly in the Saviour. In all there was perfection fine flour and sweet incense. Every step of His pathway was perfectly in fellowship with His God and Father.
Is there another object in this world seeking to displace the glories and beauties of the Saviour in our hearts? Let it be quickly and unsparingly judged as unworthy of our heart’s affections. Let nothing this poor world has to offer displace the peerless company of the supreme Delight and Joy of heaven.
Is there around that which chafes, within that which discourages? Are there trials and persecutions bringing fear? Unfulfilled desires bringing emptiness and dissatisfaction? Then, beloved reader, look—behold “Jesus as He walked”! Beholding the “Lamb of God” in His perfect pathway of grace gives encouragement to persevere in the face of our adversaries.
Come let us sing the matchless worth,
And sweetly sound the glories forth
Which in the Saviour shine.
(Little Flock Hymnbook #196)
Beholding Him Our Example
“Behold the man” (John 19:5).
Here our gaze is not directed to the Lord Jesus by means of His servant, but through the mocking words of unbelief. Yet even in that we find rich and precious blessing for our souls. And the terrible darkness of this awful moment causes His glory to shine out even more brilliantly. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee” (Psa. 76:10).
Thus we behold our blessed Lord coming forth before the howling mob, wearing the crown of thorns and purple robe, a spectacle before all of the hatred that man’s wicked heart could heap upon his Creator. Pilate’s call to “behold the man” brings forth the wretched cry, “Crucify Him.”
However, the believer, whose eyes of faith have been anointed by the Spirit to behold “the Man,” responds with worship and joy. We delight to announce that “this man hath done nothing amiss,” that “He hath done all things well” and that “never man spake like this man.” We should desire to be as the one born blind who, upon seeing Jesus, worshipped Him (John 9).
Never a trial will we face in this life, but that Man has already gone through the same. And He has done so in perfect submission and obedience to God, fully glorifying Him in every circumstance.
What a perfect, morally beautiful example “this Man” leaves for His own to behold as they walk through this world. From the youngest to the oldest, the weakest to strongest, the tried, the persecuted, the fearful or the discouraged whatever the occasion, each is called to “behold the man” finding in Him all the encouragement needed for the wilderness path.
O Lord! when we the path retrace
Which Thou on earth hast trod,
We wonder at Thy lowly mind,
And fain would like Thee be.
(Little Flock Hymnbook #230)
Beholding Him Our Lord
“Behold your King!” (John 19:14).
In another day, Israel had said, “Make us a king” (1 Sam. 8:5), and Jehovah “gave them their request,” but what “leanness” Saul brought into their souls. Now standing before them, announced by Pilate’s mocking arrogance, is the divine King. Yet the hardened, unbelieving leaders of their nation answer, “We have no king but Caesar.” They would rather keep their wretched condition of slavery to the Romans than to accept in humble thankfulness their true King.
We view this awful scene in amazement, wondering at such awful blindness of God’s beloved earthly people. Yet the Spirit of God would exercise our own hearts to soberly consider if He who is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” is allowed to reign in supreme authority in our hearts and lives. We are to confess Him as Lord (Romans 10:9). But do we practically and daily give Him that place in our lives? Our happiness in this life depends on the answer to this searching question.
“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).
In Israel’s day, when David was chosen by God to lead His beloved people, Saul (a picture of the flesh) became his constant enemy, seeking to keep for himself the rightful place of authority that was David’s. In application, one of these two will rule in the believer’s life Saul (the flesh) or David (Christ).
Obedience to Christ’s rightful authority is the way a believer proves love for Christ. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
Anointed King, with glory crowned,
Rightful heir and Lord of all!
Christ of God, our souls confess Thee
King and Sovereign even now!
Thee we reverence, Thee obey—
Own Thee Lord and Christ alway.
(Little Flock Hymnbook #134)

Editorial: "I Know It in My Head"

A dear young sister who had attended a Bible conference some months ago asked a very searching question concerning some ministry given in the Bible readings on that occasion. The subject was Romans 12 and there was good, doctrinally sound ministry beginning with the first verse, concerning our “reasonable service” the presenting of our bodies as an acceptable “living sacrifice.”
However, her question was not about doctrine. It was about practice. She said, “I know the doctrine of Romans 12:1. I know it in my head, but how do I apply it practically in my life?”
There was no spirit of challenge in our dear sister’s question or comments just the opposite. She really wanted help in applying Romans 12:1 practically to her life as a believer.
We feel her question reflects the heartfelt longing of many. Many have a real thirst to have doctrine applied practically to their lives today. Knowing correct doctrine truth that only stays in our heads is not really ours at all. To have truth, we must practically walk in its precepts. The Israelites only possessed as much of the land of promise as they actually walked in (Josh. 1:3).
Truth—Divine Food and Earthly Appetites
Sometimes concern is expressed that our beloved young people do not seem hungry for or interested in the precious truth of God’s Word.
Brethren, let us allow the possibility that this may in part be due to the truth not being presented in a simple, understandable way. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:10). We feel there are many young and old alike who really do have an appetite for the precious truth of God. But it needs to be edible (practical and understandable) and this takes communion, wisdom and discernment on the part of those who take the lead in feeding the flock.
Truth—“Food Convenient”
Truth (doctrine), as well as its practical application, needs to be presented in proper balance. If practical ministry is not founded on doctrinal truth, it becomes meaningless and worse. And if doctrinal truth is presented without practical applications, it may seem pointless merely cold and clinical.
Oh! how we need truth presented in the character of “food convenient” (Prov. 30:8) for the flock of God (“the bread of my daily need,” JND). The daily needs of every saint require the strength and sustenance found in God’s Word.
Truth—The Same Food, Freshly Prepared
We dare say that in the 1800s when the Spirit graciously recovered so much precious, divine truth that for so many centuries had been lost, it was ministered in such a way as related to the present condition of those believers. Certainly none would dispute that that day had a far different moral and spiritual character from what confronts believers living at the threshold of the twenty-first century. While the truth of God never changes, the application of that truth because it is quick (living) and powerful must be fresh and led by the Spirit, if it is to answer to the needs of the present day.
Truth Presented Palatably Let us seek to minister divine truth in the character of those who ministered it in Nehemiah’s day. “And they read in the law of God distinctly out of the book, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah... and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that explained to the people” (Neh. 8:89 JND).
There are four things which characterized the ministry and reading of God’s Word in that time:
(1) It was read “distinctly out of the book.” The unchanging truth was faithfully and unerringly presented, just as it had been given from God through His servants.
(2) They gave the sense. God’s Word was applied to the peculiar circumstances of the people who had gathered there desiring to hear it read.
(3) They were made to understand the truth that was read. Of what value for them was knowing the truth, if they could not understand what it meant?
(4) Faithful men of God took time to explain God’s Word. This required those men to understand the present condition of the people they taught.
When the people had first heard it read, they began to weep (vss. 9-10). Their consciences were tender—they were interested in the truth but they misapplied what they heard. God’s servants instructed them properly, explaining that the effect of what they heard should be to cause them joy and gladness, not sorrow.
Truth Presented Perfectly
“They said therefore to Him, Who art Thou? And Jesus said to them, Altogether that which I also say to you” (John 8:25 JND).
Let us remember that our blessed Lord Jesus “the way, the truth, and the life” provides the perfect example of teaching divine truth. In Matthew and Luke, before the Lord went out into His public ministry of teaching and preaching, He was privately tested in the wilderness. There the blessed Lord first used the truth He would teach to others to fully defeat Satan.
So perfectly was the truth expressed in His life that we may say, He was in His life what He taught. May this be so in its measure with us!
Truth—Presented Powerfully
The horribly confusing and corrupt day in which we live calls for ministry of divine truth in words which are presented in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 14:9—words easy to be understood (“distinct speech,” JND). Let us be careful, however, that we do not attach an undue importance to the way (the literal manner of speaking) in which that precious truth was ministered in the past centuries.
If we become taken up with the style of presentation—with certain phrases or favorite words the expression of the truth may become more important (perhaps even a matter of pride with us) than the blessed divine truth itself! Let us remember what the beloved Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:1: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.” It is the Spirit of God, not man’s eloquence, that gives power to divine truth when presented to souls.
Truth—Presented Plainly
We need to be like those who preached the truth in Acts 14:1: “And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” The words spoken by Paul and Barnabas, under the control of the Spirit of God, were exactly suited to the hearers of that day Jew and Gentile. The truth they preached was the same divine, unchanging truth. But the apostles presented it in such a way that both Jews and Gentiles understood.
May our blessed God grant that we never give up one word of divine truth that we have received. But let us speak and teach it in the spirit of those of David’s day as “men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.”

Editorial: Keeping Heart in "Perilous Times"

Thirty-five years ago, a former editor of this publication penned in part these solemn words: “On every hand there is a concerted drive to remove the fear of God from the consciences of the people of the land. A noted Bible expositor has said that they [so-called “Christian lands”] will reap the whirlwind for the dragon’s teeth they are sowing giving up God and throwing off inhibitions which even nature should teach men.
“The schools of the land now teach that God did not create man thus man satisfies himself that he bears no responsibility to God. Then, having reasoned that he is nothing more than an intelligent beast, not responsible to a Creator, by deduction man further reasons that he may just as well live in a bestial manner, seeking to satisfy all the corrupt tendencies of his evil heart.
“The religious world is filled with hosts of professed ministers of the gospel who openly deny virtually every precious truth of the Word of God. Under such gross infidelity, mankind has fallen so far down that all that now governs morals are lusts and popular opinion. Furthermore, there is a certain sophistry current that teaches that as long as people are not caught in their immoral or amoral actions, all is well. Christians, beware of these influences!”
How solemn to read these words today and realize that those days our late brother referred to were indeed the sowing the dragon’s teeth, while our day is surely one of reaping the wind.
Though we do not multiply examples, recent political events in the United States surely ought to provide ample motive for Christians to practically move as pilgrims and strangers through this wretched world walking in practical separation from all its corrupt ways. How sad that real believers in the Lord Jesus Christ become caught up in the spirit of such a defiled scene!
Perhaps all of us to some degree know in our minds the truth of moral separation from this corrupted scene far better than we practice that truth with our feet! However, truth known in the mind is not necessarily held in the heart. So in Proverbs 23:26 the father beseeches his son, “Give me thine heart,” while in chapter 4:23 he issues the loving warning, “Keep thy heart.” In the midst of the wiles and temptations of this world, how we need to guard our affections! But we cannot keep or guard what has not first been given wholly to the Father.
In the day of Deborah and Barak a day of very great failure and weakness in Israel there were those who, when called to the battle, rose up and went, for their hearts had been touched (Judg. 45). However, others who had become accustomed to and settled down in the very world which was oppressing them refused the call to battle.
In Judges 5:15-16 we learn that Reuben’s heart had been taken up with his possessions his “flocks.” He thus had no heart to fight the Lord’s battle.
Gilead his heart taken up with his comforts—was quite content to dwell on the other side of Jordan. Satisfied with those comforts, he had no motivation to fight such a battle.
Dan’s heart was involved with his business, for he remained “in [his] ships.” Thus the challenges of that world’s workplace kept him from helping to be a deliverer of God’s dear people.
Asher seemed quite content to rest and enjoy the security of his place. His heart was evidently unwilling to trade the advantage of that refuge for the apparent dangers and discomforts of battle.
However, amid this sad list of cold-hearted apathy, how sweet to read of Zebulun and Naphtali (Judg. 5:18) whose hearts, as the hymn says, “were on fire.” They “were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.” They were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their brethren. Their hearts not their minds had been attracted by Jehovah. They were fearless their hearts placed no value on worldly possessions, its comfort, its business or its security.
May God grant that, in these last, dark moments before the Lord’s return, we may be found in true heart-love for Christ arrayed in the full armor of God, holding “fast till I come” (Rev. 2:25), “and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:13).

Editorial: Living and Dying for the Faith

A network news source, responding to the tragic events that recently took place in a Colorado high school, made this statement about some who were slain: “There is nothing sanctimonious about the faith of these teenagers. They are actively engaged in the world around them.”
Commenting on this statement, a brother said, “This is a challenge to me! Do I live my Christianity in the seclusion of the assembly and my family, or am I actively engaged in this world as a Christian? When I read of the other members of that [Christian] youth group using every opportunity available (even an interview on TV) to present the gospel, I was challenged to consider: Just what am I doing?”
This question should stir all our hearts. Perhaps the highest test of courage in the world’s estimation is to be willing to die for what one believes. But if it is a test of courage to be willing to die for our beliefs, does it not also take courage to be willing to live by them? By public testimony, some young people in that high school died because of their Christian faith. Oh! may we believers still in this dark world be willing to live according to the light of the truth we have. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
At least three of those slain were known to their classmates as “committed Christians” the activity of their lives showed the reality of their faith.
One had planned to go on a missionary trip to Africa. Another, a young man, spent the past summer working with a missionary project building housing for the poor in South America. The third, perhaps most touching of all, was saved just two years ago. She evidently had a bright testimony, daily carrying her Bible to school and wearing a bracelet that said, “What would Jesus do?” When asked by her slayer if she “loved God,” she answered, evidently realizing it could cost her life, “Yes, I love God.”
Let’s not miss the point of the question: “Am I actively engaged in this world as a Christian?” At least one and perhaps more of the Colorado teenagers were willing to die for what they believed. Are we willing to live for what we believe?
By death, a deep impact has been made on those who knew them. Are we, through our life, making a similar impact? “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
For example, we know the Bible exhorts us: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor. 6:17). He has also told us in John 15:19 that we “are not of the world.” Most who read this claim to have light from God’s Word. But if we say we hold the truth of separation from “this present evil world,” are we actively living according to that light? The Apostle Peter addresses believers as “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11). Is that pilgrim light shining forth from our lives?
Then in Philippians 2:15-16 we have this: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.” Is not this the best way in which we can be “actively engaged in this world”? Our knowledge of the truth of God’s Word should cause us to shine in this moral darkness, holding forth the Word of life to the lost.
It is very beautiful to see that “shining” (our actions) comes first, then “holding forth the Word” (our talk). If our actions aren’t consistent with the light we have from God, of what use will our words be? The world, while rejecting Christ, can’t deny the consistency of these young people’s testimony, for it was sealed by their death. May our lives do the same.
Walking in true moral separation from this world as “crucified with Christ,” practically dead to it and alive to God (Rom. 6:11), will enable us to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
May we be as faithful in our lives to the light and truth we have received as these young believers were in their death to the light they possessed.
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Editorial: "The Thief Cometh … to Steal"

The following “anecdote” is probably fictional, but it furnishes an all-too-true illustration of our lives. Its lesson is vitally important, and we trust each reader will put its principles to use in their life.
A father, tired and home late from work as usual, was met at the door by his little boy.
“Daddy, can we go to the park and play ball?”
It was not what Dad wanted to hear. “Not tonight,” he said abruptly, trying not to look at his boy’s expectant face. “I’m too tired. Besides, I’ve got to spend my time tonight on work for the office.”
After a short silence his boy quietly asked, “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?”
Too busy to find out what prompted such a question, he replied tersely, “Oh, about $20.”
Again there was a short silence and then a little voice asked, “Daddy, would you loan me $5?”
With growing irritation, he replied, “No, of course not! Why do you need that much money, anyway? You already get an allowance, and I can’t just give you money every time you ask for it!”
The crestfallen boy silently went upstairs to his bedroom. Before long, Dad was feeling very uneasy about his impatient words. Pulling a $5 bill out of his wallet, he went up to his son’s room.
“I’m sorry I talked so rough. Here’s something for you,” he said, handing the bill to his son who was sitting in the middle of his bed. The boy’s face lit up with delight. Taking the $5, he reached under his pillow, pulled out a handful of crumpled bills and added the $5 to the pile of money.
Seeing this, his dad irritably demanded, “If you already had that much money, why did you need to borrow more from me?”
With a happy smile on his face, the little boy held out the crumpled pile of money to his dad, saying, “You loaned me $5. Now I’ve got $20. Can I buy an hour of your time?”
Time Is a Precious Treasure
How difficult it is to learn the lesson of this story! The rapidly increasing demands and responsibilities of twentieth-century life can and do methodically rob us of a very precious possession our free time. Far too often we make no effort to stop this tragic theft.
Of course we must work, fulfilling the responsibilities of daily life and providing “things honest in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17). But any other time we give to the world’s demands must be taken away from something else. Sadly, it often is taken from those areas of our lives that are vital to our happiness as believers personal communion with the Lord, assembling with those of “like precious faith,” private time with our spouses and individual nurturing time with our children.
The World’s Demands
Like Egypt of old, the world today demands that we serve with “rigor.” “And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage.... All their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor” (Ex. 1:13-14). Pharaoh was not interested in the welfare of the Hebrew families. He planned to destroy them. But he first took their time and energy to enrich his kingdom. Not a second of the Israelites’ time spent in bitter labor was given to Jehovah or used for the benefit of their families!
Don’t Give in Don’t Give It Away
We must not give in to these demands of the enemy if our personal life of faith, the assembly and our families are to be preserved. All that is really precious in this life is at stake in this battle! We have this word, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), to encourage us in the conflict.
Even in the days of our Lord’s pathway here, we read that there were so “many coming and going... they had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:31). The Lord Jesus had come with a message of deliverance for His beloved people (Luke 4:18). Surely nothing could be more pressing than the work which His Father gave Him to do (Matt. 20:28)! Yet, the Lord would not allow even these exigencies to “rob” His beloved disciples of the rest they needed. Thus, in the very midst of such pressing demands, He says to them, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.”
The Battle
Beloved fathers (and mothers too!), “quit you like men,” “stand fast” and “be strong.” If you feel an inability to fight such a battle, remember that “He giveth more grace” (James 4:6) and that you can “do all things through Christ” (Phil. 4:13). Don’t become complacent, allowing yourself to get accustomed to the subtle, greedy and unnecessary demands that this Christ-rejecting world makes for your precious free time. Remember that the hours that could be spent in nurturing and guiding your family are, if wasted or stolen, irrecoverable.
Let us learn from the sad history of King Saul. The priorities of his father Kish were out of order. Consider the time when Saul was looking for the lost asses that belonged to his father. After spending some time without finding the animals, Saul makes this poignant comment to his servant: “Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us.” In light of these solemn words, should we wonder at the disastrous results of Saul’s life? Kish made a choice in his life a choice that each must also make today. Tragically, his choice was to give more time and thought to his asses than to his son.
Oh! that we would never allow the world to steal the priceless free time that should be spent with the Lord, the assembly and our families. The vital service of raising a family for the glory of God requires a firm, resolute stand against a world ever ready to steal every precious minute of our time.
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).

Editorial: "Three Months"

“And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months” (Ex. 2:2).
“In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months” (Acts 7:20).
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment” (Heb. 11:23).
It is recorded three times in Scripture that Moses’s parents had three months in which to hide and nourish the precious treasure given them.
Pharaoh issues the command that every son is to be cast into the river, while every daughter is to be saved alive. The world will gladly accept the blessings that the grace and fruitfulness (daughters) of true Christianity provide. But it hates strong Christians (sons) who will represent God the Father in energy and dignity, shining as lights in this dark scene. Thus the enemy seeks to have believers’ spiritual strength cast into the river (the world), there to succumb to all its wicked influences.
We can hardly think of darker times in which to raise children for God than what is recorded in Exodus 2. But even in those “perilous times” we find two people who say by faith, “No! We will not give in to such demands!” And God graciously rewards their faith, giving them “three months” time which they have to work with and preserve their child. Oh! beloved parents! How short a time you have with your little ones. What are you going to do with those three months that God has allowed you?
What do those three months represent in the three places in which we read about them? We believe that, in application, they represent (1) the preserving of our children from the world through love, (2) bearing the responsibility of their nourishment and (3) doing all in the energy of faith.
Preserving Love
In Exodus 2 we have the principle of love the mother being prominent in this account. There is no greater love in nature than that of a mother’s heart. This preserving love is a deep and devoted love. In a world that seems so bright, inviting and exciting it takes such love to hide our precious children from its destructive influences. Oh beloved parents! Do you love your children enough to hide them in Christ from the world’s river, which is flowing by the door of your house?
The time comes when Moses can no longer be hid (Ex. 2:3). But it was during those three months, while hiding him, that Moses’s mother diligently prepared that ark. She knew her work was unacceptable to the world that she would not receive encouragement—but that was of little concern to her. The world’s disapproval had no affect on the efforts generated by her preserving love.
She used slime and pitch, not trying to make the ark look attractive to the world, nor did she care if her faith was socially acceptable or politically correct. She used slime and pitch, because those materials were needed to keep the river of the world from seeping in and harming its precious cargo. There is nothing attractive about the Christ of Christianity (Isa. 53:2) to this world. But faith knows that He who has filled all heaven with His glory the rejected Man of sorrows perfectly protects.
Wise Love
Moses’s faithful mother—in the wisdom of love—did not place the ark right out in the middle of the river where the current would quickly sweep it away. It was carefully placed in the flags (reeds) “by the river’s brink.” Thus, preserving love will wisely use the appropriate “flags” (nature) that God has given in order to keep children from being swept over the world’s brink of destruction. The needs of nature in our dear children must not be denied them for, if used in godly wisdom, they will help guard from the world’s deadly influences.
Watchful Love
Next, this mother’s preserving love sends Moses’s sister standing afar off to watch the child. Beloved parents, you can’t always be with your children, but you can always watch over them in prayer. May we “watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7)! Thus Moses’s mother’s love was rewarded, for the result of this watching love was that she was told by Pharaoh’s daughter to “take this child away, and nurse it for me” (Ex. 2:9). How important it is to separate our children from harmful, worldly influences.
Then we read that “the woman took the child and nursed it. And when the child was grown, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter” (Ex. 2:9-10 JND). How long did the mother have to raise the child that her love had protected from the world? All the time she needed even until Moses was grown! The effect of this love is seen years later when we read that God put it in Moses’s heart to “visit his brethren” (Acts 7:23). His mother’s preserving love had attached her son’s heart to the people of God, and he considered them brethren his people.
Preserving Nourishment
In Acts 7 we have the second mention of those three months, this time characterized by the responsibility of providing nourishment. We read that Moses was “nourished up in his father’s house.” Fathers, you have the God-given, solemn responsibility as head of your house to provide a place in which the children God has given you can be nourished up in the things of God.
In the very next verse (Acts 7:21) we read that when Moses was cast out (placed in the ark), Pharaoh’s daughter took him up and nourished him. In the Greek the thought between the two “nourishings” is quite different. The nourishing of the father’s house provided lasting benefit for the child. But the kind of nourishing that Pharaoh’s daughter did for Moses was with the intent to benefit herself. The world will offer to nourish our children, but always with its gain as the object. A father provides nourishment for his dear children for their blessing and for the benefit of the people of God.
Morally there is a very great difference of character between Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s daughter. Pharaoh represents the outwardly corrupt, violent and destroying influences of this Christ-rejecting world. But Pharaoh’s daughter represents the charming, attractive and seemingly gracious, helpful influences of the world.
The first we naturally fear and seek to hide from, while the latter all too often fools us into accepting its embraces. Beloved parents, never forget that both Pharaoh and his daughter seek to destroy your children! Fathers, see to it that you, not Pharaoh’s daughter, provide nourishment for your children!
Preserving Faith
In Hebrews 11:23 we have the third mention of the three months. Here we find the principle of faith in action, in preserving Moses from the world. Moses’s parents saw their child “beautiful” (JND) because he represented deliverance for the people of God. Beloved parents, look at your children in that way—beautiful to God and to the brethren as potential deliverers for the people of God.
These parents Amram and Jochebed were a son and a daughter of Levi. They had similar exercises. They walked together in singleness of mind and heart, desiring to see their precious and beautiful child preserved from the destroying enemy. Oh! may God grant faith to Christian parents that they walk together as one (Amos 3:3), not fearing the commandment of the king. It was faith that united them together in purpose of heart and gave them confidence and energy to hide their beloved son in the face of the king’s commandment of death.
Let us all seek God’s grace in helping to preserve the dear children by love, by nourishing and by acting in the energy of faith that we may say to them in truth in the words of the Apostle, “Beloved, I desire that in all things thou shouldest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers” (3 John 2 JND).

Editorial: "When I Was a Child"

“And he said, What have they seen in thine house?... All the things that are in mine house have they seen” (2 Kings 20:15).
On a warm, sunny afternoon early last fall, while completing an outdoor painting project on our home, I was shot several times by a little 4-year-old neighbor boy.
Of course, I wasn’t really shot at least with a real gun. But I fear that the toy my young neighbor used was, in his imagination, shooting very real bullets at me and, in his fantasy, causing my very real death. He went about his “game” in a deliberate, measured way, handling, aiming and shooting his toy very methodically. Though certainly he had never received “professional training,” the sad reality is that, in a very tangible way, he had from TV, story and comic books, electronic games, role-playing games, videos, and perhaps, saddest of all, from tragic, real-life news stories.
Were his actions nothing more than a harmless display of a child’s imagination? The rash of recent dreadful outbreaks of violence in public schools the result of a growing infatuation with all manner of violence and corruption strongly suggests that such influences lead children’s imaginations to play which is far from harmless.
Children’s Toys: the Christian Home
Christian parents cannot afford to be naive concerning the dangers linked with some popular “games and toys,” promoting violence and corruption. These toys—and their electronic, computer game equivalents—quickly mold the impressionable and creative imaginations of our children in negative ways, if allowed in our homes.
We are reminded of the question asked of King Hezekiah by the prophet, “What have they seen in thine house?” (2 Kings 20:15). In moral application to the present day, this question ought to cause every Christian parent earnest, heart-searching exercise before the Lord. Toys, games and other kinds of entertainment which children are exposed to in their homes are all part of that mix of experiences that forms their ideas and actions.
Children’s Toys: the Source
It is from men’s hearts and thoughts no different today than in Noah’s day when “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” –that such entertainment for our children is conceived. May God preserve us!
The “perilous times” in which we live a day when the “love of many shall wax cold” call for earnest prayer and great carefulness on the part of parents, as they consider what kind of toys, games, activities and entertainment will be allowed in their home. How gracious of our God that He has promised wisdom for those who feel the lack of it (James 1:5). We do well to earnestly seek it from Him!
Children’s Toys: Perception and Reality
Many seemingly harmless children’s toys are, in reality, based on mythical, science fictional or supernatural fantasies. The heroes or heroines in these games and toys are often portrayed as part beast and part human, possessing immense strength and, worse yet, occult powers. Violence, corruption and even the occult are underlying themes of many children’s toys and games. But they are presented in bright, colorful, inviting ways. Such toys are a solemn example of those Satanic influences presenting themselves as “angels of light” whose real purpose is the destruction of our children.
Sadly, even “family oriented” companies, spending untold millions of dollars to create imaginary, fantasy worlds of entertainment, base many of these bright and exciting “kingdoms” on subtle themes of atheism, idolatry and corruption.
Children’s Toys: Scriptural Principles
In 2 Kings 4:40-41 and Isaiah 7:15 we have two incidents which contain wonderful principles for guiding Christian parents who must face such battles against these influences every day.
The sons of the prophets had gathered various vegetables for the pot of stew that was to feed them. One had unwittingly gathered a poisonous gourd and shredded it into the pot where it was unnoticed until they began to eat. Immediately the cry went to Elisha, “O thou man of God, there is death in the pot.”
How often Christian parents cry out to the Lord in the same way that the “pot of experiences” their children have gathered during each day contains “death.” God’s provision is as wonderful as the deadly condition is frightening.
Elisha takes meal (a beautiful type of Christ in His manhood perfection) and puts it into the poisoned stew. The result is that the poison is neutralized and the sons of the prophets can now eat and gain strength from the meal.
How important that in every circumstance of our children’s lives, including the natural realm, Christ as a Man on earth is applied to each experience. In doing this, the hidden and subtle poison is neutralized, and our children suffer no harm.
Children’s Toys: Their Proper Place
There is nothing inherently wrong with toys and games. We feel they are a needful part of the realm of nature. But we encourage parents to consider getting toys for their children which simulate or relate to normal, healthy environments (toy offices, kitchens, workshops, tools and many others).
Also, many happy times can be enjoyed by parents and children in pursuing a large variety of family games and hobbies. There are many hobbies (collecting something, for instance) which are not expensive and afford hours of enjoyment.
For example, one dear brother, whose children were interested in stamp collecting, encouraged them to collect stamps from the nation of Israel. This provided a wonderful way to share and explain the Word of God with his children while they enjoyed their hobby together.
In Isaiah 7:15, there is a principle which encourages parents to give something better to their children, before their appetites are filled with that which the world offers. They should fill them with both butter (spiritual richness) and honey (sweetness in nature). It is absolutely vital that parents trouble themselves to give to and to fill their children, especially when—for the sake of conscience—they must take away or refuse certain other kinds of toys and entertainment.
When one becomes a man (both in the spiritual and the natural sense), the things of a child are put away. But until then, may God grant understanding of the times to dear Christian parents who seek to preserve their children from corruption in the midst of a crooked and perverse world.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true... honest... just... pure... lovely... of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Beloved brethren! Can we desire anything less than these same things for our precious children?

Editorial: "Y2K" - Should It Concern Believers?

We’re hearing a lot about the “Y2K” (“Year 2000”) computer problem, sometimes called the “millennium bug.” Many knowledgeable people as well as many more self-proclaimed experts express widely differing opinions concerning the degree of adverse effects likely to result from this technological dilemma. Numerous theories are being advanced as to what people should do to prepare for and protect against “Y2K.”
While it is perplexing to discern between valid concern and unfounded fear, we do believe that godly wisdom would lead us to sober and prayerful consideration of this issue. Our blessed God has “not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” However, He also tells us, “The prudent man looketh well to his going” (Prov. 14:15). Twice more in Proverbs we are told that “a prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Prov. 22:3; 27:12).
How comforting to know that Psalm 95:4-5 JND speaks of our Father: “In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also: the sea is His, and He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.”
We have often heard that God is “behind the scenes, moving all the scenes He is behind.” He may always be fully trusted to provide all the wisdom and grace needed to deal with the difficulties of this life, for He is light and He is love.
What causes the “Y2K” problem? Many computer calculations are “date sensitive,” needing accurate dates to properly complete certain tasks or sets of instructions. Some 25 years ago, when much of the existing computer code was being developed, programmers decided to use only the last two digits of our normal 4-digit year. Thus, for the year “1999” a computer sees only “99.” When the year 2000 arrives, computers will see “00.” The problem is that when “00” appears, many computers will calculate that date as “1900” rather than “2000.”
This may result in corrupted operations and, ultimately, incorrect data or, worse yet, computer failure. Serious problems could result, depending on the equipment being controlled by the computer.
Will Chaos Result From “Y2k”?
We don’t believe so. But capable professionals admit that no one knows for sure just what will take place on January 1, 2000. The U.S. government has advised communities to expect possible disruptions in utilities or municipal services. Any computer-dependent product or service could be affected, for even our cars and common household appliances contain numerous computer chips, some of which may be “date sensitive.”
China is an example of the seriousness with which many governments view this problem. In an effort to insure trouble-free air service, the Chinese government has ordered its top airline administrators to be in the air, flying, on January 1, 2000! Surely, Christians who are to be wise as serpents ought not to disregard warnings of such problems.
Scripture is replete with examples of those who, knowing of coming adversity, took wise and discreet action. Noah was moved with fear and prepared an ark as the result of a divine warning. Pharaoh followed Joseph’s advice and averted a terrible famine. Moses’ parents, knowing the fate that awaited their beautiful baby boy, yet not fearing the king’s commandment, built a place to hide him.
In the New Testament our blessed Lord Jesus warns of coming trouble (Mark 13), saying that all should flee to the mountains when it appears. In Luke 14:28-32 He encourages those who would be His disciples to sit down first and soberly consider the cost before starting out.
The Apostle Paul did not refuse to be let down by a basket to escape danger (Acts 9), nor did he refuse the 470 soldiers who protected him on the way to Cæsarea (Acts 23). Yet the centurion’s refusal to heed the Apostle’s warning (Acts 27) not to embark on the voyage to Rome resulted in disaster.
What Should Christians Do?
Pray for personal wisdom and guidance, as well as for “all that are in authority,” that “we may lead... quiet and peaceable” lives. Along with personal, earnest prayer, believers ought to soberly and prayerfully weigh the individual circumstances of their lives in the spirit of Luke 14:28, in view of the potential for problems on January 1, 2000.
For example, it would be wisdom to consider such things as travel plans requiring public transportation or long-distance driving during the first few days of the coming year. Also, in view of the often bitterly cold days of early January, the needs of infants, children and the very elderly for water, food, heat and medications should be considered.
We do not advocate storing up massive supplies of food, water or other commodities. But we do heartily encourage each to give sober and prayerful thought to “Y2K,” not dismissing these rightful concerns as merely a lack of faith.
Let’s also remember the whole “household of faith.” Brethren living in “third world” countries may face far more serious disruptions and unrest than we as a result of the “Y2K” problem.
Our Consolation
He who declares “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10) and has promised to give wisdom “liberally” to those who ask of Him (James 1:5) is our one, unfailing resource. His counsel stands, doing all His pleasure (Isa. 46:10). What a solid rock we have in which to put our trust and confidence!
Finally, while we know “that the same afflictions” which we face “are accomplished” in those who are “in the world” (1 Peter 5:9), believers have this divinely perfect consolation: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace” (Acts 20:32).

The End of the Millennium

The sixth millennium is about to draw to a close. Though morally dark, it is an exciting time for believers who look for the promised coming of the Lord Jesus for His bride, the church.
Men are already reminiscing about the greatest events and achievements of the twentieth century. But the two greatest events of all time the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary and His resurrection from among the dead interest him little. Yet what can compare in significance with Christ’s work which has brought eternal satisfaction to God and rich blessing for man? How glorious the redeemer and how mighty the work of redemption! Let us patiently press on in the path of faith, for His coming surely draws nigh (James 5:8). If we are left here to enter the seventh millennium, let us do so with renewed desire: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

The Fear of the Lord

The fear of the Lord is not the fear of judgment and wrath, but it is that holy and blessed fear in the soul to which the Spirit of God gives birth a fear lest we fail to walk pleasing to Him.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

"Feed My Lambs": A Kind Cat

Many years ago a dear Christian, Sir Henry Wyat, was often cast into prison because of his faith in the Lord Jesus. During one winter, he was thrown into a very cold, damp, tiny cell. It had no bed and Sir Henry did not have enough clothing to keep warm. Worse yet, his captors gave him very little food, hoping he would starve to death.
Then one day, a large, furry cat somehow found its way into Sir Henry’s dungeon room. He gently picked it up and tenderly held it close to himself, enjoying the warmth of its soft body. Soon a deep bond had formed between Sir Henry and the cat. It continued to visit him every day, and, with each visit, it brought in its mouth a gift for him a fat pigeon.
Though the prison keeper was under strict orders to refuse to provide Sir Henry with extra food, he did agree to cook the pigeons that the cat brought. Until he was released from prison, the cat didn’t fail to deliver a daily pigeon just enough food to keep him from starving to death!
Our wonderful God and Father has promised to provide for every need that His dear children will ever have. (Read Philippians 4:19.) And because the Lord Jesus has promised to never leave or forsake us, we should always “be content with such things as [we] have” (Heb. 13:5).

"Feed My Lambs": "Be Not Weary in Well Doing"

In 1989 a terrible earthquake struck the country of Armenia (near Russia), killing over 30,000 people in less then four minutes. After the quake, a father frantically rushed through the ruins of a little village to the school that his 8-year-old boy attended. When he got there, he was horrified to see that all that was left of the school building was a huge pile of rubble! Though he knew there was little hope of finding any children still alive, the father’s love for his little boy would not allow him to leave.
Beginning in the very place where he knew his son’s classroom had been, the father began furiously digging through the rubble. For 37 weary hours he toiled without rest at the seemingly hopeless task. Many of his neighbors came to watch some even trying to get him to stop wasting his time. But to each the father simply replied by asking the same question, “Are you going to help me?” Sad to say, no one offered to assist him!
Then, in the afternoon of the second day, as he dug, repeatedly calling his son’s name, he was overjoyed to hear a voice shout back, “I’m here! It’s me, Father!” With a fresh burst of energy, the father quickly cleared the last remaining obstacles of rubble from the area. Then fourteen scared, hungry, thirsty and very happy children emerged from their dark prison into the light, freedom and fresh air!
Living for the Lord Jesus today is difficult. Perhaps some who know us don’t offer any help to us in trying to be faithful to the Lord. But Jesus is always with us, (“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”) even when others give up. He appreciates everything that is done to please Him. In Revelation 23 He says seven times, “I know thy works.” Don’t stop living to please your Saviour or telling others how to be saved or praying for others. And never quit reading God’s precious Word and obeying it!
In two Scriptures (Gal. 6:9; 2 Thess. 3:13) we are encouraged to not become tired of “well doing.” Until the Lord Jesus comes for us, there’s lots to do! Let’s keep digging and not give up!

"Feed My Lambs": Papers for the Fire

The following story is attributed to John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States who served from 1825 to 1829. Though we cannot verify its authenticity, it does illustrate a vitally important Scriptural principle.
It is said that Mr. Adams, who from all accounts was a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—one who read 35 chapters of the Bible every day—was in the midst of a close contest for a political office. The man who was opposing him was a popular and formidable opponent and the race was very close.
One morning, a few weeks before the election, a visitor was shown into Mr. Adams’ office. Producing a thick envelope, the visitor said that it contained details about the lifestyle and habits of his opponent—true stories that could be proved by witnesses, whose names were also in the envelope. The information would be so embarrassing to Mr. Adams’ political rival, that if made public, it would insure his defeat in the coming election.
Mr. Adams listened silently until the visitor had finished speaking. He then asked if there existed any more copies of the material in the envelope. Upon being assured that there were none, he asked the visitor how much money was wanted for the package. A figure was named, and Mr. Adams promptly wrote a bank draft for that amount.
Then, taking the envelope, he opened it and, without reading any of the documents, began, to the visitor’s great amazement, throwing the papers one by one into the fireplace. It was not long before the whole contents as well as the envelope were reduced to a pile of unreadable ashes.
We read in Proverbs 10:12 that “hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” The love of God, when allowed to act in our hearts, will never lead us to willingly talk publicly about others’ failures.
Though there are times when a Christian may need to reveal something that another has done to dishonor the Lord Jesus, we should never become talebearers (Prov. 11:13). A talebearer is a person who spreads insulting or embarrassing stories about another things that ought to be kept secret. How important to ask the Lord Jesus to help us to not become gossipers concerning others’ faults or problems. God’s love in our hearts will cause us to confess our own sins to Him, while praying to Him about failures we find in others.
How happy we will be if we follow these words in 1 Peter 3:11, “Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it,” and in Galatians 6:10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
“He that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Prov. 11:13).

"Feed My Lambs": The 28¢ Birthday Present

Billy’s father, who owned a department store, had earned a reputation of being hard-working and successful. But Billy, who worked in the store part-time, found out one day the real reason that his father was so highly respected.
One Saturday afternoon a little boy named Chad came into the store and, going to the toy department, began to carefully examine its contents. Everyone knew about Chad’s family they were very poor, probably the poorest people in town. And although Chad was clean, his clothes were very worn and ragged his scuffed shoes with holes worn through the toes did not have any shoelaces.
As Billy watched, Chad carefully picked up one toy after another, intently looking each over and then gently replacing it on the shelf. Knowing how poor Chad was, Billy secretly wondered why he even had bothered to come to the store; he was sure Chad couldn’t afford any of those toys!
Finally after about 20 minutes, Chad selected a beautiful metal airplane and took it to the cash register where Billy’s father was standing. “Well Chad,” said Mr. Peterson, “that’s a very nice airplane model. Is that for you?”
“No sir,” replied Chad, “this is a birthday present for my little brother. How much is it, Mr. Peterson?”
“How much do you have, Chad?” asked Billy’s dad. In reply, Chad silently dug into his pocket and, holding out his hand to Mr. Peterson, presented him with two dimes, a nickel and 3 pennies.
“That’ll just about do it, Chad,” said Mr. Peterson as he rang up the sale.
As Billy wrapped the present for Chad, he couldn’t help noticing that the price tag on the airplane was $5.98, and it was then that he realized that the joy that was radiating on Chad’s face as he left the store with the package was worth far more to his dad than the price of the model airplane.
In Acts 20:35 we read that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” And when the Apostle Paul was encouraging the believers in Corinth to share their wealth with those in need, he said, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man... let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6-7).
God has “freely given” His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus, for us, and with Him, “all things.” Because we have freely received so much, our hearts in love ought to seek to find ways to be a blessing to others who are needy.
The greatest need that people have is not the need of money it is the need of a Saviour! We may not always be able to give money to the poor, but we can share the gospel with them!
“Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8).

"Feed My Lambs": The Extra Box

A group of Christians in a small town decided to give boxes of food to needy families. Hams were donated by a local store and other groceries were purchased. Since there was enough food to fill ten large boxes, ten local families were selected to receive them. The boxes would provide the best meal many of them had enjoyed in months!
As the people began picking up their gift boxes, another family unexpectedly arrived. Dad, mom and three kids, in tattered clothing, got out of an old, rusty pickup and came up to the building. They had heard about the free food boxes, and being quite poor, wondered if they too might have a box.
Those who had made up and given away the ten boxes sadly explained to the eleventh family that they had nothing left to give them. Overhearing this, one woman, who had received a gift, put her box down. Then, finding an empty box, she began removing items from her box and placing them in the empty box. Seeing this, the others who had also received boxes began doing the same. It was not long before the eleventh family also had a box full of food!
In Matthew 10:8 the Lord Jesus told His disciples: “Freely ye have received, freely give.” Every good thing we have has been given to us by our Father (James 1:17). We who were so very poor (2 Cor. 8:9) have been made very rich by our Lord Jesus, and it should be our joy to give to others (2 Cor. 8:14). “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).

"Feed the Flock": "But It Was Worth It"

In a fierce battle during World War I, a young American soldier saw his lifelong buddy fall wounded. He pleaded with his sergeant to let him leave the safety of the trench and go into “No Man’s Land” to bring back his wounded friend.
The sergeant tried to discourage the young man, but finally, after repeatedly warning him, said, “Go ahead, but I don’t think it’ll be worth it. Your friend is probably dead and you’ll endanger your own life!”
The sergeant’s warnings of peril didn’t stop the young man. Out of the trench he quickly scrambled and somehow almost miraculously he managed to reach his friend. Placing him on his shoulder, he stumbled back to the company’s trench. As the two of them lay in the relative security of the trench, the sergeant carefully checked the wounded soldier.
Then, looking kindly at his friend, who had received grave wounds in the rescue attempt, he quietly said, “I told you it wouldn’t be worth it, son. He’s dead, and you may not live.”
“But it was worth it, sir!” the soldier gasped.
“Worth it!” responded the sergeant in surprise. “But, your friend is dead and you’re badly hurt!”
“I know, sir,” the private said. “But it was worth it to me. When I got to him, he was still alive, and I heard him whisper, ‘Al, I knew you’d come.’ ”
We know that nothing short of love could motivate such heroics in the face of those terrible dangers. This reminds us of John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
We rightly apply this to the Lord Jesus who laid down His life for those who at one time were His enemies those to whom through matchless grace He now says, “Ye are My friends.” But in these words do we not also have the divine motive and measure of our service for the brethren?
How vital that we willingly display in practical ways this loving spirit of sacrifice towards those redeemed with the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It matters little what the world thinks of our efforts at service. We do not serve our brethren to gain the world’s praise, but to give joy to His heart.
The reason we can and ought to serve is that “a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). The measure of our service is that “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). The need for our service is that “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state” (Phil. 2:20). The reward for our service is found in these words of our blessed Saviour: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matt. 25:40).

"Feed the Flock": Doing Good

The 20-mile stretch of abandoned rail line, which has been turned into a lovely bike trail through rural, central Iowa, is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Included among this mixture are turtles harmless box turtles, ill-tempered sand turtles and unwelcome snapping turtles.
On a bike ride this past summer, I noticed a green box turtle moving toward the trail. Evidently it wanted to cross the trail to the swampy pond on the opposite side. However, its small size, slow speed and abundance of natural predators made this a dangerous trip. As I pedaled by, I had an urge to stop, pick it up and place it in the safety of the pond. But I didn’t and though feeling a bit uneasy, I soon forgot the incident.
Two days later, however, I again came upon the same little turtle in the same place. But now it lay on the bike trail dead. Perhaps it had been run over by a cyclist or attacked by a predator. Whatever its enemy was, it never reached the safety of the pond. Though it was just a little turtle, I felt badly that I had not helped it when I had the occasion.
In Galatians 6:10 believers are told, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Often when an opportunity to do good to another presents itself, the pressures and rush of our daily lives seem to take precedence, and the good due to pressing personal needs is left undone.
But our blessed God would have us to be ready always to do good, to serve and to help those in need –whenever the opportunity arises. And, as we read in Matthew 5:44, it is not only those we approve of that we are to serve: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” What an impossible task, if we are not walking in humility and fellowship with the Father!
May God grant us a desire like that of the house of Stephanus, who addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints, with hearts of compassion like the Samaritan who, when seeing the wounded man, came to where he was.
Being Wise
Yet, in view of this violent age, we find in Scripture important balances. We must be careful in these perilous times that our willingness to do good is carried out wisely in fellowship with God. As His sheep sent forth in the midst of wolves, we are to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). It is a day when the principle found in Ephesians 5:15-17 needs to be followed in every aspect of our lives. “See then that ye walk circumspectly [carefully, JND], not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Doing good is not only a matter of willingness, but one of submission to His will.
Some years ago, my wife and I were walking in downtown Chicago in an area called the “miracle mile” where many huge corporations and retail stores have their offices. It was early afternoon and the sidewalk was crowded with busy professionals, bustling shoppers and gawking tourists. As we walked across a crowded intersection, a young woman came up to me and pointing to a quiet, side street said, “I’ve got car trouble a couple blocks from here. Could you come and help me?” Without hesitation I answered, “No ma’am, I can’t help you.”
Her angry reaction, as she turned away, caused me a twinge of guilt until my dear wife said, “Look there.” Not 25 feet from where we stood, a policeman—purposely overlooked by the woman—was directing traffic. We feel that God mercifully spared me from being another statistic in a city mugging.
Believers must be aware that, today, what appears to be a cry for help may be falsely so, in order to take harmful advantage of a would-be benefactor. Satan often appears as an angel of light harmless and helpless. But he is a liar (2 Cor. 11:14; John 8:44). As children of light, let us walk according to the wisdom of that light. We read in Proverbs 14:15, “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.”
The world says, “Perform random acts of kindness.” But our God says, “Be ready to every good work” and “be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:1,8). To be ready, communion with the Father is essential. When thus submitted, we will receive wisdom and energy to maintain the good works that are pleasing to our blessed God.

"Feed the Flock": Living Like an Eagle or a Chicken?

A farmer one day found an injured eaglet in his field. Captured by the majestic beauty of the young bird, he took it home and cared for it. The farmer had chickens in his barnyard, and as they were the closest thing to a relative the young eagle had, he placed the wounded bird with them.
Before long the eaglet became so accustomed to the routine of the barnyard chickens that it seemed to consider itself a chicken! Following them, it scratched, clucked, drank water from a trough and even pecked in the dirt for food just like chickens.
A visiting friend of the farmer was distressed by the eagle’s behavior. “You were not made for the earth,” he said; “you were made to soar in the heavens!” But the eagle paid no attention and continued to scratch and peck in the dirt.
Finally, so frustrated by these unnatural habits, he picked it up, climbed atop a fence post and tossed the bird into the air. But the eagle just fluttered down to the ground and, landing with a clumsy thump, scurried off in search of his chicken friends.
Unwilling to give up, the man took the eagle and climbed up to the roof of his friend’s barn. Again he tossed the eagle up in the air, and again it just flapped its wings helplessly as it fell into a pile of straw on the ground. After shaking its head, the eagle, once again comfortable in familiar surroundings, began pecking at the pieces of straw.
The man left, unable to get the sight of those powerful talons caked with barnyard mud from his mind. The next day he came back and, taking the eagle with him, went to the top of a nearby mountain where the sky unfolded in a limitless expanse.
Looking into the eagle’s eyes, he cried, “You weren’t made to live like a chicken! Why stay down here when you were born for the sky?”
He held the confused eagle so that it was facing into the brilliant light of the setting sun, and then with a powerful thrust, he heaved the bird into the sky. This time as the eagle looked at the sun, he opened his wings and, catching an updraft rising from the valley below, disappeared into the heavens.
Many saints of God seem easily to forget their heavenly calling. As belonging to heaven, our occupation should be with Christ, the heavenly man. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:12).
Though the Lord has called us to live in the heights, many of us spend our time huddled in the barnyard, trying to find our satisfaction in things of this earth. As we look after the necessary needs of our families, finances and careers, all too often we become more like the world around us, forgetting about that glorious world to which we belong.
May the Lord give us purpose of heart to afresh set our gaze on the “Son” spending our time soaring in “heavenly places” where He is seated “at the right hand of God” (Rom. 8:34).
K. Harman (adapted)

"Feed the Flock": The Example

One rainy Saturday afternoon, a dad decided to take his two boys to a museum. At the ticket counter, he asked the attendant, “How much is it to get in?”
The young man replied, “$3.00 for you and $3.00 for any kid who is older than six. Kids six and under get in free. How old are they?”
Without hesitation the dad replied, “The little guy is three and the big one is seven. Guess I owe $6.00.”
With some surprise, the attendant said, “Hey, Mister, you could have saved yourself three bucks. You could have told me that the older one was only six; I’d never have known the difference!”
“That may be true,” replied the dad slowly. “But,” nodding to his two boys, he continued, “they would have known!”
Let’s always remember that each action of our lives gives testimony to something. Perhaps our personal testimony will be the only one for Christ that someone will ever receive. To the world we are indeed an “epistle... known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:2). We should always be sensitive to what those around are reading from our lives.
It has often been mentioned that everything we do in this life has consequences both present and eternal. As to carefulness about how we live, another once said, “Make out your income tax forms in view of the judgment seat of Christ!” What a motive that presents to our hearts! “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
Then, too, who can rightly anticipate or value the lasting effects for good or bad that parents’ actions have upon their beloved children! “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Dear parents! Diligently seek to “make straight paths” for your own feet, so your tender lambs may not be stumbled as they follow your example.
The beloved Apostle Paul was able to tell the dear Thessalonian believers that how he had lived among them and what he had done while with them was so that “we might give ourselves as an example to you, in order to your imitating us” (2 Thess. 3:9 JND). May it be so with us!

"Feed the Flock": The Student

A teacher in a state penitentiary was particularly impressed by one of his students. The man, who was tall, quiet and bald, had been nicknamed “bonehead” by the other prisoners. During the course of that year, he attended six different classes. In each one he proved himself to be bright and hardworking. Yet, though he was an eager learner, he said virtually nothing in any of these classes.
The instructor developed a special attachment for this strange, quiet inmate. His efforts were rewarded, not by words from him, but by short, written messages. Each day, as he left class, “bonehead” gave him a note containing a comment or an observation. He was amazed at the perception and wisdom contained in them.
At the end of the year, certificates of achievement were given to the students. As he shook hands with “bonehead,” the instructor complimented him on his excellent attendance, superior attitude and hard work. “Bonehead” looked at him a moment and then softly said, “Thank you, Gerald. You’re the first teacher in my life that ever told me I did anything right.”
Hezekiah spoke encouraging words to people in distress (2 Chron. 32:6). The Apostle Paul, in the spirit of a father, comforted believers (1 Thess. 2:11).
Let’s learn to speak in a way which encourages others who may have unspoken needs. “I looked for some to take pity, but there was none” (Psa. 69:20). “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down” (Heb. 12:12).

"Feed the Flock": The Teacher

About 30 years ago, a college class of future teachers was asked to study the living conditions and potential for success of 200 inner-city, grade-school boys. Its final judgment on all 200 was, “They haven’t got a chance.”
Over twenty-five years later, another instructor, after reviewing the project, decided to do a follow-up study to see what had happened to the boys. The results of the study are striking.
Though some 25 of the boys had either moved away or had died, the study found that the rest (over 170) of the original 200 boys were surprisingly successful in a variety of professional occupations. Since most all of the boys were still living in the same inner-city area, it was relatively easy to individually contact them in the follow-up study. Each one was asked, “How do you account for your professional success?” In each case the reply which came back started with this comment: “There was a teacher... ”
That lady, now elderly and retired, was located and asked what “special secret” she had used with these students. How had she been able to be so successful in counteracting the negative impact of the environment where they lived? Smiling broadly, she said, “Oh! it’s very simple. I loved those boys!”
In these last, dark days when all is being given up, the assembly desperately needs men of God lovers of Christ who have willing hearts (Ex. 35:21) to serve God’s flock. Especially needed are those who morally answer to “faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). How much we need to be grounded in the truth of Scripture if we are to make progress in our Christian lives.
However, the spirit in which divine truth is taught is also important. The basis of every ministry is love for Christ and for His beloved assembly. An effective teacher has more love for truth and those he teaches than for teaching. A spiritual father (shepherd) lovingly feeds the flock of God. An evangelist preaches because of love for Christ and for lost souls. How important is the spirit of love in all manner of Christian ministry!
Consider Proverbs a divine treasure chest of heavenly wisdom. Its precepts are not presented by a teacher, but by a father. Often its divine instruction begins with these words: “My son.” In Proverbs 23:26 the father’s loving entreaty is, “My son, give me thine heart.” Too often we change this to: “Give me thine ear.” Instruction and love cannot be separated. Teaching, indeed all ministry if efficacious, will be loving and nurturing. It will bear the same character as Paul did with the Thessalonian saints. He had been gentle among them “as a nurse cherisheth her children” (1 Thess. 2:7).
Let us pray that whatever ministry our Father is pleased to grant His children might be carried out in the spirit of Galatians 5:13, “By love serve one another,” and in the wisdom of Proverbs 27:23 (JND), “Be well acquainted with the appearance of thy flocks; look well to thy herds.”

"Feed the Flock": Willing to Go

The story is told of a rescue that took place some years ago in a fishing village on the European coast. One night a terrible storm capsized a fishing boat at sea, near the village. Stranded and in trouble, the crew sent out an S.O.S. The village rescue team quickly assembled in answer to the alarm and rowed off into the storm. Anxiously, the villagers assembled at a spot overlooking the bay, holding their lanterns to light the way back to port.
After a long, tense wait, the rescue boat reappeared and the villagers joyfully ran to the beach to meet them. The brave crew, falling exhausted on the beach, reported that one man had to be left behind, because even one more passenger would have capsized the rescue boat. Frantically, a call went out for a fresh rescue crew to assemble. But the crew that assembled found itself short one man.
At that moment, a 15-year-old lad stepped forward. His distraught mother clutched his arm, pleading, “Please don’t go. Your father died in a shipwreck ten years ago and your brother Franz has been lost at sea for three weeks. You’re all I’ve left!”
The young man quietly said, “Mother, I must go. No one else is able, and the crew can’t go without another man.” The young man gently kissed his mother, joined the team and disappeared into the raging storm. Another long wait ensued, which doubtless seemed like an eternity to the poor mother’s heart. Finally, the rescue boat broke through the storm and rain as it neared the beach. The 15-year-old was standing in its bow. Someone called out to him, “Did you get him?” The excited answer came back, “Yes, we got him. Tell my mother it’s Franz!”
We read these prophetic words in Isaiah 6:8: “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah’s willing desire is a little picture of our Lord’s perfect willingness and obedience. His desire to carry out the Father’s counsels is prophetically uttered in Psalm 40, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God,” and His obedience in Hebrews 10:9, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” The Lord Jesus, perfect in love and obedience said, “As the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do” (John 14:31). The blessed results are told in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
We have many sweet accounts of obedience in Scripture. Joseph and David are both beautiful in their obedience to a father’s command. Jacob says, “Come, and I will send thee,” and Joseph obeys (Gen. 37:12-13). Jesse tells David, “Visit thy brethren... see how they are,” and he obeys (1 Sam. 17:18 JND). Yet in neither case was the question first asked, “Who will go for us.” It was not a question of loving desire responding, but of obedience to a command.
Unlike the mother in our story, the Father’s will was that the Son should come (1 John 4:14). But the Son, in fellowship with the Father’s heart, not only was perfect in His obedience He was perfect in His desire to fulfill those eternal counsels.

The First Mark of Power

The first mark of power is patience. Nothing troubled the peace of the Apostle Paul’s soul, so that he was free enough to think of individuals Euodias (Phil. 4:2) or to write about a runaway slave. He was passing through the valley of Baca, making it a well.
In the many trying circumstances of the Apostle, he was finding that the Lord was sufficient. He possessed that eternal happiness which enabled him to say, when before Festus, “I would to God” that you were “altogether such as I am.”
Are you so happy in your soul that you can say that? The young Christian rejoices in what he has obtained—his salvation, joy, peace and so on. The older Christian rejoices more in Christ. The young Christian says, “I have this; I have that.” The older Christian says, “Christ is this; Christ is that.” Not that this is wrong in a young Christian but if they walk with God, they will soon ripen. So in 1 John 2:12-14, “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning.”
J. N. Darby

"For Our Profit" (Hebrews 12:10-11)

The Lord is putting the finishing touches on His own. In earlier years, I had thought that this life was mainly to provide enjoyment. Now, I perceive that enjoyment cannot be regarded as the main feature of life. Not that I suggest there is no joy, for there is surely (John 15:11; 17:13; 1 Thess. 5:16). But enjoyment—because of lack of time or pressure of circumstances—is a momentary thing. Even in spiritual fellowship, with the Lord’s things before us, the responsibilities of human life often intrude.
I believe that the life of a believer on this earth is more a time of schooling and formation than of enjoyment. A man of the world labors to enjoy all which this life can furnish. The believer’s enjoyment is connected with the future. Thus, while in this scene Christians should be formed by the power of God—made intelligent by the Spirit’s teaching in appreciating all that God is, as revealed in Christ.
The family, the assembly, the circumstances of life all are valuable spheres in this formative process. In our circumstances our blessed Lord can make them irksome to teach us patience or severe to teach us endurance or meager to teach us confidence (Phil. 4:12; 2 Cor. 12:79).
The Lord could make every one of His people rich, for He has “all power” (Matt. 28:18). But all circumstances serve in His hands as education. If we accept them in that way, we shall find great profit.
Adapted from a letter

Fragment: A Book That Tells You All You Ever Did

When I find a book that tells me all things that ever I did, I know what it is. It does not require to be proved by man. No book in the world has authority till it reaches the conscience. Then it is its own witness to the folly of attacks made upon it and proves the folly of unbelief. It is the word of God itself, its own witness. I do not take a candle to see if the sun shines! But do you not see that it shines? Then you are blind. The only thing that brings authority with it is the Word of God coming into the conscience.
J. N. Darby

Fragment: A Christian Lifestyle

If your lifestyle contradicts the Bible, you must either change your lifestyle or the Word of God.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: A Prayer

“I pray that this day the beauty of Jesus may be seen in me.”
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: A Radiant Life

A radiant, happy life is not self-centered; it is Christ-centered.
Spiritual Gems for the Household of Faith

Fragment: Abundance and Abasement - Which Is the Greater Snare?

It is a much greater snare to abound than to be abased. Christ is enough. I get not only peace in the circumstances [of life], but also moral power over them. He may put us through trials, because this is good for us, but He will be with us in them all.
J. N. Darby

Fragment: Attractiveness to the Eye of Faith

What attractiveness there must have been in Him for the eye of faith! The apostles knew nothing of Him doctrinally, and they got nothing in this world by remaining with Him. Yet they are found weeping when they thought they had lost Him.”
J. G. Bellett (from The Moral Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ)

Fragment: Discipline and Friendship

In discipline I learn what I need. In friendship I learn His mind His thoughts.

Fragment: Don't Forget the Christian Children

“Our children (the children of Christians) are worth at least as much effort, labor and care as we give to others!”
C. H. Brown

Fragment: Esther 5:2

“And it was so, when the king saw Esther... she obtained favor in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter.... So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the scepter” (Esther 5:2).
Have I today touched the top of the scepter? I may do so in full assurance of faith. Christ is that divine link between God and my soul. The work of Christ at the cross has forever made me fit to come at any moment (unlike Esther who was not sure of her acceptance before the king) into His blessed presence (Heb. 10:22). In times of trial, His child never need question his welcome, for it is all pure, divine grace flowing from His heart of perfect love. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Fragment: Everything Service

Everything with Paul became service. Whatever it was, whether life or death, he said, “There is something I can fill with Christ.”
G. V. Wigram

Fragment: Faith

We have often heard the phrase, “God says it; I believe it; that settles it.” However, regarding faith, it would be more accurate to say, “God says it; that settles it; I believe it.”
C. Little

Fragment: God's Work - With or Without You

I have no fear that God’s work will not be done. But I have great fear that it will be done without me.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: Good - Better - Excellent

“Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached” (Phil. 1:18).
To love to preach the Word is good. To love those to whom one preaches is better. To love the One of whom one preaches is excellent.
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). If mutual intercession would replace mutual accusation, then the difficulties and differences among brethren would be surmounted.
M. Payette

Fragment: Have You Ever Thought?

Have you ever thought of being in the domestic atmosphere of the Father’s house to be the companion of Jesus, to be loved of the Father and to have the Holy Spirit fill your heart with the love of Christ? We will live in the very home that Jesus has lived in for the past eternity. In this world the bride discovers the elements of the heavenly glory in which she will soon participate.
C. E. Lunden

Fragment: Light that Dwelt in Darkness to Bring us to Light

He who was perfect light, always dwelling in light, endured three hours of unspeakable darkness, that we who dwelt in darkness might be brought into His glorious light.
H. Short

Fragment: Living It Out

If I say, “Jesus is everything to me,” what does my schedule look like?
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: Neglecting the Gift

If I “neglect... the gift” which God has given me for the blessing of His beloved people when things are going well in the assembly (1 Tim. 4:14), the result will be disorder. The condition of assembly confusion in 2 Timothy was the result of this “neglect.” When that is the case, I need to “stir up the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6) which has been given to me.
H. Brinkmann

Fragment: New Exercises

The Lord always tests us in our new exercises. There must be “new” fresh grace to meet them. Our strength in Christ cannot be measured by the way in which we met former trials. However, the remembrance of former victories may encourage us in present circumstances, even as David’s remembrance of slaying the lion and the bear encouraged him when he was about to enter battle with Goliath.
From a personal letter

Fragment: Not Agents, but Instruments

We are not agents to act for the Lord as much as instruments by which He acts pipes through which He waters. We learn our nothingness instruments which He takes up as and when He pleases and for His purposes and we are content.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith (adapted)

Fragment: Nothing More Dangerous

There is nothing more dangerous than to use the Word of God when it has not touched my conscience. I put myself into Satan’s hands if I go beyond what I have from God—what is in possession of my soul—and use it in ministry or privately. There is nothing more dangerous than the handling of the Word apart from the guidance of the Spirit. To talk with saints on the things of God beyond what I hold in communion is most pernicious. There would be a great deal not said that is said, were we watchful as to this and the Word not so used in an unclean way. I know of nothing that more separates from God than truth spoken out of communion with God; there is uncommon danger in it.
J. N. Darby

Fragment: One Object

How good to make Christ our one object. If we make service our object, we shall end in seeking to exalt ourselves. If we make sinners our object, we shall in all probability be drawn back into the world. If we make saints our object, they will break our hearts. But if Christ is our first and supreme object, we shall, like the Apostle, fight a good fight... for Christ alone can hold our feet in the narrow path.
H. Smith

Fragment: Prayer and Complaints

Prayer will make a man cease from sin or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer. Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul and a sacrifice to God.
I am amazed at how often I complain! Is it not a very great insult to God, that the mouth He created to praise Him, I use to complain with!
We are not the most useful when we are the most wordy but when most prayerful.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: Reputation Vs. Character

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue” (2 Peter 1:5).
My reputation is what I am in the light (in public). My character is what I am in the dark (in private).
E. Sutherland

Fragment: Resistance Results in Hardening

Resistance to changing an area of my life that is inconsistent with the will of God will harden me to future pleadings of the Spirit.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: Romans 12:13

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me” (Rom. 12:13).
“I beseech you... by the mercies of God” gives believers their motive.
“Present your bodies” and “the renewing of your mind” gives believers their work.
“Through the grace given unto me” gives believers their power.

Fragment: Setting Straight

I can’t set everything straight but by God’s grace I can keep myself right.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: Sons - Spending

The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of men might become the sons of God.
Often in a gospel meeting the question is asked, “Where will you spend eternity?” How solemn to realize that, while we may spend many things in this life, no one can ever spend that which doesn’t end.
Gleanings from a recent conference

Fragment: Tending My Spiritual Garden

“For the earth... bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed... but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected... whose end is to be burned” (Heb. 6:7-8).
If we don’t tend a garden, the thorns grow. If I am neglecting my garden (my spiritual life), weeds (fruits of sin) grow and spread into others’ gardens. This requires others to have to work harder at keeping their gardens weeded. Worse, it may cause them to be discouraged and leave the care of their gardens, allowing them to be overrun by weeds.
From special meetings, 1999 (adapted)

Fragment: The Best Inheritance

The best inheritance Christian parents can leave their children is a Christian example.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: The Difference Between the Bible and Other Books

The difference between the Bible and all other books is this: In order to understand the Bible, one must first know the Author.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: The Future

The devil has no oldsters who contemplate the future with delight. But the children of God at every age may await the future with joy the anticipation of being with Christ, which is far better.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: The Life and Health of the Soul

The life of the soul is faith; its health is love.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: The Motive

Love to God makes His will the motive of my conduct. You see a child, who wants to run out and play, sit down at his father’s command and do his schoolwork. That is very nice, but Christ never obeyed that way. He never had a will one way and then gave it up to do His Father’s in another way.
J. N. Darby

Fragment: The Proof I Am a Student of the Word

What is the proof that I am really a student of the Word of the living God? It is that I am growing in righteousness, faith, love and peace.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: The Right Focus

“God... who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).
The story is told of a time when two brothers were walking along the street and encountered a third brother (we will call him “Smith”) who had left the fellowship of those gathered to the Lord’s name.
After parting, one of the two began sadly lamenting the path that brother Smith had chosen. The other rebuked his companion, saying, “I don’t want to hear anything against brother Smith. You and I talk about heaven. Brother Smith lives there.”
D. Gorgas

Fragment: The Snare of Duties

Duties are more apt to lead the soul from God than open sin. Many a Christian has been ensnared by duties whose heart would have shrunk from open sin. But we have only one duty in all the varying circumstances of life to please Christ.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: The Spring of Prayer

“Prayer is sure work and the harbinger of blessing. So I have found in 46 years’ pilgrimage. It has been a comfort to me to think so, though I have been reminded of an even more precious truth that if prayer be a channel of blessing, the spring is in God and the fountain of blessing, Christ Jesus. The blessings flow down freely. Often what sets us praying for more is a first dropping of His rich love and grace.
“I have been preaching this evening from 1 John 4, showing what the gospel was, which John wanted us to hold fast in these last days. I have thought of late that we live too far off from Him our fretting because of evildoers is a proof of it.”
G. V. Wigram (excerpt of a letter, 1870)

Fragment: The Unnamed Brother

“And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches” (2 Cor. 8:18).
Not every brother can be characterized by what Paul spoke concerning this unnamed brother. But is it not important to use such a brother at our conferences—those who have demonstrated this gift and exercise of soul? It is a Christian virtue to encourage others. But we should not encourage beyond the faith or exercise of the brother involved.
P. S. Jacobsen

Fragment: To Remove Fears and Give Peace

The Spirit of God might occupy us with our ways, not to remind us of our wicked hearts, but to draw us away from them and engage our hearts with eternal things the person and the place to which we are going. God’s purpose is to remove all fears and give our hearts peace. “He is our peace.”
C. E. Lunden

Fragment: To Truly Know That He Is Enough

We all say that He is enough, but it is quite a different thing to know it practically. You can never prove the worth of anyone until you are absolutely dependent on him.
Spiritual Gems for the Pathway of Faith

Fragment: Until He Come

I may see what appears very attractive down here, but looking up there, I see Christ, and I feel that till He comes down, earth cannot be blessed. This world to me, without Him, can only be a barren wilderness a place of no rest. All blessing, even for the earth, is shut up in Christ. All true happiness and joy are hid in His blessed Person.
One up there looks down upon you and says, “Surely I come quickly.” May each respond, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
G. V. Wigram

Fragment: What Shapes Us Morally

We are shaped fashioned morally by what we love most. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

Fragment: What You Have Been Given

“Wherefore it came to pass... that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:20).
Hannah had asked something of the Lord, and He had given it to her. Now what is she going to do with it? She says, “I’m not going to keep him for my own enjoyment; I’m going to give him to the Lord.”
Sometimes young people seem to congratulate themselves on the possession of certain advantages. Perhaps they feel they come from good families, or that they are in wealthy circumstances, or that they have a superior intellect and education. The question is, If God has given something to you, what use are you making of it? Will you lend what you have been given to the Lord?
C. H. Brown

Fruit in Season

He was the “tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season” (Psa. 1:3). The moral glory of the “child Jesus” shines in its season and generation, and when He became a man, that glory gets other seasonable expressions He knew when to own the claims of His mother and when to resist them (Luke 2:51; 8:21; John 19:27).
He also knew Gethsemane and the holy mount, both in their season the one in winter and the other in summer to His spirit. He trod each path or filled each spot in that mind that was according to the character it bore under God’s eye.
All was perfect in its combinations, as well as in its season. He wept as he was reaching the grave of Lazarus, though He knew that He carried life for the dead. Divine power would leave human sympathies free to take their full course.
J. G. Bellett

Gathered to Thy Name, Lord Jesus

Gathered to Thy name, Lord Jesus,
Losing sight of all but Thee;
Oh what joy Thy presence gives us
Calling up our hearts to Thee.
Loved with love which knows no measure,
Save the Father’s love to Thee;
Blessed Lord, our hearts would treasure
All the Father’s thoughts of Thee.
All His joy, His rest, His pleasure,
All His deep delight in Thee:
Lord, Thy heart alone can measure
What Thy Father found in Thee;
How He set His love upon Thee,
Called Thee His beloved Son;
Yet for us He did not spare Thee;
By Thy death, our life was won.
Oh, the joy, the wondrous singing
When we see Thee as Thou art:
Thy blest name, Lord Jesus, bringing
Sweetest music to God’s heart.
Notes of gladness, songs unceasing,
Hymns of everlasting praise;
Songs of glory, joys increasing
Through God’s endless day of days.

"Go in Peace"

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13).
How sublime is the order and description given here of the path followed by the soul who, in faith, turns to Christ! It begins with one who hears, in faith, the “word of truth” of the gospel. Then, by faith (and that very faith is itself, an undeserved gift see Ephesians 2:8) the soul is given to believe in the One of whom it has heard. And then, upon believing, the Holy Spirit seals that soul in Christ, and salvation is a known and enjoyed reality. The saved soul can “go in peace,” assured of its acceptance in Christ.
We have a lovely picture of this in the despised, outcast Jewess of Luke 7. The actions of the woman “which was a sinner” as she stands at the feet of the blessed Lord Jesus weeping, displaying her heartfelt affection for Him, anointing His feet with oil, and laying aside all her “glory” (wiping His feet with the hairs of her head), are a proof of the reality of that work of repentance in her heart.
Then the blessed Lord Jesus completes that work begun in her soul. In verse 47 He first says to the unbelieving Pharisee, “I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.” And thus it is that this repentant sinner hears that “word of truth, the gospel of [her] salvation.”
In verse 48 the Lord Jesus turns to the woman and says, “Thy sins are forgiven.” He makes the gospel personal speaks personally to her and she believes what she has heard spoken by Him.
But the unbelieving, who were with the Lord at the Pharisee’s table, also hear this “word of truth.” Rather than believing, they reason. The flesh, lusting “against the Spirit” (Gal. 5:17), always reasons can never, and will never, accept His Word in faith.
Jesus then speaks a further word to her heart, sealing that which she had by faith heard and believed: “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
This condition of peace is the normal condition into which God desires to bring each redeemed soul. What joy and liberty is thus available to each dear child of God who by faith has heard His precious Word and has believed what it has heard. Thus sealed by the Spirit, the believer goes forth in the peace and confidence of a known relationship with the Father. May it be so with each one today who has believed the Word of truth!

Good in the Midst of Evil

It is a sad world! But it makes heaven sweeter because there is not, and cannot be, any evil in that which will be around one [there]. Christ, as manifested here, was good in the midst of evil. It is in darkness down here that light rises up for the righteous. What is so dark as Christ’s death? Yet all depends on it, even for Him as Man. I see frequently in the New Testament that it is when He sees the power of evil and bows that all the prospects of His glory open upon Him.
J. N. Darby (Letters, Vol. 2)

He Delights to Bless

One cannot help seeing in such a passage as this the deep interest the Lord takes in blessing. There is profound love in it, as well as the fact that He delights in blessing. His purpose is to bring us into the enjoyment of His own blessedness. His thoughts are blessings, and there is no blessing anywhere else but in Him. If I speak of blessing, it must be what is in the heart of God.
A father’s thoughts of giving to his children are measured by his love for them. When we see what is in God’s heart for us and that all His thoughts have the form and power of blessing, what must they be for us! He is conforming us as to His own thoughts in blessing at the end. We, abject sinners taken up by Him as the objects of this love, show the greatness of His love. Christ is the great Workman of it all. It is by Christ that He does it. When God sets about to bless, it is by the Son of His love. What an immense foundation for us to rest upon! “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” “He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth.” What, then, is to escape the power of Him who has been in the lowest place of misery and death. He is taken up to the highest place in glory, the throne of God and all between is filled up by Christ. There is strength and something to rest on for me, a poor sinner. Yet it is not distant from us, for we have the consciousness of its being in and around us.
The Lamb is nearer to my heart than any. He has known me better than any better than I know myself. This Christ who dwells in our hearts by faith is the One we shall meet there. I shall find One in heaven nearer and dearer to my heart than anyone I know on earth. Nothing is so near to us as the Christ that is in us, and nothing is so near to God as Christ.
Yet the world is in a man’s heart. All that is agreeable and outwardly good in this world finds its echo in man’s heart, and all the evil that has come finds its place there too. Christ was here amidst it all. He met it all without having the evil in Him He knows it all. Everything we feel, all that passes through the heart of man, Christ has gone through, not by grasping at the thing, but by resisting the evil.
Christ can meet all. The center key to all is Christ; He has power to put away the evil. If there was one thing where my heart could not rest on Christ, it would be dreadful. All have the knowledge of good and evil, even the unconverted man. Without Christ he sets about racking his heart to find any good thing that is under the sun. All the best affections of a man are the occasion of his greatest distress, because sin has come in and the heart gets pulled and torn every way.
Present confidence in Christ is needed in trial (losing a near relative, for example) but the practical effect is that every trial a man goes through gives him (if the heart is thus trusting) to know more and more of what Christ is to meet the need and more of Christ as possessing Him. “I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself,” and there we find all the unfoldings of what God is in Christ. I cannot do without Christ. I want manna in the wilderness: God gives it to me. And not only do I get all this such as water and manna, but I have Christ Himself in it all. No matter what it is that exercises my heart in the knowledge of good and evil, it makes Christ more known and more enjoyed. Our natural portion as Christians is to enjoy God.
Where has God planted us? In the enjoyment of an accomplished redemption; the result is that love has not only been manifested towards us but poured out in us. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which He has given unto us. We dwell in God—for His love is infinite, but I am in it; I dwell in it, and He dwells in me.
J. N. Darby (adapted)

"He Hath Done All Things Well"

The circumstances of our lives are a most valuable sphere of education. They represent the Lord’s hand directly. In our circumstances He can restrain, subdue or limit us. He can make them irksome to teach us patience, or severe to teach us endurance, or meager to teach us confidence. He can break self-will in us and He can weaken the power of nature.
What a valuable thing is poverty. The enemy may make the saints poor, but that very thing results in their enrichment. The Lord was poor in the world when He might have claimed everything. In grace He was made like unto His brethren. Indeed He went lower than any, laid in a manger, crucified on a cross, buried in the grave of another, and between those points having not where to lay His head. But from the lowest He has ascended to the highest.
All power is in His hands. He could make every one of His people rich. He could change our circumstances completely, for He it is who controls them. But they serve in His hands as formation, and if we accept them that way we shall profit. The Lord may have to bring in a calamity something that will cast us absolutely on God. He can bring in circumstances for which there seems no explanation whatever, but He does so that we may learn to trust Him.
He desires that we trust Him implicitly when everything seems to be a denial of His love. Where else and how else could we learn all this, except in the circumstances of human life?
Soon the painful times of learning will be over, and we shall enter into the joy. We shall thank Him then for every bit of education which leads us in the appreciation of His ways as learned here on earth.
May the Lord grant us to see that growth is connected with earth and enjoyment with heaven. We then shall not be overwhelmed with doubt when the way is hard, but as submitting to the will of God we shall gather an appreciation of His ways and of the blessedness of the divine end in view.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psa. 30:5).
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons... for our profit.... Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:7, 10-11).
From a letter

His Joy in Salvation

“He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11).
It is easy for those who know the Lord Jesus as Saviour to think that our salvation is the most important result of His work at the cross. But isn’t there something more blessed even than the mercy shown to lost sinners? What about His joy the satisfaction and pleasure of His heart at having gained a bride, bought with His own precious blood, who will share His glory and joy in companionship with Him for all eternity.
Genesis 2:9 tells us that God put in that beautiful garden of Eden every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food. In our thoughts food is a necessity which must come before beauty. But God has been pleased to mention beauty first.
The order here suggests that in the work of salvation the heart of God is satisfied, even before man’s need is met. Is there not joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents? If the repentant sinner has joy in being saved, how much more the Father and the Son in the sinner’s salvation?
“Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” indicates His thoughts about accomplishing that work the Father gave Him to do, and then being received back to the right hand of the Father. Who can measure what our blessed Lord suffered on the cross? Yet He despised it in light of that joy a joy that far outweighs our joy in salvation.
“The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
From a gospel message

His Suffering and Our Suffering

Positive, direct suffering from God is for sin; from man it is for righteousness. Christ suffered for sins that we never might [have to suffer for them]. We are healed by, not partakers of, His stripes. What Christ has suffered from the forsaking of God as the consequence of sin He has suffered alone, and exactly, as to us, with the object that we never should taste one drop of that dreadful, bitter and to us—insupportable cup. Were we to drink it, we must do so as condemned sinners.
But in the sufferings of Christ for righteousness, and in those which were caused to Him through His work of love, we are feeble as our faith is to have a part. To us it is given, not only to believe on, but also to suffer for His name (Phil. 1:29). If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12). If we suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are we (1 Peter 3:14), and yet more blessed if we suffer for His name the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us (1 Peter 4:14).
We can rejoice that we are partakers of His sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, we may be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:13). The suffering for righteousness and for Christ, I may remark in passing, are distinguished by the Lord Himself (Matt. 5:10-11) and by Peter (1 Peter 2:20; 3:17; 4:14).
J. N. Darby

His the Joy - We the Recipients

“Who for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2).
“A treasure... and for JOY thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” (Matt. 13:44).
“Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep.... JOY shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:67).
“No greater JOY than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
“These things have I spoken... that your JOY might be full” (John 15:11).
“Able to keep... and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding JOY” (Jude 24).
“In Thy presence is fullness of JOY” (Psa. 16:11).
“He will rest in His love, He will JOY over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
H. Renaud

"I Saw"

In Revelation 19:11 we have the first of eight visions of the Apostle John beginning with the words, “And I saw.”
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him.” In Esther 6:6 we read, “What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor?” Haman, the man of the flesh, thinking to honor himself, suggests that the man ride on the king’s horse. God gave that honor to Mordecai the Jew, the object of Haman’s hatred and enmity. It is a figure of Jesus here riding on a white horse, completely victorious. God is never defeated. A white horse suggests victory and peace.
Further we read, “He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True.” Jesus was the Faithful and True, the complete opposite of Adam who was unfaithful and untrue. “And in righteousness He doth judge and make war.” In John 5 it says that God “hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” God has determined that His Son shall be supreme and rule over everything, put all iniquity out of this earth, and bring in a scene in which God can have His eternal rest.
We get the second “I saw” in verse 17. “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God.” It’s sad to read this, which is pure judgment. In Luke’s Gospel there is what is called “the gospel supper.” It is the invitation of the gospel in this age to come and sup at that gospel supper and be saved. If you do that you are invited to the Lord’s supper as a saved one, to bear witness that you are livingly linked up with Christ, responding to His request to remember Him in His death, and announcing to this world that Jesus lives. But there are people who are rejecting the gospel supper. They are going to have part in that awful supper of the great God where the fowls of the heavens feed upon the dead carcasses.
The third is in Revelation 19:19-21: “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” What a sight this is! It brings before us the Conqueror catching those two great men that Satan raises up to try to take the highest place on earth the Roman imperial beast and the antichrist. This is prophecy. Satan will once again try to take over the earth in these two great men, but it doesn’t work. Instead, they are caught and cast alive into the lake of fire.
The fourth and fifth visions are connected in Revelation 20:1-3: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”
Then Revelation 20:4: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them.” These two passages give us different views of what is included in the first resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:23 it says, “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.” All these are included here. These visions are consecutive and bring us to the wonderful time on the earth when Satan is bound. He cannot get at man to deceive him like he did in the garden of Eden. Besides that, the King of kings and Lord of lords is on the throne for those thousand years to test man in the most favorable conditions in which he has ever been.
We have a very favorable condition in which to live as Christians in this day, even though the world is so wicked and Satan active. The reason is that we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. There is power to live here in this wicked world. Are you doing that? I say again that there is power. You have no excuse to sin; I have no excuse to sin. We have every incentive to live for Him and His glory. “The love of Christ constraineth us.”
Now we have the final three, beginning with Revelation 20:11: “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” There is no standing for anyone that appears at the great white throne. Jesus had said in the first chapter, “I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” They cannot hide from God any more.
The seventh is in Revelation 20:12: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life.” This is to prove whose name is in the book of life and whose name is not. This banishment from God forever is called the second death. “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Is your name written in the book of life? You will never appear here if it is.
Now we come to the eighth instance in Revelation 21:1-3: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them.” This takes us past time into the eternal day God’s day. Today is man’s day, with man doing more or less as he pleases. In the millennium it will be the day of the Lord with righteousness reigning for one thousand years. But this is the eternal scene the day of God.
This is complete repose, for evil is fully put out by the Man who reigned in the millennium. We come past time into the eternal state. “He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” It would be wonderful if we never cried again, wouldn’t it? That is what is going to happen.
“And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” We are into the new day of God, the eternal state. “And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” They correspond to One who was the true and faithful witness.
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.”
C. Buchanan

The Importance of Humiliation

The Spirit does not gather saints around views, however true they may be. He always gathers around that blessed Person who is the same yesterday, today and forever. “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
If any speak of separation from evil without being humiliated, take care lest their position become sectarian. There is no service at the present time worthy of Him, if it be not done in humiliation. The church of God, so dear to Christ, is dishonored, scattered, ignorant and afflicted, and he who has the true mind of Christ will always take the lowest place.
Men taught of God for His service go forth from a place of strength, where they have learned their own weakness and nothingness. They find that Jesus is everything in the presence of God, and Jesus is everything for them in all things and everywhere.
Such men, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, are real helps for the children of God. They will not contend for a place or distinction or authority among the scattered flock. The communion of a man with God about the church will show itself in his willingness to be nothing in himself and to spend and be spent.
Neither anger, prudence or the pretensions of man can do anything in the state of ruin and confusion in which the church is now. When a house is ruined in its foundations by an earthquake, it matters little how one tries to make it an agreeable dwelling-place. We shall do better to remain with our faces in the dust. Such is the place which belongs to us by right, and, after all, it is the place of blessing.
I have read of a time when several were gathered together in such sorrow of heart that for a long time they could not utter a single word, but the floor of the meeting room was wet with their tears. If the Lord would grant us such meetings again, it would be our wisdom to frequent these houses of tears. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psa. 126:5).
J. N. Darby (from Nearness to Christ, adapted)

It Matters Not

It matters not if cherished friends,
On whom I leaned in rain,
Have wounded me by word and deed,
And left me in great pain.
What matters is, Can I forgive,
Again and yet again? It’s not,
Have they been true to me,
But, Lord, have I been true to them?
’Twill matter not when evening comes
How rough the road I’ve trod,
If only I have walked with Him,
And led some soul to God.
Roland Ruga

Jesus Died for Me

Jesus died upon the tree,
And He did it just for me.
It was love that brought Him there,
And it kept Him on up there,
And He loosed the bonds of sin;
Did it all for sinful men.
K. Bookman (age 6; 1999)
“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).

Jesus, We Watch

Jesus, we watch for Thee!
With wonder and surprise,
We soon shall see, in glory bright,
The Morning Star arise.
Oh cloudless day of bliss,
Nothing will ever mar!
We shall behold Thee, hail
Thee As the Bright and Morning Star.
Looking for Thy return
Thy waiting people are,
Longing to see Thee, with Thee be,
Jesus, Thou Morning Star.
Thy dawning must be near;
We know it can’t be far!
That moment when Thou shalt appear,
The glorious Morning Star.
J. Hyland

Leave the Miracle to Him

Watch the scene on plain of Dura;
See that hero martyr band,
Firmly standing for Jehovah,
Trusting in His hidden hand.
“He is mighty to deliver”
From the power of death so grim;
Fiery furnace cannot harm them
Leave the miracle to Him!
Bring to Christ your loaves and fishes
Though they be both few and small;
He will use the weakest vessels;
Give to Him your little all.
Do you ask how many thousands
Can be fed with food so slim?
Listen to the Master’s blessing
Leave the miracle to Him!
Oh, ye Christians, learn the lesson;
Are you struggling all the way?
Cease your trying, change to trusting,
Then you’ll triumph every day!
“Whatso’er He bids you, do it”;
Fill the waterpots to brim:
But remember,’tis His battle
Leave the miracle to Him!
Christian worker, looking forward
To the ripened harvest field,
Does the task seem great before you?
Think how rich will be the yield.
Bravely enter with your Master,
Though the prospect may seem dim;
Preach the Word with holy fervor
Leave the miracle to Him!
T. H. Allan

"Leaving the Natural Use": Misplacement of Marriage

Having considered the effects of misunderstanding the marriage relationship, I would now desire to consider the subject of the misplacement of the marriage relationship.
Marriage, as instituted by God and in accordance with God’s purposes and thoughts, is an honorable institution. “Marriage is honorable” (Heb. 13:4). Such marriages are looked at as a joining together by God into one flesh, the man and his wife (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31; Matt. 19:5-6). These marriages are a cause of great joy in the realm of nature, here on earth. “For as a young man marrieth a virgin... and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Isa. 62:5).
Marriage will also be a cause of joy in heaven when the marriage of the Lamb takes place. “Let us be glad and rejoice... for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). How our Lord delights to use these marriage unions on earth to the help of His own in the “spiritual realm.”
We will call the reader’s attention to this by pointing out dear Aquila and his wife Priscilla, though I will not speak of them in this article (Acts 18:2-26; Rom. 16; 1 Cor. 16; 2 Tim. 4:19). Apart from their proper marriage union, they would not have been able to perform their valuable ministry on behalf of the Lord’s dear people. That ministry required them both, united in one.
Not All Marriages Are Acceptable
Unfortunately, however, not all marriages have this approbation of God. Such marriages are consequently without the intended joy and usefulness for God that accompany a marriage of which it can truly be said that it is “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7). We will seek to identify some of these marriages, as they are brought before us in the Word, not to reprove, but to awaken an awareness of the important role I believe nature has especially the marriage relationship—regarding spiritual development. We will identify these marriages as misplaced marriages that are not according to or in keeping with God’s thoughts about this wonderful institution.
Misplaced Marriages in Noah’s Day
“For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe [Noah] entered into the ark” (Matt. 24:38). This description of the days just before “the flood came, and took them all away” would seem to depict a most normal condition of mankind. They seemed to be enjoying what God had given to man in the “realm of nature.” Eating and drinking, in themselves, certainly do not describe conditions upon which God looked and would be grieved nor, at first observation, would the matter of “marrying and giving in marriage.” No, it wasn’t these things, given by God to man in their proper place, that would have caused our God to judge this world by water. It was, I believe, the misplacement of marriage that was the chief cause of the judgment of “the world that then was” (2 Peter 3:6).
Those marriages were between the “sons of God” and “the daughters of men” (Gen. 6:2). The “sons of God” were fallen angelic beings (Jude 6; 2 Pet. 2:3-5). We see that that “family,” in creation, is spoken of as “sons of God” in Job 1:6 and Job 38:7.
This coming to earth by angels and taking the daughters of men as wives turned what God had ordained as an “honorable” institution for man and woman into an apostate condition that brought the judgment of this world.
Judgment on the Violation of Marriage
A similar condition will reappear on earth again. The Lord Jesus Christ, as Son of Man, will bring judgments upon this world in preparation for His reign as rightful King (Matt. 24). Those “taken” at this time are taken for, or by, judgment, and those “left” will be “left” to enter into the kingdom that our Lord will establish through judgments.
We see in the Word that even prior to this time the “earth” will be marked by the violation in various ways of that first institution of God for man and woman. It will be in some cases by “forbidding to marry” (1 Tim. 4:3) while in other cases there will be a corruption by various means of the marriage relationship. This will especially mark this part of the world where the truth of marriage should have been most clearly known. That which the Lord calls His church, depicted in mystery form by Thyatira, suggests this: “In Thyatira... thou sufferest that woman Jezebel... to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication.... I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation” (Rev. 2:18-22).
May every true child of God value and hold the blessed truth of marriage in the honor and in the purity as it is intended of God to be held. “Marriage is honorable... but... adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Violation of this natural relationship affects our Lord’s dealings here below, even with those who are His own. “But let none of you suffer... as an evildoer” (1 Pet. 4).
Present Day Violation of the Marriage Union
While the conditions in Noah’s day reappear in this world, we may not see, however, the coming of angelic beings to our earth. Those who did so in that day are presently “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). I do not say, though, that this could not be repeated, for it could certainly be so, as all fallen angels are not yet bound (Rev. 12:7).
The present acclimatization of man’s mind to the thought of visitors from outer space is, I do not doubt, a preparation for something. I had supposed this had to do with the rapture or the Lord’s coming out of heaven and the beast prepared for war against Him (Rev. 17; 2 Thess. 1). (These thoughts are only personal speculation.) However, we will see and are seeing the corruption and misplacement of the institution of marriage, as was done in Noah’s day. Sad to say, we see this even among the Lord’s own dear people.
Oh! May we hear His voice, “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them... in the day of temptation in the wilderness.... Take heed, brethren” (1 Cor. 10; Heb. 3).
Misplaced Marriages—Marriage Abomination
The first example that we will consider I think will be more prominent at the last, just prior to our Lord’s judgments upon this earth. I will speak only briefly of it, for it is so shameful. Marriage that is of God was instituted for the “man” and the “woman” alone. Any “marriage” involving other than the union of a male and a female is wickedness and an abomination to Him who instituted marriage (Rom. 1; Deut. 22:5 in principle).
Misplaced Marriages—The Unequal Yoke
Perhaps the most dangerous “misplacement” of marriage for Christians is that of uniting in marriage with an unbeliever. When a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ marries, their “guiding” principle is found in a phrase recorded in 1 Corinthians 7:39: “Only in the Lord.” Involved in that expression, “in the Lord,” is that He has had His authority as Lord in the determining of the one who is to be chosen as a marriage partner. The principle, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14), would certainly apply to the marriage union.
God will hold the believer responsible for such a solemn marriage, even though it is not “in the Lord.” They are “bound” to that marriage union (1 Cor. 7:12-13). I do not doubt that the condition of a believer and unbeliever in a marriage yoke as found in 1 Corinthians 7 supposes that the believer was married before their conversion. But this must not be taken to show that a believer would have liberty to enter into marriage with an unbeliever. The Word is clear: “Be ye not unequally yoked together” with the unbeliever.
Many instances are found in the Word of God as to the children of God inter-marrying with those who know Him not. The results of these unions were disastrous and show plainly the effect of this violation in nature to our relationship with the Lord.
I call attention to but one which involved the children of Israel and the Canaanites. “They took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods” (Judg. 3:6). It will always adversely affect your relationship with your Redeemer God, if you choose to be united in marriage to an unbeliever. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). It will be found common in such marriages that the family will be divided, for it is. “In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod... and their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language” (Neh. 13:23-24). Notice it does not say the children “did not speak,” but they “could not speak” those marriages hindered their children from entering into God’s thoughts for them. May a believer never even consider marriage to an unbeliever!
H. Short
(to be continued)

"Leaving the Natural Use": Misplacement of Marriage

The next consideration of our meditation on the misplacement of marriage is found in the Lord’s own words: “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luke 16:18). Here the Lord refers to a second marriage. The circumstances of this verse show that there can be instances where someone, identified simply as “whosoever,” can enter into a second marriage one that the Lord does not own as preserving the “bed” in an “undefiled state.”
The marriage to a “put away” one under the circumstances of this verse (as well as in that of Matthew 19:9) is called adultery. Such misplaced marriages are a cause of grief and sorrow. When believers are involved, it only multiplies the sorrow, for they belong to the God who has said, “Let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away” (Mal. 2:15-16). Oh! may we who are His children hate it too, and ever remember, beloved Christian, that “yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant” (vs. 14).
How insensible we have become to the Lord’s thoughts regarding the marriage union, taking up with the ways of this apostatizing world! The violation of the marriage union will be a major factor in this road to apostasy. Beloved! How we hold the marriage union does affect our relationship with God on this earth, the scene of His governmental dealings with His children.
Marriage: Its Moral Order
My final consideration of the misplacement of marriage relates to its placement in time. The violation of the proper placement in time, of marriage, has been a source of great sorrow in the lives of many believers. In the Lord’s thoughts, marriage would take place between two virgins (virginity includes both male and female; 1 Cor. 7:34-36 JND; Rev. 14:4). It may also be entered into more than once in the event of the death of a spouse (Rom. 7; 1 Cor. 7). Marriage precedes, in time, the coming together of a man and woman in that act referred to as a man “knowing his wife.” “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived.” The coming together in this male-female act does not constitute marriage. Marriage is an act or event that precedes, in time, this act. Any other order in this relationship is sin.
That is the force of Hebrews 13:4. God had married Adam and Eve when He brought the woman to the man and made His pronouncement: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” After that, in the next verse, they are called “the man and his wife” (Gen. 2:24-25). Before the Lord brought Eve to Adam and made this declaration, they are called male and female, man and woman.
God holds as an act of sin (not an act of marriage) the coming together of the male and female a man and a woman prior to marriage.
Union Before Marriage Is Unscriptural
We have emphasized that it was God who brought the woman to the man. She did not come to Adam, nor did he go to her it was not an act of theirs that brought them together, but of God.
That is what marriage which is of God is: “What therefore God hath joined together” (Matt. 19:6). God joins in marriage a man and woman together in the husband-wife relationship, which precedes a couple “coming together” (the Scriptural term) or “living together” (the world’s term).
That the act of coming together does not constitute marriage is plain from the Word of God. In Genesis 34, it was after Shechem had “defiled” or “humbled” Dinah that he sought her for his wife. No one considered her to be Shechem’s wife as a result of his humbling of her. “Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.”
Shechem’s act was an act of sin, not an act of marriage. But notice it says that he “lay with her,” which is a different thing from saying that “he forced her.” This act was no doubt by mutual consent yet even so, it was not considered a marriage.
In the matter of Amnon and Tamar (2 Sam. 13), where we read that he “forced her,” clearly it was not considered marriage. Tamar told Amnon, “Do not force me;... I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.”
Forced Marriage Is Unscriptural
There has been, and perhaps still is, a teaching circulated among Christians that the first man that knows a maid is to be considered her husband. It is false teaching and has caused great sorrow and tragedy among believers. Such teaching has led fathers to unwisely give their humbled or forced daughters to unworthy men.
This principle is seen in Exodus 22:17: “If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.” There could be similar cases with young men, but God holds the man much more responsible than “a weaker, even the female, vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7 JND).
Still, there is the “strange woman” of Proverbs that “seduces” men. Surely one would not demand that a young man, allured by means of a “whorish woman” (Prov. 6), marry her but, let all men beware.
And may all, male and female alike, learn “that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel [body] in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God” (1 Thess. 4:4-5).
The consequences of placing marriage after these types of sin are tragic and can hinder a Christian’s normal spiritual growth for life.
While we do read, “And such were some of you,” that is not an encouragement to sin (1 Cor. 6:11). Every violation of God’s order has its consequence in the governmental ways of God. For the believer the word is, “Let it not be once named among you” (Eph. 5:3). Remember too, the intent to marry does not change the fact that it is sin, if done before marriage.
Marriage: Purity Is God’s Mind
In conclusion of the consideration of the misplacement of marriage, I want to stress that I have not said that only virgins, widows and widowers may marry. Scripture does not indicate that. But, where it is otherwise, let us not teach that such is God’s desired order or plan for man.
It appears that in certain instances, divorce and remarriage may be allowed God may allow it to be so. But may we Christians seek in our lives to be a clear epistle, seen and read of men, possessing our vessels in honor. Personal purity prior to marriage is certainly God’s mind regarding this institution.
Marriage: The Ceremony
As to the actual marriage “act” or “ceremony,” I think that scripturally a couple do not marry themselves. Marriage would involve at least a “third party.” God did so in Eden when there were no other men. It is chiefly an act before God and owned by Him. Scripturally, in His order, things are established among men in the mouth of two or three witnesses.
In some cases, it may also be required to be a “civil” ceremony. Since the flood, government has been ordained by God. There may be civil ordinances concerning marriage to which the believer is to submit (Rom. 13). These ordinances, however, cannot violate the claims of God upon His children (Acts 5:29).
Normally the woman is “given” by one who has had or may have responsibility for her care, such as her father, uncle or brother. (See Rebecca, Leah, Rachel and Esther as examples.) How happy it is when Christian parents or responsible brethren can be happy about the marriage of a sister in Christ to a brother in Christ. And, the marriage ceremony should be done in the same manner as all functions involving believers: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).
How thankful we can be that there are in the Word of God many principles relating to the wonderful institution of marriage for those who are seeking His glory and guidance in their lives.
H. Short
(to be continued)

"Leaving the Natural Use": The Misuse of Marriage

In the March 1999 Christian Shepherd we were considering Abraham as an example of the sovereignty of God and responsibility of man, thinking of this especially as regards marriage and family relationships. The Lord knew Abraham, that he would command his children and his household after him. In glorifying God in this responsibility, the Lord could bring on Abraham the blessing which He had promised. (See Genesis 18:19.)
Thus, the Lord’s knowing Abraham enabled Abraham to fulfill his responsibility in the relationship into which he had been brought. Clearly, dear believer, there are consequences, solemn consequences, that result from our failures. It is our side I now desire to consider, for we have nothing to say to God’s side: “O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” (Rom. 9).
Lessons From Lot’s Life
I would now like to consider the lessons we learn from the life of Lot lessons to help us avoid the tragic result of the misuses of family relationships. Both our Lord Jesus and the Apostle Peter call our attention to Lot and to his wife for the purpose of instructing believers today.
Lot’s day, like ours, was filled with prosperity and pollution (Luke 17:28; 2 Peter 2:7). The final New Testament statement of this married couple is, for Lot, “Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked,” and for his wife, “Remember Lot’s wife.” (It is remarkable that Lot is never called her “husband.” Sad to say, he never morally fulfilled that role.)
Lot’s Beginnings
We are introduced to Lot in Genesis 11. I do not know where his wife came from perhaps Sodom or Egypt. It is striking to note that he is of the lineage of Shem, that family of whom it is recorded, “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem” (Gen. 9:26). The family of Shem had the Lord for their God. Is it any wonder, then, that as the posterity of Shem is recorded from Genesis 11:10, the word “lived” is found 16 times? Not until after we read in verse 27 of the birth of Lot do we find death mentioned. In verse 28 it says, “And Haran [Lot’s father] died.” We learn from Joshua 24 that idolatry had come into this family, for we read, “Put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood [river]” (Josh. 24:14). Oh! how the displacement of God, by anything, brings sorrow into our lives!
Lack of the Father Influence in Lot’s Life
I desire for us to see from the death of Haran that Lot did not have a father’s influence while growing up. When our children have no true “father” influence as they grow up, the results will be seen in their lives. Even though his grandfather Terah “took... Lot,” he had not a father.
In desiring to speak to our hearts, I do not speak of those actual cases where children are left fatherless by death, but of them, morally, being raised fatherless. Sometimes we who are fathers look to our natural families to care for our children, or we even expect the assembly to provide for the needs our children have in the realm of nature. The assembly is to be left free from this burden that it may “relieve them” that have not family members to care for them (1 Tim. 5).
We see increasingly a growing number of “family churches.” But how happy it would be if “church families” would increase families addicting themselves to the ministry of the saints (1 Cor. 16:15).
The Misplacement of Family Responsibilities
Few things are more apparent today than the fact that the family responsibilities have been placed everywhere and anywhere but where God has placed them.
In our town, at the entrance of the public school playground, a sign has been placed called, “An African Proverb,” which reads, “It takes a whole community to raise a child.”
I do not deny that our families are helped by the community. Our children may use “tutors and governors” supplied as public school teachers. But fathers and mothers! The responsibility for the forming of your children for Christ’s interests is yours and is given you by God (Eph. 6; Prov. 22).
We live today in a society that has truly removed landmarks (Deut. 19). That is, no one seems to know any longer who has responsibilities in what areas. Landmarks determined what belonged to one family and what belonged to another. No one was to cross over these boundaries, as though each had rights to what belonged to another. Often parents do not accept parental responsibilities. We see fathers who do not “provide... for those of his own house” and mothers who are not “keepers at home” (1 Tim. 5; Titus 2). Everywhere “landmarks” are removed and parental responsibilities abandoned given up to the school, the assembly, the government, day care centers, or whoever or whatever has been made available to take care of our children for us.
The Value of What Children Learn at Home
What children learn from their parents at home is of very great value. In these last days, God’s Word places importance on the family relationship. Consider these expressions found in Paul’s last epistle: “I serve [God] from my forefathers,” “thy grandmother Lois and thy mother Eunice,” “disobedient to parents,” “without natural affection,” “creep into houses,” “from a child thou hast known” and “salute the household of Onesiphorus.” All of these expressions are from 2 Timothy and all relate to family life. A respected servant of Christ spoke concerning this very epistle, “It is striking to see how Paul goes back and down to natural associations. He departs here from the fullness of the doctrine usual to him and becomes private and personal.”
I am personally persuaded that until we restore our family life according to God’s thoughts concerning it, we will not properly enter into the “mysteries” given by Paul, belonging to Christianity. May we come back and down with Paul, taking heed to these natural associations.
H. Short
(to be continued)

"Leaving the Natural Use": The Misuse of Marriage

It appears Lot went from being a farmer in the surrounding fields of Sodom to a place of political prominence in that city’s gate. The “gate” of a city was where elders met to conduct its affairs (Prov. 31:23). Genesis 19:9 could be translated, “This fellow came in to sojourn, and he will again and again be a judge.” Oh! beloved Christian friends, how many believers there are, called by God to be sojourners here, who have set about to “again and again” correct the conduct of the world a world that is under a coming day of judgment (Acts 17:31).
It will be thus with the professed church. The world will tire of her constant efforts to correct it and will overthrow her completely. God will put it into the heart of the world to do it (Rev. 17:15-18). Solemn thought!
Lot’s Vexation and Failures
Lot lived with a vexed soul, and his efforts to make Sodom better failed completely. Still, his life’s interests were in Sodom. When this happens in a man’s life, his house comes into shame. Husbands! Fathers! The Lord has given us a place to “rule.” But it is not in this world; it is in our homes (1 Tim. 3:5). If we neglect that responsibility, both our homes and the assembly will suffer.
As a husband, we find that Lot had little apparent love for his wife. He had worked hard filling her house with “stuff,” but in an hour of grave danger, instead of being the “saviour” of his wife (Eph. 5:23), someone else must take her hand to save her.
Providing for the Needs of Our Wives
There are husbands like Lot who are quite willing to allow someone else to provide for the needs of their wives. A husband should be one to whom a wife can turn when she needs answers to her questions (1 Cor. 14:35). Often we men may find ourselves sitting in some gate perhaps for long hours giving answers to others.
Lot was found there at even and it appears he planned to return there “early.” I suspect that this was the pattern of his life. His work was his life, and he stayed late at the office and returned to it early (Gen. 19:12). While there are times when a man will be called on to work extra hours (Neh. 4:21-23), that is not what I refer to. There can be little doubt that Lot’s advancement in Sodom was due to his pursuit in life. He sought his “own things,” not the interests of the Lord. I doubt his wife suffered for lack of material things, but she did lack a husband’s caring and directing love in her life.
Providing for the Needs of Our Children
Lot as a father was no better. In Genesis 19:14, it could read, “Lot went out and spake unto his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters.” It appears from this verse that these men were engaged to his daughters and had not yet taken them in marriage.
How tragic is the lack of Lot’s care for his daughters! In an hour when they needed him most, he would have given them up to those who would have defiled them. We all agree that such conduct is contemptible. But dads! What have we been guilty of exposing our daughters to?
Fathers: Teaching Their Daughters
Do we fathers pass the time of our “sojourning... in fear”? Are we not often very careless in instructing our precious daughters in manners calculated to preserve them in purity?
I think none influences a daughter’s choice of a husband as much as her father. Do we teach them that the way that they dress has an important influence as to the type of young man that will be interested in them? Do we help them to learn what they should avoid doing or where they should avoid being? Do we encourage our daughters to go to “functions” of the world that expose them to the young men of the world? (See Dinah in Genesis 34.)
Fathers: The Result of Carelessness
Dinah was allowed by her careless father to keep company with the “daughters of the land.” Perhaps he reasoned, “Oh, they are not saved, but they are really nice girls.” But the sad result was that Dinah met Shechem (who defiled her) when she was with those “really nice girls.”
Shechem was “more honorable than all the house of his father.” Have we ever heard, “He’s not saved, but he is a really nice boy.” How vital that fathers ask, “But who is his father?” Is his Father, God? Does he reflect in this life that God is his Father? Is not that a most critical consideration? How crucial are these questions!
Fathers: The Result of Neglect
Oh! where was poor Lot when his daughters chose men of Sodom to be their life companions? He was involved with the “more important” affairs of Sodom. There he met those two strangers “angels,” thinking they were simply “men.” Sensing they were important men, his care for them was more important than that of his own daughters!
Fathers: Their Most Important Work
Let us not think this does not relate to us as fathers! How many fathers neglect their own children, while thinking they are doing a more important work (not now for Sodom) for God. Beloved, what is our concept of the Lord’s work for those who are parents?
Does He not reprove those who would teach the neglect of their families under the thought that it was “Corban” (Mark 7:11)? Do we really think the Lord would lead us to sacrifice our responsibilities towards our children in order to serve Him (Judg. 11:30-40)? Oh! how careless we are as fathers!
The Sad Results of the Misuse of Marriage
May we consider the “end results” of this misuse of marriage. “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). Why did she look back? This chapter indicates that her heart had been taken away by the “stuff in the house.” Oh! how many homes have been destroyed because of the pursuit of filling those beautiful homes with beautiful “stuff.”
May we soberly consider Lot’s two daughters. Instead of Lot’s children replenishing God’s interests down here, they, by means of their father’s drunkenness, give birth to the Moabites and the Ammonites, children who were to be shut out from being included among the Lord’s people (Deut. 23:3).
In conclusion, beloved brethren, may we soberly and humbly obey the words of the prophet: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5).
H. Short

"Leaving the Natural Use": The Misuse of Marriage - "Things" That Harm Marriage

We now continue in our meditation of Lot’s family and marriage. Things can come into a father’s life that displace the Lord’s purpose for him in life. When this happens, it will affect his children’s lives and, consequently, the Lord’s intended purpose for his children’s lives. Such things may be our work, our pursuit of pleasure, or our desires for riches in this life. All this results in the Word of God being “choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and [bringing] no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8).
This happens in our lives when we hear the Word and do not do what it says. Such, I doubt not, was the character of Lot. His job (initially cattle) caused him to separate from a man who walked the path of faith. Like Reuben, of a later day, Lot chose to attend to his own “things,” and not “the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Judg. 5:16; Gen. 13; Phil. 2).
Dangerous Attractions
There seemed to be such an attraction to Sodom and Gomorrah that neither he nor his family wanted to leave it in the hour of God’s judgment. How sad to think our hearts can be so attached to that which God has appointed to judgment. Truly the wine of this world is “treacherous” (Hab. 2:5 JND). May believers in our Lord Jesus Christ not be as those who “have erred through wine” (Isa. 28). I speak of the intoxicating influences of the world so contrary to our Father and God. May we “love not the world” (1 John 2:15). It will surely lead to our children misusing their lives for the purposes of the world, rather than Christ’s.
What Is God Interested in?
God’s interest in Lot’s day, as it is today, was in a “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11). Abraham shared those interests, but Lot didn’t. Lot accustomed himself to making decisions with his personal interests in view. This can’t be allowed in believers’ lives, for the welfare of others should have first consideration.
We see that after Lot’s grandfather died, his uncle Abraham took care of him. Yet when it came to deciding who should get the best pasture for their flocks, Lot chose the best for himself, leaving to his caring uncle what Lot did not want (Gen. 13). It is wonderful to instill in our children the desire to think “on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). It is a practical thing and requires much careful training, for it is contrary to the nature we are born with.
Looking at the Wrong Things
Lot “lifted up his eyes” and valued the “things which are seen” (2 Cor. 4). Soon, his life would be centered around Sodom, unlike his uncle Abraham, who by faith “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Few things will be more detrimental to our children’s embracing the “holy city, new Jerusalem,” than seeing their parents making their interests revolve around “the things which are seen.” Lot and his wife occupied themselves with the condemned cities of “Sodom and Gomorrah.” These were cities which are set forth “for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). This condition will mark the end days (Luke 17). Oh! may we walk in holy separation from the interests of this world, with our purpose of life being Christ’s interests here that He may be glorified in us and in our families.
H. Short
(to be continued)

"Leaving the Natural Use": The Principle of Replenishing the Earth

I would now like to consider a use or purpose that God intended the marriage relationship to fulfill. That use was to replenish with children the work of God on earth at any given time or dispensation. Adam and Eve were to “replenish the earth” with children (Gen. 1). Instead, they brought in sin and death, populating that earth with a sinful, dying race.
Replenishing in the Old Testament
God judged the “world that then was” by water, except for Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives. When they came out of the ark, God told Noah and his sons to “replenish the earth” (Gen. 9).
After this, the God of glory called out Abraham alone with his wife, saying of them, “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him” (Isa. 51:2). Then Israel was told, “The Lord thy God... will... multiply thee; He will also bless the fruit of thy womb” (Deut. 7). In their captivity in Babylon they were to “take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters... that ye may... not [be] diminished” (Jer. 29). This was to be done in view of replenishing Jerusalem when the Lord would make an end of the captivity (Jer. 30:3).
We could go on, but this serves to show God’s principle that is before us. We shall see that this principle still applies to the day in which we live the church dispensation. We might except the tribulation period— “And woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” (Matt. 24) but it will be those who endure through that hour that will once again replenish the earth during the millennial reign of Christ. “And thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” “In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment” (Isa. 54).
Replenishing of the Church in Acts
This principle of replenishing the interests of God on earth with our children carries into the church dispensation, if we may so describe it. To call our attention to this principle as it relates to our day, I will refer to some verses from the book of Acts.
On the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God came to earth to baptize the believers into one body (Acts 2; 1 Cor. 12), the Apostle Peter says, “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” and “the promise is unto you, and to your children” (Acts 2:17-39). Peter knew nothing of Paul’s church truth at this time. These were some of the first words recorded after the formation of the church among the Jewish families. When Peter carries the gospel to the Gentiles, it is to a man who “had called together his kinsmen [family members] and near friends.” The Lord saved them (Acts 10:24-44). When Paul speaks to a Gentile woman, it says, “She attended unto the things... spoken of Paul. And... she was baptized, and her household.” And there was the Philippian jailor who asked the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Together, Paul and Silas say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16).
Replenishing in the Epistles
The epistles also bear out the principle that God desires our households to be brought into the assembly, desiring that they be “addicted... to the ministry of the saints” (1 Cor. 16:15). Surely, with John we could say, “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth” and “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (2 John; 3 John).
God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility
Before considering this matter as it relates to Christianity, let us understand that our God, the God of all grace, is sovereign in all His ways and that man is responsible in whatever relationship he is in with God. Today, we who know God as our Father are without excuse for failure, because “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to [by] glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1). Also, “Through our Lord Jesus Christ... we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand” (Rom. 5) and we have “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4). It is that grace which would keep us from falling, if we would avail ourselves of it.
God’s Grace and Man’s Responsibility
We would not have this wonderful relationship with God as Father and with our Lord Jesus as Saviour except for God’s sovereignty and grace. These relationships of grace carry with them responsibilities, flowing from relationship. Peter’s first epistle brings the two thoughts out beautifully and soberly. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.... And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s [not God’s] work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Peter 1).
God brings the two things together with “Abraham; who is the father of us all... who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.” In Genesis 18 the Lord says of him, “For I know him, that he will [in order that he may] command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the ways of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that [in order that] the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19).
H. Short
(to be continued)

A Letter on Marriage

Editor’s Note: The following letter was written about 1830 by Lady Theodosia Powerscourt to a younger sister who was planning to marry an unsaved man. Lady Powerscourt, who went home to be with the Lord at the early age of 36, had opened her estate to brethren, such as Mr. Darby, who met there for a time to study prophecy. This letter contains truth which is vitally important for today—especially for our dear younger brethren.
A Loving Warning to a Young Sister
I am not ignorant of what it means to give up one who is much loved, but then, neither am I ignorant of the peace which follows when the wounded soul surrenders itself in the arms of [ Jesus’] everlasting love.
Dear ______, however painful the struggle to give him up, it is short and easy compared with what you will reap, both yourself and him, if you do not.
If you marry him, you will, as a believer, never be able to fulfill the high expectations for happiness in this world that he is counting upon in his marriage union with you. Do you think you can walk consistently with the Lord Jesus and with this world at the same time?
Do not be angry at my speaking of him as an unbeliever. If the Bible is true, there is a rooted enemy within, and though he may admire the “religion of Jesus” at a distance, he cannot love to be in constant contact with it all his life.
Conversions to Christ based on romantic love are not to be trusted. I do not say Mr. ______ is a hypocrite, for his love for you deceives him into loving what you love, without there being reality in his heart. Oh think! how will you speak of your well-beloved Jesus to him, without causing him to express the strongest feelings of dissatisfaction, because your heart is not fully engaged with all that engages his?
Is it really marital happiness for you to despise his worldly pursuits, while he despises your religious ones? Is it really marital happiness that you should rejoice in the glorious promises yourself, while this very joy is your greatest grief as you are reminded that your husband, dearer to you than your own soul, has no “part nor lot in this matter”? Will it be marital joy knowing that every time he leaves your house, he does so as one under condemnation, without God and without hope in the world? And will you consider it great joy to find that your natural duties to him as your head draw you one way while your spiritual duties to Christ cause you to disobey the will of the one who rightly expects you to obey him?
From what I have heard, Mr. ______ is a sweet and well-intentioned man. But if you have waited for your earthly father’s consent to this marriage, why not wait too for your heavenly Father’s consent? And are you not foolish in reasoning that because God “intends” to save him and that by using you as the means to it—you may thus disobey God’s will? Whose is the work of conversion? Does He require you “to do evil, that He may do good”?
Had you given yourself to him before you knew the Lord and then expected the Lord to hear your prayers for him, it would be expecting abounding grace. But now it is really presumption and self-will that you would with open eyes unite yourself to him and then expect that since you have not fitted yourself to God’s will, He will fit Himself to yours!
Surely, if the Israelites are so repeatedly urged not to mingle with the heathen lest they learn their works and are thus so often chastened for this sin, are we not in like danger in taking an unbeliever as mate one who will be our guide, counselor, companion, the repository of our every care, joy and sorrow and the one we vow to obey?
Did Solomon with all his wisdom lead his ungodly wives the good way or did they lead him the bad? Human nature has not changed! Have light and darkness now more communion than they had when the Apostle Paul wrote through divine inspiration, “What fellowship... hath light with darkness?” Why does the Apostle Paul bid us to marry “only in the Lord”?
I do not deny that Mr. ______ may someday turn out to be a brilliant light for the Lord, but whether this is so or not, I think it is the greatest presumption for you, in his present spiritual condition, to marry him. Your reasoning on this is even more strange. You determine to walk into the fire, while telling me to pray that you be not burned! Would you think it reasonable for me, if I were to yield myself to the folly and sin of this world, to then ask you to pray that I should not be led into temptation?
He says, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” Now Abraham had a painful trial of faith when he was called to offer up his beloved Isaac. Would it have proved his love for Jehovah had he said, “I cannot do that, but if the Lord takes him from me, I shall be resigned”? The trial of your faith must be more precious than gold, must be tried in fire and will prove itself by giving up the idol, not in being “resigned” should it be denied by your Father.
You tell me that you have already consented to marriage with Mr. ______. That I consider as the world’s snare. You made a promise you had no right to make and one, therefore, you have no right to keep.
The Lord says, “Give Me thine heart.” Mr. ______ says, “Give me thine heart.” The Lord says, “If you give me all your time, talents everything without the heart, they will be nothing.” Mr. ______ says the very same thing. You answer, “I will give them to both.” But stop! Who is it that says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” And who is it that says that He will not divide the heart with Belial? “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.”
Oh! may you be able to answer in action rather than words, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
Letters of Lady Powerscourt (adapted)

"Looking Unto Jesus"

Editor’s Note: This complete series of articles begun in the October 1998 Christian Shepherd is available as a pamphlet. For those wishing to obtain a copy, contact Bible Truth Publishers.
“Looking unto Jesus” should be our object not what we are doing for Him. Too much occupied with our work, we can forget our Master. It is possible to have the hands full and the heart empty. When occupied with our Master, we cannot forget our work. If the heart is filled with His love, how can the hands fail to be active in His service?
T. Monod

"Looking Unto Jesus"

“Looking unto Jesus.” May our gaze at Him be so intense that we shall have no heart for the attractions of the world around us, nor for the thousands of petty circumstances of our path that fret the heart and perplex the mind.
Spiritual Gems for the Path of Faith

"Looking Upon Jesus as He Walked": Luke 1-3

There is a great interval of time between Luke 1-2 and Luke 3. In the first two chapters we get the Lord in infancy and boyhood. In the third chapter He has traveled on to the age of 30 years. I ask, What sense are we to have of the Lord during that period of 18 years? What apprehension of Him is my soul to take? The answer is intimated in the closing verses of chapter 2, and the intimation is full of meaning. He was all that time under the law, growing up as an untainted sheaf the only untainted sheaf of human fruit. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” This was the proper fruit of fulfilling the law.
By and by He provoked much enmity. But suppose I fulfilled the law and loved my neighbor as myself: Should not I grow in favor with all men? So with the Lord.
There is nothing more interesting than this, and I invite you to consider it. One act of complacency waited on Him from the manger to the cross—perfect complacency in the mind of God. The complacency might change its character but not its quantity. There was not a single flaw in it from first till last. It is delightful to know that one such person has passed before the mind of God. He was equally perfect growing up in subjection to His parents as when the veil was rent.
Eighteen years have passed and now we find Him introduced to His present ministry. He has magnified God under the law, and now He comes forth to walk among men as the witness of grace a vessel about to display the grace of God to a ruined world.
J. G. Bellett (from Notes on the Gospel of Luke)

"Looking Upon Jesus as He Walked": Luke 4

In Luke 4 we have a beautiful principle. Before the Lord goes to assail Satan, He must withstand Satan. He lets Satan see that he has nothing in Him. If I take part in evil, I cannot rebuke it. So with Him; there was not one single principle of the power of darkness in Himself—and His victory was complete.
Satan tries to get into the Lord what he got into Adam, but he utterly failed, as he had entirely succeeded before. In Genesis 3 you get the defeat of man; here you get the victory of Man.
Jesus returns in the power of the Spirit and under that power goes into the synagogue and teaches. He opens the book to Isaiah 61—why? Because that chapter is the deep expression of the ministry He was entering upon the ministry of grace. Are we entitled to listen to such a voice? It makes no demands upon me such as Moses and John did. I am called to listen to One that is doing everything for me. Oh! Happy soul that knows what it is to listen to Jesus! It will do more for the purifying of the soul than could ever Moses and John. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
But they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son”? It was their pride that could not brook the thought that the carpenter’s son should be their teacher. They wanted a teacher from college. They had admired His gracious words, but now they yield to a stronger current—pride—and seek to cast Him over the brow of the hill. But He goes on teaching and healing. They had no link by faith with Him.
How is the link formed between the sinner and Himself? Admiration, as we have seen, will not form it, nor will the healing of the body. Nothing but a work in the conscience will do. You must learn your need as a poor sinner one that cannot do without Him. Then the link is formed for eternity. The world is full of its wisdom, religions and speculations. The gospel makes short work of it all. It lets me know that I need a Saviour, and then shows me that I have a Saviour. I just ask, “Do you want Him?” If so, you are welcome to Him.
J. G. Bellett (adapted)

"Looking Upon Jesus as He Walked": Luke 5

Let us look at some of the characteristics of the Lord’s ministry in Luke 5. First we come to the poor leper (vs. 12). What does he say? “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.” Do you believe in the reality of the varied ministerial glories of Christ? Then delight in it. I may think that the first thing I have to do is imitate Him but my soul says that the duty attaching to the first look at Christ is delight to be “lost in wonder, love and praise.” Then, if such an object pass before me, I say I will appropriate it to myself. I say, “That is for me.” This is the day of faith the obedient attitude of faith. When I can trust myself to Him, that is the most blessed obedience I can render.
The leper comes with a half heart “if Thou wilt.” It was a shabby thought. We ought be ashamed to come to a dear friend and say, “You have a hand to give, if you have a heart that wants to give.” I say it was a shabby thought, but the Lord bore with it. He says, “I will: be thou clean.”
Can you trust the heart of Christ? Faith says it can trust the heart of Christ better than any other heart. Here is comfort. I may be very conscious that I have approached Him feebly. Fallen human nature is a legalist—an errant unbeliever. But I am encouraged here to know that though my approach may be feeble, the answer will be blessedly full.
J. G. Bellett (adapted from Notes on the Gospel of Luke)

"Looking Upon Jesus as He Walked: Meditations on the Gospel of Luke - Luke 1

Around 1850, brother G. V. Wigram was editing a monthly publication called Present Testimony. During this time, he received a manuscript, an anonymous meditation on the gospel of Luke.
He felt that it was “precious, and calculated to refresh souls” and so presented it in serial form in his publication. Years later, the Christian Truth reran these meditations, noting that “they are not calculated to merely increase knowledge as such, but more importantly they touch our hearts as we see the heart of God displayed in the Man Christ Jesus.”
We too have had our heart warmed in reading Mr. J. G. Bellett’s work. We trust that our readers will likewise be blessed in reading some excerpts as they are presented from time to time in the Christian Shepherd. Any who desire to obtain the complete bound volume of this sweet ministry can do so from the address listed in the front of this publication.
Luke 1
It is impossible to read this chapter without feeling that heaven is opened very widely to the view of earth. We ought to read all Scripture with personal application. As with Jacob’s ladder and Stephen’s address, in the beginning of Luke we get the opened heaven communicating with earth.
Zacharias, who was serving the Lord in the temple, was surprised by the angel’s visit. He was not prepared for it, and the angel says, “Fear not.” Does the thought of nearness to God awaken alarm in your soul? How blessed to see Him quieting such alarms: “Fear not”!
Zacharias confesses that he was not prepared, and the angel rebukes him. But there is comfort in this too. Would it be happy to you if a person did not show confidence in you? So the angel expresses, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God.”
Why beloved, is your faith challenged? Would you be comfortable if God did not care for your confidence? It could not be so among friends. How we need to read Scripture with intimacy of heart, rather than just to acquaint ourselves with words and sentences. It is by Scripture that I get into nearness to God in heart and conscience.
In the sixth month the angel goes to Mary God still communicates with the earth. Her faith was more simple than Zacharias’s. Again the angel’s words are “Fear not.” Do not miss that! What comfort in the fact that a visitor from heaven had such words upon his lips! And he then speaks of what God was about to do. Mary answers, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Faith, as we see here, is the proper answer to grace.
If someone offers you a kindness, you accept it. It is the only return you can render. God’s grace shines out bringing salvation, and the sinner’s duty is to accept it. I have mistaken the glad tidings, if they have not made me happy.
Then we get Elizabeth and Mary, a beautiful example of communion in the Holy Spirit. They meet—the wife of the high priest and the betrothed of the carpenter—not merely in flesh, but in spirit. Elizabeth acts meekly; Mary acts humbly. Such sweet fellowship arises when people forget the flesh and act only in the spirit.
Then, finally, we see a beautiful thing in Zacharias’s mouth being opened. Unbelief had shut it faith had opened it. While God does not afflict willingly, He does personally with an end in view. It was right that he should be silenced for a time. But as soon as possible, his mouth was opened, wider than ever he counted on.

The Lost Watch

Years ago, before there were refrigerators, people used icehouses to keep their food from spoiling. These little buildings had thick walls, no windows and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut and hauled to the icehouse. After being covered with sawdust, the ice could last well into the summer.
One day while working in his icehouse, a man lost a valuable pocket watch. He diligently searched for it, carefully raking through the sawdust. But he couldn’t find it, nor could his friends who helped him in the search. The watch remained lost.
A little boy, hearing about the lost watch, slipped into the icehouse during lunch. A short time later he reappeared with the watch. In surprise, the man asked how he had found it. “I closed the door,” the boy replied, “and lay down on the sawdust and kept very still. Soon, I heard the watch ticking.”
Often we do not hear God’s voice very well. Our time is occupied with busy, often frantic searching for His will. We get frustrated and impatient when we don’t seem to get a response. We may even wonder if God really cares.
But if we want to hear Him, we must not only come into His presence, but we must be quiet too. Our Father tells His children to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psa. 46:10). There, in the peace of His blessed presence, we will hear that still, small voice: “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa. 30:21).
K. Heslop

The Love of God

We were lost in nature’s darkness;
Help nowhere for us was found;
Without strength we were and helpless;
Then we heard the joyful sound;
God so loved the world
He gave us His beloved Son to die
On the cross that He might save us;
Where is love with God’s to vie?
On divine insistence, look we
With amazed, adoring eyes
Upon Jesus there at Calvary
As He languishes and dies;
Dies for all, we do believe Him;
He for you has shed His blood;
Will you not by faith receive Him
And by Him be brought to God?
Brought to God, O gracious Saviour,
In the virtue of Thy blood;
We are through Thy love and favor
Thy joint-heirs and heirs of God;
This high honor we inherit,
Sons of God through sovereign grace,
We are, through Thy worth and merit,
Fully saved from Adam’s race.
E. Tonn (1985)
“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him” (Psalm 34:8).

Low at His Feet

Low at Thy feet, Lord Jesus,
This is the place for me;
Here I have learned deep lessons:
Truth that has set me free.
Free from myself, Lord Jesus,
Free from the ways of men;
Chains of thought that have bound me
Never can bind me again.
None but Thyself, Lord Jesus,
Conquered this wayward will;
But for Thy love constraining,
I had been wayward still.
“The blood of Jesus Christ His [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

The Man in the Glory: 1 Timothy 2:5

I wake in the morning with thoughts of His love,
Who is living for me in the glory above.
In glad hope awaiting till He calls me away,
And that keeps me bright as I go day by day.
But the moments speed forward, and on comes the noon,
Yet still I am singing, “He’ll come very soon,”
And thus I am watching from morning to night,
More than they who desire to see the daylight.
There’s a Man in the glory I know very well,
I have known Him for years, and His goodness can tell.
One day, in His mercy, he knocked at my door,
And, seeking admission, knocked many times o’er.
My sins were all hid in the depths of the sea,
They were cast away there by the Man on the tree.
I am often surprised why the lip should be curled,
When I speak of my Lord to the man of the world.
He seems so content with his houses and gold,
While despising the Ark, like the people of old.
And yet at His coming I’m sure he would flee,
Like the man in the garden, who ate of the tree.
Is the Man in the glory a stranger to you?
A stranger to Jesus?
What! Do you not know,
He is washing poor sinners much whiter than snow?
Have you lived in a land where the Bible’s unknown,
That you don’t know the Man who is now on the throne?
Ah, did you but know of His beauty and power,
You would not be a stranger, even another half hour!

Meditations on the "Place"

God’s Altar and Jacob’s Altar
“And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not” (Gen. 28:16-19).
Jacob’s journey of 1000 miles must have caused him to spend many nights sleeping with a pillow of stone. God appeared to him in that particular place, the very spot where He appeared to Abraham and where Abraham built his altar (Gen. 12:8). God begins in Genesis showing that He has a place of His choosing where He meets with man.
“And Jacob came to... a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he erected there an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel” (Gen. 33:18, 20).
There is a difference between this altar, which Jacob builds on his own, and the next, which God instructs him to build. He calls this altar El-Elohe-Israel (God the God of Israel), referring to himself and his individual blessings. He has chosen the place where he will live and build his altar. But, after learning painful lessons there, he is ready to submit to God’s choice of a place to live and worship.
“And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee” (Gen. 35:1).
The altar in the place of God’s choosing, called El-beth-el (Gen. 35:7), means the God of the house of God. This altar suggests to us worship on the basis of the whole house of God worship in the very presence of God. He does not ask Jacob to build an altar while he is away serving Laban. He names the place where He desires communion with Jacob, the place of His appointment.
God’s Warning to Moses
“Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes” (Deut. 12:13-14).
Moses dared not choose a place according to his thoughts. He didn’t know the place or even the tribe, nor did he know how or when God would identify the place. But he did know that God would choose one place and that His people were not to offer their burnt offerings in any other place.
The Lord’s Command to David
“The Lord commanded... that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the Lord in the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite” (1 Chron. 21:18).
Why did the destroying angel stop at this point? Why was David told to build at this spot? This was the very spot where Abraham, by faith, offered up his only son Isaac in obedience to God. It was the same mountain about which the prophet Isaiah spoke, where death would be swallowed up in victory (Isa. 25:7-8). Golgotha was on this mountain!
Failure and Faithfulness
“I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand... even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David My servant may have a light alway before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen Me to put My name there” (1 Kings 11:35-36).
Though God allowed His people to be divided, He affirms that His appointed place is still Jerusalem. The failure of God’s people did not change His appointed place, nor would it be changed until God’s own Son was cast out of it (and later His messenger Stephen) with the message, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).
The Person and the Place
“Jesus saith... The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:21-23).
Jesus prophesies that the physical location of worship will be set aside; it will be replaced with a spiritual location: true worship in spirit and truth. The Lord Jesus identifies this place of communion: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
Unity of the Place
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-15).
This little group of believers was not part of the assembly until they had been baptized by the Spirit into the body (1 Cor. 12:13). Notice how God carefully guards against there being a separate Samaritan assembly. All through Scripture God has a place of His appointment where He desires His people to meet with Him. It is not for us to decide where we will meet the Lord, but to ask, “Am I in the place of His appointment?”
The Place for All Believers
“And He sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare.... And they said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare?” (Luke 22:8-9).
There is a place of His choosing. The Spirit of God (typified by the man with the pitcher of water) guides to it. It is a large place room enough for all believers (who are not disqualified by evil) to be there. It is not a place devoted to a particular doctrine or to a special (sectarian) group of Christians. It is an upper room, morally separate from the world. It is a furnished room, where there is no need for man’s appointments or “aids” to worship.
P. M. Hadley (adapted)

Meditations on the Word: Genesis 1-2

The following series of short Bible outlines are presented to be read along with the precious Word of God and as an encouragement to study daily its precious truths. Our dear brother who has authored this work has said that his “desire is that the reader may be helped by these simple thoughts which he has gleaned for himself and borrowed from those who have lived in the joy of a life fed and nourished by this blessed Book.”
Genesis: Introduction
We begin with Genesis. This word means “the beginnings.” It tells of the first creation the natural world. In the New Testament we find in Romans that when a person receives the Lord Jesus as Saviour, they are born again. They too have a new beginning into the new creation.
The first creation in Genesis was ruined by sin. The new creation can never be spoiled, for it was formed by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sin closed the gate to earth’s paradise, but divine love opened the door to heaven.
Chapter 1
Notice the first four words of the Bible. God created beautiful heavens and earth. In the story of creation, God tells man all he needs to know.
Verses 1-2: God’s account of creation is simple. In contrast, man’s theory of evolution is dreadfully complicated. It is by faith (Heb. 11:3), not by reasoning, that we understand.
Verse 1 describes the original, perfect creation, while the condition described in verse 2 suggests that there may have been a tremendous judgment which fell on this earth, between the first and second verses. God has not told us anymore.
Verses 3-31: Six literal days were taken to do this work. (See Exodus 20:11 and Hebrews 11:3.)
Verse 26: Into this paradise (garden) God brings the first man, Adam. God’s thoughts were always centered in man (Prov. 8:22-31). Adam and Eve did not know good and evil; they were innocent. They could enjoy fellowship with God when He came to speak with them.
Chapter 2
Verses 1-3: God finished His work and He had rest. The Sabbath is God’s rest. God said the first creation was good and very good, but He never called it perfect.
Notice that thus far, only the word “God” is used to describe our Creator-God.
Verses 4-7: A new title “Lord God.” This name, Jehovah Elohim, suggests the thought of relationship. It brings Him a little closer to people.
Verses 18-25: The first marriage. A beautiful picture of the last marriage Christ and His bride (every true believer in Him). See Revelation 19:7.
Adam needed a companion, suitable to him. Let us see the deep meaning in this. Some 4000 years pass by before we see what God had in His heart. His Son, the Lord Jesus, was to become man. He is God and man in one. He was to have a bride. We, believers in the Lord Jesus, are His bride (Eph. 5:23,32). To obtain his bride, Adam is put to sleep (a picture of the death of Christ). The woman is taken out of the man, even as the bride comes into existence out of Christ.
God gave the bride to His Son as a reward because He has glorified God on the earth (John 17:4). The bride is His body and there is only one body. The body is the one and only church (Eph. 1:22-23). The church is not a building or a particular group of believers. It is composed of every real believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
N. Berry
(to be continued)

Meditations on the Word: Genesis 10-13

The history of Noah’s three sons is recorded. The present world has been divided in these three: The Israelites as well as many peoples living on the continent of Asia come from Shem. From Ham come most of the peoples of Africa as well as some now known as Arabs. Japheth is the father of the European peoples, as well as some North African peoples.
Verses 8-10. Nimrod means “we will rebel.” Nimrod was a hunter whose kingdom was called Babel (Babylon). Satan’s two methods to destroy man are the same as a hunter uses: deception and violence.
Nimrod is a picture of the antichrist who will lead the rebellion against the Lord after the church (all true believers) has been caught away from the world to heaven. Revelation 17 is the account of the mystery of Babylon, man’s last attempt to organize a world government.
Genesis 11
Verses 1-9. The word “Babylon” in Scripture is often used as a picture of idolatrous corruption. When Israel disobeyed Jehovah and became idolators, they were carried away as captives from their land to Babylon. Believers who dabble with the world will lose their spiritual strength and become captives of Satan.
The tower of Babel brought about a governmental scattering of the people by God. “Egypt” pictures the world from which the “church” has been called out, while “Babylon” pictures the world into which the professing church has gone.
Verses 10-26. Notice how the ages of people drop. Before the flood, Methuselah lived 969 years (Gen. 5:27), but after the flood the longest any man has lived was Eber 464 years.
Verses 27-32. Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham and whose life is a beautiful example of faith, is introduced to us.
Genesis 12
Verses 1-5. God called Abraham to separate himself from everything which a man might count dear his country, his people and his family. He is a picture of the believer whose “citizenship” is in heaven (Phil. 3:20; “conversation” is the same as “citizenship”) though living in this world.
The promises made to Abraham, who was to walk as a pilgrim and stranger in this world, were great (ch. 12:2).
Verse 7. The Lord appeared to Abraham when he had arrived in Canaan. There he built an altar and worshipped the Lord. Those who worship the Lord in the place of His appointment will have a sense of confidence in their hearts.
Verses 10-20. Abraham had two failures. The first was when he stopped in Haran, rather than going all the way into Canaan (ch. 11:31). The second was when a famine in Canaan made him go down into Egypt.
Abraham tells his wife to lie about their marriage (vs. 19). How sad! Both of these failures picture how we as believers, when not walking by faith, at times “hold back,” while at other times we “go too far.”
Egypt pictures the world with all its attractions and culture. There Abraham became rich, even as we believers can do, if we allow ourselves to be tempted to go back into the world.
Perhaps the saddest thing about Abraham is that he did not love his wife, Sarai (later called “Sarah”), enough to publicly claim her as his own. He was concerned for his own life, fearing that he might die for her. What a beautiful contrast we see in the Lord Jesus who died to gain a bride the church for Himself.
Genesis 13
Verses 1-4. Abraham comes back “up” to his altar (a picture of a believer’s restoration). He had no altar of worship while in Egypt.
Verses 5-13. Abraham’s increased wealth, gained in Egypt, causes him much trouble. He and his nephew Lot could no longer remain together. Lot, who was not guided by the eye of faith, selects the area of Sodom in which to pitch his tent. Lot’s steps downward are gradual: (1) He “lifted up his eyes, and beheld,” (2) he “chose him all the plain of Jordan,” (3) he “dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom,” (4) he “dwelt in Sodom,” and (5) he “sat in the gate of Sodom” (the place of authority).
Verses 14-18. How different things were for Abraham! Putting God first, he was blessed richly by Him with a glorious, lasting inheritance. May we also put God first and thus enjoy all our blessings.
Lot used his eyes to make his decision, but Abraham waited on God and was told to look around. All that he saw was going to be his (Isa. 64:4).
N. Berry

Meditations on the Word: Genesis 14-18

Genesis 14
We have war recorded for the first time in the Bible. Abraham has a care for Lot and seeks to deliver him from his captors.
Verse 14. Though Lot was Abram’s nephew, he is called “his brother.” How humbled Lot must have been when he thought of the love of his uncle. Lot still had Sodom in his heart, for when he was rescued, he went right back and lived there!
Verses 18-24. Melchizedek is a beautiful type of Christ as Priest and King. Read of him in Hebrews 6:20 and chapter 7:20-24. In the millennium, Christ will be both Priest and King.
Genesis 15
Verse 1. “After these things.” After Abram had won a victory over those kings, he might have feared a return attack. So God comforted him with this wonderful promise: “I am thy shield.” Also, since Abram was satisfied to not take any reward from the king (Gen. 14:23), God now says to him, “I am... thy exceeding great reward.”
Verses 2-16. Abram wanted a son and heir. Was he going too far in speaking to God in this way? Verse 6 shows us how close he was to the Lord. God loves to hear us ask Him for things which are for His glory and our good.
Genesis 16
Abram fails again. Israel today, with all its troubles, bloodshed and wars with the Arabs, is the result of Abram’s use of Hagar. The Muslim nations today consider that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael (Gen. 37:27). Hagar had been brought from Egypt! Friendship with the world will bring us into much sorrow.
Verses 4-6. Into Abram’s family came misery, pride, jealousy, quarreling and injustice.
Verses 7-16. Yet how merciful God was to poor Hagar!
Verse 14. She comes to the well “Beer-lahai-roi,” which means, “The well of the living One who sees me.” When we sin, there is One to whom we confess—God (1 John 1:9). But we carry the results of our sin to the day when we leave this world!
Genesis 17
Verses 1-4. This is the sixth time that God has appeared or given a promise to Abram. There has been a lapse of time in the story of Abram of several years. He is now 99! When we get away from the Lord, we waste our years too.
This further promise and revelation bring in the subject of circumcision. This pictures death to the flesh, separation and purity complete surrender to God. To enjoy our Christian blessings, we must learn the meaning of surrender to the Lord.
Verse 21. The covenant (agreement) of blessing was going to be through Isaac, not Ishmael. Abraham was impatient. He could not wait for God to give him a son by Sarah his wife. So he had taken the matter into his own hands, and sorrow was the result. But God is now going to act in grace.
Genesis 18
Here we see Abraham at his best kind, hospitable, thoughtful and generous. He knew it was the Lord to whom he was speaking.
Verse 2. He ran towards the men in confidence, but He bows before the Lord in reverence.
Verses 9-15. Sarah gets her first direct news of the son (Isaac) whom she was to bear at almost 100 years of age!
Verses 16-33. God would not hide from Abraham what He was going to do to Sodom, for He knew that Abraham would faithfully command and guide his own home. God delights to show us what He intends to do, but we are so often careless and out of communion with Him that we miss out. We first lose our confidence and then our discernment.
Verses 23-33. Abraham speaks to God and pleads for the city of Sodom. He knew his unfaithful nephew Lot lived there. What love Abraham had! What confidence in the Lord! When we walk with the Lord, we can speak to Him in complete confidence.
N. Berry
Editor’s Note: We trust that our readers have been helped by the brief study guide outlines of the early chapters of Genesis, presented the past five months. The complete outline for the Bible is available in booklet form. Those who wish to use this helpful guide may obtain copies at bookstores, both in Canada and the United States. Please contact the editor of the Christian Shepherd for the addresses of these sources.

Meditations on the Word: Genesis 3-5

One of the most solemn accounts in the Bible is that of the fall of man resulting in separation from holy God who created and loved him. But the wonderful announcement is that in the far-off future, God would graciously provide to meet the fallen sinner’s great, great need.
Verses 1-7. We meet the serpent for the first time. Eve failed in many ways: (1) She listened to the serpent, (2) she spoke to the serpent, (3) she reasoned about God’s command, and (4) she (and Adam too) disobeyed God’s command. Ever since, Satan has succeeded in substituting his lies for God’s truth. He has brought sin, misery and death. Yet people dare to blame God for the present condition of the world.
Verses 7-10. After they disobeyed God, Adam and Eve immediately received a bad conscience. They knew they were naked and they hid from God. A bad conscience always makes us afraid of God.
Verses 11-24. The results of one act of disobedience. Sin separates from God (Isa. 59:2).
Verse 15. This points directly to Christ on the cross, destroying Satan (Heb. 2:14).
Verses 16-17. What a marvelous contrast to this sorrow is the joy and peace with God a believer has through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:13).
Verse 21. An animal had to die to provide the skins to cover Adam and Eve. This reminds us of Christ as the Lamb of God, who died to cleanse us from our sins and give us a perfect standing before God (Heb. 10:14).
Verse 22. The tree of life had a purpose to be fulfilled in the future. We believers are going to eat the fruit of that tree, for we shall live forever (Rev. 22:2)!
Verses 23-24. The sword of judgment kept them out of the garden, away from the tree of life. But the sword of judgment fell on the Lord Jesus (Zech. 13:7), and through the death of the good Shepherd (John 10:11), the door into heaven, the paradise of God, is now open to all who believe.
Genesis 4
Sin, spreading throughout the family of Adam, has affected everyone born since (except the Lord Jesus). In Genesis 3 it was sin against God; here it is murder of another human being. There are many “firsts” in this chapter: (1) the first children, (2) the first offering, (3) the first murder, and (4) the first civilization.
Verses 1-17. Cain’s offering was fruit from the ground that God had cursed (Gen. 3:17). It was a bloodless offering. But Abel’s offering pleased God. It pictures Christ’s death for us on the cross (Heb. 11:4). Men still try as Cain did to be acceptable to God by their efforts and work. No unsaved person can worship God.
Genesis 5
Verse 1. Compare this verse with Matthew 1:1. Genesis 5 is a record of the generations of the fallen descendants of Adam. Matthew gives the book of the generations of Jesus Christ. Adam (the first man) and Christ (the second Man the last Adam) are the heads of these two races.
We are born into the first, but we must be born again (John 3:7) into the second. Through Adam we all die, through Christ we are made alive (Rom. 5:21; 1 Cor. 15:22). Which family are you in?
Very soon, the Lord Jesus is going to come in the air and call every believer (dead and living) out of this world. Enoch (vss. 21-24) is a picture of all those believers who will be living when the Lord catches them up in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
N. Berry
(to be continued)

Meditations on the Word: Genesis 6-9

Genesis 6
Verses 1-6. By this time sin, having spread all over the world, corrupted everyone. God’s description of the condition of the world is in verse 5.
Verse 7. Sin brings punishment. There is no other result, and it must be paid for with blood (Heb. 9:22). “Remission” means payment.
Verses 8-22. Noah is a picture of Christ. He was a “just” man (fair and honest) and perfect (upright). In contrast to all those around, Noah stood alone, being faithful among the faithless.
Verse 13. Punishment from God. People say, “Smile, God loves you.” They forget this verse: “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” are necessary. Then the smile comes.
Verse 14. Grace brings deliverance. Though it must be paid for by the shedding of blood, God delights to act in grace (Rom. 5:20).
Verses 14-22. The time comes when judgment falls. But God makes a way of escape. The ark was the only means of escape from the waters of death.
Today, only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is there salvation from coming judgment. Every picture of deliverance from the punishment of sin in the Old Testament is a picture of the cross of Christ. Water sometimes is a picture of judgment (Psa. 69:2,14-15; Psa. 42:7). Noah in the ark passing through the water is such a picture (Matt. 24:37-39).
Genesis 7
Noah obeyed God’s word to him (Gen. 6:22; 7:5,9). The ark provided a perfect shelter from God’s judgment. Obedience to God brings deliverance, blessing and happiness, all through a believer’s life.
Verse 1. “Come” in we have to come in (Matt. 11:28) before we can go out (Mark 16:15). Then we must separate from the world (Heb. 13:13; James 4:4). However, separation is not isolation. Mixing with the world to socialize spoils our testimony. Telling others about Christ keeps us healthy Christians.
Verse 10. After Noah enters the ark, God waits in patience for others to flee to Him for safety. Even after He had gone back to heaven, Jesus was “standing,” waiting for Israel if they would turn to Him (Acts 7:56).
We are now in that “waiting time” the “door” is still open and God is waiting for the last soul to flee to Him and be saved before He acts in judgment. When the Lord Jesus comes for believers (1 Thess. 4:13-18), the day of grace will end and the “door” of safety will be forever shut.
Verses 11-24. All the souls in the ark were there for one year and ten days (Gen. 7:11; 8:14).
Verse 23. Judgment fell on every living person, animal and bird outside the ark. And so today, no person who has heard and rejected the gospel of the grace of God will ever have another chance to be saved after the Lord Jesus comes.
Genesis 8
Verses 1-14. God does not forget Noah and his family in the ark. We learn many interesting details as God makes a fresh start with the human race.
Verses 15-22. Noah builds an altar to God and offers burnt offerings. Notice only the clean animals (Gen. 7:2-5,8) were sacrificed. They are a picture of the Lord Jesus, God’s Lamb (Rev. 5:6). Noah’s sacrifices, which remind us of the coming sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, were a sweet smell to God. God’s promise of seasons has never failed and never will.
Genesis 9
Verses 1-17. God makes a new covenant (agreement) with man. It starts in Genesis 8:20 and runs to Genesis 9:17.
Verse 4. For the first time, God allows man to eat the flesh of animals. But they were NOT to eat the blood, for that is the life of the flesh (Lev. 17:10-14).
Though we have natural life, we need a new life spiritual life. When Jesus died, His precious blood was poured out. When He rose from the dead, His body had flesh and bones, but no blood (Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:43-50; 2 Cor. 5:17). Believers have a new life eternal life the very same life that the Lord Jesus has.
Verses 11-12. Every time you see a rainbow, you can remember that God has promised to never again judge the world with a flood. But there is going to be an even worse judgment someday God will judge the world by fire (2 Peter 3:6-7,10,12).
Verses 19-29. Alas, people did not improve after the flood. Even Noah falls into sin, and the human race once again starts down the road to worldwide corruption.
N. Berry
(to be continued)

Mephibosheth: His Ability; Our Disability

The account of Mephibosheth gives a helpful, encouraging example of how God prepares a broken vessel for blessing. We, for whom these things are recorded (Rom. 15:4), can exult in our God, whose ways of perfection account for every circumstance in our lives.
We are introduced to Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 4 where the end of the house of Saul is recorded. In Saul we have a type of attractive flesh, which is rejected by God and judged. Mephibosheth represents the election of grace, who, though possessing nothing deserving of the kindness of God, is brought into the presence—made fit to be in the company of the glorious king.
“And Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son that was lame of his feet.” What was lovely in Jonathan was his attachment to and companionship with David. We may fail, as did Jonathan, but the purpose of God in “bringing many sons unto glory” can never be thwarted, even as the bringing of Mephibosheth into David’s presence beautifully attests.
The Effects of Following Wrong Causes
Jonathan also reminds us that, despite affection and loyalty to Christ, we may be followers of the wrong leaders, enlisted in the wrong causes, and engaged in the wrong conflicts. Sadly, many are fighting, in the flesh, what they think are the battles of the Lord, while their children suffer the lack of fatherly, shepherding care. Sadder is that we may spend our whole lives in wrong causes, and our children suffer, as a result, lifelong disabilities.
Being “lame of his feet” is the most remarked feature of Mephibosheth. From this we learn the inability of the flesh to walk for God’s glory, even though possessing, as Mephibosheth, a birthright of royalty. “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” God may have to allow painful disabilities as reminders that we must “walk in the Spirit” in order not to “fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
The Effects of a Root of Bitterness
Mephibosheth was 5 years old when the news came of the death of Saul and Jonathan. His nurse took him up and fled. What a history of sorrow began for the young boy, who was thus crippled for life! How easy to have grown up angry and bitter! What had he done to deserve such things?
There are many of us whose root problem is anger and bitterness, who have never allowed God the right to break the vessel He is fashioning. Often the root of bitterness is buried in the soil of a controlling, legal spirit, which pretends to do God’s service by focusing on the faults of others. Such bitterness may be covered over for a time, but it will indeed “spring up” and do its awful work among God’s people and “thereby many be defiled.”
“All Things Work Together for Good”
But oh! the solace that comes from meditating on the precious thoughts of God toward us!
His every act pure blessing is;
His path unsullied light.
Concerning the suffering of evil in this life, it has been observed, “God doesn’t cause evil to happen, but He is the only One great and good enough to bring blessing out of the evil.” Enjoying this by faith, we escape the snare of bitterness resulting from seemingly difficult and painful circumstances in life.
The Effects of Ignorance
“And it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.” His disability came through the innocent but negligent care of one who genuinely cared for him. Today, believers may have spiritual handicaps or disabilities through the negligent care of those entrusted with their young lives. As parents, we may be guilty of this not intentionally through lack of love, but culpably through lack of diligence. Jonathan certainly didn’t intend to leave his young son fatherless, nor did his nurse intend to disable him by her actions. Nevertheless, these things happened through a lack of discernment of the awful consequences of living “in the flesh.”
The Effects of Sloppy Shepherding
Elders who have the oversight of God’s flock bear responsibility for their ways and attitudes which can “disable” young believers. How often failure to manifest godly care and wisdom in seeking to help the sheep of Christ has resulted in wounded sheep.
Some years ago, I was trying to be helpful in herding sheep from one pasture to a better pasture. All the flock save one prodigal were safely through the opened gate when the wanderer bolted away along the wrong side of the fence. My zeal and energy in running after the errant sheep to bring it back only served to drive the terrified animal further away. How many of the precious sheep of Christ have been driven away by unwise displays of zeal and energy. How important loving patience is when seeking to coax a wandering sheep back.
Broken Vessels “Vessels of Mercy”
Our blessed God desires us to see that those disabilities He has allowed in our lives received through hardness and affliction are preparing us as broken vessels in which God displays His kindness.
Mephibosheth did not miss out on the heritage of being the king’s son, for he was set at the king’s table “as one of the king’s sons.” The transformation from brokenness and apparent loss to the privileged place of glory and nearness to the king began in the heart of David. How this reminds us of our Lord Jesus Christ, who brings the kindness of God our Saviour to us and who alone can remove the sting and pain of affliction from our hearts.
“The vessel... was marred in the hand of the potter.... Cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in Mine hand” (Jer. 18:4,6).
B. Jones (adapted)

The Name of Jesus Its Power and Value

There is salvation in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). The soul that trusts in Jesus gets all the saving virtue which belongs to that name.
There is eternal life in the name of Jesus (John 20:31). The soul that trusts in Jesus becomes a partaker of His life a life which, because it is eternal, can never be forfeited.
There is remission of sins through the name of Jesus (Acts 10:43). The soul that trusts in the name of Jesus is forgiven, according to the value of His name, in God’s judgment receiving all the value, credit and virtue of that name.
There is power in prayer in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14). The believer, coming to God in the name of Jesus, could no more be refused than Jesus Himself.
There is power over Satan and all evil in the name of Jesus (Mark 16:17-18; Acts 3:6; James 5:14). His blessed name has power in heaven, power on earth, power in hell, power over angels, power over men and power over devils. Let faith use that precious, matchless, powerful, all-prevailing name.
It is in the name of Jesus that God’s assembly is gathered by the Spirit of God (Matt. 18:20). Men may meet upon any ground or purpose they please. But the Spirit of God only gathers believers together in the blessed name of Jesus.
There is administrative authority in the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 5:4-5). The full credit of the name of Jesus is attached to the act of the assembly, when divinely gathered. Heaven gives the sanction of His name to the act.
There will be universal, everlasting homage paid to the name of Jesus (Phil. 2:9-10). May God the Holy Spirit unfold to our souls, more and more, the power and value of the precious name of Jesus, that we with holy confidence at all times and in all things are enabled to use that precious name.
Things New and Old (adapted)

Nearness and Blessings

It is sweet to consider in the story of Ruth how her blessings increase as she draws nearer Boaz. She is first found gleaning “after the reapers” in that part of the field which belonged to him (Ruth 2:3). She next hears his gracious admonition not to go to another field, but to stay by his maidens (ch. 2:8). Then Boaz invites Ruth to drink from the vessels of water that “the young men had drawn” (ch. 2:9).
Ruth is next invited to eat in Boaz’s company with his reapers, and there she draws close enough to receive blessing personally from his hand (ch. 2:14). But she draws still closer as she reclines at his feet in the place where the harvest was stored and hears his desire for her (ch. 3:13). Finally, Ruth, the outcast Moabitess, becomes the wife of Boaz (ch. 4:13).
Let us likewise draw ever closer to our Lord He who blessed us “with all spiritual blessings” and who “loved the church, and gave Himself for it.”
S. Hallowell (adapted)

"Not a Vessel More"

“And Elisha said unto her... tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not anything in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou... shalt pour out into all those vessels.... So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed” (2 Kings 4:26).
Events in the world strongly suggest that we are just moments before the return of our blessed Lord Jesus for His bride, the church. But until this wonderful moment, each believer has, as it were, a “pot of oil” (the Spirit of God) in his house. The supply of the Spirit’s blessing is inexhaustible, even as the widow found of her “pot of oil.” It ought to be our desire that this inexhaustible supply of blessing be poured out until “there is not a vessel more.”
Christians are told in 2 Timothy 4:5 to “do the work of an evangelist.” May we be found faithfully seeking lost souls! We need not go far to find these “empty vessels.” They are nearby in the places we live and work. How many “empty vessels” precious, lost souls there are in the world!
It is encouraging to see that every vessel that was brought in was filled! There was never a question of the oil in the widow’s house running out. Nor can there ever be any question about the boundless resources of the Spirit of God being able to fill every soul that is brought to Christ.
We often sing, “God’s house is filling fast, yet there is room. Some guest will be the last, yet there is room.” The time will come, perhaps very soon now, when the last soul is saved and “there is not a vessel more” to be filled. Then the oil will stay the Spirit of God will cease filling empty vessels.
May God grant purpose of heart to each to be found diligently gathering precious, empty vessels, until that time when the “Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout” (1 Thess. 4:16) and catch away His blood-bought bride. “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”
D. Bilisoly (adapted)

O Blessed Saviour

O blessed Saviour, Lord and King,
With joy we worship Thee;
Our prayers and praise to Thee we bring
In peace and liberty.
Thy love doth set our spirits free,
Our hearts do upward soar;
Hearts occupied with none but Thee,
Thee worship and adore.
A worthy object, Thou, O Lord,
Dost all our praise receive;
Worthy art Thou to be adored
More than our hearts conceive.
Thou didst humanity adorn,
To make the Father known;
Never was holy manhood worn –
’Twas seen in Thee alone.
The Word made flesh, where God and man
Unite in sovereign grace;
For man the tale of grace began,
The lost of Adam’s race.
O blessed Saviour, we on Thee
With deep affection gaze;
In Thee we every beauty see
And sing Thy worthy praise.
E. Tonn (1986; C.M.)

One Spirit With the Lord

Christians have not learned the double bearing of death and resurrection in themselves if they do not see that being dead with Christ is the entire putting away of the old man. As a believer I am a crucified, dead and buried man, my old self put aside forever.
God looks on me as identified with the life of Christ and tells me all the things which this life has made mine blessed “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1). “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17).
G. V. Wigram

"One Thing Have I Desired … "

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock” (Psa. 27:45).
David wanted to dwell in that place where he found the Lord’s honor maintained. He wanted to dwell in that house all the days of his life. Dear young people, do we prize the presence of the Lord more than any gain there is in this life? How easy it is to allow things to come in that break our communion so that we cannot enjoy the presence of the Lord. That is an irrevocable loss. You cannot estimate what a loss that is to your soul! May God in His infinite grace keep you in such a way that you shall ever be in a state where you can go immediately into the presence of the Lord like David and learn more of His beauty. Then when trouble comes for it will come the Lord will hide you in His pavilion.
A. M. Barry

Passing Through Jordan - A Question

Question: How are souls to be encouraged to pass through Jordan that is, to lay hold of being “crucified with Christ,” dead to this present, evil world and risen and alive in Christ?
Answer: I do not think they ever do until they have got sick of themselves and are glad to get rid of themselves. We cannot get into Romans 8 by jumping over Romans 7.
It was the “good report” [see Ex. 3:8 as an example] of the land that started them off. But now the question is, How are people to get across the river Jordan [into that good land of promise] when they find its waters overflowing all the banks?
That is what people find out with their bad tempers or anything else; they cannot get rid of it, though they wish it were a thousand miles off. If a man is running a race in earnest and wearing a beautiful cloak, he will soon throw it off. If he has a belt around him full of gold and must swim a river, he will throw it off or it will drown him.
The way to get into positive liberty is to say, “I am crucified with Christ.” Well then, Christ does not care for beautiful garments or gold or anything else; they are of no good to Him!
“Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” That is to say, I died with Him and I am risen with Him, and then, He lives in me. To sum it all up, we find that “Christ is all, and in all.” He is all objectively, and He is in all in living power.
J. N. Darby (Notes and Jottings, adapted)

The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ

The person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is beyond the comprehension of the human mind. He Himself said, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27). The Son has revealed the Father, but no man knows the Son. His person is a divine mystery.
He was David’s Son as born in Bethlehem, but He was at the same time David’s Lord in the glory of His person (Matt. 22:41-46). Though equal with God, He took the place of a servant (Phil. 2:67). “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). He is addressed by the Father as God. “Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Heb. 1:8).
H. E. Hayhoe

Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 1:1-14

The following meditations, beginning with Acts 1, are not expository, exegetical or apologetic in nature. Rather, they are meant to present simple, practical Scriptural principles.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). “Doctrine” is mentioned first, and this is morally beautiful to notice. Every right thought must always be based on the unchanging truth the “doctrine” of God’s divine Word.
However, doctrine is but one of four areas in which the Spirit of God applies the Word to our profit. The other three reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness all have to do with the moral, practical aspects of our lives as believers.
We trust that our readers will find value in applying these simple meditations to the daily circumstances of life. May He be honored in all!
Acts 1
1. The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.
In Luke’s gospel, the Spirit presents Christ to our hearts as the Son of Man perfectly dependent in every step of His pathway here. As man, He began to do and He began to teach. What perfect moral order! He did before He taught. Even as a child of twelve, we find Him “both hearing them, and asking them questions.” He listened; then He spoke. We ought to listen to our God before we speak and then do what we have heard, before trying to teach others!
2. Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen.
Knowing that He was about to be received up into glory, He gave commandments, in the power of the Spirit of God, to the apostles. Having completed His divine service (John 17:4), He thus puts all in order before ascending in glory to the Father.
Believers should thus order all things pertaining to this life with that same divine wisdom by the Spirit (which is available to each saint; see James 1:5, 1 Corinthians 2 and Proverbs), doing so with a view to leaving, not staying in, this world.
3. To whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
The risen Saviour’s conversation with His beloved disciples concerned the things of the kingdom of God, not the things of this present evil world. Resurrection life (the life all believers have) ought to be a living reality with us one which has a visible effect on all our words and actions.
4. And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me.
Though the Lord was leaving, He would not leave them “comfortless.” However, to enjoy the promised blessing, they must obey the Lord’s word, waiting patiently for its accomplishment at Jerusalem, the place of His appointment. Any other gathering center, no matter how much they might love Him, would miss the blessing of the Father’s promise. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17).
5. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
John’s water baptism was to repentance, in preparation for an earthly kingdom. The King had come, had been rejected and had gone back to heaven. Now there was a baptism coming which would mark something much more blessed than an earthly kingdom. The Holy Spirit would baptize them into one glorious body the Christ the church of God. Our lives ought to give public testimony to the blessed place that is ours in Christ.
6. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
The disciples’ thoughts didn’t rise above this world. They knew by faith that the time was coming when the promised kingdom in all its glory would be restored to Israel, under Messiah. They knew, too, that Jesus was Messiah. But, unable to rise above thinking about the earthly glory of Israel’s kingdom (and their part in it), they forgot what is most important His glory.
It is easy to look for the Lord’s coming because of what we will gain fullness of joy and no more sorrow, sin or sickness! But there is so much more. What about His joy His glory? “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53). How exceeding much joy He will have at His coming! What a motive to pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”!
7. And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.
Here, there is not a word of rebuke from His gracious lips to the disciples! Yet, as always, He speaks the truth. May the Lord help us to always speak in that spirit and at all times! The Father’s perfect wisdom and love would determine the time for Israel’s restoration. Knowing that was to be enough for them. They were as we are to wait and trust.
8. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
To witness for Him they needed divine power, not human knowledge. Let’s not place undue emphasis on knowledge. While knowledge of the truth is important, love for the Lord Jesus and submission to His will is more important. It was the revelation of Himself in the Scriptures that caused the hearts of those early disciples to burn (Luke 24:32).
9. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
The Lord Jesus’ earthly communications end. The disciples see a Man received up to heaven. That scene of glory into which He is received hidden from their eyes is open to faith. Elisha saw the flaming chariot; Jacob saw a ladder upon which angels ascended and descended from heaven. But we see Jesus, crowned with glory (Heb. 2:9). He who is “God has been manifested in flesh... has been received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16 JND). Our affections will be engaged (Col. 3:14) with what our eyes, by faith, behold.
10. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel.
Steadfastly! Nothing in or of this world could attract them away from the object of their hearts’ affection. Let’s also be steadfast in spirit, occupied with that glory where Jesus sits at God’s right hand.
11. Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.
They weren’t to continue to stand there gazing. The Lord had given them His commandments and they were to obey. Normal Christianity does not remain inactive while waiting for the rapture. Remember the admonition to Archippus in Colossians 4:17: “Take heed to the ministry... fulfill it.” That ministry, however, is not one of setting things right in this world. When the Lord comes in “like manner” as He left, He will set all according to His will.
12. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
The distance of a “sabbath day’s journey” was five furlongs about one half mile. In Exodus 16:29 Moses commanded the people, “See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
Jerusalem was the place which belonged (and still belongs) to the Lord Jesus. Though He will reign as great David’s greater Son in the “city of David,” for now He has been cast out. In perfect submission to this, He goes “outside” the city. Though outside Jerusalem to ascend to glory (even as He had gone outside it to die), yet in obedience to the law the Lord stays within a Sabbath day’s journey of His place.
What a beautiful pattern: obedience to the Word of God and submission to all that God allows for this life! The disciples themselves are an example of this obedience. The Lord had told them to wait at Jerusalem, and, unlike Peter’s previous failure (“I go a fishing”), they obey and return to Jerusalem to wait.
13. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
Love for Christ doesn’t always need specific instructions. They were to “tarry... in... Jerusalem,” but it is not recorded that He told them where. Affection led them back to that room where He had said, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” In the J. N. Darby translation it is, “They went up to the upper chamber.” Those who desire to meet around Himself must be guided by the same thing affection for Himself. Knowledge of truth, though vitally important, is no substitute for love for the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
14. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.
Dependence and obedience! What vitally important traits which marked these early disciples and ought still to mark believers today! Obedience, born of love for the Lord Jesus, brought them to the place of His appointment. Dependence (prayer and supplication) preserved them there.

Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 1:15-2:13

15. And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about a hundred and twenty).
The Spirit of God takes care to record the number of those who gathered. Does this teach that we are to be concerned about numbers? No. But how comforting to know that each one gathered in the place of His appointment is of individual note and joy to our Lord’s heart.
16-20. Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take.
The little company, having previously displayed love, obedience and dependence, now exercises administrative care. All things are done “decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) done according to Scripture. All Jerusalem was aware of Judas’s awful end, but the Word of God, not public opinion, was the sole guide upon which the apostles acted.
21. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.
The one chosen must have companied in fellowship with the Lord and the other apostles. Public service for the Lord Jesus requires private fellowship with Him (Rev. 3:20) and His own. “Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).
22. Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection.
The one to be chosen must also be identified with the public ministry of the Lord Jesus from His baptism to His ascension. Every aspect of our Lord’s ministry contains vital principles for our service.
23-26. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two Thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
As far as men were concerned, either disciple was qualified. Perhaps some felt that Justus was better qualified than Matthias. The Lord Jesus alone knew who was to serve according to His purposes.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9).
Acts 2
1. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Oneness of mind and togetherness in fellowship marked the little company of believers while they waited in Jerusalem! Today professing Christianity has become a sad example of “every man” doing what is “right in his own eyes,” thus rendering a public testimony to confusion rather than unity. “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
2. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
Those outside the place of His appointment missed the moving of the Spirit which took place in the house. The house being thus filled with the Spirit had no room for the world! Happy condition for the assembly collectively and for the individual! “Be filled with the Spirit... speaking... singing... giving thanks” (Eph. 5:18-20).
3. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
The tongues’ appearance was “parted” (JND), their character was “fire,” and their dwelling was “upon each” of the disciples. Though we live in a day of great spiritual weakness, these same three things ought to mark us. Each child of God, indwelt by the Spirit of God, ought to live in separation from evil, display holiness in his conduct, and walk in submission to Christ.
The heavenly tongues are here referred to in the singular “it.” The revelation of God is infinite in its varied ways. But God is one, and those who belong to Him are one with Him one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Dissension and conflict ought not to mark the testimony today, for we are “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5), indwelt by one Spirit (Eph. 4:46).
4. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
As vessels fit and ready for the Master’s use (2 Tim. 2:21), they are filled with the Spirit, so they could be used to pour out blessing to others.
5. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
These devout men give striking contrast to the despised, little company in the “upper room.” It is no longer an earthly, outward religion, but a heavenly one, laid hold of by faith, with which God begins a new thing.
6. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
Though they understood the languages being spoken, they couldn’t understand its message. Religion doesn’t give spiritual understanding.
7. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?
The 120 despised Galileans didn’t have wealth or reputation; they didn’t possess great religious knowledge, but their hearts were filled with love for the Lord. The devout men only saw the outward appearance—Galileans—and were perplexed.
8. And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
“How hear we.” The Spirit gave these despised believers the ability to render a testimony in a manner that the world understood. “Whatsoever shall be given you... that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost” (Mark 13:11).
9-11. Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
“The wonderful works of God”! In this glorious message man has no place. May such be the subject of our testimony too! Then God is glorified, Christ is honored and the Spirit free to work.
12. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
These pious Jews were part of the guilty nation who thought they worshipped God, yet they had rejected and slain the Messiah, which resulted in this doubt and consternation.
13. Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
Natural man can never understand God, and divine things are foolishness to him (1 Cor. 2:14). But this wrath is made to praise God (Psa. 76:10). The disciples were not, as contemptuously accused, drunken through natural excess. But they most surely were filled with new wine joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). The “old bottles” who witnessed this marvelous work mocked that which they themselves could not contain or appreciate.

Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 2:14-28

14. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.
“With the eleven.” The first gospel message preached after the formation of the church had the full support and fellowship of the apostles. So too the words we preach (indeed, all we say) ought to be in full fellowship with the apostles’ doctrine.
15. For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
Under the power of divine grace, Peter does not rebuke their wicked mockery. He does, however, deal with it as “that which is natural” (1 Cor. 15:46), soberly giving answer to their irreverent jesting.
16. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.
Having arrested their attention by his calm reply which they could not gainsay, he begins to answer their unbelief, using “that which is spiritual.” If we are to effectively share the Word with others, this same calm spirit with Scriptural order and divine guidance must be used.
17. And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
The message, though distinctly Jewish in character (Joel 2:28-32), announces blessing available for all mankind (upon all flesh), while the words “last days” confer urgency. Believers’ lives today young and old ought morally to conform to the Lord’s warning in Luke 21:34: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”
18. And on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
“Servants” and “handmaidens.” Outward, public service and quiet, unseen service for Christ must be energized by the Spirit. Service submitted to and directed by Him will result in blessing, bringing God (prophesy) to those who are in need.
19. And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
Such signs as Peter speaks of aren’t characteristic of the present day of grace. But the realities of death (blood), judgment (fire) and sorrow (smoke) are, and they form a solemn, necessary gospel warning.
20. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.
Before the Lord appears in that coming day of solemn judgment, all that man has relied on (without acknowledging God as the Giver) for his life and guidance won’t provide comfort or help. Today, believers especially need daily enjoyment of communion with the Giver not just His gifts.
21. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
These words of hope, though taken from the Old Testament prophecy of Joel, are rightly applied by Peter as guided by the Spirit to their current needs. We should also allow the Spirit full liberty to apply, as He sees fit, all of the Word Old and New Testaments—to every circumstance of our lives.
22. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.
“Jesus of Nazareth.” The lowly, despised “carpenter’s son” (Matt. 13:55) is the one Peter preaches. They had witnessed His mighty works. Oh! the joy of connecting our lives and testimony in this world to this humble, rejected Jesus.
23. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.
God gives; man takes and murders. God’s sovereign purposes never set aside man’s solemn responsibility for crucifying the Lord of glory. Peter did not seek to gain their ear by speaking “fair words.” They were guilty of terrible, wicked acts against Messiah. He tells them the truth. Initially it may have offended them. But solemn, eternal issues rest on their hearing and submitting to God’s truth.
24. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it.
Man’s part in the cross was to slay the innocent one. God raised Him from the dead. Impossible that death, the conquered foe, could hold the Conqueror! It was not possible for the grave to hold Him! In a world of death, sorrow and hopelessness, what a glorious hope is Christ’s resurrection! Let us boldly live and proclaim it before those without hope.
25. For David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved.
The Lord was David’s constant object of life. Faith gave David that view the Lord’s presence was a living reality “He is on my right hand.” So the Lord’s constant presence and strength is our joy. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
26. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope.
Faith that knows in reality the Lord’s presence and strength in resurrection life brings joy, praise, rest and hope. Hope in a hopeless scene! What a bright message we have to proclaim to the lost!
27. Because Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.
Faith gives confidence in the unseen. David, knowing not Jesus, but by faith looking for Messiah and in faith prophesying of Him, looked forward to what we see as an accomplished fact. Jesus’ grave is empty. He is risen and we are risen with Him. Death has lost its sting and the grave its victory, and light has appeared in the region and shadow of death.
28. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou shalt make me full of joy with Thy countenance.
The Lord Jesus has said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In walking by faith with Him, believers have the same assurance as David had that in following Him we walk in the “way of peace” (Rom. 3:17) and the “way of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:21). David found that being in the ways of life brought joy, with the thought of seeing the Lord.
What a motive for obedience the thought of seeing the blessed Lord Jesus face to face in glory! May that blessed hope and joy constrain our hearts and feet to walk pleasing to Him in every step.
“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 2:29-40

29-30. “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.”
Then, as patriarch of the kingdom, David’s life brought blessing. Now they had only his sepulcher containing his bones no blessing there!
But the patriarch had also been a prophet. They not only had his sepulcher, but they had his inspired words. They gloried in the former but did not have faith to lay hold of the latter. How important that we not get occupied with the vessel that is used, but in faith lay hold of the words of life that are delivered through it, from God to our hearts.
31. “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”
Though David won mighty victories over Israel’s enemies, it was faith that gave him to view an infinitely mightier victory, the resurrection of Messiah from the dead a victory in which the corruption of the grave did not touch the Victor.
32. “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
Witnesses! God has given full testimony through innumerable witnesses to the truth concerning the person and work of Christ. Peter and the others were witnesses of His humble life and His glorious resurrection; they were “eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). Oh! that our lives might bear witness to His person, majesty and work.
33. “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”
Did they need proof that the lowly Jesus of Nazareth was risen and exalted at the Father’s right hand? They had both seen and heard the Witness the Spirit poured out as a consequence of His exaltation. What is seen and heard in our lives today? Is it that which glorifies our risen Lord? “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).
34-35. “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool.”
It is not David—the one in whom they gloried—but the lowly Jesus whom they despised that now sits in the place of power. Until they repented, they were foes of Him whom David owned as Lord. How important that believers walk in moral separation from the ways of this “present evil world” a world which is a foe of the Lord Jesus Christ.
36-37. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
How could Peter, an “unlearned and ignorant” fisherman, speak so as to cause this powerful effect of troubling the consciences of that great crowd of devout Jews? He used the Word of God, as guided by the Spirit of God. That gave moral authority to his words, convicting his hearers. This same effect will also be produced today if there is submission to the Spirit’s guidance using the Word.
Evidently the other apostles had been standing by Peter as he spoke without saying anything themselves. The troubled listeners cry out for help, both to the one who spoke and to those with him.
We may not always speak verbally about our Lord, but our lives ought to be found morally standing with those who are speaking the truth of God.
38. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Peter was the one who answered the question directed to the group of apostles. The others, recognizing that the Spirit was using Peter in this particular instance, made no attempt to answer. What a wonderful oneness of mind!
How good to learn to wait quietly when another servant is being used by the Spirit. In such instances, silent prayer may be of much greater help than public participation.
Peter’s answer to their question begins with the word “repent.” What rich blessings we often lose as believers because we do not walk before our God in a repentant spirit! “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:17). “But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
39. “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
What a wonderful encouragement for those who in faith and submission move in a repentant spirit before God: blessing for them, for their children, and even for those for whom blessing seemed impossible—those that are afar off. Truly, our God delights to bless the contrite in heart!
40. “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”
“Testify and exhort.” The Spirit records the essence of Peter’s message, rather than his exact words. Those to whom he spoke were identified with a nation existing under judgment. That caused Peter to speak earnestly. Let’s live and speak in the same fervent spirit that precious souls might still be delivered from coming judgment.

Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 2:42-3:7

42. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
The reality of a work of God is beautifully proven in a soul that continues. An evident work of God is always tested and, if real, endures.
The occupation of the early assembly is recorded. They continued steadfastly in that divine revelation which the apostles taught. The fellowship of the early church was inseparably connected with the apostles’ doctrine.
The result of walking in that fellowship was that the brethren had the continual joy of answering to the Lord’s desire: “Remember Me.”
The means of continued blessing and joy in the early church was the result of earnest, collective prayer, expressing dependence on the Lord.
43. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
When the Spirit moves, even unbelievers know something infinitely beyond themselves has happened, causing an appropriate fear. Too often, what passes as a work of God today is used by professing Christendom as an unseemly display of supposed spiritual power. The world often reacts to this with ridicule and scorn, rather than in fear and trembling. Though we don’t live in days of apostolic power, may God help our actions to bear a sober and true testimony to Christ, before all who observe us.
44. And all that believed were together, and had all things common.
Together! What blessedness characterized that early church! Alas! today man has so failed that there remains little outward testimony of Christian unity. Still, each believer is to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace.”
When the 120 first met (Acts 1:15; 2:1), they are characterized as being “together” and in “one accord.” Happy condition! The addition of great numbers (3000 souls) did not disrupt that blessed divine unity they were still together in spirit.
Unlike the Jew under law who had boundaries and landmarks to mark his possession, being one in Christ, they had all things common. What a testimony to the Jews who observed the early believers.
45. And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Even more than having all things common, the natural result of the early oneness was the care for the needs of each member of the body. This was a practical demonstration that “members should have the same care one for another” (1 Cor. 12:25).
Christianity does not give earthly riches. It was the believers’ needs that were supplied, not their wants (Phil. 4:19). This same spirit of care for one another ought to characterize believers today, though the expression of it will be different.
46. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.
The early believers—all Jews by natural birth—became, in a way, even more faithful and godly Jews. They were found daily at the temple. Though that Jewish character of the early church gradually faded away, for a time such faithfulness was allowed and used of God as a testimony to the nation.
Because of the great number of disciples, the Lord’s supper was carried on in separate homes. But they remembered the Lord in the fellowship of one body. The Spirit’s work in these converts also affected daily life (such as eating meals), causing joy and providing another testimony to the risen Jesus. This same spirit of joy and unity ought to characterize believers in all areas of life today.
47. Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Joy in the heart results in praise from the lips. Their joy and expressions of praise provided yet another wonderful testimony to the people. The disciples didn’t have to try to be a testimony their happiness in the Lord made them such. A happy believer, walking in a spirit of praise, always provides an effective testimony for Christ to the world.
The Lord added souls to the assembly ones that were to be saved. A time of solemn judgment was about to fall on the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem. For the saved Jews, the assembly became, in a very real way, a city of refuge from that coming time of sorrow. It ought to still have that character among those gathered today.
Acts 3:1-7
1. Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
Together! How often is this word used to characterize the actions of the early church in Jerusalem –together in preaching, in worship, in distributing to needs and in dependence on the Lord. What a blessed thing is unity!
How important the hour of prayer is in our lives. Here a wonderful miracle was about to bring blessing to a helpless cripple. But it begins with believers who desire to be together to pray. Unity and dependence—marvelous keys to blessing!
2. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.
A striking picture of Israel under law! This poor man was crippled from birth, unable to do anything to gain God’s favor. He must beg for a little, while the One that was cast out and crucified freely offers, in grace, the riches and blessings of heaven to faith.
The gate, though beautiful to the natural eye, no longer was the entrance into blessing for the individual Jew or the nation. True Christian testimony today must come from the inward man. Outward appearances, no matter how impressive, are not the source of blessing, nor are they the proof of blessing in Christianity. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
3. Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms.
Peter and John were visible to those in need. Christians need to live before the world, not hide from it. “Let your light so shine.” The world saw them and their actions. The conduct of Peter and John did not repulse or discourage the one who had need. What an important example for believers!
4. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
Peter, taking special note of the lame man, commands him to look at them. Can we say to the world, “Look on us”? What a sobering thought! What does the needy world see as it gazes at those who call themselves by that blessed name of Christ?
5. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
If man thinks he can get something for himself, he will listen to any message. Satan, as an “angel of light” makes false offers of great gain, in order to trap and destroy men. We who by faith are partakers of the true riches and have freely received need to learn how to freely give (Matt. 10:8).
6. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
Men, blinded by Satan’s lies, believe that silver and gold are the means to achieving great happiness but in reality the riches of this world often buy only great sorrow (1 Tim. 6:9). We must be careful that the blessed name of Christ is never attached to the thought of material gain. Silver and gold would make the name Christian popular in a world that despised and murdered Jesus of Nazareth. True riches are dependent on real, living faith in that blessed name.
7. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
Peter didn’t just talk; he acted. We must act in like faith on the Word of God, if the needy are to be blessed. Peter, lifting the cripple up, proved that there was power in the name of Jesus. Let us always do all in His name the source of true blessing.

Practical Reflections on Acts: Acts 3:8-26

8. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
The first movement of this man, born lame, was to leap. What power in the name of Jesus! The natural mind understands steady progress over time, but this is beyond human reason a clear testimony to God’s work. Christians develop and mature in their spiritual growth (1 John 2), but eternal life itself is perfect and complete when imparted (1 John 1:2; 5:11).
The cripple stood, walked and entered the temple, giving a lovely pattern of normal Christian growth—standing by faith, walking in dependence and entering into the place of His appointment by the leading of the Spirit. Being thus found where He is in the midst, joy and acceptable worship result.
9. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.
What good would it have been if the apostles had given him silver and gold, yet left him a cripple? There would be no walk or praise for God from him. But now, though just as poor in earthly goods as he was before, he gives clear testimony to those unsearchable riches of Christ. Let us—both in walk and word—enjoy those same divine riches!
10. And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.
“And they knew!” The actions of the healed cripple produced amazement in those who knew him. Oh! that the power of God might be so displayed in our lives!
11. And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.
The lame man held those who had brought healing and blessing to him. Let us hold fast the Word of God which has brought us eternal blessing.
Rather than believing thus, in type, entering into the blessing prefigured in Solomon’s porch they wondered at the miracle which had taken place.
12. And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
Earlier Peter had said to the cripple, “Look on us.” Now he rebukes the Jews for doing that very thing! But the cripple had need; the Jews had mere curiosity. True Christianity and its blessings are not intended to satisfy man’s curiosity. Let us see that we, by our life and words, draw attention only to Christ who is the worthy One the source of all blessing.
13. The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.
Earlier, Peter had talked about David. Now he talks of another group that was a source of pride to the nation: the Patriarchs. The God of their fathers had glorified His Son Jesus—Jesus of Nazareth. What a privilege Christians have to bear testimony to Jesus the Son of God where He has been rejected!
14. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you.
Not only had they given up the Holy One, but they had chosen a murderer in His place. Such is the horrible choice the natural heart will make in every circumstance of life.
Now if there was to be blessing, they must hear and believe the truth a most painful truth which would test them to see if there were true repentance. The miracle had gained their attention. Peter’s message must gain their heart. How vital to reach the heart rather than the mind with the gospel!
15. And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
What a horrible choice they made desiring a murderer and becoming murderers themselves! Not only was the nation guilty of murdering the Prince of Life, but the Lord was now alive, and witnesses to His resurrection were in their midst. Who can tell the horrible depths to which the human heart may go in rebellion against its Creator! (See Jeremiah 17:9.)
16. And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
Faith in the name of Jesus, whom they hated and had denied, produced this miracle they couldn’t deny. What a powerful sermon the healed cripple preached by his actions. What about our actions?
17. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.
Grace healed the man in the name of Jesus now it opens the city of refuge to the guilty nation. The Lord Jesus had said on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” and Peter continues that message, opening the door of escape, if they would flee to it. Oh! that we who have been the recipients of such marvelous grace would show this same spirit to others (Eph. 4:32).
18. But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled.
All that God had spoken written in the prophets concerning the Messiah’s sufferings has been fulfilled. The prophets foretold His sufferings, while we preach a soon-returning Saviour’s glory. He said, “Surely I come quickly.” His words will be fulfilled!
19. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
What wonderful blessing repentance brings! Had the nation repented, those times of blessing promised to the Patriarchs—that which Solomon’s reign prefigured—would have immediately begun. Repentance is always the door to joy (Prov. 28:13-14).
20-23. And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto Me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
Not only had they murdered the Prince of Life, but they had killed the Prophet promised by Moses, who brought the mind of God to them. Today believers, in the same spirit of self-will, can in like manner reject God’s mind sent to them through His servants. Oh! the sad consequences of refusing to listen to the Word of God no matter who the vessel is that is used to bring it to His children. May we, with tender hearts and consciences, listen to the messages our God sends through His servants.
24-26. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

"Praying Always"

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication” (Eph. 6:18).
“Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
The following story, which happened over 100 years ago, is touching providing wonderful encouragement for each to continue in prayer. May God be pleased to use it to reenergize in each the habit of continual and earnest prayer.
A Christian mother, whose only daughter had left home and had sunk into sad moral degradation, listened one night to the sounds of beating rain and howling wind. The violence of the storm shook her cozy little cottage. The poor mother’s aching heart—not knowing where or how her daughter was in such a storm would not allow her to sleep. How she yearned that her daughter might be with her, under the safety and comfort of her roof!
As she had so often done since her daughter had left home, she arose from her bed to once again relieve her heart in prayer. Perhaps only those who have watched and prayed for a returning prodigal child can properly understand what her prayer that night must have been.
But even while the storm was raging and she was praying, there came a knock at the door. Upon opening it, the mother heard a well-known and loved voice asking if she could be forgiven. Who can possibly describe the joy of such a meeting?
The daughter, shoeless, in rags and drenched with rain, was enfolded in the arms of her mother. Once inside the mother again dropped to her knees, this time to offer a prayer of grateful thanksgiving to God for the safe return of her wayward daughter. Then she poured out her heart, crying to God that He would in His mercy save her dear girl’s soul.
At those words, the mother heard her daughter whisper, “I am saved already, Mother!” It is impossible to describe the joy which filled that dear, praying mother’s heart!
The daughter continued: “About a week ago, I heard a man preaching in the street, and, as I stood and listened, all my sins seemed to come up before me. I was so alarmed that I ran to my lodgings and prayed to God to forgive me and I know He has pardoned all my sins. I left my room at once, walking all the way, to come back home.”
Things New and Old, Vol. 10 (adapted)

The Price the Shepherd Paid

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
“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).
“O thou great, all-gracious Shepherd, shedding for us Thy life’s blood” (Little Flock Hymnbook, No. 40).
Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
“Awake, O sword, against My shepherd.... Smite the shepherd” (Zech. 13:7).
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
“The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20).
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
“All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me” (Psa. 42:7).
He restoreth my soul.
“Now is My soul troubled.” “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (John 12:27; Matt. 26:38).
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
“He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7 JND).
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.
“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Why art Thou so far from helping Me?” (Psa. 22:1).
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
“I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath” (Lam. 3:1).
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
“They gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink” (Psa. 69:21).
Thou anointest my head with oil.
“And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head... and took the reed, and smote Him on the head” (Matt. 27:29-30).
My cup runneth over.
“He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done” (Matt. 26:42).
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
“Reproach hath broken My heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none” (Psa. 69:20).
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop” (Psa. 102:7).
R. Klassen, Jr. (adapted)

A Question About Assembly Meetings

Question: What Scriptures and scriptural principles provide guidance for the order and character of assembly meetings?
Answer: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). This verse gives us the key to guidance as to assembly meetings the Word of God! A summary verse as to such meetings is Acts 2:42: “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Note that gospel efforts, the gospel meeting and outreaches to children and the lost in general are not included. However, these meetings—which are held on individual exercise and responsibility to the Lord (Acts 21:8; 2 Tim 4:5)—may meet in the same room where the assembly gathers collectively in the presence of the Lord Jesus.
Primarily, assembly meetings include: (1) the breaking of bread and the prayer meeting, and (2) the reading and ministry meetings (the apostles’ doctrine). For example, Paul in Acts 20:7 “preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow” in the Troas assembly. The apostles’ doctrine and fellowship gives the basis of every assembly meeting.
The details of the order of these meetings are not specifically stated in Scripture but are discerned by believers and guided by the Spirit of God a most important principle for proper assembly conduct. As stated in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The things of the Spirit of God... are spiritually discerned.”
But such facets as prayer, praise and worship are stated in Scripture: “the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” in Hebrews 13:15 and “offer up spiritual sacrifices” in 1 Peter 2:5. Clear references to singing are given in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, giving guidance as to the use of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” in “teaching and admonishing one another.” Singing in praise to the Lord is stated in Revelation 5:9: “Thou art worthy... for Thou wast slain.” These examples are but a few of many such passages.
The breaking of bread meeting, also called the remembrance of the Lord in death, was instituted by the Lord Himself on the night of His betrayal. Though given in the synoptic gospels, it is most fully given in Luke 22:19-20. This passage is quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, affording us authority for the present day of grace as to this important meeting.
Guidance as to the day of the week is Acts 20:7: “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread.” The order of giving of thanks for the bread and then the cup was instituted by the Lord Himself and restated by Paul. Today, in following the Lord’s pattern, one brother as guided by the Spirit of God gives thanks for both the bread and the cup.
In summary, Scripture itself is our guide for suited Christian conduct in assembly meetings. The guidance of the Spirit of God, using the Word of God, is essential in the expression of scriptural teaching and spiritual emotions in worship and prayer.
P. S. Jacobsen

A Question About Elders

Question: In what way do “elders” (see 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5) function among the people of God today?
Answer: When the church was formed, there was unity. The New Testament Scriptures were not yet completed. God would have all things done decently and in order. In Acts 14:23 the Apostle Paul appointed elders (plural) in every church (assembly). Scripture never teaches that only one man should have such leadership in an assembly. In the same verse, they prayed with fasting and commended them to the Lord on whom they believed. The Holy Spirit is to have liberty to control the assembly and the meetings held by it.
The context of Titus 1:5-7 shows that the words “elder” and “bishop” refer to the same person. Titus 1:5 is cited as an example of one other than an apostle appointing elders. Titus was appointed by an apostle to do so. It shows that an assembly could not itself appoint its own elders else why send Titus?
When Paul spoke to the elders of the assembly at Ephesus, he did not tell them to appoint successors, to choose a pastor, or to make a constitution. He commended them “to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
Then what about today? Since no one has authority to appoint elders, we do not appoint any. We should, however, recognize those who, without official title, morally function as elders in the local assembly. (This service is only for the local assembly.)
A brother, who once had a question about this, went to an older, respected brother in his local assembly. He asked him, “I read in the Bible about elders. What about elders today?” After some thought the older brother replied, “Well the chances are if you ever met one, he’d never admit to being one.” The brother said later, “I knew then that I was talking to one.” Such humility is characteristic of one who fills the office of an elder without appointment.
The aged Apostle John referred to himself as “the elder.” As an apostle appointed by the Lord Jesus, he was known as an elder. Age alone does not qualify one to act in the capacity of an elder. In 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 we learn that proper behavior is requisite. “Not a novice” implies a proving of one’s self over a period of time. A number of things are mentioned, including a scriptural marital relationship and an orderly family. Having a good report of those without is another important characteristic. Such men have morally proved themselves.
Hebrews 13:7, 17 tells of those who had guided the people of God. We are to follow their faith, not their foibles or failures. They ended well (vs. 7). We are to submit ourselves to their teaching and leading. They are responsible to God and must give an account to Him of how they handled their responsibility (vs. 17). They are also to be “counted worthy of double honor” if they rule well (1 Tim. 5:17).
T. A. Roach

Righteousness and Holiness

Question: In Romans 6:19 Christians are to “yield” their bodies as “servants to righteousness unto holiness.” What is the difference between righteousness and holiness, especially as regards our practical walk as believers in this world?
Answer: In considering this question, it is important first to understand the fundamental scriptural difference between righteousness and holiness.
Holiness is the expression of a nature and supposes the knowledge of both good and evil, but with abhorrence of evil and delight in the good. Scripture tells us that God is light and that He is holy. Light is one of God’s moral attributes, and when evil is brought in, He is holy in His estimation of it and in dealing with it. The natural man is never said to be holy. Before the fall man was innocent, but the lack of the knowledge of good and evil is not holiness.
Righteousness also supposes the knowledge of good and evil, but it brings in a relationship to another and the maintenance of what is due in that relationship—as between God Himself and the creature. God is righteous, for He views in perfection every relationship and judges in moral purity the responsibility that is due in that relationship.
Man in his natural state, whether before or after the fall, is never spoken of as being righteous. He acquired the knowledge of good and evil in the fall and thus received a conscience, but his fallen nature is not righteous, nor does it practice righteousness.
God’s Holy Nature Satisfied
The work of Christ on the cross fully met the issue of sin, and He, as the Holy One, was made sin for us. This is what made the three hours of darkness so terrible for Him: He who was holy must be made sin in order to bear our iniquities. Now the claims of God’s holy nature have been fully satisfied, and God offers sinners salvation through the blood of Christ.
Is God righteous in doing this? Yes indeed, for Christ has met and satisfied all God’s claims as to sin, and God has raised Him from the dead. Another has said, “The highest manifestation of righteousness, the absolute manifestation of it in perfection, was His receiving Christ to Himself.”
God Is Righteous in All His Ways
Thus God was righteous in raising His Son from the dead, first of all, and in the highest way, because He had fully glorified God as to the question of sin. Secondly, through the finished work of Christ we are made “the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). God was righteous in forgiving us our sins, and we now have a new life in Christ. We are told that we were “sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8).
The Believer Made Holy
The adjective “holy” is thus applied to the believer, for that holiness of nature that belongs to God is made ours in the new life He has given us. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1).
The Practical Difference
What then is the difference between righteousness and holiness in a practical sense, in view of the expression in our verse, “Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness”? When we are made “the righteousness of God in Him,” we stand before God in all the perfection of Christ Himself. It is not merely that God’s righteousness is imputed to us, but rather that we are in that perfect standing before God. This is important, for before we can advance in practical holiness, we must be clear as to our perfect acceptance before God.
Dear believers are sometimes hindered in practical development, either by not seeing that they are “the righteousness of God in Him,” or by preferring their own righteousness. As a result, instead of advancing in holiness, there are continual questions as to one’s acceptance. But once we are clear as to our perfect righteousness in Christ, then we realize that it is not a question of progress in righteousness or in the new life that is ours, for we are already in that perfect standing in Christ. “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29). Rather, it is a question of being servants to righteousness, unto holiness.
The Capacity for Holiness
Because of the new life that is in us, we have the capacity before God to form proper moral judgments in every relationship in which we stand, whether between God and ourselves or with fellow creatures. Holiness, while made ours in the new man, is developed practically in us as we allow that new life to express itself and as we allow it to form right moral judgments in every relationship in which we find ourselves.
While in one sense we are holy by virtue of the new life we have been given, holiness in Scripture is practically connected with our walk. Once we have seen our perfect acceptance before God and that we are in the light as He is, then sin is abhorred not merely the act, but the sinful self that is the source of it all.
There is progress in this as we go on in the Christian life, for the more we walk with the Lord, the more the new life will be manifested in us practically and the old man kept in the place of death. In being “servants to righteousness” we progress in practical holiness.
Progress in Holiness
Two other things should be mentioned in connection with this. First of all, any progress in holiness can be only with a sense of grace in our souls, for grace is the power of holiness. “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). We cannot do it in our own strength, nor can we do it in a spirit of pride. A true sense of grace will give me the strength to allow the new life to manifest itself, for it will be in His strength. Pride will be judged, whether in a positive or negative sense. That is, a sense of grace will keep me humble, but it will also give me the strength to go on even after failure, for His grace picked me up in spite of it.
Also, righteousness in the believer will always manifest itself in keeping with the character of God who is the Source of it. We are apt to interpret righteousness in a legal way and to seek to enforce it in the energy of the flesh. While in no way setting aside or weakening any of God’s claims, divine righteousness will not manifest itself in a spirit of harshness or bitterness, for these are just as much sin as the things that one might presume to judge. May “grace reign through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21) in our lives!
W. J. Prost

The Servant's Pathway

Servant of Christ, stand fast amid the storm
Of men who little know or love thy Lord;
Turn not aside from toil; cease not to warn,
Comfort and teach.
Trust Him for thy reward;
A few more moments’ suffering and then
Cometh sweet rest from all thy heart’s deep pain.
For grace pray much, for much thou needest grace;
If men thy work deride, what can they more;
Christ’s weary foot thy path on earth didst trace;
If thorns wound thee, they pierced Him before.
Press on, look up, though clouds may gather round;
Thy place of service He makes hallowed ground.
Have friends forsaken thee and cast thy name
Out as a worthless thing?
Take courage then;
Go, tell thy Master, for they did the same
To Him, who once in patience toiled for them;
Yet He was perfect in all service here:
Thou oft hast failed; this maketh Him more dear.
Self-vindication shun! If in the right,
What gainest thou by taking from God’s hand
Thy cause?
If wrong, what dost thou but invite
Satan himself thy friend in need to stand?
Leave all with God; if right He’ll prove thee so;
If not, He’ll pardon, therefore to Him go.
Be not men’s servant; think what costly price
Was paid that thou mayest His own bondman be,
Whose service perfect freedom is.
Let this
Hold fast thy heart; His claim is great to thee;
None should thy soul enthrall, to whom ’tis given
To serve on earth with liberty of heaven.
All His are thine to serve; Christ’s brethren here
Are needing aid; in them thou servest Him.
The least of all is still His member dear;
The weakest cost His lifeblood to redeem.
Yield to no “party” what He rightly claims
Who on His heart bears all His people’s names.
Be wise, be watchful; wily men surround
Thy path; be careful, for they seek with care
To trip thee up.
See that no plea be found
In thee
Thy Master to reproach. The snare
They have set for thee will then themselves enclose,
And God His righteous judgment thus disclose.
Cleave to the poor,
Christ’s image in them is;
Count it great honor, when they love thee well.
Naught can repay thee after losing this,
Though with wise and wealthy thou shouldst dwell.
Thy master ofttimes would pass thy door
To hold communion with His much loved poor.
The time is short; seek little here below:
Earth’s goods would cumber thee and drag thee down;
Let daily food suffice; care not to know
Thought for tomorrow; it may never come.
Thou canst not perish, for thy Lord is nigh,
And His own care will all thy need supply.
J.J.T. (found in the flyleaf of J. N. Darby’s Bible)

Seven Addresses to Seven Churches

With the Lord’s help we will now look at the letters to the seven churches (or assemblies), addressed to them by the Spirit of God through God’s servant, the Apostle John.
There were seven companies of Christians meeting in seven different cities in Asia Minor, and in each there was a different spiritual condition, and this is used by the Spirit of God for our instruction. They are also given in a special order, to give us a prophetic outline of the church’s history from the days of the apostles till the Lord comes to call His own home to glory. (We can see the Lord’s coming in the beginning of chapter 4, for we read there of the call, “Come up hither,” and John is taken to heaven a picture of the Lord’s coming for His own; see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
This is the first assembly addressed. We know from the epistle to the Ephesians how much wonderful and precious truth had been committed to that assembly. They were very responsible, for the Bible says, “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). It is beautiful to see how the Spirit of God commends all He can first, before pointing out what grieved Him.
There were works, labor and patience, rejecting too what was evil and caring for the Lord’s things with endurance. But the main spring was lacking, for they had lost their first love. We can be faithful in a legal way but not with love. We should, as Ephesians 4:15 tells us, speak and hold the truth in love. Those in Ephesus are called upon to repent, lest the Lord would remove the candlestick out of its place. We cannot compromise God’s truth, but in divine things true love and obedience go together.
Love to the Lord and His people is expressed as we walk together in the path of obedience, for we read in 1 John 5:2, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments.” Looking at these letters in a prophetic way, we see that the beginning of getting away from the Lord is when we lose our first love, and this began very early in the church’s history. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).
The one who overcomes in Ephesus is pointed on to the glorious future scene in Revelation 22 where the tree of life is for the healing of the nations. All that is lacking now will be set right in the glory above (Rev. 22:14).
The believers addressed here were going through a time of persecution for Christ’s sake. While there is a warning given as to the danger of their going back to Judaism instead of enjoying the full blessedness of Christianity, the letter is mainly one of encouragement, and a reward, the “crown of life,” will be given to the overcomers, those who would be martyred for their faithfulness to Christ.
It is interesting to see how God puts a limit on their time of suffering ten days. These ten days no doubt refer to the ten Roman emperors who persecuted the Christians. The Lord knows all beforehand and controls even the passions of men (Psa. 76:10).
Those who die in their sins will face “the second death,” eternal banishment from the presence of God eternal judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). True believers possess eternal life and their portion is eternal joy (Psa. 16:11).
In each of the letters there is a message to the overcomer. When there is a time of testing among the people of God, there is always a danger of being discouraged and not continuing to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). It takes real purpose of heart to go against the current. One who overcomes rises above the state of things in his soul and continues in faithfulness to the Lord. So here the overcomer might die for his loyalty to Christ, but he would not be hurt of the second death. A “crown of life” will be his portion in the day of manifestation and reward.
Coming to this letter we find it containing a sad note. No doubt prophetically it refers to the time of the Roman emperor Constantine. He put a stop to the persecution of the Christians, but it was a time when the church and the world came together. Up to that time Christians were a separated people, but when it became popular to be baptized and become a Christian by profession and not by new birth, then it cost much to be faithful to Christ.
Antipas was a martyr for his faithfulness to Christ among professing Christians. What a sad and solemn condition truly Satan had changed from a “roaring lion” to an “angel of light.” The system of clergy began here with the Nicolaitans (which means “conquering the people”).
The overcomer is encouraged to have in his soul the secret sense of the Lord’s approval, though misunderstood and persecuted for his faithfulness to Christ. J. N. Darby’s hymn expresses it so nicely:
Called by that secret name
Of undisclosed delight,
(Blest answer to reproach and shame);
Graved on a stone of white.
This church gives us a very dark picture. The Lord Jesus presents Himself in the character of a judge, yet in spite of this sad state of affairs, there was among them an extra amount of activity in charitable works. How often this kind of activity is seen in the world when there is little or no heart for Christ. The assembly in Thyatira allowed Jezebel to teach. We know that in God’s order the church does not teach. It was to be taught from the Word of God by men who earnestly contended for the “faith... once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The church’s responsibility is to be the place where the truth of God is held. “The pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Thyatira became part of the world system, committing spiritual “adultery” with the world, instead of being true to Christ, the Bridegroom of the true church. We can see how this figures to us the time when the church (so-called) became a great world system. Although there were real Christians who remained in the system, they are called upon to come out before the mass are judged (Rev. 18:4). The call was given and a “space to repent” when God raised up men like Luther and others among them who proclaimed the truth, but they rejected and persecuted these men of God. This church system, Thyatira, reigns over the kings of the earth (Rev. 17:18) and the overcomer was encouraged to know that, when the Lord Jesus takes the kingdoms of this world, believers will reign with Him (Rev. 20:6). Then the kingdoms of this world will be ordered by His righteous rule (Rev. 11:15-17; Isa. 32:1). How important that we walk in separation from the world.
The condition of this assembly is prophetic of the time of the Reformation when the truth of justification by faith was restored, and they are exhorted to hold fast to this precious truth. Since the Lord’s coming is mentioned in the letters to these last four churches, we know they will continue until He comes, but there are many who have a name to live but are “dead in trespasses and sins.”
The Spirit of God takes notice of faithful men in Sardis and they are encouraged that the Lord knows those who are His, amid the mass of profession. There is a book of profession, but no true believer’s name will be blotted out of the Lamb’s book of life.
It is refreshing to come to this letter. I believe it answers to the time of the recovery of “the faith... once delivered unto the saints.” The precious deposit of truth committed to the early church called “the apostle’s doctrine” (Acts 2:42) and especially that committed to Paul called “my gospel” (Rom. 16:25) has not changed with the changing years. “The church of the living God” is responsible to hold fast to the deposit of truth committed to it till the Lord comes (1 Tim. 3:15; Rev. 3:11).
This is what characterized Philadelphia, and though there was only “a little strength,” they are encouraged to be faithful to the precious truth that had been recovered. The Lord had set before them an open door, and in His goodness He has granted great liberty for the spread of the truth in these last days. It is not for us to boast of position but to have a sense in our souls of what the Lord values, seeking grace in these days, when the truth is being given up, to hold it fast and walk in it.
The message to the overcomer is very special in this assembly, for if we walk in the truth in these last days, we will not get much public recognition. Like David’s mighty men, we must wait the time when the Lord rewards faithfulness to Him and obedience to His Word.
This is the last church, and it shows us the sad state of things before the Lord comes. They did not realize their real spiritual condition, for it was a time of earthly prosperity “rich and increased with goods”; they had “need of nothing.” But the all-seeing eye of the Lord described them as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
It is beautiful to see that the Lord loved them, and it was because of this He rebuked them. He counseled them to “buy” of Him gold tried in the fire (divine righteousness) and white raiment (purity) that in a practical way they might pay the price of godliness. Those who were mere professors would be spued out of Christ’s mouth. Even when these sad conditions exist among those who profess His name, an individual can enjoy personal communion with the Lord. I “will sup with him, and he with Me” (vs. 20).
There is a very special message here to the overcomer in this last assembly. The blessed Lord Himself walked here on earth in a very dark day, and He overcame, for He always did the things that pleased His Father (John 8:29). There are times for us, too, when we need to be satisfied in having the Lord’s approval in order to be an overcomer. The true church is “not of the world”; it is espoused to Christ as His bride (2 Cor. 11:2) and is to be a testimony to this during the Lord’s absence.
These seven assemblies, which we have considered, form a prophetic outline of the church’s history, as such, and also of the faithfulness of God in caring for her.
God had granted two major revivals in Israel’s history, one in the time of Hezekiah with an emphasis on the passover and the other in the time of Josiah with restoration of the passover in its proper order and also the importance of the Word of God which had been lost. In addition to this He gathered a company back to His center at Jerusalem in the time of Ezra, and a testimony was preserved there in great weakness till the Lord Jesus was born.
As we trace the history of the church in these seven assemblies we can see in Sardis a revival of the truth of the value of Christ’s work of redemption, and in Philadelphia of the importance and privilege of keeping His Word and not denying His name. No doubt these revivals are very similar to the revivals in Israel’s history, encouraging us in our day to hold fast till we hear the shout, when the Lord Jesus comes to call us “home” to the Father’s house: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
Lord Jesus, come!
And take Thy people home;
That all Thy flock, so scattered here,
With Thee in glory may appear;
Lord Jesus, come!
G. H. Hayhoe
Editor’s Note: Two other articles by our brother Hayhoe on the seven feasts in Leviticus 23 and the seven parables of Matthew 13 may be found in the May, June and July 1999 issues of the Christian Shepherd.

The Seven Feasts of Jehovah: Part 1

The Seven Feasts
It has been said that to understand the seven feasts of the Lord spoken of in Leviticus 23, the seven similitudes of Matthew 13 and the seven letters to the churches in Revelation 23 is to have an outline of the ways of God with man as revealed in the Scriptures. Those who know the Lord Jesus as their Saviour are called His friends (John 15:14), and He makes known His mind and purposes to us in matchless grace. One has sometimes said that the Christian, taught of God, is the only one who has an intelligent outlook on what is going on in the world, for the Lord Jesus said, “All things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15). May we value this blessed intimacy and walk in communion with the Lord day by day!
The seven feasts of the Lord given to Israel in Leviticus 23 are preceded by the Sabbath, a rest on earth, and this will take place in the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ (Rev. 20:6). Israel and Jerusalem will be the center of this earthly rest.
The Passover
The seven feasts that follow give us a prophetic outline of the ways of God with that nation, which will finally bring them, and all the nations on earth in association with them, into blessing according to the purposes of God in grace (Gen. 12:23). Therefore the passover comes first: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex. 12:13). The children of Israel were sinners like the Egyptians and, if they were to escape the judgment, it was because a lamb had died and its blood had been shed and sprinkled on the lintel and doorposts of their homes beautiful picture of Christ, the Lamb of God, whose precious blood alone can put away sin. Eating the passover in their homes was, so to speak, making it their own. In a coming day, Israel will learn the value of the work of Christ and will be brought into blessing on the earth as promised in Genesis 15:18-21.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The next feast was that of unleavened bread. Leaven in the Bible is used as a figure of the working of evil within, like yeast in dough. When Israel has learned the value of the work of Christ, then He will give them a new heart, as we read in Hebrews 8:10, “I will put My laws in their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.” Then, so to speak, they will keep the feast of unleavened bread. In a practical way now, those who have learned that “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7) have the desire and the power to walk here as “new creatures” in Christ Jesus, not allowing the activity of sin (leaven) in their lives.
The Feast of Firstfruits
Next comes the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits, a beautiful picture of Christ risen from the dead and become “the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). “Christ died for our sins.... He was buried, and... rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:34). He was “raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). The Israelite could not eat any of the harvest until the sheaf of firstfruits had been waved before the Lord. All blessing to Israel or us is founded on the death and resurrection of Christ. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17).
The Feast of Pentecost
Now we come to the feast of Pentecost, meaning fifty days. It was kept on the morrow after the seventh Sabbath on the first day of the week. This is a remarkable feast, for the way was now opened for the fullest blessing of Israel, and for the Gentile too, because in figure Christ as the passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7). He is risen again and is there at the right hand of God for us (Rom. 8:34). All blessing to man is the result of His glorious work. Now we read in Acts 2 about the day of Pentecost and what took place on that day in Jerusalem. It was a new beginning, so to speak.
A large company, about one hundred and twenty believers, was gathered together in one place waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, as the Lord had promised (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). He came upon them and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Pentecost was the birthday of the church, although the truth of the church (composed of Jew and Gentile) as the body of Christ was not revealed until after Israel as a nation had rejected the offer of grace that was presented to them in Acts 3:19-21.
In Leviticus 23, the feast of Pentecost is brought before us primarily as it has to do with Israel. This was, so to speak, the beginning of the harvest. However, the purpose of God in regard to the blessing of the Gentiles is typified in the two wave loaves baken with leaven. The two wave loaves are the Jew and the Gentile. They are spoken of as the firstfruits (Lev. 23:17) and we read of this in James 1:18.
They were “baken with leaven” because even though we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, we still have the old nature within us, but it is to be kept in the place of death, just as leaven is not active in baked bread (see Rom. 6:11). The burnt offering, the meat offering, the drink offering, the sin offering and the peace offering show us how all these offerings bring before us the various aspects of the work of Christ, all fulfilled in the one glorious work which He accomplished once for all at Calvary.
G. H. Hayhoe
(to be continued)

The Seven Feasts of Jehovah: Part 2

The Period of Time Between Feasts
We now come to quite a long period from Pentecost until the first day of the seventh month. It takes in the whole church period, on to the time when Israel is gathered back in its land. In the period that passed between these two feasts they were instructed not to reap the corners of their fields, but to leave them for the poor and the stranger. No doubt this shows us that through the glorious work of Christ on the cross there will be blessing to many called “poor” and “strangers.”
We know that after the rapture, the coming of Christ for His own (1 Thess. 4:16-18), there will be many Gentiles and poor of the flock of Israel (Zech. 11:7) who had not rejected the gospel of the grace of God who, hearing the gospel of the kingdom preached during the tribulation period, will be gathered in (saved) and brought into blessing. We read of these (some martyrs) in Revelation 6:9, chapters 14-15 and chapter 20:4. The ones who are martyred have a heavenly portion, as we learn from Revelation 6:9, chapter 14:13, chapter 15 and chapter 20:4.
The Feast of Trumpets
This brings us to the feast of trumpets (Lev. 23:23-25). We read in Matthew 24:31 how this will be fulfilled in regard to the nation of Israel in a future day, after the church and all who have died in faith have been raptured to glory at the Lord’s coming (1 Thess. 4:16-18). In Matthew 24:31 we read, “He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” It is also prophesied in Ezekiel 37 under the figure of the valley of dry bones when a remnant from all the twelve tribes will be brought back to their land. They will then possess the land of Israel promised to them by Jehovah their God in Genesis 15:18-21.
The Feast of the Day of Atonement
The next feast is called the “day of atonement.” Even though the glorious work that secured their blessing and their possession of the promised land in peace had been accomplished, typified in the passover, they have to be brought to repentance and to the acknowledgment of their guilt in the rejection and crucifying of their Messiah, the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). This is foretold in Zechariah 12:10-14 and chapter 13:6-9. There will be true repentance for that awful act, and then, but not till then, will they possess their land in peace.
It says in Leviticus 23:29 that any of that nation, and particularly the two tribes who were in the land when Christ came, who do not truly repent will be cut off from their people. They would be lost souls. Also, on this day of atonement, they were not to do any work, for if they did, they would be cut off. Salvation is “not of works” (Eph. 2:9).
When it is a question of doing anything, any work at all, to add to Christ’s finished atoning work, it would only spoil it, for “whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him” (Eccl. 3:14).
The Feast of Tabernacles
Then there is the last feast, the seventh, the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:34). This will be a celebration of the final blessing of possessing the good land God had given to them. In it they called to mind their journey through the wilderness, dwelling in tents (booths), and how God had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, brought them safely through the wilderness and given them the land of Canaan.
The previous six feasts we have been considering show us His ways with them as a nation and the means by which the blessing was secured to them. This feast had an eighth day, for it introduces us, in figure, into the new creation. In that wonderful verse in Ephesians 1:10, the key verse of all God’s ways with man, there will be two circles of blessing. Israel will be the center of all the earthly blessing, and the nations on earth will recognize Jerusalem as the city of the great King and will come up there year by year to worship (Zech. 14:16).
Then there is the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22-23) where will be the church, the bride of Christ, and all who have died in faith in the Old Testament. These last, with the martyrs of the tribulation, will be there as the friends of the Bridegroom. We are told in Revelation 21:24 that the earthly Jerusalem will walk in the light of the heavenly Jerusalem in that glorious millennial day.
The Eighth Day
We have noticed that there was an eighth day for this feast of tabernacles, and this points on to the eternal state (Rev. 21:17) called “the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12-13) when there will not be “nations,” as such, any longer, but we read, “The tabernacle of God is with men.” Nations came about as the result of sin, and therefore in the eternal state there will be eternal blessing for redeemed men on the earth, and in heaven the church will be there as the bride of Christ, with the friends of the bridegroom. The Lord Jesus Christ will remain a Man forever to have the company of His bride. This is the eternal state. What a miracle of God’s grace, when God in trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). The sad, eternal doom of the lost is given in Revelation 21:8.
These seven feasts of Jehovah, given to us in Leviticus 23, give us an outline of the ways of God in connection with the earth, of which Israel is the center. Only the last one, the feast of tabernacles, carries us on to the eighth day, to eternity and the fulfillment of all God’s purposes in regard to the blessing of man (1 Cor. 15:24-28) in heaven and earth. “And we shall dwell with God’s Beloved through God’s eternal day.”
G. H. Hayhoe

The Seven Similitudes of the Kingdom: Matthew 13

In the Gospel of Matthew the Lord Jesus is brought before us as Israel’s true Messiah, their King, and He preached “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). John the Baptist had been sent as the forerunner to prepare His way (Matt. 3:3). The Spirit of God had marked out the Lord Jesus at His baptism, and the Father’s voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). The Lord Jesus did many wonderful works of power which the nation of Israel had seen and could not deny, but after all this, they rejected Him and sought to destroy Him (Matt. 12:14). Their crowning sin was to say that He cast out devils by Satan’s power (Matt. 12:24).
The Lord Leaves the “House”
This causes the Lord Jesus to go out of “the house,” a figure of Israel’s favored place as God’s earthly people, and He sits by the seaside (Matt. 13:1). It was there that the Lord gave these seven similitudes of the kingdom of heaven. We might say that the expression “the kingdom of heaven” is speaking of the character of things in that part of the world which we often call “Christendom,” where there is an outward profession of Christianity, some real and some not. There are seven similitudes in Matthew 13, giving us a prophetic outline of what would take place in the absence of the Lord Jesus, the rightful King, whom we as believers own as such even now:
Christ of God, our souls confess Thee
King and Sovereign even now!
(Little Flock Hymnbook, #134)
The Lord As the “Sower”
The first parable is, in a sense, not a similitude, for it speaks of Christ as the sower of good seed of the Word of God and its effect upon those who hear it. Although the Lord Jesus is now absent, the sowing of the good seed goes on, and the effect is the same. The Lord Himself interprets the meaning of this parable to us, so we know its true meaning.
The first cast of seed fell by the wayside and Satan takes it away. How often this takes place after a gospel meeting. Satan occupies the mind of the hearers with other things and the solemnity of the message is forgotten.
The next cast of seed falls on stony places. The persons who hear may seem to enjoy the message, but there is no depth, no repentance of their sins, as is often said, “Religious but lost” (see John 2:23-25). There has been no work of God in the conscience, and the person gives up when there is tribulation or persecution.
The next cast of seed falls among thorns and these persons value present things, riches and ease, more than the unsearchable riches of Christ, and they choose present things rather than eternal values.
But there are those whose consciences are reached, and the Word falls on good ground and springs up in life and bears fruit for the glory of God. These are true believers, but all believers do not bear the same amount of fruit, yet there is always some fruit for God when the person is truly born of God and is a new creature in Christ Jesus.
The Parable of the Tares
Now, in Matthew 13:24 there is a real similitude in the parable of the tares. The enemy is brought before us here, the devil, who brings into the field of Christendom those who take the place of Christians, but the way they live and their evil teachings show they are not truly saved (see Acts 8:21).
It is not our place to “root them out.” They grow together in the “field” of Christian profession. They gather in different groups (bundles), some denying the Person of Christ, His glorious work of redemption and other fundamental truth. This will continue till the Lord comes for His own, and then, being left behind at His coming, they will be brought into judgment.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
The next similitude is the parable of the grain of mustard seed, which when planted is only a tiny seed, but when grown it becomes a tree with the birds lodging in its branches. This is a picture of how Christianity, which had a very small beginning (about one hundred and twenty souls on the day of Pentecost; Acts 1:15), becomes a great religious profession, where the messengers of Satan, like the birds in the tree (Satan is the prince of the power of the air; Eph. 2:2), find a lodging place.
The Parable of the Leaven
Then follows the similitude of the leaven, which was placed in the three measures of meal and worked till the whole was leavened. Leaven, as we learn from 1 Corinthians 5:8, is used in Scripture as a figure of evil. This similitude tells us of how there would be a system in Christendom which, while rightly maintaining the blessed truth of the Trinity the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19) would bring into their teaching many evil doctrines mixing truth and error and corrupting the truth.
The Lord Explains to the Disciples
After speaking to the multitude in these parables, the Lord goes into the “house” and explains their true meaning to the disciples, for while the world does not understand these things, the Lord would have His own to understand His ways and His purposes, for we are His friends (Matt. 13:11; John 15:15). When the Lord has gone into “the house,” He speaks three more similitudes specially for His disciples to hear, for they show us, as the Lord says, about “things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 13:35).
The Parable of the Hid Treasure
Now that the multitude has been sent away, the Lord speaks of the “treasure hid in a field.” The Lord has already told us that “the field is the world” (Matt. 13:38). In this world, in spite of all the sin and wickedness, there is that which is precious to the Lord. Israel has been set aside for the time, and “not My people” is, so to speak, written upon them (Hosea 1:9). They will be blessed in a future day, and all is, of course, known before to the Lord (Acts 15:18). The church is now being gathered out for heavenly glory. The Lord Jesus has “bought the field.” It was His by right as Creator, but Satan, the usurper, has taken the place as the “prince of this world” (John 14:30; Luke 4:6). The Lord Jesus will soon declare His rights to it (Rev. 4:11; 11:15) and all in heaven and earth will be brought under Him. Meanwhile He has “sold all that He had” to get the “treasure.” Now all the field belongs to the Lord as Creator and as Redeemer (1 Cor. 10:26). He will soon claim it as His own.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
Then comes the similitude of the pearl of great price. This refers to the church, for we are told in Ephesians 5:25 that “Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” Truly the Lord Jesus has not only “bought” the field but He gave Himself for this church, the object of His affection. What a blessed place we have in His affections now, and in a coming day the church will be presented to Him “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27).
The Parable of the Great Net
Last of all we have the great net cast into the sea and gathering fish of every kind. This perhaps brings before us the great gospel activity of the last days, for the gospel net is gathering of every kind. There is a great deal of profession without reality. The intelligent fisherman is occupied with the “good fish,” those who are really saved. He does not occupy himself with the “bad fish”; he leaves them.
He is concerned with the good, the true Christians, that they might be “gathered... into vessels,” into a place of separation gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 18:20), “sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).
The final judgment of the lost will take place later on, as we learn here (vss. 49-50). All this is given for our instruction that we might understand these ways of God and know what is going on in the “kingdom of heaven,” as well as understanding all His ways with men “things new and old.”
How wonderful the grace that has saved us, calling us His friends and telling us about these things (Matt. 13:52; Eph. 1:9-11). May we value the truth of God and walk in it for His glory till He calls us to shine in the “kingdom of [our] Father” in the heavenly glory (Matt. 13:43).
And when the day of glory
Shall burst upon this scene,
Dispelling all the darkness
Which deepening still had been;
Oh, then He’ll come in brightness,
Whom every eye shall see,
Arrayed in power and glory,
And we shall with Him be.
(Little Flock Hymnbook, #141)
G. H. Hayhoe

Showing Our Colors

One Saturday last fall, a brother and his wife on a trip visiting some of God’s dear people noticed something quite interesting about the occupants of the cars that were passing them.
The people in almost every car were wearing bright red clothing. And the color was worn by all ages, from the oldest to the youngest.
Our brother and sister were really not surprised by this rather strange dress. They knew that day was the occasion of a football game at the state university, whose “official” school color is red.
After observing car after car filled with red-clad passengers, our sister remarked, “It’s not hard to tell where they’re going!”
When mentioning the incident, our brother wondered if we believers wear our “colors” so plainly that all know to whom we belong. Galatians 6:17 tells us, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Second Corinthians 3:2 says, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.”
How wonderful if the world could know by our colors where we are going could know that as pilgrims and strangers, we are passing through this world desiring “a better country” (Heb. 11:16).
May God grant that we boldly and joyfully “show our colors” as we pass through this perishing world!
T. Roach (adapted)

Singing and Hymns Question: Scriptural Basis for Appropriate Songs?

Question: “What Scriptures would give guidance and provide principles concerning songs that are appropriate to be sung in assembly meetings?”
Answer: The history of hymnology of the Christian church, until recent times, has had a unifying effect, both as to generations and as to doctrine. Unfortunately, in recent years music has become a cause of disunity and dissension among the Lord’s dear people. While some newer hymns have a solid doctrinal basis and a suitable melodic pattern in which old and young can find pleasure, many more modern pieces of music have little or questionable doctrinal content, following musical trends which alienate older saints and confuse those who are younger.
In the preface to the 1881 edition of Hymns for the Little Flock, still used in many assemblies in the English-speaking world, the editor’s sound comments are timely regarding three things that are needed: (1) a basis of truth and sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), (2) something, at least, of the spirit of poetry, and (3) personal enjoyment of the Father’s love and Christ in the soul’s affections which enables the author to make his hymn the vehicle which sets the soul in communion with Christ.
The editor also makes these remarks concerning additional hymns that might in the future be added: “More may be added... by further research, or original, but this will require time.” The time, of course, has stretched now to well over 100 years, causing questions to be raised about what sort of hymns are suitable for assembly use.
I feel that there are four important things which should characterize hymns sung in the assembly. First, they must be doctrinally in accord with Scripture—“what saith the scripture?” (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 4:30). Second, they should be singable with a tune in which the whole assembly can happily join (Col. 3:16). Third, they should be the product of affections toward the Father and the Son (Psa. 45; John 4:23-24). Fourth, hymns sung in assembly ought to be suited to the character of the meeting (Heb. 2:12; 1 Cor. 14:40).
Let me note here that it is the Holy Spirit who directs the assembly’s worship, and it is the Lord Jesus in the midst who leads our singing. But this should not be taken as a plea for careless singing of the tune and its rhythm.
We also would encourage the singing of hymns at family Bible readings as a wonderful way to encourage more heartfelt praise in the assembly meetings (Heb. 13:15).
R. K. Gorgas

So Great Salvation

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace” (2 Tim. 1:9). “Being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11).
“Who Hath Saved Us”
How wonderful it is that, when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we can know, now in this world, that we are saved. We have peace with God and are eternally secure, and we can speak of this as a matter that has been settled once for all. We can say we are forgiven (1 John 2:12), “justified from all things” (Acts 13:38-39), and our sins all washed away in the precious blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). We know that we are eternally secure, for John 10:28 says, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”
We also learn from God’s Word that this eternal life which is given to us is the very life of Christ, as we read in Colossians 3:4, “Christ, who is our life.” God also gives to the believer the “Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). He also adds us to His church the moment we are saved, as we read in Acts 2:47: “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” We need to search the Scriptures to find out God’s plan as to how Christians should gather. This is not joining a man-made church, for we are already part of “the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). It is our privilege to gather to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone (Matt. 18:20) in His appointed way, at His table to remember Him in His death till He comes (1 Cor. 10:15-17; 11:23-26).
“Saved by His Life”
This brings us to what is spoken of in Romans 5:10: “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Even though we are saved and have the very life of Christ, the Bible shows us that the old fallen nature, which is in us by natural birth into this world, is still in us, and we are not to allow it to control our lives. The Lord Jesus, who died for us, now lives for us at the right hand of God as our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) to supply grace and strength day by day and to keep us from committing sin. In this way we are saved by His life.
If we do not ask His help to keep us, but trust our own hearts, we may fall into sin, as Peter did when he denied his Lord. Even though we possess this new life, the life of Christ, the “old man” (our old nature) is still there in our bodies, and we are told to reckon it dead and let the “new man” (the life of Christ) control our lives (Rom. 6:11-14).
If we fail to ask help from the Lord (our Great High Priest), we will, as believers, commit sin, and then we need Christ as our Advocate (1 John 2:1). He leads us to the confession of that sin, and He restores us into communion with Himself again (1 John 1:9). This is what is referred to in Romans 5:10, “We are saved by His life.” This is His present work for us now in the glory above.
“Nearer Than When We Believed”
There is also an aspect of salvation that is future. “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11). As believers we are looking for the Lord to come, and then our salvation will be complete. We already have the salvation of our souls. We are receiving from the Lord Jesus the daily help that we need and, as our Advocate, restoration when we have failed. But we still have mortal bodies with the old nature in them. When the Lord comes, our bodies will be changed and fashioned like His glorious body. Then there will be no “old man,” no fallen nature, in those bodies of glory. The moment of the Lord’s coming is “nearer than when we believed” the gospel, and we wait that glorious moment (Phil. 3:21; Rev. 22:20).
May the knowledge of all this precious truth which is revealed to us in God’s Word, the Bible, fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving and give us the desire to live day by day in the full assurance of faith and in loving obedience to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.
G. H. Hayhoe

Sonship: Part 1

Recently, a brother compiled a helpful summary of much of Mr. Darby’s teaching concerning the eternal Sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ. He comments about these excerpts, “To my mind, the result of this search through Mr. Darby’s ministry is clear. He taught that Christ was the eternal Son of God and that this is vital truth.”
Beginning in this issue, we intend, Lord willing, to present these excerpts, desiring that our readers be better grounded in the vital doctrine of the glorious person of our Lord Jesus Christ that He might be honored and glorified in all.
The April 1998 Christian Shepherd contains a personal letter by brother Walter Potter on this same vital subject.
“All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him” (John 5:23).
Mr. Darby says, “What is called the eternal Sonship is a vital truth, or we lose the Father sending the Son, and the Son creating, and we have no Father if we have no Son, so that it lies at the basis of all truth. Yet in the historical presentation of Christianity, the Son is always presented as down here in servant and manhood estate, as all through John, though in heaven and one with the Father.”
Old Testament—New Testament
The revelation of the Father by the Son, as dwelling eternally in His bosom, is not to be looked for in the Old Testament. That relationship of son is found... therein... but it is sonship... viewed in time, and not founded in the nature of His person in the Godhead, but as a relationship formed on earth. In the New Testament we find the Son in His own proper relationship with the Father. (Collected Writings, Vol. 30, page 318.)
His personal position in acceptance is His eternal Sonship with the Father. What was due to His personal position is judged of by that, and based on it—His relation to the Father before the world was.
What relation to God had He as incarnate? Incarnation did not change His being God and eternal Son of the Father, or His title to blessing as such.
His place on earth is not in itself a definite position, but His position is the Eternal One, and His earthly state a question of accordance with that.
Godhead place does not touch or mingle with relative position. (Collected Writings, Vol. 15, page 143.)
J. N. Darby
(to be continued)

Sonship: Part 2 - Begotten, Only Begotten, First Begotten

“Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee” (Psa. 2) is Son of God as born into this world. He “became” flesh. “Only begotten,” always so. Christ was the Son begotten, not adopted like us. “First begotten” is in reference to other children; “only begotten” is sole, absolute relationship with the Father.
Matthew 16:15-16
“He says to them, But ye, who do ye say that I am? And Simon Peter answering said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (JND).
Psalm 2 says, “The Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” But Peter went beyond this; Christ is here seen as the Son born on the earth in time, not as the Son from eternity in the bosom of the Father. Peter, without the full revelation of this last thought, sees Him to be the Son according to the power of divine life in His own person, upon which the assembly consequently could be built.
These psalms do not go beyond the earthly part of these truths, excepting where it is written, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh” at them, while in Matthew 16 the connection as the Son of God with this, His coming with His angels, is set before us.
J. N. Darby
(to be continued)

Sonship: Part 3 - Romans 1 - Colossians 1 - Hebrews 1

It was the Son that created in Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1. As to being Son in the eternal state, He says, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world”; again, “I leave the world, and go to the Father.” You have no Father if you have no Son. If I do not know Him as Son when He came into the world, I have no mission from God at all. You get, too, the “Father sent the Son.”
“Son of the Father” and “Son of God” are the same essentially, only one is personal relationship, the other nature. But there are persons who take it that Christ was only Son as come into the world. The positive answer is given in Hebrews and Colossians, that by Him, the Son, the world was made.
He is also called Son as born into this world. “This day have I begotten Thee” (Psa. 2). That is not quite the same, though the same Person, of course. He was begotten in time, as to His human estate.
But Hebrews and Colossians are conclusive. It is of immense import, because I have not the Father’s love sending the Son out of heaven, if I have not Him as Son before born into the world. The Son gives up the kingdom to the Father in 1 Corinthians 15. I lose all that the Son is, if He is only so as incarnate and [lose] all the love of the Father in sending the Son.
In Acts 13 Paul, after speaking of other things, says in verse 33, “God hath... raised up Jesus” (not “again,” which ought not to be there), and so in Acts 3:26 JND, “God, having raised up His Servant” (not Son; Peter never states that Jesus is the Son of God); so in chapter 13, “He raised Him up,” as it is written in Psalm 2. “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee,” and then he goes on to prove resurrection by quoting another text: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” The sureness of them is the proof they were in resurrection not dependent on failing man, and then by resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God with power.
J. N. Darby

Sonship: Part 4

Matthew 28
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them to the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19 JND).
This name of Father, of Son and of Holy Spirit has been proclaimed among the Gentiles. I do not think that it is here the unity of the Son with the Father... but the revelation of the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the submission of the Gentiles by faith. The knowledge which the Jews and the earth will have of the Son, for example, in His reign according to Psalm 2 is very inferior... to the knowledge which we have of Him, as being in the Father and the Father in Him, one with the Father, hidden in God. It is the same Person, undoubtedly, but we have a much deeper knowledge of what He is. We have acknowledged Him before through grace, and we know Him as one with the Father. In this Psalm it is spoken of Him as presented to the world in time: “This day have I begotten Thee.”
Luke 1
“Behold, thou shalt conceive in the womb and bear a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of David His father; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for the ages, and of His kingdom there shall not be an end. But Mary said to the angel, How shall this be, since I know not a man? And the angel answering said to her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and power of the Highest overshadow thee, wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born shall be called Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35 JND).
Though Christ be made Lord and Christ as man, yet through His oneness with the Father and His being the true God, it runs into a divine title; just as in the case with Son. He is in the place of Son as man, or we could not be with Him. “That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God,” but it cannot be separated from divine and eternal Sonship. As man He becomes and enters into is in, insofar as He is a man the relationship with the Father as divine and eternal Son. In all the works of God we find this cooperation of the Persons. The Son wrought, yet He could say, “The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works,” and, “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.”
Editor’s Note: The doctrine of the eternal Son existing as Son in the bosom of the Father from past eternity is vital to the glorious person, work and word of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. A printed or computer disk copy of Mr. Darby’s ministry concerning this subject may be obtained by contacting Bible Truth Publishers.
J. N. Darby

A Testimony in Weakness

May the Lord give us to be more and more confident in Himself in these days. “When I am weak, then am I strong” is a lesson Paul had to learn by a very humiliating process. [And so shall we], if we speak of our testimony upon the earth. It will soon be evident [that testimony] is nothing but weakness, and, like the seed lost upon the wayside, that testimony will likewise end to our shame.
But if the living God has, by us, a testimony to His own glory upon the earth, then the sense of weakness will only bring us more directly into the place of His power. An apostle with a thorn in the flesh learned the sufficiency of the grace of Christ. A little remnant is reunited and gathered, having nothing wherein it can glory in the flesh, but it is thus that it is ready to remain faithful to the name of Jesus, when that which seemed to be something before men has failed.
J. N. Darby (Miscellaneous Writings, Vol. 4)

"That I May Know Him"

In the bright light of the transfiguration, it was not the glory but Jesus who was the chief object. There was a person on the mount one who was altogether lovely, chief among ten thousand, and that person put on robes of glory for a moment to show what the glory of His kingdom would be.
G. V. Wigram

"Thy Will Be Done"

“And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand” (Gen. 24:33).
It is instructive to see how the servant would not satisfy his own needs until he had done the will of his master, Abraham. The servant’s actions teach us that, as Christians, we ought always to consider the will of our Master first and in all things.
If we prayed in reality, “Not my will, but Thine, be done,” what wonderful blessings might result! Would there not be more earnest service for our Lord a more wholehearted evangelism born of love for Christ and lost souls a sweet peace enjoyed among brethren?
Our families and assemblies benefit greatly too: love displayed and enjoyed in every facet of our lives between husbands and wives, parents and children, and among brethren too. Surely there would be a more real, precious sense of “abiding” in Him, seeking to fulfill His blessed will in this scene.
How empty and shallow our lives as believers can become if we seek to ensure our own satisfaction through family, careers, possessions or hobbies, rather than seeking first His will in all our actions.
May this principle found in Abraham’s faithful servant have its proper and formative effect in the lives of each believer: “I will not eat, until I have told mine errand”!
T. Bookman (adapted)

True Christian Faith: Courage to Live and Courage to Die Living Christ

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). How sweet is the love which the Holy Spirit gives to the heart that is centered on Christ! We are too little conscious of the deadening effect on our spiritual life in allowing any object or desire but Christ. How often it seems to be taken for granted that a brief time after conversion is the only time when first love is due and is to be expected!
What bright contrast with all such thoughts stands the record we have of the Apostle’s experience! Was it not meant for us? God never intimates in His Word that the saint must droop after conversion, that love, zeal, simplicity of faith must become increasingly poorer and weaker.
No doubt there are dangers the early days, when much is thought acceptable through lack of spirituality, have theirs as do later days. But where there is full purpose of heart in cleaving to the Lord, He gives a deepening (not a weakening) acquaintance with Himself.
It is not, “To me to live is for the gospel or even for the church,” but, “To me to live is Christ.” To have Him as the one absorbing, governing motive of the life, day by day, is the strength as well as the test of all that is of God.
“To me to live is Christ” seems to me much more than to say, “To die is gain.” It is the very pith of Philippians—Christian experience. In this epistle above all others, it is the development of how we are to live Christ.
W. Kelly (Philippians, adapted)

Two Essential Characteristics of a Servant of God

“If any one serve Me, let him follow Me.... Him shall the Father honor” (John 12:26 JND).
The natural desire of a heart redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ” is to serve the Saviour. It is not an issue of doing great service, but of a great desire to serve. He alone is worthy and worthy to be served acceptably (2 Cor. 5:9). True service is not a matter of gift (though He does give gifts for the blessing of the assembly; Eph. 4:8), nearly as much as it is a matter of true heart-love for Christ.
There are two saints found in Scripture whose lives provide examples of two essential moral characteristics needed in all Christian service.
The first, Enoch, has little recorded of any service for God during his life span of 365 years (Gen. 5:21-24). But he did one crucial thing, without which no other service would have value: “He walked with God” (Gen. 5:22). Oh! how vital is daily fellowship with the One whom we seek to serve! Walking with another may not seem as though it requires much effort or energy. But to walk with God requires the energy of faith and the effort of love. This is a most precious service to render to the One who stands “at the door, and knock[s],” desiring our company in order to enjoy fellowship!
In Mark 14:8 we find one who, because of love, gave everything. And perhaps this dear soul alone, at that time, had the sense of her blessed Lord’s coming sacrifice. There was little else that she could do to serve, but the Lord Jesus so valued her service that He said to those who were criticizing, “She hath done what she could.” Ah! dear fellow-believer, could you or I desire any greater service than that which could draw forth such words of approval from the lips of our Lord Jesus?
May the foundation of all that we seek to be and to do as believers be based on these two wonderful services: walking with God and doing what we can, in love for our Lord.
J. Kaiser (adapted)

Unbroken Fellowship of Father and Son

In Genesis 22 we find that Abraham took “the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.” But it was as Abraham and not as Isaac’s father, that he carried the “knife.”
Then the beloved and “only” Isaac (the son) speaks to Abraham (the father) saying, “Father.” Isaac acknowledges “the fire” in his father’s hand, and “the wood.” But he says nothing of the “knife,” which was also carried in Abraham’s hand.
What a lovely picture this presents to our hearts! It portrays to us the relationship between the Father and the eternal Son presented in the gospel of John. “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14).
However, unlike Matthew and Mark, in John those heart-rending words uttered by our precious Saviour— “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me” are left out of divine inspiration.
In John where the relationship between Father and Son is so beautifully revealed, the “knife,” as it were, cannot be found, for it was not the Father but holy, righteous God that must turn His back on that perfect Sacrifice. The fellowship of the Father and the Son is never broken.
E. Short (adapted)

Waiting, Watching and Working

“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return” (Luke 12:35-36).
“Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching” (Luke 12:37).
“Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Luke 12:43).
The story is told of the time when a fishing boat was expected to return to a little village. The wife of one of the fishermen could be seen standing at the end of the dock, eagerly watching for the tiny speck which would grow into the little vessel that carried her beloved husband. And after a time, she was rewarded, for off in the distance a tiny speck appeared and grew and grew until she was able to see the object of her attention, seated in the boat with his fellow fisherman.
After the boat had docked and the couple had left, the other fisherman, who had been eagerly looking around, hoping to see his wife, picked up his gear and began to walk toward his cottage. But his wife was nowhere to be seen.
He came to the gate of his cottage, but still his wife was not to be seen. He went to the door, but no wife opened it. He entered and went into the kitchen where his wife was working. Seeing him she said, “Hello! I’ve been waiting for you, dear!”
“But,” said her husband, “you weren’t at the dock watching for me, like Mary was.”
“Well,” she replied, “I’ve had so much to do. I was just too busy.”
So often we have heard of the coming of the Lord as the “proper hope of the church.” We know this truth in our minds, but perhaps the thought of His coming does not have its proper effect on the affections of our heart. Thus the way we live and walk in this present world is not so much guided by His promised coming.
The Thessalonian believers were to comfort one another with the thought that the Lord Jesus would come to catch away the sleeping (those who had died) and the living believers. Almost the last words of Revelation are a promise from the blessed lips of our Saviour: “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20). What effect does the truth of the promised return of my precious Saviour do to my heart and my life?
Will you and I be found, as the Lord Jesus taught the disciples in Luke, waiting and ready for when He returns? And while we wait for the blessed event, are we doing working, “redeeming the time,” until that blessed voice gives the shout calling His beloved bride home? But above all, do our “hearts burn within us” with the thought of His near return, causing us to eagerly watch for it, as a longed-for and expected event?
Oh! may our hearts be so filled with love for His blessed person that we can do nothing else but be found watching for Him! May we in the heartfelt breathings of earnest love say, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
W. Gill (adapted)

Walking Worthy

“Wherefore also we are zealous, whether present or absent, to be agreeable to Him” (2 Cor. 5:9 JND).
“Only conduct yourselves worthily of the glad tidings of the Christ” (Phil. 1:27 JND).
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col. 1:10). As one quickened by Christ, the question is, “Am I walking worthy of Himself?” Judgment is to be exercised by me as one walking with God in the light, taking my place in God’s presence, not as a stranger, but as a son. All the thoughts of my heart meeting His approval, being, as I am, in the wilderness, shut in between the cross and the coming glory, I have got to bring everything into the light and judge it.
Nothing shows more what measure of vigor and power of spiritual life we have than the way we bring out into the light, to be judged, not that which may appear outside, but all the hidden springs within, laying bare our thoughts and motives.
How can there be joy, if souls merely rest in the work of Christ, without entering into the thought of whether they are walking worthy of the place which that work has put them into?
Ah! How happy and blessed a place it is... where we may be abiding in the light, having power to judge ourselves and pass sentence against all in us that is not worthy of Christ.
G. V. Wigram (Gleanings)

The Ways of God: Conclusion

We have been considering at some length the church period the dispensation of the day of grace. It ends, as do the other dispensations, in man’s complete failure in his responsibility toward God. Christendom, already marked by the spirit of apostasy, thus ends in a scene of ruin, failure and corruption. The ruin of the professing church that which was most excellent proves to be the worst of corruptions.
After the Day of Grace
Concluding our meditations on the dispensations of God, we come to that period of time immediately after the church has been taken out of the world. We refer to that short interval of judgment, cleansing the world of all things that offend and of them which do iniquity. It is preparatory to the setting up of the kingdom. In Jeremiah 30:7 it is called, “The time of Jacob’s trouble.” In Revelation 3:10 it is referred to as “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”
Scripture gives testimony (1) that there are promises of restoration to Israel after their failure and in view of it as well as unconditional promises made to the fathers, (2) that Israel would be set aside for a long, timeless period, known only to God, and then again taken up to be restored, and (3) that when this timeless period shall have run out, the nation will be restored by judgment, which delivers a remnant.
This judgment falls not only on them, but also on the nations of the world, and it introduces God’s kingdom in Zion, the millennial period when the earth shall be full of the glory of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14).
After the close of the millennial kingdom, before Christ delivers up the kingdom to the Father and God is “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28), there is yet one more testimony of man’s utter ruin.
Satan is loosed for a little season (Rev. 20:3) and goes out to the four corners of the earth. The unrenewed-numbering as the sand of the sea fall into his control and go up against the camp of the saints on earth (Rev. 20:7-10). They are destroyed there, and Satan is cast into the lake of fire.
Then follows the eternal state, the new heavens and the new earth wherein righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3), for all things will have been brought into full order and subjection, so that blessing flows forth unhindered from God.
In this state of supreme blessedness we find that the Bride referred to as the New Jerusalem has her own peculiar place, for she is the tabernacle of God among men (Rev. 21:3). Thus begins that blessed eternal state when the Lamb’s mediatorial kingdom has passed away, God is all in all, and there begins the endless age of eternal blessing.
We trust that these meditations have led us into some understanding of the greater features of the dispensational dealings of God. This is vital, for without an understanding of dispensation truth, the soul is unsteady in its testimony.
The soul established in dispensational truth learns how to respond to God’s way and how to walk before Him in accordance with His mind and will, even when the dispensation has fallen into ruins.
The Christian thus understands that the pathway of a godly Jew in an earthly nation and under the law cannot be that of a Christian in a dispensation where his calling is one out of and above the world altogether. Moreover, he understands that the experience of a godly Israelite in his dispensation is not such, even in its best state, as is suited to a member of the body of a glorified Christ.
The Lord Jesus appealed to the Jews in His day to discern the signs of the times (Luke 12:54-57) and to judge what was right. That solemn word ought to have its proper moral effect in the hearts of believers now (Eph. 5:14).
The actions, plans and sojourn here of the believer are to be arranged in view of the coming of the Lord. The Christian serves in the conscious sense that he does so in the last days of this dispensation.
The Christian is to be watching during the moral darkness of this world till the dawn, and just as the darkness is deepest before the beams of the “Sun of righteousness” appear (the character in which the Lord Jesus will come with “healing in His wings” in blessing to His earthly people), the believer’s hope is rewarded in seeing the “Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16) coming to take His people to Himself.
May He, who alone can give blessing, abundantly bless this meditation and give that hope its own sanctifying power in our souls!
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.... Amen” (Rev. 22:20-21).
F. G. Patterson (adapted)

The Ways of God

The Corruption of Christendom
We have previously seen, in some measure, the nature, unity and heavenly calling of the church of God. But how little do believers realize, enjoy and walk in the power of their heavenly calling! Rather than following a rejected Christ in this world, much of Christendom is absorbed in the pursuits and aims of this “present evil world [age]” (Gal. 1:4). Would that there were more of that intense, personal devotedness a declaring plainly in their walk and ways that theirs is strangership on earth and citizenship in heaven.
The realization that the church is just now in the place of the testimony of God in this world would lead to an intense separation from the world and a personal, individual devotedness as witnesses or servants, as it may please Him!
Oneness and Freshness of the Early Church
For a little moment the desire of Christ “that they all may be one... that the world may believe” (John 17:21) came to pass at the first blush of unselfish joy of the church at Pentecost. The world beheld with wonder the great multitude being of one heart and soul and having all things in common.
But as man has been tried in every way since the garden of Eden and has failed, we will see that under grace he too has failed and corrupted as to testimony in the world that which was best.
When the church assumed fully her heavenly calling after the persecution and dispersion which arose from Stephen’s death (Acts 7), we find Paul raised up of the Lord that by him the true heavenly calling and doctrine of the church of God, the body of Christ, might be revealed.
Attacks on the Early Church
From the very beginning evil crept into the testimony on earth as entrusted to the hands of man. Judaism, false brethren and ungodly men all crept in unawares among those who were true disciples. And even true disciples became impregnated with the spirit of the world and the evil. But as long as there was apostolic energy, it was judged and thus kept from gaining its head.
Yet we hear the beloved Apostle telling the elders at Ephesus, “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20). In view of such a state of ruin, Paul directs the heart of the faithful disciple to “God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
In Corinth there were schools of doctrine and human wisdom usurping the place of revelation and divine wisdom (1 Cor. 14). Judaizers had so influenced the Galatians that the Apostle stood “in doubt of ” them as to whether they had abandoned the ground of Christianity. In Philippians “all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phil. 2:21). In Colossians, Satan was endeavoring to introduce ordinances, philosophy, vain deceit after the traditions of men, meats and drinks, holy days, will worship and neglecting the body all to come between the Head and the members.
Individual Faithfulness
In 2 Timothy the tide of evil came in with such a torrent that the Apostle sees the church, “the house of God... the pillar and ground of the truth,” for which he had labored, had watched over and builded as a “wise master builder,” fallen into ruins. It had become like a “great house” with “vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor” (2 Tim. 2:20).
In such a state of things the “perilous times” of the “last days” the faithful disciple has but one pathway. He must not be satisfied with such a state of things, nor think of being able to mend the ruin. He must depart from iniquity and purge himself from the vessels to dishonor, seeking to walk with those who “call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:19-22).
F. G. Patterson (adapted)
(to be continued)

The Ways of God: The End of Christendom

Having followed the state of things in the church until the “perilous times” of the “last days,” we see the energy of evil in those who, “reprobate concerning the faith,” are deceiving and being deceived. It is from such that the man of God is to turn away, leaving them to God’s judgment.
In Titus we find unruly talkers and deceivers spreading around their baneful influence. Second Peter also gives testimony concerning these evil influences. Jude traces the apostasy from the time when “certain... [ungodly] men crept in unawares” until the Lord comes with His saints to execute judgment upon such.
Jude 11 gives a summary of the apostasy of the natural man: “the way of Cain,” teaching error for reward, and the “error of Balaam,” using the truth for corrupt ends. This apostasy ends in “the gainsaying of Core,” which is ecclesiastical evil urging civil power to rebellion.
Both 2 Peter and Jude testify of the rejection of the Lordship of Christ, consummating in Revelation 3 where the hateful condition of the false witness of Laodicea receives the solemn warning from the Lord: “I am about to spue thee out of My mouth” (vs. 16 JND).
In 2 Thessalonians and the Epistles of John, we find the personage the man of sin, the Antichrist who will consummate all this wickedness in himself.
We further learn from 2 Thessalonians that the “mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He [the Holy Spirit] who now letteth [restrains] will let until He be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed.”
The removal of this restraining power of good (at the rapture) will give scope to the complete apostasy (“falling away”) from Christianity. It is at this time that the Antichrist—the man of sin, the son of perdition—is revealed.
Thus far, in summary, our considerations have shown that the three great systems (1 Cor. 10:32) set up in the world for the display of God’s government and His grace have, as regards man’s responsibility, all ended (or will end) in ruin, failure and corruption. These three systems are (1) the Jew under law, (2) the Gentile without law and entrusted with universal dominion, and (3) the church, as Christ’s epistle in the world a witness of grace and truth.
May we be led into a more growing separation in all our pursuits and ways from that which ends so sorrowfully, while we long for the coming of Him who will put an end to evil.
F. G. Patterson (adapted)
(to be continued)

The Ways of God: The Holy Spirit Acting Within the Church of God

The Ways of God
The Official Glories of the Holy Spirit n Ephesians 1:14 the Holy Spirit is given [to the church] as the seal of redemption the earnest of the inheritance till it is redeemed out of the enemy’s hand. In no other epistle are the official glories of the Holy Spirit more fully brought before us than in Ephesians where we have revealed the heavenly calling of the church.
In Ephesians 1:14 He is the seal of redemption. In chapter 2:18 He is the medium of access by Jew and Gentile through Jesus Christ unto the Father. In chapter 2:22 the church is the habitation of God on earth by His Spirit. In chapter 3:16 He strengthens the saints in the inner man, enabling them to lay hold of and enjoy their position and standing. In chapter 4 precepts are founded upon doctrines; the saint is told not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby he has been sealed till the day of redemption. In chapter 5 he is told to be filled with the Spirit and in chapter 6 He is the power of warfare in the heavenly places, while the believer’s prayer is to be “in the Spirit.”
The Body of Christ and the Unity of the Spirit
It was reserved for the ministry of the Apostle Paul to bring out this central truth of the church. He tells us that he had it “by revelation” and not, therefore, from others. After the rejection of the Lord and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we find the church gathered in Jerusalem, principally composed of Jews, affording a wondrous spectacle to the world around, united in one heart and soul, a dwelling-place of God by the Holy Spirit.
The Breakup of Outward Unity at Jerusalem
To this blessed state, the enmity of the Jews increased every hour, till it arrived at its full height in the killing of Stephen. Upon the occasion of his martyrdom, the church at Jerusalem is broken up as to its outward manifestation, and it is dispersed. Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul), involved in Stephen’s murder and on his way to Damascus to wipe out if it were possible the very name of Jesus from the earth, is struck down with a vision of the glorified and exalted Jesus. He arises and straightway preaches Jesus that “He is the Son of God.”
The church now fully assumes its position as the body of Christ, locally expressed by saints gathered in the name of the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the habitation of God through the Spirit.
The Mystery of the Church Committed to Paul
To the Apostle Paul is committed the testimony of the mystery, hidden in God in other ages, but now revealed. He tells us that he had it by revelation (Eph. 3:3). In Romans 12:4-5 Paul refers to believers being “one body in Christ.”
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-17 this truth is more fully brought out. And thus we find that the Holy Spirit is the center and living power of the unity of the body. Christians are “members of Christ” and “members one of another.”
The Holy Spirit dwells not only in the individual believer but in the whole church. When saints are gathered together, owning this unity and this alone, they form the sphere for the manifestation of His presence in the ministry of the Word, “dividing to every man severally as He will,” using, according to His divine pleasure, those who have been gifted and set in the church for the building up and edifying of the body and for the perfecting of the saints. God hath “set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him” (1 Cor. 12:18).
And again in Ephesians 2:22 we see that the assembly on earth is the habitation of God through the Spirit: “In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 1 speaks of the church as the body of Christ while Ephesians 2 speaks of the church as the house of God.
Then Paul in Ephesians 4:1-6 brings before believers their responsibility: “I [Paul] therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called... endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit.”
This then is the church of God this is the unity we are exhorted to endeavor to keep. We are not to make a unity for ourselves or choose one out of the many existing factions those that best suit one’s education, thoughts, feelings or circumstances. But we are to endeavor, with hearts subject to Jesus as Lord, to keep the unity which has been here by the Holy Spirit’s presence since the day of Pentecost the body of Christ.
The Hope of the Church
When the last member of Christ has been gathered in, the church will be taken away to be in actual fact with Christ in heaven. Then will be the resurrection of the sleeping saints and their translation with the living saints, when all shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
The Scriptures are full of this blessed hope. The Thessalonian saints had been converted to this blessed hope “to wait for His Son from heaven.” It, too, was the hope set before the sorrowing disciples in Acts 1 as they gazed up into heaven. They were told that He would “so come in like manner.” The Corinthian believers came “behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and in Ephesians the saints are looked upon as already seated in the heavenlies in Christ, there waiting for the gathering together of all things in the fullness of times.
Their blessing is in the heavenlies (Eph. 1:3), their position is in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6), their testimony is in the heavenlies (Eph. 3:10), and they find their conflict, too, in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:12).
In Colossians 3:4 the life of the saints is so bound up with Christ’s that, when He is manifested, they are manifested with Him. In 1 Thessalonians, the whole epistle is taken up with the hope as to their conversion (1 Thess. 1), the labors of Christ’s servant (1 Thess. 2), practical holiness (1 Thess. 3), the manner of its accomplishment (1 Thess. 4), and the desire of the Apostle that they be preserved blameless until Christ’s coming (1 Thess. 5).
Then 2 Thessalonians sets the hope aright in the minds of the saints, distinguishing between Christ’s coming for His saints and His coming in judgment on this world with His saints.
How sad that such a blessed hope as the hope of the Lord’s coming must be pressed on the hearts of the Lord’s people. Sad to say, it has become necessary to do so; even God’s people have imbibed so much of the character of the evil and worldly-minded servant, who said in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming,” and of the scoffers of the last days who say, “Where is the promise of His coming?”
May the Lord’s beloved people say with renewed desire, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus”!
F. G. Patterson (adapted)
(to be continued)

"We Trusted": Luke 24

Thy ways, O Lord, they oft amaze me.
We, like the travelers to Emmaus,
Must be by Thee adjusted.
Our thoughts, so far from what Thy mind is,
May be confused, but may Thou find this,
It is in Thee we trusted.
The lonely pair that walked that highway
Learned not to trust their own, but Thy way.
How deep their faith was tested.
This Jesus must be Christ the Saviour.
His miracles had proved God’s favor.
It was in Him they trusted.
Yet all their leaders’ hearts were frozen,
If He be Christ, God’s loved and Chosen,
Come, save Thyself, they jested.
No wonder now their conversation
Was troubled, filled with consternation.
Death claimed the one they trusted.
Then drawing near the disappointed,
The risen Jesus, God’s Anointed,
In puzzled tone requested, “Why do ye talk with hearts not glad?”
Though well He knew what made them sad.
He knew in whom they trusted,
Though through their tears, their eyes were holden,
Slow to hear what Scripture told them.
How much they had to learn.
Then, while they listened to His story,
Of first the sufferings, then the glory,
Their hearts began to burn.
Then came the moment that they knew Him!
Those blessed truths now opened to them,
Their troubled hearts now rested!
That glorious truth the Lord is risen,
He broke the lock to death’s dark prison,
For those, His own, who trusted!
J. Short (1998)

A Well of Springing Water

Editor’s Note: In Isaac’s day, the wells were stopped—filled with earth by the Philistines, rendering the pure, refreshing water they held unavailable. In order to drink, they had to re-dig the wells. The servants of Isaac did so and discovered that they still held the same refreshment that Abraham had enjoyed.
If each generation of believers does not re-dig the wells of divine truth for itself, that precious truth will become a matter of intellect cold and academic. May we have the desire and energy to diligently dig and redig the wells so that our hearts be stirred and our faith strengthened!
The Heavenly Calling of the Church
“Our commonwealth has its existence in the heavens, from which also we await the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour” (Phil. 3:20 JND).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Many other verses from the New Testament could be quoted to show clearly that the calling of the church is a heavenly one. The church thus holds a unique place in the purposes of God, for at no other time in this world’s history has God called out a distinct people on earth, yet marked them out as a heavenly one. It is true that an individual like Enoch was a type of the church, in that he walked with God in a day of increasing corruption and violence, and “he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24), no doubt bringing before us (in type) the taking up of believers at the Lord’s coming before judgment falls. Others like Abraham were called of God to walk as strangers in this world and “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). Scripture speaks of men like Abel and Noah as being “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). All of these, while precious in the eyes of the Lord, were only types of what was “from the beginning of the world... hid in God” (Eph. 3:9). When Israel rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah and crucified Him and then rejected God’s gracious appeal from a risen Christ in glory, God used the Apostle Paul to bring out the precious truth of a heavenly people, the church.
The Danger of Giving up the Heavenly Calling
Probably no other single truth has caused so much difficulty in the history of the church. It is a truth that is paramount in all of Paul’s ministry and stressed over and over again. Yet how easily the church gave it up, with disastrous consequences! As another has said, “From the instant that the church loses sight of its heavenly calling, it loses, humanly speaking, all.” To any serious observer this statement will be seen to be true. While our perfect standing before God as a heavenly people cannot change, our character on earth as displaying Christ and our testimony to a ruined world are lost when we give up our heavenly calling.
Satan’s Efforts to Destroy the Truth
Satan tried to stamp out such a testimony in the early days of Christianity, and savage persecution was his first weapon. This did not work, and the church rather grew and multiplied. Persecution served only to emphasize the fact that believers had no place in this world. But then he employed other tactics, and, as we know, they were all too successful. This began rather early in the church’s history, even before the apostles had passed off the scene. In 2 Timothy 1:15, at the close of his life, Paul had to say, “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” They had not turned away from Christianity, but rather from that precious truth from a risen Christ in glory that Paul had preached to them. The description of the seven churches in Asia in Revelation 23 shows how far things had progressed, even while the Apostle John was still alive. Later under the Emperor Constantine and those who followed him Christians began to turn in two different ways, neither of which was of God. Let us look at what the heavenly calling means and then see how subtle Satan was in destroying such a testimony.
The Lord’s Thoughts
The Lord Jesus set out the essence of the heavenly calling of believers in His prayer in John 17, when He referred to His own as being “in the world” (vs. 11) but “not of the world” (vs. 14). As a result, He clearly said that “the world hath hated them” (vs. 14) and that hatred persists to this day. As we have already noted, God had always separated His own from the evil of this world, but never before had He called a distinct people to be in the world but not of the world.
The Enemy Introduces Error
Beginning (at least in spirit) even in the days of the apostles, Satan began to introduce that which would seek to destroy the testimony of the church. The tendency was checked somewhat during the terrible persecution in the second and third centuries, but it found its full-blown manifestation in the fourth century and the years following.
On the one hand, some had a desire for holiness, no doubt at first in an honest way. But holiness cannot exist in the soul apart from Christ. Instead of realizing the precious truth of their perfect standing in Christ and thus obeying the command to “yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Rom. 6:19), they began to try to get something out of themselves while leaving Christ out. Forgetting that they were already fully justified in the sight of God by the finished work of Christ, they tried to achieve a level of holiness in a legal way. Such men (and ultimately women too) holed themselves up in monasteries or convents, or else became hermits, sometimes living for years in caves, isolated huts, or even on the tops of poles, so as not to be contaminated by the world.
All of this ministered to self instead of to Christ. Such individuals were not of the world, it is true, but for all practical purposes they were not in the world either. Physical privation and suffering, adverse circumstances and self-occupation all gave room for Satanic delusions and visions which were hailed by the superstitious populace as revelations from God. The result was the destruction of what Paul had taught.
The Danger of Extremes
On the other hand, some went to the other extreme. Instead of living as heavenly citizens and waiting for the Lord to come and take them home, they began to take part in the affairs of this world. Constantine paved the way by embracing Christianity and making it the official religion of the Roman empire, so that suddenly believers who had been persecuted only a short time before were given positions of responsibility and authority. All of this sounded good, and it was felt that now Christianity would be able to be a force for good in this world by influencing the governments and laws in a right way. Such believers were definitely in the world, but, sad to say, they were practically of the world.
Needless to say, it did not work and ultimately resulted in a worldly religion where Christ was displaced in favor of man. If believers join hands with the world, even in a right cause, they acknowledge that the world can improve itself and must work with the world according to its principles and outlook. The world may want a measure of uprightness in its dealings, but it does not want Christ.
The Current Condition of Christendom
This condition of things persists to this day. We are thankful that during the Reformation God raised up men like Luther, Farel, Zwingli, Calvin and others who were used to restore to us the truth of the gospel. Many were delivered from the excesses that had prevailed for more than one thousand years, but it was not long before that glorious deliverance degenerated into Protestantism, with a mixture of true and false believers. Many of the errors of the “dark ages” were repeated, although in a different form. Then in the nineteenth century God raised up men like J. N. Darby, G. V. Wigram, William Kelly and others who were mightily used to restore to us the truth of the church.
Sad to say, this truth has largely been adulterated with worldly principles in Christendom today, and once again believers are seeking to improve this world by working with it, instead of rendering a testimony against it by their heavenly calling. Still others carry separation to such an extreme that it becomes, instead, isolation.
An Unchanging Path for the Faithful
What then is the solution? Is it still possible to walk in the good of that heavenly calling today? According to Scripture we believe that it is. God’s Word has not changed, and all of what is taught in the New Testament is as much applicable today as it ever was, save that we must recognize that we are not living in apostolic days, but rather in a day when the church outwardly is in ruins. We must remember this and not try to restore that which has been broken to pieces (outwardly) by our failure. Yet where this is acknowledged, God honors obedience to His Word, for the Spirit of God is still here, and the truth of the church as Paul gave it to us remains for our instruction and blessing. When Paul saw the ruin coming in, his instruction to Timothy was, “Continue thou” (2 Tim. 3:14), and this holds good today.
In our next article we hope to look at some of the hindrances to walking according to our heavenly calling and how these can be overcome.
W. J. Prost

Where Is the Flock?

Where is the flock that I gave you,
Your beautiful, priceless flock?
Have you led them up to the mountain
For a drink from the smitten Rock?
Have you fed them in lush, green valleys
Far from the alleys of sin,
Where the youngest can feed on the tender grass
And enjoy a chat with Him?
Don’t be an “idol shepherd”
Turning your flock from the Lord,
Directing their hearts and appetites
To things which He’s abhorred!
Feed by the tents of the shepherds,
Lead them to do the same,
That your flock may be for God’s glory
And never bring shame to His name.
Mrs. M. Hallowell (1999)
“Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest.... If thou know not... go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents” (Song of Sol. 1:7-8).
“Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock” (Zech. 11:17).
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

A Word of Entreaty and Warning

“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
Yesterday, it was a privilege to attend with some of you the funeral of a beloved “mother” in the assembly. The funeral, graveside service and following meal with the family were a blessing, which I have rarely ever experienced. It was one marked by victory, not loss by joy overshadowing the sorrow of missing one so truly beloved. Most there were the Lord’s and, therefore, enjoyed the wonderful assurance of our sister’s entrance into the Lord’s presence, as well as the knowledge that we will someday very soon be reunited with her in the presence of our Saviour.
In view of this, I would like to ask all of you the following questions: Should the Lord leave His church here that long, will it be possible for there to be joy mingled with sorrow at your funeral? Will your loved ones rejoice as they think of your eternal abode? Will it be a comfort to them or will that thought cause them grief? Even more, will they have the sweet confidence that they will see you once again? And can you rejoice because you know you will see your loved ones on “the other side”?
Are you fearful of that day when you will pass into eternity? Are you prepared to meet your God (Amos 4:12)? If not, don’t delay. Turn to Jesus Christ now in simple faith and repentance, trusting His divine promise: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). May your heart be stirred by the Spirit of God to seek Him “while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6).
T. Bookman

"Words Fitly Spoken"

We seek to serve our own generation by the will of God (Acts 13:36). The Word of God is always the present truth and suited to the needs of this generation when guided by the Spirit in speaking it forth. The moral ways of God do not change with dispensations, but wisdom is needed in applying His Word. The enemy seems to be making a special attack on the Christian home and assembly, and we should not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11).
J. N. Darby

Words From the Heart

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good... for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45).
The things our hearts accept and crave
Determine how our tongues behave,
And so it is that what we seek
Will shape the very words we speak!
So if God’s Word is stored away
In portions gathered day by day,
Its treasure fills our hearts within
And keeps our minds and lips from sin!
E. Byland